Walking under the Pine Trees of Paradyskloof in Stellenbosch (2021-01-23) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 MAR 2021

Previously, on our way to the sublime Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden on the outskirts of the Paradyskloof suburb of Stellenbosch, we passed by what looked to be an informal parking area in front of a gate that in turn guarded a pine plantation – but which most importantly appeared to freely allow people to walk or ride through it. As it turns out, we had passed the gate into Eden Forest, otherwise known as the Paradyskloof nature area, another mountain bike and hiking mecca for Stellenbosch locals.

Forming part of the comprehensive Stellenbosch Trails system (maintained through a partnership between the Stellenbosch Municipality and the Stellenbosch Trail Fund community organisation) that crisscross the lower ranges of the Stellenbosch mountain, the Paradyskloof gate puts you slap bang in the middle of the trail network that stretches from the University of Stellenbosch owned Coetzenburg rugby fields on the left, all the way across to the vineyards of the Mont Marie wine estate on the right.

The area is littered with well maintained mountain bike trails covering both single and jeep track options, including the popular Mark Gordon created and cheekily named G-Spot MTB Trail, to test your skills out on. Of course, the trails aren’t restricted to people racing about on bicycles either, offering plenty to tackle for the hiker marching about on foot. Fynbos, mountain ridges, views for days, and of course as this particular section of the trails indicate, a Pine Forest to waddle through.

Towards the end of January, Chantelle and I chanced the sweltering Summer sun and took the girls out for a walk under these very trees, which they begrudgingly did and hopefully enjoyed. (Its always hard to tell because the initial excitement wears off pretty quickly and then the bargaining with rewards has to swoop in to save the day). We marched about without aim or any sort of plan, and so didn’t necessarily walk particularly far, but it was a good workout accompanied by some crisp clean air – in other words exactly what one wanted after being cooped up for so long following the various earlier Covid-19 lockdowns.

Walk now complete, we next drove our sweaty selves around Stellenbosch, doing general sightseeing and even popping into Adam & Eve Collab to scope out their newly announced on the side Ceramic painting initiative, followed by a drive out and visit to an even better option when it comes to decorating and glazing your own ceramic creations, the aptly name Ceramic Cafe in Raithby, on the outskirts of Stellenbosch. Naturally the girls are now very adamant that we immediately set aside some time to spend a Saturday afternoon doing this! And then of course the aforementioned rewards earlier proffered needed to be honored, hence the final photo of the girls eating soothing McFlurry ice creams in the very crisply air-conditioned halls of McDonalds at Waterstone Village in Somerset West. (Honestly, at this sweaty point in the day I didn’t actually mind doling out this reward! :D)

Thin Crust Pizza at Woodpecker Pizzadeli in Swellendam (2021-01-13) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 04 MAR 2021

Having already mentioned that we woke up birthday girl Emily with cupcakes and LEGO, darted about the Bontebok National Park in search of buck, and devoured a waffle with ice cream at Ikigai, it is also worth noting that after a bit of swim time back at the guest house, we again ventured out onto the quiet, shaded streets of Swellendam to snuffle out some supper in the form of pizza from the aptly named Woodpecker Pizzadeli.

As it turns out, the Woodpecker Pizzadeli is actually the on-site restaurant attached to the Early Bird Guesthouse, serving a variety of meals (including vegetarian options) and, when not in Covid-19 lockdown mode, offering a wide selection of wines and craft beers too. That said, with the word ‘pizza’ so delightfully highlighted by being stuffed in the restaurant’s very own name, we were pretty much there for one thing and one thing only!

Pleasingly (for us, obviously not so much for the restaurant), the eatery was extremely quiet, giving us the space and confidence to take our time in sitting down to tuck in and enjoy their delightfully thin crust pizza combinations. Plus, as a completely unexpected nifty little bonus, the guys even showed up with some ice cream and a balloon for the birthday girl following our mains.

Sacred Ibis and Purple Heron at Intaka Island in Century City (2021-02-13) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 03 MAR 2021

Situated about 10 km from central Cape Town, Intaka Island, which is located in the heart of the sparkly, bustling Century City suburb, is a compact 16 hectare semi man-made wetland reserve that is both home and rest stop for a vast number of local bird species, thus making it a particularly popular drawcard for a lot of Cape photographers and birdwatchers (or twitchers as the British would call them).

Historically the land on which Century City is built was always just a patch of impassable wild filled with invasive alien plant species, but during the environmental impact study phase of the development project, it was discovered via aerial flights over the land that this impenetrable wall of Port Jackson actually harboured what turned out to be a vital (though seriously degraded) Cape wetland ecosystem.

Pleasingly, the land developer decided to comply with conservation measures and opted to maintain a part of the wetland system, rehabilitating it in such a way that it became a green lung for Century City, purifying the canals and providing a much needed green sanctuary in what quickly became major commercial and leisure hub for Cape Town.

Visiting Intaka Island is an enjoyable experience, with loads of amenities like wooden boardwalks, benches, restroom facilities, and bird hides, and with an eye on education and preservation awareness, its eco environmental centre plays a pivotal role in teaching children about conservation and green living. As for the island itself, it is completely isolated thanks to the surrounding canals that form such a big part of Century City, and consists of a number of ponds known as ‘cells’, plus a seasonal salt pan as well as a small elevated hill (known as Bird Mountain) that affords views over much of the grounds. The biggest water cell is home to particularly interesting, man-made heronries – big floating platforms filled with sticks on which the numerous herons and sacred ibis then actually breed and live on. (In addition to all the surrounding bird life, the ponds are also home to a number of fish and frog species, providing a valuable food source for many of the birds.)

This particular visit to Intaka Island came about after picking up my brother Ryan to join me on a stroll through the discussion provoking Long March to Freedom sculpture display currently housed on the Century City grounds, following which I decided to first drag him along for a walk through the wetland sanctuary, and then an exploratory visit to the Durbanville Nature Reserve, a little bit further on in the northern suburbs. Now I hadn’t been to Intaka for a couple of years, and one of the striking things that both he and I picked up on was just how much the reeds have grown and taken over one of the wetland cells, so much so that visibility onto that particular body of water is virtually zero at the moment! But other than that, the visit was a pleasant one, the island quiet and thus giving us plenty of time to slowly dawdle about and relax in the bird hides while watching some birds flap about.

Seaforth, Boulders and Penguins in Simon’s Town (2020-07-04) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 02 MAR 2021

Moving about during the various Covid-19 lockdowns of last year wasn’t something done very much (compounded further by the fact that Chantelle and I naturally work from home anyway). However, in a bid to escape the four walls of our lovely little Gordon’s Bay prison, sorry I meant home, we one day jumped into the car and headed out towards Simon’s Town, hugging the coast all the way in our attempt to reach the other side of False Bay.

Simon’s Town, as are most of the little towns dotted around the mountain on the Cape Point side of False Bay, is a very picturesque little town, laid out on a particular narrow strip of land which is bounded by the sea and mountain to either side. Naval activities aside, the big attraction in Simon’s Town is of course its Boulders African Penguin colony, situated on the titular beach in what is considered part of the Table Mountain National Park – thus managed by SANParks as opposed to Cape Nature who run the Betty’s Bay penguin colony with which we are far more familiar.

Stretched over three little beaches, Seaforth, Boulders, and Foxy, the penguin colony (the species of which are currently considered endangered) settled there in 1982, where they have since flourished thanks to both their protected status and the prohibition of commercial pelagic trawling in False Bay which consequently increased the natural supply of pilchards and anchovy – important food sources in the penguin diet.

Boulders beach (so named due to the abundance of granite boulders on and around it) allows you to swim among the penguins, while the excellent boardwalk built around Foxy beach lets you stroll above and between the birds to get a good look at all that sweet penguino activity. Of course, these little tuxedo wearing, very smelly birds are a natural tourist attraction and as such bring in a large amount of visitors both local and international, making Boulders in general quite a good money spinner for the SANParks machine.

That said, this was the time of the Covid-19 pandemic and so the tourists were gone, the beaches shut down, and access to the SANParks facility switched off. Still, luckily for us, the public pathways and boardwalks around the beaches were still open, and so we leisurely strolled upon them, happily taking in the penguins who were quite nonplussed about these strange bemasked people staring through the fences at them and their fluffy chicks!

At the end of our explorations, Chantelle and Emily waddled back to the car (seriously, such a surreal sight to see the ever popular Seaforth/Boulders parking lot empty), while Jessica and I strolled over to have a closer look at the adjacent Seaforth Beach, a narrow 600m long stretch of sandy shoreline surrounded by restaurants, curio shops and sporting a rather nice, shaded picnic lawn – as well as a LOT of pigeons!

Waffles and Ice Cream at Ikigai in Swellendam (2021-01-13) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 01 MAR 2021

Emily was not exactly thrilled to learn that we would be away on holiday in Swellendam when her 7th birthday rolled in on the 13 January this year. There would of course not have been any birthday party given the current Covid-19 pandemic situation, but still, she was counting on least some form of celebration that involved a Helderberg Cake Company cake, her cousins, and a swim in at least my parent’s or sister’s big swimming pool. (Thankfully our little cottage at Aan de Heuvel had a splash pool, so we kind of covered at least one of those bases!)

So we did wake her with Spar-bought cupcakes, birthday candles, a happy birthday song, and a small present or two (yay LEGO!), followed by a Bontebok seeking drive in the nearby Bontebok National Park, but of course none of those were quite what she was looking for. That said, she did rather perk up when we announced that we were off in search of waffles and ice cream at Ikigai, Swellendam’s premier artisan coffee bar and deli.

Surrounded by planter boxes and featuring a fresh wood facade, Ikigai (which has a little more space than its express sister over in Riversdale) has this wonderful metropolitan feel to it thanks to its modern aesthetic and interior decor. The carefully chosen art and design elements look like something you would find in a funky Cape Town neighbourhood, and the menu selection certainly matches that with an array of artisan coffees, milkshakes, smoothies and even booster shots. A fun breakfast menu, delicious sandwiches and bowls, and of course a selection of treats such as cookies, cakes, and brownies, complement the drinks selection. That said, we were of course there for pretty much one thing and one thing only – Waffles with ice cream!

Klein Karoo Fynbos at Badensfontein in Montagu (2020-10-25) Accommodation | Photo Gallery 28 FEB 2021

Clearly last year with the deadly Covid-19 pandemic raging across the globe was not the year to do much going away in. In fact, with the various rules, regulations and lockdowns in place, nipping out for a holiday was not exactly possible for the longest of times anyway, which is then probably why when the gap did finally open to do so, we seized the opportunity to zip out for a quick week long holiday at the very nice and quiet, pretty secluded and thus social distanced, Badensfontein farm, situated on the outskirts of Montagu on the edge of the Klein Karoo.

A beautiful family owned farm nestled in the Baden Valley, Badensfontein is situated a mere 5 km outside Montagu (just passed the famous Montagu Springs) and apart from its array of vineyards offers both camping and self-catering accommodation on its ample grounds. Managing to have cultivated a large lush lawn of green grass in the very semi arid surrounding environment, Badensfontein has crafted a perfect spot for people with tents, though it does also offer luxury tent accommodation plus of course the self-catering cottages which we were by far the most interested in.

Our cute little cottage was called Duiker, and nestled in among the fynbos on the slopes of a hill, it had exactly everything that we were looking for. Tranquility, views, an outdoor braai, a stoep, excellent WiFi, trails to walk, a host of giant geckos living behind all the paintings, and down at the bottom of the camp site a small but very refreshing splash pool which my girls basically lived in for the duration of our stay. (That said, when we first lifted the cover off the pool we had a good giggle – the girls had to share the tiny pool with a rather large frog!)

As it turned out, we were the only people staying at Badensfontein for the majority of our stay, and while Chantelle wasn’t there from start to finish (as always the Helderberg Cake Company had cakes to bake!), as a family this getaway from the confines of our little home back in Gordon’s Bay was exactly what we had needed. Lots of braais, games of Jenga and Go Fish!, colouring-in, walking, and splashing in the pool was very much the order of the day.

Springbok Venison at Tangram at Durbanville Hills Wine Estate (2021-02-24) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 27 FEB 2021

Generally when the core Touchwork team gets together for lunch it is always someplace in the Steenberg/Westlake region of Cape Town, which makes completes sense given that it is both the area where our office resides as well as where everyone but me is actually based. I’ve been working as a software developer for the company since 2007, and although we were a decent sized team for a fair while, it’s actually now been a number of years that I’ve been working completely alone, developing, maintaining, and managing our Kinetica SaaS platform.

This is perfectly fine of course, primarily because Kinetica is something that I created more than 10 years ago and thus have a personal vested interest in seeing it stay alive and thriving, but in the time of a deadly global pandemic it goes without saying that it is a lot smarter to have some backup just in case things do go… wrong. Pleasingly we found a young, enthusiastic, Durbanville-based developer to join our team and so, while we patiently wait out his notice period, headed out to lunch for our first ever face to face meeting.

This then is how we found ourselves travelling to the outskirts of Durbanville to Tangram on the Durbanville Hills wine estate, a lovely, award winning restaurant at the top of the winery, which itself is perched on the top of a hill with a view in pretty much all directions – including that iconic one of Table Mountain as it stands looming over Cape Town on the edge of Table Bay. Durbanville Hills is of course known for its very popular range of wines, much of which owes it character to its closeness to the sea air, balanced with the warm airflow around the hills, as well as the soil of the area, but interestingly enough, it doesn’t really have any history behind it, having only really been established in the 1990’s when seven or so grape farmers from the area decided to band together with the help of Distell to found the cellar as a joint venture and thus start producing wines on a commercial scale.

In terms of the restaurant experience, it is actually quite a lovely one. Passing through the wine tasting section and the Dylan Lewis leopard sculpture guarded cellar at the bottom, you ascend the stairs to reach the Tangram’s dining hall, all modernly outfitted with a warm touch and neat aesthetic, and of course featuring a lot of big glass panel to make the most of the view on offer. (There is also a bastille which you can walk out on to get a view over the vineyards, Table Bay, Cape Town, and Table Mountain in the distance, though my suggestion would be to wait a little until the cooler months when the dusty brown grass of summer gives way to something far more luscious green.)

Some excellent wine, good company, a delectable pork belly starter, and a sumptuous springbok venison main then all nicely came together to make for an exceptionally enjoyable experience, even if quite removed from our usual stomping grounds.

A Seal at Harbour Island in Gordon’s Bay (2020-10-24) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 26 FEB 2021

Back in October Jessica took the rare opportunity to join one of her besties for a little birthday celebration lunch, to be held at the lovely Gordon’s Bay branch of Ocean Basket, which is perched in a corner on the edge of the water next to the sea wall of the new harbour. Dragging Emily with for the drop-off on what was quite a misty, overcast day, we dutifully dropped Jessica off with Lisa and her dads and then promptly strolled out along the harbour wall.

Mind you, Emily was very keen not for us too dawdle to much on this particular stretch of our mini walk thanks to all the water routinely splashing over the tops of the dolosse guarding the boats moored in the harbour. There were one or two souls trying their hand at catching a fish in the water, but whether or not they had any luck given that seal happily cruising around the still harbour water is anyone’s guess.

The new harbour (Gordon’s Bay has two functional harbours), if you aren’t familiar with it, is encompassed by the upmarket Harbour Island development, a residential marina that offers homes, apartments and both land, sea and beach recreational facilities, rounding it all out with a commercial section that features a couple of restaurants and small businesses like Bertie’s Moorings and Antonio’s Pizza Place, as well as a hotel with convention facilities in the form of the surprisingly nice Krystal Beach hotel (which for the record is also home to two restaurants, a cocktail lounge and a wine emporium).

Apart from all the pretty sailboats and beautiful catamarans (like the DreamCatcher) to look at, Krystal Beach hotel is itself actually rather nice to meander through. Some pleasant architecture and the always very interesting to browse Ndiza art gallery (not to mention the always possible prospect of maybe some cake and tea from the downstairs bar/eatery) means that this probably isn’t the worst of places to be dropping your kid off for a birthday party at.

Burgers at The Orchard in Grabouw (2021-01-03) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 25 FEB 2021

Having spent the whole morning at Adene’s Farm Flowers out in Wolseley, we took a leisurely long scenic drive back home, heading through Villiersdorp with an eye on eventually grabbing lunch from The Hickory Shack, a particularly excellent smokehouse on the outskirts of Grabouw. However, on arrival at the skull mounted shed in the Elgin Valley, we were disappointed to find Hickory Shack rather super busy – in other words, super not okay to visit during this current Covid-19 pandemic. Saddened, we pointed our nose back in the direction of Sir Lowry’s Pass and tried our luck next with a visit to Rojaal. Damn, it turns out that they have since been forced out of business thanks to all the crippling lockdowns.

Okay, no worries, we then hopped over to the ever popular Peregrine Farm Stall in the hopes of scoring lunch. Ah, should have known that with an adjective like ‘popular’ in that previous sentence, Peregrine would also be outrageously packed with people in this time of the Coronavirus! Right, so properly disillusioned now (with moans of hunger surrounding me), I threw my last dice and pulled up at The Orchard, another one of Grabouw’s famous on the N2 farm stalls.

Success at last! Almost completely devoid of people (bad for the business of course, but excellent for us), The Orchard ticked all the right boxes. Little to no people to have to work our way through, a lunch menu, and that all important option of sitting outside in the fresh air to eat. (The availability of grass to run on and things to clamber over for the kids was discounted given how hot it was on the day. You would have ended up with 3rd degree burns if you went down a jungle gym slide!)

The Orchard’s farm stall section itself is actually worth mentioning. It is particular spacious, well stocked with all the things that you would expect from a farm stall, and has a delightful array of home bakes and other sweet things to take back with you on the road. In terms of the eatery section, the menu is uncomplicated but features a little something for everyone, and on this particular outing pretty much everyone ended up having either a chicken or beef burger with fries on their plates.

So although it wasn’t originally on our lunch time venue list, The Orchard definitely stepped up to the plate for us, and honestly, sitting at a table shaded by a tree with no one one around was absolutely perfect. Definitely not looking for ‘vibe’ at least until the vaccination rollout is well and truly underway!