The run-around (thanks to fine hosts and drivers)

Trip Start Jul 19, 2009
Trip End Oct 25, 2010

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Flag of South Africa  , Eastern Cape,
Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To leave Hogsback I had to get up at 5.30 am. I won't bore you with the details but it took me almost 6 hours to cover less than 40 km -  Hogsback to Alice, Alice to Fort Beaufort. Due to no  transportation other than public, or, black taxis, that just wouldn't fill up. 
 After spending 2 hours waiting in the last - uncomfortably hot by now - I decided enough is enough. I had seen a guy in a car parked next to the mini-van, just sitting there and wondered if he was a private driver. He was. So how much would it cost to take me to Grahamstown?  Not that it really mattered at this point. 'Let's go,' I said and off we sped. I mean, he drove like crazy, disregarding all warning signs and speed limits. Maybe I should have, but I wasn't complaining, I just wanted to get somewhere, anywhere, fast.
 He got flagged down by police hiding in the bushes. 'Oh shit, now he's in deep trouble,' I thought but what followed was Xhosa handshakes, jokes and laughter, and macho high fives as we hit the road again.
What happened? 'Those are my colleagues,' he explained, 'I am really a policeman.' 
 Huh? But you are driving a taxi. No, it's not a taxi but if he could make an extra rand, why not? Why not indeed, someone told me that anyone with a car is also a taxi driver here. And policemen are very badly paid so, well, yes...... 
 I suppose I could have done worse but it still felt odd. 
Anyway, I spent 3 nights in Grahamstown. As the backpackers was fully booked after the first night, they kindly offered to put me up in the owner's house across the road if I didn't mind sleeping on the floor. I couldn't care less, and a very nice place it was, though it took me 30 minutes to get past all the locks every time I came or went.
A quick run through my time at Grahamstown. Several visits to the Rat and Parrot, a famous  students hang out, good food and music, and since Jock has taken up lecturing again, he likes to socialize with the students. He seemed quite popular and obviously enjoys their company. So did I, bright minds and excited conversations. Theirs, I mean, I was my usual timid self.
We went to the tennis club twice,  a different kind of socializing, more food and wine, and the pleasure of Jock's brother Duncan's company, who is also known as Jock, as is a third brother. Don't ask. 
Of course Jock had some education in mind for me too. I was taken to a lecture on the intended fracking (such an odd word), in the Karoo. Most interesting and the concerns are very real. Because of the involvement of Shell Jock hoped I might take it upon me to organize some kind of protest in Holland, give the queen a good talking to, but I'm afraid he'll have to make do with a bumper sticker again.
Sunday we went for a walk, or rather, a talk, high up in the mountains, drinking wine, enjoying the view. Later on there was another students' thing, the Green Race, a sponsored walk for the environment, people dressed up in funny clothes, a friendly event. Grahamstown, was as pleasant as I remembered, there's a lot going on there and Jock and Kary are very much part of it.
 Thanks for sharing it with me:)
Without having much say in the matter, which was fine as I had no plans for the next days, or the next, I was bundled off to Graaff-Reinet, where I am now, in the Karoo.
  Someone gave me a lift, there is no other way of getting here really, and I find myself at Peter's place. He is related to the Jocks, and lives alone in a spacious house at the bottom of the mountains. He takes very good care of me and drives me around, which is marvelous as you are stuck without a car.
 Yesterday we went to the Camdeboo national park, up to the valley of Desolation, impressive, the Toposcope, the Nqweba Dam, the Lokasiekop - so now I've finally been introduced to the Karoo. Peter pointed out the highest point in the Cape province Compass berg, also the region where the Dutch princes Irene holds residence. If all goes well we'll be seeing her later today:)
Later I visited the Reinet House museum, a little treasure, set in an attractive mature garden, where you'll find a grape vine planted in 1870! It was the home of Rev. Andrew Murray and his son, from 1822 til 1904. The museum holds period furniture and relics of the past, like clothes, dolls, kitchen utensils; a wagon house with an old field ambulance, a funeral cart, stuff like that - just a very nice place to walk around in.
Well, we've ventured further into the Karoo today, to Nieu Bethesda. The Owl House is the main reason for people to visit, it is also a museum and it is amazing. It was the home of Helen Martins and after the death of her parents, around 1950, she transformed the modest Karoo dwelling into the remarkable place it is now. It took her 25 years, and when it was almost finished she killed herself, caustic soda, I am told. How awful.
 The house itself has a hippy-ish feel to it, the walls and ceilings, and other surfaces have been painted with bold colours and then crushed glass has been added to them, and for the play of light and colour, there are many specially shaped mirrors, oil lamps and candles. Outside is an orgy of figures, fantasy and life-like, animals and birds. Buildings, pyramids and shrines, even a nativity formation, with camels, all facing the east. She has been very productive, using just basic materials, mostly (crushed) glass bottles, cement, and iron wire.
Needless to say, I loved it, and especially admired her incredible determination, her courage to do what she wanted, something so outrageous and weird, in a tiny village in the Karoo, where folk must have surely thought she was bonkers.
Well, we are back now and I am tired, the heat gets to me. Tomorrow I have a lift to Port Elizabeth, I somehow never made it there before and don't believe it is anything special but it's on my way to East London. We'll see.
Only thing is, it is on the back of a motorbike and about a 260 km ride.
Might be quite interesting.....or cold, hot, uncomfortable, scary.....sometimes I wonder if I'm not bonkers too:)

PS  21/3 I arrived safely - in a bakkie. No 'leathers', too much luggage, weather etc. Thanks Gert, for getting me to PE, safe and sound:)
PS  22/3 Just arrived at East London, where the last leg of the trip begins...........
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Rui on

It is perfect the way you describe all the situations and how you transform so easy a problem in a solution!
Reading your text make me belive it is easy to live in Afrika when the true......
Please continue making me voyage by Afrika sited in a chair reading your texts!
Take care

jonmcconn on

Hello K-A, interesting to read a shared experience from your perspective and your take on G-town, G-Reinet, Nieu-Bethesda and all the other characters and incidents. Interesting that you never mentioned Bathurst, its famous Pig & Whistle and the visit to the haunted Old Rectory or did you forget about it in the hurly-burly? It was certainly a busy few days and completely different from the wilds of the Wild Coast, Botswana and everything in between. They say that South Africa is 'a world in one country'!

katherine-anne on

No jock, not forgotten, how could I? along with kary's delicious meals, the market and museum and meeting Segilla again, but the entry was just getting too long. I intended to get back to it, but you beat me to it:) thanks for commenting.

katherine-anne on

if i make you believe it is easy living in south-africa then i must seriously question my writing :) thanks rui, always a kind word, very much appreciated, as you know.

Patsy on

usual timid self..??!! joking surely!
glad you're ok after no sign of life for so long. stay safe.

viv on

Bonkers - yes........Timid - what are you bonkers????

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