Posts Tagged 'landscape'

When we forget to see the beauty

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I have in the last three months travelled the 1700km of road between Durban and Cape Town three times. Because of Lesoto sitting in the middle of the country one has to drive half way to Johannesburg before turning down towards the Cape. Starting in Durban this road winds up through the spectacularly beautiful rolling green hills of Natal to the Drakensberg mountains and the winding misty high of Van Reenen’s Pass at 1768 meters. Not long after that one has to exit the main freeway and travel across the Free State to join the freeway that will take you to Cape Town.

Natal with its summer rainfall is lush and green then almost immediately after leaving the freeway one hits the wide open spaces of the Free State. Large expanses of golden grass, fields of sunflowers and big blue cloudless skies. Over the years the Free State has gained a reputation for being ugly. Personally I find those big blue skies and golden spaces refreshingly beautiful.

Eventually this road meets the N1 and so begins the more than 1000km of pretty much straight road through the Karoo. It is almost impossible to imagine that the Karoo covers nearly a third of South Africa given the size of this country. The vastness of this space is overwhelming.  Mile after mile of desert scrub and skies so big they almost seem impossible. When one first sees this the heart cannot help but expand as it takes in the views of this incredible part of our world.

Finally after many many hours one comes over another mountain pass and before you in breathtaking contrast lies a lush green valley of vineyards, so in contrast to the harshness of the Karoo, ones breath is taken away once again.

So you travel this road for the first time and are mesmerised by the size and variety of what lies before you.  Every mile travelled produces yet another gaspingly exquisite scene and so the heart swells and the spirit lifts.  Then you travel the road again.  You know now that it is long and you are not seeing it all with fresh eyes and so the heart closes a little along with the eyes that prefer rest now rather than wide eyed wonder.  Then you travel it a third time and now you are used to the beauty that lies around the next corner and think only of where the next coffee stop is.  You close off to the wonder of it all.  You forget to look.  You forget to see.

We do this everyday in our lives. We live in a place and become so accustomed to the beauty there we forget to see it.  We forget to see the beauty in the people we know. We stop looking at the roses in our gardens and stop inhaling the scent of the coffee before we drink it.

In art we must not do this. We must see the beauty in everything, even the mundane. We must always look with fresh eyed wonder as if we are seeing it for the first time. Shooting stock for Getty forces me to do this. How can I make the ordinary beautiful and interesting. How can I use the light to enhance the most simple everyday scene.

Perhaps though we should not do this just for the sake of art. Perhaps we should do it for ourselves.  When you travel about your world today look about and see it all with fresh eyes. Look at the way the light falls as the hours pass and how it changes what you see.

Do yourself a favour and look again so that you see the beauty in your own world. Don’t close your heart and eyes to this. Open them as if your were seeing it all for the first time and then be grateful for that.

 

 

 

 

 

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Driving the Karoo

Watching the last rays fall on the vast open landscape of the Karoo.

Watching the last rays fall on the vast open landscape of the Karoo.

What a privilege it is to live in this magnificent world and there is nothing like a long road trip to remind us of this.  Driving, for me, soothes the soul and expands the mind.

This month I had the good fortune to drive with my eldest daughter Ellen from Durban on the east coast of Africa to Cape Town on the west coast.  The drive is long. Very very long.  1635km to be exact.  We decided to do it in two 11 hour stretches and stop overnight in a small town (it can barely be called a town) called Colesberg which is somewhere in the middle of a mind blowingly vast and hauntingly beautiful Karoo.

We set off the first morning at 5am and felt the warmth of the sun rise as we headed west with George Ezra’s ‘Budapest’ playing loudly on the radio.   Taking turns with the driving, swapping every three hours, we stopped at every available stop for fuel, coffee, bathrooms and a dash of fresh air.

There is something so magical about road tripping. To steal the words from a text message I had sent to a friend on the trip  ‘Miles and miles of conversations, thoughts, sweet silences and a world so beautiful it takes your breath away.  It is an exquisite reminder of possibilities’.

The rolling green of the Natal hills turn quickly into the vast open dry landscape of the Free State.  Barren in it’s beauty, but beautiful nonetheless.  Endearing towns with quaint churches and golden fields of swaying grasses littered with wild flowers, it’s very openness encourages deep breathing and equally deep thoughts.

By far the majority of the drive is through the Karoo.  One simply cannot express the incredible size of this landscape except to say that probably around 18 hours of a 22 hour trip are on a mind boggingly straight road with nothing but dry, flat desert in every direction.

We made it to our overnight stop at around 4pm.  Time to roll out the yoga mat and stretch out those cramped limbs in the last of the afternoon sunlight.  It is easy to forget how very cold it can get in the desert in winter and as the sun set I took a walk around the charming but stark place we had chosen to rest for the night.   An icy wind blew at me but I stood my ground, determined to take a few shots of this amazing landscape as the day turned its back on us.

A hot shower, a warm fire followed by an exceptional dinner of roast lamb and finally a delightfully reassuring heated bed ensured we were well rested for day 2.

Another 5am start.  This one slightly delayed upon finding the car covered in ice.  One does not associate ice and snow with Africa but let me reassure you that the Karoo is cold at this time of year!  Half an hour later and the car finally warmed up and defrosted to the point of being able to see we head out onto that long straight road we had parted ways with just hours before.

There are very few petrol or coffee stops in the Karoo and it was two hours before we found our first cup of coffee. Two hours that had passed mainly in silence with the sun taking it’s time to greet us. A grateful stop for petrol and warm drinks and a driver swap and we set off for many more hours of tarmac, vast open landscapes and easy music for company.

About 2 hours outside of Cape Town we spot the first signs of mountains with snow covered peaks and lush green valleys. A welcome sight for any weary traveller.  A couple of hours of some of the most breathtaking scenery on this sweet earth and one arrives in what can only be described as the most beautiful city in the world.  Cape Town.

This is a trip I would do again in a heartbeat.

 

 

 

 



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