The road to heaven

go! Platteland - - THAT’S LIFE -

In his 12th (and prob­a­bly last) book, chef, restau­ra­teur and food writer Peter Velds­man trav­els down mem­ory lane but al­ways re­turns to Ladi­smith, the town of his birth.

If you drive along the R62 from the Cape, past Bar­ry­dale, near Ron­nie’s Sex Shop, you soon reach a plain strewn with white peb­bles. It’s the arid part of the Lit­tle Ka­roo. Sheep, goat and ba­boon coun­try.

Be­yond that are the green lucerne fields of Ven­sterkrans; and at Winkelplaats you start see­ing vine­yards. Tow­erkop – the split-down-the-cen­tre domed peak that tow­ers 2 202m above the Lit­tle Ka­roo – gets ever closer.

You drive into Ladi­smith and turn left at the old church, an ar­chi­tec­tural mas­ter­piece by Carl Otto Hager that now houses the lo­cal tourism bureau. Would you be­lieve I was the last baby

to be bap­tised in that church? The church coun­cil at that point de­cided a new church had to be built as the old build­ing was sup­pos­edly on the verge of col­lapse. Af­ter stand­ing empty for years the church was sold to a milling com­pany and roller grain mills were in­stalled. That thump­ing ma­chine was in use for years, yet the build­ing still stands.

Any case, you turn left at the church, into Church Street, and head for Waterk­loof. Be­fore long you’re in the shadow of the moun­tain and you might as well be in the Boland. The road takes a sharp right turn and runs along the plateau un­til it reaches Knuyswa­gen­drift, my grandpa Cil­liers’ farm at the foot of Elands­berg, where I grew up, and where Ladi­smith ­Coun­try House stands to­day. Fyn­bos, hon­ey­bush, renos­ter­bos, spekboom, klap­per­bos, aloes. The priv­i­lege to drink pure moun­tain wa­ter and spot dung bee­tles…

Fur­ther along you pass the house where CJ Lan­gen­hoven was born, be­fore the road once again joins the R62.

In this one short drive you tra­verse the Ka­roo, Lit­tle Ka­roo, Boland… not to men­tion the scenic Sewe­week­spoort, which de­posits you in the Great Ka­roo. It’s an in­com­pa­ra­ble ex­pe­ri­ence. A ­pre­lude to a clear­ing-of-the-mind where the brain lets go and the heart takes over. It’s the start of a new ex­pe­ri­ence, a new awak­en­ing. The road to heaven.

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