Category Archives: Akela

Goodbye Akela & Kenya

The oddest couple – and true soulmates – who were my ‘kids’ for over 14 years, are no more. Akela the Grey Wolf – wilful, insightful, submissive and far more intelligent than any dog. Kenya the Staffie – ‘n liefbare dier in the words of a 4-year old, Mr Personality and loved by all. He lived to please.

Akela’s tongue started bleeding almost a month ago. I took her to Hermanus Animal Hospital where the vet examined her, said it was a cut under the tongue and that there was little she could do, but gave her an injection to stop the bleeding. That didn’t work and was followed by two homeopathic remedies, which worked to a certain degree, and a visit to a second vet. Our travels slowed down completely to give her more “calm time”. Two Saturdays ago, she didn’t want to eat and preferred her bed in the back of the bakkie to anywhere else, but still jumped out on her own when she needed to pee. By Sunday she was really weak and I asked Facebook friends to recommend a very good vet.

 

I was at Pronkberg Clinic in Stellenbosch at 8am on Monday when they opened and said we’d wait there until Dr Maree Potgieter could see us. She found that Akela had a tumour on a vein and that her red cell count was around 10, a quarter of what it should be. She recommended putting her down because of this combined with her age. I felt I hadn’t done enough and wanted one more try, with the vet saying she would last a week at the most.

She was given medication to stop the bleeding and a tonic for post-operative animals. The bleeding stopped a day later and she started eating – tripe and liver. On Thursday she seemed well on the road to recovery. On Friday morning she seemed to have just given up completely but was better in the afternoon. Over the weekend she devoured almost a kilo of raw ox liver each day and seemed well-enough to share with friends that the battle might be won. Those who saw her said she looked good. But then she ate very little on Monday, just drank milk on Tuesday and nothing since except water. The battle was lost.

Kenya, who’s been ridden with cancer for five years, had the same problem several months ago on his abdomen. He was treated and has been fine since. So I wonder if proper treatment wouldn’t have saved Akela. Kela and Ken are inseparable. Seeing his sister ill has shattered Ken and he hasn’t left her side. She was the one who always looked after him. He was always the one expected to go first and I’ve checked to see that he’s still breathing many mornings over the past two years. And so they went together and are buried together.

They leave a huge void in my life, a quarter of which was defined by a wolf.

 

Akela chose me when she was five weeks old. Kenya was left with me when he was six months old and Akela was two months. I never wanted a second pet but it’s the best thing that could have happened. The best photo I never got was tiny Akela curled up in Kenya’s tummy space.

The sounds I regret never recording were her deep wolf howls at the door in greeting when I came back from somewhere, and the more typical wolf howls while she was dreaming. Being woken by a wolf howl in the middle of the night is not any everyday experience. When she was younger, she did howl for me when left at home, but it was Kenya who took this up in old age and cried and cried. And there were Akela’s huffs and puffs when a stranger came to the door. Wolves don’t bark.

They grew up on Clifton and Llandudno beaches, where they socialised with other dogs. They enthralled school kids in Bredasdorp, the Cape Flats and at St Cyprian’s & the French School in Cape Town. Akela changed the perceptions among kids that adults so often teach – wolves are not aggressive.

Akela taught me a different language too. A growl or a snarl does not necessary mean aggression. She sometimes climbed onto my lap, snarling ferociously against my face, but then her tongue came out to kiss my cheek. That meant, “I don’t want to be here.”

Kela and Ken have done what few South Africans have done. They’ve been up the Table Mountain Cableway. They’ve travelled from Cape Agulhas to Beit Bridge – SA’s southernmost tip and northernmost border point. On their second visit to the tourism Indaba in Durban, I was asked to keep them away from the entrance of the ICC because they would draw attention away from Jacob Zuma, who was due to arrive. They were good at making friends wherever they went.

It was Kela who gave me the determination to cope when I woke up blind in 2006 – from tick bite fever I didn’t know I had – and was told that all previous recorded cases had resulted in permanent blindness. Turning it around was a first, and my eyes were published.

Kenya had the warmest heart of any dog I’ve ever known. He really tried very hard to be good all the time. And if he was scolded and his feelings were hurt, tears streamed down his cheeks.

Kela on the other hand was a handful, especially when younger. Inquisitive, playful, a tease and a thief. I’ve lost count how many shoes were buried in the garden, food stolen out of the fridge or off the kitchen counter. When I got cross with her, she’d say, “okay, let’s have a game.” They say “if you call a dog, it comes. If you call a cat, it takes a message and gets back to you.” In many respects, Kela was more like a cat, fiercely independent, but very shy.

A dog is a wolf, but a wolf is not a dog. Dogs adapt to a family, but one has to adapt to a wolf, and it is a full-time commitment.

 

Click on any of the images below for larger images in a slide show.

Postscript: The Hermanus vet got it totally wrong. Had she been thorough, both animals would still have been around for a little longer. She was informed by Dr Potgieter about the correct diagnosis and treatment but when I saw her afterwards, she made no apology nor enquired about Akela’s health. The vet who put Akela down examined her and said she was surprised the first vet had made an incorrect diagnosis. That’s not the sort of vet I’d recommend to anyone. I’m sure others will sing the vet’s praises, but I subsequently emailed the practice to complain and I’m still waiting for the call I was told I would get. That’s not professional!

I subsequently heard from a friend that she had stopped breeding ponies because Hermanus Animal Hospital — the only equine vet in the area — was too unreliable and several ponies had been lost. A breeder must have a reliable vet.

I do recommend Dr Maree Potgieter at Pronkberg Clinic in Stellenbosch. She was very thorough and compassionate.

Growing old is not for sissies!

Akela the wolf turned 14 years old yesterday — that’s a venerable 98 in human years!  And she shared her celebratory dinner (pig’s trotters) with Kenya the staffie (14½) and Beezus the pomchi (1½).  For Beezus, it was his first “dedicated” bone, as opposed to dinner left-overs, and his small piece absorbed him totally for 40 minutes.  For Kenya, it was bliss — he ignored the rest of his dinner (special pellets @R670/12kg bag with trotter gravy) and gnawed & gnawed on the bone with the few teeth he still has.   And Akela?  She ate her pellets and gravy, and Kenya’s too, and buried her bone!

Both Akela and Kenya are old animals now, both largely deaf.  Kenya was given the name “Oupa” by Gawie Fagan five years ago and I’ve been amazed as he’s reached successive birthdays.  He’s been riddled with cancer for years and two tumours have “erupted” in the past few weeks, the one reaching a blood vessel.  But he’s still a happy dog with a good quality of life — a voracious appetite and goes outside to pee and poo, in spite of being too stiff for any real walks — so it’s a matter of stitching him up with minimal interventions.  I don’t expect him to last much longer… but I’m sure he’ll amaze me some more!

Akela’s hindquarters are much weaker but that, and deafness, are the only signs of old age.  She still charges off at great speed when she plays outside, but her cornering is not so good and she sometimes takes a tumble.  The average age of wolves in a domestic environment is 12 years, compared to seven years in the wild, with a maximum of 15, so she’s doing pretty well.  She and Beezus (35kg vs 3.5kg) spend hours playing and she’s taught him to bury shoes and toys, only to dig them up and bury somewhere else.  And to think someone at Onderstepoort told me six months ago that it was time to think of putting her down!

There is a “secret” to longevity and quality of life.  My dad died two weeks ago at the age of 86.  For a few years, his quality of life was minimal.  His twin brother on the other hand is active, energetic and healthy, and says he’ll retire from running the farm when he reaches 90.  My dad retired 20 years ago and had little daily responsibility or demands.

Lessons for a lapdog

Akela & Beezus

First lesson… see what big teeth I’ve got

One Sunday, just after lunch, the phone rang and Stephanie said she had to dash off and would explain later.  She arrived back a little later with… a really tiny dog of indeterminate breed.  It was about the size of a small hamster and looked like a cross between a hamster and a rabbit with its fluffy white fur.

Kenya & Beezus

Is tiny the word? Kenya can be a bit grumpy but most times he puts up with almost anything.

There’d been no discussion and I was more than taken aback.

Firstly, although I like all animals, I’m no fan of lapdogs and barking handbags.  Secondly, how would this tiny creature fit in with a wolf and a staffie?  A friend had a minature Yorkie and, while Akela was fine with it, there was always the danger she would step on it!  Both Akela and Kenya are senior citizens now — heading for 14 years of age – and not always too sure on their feet.  And then there’s Akela’s habit of pawing anything and everything — with enough force to squash a hamster.

Beezus, the new “dog,” was tiny.  His legs were the size of one of Akela’s nails.  Of course he was cute, a tiny bundle of thick fur.  But would he survive the roughness of Akela & Kenya, weighing in at 100 times his weight?

Well they were inquisitive and cautious, but started off by trying to avoid him.  I’m sure they sensed our concerns and rather kept away.  Slowly we allowed them to get closer and Akela frequently lay down, to get a better view and be less intimidating.

The difference in sizes and strengths made its point one day.  Akela lay down in front of Beezus, and Beezus sprung forward (he did seem to hop like a rabbit at the beginning) just as Akela swung her paw.  Beezus went tumbling… and lay dead still.  I rushed to pick him up and there wasn’t an iota of movement.  I was terrified and preparing to rush to a vet.  I stroked his chest and massaged him, but there was no response.  I breathed into his tiny mouth and he squawked, and slowly started moving… and I felt his heart beat.

He’s doubled in weight and size since then — with most growth in his ears and tail — and, after what seems like a long time of always watching the animals while they’re together, he seems able to more or less hold his own now.

Neither Akela nor Kenya are vicious or aggressive animals.  While we lived in Hout Bay some years ago, a group of pet bunnies escaped from a hutch somewhere and were rambling around the weir at the end of the property.  My two went up to sniff them and then left them alone.  Neighbourhood dogs descended on them a little later and killed them all just for the fun.

Akela’s behaviour to the puppy has been fascinating.  Firstly, there were her growls whenever she went near him.  I learnt when she was young that Akela’s growl has a very different meaning to a dog’s growl.  It’s a sound to get attention, and she’d come up close to my face snarling, but then her tongue comes out to kiss my cheek.

But with Beezus, her snarls and growls became something else.  They grew into the sound of a gentle wolf howl, and one could see the telltale way in which she pursed her lips, ready for a full-on howl.

And then there was the performance every meal time.  After she had eaten, Akela would fetch Beezus to take him outside and then regurgitate a small amount of food.  The first time she did this, Beezus run up to eat but Akela took his whole body between her jaws and moved him aside.  She licked at the food and then allowed him to eat… her first lesson in manners to the tiny dog.

Beezus eating Akela's regurgitated supper

Akela fed Beezus every night with her regurgitated supper

Since then, he’s allowed to eat as soon as she regurgitates.  Beezus knows not to bother either animal while they eat.  He’s allowed to eat from their bowls after they have finished.

Maybe, just maybe, Beezus will grow up to be a well-mannered dog after having been raised by a wolf!

“What is your country’s purpose on the planet?”

Simon Anholt and Akela

I attended the Brand Africa Forum in Johannesburg where the keynote speaker was Simon Anholt, someone I’ve wanted to meet for a long time.

He’s been a policy advisor to over 40 governments, author and researcher. He specialises in national identity and reputation, public diplomacy and the public perceptions of nations, cities and regions. Simon developed the concepts of the ‘nation brand’ and ‘place brand’ in the late 1990s.

The first question he asks heads of state when they consult him, is “what is your country’s purpose?”   All lay claim to the “warmth of their people” as one of their greatest attributes.

The interview with him will be published in CapeInfo’s interviews section soon and I hope I will do that remarkable interview justice.

When he heard about Akela, he just had to meet her.  His comment was fascinating — “the dog she looks most like is the Alsation, which isn’t a dog I’m particularly fond of, but she’s much more beautiful.”

Happy Birthday Akela!

Akela is 12 years old today!  That’s a venerable 84 in human years although, in the wild — where wolves are challenged by the elements, illness, starvation and injury — wolves only live an average of 7 years.  In a domestic environment, they live up to 15 years. We’ve been together since she was five weeks old.

She’s still as active and mischievous as ever, and behaves more like a three-year old dog.  It’s difficult to believe that Kenya the staffie is only six months older.  He’s grey, stiff and deaf.  I’m starting to wonder if wild animals don’t maintain peak fitness until far later in their lives, and then age very suddenly at the end.

Here are some of the most memorable photos of her from the past year.

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I just love this photo of Akela. She was totally at ease with Rachel and content just being stroked. I love that smile and the glint in her eye.

You can see that she’s shedding here — her hindquarters have lost most of their very fine, soft winter fur. It comes out in chunks which need to be plucked; combing or brushing just doesn’t work. In the wild they run through thickets to pull the old fur out. In Lapland they collect this fur to make their bonnets — it’s the most waterproof fur you can get.

Look at her thin almost dainty legs.  That characteristic sets wolves apart from dogs.  Together with her narrow chest, this helps wolves run faster through very thick snow.

Akela goes to Indaba!

Akela meets Nicholas Kitching, the ICC's security manager

The fantastic people at Durban’s ICC who made arrangements for Akela to visit were all keen to meet her.

These photos are the highlights of the people she met — the story on Indaba and our travels there will follow.

Most ask if they can touch Akela but only women get lucky — she’s female and only makes friends with women and children, running away from men. (She’s bonded to her pack so hard luck to all other men!)

ICC's Nicolette Elia gets to touch a wolf while ?? only gets to look on.  Most people how soft Akela feels.

Hannelie Slabber is one of SA Tourism's real stars and has been enormously helpful to Travels with Akela.  She meets Kenya (an immediate fan) and Akela for the first time.

Some people dance with wolves... Hannelie and Akela talk to each other.

Melissa Storey of First Car Rental, which have made Travels with Akela possible, also meets Akela in Durban for the first time.

Wow! Durban’s ICC impresses

We’re planning a detour in our Limpopo travels to visit Durban’s ICC for Indaba — Africa’s biggest travel show.  So I wrote to the ICC asking for help with shade parking for a wolf in a bakkie.

I have never had such a fast, positive and helpful reply.  Nicolette Elia’s answer suggested alternatives, mentioned concerns — for Akela — and was thoroughly thought out.  Obviously there must be a very strong team at the ICC.

Minutes after my email reply, I had a call from her to firm up on what she suggested, which she followed up moments later by email — with clear directions and cellphone numbers of anyone I might need.

In our conversation, she even mentioned that security staff had offered to water and walk Akela if necessary.

I told her how impressed I was by her first email and she replied, “It’s sad that one should be impressed by something like that…”  Indeed it is.  Limpopo Tourism’s first response to Travels with Akela was that a wolf wouldn’t be welcome at Limpopo establishments.  They have been proved wrong.

Thank you ICC.  I have started a list of Hospitality Superstars and you’re on that list.

Waterberg magic!

Akela had one of her best weekends away ever, but I discovered a remarkable family and the essence of Africa tourism.  And, believe it or not, this proud Capetonian is prepared to say that Bushveld vegetation beats the Cape’s fynbos any day!

But about Akela’s weekend first.  We were woken on Saturday by Akela’s whining – a very excited wolf.  Richard was at the door.  And Akela has always swooned when she sees labradors or retreivers – and Richard is a black labrador.

Known for protecting his turf, Richard soon fell for Akela’s charms… and Akela is the biggest flirt I’ve ever known.

When Akela swoons, she can be both submissive and forceful. Richard the labrador has probably never had as much attention!

When Akela swoons, she can be both submissive and forceful. Richard the labrador has probably never had as much attention!

Richard was joined later by Timmie, a foxy little dog, and Jack, a thin dachsund that thinks it is a greyhound. He follows cars and maintains a speed of 45km/h for long distances, and has even run all the way to Vaalwater, 30km away! All the animals got on exceptionally well, and Kenya was delighted to have companions more his size.

So much for Limpopo Tourism’s concern that a wolf would not be welcome at local establishments!

Drive to Windsong Cottagesdsc05484walk

I had decided to try a shortcut to Windsong Cottages from Mokopane, rather than following the N1 down to Modimolle and across to Vaalwater before heading north again. It was no shortcut, but it was an African adventure passing through spectacular scenery.  As heavy rain started falling on these backroads, we came across a “Road closed” sign.  Tracks shows a vehicle had passed shortly before so we took a chance and soon arrived at the entrance to Charles Baber’s farm.  The drive up to Windsong Cottages (right) may not be indigenous, but it’s certainly spectacular and promised something very special.

Charles is a fourth-generation Waterberger and I had come here to learn from him about the Bushveld and the Waterberg.  A little internet research and gut instincts proved to be right – this is a remarkable family.

His children and their spouses have all contributed to the value and attraction of the Waterberg as an economically-viable, world-class tourist destination.

Anthony and Tessa Baber have built up the well-known Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill portfolio of Luxury Bush Homes.  Rupert and Tanya Baber are farmers and partners in Horizon Horseback Adventures. Rupert is also chairman of the Waterberg Biosphere and Tanya has a craft centre manufacturing bead and leather work on the farm.  Juliet married Philip Calcott and they run Windsong Cottages on the original Baber homestead.

Our interview with Charles and Nina Baber will follow.  And there will be more on Windsong Cottages and the other Baber initiatives.  We also learnt that this is a community with a soul and we will also write about the “feel-good” initiatives that visitors will encounter when they visit.  Nina invited us to the non-denominational Sunday church service where we – that includes Akela! – met more locals, including Clive Walker who we must also write about.

St John the Baptist

St John the Baptist

Charles supported the building of a larger church to replace the tiny St John the Baptist designed by Sir Herbert Baker’s office and built in 1914 on land donated  by Charles’ grandfather.  Today the original church is used for Sunday school.

But the magic of the Waterberg Plateau lies in its mountains and valleys, and a vegetation that seems almost prehistoric.  Was it the novelty of the strange tree forms and colours that appealed to me, or the mass of so much virgin land that stretched as far as the eye can see?

Certainly, SA’s northern provinces have had far more rain than usual and the greenness is appealling.  I am probably seeing Limpopo at its best.

The dam at Horizon Horseback, where Rupert Baber is a partner.

The dam at Horizon Horseback, where Rupert Baber is a partner.

What makes Windsong Cottages so special?  It is the Babers and the Calcotts and their warm hospitality and knowledge of the area.  We’ve stayed in all sorts of accommodation establishments in our travels, but we have never been made to feel part of a family so readily and quickly.

Rachel and Akela, with Nina Baber smiling on.

Rachel and Akela, with Nina Baber smiling on.

Wile playing with Akela, Rachel came across a praying mantis and Mareliese, who works at Windsong, told her that they love syrup. The praying mantis ate the first tastes of syrup off Rachel’s finger and started biting the finger, so Rachel fetched more in a saucer.

They love syrup... Rachel feeding a praying mantis!

They love syrup... Rachel feeding a praying mantis!

Stephanie took these stunning photos using the Sony A200 DSLR.

The Road to Prince Albert

The plan was not to dally in the Western Cape, where so much is already familiar, but head for Mokopane in Limpopo – SA’s northernmost province and the furthest from Cape Town – as quickly as possible.  I’ve never been there and, of SA’s nine provinces, know least about it.  But the first stop is Prince Albert, a Karoo town that has always fascinated me but never visited.

But first, Akela must go to the vet.  In 10 years, she’s only been ill once before but she’s limping slightly as though she has pulled a ligament.  A thorough investigation by the vet found nothing wrong, but it’s still worrying because she is obviously uncomfortable.

The route from Elgin to Worcester along the R321 takes one across the huge Theewaterskloof dam, which has a perimeter of 82 kilometres, and through the town of Villiersdorp.  (The R45 takes one over Franschhoek Pass and is part of the Three Passes route that all visitors to Cape Town should explore.  The other passes are Helshoogte outside Stellenbosch and Sir Lowry’s Pass above Somerset West.)

Theewaterskloof Dam with Villiersdorp in the top rughthand corner

This route enters Worcester at its back door.  And the initial impression of a third world town!  Thank goodness we needed to stop to buy a media card and USB connection or card reader for the camera, otherwise we would never have seen anything of Worcester.

I haven’t been in Worcester for 20 years and it’s certainly no third world town!  A quick look at CapeInfo’s population page shows that it’s the third most populous municipal area in the Western Cape with shopping to match.

What surprised most though were the streets lined with beautifully preserved historical buildings away from the main street.  When we do return to the Western Cape, this will be one town worth exploring in more detail.

And for one used to the grandeur of Table Mountain, I was surprised by the awesome mountain ranges surrounding Worcester.  It was already a hot and hazy midday, but I can imagine them in the early morning and evenings, when their colours will change in the crisp light, or snow-capped in winter in the even crisper light.

Thinking of winter always reminds me of the first time I met Otto Stehlik (Protea Hotels’ chairman) some 30 years ago.  He bemoaned the way Capetonians complain about weather… “winter in the Cape provides many days which can only be described as Champagne Weather.”  So true!

Leaving Worcester surrounded by it mountain peaks, the road north impresses with mountains that almost seem to be lying on their sides.  All the mountains of the southwestern Cape were formed by the folding of the old Richtersveld mountains (north of Cape Town and no longer existing) which were formed 800 million years ago.  Table Mountain was formed between 250–540 million years ago but its present shape is about 60 million years old.  (Mount Everest was formed 40 million years ago; the Alps in Europe ‘only’ 32 million years ago.)

Isn’t this place just too amazing?

Next is a compulsory stop at Matjiesfontein just before Laingsburg – it is a step into another world.

The brainchild of a Scottish immigrant, James Logan, Matjiesfontein Village with the Milner Hotel opened in 1889.  The Cape Railways had extended as far as Kimberley, and travellers needed somewhere to eat and refresh — dining cars did not exist.

Matjiesfontein became a fashionable watering place, attracting those who could afford to seek relief for chest complaints in its clear, dry air, and entertained many distinguished visitors. Lord Randolph Churchill is still remembered for “borrowing” a hunting dog which he never returned.

Olive Schreiner lived in there own cottage here for five years, writing “Story of an African Farm”. Today her small cottage is a landmark in the village. Rudyard Kipling, on his first call at the Cape, made a special journey inland specifically to visit her.

No doubt, the Anglo-Boer War boosted Logan’s fortunes when it supported a base hospital and 12,000 troops were garrisoned there.

In the late 1960s, David Rawdon, hotelier best known for Lanzerac Hotel in Stellenbosch and the Marine Hotel in Hermanus, purchased the whole Village. After extensive renovations, Rawdon re-opened the property in 1970 and renamed it The Lord Milner Hotel.

Matjiesfontein - Lord Milner Hotel and a village caught in a 1900's time warp

The road north opposite the Matjiesfontein turnoff leads to Sutherland — SA’s coldest town and home to the giant telescopes that gaze into space.  Now that’s somewhere else I still want to visit.

And then on to Prince Albert Road – a railway station that also marks the turnoff to this typical Karoo town about 30 minutes from the N1.  Then it’s another mountain range — the Swartberg — that imposingly lines the horizon as one approaches the town nestled in its valley.

Approaching Prince Albert I had a sense of deja vu — there is a gap in the mountain range behind the town, with more mountains behind the gap.  There is a village in the spectacular Gorge de Verdun (Europe’s largest canyon) in southern France with an almost identical setting… I just cannot remember the name.  (Would someone like to help?)  There, a large cross is suspended in the gap, giving the village almost pilgrimage status.

Prince Albert at the foot of the Swartberg

The first stop was the info office, where there was some confusion about where we were going to stay.  The tourism officer was away and the office was staffed by a newbie.  A local who popped in helped with a few numbers to call — and cautioned me not to mention that one of the animals was a wolf!

Ten minutes later we were following Merle to a house she thought would be ideal — Elle editor Jackie Burger’s house, for R170 the night.  Now this promised to be something special — Jackie is one of those rare people who combines great depth with style.  Grounded.  Other houses I’ve loved staying in were two in Arniston belonging to architect/professor Ron & Davina Kirby and artist Alice Goldin.

Kanniedood, Jackie Burger's charming and so appropriate Karoo getaway.

Kanniedood (can’t die) – which takes its name from an indigenous aloe – is set in a large indigenous garden.  It’s a simple yet very comfortable Karoo cottage – perfect to absorb a little bit of Prince Albert’s charm. This is just an overnight stop but the stoep did beckon as a place to while away time, contemplating the engraved tablet fixed to the wall or the stars which fill the sky so brightly at night.

But no time to enjoy it now, in 90 minutes I’m meeting a really great friend I haven’t seen for 20 years, Elaine Hurford — property agent, author, house restorer and one of the brightest sparks I know — and I still needed to explore a bit of the town.

And Prince Albert did exceed expectations.  It made me think of a more authentic, less pretentious version of Franschhoek, an oasis in a much harsher environment. It also reminded me of Stanford’s dedication to maintaining its built heritage.

Prince Albert has one of the prettiest main streets of any town in the Western Cape

Elaine couldn’t believe that I would make Prince Albert just an overnight stop, but it was a stop that convinced me to return and discover more.  Maybe the Olive Festival at the beginning of May?

She made a very valid point about Capetonians lack of enthusiasm (or is it awareness) for the Karoo — they will happily drive the 5-6 hours to Knysna and Plett for a weekend, but rarely consider 3.5 hour trip to Prince Albert.  Maybe that’s what has kept the town special.

Although I hadn’t seen Elaine for about 20 years, it felt like catching up with a friend I’d seen just a few weeks previously — except for all the catch-up.  She moved to Prince Albert after a brief visit returning to Cape Town from Grahamstown.  She restored a delapidated old farm house on the edge of town and turned it into a much sought-after guest house and acclaimed national monument. And today she’s the Pam Golding property agent in the town.

Now that’s what makes a visit special — discovering a new destination and an old friend.

For more on Prince Albert, click here.