SUSPENSION FOOT BRIDGE: THEN AND NOW

It was in 1979 that friends visited the Tsitsikamma Coastal National Park – as it was called then [it is now part of the Garden Route National Park] – and sent us a post card depicting this view of the Suspension Foot Bridge over the Storms River. The card has faded over time, yet shows the spectacular view of the bridge from the path that winds through the forest.

We had not yet visited the area and were taken by their description of it: We are enjoying this very beautiful place and are sure you would too. Even in rainy weather it is a lovely place to be. We were living in Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal at the time and it wasn’t until we were living in Mmabatho several years later that we made our way down there – and fell in love with the place! So much so that we have returned many times – most recently in October last year.

Although this photograph is not taken from the original perspective, you can see how the area has been developed over the past 41 years – especially the footbridge. The original one is still there, but has been augmented by others.

Our friends continued: Unfortunately the Otter Trail is fully booked but we are enjoying the shorter walks. Great bird life!

How right they were too. There are a number of interesting walks along the coastline and through the natural forest that hugs the steep slopes of the mountains. Every time we visit there I am astounded by the number and variety of birds we see – even around the open camp sites. I have written elsewhere about walking the Otter Trail, which I did a couple of years after moving to Grahamstown.

As an aside: the postage stamp on this postcard is 3c. During the intervening years postage has increased to R5,34. Given how dysfunctional our postal service is, I wonder if people bother to send post cards anymore!

HITCH-HIKING

There was a time when hitch-hiking was a common way for many people to get around this country. Some South African readers may even remember the designated areas set aside to pick up uniformed soldiers on their way home for a weekend pass. There used to be an atmosphere of generosity all over the rural areas especially: people of any age, hue or gender were given a lift as far as the motorist was able and then dropped off at the side of the road to try their luck getting a lift for the next leg of their journey.

My father regularly halted to give people a ride. There would be a smiled thank you, a cheerful wave and an occasional blessing as we drove away. My brothers hitch-hiked. I was forbidden to. Even then, my father deemed it unsafe for a young girl to thumb a lift on her own.

I did once though, in the company of two dear friends who had guided me from the summit of the Drakensberg, overnighted with me in a forester’s house, and who stood beside me on the national road as we sought a lift to Pietermaritzburg. I had fallen ill during a traverse along the top of the mountains and remember little other than the blast of air as vehicle after vehicle passed us without a second glance.

To be fair, they may already have made their decision in advance: two young men and a young woman, each with a rucksack, probably did not present an easy option. We were eventually given a lift in the back of an enormous truck. How grateful I felt at the time.

Times have changed. When did they change? How did they change? Why has the situation of hitch-hiking changed? At first there were a few news items of drivers being attacked by their hitch-hiking passengers. These might have been dismissed as unfortunate incidents for such news was mostly tucked inside the main pages. Drivers became increasingly wary about giving lifts to people of any age, hue or gender once such reports crept onto the front pages: attacks, death-threats, murder, and car hijackings – all ostensibly committed by hitch-hiking passengers.

The real losers are the hundreds of innocent people who, without a means of transport of their own – or money for buses – stand patiently at the road sides all over the country and wait in hope. How long and unpredictable their journeys must be!

Another aspect of hitch-hiking has changed. In my youth there was never a question of charging anyone for a lift. As a willing driver you would check where the hitch-hiker was heading for, explain how far along the road you were travelling, and the hitch-hiker would come on board if the arrangement suited. Now you see people standing at the side of the road waving a R10, R20, R50 or even a R100 note as a sign of their willingness to pay towards a segment of their journey. Even the simple act of giving someone a lift because you happen to be travelling in the same direction has been altered – dare I say, by greed.

SOME SCENIC VIEWS

These are some of the views I enjoy while driving along the Highlands road in the Lothians area not far from town:

It is along this road that we sometimes see a variety of wild animals as well as cattle, horses and sheep. It is a tranquil place to be: the area is filled with birdsong, butterflies, insects and spider webs. It is a place to forget about COVID-19 and to relish living in this beautiful country.

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Of course you have a residential address for that is how you direct friends and family to where you live – and increasingly the courier too. Do you live in a street, a crescent, an avenue, or a lane, for example? Each of these names signify different elements to the town planners. In our town, Cradock Road is one of the main entrances / exits connecting our town to Cradock which is about 200km away.

Roads join places together and can be dirt, gravel or tar. According to the National Treasury, the South African road network comprises roughly 754 600 km of roads and streets. This dirt road wends its way through a farming area.

Streets are commonly used names in suburban areas and generally have buildings on either side. Avenues usually run perpendicularly to streets and are bordered by either trees or buildings. Here is an avenue of Eucalyptus trees leading out of town in a different direction.

In my neighbourhood there is an avenue which is actually half of a circular street. I suspect that it was designated an avenue to make it seem grand at the time this particular suburb was developed.

The other half of the circular street is known as a crescent. As one might expect, a lane is a narrow road. The dirt road that runs along the top of the Rietberge on the edge of town is known as Mountain Drive because it is shaped by the topography of the mountain.

Have you ever wondered about the origin of the name of the road, street, crescent, avenue, or lane where you live?

THIRSTY ZEBRAS

It is a week now that we have had to make do without water in our taps at home – the pump repairs, pipe repairs and whatever else may have gone wrong are supposed to be completed by Sunday. Perhaps this is why I am drawn to photographs of animals quenching their thirst in the Addo Elephant National Park. This time it is a herd of zebras.

Look at them, head down to slake their thirst at a waterhole. Drinking is clearly their main purpose for congregating here and judging by their focused actions, they must have been very thirsty.

Only a couple are left out, possibly they are keeping a look out on behalf of the others. There hardly seems to be space to fit in another zebra here.

This warthog didn’t think so either and settled down for a light doze in the sun until it too could get a turn to drink at the water hole.