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SECRETS OF THE SAN: DESIGN BY NATURE - KAGGA KAMMA

We will never really understand how they did it - living in this harsh landscape. The only trace of their existence imprinted between shrub and sand. Deep into the Cederberg lies Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve. This is their homeland. The San’s territory, and they shared it with us for night.

After a warm welcome at reception, we drove over the rocky road to the cave suites. For a second I was a little confused and wondered if we perhaps took the wrong turn because all I could see upon our arrival was a series of outcrops. It was only when we started wandering down the winding, stone-laid pathways that I noticed the camouflaged units between the rocks. The positions of the units is a direct result of what the landscape allowed. It's organically arranged which makes each unit very unique as views, enclosure and vegetation varies, depending on the location.

Ascending up the walkway, I brushed my hand over the wild vegetation and the aroma of the leaves reminded me of my teenage years living in the Karoo. The higher we moved up to unit 7, the clearer I began to understand the cluster of suites as I overlooked the rooftops.

As we entered the room, the late afternoon sun danced on the crisp white linen through a sliding door and immediately I was drawn to the porch leading off the bedroom. From up there, the world seemed endless. The plains stretch out for kilometers, views uninterrupted, and it was only when the sun started setting behind the mountains in the far distance that I became aware of time again.

We spent hours here, sitting on the porch in the quiet, absorbing the tranquility that this place offers. As the Evening Star greeted us, the first sound of night creatures broke the silence in harmonious melodies. The light started changing rapidly outside with long shadows and disappearing silhouettes and the only sign of life between these rocks was the warm glow of the candles we were burning outside.

Retiring to the bedroom, I ran my hands along the curved wall to the bathroom. The texture of the rocks tingled under my fingertips and I began to wonder how life must have been for the San who lived here long before us. Even though we were removed from civilization, I felt completely safe, and perhaps that's why these people lived here. The landscape offered them natural enclosure, protected from wild animals and the forces mother nature could bring.

The success of the Cave Suites is the way in which the design aesthetic and mood is carried through, from arriving at the doorstep to the details in the bathroom. They captured the essence of cave living [organice forms, deep recesses and limited openings] and married it with luxury. Even though we were sleeping in the wild, we were always aware of the comfort the suite had to offer.

On the morning of my birthday, we woke up with fresh air filling the room. We took a moment to have coffee on the porch, admiring nature's beauty and playing a Tracy Chapman song on one of the rocks. After getting dressed, my partner surprised me to a spa treatment. True to the gift of experience, rather than an object, I was treated to a full body massage.

Later that afternoon we made our way to the Open Air room via quad-bike. Driving through the field I became aware of the elements around me. Air, clouds, rock and dust all form such an integral part of how you experience this place.

This single room [one of only two] is strategically anchored at the foot of a massive boulder, which announces the room's presence. Entering the suite, a luxurious bathroom with a freestanding claw-foot bathtub tucked in snug between two rocks and screened to the East welcomed our arrival. Bathrobes and rooibos soap were placed neatly on old logs and the area was lit with old-fashioned lanterns.

As we walked to the bedroom, the boulder that stood so proud in the distance, loosely defines the space below it. It warmed the rooms in colours of red, ochre and orange as the sun set, contrasting the white pillows on the old oak bed.

What makes this space so remarkable, is how well it is defined with no walls or ceilings. The degree of the enclosure is determined by the gum poles surrounding the space, the rocks and in certain areas such as the lounge, the sunken platform where the boma is located. The room is organically organised with loose standing furniture, natural elements and vegetation.

It's here where we sat around the fire, talking about past stories, ambitions and young men's dreams. We shared a bottle of champagne and waited for the fire while we looked at the clouds disappearing over the mountains. Moving through the space our shadows danced on the rocks in the firelight and turned into figures recognizable as the rock paintings we saw earlier that afternoon, while we walked on one of the hiking trails.

Just a stone's throw away from where we would sleep that night, a magical pool is located. Sitting barefoot in the water on a stone bench, you can hear the rhythm of the wind rustling through the field grass. This was perhaps the ultimate experience of nature. Being aware of the sun reflecting on the water, the exposure of the wide-open landscape and the sounds of just two human beings sharing a special moment.

That morning, I woke up in the early hours with the light of a million stars above me. Had it not been for the lantern's sound swaying in the wind, I would not have been able to experience the greatness of the heavens above me. For a moment, I could have sworn it was a dream, no sound, no smell or feeling - just this endless black ceiling with the most remarkable collection of gems above us.

#architecture #creative #decor #design #designers #detail #furniture #garden #idea #interior #light #movement #nature #organic #photography #plants #space #texture #travel

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