All posts by ally@allycats.co.za

Peering under the canopy of trees at the Graskop Gorge: The bold, the beautiful and the rare

Botanists’ eyes will shine with excitement and nature lovers will ooh with delight when they step out of Graskop Gorge’s famous viewing lift and into the green cocoon that lies snuggled below a canopy of trees at the bottom of the ravine.

Never before has it been possible for so many people to so easily immerse themselves in the beauty of an indigenous mist forest.

Even wheelchair-bound people are able to access a part of the forest trail that has been created. Ramps leading from the visitors’ centre to the lift – which travels down the cliff face, and a wooden walkway in the forest below allow people with mobility challenges to become one with the forest.

The developers of the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre are passionate about making the Panorama Route accessible to visitors while being sensitive to the pressure they place on the environment and they have a history of striking a good balance in this regard.

James Sheard developed the Long Tom Toboggan in 2016. It is the longest toboggan run in Africa with an impressive 1.7km track. Since then, the hundreds of people who have ridden the toboggan down the mountain between Lydenburg and Sabie have been left with a new appreciation of the beauty of the region, while minimal stress has been put on the environment.

Campbell Scott developed Skyway Trails in 2005, on land that had been returned to claimants through the Land Claims Commission. While much of the land was ideal for farming, it included a steep river valley with a forest of tall trees not suitable for agriculture. It was there that Campbell developed the 1.2km aerial cable trail that has not only allowed people to enjoy the Hazyview forest but has enhanced the forest’s sustainability through the removal of exotic invader plants, in partnership with the Working for Water programme.

“Campbell offered a way for us to benefit from land we could not harvest, while at the same time preserving and protecting it,” says Riebs Khoza of the Sandford Community Trust, from which Campbell leases the land.

Sheard, Campbell and the third Graskop Gorge Lift Co director, Oupa Pilane, have applied the same principles to the lift development – opening up the region while ensuring its important biodiversity is protected for future generations to enjoy.

The 600m circular trail through the forest reflects this value, with beautiful interpretation boards and special features that explain the forest and its inhabitants to visitors, a walkway that prevents the trampling of vegetation and a commitment to preserve the forest.

Earlier this year, a number of experts were commissioned by the Graskop Gorge Lift Co to do a survey of the gorge’s plants. One of the team members was John Burrows, a South African botanist and horticulturalist with vast experience. He has also authored several books on African plants. Since 1988, he and wife Sandy have managed the Buffelskloof Private Nature Reserve in Lydenburg, where they have established an extensive herbarium.

In 1994, Burrows formed the Plant Specialist Group, a group of amateur enthusiasts from Mpumalanga’s Lowveld and Escarpment region, which now attracts participants from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.

Conservationists as a rule are not in favour of ecologically important areas being developed. “However, the Graskop Gorge development has been done as sensitively as possible,” he says, “and it has opened a window to the importance of South Africa’s indigenous forests.”

Southern Africa has few true forests. Indigenous afromontane forests such as the one in the Graskop Gorge occupy a mere 0.47% of the land area. The majority of these forests occur in areas not easily accessed, such as coastal plains and mountain gorges. Forests make up the smallest biome in Mpumalanga – only 0.5% of the province’s surface area, which means visitors to the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre are able to enjoy a fairly unique experience.

A huge diversity of trees create a shady oasis for an even greater diversity of plants, which creep, climb, cling and drape from every surface. The air is rich with the smell of soil and vegetation and the tinkle and spray of the river and waterfall add another dimension to this wonderous world.

The forest has diverse ecosystems that support birds, insects, indigenous trees and flora. It is the latter that had Burrows and his team so excited when they did their survey. Although they are waiting for the official results, the forest may hold a botanical discovery or two.

While South Africa’s afromontane forests are found in patches, far away from each other, they share a similar mix of plant species which are often distinct from the surrounding lowland regions. However, each patch of forest may have plants that have adapted in some way to their specific environment and are thus unique to the area in which they grow.

“There is a degree of plant speciation at Graskop Gorge,” says Burrows. “We recorded a number of rare plants,” adds plant enthusiast Delia Oosthuizen.

Burrows says that the mist forest is alive with primitive ferns, ancient trees, medicinal plants, orchids, forest grass and cliff-hanging aloes. “Everything feeds off the mist,” he says. “Close ancestors of one primitive fern species, Ptisana fraxinea var. salicifolia, has been around for 310 million years,” adds Burrows.

The forest plants have ingenious survival mechanisms. Plants cling from rock faces with seemingly nothing in which to root while others indeed do not root at all but instead draw their nutrients from the air. A rare grass, Prosphytochloa prehensilis, climbs by scabrid hairs which stick a bit like Velcro; and even old tyres, dumped down into the gorge way back when, have been claimed by the forest and now provide a nurturing habitat for plants and insects.

There is an abundance of epiphytes, those plants that have found a way to survive by snuggling up to another species. A mass of ferns, air plants and orchids can be seen on tree trunks and branches. Let your eyes adjust to the layers of green, and you will be amazed at how many different plants are juxtaposed in the same space.

Over 100 species of fern have been recorded in the Lowveld escarpment. In the Graskop Gorge, both of South Africa’s indigenous tree ferns – the rare Cyathea dregei and the Cyathea capensis – can be found. “I have never seen these species growing side by side before,” says Burrows.

“There are a number of very special orchids too,” he says.

A bulb with delicate orange flowers, the Crocosmia mathewsiana, is endemic to the forests around Graskop and is rare, with its habitat threatened by invasive species. It is pollinated by the long-tongued bee, Amegilla.

There are a huge number of plants with medicinal properties in the gorge, and a number of others designated as butterfly host plants. One interesting species is the Ochna arborea var. oconnori, a tree with bark that is cold to the touch.

The directors of the Graskop Gorge Lift Co and Burrows appeal to people not to take cuttings of plants. “Imagine if every 10th visitor removed something from the gorge,” says Burrows, “irreparable damage will be done. In any event, many of these plants will not thrive in a garden; they need specific misty conditions to grow.”

Biodiversity expert Mervyn Lötter says that the Blyde escarpment area is botanically very rich and fascinating. “It includes many plant and animal species that occur there and nowhere else in the world. The Graskop area forms part of what botanists call a ‘centre of plant endemism’ – you have a high number of plant species occurring there, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. Where you get a big accumulation of these endemics, you can call it a ‘centre of endemism’. There are not many of these centres around.

“However, most of these endemics occur in the grasslands and rocky areas, rather than in the forests.”

He adds that the indigenous forest in which the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre is situated extends all the way to Mariepskop some 40km away and makes up the largest intact forest in Mpumalanga.

He echoes Burrows’ words about weighing up the awareness being created of South Africa’s vulnerable forests through the development of the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre against any possible negative impacts to the environment: “We need to unlock the benefits of nature so that all can appreciate and benefit from the experience of being at one with nature. You will only protect that which you value and respect.”

Wedge Gardens slams dagga ruling

Wedge Gardens substance abuse treatment centre outside of Johannesburg has reacted with dismay to the Constitutional Court’s ruling on September 18 that permits people to cultivate and use cannabis ‘in private’ and for their own use.

Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo ruled the personal use of dagga is not a criminal offence.

Sanca, to which Wedge Gardens is affiliated, said in reaction that South Africa is already crippled with the highest percentages of addiction in the world (World Health Organisation report 2017).

Wedge Garden’s Adèl Grobbelaar said it was a sad day for South Africa. She said that while dagga is now freely available, rehabilitation is not. There are in fact insufficient treatment centres and private therapy is relatively expensive.

She added that a can of worms had been opened in terms of monitoring the use of  dagga to ensure that it meets the criteria of the ruling and that children under the age of 18 are not using the drug.

“This opens the door to drug dealers to make even more money off addicts. Often, the dagga you buy is not ‘clean’ but is laced with various other drugs that cause the acceleration of the addiction process. The more the dealers sell, the more money they make.

“The fact remains that dagga is a gateway drug to other drugs; recent research within our clinics has once again made this very clear. Now, youth coming from law-abiding families who previously were less likely to access dagga will more easily be exposed to the drug.”

While there have long been arguments that dagga is medicinal, just like any medicine, there is a real threat of addiction when not taken in moderation.

“Also concerning is the reality that the younger people are when they start using dagga, the higher the possibility of developing psychiatric conditions.

“It is indeed a very sad day because a high percentage of our youth are going to bear the consequences of this ruling.”

Sanca added that smoking and using cannabis in one’s personal space could violate the rights of children and others. The stricter tobacco rules being proposed in the Tobacco Draft Bill are also at odds with this ruling, said Sanca.

The organisation said that one third of all patients treated by Sanca nationally used cannabis alone or in combination with other substances and an internal study at Sanca confirmed that nearly 60% of clients started with cannabis and then moved to other substances.

Any change in legislation that may have an impact on the citizens of a country necessitates that the widest possible consultation takes place to consider the impact on crime, health and welfare and education, concluded Sanca.

Contact details: 

Sanca National: 011 892 3829

Website: www.sancanational.info

Wedge Gardens: 011 430 0320 / 071 690 4942

Website: www.wedgegardens.co.za

It is #InternationalOverdoseDay2018 @WedgeGardens

The power of positive thinking was the central theme of all treatment sessions at Wedge Gardens in the last week of August, in the build-up to International Overdose Awareness Day being celebrated today (Friday, 31 August).

People being treated at the rehab centre were asked to write an inspirational message on a special blackboard. Messages like, ‘Don’t count the days, make the days count’ and ‘Recover, find peace, live free’ served as affirmation that addiction can be overcome with the will to start again and the support of a caring therapeutic team.

People are encouraged to wear silver today to spread awareness of International Overdose Day. This global event aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

Wedge Gardens is Sanca-affiliated, and both the Sanca National Office and the Sanca National Academy of Learning are based at Wedge Gardens, which is easily accessible from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni.

Wedge Gardens: 011 430 0320 / 071 690 4942

Website: www.wedgegardens.co.za

#InternationalOverdoseDay2018 @WedgeGardens

Wedge Gardens’ therapeutic team centred its activities around overdose awareness in the last week of August 2018, to mark #InternationalOverdoseDay2018 on Friday, 31 August.

Activities included intervention work (like incorporating lectures on the traumas relating to an overdose) and the sharing of national statistics and stories relating to drug overdose. Also discussed were the different types of drugs associated with overdose, the high risk of mixing certain drugs, the dangers of reduced tolerance and the threats association with getting drugs from unfamiliar suppliers.

“We looked at prevention, recognition and basic response tools as well,” says addiction specialist Karen Griessel, who is a social worker at Wedge Gardens.

“On a lighter note, each patient made a mask depicting their inward and outward feelings regarding addiction and the painful reality of overdose.

“We have also implemented a chalk paint wall where we each patient can write up their pro-life quote in remembrance of those who have lost their fight against the disease of addiction. By having participants write an inspiring message on the wall, we were able to conclude that day’s activities on a positive note.”

People are encouraged to wear silver on Friday to spread awareness of International Overdose Day. This global event aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have died or had a permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

International Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable.

Wedge Gardens is Sanca-affiliated, and both the Sanca National Office and the Sanca National Academy of Learning are based at Wedge Gardens, which is easily accessible from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni.

Wedge Gardens: 011 430 0320 / 071 690 4942

Website: www.wedgegardens.co.za

Caption:

Wedge Gardens social worker Karen Griessel with people undergoing rehab at the substance abuse treatment centre. They are wearing masks they made to depict their inward and outward feelings regarding addiction.

 

SA fiction authors snatch a spot on the USA Today Best-Selling Books Top 150 List

Achieving their dream of making it onto the USA Today Best-Selling Books Top 150 list in Women’s Month is definitely one of the career highlights of successful South African fiction authors’ Carlyle Labuschagne and Kristin Ping, especially since they are the first South African writers to do so.

Dubbed the dream team by local authors and publishers, the two authors’ books form part of a limited edition, supernatural and suspense boxset, called The Shadow Files, which hit number 123 out of 150 on 15 August 2018.

The dream of hitting the list with Labuschagne’s book (Tethered) and Ping’s book (The Curse) started when a group of authors from the USA sent out an invitation to these two well-established and renowned authors to collaborate on a boxset of fiction books.

“The Shadow Files boxset was conceived about a year ago and the group spent hours and a lot of resources bringing the concept to life,” says Labuschagne, who directed all of her energy and focus into ensuring that the project was a success.

“We had one year to write, edit and market our individual books and the boxset as a whole, so not much sleep, exercise or cooking was on our agenda,” she laughs.

Being a successful fiction author and a woman to boot, Labuschagne put every effort into tackling the task, whilst ensuring her work-family balance remained intact.

“We wanted to achieve this dream not only for ourselves, but to encourage other female writers to do the same. Unfortunately, in South Africa, female fiction writers aren’t easily taken seriously,” says Labuschagne.

“It is no secret that the book world is not as big a deal as it should be in our country. Neither is the stigma attached to independent female authors who write fiction,” adds Ping.

Labuschagne explains that many indie authors, especially women, have been told by publicists, local agents and even book stores that they don’t matter as fiction writers and people will not buy their books due the genre they write.

Naturally Labuschagne, who always takes the bull by the horns, set out to prove them wrong! And she did this spectacularly by generating quite a buzz in the indie author network in the USA, where her readers line up to meet her and have their books signed.

“Whilst we are over the moon with this achievement, the fight is not over. This is just the beginning. Our ultimate goal is to ensure that we also receive the support, accolades and resources so readily given to us from other countries right here on our home turf,” says Ping.

Connect with Carlyle Labuschagne

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/carlyleL

Website: https://www.carlylelabuschagne.com

Don’t miss AGFO Expo 2018

Don’t miss the 2018 Agriculture and Forestry Expo (AGFO) which takes place at the Casterbridge Lifestyle Centre in White River, Mpumalanga, from 8 to 10 November 2018.

“Over the past two years the AGFO Expo has become renowned as a successful trade platform for the agriculture and forestry industries and this year’s expo will offer these industries so much more,” says Joey Lascelles, AGFO Expo Chairperson.

This year, AGFO will host a Fire-Tech day on Thursday 8 November, which will include demonstrations of and discussions around various fire equipment and products and their uses. Topics include risk mapping: fire and managing the landscape; climate change and fire spread and behaviour; computer generated wind and weather modelling to predict the potential spread of fire; detection and managing forest fires: physical lookout tower, camera, satellite, drone and remote sensing etc; the ops rooms and fire prediction modelling within forestry: use of fire stats, fire trends, on the ground intelligence and weather to predict potential fire events; fire tenders, strike craft, fire equipment and fire-fighting personnel: an integrated approach to successful fire suppression; suppressants, applicators and the way forward; and the latest on pumps hoses and nozzles.

AGFO and SAMAC will host the Macadamia Industry Day at the expo on Friday 9 November. World-renowned plant pathologist from Australia, Dr André Drenth, will be the keynote speaker. Other speakers include Dr Gerda Fourie from the Macadamia Protection Programme; Willem Steyn, from the ARC: entomopathogenic nematodes; economist Dr Roelof Botha: the impact of land expropriation; Theunis Smit: macadamia water use; and Juan Winter, from Source: benchmarking in the macadamia industry.

The VIP networking event – for SAMAC Industry Day attendees and AGFO Expo exhibitors and sponsors only – will take place on Friday evening.

This year’s expo will also include equipment demonstrations and a chainsaw competition. Forestry companies and harvesting contractors are encouraged to enter their teams into the chainsaw competitions to stand a chance to win great prizes and to walk away with the floating trophy sponsored by Rudamans Nelspruit.

Members of the public can enjoy various competitions, including tug of war, axe chopping, pit saw and boeresport.

Bring the family and relax in our ‘Chill Zone’ beer tent and enjoy a traditional South African braai and entertainment from local bands on Saturday.

There are a variety of open air and indoor stands available to suit each exhibitor’s needs and they are encouraged to secure their space early to unlock maximum exposure leading up to the expo.

A comprehensive range of sponsorship opportunities, geared to driving sales and showcasing products and brands before and during the event, are also available.

Sponsors already onboard for AGFO 2018 include Agricolleges International and Mascor (prestige sponsors); Ezigro Seedlings (diamond sponsor); Novon Retail Company and Systeco Automation (gold sponsors) and Adama, Silvix Forestry, United Forest Products and Agrimotion (silver sponsors).

For more information about AGFO 2018 and bookings for the SAMAC Industry Day and Fire-Tech Day, visit www.agfo.co.za or Facebook: @AgfoExpo; email admin@agfo.co.za or contact 082 854 6155.

Wedge Gardens supports #InternationalOverdoseDay2018

This Friday (31 August) is International Overdose Day and Wedge Gardens treatment centre will dedicate its lecturers and workshops to raising awareness of how easily a drug overdose can happen.

Wedge Gardens is Sanca-affiliated, and both the Sanca National Office and the Sanca National Academy of Learning are based at Wedge Gardens, which is easily accessible from Johannesburg, Pretoria and Ekurhuleni.

Sanca and its affiliates want to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death, as well as acknowledge the grief felt by families and friends of those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

Members of the public are asked to wear silver on Friday to show their support of #InternationalOverdoseDay2018.

The United Nations World Drug report of 2014 reported that 7.06% of South Africans abuse narcotics of some kind. One in 14 people are regular users. This equals 3.74 million people.

Over the past 12 years, there has been a 35% increase in admissions to the 30 Sanca-affiliated treatment centres, reflecting the increasing national substance abuse levels in South Africa.

Sanca treated 24 152 clients in the two-year period from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2018. The majority of the clients (75%) were treated at outpatient centres and 25% at inpatient treatment centres.

Most people who seek treatment at Sanca centres are aged between 22 and 35.  The second largest group is 14 to 17 years old. Alarmingly, there is an increase of 3% in the number of children aged between four and 13 who seek treatment.

Sanca says that the high number of youngsters abusing substances is extremely worrying because the brain only reaches maturity at 26 years of age and before that, the risks of permanent structural changes to the brain are increased.

Cannabis is the main substance being abused (between 37% and 38%); then alcohol (between 19% and 21%); heroin/opiates (14%) and ‘other mixed’ – which includes whoonga/nyaope (14%).

Many people assume that overdose is only relevant to illegal drugs but people can overdose on prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) medications. The categories of OTC medications most likely to be abused are painkillers and anti-inflammatories; heartburn and indigestion medications; cough and cold medications; weight loss laxatives, diuretics and slimming tablets; and sleep aids.

Many people don’t realise that most painkillers and cold and cough medications contains codeine, which is derived from the opioid family (like heroin and morphine). If used as instructed, it will benefit the person but if abused, it could cause dependency and have harmful consequences.

THE DANGERS OF OTC AND PRESCRIPTION ABUSE

  • Long-term use can lead to adverse effects and have serious side effects.
  • OTC can interact and interfere with prescription medications. Aspirin, for example, interacts with blood thinners, antibiotics and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Pseudoephedrine found in cough and cold medications interfere with anti-depressants or stimulants used for ADHD.
  • OTC laxatives (sodium phosphate) can cause dehydration and abnormal levels of electrolytes in the blood, leading to kidney failure.
  • Chronic use could lead to tolerance, physical dependency or even addiction.
  • Some of the long-term effects are kidney and liver damage, seizures, heart rhythm abnormalities, stroke, ulcers, gastrointestinal disorders, gallstones, chronic constipation, depression, constant rebound headaches, neurological problems, psychiatric problems and even death in some cases.

Thousands of people die each year from drug-related causes, including suicides when intoxicated as well as motor vehicle accidents due to drunk driving.

Substance use disorders are dangerous and over time, the person develops a serious problem. The cycle of compulsive drug use can only be broken through professional assistance.

Sanca encourages members of the public to share any story of loss on the Sanca National Directorate Facebook page or on your Facebook or Twitter account. You could save a life! 

Contact details:

SANCA National: 011 892 3829

Whatsapp: 076 535 1701

Website: www.sancanational.info

Wedge Gardens: 011 430 0320 / 071 690 4942

Website: www.wedgegardens.co.za

Tourism Minister officially launches the Graskop Gorge Lift Co

Tourism Minister Derek Hanekom officially launched the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre on Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route on 24 August.

The development features a viewing lift that travels down the face of the gorge and is a first for Africa.

Making the dream a reality

The developers – Oupa Pilane, Campbell Scott and James Sheard – were awarded an opportunity worth approximately R150 million by THALEDA, the economic development agency of the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality.

The first phase of the rollout received funding from the National Empowerment Fund (NEF) to the tune of R33.4 million. The total value of the project is R40 million at present, and is expected to grow to R150 million upon completion of the second phase.

According to the NEF’s CEO Philisiwe Mthethwa, the three Mpumalanga entrepreneurs approached the NEF with a unique and exciting funding proposition in March 2016.

“They had an idea that had every potential to easily become the most innovative tourism development in South Africa after liberation,” says Mthethwa.

“They found a willing and visionary funding partner in the NEF, which is the only development finance institution that is mandated by legislation to grow black economic participation in South Africa,” she adds.

The investors secured a 25-year contract with the local municipality, following a public procurement process, to develop the infrastructure with the aim of transforming Graskop into a major tourism node.

The positioning of the lift could not be better; the Panorama Route is a popular tourist destination that attracts over 500 000 visitors a year.

“The NEF was confident to approve the investment needed to enable this greenfield project to come to life. We count the Graskop Gorge Lift Company among the industrialists that we have funded because of the large-scale capacity and potential of this exceptional infrastructure project. The business is doing so well that is has begun to fulfill its loan obligations to the NEF before schedule” says Mthethwa.

“The NEF will warehouse equity shareholding amounting to 26.1% for future transfer to black women shareholders,” she adds.

To date, the NEF has approved in excess of R9.3 billion for over 935 black-owned and managed businesses across the country. “More than R6.3 billion has been disbursed directly into the economy and together these investees have generated well over 96 000 decent jobs.”

“The Graskop Gorge Lift Centre is a dream come true. Not only for the investors, but for the people of Graskop and communities across the province which are and will continue to benefit from the growth in tourism to the region,” says Pilane.

“This would not have been possible without support from the NEF and we thank the fund for believing in us and for understanding that tourism is one of the biggest growth sectors in our economy,” he adds.

The Minister of Tourism, Derek Hanekom, applauded the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre as an offering that demonstrates the National Tourism Sector Strategy in action as it will enhance visitor experience, showcase innovation in destination Management and demonstrate the  Broad Based Benefits in the tourism sectors

“For this reason, Graskop Gorge Lift Co will receive R5 million for their next development through the R120 million Tourism Transformation Fund of the Department of Tourism”

“We need more projects such as the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre to enhance our tourism offerings so that South Africa can be more competitive as a tourist destination and in the process create more sustainable jobs for our people,” stated Minister Hanekom.

The Deputy Minister of Trade and Industry, Bulelani Magwanishe, said as a key entity of the Department of Trade and Industry, the NEF is implementing the dti’s industrial policy very well. In doing so, it has saved critical industrial capabilities in a variety of sectors. He added that the NEF is a pioneer of Radical Socio-Economic Transformation and urged them to keep up the good work for inclusive economy to be realised.

“The Graskop Gorge Lift project is proof of the fact that, integrated support and efforts between government, the private sector and other stakeholders can cultivate meaningful outcomes. A project of this nature will push the tourism sector to the next level,” said Deputy Minister Magwanishe.

Since opening its doors to the public in December 2017, the Graskop Gorge Lift Centre has delighted thousands of people who have had their souls touched by Africa’s first viewing lift – which travels 51-metres down the face of the Graskop Gorge and into the Afromontane forest below.

The forest is explored via a 600-metre elevated circular trail. It is a sensory delight, full of sounds, texture and unforgettable sights. Water drips down rock faces, moss grows in abundance, the river dances across boulders and the waterfall cascades. A rich, earthy smell lingers and little flowers vie for attention next to towering trees.

The centre also has an enticing restaurant that is perched on the top of the cliff edge; a contemporary African art gallery, colourful African fashion clothing shop, curio shop and community craft market.

For more information about the Graskop Gorge Lift Co, visit www.graskopgorgeliftcompany.co.za.

 

Dorothy dances her way to 100 years of age

Sitting in a pool of sunlight, Dorothy Mary de Bruyn’s face lit up when she was handed a bright bunch of flowers and a special card on the afternoon of her 100th birthday.

Her family celebrated her centenary a few days earlier, to coincide with a visit from daughter Rosalie who lives in the UK, but management and staff of Rand Aid’s Ron Smith Care Centre, where Dorothy lives, made sure that her actual birthday was memorable too.

Dorothy was born in Johannesburg on August 21, 1918. Her parents were Evelyn May and Robert Johnston. The families were originally from North Yorkshire and the Loch Lomond area of Scotland respectively.

She spent her early life in Johannesburg and was educated by nuns at the Belgravia convent. Her father drove the first steam engine to Swaziland and the family spent many years living in Carolina.

Dorothy’s childhood was dedicated to ballet and at the age of 16 she passed the Royal Academy of Ballet Elementary exam and started teaching.

The family had by this time moved back to the East Rand where her father was the engineer at the Far East Rand hospital. She met and married Christian Mauritz de Bruyn. As a couple, they were keen ballroom dancers and gave exhibitions at local dances.

They settled in Brakpan and Dorothy’s first ballet studio was in Kitzinger Avenue. She was a well-known ballet teacher on the East Rand at a time when June Meyer, the Gardener sisters, Rosemary Wilson and Thelma Isaacs were all active and teaching. A highlight of the dancing calendar was the Springs Eisteddfod where everyone competed.

She has had a lifelong love and enthusiasm for ballet and even took her studio to see Nadia Nerina and the Royal ballet when they toured South Africa in the 50s.

Their son Chris was born in 1944 and worked as an engineer for South African airways. Rosalie was born in 1950 and worked as a paediatric radiologist at Great Ormand Street children’s hospital after immigrating to the UK. Dorothy has five grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

In the 60s and 70s she travelled weekly from Brakpan into the Platteland and had large ballet studios in Bethal and Ermelo. She was very highly regarded and became an examiner for the Royal Academy of Dancing. At the age of 50, she learned and took all the examinations in Classical Greek dancing and became very knowledgeable about Greek mythology.

This led to her choreographing a dance of Persephone, the Queen of the Underworld, coming back from the Underworld carrying a pomegranate. In later years, she helped former pupils like Jacqui Chalom teach before finally retiring in her late 70s.

Dorothy has always lived her life with enormous energy and enthusiasm. She particularly loved travelling and exploring new places. She was a regular visitor to the UK but particularly like the buzz of the markets in Hong Kong and Bangkok.

“She loves food and going to good restaurants and she never forgot a good meal or how much it cost! She has a lovely sense of humour and her granddaughter has abiding memories of her saying she ‘was as full as a tick’ after a particularly filling meal,” shares Rosalie.

 

KLT congratulates Barberton-Makhonjwa Mountainlands team

Kruger Lowveld Tourism (KLT) is thrilled that UNESCO has declared the Barberton-Makhonjwa Mountainlands as South Africa’s 10th World Heritage Site and Mpumalanga’s first!

Long recognised by geologists as having World Heritage potential, the Barberton-Makhonjwa Mountainlands was placed on South Africa’s World Heritage Tentative List by UNESCO in June 2008.

“As the government of the Republic of South Africa‚ we would like to make a commitment that we will do all in our power to protect the integrity and the authenticity of this natural property‚” said Arts and Culture Minister Nathi Mthethwathe in a recent statement.

Sites that are deemed World Heritage Sites are recognised as having global historical or environmental significance‚ may signify a phenomenal achievement of humanity or reveal ancient civilisations. To be accepted onto the list‚ a country must meet stringent criteria and show how the site will be conserved.

The mountains in Mpumalanga are thought to be one of the oldest sites on Earth‚ with its volcanic rocks estimated to be between 3.2 and 3.6-billion-years-old. The mountains are also believed to contain the oldest signs of life‚ with a micro fossil of bacteria discovered there that is estimated to be 3.1-billion-years-old.

“Along with their exceptional geology‚ the area is rich in wild plants‚ animals and beautiful scenery,” the Minister said.

He added that prior to the announcement, South Africa was tied with Morocco and Egypt which each had nine World Heritage Sites.

“Congratulations to the team which worked hard to make this dream for Barberton and the entire province a reality,” says Oupa Pilane, Chairman of the KLT Committee.

“Mpumalanga’s World Heritage Site will ensure that the KLT will be able to do even more to boost domestic and global tourism to the Kruger Lowveld region,” he adds.