My experiences living in Cape Town and travelling in Africa

Travel

Where to find the best West Coast flowers

A field of flowers in the West Coast National Park during flower season

Earlier this week I was invited by SANParks to take a trip out to the West Coast National Park, just an hour and a half away from Cape Town to see the famous flowers that burst out of the ground at this time of year. You could trawl along the various roads heading north out of Cape Town in search of these wild flowers but for a guaranteed sighting why not head straight to the Postberg section of the West Coast National Park, which is open for flower season during the months of August & September.

A field of flowers in the West Coast National Park during flower season

I have been to the West Coast National Park every year for the last five years and I can safely say these are the best flowers I have ever seen both in quantity and variety.

 

And the Postberg section is not just about the flowers, if you follow the road right to the top (more…)


Why drive to lunch, when you can fly?

My friend Hilton called and said that he and a mate wanted to fly to the Black Oystercatcher for lunch and was I keen. Of course I was, not only because I love flying but because I had also visited the Black Oystercatcher before and know they have some great wines and a delicious lunch menu. While it would probably take around two hours to drive there from Cape Town, our flight time from Morningstar was going to be less than an hour.

Hilton and Sarah took off first as their Decathlon didn’t quite have the same cruising speed as the Paul’s RV 7 that I had the pleasure of flying in. We gave them about a 15 minute headstart before we powered down the runway and took to the skies on what was an absolutely perfect autumn day in Cape Town. After take-off Paul gave me the controls for a couple of minutes while he programmed the Black Oystercatcher GPS co-ordinates into the Easyplan App. Paul did quickly remember to point out that the controls of the RV 7 are much more sensitive and responsive than a lot of the other light aircraft I’ve flown, it was incredible, the lightest of touches and I turned us left to follow the N1 towards Franschhoek. Paul then took back controls and I got my camera out to capture some of the unique vistas.

We caught up with Hilton just after Caledon and then had one small mountain range to get over before descending to a gravel runway.  (more…)


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 (more…)


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 (more…)


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 (more…)


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. (more…)


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 (more…)


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 (more…)


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 (more…)


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 (more…)


Countdown to Scoot West Coast

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!

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Sponsored byCTWC-logo-green

 

Who are these fearless four?

(more…)


The light at the end of Africa

Cape Agulhas Lighthouse

A couple of weekends ago I was lucky enough to visit Agulhas National Park for the third time in as many years. (see my previous trip here) The occasion was the official opening of their new Rest Camp chalets and I must admit there was something quite nice about being the very first person to stay in one of the new thatch-roofed log cabins. The crisp new linen and fresh, fluffy towels. Carbon copies of the existing chalets they have added several extra single and double room units with a few modern improvements like fancy fireplaces to keep you warm in winter and sealing around the edges to ensure the wind doesn’t sneak through under the thatch (a fix they will be applying to the older units as well now).

My only criticism of the chalets is that they are built quite close together and some of the new ones have been built behind the old ones, but if you can get one of the front units and even better one of the units on the end you can wake up to uninterrupted views like this everyday so my advice would be to call the SANParks booking office after making your booking as ask if one of the front units are available when you go.

Agulhas National Park Accommodation

Agulhas might not have the big five like Kruger but it has its own unique appeal. Less than 3 hours drive from Cape Town at the southernmost tip of Africa. You can explore the coastline or follow the hiking trails through the fynbos or just sit out on the deck of your chalet and finally finish that book you started reading weeks ago.

A visit to Agulhas wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the southernmost tip of Africa, which is where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

The other must do in the area is to visit the Cape Agulhas lighthouse which was built in 1848. Rather unfortunately the lighthouse was built from sandstone which doesn’t last very long when exposed to the elements. It has however undergone extensive renovation and is now open again and inside is a great museum with the history of the lighthouse and is well worth a visit. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not one for history and museums but tourism officer Maureen Fourie gave us a fabulously succinct history of the area and tour of the museum. Her passion for the area is palpable and she summed up the significance of where we were as she explained that when you stand at the southernmost tip looking south, “you have two oceans in front of you and over your shoulder, behind you, is AFRICA.”

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Something I’ve never been able to do before and which I would recommend is climbing up to the top of the lighthouse. To get to the top you ascend three very steep wooden ladders that creek and groan followed by an even steeper final steel ladder, the walls of the tower close in around you. Emerging through a heavy hatch at the top you are treated to a 360 degree view of Cape Agulhas and if you look closely, you can even see the bulb that is responsible for  helping so many ships navigate safely past this treacherous piece of coast.

If you’ve never been to Agulhas, or like me, have been but never had the chance to go up the lighthouse then why not plan a trip to southernmost tip of Africa. And whether it’s a weekend away or part of a longer Garden route road trip you can rest up in the serenity of Agulhas National Park.


Zimbabwe 2014: The Great North Road 

by Pauline Alexander, photos by Rory Alexander

It’s so interesting to ponder just what things signify ‘home’ – an incandescent sabi star, a group of kudu staring you down through a veil of thicket, recognising that impala are indeed different from springbok or Mr Chameleon pointing us North.

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Giving way to wildlife on the road to Mapungubwe

A post shared by Rory Alexander (@rory_alexander) on

Dawn overlooking the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers makes your heart leap. The Shashe’s sands are markedly pink and the Limpopo is indeed green and greasy and set about with fever trees. Tales of gold from across the river on the mount of Mapungubwe turn our thoughts to our own majestic place of stones and wonder at their place in that early trade with the East.

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Plus ca change, plus la meme at Beitbridge, but not even an encounter with state ‘crime’ can stop our hearts from lifting as we gaze out at the landscape of dwalas and trees, the bare swept earth around the huts and the anticipation and activity of the many bus stops. The one big difference is that it is now, indubitably, the Great North Road. Not ‘great’ in the sense of wide and worthy, but ‘great’ in the visibly increased (more…)


Being a tourist in my own city – Cape Town

Selfie on the Cape Town Red Bus tour samsung

Last weekend I got the chance to be a tourist in my own city with a good friend Nicole Biondi, the chance to explore Cape Town without the usual responsibilities of making sure I had enough milk for breakfast, remembering to switch the geyser back on and having to hang out washing. Yes, it’s not having to worry about these everyday things that makes one feel like they are on holiday. What better way to start the adventure then a city sightseeing bus tour. Starting in Seapoint we wound our way along the coast to the Waterfront on what could only be described as a beaut of a winter’s day.

Selfie on the Cape Town Red Bus tour samsung

The Cape Town Red Bus makes several stops along its route but it was Kirstenbosch where we planned our first hop-off. Not only was it a perfect day to wonder through the botanical gardens but I hadn’t yet seen the latest addition, the tree-top walkway otherwise known as the Boomslang. Rising up several metres of the ground you walk out above the tree tops with fantastic views over the gardens and greater Cape Town. True to its name the Boomslang does wind back and forth between the trees and even sways like a snake does as it moves from branch to branch. So much so that if you’re prone to continue reading + see 9 more photos


Hiking the India Venster trail up Table Mountain

India Venster hiking trail

In another first for 2014 I climbed Table Mountain using the India Venster trail. I have lost count of how many times I have hiked up Table Mountain but I had never been up India Venster until last weekend. The week before I had climbed Lion’s Head with a couple of friends and we all said we should climb Table Mountain again but we all agreed the usual route, up Platteklip Gorge, was boring so I suggested we try something new. India Venster is said to be more technical and not for the novice hiker but we were up for the challenge and so the date was set.

India Venster hiking trail

I always advocate an early start when hiking, so you get to climb in the cool of the day and before the suns rays get to harsh. The plan was to meet at half past six at the lower cable station. Well, that was the plan but there was a slight mix up in communication which saw me only waking up at 6:10 not ready to hike. After a slew of messages and slightly desperate phone call from the rest of the group who were already there (because I was the one who supposedly knew the route), I told them to start hiking and I’d catch them up. continue + see 8 more photos


Wakeboarding in Wilderness

For New Year’s I was lucky enough to be invited to join a friend and his family camping in Wilderness, a coastal town just beyond George along South Africa’s Garden Route. Approximately a 5 hour drive from Cape Town I have often driven through Wilderness on my way to Knysna but never really stayed there. My friend and his family have been going to the same camp site for the last eight years so are basically locals and I was the newbie. As the name suggests, Island Lake camp site is on the edge of a lake that is used for a variety of water sports and we had our own speedboat. As excited as I was at the opportunity to water ski, having never done it before I was a little trepidatious but willing to give it a good go.

Sunrise over Island Lake in Wilderness

Not one for being able to sleep in I was up at first light every morning which is great for sunrise photography and also the best conditions for skiing before the wind gets up and disturbs the water surface. The early bird catches the worm and my first morning there I got a space on the boat and off we set. The others, who had skied before, all had a go and then it was my turn. I had planned to water ski but the wake board rope was out and so I though why not try that first. I jumped into the lake, which was surprisingly warm, and strapped myself to the board while trying to listen to advice as what to do.  All ready the boat started to pull the rope taut and this was it, ‘hold on and let the boat pull you up’ I was told. read more + 8 pictures


Cambodia & Thailand, the insta-essay

Emirates 777-300

If you don’t follow me on Twitter and, more recently, Instagram then you may not have been aware that I spent the better part of November travelling in  Southeast Asia. A friend of mine planned the itinerary to the very last detail which meant all I had to do was get on the plane and what an adventure it was. Since I’ve been back, things have been a little hectic catching up with work and other boring things so I am still working through all the photographs. In the meantime here are some of the Instagram shots to give you an idea of the trip. To see the description for each photo click on the Instagram logo in the top right hand corner of each image.

 

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Capture the Colour 2013

This is not one of my usual travel adventure posts but I you see I was nominated by Kathryn Cooper of Anti-tourist Traveller to take part in the Capture the Colour 2013 photo blogging challenge. Unfortunately I have been on a photo assignment (more on that in another post) so I missed the closing date so I’m not eligible for the prize and nor will I be nominating 5 other bloggers as per the rules but I thought it still share my photographs for each of the five categories.

Red

Red Disa on Table Mountain

Red Disa in full bloom on the back of Table Mountain

Blue

Lake Hawea New Zealand

A panorama of Lake Hawea, one of the most breathtaking views I came across while travelling around (more…)


Addo to Oudtshoorn

Cango Caves

After a fantastic few days in Addo it was time to head back to Cape Town, this time via the scenic Route 62 (R62) but we had one last stop on the roadtrip, Oudtshoorn. You may be asking yourself what there is to see and do in Oudtshoorn.

Cango Caves

Probably the most well-known attraction just outside the town of Oudtshoorn is the Cango Caves where you have the option of a standard or adventure tour to explore this incredible cave system. As long as you aren’t claustrophobic I would highly recommend the adventure tour as you get to see a lot more of the cave system. While the caves are impressive the place we visited next was turned out to be Oudtshoorn best kept secret… find out more + 8 photos


Accommodation in Addo

Rory Alexander

Originally the plan was to camp all the way on this road trip to save on cost but I was a little nervous about the weather along the Garden Route in winter and wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of having to put up tents in the rain. Also when it came to packing the car I don’t think we would have had enough space for all the camping equipment anyway. A search on the SANParks website, however, revealed the next best thing, Spekboom Tented Camp. Here we could camp, in the middle of the bush, without having to carry loads of stuff with us in the car.

Rory Alexander

What more could you ask for, arriving with your tent already put up. Inside are two beds with mattresses and enough blankets to keep you warm on even the coldest of nights. A braai, outside table and even   read more + 7 photos


Morning, afternoon & night game drives in Addo

Rory Alexander Photography

What’s a safari without a game drive? Even though you can drive yourself in Addo with tarred roads near the main rest camp and well maintained dirt roads throughout the rest of the park, there is something about going on a guided game drive. There’s the belief that the guide knows where the animals are and will be better at spotting them, the benefit of an elevated viewing position above the height of the shrubs  and of course not having to focus on driving so that you can have both hands on your camera and be ready to get ‘that shot’.

Rory Alexander Photography

But the best part of the game drives we did was the knowledge of the national parks guides. Even though I have grown up in Africa, and spent a fair amount of time in the bush, I learnt so much about the characteristics and behaviour of the various animals we saw as well as the history and management of the park. Different animals are active at different times of the day and so to cover all our bases we went on a variety of game drives during our five-day stay. The sunrise game drive meant a very early and continue reading + 10 photos


Taking a ride on the wild side

Rory Alexander Photography

Rory Alexander PhotographyI had a bad experience with a horse when I was younger and for years I wouldn’t go near one. I have since gotten over that and now jump at every chance I get to ride. In Addo you can ride in either the Nyathi or Zuurberg sections of the park.

Addo horse trails

These depart from the main rest camp in the morning or afternoon and are two hours long.

The Nyathi section is home to the Big Five so it is recommended that you have a moderate level of experience and be confident that you can control a horse. They can accommodate all levels of rider though so just discuss with the park staff when booking.

People say that the great thing about game viewing on horseback is that the wildlife aren’t as afraid of the horse as they view them just like any other antelope walking through the bush and don’t see the people on their backs.

For those of you concerned about the safety of horse riding in an area inhabited by lions, rest assured that the game rangers monitor the whereabouts of the predatory animals and will move the rides to a different section of the park if there is any concern about safety.

Having met our guide and been introduced to our horses we saddled up and headed out on what was a beautiful morning for a ride. continue reading


Finding Africa in Addo

Cape Town is a great place to live except that for someone like me, who loves the African bush and wildlife, it is thousands of kilometres away from any wildlife parks that boast the Big Five. I was fortunate growing up in Zimbabwe where we often went away during the holidays to the various national parks across the country where rhino were plentiful. Every time friends from abroad come to visit and say they want to go on a safari and see lions, the conversation starts to resemble what one might hear in a courier dispatch office trying to get a package overnight from Heathrow, road freighted to Kruger and back, before same day delivery to Cape Town.

There is one alternative though, Addo Elephant National Park! Situated just outside Port Elizabeth, Addo is a mere 819km from Cape Town along the beautiful Garden Route. While not the typical African savanna vegetation that I know and love, Addo does have the Big Five and is also a non-malaria area. I had heard lots of good reports about Addo and so I thought it was about time I went to see it for myself.

Rory Alexander Photography

While you could drive from Cape Town to Addo in one day, it is quite far and there are so many great places to stop along the way, like we did in Tsitsikamma (read more here),  and it’s worthwhile breaking the trip if you’ve got the time. After a quick stop in Port Elizabeth to stock up on provisions, we arrived at Addo mid afternoon. Having checked in we went straight to the underground bunker at the main rest camp for our first glimpse of game and weren’t disappointed. We found a

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A bet, a bridge and my first bungy!

That’s right it all started with a bet in New Zealand. Known as the home of bungy, everyone I met was amazed that doing a jump was not on my list during my six-week tour of New Zealand and my retort was “if I’m going to bungy, I want to do a big one”, and of course I cited the Bloukrans back home in South Africa. The truth was that I’ve always been a bit of a sceptic as to the safety of bungy and its effects on our anatomy! Then in a bar in Queenstown fed up with justifying my position I came up with an ultimatum, which I thought was fairly safe bet, that if any of them came to South Africa in 2013 then I would do the world’s highest bridge bungy at Bloukrans.

Rory Alexander

I have stopped and looked at people jumping off this bridge before and thought no way would I do that. This time I was there looking at the same view but knowing that I had made a bet and I was going to have to do it. So after watching a few people jump we went to sign up only to be told they were fully booked for the rest of the day. Was this a sign or just a test of my nerves? click for more