6 November 2018
We are driving as usual heavily packed to the brim with our bags for a month or more, workmen with their bags and trailer full of equipment and tools.
We are ever so grateful for our Ford, not so new anymore – we actually need to upgrade as we are putting on the miles fast and furious. This vehicle has been good for us and makes driving distances much easier.
I also feel so much gratitude for being alive right now as we battled the recent fires on our farm together with so many others. It is estimated that the recent fires were four times bigger than the Knysna fires of last year and around 90 000 hectares were recorded burned. Tragically eight people died.
As we drove through the Outeniqua pass towards De Rust, as far as the eye can see is black, everything visible along the road burned. It makes for a sad view, but then we just think how fast nature restored itself after the raging fires last year and I am sure that within a season all will be green again.
We had a week and a bit of hair raising experiences on our farm and we are feeling quite traumatized. I believe that going far away for work at this point in time is a definite blessing in disguise… more ways than one…
We were right in the middle where the two fires met from Jeffreys Bay on our right and Mosselbay on our left.
At first, we were just about the only spot that was not under fire, until the fire jumped into our Bluegum forest. When this happened, my husband, B and some awesome friends who volunteered were fighting fires with a vengeance.
It was just a crazy, bizarre time. We had to evacuate twice in the morning hours and did not get much sleep.
Because of the efforts of B and our amazing volunteers, most of our Bluegum trees are still standing. Now we are just being forced to start with our buildings even sooner. It is said that Bluegum trees should be used within six months after burning. Well, this is a blessing in itself as our building plans for our storeroom has just been approved.
The story of how we became aware that the fire was on our farm… also quite scary…
We arrived back in Wilderness from an epic festival, Echo. We were very chilled although we had to drive around the closed Outeniqua pass.
We really did not think that our farm was in danger, so we decided to have a burger at The Blind Pig in Wilderness, before heading home.
I must admit, it felt quite ominous as we ate with ashes flying everywhere and dark, smoky skies, but still, we were unaware of danger on the farm.
B was checking the media all the time and we thought we were in the know.
As we arrived on the farm, we heard a weird sound, some noise we could not pin and we decided to leave our bags in the car and drive up our only road to our forest. We had to walk the last bend, the noise grew so much louder and we found the hair on our body rise. Halfway up we found one of our farm workman, Clifford and together we tried to make sense of this ominous sound. As we could not see anything because of the dark smoky sky, we stood around for a bit and stared at the hidden hilltops.
All of a sudden a light breeze pushed away from the smoke and we were horrified to see three raging fires running down the opposite hill towards us. Immediately, we turned and ran down as fast as we could. While running we saw a snake, three scorpions and a chameleon fleeing towards the river. This scared me even more!
We decided to ready ourselves for the fire coming close to our little farmhouse which we are living in. Clifford cleaned the gutters and soaked the earth with water all around the house.
The farm had just purchased a bulldozer and we decided to drive this and our other vehicles to safety.
As there were quite a few vehicles, some from our partners, B and I continued doing this for the afternoon and finished around five.
We lost our brand new branch cutter to the fire… as well as our inherited BMW’s engine.
During our evacuation, everyone around us was in distress and contacting us… it felt super unreal and chaotic.
As there were nothing else we could do, we decided to spend the night with our son, Juan and his fiance, Katja, in Sedgefield.
It is in times like this when we see how caring humans can be and I would like to thank all our friends who volunteered… Jody and Bronwyn, Lupi and Jackie, Reinhardt and Dries, Ben, Wilmarie and Driaan, as well as Craig and John. Andre from T Junction, the lovely tea garden down the road, also stopped by and we had tea together which helped to keep calm.
We were very scared, when two of our volunteers, Wilmarie and Driaan, who have never been on the farm before, went missing during the fires raging in the Bluegum forest.
At that point, the fire brigade (without water) were on the farm and because of the two volunteers disappearance, it became a police matter… total chaos.
Thankfully, Dries, who knew the farm as Reinhardt and he went looking for fires the previous day, (before the raging Bluegum forest happened), was sent to look for the missing volunteers. Hours after disappearing, Dries brought them to our house by way of the river.
At this point, we were still waiting for a helicopter to drop water as we were told they would after numerous phone calls to the authorities. We found out later that the helicopter bringing the water to us was diverted to a home that was on fire… which is understandable. At that point, it would not have made a difference as the Bluegum forest was already burning out of control.
A very scary experience as I only heard afterwards how B ran through raging fires to get to our bulldozer to free some of our other volunteers who were trapped in their vehicle in the forest as trees fell across the road. He made a path with the bulldozer which led their vehicle out to safety. At that point, they knew it was futile and it was when we just had to let go…
Reinhardt and Dries were watching throughout the night to see if the fires would reach our little home, but thankfully we were spared such a tragedy.
At our cottage on the farm, we could barely hear the fires as we sat the next morning having breakfast. It felt surreal sitting with birdsong and a tranquil river view knowing that the fires were still raging…
And…that is enough of the fires…moving on…
When we drove through Meiringspoort, we were welcomed with fresh new eye candy moving away from disastrous black to vivacious greens…everywhere.
We felt superblessed as if we were slowly waking up from a very bad dream…
With music blaring in our car and beautiful scenery, it felt like we were letting go… simply leaving tragedy behind… and driving away from our traumatic experience.
We heard the song “Drie Susters” and it was funny as it happened to be on the cd just as we were passing the town, Drie Susters…
We were listening to cd’s inherited from B’s Mom who sadly passed away in July…
That evening we were far away from fires and slept peacefully at La Rose Guesthouse in Douglas .
The next day, after washing our hair, it felt as if we were not only getting rid of the last bit of smoke but also letting go fully of our stress… we were so ready to move on.
(We want to thank Amanda and Abraham from La Rose Guesthouse as the showerhead in our room, were just right for washing our smoky hair).
It really does not need to be the most expensive, just the most efficient.
See my 10 tips to guesthouses.
After sorting one of our workman who had also helped to fight the fires – we are all still suffering from smoke inhalation – we were off towards Kimberley .
Everywhere the eye could see were flatlands of healthy, golden, corn plantations which extended on either side of the road.
Amazing eye candy…
It has been a whirlwind of work sites… a few per day and as it were just maintenance, we only stop for one night at the accommodation and leave the next day for the next work sites.
As we are going along, the workload has been increasing daily as new sites get added. B is on a mission to get the work done and dusted to get back to the farm.
I felt superblessed indeed when B had to work on some sites close to Potgietersrus and I could have a whole day to visit my ex-mother in law (for lack of better wording). This amazing being is the closest Mother figure that I have ever had. I had an Estate Agency in Potgietersrus for seven years and Ma Margaret worked with me from the start of the business.
Our day was definitely one of my highlights of this trip.
B’s job requires a lot and I do mean a lot of driving. We have been superblessed with amazing views of not only stunning sunrises and sunsets but also with lots of wildlife.
On one worksite, an Emu even came up close to inspect the inside of our vehicle.
When driving through the drier regions, wild fig plantations were everywhere, being of the cacti family, they survive well in the hot, dry regions.
We slept at Maselspoort Resort next to the Modderriver and as we arrived around five, we were very tired.
After checking in, we wanted to check out the restaurant and wow! We were blown away by it… a river frontage and just at the right time to view a lovely sunset. Amazing to just sit and absorb (for me, as B were still on his phone busy with work).
The next morning we woke up around six after a good nights sleep. We found that we were quite sleep-deprived from the fire trauma as we were constantly on high alert on our farm for quick evacuation.
It has been awesome to just succumb to sleeping soundly for the last couple of nights.
On the road, we were so surprised to view some amazing lions, Benquel tigers and even white lions. What an amazing wildlife spotting. Very exciting for me as these cats are my absolute favourite animals. Sorry, no photos as we were rushing, as usual, to get to a site off course…
We know B is doing well with the workload if we arrive at eight am at Olifantshoek work site close to Kroonstad. He has been handling more than four sites per day with a lot of driving in between.
To give an idea, one day B maxed R3000 worth of diesel.
How in the flow are we, as we could even meet up with his cousin, Jaco who had some of B’s tools still from previous work sites. One of the sites were situated on the farm which Jaco now manages. We would have loved to visit him properly, but alas, no time.
We arrived in Pretoria on Friday night after seven. After sorting the men with accommodation and food, we stayed at Zambezi Lodge. We were very tired, but Saturday morning we left at three in the am to arrive at a school near Gyani in time for the hired crane truck (which we soon found out had a flat tyre).
We arrived at a locked school gate as the tower to work on were situated inside the school grounds and so B had the run around for the key. Luckily the principal was found and the gate could be unlocked.
We are very adaptable as plans keep changing, especially in the rural areas B has to work. What makes up for the fact that we got up at three am, is the absolute magnificent pink hues we saw as the sun was rising just after four.
Nature close to Giyani was really beautiful so early in the morning and we saw two extremes… majestic mountains on the left covered in the thickest dark clouds as the sun was rising in the most magnificent pink on the other side. When the sun had risen completely, it was claimed by the misty clouds and could only be seen as a ball in the sky once or twice trying to show itself. The pink by then had disappeared completely.
B remains the best driver I know, but being on the road so much, we do have an encounter every so often and at one point, an SUV came into our lane and headed straight towards us. He really misjudged himself as he was trying to overtake on a straight line. B was shaken up, but handled the situation very well as we had to veer off the road onto the gravel to miss the oncoming vehicle… again, we lived to tell the tale.
It was absolutely awesome to have had time to read a book as I waited on site. I started reading a book, at last, that was sent to me by my friend, Zel and the timing were just perfect. I love it when those moments arrive and I know that I am in the flow. This book is called: “The subtle art of not giving a f#ck”, written by Mark Manson. The title reminded me of the book that B and I started a few years ago and have not worked on for the longest time. *
I read to my hearts’ delight in that schoolyard and so many of my life questions of the moment were answered by that little e-book.
I always thought that I should be busy with something other than reading… felt like I was wasting time, until my friend, Debra taught me that it is like studying and it really is. Nowadays, I even work on reading a light book for relaxation as well…
As I am an Angel Card Reader, by trade, I could also identify others who would benefit by reading this book and subsequently shared it with them.
After all, we are all so very connected.
A bit of caution with accommodation near Nelspruit… steer clear of Mbombela Lodge before even entering the town. I do believe we visited at the wrong time… maybe they were busy with revamping or something else.
Everything looked really beautiful at first glance. The man at the reception was really nice… but there were no hot water or even water pressure. We had one cup, the lamp was broken and quite a few other things. Worst of all was the water situation, so looks can definitely be deceiving. There were a spa and restaurant at some point but was not in use when we were there. We think that there might be some mismanagement going on… anyhow… moving on… at six in the morning, we left to Mahlalane.
As we were driving back to Pretoria again after some more sites close to Mahlalane, we tried to book our room in the Zambesi Lodge, but as there were a wedding, it was fully booked.
I phoned another establishment and we were superblessed by Andre, our host at The Coral Tree in Montana. We have definitely found our home away from home. Such old-world elegance wonderfully integrated into the modern. We love it and have been back a few times on this whirlwind trip.
On Friday we checked out from The Coral Tree and were geared to leave early to Pretoria to spend some time with friends… only B got busy with admin for some new sites and we decided to grab some take-away food from Ocean Basket (one of our favourites) and just have an evening of relaxation back at The Coral Tree. We had a feast with a bottle of chilled white wine, sushi, calamari, fish and chips and to round this off, even some delicious desserts. Ocean Basket is truly amazing.
The next day we were well-rested and ready to drive to some of our friends in Pretoria. We spend a lovely afternoon with Camel and Anetta. We had Eland steaks and delicious salad for lunch. Obviously, dessert, as Camel, is a bit of a dessert connoisseur. I don’t know how many of these delightful visits we are still going to have in future as they have put their lovely home in Rooihuiskraal up for sale.
Afterwards, we drove to our other friends and had a lovely dinner with Skillie, Alda and her brother, Juan. We had Moussaka, made with love and an amazing salad (inpakslaai)… very delicious. We brought a bottle of our favourite… Saronsberg. It really was a serene and warm evening and we spend most of it outside in their lush garden.
We were invited to stay over. We were very glad we did not arrive the previous night as were intended after we heard that they partied until the sun came up.
With all this travelling and busyness, we were so happy to have a nice chilled Friday night.
The next day we all went to “Smoking Sessions” where we met up with some more awesome friends. Deon, our pro-cyclist friend whom I have written about in “My Fabulous Friends” category.
Willem was doing a live stream of the music as he is involved with Global citizen. We listened to some good music. Music of all genres are allowed here and we heard some good Dj’s as well as bands – Ruiter Piet en die Partykie, Die See and Shotgun Tori & the Hound.
Smoking Sessions is held at the home of one of our friends, Marchand. He is also busy planting vegetables on quite a large scale and wants to supply the neighbourhood.
The music was stunning and the day went pass so quickly. We ended it in good style by having pizzas at Col’Cacchio, an Italian restaurant close to Skillie and Alda. Our tastebuds were superblessed and we can totally recommend – it was some of the best pizza we have ever had.
Monday morning we left at five to be close to Stoffberg for the welders who said that they would be on-site at nine.
Luckily Skillie also needs to leave at that time as he works as an archaeologist in Potgietersrus during the week.
Hurry up and wait applies often in this business and again, we are used to it…the welders only arrived around 10h30. This site again is on a game farm and we are once again blessed to see Eland and other bucks as well as White hartebeest which is very rare. Birds abound… some beautiful flappe. (Afrikaans)
We are staying at The Pers Kombers which are not found on the internet.
Rykie (0823383507) does not advertise and have guests only by word of mouth. It is situated on a farm with cows sleeping in front of our room. A very relaxed feel with birdsong all day long. Just as I like it.
Yes, these are goats on the wall outside…
Hard to believe it is the 23rd of November already. It was awesome to have these few days of settling into a home environment… especially on this farm, The Pers Kombers. We receive delicious meals at night and have lunch boxes with sandwiches and something special made with care for the next day. I am feeling quite spoiled by not having to make our own meals.
I have also been getting back on my yoga mat this week and I feel well nurtured. It is so important for us to take the best care of ourselves. When I got sick, I started looking into this again and were reminded by attending a sweat lodge.
This morning I repacked my leather bag – which I made myself – as light as possible for a visit to Cape Town. Sunday, I shall leave by aeroplane from Johannesburg to look after my four-year-old Alexia while Mommy (my daughter, Maryna) go to the hospital to fetch a brand new baby brother. Superblessed indeed…
…but first, we made a turn in Dullstroom on Saturday…
We have forever been curious about the town Dullstroom as we are always just shooting pass off to another site with workmen and trailer.
How blessed we felt to at last be able to visit this town while the men were working on-site close by.
It is a lovely little town, with a feel much like Clarence. We ate pancakes and then we visited some friends on a farm in Tonteldoos. Johan and Karen clearly have carved themselves a magnificent way of life and we enjoyed bathing in the luxury of a peaceful few hours before we had to fetch the workmen from the site…
*(In the meantime, I have completed the book and it shall be published soon.) 9 February 2021
Superblessed with so much travelling and seeing our beautiful country!