By Julienne du Toit
Pictures by Chris Marais
One morning back in our Jo’burg days, we took a good friend for a walk around our gated suburb. Up and down the streets we went, each time turning around at the palisaded dead-ends.
“You’re living in a jail,” he said. And so, duly deflated, we trudged back for breakfast like a sad little road gang after the early shift.
High summer in the Karoo more than ten years on and we’re walking TwoPack, our long-haired German Shepherd, down by the Great Fish River.
As we pass the stables, the horses nicker in greeting. They know us well, so the dog doesn’t spook them at all. We swiftly cross the golfing fairway and follow the middelmannetjie road next to the roaring waters.
There’s critter action by the river, where you hear the constant clicking of reed frogs. Red bishops gather in crimson convocations, a harrier hawk flies overhead, hadedahs consult each other on the ninth hole. An otter darts up from the riverside to the water furrows in search of crabs, barely giving us a sidelong glance. A random quartet of runaway pink pigs forms a watchful, defensive bloc as we stroll past.
Chris and I do this river walk just before dawn in all seasons, whenever we’re home in Cradock and not on the road somewhere on assignment. It’s one of the high-value Golden Hours of our day.
Apparently, we’re not alone in regarding our morning walks as priceless. Charles Dickens, who produced more children and novels than most, was also a compulsive walker. The legend goes that he sometimes hoofed it from his home in London to his country spot in Kent – a distance of nearly 50km. His regular daily walks through the city were more modest, however, covering about 19km.
Stanford University states that walking makes you 60 percent more creative. Our mutual folk rock hero, Neil Young, says walking is therapeutic and results in a clear head. He writes song lyrics on his walks.
“And it soothes my soul.”
We’re not there yet, probably never will be. But yes, the magic of being outdoors in a shiny new day with a happy dog is almost indescribable. It has become a very big deal to us.
This is an excerpt from our latest book, Moving to the Platteland – Life in Small Town South Africa, which will be on sale in both Print and Ebook formats from July 2018. If you would like to buy a first edition, author-signed print copy of the book, email co-author Julienne du Toit at firstname.lastname@example.org