Knysna two years after the fires – a personal reflection

So today 2 years ago the worst wild fires in South African history started around the town I currently live, Knysna.   The days had been hot, with a warm ‘bergwind’ coming from the north.  The region had been in a drought for months, and the soil was dry.  The dried leaves, which had started to fall earlier than normal, were another element in what since then has been dubbed ‘Armageddon’ and ‘a perfect storm’, and what would become – and still is – many people in my immediate surroundings’ worst nightmare. At the time I was the Vice Chair of the Knysna Tourism Board.  Our Chair had lost 8 of the 12 rooms of her establishment, as well as their spa and her private home on the property.  Another 35 accommodation establishments burnt or were severely damaged during the 5 days the fires raged through the area.  Almost 1,000 formal homes burnt down, some in Plettenberg Bay but most in Knysna.  Another 150 informal homes burnt in Knysna’s Northern Areas.  Around 8,000 people were evacuated, and 7 people tragically lost their lives. During the days, weeks, actually months after the fires the opening question would be ‘Are you ok?  Were you affected by the fires?’.  And although the house as well as the two accommodation businesses I (co-)owned at the time did not get damaged or burnt, yes, I was affected.  Everybody in this town was affected.  Still is affected.

Life changing

The fires made me realize that life can change in a day, in an instant; and that we are here to help each other, regardless of our personal backgrounds, history, beliefs.  My personal life drastically changed pretty soon after the fires, and I started Destination Garden Route.   Marketing the region I love and showing visitors the beauty of our area.  Last but not least convincing tour operators to bring their guests (back) to this beautiful destination.  I love introducing both individual visitors as well as operators the hidden gems, the unknown places, the individuals who make our region so colourful.  So full of stories, from the heart. I have an almost ‘burning’ desire to share those stories.  And there are lots of stories here on the Garden Route.  Fire stories, and also loads on non-fire stories.  So let’s talk!   Send us an email on info@destinationgardenroute.co.za to find out how we can assist you finding the stories you are looking for on your trip to the Garden Route.  #TravelLikeALocal with your #GardenRouteExpert.