Day 299: Mashing with the Vans

Mashing with the Vans

I left Middelburg on a fine day with a vague direction in mind and the secure knowledge that I would meet whom I had to meet. In this way I encountered a local businessman who gave me a lift on his way to a farm. We shared thoughts about our respective life paths and he said a prayer for my safety before he dropped me off again. Then there were the two guys who drove past me, stopped, had a heated discussion and eventually turned back. The driver admitted that it took some persuading from the passenger for him to turn around. They were curious about me and landed up making a thirty-kilometre detour to drop me off near Mashishing.

From my vantage point the town of Mashishing (Lydenburg), cradled by mountains, looks well nurtured and protected. Another vehicle stops. Reverses. ‘Are you heading into town?’

I meet Denville van der Merwe and his co-worker, Koos. After I have told them my story Denville concludes that before I continue on my way I must meet his wife. In a classic case of preconceived ideas I anticipate a regte tannie who will do her best to persuade me to go home.

When we arrive at their home I follow Denville into the kitchen. The woman standing at the basin turns around with a huge smile that embraces her eyes and her mouth. I notice a crystal dangling from her neck. A crystal? We introduce ourselves and I explain why I, a stranger, am standing here in her kitchen. ‘Please tell me you have nowhere to stay tonight,’ Corrie beams.

Her children have to meet me . . . it is as if I’m a long-lost relative. We fetch Anushka and Doné from school. They each give me a stone to continue on the journey with me and when I tell Anushka that I have received quite a few so far, she makes me a velvet bag to keep them all safe. Hand-stitched, it becomes one of my most prized possessions.

On my third day with this fantastic family they take my dirty clothes, smack them into the washing machine and declare, ‘That’s it. Now you’ll have to spend another day. We’ve washed you in!’