Entertained by nothing at all…
From Ceres onwards, the road to Tankwa Karoo National Park is the kind of road I like best. Firstly, it’s a dirt road. Driving on a dirt road in South Africa always feels good. Each corrugation says slow down. Each bump reminds you to relax. Each stop is an invitation to listen.
With the casual abundance of an impressionist painting, the landscape radiates light.
And on the road to Tankwa, as the slowing down, the relaxing and the listening begin, this ancient landscape tugs gently at my senses, where minutes before, there was 'nothing' at all. First I feel the wind ruffling my hair. My ears tune in to a pair of bulbuls calling to each other. My eyes softens and spill over the landscape. The early August air cuts cleanly as I breathe it in. And the stillness, the aching stillness of this place, works its way into my bones.
The longer I drive on this road, the longer I want to drive. Each turn of the wheels drowns out a bit more of the noise I carry in my head. Of course it’s natural to resist this at first. It’s hard to adjust to the quiet and the space. I eat a koeksister from the Tankwa Padstal; crisp and oozing syrup. I look beyond the snow-frosted Cederberg mountains in the West, the Roggeveld mountains barely visible.
My mind wanders…
And then the Tankwa swallows me in waves of gold. The fields of wild flowers are astounding in the early afternoon sun. With the casual abundance of an impressionist painting, the landscape radiates light. There are a thousand shades of yellow singing where, just weeks before, a silent landscape slept.
I arrive at my accommodation grinning, elated. Then darkness comes, bigger and more comforting than you can imagine. The stars dance and I sleep as deep as a seed, dreams reaching towards the sun.
The miracle is renacted daily at aound 11am as these seasonal flowers - many of which close up at night - again unfurl. Their lives are short; just weeks depending on the rainfall, and some years they don’t flower at all. The number of rare endemic species the Tankwa Karoo supports is incredible. But this post is not about the park’s biodiversity, its surreal geography, its awesome accommodation, it friendly staff or the many, many ways to explore its amazing, animated vastness.
It’s about the fact sometimes, ‘nothing’ is the best entertainment of all.