Tag Archives: Cape Town

A Pebbly Love Story

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A Pebbly Love Story

Let me tell you about the time I jumped down Suicide Gorge for love.

Okay, truth be told, I did it mostly for the sheer joy of it, but rest assured that wooing a girl with precious stones definitely played a part in the endeavour.

We drove out of Cape Town before sunrise and an hour later, we parked the car in the foothills of the Hottentots Holland Mountains. My companion was a friend, mind, not my later-to-be-wooed love interest. A three-hour hike up the mountain brought us to the top of a ravine — Suicide Gorge. I’m not sure if people go there to reschedule their appointment with Death, but I do know that many hikers have perished in this beautiful slice of nature.

The ravine is a series of pools, connected by waterfalls, leading to a river at the bottom. Hiking down is a five-hour journey. You jump from pool to pool and wade through the river to the end of the trail. Thing is, after the second jump, you’re committed; you can’t climb back. And then, there follows a ten-metre drop, which, if you’re unwilling to jump, will result in a helicopter full of annoyed rescue personnel coming to save your ass.

Now, to the girl. She was in London at the time. We were dating online, you see, which is about as frustrating as trying to snatch a teddy bear with a Claw Machine. She referred to our Skype calls, Google Talk chats, and text messages as “pebbles”, little virtual markers to keep us on track.

So, obviously I stuffed my pockets with rocks all the way down the gorge. These I mailed to her — a near kilogram of river-smoothed stones in a self-painted, glazed flower pot. A bit daft, I grant you, but she married me in the end. Couldn’t have been too weird then, right?

Come to think of it, I’ve done way more romantic things than mailing a woman a bag of rocks, but none of those stories start with, “I jumped down Suicide Gorge for love,” so, you know.

An End of Year Lament—In the Middle of the Year

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An End of Year Lament—In the Middle of the Year

You know the curious journey that a train of thought can travel? Well, I re-discovered my first ever blog post, written in December 2004, through an analogous voyage through the interwebs.

A Facebook friend shared a link, and on that page was another link to a Buzzfeed article: 35 Surprisingly Useful Websites You Never Knew You Needed. Number 34 is The Akinator—The Web Genie! a clever app that guesses the names of characters by asking multi-choice questions. After the Genie correctly “guessed” Christopher Hitchens, Arlen Bales, and Titus Pullo—a pretty impressive feat—I thought I’d pluck a name from obscurity and truly test the lamp-dweller’s mettle… Jabalwan is a sorcerer and healer in Wyvern, an outstanding novel by A.A. Attanasio (do read it, if you have the chance). I had a problem, however. I couldn’t remember specific details about the endearing mentor. Could I answer pointed questions accurately? He was a minor character, after all, and I read the book long ago. To Google then, I submitted the outlandish name, and the first result, much to my surprise, was my long-forgotten Blogspot page (in my youth, I had adopted Jabalwan as my handle, because reasons…) The blog sports exactly two posts, resulting in a publishing frequency of one article every five years. Prolific I am not.

It struck me how much the sentiment of that first post still holds true. Even when I’m half a world away from my beloved Cape Town.

An End of Year Lament

A sea of clouds cover Table Mountain, but it will soon wash over. The morning sun promises yet another perfect day in the most beautiful city in the world. What am I doing in an office, I wonder.

The 15th. Two weeks. Holiday. And boy do I need it. It has been a rough (but good) year and the underlining tension of everyone at the office, is manifesting itself through snappy remarks, sulkiness, indifference, occasional shouting, and in some cases, spontaneous breaking out into song. I want to break free.

Coming back to the mountain… Some years ago (and I don’t care to count how many), my dad and I climbed the harbor side of Cape Town’s monument. Close to the top, we passed a rather portly man catching his breath. “The end is in sight,” his friend encouraged. Through gasps for air, he managed, “The end was in sight from the beginning.”

How true that is for this year. The final stretch. So close and yet so far. The reward somehow seems trivial, now that I think on it. Eighteen days to run down the mountain, heal sore muscles, and mend a weak spirit, before I must climb again.

Why do I do it? The beauty of the mountain? The thrill of the climb? I don’t know, but I know nothing else. At least I’m well provisioned. I feast on friends and indulge in writing (even though it tastes poorly). And when the storms of the Cape beats upon the mountain side, fantasy whisks me away to another place. That should be reason enough…

Bearer of Days

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Bearer of Days

I wrote this ten years ago, shortly after a lonely road trip from Kimberley to Cape Town. I wondered at the road signs—in the middle of bloody nowhere—that showed the number of accident free days. Who changed the numbers on these signs, and how depressing a job is that!? Below is the result of that reflection; it’s from the perspective of a rather disagreeable fellow, but I’ve always quite liked it.

Bearer of Days

God, it’s hot. Why does it have to be so hot?

I hit the dashboard in irritation. The aircon hasn’t worked in years. I’ve had it re-gassed twice already—the second time with special paint. The colouring, they said, will be exposed under UV light inspection. We’ll find the leak, no problem. They didn’t see shit. The mechanic then tuned me some story that the compressor might be the problem, and that that will cost three grand to fix. Three grand! Fuck that greasy little bastard.

The road stretches to the horizon. It’s straight, but I drive in circles. I’ve never been to the end of the road where so many people go. I’m not sure how I feel about that, but I don’t really care anymore. I used to. I don’t know how I feel about that too. But I’m content. Or rather, I’ve made my peace to drive this stretch of the N1 for the rest of my life. They call it, “The Road of Death”, and I know its curves like the life line cut in my palm.

The heat shimmers off the living tar. It’s a rabid animal that scavenges. Only three days ago, a taxi had crashed, feeding the insatiable beast again; this time, it devoured thirteen kaffers. They had used a shifting spanner for a steering wheel. Jesus, how stupid can you be?

But it’s for them, these dead fools, that I drive my circle again. I carry numbers, I bear days. When I was younger, I used to think a lot about what I do, but now I prefer the dull bliss of drink. I often joke that it was my wife that drove me to booze. It wasn’t.

The karoo veld rushes past me in a haze. It’s grey and red. Kameeldoring and dust. Why does it have to be so hot? I wipe the sweat from my forehead and when I look back at the road, I see death—my death and others’. They are real and not ghosts.

Instantly sober, I perceive the horror of faces—young and old—just before I crash my piece-of-shit car into a SUV.

I am not dead, but I will be soon. Who will change the “Accident Free” sign? It’s stupid to worry about that, but it bothers me. The number is wrong, and now there’s no-one to set it right.