Thursday, October 30, 2014

Pine forests in the Tsitsikamma

The Tsitsikamma's three biggest industries are tourism, dairy and forestry.  So by the last one you can gather that the area is more than just indigenous forests.  The Tsitsikamma also has a huge amount of commercial pine plantations.  Pine trees were first planted early in the 20th century to replace indigenous forests that were cut out due to extensive logging.  The exotic trees were a bad replacement for the indigenous trees but the fact that they grow quickly meant that they could be grown on a commercial scale keeping up with the demand for wood and wood products.  They also make for great photos.

Monday, October 27, 2014

A Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour with the family

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, its Firefly and the Famdamily.  Well, that is what you would have said if you were on a walk in the Tsitsikamma forest the other day.  I'm in the very fortunate position that I have had the wonderful privilege to go on the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour in Storms River a couple of times before, but I've always wanted to take the family for them to experience it as well.  I'm not much of an asker (or demander like some people I have encountered over the years) but a passing mention in a random conversation led to an invitation from Anneline of Storms River Adventures for us to come and have this wonderful experience while on our Tsitsikamma Sho't Left weekend in Eersterivier.  I'm not sure who was more excited, the Damselfly or the KidZ. 

I know the guys at Storms River Adventures deal with children every day, but I was still slightly nervous about Drama Princess as she can be a bit of a, well, drama princess.  While Chaos Boy and his mom was all eager beaver, you could see Drama Princess wasn't totally convinced and asked lots of questions before the trip.  At arrival I had her ready to go and kitting up went well.  The guides explained everything and a thorough safety briefing was done.  We were joined on our tour by three other South Africans which meant that I was hoping for no hiccups.  At the first platform when the leading guide asked who was going first, Chaos Boy jumped at the opportunity.  He had absolutely no nerves and from the first slide already looked like a seasoned zipliner.  The Damselfly was up next and gave a little yell as she pushed off on her first slide.  Not a scared yell but more of a mixture of excitement and nerves.  When Drama Princess' turn came she was hooked on and then pulled the hand brake. Oh no!  I really want her to have the experience but the going alone thing got to her.  No worries, the guide was on it.  He unhooked her and let the rest of us go before hooking her back onto the cable as well as onto him.  All she had to do was hang there and he did the rest.  Problem solved.

Even though, like I mentioned, I've been before, the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour will never get old for me.  Its a fantastic experience and like with game drives and other tours no two are alike because of the people on the trip and how they experience it.  The Canopy Tour has ten slides and, as you must have gathered, there are two guides with you at all times.  The first guide is the safety guide who goes first every time to operate the braking system for those who don't stop in time themselves.  The following guide tells the group more about the forest and what you see along the way.  They name the trees and point out interesting things like the baboons foraging on the forest floor below us and the three Knysna Loeries hopping around in the trees about halfway through our trip.  I even had two of them sweep past me as I started out on one of the slides. What an experience!
The Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour is one of those must do activities if you are travelling on the Garden Route.  Anybody can do it (that Drama Princess proved to us) and its a great way to see the forest from a different perspective and the kind of activity everybody should do at least once in their lives.  A big thank you for making this a truly memorable Sho't Left with the Famdamily.
Disclosure:  We went on the Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour as guests of Storms River Adventures
I received no further remuneration and keep full editorial control over the post.  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Regyne - the biggest commercial protea farm in the world

The Tsitsikamma is more than just indigenous forests, rugged coastlines and adrenalin filled adventure activities.  I'm going to lie if I say I didn't know it, but its always great to spread the word.  Our Sho't Left in the Tsitsikamma and Eersterivier area included a visit to Regyne, the biggest commercial protea farm in the world.  Tours of the farm is organised by Oudebosch Farm Stall who does a tour and lunch as well as a tour and afternoon tea and cake option for groups. 

Joining us on the tour were fellow travel bloggers Dawn Jorgensen of The Incidental Tourist, Di Brown of The Roaming Giraffe and Linda Markovina of Moving Sushi.  We were met by Hanli Viljoen who took us on a tour of the farm and its facilities.  Regyne's protea fields cover 80 hectares and they produce flowers primarily for the export market.  Proteas are cut, sorted and trucked straight to the airport for export.  Hanli started off by showing us their sorting shed and cold room.  Because it was weekend there were no staff on site, but she explained the process they followed.  Most of the proteas were shipped out the day before but there were still an impressive variety of flowers in the cold room for us to see.  From here we moved onto the protea nursery where Hanli spends most of her day.  It was unbelievable that the proteas are actually grown from seed and how the seedlings are handled before going into a field.  We also visited one of the fields where they grow King Proteas, South Africa's national flower.  Seeing them grow like that makes me want some in my own garden.  I didn't think the KidZ would be very interested in the farm, but they actually paid very close attention and I think enjoyed it and learned as much as we did.

Disclosure: We visited Regyne Protea Farm as guests of Oudebosch Farm Stall.  I received no further remuneration, wasn't asked to write a positive post and keep full editorial control.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Sir Percy FitzPatrick Lookout in Sunland

Sir Percy FitzPatrick, (24 July 1862 – 24 January 1931) is probably best known for writing the book Jock of the Bushveld, but also played a big role in the early development of the Sundays River Valley.  In his younger years he was involved in gold and diamond prospecting in Mpumalanga where Jock of the Bushveld also plays off.   In 1895 FitzPatrick became the secretary of the Reform Committee in Johannesburg which conspired to overthrow Paul Kruger's South African Republic.
 At the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902) FitzPatrick helped to establish the Imperial Light Horse Regiment but was prevented from active service by ill health.  He was knighted in 1902 as a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.  He served as one of eight Transvaal representatives in the national convention of 1908–9, where four British colonies were consolidated into the Union of South Africa and went on to serve as a member of the parliament of the Union of South Africa.

After coming to the Sundays River Valley he established the Sundays River Settlement Company which encouraged people to settle in this area.  He also played a very big role in the establishment of the citrus industry in the valley and the amazing irrigation system of this area was his brain child.  His idea was to channel water from the Orange River, six hundred kilometres away from Sunland, into this arid area thus enabling agriculture to flourish here, as it does today, providing employment for the many local people.
FitzPatrick bought a piece of land next to the river from where his guests could enjoy the stunning view of the surrounding valley.  He even had a lookout platform built on the land where visitors can still go to marvel at the view.  After his death he was buried at The Lookout where he's wife is buried alongside him.  The Lookout and the surrounding land was donated as a public space my his daughter and son-in-law in 1953 and the site was declared a National Monument. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Enjoying the view at Bruce's Beauties

There are some really tranquil spots along the Jeffreys Bay and St Francis coastline where one can sit and take in a view of the ocean.  Passing through St Francis Bay I had an hour or so before a meeting and decided to grab a couple of Geocaches.  One of the caches was located close to the legendary surf spot, Bruce's Beauties where I found this young lady taking a break on a bench overlooking Bruce's.  The sea was fairly calm so there weren't any surfers out there on this specific day. 
So how did Bruce's Beauties get its name, you ask?
In the 1960's, surfing film pioneer Bruce Brown hunted the world's perfect surf spots for the cult film classic ' The Endless Summer'.  He wanted to find the "Perfect Wave" and at St Francis he did.  The spot became known as Bruce's Beauties and is renown as a surf spot for the fearless.  This exposed point breakis seen as an ultimate wave ride.  Unfortunately due to development along the coastline the break isn't what it used to be but two or three times a year the conditions are just right and then you know this is the place to be if you own a surf board.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Eersterivier - the Tsitsikamma's hidden gem

Hidden on the rugged eastern coastline of the Tsitsikamma is a little gem that not a lot of people know of.  Somewhere you can get away from it all and enjoy stunning scenic coastal landscapes bordered by cliffs and lush vegetation.  Somewhere you can take in a bit of beach life and lots of vitaminSea without being trampled underfoot by crowds.  This little hidden corner on the Garden Route is Eersterivier.
One can't really call Eersterivier a town or a village.  Its rather a collection of privately owned (mostly) holiday homes.  There aren't any hotels and I can't remember seeing any guesthouses, but  it is possible to rent on of the 19 houses that Tsitsikamma Seaside Accommodation manages on behalf of the owners.  A couple of weeks ago Penny of Tsitsikamma Seaside Accommodation invited us for a Sho't Left weekend and we got to stay at Shick Shack while we were there.  Shick Shack was anything but a shack as it sleeps eight people in four bedrooms and has the most stunning view of the coastline (bottom middle picture).
The area around Eersterivier is really beautiful but the main attraction is the beaches.  Its is a rugged and rocky coastline but there are lots of little coves and gullies along with the main beach on the western side of the village.  The centerpiece of the beach are fossil dunes with very interesting sand stone features.  It is here that you find one of the most inviting swimming spots around, the blue hole.
At low tide we took a walk around the sea side of the sand stone formations and found a couple of holes in the rock.  We came back at high tide and looked down onto it from above.  They turned out to be blow holes, shooting water up into the air from them every time a wave hits the rocks.  When you explore the rock pools and around the back of the sand stone formations, just be aware and keep an eye out for spiky sea urchins, specially if you have children with you.  The pools and gullies are actually excellent for snorkeling so bring your equipment with you if you would like to explore a bit under water as well.  Another warning though.  Keep within the safe zones when swimming and snorkeling as there are dangerous rip tides beyond the rocks and gullies.
In addition to beach walks there is also a couple of short hiking trails in the area where you walk through the surrounding fynbos, some that follow the top of the coastal cliffs and look down on the whole area from above.  Golfers would love the nearby 9 hole Fynbos Golf Estate with its views of the ocean and the Tsitsikamma Mountains as a background.  About 30 minutes away is Storms River Village with its forest walks and adrenalin filled adventure activities. 
Eersterivier isn't a proper village so there are no shops and atm's.  Luckily the Oudebosch Farm Stall and coffee shop is only about 10 minutes away with most visitors getting what they need from the supermarket there.  Its also ideal for breakfast and lunch or just a quick coffee and milkshake.
The Tsitsikamma is a true Garden of Eden and if Adam and Eve lived in this garden and had the opportunity to go to the beach, Eersterivier would have been that beach.
Disclosure: We enjoyed this visit as guests of Tsitsikamma Seaside Accommodation and transport was courtesy of the team at ECTOUR.  I received no further remuneration, wasn't asked to write a positive post and keep full editorial control.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Supertubes on a calm day

Jeffreys Bay is famous as a surf destination and one of the reasons is Supertubes.  Supertubes is said to be the best right hand point breaks in the entire world both in consistency and quality.  Generally Supertubes break for about 300m or more but if conditions are right and the surf is big enough then it links up with the surrounding surf spots and result in a ride of about a kilometer in length.  I'm not a surfer and have never had the opportunity to try it, but I enjoy scenic views so on my last visit to JBay I stopped by the Supertubes view site.  It was a beautiful day although not one with big surf.