When Matilda and I started this blog, we determined to always be honest and share from the purest place. Although this is a travel story, I am going to share from my heart, what transpired along this particular journey.
Johann, my husband, and I, have had an extremely difficult year. He left his only job he’s ever had, after more than 29 years. It was one of the most difficult decisions, we as a couple, have ever made. For those not living in South Africa, you might not know that he is part of a demographic, that once unemployed, will struggle to find employment again. His age, he’s 52, counts against him in the economic climate of this country. We have 5 children, of which 3 are still dependent upon us, so our stress levels have been understandably high. En route to our destination, we had more than 7 hours of conversation ahead, in the car. It was all going very well for at least half of the trip, but then something he said, set me off. I don’t even think he said anything wrong, but I was triggered and so ensued 2 hours of arguing, that left us both exhausted and energy-depleted. What should have been a beautiful journey, turned into something bitter. We have the ability to take each other to some really dark places. It got ugly fast, and before we knew it, we were tearing each other down instead of trying to find a way back to one another.
Thankfully, we both decided to withdraw and be alone with our thoughts for at least 2 more hours of the road trip. This is usually what I need in order to gain perspective and find my way back to reason. It worked!
By the time we arrived at our cottage we had booked for the next three nights, we were both too tired to talk about anything, but decided to call a truce and pick it up in the morning. This we did, and by now, there was clarity of thought and we were both open to hearing the other’s heart. And so, our breakaway was salvaged and we could get on with our plans for the day. Anyone else relate, or are we unique in this?
The morning began with the delivery of some warm, fresh scones. All we had was some butter, so that had to do. I made us each a cup of tea and we ended up eating at the little table in the kitchen. Due to the positive vibe of our early morning conversation, breakfast was a delicious affair of feeding both our stomachs, and our hearts. I made a mental note to always remember why I love this man so much, regardless of the dark places he is able to take me to. There was a creeping joy into my heart, as I sat across from him and we chatted about what we were going to do that day. We laughed about the fact that I had packed in a hurry just the morning before, about a half hour before we left home, and I’d left my mascara behind. I thought, for a second, I might write my blog about my breakaway without mascara, but I realised that the people of the darling area we were in, really didn’t care if I even had any makeup on. The caretaker had greeted us in her slippers, so this was not going to be a long blog to write at all! It became so insignificant in light of what we packed into our three days, that honestly, I didn’t even try and buy another one whilst we were there. My entire trip was done with no mascara at all!
I do however, need to mention the little cottage we stayed in. Appropriately named, “The Rose Cottage”, it was completely surrounded by a rose bush hedge. Although it was still winter, the new growth could be seen on the recently pruned branches. The cottage wasn’t luxurious, by any standards, but it was comfortable. Because we had had such a mild winter at home, I was sincerely hoping for cold and snuggly weather in the mountains. This was unfortunately, not the case. After chatting to several of the locals, we discovered that Underberg and Himeville, had also had one of their mildest winters in years. The cottage is part of the Mkomazana River Cottages Establishment. We were located along the road to the Sani Pass in the Drakensberg mountains, and that was what we planned to do our first day… Drive up the Pass into the neighbouring, mountainous country/kingdom of Lesotho. We have only ever done this trip once before. The previous time, we didn’t see much as we had chosen a rainy, cold day to ascend the Pass. This day, was sunny and bright, although extremely windy.
There certainly is something about being surrounded by mountains, that puts our lives into perspective. I chose these photographs above, in order to share my story further. Firstly, my husband is an excellent partner to have. His life has been turned upside down, but still he chooses to be present and supportive of me and what I have chosen to do. He could so easily be disinterested and distant, and that would be almost acceptable, considering his current situation. Yet he made a concerted effort, to assist me with taking photographs, stopping often, in order that I may have much to choose from when I got home to write this blog. He also took so many photos of me, just in case I might have needed yet another one.
The balancing stones next to the road, reminded me of the balancing act of life. When we have that partner that can trigger us, it’s imperative to remember that they are there to steer us to consciousness, to stay the course. They are not able to trigger us because we are wrong for each other, but because we have chosen to walk a road of open-heartedness and awareness. These stones reminded me of how life can sometimes feel like everything is tilting toward disaster, but in actuality, we have ‘got it’. We are able to balance the good with the bad, to deal with all life gives us, and to maintain a healthy equilibrium, regardless the hurdles along the way.
My hubby took this pic of me along the road, with the majestic mountains surrounding me. As I stood there, I raised my hands, and in that moment, a realisation hit me that our current situation, however dire it appeared to us, was minuscule in the bigger scheme of things. Not to minimize what my husband is going through, but to be in full awareness that nothing is permanent and this too shall pass. This was a sobering thought, but one that filled me with hope. Although this year had been a tough one, it could not continue forever.
Before too long, we encountered a couple of hikers, ascending the Pass. They looked weary and my husband suggested we stop and offer them a lift. We did not expect them to accept the offer, as hikers can be quite sensitive to the mere suggestion they’re incapable of the task at hand. However, Orlaith, originally from Ireland, and Lubos from Slovakia, were ever grateful. I do not think they realised the degree of the incline to the summit. Although the summit is only around 5 kms from the South African border post, it feels like far more due to the difference in elevation between the border posts. What a lovely interlude this couple provided. We could chat about their travels and interesting lives. They are in their early to mid-thirties, and in the short time we spent with them, we shared so many details of our lives with each other. I love these kinds of connections. The more spontaneous, the more sincere.
Along the way to the top, we stopped next to the frozen waterfall, a tiny reminder that it was indeed winter in this part of the world. Before long, we found ourselves in Lesotho, at the top of the mountain, and at the highest pub in Africa. The Sani Mountain Lodge, is a welcome reprieve for weary hikers, and many day travelers, seeking nourishment and rest, after the ascent. I only drove for the total of 1km, but that in itself, caused my neck and shoulder muscles to go into spasm. Yet another reason to find gratitude in the fact that my husband loves and enjoys these kinds of challenges.
Atop the highest point, my hubby and I, stole a quick kiss. It was cold and windy, so we didn’t waste much time outdoors. Inside the warm and cozy pub, we shared an Irish coffee, which we felt was befitting the new ‘friendship’, and then proceeded to break bread together. We spent a good deal of time, getting to know our world travelers and taking the liberty to share about our beautiful country with them, although not sugar-coating the issues we have as a fairly young democracy. Before long, it was time to take them back down the mountain. We said our farewells at the South African border post, and wished them well on the rest of their trip. I hope they get to read this post and know that regardless of the short time we spent together, they have inspired us to be more free and live more fully!
There were many more connections with so many interesting characters over the next two days, but I fear I have already bored you with this post. Needless to say, the rest of our time alone together, was filled with precious moments for which we will always be grateful. Somehow, these kinds of breakaways, always work to bring us closer together and assist us in resetting our goals, re-establishing our shared commitments and refocusing our minds. As a couple, we know that we need to make even more time to just have fun together. We did spend quite a bit of time laughing together during this time away. We attempted to climb a small hill behind the cottage. Neither of us is particularly athletic. That in itself, created a joy-filled experience. Laughter itself is medicine. We have purposed in our hearts to do more of this!