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“Slow Down, You Move Too Fast” (Simon and Garfunkel)

Coen van Wyk

Posted on March 17, 2018 10:32

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Success demands that we focus on achieving goals. But does that allow us time to wander, to explore, to live?

It had been a long, hot 500 mile day. Sure, I was keeping an eye out for the standing stones of Ikom. We had visited menhirs and dolmens in France, we stopped at Stonehenge on a road trip through the UK, and we visited several stone circles in Senegal and Gambia. Someone had told us that there were stone circles to be seen in Southern Nigeria.

 Now, just as the lead car started warning us to look out for a mission station, reputed to be friendly to overlanders, there it was: A hand-painted sign pointing to the standing stones, only 20 miles off the road. I slowed down, and my wife looked at me. “We go?” I thought, then shook my head. “It’s been a long day. Next time.” Of course there won’t be a next time.

The next day we entered Cameroon on the infamous Mamfe road. We had hopes of doing the 25 miles in 24 hours of driving. We got stuck, pulled each other, got stuck again out in what must be the worst road in the universe.

We stopped half-way, in a small village called Eyumojok. We were mud-covered, tired, worried that the next day would be as bad as the past one. The girls were showering behind a tarp, the guys were tending the campfire. One of them called: someone from the Town Council wanted to talk to us.

As a retired civil servant, liaison with the authorities was my task. The lady, neatly dressed in bright Ghanaian wax, was the Councilor responsible for tourism. Over glasses of South African red wine she told me of a half-finished lodge on a nearby lake where the gray antelope come out of the forest at sunset to raid the farmers’ crops, and where rare, brilliantly colored birds could be observed.

But the road called. Next time.

I often wonder what we had missed. Our society values a goal-oriented approach. Even our vacations are planned. I overheard a tour guide once, guiding passengers off an overnight bus at Porta Romana in Venice: ‘Breakfast in St Mark’s square, lunch at a restaurant in a castle at Bologna. We visit the Vatican before dinner, and leave Rome tomorrow morning to take in Pompeii before getting to the ferry for Greece.’ Italy in two days. Good value for money?

Do we still have time to just wander? To turn aside and visit the delightful mountain village in the Alps north of Bergamo? To spend an afternoon with the boatman on the river at Mopti and admire the way he made his little boy part of his crew?To discover the unadvertised hot springs in the Kalahari, where the Molopo river breaks through the last barrier before meeting the Orange river?

Perhaps we need to be less goal orientated. Perhaps the universe has flowers to show us, friends to meet, somewhere unexpected, unplanned-for to visit.

Coen van Wyk

Posted on March 17, 2018 10:32

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