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A real South African Experience
The Klaas Voogds Maze of Soekershof Walkabout in Robertson is not just
a maze or even the largest hedge-maze in the world; it's a maze so
different that it hardly fits into the 'perception box' of the average
tourist. This is a maze of life. Visitors walk from one story into the
other but, as in life, there are also a few stories one has to look for
and that's where a quest comes in and visitors can earn a memorable
Besides all this: the maze is just a part of the ever organically
growing gardens of Soekershof.
What's the story?
In April 2000 a Dutch couple, Herman van Bon and Yvonne de Wit,
emigrated from 'the low wetlands' in the Netherlands to a high and dry
Klaas Voogds; a small hamlet 2 hours touristic driving from Cape Town
in the Robertson Wine Valley. There they bought a small farm of 10
hectares, which was neglected for 24 years. The original idea was to
clean the place and restore the buildings but fate had other ideas.
From the first week onwards everything went different.
While cleaning the weed overgrown cactus garden they discovered a
memorial tablet of Marthinus Malherbe. Malherbe (1885-1976) was the
pioneer of the South African cactus trade and opposite his grave the
oldest cactus of South Africa (anno 1910) is still blooming every year.
Today the restored and extended garden boast more than 2400 different
succulents, including cacti, from all over the world in the open sky
and not under cover of a roof or a shade net like in nurseries. More
than 700 of these succulents are indigenous to Southern Africa
including Madagascar. In the cultivation of the gardens no chemicals or
artificial fertilisers are used but only soil mixtures with
characteristics of the soil in the different native areas of the
plants. The own Soekershof nursery distinguishes itself from other
(specialist) nurseries by providing buyers with information in line
with the own individual environment; sometimes even by the refusal of
selling a plant.
One of the first things one notices on entering the farm is a huge wire
baobab tree. Yvonne explains that they had discovered a wire-artist,
Joey, selling wire Christmas trees outside the local supermarket and
had asked him to construct a much larger sculpture. The resulting work
of art contains 4.5 kilometers of wire. Since than Joey has gone from
strength to strength and has had many commissions. A second wire baobab
tree is in the South African Embassy in Berlin while a wire mountain
has the pride of place in a German Museum. From being a humble street
vendor Joey has now his own studio in Soekershof's visitors centre. In
his shop Joey demonstrates visitors the 'New South African Handshake'
and explains the meaning of the traditional South African handshake. As
being born in the Limpopo Valley Joey also tells about the historical
connection between the traditional people in the Limpopo and the
Aboriginals in Australia. The story goes 40,000 years back in time and
it turns out that on both sides of the Indian Ocean the baobab tree is
worshipped for the same reason and in the same way.
A visit to Soekershof Walkabout is a very personal experience, which
begins with a firm handshake and an introduction. This mini-tour starts
in a so-called 'stone age cinema' in which "the pictures don't move but
the visitor has to move along the pictures in order to get the
picture", as Yvonne explains.
The introduction ends with a fantastic James Bond story to bring the
visitor in the mood for the stories in the Klaas Voogds Maze. The walk
along the peach pip paths is a journey of discovery, and fun as one
ponders into the meaning of the names and artefacts one encounters.
And if one thinks that the visit is here to end ......... it just
started..... Yvonne or 'local' master gardener Maart Geduld guide
visitors around in the succulent gardens. In this comprehensive tour
one senses the real passion of Herman, Yvonne and their staff for their
And than? To the Botterboom Trail for a good view of the gardens. The
trail is also known as 'one of the shortest hiking trails in the world,
if not the shortest'. From the trail into the Philosophers Garden. Here
the meditative nature of its creators finds expression in aphorisms,
quotes and other deep, and sometimes even funny, thoughts of
'celabreties' like George Burnes, Andy Warhol and Kahlil Gibran next to
the ones of the less famous.
It is evident that Herman and Yvonne aren't ordinary people and this is
really not an ordinary experience which can be done in a 'jiffy' as
most of the mainstream destinations in South Africa; so extensively
promoted by 95 percent of the tour operators. There in Klaas Voogds you
need to take the time; at least one and a half hour but the average
visitor undergoes Soekershof Walkabout for 3 to 4 hours and with the
planned extensions of amongst others a Japanese Garden and a Kissing
Bridge it can mean that in a few years time a day is not enough.
"We did not plan this in the beginning but nowadays we realise that our
resources are not endless and we have to commercialise a little bit but
we do want to keep the personal touch. This means that we don't focus
ourselves on more visitors but on added value such as the development
and creation of exclusive Soekershof products like sprayers, solar
umbrellas and key rings which are handcrafted here on the spot and
which can only be bought here", explains Yvonne
It is also the reason for the extraordinary couple to build a
guesthouse. Not an ordinary guesthouse but one that will distinguish
itself in all aspects from other establishments as Soekershof Walkabout
differs so significantly from other tourism attractions. The opening of
the self-sufficient guesthouse (a.o. solar energy, reed filter and
rainwater catchment) is scheduled for April 10, 2010; the celebration
date of "10 years Double Dutch in Klaas Voogds".
"It will be a 0-star accommodation for there are not enough stars to
grade Soekershof Walkabout. Grading in stars only means certain
investments in facilities. We are going beyond that. Soekershof
Walkabout has turned out to be a very personal experience that differs
per individual. There are not many tourism attractions of which all,
without one exception, visitors state, in questionnaires, that they
want to visit again somewhere in the future. It also explains why there
is a growing number of regulars, taking relatives or friends with them
for a visit", says Herman.
Pre-experience Soekershof Walkabout: http://www.soekershof.com.
This website includes, besides descriptions of the different gardens
and mazes, also road directions, other things to do in the region and
accommodation, with brief descriptions, in the area.
A real South African Experience
are you anyhow connected to Soekershof? Sounds really interesting!!
Haven't heard about i so far...
- backpacking Southern Africa -
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