Africa, Part 5.

Next destination was the KwaZulu-Natal Province. Here is a helpful map of South Africa to tell you where KZN is.

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It is an extremely beautiful area, all farmlands and photogenic countryside. My mom called it “England in Africa”, and she was right. It was settled by the English (no Africaans spoken there) and it looks like something out of Pride and Prejudice. The particular artist colony my mother came to study was a place called Ardmore. They make fine-art pottery that gets auctioned off at Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Every farm in the area has a cottage or two that they rent out to guests for extra money. This is Ardmore’s cottage.

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This is Ardmore’s gallery where art dealers come to look at the art and meet the artists and make purchases.

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And this is the house of the owner of Ardmore, Fée (pronounced “Fay”) Halsted-Berning. Note the English rose garden.

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Mom, Cricket and I stayed at a small farm nearby at a place called Caversham Mill. We stayed in an adorable cottage made of corrugated metal.

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It looks not-so-great from the outside, but the inside was all plastered and so it was nice and white with high ceilings and turn-of-the-century furniture. So airy and delightful. In the back was a porch with a stunning view. Now remember, this is a working farm, so there are animals all over. All the animals are kept in pens at night, but during the day they’re let out to stroll around and snuffle for food. It’s so very laid-back. Every sunny morning the two resident peacocks would hop up on our back porch and groom themselves. It’s a nice way to start the day.

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And then the two small black ponies would saunter around.

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In front of the cottage was a chicken pen and a pig pen. Here’s Mrs. Peacock hanging out with them.

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And this was the gate in front of our cottage/farm area. I became well-acquainted with this gate, since I had to get out of the car many times to open it. Me and the gate, we’re pals.

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That whole area is called the Midlands Meander. Each farm does something (Caversham has a printing press and a fine restaurant, Ardmore makes high-end ceramics, another makes all kinds of cheese products, another does musuem-quality beaded wall hangings, etc.) so you drive from farm to farm and you check out what they do. It’s a very lovely experience. At one farm I saw some truly stellar, truly free-range chickens. No pen at all. Laying eggs any which place.

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This was the same farm that I saw the great shabby-chic bathroom with the chandelier.

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One one of our travels to the other farms, we saw a sign that said “Gunther’s – German/Swiss Food”, and that intrigued us, so we went to Gunther’s farm. Definitely not a disappointment.

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Let’s take stock here – we got the blue-and-white checked tablecloths, the giant cowbells, the two Saint Bernards, the flag decorations… and the Grand Central fiberglass cow. Don’t really know what that’s doing there, but I’m not one to judge. What you can’t appreciate from this picture is the dark wood decorations, the beer signs, and the real oom-pa-pa beer hall music playing. This was AUTHENTIC. They lady of the house (Gunther’s wife) let us try four samples of homemade wurst, which were excellent. We ended up buying the weisswurst. And gawking at the view. The view thing never got old.

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Now, not everything in KZN is peachy keen. This is the place with the highest AIDS per capita of anywhere on earth – 3 in 5 people have it. The schools (which are sponsored by private companies, so many of the school signs say things like “Drink Clover Milk!” on them) look like maximum security prisons.

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That school has two fences, one electrical and one with razor wire. And the “no guns, no knives, no drugs” sign is not a joke. It’s a big problem out there. So is the poverty. Many houses (if you can call them that) don’t have running water or electricity.

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But people make the best of it. I liked the Pepto-Bismol painted shanties.

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And we saw real cow herders walking their cows (called Nguni cows) from field to field.

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They also have a bit of a problem with potholes.

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Now you’re probably thinking of potholes that you’re familiar with. Don’t. These were axle-breaking horrors. They looked like there had been a dinosaur-style meteor shower, with three-foot wide flaming rocks screaming into the surface of the earth. And they were everywhere. You couldn’t avoid them. This is just a sample of the most photogenic of the potholes.

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But other than that, it’s a pretty gorgeous place to visit with stunning vistas, charming farms and art, delicious food and a very relaxed and creative aura. Tomorrow, cave paintings.

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