It had to happen eventually I suppose. Monday rolled in, I pulled up my chair, dusted off the laptop, cracked my knuckles, and dove straight into my inbox. Hey, holidays don’t last forever you know.
That said, I can’t say that I didn’t have a great December holiday, having enjoyed a good 3 week long break from work. The first week was spent on family gatherings, Christmas time, and an inordinate amount of Xbox One playtime, the second was spent holidaying with family in the Mossel Bay region, and the third week was spent enjoying a bit of time off from the kids, seeing as both Emily and Jessica started school before I needed to go back to work.
All in all, lots of food was eaten, lots of drinks drunk, lots of sights seen, lots of fun had, and lots of video games played. Also, nary a keyboard in sight.
In a nutshell, the Diaz Express is a fun rail experience that takes a resurrected Type 40 Mark II Wickham Inspection Trolley and then sends it along for a run on the existing Garden Route Transnet rail network, between the seaside resorts of Great Brak River and Mossel Bay.
During peak holiday season, the Diaz Express runs the shorter hop from Mossel Bay to Hartenbos, and this then was the one that the girls and I caught a ride on.
The day that we headed out was unfortunately a bit of an overcast, drizzly affair, though that said, the slightly gloomy weather was nowhere near strong enough to dampen the excitement of the girls when they first laid eyes on the cute little blue ‘train’ sitting next to its station deck outside the venerable Santos Express train lodge above Santos Beach.
The short ride was a blast (the girls LOVED it), and once deposited at the Hartenbos train station, the girls and I then strolled down to the main entertainment hub of this iconic Afrikaaner seaside holiday escape, where we mingled with the crowd, taking in the sights and sounds of a LOT of people who, despite the weather, were clearly enjoying their December break!
Unfortunately for us, the weather was just a little too gloomy to allow for some play time down on the beach, so instead we found ourselves wandering around a bit more, snacking on treats here and there, and of course, watching everyone else, seeming impervious to the weather, having a holiday ball.
(Seriously, there was parasailing of all things on the go!)
Finally, we stumbled across a funfair ride that the girls simply wouldn’t let me pass (I tried), and most importantly, one that I would let both of them ride. In other words, the highlight of the day’s outing then.
Watching the clock, we made our way back to the Hartenbos platform, just in time to catch our ride back aboard the Diaz Express. (This time around, the journey was slightly wetter but a little more noisy – thanks to our friendly conductor having a great time entertaining all the kids by pressing the hooter every time someone’s nose got touched!)
All in all, a fun outing that I’ll definitely be doing again with the girls (and probably grandparents) I imagine.
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Bonus: While grabbing some links for this post, I came across this nice little video detailing the longer and much nicer Mossel Bay to Great Brak excursion, courtesy of local South African travel writer “Travelbug” Rose Bilbrough.
Last year the girls and I escaped with Chantelle’s folks to Gouritz (better known by its more common Afrikaans name, Gouritsmond) for a couple of days, ending off 2016 and ringing in 2017 with a proper little December Holidays getaway.
Gouritz is a small coastal holiday town situated at the Gourits River mouth, about 30 km away from Mossel Bay and on the same stretch of coastline as nearby Vleesbaai, Boggoms Bay, and a particular favourite of mine, Pinnacle Point.
Thanks to its access to both the Indian Ocean and Gourits River, Gouritz is a mecca for fishing, boating, and other water sports, and given its relatively remote setting, is a popular area for nature lovers to gather.
Also, come the December holidays, it gets packed to the rafters with people escaping to the coast!
After an enjoyable drive up with loads of short stops in between, the girls and I eventually reached the tiny town and joined up with Oupa and Ouma at our house for the next couple of days, the peculiarly named Drie Plekke Lekker.
(Sadly, Drie Plekke Lekker is rather… lacking on the maintenance front, meaning that despite the nice space, for now it is difficult to wholeheartedly recommend until someone steps in and fixes it up a little).
Over the next couple of days we enjoyed milktart pancakes, walks around the town, drives along the coast, swims in the river, lunch in the middle of nowhere, a trip on a train to Hartenbos, and a massive New Year’s Eve lamb spit braai in the caravan park with Bernard and the rest of Monty and Cheryl’s friends!
Jessica flew her kite, the girls played non-stop with their Oupa, and pretty much every morning kicked off with multiple games of Snakes and Ladders. (Oh, and as a bonus surprise, Chantelle managed to slip away from the guest house in order to drive up and join us for a day or two!)
So. Pretty impossible to say that we didn’t have a good time then.
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A great little off the beaten path holiday spot.
In just ten or so days’ time, Chantelle and I will be packing our bags, bundling the girls into the car, and fumbling to find a radio station that both of us can agree on, all so that we can hit the road and enjoy what should be a super awesome, nine nights long mid-year school holidays breakaway.
Interesting fact: this will officially be the longest road trip holiday that Chantelle and I have ever had with the girls – so it should be a pretty interesting experience all around!
Now, knowing that I despise just languishing in one place for too long, you might have guessed that this holiday road trip will involve a fair bit of driving around… and you would be 100% correct. Of course it does.
So, on to the rather exciting breakdown for our upcoming July 2017 holiday then:
We kick things off with a three night stay in Oudtshoorn (a place I’ve last been to a full decade ago!), using the wonderful looking De Oude Meul Country Lodge as our base of operations. From there we should be more than adequately placed to visit with ostriches, cheetahs and camels, go spot a waterfall or two, and of course enter some very famous underground caves.
Next we head straight up to the Main Rest Camp in the Addo Elephant National Park, where we’ll sleep for just one night. This should be an unforgettable first time experience for the girls, and I am looking forward in particular to staking out the main waterhole with them come sundown!
(Bonus fact: the last time that I was in Addo was back in 2009, when Chantelle and I embarked on our epic Honeymoon road trip around the country!)
From Addo we will then drive down to Port Elizabeth and spend three nights there in the company of Evan and Natasha. The girls are SUPER excited at the prospect of playing with their friend Evalynne again, while I have to say, I’m secretly rather excited to try and find an opportunity to slip out and visit the PE branch of the SAAF Museum, or perhaps make an attempt to see the infamous Cape Recife Lighthouse if the wind blows that way.
The last leg of our July holiday sees us shack up at The Gull self-catering chalet (right on Myoli beach!) in Sedgefield for two nights, a town of particular nostalgic value to me seeing as that was where I spent the vast majority of my holidays as a child thanks to it being home to my mom’s folks.
In other words, I may be even MORE excited than the girls for this upcoming little breakaway! ;)
We enjoyed a great end of December family vacation in the seaside holiday/fishing village of Gouritz (aka Gouritsmond) last year. One of the nice little discoveries that we made whilst there was this tiny little coffee shop squeezed into the premises of Swanepoel Algemene Handelaars (General Dealer) on the outskirts of the town.
Koffie Stories (which is now in its new location and under new ownership) has kind of drifted from its original premise as being Gouritz’s first ever coffee shop where you could actually go for a cup of coffee and pay to hear a story told by one of the locals, transforming itself instead into a more conventional coffee shop/eatery (and art gallery), though still sporting a very homely atmosphere.
The coffee is not bad (and well priced), but the real draw card is by far their dessert filled pancakes – with the milk tart filled and peppermint crisp tart filled pancakes demanding that we go for tea pretty much each and every day that we stayed there!
So just a heads up then if you have a sweet tooth and find yourself in Gouritz one day…
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(Also map in case you too need to taste these rather tasty dessert pancakes)
Both of my girls are comically afraid of the sea. I’m not sure if Emily shares the fear because of Jessica, but regardless, both my girls are terrified of the incoming water.
They are more than happy to run around and play on the sand, or perhaps venture into the sea when it is only at most low ankle height, but the minute any wave higher than their ankles comes rolling in, they are out of the water screaming blue murder.
So, with a beach bound December holiday coming our way (we’re off to Gouritz), I’ve been hard at work trying to convince them that the sea is not so bad. (If you can call going to the beach as often as possible ‘hard work’!)
Pleasingly, it appears to have been working in that I can now at least get them into knee-high water with me (though they cling to my hands like limpets), and I have managed to convince them to wash their hands in the water by themselves, every time we pack up for the night.
I’ve kind of run out of time now, so I’m hoping that I’ve done enough that I can at least kind of enjoy the sea/beach at Gouritz without hearing the screams of two little girls every minute and a half!
We’ll see, we’ll see…
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A handy map as always, just in case you want to check out my home beach while you still have a couple of vacation days left:
We enjoyed one of our first holidays away together as a family (just the four of us) this July, with a four day long adventure in the Montagu area.
We were originally booked in to stay at the Montagu Springs resort, but Chantelle got a little spooked when Andy and Albert returned early from their break a lot less than impressed, plus some of the information we were receiving from Montagu Springs in regards to their warm pools wasn’t helping either. So instead, Chantelle made a last minute switch to Rainbow Glen, a quaint little self-catering guest farm setup run by a family of rock climbers (Montagu is after all heaven for South African rock climbing!).
We rented the Garden Cottage, which although being a little sparse and not particularly modern, housed the four of us easily enough, with access to a great little braai lapa, a big lawn for the kids to play on, kids toys like slides, a trampoline, and a jungle gym, a rabbit hutch, a chicken coop, and a cool little paddock with two horses roaming about in it.
Jessica immediately made friends with some of the other kids staying there and what followed was a particularly enjoyable week away from home and work.
We built each day up around a primary focal point (Robertson Birds Paradise, Viljoensdrift River Cruise, and Montagu Guano Cave) and spent quite a bit of time driving around and taking in the sights of the Robertson, Ashton, Montagu, Barrydale area – made particularly easy by the fact that we got a great mobile data signal throughout plus a Google Navigation app that works really, really well!
Even the odd power break or two couldn’t quite dampen this great week of out and about with the family! :)
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Related Link: http://rainbowglen.co.za/
In October 2014 I embarked on my very first overseas trip ever – to the one destination that I’ve always wanted to see above all others: Japan.
Terrance, a friend I have known since primary school, has been living in the land of the Rising Sun since 2011, teaching English as part of their JET programme. In that time, he also found a fiancé in the form of Yuko Omiya, and thoroughly besotted with this wonderful woman, the date for their wedding was set: 12 October 2014.
Of course, he was very keen to have any of his South African friends come up and join him and Yuko on their big day, and although it was certainly something that I wanted to do, it wasn’t something that I could actually afford to at the time (you know, all the usual expenses that comes with being a married adult with children and bonds to pay).
However, my brother Ryan certainly could, and as such, he implored and convinced me to join him on the trip – and thus our Japan 2014 adventure was forged!
Surprisingly, we didn’t actually put loads of research into the trip, in fact, it boiled down to less than a handful of Skype and e-mail chats with Terrance, and one or two real life meetups for Ryan and myself. However, it took almost no time at all to come up with a plan that would see us in Japan for a period of two weeks, travelling to the metropolitan marvel that is Tokyo, then to the rich spiritual, historic and cultural hub that is Kyoto, and finally enjoying the fresh, more rural air and pace of Ina and Komagane, situated within the Nagano prefecture.
With our destinations and our period of stay in each decided, Yuko handled the task of tracking down affordable accommodation for the two of us (it was much easier to organise that on their side than for us to try and do it from here), while Ryan handled the nitty gritty of all the flight tickets, insurance, etc. – and once the final hurdle of getting our Japanese visas via the embassy in Cape Town was cleared, all that was left was a little bit of wait time until we finally took to the skies.
Needless to say, I was excited as a puppy dog who has just discovered he can actually chase cats and they WILL run away!
The trip itself was everything I could ever have wished for (I’ll sum it up as amazing, and not at all what I might have imagined), and despite the fact that we actually spent very little time with Terrance and Yuko as a whole, Ryan and I were more than capable of getting around by ourselves in a land where very little English is spoken – and get around we most certainly did!
(Though to be fair, a big thank you to the wonder that is mobile data and Google Maps is in order.)
I’ve got 47 photo albums taken over the course of those 14 incredible days, all neatly sitting on my hard drive, patiently waiting to be uploaded and thus see the light of day – and although it is now nearly a year later (life as a dad to two small kids is so incredibly busy), I think that you’re finally in for a treat.
In other words, prepare for an upcoming deluge of amazing sights courtesy of probably one of my most favourite countries in the whole wide world – this is Japan 2014! :)
As you might have noted from the recent run of blog posts (almost all photo gallery entries mind you), Jessica, Emily and I really did get up to a lot over this December break. The girls all ended their respective playschool years around the 12th of December, and I joined them on leave around the 18th, meaning that we’ve had a good two or so weeks of each other’s undivided attention.
Unfortunately Chantelle was working for pretty much the entire duration of my two weeks’ leave period (in the end, she actually got two days off over that entire period, when at the start of the run she was expected to get none!), meaning that it was pretty much just me and the girls most of the time, and as you might have been able to tell by now, I did my absolute best to ensure that we did at least one fun outing on each and every day of our holiday together!
We fed ducks, we fed rabbits, we saw monkeys, we saw butterflies, we played at Blasters, we looked at lions, we visted with Oupa and Ouma, we swam with Granpa and Granny, we opened Christmas Presents, we ate Christmas lunch, we played on New Year’s eve, we ate New Year’s lunch, we went to the beach, we went to outdoor markets, we fed chickens, we played at Mondeor, we devoured McDonalds ice cream… well, you get the picture.