Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sublime South Africa: Hogsback and Cape Point

Photo credit: Britt Smith

My second brush with the South African sublime, after Nahoon, was in Hogsback, a portion of the Amathole mountains. Driving up the rough road to the trail I planned to hike, the trees on either side of me were leaning in almost as though they wanted to reclaim the road for the forest, and I realized that that was exactly what they were someday going to do. Men can clear trees, build roads and structures, and attempt to control all aspects of nature, but in the end none of it can last. Tree roots break through cement or asphalt, new plants grow up in the cracks, and with time all evidence of the road will be covered with fresh soil and life. Considering the war we are constantly waging against nature with our factories, pollution, buildings and machines, it is incredible that so much of it still survives with such perfection, not fighting but simply existing, strong in its own will and rightness. Hogsback is one of those places that fill you with absolute peace and tranquility, because unlike the city, these forests belong here, and they are exactly as they should be: eternal, self-renewing, and perfectly balanced. As much as we like to think it does, no land can ever belong to us like it does to itself, and Hogsback makes that clear. Walking in that majestic, powerful forest made me realize just how separate nature can be from ourselves, how outside of our control, and how indifferent to us. These mountains don’t care about me and my friends, or about the city nearby. It has itself figured out, and it runs perfectly without any outside help or intervention. I think the sense of the sublime that I felt in this place came from the recognition that no matter what we may do, we can’t affect the spirit of this forest, and no matter how hard we try, we can’t replicate the perfect balance and serenity that exists here. It is the world exactly as it’s intended to be.

The third was simpler, but no less sublime. At Cape Point, I found the most beautiful views I had ever seen, from the sharp cliffs directly beside me to the rough African coastline extending in the distance and the expansive ocean surrounding me on three sides. It was just perfect and beautiful and immense, and the air was sharp and fresh and invigorating, and it was hard to believe that something like this could just exist, but there it was. It was sublime because it was wonderful, one of those places that, once you've seen it, is always somewhere in the back of your mind.

No comments:

Post a Comment