Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Montagu Village Market

Fresh cherries (the fruity kind, not the two legged ones).  Organic vegetables.  Home made jam.  Grain fed farm eggs.  Olives and olive oil.  Homemade bread and rusks.  Paintings.  Antique tools.  Vintage bric-a-brac.  Intricate wireworks.  Hand crafted jewellery.  These are just some of the items you will find on sale at the weekly Village Market in Montagu.  Every Saturday morning stall holders start to set up their stalls quite early and by the time the market opens at 8am (08:30am in winter) they are ready for both locals and visitors alike.

Walking through the market you don't really know where to look or to start.  And if you aren't quick then you may just be disappointed, specially if you are looking at the fresh produce and food.  Point is, don't do what we did by passing the fresh cherries with the intention to come back later.  Not 15 minutes after I took this picture the cherries were sold out. 

Our highlight of the market was the breakfast stall.  They do a breakfast roll on a seed bun and if you take a full house it consist of mushroom, bacon, egg and cheese.  It comes in a tin plate and you can have a tin mug of coffee with it.  Oh man, lip smacking.  Seating are at wooden benches and logs and from there I watched the ladies working behind the stall motor between preparing the food and dishing up.  They were by far the busiest stall there as most people had breakfast in between their shopping (or just browsing if your wallet is a bit empty). 

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cattle Egret

A cattle egret sitting in a sweet thorn tree at the Leidam in Montagu.

The cattle egret is family of the heron, but unlike herons it feeds in relatively dry grassy habitats.  You often find them accompanying cattle or other large mammals since they catch insects disturbed by these animals.  They are referred to as tick birds because they also remove ticks and flies from cattle.  In the breeding season they nest in colonies, and as was the case with the one in the photograph, usually near bodies of water and often with other wading birds.  The nest is a platform of sticks in trees or shrubs.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kanonkop in Montagu

 The best views of the town of Montagu are from the top of Kanonkop (Cannon Hill).  The story goes that the original cannon which stood on this spot and dated from the 1800 was used at some stage for a salute of honor which went horribly wrong and caused a young man from the town to loose both his arms.  The farmers then pushed the cannon over the edge of the hill.  20 years later it was retrieved to be fired again, but this time the whole cannon exploded and its spot stood empty until it was replaced by the present one.   This cannon was taken out of the sea in Simon's Town in 1988 after spending over 200 years on the ocean floor.

 The view of the western side of Montagu looking towards Kogmanskloof

Looking over the rest of Montagu with the landmark Dutch Reformed Church right in the middle of the picture.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Bird watching at Montagu Leidam

Bird lovers visiting Montagu doesn't have to go much further than the Leidam to see a wide range of birds fairly up close.  The residents around the dam include Grey heron, Little Egret, Cattle Egret, African Sacred Ibis and the Common Weaver with 18 local species and 52 migrant species counted.  The town has put up a very nice and accessible viewing deck next to the dam and visitors who would like a closer look can get a key for the gate from the tourist information office.  If you want to find the dam just follow your nose, cause with the amount of birds living next to it there is a bit of a "flavour" hanging in the air.

The Leidam was originally built to supply water to the (then) majority of town via canals. Each house had an allocated time in the day during which they could draw water from the canal.  This system is still in places today although the town has grown quite a bit since those days and the area covered by the canals are basically in the western part of town.

African Sacred Ibis

Monday, January 23, 2012

Montagu Dried Fruit Route

Visiting the Montagu Dried Fruit factory shop we found out that they have a sightseeing tractor tour of the farm for which we immediately booked.  The tour takes about an hour and a half to two hours and passes the fruit drying area and orchards before heading up the hill behind the farm.  Once you are out of the actually farming area you start ascending the adjacent hill with its typical Karoo vegetation.  The Kidz were obviously very excited about the trip and the first ones onto the trailer when the tractor pulled up.

At the top of the hill the tractor stops and visitors are given the opportunity to walk the last bit up to an old English fort.  Along the way you can get a closer look at some of the typical Karoo plants growing next to the path. The fort itself sits right on top of the hill with fantastic views all around.  

Looking around from the fort one can see why this location was selected to build it.  You can see forever all around the valley and across to the town of Montagu lying right in the middle of it, with the gun slits covering every possible approach and sentries being ably to see any movement in the valley.  

Even though its a fairly short tour its advisable to get something to drink (and perhaps snack on) at the factory shop to take along on the ride.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Montagu Dried Fruit

I love summer fruits (well, any fruit actually) like peaches, plums and apricots.  That was one of the many reasons I looked forward to spending the first part of our summer holiday in the Klein Karoo town of Montagu.  The area has a rich soil and amazing micro climate and along with the fact that there is an abundance of water makes it ideal to farm summer fruits.

On our first day in Montagu I discovered the Montagu Dried Fruit Factory Shop.  Let me not start about my love for dried fruit.  Nom nom nom...  Montagu Dried Fruit and Nuts was established in 1991 and as one of Africa’s largest wholesalers of dried fruit and nuts and currently markets 35% of all dried tree fruit in South Africa.  The shop has an amazing range of dried fruit (and nuts) and we probably returned another three or four times while we were in town. 

Except for the dried fruit, they also sell fresh apricots and peaches.  The apricots sold for... wait for it... you won't believe this... R2 per kilogram.  Drama Princess filled up a couple of bags for us and we had to keep reminding the kidz not to over indulge as we didn't want any tummy problems.

The factory is situated right behind the shop, but visitors aren't allowed inside the factory itself.  We did go on a tractor tour (which I will post about shortly) during which was saw the peaches being dried in the sun.  I posted a picture of peach pips yesterday and a couple of people asked what it's used for.  Somebody in town told me that Montagu Dried Fruit is the only place in South Africa that "produces" the pips like this.  They break them to get the moisture out and then they also get dried in the sun.  Its then sold to people who put them in the gardens, specially in garden paths and drive ways.  All the roads in Montagu Caravan Park where we stayed is covered in peach pips.  I wish I could get my hands on some.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Montagu Panorama

Even though I have a nifty little panorama setting on my camera I don't always do a lot of panorama photos.  The reason for this is mainly because the photo often looks a bit distorted if the horizon is a flat one.  Standing at one of the lookout spots overlooking the town of Montagu surrounded by beautiful mountains and summer fruit orchards (peach and apricot), I decided to give it a shot.  The result encouraged me to take a couple more on our holiday which I will still post.  Click on the picture to see an enlarged version.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Montagu War Memorial

I've said it before and I will say it again and again and again (every time I find another one).  Just about every town has a war memorial.  Click to see those in Knysna and Mossel Bay which I've blogged about before.  Driving around Montagu I was looking for interesting places and stumbled upon the Montagu War Memorial remembering those from the town who fell during the Anglo Boer War, WWI and WWII.  I'm not a war junkie so I don't know what the gun is called, but I liked the fact that the memorial wasn't just a brick or stone pillar.

Also situated in the memorial garden is a Voortrekker monument that was erected in 1938 to commemorate the Great Trek's centenary year.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Montagu NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church)

The little town of Montagu in the Western Cape truly is a gem of a town with beautiful old buildings, lots of history, fruit, mountains and nature all around.  Montagu was founded in 1851 on the farm Uitvlucht.  The town was named after John Montagu, the British Secretary of the Cape, who was responsible for the building of the Cogmans Kloof Pass that opened up the town for passing trade.  One of the most significant buildings in the town is the historic Dutch Reformed Church.  The Neo-Gothic style church was completed in 1862.  It used to be painted white, but residents were complaining that they were being blinded by it reflecting too much sun.  It was then decided to paint it the creamy yellow it still is today.

I was curious to see what the church looked like at night, so popped down for a look one evening.  Impressive.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ronnie's Sex Shop

Let's fall right in the door and explain before there are *gasps* and threats of blog boycotts because I'm posting about a sex shop (sic).  If you are a South African you may be familiar with Ronnie's Sex Shop on Route 62 near the town of Barrydale in the Klein Karoo.  If you are from elsewhere and have never heard of Ronnie's, then listen up.

Some years ago a guy called Ronnie decided to fix up a building next to the popular Route 62 to turn it into a farm stall and sell fresh fruit, produce and perhaps a couple odd souvenirs to passing motorists .  Nearing completion Ronnie painted the name Ronnie's Shop on the wall, but a couple of his friends decided to pull a prank on good ol' Ronnie.  They added the word SEX next to the name and thus changing it to Ronnie's Sex Shop.  Ronnie was shocked and angry, but as he had more urgent work to do he never got around to changing the name again.  Passers by would stop and ask after the name while his friends came by for a few beers a couple of times.  One night over a braai and a couple of drinks one of his friends suggested that he drop the whole farm stall idea and just open a pub.  The rest, are history as they say.  Over the years Ronnie's Sex Shop has become known world wide and has become a regular stop for bikers, local farmers and (local and international) people travelling this road regularly.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Bain Street Grill - Port Elizabeth

Over the last couple of years the area around Stanley Street in Richmond Hill has developed into a hub of restaurants, side walk eateries and deli's and has become one of the best places to go for a meal in Port Elizabeth.  One of the restaurants I have heard a lot about but hadn't had a chance to visit is the Bain Street Grill (32 Bain Street, Richmond Hill) just around the corner from Stanley Street.  But this was about to change when I made a booking to visit it with a bunch of visiting journalists.  My first surprise of the evening came as soon as we walked in the front door.  The Bain Street Grill is a small cosy restaurant (for some reason I was expecting a big "Spur" like place) with only about 9 or 10 tables which means that there are far less noise and much better service.  On the night we were there there was one waitress handling the orders for all the tables (and doing a very good job) while a second made sure drinks were delivered and topped up without anybody going thirsty. 

My second surprise came when we weren't handed menu's but rather was told that everything on offer is up on the walls.  This meant that there was a lot more discussion between everybody on what to have rather than the usual hiding behind the menu and peeking around it wondering what the others are having.  Another thing I liked about the restaurant was the open plan kitchen in which you could see the chef preparing the food and, even though he was probably busy as hell, he looked as cool as a cucumber. 

My big surprise was the food.  Priced lower than it's competition, the food was excellent and the portions generous.  No fancy garnishes and things (In Afrikaans we would say "fieterjasies"), just plain good food.  I thought that the vegetable kebab was a brilliant touch so in between the calories, cholesterol and carbs you do get something healthy in as well.  Although there were a lot of stuff on the menu that looked good I was recommended the Ribs beforehand and I wasn't disappointed. F-I-N-G-E-R  L-I-C-K-I-N-G good and "fall off the bone" soft.

One of the ladies had fish, Cajun Kingklip if I remember correctly.  My first thought was why order fish as a grill restaurant is often associated with meat, but according to her she would order it again any day. She also opted for the healthier option and had it with veg.

I'm not a prawn man myself but I have to admit that the Surf and Turf option of steak and prawns looked divine.  Other than big smiles and thumbs up I didn't get a comment on this dish though cause the ones having it had their mouths full all the time.  All in all I have to say that we had a stunning evening of good food and good company in an excellent and recommendable restaurant and I am honestly looking forward to my next visit to Bain Street Grill. 

We visited Bain Street Grill on a recommendation and not on invitation and paid for the bill

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Moon light bulb"

Some of the regular visitors to the blog is probably starting to wonder why I haven't posted any pictures I took on our December holiday to beautiful Montagu and Cape Town yet.  Well, first my laptop didn't want to read my camera and after 4 days of struggle I took my old pc out of storage and got the pics downloaded.  I started going through them last night and as soon as I have done I will get them posted.

Late last year I was hosting a group of journalists to Port Elizabeth for the IRB Rugby 7's and we visited Anza's tavern in Motherwell for dinner one night.  I was sitting outside and the near full moon kept on peeking out from behind the clouds.  On top of this pipe it actually looked like a dim light bulb.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cape Recife Lighthouse

The Cape Recife Lighthouse on the southern peninsula of Algoa Bay in Port Elizabeth was built in 1851.  The lighthouse is a 24 metre octagonal masonry tower painted with black and white bands and flash every every 30 seconds.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Lighting the way

Arriving back at Camp Figtree in the Zuurberg after a late afternoon game drive in Addo Elephant National Park, you are welcomed by lanterns lighting the way to the lodge.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Stadium in lights

Good bye 2011, hello 2012.  I'm still struggling to figure out where 2011 went.  For some reason this year just flew by and even though it went quickly so much have happened.  But at the rate that time is flying there is no time to dwell in the past so lets rather look to the future.  I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy and prosperous New Year.  May 2012 bring joy and happiness and may all your wishes come true.  Not too much to ask, is it?

Today's picture is the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in lights photographed recently during the South African leg of the IRB 7's World Series hosted in Port Elizabeth.

Just in case why I haven't been posting as regularly as always, the end of the working year was hectic at work and we have been on holiday from the 17th of December.  So by now we have had (well hopefully cause I'm forward posting this and the holiday hadn't actually started when I did the post) had a stunning time in Montagu in the Klein Karoo and is hopefully lounging next to a pool in Cape Town today.  So as soon as I get back I will start to process all my Western Cape photos from the holiday and will start posting regularly again.  Happy New Year.