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Wednesday, June 23, 2010


artSMart Editor invites you to join her and artSMart reviewers, Shika Budhoo, Thomie Holtzhausen and Sifiso Sikhakhane at the National Arts Festival for the next ten days.

This is not really my first day at festival but I felt it was important to maybe change the minds of those who are dying to get to the festival but flights are too expensive and the road journey too daunting.

I was put off by inflated flight prices and a car hire quote that included a R45/day World Cup Soccer surcharge – still trying to work that one out! – so decided to launch forth and drive to Grahamstown on my own, something I haven’t done for a good few years. It is a daunting prospect that takes about 11 hours, giving yourself 20 minutes stops every two hours as is recommended by those who study the effects of travel fatigue.

I decided to break the journey in Kokstad – a mere three and a half hours or so from Durban at picturesque centenarian Willowdale Lodge just before the town. R575 for bed and breakfast – very comfortable, welcoming and good therapy for the long drive ahead the following day. For more information visit

Then came the long haul. From Kokstad to Mthatha (formerly spelt as Umtata), the road is fine and you go through some spectacular scenery. I have never seen the aloes looking more glorious – thousands of them in full flaming bloom almost as far as the eye can see. From Mthatha to Butterworth through Idutywa it gets a bit hectic and one is back in the old days of the occasional dead animal by the side of the road, unpredictable goats which can – and do! -run into the road at a moment’s notice and a stretch of road that seems to attract appalling driving. It almost appears that if you have an Eastern Cape number plate it seems to give you carte blanche to break every road rule in the book including passing on solid white lines – never mind double white lines!

While it was good to see official vehicles marked Stray Animal Control and the odd ranger on horseback there didn’t seem to be any such control factor for the wayward drivers.

However, the crossing of the Kei River seemed to leave the cowboys behind and it was a less stressful drive (apart from the roadworks) onward towards East London, then bypassing the city heading for King Williamstown and eventually to Grahamstown.

Generally it was good to see the huge increase in housing development and the upgrading of the towns en route. The quality of the roads is also fine – just keep your eyes open for potholes. However, seeing as we have had to cope with some craters back home – these are just child’s play!

There’s an extraordinary programme for the next two weeks and frankly, I would suggest that anyone who feels their thoughts are winging towards us here in the hub of creativity, you don’t waste another minute in joining us. The worst of the bad weather is over and the forecast promises sunny weather until next Tuesday! So grab a bunch of friends, have your vehicle serviced and head for the Eastern Cape and a really fantastic programme. – Caroline Smart