Saturday, June 14, 2008
The Roaring of the sands
Maryssa at Die Oog in Kuruman
A week in my home land is never enough. Five days is even worse, but they were five days of intense absorption. Not only of the brilliant sunshine that characterises southern African winters, but of the sounds, smells and eye-stretching glory of hundreds of kilometres of nothingness. Nothingness that consists of rolling hills, sparsely covered semi-desert, acacia trees and red, red earth.
A large part of South Africa is taken up by the Kalahari Desert, which spreads its palm and extends its fingers across the centre of the country. I have a special and enduring passion for this region. It's what I always see in my mind's eye when I start yearning for my southern home, so I was especially pleased when I learned that Maryssa and Craig were going to be spending a year in Postmasburg, a town of approximately 30,000 inhabitants, right in the middle of the Northern Cape, for which you can read southern Kalahari.
The journey there and back would have been a once-only-and-ever had I not already known what I was going to. I left Rotterdam at 12.00 midday on Friday the 6th and arrived with Maryssa in Postmasburg at 7.30pm on Saturday the 7th. Taking into account the five hour wait at Cairo airport for my connection to Johannesburg (not too hot at all by the way), it was still an incredibly long journey. In Jo'burg, I met up with my dear friend Moira, who came and met me for coffee and chats at the airport. There was then a one and a half hour flight from Joeys to Kimberley, and after that a two hundred kilometre drive to Postmasburg. According to Maryssa, it is 1000 kms from everywhere - Cape Town, Jo'burg and even Craig's home in Natal are all just about 1000 kms from Postmasburg. Sounds like a good name for a book doesn't it?
During the time from Saturday evening to Thursday morning, Maryssa and I packed it in. We went to Witsand, a nature reserve where we cycled 10 kms to see the Dunes known as the Roaring Sands of the Kalahari. Apparently, when the conditions are very hot and dry, any disturbance will make the sands emit a roaring sound, but being winter, it wasn't hot enough when we went. The trip there was something else. Unwittingly we took the long road on the outward journey, which despite being untarred dirt track the whole way, was quite good. We decided to take the shorter way home though. 70 kms sounded quite a saving on 110. Big mistake. The road was more like a river bed than a road and took us through a terrifying mountain pass with a descent which had me bracing my feet against the floor even though I was the passenger. Maryssa took us down in 1st gear, mainly because the brakes were distinctly iffy, and we were sweating with relief when we finally negotiated the hairpin bend at the bottom of the mountain and went safely on our way again. Nevertheless, the road didn't improve much and it took us more than three hours to do the homeward run!
Then Monday was Postmasburg day, so we shopped, had haircuts and visited numerous of Maryssa's friends and colleagues at the hospital where she works as a Pharmacist. On Tuesday,we went to Kuruman, the town founded around one of the first mission stations in South Africa (established by Robert Moffat and his wife Mary in 1821)and site of a natural spring, known as die Oog (the Eye), which given its location, is a very special oasis indeed. After leaving Kuruman, we went south to the Wonderwerk caves which have some terrific examples of Bushman paintings. I enjoyed that brief episode very much, not only because I am fascinated by the Bushmen, but also because I had a spirited chat with the concierge, a local man named 'Neelis, who could only speak Afrikaans, so I just spoke Dutch with an afrikaans accent and it worked perfectly. I guess my primitive Dutch is good for something now, anyway! Wednesday was another home day with all sorts of missions to complete and then on Thursday morning, it was back in the bakkie for the two and a half hour drive to Kimberley and my long, somewhat arduous flights home.
Bushman paintings at Wonderwerk
'Neelis standing proud for his photo opportunity
Now I am back in Zeeland with Koos and Sindy, and very pleased to be here. It's good to see the lush green and exuberant growth after a week in the desert, and I know that this is my home now. Even so, I always leave a piece of myself behind. Maybe that's a good thing.... I can always go back to find it again. And I will.
Click here for pics of the Roaring Sands trip. Most of these were taken by Maryssa.