Back home in the UK but catching up on blog posts for the last few days of my time in South Africa…
Here's what I got up to last Sunday.
Yumi, my new friend from Japan, turns out to be a skilled organist amongst her other talents. She had featured in a local newspaper on Saturday talking about the City Hall organ in Pietermaritzburg and had been invited to play an organ at a Lutheran Church in Wartburg. Wartburg is in a German influenced region about a 30 minute taxi ride from Pietermaritzburg.
Myself and 3 others from the group had the privilege of being her posse for the day. We were unsure exactly what to expect - would the congregation be large or small? Turned out that this was a special service as they were inducting a new pastor for the church.
Congregation probably numbered around 200 or so. The service oscillated between English and German ( with the Latin Kyrie Eleison getting us to a trilingual service). Even in the hymns we'd sing one verse in German then one in English and then back to German. The service sheets helpfully provided translations of the verses in both English and German, you sang whichever language was in the bold typeface.
With the extra elements the service was longer than usual at around 2 hours. When it had finished we were invited to join them for coffee and some delicious home made cakes with a number of people recognising Yumi as the person who'd appeared in the paper the day before.
Someone noted that they weren't sure they'd ever had visitors from Japan, US, India and the UK on the same day ever before !
After a while we headed back into the church and the chance to have a look at the organ.
After a "tour" …
… and a quick change of shoes, Yumi got to play the organ and opted for Bach's "Passacaglia in C" and did a very good job of it. I have a video of the whole piece but that file's a bit on the large side so here is the final couple of minutes ( video quality is good but apologies for the crackle on the sound track - can assure you that it is down to the recorder not the performer).
Organ playing done we were offered the chance to have a look round a local sugar cane farm which we eagerly accepted. First we stopped off at a local hotel to order some food in their restaurant so it would be ready for us after the tour. then it was off to the farm. We were introduced to the rest of the farm owner's family and some of their large menagerie of dogs, birds, rabbits, etc
Then we hopped on the back of a pickup for a bumpy tour of the farm. Learnt lots about the whole process of growing and harvesting sugar. Over the last couple of weeks I've been driven past a lot so sugar cane so it was terrific to get this insight into how the farming process works.
We learnt that burning the cane before harvesting makes the process easier but you only have 3 days to get it gathered and off to the mill. This means you need to do it in small patches which is one reason why there are regular gaps in the planting so you can just burn one part of the field at a time.
Following burning and harvesting the cane regrows from the roots but every 10 years they replant using lengths of sugar cane laid horizontally in trenches and then chopped into 3 pieces ( which will then yield the new plants). This pile is ready for planting and is a day's work for 5 people ( to include laying in trench, chopping and then backfilling with soil.
Here is a short video taken from the pickup as we drive round the farm - see if you can spot the dogs running on ahead of us.
Safely back at the farm we grabbed a quick group photo ….
… and then transferred back into cars and into town and the Wartburger Hof hotel where they had our lunch ready for us.
Great food and company and we even got a tour of some of the hotel's rooms. If you are looking for a place to stay in Wartburg, on the basis of what I tasted and saw there, you might want to consider the Wartburger Hof.
One of the defining features for me of this whole trip to South Africa has been the warmth of the welcome that we have recieved wherever we go. Today that welcome was at an extraordinary level.
Eventually though it was time to leave - time for one more group photo and then the drive back to the StayEasy Hotel.