Travelling Tuesday: Welcome to Beautiful Hermanus

With a friend visiting we took a quick road trip to a beautiful village called Hermanus a little further up the coast last week. It is really stunning and one of my favourite places to visit. Were it a wee bit closer to an international airport, I’d prefer to live there over anywhere else in SA, methinks! It has stunning views with mountains tumbling into the sea, there are opportunities to see whales up close and personal at the right time of year, and it just has such a relaxed, great feel to it.

Mark took this shot from our hotel room last year. We stayed in Hermanus when we were visiting Mark’s family in South Africa last Christmas (as in Christmas 2008). Who wouldn’t like this view every morning?


Along the way to sunny Hermanus, we stopped for a view of Turtle Rock. Well, I have named him Turtle Rock. Mark thinks he looks like Sid the Sloth from Ice Age. We are waiting for Sarah Wood and Rory Macdonald to settle the debate for us. Sarah, Rory, if you please…

Turtle Rock

Scott was kind enough to take a moment to pet Turtle Rock. I doubt he gets many visitors.

Pet Turtle Rock

Another cool thing about Hermanus is these interesting little creatures (and you know I love interesting little creatures) called Dassies, or Rock Hyraxes. Apparently their nearest relative, in terms of their genetic make-up, is the elephant. Coulda fooled me…I think looks like a Nutria from Lake Mattamuskeet! (Sorry that was really eastern North Carolinian. It’s getting late.)


If you do decide to come for a visit to Hermanus, just beware…the Dassies can get up to mischief. You don’t want to explain the birds and the bees to your kids any sooner than necessary.

Rock Hyraxes

I hope that made you laugh. Now back to the real reason Hermanus is great — here’s one more slice of how beautiful it is!

The Cliffs

There are paths to walk around these beautiful cliffs that line a lot of the coast of Hermanus. At the right time of year, the whales actually come into the harbour, just to the left of those rocks (to mate, actually — what kind of post is this turning out to be?) but you can stand right there and see them up close!

So that’s one of my favourite travelling spots in this neck of the woods. Beautiful, hey? Happy Trails — I hope the road rises to meet you wherever your journey takes you next!

Travelling Tuesday: Introducing Exotic Bloemfontein!

It’s Travelling Tuesday!  I know all eleven of my blog readers are excited! I thought this week I’d introduce you to lovely Bloemfontein, South Africa, since I’ve been mentioning it so much lately. Even among South Africans, it’s not a very well known city. (Or better said, people know of it but know nothing about it.) It has a reputation for being a place where you “cry when you get here and cry when you leave.”  But I absolutely love it!

Here are a few Bloemin’ Facts:

Name: Bloemfontein is an Afrikaans name, literally translated “Flower Fountain”

Location: Just east of dead centre if you look at a map of South Africa, in the Free State, formerly known as the Orange Free State, which is along the Orange River.

Population: 349,000 in the city, and even more in the greater municipal region (Way bigger than my hometown!)

Claims to Fame: It’s one of SA’s three capitals — the judicial capital. J.R.R. Tolkien was born here, as well as several famous South African athletes including Zola Budd (such a sad story!), Ryk Neethling, and Hansie Cronje, a famous Cricket player whose biographical movie was released in 2008.

Home to:

  • The Free State Cheetahs, a Currie Cup winning Rugby team. (That’s like the South African Rugby Super Bowl).
  • At least three lovely shopping malls, one of which is situated on a man-made lake called Loch Logan. I continually refer to it as Loch Lomond.
  • One of the most active soaring (or gliding) communities in the world. (That’s the sport/recreational activity where pilots fly unpowered aircraft using rising air).
  • Lots of incredibly beautiful gardens (including my mother-in-law’s), in a surprisingly arid region of the country.
  • Some serious dust storms. That can sometimes turn into serious thunderstorms. Which makes it feel a little like home.

These days exotic ‘Bloem’ is also home to…

The neighbours’ pet tortoise. I don’t know if he has a name so I call him Pedro.

Pet Turtle

Exotic Birds.

Still Not the Croc Hunter

Okay so that’s actually just a dove that flew into the house and Mark caught him. (In case you’re confused, please check out this post so that I can confirm for you that my husband is not the Croc Hunter.) There are other, slightly more exciting birds in the garden as well! Masked Weavers and Bulbuls are some of my favourites.

One ferocious Bear. Who is only ferocious when I try to get him off of his little car, even if he’s been on it so long his toes are being rubbed raw. (I’ve since started putting his shoes on when he goes out for a ride).

Dad & Bear

This is perhaps my favourite picture of late — look at our sweet sixteen month old!

B&W Bear

Here is what happens to the car the gardener just washed when a dust storm is immediately followed by a thunderstorm.

Grubby Potato

Poor Mr. Potato Head!!

I suppose you’ve now realised that Bloemfontein is not particularly exotic. I was kind of hoping you’d figure that out. I thought it might be good for some stereotype-breaking-down. No lions in the roads…No elephants on the outskirts of town. Just pretty birds, shopping centres and stuff that makes it feel a lot like America or Britain. I’m sorry to say I don’t have more pictures that can capture the essence of Bloemfontein — especially the crazy dusty-coloured skies I’ve seen the past couple of days! I hope we can capture a few more good shots of the place to give you a better feel for it in the days ahead.

In the meantime, I hope your days are merry and bright (though if you’re in the northern hemisphere, they’re not likely to be as bright as ours right now!) and that the road rises to meet you wherever your travels might take you next!

Travelling Tuesday: African Wild Animals!

My humblest apologies that all has been quiet on the blogging front for a few days now. I was SICK SICK SICK! One of those crazy 24 hour things that makes you despair of life and wonder if it’s really worth going on. (Don’t worry, my one reader with emetophobia, I won’t go into detail!) Fortunately, I am on the other side and incredibly thankful that (yes I did the math) I’ve lived well over 10,000 days so far, and I’ve only had one like that. One in 10,000 — no cause for complaint!

Anywho, after that lengthy introduction, it is Travelling Tuesday! As promised, I have some stories and shots from our travels up to Bloemfontein, where we are spending the holidays with Mark’s parents (and his sister when she arrives!) The roads are very busy and therefore a bit dangerous this time of year, so we decided to come early to avoid the traffic, since we can still do a lot of our work getting Samaritan’s Feet started from here. Modern communications are a wonderful thing! We thought breaking the trip up over three days (staying overnight in a couple different places) would make it an easier journey with the Bear. We were wrong. Yes, it was still cheaper than flying, but dern, it was a lot of travelling! I don’t think the Bear enjoyed his tent being pitched in a new spot each night or finding himself in the car seat again each morning. So next time we’ll probably do the 10+ hour journey in one day. As they say in the South, we oughta just git ‘er done. Lesson learned!

As mentioned, these travelling adventures brought us face to face with many dangerous wild animals. This is Africa people! We stopped off in a place outside Oudtshoorn called Calitzdorp the first night. And just outside our little self-catering hut we spotted a big, scary…

Praying Mantispraying mantis!!!!

Okay not so scary. Still, a little creepy. You’ve heard how vociferous the females are, right? Well then, we went for a walk, and we came face to face with a huge, and very dangerous…

Ostrich - Yum!

Farm-raised ostrich!!!!!!!!

Behind a fence.

But if he got near the fence…and we were too close…seriously people, they can kick like ninjas, beware!!  Then it got really dangerous. I’m not even joking this time. We came face to face with a grumbly…grizzly…


Wild Bear!!

You’ve given up on me, haven’t you? Africa’s not as wild as you were hoping, mayhaps? Let’s give it one last try.  The final creature to give us a fright appeared as we were journeying to Nieu Bethesda for our second night’s stay along the way to Bloemfontein. And you do not want to come face to face with one of these. It’s a big, scaly…


Om… likkewaan!!

This creature kind of looks like a gila monster…and was probably like 4 ft. long! The Afrikaans word for it is likkewaan, pronounced LOOK-a-vahn, but the English word is leguan. I wasn’t familiar with either, but the Afrikaans is more fun to say. Sure, I took this picture from the window of the car, but still, he could’ve gone T-Rex on us at any moment! Grrrr. We actually think maybe it was a her…do you think she looks preggers? I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

Well, that’s a taste of our dangerous travels from Gordon’s Bay to Bloemfontein with Calitzdorp and Nieu Bethesda in between. Thank the Lord for Mr. Potato Head safely navigating our passage and never stranding us in the wild among these dangerous creatures!

Happy Trails to you, wherever the road takes you!

Travelling Tuesday: Lourensford Wine Farm

Top of the Tuesday to ya! I hope your week is off to a great start! It is Travelling Tuesday again! (Forgive me for bailing last week when I was a grumpymuggins and not feeling well.) A few weeks ago Mark captured what I considered quite a stunning shot of some clouds coming over the Hottentots Holland Mountains. Here’s the backstory.

The Collie Clan went for a stroll at a nearby wine farm a few weeks ago, on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and, as she often does, adventure caught up with us there. We encountered a big beautiful peacock on his way to the cheesery. Delightful!

Peacock Fancies Cheese

I would’ve thought he’d have gone for the chocolate shop but, to each his own.

After a while, the Bear got tired of being held and did some of his delightful and mischievous crawling around, here there and everywhere. At one point, he was just a short distance away from us, and we both simultaneously turned to look at him, because the wind picked up, and the outdoor umbrellas, which were closed, looked like they might still be blown over. Not two seconds later, down one comes and — surely it’s not going to hit him on the head — yes, the huge umbrella bops him on top of the head.

It was like it happened in slow motion — the umbrella s-l-o-w-e-d down just before bopping him — as if an angel happened along just in time to hold it back. He got the fright of his life (maybe besides his circumcision) and kind of crumpled over. We ran over to pick him up and I cuddled him for ages, but after forty-five seconds it seemed like he’d totally recovered! He is very brave. He didn’t have a bump anywhere on his head — just a couple of tiny wee scratches on his face from his landing. And ya know, I think mother’s intuition warned me about those umbrellas but I thought — surely not, you’re being overly protective! I will listen next time!

The staff who saw it happen felt absolutely terrible, and gave him a HUGE chocolate lollypop, which he proceeded to devour in two, yes two bites. He still only had one tooth at the time (a few more are on their way in right now!) … how did he do that? In the end, I think he decided the mishap was totally worth the treatment afterwards. Here he is, struggling to keep his mouth closed with a huge bite of chocolate inside:

Bear Wants Chocolate

And afterwards, in a chocolatey stupor. (He refused to share, mind you.)

Dern That Was Good

Finally, just before our departure, Mark captured some shots as the clouds began to pour over the Hottentots Holland Mountains. It is so beautiful to watch the clouds move like this… cascading and pouring over so gently and so quickly. It seems like it happens a lot in this part of the world, but I’d never seen it before I came here.

Wine Farm

So that’s this Travelling Tuesday! Happy Trails, wherever the journey may take you!

Top Ten Things You Should Know About “Going on Safari” in South Africa

Top of the week to you again! We’ve decided to add a new feature to the site, with more posts about visiting South Africa. We have several friends planning to visit us over the next few years — including some coming quite soon. And, a ton of people will be piling into SA in 2010 as the FIFA World Cup gets underway in awesome venues all around the country! Look for a new page and some great changes coming soon!

We thought we’d begin to prepare our friends (and folks we don’t know) for their trip. Even if you’re not sure when you might be making your way ‘way down South’ we hope you’ll enjoy the photos and suggestions, with some good humour thrown in. Hope to see you here soon!

Photo Courtesy of Waynne Meintjes

Photo Courtesy of Waynne Meintjes

Top Ten Things You Should Know About “Going on Safari” in SA

10. You are going to have to go to a national park or a game reserve to see a lot of the animals you probably want to see. I am sorry if this news disappoints you. Elephants and hippos don’t walk through town as often as you may have imagined.

9. It is good to know that whilst in South Africa, you should say you’d like to go “game viewing” or “go see some game” or “go on a game drive” instead of “go on safari.” When in Rome…try not to be a touron.

8. Some folks will be excited to know you can see game on horseback in some game reserves. I, on the other hand, rue the day I thought this was a good idea. The leisurely two hour jaunt was actually three hours, I still have a scar on my hand from holding the reigns so tightly because my horse was a ninnymuggins, and I walked like a cowboy for the next three days.  It’s an idea, I just don’t know if it’s a good one.

7. There are some game reserves relatively close to Cape Town (a lot of folks would like to kill two birds with one stone and see Cape Town and the Big 5). You will still most likely need to rent a car to get to any of them. Most of the best game reserves, however, are in the northeastern part of the country, near the Kruger National Park. You might therefore consider flying into Johannesburg, seeing some game at a reserve nearer to there, and then taking a domestic flight (Kulula and Mango are good options) to spend some time in the Cape. Problem solved. Alternatively, there are tour groups that do trips to certain reserves, like Aquila, from Cape Town. This is also a good option.

6. All game reserves are not created equal. Pay attention to their websites and what animals they boast on their properties. And then go to Trip Advisor and see what other people thought. A lot of the reserves are like big zoos with tame animals that you have to drive to see.  This is okay and will give you pretty pictures, but it’s not quite the authentic experience. To get the authentic experience, you need to go to the big reserves in the north east of the country, or pay the big bucks at the posh reserves in the Cape.

5. The best time to view game is actually during the winter, when the bush is lower and less verdant, and the temperatures are cooler. In the summer, the bush is high and thick, making game viewing more difficult. The game spend the hottest part of the summer days sheltered in the shade, and normally out of sight.

4. South Africa is in the southern hemisphere! So spring and summer run from September to April, and autumn and winter from May to August.

3. Malaria is only a concern in the northeastern part of the country. If you fear malaria, pay the big bucks and go to the posh reserves in the Eastern Cape. However, you can take malaria medication in preparation for your trip, and you should really be fine. Medical Care in South Africa is very good, in case you’re concerned.

Meow?2. You have the option of going on a field-guide led trip, where you’ll be taken on the back of a Land Rover and driven around, or on a self-driven game drive. Guide-led trips are often the popular option because the field guides are usually in contact with one another by radio, and so have a good idea of where the game is at a particular time. A self-driven trip will be less expensive — you should find information at the entrances of most reserves as to what game has been seen in which areas of the park. You’ll miss out on the knowledge of the field guide, but you’ll save the cash. I’d recommend doing at least one game drive with a field guide. You don’t have to stay on a reserve to go to the reserve and see game. If you decide to do a self-driven game drive, please see the next point for very important details.

1. If you go on a self-driven game drive and the signs say Don’t Get Out of the Car, then Don’t Get Out of the Car. Seriously. Many Asian tourists have lost their lives trying to make a peace sign beside the lions. Actually, this is a good rule of thumb, whether there are signs or not: On a game reserve, Don’t Get Out of the Car. Remember, this is Africa. The Cats don’t meow. They roar.