“There should be a law against this type of Frankenstein sorcery of welding techniques I thought as I admired the paint job from the outside. Upon further inspection on the inside, i noted that some the interior had been stuck together with gaffer tape and that the cd player had to be probed with tweezers.”
STORY: RICK DE LA RAY
PHOTOGRAPHY: JANSEN VAN STADEN
I think it was at about ten or eleven in the A.M. when the phone rang at the office. I didn’t recognize the voice at first but it had a familiar tone. The voice offered me a free ride, an escape, and excuse to avoid all of my belated responsibilities. Some of which are still here as I am tapping out my words to the rhythms of SUN RAH ‘s “The Nubians of Plutonia”. I would highly recommend the first track on side B titled “Nubia”. It has a hell of a drum solo that rolls on for days if you don’t put the brakes on it… The Voice then informed me that they are going on a ten-day road trip through some back end towns and barren landscapes. Into the veins of the map, those thin little lines next to the thick blue highways that connect all our souls together on this continent. Those lines that fade away into the flesh of the paper that it’s printed on. Even better I thought. This means there will be hardly any phone reception or The Internet for those realities I was about to sweep under the carpet as I gladly accepted the offer. “Pass me a pen and where do I sign!” I thought as Brett (Shaw) expanded on the details of the trip, which will involve filming footage for the local VANS skateboarding team video. “What are you calling it?” I asked. “Parallel,” he said and carried on explaining that they would explore to the where the mapped veins fade. To find multiple ways of self-harm and mutilation all the name of passion and pain. He rambled down a few names of towns and I have to admit that I had only heard about some of these destinations through myth and legend.
Malmesbury, Jacobs Bay, Piketberg, Klawer, Steinkopf, Kakamas, Riemvasmaak, Hartswater and De Aar. None of those names actually registered at all and I had no perception or particular picture that I could compare to in my head to those dots on the map they are associated with. One of them did, however, waken a memory of some blood I had that used to reside in Kakamas when I was a kid. Being from the “middle-class ghetto” of Randburg in Johannesburg I always had a blurred vision of this faint town somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where my cousins grew up. “I’m in,” I said before I put down the phone. Going on a road trip with some skaters (some of which I had known for more than twenty years) and tracking down skate able pools, ditches and anything that resembled an angle that could be rolled on seemed very enlighten and I reveled in the fact that I had a magical excuse to disappear for a while…
So about 2 months later at about six A.M a mini van pulled up in front of my place. I only got home at four A.M. and frantically packed my bag as I cursed my sense of judgment and naivety to ever think that I could resist a late nights mockery of perception. Dallas (Oberholzer) a veteran in the “war” was behind the wheel of an Army green VW minibus van. As I got in it dawned on me that it was the same mini bus that I had seen in scrap yard a few years earlier. The same one with the flat roof, which Dallas had flipped down some highway extension on his way to Bethlehem in the Free state and the same one he had miraculously escaped deaths cold hands with when it tried to rip him from the finely woven fabric between here and the nether. There should be a law against this type of Frankenstein sorcery of welding techniques I thought as I admired the paint job from the outside. Upon further inspection on the inside, I noted that some the interior had been stuck together with gaffer tape and that the CD player had to be probed with tweezers. So naturally I buckled up as I realized in paranoid horror what the future had in store for me as visions of sweaty palms and anxiety filled my foresight. “Morning!” I said as I smiled nervously at his over enthusiastic face. “I haven’t slept yet…” I mentioned under my belated breath as we swerved around the corner to the next location where we would pick up the rest of the sailors that would help commandeer this patched up ship. The fact that “Captain Ron” is going to be driving me across thousands of kilometers for the next ten days fueled a mild cold sweat on my temples.
The rest of our shipmates were waiting for us in the parking lot of the “Tampon Towers” overlooking the harbor of Cape Town. The same harbor which might have been responsible for the questionable imported poisons that were still coursing through my veins at these early hours of the morning. The crew seemed cheerful and full of faith as they hooked up the trailer to the van while I stood there in the fresh morning air reviewing my motivations to ever agreeing to join this trip. The whole team on this magical journey included the following Jansen van Staden (Photographer), his brother Joubert van Staden (Filmer, AV Skateboarding), Brett Shaw (Director and team manager), Dallas Oberholzer (Indigo Skatecamp), Dave De Witt (DDD Sk8shades). Followed by myself, young gun Trae Rice (Vans team rider) who had just landed from JHB the night before. A long the way we would mix the pot with Adrian Henderson (Local maverick) Anton Roux (Vans team rider) and Craig Leak who would join us over the cross over week end along our journey across no mans land.
So soon as the van was packed we hit the road. Brett was on a tight schedule and amped to get to our destinations as soon as humanly possible and to make sure that every possible spot a long the way would be skated and filmed. Minutes into the journey I was passed out in the right-hand pocket of the back seat. An over exposed image of my limp corpse was naturally displayed on Instagram while I was in a self-induced coma. These are the wonders of the global community that we live in I thought as I noticed the comments and hearts that surrounded my stagnated stamina forever ingrained into the screens of multiple phones and followers of social media.
From what I had gathered through my conversation with Brett over the phone a few months earlier was that he had scrutinized certain remote areas on Google maps with the sole purpose of finding some unknown and un-skated transitions in the form of storm drains, water channels and the odd empty pool left un attended and neglected by local municipalities. Whether these spots would be skate able was mostly left up to chance as not much could really be seen from the top angles of the Google lenses. Brett and a few guys did however go and explore some of the terrains a few months earlier while they were at the KDC (Kimberley Diamond Cup) a month or so prior to my call at the office. Believe it or not, folks there has been an international skate boarding competition that has been held in Kimberley for the last five years now! God knows why it is held there but I have a suspicious feeling that it somewhere fits into the multiple reasons why John Block has been found guilty of corruption, fraud and money laundering.
With all these reasons for exploration in tact, we set out into the unexplored territory of the countries outback. There are some interesting places on this tip of the African content, and the question whether the machine would still function if some them would disappear completely did pop into my mind as we sped through some of the smaller towns. Towns where you could literally blink and not even know that you had been through a spec of civilization. Places that don’t know or don’t even care what shame and scandal the Sunday paper would bring on a weekly basis. Which political pawns had been moved around on their behalf or which idol had been dropped and shattered from a lifelong career path of fame, fortune and murderous rage?
Out there it’s all about survival. Hiding from the sun and the heat as we sped through the flatlands in a bus full of Babylon with no air conditioning. Our overflowing iceboxes were dutifully filled at each garage or shop we passed along the way. My ideas of a holiday were shrunken to tiny particles as I realized that we were basically in a race against time to document every single skate able terrain that we passed through a long the way. Most places we had found or tracked down via satellite were covered in dirt, muck, and grime and had to be cleaned, swept and sometimes disinfected to skate. So we spent many hours of hard labor digging through piles of dirt to the amazement of local towns folk who had no clue on why there was a motley crew of guys in a van cleaning up some forgotten pool or dusty water ditch along the side of the road.
Cleaning them only to inflict pain upon themselves as they pushed their over heated bodies to the threshold of sanity. Skateboarding is a very demanding mistress when it comes to pain and its addictions. Addictions which lead to obsession and finally an ecstatic release of joy as a rider would roll away clean from the concrete curves they chose to ride for the day. By mid-week the grinding agenda had taken its toll on their battered bodies and the moans of their tireless efforts could be felt by every one as we rose our heads in the mornings to continue on this journey of destruction.
The nights were spent mostly under clear stars and open fires where we camped or stayed in some forgotten motels, resorts or modest hotels where we could lay down our melted heads and recover from the day and its forced hours of sunbathing. By the end of the trip, a stoic sense of calm and self-reflection could be felt throughout the cabin of our rusty ship that seemed to have miraculously sailed us through all of our destinations. Having mostly been listening to SLAYER along the way our ears had been begging for some kind of a break from the hell that we had unleashed upon them while our eyes were filled with memories of open landscapes, sunsets and unprovoked beauty, which we will remember till the end of our days.
The closer we moved to civilization and my electronic devices started functioning properly again the realities that I had escaped from started forcing itself back into my life through a series of beeps and bling’s to remind me that my life was still waiting for me in a small white office in lower Kloof St. As I got home an unpacked my dusty bag, floated in my bath and mentally downloaded my whole experience into the back of my memory banks while simultaneously dreading the sight of the overflowing mail boxes on my computer.
HITS FROM THE VAN
Show No Mercy
Reign in Blood
South of Heaven
Seasons in the Abyss