Monday, 16 July 2018

South Africa –walking and San Art

I walked in South Africa, stayed in the Kruger national Park, then returned to Joburg where I enjoyed learning about the San people.

The air round joburg is dark with dust from the coal mining. The large power stations on the veld dominate the scene.  Our lunch stop was in Dullsroom (a small town named after a German), a mountain town and centre of the trout fishing industry. The houses looked Dutch with pancake cafes and geraniums in flower but felt Alpine. The museum depicted the simple past life there.  We descended to a waterfall viewed from the side of a canyon. We had beautiful views of the area from a high gun emplacement.  We stayed in a small town called Graskop. The next morning we walking above the Blayde river. The terrain was challenging with heavy undergrowth and many streams to ford.  It felt wet rather than tropical.  We spent time in an old mining village, Pilgirms Rest. This town sprang up during the gold rush days and has now become tourist town.  One can still pan for gold there, we were given a demonstration of gold panning by a grizzled old champion panner. He brought the town’s history to life during a harsh period. Many things were imported from London during the gold boom.

We drove up to God's Window, a viewpoint high above the landscape and one looked out on forest. The view point itself was very damp and overgrown, like walking through the tropical house at Kew Gardens. 

We stopped at the Blyde river canyon. Here two rivers met, a sad one and a happy one. The rivers have worn down a huge canyon with deep crevices and potholes we walked over the deep chasms on bridges. There were many tourists, all white.  
We drove to a vantage point, looking across at the so-called, drie rondavels that look like three African huts. The mountain layers were visible and there was a huge escarpment with a river snaking the bottom of the valley.  It was a beautiful landscape. 

In Kruger Park, we stayed in semi permanent tents and had to be accompanied walking there and back. We saw giraffes and zebra and bushbuck on a late afternoon game drive. We lingered at a vantage point and saw two groups of elephants converging on the river, quite oblivious to each other. A hippo wallowed in the river below them.

I did a gentle early morning walk, looking at different types of shit, elephant and zebra.I examined spiders webs, termite heaps and saw a scorpion with its tail curled up. I enjoyed the fine detail of the walk. I travelled back to Joburg in a minibus with 7 others, a couple of black girls, an English couple and the three white S Africans. I enjoyed seeing the huge mountain escarpments. Our driver was a grizzly South African in his early 70's who had previuosly  driven the Cape to Nairobi route for 16 yrs.

Back In Joburg I visited “The origins museum” with a beautiful exploration of the art of the San people who are nomads living in SA. They were persecuted initially but now their rock art is appreciated. Their lifestyles were well explored. Elands are important and give them supernatural strength for performing trance dances to communicate with spirits. Anthropologists at Witwatersrand University had helped with this work.  Modern San life was depicted with descriptions of genocide, settlement, death and disease. I felt that the museum was there to atone for the way the San people had been treated. I had an excellent lunch in an open air cafe. I then walked down to the Wits Art Museum and spent an hour there looking at an innovative exhibition about black pots created using works from the museums’ collection.  

I then flew back to London because my mother was very unwell in her care home in Wales and they had called me.  She died a few weeks later. So it was the right decision.

I enjoyed seeing the beautiful landscape but I was surprised at how Dutch the rural areas were. I felt the Dutch Calvinist politics were still present in the rural areas. 

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