A Remarkable Experience

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A week with Neville Jones, http://www.experientialtravel.com.au was a wonderful experience – and a great way to explore Africa.     He organised the whole trip with such grace and thoughtfulness, that we moved seamlessly from one amazing experience to another, including seeing ‘the gorillas’;  something on many people’s wish list.    I was so so fortunate to be given the opportunity.

This part of our adventure began with us staying at the Buhoma Lodge, in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.   The staff were, as everywhere, courteous, helpful and knowledgable.   The lodge, I think is designed to prepare one for what lies ahead – a steep climb to our room with a view – we were quite puffed by the time we reached the verandah and were grateful we didn’t have to carry our bags, all be they small and soft (a condition of travel by the way for the light aircraft we used).

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The stairs to our room!
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and the view
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The verandah

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As always, our meals were delicious and full of surprises, like Marmite which we never see in Australia 🙂

And the conversations with other guests interesting.   The exhilaration of those who had just returned from seeing the gorillas was such that they almost glowed with a bright light;   and so was the talk about ‘how tough the walk had been’.

 

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The Impenetrable Forest

If the truth be told, I was beginning to dread this walk.   Not 36 hours earlier I had walked to see the Ik people and did not relish the idea of an equally tough walk in the future, let alone the same week!!!!!    I did not sleep that night, debating with myself as to whether my damaged leg was a valid excuse not to walk; what if I didn’t keep up with the others; what if my boots failed me (I was not, as mentioned before, equipped with state of the art hiking gear I saw around me).  I most definitely felt like the country bumpkin (in my borrowed shirt and pants with not one pocket😂😂)  surrounded as I was by high Tech Trekkers speaking foreign languages with every cadged that opens and shut !!

But cowardice won and I did not admit that I was too nervous to do the walk.   Although Karen, I am sure sensed it as she encouraged me hugely to ‘give it a go’ as one says and off we went.

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The beginning….leaving the lodge

And  I discovered, it is all about ‘the benchmark’.   So when people told us how hard the gorilla walk was I used my benchmark and was fearful. Thankfully their benchmark was clearly different, this walk was a ‘walk in the park’ – a rather big park I admit, but an walk in a park nonetheless.   We had a different benchmark after our ‘Ik walk’.

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A rather large park….
Again armed guards, this time to protect us from wild gorillas (as opposed to habituated gorillas) and forest elephants;  a group of porters to carry our back packs and pull and push us up or down as required, the trackers and our leader.   They together with our merry group;
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Our Leader
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some information
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attention being paid
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who wouldn’t smile with such a priviledged job
the three of us, an elderly English couple who made me feel young again; a young Irish lass travelling alone and two Ugandan men travel photographers working with the Ugandan tourist board and the rest set off to find the gorillas.
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wish I could capture the sounds
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or the feel as we set off
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some coped with the incine better than others 🙂
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It was steep, but Oh so beautiful
The forest is a little like a garden of Eden or at least as I imagine it to be.
Strange, one seldom hears talk about the forest, lots about the gorillas and the toughness of the walk, but I have yet to hear anyone talk about how beautiful the forest is.
If I had a regret, it was that we were ‘on a mission’ – to see the gorillas, and there was no time to stop and absorb the detail of the trees that reached to heaven, the flowers that were so tiny, the trail of ants that went From who knows where To who knows where or look for the birds we could hear throughout the walk.
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Garden of Eden?

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The Impenetrable Forest

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Took my breath away

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the detail

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looking

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 We were lucky – 3 hours into walking we found the gorillas. This group (the Mubale group) consisted of 12 individuals and we were lucky to see all 12, including a one week old baby.
What a sighting – I did not presume to photograph – with several very serious photographers on our team, so these photographs are a mix of mine, Vincent Mugaba and Michelle Davies (who saw them the following day)
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one week old – photo by Karen Weskob
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This is my new baby – K Weskob
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one year old – K Weskob
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photo by K Weskob
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K Weskop

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looking
My first glimpse was, ‘Oh’.
I remember thinking, ‘so this is the gorilla’.
For a second there was almost nothing, I was a ‘blank’.
Then she moved to look my way and I saw her hands and arms and I was absolutely in the moment.   There was a mother cradling her one week old baby in one arm, and eating leaves, quite nonchalantly using her other hand, while watching me.
I do not say a gorilla, but rather a mother, everything about the way she nursed her infant was human.
There was much excitement amongst our little group and looking alongside me, eyes were moist.
It was fascinating to watch her watch us.
Some of us were in the moment and others were capturing the moment; with such intensity, I wonder if they were present at all.
And I wondered what she made of us.
Her expression relaxed and inscrutable.
At one point her baby stretched out its arm onto her chest, it was exquisite – tiny fingers and little arm, so perfect.  With the utmost gentleness she took that tiny hand and tucked it back under her arm.   How many times did I touch my children’s hands when they rested on my chest just as she did.
There was another female with a youngster, hanging onto her back, looking at us with curiosity and Michelle watched the same youngster playing in the trees, showing off his/her climbing prowess 🙂 🙂 🙂

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And then He was pointed out to me.   I didn’t realise what I was looking at to begin with.   Sitting across the path was a gorilla – big, but nothing to alert me.   And then he stood up, and the silverback was Large.   It is, I think impossible to describe in words the aura about him.   The confidence and authority that exudes from his body is so visible there was no need for my guide to ask me to move back, as he approached, filling the tiny path, lumbering forward as if I didn’t exist; he was Magnificent.   He ambled past me, his foot touching mine as I leant back out of his way.   Did I breath?   I think so.   Did I tremble?
I don’t think so for fear of touching him in doing so, he was that close.
It was extraordinary.
And yet, not  intimate in the way the contact with the mother was.
50 minutes up, said our guide; surely the quickest and yet the longest 50 minutes any of us had experienced.    Which meant we had only 1o minutes left when we had to leave the group.   Crazy I may be, but ‘my mother’ with her tiny baby stood, leant toward me and let me see her tiny baby as she held her in both her hands, almost an act of surrender to trust :  “here, have a look at my precious one”  and as quickly, she folded her back in her arms and walked off.
Did she know our time was up?
Did she deliberately show me her baby
Did I dream that?
Looking back, I can no longer be sure whether I imagined it or not.
But how could I have?
Did she move on with your child and marvel at our similarity, or did she not see it?
I moved on.
The walk back was different, some struggled, some talked, some were silent, there were parts that were very steep and concentration was focussed.
And still my mind wandered:   was I like her; or was she like me?…..
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private thoughts

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My lovely porter, Jennifer
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with the sweet smile
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looking
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Receiving a certificate 🙂
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A long flight….

We sit alongside each other : an empty seat between us.   And neither body spills over into it, which should give rise to a minor celebration on a long haul flight.   But there is no celebration. In fact there is nothing; not a look, smile, nod, scowl, absolutely nothing.  The empty seat is as solid a barrier as if there had been a body in it.   Each of us is absorbed in our own worlds, our thoughts private creating this strange isolation in a plane so large and full.

It is a long flight, this flight ‘home’ .  In a way it begins at 5.30am when I wake with the light in my room and go for a walk, because there will be sitting and sitting, effectively two days of sitting.

Then there is the packing.    The usual struggle to get back into my bag the stuff I easily took out on arrival.   Why doesn’t the same amount go back in? Every time!!!  So I negotiate with myself – you’re coming back soon so leave this behind, and that, and it would be a good idea to leave these shoes too.   (Which of course it wouldn’t as I will need to replace them at home 😜) but it’s all part of the long journey home.)

There are always people I didn’t get to see, the last minute phone calls- all somewhat unsatisfactory as I’m sort of half gone already; the private negotiation with my guilt about those not made;  the rushed shopping for someone I had overlooked.   The constant recalculation of how much time before I must leave going on in my head like a needle stuck on a long playing record.

There is the security of a ritual lunch out with two special special grannies.   Conversation somewhat muted, as we go over the highlights of my visit;  more effort than usual is required to fill the silences.   15107318_1377524708933297_2543157797124281220_n

And suddenly time has run out and I must leave, lock the bag, throw it on the back seat – the car is never large enough for anything but a pair of runners to fit in the boot, regardless of the little drawing of 4 people, 2 bags on the computer screen when you book it.😂

Hugs and tears, each parting is more painful than the previous and I shut myself off from the figure still standing at the top of the driveway as I drive off.

Family and friends text and call all the way to the airport so my concentration is challenged and my heart is blessed.    

img_5696Car drop off zones seem far more complex to access than car pick up zones, round here, switch lanes, to the far end.   And then back again to the airport!!!

The bag next, wrapped in plastic so no one can open it.   Not even me, at the other end 😜.  It takes superhuman patience to cut open a bag wound in ‘African’ plastic after two days of travelling.   Funny I never feel the need to do the plastic thing going into SA, but always do going into Oz, something about our customs people make me very nervous.

And then joy of joy; my most special friend is at the airport; this too is becoming a ritual.   She stands with me as I check in, she smiles and distracts me as I hand in my phone card and effectively cut off ties.   She joins me for a cup of tea as we talk and laugh and share and use up some of the three hours check in time.   She always pays and I always let her.   And then again, it’s time and I must leave again.  We laugh and hug and pretend it’s not for long and I walk through the gate that marks the point of no return.

It’s a long flight this flight home.

My boarding card says gate A00, the gate is marked A0.   

My boarding card says Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi, the sign at the gate shows flights going to 5 destinations, but not Abu Dhabi.

You will understand, if you have been following my journey, why I am very careful these days about times and gates 😜😜😜

So I check with the nice young man sitting next to me; he too is going to Abu Dhabi and is confused now that I point out the minor discrepancies between boarding passes and gates.

I look for an official – but we are sitting at gate A0 – the furthest gate of the airport and no official seems to venture that far😂😂.

The nice young man and I begin talking.   We have an ‘airport conversation’ which is at the same time intimate and remote.   He is visiting his sister in Sydney for her 40th birthday celebration.   He rode the 97.4 bike ride yesterday.   He works for Sandvik;  he ran up the berg and has a nice t shirt to commemorate the race.   

I’m about to learn about his ex wife and the work she does when an official arrives, asks for our boarding passes and moves us into two rows.   We smile, we’ll finish our conversation shortly.    We don’t.   We don’t see one another again, despite being on the same plane for 23 hours.   Such is the world of travel

Drinks are served by a friendly steward.   Red wine alongside, Diet Coke for me (why did I ask for it, fizzy and unattractive) – surely I could have thought of a better companion to my dinner.    Or perhaps it is exactly the right match for my dinner, for while the menu handed out earlier with such flamboyance describes a succulent lamb briyani, the reality is far from that .    I wonder if the expensive tickets really do translate to excellent meals?  I will never know.

We doze, my silent travelling companion and I.    I wriggle, fiddle with the movies but can’t concentrate, put the flight path on and watch as I and the aeroplane on the screen move ;

Time since departure 20 mins

Time since departure 2 hours

Until 10 hours later I see

Time to destination 20 mins.

The a three hour wait and another 14 hour flight.

What’s with going home?  The same flights – reversed I’ll admit, and transits tackled with So much more care.    It is though, essentially the same.   

So why is the trip home longer?

Quieter?

Slower?

Is it the difference between looking back over something as against looking forward to something I wonder? 

One way you can create; imagine a perfect reality. 

The other way the reality is exposed to you.  The joy, the pain, the fractures.   

And there always is a fracture, sometimes appearing long after like a chip in the windscreen unnoticed till it shatters suddenly. Other times like a serpent trapped and lashing out in a frenzy to protect itself from what it sees as an enemy. 

Sometimes we can mend; sometimes not.

Sometimes it has to do with living two different lives in two different places; sometimes not.

Sometimes it has to do with choices we make, sometimes not.

Is it the knowledge that I leave a ‘home’ troubled, groaning, needing willing hands , and I go to a ‘home’ where things are good and, out of sight, I can quickly forget about the poverty, corruption, pain and enormous beauty and potential I am leaving, that makes the trip feel so much longer?

Or is it simply I am flying into the sun, ever east, forward chasing the clock.img_5591

I doze as I sit in my seat,  34k,  last row of the plane, second leg of the flight, listening to the cabin crew talking, digesting another largely indigestible meal advertised as lunch.

I ask myself why lunch and not dinner since the plane has been plunged into darkness; every blind pulled down, forcing us to pretend it’s night although the sun shines blindingly on the white clouds beyond the Perspex.

My flight path aeroplane shows 10 hours to go

It’s a long flight ‘home ‘

Trains and tears….

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Melbourne, weep.

A city as sophisticated and elegant as Melbourne Still does not have transport from its airports into the city.

Here I am, on a Friday evening in third world Africa, saying good-bye to my ‘baby’  Jessica, at the main Oliver Tambo Airport.    Painless the travel was, 30 minutes from home to airport, and when I was ready to go back, 35 minutes from airport to my front door

There is a distance of 33km, as the crow flies, from Sandton, where we ‘live’ to the airport. This can take more than an hour on the freeway, and longer if there is a traffic hiccup, which of course sounds quite familiar to my Melbourne ‘family’.

Except there is

The train;

the Gautrain.

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Conceived in 2000 and completed in 2010 (imagine Melbourne thinking that far ahead!!).   I visited during the construction and there was disruption, no denying that.   In some of the busiest parts of the city  where large, sophisticated stations were built.

Big disruptions.

And we quietly muttered and grumbled and navigated our way around construction sites where there should have been roads.

And it cost heaps, estimated at SAR 3.5bill it ended up costing in excess of SAR25bill.

And it created jobs – heaps of them; more than 120 000 jobs and 15 000 courses for unskilled and management were made available.

It has 80km of dual railway line, 30km of tunnels and includes ten new stations.  11km of new bridges.

Other interesting trivia is that it involved about seven and a half million cubic meters of spoil [ph] and the tender papers took 7 hours to deliver and took up 18.5cu metres!!!!

A really a massive project –

As I said, Melbourne,

a big commitment.

But oh, does it work.   For a fair cost, one can park in the parking provided (and there is enough) get on a spotless, quiet train that leaves every 12 minutes and takes less than 20 minutes to deliver you right to the airport.

Why, oh why can a cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria plan and work together to create a state of the art commuter system to their major airport and Melbourne has a gridlock drive, hugely expensive parking and slow unreliable buses into the city and then perhaps if you lucky into the suburbs.

Melbourne weep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bush..

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The vista
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Relaxed
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but oh, so alert

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grazing so contentedly

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It is a Brave soul that attempts to capture ‘The Bush’.   For those of my friends who know the Bush, words are not necessary and can never do it justice and for those readers who have never known the Bush, words are all I can offer knowing full well, before I even begin, that they can never do it justice.   So to you all, for different reasons, forgive in advance my paltry attempt at sharing the ‘Bush’

 Welgevonden (place well found) sees us rise at 5am although the waking of the birds with morning song begins even earlier.

A quick strong coffee and we are on our vehicle; bundled up against the early morning cold.   Very little is said as the smell of the overnight light rain fills our bodies with joy – it is dry and the drought here is crippling and the smell of rain is exhilarating.   We have our binoculars and the sense of anticipation that only a game drive can bring.   

It doesn’t matter how many times one walks or drives in the Bush, the unpredictability of what nature will reveal makes every trip have the same sense of anticipation.

In this case the terrain is new to us- mountainous, red boulders everywhere as we drop into open plains and climb out 0f them to reveal breathtaking vistas of the next rolling plains.

We stop every so often to gaze at zebra, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, giraffe, warthog, wildebeest.   We sit and savour the silence that epitomises the ‘Bush’.   Precisely because it is Not silent; only we are, as senses respond to the call of the ‘Piet my vrou’ – a bird call that Is the Bush;  the brown hooded kingfisher, so small so exquisite with such a large call you know he is there long before you can find him, the wild cry of a fish eagle.   There is the sound of the grass in the breeze, again a sound uniquely Bush.   The cicada, frogs, all contributing so that we are silent.

Suddenly energy changes and bodies tense, voices are raised in whispers, adrenalin begins to pump as right alongside us are cheetahs.   A sight so unexpected that no matter how often one has seen them, this sighting is like the first.   

And there is mother and three cubs, with bellies so full you feel they could be pregnant (except of course they cannot be) and we stare in wonder, torn between watching and experiencing or recording to experience again and again via our cameras .    And then a male appears and the most extraordinary fight right before our eyes ensues and continues for about twenty minutes;

The male harassing the mother ; the cubs running around squealing; the mother backing off ; the male coming back; the cycle repeated over and over again as we watched enthralled, horrified and bemused.   Nature revealing a pattern of behaviour no one was familiar with.

A young elephant entertains with a show of bravado that involves mock attacks at us and at an imaginary foe as he raised his ears, and little trunk and ran forward bellowing as loudly as he could.   Practicing for his future role as protector of his herd.  

The beautiful precious rhino, horns intact grazing so close to our vehicle I could have leant out and touched him.

And in this particular day it stays cloudy and cool so when we stop for a cup of tea and a rusk, we huddle together hands curved round our mugs breathing in the warmth, savouring every moment of a unique time in the Bush.   

Because every visit and every drive through our Bush is by its very nature unique.  

And so still no words describe it, which is why we say, “it’s in our blood”

8/11/2016

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all photographs belong to Jessica 🙂15027953_10207978902570098_1626473969246999285_n Another thing about the Bush – one usually makes good friends, often from countries far flung, as in our case.   Friends who kindly shared their photographs with us.

Thank you Pim Van Dam for this photograph                                         _MG_9720t.jpg

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Friends in the Bush
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Enjoying themselves outdoors
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and in…..
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Celebrating life
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and the privilege of what Ekutuleni had to offer

“Everest”

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Whenever I have to get up at 4am 💤😳I set my alarm to sound, twice, thus ensuring I can sleep soundly till then. Though why I do this is, perhaps a question I should ask (and answer) myself.
You see, I don’t really need to wake up at times like this because I don’t really sleep 😳. My brain seems to mistrust even my reliable iPhone alarm system, (set to play a suitably rousing tune), and keeps me in that twilight zone of non sleep, every so often checking the time and finally being so relieved it is four am so that I Can Finally Get Up.

In the dark, and silence, Jess and I put our hiking gear on and make our way downstairs trying not to wake the neighbours.

We had been invited to walk up Lion’s Head to watch the sun rise, and, since there was no mention of abseiling or jumping down, I assumed the invitation included walking down 😜.

So I found myself in the company of three young, fit women, at the car park at the foot of a mountain we could not yet see. Then they were off, chatting away and disappeared into the darkness. And I found myself wondering why I thought this was a great idea.

I am fit, but in the fading darkness I felt my age and three weeks of doing nothing but eat and drink as I followed as best I could. The path is broad, sandy and not too difficult to negotiate if you discount the angle – which is Up. To begin with, that is. Just as I found my rhythm so to speak, it changed to steps and boulders and my rhythm disappeared, together with any hope of keeping up with the young ladies who had so thoughtfully included me in this little gig.😂

The only thing that didn’t disappear was the angle – it remained Up.

I had company now though. A gentleman, backpack, walking stick, hat – a real ‘professional’ hiker attached himself to me. Thankfully as it was still early morning and not quite light and he had walked this route often and could point me in the right direction when necessary.
I was very impressed with the fact that he could talk and walk at the same time – something I most certainly could not do – and talk he did (and wave his walking stick- often dangerously close to my face as I clambered up rocks behind him😳).

He grew up on Robben island which one could see well from our lofty vantage point. I learnt it was a prison in 1600, a leper colony in 1700 into the 1800, a naval radio base (his childhood years) in the 1950’s, before we all knew it as where Mandela, Mbeki and co were incarcerated.

And then no one spoke as the last chain and ladder were negotiated and we pushed ourselves to get to the top for an amazing sunrise.

No words could adequately describe the awe and exhilaration of this sight and even the photographs fail.

With the dawn came the light so to speak and the rather small summit shrunk considerably as bodies clambered up over the ridge and joined us jostling for position.

I had this awful fear of someone toppling over the edge simply because there were five ties too many on the lions head. So without further ado I headed down.

Now this sounds simple, but believe me it was anything but simple. There is a narrow path. Do not think of a clear flatly graded walkway; think of boulders and rocks that require either very very long legs or very solid bottoms. You’ll work out which I used 😂

And that is not all, there are sections of chains and ladders that require strong nerves, and hand feet coordination (like that manual car driving 😜) and patience. As fast as we were trying to descend (some our ladies were due at work at 8am) so were a remarkably large number of athletes coming up.

Heads down, listening I think to some steroid pumping something, sweating, puffing, on a mission – which did not allow for novices like yours truly. The problems became particularly acute at the steep boulder sections and the chains/ladders.

Then I understood what it must feel like in modern times on Everest. Here am I trying to descend before my courage fades, but am forced to stand still, using valuable lung capacity as these young hulks shimmy up. At the same time I’m trying not to look down – it is a long long long way down – the view is startling, infinite and without interruption to the car park

My turn now to clamber down some rocks, hanging on to the metal foot or were they hand holds? At the same time as the next wave of body flesh arrived from below and had to wait for me to complete my descent. They puffed and snorted surely not to rush me, but to maintain their rhythm? Nothing could have rushed me – I hung on for dear life, acutely aware of the view they had as they looked up at me, acutely aware of the drop below should I hesitate for a second, acutely aware of how many climbers had failed, permanently not on their ascent but rather their descent – I have read all the Everest books!!!!
Acutely aware of how absurd it was of me to presume to do this. Alas, too late she cried.

And then the boulders were cleared, now just the steep steps and I would be passed the danger zone so to speak. I began to relax, in time to see some of those supreme beings who had run past me on the way up, now pass me on the way down!!!!

As the yard arm reached a respectable hour, about 7am I saw more ‘normal’ people setting off up past me. Some of them looked as though they were heading for a stroll in the park; no park here
Another group had brought their dogs, which left us wondering to this very moment where they were heading. One gentleman had a ‘work jacket’ on and another couple were limping at the start – a little like Jess and I are still doing two days later whenever we try to go up or down stairs.

Clearly again, those questions of fit and faint hearted come to mind

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Time warp?

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30/10/2016

Time warp? …..

Ek sit nou in Die Kerk.

As ek omkyk sien ek net ‘onse mense’ – no rainbow nation here 😟
(This is an observation, not a judgement: after all there was no English service anywhere in the local region)

Feels no different in any way from when I was dragged to NGV as a child – more than 50 years ago. I don’t remember the sermons ( only the boredom of a young child 😂) but pretty certain it wasn’t too different from today’s :

Which began:

Die tweede (gebod) is : jy moet jy naaste liefhe soos jouself. Geen ander gebod is groter as die twee nie. Mark 12:31 ( the second commandments love your neighbour as yourself)

Ons weet wie ons is; Weet ons wat pad ons loop? (We know who we are but do we know where we are heading)

Is the question raised in the second part ….

The humility and commitment in prayer and deed to ‘sorg vir die Ander’ is real and almost visceral in this place:

With earnest prayer for courage to ‘los die bekende, en doen die Godswerk wat nie maklik is nie’ (let go of the familiar and do His work, which is not easy to do)

Which raises that universal question –

who is ‘ons naaste’ (our neighbours) :

That paradox between intellect and heart :

The paradox of this stunning complex country

Or perhaps the paradox of man ?

The struggle between Self and Anders (others)

As I said, just a reflection on this sabbath day😃

The struggle between self and selfless

As I said, just a reflection on this sabbath day 😜

Tigers and Taxis

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I had to go back to the airport today. For reasons that would make an interesting story where it not that my blood pressure would not survive the telling 😢.

Suffice to say, my little white car was to be swapped for another little white car. Well in the end, for a little bigger white car. Perhaps I should be more precise, and leave the ‘little’ out of the ‘little bigger’. I cannot reach across to adjust the left hand mirror of the new white car. Which I guess makes it a Much bigger white car since the previous ones were so little I could reach my hand out the left window almost without effort – though why I would want to is another question 😂

But I digress.

I am reading an absolutely fascinating book, “Tiger”, about a particular tiger in the Primorye territory in far east of Russia – now that’s got you intrigued I bet 😂😂. But there is more ; the book also looks at the relationship between prey and predator, through the millennia, and all the related theories and hypotheses.

I am sure you see why I have found it fascinating😂. Concepts like the umwelt and umgebung are discussed; hunters and predators use these techniques without knowing they do so. They can move into the umwelt – the world of the other, filled with the perceptions it (the other ) alone knows.

Driving from Sea Point to Cape Town airport at 4pm was a mistake – more traffic than the Monash on a bad day but it did give me time to reflect on both tigers and taxis.

And the umwelt

All us drivers still in one piece on South African roads have acquired this skill.

How else can you explain that split second when you pull back because you ‘feel’ that taxi apparently contently cruising in the lane alongside you has decided to switch lanes. Because there is no slowing down, no head turning to look this way, no indicator- No Indication At All. But sure enough a millisecond after you feel it, it happens and you are kind of prepared and a collision is avoided.

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That umwelt when

your skin feels trouble before your brain has time to register and the driver in front of you stops – just stops – to let someone out or in. And then after this event offers a casual wave out of their window in acknowledgment of your quick thinking 😟

The umwelt again;

When you, minding your own business wait patiently at the red robot (lights). Not a pedestrian in sight. The green light, first gear engaged and there it is : foot and breathe suddenly suspended by the umwelt, as a pedestrian from nowhere runs across the road against the red light in that strange double legged run facing you ( as though that offered some solid shield of protection?) and you continue to drive again with unblemished record 😃

And imagine, prior to reading “Tiger” I, and now you, just thought we were good drivers – we had no idea it was actually about the umwelt 😜😜😳

A Simple Twist of Fate – Joan Baez

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The only elephants we saw 🙂
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Sunday’s River area – so green right next to so dry – not that far from the Karoo
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The roadside
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Beautiful in a silent eerie way
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and large against the skyline

 

26/10/2016

Taking last minute of photos of the bridge as I left Steytlerville, I noticed a young ‘coloured’ man on the road waiting for a lift out of what for him, had been a dead end – I mean even more of a dead end than the road was – he had come to look for work.

No way could I drive past him without my conscious being troubled all the way back to PE. There is no train, there are no buses, there will be only me all day …

And I hear my ‘South African family’ gasp at the thought of my picking up a hitchhiker. But how could I not? I trust my instincts and He knows my motives and so far neither have let me down 🙏🏻
And smart blonde that I am👍🏻😜 I made him sit in front so I could ‘keep an eye on him’ 😜😳👀👁

I stopped and asked where he was going – a rather rhetorical question since wherever it was, this was the only road either he or I could take. This was lucky because while I am pretty much bilingual, the cape coloured lingo sometimes leaves me flummoxed.😂😂. And this was one of those sometimes. I had no idea where it was he was going to.

My travelling companion wore the uniform green ABSA Springbok shirt that is almost a uniform in this corner of the world; a single earring, floppy hat, slops and he had with him a kit bag – bulging, split and tied together with rope – containing all his worldly possessions. There was also The Phone in his pocket – I worked that one out cause I could hear music coming from his left leg as he leaned through the window to talk to me.

The difficulty in communicating wasn’t entirely because I couldn’t speak the lingo or understand it. Ja Mevrou, Née Mevrou, Dankie Mevrou were all quite clear. But pretty much anything beyond that was lost through the gap – a large gap in his teeth. Well, the truth is there actually weren’t any teeth that I could see.

There was a time when no front teeth was considered attractive amongst Coloureds, but whether that is still the case, or this was another physical indication of the poverty I saw all around, I cannot say.

Either way, I had my ears and brain very focussed as I tried to chat and then gave up as I drove us to wherever, when, I presumed he would say – let me off here please (or similar 😜)

He is 26 years old and had been looking for work since he was 14. The longest job he had been offered was 6 months – he gushed (or I think he did) about how wonderful that had been – packing lemoene in Kirkwood. Worked for ‘n onderwys’ (teacher) but only for two weeks cause he left his holiday home to go back to teach and December is too far away to wait for him to come back for two weeks.

Travelling on my own allowed me to ‘sing’ at the top of my voice or talk to myself and even answer myself . This would not work however with a travelling companion, so I tried the radio which could not ‘find a channel’ in the Karoo. I doubted my classical music would be a hit and instead invited him to use his phone. And so we travelled listening to, not rap or heavy metal, which would not have surprised me, but tikkie draai musiek and Afrikaanse liekies – not quite Sarie Maree but close enough.

Contained, each with our own thoughts.

Mine:
He’s travelling 180km because he heard there is work there – two days work mind you. He had travelled to Steytlerville for the same reason. But if there was work there it had long since been completed by someone else.

I probably should be nervous of him – people always tell me I’m mad, the things I do.
He seems ‘neutral’ enough – was going to say harmless, but that sounds like a word to use for an animal.

A Simple Twist of Fate

– what if I was born Coloured in the Karoo
– would someone give me a lift from nowhere to hopefully somewhere?
What if……

His. I can only guess
I’m going 180km because I heard there was work there. Never mind that I travelled to Steytlerville for the same reason. This one may be the one ….. Even if a weeks work.

A Simple Twist of Fate

– what if I was born White, in Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth or even Johannesburg.
– would I have a Chevy spark or a Kia Rio

And I waited for him to say ‘hier Mevrou’
He did.
Long after the turn off to Uitenhage – someone’s radar had been switched off – could equally have been mine – so back we went to the turn off and there I left my travelling companion with some Rands (dollars) and best wishes ….

The future? Itinerant worker chasing rumours of employment, with dreams and prospects fading as more younger people join in the same search for a decreasing job pool. Security- plans-place to call home ( and I thought I had a problem with home😂😂) health, community?

Hope?

A Simple Twist of Fate

He went his way and I drove on to family, food, drink, phone charger, and a life I can more or less plan.

The PE wind came up and my little white car, with whom I had negotiated a truce – third and fifth gear agreed to a clear separation, so we ambled more happily at 100km/hr now, nothing over though or those wheels again 😂were blown about on the freeway.

The scrub along the way had a less than usually bedraggled appearance :- hundreds of coloured plastic bags were caught in them and filled with the wind so they looked like giant coloured flowers
I so wanted to stop and take a photo but would probably have been blown to Cape Town and without my toothbrush – well that wouldn’t do. 😜

Not a drop too soon

Willowmore – not a fuel drop too soon 😃😃😃

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Sigh of Relief

25/10/2016

And functioning people, petrol and pumps
And what were they singing as I arrived?
“I trust in the Lord to lead me ”
🙏🏻

A surprisingly busy little town – the dot on the map must be bigger than that for Steytlerville : and still you sense that survival is a struggle – every purchase made, however small is received with huge – surprisingly huge appreciation

I used to drive through towns like this in ‘the bad old days’ (read previous regime) while on business; and 26 years on, under the new government (read ANC) – I see no change in the level of poverty, no running water, even Steytlerville only got water two years ago, no refuse systems etc
Begs a question ?

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not a drop too soon
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Saviours
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Or I could have….
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used the local limo service
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Sophies Choice
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opened a pandora’s box
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of mixed vintage

To hot for anything but a liquid lunch 🙂  well and some cake…..and interesting company