Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cows feet for Halloween

Today is Halloween and as in the past I don't have a proper Halloween pic to post, specially seeing that its not really something we celebrate here in South Africa.  So I prefer to rather post something weird or just slightly gross.  This year its cows feet seen in New Brighton in Port Elizabeth at a informal corner butcher and take away. 

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Tsitsikamma Village Inn

If somebody had to ask me right now what my absolute favorite hotels are the first one on my list would be the three star Tsitsikamma Village Inn in Storms River Village.  "Why?" I hear you ask.  I absolutely love the hotel not just for one specific reason but because of the sum of a number of reasons.  The hotel is situated in the heart of the beautiful Tsitsikamma, its a stone's throw from the indigenous Tsitsikamma forest with the stunning Tsitsikamma National Park just down the road, its surrounded by a variety of activities to do, the service is personal with hands on owners without being "in your face", the atmosphere laidback, the food is excellent and my favorite, the village like layout of the hotel with its spacious rooms and even more spacious surrounds.   

Back in the days when elephants still roamed the forest freely, the woodcutters discribed in Daleen Matthee's book worked their hands to the bone to earn enough money for a bag of flower, coffee and sugar and ox wagons heading east still only travelled through the Langkloof, the Tsitsikamma was one big indigenous forest wedged between the mountains and the coastline.  In 1841, Lt TH Duthie of Knysna established a shooting box in the Tsitsikamma to hunt the area's prolific wild pig population.  The spoils of the hunt were taken back to Knysna by wagon where is was pickled and sold to ships.  As the harvesting of trees expanded in the Tsitsikamma a milling operation was established with the manager of the Mill altering Duthie's Shooting Box as his residence in 1845.
In 1946 the new owner of the residence, a Mr Herring, partnered with a Mr Forster, a building contractor, and built a hotel on the site of the sawmill's house.  This was the birth of the original Tzitzikama Forest Inn, situated right next to the dusty road which was the main route between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town.  During the early days most travellers stayed over at the Inn due to the strain all the passes in the area was taking on them, making it one of the main overnight spots along the route.

The hotel's dining area called De Oude Martha, the Hunters Pub (in the picture) and the guest lounge are all situated in what was the original sawmill house while the rest of the hotel as it is today was built in the 1980's and 1990's.
 One of my favorite things of the hotel is that most of its 49 individually decorated rooms are built village style around the village green.  The rooms are housed in cottages which are all built in different styles, including fishermen cottages from the West Coast, woodcutter cottages from the Knysna forest, a Cape Dutch style cottage, a Bo-Kaap cottage and a barn.  All of this are surrounded by gardens and trees giving the hotel a true village within a village atmosphere.  Add to the the good food that gets served and its surroundings then you can't ask for anything better. 
On this specific trip Family Firefly stayed at the hotel for one night.  We stayed in one of the fishermen cottage rooms which had a double bed (could have been queen size but I never really know which is which) and a single for Chaos Boy.  They brought in a mattress for Drama Princess and even with all of that the room still had ample space to store our stuff and still have a running battle with the Kidz without falling over a suitcase.  When we finally kicked them out the room to go and keep themselves busy they headed off to the games room at speed.  The fact they they were running around outside and not up and down hotel passages also put me at ease as they wouldn't bother other guests (too much).  A big plus.  Another big advantage is being able to leave our car at the hotel and walk around the village as well as onto the forest trails.  Not having to get into the car every time you want to do something adds to the relaxed holiday atmosphere.

Even though we didn't have dinner at the hotel I did have a peek at the plates going out to a couple of folk sitting outside the Hunter's Pub and it looked very good.  What I can do is recommend the breakfast, although I would have liked a fried egg (probably should have asked).  On par with the best I've had in big city hotels while the Damselfly is still talking about the croissants.  
The hotel is ideal for couples, families and big groups giving each individual category of traveller exactly what they require.  This wasn't the first time I've stayed at the Tsitsikamma Village Inn (more like the 4th) and it definitively won't be the last.
DISCLOSURE:  We visited Storms River Village as part of a self drive family break away and stayed at the hotel as guests of the Tsitsikamma Village Inn.  I was not paid to write this review and all my opinions are my own.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Orange bracket fungus

Walking through the Tsitsikamma forest you see shades of green, brown and grey, but every now and then there is a bright flash. The red from under the wing of a Knysna Loerie gliding from branch to branch, a tiny colourful flower or an orange bracket fungus growing on a piece of dead wood.    

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Slow shutter waterfall

I don't often play around with the settings on my camera, but I couldn't help slowing down the shutter speed just a little bit for this pic of one of the streams flowing through the Tsitsikamma forest.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Grasses at sunset

Wild grasses at sunset with the Atlantic Ocean
in the background taken from Noordboek in Cape Town

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Lilies and cottages

Lilies growing along Oak Lane in Storms River Village in the Tsitsikamma with some of the old forestry houses (now under the control of SA National Parks) in the background.  Beyond the houses is the Tsitsikamma forest and in particular the Plaatbos section.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pumba elephant

After a quick visit we were driving out of Pumba Game Reserve and passing Water Lodge when we found an elephant approaching across a field towards us.  Unfortunately for me the sun was behind him so I couldn't really get a great picture, but that doesn't matter.  He came lumbering along, looked at as pass him and then proceeded down the track towards the lodge.  Probably for breakfast.

Looking back at him moseying along towards the lodge  as we were driving away

Monday, October 15, 2012

Forest stream cascade

Beach or Bush? Bush or Beach? That always seem to be the choice when people do these mini surveys on where folk would like to go for their holidays.  I can think of one or two others to add but one that springs to mind immediately is Forest.  What's wrong with a forest holiday? The breeze rustling in the leaves, the birds in the trees, the smell of the damp forest floor, the isolation of a forest trail, greenery all around, moss, ferns, colourful bracket fungus, a frog jumping into a forest pool and, my favorite, a gently flowing forest stream.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Fygies between the rocks

Vygies is a type of succulent and most of them are in full flower at the moment.  I found this little clump between the rocks in the Tsitsikamma National Park at the Storms River Rest camp.

Thursday, October 11, 2012


A quick trip out on the Elandsrivier road outside Port Elizabeth meant that I had to do a little bit of dirt road that morning.  On the way back I noticed something on the road which looked like a stick and I have it a wide berth not wanting to damage a tyre. As I flew by I noticed the stick wasn't a stick at all but a puffadder crossing the road.

The puffadder (Bitis arietans)  is probably one of if not the most common snake in South Africa.  They are most often associated with rocky grasslands and the bush but not found in true deserts, rain forests, and (tropical) alpine habitats.  Puffadders are responsible for more fatalities than any other African snake.  This is due to a combination of factors, including its wide distribution, common occurrence, large size, potent venom that is produced in large amounts, long fangs, their habit of basking by footpaths and sitting quietly when approached.  The venom has cytotoxic effects and is one of the most toxic of any vipers.   About 100 mg is thought to be enough to kill a healthy adult human male, with death occurring after 25 hours.  Now that's hectic.  Thus I stayed in the car and took the pictures from there.  For more info on puffadders visit Wikipedia.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pink ferns in the forest

If I could go for a walk in an indigenous forest every day I would.  I love the beauty and peacefulness of it and don't think I'll ever be able to get enough for it.  One of the thing that I always find very interesting are the young fern leaves that's coloured pink, something I saw quite a lot of in the Tsitsikamma last week.  I asked somebody in the area once why the young leaves are pink before turning green and the answer that I got was that they grow so quickly that the photosynthesis only kicks in afterwards.

Monday, October 8, 2012

A face only a mother can love

Its amazing how you get to interact with the animals at game reserves not just from on top of a 4x4 but somethings also face to face.  At a recent visit to Pumba Game Reserve I was walking along the walkway to the rooms at Pumba Water Lodge when I passed this warthog grazing about 2 meters away.  He looked up at me, snorted (as if to let me know I'm in his space and not vice versa) and watched me carefully shuffle past and speed up just in case he decided to come after me.  I didn't want to turn and throw him an ugly insult at the time, but that's really a face only a mother can love.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Biiiiiiig lilies

We spend a couple of days in the Tsitsikamma this week chilling out and exploring the area.  The lilies in the forest are in full bloom and truly stunning, some as big as two hands cupped together.  I have a lot more Storms River and Tsitsikamma (one of the most beautiful areas in South Africa) stuff that will follow.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Elephant silhouette

I would never ever say no to an opportunity to go on a game drive.  Although I worked as a tourist guide for many years I never worked as a game ranger.  It never really crossed my mind back when I started working, but perhaps if I could do it all over again I may just have gone into that direction.  I still love being out in nature, watching the animals, the sun going down or coming up and most importantly I always have my camera on hand in case a nice picture presents itself.  Watching a herd of elephants on a game drive at Pumba Game Reserve recently I looked back behind the vehicle just to spot an lone elephant feedings on a tree while silhouetted against the setting sun.  Need I say more?