Below, South Africa continued to unravel. Dots became herds of wildebeest and springbok skittering across the veldt. Kloofs -- the distinctive rock outcrops of the region -- became individual shapes. So did herds of elephants. Then came the first of the villages, small, thatched-roofed rondavels, each surrounded with a patch of cultivated ground.
This was the countryside I remembered. I had spent my childhood out on the veldt and later worked here during the troubled years when South Africa had been isolated by its racial policies. I had been a foreign correspondent and the white supremacist regime had not liked what I reported. I was expelled. Then Nelson Mandela invited me back -- one of the first things he did when he came to power.
I had met him a lifetime earlier when he had been on the run from the regime. I had stayed in touch with him in his long imprisonment. He was, and remains, for me a charismatic figure.
Speed, said Julius gravely, was the one thing “the old lady” doesn’t offer. Champagne, oysters, the finest wines and “food to make you unbuckle your belt”, she could provide all that and more. But speed – no. “She doesn’t go more than 35 miles an hour – and most times way below that”, explained Julius.