Wednesday, May 7, 2014

From the Orange River

Cycling through the southern Namibian landscape was surreal. This is so sparsely populated that any sign of human life is rare. The dominant terrain is scrub, tumbleweed, and fragile wisps of grass. Our last few campsites were at an old converted railway hotel, replete with taxidermist, in Seeheim and a classic roadhouse near the Fish River canyon. The latter joint had the most impressive collection of licence plates and road signs this side of Nevada.

Our last rest day was spent in a riverside location called Felix Unite. Road-weary and exhausted from the dirt roads, most TDA participants opted to watch the river flow. On the far side of the Orange, the Republic of South Africa has a similar arid look.

The river forms the border separating Namibia, once administered by South Africa, from the republic where we now find ourselves. From the immigration checkpoint, we climbed into a barren, desolate landscape and then faced a stiff headwind. The lunch truck was full that day as the raging gusts can sap the energy from one's legs over hours of hard pulling. Our destination that day was an unassuming caravan park near Springbok. The dark clouds loomed and the temperature plummeted. Thermal wear emerged from the lockers and riders retired early to assume the fetal position.

This region of South Africa, the northern cape, is characterized by vast, barren tracts of marginal land. Rugged farmers manage to eke out a living from grazing their livestock on massive tracts. We rode a few tough days to camps in Kliprand and Nieuwoudtville. In each remote village, signs of the upcoming election were evident.

Since Mandela, the ANC has ruled the roost. The incumbent, Jacob Zuma, is expected to be returned to power despite allegations of corruption, self-indulgence and incompetence. Tonight, I intend to watch the results on local telly as the pundits spew forth their analyses regarding the people's decision.  At first glance, one can see the tremendous wealth here and the vestiges of apartheid which play out in  massive income inequality. A positive trend appears to be the sense of empowerment on the part of "ordinary" Africans who will, in time, realize their potential in terms of the destiny of thus complex nation.

As the tabloid press announced yesterday, it is up to you. Mandela's legacy is evident notwithstanding the contradictions, the de facto segregation and the transparent gap between people of different races or colours. 

1 comment:

  1. Enjoy the tour of cape town on Saturday. Do you spend time in Sa or head home?