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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to escape from the crowds in Knysna, South Africa

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Knysna is the ultimate holiday destination which means that loads of people flock there over the holidays. Sometimes the vibe starts to feel a little manic, the action somewhat frenzied, the crowds, the noise and the traffic overwhelming. It’s time for a change of pace. Here are 10 ways to enjoy Knysna that will not leave you stressed, frustrated, and yearning for peace and quiet.

Escape to Thesen island and the Turbine Hotel

From the busy Knysna Waterfront, a 365m bridge over the water will welcome you to the relative calm of Thesen Island. Once a gritty industrial area and hub of the timber industry, it was converted into the Thesen Island Harbour Town, a magnificent marina development that was awarded Blue Flag status in 2013.

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Cars are only seen around the shopping mall and restaurant area, the rest of the island is linked by canals, waterways, pedestrian paths and nineteen bridges.

The Turbine Hotel on Thesen Island is masterpiece that will enthral anyone with an interest in architecture, design and engineering. This twenty four roomed boutique hotel manages to blend industrial edginess, five star luxury and local history into a refreshingly different place to stay in. Read more about the Turbine Hotel and restoration here.

The hotel is a skilful conversion of the old power station. Due to the heritage status of the building the exterior is unchanged, but the interior is what makes it unforgettable.

Brightly coloured tables and chairs share space with massive, freshly painted wood boilers, generators and turbines. A huge chain hoist and hook is a feature in the Tapas Bar and the dials and switches of the control panel situated behind the reception desk beg to be examined.

Metal stairs lead up to a grid walkway and one of the wood boilers, restored to pristine condition. The surrounding walls have stories to tell. Framed newspaper cuttings, some dating back to the early nineteen hundreds provide insight into a different time in history.  An old 1:50 000 map of Knysna shows how much the entire area has developed over the years.

A swimming pool that looks over the canals, fine dining at the Island Café and a peaceful sleep uninterrupted by traffic noise make the Turbine a tranquil haven for your base in Knysna.

Find peace on the water

A sunset Cruise from the Thesen Island canals to the Knysna Heads with Turbine Water Club pontoons is a relaxing way to explore the marine eco- system, or just float mindlessly and take in the view. The bubbly and canapé’s served on board  add a decadent touch to the fresh sea air and the stunning views.

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Celebrate the sunrise

In summer first light is around 5 am, the perfect time to take one of the bright red canoes out for a paddle on the waterways, sharing space only with the birds. Head out to the open waters of the lagoon and watch the Pied Kingfishers having breakfast. Nature puts on some great displays as these birds hover in the air before diving for fish. By 8am you can be back at the hotel enjoying a stack of pancakes and a cappuccino, completing the feeling of utter contentment.

Discover the views

A drive to Knysna heads is a must if you find gazing at the ocean therapeutic. The Knysna Heads are two cliffs that rise up to 80 meters on either side of the narrow opening where the lagoon meets the sea. A short walk from the car park leads to various view points and gives a great orientation and overview of the Knysna area. Less popular, but a favourite place of mine are the Heads at sea level. A restaurant and a rocky beach lead to a cave like rock where the water echoes as it rolls in and out. Red starfish and sea urchins are easy to spot in the cave, but first prize goes to the Fish Eagle who paused briefly on a wooden pole, calling to his mate.

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Explore on two wheels

A trip with Knysna Hike and Bike is not your average cycle tour. It starts with cake and cappuccino at a café with Anne and Mandy, Knysna locals and accredited professional tour guides. The pace is comfortable and the stops en route are unusual. A bit of effort was required to get up the hill in the industrial area but the reward was a beer tasting with The Red Bridge Brewing Co. This natural hand brewed beer is a celebration of everything about Knysna.

The Pioneer Series pays tribute to the Prospectors, Mariners and Woodcutters who shaped the town as we know it, and the ethos of this brewery is all about the community, from sourcing staff and ingredients to branding and manufacturing of bottles, crates and apparel. The beer is great too. The Privateer IPA is as good as any bitter, the Prospector Golden Ale is lighter and thirst quenching but the Woodcutter Saison Ale is the ultimate in craft beer. Subtle citrus undertones blend perfectly with hops and malt, this beer is best ordered by the jug, with a case or six to take home.

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Visit the Knysna sea horses

These curious little creatures can be found at the SANPARKS office on Thesen Island. At just 7cm in length they are small in stature but big on design.

They are an endangered species, but could they also be suffering from an identity crisis

They have the exo -skeleton of an insect, and an internal skeleton of bones like a human. As water creatures they have fins and gills, but also have a pouch in their midsection just like a kangaroo, and sport a monkey like tail that is used for gripping. Their chameleon style eyes move independently and can see in all directions. Sea horses mate for life and the male is the one who gives birth. They seem a little shy but if you stand quietly at the tanks that house them you will be enchanted by these delicate, fairy-tale creatures.

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Knysna Hike and Bike can tailor make your ride to suit your interests and focus on beer, wine, gourmet food or anything else you can dream up.

Head for the hills

A 25 km drive from the centre of Knysna will take you into the heart of the Millwood Forest where the trees soar, paths lead to waterfalls across golden coloured rivers and signs warn of the dangers of entering the old mining tunnels. Guided by an expert in the area from the Rheenendal Ramble tour company, the history of the woodcutters is brought to life, and the flora and fauna of the area explained, including tales of the elusive Knysna elephants, three of whom are definitely still living here.

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Forests are mystical and healing and Millwood is no exception, green, dense and silent apart from the sound of the rain splashing the top of the forest canopy but unable to penetrate the thick foliage.

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Eat like your grandma once did

Lunch at the inimitable Totties Farm Kitchen is a feast for all the senses. The original store that served the woodcutters with their basic requirements still trades today and the buildings are a hodge podge of corrugated iron, stripped plank ceilings and mismatched window frames. Old photographs and memorabilia are dotted all around the interior and the gardens, and it is difficult to decide what to do first, eat or explore.

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Indulge your senses

The ultimate in relaxation is a pamper session at the Amani African Spa, situated at the Turbine Hotel. Their signature kurhala ritual is a blissful ninety minutes of a full body and face massage coupled with a pressure point foot treatment that leaves you feeling like a new person.

Let Accommodation Direct help you find your ultimate hideaway. Deep in a forest, overlooking a beach or down a quiet dusty road, they will find the bed in the setting that matches your dreams.

Save time by flying

Knysna is a 6-hour drive from Cape Town or as I recently discovered a 45 minute flight from Cape Town with Airlink.
Airlink – the Regional Feeder Airline, offers a wide network of regional and domestic flights within southern Africa and operates as a franchisee to SAA

Route Specific Information:  Direct scheduled flights between Cape Town and Durban to George.

Connectivity: Through our alliance with SAA travellers can connect conveniently with SAA, their Partner airlines and other carriers throughout Southern Africa and the world.

Frequent Flyer Programme: Airlink is a member of South African Airways (SAA) Loyalty programme -Voyager.

Website:  http://www.flyairlink.com

Flight Bookings:  online, booking agent or SAA Central Reservations +27 11 978 1111.

Disclosure My stay was hosted by the Turbine Hotel, this article first appeared on AFK Travel website.

Grand Constance, a winter pairing.

It’s one of those winter’s days when your duvet is your best friend and you seriously contemplate working from your bed. All I want to say is “Really Cape Town, does it have to be this cold?”

But I have a date with food and wine and history at Groot Constantia, so I dress up and show up, shivering and muttering just a little bit.

The focus is food, but I am still at the “I don’t understand this menu” level .

The food is being paired with wine which unless served in a really small glass makes me sleepy, drunk or both very quickly.

My mood improves slightly as I enter the grounds of Groot Constantia. A weak sun is shining on the vineyards and the old buildings have a classic beauty that is admirable in any weather.

Groot Contantia perfevcting life for 300 years Di Brown

Entering the private function room at Jonkershuis Restaurant I am cheered up a bit more by the warmth of the fire, gorgeous table, warming nibbles and a glass of Grand Constance.

a warm fire paired with Grand Constance Di Brown

I am addicted to Grand Constance, so let me tell you a little bit about it.

It comes from the Cloete Cellar at Groot Constantia which is the original home of the South African wine industry dating all the way back to 1685.

Grand Constance is a sweet wine with spicy undertones and smoother than anything you will ever taste in your entire life.

It is high in sugar, totally organic and wine maker Boela Gerber has managed to come very close to replicating the recipe and methods used hundreds of years ago, when this wine was highly sought after by the who’s who of Europe.

Groot Constantia still have the original purchase order from Napoleon Bonaparte who needed thirty bottles of Groot Constantia wine a month to give him comfort during his exile on St Helena Island.

Grand Constance Di Brown

Grand Constance is made from Muscat grapes which are left on the vines until they are practically raisins. They are then picked, stomped and allowed to ferment for a few days before being pressed and put into barrels for a couple of years. That’s just the basics of the process; they are not giving away all their secrets.

Whatever they do and however they do it, the result is very palatable. In my opinion Grand Constance can be paired with everything, but Groot Constantia does have other great wines, and this is how they chose to pair them.

Grand Constance

By now I am cheerful and warmed by the fire and the generous glass of Grand Constance that has warmed and charmed me into good humour. I take a look at the four course menu and foreign words assail me.

Pafait, gnudi, emulsion, parmentier, terrine, fondant.

Help! What does it all mean?

A few English words come in to focus and reassure me, nice easy words like cauliflower, mash, kudu and chocolate cake. OK,maybe I will survive.

the table is set, Jonkershuis Di Brown

The starter and dessert were both paired with Grand Constance and did an excellent job in enhancing all the subtle flavours of the wine.

For the foodies, here are the details, foreign words and all.

Starter: Chicken liver parfait, soft creamy goat’s cheese on brioche toast served with a choice of these preserves.

Apricot and vanilla, spiced beetroot relish, apple chutney, almond and honey praline, pineapple and chilli preserve.

The dessert was a celebration of chocolate flavours and consisted of a dark chocolate and citrus terrine, a chocolate fondant with salted caramel and a gluten free chocolate cake.

We also enjoyed a Governeurs Reserve White wine with Ricotta Gnudi, butternut emulsion, sage noisette butter and spinach.

This was followed by a Governeurs  Reserve Red with Deconstructed Kudu Wellington, buttered cauliflower mash, puff pastry with porcine and red wine sauce and roasted winter root vegetables.

Despite my initial misgivings and appalling ignorance and inability to speak fluent “food and wine” this restaurant is not easy to leave.

From the creative blends of flavours to the friendliness of our hosts and the perfect private setting for a day of indulgence, GrootConstantia  delighted me.

Jonkershuis door Di Brown

Foodies will swoon and drool and to any non-foodies like me, the food might sound scary and weird but it is actually normal food with a delicious twist and when the plate is in front of you, you will recognise most of what is on it.Trust me, just dig in and enjoy it.

I finally left the venue, full, warmed, merry and with a great respect for the creative people who combine science and a passion for food with such artistic flair and make eating an adventure.

 

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