The Valley

Trip Start Jan 10, 2006
Trip End Jun 02, 2006

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Flag of South Africa  ,
Sunday, February 5, 2006

We woke on Sunday morning and took it easy getting to Rustler's. Mycol found a load of mushrooms before I was even awake - some great agaricus (campestris? I usually don't eat wild agarics myself, but Frank and Mycol are into it.), giant puffballs and a really nice chicken mushroom.

"Rustler's Valley" ( is the name of the retreat center/permaculture center/festival venue. The valley itself is also called Rustler's Valley, and icludes a polo center called Franshoek, a couple other resort-type places, a few black villages and big beautiful sandstone moutains all around.

We woke up Dale Millard around noon, checked out his amazing plant collection (ask me about these later), cooked a mushroomy lunch, and went on a hike to "The Eye of the Sangoma," a forty foot tall sandstone arch on a huge fault line that runs perpindicular to the valley and its walls. Welcome to Rustler's Valley.

All the fruit was coming ripe in the garden. I had my first gorging of plums. I've never seen so much fruit, in such variety, so perfectly organic (never sprayed, just mulched, and sometimes not even that) and self perpetuating, ripe on the tree and just days from falling off. The birds could sit on the branches and eat one or two bites out of fruit after fruit and there was still plenty for everyone else and some left over for canning. Apples, peaches, pears, plums, apricots, figs, and pecans among canna and giant mullien plants, with borage and comfrey and artemesia and chard and bok choy and arugula and garlic and onions and potatoes and artichokes and tanzi, and huge stands of bamboo and grasses - the list could go on. This garden made me wonder how we can live without such a thing.

We and Dale were there alone for two days. Rustler's was officially closed until Feb. 1. Monday we went to Mautse, which I can't tell you about here, except to say that is a holy place. Remember to ask me about that later, too.

Tuesday, my Amerikan friends were leaving - south into Lesotho and on back to Cape Town. I opted to stay in the valley since I was soon to head north into Zimbabwe, and I felt that I could learn a load from Dale who is also a permaculture teacher, besides an expert in plant medicine and reptiles. It was a little sad to see them off, but I was ready to travel solo for sure.

Dale and I spent some good time together. One morning, he found a 10 pound chicken mushroom that we ate all week long and a huge 25+ pound ganoderma applinatum. I saw some of his pictures of local sangomas and local snakes among various plants and mushrooms. He's a herpitologist by trade and knows well snakes and the sacred plants of the world. He's been focusing on Brazilian and Amazonian species lately. Dale is on the staff at Wasiwaska in Brazil ( and was also a founding director of M.E.G.A (Medicinal and Edible Gardens Association), a company established to offer sustainable primary healthcare solutions to schools, clinics and communities in the form of 'Living Pharmacies and Food Forests.'

It turned out that he's a trance d.j. When Frick (the owner) finally returned on Wednesday and opened up the restaurant, I found that Rustler's has a sweet double cd player/minidisc set up with a nice new 3-channel mixer and a bumpin' system. I was in heaven - without my cds.

It also turned out that Dale has worked on the projects at Kufunda, where I'm going in Zimbabwe. He told me what I needed to know about Zimbabwe. He was there more recently than anyone else I'd talked to about it. He said he might even see me up there later in the month, as his girlfriend got a job working for Kufunda as the "income generating projects coordinator."

Throughout the week I got to know Frick and his staff and other valley residents. There's definitely something to say about South African hospitality. Saturday was my last night in the valley, so Dale brought me out to the Rustler's Village party. This week's genre was gospel and the venue was the little old barn we stayed in the first night. The vocals were way loud and so was the organ, but it worked and we danced all night. There were about forty villagers of all ages out all night. I took my boots off when we got there and had them locked in someone's car on my behalf so that they wouldn't get stolen. Maybe somebody knew something I didn't. When the beer ran out, six or seven of us rode in a trailer behind a big diesel tractor across the valley to another crazy party which had also run out of beer while mostly not dancing to bad Amerikan pop/techno.

We ended up finding two cases at somebody's house and got back to the gospel party at around 3:30 a.m. The whole place was still going strong, but the genre had changed. I guess the gospel peole got tired and went home. I think everyone stuck it out all night because they knew the mics and instruments would be up for grabs eventually. We danced to some Bob Marley and even some dancehall originals.

At 4 a.m., Zulu said he was going home, which was in the same direction as mine, so I went too. The stars alone lit up the landscape. I got home around 4:20 and crashed. Apparently Dale ended up passing out on the polo field.

Today I got up and got ready for my ride to Johannesburg. I was fortunate to catch a ride with Shaun, the local biodiesel maker. I picked plums, cooked the last of the chicken mushroom, and said farewell to Janus, Frick and Dale. In Jo'burg I'd stay with Crosby until I caught the bus to Harare.
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