TG Newsletter: VERNEUKPAN
(12 October 2017)
This story is not about blood and guts, it’s not about a knight in shining armor, nor a romantic comedy. Nobody will die. Nothing will happen. Nothing will end…
…nothing at all
But in the nothingness, there is occasionally something.
This story is about nothing.
It was a certain pole-dancing girl’s birthday and the annual wild-camp bash was planned – last minute…
On the Thursday after work, we grabbed our sleeping bags, filled our tanks and left west. I’ve never been to the pan and being over 1 000 kays away – we had to tap every drop of sunshine out of the available three days.
The first night we made it to Barberspan.
Barberspan is a bird-watchers’ paradise situated in the North-West province. 365 Birds have been identified here… make that 367.
We dropped our luggage and raced to the water’s edge.
We waved goodbye as the sun sunk into the shallow side.
In this area in 1902 there was a battle between the British and the Boer. Siener van Rensburg (a well-known prophet) predicted that a red bull would approach with fierce horns, but would limp away with a broken leg.
In this battle, Lord Methuen was shot in the leg and for the rest of his life he walked cripple with an aid…
We found the pub! The barman gave Chikita a bunch-of-flowers for her birthday… or so this drink is called. I think she might have a pollen allergy; cause she didn’t feel so strong the next morning.
There was protest action in the next town and we had to leave hoes-poep early on Friday morning.
Breakfast at Vryburg: Tea & cheese biscuits!
We entered the iron mining world of Kathu.
There was a brand new lorrie next to the road, taking a short rest from his long trip to his new home. I wonder if they also sometimes forget their puncture repair kit at home?
The driver gave us permission to clamber all over this yellow-gevaarte.
I guess a good old bottle of 10W-50 wouldn’t cut it?!?
The road from Kathu to Upington was a killer! Long, straight, windy and boring as SABC channel 2.
On the other side of town there was this HUMONGOUS lighthouse! I kept wondering why Upingtonians were so afraid of a ship sailing into town. They were hundreds of kilometers from any noemenswaardige body of water…?
Even 30km out of town we could still clearly see this gigantic candle!
The bright light behind us was only matched by the big bright one ahead.
We nearly rode past the Kokerboom woud (Quiver Tree Forest). This ‘forest’ has thousands of trees over a stretch of 4km, but in an arid area strewn with dolerite boulders and expanses of nothingness, the trees melt away into the landscape.
With the deafening silence and the restless stillness, you soak up the nullity. Between these aging trees, nothing becomes something.
Kenhart, the last town we would see before we got to the pan. We filled up with petrol and had lunch at Oma Miemie’s farm stall.
Johan, the owner kept us company and I just had to ask about Upington’s ‘lighthouse’. He got wholly exited and dashed behind the shop to return with a mirror???
Johan has worked on some of the surrounding sun-farms and told us that the tower of 205m in Upington contains a boiler filled with a solution of salt water. The screens on the ground around the tower are actually ‘mirrors’ that reflect sunlight onto the tower, heating the solution to 530 °C, and the emitting steam then turns the turbines, generating electricity (up to 50MW!!!).
The ‘farm’ is called Khi Solar One
Johan pointed his mirror to a wooden plank about 6 meters away and within seconds it started smoking! He warned us not to walk in front of the mirror and that our clothing could catch alight. We held our hands about a meter in front of the mirror and it was hot enough to make you skrik and pluk your hand away.
We left Kenhardt with heads full of ideas – hot ones!
The further away from Kenhardt we traveled the higher the vokol started growing. Here, it was already knee-height!
There were about 7 or 8 gates keeping the nix from roaming free.
We stopped at the farmhouse to buy a few bundles of wood and get the keys to the last gate. Friendly farmers, friendly dogs, friendly sheep!
VERNEUK: An Afrikaans word meaning to deceive, to mislead or to swindle. But we came here for the desertedness and we were not deluded…
The last rays scratched streaks over the pan, clinging on for dear life as the sun fell over the edge.
Except for the crackle of the wood, we could hear nothing… not a sausage.
For sound waves to travel, the most essential requirement is a medium. As there is no atmosphere in space, sound cannot travel there, making it eerily silent.
Lying there as the blue of the night snuggled in around our sleeping bags, we fell asleep watching Orion slowly plunging to the Northern hemisphere.
Verneukpan’s alarm bell… it’s still analog!
We woke up the next morning with our frozen, stiff limbs begging for a hot cup of tea.
The hollowness in our souls runneth over with Five Roses!
Sitting there… thinking of one’s being there.
If life has no meaning, if your dreams are void, even if everything feels like nothing – there is still YOU. You exist. You are something… something treasured.
You cannot see the beginning or the end of the universe. Sitting in the middle of Verneukpan, you also cannot see where it begins or where it ends. Therefor they must be around the same size.
The most certain energy is the self, my body, my thoughts, my actions. The world and all other minds do not exist. I obviously invented solipsism.
What is a man? He is nothing in comparison with the infinite and all in comparison with nothing.
Nothing is a concept denoting the absence of something. Nothing denotes things lacking importance or value. For the adventurer it denotes a destination.
Where you have nothing, there you should want nothing.
Anything can happen in life, especially nothing.
Everything can happen next… but THIS is happening now!
What does a man love more than life? Hate more than death or mortal strife? That which contented men desire, the poor have, the rich require, the miser spends, the spendthrift saves, and all men carry to their graves?
It was time to pack up our meager belongings. In a flash the wind grabbed one of the plastic bags and flipped it through the air down the plane. Chikita started chasing it. She became smaller and smaller, while the wind kept teasing her to run faster and faster. The pan is 57km long… I’m not sure how far she got!
We met up with the plaas-voorman to drop off the keys. Just look at that trusty TW horse of his, 22-spanner tied to the handle bar like a knight’s sword. He could probably fix the world!
Around the back of the farm house is the old race car (Edge), or what is left of it. Johan Jacobs used it in 2006 for an attempt at a speed record. He lost control at about 500km/h. He did not survive.
As motorcyclists we know… if you chase speed, speed sometimes win. GAME ON!
Sihambile lapa side!
Some people might not believe that this place actually exists. It is a term used much like ‘husse’, a mythical creature in Afrikaans history that only old people can see.
Putsonderwater is considered an imaginary location that is further away from everything than anything.
After a particularly nasty corrugated stretch of dusty road, with our intestines scrambled like Wimpy eggs, we found this deserted railway station town. The town was first inhabited in 1880 and became a stop-over station for cattle and mealie trading. It won a trophy for best kept station in 1989. But with time, there were no more passenger trains, there were no more water, there were no more post office… and by 2004, there were no more inhabitants!
A quick stop to fill the emptiness: Garage-pie, pale-tee and compulsory-Rennies.
The Douglas glacial pavement (a national monument), where a glacial cap scraped the underlying floor as it moved and slid southwards 300mil years ago. Over time (a lot of time), the floor got covered with sediments and later the top layers were eroded away again to re-exposed the scraped floor.
The girl at the Kimberley stop-&-go made us a deal: Give her a lift to the other side and we don’t have to wait for the green light.
(I don’t think she knew what she signed up for…)
Three days of hard riding, one day of stirring dust on the pan – time for a quick dip.
We who make stories know that we tell lies for a living. But they are good lies that say true things and we owe it to our readers to build them as best we can. Because somewhere out there is someone who needs that story. Someone who will grow up with a different landscape, who without that story will be a different person. And who with that story may have hope, or wisdom, or kindness, or comfort. And that is why we write.
CHIKITA PRODUCTIONS PRESENT:
Bupkis explained in 4 minutes!
Watch the video of our travels through the Northern Cape to Verneukpan, soaking up all the jack we can – literally & figuratively.
24HR ENDURANCE RACE! 9 – 10 December 2017 Redstar Raceway
Hell yeah – we’re gonna race!
We have put together an all-girls team for the 24hr race next weekend. And Suzuki has just blown us away… They are sponsoring us a bike – the SUZUKI SV650! The girls have been training and prepping and just being out-of-our-skins-excited. Pop round to the track anytime (literally – ANYTIME) next weekend to come support us.
SPONSORED BY SUZUKI
After you’ve read this, you might think your contribution paid for zip… It was well worth it, hey?
If you're familiar with the rural concept of the honesty bar, this honesty newsletter ain't much different... I'm a completely un-paid journalist, relying instead on readers using the honour system. You read the newsletter and then leave an amount you see fit for the entertainment you've received.
If you don't find it particularly amusing, then you fork out NO dosh. I won't stop sending you the letter – it is still mahala to those that count their coins and... I love sharing my stories.
As requested by my overseas readers, you can donate to this newsletter on my PayPal account:
You can do an EFT transfer to the account below
Next time I’ll tell you about nada!
www.pinterest.com/skinny400 YouTube: Skinny van Schalkwyk