Fast and furious in the Baviaanskloof

2017-05-09 19:00 - Anje Rautenbach
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There are a few things I don’t understand in life, like the theory of quantum physics, why women pout on photos and why some people have a need for speed while traversing through nature.

It baffles me. That last one really gets to me.

I’ve made peace with the fact that as long as hashtags exist duck lips will not fade away and I’ve come to the realisation that to be baffled by quantum physics I first need to need to grasp the meaning of the words that make up the meaning of the word, quantum, but getting all revved up and acting like Vin Diesel on winding dirt roads, where animals may or may not roam, ja, that one gets to me.

It gets me a wee bit angry.

And it got me again when I visited the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area in the Eastern Cape recently.

It got me standing in the middle of a cloud of dust, pushed up against the side of the road, just waiting for a convoy of bikers to pass through. And just when I thought it was all over, another 4x4 sped by and waved in the process of colouring me with particles of the road.

And then another one, and a few more.

It is not the speeding part I don’t grasp, it is where it occurs.

The Baviaanskloof is one of the most ecologically diverse areas, not only in South Africa but in the world.

It is a World Heritage Site for plants’ sake and with the most diverse floral kingdom per square kilometer on earth it hosts seven out of eight of South Africa’s biomes. It is simply a spectacular stretch of 210 000 hectares with a mix of farming and conservation; peaceful, remote, untouched and with limited cellphone signal.

It is seven eights of everything and nature at its best.

But there is something unnatural about the way drivers travel through the kloof.

You see, you simply don’t stumble upon the kloof, you deliberately choose the kloof, choose to be encapsulated by nature, choose the silence and choose the 200 kilometer stretch of dirt road between Willowmore and Patensie, a stretch of dirt road that will have you airborne and bouncing up and down for at least a solid 8 hours if you attempt to do it in a day.

Luckily for first time visitors or stumble uponers all the information – from the distances to the time it takes to cover the distances - is readily available from the offices where you pay your visitors fee, where you pick up your map or when you go through the reserve’s gates.

Now this is wear my confusion sets in; quantum physics 101.

Like I said, it is not the speeding part I don’t grasp, it is where it occurs.

Why, for the love of all of the seven biomes, do people speed in, on, over and through a reserve?

Why, for the love of World Heritage Sites worldwide, do people disrespect a winding road – unknown or semi-unknown to them – and take chances?

Why, for the love of staying alive, do people blindly trust that there will be no oncoming vehicle or person around the next corner or around the next sharp bend?

Why, for the love of South Africa, do nature-loving-people speed through one of the country’s most diverse areas, an area they paid to visit, an area they deliberately chose to visit?

Why, for the love of all the law, do people just not bother with rules and adhere to speed limits?

Why, for the love of animals crossing and animals in their natural habitat, do people disturb the peace with raging engines and monster wheels?

Why, for the love of noon, do you fast and furious through the kloof when there is a whole afternoon and at least another hour to spare?

Why, for the love of being a wee bit angry, do people wave at you when your hand signal actually meant, “slow down”?

It makes me a tiny bit angry. Not a lot. Just a whole lot of tiny bits.

This recent visit to the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area reminded me about an incident that happened about two years ago when a Sunday drive through the Gamtoos Valley got rudely interrupted just as the wheels were about to touch the dirt road of the Baviaanskloof.

From the front came a bakkie with a cloud of dust and as it passed by its wheels kicked up more than just dust, a stone hit the back window with a loud bang and shattered the whole day into tiny bits of glass. A whole lot of tiny bits because the driver simply could not be bothered to slow down.