Where the Wild Spirits roam (or loam)

What a view! Nature’s Valley spread out before you, indigenous forest licking the sky, and clean air as created only on the Garden Route. This stop had a buzz about it: some solid exercise, shaggy, beautiful visitors from all around the world, and quality time with one of the loveliest individuals I’ve met in a long time. The trip was filled with such people, actually. Every single site revealed hosts with open minds and warm hearts, thoughtful souls with sensitive sentiments and a strength not often expressed in the urban jungle. It seems that once you’re out there, working with nature, against the grain of a prefab life, a sense of nurturing naturally extends from you, and naturally you appreciate support and attention for the good work that you are learning to do. And sixteen arms and legs to help you with the next bit of your cultivated kingdom are definitely welcome. And welcome is exactly what the manager/madame at Wild Spirit made us feel.

Ola is radiant, focused, gentle, organised. She’s a dreamer who does:  she runs a renowned backpackers-with-a-conscience and actively contributes to and promotes other projects with a crowd-sourced, environmental edge (eg. GreenPop and the Transition Town project in Greyton). We were there to work (a trade exchange of accommodation for labour) and she worked right alongside us, and taught us about everything we touched. Our task was to help clear a very steep slope of veggie patch in an unabashed state of disrepair and prepare it for planting. Winter seems to bring out the honesty in organic veggie gardens and all our hosts after Lello wistfully admitted they wish they had more time for tilling. Or, rather, composting and mulching. It’s a major issue out in the rural areas : working the soil requires toil, and many hands – if you have them – make light work. We preferred to do ours to the tunes of DJ Hope, and on this day it was psy trance and swing all the way. Can you dig it?

Yes we can

It’s this attitude that makes change possible. Ola seemed as inspired by our company of white collar workers as we were by her green cuff ideas and generous input. The community of conscious citizens seems a small and scattered one in the greater Cape Province, but, now that I’m a surfer, I’ll wager that they’re making bigger waves than they realise. Watch this space. Certainly there’s a host of info online – just googling one recommended organisation (SEED) led to a lost afternoon of links. Not that I’m complaining, but there’s a fire going on the main deck, and desserts from two separate chefs!

As an environmentally aware business, Wild Spirit is a beacon and a great case study. It’s constantly improving the design and implementation of its off-grid (non-Eskom) facilities and offers visitors the chance to see change in action. Little notes everywhere remind you that there are many ways to do things more sustainably, if you just lend a lobe or a brain node. Our urban lives are not geared towards leaving no trace; we do need, on some level, to commit to the re-education of our subconscious if we are to change our overarching systems and the subconscious sentiments that support them. We have to get conscious, basically. Government doesn’t seem too bothered (surprise!), so it’s the consumer and voter who have the power in this context. And it’s about more than turning off unused lights and making Highveld Horse Unit a beneficiary on your MySchool Card. It’s about thinking about the end of the line for everything you use and do and want and buy and throw away, and how to do it better.

Here’s an example. The solar shower worked well – hot and wet like a porn star – but that bucket capturing excess runoff was a bit of a bother. A bucket between my legs is not the kind of fantasy I have for a responsible shower, you know? Or any kind of shower, for that matter. Grey water capture systems are complex and should be integrated (not awkward)  if they’re going to be widely adopted and it seems that in this instance, this hadn’t been entirely thought through. Not that this is an issue per se, travellers like novelty and we’re here precisely to try out and find out how things are being done, but a lot of water is not being captured for the loo there because of that bucket, and while their water comes from a natural spring, when you’re low on labour, thinking it out on paper can often save oodles of maintenance and repair time better spent, yup, in the veggie garden!

Now that we know how to turn cuttings into compost, we want to plant something! So it’s off to the Eastern Cape. We’re running high on energy and out of reception.

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