Tuesday, May 17, 2016

San experience at !Khwa ttu, Cape West Coast

The oldest culture in the world and the first people to inhabit Africa are recognised as the San, so visiting this farm is like connecting with our own ancient culture, as we are all descended from them. Recognition of their culture has been hard for them, as so many incomers have tried to obliterate it, but this centre celebrates them and the old ways. As they put it: "At !Khwa ttu (pronounced with a click at the beginning of each word – easy for those of you who speak Xhosa or Zulu), we share with our visitors authentic interactions in a beautiful environment, walking and biking trails, inspiring San nature and culture tours, good food, compelling art and heritage exhibitions, professional friendly hospitality and stylish special event venues or corporate functions." We had a lovely stay there
It is a sign we have passed many times; this time we drove in. !Khwa ttu is on the R27 just before the turning to Yzerfontein on the left and Darling on the right(A315), where you will see a wind farm. From the top of the hill on a clear day you get the most beautiful view of Table mountain and the peninsula across the sea
The entrance has a helpful gate person who tells you where to go
One of the signs. There is also a trail for walking, running and mountain bike cycling
They give employment and training to local San people who built this wall
The reception area has a gallery and shop, full of the most wonderful handicrafts and art and it also houses the restaurant
A warm and welcoming fire on a chilly misty morning
The restaurant
The restaurant stoep and garden
Wild dagga plants attract sun birds and you can sit and watch them as you eat
The small cultural museum. In September 2015, work was begun on the first phase of building !Khwa ttu’s new museum. The museum will help fulfil one of !Khwa ttu’s primary roles, to bring cultural restitution to the San
Much can be learnt from the museum exhibits
And much can be seen, like this miniature herd of eland
Michael Daiber, who is an anthropologist, is the General Manager of !Khwa ttu and you can see the passion he has for this place. He invited us to come and see it and we are extremely glad that we did
Jane Wallace runs the restaurant and local word has it that she is making waves with great food and great service as she is heavily involved in staff training. We so enjoyed her sparky company and the food
We had lunch with her and briefly with Michael who had a meeting. This was our starter of smoked Kudu carpaccio
Lynne chose hake and salad as her main. Very fresh fish, good crisp batter and a well dressed salad
John's choice was one of the largest lamb shanks he has ever had, with a rich wine sauce on mash with beans and carrots. It nearly defeated him, but was delicious
Time to walk off lunch. Donika Dalla and Kondino Samba took us on the tour. The tour is a fascinating insight into the culture, heritage, knowledge, skills and contemporary life of the San. Guided tours are offered daily at 10 am & 2 pm. This tour last 1 hour and cost R 150.00 per person. The tour is conducted either on foot or on a bicycle. We went on foot. Well mostly, we did drive there in a 4x4
We learnt how to recognise animal footprints which the San use when tracking them
These are eland and bontebok spoor
They showed us how to make a snare, usually from branches and sinew
Kondino showing us the hair trigger for trapping birds like guinea fowl at night. The trap is baited with seeds or corn
A modern representation of cave paintings
And in the distance the bontebok
We arrived at a mini San village. The huts are made from restios - the Cape thatching reed which grows everywhere in the area and the skins are for the door or use as carpets. The kraal is edged with dense bush to keep out the animals.
Meat was always stored outside the kraal on top of a high platform to keep it from marauding animals and to let it dry in the sun. We still make biltong today
We were shown the bows and arrows they make, the quivers, and clothing. shoes and other articles made from skins
Other items of use are porcupine quills as needles, horns as pipes, and tortoise and ostrich shells for beads and decoration
Donika showed us some of the intricate bead work ...
...and then how to make the beads
A bead belt made from tortoise and ostrich egg shells
And she told us in the San language what the small arrow and bow was used for. We almost understood. It appears that when a boy fancied taking a particular girl to wife, he would fire the small arrow at her behind - it usually did no damage. If she broke the arrow, she was not interested. If she kept it, he could court her
A smiling Kondino
He told us all about the different arrows heads and their uses and the poisons they used to paralyse the animals
And he showed us the ancient way to make fire. It is a lot of hard work and punishing on the hands. A hard stick drilling into a softer stick causes friction and eventually produces smoking sawdust which is fanned into flame
A view of the kraal from the outside
The hut for girls who began their first period is set apart from the village
Then we drove up to the private outdoor boma which can be hired for events. The views from this hilltop are magnificent
It has electricity, water and parking
Looking back to the main centre
Lots of training is done on !Khwa ttu. This poster illustrates some of it
There is also a conference centre at the main reception area
Time to go to our cottage for the night. There are two next to each other
The garden in front. If only it hadn't been so misty we could have seen Table Mountain from here
The bathroom
The comfortable lounge and kitchenette
It has a wood burning stove which we enjoyed that evening. The restaurant, which is closed in the evenings, provided us with spaghetti and meatballs in a tomato sauce to reheat and slices of a wicked chocolate mousse cake. We loved the cottage, the dinner and the place
The single bedroom
But first we enjoyed watching the sunset from the West facing deck
The fig tree in front was full of birds eating the nearly ripe figs. This is a mouse bird
Away in the distance the zebra were making a late afternoon forage
Getting ready to roost for the night
Another wonderful Cape Sunset with rain on the horizon
A weaver bird
Hills and sand dunes in the distance and Table Mountain just visible through the mist
As we walked to breakfast, a party of local school children from Langebaan was going on the tour with Donika and their teachers
Great fresh eggs, bacon tomatoes and lovely game boerewors
John had scrambled egg
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus

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