Churchhaven - heavenly sanctuary

2012-09-05 16:17

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Finding the perfect sanctuary is about taking care of our soul, says reader Jeanine van der Vyver. This is her entry into our reader stories competition - Click here to find out how to enter

"Sanctuary, on a personal level, is where we perform the job of taking care of our soul" – Christopher Forrest McDowell

A duiker darts across the road ahead as I drive through the entrance of the West Coast National Park. Just an hour behind me is Cape Town’s beloved Table Mountain but before me lies an off-the-map destination that promises to reacquaint my soul with nature. I am on my way to Churchhaven, a combination of four original whaling villages, sourcing its name from St Peter’s Anglican Church and the port it offered weary fishermen. Also affectionately known as 'The Lagoon'.

Fynbos fringes the tar road and I allow the air’s earthy embrace to transport me back to a time where the primitive population shared their soil with various coastal creatures such as the tortoise, ostrich and Springbok. Today, many animals still appear alongside Spring’s richly-hued wild flowers, peeking through the mustard-tinted landscape.

Travelling deeper into this West Coast wetland, I identify a number of bird species, gracious against a salty blue backdrop, setting the stage for my first glimpse of a thatched-roofed cottage and dazzling lagoon water. In this setting, my home base for the next few days, it is not unusual to spot a flock of flamingos and even the occasional dolphin.

I turn off into Stofbergsfontein, home of the 100 year old Church and the prominent Church bell which still notifies locals of her Sunday service. Leisurely arriving at my cottage, situated on a hilltop with a panoramic view, I unpack my beach gear and supplies for al fresco dining and braaing, while being serenaded by birdsong.

For those lucky enough to visit, Churchhaven offers a sanctuary without any frills. No electricity or running water forces you to return to basic survival – chopping your own wood for the braai or kaggel, collecting bath water in a rain tank and boiling it on the fire, playing cards or reading by the warm glow of a gas lamp or candle.

I spend my time lazing in a hammock while being soothed by the sound of anchored fishing boats lapping waves against their hulls. I walk along the golden sand, discovering hiking routes and beach caves, absorbing sunbeams, picking up seashells and getting my feet tickled by hermit crabs.

In the evenings, I am treated to gorgeous sunsets, followed by moonlit strolls and stargazing while being entertained by the sounds of night. Mornings awake with a flurry of nature, casting me back into the fresh open air to witness my surroundings awaken. For more adventurous activity you can bring along a kayak, wind-surf or explore the area by bicycle - simply immerse yourself in Churchhaven’s charming bliss.

Since this peaceful hideaway is privately owned, my seclusion from the world is protected, but by a rare meeting of one of the kopman – my trip is further enriched as I am told narratives from a time when “vis het modderdik gelê” and life was uncomplicated even during hardships. My belly is treated to a freshly caught harder popped onto the braaicoals and enjoyed with the traditional sides of apricot jam and fresh lemon juice.

The comfort from the innocence of this unspoilt conservation, allowed me to experience nature and its history firsthand, and out of respect I have devoted a part of myself to Churchhaven and I will simply need to continue returning to become whole again.

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