• Raymond

I was legit about to pounce when I heard: “ Oooooh, Kitty!”, and without warning, was hoisted into ‘handbag position’ and lugged away from a potential morsel...

Folks, I’m not even exaggerating when I tell you that for two whole days I was:

1) dressed like a doll,

2) brushed ‘til I was static, and

3) pushed in a pram up and down over endless sections of Sani Spoors

(https://www.sanispoors.co.za/trails/), while the actual doll enjoyed uninterrupted catnaps!

Aside from breeding cat lovers, these Capetonians are in awe of the ‘berg winter. Harping on and on about how much it rains in the Cape and, “The wind! Yoh, the wind is hectic, bru!” There was also a lot of bleary eyed: “Yowzer Okes, the sun rises early here in KZN,” followed by big yawns and arm-stretching. “More time for running,” says Steve Black as he joyously starts up the mountain track. I’m used to his harebrained ideas. As we speak I’ve been left on my own while he runs to St Bernard’s peak. It’s his birthday and he wants to run his age. Don’t ask.

The thing is - and this is the berg’s best kept secret - nothing beats winter in the Drakensberg. Crisp mornings with white frost crunching under-paw, crystals glistening at the edge of the dam, rainbow icicles stalactiting from barbed-wire fences, ice blue sky, warm take-your-jersey-off-at-11am-and-then-scurry-to-find-the-darn-thing-at-4pm days, and star-riddled clear nights that leave you breathless!

As you know, my typical day starts with a cat-stretch, a downward dog, then the obligatory nut-scratch (over share?). Once fully groomed, I sit in my sunny spot on the stoep and assess the avian situation. The garden birds are cheeky beggars, and now that there are no leaves on the trees they are easy to see...and pick off. But wait, what’s this I hear? I have two words: “Get. Terrified.” Steve’s two grandsons have just arrived. “Wild” is too tame a word for them. FERAL! The first thing they do is grab the pellet gun and ketty, and disappear into the Poplars to shoot at targets. Once the Coke tin is mangled, they then start looking aloft - and that’s when my treasures take flight. No tender Finch breast for me this week...

I know why they’re here. They are pyromaniacs those two, and it’s burning season... a match made in heaven (pun unintended). What I love about the burning of the firebreaks is the light - a soft ethereal glow that makes the farm look otherworldly. It’s still and clear, and the dry veld crackles in an obedient line with the beaters following it slap-slapping at the flames. It’s a rhythmical business and Ana and I love to supervise. When dusk falls, the temperature drops, and the sky is an easel of pink and mauve and orange. That is when I turn homeward to jump through the window into the Aga-warmed kitchen, lap up my milk, and curl up next to the fire.

Winter is still around for a few more months, so book your break now! Find us on:

#khotsomeanspeace, @teamkhotso (insta) and Khotso Lodge & Horse Trails (fb)

Love from a tired, but oh-so happy,

Ray x

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“What people are desperate for, is some fun. Let’s give it to them.” Steve Black’s words late last year prompted the spontaneous organisation of the Khotso Summer Trail ‘n Tube just before Christmas. On what was quite possibly, and very fortunately, the only day in December that it did not rain in Underberg, 130 people turned up to hustle their way along kilometres of specially marked tracks on Khotso farm leading down to the Umzimkhulu where they were issued with an inflated tractor tube and sent floating and floundering 1,5km down the flowing river. Exiting the refreshing water and back into the 30C heat, they still had 1,5km to run back past bemused spectators at The Old Hatchery and along the trail past the many horses to the finish at the campground.

The breathtaking 16km route took runners up to a banner on the highest point on the farm with spectacular 360-degree views of the Drakensberg mountains and surrounding farmlands, a treat for both locals and visitors. PMB couple Martin and Jeannie Dreyer both took first place in their respective fields with times of 1hr27min and 1hr31 min with Jeannie third overall, just behind second-place Zoog Haynes. The 6km race was dominated by the youngsters, with 16yr old local Scott Venniker flying through the finish in 36min58sec, and, showing true sportsmanship, waiting to welcome in and congratulate his friend and rival Farran Flemington. The first female, 14yr old Jade Howarth was just 35 seconds behind Scott, also taking third place overall.

“That was, hands down, THE best event I have ever done.” Said one finisher, a regular visitor to the region, grinning widely. “Please do it again next year!” “It was so good to see folk out again, active and having such a blast.” Said race organiser and neighbour of Steve, Graham Bird. “We arrange trail events for a living and obviously the C-word cleared everybody’s race calendar last year. As we were in Level 1 restrictions in December, it was relatively easy to arrange the run with modifications to allow everyone to look after their own health and be respectful of personal space. “Of course, as a Khotso event, friends at Castleburn and Gooderson Drakensberg Gardens generously donated prize vouchers, friends posted and promoted the posters, friends volunteered their time to help out, other friends benefitted from selling things and yet more friends supported the run. It’s obvious what makes this community so special.” There’s definitely scope to expand this super family-friendly event when the pandemic has passed and make it an annual Underberg institution. After all, there’s never a time when fun is not required.

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  • Raymond

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

Hi All, Raymond here, for your regular update. I expect you all to take heed of my words as you will probably find that I am one of the last to speaks any sense these days. The world has quite simply gone mad. You will all be glad to know that everyone at Khotso is doing well and staying healthy. The farm is closed for the moment, but the owners and staff remain on the farm. The borders with Lesotho are also closed. Thankfully though, Lesotho has no reported cases of the Coronavirus at the moment. With it being harvesting season everyone is very busy getting their crops in ready for winter.  So at Khotso lockdown is the order of the day, I unfortunately, am far too busy for such frivolities. That said, the peace and quiet has allowed me a little time to reflect on all that has gone before.  There had been a lot of commotion because of the success of the 7 day horse rides and how well they had all faired. Both In The Saddle and Pferd & Reiter as well as Randocheval had been sending so many people over to us with a lot more bookings to come.  Another much talked about event was our oncoming cooperation with our old friends from Terre d’Aventures our multi-day, cross border hikes to Lesotho. Laurene from Capetown and her associate Daniel from France came to stay with us to trial the trip. The reccie was a roaring success and we were able to book 12 groups for 2020. The earlier dates have been postponed, and we remain optimistic that we will be able to pick up the thread this summer when all this kerfuffle has simmered down a little. Outside of the regular, predominantly Danish groups we host from EduAfrica we also have 2 of our longer, more volunteer focused programs on the books with them. The guests will be working in the schools in Lesotho on a variety of projects while still having some time to enjoy this unique culture and stunning scenery. Of course, we must forget our friends at Wild Connection, who hope to be bringing groups from GAP in the UK and give them the chance to experience equine care in South Africa and Lesotho.  Otherwise, you must all keep your eyes peeled as the website is getting a makeover and there are regular updates on Insta and Facebook as well as some prizes to be won. Finally, we are excited to be putting some new more conservation focussed itineraries together ready for the first travellers to come back to our beautiful country.  So make sure you jump online and regularly check it all out! Find us on: #khotsomeanspeace, @teamkhotso (insta) and Khotso Lodge & Horse Trails (fb) Stay well, stay safe, stay positive Ray x (check out pictures from a recent hike)

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