Sometimes, things just have a way of unfolding.
My friend from Cape Town, upon hearing my idea of a route through South Africa, recommended I should detour and stop at Terra Khaya as I drove from the Western and into the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
Upon checking the map and distances and realising it was a long way to drive and out of the way, I initially questioned the suggestion. However, taking the time to stop here turned out to be one of the best decisions I made on this trip.
Terra Khaya (earth home) is both a backpackers and an eco farm, that (to C&P the website), ‘celebrates a mindful, alternate way of living’.
Located way up in the hills of Hogsback, hidden within the Amotole mountains, the smallholding practices simple, creative, sustainable living and is actually an experimental venture that flagships the ethos of life ‘off grid’, and promotes the idea of what can be done with time, effort and commitment to what you believe in and all credit to the owner Shane who has created such a place.
I have stayed at Eco lodges before, and often see ‘sustainable’ and ‘mindful’ being banded around, but it wasn’t long before I realised that this was a little different.
Genuine, simple and for wanting of a better word, a special place to spend some time. Initially planning to stay for one night, I had to pull myself away 7 days later…. it was that kind of place.
100% off the grid, with comfortable structures on stilts for sleeping, paraffin lamps for the lighting in the rooms, hot water provided by a wood fired boiler, and an outdoor shower that was COMPLETELY open to a mountain backdrop, it was a place to revitalise and recharge.
My timing here coincided with a permaculture design course, ran and facilitated by Tim Wigley, a respected and knowledgeable South African, who, using TK as a base and example to work from, led a group of interested (and interesting!) people through the basics, ethos, and application of some of the principles.
I didn’t do the course as I didn’t want to commit my time to the 10 days required (my loss), and I cannot confess to be any kind of expert on the subject, but, I did pick a few things up by just being there.
*Permaculture, at least at a high level, is a practical method of creating and developing harmonious, efficient, and natural systems that work with, rather than against the environment, whatever that environment may be. A framework almost.
*Admittedly, a little C&P here.
I overheard a comment from within the group that stuck with me, along the lines of ensuring that wood harvested for the building structure was done in line with a full moon, to ensure that the effect of gravity was such that the sap within the tree was as far up the trunk of the tree as possible, to help prevent damage by termites, and the material would then last longer!
There were discussions on how to grow your own food using natural methods, how to use less and recycle more effectively, how to set up and maintain self composting toilets, which do not smell, and do, if used correctly, regulate themselves….
What I really liked was the mix and range of people there, and how everyone had their own ideas for how to apply the information learnt on the course back into their own lives / businesses, in a very real and practical way.
Skill sharing was encouraged, and after a slightly drunken evening I even found myself facilitating a yoga session for about 15 people one morning. That definitely wasn’t planned!
Drumming circles, impromtu gutar jamming sessions, good conversations, good people, good environment, and an eye opener to something that I had never really considered before.
Perhaps the beauty of travel?