Midnight in Johannesburg

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“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” ― Ernest Hemingway

In the rush of wild mushroom fricassée, espresso martinis and winter moonlight, each second feels like a feast. A Moveable Feast. Champagne and cigars, a fire sizzling in the bar. I have to pace myself, remind myself of the limits. Is there ever any middle ground in a feast? It is midnight in Johannesburg, at AtholPlace Hotel & Villa, in the eddy of the City of Gold, a retreat that merges the higher and lower frequencies of the city, leaving it up to you which to choose. The initial frenzy settles as morning comes, as the hadeda take to breakfast on the lawn and the sun shimmers through the oak trees. Morning is part of life’s natural feedback system to keep you from the edge. Slowly faces start to stand out, you learn everyone’s names and histories and love affairs and it becomes less like the last day on earth and more like the first… You connect, you come down, and you realise that you’ll never quite manage to leave this place. AtholPlace.

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The people of AtholPlace are hard to shake; my moments with them and their tales from other lives now form my view of Johannesburg… Tau, the chauffeur, with his philosophy on the power of cartoons, his fiancée, head of housekeeping, Melinda, with her hopes for a Victoria Falls wedding, assistant Brandon and his tales of wild trapeze artistry in Mauritius, Chef Wynand’s wontons and pan roasted line fish and the love story that led him to AtholPlace – the tale of how he followed his girlfriend, General Manager, Heidi, to the hotel. Heidi, the beautiful British girl who left sister lodge, Morukuru, in the bush of Madikwe for a new era in the city.

Moveable, memorable, and forever captured in our photographs below, this is AtholPlace.

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Image Above: Chef Wynand | Below: Heidi

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Above right: Tau, and The Waiting Man

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Above: Joanna | Below: Melinda

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“There is never any ending to Paris and the memory of each person who has lived in it differs from that of any other. We always returned to it no matter who we were or how it was changed or with what difficulties, or ease, it could be reached. Paris was always worth it and you received return for whatever you brought to it. But this is how Paris was in the early days when we were very poor and very happy.”
― Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast


Meet Quintin Janssen van Vuuren, Maître de Maison of AtholPlace Hotel & Villa


A Reminder of the Majesty of the Rhino

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People have often rebuked the phrase “fighting for peace”, pointing out its irony and making us reconsider the ways we go about achieving the ends we hope for. Perhaps it’s a term best suited for marketing slogans or for those of us without the powers of pacifists like Ghandi and Mother Theresa. But there is space for every kind of voice, each helping to play a part.

In the Vietnam War, protest was pivotal in its demise, but so were soft folksy acoustic rock ballads. In Apartheid, action was just as essential for its fall, but so was the unifying and educated leadership and inspiration of individuals like Nelson Mandela. A man who represented both sides – equanimity and volatility, peace and war.

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Images above: James Tyrrell | Londolozi

Similarly, there are two ways to handle what is being called the war against Africa’s rhinoceros – let’s say its name in full, it might be one of the last few times we still can while this great being is around. The war that is rhino poaching.

1. Fight. Action. Initiatives like Rhinos without Borders and the anti-poaching units at work in the reserves of our African lodges – Camp Jabulani and the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, the Great Plains Conservation with Zarafa Camp, Mara Plains and Ol Donyo, Londolozi and Morukuru with its Operation Pheonix.

2. Leadership and inspiration. Just look to the people behind these initiatives… people who have experienced rhino poaching and its effects on the ground in Africa, people like Lente and Adine Roode of Camp Jabulani and Dereck and Beverly Joubert of Great Plains Conservation, to name two.

There is space for every kind of voice…

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Above: Londolozi

As far as our voice is concerned, we hope to help by donating to the initiatives guided by these pioneers above and to share them with you, through the power of the digital universe. But we also hope to add some inspiration of our own… by way of reminding people why we are fighting for this creature to begin with. What is it about the rhinoceros that mesmerises us so?

A simple sighting of a rhino up close is really all the reminder you need. Londolozi is one such place where private anti-poaching patrols have been very effective in helping to protect the region’s rhinos. On safari at the reserve earlier this year, the wild presented us with a sighting that has stuck with me ever since. I wasn’t planning on seeing anything. Naively. So I took “the bad camera”. But since they say the best camera is the one you have with you, I thought I’d share the moment I captured with you here, to serve as…

A reminder of the majesty of the rhino


Fighters and Inspirers and all thing nice…

starting with New Lessons from Londolozi

“Seeing the rhinos together reminded me that the bush is always speaking to us… Despite my many years at Londolozi, I still learn something new every single day,” says Bennet Mantonsi, the Londolozi Tracker who caught this incredible footage of a male rhino courting and mating with a female.

Read more in Kate Collins’ “New Lessons and Mating Rhinos: How the Bush Surprises us Everyday“.


Rhinos Without Borders

If you haven’t been following the adventures of Rhinos Without Borders, read about it and the first stage of what is considered to be the world’s largest rhino airlift in “First Rhinos in Massive African Airlift Released in Botswana“.

Propelled by the Great Plains Conservation with the support of several partners, it is a mission to move 100 rhinos from South Africa to Botswana in order to save them from poaching and develop a new breeding nucleus. It is a project of hope for the rhinos of southern Africa. Find out more about in this Q&A with Dereck Joubert of the Great Plains Conservation or dowload a summary here.

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Rhinos await release in a park in northern Botswana after being transported from a crowded park in South Africa. Image: Beverly Joubert. Read more about Dereck Joubert in our blog, The Dignity of Dereck Joubert – 10 Questions.

A glimpse into the life of a rhino. And his lamb.

Founded by the Roode Family of Camp Jabulani, the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre has partnered with Africam to launch a new initiative called ‘Eyes on Rhinos’. After two poached, now-rehabilitated rhinos (Lion’s Den and Dingle Dell) arrived on their doorstep, followed by two orphaned baby rhinos, Gertjie and Matimba, more recently, the team urgently had to establish a rhino sanctuary at the centre to care for them. Enter the new Rescued Rhinos @ HESC.

Meet Gertjie

also known as little “G”, below, as he explores the outside world after arriving at the centre:



Discover more about the new initiative and how to help online and experience the live view Africam enables. Being able to watch over these rhinos at night as they sleep has deprived us of our own slumber… let us know about your experience. Alternatively, meet them face to face for a true understanding of the sublimity of the rhino and discover more about Lente and Adine Roode (sublime in their own right) in our blog, The Passion of Compassion at Camp Jabulani.

 Whether you’re a fighter or an inspirer…

in the war against rhino poaching, the accounts of the harm done to Africa’s rhinoceros make it hard to simply do nothing… No different to the Vietnam War, no different to Apartheid, the tales and images no different to those that came out of both. As the muses, we’ll take the cue to leave you with some inspiration from Camp Jabulani, through the lens of Black Bean Productions:

‘Eyes on Rhino’ – A short film for Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre from Black Bean Productions on Vimeo.

The Little Wisdoms of Bushmans Kloof

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Man has long gone to the mountains for solace and inspiration. John Muir was a great advocate of this. “I am losing precious days. I am degenerating into a machine for making money. I am learning nothing in this trivial world of men. I must break away and get out into the mountains to learn the news,” said the Scottish-American naturalist, author and environmental philosopher. Muir was one of the first people in the world to advocate for the preservation of wildernesses.

Among the world’s other conservationists, those aiming to create and preserve a corner of nature that cannot be touched, those reserving mountainsides as homes for animals and sanctuaries for man, is Bushmans Kloof. A wilderness reserve and wellness retreat in the Cederberg mountains of South Africa.

Bushmans Kloof goes beyond “kindling enthusiasm, making every nerve quiver, filling every pore and cell of us,” as Muir writes. It is a place of wisdom – little wisdoms with big impact. Below are ten #bklittlewisdoms from our most recent visit to the reserve, as celebrated on our Instagram

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The 10 Little Wisdoms of Bushmans Kloof

1. Be here now

Three simple words. But perhaps the greatest epiphany you’ll ever have – and one I came to through the work of spiritual teacher, Ram Dass. Be here now.

Like the Buddhist philosophy of mindfulness, it is a reminder that all stress and fear and trouble comes from not being here, where we are in this moment. It comes from having our heads in yesterday or tomorrow. When we retreat into ourselves in the present, all that crumbles away and we are free to truly see and experience life.

The environment is perfectly set for this at Bushmans Kloof – during a massage, the therapist’s touch bringing you into your body, or while cycling with the zebras, in the seeming middle of nowhere (or rather, now here). 

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2. Lessons from humanity’s earliest artists

The ancient wisdom of the Bushmen is hidden on the robust surface of the overhangs and caves of the Cederberg – in the form of art. Bushmans Kloof holds up to 130 rock art sites, some of which date back 10,000 years. These creations, made using oxide pigments and as a way of depicting the tribes’ spiritual and cultural lives, serve as a portal to this ancient wisdom. 

On our visit to the sites, guide Jannie explained the many lessons present in the images and in the lives of their creators – lessons in natural healing, community, sustainable living and leadership, for example these seven that the Step Up Leader learnt from the Bushman tribes of north Africa.

  1. Speak little. Observe a lot.
  2. When the group wins, everyone eats.
  3. Victory only happens through team.
  4. Everyone prospers because the goal is to take care of the group.
  5. We are responsible for people, even those that are not part of our formal community.
  6. Focus on what truly matters.
  7. Live in the present and live happily.

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3. Sometimes strangers make the best of friends

Dining at Bushmans Kloof’s Kadoro Lodge, ‘Kadoro’ meaning ‘tinderbox of stories’, the stories flow as the name implies, around the campfire, and inside around the dinner table with the other guests and guides. With new faces and new tales, in a rustic, secluded cottage in the heart of the reserve, the experience is quite remarkable. Outside, the milkyway reminds you of how it feels to be wholly stumped by the grandiosity of the world, a world that’s always there (and that is better when shared).

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4. “Too often we underestimate the power of a touch…

…a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ― Leo Buscaglia

Take the time to run your hands through the plants in the gardens at the reserve, praise the men and women who have tended to them so well and in such a remote environment. Savour the meals and be quicker to thank than to complain. Consider the lives of the people that make your experience possible and honour them with your time or through Packing for a Purpose… Don’t underestimate your role.

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5. Make time for a little monkey play

After all, in the words of Roald Dahl, “A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men.” A wise lesson from the baboons of the Cederberg…

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6. “Relax your body, and the rest of you will lighten up.” 

– Haruki Murakami.

If you’re struggling with number one on our list, start with the body and the mind will follow… The Bushmans Kloof experience is all about relaxation, of body and mind, from the freedom of roaming the bush with no threat of predators to the riverside spa. 

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7. Accepting our differences

Many different things have been said about difference… From the negative – “If you are different from the rest of the flock, they bite you.” ― Vincent O’Sullivan – to the positive – “We all do better when we work together. Our differences do matter, but our common humanity matters more.” ― Bill Clinton.

Either way, much can be learnt about accepting our differences from the animal kingdom, from wildernesses like Bushmans Kloof, where different species live side by side, in harmony.

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8. “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare…

…No time to stand beneath the boughs / And stare as long as sheep or cows. / No time to see, when woods we pass, / Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass. / No time to see, in broad daylight, / Streams full of stars, like skies at night. / No time to turn at Beauty’s glance, / And watch her feet, how they can dance. / No time to wait till her mouth can / Enrich that smile her eyes began. / A poor life this is if, full of care, / We have no time to stand and stare.” – Leisure by William H Davies.

Take the time to see in the morning and watch the coming of night, and in between, in the rush of day, slow down and take a proper look at your surroundings.

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9. “Tell me to what you pay attention and I will tell you who you are.”

So said Jose Ortega y Gassett. You know about the state of Greece and the split of Bennifer, but do you know the names of these plants?

Be aware of what you give your attention to… It is what defines your life.

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10. “Time is the raw material of creation… 

Our final little wisdom, inspired by the hard-working Bushmans Kloof Riel dancers and band. Meet the people behind our last lesson in our blog, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. In the words of Kevin Ashton, from Creative People Say No…

“Time is the raw material of creations. Wipe away the magic and myth of creating and all that remains is work: the work of becoming expert through study and practice, the work of finding solutions to problems and problems with those solutions, the work of trial and error, the work of thinking and perfecting, the work of creating. Creating consumes. It is all day, every day. It knows neither weekends nor vacations. It is not when we feel like it. It is habit, compulsion, obsession, vocation. The common thread that links creators is how they spend their time. No matter what you read, no matter what they claim, nearly all creators spend nearly all their time on the work of creation. There are few overnight successes and many up-all-night successes.” 

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Let us know what your #bklittlewisdoms are, if you’ve travelled to this part of South Africa before.