There is something to be said for going places you’ve never been. There is the anticipation of wondering what you will find, the curiosity in learning more about the differences between where you come from and where you’re going, and the joy in finding commonalities and that in some ways everything is connected.
Exploring new places and experiencing different ways of life doesn’t need to involve jet-setting across the world or cost a fortune when we have so much on offer in our own country. A year ago I left the Mother City for a road trip that has taken me to some familiar places as well as a couple of new places and so I can say that so far, in 2013 and 2014 I have “gone someplace I’ve never been before.”
In 2013, the first of those places was Swellendam, where I stopped briefly for a visit to The Continent of Sulina. This charming fairy sanctuary had been on my “to visit list” for a number of years after a friend told me about it. Lovely walkways through a treed garden reveal fairies and pixies in all shape and form smiling through the leaves or hiding in the branches.
The Craggs was the second place on this journey we visited for the first time, where after stopping for some homemade pies at Nature’s Way Farm Stall – for the first time ever we experienced backpacker dormitory accommodation. The rustic establishment was a gem to uncover. From the deck the views were exquisite and with fires going for the evening dinner choice of a vegetarian or meat potjie served with pap and salad, we were entertained by the fire-dancing skills of one of the locals. The cosy living area provided a choice of musical instruments – bongo drums, guitars and a piano as well as an extensive library. My son and I were booked into ”The Love Barn” away from all of the ‘frisky twenty-one year olds’ I was told. When did I get too old to be near frisky twenty-one year olds, I wonder to myself! There was one other ‘non frisky 21 year old’ as well, a lady travelling with her dog, who shared the bed next to mine in the dormitory, and I was greeted early morning by said Border Collie hopping over to my bed for a hello.
The rest of the first leg of that trip saw us visiting familiar places – Wilderness, Knysna, Port Elizabeth, East London, Lidgetton in the KZN Midlands, Ixopo and Durban – though some attractions in these places were first time visits. The last leg though took us to Plettenberg Bay, which was the most wonderful discovery for us, where we ended up spending 5 happy months at a guest farm as volunteers, working with horses and the creating the website which ultimately led me onto the Choosy Travellers team.
2014 has also had its share of going places I’ve never been before and this past month saw brief visits to Hermanus, Bredasdorp and Napier – three lovely, but different little towns in the Western Cape. I fell in love with Hermanus’s beautiful coastline and was sorry that we only had an hour or so for a brief glimpse, but it is definitely worth a return visit.
Bredasdorp was surprising with its small town, big heart feel. People were friendly and we arrived to be told by the guesthouse manager that she had already left for the weekend, but not to worry, the door was open and the keys inside. Checking out was much the same – we weren’t monitored about check out time and we left the way we had arrived – with the key inside and the door unlocked. Sharing a table for dinner at Flames with a few of the locals, we were overwhelmed by the small-town friendliness and hospitality. “We live just down the road from your guesthouse – if you need coffee in the morning, pop over” we were invited, and there was just a slow beauty in watching a young mommy with her baby, their interactions and ways somewhat different from city families. I had that whimsical sense of ‘barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen’ that just isn’t always apparent in fast city lives.
The main road of Napier, just 11km from Bredasdorp, surprisingly adorned with a number of interesting coffee shops and eateries, had me imagining afternoons in a corner of one such quaint place with a window view, my laptop in front of me, a cup of tea beside me as I work away at my next big creative piece. There are two wings from the main road with properties and plots, each wing with very different but exquisite views of either farmland or the town itself, the tall steeple rising up proudly as a mark of the town’s history.
Yes, there is something to be said for experiencing new places and people and with so much diversity in our homeland we are privileged with our array of possibilities.