Brenton-on-sea is a beach near Knysna that attracts an abundance of paragliders. The natural outcrop of landmass close to the sea creates perfect conditions for paragliders to leisurely drift up and down the shore line with seemingly stable and meek wind currents. I counted nine gliders in this shot.
On the left edge of the beach there is body of rock that one can climb onto with relative ease. It provides natural protection to the elements and gives a good view of the surrounding sea, beach and gliders.
It is on this rock ‘castle’ that I came across a pair of birds that started calling wildly as soon as I started my exploration. They did not leave the castle and it quickly dawned on me that they must be protecting their young. Further investigation and furious calls led me to their solitary young chick that was being brought up between a few cracks and crevices.
The Vaal dam is freezing cold in winter, inside and out. But the respite this place offers after a hectic semester is brilliant: all you do is chill out, watch rugby, play darts, stay warm in the Jacuzzi, braai and ride four-wheeler. I’m pretty sure the chill has something to do with the large body of cool water cooling down the surrounding air – thank goodness for the Jacuzzi. Close by is a little town named Oranjeville, which basically consisted of a church, police station and liquor store. Good trip.
I think our country offers us so much beauty that we can explore and that we need to organize more road trips and stop taking our country for granted, forget about globetrotting and the Eifel Tower – just give me the Vaal dam, a boat and some skis. You can’t Google skiing with your mates on the Vaal dam, now can you? I want to travel from Durban to Cape Town, checking out the sights and sounds, stopping at little, desolate towns to share a beer with the locals. We have it all right under our noses: the big five, mountains, see, sand, the Karoo and culture that varies like the colours of the rainbow. Let’s drink it in.
A Karoo sunrise as seen from the Three Sisters (one of them is a hiding a bit), taken in May 2011.
We stayed at the Three Sisters guest farm in early May, and this was the scene that greeted us minutes shy of 7 o’clock, just before we undertook the journey back to Johannesburg. It was as though God had decided to paint the sky with pink and orange pastels, just for fun.
One stark topic that was discussed with the owner of the guest farm was that of fracking (hydraulic fracturing). Fracking is a process where one creates or widens fractures in underground rock layers in order to expand these fractures; and this ultimately causes more natural gas and oil to flow through the fracture, and thus more oil and natural gas can be mined from a given piece of land.
Basically, men in their little suits with piles of money locked away in the vaults of banks in America and Switzerland want to drill the Karoo for oil and gas.
It does not seem that the little towns in the Karoo will have the infrastructure or amount of readily available water to sustainably introduce fracking, and it would be a real shame if such a beautiful part of South Africa would become another toy of capitalism; another vein of blood to be sucked dry in a jiffy.
In the heart of the harsh Karoo,
As sun rises slowly from sleep
Unveiling from previous black canvas:
Soft pastel hues that melt into blue,
Blue untouched by soot or smoke
Enveloping a wild, rugged landscape
With its caring, crystal cloak
That morning the few who gazed
At heaven saw, in wondrous awe:
God playing happily with His crayons
Winking at the painters of today
As He pinched the sun and tugged,
Casting His eye on the crystal blue
In the heart of the harsh Karoo.
June 2011 – Francois Hermanus Steyn