|The notecard with sealing wax seal that welcomed me to Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve and Wellness Retreat|
Yes, yes, I know! I have been a bad, BAD blogger these past few days, but I'm sure you'll all forgive me when you hear that I have just returned from an unforgettable three day and two night adventure...which, of course I'm about to share with you, too :)
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What's that I hear? Where did I nip off to? To the majestic Cederberg Mountains, a spectacularly unique, sandstone mountain range renowned for its striking landscapes and eye-catching rock formations. It was in the hundreds of caves carved out by wind and water through innumerable eons that the original inhabitants of this beautiful land known as the San (Bushmen), carefully produced their works of art which we (today!) label generically as Bushmen Paintings (San Rock Art). In addition, this ancient mountain range derives its modern name from the Clanwilliam cedar tree, which is endemic to this region.
What's that I hear? Oh, too much information? Already? Oh, you want to know HOW I got to be so lucky to be able to break away from all of my obligations at home! Well, I asked my husband, very sweetly, if he would mind if I went off and had three glorious days of doing nothing while he stayed home to take care of the house, garden, puppies, his business interests etc. and, do you know what he said?
"Of course you MUST go! And, No! I'll be fine!" He had a horrible dose of 'flu at the time...Yes, he is exceedingly unselfish and I know how very lucky I am to share my life with him. Anyway, once that was out of the way, I was able to go ahead and delightedly accept my sister's surprise invitation to join her.
Yes, that's correct...this wonderful opportunity came about as a result of the generous and unexpected invitation of my sister, Carol, who happened to have been in South Africa, but based in Johannesburg with her husband who was on business here from Brisbane, Australia where they live. Never one to miss opportunities, Carol had the inspired idea to escape from the hustle and bustle of the vast metropolis of Johannesburg and fly down to Cape Town for a short visit before rejoining her husband. She had pre-booked at Bushmans Kloof not only for the two of us, but also for a very dear friend of hers, Debbie, who she met more than 20 years ago when they and their respective families were living in the UK, but who has since returned to live in Cape Town. This magnanimous gesture of Carol's was to enable the three of us to enjoy some quality 'downtime' together. What a wonderful treat it was to have been able to join her at this world renowned Relais and Chateaux Hotel...where, I believe, the rich and famous have been known to escape to for a bit of restorative rest and pampering.
This absolutely charming lodge lies approximately 270 km from Cape Town. That equates to a leisurely drive through some lovely scenic countryside, with a couple of enjoyable stops en route, as you gently wend your way to the heart of the spectacularly chiselled and time worn rock formations, which are unique to the Cederberg Mountain range. When you finally arrive at Bushmans Kloof, you discover it lying perfectly nestled in the comforting foothills of these truly breath-taking mountains. How appropriate that seems for a Hotel promoting wellness and indulgent service! From the moment you enter the attractive, yet thoroughly unostentatious gates to the beautifully landscaped lodge and gardens, you find yourself cocooned in an oasis of calm and tranquility.
Archeologists who study the area speak of the 'spirituality' of this magnificent wilderness and I can vouch for the accuracy of their description as I, too, instantly felt a deeply spiritual connection whilst viewing the multitude of sandstone outcrops and craggy peaks, generously strewn with gigantic sandstone boulders reminiscent of ancient craggy castles. It truly is a sight to behold in silent, contemplative awe and wonder! Here, you stand looking back through the ages to the dawn of time. It is justly called the Cradle of Humankind!
Almost everything growing in the formalised gardens of the Lodge itself is either indigenous or endemic to the Cederberg Conservancy, which consists of two vegetation biomes, namely the Fynbos Biome and Succulent Karoo Biome. Not endemic to this area, are the huge acacia trees spreading their umbrella shaped branches in wide arcs above the meticulously manicured, lush green lawns. Bejewelling these characterful thorn trees are myriad weavers' nests. Dotted throughout the lodge's superb gardens are lovely Fever trees with their smooth, greeny-yellow trunks and, to greet you outside at the attractively appointed Reception wing is a giant of a Eucalypt, one of Australia's imports to South Africa. Additionally a small cluster of huge, established Natal Ficus trees, estimated to be in excess of 150 years of age, lend their striking presence to this glorious landscape. The varied underplantings have been carefully and thoughtfully selected with generous swathes of indigenous restios, ericas, some protea types (of which the leucadendrons are currently in flower) and dotted here and there with bold, bright splashes of vivid colour from the Redhot pokers, splendid Aloe candelabras and the orange-hued, wild dagga flowers...all chosen to attract numerous sugarbirds and sunbirds to the gardens. Hard to miss are the beautiful plantings of the large yellow-flowered Clanwilliam daisies, yellow-flowered vetplante (mesembryanthemums) and lilac and white ribbon bushes, all of which are flowering now. The gardens have a wonderful selection of crassulas and several, strategically planted, beautiful, prehistoric-looking Kokerbome (Quiver tree aloes).
The Cederberg Fynbos Biome is the natural home of South Africa's highly acclaimed Rooibos tea plant and many different types of Buchu with their fragrant oils grow in this area. Wild olive trees grow in thickets on dry slopes and around rocky outcrops. Along the stream banks, naturally occurring plants include the wild almond and myrtle, while the dense and distinctive palmiet rush grows within the streambeds themselves. On the faunal side, there are several species of buck and antelope, leopard, dassies (rock rabbits), wild cats such as the lynx, antbear eaters, large birds of prey and most charming of all, the Cape clicking stream frogs that ernestly set themselves up for choral practice as soon as the evening light starts to tinge the horizon a rosy, lilac shade, adding their own magic to the brightly-lit, starry nightskies. This is a place you honestly will wish you never had to leave!
|The climb over the Pakhuis Pass on the way to Bushmans Kloof|
Naturally, knowing you'd all be exceedingly curious once I got back home and told you where I'd been hiding this past week, I took many photographs, both with my camera and with my mobile, when my camera's battery got too low. However...in order to be able to properly convey the tremendous beauty and overwhelming sense of luxury of this magnificent place, I feel it would be most advantageous to offer it to you in manageable chunks, rather than as a single, continuous post. I want to share the journey there and back as fully as possible, so those of you who may never get to experience it personally, will at least have lived the experience vicariously through my blog.
Also, I would very much like to whet the appetites of any of you who are fortunate enough to be able to plan your own visit to this wonderful spot, as I can highly recommend it to even the most discerning (nit-picking) and well-travelled (world-wearied) tourist. I not only feel incredibly privileged to have been given the opportunity to experience this hidden treasure myself, but I am filled with a sense of national pride knowing that South Africa is able to offer this glorious destination in her considerable portfolio of eco-tourist must do's! OK, now who do I need to approach to get my cheque for advertising? ;)
Please do try to join me for the next few postings, as I lead you on my re-enactment of this mini-adventure. For those of you who are feeling 'cheated' out of my usual generous offering of photographs, in the interim DO visit their marvellous website (link below). It offers a wealth of information in addition to a comprehensive gallery containing some exquisite, PROFESSIONAL photographs for your viewing pleasure. Remember, I'm very much an AMATEUR, so...GO ON! EXPLORE THIS AMAZING WEBSITE! I won't feel offended ;)