November in the Midlands was a particularly wet month, thankfully, and December looks similar in many ways. What a joy to see the countryside green, rivers flowing strongly and most dams full. This week we had the opportunity to take a Trappist Missions tour, and look over much of south-western KZN. We began at Richenau near Underberg with her stunning sandstone church, and mill built painstakingly by devout Trappists in 1888-1890. We met an elderly Zulu woman who had walked miles to attend church. Alas, the place was deserted, the church closed, and were deeply moved by her resignation as she set off home in old threadbare shoes. We supplied a bottle of water, a bread roll and some cash to catch a taxi.
Centocow, with her two beautiful churches is a veritable jewel in the Trappist crown. The stained glass window and friezes within the newer church are breathtaking, and the story of the Black Madonna enriching.
We then drove down through the magnificent dairy farming country around Creighton to Umzimkulu, and on to Lourdes and Emaus Missions. Young German Sister Sarah showed us around Lourdes. To assist with future tours to Lourdes, I offered Sarah my business card saying I have never given my card to a Catholic Sister before. The charming young woman blushed! Emaus is where Abbot Franz Pfanner lived out the last few years of his extraordinary life, suspended by the Trappists, and allowed no communication with them although he continued to write extensively. Indeed, like a little mouse tucked away, but never forgotten.
En route home, we stopped at Kevelaer Mission, near Donnybrook, to admire the church, and fountain visited by thousands of pilgrims annually during the Feast of Assumption. Generally the inland Missions enabled the Trappists to grow crops they were unable to grow at Marianhill, and what a joy to see guests jaw-dropping responses to these hidden gems tucked away in southern KZN. For me, the added joy of huge dairy farms and their herds made for a perfect day out.
Always keen to expand my repertoire, never mind the fascinating history of the Trappists, I am looking forward to conducting more of these tours in the future.
One year ago today, I was onboard an expedition ship in the Drake Passage, and watched a tiny row boat come past with 4 rowers, crossing the mighty Drake Passage – one of them a South African. What courage (they made it!), and how we all long to be able to travel again. It is however wonderful to spend Christmas with family and loved ones, a rare event for me over the past 10 years.
The myriad changes Covid has forced upon us, included my embracing the online world, and what a revelation it has been. Instead of live presentations, I have been fortunate enough to present to folks in various parts of the world via the ether, and how grateful we are for this avenue of work. Including the story of Shackleton’s whisky found under the Cape Royds hut in 2007, whilst listeners enjoy a tipple of the magnificent replica amber fluid. I have to wait until I’m done…
We aspire to working smarter, not harder next year.
Until we meet again, have a safe, blessed, healthy Festive Season, and every good wish for 2021.