A Slice of Rural Africa
Words and pics by Peter Brigg, callofthestream.wordpress.com
I can't recall the number of times I have hiked into the mountains to hunt wild trout in these pristine environments, but I do know it is many. I have also written often of my experiences, of the adventures and the pleasures that this kind of flyfishing brings me. What I have seldom mentioned is that the first part of these hikes usually involves an hour or two of passing through rural settlements where the people we encounter have always been inquisitive and friendly.
Inquisitive in that they are always interested to know where we come from, where we are going and why we are carrying so much stuff. Friendly in that they always have a ready smile and greeting.
These folk are poor, living a life of subsistence, far from roads, no electricity or running water – their possession are meagre and consists mainly of a few pots and pans, rudimentary beds or maybe just a mattress of sorts on the floor and a few blankets – their clothing is clearly hand-me-downs, shoes often far too big for them and usually coming apart at the seams – cooking is done on open fires with wood collected from miles away just as is their water for all their daily needs from the nearest stream.
Most of the kraals house a few children and grandparents while the parents, if they have a job, are many miles away in the nearest town or city and only visit occasionally. The children if they are not helping with chores, play happily together in small groups – games they have developed of their own.
Walking through the hills among these scattered settlements, meeting some of the people is a humbling experience – they have very little in a material sense, in contrast to our packs, filled to the brim with technical gear, food, stoves, lights, cameras and bristling with expensive fly rods.
News always spreads quickly of our presence in these hills and the children will run long distances on well worn dusty paths just to follow us, asking for sweets, money and even lately, cell phones, which shows the connection to our modern world.
Occasionally they will ask for hooks and line, but when they are shown size 18 flies and 7x tippet, there is a wide grin and the surprised response is usually, "eish".
There is a true sense of the feeling of Africa in these places – the sounds of distant melodic voices as they communicate with one another in their unique way across the valleys and from kraal to kraal, cattle lowing, goats bleating, the odd crack of a whip as the herdsmen round up their animals, cocks crowing and sometimes the beating of distant drums and women singing traditional Zulu and Xhosa songs passed down over the ages as they go about their daily chores.
Maybe they don't realize it because daily life is hard, and much of their time is taken up with the basics of surviving, but from our perspective, they live in a small slice of paradise – such contrasting views.