Ok fine I’ll go camping…

IMG_1746My husband made me go camping last weekend, even though he knows I hate it. Why do I hate it? Well because I’m a 34 year old woman who has three kids (I’m tired!) and a penchant for living out of her own league. That’s ok, right?

Ok fine it isn’t…

Don’t tell my husband but I kind of didn’t hate camping too much. He’ll get all enthusiastic and go oh my gosh remember how much you moaned about this to everyone and he’ll totally not understand that I moaned about it so much because I couldn’t think of another topic of conversation at the time.

Anyway, we took a trip to the Baaviaanskloof last weekend with some friends(#nayesexploresbaviaanskloof) and then camped out at Bruintjieskraal. Don’t get me wrong, roadtripping and then arriving at a destination where you still have to build your own house will never be my favourite way to do things, but I do have to admit that the affordability of it has this addicted-to-adventure queen kind of reconsidering.

As long as it doesn’t rain.

Or it isn’t cold.

Or the wind doesn’t blow too hard.

Or there isn’t a bathroom.

And I still have to be allowed to moan about it all a little…

Beautiful Birds of Eden

DSCN5591I think Birds of Eden might be what heaven is like. Or if we get to choose our own heavens, Birds of Eden would be mine. If you like bird sanctuaries, this one will ruin all other sanctuaries for you for life, because it is magnificent. In fact, it is the largest free-flying aviary in the world, and being inside of it feels a little bit like magic.

I love birds. I don’t really know why. It’s not like I had an exceptional cockatiel as a kid and have never recovered from it. In fact I actually don’t like cockatiels so much. How did the segue into cockatiels… My apologies. Moving on…

Oh yes now I know why it segued into cockatiels: because what on earth could I possibly say about Birds of Eden that would properly express how I feel about the place. Very little probably. Or at least very little that wouldn’t have me coming off as a gushy poodle of some sort.

It truly is a wonderful place though. There’s something so special about ambling through the trees along the boardwalk and pointing out each new birdy discovery with your spouse and children. I imagine going alone would be satisfying in itself, but sharing it with my favourite people, ticking off each bird species in the bird booklet as we spot it, getting excited together at the magical shots we’ve caught with our cameras, and grunting in disappointment at the shots we’ve missed, always proves to be an especially good way to spend some time together.

I wish I could build a tiny little cottage at the bottom of that valley, under all those beautiful birds, and just spend my days being surrounded by them. They’re noisy, no doubt, but at the same time they are somehow very peaceful.

And so very special…

My Instagram pics of Birds of Eden can be found here: #nayesexploresbirdsofeden

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5 Monkeys in Monkeyland

DSCN5028Where are we at now? Three weeks since we got back from our road trip? Four? I can barely remember… This week alone has already felt like three weeks all on its own. So actually I wouldn’t mind going back in time a little and finding myself wandering back through Monkeyland, back when life was simple and my children didn’t need rescuing from bullies. Perhaps I should just take us all on another trip again? If only my bank account could agree with that!

Back to Monkeyland though…

Monkeyland and Birds of Eden are two of my absolute places in South Africa. I’ve been to Monkeyland 3 times and Birds of Eden 4 times, and I can still say that I’d be happily up for revisiting both again any time.

DSCN4952I can’t say I’ve been to many sanctuaries in my lifetime, but in comparison to the few that I have been to, Monkeyland is an undoubtedly superior space. Mankeyland is basically a fenced off piece of forest (I won’t pretend to know the dimensions, but it’s big!) where rescued and rehabilitated monkeys (and lemurs – so many lemurs!) can live out the rest of their days in “freedom” while still being cared for and fed by humans. The creatures in Monkeyland come from all over the world. Most of them are rescued or surrendered pets or performance animals, who are not capable of surviving in the “real” wild. While this is a bit of a sad thought, it does at least provide a way for folks like you and me to experience the wonder of these creatures without having to resort to frequenting the horrors of the nearest zoo.

Taking a tour guided walk through this place is an exceptional education for both young and old and I can’t recommend it enough for anyone touring through The Garden Route.

I wish so much that I could just quietly hang out in the sanctuary with my camera for hours on end, quietly waiting for the perfect photo opportunities to present themselves, but alas time and circumstance meant that in reality  I could only shoot off a couple of snaps as we wandered through the trees. I did a terrible job, but I have shared a couple on Instagram (follow me please – barely any of my instameet friends are following me back and I need some validatory love!) and tagged them with #nayesexploresmonkeyland if you’d like to check them out.

 

I can’t think of a cool aliterationy title for this post on Wilgewandel

DSCN4868I’m not quite sure where my slightly (a lotly) obnoxious mood came from because it’s not often that I’m in a good mood and cold at the same time. Actually never. I grew up in Molteno. I’ve been known to spend entire winters in a fog of gloom and sadness. Do you know how hard it is to pee when the thought of taking your clothes off brings you to tears? It’s brutal, man. And I at least have four walls around me!

Oh yeah… I was trying to talk about Wilgewandel…

When Ty and I got married we went on two honeymoons. The first one was the disastrous cruise to Bazaruto that ended up being rerouted to Port Elizabeth (yes, we’re still tender about that and we don’t wanna talk about it) and the second honeymoon was a road trip to Cape Town via the Wine Route and then back home via the Garden Route.

Anyway, one of the places we stayed at was Wilgewandel just outside of Oudtshoorn. It’s a little farmstay type place that has a lot of animals and a farmstall and camels and stuff. In other words: it’s a weird place to be without the kids. I kind of wanted to stay there during our family road trip this time, but it was way out of my budget for all five of us, so instead we decided to just pop in for a visit and let the kids hang out and play while we indulged in some coffee and goose watching.

Of course, the first thing that happened was that the geese chased my kids (Bridgette and Noah – Thomas is too dignified to be chased by geese) and they screamed really loudly so I had to pretend that I didn’t have kids while I was pretending to enjoy the really bad cu
p of coffee. It was hard.

The place is fun though and the kids liked wandering around. And they have alpacas and really one day when I’m big I am going to figure out how to breed alpacas because oh my god those things are so cute! Although: I might prefer llamas because it’s really fun to say llama… You know you wanna! Say it with me: LLAMA! 

13487913_10157159140655094_2005616977_nOh yes: Instagram pics can be found at my #nayesexploreswilgewandel tag and also check out Noah’s Instagram because his pics are kind of cute as hell too.  You have to go and look at my peacock pic because it’s really pretty and I’m not sharing it here because I want to manipulate you into giving me some Instalove (or hate if you think my pic is not all that, which it possibly isn’t) because I really really like Instagram, ok?

In the meantime here is a pic of my husband and I swinging together that you won’t find on Instagram because I took it with the Sony Xperia and those pics are ALWAYS too damn big to fit on Instagram unless I purposely crop them with extra space which I never remember to do.

 

Spelunking is a Dumb Word

13608329_10154086372406117_428368562_nSpelunking is when you explore caves, right? Because otherwise my title doesn’t make sense. I’m too lazy to Google it. I’m right though, aren’t I? And it is a weird word. Spelunking. It sounds like something went super wrong. But like jokey-wrong. And there aren’t many things that could go wrong when you’re inside a cave that could be considered jokey-wrong. You know? Like things going wrong inside a cave would be things like cave in  or spontaneous explosion causing a cave in or flash flood. Oh giant rat monser. Not good. Much death. No.

Anyway – we went to the Cango Caves on our Family Road trip and it was kind of awesome because even though I went when I was about 11 I did not remember much about it except for the part where my friend Angeline forced me into The Devil’s Chimney and I had to learn lamaze breathing in a very short space of time. Well done to 11-year-old me for not having a panic attack. This time I skipped The Devil’s Chimney. Of course I blamed claustrophobia/time/expense for the skip, but let’s face it: this ass wasn’t going to fit in that hole this time.

In all seriousness though: take your kids to see the caves. Encourage them to ask the guides questions. The Cango Caves are an exquisite sight to behold and the history behind their discovery is fun to listen to. Far more fun than anything you might read in a book at least. If the vastness  and magical sparkle of this place doesn’t overwhelm you, it may be that you need to be a little nicer to your inner child. That little thing wants to come out to play! Ok?

Also…it’s not possible to walk around in that place and not go crazy trying to remember what show/movie had a cave scene with giant dodgy rats in it. Was it Doctor Who? Was it Merlin? Was it Atlantis? Do I need to rewatch all of those shows to see if I can find them? Well yes, obviously…

If you’d like to look at about four pictures that I took at in the caves then check out my #nayesexploresthecangocaves hashtag on Instagram. They’re really crap though. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. I should stop talking now. It’s getting weird.

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Is the Owl House haunted? Because it should be…

DSC_0144-01-01A trip to Nieu Bethesda is a given when it comes to touring around the Sarah Baartman District so obviously we had to go out of our way on the way to Oudtshoorn (if you look at a map you will see that from Graaf Reinet these two places are in opposite directions…) and pop in to the home of fossils and owl decor.

The road to Nieu Bethesda is paved with not very much. Unless, of course, you count stunning views of valleys and a farm stall or two along the way. Ok…maybe it’s just one farm stall. But there are a lot of monkeys on the side of the road as well as warthogs so that’s kind of awesome. I wonder if folks who live in other countries get to see so many animals along the sides of their roads. I bet you not! Not like us at least… *insert winking emoji here*

Now, contrary to popular opinion, I have to admit that I find Nieu Bethesda to be kind of…well…a little bit creepy! And I do realise that we’re not actually supposed to admit this…but come ON folks! You can’t tell me that while you’re driving around those dusty dirt roads that it doesn’t occur to you how this teeny hamlet might be an excellent location for a new South African horror series to take place in.

Imagine it: a weird cult of animal carcass-wearing locals pretend to be completely normal during the day, but at night they gather in the forest and eat the babies of the collection of permanently pregnant women they keep locked up in a shed somewhere. And you just know there’s going to be a scene where some woman who is eight and a half months pregnant is hiding behind a praying shepherd in the middle of the night, trying to convince herself that no, those things did NOT just move. 

And why are these weird cult people evil? They’re evil because they spent too much time with the demons that inhabit OWL HOUSE!

Yes. I said it: Owl House is TERRIFYING! (more…)

Family in the Valley

imageYes, it’s already two weeks since I got home from our little Family Road Trip and I’m STILL talking about it. Perhaps I should start to learn to blog in real time…but I can barely get it right to Instagram in real time (unless I’m at home and hanging out with my cats) let alone somehow manage to write a couple of hundred words about something that I kind of reckon other folks should try (heehee!) so here I am: still talking about our Road Trip.

Now I took the housebound and the squidgets to Graaff Reinet mainly because I wanted them to see The Valley of Desolation because it remains one of the most beautiful places I’ve been to. Now, I get that some people find the place overrated, but I just don’t. I love the silence. I love the view. I love the echo potential.

imageOf course the kids loved it, which made me particularly happy because I do often worry that they might lose their sense of wonder to their computer games and the television set. (As an aside: Why does the media or just people in general keep telling us that will happen? As if we don’t have enough stress…)

The Valley is just outside of Graaff Reinet and is obviously one of the main tourist attractions around there. It doesn’t cost a lot to get into the reserve and it’s an easy drive to the top. You can hike around there if you like, but it’s pretty user-friendly for those of who who – like me – are not so keen on anything heavy while on holiday.

So why should you go? Because the soul needs food, and this is what soul food is…

For more pics of our Valley of Desolation exploration check out #nayesexploresthevalleyofdesolation on Instagram.

 

 

 

Booking Accommodation

13427723_10157146666340094_332521799876792001_nI’m back to trolling booking.com for accommodation options for top secret travel ideas at the moment and goodness I must admit that I’m not getting anywhere! Experience has (already!) taught me that a good photographer can make the dodgiest of places look lovely, so at the moment I am a little apprehensive because the places I can afford in the place I’m currently checking out already look a little suspect, so my imagination is going to dark dark places. But that’s part of the fun of adventure, isn’t it? Roughing it in funny accommodations?

Luckily, our last trip didn’t surprise us with any accommodation that looked good online only to end up being bad in reality. I’d love to think that’s a uniquely South African hospitality trait, but the truth is I was just lucky. My kids exclaimed “This place is awesome!” at each place we booked into, and each time I replied, “Of course it is! I chose it!” Sometimes when you’re a mom you have to pretend you’re a magical unicorn instead of admitting that you’re just as surprised as they are that the affordable place you booked for five people to stay in didn’t end up looking like something from a horror movie. (more…)

The Rejuvenating Effect of Small Towns

13530793_10157173065070094_1707521580_nI live in Port Elizabeth these days, but up until I was 17 years old I lived in the teeny tiny town of Molteno. Don’t know where that is? No worries, neither does the rest of the country! Maybe it’s just me, but coming from a small town makes it seem weird as hell to go on holiday to a small town. That’s just nuts, man! Holidays? Holidays need bright lights, or something. Or the sea, at least. No?

13522519_10157173066300094_141075267_nLately I must admit to feeling a LOT differently.  Is it age? Is it that the time I lived in Molteno and the time that I have lived in Port Elizabeth are about to become equal? I don’t know…but I’m falling in love with the small towns around our country, and while I don’t think I will easily go back to small town life, I certainly am enjoying indulging in it as a visitor from time to time. There’s beautiful architecture to be found – especially the churches and old municipal buildings. There are quirks. There are sweet people. There are exceptional views. Rolling mountains. Vast plains. Fresh air.  Starry skies beyond your wildest imagination. Silence. *sigh*

It is no wonder that these small places get visitors from city folk so often. This last weekend (gosh it’s already a new weekend and I’m only getting around to this now!) I moseyed on through Jansenville, Graaff Reinet, and Nieu Bethesda and despite their smallness I do kind of wish I had had far more time to take all they have to offer in. They are life and energy of a different sort. They offer sensory pleasures that our cluttered city minds sometimes forget to indulge in. They are a feast for body, soul, and mind.

And I really should make a point to explore all of these little places more often…

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Flamingoes in the Bay

DSCN4658I had a bit of a daft experience last week. Every time I drive back into Port Elizabeth from the Grahamstown side of town I peer through the car window and look longingly into the Cerebos salt pans, searching for flamingoes and wishing I could get a closer look at all those beautiful pink spots and photograph them to my hearts content. After returning from our trip to Port Alfred a couple of weeks ago, the husband and I actually tried to get closer – much to the polite annoyance of the security guard at Kouga – but we failed.

DSCN4681Well, last week when we set out on our little #larteradamsroadtrip I didn’t expect for there to be flamingoes on the menu, but as we drove along the road between Port Elizabeth and Redhouse, we came across the salt pans situated on the side of the road and guess what? FLAMINGOES! And yes, I know maybe it’s silly, but I didn’t know they were there so it was kind of exciting to stumble upon them by accident. Of course, I finally got to photograph them and made an absolute mess of the whole thing because it was really cold and windy outside so I just shot them from the car. Them’s some bland pictures!

It’s ok though. I know they’re there now, and I’m trying to get to know my town better, so I’ll definitely be back there to explore a little more closely. Next time I might even look up some interesting facts to share with the kids so that I don’t have to just point and go “Look at the pretty birdies, guys!”

Flamingoes, you guys!!

It’s so damn cool!

 

Exploration and Good Vibes with the Minis

13467745_10157159166085094_1899616964_oCan I tell you a bit of a parent shame I have? I enjoy being away from the kids. And I really like that Ty and I don’t have any kids together because it kind of means that we get a parent break regularly. These breaks keep me sane. Sure, we miss the kids a little. But it’s a nice missing. It makes the whole “should I have another kid” question super complicated and tough to answer, but that’s a story for some other time.

The thing is, because our children have two families, it tends to be a little too easy for Ty and I to indulge in getting away as a couple – or just staying in as a couple for that matter. We do take the kids with us on a little holiday from time to time – but it’s one of those things that only comes about if timing works out properly. Obviously we don’t like to take away from the kids’ time with their other parents because that wouldn’t be fair, but let’s face it: when it comes to getting away, the biggest reason for leaving the kids behind is that it’s a LOT easier to get the most out of a vacation without them. Setting aside the fact that taking the kids with tends to more than double the costs of getting away, the biggest difficulty when it comes to family travel is that sometimes the kids are assholes. And yeah, I know we’re not supposed to admit that kids are assholes, but they are. And often, after you’ve spent a whole crapton of money that you can’t afford on a family trip that you only sort-of want to take, at least one of them will turn into a sulkmonster (or similar) and kind of spoil the break for everyone. This is a thousand times worse than when they are just being jerks at home. For me, at least. (more…)

Our Two Day Getaway to Port Alfred

-Postcard_of_Die_Boschoek_-20000000009471107-500x375It’s Thursday already and I’m only getting to posting this now. The husband and I decided to spend a night in Port Alfred at The Royal St. Andrews Hotel last weekend. I’m trying to get better at just living life and relaxing a little bit on that whole being permanently stressed about life thing. I’ve slowly been putting together a small fund that is exclusively for “life”. Not real life. Life life. The life part that makes you Keep Passing the Open Windows! Funny how having it has made it easier to be strict on the budget where we need to be strict. I’ve even been spending WAY LESS on books lately, which is beyond miraculous. Granted there are still a few places where I need to learn to curb my spending a little better, but at least I’m getting better at trying.

imageSo! Early Saturday morning (almost on time – yay for saved marriages!) we set off and ambled down The Sunshine Coast, stopping at farm stalls, spending too much money on unnecessary things like koeksisters and cheese. Oops! I’m going to have to do a little work on not doing silly things like that too much if we want to do this kind of thing more often! But, we live and learn, right? Come to think of it though… Koeksisters and cheese actually seem quite necessary…

We discovered the sweetest gems between Port Elizabeth and Port Alfred and it was really nice to just go with the flow. We stopped to stroll through a graveyard (because that’s what normal folks do on adventures, right?) and we drove through those sleepy seaside towns that seem almost dormant during the winter months. We gave some hitchhikers a lift because we really should just do that more often considering we have the space! And yeah yeah before you tell me all about this one movie you watched about hitchhikers this one time, I’ve probably seen it. Plus, aside from the usual CSIs and such, I’ve pretty much watched all the crime shows out there. And read all the books. I’m still picking up the damn hitchhiker when I feel like it though.

imageMy favourite part was when we randomly decided to detour into Alexandria a bit and we came upon Maureen Quin’s Scupture Garden. What a beautiful oasis in the middle of nowhere. And how lovely to be able to witness how someone has so gracefully just dedicated their whole life to their art form. Absolutely gorgeous! Did I mention the word inspiring yet? I should have… *sigh*

-Postcard_of_The_Royal_St_-20000000009471114-500x375Our hotel was lovely, though admittedly we could only afford it because they’re currently running a special. You should check that out. It comes with breakfast. Really really good breakfast. And like all the amenities work and you don’t ever look around and think, “wow I wish I was just a little richer so I could do this travel thing on a tiny bit less of a budget” so that’s a bonus when you’re like us.

I have to admit that even though it was supposed to be a weekend in Port Alfred we didn’t spend any time there! We took all day to get there, first of all. And then napped when we arrived because what else are you supposed to do on a Saturday afternoon? But then on Sunday we kind of drove around a bit and the whole place seemed a bit…well…closed. So we moved on to Bathurst where we had some tea and cake and a mosey through their little Sunday market and then we went home.

It was fun but I think we need to do a do-over sometime soon and take the kids with us!