A Place Called Numbi

In Features, My Piece of the Sky, Opinion, Travel by Marelise Prinsloo Jacob

Many, many miles from here there is a place called magic-land. It’s not a place I’ve ever seen before, my sisters only told me about it.

When we were all young they went there with my father and brought back many things. In my mind, I imagined a wonderful place, as magical as a 5 year old can make it.

Of course in reality, they went into town, to an ordinary market. I was sick in bed and they brought me fudge. That was back when we used to live close by the ocean, and there really were many places that seemed magical.

We lived in a small town called Akasia Park, and on a good day, there were maybe 40 children in the entire school. Every Sunday after church my mother packed the picnic basket; we would go down to the white beach and spend the entire day there.

The water there is much too cold to swim in, the best you can do is watch the waves roll in while the seabirds try and catch some food of their own. I was young then, and life consisted of building the best sand castle, eating the biggest ice cream and falling asleep on the beach, between great big dunes and washed up sea bamboo drying in the sun.

But grown-ups make decisions children never understand, and we moved up north, to Pretoria and the city, to a big school and away from the

big blue ocean. Here my mother was much happier, since she has always loved the wild, has always been more at home in the Low veldt with its sweeping yellow grass lands and thunder storms over the horizon. They bought time-share in a little place just outside the Kruger National Park, a little place called Numbi.

Here you can see all the stars at night, here there is nothing but wild and wind and nature. There we lived in a bungalow with a thatched roof and wooden beams running across the ceiling. It had the smell of grass and trees, and it was cool inside, no matter how warm it got outside in the midday heat.

Year after year we spend our holidays there, driving through the Kruger Park, quietly watching the lions and elephants, getting too excited when the baboons and monkeys come right up to our window. Forgetting, I suppose, most children never get the chance to see an animal living in the wild.

As time went by and we grew older, we visited Numbi less and less. Till one day my mother said they have decided to sell it. It was all for the best they reasoned, life wasn’t what it used to be, surrounding areas had become too dangerous due to a lawlessness spreading through the country.

My sisters and I were studying and working, starting our own lives, we didn’t have time to go on holiday anymore. Besides, life had become so expensive.

Then my boyfriend called me one day. His parents had a time share house, but couldn’t go. We packed our bags and drove the four hour road to the Low veldt, to a place called Thulamela, looking over the little town of Hazyview.

As we drove on the dirt road looking for the place, we passed a name board I thought looked familiar. It was Numbi. Thulamela, it turned out, was right next to our old holiday home.

It will probably be a while before I get to see that part of the country again, if ever. Career choices and relationships sometimes take us places far from where we started from.

This country of mine will not give me the future I need; I will have to go find it somewhere else. But at least I know I had the best of both worlds.

Table Mountain, Cape Town sunsets and sand castles in the wet sand. Grass lands, yellow and brown fields as far as the eye can see, mist over the valleys of Hazyview. If I never get to see these things again, I will know that I have seen them, and they will stay with me forever.