It was with eager anticipation that we set off south to a farm outside Parys. Situated at the apex of two provinces and in the middle of a crater so big and so old you cannot perceive it by looking. This area of the Vredefort Dome, a crater caused by one of the largest asteroids ever to strike the earth two billion years ago, is a favourite place of ours. Close enough to drive to in an afternoon, far enough away to blow away the dust and grind of the city.
It also sits heavy with ancient wisdom and a still energy that comes only with the ages that it has witnessed on this planet. For the two of us who spend so much of our time holding a space for others; building, creating and dreaming into reality a world of possibility and presence, community and creativity we were really looking forward to having this space hold us for a few days.
We were met by a jovial, energetic man eager to chat and easy to connect with. He showed us to our accommodation, a thatched cottage that could have magiced out of one of the stories we read as children. There was other accommodation, which he happily showed us.
“You are here on your own this weekend,” he said, “Enjoy the pool, it’s going to be great weather.”
We settled in and breathed out. After a refreshing swim in the plunge pool, we wandered to the deck to watch the sun dip behind the rolling hills. It waved golden pink threads over the clouds playing catch in the slowly darkening sky.
“Tomorrow we can do yoga on the lawn and the next day on the deck,” said Chantal, already planning the days ahead.
A place of tranquillity and nature. At least for a while!
Discordance disturbs the peace
The following day after doing yoga on the lawn and meandering through the morning we took a slow drive through to Parys, for breakfast that had fast become lunch.
Chantal decided on the venue.
“We haven’t been here before, let’s try it while it is still early. As it’s Friday it won’t be as busy as tomorrow,” she said to an agreeable Matthew.
It was hot so we sat in a corner on the upper deck, hoping for a breeze. Matthew was assured that he could still order breakfast and Chantal ordered one of the two vegetarian dishes available for her early lunch. There was only one other occupied table on the far side of the deck and the only noise came from the large trucks rumbling through the village.
Two men arrived and sat close by. Sunglassed up, shirts stretched across ample girths they proceeded to talk and laugh - loudly. They were clearly happy it was Friday and were taking the afternoon off. Their voices served as an unpleasant discordant backdrop to our meal experience which was bland with unwanted extras.
The food itself was underwhelming. When Matthew found a piece of metal in his meal all the petite, inexperienced “manager” with little authority could offer was a piece of paper containing a customer satisfaction survey.
“I’m sorry about that,” she said sheepishly before she scurried away.
African sunsets are the best!
An unwanted surprise
Later that afternoon, we bobbed in the pool, happy to be out of the sun and back from the town.
“I really wouldn’t be happy here if there were other people that we didn’t know in the other units,” said Chantal, floating on her back, “Imagine sharing this place with people that smoked, and drank and had loud parties around the pool.”
“Can I help you?” asked Matthew looking up at someone in surprise.
“I’ve booked the other unit,” the voice said, “I can’t get hold of the people to check in.”
With that our sanctuary was shattered. As the words left Chantal’s mouth, what she specifically did not want was manifested. Or so it seemed.
What appeared to be a father and son established themselves in the next door unit, the older man clasping a cigarette between stained fingers on one hand and a can of beer in the other. The smell of his smoke hung like a cloak around him and a round wet stain sat on each surface wherever he moved.
We had barely adapted to new neighbours when a very large Land Cruiser pulled up at the other unit. Out spilled four chatty women who spread themselves out at the pool and cackled their way through several alcoholic drinks.
We, who yearned for peace and solitude, found ourselves imprisoned in our tiny cottage barricaded in by the cawcaws from outside. We had nowhere to escape to but decided in dismay that we had to.
Our disappointment deep, we packed up and left the next morning. Our dream of a few days of stillness was splintered by unsuspecting souls also looking for a good time but not quite the kind of good time we were.
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Ejected and dejected
It took a while to traverse the hurdle of the loss of our short time away. We felt ejected and very dejected. Angry even. We silently spat out our resentment at the noise, the lack of awareness and the unconscious behaviour of others that had impacted us so acutely.
It was nobody’s fault. The advert had not been clear about the existence or the close proximity of the other units. In exchange, we were offered a week day break when we could be guaranteed alone time. Although at the time it felt like an uncomfortable bandage only half concealing the wound.
When we had time to recover our sense of humour, once we were able to gain some quiet time in our quiet home, swimming in our pool with no cackling, drinking lookers on, and smelling only the sweet scent of incense and after rain freshness, we recalibrated and were able to spend the rest of our “break” taking a break.
Hold lighter the outcome
It is times like these that we are called, often unwillingly, to accept what is, make a choice and then adapt to the situation. It does not mean that it is (or was) easy. We had expectations and put a weight of meaning into this place, our time away and what we wanted from it. We were very attached to the outcome cloaked in dreams of quiet, flow and the preciousness of only us, our experience, our rest, our long-awaited and hard-earned, albeit short, respite.
It does mean that we will be a little bit more circumspect the next time we book a break away. We will ask the questions and get clarity on whether our needs will be met. It also means that we will hold a little lightler our connection to the end result and maybe not wait quite as long before we consciously take a breath out.
Until next time.
Yours in feeling,
Matthew & Chantal
About the author
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