Umbhaba is just Utopia

Amanda Ngudle

Amanda Ngudle

To truly appreciate Mpumala-nga's splendour in all its glory, one has to be prepared to soak it all in. This is what I did this time around. I ditched the jalopy for a mean machine in the form of a Mazda 5 - a dream of a car that might have cost me a few tickets, thanks to its quiet speed.

Had it not been for people who shall remain nameless, I would have spent the whole weekend basking in the province's spoils.

We arrived at Umbhaba, in Lydenburg, at night. It was dark and quiet but it was clear we were in the bosom of the mama of hospitality.

This time my choice of indulgence was the honeymoon suite, having realised way back that I continue to date broke-ass darkies who won't spend a dime on a lady if it was her last wish.

My room was not exactly from the Decorex but it was a picture of extravagance. After polishing off my lamb and vegetables in record time, I headed for the en suite bathroom which is as gigantic as it is luxurious.

When morning came, it did so at 10am for me, I huffed up the stairs wondering if there was any breakfast to feed this bear. I was stopped in my tracks, captivated by the oasis overlooking the rooms. I have never seen a more roaring garden. The combination of the spectrum of colours and the water features!

I was glad to learn that my colleague had realised my obsession with punctuality. Our first stop would be the Kruger National Park, which is 20 minutes away from the lodge. It proved to be a bad idea for pictures, what with the rain coming down in buckets.

We hit town for some ideas, photos and anything really. Wrong move again, the locals hang out at the malls these days. The Lydenburg mall is not as teeming as, say, Jabulani Mall, but it is busy nonetheless though I still got the feeling that locals know their place here. My perception might be misdirected.

At the Shangaan Village, I recalled all things beautiful about the simple lifestyles of my mother's folks back in Bizana. The place was dead unless you were into little crafts. I was told I would eat humble pie if I came back that evening.

But who has the time?

We had a number 16-piece band lunch at the lodge before heading for the rolling banana fields. But at the bottom of my heart I was hoping for a drinking hole, a place where we could capture pictures of people living it up. No such luck. After stalking and finally catching up with a woman with a beer crate on her head, she sent us off with her apathy. "Ah, here you won't find people drinking at this time of the day."

And the time in question was 5pm. Bottle store it was going to be then. And the sun just doesn't set so we had to make do with the landscape pictures - an assignment that intoxicated the photographer silly. I soaked in my beer and the magni-ficence of the landscape .

We took a rain check from the braai dinner because September was red-meat month for most of us. Sunday morning broke like a siren of slavery as I remembered work at the office, and all the joy flew out of the window.

To arrive in the bustling Gau-teng was like school opening for a little girl for me.