Blue Crane Tourism

Blue Crane Route: Chief’s Log, Day 10

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Day 10.

The last day.

The day I like least of any journey.

A journey that does not end.

An explore which is infinite.

That is what my heart desires.

It is our 3rd day at ‘Die Lapa‘.

We arrived on day 8 of our journey, exploring the Blue Crane Tourism Route.

We’d seen and tasted so much.

PJ & Lynette and Hockley Cottages, Cranemere & the Palmers.  Marianne, the first internationally acclaimed author we’d meet.  PJ, the first exporter.  All on day 1.

Chris Wilken, Lincoln & the immense work of the Blue Crane Development Agency.

Stephan, Vega, Somerset House & Janet.

Stunning Janet.

The second renowned author of a recipe book whom we met on day 2.

Alan & Annabelle Hobson.  Hobson’s Choice Deli.  The Angler & Antelope. Karoo Flyfishing, with intricately made ‘flies’, not ‘lures’.

My & Theunsie’s first fly-fishing catch.

Day 3.

Day 4 filled with Glen Avon & Avon Heights & that 80 meter waterfall.

With tough pioneers & history & nature.

Esther & her nursery and tea-garden and guesthouse.

Liza & Kokskraal & empowerment rooted in love.

The 5th day of our journey well spent on meeting more beautiful people.

The 6th day of our explore spent on visiting places that carry our names.

‘Theuns se Winkel’.

KuZuko Lodge‘.

Seeing ourselves in them.

Or something of ourselves.

Day 7: a bit more of Kuzuko Lodge, amazing big-5 game, stunning food and then Dafre & Natie & Mountain View Inn.

A family larger than our own.

A feast.

An instant friendship.

Hearts connecting.

Laughter.

Understanding.

Loss shared.

Hope expressed.

Sense made.

On day 8 we arrived at ‘Die Lapa‘.

The last leg of our 10-day explore.

But first we discovered Walter Battis.

Geritwyn.

Ros Turner.

Festah & Die Kaia.

We discover the resilience of the human soul.

Its unseen & unrecognized radiance.

We had the entire day 9, enjoying the adventures of this eccentric world.

Jannie & Wilna’s little village created from Karoo dust, rock & wild imagination.

Today we say goodbyes.

Not only to Jannie & Wilna & Wilmarie.

We say goodbye to this experience.

A memory.

A moment, never to be forgotten.

Wilna serves a hot breakfast.

Jannie takes us to see the Honeymoon House, this romantic soul’s expression of the beauty of shared solitude.

The children of our Tribe enjoy the exuberance of Wilmarie & Die Lapa’s horses.

A last bit of exceptional.

Lunch is served.

As if this place also does not want to let go of us.

We talk about how life is never what we expect.

It is never painted in the easy on the eye pastels of cultural conformity.

It is energetic.

Filled with the opportunity to be creative.

To find ways.

Of making sense.

Of getting beyond.

We talk of the wonder of filling your life with the things you enjoy.

Making that your work.

I increasingly hope.

We talk of doing something in which you find meaning.

Something you value.

Doing it in every moment of every day.

For Jannie & Wilna & Die Lapa it is helping people to connect.

With themselves.

And each other.

And their creator.

Through playing.

Like children.

Then lunch is over.

The Chrysler Grand Voyager is loaded.

And as we make our way home I think about doing what we enjoy.

Making that your life.

I think about an immense experience.

Something beautiful I’ll cherish into whatever age I receive & into new life, again & again.

I think about hope.

Beyond fear.

Beyond being consumed by living for tomorrow.

Hope in this moment.

In living.

In being.

Together.

Becoming.

More.

In each other.

And this I ask.

For me.

For my Tribe.

For everyone we met in these few days.

And everyone who share our journey.

Which does not end.

In eternity.

For you.

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Blue Crane Route: Chief’s Log, Day 9

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Just as the first light greeted us through our bedroom’s window, our children rushed into our room, filled with excitement.

We’re nearing the end of our ten-day explore of the Blue Crane Route.

It’s the perfect ending.

We’re at ‘Die Lapa‘, an adventure farm hidden in the mountains, just south of Somerset East.

It is beautiful.

A little village coming to life, far from the rush & noise of city life.

Wilna has hot coffee & warm breakfast ready.

Jannie, her husband was born on this land.

His grandfather walked in the river bed.

His father played amongst the trees & succulents.

What they do is share the amazing joy of farm life with anyone wiling to make the journey.

Since its inception schools & companies have come here to explore themselves as they explore nature.

I see a twinkle in Jannie’s eyes.

The games he played as a child & the ones he dreamt of, all of them are here to share & taste & experience.

His manner with our children speak of a gentle soul.

A soul hungry to heal & make whole.

The city-slickers from Gauteng are off to neighboring land where they’re developing a lodge.

What Jannie has created is not just another lodge.

It is a little bit of life in the heart of the Karoo.

Friends from Somerset East arrive.

Our number bolster.

We have teams to play paintball.

Jannie joins in.

Pippin & Theunsie fight like hardened soldiers.

We take the hits.

We give our share of hits.

We laugh exuberantly.

It fills the morning.

Over lunch we talk of the people who make their way to ‘Die Lapa’.

Beautiful people received by beautiful people.

Warm.

All of us discovering more as we push ourselves beyond our own limits – or what we thought was limits.

Pippin & Soffie & Theunsie, even Zuko, brave the high swing.

‘Hemelhoog’

Touching the blue Karoo heavens before swinging wildly through the sky.

Soffie overcomes a fear.

Theunsie & Pippin too, although they show a braver front.

As we do when we grow up.

Hiding our fear.

Keeping quiet about it, instead of being honest & facing it.

Talking about it without worrying what others would say.

If only we could do that.

Be honest.

In our relationships.

About who we are.

About what we fear.

About what we hope & dream & reach for.

I dream of a life filled with my Zuko & children.

Into eternity.

Filled with wonderful people who make me & us more, as we make them more.

Encouraging each other.

Filling cracks & crevices.

Healing even, as we see each other’s beauty.

And reflect it.

Jannie & Wilma’s children join us.

They’re little Wilmarie take Theunsie & Sophia & Wilhelmina horse-riding.

Later we do the obstacle course.

The weather changes.

Large cold drops splatter in the soft Karoo soil.

Jannie helps each child along.

Explaining the value of choosing adventure.

Of moving outside of your comfortable space.

‘It is good to ask for help’, he says.

‘Nothing wrong with that, but ask exactly what you need, so others may know exactly how to come alongside you.’

‘There is no shame in asking.’

‘No one makes it without the help of others.’

How did we become so independent?

How did we come to believe that if I did not make it on my own I did not make it with dignity?

What is ‘making it’, after all?

Is it obscene wealth?

So that you can splash & splurge & spend as if there is no end.

Or is it deep relationship?

Becoming?

Who you were created to be?

All along?

Is it really connecting?

That is something else which have been brewing below the surface the past few days.

So many men’s inability to be authentic & honest.

Always hiding behind a bravado.

Robbing their wives & children of a life in intimacy.

I’m glad to see Jannie embrace his Wilna.

It is real.

No show.

No show!

How do we get there?

To that place?

Perhaps a place like ‘Die Lapa‘ will help us along?

Perhaps stepping outside the comfort of city life & doing together, something which we’d never consider doing – perhaps that takes us to this new place.

Of honesty.

And along with that a new new-found bravery.

I think that is the gift of Jannie & Wilna with ‘Die Lapa’.

An opportunity to school boys & girls, to prefects & teachers, to families & friends & businesses, to get to that place.

It is a good place.

As we come into the village-hall at the centre of this little village, the warm fire is cooking supper.

The children head for the pool table.

The visitors from Gauteng are here as well.

Laughter is easy.

We talk.

Disagree.

Smile.

Laugh.

Zuko boldly explains our eccentric life.

Homeschooling at the little wooden house on the not so little hill.

Traveling the Eastern Cape.

It doesn’t sound like much in comparison to the lives of the rich & famous.

To us it is everything.

We connect for a moment, through the people.

We smile.

For it is good.

And we hope, as Jannie & Wilna share Jannie’s boy-hood experiences, we may also share the joy of family life.

Of raising children, not to ‘leave’ for distant worlds, but to keep on sharing.

As equals.

Collaborating.

Creating.

Alongside each other.

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Blue Crane Route: Chief’s Log, Day 8

WIN! a weekend’s accommodation at Mountain View Inn, including a guided tour of the Walter Battiss Art Museum & The Somerset East Museum AND a private evening performance by renowned musician Gerrie van Wyk, the complete prize valued at more than R3500.

This is how:

(1) read this post

(2) Find out what artist Walter Battiss called his imaginary island.

(3) In the comments section on this post leave your answer to this question: ‘What did Walter Battiss call his imaginary Island-Republic?’

Entries close Monday 20/08/2012 at midnight.

Winner announced on Tuesday 21/08/2012 on Kingfisher FM‘s Big Breakfast.

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Breakfast at Mountain View Inn is a festive affair, much like supper was.

Dafre, the owner joins us.

Her pharmacy is right around the corner.

She came earlier to say good morning, attentive to all our needs & comfort.

Conversation is easy.

Warm.

Authentic.

Leaving Mountain View Inn is slow.

Unhurried.

After breakfast we pack our bags & load the Chrysler Grand Voyager.

We’re off to ‘Die Lapa‘ at Skietfontein, later today.

But first we’re going to visit Festah & her family at ‘Die Kaia‘.

We want to see what she has on offer in terms of accommodation & activities.

Beautiful bush tents.

A huge caravan & camping site.

On the river’s edge.

The little Fish River.

What we discover is a beautiful woman with a love of nature & a deep creativity, explored amidst many other things.

Festah shows us where the eagles nest.

And the ducks.

She talks of how ‘Die Kaia‘ developed into a popular picnic spot for locals.

Of the camping site & bush tents & how she hopes they’ll be enjoyed by city dwellers who desperately desire to get away from the city bustle.

A tasty biltong ‘potjie’ is lunch.

We walk along the river’s edge.

Earlier we visited the Walter Battis Art Museum.

We learnt of this eccentric artist’s imaginary ‘Fook Island’ & the children beg Festah for empty pages they could fill with Fook-writing.

They’re inspired by his eccentricity.

His ability to retain his childhood deep into old age.

I’m impressed by Geritwyn.

She’s been with the Somerset East Museum for 23 years.

She takes the children from room, explaining every little detail with care & excitement.

She shows Pippin her rose-leaf jam.

She takes me to the ‘Slachtersnek Exhibition’, explaining the history of failed ‘Afrikaner Rebelion’ against the English.

Of hanging.

Perceived Devine intervention.

Death.

How filled our history is with strife, disappointment & battle.

How immense our future could be if we were to learn from it, embracing & enabling each other.

We say our goodbyes to Festah & her Kaia.

Make our way through stunning farmland to ‘Die Lapa‘.

The Karoo is wet & green from uncommon winter rains, each little river crossing flowing slowly, taking life to natural life not known in many places.

It would be a pitty if Fracking takes this away from us.

As the Chrysler Grand Voyager bring us over a rise & we start a slow decline a brightly colored ‘Windpomp’ (wind operated water pump) greets us in the distance.

And then a village, hidden amongst the mountains.

Little wooden cottages scattered around the ‘town centre’.

A large shed with a massive fire-place.

Smoke reach for the sky from chimneys.

The muddy obstacle course, paintball field & horses beckon our children & fill them with excitement for the next day’s adventure.

We find our rooms.

And then the fire-place in the middle of this village’s ‘city hall’.

Jannie & Wilna talk of how ‘Die Lapa’ came to life.

A caravan under a tree.

A first wooden cottage.

A handful of hunters seeking respite from the relentlessness of life in winter fires & warm black coffee poured from a blackened pot boiling in orange flames.

There are other guests as well.

Hunters from Cape Town & the Swartland.

Visitors from Gauteng who love the Karoo & desire to create something they do not understand yet.

Supper is simple & exquisite all at the same time.

Jannie & Wilna’s love for this part of the world translated into meat & salad & potato dish.

The children laugh from the room next to ours.

I hear them talk of what they’ll do tomorrow.

Paintball.

Obstacle course.

Horse ridding.

The excitement is contagious & throughout the night my dreams are filled with us, our weird Tribe, doing stuff together.

It is in the doing together that we become.

In the experiencing.

In the tasting of life.

Together.

And then it is morning.

Day 9 of our ten-day trip exploring the Blue Crane Route.

Wow!

What an experience.

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Blue Crane Route: Chief’s Log, Day 7

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At seven the phone rings in our room.

It is one of the Rangers.

During the night the rain had subsided & we’ll be able to go out and view some game.

Kuzuko Lodge, where we are staying, is a ‘big-5’ game reserve.

The children’s excitement soon invade our room, from next-door.

They’re dressed & ready.

They want to brave the cold & see the game.

We bite a quick breakfast.

A cup of coffee.

Then we’re off.

Zuko & Maddi stays behind in the comfort of Kuzuko Lodge’s Lounge & the care of their attentive staff.

We’re in the care of Freddie the Ranger.

The Tribe, the only South Africans on the Game Viewing Vehicle.

A German couple and a family from the UK accompanying us.

People travel great distances at a huge expense to experience what we take for granted.

We’re all impressed by Freddie, our Ranger’s knowledge of the animals & plants & environment.

I’m impressed by his manner.

His understanding of people.

His communication skill.

I ask where he studied.

And so we meet another student who found a living through Umziwethu & the Wilderness Foundation.

We see Bufallo & Cheetah.

Rhino & Lion.

Kudu.

Rooi Hartebeest.

Swart Wildebeest.

Freddie explains the value of ‘spekboom’ a succulent plant which is loved by elephant.

Somewhere he serves coffee, along the way.

He talks of his wife.

The home they bought in Somerset East.

The dream they have of sharing life.

Raising children.

To be.

Become.

Finally we’re back at the Lodge.

A proper breakfast awaits.

Then we pack our stuff while the children from Oppi Koppi play a final game with the children from the United Kingdom.

We settle bills.

Say goodbye.

Then find our way in the comfort of the Chrysler Grand Voyager to Somerset East.

We choose the scenic R335 slowly stumbling between farmland towards Boschberg, after consulting about the condition of the road with a fellow traveler coming from that direction.

It is beautiful.

We rush too much.

We see two jackals playing.

A herd of sheep grazing.

Some laborers loading lucern bales waving friendly as we drive by.

A deserted homestead.

What looks like a building which could have been a Church or a School building a long time ago.

Its white walls stained by the passing of time & wind & rain.

It is late afternoon when we arrive in Somerset East.

Beautiful Boschberg still watching.

Maddi needs attention.

The kind you cannot give while driving.

We make our way to the Mountain View Inn to find a room & a bed.

We meet Dafre Troskie.

And Jerry van Wyk.

We drink coffee & talk.

Jerry is an exceptional musician.

He’s been on the scene for the best part of four decades.

If not longer.

Playing live.

All over the country.

But even musicians grow old.

And somewhere we all need to find some warmth.

Before supper Jerry takes out his guitar & harmonica.

He plays Niel Diamond.

Some popular cover stuff.

Then he sings one of his own songs.

About the light.

Trying to find us.

Blind us.

About a life.

Trying to be lived.

Slipping away.

Unawakened.

We’ve met through a mutual friend, in Nelson Mandela Bay.

It is a pleasant surprise to discover that Jerry is our host of sorts at the Mountain View Inn.

He makes the coffee.

Lights the fire.

Dafre embraces us.

We laugh about finally finding someone with more children than our Tribe.

She & Natie have six.

If we ever ‘have’ children.

Perhaps they’re merely entrusted to us.

To guide.

To share life with.

To become in relationship with, as we become alongside them.

We talk of the wonder of new life.

The devastation of loss.

We talk of making sense.

Of starting again.

Of resilience in the stead of giving up.

Dafre is a pharmacist.

Business woman.

Natie a farmer.

That is how they earn enough to care for their family.

What they do is much more.

They raise a family.

Love a people.

Find their way.

To themselves.

And each other.

Then Dafre is off to fetch ox-tail and her family.

Zuko & Maddi take a nap.

Theunsie & I play some pool.

The house erupts with children laughing, running up and down the wide hallways of this grand old house.

Mountain View Inn is more than a house.

There are apartments & a garden.

It is right at the heart of town.

You can feel Somerset East in this place.

We eat.

Laugh.

Tell of where we come from & what we hope & what we struggle with.

Talk of freedom.

Hope.

Dafre’s father is visiting from Mosselbay.

He talks of children faraway in the Americas.

Natie talks of their eldest’s growing up & going to University.

Zuko & I listen.

Discover.

Dafre shows us her book.

Jerry does a last song.

Then goodbyes are said.

Natie has to be on the farm in the morning.

Dafre has a pharmacy to open.

Her father leaving early to drive back home to Mosselbay.

We have a day exploring the Walter Battiss Art Musuem, the historic town & perhaps even birding.

I remain astounded.

At the beauty of people.

And our ability to rise again.

Once more.

And live.

As we see, beyond the obvious.

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Blue Crane Route, Chief’s Log, Day 6

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Visiting places that carry your name.

I’ve not done that before.

In fact, I don’t think there are many places out there that carry our names.

Theunis & Zuko.

Today we visited two places, each carrying one of our names.

‘Theuns se Winkel’ (Theuns’ Shop) was the first.

We’ve driven past it many times.

Most recently, in December, on our way to the farm in the mountains between Cradock & Tarkastad.

We saw it come to life, after many years of standing empty.

Our curiosity triggered, we decided to visit it on our way to Kuzuko Lodge.

Incidently it is where you turn off from the N10, to make your way to Kuzuko.

Celeste & Alonzo welcomed us.

She took custody of ‘Theuns se Winkel’ in November.

She is married to a local farmer.

Drought had forced her to seek new ways of creating income.

At first she went to work in Somerset East, but being away from the farm & her family was hard.

Friends came alongside her.

They helped her raise the capital.

And new life came to this little stop along the N10.

There is a shop selling local produce.

A restaurant serving breakfast & lunch & supper, if required.

The place speaks of Celeste’s creativity & eclectic soul.

Baroque, Rock-‘n-Roll, old & new, as well as a dash of India & Africa mixed into a rich new personality.

As we breakfast, Quintin comes in, seats himself at the counter & orders breakfast.

He works for a truck-towing company.

A truck carrying sheep has fallen over.

He came to scout & is waiting for the tow-truck to make its way from Nelson Mandela Bay.

He says the shop used to be a shearing shed, where farmers from all over brought their sheep.

Then it was a shop.

And a liquor store.

It stood empty many times.

But it has always been a landmark.

The food is amazing.

Stuff you’d expect at an expensive restaurant in a big city.

The decor is stunning.

Something you’d not have seen before.

Celeste speaks of new beginnings.

Of taking risks.

Of never being able to make it on your own.

Rain is pouring down outside.

A friend sends a picture of a pure white Johannesburg.

Snow covering large parts of the country.

We say our goodbyes.

Certain that we’ll stop at’ Theuns se Winkel’, whenever we travel in this direction.

Hopeful that others would do the same.

Then we make our way to Kuzuko Lodge.

Zuko wasn’t born with this name.

Are any of us born with our name?

Perhaps we are, and our destiny is to discover its fulness.

One morning, a short while after we promised each other to spend our lives together, I woke up with this name in my heart.

And I started calling her it.

There was no ceremony.

No big fanfare.

It suited her.

Often our names are filled with something.

I see God renaming Abram.

I see Daniel & his friends re-named to become Sadrach, Mesag & Abednecho.

I see Josef carrying a new name as he becomes the Pharaoh’s right hand man.

Zuko.

‘Glory’, Ningi explains to me.

‘In Xhosa it means glory.’

‘In Xhosa-tradition, when a man marries a woman, he endows her with a new name.’

‘A name talking of what she has done for him.’

‘What she will be for him.’

‘What she has unlocked in him.’

‘She must be your glory’, Ningi says.

And she is.

For without her I was empty.

I did not know my being.

I was half.

Afraid to explore the deepest crevasses of my being.

My Zuko, my glory.

If I was to be grammatically correct, in Xhosa, I should’ve called her noZuko.  The feminine in Xhosa always takes ‘no’, but even Xhosa people seem to forgive me & understand that who she is & what the name describes is more important that grammar.

Kuzuko Lodge is ‘the place of glory’.

We arrive at reception after quite a drive.

The Chrysler Grand Voyager really impressing us with its ability to make its way across unfamiliar ground.

We’re welcomed in 5-star style.

Little warm napkins after the journey.

Our luggage taken to our rooms.

Our rooms fitted with every conceivable comfort & luxury.

We do high tea.

And when we return to our room, it is turned down for the evening.

Zuko enjoys a full body back massage & manicure.

I spend time with Maddi.

Precious time.

Theunsie, Wilhelmina & Sophia play Wii with two new friends who traveled thousands of miles from the UK to come to Kuzuko to make new friends.

Supper is a grand affair.

The duty manager caters for Zuko’s vegetarian needs.

African music fills the cold evening atmosphere.

Conversation is easy from the entrée to the desert.

Rain still pouring down we find our beds.

We talk late into the night.

About places that carry our names.

‘Theuns se Winkel’ is eclectic.

It is a mix of influences.

Free.

Still blooming into a flower.

Possibly a beautiful flower.

Only time will tell.

Kuzuko Lodge is well established.

An oppulent place of rest & nature & comfort.

My Zuko is all of that.

To me.

To everyone she meets.

And more.

Rich.

Surprising.

Magnificent.

Glory.

Always lifting others high.

Always adoring the wonder of being.

Always radiant & resplendent as she sees the beauty in those fortunate enough to share life with her.

Expectant of what we’ll discover at Kuzuko the following day.

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Blue Crane Route: Chief’s Log, Day 5

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Today we took the time to meet Esther & Liza.

Esther is an entrepreneur who created a nursery, tea garden & guesthouse.

She came to Somerset East to work as a nurse at the local Andries Vosloo Hospital.

Her parents had recently located to this beautiful area, from Queenstown.

She was young and full of optimism.

She fell in love.

Raised a family.

Witnessed them growing up into adults.

Following their own optimism into the world.

Esther’s nursery is a wonderful surprise.

Lots of indigenous plants.

The hope of life which might grow & bear fruit, alive in everything.

Typically, in the world we inhabit, a tree does not enjoy its own fruit.

It is reaped.

To be enjoyed somewhere else.

By someone else.

It is the sadness we encounter in so many places as we explore the Blue Crane Route.

Children who grew up with Boschberg always watching.

Children becoming adults.

Venturing far away to exotic destinations.

Seeking opportunity.

Trying to make it.

In their own way.

In the world.

Liza’s children are teenagers.

They’re studying at Gill-College.

Gill is the heartbeat of Somerset East.

An exceptional school, built over decades, by dedicated teachers & principals.

Tradition.

Futures nurtured.

Esther’s children learnt there as well.

Liza’s husband contributes to the filling of our countries food-basket.

And on every farm there are labourers.

Who have wives & children too.

And the children go to school.

And the husbands off to work.

And the mothers are at home.

Empty homes.

With no opportunity.

And Liza created Kokskraal Crafts.

To create employment for these women.

On their farm.

They created designs for pens & serviette holders & spoons & candles.

She attended trade shows.

And the orders started coming in.

From all over the world.

We enjoyed breakfast at Esther’s Tea Garden: the Blue Lizzard.

She told us of her plans for growing it.

Of her guesthouse, next door.

Of her children far away.

Of her brother whose son died at nineteen.

Of a loss & sadness never easing.

Liza serves lunch.

Her husband talks of the farm.

Of their Church in Somerset East.

Of the world becoming a country.

Of drought & hope.

Of generations working the same land, filling a growing need in a hungry world.

As we drive home, I think of opportunities created.

I think of the Richard Bransons of this world, who made it big & gave Liza an opportunity, recognizing her effort to create employment.

I wonder if employment is the solution.

I wonder if employment should not grow into ownership.

Or if some are destined to be employees & others to be employers.

Salary & bills the new owner.

Most of us still slaves.

Glen Avon rids me of my morbid thoughts.

Allison is there to greet us.

Our cottage is beautifully tidied.  The beds made.  The dishes done.  Even our laundry taken care of.

She comes to talk about dinner.

And about life.

One of her grandchildren playing with Sophia & Wilhelmina.

Theunsie playing with Rusty, the young sheepdog.

We light a fire.

Inside, to warm our cottage.

Outside, to cook our supper.

We talk of creativity.

Zuko & I.

Of everyone doing their best with what they are given.

Early this morning, before we made our way to tea gardens & art projects, I walked with my eldest three to share in the milking of the cows.

They each milked a cow.

We spoke to the men who work this land alongside Allison’s family.

‘I was born here’, says the one.

‘This is my world’.

‘I want to be nowhere else.’

Generations.

In one place.

Continuity.

Lost.

In my world.

Where parents save for retirement.

And children are left to fend for themselves.

Perhaps, if they’re fortunate, with an education in hand.

Maybe we are the architects of our world.

Hunger, for more, for security our slave driver.

Supper is had at the beautiful old dining room table in our cottage.

Our family talking & laughing, enjoying this very moment.

This moment.

It is what we have.

From this moment may we live.

To new moments.

Perhaps our children will be trees.

Planted in the same orchard.

Bearing fruit alongside us.

I hope.

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Blue Crane Route: Chief’s Log, Day 4

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Pioneers.

I don’t think Robert Hart had 2012 in mind when he made his way from Scotland to unknown Africa as an eighteen  year old soldier, in 1795.

Perhaps he dreamt of children and grandchildren when he settled on Glen Avon in 1825, but prior to that what he did was fight the Queen’s war by, amongst other things, welcoming Settlers in Grahamstown and growing vegetables to supply wheat & fodder to the Military in the Eastern Cape Frontier.

We forget how recent the history of  colonial occupation of Africa is.

Still, where do you encounter eight generations who lived & worked and played on the same land for almost two hundred years.

My Zuko grew up in Walmer, Port Elizabeth.

It is something wonderful to think our children are swimming in the same pool she swam in when she was their age.

The third generation.

Only the second to experience it as children.

I grew up in Oudtshoorn.

Then in Salvia Crescent in Westering.

Then in Kyle Road in Framesby North.

Then in Violet Avenue in Sunridge Park.

Then in Christiaan Street in Rowallan Park,

Then in Ascot Road, Greenacres.

Those homes only photographs in albums.

As we make our way up the mountain to Avon Heights, to meet Reg & Vivian, to go and see the Glen Avon Falls which drop 80 meters from mountains up high to valleys below, I think of ‘continuity’ and wonder if we’ve lost it along the way.

Reg & Vivian have been living high up in the mountains for more than five decades.

Reg’s aunt left the land to him when he was only 29.

He settled there & was soon joined by Vivian.

And their three children.

Whom they raised without electricity or internet or mobile phone reception.

Today Reg is 74.

Tougher than I am.

Working the land in extreme heat & extreme cold, through drought & snow.

It is a cold day.
We get on the back of the bakkie.  Zuko & Maddi get an honorary seat inside the vehicle.

Had the weather been better, we would’ve walked the distance to the falls.

The drive is beautiful.

We see mountain reed buck.

An eagle flying high above.

We hear the baboons fighting even higher than we are.

Reg finds a tree to park.

Then we walk.

He knows this land.

He speaks lovingly of each tree & plant and animal we encounter.

It is evident that he spent a life-time here.

Vivian explains that when they get older, they would probably have to consider moving to town.

I think it is here wishful talk, rather than Reg’s intention.

The falls is beautiful.

Magnificent even.

At the heartbeat of Glen Avon.

‘Avon’ is a Scottish word.

It describes a valley meandering high into the mountains.

Perhaps it describes a life meandering through centuries.

Reg’s Aunt was married to a descendant of Robert Hart.

He also went to war.

In Europe.

For the Queen.

During which he was ‘gassed’, I’m told and was told that he would not live long.

So he went on a world tour.

Eventually brought back Pecan-seed, which are now the old trees standing in front of our cottages.

And married.

But never had children.

So he died.

And his wife’s nephew inherited the privilege to raise his family in this world.
And share it, with visitors, through their  mountain cabin.

A moment to experience.

To walk to the falls.

To hear the wind.

To listen for baboons.

As we drive back from the waterfall it starts to snow, white flakes swirling in the wind.

We find Reg & Bev’s own mountain home.

Warm tea.

Lunch of homemade sausage & bread & Quiche.

Coffee & Boston Bread for desert.

They show us pictures of their children who live in exotic distant places.

By the time we get home we’re still soaked.

We light the fire in our comfortable Glen Avon Cottage.

Take a warm shower.

Hang our clothes to dry by the heat of orange flames.

Then Greg Brown comes to greet.

He is the seventh generation on Glen Avon.

His children the eighth.

We see him work the Angora Goats.  Carefully registering every new kid.  Tagging it.  Putting away the ewes with kids in sheds, anticipating a cold night.

Along the way he shows us the old mill, built in 1823 by Robert Hart.

Upgraded in 1861.

Repaired in 1984.

He shows us their shearing shed as well.

Brought to Glen Avon by Robert Hart’s great-grandson in 1906.

Bought in the north, where it was a mess-hall for British Officers fighting the 1899-English war.

Dismantled.

Re-assembled.

Maintained & utilized for more than a hundred years.

How do we make sense of history?

Unless we find some sense in families living from generation to generation.

Perhaps if we all had the luxury of continuity, our world would be a little more peaceful?

But that is not what I think of as I sip my last bit of tea before drifting off to sleep.

I think of resilient men.

And women.

Who settled in untamed lands.

Who shipped mills, piece-by-piece from England, to trek with them over Zuurberg-Mountains, to assemble them on remote land.

I think of men and women who lived without.

To live with.

Without electricity or convenience.

Without nearby doctors & schools.

To live with nature.

Raising food.

Cattle.

Sheep.

Goats.

Vegetables, wheat, apples & nuts.

How desperate we need a new generation of pioneers.

Who will boldly move into the future.

Building our country, now owned by many as shared inheritance.

Pioneers who will think of tomorrow & spare no effort to build something which will stand for centuries to benefit generations.

Greg lives in the house his grandfather grew up in.

His father lives in the house his grandfather grew up in.

I have no idea if the little one-roomed house I see on pictures still exist on a Oudtshoorn farm.

I do hope my children will be brave enough to be bold enough to take on this life and create something.

Meaningful.

For generations to come.

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Blue Crane Route: Chief’s Log, Day 3

Congratulations to Mike Hanley who won a  Karoo Wild Fly Fishing experience with Alan Hobson & The Angler & Antelope valued at more than R5500. (30/08/2012)

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Today we did not stumble onto another super chef or another manufacturer, hidden away in this amazing world, creating & exporting components across the globe.

Day one & two showed us that.

We were however reminded of two important things.

Inadvertently.

Alan Hobson of the Angler & Antelope took us fly fishing.

He & his wife Annabelle relocated to Somerset East around 2004.

They bought an old, dilapidated Roman Catholic Church & Manse.

Restored it.

And created Hobson’s Choice Deli.

The Angler & Antelope 4-star guesthouse, as well as Nigel’s – a whiskey bar & conferencing centre inside the old Church building.

Nigel’s sport fifty varieties of malt whiskey, sourced from everywhere in the world where quality whiskey is distilled.

At Hobson’s Choice Annabelle created freshly baked bread, wonderful salami, venison & meals.

All organic & fresh & locally sourced.

The Angler & Antelope provides extremely comfortable accommodation for travellers, visitors & fly fishermen.

That is Alan’s love.

He started fly fishing as a boy at boarding school.

Its been his haven & now he is sharing it with people from all over the world & the continent.

Next week a group of ardent fly fishermen will arrive by train in search of a ninety pounder.

After breakfast at Hobson’s Choice Deli, Alan takes us to Nigel’s, next door, where he also has a fly fishing shop.

He starts explaining to us that there are easier ways of catching fish.

If that’s what you want to do.

Fly fishing is about the sport.

The experience.

It is about making it as difficult & competitive as possible.

It is about immersing yourself in nature.

I realize, if you’re a fly fisherman, a real one, then you become an expert at water life.

Insects.

Nature.

You study your prey.

Learn whatever you can about fish.

About their behaviour.

Their senses.

Alan explains their ability to see.

And feel.

And hear.

A new respect comes alive in us for this creature, so often not understood.  Or not even noticed.

A fish is a fish is a fish dissipates as Alan shares his knowledge & interest & love.

It is about ‘being’ out in nature.

It is about watching.

Listening.

Seeing beyond the obvious.

Outside we learn to cast.

The long elegant strokes we’ve often seen in films or on TV as Danny Crane & Alan Shore take a moment out from Boston’s Legal world.

We don’t quite master it.

This is not something to be mastered in a moment.

We do however learn the technique, grateful for Alan’s patience & decades of experience.

Slowly he teaches each one of us what to do.

Even handling the rod, in fly fishing, is about getting in tune with yourself.

About feeling it.

The rhythm.

The flow & energy of the line.

Then we head to the pools.

The scenery as we drive is overwhelming.

Amazing mountains.

Antelope, birds, a troop of Baboons.

At the pool we set up ‘camp’.

Some comfortable chairs for Zuko & Maddi & anyone not at the water.

Patiently Alan takes us to the pools, two by two.

We’re encouraged to be quiet.

For fish are aware.

Of their surroundings.

They notice.

Perhaps that is something else I’m reminded of today.

To be even more aware.

To notice.

Movement.

Change.

To respond.

On instinct.

On his third cast, Theunsie brings a fish to shore.

Alan by his side,

The girls try.

Then me & Zuko.

Alan shows us the little mayfly drifting on the surface.

We change flies.

They must be spawning right now.

The fish would be hunting them.

Let’s be cunning.

Let’s use our own mayfly.

To share what you love, is the most amazing of experiences.

If you can spend your days doing that, you will be happy.

That is the first I’m reminded of on this 3rd day of our 10-day explore of the Blue Crane Route.

And as I punch & cast & slowly bring in the line, I think of our life & how we so often aim, driven by fear of the future, to ‘get’ or ‘accumulate’, instead of aiming at doing what we love & sharing it with others.

A lunch is prepared.

Right there.
Then Alan take me & Theunsie to a pool somewhat higher up.

We stalk the fish.

We walk in silence.

Softly treading so that they would not hear us approaching water’s edge.

We hunker down, so that they would not see us.

We cast.

We cast again.

And the we strike.

The exhilaration is intoxicating.

I lose her.

Alan is encouraging.

He explains that I should be constantly aware of the indicator.

A little piece of colored wool between the ‘leader’ & the line.

To understand, you’ll have to come & spend time with Alan.

I’m too much of a novice to really explain.

We cast again.

I strike & strike with success.

I bring her to share.

Guide her into the net.

A photograph must be taken, for this is about conserving.

We catch & release.

It is not about reaping.

It is about experience.

I smile broadly.

I bring two fish to shore on my first day fly fishing,.

Alan & I both deny that without him, by my side I would probably not have tasted this excitement.

He gives me the illusion as a gift of the day.

It’s not about the credit.

Who takes it.

Who boasts with it.

It is about the sharing.

Of a love.

An experience.

Another reminder, so often forgotten in an overly hostile & competitive world.

Late afternoon we pack up camp.

Load everything in the Angler & Antelope Bakkie & head home.

As we drive in the comfort of the Chrysler Grand Voyager we’re surprised at how tired we are after a day at the water.

And we talk of the bravery to make a new beginning.

Alan & Annabelle’s.

And we say to each other, my Zuko & I, that it should never be too late to begin again with what you love.

And we say to each other, that we should really be more serious about pursuing only what we love.

And be serious about sharing it.

And so we get to Glen Avon.

Our resting place for the evening.

First settled in the early 1800’s by a Hart who knew about growing things.

But that is tomorrow’s story.

For now, as we settle our tired bodies in warm comfortable beds we chew on the things we were reminded of.

To be aware.

To share what we love.

To pursue what we love.

To do it sooner, rather than later.

And maybe to forget about all the fears of tomorrow.

For if we’re captured by them, tomorrow will come with even more fear & yesterday would never have been lived.

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Blue Crane Route: Chief’s Log, Day 2

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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.

Even Lincoln.

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.

With honesty.

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 knowledge.

His character.

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.

And Janet.

Beautiful Janet.

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.

She remained.

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.

Then run-down.

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 days.

Two recipe books.

Two brilliant internationally acclaimed chefs.

Two manufacturers, manufacturing components exported to the world.

Two worlds.

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.

And relationship.

And wealth.

And poverty.

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.

For theirs.

Consumed by a desire to progress.

And accumulate.

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?

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Blue Crane Route: Chief’s Log, Day 1

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The day you depart is often a funny day.

Especially if you’re going to be away from home for more than a weekend.

The Tribe had been looking forward to our journey to explore the Blue Crane Tourism Route.

By Thursday evening everyone’s bags were packed, feed was stashed for all the animals who would remain home. A kind house-sitter had been briefed on every little quirk of the little wooden house on the not so little hill. Neighbours had been asked to be kind and helpful. Appointments were cancelled. Last minute e-mails sent.

Yet, Friday morning still had too few hours.

Too few to allow us to get out of Nelson Mandela Bay before lunch.

There was a Reach for a Dream radio drive to be done.

Two urgent meetings.

A payment or three to make.

It was already twelve o’clock when we collected the Chrysler Grand Voyager from Maritime Motors.

This time we’re trying the new diesel version.

Powerful.

Much more fuel efficient.

And the DVD-screens made the kids day.

Zuko & I thought back to days when you drove to a big parking lot, wound down your window to attach a crackling speaker to the side of your car & watched a movie through a fogged up windscreen.

It was a movie.

In a car.

The sound was exceptional though.

The image clarity amazing.

The drive to Somerset East gave Zuko & I an opportunity to catch up on the weeks past.

It’s a year since we found out she was pregnant with our Maddi.

It’s a year since we stood at the grave of our dear friend Sarel, shielded from the harsh Kalahari sun by the dark green leaves of an ancient Motoppi-tree.

We spoke about Beate leaving for the US to finish her studies at Yale.

About Robyn.

Her loss.

Her kindness.

Then we checked in at Somerset East.

Usually, on first days of trips, we just drive to our destination, get a bed & sleep.

Today we wanted to get to Cranemere before coffee time.

Cranemere is on the other side of Somerset East.

Past Pearston.

A humble name on the side of the road.

Gold on brown.

We meet Alex & Mariane Palmer.

They’d been on Cranemere for generations.

Alex’s great-grandfather settling there in 1880.

Marriane was ‘imported’ from the Freestate.

They met in Stellenbosch.

Children were born.

Sheep & goats raised.

Hope.

That perhaps Elizabeth will return.

Marianne & Bernadette published a recipe book.

It was internationally recognised.

Dream.

Of people coming to stay at Cranemere.

Cooking together.

Tasting.

Everything shared in the beautiful recipe book.

We walk along the edge of Cranemere’s lake.

To the house built in 1940 for Alex’s parents, when they began a new life.

To be interrupted by war.

Alex remembers the stories his father told of prisoner camps, indescribable hunger & longing.

To a maiden just married.

To a Camdeboo plain deeply ingrained on his being.

It is here that Eve Palmer cried her first tear & laughed her deepest joy.

It is this she describes with reminiscence.

We drink coffee.

We savour dark rich chocolate cake with deep red berries.

They talk of children.

Of guest rooms & guests.

The sun sets.

We find our way to Somerset East.

In Pearston we stop at the home of Frans Burger.

With some chocolate cake & marmalade.

The kitchen at Cranemere never quiet.

He is from the Boland.

He’s come to guide & be guided.

Friendly.

To restore & be restored.

We do not linger, the sun long gone, a bed to be found & supper, our Maddi tired after the day’s journey.

The drive from Pearston via Bruinjies Hoogte to Somerset East is easy.

Comfortable.

‘This way I could travel all day long’, Zuko comments on the space & comfort of the Voyager afforded us.

We find Hockley Cottages.

A warm welcome.

A fire.

PJ & Lynette hungry for conversation.

Kind.

Not hoteliers.

People.

With heart.

Lynette was born here.

She knows the streets.

She’s seen them blossom.

And dry out.

And become again.

The seasons always coming and going.

We eat.

We laugh.

We discover a man who engineers tools for far off factories.

A woman who knows the joy of welcoming new life.

We see faith.

Hope often answered.

Humility.

Gratitude.

And then we find our way to the comfort of our Hockley Cottage.

One of three, originally built by a sister & two brothers.

Beautifully restored.

New old.

And we rest.

And we know the beauty of the mountain of this town will fade in the face of the beauty of the people who have chosen to make this home.

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