My friend Milton Schorr – who regularly contributes to My blog WITH HIS EPIC STORIES – drove his motorcycle named Richard in the direction of Greyton, South Africa, and had such a moving tale to tell I had to share…
Travel writing is usually about saying beautiful things about beautiful places, inspiring the reader to get out and experience the same. But sometimes the trip wasn’t fun and the journey wasn’t light. Sometimes getting out means going inside, and sometimes that’s hard. I visited the The Blue Hippo Farm in Greyton recently, a getaway retreat tucked in the folds of the Riviersonderend Mountains, and had that kind of ride.
It’s because I was depressed to begin with. I’d heard lots about The Blue Hippo, mostly from she who I wished was with me. She had been there on a retreat the year before. She’d mentioned Tipi Tents, Hobbit Houses, majestic mountains and a dam high up in them. She’d spoken of wild horses, llamas, a place that is a sanctuary that people come to to find answers and healing. A place that changes you.
The drive there took me on a road I’d never been. Usually that makes me happy but I had no fizz in the blood. I wanted to go home. I was dreading the long and lonely weekend.
‘I should be happy, but I’m not,’ I said to Richard Parker, my motorcycle.
‘You seldom are,’ he grunted.
‘I wish she was with us,’ I said, looking with hollow eyes at the magnificent country, the fields cultivated and stretching away, the sky untamed.
‘So do I,’ he replied, his head down, his wheels churning up the road.
We arrived just as the sun dipped behind the trees. It was as she said. Tipi Tents and a sprawling jungle gym were fading in the gloom, a line of cob built Hobbit Houses. A fantastic place but tonight cold and empty. Gabby the manager had told me I was welcome to one of the Hobbit Homes so I went looking. Inside the second a key glinted silver on the fresh swept floor. I spied a fire place, a candle, a box of matches.
‘Later Rich,’ I said, parking him under a spreading oak. ‘I’ll see you in the morning.’
He nodded and tucked his head beneath his shoulder, his unicorn wings pinging as they cooled.
I collected wood, scouring the darkened campsite as the air got heavy and the mountain peaks conjured the rain. I found logs, pine cones and shredded bark. I took them in with me and as I pulled the door of my new home closed the rain came, a rush of sound lifting up off the tin roof.
The fresh made bed was comfortable and warm. Soon I had a fire going. I watched as the orange tongues ate the wood and I rode my thoughts. I saw her, all the beautiful, frosted shapes of her. Where did she sleep when she was here? This house? This bed? A Tipi tent? Who did she talk with, who did she laugh with? What happened to her heart when she visited this place, spirited away in the mountains?
In the morning I found a world washed clean outside. The farm sparkled green under a dew cover and Ashleigh, a young single mom raising her daughter in a wooden cabin nearby came to say good morning. She showed me what I needed, how the kitchen worked, the toilets, the showers, she pointed to the magic places up high in the Riviersonderend peaks. She said ‘welcome,’ and told me that she’d waited for me the day before, but it had got dark and cold. While I sat drinking hot tea in the forest she took her beautiful daughter and jumped with her on the trampoline and fed her fruit picked from the trees. She told me that on Saturdays Greyton has their weekly market and I should go.
I pulled on my people clothes and hopped onto Richard and went. I sat among the crowd and ate pies and doughnuts, trying to fill the hole in the soul, wishing for a cigarette when suddenly an old friend materialised.
Debbie was a friendly face in the faceless crowd. She sliced Greyton open for me and showed me its cross-sections. I met Nicci, Marshall, Tarryn and her husband Mark, Patricia and her husband Clever. I learned that this is a Transition Town, meaning that the community as a whole is working towards economic independence and climate change resilience. Greyton is recycling, growing organic vegetables and selling them in the area, building recycled homes, mentoring children with a range of projects designed to open minds and hearts, and more. Greyton is a lifeboat let down off of our capitalist mothership slowly turning off in a new direction, the open sea ahead. The talk was inspiring, invigorating and even life changing but still I was thinking of her.
She’s a photographer, you see. I was thinking that I could come back and write the story of the great Greyton change and she could take the pictures, and we would be together.
Richard and I drove back to the Blue Hippo and talked it over, whispering between the swinging of his pistons.
‘What should I do, Rich?’
‘Look around you,’ he growled, his wheels eating up the gravel. ‘Breathe. Stop living in your head.’
‘Easy for you to say, you don’t have a brain, or a heart.’
The Farm was crawling with people when I returned. A kids party was on the go. Little monkeys swarmed through the jungle gym and shrieked between the Tipis. Their parents lay splayed on the benches and at the tables, drinking a Saturday afternoon. I headed into the hills.
‘You’re alone,’ called Richard from behind me, watching with half an eye as a gang of kids stalked him, flitting from tree to tree. ‘You’re nothing but a point of consciousness in a vast and impassive universe. Just a thought.’
I found myself in a void of solitude walking up into the mountains, searching for the fabled dam. I saw that there was no way that I could not be alone, even if she was with me I would still be the same. She wouldn’t change what I am, she’d magnify it. So what am I? I remembered Carlos Casteneda and the story of death always walking just to our left, waiting to tap us on our shoulder and take us each to the other side. That tap could come at any moment so there is only now, only now.
The high mountains witnessed my thinking. The forest surrounded me with its own.
‘I want her permission to be happy,’ I thought. My eyebrows shot up. That was new. Permission. From her. Why?
‘I’m like a little boy,’ I thought. ‘I want somebody to watch me. I’m not jumping or swimming or racing until my Mommy is watching me.’
I reviewed my childhood and came back to the same words. I reviewed all the other shes and again, the same words.
I looked at the peaks, at the wild horses grazing in the fields, at the fruit groves and wild forest and chopped forest and rutted road, and again at the peaks. I breathed. Something slipped off my back, some weight, just for a moment.
I found the dam. It lay inert between the toes of the mountains holding a vast water power. I remembered a tale she’d told me of swimming here, naked, of covering her body with the mineral mud, that smile on her face as she told it. I saw the muddy spot. I walked in it, adding my footprints to those that have been before, seeing her, following her, a boy looking for his dam, a man looking for his emptiness. But she was not there, only the great valley and the riven peaks. I took my clothes off and swam out in the deep water, surrounded by the fishes.
When I got back to the Blue Hippo I found the party gone and a new breed of traveller moved in. There was a ceremony on that night and all around souls were moving, full of the tension of looking deeply into the mirror, soon. A group of young cool guys were scattered like cushions around the kitchen and on the benches, and they were smoking. I took a tobacco and immediately felt rooted, whole, and I sighed at not needing to carry the void.
I saw Ashleigh again and through her sunlight smile and eyes like wishing wells she told me that there would be a sweat lodge in the morning, and did I want to come? I did want to come. I did want to get out of my shell.
And again the night drew in and again I lit a fire and watched the wood and the flame dance and the stars sparkle in the dark heaven.
On Sunday morning friends of The Blue Hippo were gathered at the Oppa, a campsite next to a river higher up in the mountain. These were people with smiles in their bones. These were here to wash inside. I helped build the lodge with them and then together we made prayers for ourselves and the world. We folded them into pockets to hang in the roof of the lodge, ready for the steam to claim them. My prayer was for happiness, for the letting go and the setting free. Together we entered the low abode.
Simone, co-founder, co-creator and co-pilot of The Blue Hippo led us as glowing stones were passed inside and collected in a pit between us. Steam rose, sucking the marrow from us, sucking all the detritous away to leak into the ground and to rise between those magic peaks.
‘What makes Greyton so special?’ I’d asked Debbie the day before.
‘There’s magic in these mountains,’ she’d replied.
‘True,’ I thought, ‘true.’ The steam grew, filling my low spirit and washing me out.
The Blue Hippo is a 700 hectare farm 4km from the picturesque village of Greyton. Accommodation is in American Indian style Tipis and eco-built Hobbit Houses, complete with fire places and futons. There is a central cooking area with fully equipped kitchen and dining space and a central ablution area with hot showers, as well as the self catering ‘Oak Tree Cabin’.The Tipi Village is ideal for weekend getaways, weddings, birthday parties, school camps and corporate getaways. A central hall is available for group activities and functions. This beautiful space is safe for children and pets are welcome. Activities include bird watching, hiking, pony rides (on request), swimming in the dam or river and exploring nature. Contact the Blue Hippo at firstname.lastname@example.org or on their Facebook Page.
Milton Schorr is a writer and actor into all sorts. With a background in theatre he continues to create plays, act, write scripts, stories, features, and travel. His favourite topics are alternative, from Permaculture to Hitchhiking to Mixed Martial Arts. See more of his work or follow him on Instagram.