What is a camino? What is it like to do a camino? How does the “outer world” influence the “inner world”? If you have been following me, I have been writing about my experience doing the Rainbow Cape Camino. Here is Part 2 of taking a peek inside the mind of a pilgrim.
Today is all about learning how the civilisation of the Cape thrived thanks to a supply of water. We start by walking from Prestwich Memorial to the old jetty where the ocean used to meet the land.
Water is a universal symbol for the Source of Life. Many creation myths tell the story of life emerging from water. We also associate water with intuition, the subconscious and circulation. Water is often symbolic of Higher Wisdom. Water flows; it takes the path of least resistance. It is about metamorphoses – from gas to liquid to solid. It is a symbol of adaptability and flexibility. It reminds us that things change and follow a pattern of ebb and flow.
Adaptability and flexibility guided by Higher Wisdom . . . to flow and follow the path of least resistance instead of forcing matters in a certain direction. What a great philosophy of life – to be like water! And since we are primarily made of water, we carry the Source of Life within us.
I have just walked across the plaza in front of the station en route to the remains of the Wagenaar’s Dam, where ships used to fill their barrels. I catch sight of a thirtyish male sitting with his forehead on his knees and his arms stretched out behind him. He looks uncomfortable and something seems wrong. Then I see the heroine needles lying by his side . . . How dark and unstable must your world be to end up like this? Somehow, somewhere we have erred. This is surely the complete dark side of civilisation – or is it rather the dark side of “escape”, of looking for something outside ourselves to numb the pain or fill a hole. This kind of escape can lead only to destruction.
From Wagenaar’s Dam we walk to Adderley Street where the flower vendors sell their goods. Apparently, before the 2010 World Cup, the vendors still used antique holders to collect water from the natural “oog” or spring that flowed there. Today they use plastic buckets and tap water since the spring has been covered over. Gabrielle makes the point that sometimes our so-called “improvements” destroy what initially was natural.
We stop at the Old Millstream where water used to be pumped to the rest of the city. Here we explore a manhole where 8 million litres of water go to waste daily. This water comes down from Table Mountain only to flow into the ocean. We are told that this is a form of hydrocide: water being poisoned or diverted so that a community cannot use it. Someone makes the point that if you control water, you control the people . . .
Is this perhaps the problem I have with work and city life? That it is all so controlled? Everything is about reason, results, appointments and progress.
We are constantly driven towards an exact and planned outcome. There is little room to allow life to run its own natural course, an approach that calls for a certain amount of faith.
Unfortunately we are now so controlled that we have become disconnected from our own supply of Higher Wisdom. Or intuition. This is what makes a trust in the process – the natural Cycle of Life – possible.
Soon enough I realise why we might have become disconnected from our Higher Wisdom. We stop at the Hurling Swaai Pump in Oranjezicht. It has the mouth of a lion. We learn that slaves manually operated the lever to pump water from the underground tanks that were filled by mountain springs. Water, it seems, was obtained only through hard labour.
In 1652 the Cape became a halfway station for ships travelling to the East, from where Van Riebeeck and his VOC employees provided fresh water and vegetables to the passing ships. Thanks to the ample supply of water from the Fresh River that descended from Table Mountain, they were able to canalise this water to irrigate the newly planted gardens.
From 1800 onwards, after the British arrived, the Cape experienced many water shortages. Yet long ago the Cape was called Camissa, or “Place of Sweet Waters”, referring to the ample supply of life-sustaining water that flowed to the city through natural springs. In 1814, a British engineer first thought of making better use of the springs by building a reservoir to collect the water that came from the Oranjezicht, Platteklip and Waterhof springs. With “progress”, the reservoir was demolished in the 1900’s to make way for the laying of pipes. Very soon all the canals became polluted until all open water courses were eventually closed when there was an outbreak of bubonic plague. Pipes were laid and the springs were forgotten. Instead water was diverted from elsewhere through underground tunnels and dams. Today we are again facing a water shortage. It calls for a return to the harvesting of our natural spring waters.
This got me thinking. Has life become an act of labour? Am I trying too hard to make it happen instead of allowing it simply to flow naturally? It is as if I try to fit my life into a perfectly structured “reservoir” in the hopes that it will help me get through the possible “drought” brought on by another week of work. How many of us reserve “life” for weekends, holidays and retirement only? Yet no matter how many amazing weekends or holidays we have, we will never be able to satisfy our hunger, because the Source of Life is not in any outward experiences, but is within us all. We have forgotten about our own Source which is so easily available to us if we would just go inward, becoming still and allowing to be led on a Higher Wisdom.
Recently I read an article by Petro Kotzé, an expert on the water in Cape Town. According to her,
a return to the use of our natural water supply will entail a “ ‘resurfacing’ of some of the original watercourses within the urban fabric of Cape Town, in ways that are functional, renewable, sustainable and symbolic . . . it is about embracing a new civic infrastructure – this time inspired by a deliberate recognition and respect for the social, cultural and ecological significance of this water.”
Profound. What an “Aha!” moment. The burnout of 2014 called for a radical change of infrastructure: one that honours and respects me by my drawing inwards and relying more on my own natural resources of Inner Wisdom and Source of Life. This is a more sustainable way of going about things. I also stop controlling.
I allow life to flow through me to the outside world and by doing this I start to bring a Higher Wisdom to everything that I do. And then, even work becomes fun.
We stop at the old Platteklip Wash House where, long ago, the men of Cape Town sent their clothes to be washed by washerwomen. This is a natural heritage site for the Khoi people and will soon be turned into a museum. As I walk up the narrow footpath, a Khoi man with long dreadlocks and a walking stick walks past me. According to Paul, many of the Khoi descendants who now live around the Cape Flats still come to the river to wash their hair, enjoy the tranquility of the environment and practise their old ceremonies. As we sit down for our picnic, we hear quiet singing. Muslims have gathered behind us at the old Kramat of Seyed Haq al Quaderi to pray and give thanks.
You can watch the short video of our walk here:
Anyone can do a camino at any time in their life. Go to the Cape Camino’s website and try a camino for yourself when you sign up as Cape Camino citizen here. If you do not want to bother with all the logistics, buy a package our get the organisers to design a pilgrimage tailor-made for you. Also be sure to catch them Twitter (@capecamino).
(Main and all other images taken and supplied by Vilien. Video supplied by Cape Camino)