Sunday, 27 June 2021

Play of light

We drove all the way across the country, heading straight for fish 'n chips at Lambert's Bay. And found the perfect West Coast accommodation accompaniment at Oppiduin, Grootvlei. 

This shabby chic beach house is as on-the-beach as it gets, with dramatic curved architecture making the most of the vast views onto ocean and surrounding nature. Expansive glass windows follow the curves of every room. Local materials such as shells, driftwood and beach sand have been used, creating interest and a play of light which mirrors the natural world outside beautifully. I do love a creative space which celebrates its context, for me the essence of travel, which takes one outside one's routine and familiarity. 

Our suite is as spacious as that view, with a fireplace in the open plan lounge and bedroom. Outside the wind is howling, but from our protected position we are almost unaware, except for the sound of it singing in the roof above the shower. It almost sounds spiritual. 

Still, I can't stop dashing outside throughout the long sunset to take photos as the golden rays light up new facets of the decor and architecture. I return from each outing windswept and glowing. 

What a privilege to witness so many slow sunsets and dawns in so many beautiful spaces - that was the mission of this trip after all. I hope it brings new appreciation to my life at home, not simply the struggle to sleep and wake and work. A healthier rhythm must be possible, or at least this is the hope a holiday in a place like this offers.

Saturday, 26 June 2021

Vast relief

The silence out here is vast, the isolation immense, with the closest inhabitants from this traditional corbelled house 5km away, the nearest tar road 29. I was a little surprised at the extent to which the nothingness of the Great Karoo unhinged me. I am not known for my timidity. I tried to stay curious rather than turning in on myself, reminding myself that pretending can do great damage. 

I found soft, crispy cotton sheets, thick stone walls which hold the heat and big blue skies, with sunrises that move downwards through the landscape, not only upwards into the sky. 

Perhaps one day I will find words with which to describe this magical place. But for now I have only images with which to express this relief. 

Saturday, 21 November 2020

Creative new beginnings

Waenhuis Karoo Cottage

What is art really and who's to say? My creative trip blogging energy is only building up and I will not be offended if you unfollow me for a few days.

We are cultural heathens and our idea of high art is a starry night viewed through our roofless tent. But to impress our artsy friends we decide we really must go to Nieu Bethesda (even if only to avoid the chest-clutching gasp of "You've never been?!") You know who you little snobs are. But, since this is a trip of New Beginnings (and the coast has been hit by another cold front) we determine to travel the small 5 hour detour North. Sharon struggles to find New Bethesda on the GPS and her dyslexic companion is not much help.

I do some internet research on the famous Owl House. Now I know all good artists perseverate, but from the photos it looks (not unlike our car engine) like something went twang somewhere on a particularly bumpy patch. I shall stay open-minded.

I find out that there is a fine dining restaurant run by two Afrikaans boys, egte Karoo kos. Sharon perks up: "What do you think we'll have - boerewors foam? Melktert panacotta? Koeksister tuiles? Vetkoek profiteroles?" I sigh, knowing she's also only just getting started and did I mention it's a 5 hour detour North?

Once she ran out of creative descriptives, we listened to a talk about the gentle force of true nature pushing itself up from within, like a shoot from a seed pushing up through the earth, each one a unique enactment of authenticity.

The Owl House surprised us with this type of artistic expression, the imperative of it, the yearning to break free from a prison of circumstance.

Some of Helen Martins' female figures point with one finger to her other hand, seemingly saying "Look, it's right here in the palm of your hand. In this messy life of disappointed expectations." Other figures point to one another in solidarity, hope in despair. She used the ordinary objects of her life - a tin of Sunshine polish, broken, coloured glass and grey earth - to manifest her beauty.

What a courageous and unique woman and what a heritage she has left. It's a pity only history appreciates strong women.

We confess that it was a much more moving and inspiring visit than expected (why did you not insist earlier that we go!?)

The tiny town of Nieu Bethesda in general is a delight. The Afrikaans boys' restaurant, Die Waenhuis, was closed on a Sunday night, sigh, but we stayed at their karoo cottage, another artwork of unique and thoughtful design and decor. It is the perfect pairing for the Nieu Bethesda experience, full of authentic antiques, humour and creative flair. 

The kitchen is well equipped and the cottage is separated from the restaurant by a pretty courtyard surrounded by herbs and salads. 

It is a surprisingly stylish and plush place to stay, with white linen, soft beds, a luxurious bath and plentiful outdoor spaces from which to watch the world go by or rest in the green garden space. 


Hearing some of Jacque's story about their dream and struggle to create this space and express their vision matched well with this place of surprises, artistic imperative, making space for true nature to express itself and in doing so, allowing other more timid little souls to soar in awe.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Spring retreat

 Flitwick Ranch 

I am missing the simplicity and serenity of this little haven, Flitwick Ranch in Swartberg (between Underberg and Kokstad). It is highly recommended for an affordable, white-linen farm experience or retreat. 

The spring green was on full natural saturation for the one sunny morning where I fortunately bounded out of said white linen bed to engage in the noisy, farmy beauty. In your heads, add to these seeming peaceful scenes the soundtrack of frogsong, wild geese, zebra barking and the noisiest cows I've ever encountered. 

This is exactly the kind of gem that AirBnB is all about discovering. I loved everything, from the beautiful drive through the kind of lush green that only KZN can do, to the artistically restored stone rooms and fine white linen. Creativity abounds in every nook, including cleverly repurposed old farm implements, arches, swing benches and hammocks. There are multiple colourful lounges and patios in interesting outbuildings facing every possible direction to make the most of the sun and shade throughout the day. 

The gardens and ponds catch and transform the light from every angle. The food was delicious, the hospitality warm and humble. 

My only complaint was that I spent too much of my stay planning a longer return.