Clarens and the end of the ‘titty’ era

Some of you might think that I just insert breasts wherever I can as a selling point for my blog. It’s not true. When I went away with my husband to celebrate our eleventh wedding anniversary, there was some trepidation. Because I was still breastfeeding my three year old.  How would he survive two nights without ‘titty’? If I analysed it too much, I would never leave him.  But  we needed to get away, just the two of us,  and so we went.

The Maluti Mountains, the National Golden Gate Park and the town of Clarens are secret treasures some three hours from Jo’burg. Ever since they’ve been doing those awful road works in the Northern Berg by the Sterkfontein  Damn, it’s become harder  and longer to get to my favourite place in the world. But the beauty of the Maluti mountains is great compensation.

maluti view

We arrived at about two pm and immediately headed out from the Golden Gate Park Tourist Centre, on a  walk called Mushroom Rock. It’s an hour long and  someone had been so very considerate to put up a sign confirming our moment of arrival.

End Point Mushroom rock

 

Mushroom Rock is a gorgeous piece of pink – grey rock  that feels as if it belongs in the grandeur of Lord of the Rings. On our way to to rock we saw a small brown snake sitting in the sun alongside our path which obliged us by staying still so we could do a photo shoot.

mushroom rockSnake

The guides had clearly assumed that people walk very slowly as the hour long Mushroom Rock took us about half the time and so we headed out on another trail called Echo Ravine.  Echo Ravine took us through a small forest and into a grotto where sure enough, our shouts reverberated back to us. The winter had brought masses of yellow leaves into a dry driver bed and so we walked along  the river and into the ravine with a whistling wind gathering above us. Deep in the ravine we sat together, meditated for a few minutes and sang a song that  for some reason we sing wherever we hike. It’s from Psalms and we sing it in a slow mantra ‘Mah Gadlu Ma’asecha Yah, Me’od Amku Machshevotecha’ ‘How great are Your deeds, God, how deep are Your thoughts’.

Echo Ravine

When my husband booked our retreat as our surprise anniversary gift, he hadn’t realised that our holiday in nature was a ten minute drive from Clarens.  But as soon as I worked out the GPS details of where we were, I figured there was really ‘fine dining’ ten minutes away in Clarens and what’s more, it was an artsy town with a foodie culture.  We read reviews of the top ten restaurants in Clarens and we booked in to one that night called Clementines. I’ve already written about the wonderful surprise I received there. But  beyond engagement rings and romantic proposals, Clarens is delightful. It is  a cultural paradox in the Free State to find an artsy town with craft beer and artisanal bakeries, crowded with tourists on an out of season Monday. Upon arrival, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were in SoHo or Williamsburg.

hipsters
Hipsters drink craft beer on main square in Clarens
We roamed art galleries, looking at paintings and sculptures. We met jewellery artisans and  got a sense of the local politics.

Freedom Frton

I sampled some of the best melk tert I have ever tasted at the Courtyard Bakery and Cafe while Farryl ate the best spinach and feta pancake of his life.

melk tert

We also discovered a painter by the name of Pieter van Der  Westhuizen who spent some time in Israel and has made some evocative etchings around the Jewish festivals and life cycle events.

But mostly we did hiking.  Our first morning after a good night sleep, ensconced in the electric blanket,  we aimed to do a  four hour hike called the Wodehouse trail. It started with some steep rock climbing, relying on chains to haul us up. Everything was going fine until one of the poles embedded in the rock wobbled and seemed unstable. When you are throwing your entire weight onto a chain that is hauling you up a sheer rock face at a ninety degree angle, you want to know that your poles are bedded deep and firm in the mountain. It was, to say the least,  unnerving. I suppose for all my bravado about how much I love hiking, I need to acknowledge that I am a Jewish hiker. It’s really a paradox. Picture Woody Allen in the mountains. I suppose this confession is necessary for what came next on the Wodehouse trail.  The next phase of the hike was not well signposted. My husband and I found ourselves skirting a narrow path along a mountain with a crazily sheer fall beneath us. We were hugging the long grass on the one side of the path and trying not to make eye contact with the drop that faced us on the other.  We continued this way,  bravely, courageously, like Vikings,  for about four metres. At which point I reminded said husband that we had two small children waiting for us at home. So we returned to  a main path and proceeded to simply bundu bash our way up the mountain in the hope of meeting the Wodehouse path again. Up and up we went through grass and over rock until we arrived at a very high peak. But there was no path. And there was no Wodehouse.  So we sat on said peak. Conversed for a little about how ‘it’s not the destination but the journey that matters’. And then made our way down.  On our way down, we came across a small flight of stairs just before the dangerously narrow path  which we had missed. We took these stairs and saw a sign saying ‘Wodehouse’.  It seems we were meant to go down these stairs and not along the narrow escarpment. If we were real hikers we would probably have continued on to Wodehouse but two hours into our hike, we decided to call it a day. We walked across a bridge  with a dangerously missing piece in the middle and reflected that the Golden Gate Park could do with some signage and general upgrades.

broken bridge

The following day, our last in the bush, we phoned a local farmer who advertised trails on the main road and we asked if he had a two hour trail for us to walk on our way back to Jo’Burg.  He said he did and so it was that at seven thirty am, amidst the mist of a winter morning we found ourselves meeting a farmer by the name of  Christo on his  Bokpoort Farm. He  pointed out a two hour trail we could walk and then left us to it.  His two dogs accompanied us for the walk and  it was very beautiful to soak up the nature and the place even though I ended up tearing my uniqlo jacket on a piece of barbed wire. When we returned, triumphant to the farm, we saw that Christo was girded up with four of his friends to go hunting for the morning. They had come out in full hunting regalia,  Texan hats, mustaches and all.  It was a teensy bit jarring for me, a sort of meat eater with vegetarian sympathies.

farm walk

After the hike, we stopped in at Clarens one last time and sampled the Highlands Coffee. From a food perspective, it felt as if you could get the very best of everything in Clarens. I mean even the honey they serve with their cappacinnos is pure and not the artificial drek we get in most restaurants in Jozi. What’s up with that!

peels

We drove back to Jo’burg. We had hiked, we had galleried, we had eaten well. There was really just the question about what would my son do when he saw me. Would he immediately ask for ‘titty’? On the way home, my husband goaded me, ‘ enough with the breastfeeding already. Put your foot down (or your top, as the case may be). He doesn’t need it anymore. He has been fine for two days. Stop titty now’. And so I firmed my resolve not to give my three year old titty.  We arrived home and when son asked for titty I told him a mountain fairy had taken away my milk. There was crying. There were tantrums. There have been many questions like, ‘Has the fairy returned your milk yet?’.  No Adam, the fairy has not given me my milk back. The mountain fairy has taken my milk forever.   Generally he has coped. We’ve used lots of TV and lots of biscuits in the weaning process.  And then, there’s the other coping mechanism he has developed. You see,  every morning when he wakes up, he  asks if he can just ‘hold’ my titty. Hold it? You mean as in clutch? No, it’s really just a gentle sort of reminder, a connection.  I mean…. what’s a girl to do!  So I allow him to put his hands on my breasts. It gets a bit awkward because my husband thinks the titties are his again now that  breastfeeding is over. So at times, there’s one small hand on the left and a larger, hairier hand on the right.   No, I won’t share a picture of that.

 

11 thoughts on “Clarens and the end of the ‘titty’ era

  1. Adina, I got lost on that same stupid Wodehouse trail, EIGHT hours of not finding the path, dehydrated, anxious, also thinking DEATH. I wrote to national parks to complain about the signage, also to tell them about my near death experience. no acknowledgement.
    Also, what is a blog without ALL the pics, hey, hey??

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    1. I can’t believe you had such a similar experience. That’s crazy. We thought it was just us. What would it take to do a little signposting!!i leave the actual titty photos for your blog!

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  2. Awesome. I been to that part of the world many times. Hiked. Mountain biked. Further on the Bokpoort dirt road on another farm is a 4×4 smugglers trail with a great view of the Caledon river border with Lesotho one side and the coffeed town of Clarens the other.

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  3. Adina! I adore your writing.

    My mom wants to retire to Clarens. Its her happy place. Although it can be hella cold in winter I hear.

    My happy place is the Drakensburg. I can sit for hours in a sun puddle with my book and just read and stare at the mountains and drink tea.

    Yay (sad?) for weaning. Such a big milestone.

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  4. Adina, I can’t wait for Jewgal and your escapades with Farrel! Your blog makes me homesick than ever. Would love to go back to Clarens and Golden Gate!
    Pieter vd Westhuizen’s work is great and he is quite widely collected.
    PS. The Peels honey you had is familiar to us Natalians who grew up with it as its made in the Midlands just near Howick. When you next drive to/from Durban their shop is visible from the N3. You guys should do the Midlands Meander next ! Lots of love! Warren

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  5. Oh you are funny! I miss that part of the world and you’ve recaptured a little bit for me. I love van Der westhuizen so much so that my parents took me to his studio on a kind of a pilgrimage and we unexpectedly met him. He was just a tad intoxicated (and intoxicating!)
    Glad you’ve re-possessed your titty- although sounds like they’ll never fully be yours again 🙂 big hug and miss you to the extent I can without having met you! Xxxxxxxxx

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