Our Christmas Message

Merry Christmas 2023

This week we have families that have visited us for more than 40 years, some a few more than 20 years and others that are sharing their very first Christmas with us.

It’s a magical time of the year. Festive and fun. Our grandparents landed here in 1941; a time of dusty roads, no ESKOM, with just a dining room and a few rondavels. When we celebrated 75 years of happy returns we made a book and our mission was to hold the stories because even in last 8 years so much has changed. Time marches on…

It is important to hold onto some things and it was in delving into our history and re-reading our Grandfathers letter of proposal that we found our own vision. We all knew Bill’s romantic words when he wooed Ruth about ‘being my mate and building a farm second to none in South Africa’ but we discovered a gem when Bill described to Ruth what they’d do… they’d create beauty, they’d make the land more fertile, they’d make their living and leave the world better.

We’ve always felt a very strong connection to our past and these words resonated strongly. Bill spent 13 short years here. His first addition was building this main lounge. In hospitality we always receive a mountain of feedback. It’s good, it’s how we grow but we do feel a pang of sadness when we receive a comment like, “It’s old”. Yes, it’s old but these rocks were blasted and carried, and men toiled to create a space where we can gather and play and chat and even occasionally sleep! So, we do remember Bill fondly and while he didn’t see his vision fulfilled, we see it today….

Beauty at The Cavern is in the bonds. The family bonds. They say, families that play together, stay together. The playing is not always easy… it’s the short walk to Top Dams with a moaning toddler and a trail of sweets and a bucket load of bribes, it’s the disgruntled teenager walking to Echo Cave telling you this is the worst day ever, and it’s also the afternoon games of tennis & scattegories, the teas, the breakfast boma walks, the evening drinks… these all build our families and make us stronger.

Bill wrote of fertile lands. Fertile lands are not fields of mealies or rows of fruit trees but rather pristine landscapes with indigenous forests and clear berg streams. Looking back at early photos of the Cavern Farm reminds us of what has been achieved. This property was filled with wattle and other invader species and in 80 years it has been restored to its natural state. Wattle seeds lie dormant for 60 years. A fire, a shift in the soils and up pop the ugly heads. It’s years of going back to the same places and eradicating the aliens. It’s all about being quietly consistent.

Bill’s vision was that they’d make a living. It’s important. Work provides food, it provides for families, it provides dignity. The Cavern employs about 100 people. Many from the amaZizi community and it’s been wonderful to witness the many people who have started here and we’ve been a stepping stone in their life’s journey. I love the story of a young man called Phola. He arrived nervous, anxious and we weren’t really sure he’d cope with being a waiter. Years have passed and today he has completed his teaching degree and just finished a year as an intern at our school. It’s inspiring.

Bill’s final wish was to leave the world better. We all have the opportunity to leave things better. South Africa gives us so much opportunity to help. And help we should because it always comes back to us. Back to us in joy… we’ve been privileged to be able to build a school, to have our own children at home for longer because they didn’t need to board from the age of 5, and to be able to work with incredible corporates, sponsors and friends so that we can keep doing what we do.

Our Royal Drakensberg School is the heart and hub of all our outreach. We impact over 1000 children, more than 50 women and the greatest part of this is that our lives have profound purpose.

It’s Christmas time… it’s that season of giving. Bill gave us a home, he gave us a vision and we are very blessed to share this mountain home with many of you.

Merry Christmas!

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