I sit cross-legged on the floor in front of a masonry fireplace situated on 40 hectares of land in a picturesque farmhouse, eyes fixed on the flames.
Koko (who is actually a person, not to be confused for cocoa – a hot drink one would usually associate with drinking in front of a fire) sits behind me watching 1000 Ways To Die; a TV series re-enacting unimaginable ways people have died in freak accidents. There’s one detailing how an obese man died from uncontrollable laughter (you’ll stop ha-ha-hashtagging! #dead to end off your Twitter jokes with after watching that, believe me!). I remember how just the night before I had cramps from laughing too much for no apparent reason. No wait, deadpan jokes is what had me in stitches for hours. Yes, hours! Actually, that wasn’t it either, but what happens at My Earth Farm stays at My Earth Farm…
Nothing from the night before seems even remotely funny anymore, I tell Koko, who just guffaws at my paranoia. But I hold a steely gaze at the fire, which surprisingly doesn’t unsettle me and bring to mind images of me blowing out of the chimney in ashes. Why? Because the fire, much like the rest of the large piece of land I was occupying for the weekend – compliments of selfless Russell and loving Wahseema – had me at hello. Hello!
All this while four-year-old Gibz questions everything and explores all inanimate objects around him, running around with a sense of wonder.
On the day of departure from the City to the farm in Keisie Valley I was aware that I’ll be cut off from all digital communication once I hit the farm.
There’s no reception, nor is there any need for it.
Raw land, hearty food and beautiful people radiating feel-good energy awaits me.
I’m not worried about the tiring journey either, mostly because Roché, who I would later learn loves to sing most of her conversations to the tune of a Beyoncé hit, offered to drive. The convenience seems too good to be true, but I welcome it with open arms anyway.
En route, we pick up three young ladies, two of whom I know. The newbie is a lovely young Indian girl, quite the chatterbox. No coincidence there. But she pleasantly surprises us all, managing to stuff about five duffel bags in Christelle’s rear. I make her sound dirty, but she’s actually pretty sweet and that rear belongs to Roché’s tiny white Chevy Spark. We’re almost set, but first stop along the way for meat, snacks and takeaway for the 2 hour + journey. It’s Courtney’s job to direct, having driven there before and all… But what do you know, she complains the mist is clouding her sight. “Seeing that nobody’s directing us, I’m just going to turn left here,” Roché sarcastically exclaims.
On the N2, we stop at the Engen garage for a short break. I strategically buy water and sweets. Water to stay hydrated, sweets to build up enough energy to deal with Courtney’s blondeness and the new girl’s endless chatter.
Roché starts drive-dancing to some old school jam on the radio, but we soon start getting intermittent signal. “Old school, new school… What do y’all wanna listen to you,” DJ Courtney asks.
I request old school on behalf of everyone.
Disco lights emit from the back of the car, which we soon discover is Courtney’s wooden boombox. I now like Courtney because she has the most amazing mix of every kind of music you can imagine. From old school rock ‘n‘ roll to 90’s r&b and modern day pop.
The dark, curvy roads are creepy, trimmed with gigantic mountains so close we can touch it. But we occupy our minds with music and move our bodies as much as Christelle allows us to.
Towards the end of our journey we pass Touwsrivier and Montagu and I manage to send my last messages before reception goes.
It’s no longer Friday, we arrive safely and shortly after 12, after a few u-turn’s and almost-off-the-road turns.
No one welcomes us upon arrival, possibly because they thought we’re no longer joining or, er… who knows what they were thinking.
I see both new faces and old faces. The old faces belong to Wahseema and the gang. I extend my hand to introduce myself to one of the new faces – a rather aloof, beautiful young lady, but she hugs me instead. “René, pleased to meet you.”
I spot Chanell’s big bush of curls, much like Wahseema’s. I have a thing for hair. But not just any hair, their huuuur…. One would think that if you scratch deep enough, you’d find a side breast of crispy Chicken Licken in there.
That hair is mesmerising I tell you.
I’m warm around the fireplace, but not long after disturbed by Bianca, who summons me to the kitchen. “Taste the soup. Is the bread ready? Enough salt?”
“Soup should simmer a while longer, bread’s perfect. Enough salt”
Bianca is free love and free to hug.
I share a drink with Roché and Nicolette, who is also aloof and pretty, but a different kind of aloof. We converse and Nicolette tells me she brought her DSLR camera along. I jump for joy because I no longer have one so she gives me permission to take photographs with hers.
Marcia, who has just returned from working abroad, offers me mouthwatering cakes. I divulge. Her laugh is infectious and like me, she likes talking… what many would describe as dog poo, but just in slang Afrikaans.
So naturally we hit it off.
These characters are a colourful bunch. Quirky, eccentric, strange, whimsical, weird, quaint… I’m no longer quite sure where I am. It feels other-worldly. The kind that makes you want to stay and never leave.
It’s Saturday night. We sit around the fire, just off the porch. There are no cell phones, no tablets, no laptops, no tech gadgets out, unless that wooden boombox of awesomeness counts.
There’s no need for it.
No one asks for anyone’s Facebook name, Twitter handle, cell phone number. We just talk as the fire burns, talk and add more wood and firelighters so the fire doesn’t burn out.
I slowly realise how much I’ve missed face-to-face interaction. Being out in nature, being at one with nature. How I miss not having a cell phone.
I don’t feel awkward, and I don’t think anyone else is. I feel me and I feel I can be anybody I want to be.
Ladies, man. I’m that guy, being the only other guy apart from Russell there – who belongs to Wahseema anyway, so all the other ladies are mine, okay! (also, we missed you AJ!)
I look around at the dark bushes and raw land that surround us. For a moment I feel at one with earth. Not me stepping on it, not the earth serving me, nor I serving the earth.
We’re one for just a moment in time, and the earth moves with me and I with the earth.
At My Earth Farm I’m the fire, the wood that burns into flames, the length and the breadth of the land.
René offers to bring my hot water bottle to bed so I won’t have to stand waiting in the cold kitchen while the water boils. I politely decline because if I’m cold, she must be cold too.
She smiles and off I go to bed, alone.
On our last day we make lunch as a collective. Sweet potato and pumpkin wrapped in foil on the coals, meat… I even eat raw beetroot with René before we toss it in the salad. We have pancakes with meat, too. I’m not big on sweet-savoury combinations, but this is delicious!
There are dishes to be done and I do them.
I spank Wahseema on the butt goodbye.
I tread the earth again.