Hectic. Seven different beds in our first 28 days, and the heavy pace has continued. Notable was a weekend we spent with Brett and Michelle in a friend’s beachside villa in the Wilderness, a charming village below the dramatic Kaaimans river pass, trapped between the Outeniqua mountains behind and the long white-sand beach in front. The Wilderness, a thirty-minute drive from Knysna, is home to Joplins, one of the country’s greatest (and unusual) steak restaurants. Dinner for four including drinks, bottled water and dessert cost all of sixty dollars. Yes, my rump steak, juicy, soft as butter, and so very flavorable, came up to expectations.
The visit also gave us the opportunity to spend a morning at the Outeniqua farmers market. Peter Mayle eat your heart out – the ambience, the food and crafts, fresh produce, farm-made jams, pickles, chutneys, bottled fruits, cheeses, pastries, all so reminded us of small-town markets in Provence or Tuscany. But then there were the added local delicacies like biltong, koeksisters, melk tert, vetkoek, and droe wors (non-South Africans, ask your SA friends for translations and descriptions!). The following photos may provide some clues.
December-January is also the long school vacation and family time. Lara and the boys joined us in Belvidere. What more fun can a grandfather have than to initiate his grandchildren into the love of hiking, the good walk not spoiled. Earlier I had taken Jack, aged 10, on his first hike on Table Mountain, along Skeleton Gorge, the start of what is known as the Smuts track. Jan Smuts was the prime Minister of South Africa during the 2nd World War, and one of the founders of the League of Nations, later to become the United Nations. When the South African Parliament was in session in Cape Town, he would take time to think by hiking this track up the mountain, and I have followed that path hundreds of times over the past 6 decades. Always breathtaking, literally and figuratively.
The indigenous forests of Knysna offer hundreds of hiking trails of all levels of effort. Jubilee Creek is a trail mostly following the river as it cascades down from the higher mountains. This area was once a frenzy of gold miners, prospectors and all the usual hangers on, a history much like the gold rush of California, and ending much the same way. All that is left of the mining town of Millwood is one house, partly museum and partly a tea room. Open mine shafts are dotted along the trail with big “Danger – Do No Enter” signs. The boys were fascinated, enthralled by the forest, the giant trees, the flora and fauna, the troops of monkey’s mocking us to come closer then jumping from our path into the overhead trees, and of course, cavorting in the river looking for gold nuggets (of course we found none) and fishing with their hands. They also kept hoping for a sighting of the elusive Knysna elephants, of which very few survive and are rarely seen.
Dalene Matthee, a Knysna author, wrote the international best-selling historic novels about this area, the forests, and the lives of the woodcutters in particular (Circles in the Forest; The Mulberry Forest). She is buried adjacent to this tree deep in the forest.
This is such a wonderful part of the world where children can really be children.
The week over New Year was spent as usual with our whole family together at 8 Bells, the spectacularly situated full service four-star mountain resort situated on a 400-acre estate in the Ruiterbos Valley Region of the Garden Route, at the foot of the Robinson Pass on the R328, between Mossel Bay (35km) and Oudtshoorn (50 km). I have previously described this wonderful old-world family retreat, and the following photo is but a glimpse of this magnificent region.
Continuing my theme of last month of good things happening in this part of the world, Lara’s busy year is a good example. Completely outside of her marketing and PR business, Red Flag, she and Edima Otoukon, a good friend and business colleague from Lagos, Nigeria, have created a non-profit Foundation called the Ladima Foundation. In less than 1 year they have established a continent-wide organization with the mission of creating opportunities for women of Africa to bring to fruition projects in the film and TV production industry through three objectives: training, professional development and networking. Training is accomplished through collaboration with established organizations. Examples include the Nigerian Film Corporation, who are providing facilities in Lagos and Jos, the African Animation Network which functions in over 20 African countries, Canon will most likely be providing equipment, funding and training in cinematography, and, potentially with GIBS ( the Gordon Institute of Business) to foster a creative entrepreneurship program helping enrollees learn the business of film. An illustration of what they are achieving is the conversion of shipping containers in IDP (internally displaced people) camps into animation studios and training women in these camps to animate. Networking is being fostered through different fronts, including a network of film festivals throughout Africa providing a market for developed product and the skills for actually running a festival. So far, they have achieved this in Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya, but are trying to synchronize a continent-wide calendar of women-focused film festivals. Another front is their A-List, an online data base of women professionals, currently including over 750 women in 38 countries. Finally, as a carrot for the effort of these women, Lara and Edima have developed a recognition program, which, depending on resources, they hope to expand. The Adiaha (First daughter) Award of $2000 (a fortune in many parts of Africa) for an African documentary developed by a woman has now been awarded for the last 2 years at the Zanzibar International Film Festival (ZIFF) of which Lara has been a key organizer. Through Africa in Motion, a partner in Edinburgh, they are able to fund winners to submit product and attend the Edinburgh Festival. Clearly, they have much work to do, but not a bad achievement in so short a time, and again for which Moira and I feel justifiably proud of Lara.
Amazing how one can fill an entire newsletter and not get into politics even once.
Happy New Year
Belvidere, January 8, 2019