Tag Archives: south africa

Visiting the Steenbras Water Treatment Plant Lookout Point (2016-10-29) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 08 FEB 2017

I’ve previously mentioned how I took the girls up to the Steenbras Water Treatment Plant lookout point above Gordon’s Bay last year, a trip that involves a rather perilous walk along a ridge which I allowed the girls to do by themselves. This of course mortified Chantelle, meaning that we needed to take her there so that she could experience this pretty cool viewpoint for herself.

So one early evening in October we did exactly that.

The viewpoint is situated on the doorstep of the Steenbras Dam Water Treatment Plant, which is itself obviously closed to the public. From this point high up in the Hottentots-Holland mountains you get a great view of False Bay, and if you venture along the aforementioned narrow little ridge along the plant’s fence, you get rewarded with spectacular views of Gordon’s Bay and its sister town, Strand.

This time around it was a lot clearer in terms of sky, meaning that we got treated to some great views of the area, not to mention the chance to snap some photos of the girls in the warm golden light as the sun started going down.

I’m pretty pleased that we managed to convince Chantelle to join us on this little sightseeing adventure, though I’m not so sure that she is any more convinced that letting the girls do the ridge walk by themselves is a good idea!

Also, I’m not much of a photographer, and nor could my phone couldn’t really cope with all that extra light, but I did manage to squeeze out at least one or two half decent pictures from the outing…

Here’s a map in case you also want to take in the view:

Related Link: Steenbras Dam

Driving over the Bain’s Kloof Pass to Wellington (2016-12-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 07 FEB 2017

Chantelle and I enjoyed a weekend away in Tulbagh towards the end of last year. We decided to head home via Wellington for a change, and that led to a decision to tackle the rocky Bain’s Kloof Pass, a road that I literally haven’t been on since I was a teenager!

Created in the 1850s, the Bain’s Kloof Pass was built to connect Wellington to Ceres, and like all the well made mountain passes in South Africa, was designed and built by a Bain – though this time around it was father Andrew Geddes Bain as opposed to his more famous road engineer son, Thomas Bain!

The now tarred mountain pass is a national heritage site, and runs for about 20 km as it moves from the Breede River, across the Limiet mountains and along the Witte river.

Popular with hikers due to its isolation, striking scenery and of course many rock pools (perfect for swimming), the mountain pass sees a fair bit of tourist activity, with the popular bush pub at the start of the pass (on the Wolseley side) doing brisk business, particularly with all the bikers that take on the pass’s many dangerous twists and turns!

It is relatively nerve-wracking/exciting pass to drive, thanks to its narrowness, unforgiving stone barricades, and sharp drop-offs, not to mention the numerous twists and turns that seem intent on making any person sitting in the passenger seat rather… uncomfortable.

Chantelle found the drive harrowing, I loved it, and the views afforded from the summit overlooking Wellington are simply put, spectacular.

Well worth tackling if you are in the area then.

The team behind Mountain Passes South Africa do a fantastic job in detailing the various mountain passes of South Africa, and for Bain’s Kloof Pass they’ve actually filmed a four part series, all of which are well worth the watch if you are interesting in the details and story behind this national heritage site of ours:

Part 1: Orientation and Overview:

Part 2: From Breede River to Tweede Tol:

Part 3: From Tweede Tol to Bain’s Kloof Village

Part 4: From Eerste Tol to Wellington:

Finally, a map in case you want to tackle this hairy pass yourself:

Related Link: Bain’s Kloof Pass | Mountain Passes South Africa

Pizza at the Shuntin’ Shed in Bot River (2017-01-04) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 06 FEB 2017

Another one of those little South African towns that have become forgotten once rail became less important and national roads were built to bypass it is Botrivier (or Bot River which doesn’t sound nearly as nice), situated at the bottom of Houw Hoek pass, at the foot of the Hottentots-Holland Mountains.

Despite attempts by the local wine industry (there are in face quite a few wine estates dotted around the area) to try and revive tourism to the Botrivier area in recent years, the town itself remains one not really warranting a visit unless you are heading there for some very specific reason.

Now I was particularly keen on finding new places to stop over the course of our recent December holiday to Gouritz (honestly, I’m a little tired of stopping in Buffeljagsrivier every time we head down to the Mossel Bay/Garden Route area via the N2), and succeeded in doing this on the drive there (Stormsvlei and Riversdale), as well as on the way back home again (Heidelberg).

For our final ‘new stop’ of the trip, I opted to turn into the little town of Botrivier, making my way to the old railway station, specifically in search of the quirky little shunting shed that in 2007 was converted into a bar/restaurant – aptly named The Shuntin’ Shed.

Popular with the locals as well as the biking scene, The Shuntin’ Shed is known for their beer, pizza, sticky ribs and Sunday roast.

The seating is actually made up from converted railway sleeping bunks, and there is a lot of rail-related memorabilia on display, as well as quite a few quirky ‘treasures’ from the 70’s and 80’s dotted all over the place.

In other words, a lot of fun conversation fodder if you are there with people from those particular eras!

Apparently the place can get pretty raucous at times (which makes sense considering that it is at its heart a fun loving pub), but made for a perfectly interesting little late lunch time stop for the girls and myself.

That said, it’s not really all that kid friendly (unless they are REALLY good at entertaining themselves), so perhaps leave them behind before dropping in for a rather unusual pub experience.

Just in case you need to place it on the map:

Related Link: The Shuntin’ Shed | Facebook

Coffee at Delish in Heidelberg (2017-01-04) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 05 FEB 2017

It is hard to miss Delish as you whiz past Heidelberg on the N2 towards the Garden Route, thanks to the bright red shed (the wine shop), large signage and bright yellow sunflowers dotted all around.

The girls and I opted to stop and stretch our legs there on our way back from our delightful year end holiday in Gouritz, and we were pleasantly surprised with what we found.

At its heart, Delish is a restaurant that specialized in homemade goods such as wood-fired artisanal breads, pies, jams and sauces, catering for both the locals and those in a hurry/in need of a leg stretch stop along the N2. (Sunday lunch specials are a big hit apparently).

There are three places to sit down and eat something, namely inside the cosy little restaurant/farm stall, outside under the shaded deck, or out in the garden like what the girls and I picked on the particular morning. (Mind you, I didn’t really have a choice – the girls saw the little jungle gym when we parked!)

As I mentioned earlier, there is a good selection of wines to be bought from the dedicated red wine shed, whilst inside the restaurant there is a space filled with all manner of homemade treats on sale.

It’s a lovely, friendly space, and both the girls and I rather enjoyed our little impromptu stop – even if it was just for something small this time around!

Bonus: In 2015, the team behind Delish made a little video showcasing what they do:

Finally, just in case you need to picture it on a map:

Related Link: Delish | Facebook

Cheese Platters at Healey’s Cheesery and Deli in Somerset West (2017-01-05) Travel Attractions 20 JAN 2017

If you are fond of fine cheese then I would imagine that you might be rather happy at the news of the opening of a dedicated cheese deli right here in Somerset West on the well known Waterkloof Wine Estate.

Healey’s has been producing award winning cheeses since its inception in 2005 (seriously, just take a gander at all their award certificates proudly up on display in the deli!) and now at long last have their own dedicated space thanks to a proud partnership with Waterkloof Wines.

Their world class, noble farmhouse cheddar, which is aged anywhere from eight to 12 months, is made from unpasteurized milk taken from pasture grazing cattle. The milk itself is from a certified herd and is also free of hormones and steroids, whilst the cheese produced is free of all preservatives, artificial colouring agents, flavour enhancers, and anti-mould additives.

In short, they make some rather tasty, upmarket cheese.

The newly opened cheesery and deli (it’s about a month or so old now) serves two purposes – the first is as a production hub for the cheese itself (very cool, you can watch some of the process and view all the cheese maturing on the shelves through big display windows inside the shop), and second as a storefront through which you can taste/experience their cheese and then hopefully walk out the door with a couple of bags tucked under each arm!

A spur of the moment decision lead to Chantelle, the girls and I popping in for a visit, and with everything looking and smelling so good, we decided to try some of their cheese and cured meat platter options.

Obviously, the girls didn’t really like anything on the board other than the sourdough bread and margarine of course, but Chantelle and I took delight in sampling the fantastic array of cheese and meat pairings.

So while not exactly a place of much interest to two little girls (though thankfully catered for by means of a nice patch of grass outside with a jungle gym plonked down in the corner of it), it certainly is a worthwhile stop if you appreciate good cheese, and perhaps some fine Waterkloof wine to go down with it!

A handy map for cheese lovers then:

Related Link: Healey’s Cheesery and Deli | Facebook | Waterkloof Wines

Lamb Pie and Chips at Stoepsit in Vleesbaai (2017-01-03) Photo Gallery | Restaurants 15 JAN 2017

December saw us enjoying a nice getaway to Gouritsmond for a bit of a year end holiday. Whilst for the most part of our trip we enjoyed good sunny weather, a little bit of the overcast stuff did creep in towards the end of the stay.

This prompted us to abandon our swimming trunks and head out towards the Vleesbaai/Boggomsbaai area, specifically on the lookout for a little restaurant in middle of nowhere which seemingly is on every local’s radar judging by the amount of cars seemed to always be parked out in front of it!

As it turns out, during the December holiday period, Stoepsit (with its hard to miss red tractor out in front) operates just about every day, and apart from its little curio shop (Die Winkel), great bar setup and reputation as the local wedding venue, it is also home to a brilliantly roomy restaurant area – a great, unconceited place to sit down and enjoy some good food, drink (they have an extensive and well curated wine list) and of course company.

We lucked out in a way in that on the day that we chose to show our faces, they were in fact not too busy, meaning that the girls had more than enough place to run around and make a nuisance of themselves without bothering too many other patrons.

After sampling some interesting d’Cider ciders (produced by Lukas Wentzel, wine maker at Groote Post Vineyards in Darling, i.e. literally on the other side of South Africa!) and browsing the little Stoepsit newsletter (or as they like to tongue in cheek call it ‘die koerant’), Monty, Cheryl and myself set about the difficult task of picking out what to have for lunch from their nice and focused menu.

Funnily enough, all three of us opted for a pie on the day, and I have to say, the resulting lamb pie with chips that was eventually set down before me was absolutely superb!

As mentioned earlier, Stoepsit and its little curio/homemade treats shop is open primarily during the December holidays, though the restaurant does cater for Sunday lunches out of season – being known in particular for its Kontreikos spread. (Coffee and cake are apparently also available on Saturday mornings).

Outside of that, it is also available out of season as a venue for weddings, birthdays and pretty much everything in between. So yes, well worth popping in for a visit if you find yourself in the area on a day that they’re actually open! ;)

Naturally, here is a handy map in case you want to head over and check out the place the next time you are holidaying in the Vleesbaai/Boggomsbaai area:

BONUS: If you look on the map, you will find something marked as Johnson’s Post that seems to sit in the middle of nowhere, but at the same time is accessible from Gouritz, Vleesbaai, and Boggoms Bay. Obviously, curiosity dictated that I needed to seek this place out, and as it turns out, Johnson’s Post is literally the rural farm area’s local post office and general dealer, consisting of essentially one old, slightly run-down house in the middle of nowhere, with a superb view of the Gourits river below it!

Despite the slightly telling name, who would have guessed it!?

Related Link: Stoepsit Restaurant | Facebook

The Continent of Sulina: A Faerie Sanctuary in Swellendam (2016-09-22) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 06 JAN 2017

One day, during our September getaway to the lovely Stonehill River Lodge in Buffeljagsrivier near Swellendam last year, we found ourselves looking for something to do with the kids.

Having remembered seeing it a couple of months back on SABC 2’s Mooiloop‘, I suggested that we hop in the car and take the girls through to see Swellendam’s very own fairy and angel healing sanctuary – The Continent of Sulina.

From what I understand, the Continent of Sulina is run by sculptor Ian and his wife Minky Sulin with the genuine aim of it being a home and a place of safety and healing for Minky’s faerie and angel friends. Minky certainly has a strong belief in the Fae folk and those people for who this magic still exists certainly seem to appreciate this rather ‘enchanting’ space.

For the more practical of us out there, the Continent of Sulina is essentially a house with a rambling garden that has been filled to the brim with little figurines of faeries, gnomes, goblins, frogs, toadstools and other miscellaneous shiny (and sometimes creepy) things.

You essentially pay an entrance fee to walk through the garden around the house, and then enter the gallery house in order to exit, which is of course the point where you get presented with probably a thousand or so figurines of different shapes and sizes (many handmade by local artisans), all awaiting a new home in exchange for some of your money.

Recently, a second property adjacent to the original has also been purchased, meaning that now the fairy sanctuary also sports a dedicated kids play for the little ones.

There is a coffee station in the garden as well, but seeing as a light rain started to descend during our visit, we opted not to sit down and give it a go.

Honestly, unless you have kids (or you yourself perhaps) that are really into things like magic and faeries (none of us are), this isn’t really a place that is going to hold your attention for long.

If you are however looking to buy some fairy trinkets, then these guys definitely have you covered!

Yeah… I can’t say that any of the grown ups enjoyed the outing on the day, and unfortunately the girls didn’t seem to quite love it either. (Plus we all got a little wet thanks to the rather grey weather on the day).

Still it was an outing and that was certainly what we were after in the first place. So, if you have kids and have run out of ideas for things to do in Swellendam, you may as well pop in and see for yourself the ‘magical’ realm of the Continent of Sulina.

As always, a map for in case you wish to go seek out some faeries yourself:

Related Link: The Continent of Sulina | Facebook

Exploring the Lawns of Spier in Stellenbosch (2016-09-11) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 27 DEC 2016

Back in September Chantelle and I took the girls out for a visit to Eagle Encounters at the world famous Spier Wine Farm. Of course, any visit to the beautiful grounds of Spier is not complete with an amble down its many scenic walkways, admiring the art installations, the gables of the beautiful Cape Dutch architecture, the lush gardens and picnic areas, and of course breathing in that fresh Stellenbosch air. (Wine Tasting is a must as well, but that is often easier when you don’t have little ones darting all about you, excited at the prospect of touching owls and seeing eagles!)

Spier has for years now been one of the leaders (if not THE leader) in the wine estate as a destination tourism industry, and these days are certainly no different.

There is a literal smorgasbord of things to see/do on the wine farm, like tasting wine at their purpose built tasting room, enjoying a picnic on their endless lawns with a picnic basket stocked by the Eight To Go Deli, heading out on one of the many walking tours around the estate, feasting at either Eight or the Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery, shopping at the Craft Market and Gift Shop, relaxing at the Spa, learning about birds of prey at Eagle Encounters, exploring the vineyards on Segways, taking in the Spier Art Collection, or resting your head in one of the lovely rooms of the Spier Hotel.

It is impossible not to spend a lot of time then when at Spier, and so if you have never been there before, then you should know that a visit to the Stellenbosch winelands isn’t quite complete without a visit to the iconic Spier wine farm.

As you would expect from any place established way back in 1692, Spier (one of South Africa’s oldest wine farms by the way) has a fascinating history and a legacy for those interested in that sort of thing to discover.

In terms of architecture, naturally Spier has a lot of fine examples of the iconic Cape Dutch styled houses on display, with a staggering 21 historic gables that can be found on the estate.

As I said, our particular outing on the day was very much centered around our visit to the Owls and Eagles at Eagle Encounter, but we did stroll around the grounds as much as the little ones would allow for, with a stop for a quick lunch at the brilliant Hoghouse BBQ & Bakery.

I would love to explore a lot more, so I reckon a return visit for just Chantelle and myself might soon be in order! ;)

In case you want to go and check it out for yourself, here’s a handy map:

Bonus: Spier published this polished video about the current state of their operation to Youtube in May 2015. Great at summing up the vibe of such a great Stellenbosch space:

Related Link: Spier Wine Farm

Kitesurfers at Melkbaai Beach in Strand (2016-11-05) Photo Gallery | Travel Attractions 19 NOV 2016

Having enjoyed a good day out that started off with some yacht watching in Gordon’s Bay harbour, followed by a couple of hours’ worth of driving around the Elgin Valley and taking in some of the sights of the Open Gardens Weekend, the girls and I decided to cap off the Saturday with some KFC sprinkle pops for supper whilst watching the kitesurfers at Strand’s main Melkbaai beach.

dav

After chillling in the car, eating our KFC pops and marvelling at the kitesurfers doing their thing in the water from afar, I succeeded in convincing the girls that what we now needed to do was step out of the car and head in for closer look.

We were a little lucky in that although the wind was blowing rather strongly, it wasn’t whipping the sand around too much, meaning that we were able to walk a fair stretch of the beautiful pristine beach without being completely sandblasted to bits.

dav

Of course, with both girls being so mysteriously petrified of the sea at the moment, they pretty much clung to me like limpets, making the stroll a bit of a lesson in patience and deep breathing exercises, but we did get to see some pretty cool kitesurfing up close, not to mention the odd washed up jellyfish or two!

dav

Eventually the two of them found themselves rather enjoying the outing, loving the thrill of watching the kitesurfers doing flips and all manner of tricks in the waves, as well as the playful lifeguards milling and playing around in front of the Strand Surf Lifesaving Club HQ.

dav

Right, so now it’s just getting the two of them a little less petrified of the sea – we are after all going away to Gouritsmond for this upcoming December holiday period!

As always, a handy map to the beach if you too want to go kitesurfer watching:

Related Link: Strand