Driving on the other side of the road in South Africa is hard enough without complications. But as traffic slowed to a crawl and we reached the point in our journey where we felt we were mere minutes/kilometers from our hotel, a haunting question, one we have never faced in all our travels, crept in:
Could our hotel, or the area around it at least, be on fire?
I’m from New Mexico, and I’ve lived much of my life in So Cal. So I’d like to think I know a thing or two about brush fires. Random trivia: Smokey the bear was a real bear, saved from a fire in, you guessed it, New Mexico.
And so that familiar smell of smoke was not inviting after an 11 hour flight. “Hours ago I was eating croissants From Poilane on a beautiful hotel balcony overlooking the Eiffel Tower and dining on delightful cheeses and beautiful wines” I thought to myself.
As the helicopter made another low sweeping pass over our car I couldn’t help but wonder: “What the heck are we driving into?”
We drove within mere feet of a fire that has captivated the greater Cape Town area for four days now. We sat in a line of cars and could only imagine the stories in each of those cars. Some people had cars loaded to the max, no doubt a precautionary evacuation with the things that mattered most to them. And yet all around us, people carried on. Surfers, cigarettes in hand (a bad idea in the circumstances I might propose), jogged past us to catch some great waves. Bicylists zoomed by, a dizzing number of runners jogged past us. Were it not for the embers of fire peeking out from the surrounding hills, and the smell and unavoidable sight of what can only politely be referred to as a “shit ton of smoke” you might not realize there was a fire raging in the immediate vicinity.
Fortunately for us, our poor memories proved a blessing: Our hotel wasn’t right there, but rather another 10 kilometers down the road, around a bend, and as we sit in a coffee shop typing this, seemingly a world away from the fire in Noordhoek and Muizenberg. But for a good 30 minutes, we were in “audible mode” brainstorming where we might stay tonight if need be, what to do if the smoke got too difficult to handle, etc… While we feel fortunate to in fact really be nowhere near the danger zone (and my asthma loves not being in the smoke zone for now), our thoughts and prayers are with the people being impacted by this fire.