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PROFILE: Bridgette Truter


Bridgette Truter



Shellee-Kim Gold


She turned the tables on a gangster who threatened to take her out. She uses money from her own pocket to cook up three-course meals for impoverished school kids and finds shelter for the elderly who sleep outside.


Nothing Patriotic Alliance candidate for Ocean View, Bridgette Truter, does is ‘regular’. She even adds a comical element to her campaigning in a garishly-green wig to match her party’s colours. “It’s how to get to ground level with people”, she explains.

The Patriotic Alliance is a voice for Coloured peoples’ concerns.


But perhaps Truter’s most endearing, unusual and trustworthy quality is the fact that she’s honest to the core. Even about the most painfully-personal of issues.

Openly the 55 year-old states she has a drug-addicted son and ‘has nothing to hide’.

“People will know I have first-hand experience and can feel it with them”.


While humour and honesty may be her campaign strategy by default,

Being nominated as candidate for Ward61/Ocean View came as a surprise to Truter. “ I don’t promise my constituency anything, but when I’m speaking at council I will speak for them,” said the victim of forced removals in Noordhoek in the 1960’s.


As an ex police reservist of many years, a gangster recently threatened to take her out. Unlike the majority of her community, Truter was hardly intimidated: “Look in my face”, she said to him. “If you want to take me out don’t do it behind my back”.

Says Truter of the exchange: “They say a dog gets its day. This pig got its weekend”. The gangster landed up behind bars for five days.


Like many similar communities, Truter said being a candidate in the largely-unemployed, gangster and drug-infested Ocean View is an opportunity to uplift it. Also a member of the Community Police Forum, she believes ‘standing together can make a positive change’.


A Grade 3 teacher at Kleinberg Primary school, her ‘children’s’ well-being means everything to her. She takes money from her own pocket annually at Christmas to cook up a three-course meal, provides gifts and a party pack for each of them.


As coach of Kleinberg Primary volley ball team, she also bought a brand new R200 000 Kia truck to cart them around in. Her efforts clearly pay off as the team will represent the Western Province at inter-provincial volleyball for under 15’s in Durban this month.

“We are the poorest of the poor, struggling with dysfunctional homes and this is a big achievement for parents to see their kids moving up in life”.


Ex chairperson of the Community Committee for Peace (CCP), Truter also has a weak spot for all people living in dire circumstances. Such as an elderly lady opposite her.

“She slept under the stars on a foam mattress with a piece of plastic over her every night. We found poles, planks, sheets and got a donated wendy house. S he’s warm now”.


With her huge heart and humanitarian purpose, the popular Truter’s car sticker summarises it all: ‘My pride and joy is Ocean View’.


[This piece first appeared in the Daily Voice in July 2016]





Shellee-Kim Gold


“I was tired of trying to sell my coffee to offices, including government ones, and always being blocked by the lady at the front desk who said: ‘You’ll have to make an appointment with the boss first’.

Then we realized using the word ‘department’ in our name might just help“, said the upbeat Wongama Baleni.


And so it did. From then on, the Department of Coffee somehow became associated with a government department and the coffee business had no problem finding new clients.

Located in Khayelitsha at the busy train station shopping hub, the DOC is South Africa’s first township success story in the coffee business.


Wongama – one of three co-owners of the DOC and an ex firefighter – is regaling another visiting group with tales of the business’s origins under bright orange umbrellas outside. Their ground level café is in an imposing three-storey high, corrugated iron building in burnt orange for extra impact.


Wongama’s business partner and trained barista, Vuyile Msaku is inside their tiny coffee bar chatting to Shawn Mepeni, an ex hotel housekeeper and the third owner. Judging by his relaxed attitude, Vuyile’s order of 18 cappuccinos is clearly nothing to get into a froth about.


Outside, the gathering of Bidvest employees are soaking up the atmosphere and information.

“We get up to four groups weekly of between 10 and 50 people,” says the ambitious Wongama who comes from Khayelitsha, like the rest of the coffee crew.

It includes the University of Stellenbosch’s visiting foreign students.

While some regular local clients who enjoy the DOC’s coffee and free delivery are employees of the Khayelitsha hospital, the Khayelitsha magistrate’s court and the Khayelitsha mall.


The trio’s objective was to bring quality, artisanal coffee to townships and challenge their culture’s myths around the ‘expensive’ drink with a simple formula – good coffee at real prices the masses can afford. Offering a range of espresso-based coffees including lattes, espressos and macchiatos, filter coffee is R8,50 and cappuccinos are R13.

Clearly successful, they sell up to 100 cups on a good day.

cpDOC owners-ShaunWongama;Vuyile

“We’ve developed five blends: ‘Station’, ‘Runaway’, ‘Africa’, ‘Mzansi’ and ‘Umlungu’, a light roast”, smiles Wongama, who had his first cappuccino at 22 years old.


Tea, hot chocolate and juice are also on the menu, in addition to a range of muffins, including vanilla/chocolate and blueberry for R4 each.


Part of how they ‘give back to the community’, the DOC’s weekly Muffin Run involves supplying between 200 to 500 muffins to up to six Khayelitsha crèches.


Also wanting to make a difference to economic and social issues locally, the DOC offers barista training to local youth. “Our interns are unemployed Matric graduates who we give a skill to and they receive a travel stipend”, said Bongama, who teams up with organization, Action Volunteers, to find the interns. “We want to help reduce some of the youth hanging around on the streets, doing nothing here”, he adds passionately.


Then there’s the community involvement in the monthly open party days, which sees up to 150 visitors arriving. Local artists, crafters, poets, dancers and a DJ all offer up their talents at the DOC. Teaming up with Metrorail in summer, you can even bring your cycle to join the Khayelitsha tour after the ‘Coffee Mob’ fun.


Beginning with a laundry business called the ‘Money Laundry’, the trio of 20-somethings have always thought catchy words in business were vital. At least, their mentor did.

“He explained the importance of names and colours in branding yourself in business. If your eyes see colour they will pay attention”, said Wongama.


Residents from elsewhere are paying equal attention to the DOC’s other mobile outlets at the Khayelitsha Mall and Phillippi Village.

This month the team launch their fourth outlet in as many years in business.


Their new city kiosk marks their official arrival into the Cape’s concrete – and coffee – jungle. With coffee competition around almost every corner in the legendary partygoer’s Long Street, how will the DOC’s brews cater for the more caffeine-discerning palates?

“Free delivery for clients, the same prices and our ‘vibe’ and service will make us different. But the secret will be in our cup”, said Bongama.

[This piece appeared in the City Press on 4 July 2016. ]


By Shellee-Kim Gold


Five year olds play around bloodied adults with axes through their skulls. Seven year olds are unable to stand in a line, a consequence of post traumatic stress disorder in children.

Others act out trauma by aggressively pretending to shoot passing taxis, hands clasped together.

Isolated Ocean View

Isolated Ocean View

Welcome to Ocean View, a township wedged between Cape Town’s picturesque and pricey southern suburbs of Kommetjie and Simonstown. It is also where at least 30 people have been gunned down since December last year in gang-related violence – most of them purportedly innocent bystanders.
Ocean View is home to 30 000 people, of whom at least 60% are unemployed, say community workers.
The latest crime statistics show that there were 26 murders and 231 drug crimes reported there between April 2014 and March 2015. But community workers and residents say the violence took a turn for the worse shortly after several drug kingpins were jailed between November last year and January. After that, hits were put out on each others’ families.
Residents say it’s never been this bad, and lunchtime shootings having also begun.
Young adults have been the hardest hit emotionally and psychologically.
Local grade three teacher and Community Police Forum member Bridgette Truter says her “school kids are so afraid they don’t know what to do next”.
“Their smiling faces from last year are all gone”.
Making the transition from childhood to adulthood is complicated enough, but when you’re 12 or 13 years old and the external war zone becomes internalised, the effects are far-reaching.
Johann Kikillus, a counsellor for Soteria Ministries who’s been in Ocean View for six years says:
“We’re sitting with a major problem here and are at that point where we can lose an entire generation. It’s like a war zone – your psyche’s going to get very badly affected”.
Kikillus, who has previously worked at Pollsmoor prison and in other gang and drug-infested areas, made some alarming discoveries in a recent snap poll of young adults conducted in February this year.
The poll was conducted in groups and by a show of hands and comments made by 136 Grade 7 students at Kleinberg Primary School, and around 160 Marine Primary pupils.
While 90 Kleinberg pupils had seen a murdered body, 63 had witnessed a shooting. Most of them had also witnessed a shooting in a park or a public space.
“I also asked them what the number one thing on their mind was. All of them said they’re afraid they’ll go home to find their parents or family shot dead”, said Kikillus.
“After some parents were shot dead earlier this year, I asked the students how many of them couldn’t sleep, cried without reason and couldn’t go and socialise with friends. Every single hand in the class went up”.
Yet only one student had sought out a counsellor to speak to. Talking about your problems is perceived as a sign of weakness in Ocean View.
Like any working class community in South Africa, playing in the streets is a part of the culture, but many children can no longer do so. Before, parks were places to meet friends, but now Ocean View’s are overrun with drug dealers who fight each other. Getting caught up in the crossfire of “tik koppe” is par for the course.
Though sometimes their aim is quite deliberate.
Abdul Karriem (14) was sitting right next to his 17-year-old sister near their Aster Court flat off Leo Road when she was gunned down on July 18 last year. Aneeba was killed by a “friend” who had wanted a relationship with her.
“Okay, you don’t want me. Now you’ll see what I’m going to do”, said the friend, Abdul recounts. Then he pulled out a gun and killed Aneeba instantly.
Abdul relays the story unflichingly; disconnected, unemotive.
“I’ve had two counselling sessions but don’t want more,” he shrugs. He’s dropped out of school, become aggressive, has sleepless nights and has become a loner.

Abdul(left) and his family at the spot of sister Aneeba's fatal shooting

Abdul(left) and his family at the spot of sister Aneeba’s fatal shooting

Abdul’s story is not unusual. But his aunt, Hajira Karriem’s, list of family shooting tragedies surpass the norm, even by Ocean View standards. They include the death of her own son.
Shafiek Karriem was chatting with some friends in an open field near his house when he was gunned down last year. He worked as a gardener and happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Shafiek had celebrated his 31st birthday the day before.
Hajira’s other nephew, whom his family has asked not to be named, was also shot and killed last year. The fourth and only family member to survive a shooting – and who currently walks with a bullet in his back – is her husband’s nephew who lives with them. The man who asked not to be named was standing outside a shop, drinking a colddrink, when he was shot last month.
Far from broken, the 54-year-old is “not afraid of anyone or anything”. Unusual, as most Ocean View adults live in fear and intimidation. Hajira Karriem maintains neither her late son, teenage niece or nephew were involved in either drugs or gangsterism.

Hajira Karriem points out the site of son Shafiek's shooting

Hajira Karriem points out the site of son Shafiek’s shooting

Her open, chatty nature is a sharp contrast to that of her pretty 15-year-old granddaughter, Yumna Karriem, whom she constantly prompts for responses to my questions.
“Do you know how many children in your class have experienced a family member being killed by a gun?” she asks.
“I don’t know” is the reply.
Her grandmother prompts her.
“I don’t have friends,” Yumna responds.
Every other question is met with stony silence and a vacant expression. It’s as if I’m holding a gun to Yumna’s head myself.
Clinical psychologist, Dr Nokwanda Khumalo, says numbness and disconnection are ways of protecting oneself from the horror.
“Disconnecting could be a form of dissociating in this context. Cutting yourself off from others allows you to survive day-to-day among teenagers born into a subcontext of trauma and hearing about it regularly from family and neighbours.”
And when a loved one is murdered in front of you?
“For teenagers experiencing that degree of trauma you’re unable to process such a situation, immediately dissociating parts of your consciousness. However, triggers will keep surfacing”, says Khumalo who sees traumatised patients daily.
Symptoms such as flashbacks and nightmares, such as those Abdul experiences, loud sounds, smells or even a car hooter could set off the trauma.
Trauma also affects both memory, concentration and the capacity to think. “It affects the ability to process things and thinking gets slower or becomes stunted in some way”.
Khumalo says younger children can “act out” experiences, illustrated by a group of pre-primary schoolers shooting “air guns” at taxis whenever they drive by.
Kathy Cronje, chairperson of the Ocean View Community Police Forum and a trauma debriefer has first-hand experience of this.
One notorious group of aggressive seven year olds fixate on their favourite movie, Chucky. “They run around as a pack and are left to look after themselves”.
A gruesome scene illustrating Ocean View’s abnormal normal occurred late last year near Marine Primary school when a man was discovered with an axe in his head, gushing blood.
“Five and six year olds were playing nearby.
“Uncle, are you okay?” they ran around him, asking repeatedly.
“A towel was produced which a woman wrapped around him. And with that, the children went straight back to playing,” said Cronje.
Teacher Truter regularly urges her students to run home when they see a dead body.
“The children run toward the body instead. It’s like a spectator sport, with some of them taking pictures of it for Facebook”, said the grade 3 teacher and volleyball coach of Kleinberg Primary school.
Truter is one of the first to know who’s been killed, where and when.
“When we see a flare going off at night or hear a car or motorbike revving very loudly, it’s someone letting the community know a shooting’s happening.”
During the first and second school terms of this year, three student protest marches against drugs were held and Kleinberg Primary, Ocean View Primary, Marine Primary and Ocean View High all became involved. Truter helped organize some of them.

Whether or not they’ve had any impact on the drug lords they’re appealing to, is anyone’s guess.
But this doesn’t divert from the trauma students live with daily.
Last December, one little boy on his way home from Kleinberg Primary learned that his father had been shot dead. The newly-wed father had been gunned down with his wife and their friend in a triple shooting.
Despite all this, Kikillus has proved there are possibilities for generational healing from trauma.
His visiting psychology students from the United States in March this year were able to make positive changes on coping with trauma in the community.
But he’s the first to admit he cannot do it alone. “These kids need some type of government intervention to succeed.”

All images (except the last) the property of City Press Newspaper

[The piece first appeared in the City Press on 3 July 2016]Ocean View Youth at Shop

Resonating With The Beat

Resonating With The Beat




Shellee-Kim Gold


Calling all techno trashers, happy hippies, indie indulgers, cosmic chillers and anyone else for whom the Rezonance Festival has become an annual dance pilgrimage.


Everything from psytrance, techno, progressive and electro to drum and bass, dub step and ambient will wow you at this multi-genre music festival. Keeping you company at the hilly Contermanskloof venue in Durbanville will be an array of psychedelic canopies in crazy colours and creative designs above you and lush green grass beneath your feet.


After 21 years of perfecting the four-day outdoor festival from it’s beginnings as a trance party, Rezonance gets it right on many levels.


This year’s theme is ‘The Journey’. With performances staged across four arenas with names such as Misfits Meadow and the Chill Temple – so you know where you fit in – the artist lineup is bound to blow your body and brain away once more.


For newbies, organisers describe Rezonance as ‘the perfect place for reckless abandon and general mayhem’ and where you can ‘expect mud-stomping…and debauchery’.


Security is slick and volunteers everywhere help to ensure everything runs with well-oiled professionalism.


You can camp it up in your own tent or join the tribe at the magical Sacred Arrow Tipi Village. Tipis sleep four, supply mattresses (sans bedding) and you can park near your tent. A minimum of two nights is required and costs R890 per night.

Go one level up the camping rung and the Bell Tent Village will provide tents with mattresses, sheets, tables and more.

However, if you can only get your beauty sleep on a real bed between four walls, opt for one of the plentiful, surrounding guesthouses.

A cheaper alternative – which leaves you with more boodle for the other festival offerings – is to bring your camper van.


All the usual entertaining elements are present at the Festival, including the flea market with its zany clothing, jewellery and festival-styled paraphernalia. Vegetarians will bliss out on the great Food Court choices available, including divine-infused Hare Krishna chow and exotic Indian treats.


Rezonance doesn’t do day passes and tickets will set you back between R590 – R680, depending on which of the numerous outlets you purchase them from.


If communing with cool sistahs and bruthas in celebration of a One earth family is your kind of Trance-mission, you won’t want to miss out on this mother of a gathering.



Villa By The Sea


by Shellee-Kim Gold

‘Being here makes me feel like royalty’ is how guests often describe their stay at Kennedy’s Beach Villa in Onrus River, a few minutes drive from Hermanus.

The heavily-featured teak panelling that proliferates in the Lagoon Villa purportedly came from the first post office in Simon van der Stel’s 17th century Cape Town. While the grandeur of the Louis XIV queen-sized bed, majestic busts and art works are all in keeping with the refined living of the old world. This charm is one of the reasons accounting for the venue’s popularity amongst honeymooners and anniversary celebrants alike.

Interior Charm

Then there’s The Beach Suite. As different from the Lagoon Villa as chalk is from cheese. Light, airy and roomy with panoramic vistas over the Onrus River and the beach, the Baroque-styled interior is decked out in mellow sand and creamy tones, blending with the exterior.

And talking decks: you’ll be delighted to find the very spacious one attached to The Beach Suite has majestic mountain views and a sunken jacuzzi. Here, you can scan the seas of the Cape Whale Coast for those gentle giants in four-star style and with a glass of your favourite in hand.

Sensual Pleasures

Exploring just slightly further afield, the Onrus River begins where the Beach Suite’s lawn ends. Walk another 20 metres and you’re walking the sands of Onrus beach. Essentially, this means guests have their own private beach.

If all that’s not private and romantic enough for you, honeymooners and Lagoon Villa guests can take advantage of the venue’s signature treatment : an open-air milk bath in the middle of the Milkwood forest.

Owner Ymile Kennedy first caught onto the body-revitalising idea while in Bali and decided to Africanise the treatment for her guests. Using her special secret blend, immersing yourself in the antique milk bath experience here has become akin to a rite of passage for romance-seekers. Guests take to it like a duck to, well, a milk bath.

Forested Luxury

The word ‘private’ is one which ex politician Ymile uses often to describe the appeal she’s created here and attributes her success to. The other is ‘having the best butler in 22 years in the hospitality industry’. Guests clearly agree.

Whatever it is, Kennedy’s Beach Villa’s reputation has attracted all manner of celebrities, politicians and industry CEO’s. They include ex Miss Universe and TV presenter, Michelle Mclean, Idols’ Heinz Winkler and India’s High Commissioner.

Hideaway Villa



Junior Animal Talker

Talking to animals is completely normal for this 10-year-old


Animals express emotions and demonstrate a depth of compassion and wisdom through this telepathic child, writes Shellee-Kim Gold

“He’s not coming back this time but he is healthy”. I breathe a sigh of relief after hearing this news about my beloved young black tomcat, Avalon. It’s been more than a week since he left – again.


It’s taken Grade Five student, Matilde dos Santos, to ease my anxiety. Yet the reserved young lady has never even met him in the furry flesh.


Olive-skinned Matilde has discovered all this and more from Avalon’s brother, my 10 year-old tomcat who’s photograph she’s been gazing at while chatting to me telephonically. Her contact with my older cat has been telepathic.


Gifted in the art of animal communication, the young brunette has been able to engage telepathically with animals since she was six years old.

“I walked past a dog and heard a voice. Eventually I realized it was coming from him. Talking to him felt normal”, she recalls.


Since then, her inner world has been populated with the ‘voices’ of a host of animals, including cats, dogs and goldfish. After doing an animal communication course, Matilde’s confidence went forward in leaps and bounds.


Discovering what ails animals is top of mind for Matilde. Since her goldfish died recently, the remaining one has told her that it’s lonely and ‘needs a new friend in the tank’.


“I connect to animal by looking directly into their eyes and sending my message in pictures and words. I do that with my heart and brain. Then I hear a voice or see pictures back from them”, explains Matilde seriously.


Telepathy is best described as mind-to-mind communication. It’s the most natural form of communication between all species – except humans, who’ve largely forgotten the practice consciously.


We’re stroking a cream-coloured camel at Kommetjie’s Imhoff Gift. Izak’s 30 years old and by all accounts he and the three other resident camels have a pretty cushy job.

Nontheless, Izak sometimes feels saddled with the bulk of the workload due to his even temperament. Bush rides carrying humans between their humps are especially popular on weekends and school holidays.


“Sometimes he needs a break and on quiet days he just wants to relax,” Izak tells the attentively-listening Matilde, as I bombard her with questions about how he arrived at this location and where he was born.


“Far away in a desert and I see men in long dresses ( the Muslim ‘bisht’). He was taken from his family quite young and his best memory is when he first saw his mother.

When he was coming here his breathing felt quite weird to him. He was inhaling sea air and he was afraid”, conveys Matilde about the camel’s foreign experience.


Not only do animals feel emotions, but demonstrate a depth of compassion and wisdom. Such as when I ask if Izak has any message he’d like to share with humans.

“Do not pollute this earth and that will help animals and humans to function better”, he says through his junior translator.


Matilde, who’s favourite school activity is canoeing on Zeekoevlei, attends The New Muizenberg School, a Waldorf-orientated home school. Like most 10 year-old girls she’s instantly drawn to the animal farmyard’s cute, cuddly rabbit den. However, they’re a little too fearful to communicate with and hop away.


A sow’s in a state of anxiety a few enclosure up. She’s mom to eight, tiny black-spotted piglets. But she’s in no state to stop for a friendly chat with Matilde. “She’s unhappy and afraid the black boar-father’s going to hurt her piglets. She doesn’t like him sitting with them”.


Matilde doesn’t think telepathy with animals is exclusive to only a few human beings.

“My mother told me never to give up with my communication and my father said ‘believe’. I think all humans can do this. They just need that belief”. Her mother, Sandra, is open to the concept of reincarnation and her father, Arnoldo, is a masseur and a Reiki healer.

After he taught Matilde Reiki, a hands-on energy healing method, the junior Doctor Doolittle-in-training has enjoyed a seventy percent success rate in healing animals.


A gorgeous black mare and her chestnut-coloured colt offspring are nuzzling our outstretched hands at a horse farm I visit regularly in Noordhoek. Dolphins and horses ‘who have something unique’ are amongst Matilde’s favourite animals.

Horsing Around

I ask whether they remember me. The chestnut colt’s nodding vigorously.“ Yes, and you’ve improved from the last time you were here with them”. Only I would know what that meant as I was in a chaotic personal state then. According to Matilde and like humans, horses nod their heads to affirm something.


Horses, say Matilde, chose to be born in captivity but they all want to know what it’s like to be free.

I ask about their other lives and the mare says she had a quick life as a butterfly and has also been a cheetah in north America where she escaped humans hunting her. But the life she loved best by far was as a racing horse in Europe.


We’ve visited with horses who’ve previously been pigs and rabbits, a rabbit who’s been a camel and a camel who’s been a dolphin.


The million dollar question is how is Matilde able to discern the difference between an animal’s ‘voice’ and her own imagination?

“I know the difference between my own voice and brain and the other voices in my head,” says Matilde with fierce certainty. Her confidence takes belief to the next level – knowing.


Arnoldo begins hounding her for telepathic help on house buying.“Ask the horse what figure we should offer on the house we saw last week.” He gets a favourable response and smiles broadly.


Do you pick Matilde’s brain all the time, I ask him.


“Yes, we have to exploit her talent, after all”, he jokes.

[This story first appeared in the Sunday Times on 5 June 2016]

Entrance to the Grande Dame

THE MOUNT NELSON HOTEL – Cape Town’s Grande Dame


What does the Dalai Lama, Prince Andrew, singer Alicia Keyes and author Agatha Christie have in common? They’ve all been spotted at Cape Town’s ‘Grande Dame’ of hotels, the Mount Nelson.


Fondly known as the Pink Lady to locals and nestled in the lap of Table mountain, her colonial luxury has been celebrated by royalty, politicians and celebrities alike since her birth in 1899.

mount nellie 4

A famous Cape Town institution is the hotel’s High Tea. This is a serious ritual of the most indulgent kind. And one not to be missed. On offer are teas from just about every tea-growing country of the world and edibles, such as local ‘Melktert’(South African milk tart). In keeping with the colonial theme, there’s also cucumber and salmon finger sandwiches and scones with clotted cream, amongst the many sweet and savoury delights.

nellies tea time

Afterwards, you can walk your tea off in the hotel’s nine acres of lush garden, cool in the shade of Table Mountain or make use of some hydrotherapy in one of the Mount Nelson’s swimming pools. Or perhaps a little tennis on the Grande Dame’s courts?


The more sedentary may want to take directly to their well-appointed, five star hotel suites. While marble bathrooms and walk-in dressing rooms are features of the Superior Suites, nothing beats the luxury of the Presidential Suite with its antique furnishings, crystal light fittings, private lounge and enviable views of Table Mountain from the balcony.

Ambling In the Nellie's Gardens

Evening entertainment could best be started at the stylish Planet Bar. Here you can clink glasses with Cape Town’s stars…twinkling above!   Then choose from one of the hotel restaurants to savour some local delicacies, such as smoked crocodile or Namibian red crab.


Numerous international Best Hotel awards have paid homage to Cape Town’s luxury Mount Nelson Hotel. To see why olde worlde grace and charm have no competition when it comes to the ‘Grande Dame’, check in to the website at for a long, luxurious stay.



Once I had an assignment with a very tight deadline where I had to endure almost a dozen alternative healing modalities in around five days.

Yeah…right, I hear you say. Hardly anything to endure! Yet, it was. Because I nearly burned myself out, almost cracking up from a seriously-intense ‘alternative’ overdose, with almost no spaces between to integrate them all.


But I know exactly where I would have gone for self-restoration and nurturing back to balance if it had been in existence then. And that’s the One & Only Spa at the Cape’s V & A Waterfront. Tthe lushly-landscaped Spa Island is an oasis of serenity, with this luxury Spa’s cornerstones being unwind, restore and elevate.


one&only2My personal, ongoing favourite treatment is anything associated with head massage. Probably because mine’s so masochistically abused on a daily basis.

And here you can choose between the Unwind Signature Experience’s scalp massage ending or the Elavate Signature Experience. The Thai-influenced latter uses stretching, rhythmic pressure and rocking to release muscle tightness, before ending with a head massage.


I’ve always fantasized how decadently-different a Spa date (with someone you already know pretty well!) would be. Because this is a Spa that caters fully to the couple. You can hold hands while having a double massage and walk around joined at the hip while sweating up a storm in the steam room, sauna or under the ‘experience’ showers. Which are all complimentary here, along with their signature iced and hot teas. Even better news: March is the month of the Love Spa package.


There are Spas, and then…there are Spas. If it’s not clear already and you want to know why Spa Magazine and Spa Finder respectively called this one the ‘best’ and ‘favourite’ Spa in Africa, you’ll have to go along and find out.




You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re far from the madding crowd when you choose Constantia Uitsig Estate’s restaurant for lunch or dinner.

Finds like these   – just 20 minutes from the city centre – are all part of the hidden gems that are the Cape Town experience.


After all, where can you find a working wine estate-cum-hotel-cum-award-winning restaurant? Which, also   provides some of the most spectacular surrounds and sublime mountain views on offer in the city.


To top it, you can savour your every decadent mouthful from a table inside or outside at this Constantia restaurant. All depending on the weather, of course. Inside you can appreciate the passage of time in what was once the estate’s original homestead.

While outdoors, a visual feast of another kind. Here you’re entertained by vineyards, exquisite garden and birdsong under the cool of colossal trees.

Being a vegetarian, I’m always on the hunt for ‘vegetarian a la different’ dishes. Anything that’s innovative, seriously creative and has the right amount of visual appeal are criteria that gets my juices flowing.


Offer me brinjal in any form, at any time and my discernment takes a dive. Thus the Melanzana alla Parmigiana here is usually my favourite (and only) starter.   Ditto the Crème Brulee. Any restaurant that can successfully add their unique signature without messing with a traditionally turned-out, perfect brulee has my vote!

Cuisine is Mediterranean Provencal at Uitsig and for carnivores there’s everything from roasted Karoo Lamb and Beef Fillet, while fish lovers can opt for Norwegian Salmon and Sole.


The Constantia Uitsig restaurant is synonymous with special occasions. It’s the type of venue that has romance practically built in. You’d be more than happy being proposed to here.











Spend a weekend playing at smackdown in the bedroom, being a Voortrekker or a greenie.

Escape from reality at The Old Mac Daddy resort.

Quirky getaways: Make your fantasies a reality

They’re wacky, wonderfully original and sometimes just a little bit weird. Fun-tasy family sleepovers reign supreme in the quirky Western Cape province.

Requiring little more than an imagination to match the environment they’re in, adventurous accommodation can be experienced in all sorts of Cape vegetation and terrain, including mountains and forest.

Doing your stay differently includes taking bedroom “fights” to new fun levels in a boxing ring-cum-bed; emulating Robinson Crusoe’s family at a treetop eco-resort; and waking up in a Voortrekker-styled wagon of yore.

Wagons on the move

Snooze while literally on the move in a replica of an 1800s horse-drawn wagon, courtesy of the Cape Town Carriage Company. If the rhythmic clip-clopping overcomes you, your double bed in the wagon’s interior with its neon lighting provides a soft landing.

Expect to see the farmland sights in slow motion on your Overberg wagon meander. As in the days of the Groot Trek, you’ll stop frequently to ensure the horses rest.

By night, the wagon’s canvas cover is rolled down and your home-on-wheels rounded up into a laager. Don’t expect time out to contemplate your navel because the entire family is expected to muck in with chores such as chopping wood and making a potjie. You’ll be rewarded later at the fireside with yarns you’ve never heard before.

The Mills & Boon trailer at The Old Mac Daddy resort.

It’s all about the journey and not the destination; women “voortrekkers” test their horse-riding, whip-cracking and fire-making skills and men learn how to boil water in a paper bag and feel like a pioneer in mastering the art of wagon-riding.

Wacky old Mac Daddy

You won’t master any art at Elgin’s Old Mac Daddy resort, but you’ll be tickled pink by the playfulness and creative designs of artists.

Nestled in pine forest, each Airstream caravan is individually decked out in a theme matching its name. Variously, you could experience the exotic, the humorous, the mysterious, the fantastical and the nostalgic, among others.

Play at being “trailer trash” in the all-pink, kitsch Mills & Boon with its Twin Peaks-type elements. Called the “best powder puff of a pulp fiction trailer”, with mirrors everywhere – including the interior’s roof – narcissists won’t know where to look first. Mills & Boon books could help to stave off boredom.

Natural-born snoops will gravitate to the Yellow Submarine’s vinyl interior. Plot your course using the working telescope and the underlit ocean floor-cum-chart table and imitate Austin Powers and Vanessa Kensington on a spy mission.

The Dirkie Sanchez caravan.

Is role-playing in the bedroom your bag? Then the Dirkie Sanchez caravan is for you. A “boxing ring” bed roped off with satin cords is where you can “tussle … as you grunt and groan until you score”.

On your next round make use of the wrestler costumes provided. WWW Smackdown won’t have a patch on your antics.

Indulging in fantasies extends to the specially constructed “beach”, complete with cocktail bar at the (dam) water’s edge.

Get real

In contrast, at Teniqua Treetops outside Sedgefield you’ll find nothing but reality. The owners insist on living in green integrity and even encourage clients to go elsewhere if they can’t appreciate that Mother Earth comes first here.

Surrounded by yellowood, ironwood and milkwood trees and tame rescue horses used as lawnmowers, you won’t need to be a happy hippy to enjoy life in your unique, hand-built cabin with its recycled windows.

Teniqua Treetops.

Tarzan and Jane-style swinging from the forest’s treetops is verboten. Instead, you’ll enjoy drinking harvested, sweet rainwater. Showers are open to the forest – and voyeuristic animals – with water coming from the Karatara River below you where you can also swim. Ditto the old cattle drinking point, now a pool.

If you’re even slightly fascinated by living green, waste from the dry toilet system becomes compost for trees. A surface layer of leaves accelerates the process.

Wagon Weekends cost R6000 a weekend wagon adventure for four people, including meals. Contact: 021 704 6907 or 082 575 5669. Email:

Old Mac Daddy trailers cost R975 (during the week) or R1 595 (on weekends) a night and this includes breakfast. Contact : 021 844 0241. Email:

Teniqua Treetops costs from R1 060 for two people to R3 000 a night for six, depending on cabin size and season. Self-catering. Contact: 044 356 2868. Email:





Shellee-Kim Gold


African penguins are much like humans in their relationships with one other.

When their respective mates died within several months of each other, widowed couple, Sakkie and Creep hooked up. And they’ve been together ever since.

African penguins are usually monogamous birds, mating with one partner for life. But don’t assume it’s always the opposite sex. Gay couple Gigi and Oliver are females, named erroneously before their DNA was sent to be sexed.


Then there’s blind Beebee and her devoted male mate, Simone. He calls for her to follow him, drops fish in front of her and protectively stands between Beebee and humans.

St Francis Bay

Just a handful of the plucky feathered friends who’s acquaintance you can make at SANCCOB’S St Francis Penguin Rehabilitation Centre, these permanent residents are not releasable. Temporary penguin patients constitute abandoned chicks in the main who are hand-reared until they reach maturity.


Daily tours mean you’ll be able to experience the penguins’ entire journey at SANCCOB, including watching them swim and feed – if you come at the right time. You’ll also be able to adopt a bird and name it.


If the idea of building relationships with the birds floats your boat, foreigners can take visiting to the next level and volunteer.

You’ll be fully trained first at the Cape Town branch in handling, feeding, tubing and medicating the penguins and can volunteer for up to six months.


Port Elizabeth


While nearby SAMREC (South African Marine Rehabilitation and Educational Centre) -who also rescues, rehabilitates and releases penguins -is an hour away in Port Elizabeth and is supported by a majority of local volunteers.

Marine education of primary schoolers is SAMREC’S big focus, but they’re also a stop on Raggy Charters’ day trips. Whichever boat trip you choose with Raggy, you’re guaranteed to see the world’s largest African penguin population of 7 000 pairs on nearby St Croix island.


Betty’s Bay


Head further south down the Cape’s east coast to the world’s third largest penguin colony at Stony Point in the pretty beach village of Betty’s Bay.

In an uncommercial and aesthetically-pleasing environment with oceans of kelp forests, this is home to 2500 pairs of penguins.

“There’s no bird that’s more compassionate than the penguin,” said senior marine ranger, Cuan Mc George.

“Once the penguin’s finished feasting they bring anchovy, pilchard and shrimp to the surface so pelagic birds such as Cape cormorants and terns can feed.”


Compassion aside, the birds will also ‘beat you blue, bite you wicked and chase you aggressively when you threaten them,’ said Mc George humorously. The species are endemic to the southern part of the African continent.

Predominantly island birds, penguins are a keystone species and used as an indicator of the sea’s state. Possessing a cheeky temperament, the superlative swimmers are super-tough, surviving horrific injuries. These include mass lacerations from boat propellors and trawling nets.


Cape Town


The only site in the world where you can swim with the endangered African penguin in natural habitat is a calming corner of Cape Town’s False Bay. But don’t get off on the wrong footing – or flipper – or get too close, as you could be nipped.


Attracting coachloads of tourists, Foxy beach is where you can hear their characteristic, Jackass-type honking ‘bray’ and see their bodies shaking and flippers flapping during courting. Get into your swimming gear and tread water on the neighbouring Boulders beach with the 60 cm high birds for a sublime encounter.

While human development has heavily encroached on their crucial nest-building sites, it’s also meant closer interaction with the birds. You’ll find penguins climbing walls en route to the beach, early morning waddle-walking down the street past houses, nesting in drainpipes and gardens and shade-seeking under parked cars.

One human neighbour purportedly even woke up in bed one morning to a penguin peering into her face.


Cape West coast


All of the west coast islands of small penguin populations are in marine protected areas.

Serious penguin-spotters may want to stop at Langebaan with it’s internationally-important wetland, strandveld, succulents and 250 bird species for a different perspective.

Several charter boat companies – recommended by their tourism office – will be able to get you within 50 metres of the boulder-strewn Malgas and triangular-shaped Jutten island for viewing. Guano (seabird excrement) used to protect penguin nests from their predators. But the fertiliser industry has mass-scraped away most of this, contributing to the penguins’ endangered species status today.


It’s worth driving a short 20 kilometres further to Marcus island at Saldanha, South Africa’s largest natural bay. Commercial fishing, the steel and iron ore industries dominate.

Not an island per se, Marcus has the biggest penguin colony on the West coast and is connected by a causeway to the ‘island’.

Only researchers are permitted to walk amongst the penguins, currently in their moulting and breeding season. You can drive to the breakwater, though, and with a decent pair of binoculars your journey won’t go unrewarded.




Did you know …African Penguins:


*Can swim up to 20 km per hour when hunting.


*Used to be called the Jackass penguin due to their donkey-like bray.

*Black-and-white ‘tuxedoed’ bodies are essential protection. Their black backs camouflage them from predators looking down onto the sea, while their white bellies deflect undersea predators looking up.  

*Are part of the marine ‘Big Five’, along with Southern Right whales, Great White sharks, Cape Fur seals and Bottlenose dolphin.


*Have unique markings – like humans have fingerprints – in the form of stomach dots.


* Ocean enemies are seals, sharks and occasionally whales. Land-based ones include genet, mongoose and egg-stealing gulls.


* Heads move from side to side as a warning signal before they bite.


* Were caught up in the Treasure tanker oil spill in 2000 when 40 000 penguins were affected. Almost half of them were rescued by SANCCOB.


24 MAR 2016 00:00 SHELLEE-KIM GOLD

South Africa offers many opportunities to escape the rat race and connect with your inner being.

Healing With Horses

Healing With Horses

Drama, adventure and the absurd have never been counterproductive to my spiritual seeking. In the face of what is sacred to another, I’m no belly-laughing Buddha. In fact, honouring others was the prerequisite to my travels through 43 countries.

Even when our lives appear to stand still, somewhere, somehow, there is the ever-constant ebb and flow of movement, of change. That recurring change continuously returns us to the sacred and ultimate path – to the God within each of us.

I don’t believe that God lives within the four walls of a synagogue, church or mosque. I believe God’s omnipresence is in everything and everyone at all times, but the pressures and limitations of living in 21st-century urban environments make it easy for us to separate from the Divine within.

Fortunately, there is an emergence of pristine, picture-postcard locations and therapeutic activities in South Africa that have been built for the purpose of returning and reconnecting us to our true selves. Varying in accessibility and style, but comparable in terms of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical outcome, those of us in search of a space to connect with ourselves can consider the following types of healing holidays.

Like a metaphor for life’s journey, you walk to the centre of a labyrinth holding something in mind that needs resolution. Trying to get out of it is where the work of self-reflection happens during an indefinite journey of being literally lost in your thoughts.

Pausing to contemplate it at the centre, which could have a bench or a hut, you eventually walk out, hopefully with a renewed clarity and vision.

South Africans are spoilt for choice, with dozens of labyrinths dotted around most provinces. Designs vary, as do materials, which are mostly natural and often sourced from the immediate environment, such as the slate and stone labyrinth at The Garden near Magaliesburg, with its curved, crystal-sprinkled centre. Designed in Baltic wheel style, the 44m labyrinth with a view is built on a slope.

“Very personal to the individual, like life, our labyrinth is a windy, twisty, turning path. Sometimes uphill and sometimes downhill, sometimes rocky and other times not,” said owner Margaret Rose. There are also picnic spots at the river’s edge.

Horse-riding therapy
The horses at the African Horse Company in the small Overberg village of Stanford in the Western Cape are respected as sentient beings, equal partners and four-legged “therapists” to the humans they serve and aid.

Knowing your needs, specific horses choose specific people, who come to do an outride or any other of the two- to 13-day trails.

Whether you’re cantering on the Agulhas plains or trotting across Walker Bay, you’ll be able to bond with a horse and perhaps even let go of long-term negativity by understanding its reactions to you.

Eighty percent of what humans communicate is by body language and horses tune in to how you feel. They carry the gift of freedom for people, so identifying our limitations first is imperative.

Learning about the art of horse body language, where everything from hoof-stomping and tail-swishing means something, is the first stage of this two-way process. Horses handle their stress by letting off steam through play, snorting, rolling and kicking.

Laughing yoga
“Shaking it off” for humans is a bit more complex, and sometimes you have just got to fake it until you make it. At least that’s what happens, in part, on a laughter yoga retreat. Have you ever listened to a laughter audio that got you giggling in less than 30 seconds? It took me all of 20 when witnessing a group guffawing recently, before I involuntarily joined in.

Billed as a form of dynamic meditation, laughter yoga is an active way of coming into the present.

“When you laugh heartily, you aren’t planning the future and you’re not worried about the past. You’re in the present, in the now moment,” says Kate Squire-Howe, a retreat facilitator of Laughter Yoga SA.

Because the body and mind can’t differentiate between real and contrived laughter, the unconditional 20-minute group laughter makes way for laughter meditation. This “primes the body” while you make eye contact with the group. A guided relaxation follows. Shown to improve sleep and wellbeing, the one-day stress-busters are held in the Cape’s Noordhoek valley, surrounded by sublime sea and mountain views.

My tongue is extended to my chin and I’m roaring, doing the “lion’s roar”, as instructed by Kate. Now it’s combined to be a crazy mix of my childhood asthmatic wheezy laughter and the roaring, in a kind of intoxicated insanity. Just as well I didn’t tell her I have already been roaring and meowing for some time, as a feline-worshipper of note.

Buddhist retreats
On the other side of the country, the Buddhist Retreat Centre in Ixopo, amid KwaZulu-Natal’s rolling hills, is filled to the brim with serious-minded souls, wandering around the garden shrines and corridors intent on the proper practice of Buddhism. As proof of concept, the centre has been selected as one of CNN’s Top Ten retreats in the world and is famous for its week-long silent retreats.

The idea of staying there fills me with terror. I could never run the risk of committing myself to a silent retreat for even a full day, let alone a week. My untamed mind and twitchy body would likely get me ejected. People like me are far better suited to dynamic meditation and contemplation, which I practise daily.

Hare Krishna centres
If you’re carless or cash-strapped but still fancy a sampling of the Eastern exotic for half a day, the Hare Krishna Sunday Love Feast is a city journey you can make. The centres are located nationwide, with branches in many cities. You’ll know devotees by their orange robes and their community-based initiatives.

Cooked in a meditative, chanting state, the good vibes of the Hare Krishna’s renowned karma-free fare has long had me hooked as a vegetarian. Especially delicious is their paneer (Indian cheese) dishes. Oh, and their burfi dessert (Indian fudge). But that all comes at the end of several hours of the mantra meditation, talks, questions and Arati (deity worship).

If you’re as nuts about Indian vegetarian food as I am, you’ll find it worthwhile sitting through it. As part of their service to humanity, they don’t charge for meals. So be sure to show your gratitude in their donation box.

My daughter, during her tweenage years, used to nag me with religious fervour to attend the feasts so she could give vent to her obsession. Unlike her mother, it wasn’t for the actual food served at the end of the day, as much as it was for the frenzied, whirling dervish she became during the Kirtan chants and dancing.

Personally, my idea of a perfect retreat is listening for God in an inspired garden setting, or anywhere else where nature dominates. It’s there, among the trees, in quiet contemplation, that my ability to ground myself and hear flows more easily as if nature’s purity helps me along.