‘He says he’ll never divorce me,’ said Katrina Bosman of her husband Jan, ‘but he might murder me!’ They’d been married for 60 years and were now both in their eighties. But they weren’t letting that get in the way of a full life. We met them when they were camping in an ancient caravan at Kruger National Park’s Pretoriuskop camp.
To see it still on the road, still being used, was thrilling. I told the Bosmans my story and they invited me inside. Everything came flooding back; the interior was almost exactly as I remembered. Apart from converting the stove from gas to electricity and putting storage shelves in the space where my brother and I slept in double bunk beds, they’d made no other changes.
The Bosmans inherited the Gypsy from Jan’s brother 31 years ago and they have been coming to Kruger in it regularly since then. This time they brought Katrina’s kid sister Kotie (72) with them. ‘I wanted to keep an eye on them,’ said Kotie. Despite bad arthritis, she slept in a pup tent next to the caravan and most mornings she was up with the birds, ready for a game drive. She and Katrina (82) would make an early-morning foray, come back around 8 or 9am for Jan (88), and then go back out again. They felt he deserved a few extra hours of sleep.
‘We were nine brothers and sisters,’ Kotie told us of her and Katrina’s family, ‘but only four of us are still alive. Katrina and Jan met at Gravelotte where they both went to school. He was in Standard 8 and she was in Standard 2.’
I loved her stories of the old days. ‘We used to hollow out an anthill and use it to bake bread and rusks – the best rusks I’ve ever made,’ she told us.
She still makes rusks today, albeit in a normal oven. To prove it, she dived into the old tin she’d brought with her and gave us a few samples to try with our moer coffee. I prattled on about the amazing rusk pan and cutter I’d recently bought at a farmstall near Robertson, but she wasn’t impressed. ‘You don’t need these modern contraptions to cut the dough,’ she smiled, ‘I just squeeze a piece of dough in my fist – like this – to make the right shape.’
Rusks one day, half a huge avo the next, a few really good chats; these were neighbours who believed in sharing and we looked forward each day to our interactions with them. The best share was when they told us exactly where they had discovered some wild dogs with four young pups a few kilometres from camp. On our last morning we found the dogs warming up and playing on the rocks, then again next to the road later in the afternoon as they went exploring, adults and pups together.
We exchanged goodbye hugs the night before, planning to leave as the gates opened. We were up at 4.30 to tie the banner to their tent poles, the brown paper parcel with her gift to one of the balloons. The little old caravan was looking suitably cheery and we were just about to leave when Katrina woke and saw what we’d done.
Then, to a background honking of hippos, we had one last round of hugs and smiles and were on our way to the next adventure. We’ll carry the memory of Jan, Katrina, Kotie and the feisty little silver caravan for a long time.
If you have a story of an old caravan or still-travelling octogenarians, please share it in the comments below.
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