By Dan Lombard
The weekend of 20-22 October turned out to be one for the books as I spent it in Cape Town with two of the most important people in my life. My right hand man, Isaac Malibe, and best friend, Fufu Bembe, were on hand to experience the beauty that the Mother City has to offer.
The journey started at four in the morning as we got up, shaved and showered to be at OR Tambo for our 08:15 flight. I decided to use this trip as a dry run for future international travel as I took my powered wheelchair instead of my manual chair and boy was it a baptism of fire. Lessons were definitely learnt.
In true fashion, I ended up delaying the flight as a concerned pilot announced over the intercom that we were returning to the bay due to safety precautions. The steward politely informed me that the ground crew had stored my trusty steed on its side and it needed to be corrected. Soon enough we were on our way without further incident. Or so I thought…
After landing safely in Cape Town, we waited for the other passengers to disembark while casually bantering amongst ourselves as men do. I met my wheelchair in the luggage area and transferred back into my legs. I switched it on, biting at the chomp to get out of the airport but the familiar beep never came. A quick inspection revealed that all my wiring had been disconnected. Luckily, I had Fufu on hand who played musical wires and after what seemed like eternity my wheelchair burst into life.
A short trip in a friendly taxi and we found ourselves at our very comfortable hotel in the shadow of Newlands Rugby Stadium. The two nights at the Newlands Southern Sun for myself and my crew were all part of a generous value-in-kind sponsorship agreement that the Players’ Fund has with Tsogo Sun. This has been a long standing relationship which I know helps the Players’ Fund out tremendously. A complimentary cappuccino followed a swift check-in and after settling in, we were on our way to the newly opened Hard Rock Cafe in Camps Bay. I’m a regular at the one in Pretoria as I have enjoyed the ambience of the place ever since I visted my first one ten years ago in Baltimore. As if on cue, the sun came belting out as we watched the waves crash like a record on repeat.
Saturday came with its own pleasures as we made our way to the Table Mountain cable car, thanks to the generosity of the Table Mountain Cable Company who graciously supplied us with complimentary tickets. Short cutting the snake like queue, we found ourselves on top of South Africa. An experience that was burnt in to my memory as I reflected on my incredible life while looking out to the infamous Robben Island. Two hours seemed to dissolve into five minutes as we raced back to our hotel as the reason for the trip was fast approaching, the Players4Players dinner at the Kelvin Grove Club.
A quick change into something more appropriate and we were on our way, looking dapper as I started mulling over my speech. Little did I know that another peril was awaiting. I was met by Tori and her husband, Jonathan, at the entrance and I was quickly ushered to the lift. A lift so cramped that there was only space for my wheelchair. No problem I thought, I had ridden lifts by myself more times then I can count. I had never been so wrong before as half way up my chair caught onto something and the wretched thing came to a grinding halt. All I can say is that I never thought claustrophobia was a real thing until that moment. Thankfully everything was sorted in record time as I found myself in a room full of rugby lovers.
Our table was quickly found and after a few greetings were exchanged I was ushered to the microphone by MC and comedian Rob van Vuuren. My speech went off without a hitch as I briefed the guests on how accepting change is the only thing that allows someone to move past trauma. The beers flowed as much as the food was enjoyed which allowed the auction to go off with a bang and by the end a staggering R200 000 was raised for the Players Fund. All in all, the evening was the very definition of fun with an undertone of seriousness as rugby lovers let their wallets do the talking.
Sunday was a relaxed affair as packing, breakfast and travelling were the order of the day and before we knew it we were back in Pretoria. As I sign off, I would like to thank the Chris Burger Petro Jackson Players’ Fund, Players4Players and the Table Mountain Cable Company for an unforgettable weekend. Cape Town.. I’ll be back!