My experiences living in Cape Town and travelling in Africa

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Scoot West Coast – Rediscovering people and places

written by Roan Mackintosh, pictures edited by Rory Alexander

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It’s funny how 7 days can go by so quickly and yet still seem like another time in one’s life. We set off from outside the Goodhope FM‘s studio in Seapoint with an uncertainty about what exactly lay ahead but also an excitement that it all promised to be fantastic. Last year Scoot62, the brain child of Guy McDonald & Rory Alexander, saw us scooting up Route 62. Scoot West Coast is the 2nd installment of this concept, brought to life by the commitment of Wesgro to showcasing the wonders that lie on our doorstep.

Being a pretty active person, I was particularly excited about the truly epic activities on the itinerary (such as stand up paddling in Langebaan, golf at Shelly Point, mountain biking in all manner of places, zip lining in Piekenierskloof and of course the skydiving near Malmesbury) & I knew it was going to be one memorable trip in which the highlights were going to be hard to pick. What surprised me though is that the true highlights would not come from any of these, but rather from the Read the rest of this page »

Day 7 – “F-f-f-f-from there?”

written by Roan Mackintosh, pictures edited by Rory Alexander

Day 7. The final day of the Scoot West Coast tour… While general maintenance at the Riebeek Valley Hotel may have been neglected a little, the kitchen certainly hasn’t been and a delicious breakfast buffet spread awaited us as we leisurely began the day. If you do happen to find yourself at the hotel then try the scones – sensational!! With only a single item left on the itinerary, it felt strange to be waking up a little later and not being pressed for time to cram things in.

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I say only a single item, but it was perhaps the biggest item that I think you will find on most people’s bucket lists. Skydiving! Not far from Riebeek West, just outside Malmesbury, lies a new ‘drop zone’ which has taken the operator, Mike Rumble, around 2 years to fully register and license given its relative close proximity to not only Cape Town international airport but also the Langebaanweg air force base.

As we arrived at the airfield, we had our first & only scooter ‘crash’ of the trip (quite an improvement from last year which saw 2 crashes on the very first day! We’re proud of you for not falling once this year, Guy…) Siv “shortstop” Ngesi was navigating the dirt road towards the runway and hit a patch of soft sand that caused his back tyre to skid out from under him and the scooter to collapse on its side as Siv spilled out onto the road next to it. Whatever nerves may have been building up in the boys were instantly released in hearty guffaws of laughter as Siv scrambled to his feet, dusted himself off and righted the fallen scooter.

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With a very experienced and knowledgeable crew, the Mother City Skydiving company do everything to put you at ease in what can be a trying time leading up to throwing yourself out of a perfectly good aeroplane. I have done a tandem skydive once before (albeit about 7 years ago) so I knew roughly what to expect, but fellow jumpers Dwain & Siv were doing this for their first time ever. As we were discussing the processes and procedures, we heard the faint buzzing of a plane and squinted up into the clear blue sky to see if we could see the source. A squawk on the radio indicated they were 4 miles out & moments later we saw the plane as a mere spec waaaaay up in the sky. Linda Mase, Manager: Domestic & SMME Marketing at Wesgro, who has been with us this whole tour, is a man of few words. When Mike explained that we should keep our eyes on the plane as people were about to jump out of it, he looked back into the sky and incredulously said Read the rest of this page »

Day 6 – Bar Bar Black Sheep, have you any space?

written by Roan Mackintosh, pictures edited by Rory Alexander

It’s been a long week on the bikes, with non-stop activities and late dinners. Last night was no exception and as we left the table on the way to our enticing beds, we all agreed to convene at the heated indoor pool at Piekenierskloof at 7am the next morning. My duvet is stronger than it looks. I wasn’t expecting a wrestling match when I set my alarm, but as it flared into life early the next morning, that’s exactly what I got! I put up a spirited fight, it must be said, but to no avail and in the end I found myself pinned into submission and only made it to the breakfast table at 8am. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who had missed the poolside appointment as I found only the very diligent Rory at the table. He had not only swum at the allotted time, on his own, but had also managed to snap a sensational picture of the sunrise over the valley.

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Breakfast done & dusted, we were successfully re-fueled for the day ahead. Piekenierskloof has a plethora of activities (walking trails, bird watching, volleyball, target shooting, mountain biking, mini golf & all manner of indoor games such as pool, air-hockey, table tennis etc.) We’d selected the most exhilarating one on offer for our morning stint (of course) and Natasha led us to the beginning of the zip lining course that crisscrosses the ridges overlooking Citrusdal. With lines ranging between 125 & 280 metres long and the highest point being 15 metres above the fynbos below, the 7 lines offer a fun & uncommon way to view the beautiful surrounds. The obligatory safety briefing completed, we lined up to traverse the first rather baby-ish first line over a small pool of water. All 4 of us skillfully descended & eagerly awaited Siv’s arrival at the small pedestal so that we could move onto the next, longer, more thrilling line. Not sure what went through his mind, but when the guide gave the signal to keep coming forward, Siv yanked Read the rest of this page »

Day 5 – Treasure trove at Fryer’s Cove

written by Roan Mackintosh, pictures edited by Rory Alexander

Traveler’s tip: Always carry some headache pills in your toiletries bag. A true West Coast ‘kuier’, while thoroughly enjoyable, does tend to ring in one’s ears a little longer than desired the following morning. Thank goodness the Tharrakamma beds are comfortable and the breakfast is a hearty one. I’d come out of last night somewhat dented but still in reasonable shape. Adventure waits for no man, so we were soon once again on our ‘poegies’ to meet Madalene van der Lingen & Monika de Jager outside the Namaqua West Coast tourism office. We shared yet more laughter with them as we recounted some of the previous night’s shenanigans. Madalene had the honour of escorting us to our next stop, Doringbaai, while Monika returned to the office to complete the day’s work – aka to lick her wounds ;)

When asked why it is called Doringbaai, which directly translated means Thorn Bay, Madalene cleverly responded “that is because it is a thorn in your side to leave.” Historically this small town was a thriving Crayfish packaging and export hub, peaking in the mid to late 80’s. With the increased regulations in the industry, these practices have long-since halted in the town and the empty buildings next to the Lighthouse were taken up by two unlikely neighbours – an Abalone farm and a winery. Read the rest of this page »

Day 4 – Beware the ‘spoegie-man’

written by Roan Mackintosh, pictures edited by Rory Alexander

I woke up because of something I had omitted from my blog update yesterday. Quite literally actually… That gentle humming noise that I could hear from within our Rocherpan eco-cabin as I awoke was in fact the sound of a passing Sishen-Saldanha train. Local reports had the train at between 3kms & 7kms long and that when the train departed, the front carriage was at a brisk 11km’s per hour before the back engine even started moving! Other tales told of how along the route the locomotives could not actually come to a complete stop & so changes of staff were facilitated through a rolling substitution – slowing the procession to 6km/h while old staff jump off the still-moving train while the new staff would run alongside and jump on. A quick Google search confirmed that in fact the longest train on this route was indeed 7.5Kms long (with 660 wagons, carrying almost 69 thousand tons of iron ore!) but that most trains on the line today are 3.7kms long with 342 wagons and requiring 8 locomotives/engines interspersed amongst the wagons to drive it along (still the longest production trains in the world!) That’s right, the train itself is over 3kms long! The sight of the train simply chugging along the line with a seemingly endless run of wagons taking minutes to pass is something that truly boggles the mind when you stop to really think about the sheer magnitude of this engineering feat.

Morning of Day 4 and we’re half way through! Wow, time has flown by. Once out of our cozy beds, we needed to suit up to get to breakfast, again at the very hospitable Draaihoek Lodge. Wisps of condensing steam escaped our mouths as we readied ourselves & breathed the somewhat fresh morning air. By the time we arrived at Draaihoek Lodge about 20 minutes later I simply could not feel my fingers. No wonder, as Dwain informed me that his car’s thermometer had registered our departing temperature at a mere 4 degrees! Nothing that cradling a warm cup of tea couldn’t cure though :) A direct quote from Rory during breakfast -> “the best French toast and fresh honey I have ever had in my life!!” Added to this, some rather exotic fruit (Star Anise, Prickly Pear & a very interesting fruit called Persimmon or ‘Sharon Fruit’ that looks like a tomato but has a very distinctive sweet taste) and the standard hot breakfast staple of eggs, bacon and accompaniments & the certainty of me returning in need of a new belt continued.

With well-satisfied bellies, we took to the road again and with Siv regrettably heading back to Cape Town in the evening for other work commitments (he will be back tomorrow, have no fear) he was forced to follow in his car. This meant that Rory was upgraded to a 200cc bike (he had been riding a 125cc up until this point) and the gusto with which he took to the fresh road was proof that he had really grown tired of all the “why do we have to keep slowing down for you?” comments thus far. We simply couldn’t keep him off the front of the peloton! Rory’s ungoverned freedom was rather short-lived though as Read the rest of this page »

Day 3 – Bokkom, birding & boomslangs

written by Roan Mackintosh, pictures edited by Rory Alexander

The start of Day 3 brought with it 2 fantastic new things that had been missing on the trip so far. Firstly – clear, sunny, blue skies. And secondly, the one & only Siv Ngesi, our fourth musketeer – both very welcome additions to the West Coast scoot festivities. Having never met Siv before I wasn’t too sure what to expect from the guy but with a broad, genuine smile, sharp wit & devil-may-care attitude I could see pretty early on that he was going to fit right in.

Shelly Point Hotel know how to put on a proper breakfast spread, let me tell you! With a buffet choice of everything from croissants to bacon, omelets, fried eggs, scrambled eggs, poached eggs, mince on toast, fried tomatoes, cereals & muesli, yoghurt, fruits, baked beans, sausage, fried potatoes etc. I couldn’t help but notice Guy struggling to get his bike jacket zipped up a little later as we prepared to head out onto the road once again.

One great thing about being on a scooter is the fantastic additional sensory inputs. The feeling of the cool air rushing past. The warmth of the sun when you arrive at a stop street or traffic light. The smell and even taste of the slightly tangy sea air. It really lets you experience the trip in a whole different way from driving in an air-conditioned car. The down side to being on a scooter…? Heading out of St Helena bay while being downwind of a fish factory. Wow! That’s one special & quite unique odour!!

Not far down the road, we arrived at Port Owen in Velddrif where we met our captain for the morning on Tollie’s River & Boat Cruises, none other than Oom Tollie himself. A true salt of the sea man, he runs the cruises side-by-side with his wife (who is also a qualified skipper on the boat) and while she skillfully guides the boat and serves hot coffee and rusks, Tollie freely imparts his years of local knowledge to all who will listen. I knew I was going to thoroughly enjoy the ride up the Berg River when during his safety briefing, our fine captain described things as such – “This boat is like Brandy… it has no brakes!” Not only full of humourous one-liners such as this, he also knew Read the rest of this page »

Day 2 – Scootcuzzi

written by Roan Mackintosh, pictures edited by Rory Alexander

For those who followed day 1 & were wondering – yes, the Roulette gods did indeed smile down upon me & and I went some way to paying off that speeding fine from yesterday (found out it’s actually a 50km/h zone, so that red & white government envelope will have a little more sting to it than originally expected no doubt!) And thus, with a successful evening at the casino & a great night’s rest at Club Mykonos under my belt, I couldn’t help but have a smile on my face as Guy wrapped up the outside broadcast of the Goodhope breakfast show and we headed off to Boesmanland Plaaskombuis for some well-timed breakfast.

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You know you are in the heart of the West Coast when breakfast entails freshly baked bread, an assortment of homemade jams and a hearty plate of scrambled egg, pap & sous, sausage & ribs. (accompanied of course by some fire-heated “moer-koffie”) That’s right, no bacon – just ribs! And you know what… I didn’t miss the breakfast staple on the plate. Delicious, well-prepared sustenance for the road ahead, enjoyed in a very traditional west coast setting with tree stumps for chairs, a completely self-service approach (the manager even joked that if we had a problem with service then we should just go to the bathroom & look in the mirror as that is the outjie to blame!) and potjies bubbling over open fires.

Good thing that there was a warm west coast breakfast in our bellies as the weather was particularly wintery and we had some stand up paddling (SUPing) to do in the Langebaan lagoon! Not sure whether it was sheer natural-born talent or a complete fear of the icy, winter sea water Read the rest of this page »

Day 1 – Scooting the Breeze

written by Roan Mackintosh, pictures edited by Rory Alexander

A somewhat restless night preceded my arrival at the Goodhope studios early this morning. “Why?” you might ask… well as I’m sure we all know, true excitement has a way of creeping into one’s dreams and making your time between the covers somewhat more tumultuous than tranquil. Despite this lack of a perfect night’s sleep, I arrived bright and chipper (matching our wonderful new orange team shirts) eager to get the day’s adventures underway. Greeting us at the studio were some familiar faces (such as Jean Scheltema & the breakfast show team) as well as some new faces (such as Rolf I’m-so-sorry-I-was-too-distracted-to-get-your-surname & Tim Harris from Wesgro). Tim is the fairly recently appointed commander-in-chief of Wesgro & he mentioned that the only thing keeping him from joining us was the impending birth of his child (there’s always next year Tim!) – now if that kind of a send-off party didn’t amplify the excitement tenfold then I might as well have checked myself into a hospital right there and then…

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As is nature’s want at this time of year, she chose a particularly dreary, slightly cool & somewhat damp morning to get our adventure underway. Not that I was complaining mind you, as I recalled the truly stormy conditions of last year’s departure, I knew things could be much worse! I also had extra company on the scooters this year as Rory Alexander joined Guy & I under-helmet with Siv Ngesi due to do the same later in the week. Added to this the fact that the scooters had undergone a ‘mild’ upgrade & I now found myself caressing 200cc’s of raw Vespa power between my legs (must be that I’ve been hanging around Guy too long now that this sentence sounds dirtier than it is… J)

As we took off down Seapoint main road from the Goodhope studios to the N1 & on to the R27, I felt buoyed with an impish delight in having just departed in such grandeur, with a strong team at my side and even sturdier equipment to carry us forth. Nothing could dampen this joyous feeling! Nothing that is, except a little yellow box… Not 500 metres from the start of our journey, I had done the unthinkable Read the rest of this page »

Countdown to Scoot West Coast

What is Scoot West Coast?

The Cape West Coast is a region of contrasting landscapes that conjure up evocative images in one’s mind. Stretching over 400km from south to north, the area offers an amazing variety of experiences and destinations, all with a special West Coast flavour. Scoot West Coast is the epic adventures of four friends on two wheels journeying through this region, rediscovering the West Coast and its hidden gems.  When we aren’t on our scooters we will be learning about culture, photographing birds, trying to stay upright on SUP boards, tasting bokkoms, sampling wines,cruising down rivers, and for some, skydiving in Malmesbury will mean rediscovering Fears!

Scoot West Coast

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Who are these fearless four?

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Hiking a charred Chapman’s Peak

Hiking up Chapman's Peak above Hout Bay

I had wanted to hike on the mountains above Cape Town since the fires last week to see first hand the extent of the damage and seeing as I had never climbed Chapman’s Peak before it seemed like a perfect opportunity to do so. A new friend from China asked if they could join me and I don’t normally like taking people on hikes that I haven’t done myslef before but after checking the route and map in Mike Lundy’s Best Walks in the Cape Peninsula it looked straight forward enough. So after an early rendezvous in Hout Bay, and a despite a cloudy start to the day, we took our first steps along the ash covered path.  It wasn’t long before we saw our first signs of regrow. The hike was very easy, possibly aided by the lack of grow along the path as a result of the fire damage and we made it to the peak in under an hour. The visibility wasn’t the best with cloud hanging over table mountain so we couldn’t see across to Gordon’s Bay but Noordhoek Beach and Kommetjie were bathed in sunlight and the view back towards Hout Bay is much like what you see when driving over Chapman’s Peak Drive, only