The day after the winter solstice found us in Cape Town, enjoying very short days, and speaking at The One&Only Hotel, as part of their Guest Speaker series. My medley of South African history, with special reference to the Zulu history, was well received, followed by dinner in Reuben’s Restaurant. It was a special treat having Michael Charton present, whose storytelling around South African history is mesmerising.
We love road trips, and the drive from Cape Town to Bethlehem did not disappoint. The trucks on the N1 prove challenging at times, but my heart goes out to those hardy drivers criss-crossing our land transporting massive loads. In the main I feel they are very good drivers indeed, often not afforded the respect they are due from car drivers. A friend was cheeky enough to suggest that should an hotel room not be available in Bethlehem, a stable could always be found! Our departure from Bethlehem saw the ground white with frost, and minus 6 degrees Centigrade, all the way through the Ash River valley, and onwards to Sterkfontein Dam.
I mentioned in my last blog that I would be speaking to a large conference group on the battlefields. SNAZZI Solutions had created a fantastic camp on the banks of the Buffalo River at Fugitives’ Drift for 90 guests, complete with generator, huge screens, Bedouin-type tent, ablutions and hot showers. My trip was interrupted by service delivery protests at Ekuvukeni, and I was obliged to back track via Elandslaagte and Dundee, adding an hour to my travel time. Perhaps I am naive, but I would be very pleased to hear what the protesters plan to achieve by blocking the road, stoning vehicles, chopping down trees to do so, and burning tyres and tarmac. Are they wanting affected road users to carry their complaints to the relevant authorities, or simply interrupt the lives of those going about their daily business? It would be an interesting exercise to know how many protesters are paying for the services they are protesting about?
Back to my story – the protesters rendered me late to Isandlwana, in howling winds. Trying to speak to 90 guests at Isandlwana in strong wind is very trying indeed. After the story, we all walked back to camp via the Fugitives’ Trail, with tales of the loss of the 7-pounder cannons, Anstey’s last stand, and Brickhill’s experiences in the Mpethe marshes. We anticipated the river being low enough to jump across on the rocks, but the water level was too high to do so. Trying to cross a very cold river, with stiffened feet and very slippery rocks provided much sport and entertainment. Many guests ended up wet to their chins, and emerged looking like freshly-plucked chickens on account of the goose flesh. Their MD was delighted, stating it was good for team work, team spirit, and would be the single most-spoken about aspect of the entire conference.
The following afternoon, we shared the story of Rorke’s Drift, in much calmer conditions.
Thanda Game Reserve invited me to share some stories with their guests and staff. Never having been to Thanda previously, nothing could have prepared us for the most exquisite Lodge and ochre-coloured rooms. We shared the game-viewing vehicle with fellow South Africans, shared stories around a large fire in the Boma at Tented Camp, and had a wonderful time. All water for the game and lodges is being trucked in daily – most have no idea of the drought conditions over many parts of South Africa.
I also shared stories with the rangers and trackers trying to excite them about storytelling, and providing some options for ice-breaking, or situations where the game drives may be unproductive. At times it is worth reminding these men and women that they are involved in one of the finest vocations available, and potentially have the ability to change guests’ lives.
It is always a treat to return to the green, rolling hills of our beloved Midlands, grateful at being spared the horrors of Knysna fires, or the crippling drought being experienced by so many.