Dale Says

November 27, 2009

Aunt Margaret

Filed under: Colorful Characters, Profile — Dale @ 6:20 pm

I’m thankful for a lot this Thanksgiving … after all, there’s a lot to be thankful for. And this year, I’m especially thankful for Aunt Margaret. Aunt Margaret was my mother’s sister, and she was also my Godmother. The part about being my Godmother was not a big deal to her, and she told me she had so many Godchildren she couldn’t keep track of them all. But it was important to me, and I think she knew that.

I spent time with Aunt Margaret when I was young — at family gatherings and when I got dropped off at her home when my parents were on vacation. In those days Aunt Margaret called most of the shots, and few people wanted to cross her. But I also remember Aunt Margaret’s playful side. When things got tense, she would get a twinkle in her eyes, make a joke, and things would lighten up.

I enjoyed Aunt Margaret at Mohatt cousin reunions. She would greet me in a serious manner, and then ask a question that would make me squirm. Then she would let me off the hook with a sly comment or a joke. After an encounter with Aunt Margaret I usually felt she knew more about me than I would like her to. And I loved her skits.

She would disappear into a nearby room, and then reappear in a black robe, carrying a large bound book. She would make her way to a podium, close her eyes, and bow her head. After a pause, she would begin to read in a solemn voice:
Hickory Dickory Dock,
The mouse ran up the clock..

Then, as if she were giving a sermon, she would explain (in detail) the meaning behind each line. Why did the mouse run up the clock? What was behind this escapade? What does it mean?
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down!
Hickory Dickory Dock.

Again, she detailed the why’s and wherefore’s behind the mouse’s actions. By the end we were in stitches, and she would finish to our laughter and applause. Then just as seriously, she would turn and walk away. I loved the way she entertained us, and the way she made us feel. And I know my life was better for her being in it.

November 23, 2009

Phantom Forest Eco Lodge

Filed under: Travel — Dale @ 1:38 pm

Nestled in the hills above Knysna (pronounced “nighs-na”) in the middle of South Africa’s Garden Route is a lodge that blends luxurious accommodation with environmental responsibility.  It’s called the Phantom Forest, and it’s one of the most unique places I’ve ever stayed. 

The Phantom Forest consists of 14 wooden “tree suites,” which are set well apart from each other, allowing a complete sense of privacy.  Each suite includes a bedroom, sitting area, deck, and en-suite bathroom.   The rooms are exquisitely appointed with hand-crafted furnishings, ethnic artifacts, king-sized beds with silky percale cotton sheets and mosquito nets, a bath tub (large enough for two), and a double-headed shower (my favourite feature!).   

The lodge was constructed with a systematic concept of conservation, which was instrumental in its winning The Leading Eco Destination Africa in 2007 from the World Travel Awards.  No trees were removed to make way for the tree-suites; instead the design was adapted around the native foliage.  Buildings were constructed from alien vegetation, which was cleared by hand and used to create the flooring, chairs, tables, doors, etc.  Organically grown produce is purchased from small area growers and used in the preparation of meals.  Biodegradable cleaning products are used, and water is recycled through the lodge’s own sewage plant, pumped to reed beds and filtered naturally back into the ground as clean re-usable water.     

A stay at the Phantom Forest begins when you leave your car at the base of the hill on which the lodge is built.  Staff transfer your luggage to a green Land Rover and drive you to the reception area, where you are greeted and escorted to your suite.  After relaxing on your deck while listening to the monkeys and birds outside your room, you dress for dinner and enjoy a “sundowner” drink in the bar.  Dinner is a seven-course delight to the senses and would excite the most discriminating palate.  It is followed by coffee and a camp fire on the firedeck.  Then, when you’ve had enough, you stroll down the boardwalk to your suite and enjoy a soak in your over-sized bath tub. 

The lodge offers a range of amenities including pool, hot tub, sauna, spa, restaurant (where we were served one of the finest meals of our lives), and firedeck.  Everything within the lodge is connected by wooden boardwalks that meander through the forest and minimize the impact of foot traffic on the environment.   Staff help organize a variety of area activities; including hiking, cycling, paragliding, sailing, horse riding, and canoeing.    

A stay at the Phantom Forest Lodge is a marvelous experience, with a satisfying balance of luxury and ecological accord.  It’s not an inexpensive venture (rooms run around US$300 per night), but is well worth it.  You will leave totally relaxed, completely satisfied, and thoroughly content. 

The Phantom Forest Lodge is located seven kilometres west of Knysna, South Africa, at the foot of the Phantom Pass.  For more information, go to http://www.phantomforest.com.

November 12, 2009

Call them an oxpecker

Filed under: Miscellaneous — Dale @ 11:21 am

The next time you really want to insult someone, call them an “oxpecker” (as in “she’s such an oxpecker!”). 
These nasty little birds live in Africa and spend their lives perched on large mammals such as buffalo and rhinos – eating ticks, fleas, and maggots, as well as blood and other secretions from open wounds. 
Oxpeckers use their bills to dig in the host’s ears, mouth, nose, and anus.  They travel with and feed off the host.  Each day an adult oxpecker eats around 100 engorged ticks (or more than 12,000 larvae), living off the blood the tick has consumed.
We’ve all worked with people like that … 

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