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Posted on: Monday, 5 April 2010

And Douglas smiles – stories from the road by Ruan Smit

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Douglas smiles ...

Douglas smiles …

When an Afrikaans man in his late forties from the ‘platteland’ starts telling you about something and you can hear his voice quiver ever so slightly, when his eyes almost gets hazy and he has to look away, when he catches himself using feminine words and needs to correct himself as he realizes. When this man is talking about the town where he lives you realize that he truly has a soft spot for that town.

Jakes feels this way about Douglas. A little town I met not too long ago in the Northern Cape near Kimberley. He quickly covers his trail with alpha male conversation but it keeps slipping through. The fact that this town is blessed with the water from two rivers that join here, the Vaal and the Orange, makes him chat about the greenery and the abundant farming with grapes, mielies, sunflowers and other vegetables. The town is clean and he shows me where I’ll be able to find some lunch.

I follow the cookie trail in the hopes about finding more of this town’s personality. That’s when I find the ladies at the little cowboy themed restaurant. At first they warn me that lunch finishes off at two and I’m a bit weary of what I thought might be happening in this town. But when I get my cup of coffee and the four ladies make themselves comfortable next to my table I realize that my fears were not granted.

Douglas smiles ...

Douglas smiles …

They chat about the coming holiday and what they would like to do with it. They chat about the town and its various colours and personalities, when two new customers walk in I realize that everyone knows everyone in this little dorpie. She takes the right bottle of wine before they sit and the customers smile as their being local has just been confirmed again. She returns and tells the others some stories about the two customers, all in good humour… I ask if there is a winery in town as I would like to visit it and taste the fertility of the earth as Jakes explained it. I am explained the route to follow.

As I cycle through town on my way to the winery I am stopped by a lady wanting to know what I’m doing. She is really interested and first boasts about the town before helping me find the correct way to get to the winery. I realize at this point that Douglas is not similar to many other towns. Everybody knows a stranger in a town like this but actually taking the time to converse out of free will is something special. Something out of the ordinary.

I reach Landzicht and again I’m greeted with a smile. I am told with pride about how well the wines did this year and somewhere during our conversation and tasting I find that this girl is sharing her dreams with me. The dreams of a young girl wanting to open a couture boutique and traveling the world to scout clothing for her love of making others look beautiful. But first she wants to go work on a cruise ship… her boss is not allowed to know just yet but she’s already applied. I can see the dream finding a glint in her eyes and see what I’ve seen in so many other South Africans, the dream of a bright future with nothing standing in their way.

After I taste the wine I am given a bottle of wine as a present, I can only assume it’s because of my smile, but hey, I’m not complaining. Then I enjoy a glass of wine on the patio as she helps some other customers and upon leaving I’m handed another bottle. I smile, there’s no way I can carry this on my bike which means that I’ll have to drink it before leaving…

The weather is beginning to build in shades of gray and I can hear the symphony of thunder finding its way over the Northern Cape veld towards Douglas. I find a spot and order another cup of coffee. Again I’m greeted with smiles from every person in the vicinity. That’s when I’m bombarded with questions. What am I doing? How far have I come? Why am I doing this? Real interest and as I tell that I’m exploring South Africa everyone has a bit to add about their experience of our country and the people.

I enjoy the diverse opinions and details that people bring forth when sharing their views about this beautiful country. South Africa lies in the variety of definitions. That’s what makes it special. All of a sudden the rain makes its presence known when it shouts from the skies above. In moments everything is drenched with the mighty water from the sky, I sit back and allow my thoughts to be overcome by the sound against the road. I found Douglas, a town that many others will find. And the Douglas I found shared its smile with me, a warm, gentle and free smile …

Useful Links:
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Things to Do in Northern Cape
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