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Fun, funky even wacky, these are words you might use to describe the Canyon Roadhouse not far from the Fish River Canyon in southern Namibia. Staid, dull and prim are definitely not. In fact, if you don’t have a sense of humour or a fondness for grinning like a basketful of baboons, don’t even bother to visit; the place will be wasted on you.
I’ve written about the Canyon Roadhouse’s eccentric character for Getaway magazine (and you can read it here), so let me just give one example of the high jinks to be had.
Once I’d absorbed the metaphorical smell of diesel and grease from the old cars and drifted back to the 20th century at the sight of old signs and posters that wrestle for space on the walls, I made a trip to the bathroom and came out giggling like a teenager.
Up there on the wall, among Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe movie posters, among dated ads for Coppertone and Borax Extract of Soap, was an enormous portrait of a rather dishy young man with abs straight off a Men’s Health cover. We briefly made eye contact before I noticed the box nailed to the wall over his unmentionables. Labeled Tjongololo’s Box, it had a little door with a handle.
A note nearby warned that I shouldn’t use the handle, should never, ever open the box.
The note explained, ‘a mysterious animal lived at the canyon. It was a large dark worm, with two long antennae. Night after night it came looking for holes and crevices to crawl into. The humans called him the Tjongololo. If you encountered him you had to turn away immediately, otherwise you were devoured neck and crop – all that remained was a small pile of stones…
It continued: ‘One day [some] women decided to put a stop to the Tjongololo’s doings. At night they waylaid him and doused him with magic water, which made him freeze and unable to move. They grabbed him and stuffed him into a box.
‘We have found that box and hung it up here to remind [women] that curiosity really is a bad, bad thing.
Of course, you know what happened next; all that forbidden stuff just made me determined to open it. Heck, I’m a writer, I had to know what would happen!
A firm tug and the door flew open. Bla bla bla! A loud alarm went off and a warning light flashed. Inside lay another sign telling me I now had to buy a round at the bar. I laughed and started thinking of how to fib or fudge my way out of the fix my nosiness had got me into.
Luckily, it was mid-morning and there was hardly anyone at the bar.
What fun everyone at the Gondwana Collection must have had gathering the memorabilia and old cars that fill this shed-like space; and what fun they’re still having with the Tjongololo box (and its counterpart, Pandora’s Box, in the Gents). Thanks for sharing your madcap world with us!
This article was originally published on Roxanne Reid’s African travel blog. Roxanne has published three books, including two travel books: A Walk in the Park: travels in and around South Africa’s national park (2009) and Travels in the Kalahari: Exploring the spirit of the thirstland (2012).