Goodbye, Farewell, Totsiens, Hamba Kahle and Sala Kakhule – We’re Headed Down the Road and Off the Grid

That little place we all dream of, down the road, under the radar and off the grid.

Excerpt from Chapter 19, Big Pharma, Dirty Lies, Busy Bees and Eco Activists

 DON’T YOU SOMETIMES JUST WANT to stand up, scream and chuck it all against the wall? Tell the boss they can upstick the job and the bank manager the mortgage same-wise? 1 Inform the council you’re done with their rates and the tax collector that you’ve payed your last instalment on the gravy train?

It’s really not that hard to do, but it does require a significant recalibration of who you are and what you want to make with what’s left of your life. With the realisation of diminishing returns, increasingly, people are quitting the urban din and downsizing to the platteland as their retirement plan.

The first stratagem is to avoid those voguish dorpies, like Darling and Clarens, that have outpriced their value; even more so once-delightful places like Hermanus and Knysna, which long since traded most of their charms for the lure of development and increased rates income.

For people who like wide-open spaces, extreme temperatures and negligible rainfall, the Karoo is a big puller. Places like Cradock, Vanwyksdorp, Nieu-Bethesda, Rhodes Village and Sutherland each have their own appeal, as well as challenges. In the latter two it’s finding enough firewood in areas virtually devoid of trees, to survive winter. In others it would be the competition of opening yet another quaint guesthouse, restaurant or art studio. Yet the gurus tell us competition is good.

In Cradock, Harrismith, and Graaff-Reinet, it’s a lack of water. All along the Vaal it’s an overflow of sewerage. But there are so many dorps from which to choose (literally, Ariesfontein to Zuurfontein), there is no need to rush things… unless, as was the case when Great Trek leader Piet Retief fled Grahamstown, you are skipping ahead of the law. The smart way is – and this is really the crux of downsizing to the country – sell your city pad first and then rent in the place you fancy to see if it ticks the boxes.

That is one plan, but it solves only half of the issue of getting out of the grey urban jungle. Freedom, as the old song tells us, means having nothing left to lose. To free oneself of all the bonds that tie us to the relentless machine of servitude, …..

On my peregrinations around the country over many decades I have always been on the lookout for a perfect bolthole. At various times I have fancied, among many, Morgans Bay, Cape St Francis (the wild side, not the diamonds-and-villas marina side), Cintsa, a fynbos plot at Pringle Bay (I actually bought one, but life got in the way and I had to sell), Storms River, a Little Karoo game estate called Touwsberg and, more recently, an eco estate in the foothills of the Baviaanskloof Mountains called Honeyville.

My problem seems to be that, every time I am about to commit to my own Elysian Field, I move the goalposts and my dream off- the-grid future skips on down the road. My partner regularly brings me back to reality, pointing out that we live on a perfectly peaceful waterway in easy reach of a beach, a mountain and a forest. Which is the truth. But my response (if only to myself) is, if we all thought that way we’d never get our people to Mars.

1 A famous telegram sent by Australian humourist Lennie Lower to his publisher after an argument read simply: “upstick job arsewise stop”.

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