The year has barely begun and you’re beginning to flag…. Recharge with one of these retreats, so you can bring your best self to your work and those you love. Go alone or take your family along too. By Glynis Horning
WHERE: Limpopo – in Haenertsburg in the Magoebaskloof, about 60km from Polokwane.
WHAT:This low-key lodge in Limpopo’s ‘Garden of Eden’ is hugged by dense indigenous forest on the edge of the Drakensberg escarpment, with stirring views. It’s the perfect place to find yourself in nature, with hiking trails alongside streams and massive yellowwoods. Take a birding tour (there are more than 250 species) with charming resident birding guide David Letsoalo (winner of the BirdLife South Africa Eagle Award for best bird guide in the country), go on sunset 4×4 drives or try your hand at fly-fishing. If you’re there long enough, drive to the serene Dap INFO:From R500 a person a night, accommodation only. Call 071 658 6980 or visit www.krm.co.za.
Naudé Dam and picnic at the Debegeni Falls. But you’re unlikely to budge after one of Kurisa Moya’s full-body massages or signature craniosacral therapy treatments (an energy-based full-body session using gentle touch). STAY: In a rustic 10-sleeper farmhouse, two-sleeper wooden ‘tree house’ cabins set 3m up in the forest canopy, or a quaint stone-and-wood family cottage that sleeps up to six, with a fireplace,STAY: In one of four self-catering cabins, complete with every comfort, including snackwich makers.rooms, or in modest en suite family cottages or thatched chalets. The BRC is famous for its flavoursome lacto-ovo-vegetarian fare, much of it grown there. Don’t leave without its recipe book, hammock and outdoor shower. All are self-catering with braai facilities – bring provisions (nearest shops are 45 minutes away) or order meals from the resident chef. You can also bring your dogs! WHERE: Free State – outside Clarens, about 285km from Bloemfontein and 300km from Joburg.
WHAT: A marvellous new place to escape and de-stress, while also indulging in a bit of adventure, culture and romance. Explore the colourful village of Clarens 10 minutes away, full of arts and crafts galleries and coffee shops, then retreat to the peace of the Maluti Mountains and a stylish little wooden cabin, complete with private Jacuzzi on the deck above a heart-stopping view from Golden Gate Highlands National Park into Lesotho. There’s even (shh!) a flatscreen TV with DStv. Walks are wonderful, or you can hop on your mountain bike.WHERE: Southern KwaZulu-Natal – near Ixopo, about 140km from Durban. WHAT: The Buddhist Retreat Centre (BRC) sits meditatively above the vast Umkomaas Valley in what Alan Paton described in Cry The Beloved Country as hills ‘grass-covered and rolling … lovely beyond any singing of it’. You’re shown how to meditate, focusing on breath and letting go the ‘mind chatter’ of pressured lives.
Mornings are spent in soothing silence. You’re free to hike, dip in the dam, read in the indigenous garden or bird-watch in the forest. Guided retreats are offered most weekends on anything from kite-making to music and bird-watching. In the month of March, you can create a Soul Collage from found images, practise mindfulness at the Befriending the Mind retreat, or attend the Yogis Live Longer: Hatha Yoga for Health and Resilience retreat or the weeklong silent meditation retreat: The Deeper you Go, the Lighter it Gets. STAY: In a simple male- or female-only lodge with single and twin-bedded INFO: From R500 a person a night, including meals and courses. Call 039 834 1863 or 082 579 3070, or visit www.brcixopo.co.za. WHERE: KwaZulu-Natal Midlands – in the Dargle Valley about 110km from Durban.
WHAT: Berenice Meintjes has created a not-for-profit ‘escape from the busyness of life’, as she puts it, for connecting with ourselves, each other and God, however we may see God. Wake to birdsong and tranquil views of the Petrus Stroom valley, walk in nearby indigenous forests, go canoeing, fishing or mountain biking, or visit the craft and food attractions of the Midlands Meander, and watch fireflies at night. You can drink in the quiet any way you like, or follow one of Solitude’s retreats, on themes from Contemplative Writing to Contemplative Walking and The Search for God and the True Self. STAY: In one of four character-filled double-storey self-catering cottages overlooking the lake, with fireplaces and attic-style upstairs bedrooms. rooms, or in modest en suite family cottages or thatched chalets. The BRC is famous for its flavoursome lacto-ovo-vegetarian fare, much of it grown there.
Don’t leave without its recipe book, Quiet Food (Jacana Media). INFO: From R150 a person a night, accommodation only (minimum stay of two nights); the cost for themed two- to three-day retreats is from R800, including meals and courses. Call 082 465 1514 or visit www. solitude.org.za.
WHERE: Western Cape – in McGregor near Robertson, about 150km from Cape Town. WHAT: Set right in the heart of McGregor in lush, tranquil gardens, Temenos is an ideal spot to unwind and recharge. It has plenty of spaces to reflect or meditate in, including a chapel surrounded by roses, and two libraries in the garden. You can choose from a variety of formal retreats and wellness workshops (see website), but you’re also welcome to just chill and do your own thing. A wide range of healing therapies is available, as well as daily silent meditation, yoga and qigong, and accompanied gentle country walks can be arranged on request.
STAY: In one of 14 cottages. The garden cottages are popular with bird lovers, and the library suites are especially quiet. For total privacy, book the little Hermitage. All have private patios, fireplaces and everything you need for self-catering. You can buy fresh local produce in the village and (yes!) wine from charming local wineries. The atmospheric Tebaldis restaurant, in what was the original 1856 clay homestead, is open from Tuesday to Sunday and has an à la carte menu with delicious vegetarian options WHERE: Eastern Cape – about 5km outside Grahamstown.
WHAT: Benedictine monasteries have offered hospitality through the ages, and in keeping with the tradition, Mariya uMama weThemba provides simple accommodation on 50 peaceful hectares with walking trails, rich birdlife and great views over valleys – on clear days you can see the sea. The church is open for prayer at any time, and whatever your faith. You are welcome to attend the daily offices and Eucharist, and monks are on hand to give insights into prayer and Benedictine spirituality. There’s a comfortable lounge with a fireplace and a wellstocked spiritual library.
STAY: In one of three guesthouse buildings sleeping 19 in all, either for a retreat (when you share tasty meals with the monks) or on a bed-andbreakfast basis. They remind guests that not all rooms are en suite, and they don’t have Wi-Fi. INFO: From R380 a person a night B & B; R430 during retreats, including meals. Call 046 622 8111 or 079 873 0935, or visit www.umaria.co.za. INFO: From R250 a person a night in the cottage outside of retreats; during retreats the cost is R450, which includes vegetarian meals. Call 051 753 1356 or 082 816 5903, or visit www.stoepzen.co.za. GH WHERE: North West – in the Magaliesberg, about 100km from Joburg.
WHAT: Emoyeni is Zulu for ‘Place of Spirit’ and this is a great place to get in touch with yours. It’s run by the Emoyeni Trust NPO along Buddhist lines, with mindfulness and a non-harming attitude at its heart, but everyone is welcome. Do as little or as much as you like. As they put it, ‘While we generally encourage much non-doing, you are welcome to sweat your karma in the kitchen or garden or by clearing alien vegetation.’ Unwind in the unspoilt outdoors, curl up in the retreat library or centre yourself on a cushion in the meditation hall or by walking a newly created labyrinth with a 360° view. You can also join themed retreats, from yoga to vegetarian cooking (see website).
STAY: The accommodation is simple but comfortable, and the vegetarian fare is outstanding. INFO: From R430 a person a night, including meals. Call 082 308 1533 or visit www.emoyeni.org.za. Poplar Grove WHERE: Karoo – about 26km from Colesberg, 230km from Bloemfontein, 420km from Port Elizabeth. WHAT: This working sheep farm has been in the Osler family for generations, and its guest cottage is the ultimate escape in the digital age – with no electricity, Wi-Fi, TV or cellphone signal. There’s nothing but a vast stretch of Karoo veld, broken by occasional ironstone koppies and roamed by sheep, a few cows, horses, antelope and scrub hares. Margie Osler runs the farm and retreats for traumatised children, and takes care of guests. Antony is a humanrights lawyer and Zen teacher, author of Stoep Zen and Zen Dust, and runs silent StoepZen retreats (see website). Between these, you’re free to do as you please – meditating in a stone Zendo (an old sheep-shearing shed), helping with farm work or just dozing on a stoep, walking the veld and labyrinth at sunset, watching the brilliant stars and then cosying around a fire. STAY: In the self-catering stone cottage, which has a gas stove and fridge. Fresh milk and eggs, brea
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