WHEN OPEN SPACES CALL
It was dark, dead quiet and very cold when I slipped out the door of the guesthouse in Bloemfontein. The Toyota’s engine purred when I turned the ignition and minutes later, with the air conditioner properly adjusted, warm air started trickling into the Hilux’s cabin.
I turned off the N8 near Petrusburg and headed in the direction of Koffiefontein. The reading on the temp gauge was -3˚... Except for the bakkie’s headlights feeling their way through the dark morning, a pale moon dimly lit the surrounding veld. I felt safe and cosy in the intimate space of the Toyota’s cabin. There is something special about travelling alone in the dark on the back roads of our big sky country. It always feels as if I am in a cocoon – safe from everything that life and the surrounds can throw at me. To me solitude is bliss. With the Hilux’s engine purring contently (that’s what I imagine) and the tyres’ monotonous singing on the tar, my thoughts ranged far and wide... recalling hunts of the past that took place in the land of horizons, the Great Karoo.
Eventually I turned south and when I passed Heuningneskloof on my way towards Hopetown the first rays of sunlight reluctantly started crawling over the veld. Lifting the veil of darkness, the sun seemed to cling to the edge of the earth for long moments before it lazily cleared the horizon. After a minute or two it appeared to gather momentum and then started painting the rolling plains, stretching as far as the eye can see, in hues of gold.
Although I am happy anywhere in the veld, my soul feels more at home in the wide open spaces of the drier parts of our country. It is the land of the black korhaan, the gompou (kori bustard) and the springbuck. Animals that love the sun drenched plains and the open spaces where one’s soul can breathe freely.
A herd of springbuck to the right of the road caught my eye, their golden tan and white coats shining brightly in the early morning light. Bringing the Toyota to a halt I got out to take a better look. Cold air nipped at my nose and ears but the freshness of the morning soon made me forget about winter.
Looking at the springbuck (about sixty strong) I started thinking about the trekbokke of yesteryear. I was heading to Karreekloof, west of Strydenburg, a huge property where I was told large numbers of these wonderful buck still roamed the driedoring plains and black- thorn-lined gullies. Springbuck are challenging to hunt on foot in open terrain and the meat also tastes great – venison-wise it is my favourite animal.
Although I really love hunting springbuck, it is actually not about the venison or the trophies. I would feel content, even without bagging a single animal. Just to be out there in the wide open spaces is enough to soothe the soul and make you whole again.
When I drove on I decided to “put foot” as they say, because I was in a hurry to get dirt on my boots and breathe in that speci ial kind off solitudeolitude thattha is so in nherent to the land of horizons.