Fun on the Maitland dune

There is nothing more fun for a kid, and I say kid liberally as some of us adults are still kids at heart as well, than to go and climb the Maitland sand dune on a Sunday morning. Even better, take an old boogie board or carton box along and go and slide down the dune.

And if you don’t have one of those, just run full tilt and jump.

A Ninja Turtle problem in East London

I was in East London a couple of weeks ago and noticed the neighbourhood watch board on the guesthouse gate.  Neighbourhood watch groups do an amazing job getting residents together and curbing crime in residential areas and I live in a suburb with a very active neighbourhood watch. Looking at this board though I thought to myself that we’re very lucky in our area not to have a Ninja Turtle problem like they do in East London.

Beach fun at "The Rock"

When we were small one of our favorite places to go on a Sunday afternoon was “The Rock”.  The Rock refers to the rock below Something Good with the gap through which the waves wash into the little natural tidal pool.  Today we spent a couple of hours on the beach and Miggie and her friend Dinky had a great time leaping off the rocks into the swimming hole.
For some reason I forgot my camera at home but luckily I had my phone.

When a game ranger goes above and beyond

A lot of people have the policy that if you want something done you have to do it yourself, especially if you don’t really have anybody to delegate to.  But even then you need somebody to push a rock out of the way for you every now and then.  I had a funny “push a rock out the way” moment on a game drive at Mount Camdeboo Game Reserve outside Graaff-Reinet the other day.  We weer driving up the mountain when we found this boulder lying in the road.  The ranger immediately hopped out to roll it out the way and clearly underestimated its weight… or his own strength, because it just did not budge.  Perhaps it was the rocky equivalent of Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer, and nobody can move it no matter how hard you try.  Oh well, if you can’t get it out the way then you just drive around it like we did.

It’s not just always out and about with me

Some people think I’m always out and about, traveling all over getting to explore, experience, have fun and take photos.  Well, let’s just say I put in way more office time driving my desk than being out there.  It just looks the other way around.  Today is such a day and with no photos in stock to post for today you will have to bear with me as I post a picture of my desk.  Right now I’m busy with a little social media on the Experience Our Eastern Cape page, sorting my registration for next month’s SATSA conference, dealing with some promotional video stuff and a little financial admin.  Why is my coffee mug empty?    

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.

A Labyrinth is not a Maze

What is the difference between a maze and a labyrinth.  Although the two terms are basically synonymous, there is a difference.  In this case a maze refers to a complex branching multicursal puzzle with choices of path and direction, while a unicursal labyrinth has only a single path to the center. A labyrinth in this sense has an unambiguous route to the center and back and is not difficult to navigate.

The difference between the two meant the KidZ learned something during our summer holiday in the Overberg region of the Western Cape.  We drove to the town of Napier and I told them that we were going to make a stop to do a cache at a labyrinth.  They wanted to know what a labyrinth was and I told them it was like a maze.  That was where I made the mistake.  They had done the big maze at the Plett Puzzle Park before and in their minds there was going to be something similar.  When we got to The Red Windmill outside Napier and dashed off to go and find the maze only to be met by a “wall-less” labyrinth.  Oh the disappointment.  The ran off to the middle though following the path round and round, kinda defeating the purpose of this labyrinth being one of meditation and contemplation.  They had fun regardless.  While they were following the route to the middle I retrieved the cache from its hiding place and signed the log, adding another smiley to my Geocaching map. 

Farm worker fishermen in the Gamtoos Valley

Spending time in a place is more than just staying in accommodation establishments, eating in restaurants, visiting attractions end enjoying beautiful scenery.  The buzz word these days are experiences and an experience doesn’t necessarily have to be an formal one.  Sometimes you see something interesting and making a quick stop can turn into a whole experience on its own.  Spending a weekend Shot Left in Hankey in the Gamtoos Valley while staying at The Milk House we ventured out on the Saturday morning to climb up to the berg window at Vensterhoek.  That was a whole experience on its own, but it was on the return journey while crossing a low water bridge over the Gamtoos River that we spotted something interesting and decided to stop. 

A number of fishermen, all farm workers from the area, were fishing in the river with throw nets and I wanted to investigate some more.  The KidZ immediately perceived it as something boring and wanted to stay in the car, but a stern warning from the Damselfly telling them they can’t stay behind alone made them drag themselves after us.  After good rains the previous few days the level of the river was slowly rising and for some reason (I’m no fisherman so don’t ask me said reason) brought some bigger fish.  The throw nets were all home made using net, rope and chain and whatever got caught was destined for the pot or braai that evening.

Although not every throw (perhaps not even every 10 throws) yielded a big fish, every one did bring out tiny little silver fish that were shaken out on the road.  The children would then quickly move in and throw them back in the river.  Drama Princess didn’t let grass grow under her feet and quickly joined in, picking up and throwing fish back with gusto.  I don’t know what the farm kids thought at first about this blond girl in pink suddenly moving in on their space but she didn’t let that deter her and it quickly became a game to see who got the most fish to throw back.  Most visitors probably would never have stopped but to Drama Princess it was one of the highlights of the weekend.  Something she would never be able to do back home in the city.