Pure Joy at sani valley Nature lodge

Rest and reset.

Of all the people you know best, logically, that person should be you. Yet, in my case, I’m not so sure. I often surprise myself. The surprises come in the form of good and not so good.

I have scolded myself more times than I can remember for making poor decisions. Because I believed I was smarter than that, or because I thought I would have been kinder, said something different. However, mistakes are how we learn and grow. A mis-take allows us to re-take and do better. I try. We’re all trying.

Conversely, there are occasions for internal high-five surprises. Like when I cook a meal that actually tastes good (for once), and my long-suffering family says, ‘Wow, that was actually delicious.’ Or when I have a meeting in an area I don’t know and arrive without getting horribly lost first. New client: ‘Did you find our offices easily enough?’. Me, five Rescue Tablets down and palms sweating: ‘Yes, it was a breeze!’ I am one of those rare finds that even google maps haven’t catered for.

Anyhow, I’m rambling somewhat (now that’s no surprise). My point is that I surprised myself with what I craved the most during the height of the infamous lockdown. I am a great fan of a night out, and just generally letting my hair down. And yet, it’s the thing I’ve missed the least. I really didn’t see that coming. I honestly didn’t miss it. I missed my friends, but not the revelry.

When we were afforded a little more freedom, all I wanted was to head out, but not into the musical nightlife’s thick thud. I wanted to head out into nature. My senses yearned for realness. I wanted to see space for days. I wanted to swim in the icy-cool of rivers and listen to its gurgles and flow. I wanted to lie beneath a tree, moving my hands back and forth over rough ground with bare feet warmed by dappled sunlight. I wanted to look up, down, and around and see scurrying insects, soaring birds, steadfast mountains, and clouds puffed up with rain or made wispy by a gentle breeze. I had basically become the larking, skipping, frolicking Julie Andrews from The Sound of Music. Had I lost myself? Or, instead, had I found myself? I think perhaps, it was just a healthy need for nature’s grounding.

My getting ‘out’ came in the form of a 3-night stay at Sani Valley Nature Lodge a few weeks ago. This private lodge situated in the World Heritage site of the uKhahlamba Drakensburg at the foot of Sani Pass, was everything the Julie Andrews in me was yearning for. Except I did add red wine into the mix. I feel like Julie wouldn’t have done that. She’d have been sipping on her homemade lemonade. Actually, I’m not sure I really like Julie.

Anyhow, I digress.

Sani Valley Nature Lodge is, in their words, “a unique blend of luxury, nature, and activities.” That is no exaggeration. As we approached the lodge, I experienced my first big sighting – a Long Crested Eagle. ‘STOP!!’, I yelled far too loudly, very nearly causing my husband’s heart to stop as abruptly as the anchored brakes. Ah, to behold such majestic perfection. Nature is indeed the grandest of artists. This getaway was going to be everything I had imagined.

I had checked out pictures of the lodge online, but they don’t do justice to the ‘oh, wow’ factor as professional as they may be. The bedrooms with panoramic top-to-bottom glass walls are ingeniously designed to submerge visitors in the beauteous surroundings. The outside is invited in, with mountains on one side and endless water on the other. I just stared and stared, and then smiled with warm, inner content. This was EXACTLY what I’d been craving.

We chose to sleep with open curtains. The first night I woke to a moonbeam shining on our white duvet cover. If that sounds like a fairy tale, you’d be right. It felt like one. Except this is a true story (and I’m not a princess). I thanked nature for touching me literally and figuratively with its gentle, golden magic in that moment of stillness. I felt like a blessing had been bestowed.

We didn’t do much. That was the point. When I wasn’t relaxing on our deck, I was resting on the boat while my husband fly-fished. I was told a few times (very diplomatically) that I talk too much. Apparently, that’s why the fish weren’t biting. Hmmm. Whatever. So, I lay and gazed at the sky, but still blurted my delight when I spotted another bird. I couldn’t help myself. At least the fish were thanking me for the heads-up.

Our most energetic activity was walking up the mountain. We got lost. It wasn’t my fault. I’m never put in charge of navigation for reasons previously mentioned. Fortunately, we did experience most of the beauty before the ‘where the &*%$ are we?’ set in. A few imagined paths later, and genuine panic gripped. I even began suggesting which direction to head – and that’s when you know you’re in trouble.

To be clear, this is not wine. It was an empty bottle re-filled with water!

We had no warm stuff, no cellphone signal, and one bottle of water. Not to be dramatic, but we trojan-ed on like true survivors, slaying through material-ripping brambles like our pioneering forefathers. After several hours, we popped out the other side of forest we never intended entering. As the canopy parted and we returned to the light, we discovered tyre tracks. ‘We’re going to live!’ I declared, as dramatically as the annoying Julie Andrews would have. I am not one of those who wish to survive a plane crash over the Antarctic – initially surviving on others’ body heat before eating them days later. Nope. Just not my vibe. I prefer vegetables. If there’s no bath and a warm gown, I must go down with the plane.

Drama aside, if you just ask where the path is, you won’t get lost. So, don’t let me scare you off. Sani is for the soul. It’s peace. It’s slowly strolling zebra, buck and grass-crunching horses. It’s endless, bird-filled skies and soothing, trout-filled dams. It’s run by good people too. Add it to your getaway list – there’s a plethora of activities to enjoy or quite simply – relax and reset.

Let’s just coddiwomple

x Keryn