Battening the hatches

Winter has finally arrived, after a full month’s delay.

It’s been pouring with rain all week and from tomorrow we’re in for several days of gale force winds and torrential rain. Weather warnings are being issued left right and centre, everyone is battening the hatches and stocking up on gas, wine and dvds, hikers have been warned to stay away from the mountains and no-one in their right mind is going out to sea.

All of which was hard to believe today with the sun shining, not a cloud in the sky, and Table Mountain full of happy half-naked tourists.

A quick snap of the top of the mountain.. ok, there was some cloud but little wispy cotton wool types like that don't count.

A quick snap of the top of the mountain.. ok, there was some cloud but little wispy cotton wool types like that don’t count.

But when I turned around and faced the other direction …

There was the cold front, coming in very fast and filling the bay.

There was the cold front, coming in very fast and filling the bay.


Not looking forward to the weekend, at all!!

Two flowers

Here are two very different flowers.

The first one is the carrion flower – it’s pretty in a weird way and smells like dead meat. I bought the plant last year from a rasta gardener at the medicinal plant garden in Franschhoek, which is well worth a visit.  The gardeners are mostly volunteers who work there between paying jobs and they are happy to spend hours showing you around the garden, explaining the benefits of the wonderful bounty of South Africa’s floral kingdom. If you’re energetic enough, they also offer guided hikes up the mountain to what they refer to as secret locations – apparently there are proteas growing there which are rare and hard to find, but they know where to find them.

It took almost a year for this plant to recover from the trauma of being moved from Franschhoek to the suburbs of Cape Town and only began flowering last month. Before opening,  the petals form a sort of balloon that one is tempted to squash (well, I was) and then it opens out like this, lasting about 5 days before shrivelling up and then disappearing completely. The pot is small and placed on the ground so the stench isn’t a problem, unless you get down on your knees and shove your nose almost at ground level. Of course I did that, just out of curiosity, and the smell is definitely stinky but not as bad as one would expect.

a stinky flower

Carrion flower

To counter-balance the above here is a lovely scented rose. It was taken at Duncan Roses, the Cape’s premier rose nursery in Elgin. I try to pop in there for a visit when I’m on my way to Kleinmond with Caroline, when we go and invade her mother.  I wish I had the inclination to plant a rose garden because it would give me an excuse to buy masses of rose bushes from Duncan’s extensive selection. I prefer gardening with indigenous as much as possible but I do have one old-fashioned climbing rose.

a rose



My friend Fadia treated me to a day at the Santé spa in the winelands yesterday. We first stopped on the way to buy some cheese and bread and had ourselves a little picnic on the spa grounds before our treatments. After lazing in the pool and jacuzzi exchanging girl gossip we were ‘wrapped’ in special oils and given the most divine head massage. I felt refreshed, my skin is softer than it’s been in ages, and I was tired earlier than usual last night, which is a good thing, plus I slept like a log which is rare.  Thanks again, Fadia – that was marvellous!

I think I should add a pamper package to my winelands tour and there are several excellent choices in and around the best wine estates, so I’m adding this as a research project to my list of things to do.

Why, you may ask, did Fadia treat me to a spa pamper?  A few weeks ago she was travelling through Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana – alone, after having dropped off some people in Malawi. I was following her trip with interest, jealousy and much admiration. One Friday night I noticed on Facebook that she had posted a cry for help because the corrupt police in a small Zambian town had locked her up for refusing to pay a bribe.  She didn’t have a working phone but was piggy-backing the police station wifi with her iPad. I found an after-hours number for foreign affairs in Pretoria and rang them. They in turn contacted their counterparts in Zambia who helped convince the police to leave Fadia alone.

After an evening in some dodgy beer hall with her saviour from Immigration (she doesn’t drink and this, on top of her refusal to give in to the cops, earned her much respect among the locals, cops included) Fadia drove away triumphantly to the more civilised town of Livingstone.  This is just a short summary of what was quite a dramatic event – not something we would like to experience but very typical of dear old Africa, and all’s well that ends well!

So, that’s how I landed up being pampered yesterday but the real hero of the story (aside from Fadia herself for standing up to the cops) is technology – the internet and Facebook do have good uses!


First stop – Anura Wine Estate for cheese and preserves. R12 for a wedge of Brie is a bargain and it’s pretty good, too.


Next stop – Babylonstoren for bread. We bought the rooibos bread and it was delicious!
This estate has the most fabulous gardens and a full-day visit is planned for later this month.


It was a very warm day! As you can see, Fadia was dressed for summer; it was about 25 degrees – so much for winter!


Cheese, preserves, fresh bread, coffee and coke – we were happy!


The heated pool with jacuzzi in the far corner.


Afterwards I went walkabout in the grounds.


This was tempting.

De Waterkant


It’s not just in Bo-Kaap where you can find houses with interesting colours!

Major panic when I was asked by Cape Town Tourism if I would do an interview for a French radio station (RFI) on the subject of gay tourism. I once spent an hour in the 567 Cape Talk studio with Soli Philander and he had to frown at me to stop fidgeting because you could hear all the sounds I was emitting, including fiddling with the massive bandage on the tattoo I’d just come from getting. (It made a ripping sound, followed by a rustle – all of Cape Town heard it).

This was different, thank goodness. It wasn’t live so my hesitations and looking for the right words will be edited out. The journo was lovely, we went into informal mode immediately (this is very important for French people – never make assumptions on this matter, always ask even if you know it’s going to be a yes. Belgians go straight into informal mode which is very disconcerting but we forgive them because they make nice chocolate and are very confused about the EU).

The topic was in light of France having recently legalised same-sex marriage. This is where South Africa can crow with pride – we did it years ago and we have the only Constitution in the world that specifically states that no-one is to be discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation.

My journo new-friend, Solenn, wanted to focus on the commercial aspect of gay tourism so we met at the Cape Quarter. After coffee and a prep chat we walked around De Waterkant talking about the gentrification of the area and then it was off to the centre to chat to various shop owners to see what the buzz is all about and whether gay tourists really do bring in the pink rands. They do, by the way, big time.

Solenn will send me the podcast or whatever they call it in French, and I’ll be able to cringe with horror at my gravelly voice.

We grabbed a quick bite at the Food Market of the Cape Quarter – it’s small but the food is yummy, I had the perfect spring roll, best I’ve had in ages. I deserved it after managing to walk right past the Lindt shop without even looking inside.

I took a few pics along the way but stopped after a while because it was distracting the shop owners and one lady didn’t have enough lipstick on … oh the horror!


This tree grows in the wall of a house


You can even buy logs


Cheesy, touristy, but still as popular as ever


The sound of the cowbell on this old gate will feature in the interview!

Autumn at Alphen Trail

I was so chuffed when Caroline said she was coming to my part of town to walk at Alphen with us. I’ve been raving about this lovely waking area so she wanted to see for herself. She brought one of her dogs, Maxi, and her daughter Blom, Blom’s friend Mischa, and a small picnic for the girls. This walk normally takes me about 45 minutes but with this little group who wanted to play, paddle in the stream, explore, take photos and stop for a quick picnic, we were at it for over 2 hours! I liked that because I was able to explore a few little corners I don’t usually bother with. Vida was in her element  – the more time she spends there, the happier she is, and the girls even played her favourite game of chasing her while she ran in ever-increasing circles.

I know it’s a lot of photos but I couldn’t decide on which to omit to keep the numbers down (and I have no idea why the photos are all so small).

Enjoy the walk with us!


Caroline took lots of photos!


The first waterfall – quite a bit of water for this time of year, will soon fill up even more.


Girls strolling along


There are some weird trees on this trail, as I’ve mentioned before


Blom peeking through the bushes


Another shot of Caroline taking photos – look at the autumn leaves! I love the noise they make when you walk on them.


Our dogs exploring the water.


It’s really pretty there!


Girls posing


Girls crossing the stream on a log


This little girl in her bright pink tutu was too cute!


Caroline showing a little boy the photos she took of him


Caroline made me do this


Vida surveying her turf – yes, she does almost own this trail!


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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