The Costa Calla Chronicle: The more things change the more they stay the same.

Home for a day

It is a long time since I wrote for the chronicle. At the house in Costa Calla I have five bound books of my musings over the years 2000 to 2005, when I used to go up almost every second weekend and take pictures and walk.

The more things change the more they say the same. That is what I thought on the way back, as we drove through a light shower before Pietermaritzburg. I went for a stroll on Sebastian’s Walk on Saturday afternoon. The bush at the start of the path to the sundial that counts only the happy hours has grown over to form an arch now. But the sundial remains; the brass is weathered and moss is growing on the mini Stonehenge rock that supports it. Some people were fishing on Evergreen and a dog jumped in to challenge his master’s trout. The master won.

Later that afternoon thick storm clouds rolled in from the east, black and billowing, ominous with lightning striking ever closer. The ridge from Evergreen to our house is igneous, and our place has been struck three times by lightning in the last few years. So I walked back to safety.

At home Ines was sitting before the fire, reading. Some things do not change. They just stay the same. She made supper and we chatted. After a solid sleep in the quiet, because after the storm the mist descended and enveloped the house in a sponge of silence, we woke and went for a walk. The sun was out and was warm. I worked up a sweat as the road climbed into Holbeck. We saw a pair of bulbuls, loyal to each other, as we entered the mist belt forest. We heard Piet My Vrou’s calling, along with a Narina Trogon. Heard but not seen. The forest allowed you to be a child again, at peace with the spirits of the great old trees reaching through the canopy to the sun. The road has dried out after all the rain, but every spring was burbling water that you could smell so sweet as you walked past. The bigger streams were torrents as they raced down the slope to the Umgeni below.

At the crest of Mbona Mountain we paused and descended into the valley, to the house. We passed a herd of Blesbok and zebra, with a few young of each, their curly clean pelts soft and clean against the obscenely green grass. They were on a slope with the gun blue waters of Amber behind them. After breakfast I took my camera and spent some time photographing them. It was hard not to think back to the Masai Mara, where on my last day I saw a million wildebeest and one hundred thousand zebra on the marsh. Now I was looking at five zebra and twenty Blesbok.

Zebra above Amber

We had lunch outside on the veranda. We had to move the table under the roof as the midday storm unleashed big juicy drops of water. Fortunately there was not much of a squall as we caught up with Bernard and Janet.

It was good to be back, and to know that the changes we saw and heard

Conversations while Walking

The best time we had together was when we walked. We never walked together in Durban. It was too hot for my father, and he used to get chest pain in the heat. Also, to be fair, I work in Durban and I would rush off early to work and come back late.

We used to walk at Mbona. We would walk past the stables down the valley, over the dam wall and up through the wattle and pine plantation past my brother John’s place for coffee. Then we would contour in the grassland, past the zebra that always hide in a hollow and back onto the main road to our house.

Walking at home in Alberton was fun, because it was with the dogs. They would lead the way and set the pace. There were certain houses with enemy dogs that always required a stand of aggression, and there were other gates and poles that required a territorial marking. His attorney’s house always required the dog to mark with something more solid. The house was the last in the suburb without a fence, so it was easy to let the dog make a mark in the open. It was an abvious calling card.

We also walked in Astros. I only remember really hot days with early walks, past the village shops that were still closed, past the harbour with yachts lying unmoving in the still blue water. Past the Duck House in the middle of the harbour, and the amphitheatre at the edge of the harbour. Up the hill, with a rest at the church and sometimes to light a candle, then downhill, back into the village. Now the bakery was open and the heavy smell of fresh bread and pastries would force us to stop to buy breakfast; then laden with bags we would walk the few blocks home and devour the fresh bread with fig jam and share the apple pastries.

The best place to walk was Kakouri. He was always so happy heading off into the plain. Down the avenue of plane trees, the village fresh in the morning, the earthy smell of sheep not yet fermented in the day’s heat. After a while he would turn left into the fields, along a sand road, then left again to slowly walk up a long hill to the original spring of the village which still trickled fresh sweet water. He would stop for a drink and then continue up to the church of Agio Dimitri and then backtrack into a small ravine that separated the village from the mountain of Analipsi. From there onto a tar road studded with sheep droppings and into Keza’s Cafe, where the men were already sitting in the shade of the pergola covered with vines as old as the shop. Some were drinking coffee; a few others would always be nursing a brandy. The usual group was always chatty. More often than not someone who was not regular would come by, be offered a coffee and information would be exchanged.

I am sure the same happened at the socialist cafe up the road.