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.

Spending a day in the Tsitsikamma – video

I have always wanted to make travel videos.  When I started working as a tourist guide in 1998 I had a little video camera which I filmed my tours with.  Back then I didn’t know anything about editing.  The video was basically what I shot and I had to make sure the video was rewound just far enough for the next shot to start where I wanted it to.  All those videos are somewhere on VHS tapes in a cupboard at home.  Somewhere I kinda lost the whole video thing and started enjoying photography and blogging.  But as a blogger I started to feel like I’m falling further and further behind many other travel bloggers who started including more video on their social media platforms.
A few weeks ago we headed out to the Tsitsikamma for a day and I decided that it was time to give video a go again.  Rather than go out and take photos all day, I took video clips on my DSLR camera and on returning downloaded a very easy to use video editing program.  This week I finally had a chance to play around with it and once I started I couldn’t stop.  I realise that with the DSLR obviously not having an anti-shake like a video camera has I should probably have used a tripod, but I live and learn.  I must say that I was quite impressed with the end result.  Obviously, I still have a lot to learn, but you can definitely be sure that you will be seeing a lot more video from me in future.
So here it is, my first video called A day in the Tsitsikamma.  What do you think?

So many activities to do around Addo

When you mention Addo, most people think elephants.  They wouldn’t be wrong though BUT, these days Addo is so much more than just elephants.  Crisscross Adventures is a tour and adventure activity company based in the Sundays River Valley and they offer a wide range of activities from tours to the Addo Elephant National Park to quad biking, canoe safaris on the Sundays River and sand boarding.  Check out their new promotional video and tell me you don’t want to go and explore and experience the valley after seeing it. 

Tsitsikamma, the gateway to the Garden Route

The Tsitsikamma truly is a special place.  This breathtaking stretch of the Garden Route is where mountains, indigenous forests, deep gorges and lush vegetation skirt the rugged coastline of cliffs and sandy beaches. The area has an abundance of indigenous flora – ancient yellowwood trees and magnificent fynbos plants – as well as birdlife.  For the adventurous there are various activities catering for everybody from heart stopping adrenaline filled adventure to relaxed soft adventures.  Hope you enjoy this destination video of the Tsitsikamma Tourism Association.

Discover the Sundays River Valley and Greater Addo route

The brand new destination promotion video for the Sundays River Valley and Greater Addo area have recently been released by Addo Tourism and ECTOUR showing how stunning this area right on Port Elizabeth’s doorstep is.  It also illustrates what I’vebeen saying for a while now, that Addo is a fully fledged destination now and so much more than just elephants.  Please share it around on social media if you enjoy it.

Gliding around the Wilderness lakes on a segway

Mountain biking has become a very popular pastime of late and something I’d like to find the time for to try out.  Time and the money for a proper mountain bike.  I really wouldn’t mind a proper off road bike to travel with.  You know, one of those big BMW ones.  But I can barely afford a scale model one so at the moment my favorite two wheel type of transportation is definitely a segway.  Not that I have one, for that it’s way too an expensive a toy as well, but I’ve had the privilege to go on the segway tour in the Tsitsikamma a couple of times before.  Heading back to Port Elizabeth from Cape Town recently I decided to stretch my legs a bit at Wilderness and see what the Wilderness segway tour was all about.  
While the Tsitsikamma Segway Tour follows a route into the forest, the Wilderness tour follows the Pied Kingfisher Trail through the Ebb and Flow (Wilderness) section of the Garden Route National Park.  I was going to be taken on a private tour but just then a newly wed couple from the Middle East on their first visit to South Africa arrived and joined the tour.  So here I want to vent just a little.  They were told that I was media (I love it when I get called media) and that the regular tour was only going 30 minutes later, but they still wanted to join.  Then the man came to me afterwards to tell me he doesn’t want me to publish any pictures of his wife.  Really? I understand and respect their culture but if you didn’t want to be in the pictures then why agree to go along and even pose for pictures? Whyyyyyy????  But I will respect their wishes and not post pictures of their faces.  Luckily I rode at the back so all you get to see of them are their backsides. Ok, rant over and back to this great experience.

We did the obligatory training session in the training yard to make sure we knew how to steer, stop and maneuver before we headed out and hit the trails with our guide in the lead and, as mentioned, me as rear guard seeing that I was a experienced segway rider.  Yeh, love that one as well.  Experienced segway rider.  The trip basically takes you out parallel to the Touw River through varied vegetation types ranging from fynbos to coastal shrubs and wetland vegetation.  All along the way you catch glimpses of the river and lakes and, in the case of the picture above, a couple of locals fishing next to the path.
The path was very easy to follow and at the only technical bit there was an alternative if you didn’t want to try it out.  The guide was never in a hurry and had all the patience in the world when I asked if he could just backtrack a bit so I could get a photo of them coming out of the trail. It was really a pleasure going out on the trip with him.  But I’m digressing.  At the turning point we took a break to enjoy the view of the lake and a part of Wilderness next to the N2 in the distance before we turned around.  The only reason this is the turning point is that the bridge is too narrow for the segways to cross over.  Pity though, and pity that SAN Parks don’t allow them to go on more trails, because it would have been nice to do a circular route and not an out and back.

On the way back we did get to see the Ebb and Flow campsite next to the river. Wow, what a beautiful spot.  I definitely need to bring the family to camp here some time and take some canoes upstream.  
Having done both the Tsitsikamma segway tours (the one hour and two hour tours) before I’m going to be very honest here.  I much rather prefer the Tsitsikamma ones over this, but it is because I am a forest person and will do anything to get into the forest.  All in all I had a very enjoyable experience on the Wilderness segway tour.  I have to say that it’s a different way to experience the Wilderness lakes area from on foot or in a canoe as most do and if you are in the area with some time on your hands then it’s really worth the experience.  
Disclosure: I was invited to join in a segway tour by Segway Tours as I work in the tourism industry and not as a blogger, while I was travelling back to PE from Cape Town.  They didn’t ask for a blog post to be written and I keep full editorial control over the post.

Getting lost in the Redberry Maze in George

Literally for the last couple of years now the Damselfly has wanted to visit Redberry Farm in George on the Garden Route.  We just never had the opportunity to be in the area long enough to do so until we spent a long weekend in the town recently.  It meant that Redberry Farm was at the top of our “To Do” list for the weekend.  The reason for us wanting to visit Redberry Farm wasn’t to actually go and pick strawberries (it was cheaper to buy them in their shop anyway), but rather to go and experience the Redberry Maze.

I had seen one or two photos of the maze so I knew it was a proper maze, but hell’s bells, it was so much more than what I expected.  It was a proper dinkum right out of the movies and fairy tales maze.  The maze has about 10 000 meters (yes, that is 10 kilometers) of pathways and is grown from over 30,000 Syzygium Paniculatum plants.  The object of the maze isn’t to go in one entrance and find your way to the exit. No, it’s a lot more complicated than that.  Each person who enters is given a stamp card and you then have to go and find the seven stations that will each give you a different stamp to put on the card.  The map you get is very small so not that easy to follow, which is cool because otherwise it would be too easy, and it only pinpoints two of the stations so you have to search for the rest.  Not that finding the two was easy either.
I gave the Family a choice to either go in as a group or individually for us to see who can get out first.  The Damselfly and Drama Princess decided to stick with me while Chaos Boy wanted to fly solo.  He was off like a bolt while we took the more systematic slower approach. 

The maze is really amazing (excuse the pun).  The hedges are between three and four meters high and where it’s not totally impenetrable they have inserted wire to make sure nobody cheats their way out.  Plus the guardians will keep an eye to make sure you don’t try.  Just don’t get a fright when you come around a corner and encounter a big metal spider, scarecrow or some other maze creature.  If you are going into the maze, do go prepared and take some water and a hat… perhaps some padkos… and a sleeping bag and tent… Oh and make sure you do your toilet stop before you enter because you never know how long it’s going to be before you get out again.
The one corner of the maze is totally isolated from the rest and the only way in is along a 25 meter long underground tunnel.  Dark, damp and scary.  The trick is to try and do it without your phone’s torch.  A word of warning though, if you do, don’t run your hands along the walls… 

I am proud to say that an hour and a half after entering the maze I led my little group out again with all seven stamps, collecting our prize badges at the exit.  We met some friends from George for some coffee / milkshakes / strawberry juice in the very popular coffee shop section and waited for Chaos Boy to emerge.  And waited… and waited… and waited… An hour later I headed back in to go and rescue him, finding him where he was collecting his last stamp.  The boy was exhausted from all the running.  Just shows that slow and steady often gets you there quicker.
Would I go again?  In a heartbeat.  I absolutely loved the experience and wouldn’t it be great to see this as a roadblock on an Amazing Race?  What does it cost? R35 per person.  Not bad for an hour and a half worth of entertainment.
Just in case you were wondering.  We weren’t invited to visit, paid our own way and nobody there even knew that I was a travel blogger.