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As the Cape storm hit, the skies opened but so did hearts in acts of small-town kindness

As the Cape storm hit, the skies opened but so did hearts in acts of small-town kindness
Isabella is relieved to finally warm up and dry out at Lenca Lacock Bruwer’s fireplace, Robertson. (Photo: Kassie Naidoo)

Our trip back to Cape Town from Barrydale after the Heritage Day long weekend should have been another pleasant drive, but a few hours before we got into my Hyundai Venue, the winds started up and the skies above the village opened.

After detours and a hair-raising river crossing, we finally got to Robertson amid WhatsApp updates from the Barrydale group that others had either turned back or had to stay in Montagu or Ashton. Trucks, delivery vans, 4x4s, tour buses and families trying to get back home lined Robertson’s main road.

We waited at the Wimpy but when it looked like the rain was not going to let up I tried to no avail to book us a room for the night. Wimpy’s manager said that if people couldn’t find a place he would let them sleep in the booths.

I realised at this point how hardegat we all are as South Africans because most still hoped to find a way home, even with the traffic police trying to talk sense into us.

By now most of us had found out through word of mouth or via the WhatsApp groups that all along the R62 the towns were taking in those stranded for the night. Barrydale had worked quickly to organise the church and two community halls for people who needed a place. The community sent blankets and bedding to the church and halls.

Soup and coffee were offered and others opened their homes to those who had children and the elderly so they could have a more comfortable night.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cape of Storms

We experienced the same hospitality at 7.34pm when the Robertson NG Kerk dominee got us a place for the night with Lenca Lacock Bruwer, who was waiting for us when we got to her door. She had prepared our room and a mattress on the floor for my daughter with duvets, towels and extra sheets. She had taken another couple in as well, who were on their way to Malmesbury.

We were able to dry off at the fire in the lounge. Lenca offered us something to drink and dinner.

She had opened her home and heart to us in our time of need and this gracious hospitality for all three of us was a true reminder of small-town kindness and the maak ’n plan spirit in action in our country. As I got into bed at 11pm the last message I read on the Barrydale group was in response to an earlier message from Hayley McLellan: “Hi all. Need a bed for a couple please.” And a response from Arthur of the Bear Clan: “Did they come right?” at 22:25. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

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