Travel

22 July | Rearview

22 July | Rearview

Sunday in Calitzdorp: a kitsch tearoom with panpiped music, ragged kids saying they will look after my car nicely. It is the 22nd of July. If I had to track backwards, to rewind the last week…

The Peugeot is reversing along the R62, speedometer at 12 o’clock, 110 km/h on the dot. Petrol is extracted at Ladismit, below the Towerkop, the snow on it unthawing as I deposit R600 in the ATM.

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Chasing Shadows

  Santu Mofokeng | Chasing Shadows

These photographs explore a part of me which I have so far neglected in my work, – my spirituality. There are several reasons why it was ignored: ambivalence, embarrassment, fear of the political and other implications or perhaps the deflection of my gaze...

I grew up on the threshing floor of faith. A faith that is both ritual and spiritual – a bizarre cocktail of beliefs that completely embraces pagan rituals as well as Christian beliefs. And while I feel reluctant to partake in this gossamer world, I can identify with it. It does not strike me as 'peculiar'. Yet, I still try to avoid being trapped in its hypnotic embrace, which seems to mock my carefully cultivated indifference and self confidence. I feel ambivalent about my ambivalence, embarrassed at my embarrassment.

Santu Mofokeng, 1997.

Platform | South African Photography and Contemporary Literature Zoe Wicomb and Ivan Vladislavic | Bergen Kunsthall, 14 January, 2012.

‘It’s a risky business.’

‘It’s a risky business.’

I was standing at the railings of the fast ferry to Zanzibar.  Next to me was a man in impressive sunglasses – a Tanzanian tourist, a domestic tourist, I figured – and we were both looking at a fisherman in a tiny canoe, wandering how he was going to cope with the wake of our big tourist boat.  The larger dhows had bucked and bobbed alarmingly enough; a tiny wooden dugout seemed perilous.  But the fisherman kept pulling on his handline, not particularly bothered, and the waves fanning out through the warm ocean behind us never did quite reach him.  Nonetheless, the smart bystander in the polo shirt said again: ‘A risky business.’  It took quite a lot of convincing (on Sofie’s part) for me to leave a hot, windy Cape Town and embark on a holiday to somewhere as oversubscribed as Zanzibar.  Slavery, honeymoons, too many Z’s, resorts and spices – it all seemed an uneasy mixture.  I was all for staying in the new flat at Bradwell Mansions: paintings on the walls, greenery through all the windows.  No sooner had we moved in than I was carrying all my pot plants out again, taking them downstairs to be looked after by Arthur: old man, migraine sufferer, and (I slowly began to pick up the signs), a bit of a racist. 

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Gylen Bunkhouse, Kerrera | The Sound of Islay | Part One

The photocopied maps came out too light, so I am tracing the crinkly outlines of the islands with a fine liner as I visit them.  Day three and the rain is pinning me down on this one; it drips off the bracken, streams down the tracks.  Looking south from a bunkhouse byre on the southerly tip, towards where my tent is pitched near the ruins of a castle.  There are horns, skulls and whale bones on the windowsill, a Mongolian yurt in a nearby paddock.  Its occupant is the cook: a Glaswegian homoeopath who grew up in Malawi and has been telling me about the parrot sanctuary just down the road…

In the course of her monologue about the island and its eccentric inhabitants, the Glaswegian/Malawian dropped in the information that there was space in the bunkhouse tonight and that wild parties were often to be had there.  I had the sense that she was looking at me meaningfully here, and when she changed the subject and went on talking about the sheep and how they destroyed the wildflowers, I began daydreaming about what it might be like to spend a rough and tumble night in a Kerreran yurt.  Now she’s gone off to ‘give the bread into second kneading,’ leaving me with my maps, a sketch of a whale vertebra, The Brothers Karamazov and the rain.

The month of September stretches ahead of me, cloud covered, damp, light withdrawing and yet intensely open.  The bread maker with the flirtatious eyes said she used to be in training as a psychotherapist, but got sick of other people’s problems and came away to this pocket of bracken, sodden grass and castle.  It looks south, away from Oban and its light pollution towards the Ross of Mull, Inch, Seil and the other tiny islets which are duly outlined and named on the information board next to the castle, the only object detracting from my otherwise superb camping spot.  That and the sheep, shitting everywhere, squatting down to piss all round my tent so that a slightly more directed gushing joins the million other water sounds as the rain percolates through this green sponge of a landscape.

So: looking to the south while the yeast is doing its occult work, looking through a window (past horns and driftwood) for a window of less grey clouds, an opening moving in from the Outer Hebrides so that I can cycle south to the ferry port and begin the journey during which (Callum assured me as we planned this over ordnance survey mapping software) I would have tailwinds almost all the time, the prevailing south westerlies helping me onward.   [Continue reading...]

Easter Sunday spent walking through the city...

Easter Sunday spent walking through the city...

                            ...along the Atlantic seaboard.  I set out from Perspectives, taking a diagonal through the long rectangle of the city centre.  Music that sounds Congolese spills down through narrow stairs from where church services are in progress.  Smartly dressed couples mingle with those who have been sleeping rough, the tourists and the loiterers.  Pass the corner on Loop Streetwhere Sean and Theo’s new bar might open. The previous concept, the Che Bar, didn’t last long: graphics of Guevara as icon in the Campbell’s soup tin poster with words like Radical and Ideology printed in cutting edge fonts at the bottom. 

Tack across through De Waterkant; men wave from the other side of the road where they sit under bluegums on the long, dry Lions Rump.  People on corners try to draw me into conversation – I give them a curt wave and carry on walking purposively, wearing a shirt crusted with sand, salt and sweat.  Come down on Greenpoint main road, where there is a huge stadium half built, more traffic and more voices.

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Road trip into the Klein Karoo

…Sean leaving as many loose ends as the wires that twisted out of the cubbyhole where the radio should have been. To remedy this, Roderick’s other lodger, Sarah, had lent me a pair of portable battery speakers which I balanced on my lap together with a skipping discman. By the time we reached the mountain tunnel I had made a suitable nest out of jerseys and scarves to keep it steady. “I normally have a policy of taking the pass over the top,” said Sean as the Indestructible Beat of Soweto sounded out in the belly of the fold belt. But time was short, wine shops en route soon to close. Soon after we left Worcester, Sarah’s speakers began emitting a horrible, cyclic wave of distortion. It’ll probably get broken, I told her when she offered it.

“Don’t worry, I’m loaded,” she said, sitting at the wobbly kitchen table below Lion’s Head. Scraped lemons in the fruit bowl, back issues of Condé Nast Traveller in the toilet and a stray named Wilberforce prowling across the dusty wooden floor. One of the party girls had loved and then left it; Sarah was the only person who fed it now, under the rain and warping roofs of the winter Cape. Rod’s house was leaking from above and welling up from below. Every time I came down he had removed another rusted component from the overflowing geyser, claiming to have solved the problem. They were arranged artistically in the hearth, between vases of wild flowers.

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Peak Formosa

“Her vast barbaric haunches” visible from the breakfast table…Formosa Peak outlined in the manageable blue glare of my prescription sunglasses, above the seamist that has not yet burnt off, the indented rivermouths, the wave cut platform. From here the long mountain line is an abstract in aluminium window frames of the café where my Dad takes his coffee, above the high street, adjoining the radio studio. But a month ago, Nic, Sean and I set out on a morning dark highway with dried fruit, no camera and a hand drawn map given to us by a trail hardened local who jotted down some helpful tips as well: “Careful of bushfires,” “Slow and steady - no race.”

Dad has asked me to write a guest column on the hike for his field notes in the local paper, no doubt also to be broadcast in installments to the fill up the local FM hours. So here I will set down those things that could never be included there. Like: the music playing as we traced the Tsitsikamma Range for 100 km’s, then bent inland at Kareedouw, echo pedal guitar, where phrases overlap in ways that can never be predicted and in turn give rise to ideas not yet imagined: the long drive into the musical unconscious, and in the background a sad Mancunian voice singing about war and wasted time. Like: the long unstoppable ascent, Nic and I cursing Sean as he traced the three ridges high above, only halting at the summit scramble, where the ocean came to view again and, like that day on the white sand at Robberg we were looking back from somewhere that had only been looked at before, stared at for years, feeling the burn, the credit balance of youth, the invincible summer.

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