Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Johannesburg and Groot Marico, South Africa . . . “Sawu bona”

The “24 hour” train journey from Cape Town to Jo’burg took 31 hours. Thankfully, Francois (my sister Phillippa’s husband) and Felix (their son, now 6 years old) were there to pick us up from the Parktown station in central Jo’burg. A notoriously sketchy location, it did not live up to its reputation – I have been more afraid at Waterloo station in London. Despite the absence of muggers etc we were needed the lift. We couldn’t have gone far on our own with the 12 bottles of wine we were carrying, picked up while tasting wine in the Cape. So much for traveling light.

After catching up with Phillippa, Francois and Felix and joining in their Christmas Eve party we packed the remaining bottles and headed for Groot Marico on Christmas Day.

Unlike the seedy (in a cool way), urban and industrial (mining town feel) of Jo’burg Groot Marico was a very quiet place. The primary occupation of its few visitors being hiking near or swimming in the Marico River and reading stories by the local literary hero, Herman Charles Bosman. A favourite swim was in ‘The Oog’ or ‘The Eye’ of the river – a very deep (there were scuba divers) clear water spring partially littered with lilies.

At Marico we spent some time with Phillippa’s friend Erika, now living in Botswana, who was also in Marico with others from Botswana, one of whom had the inspired foresight to bring two Ipods and some speakers. Strangers quickly became friends over shared wine, shots of mampoer (local ‘fire water’ that tastes like it will kill you if drunk in excess) and drunken singing and dancing (some of it performed in the jacuzzi on the wooden patio).

After a few days in Groot Marico we returned to Jo’burg via ‘The Cradle of Humankind’ where an Australian born anthropologist discovered fossilized skeletal remains of ‘hominids’ which lived in South Africa up to 3.3 million years ago. The hominids were recreated in the foyer of the Cradle and they looked much like I felt after a few days of mampoer.


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