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.
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