WULF UTIAN’S LETTER FROM CAPE TOWN
APRIL – MAY 2023
A SAD END TO THE SEASON
For us, March ended on a tragic note. Moira’s brother, Ben Mervis, passed away suddenly with his funeral on what would have been his 79th birthday, March 31st. Moira and Ben spoke every day, and of course she is devastated. Ben was a radiologist, an expert in CT, a leading figure in the Cape Town Jewish community, especially the historic Gardens Synagogue where he led informative tours for hundreds of visitors over many years, including Al Gore who he did not recognize as he showed him around. Ben was a devoted husband and father, fascinated by Jewish history, a loyal friend, and a dedicated networker.
Sudden death of a family member or close friend triggers multiple emotions – shock, grief, sadness, denial, regret, and above all a sense of vulnerability. Moira has always been the one in our marriage to seize the day, to tell me life is fragile and not a dress rehearsal. I have been the strategic planner. I guess that is what has made our marriage work, a combination of both.
Accordingly, we changed plans and decided to get spiritual, to go into the natural world and recover our equilibrium. Consequently, this is what I have to share with you as my final letter of the season, with us returning to Cleveland mid-May.
On a purely practical note, I must mention that selecting the photos I include in my newsletters out of the hundreds I take is extremely difficult. I just try to give a flavor of our activities and the areas we explore.
The first choice to reboot was the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, my favorite place in all the world, and certainly one of the most beautiful. The photos that follow were taken on April 4.
Fall is a wonderful time in the gardens as the late blooming flowers explode in color and the leaves of the deciduous trees change.
In the travel world there is a saying, “don’t go back.” I can affirm that, thinking of simplistic Mykonos in 1964 when the locals tried to coerce me to remain on the island as their only doctor, or the shock we experienced seeing Punta Ala on the Tuscany Coast years after our first visit when the beautiful people were there including our next-door neighbor, Roger Moore; or, closer to home, Herold’s Bay near George, from an idyllic bay to an architectural nightmare. So, with a little trepidation, we decided to revisit two of our top destinations in the last 20 years because they were unique and their natural environments tranquil and magnificent.
First was Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, last visited 7 years ago. We need not have worried; it was better than ever, luxury accommodation in individual villas with massive glass windows looking out over the fynbos towards Walker Bay, warm and friendly staff, and delicious food. Above all, Grootbos sits in a unique fynbos region, 80% of the Cape Floral Kingdom (Cape Floristic Region) being made up of fynbos. There are over 9000 plant species in the region, and 80% occur nowhere else in the world. Over 2600 species occur in the Cape Peninsula alone. The main plant groups characterizing fynbos are restios, proteas, heaths, and geophytes, but also includes seven plant families that only occur in fynbos. The number of positively identified plant species at Grootbos alone exceeds 900, with many only found in this area. Six species unique to science have been recorded at Grootbos.
On our first morning we lucked out to be taken into the fynbos with a guide/botanist with deep knowledge into the local vegetation. I realized that what I thought I knew about fynbos was trivial. The following are just some of what we experienced.
As part of their commitment to the environment, the local community, conservation, and the sustaining of endangered species, the Grootbos Foundation over the past decade invited over 40 local and internationally famous botanical artists into residence, to identify a species they wanted to study and paint, and in the process to include artistic detail of their life cycle and pollinators. A philanthropist donated funds to build a perfect gallery to display the art, and the result is the Grootbos Florilegium. I suggest you hit the hyperlink as it is virtually impossible to describe in a few words or show in a few pictures the extent of this magnificent art.
Our next repeat trip was to Bushman’s Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat, last visited in 2014. Shortly after leaving Cape Town the 3½ hour drive follows the N7 through Malmesbury, Piketberg, and Citrusdal. Beyond Clanwilliam the R364 enters a remarkable geological transformation as it enters the Cederberg mountains through the Pakhuis Pass. The Cederberg, comprised largely of sandstone and shale, are noted for unique rock formations, millennia old San (Bushmen) rock art, and flora that are totally different to that seen around Grootbos. This area is also home to Rooibos tea, virtually the entire world crop growing, harvested and dried here.
Bushman’s, the situation, surroundings, accommodation, staff, and food, was also as good as ever. I will let photos tell the story.
And so the Cape summer of 2022-2023 ends. It was a season of joy and sadness. The lesson reinforced in our minds is carpe diem.
Wishing you all good health and happiness,
Cape Town, May 8, 2023.
I have no words for the sadness except that we love you and Moira and we are always here for you.
I have no words for the beauty that you shared because there are no words that can adequately describe it.
Love Jan and Isaac
We love you guys too and hope we get to see you.
Please accept my deepest sympathies on your loss. I lost my brother 5 years ago (72 yrs old), however time has not softened the wound as I, too, spoke to him everyday and had brunch every weekend. I do know how Moiya feels ………………. so sad …………… ginny sukenik
Thanks Ginny, really appreciate your words and sentiments.
Hello Dr. Utian and Moira,
Please extend my condolences to Moira on the loss of her brother! I know that loss all too well.
The pics are beautiful! Easy to get lost in them with a curious mind. I was looking for animals and you didn’t disappoint! I appreciate you sharing. Looking forward to the next time!
Wishing you and Moira a safe trip home!
All the best,
Thanks Val. We must get together again this summer.
Thank you for sharing.
Wish you long life.
Ralph & Irene
We continue to be so very sad for you and your family, but many thanks for sharing your travels and stunning photos, as always. Wishing long life to all. Safe travels back and everything of the very best.
Lucille & Philip
Much appreciated. Lots of love, Wulf
Moira, Please accept my heartfelt condolences on the passing of your brother, Ben. I hold you and Wulf in my thoughts. Thank you for sharing the incredible photos! What an amazing place!
Thanks Rob. I hope all is well.
My condolences Moira . Your last trip looked fabulous and must have ease the sadness . My best to both of you .
Dearest Moira and Wulf, we send to you our deepest,most heartfelt condolences on the loss of your dear Ben. We hope that very soon we shall be hugging you in person. Please travel safely. Hoping robe with you ASAP!! Love always, Audrey and Albert
Thank you so much. We are home on the 19th and cannot wait to see you. Love, Wulf
So sorry for your loss. Thoughts and prayers go out to you and Moira.
As always, thanks so much for your extraordinarily beautiful photos and descriptions of your travels. I so appreciate learning from your adventures.
Looking forward to seeing you both in Cleveland.
Lots of love,
Us too, and we look forward to seeing you. Love, Wulf
Phyllis and I were so sad to learn of Ben’s sudden passing. We remember how helpful he was treating our Granddaughter Emma who was in Capetown University on a semester abroad.
Wulf’ your mastery of travel and photography is only surpassed by your genius as a leader of OB GYN.
Much appreciated. Look forward to seeing you soon.
Moire and Wulf, we emailed when we heard about the sad loss of Ben. Your choice to go into nature seems appropriate and meaningful. Beautiful pictures.
Sorry Moira for your loss
Wulf the second picture of the Klein river is about 750 meters upstream from my farm where you have landed in my Cessna 210
Heaven on earth
A LIFE WELL LIVED.
Always enjoy your photos. Sincere condolences to Moira and wishing her a long life. I absolutely LOVE South Africa and hope to return soon. It is a very special place. Wishing you both health and happiness.
xo, Doreen & Barry
Moira and Wulf,
I am so sad to learn of your loss. Thank you for extraordinary photos of South Africa’s natural beauty – a loving tribute to a beloved brother –
Dear Moira and Wulf,
Sincere condolences for the loss of Moira’s brother.
Thanks for the marvellous photos of your beloved second homeland.
kind regards, Hans & Margreet
This is so uplifting, and the quality of the photographs is…astounding. Thank you.
My condolences to you both on your loss. My wife of 47 years passed away last August, and I can understand what you are going through.