WIN! a two night stay for a family of four at beautiful Ripple Hill Hotel, in Patensie, on the edge of the stunning Baviaans Kloof. Baviaans & Gamtoos Valley is in the 2nd Wonder of our World, within the ‘World of 7 Wonders’ in the Cacadu-district of the Eastern Cape.
To Enter – read the article & at the end of the article, in the comments section, leave your answer to this question: who told us stories of The Kloof, healers & ‘water-myde’?
Competition closes on: 05/12/2013
The winner will be announced on: 06/12/2013
Location: 165 kilometers from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay. Take the Baviaanskloof turn-off from the N2 towards Cape Town, travel past Hankey & Patensie straight into the Kloof. This is in the beaitiful Eastern Cape, South Africa.
Date Visited: 22- 24 November 2012 (Summer)
What we Drove: Our trusty Landrover Defender 90-series.
Where we Stayed: On the Friday night we stayed at The Meadows Farmhouse & at The Milk House, right next door. On Saturday night we stayed at ‘Twee Waters‘ right at the mouth of Baviaans Kloof, cooking our own supper on an open fire. Both spots can be recommended for a very comfortable stay.
What we did: We took the opportunity to explore not only Baviaans Kloof, but also the Gamtoos. We had supper at The Milk House & Breakfast at Tolbos in Hankey. We visited the Kouga Dam & drove deep into Baviaans Kloof, swimming at Rooi Wal as Noel Isaacs shared stories of the people of the Kloof.
Recommendation: This is our Africa. Our Wilderness. A world which, if you haven’t visited it, will haunt you until you do. It is a World Heritage Site & rightly so. It is filled with natural beauty, deep history & amazing stories. You can’t visit South Africa & not visit the Gamtoos & Baviaans Kloof. It would be like visiting Paris & not going to see the Eiffel Tower. Being a South African & not visiting this area would be like being Russian & not drinking Vodka. It is unimaginable.
This is our Africa.
A world rich in diversity & deep in connection.
For the Traveling Tribe, this weekend was perfect.
Not even a stones throw.
We left the little wooden house on the not so little hill at about 16h00 & arrived at our destination well before 17h00.
At The Meadows Farmhouse a friendly welcome awaited us.
You could spend a weekend here. A week even. The house is spacious. Beautifully renovated. Stylishly furnished. The kids took the loft-area, affording myself & Zuko privacy down stairs. There is a well fitted kitchen, dining room, lounge & enough TV’s to meet everyone’s needs at the same time.
Next door is The Milk House. An old Milk House turned into a pub. A family place. After settling in & washing off the week’s worries, we amble over to the stunning gardens. Andre Pearson welcome us. We walk the massive fruit trees. The children pick Avocados & Custard Apples. Pippin picks some roses from one of the hundreds of well kept rose bushes. We talk to locals who are eager to tell stories & get to know us. Everyone is friendly. Warm. Open. In Hankey you’re bound to bump into a ‘Fereira’. We talk to a few of them. Supper is stunning. You can drive to The Milk House for Sunday Lunch & be back in time for the Sunday evening movie. You’ll get immense value for money & an atmosphere money cannot buy. The evening is perfect. After supper we talk to a girl visiting from Holland. To a coulke who’ve just returned from Ireland. We laugh with a farmer about his Yorkshire Terrier’s silliness. We listen to the amazing story of how Andre & his family came to be in Hankey.
Saturday morning we wake up refreshed. As if we’ve been on holiday for a bit.
We find breakfast at Tolbos.
Wow! What a breakfast. For the same price you’ll be able to feed a fairy from a city franchise, this restaurant offers a monster meal, friendly service & very tasty food. Maybe Sunday should be breakfast at Tolbos & lunch at The Milk House, although, after brekafast at Tolbos you wouldn’t need lunch or supper.
At Tolbos we meet a crew of Bikers out on a Saturday morning run. We bump into family. Hendrien & her son Dewald. We breakfast together. We laugh & tell stories about where our lives are now & where our lives are heading. Sophia plays with Maddi in the play area. The waitresses bring scrumptious food to our table.
At around ten, Sizwe from Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency arrives.
He is taking us to Kouga Dam. We’ve seen Dams before, but not in the way Sizwe plans to let us see this one.
Sizwe is from Kwa-Zulu Natal. He is a conservationist & a conversationalist. Extremely knowledgeable, but not in the obnoxious flaunting way. Helpful. Warm. Concerned about our comfort. Humble. A good man to have in charge of Baviaans Kloof.
We drive to the Dam where we are met by Vuyani Dlomo. He is the man looking after the Dam. A former Rugby player who entertained many as he ran onto the field for Eastern Province, the Freestate & the Griekwas. More friendliness. More knowledge. We stand in the spray of an overflowing Kouga Dam as Sizwe introduces us to everyone. Noel Isaacs is also present. I’ll tell you about him later.
Vuyani talks about the origin of the Dam. How it is the lifeline of the agricultural activity in the Gamtoos. Citrus world. Sending Oranges & Naartjies to Europe, Asia & beyond.
Then we’re taken into the heart of the Dam. Into the tunnels leading deep into the wall.
There, in a dark corner we bump into ‘Oom Piet’. I never knew Dams were such complicated structures. ‘Oom Piet’ tells us how he is measuring movement of the dam wall. Checking vibration, wind in the tunnels, pressure, flow & a myriad other things. There are possible plans to raise the dam wall. The immense body of water contained by it, growing to grow food & opportunity.
We exit the tunnels half-way up the wall. Vuyani takes us under the overflow of the dam. My heart pounding. The kids laughing as the water becomes a shower, halfway along the walkway. On the other side, soaked, but happy, Vuyani explains about the flow, the checks & balances. The floodgates. the adults return to the other side while Vuyani takes the kids back along the wall, under the overflow again.
1840 steps we did. Up and down the wall. Along the front of the wall. Through the deepest crevices of this immense structure.
An experience which cannot be described.
That is what we are with every track we leave on African soil.
The Landy finds her way to ‘Twee Waters‘ where we’ll rest for the evening.
The key is left on the large ‘stoep’.
We each find a bedroom.
We wash up, or rather dry out after the Dam experience.
Theunsie lights a fire.
We chew on our experience.
Here too is a beautiful garden.
Well fitted kitchen & every amenity you might need.
As the sun sets a Bakkie comes driving down the long dirt road. It is Gerhard & Kenau. To our surprise, more family. Gerhard worked for my grandfather, many decades ago at the Patensie Tabaco Co-op. He tells stories of my mother & aunts who were at school with him. Kenau tells stories of when Zuko was a little girl & came to play on their farm. We talk of our lives. Of time’s certain flow. Of reasons & motivations. We express gratitude & the hope that somehow, in all of this life, we will leave something beautiful behind.
Supper is grilled on the open fire.
Coffee is served on the ‘stoep’.
Sleep is embraced.
Sunday morning is welcomed by the call of Baboons high up in the mountains.
Breakfast is quick.
We’re off into the Kloof.
This morning Sizwe brought Duma along.
More friendly people.
People who love the Eastern Cape.
Baviaans Kloof is an immense bit of wilderness.
The Tribe has been there before.
The kids were still small.
Raymond & Karien Staines shared it with us.
We spend a little bit of time at the reception, viewing camping grounds.
Then we start the drive.
I’m relieved we’re in the Landy.
You can’t take a soft city car on these roads.
Baviaans Kloof is breathtaking.
You need a few days to really experience it.
Today we’re just getting a reminder.
Something to call us back to our Africa.
Along the way we stop at different viewing points.
Every now & then Sizwe & Duma’s vehicle stops. One of them gets out. Then they pick up a plastic bag or a random wrapper left behind by someone who does not understand what this world is about.
At the Wolrd Heritage Site Interprative Centre we meet up with Noel Isaacs again.
He explains to us why this is a world heritage site.
He tells us of the communities who live in the Kloof.
Of how he grew up at Colseke.
He talks about Soutpan.
About the healing plants of the Kloof.
About the healers who traveled through the kloof, from one side to the other, healing serious diseases with nothing more than a branch of this & a root of that.
We travel further.
Stop at a Bushman Cave.
Noel shows us the mark of ownership of a people who lived here long before ships came from Portugal or Warriors came from the north.
He talks with respect about how they did not destroy, but took only what was needed.
He talks with sadness about how they were destroyed.
Maybe we do not sow what we reap?
We traverse ancient passes built by men who were braver & bolder than engineers with fancy equipment & earth-moving machines.
We spot antelope.
The Baviaans Kloof is home to the largest leopard population in South Africa.
Late afternoon we arrive at Rooi Wal.
The river’s water is cool.
We take a moment to breathe Baviaans in the shade of an old Yellow Wood.
Noel starts telling us the stories of the Kloof.
Of Oom Schalk Swarts, the healer.
Of the ‘tokelossie’ a little evil man who pestered the people.
In all his stories he reminds me that we cannot move away from our troubles. They follow us. And that sometimes it is good to face our demons. And the good things, they are worth being brave about.
Noel’s eyes glisten as he speaks of miraculous healing.
Of inexplicable experiences.
Of ‘water-myde’ (Mermaids) & little men with flat heads tormenting a little boy.
It is evening when we say our goodbyes at the entrance to the controlled area.
We thank Sizwe for his hospitality & kindness.
We thank Noel for his companionship & stories.
They encourage us to take the spirit of Africa to Asia.
The beauty of it.
And the kindness.
As we drive home we resolve, one of the 1st things we’ll do, once we’re back from Asia, is load a Landy & spend a week listening to the heart beat of our Africa.