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          • Circles, spirals and themes!

            Look what I got!

            Something happened on Friday that reminded me of similar events in my life.  I was struck again by the way life happens in circles.  Or is it spirals?  Going ever deeper?

            When I was a young mother with a career –I had this dream.  I wanted to start a crèche at the government department where I was working for all the working mums like me.  Mothers juggling family life with helping the family stay afloat by earning a salary.   I moaned and whined a lot about how unfair it was that I had to work, but the positive part of me reached out for a solution.

            Here’s the thing though…  My colleagues were so amused by my conviction and fervour that they took to teasing my about my desire for what they called “corporate baby grows” .  I was very involved in transformation, internal communication and the re-designing of the culture of the organisation and was associated with branding and constantly trying to whip up espirit de corps .  So I suppose it was no wonder they were convinced, should the day care ever become a reality –their tender offspring would be kitted out in apparel that enhanced our collaborative spirit!  We could all see the new logo festooning the colour co-ordinated crowd of young people .

            I never got to see that dream fulfilled, but years later when my family was farming in Tulbagh an experience brought back my colleagues’  ragging.

            Once a month we would take our farm workers out to one of the bigger towns (Wellington mostly) for a day of shopping.  This outing was preceded by my admonishing all and sundry that they were representing our farm and as such needed to behave accordingly!

            Imagine my delight when one of the young mothers chirped that she thought we should get matching outfits for the young’uns from Pep Stores to show off our team spirit.  We stopped just short of that, but I remember thinking ..ahhh..there are those corporate baby grows again.

            Working with a small and dedicated staff here Witvoets Kloof it seemed like the right thing to do.  Jan & I bought t-shirts, golf-shirts, sweaters and caps and had the Fynbos Retreat logo embroidered on them.  We paid for these items ourselves thinking that the business couldn’t afford these luxuries yet.   Delighted with our “uniform” we wear it with pride whenever the whole team work together to cater for guests.  I have also made us fynbos patterned aprons to wear.  The sight of Jan in this gear never fails to delight – especially the lady guests.

            Staff member, Ziyanda, reminds us all if we forget to look the part .  She has been asking me to have name badges made for a while now.  There just hasn’t been time.  On Friday she handed me a personalised name badge for each of us.  Made from Fynbos Retreat business cards and paid for from her own pocket.

            Circles, spirals and themes!

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            This beautiful panoramic view of Witvoetskloof was taken by Arum Lily guest, Natalie Goldsmith.

            This beautiful panoramic view of Witvoetskloof was taken by Arum Lily guest, Natalie Goldsmith.

            So… we were away for a couple of weeks.  Our first proper break in eighteen months.  We had a lovely lady, Florrie Du Pisanie, taking care of things with the help of our wonderful  staff – Xolile and Siyanda.  A first for the staff.  They made pizza’s without us! They seem to have passed with flying colours if the comment about the “yummy pizza’s” in the visitor’s book is anything to go by! We have been teasing them now that we will soon just sit on the stoep while they run the show!

            It has been quite a nostalgic time for Witvoetskloof with a few visitors with special bonds coming back to the farm .  Both Mikki Van Niekerk and Rozier Steensma (previous managers) returned to celebrate their birthdays here in January.

            Mikki has promised us some photos of  the ”old days” at Witvoetskloof.  She and her husband were managers here close on thirty years ago when it was still a functioning fynbos flower farm .  Really interesting hearing their anecdotes.  The one I liked most was about Mikki fighting a fire with a group of the women who worked here.  The wind was very bad and they were getting tired and afraid and weren’t winning, so she said : “ Nou moet julle maar bid, dames!” (“Now you will just have to pray, ladies”).  Which they promptly did!  Lo and behold the wind changed and immediately took the fire away with it.

            I especially laughed when she reported that she then said: “ Ai, mense, plaas dat ons dit al lankal gedoen het!” (“Oh people, we should have done that long ago!”).

            Michael,  Mikki’s husband, also confirmed the story that Billy Robertson, one of  The Fynbos Trail guides, tells about elephants at Witvoetskloof.  Fascinating stuff! Michael says that the Tulbagh earthquake caused a shift here (can you believe it?) that affected the water supply!  Whilst excavating to restore the flow to the dam an elephant tusk was found!! Amazing…

            The beautiful picture we received from recent Arum Lily guest, Natalie Goldsmith, captured my heart, I must say.  Looking at it, I can understand why people want to come back to this special place.

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            Romantic Notions – Living the Dream

            Two young guests give Survivor a well-deserved cuddle!

            Two young guests give Survivor a well-deserved cuddle!

            Living here, deep in the fynbos, I realize people don’t know what it means to live off the grid.

            I was one who dreamed of helping the planet by living off the land! Such were my romantic notions that my brothers and father expressed concern, thinking me to be quite lunatic fringe. A lot of that concern probably stemmed from the fact that I was then working and living at a Buddhist retreat. Eating vegetarian food and meditating and generally engaging in, to them, rather suspect behaviour.

            I am super aware of what chemicals we expose ourselves to, both in the food we eat and the products we use on our biggest living organ – our skin. Well, when I put it that way – maybe I am a wee bit extreme..

            I did have visions of being self-sufficient. In my mind’s eye, I saw light shining on the dew covered veggies. Myself picking perfect wholesome food from the garden. Gathering eggs in a dainty basket.

            Little did I realize what pitfalls lie in producing organic food..

            Like rather cute (but very destructive) striped field mice with tiny cheeks bulging with my tomatoes, scurrying out of sight.  Or the devastation I return to when we have been away, even for an hour or so, and the local baboon troupe has decided to harvest. The blights and pests that ravage the garden despite the lavender dutifully planted amongst the herbs and veggies. Diseases immune to wild garlic and calendula that should deter them.

            As far as those eggs go ..Who knew there are wild cats, whose main joy in life is to wait until the chickens are locked up – easy prey?  That one can wake up to limp bodies sucked dry. Only one sole survivor who is alive, because she refused to be come in and preferred to sleep up the trees?

            Now let’s talk power. When Jan and I arrived here at Fynbos Retreat, the only electricity was generated by ..well a generator. A ruddy, great stinky very noisy diesel generator. With a reputation for being able to cause physical harm. Or no, that was the previous one –the vicious Lister which spewed out parts during the starting process leaving at least two people with scars.

            We had to start the generator when there were guests. Then occupy ourselves meaningfully until we could decently switch it off again. It meant traipsing out in fair weather and foul with torches, coats and sticks to protect us from what might lie in the dark.

            Try doing admin when your beloved has to run the generator just so you can pick up your e-mails! Especially when you not the fastest computer fundi on earth and like to take your time to get things right!

            Now we are grand… We have solar power and our nocturnal trips to the shed and the small stand-by petrol generator are few and far between.  We live an easier life. It is only when visitors ask for hairdryers or heaters that we remember that we are living off the grid. Living the dream.

















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            Our little piece of Overberg paradise

            Our little piece of Overberg paradise, Fynbos Retreat, is  fondly referred to as “Nature’s Breakaway” in our marketing material. That is truly what this place is about. A place to get away from it all to enjoy peace and tranquillity in the fynbos clad mountains. Experience what it is like to be off the grid, without cell phones or traffic or noise. Go for walks or ride your mountain bike.

            Witvoetskloof is the name of the farm situated halfway between Gansbaai and Stanford.  Some say there used to be elephants here and they left dusty footprints due to the abundant  limestone . I suppose it is not impossible. There are still beautiful patches of ancient, indigenous forests. How knows?

            There is a wonderful character called July who works at our neighbour ,Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.  A gentle giant with a huge radiant smile who renders a number of services in this area.  Amongst many other things, he fetches the refuse, brings wood, helps maintain the trails on our property and also on the larger 3000 hectare Grootbos reserve. Wherever  disciplined, hardworking muscle is required , July and his men are called upon. The first time he met us , he referred to Witvoetskloof as “Witvoetjieskloof”- which endeared him to us, forever.

            We are the first overnight stop on the very popular “Fynbos Trail”. Hikers walk to us from the empowerment project run by the Grootbos Foundation called : “Growing the Future”. It is on the farm, Steynsbos, named after one of those patches of forest I mentioned earlier. The project teaches young people sustainable farming practices and life skills and produces amazing honey, eggs and other fresh produce. Most of the produce is used to supply the five star kitchens at Grootbos.  We buy honey and other produce from them to cater for the hikers.

            Arum Lily House – our main hikers’ accommodation has a pizza oven, so that’s what we mostly prepare for the groups. Along with a few other surprises and a sturdy breakfast before they leave us the next morning to walk over the mountain to Flower Valley and Witkrans. They go via the amazing waterfall which is also a favourite walk for self-caterers who visit us.

            Big groups like to stay in Arum Lily (which sleeps between 12-16 people).  It  boasts a pool table , dart board and huge dining room table, great outdoor braai facilities and wonderful views of the big dam. Fountain Bush, our smaller wooden house, also has a dam!  It is more suited to family groups and sleeps six. It has a number of stoeps so one can move your braai to suit the prevailing mood and weather.

            Last , but not least, there is a newcomer in our accommodation stable – a little romantic couple’s unit called Sewejaartjie. With an outside bath on the covered stoep.

            In case you think I am biased, which I undoubtedly am, we often get messages like this one from a recent guest.

             2013-09-16 18.07.05

            Perdita Van Dijk Du Bois

            homegrownblogger signature

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            Easter at Fynbos Retreat

            The visitor's book in Fountain Bush has a new and very beautiful, colourful french comment.

            The visitor’s book in Fountain Bush has a new and very beautiful, colourful comment.

            We had a really wonderful Easter weekend at Witvoets Kloof.  There were ten children altogether in the three units. So the place rang with the happy (and sometimes not so happy!) sounds of children being children… The volleyball net was put to good use and all the families staying here enjoyed walking to the waterfall at some point during the weekend.

            The children staying at Arum Lily loved our five geese. I missed the most beautiful picture opportunity on Monday as they were getting ready to leave.  Jan and I were at Fountain Bush. We looked up the hill to see a perfect Hansel and Gretel tableau. A young lady in a pretty lavender dress and a small brother or friend were walking up the lawn very purposefully making a line of crumbs all the way up to Arum.  Jan went to fetch the fowl (and my camera!). As soon as the geese started enjoying the feast, some of the other children chased them, much to Hansel and Gretel’s very vocal dismay! I was too late to capture this delightful scene and was briefly tempted to photograph the hop scotch game drawn in chalk on the paving in front of the house instead.

            Our new little unit, Sewejaartjie,  was blessed with two enthusiastic young campers with an equally avid canine camper called “Bangers”- you guessed it – a saucy sausage dog who entered into the spirit of things and was seen traipsing along as the girls rode on their bicycles. I have it on good authority that the Easter Bunny paid them a very abundant visit.

            Fountain Bush was home to a dainty French-speaking mademoiselle from Switzerland.  Lucie clearly loves nature and was thrilled with the porcupine quills and feathers she found. We added some extra quills and a few owl feathers to her collection as well as two pictures of the spotted eagle owl that was found here last year.

            Our young Swiss guest rewarded us with the most beautiful, colourful  guest comment for our visitor’s book (and a picture of the owl too). We are looking forward to receiving a picture of Lucie…she made herself a nest with scatter cushions and slept in the fork of an old tree stump next to the water lily dam at Fountain Bush. Best use of scatter cushions we have ever come across!

            Meanwhile the adults made breakfast in their pajamas, played with the children and generally absorbed some of the tranquility of Fynbos Retreat .

            Behind the scenes we juggled water pumps, generators and solar power and kept the wood supply going.  What a pleasure to have such good guests who left the houses so tidy and us with these lovely lingering memories of children’s laughter and awe.

            Perdita Van Dijk Du Bois




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            First impressions -of dams and cupcakes and such things

            The view of Fountain Bush from Arum Lily as the sun sets

            The view of Fountain Bush from Arum Lily as the sun sets

            Ever since I came to live (and work) here at Witvoets Kloof I have wanted to write about my first impressions of this lovely place.

            I often drove past the sign on the main road between Stanford and Gansbaai ( just past the big white  Bella Vista gates), that read “Fynbos Retreat 10 km”. The arrow pointed in the direction of the fynbos covered mountains. I always  wondered what it would look like …this retreat in the fynbos hills.

            The first time I actually went there though, we came the back way over the mountain from Flower Valley and Bodhi Khaya. We drove on the rough jeep track in a bakkie and rounded the last corner just as the sun was setting.

            A wooden house next to a dam filled with blue water lilies and a beautiful big white house above another huge, tranquil dam lay serenely bathed in the soft light of the setting sun. I know this description sounds  sentimental and a bit like the picture on an old –fashioned chocolate box (or just very bad writing!), but believe me it was a wonderful , calming sight. I have heard enough guests echo my sentiments on their first glimpse of Fynbos Retreat, to know that there really is something inspiring about this vista.

            The house itself, where the Walker Bay Conservancy meeting was held, was welcoming with huge couches, a pool table, dart board and fynbos photographs on the wall. And lots and lots of scatter cushions!!

            Billy (the manager at the time) was making pizzas for us in a huge , airy and obviously well-equipped kitchen . As Jan and I now do for the hikers on their first overnight stop on The Fynbos Trail. All the surfaces were covered in flour and pizza bases and bowls full of various toppings. Billy was buzzing around preparing the feast.

            We sat on the comfy couches, devouring slices of pizzas, sipping Lomond wine and listening to the various speakers talk about all that had been done to conserve the area with its spectacular variety of fynbos.  Sean Privett projected amazing pictures directly onto the white wall as part of his presentation .  Pudding appeared as if magically in the form of the most exquisite and delicious cupcakes baked by Lily Upton who works for the Grootbos Foundation.  I will never be able to hear the word “cupcake” again without seeing the enormous, multi-coloured beauties in my mind’s eye! And longing for just one more bite…

            When a another new guest sighs and says: “This is such a beautiful place …do you live here?”, I smile and remember that first visit and the how I felt when I first saw  Fountain Bush Cottage and Arum Lily House in the late afternoon light.

            Perdita Van Dijk Du Bois


















































































































































































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            A beautiful morning in the Overberg

            Our most recent visitors to Fynbos Retreat loved early morning swims in our beautiful dam and even heard the call of the Valleys resident Fish Eagle while in the water inflatable boxing ring.

            farm accomodation near Gansbaai Dalton

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            A great festive season at Fynbos Retreat

            We had a fantastic 2012 Christmas holiday season at Fynbos Retreat with both houses fully booked for most of the holidays. Our guests loved the tranquility, peace and natural beauty of the valley and took advantage of swimming in the dam, hiking our trails and mountain biking.

            witvoetskloof waterfall at www.fynbosrtreat.com


            The walk down to the Witvoetskloof waterfall was particularly popular as was bird watching and enjoying the amazing night sky of this secluded part of the Overberg.

            hikers on Grootberg peak (www.walkerbaytrails.co.za)





            We are looking forward to a great 2013 season and wish all our past guests a wonderful new year.

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            “Our weekend hideaway”

            Read this blog post for an authentic and inspiring story that one of our recent guest posted on her blog.inflatable rainbow arch tents

            Enjoy the reading and see you soon at Fynbos Retreat!


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            recent guest comment

            Hi Lily

            Just to say thank you for a wonderful weekend at The Fynbos Retreat. Please pass on our thanks to Billy and Colleen for their friendly hospitality and care, they were absolutely amazing and a big asset to your establishment down there.

            Warm regards


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