So here we are, Petra and I, on the next stage of our adventure. We have rested for a few days and are now en route to the Makgabeng Plateau, situated near the Blouberg Mountains of Limpopo Province. Petra is on the phone to Jonas Tlouamma, making an arrangement to meet him this afternoon. It is Friday 6th December, the day after our beloved Madiba passed away. We have been completely out of television contact since we heard the news, and our experience of his passing is felt rather than seen. As we travel towards the Blouberg Mountains, I am reflecting on how I came to be in this country, and feel gratitude for this friend, this place and all the people who live here. What an interesting, complex society we have and what a beautiful country we live in.
So while the rest of the world is glued to the television screen, Petra and I are out here, immersed in the physical African experience, and I am excited and can’t wait to see where we are going. The name ‘Makgabeng’ is new to me, but I love the physical act of saying it. It rolls off the back of the upper palate, a bit like a cat sounds when it hisses. Further to this, I am intrigued to know why Petra has been so adamant that we should visit this place. She knows that I am going to love it, and to make sure that we have time for a full experience, she has booked us in to the Makgabeng Farm Lodge for the night, which means that we have the whole of tomorrow to fully engage with whatever it is we are going to see.
Petra and Jonas have hatched a plan and know where they are taking me. We meet up with him as arranged and decide to spend the afternoon exploring the village, visiting the people and getting an idea of the lay of the land.
The landscape surrounding the village of Blackhills is fairly flat, and is a typical rural scene, with cattle, goats and donkeys grazing the verges along the road. However, the first hint of what is to come is the range of interesting looking, flat topped hills towards which we are traveling. This must be the plateau.
Our first stop is to visit the ruins of a house once occupied by a member of the Berlin Mission Society, a group who from 1870, were stationed on a farm called Leipzig not far from here. It’s hardly surprising that this site was selected for a house, as it backs onto the impressive range of hills, with a commanding view over the landscape below.
From here, we move back down into the village of Blackhills, where Jonas has arranged for us to visit some members of the local community. He knows that I am an artist, interested in design, so has specially selected a home that he believes will interest me. He is right, it is absolutely beautiful, recently painted in preparation for the holiday festivities.
The home owners are warm and welcoming and proudly show us around their property. The neighbours pop over the fence and invite us to visit them too…
It has been an interesting afternoon and when we make our way back to the car, we find we are followed by dozens of inquisitive neighborhood children
So where are we off to now? Jonas has a twinkle in his eye and is on his cell phone making arrangements for us to visit a local potter. He rightly guesses that I am a sucker for beautiful handcrafts. We pull up outside another homestead and are welcomed by a young man who indicates that we should follow him to the side of the house. My heart leaps with delight as I see hundreds of beautiful clay pots carefully arranged on display underneath the mango tree.
It’s been a fun and interesting afternoon, but time has gone by quickly and we still have to find our way to the lodge, so we bid Jonas farewell and arrange to visit him tomorrow at his home on top of the plateau . He has promised to give us a glimpse into his world up there, and I am filled with anticipation.
Back on the road, we make our way towards the village of Bochum, where we enter the Makgabeng Farm Lodge just as the sun is beginning to set over the majestic sandstone cliffs that mark the edge of the plateau.
Tomorrow is another day and I have much to look forward to. The night is still and dark, the sky filled with stars. Ignoring the TV set that is provided in every room, I lie back on my bed and relax, wanting to savor the peace and quiet of the bush. I am thinking of all I have seen and done today, sifting through the kaleidoscope in my mind, when through the silence of the night I hear the distant drone of CNN reminding me that Mandela has gone.