After a very turbulent first day in Johannesburg, let’s go to Knysna (pronounce it “Naïzna”), located in the South of the country, for a volunteering in a much safer and more quiet environment, which I am already in love with.
Bye bye Jo’burg
The benefits of spending days full of unexpected developments is that you sleep like a baby! This was the case for my only night in Johannesburg, after this hectic arrival. Just some time to pack my bags, have my breakfast and I head towards the airport. Short hesitation when I see that the streets look more lively and safer than the previous day (Sunday), but I still take an Uber to get to Park Station. It was the right move: I can notice during this short trip by car that even during weekdays, this district is nothing but safe. Not sure that I would have got to the station safe and sound if I had been on foot!
My transfer to the airport runs well and the arrival in George at the end of the flight is splendid: we fly over a succession of mountains and green valleys and then turn off on the Ocean and its wild waves. The sun is waiting for me at the arrival where I am welcomed by “The Esthers”, two Dutch girls also volunteering at Homtini, whose names are both Esther.
The hour that separates us from the farm is the occasion to get to know each other, while admiring the famous Garden Route on which we drive. The light is completely gold at this time of the day, what an inviting environment!
A small piece of heaven
The farm will be up to my expectations: deep into nature with hectares of forest all around and a huge terrace covering the whole width of the house overlooking the mountains… Turn your head: sunrise in the morning on the right, sunset in the evening on the left. The sun whole day long then! Have a listen: birds, sound of the wind in the trees, but no car nor any other interference. My meditation time is going to be much better in such conditions…
I found this volunteering at Homtini via Workaway. This organic farm, specialized on blueberries, offers touristic accommodation (its main source of income) with some cottages, huts and tents in the forest. Part of the benefits are used to help Rheenendal, the local township and especially the school that has children suffering from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.
We had agreed by email with the owners that I could help for the blueberries harvest (which starts in October) and the work in the fields, as well as with the bookings and of course by taking pictures that could help with the farm promotion.
The owners, Jeremy & Margreta, are not here yet, they will only come back on Saturday. The farm is then in the hands of one of the two Esther since April, and run by its employees. The other Esther (that we call “Essie” to distinguish them) arrived about one month ago and Solène (a lovely French girl) ten days ago. The two Esther work on a project to ride on the Garden Route by bike during nine days at the end of October. The aim is to raise funds for the township. Solène is like me, here to help in the fields and work on other projects with the community. Two other volunteers will come from Switzerland next week. And of course, let’s not forget Teddy, the adorable and loyal dog of the farm. Loving and always present without being invading, he follows us wherever we go and definitely contributes to the peaceful atmosphere of the place.
Our roles are not clearly defined yet and the atmosphere is special as long as the owners are not here. The employees are not waiting for our help and it’s true that we are not here to take their job. But the area is big enough to find things to do!
Will my coton buds get bigger here?
The day went very fast yesterday, between the morning spent digging in a field, midday discovering the booking system with Samantha (one of the employees) and the afternoon in the forest to cut branches (even trunks!) that were on the way, so to make facilitate the visitors’ strolls. We use the axe like real woodcutters! The vegetation in this forest can not be compared to the forests I am used to in Normandy or in Fontainebleau. Many plants and bushes have big thorns, lianas, some look like aloe vera… a real change of scene. Once back home, I take some time to take pictures of the area and couldn’t feel happier.
Evenings are really sweet after such physical days. For my arrival Solène prepared some crêpes (in case I would already miss France!), on the second day we prepare a pie with zucchinis, mushrooms and feta cheese, and tonight I cooked a crumble with butternut, carrots, oignons and coconut. The kitchen is wide and very pleasant so I won’t need to be asked twice to cook nice dishes! As for our talks with the girls, they are enthralling. All of them have already traveled and/or volunteered and we don’t lack on conversation topics. Even when I am alone with Solène, we speak English as much as we can, one of her objectives being to progress (and I am always happy to speak English!). We also plan on making the most of our weekends to go together exploring the region.
Nice projects in perspective and a volunteering that sounds ideal… we’ll now see what comes up!
TIPS & PRACTICAL INFO
I am accommodated for free at Homtini Guest Farm but I can highly recommend this little piece of heaven deep in to nature! Cottages, huts and tents in the forest, but perfectly equipped ; swimming-pool, sauna and hiking trails in the forest around.
Flight from Johannesburg to George with kulula.com: 58€