A visit to The Trees of Life

The majestical drive over the Soutpansberg (translated as Salt Pans Mountain) and into the Northern Limpopo region, the Bosveld, or bushveld in English, stimulates many senses. “The same romantic inner-soul-stir, that is created when you drive to the ocean for a vacation, is created when you drive to the Bosveld”, according to my mother-in-law. I drove this road to Victoria Falls, for the turn of the millennium, both ways…in the dark. The Bushveld has not spoken to me before and little did I know, how right my Mamarieta (My mother-in-law, Marieta, mix together) would be about Bushveld Romance.

The twisty turns of the mountain pass, sends you into the Bushveld through the Hendrik Verwoerd Tunnels (450m and 274m respectively) and out via a narrow gorge, Wyllie’s Poort. It boasts a rich archeological and geological heritage and the escarpment changes dramatically with darker undertones of red and orange in the vibrant, light earth brown. There is a beautiful, luminous haze in the sky, which gives a distinguished dusty crisp to the air. I can see why my late father-in-law, nicknamed Wylie, who was a geologist, was in love with this place. (We miss you Pa Leon…)

Adansonia digitata, the African Baobab aka The Tree of Life, penetrates the Bushveld skyline like giants and little giants holding up the sky, as the pillars of the Bushveld. Deeply rooted in The Sky of Life.

Celebrating the Bushveld is a custom and arriving at Sterkbos farm, we have to do the Bushveld Monkey. We are greeted by a herd of exotic sables that is nursing 4 calves. Smile and wave at the bull, he can get angry. He sent the dog to the veterinarian for stitches. This is wild Africa, with a patch of Moringa.

The heart-warming owners, Derek and Jeanne Watt, are very passionate about their beautiful farm and we are treated with a sunset game watching drive, to witness all the magic that is in and on the soil in its multiple forms and it is hard to comprehend why the place flourishes in these harsh rocky and dry conditions. But nature has a way to solve its own problems, and even mankind’s too.

We spot blesbucks, nyalas, impalas and kudus and driving unto the dam wall, a beautiful bushveld sunset await. We are in awe a few moments, but when we are told a crocodile has made the dam his home, the romance instantaneously disappears. Rounding the one bend, we find a curious juvenile giraffe, watching our every move for some time. The herd looks strong and there is plenty to eat after great rainfall this year.

The sub-tropical climate, with frost-free winter months, makes this arguably one of the best places to grow moringa in South Africa. Derek and Jeanne made sure their moringas always have what they need, by installing a watering pivot, which he moved with the help of 3 big monkey wrenches, 2 workers and 1 truck. (Hierdie boer het altyd ‘n plan.) This is also the method of distributing organic fertilizer, making sure no tree is missed.

The forest green Moringas are standing lush on the land, like young soldiers, eager to assist those in need. We are lucky to witness the harvesting process, then washed, bundled together and hung to dry in the newly constructed drying sheds, before it goes through the crusher. Derek and Jeanne are builders by trade and they guarantee their work for 10 years, hence they are very particular about turning quality into perfection and the loving intent that these moringa trees are grown with, really shows in all their actions.

Cari-Mari and I took a hike into the bushveld, in search of the other “Tree of Life”, the Baobab. These giants are the protectors and providers of the bushveld. They give shade and shelter to whoever is in need, the seed are a Superfood filled with giant creating essential life and wells are made in the water filled tree truck, to provide water to the nomads and dwellers.

Perhaps, this is why the Baobab and Moringa are both named “The Tree of Life”. To protect and give aid to those in search of water, food, shelter and a doctor. The one is a fast grower, the other a never-grow-old and their healing and life sustaining power, will carry on, looooong after we are gone.