This group of four blue cranes against the mountains caught my eye. I could have watched them the whole day.
A desert where a dam used to be ….
Early Sunday morning. The tractor arrives where the dam used to be bringing driver Geelbooi Maseu and his friend Petrus Zenzile who works on a sewerage clearing team during the week.
Maseu connects the tank on the tractor to an old borehole, recommissioned a couple of days before, and begins to pump.
Maseu takes the full tank into town. Then he and Zenzile drive up and down the streets, hooting. Anyone who needs water (and who doesn’t?) comes out into the road with a container and decants water.
WHEN the town dam dies, there’s always a feast.
It’s happened twice during the time I’ve been living in this little Free State dorp and I’m learning the rituals.
At its fullest the dam, just outside the town gates, is more than six kilometres in circumference. Several streams from neighbouring farms empty into a wide depression and many years ago a stone wall was built across the lowest point to make a very large earth dam.
Over decades it has been used for recreation – there was a caravan park on the edge, the fishing is good and locals used to bring their boats along for a Sunday outing. Now the buildings have been vandalised and cattle graze the banks. No-one except dog-walkers and bird watchers goes there any more.
This used to be a town dam, with water as far as you could see. Now there’s nothing except a dark stain in the centre where the last water dried into mud shards.
Careless owners of cattle and horses have left their animals to graze next to the dry dam and they are getting desperate for water.
One, more thirsty and unlucky than the rest, was caught in the last mud puddle and couldn’t get out.
Here’s how it used to look –
Blooming in the veld right now is Harveya purpurea, aka the ink plant (because the flowers turn an inky black colour if they are bruised). More sceptical members of the public might say that there is another reason for this to be the patron plant of journalists: it’s a parasite.
(Actually the colour varies a little from the standard Harveya purpurea as far as I can see – these flowers are far more white with only edgings of purple, and there’s less yellow than in the usual illustrations which list Harveya purpurea as occurring in the south and western parts of the Western Cape. Perhaps that simply means the local south east Free State version speaks a slightly different dialect.)