It’s finally November! While our cousins in the Northern Hemisphere are busting out their boots and preparing to flavor everything with pumpkin spice, we down here in Mzansi are getting ready for summer. It took a while to get used to spending Thanksgiving and Christmas in the heat, but I can think of worse ways to spend the yuletide on the beach, waiting for Santa to surf up in his little red speedo. (What a disturbing thought…)
This December is our fifth Christmas in the country, and possibly our last one together as a complete family unit. It’s hard to believe, but Nadjah will turn 18 next year and if our plans go as they should, she’ll be in a different part of the world next fall. And as anyone who has lived the immigrant experience can attest – once your kids go abroad for school/work, the likelihood of them being able to come home for the holidays becomes more difficult and less likely due to the novel financial burdens their new lives incur. With that in mind, I’ve determined to make this holiday a memorable one for all of us.
But how do you do that during a pandemic? (And yes, believe it or not we’re still in the midst of one.)
And secondly, how do you do that when your home IS THE summertime tourist destination for the whole nation?
It’s taken me six years, but I’ve figured it out: You have to ‘pre-holiday’ in order to have your holiday. That is, you have to create as many holiday memories before the tourist season. It now makes sense to me why our friends and locals constantly jet set off to the many posh and remote sites that dot the Garden Route. I thought they were just being snobbish, but they were being smart. I wish I had discovered this hack earlier, because the competition for accommodation, entertainment…even FOOD… is fierce during the months of December – January. You haven’t reached your lowest until you’ve fought someone’s uncle for the last box of Wheatbix at Shoprite. And if the crowds aren’t enough of a deterrent, the rates will be. Everything goes up by 50% during the holiday season.
Not my family. Never again.
There’s a lot we can do and enjoy before the vaalies come to town. Our first foray into this new culture of pre-holidaying was a weekend stay at Teniqua Treetops where we spent the night in a tree house. The venue is in Sedgefield, just 45 minutes from our home in George so it felt far enough from to feel like we’d gotten away from home and close enough to get back quickly if we needed to. I loved everything about our stay, from Beatrice who took our reservation; to the ponies that walk up and greet you like a puppy; to the ACTUAL puppy that made it’s way to our tree house; to the owner/operator (whose name I didn’t catch) who was happy to let us make use of the game room long after check-out.
Have you ever spent the night in a tree house? I think it’s on every 80’s baby’s lust-bucket-list; a natural consequence of binging movies like Goonies and The Sandlot during our impressionable years. Some of my kids were less enthusiastic about being this close to the outdoors without ready access to WiFi (not Liya. Y’all know she loves the outside like duck loves water), but they didn’t complain in a chorus, which was good for my nerves. And besides, after many failed vacations, I think Marshall and I have figured out a good holiday template that keeps everyone satisfied: the first one being making sure that there is access to a pool.
Because this was a self-catering facility, we had the benefit of cooking our own meals. There are few things more disappointing or triggering than going out to eat and having your plate come back with mushrooms when you expressly asked for none and those few seconds when you have to decide if this is the time to nut up or just eat your mushrooms in sullen silence. This doesn’t happen when dad is the chef.
This is where I have to confess some of the fears I harbored ahead of our stay. We were spending the night in wild-ass South Africa, where the bugs grow six times larger than their counterparts in the northern hemisphere and where the darkness that Yahweh first spoke light into was created. Original darkness. Ancient darkness. Populated with original and ancient animals. However none of them felt it necessary to bunk with us or check out what we were doing in the loo; and as a consequence I got the answer to a question that has plagued me for a lot of my adult life: What’s it like to take a dump outside in Africa? Now I know.
Since it was Halloween weekend, we thought we would take a night stroll for some added “spookiness”. There wasn’t much to see (for which I’m grateful!), but the night sky was incredible without the interference of the city lights.
For what we lacked in nighttime action, we got at dawn when the resident big black rooster – and honestly, I’ve never seen a fatter, blacker cock- began to crow at FOUR THIRTY AM! However my irritation quickly turned to gratitude, because I’ve never seen the moon this close and in this much detail as I did Sunday morning! I reached for my Canon SX and got these incredible shots of both the moon and the resident peacock. As fantastic as these images are, I can’t help but wonder what the outcome might have been with a swagged out professional lens like a Sony SEL.
Teniqua Treetops has set the bar high for my family’s pre-holiday custom. I know this blog felt like a paid ad for the facility (I wish, and it’s not), but you guys know me. I only write about things that I’m passionate and feel positively about. I hope to have more weekends like this one over the course of the holiday season, where the environment draws us together, inspires conversation and encourages teamwork. I can’t tell you how good it felt to see my kids gathered around a table, off their devices playing dominoes and cards…and truly enjoying each other’s company!
Well, except for the forest walk. That was hectic. Me nah wanna do dat again any time soon…
Do you have any new traditions you are creating in response to or because of the pandemic? How as the new decade brought change in your life, perhaps as a result of something more positive than a global scourge? I’d love to hear! Drop your comments and share the love.