Sibling Reunion at Gariep Dam – Part 1

When my grandsons were very young we explained their relationship to me like this.   Granny:  Jay and Joshua, when Mommy and Aunty Lauren were little they had another mommy.   Her name was Colleen.   But a sad thing happened.  She was sick for some time and then she died when they were only 10 and 12 years old.

Jay:  Oh – is that her in the picture in Mommy’s room?

Granny:  Yes.  You can imagine that it was quite a sad time for Grandpa and his girls.  But then Grandpa decided that he needed a new wife and a mommy to help look after the little girls.  So he asked me if I would be come and be with them. And I said, Yes – I would so he became Lolly’s new daddy and we became a blended family.

Jay’s eyes widened and a big smile broke onto his face:   “Lucky for you, hey Gran!”
Of course I thought it was lucky for all of them but my precious little lad gave me a new perspective on the whole situation!   After all what did I get?  Two ready made little girls who brought great joy to my life and grew up to give me some adorable grandchildren.  He and his brother along with their mommy lived with Granny and Grandpa from infancy till their late teens – How lucky were we??

Not only that – I inherited a whole family on their maternal grandmother’s side who drew me unconditionally into the family and never questioned their brother-in-law’s choice of new wife and mother for their nieces.  Yes – Lucky for Gran, indeed!  Thirty- four years later I still feel very, very lucky.

Colleen had four siblings – Barbara who has just turned 70 and lives on a farm with Andrew in Kokstad, Kwa-Zulul Natal;   John who lives on a wine estate with Karly in Stellenbosch, Western Cape;   Shirley who along with Eddie has lived in many places in the country but now lives in Bloemfontein – Free State;   And the baby sister Diane who lives with Carey on a small holding at Great Brak River near George in the Western Cape.  As I mentioned we all have a good, close relationship and try to see each other as often as possible.  But being scattered  around the country makes it difficult for all the siblings to be together at the same time.  My Goodness even when siblings live in the same city it can get complicated.

John came up with the brilliant idea of all of the siblings, which included The Earl and me, to meet somewhere neutral to celebrate Barbara’s 70th birthday. This message was passed from one to the other but no actual plan was in place.  I was worried  – we’re old – some of us have health issues – the distances are vast – where would we find a venue that suited everyone.  I asked the question and everyone had a different idea.   “Who is organising it?” I asked.   “Would you?” came the reply.     “Yes!” I agreed.

The Earl and I looked at the map and decided that Gariep Dam in Free State should be it.  I sent out the email and within minutes I had a positive reply from everybody – Yes they would all come and yes the venue was fine.  My chief concern was for Eddie who has been undergoing intensive chemo and would not be strong enough to travel too far.  It would be only an hour and half for him and Shirl.   Those of us in the Western Cape would have the longest distance to travel but we would do it in two hops.  John and Karly would stop at Karoo National Park. Earl and I would pick up Diane and Carey at Great Brak.  Barbs and Andrew would also do it in two shorter hops and they were happy with that.

Well last week was when it all happened and I am happy to report that it went off extremely well.  The only dampener was that Carey could not join us.  Just before our week away was due, a fire broke out in the forest surrounding their property.  Diane and Carey helped save a neighbour’s house and were on the verge of being evacuated themselves.   By the time we arrived on Sunday afternoon, the fire was still burning and thick, black smoke hung chokingly in the atmosphere.    Carey was still very worried.  “Take Diane,” he said. ” And if things improve, I will drive up on my own.”    Just behind Carey’s work shop, where he builds motor homes, is a forest of gum trees.  If they went up in flames, his livelihood would be destroyed.  I am happy to report that the fire did not reach the farm but only because of the vigilance of the property owners and the fire fighters.

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The first view of the forest fire as we approached Rondom Mooi

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Fire Fighters at work at the edge of the pine plantation

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The wind just needed to whip this up into a frenzy

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Too close to Rondom Mooi for comfort

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Looking into the smoky distance from Rondom Mooi

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In spite of the fire, Carey entertained his grandsons who just loved the tractor/mower

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Daniel takes the wheel – Sit down Matthew!

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Watch out – I’ll run you down!

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Wow!  This is fun

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Now it’s Matthew’s turn

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Bella – My favourite of the Rondom Mooi dogs.

On the Monday morning the smoke still hung threateningly over the farm and after taking a drive to see how things were progressing, Carey decided that he definitely could not join us.  So leaving at 9:30 and stopping in George to shop for provisions and to have breakfast we continued over the Outeniqua Pass, then through the Karoo via Graaff-Reinet to the Free State – arriving at Forever Resort Gariep at 5:00 pm.

The Karoo’s semi desert landscape has a stark beauty of it’s own.  I just love the colours, the flatness and the koppies that break the eternal nothingness.
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The never-ending Karoo road

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A typical Karoo scene with the windmill in the foreground

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A Karoo Koppie

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A splash of Autumn Colours.

Everybody was already there when we arrived and it was a perfect evening. We set up our squatter camp next to John’s Mount Nelson on wheels and then everybody came down from the rondawel to braai with us.

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Our view of Gariep Dam

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John in charge

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Andrew, Barbara and The Earl

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Diane, Karly, Eddie, Shirl

The purpose of this gathering was to celebrate Barbara’s 70th which was in February but then there were 2 other birthdays too – Shirl turned 63 the day before we arrived and andrew turned 82 the day we left.  So I got Rachel from my favourite coffee shop to bake a big chocolate cake with Happy Birthday and the ages iced on top.

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Happy Birthday to Shirl, Barbara and Andrew

Travelling didn’t do the icing any good but it tasted delicious – best chocolate cake this side of the equator!

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Everybody listened politely as I waxed lyrical

We were all so excited to be together.  It was not easy for Eddie who is very weak but he made the effort and bonded with each of us.   Shirl was also recovering from foot surgery but never complained and gently supported her hubby, Andrew has had a few health issues but wouldn’t have missed this gathering either. Karly was the life and soul of the party in spite of recovering from recent surgery herself.   Wow – I love this bunch of positive people.   Nothing stops them enjoying everything that life still has to give!

To be continued ……..

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