Fordoun Hotel & Spa, judging by the vast variety of guests I came across during my two day stint, has become something of a destination for those that take an active interest in their health and wellbeing. Obviously I blended right in. I arrived quite late, having flown into Joburg from Mozambique. I had just enough time to shove my scattered belongings back into my car before the weekend traffic reached suicidal levels. The N3 toward the coast was extremely busy but free flowing, and after a relaxing few hours behind the wheel with, if I may boast, an amazing playlist, I pulled into Fordoun just in time for dinner.
The line fish on samp, a lovely addition, was delicious and the veggies where just what I needed. I finished up quickly, face half buried in my phone like one of those annoying teenagers you’d love to dish out a backhand to. I was the only person in the room, so I didn’t care. I skipped dessert and headed for my bed, I had a long day of pampering ahead of me.
On the way to breakfast I passed two mountain bikers and a group of five runners. Halfway through my eggs benedict a large contingent of lycra clad trail runners bustled into the restaurant. They’d clearly already been for a run, one they’d probably term ‘a little morning jaunt to get the blood going’. I dabbed up the last of my yolk with my perfectly toasted english pastry. It tasted slightly of guilt. Nothing a little All Gold couldn’t mask.
I timed breakfast perfectly. I had a good hour to let my food and three cups of coffee settle before my full body massage. I spent it sending emails and contemplating my perfectly soft dressing gown and whether or not wearing it down to the spa, a short fifty meters away, would be frowned upon. I stayed in my clothes, walked down, and was told to disrobe and gown up almost immediately. As usual the hour long taste of heaven felt like it was over with in half the time. This one especially seeing as I was still dealing with major stiffness issues after my first horse ride in over a decade three days earlier.
Once my clothes were back on I was greeted by Eliot, a traditional healer. Eliot is a hulk of a man, not ridiculously tall, but incredibly large. He had, without a doubt, the largest hands and forearms I have ever seen. We walked down to his place of business, a traditional hut surrounded by Eliot’s garden, in which he raised a crop of various herbs. He invited me in and offered me a seat, as he kneeled behind his, donning his traditional blanket.
Eliot explained how and from where he had collected the various bones, shells, rocks and items in his bag of bones. I blew into the open bag before Eliot upended it onto the kudu pelt that served as the carpet. A dolls head, covered in dirt and missing all but one patch of hair, rolled away from the pebbles, cow teeth, buck hoofs, and shells, right up to my foot, settling face up against my big toe. ‘Ah! That represents your guardian angel.’ Eliot told me through a big smile. I was told to, no matter my uncertainty, carry on with what I am doing, because I have a strong guardian who will look after me until I find what I want to do. I’m not much for this sort of thing, but there’s no doubt that I drew comfort from what he said, and still do.
Richard, the towering GM who looks as if he may have played rugby at a top level, had managed to get me a spot in the group that was heading to Karkloof for a canopy tour, and after throwing bones with Eliot I was running late. I tore down the quiet Midlands backroads, thanks to Google Maps, and made it just in time to miss the safety briefing. I was fitted with a harness, handed some welding gloves, crowned with a hardhat, and ushered into the back of a truck with a couple from durban and a Father, mother, daughter and boyfriend family combo from the UK.
A few minutes later I was being strung up to a 120 metro cable and told to jump off a ledge thirty meters above the forrest floor. Heights are not my thing, but the speed at which you fly down those steel cables completely negates any feeling of vertigo. So much so that I could even take in the views as I sped from one side of the kloof to the other. We zigzagged down the kloof, the three women fearless on every ledge, never hesitating. The Brittish father was visibly petrified from the get go, but I admired his valiant attempt to cover it in front of his daughters young boyfriend.
After I took a drive up Nottingham road, slowing down gradually as the adrenalin wore off, in search of Nottingham Road Micro Brewery I’d seen advertised in a farm store I’d stopped at to sample some cheeses. Unfortunately, like a lot of the older micro breweries, Nottingham Road Brewery is not keeping up with the younger offerings. The beer is, quite frankly, terrible. The setting is great though, and as far as pubs and beer gardens go, I’d definitely go back for a big lunch or hearty dinner.
Keri and Andy of Sapore hosted me later that night. Also situated on Nottingham road, Sapore is exactly what that part of the Midlands needs, a restaurant that serves something other than traditional pub food. Pizza, pasta, a full board of mains, and even sushi is on offer. I going to tell you outright, have the grilled cajun calamari starter followed by the salmon steak with veg. Andy makes sure the salmon is perfectly seared on the outside and butter soft in the middle. We ended up, the three of us and a local named Ollie, drinking at a table outside way after the doors had been locked and the lights turned off.
The next day, not quite ready to leave yet, I extended my stay at Fordoun by a night. Stormin had agreed to join me for a night, and I had a full day to fill before his arrival. I booked a floatation pool session, which was fortunately moved out to 12. I had two hours free and with the internet service in the Midlands being too weak to upload a picture to WordPress, I picked up my book and headed for the shade of a tree at the end of a field behind my room.
I lay there for two hours, I didn’t even pick up my book. This was only my second time in the Mindlands, and I thought about my first, sixteen or seventeen years ago. My family and I had joined two others in a lovely holiday home belonging to parents of two Michaelhouse boys. I thought about how simple things were then. It was school holidays and we spent the days riding a quad bike around – I was nervous at first because I’d never ridden one with gears before. We rode up to a dam close to the school. There was a tall tree you could climb and jump out of into the water. We made dart guns using copper piping, pins, and the felt from kokis we broke open and bleached of their ink. We hunted lizards as they sunned on the rocks in the garden. One afternoon we made up part of a large search party, three of the youngest had wondered into the hills in search of whatever it is tiny humans go in search of, and had not returned for some time. They came wondering over the horizon as our search party was about to depart. At night we played Age Of Empires or watched movies. Each morning we started again. No phones, no internet, nothing but time.
I thought about time a lot under that tree. I remembered what it was like to sit on my bed and listen to music for hours, throwing a ball at the ceiling seeing if I could get it to just skim the surface. I hadn’t passed time like that is ages. I’m not talking about zoning out to a movie, or series. I’m talking about passing the time doing absolutely nothing. I found that at Fordoun. The time to do absolutely nothing, or anything. I think that’s what I liked about Fordoun, there’s something for everyone. Mountain biking, hiking, horse riding, all day spa treatments, traditional consultations, adventures into the Midlands, or just lying under a tree.
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