Thursday, August 2, 2007

1984 Apartheid, Douglas to Kleinzee Trek

1984. Esslemonts' De Beers mine house, 4 Fifth Street, Kleinzee.

At a Kimberley garage, a white teenager, pouring petrol, asked, "Hello oom. Whad 'appened to your bakkie oom?" I'd changed from Rooinek to oom en meneer - from pejorative to honorifics. I'd trekked from English-Zulu-Indian -land to Coloured-Tswana-Afrikaner-land. I rocked up at Leah's old school friend's pozzie, where Lynelle gave me a pup, Lucky Injasuti (well fed dog), a Dachshund x Rottweiler. Lynelle's hubby, MotoX champ, drove me around De Beers blueground dumps on his motorbike.

With Lucky, I west-trekked to Schmidtsdrif, where I'd camped as a troopie...

At Griekwastad in the 1800s, Adam Kok, half-cast free-slave, had wandered north from the Cape Colony, robbing Boers and lawless frontier settlers with his band of free-slaves. (Dougie Oakes, Editor, Illustrated History of South Africa, The Real Story, The Reader's Digest Association, New York, 1988). London Missionary Society Mary Moffat Museum was a stone pondok on the Griekwaland West road. David Livingstone had trekked that way, marrying Mary further north at Kuruman. As a Christian-missionary-explorer he didn't convert many kaffirs, as a medical-missionary he saved some. Being the first clergy backpacker to Mosi-oa-Tunya and central African explorations made him famous. I bought a tigers-eye tortoise pendant at Griekwastad then west-trekked to dry-lands.

At Upington, I slept with Lucky at Die Eiland white campsite along the Orange River. The next frosty morning, we snuggled together inside our tent. I drove along a palm tree avenue, past black and coloured townships, then westwards to desert silence...

At a Kakamas vineyard, a coloured stared at my bakkie and asked, "Wie't tjou geslaan meneer? Enig iemand dood?" I bought a bottle of North Cape wine. In dry veld, on concrete slabs, Boere en Kapies spread saultanas to dry in Kalahari sun, for Safari Droe Vrugte Kooperasie.

At Augrabies Falls on the Orange, the great mass of sepia water thundered over red granite cliffs, the biggest granite cliff waterfall in the world...

At Pofadder, dusty veld bordered Karoo, Kalahari, Boesmanland...


At Onseepkans on the Orange ~ South West Africa border, Boere farmed river banks amongst derelict farm houses. Northwards, beyond the river lay desert... Beyond boggerall... Where Bushmen songs blew on the north wind - songs of animals, moon, stars, rain and Bushmen customs... (Neil Bennun, The Broken String, Viking, London, 2004).

Westwards to Bushmanland, where no Bushmen lived, as Boers had exterminated Bushmen as vermin by the twentieth century. Wadis appeared, and karakul clumps and black-headed dorper sheep spread over dry, treeless veld. At Aggenys Black Mountain Mine, two camels stared at us over a barbed-wire fence, as I rattled by.

At Springbok, centre for Namaqualand xerophyte flowers and karakul sheep farming, a purple Jowells truck rumbled by. Nearby Concordia and coloured mining dorps Okiep and Nababeeb were full of brawny Boers and Baster coloureds.

To Kleinzee, 100 kays westwards, I drove along the most dangerous Namaqualand dirt-road, slithering down dusty Spektakelberg Pass, Three centuries before, Cape governor Simon van der Stel, on a copper-hunting expedition, had admired the spectacular view over sandveld - towards the Atlantic. In red granite hills, kokerbome stretched aloes up to a cloudless sky.

At the bottom of the pass were matjieshutte - Namaqualand beehive-shaped reed-huts; a copper mine; a turnoff to Kommagas - a Baster dorp, serving nearby copper and diamond mines; De Beers Langhoogte Mine; Bontekoe dorp - a few straggling houses; Buffelsbank Mine...

I followed a silver-painted pipe, carrying water from the Orange River to Kleinzee (pop 4000), alongside Buffels wadi to Grootmis splattered on the north-bank near Kleinzee. Grootmis was a few dry houses, garage, derelict stone-school, parched gum trees, active Dutch Reformed kerk and cemetery, used by Grootmis and Kleinzee. A pump-house in the wadi mixed Buffels borehole water with piped Orange water for Kleinzee. I crossed a concrete-causeway to SAP Pampoen's cop-shop, and greeted coloured De Beers security-staff at the boom-gate-house, "Goeie middag..."

I picked up Leah at Kleinzee airstrip. She'd flown Scareways from Jo'burg to Kleinzee, enduring a witch-wind all the way from Upington. Lucky welcomed Leah by widdling on her. I welcomed Leah with a kiss and the tigers-eye tortoise. Our three-bedroom, concrete-block, iron-roofed house, rent-free, was at 4 Fifth Street.

I'd west-trekked 1400 kays from Durbs through warm, Mozambique -current-moderated KwaZulu-Natal, through Vrystaat platteland, southern Kalahari, Cape Boesmanland, to cool, Benguela-current -moderated Namaqualand - a land of desert-daisies, diamonds and miscegination - producing outcast Basters. From sardines to seals, from bananas to bamboes kelp. Sepia fogs rolled in from cold Atlantic upwellings, watering sandveld succulents, and eastern witch-winds dried our Natal tears, leaving us tough as ostrich biltong.

"Welcome to Kleinzee," phoned Skate. He'd got our phone-number from Leah's mom. "You're gunna hustle diamonds for Africa. I'm scheming to get IDB rich man."

"No way Skate, you can't come here! Your police-record stops you visiting." Skate was a dronkgat dagga-rooker who'd grown up in SA with all its white privileges, a petty thief in SA and UK, seeking easy work and refuge from UK cops in SA: poop-scared to do military service in SA. Rhodie Kleintjie, although a terr killer, was the better man. Afterwards Skate, Kleintjie and other Durbanites faded from my life. Our Durban years had been formative sweet-thorn years. We'd never live in Durbs again, but we'd return to visit family and friends.

See Namaqualand Flower Report.

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