Posts Tagged With: Anglo-Boer War

Nelson Mandela Bay – weekend 3

CONGRATULATIONS to Wilene Venter & Mekylo Ram!  They each win a  sets of five x day passes (valued at R1000), complements of Kingfisher FM & Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism.

The day pass gives you access to a whole range of activities & discounts.  It is a fun & affordable way to travel Nelson Mandela Bay.


LOCATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is located in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  It is 763 km east of Cape Town.

DATE VISITED: 14 & 15 September 2012 (Spring)

WHAT WE DROVE: An Alfa Romeo Giulietta complements of Maritime Motors

WHAT WE DID: We spent time at the Cuyler Manor Museum, The VW Autopavilion, The Uitenhage Concentration Camp Memorial Site & Memory Factory, as well as Wild Cats World, Spotted Cats Conservation, Daniell Cheetah Project.

WHERE WE STAYED: The little house on the not so little hill

WHO GUIDED US: Craig Duffield from Mosaic Tourism

RECOMENDATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is the ultimate family destination.  Often Uitenhage would be left off the itinerary, but you cannot miss the VW Autopavilion or Wild Cats World.  For the VW Autopavilion you need to plan at least an entire morning or afternoon.  For the Cuyler Manor Museum, you should make arrangements if you want to visit it on a weekend.

WEBSITE: Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism

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Who would imagine running into a family of clowns at a war-memorial?

Or meeting a Xhosa woman who is immensely knowledgeable & passionate about Dutch history?

Or flying across black top in an Italian Car to kneel down and rub a fully grown Cheetah?

This weekend we explored the Uitenhage side of Nelson Mandela Bay.

We did all of the above.

And more.

Driving the very fast, very sporty Alfa Romeo Giulietta, Uitenhage seemed a little closer to Port Elizabeth this Friday afternoon.

It managed our entire Tribe.

Minus the pram.

Without any strain.

I can imagine, with only one or two children, it would manage even the pram.

This car makes you feel young.



It was in noticeable contrast to the Cape-Dutch buildings & old world lawns of the Cuyler Manor Museum where Rosie Kula greeted us.

She has been with the museum for 25 years.

She knows the stories of Genl. Jacob (Armstrong) Cuyler, as if she was there herself.

Watching while his grandmother spoilt him.

Eavesdropping on the conversation where he declares that he will no longer be an Armstrong, but a Cuyler.

Smiling knowingly when he is upset as they send him out to pasture on a stipend instead of a pension.

Some people are always entitled.

Rosie has been serving.

For almost three decades.

From the Cuyler Manor Museum we made our way to the VW Autopavilion.

A modern-day ‘museum’, showcasing the work of Volkswagen in South Africa, since shortly after the Second World War.

There is a new Beetle cut in half.

The last Beetle ever built in South Africa, perfectly restored.

And Herbie, with his distinctive ’53’.

There are simulators.

Science explanations.

Vehicles on display from every period.

Even a green screen & film studio.

The VW Autopavilion is open on weekdays & every first Saturday of the month.

The Cuyler Manor Museum is open on weekdays.

On Saturday Craig from Mosaic Tourism find us activities available on weekends.

We make our way to the war-memorial site of the Uitenhage Concentration camp.

It was erected in the 70’s when a previous government made history its servant.

Making heroes of woman, children & old men who died in captivity during another senseless war.

War is always senseless.

On all the pages of recorded history I’ve not encountered one which served more than it destroyed.

Or set free.


The English War (1899 – 1902) could’ve been avoided.

Some wish to call this war the ‘South African War’, playing on the fact that it affected all people in South Africa.

I find this interesting, for there was no ‘South Africa’ in the sense of today’s South Africa, at the time & the name is just confusing.

I prefer the term ‘English War’ for, if we hope to be honest, we should admit that it was a war waged by Britain.

British expansionist ideas (notably propagated by Cecil Rhodes) as well as disputes over uitlander political and economic rights resulted in the failed Jameson Raid of 1895.

As tensions escalated, political manoeuvrings and negotiations attempted to reach compromise on the issues of the rights of the uitlanders within the South African Republic, control of the gold mining industry, and the British desire to incorporate the Transvaal and the Orange Free State into a federation under British control. Given the British origins of the majority of uitlanders and the ongoing influx of new uitlanders into Johannesburg, the Boers recognised that granting full voting rights to the uitlanders would eventually result in the loss of ethnic Boer control in the South African Republic.

To Lord Milner’s satisfaction, the June 1899 negotiations in Bloemfontein failed, and in September 1899 British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain demanded full voting-rights and representation for the uitlanders residing in the Transvaal. Paul Kruger, the President of the South African Republic, issued an ultimatum on 9 October 1899, giving the British government 48 hours to withdraw all their troops from the borders of both the Transvaal and the Orange Free State, failing which the Transvaal, allied to the Orange Free State, would declare war on the British government. The British government rejected the South African Republic’s ultimatum, resulting in the South African Republic and Orange Free State declaring war on Britain.

If the leaders of the Boer Republics were willing to talk, negotiate & find a compromise, it could’ve been different.

There are no heroes.

Even if we wished there were.

We’ve stumbled upon some of this history in Bloemfontein.

And in the Red Location-precinct, just a week ago.

During the English War Guerilla Warfare was utilized for the very first time in the modern history of man-kind.

Changing the way things were.


In small groups.

Waging war.

The English answer to this was a burnt-earth.

Farms destroyed.

Women & children incarcerated in designated restricted access areas.

The thinking: you take away their resources, they will give up.

Which eventually happened.

After thousands died.

Almost a century later our country had more of the same.


In small groups.

Waging war.

They were already living in designated restricted access areas.

Some spent decades in jail.

Others fled.

Technology changed.

Information flowing.


And Nelson Mandela negotiated.

And no more died.

The link between the English War (1899 -1902) and the Freedom Struggle lies deeper than that.

The Uitenhage Concentration Camp was the only of its kind on which prisoners were not housed in tents, but in corrugated iron buildings.

Emily Hobhouse had made a bit of a stink about Kitcheners’ methods.

Illusions had to be maintained.

A flagship project was created.

For all to see.

For journalists to visit.

For pictures to be taken.

Here, the food was abundant.

The housing more comfortable.

The water clean.

The sanitation proper.

And then the war ended.

And the victors moved the red corrugated iron buildings of the Uitenhage Concentration Camp to the New Brighton Location.

And they rusted.

Red in the sun.

And Red Location was born.

More of the same.

For so often Governments do not govern to the benefit of all the people of the land.

A civilized lot we are.

We’ve convinced ourselves.

It was Hoby the Clown who related all of this to us.

This story of Uitenhage’s Concentration Camp & its connection to the Red Location.

He is married to Popsi.

They have a son & a daughter.


And Popsicle.

We’ve been to many war memorial sites.

Never before have we been met by Clowns.

Hoby & Popsi & their children run the Memory Factory.

A touch farm.


Children’s parties.

They’re eager to talk about the past.

The present.

The future.

About hope.



And ‘stupidly’ following your heart.

Against all odds.

Living a life less ordinary.

I admire them, I think as we get into the Alfa Romeo Giulietta to make our way to Wild Cats World for lunch and an extraordinary experience with spotted cats.

The drive is easy.

Open road, quickly eaten by the Italian Automobile’s appetite.

Lunch is simple.

Then Maxie takes us through this project’s visitor area.

We meet Lion, Cheetah, Leopard, Lynx and Genet & Tierboskat.

They conserve.


Eventually release.

And along the way, in order to pay vet’s bills & feed bills & staff salaries, we get the opportunity to see them.

Meet them.

Touch them.

We are delighted that a project such as this exist.

We are saddened that our world has come to this.

A place so harsh for so many.

The drive home in the late afternoon is fast.

The Giulietta a red dash on black tar.

We’ve seen some of what the Uitenhage-area offer us.

There is still a science centre.

Beautiful seventeenth & eighteenth century architecture.

The Despatch Chimney.

Despatch Museum.

Victoria Tower.

As we twist on forgotten country roads to our little wooden house, we talk of our story.

South Africa’s.


Through centuries.

Filled to the brim with adversity.

And hardship.


And animosity.

Yet also filled with hope.

Relentless hope.

Beyond imagination.

Categories: Nelson Mandela Bay, Uncategorized, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Nelson Mandela Bay – weekend 2

CONGRATULATIONS to Navadia Marnay & Lungile Mnukwa.  They each won a set of five x day passes (valued at R1000), complements of Kingfisher FM & Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism.

The day pass gives you access to a whole range of activities & discounts.  It is a fun & affordable way to travel Nelson Mandela Bay.

The next winners will be announced on Friday 21/09/2012 on Kingfisher FM’s Big Breakfast.


LOCATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is located in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  It is 763 km east of Cape Town.

DATE VISITED: 7 & 8 September 2012 (Spring)

WHAT WE DROVE: A Jeep Grand Cherokee complements of Maritime Motors

WHAT WE DID: We went on a Township Tour on Friday afternoon & evening exploring the Red Location Precinct, Njoli Sqaure & Township life in general, meeting beautiful people along the way.  On Saturday we did the South End Museum Tour & then relaxed at The Willows Resort, enjoying their fabulous amenities for the rest of the weekend.

WHERE WE STAYED: The Willows Beach Resort

WHO GUIDED US: Craig Duffield from Mosaic Tourism

RECOMENDATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is the ultimate family destination.  This weekend was immensely interesting & with out a doubt I would recommend anyone to try and fit both activities into their itinerary.  For the township tour I would suggest utilizing an experienced guide who know the people & area.

WEBSITE: Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism

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This weekend was a weekend of contrasts.

It challenged us.

Made us think about who we are & where we are & what we do.

We were driving the very comfortable & very opulent Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Probably the most luxurious vehicle we’ve driven in a long-long time.

It’s powerful 3.6 Pentastar V6 engine smoothly accelerating everywhere.

The leather seats, climate control & cruise control with its ‘beyond imagination’-awareness, really being awe-inspiring.

We were staying at The Willows Beach Resort.

Right on the ocean.

The waves lulling you to sleep.

Becoming the rhythm as you wake up & drink coffee, surrounded by green lawns & well kept amenities.

More than comfortable family accommodation.


Inside the heart-beat of nature.


Staff always ready to answer your needs.

Fellow-guests friendly & happy.


Children enjoying the super-tube water-slide.

The putt-putt mini-golf.

The game center.

Relaxed lounging breakfasts at the warm restaurant.

Vervet Monkeys curiously watching from large green trees.

We were exploring history.

The drive to the tourism office, from where we took a bus to Port Elizabeth’s Main Train Station, was quick & comfortable.

The Willows is truly only a few minutes from the city.

An ideal spot, no matter what part of Nelson Mandela Bay you want to explore.

Then we took the train to New Brighton station.

New Brighton is our city’s oldest existing township.

Townships are part of our countries spacial history.

Predominantly inhabited by black people.

Supported by failing old infrastructure.

Set aside.

From the rest.

A reserve of sorts.

Where people have come to live & make a living & be.

Become, even.

Saturday we saw a glimpse of our country’s ‘relocation’-history.

Through the South End Museum.

Families ripped to pieces.

Away from friends.

Some times even away from relatives.

From community.


All the way.

Not only them.


As we lose community.


Coming to believe that we are different.

Which we aren’t.

For we all value the same things.






As we crossed the pedestrian bridge from the New Brighton Station to the Red Location precinct, our guide shoved white people to one side.

Blacks to another.

You must be separate.

And we walk on the one side of a barrier.

The white side.

As it was.

Before 1994.

Apartheid is a sad part of our history.

Even sadder than the concentration camps of the English War (1899 – 1902).

For the ones who were set aside.

Set aside.

Like a son who saw his father beating his mother.

To grow up.

To beat his wife.

So that his son & grandson could do it again.

That is probably the greatest grace & gift of Tata Nelson Mandela & the African National Congress.


To be more.

To be different.

To embrace.


To a new future.

A new future is, however, not created in a moment.

18 years.

Since 1994.

A moment.

In comparison to almost a century.

Preceded by centuries.

On Friday evening we stop at Lafa & Mifa’s.

Its a butchery.

With a dining area & open fires.

You buy your meat at the butchery.

Then come to the dining area & cook it on the open fire.

A ‘braai’ (almost like ‘buy’, just with an ‘r’ in there) we call it.

All of us.

A large sign declares: ‘anytime is braai time’.

We are the same.

South Africans.

We love cooking outside on an open fire.

We love being together.

And so we talk.

To locals who come there regularly.

To families who love the community.

To people walking the streets.

Hoping the effort of fathers & grandfathers weren’t in vain.

And as we drive back in the luxury of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, to the comfort of The Willows Beach Resort, I wonder how this spacial heritage could be overcome.

For amidst the hardship of relocation a vibrant, energetic culture has come to life.

Perhaps it has always been there.

Perhaps it just did not die.

Despite everything.

Wasn’t quenched.

A beautiful resilience.

Hairdressers on the side of the street.

Mamma’s baking roosterkoek (bread baked on the open fire) for those who pass by on the way to work or home.

Children playing.

Herbs & chicken for sale.

Little bags of sweets.

Mini-bus taxi’s flying up and down the street.

Large municipal buses making their way in the late afternoon to homes, where people live.

Still set aside.

Its been decades.

The poverty of loss, more visible than ever.

As we savor that first morning coffee on Sunday morning, at The Willows, our weekend-neighbor walks over.


He lives in Motherwell.

With his family.

His father’s family relocated there.

Decades ago.

We talk of life.

His children.


We talk of a new future.

A hope.

Our children play.

Run off together to the water-slide.

Unaware that once we were separated.

We hope.

And as we say our goodbyes we agree that we need to intentionally move beyond the invisible boundaries created by a dark meaningless past.

On our behalf.

Without our consent.

And we agree that we are the same.

We desire freedom.



For our children.


And I admit that I will need to intentionally redress the works of a previous generations hands.

For nothing changes by itself.

This is what travel does.

It challenges us.

And we become.


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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.



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.


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.




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.

Categories: Blue Crane Tourism, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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.


‘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.


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.





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 4

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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.



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.




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.


For generations to come.

Categories: Blue Crane Tourism, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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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Koffylaagte Game Lodge

WIN! Congratulations to Melissa Quanson on winning the weekend at Koffylaagte 4-star Game Lodge.  She and her family will enjoy becoming part of this story. 😀

Location:  130 kilometers from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay on the R75 towards Graaff Reinett, in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Date Visited: 27 -29 July 2012 (Winter)

Where we Stayed: The Bush Cabin, set somewhat aside from the main lodge area.  Koffylaagte offers a diverse range of accommodation, including 4-star luxury safari tents & 3-star self-catering units in the old farmhouse.

What we Drove: The Dodge Journey, complements of Maritime Motors .

What we did: We spent time enjoying beautiful sunsets.  We had a great bush-walk, a game drive, went horse-riding & met amazingly interesting people who filled the hours with interesting conversation.  We also took a drive to Darlington Lake Dam & had lunch in nearby Jansenville.  Koffylaagte offers a wide range of activities, including quad-biking & archery, a steam-room, pool-table, swimming pool & birding.

Recommendation: Koffylaagte is perfectly situated between Nelson Mandela Bay & Graaff Reinett.  It is ideal as a weekend destination or as a resting place on your way to discovering other places like Graaff Reinett, Nieu Bethesda or Baviaanskloof.  It is very family friendly.  I wouldn’t stay for less than two days, but could imagine that you could even stay a week at Koffylaagte, becoming part of this story.

Website: Koffylaagte Game Lodge

Koffylaagte is not a place.

Its location can be marked on a map.

Its environment could be described in all the words so many places are so often described.

Its accommodation could be rated.

Activities listed.

Game numbered.

That would still, however, not put into words what is already evident just from the name Koffylaagte carries.

‘Koffylaagte’ – Coffee Hollow, some would translate.  Or coffee lowlands, others would say.

In Dutch it should be ‘Koffie’.

But its not.

Its ‘Koffy’.

The story goes, a long time ago, travelers stopped here to rest.  Brew some coffee.  Perhaps gather wood, feed horses & cattle, precisely halfway between Graaff Reinett & Port Elizabeth.

The landscape scattered with ‘Perboon’ Trees of which the seeds might have been used as a coffee substitute in times of lack.

On the walls of the old, beautifully restored farmhouse, pictures of the Hurter family, who lived here in the early 1900’s bear witness to new generations resting in bedrooms.

Perhaps Koffylaagte is a story.

Of that resting place for travelers & merchants & ‘karweiers’.

Of a pantry for others, long before the ships dropped anchor at new harbors to carry away an unknown bounty.

A story of a tollgate erected by English, who wanted to show rebellious Dutch the consequence of their Protestantism.

Of soldiers shoeing horses & new farmers claiming land & goats being shaved & little Dorothea dying of a unkown illness at the age of two.

A story of parents standing at a grave.

Of land abandoned in drought, as traveler-farmers find their way to cities & new generations put their hope in industrialization.

A story which began centuries ago in Africa.

A story which began in Turkey in the 1950’s and in England a little while later.

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They met in York.

They lived in England & Turkey.

In East Africa & West Africa.

In Russia & Nigeria.

When the time came to turn a page in their own story, the new chapter opened onto Koffylaagte.

A place where they could sink the roots of their souls deep into Karoo soil.

And as they settled, they were drawn into the Koffylaagte story.

First the old Farmhouse was restored.

Right down to the original iron-gate keeping animals off the ‘stoep’.

Then the hunter’s lodge evolved into a dining room to become a restaurant.

A lounge and swimming pool appeared.

Luxury safari tents.


Buffalo & wildebeest.

All the time more travelers drawn into a story written with the ink of time on the pages of hope.

To belong.

To experience.

To become.

And so we are drawn near as well.

We travel past little invitations posted along the R75 as we make our way to Graaff Reinett & Nieu Bethesda & Bloemfontein.

Curiosity whispering.

As if carried on the wind, a silent desire infesting our wanderlust.

Eventually finding our way to Cem & Jane and little Lilly.

Rebecca & Alistair.

To a little bush cottage with a massive rock fire-place overwhelming its kitchen.

To meals created from organic venison & vegetables, bread slowly kneaded & covered in honey harvested from wild mountain hives.

To people who’ve been drawn into the Koffylaagte story.

One by one.

Each a word.

A paragraph.

A chapter.

Rebecca was a brand manager in England.

Disillusioned with sails filled with uncapturable wind she is drawn to the Kalahari.

A little closer.

She falls in love with a boy from Upington.

They come to visit friends at Koffylaagte.

Drawn closer.



Living here.

Dreaming of a place of wellness.

Where city-dwellers could come to experience more than game.

To re-discover beauty.



To re-connect.

In ways never before imagined.

We ride on horses right up to a family of Giraffe.

We walk in Karoo veldt.

The smell of soil fresh from rain.

We talk to travelers from as far as Switzerland & as close as Nelson Mandela Bay.

We touch our own dreams.

Painting them.

Folding them.



We eat.

Scrumptious Food.

Warm friendship.

New friendship.

As Friday flows into Sunday Koffylaagte does what she seemed to have always done.


Perhaps answering her own need.

To weave.



For a moment.

Into a lifetime.


We say reluctant goodbyes.

The Dodge Journey finds its own way to nearby Darlington Lake.

To Jansenville for lunch.

The pull of Koffylaagte not wanting to let go.

A story.



For you.

To become a part of her.


Into the rich texture which is Koffylaagte.

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Location: 680 kilometres from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay in the Freestate Province, South Africa

Date Visited: 10 – 12  February 2012 (Summer)

Website: Bloemfontein

Where we Stayed: Emtonjeni Country Lodge

Where we visited:Cheetah Experience , War Memorial , Naval Hill, Waaihoek Wesleyan Church

Recomendation: Bloemfontein is an amazing city to visit, but it is not a weekend destination, not if you travel from Nelson Mandela Bay.  Because of the distance you need at least a long-weekend.  There are no direct flights from Nelson Mandela Bay to Bloemfontein on weekends and at this time a lot of infrastructure redevelopment is being done on th eroad between our two cities, extending traveling time consideraby.  We would however recomend you take time to spend here.  It is a city filled with surprises, drenched in history.


I was surprised.

When I read about the ANC Centenary being celebrated in Bloemfontein.

I did not know it was in this city that the ANC had its origin.


It does not bring to mind the pictures often conjured by names such as Cape Town, Nelson Mandela Bay or Africa.

South Africans know where this city is.

As they travel from Cape Town to Johannesburg, they often pass on its outskirts or stop there for a moment’s respite, before continuing their journey.

It is not regarded as a ‘holiday’ destination.

And it wasn’t for holiday that we made this journey.

There is a difference between ‘holidaying’ and ‘traveling’.

Traveling is about discovery.


It is about ‘becoming’.


As we connect with people and places outside of our little bit of world.

We wanted to investigate, for ourselves, our country’s rich and diverse history.

Bloemfontein: the place where an obscure Wesleyan Church hides in the shadow of an Apartheid-era power station’s 3 cooling towers and the obelisk of a monument reaches to the sky to hide the shame of a president’s obstinacy.

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The University of the Freestate was kind enough to make a historian available to our tribe for this weekend-trip.

Not a young junior lecturer.

One of the members of their senior management who works in the Rector’s Office.

‘Our perspective influences what we deem important’, he says.  ‘If you read English history the war of 1899 – 1902 is insignificant and obscure.  In South Africa of the 1940’s and 1950’s it was elevated to a core moment in our country’s history.  And to us it probably was.  To the BaSotho the destruction of mission stations & the looting of schools & the redistribution of land wich preceded this war was probably more significant.’


Cooling towers of an intrusive power station are a more significant monument to some than an obelisk surrounded bemtionaly charged bronze statues.

On Saturday the historian takes us up Naval Hill from where we have a panoramic view of the city.

He shows us the Bloemfontein of 1854 & walks us through the arival of rail transport & poverty as people lose their jobs to industrialised new transport systems.  He shows us where a people lived & where they were moved too, like pieces on a chess board, or objects, when their homes needed to make space for a new power plant.

He shows us the Churches and schools of a city which really started out as an English setlement.

He shows us the trinity of power in juxtaposition to the memorial obelisk.

We look to the site of a refugee camp, later known as a ‘consentration camp’.

The ‘auswitz’ of Afrikaners.

Who did not learn from opresion & war & death.

Who replicated the atrocities visited upon them.

We drive to that memorial.

‘What motivated the errection of such a memorial’, I ask.

‘Guilt, perhaps’, he says.

It seems the war of 1899 – 1902 could’ve ended a few months after it was declared, in the summer of 1900 after the two capitals were siezed.

Imagine that.

There would’ve been no burnt earth.

No 27 000 women & children dead.

How different a future can be, if our leaders choose differently.

‘Was there a reason for this war’, my son enquires.

‘Is there ever a good reason for war’, the historian suggests.

The men who gathered in that little Wesleyan Church did not seek war.

They were teachers, ministers, lawyers – educated men who received exceptional training from french and english and german missionaries.

Informed men.

“Althoug, as a race, we possess the unique destinctionof being the first born sons of this great and beautiful continent; although as a race we can claim an ancestry more ancient than almost any round about us, yet as citizens of the glorious British Empire , we are the last born children … we must still be careful ever to seek out the way where wisdom (not mere sentiment or desire) leadeth … the bright path illumined by rightiousness and reason …”

Rev. John L. Dube

Principal of the Ohlange Native Industrial School.

He presents himself, with the acceptance of the presidency of the South African Natve National Congress, somewhat different than how he and his kind was presented by a history rewritten after 1948.

On Saturday afternoon we take a respite from the challenges to our mind.

We visit the Cheetah Experience.

We hold wild cats and fondle baby lion.

We are amazed by these resilient animals, perhaps the first inahbitants of our continent, now dependant on our kind’s grace for survival.

They have been slaughtered.

For that is what we do.

And then in gracious benevolence we conserve & rebuild.

And make attractions of what was once free.

‘We must breakfast together’, the historian insists.

And that we do.

And then we’re off to that Wesleyan Church.

We drive through the city’s historical section.

We see the old presidency.

Government buildings.

The court of apeals.

The deserted Church is overshadowed by that trinity of power.




We drive through Batho.

We see the homes built in the 1920’s in stark contrast to the characterless boxes of apartheid and post-apartheid.

Praises eminate from churches on the corners of every street.

I wonder about the influence of Churches in our little bit of world.

I wonder what the Rev Dube would be preaching this morning.

No sentimentality.

No mere desire.

I wonder if we will be mature enough as a people to discover a different history.

Before lunch we start the journey home.

We travel past the magnificent Gariep Dam through deserted towns called ‘Hofmeyer’ and ‘Steynsburg’.

We stop for lunch in Cradock.

Home of the Cradock Four.

Who were assassinated.

Of whom Nelson Mandela said: ‘The death of these gallant freedom fighters marked a turning point in the history of our Struggle. No longer could the regime govern in the old way. They were the true heroes of the struggle.’

Everywhere our history is dark as the setting sun.

Yet, bright as the break of dawn.

If only we could see past ourselves.

Past the perceptions incubated in a misplaced social experiment.

It is dark when we reach our home.

Our stay at Emtonjeni Country Lodge was exquisite.  One of those undiscovered gems.  A country ‘hotel’ on the outskirts of  city.  Filled with beautiful original art, antique furniture and warm people.

Our journey through history was unsettling.

We’ve traveled 1360 kilometers.

We’ve discovered more than words can describe.

Perhaps we should travel more & holiday less.

Challenging ourselves.

Taking responsibility for a future which will unfold, regardless of our own prejudice.

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