So it's me, and Craig, and Mark, and Etienne, and we're screaming along the N3 to Durban with the windows up so that Etienne doesn't drop his ash in a white goddamn Honda doing 200 km/h on a single lane highway down the other side of the Drakensberg. And we're blowing huge damn chunks out of the highway with our sonic boom, when Craig finally says "I think you should slow down," and I turn to look at him, and I can see fear in his eyes, real goddamn fear, so I let up, maybe down to 180, 170, 160, feeling the pull soften and the tyres finding new and expansive grip.
The Honda Ballade 180E is an odd beast, all purrs and mewls until you tell it you mean business by holding the accelerator down flat for 10 minutes straight until the overrides burn out and the speedometer falls over the top like a Redwood onto the good side of 160, and then you have to hunker down in the driver's seat so that your ribs feel part of the leather and drive, goddamnit, drive. It's a front wheel drive, so your only hope is to weigh down the boot with as much luggage and beer as possible, and hope to god that when she takes the turns like some rabid angered snake you don't swing out and over the side of a mile-high cliff somewhere high in the mountains.
But we seem to have packed it well, and the beast roars forward through the Valley of a Thousand Hills, dodging and weaving between the caravans and articulated trucks that seem to own the road between Jo'burg and the coast. Mark has fallen asleep somewhere around Heidelberg, and now he rouses himself to look over at the dashboard and say to me "Jesus Christ, man," his eyes slowly widening, "you're going to kill us."
But I can't be worried about this now; we're approaching Harrismith, half-way. A quick refuel and then another crazed jump down the country, over the provincial border into Kwazulu-Natal, the Midlands and the greenest jungles in the southern part of Africa.
We're chasing a light blue VW Golf, packed to the brim with pretty girls and cider and high-grade hydroponic marijuana. We intend to catch them, too, and Mark, for one, intends to have sex with at least two of them. They are about 100 meters ahead of us, cruising at light speed, cunning and lithe like supersonic rodents.
But those are all details. Right here, right now, all that matters is the flat out burn; the crunch of uneven gravel and tarmac; the flash of flora in the rear-view mirror and the violent blast of sound from the bonnet where the concentrated hormones of a car full of fresh young graduates reside. Etienne flicks cigarette after cigarette out of the window, the electrics whirring every time he lowers and raises it; the strong smell of Benson & Hedges Special Mild, roasted and dark, and leather.
And it's me, and Craig, and Mark, and Etienne, and we're screaming along the N3 to Durban with the windows up chasing a car full of hot fucking girls who Mark, at the next petrol station, has sex with, and the air is hot and crisp at the same time and you just cannot goddamn believe that the end of the world could happen on such a fine day, where you could just get down and eat the grass because, holy god...whoever dreamed you'd ever fucking do it?
We put Soundgarden on, and the crunching notes push us even further back into our seats; and Etienne decides that 'Ty Cobb' is the finest song ever made, as if hewn from rock and smelted with steel, while Craig sings along in some faux-Mexican voice when out of fucking nowhere a crow hits the road 10 metres in front of us, and at this speed, on this road, we just know that crow is nothing more than a fine mist, but I turn and swerve and we look back in time to see that fucking huge crow flapping his wings off the highway and we just cannot goddamn believe that we missed it and we put the volume even higher and scream.
And we eat up the miles in our mighty machine, into the sunrise and out of the dark, and we laugh and we holler, because these days...you know? They run away like wild horses over the hills.
And it's me, and Craig, and Mark, and Etienne, and we're screaming along the N3 to Durban with the windows up and the radio turned up loud and the sun dead ahead and our lives, like on a wire in the distance, bright and easy to see.