Tuesday 21 Feb – Wednesday 22 Fed
By 9am we were packed up and on the road again. We knew that we had a long trip ahead of us and we were all keen to get to Cape Town now so no sight-seeing was planned – just a long haul straight through to Cape Town. These kids are just amazing. They astound me with their ability to travel. Yet I see how the short trips we had to Pretoria last year and our trip to Kruger – where they all happily spent their day in the car looking for game proved to us they were able to do long hours in the car. This along with a prepacked bag of road trip activities, from sticker books to strips of contacts paper with little things to stick onto it, keep them all busy. We have also discovered the joy of audio stories that we are enjoying as a family, but I am constantly surprised that the biggest hit is for me to read while they draw or colour in. So the day quickly passed and suddenly were popped over Sir Lowry’s Pass and there below lay false bay! So much excitement filled our little contained space that I thought the car would explode.
We took a slow drive through the Cape flats – passed all the shacks adorned with satellite dishes and the roads piled with sand from the gale force winds blowing in from the sea.
Eventually we found our way to our friend’s house that we are house sitting and were all so excited to finally be here. Our happy day was topped off by a run on Fish Hoek beach – while the wind pummeled the shore the children chased the gulls before devouring chip rolls in the car and were all so ready to fall asleep as soon as we were back at the house.
Wednesday was spent surprising old friends and showing the children some of our old favourite spots in and around the Southern Suburbs. The highlight of the day must have been the children’s first sighting of the squirrels as well as having lunch upon a rock Kadin used to love jumping from when he was 3 years old.
Kids were in bed at a decent time – for a change – and we intended on going to bed early. As we were locking up Neil picked up a pillow that was just outside the veranda door. One of the children had spilled something on it so I had placed it there to dry. Suddenly he jumped back as he lifted the pillow and there lay a puff adder snake!
Once the snake collector had come at 10pm to collect it and we had made sure that the fire we could see in the distance – was in fact not going to come any closer – we crept into bed. Only then did we realise how God was and is still so in control of the tiny details of our lives. Had I not put that pillow there the snake would have come into the house and if we had picked up the pillows earlier the snake would not have been so docile and would probably have struck.
Knowing all this I know with all my heart that God is for us and we serve such a mighty God and yet the fear and worry of the unknown place to stay next week is beginning to gnaw at my mind. In this unknown place I ask on Facebook if anyone knows of somewhere we can stay….. A friend messages to ask some details…. And though she can’t help I see that the last time I chatted to her on Facebook was in 2010 and what’s more there it is the link to a website that I have been looking for years. Royal Kids. I have wondered for years now who this group was that brought in untouchable children and raised them as prayer warriors for the nation. As I revisited their website and was reminded of the power of prayer we are realising that tomorrow we really need to pray together as a family! And yet the questions plague and the worry entangles. My stomach aches grow and Neil’s stiff neck makes sleep somewhat unrestful….. Is this really where God wants us? Have we heard wrong? Should we just go home? I remember Neil’s prayer at supper – God please give us a place to stay compared to Kadin who simply prayed “God show us the next place we are to stay at.” Oh the faith of a child.
Saturday 18 Feb – Monday 20 Feb
Heading off from this quaint little town we wove our way along the Western Cape coast line to meet up with an old friend and his family. It’s amazing how a decade can pass and sweet friendships simply reunite and pick up again. Matt didn’t think we’d all fit into his house so he arranged for us to stay at a friend of his holiday house. Oh my what a treat this turned out to be. We have found ourselves on the bank of an estuary with a jetty, fishing, crabs, prawns, sea slugs and a myriad of birds 3 steps off our veranda. Not only this, the family staying on the property – not well off by any means – have taken us in ensuring our every need is met! They have fed us cake and vet koek and honey, they have seen the gas for the stove is full, they have done our washing and taught the children all about the tides and the myriad of creatures they have discovered.
A true homeschool moment – Mom, we playing Bartholomew Dias! We collecting shells for the guinea women!
The jetty from our veranda
Doing some nature study on tides
Identifying this slippery sea slug Kadin found in the estuary.
At the close of today I quickly popped out the house to get some things from the trailer and a man popped his head over the wall and introduced himself to me by saying he’d been watching our children all day – his veranda also leads onto the estuary so they had been playing in front of his yard a fair amount- and he wanted to check if we did in fact have six children. He then continued to comment on how amazed he was at how they all looked after each other and helped each other. As we chatted further it turned out that they were wanting to find out about home schooling and Matt had told them we were coming so they had been waiting for us to arrive to talk about it. So there it was our story – our song! Weaving briefly into another’s life before each one going off on their own melody again. Yet for one short refrain we get to sing a stanza with a predestined appointment. What a mighty God we serve!
We were also able to spend sometime frolicking in the natural rock pools. What a delight to this mommy’s ears to hear my little people exclaim with glee at all they have found and discovered and then linking it back to stories we had read about tidal pools and their creatures last year!
Thursday 16 Feb – Friday 17 Feb
On the morning we re-sorted the trailer and packed up our tent to set off to explore the Cango caves before heading towards Klein Brak Rivier / Mossel bay. This was a fascinating drive as we had read a story in our homeschooling books about a tittle Khoi boy who had lived on the one side of the Outeniqua Mountains and it was too damp and how another tribe had lived on the dry side of the mountain. Well as we drove through the Outeniqua mountains we headed up past green shrubbery shrouded in thick mist and damp and as we rounded the corner to the other side of the mountain we drove out into beautiful sunshine beating down on a dry arid terrain. As we looked back we were struck by the beauty of a thick misty cloud dripping over the top of the mountain and dissipating into nothing as it flowed over onto the other side! Nothing like “school’ coming so vividly alive! As we piled out of the car into the hot small Karoo sun Kadin whipped his violin out of the heated car. He then remembered someone saying he should ask if he could play his violin in the Cango Caves. So he did just that! He asked and they were so thrilled to have him play – as it used to be used for orchestral concerts until people began to vandalize it – so what an experience for him and us all to have him able to play in front of a group of tourists deep in the belly of the earth – Beautifully Surreal is the only word one could use to describe that Mommy moment. Once we had thoroughly explored the caves and all there was to discover here we journeyed back down the mountain on towards Little Brak River. A tiny town next to Mossel bay. We were so blessed to have friends pay for us to spend two nights in this lovely little holiday house that was one road away from the beach! The first thing that struck us here was the lack of burglar bars. As we asked the neighbour if we could push our trailer into the back garden she just laughed and told us that we could just leave it right out on the street, next to their unlocked car! What?! Were we still in South Africa? Coming from Hilton where five armed robberies in a night was not an unusual occurrence this just boggled my mind. I must say I was a bit weary sleeping in this unfenced, un-burglar barred, un-beamed house. But as they children ran up and down the streets and buck poked their heads out of the bush to nibble on the lawns I began to relax.
A lovely next day was spent at the Mossel Bay Dias Complex Museum exploring many aspects of South African history. Piecing together bit by bit the story of our beautiful land. It was quite amazing reading the stories of the people who had walked these places 500 years ago and the next morning be walking in the same spots. This all seems so momentous and larger than life, yet each of these people was just a man living out the calling and days allotted to them by God. From Bartholomew Dias to the slaves that were traded to the Guinea Women who were randomly put down on the African coast to search for Prester John to the Ship’s cook, to the Native African killed by Dias and to the King of Portugal, they were all just living their Story, their song….. each of their lives touching on one other at some point creating a bigger Story and Song of our land. No matter how insignificant or small we may seem we are all part of a larger story – one that will sing to the glory or God – or not….
Posting letters under the 500 year old post box tree
It’s our prayer that on this trip and into our future our lives will constantly bump into those around us and that it will daily tell a story and sing a song of devotion and worship to our King.
Wednesday 15 Feb
After this revitalising stop off at this lovely little retreat in the middle of no where – we headed off for a few days of discovery as we peered over Storms River Bridge, followed the trail of the Knysna elephants and learned all about the wood cutters that had once lived, loved and died in these indigenous forests. We even walked along one of their old rail way tracks and were able to see the museum – up in the middle of the forest – that housed their old tools, and had frozen pieces of their lives behind glass cases.
We then wound our way down into Knysna trying to think where to sleep for the night. We called a church to see if they knew of anyone – as our blow up mattresses had holes in them so we weren’t keen to sleep on those – but this phone call seemed way out of his depth. We then called a homeschool family we found online but the request for a mattress or knowing of a place to stay was again not something she could process. Finally we decided to go buy some more mattresses and headed up to the municipal camping ground. As a storm began to blow in from the sea we struggled to hastily put up our tent. Once our struggle was over and we were settled with one big family bed made up of an assortment of blown up and flat camping mattresses and duvets, the storm blew over and we were able to sit below a beautiful double rainbow watching the sun set and eating our single pot pasta mix.
Monday 13 Feb – Tuesday 14 Feb
Heading off early the next morning we spent the day exploring Addo Elephant Park before being welcomed on to a farm in the middle of nowhere near Oyster Bay. I had mentioned on a home school Facebook page that we were setting off on this adventure and a family responded offering us to stay on their farm – which they had moved off – for as long as we liked. As we were wanting to get to Cape Town by 21 Feb to house sit for some friends we only stayed for 2 nights. During this time however we were royally greeted and treated. From a family we had never met we were given free reign in their home, on their wifi and even had muffins made for us and meals brought to us. This level of hospitality to a stranger has left an everlasting impact on us as a family. Having 2 nights there gave us a day to do nothing – besides catch up on our journals and begin reading our next homeschool story book.
This year we decided to study South Africa so we are working our way through the Footprints homeschool curriculum. The first book follows the story of a little Khoi boy growing up 500 hundred years ago in the Outeniqua mountains near Mossel bay. The second book is about a little boy who stows away on Bartholemeu Dias ship that discovers the route around the tip of Africa and stops off in Mossel bay. The idea being that we had to have both these book completed before we arrived in Mossel bay in a few days time!
Sunday 12 Feb
Sunday morning saw us again fed from our toes up! What a glorious morning feast! We did then have to hurry off to visit a church headed up by old friends of ours – Dave actually married us and moved to Grahamstown to start a church about 8 years ago. It was quite surreal being in that place, seeing this congregation that God had brought together – something God had predestined and called this couple to step into obedience and build. As we sat in the meeting I found the tears warmly slipping down my cheek as I remembered Dave and Kate saying they were going and us wondering how they would ever pull of such a thing in such a small town. Yet here they are today with an amazing community built in Grahamstown. Phew – the awe of seeing the fruit of obedience! I can’t help thinking what fruit I’ve missed out on through holding onto fear or disobedience.
The sermon was one directed to their congregation but we had to smile as it was so predestined that we were there as it spoke exactly into where God has been talking to us as a family. Into us becoming climate Changers. Bringing heaven to earth and shifting the environment around us. Influencing the spheres into which we are called and bringing God into that moment and time and place. Later on our trip we were in a campsite and some guys arrived in a taxi with their music pumping. As they disembarked the whole atmosphere changed and we quickly finished packing up before moving on our way. Afterwards I thought back on this sermon and wondered at how the world walks in such confidence with no fear of bringing whatever they have and whoever they are into that place and time and yet as Christians we slink around, not wanting to offend. We slip around difficult or controversial topics and in so doing allow the world to be the atmosphere changes instead of us stepping in with the authority of God in that moment to bring the truth of the kingdom of heaven.
After church we took a walk through the old chapel in Grahamstown and stood in awe of the craftsmanship. Our children challenged by the idea of having a different reverence and level of excellence in our workmanship to the glory of God.
How amazing is the quote on this plaque I found in the cathedral honouring men who had died.
Once we had returned to Cath and packed ourselves up to go spent the night with Dave and Kate we headed off to the shops to restock on some vital food items. As I ran into the shop Neil and the kids tidied out the car and repacked their sitting spots for the journey the next day. As I wove among the isles looking for bread and milk I felt a deep panic begin to rise up within my soul. “What are we doing? Why exactly are we on this trip? Are we really hearing God? If we were why do we not have accommodation in Cape Town yet? Where are we going to stay? Is this all actually going to back fire into a sick joke with us returning home next week with our tail between our legs? Where will we stay in Cape Town? Where will we stay? Where will we stay? I could feel fears icy talons work their way around my chest making it hard for me to breathe, let alone think about what I needed to buy. As I stood turning in circles trying to remember what I was in fact in the shops for I heard the gentle voice of my father simply saying, “I can’t use you like this. When you let fear take his hold all you think about is yourself and you can’t even notice the people around you let alone hear what I want to you to say to them. Fear makes you only see yourself.”
As I stumbled out of the shop I was still aware of fear grasping for my heels but I needed to see my family, the car and trailer packed for this trip. I needed to know the truth that our father in heaven has so clearly directed our feet thus far that he won’t let us down now.
We had a good laugh as people tried really hard to look like they weren’t looking at us as we ate our lunch alongside the trailer and then proceeded to unpack our bags in the carpark so that once we reached Dave and Kate we could simply take in one bag for the night.
A lovely time was spent at Dave and Kate catching up and seeing what God is doing in all our lives. They have the most beautiful view from their kitchen window over the whole of Grahamstown. I think if I were to start a church in a town that I would love to have a view like that from my kitchen sink as there isn’t a better way to have a regular reminder of the people you’ve been called to serve and to lift them all up in prayer wherever they are in town at that moment whilst you are washing the dishes. I think one of the most profound things I’ll take away from our time with Dave and Kate was when we asked him how they started the church they are heading up. They arrived knowing only one student so how did they gather people. The reply was so simple and has yet left me with a profoundly impacted. They got people together to eat and pray.
So the simplicity of food and prayer was the start of this beautiful community!
Saturday 11 Feb
By 8am we were on the road again. This was one very long horrid day’s driving. A 7 hour drive took us 10 hours – with us only having 1 stop. There were so many road works and hold ups that it just felt like we never actually got going at all. There were also no free toilets and many messy rundown towns we battled our way through. We knew we had friends waiting on the other side and that kept us going. But it was hard!
I could feel God needing to speak in that moment but I was too near to the moment to hear anything. After 5 hours of stop –go. No loos and tired children. We were getting desperate. We happened to pass a farm with a campsite sign upon the gate. I yelled to Neil to stop and I frantically phoned the number. A dear sweet voice heard the plaintive cry of one very frantic mother. With the most beautiful words she explained that she was out but still welcomed us onto their farm to use their loos and let the children run around. As we twisted down to the campsite I could feel the panic of the busy roads somewhat ease. Then we rounded the corner to the most serene dam. With cranes walking along the water edge. What a blessed, soul restoring 15 minutes those were. A tiny reprieve on paradise amongst the crazy busyness of reality just a kilometer away.
As we wound our way through a myriad of different landscapes and passes we journeyed further away from the comfort and reassurance of our beautiful community in Hilton.
Feeling the nostalgia of my childhood I could not simply speed past a quaint little town of Cathcart but instead I had to drive past my grandparents’ house. As no one is living there now I was able to take my children through the old rusty gate and share with them a tiny glimps of my childhood that has been literally frozen in time. They were able to see the old railway station we had played upon as tiny children, the stump of the old plum tree and the hill down which Tanya and I would let our poor dolls go flying down in their prams. In 30 years nothing much has changed and somehow when you are upon an unknown journey such as ours a place such as roots one with a sense of family and heritage.
We are also learning that it’s not only the planned highlights that make a trip special It’s those little unexpected treats that makes everyone perk up and feel loved and apart of this amazing adventure. Today an unexpected ice-cream stop did just that for us!
As I stop now and consider that trip…. The hours of struggle and toil… I do also recount the books I read to the children about the Eastern Cape through which we travelled, the wind farms we saw for the first time and the awe we felt as we gazed upon their mighty arms sweeping through the mist, I recall the apples we shared with the men on the back of a bakkie in front of us. The funny cow dog audio story we all listened to as well as jokes we made about hardware stores we passed and funny sign boards we encountered. So it was a battle – one of the hardest trip days we’ve ever had to face and yet within that we remember that there was a battle of sorts but there is also beauty that would have been missed had we less time together or had we raced faster past those places. We would never have sought out that beautiful farm dam to take refuge at – as we would have had no need for refuge and so we would have missed out on one of the unplanned highlights of this journey. So sometimes in the tough times life looks like things will never straighten out and we will only ever remember hardship. The truth however is that – yes we’ll remember the battle – but the golden memories that this battle allowed one to create is what we will truly remember and hold to our hearts forever.
Aaaaah Then at the end of this hard long day we were embraced into the home of our beautiful friends Cath and Si. I had forgotten Cath’s zest and flair for amazing food – and the abundance there of. From the moment we entered we were fed platter after platter of amazing snacks and dishes and meats and pies. I’m sure Jesus knew what he was talking about when he spoke of eating together as that evening we felt so loved. By 1am everyone seemed to have found a spot to sleep and we spent a night – not fretting or stressed about the day we had had, but rather a night full – of the satisfaction of love and an open home to the weary traveller.
I must say that if there is one thing I’m learning from this trip is the importance of opening one’s home – at the drop of a hat – to practice hospitality whenever someone is in need. When you are tired and weary and spent beyond your capacity for the day and someone offers you a loo or a coffee or a warm meal or a bed oh as your basic needs are met in that moment you know that no matter what has passed on that day – someone has seen you, they have recognised you and are loving you in a way that reaches deep into your soul.
Friday 10 Feb
On Friday 10 February 2017 we headed of on an epic family trip across South Africa. Armed with 3 boxes of school books, activates and road trip games, 3 boxes of food, a box of kitchen and bathroom things, a box of towels, half a suitcase each of clothing, a tent, a gas bottle, whistling kettle, wash basin, porridge pot, a few camping mattresses and our bedding and pillows we headed off into the some known and some unknown days of life on the road.
We had our first few days planned out so we had managed to arrange to have lunch with Neil’s’ aunt in Kokstad – where we were able to have a glimps into Neil’s cousins new water bottling factory. Over the last few months we have been to a taxidermist, coffee barrister and now the water bottling factory – all of which we’ve found people making a living from passion, skill and natural resources – all of which do not require 12 years of institutional schooling. Something we are beginning to see happening around us more and more…..
We were so pleased that we managed to see 2 special family friends for a quick cup of tea in Kokstad. Tucked away from any signs of city life one always feels so refreshed being up in their mountain home. We then drove back down the mountain to spend a wonderful evening reconnecting with old friends.
What an amazing life they have buying and selling cattle, horses and goats from the Eastern Cape to sell in KZN. The children were even treated to a 5:30am hike up into the mountains to go see and check up on the goats. They loved helping pick some up and watch the herd boy feed the orphan goats. As sad as we were to bid farewell to friends we had not seen in so many years we are excited for the journey ahead and that we will be coming back past this way when we return home in 3 months time…..
I think God doesn’t let us know the future – because if he did we would most likely stay in bed all day! This would save us from many a difficult task but we’d also loose out on the deep richness of truly living. If we knew about the messes and fusses of little people – before we experienced the wonder of birth… we’d choose to pass on this amazing privilege. If we could know the deep ache of a friends passing we’d never choose to love and so loose out on the beauty of friendship.
Our first few days of our 3 month trip have taken us into the homes of many beautiful friends that we had not seen in many years. We have been so blessed by their hospitality, amazing food, friendship and generosity. We’ve also gleaned amazing truths and that will impact us for years to come…. Yet this trip is teaching us, as a family to dig deep – deeper than we’d ever have had to dig had we stayed home.
Eight people squished into a car (with only a trailer load of belongings – these including our bedding, a tent, and loads of food) squishing into other’s homes and lives. Suddenly we are all in each other’s space all day everyday. As we have always home schooled this is part of our reality – to a point. Yet now we are even sharing beds and the biggest shift is the ever fluctuating routine. Living in out of the trailer, travelling for many hours at a time and eating at strange hours of the day has led to us having no routine what so ever…. all accumulating the older children have stayed up until they have decided they need to go to bed – which has left little time for this mamma to have her usually evening quiet head space. The little guys naps are either far too long or far too short resulting in some interesting tempers and behaviour we are not accustomed to. Sorting through and taking out clothes just for the day, digging snacks out of the trailer when the food store in the car is depleted… Then there is the potty training, washing, and eating normality one tries to play out in a well controlled, orderly fashion in another person’s home. I’m learning try as I may these normal life moments cannot (at least not in our family) be beautified. I’m learning that try as I may that with 6 children someone will spill their food, or wee on the floor, someone will loose their shoes or run in the rain with their pajamas on. As we are learning to adjust to this new on – the – road life style we are finding so many joys along the way.
As we battled through ten hours of stop-go road works we read and listened to amazing stories, as children romped around till 9pm they were able to share in moments stolen back from days before we had children, as they miss the potty or dirty extra clothes or won’t share the few toys or books we have…. we are all learning about the true meaning of love and grace. We are learning to not sweat the small stuff, we are working hard on quickly forgiving and working together as a team. We are learning to love and tolerate on levels we never thought were possible.
So yes this is so very hard and if we had known we would probably have never left home but already we are seeing the first glimpses of beauty as so this trip truly becomes apart of our story and our song.
11am 10 February 2017 and we have bundled 6 of our little people and ourselves into our big blue car, hitched up our trailer and we off!
So much excitement here as we spend the next 10 days exploring our beautiful land before arriving Cape Town. Yet this is so much more than just a 3 month trip around South Africa…. as we drive past the the corn fields – white – ready for harvest… We hear our Father calling…. not just for this trip but for our life – our story – our song!