When I left off at the end of my previous post, my two friends and I had just arrived via donkey cart in Heuningvlei, a traditional farming village in the Cederberg Wilderness Area. We were welcomed by three adorable children.
I’m sort of at a loss on how to describe Heuningvlei. First, I’m incapable of pronouncing the word, which means ‘honey lake’ or ‘honey swamp’ in Afrikaans. It’s pronounced something like ‘HYEN-ing-fly’ but that’s not quite right. My friend Michelle (a fellow American non-Afrikaans speaker) christened the village ‘Hugel-Bugel’ and the name stuck.
Hugel-Bugel, which is home to about 25 families living in white-washed houses, was founded nearly two centuries ago by the Ockhuis family — descendants of Dutch settlers who intermarried with indigenous South Africans. The Ockhuises eventually sold their ownership rights to the German Rhenish Missionary Society. Today, Hugel-Bugel is an outpost of the Moravian Mission based at the nearby town of Wupperthal. Make sense? I thought not. But don’t worry, you don’t need to understand the complicated history to see that Hugel-Bugel is a freakin’ cool place to visit.
A few minutes after we arrived we met Isaac, one of the Hugel-Bugel elders. He showed us to our guest house, which is called ‘the School House’. Apparently it was the village school a long time ago, but more recently it was the home of a woman named Anna and her family. Anna is elderly now and moved to a nearby town to live with one of her children.
When we walked into the house, it felt like Anna had just left a few moments ago.
Isaac chatted with us for a few minutes then left us to settle in. After choosing our beds for the night (there were lots to choose from — Anna must have lots of kids), we went out to explore the village.
It was quiet and there weren’t many people around, perhaps because it was near dinnertime. We snapped photos of the bucolic scenery, enjoying the afternoon light.
Suddenly we were engulfed by a stampede of donkeys and sheep, who run free in Hugel-Bugel. I guess it was their dinnertime too.
At 6:30 we reunited with Isaac. He walked us over to Daleen’s house, where we would have dinner.
Daleen, one of the village matriarchs, is in charge of tourism in Hugel-Bugel. She welcomed us warmly. Daleen had an endearing habit of chattering to us in Afrikaans, then catching herself and translating what she just said into English.
We had a feast of fried chicken (best I’ve ever tasted), sweet potatoes, beets, and an interesting (but strange) salad made of beans, bananas, and mayonnaise. I made the mistake of feeding a chicken scrap to Daleen’s cute cat, who had no name. Thus encouraged, he became a ferocious lion, howling and sinking his claws into my leg, to the amusement of my friends. Daleen scooped him up in a huff and banished him outside.
We had make-your-own trifle for dessert — a bowl of custard, a bowl of red jello (called jelly here), and a bowl of canned pears, which we assembled into individual trifles. I’m really sorry I didn’t get a picture of those. Trifle, along with grated-cheese-and-butter sandwiches, seem to be staple foods of the Cederberg.
Stomachs filled, we walked, shivering, back to Anna’s house. It gets really cold in Hugel-Bugel on summer evenings. I wanted to go outside and look at the stars, but instead the three of us brushed our teeth, burrowed into our beds, and slept like dead people.
End of Part 2. In Part 3, the finale, I will tell you about our big hike across Krakadouw Pass.