Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ziplining in Addo on the longest double zipline in Africa

The first thing people think of when they hear the name Addo is elephants.  On that front the Addo Elephant National Park is doing an awesome job attracting people to the Sundays River Valley.  But the Addo area is so much more than elephants and the rest of the big 5.  More than just animals for that matter.  The whole Sundays River Valley is a beautiful area with scenic drives and views, history, great eateries and a wide variety of accommodation and activities.  The new kid on the block is what everybody in the valley is talking about at the moment though.  Adrenalin Addo officially opened on 1 September and offers the longest double zipline in Africa.  A whole 500 meters long, up to 60 meters high and I got to try it on an educational organised by the guys from Addo Tourism.

Arriving at Adrenalin Addo in Sunland between Addo and Kirkwood, the first thing one notice is the platform up on the hill across the river.  That and the stunning surroundings with the Sundays River flowing in front of their centre, subtropical ticket on the hillside and citrus orchards all around.  While I waited for my fellow adventurers to arrive I enjoyed the view from the deck with a quick coffee to calm the early nerves.  Looking up I thought to myself that it looked seriously high but as a seasoned zipliner (or at least I would like to think so) I wasn't going to allow that to stop me from doing it.  Once the others arrived we got kitted out in our gear and we were ready to go.  First up though was crossing the Sundays River on a raft.  Coming back we would be flying overhead.  The guides conduct a bit of a tour on the way to the top pointing out plants, fossils and the remains of the first irrigation channels.

Once we arrived at the top and climbed the platform I suddenly realized how high it really was and my fear of heights seriously kicked in. My fear took a back seat though when I started to look around. WOW! Looking down on the valley with all its farms and the Sundays River flowing through it is truly stunning.  We had seven in our group so the first three pairs went together with one solo zipliner coming last.  After watching the first two pairs go it was my turn.  I had Yvonne from Addo Tourism on my left and we were pumped.  As the guides hooked us up they explained what they were doing.  Two clips on the wheels (sorry, I have no idea what the proper word for this is) and a backup line behind us.  Step off the bench and... 3... 2... 1... GO!  

Stepping off and letting go was heart in throat time for me but once you are off and going all the fear is gone.  What an absolutely amazing sensation and something very hard to explain.  From start to finish the zipline takes about 30 seconds or so and once you hit the automatic brake at the end you just want to go again.  I've been playing around with video clips on my camera lately and has started to experiment with a video editor on my laptop.  This was such a great experience that I couldn't help but to throw something together for this post.
 
Adrenalin Addo is situated about 15 minutes from the Addo Elephant National Park and a great add on for visitors to the park either leaving on the way back to Port Elizabeth or as a break before heading back into the park.  They're also going to offer light meals some time soon so it would be a great lunch and zipline stop while on tour as well.  Other activities offered are a giant swing (which I didn't get to do this time around) and canoeing on the Sundays River.
 
Disclosure: I enjoyed this visit as a guest of Ryan and his team at Adrenalin Addo, organized by Yvonne of Addo Tourism and the team at ECTOUR.  I received no further remuneration, wasn't asked to write a positive post and keep full editorial control.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Railway line sunset

Picture this.  The R60 between Robertson and Worcester in the Western Cape.  Kinda in the middle of nowhere.  Nothing in sight other than the remains of an old railway station  Two guys park next to the road and dash across, climb through an old fence, hop over the railway line and run of into the bushes and fynbos.  Moments later they emerge and start walking back to the car.  What do you make of this?  For most regular folk it would probably be a very suspicious sight.  Confusing at least.  Not if you were a Geocacher though.  This was exactly what happened on the way to Cape Town recently.  Our last cache for the day before the last stretch to the Mother City had us do exactly that.  On the way back to the car the sun started to set behind the mountains on the horizon and I whipped out my phone to snap this picture.  My favorite pic from the trip.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

World Tourism Day - Nothing more fun than a Sho't Left.

September is Tourism Month and on 27 September every year we celebrate World Tourism Day.  Tourism is one of South Africa's biggest export products and with that I mean its something that brings foreign tourists and thus also foreign money into the country.  Tourism is an important player in our economy as it creates a job for every 12 tourists visiting the country.  But I'm not here to talk about the economy. 

Over the last couple of years SA Tourism has started to focus more on promoting travel in South Africa to South Africans and they do this through the Sho't Left campaign.  South Africans love to travel but many aim to go overseas.  Why?  Right here in South Africa we have pristine beaches and coastlines, incredible mountains, magnificent open spaces, epic views, interesting small towns and world class game reserves. Our urban culture has as much to offer as our nature and it really doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.  Yes, there are many places that cater for the international market at prices us South Africans can't afford, but there are also many more that caters for ordinary South Africans like you and me.  For a start, check out the Sho't Left deals page. 

What is a Sho't Left?  A Sho't Left is a short break away, usually possible over a weekend, only a couple of hours from home.  More than a day trip but less than a week long holiday.  Something like the Cape St Francis area in the photo.  Only about an hour or so from Port Elizabeth.

Nothing is more fun than a Sho't Left from PE as seen in this Sho't Left campaign video.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tsitsikamma Lily

My three favorite flowers are aloes, proteas and arum lilies.  All flowers you can see in gardens and parks but at their most beautiful when you see them out in the wild.  Aloe flowering in the Karoo, proteas in the Fynbos on a mountain side and lilies growing wild in the forest.  This lily I found next to the path on the way to Kerneels se Klip in the Tsitsikamma National Park.  I was hoping to find one in the sun but being in a forest means lots of shade.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hiking the Bushbuck Trail in The Island Nature Reserve

Port Elizabeth has some excellent short hiking trails that are perfect for a morning or day out in nature yet still within a stone's throw of the city.  As an outdoor enthusiast and avid Geocacher I've had the opportunity to do most of the trails around the city with one of the exceptions being the Bushbuck Trail through the Island Nature Reserve.  For this reason I was very excited when I got a call from Erenei Louw of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism inviting me to join NMBT and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency on a guided hike through the reserve in celebration of Tourism Month.

The Island Nature Reserve is located about 25 km from Port Elizabeth and is accessed via the Seaview Road.  The reserve forms a sub section of the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve and comprises 480 ha of indigenous Alexandria coastal forest boasting tree species such as Outeniqua yellow-wood, white and hard pear as well as white milkwood.   Fauna include small blue duiker, bushbuck, vervet monkey and bushpigs with more than fifty species of birds having been recorded.  The reserve offers 5 different trails of various lengths and we decided to do a combination that had us cover a distance of about 10km.  

Erenei and I were joined by Done' Louw of NMBT and our guides Nomfuneko Mbete and Sizwe Ndlumbini who led us out at a brisk pace on a beautiful Spring morning.  Forests have a special place in my being with the Tsitsikamma and Knysna forests being part of my soul so walking off into this piece of coastal forest had me relaxed and unwinding from the first step we took.    

It wasn't long before we saw movement in the milkwoods and a sudden flash of scarlet red told us that we had spotted a Knysna Loerie in the thicket.  To the observant hiker there are so much more than just the different indigenous trees to see.  Berries and fruit, colourful little flowers, spiders sitting in their dew covered webs and different types of moss and lichen.  As we were approaching halfway, Sizwe suddenly put up his hand for us to stop and be quiet.  A bushbuck doe was standing not twenty meters away in the underbrush looking at us.  Quite a shy antelope it was a treat being able to spot one so close to us.  She had one last look our way and casually disappeared.  Not long after we got to our turning point at a trig beacon which, once you ascent it, gives a beautiful view of the Lady Slipper Mountain and surrounding area.  The return journey was mostly downhill but I couldn't help but laugh at my two slightly unfit companions who started to struggle a bit with cramps.  It didn't stop them though and we completed the 10 km walk (and found three Geocaches) in just short of four hours. 

I have to be honest and say that I was pleasantly surprised with what the Island Nature Reserve dished up for us.  The trails are well maintained with good signage and if I could give them one piece of advice it would be to do a proper map for hikers to take with them to see the trails on.  For those who don't like to hike, the Island offers beautiful grass covered picnic spots and is one of the only public areas around Port Elizabeth that has proper braai facilities.  Now that I have been there I really want to go back with my family and isn't afraid to recommend it to anybody looking to get closer to nature.  The Island truly is a reserve that Port Elizabethans should be very proud of.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hillside village in the Ciskei

The road (R72) between Port Alfred and East London runs through what used to be the former independent homeland of the Ciskei.  All along the way one sees small Xhosa villages scattering the countryside.  Coming from the East London side just before the Keikamma Pass there is a little village on a hillside on the left.  I've always wanted to snap a photo of it and the chance finally came on my last trip to Slummies.

When you look at a scene like this its hard to comprehend the simplicity of the existence these people carve out for themselves here compared to how we live in the cities.  Its a hard and isolated life and compared to us they are a lot less fortunate.  I often wonder though if its not us city folk that are less fortunate living behind high walls never even seeing our neighbours, rushing everywhere all the time and having everything at our fingertips.  We have become soft and probably wouldn't survive a week in those kind of circumstances.  Yet we are all happy even if we live in very different ways.  Oh my word.  I just wanted to post the pictures and I here I started to go all deep and philosophical.  Anyhow,  the reason I wanted to post this today is that its Heritage Day and even though our heritages (and way of life) are all very different we are all South Africans living in the same rainbow country.  Happy Heritage Day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Crossing the Kei River by pont

Most South African travelers and road trippers have probably heard of the car pontoon at Malgas in the Overberg, but I wonder how many actually know that there is one across the Kei River in the Eastern Cape as well.  In years gone by the Great Kei River was the border between South Africa and the homeland of Transkei.  Today crossing over means leaving behind what you know and heading to a land of country side villages, friendly people, beautiful scenery, rugged and unspoiled coastline, relaxing family hotels and resorts; and, unfortunately, rough dirt roads.  The land of the Wild Coast. 

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to head down to Kei Mouth for the first time on a trip to Trennerys Hotel.  To get to it we had to cross the pont and suddenly yet another experience to tick off my South African travel bucket list was waiting for me.  Unlike the Malgas pont the Kei Pont is mechanical and uses an engine to get to the other side.  With incoming and outgoing tides it may have been tough to cross the wide Kei River by pulling a rope and it goes slightly quicker so you don't have a long wait if you arrive and the pont is on the other side.  On arrival at first I thought that we may have to wait for the pont to take the taxi in front of us across first.  The pont skipper stepped up though and told the driver to pull forward and space was made for us, the car pulled up and we were on our way.  All to soon the "cruise" was over and we were on the road again to our overnight destination.  The cost to cross? R70 for the car and its two passengers.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sunset over the Atlantic Ocean

 South Africa.  Places to go, things to do, people to meet, activities to do, food to eat and to top it off, memorable sunsets.  Like this one over the Atlantic Ocean seen from Signal Hill.  Makes you want to pour a sundowner and salute the day as well as what waits for you tomorrow.  Happy exploring.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Citrus orchids in the Gamtoos Valley

The Gamtoos Valley in the Eastern Cape is prime citrus growing country and for city folk the rows and rows of citrus trees are always a sight to behold.  This picture was taken outside of Hankey in the valley.

The citrus range from different types of oranges and easy peelers to naartjies and, in this case, lemons

Friday, September 19, 2014

Karoo Heartland Churches

Looking through everything I have that still needs to be posted I decided to take three Karoo churches and make up one Random... Karoo churches post.  Just about every small town in the Karoo Heartland of the Eastern Cape has a remarkable church of some sort.
 
Cradock must have one of the most memorable Karoo Heartland churches there are.  It stands at the top of Church Street and is known as the ``Mother" Church.  The church was completed in 1868 on the same site as the first Dutch Reformed church in the town.  This church community was also the first in Cradock and was established in 1824, 10 years after the town received it's name.  The design of the church was based on the ``St Martins-in-the-Fields" church in Trafalgar Square in London. and the great South African statesman and first President, Paul Kruger, was christened here in 1826.  During the Anglo-Boer War, the roof of the church was used as a look-out post by the British soldiers who occupied the town.

On the other end of the spectrum you will also find churches that is a lot less imposing yet still has historical value to the area its located in.  In the village if Middleton you will find a Methodist church that is probably smaller than most houses.  The church was built in 1903 and only has 5 rows of seats.  It has services in it every Sunday for the residents of the village which is run by the Noupoort Christian Care Centre who owns the village and uses it as part of their rehabilitation process for drug and alcohol addicts.
 
A little further to the north west is the village of Nieu-Bethesda.  Built in 1905, the Dutch Reformed Church is the grandest edifice in the village, with its long gothic spire reaching to the sky.  A decline in the town resulted in a dwindling of the numbers of the congregation and the church has not had a permanent minister since 1961 with the Sunday service being performed by a minister from Graaff-Reinet.  There is some fine wooden carvings on the old church pews and the original chandeliers are quite unique. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Tsitsikamma National Park

This is a view that everybody who has been to the Tsitsikamma National Park would know.  If you haven't been there, this is the view from just below the restaurant building at the rest camp looking across the bay towards Storms River Mouth in the distance on the left.  If you look carefully you would be able to see the end of the suspension bridge across the river mouth.
 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Feeding Koi at the Barrydale "water front"

Barrydale on Route 62 in the Klein Karoo is a pretty little town known for the beautiful surrounding mountains offering various walks, the Tradouw Pass, quint gardens, interesting shops and farm stalls, restaurants popular with passing tour groups and the very famous Ronnie's SEX Shop down the road.  Everything but an ocean.  So I was very intrigued when I saw a Geocache description refer to a spot as the Barrydale "water front".  One or two turns off the main road and we discovered The Blue Cow restaurant situated on the edge of a farm and... you guessed it... a farm dam.  The best seats are on the deck overlooking the farm and the owner quickly brought Erenei and I two slices of bread to feed the koi fish that live in the dam while she chatted away to us.  True country hospitality.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Farm worker fishermen in the Gamtoos Valley

Spending time in a place is more than just staying in accommodation establishments, eating in restaurants, visiting attractions end enjoying beautiful scenery.  The buzz word these days are experiences and an experience doesn't necessarily have to be an formal one.  Sometimes you see something interesting and making a quick stop can turn into a whole experience on its own.  Spending a weekend Shot Left in Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley while staying at The Milk House we ventured out on the Saturday morning to climb up to the berg window at Vensterhoek.  That was a whole experience on its own, but it was on the return journey while crossing a low water bridge over the Gamtoos River that we spotted something interesting and decided to stop. 

A number of fishermen, all farm workers from the area, were fishing in the river with throw nets and I wanted to investigate some more.  The KidZ immediately perceived it as something boring and wanted to stay in the car, but a stern warning from the Damselfly telling them they can't stay behind alone made them drag themselves after us.  After good rains the previous few days the level of the river was slowly rising and for some reason (I'm no fisherman so don't ask me said reason) brought some bigger fish.  The throw nets were all home made using net, rope and chain and whatever got caught was destined for the pot or braai that evening.

Although not every throw (perhaps not even every 10 throws) yielded a big fish, every one did bring out tiny little silver fish that were shaken out on the road.  The children would then quickly move in and throw them back in the river.  Drama Princess didn't let grass grow under her feet and quickly joined in, picking up and throwing fish back with gusto.  I don't know what the farm kids thought at first about this blond girl in pink suddenly moving in on their space but she didn't let that deter her and it quickly became a game to see who got the most fish to throw back.  Most visitors probably would never have stopped but to Drama Princess it was one of the highlights of the weekend.  Something she would never be able to do back home in the city.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Koffiebus and Teebus

 The Karoo has a beauty that some admire in awe while others tend to just want to pass through as quickly as possible.  I love the Karoo landscape with its big skies, Karoo koppies, windpumps, sheep, karoo vegetation and its interesting people.  Returning home after a trip to Johannesburg I decided to drive via the Gariep Dam, Steysnburg and Hofmeyer before the last stretch from Cradock.  Outside Steysnburg are two very well know Karoo landmarks.  Teebus and Koffiebus, two Karoo koppies (flat Karoo mountains) that got their names from the fact that people say they look like a big coffee pot and a thinner tea pot next to each others.  I just couldn't help but to stop to snap a picture to post here and on Instagram.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

A panorama of Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley... and some history

As visitors approach the town of Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley from the east, they have to pass Vergaderingskop before entering town.  This little koppie is the final resting place of Saartjie Baartman and worth a stop even if its just to enjoy a view of the surrounding valley.

The town of Hankey was established in 1826 (four years after the founding of the mission station in 1822 under the guidence of Dr John Philip ) and is the Gamtoos Valley's oldest town.  It was named after the Rev. William Alers Hankey who was the secretary of the London Missionary Society (LMS).  The purpose of the establishment of the village was to grow mielies and corn for the LMS main station at Bethelsdorp and also to carry out evangelistic work.  The town started with 25 families but was planned for 250 families.  The then inhabitants of the valley consisted of a large number of Khoi, a few Mfengos, a few (mostly Dutch) farmers and mixed "Gamtouer" descendants.
 
The first irrigation scheme on the Klein River was started by James Wait in 1827 and completed in 1830.  It extended for 3.5 miles and he was awarded 50 cattle and the use of 50 workers.  Part of this irrigation scheme can still be seen today and forms part of the Hankey Golf Course.
 
The second irrigation scheme on the Gamtoos River, a provincial heritage site in Hankey today, was carried out by William Enowy Philip, the son of John Philip.  His inspiration was the window in the hill between Backhousehoek and Vensterhoek and was dug using pick and shovel and wheelbarrows. The length of the tunnel is 228 meters and the speed of construction was very slow - about 1 to 2 feet a day. It was started in April 1843 and completed in August 1844 – 15 months later and was in use from April 1845 to 1970 - a period of 125 years.  This was the first ever tunnel scheme in South Africa.  William Philip drowned on 1 June 1845 in the Gamtoos River where the present low water bridge to Milton stands and not as is usually believed, on the opening day of the tunnel.  He and his niece, also a Philip drowned together when their small boat overturned at the Milton drift.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Karoo sunrise

A 4am departure on a road trip to Johannesburg meant that I was just south of the Karoo town of Cradock when the sun started to lick at the horizon.  It wasn't long for the clouds to be on fire and I couldn't help but to pull over to take a picture with my phone which I Instagrammed immediately.  The Karoo always has something breathtaking to offer visitors on a plate.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Canola flowers in the Overberg

I've always wanted to take a couple of pictures of the canola fields in the Overberg to post but I always seem to travel through the area in summer or winter and never in spring.  Attending the e-Tourism Africa Summit in Cape Town and having driven up via the Klein Karoo I didn't even think of canola fields until we dropped over into the Overberg at Botrivier and there is was down below.  Patches of canola field flowers in all the green.  Now to find a nice spot with a view and the sun behind us.  The cloudy conditions didn't help either.  Somewhere between Riviersonderend and Swellendam I saw what I was (kinda) looking for.  Pulled over and positioned myself to take a few pictures, one of them being this one showing the canola field next to the N2.
 
Erenei, my travel companion on this trip, snapped this picture of me snapping the above picture. 
See what I mean with "positioned"? 
 
Ever seen a Firefly on a fence?  Luckily the farmer didn't.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Delville Wood Memorial and Table Mountain in the late afternoon

 My quick two day visit to Cape Town for the e-Tourism Africa Summit just wet my appetite for a bit of a Cape holiday again.  Not that I know when I'll get the opportunity but I do know that I need some explore time in the city again.  The three things I would really like to do is a tour of the underground tunnels that run through the city bowl, to hike up Table Mountain via Platteklip Gorge and to do the open bus City Sightseeing Tour.  So my Cape Town bucket list is made.  The tunnels I mentioned were used to channel water down to the gardens from the mountain (I hope that is putting it correct) and visitors can now be taken on a guided tour of these tunnels under the city.  I did get to make a whirlwind visit to the gardens themselves - looking for a Geocache, what else? - after the end of the first day of the summit and snapped this late afternoon pic of the Delville Wood Memorial with Table Mountain in the background.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ashton locomotive at sunset

The town of Ashton is situated on the Robertson Valley close to the start of Route 62.  As one drives along this road between Worcester and the Klein Karoo there is a steam locomotive on the left about halfway through town.  Heading down to Cape Town I made a quick stop to have a look and with the sun heading to the horizon I snapped this picture.
 
 The locomotive is a No 2010 class 14 CRB and was designed and built by the Montreal Locomotive Works Canada - a division of the American Locomotive Company.  The Class 14 CRB locomotives were built between 1910 and 1922 to specifications of Mr D. A. Hendrie Chief Mechanical Engineer of the South African Railways.  No 2010 was commissioned in 1919 and used on the Worcester / Mosselbay rail section until 1983.  This Cape Gauge locomotive weighs 84.1 tons and the 10 ton / 4250 gallon capacity tender 50.9 tons.  The tractive effort of the locomotive is 35400 pounds at 75% boiler pressure with a boiler capacity of 180 pounds per square inch.  Yeah yeah, I know its useless info to most of us but there are some train nuts out there who would find it very interesting.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Atlantic seaboard sunset

 One of South Africa's most popular sunset view sites is from Signal Hill in Cape Town.  Visitors and locals alike head up to its lookout spots to see the sun set over the Atlantic Ocean.  And that is exactly what I did last week on a whirlwind visit to the city for a tourism e-marketing summit.  The conference ended just before six and I rushed up, parked the car and made my way along one of the paths to find somewhere to enjoy this magnificent sight. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Danger Rip Current

Eersterivier in the Tsitsikamma is a beautiful piece of coastline with stunning swimming spots between the rock.  If you do decided to hit the ocean itself you have to be careful of the rip currents created by all the reefs and rocks as indicated by this sign I photographed at sunset.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Roesemaat

Nieu-Bethesda in the Karoo is one of those interesting little towns that one just can't afford to miss.  Home to the Owl House, Kitching Fossil Centre, guesthouses, restaurants, a micro brewery and so much more yet the town (or should I perhaps call it a village?) doesn't have a petrol station, atm or even a tar road.  Every corner offers something new or interesting or, in this case, old and interesting.