The dark continent

When thinking of the african continent, pictures of starving children and ferocious animals are conjured in the minds eye. Africa is a destination for the wild at heart - those seeking adventure who are unafraid of what life has to offer. As with all things in life worthwhile, there is balance. With beauty there is grotesqueness; with calm there is frenzy; with life there is death.

The southern african scenery gave birth to the appreciation and an awareness of that sentiment by our ancestors, which still hangs like fog in our subconscious today.The rawness of the land, the savageness of the oceans and the vastness of the skies bring together an awesomeness experience in few other places on the planet.

My experience began in Cape town, as I started meeting the culture and the landscape, and I stood up for the first time on a surf board. The city has much to offer but I found it quite European, so I decided to move away from the polluted system and find secret spots to reconnect with nature.

Photo:Laura Rudin

Photo:Laura Rudin

Before we left the city limits we walked the fabled Lion's Head sunset trek.

The views of Table Mountain, from this vantage point, are unparalleled. Looking south towards Cape Point, on the right hand side, the twelve apostles observed the affluent suburbs sprawling at their feet, while on the left the city bowl creeps ever so surreptitiously up the majestic mountain.

So off we trod, moving aimlessly up the east coast, my brother, my boyfriend and I, seeking new adventures. My brother, a young entrepreneur, was looking for waves. My boyfriend, a complete nutter, was going back home to The Wilderness. I just happened to follow the current that was flowing around me.

Our journey led us to the foothills of the Outeniqua Mountains, to a rustic village surrounded by vegetation and embraced by waves: Wilderness. This romantic town is placed between the Kaaimans river and the Goukamma Nature Reserve with its many lagoons and the famous Island lake that meanders down through the serpentine river until reaching the sea at Wilderness Beach.

There I found a new meaning to life, as african people taught me the humility and enjoyment of working the land, while the ocean took care of the lessons and surprises.The vegetables grew and the fruit trees blossomed. The garden threw a thousand pastel hues.

photo: Laura Rudin

photo: Laura Rudin

The old indigenous trees, some of them having seen 800 summers or more, impregnated the forest with their wisdom, inspiring those who walked through them respectfully.

Some days the water felt like a Nirvana; the slow motion sunrise sessions with dolphins playfully swimming through the waves and the feeling of being completely present.

The whales that were migrating down south joined us out at Victoria Bay point for a couple of mornings. We also had encounters with curious seals and hammerhead sharks.

After hours of cursing and greased palms, we finally manage to fix an old car and went on a road trip. We camped and surfed at every place we saw possibilities, since my brother and I are from mediterranean sea everything looked “surf-able”.

In Jeffrey's bay, I met a humble old surfer with a young spirit, Bruce Gold, that I will always appreciate. He has been living in the sand dunes at different make shift accommodation since the sixties. His affair with super-tubes seems to have turned into a life partnership. He now lives in a comfortable, shell and flotsam packed, granny flat under a good friends house, with epic views of the point from his lovingly kept front porch.

Photo: Laura Rudin

Photo: Laura Rudin

When we got back to the farm we kept our routine of surfing in the morning,

working the land and eating the healthy produce. The winds kept the same routine, blowing offshore in the mornings, then switching to onshore by late morning. This was perfect for work, since we would fill our pores with earth during the mid day hours and then head off down to the beach for a sunset bath with a few waves to boot.

Every day was challenging and we tried to make it as productive as possible. Converting an old horse stable into a home became one of our many projects. Electricity was run down from the main house and water pressure was achieved from tanks elevated 10m up the hill. I helped tiling the floor, putting the windows in and building a library. Water and wind proofing the nest was an ongoing struggle, constantly finding leaks and breezes as the wind swung in different directions.

My brother gave kite lessons in town, started building a long board, fins, souvenir coasters and all sorts of handcrafts from wood. He was really helpful with all the projects; the chicken coop and the road that connects the house with the main driveway. We bonded with our new Malawian friends, worked the land and shared their difference and similarities points while collecting horse poo for compost and turning it into the ground.

Photo: Laura rudin

Photo: Laura rudin

The Map of Africa, an astonishing view point and also a paragliding and speed-riding launch spot was also part of the adventure. Our Norwegian friend, Dennis, tried unsuccessfully to fly from there in dodgy winds a couple of times. We had to go get him out of some small trees a little way down the hill. Fortunately he was not injured and his wing sustained no damage either.

Once every two weeks we would drive to George, the closest city,

to get whatever the town could not supply us with. Getting there was an incredible drive through the old national road which is a dirt track in parts, surrounded by indigenous forests with rivers, where we would stop and refresh ourselves with short dips in the dark brown mountain water. This road was crowded with different kinds of monkeys. One particular type, the vervet monkey, really surprised me with his bright sky-blue testicles, and inquisitive nature. The berries and edible mushrooms that grew on the fringes of the old winding road, after a good spell of rain, always tasted better than shop bought produce.

Another important aspect of the trip was the role art played in everyday life. I was amazed by the variety and subject matter the Africans use to express their creativity. The most impressive pieces were immense head sculptures with finely decorated details, and also life size animals. The ingenuity that shines through can be seen in the illuminated beaded sculptures where the artist would construct wire frames with some times tens of thousands of beads.

Photo: Laura Rudin

Photo: Laura Rudin

Before we flew out, I was taken to a bizarre unused military base in the suburbs of the city where I met Andre Laubscher.

He has been looking after his children and many other street children who find their way to him, and is constantly battling with uptight neighbors and greedy property developers. He grows a lot of his own food and is actively involved in animal husbandry. He is also a phenomenal artist and rents out spaces to other struggling creatives who need a place to work, but cannot afford escalating rent prices.

I have only visited small bites of this magnificent and prodigious continent, and it definitively has a delicious taste which I want to experience again. Since most of my travels have been concentrated on the east coast, my plan is to see what the west coast has to offer. It is a desolate, sparsely populated stretch of coast line, offering exceptional waves and uncrowded lineups. The waters are icy cold and the marine life is still in abundance. I would like to visit some of the khoi-khoi settlements further up the coast, towards the Kalahari Desert, where a dwindling population struggles to hang on to their language and culture.

For more information about Southern Africa visit http://www.southafrica.net/za/en/landing/visitor-home.