Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Whisky tasting

When I get asked what I would like to drink, whisky doesn't even show on the radar.  So what do you do then when you aren't much of a drinker and you get an invite to a whisky tasting evening?  You go off cause.  I'm always game for something new, even if it means knowing that I will be leaving a little light headed afterwards.  So there I was with an invitation to the nautical themed AHOY Boutique Hotel in Port Elizabeth to join the establishment's lovely dames and a couple of other gentlemen for an evening of tasting whiskies.
The whisky of choice for the evening was Glenmorangie Single Malt Scotch Whisky.  We started with the ten-year-old single malt, Glenmorangie Original and then worked our way through the three twelve-year-olds consisting of the Quinta Ruban, Lasanta and Nectar D'Or.  At first I thought, "Only four?" But we tasted each of them neat before having a bit of ice or water added for a second taste which means that we technically had 8 tastings. *hic*
Although bars and pubs measure drinks (including whisky) in tots, the proper measurement for a whiskey should be a dram.  On asking how much a dram is, the facilitator shared a story of his first visit to Scotland and how he was told, "A dram of whisky is a measurement that depends on the generosity of the pourer." Ah! Well may all pourers be as generous as this one. *hic hic*

So what was my first experience of whisky like, you ask.  Well, lets put it this way.  With the first sip the whisky bursts into your mouth, slaps your avula so hard it vibrates before forcing its way down your throat and bullying everything that gets in its way.  The second sip was very much the same and so on and so on. But it was an experience I wouldn't have missed if I had the choice.  Not just did we taste the whiskies, but we learned all about what whisky is and how each individual one we tasted is made. *leaning against chair*
The wine cellar at AHOY doesn't just have a great collection of wines, but also whiskies and other beverages from all over the world.  If you want to entertain a couple of friends or business associates, this is the ideal spot to do so.  They can even organise you a whisky tasting session. *Don't worry.  It wasn't that I was drunk.  Not being a regular drinker I just felt a bit of a turning feeling in my head and I didn't go home till it was gone.* 

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bondi the sailor bulldog

South Africa has it's share of famous dogs with the two best known ones being Jock of the Bushveld and Just Nuisance.  A lesser known dog, or a small monument to him anyway, can be found at the waterfront in Knysna.  The Royan Navy sloop HMS Verbena was part of the African Station in 1928 when she visited Lourenzo Marques (now Maputo).  The city presented the ship with a pedigree bulldog named Bondi and it became the ship's official mascot.  On a visit to Knysna in 1931 the crew marched to the town hall for a variety concert and Bondi, not wanting to be on anchor duty, tagged along.  It was a very hot day and the heat got to Bondi who collapsed and died.  The ship's records simply stated: 16:00 - "Bondi died ashore". 

Bondi was buried on the wharf and it became a tradition for visiting British ships to tend to his grave.  This tradition ended during the second World War when no British ships entered the Heads and the only times a British crew tended the grave was when the HMS Nereid visited, its last visit being in 1953.  It seemed that nobody cared for the poor Bondi anymore.  The tradition was revived by the South African Navy in 2001 and in 2004 the Knysna Animal Welfare approached local sculptor Karel du Toit who created a bronze statue of Bondi.  The sculpture was unveiled at the Knysna Quays in 2004 and all donations put in the box at it's feet goes to the Knysna Animal Welfare.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Knysna Quays

Most visitors to the town of Knysna on the Garden Route end up at the Knysna Quays Waterfront at one time or another.  The Knysna Quays consist of a small boat harbour, an area with shops and restaurants as well as very upmarket houses and apartments.  Yachts are moored all around the waterfront both inside the small boat harbour as well as outside in the lagoon.  As the Knysna Lagoon is one of the main attractions in the town, there are a number of charter boats, ferries and catamarans that depart from the waterfront on cruises of the lagoon.

From the Knysna Quays a number of canals lead towards the part where the houses and apartments are situated.  All the restaurants on the waterfront looks out over either the canals, the harbour or the lagoon with some of them right on the water as in the picture above.

One of the highlights for kids visiting the Knysna Quays is when the walkway bridge lifts up to allow a yacht through.  When the bridge lifted up on this occasion there was a guy and his kids in a canoe coming down the canal and everybody clapped hands for him because it looked like the bridge lifted up specially for him.  The next moment this big yacht came sailing though right behind them.

In addition to the restaurants, there are a number of shops that line the walkways of the waterfront.  This big artistically carved yellow wood tree stump is one of the many other features that you will find alongside the shops.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Random Moss

I think its time to do a "Random theme" post for a change again.  The topic today, Random Moss.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Retief Klip flower

Normally when I visit a site or attraction I would take some straight forward photos of it, but also look at interesting angles or features to photograph.  Its always nice to have a flower or something to put in the foreground and then have the attraction in the background slightly out of focus but still recognisable.  After yesterday's post of the Num-Num flower at George Rex's grave, I went looking through photos I haven't posted before and found this one I took in January at Retief Rock in the Drakensberg.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Num-Num flower

The flower in the picture is that of the Num-num tree and it was taken in Knysna at George Rex's grave which can be seen in the background.  The Num-Num Tree is indigenous to South Africa and grows wild along the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape coastlines occurring on sand dunes and at the margins of coastal forests.  Am evergreen shrub or small tree, it gets planted in garden as ornamental trees, are easy to grow and very hardy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Aloe and mountain silhouettes after sunset

The view from the top of the Knysna Heads are stunning in all directions.  Unfortunately I miss judged myself with the sunset as it set to the left behind the hillside and I had nothing to show for my trip up to the top.  Oh well, I enjoyed the beautiful view across the Knysna Lagoon towards the mountains in the back anyway.

Although I didn't get a sunset pic, the silhouettes against the dusk sky is my contribution to Skywatch today.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Noetzie Castles

The first thing people think of when you mention Noetzie is not the fact that its been voted as one of the top 3 beaches in South Africa, but  the fact that there are castles on the beach.  "Castles?" I hear you ask.  Yes, castles.  But not quite like in moats with crocodiles, archers on the walls and dragon guarded towers though.

The first castle was built in the early thirties.  In 1932 Herbert Stephen Henderson was building a holiday home on the western end of the beach using natural stone found at Noetzie.  He was only using local stone for practical reasons and it was never his intention to built a castle.  Somebody jokingly said to him: "All you need to do is to add a few turrets and you'll have a castle".  And so he did.  That set the trend and in the late 1930's he built Pezula on the hill.  This was followed in 1942 by what has become known simply as "The Castle".  His son built Montrose in the 1970s and the Lindsays built Perekuil in the 1960s.

The castles make for great and slightly unusual photography of the beach.  They are all individually owned while some are run as accommodation establishments.  The one castle belongs to the Pezula Resort and here they were carry you on their hands (not literally but close) in 5 star luxury.  I wonder if they will invite me to come and stay once they read this.  Then perhaps I can tell you more about how they carry you on their hands...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Noetzie Beach and Lagoon

Knysna isn't as well known for its beaches as fellow Garden Route towns Plettenberg Bay and Mossel Bay, but one of its beaches does rate amongst the most beautiful and unusual on this coastline.  This beach is called Noetzie.  The name Noetzie is a Koisan word meaning "dark water" and it refers to the water of the lagoon that is darkened by tannin picked up by the river as it flows through the forests and fynbos upstream.

People have been coming here to camp and relax since the early 1800's when ox wagons followed a rough track down the hill.  Visitors in those days, and still today, enjoyed the beach, swam in the clean dark waters of the lagoon, fished and enjoyed the surrounding forest while the oxen were let loose to graze on the dune vegetation.

When the mining houses at Millwood were taken down and moved to Knysna in the early 1900s, some of them were brought down to Noetzie by ox wagons to be used as holiday cottages.  The first of the castles, for which Noetzie is famous for, was built in 1932 and today there are a number of these castles next to the beach.
The residents of Noetzie have always been aware of the area's natural riches and has for a long time fought for its protection.  In 1999 Noetzie was officially declared a conservancy which means that the natural beauty and biodiversity of the area will stay protected.  The one catch with visiting Noetzie is the fact that you have to park at the top of the hill and walk down a steep path and a number of steps before basking in the glory of Noetzie.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Elephant close encounter

You don't always realise how big an elephant is until it head straight for you.  One of the highlight (and for some more frightening) sightings in Addo Elephant National Park near Port Elizabeth must be coming across one of the big elephants bulls walking down the road towards you.  We encountered this big guy on the Ngulube loop in the new Southern Section of the park ambling towards us. I stopped but let the car idle just in case we had to make a sudden retreat.  As he came nearer he lifted up his trunk for a sniff of the air before scratching above his eye. 

This was the last opportunity to take a picture before he was too close and would have filled more than the photo's frame.  Moments later he walked past the car barely two meters away.  The Rugrats were leaning the other way and the Damselfly was holding her breath.  What an magnificent experience!!!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Belvidere Church

Affectionately known as the Belvidere Church, the Holy Trinity Church in Knysna would make it onto my Top 5 favorite churches around South Africa.  The church was modeled on the Norman churches of the 11th and 12 Centuries and was built with locally mined sandstone and timber from the Knysna forest.  Its foundation stone was laid on 15 October 1851 and it was consecrated on the 5th of October 1855.

There is a love story attached to the church as it was built by Thomas Henry Duthie, who was the founder of the village of Belvidere, for his wife Caroline, a daughter of George Rex.  The Duthies built their home on the farm which Belvidere was established on and decided that they needed a church to complete their happiness.  The church would be used to celebrate things like holy days and the baptisms of their future children.

The picture above was taken from the church entrance and in it you see that there are only 5 rows of pews on each side and a nave that is only 5.3 metres (17’6”) wide.  The church is open to the public every day of the week except for Sundays during the church service. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Knysna Heads

One of the Garden Route's most famous landmark must surely be the Knysna Heads, standing guard over the entrance to the Knysna Lagoon.  Heads is short for headlands and the two Knysna Heads is probably just about as popular for travellers to photograph than Table Mountain.  The Eastern Head, from where the picture above was taken, is home to one of Knysna's most upmarket suburbs with the houses having superb views over the lagoon and ocean, while the Western Head is a protected area and falls within the Featherbed Nature Reserve.

The best views of the Heads and surrounding lagoon and ocean can be had from the top of the Heads themselves.  Driving up the Eastern Head visitors can park their cars in the demarcated area and take a walk along a path that will take them to several lookout areas along the edge of the cliff.  From here you can also see why the Heads is one of the most dangerous entrance / exits to a port in the world.

Another popular spot is at the end of George Rex Drive where you can see the Heads from below.  From here there is also a path that will take you towards the opening itself.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Total lunar eclipse

Last night we had the opportunity to observe not just a total lunar eclipse, but also a relatively rare central lunar eclipse in which the center point of Earth's shadow passes over the Moon.  The last time a lunar eclipse was closer to the center of the earth's shadow was on 16 July 2000 and the next central total lunar eclipse will only be on 27 July 2018.

Full moon rising

 The eclipse started at about 20h22...

 ... with the moon disappearing more...

 ... and more...

... and more... 

... until there was just a sliver left. 

 I changed the setting on the camera slightly to take in more light and show the moon after the last moonlight disappeared.

The reason the moon looks red during an eclipse is because although the sunlight isn't hitting it directly anymore, some of it still get reflected (or bent) by our atmosphere to hit the moon.  My scientific knowledge is a bit limited, but the internet tells me that the more atmosphere that sunlight travels through, the more the blue and green parts of the spectrum are scattered.  The sunlight hits the atmosphere at a shallow angle and is carried through a lot of atmosphere until it’s redirected out onto the moon “hiding” from direct sunlight. The red end of the spectrum is all that can get through that much interference, so the moon in total eclipse appears reddish in colour.

This makes for the ideal Skywatch post this week.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Candelabra Flower at Dana Bay

Walking along the beach at Dana Bay near Mossel Bay I noticed a couple of Candelabra flowers growing on the hill side next to the beach.  I haven't photographed any of these for a little while so, even though most of them had wilted and dried already, I trudged up the hill and found one that only started flowering. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I know that the photos in today's post isn't the most scenic, but I wanted to end off the posts about Knysna's miners and woodcutters of the last couple of weeks where it all ended for most of those woodcutters.  The woodcutters eked out an existence in the Knysna forest for about 200 years, frequently exploited by greedy businessmen interested only in their own wealth.  Even though it was a miserable existence it was the only one most of these people ever knew and for this reason they never wanted to have it any other way.

In 1939 the forests were closed to protect them from being completely destroyed and the majority of the woodcutters were "pensioned off" to an area known as Karatara.  Karatara lies perched atop the plateau just north of Sedgefield and approximately 30km west of Knysna.  Today it is surrounded by farmland and breathtaking indigenous forests, but back in the days the woodcutters felt like they have been banished to some far off desolate place.

Karatara is still home to many of the descendants of these woodcutters and is a beautiful and undeveloped little town where many of the old original buildings can still be seen.  The morning of our visit was a bleak and cloudy one which added to the atmosphere I felt all around me.  Although the town may not be an unhappy one these days (except for the normal problems small towns like this has), I just felt the sadness of the days back when the woodcutters were forced to relocate here.  That's what you get when you live yourself into the books you read and I really lived myself into Daleen Matthee's forest books.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Wine Show - Nelson Mandela Bay road show

Over the past weekend (11 - 13 June 2011) the second annual Nelson Mandela Bay Wine Show took place at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium and it was a huge success with crowds through the door and cases (ok, I won't say how many cause I don't know at this stage, but it was a lot) by the load exiting back out the door with said crowds.
With more than 50 top wine estates represented the show had something to offer for each and every taste, even this intrepid blogger who isn't the most frequent drinker around.

In between the wine the tasters also had the opportunity to head over to the Simonsberg Cheese stand where some of their best cheeses were on offer for both tasting and purchase.  I love my cheeses and except for getting reacquainted with their Brie, which is one of my favorites, I also discovered a new friend in their matured Cheddar.

The most interesting stand at the show must have been the one belonging to La Carla Catelier and the Hot Chocolate Cafe.  Based in Plettenberg Bay, La Carla Cartier produces unique handcrafted Venetian carnival masks while the Hot Chocolate Cafe does Belgian chocolate fudge and handcrafted chocolates.  The chocolates were so popular that they had to have more delivered from Plett as they were selling out on Saturday afternoon already. 

Although wine can be enjoyed on its own, it can be even more enjoyable with some good food.  The stadium management set up a dining area outside next to the playing field in the stadium where people could enjoy their wine along with a plate of food in an unusual setting.