Heading for the beach or the river are the fishermen- rods over their shoulders and moving at a pace dictated by the tides. Cows roam the street, horses and sheep crop the grass in the school playground and dogs of indeterminate breed (the real braks of Great Brak) sit at the main intersection in town and watch the world go by. Children in their pajamas turn head-over-heels in the park.
Going in the opposite direction to the churchgoers are the drunks returning home, fortunately not too many of them. Sad, disheveled characters they stumble and curse and occasionally just stop for a little sway.
What strikes me always is the easy interaction between everyone – we’ve lost that in the rush of modern life. Still – I always feel at great peace when I go to buy the Sunday papers and see life unfolding in the village.
Last weekend we went through to the Sedgefield Wild Oats Market – I’d heard it was good and it is- I’d rate it as the best Food market in South Africa. We didn’t get to the Craft side of things but on our quest for pork pies we wandered past stalls of fragrant curries, sinful German cakes, delicate chocolates, fresh fruit and vegetables (surprisingly reasonably priced),sticky Greek pastries and an endless array of tempting foods. There really is something for everyone’s taste there and it’s well laid out and strong on recycling and organic foods. We found our pork pies (and Scotch eggs) and I also bought some bottled ‘sour figs’ – the fruit from vygies which taste sort of like the dried salted peaches we ate in Hong Kong as children.
On Wednesday I went through to my first Art group meeting for the year which was, as usual, inspiring but was eager to return home as Tawny's chicks were due to start hatching. Sure enough, on my return I found our first little chick - it was very exciting (I obviously don't get out enough!) I would have liked to name it but when the second little one appeared they are identical and I can't tell them apart.
The following day I had intended meeting the Great Brak Conservation Group at the river for the monthly water bird count but I ended up with a minor crisis on my hands and couldn’t make it. Tawny was still sitting on four more eggs. I had not realized how adventuresome the chicks would be and was waiting for them all to hatch before I moved them into a predator proof enclosure. However, when I went around at 7am to check up on Tawny I found her in a flap, quite literally. The chicks were running around outside, the rooivalk was circling overhead and Tawny was desperately trying to round the babies up. I grabbed the chicks and put them back into their nest but Tawny took them into the darkest corner and sat on them. She refused to get back on her nest and one of the eggs had half hatched, with little peeps emitting from the hole in the shell. Cut a long story short – we spent the next 24 hours hatching and nurturing a little black chick whom we’ve called Ali after the great Cassius Clay. Not sure what sex it is but it showed a great will to survive – I popped it under Tawny on Thursday morning and she has accepted it.
I am so glad that we built a safe enclosure for the babies – within 24 hours of their hatching out we had the rooivalk, a Peregrine falcon and the resident eagle all coming to have a look. My neighbour says they are attracted by the peeping of the chicks. So – I didn’t get to the water bird count – which by all accounts was excellent with them identifying 30 different species- but I did get to see a Peregrine falcon, he was magnificent. We’ve also had a Reed Cormorant who has decided to come fishing in the dam – as long as it’s frogs it’s okay but I don’t want him eating my tilapia! There are also some fully developed but miniscule frogs in the dam - they are the size of my pinky nail and so fast that I can't catch one to examine it for any markings.The lizards who live on the edge of the dam have hatched out some babies as well – they are about an inch long. A piece of black plastic exposed to all the elements seems a most inhospitable environment in which to raise your children but they all appear to be thriving.
Yesterday we felt like exploring so, after fetching milk at a local farm, we took a dirt road and just drove. Ended up on the road to Jonkersberg and then found the Wolwedans Dam (not that it was lost). The dam is pretty impressive and the surrounds very scenic and peaceful. On the road there we saw an interesting animal crossing the road in front of us – it looked like an Egyptian Mongoose but I’m not sue if they are found in this area. I see there is a hiking trail there too which I’d like to go on some time.
After that excursion we decided to head further afield so we climbed on the bike and took a ride out to Riversdal, up through the Garcia Pass (lovely road and mountains) and through into the sweltering heat of the Klein Karoo. As we headed towards Ladismith and then Barrydale the heat was indescribable. I’ve always enjoyed the ‘wind in my face’ feeling which I think all bikers enjoy but yesterday the hot wind felt as though it was sucking the air and moisture from my body through my mouth. Ronnie’s Sex Shop loomed on the horizon and we pulled into the shade of a tree, found a cool spot at the Road Kill Cafe and had a cold drink. There were quite few other bikers there as well as some people in ‘plastics’ and there was a very cool but surreal vibe. There is something special about sitting in the middle of nowhere listening to good music and chatting to other travelers. We met a lovely guy on a BMW with strange number plates – when I asked him where he was from he said Austria. And where are you going to? Cape Town. We got chatting – he in Pidgin English and we in bastard German and established that he has been travelling for three months and the road between Ethiopia and Kenya is not good. Well, there’s a surprise. We talked bikes for a while and when Andre mentioned his old XT500 the Austrian guy’s face lit up – JA ! JA! Ze 500 vus GUT, GUT! When we asked if he’d had one he said he had and he’d ridden it to India and back with no problems. Obviously a man who enjoys riding. Sadly his 500 is now ‘verplettered’ as a truck drove over it.
We took our leave of Ronnie’s and carried on to Barrydale, Heidelberg and the Tradouw Pass – it’s 14kms long and good fun. Somewhere we got slightly lost and ended up on a dirt road for a while but eventually found the highway and started heading back home. In Albertinia we stopped for lunch – it was 4 and we’d been on the road all day so were feeling hungry. We ate at the restaurant at the Engen garage on the N2 and were very pleasantly surprised. The food was excellent – freshly made with fresh ingredients and excellent service. The price was good too – we had typical biker’s fare – 2 hamburgers and chips, two orange juices and an Energade and the bill came to R60 odd. I recommend them if you are on a road trip and need a good meal. We were entertained too with a wedding entourage who arrived at the garage to have their photos taken in the garden – apparently the lady works in the kitchen there.
Best of all this week I have at last finished upholstering all the furniture in the lounge – now I can concentrate on doing some slightly more creative sewing. I’ve also managed to arrange a visit to Outa Lappies in Prins Albert for the end of February to see his work. I had to laugh speaking to the German gentleman who is taking me to see him – I mentioned that in 2002 Outa Lappies had offered (in a letter he wrote me) to give me one of his embroideries. I had declined as I didn’t want to take advantage of his simple generosity – apparently his embroideries now fetch between R10K to R12K! I never did have a very good sense for business. Till next time.