With a South African winter akin to that of an English summer, I hardly feel entitled to complain, but leaving Cape Town’s balmy temperatures and heading to Johannesburg’s more frigid conditions felt like we’d boarded a vessel to Antarctica. The cold seems to cut through your clothes no matter how many layers you wear, and although everyone moans about the wind in Cape Town, it doesn’t feel like it has swept over the planes of Siberia before reaching you. Icy wind and cutting temperatures aside, we had 2 weeks of happy faces to see, so we got our pansy asses up and smiling, and ready to take on the cold. After a week of cuddling up with the Joburg family, catching up with old friends, and slogging away at work that seems to follow us like the unpleasant bouquet of an armpit; we were off to the bush. A week of bonding with the animals, gazing at African skies and hearty laughs around a roaring fire were awaiting us. That’s not to mention the constant grazing (by us, not the wildlife), the awesome scenery and spectacular bush views.
We are spoilt enough to have Granny and Grandpa’s game farm to escape to; a haven set in a valley of swaying grass and Dombeya trees. The giraffe, kudu and impala bound around cheerfully, occasionally peering into your vehicle questioning what you are doing in their section of the pride lands, or scatting off into the bush if you startle them. There are no Big 5 on the farm, which means you don’t have to be constantly concerned about your wellbeing outside the vehicle, but when you are me, you are concerned anyway, constantly afraid an impala is going to jump out the bushes and devour you whole. When you live in Africa, you have any number of things to fear, I’m not sure the ‘terrifying presence’ of the grassland herbivores should be one of them, but clearly the twitchiness you pick up in our cities doesn’t seem to leave you as fast as the smell of the exhaust fumes.
The lack of carnivorous beasts did allow us to take the kids cycling, running and hiking through the bush, putting us in the beating heart of Africa. The pulse of the bush was at our fingertips, every blade of grass brushing off a piece of the city.
There is an indescribable connection to life that you feel rumbling around when you immerse yourself in the bush.
Despite being a beach girl, even I can’t deny the bush is something special. It was dry and it was dusty, but it felt so real, so alive. The roads implore you to follow them as they wind their way through the valley and up onto the escarpment, they do such a good job in their temptation that we were enticed into a 17km run along these very paths, the birds singing to us as we worked our way up the escarpment. No better way to shake the last vestiges of urban life, than having to focus on the cobbles in front of you and the burning in your lungs. I had never quite believed people when they droned on about ‘altitude training’ and how the lack of oxygen actually plays a rather large roll in your abilities. Oh, I believe them now! On 2 occasions (while running particularly hard) I lost sensation in my arms all together, and deciding (in my oxygen deprived state) that the best way to remedy the situation was to take off my top (at freezing temperatures) as it must be constricting blood flow. Oh the hilarity of oxygen deprivation. Shaun and I have been thinking quite seriously about climbing Kilimanjaro (5900m above sea level), but after my ‘extreme’ trip to the Highveld (1600m above sea level) I may need to step up the altitude training before attempting that. The last thing we need is me flailing about in the snow, with my top off, on the top of Kili, with arms that don’t work. Pictures could never do that kind of performance justice.
Despite the dry, insipid air, a week of exertion was exactly what the doctor ordered. Couple that with the location, and you have a winning formula for disentangling yourself from the irritable bowels of city living. A week in the bush is enough to strip away the layer of soot that clings to you when you live in a preserve of vehicles and industry. It may replace it with a layer of dust, but at least that is a more authentic, earthy feeling. For some reason the dirt you gather on yourself in the bush is comforting, it soothes the urgent voices in your head telling you to work harder, stay up later, stare at a screen for longer. The overwhelming feeling that you’re not being productive enough, not accomplishing enough, not ticking things off your to-do list fast enough, begins to slip away. It’s a respite from reality that we all need. It helps put things in perspective, lets us see our lives a little differently. We certainly can’t all spend our time picnicking around rock pools with loved ones, blazing trails through the bush with our kids in tow and braai-ing up a storm every night under the clear African skies, but I’m going to set my intention there. You cannot have enough inspirational picks on your vision board, and this scene is a goodie. Trust me.
We may have the mountains, the sea, the beach and the wine-lands in Cape Town, but we don’t have the rugged feeling of creation. It’s something quite special, and as it turns out, rather unique.