A must visit if you’re traveling in the Western Cape.
Natures Valley is a paradise resting on the foot of the Groot River Pass in the Western Cape of South Africa. The river ends it’s restless wandering from its mountain source under a little stone bridge. Then water swirls around boulders prominent and sharp. Like a black leather belt on blue jeans, the dark flow continues its course, circling a grassy island before vanishing into a violent sea.
The ocean is always losing itself across golden stretches of sand that are firmed by salt. Calmly looking on is the lagoon, formed by the river, offering a safer swim for the young and elderly.
Behind the waters, woven like embroidery around humble homes, the breathing trees of the Tzitzikama forest shade and shelter the valley in serenity. The forest’s bold presence sown on bending mountains always reminded my Grandfather of Switzerland in the summer.
My dad, uncles and I enjoy fishing off craggy rocks as the mercy of the tide accommodates our communion. In my younger years early mornings at the lagoon, with the help of rusty hooks, sinkers, and a patient father, were spent learning how to pump prawns and cast my line away from danger.
Uncle Tim and Rob are master divers; when the bay is still they collect seafood even Pirates would trade gold for. In the deep the coral hide crayfish, olichree, mussels, and perlemoen, all of which are uncovered by the keen eyes of the explorers.
Meanwhile, top of the water, dad and I collect bait for fishing: worms, redbait, octopus in murky pools, and prawns along the riverbanks. We remain ever observant and guarded over our collection of bait that we pile into old, cotton fishing bags. If we drop our guard crafty seagulls swoop down for a free meal with deafly shrills attempting to satisfy their hunger pangs.
On the sand we hear the noise of families in holiday cottages, breathing and living. Our home is a wild garden sleeping under tall mountains. Mornings here host wake up calls by a feathered orchestra frolicking on yellow wood limbs, sharing their joy. Sometimes shy buck wander through long grass or along the road where tar confuses their hoofs. Families of monkeys and red-bummed baboons are brave visiting kitchen tables for louquots and cherry-guavas while loeries display beauty with rainbow colored wings perched on tired branches.
Late afternoons empty the sea of bathers who have had their full of saltwater. The open blue is always talking to surfers:
“West wind boys, shore break, c’mon, perfect lefts!”
She is a gracious host of barrels and sets that repeat like a favorite song caught in one’s mind. We catch the waves either in a natural bay or where the water unfurls along sandy beaches. Time is in the sky when we’re in the water and only the descent of darkness can move our bodies to gravity on the sand.
The walk home is with the cool of day on graveled roads next to families and their dogs. Evenings turn responsible; men make fires and cook meat, women make potato salad and devilled eggs. Wood is gathered by young men, while fathers drink beer on brown benches steering passage for their sons, through the trees, from a distance.
The sun begins to rest its head and flames from fires partner with the moon to compensate the light. The forest is a fairyland of fireflies; glowing green and yellow lights speckle across dark bark and deep night. The lazy hazy days of summer are cherished and then buried safely in memories untouched by trouble.
As the fire wanes, bellies full and light from embers torch the path back into the house. Sound from the sea lullabies sleepy heads filled with wine and love while musty bedrooms close their doors and sigh with rusty fans that hardly bring relief.
We close our eyes with dark streets and strange nocturnal noises seeping from the forest. Our evening prayer is humble and offered in one chorus:
“From creepies and crawlies and things that go boomp in the night dear Lord deliver us.”
And He does. With sleep and dreams as lovely as the valley, waking to the sounds of monkeys in the kitchen.