“Kalie is gone,” she told me. “It’s your fault – go look for him.”
What keeps me sane, is occasionally escaping from what is considered normal. As a safari operator, I happen to show people the wild places of our continent. Ordinary people. People who pound away at a typewriter – these days a word processor – every day. Or who beat a path to the deeds office. Or who have to placate disgruntled customers.
In my company they have learned what it means to get away from it all.
Kalie farms. He started out on a combine harvester in a Highveld mealie field; later he began to cultivate grapes somewhere outside Stellenbosch for Dad. To farm on behalf of Dad, brothers and the rest, is no easy feat. “You’d better not stuff up our inheritance!” he was told.
Breaking free from the constraints of normality takes guts. Sometimes it starts with a small step. Just saying “I want to” can be hard. It’s even harder to return to reality and normality.
In gumboots vines were planted in the clayey soil. The family farm became a jewel; brothers were having a ball and Dad was growing older and more full of shit. And Kalie kept farming, without respite.
Shaking off your responsibilities, even temporarily, makes you think of what you have and don’t have. Joining in my adventures has seen many marital bonds suffer a setback. Many have ended up losing their jobs and for some abusing the bottle was the start of a downward spiral – for them returning to normality was no longer an option. Still, lonely people have formed lifelong friendships, single people have found partners and some returned to their mundane existence with newfound gusto.
It was after twelve years of thankless labor that Kalie phoned one day: “Ouboet, that longstanding invitation sounds about right to me now – I’m coming along.”
And together we hiked through the Fish River canyon. And later the Naukluft. And later Kilmanjaro. And later the Himalayas. And later we drove through Kaokoland. And later he drove through the Richtersveld on his own. And Botswana. And the high mountains of Lesotho.
And when Miranda said “Go look for him”, I did as I was told.
And never returned myself.