Lessons learnt from fire making

We used these dead trees to make a fire the other night. It was a great fire – so hot that metal started melting. Well, I realised that the wood we used wasn’t dead at all. In winter, trees tend to wilt and lose their leaves. In spring, these leaves reappear and the tree rekindles and springs back to life. The trees, hence, look dead but are actually alive. Um…oops!

Dark nights

My last night in Kimberley – this town actually is so amazing. There really is so much in this town and it is so enjoyable. Then again, my company was superb beyond measure. Also, the girls of Kimberley are probably the hottest in the country. No seriously – I heard that guys from Jozi come to party in Kimberley just because of this. The agenda for this last night was to see the flamingos of Kimberley. The flamingo thing never did happen. I found myself being left outside some mall in the middle of town. The town has quite a few of these mall things. The one thing I have noticed about towns is that malls are like these standardised models placed all over the country. In an attempt to make your town more Jozi-like, insert a mall with the usual chain stores. It is great for marketers as setting trends and controlling consumer habits can be done countrywide whereas before, if a town didn’t have an Edgars, penetrating that market with your merchandise was pretty difficult. It can be seen as a good thing but I don’t know, I love the quirkiness that towns without chain-stores have. Maybe I’m just a romantic.

My purpose for visiting aforementioned mall was to meet an old friend of mine. Meeting my friend was really awesome. It’s quite amazing how people have ended up in corners of the country that you never would believe. Kimberley ain’t too bad – my cousin was in Ermelo for a year which is not the epicentre of “happeniningness.” Yet it does allow one to see the country and experience what you never would normally experience. In some cases, the quite country life might end up as something you want. Or instead of sticking to the metropolises of Jozi, Cape Town or Durban, you find the quiet hustle and bustle of Port Elizabeth, East London, Bloemfontein or Kimberley more appealing. Anyway, here’s to the next meeting. 🙂

As I waited outside said mall (without a name), a Corsa Diesel speeds through the parking lot with A-Team music blurting out the windows. Two masked men jump out, bundle me up and throw me into the car. In an instant, they have left the parking lot, speeding away to an undisclosed destination. Well, that’s what was supposed to happen. They got the A-Team music right and I was handed a dop. I think that makes it alright.

The destination was an undisclosed though – a spot south of Kimberley on the desolate N12. Drive twenty kilometres out of town and you experience vast openness with pure nothingness all around. The lack of industry means a clear as glass sky. Tonight was cloudless. Tonight we saw every bit of the Milky Way and then some.

Armed with a lot of brandy and some KFC (I ate chips – I found out that they actually make a MOERSE sized chips if you ask. Sweet!), we crowded around a rather empty bin at the rest stop. We lacked fire. The bin looked perfect. We started a fire out of the KFC packaging. After a while, we realised that this was not going to be a sustainable fire without wood. Using my MOERSE flashlight which can be used to signal to aliens if required, we looked around and found a lot of twigs and dead branches on the floor. We chucked these in. These, however, weren’t working. We ventured further. We found bigger branches. Not satisfied, we jumped over the fence in search of wood. We found a dead tree. And then we found another two. A friend phoned us. We told him where we were and instructed him to bring wood. He brought these several tree stumps 30cm in diameter. Man, that fire was great. It got so hot that the metal was glowing red. The paint on the outside of the bin melted away. The bottom of the bin actually threatened to break away because of the intense heat!

The night was darkened by an event which actually taught me something about myself. I’ve always thought of myself as open-minded and open to experiences of the alternate kind. After all, how would I be going around South Africa by road if I wasn’t? Two of the guys took the car back to town leaving three of us, as I saw it, stranded on the N12. I freaked out completely. To me, this is a national road and your only safety net is gone. If anything happens out here in the wilderness, there is nothing you can do. That’s how I saw it. I lost my nut and took off with the guys worse than I have ever done in my entire life. Their argument was that this is Kimberley and they have done this for the last ten years – incident free. The thing is, as I saw it, I can fully understand that aspect but…It’s the, “but,” that stands out – anything can happen at anytime no matter where you are hence the constant vigilance.

What is right? I still don’t know. I can’t fully accept that my losing my marbles was the right thing to do. Neither can I say I was wrong to go that berserk. Small town life in South Africa is a completely different ballgame to big city life with all the issues that come along with it though. Which “life” you choose to lead is up to you. It did show me that I am that city boy with the city boy mentality. That mentality does mean you are intrinsically safe in all situations because you make sure you are, but it also means the tranquillity of the small town life eludes me. It’s something I need to correct before I get back to Jozi.

Meanwhile, in the distance, the jackals keep barking…

“Now that’s a Fire,” and other events that lead us to the Fish Eagle

A highly recommended attraction of Kimberley actually lies some twenty kilometres north of the city. Taking the N12 north, one takes the Riverton turn-off to get to, well, Riverton. Then, after what seems like forever along a road straighter than freshly GHD’d hair, here is where the Northern Cape Aquatic Sports Club is situated. It is also where the Oceanos was recovered and left.

Kershen has this pretty awesome friend named Rowen that I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks ago whilst in Jozi. Rowen’s job is to be professionally awesome. He is probably the best in his field as well. 🙂 Anyway, Rowen has a boat. Boats are pretty cool. These marine contraptions have fascinated me for years. I never did get into the mechanics of their inner workings but nevertheless, travelling freely on the open water with the wind blowing in your hair is a great experience. My aim was to drive the boat. The aim never did materialise as I think they DEFINITELY have laws against driving whilst intoxicated. Also, if I make a mistake, we will tip over into the mighty Vaal to freeze to death like Leonardo Di Caprio did.

The Northern Cape is not renowned for its water. The solar potential of this province, however, is immense. Even in winter, the sun glares down on you with the intensity of summer anywhere else. The vast space available in the province gives promise to the renewable energy potential of the area. With the hopeful advances in solar technology and what is energy’s Holy Grail – energy storage, maybe one day our country’s electricity supply will come from the sun. Looking over at the mighty Vaal though, one would never guess that we had a water problem. Then again, crossing parts of the Amazon takes 30 minutes by commercial airliner. This river, I reckon I could swim across. Though I didn’t hazard trying – it being cold and all and all and all.

After a quick launch, Rowen took the boat for a spin. I’m pretty impressed with this picture. That boat was doing some speed and I managed to capture it pretty well. Kudos to my little Canon SX110 IS…

Riding shotgun in a boat is breathtaking – partly because the resultant wind does not allow much air to enter your nose successfully. This icy cold breeze cleans your face of all the pollutants brought on it by our modern, industrial lifestyle and allows you to become one with this natural beauty. Vegetation lines this mighty river as far as the eyes can see whilst the animals faunacate on the branches, in the air, on the ground and in the depths.

A boat is not a boat unless it has 6×9’s in them. Our boat did. Classic rock, a dop and the Mother Nature makes for a great life.

As we laze, floating down the mighty Vaal, the sun leaves the sky as gloriously as a phoenix. The river shimmers whilst attempting to reflect the grandeur of the sun. I sit back, close my eyes, and smile.

It’s pretty hard sailing at night. I wonder if sailing is the right word here seeing that we had no sails! Anyway…Man must make fire. Man must eat. We made fire. We ate. It rained. The fire was a Man’s fire. That pitiful rain stood no chance! Bwahahaha! It did rain pretty heavily though. Rain in winter is cold. Man solves this with Brandy. I did not feel cold. Whenever Rowen stepped into the rain, it seemed to rain harder. I should warn him to go check out his karma – apparently your local GP can do this along with your normal check-up.

The night was hectic. Apart from questionable hygiene, the night took its toll in other ways as well. My eyes were eaten by a savage beanie. Kershen lost his hand to a Corsa Diesel. I must say he did show good form by not spilling his dop. Kudos to Kershen…

Back on the river on this glorious morning, we see the sights that were rather dark last night. Kimberley also has a meteorite crash site. Scientists have studied this area alongside the Vaal River and attributed the rock formations to a meteor strike sometime in the past. It’s not a hugely impressive site but maybe this is where all the diamonds came from – OUTER SPACE! Booyah!

As with all Apartheid creations, the riverside resort of Riverton is partnered with a resort for the oppressed. Named Langley, the area where it is situated is actually better than Riverton with a flat piece of land cleared to allow for easy picnicking whereas Riverton’s picnic spot is built on a slope. Apartheid infrastructure: FAIL. We did discuss and deduce that the Apartheid planners probably got sick of the flat Platte land all over Kimberley and added this slope for a bit of excitement.

Dams aren’t the only ways water is collected from the river. There are two huge towers sticking out the Vaal that collect water and provide it to the town and surrounds. Kimberley is not small – it has over 300 000 residents yet this method provides ample supply. There are shock stories about the supply though with bodies being found in reservoirs and the like. I still drank the water – impurities and bacteria are a way of life and bottled water just makes you more of a sissy. I’m still not drinking the water in India though! Anyway, apart from the swallow nests, one can see a few holes about two-thirds the way up the tower. This is the overflow and either in 1998 or 1988 (I know there was an eight somewhere in the year); the river was so high that these were covered.

Even the breathtaking sunset of the previous evening could not come anywhere close to what happened as we sailed down river. Atop a branch in yonder distance, I spot a large brown bird perched and watching the world. It majestically takes of and flaps its graceful wings as it sails across the blue sky. It lets out its call – next to the lion, Africa’s most powerful and unmistakeable call. I witness the Flight of the Fish Eagle. I close my eyes and take this in. And I smile…