10 Day Trips

Addo To Karoo: Day 5

Addo To Karoo is a 5 day series written by Lize-Mari Arthur as she explores our South African National Parks from Nelson Mandela Bay through to Beaufort Wes.

Another sunrise morning…

On our last day of exploring the SAN Parks in our region, we got up early to go for a guided walk through some of the park. Jan guided us up one of the “koppies” close to main camp as we enjoyed a 2 hour hike learning more about the plant life and nature of Karoo National Park. It was refreshing to start the day off so close to nature and to realise how privileged we are to be having this experience.

Jan Sun 2                                                                           Jan guiding us over the ‘Karoo koppie’                                                                                     

After our walk we quickly cleaned up and said goodbye to some of our fellow travellers before we popped in to the curio shop to see what they’ve got to offer. We couldn’t go back home after such an experience with nothing to share with our loved ones from the area. They little shop is called ‘Sout en Peper’ and they have some gorgeous items to display in your home, to eat and to cook with. This is the place where the local ladies will take their crafts to be sold. They even have cards that are made by a home of restoration for women and children as a means of fund-raising. Definitely a place to support if you want to help make a difference in the community.

With our gifts ready and packed we picked up our breakfast to go and hit the long road back home.

This is a trip I will always remember fondly.

Follow the series from Day 1

Lize-Mari Arthur is the Lifestyle Presenter at Kingfisher FM and is a lover of  food, good books and healthy wholesome entertainment. She enjoys new experiences in life and going on adventures. You can find her on her blog where she does weekly updates on some of the content on her show.

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Addo To Karoo: Day 4

Addo To Karoo is a 5 day series written by Lize-Mari Arthur as she explores our South African National Parks from Nelson Mandela Bay through to Beaufort Wes.

Exploring Graaf Reinet…

We started off with a healthy breakfast at the Coldstream restaurant (my new favourite place in Graaf Reinet) and realised that even though we planned on heading back to the Valley of Desolation for some early morning shots, it wasn’t going to realise due to the peaks being to cloudy. Instead we opted for some sightseeing through the beautiful old town before we headed towards Beaufort Wes.

Hitting the road to Karoo…

Karoo Landscape

Beautiful Karoo landscape

The road to Karoo National Park is quite a straight, flat and boring one, but as soon as you get closer to the park you see the beautiful “Karoo Koppies” and it makes for a stunning landscape. After a short drive through the park and seeing some of the animals, we headed to the main camp for a picnic lunch at the pool. Yes, it was a scorcher of a day and the relaxing water was just what we needed after being cooped up in the car.

Swimming Pool

Refreshing swim in the pool that’s about twice the size of what you see here.                     

We spent the afternoon settling into our units and catching up on some work. Some of us went to have a look at the interpretative centre and fossil trail, which is a beautiful walk alongside various displays of fossils and plants, telling the story of each. 

Karoo Acc

Self-catering units                  

Our units were beautiful old farm style homes with a kitchen and dining room in the centre and a bedroom with a double and single bed as well as a bathroom on each side. So you can comfortably have more than one family in one unit. they are very well equipped with all you need and for you to live quite comfortably for as long as possible.

Karoo Single Bed

Small part of the comfortable room I slept in       

Before our scheduled night game drive, we quickly had some supper at the restaurant and boy oh boy was it tasty. Lots of fresh Karoo lamb dishes on the menu to choose from and who can complain when you get to eat it with such a picturesque view in front of you.

Karoo Restaurant

Stunning view from the restaurant.          

We were excited to go on our night-drive and to see the animal world after sun-set. It was so peaceful and you almost felt like you were intruding in their sacred time away from people. We saw a couple of zebra’s as well as a variety of antelope.Unfortunately no lions were around for us to experience, but the drive was still worth it. I realised how well-trained our guides eyes are when he will point out an animal that’s so far away you can’t even see it with the naked eye and have to try to find it with binoculars. Amazing and an awesome way to wrap up our last night road tripping through the South African National Parks.

Normal Zebra

Burchell’s Zebra                            

Follow the series from Day 1 or continue and see what happened on Day 5

Lize-Mari Arthur is the Lifestyle Presenter at Kingfisher FM and is a lover of  food, good books and healthy wholesome entertainment. She enjoys new experiences in life and going on adventures. You can find her on her blog where she does weekly updates on some of the content on her show.

Categories: 10 Day Trips, information, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Addo To Karoo: Day 3

Addo To Karoo is a 5 day series written by Lize-Mari Arthur as she explores our South African National Parks from Nelson Mandela Bay through to Beaufort Wes.

Cheetah Tracking…

The day started off with excitement as we packed our bags ready for the adventure of tracking a wild cheetah in the park. Once again Charl joined us as we headed out with our breakfast packs stuffed to keep our tummies from rumbling and scaring off the cheetah.

Charl Tracking                                                                                    Charl busy tracking the cheetah.     

Tracking the cheetah can take anything from 1 to 5 hours, depending on your luck and time. The cheetahs have necklaces around them which transmits a signal to the tracker device, letting the rangers know in which direction they might find them. Some will be closer, some further away and some will be more relaxed with humans, others not. We opted to go for a female that’s quite relaxed and whose signal seemed to be the strongest. Now the luck plays it’s part as you only have so much road to follow until you have to hike your way through the  mountains, valleys and animals to get to the cheetah you are tracking.

Unfortunately for us, our cheetah decided to move around quite a bit, so every time we thought we knew where she was going, her signal got fainter and we had to walk further. We ended up hiking for just over an hour through the slopes as we were trying to find her. We were getting quite despondent when all of a sudden, she was right in front of us. One moment we just saw trees and grass all around and the next moment she sat upright and we could only stare in wonder.

Spot the Cheetah                                                           Cheetah appearing underneath the tree.                            

We walked closer until we were about 5 metres away from her, having the privilege of taking photo’s and enjoying her graceful beauty. Such an awesome experience to have with a wild animal.

Cheetah                                                                             Cheetah up close                          

On the way back did we become more aware of the fact that there are many dangers in the park and with the purpose of finding the cheetah gone, we were more focussed on making sure there aren’t any rhino or lions around.

Arrive at Camdeboo…

Next we packed our bags and hit the road to Camdeboo National Park which is situated just outside Graaf Reinet. if I can summarize this park in one word it would be tranquillity. It’s a stunning environment situated around a massive lake with lots of birds to keep you busy if you are into bird watching. There are many walking trails and it’s so close to Graaf Reinet that you can’t help but include sightseeing in this beautiful old town as a part of your experience.

Dark trees                                                                    Tranquil beauty of Camdeboo  

The experience at Camdeboo is very earthy, yet comfortable. The main office reminds you of an old farm-house, you don’t feel like you are entering into a national park. We stayed in the Lakeview Tented Camps, had communal bathrooms and cooking areas. Yet you see the care that’s taken in the little things like a mirror and natural mosquito spray in your tent. I had one of my best sleeps in this bed, with bedding that is fresh and warm and no sunlight making its way into the tent in the morning.

Lake Side Tented Inside                                                                                                      Cosy bed                                                                                      

Lakeside Tented Camps                                                                    Lakeview tented Camps                                 

There are 4 tented camps around this spot and we shared communal areas such as the showers which had a very rustic feel to them, yet when you get inside you are surrounded by beautiful curtains that makes you feel like you’re in a luxuriously exotic location. There are also proper cooking spots and a braai area set up in the centre of the camp for all guests to enjoy individually or as a group. I found this to be a great spot for some team building or a big group break-away.

Camseboo Showers                                                                            Outside showers  

Camdeboo Fire Place

Braai area                                  

Valley of Desolation…

That evening we went into town and collected our pre-ordered platter from the Coldstream restaurant in Graaf Reinet and headed out to the Valley of Desolation for a sun-set picnic overlooking the valleys. This is a stunning spot to spend some time and just soak in the magnificence of creation, you can’t help but stand in awe of such a sight. No photo can do it justice.

Valley of Desolation Eve                                                                                             Valley of Desolation                                                                                   

Picnic Set up Valley of Desolation                                                       Coldstream picnic at Valley of Desolation                          

Follow the series from Day 1 or continue and see what happened on Day 4

Lize-Mari Arthur is the Lifestyle Presenter at Kingfisher FM and is a lover of  food, good books and healthy wholesome entertainment. She enjoys new experiences in life and going on adventures. You can find her on her blog where she does weekly updates on some of the content on her show.

Categories: 10 Day Trips, information, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Addo To Karoo: Day 2

Addo To Karoo is a 5 day series written by Lize-Mari Arthur as she explores our South African National Parks from Nelson Mandela Bay through to Beaufort Wes.

Sunrise…

Staying in the tented camps at the Spekboom Tented Camps meant that we had the privileged of waking up to a beautiful sunrise peeking through the bushes. Some of us decided to get up and go for a self drive through the park and others headed down to the Hide and watch the animals that arrived for an early morning drink. After all our things were packed and gathered, we headed out to breakfast at the main camp restaurant to fill our bellies before taking on the day ahead.

Before leaving the park we decided to pop into the  Interpretive Centre to see what it is all about. This is an amazing spot to take your child to learn more about our nature and heritage in a fun way. They have a family tree of all the elephants over the years as well as the famous head of Hapoor on display in the centre. This is a space where stories are told with photo’s, physical items and audio-visual tools. You also have a couple of interactive games that can be played outside if you go as part of a school group, learning about nature in a fun way.

Hitting the road to Mountain Zebra…

Mountain Zebra Family

Mountain Zebra’s                                

From here we head out to Mountain Zebra National Park, which is in the Cradock area, and on route you can see a lot of random wild animals next to the road as you are looking into some of the game farms in the area.

As we arrived our guide, Charl, was all ready and waiting for us to go and explore some Bushman Paintings that aren’t too difficult to get to. There are other sites that are more adventurous if you feel like scaling rocks and working for the pleasure of seeing the paintings.

PAintings

Bushman Paintings                                                                                     

As we were driving through the park , Charl was pointing out the different animals that they have as well as chatting to us about how the park has expanded in the last couple of years. It was quite fun listening to all the tales and understanding the landscape and animals better.

Springbuck

Springbuck                            

Ostrich Egg

Abandoned ostrich egg                                                                                     

Squirrel

Squirrel entertaining us next to the road.                         

From the first moment that we arrived at Mountain Zebra, we felt welcome were treated as valued guests by all the staff. Apart from the people ensuring that we had a pleasant experience, the park itself is perfect for that break away from everything. It has that luxurious upmarket feel, lots of peace and quiet, yet it’s still down to earth and accommodating.

Bedroom

Main bedroom in self-catering cottages.               

We stayed in the self-catering cottages which are very simply equipped, yet has everything that you might need away from home. They have two bedrooms, one with a double bed and the other with two singles and one bathroom. You’ve got tea’s and coffees available along with a kettle, microwave and fridge in the kitchen as well as a fire-place in the lounge for those cold nights.

Bedroom View

Access to the patio from the main bedroom.

After lunch in their cosy restaurant we had some fun splashing around in the swimming pool, which has a lovely grass area surrounding it if you’d like to have a picnic while enjoying the refreshing water. Mountain Zebra National Park is the perfect get-away with scenic nature all around whilst still enjoying all the comforts of life at your finger tips.

Follow the series from Day 1 or continue and see what happened on Day 3

Lize-Mari Arthur is the Lifestyle Presenter at Kingfisher FM and is a lover of  food, good books and healthy wholesome entertainment. She enjoys new experiences in life and going on adventures. You can find her on her blog where she does weekly updates on some of the content on her show.

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Addo To Karoo: Day 1

Addo To Karoo is a 5 day series written by Lize-Mari Arthur as she explores our South African National Parks from Nelson Mandela Bay through to Beaufort Wes.

Our adventure starts on horseback…

5 Strangers met up early last week Monday morning to take off on a week-long adventure together to learn more about our South African National Parks throughout the Eastern Cape and surrounds. We were ready with our bags packed full of insect repellent and sunscreen.

3 riders

            3 Riders kicking off their adventure on horseback.                

First stop was at the Addo Elephant National Park’s Zuurburg Trails, where 3 of us went on a horse ride trail and the other two went hiking  through the fynbos. I ended up on a beautiful stallion called Flap. He was the most docile creature ever, obediently following the horse in front, never trying to pass him, never giving any problems. Perfect for a beginner rider.

Flap

Beautiful and gentle Flap 

As we were riding along, our guide told us about the nature around us. What the different plants are called and what makes them special to that specific environment. If you’re lucky, you’ll also bump into some wild animals like red hartebeest and because you are on horseback you can get quite close without them running away.

Heading through to the main camp…             

From there we headed to the main camp at Addo for lunch at the restaurant, where they are busy renovating and soon we’ll be dining at a Cattle Baron in that space. I quickly popped into the tourist shop to see what they’ve got on offer and I was quite surprised at the range of goods that they’ve got. Everything from food to clothing and proudly South African gear as well as any overnight essentials that you might need.

Before heading out on our scheduled game drive, we needed to kill some time and took a walk to the Hide. This is an enclosure that’s situated next to one of the waterholes in the park, which allows you to freely observe any animals that make their way to this precious recourse. This is the perfect spot to get some beautiful photo’s of the animals in the park, the only rule of the Hide is that you have to be quiet.

Elephant Water

Elephant cooling off at the waterhole by the Hide.

After this we went on our much-anticipated game drive with Jonathan as our guide. He pointing out all the different animals to us and shared as much info as he could about each of them. Any questions from our side was quickly answered with a smile and the trip was a fun as well as insightful one. On route we also came across some lion prints in the sand and got quite excited because they were fresh, but unfortunately that was the closest we came to the lions at Addo.

Elephant Eating

Elephant bull next to the road as we enjoy our game drive. 

Addo Elephant National park got its name for a reason, so we came across quite a couple of elephants throughout the drive, as well as zebra’s, warthogs and red hartebeest.

Elephants Group

Elephants enjoying an afternoon at the watering hole.

That night we stayed at the Spekboom Tented Camps, which is a small enclosed camping site in the middle of the national park. The camp has 5 tented sites which are all very private from each other and are equipped with two single beds in each tent as well as camping chairs and a utility box with all you’ll need for the stay. There are well taken care of communal bathrooms as well as a small kitchen with a fridge to make use of if you need to.

The camp site also has it’s own Hide, which means only those that stay there have access to this particular spot to watch the animals. 

Tented Camps

Spekboom Tented Camps

Keep following the series and see what happened on Day 2

Lize-Mari Arthur is the Lifestyle Presenter at Kingfisher FM and is a lover of  food, good books and healthy wholesome entertainment. She enjoys new experiences in life and going on adventures. You can find her on her blog where she does weekly updates on some of the content on her show.

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our Africa

WIN! a two night stay for a family of four at beautiful Ripple Hill Hotel, in Patensie, on the edge of the stunning Baviaans Kloof.  Baviaans & Gamtoos Valley is in the 2nd Wonder of our World, within the ‘World of 7 Wonders’ in the Cacadu-district of the Eastern Cape.

To Enter – read the article & at the end of the article, in the comments section, leave your answer to this question: who told us stories of The Kloof, healers & ‘water-myde’?

Competition closes on: 05/12/2013

The winner will be announced on: 06/12/2013

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Location:  165 kilometers from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay.  Take the Baviaanskloof turn-off from the N2 towards Cape Town, travel past Hankey & Patensie straight into the Kloof. This is in the beaitiful Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Date Visited: 22- 24 November 2012 (Summer)

What we Drove: Our trusty Landrover Defender 90-series.

Where we Stayed: On the Friday night we stayed at The Meadows Farmhouse & at The Milk House, right next door.  On Saturday night we stayed at  ‘Twee Waters‘ right at the mouth of Baviaans Kloof, cooking our own supper on an open fire.  Both spots can be recommended for a very comfortable stay.

What we did: We took the opportunity to explore not only Baviaans Kloof, but also the Gamtoos.  We had supper at The Milk House & Breakfast at Tolbos in Hankey.  We visited the Kouga Dam & drove deep into Baviaans Kloof, swimming at Rooi Wal as Noel Isaacs shared stories of the people of the Kloof.

Recommendation: This is our Africa.  Our Wilderness.  A world which, if you haven’t visited it, will haunt you until you do.  It is a World Heritage Site & rightly so.  It is filled with natural beauty, deep history & amazing stories.  You can’t visit South Africa & not visit the Gamtoos & Baviaans Kloof.  It would be like visiting Paris & not going to see the Eiffel Tower.  Being a South African & not visiting this area would be like being Russian & not drinking Vodka.  It is unimaginable.

Website: Baviaans Kloof & Travel Cacadu

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This is our Africa.

A world rich in diversity & deep in connection.

Beautiful.

Stunning.

Breath taking.

For the Traveling Tribe, this weekend was perfect.

Perfect timing.

Perfect conclusion to our travels of the Eastern Cape & specifically the Cacadu-region, before we head out on our Asian Adventure.

It is an easy drive from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay to Hankey.

Not even a stones throw.

We left the little wooden house on the not so little hill at about 16h00 & arrived at our destination well before 17h00.

At The Meadows Farmhouse a friendly welcome awaited us.

You could spend a weekend here.  A week even.  The house is spacious.  Beautifully renovated.  Stylishly furnished.  The kids took the loft-area, affording myself & Zuko privacy down stairs.  There is a well fitted kitchen, dining room, lounge & enough TV’s to meet everyone’s needs at the same time.

Next door is The Milk House.  An old Milk House turned into a pub.  A family place.  After settling in & washing off the week’s worries, we amble over to the stunning gardens.  Andre Pearson welcome us.  We walk the massive fruit trees.  The children pick Avocados & Custard Apples.  Pippin picks some roses from one of the hundreds of well kept rose bushes.  We talk to locals who are eager to tell stories & get to know us.  Everyone is friendly.  Warm.  Open.  In Hankey you’re bound to bump into a ‘Fereira’.  We talk to a few of them.  Supper is stunning.  You can drive to The Milk House for Sunday Lunch & be back in time for the Sunday evening movie.  You’ll get immense value for money & an atmosphere money cannot buy.  The evening is perfect.  After supper we talk to a girl visiting from Holland.  To a coulke who’ve just returned from Ireland.  We laugh with a farmer about his Yorkshire Terrier’s silliness.  We listen to the amazing story of how Andre & his family came to be in Hankey.

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Saturday morning we wake up refreshed.  As if we’ve been on holiday for a bit.

We find breakfast at Tolbos.

Wow!  What a breakfast.  For the same price you’ll be able to feed a fairy from a city franchise, this restaurant offers a monster meal, friendly service & very tasty food.  Maybe Sunday should be breakfast at Tolbos & lunch at The Milk House, although, after brekafast at Tolbos you wouldn’t need lunch or supper.

At Tolbos we meet a crew of Bikers out on a Saturday morning run.  We bump into family.  Hendrien & her son Dewald.  We breakfast together.  We laugh & tell stories about where our lives are now & where our lives are heading.  Sophia plays with Maddi in the play area.  The waitresses bring scrumptious food to our table.

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At around ten, Sizwe from Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency arrives.

He is taking us to Kouga Dam.  We’ve seen Dams before, but not in the way Sizwe plans to let us see this one.

Sizwe is from Kwa-Zulu Natal.  He is a conservationist & a conversationalist.  Extremely knowledgeable, but not in the obnoxious flaunting way.  Helpful.  Warm.  Concerned about our comfort.  Humble.  A good man to have in charge of Baviaans Kloof.

We drive to the Dam where we are met by Vuyani Dlomo.   He is the man looking after the Dam.  A former Rugby player who entertained many as he ran onto the field for Eastern Province, the Freestate & the Griekwas.  More friendliness.  More knowledge.  We stand in the spray of an overflowing Kouga Dam as Sizwe introduces us to everyone.  Noel Isaacs is also present.  I’ll tell you about him later.

Vuyani talks about the origin of the Dam.  How it is the lifeline of the agricultural activity in the Gamtoos.  Citrus world.  Sending Oranges & Naartjies to Europe, Asia & beyond.

Then we’re taken into the heart of the Dam.  Into the tunnels leading deep into the wall.

There, in a dark corner we bump into ‘Oom Piet’.  I never knew Dams were such complicated structures.  ‘Oom Piet’ tells us how he is measuring movement of the dam wall.  Checking vibration, wind in the tunnels, pressure, flow & a myriad other things.  There are possible plans to raise the dam wall.  The immense body of water contained by it, growing to grow food & opportunity.

We exit the tunnels half-way up the wall.  Vuyani takes us under the overflow of the dam.  My heart pounding.  The kids laughing as the water becomes a shower, halfway along the walkway.  On the other side,  soaked, but happy, Vuyani explains about the flow, the checks & balances.  The floodgates.  the adults return to the other side while Vuyani takes the kids back along the wall, under the overflow again.

1840 steps we did.  Up and down the wall.  Along the front of the wall.  Through the deepest crevices of this immense structure.

An experience which cannot be described.

Surprised.

That is what we are with every track we leave on African soil.

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The Landy finds her way to ‘Twee Waters‘ where we’ll rest for the evening.

The key is left on the large ‘stoep’.

We each find a bedroom.

We wash up, or rather dry out after the Dam experience.

Theunsie lights a fire.

We talk.

We laugh.

We chew on our experience.

Here too is a beautiful garden.

Comfortable rooms.

Television.

Well fitted kitchen & every amenity you might need.

As the sun sets a Bakkie comes driving down the long dirt road.  It is Gerhard & Kenau.  To our surprise, more family.  Gerhard worked for my grandfather, many decades ago at the Patensie Tabaco Co-op.  He tells stories of my mother & aunts who were at school with him.  Kenau tells stories of when Zuko was a little girl & came to play on their farm.  We talk of our lives.  Of time’s certain flow.  Of reasons & motivations.  We express gratitude & the hope that somehow, in all of this life, we will leave something beautiful behind.

Supper is grilled on the open fire.

Coffee is served on the ‘stoep’.

Sleep is embraced.

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Sunday morning is welcomed by the call of Baboons high up in the mountains.

Breakfast is quick.

We’re off into the Kloof.

This morning Sizwe brought Duma along.

More friendly people.

People who love the Eastern Cape.

Baviaans Kloof is an immense bit of wilderness.

The Tribe has been there before.

The kids were still small.

Raymond & Karien Staines shared it with us.

We spend a little bit of time at the reception, viewing camping grounds.

Then we start the drive.

I’m relieved we’re in the Landy.

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You can’t take a soft city car on these roads.

Baviaans Kloof is breathtaking.

You need a few days to really experience it.

Today we’re just getting a reminder.

A taste.

Something to call us back to our Africa.

Along the way we stop at different viewing points.

Every now & then Sizwe & Duma’s vehicle stops.  One of them gets out.  Then they pick up a plastic bag or a random wrapper left behind by someone who does not understand what this world is about.

At the Wolrd Heritage Site Interprative Centre we meet up with Noel Isaacs again.

He explains to us why this is a world heritage site.

He tells us of the communities who live in the Kloof.

Of how he grew up at Colseke.

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He talks about Soutpan.

About the healing plants of the Kloof.

About the healers who traveled through the kloof, from one side to the other, healing serious diseases with nothing more than a branch of this & a root of that.

We travel further.

Stop at a Bushman Cave.

Noel shows us the mark of ownership of a people who lived here long before ships came from Portugal or Warriors came from the north.

He talks with respect about how they did not destroy, but took only what was needed.

He talks with sadness about how they were destroyed.

Maybe we do not sow what we reap?

We traverse ancient passes built by men who were braver & bolder than engineers with fancy equipment & earth-moving machines.

We spot antelope.

Big game.

The Baviaans Kloof is home to the largest leopard population in South Africa.

Late afternoon we arrive at Rooi Wal.

The river’s water is cool.

We swim.

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We lunch.

We take a moment to breathe Baviaans in the shade of an old Yellow Wood.

Noel starts telling us the stories of the Kloof.

Of Oom Schalk Swarts, the healer.

Of the ‘tokelossie’ a little evil man who pestered the people.

In all his stories he reminds me that we cannot move away from our troubles.  They follow us.  And that sometimes it is good to face our demons.  And the good things, they are worth being brave about.

Noel’s eyes glisten as he speaks of miraculous healing.

Of inexplicable experiences.

Of ‘water-myde’ (Mermaids) & little men with flat heads tormenting a little boy.

It is evening when we say our goodbyes at the entrance to the controlled area.

We thank Sizwe for his hospitality & kindness.

We thank Noel for his companionship & stories.

They encourage us to take the spirit of Africa to Asia.

The beauty of it.

The diversity.

The immensity.

And the kindness.

As we drive home we resolve, one of the 1st things we’ll do, once we’re back from Asia, is load a Landy & spend a week listening to the heart beat of our Africa.

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Adventure for Everyone (ECPTA Mini vs Maxi Day 4)

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Waking up in the Safari Lodge opulence at Amakhala Game Reserve is something you should experience.

We arrived here, yesterday.

We enjoyed a game drive, beautiful supper & stunning conversation.

It is early morning.

We’re off to see some more game.

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We encounter the magnificent male Lion & Mnoni, our Ranger bursts with knowledge.

This is a big 5 reserve.

The German family with whom we share the experience comment on the intimacy of it.

How privileged we are to encounter the game in their natural surroundings,  yet up close & personal.

There’s a tower of Giraffes.

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A beautiful herd of ‘Rooibok’.

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We see black wildebeest, Kudu, Rhino.

All of it accompanied by interesting facts & great information.

The wind is cold.

The experience is stunning.

After the game drive there’s opportunity to warm up with a shower & a breakfast spread.

Then it is time for goodbyes & heading home.

We’ve tasted so much & yet we’ve tasted only a glimpse of what the Adventure Province offers.

The Eastern Cape is a magnificent destination, often forgotten by even the people who live here.

Not on the main routes for many international tourists, yet it offers travelers an awesome experience.

Affordable.

Family friendly.

Quality.

We’ve only encountered tourism operators who are passionate about the service they provide & every single international tourist we’ve met, on this trip & on previous trips say the same.

They say: wow! I am so glad we made time to come to the Eastern Cape.  The experience was authentic.  It gave us a taste of Africa we did not get anywhere else.  Without it, our African trip would’ve been incomplete.

And after spending a little bit of time in our Adventure Province, they all say they’re coming back.

For more.

Soon.

Perhaps, if we who are fortunate enough to live right here, see with new eyes, start tasting in new ways – perhaps then the excitement of our wonderful bit of world will be infectious.

Walking away from this experience, I know this: the Eastern Cape is an amazing place to spend time, it is more than worthwhile to explore.

Diverse.

Rich.

From Cintsa East, through East London, down the coast past Kidds Beach, Hamburg, via Bathurst, down to Port Elizabeth & up into the Karoo to places like Graaff Reinet & Nieu Bethesda – it leaves us breathless.

It makes us more.

So this is my encouragement to you: if you live in the Eastern Cape, explore it.  You’ll discover it is so much more than the little bit of world you inhabit.

If you’re from another part of Southern Africa: come!  You’ll taste our country in a way you did not know existed.

If you’re from Europe, the Americas or the United Kingdom: come, come! You’ll be able to taste Africa, like nowhere else, in a malaria free environment.  You’ll experience the authenticity you long for in an extremely safe environment & you’ll go home wishing you had more time to adventure with us.

So?  Are you up for it?

We look forward to hosting you, to showing you life like you did not know it existed.

Come taste our Africa.

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The Republic of Swellendam

Congratulations to all our winners, who will be traveling to Swellendam.

To see who won & where they’ll be staying, click HERE for details.

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Location: 535 kilometres from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, on the N2 in the direction of Cape Town, just past Heidelberg.

Date Visited: 19 – 28 July 2013 (Winter)

Where we Stayed: Stonehill River Lodge

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Other Great Accommodation Options:

Wildebraam Berry Estate

Arumvale Country House

Roosje van de Kaap Herberg

Braeside Guesthouse

Barrydale Karoo Hotel

What we Drove: Chrysler Grand Voyager, complements of Maritime Motors – this is the most comfortable family vehicle the Tribe has ever traveled in, it is extremely spacious, handles easily & has all the luxuries you could dream of, including climate control, heated seats, TV-screens, DVD-player & automated doors.

What we did:  Swellendam & surrounds offer an awesome range of activities & experiences.  The Museums are beautiful.  The town is the 4th oldest town in South Africa, you can imagine how much history is nestled in this bit of world.  Here’s what we did over the few days we were there.  Every one of our experiences were amazing.  Horse Riding with Stephanie at Two Feathers Horse Trails was a stunning highlight.  Zuko loved crossing the Breede River by Ferrie at Malagas.  Pippin & Sophia fell in love with the Faerie Sanctuary.  I loved Barrydale & Warmwaterberg Hot-Springs.  We’re sure you’re going to find the perfect mix of experiences to make your visit to Swellendam exquisite.

Visited the Sulina Faerie Sanctuary in Swellendam

Went Horse Riding at Two Feathers Horse Trails in Swellendam

Crossed the Breede River by Pontoon at Malagas

Spent a day in Suurbraak & Barrydale.

Spent an afternoon at Warmwaterberg Spa on the other side of Barrydale.

Went Mountain Biking in Stonehill River Lodge‘s reserve.

Visited Cape Agulhas.

Visited the Shipwreck Museum in Bredasdorp.

Recommendation: The Swellendam area is beautiful.  Once you’ve chosen suitable accommodation you won’t struggle to find the perfect mix of activities.  There are loads of little art shops, organic food shops & restaurants to browse & enjoy.  The area has two very beautiful nature reserves in close proximity: Bontebok National Park & Marloth Nature Reserve.  Distance wise its a bit far to travel for just a 2 night weekend, but if you plan a 3-night stay, maybe leaving Thursday or only returning on Monday, it could be a perfect break.  The ten days we spent in the area was amazing, as we were able to do enough exploring without rushing anything.  The Tribe loved the experience.  We’ll definitely be back, we know we haven’t seen or tasted everything.

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Swellendam Explore Day 6

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If you know our Tribe, you’ll know we love horses.

We keep our own & ride as often as we can.

We share this gift with whomever visits us at the little wooden house on the not so little hill.

We search for the opportunity to enjoy this, wherever the opportunity exists.

We ridden at Addo.

At Koffylaagte.

And on this day we shared the exhilaration with Stephanie on the outskirts of Swellendam.

We met up with her at Swellendam Backpackers.

Here she recieves guests who are looking for something more than the standard buffet offered to people passing through.

A menu of activities is up on the wall & a tangible love for people is nestled in her words.

We drive to the Two Feathers Stables at the foot of the mountain.

The horses are beautiful.

Their temperament a mirror of Stephanie & her crew.

Kind.

Warm.

Willing to share.

Each of us is assigned a horse & as we saddle up, Stephanie speaks about each horse like you would speak about a friend.

Where the horse comes from.

How he came to live at Two Feathers.

What he enjoys.

What he does not enjoy.

By the time we’re in the saddle, we each feel as if we’ve kniwn these horses since forever.

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Then the ride.

Into the mountains.

Crossing a river.

Amongst trees.

Exquisite views.

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Stephanie has been doing this for almost two decades.

A short interval taken, somewhere in between, to travel to America, to work on a horse farm where she was part of the team who took people on a week-long ride into desolate mountains.

Then she came back.

Continued with new energy & fervour to bring happiness to the lives of whomever wanted to be part of her world.

A son was born.

Later a beautiful girl.

They share the joy of horses & nature.

Stephanie came to Swellendam to work, during a school holiday,  on one of the river boats.

She came from Upington.

She never left.

She is a beautiful person to meet.

An awesome guide to take you on horseback into the mountains.

She offers day trips as well.

Taking riders deeper into the mountains, breaking for a picnic lunch, before returning to the stables.

We do the afternoon ride.

The horses are comfortable with us.

I can see that they’re used to attention & even if you’re not used to riding, this would be an exquisite experience.

Stephanie not only attentive to each rider, but bubling with easy conversation, talking about herself & Swellendam, its people, its history, its beauty.

This is the kind of person who should be in the hospitality industry.

Late afternoon we return to the stables.

It wasn’t a hard ride.

It was relaxing.

Refreshing.

It filled each one of us with what we needed.

A sense of connectedness.

To nature.

To each other.

To this place.

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Even Forest, Theunsie’s new friend, who does not ride often, bubbles with excitement.

As we take each horse back to its stabke, Stephanie talks about the hot-springs at Barrydale.

She heard we’ll be heading that way.

She knows, few people know if the hot springs.

Like a secret, divulged only to insiders, she gives us directions, so we could find this hidden gem.

We say our goodbyes.

We’ve made new friends.

We’ve tasted a bit of Swellendam, without which our experience would’ve been bare.

The rest of the day is soent at Stonehill River Lodge.

As we drive through the reserve to our cottage we see Eland, Zebra & Blesbuck.

Over supper we talk.

We dream.

We hope with new energy.

For it is when we live & taste & experience that we are reminded that every day is precious and tomorrow is beautiful, when approached from a lived today.

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Swellendam Explore Day 5

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It was pretty early, for people on holiday anyway, as we bundled into the Chrysker Grand Voyager, on this very cold Swellendam morning.

We were making our way to the Swellendam Backpackers, from where we would proceed to ‘Two Feathers’ for some horse riding.

Riding is something we love.

Horses.

Nature.

The opportunity to ride new horses & acquaint ourselves with the mountain forest adjacent to Swellendam, enough of an incentive to get up early & face the cold.

The Chrysler Grand Voyager’s heated seats & climate control a friendly reminder this morning that we are traveling, not on our own, but supported by friends & along with you.

We’re not accustomed to the opulence of this kind of vehicle – our somewhat ageing Defender offering nothing more than the very basics which could be expected from a hardy vehicle.

Windows to roll down for ventilation.

Wheels.

An engine.

A characteristically rattling sliding back window to create the ambiance of off-roading, even on smooth city streets.

As we turn off into Swellendam, the Voyager senses the first spatterings of rain, automatically switching on its window wipers to ensure maximum visibility.

Our Defender has window wipers as well.

They keep the rain off the windscreen whenever the left indicator is not engaged.

As we park the Voyager in front of the backpackers, as if persistent, the rain comes down in abbundant sheets.

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Inside we’re greeted by Stephanie.

This morning the bearer of disappointment.

The precipitation will persist, but tomorrow is another day & perhaps it would fulfill the promise of flying on horse-back, the smell of forest leaves a trail behind us.

Stephanie has been building the Swellendam Backpackers for seventeen years.

She knows what can & cannot.

What will be pleasant & what will not.

And so we headback to Stonehill River Lodge, the sponsored Chrysler Grand Voyager’s comfort a small comfort on this cold winters day.

We light a fire in the fireplace.

We make brekafast together.

We watch a little bit of Hawaii 5-0.

We play some cards.

We make lunch together.

Read some.

Talk.

Enjoy the warmth of comfortable accomodation.

Sleep a bit.

That luxurious afternoon nap for which we never have time.

More cards are played.

More Hawaii 5-0 watched.

More wood placed on the fire.

And we are reminded that not everything is always about activity.

That sometimes our circumstances expect us to wait.

To rest.

To anticipate.

And tomorrow we try again.

Perhaps with success.

Perhaps not.

But this is life & nothing will be gained by resisting her flow.

Not even when urgency overwhelms us.

Supper is a slow affair.

Conversation connecting us.

How hurried we are to do instead of be.

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How poor we are.

For not allowing the moment to be.

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