Friday, 9 June 2017

Day 44: Bloemfontein to Home

After a comfortable night in the passion pit we had a hearty breakfast and left a cold Bloemfontein at 9 am. We had a very relaxed 4 and a half hour trip home. We were stopped in two license check road blocks, the cops were cold but really friendly.

I love traveling but it is nice to come home.

Day 43: Rhodes to Bloemfontein

Bad weather is forecast for most of the country over the next few days, with massive storms hitting the Cape today. Snow is forecast in this region in the next day or so.

We decided to cut our holiday short because we are really missing the kids (wink face) and Robs has arrived home for mid-year break.  Also we don’t relish the idea of being stuck in the snow for the next week or two. Apparently when it snows here there is little chance of getting out on these roads.

We woke up to blistering winds and puffs of clouds overhead.  The plan was to take the scenic route of Lundean’s Nek Pass, along the Lesotho border. As we drove along the road back to Barkly East we watched the cold front roll in over the mountains and the high winds were buffeting the car. At the cross roads to the pass Gray said he wasn't happy with the conditions and was going to chicken out – sanity prevailed, I was seriously happy with this decision. 

We then headed into Barkly East, passed Lady Grey and took the Maloti Route through Herschell, Sterkspruit and stopped for a leg stretch outside Zastron, the wind was still pumping. In this part of the world we normally stop over in Smithfield but all the B & B’s were booked up, so we continued through Reddersburg and onto Bloemfontein. Due to road works we were directed through the city center and then 35 km out to De Orde Kraal Country Estate, our stop over for the night

Gray is an amazing travel agent and 99% of the time he gets it right but OMG, he requested cottage 10, check out this room !!!
By day and...
... by night.

The main house, was built sometime in the 1800’s and houses various lounges and dining rooms. This was decorated very tastefully, with a lot of the original furniture.

Dinner was a 5 course taste menu. It was really delicious. 

It was with great sadness that I heard about the sudden death of one of my old pupils today. My thoughts are with the Vermaak family, may Liam Rest In Peace. 

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Day 42: Rhodes and Eastern Cape Highland Passes

Happy Birthday to our precious nephew, Luke. It was 6 years ago today, we were on our way from Irente to Arusha and then onto the Serengeti, when we got the news that he had been born. Have a great day boy!

Yesterday at 8 am we were dressed in shorts and T-shirts. As the crow flies we are probably around 140 km away, dressed in jackets and scarves, the temperature this morning at 8 am is -1’.  So I guess 1600 m above sea level makes a difference. 

Gray decided that before embarking on mountain passes we should top up with fuel. Rhodes has a library but no shops or garages. We set off to the nearest town, Barkly East, for fuel, It took us an hour and 20 minutes to get to Barkly East and fuel pumps, just pumps - not a real filling station as we know it with a Woolies garage shop and Mugg & Bean Coffee attached.

This detour was not an ordeal as the scenery was spectacular and the drive alone was worth it. Back on track, as it were, we headed into the beautiful mountains and farmlands, frequently encountering cows or sheep on the road. 

It was really pleasant until we got to Volunteershoek Pass. This 18 km route took us from the Wartrail farming community up to Tiffindell Ski Resort. For 3 heart stopping kilometers, which took us about an hour, we scrambled up a steep rocky track with a serious drop into the valley below, not to mention hairpin bends thrown into the mix.

 At one point as Gray navigated a particularly difficult section, I got out to ‘take pics of the view’, in reality I didn't want our kids to be orphaned. I should never have doubted Panda and his BFG’s. At the top is a sign that says “the worst is over, 15km to go”. 

From there the pass traversed the high plateau to Tiffindell, where we had lunch and looked around.  It's still 2 weeks to the opening of ski season, so the place was empty and we were the only guests at the resort. 

Check the T-shirt

The return trip took us down Carlisleshoek Pass. The pass is very scenic but had a really steep 14 km descent section with sharp zigzags and hairpins. The last section into Rhodes was through farms. 

There are loads of mountain streams and dams in the mountains, obviously the water is used to irritate the farmlands. The local farmers like the snow, as when it melts there is more water in these streams. We came across Loch Ness today, a trout fishing dam, Gray ignored me when I asked if we could look out for the monster. This area is also a big trout fishing area. 

Tonight we returned to Walkabouts’ Inn for the 3 course dinner. It was delicious, the chef explained that all her produce is sourced from the local farmers. Then then braved the cold and house, thank heavens for heaters and electric blankets. 

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Day 41: Trennerys (Qolora Mouth) to Rhodes

We weren't sure what day it was, it turns out it's Monday.  We left Trennerys at 9:30 for the 290 km trip to Rhodes in the Eastern Cape. We passed through Centane, a bustling Dutywa and took the R408 to Ngcobo and onto Elliot. At this stage we ascended steeply into the mountains of the south east Drakensberg. 

We took the turn off to Barkly East and headed over the first of the 8 passes in the area, Barkly Pass. It was a picturesque tarred pass and an easy drive. The area is extremely beautiful with magnificent rock formations. 

We then took the R393, an 80 km trip on gravel roads to Rhodes.  This area is a well kept secret, if people knew how beautiful it was, we would have come across at least one car along this stretch. It hosts some of the most magnificent farmlands I have seen. I guess the area could be reminiscent of Scotland and the names on the gateposts of the farms echo this; Kilcullen,  Ravenscrag, Glen Garry, Buttermead, Farnham and so on.

Agricultural developments in this area in the 1860’s  led to the building of a church. The village was then founded on the farm Tintern belonging to Jim Vorster, he sold his farm in plots and parts were given as commonage to the village, on condition it was named after Cecil John Rhodes, who was then Prime minister of the Cape. The population grew to nearly 300 people by 1892. The old school building was allegedly designed by Sir Herbert Baker and had 112 pupils in 1928.  Rhodes became a ‘hippy colony’ during the 70’s and early 80’s. in 1997 it was proclaimed a Conservation Area.

Today the town has 23 permanent residents, the hotel closed 3 years ago and the school closed last year. It is seen as a tourist destination and there are a number of old cottages for hire (some are 100 years old). We are staying in one such cottage called Cyriacus, at the end of Naude Street.  Cyriacus  is a 4 bedroom, old house with self catering. We are really going to rattle around here.

While unpacking Sean De Wet, one of the locals arrived with a gift, of a packet of home grown vegetables for us. 

 It's that sort of old school town, frozen in time, with quaint and charming examples of Victorian Architecture. I guess it is a remote village because of its inaccessibility.  We took a drive around town this afternoon, it took 5 minutes.

Map of Rhodes Village

We thought we might have to defrost some of the meat we have been lugging around in our freezer but on our drive we stumbled upon Walkerbout’s Inn, on the outskirts of the town and found out they do pizzas, so we decided to go there for dinner.

Like oupa and ouma we sat on the stoep watching the one horse in the town amble past, then as the last of the suns rays disappeared over the mountains I headed in to light the fire and dig out my winter clothes. I think we are in for cold nights here. 

The night was cold, the pizza was good and we had some interesting company as a bonus. One of the local farmers, a lady and two men who are working on the aviation radar systems in the area. 

Monday, 5 June 2017

Day 39: Trennerys

Thoughts and prayers are with Adie, Julie and the Anema family. Adie’s brother passed away this morning. RIP Mark.

I am also thinking of my friends and colleagues at St Stithians, enjoy Founders Day.

To all those braving winter around SA, spare a thought for us, weather forecast for our area was 30 degrees, so we just had to go to the beach.

I went for a long walk along the shore line, stopping periodically to pick up shells. I have been collecting shells for years, from beaches all around South Africa, the Seychelles, Zanzibar and Mozambique.  They are kept in a giant vase, that is just over half full. I have a lot of shell collecting still to do. My favorites are cowries and pansy shells.

There is a great secluded bay, with gentle waves to wallow in. It reminds me of Christmas Bay at Sheffield and Grannies Pool at Ballito. My mom would have loved it here. It’s a pity the water is so cold.  Much cooler than at Umngazi, so my swims are more quick dips to cool off. Gray got as far as dipping in his big toe.

We had a visitor on the beach.  Chrissie Diesel, you wold have loved him. 

We also had some cute visitors around the hut. 

We had lunch around the pool and spent the afternoon reading.

I was a little disappointed that we had missed the Saturday seafood buffet at Umngazi but the Saturday seafood buffet here more than made up for it. What a treat; prawns, mussels, freshly caught stump nose, fresh local oysters (3 filled a dinner plate) and more. The dining room was packed, lots of locals come in for the evening, at R110 a head I would also be here every Saturday night. Pre-dinner Pimms, nice cold white wine with dinner, finished off with Irish coffees and Amarula. 

‘Don't wait for the perfect moment, take the moment and make it perfect’.  Live life !!!

Day 40: Trennerys

Another day of sun, sea and sand. We also had wind, a brisk south easter. Being the only vaalies here we were also the only ones braving the beach, but since it's our last day, come hell or high winds, we were spending the morning on the beach. 

The reason for the last glorious 8 days of beach holiday ... is Panda trying to butter me up. I would happily continue south along the East Cape coast. But we have done that before. Gray has other ideas, to head inland for more mountain passes. Oh well, what is life without a little adventure.
The weekend visitors had all packed up and gone home to Morgans Bay, East London and the surrounding areas, leaving us the only guests in the hotel, to a very quiet evening.  We had a great steak and a good bottle of Pinotage. 

For anyone interested in camping, I can highly recommend the camp site here. I also obviously recommend the hotel for a seriously relaxed and laid back atmosphere with great staff. Great holiday destination.

Last morning, after 8 days of sun and the clouds have rolled in. 

Friday, 2 June 2017

Day 38: Trennerys

Showers, they take up 3 minutes of our day, yet they illicit a daily conversation of double that time. Whoever takes the first shower at a new place gives the other a running commentary on the type of shower, the pressure, the temperature and on it goes. 

Whatever the day holds or wherever we are I cannot start it without a shower and washing my hair. Many years ago we went camping with Tony Purchase and his daughter Jen, in the Central Kalahari in Botswana. Al was unable to make it, so I had 2 men and 4 children to look after (like having 6 kids). There is nothing there but desert sand and we had to be totally self sufficient, taking all our own water and fuel for the week. As long as they were fed, the men and kids seemed totally happy to get up, get dressed and carry on with the plans for the day.  Well, after two days of desert dust, I totally lost it … I have never seen two men boil water so quickly and set up a bathing station for me – a kettle of hot water and the bowl, used to wash dishes, with cold water. One good scrub and hair wash later and I was a new person. Since that day, Gray has always ensured that in remote areas I have my morning shower, he even has a nozzle attached to a jerry can of water. 

Shower in the Hoanib Valley, Namibia.

Our favorite showers are outdoor ones, with a bush or sea view, hot water that heats up instantly (gas is best) and good pressure. Umngazi and Tembe had these showers. Our least favorite, are the ones where the shower head is in the bath, with a mouldy shower curtain, that serves no purpose as  you flood the bathroom anyway. Then the hot and cold don't mix, so you are alternatively boiling or freezing.
View from shower at Umngazi.

Toilets: loos with views are the best and long drops are a total no for me. In remote places where there are no loos, the procedure is to dig a hole, then light the toilet paper once you are done so it burns down to ash and then to cover the hole.  This is so the animals don't dig up the paper and litter the landscape. On another remote trip from Central Kalahari to the Kgalagadi, I had my shorts around my ankles and was in midstream when I heard a lion roaring nearby. What a decision, to finish or flee. Men have it so easy, they just find the nearest tree.

The reason for all the above chatter is that there is not much to tell you about today. I'm almost embarrassed by how lazy we were. Slept late, coffee in bed, chilled at the beach, chilled at the pool, afternoon nap, drinks, dinner and back to sleep. “The dream” as Robs would say.