(Photos : Leigh Willson, Amorette Kramer and Michael Nefdt)
Summerhill Group Conference
Summerhill is lucky in its friends and its people. One of our most treasured associations is with a group who call themselves (appropriately,) the Land Of Legends. It is the only collection of properties whose raison d'etre lies in their histories, their culture and their tradition. It was founded by ourselves (Hartford House) and the late David Rattray's Fugitives' Drift Lodge, and these days it includes the The Oyster Box, the Beverley Hills,Fordoun Spa, Rocktail Bay Lodge, Ardmore Ceramics and Phinda Game Reserve. By now you'll have spotted the fact that these are KwaZulu-Natal's pride in hospitality, establishments of legendary repute that rank with the best in the world.
For our twelfth annual conference, we've been hiding out at Bayete camp, deep in the nether regions of Phinda's spectacular bushveld. No cellphone signal, no radios or televisions, no pack drill. And in a matter of days, the Big Five, in every shape or form. Phinda isn't South Africa's finest bush experience for nothing. Authentic, wild, professional, diverse, down-to-earth, riveting. Oh, and luxurious, but at Phinda, luxury is just the journey, not the destination.
Summerhill has faced many challenges in its three decades and more. The rich and the powerful, the cunning and the envious, the enterprising and the resourceful. There was no inheritance at Summerhill, no big business to fund its growth, just relationships and the sacrifice of our people. That means we have to get up that bit earlier in the mornings, we have to box that bit smarter, just to stay in the swim.
These gatherings in the bush are moments of reflection, for galvanising the spirits, and for recharging the batteries. When the stormclouds approach, don't seek shelter. Put on your raincoat, and get back to work. At the end of the day, you have to decide whether you want to spend the rest of your life sipping sugar water, or do you want to change the world? At Summerhill, that's a rhetorical question. We are what we are because our people chose to write their own histories.
By the time the curtain came down on this jamboree Friday morning, I was more convinced than ever that this team is in better shape to deal with the future than any time in our past. Given they already have seven Breeder's titles under their belts, that's some statement. But a few days in the bush reminds me that these are paragons of enthusiasm, good humour and curiosity, Renaissance people in an era that badly needs them.
They've already prepared themselves for the day they come second, and they've already defined the benchmarks by which they want to be measured down the road. This team knows the equations others don't know. Times may be unbelievably tough, but great harvests come from arid sources. Pleasure comes, often enough, from restraint.
The other thing that drives them, is knowing that one day you're going to get beaten. It's the best way of avoiding the trap of thinking you have something to lose; you are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. Be a pirate; don't join the navy.
And speaking of challenges, you're not to worry. I know the authors well and I already know how this narrative is going to end. This team will make sure the good guys win.
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