It's Sunday morning –10 July 2005, the sun has just showed face over the eastern rim of the horizon, small patches of mist blanketing low-lying stretches of landscape. From various directions the designated vehicles are speeding towards the planned rendezvous, codenamed: Vergenoeg.
The people manning these vehicles are commonly known amongst close circles as the S.O.A.P. ("Sunrise On Africa's Peaks") crew, a seasoned (and unseasoned) group of mountaineers, adventure and thrill seekers led by a legendary marksman, Karen, a.k.a. Noeksie, assisted by Frans, fundi on fauna & flaura. The aim of this mission is one thing: get up the mountain, inhale as much fresh air as you can, look for indigenous trees and spot the endangered Cape Vulture who took the Magalies as a last sanctuary for survival. The tricky part of this mission is to get a group of kids from the Abraham Kriel Children's Home unscathed up the hill and down, attempting to embed some beautiful images of nature and sheer joy of the great outdoors in their minds (and if they can: to remember the Cape Vulture).
A number of mighty 4 x 4's and a few not so big SUV's are snaking their way up a concealed dirt road in the foothills of the mighty Magalies, dust devils dancing in the wake of the passing cars, occupants periodically coughing of the dust seeping into the cabs.
One by one vehicles screech to a halt at the pre-decided way point, occupants pouring out, hunting for dust free fresh air. Just then a kombi troop carrier came to a stop underneath a huge tree, near the farmhouse, high pitch noises from children's voices and laughter escaping the confines of the vehicle. It’s them, the Rascals!! Be ready, it's show time!! Oversized grey t-shirts are dished out to the SOAP crew and some small day pack back packs given to kids and SOAP crew members, containing water and refreshments.
Frans and Oom Jan (of the farm) gave a quick overview on the sortie and then an eager group of people began to ascend the mighty, towering berg. Every now & then a voice from one of the SOAP crew echo through silence: “Hey, you boy, in front, slow down!!” And then there’s little Jacques, possibly the most notorious of them all: Tall, skinny, brown hair cut short, canny eyes gazing out underneath his eyebrows, wearing a bleached denim, an old sweater coming of yonks back and sneakers the size of small boats! Not to forget the young girl wearing a slightly more adventurous, exposing attire…already one of the more seasoned travellers warned her: “Girl, keep your eyes open, today here’s one boy who may be very fascinated by the view!”
Halfway up the footpath, the travel party is stopping for a quick break, the kids hastily rummaging the bags for water, or whatever they can find to quench the thirst. Then it’s pushing on again, still a way to go before the plateau is reached. Suddenly Frans calls the group to a halt, the group unknowingly split up—did they take the wrong fork in the road or what? A few minutes go by and slowly soft humming of voices becomes audible, the people still out of view. Eventually the groups merged again. At on stage little Jacques picks up an old chunk of wood and says: “As ek daai aasvoel sien, gooi ek hom met die stok!” Frans replied: “ What if that big bird goes “agro” and grabs you off the mountain?!” Little Jacques: “Ek gaat vir hom gooi met die stok!”
Finally everybody reached the little rocky outcrop on top of the plateau, a good vista on the domain of the vultures; the cliffs and the blue skies. To the east, someone is pointing out to the blue sky, there they are, lazily soaring on the up draught and upper jet streams. The kids appear to have little interest in the happenings up in the sky, they are scrambling for something to feast on, and guess what they found: packets of popcorn! Soon popcorn is flying all over the place, muffled crunching of the snacks in overfull mouths and soft mumbling voices…yeah, so much for spotting those endangered birds.
At one stage a small spider is spotted by two of the boys. It’s quietly sitting on a neatly woven blanket of webbing carefully set up between the grass and small rocks protruding from underneath the surface. WOW! “Let’s feed it!” the joyful screams come. Within minutes two handfuls of insects are dumped on the web, some of the grasshoppers seeming like an elephant compared to a domestic cat! Poor little creature! He in a flash retreats into dark shadows of his den as far away as possible from the commotion up above! An hour ticks by, and the group descends downhill again (to the delight of the spider!)
Finally everybody made it back to base camp! Noeksie starts to prepare some hotdogs and the kids are darting towards her, each to be there first, like hungry piranhas smelling a dead duck! Finally the feeding frenzy is over and all are called for a group photo. That done, time has arrived for departure. Out of the kombi the chorus comes, here and there an off-beat tune: “Ons se BAIE, BAIE dankie, ons se BAIE, BAIE dankie vir ‘n lekker dag! Want julle is sukke GAWE MENSE; want julle is sukke GAWE MENSE!!………”
And so the voices of the group of happy kids fade away as the troop carrier speeds off in a cloud of dust…
A big thanks to
- Oom Jan from Vergenoeg – the kidz loved the hike
- My friends who sponsored the backpacks – they are ultra cool!
- The SOAP – CREW for your time and last but not least
- The SOAP - KIDZ – you guys are so special.