Somerset East is as diverse as you could possibly imagine.
Our second day exploring the Blue Crane Route was filled with people from different worlds, who share a world & build it for different reasons.
Breakfast was had at Hobson’s Choice Deli.
Alan & Anabele Hobson has created a wonderful meeting place filled with exceptional coffee, which would make the most capable Barista blush, organic produce & home-made foods.
The owners of Avon Heights were there too.
Anticipating our visit a little later in the week & as breakfast unfolded we spoke across tables about the beauty of the region & its history.
They speak fondly of this place.
Of its history as well.
Everyone we meet.
He grew up in Pearston, the little town on the other side of Bruinjies Heights which was named after the Scottish Preacher, Reverend Pearce, first known as Pearce Town, but soon reduced to the much more comfortable Pearston.
He speaks of growing up without a father.
Without much prosperity.
Not with anger or disappointment.
He is taking us into Boschberg, the magnificent mountain at the foot of which Somerset East is nestled.
After breakfast we were met by Chris Wilken. He is part of the Blue Crane Development Agency.
Chris tells us of the immense work being done to bring development to Somerset East & surrounding areas.
A tourism hub with Golf Course & the longest Mountain Bike Trail in the area.
Also the first Club House specifically for mountain bikers.
He shows us the workshops where artists create up-cycled lampshades & tiles & ceramic art.
The restaurant & where the lake will be.
Lincoln talks of Queen Njoli.
The Xhosa ruler who lived in the mountain.
The rocks placed in a big pile.
One by one as men and women seek permission to enter the valleys & forest now known as Boschberg.
You had to bring a rock, legend goes. Then spit on it & place it on the pile of rocks. If it remained on the pile, you could enter the mountain. If your rock stumbled down the side of the pile, you should rather not go up the mountain.
And some did.
And they did not return.
Even recently a young student did.
And was lost.
Modern technology & serious rescue efforts his only defence against the continued rule of Queen Njoli.
Lincoln talks of the lightning tree.
Important to Xhosa & Afrikaner alike.
He explains the thorn tree’s way of communicating with other trees.
He talks of the training he received & now gives with Umziwethu, the Wilderness Foundation’s dynamic intervention programme for vulnerable youth.
I am impressed by him.
His willingness & intention to build & give back & create.
We lunch together at Somerset on Main.
Then we drive into the mountains.
Enjoy the scenery.
Relax a bit.
Before meeting Stephen & Vega van Niekerk.
Stephan & Vega own Somerset House, a 4-star establishment offering stylish opulence & 5-star cuisine.
Vega’s father was a medical doctor settling in Somerset East.
She grew up here.
She is growing old in this world.
It is that good.
Lincoln also grew up here.
He had the opportunity to leave.
He decided to return.
To bring to children like himself the opportunity which was given to him.
He trains field guides.
And runs the Boschberg Pride Program, bringing school children into the mountain reserve.
Teaching them conservation.
The passion which nestled in his being, is undeniable. A lively passion for our world’s richness, its history, beauty & diversity.
The lounge has a warm fire.
Janet joins us.
She is a renowned chef.
She created ‘The Savoy Cabbage‘ in Cape Town & later published a recipe book by the same name.
The food she serves is filled with traces of her American Armenian heritage.
She came to South Africa when she was fifteen.
Her father an engineer.
They later left the continent.
Came to Somerset East after the success of restaurants & recipe books, searching meaning, hope & healing.
As we say goodnight, she says it was a pleasure to serve us.
The lounge & dining room used to be the school hall of a school created by Reverend Hofmeyer for a group of children from an orphanage.
Later the building was a workshop.
Later even still it was a Church.
Now lovingly restored, its character & charm retained.
Reminiscent of a wealth and opulence known by the renowned who frequently traveled abroad in the seventies & eighties of the previous century.
As Janet serves supper under high ceilings the contrast of the worlds we live in is painful.
A stunning vegetable sweet corn soup with freshly baked rolls.
Hand reared chicken on a bed of chick-peas & peas with grilled butternut & lemon.
Rich brown pudding with nut shavings & cream & custard.
We enjoy coffee & mints in front of the fire.
Stephen talks of the plastic moulding company he now runs.
Manufacturing components for alarm-systems.
Two recipe books.
Two brilliant internationally acclaimed chefs.
Two manufacturers, manufacturing components exported to the world.
Slowly merging, but forever kept apart by accumulated wealth & tradition.
Vega completed school at The Belview Girls School.
Stephen at Kingswood College in Grahamstown.
Lincoln at the nameless high school in Pearston.
In a sense, all of them grew up without fathers.
As I did.
And many others do.
Lincoln just never knew who his father was.
Stephen was at boarding school from the age of 7 or 8.
Vega’s father was around. As much as a medical general practitioner who establishes a brand new hospital can be around.
And I wonder about family.
My Sophia is sleeping on my lap.
The warmth of her body comforting.
Theunsie & Wilhelmina silently engrossed in our conversation.
Zuko with Maddi on her lap.
This is not just another evening.
This morning Alan, at Hobson’s Choice Deli, spoke of not falling into the trap of underestimating the people of the Blue Crane.
This evening I consider what underestimation would be.
And I ask myself for what purpose it would be meaningful to live?
And if our estimation and our meaning should correlate?
From a neighbour’s house the scratchy sounds of a 1960’s record filter through the Hockley Cottage window.
I think of my great-grandfather.
A farm laborer who was there.
For his son.
Who had the opportunity to do an apprenticeship at Murray & Roberts.
Who sent his own sons to University.
To become Psychologists & right Reverends.
Who wasn’t there.
Consumed by a desire to progress.
And it is with ambivalence that I drift off to sleep.
How should we then live?
Can we really choose?
Or do we merely accept with resignation or gratitude was has been measured?