“Footsteps across a world so familiar, yet so undiscovered.
Embarking on a journey with such certainty, yet so unpredictable.
We can know nothing of what lies beneath us, until our feet have touched the ground.
And so we move steadily forwards, one step at at time, a pathway of footprints etched on the
earth behind us.”
With a great push and a shove, and a few alternative twiddles of the clutch and gas, a burst of life finally explodes from the engine, and after a brief check of passengers and baggage, the car begins its journey up Hof Street.
The morning followed its usual path of chaos, helped none by my lack of confirmation with work that I could actually take my only four shifts of the week off to go wandering up the Transkei. A number of frantic phone calls later however, all calm was restored. Calm lasted for at least 3 1/2 minutes, until the realisation dawned that I had only half an hour until departure, at which time I was standing in the middle of reception, clad in pijamas with my hair piled atop my head, fully knowing that all my worldly possessions lay in my room, still very much unorganised and equally as unpacked. A detour past the bar saw me equipped with coffee and cigarette, returning to the room and somehow re-emerging approximately 34 minutes later in full organisation. I later realised that my ‘organised’ self had failed to pack a single item of underwear…luckily the ‘natural’ way is somewhat of a preference for me, albeit slightly breezy.
Some eight or nine hours later, after a number of humorous stops at the numerous stretches of road works littering our route, (one of which saw me climbing out the window of the broken passenger door to change by the side of the road, and all of which involved another great push and shove in place of the none existent starter motor), we finally arrived at our first destination; the very picturesque (and adequately named) Natures Valley.
I actually find it quite astonishing, how so much of nothing, can fill you with so much of something. It brings you to the realisation, that our universal understanding of such concepts are surely flawed;
We surround ourselves with buildings and roads, and we fill them with material possessions and cars, and with those things in our lives we will say, “we’re happy”, that our life is complete. We will wake in the morning and play with our toys, we may even develop a routine of how we go about it, and we will say, “This is how I do things, I am in control of my life”. Then we add to our lives a schedule, to enable us to go out every day into the world, and make enough money to feed ourselves, giving us enough energy to carry on with our schedule so that we may buy more things, thus making our lives more complete. And we will say “look at all these things, don’t you see how happy I am”, and we will of course believe what we’re saying. We may have a car, so that we may reach work quicker, and make more money to buy a better car that goes even faster.
We will pass by much of the world during our schedule, but we won’t see it, for our minds are consumed always by the next point, as the ‘next point’ is of course, “a matter of great importance”. And this is what we will say, when faced with a distraction, though we will be unable to tell you why we say this, so we will say “that’s just the way it is”, and we will feel happy with that answer, though it avoids the question.
And so that is how we will live our lives, forever to schedule, forever avoiding the question, forever consumed by the things we have laid around us and the toys we’ve bought to play with. Every now and then however, we will get a glimpse of the world outside of our tunnel, and if we so choose to emerge from this tunnel, and take a better look, we will find ourselves greatly rewarded. Rewarded by something completely exterior to our schedule or worldly possessions. Rewarded by the world, for taking the time to really see it, and rather than filling our toy box, it will fill our heart, encompassing our soul and setting free our mind. At first we may be astonished by this, by the fact that there’s so much of something in what we perceived to be nothing, and sometimes we may not accept it, dismissing such an unfamiliar concept in order to return to our schedule. If we do accept it however, if we keep our eyes open, if we take the time to balance, enabling us to walk over the tunnel and not through it, we will leave ourselves wide open, and the world will just keep filling, and so we will realise what it actually means to be full. We will slowly let go of our desires, and we will say nothing, for nothing needs to be said, within such a deeply mutual understanding. It is a sharing of energy between all entity, and once you dip yourself into that energy, as if seed into soil, you will find nourishment for growth, and slowly but surely, you will grow to freedom.
“Few cross the river.
Most are stranded on this side.
On the river bank they run up and down.
But the wise person, following the way,
Crosses over, beyond the reach of death.
Free from desire,
Free from possessions,
Free from attachment and appetite,
And rejoicing greatly in one’s freedom,
In this world the wise person,
Becomes oneself a light,
Pure, shining, free.” From the Dhammapada.
It is indeed a funny thing, that which you get from a trip into nothing, ‘nothing’, being quite the opposite of expected.
That evening we ate our first proper meal, a lengthy production due to my perfectionist (some might say controlling) tendencies. After we ate, we sat, surprisingly comfortably on the somewhat uncomfortable couches, and there it was hereby decided that no energy consuming pitching of the tents was to take place that night. A brief trip to the car saw us equipped with sleeping bags and pillows, and there we lay comfortably for a good ten minutes, until I was rudely convinced by Chris that we were under attack by whatever was living in the wall between the room and the kitchen. Then followed the ridiculous escapades of me tailing Chris around the room, armed with candle and pool cue, checking all the doors were locked before standing with our ears pressed against the wall, cautious and ready for attack, frantically trying to hush Hannah’s shrieks of laughter coming from the couch. Finally, about half an hour later, we managed to crawl back onto the sofa, and the creatures in the walls seemed to stop their noise. This we put down with certainty, to Fahnie’s baseline snoring.
We awoke as planned with sunrise, so as not to get caught sleeping in the lounge. It was then, during our morning coffee and cigarette, that we found the culprits of the night time’s great attack. There by the edge of the terrace, running frantically between the plant pots collecting bits of bread, was a group of about six small mice. Some may have felt stupid, but regards to this we shall worry not.
The planned sunrise departure went as usual to a different plan. Hannah got considerably sick, and the rest of us spent the day eating, smoking, napping, took a short hike to a waterfall, came back, ate, smoked, and slept there another night.
The following morning, after my attempt at a shower which ended with me wandering round the garden wrapped in a towel and covered in soap (much to the amusement of the local school), until one of the women working there took pity on me and let me use her bath, which gave out about two inches of cold water that I had to throw over myself with a plastic cup, and after this endurance of commotion, we were finally ready to depart Nature’s Valley.
It had been decided, that the mission on which we were to embark, was the straight stretch right to the Transkei, supposedly lasting about nine hours. Fourteen hours and a distinctly un-straight route later, after a few near misses with large pot holes and a fair number of dogs, we once again finally arrived at our second destination; Coffee Bay. It becomes apparent, that we must first see out a heated discussion with the receptionist over our arrival time and lack of booking, before we are granted entry through the gate, and on finally being permitted entry, we find that the car wont, under any circumstances, allow life into its engine. And so with the help of a few locals who, only minutes earlier had been trying to tempt us with their ‘trippy confectionary’, we managed to manually park the car and trailer safely within the perimeters of the backpackers.
More drinking, smoking and showering later, I checked the time (for the first time), only to realise that my watch had somehow crept to 5am. In aid of this realisation, more coffee and another joint was made, leaving myself and Fahnie sitting silenced, absorbed by the beauty of the rising sun, and filled once again by the never-ending energy of the world’s natural wonders. Despite this new lease, when the time came to adopt the horizontal position within the safety of our (now erected) tents, I had a definite struggle in persuading my one leg to follow the other up the steps.
The following day was filled with beach dwellings and somewhat precarious rock climbs until late afternoon, eating and smoking our way into the evening until the drummers commenced, bringing with them the desire for indulgence in the said trippy confectionary, and indulge we certainly did. The rest of the night was filled with a combination of giggling, and a distinct loss of coordination of one’s feet, seeing the majority of us make close contact with the floor on a number of occasions, thus leading to more giggling and further depletion of one’s coordination.
It must be said that you become significantly closer to those who you travel with, not always by choice, and often to a greater degree than would be ordinarily comfortable. I think we would all be in agreement that the past few days had been prime examples. After all passing out at varying degrees of reality; Fahnie within approximately three and a half seconds, Chris to such an extent that he became apparently oblivious to the world and everything in it (including himself), and me, not even making it to the tent due to an uncomfortable swaying of my senses, sprawled across the bench by the side of our camp. It was possibly as a result of this outdoor dreaming, that I awoke the next morning bearing distinct resemblance to Egor, with my one eye swollen almost completely shut. Needless to say, i spent the rest of the somewhat rainy day, clad in sunglasses so as not to scare unsuspecting passers by to the same extent that I scared myself on looking in the mirror for the first time that morning.
The somewhat rainy day, as well as drawing questioning looks towards my choice of eyewear, drew us out of Coffee Bay and back down the coastline towards Cinsta. We arrived for once in daylight, and apart from a minor episode involving Hannah, the car, and a tree, we arrived fairly smoothly. It was therefore particularly unfortunate, that our traveling companions had come down with a severe case of ‘cold turkey’. It would have appeared that we’d come to the only place on the South African coastline, with a shortage in the ‘alternative tobacco’.
Once again the tents never reached the upright position, and when myself and Hannah decided to indulge in a dorm, our two distinctly disgruntled companions decided to sneak in with us. Myself and Hannah’s antics with the epilator seemed to cheer them up significantly, as I’m sure the image of Hannah practically chasing me round the room with a million tiny rotating tweezers probably would. And so we had our first peaceful night in actual beds (except for Chris, who slept on a mattress practically under my bed for fear of getting caught, and who disturbed the said peace on a regular basis convinced that ‘the woman’ was about to come bursting in…despite the fact that it was somewhere around four in the morning).
Everyone seemed to waken refreshed and a little happier, not at 6am as planned, but rather closer to 9:30. After a brief panic about the discovery of our lodgers, and a quick exit down to the car, we were packed up and ready once again to depart, this time for ‘greener’ planes, boasting an abundance in the cure for the cold turkey traumas. About half way there, outside a gas station somewhere along the N2, our distinctly tempermental mode of transport finally took its ailments to another level. It was discovered, whilst I was in Spar fetching tape to repair the now non-existent music system (and airtime in an attempt to resolve the somewhat pressing issue of cover for that night’s shift, commencing in 17 minutes, and counting0 that there was a significant amount of petrol escaping from somewhere under the car. Following the discovery was a good half an hour of confusing and amusing escapades around the car park, between Hannah being convinced that she must fetch all her belongings from the car “in case it bursts into flames and we have to survive alone”, Fahnie and Chris trying to balance the car precariously against the kerb, and then on a rock, and my contribution of repeated visits for cigarettes, money, water, each time leaving Chris in a panic that I might just knock the car off its balance, therefore landing directly on top of him. My last visit did nearly that, though I’m convinced I didn’t touch the car.
And so it continues, with yet another great push and shove, the car disappears down a hill, reemerging a few seconds later following the sound of the engine spluttering once again to life, holding an impatient looking Chris gesturing for us all to get back in.
“We often seem to find ourselves asking the question; what comes next? But we must also ask ourselves, when it comes down to it, whatever ‘it’ may be, what relevance actually lies in ‘next’?
Life simply goes, we go with it. Past follows future with unsurpassable intent along its path into forever. The moments created and lived in the present, combined shape all three. Forever is now, next is simply a concept.
So live each moment as though it were your last, live with love, laugh with life and its often curious sense of humour. Continue to create your moments in ‘now’, and when ‘next finally comes, when it essentially becomes ‘now’, do exactly the same.
Don’t live in hope, live in life.”
This is not the end.