I have often had a preconceived idea on many things in my life. I hate to admit it I am often wrong, wrong about people, things and places. It’s easy to totally dismiss your incorrect notion in order to save face. This time however I am going to fully admit that I was wrong. In fact I would like to apologize for my misconception. In order for me to do an adequate job of this I will need to add context. To do so I have to take you back about 4 years, at the time I was working in the corporate environment. I had the opportunity to meet many different people, in most cases I probably would not have even spoken to, be it not for the environment I found myself in. I often found myself in the company of different people from different backgrounds, religious beliefs, colors and different interests. I found myself using public transport with one such lady who originated from Darling. She often spoke quite fondly of the area, in most cases she sounded like she was boasting. In my heart I am a coastal loving individual and nothing you can tell me about a farmland 25 km away from the ocean is ever going to have the appeal of the beach. I just could not understand what she saw in the place. In my ignorance I completely wrote off the area without ever setting a foot there.
Fast forward to present day in my current role in pursuit of new experiences I was given the opportunity to explore Darling, with much reluctance I accepted the challenge. I arrived quite early at which time there was not much going on. Rush hour traffic seemed to comprise of about 8 cars and two delivery trucks. Immensely underwhelmed by the city center I dropped my boss (and mother in law) at her meeting. When leaving she gave me some pointers on the general direction I should go and explore . Still not convinced I set out in the direction of Yzerfontein which was the next closest beach. I rather enjoyed the drive through the countryside, the beautiful rolling hills with the wind turbines were quite a sight. I was compelled to stop for to get some pictures. Standing there on the side of the road I started to get it , there was something about this place. Nevertheless I moved on making my way to Yzerfontein, which I completely fell in love with of course and which did not surprise me given my bias towards beautiful beaches.
While capturing some images of the beach I found myself intrigued by the interest which was sparked on the side of the road. I decided to give Darling a proper go and immerse myself in what it had to offer. Heading back into the area I stopped once again on the side of the road and I looked at it with new, unbiased eyes .The view was nothing short of spectacular and with that I knew this was going to be a special day
My next stop was the Darling Olive farm which is situated on the outskirts of the area. I was greeted at the door by a young lady offering me an opportunity to taste the various olive products. I was lead to the tasting room where I was taken through the process of olive and olive oil tasting. Calling this an olive tasting however is an understatement. I found it to be more of an olive experience which was all encompassing, comprising of tastings as well sampling lotions and soaps produced from the locally grown olives. The experience was definitely unique. I took some time to look through the products on offer and even bought a bottle of the award winning oils before I left.
I embarked on the next stage of the journey I headed back to the city center . The beauty of the valley laid stretched before me. I stopped once again to try and capture what I was seeing and soon realized that without actually experiencing it one would not be able to capture the essence of its beauty. I continued on to my next stop
I arrived at Darling breweries at about 13:30 and the place was quite busy for a random Thursday afternoon. I passed through the restaurant up the stairs to the tasting room. I usually enjoy a beer or two and was familiar with some of this famous brewery’s products but I never imagined the extent of their products or the classiness of the tasting room , I was completely surprised. I was tempted to fully experience the tasting room by doing the 5 beer tasting but unfortunately I was the designated driver for the day and had to settle for half of 1 tasting glass which equated to about two sips of the delectable flagship beer .
I left the brewery with the taste of beer on my lips
and a pack of the beer which I had sampled for my enjoyment in the comfort of my own home. Heading on I passed Duckitt nurseries which is also the host venue for the annual orchid show. In my excitement of exploring the area I ended up on a dirt road leading who knows where, slightly lost and slightly worried I still could not help being completely captivated by the area surrounding me once again I was compelled to get out of the car for a walk around in the muddy road to take more photos.
Satisfied with my attempt to capture the area with my camera I was forced to take my shoes off in order to not completely dirty the inside of the car. I moved off to my next stop which was Darling cellars with the help of GPS .I arrived at the quaint little tasting room not knowing what to expect. I had experienced many tasting rooms throughout my career and realized that there are very few which are similar. This is true for in this instance as well. The standout unique point of this specific one however was not the size of the room or the abundance of staff or any of the flashy things you find at other tasting rooms. Here it was the lady standing at the front desk. She was friendly, professional and knowledgeable. Her multi-functional role included wine tasting packaging and cashing up the sale of the value for money exceptionally good wine. Needles to say I walked away with three bottles of their delicious wines. I spent a further 15 minutes chatting about the area before it was time to make my way back to pick up my Mom before I headed back to Cape town. I had one last stop though, I was looking forward to visiting Evita se Paron for years. I had never even realized that it was in Darling until the day I was heading that way.
My drive back into the centre of Darling gave me some time to reflect on what I was about to experience. The history of Evita Bezuidenhout, the significance of the character and how we needed this type of individual to poke fun at the Apartheid regime as well as the seriousness of what had transpired during those years. I walked into the area once again with a predetermined notion on what to expect. My expectation was that I would walk into a museum highlighting oppression. Then I experienced the wonder of the larger than life character. I ended up laughing out loud as I realised the intricacies of Pieter-Dirk Uys and I found the experience eye opening and uplifting. I left a proud South African. Proud that we as a nation has endured and thrived in the face of adversity. I learned a valuable lesson that day, one that I probably should have learned years ago. I learned that drawing a conclusion on something before experiencing it is not only dangerous but also disrespectful. With that I would like to apologize to the people of Darling. I hope to come again soon.