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Posted on: Wednesday, 31 March 2010

A River of Life – Stories from the road by Ruan Smit

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the road ...

the road …

For nearly 500km I look at the endless Namaqualand and Boesmanland as I slowly move across towards the Orange River and the spectacular Augrabies Waterfall. At points it feels like the landscape is repeating itself and that I’m stuck in a loop of the same piece of road as nothing seems to change. For a moment I think, South Africa changes every 100km or so. How can it possibly be that this part is different? And as I take a closer look, as I smell the air and feel the dirt running through my fingers I realize I have not been looking, really looking …

The veld changes from bossies to rock to sand to grass. The grass is golden and whispers with the wind as it cools down my body. I can see the dark grey rock spreading itself on red sand giving a moment of shade to creatures moving only when the sun asks them to. The bossies are light grey, dark green and then every now and a gain you find a lime green bush that lights up the landscape. There is much to see here if you take the time to look. But then slowly almost creeping I can sense the plants changing, almost smiling, the bugs become more playful and the trees not as far apart.

Then as if from nowhere Kakamas unveils herself. She is the oasis in this part of the world that gives life to the many that have trusted her. Vineyards and Lemon trees line the road, with plantations not revealing that this is actually a semi-desert region. The vineyards invite me into their shade and almost beg me to share their fruit.

Augrabies

I turn left towards Augrabies National Park towards a guesthouse that will allow me to rest my tired body and wash away the days’ sun and when I find the green grass invite me to sit down for a second and just experience what water does to a region. The Orange River is the life behind Augrabies and Kakamas.

Before it becomes too late I head off to the waterfall. I remember this waterfall as a child, the magical experience of water flowing at such intensity and falling into space. I realize that the experience might not be the same 15 years later … but no, as I walk towards the sound of water I get a similar feeling to the one I remember. Slowly I put my head over the side of the security fence and once more I experience the magic of the orange water running its course towards the Atlantic Ocean. The sound is overpowering and the good summer rains in Gauteng and the Free State are still showing here.

I take the road back through the National Park and smile as I leave, I smile because I have changed, but nature has allowed be to have a glimpse at my own history. Back at the guesthouse I am greeted by Henry. He is a philosopher of sorts and I listen to his theories that everything is how it should be, that he believes to accept and love of which love is the most important. The water in this area has a definite affect on the people. They understand their vulnerability and the natural order of what things are.

Die Pienk Padstal

Early the next morning I my sluggish body is greeted by a sunrise that asks of me to breathe, smell and think for a moment before I hit the road. This road leads me back to Kakamas and also ‘Die Pienk Padstal’ which is a happy revival of the past, in pink. History here is revamped and exhibited to the many travelers with some home made ginger beer that helps cool down the day.

Carefully the history of every piece has been rewritten and given a unique story that lightens the mood. Every person that stops here pulls out the camera and takes pictures before sitting down and having something cold. I listen to the excited chatter of couples and families as they laugh at the quirky sayings and the directions to the bathrooms which read ‘dripdry’ and ‘shakedry’.

I find it amazing that fun can be seen and made with the most creativity. Everything becomes a piece of life and a memory that many will retell on endless journeys …

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