I have driven along the Liesbeek River most week mornings for the past 19-or-so years. The most recent year, I did it less, having left the world of ‘9 to 5’ behind me. I’m back in the Ivory Tower, though, momentarily, to cover a friend’s maternity leave, so once again I’m being led through the ‘burbs each morning by the Liesbeek, leaving it to turn left up Station Street, down where I’ve seen it burst its banks so often during Winter storms.
It flows gently through suburbia, locked within its concrete confines, like the high walls of the houses around it. Contained. It’s not naturally like that – of course – and where it starts, way up on the back of Table Mountain, somewhere near Skeleton Gorge, I’m pretty sure it gurgles and dances around moss-covered rocks, winding this way and that, wherever its heart pleases. But here, in suburbia, it gets funnelled, neatly and uniformly.
Once it reaches Obz, though, the concrete ends, and again its free to flow as it pleases, creating channels and islands on which pelicans prance and seagulls shout. A neat brick path/cycle track was built along it some years back. I watched as, each morning on my way to work, it stretched further, the not-so-Yellow Brick Road.
Last week after leaving the Ivory Tower and meeting GM for a drink at The River Club, we decided it was time to finally amble along the path. What a treat. It’s a road that is so familiar to me, Liesbeek Parkway, yet here, just metres away from it, was another world, unseen by the rushing cars and their harried drivers.
It was a bit of a blustery day and the clouds were fussing about over the mountain, the sun dropping out of the sky, turning them silver above the desolate big top with its ghostly acrobats flitting about inside it, vaguely abandoned.
Here was the sweet sound of water flowing (even at this drought-ravaged time), birds celebrating the beginning of Spring, dancing around each other and splashing in the shallows. The trees, blooming, their leaves that newborn green, and the grass filled with tiny flowers. A swing hangs from one of the trees on the bank, a daring over-water ride that would need some serious skills to disembark without falling into the river, but maybe that’s just it … the exhilaration of a daring swing.
We walked all the way into Mowbray, under the N2’s legs with its noisy rush hour traffic, through a bit of dense plant growth where it feels like you’re out of the city completely, and out the other side, the old water tower standing up straight, as if it’s just been told off by the principal of the school next door, the coral blossoms giggling across the road as the cold wind blew them about.
It was time for refried bean burritos in the warmth of The Fat Cactus.
The pathway is made for bicycles, so is completely smooth and flat. Crossing over under the N2 bridge is a little hairy at rush hour, but there are robots.