I spent seven days driving 1500 kilometres (about 1000 miles), mostly alone in my very tiny car, through Limpopo.

Baobab tree at Madi a Thavha Lodge in northern Limpopo
An 800-year-old baobab tree above the Madi a Thavha Mountain Lodge in northern Limpopo.

I drove Limpopo — South Africa’s northernmost province — from top to bottom and around again. I visited towns with lyrical names: Mookgophong, Mokopane, Polokwane, Tzaneen, Giyani, Makhado. I stayed in luxury lodges and self-catering chalets. I gaped up at a full moon from beneath a towering white tree that’s been dead for more than 30 years. I got lost in an orange grove. I drank gin and tonics. I ate a hamburger on a bun so stale I could have used it as a hockey puck. I ate macadamia-crusted trout and rare beef fillet and vegan burgers and beetroot quinoa.

I sat alone and cried in a birdwatching hide. I faced down a warthog. I watched monkeys copulate. I hung out with honking geese at sunrise. I photographed women embroidering elaborate masterpieces. I drove up a mountain on a dry, pockmarked dirt road and gazed down at a sacred lake. I communed with an ancient baobab. I saw the dusty grave of a Canadian First Nations soldier who died in a savage South African war. I visited a macadamia nut factory and a dragon fruit farm and a man who makes beautiful art out of rubbish.

Art by Pilato Bulala
The art of Pilato Bulala.

This isn’t even half of what I did last week in Limpopo.

I’ll have more to say about this journey in future blog posts. But for now: An ode to Limpopo.

Ode to the People (and Places) of Limpopo

Bridget Hilton-Barber and her geese at Kings Walden in Limpopo.
Ode to my dear friend Bridget Hilton-Barber, trying to reason with her gaggle of geese at Kings Walden in Agatha. I’ll tell you more about Kings Walden in another post.
Nipper Thompson og Wegraakbosch Dairy Farm in Magoebaskloof
Ode to Nipper Thompson, cheesemaker at the Wegraakbosch organic dairy farm. Wegraakbosch produces cheese the old-fashioned way, in a giant copper pot over a fire using milk from grass-fed cows.
Ode to Ngwako Ramolefo (left) and Emmanuel Mohlalohanyi (right) who make gin infused with blueberries, mandarins, and moringa at the Old Packhouse Distillery in Tzaneen.
Howard blight with the Matumi tree at Amorentia.
Ode to Howard Blight, owner of Amorentia Estate and Nursery, who grows sweet dragon fruit and saves endangered cape parrots and treasures the 2000-year-old matumi trees that lived at Amorentia long before any humans did.
Angie Paterson of Magoebaskloof Farmstall
Ode to Angie Paterson, who runs the beautiful, sustainable, mostly vegetarian Magoebaskloof Farmstall and Café on a bend in the crazy winding forest road between Haenertsburg and Tzaneen.
Kaross embroidery factory
Ode to the visionary artist Irma Van Rooyen, who founded the Kaross embroidery studio in Letsitele. What a magical place this is. Irma doesn’t like to be photographed but I accidentally caught her in this shot, far in the background to the left.
Masterpiece embroidery at Kaross
One of many masterpieces at Kaross.
Staff at Khojas fabric in Louis Trichardt
Ode to (left to right) Lucky Ramaliba, Triphinah Ravele, and Eric Mananzhe, the staff at Khojas Modern Store in Louis Trichardt (also called Makhado). Khojas is the best place in Limpopo to buy Venda and Tsonga fabrics.
Ode to Sarah Venter of EcoProducts, which makes the most wonderful things out of baobab fruit collected by women in remote corners of South Africa.
Noria Mombasa woodcarver
Ode to Noria Mabasa, the first and only female Venda woodcarver. (Woodcarving is traditionally only for men.) Noria has a street named after her in Joburg and is a total badass.
Charles Leach Anglo-Boer war monument near Elim
Ode to Charles Leach, one of South Africa’s foremost authorities on the Anglo-Boer War and particularly on Anglo-Boer War events in northern Limpopo. I’ll definitely be doing a longer post about Charles — this is one of several Anglo-Boer War monuments he erected in an area known as the Soutpansberg.
Pilato Bulala
Ode to scrap metal artist Pilato Bulala, whose work is pictured at the top of this post. Here he is holding a piece of junk that he plans to turn into a dolphin. Pilato is brilliant.
Pilato and Gift
Ode to Rhulani Gift Mkhari (left), a great guide who showed me around the Ribola Art Route the last time I was there and took me to meet Pilato this time. Follow Gift at Tourist Guide Gift Mkhari.
Lucky's family in Murunwa, Venda
Ode to Lucky‘s family in Venda. I stayed with Lucky’s family a couple of years ago, and while Lucky wasn’t there this time I managed to remember where his parents’ house is and stop by to visit them. Pictured here are Lucky’s mother Anna (blue jacket), his niece Khulisiso (blue hoodie), his sister Matodzi (tank top), his other sister Rendani (white top), and his nephew Andani.
Lucky's wife and sister-in-law and children.
I also went up the road to Lucky’s new house and hung out with his wife Vhutshilo (top left), his sister-in-law Alfina (middle), niece Shudu (middle left), son Adi (bottom left) and nephew Tendi (bottom middle). It was great to see them all again. (Photo: Musa Matchume)

Thanks Limpopo. This wasn’t my first trip to visit you and it certainly won’t be my last.

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