WIN. A weekend escape of Overberg Magic

GANSBAAI  is the home of responsible tourism and one of my favourite South African towns . I am thrilled to offer you an opportunity to win a weekend to this fabulous Overberg village as well as tickets to a fun filled weekend camping in a mystical forest .

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Sunset in the ancient Klipgat Cave

The Greenpop Reforest Fest will be held in the Platbos Forest from 10th – 12th March and is suitable for the whole family.

You will spend one day working hard planting trees and the next day enjoying a variety of activities before heading home, restored by nature.

 The festival is the brainchild of Greenpop , a lively bunch who started a Treevolution.

 

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Surrounded by nature. Photo credit @Greenpop

The Gansbaai Weekend Away prize inludes:

A two-night stay for two at the easy-going and friendly Saxon Lodge Gansbaai.
A meal for two at five star Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.
A stunning ride from the mountains to the beach with Fatbike Tours South Africa.

The competition runs from the 18-25 January, so be sure to get your entries in today!

Enter now: http://bit.ly/GPGansbaai

 

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Views from the deck at Saxon Lodge

Keen to know more?

 Below are all the detail about the festival. Get a group of family , friends and kids together and enjoy a weekend break in the ancient, indigenous  Platbos Forest, it really is a magical place.

 

A CELEBRATION OF PLANTING AND PLAY!

A weekend away for the whole family  where you help re-plant the ancient, indigenous Platbos Forest, learn all about holistic green living, and have a TREE-mendously fun time with the kids.

We’ll plant thousands of trees, camp under the stars and ancient Milkwood trees, play and learn at a variety of fun workshops, and enjoy  family entertainment in nature.

Ready to get your hands dirty for a good cause?

9 REASONS  TO BOOK YOUR PLACE NOW:

1. You’ll help to plant 1000s of trees – what a great reason to dig in and get dirty!
2. Make new friends and reconnect with old ones.
3. Relax and join in the great line-up of family activities, you don’t need to plan a thing!
4. Sleep under the stars: pitch your tent ,or rent one from us.
5. Take a break from cooking and opt for the weekend meal-plan.
6. Experience the beautiful eco-ablution facilities provided.
7. Find the one thousand year old Milkwood tree.
8. Enjoy a talent show under a star-lit sky.
9. Unplug for some quality family time.

Ticket details.
We value inclusivity and want our festival to be available to as many different people as possible. If you can afford it, please consider purchasing a Generosity ticket. For every Generosity ticket purchased, we will be able to offer a Subsidised ticket to someone who cannot afford the Regular ticket price.

Ticket Prices:
Adult Generosity ticket: R500
Adult Regular price ticket: R390
Adult Subsidised ticket: R280
Children ticket (4 to 12): R220
Children below 4: free

PROGRAMME:

Friday:
Arrive Friday evening and relax into a chilled night of gentle tunes under the canopy of the ancient indigenous forest. Enjoy delicious food and start bonding with new friends around the campfire.

Saturday:
Saturday is an action-packed day of tree-planting and getting your hands dirty, helping to restore an ecosystem that is one of the most rare and endangered in the Western Cape. After planting thousands of trees in your teams, return to camp for a good shower and a forest party to celebrate the achievement. Greenpop provides an awesome musical line-up at the intimate main stage, with some of South Africa’s coolest emerging bands as well as a talent show and entertainment for the whole family. Line up to be announced soon!

Sunday:
Sunday is a day to relax your body and stimulate your mind. It’s filled with fun, educational activities and workshops including:
Forest walks  |  Yoga  |  Hula Hooping   |

Performances      |    Treasure hunts     |    And some surprises   |

Talks by various personalities in conservation and sustainable living   |

Interactive music sessions and instrument making  |   Arts and crafts   |  Talent shows   |

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Happy workers from the 2016 festival. Photo credit @Greenpop

HOW TO GET THERE:

Platbos forest is an easy 2.5 hour drive from Cape Town. If you are travelling in a car, please try to carpool if you can. Our partners Find a Lift (http://findalift.co.za/) have a great carpooling site where you can find travel buddies and rides if you need.

Directions:
Remember you might be arriving in the dark on Friday evening, so be sure to read these directions carefully and have them on hand.

From Cape Town, take the N2 highway towards Hermanus.
Take the Hermanus turn off and go directly into Hermanus town.

Drive through Hermanus town towards Stanford on the R43.

On the R43 road from Stanford to Gansbaai, look out for the Grootbos turnoff on your left hand side, approximately 12km after passing Stanford town. (If you get to Gansbaai you have gone too far)

Turn left at the Grootbos turn off and travel for just over 6km along this tar, and then gravel, road (do not turn into the actual Grootbos Estate).

Just before the 6km mark, you will see a turnoff over a cattle grid on your right hand side, and a wooden sign, ‘Platbos Forest’. This entrance to the forest is CLOSED for Festival goers. Please do not turn up this road as you cannot gain access to the Fest from here.

Continue along the road you are on, following the Greenpop signboards and flags. Turn right onto the entrance road (marked with Greenpop signboards) immediately after you have passed the Platbos entrance.

Follow the signboards until you come to the Festival Entrance.

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ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS:
Camping

Bring your own tent and camp in our general campsite. Please follow instructions of the welcoming team and parking guards. No dogs are allowed in the forest 😦

Camper van area
Allowed in this area: camper vans, caravans (including tow vehicle), motor homes, trailer tents (including tow vehicle), roof top tents (including vehicle – must be permanent or semi permanent fixtures to the vehicle).
NOTE:The above MUST be able to comfortably fit into the 7 x 5m area allocated. Greenpop reserves the right to exclude any of the above if it does not meet the required and generally accepted standards of what defines each of the above mentioned.
NOT ALLOWED IN THE CAMPERVAN AREA:
Cars (including with mattresses)
Bakkies (including with mattresses)
Combis (including with mattresses and/or tents placed on the roof)
Trucks (including with mattresses and/or tents placed on the roof of flatbed.)

PS If you are up for a bit more of a party, maybe you’d like to join for the FRIENDS weekend (it’s still family friendly but we’ll stay up a bit later ;)) on 17-19 March 2017. Check out the event page Greenpop Reforest Fest: Friends Weekend 2017!

Watch this vid from last year’s Fest: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNxOW6yiu84

Follow and support Greenpop    FaceBook     Twitter      Instagram

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Gansbaai Harbour

 

6 Drakensberg experiences for people who hate hiking

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The Central Drakensberg is reached via a 200km stretch of the N3 highway from Durban, followed by 60km on minor roads leading into some of the most impressive mountains in South Africa.

Hikes, climbs and adventures are expected in an area like this, but the allure of this area is very diverse.

Did you know that these roads will also lead you to the home of one of the top youth choirs in the world?

Or that these peaks and valleys offer a safe haven for birds of prey to recover from injury?

Or that you can step out of your hotel room and be walking on a path into forests of ferns, rivers, waterfalls and caves?

I recently spent six days in the Central Drakensberg and apart from the scenery, peace, fresh air and great food, these were the highlights of my stay.

Music in the Mountains

You do not have to be a music aficionado to relish every moment of the concert performed by the talented youngsters of The Drakensberg Boys Choir

60 boys dressed in formal black trousers, white frilly shirts and sky blue waistcoats stand dead still, all eyes on the conductor, Charlotte Botha.

With a flick of her baton the auditorium is filled with magic as these pure voices blend and soar to become one. The next hour is filled with music, ranging from an operatic duet from Don Giovanni to a haunting rendition of The Lion King’s “Circle of Life”/”Babu Yethu” mash up.

After a break for tea and scones, we return to the auditorium that is now in total darkness. Silence is called for, and after a tense minute of sensory deprivation, the world explodes as the boys run on stage from the back of the hall. Rhythmic African sounds fill the air and bright colours of the dark continent flash as the boys appear, dressed in the vibrant costumes representing our many cultures.

What follows is an emotional roller coaster and a musical celebration of South Africa. It segues from the foot-stomping high energy of 60 voices to free-flowing tears as one pure voice conveys the sadness of a lament. The pride is palpable; the audience is encouraged to clap or sing along to Shosholoza, and feet tap in time when the choir sings and acts out Bobejaan Klim die Berg (an Afrikaans folk song translated loosely to “the monkey climbs the mountain”).

The boys clearly enjoy the second half of their performance and the audience is loath to let them go. What is incredible is that these artists are all between nine and 15 years of age. Their talent and level of dedication to their craft is admirable. The boys have two hours of choir practice every day, over and above six periods of academic classes and two of music training in the form of aural lessons and music theory.

To get a taste of a Drakensberg Boys Choir concert, you can watch the live stream most Wednesdays at 3:30, or attend a live show at their facility in Winterton. Tickets cost R160 and booking is imperative.

For bookings phone 036-468-1012, email bookings@dbchoir.co.za, or visit the ticket sales web portal.

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Falcon Ridge Bird Of Prey Centre

The setting of this place alone makes a visit worthwhile. Set on a ridge with the imposing Sentinel and Monks Cowl peaks as a backdrop, the valley opens up in front of you, offering views of miles of golden rock, green lines of trees and hazy folds of mountain that fade into the distance.

 The skills of these birds are unbelievable until you see it with your own eyes.

Greg and Alison bring the birds out one at a time and give a brief outline of each bird’s story as well as some information about their capabilities. While the family dogs bark around Greg’s feet, desperate for a bit of chicken neck, the birds are in charge, and only swoop down for a treat if they feel like it.

We watch as an eagle flies far into the distance and then circles on the thermals that carry him to 2km high in the air. Greg gives a call, gets the attention of this amazing raptor, then throws a chicken neck high into the air. The bird locks its eyes on the food and flies in at an astonishing 2-300 kilometers per hour to catch the treat before it hits the ground.

Another raptor flies in low, skimming our heads with such precision that you feel the wind they create as it rearranges your hair.

Greg shows us the feet and claws of the eagle and you can see how easily they can pick up or tear into their prey.

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A shy spotted eagle owl is called. He is sitting on the thatch roof of the bomo and will not move. His head is turning in all directions as he watches for danger. Eventually, after scanning the sky, Greg finally detects the threat that the owl spotted way before him. A tiny black speck, circling very high up has its eye on the owl, causing it to assume a hiding pose.

After the display there is plenty of time to walk around and view the big variety of large birds in their enclosures, and ask questions from the well informed staff. For more information on Falcon Ridge, contact Mark or Alison on 036-468-1752 or 083-354-1392. Shows times are 10:30 AM every day except Friday, and are dependent on weather conditions; cloud or rain means there will not be a show. Tickets can be purchased at the venue; no booking is required.

Head for the Hills

The Drakensberg Sun Resort offers five hikes from its premises. Distances range from an easy 2.2km walk around the lake, to a strenuous 7.5km guided climb up Skeleton Gorge. The hikes are free of charge for residents, and a small fee of R20 is levied for non-residents. A R50 deposit is required from all hikers, and signing in at the start (and again on return) is mandatory. No hikes may be commenced after 2:00 PM, as the weather can change really quickly, and it gets dark before 6:00 PM in the winter.

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I walked the Blue Grotto trail, an interesting hike which starts in the open veld, weaves through the forest, crosses rivers, ascends and descends along steps and embankments and has plenty of scenic places to stop and take in the views and tranquility nature.

One stop is at an icy waterfall that cascades into a pool, another is at a large cave, and my favourite, after a steep uphill slog in the very humid forest, offers a view out over the mountains, made even more alluring by the storm clouds gathering overhead.

I did the walk back at a much faster pace, as the wind suddenly came up and rattled the leaves, blew sand in the air and provided a few minutes of relief from the heat. Then it stopped and allowed me to hear the distant growls of the thunder getting closer.

Five minutes after signing back in to the hotel a downpour drenched the thirsty earth, falling hard from a moody black sky. Not enough to break the drought in the area but more than capable of soaking anyone caught outside.

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Take to the skies

For those who like their nature laced with adrenaline, the zip line adventure offered by the Drakensberg Canopy Tour is right next to the Drakensberg Sun, and Drakensberg Ballooning is a few kilometres outside of Winterton.

Find a little something to take home

 Shopping at the little centre in the Champagne Valley on the R600 you will find most basics you require, an ATM that usually works, a great coffee shop and some interesting curios.

 

Closer to Winterton is the funky Thokoziza Centre, a small rural mall that looks like a tourism hot spot. I was pleasantly surprised to find it was not priced for tourists, but had a nice mix of clothing, art, crafts, curios and eateries.

Take the slow road, after all the journey is part of the experience.

An alternate route between Durban and the Central Drakensberg is via the Midlands Meander. This is an area of rural roads on either side of a 120km stretch of the N3, starting near Hilton just outside of Durban and extending North towards Estcourt. There are five routes that make up the Midlands Meander, each route having anything from 10 to 30+ attractions which include artists, craft shops, eateries, accommodation, curio shops and other activities where you can stop, relax and part with some money.

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If you are thinking of heading for the hills, planning some serious hiking or looking for a mountainous retreat let Accommodation Direct take the hassle out of finding a place to rest your head.

Why 2017 is the year dot.

In the original year dot the Earth was a healthy planet, but over time humans have multiplied, made some poor choices and the Earth is now in crisis.

How do you fix a planet, where do you even start?

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Actually, it’s simple; you download an app and you Do One Thing.

The #DotChallenge is an acronym for Do One Thing and works on basic maths.

I can commit to saving 3500 litres of water a month by having a shower instead of a bath. Big deal. But if a hundred or a thousand or a million people in my city do the same thing, it makes a huge difference.

Once you start making small changes to save water, conserve energy and reduce waste it starts becoming a way of life.

The DOT app provides ideas or DOTS that you can commit to and covers everyday actions relating to water, waste, energy and conservation.

It is an easy way to create awareness, start conversations and change mind-sets and habits.

The app was launched on 1st January 2017. Download here for Android and here for iPhone.

When the world goes dotty it will be a good thing.

For a full explanation of the DOTChallenge and the app, click here.

These guys are totally dotty

Two intrepid adventurers will be rowing the Cape to Rio route to raise awareness for the DOT Challenge and you can follow their progress on the app, and see the number of dots grow as more people download it and start adding their dots.

Clyde Barendse and Braam Malherbe will be rowing 6700km over 2 to 3 months in this tiny craft, the Mhondoro.

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The boats weighs about a tonne fully laden, which is quite a weight to propel by rowing.

It has a tiny cabin that contains the navigation equipment, charts, personal gear, a tool box, medical kit and provisions. There is just enough space for one person to curl up and sleep or two people to sit with the door closed during extremely adverse weather conditions.

On the other end of the boat is a much smaller cabin that houses the auto and manual helm that controls the rudder. The rudder can be programmed via a remote by Braam or Clyde while they are rowing. During rough conditions and large swells the back rudder will be used to allow the boat to surf the waves. Approaching the waves side on would cause the boat to capsize, although it is designed to automatically right itself.

The rest of the space on the boat is taken up by the two slide rowing seats. For the entire duration of the trip Braam and Clyde will be strapped to the boat.

The days and nights will be a never ending cycle of eat |  sleep  |  row | repeat.

Eating.

The boat is stocked with freeze dried food sufficient for 90 days. Only 30% of the meals are wet food, and are of the boil in a bag variety, cooked on a Jetboil in 3 to 4 minutes. The average meal contains 800 calories and extra treats include biltong, almonds and macadamia nuts.

This is not a foodie adventure, its pure survival.

Water will be obtained via a battery powered Schenker Water Maker. The battery is charged via the solar panels on the top of the cabin and the hatch. A hand operated water maker is on board as a back-up.

Entertainment

To break the endless eat, sleep, row routine, Braam and Clyde will take turns to go overboard into the sea every day, attached to the 40m line. This is bath and toilet time, recreation time and a chance to observe and record what is happening in the ocean.

They will be taking photos and video with a GoPro Hero 5 and a low light 4k camera.

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The 1st January was the planned launch date but poor weather conditions prevented Clyde and Braam from starting their epic journey, and they are still waiting for the go ahead from the weather gurus.

Download Windy.tv  This is a great app to see how wind, currents and swells will affect their trip, and give you your daily weather where ever you may be.

Follow the conversation at #DOTChallenge and #CapeToRioRow

FOLLOW THE CAMPAIGN ON SOCIAL MEDIA

DO ONE THING

Facebook /DotDo1Thing

Twitter @DOTDo1Thing

Instagram @DOTDo1Thing

Earning your stripes is so last year, get out there and go dotty.

I have downloaded the app and created my profile. I challenge all my blogger friends and every one of my 98 000 Twitter followers to do the same.

We will make a difference.

I can’t fix the planet but I can DO ONE THING.

2016: Reminiscing and shout-outs

Life is all about balance.

We need the lows to truly appreciate the highs.

Being happy all the time only exists in our social media lives.

The reality of 2016 has been one of extremes. The highlights were abundant and beyond anything I had dreamed for myself. The lows, well, can you get any lower than Zuma and Trump 😦

Like any other year, in 2016 I have had moments of 100% magic, experiences that were above average, times that were just”nice” all counterbalanced by crap days, admin, boring chores and frustrating curve balls.

Let’s start with the magic.

By now you all know that I wish I was a ninja but I am actually the biggest fraidy cat in the world. This year I tried really hard to face some of my fears .

Fear of heights and a generally overactive mind that imagines all the ways I could die doing an adventure activity.

I went aqua hiking in Reunion Island

I jumped from about 5 miles high into a pool. Read about it here. I almost had a heart attack and bailed out, but I eventually jumped. Thanks Dawn Jorgensen for making me brave.

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It is much higher than it looks when you are standing there trying to jump.

I swam in the Devil’s Pool on the very edge of the Victoria Falls in Zambia.

Obviously I was convinced I would be swept over the edge, but I survived it and actually the scariest part was the unseen fishes that kept biting my feet, that was creepy.

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One of the most exilarating experiences of my life

I zip-lined. In the dark.

I have a love hate relationship with zip-lining. I love the feeling of flying but I am petrified of heights. Add to this the fact that I was not very good at braking and it gets messy. I would twist and turn totally out of control while imagining plummeting to my death in the valley below. Then, I learned how to brake (finally, after completing over 10 zip line experiences, I’m a very slow learner) and now I am addicted to zip lining. Cape Canopy Tours took it to a whole new level with their full moon adventure. Except the moon stayed hidden behind the mountain and only appeared as we were hiking out. Ziplining in pitch blackness is bizarre, unique and a total rush, especially when you know how to slow and brake like a pro 😉

 I went underground to explore the lava tunnels on Reunion Island

I fought my claustrophobia (only just) and spent a fascinating and slightly terrifying 2 hours underground in the lava tunnels formed by the many volcanic eruptions on the Island. I will confess to joining a few others in our group for a brief moment of panic and hyper-ventilating, but I did it, I’m glad I did it and I would even do it again.

Processed with Snapseed.

The lava tunnels are under this other worldly landscape.

Helicopters.

These whirlybirds tap in to all my usual fears of crashing, dying and heights but I’m over that now as I was totally spoiled  with helicopter flips this year. I learned a valuable lesson. Up to half an hour in the air is fine, anything longer and the airsickness kicks in along with desperate teeth-clenching to avoid vomiting. Viewing Cape Town from the air with NAC Helicopters is a must do experience, you can read about mine here

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Perfect views of Cape Town from inside an NAC Helicopter

I fell in love with a river and despite the drought, flying over the Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River  with United Air Charter was a hugely emotional experience.

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Exploring the whole island of Reunion from a helicopter is an adventure second to none. We flew over volcanoes, through skinny gorges and spiraled dizzyingly above multiple waterfalls before calming down to serene views of the beaches and coastline. Some serious flying skills by Pierre from Helilagon during this mind blowing hour in the air.

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Wildlife

Wild animals are always amazing and seeing them where they belong, in the wild, is a humbling experience. Swaziland blew me away with the beauty of their reserves, their conservation success and the abundance of wildlife there. I trotted past zebra on horseback, viewed elephants bathing, giraffe eating, hippo yawning and lions sleeping. All over just a few days in this fabulous kingdom.

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Thanks to Anje Rautenbach I was part of a group of bloggers who adopted a penguin, read all about Pax the Penguin here.

I marched for Lions in Cape Town to highlight the plight of captive bred lions. Read more and support BloodLions  and get all the info on the plight of lions here in my article on Traveller 24.

It sounds like my life was a non stop perfect adventure, so before you start hating on me, lets get back to reality. In January and June I had surgery to remove skin cancer from my face and arms. More to still be removed,but that is a issue for next year. Please wear hats, load on the sunblock and beware of the sun.Skin cancer is a big problem in our country and it comes and bites you years after your over exposure to the sun.

My hot water cylinder burst,and a new one set me back ZAR15K, I nearly cried. My car decided it needed a new everything and then some dip-shit reversed out of a parking place on the side of a road and hit me as I was driving past. This was in Sedgefield while I was on holiday. Of course the driver had no ID, insurance or license. In fact they were even unsure of their own address. Turned into an admin nightmare.

My beloved Xperia Z3 phone had 3 CPU’S replaced as it kept overheating and then dying. Vodacom were beyond unhelpful, my insurance people were awesome but I still spent too many ZAR’s buying and iPhone 6s and I am still locked in to the Z3 contract. 😦 I think I am not an Apple fan because compatibility is a tech nightmare.

Let’s get back to the happy stuff. Highlight on the home front was getting my 2nd grandchild in April. His name is Oliver and he is an adorable brother to Stella who turned 3 this year.

Photography

Four days into this year I decided impulsively to commit to posting a pic a day on Instagram. #366daysofmakingspace. I was inspired by Heather Mason  whose photography I am in awe of, and she never missed a single day on the project, and she started on the 1st. I missed a few days due to illness or absolutely no connection, but I did make the effort to “make space” for photography and it was awesome. There are probably too many images of Table Mountain on my account but I realised that actually I don’t care.

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My photos are for me. I experiment, photograph what appeals to me and it thrills my soul. I have climbed trees, mountains, bridges, roofs and walls, risked speeding fines chasing a sunset, captured incredible moments, stood on the middle of bridges, roads and railway lines to the extent that my friends created #DiDontDie. I have spent about 1000 hours on photo missions this year, learned a lot and am no longer daunted by how much more I still have to learn. This is an exciting adventure and all consuming hobby that I am loving.

I was surprised to have three images accepted for the Cape Town Igerbook (hope it comes out soon) and did my first ever weekend taker over on Instagram for Kaapstadmag. Thanks for the vote of confidence guys.

Please follow me on Instagram, I’m begging 🙂 In my quest for the perfect shot only a few phones and one camera have been harmed.

I travel

Addicted to beaches and sunsets

I almost became a foodie 

I have had some outstanding culinary experiences, I ate Miso soup at 89 on Copper, the restaurant at Brahman Hills in the Natal Midlands. I rate this as the best eatery I experienced in 2016, if you are ever in the area treat yourself. I even read the whole article on Anje Rautenbachs Degustation Experience, after I had looked up what degustation means.

I tasted countless mouth watering feasts in various towns along the Cape West Coast Foodie Route, drank bucket loads of pink gin in Zambia, sipped and became addicted to Groot Constantia’s Grand Constance and became a fan of many of the various flavours of Rooibos Tea by Carmien, read all about this proudly SA company here. It’s just not in me to be a foodie, but huge respect for the creative people who use food as their medium for art.

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South Africa

I explored some new areas and returned to old favourites.

Ladismith on Route 62 was unexpectedly fabulous (blog post coming soon) and the Natal Midlands is a place I will definitely go back to.

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Brahman Hills and the Midlands Meander in KZN

Piket-Bo-Berg was another eye opener and place I had never heard of. Take a drive on the N7 and visit this place if you are in the Western Cape. Read about People Rocking Nature on the N7 here.

Durban is always a repeat destination, as is the Garden Route and in particular the Wilderness. Read about my Garden Route travels here and here.

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One of my favourite Durban images taken at Moyo Pier.

I loved road tripping to Oudtshoorn and showing off Gansbaai and the West Coast to Anje. Covering the Fynarts Festival in Hermanus reminded me just how creative South Africans are.Read about this amazing festival here.

This post is way too long, if you have read all the way to the end, thank you. This is just a fraction of what I experienced in 2016. I am tired. So much of the really awesome adventures were concentrated into a very short time frame that saw me catching 22 flights in 11 weeks. At the end of that fantastic, manic round of travel I got some nasty bug and was forced to my bed on and off for 2 weeks.

Overall 2016 has been very good to me and I am lucky to have shared it with great friends, my supportive travel family ( you know who you are) and wonderful clients who have become friends and introduced me to inspiring places and new people.

Thank you everyone who has been part of my journey in 2016.

After all the adventures I have had, I broke my toe in my kitchen last week 😦

Happy 2017 everyone.

PS. Once again I have been inspired by Heather Mason.

I am committing to a blog post a week for every week in 2017.

This is going to be really tough but it is the ONLY way my poor neglected blog will get attention, and I know that certain unnamed bloggers will nag me and hold me to this promise. Wish me luck.

 

Discovering the back roads in an OPEL MOKKA X

 

Breakfast at Nitida Wine Estate in the hills of Durbanville is a pretty good way to start the day.

It gets even better when you arrive in your 2006 Fiat Panda, and depart two hours later in a brand new Opel Mokka X.

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The vineyards at Nitida Wine Estate

No, sadly I did not buy a new car, but I did get to play with the new Opel Mokka X for 24 hours and travel along about 300km of scenic back roads, narrow passes and coastal highways.

For those who like and understand details that include words like torque, tortion beams and McPherson struts click here for all the technical specifications of the Mokka X.

 

The Western Cape has got thousands of kilometers of rural roads and we went exploring.

Bainskloof Pass.

Thirty kilometers of narrow, winding road hugs the Limietberg mountain on one side and follows the course of the Witte River on the other. This pass, now a national monument, was built in 1853 by the inimitable Andrew Geddes Bain. Gunpowder was used to blast away the rock and hundreds of convicts provided the hard labour. Steel rings bolted into the rock face can still be seen, this is how the convicts were chained while they worked.

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One of the viewing points on the pass

Ernest Page is a stunt driver and I was quite happy to let him take the wheel and negotiate the tight twists and turns of this pass. This is a man who “crashes safely” for a living and knows how to put a car through its paces.

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We never saw a leopard but it’s thrilling to know that they are there, somewhere

The Bain’s Kloof Pass has campsites, rock pools and day hikes. For more information visit Cape Nature

From Bain’s Kloof we travelled on the R43, crossed the Breede River and continued on the R46 to Tulbagh.

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Bridge over the Breede River

This quiet little town made headlines on 29th September 1969 when a devastating earthquake took nine lives and destroyed many buildings. Sadly one of the people who died in the earthquake was a young baby who to date has not been identified. The earthquake measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, the strongest quake recorded in South Africa.

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The approach to Bain’s Kloof Pass from the Tulbagh side.

Established in 1699 this town boasts 32 Cape Dutch buildings that are National Monuments, most of them found in the very picturesque Church Street.  Wines farms are plentiful around Tulbagh, chocolate tasting at Moniki is a must, and a visit to the Earthquake Museum while sobering, is a fascinating experience. Find more information on Tulbagh here.

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Moniki Chocolate in Tulbagh. Coffee and chocolate treats galore.

It’s my turn to drive on the long flat roads as we head towards Riebeeck Kasteel. We have established the road holding of the car on the pass,( excellent) but I want to test the brakes. This is a good excuse to floor it and the Mokka responds beautifully. I sort of control my urge to speed and gently brake, all seems good. The long dead straight section of road begs me to put my foot flat, so I obey. Then with a brief word of warning to Ernest I brake hard. No skidding, not even a quiver, the car slows really quickly and sits solidly on the road. I like this.

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Taking up the whole road because you can.

 

About two kilometers on, I use the brakes for real as we round a bend and are faced with a cow standing in the middle of the road watching the world go by.  I blinked, the cow did not, she just ambled over a bit so we could pass.

We then used the car as a model and played silly buggers for a while, shooting from all angles.The styling on the car is pretty sexy. Chunky and solid but with smooth lines and flowing contours.

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Gleaming in the middle of nowhere.

Our next leg stretch and car swap was at the Olive Boutique in Riebeeck Kasteel. Derek and Susan take olives to another level with their infusions. Well worth a visit, as is the rest of this little arty, foodie town. Find out more about Riebeeck-Kasteel here

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Olives to suit any taste.

Tummies full of olives we made our way to the Pleasant Pheasant Restaurant on the Allesverloren Wine Estate for an al  fresco feast, while the cars got a loving wipe down from the diligent crew.

As the sun dipped low in the sky we navigated the many detours to get to the coastal town of Langebaan and the Farmhouse Hotel, our spot for the night.

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View from my room

Cars got yet another wash, polish and refuel while we checked in and relaxed before feasting on seafood, true West Coast cuisine and fine wines. This hotel is a great little place, with plenty of nooks and crannies to explore. An old school sweet shop, a slave bell and walking distance to the beach but tucked in a quiet street it’s a perfect weekend away spot.

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Waiting to tuck in to the prawn potjie

 

Suitable for families or romantic breakaways, this place is a must for beach lovers and sea- food aficionados.

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After a great night’s sleep and a huge breakfast we hit the coastal road back to Nitida and said a sad goodbye to the Opel Mokka X.

Starting at R317 000 the Opel Mokka X is certainly a car I would consider if I could just find that other R300 000 lying around somewhere.

This is what I liked about it. Remember I’m not a petrolhead, motoring journo or a boy.

Styling. Great colours, yes, seriously. The gold was my favourite followed closely by the red. Bright, funky and fun.

 

Interior. Classy, not fussy or overly bright and flashy. As one who needs glasses for reading, I loved the large touch screen display that does everything from navigation to radio, and Apple Car Play that allows all your phones functionality to be accessed via the  on board display.

Being a shorty I liked the variety of adjustments that can be made to the seats, in particular the length of the seat and then being able to adjust the steering column for the perfect driving position. This car is very comfortable for long distance driving.

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Safety. The Mokka X has an innovative lighting system called Adaptive Forward Lighting LEDs. Efficient and clever, these lights adjust to suit your surroundings, dim automatically when oncoming traffic is detected and even adjust for dynamic cornering for the best possible visibility.

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Space.  The boot is spacious and would easily accommodate all the luggage required for a family of 4 heading out on a roadtrip.There is nothing cramped about the interior of this car and there are plenty of spaces and cubbyholes for stashing drinks, maps and bits and pieces.

Overall. A very comfortable drive in a stylish looking vehicle. It sits well on the road, is responsive without being sporty and making you want to travel at 200 km / ph. The  on board display is great as it meets the needs of today’s driver, and the intimate relationship they have with their mobile phones, while the lighting is a welcome safety and energy saving feature.

For more detailed information about the specifications of this car and to book a test drive visit the Opel website. 

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Thank you to General Motors South Africa, Opel SA and all the team for hosting me.