Traveling at sixty – 67, to be precise – is a much slower affair than it used to be. This is partly by choice, by design, but also by force of circumstance.
The chief circumstance, Covid, is of course much more than circumstantial. It is an Act of God, a force of nature, something that has become normal but remains in some sense incomprehensible. It has slowed things down, both literally – you can’t get much slower than a total lockdown – and metaphorically.
Time drags when your movements are constrained and your options are limited, when things you once took for granted become things you remember rather than things you are doing. Covid in this sense is not so much a brake as an emergency off-ramp, a place where trucks plough to a halt in a cloud of dust and sand and sit, shimmering and panting, blinded by sunlight, the point lost and the direction of travel uncertain.
Traveling more slowly is also a choice, even if one partially enforced by slowing reactions, more delicate digestion, the energy, shall we say, no longer of a horse in stud but an old nag turned out to pasture. It is a choice of kings, of philosophers, the sagacity of elders, the luck of being no longer young but not old either, the freedom of time on one’s hands, before the clock runs out.
In the old days, meaning my young days, I would think nothing of putting the kids in the car and driving from Umtata or Johannesburg to Cape Town, a distance of some 1300 kilometres, in twelve or fourteen hours, leaving at four a.m. and arriving by six the same evening.
We did this to save the cost of stopping over, and to get the journey done with before the kids went crazy. Later, and this was a major evolution, when money was less tight and the children were older, we would break the journey in two, and stop over somewhere for a night.
Now however the journey itself is the object, and the destination. And so Rob and I have meandered, from Joburg to Bloemfontein, from Bloemfontein to Graaff Reinet, from Graaff Reinet to the Wilderness and McGregor and on to Greyton until finally, tomorrow, more than a week after our departure, we will glide into Cape Town – chilled, relaxed, eyes wide open.
This is not a journey of discovery, in any deep sense of the word. It is a journey of the familiar, the pleasurable, a journey of farewell, and thus tinged with nostalgia, even as we claim it for the present.
And while it is a journey that skirts the other South Africa, the one we have driven past or through, separated by race, by class, by income, by history, this is not because we don’t know or don’t care, but simply because South Africa in all of it’s beauty and destructiveness has exhausted us.
I say separated, but also joined at the head and the heart, inseparable, inescapable.
Here are some snaps from the first few days of our journey. The real works of art will follow later, art requiring some gestation, but also processing in Lightroom.