Notes from a distant forest…

I came across some pencil scribblings on the back of an art pad this morning. They were notes I wrote on one of the last days of 2013 while sitting on a pebbled river-bank in a forest.

It’s a collection of scattered thoughts, random phrases, disconnected observations and experiences that I must have jotted down in the hope that they would be captured on my return and moulded into some coherent shape or form.

Our last trip over Christmas took us to two beautiful isolated (and relatively unspoilt) pockets of this vast and gloriously diverse province. The first venue was Vermaaklikheid – a tiny dusty unassuming little settlement mostly made up of holiday cottages sprinkled along the banks of a wide, curvaceous tidal river, roughly 5 kilometres upriver from where it meets the Indian Ocean.


What I did not know when I booked our second destination up in the rolling, grassy hills of the Grootvadersbos Conservancy was that we would be walking in the forested foothills of the Langeberg mountains – the catchment area of the very same river – the Duiwenhoks.

This made for some wonderful contrasts and thoughts around origins and destinations, youth and old age…as well as my usual musings around natural spaces and the magnificence therein.

So here are my penciled ramblings….unmoulded, unsculpted. Just as is.

..A quail fledgling spirits away from my bicycle tyre in fright skimming the grass with its small feathered body, tottering on immature, damp outstretched wings..

..A timid female bushbuck picks her way through the grass below our deck, the early morning mist rising around her… the guineafowl chatter and grumble at a passing baboon troup..all before breakfast…

..A Gymnogene circles overhead, Jackal buzzards taunt and dive and wheel and cry..

..Black cuckoo calls with her haunting song “I’m so saaaaad”….I say out loud (to nobody in particular)…”Don’t be sad, you live here!”…

..The occasional bellow of the Nguni cattle in the valley below and the hot smell of fresh steaming dung, the whine of flies..

..A mountain bike ride takes me up higher into the wilderness area…sweat trickles in frantic rivulets down my wrinkled forearm, I’m high on endorphs, big sky, mountain peaks and space…

..My tyres churn up the muddy single track and I duck and dive, hop and swerve my way along the contour of the mountain..

..The views are breathtaking and I stop to try capture them on my cell phone camera – knowing I cannot do justice to this beauty. One cannot possibly take this with..


.. an overwhelming urge to drop my bike and run up, up, up and into the mountains, never turn back – so much to explore, to get lost in..

..We go in search of Narina Trogon and Crowned Eagle (having been told that this is their home)…we come away disappointed – our walk rained out and at the end come across a wide-eyed stiff-legged corpse of a raptor chick on the path ahead…

..We spend a day down a secret little valley, a kilometer deep stretch of indigenous forest, not an invasive in sight – pure, untouched pristine paradise..

..The ‘infant’ Duiwenhoks bubbles and dances between the mossy roots and rocks of the Grootvadersbos forest valleys and then makes its way coast-wards, through farmed lands, through towns and over highways to merge into a wide, cantankerous salty body of water that is tugged and pulled by the moon…


..Wagging gossamer blue dragonflies touchdown on overhanging reeds..

…impossibly green fern fronds curl tight, ready to spring, stretch and bask..


..coke-coloured water bubbles dance, twirl and pop..

..Transparent fish and athletic pointy nosed bug-eyed frogs dart through whirling pools..

.. ..Old man’s beard drapes itself on smooth branches that stretch and reach overhead, powerful tree roots spread and dip and twist into random rapids and waterfalls..

..arum lilies, ferns and elephant ear leaved plants jostle for a foothold below and a sliver of sunlight above in a bubbling rapid…

A happy child sits for the whole day sketching, reading, disappearing upstream exploring….

“Mom, you’re being so nice!”, he says. “That’s because I am happy”, I say.

Wild, calm, quiet, untouched places do that to me.