Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trouble in paradise

It’s been a while since I had the pleasure of driving along the R44. Forgive me for not being objective about the scenery but not only did the view from here make up for a lot of disappointments during my early twenties but this road also connects the two people who gave me life.

This time I am all excited to show off the heart of the Stellenbosch Winelands to my Arabian love. I decide to take a drive up the Helshoogte Pass to show him the view from Delaire and then stop for scones and jam at the berry farm… but soon we are struggling to see through the smoke. ‘Hell’shoogte indeed. This fire must have been recent as the fynbos is still smouldering.

Since we had just arrived when taking this drive I was oblivious to the veld fires that had caused so much destruction this summer. The local newspapers report evidence that people had deliberately caused some of the veld fires this year so that more firemen will be hired and have a source of income.

Veld fires are generally good for the Cape Floral Kingdom which is the smallest and richest floral kingdom in the world and unique to the Western Cape. However, too many out-of-control fires can cause the loss of age old forests, rare animal species, vines, homes; and in the worst case even lives. This year it seems that the fires were disastrous in all of these aspects.

I feel sorry that this is my guest’s first experience of the Cape. Then again, perhaps it is also a good visible example of how things can go wrong in paradise. As much as this place can take your breath away it can also suffocate you with all its complications. Racial tension, unemployment and crime hangs like a cloud of smoke over my home country.

Back in Stellenbosch we stop at Oom Samie se Winkel (Uncle Samie’s Shop) to browse through the antiques and souvenirs. It’s a good place to get a feel for the history and culture of the area without having to spend hours in museums, bakeries and craft shops.

Next door a Melissa’s breakfast of salmon trout omelettes and toast with homemade jam soothes the disappointment of our first outing and indeed turns a bad start into a great one: “It’s the best breakfast I ever had,” says Mohammed as we continue on our drive.


Hanli said...

No matter where you go, I hope you will always always come back! SA's never the same without you!!!

Mona Lize said...

Dearest Hanli! There's no place like home. I will always return to visit the special people who live at the foot of the Table Mountain. That means you! Love, Lize