The Chase – Homeward Bound
There comes a time on every trip that one’s nose turns homeward bound. In Afrikaans, one likens it to a spirited horse stopping in his tracks, cocking his head and galloping back to his stables. Nothing can stop him when his head’s down. Indomitable they are then.
Our heads turned when we’d done our exploring, and we’d wild camped, sailed on a houseboat, visited and stayed with friends. Finally, after weeks on the road, our laundry basket was overflowing, and our fridge was almost empty. It was time to head on home. But we still had a promise to fulfil.
Lush, sub-tropical Natal had enchanted us as we sped along better roads, large sugar cane estates, state forests as far as the eye can see on our left and the warm Mozambique current flowing through the Indian Ocean on our right. Finally, our sights were fixed on Eshowe our next port of call.
There’s always a first time, and for me, it was having a “garage pie” at the filling station instead of a Steers Burger; Butch loves them. What could be better than a curry pie in Natal? All those authentic Indian curry flavours came pouring out of my golden, crispy, beefy pie, chock full of flavour. Or was it lamb? In Natal, beef is farmed, but in India, cattle were holy and wouldn’t end up in a pie of that, I’m sure. A conundrum. Yummy. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. Butch eyed my pie, but I wasn’t sharing.
We arrived on our friends Jonny and Janey’s farm, The Chase, just before lunch. We settled into their garden cottage, pulled on our bathers, grabbed our towels and moseyed on down to the pool. We dipped and chatted with ice-cold drinks in our hands, catching up with all the latest news while cooling down.
A scrumptious lunch was served on the verandah at the long table, where I was introduced to family members staying over. We immediately found common ground; we all love African travel. We were regaled with past adventures in Africa’s remotest parts and incidents in places like the DRC and further afield. I was in enthralled.
The afternoon was spent at our leisure, and I explored the extensive sub-tropical gardens, dipped into the pool, and later relaxed with a book under the slowly whirring ceiling fan. Then, as one does on a farm in Africa, gin and tonics were served on the veranda during the late afternoon. The conversation soon resumed its easy pace, and we learned about the farm and all the activities going on.
The dynamic owners of this large estate are philanthropic and very active in their community. Unlike many farmers who are mechanizing and pruning down on labour, at The Chase, employment is high on the list of priorities. Here teaching and empowering labourers from the community is a matter of pride.
Large swathes of land are now planted with bananas, sugar cane, and, believe it or not, hectares of Proteas. All labour-intensive industries. Although the Proteas were not in bloom, we did enjoy seeing our fynbos thriving on a farm in Natal. The manager is an import and hales from the Hemel and Aarde valley in our neck of the woods. All the bananas produced and harvested are for the insatiable local market.
For me, it was like a breath of fresh air to hear the positive story of the farm. After so many months of doom and gloom, fake news, and a real annus horribilis, it was a joy to hear that there are South Africans who are enthusiastic and actively busy doing the right thing whilst this rising tide of discontent continues in our country.
We spent two glorious nights with Jono and Janey and their beautiful girls and delightful grandchildren before we had to saddle up once again and gallop off, my father’s words ringing in my ears. “family, fish and friends go off after three days”!
Thank you, Jono and Janey, for embracing us with your gracious hospitality, the two scruffy overlanders on your doorstep. Your positivity is refreshing, Janey. You’re a remarkable hostess, so relaxed and unfazed. Although I know it all comes from experience, you make it look so easy. You made us feel comfortable, and for a while, it felt as if we were home.
I will keep my eyes peeled. Who knows, we might see a The Chase truck loaded with bananas and proteas for delivery on our travels one day. That would be lovely!
If you don’t stay bitter and angry for too long
If you don’t stay bitter
and angry for too long
you might finally salvage
from the old country
a lazy half sleep summer afternoon
for instance, with the whoof-whoof
of grazing cattle in your ears
tails swishing, flicking flies away
or the smell of newly tamed soil
with birds hopping about
in the wake of the plough
in search of worms.
or the pained look of your father
a look that took you all these years
and lots of places to understand
the bantering tone you used with your
grandmother and their old laugh
that said nothing matters but death.
if you don’t stay bitter
and angry for too long
and have the courage to go back
you will discover that the autumn smoke
writes different more helpful messages
in the high skies of the old country.
PS whenever I see Peonies, I think of you, Janey and this quote: ““Gardening is the handiest excuse for being a philosopher. Nobody guesses, nobody accuses, nobody knows, but there you are, Plato in the peonies, Socrates force-growing his hemlock. A man toting a sack of blood manure across his lawn is kin to Atlas, letting the world spin easy on his shoulder.” ~ Ray Bradbury