Posts Tagged With: Family Travel

Every bus-route has an end

A while ago we took bus 35, the only bus which runs from our little Chinese village to the nearby city of Liangxiang, in the opposite direction.

Away from Liangxiang.

Along the way we got off & discovered the most beautiful organic fruit farm.

Today we decided to take the bus again.

Same direction.

But ride it until it stops.

Or returns to our village.

After 30 minutes it stopped, of ambling along beautiful country roads & through picturesque little villages.

The conductor asking us to disembark.

Google Maps, with the helpmof a sturdy VPN, informed us that we were in ZuCun, or Zu Village.

The place didn’t look like much, but we’ve learnt that the most exquisite treasures are around the corner, if only we are willing to take a walk.

Life is often like this.

Somewhere the bus stops & then we have to get off & if we are willing to walk where we are, we might just experience something great.

In the streets of Zu Village, as in the streets of all the villages on the way, corn is spread to dry, workers carefully turning it & working it, so the corn may fall off the cob & dry in the sun.

Happy yellow greet us everywhere.

We get ice cream from the nearest shop.

Then we walk.

Past old Chinese homes.

A pond where old men are fishing.

Then a country road.

Fields of corn & cabbage & nuts & berries.

A river accompanying us & friendly locals greeting us, as we make our way.

We walk past a paper factory.

Small.

Unobtrusive.

Then a dam & sluices.

More fruit trees.

More fields of vegetables

Probably we’ll never set foot in Zu Village again.

But we were here.

We saw the old man & his dog, making a vegetable garden on its sidewalks.

We spoke to the boy who waits for the bus, at the end of its line, to carefully wash & clean it, while driver & conductor enjoy a meal.

We sat in the shade of an old Willow Tree.

Greeted the old men as they waited for a fish to bite & spent a moment with a Mom and her toddler who wanted to take a picture with Maddi & Sophia.

It wasn’t a ‘wow’-moment.

It was a quiet one.

Calm.

A needed one.

We need quiet moments along our way.

We can’t always be on the Great Wall or at the Forbidden City.

In fact, mostly, real life, I think, is lived along forgotten paths, near insignificant little villages,  where few tourists make their way.

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Tangyuan, Heilongjiang, Northeastern China

Our Tribe loves traveling together.

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Sometimes it is impossible & we travel vicariously through each others’ experiences.

When Xia Yin invited us to join her family for a day trip to Tangyuan,  I knew I won’t be able to join in, but encouraged Zuko & the girls to enjoy the day.

They left at 07h00 from Jiamusi.

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Tangyuan is just 50 kilometres away.

You can get there by car, bus or train.

Jiamusi is surrounded by beautiful, exquisite towns, filled with beautiful exquisite people & hugged by stunning parks, mountains & forests.

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By 08h30 they arrived in Tangyuan.

At the temple.

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For Zuko’s travel companions this was an important day.

There are many temples all over China, but this one is special.  It is buzzing with activity.  Monks spending months at a time here, studying, meditating, praying.

Our friends pray.

Zuko & the girls taste the holy space.

A monk befriends Maddi.

Gives her a hug & green stone bracelet.

Inside this space they do not take pictures, respecting the sanctity of the moment.

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From the temple they take a tractor train to the forest.

Beautiful Asian trees & wooden decks greet them.

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They play games.

They love games.

They share a meal.

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They talk.

Mostly with smiles & gentle touching, for language is limited.

They nap & relax on the hangmats.

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Take a walk into the mountain.

Listen to the sound of the wind rustling through leaves.

Then the return by tractor-train to the temple & from there they head out back towards Jiamusi.

On the way, they stop for dinner along the Shongua River.

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Barbeque meat on sticks are very popular.

Corn is picked in the fields right next to the restaurant.

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They play some more.

Eat some more beautiful food.

And then the day is gone.

And as they tell their story, we resolve, in October, when I have a few days, they’ll take me there too & maybe we’ll follow the track of the train, disembarking wherever it stops, spending a day, to embark again, to see another little town, meet more beautiful people, taste a different China.

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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.

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

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.

Categories: 10 Day Trips, information, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 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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Categories: information, Ocean Liners, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Whispers of Wilderness (Mini vs Maxi Day 2 & 3)

(In South Africa September is ‘Tourism Month’.  As part of the launch, Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency invited me to join them on a four day promotion, as their guest, discovering some more of this adventure province.)

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Glimpses of Spring gave way to rain during the night.

We woke to a world as refreshed as our souls.

Breakfast at Prana Lodge is a stylish affair.

We say our goodbyes & head towards Inkwenkwezi Lodge.

An easy drive, despite the rain, in our comfortable VW Amarok.

At Inkwenkwezi we meet Elephant & Cheetahs up close & personal, Israel, our guide telling us stories of these ‘children’ of his.

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For lunch we head to Kidd’s Beach, meeting Malcolm & Terri at Breeze Inn Bed & Breakfast.

They’ve created a home away from home for travellers.

An exquisite view combined with exquisite food.

They tell us of Hamburg & the Fish River Lighthouse and as we head towards Bathurst, we take small detours along the way.

In Hamburg we meet Luvuyo at his boxing club for kids.

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We talk of hope.  Of change. Of giving children someone to look up too.

We meet Noluntu as well.

At the Keiskamma Art Project.

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We’re astounded by the talent & resilience of artists hidden in this village.

We’re reminded that travel is about more than main routes & arriving at your destination on time.

From Hamburg the Amorak takes us Lighthouse hunting.

The Lighthouse at Fish River was errected in 1898.

It still works & beautifully kept.

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On our way to the Lighthouse we ask a group of ladies for directions.

They’re on their way to the Lighthouse as well.

Not as tourists, but for a funeral.

We invite them to ride with us, as they are on foot & even though it is a quick drive, as pedestrians they would only reach their destination well after dark.

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We greet & pray a safe journey to each other.

‘Hamba kahle’.

It is late afternoon already.

We find our way to the Pig & Whistle Hotel in a beautiful old english town with a huanted hotel, the oldest licensed pub in South Africa, amazing artists & musicians and stunning people.

We start the evening in the hotel’s pub.

We do supper at the Thursty Monkey.

Breakfast at Flutterbeys.

We browse art shops & antique shops & vintage clothing shops.

I find a book we’d been talking about in a second hand book store & bump into an old friend from days when the next day’s homework was the most we had to worry about.

All the while accompanied by the ‘Mayoress’ of Bathurst who is also the organizer of the Bathurst Country Affair, which takes place annually in October.

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I fall in love with the work of a carver.

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And with a people who’ve created something stunning, from history & hope & diversity.

You need time to travel.

To taste & experience.

Time to linger.

Allow places & people to seep into your being.

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But time we do not have on this trip, a pre-cursor for journeys to come.

Perhaps with my Zuko & Tribe by my side.

As the sun sits high we check out at the hotel, load our luggage, say more goodbyes.

Amakhala Game Reserve is waiting for us.

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Beautiful African Rooms.

Unending views.

Exceptional service.

Game viewing & new friends.

We’re staying at Amakhala’s Safari Lodge where Kayi & Bernie welcome us & settle us in, before high tea is served, to sustain us through our game drive into supper.

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We’re joined by the Steinhouzers from Germany as we view Giraffe, Lion & Elephant, along with Zebra and an assortment of other wildlife.

There is a stop as the sunset.

Drinks.

Conversation.

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As I listen to this European family talk of their experiences, I am reminded, to always look at my country through their eyes.

Perhaps tourism operators would do good to do that too.

To see its beauty as if for the first time.

To be in awe & wonder of its magnificence.

To savour her, the mother who sustains us.

To embrace the diversity, a breathtaking tapestry, keeping us warm.

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Supper is butternut soup, lamb shank & pears soaked in a sweet red wine sauce.

The conversation is slow & excited all at the same time.

As I find my way to my rooms, late in the evening, I listen for the whispers of wilderness.

The quiet whispers here at Amakhala.

The insistent whispers of the past few days, deep inside my being.

‘It is good’.

‘It will be well.’

‘We are fortunate.’

And I smile, for it is truth.

Categories: information, Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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