Posts Tagged With: Resort

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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The silent howl of Heterogeneity (mini vs maxi Day 1)

(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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The holler of contrast – this is what we experienced on our first day of exploring this adventure province with Eastern Cape Tourism.

We woke up at Meander Inn to the bustling sounds an smells of early morning at an old fashioned Inn, where travelers become friends as they trade and buy and promote and ply.

Unbeknownst to us, the day held excitement & solitude.

I’m without my Tribe on this trip.  They’ve graciously allowed me to head out & explore this little bit of Eastern Cape.  Perhaps we’ll be fortunate enough to come & explore together, the gems I might find along the way.

Uzi & Esti are my travel companions.

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Uzi works as internal auditor for the Eastern Cape Parks & Tourism Agency.

Esti, represents St Francis Bay Tourism.

After fueling the VW Amarok, we head out of East London, towards Durban.

We’re not heading to Durban.

We’re just traveling in that directions to Areena River Resort & later to Prana Lodge in Cintsa East.

At Areena we’re met by Jarod who takes us Quad Biking on the resort’s reserve.

This is a family resort with chalets, camping & loads of activities on the river’s edge.  Other than quad biking, they also offer zip-lining, canoeing,  boating, walks, paintball – a lot of stuff my little Tribe would love.

Jarod takes us through the motions of how to operate the Quad Bikes.

We’re joined by a family from Johannesburg.

Their kids scream & laugh as we swoop up the hills & down the valleys.

They’re mesmerised as we meet Abby, the resort’s only male Giraffe.

What an experience.

Abby is an 8 year old fully grown Giraffe.

He was rescued & hand-reared.

He comes to us, as if we are old friends, smelling us, reaching down with his long neck to solicit a little bit of affection.

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This is an African Experience.

Not the fake kind, so often orchestrated for international tourists.

An authentic one.

The Africa we live & have come to expect.

The Africa we love.

We spend two hours exploring Areena River Resorts Hills & Valleys.

From our open Quad Bikes we see Zebra, Blesbuck, Wildebeest & an assortment of smaller game.  We even get a glimpse of their 7 other Giraffe,  gracefully picking the softest leaves from tree tops.

Then we do lunch at the resort’s restaurant, before heading to Prana Lodge.

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It is a quick drive to Prana Lodge, in the VW Amarok.

Here we are met by this 5-star Lodge’s very friendly reception staff.

Three beautiful ladies.

One Dutch.

One Zulu.

One Xhosa.

This is Africa too.

She is exciting & diverse.

Sophisticated & adventurous.

Prana brings us silence.

Calm.

Rest.

The rooms are luxurious & oppulent.

After refreshing & spending an hour reading, I head to the Lodge’s Treatment centre where I am met by Nom from Thailand.

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Prana Lodge offers a comprehensive Thai Treatment Centre.

People coming from far & wide, to rejuvinate, reconnect,  relax & listen.

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While Nom treats me to a massage,  my body relaxes & my mind empties of concern.

I think of Zuko, who should be here with me.

Of the beautiful life we share.

Of the stunning adventure which is our life.

Of new chapters, persistent hope, intimacy, relationship & affection.

Supper is a slow affair.

We’re joined by Gail, the owner of the Lodge.

We hear of her family.

Of a lifetime of holidays spent on the property.

Of children raised & finally getting away from Johannesburg to create the sanctuary they’ve always dreamed of.

The food is exquisite.

Tasty.

Beautifuly presented.

Prana Lodge receives day visitors, overnight guests,  small executive conferencing groups.

Their 43 staff always ready to cater to the needs of a handful of guests.

I would imagine, a couple could spend a weekend here & go home reconnected.

A stressed out businesses-person could come here & go home rejuvinated.

With new focus.

New hope.

New ideas.

We have to little opportunity to think, consider, read, in a very fast-paced, high-demand world.

Prana Lodge certainly offers the perfect environment for someone who is hoping to refresh & reach again.

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Decor & furnishings are understated, yet oppulent.

Service is calming, yet perfect.

Food is couture,  yet scrumptious.

The beach a minute’s walk away.

The silence & solitude stunning.

After supper I find my room turned down, my bed welcoming.

And rest engulfs me.

My soul tasting rejuvenation,  after but a moment.

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The Republic of Swellendam

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

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

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

Date Visited: 19 – 28 July 2013 (Winter)

Where we Stayed: Stonehill River Lodge

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Other Great Accommodation Options:

Wildebraam Berry Estate

Arumvale Country House

Roosje van de Kaap Herberg

Braeside Guesthouse

Barrydale Karoo Hotel

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

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

Visited the Sulina Faerie Sanctuary in Swellendam

Went Horse Riding at Two Feathers Horse Trails in Swellendam

Crossed the Breede River by Pontoon at Malagas

Spent a day in Suurbraak & Barrydale.

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

Went Mountain Biking in Stonehill River Lodge‘s reserve.

Visited Cape Agulhas.

Visited the Shipwreck Museum in Bredasdorp.

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

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Swellendam Explore Day 4

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“However you disguise it, this thing does not change: / The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil.”

According to Dean Koontz, these are the words of T.S. Elliott.

He quotes it in relation to Odd Thoms’ latest epic adventure.

I claim it, for myself, as I consider the day’s experiences, making sense, or trying too, of the nagging feeling with which I came away from a little village on the banks of the Breede River.

We’re lounging on the couch, late afternoon, back at Stonehill River Lodge, after a full day.

The kids are playing outside.

Little Maddi is at our feet with a selection of pots & spoons.

I wonder if she is emulating Zuko’s prowess in the kitchen or just mindlessly clanging?

Zuko & I are enjoying a cup of Masterton’s.

Our Kindles the doorway to vivid adventures we can pause whenever we need or page over, should they be mundane.

” … and evil is not always that recognizeable, oft disguised as the good it doth despise … ”

The words echo in my being, as I digest the Odd adventures conjured by Koontz, mixed with my own.

Breakfast was a festive affair.

Everyone excited to make the journey to Malagas where we would cross the Breede River by Ferry.

Crossing a river by ferry is not so much a fireworks & orchestra playing the soundtrack of ‘ Chariots of Fire’ kind of occasion.

Although there is something stomach churning about driving a R500 000 vehicle onto a float, running the risk, even if ever so small, of having it float away into the Atlantic Ocean, or sinking to the shallow bottom of a once often traversed river.

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Malagas, it seems, was once a busy little harbour town.

A place from which farmers & traders moved goods between the Overberg and Cape Town.

‘Barry & Neefs’ making a decent living, while providing a much needed service.

Perhaps the 1800’s were a simpler time.

Perhaps not.

The Chrysler Grand Voyager,  kindly sponsored to us by Maritime Motors, impressed with its comfort & road holding on the 40 kilometre drive through yellow canola fields.

The video screens & sound system silent, as we watch a crop duster flying low, a mist at its tail.

Once across the river, we drive through the little town, now predominantly populated by holiday makers who enjoy boating & water sports.

The old stone Dutch Reformed Church & the white washed trading store the only reminders, alongside the ferry, that any kind of history is hidden here.

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The Church is locked.

The bell’s ring silent, until my children boldly call the good to come and worship to no avail.

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We lunch at the Malagas Hotel.

A pleasant enough lunch.

A kind waitress.

The owners somewhat aloof.

As we pay our bill they reluctantly divulge the little bit of information that they’ve lived here sixteen years, building the hotel from a guest house into the many roomed accomodation it now offers, with house boats for rent & green lawns for children to enjoy.

At the trading store we encounter a more talkative resident.

The ‘Tannie’ (older lady) eager to share conversation.

The businesses has been in her husband’s family for more than one hundred years.

They’ve been living here, selling goods, for almost three decades.

She speaks of how life has changed.

How businesses has slowed.

Of the young ones leaving for Cape Town.

The old ones stuck with memories & they’re own sad conversation.

Theunsie & Wilhelmina buy sweets.

Zuko gets some milk & cheese & cooldrink from the fridge, while Sophia & Forest study a display of old cameras.

When Malagas was settled a camera was a rare commodity.

Theunsie takes pictures of a display of old cigarette boxes with his mobile phone, then WhatssApss it to the group of friends he created before we left Nelsin Mandela Bay.

Replenished we point the Chrysler Grand Voyager towards Infanta.

Sophia wants to know if that is where they make Fanta.

At the end of the road we find a deserted holiday village, where the Breede River runs into the ocean.

Some homes are new & oppulent.

Some old & dilapidated.

Population 56, says the website on Zuko’s tablet.

They must all be in town for the day, I think to myself, as we pose for  picture at the entrance to this village, before we head back home.

At Malagas we cross the river by ferry again.

And now we read.

And think.

“However you disguise it, this thing does not change: / The perpetual struggle of Good and Evil” … and evil is not always that recognizeable, oft disguised as the good it doth despise . . .

Images of ‘Barry & Neefs’ loading cargo, of that old Tannie’s in-laws one hundred years ago, perfectly dressed on Sunday, to worship at the stone Church, shabby in blue overalls on Monday, to make their living, the children at the school we could not find – they play vividly in my imagination.

A ferry relentlessly moving people & cargo & carriage from one side of the Breede River to the other.

I wonder, do we even consider, as Elliot & Koontz do, the strughle of good & evil, as we make our way from one generation to the next?

Do we question our motivation?

Or is it simple?

A bit of money earned.

A bit of respite enjoyed.

A bit of bitterness in our age, before we pass it on.

So that our children may prevail.

A few old buildings.

A few stacked shelves.

A display of neatly preserved cigarette boxes our reminder.

Perhaps it is.

Simple.

But as I sit here with my Zuko, the sound of children emerging into their own adulthood outside, little Maddi unaware,  clanging at pots & pans with mass produced utensils,  I hope it could be more.

More than just a bit of prevailing.

At least for us.

I hope our lives could spill some meaning.

Beyond a living earned or the bitterness of age.

Perhaps relationship could be our building.

Connection our trading store.

Perhaps we are constructing.

Even as we live.

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Swellendam Explore Day 3

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Every time we travel, we are reminded of how ‘loose’ life can become.

Every time we travel, we are reminded of how important it is to choose time spent together, with the people we value, to grow our connection.

In the end, after all is said & done, our relationships are all we have.

They’re the most important.

Our life partner.

Our children.

Our friends.

As our third day in the swellendam area comes to an end, I make a knot in my ear. Another in my heart.

To remember.

Balance.

As the sun sets I look at little Maddi running around, I think of our son, who was smaller than a toddler, less than a wink ago.

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Today we didn’t drive anywhere.

We rented bicycles & cycled through the Stonehill Reserve.

We played some cards.

Another game of chess on the large outdoor chess board.

We read some.

We slept some.

We walked some.

It is interesting how our concerns can consume is.

Isolate us.

Even if we re physically present.

Lost in that maze of worry & striving.

Under the bush, like a hopeless prophet.

We need to intentionally engage.

Each other.

For it is in our collectiveness that we succeed.

We need to slow down, create opportunities to talk, listen, think.

Sitting was frowned upon as I grew up.

‘Why are you doing nothing?’ the question always came s I was sitting, staring into my being, dreaming, thinking.

That is industrious too.

Now.

At 42.

I think it would be good if I could recapture that.

Think more.

Be more.

Take time to taste.

Allowing the moment to touch me.

Seep through my skin into my being.

Theunsie handles the braai while Zuko & I talk, sipping slowly from the moment.

After supper we read.

Zuko is enjoying a Steampunk Fantasy Sci-Fi Adventure.

I’m lost in the world of Odd Thomas.

Taking a breath.

That is good.

Taking a breath alongside people you love.

By whom you are loved.

That is better.

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Swellendam Explore Day 2

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Odd Thomas, my favorite character in Dean Koontz’s repertoire,  has this ‘ability’ of being ‘drawn’ to stuff he concentrates on.  I think Odd himself calls it ‘psychic magnetism’.

On our second day exploring Swellendam, we experienced this.

The sun had already set when we arrived on Friday evening.

Saturday morning we woke up to a stunning view of the Breede River & fresh Canola fields.

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We’re staying at Stonehill River Lodge, just outside Swellendam.

Or rather, perfectly positioned between Swellendam, Barrydale & Malgas.

We hope to discover all these places, but today we’d prefer not to go anywhere.  Stretching our legs & enjoying the tranquillity of Stonehill, just for a moment, before we plunge into the rest.

As we prepare breakfast, Zuko reminds us that we need to get some fruit & vegetables.   We read about a lovely organic market in Swellendam & so we pile into the Chrysler Grand Voyager for the short drive to town.

Swellendam is very beautiful.

Settled in 1745.

The 4th oldest town in South Africa with many original buildings well preserved.

You could spend a whole day walking from museum to museum, enjoying the architecture,  taking in the history, getting a feel for a South Africa of long ago.

We’re just hunting fruit & vegetables.

We find the market.

Zuko gets stunning fresh produce, including organic heritage seeds to take home & rusks & nuts & an interesting quince extract created by a Korean family who settled here many years ago.

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Satisfied that we’d be able to feed a Tribe for the next few days, we load the Voyager’s spacious boot & start heading out of town, back to Stonehill.

We turn, turn again.

Swellendam is not a large town in which you should get lost.

The next moment we’re driving past this beautiful Village’s Fearie Sanctuary.

We stop.

We go in.

We get lost in time, space, love & peace.

The Fearie Mother eventually finds us.

We listen to the story of how the sanctuary came to life over 22 years.

About children growing up.

Neighbours infected with love, as everything the sanctuary represents spills across boundaries & fences.

We drink from the fountain of people who just gave themselves to being.

Everything which was alive inside of them.

We all desire love.

Peace.

We all hope to be connected somehow.

We express ourselves differently.

Use different words & language.

Our hope is not that different.

To be loved for who we are.

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To be known.

Truly known.

To be part of something.

Something greater than the sum of our individuality.

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As we say our goodbyes, the Fearie Mother puts a spell of happiness on us.

We each receive a tiny bottle of fearie dust & the instruction to sprinkle it wherever we go.

Some sprinkle water.

Others sing songs or whisoer words.

We all express hope.

To bring happiness.

To taste what is beautiful.

When the Chrysler Grand Voyager comes to a stop at Stonehill it is afternoon already.

We walk.

We play chess.

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We talk.

As the sun sets, Theunsie lights a fire in our fireplace.

Zuko cooks the most beautiful meal.

We talk about how we were ‘drawn’ to the Fearie Sanctuary.

How we are ‘drawn’ to each other.

How we could ‘draw’ others close to us.

As love, happiness & kindness spill from us into our world.

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Swellendam Explore Day 1

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It has been a while since we’ve done publicized travels.

Its not that we’ve not traveled.

We’ve been to the beautiful Kromme Island Estate, we’ve spent time in Somerset East & we’ve visited Bloemfontein, as well as the magnificent Kingdom of Lesotho.

Beautiful journeys, shared with beautiful people.

Travel is in our DNA.  its as if we can’t help ourselves.

But we’ve not blogged about it.

There were no competitions in which you could win your own travel experience.

No pictures or video or radio interviews.

In the past few months quite a bit has happened.

Maddi has gone from a new-born baby to being a toddler who runs all over the place & vociferously expresses her every desire.

Theunsie turned thirteen.

We held his l’homme de la liberte, his coming of age, where he told us about his being, who he is & what he values.  Since he has been living in freedom, making his own decisions with us around him, guiding him, advising him, so that he can learn about life & becoming in a safe environment, making mistakes, and choosing beautifully,  for life is a magnificent combination of both.

It is good to remember that we are an ‘us’.

It is good to be reminded that love & acceptance has nothing to do with performancemor compliance.

For us this has worked well, as Theunsie (and even Wilhelmiena) emerges into adult-hood, through puberty and being teenagers,  avoiding the typical rebellion parents so often complain about.

Its a different way of doing.

Theunsie also found his first girlfriend.

The beautiful Hannah.

She calls herself Forest & we oblige.

It is pretty innocent.

Holding hands.

Sitting close.

Beautiful to see him slowly, yet confidently exploring this new world of becoming ‘us’.

It is stunning to be witnesses to this natural progression from being child into being man.

It is scary too.

As we wonder if we ‘did well’ as parents?

If we ‘gave him what he needs’ in the few years he was entrusted to us.

When they are born, we think we have many years.

But we don’t.

It is a moment since weld held him in our arms for the first time.

And now he is reaching forward.

Into life.

And we have the privilege of sharing it with him.

Hannah, or rather Forest, is joining us on our Swellendam Explore.

We tried to do this 2 years ago – not the bringing along of Forest thing – the exploring of Swellendam & surrounds.

We had just arrived, when we were told a wonderful friend had passed away & our Swellendam Explore turned into a trip to the Kalahari Thirstland, a funeral in the shade of an ancient ‘Kameel Doring Boom’ & the very surprising news that at 41 we’re expecting another child.

Now, as I write, that child has emerged as little Maddi-Boo, who is sitting on my lap, in the lounge at Stonehill River Lodge’s lounge, as I share these thoughts.

We arrived here just before 7 last night.

The drive was stunning.

The Chrysler Grand Voyager, sponsored to us for this trip, by Maritime Motors, a truly magnificent vehicle.  Spacious. Comfortable. Responsive. The interior designed to take a Tribe like ours (and all our luggage) on an unforgettable voyage.

After a bit more than 6 hours traveling we weren’t tired at all.

We unloaded.

Lit a fire.

Started relaxing.

We shared supper.

Slowly flowing into the rhythm of being on an explore.

The kids spoke about the things we’re looking forward too: going horse riding at Two Feathers, crossing the river by pontoon at Malagas, cycling through the reserve here at Stonehill River Lodge and exploring a fairy land in Swellendam.

We hope to see some old friends too.

In Gansbaai, perhaps on our way home in Knysna.

We hope to make new friends.

As we share this journey.

This moment in a journey much larger.

Maybe, along the way, we could become together.

More of who we are.

Exquisitely woven soul & matter.

Beautifully born, to taste, experience, connect & share.

We hope you will travel with us.

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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.

________________________________________________________________________

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 2

CONGRATULATIONS to Navadia Marnay & Lungile Mnukwa.  They each won 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.

The next winners will be announced on Friday 21/09/2012 on Kingfisher FM’s Big Breakfast.

_______________________________________________________________________________________

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

DATE VISITED: 7 & 8 September 2012 (Spring)

WHAT WE DROVE: A Jeep Grand Cherokee complements of Maritime Motors

WHAT WE DID: We went on a Township Tour on Friday afternoon & evening exploring the Red Location Precinct, Njoli Sqaure & Township life in general, meeting beautiful people along the way.  On Saturday we did the South End Museum Tour & then relaxed at The Willows Resort, enjoying their fabulous amenities for the rest of the weekend.

WHERE WE STAYED: The Willows Beach Resort

WHO GUIDED US: Craig Duffield from Mosaic Tourism

RECOMENDATION: Nelson Mandela Bay is the ultimate family destination.  This weekend was immensely interesting & with out a doubt I would recommend anyone to try and fit both activities into their itinerary.  For the township tour I would suggest utilizing an experienced guide who know the people & area.

WEBSITE: Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism

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This weekend was a weekend of contrasts.

It challenged us.

Made us think about who we are & where we are & what we do.

We were driving the very comfortable & very opulent Jeep Grand Cherokee.

Probably the most luxurious vehicle we’ve driven in a long-long time.

It’s powerful 3.6 Pentastar V6 engine smoothly accelerating everywhere.

The leather seats, climate control & cruise control with its ‘beyond imagination’-awareness, really being awe-inspiring.

We were staying at The Willows Beach Resort.

Right on the ocean.

The waves lulling you to sleep.

Becoming the rhythm as you wake up & drink coffee, surrounded by green lawns & well kept amenities.

More than comfortable family accommodation.

Private.

Inside the heart-beat of nature.

Open.

Staff always ready to answer your needs.

Fellow-guests friendly & happy.

Families.

Children enjoying the super-tube water-slide.

The putt-putt mini-golf.

The game center.

Relaxed lounging breakfasts at the warm restaurant.

Vervet Monkeys curiously watching from large green trees.

We were exploring history.

The drive to the tourism office, from where we took a bus to Port Elizabeth’s Main Train Station, was quick & comfortable.

The Willows is truly only a few minutes from the city.

An ideal spot, no matter what part of Nelson Mandela Bay you want to explore.

Then we took the train to New Brighton station.

New Brighton is our city’s oldest existing township.

Townships are part of our countries spacial history.

Predominantly inhabited by black people.

Supported by failing old infrastructure.

Set aside.

From the rest.

A reserve of sorts.

Where people have come to live & make a living & be.

Become, even.

Saturday we saw a glimpse of our country’s ‘relocation’-history.

Through the South End Museum.

Families ripped to pieces.

Away from friends.

Some times even away from relatives.

From community.

Losing.

All the way.

Not only them.

Everyone.

As we lose community.

Connection.

Coming to believe that we are different.

Which we aren’t.

For we all value the same things.

Relationship.

Hope.

Peace.

Growth.

Progress.

As we crossed the pedestrian bridge from the New Brighton Station to the Red Location precinct, our guide shoved white people to one side.

Blacks to another.

You must be separate.

And we walk on the one side of a barrier.

The white side.

As it was.

Before 1994.

Apartheid is a sad part of our history.

Even sadder than the concentration camps of the English War (1899 – 1902).

For the ones who were set aside.

Set aside.

Like a son who saw his father beating his mother.

To grow up.

To beat his wife.

So that his son & grandson could do it again.

That is probably the greatest grace & gift of Tata Nelson Mandela & the African National Congress.

Grace.

To be more.

To be different.

To embrace.

Include.

To a new future.

A new future is, however, not created in a moment.

18 years.

Since 1994.

A moment.

In comparison to almost a century.

Preceded by centuries.

On Friday evening we stop at Lafa & Mifa’s.

Its a butchery.

With a dining area & open fires.

You buy your meat at the butchery.

Then come to the dining area & cook it on the open fire.

A ‘braai’ (almost like ‘buy’, just with an ‘r’ in there) we call it.

All of us.

A large sign declares: ‘anytime is braai time’.

We are the same.

South Africans.

We love cooking outside on an open fire.

We love being together.

And so we talk.

To locals who come there regularly.

To families who love the community.

To people walking the streets.

Hoping the effort of fathers & grandfathers weren’t in vain.

And as we drive back in the luxury of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, to the comfort of The Willows Beach Resort, I wonder how this spacial heritage could be overcome.

For amidst the hardship of relocation a vibrant, energetic culture has come to life.

Perhaps it has always been there.

Perhaps it just did not die.

Despite everything.

Wasn’t quenched.

A beautiful resilience.

Hairdressers on the side of the street.

Mamma’s baking roosterkoek (bread baked on the open fire) for those who pass by on the way to work or home.

Children playing.

Herbs & chicken for sale.

Little bags of sweets.

Mini-bus taxi’s flying up and down the street.

Large municipal buses making their way in the late afternoon to homes, where people live.

Still set aside.

Its been decades.

The poverty of loss, more visible than ever.

As we savor that first morning coffee on Sunday morning, at The Willows, our weekend-neighbor walks over.

Sidwell.

He lives in Motherwell.

With his family.

His father’s family relocated there.

Decades ago.

We talk of life.

His children.

Mine.

We talk of a new future.

A hope.

Our children play.

Run off together to the water-slide.

Unaware that once we were separated.

We hope.

And as we say our goodbyes we agree that we need to intentionally move beyond the invisible boundaries created by a dark meaningless past.

On our behalf.

Without our consent.

And we agree that we are the same.

We desire freedom.

Equality.

Opportunity.

For our children.

Peace.

And I admit that I will need to intentionally redress the works of a previous generations hands.

For nothing changes by itself.

This is what travel does.

It challenges us.

And we become.

 

Categories: Weekend Destinations | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments

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