Gnomesville PE

Norm Hudlin on Kragga Kamma Road was created to offer mountain bikers a variety of easy routes in a safe environment. Quickly it also became a popular spot for a jog or a walk and lately it is the hub for families enjoying the painted rocks phenomena. Norm Hudlin is now also home to Gnomesville PE, which was a long time dream of local resident Graham Chrich, or plainoldgraham as his Geocaching friend know him. Graham got to visit a gnomesville village in Western Australia in the Furgeson Valley where there now nearly 10 000 gnomes and just knew that he wanted to starts something similar in Port Elizabeth for the delight of both locals and visitors. .

The community of silent dwarves in Australia actually began as a whimsical protest some 20 years ago. As the Gnomesville website explains, a small bit of land in Ferguson Valley was annexed by the local government to create a roundabout. Despite an outcry from the nearby residents, the roundabout was installed, and tensions simmered. Then at some point, a gnome appeared. At first there as just one in a tree hollow, but after a few months, there were around 20. The collection continued to grow as visitors and locals alike came and dropped off their own little statues. In the decades since their first appearance the army of gnomes had exploded into the thousands. For a time, theft and vandalism stunted the growth of the little population, but today the site is fairly well respected and continues to grow as people bring their own gnomes to add to the community and estimates are that there are around 10 000 of them now.

Graham got permission from the owners of Norm Hudlin to set aside a small section for Gnomeville PE and with the help of some of his Geocaching friends he started to set up his dream. Gnomesville PE was launched on 21 February 2021 and the first gnomes have taken occupation of the land. Unlike painted rocks the gnomes may not be taken away, but everybody is invited to add gnomes to the community. Get yourself a painted gnome or paint it yourself, ad your own special touch to it and even place your name on him or her somewhere. And most importantly, come and visit them often.

It was awesome to see Graham when we popped in the weekend after the launch and he was really very excited about what it could look like someday.

Gnomesville PE really is for both big and small to enjoy.

Campsite Cricket

Having a budding young cricket player on our hands, it wasn’t difficult finding Miggie around the campsite at Mahai in the Drakensberg during December when we were looking for her.  Just find the nearest cricket game and she will be there.  Preferably one with adults playing as “they bowl better”, to quote her.

Little Miss Cricket

Today’s post is a more personal one.  Why? Because I can and I feel like bragging a bit.
When your daughter’s idols are Kagiso Rabada, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers and Imran Tahir then you know she’s a cricket fan.  The difference from other girls who are just cricket fans though is that mine has a set of pads, gloves, a helmet and two bats (one for outdoor cricket and one for indoor cricket) lying around her room along with her girly stuff.  When her favorite shirt is her Lighting Legends Indoor Cricket team shirt then you know I have a cricketer on my hands.  
Miggie has been playing cricket since grade one and at 11 (nearly 12) she’s mixing it up with the boys in the Newton Park Primary School’s under 13 team.  She’s also started playing for DF Malherbe High School’s Girls Cricket First team (under 19) along with playing in the Indoor Cricket junior league.  In the photo she’s bowling in the game between DF Malherbe and Linkside High School this week where she took 2 for 8 in her 4 overs, taking her tally to 5 wickets in three games.  To say I’m a proud dad is an understatement. 

EP Indoor Cricket trials

Drama Princess started playing Indoor Cricket at the Hunters Retreat Indoor Cricket Arena about two months ago and over the last two Sundays played in the EP junior trials.  The SA junior champs take place right here in Port Elizabeth in April next year with teams being selected to represent the province in the u10, u12, u14, u16 and u18 age groups.  For the junior teams there are no girls teams and the girls have to compete to get into the boys teams.  The advantage that the girls have though is that they are allowed to play in an age group team two years younger than they are which meant that Drama Princess was playing in the under 10 age group in the trials. 
Although we really hoped and believed she would make the team, we didn’t really want to put our hearts on it just in case she didn’t so huge was our surprise when her name was called second when the EP Elephants A team was announced.  WOW, we are really proud of her.  Now to save up for the entrance fees and kit that needs to be bought.

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. 

Trains, trains and some other stuff at the Outeniqua Transport Museum

When in George the one attraction you have to visit is the Outenique Transport Museum (also known as the Outenique Railway Museum).  It used to be one of my regular stops on the Garden Route back when I was working as a tourist guide and the Outenique Choo Tjie steam train was still running.  Spending a long weekend in George I just had to take the family to show them this amazing place.  I was just a little worried, because although I love museums, they might possibly find it slightly boring.  I was wrong.

The museum has an exceptional collection of railway memorabilia which include 13 steam locomotives and probably twice as many (if not more) different carriages.  Some of the pieces that take pride of place in the museum are the Emil Kessler – Johannesburg’s first steam locomotive, the impressive GL Garrett, a coach from the Royal Train of 1947 and Paul Kruger’s coach and private saloons.  The Damselfly grew up on stations in the Langkloof while her father worked as a station master and she was mesmerised.  I could not believe that I was actually waiting for her the whole time as she slowly looked at just about everything in the museum, often calling me back to share some railway related childhood memories with me.  One of the things the KidZ loved the most was that they could climb into some of the locomotives and see what it looked like inside. They were all happy which made me happy and not guilty at all fro bringing them to a museum while we were on holiday.

One of my highlights of the museum every time I visit is the massive model train layout in one of the rooms.  I used to spend way too much time in here while my guests were wandering around and it got me interested in modeling.  When I say interested in modeling I mean I’ve actually started building my own landscape model, without a train though.  Like farther like son… and daughter.  The KidZ nearly got stuck in the model room and I had to dig out coins to make the trains run a couple of times.

But the museum is a transport museum after all and not only about trains.  There is a huge exhibit of privately owned vintage cars, fire fighting vehicles from waaaaay back, a car similar to the one from Ghost Busters (which Chaos Boy immediately spotted) and a horse drawn hearse. 

I think one of the biggest highlights of our visit turned out to be the Umfolosi Diner car.  Yes, the museum has a little coffee shop dash restaurant in a diner car and there was no way that we were going to pass up the opportunity to have something to eat in it..

So milkshakes, chicken nuggets and pies, chips & gravy it was.  All we needed was the sway of the train and the rhythmic katic-katic katic-katic sound of the wheels on the track.
So next time you are in George, doesn’t matter if you are staying over or just passing through, pinch off an hour or so and head for the Outeniqua Transport Museum.  They are open daily (excluding Sundays) from 8am to 5pm in season and Monday to Friday: 08h00 to 16h30, Saturdays and Public Holidays: 08h00 to 14h00 and closed on Sundays out of season.  The cost, R20 for adults, R10 for kids under 12 years and under 6 years for mahala at the time of our visit in April 2016.  
And just in case you were wondering.  We weren’t invited to visit, paid our own way and nobody there even knew that I was planning to write a post about it. 

Drama Princess at Ironkids 2016

Ironkids takes place the day before Ironman and consists of a swim and a run.  The Ironkids in Port Elizabeth is the biggest Ironkids competition in the world and would probably have been mush bigger if they didn’t have to cap entries.  Drama Princess took park in her 5th Ironkids competition this year and had to do a 100 meter swim in McArthur Pool and then a 2 km run that ended on the main red carpet at Hobie Beach where the Ironman competitors will finish their grueling 3,8 km swim, 180 km cycle and 42,2 km run on Sunday.  Chaos Boy didn’t take part as he turns 14 on Monday and is just too old. 
Although Drama Princess loves the water, she isn’t a great swimmer like a lot of the other competitors taking part and as in the past she just took it easy and did her swim under the watchful eye of one of the young lifeguards.  And here I want to give a huge shout out to the boys and girls of Summerstrand and Bluewater Bay Lifesaving Clubs who did an absolutely awesome job in the water assisting all these kids today.

Just making sure the lifeguard isn’t too far behind her 

Coming out of the water into transition 

Running is what she does well and she more than made up in this discipline for what she lost in the swim. The run took them from the pool a short way back towards Kings Beach before tuning and heading for Hobie Beach.

Still finding time to take in the view.  Yes, Dad did the run with her as I always do.  
And with camera in hand. 

View enjoyed and off she goes again 

A quick smile with Dad taking photos with one hand and not looking through the viewfinder. 
Hence the blur. 

A group photos of the Newton Park Primary School grade 5 finishers proudly holding their medals

A braai with Drama Princess

Last weekend I was tiling in the kitchen and at some stage during the afternoon we realised that we just won’t be able to braai and will probably just get something quick to eat.  Drama Princess wanted nothing of that and packed the wood, lit the fire and braai’d the meat.  Today we’ve been busy packing the kitchen stuff back now that the cupboards and tiling is done and she insisted that she will braai again.  And she did.  All I did was clean the grid, prepare the coals for her to put the meat on and check that everything is cooked before she took it off.  She did the rest herself. How proud can one dad be of his 11 year old daughter.

I know this isn’t a typical PE Daily Photo post but I just had to share this.

Camping at Vloedbos in the Overberg – a winning option all around

Every year we go on a camping over the summer school holiday.  We’re not the “return to the same place year after year” type of campers as we want to explore and discover new places.  As we live in Port Elizabeth and by the sea, we’re also not bothered by coastal holidays which tends to be windy in summer and effects us badly as we camp in tents.  After a lot of searching and researching, we settled on Vloedbos in the Overberg as our destination for December 2015.  And there, just off the cross roads between Riviersonderend, Caledon, Hermanus and Napier, we discovered a true camping oasis between all the brown summer fields of the Overberg.

Vloedbos, with its 46 caravan and camping sites (all on lush green grass) and a number of self catering accommodation options, belongs to the Du Toit family and is truly a family run resort aimed at families.  We were made to feel very welcome from day one and I barely started pitching the tents when the KidZ disappeared to go and explore everything Vloedbos had to offer.  While the KidZ checked out the activities, the Damselfly headed over to the ablution facilities as that is generally her first “tongtippietoets” to see if she’s going to be happy at a campsite.  She actually came back to interrupt my solo pitching effort and made me go and check out the excellent bathroom facilities before I could get back to setting up camp.

One of my most important tests of any campsite, especially if it is some distance from the nearest shop – like this one is – is the resort’s shop.  The Vloedbos Tuck Shop did not disappoint.  It was well stocked with just about everything one needs with the only thing we suddenly needed and couldn’t find there being cinnamon for pancakes.  Demichelle offered to get it for us by the next day which was excellent, although we decided to make a quick trip to Napier (and sommer do a couple of Geocaches while we were there).  The other very notable thing about the shop is that the prices isn’t a ripoff like I have so often seen in campsite shops.  I wonder how much we spent on ice creams while we were there for our 10 days?

The biiiiiiig attraction for young – and old – is the super tube and speed slide. The slide is open daily from 10 am to 12 pm, 2 pm to 4 pm and a final hour between 5 pm and 6.  They use a siren to announce the super tube opening and you can be sure that every time that siren went off it was a case of towels being grabbed (and sometimes forgotten) and kids scattering and racing to make the most of their time on the tube.  I have to be honest here though and say that perhaps my biggest complaint during our stay was the cost of the super tube.  At R5 per ride or R100 per day it does work out a very expensive exercise to have two KidZ and one dad who wanted to ride every day.  I tried to explain to the KidZ though that they had to keep in mind that most of the other campers came from Cape Town and only had to drive 2 hours to get there while we had an eight hour drive each way which costs a lot more in petrol. This meant that they had more money available for their kids to ride more often.  At least my KidZ understand things like that and I am proud of them for doing so.

We made a deal with the KidZ that they could each get a full day ticket and that we would buy them a couple of loose riding bands for the other days.  They also used some of their own money to fill in some blanks.  This meant that there were on the super tube every day.  Some days more than others.  I had my full day as well and believe me, I got my money’s worth.  I did realise though that I’m not 25 anymore and my body really knew I was on there for most of the day.  In actual fact, I out-rode most of the children that day.

The speed slide isn’t for everybody although I really enjoyed it.  I think the strangest thing of our whole stay was the fact that the Damselfly preferred the speed slide over the super tube.  Yes, that’s her in the top three pictures and bottom left.  The best of all was her first ride.  She got to the top and stopped, allowing a few kids to pass her while she gathered her courage.  I heard a comment from a boy standing next to me that this aunty is going to scream when she goes down.  Well, he was slightly disappointed as she didn’t utter a peep.  Even I was surprised at that.

Vloedbos’ brand new 13 hole mini golf course also saw a lot of action from us while we were there.  We used to play putt putt a lot more when we were young than what today’s children get to so the KidZ made sure they utilised the course every opportunity they got.  Pssst, let me tell you a little secret.  Hire your clubs and balls during the last one hour before the shop closes and they allow you to keep it till they open at ten the next day.  You can play all evening under the floodlights and perhaps have a quick round the next morning as well. You can thank me later.
A big highlight for the littlies every day is Carlo and the quad train.  Ten bucks and the train takes them on snaking route through the whole campsite with bicycles and runners following behind.

One afternoon the campers two tents down from us ambushed the train with water guns.  After the ambush the train stayed away for a long time before suddenly appearing again.  I immediately spotted that something was up.  The kids all had big smiles and at closer inspection noticed hidden water guns and water balloons.  They were ready for a second possible ambush.  I ran to grab the camera as I knew the ambush was indeed on again. There were lots of screams and laughs from both sides as the first water balloons started flying.  Now this is the kind of campsite fun non-campers will never get.

The holiday program, although very limited, was a lot of fun for the kids as well.  We unfortunately only stayed till just after Christmas so ended up missing out on a lot of the activities they offered.   

If Drama Princess was a member of the Spice Girls she would have been Sporty Spice.  And that showed at the holiday program.  She was in with a shot in each item she participated in, nearly out throw and catching the boys in the water balloon challenge.  Even Chaos Boy participated in the activities for a change.  During our stay he didn’t really make a bunch of friends like Drama Princess did, but he was never bored.

As for the Damselfly and myself, we just used the holiday to chill.  I promised myself that I would try not to thing of work during my holiday for a change and I didn’t.  I binge read under my gazebo, went for walks, swam when I wanted, visited with other campers, played with the KidZ and just did nothing. In fact, I grabbed a second book just before we left home in case I finished my first one.  I was done with both in five days. ‘Nuff said.  We also spent a day exploring the Overberg coast between Gansbaai and Agulhas, something we really needed more time for.  But relaxing was the first priority.

My impressions of Vloedbos?  Well, if you haven’t been able to gather that we were suitably impressed from everything above, here it is again.  It is a great campsite.  Beautiful grassy sites even if there isn’t that much shade yet.  Excellent facilities.  Well looked after with hands on management. Strict rules about noise.  Very child friendly with lots to do for the whole family.  Would perhaps liked the wifi to have worked better. Yes, I wanted to see what the world was up to on social media.  Vloedbos is the ideal campsite for a weekend camping getaway from Cape Town and perfect for a longer holiday.  It really is a shame that we are so far otherwise we would have visited more often.  Although most of the visitors were from the Western Cape, I’m sure they will get more and more popular with visitors from further off as word about them gets out more.  Will we be back?  I sure would like to return some time, but for December 2016 the Drakensburg is a calling.