Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Fun at the Farm

It’s been an action-packed, fun-filled time over the last two weeks, as we spent time on two farms in the Natal Midlands, and then sailed down to Durban from Richard's Bay. On Wednesday, the 25th of October, we drove our little rental car towards Mooi River, headed towards our friends, John and Heidi Watt’s farm. John sailed Lasers with Dave, but was also at school with my brother, Volker, and the Watts lived just up the road from us in Westville, so I’ve known the Watt family for many, many years. Heidi and I used to spend hours together, either on a beach or at a yacht club all around South Africa, (and even in the Canary Islands when John and Dave sailed a World Championships there), waiting for our husbands to finish sailing, so we could roll the dolly down to the water’s edge to load up their Lasers!

We had one stop on the way to the Watt farm, and that was the Nelson Mandela Capture Site. Dave and I had no idea that Nelson Mandela was captured in this area, on the 5th of March, 1962, just up the road from Midmar Dam, where we spent a lot of time…you guessed it…sailing! As you turn off the road, following the sign to the parking area, you see these black posts sticking out of the ground, and it’s not until you have walked “The Long Walk to Freedom”, that you see the posts taking shape, and forming the iconic image of Nelson Mandela’s face. To me, the posts almost seemed like prison bars, symbolizing his struggle and the 27 years he spent on Robben Island in prison. Whether or not the artist meant for it to be like that, I don’t know, but that’s how I saw it. It is an amazing sculpture, paying homage to an amazing man. The actual site of his capture was beyond the railway lines on the other side of the road, where a smaller plaque is also erected.

The entrance to the capture site.  The sculpture can be seen on the far left of the picture. 

The sculpture from any other angle but the front just looks like a bunch of poles sticking into the air

Gaby and Ben walk down the path toward the sculpture, in the distance on the right

The path leading up to the sculpture was named "Long Walk to Freedom", which is a famous quote of Mandela's as well as the name of his autobiography.  After he was released from prison Nelson Mandela said:  "I have walked a long walk to freedom. It has been a lonely road, and it is not over yet. I know that my country, was not made to be a land of hatred. No one is born hating another person because the color of his skin. People learn to hate. They can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart."

Very, very slowly, as you walk down the path, the sculpture starts coming into focus

The sculpture comes into iconic image

We felt it was very important for the kids to understand this part of South Africa's history

We spent some time walking around the exhibit that depicted Mandela's life in images and words. It was very moving for Dave and I to see, and very interesting for the kids to be able to learn and understand some of our homeland’s recent history.

The quote on this panel was from Mandela: "In 1962 I drove through Howick, never imagining that I would be arrested not far along the road, or that it was to be my last day of freedom for many years to come"

After a quick lunch, we were back on the road, and enjoyed a beautiful drive to John and Heidi’s farm. They, together with their youngest daughter Bella, their 2 dogs and 2 lambs were on hand to greet us! After we settled in, and Ben and Gaby got to feed the lambs a bottle of milk, we took a quick drive around the farm, inspecting their small, but growing herd of Nguni cattle, and then they took us to a blue crane sanctuary, where we saw some of South Africa’s beautiful national birds being rehabilitated. The kids had a blast in the back of the “bakkie” (American translation: truck; Australian translation: Yute!), holding on as we bounced along the dirt roads. Back at the farmhouse we watched a spectacular sunset, as the setting sun set the looming clouds on fire, and enjoyed a good old South African braai.

Some of John and Heidi's cattle and calves.  

Bella, Ben and Gaby in the back of the bakkie!

With John and Heidi
Farm Girls:  Bella and Gaby herd the cows!


The setting sun reflects off the clouds

After a leisurely morning, we headed into Mooi River, so we could meet John and Heidi’s two other daughters, Amy and Faith, who were both at school. Amy is doing a teaching internship at Treverton College, and Faith and Bella are students there, Faith having stayed over the previous night due to sporting events, but they typically make the drive daily to and from the farm to school and back. Thank you, Watt family for having us! It was great to see you again, John and Heidi, and to finally meet your 3 lovely girls!!

The view from the Watt's front beautiful and peaceful!
Soon it was time to hit the road again, as we had made plans to meet my friend Vicky and her son Cameron at a coffee shop before heading on to their farm for the rest of the weekend. The weather did not cooperate, and it was rainy and misty by the time we had driven the 40 or so minutes to meet up with Vicky. After a lovely coffee and a bowl of soup to warm the soul, we followed Vicky and Cameron as they headed toward their farm, with one quick stop along the way.

Our stop was a very special one. We were delivering and installing custom made towel rails to the Khazimula Children’s Project, a Children’s home for 30 orphans. Haydn had manufactured the towel rails at his factory, one for each of the 4 dormitories. New towels had just been purchased from money raised at a recent fund raising event. While Dave and Cameron went about the task of installing the towel rails, Benjamin, Gaby, Vicky and I went to study hall to help the children with their homework. It was a humbling and rewarding experience. I especially enjoyed how seriously Ben took this task, and when it was time to leave, he asked us to wait, as he had not yet finished helping his new friend with a worksheet. My heart went out to a little girl who was just learning how to spell. The smile that spread across her little face when she matched up the correct words with sounds, was just so precious. These kids do not have much, but they have each other, and a roof over their heads and a meal in their tummies thanks to the efforts of the dedicated staff and friends like the Rawlins family! Check out their website at or their Facebook page: Khazimula Children’s Project.

Cameron lets the boys rev the engines of the off-road motobikes they brought to the farm

Ben gets to it

In the study hall

Ben and Gaby confer on one of the problems

Vicky and I do our best to assist!

Gaby helps a new friend

By the time we got to the farm, it was pitch black, and although Vicky and Haydn assured us the road was in pretty good shape compared to previous visits, we left our little rental at the cattle loading station, and made the rest of the journey in the Rawlins' 4x4 vehicles. (Haydn had joined us at this point in "Big Red", their farm 4x4 Land Cruiser).  We woke on Friday morning to near freezing temperatures and drizzly rain. But this did not deter anyone...out came the toys: first up was the quad bike. Cameron took both kids for a few spins, and taught them how to ride it by themselves. Once Ben and Gaby had mastered the quad, they progressed to the kids’ motorbikes. Ben absolutely LOVED it! He rode until his fingers were numb with cold, and he couldn’t hold on anymore! They jumped on and off all day, stopping only to get the feeling back in their fingers. After Gaby wiped out in the slippery grass, she had had enough! Thank goodness for Vicky’s insistence that they wear helmets, because she actually hit her head on a concrete corner, and could have seriously hurt herself! But she was a trooper, and with a scraped and bruised shoulder being the worst of her injuries, she called it quits for a while (but got back in the saddle the next day!).

Ben masters the quad bike

Gabs on the quad
Ben enjoying a ride

Look at the mud-splattered face!  

Even big boys enjoy the bikes!
Late in the afternoon we took a drive, then walked up a mountain to enjoy the stunning views, and shivered in the cold as the icy wind blew and chilled us to the bone! Thank goodness for the lovely warm fireplace in the farmhouse that always had a fire burning to defrost us again!

Vicky in Big Red with Dave, Ben and Gaby at the foot of the hill we were to climb

Somewhat chilly!!

Big Red at the bottom, the rest of us climbing the hill, and Haydn on his bike looking on!

Gaby on top of the world!

Saturday dawned equally cold, but the rain dissipated, and we were left with a clear, cold day. Much to Benjamin’s dismay (he wanted to stay and ride bikes), we headed to Nottingham Road, the closest little town to the farm. We poked around some lovely little shops that were part of the Midlands Meander, a collection of arranged routes in the Kwa Zulu Natal Midlands that offer visitors lots of opportunity to shop at unique local arts and crafts shops, enjoy lovely coffee shops and restaurants and explore lots of other attractions. It has definitely expanded a lot since we were last here, but is always a favorite thing to do.

We met mutual friends Linda and Ron Langford for lunch at one of the restaurants on the Meander, the Abingdon Winery, where we snuggled up next to the fire and enjoyed a leisurely lunch and another catch up session, as we had not seen them for many years! Luckily there was still some time in the afternoon when we arrived back at the farm, to ride bikes before the sun set that evening.

Haydn and Vix at the back, Ron, Linda, Gudrun and Dave outside Abingdon Winery

A glass or two too many..?! :-)

Mother Nature decided to give us a break and presented us with a stunning day on Sunday. The sun was shining and the biting wind died. It was a fun filled day with bike riding, bike soccer (a Rawlins invention, I believe), rock wall climbing, zip lining, and much to Dave and the kids’ delight, clay pigeon and target shooting! Vicky had invited some of her neighboring farm friends over for lunch, and while some of us lazed around and sipped wine after a truly fantastic lunch (Vicky is an absolute whizz in the kitchen!!), the kids and boys enjoyed playing with all the toys, and inventing new games and stunts that seemed to involve a lot of fire…?!!!



Haydn schools Ben in the fine art of handling a shotgun

Gaby's turn

Gaby shooting

Dave aims at a clay pigeon!

Ben and Gaby on the rock climbing wall
Bike soccer...??!!

Cameron jumped over this contraption with his bike

Something to do with a mole...?  (I promise no animals, moles or otherwise were harmed during this episode...)
Cameron entertains was like a circus!!  (That's Gaby, Dave, Ben and Haydn lying on the ground.  Cameron cleared them all (thank goodness!))

Early on Monday morning, Dave went for a long walk up the mountain and took some fantastic shots.  Here you can see the farmhouse in the middle of the shot, near a clump of trees.  

A Panoramic of the view

Again, the farmhouse is in the center of the photo.  

Our fun time at the farm came to a close on Monday, which was also Cameron's (and his absent twin, Amber’s) 19th birthday! We celebrated with coffee and cake at a little place outside of Nottingham Road called CafĂ© Bloom, before we went our separate ways. Haydn and Cameron headed back to Johannesburg, while Vicky drove to Durban to go and see her mom. The Hibberds headed back to Richard’s Bay to start making preparations to get the boat ready for the trip to Durban. Vicky and Haydn…thank you for your incredible hospitality; not only at the farm, but also for making your home in Salt Rock available to us! We all had SO much fun and it was an absolute adventure for the kids to be able to ride bikes and shoot guns and do crazy stuff!

Back in Richard’s Bay it was back to reality. We studied the tides and decided to beach the boat to clean her hulls and change the sail drive oil before making the rest of the trip down the coast of South Africa. Tuesday was Halloween, and it was probably the quietest Halloween our kids have ever experienced!  But they insisted on getting dressed up, and luckily for them, Neville, a kind soul on a neighbouring boat saw them, and came over to give them some candy!  They scored some typical South African sweets:  winegums and Smarties!

Halloween 2017:  Gaby is a pirate; Ben is a soldier

Neville hands over some candy!

On Wednesday afternoon, just after high tide, we took Cool Runnings around the corner from the yacht club, and nudged her up the beach until we felt the keels hit the sand and we were aground. It’s always a scary thing to do (at least for me!), as it goes against all instinct to run a boat aground!! As the tide went out, and more and more of the hulls were exposed, we were able to give them a good clean. Clean hulls mean better speed, so it’s always good to have clean hulls before any journey. We spent the night on the sandbank, the tide coming up again around 2:00am and then back out again by the time we woke up in the morning. When the propellers were fully exposed, Dave drained the oil out the saildrives, and then also managed to repaint them with some antifoul paint. Around 1:00pm the tide was coming up, and we felt the boat “pop out” of the sand, and we were floating again! Back to the dock we went so we could complete the remaining tasks on our list. We went off to fill our 9 jerry cans with diesel and fill up our half empty tanks.

Cool Runnings high and dry

Not the usual position of the anchor!!

Dave working on the sail drives

Friday was taken up with another diesel run and small provisioning shop, and Dave cleared us out of Richard’s Bay. South Africa has the most ridiculous system where you have to clear in and out of every port with the Yacht Club, Customs, Immigration, Port Control and the SA Police, even though we have officially cleared into the country (5 different agency’s in 5 different locations)! We got the boat clean and ready to go, and enjoyed a last meal at the friendly Zululand Yacht Club. Early Saturday morning, we released the dock lines and were on our way at 4:30am. The wind built up throughout the morning, and we put up our spinnaker. We were doing between 8 and 10 knots,making good headway to Durban, and had a couple of good surfs at around 13 knots, our fastest being around 15 knots! Twice along the way we got text messages from friends on land, who could see us sailing down the coast! 12 hours later, after the wind died and we slowed down, we entered Durban Harbor and dropped anchor in its disappointingly dirty water. 19 years after leaving Durban, we had sailed back through the harbor entrance of our home port!

Cool Runnings arrives in Durban Harbor