Posts Tagged With: Gamtoos

our Africa

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

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

Competition closes on: 05/12/2013

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

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

Date Visited: 22- 24 November 2012 (Summer)

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

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

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

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

Website: Baviaans Kloof & Travel Cacadu

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This is our Africa.

A world rich in diversity & deep in connection.

Beautiful.

Stunning.

Breath taking.

For the Traveling Tribe, this weekend was perfect.

Perfect timing.

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

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

Not even a stones throw.

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

At The Meadows Farmhouse a friendly welcome awaited us.

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

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

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

We find breakfast at Tolbos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An experience which cannot be described.

Surprised.

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

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

The key is left on the large ‘stoep’.

We each find a bedroom.

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

Theunsie lights a fire.

We talk.

We laugh.

We chew on our experience.

Here too is a beautiful garden.

Comfortable rooms.

Television.

Well fitted kitchen & every amenity you might need.

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

Supper is grilled on the open fire.

Coffee is served on the ‘stoep’.

Sleep is embraced.

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

Breakfast is quick.

We’re off into the Kloof.

This morning Sizwe brought Duma along.

More friendly people.

People who love the Eastern Cape.

Baviaans Kloof is an immense bit of wilderness.

The Tribe has been there before.

The kids were still small.

Raymond & Karien Staines shared it with us.

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

Then we start the drive.

I’m relieved we’re in the Landy.

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

Baviaans Kloof is breathtaking.

You need a few days to really experience it.

Today we’re just getting a reminder.

A taste.

Something to call us back to our Africa.

Along the way we stop at different viewing points.

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

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

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

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

Of how he grew up at Colseke.

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He talks about Soutpan.

About the healing plants of the Kloof.

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

We travel further.

Stop at a Bushman Cave.

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

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

He talks with sadness about how they were destroyed.

Maybe we do not sow what we reap?

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

We spot antelope.

Big game.

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

Late afternoon we arrive at Rooi Wal.

The river’s water is cool.

We swim.

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We lunch.

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

Noel starts telling us the stories of the Kloof.

Of Oom Schalk Swarts, the healer.

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

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

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

Of inexplicable experiences.

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

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

We thank Sizwe for his hospitality & kindness.

We thank Noel for his companionship & stories.

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

The beauty of it.

The diversity.

The immensity.

And the kindness.

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

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

Jeffreys Bay – Funky Town

Congratulations to Hilda Beukes from Bloemfontein in the Freestate on winning the Funky Town Flashpackers (in Jeffreys Bay) Competition.

Keep looking, we try to give away what we enjoy & experience – who knows, soon you might win your own family weekend experience.

Competition details are always here

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Location: 77 kilometres from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay in the Eastern Cape, on the N2 in the direction of Cape Town.

Date Visited: 29 June – 1 July 2012 (Winter)

Where we Stayed: Funky Town Flashpackers

Where we ate:  The Mexican, Bay Pasta Co, Sunflower, Cafe Kima, Vue de Cafe & InFood

What we drove: The Dodge Caliber, complements of Maritime Motors.

What we did: Wow!  Where to start?  We met amazing people over tables filled with delicious food.  We re-discovered relationship, went sand-boarding with Wacky Wipe-outs, visited the shell-museum, went surfing with Wavecrest Surf School , got ourselves donuts at infamous Donut World & enjoyed warm winter sun & hospitality.

Recommendation: Jeffreys Bay is an awesome coastal town not even 45 minutes drive from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay.  We’ve been there before & couldn’t resist going back.  If you cannot spend a weekend here, it is at least worth a day-trip.  It is known as Surf Capitol of the world and not without reason.  It has perfect waves in so many different spots.  The beaches are clean & white.  The environment is friendly, happy and safe.  Surfing isn’t the only offering of this fantastic destination.  There are awesome restaurants, breath-taking game viewing, horse riding, diving, fishing and sandboarding.  A visit to South Africa is not complete without a visit to Jeffreys Bay.  If you live in Nelson Mandela Bay, it is unthinkable that you would not spend a day or weekend recharging here.

For more on Jeffreys Bay, click HERE

Beautiful.

Beaches.

Food.

People.

I know we’ve visited Jeffreys Bay, before.

But when Michelle Campbell contacted us & enticed us to go back to Jeffreys Bay, with the invitation of  a stay at the newly opened Funky Town Flashpackers & the promise of seeing what we’ve not seen, we just could not resist.

What is a ‘Flashpackers‘ anyway?

It is something extraordinary, we would discover.

A stay like The Traveling Tribe has not had to date.

The Dodge Caliber, probably the best value, with the most ‘car’, for the least amount of money, available in South Africa, was an easy drive to Jeffreys Bay.

As we hit the N2, I engaged the cruise-control, only slowing down as we took the turn-off into town.

The Caliber loaded our luggage & the entire tribe with ease.

There wasn’t space for a pram, but even with Maddi’s other baby-gear nothing had to be pushed or shoved or squashed to get a spot in the boot.

At Funky Town Flashpackers we were welcomed by James & Tayrene.

And amazing art.

By Buffy Braveart, amongst others.

And covers from Tintin books & pictures of  a ’67 VW Fleetline Combi & Vespa Scooters & comic book characters on the walls, mixed with exquisitely beautiful furniture, tastefully combined with little surprises hidden everywhere.

We take our luggage upstairs.

We are drawn to the lounge-area for drinks & conversation.

James’ passion for Funky Town is very evident.

As is his very beautiful soul as he comfortably mingles with my bizarre children who have no concept of age or appropriate as children-of-the-system might have or as adults might very often expect.

For which I cannot blame them.

As it is Zuko & I who took the bold step of raising them in the spirit of non-conformity & authenticity, to the detriment of most lovers of all things appropriate.

James talks of the art.

The decor.

The opportunity of bringing something new & fresh to a world filled to the brim with the same-old, same-old, same-old stuff.

A ‘flashpackers’ combines the opulence & comfort of up-market accommodation with the social-opportunity of meeting & discovering new people.

Cooking together in the state-of-the-art kitchen.

Sharing the fire or drinks at the bar.

Enough privacy & comfort in your own en-suite room.

With just the right amount of ‘social’ to remind you why you loved traveling in the first place.

If anything should be mentioned about this weekend in Jeffreys Bay, it is the amount of wonderfully interesting people we met & spent time with.

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Michelle Dean at The Mexican, where we had supper on Friday night.

A wife & mother, who alongside her husband wanted more of a family life & translated their entertaining at home into a business which brings people together & creates relationship.

Jane who was so into Food that she started InFood & became loved for her food, beyond Jeffreys Bay.

She served us breakfast on Saturday morning & spoke of finding ourselves & being true to our own being & walking away from that which is not us, always finding more in honesty & success in enjoyment.

Bruce at The Sunflower who took disappointment & translated it into new opportunity, alongside his father.

Andonis at The Bay Pasta Co, who alongside his brother, wanted to be close to Jeffreys Bay’s infamous waves & ventured into the world they grew up in, to create something of their own which is exceptional & accessable & delicious all at the same time.

Marlene who created Vue de Cafe, a quaint Beachfront Cafe serving breakfasts & luncheons to droves of hungry beachgoers & tourists & locals, while she would fulfill a dream & build a new life.

On Saturday afternoon, after we surfed & explored & enjoyed scrumptious food we were met by a crowd of locals at Funky Town.  They say they came to meet us & they are very kind.  I think they came because they were curious about Funky Town Flashpackers & wanted to see for themselves the beautiful art & exquisite decor everyone is talking about.

Liz is a dancer, model & performer.

That is how she made her living.

She ‘is’ a kind heart.

An embracing soul.

A refined spirit.

Sonja is there with her daughter.  They talk of tomorrow & yesterday all at the same time.

Of hope & disappointment.

Of doing everything different & doing it as expected.

The three of them join us later at The Bay Pasta Co for Andonis’ deeply rich food.

But first we also meet Maureen who made a living writing contracts, before coming to Jeffreys Bay, by chance & starting a (now hugely succesful) blog on everything Kindle related.

Saturday morning saw us spending time with Andre Moon from Wavecrest Surf School.

A man who love the ocean & his family & found a way of bringing it all together in one place.

Sunday we spend time on the dunes with Reg or Regardt, depending on who you are & what language you speak.  He gets even me sandboarding like a professional.

While the children’s impossible energy remains undrained we talk high up on a dune with the warm winter’s sun on our faces.  He grew-up in this world.  Came here as a young boy when both his parents died.

Grew up with grandparents.

Found his way through life.

Into surfing.

And sandboarding.

Not only creating a tourism business, but also manufacturing sand-boards & assisting with the creation of a lodge.

Beautiful.

Beautiful people.

All around us.

All weekend long.

Tayrene of Funky Town talks of her excitement to be building such an exciting new venture.

James, who came up with the idea & brought it to reality, speaks of reminiscence.

Of remembering where we came from, despite where we were or what we tasted.

Of hope, always alive.

Even if the flame burns low at times.

And he loves.

And embraces.

Us.

And our children.

And it is visible in the Funky Town of his imagination.

Somewhere along the weekend we also get the chance to enjoy the jacuzzi.

A warm pit-fire.

The best donut in the world from ‘Donut World’.

On Sunday at lunch we catch up with Margreet from Healthy Mom& Baby Clinic.

We sit outside at Cafe Kima.

The food is tasty.

The rhythm slow.

We talk of her recent trip to The Netherlands.

Of our mutual love for Africa.

Of hope found in relationship.

Of  relationship across boundaries.

Affecting us.

James drives up.  His car is loaded.  He is heading back to Cape Town.  He just wanted to say goodbye.

We exchange kind words.

Pippa leans into the car, intruding personal space without hesitation to give a farewell hug. Theunsie offers a firm handshake.

I wonder if we’ll see each other again?

It was almost to brief.

Too fleeting.

And yet so very intimate.

Then we eat.  And talk to Ilse, the manager of Cafe Kima.  Another beautiful being.  Living close to family & friends in the slow dance that is Jeffreys Bay.  Food in her soul.  Hope in her heart.

Margreet says goodbye.

And as the late afternoon gives way to evening we load our bags & say our own goodbye at Funky Town.

The Dodge Caliber accepts the relaxed speed I choose with as much ease as it would a more urgent acceleration.

We savour the last moments of our weekend together.

Pippa talks of different lives seen.

Which is good.

For if we think that everyone is as us, then we make the mistake of expecting everyone to give themselves up.

Zuko & I talk of the people we met & the ones we connected with.

We talk of our desire to love & be loved.

Unconditionally.

For who we are.

And not what we have or can offer.

We talk of time.

The greatest gift we can give to each other.

The most precious gift we can receive.

And we resolve to never let it be about the stuff.

To always let it be about the relationship.

Ours with each other.

And with others.

Beautiful.

Becoming.

More.

Categories: Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Bergrivier

Location: 55 kilometres from Port Elizabeth, Nelson Mandela Bay in the Gamtoos-region of the Eastern Cape, South Africa

Date Visited: 3 – 5 February 2012 (Summer)

Website: Bergrivier

Recommendation: Bergrivier is the ideal self-catering weekend destination for a family who enjoys nature, the outdoors & getting away from the rush & noise of the city.

Booking Information: +27422860694 or +27822003350 or japiewms@bergrivier.com

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We left Nelson Mandela Bay just after three that afternoon.

It was Friday.

It was raining as if it hadn’t rained for months.

We’d been looking forward to our weekend at Bergrivier.

We weren’t going to let the rain take it away from us.

It had been a tough week.

Early mornings.

Long hours at work.

Lots to deal with.

The great thing about Bergrivier is its proximity to Nelson Mandela Bay.

It wasn’t even 45 minutes before we stopped our Landy at the reception area.

Japie & Dori, the owners of Bergrivier, welcomed us & showed us to our accommodation.  A magnificent rock-cottage on a slight rise with the most exquisite view of mountains & forest.

This is Bergrivier’s best.

Two bedrooms, a bathroom & generous open plan living area with a kitchen.

Japie crafted this cottage over a 12 month period.

With his own hands.

The attention to detail is astounding.

It sleeps six.

We are five.

On Friday night it rains incessantly.

We settle in.

With supper Dori also brings some extra board games.

We packed our Backgammon-set.  And our playing cards.  Enough books.  If the rain kept us indoors, we would not be stranded.

At Bergrivier you could choose the catered option & you wouldn’t be making a mistake – Dori’s food is wonderful.

The variety of accommodation & options at Bergrivier is another attractive feature.

You could stay as we did, in the very comfortable rock-cottage, dinner, bed & breakfast at R310 per person.

Or you could go self-catering at R200 per person, staying in the rock-cabin, the log-cabin or the rondawel.

You could also stay in the Pioneer-camp at R120 per person.  This must be quite the experience as you spend the night in a completely restored ox-wagon, with ‘Oom Hoffie’ coming round in the morning to teach you everything about the history of South African Pioneers.

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Bergrivier is steeped in history.

The land has been under the family’s care since 1862.  They saw the arrival of the narrow-gauge railroad in the early twentieth century, as well as its redundancy a mere 80 years later.

From the camping grounds, which is your third accommodation option at Bergrivier (R50 per person), you can see the original homestead on the banks of the river.

There is a river here.

A beautiful one.

On Saturday morning when we wake up, the skies are clear.

Dori serves us a hearty breakfast before we take the children to spend some time with ‘Oom Hoffie’ at the ox-wagons.

Then we take the hike along the river to the waterfall.

It takes us two hours to get there.  After the heavy rain the river is a bit fuller than usual.  The waterfall is strong.  We swim.  The children invent a slide down the waterfall.

Laughter joins the call of the Knysna Loerie high up in trees.

Late afternoon we find our way back to our cottage.

It was a magnificent Saturday.

We smelled the forest.

We touched a river crab.

We saw the bright red & green of the Knysna Loerie as it swooped down between us to grab a spider from its web.

We felt damp mulch & cool mountain water on our feet.

We spoke.

Laughed.

Swam.

Zuko takes a shower while the children excitedly remember the details of our afternoon.

We laugh at the video of Zuko taking on the Waterfall slide with her 7-month pregnant body.

Supper is served at the Pioneer-camp.

A traditional lamb-potjie.

Japie entertains us with stories of his childhood on Bergrivier.  Of neighbors long gone and a time long forgotten.

As the sun sets we find our way to our cottage.

We have time to read.

To talk.

To drift off to sleep.

Sunday is leisurely.

We walk again.

We swim.

We read.

Bergrivier is a place to slow down.

It is a place to kindle relationships.

To discover what might’ve been lost.

It is a place to visit & re-visit.

Its proximity to Nelson Mandela Bay & its affordability making it quite possible to visit & re-visit.

It is an unpretentious place.

As we drive home I ask our children: so, did you enjoy the weekend?

‘Yes!” they exclaim.

‘One day I’m bringing my children to swim in that waterfall’, says Theunsie.

And I believe him.

Click HERE to Watch Our Family Video 🙂

Categories: Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , | 25 Comments

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