Camera Fail – An Epic Disaster or a Blessing in Disguise?!


A fellow blogger, and great assistance to my struggles with WordPress, Average South African, just posted an article about being in Nigeria.  She was loving here trip, sorting out what to do while it was raining.  And then… her camera had an epic fail!

Shortlink to this article …. http://wp.me/pfF9G-Du1  Please consider sharing. 🙂

I had one of those before, well many, but one such occurrence really jumped out at me… in South Africa no less.  And this is that story with a moral….

I responded back to @AverageSA,

Yes, hate when cameras “bail” on you!

Or do I really, as they can open different possibilities altogether?!

Those different possibilities happened to me at Ronnie’s Sex Shop.

An oddity, of little known fame to the outside world.  What the “100 Things You Must Not Miss While In “X Country” guides will likely, and hopefully for this author, miss from their list in pointing “guidebook travelers” to see.

Ronnie’s Sex Shop, is an insider’s knowledge type of joint.  The authentic locals will tell you not to miss it after you’ve shared stories of you past travels and tell them where you are off to.  The more commercial travel guides, the one’s that want their clients to experience “the real” part of their country and culture, will take you to Ronnie’s as well.  But for those travelers racing in and out of a country or city to check off some “must do” list, they will miss it.  And without them knowing about “an item” to be checked off, I am completely fine, as that is where rich-in-feeling adventures take place.


And that is where you will find me, places where the guidebooks don’t mention, or maybe they do as I never look at them.  It doesn’t matter really, other than I found Ronnie’s Sex Shop organically, just driving around South Africa in 2012 without a clue in the world what the country offered other than “Elephants, Lions & Tigers“. [A story in itself, but again of insider South African knowledge.]
I was driving down Route 62 in the Little Karoo while on my solo road trip to South Africa in 2012. I had camped the night before in my rental car, a Chevrolet Spark, somewhere north of Point Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa.  I just pulled off the tarmac, too dark to see much, and along side a pasture with sheep that greeted me in the morning.  Another night just outside Addo Elephant National Park, I had felt a bit more apprehensive parked right in the dirt track to sleep, but not his night.  It was peaceful, and it was my first night under the stars of Africa.

The next morning I just set out.  No particular idea where to go, other than into the heart of the country.  Hopefully towards people that would give me less attitude because of my nationality and just saw me as an easy way to gain themselves U.S. Greenbacks from a “rich” American, without providing any of the “hospital” found in their “Hospitality” industry.  I was driving just to get away from shitty reception in received in Cape Town, a place I had once thought to move to years prior.  Cape Town, was the only part of my trip I did plan as a safe haven to soften the harsh realities of entering, for the first time, “The Dark Africa” we Americans are always warned about.  I driving to anywhere that could hopefully disprove an actualized false preconception that I did not want to return home with.


The landscape of the coast, was unlike any that I had ever seen before.  I was sucking up as much of South Africa’s beauty as I could.  And I was working to reduce the contrast between the “Trucker’s Tan” on my left arm, with the whiteness on my right side, as I learned to drive a stick shift from the opposite side of the car and road too!  Life was perfect in Hans’ World Travels world, wheels under my ass going round and round, taking me to some new place for discovery.  My discovery.
So as I left the coast and entered the Little Karoo through Tradouw Pass, an entirely different world opened up for me again.  One photo I have posted often when I write about Africa later was from here.  Not only were the clouds crossing over from the coast, only to evaporate before getting far, known famously in Capetown as “The Veil” of Table Mountain, but the lighting was perfect to highlight each of the successive horizon lines as the mountains stacked up, one before the other.  The blue of the sky overhead had bleached them out in the photo, and I would only edit them with Snapseed this year to draw out the distinctions, but they reminded me of many years before in Argentina at Las Ruinas del Quilmes.

I was “returning” to a hard-pan, hardscrabble and arid desert I was familiar and in love with, as I am with America’s Intermountain West.  The landscape was adopting me as its own, and I was at home in its vast embrace.  I drove on further with no destination needed.

But, “What the…?

No, it couldn’t be.

But it was, a turtle was walking across the tarmac as the sun was rising higher.

First one.  And then another, and another.

Finally, my inner tree hugging hippie, long suppressed through the years, was moved to break through a hard exterior, just as could happen to these terrapins if they found themselves between rubber and the tarmac they were crossing.

I better stop and save them from the next car that could come along!

And so the next one I saw, on go the Spark’s binders HARD!  There could be another car coming and turtles are slow, of course.  But what I could not judge moving at 100 kph, I soon found out as my target had disappeared before I was able to backtrack.  These little tortoises are fast little buggers!

I finally found the object of my desire, or is that to be saved?  It was tucked up at the gravel’s edge under desert scrub.

Ha!  I’ve found you!  Must be the tarmac was already getting hot under the sun beating down, and your toes were getting burnt.  It’s not safe little guy to be crossing the road like this, but awwww …. you’re so cute!

So a few minutes with this fast little desert tortoise, and it was time to move on.  But this time, at a bit slower of a velocity.  No need to crack my buddy’s cousin’s exterior, like he had done to mine.


Back at “home“, mobile again, I started to notice bushes off in the distance looked a little different than any I had ever seen before.  Some were black, some were brown.  A bit higher than anything else around, sometimes they were grouped together, other times randomly spread out.
They were all a good 100 meters out, and further, but they kept catching my eye like a shiny fishing lure in the water.  Until it dawned on me what they were… they were Ostriches!  Check those off the list I didn’t have.  My first baboon troop met a similar fate, as I had entered the Little Karoo and just before the potential Tort-pocolaypse had almost occurred.

I was on a self-made Safari.

The pre-planned tour to see The Great Whites, had left a very bad taste in my mouth days prior even though I did get to see my arch-nemesis from childhood, Jaws!  And had willingly jumped off the highest commercial bungee jump at the time at Bloukans Bridge.  But that entire tour was a shame, even though it was the best rated on TripAdvisor and I had grilled the owners about safety while still in the U.S. to my satisfaction.  As only a few weeks prior, a woman’s bungee cord had snapped, sending her into the Croc infested waters of the Zambezi.  How she survived is not just the stuff of Urban Legend, it is legend experienced itself!

But lest I start to rant about that tour and everything that was wrong about it, I’ll just say… I was at ease under my own power, driving through the Little Karoo, open to whatever secrets it was willing to give up.

And thus I drove passed a nondescript white building with red letters painted on its side.

Ronnie’s Shop, but wait a second.  What else did it say?  Sex?  Ronnie’s Sex Shop?  Oh-Kay…. I’ll just keep driving.

And I did, until a few kilometers later I saw a sign with an arrow, that although I did not understand the Afrikaans perfectly, I knew enough that it was a warm springs.

Ummm, fuck yeah and why not!

It had been years since the hot springs on the east side of The Sierras, there too a desert, and my “home”.  I couldn’t go wrong, and through a developing friendship I had back in Colorado, I was having to live vicariously through pictures he had posted on Facebook from his physical home in Mammoth, California.  So close to the hot springs near the Green Church on 395 where I had turned many times to bask under the desert skies so many years before, with friends and lovers alike.

Daytime or not, I was not going to miss desert hot springs!

They were nice, a group of 4 rectangular pools of different sizes and the closer one got to the mineral waters source, the hotter they got.  And they were all mine, only one there at this nice little desert oasis turned into a resort.  But few go to hot springs middle of the day, so it was a bit of a strange feeling all to myself.  Just like a bath, except with shorts on, I really don’t know what to do with myself, by myself.  Sure unleash the crude innuendos you’d like of what “I could do”, but baths just bore me, unlike no other.

I did see a peacock, or three, but just as pets to the resort and those aren’t African wildlife that I am aware of.  Meh, after a short soak and a nice chat with the proprietors, I was back on the road.  Except for this time I turned at the end of the dirt road in the direction I had come from earlier.

Towards Ronnie’s Sex Shop.  I needed to know what it was.  Just like a cat, curiosity was killing me!


The pictures tell enough of the place, that my words could do no just to.  It’s an oddity, I would have drank a beer, inquired about the curious name, snapped a few pictures and been on my way.  And that’s exactly what I was doing, until..

Snapping a photo of a “100 Trillion Zim Dollar” bill, I dropped my point and shoot camera!

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!” just like a tiger I might have been looking for in South Africa! 😉

The lens mechanism took the brunt of the hit, and I was out a camera (my only camera really) for the next 10 days.  This was a disastrous new reality; the one that all of us travelers fear the most while out exploring the world.

Our enjoyment of the trip, and often our essential purpose of being after we return, sharing what we experienced with friends and family, all comes into question.  And everything we were planning to do, get’s immediately put on hold.  A startling reality hits us square in our private parts, that “we will no longer be able to do what we set out to do originally!

Our traveler soul becomes naked, exposed to a dreadful new reality.  No matter how much us experienced wanderlust junkies may joke about the series, “Naked and Afraid“, and the inexperience of those city slickers with drama trauma they cast on it, we are in fact “Naked and Afraid” once an epic camera fail happens.

We scramble to sort out Plan B, as Plan A has just failed us.

And thus was my conundrum! 1000s of miles from home, just as likely as far to a camera shop, where even 100 miles under these grave circumstances feel like the millions needed to get to the moon itself!

So I had to sort out Plan B, which of course meant I would need to twist my own arm, belly up to the bar and order another beer.  Very difficult decisions that need to be made out on the road solo, I know.  Please hold your offerings of Kleenex and a shoulder to cry on, I’ve got this covered.

And hence began camera triage in the field with whatever was available, which wasn’t much.  I had made it on the plane in Denver, with all clothes included at only 22 pounds in my backpack and messenger bag.  Some I never used, like a pair of shoes, and too many Tees and boxers.  I was under prepared with board shorts, so my mistake of leaving my only pair back at the hostel in my mad rush out of Capetown, was an issue.  But I had remedied that in some little shop in Hermanus, finding the ugliest pair I could that would do the purpose.  I still have them today, ugly and all, love them all the same because they had come from South Africa.


Beer ordered, damage assessed, it was time of getting my hands on some camera surgical instruments.  So I asked the barkeep for a little knife, screwdriver, anything actually to salvage the grave situation laying in front of me,  And, the best they had was a kitchen knife, so kitchen knife it would be. Beggars can’t be choosers!
A couple hours, and beers later… I had a marginally working camera again!  But most importantly, I had the opportunity to met some great people, both Ronnie’s son Luddie and Pete, the barkeep.  Sharing stories, bullshitting, learning things I would have never experienced had I not dropped my camera.  A perfect outcome to an unexpected disastrous situation.

And I even have the picture of us 3 to prove it!

The “it” of course being, a near disastrous camera malfunction, can change the possibilities for the better. 🙂

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