THERE’S a beautiful old religious song by Jim Reeves that goes: Across the bridge, there’s no more sorrow; Across the bridge, there’s no more pain; The Sun will shine across the river; And you’ll never be unhappy again.
These were not my thoughts when the Storms River Bridge flew by beneath my Polo’s undercarriage.
However, slowly, but surely, I became aware that things were changing. It was as if I’d driven into another world: there were no more potholes; the grass by the roadside was immaculately maintained; the rivers we passed were spotlessly clean – devoid of plastic bags and all the rubbish that’s littering the precious rivulets in and around Jeffreys Bay.
My friend and I were on our way to Bredasdorp, and the furthest tip of Africa.
I’d never been in this part of the country before, and I didn’t know what to expect. In my mind’s eye I was seeing the equivalents of Humansdorp and Jeffreys Bay, or any of the familiar towns here in the Eastern Cape.
I had become so used to dirty, potholed streets, vendors plying their wares on the sidewalks, so-called car-watchers pestering motorists, CBD buildings in disrepair, school children and vagrants lounging around in the middle of the day, that I, initially, started to become worried some terrible disaster had hit Bredasdorp. Except there was a municipal cleaner in every street actually sweeping and picking up the debris – even on Sunday. We drove past the RDP houses, and there were no extra shacks behind them. No electric cables snaked their way across the streets. Here and there, patches of veggie gardens and even a flower bed or two could be seen at the front door.
Although there were a few small children outside, there were no adult men sitting around, or walking the streets. I’m guessing they were all at work.
The streets were spotless. All the buildings in the CBD were occupied, not like here, where most of the premises in town are empty. Could this be the same country, with the same people and the same national government?
Later, we visited some of the development projects – a candlemaking enterprise, two pottery factories and a goose-feather business – all started by ordinary housewives with a hobby.
I chatted with the girls who couldn’t stop telling me how they absolutely adored their work. The owner said she practically had to beg them to take time off.
On our way back, our host phoned to tell me I’d accidently forgotten one of my bags at their house. He said he would leave the car gate open and hang the bag on the security gate outside. Three hours later, we drove in to pick it up, and there it was: A large, red bag, hanging at the front door for all to see.
Crime is practically non-existent; I’m guessing it’s because everyone earns their keep. We might want to campaign for moving the border to the Van Staden’s Bridge for “no more sorrow”.