TZA­NEEN

There’s more to it than avos and toma­toes, Mia Louw finds on a visit to the realm of the Rain Queen

Getaway (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

‘The true mean­ing is bas­ket,’ An­dre Thomas replied when I asked him about his home­town’s name. ‘It comes from the North­ern Sotho word tsana, and it’s pretty ob­vi­ous when you look at the lo­ca­tion – Tza­neen lies nes­tled in a ham­per of hills.’

We were tucked away on a se­cluded pa­tio at the Fairview Ho­tel; Marinda had or­dered us a bot­tle of red wine while we watched the mon­keys play­ing in the canopy above. An­dre knows a lot about Tza­neen’s name. As a lawyer, he was in­volved in an in­ter­dict against its pro­posed name change to Mark Shope in the early 2000s. The law­suit came to a halt with a march sup­ported by folks from all walks of life who gath­ered to keep a name which isn’t com­pletely African, nor Euro­pean, but a mix­ture of both (pos­si­bly due to a spell­ing er­ror).

The town isn’t only known for its beau­ti­ful bas­ket of moun­tains, but is also a pro­lific pro­ducer of fruit and veg. With its sub­trop­i­cal cli­mate and good rain­fall, the Tza­neen area is re­spon­si­ble for most of SA’s toma­toes, av­o­ca­dos and man­goes; the well­known ZZ2 farm­ing en­ter­prise pro­duces 45 per cent of our toma­toes. Due to the area’s agri­cul­ture, more peo­ple live in a 30-kilo­me­tre ra­dius around Tza­neen than in the town it­self.

An­other prom­i­nent in­dus­try is wood pro­duc­tion, with around 40000 hectares ded­i­cated to forestry. Some of the world’s largest planted trees can be found in the Wood­bush For­est Es­tate. One of the Ma­goe­baskloof Gi­ants – a saligna gum planted in 1906 – is 81,5 me­tres tall. These go­liaths are pro­tected un­der the Na­tional Forests Act and are part of the Cham­pion Trees Project, an ini­tia­tive driven by the Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fish­eries.

Amoren­tia Es­tate & Nurs­ery, which spe­cialises in sweet dragon fruit, macadamias, avos and or­na­men­tal flow­ers, is also home to the Three Queens – the largest ma­tumi trees in South Africa.

‘Lis­ten … that’s the Knysna tu­raco call­ing,’ gen­eral man­ager Wy­nand Es­pach

said softly, as we strolled into the shade of one. When Wy­nand met a team of tree climbers in 2013, they started a re­search and con­ser­va­tion project called Ex­plore Trees. Vol­un­teers spend their nights high up in the branches of these ti­tans, us­ing tree tents to sleep safely and soundly.

One of the projects in­volves the en­dan­gered Cape par­rot and some pesky (yet, es­sen­tial) in­sects. These birds are not re­pro­duc­ing as they should be­cause the ma­tumi trees don’t have enough cav­i­ties for them to built nests. The nest­ing boxes in­stalled to help the par­rots were in­vaded by bees. The Univer­sity of Flor­ida as­sisted with re­search and fund­ing in 2015: nest­ing boxes were put higher in the trees and cov­ered in bee re­pel­lent, while bee boxes were in­stalled lower down and doused in bee at­trac­tant. Wy­nand has seen par­rots on top of nests this year, but it may take up to four years for the birds to breed in them.

As the bees have made homes in the boxes, a whole new ven­ture has taken flight. Th­lalefa, a farm school, is on-board to reap the sweet pro­duce and lo­cals are be­ing taught to safely climb trees in bee suits and trans­fer the in­sects to honey boxes. A class­room at the school is be­ing con­verted to use for the sep­a­ra­tion, bot­tling and brand­ing of the honey.

When I asked Wy­nand to de­scribe Tza­neen and its com­mu­ni­ties, he replied: ‘Sup­port­ive.’ And it’s ev­i­dent – res­i­dents help each other. I no­ticed a sim­i­lar trend at We­graak­bosch Dairy, which is com­mu­nity driven and off the grid. There was a fes­tive at­mos­phere as we parked our car at this or­ganic farm, half an hour out­side Tza­neen to­wards Haen­erts­burg. We were wel­comed by Sylvia and Nip­per Thomp­son and their dogs; a duck wad­dled by and a group of school kids gath­ered around the dairy while cows leisurely strolled past. The chil­dren were on a cheese­mak­ing tour so we joined in to learn about the process with host­ess Glo­ria Mashaba and dairy ex­pert Fran­cisco Huo.

‘Did you have one of their cheese plat­ters?’ Marinda asked ea­gerly back at

ABOVE Hook up with friendly guides at Ma­goe­baskloof Ad­ven­tures for a canopy tour through indige­nous for­est and over gush­ing wa­ter­falls.BE­LOW Vis­its to the royal kraal and ac­com­mo­da­tion in tra­di­tional huts can be ar­ranged at the Mod­jadji Cy­cad Na­ture Re­serve.

ABOVE The Fairview Col­lec­tion lies on the banks of the Great Letaba River. TOP You can learn how to make or­ganic cheese at We­graak­bosch (from R110 pp). RIGHT A se­ries of walk­ways wind through the lush grounds of Kings Walden Gar­den Manor.

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