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.)
A town where ‘togetherness’ means something
Bosman immortalised. Image: Judy Barnes.
I had had two weeks of Marico hospitality and I was smitten. For instance, 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. I stayed in the Marico Bushvevld Dam Caravan Park camp site (Also known as Riekertsdam Camp.) The rates then (in 2019) were R60 a day plus R50 extra for electricity and water. It’s not a posh camp but it’s clean and the birdlife and the sunsets are wonderful plus it’s run by a salt-of-the-earth couple, Hansie and Veronica Schmulling. (Phone 083 733-4251, Website)
Ben and Sarie Raubenheimer perform a traditional boere danse (farmer dance) for the crowd at the Bosman Weekend. Image: Judy Barnes.
There was a lady there who was a passionate photographer. Hermien Webb documented the events in the area and had lived in the Marico for less than a year but she told me she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else now. “You get to know people, unlike the cities.” This was a comment that seemed to be a part of everyone’s vocabulary, in one form or another. People actually knew each other.
The famous watercolourist Bill McGill entranced us all with his painting skills. Sadly, he passed less than a year later. Image: Judy Barnes.
I had to ask myself, yet again, how many of my Johannesburg suburb’s neighbours had I actually really known? If I was honest, I had to admit, very few. Gone were the days when we mingled freely. It was often a matter of when the sun set, the shutters went up and we hid behind high walls, our dogs as our first line of defence, with our security guards only a press of a button away. It wasn’t as though crime didn’t exist outside the big cities, it just wasn’t as pervasive or blatantly in evidence.
The Re-Kho Dance Group captivate their audience at the Bosman Weekend. Image: Judy Barnes.
The Shed was a fresh produce store run by Geraldine Bennett with whom I, in such a short period of time, became a friend. Sadly, not a month later I was attending her funeral.
Geraldine was a fourth generation Marico lady. Not content to stay in a backwater, she became an investigative journalist working in television, radio and even modelling for Gucci. After living in London, she returned to try and give her mother the dream of a farm-guesthouse but it didn’t pan out. Nevertheless, Geraldine’s insight into the Marico itself was the most impressive. She emphasised that, “there is an inexplicable energy in Groot Marico that’s relentless. It’s not some flaky nonsense, it really exists. Groot Marico demands authenticity. The place brings you to your knees and makes you face yourself. Your real self. ‘Lady Groot Marico’ is a powerful force.”
Marico resident, Maggie, even put some of Bosman’s works to music. Image: Judy Barnes.
Geraldine says that dreams, desires and needs are incredibly simple for most people there. It’s a community of survivors – tough people. The Marico “scrapes the veneer off a person to expose the real self – survive or die – not in any spiritual way, it’s just an energy. People here are prepared to realise the real values of life are not the trappings of wealth – slowly it seeps into their souls that life is not the Porsche, the big house and the 2.6 kids as the be-all and end-all of everything.”
You’re never too young to dance ballroom. Children from the Thusanang Early Learning Centre. Image: Judy Barnes.
How refreshing, I thought. How many people have that kind of insight into a place? Very few and each person I got to know bore testimony to her words. I had discovered a gem of a town with ‘real’ people and I haven’t even begun to tell you what else was to be found.
A woman escapes the crowds during the Groot Marico’s Bosman weekend. Image: Judy Barnes.
Annual get-togethers at the Herman Charles Bosman Living Museum finds member of the Literary Society celebrating the writer’s life in various ways. I was fortunate enough to be there at the right time. Jolene Geldenhuys-Muir even composed guitar music to accompany some of Bosman’s poetry. However, there was also hard physical work to make the place what it is today. The community pulled together, clearing tree roots, painting walls and so on to ensure it happened. The word ‘togetherness’ is meaningfully applied in this community. They really do work to make stuff happen.
There was so much more to discover, like on the other side of the courtyard, where Grant Smith, affectionately known as The Gong Master, was playing a wide variety of musical instruments, asking the group of schoolchildren to identify the different sounds, whether a bird or a frog and so on and how those sounds affected them, whether it made them happy, sad or whatever. An interesting exercise to broaden their minds.
Being involved is the overall message for the Marico community.
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