“The only real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new landscapes, but in having new eyes, in seeing the universe with the eyes of another, of hundreds of others, in seeing the hundreds of universes that each of them sees.”
– Marcel Proust
So i’ve been a bit quiet of late. Well, almost a week at any rate – the irony of which is compounded, given that it should come on the back of a recent spree of reckless posting, culminating in my centenary post. Followed by blogger’s sprain and a lengthy six day recovery.
I don’t really have an excuse, except to say that real life intervened and I have had to be busy on a number of less glamorous tasks of late, to make the larger project of end-of-year Ethiopian travel a reality. The quietness has also, in a large part, been because there has been little new to report – certainly nothing worthy of conjuring up a specific blog post to narrate. This last weekend, however, my brother and I dug out a little nugget of interestingness for a day, which seems worth sharing – certainly to those who are in and around Johannesburg and are up for a little randomness now and then. John had been enthusing for some time about a Buddhist temple out in Bronkhorstspruit, so on Sunday the two of us and the little Toyota did a day run out to see the place for ourselves. Well, myself really – partly to ensure that he wasn’t lying, and partly because it seemed like a nice break from reality to verify that it in fact exists.
A Buddhist temple is not such an odd thing per se. We saw many in Thailand, for example. A Buddhist temple in Africa, however, is something of a far rarer creature. More so when situated somewhere as truly end-of-the-universe as Bronkhorstspruit, a town which is itself reached via a detour through illustrious hamlets with names such as Bapsfontein (which looked like something out of a Mad Max film) and Petit (which we somehow drove through without seeing) and a bunny park. Yes, a bunny park – something like a game reserve where all the residents are small, tame and fluffy and are pursued at length by carrot-wielding children intent on hugging them to their very last days. We will go back some day to do the drive more thoroughly and see these places in more detail, as they seem pretty damn different and well worth the time to properly visit. Except for the bunny park, which was rather small and generally open to perusal as we drove past.
But I digress.
you don’t always need plane tickets and a backpack to see a different landscape. Sometimes, it is as close as a long drive and some daft towns away.
So driving through bushveld, with occasional scrubby tree-things popping up along the way, it was a surreal experience to see the shimmering roof of a genuine Buddhist temple rising up past the next hill. And a large one at that. Very large. With monks straight from China wandering through the courtyards and guiding visitors past gigantic wooden Buddhas and dozens of fu dog and naga sculptures. Except for the inescapable fact that only meters away was an endless expanse of African grassland, it would be easy to think that you had driven through a portal to the East.
And so after an afternoon of wandering around in wonderment and taking in dragons and the gentle silence of the halls, we were back in Johannesburg for the end of a weekend. It seemed like some sort of strange dream once we were back, but at the same time, a nice reminder that you don’t always need plane tickets and a backpack to see a different landscape. Sometimes, it is as close as a long drive and some daft towns away.