I was out walking on the slopes of Table Mountain the other day enjoying the exercise and marveling at the view … oh, who am I kidding. I was out looking for shamanic fungi but I can’t write that or the police will be smashing down my front door before you can say 4-hydroxyl-dimethyltryptamine.
Truth is, nobody can walk anywhere in the Table Mountain National Park these days because a gang of government-backed eco-terrorists are hacking down all the pine and eucalyptus trees. A few days ago, someone spray-painted sad faces onto the ends of some of the executed trees. Then someone else came along and sprayed happy faces onto the rest.
This is how we protest in the Cape. Instead of being like normal people and throwing stones and setting journalists alight, we paint faces onto tree stumps and write angry letters to the local paper.
When I say “we”, I mean white people. Everyone else is “they”. Here in Cape Town, we speak it like it are. But this is not a racist thing. It’s a mountain thing. We take our dogs and our children and our secretaries for walks on the mountain and They don’t. If We see one of Them heading towards us, We stuff our wallet down our pants and try to call the mountain police before They disembowel us with screwdrivers and make overseas calls on our cellphones.
I’m talking rubbish. There is no such thing as the mountain police.
So. Out here in Africa’s last colony, one is either pro-tree or pro-fynbos. There is no middle ground. Stands must be taken and positions defended.
I have given the matter considerable thought – all of three seconds – and have decided to join forces with the tree people. One of their major grievances is that by hacking down all the pines, the Tree Taliban have deprived walkers of any kind of protection from the sun. Apart from a six-pack and a 9mm Parabellum, shade is the next best thing to have on a walk in the Table Mountain National Park.
The Taliban’s argument, which is supported by chainsaws, is that the birds don’t like alien trees. So? They’re fucking birds. They can fly to the Kruger Park if they don’t like it here. Apparently the pines also take too much water. Please. This is Cape Town. Everyone has a drinking problem. It seems unlikely the drought is being caused by a bunch of dipsomaniac pines in Tokai.
Fynbos is not known for its shade-giving qualities. If you’re suffering from heat stroke and desperately need shelter, you could always try to leopard crawl under a Leucospermum lineare and risk having your face slashed to ribbons by its cruel stunted branches. And there is no shortage of options to choose from. In these parts alone there are over 7 000 species of fynbos, ranging from dull to hideous. You can’t miss them. Once you pick up the scent of roadkill, you know you’re in the Cape Floral Kingdom.
Fynbos is not your friend. It will turn on you when you least expect it. Pine trees, on the other hand, are good for all sorts of things. They give you a place to hide when you want to wee. You can also make houses and books out of them. And chopsticks. The only thing you can make out of fynbos is a braai. It can’t even speak English, for god’s sake. Fynbos. What the hell does that even mean?
The Taliban accuse the aliens of being too flammable. So what would you rather watch in a forest fire – a pine tree exploding like a magnificent roman candle or a piece of fynbos popping and crackling like a girly little squib?
The assassins responsible for these killing fields don’t give a damn about what we want. They are fynbosbefok and nothing we say or do will make them see reason. They use made-up words like Afromontane and whine that the fynbos is going the same way as the great white shark. Except that fynbos won’t bite your legs off. But it would, given half a chance.
There’s a charming fellow by the name of Peucedanum galbanum who, if you brush against him, will make your skin erupt in suppurating blisters. Nice.
I haven’t tried it yet, but I imagine that walking through a pine forest instills in one a sense of peace and oneness with the world. I have walked through fynbos. I get agitated and angry and lash out at strangers.
The Taliban say that plantations are not forests and that they were only planted for commercial reasons. This is nothing but arboreal xenophobia. Does the tree know its ancestors came from Europe? Even if it did, would it care? Mine did and I don’t. Come at me with an axe and I’ll have your throat.
Trees are happy to be left alone. Fynbos, on the other hand, has to be set alight every few years if it is to thrive. What kind of demon plant is this? Burn me and I shall rise again, stronger! That’s Satan talking, that is.