A Bridge Too Far.
What would you do if the bridge was washed away?
It was Christmas once more and we were taking our annual holiday to South Africa. As usual we would travel, visiting various family members as we went. This year was to be exciting for our five boys we were going to the seaside at Port Shepstone.
The little Morris Minor station wagon had the regular once over to ensure it was healthy enough for the trip. Oh dear, it needed new tyres and these would cost nearly as much as I earned in a month. Sorry, no can do. We’ll risk it. Fortunately the spare wheel would be accessible without having to unpack any luggage. We even changed and rinsed the baby’s nappy at a stream in the Transvaal, with little difficulty.
The car was crammed when we set out. First stop Uncle George in Swaziland. It was always good to visit my wife’s uncle George and we had our usual pleasant time there. Our first tyre change took place in Swaziland, no dramas. The next day we set out through Zululand. We had to cross one of those bridges designed to carry both trains and cars. It was no problem a bridge that could carry a locomotive could hold us. The only difficulty no side rails, but with our wheels astride the rails and the bridge short and straight it was just ‘a piece of cake’.
Nearing Durban it started to rain and we needed to change another wheel. We were becoming quite expert and were almost ready to offer our services to a Formula One racing team. We changed that wheel in five minutes. It was peak hour traffic in Durban and the little old car began to sputter and stall. By the time we were through we found a gas station and asked if they could tell us where to find a mechanic. The black attendant said, “You wouldn’t usually get a mechanic here during the weekend, but that young man in the next service lane works here you could ask him.”
I asked him and he retuned our car in a short time saying, “You need to retune because of the altitude change it won’t take long.” He refused to take any remuneration and wished us a happy holiday. God has his messengers everywhere.
By this time the rain was literally pelting down but we decided to push on because we didn’t have any spare cash for accommodation. In the heavy rain we could only see a very short distance ahead. On this coastal road we had to cross many bridges and as a result of the way they had been built we often forded a mass of water on entering and leaving them. We pressed on at a very slow pace in the blinding storm. Cars were stopped along the road not going any further for fear of what lay ahead.
In our minds was the final bridge we going to have to cross. The bridge entering Port Shepstone was a shared railway bridge not unlike the one we had crossed in the bright sunlight in Zululand. It was different though in that it was two miles long and curved over the river. We had crossed it before on a fine sunny day in fear and trepidation that a slight misjudgement would plunge us into the river below. I was afraid that a slight misjudgement would mean the end of us in this storm.
After discussion with my wife we decided to stop on the side of the road and sleep till morning so as to cross the dreaded bridge in daylight. Perhaps the storm would be over. We were just settling down when a torch shone through the window and a voice said, “You can’t stop here.” I looked out to see a policeman in uniform standing there. After explaining our predicament to him, he guided me further off the road and said, “O.K. sleep there, you’re at the entrance to our station.”
We slept the night and when we awoke it was a bright sunny day. As we approached the bridge our eyes boggled. In place of that dreaded bridge there was a four lane highway and a separate train bridge. The old bridge had washed away some years previously. We had slept cramped up in the car for no reason.
One adventure over we began the next, but that’s another story.
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