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(On Boxing Day 1974 Much Better Half and I set off on ‘rideabout’ in our Combi Camper ‘Cambi’ with our daughters aged 4 & 7. By Saturday 28th December we had reached Upington, and while camped on their island in the Orange River we were adopted by a scraggy ginger cat. After we had tried and failed to find where he belonged – or anything like the SPCA – he stayed in the Camper while we booked into the hotel overnight. On a detour we took to Augrabies Falls next morning he proved he loved travelling, so when we set off for South West Africa later in the day he came with us and went for a long walk with me that night.)
The last day of the year saw us breakfasting early before driving on to Karasburg where we had some delightfully cold soft drinks and made some more purchases. I bought a petrol can (which turned out to leak) and a canvas bag for water. Its contents always tasted awful, but were at least cooled by evaporation.
A brief stop at Grunau, and we took the excellent dirt road to the Fish River Canyon. We had lunch at the main viewsite and then had time to drive to all the others, gasping at the wonder of it all.
At 5 p.m., with plenty of light left, I decided to venture down the Sulphur Spring path into the gorge. I was a little distracted from the view by coming up (or down!) with a group of German tourists of both sexes – all topless. They greeted me with total unconcern, so I tried not to look – and not to look as though I wasn’t looking because I wanted to look.
I stayed for a while at the bottom of the gorge after they had left, taking pictures and exploring the river bank. It was about 7 p.m. when I started the climb back up, confident that being fairly fit I would soon overtake the German group. The fact that I didn’t aroused my competitive spirit, so I pushed myself …
Bad mistake! I collapsed from dehydration near the top, and a couple of the men had to come down and give me water before I could get the rest of the way. Once back up I drank copious amounts of water, and a good deal of beer a bit later. At that time, one glass of beer would usually have had me excusing myself almost immediately – it seemed to have a straight-through effect – but on this occasion I felt no urge to go behind any bushes until the following evening. However much I drank, it simply got absorbed.
The Germans drove away, we had supper, the kids went to bed, and then MBH, Ginger and I stayed up soaking in the magic of being on the edge of that majestic canyon, with no signs of other human beings visible. We drank a toast to 1975 in German beer at midnight, and Fizzy added an ‘Urrr!’
That was one of our Top Five in New Years.
A short while later when we went to retire, though, the cat was nowhere to be found. We called and called, but he didn’t appear. Tiredness overcame worry, and finally we went to sleep.
When we woke up in the morning and there was still no sign of Ginger Willie, real panic started to set in. We were also faced with two tearful and accusing little girls. I was in the process of assuring them, rather unconvincingly, that he’d be back any minute when an impatient meow said, ‘Look, when you lot have quite finished nattering on about something, how about some breakfast?’
In all the rest of the time Ginger travelled with us he chose to keep close by at night. Why he vanished then, and where he’d been, remained his secret.
(To be continued… )
© Colonialist September 2013 (WordPress) November 2007 (24.com)