Saturday, July 25, 2009

Wisdom is a butterfly

I'm lying on the couch, in the sun, next to a steaming bowl of tea while the frost melts outside and a stray dog barks far away.

Late last night, with the electric blanket on 'three', I finished reading Orhan Pamuk's unusual chronicle of his life in the city, Istanbul: Memories and the City. I was introduced to him by Paul Theroux, who dedicates almost an entire chapter to the writer in his own Ghost Train to the Eastern Star. I am now adamant to visit Turkey.

Theroux writes that he'd been invited to give a talk in Ankara, and it was hinted to him that the setting would be formal. "That meant I'd need a necktie, an article I did not possess. I bought one for a few dollars, and that night, to the invited guests, I enlarged on my theme of the return journey, how it reveals the way the world works, and makes fools of pundits and predictors. How it showed, too, the sort of traveller I'd been, what I'd seen, what I'd missed the first time.

"I was not in search of news - had never been, I said. I wanted to know more about the world, about people's lives. I wasn't a hawk in my travels; more a butterfly. But revelation was granted to the most aimless traveller, who was happier and more receptive to impressions. 'An aimless joy is pure joy,' I said, quoting Yeats.

'And wisdom is a butterfly
And not a gloomy bird of prey.'

Ancient ruins of Southern Africa

To give you a bit more of an idea about the stone ruins around Waterval Boven, Machadodorp and Carolina, visit the Makomati Foundation's website. The photos above, also the information below is from there. Author Michael Tellinger has also founded a small but fascinating museum at his Stone Circle Bistro in Waterval Boven.

In the heart of southern Africa lies the scattered evidence of a lost civilisation whose people built some 20,000 stone structures. These breathtaking ruins constitute the largest continuous stone settlement ever built on Earth as it stretches over thousands of kilometres from South Africa all the way to Kenya and beyond.

These mysterious ancient ruins consist of dwellings, forts, temples roads, irrigation systems and agricultural terraces that cover thousands of square kilometres. It is our estimate that more stone went into building these features than went into building all of the Egyptian pyramids. It is an archaeologist’s dream that will unveil even greater and more mysterious secrets in years to come.

On the edge of the forest...

I've been asked where exactly the ruins from my previous post are (thank you for taking the time to comment by the way). Here are some roughshod directions, which I hope will make sense.

If you're travelling the N4 from the Machado Toll Plaza eastwards towards Waterval Boven, take the Lydenburg/Nelspruit (Schoemanskloof Road) to the left. When you're almost at the summit of the hill, on your left, along the side of the forest you'll notice in the distance some small ruins. Just after that is a sand road to the left, take it, and travel with it until you're above the ruins... there's a gate in the fence and you'll find that you have an incredible view of the entire valley, all the way to Imemeza (SeSwati for "place of shouting"), the mountain behind Waterval Boven. Either before the sand road or not long after it is a signpost for the forest on the left, which I believe is 'Camelot'. Next time I'll take a GPS reading to highlight the entrance to the sand road. Let me know what you think.

As yet no one really knows just how old these ruins are. If you clink some of the rocks together you'll hear that they are like iron stone and are very heavy. Respect the space and leave everything exactly as it is - take only photographs, leave only footprints. And enjoy...!

Monday, July 20, 2009


Waterval-Boven writer Michael Tellinger is adamant that South Africa holds some of the deepest mysteries in all of human history. He says: "Although much has been written about the first humans who appeared in this part of the world, we have found very little evidence of their activity or what they did or what kind of lives they led from around 250 000 years ago to 75 000 years ago." What we are told, he says, is that around 60 000 years ago the people from Africa began to migrate north and eventually populated the whole planet.

Tellinger also maintains that Waterval Boven, Machadodorp and Carolina lie in the heart of the ruins of a city that was larger than modern day Johannesburg. I visited just some of the ruins close to the town; the ones photographed above are just off the Schoemanskloof Road.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Locally brewed Hop's Hollow draught

The draught of my content. We're sitting at the Woodsman Inn in Sabie longing for the summer. We might look like alcoholics, but it's ceratinly not the case. Today is about celebrating life, leisure, rest and the magnificent roads, passes, forests and waterfalls of this countey. Not to mention winter's of eternal sunshine. Now to take the Sudwala Caves road back home via the Montrose Falls.


That's Sabie in the distance.. I'm looking forward to a tall glass of locally brewed Hop's Hollow draught and a meal next to the hearth once there. The valley below is struggling to come terms with the vast forest fire that swept through here a few years ago, and must have destroyed millions of rands of trees.

Misty Mountain

Anna and I have just had a Heineken on the very edge at Misty Mountain. We're heading down the Long Tom Pass towards Sabie and Graskop. It's a magnificent Sunday afternoon, but icy cold. I've just had a great conversation with bikers from Malelane about the great mountain passes of Mpumalanga province. There's not a cloud in the sky and I can see way beyond Sabie, all the way to the very edge of Mozambique it seems. Despite the icy cold, it's good to be outdoors and on the road. I have fond memories of travelling in 2002 through the snow on this very same pass.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Black Eagle

The cold front that hit Jozi last night hasn't reached the Lowveld yet. I'm sitting next to the roaring fire at Black Eagle bush pub with my two friends Michael and Craig. They are here to again experience the amazing and world class sport climbing opportunties on offer here at Waterval Boven.

Acording to veteran climber Gustav Janse van Rensburg, the best single pitch rock climbing crags in South Africa can be found on the quartzite cliffs surrounding the town of Waterval Boven.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The great affair

'For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.'
- Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, July 08, 2009


In tenderness, My child, lies the greatest strength that can come to the human heart. Kindness is like a rose, which though easily crushed and fragile, yet speaks a language of silent power. It is the same power that lies in the eyes of one who loves. It is the power that moves the hand of him who gives alms.

Beauty comes to the inner soul of a man as tenderness becomes his outer expression. He who finds it has captured the atmosphere of heaven and has brought to his human relationships the essence of God's holy love. Never shall he search for peace, for he creates within his own heart a pool of restfulness because his every attitude is benevolent. Nothing on earth can shatter his joy, because God's Spirit within his own soul has become his source of happiness, and he is ever richer in sharing.
None who looks to him are denied, because the love of God embraces all. Gentleness has become his language, and kindness his speech. Christ is the expression of his life, and He has become his deliverer from all that offends His grace.

From Frances J. Roberts' "On the High Road of Surrender".

[The photos were taken in the late afternoon and just hours before one of the severest cold fronts in years hit on 26 June. It's the stretch of road between Dirkiesdorp and Wakkerstroom, which is on the R543 between Piet Retief and Volksrust in far south eastern Mpumalanga.]

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

At home

I left Volksrust at about 14h30 and have just stopped in Carolina for a bite to eat and coffee. I should be home just after dark. Since adopting Mpumalanga as my home just over 2.5 years ago, I must say that I feel truly at home here. I've made a point of criss-crossing this province's highways and byways, in every season and weather condition imaginable. In return for the favour, it has stripped off it's layers for me one at a time, and has revealed it's hidden treasures. I consider myself honoured, and most fortunate.

Visions becoming reality

I've just the other side of the most challenging 24 hours that I've experienced in many years. In the very heart of that furnace I asked to be given eyes to see the lessons inherent in my situation; so that I could - for one - see them, so that - secondly - I could embrace them and learn from them and, thirdly, be forever changed and grown from the the experience. I also asked that I could quickly come to my senses, as the pain was excruciating.

In retrospect I learn't that God gives us a vision, and then He takes us down to the valley to batter us into the shape of that vision. And it's in the valley that so many of us give up and faint.

God has to take us into the valley and put us through fires and floods to batter us into shape, until we get to the point where He can trust us with the reality of the vision.

Ever since God gave us the vision, He has been at work. He is getting us into the shape of the goal He has for us, and yet over and over again we try to escape from the Sculptor's hand in an effort to batter ourselves into the shape of our own goal.

Forty years of desert and wilderness time, also sheer worldy abandon, has meant that I'm more than ready to relinquish every single one of my own goals.

(The middle three paragraphs are from Oswald Chambers' 'My Utmost for His Highest' - thank you!)

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Waking the Dead

Tillich said, it's only "here and there in the world and now and then in ourselves" we see any evidence of a new creation.

'Eat shit you dog..'

Last night, not even minutes after I was able to show a random stranger an act of kindness in a moment of his distress and helplessness, a situation completely ignored by the passing parade, I had a revealing conversation with a newly made (three weeks?) friend.

My friend, a truly 'wealthy' man in the worldly sense, certainly has no material need. In terms of possessions has everything, and much more. His walls are higher, his house is larger, his cars have seats that "even heat his balls" (quote, unquote), and his electric fencing most likey even electrocutes at a much higher voltage.

Yet, I realised last night, he has nothing. Brittle-hard, incapable of kindness except when in expectancy of a return on his 'investment', he told me that he sometimes views the humans around him as no more than dogs (I've experienced some incredible, life-changing moments of enlightenment and creation-authenticity in the presence of animals).

Without love and the capability of kindness, life I've realised is empty and meaningless, no matter how extensive your share portfolio. Of this I am beyond convinced. I am thus even more determined to pour my life out for those seemingly the most unworthy.

After 40 and a bit years in the wilderness, only recently have I begun to understand the meaning of life. La chaim!

Winter afternoon of my content

It's an uncharacteristically grey, cold Sunday afternoon reminiscent of Europe: people are wearing hats, scarves and overcoats and are drawn to bustling, warm coffee shops. They are probably, but unconsciously processing the fact that not only is more than half the year past, but so is the majority of winter.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

The ballet

Meeting Chaim and his son, and his son's partner, at the Civic Theatre's News Cafe. After dinner we'll be enjoying the gala concert of the visiting Imperial Russian Ballet.
The programme includes Carl Orff, Carmina Burana and scenes and extracts from classical masterpieces of international ballets. life!

Power oats

It's an icy winter's morning in Jozi. I've just finished a vigorous spinning class and workout, then a sauna, steam room session, a scalding shower. Now it's time for a steaming power oats breakfast with honey, almonds and skim milk. Aah, life in the city.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Gift of words

Another coffee shop, except that this is the one where I angsted five years ago about my brand new relationship with Aslan, The Lion.
Brooklyn Mall, Pretoria.
The last few weeks have been challenging ones. Lots of introspection, staring into the abyss.
Today is a turning point: my mission going forward is a simple one - to change the world into a better place one humble word at a time.

Below zero

Earlier this week I flew over an ice cold Volksrust in a microlight at dusk. That night the temperature dropped to -6.4 degrees Celcius.