Monday, 29 February 2016

21st century heartbeat

10 days left in the motherland.
Yesterday I arrived back in Stellenbosch, tomorrow we embark on a little road trip past Gansbaai to Cape Agulhas and then on to Waenhuiskrans. The names of places ring bells for being where one goes to shark cage dive, the southernmost tip of Africa, and the town where Madel Terreblanche in the soap 7de Laan had a beach house. More than that I do not know.

Europeans have often asked me how many African countries I have visited, probably presuming that going from Kenia to Ghana to Swaziland is equal in distance and ease to travelling across their own continent. But Africa is an enormous continent with unequalled diversity and cultural differences, and travelling here means accepting hours (if not days) in the car or bus just to get from one side of the country to the other. When we were little my mom would drive the 12+ hours from Pretoria to Jeffrey's Bay all by herself while we would count different coloured cars, play I-spy-with-my-little-eye, suck on Dirkie condensed milk tubes and wait to see who could spot the ocean first.

Much of long distance driving to me still holds the fascination of looking out of the window and seeing another world go by. I know the golden afternoon sunlight in the Free State, the sudden spot of green as one approaches the Orange river, the soccer statue on the back roads in the small town of Richmond, or where the speed cameras between George and Wilderness are. My mother has taken us on a road trip to Swaziland, Lesotho and Kwa-Zulu Natal, where we stayed over in a monastery, ate cup a soup and drank wine after having gone up on Durban's Moses Mabidha stadium. In Swaziland we walked through the woods or saw hundreds of schoolchildren walking along the roads. To get up into the mountains of Lesotho we clambered into a Land Rover and held onto our seats whilst driving up the Sani Pass.

Other trips have included detours to the Owl House in Nieu Bethesda or visiting Sutherland's Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) to see the stars of the African sky (but then having the visit cancelled due to a magnificent display of clouds at sunset that sadly prevented any real star gazing). We've gone up Table Mountain, we've traced the history of our family at Franschhoek's Huguenot Memorial Museum or surveyed the land in the Valley of Desolation.

Once, my mother and I took the train from Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth and got stuck somewhere in the middle of the Free State, which turned a 20-hour trip into a 36-hour adventure. After a midnight arrival in P.E. we stayed over in a hotel before heading off to the Addo Elephant National Park and then visiting my grandmother in Jeffrey's Bay.

Tomorrow we embark again, to see the world in one country.