A Beautiful Disaster – The first 14 days

We have had the privilege of owning and running Blue Gum Country Estate for nearly 13 years. In this time we have seen fires and floods, but nothing prepared us for what we experienced during the September 2023 flood that hit the Western Cape.

On the 24th September, nature’s wrath was unleashed with astonishing force on the greater Western Cape area, tearing off roofs, submerging roads, levelling trees, flooding rivers, and isolating communities from the outside world. This event meant that the Overberg region of the Western Cape experienced more rainfall in two days than it had received in the previous two months. This was caused by what is called a “cut-off low-pressure system”. The Hemel-and-Aarde valley alone received 485mm of rain in a 24 hour period.

This phenomenon caused the South African Weather Service to issue an unprecedented Orange Level 9 warning. Most people had never heard of this Warning System before, so we had no idea what we were in for… what followed was an unmitigated disaster involving major flooding, damage to infrastructure and isolation.


In another cruel twist of fate the Blue Gum and the surrounding farms have been waiting for nearly 20 years for a new bridge to be constructed. This was finished in late Winter 2023…

The disastrous flood that occurred has washed away our new bridge, knocked out our electricity supply (we have had no power for 17 days as of the 11th October) and made our road access extremely difficult and hazardous – the timeline period for repair of the bridge is indefinite.

So after a few days of regrouping, creative redirection and strategising we called our Blue Gum team together to discuss the way forward and get a consensus on how best to go about the project of rebuilding. 

The team unanimously decided to join us us to stay on-site at Blue Gum. This is a brave choice they have made as it means some of them are away from their families and loved-ones for a prolonged period. We are so proud to see and appreciate the sacrifices they have made for the continuation of Blue Gum & it’s provisions.

20 pairs of Gum Boots and Gloves were purchased and amazing intentions were set.

They will sleep on site for 3 nights and work for 4 days a week – the fifth day they will spend at home and use this time to up-skill themselves. We will provide directed reading, research and resources relating to their careers in the hospitality industry, service, cookery and tourism marketing. Learning more about our Blue Gum brand and heart for hospitality and tourism in the Western Cape and Stanford.

About Blue Gum

Blue Gum’s Passion is people. Our love for the farm, the family, the team and every guest that we have the privilege to serve runs deep. We run a cafe and restaurant (Campbells Cafe), vineyards (Campbells Peak Wine), and also have accommodation on site: 

  • Blue Gum has been in the de Kock/Gibson family for 24 years.
  • We are an extended family of 21 team members.
  • We support approx. 15 families through the employment of our beloved team – they all live in the village of Stanford, 10 km away from Blue Gum.


Whilst the team are with us on the farm they will be introduced to new skills like building and maintenance, paths and paving, road building, recycling, water management, and much much more.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” - Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Blue Gum Country Estate will use this time as an opportunity for growth.

We have partnered with Jumpstarter (www.jumpstarter.co.za), an Award-Winning crowdfunding platform for startups and small business. It is an amazing platform where people that are interested in a cause can offer a donation

We would like to use any funding we get from this initiative to provide for our Blue Gum team contingent and to keep them and their families safe – we have found alternative work for them to do on the farm whilst we cannot host guests. The time they spend with us will focusing on opportunities for growth.


Week 1 on the farm consisted of dealing with the immediate and pressing issues facing us. Various structures, buildings and areas of our restaurant and accommodation were water-logged, with rivulets streaming constantly in every place imaginable. Trenches were dug to redirect water, carpets and mats were moved out of the water, tables and chairs were moved to storage. The buildings and spaces were cleaned and tidied, in readiness for guests that we hope we can receive soon.

When they returned home after their first 3 day stint we provided directed reading, research and resources relating to their careers in the hospitality industry, service, cookery and tourism marketing.

WEEK 2: 

The team have just reconvened again at Blue Gum on the 10th October for our Week 2 adventure. Decked out in gloves and gum boots everyone pitched in to start collecting rubble to fill and repair our roads. We also had to split part of the team, as one of our dam walls was about to break due to erosion and endless filling from the water seeping from the mountains. So a few staff hastily dug trenches in order to redirect some water out of the swollen dam. The rest of the team collected rocks and building rubble whilst avoiding snakes, scorpions, spiders and various other natural pitfalls. It was amazing to witness the dedication on such a hot and windy day.

Day 2 started with putting small pieces of rubble and stones into feed sacks. Large pieces will be used to fill the holes in our roads whilst the sacks will be used to spread on top and fill the gaps. Part of the team was mobilized to unclog a pipe that allows the river at our entrance gate to run freely.

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2 thoughts on “A Beautiful Disaster – The first 14 days”

  1. Over the weekend of the storm we celebrated my wife’s 40th birthday at Blue Gum Estate – 22 adults and 22 kids. We all had a wonderful evening on the Saturday, and a fun filled although wet day on the Sunday. Then the rain really started and on Monday we woke up to a spectacular sight. The Klein River in full flood, damaged roads and no more bridge or power or hot water. We knew we were not going home soon. The Blue Gum team were amazing, they continued to serve us, prepare food and reassure us we will get home. By Tuesday the sun had come out and we enjoyed the best day. This is when the fun really started as we surveyed the damage, kids played in the mud and searched for tadpoles in the many puddles, we mopped up water, cleared the stream crossing, filled in a huge erosion hole in the road, and a few of the dads joined Mike in his Landie as they headed off road to town to replenish the dwindling supplies. That night we had a fantastic braai together with some of the staff. Wednesday dawned and we started our expedition out in a convoy. Two of the cars were low sedans that went with the Landie, and only needed one tow through a very muddy section, the rest were SUVs that managed to navigate the mud themselves. I don’t know who was having more fun, the dads or the kids! We finally all got home 2 days later than expected. All in all a birthday to remember and a big thank you to all the Blue Gum team who made it so memorable. I hope your recovery is a success and we would love to come back as soon as you are ready to have us again, perhaps this time with a few less people!

  2. Thanks for sharing your story, like many others have had, in the Western Cape September’23 storm
    Well done to your dedicated team…always great to see when all people stand together especially in a time of crisis!
    Wishing you all the best and lots of GUESTS to visit soon
    Kind regards

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