Konka – part 2

20170304_184938
This is Konka

I’m not eager to be pulled from my bed by the sound of my alarm. Our night stretched on later than we’d anticipated it to, and buoyed by girlish silliness I still had enough energy to write a ridiculous (and never to be published) Ode to the Night which finally left me to sleep at 4am. Added to that, I found myself sharing my single bed with one of my friends, who had discovered that she had been locked out of her room by her roommates.  They were apparently afraid of being bombarded by lions thus leaving her no other choice but to run back to our chalet in search of sleeping space. Fortunately, there is enough coffee, tea and breakfast to get our engines revving for the heavy day ahead.

Singing with such a talented group is magical! I seldom get tired of it. The task of reading the music, learning its challenging pattern and hearing those detached melodies coming together to blend into one, harmonious piece of genius is breath-taking! It will always keep me enchanted. Our voice leader for the weekend – beautiful, charismatic and energetic Charlotte – smuggles sweets into the choir room to use as bribery for when we become too spent to sing. Despite the long hours we put into learning the music, repeating chords over and over and over until they become stencilled into our muscle memory we end the day on a high note (Embrace the pun!). The rest of our Saturday evening is ours to do with as we please.

Comfort in a chalet
Comfort in a chalet

Before the sun sets and we begin to party, I take a moment to enjoy Konka’s beauty. It’s surrounded by majestic mountains and thickly growing veldt. Bricked paths run like a maze between the dorms and chalets, and are sheltered by the green arms of Acacia trees. Outside each chalet stands a bench and table, and the dormitories meet at a communal braai area. The dining area looks out over the river, which is complete with a foofie slide and obstacle course. If one walks beyond the low water bridge, a large, bright-green sports field stretches up to a swimming pool, a mini-golf course and some smaller jungle gyms. Konka is an outdoor adventure place, with added comfort to retreat to after a long day. Just the sort of thing a girl from the city needs to escape to.

The brick paths diverge
The brick paths diverge

The Konka staff braai for us that evening, and the characteristic taste of smoke and a slight chargrill makes dinner perfect! We’re all tired and hungry from a long days work, but the night is still only beginning. The choir puts on an impulsive show for the staff and the other visitors to the camp, and from there the party begins. The rest… is history.

Konka – part 1

20170304_185807
Firefly Fountains

A weekend away – it’s exactly what I’ve needed. To be 100km away from home surrounded by veld and mountains: Divine! We’ turn off the main road long after the sun has set and hobble through potholes and bumps until a thatch gate borders the road on our right. We’ve arrived at the Konka Sport Camping: beautiful grounds that offer a space for team building, special events, conferences or camps. We’re here for a choir camp. Inside, there’s a winding path that leads us through window-high grass and delivers us to the crossing of a low water bridge. I hold my breath as we cross, ridiculously terrified that we might get swept away. But the water is low and only trickles lazily over the concrete. Although it’s dark, we continue to drive through what promises to be lovely gardens. Fountains are aglow like fireflies in the dark, with a green light bringing their shapes to life. And above us, the sky is pure night, glittering with stars. After dropping our bags we’re herded to the dinner table where the aroma of good, homely food draws us in. There’s a simple procedure. Dish up. Eat up. Clean up. The food is so good! It is home cooked and bursting with love. We eat rice with stew, and salads that lay a multitude of flavours and texture on our tongues. They even cater for specific dietary preferences such as veganism, vegetarian or pescatarian.  Especially after a long day and at start of what will be a long (hopefully winning) weekend, dinner gives us the strength we need.

After dinner we find our rooms. Sophisticated and quaint. Delightful and charming. I like them. The rooms sell comfort and I’m eager to buy into them.

First, though, a quick rehearsal to get things going. After accidentally leaving our keyboard cable at home, the staff at Konka work their magic and conjure up a keyboard for us to use. Fantastic service guys! Despite feeling tired and pulled by the call of our beds, we sing with gusto and enjoy a quick immersion into music.

But now the day is done, and breakfast is only eight hours away. We ramble off to our rooms and submit to what night the holds.

4 April 2017

20170404_115606-1
Our Beautiful, blue sky…

Free time. It’s a concept that holds so much promise! Think of everything you can do in that precious little packet of the fourth dimension! Free time for me usually means doing everything I never get to do when I have to study for tests or complete projects. Creative writing! Drawing! Playing music and making songs! YOGA! Spending a few well deserved hours window shopping! Or just chilling somewhere beautiful, surrounded by shades of green and the sounds of nature. It’s magic time!

Unfortunately, the way I actually spend me free time is somewhat different to how I planned to spend it. TV. Snacks. And not moving from my chair for the whole day. I’m not proud. It’s one thing doing that once in a while… but losing your potential magic time for “slothing” around is something totally different. I’ve discovered it’s a habit – not a very good one. Too much of it steals my productivity and turns me into an undesirable version of myself. So much so that I’ve even started to turn against the prospect of free time.

Hopefully, I can snap out of that withering routine, and instead slip into something that brings me more satisfaction!

20170404_115648-1
Free time well spent…

 

Let me know: what do you guys do with your free time?

3 April 2017

I’ll be honest: I was rather nervous about today. Although I would never have admitted it to anyone this morning, I was scared. There were lots of challenges waiting for me today, any of which might go hazardously. At 08:45 am our group of six students drove away from the university to sit in our first interview with a real consulting agency who would – finger crossed – be able to enlighten our short sighted views on GIS. My navigator and I whisked through the reams of traffic easily enough and found ourselves the first ones of the group there. So I could tick that one off my list. I didn’t get lost! Not once. And I was first to arrive. Good, now I just had to make it into the building, sit through the interview and try to look like I understood everything our informant was saying, and then politely ask my questions whilst conveying that I was competent and knew sort of what I was talking about. Fortunately I was not alone in my nervous state. The boys seemed OK (or they hid their nerves well), but my girlfriends and I could admit to each other in a slightly high-pitched frenzy that we had no idea what to expect and that we missed our mommies! We struck up memories of the first time we had to make and attend doctors appointments. I was used to my mom doing all the talking. “She has a fever, and a cough and her throat is red raw, doctor, what can we do?” Now I just sit for a moment breathing on the other side of the desk, hoping mom will come sweeping in to handle it for me. But she doesn’t. And I get through it alright. Perhaps I stumble once or twice over my words, turn red when she politely asks about carnal activities, and swallow too loudly when she puts the stethoscope on my chest. But I make it. Just like we made it through the interview today.

We’re armed with so much hidden knowledge that our parents have passed to us without us even knowing. It remains there, waiting for us to be brave enough to use it. I honestly didn’t even want to leave the house this morning… but now I know I can trust my abilities: drive to a place I’ve never been without getting lost; engage in conversation about a topic I know very little of; and walk away so much wiser with a heart full of confidence. And there’ll always be someone a little more nervous than me.

A holiday begins…

The sun slipping into the blanket of blue for the night.
The sun slipping into the blanket of blue for the night.

Just recently my family and I traveled down to Brenton-on-Sea for a holiday. With two cars packed full of boxes, books and furniture (which is slowly making its way down to the coast in anticipation of my parents’ retirement in a few years), and a parrot and boerboel squished into the only remaining space on the backseat, we made our way down. A good 12 hours later, we arrived just as the sun was setting into the blanket of blue sea we can spy from our balcony. It was good to unpack and bring life into the home again – this one that we’re slowly starting to make ours. After 2 months of standing closed and drawn, the air that swept through the windows and doors ushered out its stiller and lifeless counterpart. We pulled covers from the beds and furniture, dusted off the counters and settled down quickly. It was a long hard drive, but the holiday that awaited us was soon beginning!

Hidden Haenertsburg

If you take the Great North toll road from Johannesburg through Pretoria and into Limpopo, and you travel on towards the Magoebaskloof mountains, you will stumble upon a magical place. Surrounded by misty valleys and hills that are clothed from top to bottom in forest greens, a place named Haenertsburg lives. From the highway you can see the tiny hamlet on a hill: politely laid out with its single main road and few adjacent streets harbouring homes and gardens.

My folks and I decided on Haenertsburg after a long term at school and anticipated quiet and nature in abundance! We were accompanied the whole way by heavy, dark clouds and together with the wintery bushveld that ran alongside the road, our first impression of Limpopo was rather bland. We travelled past townships built amidst the grey-green landscape where cows grazed beside the roadway and hungry dogs scurried around. Then the mist began to thicken. Beneath its white blanket the ground started to swell, forming hills and valleys. When the mist finally cleared, we were in a different world. Green, wet and lush! For the rest of the way to Haenertsburg we were simply in awe of the beautiful forest trees that guided us. Before turning into the little town we decided to visit the Cheerio Gardens. Only a few kilometres from Haenertsburg itself, this magnificent place is a definite must see for anyone visiting or even just passing through.  Big, untamed and beautiful, the Cheerio gardens grow at the end of a twisting dirt road. About 20 hectares of greenery grows wild, and is dotted by vibrantly coloured azaleas: Hot pink! White! Red! Even the flowers of a soft lilac colour bloom in clouds against the wild, green background. There are paths that run through the gardens, creating a scenic tour of the dams and rich variety of plants that grow there and at the end of your walk you can enjoy some refreshments at the Cheerio gardens deli. The gardens are most spectacular in spring, showing off their blooming cherry trees and azaleas for the annual spring festival. We left the gardens feeling inspired and ready to explore Haenertsburg.

As I mentioned before, Haenertsburg is small. But walking the street on which the town is built makes one realise just how small it is. On one side sits the “Pennefather” where antiques and collectable from the late1800’s can be found. Six picturesque cottages stand beside it depicting the romanticism of the era when gold was discovered in the area and Haenertsburg founded. A final door to the past can be found at the “Memory hold the door” bookshop. This quaint store not only keeps adventures and stories in its papery heart, but also a warm fireplace, a piano that welcomes you and sweet treats in glass jars placed all around the store.

On the other side the main street is fringed with eateries and a grocery store. I recommend having lunch at Minkie’s: inside its warm and friendly and their seats serve a wonderful welcome after a long ways travel. And although we did not get to try it out, I think the Iron Crown pub would be a great place for dinner.

On day two we woke up to the sun shining through the last tethers of clouds. We laced up our hiking boots, rubbed sunscreen on and with a final glance at the map began our hike through Haenertsburg. We joined the trail that walked past protected grasslands and climbed steeply towards their cemetery. From there we had the most spectacular view of the surrounding valleys, hills and rivers. The grasses were green and full of life, and the hills stretched right up, uninterrupted until they reached the blue sky. By the time we past the cemetery the day had turned hot and we were all grateful for the camel-packs of water each of us carried. The path carried us further past pine forests, and more forever-views. Note: it’s very important to wear good hiking shoes when taking the trail. The ground is uneven and sometimes the path is as untamed as the fields of grass surrounding it. Along the way yellow footprints show where the path leads, and every so often one passes a point of interest from where parts of Haenertburg’s natural beauty can be seen. At “Patrick Point” a charming assortment of logs offer seats in the shade of a moss trimmed tree, and the view is stunning. The full trail covers about ten kilometres; through forests with old trees that crowd and climb over each other to reach the light, and spiders webs that catch the faces of people who pass by. It’s a long, hot walk, but with the beautiful views it is completely wort it. Where the path ends back in Haenertburg’s main street, vendors are always happy to sell you a bag of fresh fruit – together with a trip to the grocery store for some warm, fresh bread and a pot of homemade jam, you can finish the day with a simple meal straight from the locals.

Our third and final day took us to places surrounding Haenertsburg. Through narrow roads that wind from Haenertsburg and alongside the Magoebaskloof mountains, we made our way to the Debegeni Falls. Hidden between tall, leafy patrons of the forest, the 80m high waterslide rolls. Tables and benches are arranged around the pools of water for a quiet picnic, and here and there an artist sits painting the memorizing waterfall. Over a slick lip of rock the water spills from between the trees, slipping down faster and faster into a pool below. The water is clear and cool, and ebbing lazily against the banks after its tumble. Where we sat at one of the picnic benches sipping coffee, we could see others dipping themselves into the refreshing pools below the fall. Sunlight danced off the ripples in the water and played in patterns across the floor, where sunken leaves slept, covered in algae. Some leaves were still bright: lying like red and yellow fish in the shallows. The air is filled with the happy sounds of laughter and water – chattering as it flows. As butterflies waltz through the air, dragonflies perch on the tips of ferns and tiny bugs zip between the sunbeams, it seems our break from work and school is concluded in a most spectacular way.