My Purple City

The Jacaranda City (Pretoria)
- 10 November 2012 -

Although I have lived in Swaziland, Middleburg, Pietersburg, Cape Town and Venda, I have lived most of my life in Pretoria. This is my hometown, and it doesn't matter where I go next this will always be my home. During October / November every year since as far back as I can remember, is a sight that has almost become invisible to me. Not because it isn't spectacular, but because I've seen it so many times before. Since I've taken up photography I have been reminded on how amazing this time of the years is. Now we could debate the colour, some say it's blue, some say it violet but I say it's purple, and in this blog, it's my opinion that counts. This is Jacaranda time, My Purple City.

The Jacaranda tree has a "purple" flower that blooms specifically this time of the year, the streets of Pretoria is lined with these trees, so much so, that the city is referred to as the Jacaranda city. We even have a radio station named after this purple flowered tree, Jacaranda FM.

Strangely the Jacaranda is not indigenous to South Africa, I believe that it originated from Central America, South America, Cuba, Hispaniola and the Bahamas (thanks Wikipedia), but that doesn't mean its not native to "my" childhood. According to me, "Jacaranda" is "Pretoria".

A lot of tubular flowers have started falling from the trees already but I picked this day to capture the purple snow scattered all over the streets.

From a distance it almost looks like someone has scattered purple polystyrene all over the street.

Now not everything is purple, whilst driving around I captured some nice contrasting colours. Without the purple flowers, the red and yellow would be nice, but wouldn't be as spectacular.

But as usual I did get distracted. Although the rabbit wasn't sitting in-between the purple flowers (which would have been nice), he (she) was too tempting not to capture. As I got closer he hopped away, if he didn't I would have considered picking him up and putting him on top the purple bed of flowers.

Funny when you looking for purple flowers, and thinking about colour you start noticing all things colour related.

I selected an area in Pretoria referred to as the "old east". This area consists of Suburbs called Waterkloof Ridge, Muckleneuk and Brooklyn. A upper class area, with lots of money.
What do upperclass rich people do? They run, cycle and stroll.

But thats not all, you also find the working class on their way to work. Most likely people who work for the upperclass rich "joggers".

What's the most amazing, is the purple landscape makes working, jogging and strolling, look like the most pleasurable activity in the world. The streets are just beautiful.

After finding the perfect streets I headed off to Johan Rissik drive in Groenkloof to see if I can get an aerial shot of the city. Johan Rissik drive is a twisted road that leads up to Fort Klapperkop, which has excellent viewpoints of Pretoria. However, due to the moisture in the air (lots of rain we've been getting), this time of morning creates a murky scene, but you can still see the purple.

I stopped off at one of the viewpoints and venture slightly off the road to get a non-purple photo.

I decided to move on to another viewpoint to see if I can get some other photos.

Johan Rissik Drive, due to its excellent view and hilly nature, is a favourite for joggers and cyclists. As I drove further I noticed a crowd of cyclists in my way and had to stop, but as I was passing them one of the cyclist advised me to put my roof up (I drive a convertible Fiat 500) due to a swarm of bees a little further down the road. I have a slight phobia of bees so obviously I decided to comply and drove on further. It wasn't long until I came across a totally terrifying sight, something I have never experienced before in my life.

I first noticed a man in his underwear stumbling across the street, but next I noticed a woman lying on the floor of the viewpoint parking. She wasn't moving. As I approached in my car I saw that they were covered in bees. The lady was unable to stand up, the man was trying to help but he too didn't look to good. I felt some obligation to stop and help, but as I stopped the car it then dawned on me, "what must I do?". I couldn't get out and help, I would probably find myself in the same situation as them. So I sat there for a while watching in horror as they stumbled around trying to get away from the thousands of poisonous insects. As they got closer to me, I could see they were swollen all over there faces and drooling as the bees continued to attack them. The man begged me to open the door to let them in..... I had no idea what to do, but I knew if I did, I would soon be in the exact same position as they were. I snapped out of the trance and realised I must do something, so I immediately called the local emergency centre for an ambulance.

As I waited, watching in terror, feeling very useless. A man in a another car stopped and picked the lady up and sped off to the nearest hospital. I must say, it was very brave of him, but I'm not sure if it was the most clever idea. All I can hope it that they made it safely to the hospital.

Eventually after about 10 minutes the ambulance arrived and loaded the man. I could see the paramedics were also very sceptical to get out of the vehicle, but they did and they quickly loaded him into the van and sped about 500 meters down the road. I saw them climb out and dust away the bees and then speed to the next stop and dust some more.

Another emergency vehicle arrived. At this point the bees had dispersed (it seems they were only after the 2 unfortunate people), so I was able to roll down the window and explain to the paramedic that both victims have been assisted. I got out of my car and walked together with the paramedic to the swollen man's car which was still parked at the viewpoint. The car was filled with angry bees.

The experience reminded me, that our beautiful world and city has a brutal sinister side to it. Nature and the creatures within it can be dangerous and unforgiving and should always be respected.

As I drove away, heading home I imagined how these victims of nature must have felt. A thief or murderer is a scary encounter, but how do you fight thousands of them. It must be the most frightening experience. As the adrenaline passed, I found myself quite emotional.

I can't help feeling that I could or should have done more. I self preserved, was that the right thing to do? I'm still not sure.