Just Knock on the Tree
The Odyssey of the Coddiwompling Tortoise – Rozinante – and The Storyteller
(Coddiwomple: to travel in a purposeful manner toward a vague destination.)
When Farm Weekends turn into Permanent Habitats
Escaping the Big Smoke and farming on weekends is something many people do with a passion. Sometimes, they leave that Smoke behind forever.
Colin and Maggie outside their unique home. Image Judy Barnes.
Farmers are being encouraged to open their old farm houses for tourists as Groot Marico is only two hours from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Botswana. Accommodation is springing up everywhere. Camping sites abound in the area.
Many weekend farmers often opt to live in the Marico district permanently. At time of writing, mechanical engineer, Colin Cooper and his wife Maggie arrived almost two decades ago to farm full-time but circumstances change and when I met them, Colin was running a bicycle workshop – with a difference. He’s still running it and still on a pro-bono basis. Corporates are ordering his Qhubeka-brand bicycles to distribute to rural children. There was even a team in the Tour de France a few years ago. The bikes are of a sturdy design, for use on rural roads and are meant to be easily fixed with basic tools. Qhubeka means ‘to move forward, to progress’ and their belief is: ‘We give a hand up – not a handout’.
Colin’s prototype Qhubeka bicycle. Image Judy Barnes.
An ardent cyclist himself, Colin has even designed his own bicycle, the TrakTa, with Qhubeka gladly also finding sponsors who provide wheels for children, health workers and Community Police Forum members. A few years ago, Volkswagen provided 2 000 bicycles as part of their social development programme required by government.
Colin has reduced the shipping costs of imported materials by designing and making his own frames, forks and spare parts, thereby creating additional jobs for the township residents. The ‘work to earn’ ethos is now inculcated among those who’d like a bicycle to get to school, to work or just carry groceries. Women can earn one by crocheting two blankets, two scarves and a beanie.
My lovely bag — note the button is made from a 2l screw-top soft drink cap. Image Judy Barnes.
Colin says ‘there’s something in the air’ in the Marico – obviously, something encouraging. He even makes cow bells but not for cows. They’ve become popular here, as in Europe, for bicycle races, instead of a starter’s gun, and as souvenirs. Men who assemble 200 cow bells qualify for a bicycle as do women who paint pictures or designs on 200 of them.
Schools can qualify for a bicycle by collecting 10kg of plastic, screw-top bottle caps. Not surprisingly, Colin makes buttons out of them, for shoulder bags. I was a lucky recipient of one gifted from them.
Paint 200 of these and you have yourself a bicycle. Image Judy Barnes.
Colin and Maggie’s ‘Shedquarters’ as they endearingly refer to it, was completely built by both of them. The bulk of the building work was done by Colin, including all the plumbing and solar electrical installation. Maggie helped with the internal walls and did all the painting. There’s even a drawbridge-type staircase.
Further down the main street, I would meet Jolene and more surprises as to just how busy people are in what some may consider just a backwater. Little did they know.
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