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The road back home

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Sometimes you need to leave the life you know in order to appreciate it, writes editor Vivian Warby.

I think part of the joy of travelling is the returning home and a fresh appreciation for the familiar and for those who you love, and who know you, being near you again.

I recently made some solo travels across the Western Cape. It was a time of solitude and contemplation, of mourning (I recently lost both my parents), and a time of adventure. My travels took me on sand roads and across the varying landscapes of the Western Cape from Agulhas to the Klein Karoo.

I was blessed during this time to meet wonderful locals who provided laughter and thought. The thing about “off the beaten track” travel is that you meet others who also have a heart for the unknown, for nature and for, perhaps, a bit of danger.

After all, what is an adventure without a good dollop of danger? I am fascinated by how people live in remoteness. How they have made a home away from the bustle of city life, moving to the country with snakes, jackals and birds of prey, and the silence, the beautiful silence.

A growing number of South Africans are finding homes away from a nine-to-five life. I met a couple who opened an organic restaurant in Suurbraak, having bought there 20 years ago.

“During the drought, prices shot up here, with Capetonians seeking a more water-friendly part of the world,” one of them told me while I sat watching bees pollinating flowers, butterflies playing in blue skies and a white cloud drifting past a distant mountain in a restaurant aptly named Paradise.

In Agulhas, Oom Piet van As and his wife, who manage Springfield Farm where I stayed, have been there most of their lives, with Piet, an engineer, having worked mostly out at sea.

Writer, Piet van As who is manager of Springfield Farm. Picture: Vivian Warby

There was time for us to kuier away from deadlines, traffic and the mayhem of my daily life, to sit around a fire where Piet regaled me with Strandveld tales and terrified me with ghost stories. He also taught me to make a mean fire.

In the remoteness of the red mountains of the Klein Karoo, Petro Potgieter and her husband own Redstone Hills. This was where I stayed. She was up with the roosters, feeding the ostriches, and greeting the breaking day.

Ostrich at sunrise on Redstone Hills. Picture: Vivian Warby

She came to check up on me in my little remote cottage at the foot of the Redstone Hills, where I had a full moon and ostriches for neighbours. She stayed to chat, to listen to my story and me to hers. In the city, we pay psychologists to do this.

I then drove 16km on a dirt road to find Roger Young’s art gallery. I wanted to buy something but didn’t have cash and a card machine was non-existent. “Just EFT me when you get a chance,” he said, and we sat and chatted about travels and life. The next day, I took a short cut from Oudtshoorn, where I drew cash, and went to drop it off.

Doorbell at Roger Young’s art gallery in Kruisrivier. Picture: Vivian Warby

I was lucky to meet his girlfriend, a 3D costume designer who had just arrived from Cape Town. I gave her the cash and we had the most wonderful chat, with neither of us having to run off to a job or deadline.

On the road, I met Jan, a labourer in the area needing a lift. He jumped into my car and told me stories that made me laugh from my belly. It reminded me of something Roger wrote, now translated badly into English by me: “The salt tears you cry when you laugh from your belly, that is the water that feeds the soul.”

Candle lit for those dark nights. Picture: Vivian Warby

I loved the country living, even with the fears that prickled this city slicker’s spine at night, and the joys that greeted me as I stepped outside when night turned to day. Yet, returning to the city, there was a familiarity in the mayhem and bustle of the streets.

I didn’t have spiders to share showers with or a puff adder on my doorstep. I opened my front door and raced into my little house. Yes, travel is important and wonderful. It breathes life into tired souls but having a home to return to makes all the difference. And, sometimes, we need to leave home to remember this.

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