Of All the Gin Joints in All the Towns in all the World

There’s a lot to do in Cape Town. You’re going to be distracted. It’s okay, it’s part of the fun of being in a new city. You’re going to get over-excited and you’ll have to fight the urge to see and do it all. But what you really don’t want to miss are those few things that others in Cape Town can’t do. Those things that involve secret sessions on balconies, a private seat to an exclusive art collection, and the city’s finest sunsets. And tiered gin trays.

You’re going to want to start here… at Ellerman House. And in our opinion, begin with gin, in a slinky little bar carved into the boulders of this mountain and sea-side escape.

Here is a look at what to expect at your gin o’clock at Ellerman House’s BAR ROC.

Discover more about Ellerman House in their blog.

The Art of Community in the Wild

“Imagine all the people sharing all the world…
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us, and the world will be as one…”

– John Lennon

When you were young, what fantastical communities did you drift off into?

Were you in the Space Age with The Jetsons or in prehistoric times with the Clan of the Cave Bear and the Flintstones? Were you adventuring in the Emerald City with Dorothy and Toto, or living with the March sisters in Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women”?

As the years pass on, perhaps you’ve seen yourself at Hogwarts, aboard the research vessel with Steve Zissou and his team, or with The Durrells and their animals in Corfu.

Whichever fictional community you most relate to, these little societies we’ve fallen for, lived in and walked around in endlessly, in our imaginations… they have all played some part in our understanding of community in real life. We gravitate to them because their message and celebration of family above all, of fellowship through it all, is one that is instinctively human.

Most of these tales were presented with happy endings, even when a community only meant two people (or three in the case of Simba, Timon and Pumba), but they weren’t without their real-life faults and quandaries. They offered us a sense of solidarity, they offered us their companionship.

It is this sentiment that fulfills so many of us when we travel to those places on earth that closely mirror the communities we’ve held in our fantasies. Perhaps we don’t find a wise English-speaking monkey named Rafiki or a wizard with a lightning-shaped scar, but we do find a place, people, to call home.

We find a community without the smoke and mirrors of television or fictional novels. A community right in front of us.

You get this feeling in a place like Londolozi Private Game Reserve in South Africa, a place where many families live, making up a greater community across bloodlines, race lines, with several generations in one space. A place that welcomes others to be part of its community, even long after you’ve left.

During our time at Londolozi over the years, what we have found is a marriage of traditional tribal life, where you need never eat alone, walk alone, work, create or dream alone, and an allowance for and an encouragement of time for one’s self, or merely quiet time, within this space.

Even taking time out in a villa of your own, the feeling of being part of something greater, of an extended family, is present. With each elephant that raises its trunk to you and, like the slow swells of the sea, flows on with its herd, the herd, your herd, across the wilderness.

You’ll feel it on your safari, you’ll feel it whenever you leave the front door and amble down the winding paths between the camps, or on drives along the tracks walked by lions, leopards and littler things. Paths driven by other guests from far-off places that, just like you, have come to be welcomed into this communal space.

You feel it with each dinner out in the night air, chairs and feet grounded on the sand of the boma, and glasses and chatter meeting between diners – travellers and residents – with no particular occasion to celebrate but the present moment and a newfound fellowship.

A fellowship that, while not at all fictional, is not without the magic of The Wizard of Oz or the love of Little Women.

Discover more in Londolozi’s latest video, Awaken:

Awaken from Londolozi on Vimeo.


The Best South Africanisms for the Out-of-Towner

Even though we both spoke English, my South Africanisms were flowing out unconsciously and muddying the language pool. It was one of the first times I realised just how much our unique communal language, with its mix of words and phrases from Afrikaans, Zulu, Xhosa and other African languages, made up my everyday, my every thought.

South Africa is a multilingual country with eleven official languages and its linguistic diversity has resulted in locals borrowing words and phrases from each language creating a unique lexicon of South African slang.

The team at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in South Africa’s incredibly diverse and vibrant city, Johannesburg, know this feeling well. So to prevent further lost-in-translation conversation stoppers, they have compiled a list of some local lingo and their favourite “South Africanisms”.

Starting with food..

Braai is a widely-used word for a barbecue, where meat is cooked over a fire or coals. On safari you often enjoy an outdoor meal under the Boma, a word originally from Tanzania meaning enclosure. Sitting around before dinner you might enjoy some biltong, a favourite South African snack made from dried and salted beef, ostrich or game (similar to beef jerky).

When dinner is served you could enjoy boerewors – an Afrikaans term for a traditional South African sausage often served at a braai. If you really enjoy your evening you might wake up the next morning with babelaas – local slang for a hangover. But after a few hours in the bos (bush) spotting the big five you will feel lekker (great) again.

Some other helpful words for the bush include: donga – which means ditch and comes from Zulu.

gogga – is a bug and is from Khoisan, meaning creeping things.

shongololo – millipede comes from Zulu and Xhosa, ukushonga, and means to roll up.

When at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa in Johannesburg (jozi), your hosts might pack you some padkos (food for a car trip – originally from Afrikaans). En route, you could hear one of our favourite South Africanisms, the word robot, which in the rest of world refers to traffic lights or traffic signals. Heading towards the city, township slang is everywhere.

Some of our favourites are:

Mzanzi – a popular slang word for South Africa.

Eish: a Xhosa word used to express disbelief, regret or exasperation.

Sharp: often doubled up for effect (sharp sharp!) and means ‘goodbye’ or that everything is alright.

Aikona:  a strong refusal/disagreement, meaning “No! – from Zulu

Mampara: a fool

Tokoloshe: a character from African folklore referring to a mischievous hairy dwarf. Now used as a pejorative term for a small man.

Moegoe: a fool, idiot or simpleton

On arrival at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, you can settle into your room, change your takkies (trainers) for slops (flip-flops) and pop down to the bar which is totally different to a shebeen (an unlicensed bar or tavern). When offered an ice cold drink your answer could be yebo the Zulu word for “yes and is commonly used.

When it comes to fauna and flora, in the Khoisan languages there is buchu – a name applied to a range of medicinal plants traditionally used to make muti – a slang word for medicine (from Zulu umuthi).

A person familiar with the diverse fauna and flora of South Africa would be called a fundi which has its origins in Nguni’s umfundisi, meaning teacher or preacher and now used in mainstream South African English.

When embarking on a nature walk, you might choose to take a kierie – a wooden walking stick. The Khoikhoi indigenous people who were nomadic hunter-gatherers in the Cape and Namibia originally used the word kirri.

And most importantly, the abundant spirit of the nation… Get familiar with the word ubuntu – compassion, kindness and humanity.