Tag Archives: travel

Castles and stuff

USA vs. UK? My friend went to the USA over the December break and she absolutely loved it, particularly when she got a whirlwind experience of New York just before the Polar Vortex hit (it’s quite a contrast to our Sunny South Africa Decembers). When she met me in London just afterwards, she was surprised at how less urbanised London was. Yet London is such a progressive city too, how can there be such a difference?

She was expecting more of the Starbucks on every corner (or Costa’s in UK) and big chain stores like Primark and H&M to pop up wherever you decided you needed one, but we ended up having to Google these places and then walk for ages (well, more ages than you would in NYC by the sound of it at least) just to find the shop you are looking for. One of my favourite things about the UK, particularly London, is how accessible everything is. One of my other favourite things about the UK is that they offer you this accessibility alongside all their rich history and heritage.

Dramatically viewing the scene.jpg

After the family festivities of Christmas, Kenilworth Castle opened their gates for free public access, as a Boxing Day treat. It was rather chilly, but the sun was cheerily brightening up the crisp blue skies, as it attempted to heat up frozen children noses. This may sound cute, but not when a particular “children” is moaning about how cold they are and how they want to go home because they have no interest in the ruins of a castle that held many royals (including PRINCESSES, sweet child!).

Kenilworth Gardens .jpg

Thankfully, the organisers also hosted a duck race. We felt very foreign when we heard about this: isn’t animal racing like this considered to be animal cruelty? It turned out to be a really fun event involving thousands of numbered rubber ducks going downstream. You place a bet on a number, and if yours makes it to the end first, you win! It was all very novel, and definitely worth celebrating with some mulled wine.

Duck racing .jpg

Castles are definitely one of the things you absolutely HAVE to visit in the UK: each one has a pretty unique story, and to think that people actually lived in those freezing stone halls with no electricity, yet still managed proper grandeur – it’s a humbling experience (as in: how badly do we really need it?).

kenilworth characters .jpg

Cuppa 1800′s tea?

Mom insisted that we had to do something cultural. We simply HAD to. But what educational things can you do in London when you only have 3 hours to spare? You simply can’t do museums and galleries any justice in that minimal amount of time. So we hopped on a train and headed down to Greenwich, on what was possibly the wettest day of my UK stay.

Masts and rigging always look so spectacular!

Masts and rigging always look so spectacular!

It's quite high up there, but mom is steering us true!

It’s quite high up there, but mom is steering us true (sort of…)!

 

The wet weather didn’t deter, however, and we really felt empathy for the poor sailors who would have had to deal with so much worse when they were aboard and sailing the Cutty Sark itself, in her hay day.

My brother isn't even very tall yet. The conditions must have been seriously cramped!

My brother isn’t even very tall yet. The conditions must have been seriously cramped!

 

She’s a recently refurbished old-school boat (tea clipper). She burnt down in the refurbishing process, and has recently been completed and opened up to the public again. She has an extensive history, that covers things from the tea and wool trade, coal delivery, and even served to educate new sailors. I couldn’t quite gather what made her so significant (apart from all that she’s been through), but I think this is also due to the fact that I am severely lacking in ship and nautical appreciation. I will work on that shortcoming soon.

The hull of the ship sits in a rather large hallway with a coffee shop at the back. It's incredible to think that there is a whole great big ship right above you. Then you think of the weight of it and how much cargo it used to carry and you suddenly feel very small and fragile.

The hull of the ship sits in a rather large hallway with a coffee shop at the back. It’s incredible to think that there is a whole great big ship right above you. Then you think of the weight of it and how much cargo it used to carry and you suddenly feel very small and fragile.

Things that stuck out for me was that she seemed rather fast. The museum housed in the ship itself really do a good job of demonstrating what it was like to sail the ship using a number of multimedia platforms. It’s an interactive and fun experience; they even had a ship sailing simulator to give an indication of how fast she sailed from eastern Australia to London.

In memoriam

 

It is an interesting visit even if you know nothing about anything to do with the ship, though some kind of knowledge of it’s existence would have helped us. Most people would have some motivation to visit it, though I think I was a bit unprepared. It’s definitely something nice to do in Greenwich that is a little less conventional than just visiting the Meridian (which, granted, is worth a visit as well).

Ship in a bottle (and the most hipster camera around)

Ship in a bottle (and the most hipster camera around)

You could say I’m some kind of hot fox…

… because I’m a serious browser! I love to shop, but when I say “shop” I don’t actually buy anything, so it’s definitely more of an aggressive and distracted browsing…

I came to London, knowing very well that I would be shopping quite a bit, but somehow forgetting that I had experienced a lot more of the Internet than the last time I was here, somehow. I have been in my absolute element, and I have pretty much only scoured Oxford Street in the West End. Below is a collection of some of the funniest and some of the most interesting things I have found so far.

"Dear Santa... I want it all." So true of my shopping explorations. So many wonderful things!

“Dear Santa… I want it all.” So true of my shopping explorations. So many wonderful things!

Clothes oxford

I nearly bought that dress for a Christmas party, but as you can see there was a little problem, and I didn’t have time to buy heels to make up for it. Why don’t they make short long dresses yet? The PJs would be appreciated by many students at Rhodes, and the panda skirt would be purchased in a heartbeat for a lovely friendle of mine who is mad about pandas. Pity that I come from South Africa, and the Rand is depressingly weak at the moment. Also: leggings absolutely everywhere! I still can’t decide if people should be allowed to wear leggings as pants (it depends if the way I wear them counts as wearing them as pants or not).

An array of drinking chalices

An array of drinking chalices

Some of these are appropriate for my four-year-old cousin, some of them she would absolutely love inappropriately. Either way, this is a really fun shop.

Some funky quotes to keep you inspired and motivated on your browsing way

Some funky quotes to keep you inspired and motivated on your browsing way

Quotes on posters, quotes on money tins, quotes to buy for your house, and quotes as graffiti. Everywhere you turn there is someone offering up their own piece of wisdom. I guess that’s just the world today, right?

Shoes. OMG shoes. So many weird and wonderful types... I have this problem that even if they are ugly, I want to try them all on! I also have a problem that I don't actually end up liking any of the nice ones either, so I find the purchasing of shoes to be rather problematic

Shoes. OMG shoes. So many weird and wonderful types… I have this problem that even if they are ugly, I want to try them all on! I also have a problem that I don’t actually end up liking any of the nice ones either, so I find the purchasing of shoes to be rather problematic.

It took me ages to find boots! It turns out there were quite a few unanticipated purchases that have been made since arriving…

The best part of the shopping experience: the food of course. So many treats available at every turn, it's no wonder that high up on my shopping list are a new pair of jeans (in my current size...).

The best part of the shopping experience: the food of course. So many treats available at every turn, it’s no wonder that high up on my shopping list are a new pair of jeans (in my current size…).

Not to worry about all these sweet things though, I am off to gym today (the first time since I’ve been here, how shameful!), which also means I’ll need new gym gear. I optimistically brought along some running clothes. Unfortunately, it really is cold here, and I don’t much fancy running in this unfamiliar area in the dark. So, gym for me! I will also get the added benefit of attending spinning classes which means I won’t completely die on the 110km cycle race that is the Argus in early March 2014.

I have many more hidden shopping districts to attend to shortly, but for now I have done one of the bigger and more important streets. I’ve got that out the way, now I can learn to be less of a tourist and find all the local spots to save some cash and still look as fabulous as everyone else here does.

Freshly brewed cake

I am finally in England, and I finally have my degree! Could that be any more exciting?

Brace yourself

Winter is certainly not coming, it is most definitely here. Feel it! It is wonderful. Before I tell you anything about the most perfect cake in my life right now, I need to give you some advice, especially if you are not from a cold country. Just because it’s cold, doesn’t mean you need to be cold too! I arrived with my South African winter coats, bracing myself against the cold. I expected the cold, and I was ready to deal with it. Little did I know that you can actually wear a genuinely warm jacket, and you don’t have to feel the cold at all. You can also get really stylish jackets too (fancy that…), so there is no excuse! This revelation has saved me, and I look forward for my next few weeks in this bitter yet beautiful city.

Another great thing about being here in the big city is all the new coffee opportunities. I can continue to hone my skills in the brewed art, however finding a good cup of coffee has been surprisingly difficult thus far. And my English Granny complains about the coffee in SA? She clearly doesn’t know what she’s talking about. One coffee that does not fail, however, is this delicious and delectable coffee cake.

This espresso sponge cake with mocha buttercream frosting is truly the best cake recipe I have stumbled upon yet

This espresso sponge cake with mocha buttercream frosting is truly the best cake recipe I have stumbled upon yet

As I must have mentioned before, this blog is largely about me learning to cook and bake, and become a better food photographer. You are joining me on my learning experience, my delicious food-journey, venturing into the unknown as I experiment with new foods and techniques. Obviously, this learning takes some proactivity, so I started an online cooking course, which turned out to be super handy and educational! It was kind of basic, but there were definitely a few technical tips in there that I picked up and they did have some great recipes that you had to complete as part of the course before you could move on. That includes this amazing coffee cake, which has literally become my favourite cake recipe ever thus far, and some amazingly simple sugar/butter cookies that are easier and simpler than mine.

Pam agreed with me on the coffee cake and on the biscuits. Hi Pam

Pam agreed with me on the coffee cake and on the biscuits – delicious. Hi Pam

The coffee sponge is so light and fluffy, with just enough coffee that it’s not overpowering but that you still get sufficient coffee flavour. The instruction video describes the ‘beautiful caramel coloured cake batter’ but I thought it looked basically the same as normal cake batter. It was still a very tasty cake batter (had to make sure there was enough coffee in there of course… There was).

It was literally the largest cake tin I have baked in - it was unnecessarily large, and I ended up with a single layer cake, contrary to instruction

It was literally the largest cake tin I have baked in – it was unnecessarily large, and I ended up with a single layer cake, contrary to instruction

I made this cake during my final exams, and it certainly kept me going for a portion of my studying. Unfortunately, it sat beside me, smelling wonderful, and it didn’t keep me company for long enough. Made for a good study snack of course at least.

Make sure to let your cake cool...

Make sure to let your cake cool…

The other problem with a single layer cake was that there was just too much icing for it, but there would have been just too little for a double layer one. I topped the cake with toasted walnuts the first time, but was disappointed by their flavour (which I was pretty new to), so I used pecan nuts the second time. I need to find a way to use pistachios, those are amazing (and addictive…).

The walnuts looked pretty good on this single layer espresso cake, but I do prefer the pecan nuts, as I used earlier in this post

The walnuts looked pretty good on this single layer espresso cake, but I do prefer the pecan nuts, as I used earlier in this post

The cookie recipe is one for the books; or one for your mental recipe book, as it is that easy to remember and execute. They use a really basic 3-ingredient cookie recipe, that works according to a ratio, and can be adapted to your tastes. In these, you add a dash of lemon zest, which gives them a perfect dash of flavour. The cookies are straightforward and reliable, as a genuine cookie should be.

Christmas sugar/butter lemon cookies

Christmas sugar/butter lemon cookies

Happy Christmas indeed!

The recipes are both from my favourite online shopping site, and they can be found here and here. Enjoy!

Jay Bay for a Day

Although I am not a huge fan of staying in the remote isolation that is Grahamstown, staying in the Eastern Cape does have a few perks. It can be especially beautiful, and staying in G’Town means I’m not too far away from places that offer much in the way of aesthetics (well, until I go back to Gauteng, which happens to be this coming weekend).

One weekend, we casually decided to pop on over to Jeffrey’s Bay. It’s less than two hours away, so it is perfect for a day visit (or a night over, if you have the time). Unfortunately, we went on a day that was particularly dull, so we didn’t get to see J-Bay in its true glory.

Let's go to the beach, beach, let's go get - oh wait...

Let’s go to the beach, beach, let’s go get – oh wait…

Obviously, I was most excited to have new foods to try. I was in my element, and I nearly bought a brownie at every place we stopped. But that is why we have budgets. It was a charming and new culinary experience, and J-Bay certainly had a bit to offer.

Love Food Cafe had a perfect menu for my tastes, but unfortunately don't cater for gluten intolerant folk

Love Food Cafe had a perfect menu for my tastes, but unfortunately don’t cater for gluten intolerant folk

The motivation for going to this beach town, known to me for its surfing reputation, was the factory shopping. RVCA, billabong, and other cool outlet stores were calling (after all, summer was meant to arrive soon, which means bikini season!). I am almost as obsessed with bikinis as I am with brownies and food, so endless cheap bikinis was like a tiny slice of heaven. Bikinis tend to be more expensive than brownies, which is unfortunate, but not too much so when you’re in J-Bay! Though, you can’t have both at the same time with maximum effectiveness, if you know what I mean. Why can’t we have our cake and eat it? Because there are only so many hours in a day that one can spend exercising.

Factory shopping is the best kind, am I right?

Factory shopping is the best kind, am I right?

I love to shop, but I never buy anything. I think I have a fear of the commitment to the clothing, because I just love to look at it all, but I am scared to try new things. So I didn’t buy anything, but that doesn’t mean that the retail therapy didn’t work.

We were also fortunate enough to see a little bit of a surfing competition, but by this stage the weather was really rubbish, so we returned to our backwards little G’Town.

Junior Surfing competition

Junior Surfing competition

Zim Spoils: Part 2

I shared with you the first few days of my Zimbabwe/Victoria Falls trip. What follows is the remainder of that beyond-gorgeous experience. We really maximised our time there, and it was worth every minute of it.

Our second morning in Zimbabwe was an early one, a bitterly cold one that seemed to feel the need to prove that it was, in fact, winter. We were collected from the hotel and driven to a lovely boma where we awaited the arrival of another new form of transportation.

My mother dearest feeding her elephant

My mother dearest feeding her elephant

Riding an elephant was kind of like riding a horse, except the saddle was a lot less supportive: I constantly felt as though I was sliding uncomfortably close to the handler (called a Mahout) in front of me, so I got a really good inner thigh workout by trying to maintain my personal space-bubble. The elephants themselves were lovely, although a bit intimidating, particularly when they started to get a bit aggressive with one another. They were still very tame, however, and they were a pleasure to be around.

We got a really close up view of the inside of an elephant's mouth, teeth and all when we feed them after the ride

We got a really close up view of the inside of an elephant’s mouth, teeth and all when we feed them after the ride

After awarding the elephants some treat, we were served an unexpected breakfast of our own, which almost makes up for the excessive price tag of the once in a lifetime opportunity. It was really great, but certainly not the kind of thing you would be able to pay for on a regular basis.

Waiting for breakfast, which was accompanied by Mazoe, a popular juice concentrate

Waiting for breakfast, which was accompanied by Mazoe, a popular juice concentrate

Granted, we were at a highly popular international tourist destination, but everything was really expensive! We had the option of bungee jumping or the bridge swing, but they were heavily priced, so we opted for the zip-line instead (definitely not because I was too scared to attempt them, because I’m not, obviously…). It was fun, but not as thrilling as the other two extreme sports undoubtedly were.

Zip lining above the Zambezi

Zip lining above the Zambezi

We attempted to visit the market while we waited for a shuttle to collect us and take us back to the hotel, however we ended up at the wrong market. Take note: the market is in a well-established building with charming little shops that we only found after spending so long in the less-established market that our bus arrived before we could rectify our mistake. At least we were genuinely supporting local business.

My brother waiting impatiently to be collected by the bus after being dragged around shopping

My brother waiting impatiently to be collected by the bus after being dragged around shopping

We concluded our final day in Zimbabwe with a sunset Zambezi river cruise, complete with Gin and Tonics (to ward of the mosquitos) and some crocodile meat hidden in the platters that ensured I only ate the non-meat items – aint no way I’m having croc, I’m not that open-minded just yet…

A charming welcome before boarding the boat

A charming welcome before boarding the boat

The hungry hungry hippo calls his friends. There ended up being about seven in this area eventually

The hungry hungry hippo calls his friends. There ended up being about seven in this area eventually

Elephant on the banks of the island in the middle of the Zambezi. It had just been banging it's head against the tree to get fruit

Elephant on the banks of the island in the middle of the Zambezi. It had just been banging it’s head against the tree to get fruit

The sunset over the zambezi was a perfect way to end a lovely holiday in Zimbabwee

The sunset over the zambezi was a perfect way to end a lovely holiday in Zimbabwe

Zimmmm-babwe and Vic Falls

I had the pleasure of expanding my African explorations over this Vac. To my gran’s surprise and displeasure, this exploration included a bit more than we had anticipated. We were not aware of the fact that Livingstone, the airport we were traveling into, was not in Zimbabwe, where we were going to be staying, but rather in Zambia. We only discovered this when we landed. Not too smart on our side for not having checked, but we just never thought that a travel agent would send us via a completely different country without telling us. It caused some hassels for my gran and cousin, and made our transit time substantially longer, but it wasn’t all that bad. We got to see some exciting things and really get into the African experience, complete with African Time.

There were elephants on the side of the road, you know, just casual. And then some idiot decides it's a good idea to GET OUT OF HIS CAR to take photos. Thankfully, the elephant chased said idiot away.

There were elephants on the side of the road, you know, just casual. And then some idiot decides it’s a good idea to GET OUT OF HIS CAR to take photos. Thankfully, the elephant chased said idiot away.

We stayed in the gorgeous Safari Lodge a short drive away from the Victoria Falls National Park. The view from our accommodation was stunning: our first evening found us sipping drinks watching the sunset over the Watering Hole. The animals weren’t shy either, and we got to see loads of different wildlife just in that evening.

Victoria Falls - Safari Lodge, Zimbabwe. Absolutely stunning bush accommodation

Victoria Falls – Safari Lodge, Zimbabwe. Absolutely stunning bush accommodation

Sunset over the watering hole

Sunset over the watering hole

The service at the hotel was pretty good, apart from the fact that there was some kind of miscommunication regarding the sleeping arrangements, and they were unable to fix this, which was understandable given that we were not overly keen on being roomed too far away from one another. The rooms themselves were really comfortable, with a choice of fan and/or air-con, and huge mosquito nets over the beds, which my brother was ever-thankful for. He was paranoid that we were going to end up with malaria, particularly as my mother had decided that we were not going to take tablets this time. None of the three of us got bitten at all, and we all seem to be doing okay… My bro was not impressed by the lack of TV, but he made do, using that time to sleep as much as possible, as teenaged boys do.

Walked out of my room and there was this little guy having a snack, saying "hi"

Walked out of my room and there was this little guy having a snack, saying “hi”

Our first proper day in Zim had us doing one of the things I have wanted to do for a while, and we got to do it in one of the most appropriate settings as well: a helicopter flight over the Victoria Falls and the Zambezi. It was absolutely gorgeous. It was obviously a bit pricey, as helicopter “flips” (as my gran refers to it) generally are, so we opted for the shorter flight, but it was one of the most breathtaking experiences ever. The flight itself was fun, something really worth doing, but we could not have chosen a more special wonder to view. The hospitality at the helipad was also great and we bought a DVD afterwards.

We got to look super-stylish in our headphones as we flew over the most spectacular views ever

We got to look super-stylish in our headphones as we flew over the most spectacular views ever

Could it get more picturesque?

Could it get more picturesque?

It's hard to comprehend the massive amount of water that just constantly cascades over those rocks

It’s hard to comprehend the massive amount of water that just constantly cascades over those rocks

A driver took us from the helipad to the Victoria Falls National Park, where the entrance fee, in dollars, was pretty steep, particularly for foreigners (not part of SADC). Once inside, there was an easy-to-follow route along the one side of the gorge into which the powerful waters fall. It was magnificent to behold.

Endless falls

Endless falls

Rainbows everywhere! You can't see it, but this one was a full rainbow that went right across, and it was double... #doublerainbow

Rainbows everywhere! You can’t see it, but this one was a full rainbow that went right across, and it was double… #doublerainbow

"May this stupendous grandeur and wonder of nature forever inundate each and every human heart with a fruitful and fulfilling sea of oneness - peace. Do not stop dreaming! One day your world-peace-dream will inundate the entire world. - Sri Chinmoy"

“May this stupendous grandeur and wonder of nature forever inundate each and every human heart with a fruitful and fulfilling sea of oneness – peace. Do not stop dreaming! One day your world-peace-dream will inundate the entire world. – Sri Chinmoy”

It is difficult to describe the sheer awesome power of that water as it crashes down. The “Smoke That Thunders” is a very appropriate name, with that smoke being a wet haze that rises up from the depths of the gorge, and condensing to rain down on you unexpectedly. Rain jackets are a must, however, they said that the more wet you get, the more blessings are falling upon you. So maybe just take one for your camera, and hope for warm weather.

It's also fun to just get caught in the rain

It’s also fun to just get caught in the rain

Don't forget your raincoat!

Don’t forget your raincoat!

Speaking of the weather, I was not expecting the weather we had while there. I thought, “hey, middle of winter, there will probably be a chill in the air. I’ll take some shorts for hiking, perhaps.” I packed jeans and long sleeved shirts. I luckily had some lighter vests for under these, and the shorts for hiking. If I hadn’t, I would have been most uncomfortable in the summer heat. It’s like they only had winter at night, and the daytime sun makes the weather forget what season it’s supposed to be in. The nights were fairly chilly though, as is often the case in the middle of the bush.

Tram ride through the bush, could we be any less mainstream?

Tram ride through the bush, could we be any less mainstream?

Old-school tramming

Old-school tramming

Our last activity for that day was the Tram ride. We booked many of our activities not expecting much else apart from the activity itself. The tram ride we had booked because we had heard that we could take a harnessed walk along the underside of the bridge. While we found out at the last minute that this was not the case with the evening tram ride, rather that was an activity forming part of the morning ride, ours was still an altogether pleasant experience. It was an old-school tram, leaving from one of the oldest hotels in the area, Victoria Hotel, with an enthusiastic and friendly tour guide who was full of useful information. They kept our glasses topped up, mine with gin and tonic water (to ward off the mozzies), and we got a serving of light snacks.

Victoria Falls Bridge was the final stop for our sunset tram ride

Victoria Falls Bridge was the final stop for our sunset tram ride

Mumzy with her G+T

Mumzy with her G+T

The tram took us to the bridge that overlooks the Victoria Falls and serves as the border crossing between Zimbabwe and Zambia. Here we were treated to champagne and a theatrical presentation by a “136-year-old” man who told us about how he was involved in the construction of the bridge. We got to take pictures of the falls in the sunset, and made our way back home on the tram, looking out for game in the bush on the way.

Jean-Jacques is allegedly 136 and was involved in the construction of this interesting engineering feat

Jean-Jacques is allegedly 136 and was involved in the construction of this interesting engineering feat

It had been a long day so we had a pretty early night. There were more activities to come in the morning.

To be continued…

Students in Utopia

Spontaneity is my favourite part of life, so I jumped at the Sunday invitation to a week away beginning the following day, with people I hadn’t even met before!

One of my best friends extended a last minute invitation to me for a visit to “some place out in Magaliesburg, just outside of Johannesburg. I would be going with a friend of her’s from Uni, Chris, and his two friends, Murray and Warren, that neither of us had met before. And then one of the guys that we knew (and are very close with) from our Europe Tour just over a year ago, Kyle.

Spontaneity with some bests  s best!

Spontaneity with some bests is best!

We hopped in the Land Rover, fresh from the Landy Fest a few days earlier, and drove to Utopia. Apparently, this used to be some kind of sex-related holiday-type location… But they told us that it’s not anymore, so we believe them. Chris’ family have a cottage there, which isn’t powered by electricity, something I only found out upon arrival. I actually still don’t know how the lights were working… Man, I am a city girl, and I love me some electricity!

Our hidden cottage in the veld of Magaliesburg

Our hidden cottage in the veld of Magaliesburg

What does one think when they hear students are going away for the weekend? Alcohol of course! We were with some proper lightweights of the drinking field, so after a mere two beers, in some cases, some injuries were occurring (as people fell down little rocky cliffs) and grasshoppers were singing Rufus Wainwright’s Hallelujah.

Private rock pools for some "welcome to Utopia" drinks

Private rock pools for some “welcome to Utopia” drinks

Utopia is situated just next door to a popular camping destination called Mountain Sanctuary, which has access to a stunning gorge/ravine. We took our second day to hike up to the West Pools where these crazy kids decided that jumping off 8m high rock cliffs into a rock pool would be a good idea. Granted, they had done it before, so it wasn’t that unsafe. I regret that I didn’t participate, but I went down the bum slide, and I know that next time I go, I’ll rock it! And hopefully it’s warm and doesn’t start raining again…

You have to aim it just right so that you don't land on murderous rocks at the bottom of the pool. Which is why it's so cool

You have to aim it just right so that you don’t land on murderous rocks at the bottom of the pool. Which is why it’s so cool

We watched the sunset of the Magalies mountain range. The journey to this perfect location was treacherous: 4×4 mode activated, singing 18 Till I Die, we showed the old toppies ahead of us how students tackle the rocky roads of Africa.

Chris shows off his 4x4 skills

Chris shows off his 4×4 skills

The old folk just watched us mad kids driving past the section of rocky road that they were unsuccessful in conquering

The old folk just watched us mad kids driving past the section of rocky road that they were unsuccessful in conquering

Dinner was perfectly South African: a braai of boerewors and sweetcorn, with melktert shots as well. Brandy and coke went around as we sat chatting around the bonfire, the evening just warm enough as summer dies out.

Though the weather looks threatening, all it did was freeze us once the sun had disappeared. Thank goodness we had consumables to keep us warm

Though the weather looks threatening, all it did was freeze us once the sun had disappeared. Thank goodness we had consumables to keep us warm

Where's the fence?

Where’s the fence?

We cleaned the house in record time on our last day. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that there were girls around this time? Though I must admit that my contribution was meager…

Kyle is missing from this photo (can't imagine why...). This photo was taken much to Chris' displeasure: who stands on a Landy!?!?!

Kyle is missing from this photo (can’t imagine why…). This photo was taken much to Chris’ displeasure: who stands on a Landy!?!?!

It’s always great to meet new people and try new things. I didn’t try things I wasn’t comfortable with, and that’s OK, there’s always next time! Also, no electricity meant I didn’t charge my phone for 3 days, and guess what? I didn’t die! (But it was close, obviously…) It was hard though! I want more holidays like this in my life: appreciating my beautiful country, and keeping active as well, which we did on our hike to the pools. This is the life I want forever, and I am so glad to be living it now!

At times like this, I truly love living in Africa

At times like this, I truly love living in Africa

Need some R&R after those R&R’s

Do yourself a favour, and DON’T ever drink an R&R. If you do, at least learn from your mistakes. And then learn from the mistake of not learning from your mistakes… I tell you this because that drink is delicious, delicious and VERY dangerous. I don’t even want to know what they put in that rum of theirs, but those Mozambique-folk use it for one hell of a party.

We went from the extreme cold of the French Alps to the sticky heat of the African East coast. It was the first time we had driven to Mozambique and if I can give you one piece of advice before you head across South Africa on a road trip, it is this: before you leave, make sure you know which town’s you’ll be driving through, and confirm that their names have not changed since the directions were last distributed by your dive charter. We spent about an hour driving in what we hoped was the right direction, waiting for the signs to Witbank, until we finally discovered that Witbank had, in fact, changed its name to E’Malahleni, in Mpumalanga. We were very lucky that we were going in the right direction.

The way to the burning beach

The way to the burning beach

We had a pleasant Mozambique-border experience. We had travelled through the night and arrived at the Kosi Bay post at 5am on 27 December. There were a few other cars, but it wasn’t as bad as the 7km queue of cars that had been rumoured around Christmas Eve. We had decided to leave our car on the South African side, which I wouldn’t recommend: we were very lucky to get our car out of there because of the bad way that all the cars had been parked in.

Busy busy busy

Busy busy busy

Our first two beach days were wonderful. While Ponta do Ouro was very busy, we were staying at Phambuka Dive Centre, which was a short walk and a scalding beach sprint to a much quieter rock pool beach. Following our first days, however, I barely swam at all because the beach was overpopulated with blue buggers bottles. They pretty much defined where the water ended and the beach started, and there was hardly a break between them. Their tentacles were longer than people, so there was little chance of out-swimming them. Thus, I did not swim in the sea again in Mozambique. (I do recommend taking a gazebo to the beach. I intend to invest in one of these soon).

It was a bit of a long walk to the main beach though...

It was a bit of a long walk to the main beach though…

Ponta has a reputation for being a great place to scuba dive, so we booked to do four dives. We saw some great things: loads of star fish, potato bass, nudibranchs, rock fish, parrot fish, Nemos and Dorys, and rays. My mother saw sharks on a dive she did without us. However, the water was cold and the visibility was a little bit shocking: I almost had face-on-face action with a ray when my mother pointed it out to me, but I couldn’t tell what she was pointing at. I pulled away very fast when it bolted, a mere 0.5m from my mask.

We spent New Year’s here, and it was such a huge party! I was a bit disappointed because the random people that I had met that night had disappeared right before midnight, so I was alone. Apart from that 10 minute period where I was wondering around like a lost soul, though, I had a fabulous party.

Party on the beach!

Party on the beach!

And about the R&R’s: they are a local concoction of Mozambican rum with Raspberry mixer (Spar-Berry), and rumour has it that the lack of production regulation means that this rum could have traces of petrol in it. I wouldn’t be surprised. Fernando’s, home of this evil, makes it really strong, and good luck remembering the party of the night before if you have more than 2 of these red wonders.

By the way, backstreet beach bars are officially the best places ever!

By the way, backstreet beach bars are officially the best places ever!

The hearts belong in France

Les Trois Vallées’, the Three Valleys. And I had the privilege of visiting one of these. Meribel: a traditional, yet somewhat commercial, French village, with wooden chalets and hearts on every piece of decor that you see.

We stayed with Meriski, the seven of us in a cosy chalet, where we had our own “house lady”, a charming British girl named Charlie. Meriski was great: we were collected by First Class taxi service in Geneva and taken directly to our home for the holidays. There were fresh French loaves with jars of Nutella and strawberry jame waiting for us. It was literally the best strawberry jam I had ever had.

Just the view from our bedroom window each morning

Just the view from our bedroom window each morning

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