Soutpansberg a pleasant surprise says Americans

Soutpansberg a pleasant surprise says Americans

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We were so encouraged by Tom Getman’s letter all the way from Washington:  “Not many people travelling in Southern Africa think of Venda in the Limpopo Province as a worthy tourist or project partnership visit.  For years visitors have seen this isolated but beautiful mountainous area only as a get-through-road from Johannesburg to the Kruger National Park or Great Zimbabwe and theVictoria Falls. Not much else would interrupt the dash on the N1, similar to America’s own Route 1 from Canada to Florida. Big mistake! 

The key is only updated information

As I found out when saying ill-advisedly to our travelling companions that “there is really nothing to see or stop for in this area”.  This made my more adventurous wife Karin immediately take up the challenge to mine the internet and secondly to discover that even the more open-minded Foders and Lonely Planet guide books have the same outdated misperception of the far North as my 30-year last  “wisdom”.

International travellers got the word of Madi a Thavha

How glad we all were then to discover Madi a Thava Mountain Lodge, a “Fair Trade Certified” lodge with its Dancing Fish Gallery, ethnic craft museum and sustainable development projects in a glorious conservancy setting.   And that only 10 kilometers (6 miles) from the town of Louis Trichardt on the N1 (newly renamed Makhado) and only 75 miles from the Zim border – a welcome discovery after a long day’s drive and the stressful border formalities.

The Dancing Fish is now almost always packed out with international travellers who have gotten the word!  Check out the informative website www.madiathavha.com if you are planning a trip to escape the winter’s horrors and at the same time want to broaden your vision of what is happening in the post-Mandela democracy!

Little bit of eco friendly heaven with marvelous staff

Dutch founder-owners, and former Scouting executives, Marcelle Bosch and Aart van Soest, with the help of 18 formerly unskilled local farm laborers have created an eco-friendly “little bit of heaven” on this former worn-down commercial farm.  It offers a spiritually and physically rejuvenating place on this troubled earth and a vibrant, hopeful model of what is possible.   One former field hand has become the housekeeping manager and director of the hospitality crew, two lively women the glorious creators of traditionally decorated cloth, two men became cultural craft guides and another a prize-winning, singing chef.

Tellingly the two seamstresses are named Ndivhuwo (“Thanks”) and Ndifelani (“What is our Dying for?”) on the photo here with the visionary owners and my wife Karin.   Aart and Marcelle hope that the enterprise will continue in the same spirit after they retire.  We are joining them in the hope that the local community and co-workers, as well as investors, will find a way to carry on this amazing holistic model – one more symbolic pebble in a large, culturally diverse pond.

In support of rural CraftArt and sustainable development

Madi a Thavha now supports 60 homes in rural villages scattered all over the far North to create the most beautiful traditional crafts and art, the sale of which support their struggling families.  One wood carver’s message in his sculptures warns of HIV/AIDs.

If you are planning a visit to South Africa in the future or are interested in having more information about “The Dancing Fish Gallery” please consult the website.  You won’t regret it. It may result in mutual encouragement as it did for us that will further the cause of cultural and ethnic healing in this beautiful yet isolate place. Expect to also get insight and perspective into your own challenges in your home countries, as we did. One useful tip is to know the universally recognized Zulu word: “Sawubona”a greeting, which appropriately means “I see you”… indicating too, a willingness to engage.

Sawubona!

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