All posts by Craig Lotter

About Craig Lotter

Software developer, husband and dad to two little girls. Writer behind An Exploring South African. I don't have time for myself any more.

Steam Train at the Elgin Railway Market in Grabouw (2018-12-16) Markets | Photo Gallery 25 SEP 2019

An excellent addition to the Grabouw/Elgin Valley tourism scene is without a doubt the fantastic Elgin Railway Market. Residing in an old apple packing warehouse right on the Elgin train station, this Art Deco/Art Noveau styled market is an absolute must visit come weekend time – especially on days when the steam train comes rolling in!

With a carefully curated list of stall vendors, the market has a little taste of something for everyone, with flavours from all over the world, including proper South African market fare, on offer. A few well made arts, crafts and designs are on show, and of course there is local craft brewed gin to be had. (Seriously, gin is everywhere at the moment).

And don’t forget to admire the fantastic metal and wood work that has gone into crafting the ornate Art Deco styling of the building itself!

Then there is the innovative Liberty Books bookstore parked outside, showing off the second addition to their book-bearing fleet, the Liberty Books Brigade – a 1970s Provincial Library Bus! (I’ve mentioned their Burning Books fire engine on these pages before.)

But of course, the star of the show for me is whenever the Ceres Rail Company comes steaming into the station with one of their classic locomotive and coaches combination. On this particular visit pictured below, it was Jessica, a Class 19D-3321 steam locomotive from the 1940’s that chugged into view bearing its load of market visitors!

So yes, trains were admired, food devoured, and photos taken:

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Fish and Chips at the Struisbaai Sea Shack (2019-03-23) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 24 SEP 2019

Having rolled through Napier, breakfasted and wandered around a shipwreck museum in Bredasdorp, peered up at a lighthouse and visited the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas, it was time to round off our day trip with a late lunch in Struisbaai – on South Africa’s longest beach of all places.

Set right on the shores of Struisbaai Main Beach, Sea Shack Struisbaai is an immensely popular seafood restaurant with the twist being that you dine with your feet in the sand! It’s a very communal experience with simple, long rows of benches under bright yellow and blue strips of shade-cloth, paired an almost incessant level of chatter, music and laughter all around.

Orders are placed at the front, drinks are snatched up from the bar, you grab a seat, and then eventually some runners pop around to deliver your food to your table before disappearing again. People are constantly streaming in and out and on a whole, I have to say it feels like a very streamlined operation given the size of the crowds that seem descend upon the shack.

Generous portions of fish, chips and calamari are generally the order of the day, and for those in need of a sweet after treat, then the soft serve ice cream stall out in front has you more than covered. (Or at least that was what the queue was telling me!)

A thoroughly enjoyable seafood in the sand experience!

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Hertzoggies and Fruit Cubes at Algerynskraal Farm Stall near Ladismith (2019-07-04) Farm Stalls | Photo Gallery 20 SEP 2019

The first half of our holiday over, the girls and I were driving from Barrydale to Mossel Bay via the Garcia Pass and through Riversdale, when about 15 kilometers outside of Ladismith (just before we needed to turn off the famed R62 and onto the R323) we spotted a giant metal coffee pot sculpture beckoning us to pull over. The marketing stunt worked and so we discovered Algerynskraal Farm Stall, a Klein Karoo farm stall in the middle of nearly nowhere.

Situated on the farm Algerynskraal, originally a farming outpost purchased by Phillip Lodewyk Le Grange in the mid 1860’s, the Algerynskraal Farm Stall lives in a classic, renovated old farm house, with each and every room brimming with all manner of vintage Klein Karoo curios, gifts, arts & crafts, and little bits of history scattered about.

There is a small restaurant onsite that produces a wide variety of light meals, home bakes and the odd traditional Sunday roast or two, and the front reception is stocked with all manner of delicious nibbles to pack in for the road ahead.

Ample space, farm animals, interesting bric-a-brac, the tranquility that comes from a farm in the Klein Karoo, and friendy staff – a lovely (and unexpected) little discovery indeed!

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Jenga, Go Fish, and Colouring Books at Pinnacle Point in Mossel Bay (2019-07-04) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 15 SEP 2019

The June school holidays this year was split into two distinct parts, the first a little time soaking up the warm waters of Warmwaterberg whilst exploring Barrydale, the second some nice downtime in Mossel Bay. And by Mossel Bay I do of course mean the fabulous Pinnacle Point Estate (as always).

Chantelle wasn’t with us for this part, and so my girls and I joined my mom and dad, two of their friends, and Riley plus the boys for a couple of decent days of relaxing, late night walks (often in search of stray golf balls), ice creams, strolls and dassies at the Point, copious amounts of Jenga and colouring in, the odd braai or two, and of course a lot of riding up and down in the golf cart. (The girls like that.)

Oh, and a fun drive up to Jakkalsvlei just to round things off. (No golf this time around though…)

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Jackal Lager and Pizza at Jakkalsvlei near Herbertsdale (2019-07-05) Food and Drink | Photo Gallery 10 SEP 2019

It has turned into a nice little outing for whenever we holiday in Mossel Bay, nipping off on the quiet back roads out into the farm lands, driving past the small hamlet of Herbertsdale and then finally in the middle of nowhere, about 60 kilometers from where we first started, walking past the bronze sculpture of a jackal as you enter through the glass doors of Jakkalsvlei.

Situated at the foot of the Langeberg mountains, with its cool temperate climate, the Jakkalsvlei winery and its 34 hectare large vineyard produce a host of award winning wines, and is also home to a seemingly impossibly popular restaurant and wine tasting facility (given the remoteness of its location).

An excellent array of food, pizza and wine to be had, innovative wine tasting pairings to try, and of course, even their own craft brews to sample. Hard not to enjoy each and every visit to this tucked away little gem!

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Sharks and Skates at The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town (2018-11-17) Nature and Animal Attractions | Photo Gallery 05 SEP 2019

I was fifteen years old when the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town first opened its doors to the public in November 1995. A world class aquarium showcasing the incredible diversity of marine life found in the Atlantic and Indian Oceans through awe-inspiring exhibits and interactive touch-points, with a vision and mission to encourage love and respect for our ocean, and in so doing, train up a generation of young people to understand the need for using marine and other natural resources in a much more sustainable manner.

It also just so happens to be a wonderfully entertaining activity for parents with young kids.

After all, there is quite a lot to see and take in! From the big I&J Ocean Exhibit, the eerily quiet Predator Exhibit, the serene Kelp Forest Exhibit (unfortunately closed for reforestation during this particular visit), the always cute (if a little smelly) Penguin Exhibit, the interesting Touch Pool & Microscope section, the educational Smart Living Challenge Zone (lots of interactive/digital games to play around with!), and the Diversity Gallery, there is more than enough to keep you busy for a decent amount of time!

Then there are the various feeding times (the penguins are always a treat, not to mention the diver entering the big tank with all the sharks and rays), and if you are feeling particularly brave and have a few extra bucks burning a hole in your pocket, you can head over for a diving experience that lets you scuba down into either the Predator, I&J Ocean or Kelp Forest exhibit!

Jellyfish, sharks, rays, crayfish, eels and sea horses, the girls were kept absolutely enthralled with everything they saw – even if they weren’t really all that sure about actually touching anything in the touch pools!

As always, a wonderful educational experience that I’m thrilled to have been able to share with my kids. Makes me wish all that much more that Cape Town still had a proper zoo to enjoy with them as well. Anyway, as expected, a lot of photos were taken on the day:

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Flowers of the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden (2018-09-15) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 01 SEP 2019

Located in the historical center of Stellenbosch, the Stellenbosch University Botanical Garden is the oldest university botanical garden in South Africa. While the garden itself is relatively small, it houses an incredible diversity of plants both indigenous and introduced, and is an absolute MUST for anyone even vaguely interested in plant life!

Open to the public, for a negligible entrance fee you can leisurely stroll around the grounds moving from one beautifully arranged collection to the next, picking your way through the bonsai, fern, insectivorous plant, medicinal plant, oxalis, succulent and xerophyte plant collections, all the while taking in the vast array of rare, threatened, endangered, and even extinct Cape Floral Kingdom species around you.

And then there are the trees, including giant sequoia (the biggest tree species on earth), dawn redwood (thought to be extinct until 1948), California redwood (the tallest tree species on earth), and even olive trees grown from cuttings from the Garden of Gehsemane!

It is a lush, dizzying collection of the most wonderful plants, in a well cared for environment that is scattered with benches, fountains, sculptures and other pieces of historical interest. (And the occasional student frantically scribbling notes).

Also, if you just want to sit, drink a cup of coffee and take in all this verdant green nature around you, then the onsite Katjiepiering Restaurant has you covered. Honestly, what more could you ask for?

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Pirate Golf at Benguela Cove in Bot River (2018-11-10) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 30 AUG 2019

Across the water from the famed golfing Arabella Country Estate, lying on the opposite bank of the Bot River Lagoon, is the luxury Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate. Established in 2003, this lush Walker Bay farm has been developed to house a state of the art winery, luxury lifestyle estate, numerous restaurants, productive olive groves, and a vineyard that can boast about being one of the closest vineyards to the sea!

Which is probably then why you might just be surprised to learn that nowadays you can even play a fun round of putt putt there.

Because adults can’t have all the fun, last year saw Benguela Cove lift the wraps off of Benguela Cove Pirate Adventure Golf, a pirate-themed mini golf (or adventure golf) course aimed squarely at families with kids. A great strategy move on the part of the wine estate of course, but as a parent with two young kids who is always on the lookout for fun family activities, definitely one that is very much appreciated!

The eighteen hole course is standard putt putt fun, suitable for all ages and with pleasingly very few frustrating holes – you know, the ones that often leave kids in tears. Everything from entrance to score card is pirate themed and the course is dotted with pirate mannequins (even a Jack Sparrow when copyright lawyers aren’t looking) and other fun pirate props.

There is a small pirate-themed restaurant aimed at kids onsite (Blackbeard’s Diner), and as an added bonus, a colourful splash pad dubbed Benguela Splash next door, which boasts a variety of fun water spraying, squirting and dumping amusements. (They were still busy installing this when we visited late last year).

Pirate themed putt putt? Of course it’s great silly fun!

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The Western Province Live Steamers and their Miniature Trains in Parow (2018-09-01) Kid Activities | Photo Gallery 25 AUG 2019

The first Saturday of every month, from 13:00 to 16:00, shrill whistles, puffs of steam and the occasional whiff of diesel fill the air from a small field in Parow, right next to the soccer fields of Vasco and Ajax Football Clubs. If you turn sharply and follow the unassuming little road, you will end up in front of a small little club house emblazoned with the words “Western Province Live Steamers”. Welcome to their running day.

Founded in 1980 by the late Jack Love, a school teacher with a love of building and running miniature steam locomotives, the first 13 years of the Western Province Live Steam Society’s existence were lived out on a piece of the famous Cape Show Grounds in Goodwood (better known as the Goodwood Showgrounds, now of course the site of the GrandWest casino complex).

However, with the subsequent sale of that particular property in 1993, the club found itself undertaking a long hunt for a new home, eventually finding their current space with the help of the Parow Municipality at the end of 1997.

A small, but passionate group, the Live Steamers built their own club house, laid the track of their main loop, and then slowly began the process of (successfully) building out their little rail empire.

As with most hobbies, constructing and running these little trains are the most rewarding when you can share you passion with other people, and as such, every first Saturday of the month the club’s gates are thrown open and the general public are invited (free of charge) to come along to watch and ride the trains with the model builders, to take advantage of the fresh air and green open space, and perhaps even throw a few pieces of meat on some coals.

Naturally this is something that I just HAD to show the girls, and given that it’s reasonably close to where my brother and folks are based (Bellville), I got Ryan and Dad to tag along on what turned out to be a particularly pleasant way to spend Spring Day.

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