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 ūüė¶

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 ūüėČ

 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.

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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. ūüė¶ 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 ‚Äúmake space‚ÄĚ 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‚Äôt 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 ūüôā 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 ūüė¶

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.

 

My top 11 for Durban this summer. #CheapFlightsExplorer

Coming from Cape Town, for me Durban is an all year round summer destination.  I usually escape the cold Cape  in May and again in August and head to Durbs for sunshine, beach swims and friendly vibes. Summer in Durban ticks all the holiday boxes and here are a few of my favourites.

  1. Surf.Sup.Yoga. The name of this company says it all. They have packaged the beach with activities that will thrill anyone enjoying an active lifestyle. Start your day with a Yoga class on the beach, followed by a healthy breakfast to fuel you for a day in the waves, surfing, SUP and salty water fun in the sun. Break for lunch and relaxation before getting back into the water to own those waves and perfect your balance. What a way to spend a day. Find them on Instagram and FaceBook or check out their website for a full package for days of Durban magic, with accommodation included. Day packages can be tailored to suit your personal preferences. Mail Lauren at lauren@surfsupyoga.co.za
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    Beachfront yoga. Photo credit Surf Sup Yoga

    2. The Moses Mabhida Stadium dominates the skyline and the soaring arch seems to draw you in for a closer inspection. Standing on the ground looking up at this stadium is the only way to appreciate the gracefulness of the design and the height of the arch.There are eateries and public space to enjoy around the stadium and the I Heart Market  is held on the first Saturday of each month, and more frequently over the festive period. See their site for upcoming dates.

    There are 3 options to see Durban from the top of the stadium.

    • The Sky Car, suitable for ¬†everyone¬†is R60 per ride.
    • The Adventure Walk is for the fit and the fearless and costs R90. Attached to a safety harness, climb up 500 steps to the top, do 100 sit ups, admire the view, and climb 500 steps back down to terra firma.
    • The Big Rush Big Swing is¬†R695 and is ideal for adrenalin addicts and the slightly insane. A climb of less than 500 steps¬† to the platform from where you launch yourself into an 80 m free fall , swinging out in a 220 meter arc into the heart of the stadium. Screaming!

 

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Not brave enough to do the jump but loving the design of this space after a Segway tour

 

3. Get active. Be a total tourist and enjoy the promenade. Hire something with wheels and make exercising fun. Propel yourself from Ushaka to the Umgeni River Mouth and back. It’s about a 14km round trip so you will get a decent workout. Your options are anything from a bicycle to a skateboard, pedal kart, roller blades or your own two feet.Stop and talk to the sand artists, they have interesting stories, watch the high energy of the Zulu Dancers, enjoy the scenes of people out having fun. Visit Xpression on the Beach, The Bike and Bean or The Skate Store for rental options.

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Energetic dancers interact playfully with the crowds

4. Sunrise moments. Get up early and head for the beach . It is quite safe if you go to North Beach and there are plenty of surfers, kayakers, walkers, joggers, and swimmers all coming for a bit of beach love before starting their day. Once the sun is up and you have your shot, have a swim before going old school with a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich and a large coffee from Wimpy. The Moyo Pier at Ushaka is probably the most photogenic place in Durban, get there too, it’s great in the early morning and evening.

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Moyo Pier at sunset

Alternatively head to Wilson’s Wharf for fantastic views of the city skyline. If you are lucky a flock of birds will fly up as the sun rises and ¬†Instagram will reward you will hundreds of little hearts.. It really is a good spot if you like taking pics.

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Views from¬†Wilson’s Wharf

The water can be a bit iffy, litter is present, but the pics are good and there is a railway line there too, easily accessed  by a jump over the wall.

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Railway lines at Wilson’s Wharf

5. Walk the city. There is plenty of variety in the architecture, the City Hall is a favourite of mine, the Emmanuel Church, Jumma Mosque, and of course the markets.

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First glimpse of the mosque

The Muti market is best visited with a local guide, and is not for the squeamish. Victoria market for the vibe, the variety and amusingly named curry powders, the smells, the sounds, the art.

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Sculpture at Victoria Junction market

6. Curry. You can’t experience Durban without at least one curry. Offered pretty much everywhere, but these are a few of my favourites.¬†¬†The Britannia Hotel in Umgeni Road, Goundens in Umbilo at 376 Magwaza Maphala Street¬† (previously Gale Street) and for vegetarians the locals highly recommend Little Gujurat in town, at 43 Dr Goonam Street,¬†town (previously Prince Edward Street )

7. Get onto a Segway. Segways are such fun you will be grinning like a kid the whole time you are on it. They can be hired from Segway Gliding Tours situated at the Moses Mabhida Stadium.The Stadium Tour is great, but my favourite is the tour along the Golden Mile next to the beach.The guides give you a lesson before you start and then it is just full on fun for the next hour. The cost is R280 for the stadium and R290 for the beach, or you can go all out and do both for R440.

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Speeding along on a Segway

8. Afro’s Chicken is another Durban institution and you have to experience it at least once in your life. Find them on South Beach or go to the new one that opened in Davenport Road (now Helen Joseph Street) in October this year. They are stocking a local craft beer. Poison City , absolutely worth sinking a pint or two to beat the Durban heat.

9. Surfriders on the beachfront do the very best, most inspired gourmet burgers and light meals with a beach vibe.

10. Take time out at The Point. Robson’s Real Beer craft brewery 72 Albert Terrace, Happy Hippo for rooftop drinks.

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11.¬†Grab your camera and explore the Piers in Durban.¬†These structures are a photographer’s dream.Start at the Ushaka Pier at Addington Beach and work your way in the direction of the stadium, stopping at New Pier, North Pier, Bay Pier, Snake Park Pier, Argyle Pier and finally Sunkist Pier.

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Early morning at Moyo Pier

The light in Durban is great, and the piers can be captured from endless angles. Don’t forget to get underneath them as well.

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Instagrammer under Moyo Pier

If you are an early riser, or a sunset fan, you will probably find a few Instagrammers at one of the piers setting up or performing tricks and magic. For inspiration take a look at the Instagram account of the super talented Dane Foreman or the legendary late Andy Carrie , the two guys who introduced me to the wonders of the piers, and showed the world the awesomeness of Durban.

A short drive will get you to the best pier of all, Umhlanga Pier. The iconic curved railings, and adjacent lighthouse and rock pools are waiting to be explored and photographed.

Nothing to do with piers but photography fans should really explore the street art at the Warwick street interchange. It is crazy chaos, so go with someone who can act as an extra pair of eyes so you don’t get in the way of the traffic. Connect with the local Instagrammers for tips

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Umhlanga Pier

Thanks to my young friend Lauren Batchelor for showing me the best places in Durbs every time I visit.This very talented jeweller designer ¬†describes herself as “For all things jewellery –¬†@laurenbatchelorjewellery,¬†Low tide explorer. Durban. ¬†You might see lots of pics of her making crazy faces on Instagram but she is often found at all the best places for full on fun. Follow her here¬†@lollbatchelor¬†

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Lighthouse view from Umhlanga Pier

Get out and enjoy summer in Durban.

This post is part of the Blogathon project by Travel Concept Solutions 

Book your flight to Durban with CheapFlights now.

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Durban and Indaba 2015 highlights

I love Indaba, for me it has a slightly magical quality, a buzz that I never find at other travel shows. This year the Indaba team thrilled all bloggers by adding a dedicated day just for us, by way of the International Travel Bloggers Conference. #ITBC

I am ¬†a huge fan of Durban and it’s winter weather which delivered loads of sunshiney warmth to grateful Capetonians.

My Indaba started on Thursday with an Instawalk along the Golden Mile , followed by sundowners at the lovely Moya.

This walk was also the start a 5 day hug-a-thon as bloggers and travel buddies reconnected, and digital friends enjoyed important relationship building face time.

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Friday’s ITBC was a huge hit on so many levels. Starting with the selfie sticks that were given to¬†all registered attendees, the day began on a high note and just kept on getting better.

Fabulous speakers sharing tips and success stories, coffee and delicious pastries available all day, lunch from one of two  food trucks, and craft beer or G & T on tap. Just when I thought it could not get any better, I won a GoPro. I must confess, I am still not sure how I won it, as when it was announced I just might have been outside having a quick ciggie, doing the hugging thing and yakking my head off.

William Price is my new favourite hero at SA Tourism, and I have so much admiration for these amazing bloggers Meruschka, Kate, Natalie and Dawn.

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Saturday, Sunday and Monday were spent at the Durban ICC in a flurry of meetings, info gathering, networking and workshops, with frequent forays up to the media centre to recharge gadgets with power and myself with food, coffee or a seat for 5 minutes.

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The best place to be though was the TechZone.

It was here that travel met the future and all things digital were applauded, appreciated and accepted as normal.

Another blogger heaven. The coffee served free all day has to be mentioned, as it was not only local, but also addictively good. A big shout out to Colombo coffee and the folks who served with a smile and a friendly chirp for 9 hours a day, everyday. They are based in Durban, do pay them a visit.

Dane Foreman and Andy Carrie presented an informative talk on Instagram and introduced us to Storehouse, the hottest new sharing platform, check it out and get on board now!

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This creative duo also hosted a very informative photography workshop.

Thanks guys, it was both entertaining and  enlightening.

I am putting many of your tips and tricks into practice so you better start giving me little orange hearts on my Instagrams. Please.

Early mornings and evenings were spent down at the beach. Wimpy coffee, camera and cell phone, watching the waves, the skies and the people.  Durbans Golden Mile is alive. About an an hour before the sun comes up the surfers, swimmers, kayaks and canoes start arriving, followed by the runners, walkers, strollers and breakfast seekers. It is dark before 6pm in the evening, but the promenade is busy until about 9pm.

The joy of Durban winter, playing in the sea and wandering around in your summer clothes.

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My last day in Durban was spent exploring an architectural marvel, the Moses Mabhida Stadium on a Segway. These strange two wheeled machines will bring out the beaming kid in everyone, they are so much fun. The guided tour has you speeding (at 20 km/ph) around the perimeter, before heading into the stadium, dismounting and walking down onto the pitch from where you can truly appreciate the soaring design, and look up in terror at the height of the platform from which the crazy people take a leap for the Big Swing.

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Sigh, I love my job.