Kinmel is not 5 star luxury. It does not have sumptuous drapery, thick pile carpeting or a butler to press your suit before dinner. But what it does have, renders such trappings entirely superfluous. South Africans in general are known for their hospitality. Kinmel’s owners, Willem and Wilna are splendid examples of this endearing trait, and their warm welcome and kind hospitality make one feel special throughout one’s stay.
Rhodes has been declared a Conservation Area but Wilna’s breakfasts ought to be declared National Monuments, and I say this in the nicest, most respectful way. If you are a breakfast person, ask for the “Full Breakfast” it will keep you going for the next week, at least. I couldn’t even handle their “Normal Breakfast” (fruit, cereal, eggs, toast, muffins, juice and Coffee/Tea). Poor Wilna, noticing my comparatively scant intake, wanted to know if I was perhaps unwell. She explained that, normally, by 7am, half a day’s work had already been done on the farm and breakfast appetites were considerable.
We politely retreated and went to walk off our morning repast. In addition to being a delightful place to stay, Kinmel is also a fully functioning sheep farm. Notwithstanding his punishing workload, Willem took time out to outline some history of the place and describe the various walks available on the farm. If you’re feeling full of vim and vigour you can sprint up nearby mountains, have an energy drink and sprint back down again. But if, like us, you feel a more dignified pace of life is appropriate, there are equally charming, and less demanding walks.
September apparently falls in the lambing season and it was a pure delight to meander through the sun-bright fields, smelling nature and hearing the gentle bleating of lambs carried on the warm spring breeze. Overflowing with pastoral exuberance, I tried to strike up an ovine conversation with a nearby group of sheep. After a brief exchange of ‘baaah’s’ (during which I may well have inadvertently insulted their flock or worse, spoken well of Julius Malema) they trotted off in disgust to the safety of a larger group. Mrs Chips, wiping her eyes, pointed out that (a) my farm impressions need some work and (b) sheep are a lot smarter than we give them credit for… No tact that woman.
A little further on, we came upon a small river that was far too picturesque not to photograph.
It was during this operation that I am sure I gave Mrs Chips cause to question her wisdom in her choice of husband and tea-maker. You see it happened like this…
Being a perfectionist (a congenital disorder, I believe), I felt the above picture might be improved upon. So while Mrs Chips was sunning herself at the weir, I attempted to find a better position on the other side. Off came the shoes and up went the trouser legs in preparation to negotiate the stream. It was too wide near the weir so I ventured a little downstream to a narrower bit. However, the banks were steeper and muddier here, making for several uncertain and slippery steps. Undaunted, I entered the stream, completely forgetting that a kilometre or two before, this water had been solid ice.
Chaps, it was bone-achingly cold and within minutes I couldn’t feel my toes. Now toes are actually quite useful in such operations – being essential to assist with gripping and feeling for rocks, sharp sticks and things. All things considered, I decided another picture wasn’t all thatimportant to place camera and self in jeopardy, so made for the river bank again, slipping in the mud and falling face first into the mud and grassy reeds (camera was held high, of course and so escaped unscathed).
Now these grass stems are about as thick (and sturdy) as plastic drinking straws, and one particularly malevolent stem, went straight up the left nostril – surprisingly painful as it turns out. Eyes and nose streaming, I attempted to remove the worst of the mud and made my painful way back to Mrs Chips. Unbeknown to me, my mopping up attempts had put streaks of blood on my forearms and over my muddy face, so by the time I got within sight of my better half, I looked as if I’d come second in a bar-brawl with a Bengal Tiger. It took some time to pacify my new bride and assure her it was only my dignity and pride that was wounded.
After promising that I would behave more like a bridegroom and less like an accident-prone amateur we packed up and walked back to our cottage. The rest of the afternoon was spent in relaxed manner until sundown when it was time to risk life and limb again to photograph some lethal looking farm implements; surprisingly without incident.
In view of the bruised ego and bloodied nose, we decided not to braai (barbeque) but had a light supper in front of a crackling fire before turning in for the night. Ascending the stairs to the bedrooms in the semi-dark, one fully expected to see an ectoplasmic appearance of a long dead Voortrekker. Why? Because the wooden floors, beds and doors creaked enough to wake those dearly departed souls and have them shimmering in to moan about the noise. I am the first to concede that we are not your featherweight honeymooners, but even heavy breathing made the bed creak something awful. And that’s all I’ll say on that matter.
Next morning, after a manful attempt to do justice to Wilna’s generous brekkie, we took a drive through Rhodes and its environs. Thus it was that, with a few parting remarks to a group of baleful looking sheep, we made for the Tiffendell ski resort. We knew the place would be closed due to the season and the lack of snow but it was good to crawl along the dusty farm tracks with the windows down, smelling the fragrances and perfumes of the countryside and experience the embracing aloneness (not loneliness) of the hills and valleys.
Back in Rhodes it looked as if we’d hit the lunchtime rush hour. The main street (which thankfully is not yet called Nelson Mandela something or other), became quite lively with almost 6 vehicles, including ours, causing consternation among the residents.
Such a frisson of excitement warranted some refreshment and we parked outside the Rhodes Hotel and established that lunch was available. From the menu we ordered two burgers and wondered with some trepidation what we were going to be confronted with.
Let me tell you (absolutely free of charge, dear reader) that the Rhodes Hotel Burgers are a splendid advert for the place. Apart from the well made chips, fresh bun, delicious trimmings and proper grated cheese (not those abominable slabs of over-processed toxic waste); the homemade hamburger patty was an absolute delight!
Unlike the liars who claim their hamburger patty is ‘home made’ but present you with a rubbery, tasteless ‘clutch plate’ of alarmingly unidentifiable meat; the Rhodes Hotel’s burger patty was a freshly made, succulent offering containing beef mince, flavoursome herbs and spices and done to a turn. Rhodes people evidently know their food.
After lunch a little exploration of the hotel was in order. The bar positively reeked of history – ok, alcohol AND history. Snow picks, skis and muskets are among the memorabilia adorning the walls. On the polished bar counter stands an antique sliver (siLver – Thanks Sonno) till and one can imagine its bell ringing merrily during brisk trade when the famers came into town.
Before it was called the Rhodes Hotel, it was well known in the wild frontier days as the Horseshoe Hotel and boasts of a colourful history with card games, billiards, dice and some celebrated fights; none, presumably, featuring an amateur photographer and a Bengal Tiger.
Such was the liveliness of the carousing that some individuals habitually rode on horseback into the hotel, and a Bushman, Thys Volstruis was employed on a piecework basis (so to speak) to sweep up the droppings – the offending horse’s owner would have this charge added to his bar bill. Eager to augment his income, he apparently used to slap the horse and plead, “Kom, toe jong!” (come, please fellow).
TV Bulpin, in his book “Discovering southern Africa”, writes that the village of Rhodes was established on the farm Tintern in 1893 (although some other sources mention 1891 as the founding date) to be an agricultural centre and, by extension, a regional growth point of the Dutch Reformed church. One of the church ministers, or dominees,was Richard Ross – a Scot (now there’s a thing). Although based in Lady Grey, the bilingual Ross delivered sermons in Rhodes alternately in English and Afrikaans. During the Anglo Boer War he was deemed by the British to be too closely aligned to the Boers for comfort and captured. He was interned for the rest of the war in the concentration camp in Aliwal north.
At the end of hostilities he was released with only the clothes on his back and no shoes. Local historical accounts report that he walked from Aliwal North to his home in Lady Grey barefoot! So disillusioned was he by the British barbarism that he allegedly vowed never to conduct another sermon in English.
And so, filled with history and a memorably pleasant hamburger, we took our leave and made a few images around the town (shown below).
That evening, our last at Kinmel for this trip, and after the promised braai, we relaxed in the warmth of a crackling fire in the lounge; an uneventful evening except for burning my hand on the fireplace. I am NOTaccident prone, I tell you