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From One Hole To Another - Part 3

(For those of you who haven't read the previous articles, here is a link to Part 1 and Part 2.)

The last day of the trip arrived with the same routine as before: alarm, shower, pack and go. We stopped for coffee and hot chocolate at a quick shop in town, and then headed northwest towards the Camdeboo National Park. Of course, we knew that we would be a bit early, but that was why we had stocked up on steamy drinks. On arriving at the gate, we found that it was opposite the Nqweba Dam, and the sunrise begged to be recorded, so we did just that.

Soon afterwards, the gate personnel arrived and in a wink we were on our way towards our last natural subject: The Valley of Desolation. As an ordinary child in primary school, i had visited this extraordinary place in the eighties. i can’t remember the gate, the animals or the road up the hill, but i do remember the rocky wonder that rises from the plains, and that has remained unchanged in the years gone by. However, today we were all alone there, just as we prefer it.

We sat on the wall overlooking one of the most splendid natural rock formations in South Africa, and took our foot photo. That-Man requested that we take a photo of us taking the foot photo, which complicated matters for the photographer (which would be yours truly, of course), as i had to set the big camera on a timer, then run-and-climb-over-some-large-rocks-and-get-a-seat-and-put-my-foot-up-in-exactly-the-right-spot-and-take-the-foot-photo-with-my-cellphone-before-the-timer-on-the-camera-ran-out. That-Man only regrets not having another camera available to take a video of the whole spectacle. Fortunately for me, my dignity remains intact and i can face the world unashamedly. We have another set of photos like that at Cape Agulhas, but that’s another story for another day.

That-man set off exploring alternative photo sites, and I remained behind to take some video clips. That was when the true beauty of the Valley of Desolation finally revealed itself. If you remain quiet, the sounds of the valley echoes and rises and it anchors you to that spot until That-Man returns with news of other vantage points that simply HAVE to be visited. Many birds inhabit this solitary rock, and their calls echo in the crevices, creating music not bound by rules of rhythm, melody and harmony. If we didn’t have to return home that day, i would have been content to sit there and listen to the avian operetta all day.

We visited some other spots close by and then had to face the fact that our time here had come to an end. On the way back we stopped for some interesting letter photos of Spandau Kop and then headed towards Graaff-Reinet.

The old Dutch Reformed church building in Graaff-Reinet dominates as much of a skyline as the town could have, and is truly an architectural gem. Inaugurated in 1887, it is one of the most well-known Dutch Reformed church buildings in South Africa. Our mission here was – as always – to find some interesting letter photos, and we were not disappointed. My favourite place in the church is the organ, but not for the reasons you may think. Around the organ pipes, a quote from the Bible were painted. It proclaims: “In hierdie plek sal Ek vrede gee.” (“In this place I will grant peace.”) If you know anything about South Africa, it is this: our country needs peace desperately. Our provinces and cities and towns need it desperately, and mostly, our families need it. i pray that the peace that is promised above the organ in this church will grow throughout South Africa and settle deeply within the hearts of all our citizens. Almost ninety minutes after we'd arrived, we left to finish our work in this beautiful Karoo town and then we set about the task of finding the ultimate “padkos” (literal translation: “road food”) for the long road home.

There is no better way to sample local delicacies than visiting a “tuisnywerheid” (home industry) in a small town, so i convinced That-Man to take me there. What a nostalgic joy. The “tuisnywerheid” in the main street was filled with all the expected goodies, displayed on the same shelves as thirty years ago, with only a smidgen of 21st-century items available. Koeksisters, various tarts and cakes, dry cookies, biltong, droëwors, lamingtons, date balls, milktart, and all the usual suspects were lined up one by one. Oh wowie! We bought some chicken and venison pies for lunch and added lemon squares for dessert. In one fridge we found some sheep lard, and bought a block for my father. In my whole family there are only a few people left who still enjoy some pure fat on a slice of bread, and he was more than pleased with this white block of delight. The pies were heated instore by the friendly “tannie” (auntie) behind the counter, and we headed northwest towards the other hole – Kimberley, home of the Big Hole.

The pies were quickly settled comfortably in our tummies, and the lemon squares followed safely after them. The towns flew past: Murraysburg, Hutchinson, Victoria West, Britstown, Strydenburg, Hopetown, Ritchie and Modderrivier, until at last we were home.

Just before Victoria West we met this little guy in the middle of the road.

i jumped at the opportunity to take his portrait, because a turtle is a perfect “O”. A few things hampered my efforts, however. First of all, my memory cards were completely full. This meant that i had to search for photos that i could delete while keeping an eye on the little sprinter so as not to lose it before i was ready to take pictures. It was an interesting tango, taking care not to let the turtle disappear in the grass on the roadside OR venture back onto the tar road - where the possibility of its demise increased with every bakkie passing - while checking my camera screen to see which photos were not usable and deleting them. By the time i started taking the actual photos, i was ready to take a nap! Afterwards i carefully picked up the turtle and put it in the veld, then returned to the car with the words: “i am out of breath chasing after a turtle.” That-Man told me not to repeat those words to anyone, ever, under any circumstance. What would people think about someone who got tired photographing a turtle? Someone like that can surely not be preparing to hike the Annapurna Trail? Well, i think it illustrates an important lesson: Never underestimate someone. Even a sedate creature galloping across the road at Mach 0.000000004 can require extreme exertion on your part in order to get the shot you need.

We entered the Diamond City, home to the Big Hole, just after 17:00 that afternoon, tired but satisfied with the trip, and ready to get everything done before the next one.

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