What is it like to celebrate Christmas in the summer? For me, it was a multi-day road trip, absorbing South Africa’s rich history and wildly varying climate, then nesting for the holidays at a family farm in Augrabies, Northern Cape.
My dear friend Petra captained the tour, guiding us from one serendipitous experience to the next, until we landed at a home deserving of that Biblical ode: “a land flowing with milk and honey…”
“No man knows England who only England knows,” they say, and it’s true of Zululand as well: Getting better acquainted with Afrikaans culture during our road trip opened my eyes to phrases, foods, and even cookware that the Zulus have adopted from their long-time neighbors!
We were admiring these colossal constructions, courtesy of common sparrows–nests like space stations, dangling from the telephone poles!–searching for one on the right side of the fence so that we could hop out and snap some evidence.
Then Petra spotted a furry friend straight out of Disney: a round-shouldered, flat-nosed warthog. “Look!”
Our eyes raked to the left of the road: “And guinea fowl!”
The next amazing critter collided with our windshield.
Another guinea fowl, it must have misjudged the angle for darting across the road. Seconds after its ill-timed intrusion, it whipped out of sight again, leaving as its calling card two feathers, trapped in the windshield wiper–and a circle of smashed glass.
Happily, Petra’s insurance company proved their mettle by arranging for a rush repair job, and no one was the worst for it–except perhaps the perpetrator.
Petra’s family in a word: “industrious.” Renate, the lady of the house, rises before the sun every morning to catch the best of the cool daylight hours.
She breaks in the day with a sprint-like stroll around the property. Judy and I dashed along in her wake, sweating out nine kilometers in less than an hour before we knew what had happened.
On the first morning, we made it back in time for a new adventure: milking the goats!
You’ve heard of ‘farm to table,’ perhaps dined at one of these illustrious establishments?
For this family, ‘farm to table’ is breakfast every morning. It’s not yet eight in the morning by the time the family convenes for a mouthwatering, open air feast.
Judy and I rolled up our sleeves to join in on the holiday activity: sewing Christmas gift bags for the farmhands’ children!
Christmas in South Africa juxtaposed European-style decorations at the mall with outdoor get-togethers more reminiscent of the USA’s Fourth of July. On Christmas Eve, we dined with extended family on the porch, then exchanged goody bags wrapped in evergreen-printed paper:
Petra recommended we liven up the 25th by visiting the Augrabies waterfall and “moon rock”:
We spent the weekend before Christmas camping in the open air. It was a harrowing drive, with a faulty car battery and precipitous drop-offs, but we survived to soak away our stress in the park’s mineral pools. Then Petra’s cousins grilled homemade pork sausages and baked potatoes for late-night stargazing and prayer.
The wild adventures continued:
To crown our trip, the family outstripped any imagining of hospitality by shipping us back to KZN with a trailer of raisins–a two day haul! As a final reminder of our blessed visit to a land overflowing with blessings, Renate packed us one last taste of those unforgettable farm breakfasts: