I said farewell to my new friend as he continued his way north to Namibia and I my way south to the Western Cape.
I pulled over at a roadside rest stop surrounded by the last barren stretches of the Northern Cape. A black crow perched on a fence post next to me. It was just me and the crow and I wondered what he was thinking at the moment. Crows are among the smartest animals in the world. Just watch David Attenborough's Natural Curiosities, and see these creative creatures performing little tasks and tricks. They also collect shiny things and I can relate to that.
As I drove further, I saw some fairy circles off in the distance, recalling that I also saw some just south of Springbok two days prior(1). These peculiar formations used to fascinate one of my university professors and I remember him going over to Namibia during my honours year, on a field study to unravel their mysteries. A bit further, I stopped to take a photo of an intriguing corbelled house(2) before I crossed over to the Western Cape.
Dodging a squirrel on the road, I turned off the N7 to Clanwilliam, listening excitedly to Arcade Fire - Rebellion, as I entered the Rooibos- country(3). I spent most of the morning sitting at the Rooibos Tea House drinking tea for days and doing some editing. The Vintage Rose blend with lavender and roses became an instant favourite and I also bought some skin care products which are doing wonders for me. I got a pair of fine leather shoes at Strassbergers, the oldest shoe manufacturer in South Africa and stopped at a local supermarket for food supplies before heading out on my Bushman-adventure. Apart from Rooibos, this area is also known for its rock paintings(4).
The drive there took me right over the captivating Cederberg Mountains(5). What a beautiful world! Passing by the dramatic rock formations and the remaining few tan leaves standing out against the black, recently scorched branches, I arrived at the Sevilla Rock Art Trail. Every inch of skin protected against the sun this time, wearing my new adventuring shoes, I set off on my journey into the past.
A few large-scale girdled lizards greeted me at the beginning of the trail as I made my way across the flat reddish-black rocks covered in pale green lichens. Listening to STRFKR - Miracle Mile while battling the wind over ownership of my hat, I set forth. Arriving at the first site, I stood there absolutely astonished. What a sight! Little memories and stories left behind by the San bushmen dating back thousands of years. As I made my way along the different art sites I felt like Indiana Jones exploring artefacts of the past. I stopped to rest under an overhang sheltered by a giant wild olive tree, leaves gently rustling in the wind. Red ochre cattle and zebras and tiny figures with bow's and arrows were running around all over the place. As I made my way further I nearly got trampled by a herd of eland coming out of nowhere! I don’t know who got a bigger fright, me or them, but by the time the dust and confusion had settled they were already way yonder in the valley.
After visiting all the sites I made my way back, finishing the very warm brackish water that I filled up back in Garies. At some point, I realised I wasn’t on the trail anymore, but seeing as there were footprints in the sand I kept going. Not really knowing where I was and not quite trusting the dassie, staring at me with his beady little eyes, I decided to rather retrace my steps and eventually found the trail again. By that time I noticed a lone eland trotting ahead of me, waiting for me around every bend, guiding me all the way back to the start. Thank you my animal friend! Eventually reaching the flat rock-bed, having no water left and starting to feel really uncomfortable in my long sleeves, I thought to myself I would probably perish in one day if I had to wear a stillsuit crossing the sands of Dune(6).
Still amazed by what I just saw I drove back over the Cederbergs with the setting sun illuminating the rocks. The shadows cast by the rock formations reminded me of the rocks surrounding the Twentynine Palm Oasis in Joshua Tree National Park - Southern California, one of my favourite spots in the world. I once sat there on a beautiful day, the sun setting over the desert sky, casting shadows over the rocks tricking my eyes into seeing giant faces, gently smiling and swaying in the breeze. What a magical memory. The soundtrack of The Fault in Our Stars gently brought me back from my daydream reminding me that the present isn't all too bad either. My last stop for the day was the grave of the South African poet C. Louis Leipoldt(7) before heading back to town to find some accommodation.
Strike two for Google Maps, as it took me to yet another field on the outskirts of town instead of the backpackers it falsely promised. I would have liked to couchsurf again, but the Clanwilliam Couchsurfing Community didn't seem all too active. Driving around I came across the Elephant River Guest House. It had a beautiful long porch draped with bougainvilleas looking out over a garden with a swimming pool and palm trees, I was back in Thailand. To top it off, I had a princess bed for the night!
I sat outside watching the inauguration speech on Youtube for a while, thinking what a strange world it is we live in. I have no words. Afterwards, I took a walk in the garden feeling the cool wind washing over me, unlike the clinging heat of the Northern Cape that sticks to the skin. The night sky was beautiful. The familiar constellations of the southern hemisphere were spread out above me, with Orion facing the normal way and the bunny, not the man, visible in the moon. I worked on amy sketch for a while and played Black, It’s a Wonderful Life in the background. What a day.
(1) Fairy Circles are near perfect circles, or barren patches, that can be seen scattered mainly throughout the grasslands of the Namib Desert. The exact cause of these peculiar patterns has been sparking debate among scientists for a long time, with entomologists and zoologists attributing it to termites and the botanists (like my professor) rooting for the plants. According to the latest paper published, it seems like both teams play a part, the plants and the termites, living together in harmony.
(2) Corbelled structures (see below) are made entirely of stone stacked on each other resulting in a strange beehive effect. These houses were originally built by the trekboers, or nomadic farmers who started making their way north into the country back in the early 1800's, after growing real tired of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) administration followed by the British annexation of the Cape Colony.
(3) Rooibos tea is a special tea which is widely consumed by most of the South African population. Unlike all other teas that are made from the leaves of one plant, Camellia sinensis, rooibos is made from, Aspalathus linearis, which is mainly found in the Clanwilliam area. It's popular because of its distinct taste, high anti-oxidant level and accompanying health benefits and is also used in a wide range of skin care products.
(4) The San Bushmen are the indigenous hunter-gatherers, also nomadic artists, of South Africa. Rock paintings dating back thousands of years can be seen scattered throughout this (and also other) areas of the country.
(5) The Cederberg Mountains dominate this area and is well worth a visit being a popular hiking destination. I once made my way up its dramatic sandstone formations, through the Wolfberg Cracks all the way to the Wolfberg Arch. It was quite the journey, to say the least. If I had to compare it to the Delicate Arch in the Arches National Park, Utah, I would say South Africa 1, USA 0.
(6) Dune, the science-fiction series by Frank Herbert. Tedious at times and probably something that should be re-read to be fully grasped. All I remember are sand worms, spices and stillsuits.
(7) Dr. Christian Frederik Louis Leipoldt was a doctor, botanist, journalist, nature lover, cooking enthusiast and famous poet of the early 1900's, who also happens to be the eponym of my primary school.