I often mention driving out on the Highlands road and so the time has come to show you some glimpses of it. This section of the narrow road is flanked by game fences, wattle trees and pretty grasses highlighted by the early morning sunshine.
The first of a group of cyclists appear, having come up a steep incline.
Further on I see a runner about to disappear down a hill.
The road snakes sinuously past a stand of Eucalyptus trees as it leads me towards the hills beckoning ahead.
Here is one of the splendid views that make this road a pleasure to drive along.
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?
Several of my overseas readers have complained about the amount of rain they have experienced during the summer, while in the Eastern Cape of South Africa we are desperate for soaking rain to replenish our dams and to rejuvenate the natural vegetation. Within that context, imagine this tantalising scene: mist hugging the high ground and obscuring the trees.
I stopped along the Highlands road, running between Grahamstown and Alicedale, simply to breathe in this moist air, to feel the light touch of mist droplets on my skin – and to photograph this Eucalyptus tree towering above the road.
Further on, another tree loomed into focus as I drew nearer.
The mist was already breaking up and drifting away as I neared the end of the dirt road.
All this mist – and no rain!
Having already given you a sense of the expansiveness of the Mountain Zebra National Park, I am going to show you some of the roads of discovery that run through it. This is the road leading from the entrance gate to the reception at the rest camp.
I love dirt roads with the grass and bush growing right to the edges. They spell adventure and immediately encourage a scanning of the environment on either side of it. What lies over that hump? What could be lurking behind that bush? What can we see in hidden in the dry yellow grass?
Usually the car park outside the reception area is filled with vehicles arriving and departing. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic it was empty, allowing a clear view of the Karee trees on the traffic island.
The late afternoon light not only lengthens the shadows of the grass but enriches its colour. The worn tracks indicate the narrow width of the road that winds through the patches of trees, allowing a view of the mountains stretching far into the distance.
See how this steep road winds down from the plateau to the valley below – and how the view stretches to forever and beyond!
We can all walk – travelling by Shanks’s Pony it is called – which is a wonderful way of exploring an area, watching birds, looking out for plants, and – if you are fortunate – animals. I was walking alone in the bushveld when I happened upon this waterbuck – truly a special moment.
The desire to move faster and be more mobile is strong. So it is that one of the first modes of transport children get to master is riding a bicycle.
I used to long for a bicycle and was delighted when I was allowed to use the ‘farm bike’ when we stayed on the family farm for extended periods while I was in primary school. This was a heavy, men’s bicycle (with a cross bar) which was far too large for me to ride whilst sitting on the saddle so I rode standing up, with one leg through the cross bar – not the most comfortable position, yet it gave me the freedom to cycle around the farm and later to explore the dirt road that led to the farm. The wind in my hair, the dust on my face, the sheer wonder of being able to cover distances faster than I could walk made up for any awkwardness of posture. Speaking of dirt roads, they conjure up images of ‘the road less travelled’ and exciting expectations of out-of-the-way places. I think this picture sums up the anticipation that dirt roads bring.
Looking up at a vapour trail in the sky can create a yearning for travelling ever further and faster.
Whether one is flying between cities in South Africa or to continents far away, the sight of aeroplanes parked on runways takes the desire to travel up a level – the possibilities are endless.