“It is the unknown around the corner that turns my wheels.” — Heinz Stücke, German long-distance touring cyclist
In search of of the unknown, of the wild and wonderful of Africa, Paul Harris (Owner of Ellerman House in Cape Town) and daughter, Nicola Harris, joined this year’s Challenge4ACause in the Damaraland Desert of Namibia. Representing Ellerman House, they pedaled alongside many other faces of the Relais & Châteaux team.
Here is a glimpse at the experience through their eyes, as they travelled across one of the most inimitable and isolated wilderness areas in the world, for six days, covering 360 kilometres on mountain bikes, to raise funds for rhino conservation and other projects in Africa.
R&C: What was Challenge4ACause like as an experience?
Paul: It was an amazing experience, with great people. No cell phones. No city lights, so the stars were like diamonds in the sky. Rugged terrain. Spectacular landscapes.
R&C: What were the highs
Paul: Finishing without falling, the beer at the end of the ride, and being together around the fire at night.
R&C: And the lows?
Paul: The fear of falling along the way… what with the terrifying steep declines with rocks and sand.
For Nicola, it was a similarly amazing week. The highs for her were not having contact with the outside world, “being able to be completely present,” she said, as were the scenery, the night skies and the group of people. The lows were “the five hills in the last 5 km of day two, after spending seven hours on the bike in the scorching heat”.
In celebration of Women’s Month in South Africa this August, we bring you 10 life lessons from a woman who inspires us constantly, GWF CEO, Kate Groch, in a letter addressed to the youth of today.
When asked to write a letter to you my first thoughts were:
WOW you are living in the most interesting time. It is a time of huge change, creativity, connectedness but also uncertainty. So what can I possible say to you? I definitely did not live in times that changed as fast as they do now. We don’t know how the future will unfold so how do you make sure you are ready for the challenge?
So I won’t tell you what to do, you need to decide that for yourself. I decided to share some things I have learnt. You can put your life experiences and context to these lessons but I know they are as relevant today as they were the day I learnt them.
1. Always ask questions. It will be how you change things. Never be afraid to challenge the status quo, it is your right and responsibility to do so. Find out what is going on. And don’t stand by if you discover things that are unfair or unjust.
2. You will succeed if you love what you do. Take time to understand who you are. Know yourself and do what you love. Decide how you want to make your mark in the world. No one has left a lasting and positive mark on the world doing something they did not love.
3. Everything is possible. Don’t be afraid of a challenge. My favourite book, The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho sums it up perfectly: If your path is true, the universe will conspire to assist you. Find your Dream, your Path, your Passion and you can make it happen.
4. Remember it is always wonderful to come home. Travel lots and adventure often but remember where you come from. Be grateful for the lessons you have lived so far. And honour your family, culture and lessons learned.
5. I am sure that hard work does not kill you. Good things require hard work. And sometimes it is just too important not to! Never be afraid of hard work. It will be noticed and it will be recognised. Your future is yours to create – no one will hand it to you.
6. You have to take opportunities that come past and you must never be afraid to take a risk. Some choices are scary and you will make mistakes. Don’t let opportunities pass you by. And don’t be afraid. Decide what you need to do and commit to it. Be Courageous always.
7. Riches are definitely not always measured in dollars. It is tempting to define your wealth by money in the bank. While that is nice to have know that your wealth is in your family and in your friends who support you. Wealth is the experiences you have and in the service you give to others.
8. Always keep learning. The world is changing so quickly. Don’t let yourself be left behind. Learn new things and challenge yourself to keep studying. Learn to code, learn to cook… learn, learn, learn.
9. You have much to give to the rest of the world. Don’t be afraid to share it. Maya Angelou said: “If your learn, teach, if you get, then give!” Share what you know and what you have.
10. It is meant to be fun – enjoy what you do, laugh with your family and friends and do not take yourself seriously.
I believe that the young people of today will make amazing things happen. Good luck as you travel your journey. I look forward to seeing all you achieve!
And I will leave you with one of my favourite quotes by Neil Gaiman:
“Now go, and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for you being here.”
It’s time. Time for compassion. Simple, beautiful, life-affirming, life-changing and life-saving compassion. There is always space for more empathy, more tenderness, more kindness, but sometimes you feel the need for it a little more intensely. As I do now. As perhaps you do too.
In The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu and Douglas Carlton Abrams, Archbishop Tutu explains compassion, the idea of giving to, or giving of yourself to, others:
“Ubuntu says when I have a small piece of bread, it is for my benefit that I share it with you. Because after all, none of us came into the world on our own. We needed two people to bring us into the world. And you realise that in a very real sense we’re meant for a very profound complementarity. It is the nature of things.
“I mean I could not speak as I am speaking without having learned it from other human beings. I could not walk as a human being. I could not think as a human being, except through learning it from other human beings. I learned to be a human being from other human beings. We belong in this delicate network. It is actually quite profound.”
The book is filled with moments that speak to the heart, whether it’s the Archbishop or Dalai Lama talking. It is itself a tool of compassion, reaching out to all the earthlings in our delicate network. It is a tool just like, as we call it, the Art of Giving at Relais & Châteaux.
Our hotels and lodges in Africa and the Indian Ocean practice the art of giving, the art of compassion, daily. Hearing of their efforts to make the world a better place you quickly forget yourself, your own ups and downs, and fill only with gratitude, a desire to reach out. And like that, compassion has done its job.
Such is the effect, the butterfly effect, of the Art of Giving – one that we hope will reach you, and inspire you. Below is a look at the heart of Africa… The Art of Giving.
At the Heart of Africa
Conservation and community work at Anjajavy le Lodge comes from the heart; you could even say it is the heart, of the lodge, of the reserve and the people living and working in this corner of Madagascar. New species of plants and animals are frequently discovered here, in this real and wild paradise.
Pioneers in protecting this unique environment and setting, the lodge runs several community upliftment projects and has built a secondary school, clinic, patrols. They are busy with a rewilding project, focusing on the aye-aye and fosa, while continuing to conserve the animal and plant life that thrive in this protected area of the island.
AtholPlace Hotel & Villa / Morukuru Family
Morukuru Family’s Goodwill Foundation supports nature, conservation and community. Guests want to be actively involved more and more in matters of conservation in the field and it is them who fund the whole operation of rhino notching, which forms part of the foundation’s anti-poaching initiative. The foundation also supports the local Molatedi School.
Bushmans Kloof supports a range of initiatives that greatly impact the unique region of South Africa they find themselves in. For instance, the traditional Riel Dancers, the local Elizabethfontein School – many of the students being children of the staff at Bushmans Kloof, Pack for a Purpose, Rock art preservation and education, conservation education – taking students on visits to the lodge and reserve, and the Treadright Foundation – which works towards a healthier and more harmonious world, with Celine Cousteau.
Their conservation projects include a cedar tree planting event with the Cape Leopard Trust; while on a day to day basis the reserve provides a place for the Cape Mountain Zebra to roam freely – an animal which the lodge and reserve has managed to bring back from the brink of extinction
Camp Jabulani has been a 20 year journey of conservation at work, an African wildlife sanctuary founded on the protection of orphaned elephants. Guests become part of the herd, part of the journey, and the elephants dictate the experience. Discover more about the evolution of the elephant experience at Camp Jabulani in our blog.
Founded by the owners of Camp Jabulani, the nearby Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre is a unique African wildlife facility focusing on conservation and the sustainability of rare, vulnerable and threatened species.
Delaire Graff Estate
Delaire Graff supports FACET, For Africa’s Children Every Time – which runs programmes designed to improve the standards of health, education and well-being in areas in South Africa, Lesotho and Botswana. Read more.
Ellerman House is closely connected with the Click Foundation, which uses technology in education to pursue outcomes based interventions that can meaningfully impact learners, as well as projects called Reading Eggs and Art Angels. Discover more in the video below. Read more.
Since the project began, they have moved 26 rhino and the dedicated rhino monitoring team has reported the birth of five calves in their new home. Due to the generosity of individuals, the tourism industry, and partners, they are over half-way to their goal of raising enough funds to move 100 rhino.
The Great Plains Foundation is also involved in community upliftment around its lodges in Botswana and Kenya, and lion and elephant conservation. Read more here and get a better look with these videos below.
Londolozi Private Game Reserve
Londolozi’s Good Work Foundation (GWF), a registered NGO that has been working with grassroots education in Africa since 2003, works to lead a focused, achievable and digitally-[em]powered education model for rural Africa. It has done so through Digital Learning Centres – originally set-up in 2007 to provide Londolozi staff with sustainable learning and accredited training in English, tourism and digital literacy.
Today, along with the Londolozi Digital Learning Centre they have established a Philippolis Digital Learning Campus, Hazyview Digital Learning Campus and Justicia Digital Learning Campus.
Students have to pay nominal fee to join – to show their dedication – and there has been a 30% improvement in results year on year. The goal is a community outward approach rather than a Eurocentric or Eurodriven one.
Absa Bank, as part of its Prosper campaign, which shows its impact on the lives of people across Africa, has released its new short film featuring the story of Deliwe Tibane and how she helped to build the award-winning Hazyview Digital Learning Campus (HDLC). Take a look below at how one life that has been touched by the Foundation. Read more here.
Royal Chundu on the banks of the Zambezi in Zambia is “100% Zambian, indigenously run and run like a family; it’s all about feeding back into the community, everything we do is done to benefit the people in the area.”
This includes employing local staff, supporting local fishermen, craftsmen and spa therapists, and a seed exchange with the local community – the lodge donates seeds to the community and buys back the vegetables once grown.
They have also setup a Royal Chundu Foundation School as an early childhood education centre for the children in the community, where students get to learn the Zambian cirriculumn on tablets. Read more.