Do you know the feeling when you are dealing with something that you have not spoken about to anyone else and then you tune into a discussion on exactly that topic on the radio; or you stumble upon a documentary on TV while zapping through the channels; or you get given a book which deals with this topic, or even better still a friend asks you for your advice on that particular issue…
My favourite time of the year. It feels like the whole country is smiling and every person is shaking off the winter-dust collected during this last period of hibernation… You can see and smell it at every corner at the moment… we are all coming back to life…
You think just because i flew off into the night I would keep quiet??? You should know me a little better by now! All the things one can do at night on an aeroplane!!! I mean, hellooo? check it out:
I have been out and about again – this time I wanted to check out the Art Hotel at Main Street Life: 12 Decades Hotel. The hotel’s concept traces the history of Johannesburg and it’s rooms are designed by some of South Africa’s most celebrated artists and designers.
Not only Cape Town can do this! Joburg is catching up.
I find it very exciting to observe the changes and new developments in Johannesburg. Recently it feels like Joburg is starting to realise that vineyards and a beautiful coastline are not a prerequisite for inventing spaces and creating markets with delicious food and lots of atmosphere.
Carol Dyantyi changes lives –
She is the founder of Ikageng Itireleng Ministries in Soweto and has made it her life’s mission to help orphaned and other vulnerable children less fortunate than ourselves. I am not sure if she really chose this path herself or if it was chosen for her. It all began a few years ago when she helped some children in her community to raise money for the funeral of their mother that had just passed away. The rest – is history – as they say.
It has been two years now since I met Mom Carol and her orphanage Ikageng Itireleng. Working with her and some of the children in her programme has become an important part of my life and the more I get involved in this project, the more my awareness grows towards other socially conscious projects, charity organisations and big-hearted people around me.
I guess I shouted too loud. Tomorrow came and with it the open road dragging me back to Johannesburg where near obscurity almost eclipses me!
But first, what better a start to a morning than waiting atop the Highlands Mountain Retreat to welcome the sunrise:
And for as far as the eyes can see, the wonder and beauty of nature slowly rolls from sleep to bask in the warmth of the new rays.
It’s a glorious time. And a befitting start to the last day out in the countryside.
When I’m all warmed up and have trapped the suns glow inside my body, it’s a quick dash down to the gardens for a little stretch and one last look at the night’s abode.
Not bad for a backyard I figure.
It’s all too much to bear: the thought of going…….going…..going home.
A hungry tummy soon sends me hurtling down the road in search of grub. Perhaps something exotic awaits me!
Oh how easily the miles go by! Soon I am nearing civilisation and all it brings. But there are no Cherokees to be found or even places to hide. I must be in…….
At the Valley Cats Espresso Cafe I chill in the shade – I guess you could say I have a hint of my future – forgotten in the shadows.
One last swallowing session – who is to say if this is my last meal – and one last look at comfy surrounds.
Oh, this is beautiful, but it’s all too much to bear. I am too fragile for this!
That darn road drags me away from tranquility. Oh how will I get through this?
As comfort for my weary soul, a short stop in Steynsrus to give thanks for the days gone by.
How blessed has this place been to have the NG Kerk for over 100 years!
And as the road again grabs a hold of me, sucking me back to the city, not even the comfort of a stranger can console me now.
Not even the traffic warden can stop the flow of the sadness……………
…… not even the extinguisher is within reach to tame it all.
So, its one last look out the window.
One last glimpse into the open wide spaces of fresh air and freedom.
One last shout into the wind.
One last look at the countryside.
And I close my eyes, too tight to see anything at all, as we whizzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz back to the city.
Back to the concrete jungle.
Back to near obscurity for me!
Don’t rush, take it slow. I will let you in on my smooch moment later!
But first, I wake in a cold sweat before the crack of dawn. “Where am I? Surely this is not the comfort of a hay bale out in the field?”
I’ve been so busy taking in the surrounds that I’d almost missed the Mahem Country Guest House lap of luxury that I’d feasted on: delicious oxtail and malva pudding, prime fillet and home-baked apple tart and full-on English breakfast, all in sure-fire succession. So I wander behind the scenes to say thanks to Lucy and Malindi who so ably assist Sylvia and Jimmy Saunders who own and run the guest house.
Fine outfits they have in this finely run outfit!
In the seclusion of the curio shop I discover so much local art that it really has me wondering just how much more is hidden in this beautiful place.
A step outside and I am surrounded by the treasures of the secret garden and fairies willing to hang around with me. Sweet!
And unlike other teary goodbyes, Jimmy shows me a new way that friends toast “adios and come back soon”.
I guess you could kinda think me a local now. Thanks to Jimmy, who is also active in real estate in the area, I learn to pronounce the town’s name “meer-mel” correctly and even know that the guest house derives it’s name from the two-syllable “maa-hem” call that that the Crowned Crane makes. Aha, and you thought I was just good looking!
As I leave Memel, I have the weight of a confession I need to make! It’s the kind of thing the twitchers would skin me for and make a pair of colourful clown shoes with. At the heart of the town is the Seekoeivlei Nature Reserve, a RAMSAR accredited site [#888]. It’s jam-packed with all sorts of bird life and the area is another of our country’s wetland protectorates.
But I did not visit it. Why? Well, let’s just say I didn’t want to tempt the feathertarian in me. It could have gotten quite fluffy and messy with all them eggs and feathers about. Probably not good for the snake image I am so trying to slide out of.
So I take one last look at the town, choosing to source my grub the legitimate way.
A quick stop at the local saloon to wash it all down with a glass of fresh water!
And finally, a drop a note for Mucho and Maya who are holding up the home base and then some rays before hitting the road.
Let´s go, down the dusty roads again!
And what is it about these hills? Is it that they border the Drakensberg that they have me heading through them again. I could do these views daily!
And then, as if on cue, from behind the hills and bumpy roads, out pops “Smiley’s” the general dealer store in the town of Verkykerskop!
Get a cup of coffee; this may take a few lines.
In times gone by, before you were even a moment of passion, the town was one of the last post hide-outs during the Anglo-Boer war. It is told that the women and children hid on the nearby mountain because it also offered a 360 degree view. And when the dust had all settled and the squabbles were a thing of the past, Verkykerskop became a hidden away farming community.
And so, for a rather long while, it became a beef, sheep, potatoe and apple farming community nestled a shade over 40km from Harrismith. As its hub, the one-stop general dealer.
Until, a day in 2005 when Matt, Beth and musician Chris Chameleon passed through to discover a place that they fell in love with. Together they have transformed the old store and become instrumental in the revitalisation of the dorp.
Sporting a major facelift, the wifi-linked store now offers a roadhouse that even offers pizza on the menu, a much sought-after Sunday buffet lunch, weekly post-office services and a monthly pension pay-out station in the community.
And it’s jam-packed with characters too!
Stefan, the manager of the store, shares that he escaped a year ago from the loud world of music journalism. He’s rather chilled out now and double steps in key as though he has always been here.
Everywhere I look, I’m captivated. The yesterday-was-awesome look about the main restaurant is just special. It’s just my kinda colour scheme.
Why, they even have custom seating for me and accessories to check on the status of my hot bod. Nice!
I’m so fired-up now that I even take to an industrious stint at the till, racking up mega-sales in the process.
Oh, I guess you chuckled at my mega-salesmanship? Ok, beat this: you try and rack up a percentage improvement to rival mine. I went from zero to R1,35 in sales in one shot. Yeah, beat that!
But all work and no play makes for a brown snake, so I take to feeding my IQ in the most charming country library I have yet seen.
And when I’ve got all my lines sorted, head out to the patio and hiss sweet serenades to Chisel who, rather sadly for me, is soon fast asleep in creamy dreamland. I wonder why they refer to cuddly Chisel as “the Old Man”?
Now just as one hottie goes to sleep, another appears. I must be a magnet for chicks!
Beth, co-founder and co-owner of the joint works her way up to me and fills me in on the details. She oozes passion for the changes to what was an almost forgotten town.
It’s all about top-notch service with Beth, who’s past life as a music production exec has been traded in for this creative out-burst, as she shows me about The Venue, a magical fuel-inspired wedding and events joint they have created.
It easily seats over 120 and together with the accommodation available in the town for up to 80 people, makes for a real hip joint to book and get hitched. Tipex, who is Beth´s friendly labrador is an optional extra at functions.
But while I am lost in my fantasies, I miss the one-on-one-session that’s going down. By the time I get to peep through the door, the best shot’s been taken.
And as if all too soon, it’s time to say goodbye. But it ain’t no teary event. Its rather up-close and personal – full contact, shall we say.
Oom Tokkelos, as he tells me after my first kiss, is rather tall for the legend but the truth is in his embrace. Too much, too soon for me and I am instantly racing for the furthest hills I can get to!
Just to be sure and safe, I wander aimlessly around the countryside and then finally crawl into my overnight abode at the fall of dark. The folks at the Golden Gate Highlands National Park are sweet and graciously have on hand a round and grassed hide for me – something I am familiar with.
After settling in, its the short trip down to the hotel for a bite and more.
Still a little rattled after my embrace, I share my story with Robert Qhekoana who promptly suggests a stiff shot of lime and lemonade.
Nice place this is. Moody and comfortable, just the way I like it.
And as always a friendly soul to share dinner with. After a great buffet and some really interesting conversation with Hans Reuter who is from Germany and is visiting South Africa corner to corner, we cosy up for our playboy shot.
Afterall, I have had my share of embraces for the day.
Back in my room, I take cover. Much to think about, much to be thankful for.
Come on tomorrow!
There are good days and there are days to really remember. This is one of them.
Breakfast in style and a few turns down the road and the call of the open spaces shouts it’s greeting!
My venom is racing and I’m all go-go-go when what do you know, over the horizon and as if straight out of a timeless novel come Tredoux (11) and Christian (9) Willemse, cowboys to the core.
And if you’re wondering what’s in a name, then eat your heart out: this is an authentic pair. The boys were heading home having taken their family’s beef herd out to pasture. Home schooled and kitted the way cowboys ought to be, even their steeds “Savannah” and “Chivas” boast fitting names.
“Can you speak Zulu?” they ask. But after my fumbling and learning that “Jeanette” is teaching them the local lingo at home, they figure galloping away is best. Eish!
But I soon learn that I am not the only one left behind and after a little bit of neighing with the onlookers, I canter on down the dusty road as they watch me, probably wondering if my bright coat will keep its colour in these sandy surrounds.
My ego is dented. But this place is teaming with views to beyond and further.
And while I am still thinking over this whole “Zulu” thing, I wander straight into a steak-out.
There are soloists
[Rather cosy] duets
And the [shall we say, unruly] mob.
And there is loads of evidence of their lack of concern for the environment. But I’m not about to get drawn into a meaty argument about greenhouse gases!
Further down the road, I come across donkey, ass-ing about in the distance.
I shout. I call. I whistle. No response. I give up. It’s no wonder this particular specimen did not make the Shrek cast!
Trying to communicate with animals is not proving to be much fun or even remotely successful. It’s so bad, I even consider striking up dialogue with some rocks.
But these fellas won’t budge for anything or anyone.
I head higher up the hills to get some clean air and freshen up my thoughts. Its peaceful here, 2005 metres above sea-level
And I am not alone. Nor am I the only colourful one here.
Did-not-get-his name is a tad grass-stick-jumpy and does not seem keen on idle chat or taking in the scenery, so I head down to the lowlands again in search of anything to hook up with.
A few miles later and as if heading into nowhere-mans-land, I come across “Boing-Boing”. That’s not really his name, but Richard sure does walk with extra spring in his step.
Richard “Boing-Boing” [sorry, I just had to say it one more time] tells me he is travelling from Memel to Mount Pelaan……………………on foot…………….over 25km! In between sharing some interesting tit-bits about the area, he hitches a lift with us down the Normandien pass where we even stop to greet a local visitor who has his motorcycle, fishing rods and bed on the back of his bakkie!
And a short while later, as if getting a serious chuckle out of it all, Siphamandla Sibaya is on hand at the Normadien filling station to confirm that it’s closed.
Ain’t much point in hanging around a joint that’s all caged up and so it’s further around the loop to the little village at Koenigsberg. There the locals are all smiles and eager beavers for pics.
I even get to meet someone with a smile and a wardrobe just like mine!
I also get to make Google eye friends with little people my height
Fezeka (7) and Asanda (3) Mathebula are as wide-eyed as can be at the sheer sight of me and its quite some time before they are so much as cosy with me. But not being no slouch myself, and also to fit in by doing something of use for them, I wander over to the water pump and put in some honest work for the day.
A little while later, and still about work and good deeds, I use duct tape, some bubble gum and my know-how to soon have the broken down van back on track.
But there has to be a limit to all this hard manual labour, so I catch my hissy breath – by the bale – before soaking up the warm glow of the end of the day
And then the open road escape to the comforts of my abode at the Mahem Country Guest House for some serious dining!
Today I did it all. The lows, the highs, the ups and the downs. And I showed my mettle as an avid explorer, a smile-maker and a do-gooder. Try and beat that!
“Anton you going to come and play with me?”
Now if you don’t think that’s funny, then know that at three years old, Jenny has a much more inviting sense of humour.
Can there be anything more joyful than sharing laughter and bacon first thing in the morning? Jenny tickled me silly and showed me up close how she could put away one slice of bacon after another. Perhaps it’s the influence of all the horsing about here. Her siblings and parents, Julie and Douglas Welsh who own and run the Hilldrop Bed and Breakfast, are very keen equestrians with countless national and Olympic awards!
And then there is also Terry and Chipo, always close at hand to keep a steady supply of eats and an eye on our mischief too.
Chipo comes from Masvhingo and Terry comes from Radcliff in Zimbabwe. Oh what lovely people they are and it’s sad hearing them reflecting on their home country. “Most people just want to go home.”I hear them say.
I browse about.
Not everyone here is all that athletic!
But what’s with all the quiet and absence of activity. Isn’t “workers day” when all the workers are about and showing what it is they really do.? No? Oh well, I am always the faithful hand and so I set about doing what I do for work. And that is play!
Oh this is fun and I have a jolly good go at it! When I coil my tail and use that too, I can soon see over the tree tops! But I am quickly springed-out and so I take a moment to practice the Dog words that Snoopy taught me. But I am not o sure if Ridgebacks are quite into friendly conversation.
I gotta make my mark here too. So I take to the net and try my hand …..don’t be silly now… at mini-tennis. That sounds a lot nicer than calling it volley ball with a bat don’t you think?
It’s time to go, but I just have to check on the award-winning steeds [oh, that’s a real word for real deal winning horses, not like those coin operated mutes at Shell Ultra fuel stops].
This workers day holiday thing is taken seriously I guess and it’s all rather quiet.
So I take my queue from that and figure, Ant’s gotta slow-down for the day, take it easy, keep it on the down low, chillax and kick back. I take to the dice and then head for the hills.
Later that evening and after another more-than-full-tummy of delicious grub, I settle in at the Mahem Country Guest House in Memmel.
A cuppa of the fine tea on offer and a spot of reflection on my travels and then its lights out.
My name is Nathalie. I am an official Fujifilm X-Photographer and a professional corporate event, portrait and lifestyle photographer. In my spare time I love telling stories and pursuing personal creative projects.