My Oupa arrived in South Africa on a ship from Holland, as a young boy. His father, my Great-Grandfather, had relocated to the railway village of Waterval Boven where at the time there was a need for wheel-tappers. Boven was a central part of the rail trade system into and from surrounding African countries.
Some years later my Oupa met and married Ouma. Their wedding took place in Egypt during The Second World War. (The story goes that she lied about her age and signed up, following him North – she is no longer around for me to confirm the details of this account but then again late-night campfire stories never lie.)
Together they grew a family, which included my Dad who is 70 this year. He is the eldest of six.
After my Grandparents moved on the ‘Big Six’ began to gather every second year around Easter time. Having tested out a few different locations the event seems to have settled at the beautiful Tranquillas Adventure Farm, belonging to my lovely, strong and generous cousin Ruth and her equally lovely husband, Mike – Tranquillas is fittingly located at Waterval Boven.
While the ‘elders’ spend endless hours sitting around the fire catching up, with the odd spell of leg-stretching and bird-watching thrown into the mix,
us ‘youngsters’ spend time on our bikes exploring the surrounding forests or climbing the amazing rock that runs along the krantz that has brought rock-climbing fame to this breathtakingly beautiful place.
These gatherings of the tribe are a time of kuier –
a word with Dutch roots referring to ‘visiting’ but denoting a deeper level of meaning which is somehow lost in translation. It refers to the intense type of visiting that takes place when all else is set aside and the reason for the visit is solely to do just and only that….kuier.
The six is now five and as time passes it is unclear what will become of our family reunion. Organising it can be a mission and travelling long distances for a short weekend feels daunting at times when life is happening at pace.
Grateful that my kids have a better sense of ‘what and who’ and have had a chance to spend time with their second cousins.
And grateful to have had the opportunity to share this part of who I am and where I come from with my own little family as I catch brief images of the past reflected in their fresh faces.
Waterval – April 2013 / Smulders Gathering – Celebrating Family and all that it is.