Little late getting words on the page today. That’s because I’m in Johannesburg, and tomorrow I’ll be in Cape Town ready to celebrate a very important fifth birthday on Wednesday!
I came from Swaziland with one of the shuttle services, Sky World, beautifully driven by Mduduzi Tembe. The three other passengers and I talked freely in the beginning, but once through the border at Ngwenya, everyone settled into their own world, sealed by headphone or book.
The effects of the drought are visible, even on the Highveld, which those of us who live lower down are convinced always gets all the rain. We try not to mind too much, reminding ourselves that as long as the rivers are being filled, there is some benefit to us. But the fields of maize, the grazing paddocks are not the verdant green we’re accustomed to at this time of the year.
It’s great being a passenger, because I got to enjoy the scenery, and I was thrilled to see pockets of bright yellow, deep blues, purples and pinks as the summer flowers bloom, regardless of the conditions wrought by El Nino, God or man’s wickedness, whatever.
The Highveld cannot compete with Namaqualand, but at this time of the year, wild flowers abound. This time last year I was part of a group that was led around the pastures of this area by a young lady, Hester, who delighted in sharing her knowledge of our indigenous heritage with us.
We were all enthralled with views of orchids, I think we saw seven different species, including the black orchid, eucomis in droves in the marshlands, pelargoniums to name but a few. We also made friends with a group of beautiful horses, some inquisitive cows, and saw a rare sighting of pink flamingos. That might have been the previous year – just to remain truthful!
Some of these flowers are large and vibrant, others nestle shyly in the grass, others still are tiny but perfect, delicately painted to perfection. This brings me to some of what it is that I love about Africa. This is a rugged land, hard and resilient, from the mountains to the lowlands, and on to the coastal areas. In absolute contrast some of the plants and flowers. Yes we have the aloes, with their thick succulent leaves covered in spikes, and the stiff unyielding cycads, with their huge orange cones, or smaller ones in some instances, but if you take time to wander and look, you will find extraordinary gems, some so tiny you need a magnifying glass to appreciate their markings, thriving against what seem to be unsurmountable odds.
And so to the people of this land, this crazy mix of cultures, and tribes, and colours and hang-ups and loves and hates. We are a cauldron of ingredients making the most exotic dish. Sometimes the flavours clash and jar, but in the main they blend and make a wholesome dish. In reflection of the countryside, sometimes the smallest of people, or the tiniest incident, brings so much joy and pleasure. When that happens the sun shines as it should, and the rain brings blessing.
And as the plants and flowers jostle for their space in the unforgiving terrain, and sometimes intrude where they shouldn’t, so do we, the people of Africa. The fights erupt, words are hurled, insults are traded. But beneath the bluster of the bullies, friendships flourish too, different folk live happily together, and look sadly at those who find integration so hard.
I wonder if we will ever come to a place where we will all be able to respect our diversity, be intrigued rather than irritated by our differences, and laugh together, so the devil may be shamed once and for all.
Maybe it’s a pipedream, but I love this land, and I mean all the countries that encompass my Africa: Swaziland, Mozambique, South Africa, Namibia, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Botswana, enough to live in hope for a time when the rainbow will be out for all to see, its pot of gold spilling riches for all.