Only an incessant metallic tic, disturbed the peace at Injusuthi.
I was lying on a soft lawn of recently mowed grass in a quiet corner of the campsite in this central Drakensberg mountain resort as far from anyone and the noise of their lives as possible, soaking in the view from the open flap of my sky blue, Mt Everest proof, bubble tent.
Curious at the tic-ticking, which, initially, I thought was the engine of my car cooling down, I crawled out of the tent to surprise a group of birds with long beaks plucking at the dead insects wedged into the front grille of the car. And what an exotic, tasty feast it must have been, with insects collected all the way from Cape Town, via the Gariep Dam on the Orange River.
After the birds had scuttled away at my shooing, I lay on my back in the tent cocooned in a womb of perfect peace as my eyes roved lazily over the rolling foothills, warm, comfortable and relaxed as far from everything and anything as I could get.
The night before from the campsite at Golden Gate I watched in awe as the setting sun turned the surrounding mountains gold. Earlier that week I had left the industrial brown haze of Johannesburg and the Witwatersrand.
“Only those who go far,” said Napoleon Bonaparte, “know how far they can go.”
Was Napoleon already exile on St Helena island when he said that I wondered. Was he standing frowning a the edge of the cliff I staring at the horizon ? Was he dreaming of home, had he gone too far ?.
Napoleon once had most of Europe at his feet. Now in exile thousands of miles from anywhere, he insisted on wearing his full dress suit and military manners for dinner; Maybe he had not really gone anywhere at all.
From Injusuthi with the tent in the boot of the car I drove with a head full of mountains down to the sea at Durban.
There under airless skies I turned right to drive on through the day parallel to the sugarcane of the kwaZulu/Natal South Coast across the bridge into the Transkei at Port Edward, then right again after Umtata to Cradock past the Mountain Zebra National Park, with the majestic flat-top hills the Camdebo rising gently up on each side of a landscape stretching to the end of the world.
It was a long drive across the brush-scrub plains to come to a stop in the Klein Karoo at Anysberg where I sat down on a warm concrete stoep of a small stone cottage with the sunset behind me and Towerkop directly north as a point of reference under a night of a million stars.
The ancestor spirits of my youth live in the Drakensburg where there was no such place as far. Everything was in reach,
I was a mountaineer, a game ranger, a fighter pilot, like Biggles, I was Fanagio winning the grand Prix and Stirling Moss when Fangio lost. I was Donald Campbell breaking world speed records and swinging my hips as Little Eva did the Locomotion. I was the eagle soaring above the amphitheatre, I was a glider with my arms as wings and I few through the skies.
Perhaps that’s what Napoleon was thinking as he stood on those cliffs looking into the distance. We can go as far as our dreams, and that’s about as far as we can ever go.