An unforgettable land

The end of a perfect day

The Khoisan called it the Great Dry Thirstland and now it is living up to its name.  Beaufort West, which was my home for 13 years, has no water.  Things there are so bad that people I have never heard of here in the Free State are sending me e.mail messages entreating me to call on everyone I know to pray for rain for Beaufort West.   Bloemfontein has had a few good showers lately and I feel guilty knowing how the people of Beaufort West are struggling.     Some of the recent e.mail messages  have included photographs of the Great Gamka Dam  in the Nuweveld Mountains.   Gamka, is the San word for Lion, and in its heyday the Gamka was a lion of a dam.  When I lived in Beaufort West it was a wonderful stretch of water, stocked with fish, a beautiful sight right on top of the mountains, but then, water is always a welcome sight in the arid zone.  Wally and I often drove up into the mountains on hot summer afternoons to get away from the oppressive heat of the town and each time we did we would glimpse the waters of the Gamka Dam as we rounded the bend on the of the first steep curls of Molteno Pass and feel confident that it would always keep the town supplied with water.     In those days it was full and the sight of all that water  was comforting.  Now this once mighty dam is empty.   Farmers have tried to rescue the fish.  They scooped up bucketsful and carried off hundreds of fish in bags and huge drums on the backs of their bakkies,  but even this gargantuan effort was not enough many were left struggling in the mud which now, as some of the photogtraphs show, has turned to cracked ground.   Despite these hardship, I miss the Karoo.  I miss the sunrises, the sunsets and the Nuweveld Mountains, which seemed to be right in my backyard. On the positive side, I believe Beaufort West is installing a plant to purify waste water and that this is one of the first of its kind in the country.  Well done!   Just goes to prove the people of the Karoo are as hardy as the land itself – they can always make a plan!

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