It is Monday morning, early. I have been driving for 3 hours and have entered a different world from that I inhabited when I awoke. I am following the motorway from
The frequency of huts and informal settlements increases rapidly and I know I must be approaching my turnoff. Sitting somewhat incongruously among them is an upmarket hotel. A sign advertises the room price: R450 a night. A sign for the Hluhluwhe-iMfolozi game park indicates my route. People throng the road sides, school children on break, people waiting for taxis, people just hanging out. I drive slowly. A sign indicates a clinic – one of those linked to the hospital – several people are trudging up the dusty track that leads to it. I close the window and turn on the air-con, examining my now badly burned right arm.
The road enters the game park – a large cattle grid and red triangle sign with an elephant in it warning of the potentially novel hazards ahead. The people and huts have vanished – the rolling hills are covered with low trees and scrub. The park has big cats and only park employees live within it. I pass a water buffalo scratching its head on a “60kph”sign. Shortly after I slow for a vervet monkey as it crosses the road, its child clinging to its back.
Leaving the park the road goes steeply up hill and then enters Hlabisa, the small village in which the hospital was built, initially as a clinic by Lutheran missionaries in the 1930s. It has grown recently – there is a Spar, and a builders merchants and perhaps most startlingly, a “Kentucky Fried Chicken”. There is not much else – the habitations are scattered all over the hills and there is little in the way of a residential “district”. The hospital dominates the town – it is the biggest employer – and I find it easily. A guard asks me to open the boot before he opens to gate, “to check for firearms.”
I have arrived.