Dated 26 JAN 18
The afternoon is getting on. Turning off the main road I follow signs for Garas Rest Camp. It’s a dirt track; my wheels kick dust and dirt in to my squinting eyes. As I trudge further and further from the sight of the main road I do wonder what I’m in for. My Garmin assures me it’s a legitimate venue I remain sceptical.
Distorted heads start to materialise amongst the rocks with gnarled rusty eye sockets. As I round the corner, I’m greeted by quite the sight; tin men doing push ups in the gym area, a straw lady taking a spin on a bicycle and a small wicker hut which seems to be hosting some sort of nativity scene. But nestled amongst the mish mash of sculptures is a small ablutions block complete with an outdoor shower and an eclectic reception and seating area. Of course there is the obligatory over weight dog, Ted, and a few cats which seem to inhabit all campsites.
I’m greeted by a wiry fellow, all skin and bone but full of energy. I go about my usual routine of setting camp whilst he scurries from hut to hut doing odd jobs. He returns with water and a few cups of sweet Joko Tea. There is no stopping the chap from talking but, despite being in his later years, he is so full of childlike enthusiasm for life, unlike the grouchy old men of England. It’s actually quite nice not talking and just sipping the sweet tea, albeit a tad overly sugared for my taste, whilst he rambles on and I rest my legs.
Tea is good apparently. “It helps you cool down after a hard days work on a hot day. I drink tea all day long,” he says. It’s not just the English who believe in the near magical properties of tea; in winter it warms you up and in summer it cools you down.
Now, coffee is a whole different story. “Coffee is for women,” he says, “it helps with the nerves, women so nervous all the time.” I dare not agree, of course, but tell him its good for hangovers as well as the womanly nerves. At which point he winks at me, agrees unequivocally and, all of a sudden, poof…off he trots.
Later after dinner we get chatting and I discover that he is quite the character. He is Catholic and as a consequence is gifted with two names; Hendrik Rooi and Bonfatsiees Rooi (his spelling not mine). He has three vices; tea, sugar and smoking, in that order. Pulling a big grin he says, “look, see, I love sugar” pointing to a missing tooth or two. To be fair, I’ve seen worse. Now, just like every old man, he likes to have a good rant so off he goes about youths today and their wretched smart phones; they don’t talk, they just look and poke at their screens. I’ve heard that one before.
Hendrik talks with his entire body, gesticulating and wildly laughing, with a grin from ear to ear as he goes. Rant over and he starts talking about the good stuff…women. He puts four fingers up telling me that he has three women on the go, younger as well. There goes that grin again.
“Gossip is for the mind,” he says, standing from the bench on which he was perching, “sex is for the body, it’s necessary.” (Unfortunately, it sounds like something my mother would say).
Now he is stood up at this point, silhouetted against the backdrop of the setting African sun, he continues. I mentioned his whole body gesticulation so I will leave you to imagine Hendrik’s performance as he goes on, “Sex fills you with energy, giving you a work out from your toes all the way up to your fingers.”
On that note, we call it a night. I think Hendrik left off his fourth vice.
Don’t let that stern camera pose fool you, he was a cheery chap.