Bushmans Kloof is set within 7,000 hectares in the Cederberg Mountains on South Africa’s Western Cape. This grade one South African National Heritage Site is of huge cultural importance. It has been home to bushmen since the Stone Age and features an astonishing 130 unique rock art sites, some as old as ten thousand years. Bespoke guided tours of various sites are provided by the resident expert Londi, who we were lucky enough to have as our guide for the duration of our visit. Londi told us at length about what was known of the artists, the ‘San People’, or Bushmen, and the perceived meaning of their paintings. Of course, the interpretations of the art were more than a little heteronormative and played squarely into conventional views on gender, surprising for this open-minded ‘rainbow nation’. But they were still impressive, not just in their number, but in the quality of their intricate detail and extraordinarily vivid hues – derived oxide pigments – considering their almost unfathomable age. It was a treat for us and anyone interested in art and art history.
The educational gems don’t stop there. The Bushmans Kloof Heritage Centre features an extensive collection of artefacts, ranging from jewellery, dancing sticks and hunting kits, to musical instruments. Seeing these objects that would have been used by Bushmen tribes who have lived in this area for 120,000 years in mankind’s oldest nation, here in their ancestral home, gave us a unique insight into the lives and culture of these ancient people, our forefathers.
By simply being present, we could really begin to imagine life in another, far simpler time, but also appreciate just how sophisticated the Bushmen people were. They may not have had access to the trappings of the modern world, but their tools, skills and knowledge – passed down through countless generations – and their connection to the world in which they lived, goes far beyond our own.
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Our itinerary was filled with just the right amount of planned activities, mostly in the charming company of Londi, allowing us time to rest, relax and take advantage of the facilities, like indulging ourselves with a couple’s treatment in the spa. We chose to keep the door open and listened to the sounds of nature as the expert masseurs worked their magic on our backs. We even found time to do some outdoor yoga, but the light was going and it brought out the mosquitoes, leaving us less than Zen.
Our hosts also took great pleasure in springing numerous surprises on us. On our first night we were told to dress in long sleeves and cover our legs, then to head to the reception lodge where we found Londi and his ever-ready 4×4 waiting to take us “somewhere special”. A few minutes later we were delivered to the foot of a large rock with an inviting, candlelit wooden staircase attached. At the top was a terrace set out with long dining tables filled with our fellow guests. Against the rock, an alluring buffet of fresh food was ready for the brai. We happily filled our faces and washed it down with chilled MCC. We’d just finished eating when, out of nowhere, the sound of a chorus of the most angelic voices filled the air. The dinner table chatter quickly hushed as a line of singers dressed in white – made up of the resort’s staff, from landscapers to housekeepers – filed onto the deck. Their atmospheric and very personal performance moved us to tears.
The treats continued throughout our stay. In the middle of an excursion, Londi would suddenly veer off the road unannounced, and reveal a hidden picnic site, laid out with a table and chairs or blankets and cushions; a spread of high quality, organic dishes, fruit and fresh juices and honey harvested from the reserve’s own bees. Over our stay, the selection of food may have lacked a little in variety, but we couldn’t find fault with its freshness and flavour.
Our stay culminated in a trip after sunset to a distant shepherd’s hut. Handed cold drinks, we stood around a firepit and watched the full moon rise in the crystal clear sky. Inside, the hut was lit by 194 candles and a table for two was set for an indulgent meal prepared by our personal chef.
Looking back at this trip after a year of restrictions to our freedoms, of introspection, uncertainty and stress – the idea of spending time in a place where we are free to roam and explore, where someone else takes care of our every need and peppers our days with delightful surprises seems like a dream. We have a renewed appreciation for the preciousness of moments that Bushmans Kloof provided. Moments like visiting the rock paintings in its care are remarkable memories sure to stand the test of time.