I love how life cuts you down to size just when you least expect it. On Saturday a few of us went for our Saturday stroll-walk-hike-group therapy-kuier. This week we walked the Braamfonteinspruit and met about 500m from where I spent the first six months of my life in Blairgowrie, and about 1.5km from where I spent the next 18 years and where my parents spent 48 years in Robindale! So this was my valley. I thought I knew this area, but boy was I wrong. We walked 10km’s (or for those checking on Strava 9.87km) and I can honestly say that I’ve not been anywhere along this trail before.


Now, listen to these facts (I know, this does not seem to have anything to do with recovery, respite or palliation, but I promise, we will eventually get there – like they say in “corporate”, we will circle back – eye-roll emoji)…


The Braamfontein spruit is apparently the longest spruit in Johannesburg. It starts at the Barnato Park High school and is canalised there, but once the spruit hits the Parkview Golf course it runs through parkland all the way to Leeukop prison in the north. I also did not know that the spruit runs through Parktown, Melville, Greenside, Craighallpark, Delta Park, Greenside, Parkhurst, River Club, Bryanston, Rivonia, Paulshof and Sunninghill and then it joins the Juksei river at the prison.


And there we were thinking Slaapstad’s got all the good places to run along the river.


According to Sean Badenhorst, the Braamfontein spruit is probably the most popular mountain bike trail in the entire country (seriously, I kid you not!). The trail is about 37kms and runs through 30 suburbs, is not fenced, is free, has multiple entry and exit points and is a wonderful way to forget you are in the urban jungle.


Along the section we walked there were many contrasts. Our walk started with us witnessing a seriously interesting religious activity. There were probably about 30 people in all stages of undress but the main theme was white and blue. They were being held under a massive weir, screaming loudly in what appeared to be tongues. I was not quite sure if this was a cleansing ritual, a baptism or an exorcism, but rest assured, joining that church I am not. In the same spot, a few people (whether or not they were from the same enthusiastic congregation I am not sure) were being baptised with an HTH bucket. Dotted around them was the odd sangoma, dressed in their traditional red and black in case people do not survive the baptism and might need the help of their ancestors.


A few metres further, a naked man was merrily abluting in the spruit, ensuring the shenanigans down the stream would not be successful as a cleansing ritual. There were park runs and bikers, horses, joggers, birders, moms with prams, herds of dogs and even a parrot along our walk. People were greeting and chatting, as Joburgers do, and my one friend, Candice and I, were thrilled when we found an old-fashioned play park with some relatively unsafe equipment, which made the slide irresistible to us both. (I will spare you the footage of these two 51year olds flying down a slide made for 5 year olds).


As we walked we were amazed at the possibility of walking like this. As you know, our municipalities can hardly provide water and lights. Having a lovely free walking trail  could surely not be expected. But yet, here it was. And so, our friend Alan started showing us all the work the clandestine “Spruit fairy” does behind the scenes, at his own expense to make this possible. This group of guys, with a chief fairy and all, arrange for holes to be filled, fix bridges and build little crossings with lintels. They “form berms to create sweet singletrack flow” (I put that in inverted commas as I am not really sure what it means, probably because I don’t own a bike, but I’m quoting from an article here). They cut down trees with low branches and do all sorts of tricks to minimise erosion. All the above is fabulous and people like us get to enjoy the outdoors, but the best part is that the Chief fairy and the other fairies in his army are creating jobs! They are also engaging with the ever-expanding population of migrant workers living on the river banks to encourage them to partake in the maintenance of the paths and helping them prevent crime.


I couldn’t find much information on these Spruit fairies and am relying heavily on an article printed in Tread ten years ago. It seems that the “Chief Fairy” wants to remain anonymous. He doesn’t do this job for recognition and humbly states in the article that he is continuing work the Swamp Dogs started some time ago. When asked what the reward is in doing all this hard work without recognition he said: “The reward comes in seeing people enjoying the trails and riding them more often. Things that make me most happy are riding trails that flow with friends. Flow and friends – if our work is helping in those areas then that’s enough reward for me.”


This elusive fairy retired young according to urban legend, and this is one of the projects to which he gives money and he also often gets involved with the labour himself. It reminds me of what Francis Chan said: “Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” This fairy matters. He is leaving a legacy. He did not split the atom, he did not invent penicillin, but he has changed hundreds of lives because of his commitment, generosity, passion and dedication.


I look at our patients. We have millionaires, we have house wives, business men, retired professors, young mothers and we have uninsured, often dirt poor patients coming from terrible circumstances for whom our NGO pays. There is a simple, undeniable difference we observe between them when it comes to the way people pass away and recover. The difference is not determined by their race, their socio-economic station in life, their education, family or many other factors. It comes down to purpose. The most important question in the end, or in fighting for health is “Did, or does my life have purpose?” Once you have this purpose, everything flows from it. Your relationships have meaning, your spiritual life has meaning, your ego calms the hell down. You know why you are here on this planet and have a reason to wake up each day.


People tend to think that purpose lies in big things, and I do believe it starts with answering some deep existential questions about faith, God and identity, but the things that make our lives meaningful in the end are usually not the big achievements. They are found in the day-to-day decisions about who we will be, how we will serve and how we will love.


The purpose of my blog is not to get you to hand over your hard earned cash… but if you want a section 18 A tax certificate, and only if you really WANT to donate to our amazing non-profit which helps patients at the end of their lives and us in our purpose please do so. ( see how I used the word purpose twice in the paragraph? Hope my English teacher is proud )


Account: Zazen Respite Care NPC

Bank: FNB

Account Number: 63046005608

Branch Name: Constantina Kloof

Branch Code: 260202

Swift Code: FIRNZAJJ