mail & Guardian

A last-minute road trip and surprises in Dullstroom.

I’ve been going to Dullstroom for years. As a youngster, we would drive through the town and stop off at Harrie’s Pancakes, a welcome respite from a journey into the mountains beyond for a weekend of hiking and swimming in the streams. 

As a student, I went to Dullstroom with friends to mark the halfway point in our final year of study. It was a raucous few days involving the mass theft of shaving cream, a bout of hiding in the local graveyard just past the witching hour, and a meal at The Old Transvaal Inn. Remember them? The inn was one of the first hiding places of the million-rand loot in the Sunday Times Finders Keepers competition.

A quacker of a time in Tulbagh

On a random Tuesday in March this year, I found myself sipping a flat white in Wolseley. Through a somewhat happenstance, I ended up in a conversation with local, Gavin Meiring.

While I sipped my coffee, Meiring told me of his Day at the Duck Race event, scheduled for late 2022. Somewhat befuddled, I enquired further, not quite sure how one would coax ducks into swimming in line, as it were, with one’s will; let alone to cross a finish line first. A line that had money on it. A further two flat whites and things began to make sense (they make really good coffee at the Creative Hub in the Witzenberg Valley).

Hacked in a nano-second

This heist along the information superhighway surprisingly took less than a minute. On some level, I suppose it was bound to happen, what with so many people I knew falling victim to similar unscrupulous tactics. But in the dark recesses of my mind, that was always something that happened to other people.

I’ve experienced a rollercoaster of emotions since then, grappling with a situation thrust upon my rather unsuspecting self. Forget the five stages of grief, let me distil for you the five phases of a digital stick-em-up. It’s real and happens in a heartbeat, so jot down a few notes.

Jack Holden’s Cruise: Of end times and the celebration of life

Jack Holden’s Cruise, the first play to surface from the Covid pandemic in London, has arrived on South African shores for a brief, year-end run in Joburg. This gargantuan task of taking on this one-man show is effortlessly assumed by local actor, director, musician and composer Daniel Geddes in a 90-minute ode to the many lost to Aids and a celebration of life for those who made it through. 

Cruise is the true story of what should have been Michael Spencer’s last night on earth, following his HIV diagnosis in 1984. He is told he has but four years left to live so, with the clock ticking, he and partner Dave sell all and party up a storm in their end times. 

Bookmark these Jozi stores

Seeking out the beauty and other things of interest in Joburg can be a challenge. We have no mountain by which to navigate her vast street network, nor do we have seascapes to take our breath away. Although, the infamous Joburg pothole has, on many occasions, taken my breath away.

One needs to dig deeper amongst her 2 300km2 to find Joburg’s character, up on the Highveld where at just on 2 000m above sea level, it takes you a full extra minute to boil an egg. As I recently discovered, Joburg has a fine history of independent bookshops, owing to new books being all but out of reach of the everyday Joburger back in the day. Yip, back then they also battled with a weak currency. Add limited print runs to the mix and the price of books headed north quicker than a kugel out of Braamfontein on a Saturday afternoon.

Purple reign: it’s jacaranda season baby!

Mid-October marks the start of a very special season in Joburg and Pretoria, one that sees a profusion of purple along city streets. Jacaranda mimosifolia drape the lanes, roads and avenues of Gauteng in a colour spectacle that has become synonymous with spring on the Highveld. Quite a thing, when one considers that roughly 16% of the province is planted with the trees. 

Jacarandas were first introduced to Pretoria in the late 19th century to liven up the streets. Afrikaans poet JD Celliers planted the first two saplings in 1888, along what is today Celliers Street — see if you can spot the plaque which commemorates this as you walk the street. 

Champion of the celebrated heroes of District Six

South Africa in 1968. Just two years prior the apartheid government had declared the Sixth Municipal District of Cape Town, aka District Six, a whites-only area. 

Residents were forcibly removed to the Cape Flats, some 25km away. At that time, the Cape Flats were an expansive, low-lying area, a relatively barren and sandy place. Many of the roughly 60 000 residents affected were moved to the suburb of Athlone, which mushroomed at this time of untold heartache. 

Fast forward to South Africa in 2022. Every day a further tragedy continues to play out in the lives of the people who call the Cape Flats, and in particular Athlone, home. 

Back at The Bioscope: Seeing Other People deals with open relationships

Theatre is an escape. A chance to insert myself – if only for a while – into the space of a character I see evolving before my eyes. Sometimes theatre works as a mirror and reflects aspects of our lives we weren’t expecting to see. 

The anticipation of taking in a show decided on some weeks beforehand, arriving a little – but not too – early to secure a glass of wine, chatting to friends who have come along to enjoy the performance. Then, scooting past knees angled to the left to allow thoroughfare, finding your seat and settling in. 

 Seeing Other People’s subject matter doesn’t make for easy conversation. Not around a dinner table with friends, not in your head alone and certainly not with your significant other. But the cleverly employed comedy makes it that much easier to consider the idea. 

Cape Town through the eyes of a Joburger

Cape Town has always held romantic appeal for me, living here on the Rand, aka Joburg. They have that mountain, there’s a different quality of life down there and there are the ever-popular wine farms. I find this sense of romanticism has led me to evaluate my experiences in this part of our country largely on commercially entrenched markers of pleasure. Chief among these markers has always been time at a wine farm.

But there is so much more to time spent in the Western Cape than merely visiting wine farms, even if the wines are paired with all manner of items from chocolates to olive oils. So, on a recent visit, I decided to explore from the Atlantic Ocean to the hinterland of the province, without revelling in the production fields of the fruit of the vine.

Let me share what my exploits revealed.

Time to hit The Playground, a market in inner city Joburg

When I heard that the Neighbourgoods Market, once the heartbeat of Braamfontein, in inner city Johannesburg, had relaunched as The Playground, it brought back many memories. 

During school holidays, I would fill those potentially monotonous holiday hours by going to work with my mother in Braamfontein. I would wander the streets, watching people go about their lives and take in the energy of the place. I was afforded a front row seat to a diverse cultural mix not usually within my orbit at the time. I recall the liquorice aroma of fennel and the smoky dried ginger fragrances at the food and spice shops I passed, and the array of shiny wares offered. Those days were so different to my usual daily routine of school and life in a segregated society.

Here’s to Wine Wednesdays!

As a Joburger, I find time out in Stellenbosch quite a treat. Oak trees line streets flanked by sky piercing mountains of the Jonkershoek and Simonsberg ranges, the silhouettes of which are reflected in the lines of the Cape Dutch architecture. Art galleries.

And wine. Glorious wine, in an almost unlimited array of varietals, one for every mood and meal, not to mention budget.

As a Joburger, it’s not that easy to pop off to the winelands when the mood takes you. But, drop in at the Indaba Hotel, just outside Fourways in northern Joburg, and this social injustice is remedied. 

Five things South Africans should do in the Seychelles

Aaah, the romantic notion of an island holiday marked by long, lazy days on a tropical beach with a never-ending flow of exotic cocktails and seafood platters that entice you. Don’t forget the sunset, simply the best you’ve ever seen — until the next evening.

South Africans are spoilt for choice, with a variety of tropical islands within relatively easy reach, and options catering for a range of budgets. If you put a few more ZAR away and co-opt some like-minded friends to share in your tropical frivolities, not to mention the costs, an adventure awaits when you up your island explorer game and embark on a sailing trip around the 115 islands that make up the Seychelles.

Well, at least as many as you can pilot your catamaran around in seven days.

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