Monday, 20 August 2012

Matroosberg - in search of snow

Although living in South Africa offers one many beautiful places and faces, you never get a feeling of "been there, done that, got the t-shirt".

Every road a new discovery, every day offering fresh beauty. And the fun part is that you don't actually have to look for anything . . . you're surrounded with it all!

Well, that was what I initially thought when we headed towards the Matroosberg range somewhere in the Karoo.

Our initial search for snow turned into a diverse range of searches: the right turn-off to the cottage, the keys to the cottage, the gas cylinder and a few other essentials. Of which most importantly was firewood - dry firewood.

Abraham, the caretaker of the property, was eager to please. No problem, was the reassurance. "My brother-in-law is on his way here and I'll arrange for him to bring two bags".

What he forgot to mention was the fact that the wood would only arrive a short 24 hours later! I guess time in the country doesn't speed past as fast as in the city. Thank goodness for a well-stocked shed that kept the fires burning all night long in the meantime.

And snow, Abraham - could you promise us some snow in the morning?

"The people around here don't believe me, but my bad back AND my chicken tell me it will be a sheet of white in the morning"

The confidence in seeing snow up, close and personal the next morning escalated - especially if the chicken also thought so.

My first view of what awaited at the cottage

Local vegetation seemingly growing effortlessly, wherever you may put them down

Heading for the tracks
What is left of the original station sign

On a railway-line to nowhere 
144 miles from where we started our search for snow

Just in time to catch the last rays of the sun as it hides behind Matroosberg

A gate across the railway line? It seems perfect in a world where bad backs and chickens predict the weather.

Olive leaves - happy to be in the area
 Adjusting from a true cityscape filled with noise, pollution and cellphones, it took a while to adjust to the quiet - with only the sound a lovely fire and the occasional spluttering coming from one of the oil lamps. And the inevitable clattering of teeth as one moved away from the fireplace. Yes, cold it was. But the mere promise of snow kept us going.
Warm glow from the fire and a good red wine completes a perfect evening

Add a lovely suspense novel by the light of a spluttering oil lamp and the scene is set for a  haunting experience
 When the sun nudged past the window shutters in the morning, it was time to spot the sheet of white outside. Needless to say - the bad back and the chicken did not make good on their feelings. Not a sign of snow apart from a layer of frost on the vehicle's roof.

My dinner plans immediately took form - I was considering having chicken roast for supper...
Morning has broken - and the only snow miles away. This is the view from the lavatory. No complaints about no water . . .

Abraham arrives with his morning coffee and to check in on us - still no firewood

Telling a sad story about his youngest nicknamed Poppehuisie
("Little Dolly House" as she was born in a similar-named cottage)
  Next on the agenda was a visit to the bustling metropolis of Touwsrivier - some 30 k's away.
Side road in Touwsriver

A special effect to create a flashback feeling.  Nothing much has changed

An explosion of wild flowers in somebody's garden

A typical Cape Dutch gable against a crispy blue sky.
 Recovering from the initial shock of hearing a man shouting something that may have sounded like abuse, it became clear that it was an old man preaching the goodness of God and the Bible. And just for the sake of all the bystanders - in both the local language and English. He seems to travel from corner to corner, ever so smartly dressed with his "pressed pants", tie and Bible, intermittently clutched, banged and waved at all and sundry.

"You'll never say it, but that man was nearly dead. All the doctors from here and the hospital gave up on him. Cancer, you see" whispered one of the fruit-seller ladies, in awe of this man and his knowledge of the Word. 

He sweetly humoured me whilst taking photos of him - positively playing it to his new-found audience. I was delighted.

The Preacher man

Finding Genesis

Kommaweer - meaning "Come Again". And yes, I think I'll come back to Touwsrivier again

Three locks seem like some overkill, especially as the  door leads to nowhere either
 The town itself provided it's fair share of pleasant surprises - like the Chinese shop so full with various goods ranging from clothing to plastic flowers, radios sealed in cellophane and blingy toys in hard plastic. And the spice shop "the cleanest shop in the village" where you can find sauces, spices, cleaning agents and a lovely conversation with the owner, all in one place.
The unique change room in the Chinese shop

A lamp shade in any possible colour - also in the Chinese shop

You're guaranteed to find a pair of sneakers your size - and ho and behold, even the style

The local butcher. I had to chuckle a the 'Smoked Russians"...does it come with Vodka?

The cleanest shop in the Village

Proudly South African

Most likely the most universal sign in the world

The older boy just happy to be - the younger thought I'm spoiling his playtime

Traditional transport - an old man and his grandchild zoomed past at a speed that would make Lance Armstrong  jealous.

 Many years ago we used to refer to this town as the locomotive graveyard. It was the place where a large collection of locomotives in need of fixing up or simply being taken apart, were kept. Today the only sign of this is a beautifully restored engine in a public park. However, a strict sign indicates Access Denied, meaning I can only guess it actually has been beautifully restored. I felt rather sad by the loss and absence of those magnificent old steam engines - pre-dating the electric monsters and diesel-driven engines now hogging the railway lines.
The old-timer - what stories she could tell

Not even time can tell the age of this sign

The road leading into the property where the cottage is located
 Back at the cottage I told Abraham I wanted his lying chicken for supper. A most wondrous smile covered his face. "Maybe the snow will fall tomorrow" he said. Yes, maybe.

He showed me how to work the little tractor and before long we set off to discover the wild yonder.

The most beautiful array of lichens - all colours and luminous at certain angles.
Well, it felt like it. Lots of beautiful flowers, an incredible and diverse range of lichens on the rocks, a thundering waterfall that only happens when enough snow has fallen, a baby gecko and a little tortoise. Roaring wild-life if I may say so.

The waterfall

Yep, still there. Pre-splash moment...
 Playing adventurer the invitation to charge through some water in the road with the brave little tractor just loomed ahead - I had to do it, kind of Indiana Jones, although we were not chased or chasing anything. Instructions were clear: camera ready, foot down and here we go.

What happened next was not quite movie-material. The revenge of the little tractor ruled - and we got super-soaked from head to toe with a wave of muddy brown water. My passenger was not impressed - but I could not sympathise enough as every time I wanted to - I saw a drop of water dripping down from her nose which made me guffaw with laughter. Misery ruled. End of tractor journey of discovery. Fortunately nothing a good bit of sun couldn't fix. And supper, of course!

Preparing for a "potjie" - a dish with all the food in one pot

The deep-set open firre - an absolute winner

Yummy - hunger settles in

Stewing away for the final half an hour

With the sun setting slowly, a perfect outdoor venue for an early supper

All hands on deck and many Rummy games later . . .

The frost in the morning offered a spectacular crystal-like image on the car's roof.

Yep, two years after the Soccer World Cup in Capt Town, still sporting proudly SA  flag

The pub

All pretty in pink

With a gecko taboot

Many years of wear showing up an an enchanting colour display on the corrugated iron sheets

This experience combined with cooking supper on an open fire with a view across to a snow-capped Matroosberg is just one of those perfect moments when you feel totally content with the world, blessed with who you are and where you are, appreciative of all the people you have in your life. And in the quiet of the field you send them your gratitude and your blessing, your love and your support...