Tuesday, September 27, 2016

When a game ranger goes above and beyond

A lot of people have the policy that if you want something done you have to do it yourself, especially if you don't really have anybody to delegate to.  But even then you need somebody to push a rock out of the way for you every now and then.  I had a funny "push a rock out the way" moment on a game drive at Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve outside Graaff-Reinet the other day.  We weer driving up the mountain when we found this boulder lying in the road.  The ranger immediately hopped out to roll it out the way and clearly underestimated its weight... or his own strength, because it just did not budge.  Perhaps it was the rocky equivalent of Mjolnir, Thor's hammer, and nobody can move it no matter how hard you try.  Oh well, if you can't get it out the way then you just drive around it like we did.

Monday, September 19, 2016

The road to Noodhulp

The road to Noodhulp (Afrikaans for First Aid) is not what you call the route somebody takes when they are cruising for a bruising and looking for trouble with a big oke.   Not that kind of thing at all.  I found the road to Noodhulp while en route to Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve outside Graaff-Reinet and after a double take reversed back for a better look to make sure that was the name I saw and then a photo.  It turns out Noodhulp is the name of a nearby farm which at first I though was weird.  On second thought though it probably makes sense if it refers to a place where you go to heal your soul from the battering it takes in the city.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

There is no end to the adventures we can have

On a game drive at Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve near Graaff-Reinet recently we stopped to watch a couple of  Gemsbok on the side of a hill.  Strangely enough my attention wandered from the antelope to the road in front of us and I snapped this picture.  Looking at it afterwards I wondered how to use it as I didn't have enough material to do a full article on my visit to the reserve.  I decided to rather post it along with a travel quote, but which one would fit this picture?

I decided on the following one by Jawaharial Nehru:

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”

So my advise to you today is to travel down this road, or any other one, with open eyes and an open mind and realise the beauty, charm and adventure of not just your final destination, but also the journey getting there.  Even if your destination is your own city.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The perfect Karoo sunset

Take the big sky of the Eastern Cape's Karoo Heartland, add some rain the previous night, a few distant mountains, an old building, a thorn tree and throw in a sunset for good measure.  What do you get?  This, as observed while on a game drive at Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve outside Graaff-Reinet recently.  All I still needed was a windpomp in the picture somewhere.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

A romantic evening at The Plantation

When you are young and in love you go out your way to be romantic.  Flowers, movies, open the door, whispers in the ear, special dinners and and and.  When you get slightly older and have kids, just spending a little time together on your own without the kids is seen as romantic.  For us it is anyway.  Now when you get to combine both of these, you know you have a winner on your hands.  And a winner I was at the first #ECMeetUp a little while ago when I won an evening at The Plantation here in Port Elizabeth.  Just the fact that the Damselfly and I could spend some "us" time was enough, but little did we know what Sarah and Ralph has in store for us. 

The Plantation is a wedding and conference venue just off Sardinia Bay Road which means that it is surrounded by indigenous coastal bush giving it a real romantic forest feel.  As there was no wedding on the weekend we chose to stay, we were given the honeymoon suite in all it's stunning splendor.  Iffy weather that weekend meant that we could only go for a short walk through the bush before the skies opened up again.  It did mean though an evening of snuggling up under the duvet in front of the television (also romantic in mu book) just chilling away from the KidZ in each other's company.

On arrival our picnic dinner was waiting for us already and if the weather played along we would have been able to throw the blanket open in the garden and enjoyed it there.  Instead we threw the blanket open on the bed which, as it turned out, was a good second option.

Sarah and Ralph really went all the way with cold meats, cheeses, biscuits, breads, pates, salads and more along with a bottle of chilled sparkling wine.  This was followed by not one, not two, but three different desserts.  Everything nicely presented and tasting divine.  Now that is how you spend a romantic evening with a loved one.  BUT... that wasn't all...  

We didn't even have to get up to go for breakfast the next morning.  
Breakfast came to us, delivered to the room in two sessions.  

The first "course" consisted of crumpets with strawberries, syrup and cream along with our coffee which was followed fifteen minutes later by a warm breakfast and a message of "Take your time.  No need to rush and check out."  Just what we wanted to hear although the KidZ had phoned already to hear when we would be home...

Disclosure: I won the evening at The Plantation as a prize in a competition at the #ECMeetUp bloggers event so I didn't pay to stay.  There was absolutely no expectation from them for me to write a blog post, but how can I not after enjoying our stay so much? 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Sunset and scenic views at the Valley of Desolation

What is the first thing you think of if I had to ask you to name one thing to see or do if you visited the Karoo Heartland town of Graaff-Reinet?  I don't know about you, but my answer would be the Valley of Desolation in the Camdeboo National Park.  For some reason every time I spend the night in Graaff-Reinet I end up visiting the Valley of Desolation and that reason is that the Valley is one of the Eastern Cape's most iconic must see scenic attractions.

This time around I didn't make my way up to the Valley by myself but was hooked up on a tour led by Oom Buks Marais of Karoo Park Guesthouse in town.  Karoo Park offers tours up to the Valley, historic walks around town as well as night drives in the Camdeboo National Park.  Unfortunately this time around I only had time for one of them though.  Once in the park the road climbs quite drastically up to the escarpment with great views back over the town and adjacent Nqweba Dam before Spandau Kop and ultimately the Valley of Desolation itself is seen.

Once at the parking spot it's about a 200 meter walk to the first of the lookout points with paths and trails taking you further along for to a couple more view sites.  One of the things to keep in mind is to always wear comfortable shoes even if you're only going as far as the first viewpoint.  The path isn't a boardwalk or properly paved path so trying to do it in heals may just lead to a broken ankle. 

At the top of the path the Valley of Desolation lies right in front of you.  It's more a gorge than a valley, but not sure if the name Gorge of Desolation would have worked.  The Valley of Desolation consist of sheer cliffs and precariously balanced columns of Dolerite rising 120 metres up from the valley floor below.  These are the product of volcanic and erosive forces of nature over 100 million years and stands against the backdrop of the vast plains of the Camdeboo which makes for a stunning sight.  

I once heard somebody say that they don't know what the fuss of the view was about.  I stood there looking like I was trying to catch flies with my mouth and just stuck my hands out towards the view and made big eyes.  Some people just don't appreciate true beauty if it slaps them in the face.  

Often it's not just a case of come, see and leave, with a lot of people bringing a picnic basket and sun downers to enjoy while watching the sun go down over the Karoo plains.  All of this means that it can actually be a very romantic spot as well plus it never really gets crowded so it's not like you are competing for your space in the sun(set).  I'm told early mornings are a good time to visit as well although I haven't done that myself yet.

On our visit though the wind was pumping and although we were the only people up there, Oom Buks suggested we go down the mountain a bit to a another slightly more sheltered view site once we had out fill of the Valley itself.  

Once there Oom Buks broke out the cooler box and and it was time to enjoy a cold one while watching the sun go down.  Plus take photos.  Lots and lots of sunset photos to work through later.  

I really like this photo of Oom Buks standing on this rock enjoying the view.  A view he has seen thousands of times and just about every day.  It shows a man who really has a passion for the Karoo.
I may be a forest person and really enjoy the bush, but the vast open spaces of the Karoo stays a very special place and one I always enjoy to experience.  If you've never been to Graaff-Reinet (which means you've never been to the Valley of Desolation either) then I think it's time for a road trip and while there, make sure you take the road up to the Valley late one afternoon to go and enjoy a sunset.  And don't forget to bring your camera... and a picnic basket... and a loved one.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Valley of Desolation sunset

One of my absolute favorite places to enjoy an Eastern Cape sunset is from the Valley of Desolation outside Graaff-Renet.  Other than that, I will let the picture do the talking. #ExperienceEastCape