THE FIFTH COLUMN
I’ve bought myself a SANParks Wild Card to enjoy our country’s many parks alongside the thousands of tourists that do so every year.
I think it’s wild that I get to enter just about every park in the country for free, and do a little fist pump as I pass the tourists stuck at the gate, but remind myself shortly after that I did pay for the privilege and not for much less than our friends from abroad are doing. But it’s still a rush.
So far I’ve visited Cape Point Nature Reserve and … Cape Point Nature Reserve.
It has a main road on which people drive very fast to get to the main attraction: a lighthouse perched on the meeting place of the Atlantic and Indian oceans, or simply a piece of coast in the Indian Ocean, depending on your opinion on the meeting places of oceans. I followed the speeding cars to the lighthouse — it appeared to be the logical thing to do.
Overcome by my fear of heights at the lighthouse, I sat next to the path leading to the lighthouse watching the tourists. Oh, the sights and sounds. It blows the mind how certain countries seem to have a much higher extrovert quotient than others. The United States and China, for instance, seem to be made up entirely of extroverts.
The tourists who visit our country are exceptionally well dressed and easy to spot.
It is also by the clothes visitors wear that it is fairly easy to pick out the locals: Edgars, Woolworths, Truworths, Cape Union Mart, Old Khaki, Jeep. Flip-flops.
On a conservation level, it’s hard not to marvel at the cleanliness, orderliness and niceness of the reserve and juxtapose that to the cleanliness, orderliness and niceness of other places less reserved. Like not far down the road from the reserve.
Not far down the road from the reserve things get wild. Really wild. Children run in the road and chips packets and Coke cans lie next to it. People drive much faster than in the reserve to destinations much less attractive. It is, for lack of a better term, a zoo.
My Wild Card gets me into the reserve but, unfortunately, I can’t stay there. Check-out time is 8pm. The fine for late leavers is R500. “Bivouac” is a French word that describes camping without tents or cover. Some days I want to bivouac in the reserve. Bivouac like a homeless man up and down that little coast like I’ve never bivouaced before. The authorities won’t allow it, of course. The reserve is a protected area.
There are 80-plus other parks across South Africa I can visit with my Wild Card, symbolically for free. They represent the best our country has to offer and are filled with people who know how to dress the part. Right in my backyard, it’s as far from home as I can possibly get. I plan on visiting each and every one of those parks to enjoy the tourists, fauna and flora that make up the least wild, least populated areas across the land.