Posts Tagged With: Game Reserve

Adventure for Everyone (ECPTA Mini vs Maxi Day 4)

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Waking up in the Safari Lodge opulence at Amakhala Game Reserve is something you should experience.

We arrived here, yesterday.

We enjoyed a game drive, beautiful supper & stunning conversation.

It is early morning.

We’re off to see some more game.

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We encounter the magnificent male Lion & Mnoni, our Ranger bursts with knowledge.

This is a big 5 reserve.

The German family with whom we share the experience comment on the intimacy of it.

How privileged we are to encounter the game in their natural surroundings,  yet up close & personal.

There’s a tower of Giraffes.

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A beautiful herd of ‘Rooibok’.

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We see black wildebeest, Kudu, Rhino.

All of it accompanied by interesting facts & great information.

The wind is cold.

The experience is stunning.

After the game drive there’s opportunity to warm up with a shower & a breakfast spread.

Then it is time for goodbyes & heading home.

We’ve tasted so much & yet we’ve tasted only a glimpse of what the Adventure Province offers.

The Eastern Cape is a magnificent destination, often forgotten by even the people who live here.

Not on the main routes for many international tourists, yet it offers travelers an awesome experience.

Affordable.

Family friendly.

Quality.

We’ve only encountered tourism operators who are passionate about the service they provide & every single international tourist we’ve met, on this trip & on previous trips say the same.

They say: wow! I am so glad we made time to come to the Eastern Cape.  The experience was authentic.  It gave us a taste of Africa we did not get anywhere else.  Without it, our African trip would’ve been incomplete.

And after spending a little bit of time in our Adventure Province, they all say they’re coming back.

For more.

Soon.

Perhaps, if we who are fortunate enough to live right here, see with new eyes, start tasting in new ways – perhaps then the excitement of our wonderful bit of world will be infectious.

Walking away from this experience, I know this: the Eastern Cape is an amazing place to spend time, it is more than worthwhile to explore.

Diverse.

Rich.

From Cintsa East, through East London, down the coast past Kidds Beach, Hamburg, via Bathurst, down to Port Elizabeth & up into the Karoo to places like Graaff Reinet & Nieu Bethesda – it leaves us breathless.

It makes us more.

So this is my encouragement to you: if you live in the Eastern Cape, explore it.  You’ll discover it is so much more than the little bit of world you inhabit.

If you’re from another part of Southern Africa: come!  You’ll taste our country in a way you did not know existed.

If you’re from Europe, the Americas or the United Kingdom: come, come! You’ll be able to taste Africa, like nowhere else, in a malaria free environment.  You’ll experience the authenticity you long for in an extremely safe environment & you’ll go home wishing you had more time to adventure with us.

So?  Are you up for it?

We look forward to hosting you, to showing you life like you did not know it existed.

Come taste our Africa.

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The Republic of Swellendam

Congratulations to all our winners, who will be traveling to Swellendam.

To see who won & where they’ll be staying, click HERE for details.

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Location: 535 kilometres from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, on the N2 in the direction of Cape Town, just past Heidelberg.

Date Visited: 19 – 28 July 2013 (Winter)

Where we Stayed: Stonehill River Lodge

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Other Great Accommodation Options:

Wildebraam Berry Estate

Arumvale Country House

Roosje van de Kaap Herberg

Braeside Guesthouse

Barrydale Karoo Hotel

What we Drove: Chrysler Grand Voyager, complements of Maritime Motors – this is the most comfortable family vehicle the Tribe has ever traveled in, it is extremely spacious, handles easily & has all the luxuries you could dream of, including climate control, heated seats, TV-screens, DVD-player & automated doors.

What we did:  Swellendam & surrounds offer an awesome range of activities & experiences.  The Museums are beautiful.  The town is the 4th oldest town in South Africa, you can imagine how much history is nestled in this bit of world.  Here’s what we did over the few days we were there.  Every one of our experiences were amazing.  Horse Riding with Stephanie at Two Feathers Horse Trails was a stunning highlight.  Zuko loved crossing the Breede River by Ferrie at Malagas.  Pippin & Sophia fell in love with the Faerie Sanctuary.  I loved Barrydale & Warmwaterberg Hot-Springs.  We’re sure you’re going to find the perfect mix of experiences to make your visit to Swellendam exquisite.

Visited the Sulina Faerie Sanctuary in Swellendam

Went Horse Riding at Two Feathers Horse Trails in Swellendam

Crossed the Breede River by Pontoon at Malagas

Spent a day in Suurbraak & Barrydale.

Spent an afternoon at Warmwaterberg Spa on the other side of Barrydale.

Went Mountain Biking in Stonehill River Lodge‘s reserve.

Visited Cape Agulhas.

Visited the Shipwreck Museum in Bredasdorp.

Recommendation: The Swellendam area is beautiful.  Once you’ve chosen suitable accommodation you won’t struggle to find the perfect mix of activities.  There are loads of little art shops, organic food shops & restaurants to browse & enjoy.  The area has two very beautiful nature reserves in close proximity: Bontebok National Park & Marloth Nature Reserve.  Distance wise its a bit far to travel for just a 2 night weekend, but if you plan a 3-night stay, maybe leaving Thursday or only returning on Monday, it could be a perfect break.  The ten days we spent in the area was amazing, as we were able to do enough exploring without rushing anything.  The Tribe loved the experience.  We’ll definitely be back, we know we haven’t seen or tasted everything.

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Mountain Zebra National Park

CONGRATULATIONS  to Natalia Venter on winning a two nights stay for a family of four (2 adults + 2 children), including accommodation, a game drive and guided walk,  to the total value of R3 400.00 at the Mountain Zebra National Park.

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Location:  305 kilometers from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay & 12 kilometers from Cradock on the road between Cradock & Graaff Reinette, in the beautiful Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Date Visited: 16 – 18 November 2012 (Summer)

What we Drove: The Jeep Cherokee, complements of Maritime Motors .

Where we Stayed: The main camp, in a two bedroom chalet.  Mountain Zebra National Park also offers camping & mountain cottages, as well as a luxury six sleeper guest-house.

What we did: We took the opportunity to just be together as we cooked, walked, watched game, swam in the Park’s beautiful swimming pool and saw magnificent game.

Recommendation: This is an amazing and very affordable weekend for a family who wants to do something wonderfull.  Instead of going on a guided game drive and walk, as much fun could be had as you self-drive through the park.  The roads are in exceptional condition.  The restaurant & shop stocks whatever you forget to take along.

Website: Mountain Zebra National Park

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Friday afternoon.

We’ve become accustomed to traveling this year.

Weekend road trips.

Breathtaking moments shared.

This was our twenty-second one in less than ten months.

‘The year seems full & meaningful, despite what challenges may have presented themselves’, Zuko speaks the thoughts filling her mind and heart as we hit the open road, driving past the Port of Nqura.

The Jeep Cherokee’s 2.8 liter diesel engine is inaudible.

The climate control keeps the summer afternoon’s heat outside.

The kids laugh & talk, filled to the brim with excitement.

‘We’ve seen so much.  Done so much.  It feels like we’ve had two years since Christmas.’

Zuko smiles.

I can see how her mind looks at pictures of the places we’ve been & the things we’ve done.

Holding up a snapshot of our family at Tsitsikamma in front of the guesthouse at The Garden Route National Park.

Little wrinkles forming at the corners of her mouth as she looks at us horse riding at Addo Elephant National Park and sliding down the waterfal at Bergrivier.

‘What was your favorite trip?’ she asks the kids, including them & me in her reliving of our experiences.

‘I loved Lalibela‘, Theunsie is quick to answer.

‘The surfing trip in Jeffreys Bay‘, Wilhelmina is quick on his heels.

‘No, picking those humungous apples’, she changes her mind.  ‘Where was that?’

Grootnek in the Langkloof,’ I help her find the name.

‘Grootnek!  That was fun.’

‘It was.  Taking the Jeep Wrangler up into the mountains was exciting.’ Theunsie remembers.

‘Sophia?  Which was your favorite trip,’ Zuko opens the door for one more experience to flood back into our hearts.

‘I’m thinking.  I loved them all,’ she quips.  ‘My favorite was Die Lapa, with the horses & the little cowboy village.  Yes.  If I must choose that was definitely my favorite.’

We talk about our ten day trip exploring the Blue Crane Route.

The stunning walk to the waterfall.

The snow.

‘O, going snow hunting was fantastic!’ Wilhelmina laughs.

Then we talk about Somerset East.

The friends who joined us as we shared the ‘Biltong Festival’ and decided to find snow on the spur of the moment.

A stop at the Nanaga Farm Stall interrupts our conversation.

We get some biltong, droë wors, water & nuts.

As I point the Jeep Cherokee towards Cradock, engaging the cruise control, Zuko takes out another snapshot.

‘I loved Nieu Bethesda‘, she says.

‘And Graaff Reinet.’

What an amazing year.

Filled with tasty experiences.

And then we are at the entrance to the Mountain Zebra National Park.

Originally started, in order to conserve the Mountain Zebra.

Now home to a variety of game on 28 000 hectares of conservation land.

Every time we get to spend time at one of our South African National Parks, I am impressed by the ammount of time & energy & resources we invest in conservation.

And how possible it is for South Africans & International tourists alike, to enjoy the beauty of Africa.

Friday night we settle into our very comfortable chalet.

We light a fire.

The conversation keeps on drifting back to our year’s travels.

Fond memories were made.

This we cherish as more memories take shape.

Saturday morning we meet Richard.

He is our ranger.

We go out on an early morning game drive.

We see lots of game.

A short walk to an ancient cave with Koi-San Paintings.

Their way of claiming this ancient land as their own, long after they’ve been driven into a lonely existence.

Lunch is followed by an afternoon at the swimming pool.

As the sun sets a fire comes to life again.

Black Backed Jackal the musicians who entertain is late into the night.

As I drift off to sleep with little Maddi lying on my chest, I hide some new memories in the crevices of my being.

I love it when we cook together.

We should do more trips where we cook our own food, I think, as dreams of beauty & wonder overwhelm me.

Sunday morning we head out on foot.

Richard is with us again.

This time he shows us the plants.

Excitedly talking about their medicinal value.

The old wives’ tales believed.

He shows us the little five.

Hidden amongst leaves & branches.

He’ll tell you about it as well, when you go and visit.

When the sun is high, our walk ends at the Park’s cool blue swimming pool.

We play.

We laugh.

We cook together.

And then we’re off.

The Jeep Cherokee comfortably taking our luggage and our dreams on a slow cruise through breathtaking Karoo.

The Cherokee is quiet.

As we each touch a last bit.

We’ll travel again, we agree, as we unload travel bags.

We’ll travel more.

Together.

If it be our gift.

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Lalibela Too

Congratulations to Penny Morris!  She won a two nights & three days stay,  enjoying Lalibela’s beauty, valued at R9000.00
enabling her to take 2 adults & 2 children on an awesome adventure.

The Tribe hopes you will create amazing memories.

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Location:  90 kilometers from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay on the N2 towards Grahamstown.

Date Visited: 12 – 14 October 2012 (Summer)

What we Drove: The Chrysler Grand Voyager, complements of Maritime Motors .

Where we Stayed: Mark’s Camp, one of the three four-star lodges in the Game Reserve, this one specifically designed with families and children in mind.

What we did: We had scrumptious food, awesome game viewing from open vehicles with knowledgeable guides & fantastic African entertainment alongside great conversation and time together.  This time round we had the opportunity to meet the team behind the scenes & get a better feel of what motivates them, even getting some golden nuggets about life & business.

Recommendation: This is an amazing African weekend for a family who wants to do something very special.  The proximity to Nelson Mandela Bay and the malaria free environment makes it especially wonderful when traveling with children.  Lalibela comes highly recommended.

Website: Lalibela Game Reserve

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We’ve been to Lalibela before.

We’ve experienced the luxury accommodation.

The exquisite safari cuisine.

The exceptional service.

The knowledgeable rangers.

The very helpful staff.

This time we experienced all of that along with the opportunity to get to know some of the people who created this & keeps it growing.

This time we made our way to Lalibela in the extremely comfortable Chrysler Grand Voyager.

As you get into this vehicle it is very evident that the interior was designed by Boeing.

Attention to detail, comfort & space is overwhelming.

It is a family vehicle.

The Tribe with our luggage & all of Maddi’s paraphernalia fitted into this vehicle with space to spare.

The media system, climate control & safety features are something we’ve not experienced.

The intuitive cruise control makes the 90 kilometer drive seem like a moment.

At reception we are welcomed by Marimba players & Xhosa singers serving high tea.

At Mark’s Camp, Lalibela’s Lodge, specifically geared towards families beautifully appointed rooms & personal service await.

Lalibela can accommodate 120 guests between its three lodges.

They employ 60 staff members.

You can imagine how personal & exceptional the service is.

Friday night we cook with Nomakaya & Evelyn.

Evelyn has just joined the team at Lalibela.

Nomakaya has been there for eight years.

While the kids peel vegetables & stir various dishes slowly frying in butter, Nomakaya tells us of her journey.

How she left for University after completing school.

How she did not have enough money to complete her studies.

How she found employment close to home.

Starting in the kitchen, washing dishes.

Soon making salads & learning the skill of preparing exceptional food.

The past four years she has been running the kitchen at Mark’s Camp.

Filling orders.

Creating menus.

Impressed with her own development at the hand of Linda, Lalibela’s Food & Beverage Manager.

Saturday evening we’re in for a surprise.

We’re out on a game drive.

The vehicle makes a stop at a huge ‘bush’ of indigenous trees.

Ranger Dave walks us into a fairy tale land.

Lanterns lighting our way to huge fires and magnificent food.

There we get to spend time with Linda.

She tells us of how she came from Port Elizabeth, where she was a lecturer, to Lalibela, where she discovered the joy of working with a team of ladies, collectively discovering the joy of creating tasty meals for travelers from every part of the world.

Lalibela is an exporter in many ways.

Without processing or packaging this game reserve takes South Africa to the world as foreign tourists come to be on safari.

Bringing valuable foreign currency to our shores.

And positive reputation.

At the ‘Bush Boma’, in the light of friendly lanterns we talk to a couple from England.

It is their first time at Lalibela.

They are blown away.

By the experience.

By South Africa.

They are resolved to come again.

A couple from Germany joins the conversation.

They’ve been to Africa before.

They’ve never tasted Africa as they’re tasting it tonight.

It is an experience about which they will talk for decades to come.

They take pictures as the Xhosa dancers entertain us.

Over supper an Irish couple speak of the troop of elephant they encountered.

About the pride of Lion they watched.

About the hippopotamuses & the giraffe.

They cannot believe how close they came to the animals.

How much of them they could experience.

Every single expectation has been exceeded.

‘Conservation is about much more than the animals,’ explained Vernon Wait, one of the owners, on Saturday afternoon as we spent some time at one of the swimming pools.

‘Conservation is about conserving & creating a livelihood.  It is about conserving a way of life.  It is about affecting our world.  Positively.’

Lalibela was recently the victim of Rhino poachers.

‘You must understand, we tend these animals.  We look after them.  We know when they are ill or expecting.  When one of them is hurt, we are hurt.  It is like losing a child.’ Vernon explains .

Yet they continue.

Undeterred.

Evil will always be there.

In this world.

Trying to prevent us.

Discourage us.

Steal our hope.

The best way to defeat it is by forging ahead.

Always hopeful that our efforts would be more.

Earlier I went out Cheetah-tracking with Kelly, Lalibela’s Head Ranger.

A girl in a man’s world.

Heading up a team of male rangers.

Planning the wildlife management.

Patrol routes.

Care for patrons.

We track a female Cheetah who is new to the reserve.

She’s recently had cubs.

Kelly wants to check & make sure the cubs are healthy & well.

This is what a reserve like Lalibela does.

They make sure the conditions are optimal for wildlife to flourish.

As naturally as possible.

In a world in which urban areas expand relentlessly.

‘Tourism is our best product,’ explains Rick van Zyl, the founder of Lalibela over Sunday morning coffee.

We drove to Tree Tops, another exceptional camp to meet with Rick.

We wanted to hear his story.

Of how they came from the Merryman Hotel to Lalibela.

Of this place for which the bees have foretold greatness.

I am reminded that no business appears in a moment.

It takes years, decades even, to build a successful business.

Rick & his family worked since the early 1908’s before they had enough to purchase a piece of land which would be the seed of Lalibela.

Then they worked some more.

Often seeing it through, even if it seems it just cannot continue.

‘You need people around you,’ Rick explains.  ‘I had built a network of relationships over thirty years.  And you need a bit of luck.  Someone who would believe in you.  That is the only way.  And persistence.  And resilience.  And the willingness to work and work and work some more.’

So often we listen to the stories of successful entrepreneurs & we think it was a stroke of luck or a moment of genius & they had they cake they could eat.

That is a lie.

It takes time.

Work.

Effort.

Energy.

Resilience.

To build a successful business.

It takes sacrifice as well.

‘We were fortunate in that there were quality boarding schools where our children could go,’ Rick says with a bit of reminiscence in his voice.  ‘That freed us up to work every minute of every day.’

I sip my coffee and wonder how much I will be willing to sacrifice.

For that illusive success.

Perhaps we need to decide on that before we embark on the journey.

‘The journey is everything,’ Rick remembers.

‘The journey is exciting & enjoyable.  You should savour it.  It is new & fresh & exhilarating.  The destination isn’t what life is about.  It is about how you got there.  Through all the challenges & obstacles & hope.’

The journey.

I am on it.

For that I am grateful.

Perhaps we should not fret so much?

Perhaps each road has its own destination & all we can do is travel?

Perhaps how we travel is what counts?

And so we load the Chrysler Voyager at Lalibela, saying goodbye to foreign tourists & dedicated tourism operators, and head home on a different route.

Via Salem & Kenton-on-Sea.

In Salem we see the graves of many children at the Methodist Church built in the mid 1800’s by optimistic British Settlers.

How sad our journey can be?

Marked by graves along the way.

Of children.

Of hopes.

Dreams.

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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.

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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.

Energetic.

Excited.

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.

Completely.

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.

Civilians.

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.

Civilians.

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.

Faster.

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.

Toby.

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.

Activities.

Children’s parties.

They’re eager to talk about the past.

The present.

The future.

About hope.

Disappointment.

Faith.

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.

Breed.

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.

Intertwined.

Through centuries.

Filled to the brim with adversity.

And hardship.

War.

And animosity.

Yet also filled with hope.

Relentless hope.

Beyond imagination.

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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.

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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.

Private.

Inside the heart-beat of nature.

Open.

Staff always ready to answer your needs.

Fellow-guests friendly & happy.

Families.

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.

Losing.

All the way.

Not only them.

Everyone.

As we lose community.

Connection.

Coming to believe that we are different.

Which we aren’t.

For we all value the same things.

Relationship.

Hope.

Peace.

Growth.

Progress.

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.

Grace.

To be more.

To be different.

To embrace.

Include.

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.

Sidwell.

He lives in Motherwell.

With his family.

His father’s family relocated there.

Decades ago.

We talk of life.

His children.

Mine.

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.

Equality.

Opportunity.

For our children.

Peace.

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.

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 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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