Finally I can set my mind to typing my next update. Out of the middle of nowhere I have a hard time adjusting to the city. Even though I am on the outskirts of Cape Town right now, there is traffic and such that I'm not really used to anymore. But let me tell you about Rustlers Valley first.
As you know from my last update, I didn't go to Monkeyland after all. Instead I went to Rustlers Valley. I heard so many good stories before I went from Ed (the volunteer coordinator) and David (the volunteer house manager) since they got back a week before I went, that my expectations were really high.
The only thing was a 17-hour busride from Cape Town to Fickburg (with a bus change in Bloemfontein). I really can't sleep in a bus and definitely not when it is fully packed, so I was kind of exhausted when I arrived in Ficksburg. At Ficksburg drop off, Frik was picking me up to get to Rustlers Valley.
I had to wait quite a while because of a misunderstanding between Ed and Frik, so I learned the hard way never to go travelling without money on my phone (what was I thinking!!)
If you know you will be going to the middle of nowhere, you kind of expect a "bakkie" (African english for pick up truck) but Frik's car was anything but that. It was an old battered regular car, which almost came with a manual, but it drove (no offence, Frik). After a 45-minute drive we arrived at Rustlers Valley where my first weekend was dominated by rainfall.
I know that my first impression was that you are really in a valley with mountains on each side, but the mountains aren't really that high. And weirdest of all, they are all flat on top, as if somebody just chopped of the tops. By roaming aroud the area you really feel off the world. There is no cell phone reception, you don't have television or radio or newspaper so I really started feeling part of nature. And at the same time you get to know the people of Rustlers Valley.
Of course there is Frik and Myrtle, who have a partnership in the restaurant (the Saucery); Phillippa, Niyan, Sky and Adam who live up the mountain at Marimba House; Tom, Suzi and Zander (Suzi runs the Craftshop), Eidin and her son Juno, Derek and Claire and lots of people from the village. Jasmin and Muggi are parked there with a red fire truck, which is rebuilt as a home on wheels.
Muggi drove the truck all the way to Rustlers from Germany and will return there, with Jasmin, driving away at the end of February. And during parties (and there are many of those, large and small) you also meet the people from neighbouring farms as Franshoek and Nebo. For me, they were all great people and I am so glad I got the opportunity to meet them.
In the valley there is also lots of wildlife. If you look down from the restaurant you can see horses running. The used to be polo horses, but they are now a free hurd and breeding on as such. There are also cows roaming around the area, belonging to the village. And mother and son wildebeest protect their frineds, which is a family of Blesboks. While I was there all three females (and there is one male) had baby blesboks, so the family is expanding.
And of course there is lots of small wildlife. Along the way to Rustlers Valley you will meet the widowbird (the male has a tale so long that it is actually too heavy too fly, and that looks so funny!! I always imagine the effort he has to make to get to the other side of the road: "almost there, almost there, made it (they land on the first thing off the ground the meet on the other side), pfew, hehehehehehehehe") and there are lots of other beautiful colored birds.
And there are frogs, lots of them! And they actually come jumping all the way into the restaurant at night. I love frogs. I even had one for 9 weeks in my room while I was there. I named him Humpfrey and even when Lorraine came, he stayed with me. At first he lived in my shoes, but as soon as my backpack was open on the ground he moved into that.
I didn't really mind, because I already had fallen in love with him and he was the best mosquito catcher I ever had. I have never been bitten by anything ever since he moved in. And no, I didn't kiss him when I left (maybe I should have), Lorraine is taking care of him now.
That first weekend all the guests left and my first week was nice and quiet. Instead of working really hard, I could wander around the environment and get to know it, read books and go on hikes. I did a little bit of gardening (planted tomato plants, lots of hosing, some cherry sorting on one of the neighbouring farms - Nebo), but my main focus would be working at the Saucery, which is the restaurant.
Yup, after almost 9 years working in bars and restaurants for a living I was now going to do it for free. Not really the type of work I was going to South Africa for, but the environment made up for it. The second weekend of November was when it al got started. In Ficksburg was a Cherry Festival (or Kersie Feesten, the Afrikaans is very similar to Dutch) and even though we had nothing to do with the festival itself, lots of guests came to stay. And that meant lots of work for me, because all those people wanted to eat. A
s I was the only waitress around, I worked both breakfast and dinner shifts (the restaurant doesn't serve lunch). Lots of hours working and only a couple of hours of free time in between made sure I wasn't really up for hikes or anything else for a while.
As I said, Cherry Festival got it all started. Because after that, it was the Waldorf school camp who needed to be fed (which had lunch by the way, so now I was temporarily working all day every day) and the day they left the people from the "For the one"-dance were there.
The Dance was a story of itself. Scared a bit at first and intrigued at the end, I let myself into their almost spiritual world. The Dance consists of 48 hours without food or drinks (as well as water) and you dance on the rhythm of the drums. It doesn't mean you dance 48 hours, you sleep at night and you have breaks in between.
The dance itself is whatever you want. In the middle of a circle (which is called the arbour) is a pole, which represents whatever you want it to be (spirits, ancesters, God, etc.). And you dance back and forward to that pole in any style you want to at that moment. The whole Dance is full of rituals and spiritual meanings and in the end you come out as a new you. If you want to know more about it, look at www.jeannewhiteeagle.com. I myself might do the dance one day. This time just being around was enough.
The people of the Dance stayed 2 weeks and when they left it was immediately time for the Permaculture course. I didn't take the course, but the 65 people who did, needed to be fed, of course. Three meals a day and also 2 tea breaks. That was a lot of work to do, so I was really happy to get help from another Aviva volunteer named Lorraine.
She was quick enough to learn the drill even though she never worked in a bar or restaurant before, so we could split the day in 2 shifts (7 am -2 pm & 2 pm - 10 pm). It did also mean we didn't get to spent much time together, but the time off was really nice, even though I was still working every day. The people on the permaculture course were not really the people you want to meet.
They were rude and made us feel like we were their slaves and especially the contrast after the dance (those people were so nice and kind) made it hard to adjust. And I got proposed too. The guy was totally serious!! So was I when I said "definitely not" and hid in the kitchen for the rest of the day.
After the Permaculture course we had a bit of a quiet time. Not many guests were around so that gave the opportunity to get some days of. Niyan (one of the residents of Rustlers Valley) was organising a drum course at that time and I always wanted to learn how to drum. Now that I was so close I thought I might as well do it, so I joined in.
It was a 4-day beginners course and I could get those days of from working in the restaurant. I totally loved it. My hands were really sore and swollen after 2 days, but I just kept on playing and didn't think about it. My hands actually got better after day 2, but were still sensitive.
Ansa, our drum master, said I was talented and couldn't believe I didn't have a drum at home or didn't play regularly. He even invited me to the advanced workshop a couple of days later. Unfortunately I had to work during this workshop, but I got to jam with the people from the advanced course (which included 8 drum circle masters as well). I got hooked!! And I am gonna try to buy a nice drum here and take it home.
Christmas Time: finally one day totally off (we were closed on Christmas day), but for me it didn't feel like Christmas at all. I missed the main ingredient. And that wasn't my family or friends (sorry guys, but I missed you some other times) because I don't really celebrate Christmas, but it was the snow.
Friends who went skiing and sent me a snowy sms made me feel a bit sad, because I really was missing winter at the time. December 26th was the day work started again. The first people for the New Years Festival started to arrive.
New Year: a big happening at Rustlers Valley although this year they kept it kind of small. To me it was a bit like Dance Valley: party, party, party!! I was getting used to the great parties they throw at Rustlers, because I already missed a couple of nights due to partying. But then I have to say that Damon is a really good DJ, keeps me dancing all night long!
With New Year it was the same thing. I was working a dinner shift till 10 pm, going to the party and dance all night and morning till 2 pm when my next shift started. Of course, Damon played as lovely as ever, but the other dj-s were not bad either. It didn't feel like New Year to me though, same reason: the snow. And they missed the count down!!!
So no big thing going into 2005. Only a little bit of fireworks and some people wishing you a happy new year, but that was it. It was fine with me, I wasn't really in a New Year spirit anyhow.
When everybody left after the New Year Festival (which went on for 3 days and 2 nights by the way, I slept 3 hours the second night before I worked the breakfast shift….J) everything quieted down. It was nice and not nice at the same time. It was nice to be able to spent some free time on hikes and visiting people around the valley.
But at the same time it reminded me that I was leaving soon. And for me, Rustlers Valley is my paradise in South Africa. I met a gorgeous environment and the most wonderfull people on my stay there and I hope to see them back before I leave.
After a tearfull goodbye, a 17-hour busride back to Cape Town (unfortunately sitting next to a guy who was so big he took up 1/2 of my seat as well, luckily I lost some weight at Rustlers) and over a week later I am still sad I'm out of the Valley. I know it sounded like a lot of work I had to do during my stay there, most of the time it didn't feel like that.
All the people that come by at Rustlers Valley are really nice and lovely and there is no need to hurry. Especially around Festivals the atmosphere is so great, that you don't even notice you are working. And it is no problem that you party all night long to go straight back to work (after a shower), as I tested a couple of times. And usually you party with the same people as you served before or afterwards in the restaurant, so they know all about it. Yes, I loved it there!!
Through this story I tried to give you an inside into Rustlers Valley, but for me it is beyond words.