I spent nearly two years regularly visiting the harbour village of Kalk Bay on the peninsular of the Cape of Good Hope and which sits comfortably in the northern nook of False Bay (Die Blou Dam). Many of my images were originally made with digital media and in colour and the results were initially very satisfying. For this reason, and for the pleasure of the fishing people of Kalk Bay, I produced a small book with many of these pictures; “Fishermen – Kalk Bay”. This is available at Kalky’s on the harbour and at the KB Modern in a very limited edition.
However, I found some lack of satisfaction with the perfect medium of digital colour and decided to complete the entire 15 images for a new exhibition in black and white. I began shooting with a wonderful Nikon F100, one of the latest and most capable 35mm film cameras produced by Nikon. I have many of these images still to be printed! This ease of practice still did not generate a feeling of accomplishment.
In January of 2016, I found a 1983 Hasselblad 501c from a very well known photographer who had decided to close down her Silver Hallide facility; the whole kit had never been outside the studio and was in perfect condition. The famous Hasselblad is a square (6cm x 6cm) medium format camera. Focusing; exposure and film manipulation is entirely manual and in fact quite physical! This was the trigger that I had been lacking and my shooting schedule took off with unexpected verve. This included a 15 hour stint on a 12m line-fishing vessel in quite rough conditions (with a heavy manual camera). By October I had the first 10 images printed and framed and every reasonable image printed as a rough proof in my own darkroom.
The final prints were made by the world renowned Master Printer – Dennis Da Silva at The Alternative Print Workshop in Johannesburg. All images were printed on Ilford Fine Art silver hallide paper, signed and numbered (Only 10 images of each will be produced). Dennis and I spent 20 marathon hours in the darkroom to finish this collection. This exhibition should really have been in the name of Dennis De Silva. I just took the pics.
Finally there were 15 images hanging at the notoriously delicious Olympia Cafe (You have to try their Yellowtail) and I was given the space for the whole month of February. I think that the Olympia Cafe is by far the funkiest Art Space in the Cape. Do try and visit some of the shows there.
You can see more of the images in B&W and Digital Colour at: renepaulgosselin.photoshelter.com
The second part of our epic Trans-Lesotho Trek ~ 300kms across the entire Kingdom.
The Second Leg.
Then day four; Our first great river crossing over the Makhaleng River (The place of the aloes), fortunately with a high level bridge supplied, a good pull up the other side to Ha Griffith (the 19c Acheif Magistrate) and over the first hills and dales towards the looming Maluti Mountains. The Ribaneng River Camp, reached with a healthy 6 hour hike was a pleasant shady glen well watered and good grazing for the horses. It was here that Mick was washed away downstream in a raging torrent on his last Trans-Lesotho Trek. Tonight we bathe in the river’s gurgling tranquility and tomorrow we attack the formidable “Slide Your Arse Pass”, difficult for both horses and humans.
The going is tough the very beginning at 07.00 in the first cool hours of the day we begin the ascent from 1807m already breathing heavily after the first 100m to Ha Khotso, the little village at the foot of the pass. The path is a ‘bridal path’ and maintenance has been typically abandoned for too long. Climbing the 500m over rocks, loose gravel and giants steps is exhausting, then on reaching the top, there is another 5 kms to go with another 300m to climb! Near the crest of the first ascent a pack horse stumbles and looses it’s load. There is great concern amongst us until Konono helps the animal up and inspect him carefully; he is fit and well, just scared.
Our compensation for this climb; a magnificent view down across the Ribaneng Falls and back across the valleys with a line-of-sight to Malealea Lodge the we see of ‘home’ for the next two weeks. The horses find their heaven in grazing the special long sweet grasses of the highlands. The word ‘horse’ is an anagram for ‘heros’ and they show this throughout the trek.
That night, yet another beautiful camp site on the Ketanyane River at 2352m and it is getting colder.
Mojalefa has the tea ready and is already celebrating his son’s birthday. We join him for tea and warm up. Early nights from now on to escape the cold and the fatigue.
The fifth day dawns early, from this height we see the sun at 5 o’clock. At seven the walkers are on the path. The guides and horses have their daily routine of finishing the packing and catching up with us in an hour or so. We leave the very pretty village of Ha Pontšo to the south and climb again away from the sentinel geese and the waving hands of the villagers.
Only another 6 hours or so to the next little rest-over at Semonkong Lodge; The Place of Smoke.
The lodge (2195m) which snuggles at the foot of a ravine cut in the eons of time by the Maletsunyane River (The place of little deer), was established by men of the Fraser Trading period as a convenient fly-fishing cabin. It has become an internationally known place for adventure travel and especially for the highest commercial abseil in the world at 205m. The Maletsunyane Falls must surely be the most photographed feature in Lesotho and is a must-visit if you travel through this magnificient mountain kingdom. Access is so easy today by tarred road but we have walked our first 100km to get here!
The Third Long Leg.
Back on the trail after some pleasant respite, the team heads off on day 7 towards the next great barrier; the Senqunyane River Valley. We look up at the looming mountains but our first stop is just outside the town and sets the pattern for the next week; buying up the local spinach “morogo”. Then the usual series of ups and downs: Likorolo Ha Elia, a great steep climb to 2500m then down 100m and up 100m to Ha Tanielle and then the long slog down treacherous gravel and wet slippery rocky paths, 890m to the great river at 1648m. The rain, welcomed in the hot afternoon cooling our blistering feet but also our nerves and thirsts. This was our longest day so far; 25km covered in 8,5 hours.
Day 8 starts with a ‘pleasant’ 600m climb; we are now beginning to get a little fit, up the well marked vehicle track that our friends have tested last year; the locals remember the 4×4 vividly. We walk the ‘road’ easily in the pleasant company of another traveller, a shepherd who tells of all the latest news in the area. The guides and horses catch up with us soon and we check the route. All is well after our first 6,5km but we soon have to quit the easy going, off the path again and down what my previous guides have described “only for Basotho and not for beginners”.
From this first summit of 2200m we will slip and slide 547m down the hottest and most uncomfortable descent of the trek, to the Mansonyane River Valley and finally all jump into the chilled waters in this acadian landscape. It impossible to leave and we snatch a power sleep in the rare shade of the Cheche bushes (Leucosidia Sericea), and then swim again. Even the guides jump in the river this time. It’s very hot and we know what awaits; ~ the hardest climb of the adventure, the longest and the hottest. We leave under the afternoon sun from 1721m and begin the 7km pull up 600m to the 2250m Camp above the Methalaneng River. The slope is 67% in places. Another 25km covered.From our windy camp site the views are powerful to the west and south even before the setting sun throws a mantle of red and orange glows over the Maluti mountains. But the evening solar wind picks-up and hurries two of us into a large tent, made ready for the cooks. An intricate but not delicate dish emerges half and hour later and everyone leans against the blasts and gusts, no chance of a table.
It is the 9th day. Another range to cross (2568m) and another very steep run down into the next river. Each new valley opens up a new adventure and a new sense of excitement. We really are beginning to conquer these slopes and have time and energy to eat up the landscapes with our eyes. Here the Khutlo se Metsi River is crossed on booted foot, the rains have stayed away for more than the farmers would wish. This river is a tributary to the legendary Lesobeng River (The place of the eye) which we now begin to discover from well above the first of it’s magnificent gorges. We search in vain but see no eye; a natural sandstone bridge, well documented by the historian David Ambrose. Slowly around a never ending series of contoured curving paths, and in the soft sleepy heat of the afternoon, the town of Qobacha approaches. A sudden crash of noise from diesel engines, cars, machines and people dashes our walking state of mind into alertness. The change is hard to bear. We loose the guides and horses to shopping and find a quiet path away from the bustle; only a few more kilometres to the school and another camp site with a river but this one comes with a crowd. The school is just finishing and the children are over the moon to see these foreigners walking for fun! They sometimes walk miles just to get to school. The children stay as late as they can until mothers shout for homework to be done and water to be carried, from rondavels above our beckoning river. Any chance of a wash now? Well we can at least wash our socks and hope that the rain stays away and that the farmers don’t hear us hoping aloud. It rains only lightly on the washing so everyone is happy or rinsed and cooking can begin.
We are over half way at 172km from the start and now we will stretch our legs over some long days, but first a pleasant walk along the Lesobeng, still searching for the bridge and none of the locals can help. The path follows the river at a tolerable height for my vertigo. For some reason the old British bridle path stays on the other side going up and down careless of the hiker. We stay more on the level now than ever before and enjoy this most beautiful of river valleys. Until the guides and horses catch up that is. Then it’s over the river and up and up again to finish at an early camp site after only 16,9km ~ an easy day. Although we calculate that the other path could have been an hour quicker! But the guides are on horses so they must know and we gracefully accept and enjoy this extra-ordinary site called Khomo ea Raha (The cow that kicks) as the river makes a hard right turn at this spot, like a dog’s leg. The slow winding river takes the name of an ‘old man walking’ , Khokhoba in sesotho. The old man is cold here at 2484m, rain comes with fireworks after bed-time and we all marvel through our nylon walls at the repertoire of the sky. Big water barrels are being thrown about up there in the clouds and some of it is running under the tents.
And after such a theatrical night another beautiful day awaits on day 11, high altitude fresh air and water and a good breakfast. Our first climb to 3000m awaits. Over easy contoured hillocks and well marked paths we hesitate a little before leaving the “Old Man” and heading away south east up another picturesque little valley. This one has it’s own herd of Grey Rhebock which streak off up into the kranses as soon as they get our wind. The valley becomes a mountain again and the slope stiffens to 40% and then summits at a breath taking 3km above the sea. We almost feel we should have sight of the escarpment of Natal but that will escape us for days yet. For the moment we need to concentrate on our longest knee breaking descent; 17 kilometres and 1200 meters down to the Koma Koma bridge.
At last the great Senqu River, a milestone and landmark on this special hike. The Senqu (a khoi word of unknown origin) is known to most as the Orange River which takes it source high in the Drakensberg/Maluti Mountain near Mont au Sources. On leaving the borders of Lesotho it becomes known also as the !Xariep. We are camping next to this major river, still at 1788m and it has a long way to go to the Atlantic Ocean. A new bridge, built beautifully, in the last year now spans the river and replaces the old low level bridge. It is a token of new levels that will fill the river as far back as the Katse Dam on the Malibamatso River, far upstream, when a new dam is built across the Senqu. This will be the first on this river in Lesotho, but not the last. Respectfully and full of awe we cross the new bridge and begin, on day 12, the slow road climb up to the shops at Makunyapane, then leave the main road and find the track for Pitseng. Our third 25km day takes 7,5 hours and we are exhausted and cold at the 2515m high secondary school. Not too much time cooking and in bed by six thirty. The wind chill must take the temperature down below freezing, a far cry from the 37 degrees of day 2. Tomorrow will be the longest day. We have covered 242km.
Forboding; it is day 13. It is still cold at 07.00 departure and there is a five kilometres contour to follow around the valley before we even loose sight of the school. We climb 300m but it is still cool and the day looks good. Then a contoured path stretches out like a snake along a never ending range of mountains, we can count perhaps 10 or 12 peaks ahead of us. Over which one will be the valley of our camp site. This question burns in our mind all day. Walking above the 2700 contour, the path is moving from the north of the east-west range and then turning back onto the south side. The views of the Mashai River are difficult to behold without dizzy spells, I keep my eyes on the mountain-side and avoid looking down. Taking photographs is a head spinning challenge. We are two, sometimes three hundred meters above the river and if the slopes are vertical in places then the path chooses that spot to become slippery.
At Ha Solomon, one of the only two villages we pass today, the path drops down 300 again. We have a low level lunch in a goats pasture. And as though we had taken some quality from the beasts we climb the rocks again, perhaps a little more agile than yesterday. Soon the only souvenir of the valley is the drinking water, smokey from the generous gentle lady’s hut with a little after taste of plastic. But this is all the water we will find at nearly 3000m altitude . The day seems to go on longer than we could imagine and at every turn of a contour our hopes are raised by the perception of a ‘nek’ where there maybe a way down. Or perhaps it will be the next one. The air is cool but the sun is burning at this altitude. Everyone has ‘hotfoot’, a condition that encourages blisters and misery. Water is going to be a problem soon. At 24km we peak again at 2900m. At 27km we are again at 2956m and then the last nek appears and we at last seem to cross to the north of the range and the image of camp flashes in and out of our hopes. At 30km we go down and peak again at 2928m and then loose sight of the guides and horses in the mist. Not happy, Mick and I have lagged behind and the ladies seem to be well ahead not out of sight of the guides but we cannot see either. Horse spoor is all we have to go on and our gait is tired and unsure as we descend into muddy slopes and slippery paths. We have to go down 380 meters to find at last the ever smiling Ramphe, waiting for us. The ladies were well ahead and almost in the camp. Ten and a half hours and 34 kilometres, this is a killer day even for the under sixties in our group! We could not cook for lack of energy. The guides had the kettle going and tea was all we could handle. (The wine had run out some days ago.) Then an instant soup and the sleeping bags called. We all slept 10 hours, almost as many hours as the walk, and woke incredibly refreshed. The human body has always it’s surprises, we were ready for the next 16km hike and the 14th day.
What we could now call a ‘good’ climb started the day. Within the first 7km we had risen from 2546m to 2940m and that was nearly the last big one, but there is always another and four more peaks were lined up for us on the 16 kms passage. To help us on our way, a group of herdsmen caught up with our troup and kept us company. They had walked all of our 34 kms yesterday but they had started 12 kilometres before our camp site, at the Makunyapane shops! The old man was on a well kitted donkey, his son on foot and they were driving a few dozen sheep and goats. That is why the Basotho think we are mad to walk for pleasure. They at lest were going to Sani Top in search of a wife!
This part of the track was the closest we were to come to the cliffs of Natal until we reached Sani Top. From the Majoe Matso to the Pitsaneng we were never more than two kilometers from the border. This is the most photogenic, breath taking part of the 300 kilometre walk and soon the escarpment itself would be unveiled for us. Dropping into the Pitsaneng River, we were greeted by more and more herdboys and some of the largest kraals we have ever seen, with rooms for hundreds of animals. The boys all kept their distances despite the appeal of our other worldly looking goods and food. They seemed to keep watch on our little camp all night aided by their faithful and motley band of hounds. One of these seemed to attract the attention of our Ramphe who was in the market for a canine companion. He casually walked over to the group of lads who were watching our show and the negotiations began, with great circumspection. Eventually a price was announced but it was too much for our friend; 600 Malutis, five times the price in the village. One more attempt was made later in the evening using some enviable garment as bait but it seems that the beautiful little black mongrel puppy was of too much value to his current owner. These dogs are indeed tough and marvellous creatures.
This last camp had us all full of thoughts and emotions. We had been together now for more than 18 days and walking together for 14, our last day ahead of us. We hang onto our sleeping bags, lagged behind with the ablutions and the folding of gear. Endless cups of tea were brewed as though all the thirst of the hundreds of kilometres came upon us in these last hours! It was our last camp! There was no rush to leave it either as the final stage is only 9,5 kilometres. But leave it we did and waved to all the cavorting young herdboys who still could neither understand our cause nor sell us a dog. And up again past the back of Hodgson’s Peaks and up to the top nek of the Sekhokong Mountain Range at 3100m. From there the view was the most exciting one can imagine, for we were above the Natal Escarpment and looking down onto the back of the Garden Castle and to the north we could clearly see the road works on the Kotisephola Pass (Black Mountain) and the fine new wide gravel road down to Sani Top. The end in sight! Well nearly, as there is always another mountain to cross. At a lower level a few more hills and a little mist took us within a few kilometres of Sani. At the 300 km mark some celebration was allowed, briefly though, for the morning was getting on and we knew that the pub was open and four Maluti Beers were waiting. The beers were at 2874m above mean sea level and that is where we were heading; after 302 kilometres, 94 hours of walking, 12000 meters of uphill and 11000 meters of downhill over 15 walking days.
Being an account of the complete 300 km crossing of the country, on foot, from west to east of four hardy hikers and their guides.
The First Leg ~ Part 1.
And so the voyage commenced. The Border Post of Sephapo’s Gate at 10.00.
Four hikers, four guides and eight ponies all reached the border from Malealea Lodge at the same time and by different routes, the hikers by car and the guides on horseback. We would all return to the Lodge. It seemed like a futile aller-retour but the whole trip has to be done the right way; on foot from one side of Lesotho to the other. No cheating. Malealea is our first stage rest camp.
Photographs for the sponsors and for fun; the local Deputy Chief of the border police decides to join in the foray, I think he really just wanted a promotional tee-shirt from our sponsors Kameraz and Fujifilm. Good publicity because all the tourists will see him at the border.
The Navworld pony steps up to the camera to let us know that he is looking after the spare Garmin GPS 62. The other two are in our pockets ready to start tracking.
A one hour tedious trek along the hot dirt road from the border and we finally get across the N2 tarred Main Road South, into the Lesotho countryside and find the bridal paths that we will be following for 300 km.
The pecking order is established for the first day; our two ladies Ansa and Dawn get to know each other and fly off in the lead, chatting away merrily. Mick and I hold back and try to calm the rhythm which at over 5km/h is too fast. The guides soon become accustomed to our speed and synchronise their halts for rest and watering with ours. Ntate Ramphe, the chief guide knows the country well. He has done parts of this trip many times with hikers, usually from Malealea to Sani pass but never the whole route. Ntate Kanono, Michael Motlomelo and Jeff Mojalefa are all experienced guides and horsemen. They are all riding horses and guiding the four packhorses which carry the bulk of our baggage. We are “slack packing”.
First Camp; Ha Moletsane is a village with primary and high schools and we camp in between the two. The camp site is on the foundations of the old trading post of Danny Bothma, a very well know personality in Lesotho. The local people talk about the Bothma family with endearment but all that remains of the commercial complex are the concrete bases, a grain silo and a few water dams. The long drop toilets which have been taken over by the adjacent local primary school are a good introduction to the local facilities; a new experience.
Day two takes us across the land of dongas. Some of these are 20 metres deep and getting around them extends our route. Ramphe has to take paths that the horses can handle.
The second camp site appears after six hours of marching, around the bend in a river, like an oasis in the desert. The river is still flowing despite a few weeks of drought, past a sweeping bend and sandy beach, perfect for the tents, under the swirling arms of a weeping willow (Salix Babalonica). We are on a small tributary to the Mantekoane River at Ha Moeaneng (The place of Wind). There is not a breeze in the air. Swimming and cooking and a little red wine is lost in eight thirsty companions.
The climb, on the third day, up to Ha Tsoete (The White Place) is a small training for the weeks to come. A hard climb for us but not for Mick who arrives at the summit without a bead on his forehead. Konono leads the group now, something we will see often; his cavalier silhouette on the skyline of our next ascent. From there on it is mostly downhill although it never really is in Lesotho. Today was another short day; only 16 km to Malealea lodge. Some treatment for our first blisters.
The peaceful, organised and well established accommodation at Malealea Lodge, Pony trekking and Mountain Bike Centre, this time felt especially precious. Everyone has sore feet, mainly due to the searing heat of the first three days. Cold water dips, long sleeps, afternoon beers, bandages and bravado about the first days, mixed with some apprehension about the next two weeks in the real mountains. The batteries are charged on the Fujifilm cameras, the Garmins and the hikers.
The late Christopher Robin and I lived in a strangely elongated property which discretely sat comfortably in a downtown suburb of the capital. A long high and roughly hewn, pink granite wall, ran for most of the length of the farm. For that’s what it was for my father; a farm. The farm he had always wanted. The one he was robbed of, never had and had so much longed for. It was small for a farm so we called it a ‘market garden’. This title conferred a certain professionalism, neither with pretention, nor betraying the actual acreage of the enterprise.
At the very north end an enclave, formed by high pink granite walls, roughy hewn blocks, neatly arranged and perfectly pointed with cement, contained a very special place. It was, it seemed to me, only popular once a year. Early in the spring this little enclave became a hive of activity. In the cool air and slight, acid, sandy and well composted soil, grew the capital’s only ‘Muguet’.
My father sold hundreds of sprigs for that festival of spring, so french and so perverted and stolen from the old religion. All the ladies and girls sported my Papa’s muguet in their hair or in their coiffe and then men squeezed them into the finicky little lapel button holes sewed only by the more discerning tailors of the day.
The real value of these :”Lilies of the Valley” for me was nothing to do with workers day. It was the anchor: ~ Any morning I could walk across the large vegetable garden, brushing against the aromatic lavender and rosemary bushes that hardly hid my silhouette from the rising sun. Quietly on my own I could enter, through a small doorless arch, this paradise in between simple earthbound walls and feel the cool, damp aroma, so powerful when your height puts your nose so close to the little flowers.
If life called, time rushed towards school time and other imperatives tried to interrupt this precious moment, if nothing else, not your body, then your mind and your heart stayed firmly planted in amongst those most sweetly fragranced, small delicate annual apparitions that appeared, strangely every year in the cool calmness and sweetness of our little enclosure. My spirit still inhales these perfumes and feels these delicacies.
This week I arrived in your century. I was stuck for a while in the last one and I am not complaining, the second half was a great innings. We had the sexy sixties and flower power after all.
We had Bob Dylan more than you have probably and we definitely had more of the Beatles for longer. We went to the moon and travelled through space in re-usable spacecraft before you retired them and called for Russian Taxi Rockets. We looked into the Sun and sent probes off to distant planets and some of them have only just got there. But it was still the 20th century.
It is not as though I had not embraced the new world either. I even tried my hand at “technology” with clever home brew antennas and complicated black boxes. A complete room full of 20th century equipment was required to speak around the world and bounce radio waves from orbiting satellites
flying 60,000 kms above my crackling headphones. On 1st August 1998 at 10.00 UTC, the ill fated russian space station Mir flew overhead at 600 kms altitude and I unsuccessfully invited the French Commander down for lunch, carefully adjusting my frequency for the doppler effect. “After a glass of wine” he replied on VHF, as clear as a bell; “I would require a lift back up here”. He was definitely a contemporary. I probably had a computer before your birthday and still have the wounded vertebrae from carrying it from one room to another. So it’s not like I didn’t try. My data disks contained what I told them and never requested an update, a deep scan or a defrag but they did require 6 inch envelopes and a big family to do a little job. There were no viruses on that machine as long as the children , excited at wining at Pacman, did not spittle onto the screen.
The crux of the matter is that I could understand everything up until the dying years of the nineteen hundreds. I could dismantle my car and visualise where everything went and what it did or at least what it was supposed to do when things went well. A noise from any particular point of the rose would indicate to me a noisy bearing so to speak. It could be fixed! It was the era of spare parts and these could be purchased without producing your life history and having your retina scanned. Oil rags were not something that cars ran on, they lived in your pocket, ready for action at the first sniff of a leak. Oil stains on your garage floor were a sign of distinction, wealth even.
The 21st century did not take me by surprise. Oh no, not by any means for I had even laughed at the Millenium Bug scam and switched everything off the day before. The very day of that dawn I stood at the ready, armed with multiple killer sprays before switching on even the toaster. No, the century came unexpectedly without surprise. But I knew what we were in for and I was determined to embrace everything new.
Fourteen years later I could still not leave the house without my oil rag, the most vital accessory for a 1980s petrol engined Land Rover, 400,000 kms old. Other peoples cars smell of strange factory induced mossy by-products, designed to induce feeling of modernity foreign to me; cleanliness, leather-care products, oil and grease free perfumes sprayed into the glove box just prior to closing the deal. Mine has that greasy carpet,burnt rubber,old cigarette,dead rat kind of smell; that’s what people say. Fine with me until the petrol price hits the R14 per soup-spoon level.
It become cheaper to take the Blue Train to Cape Town than to drive my car which needs 450 litres to get there and back. That is probably more than a Jumbo Jet costs per passenger.
So the 21st arrives and with it hope for the eternal driver and traveller; the less expensive kilometer. Solar powered, hybrids, fully electrical cars, hydrogen cells powered and even compressed air cars to be made in a factory in Kyalami. But the price of my petrol climbs quickly to disavow the promises of driving utopia. On the 1st of January 2000 the Brent Crude Oil spot price hovered around the $20 a barrel and on the same day in 2014 the price had climbed to nearly $110.
So from a litre of Super at under R3.00 my poor old Land Rover needed the new LRP at over R14.00 per litre; at 15 litres per 100 kilometres that means R2.25 per km. Her technology is not keeping up with the times. And nor is my pocket money. Something has to be done.
On one of those balmy ‘going no-where’ trips around the country I sit looking at the Knysna Louries flying freely and at zero rands per kilometre, from my garden bench in a backpackers. It occurs to me to stay here for a while. Why? Because the backpackers cost R200 a night/day and if I begin the next stage of my journey I will have to pay R700 of petrol, my daily burden with a 3.5l V8 ~ 2000kg motor car. I will have to fork out R3375 one of these days to get back from the Cape! It takes me 5 days to go to the Cape and 14 years to come back to reality. I need an oil rag sniffer that will set me free of the petrol station, diesel even. New technology, small turbo, direct injection, common rail, 100kw, 400nm and 5 litres per light-year, or an electric car, good for 350km on one fast charge is what we need.
I look at small sedans which are too tempting to car thieves, delivery vans which have no road clearance, motorbikes which have paniers too small for my camera, pick-up trucks which are either too expensive or too rotten and find that only compromise will work in this quest. It’s all very well to have the technology ubiquitous but I don’t see a Tesla or a compressed-air engine anywhere. No hybrids available second hand. No charging stations, let alone solar powered ones, no Re-cycled Vegetable Oil filling stations exist in my real world. And everyone in the city is driving big sedans, fatter four-wheel drives monsters and ugly flashy S.U.V.s which all burn 10-20l per 100 km. I wonder if Nichola T is turning in his grave.
I think that I am going to get some bare chested hippies to paint sexy sixties flower-power motifs all over my gas guzzling go-mobile. Surf’s up. And then tonight; I’m going to get high on petrol fumes and listen to Bob and the Beatles and watch the Soyuz fly past.
Cracking crude oil is still cheaper tech than Crack on the street.
I was held by the arm softly, by a beautiful women whilst my friend Mike Feldman was shooting the drying and sorting of the maize seed at Ha Mantla, near Ramabanta, in the higher area of Lesotho. The lady pulled me around the corner of the village towards her house and asked me to enter gesturing to me to take photographs. I tried hard to concentrate on the milling area she pointed out to me but her kindness had touched me too much and my camera shook and would not focus anymore than my eyes could, filled with tears of unwanted sympathy, self centered melancholy, memories and heartache of a peasant farmer, yearning for the comfort of his origins. I am afraid that these photographs are not a sufficient tribute to the fortitude of this women.
There was no great plan or ‘skeleton’ of my book. In about the year 2004 I began to collect images and categorised them into various aspects of life in Lesotho; Transport, agriculture, industry etc.
These themes were all put together into a very rough mock-up.The software for this cost 12 quid in London. Being a trader at heart, my first thought was for sales material to help sell the project.
One miserable winter day in June 2009, having nothing better to do, I went to the book launch of “Then and Now”. This is an anthology of images taken before and after 1992 by South Africa’s top photographers. There I met the editor Riaan De Villiers, of Highveld Press. He edited that book and of course he knows all the contributing photographers. When I showed him my mock-up, he said that we must publish. We did, in November of that year. The skeleton may have appeared somewhere between these two events but it must still be locked in a cupboard.
We spent three months working on the layout of the book. A large amount of time and thought was spent on the format! The 2 dimensional proportions were discussed and thrashed around more that you would think is possible. Then the weight, the number of pages and therefore the number of images. After weeks of cross-thinking we were able to look at the selection of images. I think this was only in September and we had to be on the shelves in November! Riaan re-designed his office, juggled around his staff and installed special daylight balanced lighting so that we could re-grade all the “RAW” files of the images together and not farm out. He did most of it at night, un-disturbed by staff and the nuisance of light filtering in though special blinds had been installed for the project.
At last we could begin the final selection of images. We still had 200 (out of thousands) and needed to reduce the number to about 80. Pages, weight, rhythm, tedium attention span; I had no idea that these things were so important in a book of pictures. We took two weeks working with one of the top book designers in South Africa, Tim Sheasby, to put the book together and find it’s “handle”. Difficult to describe the feeling on that last day of October when the final Pdf file was set via FTP to Lawprint in Midrand. The excitement did not abate as Riaan and I visited the printer daily. We were to check each batch of “pulls”; the eight page – A1 sheets pulled from the giant off-set litho Leidenburg 12 station printing press. Each pull was carefully scrutinised by the master printer and checked in great detail. It appeared that Riaan grading of the images had been precise; only very slight adjustment of the “blacks” was required before the presses were set in motion for the main run.
A week later the first books were in our hands with that unmistakeable ‘fresh-off-the-press smell’.
Basotho People at Work was in the shops in November 2009, as planned.
Gaelle,David, Ben and Jo are in Malealea this week-end. Tomorrow all four ride out in a possie for a whole days ride up to a village in the mountains. They will eat and drink and talk with with the shepherd village and Chief Khotso. You can see Ntate’s Khotso’s Merino goats in my book. Sleep in a goatsherd hut with mice and little chickens running around inside that hut. Pigs snorting outside! When you get back to the lodge after another full day’s ride with the lovely smell and sweat of the ponies and their leathery tack and the aromas from the pastures, cattle and oxen which envelope you as you pass, you will not like the smell of the tourists!!!
I have just had 5 ~ 35mm negs printed by someone who is probably one of the worlds best hand print (silver nitrate) artisans; Dennis Da Silva. 45 years in the dark room. It has taken 3 years of experimentation and hestitation for me to have the courage to present some of my work to him. I suppose you could compare this to preparing a visit to the Delai Lama and your philosophy is still “unconcerned, but thinking about it”. Pending.
When I captured the images of water moving through Lions River in the Natal Midlands I had a sort of funny feeling. Electric, emotional and palpitations over-ridden by my energy to just make more and more images whilest the light was good. When the negatives came from the lab and looked at some of them on the soft-box – the same feelings came back.
But when the final prints ~ 16″x 20″ came out of Dennis’s dark room, I nearly fainted, so strong was the electricity. Hydro-electricity.
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