Oh to Travel on Gravel in the Klein Karoo

Road tripping is definitely part of what an adventure travel blogger does. Give me the gravel to travel on and I’m there!

Once again I had to head to the mountain scapes
of the Klein Karoo and we started out our adventure journey just outside the outskirts of Mosselbay.

It’s here you’ll find the sign Herbetsdale, turn right and head towards the small hamlet placed in the folds of the foothills before you wind your way through Cloetes pass. The next stretch of red road follows the Langeberg mountains and guides you gentle towards the great Gourtiz River.

We dance with dust devils, watch the ostriches parade their feathers and hear the “croo croo” of the Blue Cranes while they clump together and feed on what ever the veld has to offer. I take in a deep breath of the dry air, look admirably over the semi arid landscape, it definitely bares its own beauty, this solace playground of earthly tones.

The cross over the Gouritz River is dry, and river bed is packed with thristy stones that hasn’t seen a drop of water for a long while, it reaches out into the stone abyss on both sides and I mesmerizingly stare out and imagine it in flood, it must be quite a magnificent sight. In the meantime it lies and waits patiently for the moisture to arrive.

The next climb is into the mountain section, the reds of Rooiberg. The slatety gravel roads wind towards the small town of Van Wyks Dorp, we skip past it and head to our Olive farm homestead that is laid out on the rocky slopes of this hilly destination and our accommodation for tonight. Later that evening we soaked in the quiet surroundings, lit a fire and cracked open a bottle of wine. This is always soul food, this is escapism at its best.

The new day arrives, Autum delivers another crisp clear morning and the warm light filters its way into every corner of the small stone cottage. Lazily we gather our backpacks and head to the kloof for a morning of exploration between the cliff faces. We follow the trickle of mountain water trailing among the rocks and discover lush green spots hidden far from the rest of the world. Later that morning as we stumbled out of the kloof, hot, sweaty and happy, breathing in the herb filled air of this sun baked land it made us appreciate the magnitude this jagged landscape that has been carved out in time.

A quick shower and a little freshing up is next, our curious wanderlust has not been depleted and it was time to ramble into town…

We headed back to the small “dorpie” of Van Wyks dorp. With the likes of the “Van Wyks dorp mall” and many of the other quirky stops. Indulging in the quaint little shops, sites and galleries the town has to offer, before finding ourselves in a charming little pub called Spekboom with friendly folk and excellent country side hospitality. It was just on the beer o’clock hour and time to quench our thirsts.

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The afternoon cools down as the day light dissipates into another soft sunset over the valley. Tomorrow we will be heading over the mountains and explore new passes, with this in mind, we light another fire, crack open a bottle of wine and soak up the natural beauty of the Karoo boime.

Next day….

Dawn, its time to pack up and go. With the promise of the new days discovery ahead of us we enthusiastically pack, slam a road trip breakfast together and head out. The dust track works its way up the mountain range of the Rooiberg and slowly we climb towards the lookout point of these majestic earth formations. Its alluring curves pleasing the senses of our minds, how awesome.

Eventually we leave the mountain range behind and the flat landscape opens up as we point the nose of our vehicle in the direction of Calitzdorp for a much needed cup of java and a stretch. Next up, the Groenfontein road that edges its way along the Nels River. The scenic route has a lot to offer the day traveller and our stops included a look over the very empty Calitzdorp Dam, a make shift drive inn, Peter Bayly’s wine farm and a taste of the local nectar he produces, the karoo gallery of Robert Young where he captures the emotions of people in his very visual storytelling photos. The meander ended with a journey past the Redstone Hills so elegantly placed among the foothills of Swartberg Mountians in arid Klein Karoo.

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It’s time to get back to the tar road and head home. Exhausted and happy we wind our way back to the cool coastal stretch of the Garden Route. The sun sinks into the west of land and the earth cools down gently.

I’ll be back for more adventures, for there is always a new a discovery to be made on the other side the Outeniqua Mountains and it’s Klein Karoo

The Water that Became Stone.

It’s 200 million years ago and earth is moving, cracking and shaping its way out of the Pangaea super continent. Slowly but surely water seeps in the earths new crevases, hollowing the soft stone and forming the water filled caves of the earth. But the new mystery lies quietly below for few more million years before the forces of nature rips and tears into her rock formations.

It’s now 4 million years ago and slowly the earths liquid dissipates and leaves the empty cavities exposed to the air for the first time, it’s now that the mineral formations start to grow, graciously turning the dripping water into stone…

The Cango Caves has been known to modern man for a couple century now and as a tourist entering a space that has only been familiar to us in such a short period of time the magnitude barely sinks in.

The mystery of these interlinking chambers of limestone and dolomite has left us wondering about these hollow spaces ever since. It holds some of the most spectacular limestone dripping formations and crystals known to mankind.

South Africa’s numerous limestone and dolomite areas was suitable for what is called karst development, which is a topography formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum and is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves.

Dripstone Caverns
These ancient rocks are among the oldest known on Earth and the Precambrian rocks of South Africa are the oldest formation of this considerable size. Imagine that!!

Our very own Cango Caves is edged deep underground in the Swartberg Mountian folds and is most likely the best explored karst and our premier cave in South Africa. It’s also known as the longest cave formation of its kind.

Undiscovered by humans the cave was occupied animals only until about 10,000 years ago before it was discovered by the Khoisan which used the entrance area as a shelter. It seems that they didn’t explore deeper into the cave as it was said that the believes were that the place was filled with spirits and other unknown dwellers.

But today we are privileged to be able to simply get into our vehicles and drive to these magnificent stuctures, buy a ticket and glimpse into a world that we merely see a tiny millisecond of. Take some time to absorb the space that you move in and let your guide whisper a few secrets of it past.

For more information visit:

www.cangocaves.co.za

Hints and tips:

1. Wear comfort shoes

2. Take a camera of cell phone for pictures

3. Watch the video in the room on the 2nd floor.

“The cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.”

The Sphinx of Sedgefield

The 1km stretch to Gericke’s Point

Not only are these impressive fossilized dunes South Africa’s highest vegetated fossil dunes but they are the most remarkable looking rockscapes in Southern Africa as they jagged their way along the Garden Route, stretching between the Kaaimans and Brenton on Sea.

The stretch from Wilderness to Gericke’s Point

Gericke’s Point or the “Sphinx” as it’s known to us, is situated in Sedgefield and the striking accumulation of solidified sand stretches into the ocean to create an intricate reef structure with rock pools and sharp ridge protrusions where many a fishermen or spear fishermen bide their time waiting patiently for the most impressive catch of the day to pass through.

Many a rock pool has been formed by these jagged edged formations

It’s here you’ll find the beach amblers lazily meandering their way along this stretch of rock and sand, at low tide, to fill their curiosity, day dream or just escape the pressures of life and breathe in the salty air of the Indian Ocean as it works its way to shore.

Looking back towards Sedgefield and Swartvlei beach

To the right of the Sphinx formation is a surfing spot frequented by the odd surfer that walks the mere 1km stretch from Swartvlei beach to catch that special breaker pushing its way to the rugged shore line.

Here they play among the wild and untamed watery ways of the sea just for the exceptional moment of catching the ultimate wave that will give them the thrilling adventure they have been waiting for all day.

I watch as they bob, paddle, surf and tumble in the unruly ocean waters just to do it all over again. In between they are visited by the odd local water dwellers that zip past or hang for a while.

These creatures are as entertaining as the rubberized board sitters and way more advanced in ocean manoeuvres and you can’t help giggling at the ease of their gliding motions as they pass the splashing arms and legs of their land counterparts.

But in the end they have to part ways and the human sapiens have to leave behind the rolling and tumbling of the right point break and head back to the earthy soil and familiar ground.

Strolling back to the car park I cross more rock pools reflecting the cloudy sky of the the Southern Cape in the late afternoon, I look back and admire a few more impressive looking rocks before leaving behind the rusty looking Sphinx and its ocean mysteries only to return on another day.

#Sedgefield #gardenroute #meetsouthafrica

www.exploreknysna.com

Insta My Knysna

Do I love where I live, absolutely!! The Knysna Region has so many facets.
It consists of oceans bliss, stretches of beach, vast lakes, country lifestyle, indigenous forests, rich culture, artisan foods and crazy adventures.
Take a walk with me into a world that has more to offer than the average place.

The Red bridge in Knysna This was the third bridge to span the Knysna River. It is situated further upstream on better founding conditions, as the previous bridge had been washed away in a flood in 1916. Designed by the PWD, this bridge is completely different in design to the earlier bridges with only two, long, 46m spans so as to prevent a recurrence of pier damage by flood debris. Construction of the foundations started in 1918 with the steelwork for the two riveted deck trusses, made in England, arriving by ship in 1922. The completed bridge, with a 3m wide roadway, was opened on 1 May 1923. It was succeeded in 1955 by the wider, concrete (White) bridge situated further downstream, but remained in use by local traffic until 1973. It was completely refurbished in 2014. www.exploreknysna.com #exploreknysna #gardenroute #HowzitSouthAfrica @instagram_sa

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For the love of the Garden Route

I have recently been asked what my favourite place in South Africa is to visit and why? It was easily answered; “The Garden Route of course”.

This might sound like cheating but living in the Garden Route of South Africa is an absolute privilege and I am constantly encouraging people to visit my alluring piece of Utopia.

Why do I love it so much. It’s simple really, from the long white beaches that strectches for miles, so much so that sometimes you never see another person, to the huge indigenous forest on the foothold of the mountain ranges that frames our coastline, the Garden Route offers more natural beauty and tranquillity than most destinations I have been to.

You have to go far to see the perfect sunset or sunrise, but not me, a mere walk to the end of the road were I live does that, not to mention the view points, water edges and bird hides, all waiting for you to capture that flawless moment when the sun merges with your horizon. Its not difficult to become a visual story teller as my life in pictures unfolds infront of me, everyday.

For the adventurous explorer in me, this is truly the natural playground I have been looking for and there is more often than not a leisurely hike, a forest or beach walk, a paddle on the river, an ocean excursion or a paragliding flight involved in my daily life.

Out there is fresh air to breathe, a place to clear your mind, to surrender yourself to nature and what she has to offer, all while taking in a new discovery everyday, yes everyday, for once you get take a deeper look, the magic starts happening.

Garden Route, You ask? Not only is it the greenest part of South Africa and constantly looks like an over grown garden but it has a foodie aspect too and almost every thing we savour comes from the coffers of our farmlands and oceans as our reputation for the food basket of South Africa is slowly proceeding us.

It’s here among the mountains that we grow, pick and harvest most of what we eat and quence our thrist with crafted drinks, from “Karrie” to craft beer. And many an artisan of food can be found in our farmers markets, farmstalls and earthy slow food restaurants.

A Saturday morning outing to the Wild Oats, Outeniqua or Harkerville Market is the shopping experience in my world of food and the odd baker, honey producer, mushroom picker, herb grower and the other plant and pluckers do the rest.

With this I invite you to step into my world. A place that has the most moderate climate on earth and indulge in its splendour and extraordinary resources and when you leave our shores, mountains and countryside, you will do so with a smile, only wishing to return….

Wilderness Accommodation

Explore Knysna Accommodation

The Pursuit of Wind and Water

The ocean has a way of inviting the adventurous, the risk taker and the adrenaline junkie. It pulls them in and moulds them into the sports freaks of the sea.

Some sail, some paddle some even venture into the depths, but the kite surfers expose themselves to the elements of water and wind. They bare their bodies to become the vessels, attach themselves to a kite sail and uses the forces to drive them.

You watch these mobile water adventurers as they sweep around waves and skim over the surface of this vast body of water we call the ocean and which in itself isn’t a kind force, dancing with the wind and mocking it with the glee on their faces.

Once done, they emerge from the ocean like little Neptune figures, dripping with the salty remains of the blue planet, smile endearingly at each other as they share their watery passion and there they will return!!

Part 1 – To “Hell” with a Donkey and a Pack

“The Red Stones hills of the Swartberg”
Groenfontein Farming

Every now and then I get asked to go on an adventure and I might add that they are normally a day out and about experiencing a path, a tree, a flight, a zip line or something like that, but nothing prepared me for this one! I am chuckling as I say
this as I never thought I would be this crazy. Unfit, still recovering from breaking my leg last year in a paragliding accident and under no circumstances prepared to hike at all, I agreed to do the Donkey Trail….oops?!?

But opportunities like this are few and far between that missing out on this one would just be bizarre. To top it all, I invited one of my best friends along to join me. “Hi Glenda, bring a backpack, a few warm items and hiking shoes, we are doing this trail into the Swartberg mountain range, it will be fun…” And with complete trust, she agreed.

We met up in Mossel Bay and then meandered our way through the back roads of the Klein Karoo. Our destination, Living Waters, is situated near a little dorpie called Calitzdorp. The dirt road that runs between there and Oudtshoorn is quite a spectacular little track and we romantically gazed upon Red Stone Hills, well-kept farms, old cottages and small communities of waving locals. Historically the Klein Karoo is a rather interesting place and we discussed the wealth created by ostrich feather industry, the Boer war and roosterkoek as we bided our time travelling along the dusty track.

Nearing the home of the Donkey Trail, that is neatly nestled in the Groenfontein valley on the foothold of the Swartberg Mountains, we found ourselves bouncing along a farm road that eventually led us to the old but restored country home of Erika, we had arrived.

Cottages
“The farm is filled with original Karoo cottage”

It was with an abundance of energy that a young man greeted us, with”Hello, are you Rose?” as he skipped down the stairs. “My name’s Andrew” said the tanned open-faced young gentleman in front of me. “Let me show you to your cottage, it’s John’s Cottage, further down the road” The cottage seems to slant as it is placed on the side of a hill overlooking the valley. The soft evening air of the Karoo greeted us on the small stoep. We took a moment to observe the view before listening intently to Andrew’s packing instructions in preparation for the next days’ travels. Glenda and I sifted through our luggage to find the perfect items to add to our day packs, adding water bottles, cameras and an overnight change of clothing for our stay in the mountains.

These tedious head-scratching decisions built up a thirst and we dropped everything and headed back to the Country Homestead for our briefing, a wise decision! Barging in through the kitchen door and eager to meet up with Erika and the rest of our party I happily received my first glass of wine and just relaxed with some chitter chatter in front of the fireplace, there seemed to be a buzz of excitement as we got to know our fellow hikers while lounging in the comfortable sofas.

A coal stove
“The Hearth’

Erika carefully outlined the hike and the rules and regulations of the area. There was that feeling of apprehension again as I realised that I have not done any fitness training for a while. I took a deep breath of air and looked around for some reassurance from the team travelling with us, and there seemed to be a comfortable air about, so I made a conscious decision that this would be one damn thing that I would definitely complete, no matter what! Later that evening, while munching away on the deliciously cooked dinner prepared by Johan, I realised that although I might crawl up a mountain at least I wouldn’t go hungry, hallelujah!

Dinner
“Farm style cooking”

Our mellow Karoo evening ended up in laughter as we were challenged to try and squeeze a note out of a Kudu horn. Instruments are definitely not my forte but making an ass out of myself obviously is, this I know now as the evening ended on a “High Note”! Still giggling Glenda and I headed back to our cottage later that evening leaving behind warm good night wishes and lingering smiles. I silently looked up at that mountain lurking in the distance and wondered “How the hell I am I going to get over that…?”

Ready to go
“Ready to take on the trail”

Morning broke, and we made a few last decisions about gear. A chill in the air had persisted through the night and we wrapped up warmly prior to making our way back to the homestead for breakfast. Nibbling on some fruit and dousing the inside of our bodies with warm coffee seemed to be in order before it was time to aim for the donkey kraal.

Buddy
“Each Donkey has his or her personal gear”

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I was eternally grateful to be relieved of the extra load by our long-eared companions Buddy and Zuma and I watched as they patiently stood their ground while being rigged for the long journey. The start kinda lingered in the air for a bit before Erika addressed us one last time and then reassuringly ended with: “Go to Hell” and we did…

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An interesting fact is that this trail is not a new one but one that has been journeyed by many residents from Gamkaskloof renamed the “Hell” after a stock inspector, Piet Botha entered it via the steep pass known as “die Leer” from the western side, he described it as being like Hell to get into the Kloof and the name stuck. The Donkey Trail was the re-opening of the earliest path used until 1962 when the first road was built into the Gamkaskloof. Many went via this path to trade goods, visit friends and family and even to go to school.

Fauna & Flora details
” Discussing the fauna & flora of the mountain region”

Whilst looking up I couldn’t help but have an overwhelming feeling of respect. Life is a breeze in comparison to back then, with this in mind I put my head down and started my climb of 15km up the second highest mountain in South Africa.

The rock-strewn outcrops of the mountain presented an interesting biosphere of plants, insects and animals and every now and then Andrew stopped and pointed out some of the finer details.

Donkey Rest
“The pace of the Donkey is an important aspect of the hike”
Resting and repacking
“Resting and readjusting the packs”
view over the valley
“The view while climbing the Swartberg Mountain”

The journey was a slow easy one with the slowest person, or Donkey, depending on the moment, setting the pace. The first 3 Hours of the trail was mostly a zig-zag climb up the side of the mountain before heading into a single track path, it then plummets into a gorge, this is where we dislodged our packs and enjoyed the cool spring water, lunch and a breather. The break presented exciting chatter about the landscape and I typically wondered how many souls have passed through it before us?

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Do not be mistaken, if I could hike this path backwards I would, as the views are breathtaking and you cannot help but stop and stare at the magnitude of mother nature and her endless panoramic beauty.

Donkey treats
“Donkey treats”

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During the final hours of the journey, we started to climb, yet again, over the curved escarpment. This led us onto a gentle steady slope before edging the dragons back up into the so-called teacup of the mountain saddle. It was tough and the constant climbing and fatigue of the day had set in, but one foot in front of the other gets you there. By now I was at the back of the pack and with guide Joel by my side we edged out the last of the mountain side step by step.

Dragons Back
“The final approach, into the teacup of the saddle”
trekking
“Looking back over the valley at my guide Joel before the final climb”

Bursting with joy that was mingled with exhaustion I reached the top, the smile on my face must have been the broadest it’s ever been, I made it! “Welcome to the top of the second highest mountain in South Africa”: said Andrew and put out his hand for me to shake it. “I don’t shake hands, but a kiss on the cheek will be fabulous thank you” I blurted out. We all laughed and made our way to the waiting others.

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It took us another 30 minutes before we reached base camp and the chill factor in the wind hadn’t changed much since we left that morning. I was convinced by now that it snowed the day before, the horizon was slowly sucking up the sunlight and we had to move briskly towards our camp and really was looking forward to exchanging my water bottle for a cup of coffee.

Moving tenaciously along the sunlit grassland I noticed the gentle change of the biosphere in our elevation, we were are surrounded by Pin Cushion Proteas and the Sugar Birds chirped out their screechy songs as they indulged in the nectar of these beautiful African flowers.

To the Camp
” Heading to the Camp, the last stretch “

It’s so gorgeous up there and it made the last footpath to camp a pleasure. The sight of a freshwater stream, tents poised on the rocky outcropped slopes and bustling camp sure was a welcoming sight. Sebastian handed me a cup of coffee and it was time to relax. My hands enfolded the rustic cup which I quickly brought to my lips and I literally let the warm liquid slide down my throat, this was pure bliss.20170926180110-01

Basecamp consisted of 4 parts; A Kitchen tent with an outlook, meal tent, sleeping tents and an outhouse with a view. This is all positioned within the angles of the rocky slopes and is accompanied by a cool mountain stream of crystal clear water which runs along the camp site. This cool source of water is used for drinking & swimming, but very much excluded swimming that night!

Camp site
“Our Camp in the rocky outcrops”

The sun set, the chill factor increased, it was a quick bird bath for us out of the small basin filled with hot water to wash off the excess sweat and clean the smelly bits, we splish-splashed our way with minimalistic effort and slipped into our warm gear. It felt good and we headed to the kitchen tent for supper.

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“Our little outhouse with a view”

With slight amusement I stared at the yummy warm pasta called “Pasta ala Boer” it was just the perfect way to end the day, hungry I wolfed down my food and the worms in my stomach clapped and cheered with each mouth full. I managed to wangle one more cup of java before being given a hot water bottle and sent to bed. We closed ourselves up between the four canvas walls of our tent and wriggled into our sleeping bags for a good night’s rest. The wind restlessly worked its way around our tent, pulling at the corners like a naughty child, noisily howling for all to hear, but we were safe and I closed my eyes and let the warmth seep into my bones, tomorrow will bring another day…

The Hell is waiting
“The view towards the valley called Hell”

to be continued…..

For more info please visit www.donkeytrail.com

or visit their Facebook Page The Donkey Trail
Blog

The Red Bridge of Knysna

This large red steel structural design is often where you still find a fisherman dangling his fishing rod from the side while sitting in the shade of a cross beam or some youngsters jumping into the river from its red structural beams, with the sound of bubbling laughter drifting over the otherwise quiet river. It’s here that locals splash around in summer away from the crowded beaches, and enjoy the coolness of the mountain born river

This was the third bridge built over the Knysna River before it became the lone red structure waiting patiently for a visitor. 1916 the low water bridge that crossed the Knysna river was washed away due to floods in region and in 1923 the beautiful Red Bridge with its 46m spans was opened.

The design of its time was forward thinking, completely different to previous designs and positioned upstream on better founding conditions and most probably the reason it’s still standing. But unfortunately, the demand of progress stepped in and it was succeeded in 1955 by the new and wider, concrete bridge, fondly known to us as the White Bridge, which was situated further downstream again. The Red Bridge remained in use by local traffic until 1973 then became a forgotten icon until the initiative was taken to completely refurbished it in 2014.

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Belvidere the Vista Manor

The story begins way back, I mean really way back! When Knysna was still a farm area, with hunting opportunities, forestry was thriving and bush pigs, leopards and elephants roamed and ruled the area. On one visit a young man by the name of Captain Thomas Henry Duthie who originated from Scotland changed the face and the future of the piece of land called Belvidere…

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It is during the early morning that I arrived at Belvidere, I stopped in the small parking lot under a huge oak tree and strolled down to the water’s edge. The calm waters of the estuary was covered in a soft blanket of mist and out of the corner of my eye I spotted a Heron doing his balancing act on a lonely skiff, his reflection as still as him. It is in this stillness that I took a deep breath and slowly let the calmness of this tranquil place soak into my soul. It’s truly beautiful.

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My destination this morning is Belvidere Manor, the original home of Captain Thomas Henry Duthie, described by many as an intellectual and a gentle individual. In the little that I know about him, I have discovered that this young Scottish soldier was eagerly invited by Mr George Rex to visit his farm in Knysna on one of his excursions along the coastline to the Eastern Frontier. This eligible bachelor eventually came to Melkhout Kraal much to George Rex’s delight and the young Duthie adventured, hunted and fell in love, not only with the area but with George Rex’s daughter, Caroline.

It’s not hard to see why the area was so appealing, it was a wild piece of utopia back then, but the beauty has not dissipated. The name Belvidere derived from the Italian word “Bella” which means beauty and “Videre” which translates “to see” and it makes perfect sense.

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The golden morning light fell softly on the huge Manor porch as I walked up the stairs, it was set for breakfast and the warm sunlight filtered its way charmingly into each corner of the place, as I step onto the wooden floors of this age old building I can almost feel the history in it, my eyes rest on the  yellow wood inserts everywhere and the creak under my step assures me it has been there for a while. these were spaces that were created over time.

I peer into every room and take in the moments, wondering what it was like to live here almost 200 years ago. It is with a great inquisitiveness that I stare at the historical faces on the wall, each from within its picture frame, from young to old, with edged character lines that only time can shape.

I met up with Mike and Sue for an early coffee, the owners of the Belvidere Manor business which they bought over 20 years ago, it is an interesting story of growth and potential here on the edge of the estuary, and as Sue and I walked, chatted and explored the property together it was inevitable why it was such a popular place to visit. All the cottages on the property are designed in such a manner that you can enjoy the environment to its fullest and appreciate the historical facets of the area all while you can still enjoy the flair of modern in each cottage. They are designed for self-catering so if you truly feel like escaping the normal B&B aspect, but still have the luxury of being lazy and prefer to a enjoy a breakfast on the sun filled porch overlooking the water, you can.

Not only does Belvidere boast with a great breakfast but it has a little pub called “The Bell” This little eating spot has built up a reputation of its own in the area and is normally filled with locals and visitors alike, it has a variety of mouth-watering dishes with an added English Pub flair. The original building was thought to be a hunting lodge in the 1800’s and later became the home of Thomas, Caroline and their growing little family before the Manor was built and completed in 1849. It is here you can sit in the fresh air while enjoying a cool bottle of wine and feasting on a light meal or where you huddle up inside on a cool evening for a cosy pub meal of hot-pot pie and a tall Ale. You choose…

Knysna is not without its legends and the Manor has a few of its own mysteries. Sue was casually sharing her story of the pipe smoking Vicar that would appear every now in then in the upstairs room of the Manor, it seems to be that the Duthie’s had a love for the calling of the cloth and it might be one of them still looking out over the vista of Belvidere and not wanting to leave, just yet.

Belvidere definitely has a soulful environment with a certain serenity. Visit, sit back, breathe in the fresh air and just enjoy this tranquil place with its immense bird life, gardens and views

For more information visit their website www.belvidere.co.za

Karoo Soul Searching – Diary of a roadtripper 

Somewhere between a “Groot” River and a tiny dorpie called Vanwyksdorp, placed on the foothold of the Rooiberg Mountain Range lies a little olive farm called Blue Sky Organics. It’s here that I go to when I need to find solace for my soul and rejuvenation of my being. Beside the edging of the olive trees is a lone cottage with your name on it, there if you need to escape the magnitude of mankind.


Be prepared to hear nothing but the chirping of birds,  the call of the baboon troops, the creaking of the roof in the changing heat and the whispering of the wind.

The scenic afternoon route I planned took me via Mosselbay then a sharp right at the Herbertsdale turn off, aiming for the mountains as you head past farmlands and all while the landscape changes from soft coastal views to hard rocky outcrops. It converts to a Karoo type topography with sheep farming the predominant source of income as you head deeper into the hills.

The road switches to gravel just after Herbertsdale so be prepared for a dusty drive, but nowhere in my Karoo travels have I come across a more picturesque drive than this one. The wide curves in the road seem to compliment the panoramic sight as you almost swoop past the mountain and then dip into a river bed, rattle over a cattle grid just to get ready for the next surprise. 
It’s along one of these dips and swoops at a nearing sunset that I noticed the moon, bearing her fullness over the peaks of the mountain tops in the soft pink glow of the sinking sun. Even if time was ticking and I worked against the clock to get to my destination before sunset, I just couldn’t help myself and I grabbed the minute to stop, appreciate and capture the moment on camera.

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It’s when I encounter these little bits of delights in my life, that it actually becomes more meaningful. It wasn’t planned or forced, it just happened and nature paints her own pictures without the help of man. 
So my arrival was at the deep onset of dusk and a cheerful wave greeting from owner Liz to hurry me up the rocky driveway to the cottage with no name. Pooped I stumbled out of the car and distributed my luggage all over the stoep and cottage before taking in the moons display as night softly fell on God’s land.

The rest of the evening consisted of nibbling on nothing healthy and with a cold beer in hand while trying to find the pages of the book I’ve been trying to read for several months now. Not minding the time it takes to find my lost place in the untouched book, a whilst sitting under the outside light and feeling the warm air on my skin, I was just happy to be here.

The next morning, after spending the night on top of my bed with a book on my chest, I was woken up by the sunlight pouring its rays into my bedroom. I lazily stretched myself out like a cat and got up to make coffee.

The great thing about travelling on your own is that you can literally do anything you want, and grabbing my morning substance of the dark brew and my book, newly discovered, I nuzzled my way into the chair on the outside stoep and started the reading process all over again. It’s was only during the late morning when the worms in my stomach were protesting the lack of food and threatening a strike action that I decided to make a hearty brunch and still the lot.

It was way after 2 pm when my conscious saw the light and started nagging me for a walk. I dressed in some comfy kit, grabbed my floppy hat, walking sticks, camera, water bottle and headed for the kloof.

The walk starts at the cottage and works its way past the pale olive trees and stony fields of the hillside before hitting the riverbed of boulders in the kloof. For most of the hike, you will stone hop and balance on rocks, clamber and climb the pale gibber until deep into the kloof. It’s a slight challenge so the best thing to do is to be tenacious and surefooted and why rush?  The rising cliff faces are a dramatic sight and standing and just staring up for long lingering minutes are part of the process. Liz’s dog Jed “i” accompanied me on my lone expedition and the hearty companion was a welcoming addition to my walk and kept me entertained for the +- 2 hours I spent in the kloof, not without compensation of course. Dogs are like that?  They love to share and share the love. So nibbles were an inevitable part of the walk.

It was the late afternoon that I eventually stumbled out of the kloof and headed back up the road, the wind has picked up and was shaking everything around me. The tall blue gum next to my accommodation was rustling up a storm and it sounded like he was orchestrating the whole lot while a small out building’s roof was sounding like a symbol in an out of tune street band.

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After a brisk shower and some clean clothing, I decided on an early braai and pottered around the kitchen to gather some eats that may be considered healthy. A  light salad, blanched broccoli, few minute steaks and a cheesy toasty to scourge on the fire. It seemed pointless to make a fire for one,  not to even mention that it was for a few measly minute steaks, but for the ambience, it was worth it.

As the fire worked its way through the wood pile I sat back and indulged in the rest of my book and an ice cold beer in hand. Life’s Good

It wasn’t until much later that evening that I dragged myself off to bed after enjoying the company of the fictional characters in my novel. It was in a bright moonlit bedroom that I dozed off to dream the world.

When I opened my eyes the next morning the cloud base was hanging low over the valley, the promise of rain was in the air! The rain spider above my bed confirmed it, and even if I don’t like the fury creepy crawlies they are never wrong. I normally engage in a tap dance with theses eight-legged creatures but today I just decided to let it be, I have been living in the area for long enough to be used to them by now…..um maybe. 
It was a lazy start to the day and the idea of actually packing up and heading home was not exactly appealing. Reluctantly I packed the few things I threw in a bag for the weekend tossed it in the car, stared back at the view,  took one more deep breath and headed out to back roads of these red mountains and its sweet curves. The long awaited rain softly started falling and I watched mother earth sigh with relief as it welcomed the moisture. 

One more escape, one more journey, one more place to be discovered and explored this is what road trips are made for. This is my simple passion and I live it and love it. #HowzitSouthAfrica