I was in desperate need of some serious relaxation after a couple of weeks of rather a lot of stress (piles of work, moving house etc etc) and a three-day yoga retreat at the luxurious five-star Bushmans Kloof in the Cederberg led by yoga teacher Jim Harrington was the perfect medicine.
Jim is something of a yogic legend. He’s been teaching yoga in Cape Town for a long time – before it became really trendy – and is held in huge esteem by the yoga community. He’s hugely knowledgeable about yoga, and the science behind it and has a wonderful gentle energy that makes you feel super calm before you’ve even put down your mat.
Over the three days we had four yoga and meditation sessions, each of which was in a different location. My favourite spot was reached by a short walk from the lodge, across a flowing river on a bed of rock. It was rather far from the hot yoga I’m used to – it was below 10 degrees and we were dressed for the arctic (or rather, I was – I wore six layers, hiking socks, a beanie and two scarves) but we soon warmed up from some intense postures and the cold was worth the experience of watching the sky lighten to reveal the epic Cederberg landscape. Doing downward dog at dawn on moss amongst the magical mountains of the Cederberg is a pretty good way to start a morning. Another session was held under the giant fig trees in front of the lodge – a beautiful and relaxing setting with sounds of twittering birds as the only background noise.
In between yoga sessions we explored the 7500-hectare private reserve: we went on a game drive one balmy afternoon spotting bat-eared foxes digging for termites, black wildebeest, beautiful bontebok and an aardwolf, which I’d never seen in the daylight before.
My favourite non-yoga activity, however, was seeing rock art. Bushmans Kloof has more than 130 San rock art sites on its reserve. One morning we did a short hike, learning about lichen, rocks, and fascinating flora and fauna on the way to the ‘Bleeding Nose’ rock art site – a wall of two to four-thousand-year-old art telling multiple stories, one of which is a dancing session which brought on a nose bleed from one of the participants. San people would dance in a trance-like state until so dehydrated that they would bleed. Another site we went to had a wall of rock under an overhang covered in paintings – with elephants featuring prominently: a sad reminder of the wildlife that used to roam the Cederberg.
Our small group of four took all our meals together, where we talked nonstop about yoga. Our discussions revolved around topics from ‘is Bikram yoga good for you?’ to ‘How do you get into a handstand easier?’. It was like a yoga binge (in a good way).
I didn’t want to leave the retreat and return to the normal world of emails, deadlines and traffic. Nevertheless, the three-day retreat felt like a proper break from routine and stress and made me feel like I’d been away for weeks. I drove back to Cape Town feeling like my head had cleared and my body had re-aligned, already planning some time off for my next retreat.
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat
Bushmans Kloof is a private reserve of 18 533 acres (7500 hectares), situated at the foothills of the Cederberg mountains.
There are no more yoga retreats planned for 2012, but check the Bushmans Kloof website for details of upcoming retreats taking place in 2013.
Bushmans Kloof is offering a spring special: from 1 September 2012 through to 19 December 2012, a three-night package starts at R2 250 a person sharing a night, inclusive of luxury accommodation and all meals, including the legendary Bushmans Kloof High Tea.
Bushmans Kloof is about a three-hour drive (270 kilometres) from Cape Town, near Clanwilliam in the Cederberg. Take the N7 through Malmesburg, Piketberg, and past Citrusdal and then turn off to Clanwilliam. Drive through Clanwilliam – Bushmans Kloof is about 40 km away.
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Jim runs workshops, other retreats and teacher training courses. Check out his website for details of upcoming events.