Bridget Hilton-Barber goes on a Venda Bender to get supine --- and serene.
It’s hard to hold on to your stresses when you’re all slicked up and being gently massaged by a Venda maiden. In fact it’s hard to think of just about anything at all.
The recently opened Earth Sense Spa at Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge has certainly added a lovely new dimension to what has long been known in my circles as a Venda Bender.
It’s a bit of a misnomer really, because it’s not a bender in the urban-narco sense, but an altogether more laid-back experience — a restorative escape into rural Vhembe (formerly Venda), a return to ancient spaces and different beliefs.
OK, admittedly when we were younger there was a lot more vending and bending, and a lot more staying up all night at sacred spots at full moon and scantily clad bathing in hot springs and that sort of thing.
These days I’m more inclined to take a yoga mat than a tequila bottle, but the Venda Bender remains a wonderful experience, and the homegrown, fair-trade, ecofriendly soul spot at Shiluvari is a fine base from which to proceed.
The lodge has chalets looking out across wide lawns that lead down to the Albasini Dam.
There’s a long, slinky swimming pool, and Shiluvari’s main bar, lounge and restaurant area is shaded by old trees and wrapped in a generous porch for daytime reading and dreaming. Their Earth Sense Spa is housed in a pleasant wooden building, overlooking the dam and mountains.
Depending on your particular bend of Venda, there are plenty of day trips from Shiluvari. You can do the Artists’ Route that takes you to the rural studios of sculptors, weavers and potters.
You can explore the powerful Thathe Vondo Holy Forest, which is the burial ground of ancient Venda royalty, a traditionally sacred site and a biodiversity hot spot.
Or you can visit bright-green tea estates, weaving projects, pottery projects, or drive into the giddy hills where villages cling to the slopes and the cowbells tinkle and even the goat bleats have a certain charming timbre.
And afterwards you can just lie down and get massaged. To go slowly is one of life’s great needs, a wise man once said and, for the first time in months, after being given a seriously delicious destressing treatment, I remembered what slow felt like.
Eish. Ku dya hiku engeta, as they say around here. Once you have tasted, you will want to return.
Accessibility: Six+ hours from Johannesburg, in Limpopo
Cost: R475 per person sharing B&B
Contact: Book online at www.shiluvari.com.