My Magical Journey Through Venda
Fairlady|January 2018

Michele Macfarlane lives with retinitis pigmentosa (RP), a genetic eye disease that results in blindness. She tells us about her experience on the Venda Sacred Walk.

Michele Macfarlane

Two weeks before boarding the plane to Johannesburg, I got this email from psychologist and conservationist Jeffrey Rink.

Good day Michele, Details follow of a walk in Venda I’ve been trying for years to make a reality… A South African ‘Camino’, albeit in shorter form. This is the ‘inaugural’ walk. Rather short notice, I know. All the best, Jeff

I’d fallen in love with Venda six years previously, when I attended one of Jeffrey’s eco-psychology retreats. At the time he’d spoken about a trip where visitors walked from village to village, sleeping at the homes of locals. I made him promise to keep me informed. It took Jeffrey six years to work out the details and build relationships with the chiefs and headmen of the villages. During that time my eyesight had deteriorated rapidly, but I was determined to do the walk before losing it altogether.

I felt anxious on the flight. What was I thinking? I could barely navigate a shopping centre. What if I stepped on a snake? I pictured being airlifted out, having fallen down a cliff.

A disability assistant met me as I disembarked and took me to the meeting point. Once she left, I no longer had an assistant, the arm of a family member or a sighted buddy – just my cane and a group of strangers, who I prayed wouldn’t find me too much of a burden.

Within the first 10 minutes I realised I’d be spending the next week with an eclectic, stimulating group: a psychiatrist; her son, a videographer; a pharmacist turned property manager; an artist; a former MK operative; a psychologist following a shamanic path; and a GP/homeopath. Except for the videographer, all of us were women. From our first stop, I was reassured that I was not a burden, and the women insisted I just say when they were needed.

Our guides greeted us with the kind of warmth we found in every village. Jeffrey had worked with Nelson, the main guide, for years, creating and running his unique eco-tours, but this trip was the first of its kind. The guides had done a dry run, establishing suitable pathways between villages. Susie, a guide who remembered me from my visit six years ago, wrapped me in a bear hug. She grabbed my bags and guided me up the rocky steps towards our rondavel.

Mukumbani was set up for visitors, so the rondavel had the luxury of a shower and a flushing toilet. From then on, we would be hosted in the homesteads of families where there was no running water or electricity, and a long-drop toilet.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FAIRLADYView All

How to Survive the Feast-Or Famine Cycle

It’s empowering to have more than one income stream, but there is a downside: it’s easy to splurge when money is plentiful, but what about the lean months? Three self-starters share their tips for keeping an even keel through good and bad.

6 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Kaley's Comet

Kaley Cuoco was so beguiling as Penny on The Big Bang Theory that she soon became one of the highest paid actors in television. With HBO’s comedic thriller series The Flight Attendant, she entered exciting, slightly sinister new territory – but it proved her range as an actress and cemented her broad-based appeal.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Let the Music Play

My dad died days before the global lockdown. While I was trapped within four walls, music and dancing gave me reason to smile again.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

How to Make Your Own Luck

Luck isn’t easy to measure or study, but those who have managed to do it discovered it’s not the work of fate – it’s a skill you can cultivate and improve. So, how do you go about it?

8 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Local Flavour

Stocking up your pantry? These artisanal foods are guaranteed to ignite the senses of home chefs everywhere. Meet the foodies behind two of South Africa’s tastiest brands.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

The Comfort of Ritual

Rituals imbue our lives with depth and meaning. And in times of uncertainty, they are even more important because they create a sense of grounding.

8 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Get Your Shine Back!

When the last of the summer heat is over, it’s important to take time to reverse any hair damage caused by sun and sea water.

5 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

The Rise of the Personal Shopper

It’s not a new concept, but the number of people who make a living from sourcing goods on behalf of clients is on the rise. We talked to three personal shoppers to find out what it takes.

7 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

Back to the Wild

Imagine camping in the Little Karoo… a billion stars above you, the ancient desert beneath, the insistent flapping of your canvas tent in the cold night air. Then banish all the rustic images this conjures up – because Dwyka Tented Lodge will confound all your expectations.

6 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022

A Good (Mo) Hair Day

"Beauty Mokgwamme had other dreams, but circumstances took her exactly where she was meant to be."

3 mins read
Fairlady
March/April 2022
RELATED STORIES

Through the Looking Glass

Glen Tullman envisions an upside-down world-one where health care isn't broken and patients get the treatment they need at a cost they can afford. Now all he needs to do is bring transparency to a system that, by design, is anything but clear.

10+ mins read
Inc.
May - June 2022

The Humbling of Andy Dunn

This is the story of a founder who hit it big and suffered a mental breakdown-and his efforts to win back the trust and relationships he wrecked in the process. One day at a time. One person at a time.

10+ mins read
Inc.
May - June 2022

Summer skin sitch? We just solved it

Sun, sand and... shaving bumps? We've got the answer to spots, sensitivity and so much more.

3 mins read
Girls' Life magazine
June/July 2022

Save Yourself—Then Save the Company

After a devastating customer experience, I regrouped and analyzed everything about my business-and then took my company back.

3 mins read
Inc.
May - June 2022

THE VERY MYSTERIOUS CASE OF hayley LeBlanc

She's a YouTuber, actress and author-and hasn't even started high school yet. Now she's ready to write her own story.

4 mins read
Girls' Life magazine
June/July 2022

She's Outgrown the Garage and Is Ready for the Next Step. He Has the Experience to Guide Her

Boxed co-founder Chieh Huang helps Bearaby founder Kathrin Hamm navigate the thorny issues that arise when managing a rapidly growing business.

7 mins read
Inc.
May - June 2022

WHO YOU LOVE DOESN'T NEED A LABEL

My journey to accepting myself *exactly* as I am.

5 mins read
Girls' Life magazine
June/July 2022

STORYTELLING IS EVERYTHING

Tattoo artist BJ Betts sits down with designer Frank Cooke to discuss the creative process, finding inspiration and the importance of storytelling

10+ mins read
Inked
Summer 2022

The Future of ...WHAT'S COMING DOWN THE RUNWAY IN FADS, FASHION, AND FIRMWARE

I think influencer marketing should become more plugand-play, like with Facebook ads."

1 min read
Inc.
May - June 2022

EVERYTHING YOUR CRUSH SECRETLY WISHES YOU KNEW

FROM DOUBLE TEXTING TO THE TALKING STAGE, WE'RE UNCOVERING THE TOTAL TRUTH ABOUT EVERYTHING GOING ON IN YOUR CRUSH'S PRETTY LITTLE HEAD-RIGHT FROM THE SOURCE.

5 mins read
Girls' Life magazine
June/July 2022