In a country where holidays are taken seriously, my friend Alanna and I decided to make the best use of a four day holiday weekend by escaping the city and hitting the road with a tent, sleeping bags, some homemade carrot bread, and a road map. Our only intention was to drive into the Karoo, a semi desert located east of Cape Town. Within an hour and a half of departing Cape Town we found ourselves surrounded by bushes, windmills and a view that stretched on endlessly. It was an enormous breath of fresh air. With gray skies moving past us, part of a rainbow soon emerged. The rainbow seemed to be painting itself across the sky as it gradually built its way from either side until it formed a full arch amongst the clouds.
As we were driving along, we passed a sign for the town of Merweville. I remembered Lynn telling me about this small town in which “coloreds” and “whites” still live in segregation. With no destination in mind, Alanna and I decided to go check it out. As I was driving along and learning how to drive stick shift for the first time (on the wrong side of the road as well), the road changed from pavement to hard-packed gravel. Because it had just rained, the road was covered with large puddles. I slowed down at the first puddle, not sure of how deep it was and jokingly scared that hippos were swimming beneath the surface. Of course I stalled right there. Luckily the ground was hard and the car didn’t sink. We continued on the road for another 15 miles or so not passing any cars. As we were coming down a large hill we could see the community in the distance. The town was very quiet as we drove through curiously. We crossed a bridge over a dry river bed and discovered the “colored” settlement on the other side. Each side has its own primary school and there is very little integration.
Although apartheid legally ended in 1994, the scars vividly remain. This has been evident while living in the suburbs of Cape Town and visiting the townships on bicycle where no white people live. But it was interesting to get outside of Cape Town and into the country and see how the effects of apartheid lasted there. Almost every town we passed through, we could find the township on the outskirts of the town.
While in Merweville we camped in the backyard of a guesthouse to save money. The couple running the guest house were very sweet.
Our drive over the weekend afforded us a variety of views. After the desert we found ourselves driving by grape and olive farms, through mountain passes, into a wet forested landscape, along the coast, and then back into the desert in an area called the Little Karoo. South Africa, beloved country!
Internship is now over — more updates on that to come later. For now, work is over and play has begun. Time for adventuring South African style! Stay posted 🙂