Posts Tagged With: Destination

Stumbling Upon an Amazing Place of Love

This is what we love about traveling the way we do: because we’re less than briefly in a place, we get the opportunity to stumble on places which would’ve illuded us otherwise.

Great places.

Amazing places.

Mysteriously wonderful places which aren’t on the tourist itinerary or promoted on the official websites.

We were looking for schools is nearby Doudian.

We’re on an extended trip.

And extended trips cost money.

Especially if you’re a Tribe of 7 people.

The Tribe must eat and live.

So we teach English to cover the cost and finance the experience.

Maybe we’re more like migrant workers, or Gypseys.

Gypseys.

I like that idea.

So, yes, we’re Gypseys, working a little in a place, for a little while, while we meet beautiful new people and taste beautiful new experiences and discover a little more about The Way of the Gift.

We’ve settled, briefly, in a little village on the outskirts of Beijing.

DaGaoShe Village.

Working in the town of Liangxiang.

But the school we work for treats the contract we signed, more like a very broad guideline than a contract, and even though we are just migrant workers, we do afford ourselves the luxury of, if we have to work, enjoying what we do.

So we’re looking for new schools.

Which is much easier than trying to get a school, which does not know what honesty or integrity means, to grasp these principles.

As we travel, we notice, everywhere, dogs bark, birds fly and people are the same.

Some are honest.

Some not.

Some are caring.

Some can care about no one except themselves and their own interest.

This seems to be unrelated to race or gender or religion.

As if only glimpses of completeness is sown across our world, to spark happiness, framed by love and peace, on mountain tops and along the banks of rivers as they create new valleys flowing to the ocean.

DaGaoShe is sort of between Liangxiang and Doudian.

12 kilometers from Liangxiang.

8 kilometers from Doudian.

On the edge of the massive Beijing.

So we thought, a school in Doudian would be great.

An honest school.

It is closer.

It is smaller.

And generally we seem to meet greater people in smaller places.

So we’re Googling English Schools in Doudian.

And Bethel pops up.

A school.

But not a regular school.

And they’re not advertising that they’re hiring.

So we Google some more and later call in the help of recruiters, which makes things easier, because they know of all the schools and opportunities.

And we interview with other schools and look for that opportunity that will viably finance our experience in another place.

But it doesn’t matter.

The fact that Bethel isn’t hiring is of no consequence.

Because what they are doing, draws our interest.

Sort of like the sun drawing water from the ocean.

It cannot be resisted.

We call them.

Speak to a woman who introduces herself as Anna.

We make an appointment.

We’ll visit them on a Monday afternoon.

Anna explains that some kids won’t be there, that weekends are better for visits, but we work on weekends and kids aren’t monkeys in a zoo, so it doesn’t make a difference that they’ll be busy with their daily lives.

Over breakfast I order a cab on Grabtalk.

If you’re ever in China for a while, near a big city, you should get Grabtalk.

It’s like Uber, but much more.

In China you use WeChat, not Whatsapp.

And on WeChat you add Grabtalk.

And Grabtalk will get you whatever you need, wherever you are, at a really good price, between 8 in the morning and 11 at night.

Sometimes even later.

My sister went home to SA.

On her arrival back in China, she took a cab from the airport to our village and paid 400¥ just for the cab.

The other night we were in Beijing CBD for a medical emergency, at the Beijing Children’s Hospital.

Our Maddi had a terrible fall.

We had a big scare.

It was a wild chase in an ambulance through the streets of Beijing.

And it was 3 in the morning when we headed back home, relieved that she is okay.

With Grabtalk the taxi cost 82¥.

Same distance.

More 300¥ cheaper.

You need tickets to go to the great wall, or a hotel, or a restaurant or a PS4 or perfume or pizza, they organize it for you, they don’t charge you anything extra and they speak English.

That’s nice.

Believe me, that is very nice for people who have only a rudimentary understanding of Chinese, yet live in a world where few speak fluent English.

At 2 the cab arrives.

A smart new Beijing Motor Company x65 SUV.

Something like a Hyundia ix35.

The driver is friendly.

He knows the way.

It is a 15 minute drive.

Even closer to our home than we thought it was.

At Bethel Anna welcomes us.

She is a Spanish girl who has been with Bethel for about 2 years.

She studied to be a translator.

Studied in Spain.

Then studied more Chinese right here in China.

And her journey brought her to Bethel.

On their website we read about the project.

It was founded a decade ago.

A couple came to China from France.

They knew they wanted to do something which makes a difference.

They’re both musicians, so they started visiting orphanages and playing music.

Then they adopted a child.

Then Bethel happened.

An orphanage for visually impaired children.

Or a foster home specifically equiped to love and raise and educate kids who face this challenge.

China is an interesting place.

We’ve come to love the people.

We’ve come to respect their way.

But it isn’t Utopia.

No society, no matter how well it is run, is free of trouble.

China is a well run society.

It is egalitarian.

People have access.

The streets are safe.

Old people and young girls walk in streets and parks, late at night, without fear of mugging or rape.

Public transport is clean, effective and affordable.

Public healthcare is available and of high quality.

Police are well trained, friendly and helpful.

Education is good and free, until you have to go to High School and then it is inexpensive, even University within the reach of a Mom and Dad who work at a factory and want to send their one child to University.

That is one challenge this society faces.

One child.

Our Tribe adored by some, envied by others.

One child.

For a long time a couple could have only one child.

Then it eased a bit.

If both members of a couple were the only child, they were allowed to have 2 children.

Then it was eased a little more.

If either member of the couple were the only child, they were allowed to have 2 children.

And quite recently couples were being encouraged to have 2 children, as the government saw a negative population growth and projections predicted a lack of labor and consumers in the world’s second largest economy.

But it seems, most people have gottten used to the idea of one child.

A family is 3.

Or 5, if grandma and grandpa is included.

4 adults.

One child.

6 adults really, mostly, and one child.

So women don’t seem to be dragging their men to the bedroom at every opportunity to conceive that second child.

And somehow this affects babies who are born with a visual impairment.

“A blind baby won’t be able to take care of us as well as a healthy baby would.”

Of all eight of us.

That is quite a burden children in China grow up with.

Family is everything.

And you take care of your family.

First.

It is beautiful.

But imagine the weight on a Chinese child as he grows up and goes through education with the one aim: to get to the top with the best possible job, so that I could take care of my Mom and Dad and my husband’s Mom and Dad and our grandparents.

Imagine the fear in a parent as they discover their baby is blind.

Anna welcomes us in the foyer of the school.

It is an old hotel of sorts on a largish piece of land.

The hotel building has been converted to offices and classrooms.

The property is well maintained.

Clean.

Warm.

She shows us the classrooms, the music room.

We meet some students and teachers.

A little guy runs up to us and starts talking.

Playing.

He seems happy.

And confident.

Anna tells us there are about 500 000 orphans in China.

A lot of children.

But, if you think about the population of China, maybe half a million orphans aren’t that many?

Still half a million children.

Children abandoned for some or other reason.

Many of them abandoned because they are blind.

Anna explains, parents often don’t realize their baby is blind at birth.

And many times, visually impaired babies are abandoned when they are closer to their first birthday, or even after that.

Almost like little Moses, abandoned after he did not need to be nursed anymore, with the slight difference, these babies are not abandoned to go live in a palace, they are taken into State Orphanages, which are mostly not geared to take care of and raise and educate children with disabilities.

Which complicates matterrs a bit.

The sooner a visually impaired child can get the care he needs, the better.

Bethel has a relationship with many Chinese Orphanages.

They provide training and do awareness campaigns.

They’re launching a new project inside a specific orphanage where the need is deep.

And some of the children are fortunate enough to come to be in their care.

At Bethel they get a proper education and all the care they need.

They learn to read braille.

They learn Chinese and English and music and all the regular subjects they would’ve been taught at school.

They learn to move in their environment, without sight.

To cope.

To thrive.

As Anna takes us on our tour, two kids with bowls of fruit make their way up the stairs to the second floor of the school.

They are taking an afternoon snack to their classmates.

They find their way with ease, playing as they go along.

One stops halfway up the stairs at the large Christmas tree.

Puts the bowl of fruit down and looks at the tree, feeling the decorations and smiling.

Then he’s off, after his friend, running up the stairs.

Counselors come to meet the children once a week.

A large hospital in the city helps with medical care.

Some children need operations.

Cataracts.

Others would be greatly helped by a cornea transplant.

This year Bethel managed that.

A donor and transplant which changed a child’s life.

But being here at Bethel seems to change lives.

Being abandoned as a child must be something to deal with.

Being abandoned because of a physical impairment must be even harder.

And as we walk from classroom to classroom, meeting beautiful children and amazing teachers and carers, we are overwhelmed by gratitude.

For our own sight.

For being able to navigate our world with ease.

For being able to come to this place, so close to our little Chinese House, and meeting these awesome people who love without hesitation.

Changing the future of a handful of beings.

“It is a drop in the ocean”, Anna says as she explains the daily routine.

“We foster 40 children”.

“And there is a long waiting list.”

“Here at Bethel we care for 27 children.”

“In the city we have two apartments where we care for 13 older kids who we’ve been able to enroll in a special needs school.”

“Why not more?” I ask.

“It costs 4000¥ to take care of one child.”

“4000¥ per month.”

“That’s about $650”.

It comes down to funding.

“We have a ‘sponsor-a-child-program’ in which you can give 400¥ ($65) a month towards the care of a specific child.”

I do the math in my head.

It takes 10 donors to sponsor 1 child.

40 kids.

400 donors.

And then the needs of the existing children are taken care of.

“There are always more kids waiting to come to Bethel“, Anna explains, as we stand in front of a large world map at the top of the stairs.

I don’t get the map.

Then a see a sign talking about adoptions.

And Anna explains.

“We try to find the kids homes.”

“A child needs a home.”

“A child needs a family who will love them.”

“Last year we did 14 adoptions.”

“This year we did 19.”

“It is the most adoptions we could manage so far.”

“Most adoptions are international.”

This is part of Anna’s responsibility at Bethel.

“A lot of adoptions are to America.”

Anna explains that people from other countries have done adoptions too.

I can’t remember the countries.

I think Spain.

Maybe Canada.

This year they had a child adopted by a Chinese family in China.

“That is the ideal. Then the child stays within his culture, his own language and world.”

Kids are well prepared for adoption.

In addition to being able to read braille, find their way in their environment and being counseled regularly, there are always English classes, so if they are adopted by an English speaking couple, language is not a problem.

At the moment an American and a Brazilian girl volunteer a year of their time specifically to teach English to the kids who are being prepared for adoptions.

And my gratitude deepens.

How amazing that there are people who love so much that they would adopt a visually impaired child, from another country and raise that child as their own.

“It is difficult, ” Anna explains.

“People want to adopt babies”.

“Babies without challenges.”

“Often our kids aren’t babies anymore, when they are ready to be adopted.”

In China it seems there is a deadline for adoption as well.

If you’re 14, that deadline has passed.

“We were so happy”, Anna says as we walk from the world map, past pictures of children and Christmas decorations, “this year a boy was adopted just before his 14th birthday. That is good. He has a home. He has a family.”

And as children move to families, new children come to Bethel to receive a gift they would not receive, had this organization not been here in our backyard, supported by good people and run by stunning people, who love enough to change little lives into eternity.

We see the homes where the kids live.

The playground where they play.

The pool where they swim in summer.

We hear of the horses they ride once a week at a stable in Beijing.

And then it is four o’clock and our Grabtalk Cab is back to pick us up and take us home.

Maddi plays on one of the bikes in the playground.

I know we’ve only seen a glimpse of what happens at Bethel.

I sense that it wasn’t chance, or by the way that we stumbled on this place.

We believe in ‘serendipity’.

Our lives drawn by our Origin towards meaning in every moment.

And as we get ready to leave, I ask:”So what can we do? What are needs we can fill. I can shovel coal for the heating? Or do dishes? Maybe clean?”

“It sounds stupid”, Anna responds, “but maybe you could come and play with our boys?”

“Two thirds of our kids are boys, but our staff is female and the boys lack a male role-model.”

Except for Anna and the two volunteers, the rest of the people who make Bethel a reality are all Chinese.

Locals.

The manager is a woman who studied special needs care and education.

The carers and teachers are women who live in the nearby village.

And I agree.

Hesitatingly, for it is not something small to be a role-model for a child whose world you have no idea of.

“Okay.”

“I’ll come. And be. Here. With a boy or two. For as long as I can and as often as I can, and as long as you’ll have me. It would be a gift.”

As we ride the short drive home I think of it all.

The families who moved close to Bethel, who kept their visually impaired children and changed their own lives, so that they could bring their kids to Bethel during the day for education and special needs care.

The founders, who started something astounding, in such a way that it could continue long after their departure.

The families who support and adopt.

The exquisite beauty, hidden in our backyard, in the Chinese countryside, in a seemingly insignificant place.

The startling beauty of the gift these kids receive, in a world which was ready to destroy them.

The grace of it all, as our Origin conspires to take loss and transform it into gain, by touching peoples’ being and connecting people and filling us with happiness, framed by love and peace.

And I know this hour or two on a cold Beijing afternoon was just the beginning.

For us.

As we forge new relationships.

And are allowed to share in the immensity of it.

As, perhaps, your reading this, is just the start.

The seed.

Of your own involvement with this exquisiteness, in a far off place, which you cannot comprehend.

Maybe you could look at their website: www.bethelchina.org/home/?

Maybe you could see a child?

Maybe you’ll be taken on a trip, which would be the best years of your life?

I don’t know.

For, each of us, have our own journey.

But I do know this: no one can visit this place and leave untouched.

Even virtually.

Maybe, instead of planning your next trip in the Seychelles or the US or Paris, maybe you could do a trip to Bethel?

Or if you are at that stage of your life where you have time on your hands, you could offer to be a volunteer, giving the most precious gift of all.

Who knows how this journey will go?

But we share it.

Even now.

Even if just briefly.

And it is not without meaning.

It is serendipitous.

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Categories: Asian Adventure, information | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: 10 Day Trips, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Life Measured in Moments

As the Traveling Tribe prepares for our immense adventure exploring Asia & the Far East, we’re inviting some of our friends to keep on doing travel in the Eastern Cape, South Africa & Africa, making contributions as honorary Tribe-members, so that you can now get information on South African travel, as well as our explore of unseen Asia, right here in one place.

In this article Xandre van der Berg & her husband Danie joins our Tribe, as they take a trip on the MSC Opera, cruising our stunning Oceans.

Website for more Informationwww.MSCcruises.co.za 

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“Life should be measured in moments, not minutes”

This statement not only captures the introduction to the MSC Opera’s brochure, but lingered in my mind – capturing my thoughts,  forcing me to slow down, re-measuring my  two days spent, as a guest on the luxury vessel.

It was in these moments, that somewhere between embarking in Cape Town, and disembarking in Port Elizabeth,  I was transformed from stepping on as a guest, to leaving as a friend.

Luxurious she is, by all measures and opinions.

But beneath all the glamour and glitz, I found a village on the MSC Opera.  A village which invites everyone to become one with their fantasy world.  Embracing’s differences, opening opportunities to explore and enjoy their finest moments.

Moments to reflect on life are ample, as you cruise along –creating the space I needed to reconnect and focus.

When you are surrounded by miles and miles of gentle waves, you can only focus on the eminent.

The now.

The being of your soul.

I will not be able to describe the swell of the ocean, the gentle rocking when you lie down, the ever moving horizon and the realization that this is it.

You are captured in another world.

A world beyond time.

An escape.

And it is only then, realizing that you have escaped from reality, that you start looking around, taking the surroundings in, and start to blend with this new world.

MSC has explored the seas for over 300 years.  With 450 vessels under their wing, they have mastered her – the ocean.

Their expertise, passion and professionalism are evident in everything they do.

Tina joined the family from the Philippines, seeing to all my needs in my room, Miguel came from Peru, serving our coffee with dedication, Annia from Cuba waiting at the spa and Rinthing from India, eager to be of assistance.

The South African cruises developed at such a rapid pace, that they had to include South Africans crew members.  With 98% or the passengers on South African cruises being from South Africa, this is truly a home from home.

The MSC Opera, a masterpiece on the seas, lives up to her name – a classy, grand lady, a world class resort.  Five star cuisines, 9 bars, shows, lounges, a theater, shops, casino, disco, pools, spa baths and fitness equipment.

Don’t imagine for a moment that a cruise on the MSC Opera is only for adults.

This is an amazing adventure for children as well.  Some cruises end up with 40% of passengers below the age of 18.

Pools, Play areas, Discos, movies, Virtual game rooms, outside deck games & indoor activities, are all utilized, under the watchful eyes of a very capable crew component.  Children are issued with security bracelets the moment they become part of the cruises – assuring that they can be traced at all times.

Do not be fooled by the luxury and splendor of this adventure – this is truly a South African Holiday – affordable for everyone.

While fares published would want you to reach for your saving account number – actual fares are mind blowing.

The MSC family, want everyone to be able to enjoy and share what they have captured.  Specials and promotions available allow us all to be part of their dream world.

Keeping in mind that all meals and most of the entertainment is part of the package, you will be able to freely enjoy the theater and all shows brought to you, from side splitting comedy to Italian Opera.

For the more serious ‘gastronomix’ amongst us, you will have opulent opportunities to experience different menus, steaming hot pizza from the oven – Italian pasta, homemade ice cream and the finest pastries.

Their promotion packages covers everything you could imagine.  For newlyweds, family, single travelers, anniversaries and special celebrations – they have it all covered.

And although I joined the cruise along the South African Coast – this is not where it stops.

Take you imagination on a wild cruise, and join them to explore the coral reefs, exotic landscape and cultures of the Southern African coast and islands.

Always wanted to explore the Portuguese Islands?

Madagascar?

The Island of True contrasts – Reunion?

Mauritius and Namibia?

This is the opportunity – join the MSC family and explore alongside them. They will spoil you with beach braais while you discover the hidden secrets of a Portuguese Island, snorkeling.

They will show you the best places to shop in the Cosmopolitan Maputo and invite you to Inhambane, one of the oldest settlements in Southern Africa.

Join them and explore the active volcano and black sandy beaches of Reunion.  Extend the adventure to the home of legendary figures like Captain Kidd or stop at the beautiful turquoise waters of Mauritius.

Traveling with the MSC Cruises, give wings to your wildest dreams.

For us anyway.

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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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Season 2 about to go LIVE!

yot 2013Never did we imagine it would be so much fun, when we started with Traveling Tribe Season 1.

Zuko was pregnant.

Maddi was born.

And amidst all of it we discovered beautiful places.

We met stunning people.

We shared awesome experiences.

And we were able to give it away.

If I think back, other than the time spent with my Tribe & the memories made, being able to get so many families traveling, with R150 000 in family travel experiences given away, was probably the greatest experience of it all.

So we look forward to Season 2.

We hope to venture into more remote parts of the Eastern Cape this year.

To discover hidden gems.

To meet diamonds of beautiful souls.

To share it all with you.

We’re hoping to start with a bang: a 10-day trip from the 19th to the 28th of July.  Off course we’re bringing back prizes.  And we’ll follow that experience with regular weekend trips from August through to December.

Let’s see how much family traveling we can cram into the rest of 2013.

Let’s make 2013 the Year of Family Travel & Adventure in the Eastern Cape.

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Mountain Zebra National Park

CONGRATULATIONS  to Natalia Venter on winning a two nights stay for a family of four (2 adults + 2 children), including accommodation, a game drive and guided walk,  to the total value of R3 400.00 at the Mountain Zebra National Park.

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Location:  305 kilometers from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay & 12 kilometers from Cradock on the road between Cradock & Graaff Reinette, in the beautiful Eastern Cape, South Africa.

Date Visited: 16 – 18 November 2012 (Summer)

What we Drove: The Jeep Cherokee, complements of Maritime Motors .

Where we Stayed: The main camp, in a two bedroom chalet.  Mountain Zebra National Park also offers camping & mountain cottages, as well as a luxury six sleeper guest-house.

What we did: We took the opportunity to just be together as we cooked, walked, watched game, swam in the Park’s beautiful swimming pool and saw magnificent game.

Recommendation: This is an amazing and very affordable weekend for a family who wants to do something wonderfull.  Instead of going on a guided game drive and walk, as much fun could be had as you self-drive through the park.  The roads are in exceptional condition.  The restaurant & shop stocks whatever you forget to take along.

Website: Mountain Zebra National Park

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Friday afternoon.

We’ve become accustomed to traveling this year.

Weekend road trips.

Breathtaking moments shared.

This was our twenty-second one in less than ten months.

‘The year seems full & meaningful, despite what challenges may have presented themselves’, Zuko speaks the thoughts filling her mind and heart as we hit the open road, driving past the Port of Nqura.

The Jeep Cherokee’s 2.8 liter diesel engine is inaudible.

The climate control keeps the summer afternoon’s heat outside.

The kids laugh & talk, filled to the brim with excitement.

‘We’ve seen so much.  Done so much.  It feels like we’ve had two years since Christmas.’

Zuko smiles.

I can see how her mind looks at pictures of the places we’ve been & the things we’ve done.

Holding up a snapshot of our family at Tsitsikamma in front of the guesthouse at The Garden Route National Park.

Little wrinkles forming at the corners of her mouth as she looks at us horse riding at Addo Elephant National Park and sliding down the waterfal at Bergrivier.

‘What was your favorite trip?’ she asks the kids, including them & me in her reliving of our experiences.

‘I loved Lalibela‘, Theunsie is quick to answer.

‘The surfing trip in Jeffreys Bay‘, Wilhelmina is quick on his heels.

‘No, picking those humungous apples’, she changes her mind.  ‘Where was that?’

Grootnek in the Langkloof,’ I help her find the name.

‘Grootnek!  That was fun.’

‘It was.  Taking the Jeep Wrangler up into the mountains was exciting.’ Theunsie remembers.

‘Sophia?  Which was your favorite trip,’ Zuko opens the door for one more experience to flood back into our hearts.

‘I’m thinking.  I loved them all,’ she quips.  ‘My favorite was Die Lapa, with the horses & the little cowboy village.  Yes.  If I must choose that was definitely my favorite.’

We talk about our ten day trip exploring the Blue Crane Route.

The stunning walk to the waterfall.

The snow.

‘O, going snow hunting was fantastic!’ Wilhelmina laughs.

Then we talk about Somerset East.

The friends who joined us as we shared the ‘Biltong Festival’ and decided to find snow on the spur of the moment.

A stop at the Nanaga Farm Stall interrupts our conversation.

We get some biltong, droë wors, water & nuts.

As I point the Jeep Cherokee towards Cradock, engaging the cruise control, Zuko takes out another snapshot.

‘I loved Nieu Bethesda‘, she says.

‘And Graaff Reinet.’

What an amazing year.

Filled with tasty experiences.

And then we are at the entrance to the Mountain Zebra National Park.

Originally started, in order to conserve the Mountain Zebra.

Now home to a variety of game on 28 000 hectares of conservation land.

Every time we get to spend time at one of our South African National Parks, I am impressed by the ammount of time & energy & resources we invest in conservation.

And how possible it is for South Africans & International tourists alike, to enjoy the beauty of Africa.

Friday night we settle into our very comfortable chalet.

We light a fire.

The conversation keeps on drifting back to our year’s travels.

Fond memories were made.

This we cherish as more memories take shape.

Saturday morning we meet Richard.

He is our ranger.

We go out on an early morning game drive.

We see lots of game.

A short walk to an ancient cave with Koi-San Paintings.

Their way of claiming this ancient land as their own, long after they’ve been driven into a lonely existence.

Lunch is followed by an afternoon at the swimming pool.

As the sun sets a fire comes to life again.

Black Backed Jackal the musicians who entertain is late into the night.

As I drift off to sleep with little Maddi lying on my chest, I hide some new memories in the crevices of my being.

I love it when we cook together.

We should do more trips where we cook our own food, I think, as dreams of beauty & wonder overwhelm me.

Sunday morning we head out on foot.

Richard is with us again.

This time he shows us the plants.

Excitedly talking about their medicinal value.

The old wives’ tales believed.

He shows us the little five.

Hidden amongst leaves & branches.

He’ll tell you about it as well, when you go and visit.

When the sun is high, our walk ends at the Park’s cool blue swimming pool.

We play.

We laugh.

We cook together.

And then we’re off.

The Jeep Cherokee comfortably taking our luggage and our dreams on a slow cruise through breathtaking Karoo.

The Cherokee is quiet.

As we each touch a last bit.

We’ll travel again, we agree, as we unload travel bags.

We’ll travel more.

Together.

If it be our gift.

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Lalibela Too

Congratulations to Penny Morris!  She won a two nights & three days stay,  enjoying Lalibela’s beauty, valued at R9000.00
enabling her to take 2 adults & 2 children on an awesome adventure.

The Tribe hopes you will create amazing memories.

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Location:  90 kilometers from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay on the N2 towards Grahamstown.

Date Visited: 12 – 14 October 2012 (Summer)

What we Drove: The Chrysler Grand Voyager, complements of Maritime Motors .

Where we Stayed: Mark’s Camp, one of the three four-star lodges in the Game Reserve, this one specifically designed with families and children in mind.

What we did: We had scrumptious food, awesome game viewing from open vehicles with knowledgeable guides & fantastic African entertainment alongside great conversation and time together.  This time round we had the opportunity to meet the team behind the scenes & get a better feel of what motivates them, even getting some golden nuggets about life & business.

Recommendation: This is an amazing African weekend for a family who wants to do something very special.  The proximity to Nelson Mandela Bay and the malaria free environment makes it especially wonderful when traveling with children.  Lalibela comes highly recommended.

Website: Lalibela Game Reserve

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We’ve been to Lalibela before.

We’ve experienced the luxury accommodation.

The exquisite safari cuisine.

The exceptional service.

The knowledgeable rangers.

The very helpful staff.

This time we experienced all of that along with the opportunity to get to know some of the people who created this & keeps it growing.

This time we made our way to Lalibela in the extremely comfortable Chrysler Grand Voyager.

As you get into this vehicle it is very evident that the interior was designed by Boeing.

Attention to detail, comfort & space is overwhelming.

It is a family vehicle.

The Tribe with our luggage & all of Maddi’s paraphernalia fitted into this vehicle with space to spare.

The media system, climate control & safety features are something we’ve not experienced.

The intuitive cruise control makes the 90 kilometer drive seem like a moment.

At reception we are welcomed by Marimba players & Xhosa singers serving high tea.

At Mark’s Camp, Lalibela’s Lodge, specifically geared towards families beautifully appointed rooms & personal service await.

Lalibela can accommodate 120 guests between its three lodges.

They employ 60 staff members.

You can imagine how personal & exceptional the service is.

Friday night we cook with Nomakaya & Evelyn.

Evelyn has just joined the team at Lalibela.

Nomakaya has been there for eight years.

While the kids peel vegetables & stir various dishes slowly frying in butter, Nomakaya tells us of her journey.

How she left for University after completing school.

How she did not have enough money to complete her studies.

How she found employment close to home.

Starting in the kitchen, washing dishes.

Soon making salads & learning the skill of preparing exceptional food.

The past four years she has been running the kitchen at Mark’s Camp.

Filling orders.

Creating menus.

Impressed with her own development at the hand of Linda, Lalibela’s Food & Beverage Manager.

Saturday evening we’re in for a surprise.

We’re out on a game drive.

The vehicle makes a stop at a huge ‘bush’ of indigenous trees.

Ranger Dave walks us into a fairy tale land.

Lanterns lighting our way to huge fires and magnificent food.

There we get to spend time with Linda.

She tells us of how she came from Port Elizabeth, where she was a lecturer, to Lalibela, where she discovered the joy of working with a team of ladies, collectively discovering the joy of creating tasty meals for travelers from every part of the world.

Lalibela is an exporter in many ways.

Without processing or packaging this game reserve takes South Africa to the world as foreign tourists come to be on safari.

Bringing valuable foreign currency to our shores.

And positive reputation.

At the ‘Bush Boma’, in the light of friendly lanterns we talk to a couple from England.

It is their first time at Lalibela.

They are blown away.

By the experience.

By South Africa.

They are resolved to come again.

A couple from Germany joins the conversation.

They’ve been to Africa before.

They’ve never tasted Africa as they’re tasting it tonight.

It is an experience about which they will talk for decades to come.

They take pictures as the Xhosa dancers entertain us.

Over supper an Irish couple speak of the troop of elephant they encountered.

About the pride of Lion they watched.

About the hippopotamuses & the giraffe.

They cannot believe how close they came to the animals.

How much of them they could experience.

Every single expectation has been exceeded.

‘Conservation is about much more than the animals,’ explained Vernon Wait, one of the owners, on Saturday afternoon as we spent some time at one of the swimming pools.

‘Conservation is about conserving & creating a livelihood.  It is about conserving a way of life.  It is about affecting our world.  Positively.’

Lalibela was recently the victim of Rhino poachers.

‘You must understand, we tend these animals.  We look after them.  We know when they are ill or expecting.  When one of them is hurt, we are hurt.  It is like losing a child.’ Vernon explains .

Yet they continue.

Undeterred.

Evil will always be there.

In this world.

Trying to prevent us.

Discourage us.

Steal our hope.

The best way to defeat it is by forging ahead.

Always hopeful that our efforts would be more.

Earlier I went out Cheetah-tracking with Kelly, Lalibela’s Head Ranger.

A girl in a man’s world.

Heading up a team of male rangers.

Planning the wildlife management.

Patrol routes.

Care for patrons.

We track a female Cheetah who is new to the reserve.

She’s recently had cubs.

Kelly wants to check & make sure the cubs are healthy & well.

This is what a reserve like Lalibela does.

They make sure the conditions are optimal for wildlife to flourish.

As naturally as possible.

In a world in which urban areas expand relentlessly.

‘Tourism is our best product,’ explains Rick van Zyl, the founder of Lalibela over Sunday morning coffee.

We drove to Tree Tops, another exceptional camp to meet with Rick.

We wanted to hear his story.

Of how they came from the Merryman Hotel to Lalibela.

Of this place for which the bees have foretold greatness.

I am reminded that no business appears in a moment.

It takes years, decades even, to build a successful business.

Rick & his family worked since the early 1908’s before they had enough to purchase a piece of land which would be the seed of Lalibela.

Then they worked some more.

Often seeing it through, even if it seems it just cannot continue.

‘You need people around you,’ Rick explains.  ‘I had built a network of relationships over thirty years.  And you need a bit of luck.  Someone who would believe in you.  That is the only way.  And persistence.  And resilience.  And the willingness to work and work and work some more.’

So often we listen to the stories of successful entrepreneurs & we think it was a stroke of luck or a moment of genius & they had they cake they could eat.

That is a lie.

It takes time.

Work.

Effort.

Energy.

Resilience.

To build a successful business.

It takes sacrifice as well.

‘We were fortunate in that there were quality boarding schools where our children could go,’ Rick says with a bit of reminiscence in his voice.  ‘That freed us up to work every minute of every day.’

I sip my coffee and wonder how much I will be willing to sacrifice.

For that illusive success.

Perhaps we need to decide on that before we embark on the journey.

‘The journey is everything,’ Rick remembers.

‘The journey is exciting & enjoyable.  You should savour it.  It is new & fresh & exhilarating.  The destination isn’t what life is about.  It is about how you got there.  Through all the challenges & obstacles & hope.’

The journey.

I am on it.

For that I am grateful.

Perhaps we should not fret so much?

Perhaps each road has its own destination & all we can do is travel?

Perhaps how we travel is what counts?

And so we load the Chrysler Voyager at Lalibela, saying goodbye to foreign tourists & dedicated tourism operators, and head home on a different route.

Via Salem & Kenton-on-Sea.

In Salem we see the graves of many children at the Methodist Church built in the mid 1800’s by optimistic British Settlers.

How sad our journey can be?

Marked by graves along the way.

Of children.

Of hopes.

Dreams.

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Nelson Mandela Bay – weekend 5

WIN! a set of five x day passes (valued at R1000), complements of Kingfisher FM & Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism .

The day pass gives you access to a whole range of activities & discounts.  It is a fun & affordable way to travel Nelson Mandela Bay.

Answer this question in the comments section at the bottom of this post: ‘Where did the Tribe share a festival?’

Entries close on 4 October 2012, at midnight.

Winners announced on 5 October 2012 on Kingfisher FM’s Big Breakfast.

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LOCATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is located in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  It is 763 km east of Cape Town.

DATE VISITED: 28 – 30 September 2012 (Spring)

WHAT WE DROVE: A Jeep Cherokee complements of Maritime Motors

WHAT WE DID: We visited the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum, the Prince Alfred’s Guard Drill Hall, The Campanile, No 7 Castle Hill, Settler’s Park & The Red Location Museum.  We also attended the Afri-Save Marathon & The Bird Street Bash on Trinder Square.

WHERE WE STAYED: The little house on the not so little hill

WHO GUIDED US: Craig Duffield from Mosaic Tourism

RECOMENDATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is the ultimate family destination.  There is a whole lot of history to be discovered.  This was our fifth weekend exploring our city – a tourist could easily spend a whole week experiencing new & interesting trips.  Come visit Nelson Mandela Bay!

WEBSITE: Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism

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How caught up we can become in busyness?

Entrapped, almost.

Not in life.

In work.

In worry.

Rushing from one thing to the next.

Never stopping.

Trying to achieve.

To obtain.

To survive.

Even our holidays, a rush to the next thing.

And then we stop.

To experience.

What we thought was familiar.

For 5 weekends in a row we’ve been traveling our own city.

Nelson Mandela Bay.

Beautiful she is.

Exquisite.

Breathless she left us as we discovered her to be more than we ever imagined.

Filled with a new optimism we come away from the experience.

We approached our last weekend with hesitation.

Would she have more to share with us?

More to awaken in us?

We walk through the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum.

Stunningly creative.

Hear soldiers of centuries past practice discipline on the tidy space which is the Prince Alfred’s Guard Drill Hall.

We stand at the foot of the Campanile, beautifully kept, considering the remembrance of a previous generation.

1820 settlers.

That evening we walk the corridors & rooms of No 7 Castle Hill.

Another remembrance.

Of life as it was.

For a few.

A surgeon and his family.

Two children schooled at home.

The furniture.

The art.

The decor & amenities of 180 years ago.

Conserved.

A family who left their land of birth.

To begin again.

In a new place.

We think of our new global village.

Families beginning again in many places.

Far from home.

We wonder if, once left, home could ever be found again.

We smell the ordered beauty of Settler’s Park.

Learn of the trenches, once dug to protect a city against attack.

We sit in memory boxes.

Built from rust-red corrugated iron.

Empty boxes.

Remembering the many who sacrificed.

And we think to ourselves: governments have immense responsibility.

To govern.

On behalf.

So that freedom, justice, equality & fairness may prevail.

Perhaps the history of South Africa is not so unique?

Someone always trying to take control.

To own.

To use.

Perhaps the history of South Africa is unique?

A new nation born.

Peacefully.

Slowly.

Drenched in values.

Beyond the skin & eye which divide.

‘Divide & conquer’, the warrior believes.

Imagine what would be if undivided we embrace the shared values alive in our being.

Freedom.

Justice.

Equality.

Fairness.

Imagine a society, kind & gentle.

Not controlled.

Enabled.

To live.

To be.

To do.

Create.

In Nelson Mandela Bay you will meet this society.

This people.

As we are.

And will be.

Beating a new rhythm.

On new African Drums.

Here Govan Mbeki left his footprints.

Vuyisile Mini the marks of fingers on his world.

Uncle Ray.

Ernest Malgas.

Idealists.

Dreamers who believed anything was possible.

And it is.

Even now.

As we stumblingly find our way.

The ‘struggle’ which left such a deep impression on our being was never a struggle against.

We realize as we take time to spend inside the Red Location Museum.

It was a struggle for.

Freedom.

Equality.

Justice.

On Trinder Square, that place where colonists watered their horses almost two centuries ago, we share a festival.

It is being renewed.

Into an emotion filled space.

Filled with the optimism of this city’s people.

And so we are grateful.

For being allowed to meet her again.

In all her history.

In all her present.

To be courted by her.

Invited to dance.

Without inhibition.

And so we resolve – in her we’ll come to life.

Hopeful dreamers.

Like Mbeki & Mhlaba.

Believing, without a moment’s doubt, anything is possible.

And so we invite you to come share her awesomeness.

And be wowed!

 

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Nelson Mandela Bay – weekend 4

Congratulations to Robynne Bosch & Siziwe Mnukwa!  You each win a set of five x day passes (valued at R1000), complements of Kingfisher FM & Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism .

There’s otwo more sets up for grabs, those we’ll give away next week.  😀

The day pass gives you access to a whole range of activities & discounts.  It is a fun & affordable way to travel Nelson Mandela Bay.

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LOCATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is located in the Eastern Cape of South Africa.  It is 763 km east of Cape Town.

DATE VISITED: 21 – 24 September 2012 (Spring)

WHAT WE DROVE: A Fiat Punto complements of Maritime Motors

WHAT WE DID: This was an exciting weekend.  We visited the South African Airforce Museum, Bayworld, The Donkin Reserve, Ron Belling Art Museum, St Georges Park & St Croix Motor Museum.  Monday the 24th was a public holiday & we took part in an exciting Travel Quest, a race against time from clue to clue.

WHERE WE STAYED: The little house on the not so little hill

WHO GUIDED US: Craig Duffield from Mosaic Tourism

RECOMENDATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is the ultimate family destination.  There is a whole lot of history to be discovered.  This was our fourth weekend exploring our city – a tourist could easily spend a whole week experiencing new & interesting trips.  Come visit Nelson Mandela Bay!

WEBSITE: Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism

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Afropolitan.

A good word to describe Nelson Mandela Bay.

Urban.

Culturally savvy.

Aware of European influences.

Deeply rooted in the soil of this continent.

This past weekend, as we experienced re-invented urban spaces & vintage museums, it dawned on us: Nelson Mandela Bay is utterly unique.

Johannesburg is the New York or London of our continent.

Cape Town our Paris.

Nelson Mandela Bay has no twin.

Nothing to compare it with.

It was in this city that the South African Airways was born.

It was here that motor manufacturing started on our continent.

This we learnt as we spent time at the South African Airforce Museum & St Croix Motor Museum.

Our city’s Bayworld is nothing like Florida’s Marineland.

It does offer an intimacy nowhere else to be found.

And perhaps, as tomorrow comes, this intimacy will be retained, even if it grows into a large-scale ocenarium.

Anyone interested in Africa’s past, would do well to spend time at the Donkin Reserve.

Here you’ll discover one of Africa’s oldest lighthouses.

A love-story of an officer who became a gentleman while longing for the partner who died too soon.

You’ll experience the story of freedom, creatively depicted in art & sculpture, walkways & picnic spots.

It is a positive space.

A meeting place.

Loaded with emotion.

Opportunity.

Remembrance.

Hope.

Perhaps none of the tourist brochures & websites speak of Nelson Mandela Bay & art in the same breath?

They’ve not been to the Donkin Reserve or the many other spaces with public art scattered everywhere.

They’ve not spent an afternoon at the Ron Belling Art Gallery.

Or the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum.

Or the Epsac Art Gallery.

They’ve not taken in a show at the oldest Opera House on the African Continent.

Or the Ford Little Theatre.

Or Manville Open Air Theatre.

They’ve not been mesmerized by the sounds of talented musicians busking in surprising places, un-affected by the commercialization of an industry too easily consumed by money & fame.

Culturally savvy.

More than you could ever imagine.

Have you walked St Georges Park?

Sheltered by trees planted lifetimes ago.

This city has a Campenile, which commemorates the arrival of the British Settlers, comfortably co-existing with three Mosques in close proximity to each other.

It has a Red Location Museum, which remembers the injustice of apartheid, comfortably co-existing with two Concentration Camp Commemorative sites, which remembers the injustices of the South African War (1899 -1902).

This city is more than just more beaches.

It is the heart of African optimism.

The rhythm of a new way gradually infecting new souls.

It is a good place to live.

A good place to visit.

A must experience for any traveler who wants to taste more than the plastic of piña colada‘s on overcrowded brochure-beaches.

We are fortunate to spend our days here.

To travel from this city.

To always come home.

Categories: Nelson Mandela Bay, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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