“There are places that you visit where you take a tiny piece of it with you, possibly for memory, and then there are the places where you leave a bit of yourself behind, just so you can come back for it.”
Jeremy smiles at me as he says this and starts climbing the stone steps towards the farmhouse. The cicadas, that only an hour before pierced my ears, are virtually silent. They seem to have descended with the Limpopo heat of this most northern province of South Africa into the sloping hills of the Woodbush Forest on the outskirts of Magoebaskloof.
All that remains is the full blue skies, the deep green outlines of trees and the golden light pushing through the dark clouds on the horizon. A serious storm is on its way. The air is thick with potential. Jeremy looks over his shoulder and continues, “Kurisa Moya is one of those places for us. We come back for the pieces of ourselves we left here as much as we can. Well, for these ‘pieces’ and for possibly the best ‘stoep’ in the whole South Africa. If not the world.”
I smile at him as he walks on ahead to light the gas for tea-water. I sit down on the steps outside the farmhouse and look out across the valley. In the distance I see the clouds now really building up. Splashes of golden light forge in light beams between the weighty Cumulonimbus’s. There is no sign of the mist that filled the Mist Berg Mountains this morning and the dawn chorus that woke us is quiet. Only a few bird sounds, I wish I could identify, here and there.
I came across Kurisa Moya Nature Logde when I looked for housing near Modjadji to research my documentary screenplay, Rain Queen. Knowing that I enjoy what I do, I literally typed “Responsible Tourism Limpopo” into the google search engine and they were the first to come up. I immediately phoned Lisa, the co-owner and manager, and booked an extensive stay.
When you read about totally off-grid 400ha properties, cabins in an indigenous forest, an almost 100-year-old restored farmhouse, ethical relationships with local communities, and you are me, you get pretty excited. Throw in the best local bird guide in South Africa and a 2000-year-old Cabbage Tree (Cussonia spicata), well, then you can be sure I will be spending more time at my lodging than actually doing my research.
Kurisa Moya is a Nature Lodge, but really it is so much more. It is somewhere to unwind, a place where you can journey back into a magical time where candles and fireplaces replace electricity and birdsong the ring of a cell phone, where forests take the place of highways and footpaths the corridors of the office.
Now, as I sit on the steps waiting for Jeremy to make the tea, I watch the clouds rolling in. Big black clouds bringing large amounts of water to fill the water catchment area of the Lowveld below us. I imagine the rain coming down moments from now, washing over my footprints on the footpaths I left at sunrise with David. (Not being an avid birder, and visiting one of the biggest birding hotspots in South Africa, I knew I needed a guide, and now I thank myself that I took him up on his offer. Forest birds are notoriously shy and difficult to spot. As you cannot identify them in plain sight, often hiding in the thick undergrowth or high up in the canopies of the gigantic trees, you need to be able to identify them by call.) I close my eyes and see David once again, standing in the forest, carefully folding his hands in front of his mouth and imitating the Nerina Trogon. I hear the birds calling back. It is the most special feeling: It feels as if, just for that brief moment, I can totally believe I am part of the forest and the forest is part of me.
A large raindrop falling on my nose interrupts my reminiscing. They rain has come, falling down on the corrugated iron roof, almost synchronized with the thunder and the wind and the bird sounds of those looking for shelter. In the living area I hear the crackle of the fireplace and see the soft light from the candles creeping though the windows into my eyes.
The difference, I think to myself while I move to a dryer place, between loving a place and falling in love with a place and what it shows you of yourself and your connection to everything around you, it is a similar distinction between light and lightning.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt I, just like Jeremy and his wife, have left something of myself at Kurisa Moya, and like them, I will go back for it as often as I can.
Words and Pictures: Daréll Lourens
Additional Facts to help turn any rubber arm:
– Kurisa Moya offers a unique experience – a Sotho Village Tour or Home-stay where you are welcomed into the home of families living in the Ga-Malahlela Village near Kurisa Moya. Set in bushveld plains surrounded by granite outcrops, Ga-Malahlela has amazing views over the fields of maize to the mountains beyond. These modern Sotho villages still follows the cultural traditions of the siPedi-speaking people. The chief is still well-respected and weddings or funerals are big community affairs.
– If you are an avid birder, Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge boasts over 250 species of birds in 5 different habitats. When you take a guided bird walk, you have the unique opportunity to find and identify the special birds of the area.
– Kurisa Moya is pet-friendly!
– There are three accommodation options: The farmhouse (sleeping minimum of 10 people), the two Forest Cabins (each sleeping 4 people) and Thora Baloka – a organic, earthy cottage that is dramatically encircled by nature (sleeping 6 people.)