Knitting, a car battery and the “Big Five”

Photo disclaimer – these pictures were taken during a terribly unnecessary scrap-booking phase and are therefore weird shapes.  Apologies for the poor quality…

Background info “A”

My mother loves to knit – so much so that a few years ago she had to be treated for bursitis in her shoulder.  (For those without a medical degree, bursitis is the swelling of fluid-filled sacs found in your joints usually caused by repetitive movements – the most common manifestation of the ailment is “tennis elbow”). While mom usually always has a ball of wool and needle in her hands at any given time, the true nature of her addiction to the craft is always most evident when we were away on holiday.  Every night after supper when we’re competing in the family “Rummy” tournament, every time it’s mom’s turn we all have to wait for her to “just quickly finish this row” before she can play her hand.  (As a side note, mom is the undisputed reigning “Rummy” champion as she usually finishes the game within 2 hands).

Background info “B”

Our car had been experiencing some minor mechanical issues for a couple of months.  It seemed to not be starting as well as it used to, but it hadn’t yet reached the stage where anything needed to be looked at.  Suspecting the issue was the battery, dad performed some checks and there was no indication as to the root cause of the problem was as the tests all came back within normal “range”.  With dad being an engineer it was assumed, as it usually was in these matters, that if there was a problem he’d be able to fix it on the fly (incidentally he did this on a recent roadtrip – he fixed something that had broken on the car with nothing more than his shoelace.  I kid you not.  The guy is a genius!).

Now that you’re all caught up, onward with the story.

Through an amazing stroke of luck, my brother and I walked away from a Scout Movement fundraising event with the grand prize of a weekend for four at a 4-star lodge outside of the Kruger Park.  It was tipped to be our most luxurious holiday ever as prior to this our getaways had consisted of the entry-level self-catering variety.

We arrived at the lodge on Friday afternoon and immediately knew that this was a world we were not used to – there were hot cloths in the reception area and we were allowed to take a glass of lemon-water… For FREE!  There were loads of fancy people milling around in the reception area too (probably all making use of the hot cloths and free water – there didn’t seem to be any other reason for them to be there…).

It was immediately after check-in, in front of all those fancy 4-star lodge people towelling themselves down with hot cloths in reception that the car finally refused to start.  With dad at the wheel and mom unable to pull herself away from her knitting, it was left to the two sulky teenagers to push the car down the hill to the chalet.  Once we had parked, dad dug around the engine a bit before coming in for dinner.  “The car should be fine,” was the verdict.


We were up bright and early on Saturday morning.  We had been advised to get to the gates of the Kruger as they opened – early morning is generally accepted to be the best time of the day to see the wildlife.  Unfortunately for us, the sibling-push-start was again required at 4:30am as we headed out to the park.    About half way to the gate it dawned on dad that, due to the fact the car now needed to be push-started, it could become a problem if we happened to stop to view any potentially dangerous animals.  He had started to suspect what the issue actually was and therefore decided to run another little test to check. As we were travelling at 120km/h he took the car out of gear, switched off the engine and attempted a “rolling start”.

There was a substantially loud BANG and something not unlike tiny stones could be felt hitting the bottom of the car.  I turned to look out of the back window and saw shards of green flying along the road.  Mom, who was knitting (obviously), suddenly started shouting “the car is on fire…  THE CAR IS ON FIRE!”

We skidded to a halt on the side of the road.  By now, large plumes of white smoke were billowing from the car and there was a distinct sizzling sound coming from the engine bay. “Your jerseys.  GET YOUR JERSEYS!” was mom’s instruction as she catapulted herself out of the front seat.  I’m not sure why this was her first concern as clearly if we’d forgotten them inside the car she could have just given us the one she was (still) knitting…

As it turns out, the problem with the car (the alternator, in case you’re interested) had caused the battery to explode during the little 120km/h manoeuvre.  We were officially stranded on the side of the road and in a twist that has never happened prior to or since this incident, dad couldn’t fix the problem.

Busted Battery

Being so early in the morning, the road was quiet.  Although we had a cell phone, being the late 1990’s there was no “Google” and we therefore had no way to find the number of someone who could help us – all we could do was wait until someone drove past.  We were all left to our own devices…  Mom knitted, dad watched the engine being slowly eaten away by battery acid and the teenagers sulked.

A sulky teenager and her knitting mother

Eventually some kind soul stopped and we were able to procure a tow back to Komatiepoort where we were left in the parking lot of Midas. The store only opened at 9:00am so, more knitting, watching and sulking was done.  After what seemed like a lifetime, dad was finally able to buy a new battery and alternator.  He replaced the parts right there in the parking lot with a limited variety of tools on hand.   But it was dad – all the guy apparently needs is a shoelace!

It was close to midday before we finally got inside the Kruger – widely accepted as the worst time of day to spot animals in a game reserve.   We proved that theory wrong this time around as by the time we were a mere 5km into the park, we had achieved the “Holy Grail” of African game viewing…  We had spotted all “Big Five”, making this the wildlife spotting we had ever experienced!

Here are pictures of 2 of them for your viewing pleasure.




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