Thursday, October 30, 2008

Rooted to one spot

A friend told me about his plans of heading into the direction of Queenstown (South Africa) in the nearby future - to attend a friend’s wedding.

Someone with travel experience of distant and solitary places, I wonder what he will make of this part of our country. My thoughts started drifting to the south-eastern parts of the North Eastern Cape and I thought of Queenstown where my mom and her twin sister went to school – known to be the Terrible Twins.

North-west of Queenstown lays a small town, called Hofmeyer. The ideal place to go if you are into arts and crafts and looking for that scene of a world lost to time. Directly north of it is the town Molteno which is a landscape of sheep or cattle, scattered trees, yellow grass fields and old and sometimes abandoned farm houses, and young Black boys making or playing with wire cars and a stray dog or two.

Molteno is known for its yearly 4x4 rally and place where Simba Chips and Ouma Beskuit originated from. I don’t mean to boast, but it was the Greyvensteyn family from my grandfather’s side that happened to show such entrepreneurship. Unfortunately for me, our side of the family lost out on any inheritance – a matter which I would like to investigate on a later stage. The Greyvensteyns moved to Gauteng and close to the Simba factory Greyvensteyn Street still exists, although we won’t know if it will still be there in a few years time.

Steynsburg – from memory I recall a cafe complete with a Coca-cola signboard where mom and dad regularly had to make a stop. To shut their nagging young brats up with a bottle each of green cream soda-, yellow banana- or pink strawberry flavored sterri-milk. This brand doesn’t exist anymore and if it does, has not contained the same taste. There used to be a vet in Steynsburg and I believe he made good money – the only vet who would open his door at all hours within what felt like a 300 kilometer or more radius.

North of this dorpie is Burgersdorp which we often call Blikkiesdorp. As kids, we used to spend all our money in this town’s shops called Stevenson and Dee-Bee which long since had been replaced by a chain store called, Score. Snip these days aren’t too bad and whenever we visit we have to nip down to this crazy little store as well as P&P boutique which stands for PEP.

Aliwal North is not far from here either, just a little bit further north on the banks of the Orange River and further than that we will not dwell today.

Ma and Pa lives in “Blikkiesdorp” but I must say they’re more often on the farm than not. Always busy with broken wind pumps, searching for missing cattle or nursing motherless lambs... At the moment it is extremely dry and as much as it can be paradise, can it turn into a sun-burned land of hardship.

The farm’s name is Ysterfontein which is not to be muddled with our West Coast Yzerfontein - situated between Molteno and Burgersdorp. It is so beautiful there that my heart aches to know that I can not be there most of my life. It is in the heart of the Stormberg mountain range (part of the southern Drakensberg mountains). And if anyone knows about Stormberg cheese, then I suppose they know about its outstanding quality and exactly where I am now.

The farm is blessed in the sense that there is no electricity, but paraffin and gas lamps. A gas- and huge old aga-stove as well as a copper old “donkey” that gets stoked with wood to make hot water. It lives in the pink bathroom where ginger beer gets aged behind a curtained rail. The bathroom is right next to the kitchen. There is an outhouse or more poplurly known "kleinhuisie" with the most splendid views of a willowtree and endless veldt – the place unfortunately now inhabited by bees which...well makes it virtually impossible to sit there in peace these days. The farm is hidden in a natural valley of mountains, dams and miles of sky. It is a place as far from noise as is the moon from the earth.

Those small or lush and sometimes dusty towns are unique and it would take writing a book or three to describe them all. They are these far and beautiful places hidden amongst koppies and valleys, crooks, crannies and nooks.

I think some roots are calling me...


Tsoeu Koto said...

Ohh, maan you've just made me miss home. I am from Aliwal North and have had an opportunity to pass through those towns you mention quite a lot back in the day. Am now based in the hustle and bustle called Jo'burg.

Brother Tobias said...

What a beautiful, lyrical description! No wonder you feel the draw of it. You should write more of this; anecdotes from your childhood years there, and the characters that peopled them.

Extra Virgin said...

tsoeu koto - nothing beats "home". We're fortunate to know those places and also to have tasted "Puto- or krummeltjie pap".

brother tobias - As you know, it falls close to another part of the world that I so much love.

Anonymous said...

Was in NE Cape doing a driving holiday but did not go through Molteno /Burgersdorp area
even though I had planned to. But after reading the descriptions next time - I go.