Monday, April 30, 2018

We picked strawberries in Hankey

I am way behind on my blogging.  Like in "get Dr Strange in here with the Time Stone and send me back 6 months so I can try to start and catch up" behind.  Life is getting in the way and life is made up of work, family, kids, sport, etc, etc, etc...  That plus having a teenager in the house that occupies my laptop all evening, which have now conked out for the third time in a year. The laptop, not the teenager.  Freekin hell, please remind me never to buy an Acer computer again.  That is if I ever have money to buy a laptop again with what Miggie's indoor cricket is costing me.  Anyhow... We picked strawberries in Hankey, in January, which is a good 4 and a half months ago already, but I would really like to share it with you. 


Madele' Ferreira has been growing strawberries outside Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley for over 20 years and for the last few years they have managed to produce strawberries commercially all year round.  With over 12 hectares covered in strawberries and supplying some of the biggest retail chains around, the Mooihoek strawberries have probably crossed your lips at one stage or another, but only from the shop to your table to your mouth.  Although they have had many requests from people to come and pick their own strawberries they have never been ready for the public to do so.  That was until Madele's daughter was looking to earn some extra money during the summer holiday and it was decided to allow the public to pick for a limited time only.  The response? Overwhelming and so much more than they ever imagined.

I headed out to Hankey with the family in tow and two teenagers who weren't very excited about the outing, mainly because they had no idea what they will get to do.  Yes, they knew we were going to pick strawberries, but I don't think they even knew how the fruit was grown and what you actually have to do. 

On arrival we bought our punnets at R30 each and received the simple instructions.  You can pick as many as you can fit onto the punnet without leaning it against your body.  Pick away!  And pick they did.  Them and many others who arrived on just this one morning.  Apparently, the farm workers could not understand why people would want to come and pay to pick strawberries in the summer sun when you can just buy them in the shop.  Nobody told them that these days it's all about experiences and not just looking at things anymore, but rather doing.

I sure hope they will open the field for picking at some stage again and perhaps on a more permanent basis as it will do wonders for tourism in the Gamtoos Valley.  For now, I can only stare at my pictures from the day and remember the taste of those sweet red strawberries, most not even making it home with us. 

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Wild Coast lighthouses - Cape Morgan Lighthouse

The Wild Coast isn't called the Wild Coast for nothing.  It may be paradise but it can get rough out there if it wants.  So with that in mind, it's nogal strange that there are only three lighthouses (some websites say four but I'm not sure which the 4th one is) along this whole piece of coastline, Cape Morgan in the South, M'bashe roughly in the middle and Cape Hermes at Port St Johns in the North.  Out of the three only Cape Hermes is what I would call a traditional lighthouse. One built of brick and mortar.  The other two are both lights sitting on top of lattice steel towers.  Crossing back over the Kei Pont from Trennery's Hotel recently I decided to make a quick detour and have a look at the Cape Morgan Lighthouse.

A roughly three-kilometer drive along a narrow dirt road took me up to the 12-meter high Cape Morgan Lighthouse built in 1964.  The light is located in the Cape Morgan Nature Reserve and emits two white flashes every 10 seconds with a range of 24 sea miles.

The reserve saw Titanium mining take place here in the 1950's and if you follow the path down to the coast from the lighthouse you will see the remains of the mine's old seawater pump station.  The 4-day / 3-night Strandloper Trail also starts at the new Eco Centre in the reserve and covers a distance of 57 kilometers to Gonubie in East London.

Driving away I was happy to tick off another light on my list of South African lighthouses.  We seem to take them for granted seeing them along the coastline yet don't always realise how important a role they have played over the years and still do. Flash on.

Monday, February 26, 2018

The Great Fish Point Lighthouse - finally visited

I have driven between Port Elizabeth and East London so many times over the years yet the Great Fish Point Lighthouse has always just been a dot on the coastline some distance away.  The reason? Word has always been that the track up to the lighthouse is terrible and my Polo isn't quite high clearance nor 4x4.  A little while ago a fellow blogger posted about the lighthouse and I asked what the road was like. "Not a problem, you'll be able to do it easily." Suddenly it jumped up to the top of my Eastern Cape "to do" list. A road trip shortly after gave me the opportunity I needed and I took a sharp right off the R72 and what do you know... A quick smooth ride along a relatively smooth track. 

At 9 meters high the Great Fish Point Lighthouse is one of the smallest lighthouses on the South African coastline.  It didn't need to be built very high as it stands 76 meters above sea level and looks out across a dune veld to the coastline.  It may seem that the lighthouse is actually far from the coast (800 meters from the shoreline in fact), but the light can be seen 32 nautical miles out to sea and flash on the sea side every 10 seconds.

Although the large ships sail past quite far off these days, back in the 1800's ships had to be warned about three shallow reefs to the north-east of where the lighthouse is located.  These outcrops have taken a number of ships over the years, both before and after the erection of the lighthouse. In 1890 a Lighthouse Commission set up by the Colonial Government recommended that a lighthouse is built on this coast, but after several holdups the light was only completed in 1898, making it 120 years old this year.  Now I can say I've been there and done that.  Next time I want to stay over as it is one of only a few lighthouses on the South African coast that also offers accommodation.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A bath with a view in Hogsback

Most people would prefer a bath (with the drought, not something I have done in a very long time*) in the privacy of their own bathroom behind a closed door.  Most people don't mean everybody though.  There are those who would jump at the opportunity to take a bath in what is probably the most famous open-air bath in South Africa.

I've only seen photos of it, but on my last visit to Hogsback I decided to swing by Away with the Fairies and see the bath for myself, hoping that it wasn't occupied and thus off limits.  The barrier rope was down so I slipped down the path and there it was sitting on the edge.  The special part isn't the physical bath but rather what you see when you soak in.  The valley below, ancient forests and the three Hogsback mountains on the other side.

If you want to make use of the bath it is essential to make a booking with Away with the Fairies, with preference obviously given to their guests.  30-minute slots are available from 10am until 8pm.  They light a traditional donkey nice and early to warm up the water and bathers are asked to keep it stoked so that others can also have a hot bath.  The one prerequisite is that you have to use bio-degradable soaps if you're going to actually wash.  Most people just like soaking in the bath while soaking in the view. All pun attended.  Best of all, it is FREE.

*I do shower though, even if it's only under slow running (more like barely dripping) shower.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Around the Cape in a motorbike sidecar

One of my South African travel bucket list items I got to tick off during 2017 was going on a motorcycle sidecar tour in the Cape.  A visit to a conference in Stellenbosch had the opportunity arise to join a tour from Spier via Strand and Gordon's Bay as far as the Stoney Point penguin colony in Betty's Bay and back and I just could not say no come rain or shine.  Which turned out to be the case. Literally.

The guide from Cape Sidecar Adventures picked two of us up from the hotel on a wet and dreary day.  We both received calls from the owner early morning already to check if we were still interested to go even though it was wet out, and we were both still game.  So the trip was on.  Kitted out in rain pants and leather jackets my companion for the day slipped into the sidecar while I hopped onto the back of the bike.  The first sheet of rain hit as we went through Stellenbosch but neither of us wanted to miss out on the experience and with the guide willing we kept going.

Chapman's Peak may be rated as one of the ten most scenic roads in the world, but I've got to be honest, the R44 from Gordon's Bay to Rooi-Els doesn't have to stand back one step.  It really is a stunning drive along the coastline even with rain in your face.  Ordinarily, this specific tour would go on to Kleinmond but once we got to the penguins at Stoney Point it started coming down a bit so we settled for hot chocolates in the coffee shop before backtracking to Pringle Bay for a fish and chips lunch by a fireplace. Did we mind being slightly wet (because the layers kept most of the water out)? Hell no. We were having too good a time.

The weather started clearing on our return journey so we got to stop at a couple of the viewpoints along the way.  The views really are stunning but the highlight is definitely being able to go on a trip on one of these beautiful historic bikes.  Being able to tick this off my bucket list is one thing, but now I am hooked and next up would love to do their full day Peninsula Tour with visits to Hout Bay, Chappies, Cape Point and Boulders in Simon's Town.

PS, I would have loved to take some stunning pictures of our ride, the scenery and the bike itself, but the weather just didn't play along and I kept the camera hidden away cosy and dry for most of the trip.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Scuba diving party in Port Elizabeth

Parties are getting more and more sophisticated.  Back in our days it was kids coming over and eating cake and sweets while watching a video and playing.  These days parents are pulling out all the stops to make a child's birthday party a memorable one and with two kids, a boy and a girl, we've been to everything. Movies, ice skating, trampoline park, pool parties, supertube, survival parties and more.  But Drama Princess had a first the other day.  A scuba diving party hosted at ProDive here in Port Elizabeth. 

The kids had a swim in the dive pool while waiting for everybody to arrive before the full safety briefing by one of ProDive's qualified dive masters.

They were then given their diving gear...

... with the dive master kitting them each out individually to make sure everything is in order.

Then it was time to get in the water and the fun to start.

Miggie showing off her scuba look.

Some of the kids "got it" immediately...

... while Miggie's mind told her she has to come up every time she wanted to breathe in.  The dive master brought her back to the shallow side and spent a few moments with her to put her mind at ease and to help her get used to breathing underwater. 

Then there was no stopping her.

I wondered beforehand if Miggie would enjoy a scuba party and if she would even go under water.  Any uncertainty was cleared up very quickly and the kids at the party absolutely loved it and would have spent all day in there if they could.  I did my diving qualification many years ago and haven't dived for a while, but I remember the feeling and I can imagine while the kids loved it.  It's really something different and if you're looking for something out of the ordinary for your child's next party, then you should really consider doing this. 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Hole in the Wall - an icon of the Eastern Cape

The Hole in the Wall near Coffee Bay on the Wild Coast truly is one of the iconic sights (and sites) of the Eastern Cape and South Africa and recognised worldwide. 

Hole-in-the-Wall was named by Captain Vidal in 1823.  Vidal was captain of the Barracouta and was sent by the British to survey the coastline between the Keiskamma River and Lourenço Marques (present-day Maputo). He took his ship as close as 800m from the coast and described the phenomenon of a natural archway which he then named the "Hole-in-the-Wall".

The local Bomvana people refers to the formation as ‘EsiKhaleni’, the Place of the Sound or Place of Thunder.  During certain seasons and water conditions, the waves clap in such a fashion that the concussion can be heard throughout the valley.  

Local legend tells that the Mpako River once formed a landlocked lagoon as its access to the sea was blocked by a mighty cliff.  A beautiful girl lived in a village near the lagoon.  One day she was seen by one of the sea people who became overwhelmed by her beauty and tried to woo her.  The sea people were semi-deities who look like humans but have supple wrists and ankles and flipper-like hands and feet.  When the girl’s father found out he forbade her to see her lover. So at high tide one night, the sea people came to the cliff and, with the help of a huge fish, rammed a hole through the centre of the cliff. As they swam into the lagoon they shouted and sang, causing the villagers to hide in fear. In the commotion the girl and her lover were reunited and disappeared into the sea.