In search of the lemonwoods

Up. The thin path winds through the forest, up and up the mountain. And we keep going. V and I are searching for the grove of lemonwood trees that we’ve heard about. We’re not even sure that we are on the right path. But it doesn’t matter. Long ago, or so it seems, we settled into enjoying the journey.

The old man of the Stutterheim forest

Carpets of crocosmia

In the lower layers, there in the carpets of orange crocosmia and between the protrusions of twisted wood, are the juvenile trees. At the very top of the mountain – this must be the top – we thrill as we pick our steps across a spring running over a bed of smooth rocks.

And in the stillness of the forest – even the birds are silent – we are, most humbly, tiny specks of being in a big, big picture.

We’re wandering along the footpaths of the Xholora forest outside the little town of Stutterheim in the Amatola Mountains. We’ve found the most delightful escape: it is named, most appropriately, the Shire. We do expect to see hobbits any time.

Sea of grass

The guest chalets – there are four of them – are spaced across a sea of grassland, and their shape reminds me of boats. Or caravans. Or temples. Whatever they are, these cocoons of wood are beautiful feats of engineering, with curved walls and even curved glass.

As a child, I played on these forest roads

Yesterday, we strolled along a forest dirt road, just around the next corner, and the next, until we’d walked for hours. And I remembered playing on just such a road in the Stutterheim forests when I was a small child and my grandmother Mary painted pictures of trees. Perhaps she painted that tree, or that one. We’d never considered Stutterheim for a weekend getaway in the past. But it is a true pleasure, offering real peace and quiet within 80km of East London. And accommodation here is still pretty affordable.

We never did find the lemonwoods (at least, I don’t think we did). We found a lot more.


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