Saturday, May 30, 2009

At the end of the day

At the end of the day, when it's all just about said and done, that's when I take my walk on the road that skirts around the top and back and the back of town. Thank You for today, also for yesterday, and please will You order my tomorrow. 'Cos without You I'm nothing and my day's rotten pear-shaped.

Friday, May 29, 2009

The Zone

Jozi: This was taken at lunchtime in Rosebank on a Friday afternoon at month's end, and at that moment I didn't want to be anywhere else...especially as my lunch hadn't yet arrived.
I've a weekend ahead of me full of family, birthdays and friends. The whole of Monday I'm spending, work-related, at the famous (of Rivonia Trial fame that is) Lilliesleaf in Rivonia. The week thereafter I'm off to Cape Town for the book fair...and to get another perspective on everything. And I mean everything.
Right now though I'm reeling and grappling at the Seattle in Clearwater. There's a helluva lot of people here, more than I've seen in months. All of this while an icy cold front heads this way. It should hit Johannebsurg by tomorrow afternoon with the temperature expected to drop below zero - for a change. I'm enjoying the drama...I think.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Road home...

But only after the moussaka, ice cream and hot chocolate sauce, also the espresso, is down the chute.

It's an extraordinary Sunday evening and my heart's had a warming. Not to mention the pub's 80's music...

Pine-scented air & woodsmoke

Woodsman Inn, Sabie: There's only four of us at the warm, cozy bar. An Afrikaans couple in their early thirties; he's going to Swaziland tomorrow, they've ordered bar fare and are very friendly, in softspoken Afrikaans, with the well-spoken and gracefully tall black barman who has a large bronze-coloured name tag that says 'Oscar'. The large, overweight black man to my left with the red and black striped golf shirt has just finished a large full plate of food that anyone could see he'd enormously enjoyed. Until he spoke to Oscar in a local indigenous language I thougt he was from elsewhere in Africa. He's putting back double whiskeys on the rocks and soad and has a chubby fistfull of blueish R100 notes. And I've ordered a full, tall glass Hops Hollow Brew draught, it's from the local brewery I passed on the way here, just as I drove over the escarpment from Lydenburg/Mashishing. It's also what I drove 150km to drink, and to walk out of my normal Sunday evening box.

So what's special about Sabie? It's not hard to put your finger on it: it's the only place that I've thus far travelled to in the world where the air is always pungently pine-scented, and hazy with firesmoke, atmosphericly surrounded by mostly forest-covered mountains. This is a quaint forest town built on wood and always has a sense of being filled with foresters and their houses. The fresh pine-scented air immediately launches you into a high, it feels otherworldy and harkens to a both a pace and way of life long fogotten by the majority of the South African population. If that's not enough, you're likely to go weak at the knees because of its beauty, also the fact that it's vegetation is all lushly exuberant and exotic because everything flourishes in the Lowveld clime. And the folk here are strangely black-eyed beautiful as if they were born from coal. My best is the fact that this is a town, because of the altitude, of perpetually flaming, roaring hearths and pine wood smoke.

Graskop, Hazyview, Nelspruit, Pilgrims Rest, the caves and countless waterfalls, forests and God's Window are all within a 50km radius. just beyond that is the Kruger National Park and Mozambique.

Long Tom Pass

It's dusk on the Long Tom Pass. Feintly, down below, I can see Sabie's lights. Except for the odd car passing me this is beautifully bleak and a lonely place to stand on the edge of the escarpment. It's a cold, blustery wind that tossles my hair and tears at my jacket. It's also a wind that exhilarates me. Here on the edge I'm out of my box and I gulp in deeply this air. My turmoiled emotions confirm that I'm very much alive...not the living dead.


A sudden desire this afternoon for the locally brewed draught at the Woodsman Inn in Sabie has prompted a spontaneous road trip to Sabie. Right now I'm having a cappuccino (not the greatest) in Lydenburg/Mashishing and reading the weekend newspapers. I'm also processing a deep-seated skin hunger and pangs of loneliness (complicated story) that I've not experienced before. Nevertheless, and despite it being an ugly Sunday afternoon, I'm ecstatic to be alive and living in a perpetual space of childlike anticipation. And to know that I'm a free being with few limitations, and those limitations that I do have are of my own imagination and relatively easily dissolved.


That's the Crocodile River down below, just other side of it is the southern most part of the Kruger National Park. I was in Malelane having lunch when I took this photo. I had started heading this way the day before, had even seen snow drifts on the Patatanek pass of the Schoemanskloof Road, then a ferocious thunderstorm completely out of season in Nelspruit before the the relief of finding normal winter humidity and heat here in Malelane.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Song of the Open Road

Today's wintery sunset at Millys on the N4 was extraordinarily spectacular and oozing moodiness. Despite the fact that I was heading towards a warm and welcoming home, I've an overwhelming yearning for travel. Perhaps then it's no coincidence that I stumbled upon Walt Whitman's epic 'Song of the Open Road' when I sat down at my desk. Below is the first two stanzas of 15:

Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune, I myself am good-fortune,

Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,

Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,

Strong and content I travel the open road.

The earth, that is sufficient,

I do not want the constellations any nearer,

I know they are very well where they are,

I know they suffice for those who belong to them.

(Still here I carry my old delicious burdens,

I carry them, men and women, I carry them with me wherever I go,

I swear it is impossible for me to get rid of them,

I am fill'd with them, and I will fill them in return.)


You road I enter upon and look around, I believe you are not all that is here,

I believe that much unseen is also here.

Here the profound lesson of reception, nor preference nor denial,

The black with his woolly head, the felon, the diseas'd, the illiterate person, are not denied;

The birth, the hasting after the physician, the beggar's tramp, the drunkard's stagger, the laughing party of mechanics,

The escaped youth, the rich person's carriage, the fop, the eloping couple,

The early market-man, the hearse, the moving of furniture into the town, the return back from the town,

They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be interdicted,

None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Rear view mirror

Driving eastwards - just past Cullinan, before that Tshwane - listening to, and loving MK volume 2 while the sun's setting magnificently into our rear view mirror. That means the red old orb is right this minute just behind Rustenburg and sinking fast behind Groot Marico. Yeah, there's no doubt about the fact I've left my heart in the bushveld, in the ol' West Transvaal.

Beyond all our expectations Louis and I've had a fantastic weekend in a special and friendly, but off the beaten track part of the country.

Breakfast at Marico Memoir's Bistro and our visit to Groot Marico was rounded off with a most unexpected tour through the Herman Charles Bosman Living Museum.

Ancient, gentle and soft-spoken Oom Jan Lemmer, who could so easily have crept from between the pages of a Bosman book, led us through the open air museum. That's where the farm-school where Bosman taught has been faithfully recreated brick-by-original-brick by the Herman Charles Bosman Literary Society after it fell into ruin at Heimweeberg. I'm experiencing experiencing incredible pangs of 'heimwee' right now...and on a number of levels.

Marico Memoirs

On the main street of Groot Marico having breakfast at the wonderful, atmospheric Marico Memoir's Bistro where Louise (from Gabarone), Jen (from Sandton) and Pauline (from Durban) have created an amazing restaurant oozing originality, ambience and I'm back here for the third time in one weekend to experience the authenticity of another of this country's hidden treasures.

Jen (see pic) tells us that she left Johannesburg about nine years ago where she was running three security companies! "The rats won," she says, before deciding this far and no further before heading out here with her young son, whom she has - wow - home schooled.

Breafast 'Benedict', which included plunger coffee, was two poached eggs and bacon on scones drowning in sumptious Hollandaise sauce (R45).

Sigh. It's almost time to begin the five hour journey back home, all along the N4. I will be back...the Groot Marico district has messed with my emotions and tugged on my sentimentality.

Marico Memoir's Bistro, Groot Marico: 014 503 0926 or

Friday, May 01, 2009

Groot Marico

Groot Marico, resting contentedlyon the banks of the Marico River, just south of the N4 and 90km west of Rustenberg, gained fame through Herman Charles Bosman's short stories based on his time as a teacher here. The town's handful of attractions include the Art Factory on the main street, where you can pick up local Tswana artefacts, along with any local news worth knowing about what;s going on. Also worth a visit are the remains of Tshwenyane and Karechuenya, two Tswana towns built in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. - The Rough Guide South Africa, Lesotho & Swaziland

Also well worth a visit is the Marico Bosveld Dam and Bird Reserve, where Louis and I toasted the setting sun and loved a handsome ridgeback and a cutesy jack russel.

Now, as I sink into a bath I can hear rain slapping the thatch, quite unusual for this time of the year. We're staying in a guest house on the farm Kleinplasie, which can accommodate 10. We're here all alone, absolutely and pleasantly amazed that it's only costing us R130 each per night. What extraordinarily good value for an exceptional venue. I smell of fire smoke and 'braaied' meat.

Heavy with atmosphere

There is no other place I know
that is so heavy with atmosphere,
so strangely and darkly impregnated with
that stuff of life
that bears the authentic stamp of South Africa.

- Herman Charles Bosman 'Marico Revisited', one of South Africa's best known shortstory writers, who wrote many wonderful stories about the Marico and its people.

Groot Marico is past Rustenberg, the other side of Swartruggens and on the N4 to Zeerust, then Botswana and Namibia.

Road trip to Groot Marico (North West Province)