Thursday, November 18, 2010

The man from Patensie

I did not know there really was such a place.

When we pulled into the grassy seaside camp ground at Storms River, near Plettenberg Bay, with big waves beating right there on the rocks, and fine salt haze in the air, we parked the 4 x 4 in our allocated empty space on the seafront. On our left was a small-small, red car and its two room tent, outside of which three girls were lying on a blanket. One of them was black - and she was the one and only black person I saw camping on the whole trip. I hope this changes.

On our right was a big BMW roadbike and its one man tent.

And now I have no recollection of how I found out that the man for the tent was from Patensie. I think I greeted him from our camp stand. He was sitting alone on a little campstool, watching his fire. Later he ate from crafty little stainless steel containers that packed back into one another. It was one of the few nights that we did not eat chops, and I boiled pasta over the fire in a heavy cast iron pot, and made sauce in the heavy cast iron frying pan. It seemed to me that he sniffed our smells appreciatively. Rosemary. Lekker. Even later he read a book by headlamplight, his elbows resting on his knees, his back bent, his head down.

But before that, when it was still light, I think I must have asked in Afrikaans - as the vast majority of the campers we encountered were Afrikaans,  where he had come from. Or perhaps he asked me. I think he said about himself that he was on his way home,  and then I think he said that he was from Patensie.

Vince is far less interested than I am in people. I look at them and wonder who and what and where and why. I wonder out loud. Vince looks at landscapes. I was interested in the man from Patensie. It was a massive roadbike. He was self sufficient. I wanted to know what Patensie looked like, and what happens there and why he left and how long he'd been riding, and why he was alone, and did he like it, was it maybe better, in a way, alone, because you think different thoughts? And what was he reading? And what did he eat for supper, and did he buy along the way, or pack real, freeze dried camp food? And where exactly was Patensie?

But I didn't ask those those things. I didn't invite him over for a glass of wine. Maybe he was glad. Maybe he would have liked to have been invited. Maybe he hated questions. Maybe he wished someone would ask him some. The truth is I think of a lot of questions but rarely ask them, if ever. I think he kept half an eye on us, and I kept half an eye on him, to see what he was doing. Vince looked at the waves, and later, the stars.

When we left I said Tot siens and Ry Veilig, and he smiled and waved us goodbye. 

When we got home, two days later, I googled Patensie. I wonder if he is there now.


  1. 'Better' I won't get behind, but different -yes! Different thoughts, different mood traveling alone, which I often prefer. Is this a male disposition?

    I had a girlfriend in NM who would always wonder aloud about the people in the planes flying overhead. Where were they going, where were they from, did they have families, were lone children?

    Good story.

  2. Hi,
    Was in Europe for a month and missed your stories. Tried to catch up last night, but was too tired.
    I also wonder about people. The why and what and where. Sometimes I ask questions and sometimes I make up my own stories.
    I am glad you are coming home for a rest and a holiday. Enjoy every minute.
    My children study at Maties and I need my Cape fix like I need good food and good wine.
    I hope things work out for Vince.
    Happy birthday. I drank a toast to you in beautiful Paris.

  3. I've been to Patensie and Hankey on the way to Patensie, all on our way to amazing Baviaanskloof. We had a "flat" in Baviaanskloof, fortunately on a flat bit of road.
    That's when I sat on a rock and drank whisky. -Pa said he didn't need help. I needed the whisky.

  4. Beautiful. Ek wonder ook so oor mense. Was nog nooit op Patensie nie. Dis bietjie soos Despatch, ek dink soms dit bestaan net in die parallel universe which is RSG se weerberigte.

  5. Marie,
    Another thing. We stayed in Stormsrivier three Decembers ago. I promise you...we were the only white family in the first 5 chalets. Because I talk a lot, I started talking to our neighbours and the one evening we braaied together. Things are changing. My daughter's best friend is a coloured guy and a very good dancer. They have been going to koshuisdanse together for the last three years. Promise.


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