Blue moon rising

This is a blue moon. That’s when you get two full moons in one month. It’s actually full tomorrow night but looked full enough to me tonight.

I don’t get to see much of the moon from my house but I saw it on my way home from walkies with Vida and snapped this shot from the car at a stop street. It actually caught me by surprise, as I turned a corner there it was straight ahead, like a big round cheese.

I didn’t even attempt the impression of the moon rolling down the wire, that’s just a fluke. I cropped out the traffic but deliberately left the pole on the left and street light on the right, by the way.

The colours of the sky were stunning – many many different shades of blue, the sunset looked promising. I decided to drop Vida off at home and drive to a higher point to watch the moon rise and take more photos. Unfortunately, by the time I got home dark clouds were starting to cover the moon so I abandoned the idea and went indoors to have a glass of wine and do some work and make supper. Boring, I know.

Maybe this month’s blue moon should be dedicated to Neil Armstrong who died this month. He certainly represents something extremely special, for our times anyway.  I was about to say the most amazing thing of our times but there’s also the internet, that’s pretty amazing and certainly of more practical use to you and me than the moon landing.

That’s of course if you believe in the moon landing 🙂

Green shoes and eggs

I realised today that I’ve never had a pair of green shoes. Flipflops, sandals and tackies don’t count. I’m talking proper shoes, beautifully made, lovely delicate slingbacks like the ones in the photo above.  I can’t remember ever yearning for green shoes, mind you, but when I saw these I definitely felt something was missing from my life. Now I just need to find the right outfit, a matching bag, and thousands of rands.

These are made of ostrich leather, in Italy, and cost a bomb. We raise the ostriches here in South Africa, prepare the leather, send it to Italy where the shoes are designed and made and then they get sent back here to be sold to Italian tourists. Makes perfect sense.

The eggs are more affordable and that’s what the tourists were buying today.  I can’t say I yearn to have an ostrich egg with Nelson Mandela’s face on it or a painting of a Zulu man in an ostrich skin (we see enough of that last one in the Sunday papers).  I do like the eggs that are left natural but have little holes in them and then get turned into a bedside lamp. Those are cute and I’ve actually wanted one for years, it must create a pretty  pattern on the ceiling even if the light may not be bright enough to read by.

Happy tourists today, lots of lovely scenery, eggs and fridge magnets for the family, lots of photos with ocean backgrounds, experimental sushi (I like adventurous eaters!) and I learnt that when you regale a child with stories about ghosts and flying Dutchmen you can expect a lot of questions for the rest of the day.

Noordhoek Peak

Table Mountain and Lion’s Head are the iconic mountains to climb in Cape Town but Silvermine Reserve has many more  advantages for me.  It takes me just a few minutes to reach, it’s big so has a large variety of paths short and long,  fabulous fynbos with masses of proteas, a dam in which to cool off at the end of a hike, and the views change constantly as you change direction and climb – one minute you’re overlooking Muizenberg and the Cape Flats and a few minutes later you see the whole of False Bay to Simonstown. But keep walking a little longer and higher and you’ll have views of the Atlantic seaboard all the way from Kommetjie to Hout Bay with The Sentinel far below looking almost insignificant, and Chapman’s Peak Drive winding its way around the mountain like a narrow ribbon.

I also like Silvermine because it’s only frequented by picnickers, hikers, climbers and other like-minded folk.  Vida even has a special permit – she loves the fynbos, I’m convinced she reacts to it differently to the plants elsewhere, must be the scent.

Silvermine has two entrances with the main one being the most popular because the area is larger, and one can braai (wind depending) or picnic around the dam, whereas the other entrance (Silvermine East, on the left after the first gate when coming up from Tokai) is less well-known but just as lovely and it has an amazing waterfall. The main entrance is also home to tented accommodation that forms part of the famous Hoerikkwago Trail, a trail of 3 to 5 days, depending on how much you want to do.

On the day these photos were taken we were 7 adults, one 3 year old and 2 dogs. The child and one of the dogs were carried most of the way. The hiking books and maps call this a 2-3 hour walk but we took almost all day because we dawdled and stopped many times to appreciate our surroundings and take in the views, especially the highest point which is Noordhoek Peak. Coffee, tea and several well-earned rolls later we were ready for the descent which was a piece of cake after the slow ascent. A barefoot paddle in the dam ended a perfect day!

Just writing this has made me want to do it again, soon!

Pinterest

So much for my patience and great internet skills. Pinterest is doing my head in and even Vida’s giving me funny looks at every irritated expletive.

To be honest, I’m not exactly frothing at the mouth in excitement at the thought of yet another social medium that promises to gobble up my precious bandwidth but it would appear that I need to be one of the millions of people who are pinning.

Pinterest, for those who don’t know, is a virtual pinboard. If you like something you pin it and someone somewhere will see it and go “Ooh, that’s nice” or “Eeeuw that’s gross”.

It’s excellent for retailers of pretty things, that’s obvious, but I’m not sure how it’s going to help me get people to come to South Africa, book my services as a tour guide and ask me to organise safaris and shark diving (note to self: create a ‘shark’ board and fill it, sorry, ‘populate’ it, with many photos of happy sharks, remember to place it in the list just under ‘beautiful beaches of the Western Cape).

The beauty of it, or not, is that you don’t have to use your own lousy out of focus images , you can just swipe them off the internet, all you have to do is give credit.

So far I’ve managed to open an account and create several empty boards. I’m having difficulty uploading my own images but I did upload a pretty flower from Google, purely by accident.

Clearly my next step is to read the Help section.

In the meantime, here’s a photo of two of my favourite things. And I took it myself at Solms-Delta in Franschhoek when they invited me for a visit and wine pairing – very yummy, can’t wait to go back for more. I like food and wine pairing: you get small portions, like tapas, and I like that in food – lots of small varied nibbly stuff.

Tokai Manor Ghost

Everyone likes a ghost story and this house has one of the best in Cape Town.

This is the beautiful Tokai Manor House, just below Elephant’s Eye, in the Tokai forest.

Built in 1796, it was designed by Louis Thibault, a Frenchman, who was South Africa’s first architect and who designed many of our finest buildings – The Granary, Groot Constantia, Koopmans-De Wet House, and The Drostdy in Graaf-Reneit are just a few of the best still standing. He also redesigned what is now the Slave Lodge and the caricature on the pediment is his little dig at the hostilities between the French and the Brits.  Thibault had a hard time of it here because every time the government changed he lost his job, only to be reinstated when they realised he was good at what he did. As time went by he became somewhat isolated from European architectural trends and this is reflected in some of his work which, according to those in the know, shows individualism and deviations from the norm.

Back to the Manor House. The owner was financially ruined after building it and the estate was bought by the Eksteen family. At the time it was considered to be the most outstanding homestead on the peninsula. It’s unusual in that the front stoep is raised, a feature not seen in normal Cape-Dutch architecture.

The Eksteen family liked a good party and their wine cellars were renowned. The first Eksteen owner eventually went bankrupt but the lavish parties continued with his brothers who took over the estate. One New Year’s Eve they hosted the usual fabulous bash with many guests. Eksteen Senior dared his son Frederick  to ride his horse up the stairs and into the dining-room. Frederick was game and proceeded to prance around the dining room to the delight and encouragement of the guests. I doubt the servants were impressed after they’d spent all day polishing the floor but there is no record of their feelings on the matter.

Eksteen Junior finally departed the room on horseback and, in full view of all the guests,  the horse slipped on the very steep steps and both horse and rider fell to their deaths.

To this day, a ghostly horseman is often seen and heard in the house and surrounding forest, especially on new year’s eve.

The government of the time acquired the property in 1883 and used it as a reformatory for a while. In the 1960s it underwent massive restoration and was declared a National Monument.

Now, it is the very new home of the Table Mountain National Park. Their offices are often closed without explanation and phones go unanswered – blame the ghost!

Here’s a very cool site for Cape history and old photos Historical media

Lost in the 50’s

On the Garden Route is a small village called Storms River. It’s a favourite destination for nature lovers and backpackers and there are no doubt many hippies and retirees who live there, hiding in the forest from the mad world (that’s us, you know, the mad world, they’re hiding from most of us, with good reason).

The village consists of a few shops selling things you may have forgotten for the beach, like hats and sarongs; a bottle store (very handy but the selection is limited) and a few coffee shops, which is all a great improvement from the old days of travelling by road in South Africa where you had to pack your own in a flask or wait 700 km for the next Wimpy and nothing in-between.

We’re spoilt for choice on road-trips these days – kitschy country shops sell good coffee and proper muffins and decorate their establishments with dead grannies’ house contents, roadside oases make new-age food with rocket and tofu, in the middle of nowhere you can get a perfect cappuccino or latte, there are friendly moffies everywhere, not to mention free wi-fi – you couldn’t ask for more!!

So I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to come across this replica of an American diner in Storms River Village, Tsitsikamma. The owner has a large collection of vintage cars from the era which are sometimes rented out for matric dances and weddings so he recently decided to showcase a few and change the look of the previous restaurant. There are several cars in the ‘showroom’ – no space for the whole collection – they gleam and shine as if brand new and are in excellent condition.

The walls are covered with memorabilia, photos of Elvis, Marilyn and James Dean, and if  you’re an aficionado you’ll want to visit the shop selling the stuff! Even a giant tree stump on the pavement is painted bright pink. Needless to say the menu is typical. I had some sort of sundae that the waiter warned would take a long time to finish and he wasn’t wrong. They’ve held an Elvis festival around this time over the past couple of years but it seems to be cancelled this year, pity – rocking in the forest has a nice ring to it.

It’s all a bit cheesy, but fun. Can’t wait to take American tourists there on a Garden Route tour, they’ll feel right at home.

Two pics today -bonus.

Intaka Island

Almost everyone  I know was appalled when construction began on Century City in the late 90s.  The imported palm trees, theme park, office park, shopping mall, residential area – none of it boded well. We wanted our N1 to stay just as it was, bare and boring. We held this opinion without even realising that there were wetlands in the centre of the immense 250 hectare area.  If it was today, there’d be all sorts of environmental protests and hunger striking bunny huggers chaining themselves to the reeds. Back then we were more concerned with our new democracy than a few hundred hectares of nature. In reality, the site was actually full of alien vegetation and the wetlands were not in a good state.

Then the mall opened and of course I had a look. Big but well laid out, nice shoe shops. I still thought the residential and office areas had to be awful, without even seeing them. When I started working in one of the office complexes and my boss invited me to her home nearby I was most impressed – the public gardens were stunningly laid out with only indigenous plants, and the canal was well kept.

In the centre of it all is Intaka Island – 16 hectares of restored wetlands home to 212 species of indigenous plants and 120 bird species. You can take a boat ride or you can walk the 45 minute trail, or both – but take your camera and prepare yourself for a surprise. It’s not crowded because they don’t want to be overrun with guests until they know what capacity it can handle. There’s an environmental education centre and it’s quite obvious that all schools should make a trip to show children the various sustainable practices. Intaka is aiming to operate completely off the grid and they already do wonders with the waste from the whole of Century City, not just their own.

Site guides are very knowledgeable and on hand to escort visitors. One guide,  Skhumbuzo, was recruited by the centre from his job as a car guard when they realised he showed a great interest and potential. He speaks 9 languages, by the way, so I can’t wait to book his services for my group from Limpopo next month!

I could go on and on but I know you’re going to go and see it for yourself so I won’t give everything away now. I’ll say this, though – it’s a birdwatcher’s paradise! Intaka is Xhosa for bird. I’m not a birdwatcher and I can never remember their names, but I was thrilled with what I saw today: red bishop, malachite kingfisher (it was blue, very confusing), spoonbill something (visitors think they’re plastic bags stuck between the reeds), weaverbirds, lesser collared this, greater thrushed that, a moorhen, ducks and geese, the ubiquitous hadedas (I can’t escape them) and lots of brown jobbies, both little and medium.

My photos of the birds are all pretty awful, especially after seeing Frank’s fabulous ones, so I chose this one to show how 200 hectares of construction can secretly house a multi-purpose nature spot in the centre.

Disclaimer

A note to all accidental visitors:

I am not a photographer and do not claim to have any particular skills whatsoever in that department. I have enormous respect for those who can see the potential in a scene and can create a great photo. Good photography is an art, in my opinion.

I am just a happy snapper, I have no special lenses or accessories, my camera is very simple and it's usually best to leave the setting on auto.

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