Sunday, 3 August 2014

Cederberg and the Sevilla Trail: Capturing Imagination

I wondered why they used so many clicks in their language. I once heard someone speak in Bushman language: it was at some occasion in Southern Namibia, or South West Africa at the time. Interestingly enough it was a Lebanese man who was brought up among the descendants of Bushmen.

These were the thoughts that passed through my mind as I walked along the Sevilla Trail in the Cederberg mountains, close to Clanwilliam today. Perfect weather for this trail: we wondered if it wasn't going to be too cold, but as we walked, layers of clothing came off. In summer months, we might well have swum in the river.

To get to the Sevilla Trail, you drive about twenty minutes to the east, over the Pakhuis Pass. During the drive, you'll get a good taste of what these robust mountains are about: stark, unexpectedly shaped, randomly balanced: there's something special at work here that did its work millenia ago, and still hovers with presence.

I wondered if you ever heard them from afar, singing, talking. Maybe they were as silent as the plants, but if their paintings are anything to go by, they made all kinds of impressions on their environment.

They have been exterminated. Hunted, shot, killed on purpose, you will find not a real one anymore, yet their legacy is imprinted on the rocks, and their lives still echo from the Brandewyns Rivier.

The starting point is Travellers Rest. There you buy your permit to enter a protected area:ZAR 40 for each of us today. Not too much for locals, nothing for international travellers whose currency laughs at the rand, these days.

We began at the gate made of a sawn-off bakkie railing.

You follow the white footprints. Apparently one year they faded, and a lot of direction was lost. However, today they were clear and bright.

If you are prepared to look for these markers, prepare to lose contact with the present, and to enter a timeless space where ecology, impressions and imagination interact and overlap.

The Sevilla Trail has nine sites of rock art spread over four and a half kilometers. You don't have to walk the whole route. Today we had time only for the first five sites.

The first bit is beside the river, the presence of which resounds much of the trail. No wonder they made home here.

A huge amount of water washed and moved this area millenia ago. The rock formations and sediment attest to this.

After about a kilometer, Site One is well marked. Follow the white footsteps, into pockets of exotica, rock. pond-life and conscious caves where images laugh back at you, defying interpretation.

What were they thinking, following these paths of painting?

On the one hand you have the mystique of rock-framed entrances to another universe, and paths of plants bursting with life.

Then, on the other, the paintings reflect something that brings a more distant past right ino the present focus.

What were they thinking? How did they experience thet magic that moved through the place?

The thing is, walk the trail, enter a world that isn't your normal pattern of knowing and feeling, and come away with with something powerful that an imagination beyond your's has engendered.

That's what makes the difference.

My impression is that the river they heard still runs. No doubt they gave it another name which has long been lost. Nevertheless the sound is similar, no matter the time that has passed.