Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Cricket and Christ

Meanwhile, back in South Africa, I was setting off from Kistenbosch Botanical Gardens to Tulbagh, on the open road. The lands of The Cape are either flat or jaggedy mountains and the topography reminds me of nothing more than Tolkein’s maps of Middle Earth. Seeing as he was born around here, I often wondered whether he had been inspired by the landscape here, but seeing as he left as a very young boy, I somehow doubt it. The mountains rise almost vertically, like the mountains ringing the land of Mordor and you wonder sometimes whether you will be confronting ghastly goblins once you get to the other side.

The names of many of the places on the map remind one very much of southern England, with a choice of destinations such as Wellington, Worcester and Montagu, before you find yourself coming across Gouda or Paarl to remind one of the original visitors from Europe, the other side of the North Sea.

Wellington is quite a regional centre and has a fine main street with many Cape Dutch style buildings and I found myself stopping in front of the Dutch Reformed Church to take a photo before deciding to buy something to drink. I reached for my wallet and found a ten rand note, strange as I had taken out a thousand from the ATM machine the previous evening. Ah! But I had left that money in the trousers I was wearing, no problem, I would get some more money out, but... oh dear… the bank pass was also still left in my trousers. Hmmm.. I had thirteen rand, just over a euro, less than a pound, to last the rest of the day, so maybe I wasn’t going to have a wonderful lunch at a posh vineyard after all.

Eventually, a kind lady at the Spar suggested that maybe I buy something for a hundred rand with my credit card, which I DID have in my wallet, and then bring it back immediately for a cash refund, which is why I suddenly found myself buying a steam iron in a supermarket in downtown Wellington. And what is more, it cost me only 99.99 rand and I got back a whole 100! I bought a drink, some bananas and some crisps and set off for Bain’s Kloof where I half imagined myself to be having a picnic a half hour later.

A Kloof is like a gulley, a steep valley in the mountains, created by the running of a stream through the rocks. Bain was a renowned engineer and he built the road up to the summit and then along the side of the Kloof down the other side. He built more of these but gave his name to this Kloof, a Kloof moreover which I had visited, albeit coming from the other direction, seven years before. I had remembered that it was very narrow and that there were few parking spots along the way but also remembered that there was a bigger picnic area built off the side of the road, so I was hopeful of finding a spot and hopefully, there would be some trees nearby. More than anything, I was hoping there would be water in the river, as it was very very hot, so far inland and the wind from yesterday had died down.

Up to now I had been listening to gospel music all morning. It was Sunday and the black radio station which had played such fantastic music the day before was playing only gospel music today. All well and good and I do enjoy, especially South African gospel, but after over two hours, it was all getting a bit too much, so I ended up listening in to the cricket, where South Africa were batting in their last innings trying to reach a score of 205 to beat Bangladesh. They lost a wicket I the first over I switched on and were teetering at 144-5. It was getting exciting. Having spent many afternoons during summer school holidays listening to Test Match Special on Radio Three, I have an appreciation of cricket commentary on the radio and yet this was different. Different because they had included a woman to provide analysis, next to the man who was providing the commentary. It was very odd but she was every bit as incisive as any man would have been and did not spoil anything by making ‘girlie’-type comments. Good for her. So, it was to a background of a cricket match p;layed in the dimming light of the Indian sub-continent that I found myself driving up and around the jaggedy mountains to reach the peak, from which I would follow Bain’s Kloof.

Above the tree-line, the slopes were given over to some wonderful fijnbos, with a generous sprinkling of pink heather and red proteas, succulent green trees and hard prickly shrubs. Worth stopping for to take a few photos (however difficult it is to capture vegetation in a photograph). I think a few might make it onto Flickr. There were a few eateries and picnic spots just over the summit, which I passed over, having pigged myself on the paprika flavoured Doritos and in anticipation of finding a spot near to the stream. However, it was not to be. There might have been five spots in the 20 kilometers where one could have safely left a car and they were all taken and the picnic area had a bar across the entrance saying it was full. Hmmm, I thought, how could a picnic area be full, but as I drove past, it certainly looked busy, if not literally full… Oh well.. on to Tulbagh…


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