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Finding their tracks: Bushman, Voortrekkers and Settlers at the BRC

The BRC sits on 300 acres of hills which Alan Paton, in the opening paragraph of his seminal book, Cry the Beloved Country, describes as lovely beyond any singing of it.  Yet in 1970, these three hills had become sterile; they had eroded and were covered with steekgras, American bramble and Australian wattle plantations.   That is how I acquired it for the purpose of establishing the first Buddhist meditation centre in South Africa.

Forty-five years later, the valleys ooze groundwater and indigenous forests cover the hills.  The hills once again attract abundant birdlife, including the spectacular, rare Blue Swallow which nests in burrows dug by the equally rare ant bears.   No wonder President Nelson Mandela awarded the BRC Natural Heritage Status. 

 The BRC buildings have been built on the central hill. This is where you will also find the flat circular grassy platform, or dell, where we practise our early-morning tai chi and chi kung.  This dell is surrounded by three smaller dells.  That is all that remains of a kraal used by early African settlers. 

 On the slope of the hill overlooking the valley, next to the Stupa, there is a flat rocky outcrop with some intriguing markings: half-a-dozen deep parallel grooves which are clearly man-made.  A natural hollow above the grooves collects early morning dew.

 We have been told that it is likely that the grooves were made by bushman when they sharpened their arrow heads in preparation for their hunt whilst they kept an eye out for any game that might be grazing in the valley below them. The water enabled them to whet their arrows.

The Voortrekkers have also, literally, left their traces on this little piece of Africa.  There are deep parallel ruts in the hill below the Lodge indicating that this was a route followed by them when they were making their way from the Cape to find suitable grazing land in luscious Natal. Their wheels scoured these deep tracks in the hill as wagon after wagon followed each other.  When their axels touched the hump that had formed between the tracks, they abandoned the track and went next to it. You will find these tracks marked on the map we give you upon your arrival at the office.

One such family that settled in the Ixopo area were   David and Doreen Stone and their children and domestic helpers, Zoli and Znogo Mtshali.  They called their farm Canowie, which included those three BRC hills. The Stone family recently donated a bench to commemorate their parents and their workers so that visitors could enjoy the view so beloved by them.

The bench now sits there, near our dell, overlooking the valley. David Stone wrote the following poem which is so evocative of those rolling hills.

High Place

I want to be again
in a high, free, windy place,
a place where hawks skirl on the uprush of wind
and where grass and the kind,
blind anonymity of time
have smudged straight lines and symmetrical forms
into the peace  of ruggedness.

David Stone