Friday, 17 January 2014

West Coast Road Trip: Bethulie

On the road to Bethulie, I found my Zen. Which sounds like a really lame song title, but allow me to explain.

We had been driving for approximately 10 hours when we turned off the highway at the Bethulie sign. It's a 52km detour from the highway (one way), and I was starting to doubt our choice of overnight accommodation. 52km seemed like an eternal distance to drive. The sun had set, and the sky was darkening from pink, to lilac, to dusky grey. And then about 40km's in, Rob suggested we stop and listen to the quiet.

So we pulled over, and got out. And stood, our little family, in the middle of the road, in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and listened. It wasn't silent - we could hear the frogs in a nearby pond making plinking water droplet music, and the distant, gentle lowing of cattle settling down for the night. Instead, it was the absolute stillness of the place. An unmoving, enveloping sense of peace,  unending time and space. It whispered it's way into my heart and settled right into my soul. And I knew that that feeling was something to hold onto. That keeping it close and tuning into it would be my antidote to the constant hum of the city, the routines, the traffic and the always-noise which seems to break bits off of me.

I asked, but Rob said we couldn't stay there forever.





I call it my Zen because I can't think of a better way to describe it. I'd be lying if I didn't say that me and my Zen have parted ways a number of times since our first fateful encounter. But thankfully - so far- we seem to keep finding each other again. We walk a ways together on the path, and then a traffic jam strikes and I'm already late and my Zen quietly takes it's leave and drifts off into the undergrowth until I call it back and we link arms again.

We're only sixteen days into this relationship. But my Zen and I, we're making things work. 

***

Some pics from our final days of holiday.

Last sandcastles.







An afternoon in Yzerfontein. Rob has already decided that we should retire here when we're old and grey, and our biggest adventure in a day will be a trip to the shop for bread and milk. I told him we should maybe just book a summer holiday there as a first step.

It IS beautiful. An endless beach (16 miles, to be exact), crashing waves, and rocky outcroppings jutting into the sea where you can watch the tide roll in. It was so surprising to hear the sea ROAR after the other West Coast towns, where the sea is meek as a lamb.













And after all of this, at the end of a gloriously perfect holiday, who could have guessed that the cherry on top waited at the end of the road to Bethulie? The Royal Hotel. Which is the sanctuary and living dream of the owner, who always wanted a house lined wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling with books, and records.

120,000 books. I'm not sure how many records. It's like a Russian nesting doll of rooms - each room opens into another room lined with books, which opens into a smaller room lined with books until you eventually get to the end of the building.

This is the dining room/disco area and these are only SOME of his records. The music played during meals was like being bodily transported back in time. The host is a published author, and hands down the most interesting person I have ever encountered. At dinner, he pulled up a chair at our table and regaled us with stories about Bethulie, the origins of the Pretoria Zoo, the well-behaved Bethulie ghosts - a break and a spot of ballet with Immy on the dance floor - and a midnight trip to the town graveyard with a group of Spanish tourists that gave everyone the fright of their lives. All delivered in the most charming British accent.

We practically RAN OUT THE ROOM next morning to continue our conversation at breakfast. The entire experience was refreshingly surreal.







Apparently he hosts Murder Mystery nights at the hotel. I can't imagine a place better suited to this purpose. It even comes with it's own resident ghosts. And large spiders on the roof which are less than ideal but easily dealt with by means of a bath towel (sweep spider off the roof), lightning reflexes (jump smartly sideways/backwards when it scurries into the folds of the curtains near your feet) - and a heavy-soled shoe.

And so ended our 2013 December road trip. It was an incredible holiday with all the best elements - quality time, beautiful weather, an unexplored part of the country, a few plans gone awry, and best of all - a whole new set of stories to file away in our Family Travels collection of memories.

My friends tease me because I am already browsing and dreaming and planning where to go next. I just can't help it.

And so to end: a quote by Mark Twain. Which so beautifully expresses how I feel about this, and what I so wish to pass onto Immy:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.



There's always a next adventure , waiting just around the corner. And for me, the only question to be answered is: where?

1 comment:

Nathalie Williams said...

I can almost hear the zen in the photos from the stop on the way to Bethulie. I think I'm going to take a leaf from your book and go in search of my zen.

Immy is so lucky that her mama is keeping such a beautiful record of her childhood.