Plated in the Bush
From time to time, I sit and reflect upon how spoilt for choice we South Africans are. And, sadly, most times somewhat unaware of it. What with access to the bushveld literally on our collective doorstep, today’s bush itinerary could very well include a sighting of elephants grazing at dawn, lions at rest in the mid-morning and perhaps end with a lone cheetah perched in an old-as-time acacia tree; the African sunset a fitting backdrop to the marvel of nature. This realisation hits home even more when I observe foreign tourists’ delight at their first sighting on a game drive, often a locally-scoffed-at herd of impala.
When it comes to luxury bush travel, South Africa does it well, laying on all the bells and whistles for the eager traveller. A South African bush experience is immersive and, based on a recent conversation I had in the Timbavati with Jean, an American tourist, cathartic. So, how does one lodge-slash-camp differentiate itself from another, giving you just that experience? I think I may have found it, there in the Waterberg Mountains of the Limpopo province.
Spoiler alert: the secret ingredient is food.
From Carnage to Conversation
Whaling, which dates back to 875 AD, was initially employed by many First Nations peoples around the world as a subsistence practice. This continued until the 16th century, when whaling began to spread more intensively. The heyday of whaling, from the 17th century to the early-to-mid 20th century, was marked by a feverish sense of bonhomie for the supposed limitless supply of these majestic mammals. But, as with most things that appear too good to be true, the industry was to learn that no supply is ever truly limitless.
South Africa was a significant player in the whaling industry back in the day, primarily due to its location along several what would in later years come to be known as whale super highways, as the migratory route of mammals such as humpbacks led them to the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean to feed and calf. The first shore-based whaling station in South Africa was set up in Table Bay in 1792 and would usher in a remarkable period that would see the industry grow to 14 such stations, with a run lasting until 1975. The industry thrived as various species of whales were decimated.
The Art of Slow Living
The trusty old Land Rover, resplendent in her pastel green hue, shuttled me onto the farm that Friday morning, leaving my car and civilisation behind at the Nirox Sculpture Park. It was a marvellous feeling, seemingly an unshackling from the dictates of a daily routine that felt ill-equipped to serve any further good, juxtaposed with the unexpected melodic ensemble of creaks and groans. The ten-minute drive offered space for reflection, something I would later learn would become a regular feature of my stay at Farmhouse 58 in the Cradle of Humankind.
The winds of change were gathering momentum in my life, nagging little clues being dropped at indeterminable intervals as my days played out. While travelling and exploring are my passions, the pursuit thereof does not a healthy lifestyle make. A never-ending array of deadlines, partaking in some of the best gastronomic offerings available (and the fruits of the vine that pair so well with them) and my dislike for exercise all jumbled up to serve up what some would call a ticking timebomb.
Meet me at the Royal
Since I was a fledgling fifteen-year-old, South Africa’s royal hotels have always caught my attention. But only in a somewhat vague, peripheral sense. What was this phenomenon I kept seeing on family travels around the country, from one small town to the next?
Until 2020 I had never actually stepped inside a royal hotel. They had always been places I had driven past, yet only actually ever thought about after leaving town, my mind at the time pre-occupied with the latest travel assignment and its looming deadline. What made these hotels royal, and did it entail a link to one of the royal houses? It was time to put this matter to rest, for once and for all, at least in my mind.
What the hills of Zululand whispered
South African’s have a fascination with royalty. Type this search term into your streaming service of choice and you are bound to be delighted with a vast array of movies and documentaries dedicated to this niche genre. But strangely, rather limited public interest is shown in royal lines from within our very own borders. In particular, the kings who reigned over the hills of Zululand.
Located in northern KwaZulu Natal, Zululand is a place of striking contrasts and home to a 19th-century Zulu kingdom where King Shaka built the Zulu nation, ruling from 1816 – 1828. Kings Dingane, Mpande and Cetshwayo continued to build on Shaka’s nation-building efforts until 1879, defending the land against both British and Boer interests. With this remarkable lineage in mind, I head for Zululand, with a particular interest in King Cetshwayo, descended from a long line of kings and the leader of the Zulu nation during the Anglo Zulu War of 1879.
Cruising the Four Rands of Jozi
From the age of six, I have called Johannesburg home, except for a relatively short period in Cape Town. I lived with my family in ‘the South of Joburg’. Others lived in the North; I even knew a few people from the East. After my parents divorced, my dad moved to the West.
At university, I began working and socialising more in the North, home to many corporate head offices requiring my new skill-set in finance. But the spectre of the Rands remained. The inevitable question of where you lived was thrown into the conversational mix; my response, ‘the South’, was almost always met with a twitch from the Northerner.
Truth be told, back in the South, the process worked in reverse. Talk of the North, and people from that side of town invariably changed the overall tone of the conversation to one of disdain, particularly for those who thought they were better than us (which we thought was everyone from the North).
But differences there were, and I still see them today.
I recently found myself in Long Road in Greymont, a somewhat forgotten section of Johannesburg. It transported me back to my varsity days 20 years ago when I frequently travelled this route to visit my dad. Faded but familiar, yet at the same time strangely comforting.
Perhaps this familiarity flowed from the isolation I, like so many others, have experienced at the hands of COVID-19 restrictions, forging in me a desire to travel, explore and discover – if only around my hometown of Johannesburg at first.
A mere five-minute drive from the plush neighbourhood of Northcliff in northern Johannesburg lies a rather unique space. An intersection of three residential areas, Greymont, Albertville and Albertskroon have collectively given rise to a new hub in Johannesburg, which goes by the name of Antique Street. It may be more than 20 years old, but the attraction of Antique Street is on the rise with aesthete Joburgers.
Quintessential Botswana on a budget
Botswana is one of my favourite African countries to visit. There is something quite primal and authentic about this land of the Okavango Delta and the Chobe River. Each time I visit I am struck anew by a sense of awe for these ancient lands and, for a brief time, imagine what it must have been like to first encounter such pristine beauty. Living in South Africa, as I do, we too are spoilt for choice when it comes to nature, but there is a heightened intensity to the experience when it comes to time spent in Botswana.
At just over 580 000 square kilometers, 70% of which is the Kalahari Desert, Botswana is a large, sparsely populated country. To truly take in all facets of this fascinating destination, you would have to spend a fair amount of time travelling, or otherwise explore Botswana over a series of several trips. Here is my suggestion for getting a decent dose of Botswana fever in one trip, and on a budget.
Epsom Thai brings fusion cuisine to Johannesburg
I don’t know about you, but there seems to be a never-ending array of Thai and Asian restaurants in Joburg. Some last for but only a time, while others become regular features on the social circuit. Those with a bit of marketing savvy throw the word fusion into the mix, supposedly justified by a few minor tweaks to the menu. That’s not what fusion is about, and sadly misses the incredible new taste combinations that proper fusion can deliver.
So when a friend recently told me about a new Thai fusion restaurant in Bryanston, I was somewhat reluctant. And when I heard it was in Epsom Downs Shopping Centre, I was doubly dubious.
Cabin in the woods anyone? Two cosy farm stays near Cape Town
What goes through your mind when I say the word ‘cabin’? For me, it’s an immediate bout of fanciful visions – an isolated location flashes to a small structure in luscious foliage. Not far off, a river burbles on its eternal path to the ocean. The chilly night air, a very necessary component to this montage of the mind, is placated by a roaring fire, in turn tamed by copious glasses of red wine. And those conversations with friends. A salve for the soul.
While in Cape Town recently, I decided to take a friend and go explore some of the Western Cape’s farm stays and cabin offerings. This is what I found.
Gin-O-Clock with the new kid on the block
Going to the Gin School at the Indaba Hotel is always a memorable affair. The room lures you in with warm copper hues from ancient-looking stills, an array of botanicals are neatly laid out in little glass beakers, and there is more gin to satiate your gin-o-clock routine than you actually require. So when the opportunity arose to sample the new brand on offer at the school, I was in.
Of coffee and emerging artists in Joburg
Here on the Rand, at 1 753 meters above sea level, it takes a full minute longer to boil an egg. Less dense air and all.
This once-upon-a-time mining camp doesn’t boast the sea or a mountain named after some arbitrary household item. There are no promenades to while away your Saturday morning as you sip on a flat white, or tidal pools to indulge the latest craze of cold water immersion. Although, when the electricity is off for long enough, your ‘hot’ tap could well become just such an instrument to enlightenment.
But I love living here. The thing is, you just have to dig a little deeper to find the beauty. It’s not that obvious, but it most certainly is here to be found, by those willing to look.
So when Open Studios Joburg was announced recently, I was in. And excited.
Artist Trevor Stuurman’s Joburg exhibition: A Place Called Home
With this concept of ‘home’ in mind, I was rather keen to take in visual artist Trevor Stuurman’s first South African solo exhibition, titled A Place Called Home, in Joburg. For those not in the know, let me bring you up to speed. Kimberley-born Trevor was voted as one of Forbes‘ ’30 under 30’ top creatives and a Time magazine Next Generation Leader in 2021. He first made his name as Elle Style Reporter in 2012. With me? Good.
Narrated through Trevor’s lens, the exhibition is an expression of home. In so doing, he set out to craft a place that allows him the sanctity to share. And be creative. I spent some time with Trevor walking through this contemporary space, a front-row seat if you will, into the inspiration that informs what you and I see at his showing.
Come fly with me… on Cloud Nine
Sitting at my desk one morning, as a travel writer does from time to time, a bot-originated (I think) communication lands in my email inbox. Noting that it does not originate from a friend or colleague, I leave it be for a while and continue with the task at hand, rather proud of myself for the bout of discipline and focus shown.
I am busy researching angles for an upcoming trip to the archipelago of Seychelles, a spectacular collection of 115 islands dotted around the Indian Ocean, north-north-east of Madagascar. I’m looking for things to do on the main island of Mahé, noting that they have a Little Big Ben in the town of Victoria, which sparks a modicum of interest along my synaptic highways. It also dawns on me that I will fly in, and out, from Mahé with Ethiopian Airlines. ‘Wasn’t that email, the one I’m doing a good job at ignoring, from Ethiopian?’ I ask myself as a strange conversation-slash-debate unravels in my head in the time it takes a fly to cough. Maybe it was important afterall.
Come cycle through Joburg with me
Our dearly departed Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu once said ‘Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realise fishing is stupid and boring’. I have never liked fishing, I tried it once when I was a kid and found it made my hands smell.
Cycling, on the other hand, has been a part of my life since I was a school-going lightie. And I have never stopped enjoying this fine pursuit. I remember the sense of freedom and much sought-after independence I enjoyed cycling to school and back each day, and going to visit friends when the mood took me. Much like I do today with my car. Except I was hardly a teenager at the time, and I’ve since left school.
Cruising Joburg: An Electric Lifestyle in the Painted City
In the heart of Sandton the Black Brick Club building is painted a shade of charcoal that would have excited Henry Ford. Something interesting is happening here; a small revolution is taking place as South Africa embraces the sharing economy, and takes a step towards the daily reality of electric vehicles.
The sharing economy is a socio-economic system built around the sharing of resources. Goods and services are acquired in ways that often fly in the face of convention, with disruptors usually shaking things up. Think Uber.
Add to the mix the Black Brick Club and their lifestyle vision made real today, a concept they’ve coined as a Vertical Village, and you have a space and service offering that really interests me. And one that will appeal to most digital nomads as we start defining for ourselves what our new normal should look and feel like. Exciting times.
Finding (re)purpose in Cape Town: The Old Foundry reinterpreted
I love old spaces. Places with history and texture that speak into the city which frames them. Spaces that hark back to another time, a bygone era.
Repurposing such old spaces provides exciting opportunities to redefine the space. Match that with the imperative brought on by COVID-19 to rethink just about everything we know, and exciting opportunities await.
Take for instance Cape Town’s earliest recorded commercial foundry, dating back to 1876, known today as The Old Foundry. How could this space be reinterpreted today? Let me show you what the creatives at the Ideas Cartel have done.
A well-crafted fusion of old-world sophistication and contemporary elegance has resulted in a rather inspiring space, with multiple functions.