Sometimes you need to leave the life you know in order to appreciate it, writes editor Vivian Warby.
I think part of the joy of travelling is the returning home and a fresh appreciation for the familiar and for those who you love, and who know you, being near you again.
I recently made some solo travels across the Western Cape. It was a time of solitude and contemplation, of mourning (I recently lost both my parents), and a time of adventure. My travels took me on sand roads and across the varying landscapes of the Western Cape from Agulhas to the Klein Karoo.
I was blessed during this time to meet wonderful locals who provided laughter and thought. The thing about “off the beaten track” travel is that you meet others who also have a heart for the unknown, for nature and for, perhaps, a bit of danger.
After all, what is an adventure without a good dollop of danger? I am fascinated by how people live in remoteness. How they have made a home away from the bustle of city life, moving to the country with snakes, jackals and birds of prey, and the silence, the beautiful silence.
A growing number of South Africans are finding homes away from a nine-to-five life. I met a couple who opened an organic restaurant in Suurbraak, having bought there 20 years ago.
“During the drought, prices shot up here, with Capetonians seeking a more water-friendly part of the world,” one of them told me while I sat watching bees pollinating flowers, butterflies playing in blue skies and a white cloud drifting past a distant mountain in a restaurant aptly named Paradise.
In Agulhas, Oom Piet van As and his wife, who manage Springfield Farm where I stayed, have been there most of their lives, with Piet, an engineer, having worked mostly out at sea.
There was time for us to kuier away from deadlines, traffic and the mayhem of my daily life, to sit around a fire where Piet regaled me with Strandveld tales and terrified me with ghost stories. He also taught me to make a mean fire.
In the remoteness of the red mountains of the Klein Karoo, Petro Potgieter and her husband own Redstone Hills. This was where I stayed. She was up with the roosters, feeding the ostriches, and greeting the breaking day.
She came to check up on me in my little remote cottage at the foot of the Redstone Hills, where I had a full moon and ostriches for neighbours. She stayed to chat, to listen to my story and me to hers. In the city, we pay psychologists to do this.
I then drove 16km on a dirt road to find Roger Young’s art gallery. I wanted to buy something but didn’t have cash and a card machine was non-existent. “Just EFT me when you get a chance,” he said, and we sat and chatted about travels and life. The next day, I took a short cut from Oudtshoorn, where I drew cash, and went to drop it off.
I was lucky to meet his girlfriend, a 3D costume designer who had just arrived from Cape Town. I gave her the cash and we had the most wonderful chat, with neither of us having to run off to a job or deadline.
On the road, I met Jan, a labourer in the area needing a lift. He jumped into my car and told me stories that made me laugh from my belly. It reminded me of something Roger wrote, now translated badly into English by me: “The salt tears you cry when you laugh from your belly, that is the water that feeds the soul.”
I loved the country living, even with the fears that prickled this city slicker’s spine at night, and the joys that greeted me as I stepped outside when night turned to day. Yet, returning to the city, there was a familiarity in the mayhem and bustle of the streets.
I didn’t have spiders to share showers with or a puff adder on my doorstep. I opened my front door and raced into my little house. Yes, travel is important and wonderful. It breathes life into tired souls but having a home to return to makes all the difference. And, sometimes, we need to leave home to remember this.