Having now arrived in Port Elizabeth following our short stay in the Addo Elephant Park (all part of last year’s June Holidays road trip), one of the very first experiences that Evan and Natasha guided us to was enjoying a spectacular sunset from atop the sand dunes of Sardinia Bay.
Lying between Schoenmakerskop and Seaview, and complete with public picnic facilities, Sardinia Bay is a popular beach strip that due to its miles of unspoiled coastline, has a reputation as being one of the best walking beaches in the area.
Thanks to its status of Marine Reserve, fishing is off limits in Sardinia Bay, though the waters are popular for both snorkeling and scuba diving. Incidentally, the beach also marks the starting point of the very popular eight kilometer long Sacramento hiking trail.
Anyway, the legendary sand dunes of Sardinia Bay are themselves quite the beast. Ever shifting, ever encroaching across the access roads, it takes quite the effort to make one’s way to the top – or at least it does when you are as big as what I am and struggle with a wonky knee!
(Not that this bothers the light as a feather kids of course, and besides, the views from the top really are worth making the effort! Also, the sunset from there really is magnificent.)
As darkness fell, we left the popular sunset watching spot behind (seriously, I was amazed at the number of people perched atop the sand dunes to watch the sun go down), making our way back into Port Elizabeth, where we stopped off at the wonderfully lit Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment World complex in order to catch their very entertaining music and lights water fountain show for the girls.
Needless to say, the little ones were well impressed.
Finally, we capped our first evening in Port Elizabeth off with a visit to the vibey Something Good Roadhouse, somehow miraculously securing a table big enough for the whole group, allowing us to take in the live music, tuck into some delicious food, and more importantly, get down to the business of catching up with old friends.
(Also, you’ll notice that none of these photos appear to have come from my phone camera. This would be because I forgot my phone back at the car, meaning that I have had to borrow these snaps from Evan. Hence the selfies.)
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Sunset from the sand dunes of Sardinia Bay is a definite must if you ever find yourself in the area.
The Pied Kingfisher Trail is situated in Wilderness in the Western Cape, South Africa. The 11 km long trail is popular with birdwatchers and makes for an ideal morning hike that should take about 3-4 hours to complete. It is an easy going flat circular trail that begins at the Ebb and Flow South Rest Camp in the Wilderness National Park.
However, with two little girls, one toddler and a baby, we weren’t really interested in all that, now were we?
Instead, with our hunger and thirst now satisfied, we next struck out for the popular boardwalk section of the greater Pied Kingfisher Trail, a pleasant walk all along the edge of the Touwsrivier.
Access is easy enough (you can jump on the boardwalk directly from Waterside road), and the result is an easy, pleasant stroll along the water’s edge and through the reeds – affording you some great bird-watching opportunities in the process!
The views are great and for the kids it is a big adventure, meaning that this little stroll definitely has something for everyone!
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(And from there, it was back to Far Hills Country Hotel for a bit of a rest break following the day’s activities, before we once again headed out for some well deserved supper and play time at the classic George Geronimo Spur!)
Related Link: Pied Kingfisher Trail
Having enjoyed all the stunning coastal scenery afforded to us by first Victoria Bay and then Herolds Bay, we next headed into Wilderness, with the intent to go for a stroll along the Touwsrivier boardwalk with Evan and Natasha. However, it quickly became apparent that by this stage the kids were more than a tad hungry, forcing us to redirect and find a place to grab a bite.
Luckily for us, Monty came up with a brilliant suggestion in the form of Cocomo Restaurant, situated literally right in the heart of the Wilderness Village!
If you love music then you’ve definitely come to the right place, as this laid-back restaurant goes all out with the musical theme, with old vinyl records as placemats and featuring live music sessions 7 days a week!
They are known for their great pizza (which the girls thoroughly enjoyed), but like any South African restaurant, their food selection covers pretty much everything that you might want.
Also, I enjoyed one of the best tasting craft beers that I’ve ever drunk in South Africa, the Mossel Bay produced Glenhoff Lager (from South Cape Breweries)!
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Related Link: Cocomo Restaurant
Having enjoyed a brilliant first day out that saw us do a lot of driving and sightseeing, the second day of our Far Hills Country Hotel long weekend getaway got off to a much more relaxed start, with us enjoying some coffee on our private balcony while watching thousands of white egrets fly through the valley down below.
After an okay breakfast (the hotel was rather understaffed for the amount of people currently visiting), the whole lot of us (Monty, Cheryl, Evan, Natasha, Chantelle and all the kids) headed out towards to the nearby surfers’ paradise, Victoria Bay – perhaps better known by its other more colloquial name, Vic Bay.
This beautiful small cove is situated on the Garden Route between George and Wilderness, and is a particularly popular beach for surfers, consisting of a right hand reef-like wave which rolls over small boulder-like rocks for about 200m. Both district and national surf competitions are held here, so you are pretty much guaranteed to always find someone in the water – no matter what time of year you get there!
It is an absolutely stunning piece of Garden Route scenery and well worth the stop, even if it is just to go for an amble past all the quaint houses lining the one side of the cove, wander down the pier, or just hunker down and enjoy watching the surfers and bodyboarders at play.
We took our time strolling around, and yes, lots of photos were taken.
After spending a decent amount of time taking in all the sights and scenery, we decided to take our leave of Victoria Bay, splitting off from Evan and Natasha who opted to spend the rest of the day there instead. (There is a small restaurant next to the beach in case you didn’t think of packing in a picnic or braai supplies!)
We did have a good reason though – ice cream at Herolds Bay was beckoning!
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Related Link: Victoria Bay
June saw Chantelle, the girls and I enjoy a bit of a long weekend away break, booking in at the Far Hills Country Hotel just outside of George, on your way to Wilderness. Once again, Chantelle had spotted a fantastic Daddy’s Deals promo that give us a big discount on the normal going rate (similar to how we scored for our earlier weekend away at the Blue Gum Country Estate), with a deal that was literally too good to pass up on.
As it turned out, this deal was so good that in the end we were joined by both Monty and Cheryl, as well as (completely coincidental mind you) Evan, Natasha and their little ones for this particular weekend away!
After a pleasant drive up on Friday, we arrived at the Far Hills Country Hotel, just in time to get settled in and bask in the magnificent views afforded from the hotel’s deck before the sun set for the night.
The hotel has been around for years now (in fact, Chantelle and her family were actually put up in the very same hotel years ago when her father was first relocated to George whilst working for Eskom), and although some of this age does creep through in terms of some of the its looks and fittings, this is more than balanced out by the splendid Garden Route setting the hotel finds itself in the middle of.
True, there were some complaints from everyone else over the course of our stay there, for instance, grumbles over the old and tired mattresses on the beds, some desperately in need of maintenance room fittings, a not particularly great breakfast spread (or supper for that matter) on offer, not to mention the serious lack of kitchen staff seemingly on duty in the busy/chaotic mornings.
However, despite these few mutterings, I thought that the staff with which I did have contact with were all wonderful, and most important of all, I found our room relatively comfortable. True, the TV didn’t work at all (a loss as far as the kids were concerned), but I thought the fact that I was able to sit on my private balcony, drinking a cup of morning coffee whilst watching a flock of thousands of egrets fly through the valley below easily made up for all the shortcomings pointed out by the rest of our party!
Although Chantelle didn’t sleep particularly well (and yes, the weird teenage-attended charity dance party on the Friday night didn’t help), both the girls and I slept very well, meaning that the three of us definitely enjoyed the weekend away the most!
(We also did a bit of exploring around the grounds when we got the chance, with the girls loving all the overgrown vegetation that results in loads of cool paths between the housing blocks to wander about on.)
With Far Hills as our main base, we enjoyed a proper weekend of out and about, spending the first day by doing a full day road trip that saw us drive all the way through to The Crags (just past Plettenberg Bay) to visit Birds of Eden, Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary as well as the Plett Puzzle Park, followed by a day of hopping from one beach to the next (Victoria Bay and Herolds Bay) before rounding off with a walk along the Pied Kingfisher Trail boardwalk in Wilderness!
As luck would have it, the weather remained beautiful for pretty much the entire weekend, with the rain only finally descending upon us come Monday – which really didn’t matter that much considering the fact that we were leaving for home on the day anyway!
It was as far as what I’m concerned, a great weekend away with a great group of people. Jessica in particular loved the fact that Evalynne was there for her to play with, whilst I on the other hand left with strong reminder of just how much I actually love the beautiful Garden Route area – even if it seems that we almost never go out that way!
Naturally, I took loads of photos over the course of the weekend, so plenty of photo sets still to come, but for now, here are a couple that I took at Far Hills Country Lodge itself:
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Related Link: Far Hills Country Hotel
Chantelle spotted something very cool on Facebook a little while ago – a wine and lavender farm in Stellenbosch had put out the invite that if anyone wanted to, they were more than welcome to come through and take some photos in the farm’s lavender fields before they were to be harvested.
So, at the end of September, we rounded up the kids and convinced Damen and Michelle, and Evan and Natasha joined us on our little photographic adventure (with the promise of a braai to follow).
Canettevallei is a wine and lavender farm that lies tucked away in Stellenboschkloof, a quiet valley situated about 10 kilometers outside Stellenbosch.
In 2005 the owners decided to plant lavender in front of their house on the farm, which then led to a lavender business, which in turn influenced the decision to plant a further three hectares of lavender.
Today Canettevallei grows lavender using organic practices to develop unique, farm fresh lavender products for body, gifts and weddings, with their main product lines being lavender essential oil and lavender ‘rice’, the sweet-smelling dried flowers of the lavender plant.
Despite the weather predictions for bad weather on the day, the morning weather was actually very great, and so we enjoyed an idyllic drive out to this very scenic area, meeting up with the Oosthuizens and Grangers there.
The kids enjoyed a stroll around some of the fields, and we even had two of the local farm dogs join us for the walk (though technically, I’m not entirely sure we were meant to be there – it was after all a Sunday, the lavender shop was closed, and the place seemed pretty deserted… other than the people sitting on their porch in the distance, enjoying a Sunday brunch and warily watching these strangers traipse all over their land!).
Oh, and I spotted a lone cow, chilling by itself under a tree by the small stream.
But that’s not important.
The lavender field was as most things are in real life, smaller than what it appears in photos, but it was more than sufficient for us to take a multitude of cute pictures of all the kids in this beautiful swathe of purple.
(Also, amazingly, no bee stings were recorded, despite all the naturally attracted bees!)
After lots and lots (and lots) of photos were taken, and everyone was a bit grumpy of having to pose for far too many shots, we exited the field, made our way back to the cars and headed home towards Gordon’s Bay – just in time as it turned out – because as we finished up, the clouds raced in and the rain started pouring.
Talk about perfect timing!
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The braai was good, the kids played together well, and lots of FIFA was played. Oh, and a decent amount of Southern Comfort (with Lime) and Jack Daniels disappeared in the process!
Related Link: Canettevallei Lavender
This post is going up for the express purpose of appearing on my Facebook feed and thus appearing in the timelines of the people that I play FIFA with, in an effort to goad them just a little and in so doing, action our next FIFA with the Boys night.
This picture in particular will help with that goading goal:
In reality, we have played very little FIFA this year, and had even fewer FIFA evenings to boot, though in retrospect I have had a particularly good year in terms of palming in at least one trophy per get together. Not bad at all, and annoying enough to the others to legitimately paint a large target on my back. (Activity like this blog post, doesn’t help either :P)
While we are still playing FIFA 15 on the XBOX 360 for our evenings, there has been a shift in our play location, eschewing Ryan Lotter’s bachelor pad in favour of newcomer Michael Garret’s comfortable setup. Ryan is also playing less with us than before, with the slack being picked up by a capable Kurt Lehner – who is more than able to bag a trophy on the night if needs be:
(Note my inclusion in this winner’s photo once again).
Damen Oosthuizen still joins us whenever he can, Dean Stapelberg is a rarity (Karl-Heinz Storbeck even more so), and Evan Granger and Michael Garret continue their quest to actually win a trophy and not lose out by a single point or technicality as the case has been the last couple of evenings. (Terrance Brown for some inexplicable reason still refuses to fly down from Japan and join us for a game night)
The FIFA evening themselves continue their epic form in terms of length – we usually start around 19:00 and play straight through to 00:00 – ridiculous if you consider that I then still have to drive back to Gordon’s Bay and work the next day. Still, I am rather enjoying my victorious streak at the moment…
(There, job done. I now eagerly look forward to checking my inbox come Monday morning!)
Despite the annual Gordon’s Bay “Festival of Lights or “Winter Wonderland” being in full swing, Chantelle and I saw fit to have fun in a different way, by inviting some friends over to our side of the world for a guest house braai instead!
First activity for the day though: a visit to the penguin colony at Stony Point in Betty’s Bay.
As it turned out, we were blessed with the perfect winter’s day weather for the trip, and Dean, Zania, Evan, Natasha, Michelle and Michael all tagged along with the little ones for a fun trip down the wooden walkway, surrounded by both adult and baby penguins on either side.
(Funnily enough though, this was the least amount of penguins we’ve ever seen there before – I can only assume our timing was a bit off on the day – must have been out hunting is all that I can come up with!)
Nevertheless, the kids had a ball, and of course as any parent to a little one knows, that is literally all that counts! :)
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The annual Gordon’s Bay “Festival of Lights” or “Winter Wonderland” has now come and gone, carnival weekends and all. As it turned out, Chantelle and I didn’t really end up spending too much time on it, primarily because we were busy with other things – like inviting our friends out to our side of the world for a change! :)
With a braai organised at the guest house in the evening, and a visit to the penguins already done, Evan, Natasha, Dean and Zania joined Chantelle and myself for a little stroll around the beautiful Harold Porter Botanical Gardens in Betty’s Bay (our second ever visit there), on what proved to be quite a beautiful winter’s day.
As it turned out, a troop of baboons had decided to visit the gardens while we were there, meaning that we were treated to quite a few spectacles – from little baby baboons tumbling about on the grass, all the way through to adult baboons lounging around on the park benches!
Quite a sight indeed! :)
(And of course, a walk in the sun simply had to be followed up with some refreshments at the Red Disa restaurant…)
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Related Link: Harold Porter Botanical Gardens