Kurisa Moya: A Birder's Paradise

Kurisa Moya: A Birder’s Paradise

As the sun set and we were still driving through a string of communities after exiting Polokwane, Limpopo I began to wonder whether our chosen respite for a girls weekend away was as serene as advertised. We had chosen an off the grid location in the mountains that seemed a million miles away from any human settlements. Where were the mountains and forest and the solitude? Finally, the asphalt gave way to gravel and the elevation gradually changed. The last rays of light lasted long enough for us to haul in our groceries, bags, and light the candles that dotted our cottage. Kurisa Moya is completely off the electrical grid, but our cottage Thora Boloka had solar panels ensuring that we had hot water as well as a gas fridge, oven, and range for all of our cooking needs. For stressed out Joburgers, nothing is better than an off the grid nature retreat. Kurisa Moya is unlikely to be on any foreign tourist’s to visit list, unless you are a serious twitchers, but those living in Gauteng, should include the Magoesbaskloof area to their long weekend away list. It’s drivable from Gauteng and offers various self-catering options for couples, families, and groups. 

Upon arrival, we opened a few bottles of wine, built a raging fire, and put together an impressive cheese board beneath the flickering candles. Knowing that we would be arriving late, we had pre-ordered a meal from the kitchen at Kurisa Moya. In time, a delectable meal large enough to feed at least six people arrived. We drank, we ate, and we chatted about Donald Trump, North Korea, international work, and other topics that seem all the more erudite after a few glasses of red wine. As the fire died, so did the conversation and we retired to our separate corners of the cottage. The cottage sleeps six with four beds in a loft overlooking the main seating area, as well as a proper bedroom on the ground floor. 

There is something magical about arriving in a place in the evening, when you cannot fully appreciate where you are.  Then in the morning the resplendent vistas unfold and they seem all the more breathtaking because you spent an entire night not knowing they existed. I was the last person to arise and with a steaming cup of coffee and a book in hand, I went out onto the porch and warmed myself in the sun.  Low lying clouds hung over the valley, but between the pages of my book they lifted and as it warmed more and more birds populated the garden. I tried to identify the myriad of birds that flitted around and passed the time observing their behavior. I found that even the common Cape Robin Chat was a star bird to behold. My favorite birds to watch however were the African Firefinches that put on quite the show at the bird bath.  

Kurisa Moya is a birder’s paradise and during my two hour nature walk with the resident bird expert, we heard more birds then we saw, but the birds that we did see were all new to me, including the Lemon Dove, Blue-Mantled Crested Flycatcher, Red-Backed Mannikin, White-Starred Robin, and the creme-de-la-creme, rare for South Africa bird, the Black-Fronted Bushshrike. Is the influence Callum is having on my hobbies evident? David’s knowledge of the local flora, fauna, and fowl was incredible and I would recommend that if you are staying at Kursia Moya or anywhere in the area, that you book a guided walk with him. If your interest in birding is minimal, two hours on the property will be sufficient, but if you are a true connoisseur, book a day long trip to multiple destinations in the area We meandered through the forest, identifying birds as well as signs of other animals, including an African civet who had created a rather impressive midden (dung heap) to mark his territory. 

Kurisa Moya has several marked hiking trails and a dam for fishing. A leisurely stroll through the woods is something that I would highly recommend as a way of passing the time when you are not reading a book and taking in the incredible views. When David delivered our dinner on the first night, he attempted to give us precise directions to see the largest Cabbage Tree in the area (and possibly South Africa), but because of the wine, our attention was not at its prime. When we decided to hike to see the tree the next morning, we consulted the hiking maps in our cottage, but the maps all seemed to originate on the other side of the property where the forrest cabins and farmhouse are located. Despite this we somehow managed to bumble our way through and find the tree in question and reaching our intended destination seemed all the more rewarding since we were not exactly sure where we were even going. Rambling through the forest was truly soul warming and when we happened upon the Cabbage Tree we all took turns hugging the tree in some sort of metaphysical symbolic act.

Perhaps the highlight of our stay was the sundowner trip. David fetched us in an old Land Rover whose shocks gave out long ago and we bounced and jostled around as we wound our way up through the logging lands to the top peak in the area. It was windy and freezing, but we had snacks, wine, and were merry. As the sun was about to disappear behind the horizon, David instructed us to remain silent for a full minute in order to appreciate the beauty all around us. It was a time of quiet reflection and gratitude – gratitude for the dazzling displays of our one and only earth, gratitude for friends, and gratitude for the chance to live in South Africa.