Hawu we ma!

There were so many astonishing moments during our Cobham weekend that “Wow” simply couldn’t do them justice. “Hawu we ma!”  became the exclamation of choice.  Stars, streams, mountains, waterfalls, caves, flowers, food and friendship ensured the experience was utterly magical. Four students about to start Matric at Shea O’Connor School in Nottingham Road had been looking forward to the adventure for weeks. The weekend was organised by MCF with funding from N3Toll Concession.

cobham 122.res

The journey began on a cold, wet Midlands morning. There was little point rushing to the mountains where it was likely to even colder and mistier, so we explored along the way. First stop, the Nokulunga Gumede Memorial in Mpophomeni, where we chatted about the violence which lead to her death, the origins of the township and the Mpophomeni Conservation Group initiative.

cobham 003 RES.

We popped in to tell the friends we had made on the Hlatikulu trip recently, Zamambo and Bulelani, about our planned adventure – back to the mountains.  They were green with envy.

cobham 009.res

We visited the Yellowwood Church in Bulwer, it was too wet to walk in the forest to see the real live Yellowwood trees. The headstones with dates from the early 1900s had everyone astonished. “Unbelievable” quipped Nkulu, shaking his head.

cobham 030.RES

After crossing the uMkomazi river, we stopped at Pucketty Farm Stall to stock up on fresh bread, local cheese and chocolate brownies, and stroke the cat. As the mizzle was really thick, we spent a few hours exploring the Himeville Museum crammed full of fascinating artefacts before heading through the mud to Cobham.

cobham 057.RES

On arrival at Pholela hiking hut, we were thrilled to find a big wood pile (invasive wattle) and set about building a fire to snuggle around. Wendy made some new friends and headed out in the rain for a swim!  “What a wonderful weekend – a fabulous thing that I have never done in my life.”  She said.

cobham 068.res

After a good night’s sleep in absolute darkness the really astonishing moments began… Breakfast on the verandah included happy eggs donated by Aloe Ridge Farm and discussions about the day’s possibilities. Christeen Grant, an experienced Berg Guide, had joined us and made some suggestions about where to walk.

cobham 071 res.

Despite the damp, grey weather we wandered through the Ouhout scrub – following jackal prints along the path – to make the most of our few precious days.

cobham 095.res

Undeterred by the weather, the deep pools in the river enticed us to swim, taking our breath away at first.

cobham 109.res

Soon we were used to the cold,  and no one wanted to get out.

cobham 120.res

The exclamations and laughter faded as we spent time in quiet contemplation of our surroundings.

cobham 130.res

Finding a spot to be entirely alone.

cobham 133.res

Listening to the water and the birds, feeling the breeze on our skins and just being still.

cobham 129.res

With both Nikki and Christeen passionate about plants, there were many stops to admire the floral treasures in the grassland.  Everyone taking a turn with the camera to capture their beauty.  Polygala hottentotta.

cobham 157.res

The cliffs beckoned and we climbed up to a waterfall

cobham 211.res

We explored a hidden cave, filled with animal prints, that looked out across the river valley. “We had a whimsical experience with you. Thank you for showing us the beauty of nature.  I loved learning about the many wonders the mountains keep dear to their hearts. Wonders that we will now keep dear to OUR hearts.” said Vusi.

cobham 228.res. JPG

We stopped often to chat about rocks, admire insects, discuss scats. Christeen’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the area, adding depth and a special dimension. “Christeen, thank you for being with us this weekend. We wouldn’t have done it without you. You gave up your time, family and everything for us and we love you for that.” said Nkulu.

cobham 251.res

After the invigorating exercise, lunch on the verandah went down well.  “Hawu we ma – izingane zidla kakhulu!”  said Nikki.  Everyone competed to make the most interesting sandwiches – startling combinations of ingredients which elicited lots of exclamations! Banana and beetroot anyone?

cobham 271.res

A herd of horses joined us for afternoon tea.

cobham 277.res

On Sunday, we walked part of day two of the Giant’s Cup trail.  We packed plenty of snacks and our water bottles and headed for the hills.

cobham 282.res

How exciting when the clouds lifted and Hodgson’s Peaks and the Drakensberg emerged.

cobham 330.res

Every possible moment was spent quietly, watching Cape Vultures circle, the shadows on the mountains move and relishing being almost alone in nature.

cobham 318.res

We drank fresh, cold water from the streams.

cobham 350.res

As the sky got bluer, we climbed higher and higher,

cobham 353.res

We crept through the forest to discover a beautiful, cool cave where Qiniso magically pulled nougat from his backpack.

cobham 363.res

This was Bath Plug falls – water rushing in from above, but no sign of it leaving the deep pool.  “I loved the waterfalls” said Qiniso, “we visited six this weekend.”

cobham 376.res

We walked back to camp in silence. Vusi particularly enjoyed the quiet moments. “Thank you, you have made this experience a Moment for Life.

cobham 193.res

After lunch, we packed a watermelon and headed to the river to swim and wallow and bask in the sunshine. Nkulu said “What a wonderful afternoon. I enjoyed the swimming and diving with you and I really enjoyed the floating lesson you gave me.”

cobham 498.res

Early evening was spent chatting and playing cards in the outdoor boma before building a fire to cook our colourful kebabs. After tucking in, Wendy said “We must be happy for the food we eat because it is given to us with an opened heart.”  Ever mindful of our carbon footprint, all our food was local and organic and we took all the peelings home for the compost.  We collected all other packaging materials to recycle  – this filled only half of a plastic Woollies bag. We left no trace of our adventure at all.

cobham 418.res

Then as the darkness grew and the stars sparkled in the moonless sky, we lay on the swing bridge across the Pholela River, the water rushing below us. No one had ever seen a sky quite like it – absolutely crammed with twinkling lights, and shooting stars galore.  Qiniso “I had so much fun watching the stars at night. It was wonderful.”

cobham 441.res We crossed the bridge again the next morning on our way to yet another lovely waterfall, tucked between steep cliffs with a deep dark pool at the bottom.

cobham 454.res

We met the Reserve Field Rangers and joined them on their patrol. This provided a good opportunity to chat to them about the animals in the area, their jobs and the training they had received, and to take advantage of their experienced eyes pointing out baboons and buck and birds.

cobham 459.res

After another dip in the Pholela, we said our goodbyes “What a fabulous trip we had. The things I learnt from each of us is that we must share our knowledge and we must not leave our group members behind when we are walking in the mountains.”  Wendy said.

cobham 204.res

On the way home we stopped at Marutswa to walk in the forest and picnic on leftovers, enjoying the protection of the cool canopy after the heat of the grasslands.

cobham 540res.

The journey home to Mooi River, Rosetta and Nottingham Road provided opportunities to compose text messages:

“Thank you for each and every support that you’ve been giving to us and it was such a wonderful experience.”  Qiniso Zuma

“The walk to the cave and the stars were so amazing. I have never had a great weekend like this ever, but I didn’t like washing dishes.   Thank you for everything. Lots of love” Nkululeko Mdladla

“It was a great weekend. You have given me hope and strength and washed my worries away. Ngiyabonga. Love” Wendy Mkwanazi

“I remember our trips to the river and enjoyed learning to float, but the really amazing part of this trip was the time we spent on the suspension bridge looking at stars.  I even got to see a shooting star (I made a wish, but I can’t tell). I can’t explain how much fun I had, this was truly a time to remember and in the words of my favortite artist ‘I wish that I have this moment for life’.” Vusimusi Mvelase

Christeen Grant “Thank you for the privilege of spending an inspiring time with you, Wendy, Vusi, Nkulu and Qiniso over the past few days at Cobham! Your commitment and dedication to inspiring, caring and nurturing these young lives is awesome, a very real motivation as you guide, not impose ideas and experiences in their lives. For me it was a real and heart-warming pleasure to share the mountains with all of you!” 

Nikki concludes: “Sidlalile, sifundile kahle ePholela. Sobuya futhi.”  Thank you to Penny Rees for the inspiration.

cobham 508 res.

May the sun bring you new energy by day

May the moon softly restore you at night

May the rain wash away your worries

May the breeze blow new strength into your being

May you walk gently through the world and

Know it’s beauty all the days of your life.

cobham 088.res

6 thoughts on “Hawu we ma!

  1. Liz Gow

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful happy story, Wendy, Vusi, Nkulu and Qiniso. If some of us are unable to get out into Nature as you have just done, then such a story and the gorgeous photographs bring your expeirence right into our own homes. How lucky we also are to receive your joys in this way.
    Now you know why one of our cultures has a saying “Thank your lucky stars!”.
    Go well in your Matric year,
    Liz

    Like

    Reply
  2. N3 Toll Concession (Pty) Ltd

    Loved reading this amazing diary of your adventure. What a blessing and privilege to be able to influence young lives in such a positive and motivating way. Their lives have not only been touched but influenced for a lifetime. Thank you for being such a special, unique and amazing individual.

    Like

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Camping Food « Plant Abundance

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s