Category: Uncategorized
Why Guided Hikes Are Good For You

Good Morning

Matthew Crawford’s “The Case for Working With Your Hands, or why office work is bad for us and fixing things feels good”, while published back in 2010, is even more relevant now, eleven years on. If you’ve ever wondered why doing the laundry at your holiday spot makes you happy, read this book. In reviewing the writing, Jeremy Williams says, “Crawford’s point is that ‘manual labour’ has been devalued in an age of information.

The great thing about manual work is that it deals with real stuff, it requires ‘focussed engagement with material things’. Fixing things draws you out of yourself, forcing you to think and to care for something. You cannot be self-absorbed and be a good repairman.”

Hiking with a guide changes the fynbos game. Whether these fountains of knowledge chat to you once in two hours, or more frequently, is of no matter. You leave the mountains with a thorough understanding of the wonders of our natural world. A client recently shared with us “I would also like to say how much we appreciated Jeffrey and Patrick. Jeffrey is a walking encyclopedia, a very gentle soul, and just an amazing guide. Patrick is also a very gentle quiet soul, but just a wonderful human being.

And the same goes to your ladies/housekeepers – all just warm friendly people where no request is a problem.” From the same lovely group of life long friends, these words, “Jeffrey is a gentle power-house of knowledge. He is kind, informative, and such an interesting person without ever being intrusive or arrogant (no matter how many times we asked the same questions). We loved the spirit he brought to our walk – and loved his singing! Patrick, is also an incredible person – strong, unassuming, knowledgeable with his ever ready smile and determination. They both added in every dimension of the trail.”

In Chianti, guide of choice, Martino, is also a walking encyclopedia, explaining how the Chianti ecosystem works and the role of the vast protected forests of Tuscany. The European spring and autumn months are the best for hiking but as with fynbos, each month of year, has its highlights. And walking with a guide makes sure you get that.

Perhaps we should send Matthew Crawford’s “why fixing things feels good” to all the new SA Councillors. It seems that in whichever province you live, the officials who should have been fixing things, got klapped (and not by Aunty Pat either).

With love,

PS: 22 November’s three day guided hike (Blue Mountain), 20 December special three day Green Mountain, and 3rd January four day guided hike (Green Mountain), all have spaces. Guided hiking trails near me. Enquire

PPS: Thank you for visiting the gardens of Wildekrans Country House these last two weekends. We raised a decent amount for the Bot River Education Fund. Remember our four star graded accommodation at Wildekrans Country House as you plan your holiday spots. You get to live in nature without camping.


Fight or Flight

PS: We have spaces on our 22 November three day Blue Mountain Trail, guided hikes South Africa.

Good Morning

Paolo Staccioli is a sculptor and ceramicist living in Scandicci, on the outskirts of Florence. I visited his studio last month, a treasured experience that I hope to share with visitors to Casa di Simonetta.

We spoke first on email via his daughter Barbara, and then in person via his daughter Paola. Little bits of Italian but Paola (herself a ceramicist for a next visit) enabled some exchange on the artist’s concepts. This memorable morning concluded around the kitchen table where Paolo’s wife Gabriella was preparing spiedini for lunch, Paolo wrapping my purchase, and Paola sorting the admin.

While Paola walked me down the alley to my car, we chatted about the joy of having grandparents in your children’s lives. Paola and her family live directly above her parents. She shared that her father had begun painting when he retired from being a policeman. As a child he had helped out at a sign writing company and perhaps this had planted the seed for painting. His parents were farmers. I left with a heart swollen from the warmth of a strong connection with an Italian artist family, who had been total strangers before that day.

Antonio Natali reviewd Paolo Staccioli’s 2019 “Guerrieri, Cavalli e Centauri” exhibition in Siena. He speaks of “current creations that don’t forget ancient culture”. He elaborates on this point with “It’s humanity reinforced by a solid historic conscience that isn’t afraid of new things, but rather of the invasive and overbearing violence of those new things that leave scorched earth beneath it.” Isn’t that exactly what differentiates Italy?

Wilma Cruise’s ANCHORED IN A BOAT is showing at our Elgin Open Gardens this weekend and next. Of this work (a work that silences you, can’t think of a word for it), Wilma says “These ostriches are neither human nor animal but somewhere in between. Their inability to fly is one thing that captures their similarity to us. Like so many human and other creatures on the planet, faced with challenging environmental conditions, they are reduced to a binary conundrum: fight or flight. Being flightless in a literal sense the birds have taken to a boat in search of safer havens.” I am sharing a pic for those not close  enough to visit.

The inspiration to our Wildekrans  Country House and Green Mountain Trail teams in these last three weeks, received from groups of energetic, interesting, interested and friendly hikers, together with artists dropping in to install their work, has been almost overwhelming. It never ceases to amaze us how when different age, culture and creed walkers, join to spend a few days together, both on and off the trail, they form strong connections while appreciating that there are different ways to do life.

A three generation family of twelve were treated to the Green Mountain Trail by Grandpa these last few days. Granny brought along her fruit cake for afternoon teas, and a packet of her crunchies for each family (and us) to take home. As in Staccioli’s figures, which each carry a “school satchel like we once used”, we continue to carry our peaceful and playful childhoods.

We hope to see some of you this weekend. The garden is glorious, the works of Sheena Ridley, Guy du Toit, Greta Davis, Alice Toich and Wilma Cruise are waiting for you. This together with Roma Green’s Collection.

With love,

PPS: The Blue MountainTrail runs above Kleinmond, hiking trails south coast, with accommodation at four star graded Wildekrans Country House.


My Bestie, You Need To Book, And Elgin Open Gardens

PS: To attend Elgin Open Gardens, download the map at www.elginopengardens.co.za. Visit over two weekends between 09h30 and 17h00 on 30 and 31 October and 6 and 7 November.

Good Morning

When the daily grind gets too much, a fun “pick me up” distraction can be a life saver. Iko Iko (My Bestie) by Justin Wellington will get you dancing on the bluest morning. It caught my attention on the radio recently, and on looking it up, I discovered that this original New Orleans song  was written under the title “Jock -A-Mo” by James Crawford back in 1953! Crawford explained that Iko Iko was a victory chant that Indians would shout and Jock-A-Mo, a chant when going into battle.

Paging through Giorgio Locatelli’s MADE IN ITALY is my biggest current distraction. He writes so beautifully and inspires much thought on cooking and eating. I struggled to choose from my favourite quotes. ‘We are in this business, like my uncle at La Cinzianella, to serve people. If I didn’t love welcoming everyone to Locanda, cooking for them, trying to see that they have a good time, I might as well get a job as an executive chef in a factory producing pies. I could go to work at nine, come back at four and have an easy life and earn roughly the same amount of money. But here, at Locanda, you enter into people’s lives, and they enter yours.”

We are especially focusing on recipes at the mo as it’s Elgin Open Gardens time. Wildekrans Country House is Garden number 9. Our 2021 garden is titled ROMA’S REMEMBRANCE in honor of my late Mum, the original gardener here at Wildekrans.  We will be offering a small number of lunches on each of the four garden days. If you would like to lunch at Wildekrans Country House when visiting the gardens, you need to book now. Book here

We have invited five artists whose works both Roma and ourselves have collected. Greta Davis will return, this time with her oils on board, ESCAPE ROOTS, painted for this show. Sheena Ridley will install five ferrocement VESSELS OF LIFE created in response to the remembrance of a mother. Guy Du Toit will show a bronze DANCING HARE alongside Wilma Cruise’s ANCHORED IN A BOAT. Alice Toich will show her WILDEKRANS ROSES.

Gabriel Clark-Brown, editor of SA Art Times will open our garden and art show at noon on Saturday 30 October. He will chat about the role of gardens and artists in our 2021 lives. Would you like to attend the opening, joining us for a glass of Elgin/Bot River wine? Book here

With love,

PPS: We have spaces available on our 22 November 2021 Blue Mountain Trail and 20 December Green Mountain Trail. Book here

PPPS: Another favourite Locatelli “And, once a year in the white truffle season, my brother and I would go off to Alba with my grandfather to buy a precious truffle. Then, when we came home, there would be a little ritual by the stove: my grandfather would hand the truffle to my grandmother as she finished the risotto, she would grate the brown sweaty ball over it like Parmesan, and the fragrance that filled the kitchen would be incredible.”


Pan co’ Santi

Good Morning

Central Italy’s region of Tuscany is filled with hilltop villages. Lecchi is our most visited, being only two kilometers from the borgho of Adine, home to Casa di Simonetta. Paolo Rinalda’s Enoteca offers early morning caffé, evening aperitivo’s, supper and everything in between.

Paolo’s mum, Palmyra, had the alongside Alimentari Palmyra. Now eighty six (pictured above together), she has retired and Paolo does everything from slicing your prosciutto, to helping you put your groceries in the car.

The harvesting of grapes is now all around and with it comes the baking of Pan co’ Santi, an autumnal sweet bread that has been produced in Siena and its territory for centuries, for the All Saints’ Day feast. Itis bread with raisins and walnuts (the so-called Santi, or Saints), and flavored with black pepper (terresiena.it).

Paolo’s younger right hand, Jonota (pictured outside the alimentari), explained to me that while it is now baked in Siena, it is the same oven of Paolo’s father who died in 2010. The oven was sold to a man who continued to bake in Lecchi but then moved to Pianella and now Siena, still providing Lecchi with their daily bread, and in autumn Pan co’ Santi. Don’t you just love legacy and continuity?

A week in Chianti is not enough, but if that is all you have, a lot can be done. A visit to Florence to take in the Renaissance art and architecture, a Saturday morning to the town of Greve to experience the Piazza Matteotti market, and on the first Sunday of each month the town of Arezzo transforms into an antique market, the retro pieces are hard to resist. At least one day is needed to visit a few wine and olive farms, ending with a stroll through the village of Radda.

An afternoon stroll through the shops of the city of Siena is a must. Driving the windy roads and parking at the wall, taking an escalator to the top takes less than half an hour. Siena is one of the most visited cities in Italy and the Historical Centre has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mornings and evenings can be reserved for walking through the forests, vineyards and olive groves that surround Adine. This is cycling country too, vespas, electric bikes and bicycles are all for hire.

All of that said, thanks to SA artists, we do not necessarily have to travel anywhere far ourselves. Five of the artists in our collection, are creating new works to show in the barn and gardens during Elgin Open Gardens. This year we celebrate the life of my mum who set out the gardens of Wildekrans Country House. Diarise to visit Roma’s Remembrance on the 29th and 30th of October or 6th and 7th of November.  Book for the opening celebration or lunch here.

I was searching for a quote I remember about seeing through new eyes. Instead I found Marcel Proust’s ‘La Prisonnière’, written around 1921.

“The only true voyage, the only bath in the Fountain of Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to see the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to see the hundred universes that each of them sees, that each of them is; and this we do, with great artists; with artists like these we do really fly from star to star.”

Artist and art teacher Jill Trappler is a great sharer of wisdom, sometimes in the form of poetry (this one by Mary Oliver),

“You wouldn’t believe what once or
twice I have seen. I’ll just
tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head will you
ever, possibly, see one.”

With love,

PS: The best hiking trails in Cape Town are just outside Cape Town.

PPS: The best Elgin accommodation is at Wildekrans Country House, we have baby Woodpeckers in one of the old Oak trees. ENQUIRE


That’s How The Light Gets In

Good Morning

Italians live a different life. A simpler one, passed through generations, and lived with great purpose yet seemingly without great worries.

Taking a lunch time and leaving your place of work is non-negotiable. It’s what you do at the same time every week day. Having a caffe’ is a treasured activity. You would not have a coffee while sending a message or writing a note. Drinking the coffee is the activity.

Other small personal highlights are the taste of the tomatoes, the sparkling wine glasses, buying and using only exactly what you need. Shopping for two or three zucchini’s and a half a loaf of bread is normal, tomorrow is another day. Of course all of these things (including sun ripening your tomatoes) can be taken on board, the world over.

We choose our paths, the 2020/1 transition has given rise to much self analysis. The age old “focus on where you want to go, not where you are coming from” has been hauled out. In an interview with Monocle, designer Paul Smith, had these startling words to say, “It’s your future, nobody cares how good you used to be.” There’s a thought.

Have you found that there seems to be an even greater intensity around the clickety clack of laptops wherever you go? What is being manufactured, or grown, that can possibly support this mass of energetic communications? I tried to find the opposite of the word, bubble. Implosion maybe? However, I recognize that I am a worrier, always have been. As a young child growing up on the farm, Glen Fruin, opposite Paul Cluver Wines, I used to count the apple trees as I feared that only one harvest a year, could not possibly support our family of seven.

September and March are special times of mild weather, when both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres experience similar weather, but are moving towards opposite seasons. In Chianti, the harvesting of the white grapes begins this this week, while in Elgin, the clickety sound of pruning is coming to an end.

Between the Green Mountain trails in the Elgin Valley and walks through Chianti, we hope to begin to offer walking experiences throughout the year. This is a very early work in progress, but should you wish to experience the simple life of Chianti, one of Italy’s many special corners, visit Casa di Simonetta.

There is so much that we have learnt from the beautiful Simonetta Palazio. Simonetta meticulously restored this 1 000 year old home. Surrounded by olive trees and vineyards, the property falls in the very centre of Chianti. With great Wi-Fi, it’s not a bad place to pound away on your own laptop before heading to one of the surrounding villages for your lunch time.

I have had some solo time this week and have found myself playing Leonard Cohen each evening. The Anthem has a classic and global message. Forgive me if I have shared this with you before,

“Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in”

With love,

PS: The best hiking trails in Cape Town are just outside Cape Town.

PPS: The best Elgin accommodation is at Wildekrans Country House, we have baby Woodpeckers in one of the old Oak trees. ENQUIRE


Shine On You Crazy Diamond

Good Morning

Audun Alvestad’s Tan Lines, currently at the Kristin Hjellegjerde Gallery, London, explores the season as a feeling rather than a specific place or moment in time. What caught my attention is the reference to how we approach holiday time. The artist thinks about “what a holiday means as a concept, how we delineate a period of time, establish expectations, wear different clothes and perform certain activities or even identities”.

The weekend before last, we put on our “Saturday clothes”, packed a few groceries into a Spar packet and hopped into the car, carrying our Wild Card, sunglasses and Grabouw braai meat. We headed for Langebaan Beach Cottage through the rolling Durbanville hills of Canola and the West Coast flowers. Changing your getup, certainly accelerates a change of feeling don’t you think? Within a few hours we were walking barefoot on the beach, eating calamari and gazing at the lagoon as if time did not matter. We returned home twenty four hours later feeling like we had holidayed for a month, reflecting  Audun’ Alvestad’s reflections.

Elgin Open Gardens is approaching. It’s time for you to change into your gardening gear, be it a big hat, even bigger sunnies or a basket of sorts for farm shopping on the way. We are selecting some of our old faves in the way of food and the gardens are looking glorious.

If you would like to lunch in the gardens of Wildekrans Country House, please book ahead for these following dates below:

Sat. 30 and Sun. 31 Oct. and Sat. 6 and Sun. 7 Nov.

Book Here

When needing to transport myself away, I often turn to music. The wonderful Pretend it’s a City’s Fran Leibowitz says, “Cooks and musicians make people happy. Music is like a drug that’s good for you. It makes you happier, you can’t explain it.”

When we were kids Christmas time meant a family gift of an LP. My second album ever, was Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (1973). Being only 14 years, my older sisters must have chosen for me. This week, I tuned into the concert videos of Pink Floyd at Pompeii. “Live at Pompeii” is an album and film by David Gilmour, the former guitarist of Pink Floyd. It was recorded at the Amphitheatre of Pompeii in 2016. What legends they are. You can but only transport yourself immersed in those tunes.

“Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun.
Shine on you crazy diamond…”

With love,

PS: The best hiking trails in Cape Town are just outside Cape Town.

PPS: The best Elgin accommodation is at Wildekrans Country House, we have baby Woodpeckers in one of the old Oak trees. ENQUIRE


Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came

Investec’s Daily Views & News comes to me every weekday morning between eight and nine. A quick and easy update, most recently concerning the Chinese regulation of the tech and education sectors, rising case numbers for the Delta variant of the coronavirus, and vaccination levels.

Zebra by Hannah Gould - Jaci's Tree Lodge

Whatever the news, the Rand now hovers between R14.50 and R15.00 to the Dollar, apparently for reasons above. The Rand-Dollar rate had a profound effect on my life in 1985. Arriving at the University of California, Berkeley in January, the rate was close to one to one. A couple of months in, it halved to R2.20 buys a Dollar. My student budget was shot. I sought refuge in the free days of art museums in San Francisco and Los Angeles. My love for art was born and I was adopted by the art-interested Wessling family.

Alredo Jaar’s "Embrace"

Two weeks back, I finally visited Alredo Jaar’s THE RWANDA PROJECT at the Zeist Mocaa. A deeply sad, insightful and humbling experience. Alfredo Jaar has shared this 1994 genocide without showing it to you first hand. He experienced and recorded the massive brutality, and returned to New York, where he put together a work that describes the horror without illustrating it. A profound experience. It is on until 15 January 2022.

Last year I asked my Californian Mum, Judy Wessling, to share the best book she had read in 2020. Judy is bonded to at least three Los Angeles book clubs. The Overstory by Richard Powers has been unopened at my bedside for a year. 

Olaf Hajek's WORKS

The New York Times review includes “It’s a delicate act, writing about tree defenders: In an era when art seems ready to embrace subjects as painful as racism and sexual harassment, it still shrinks from environmental brutality”.

Last week I travelled to Jaci’s Tree Lodge with first born Hannah, to escape the news of the day. Reading  “The Overstory” en route, and in a bush camp made in and around trees, was a perfect match. We showered under a Leadwood, a Tamboti tree continues to grow through Room 5, we marvelled at Jaci’s favourite Sheperd (Boscia albitrunca) tree, searched for leopards in the Marulas, and found a pair of Verreaux’s eagle-owl (Bubo lacteus) dining in yet another Leadwood . Jaci’s Tree Lodge “close to nature” approach is what we love and I came home hugely inspired for our new Green Mountain Trail season. Read more

When we set out for Madikwe, Follow the Sun by Xavier Rudd rung out from Hannah’s road trip playlist. It felt like Xavier Rudd had written a theme song for Richard Powers’, The Overstory.

“Follow, follow the sun
And which way the wind blows
When this day is done…

When you feel life coming down on you,
Like a heavy weight
When you feel this crazy society,
Adding to the strain
Take a stroll to the nearest waters
And remember your place
Many moons have risen and fallen long, long before you came”

With love,

PS: The best hiking trails in Cape Town are just outside Cape Town.

PPS: The best Elgin accommodation is at Wildekrans Country House, we have baby Woodpeckers in one of the old Oak trees. ENQUIRE


Fresh Air Is The New Luxury

Good Morning

Fresh air is the new luxury said The Monocle Minute three weeks back, while making a point about the necessity of ventilation and “five star” hotels with non openable windows.

david-goldblatt

Speaking of fresh air and wide open spaces, I visited, by appointment, the David Goldblatt “MARKERS OF PRESENCE” at the new Goodman Gallery premises, Cape Town, last Tuesday. A privileged viewing of ten photographic works in colour of landscapes and people. There is much to be learnt about this extraordinary South African on sahistory.org.za and Photo.com. David Goldblatt steadfastly avoided any active political involvement and did not photograph any of the turning points in South African history. “I’m not particularly interested … in photographing the moment something happens. I’m interested in the conditions that give rise to events.” It runs until the 24th of July

Green-Mountain-Article

A group of friendly medical specialists (pictured below), walked the Blue Mountain Trail in June for some much needed fresh air. We could have started a mini hospital with these brave and clever youngish medical minds.

They immersed themselves in slackpacking and the wide open spaces of the Western Cape mountains’ Kogelberg Biosphere, and the abundant protea life (Longifolia pictured above) on show at this time of year.

people-on-a-cliff

With the current global condition, first born Molly and I have been binging a bit on Firefly Lane (too trivial for the rest of the fam). Our Saturday evening took on a different tone when the soundtrack of  The Hollies’ played.
 

“All I need is the Air that I breathe”, listen here. 

With love,


Walking With Thuli

Good Morning

Prof Thuli Madonsela will summit Kilimanjaro for the second time in July this year. She, together with three of the Walk4Mandela team, trained with us this last week.

PS: for winter rates at Wildekrans Country House visit www.greenmountain.co.za. Do some walking while you are here.

The excitement for each of our team to have Prof Thuli (pictured) on our trails was electric. Remembering the bravery of this strong and beautiful soul, and being acutely aware of how her ground breaking work, continues to play out today, has stayed with us.

PS: The weather is mostly mild, do some slackpacking in the Western Cape mountains this winter.

Prof Thuli was joined by Fair Lady Photographer Liza van Deventer, part sponsor of the trip Amanda Takis (hand standing on the trail), and Black Management Forum lawyer Tasneem Fredericks. All walking for the Imbumba Foundation’s Caring4Girls raising funds for young girls. More than a million girls are currently supported through this programme.

I recently bought a special occasion dress made in SA AND made with tree bark. Loved the Ashaeleven label quotation which strongly relates to the journey of this walk4mandela team. While we can’t all assist in writing the constitution, make recommendations to the High Court on state capture and corruption, and develop a seat of Justice at Stellenbosch University, Lao Tzu suggests:

“If you want to awaken all humanity then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self transformation.” Lao Tzu

With love,


The most sensible thing to do

Good Morning

When walking earlyish one morning ten days back, the trail group were not alone. “As we crossed the wetland, I spotted the tracks of the Cape Mountain Leopard in the mud and could be fairly sure that it had passed through recently given the rainy weather we’d been having (pictured). A special sighting for the guests. Walking along the jeep-track, we made easy progress along the mountain side, passing the time in continued conversation regarding comedy and moving on to current affairs…” said guide Jeff.

The days continue to shorten but we have been spoilt with mild winter sun which seems to slow time down. On the same day I happened upon homing pigeon racers at the Houw Hoek exit (pictured). I stopped to learn a bit more about this sport. I met Team Caldeira who have been racing since 2004 and were training their birds for a competition in Laingsburg that weekend. They released the birds in batches, each flock taking height on release, circling for a few seconds and then confidently heading the one hundred and ten kilometres home. I called them this weekend to hear the race result. Great news. One of their birds won the Laingsburg race covering 259.8 kilometres in four hours and seven minutes. That’s averaging at 63 km per hour. Second place was only thirty seconds behind.

Last week a regular artist visitor treated her husband to a weekend away. With cooler evenings we had the fires going and made Thai butternut soup. We have a new way with kingklip, it includes mushrooms, capers and Sauvignon Blanc. Our regular sent a note to say “thank you for being a friendly and safe space”. How our worlds and wants have shifted. We are so grateful for being able to offer wide open spaces for wining, dining and walking. All of this within sixty minutes of Cape Town Central.

In the words of Helen Bonham Carter addressing Maggie Thatcher while playing Princess Margaret, “sometimes, time off is the most sensible thing to do”. We agree. The days may be shortening but this too will pass. Soon.

With love,