Monday, March 26, 2018

Mountain Sanctuary Park and Memories

Memory is an awe-inspiring commodity.
Is it on sale? Can it be bought, sold, or bartered?

We all possess it; our brains retain it.
Today's renowned scientists say it is an intrinsic attribute that all of mankind and many animals have the function to retain and learn from past experiences. This is memory at work.

All you animal lovers that have a pet will know how your dog comes to your whistle, your cat hears its pellets being poured into its bowl and it never forgets where it's litter is.
A memory that constantly stays with me is often catapulted to the forefront of my grey matter is of an old South African friend of the mid-seventies. Marcel van Heerden, a fellow thespian who I worked with back then. The old photograph I have is of him seated on a throne- sculptured rock high on the northern slopes of the Magaliesberg mountain range to the west of Pretoria.
 It was taken when he led me into that mystic and beautiful mountain range in 1975.

His walking-stick lies across him like a ceremonial baton, my dog on his lap and his mongrel pooch stands at the side.
We had just scaled the southern slope, clambering up a rocky-strewn ravine and the summit was our first rest since we had begun the ascent at eight o'clock in the morning.

It had been an exhausting climb and we both needed a rest before we began our descent through the cavernous rock pools of Tonquani Gorge.
The first pool we reached, about an hour later was a God-sent gift. Our aching and sweaty bodies were quickly stripped and in we plunged. The ice-cold water revitalized our tired muscles and swimming back to lie drying on a sun-soaked rocky platform was one of my best memories of life in the South African bush! 

Marcel told me there three more pools we had to visit before we pitched camp for the night under an overhanging rocky roof where could light a fire and graze.
That was the first time I'd heard the South African colloquial expression for eating and it was then that we developed our understanding of our cultural and social differences.

An important occurrence!
As it was to become the basis for the scene that we co-scripted in the late Barney Simon's innovative production of "Cincinnati", that was about to start rehearsal for performance at the new Market Theatre.

Marcel was a country born Afrikaaner and the city of Johannesburg was a new place to him; I too was a stranger to the city and the whole country, yet on this two-day hike we discovered we had a lot in common.
His grandfather like mine had been a keen vegetable grower, he knew a lot about the geology of the range we were on and I’d studied geology in my last year at school. We both loved food and often ate things and experimented with meats and vegetables we’d never tasted or seen before.

We dived down the gorge from one magnificent rock pool to another our only pause was at the second pool when Marcel’s dog suddenly started barking madly.
The pooch certainly was aware of another presence in the vicinity. Marcel told me to stop moving immediately and surveyed the area paying particular interest in the area right next to the pool. He detected a movement about five metres away from us.

A snake, a Boomslang!

It was about four feet in length, a bright green colour and it moved with the speed of a formula one race car.
“It’s deadly, one bite and you’re a gonner!” said Marcel.

 I instinctively took a step backwards,

“Don’t move!” yelled Marcel. I was petrified.

 Marcel remained frozen and in what can be only thirty seconds the snake disappeared into the surrounding rocks. His pooch stopped barking and Marcel said, “We’re safe now.”

He dived into the rock pool. It took me about a minute to pluck up the courage to follow him. We both surfaced and clambered onto the pool side.
“That was very weird,” he said, “They are usually found in trees! That’s where the name comes from Boom, tree in in English.”
“So, what’s it doing here?”
“Having a drink.”

“Reckon we do the same,” I said as I pulled out two cans of the local larger, Castle, from my back-pack, I opened them and passed one to Marcel, “Cheers, n’ baai dankie” I said trying out my Afrikaans.
Marcel laughed, “’N Rooinek!”
Another novel word, A Red-Neck, an English man, a red neck from the sun!

We moved on down the Tonquani gorge and explored two more magnificent rock pools with waterfalls that provided a route down which you could slide into the lower pool. All the time we were encased in the unassailable cliffs on each side. We selected a flattish rock surface, with an overhang as Marcel had said. We unpacked and pitched camp for the night.

We unloaded our Cadac-gas-burners, one for cooking and one for a night-light and soon we were settled down to eating one of Marcel’s South African creations, mealie pap and a minced stew concoction which I was told was called “Bobotie”, a Cape-Malay dish that was certainly very moreish!
Pap is made by mixing water with dried ground mealies. The secret is to get the right consistency, too much water and its ruined, too little and its inedible. Marcel's creation was perfect; he deftly scooped with his thumb and forefingers just the right amount of Pap on which he adroitly scooped his Bobotie,

He then attempted to teach me the correct way to eat the dish using his two forefingers and thumb. I tackled the procedure but after three failed attempts I returned to the use of fork and spoon. He giggled continuously as the pap and mince fell onto the ground and was immediately gobbled up by our eager pets, even though we had fed them earlier with dog-pellets.
As the evening wore on we chatted and discussed our early lives in our respective hemispheres. Here again our conversation found it’s way into our improvisation of our meeting in the main Johannesburg railway station. Our conversation finally saw the light of day 3 months later in Barney Simon’s production of “Cincinnati” at the Market theatre.

The entire play was created by the eight cast members and Barney over a 2-month improvisional exercise. It went on to be a tremendous success for the “Company” and the newly created Market Theatre playing to full houses for the initial ten weeks run with returns over the years, the last being in the early two-thousands.
With hindsight you could say that part of it came from two young culturally diverse minds grappling with the arduous surrounds of the Tonquani-Gorge in the Magaliesberg Mountain range.

The following morning after a great sleep under the stars, an early plunge and wash in the cascading mountain stream, we packed up all our belongings including rubbish and began climbing out of the gorge back the range’s summit and then our descent on the southern slope back to Marcel’s motorbike, where our weary bodies and two pets, packed in shoulder bags, began our trip back to civilization in Johannesburg.
Since that expedition into Tonquani-Gorge way back in the early seventies, I discovered an entry through the equally marvelous hidden campsite called Mountain Sanctuary Park.

This majestic get-a-way mountain park is accessed by vehicle on the northern slopes of the range and from there you can enter Tonquani gorge if you get the right permit, available at the park.
This exquisite campsite park offers accommodation as well as areas to pitch tents and is now run by Owen and his sister and has wooden and stone cabins to rent as well as campsites offering electricity, a large bathing area with solar heated water, and a magnificent swimming pool overlooking Buffelspoort dam to the North.

It was previously owned by their parents, and had far less to offer, however taking our tents and camping gear along, the place became a hide-a-way for myself, son and daughter through the eighties, nineties, and on into the twenty first century.
Worth a visit!!

For the Memories!

Please, please comment on the tale either on blog page or Sir Cess Poole's Diaries on Facebook. Thanx!!!

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