In years gone by, truck drivers used to be a select few. In the 70’s and 80’s Namibia had an excellent rail road and trucks were only needed to transport fuel and cargo to destinations beyond the rail lines. The trucks were also mainly owned by the SWA Spoorweg (Rail road Services) and thus truck and train drivers were constantly in a battle to prove who had the best engines.
When I grew up, my grandfather was a truck driver. Of course, by the time I was a teenager, people already looked down on truck and train drivers. Privately owned transport companies have arrived on the scene and employed people from the lowest income bracket at the lowest costs to enable them to compete with the much bigger TransNamib that has taken over the SWA Spoorweg after 1990.
As I got older, I heard many stories about my grandfather and his truck. His truck was the cleanest at his station. He would spend hours every night after a trip, cleaning the in –and outside of his dearest truck. He hardly ever had breakdowns and punctures were for everyone else. Grandpa loved his truck more than he loved his own car. The reason might be a simple one – his truck took him places. It took him away from the daily race and from the ever changing political situation in Namibia.
Since the trucks had to go where the trains could not go, he saw areas of Namibia (then South West Africa), untouched by traffic and human interference. He often used to tell us about the wild life in the north western Namibia. Roads that are now tar and easily driven, used to be gravel or even worse, a two-way farm track. He had to drive them slowly and he saw so much more than we do now in our race to meet our destinations. He saw elephants on roads where we only see signs of what once was elephant territory, lions where only cattle graze and leopards where we didn’t think they existed. He had no traffic on the roads – only a privileged few owned vehicles. He could stop next to the road, put up camp and sleep without a worry in the world. My grandfather worked and lived in an era I would not mind to have known.
He also had a daily treat – his lunch box. Grandma used to make the best sandwiches and often would sneak in fresh rusks with Grandpa’s strong coffee mix. We could not wait for him to come home in the afternoons to see what was left in it – we hardly had any luck. Grandpa was not a huge fan of fruits – so we only ever got the day-old-banana and were told to be thankful.
On the 23rd October it will be his birthday. Oupa Tobie is no longer with us, but the stories of his truck and the roads he travelled continue to surface at family gatherings. If only we could havejoined on one of his adventures…