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TG Newsletter: VLAKPAN

To the unknown - TO VLAKPAN

(7 - 8 March 2020)

Let’s kick this adventure off…

When you have a weekend free, when you have money left from pay-day, when you have two bikes with running engines – you’ve gotta go somewhere! But where?

We printed a map of anything north from home, reachable in one day. Skinny got blind-folded, spinned around, and had to pin the DR to a point on the map…


This is the stuff Tank Girls are made of.

We popped a bag full of sleep, a can full of petrol, and a bottle full of Daniels on the back of the bikes.

North we pointed, north we went.

You start off on roads you know well, past places you’ve seen so often you’ve forgotten their names.

You find a dirt road, you take the dirt road.

You stop often. You stop to look, you stop to listen, you stop to laugh, but you never stop to ask for directions.

Heading north, you will inevitably ride through Vaalwater. If you don’t know the name, you haven’t explored yet. The Afrikaans meaning of the word is ‘dull water’. The undulating waves consist of sand – a sea of murky brown water…

You might lose yourself, but there’s a bigger chance that you will most probably lose something more valuable – like a GoPro!

Chikita retraced her steps, while Skinny waited in the shade (Chikita’s faster on the pale-water stuff).

Lonely minds go mad… slowly! Skinny drew a sand angel while awaiting Chikita’s return. 50km extra on her ODO, she found the Pro, slightly scratched but still filming behind a barrier. You ask for luck and sometimes she’s not busy.


The mountains were beautiful, but we needed a canned breakfast as the sun was losing time. Stopped at a crocodile’s farm – they had a pub.

“See those rocks? Been standing there for 600 million years. Still be there when you and I are gone. So, arguing over who owns them is like two fleas arguing over who owns the dog they live on.”

*Wisdom by Crocodile Dundee*

You take a road that twists. It makes your insides turn. You don’t fear it… the road nor the insides.

The road splits. You take the smaller road.

It takes you to places that have forgotten the sound of vibrating pistons. Where grass don’t grow over old tracks, hoping that travelers will return some day again.

And you do.

You find an old sign that clings to stories not yet told.

‘Dagga’ and ‘Pot’ – it begged our attention!

The road crosses another, less traveled and more colourful. You take that road. Does it matter where it goes? Does it matter where it ends?

You might dither. You might doubt. But turning around is too much work. Behind you, you know. Ahead is a mystery.

You hop over a boulder, you check over your shoulder, you bump over a ditch, and there you’ll find a man that’s rich.

His name is Gert. He lives in a shack down a ravine, with 4 donkeys, 8 cows, 2 cats, 6 dogs, 20 chickens and a million stars. He calls them his own.

He invited us to meet his own (…we had nowhere to go; the road ended there and time as well).

The family!

You watch as one man works his yard before light fades. You appreciate, you love, you might not want to leave.

You don’t.

You ask if you can stay. You share the fire, you share a tin of food, you share a mielie, you share Africa.

You sit around a fire and burn a new friend into your heart. The stories of the local leopard eating the donkeys, the cats hunting snakes, the bush pigs charging dogs and breaking their legs, keeping light by the moon, and keeping all illnesses at bay with a can of wound spray. Life is hard. Life is simple. This is the life in Africa.

You wake up to pink clouds dotting a turquoise sky.

You soak the beginning of a new day into your yesterdayfreshtodaynotsomuch clothes. You inhale deeply.

You listen as the jenny wakes the rest of the yard with a loud and continuous hee-haw. You realize the little mapompaantjie is missing!!! You nervously start scouting for big cat paws in the sand.

You help search the bushes, you call, your heart sinks.

Then you hear the faint bray of a little donkey.

You call louder, your heart starts to float to the surface again.

You see the tips of long ears just sticking out from the opening to the old longdrop…

You say thank you. You leave something behind. You take something with you.

You get to a new dirt road. You turn right, cause it feels right, and it turns out to be the right thing to do.

You keep riding, you keep waving at jolly kids running behind their little-laughters, you keep recording these memories on a never ending reel of film in your mind.

You turn a little left, a little more and there you’ll find VLAKPAN. A point that has no apparent point. And in finding this blank point, you found more than just a dot on a map.

You find that your tank is still half full, the gate is half open, and half of what you are looking for is sitting on the horizon.

Over the next mountain you might find excess, progress, and success. Built by the same sweat dripping off another’s forehead.

Their stories are of the grasshoppers eating the crops, the rain falling late, the fires painting the fields black, keeping light by a candle, and keeping all illnesses at bay by spending time on your knees. Life is hard. Life is simple. This is the life in Africa.

How many kilometers to find an adventure depends on your definition of adventure. How much good you find in a day depends on how good you live them. How silent a soul must be to find peace depends on the silent soul standing next to you.

You find yourself with nothing to say, but everything to share.

You find yourself.


Pick a spot on a map, go to that spot, experience every beautiful moment that spot has to give, burn that spot onto your heart, leave that spot behind, keep that spot in your memories for ever!


If you ever go to that spot, please donate a bag of dog food to Gert and his puppies. In the meantime, you can make an honest donation to the Tank Girls newsletter that was yet again – SPOT ON!

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.

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Spot ya later!!!

Skinny YouTube: Skinny van Schalkwyk

Instagram: skinnyvanschalkwyk


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