Morsels of Gratitude, part 2

It’s not easy!!

Part of this gratitude lark is to stay positive and avoid anything that will bring me down. I was doing well until I realised that my visit to the specialist last week cost R2000. Yes, my medical aid will pay for it but it’s a third of the total annual fund supposed to cover all doctor visits, medication, any blood test or x-ray, spectacles, and so-called dental basics. There is NO justification for such a high fee for a 20 minute consultation. The special machine used to measure my lung capacity was a once-off expense, years ago by the looks of it, and nothing else was used. We are ripped off by fees like this. The alternative is to go to a public hospital but there are problems with this. One is the long queues, like all day sometimes, second is the possibility of catching the virus, and thirdly, although this country has excellent medical people and training, the system itself is a disaster.

What am I grateful for today?

As I type this, my son is washing my car. This may sound like no big deal but it’s actually a minibus (see at the end of this post) and it’s an exhausting job to wash it, so I’m really grateful that he’s doing it.

Grateful for living close to nature and open spaces. I’ve heard many people from Europe remark on how wonderful it is that this city and surrounds still has so much open space, so much nature. This is something many people take for granted or simply don’t care for.

I couldn’t live in a big city. I couldn’t live far from open space, water, mountains. I’m so grateful that I don’t have to go too far to walk amongst vegetation that is unique in the world – the wonderful fynbos of the Western Cape; or along a stream in the green belt nestled in the middle of a residential suburb; or the wide open white sandy beaches (when permitted, not these days of lockdown limits), and of course the mountains that cover almost all of the Cape peninsula. Further afield, the wide open expanse of the Karoo and the Northern Cape are sublime and I miss them enormously, having not been to either of those regions ages due to the virus limitations.

Pics below were taken this morning at the Tokai Plantation. It’s half plantation and half fynbos garden. The fynbos section has been reborn by cutting down a large portion of the pine plantation and allowing the natural vegetation to grow back. In cooler weather the open area is wonderful to walk in but the plantation is ideal for hot summer days because the trees provide much-needed shade.

I mentioned my minibus. Below is the link to a crowdfunding campaign I’ve set up to help me pay the bank for this minibus so that when tourism picks up again I have my vehicle all paid up. Any contribution will be welcome and very much appreciated!

September – spring, escapism and even clients

I still can’t get over how long I lasted without going completely nuts at home. With a few brief exceptions, it was only in September that I had what one could call multi-escapisms.

First was a trip to the West Coast National Park (yes, I was there twice this year, despite lockdown!) to see the flowers with clients. I advertised on Facebook and after much back and forth of coordinating people and the ideal weather, I had a small group confirmed for a day tour. They were all locals who love nature and wanted to treat themselves to an outing, and not have to drive – my exact target market! The day met all their expectations and I was thrilled to be there and to mix with new people. I even got an amazing Trip Advisor review from one of them, Tim, who is also a tour guide – quite a feat for lockdown!

I also fulfilled a wish – I held a very small baby! It had occurred to me at the start of lockdown, one of those sudden thoughts that come out of nowhere, that I might never again hold a baby. The thought saddened me enormously and I admit to weeping at the thought. Then I received a lunch invitation from a tour operator with whom I work often (under normal times) and his wife had just given birth! I couldn’t get there fast enough, although I had to wait until the restrictions permitted it. Luckily, the new mum allowed me all the holding and cuddling I wanted and a good day was had by all.

My friend Frank knew I was down in the dumps so he urged me out of the house for a walk on the renowned Rondebosch Common. This deceptive looking piece of land, in the upmarket and very historic suburb of Rondebosch, is an institution in Cape Town. Known simply as The Common to many, this open ground of 40 hectares is a National Monument and used to be a military camp – from the days of the Dutch defending the Cap against the British until the Second World War.

Now it’s an important conservation area for some critically endangered species of Cape fynbos and renosterveld, which occur nowhere else on earth. Driving past it, all one observes is an open piece of land with a few shrubby parts and some large pines at one end. But, park your car, take a walk and keep your eyes to the ground and you’ll see a myriad plant species, over 100 species of birds, as well as small mammals, reptiles and frogs. It’s also an important wetland so it’s very soggy in parts which gave me an opportunity to wear my wonderful gumboots – they don’t get out much these days.

September was also the month for my first post-Covid visit to Kirstenbosch – not for nothing is this known as one of the world’s most beautiful Botanical Gardens. They were closed for several months but in September re-opened and my friend Sheila and I wasted little time going there for a few hours. I was in a bad head-space that day so it was just what I needed – beauty, fresh air and a friend. I normally go there very often with my clients so it had felt strange to not visit the gardens for so many months.

Photos of the above outings, plus of course one of Vida, the world’s cutest dog who just happens to own me.

A member of the ferarria family – slightly stinky odour, to attract flies.

Carpets of flowers at the West Coast National Park – one of the loveliest of all the National Parks.

Rondebosch Common and a few flowers

The magnificent backdrop of mountains at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Vida

Last but not last, my usual plea for help to save my tourism business with a link to my crowdfund campaign. All contributions madly appreciated!

NB: advertising on this blog is selected by WordPress and I derive no income from any of it.

Secret Garden

Enjoyed a hoity-toity little outing to the beautiful valley of Franschhoek (the French Corner, also often referred to as the gastronomic capital of South Africa) with Caroline this week. We donned our pearls, buffed our nails and left the city behind. The whole point  was a cocktail invitation to which I added a dinner. I then decided we may as well leave town earlier and pop in to a boutique winery I’ve been meaning to visit. That little side-trip will be the subject of a blog post all of its own but suffice to say we had great fun and got more than we bargained for. I can’t wait to add this gem to my wine tours.

Even though we’d lingered at the winery and were a tad late for the cocktail party (not to mention slightly tipsy and ravenous!) we still made a quick trip to the Secret Garden I’d promised to show her. This best-kept secret is next to the Huguenot Museum and a very old cemetery where many of the town’s original settlers are buried. I first saw this garden over a year ago when it was still new – yesterday’s flying visit bowled me over with the beauty of what has grown since. It helps that this time of year is the best time for our indigenous fynbos.

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Our magnificent national flower, the King Protea. Franschhoek is full of them!

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Caroline insisted I pose like this.

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Side view of the museum.
This entire building used to be a private residence near the centre of Cape Town – Saasveld House. Faced with the threat of demolition, some forward thinking person suggested it be moved to Franschhoek. Every brick was labelled and numbered, carefully stored, transported to Franschhoek and rebuilt as the Huguenot Museum.

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The front facade.

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A King Protea in bud.

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Then we hit the cocktail circuit and this beautiful horse was waiting for us on the lawn of Grande Provence. Can anyone guess what it’s made of?

Elim

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I promised lots of feedback on my roadtrip to the Overberg and I will, I promise – there’s loads more photos and stuff to write about. It’s just that I’ve been busy, sorry.

In the meantime, here’s a link to the blog entry on my other blog, about a unique little town in the middle of nowhere. I didn’t plan to go there but I made the detour and it was well worth it. The road was deserted, the fynbos* was divine, and I was car-bopping to lekker music … you know what car-bopping is, don’t you? It’s when you jiggle around to the music in your seat as you drive. You’ve done it, you know you have.

Elim – read the blog and find out who owns it, what the owners restrict, what the townspeople are famous for, and what two things it has that no other South African town has.

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What I didn’t mention in the other blog is that Elim boasts of having one of the best schools in the Cape.

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*fynbos – this is one example of the unique vegetation that we in the Western Cape are immensely proud of and love very much. It is the smallest in size but richest of all floral kingdoms on earth with over 9000 species, and counting.

Roadtrip – one night in the lap of luxury

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Dawn breaking over Walker Bay

I’d been drooling over their website for days and finally I arrived at Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, just after Stanford on the road to Gansbaai. I’m glad there weren’t many other guests around because I’m sure I lowered the tone of the place with my presence, although the staff were extremely kind and made me feel like a queen – a flute of champagne on the veranda was the first order of the day, followed by a nibble of salad from the buffet and a discussion with guides about which activities I would like to do.

This has to be the most luxurious and beautiful place I have ever had the privilege of spending a night. The decor is stunningly tasteful, every comfort you could possibly ask for has been provided, the surroundings are magnificent – every suite and every corner of the 2000 hectares has a fabulous view over Walker Bay and/or De Kelders.

I stayed in Forest Lodge which is in a milkwood forest – even the path to the suites is lovely! I had barely had time to inspect my huge bathroom, bedroom with 4 poster mozzie-net covered kingsize bed, dressing room, lounge and kitchenette with an array of delicious goodies, when it was time to dash back to the main reception to be whisked off for a horseback ride through the property. I haven’t been on a horse in so many years I was a tad anxious but it went well. My ride, Knight, was very sweet and we had a wonderful ride through the fynbos for about an hour. After this I was collected by another guide for a drive to De Kelders to watch the whales frolic and the gorgeous sunset.

Back in my suite I treated myself to a bath just as the light was fading – the view from the bathroom is as marvelous as anywhere else, even from the loo! For dinner I was joined by the assistant manageress which was a nice touch, and she told me all about this marvelous property – the staff love it so much there is a very low staff turnover, the owner is highly respected for his attitude and what he gives back in the way of a Foundation and a horticultural school which is free for selected students. Supper was a delicious 6 course meal with perfect service from lovely friendly staff.

Next morning I was awake before dawn and eager to get cracking but I lingered with coffee in bed and a long shower with stunning view. After breakfast of two delicious croissants with Grootbos’s own honey, fruit and coffee from the stunning breakfast buffet (I should have given myself more time to pig out on all the other goodies available!) I was fetched for a site visit of the other accommodation lodge – Garden Lodge – and the Villa. The site visit was, in fact, the purpose of this trip in the first place. The Garden Lodge is as lovely as the Forest Lodge, child-friendly with stables nearby and a play room that will keep kids of all ages happy for hours on end.

And a tour of The Villa – ermergaard … The Villa.. it’s to die for!!!  6 bedrooms each with an en-suite bathroom the size of my lounge, all with fab views. There’s a braai (bbq) on one side of the house as well as an indoor one, a kitchen to cater for an army, several lounges, a playroom, a priceless art collection, a grand piano, a gorgeous pool, and it all comes with your own private chef, butler, guide and vehicle.  It was a battle to tear myself away. After this opulent elegance we went for a long drive through the property in a 4×4 with my lovely field guide who told me all sorts of interesting stuff about fynbos that I didn’t know.

There’s a lot of luxury around and I get to see quite a bit in my work but what impressed me about Grootbos is that they have found the perfect combination where nothing is over the top, nothing is crass, nothing is overdone – it’s all just darn perfect! For a night and a day I lived like a queen and totally loved every minute of it. Now to get my clients to book an Overberg tour so that I can go back!

Now feast your eyes on a whack of photos and add Grootbos to your wish list.

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A flute of champagne on my arrival

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My lounge, all to myself

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Sunset from my balcony

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View from my bed in the morning with my coffee

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Even the kitchen at the Villa has a piece of art

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In case you forget to bring a book to the Villa

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One of the many lounges in the Villa

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The Villa pool

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Musical soirees at the Villa are mandatory

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The memory of this bathroom at the Villa will live on in my mind for ever

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The pink erica is in full bloom at the moment and the mountainside is a carpet of pink. This particular one – erica irregularis – is endemic to this region.

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More art

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The lovely Anecke, my field guide for my entire stay. Her passion for her work and her place of work are infectious.

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Exterior view of the Villa

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A walk in Tokai

Today’s walk took us to the Tokai conservation area again. Part of the forest has been removed so that the fynbos can regrow but alien vegetation is creeping back – lots of work still to be done. We like walking along the inside paths where you can better see the plants and Vida loves running on the sand. Today we even saw cranes but they were too far away for good photos.

Fynbos, Forest and Mountain

Fynbos, Forest and Mountain

Vida  loves it here, things to smell, space to run
Vida loves it here, things to smell, space to run.

Walking towards the pine forest

Walking towards the pine forest. Several bridges over the stream that zig-zags the area but there’s no water at the moment.

Stupid sign, dogs don't read and anyway it was all scrunched up on the ground

Stupid sign, dogs don’t read and anyway it was all scrunched up on the ground

As can be seen, this is not a natural forest

As can be seen, this is not a natural forest

Pretty light

Pretty light

Different light when you turn around

Different light when you turn around

Then our friends joined us

Then our friends joined us

Thinking time

Thinking time

Playing time

Playing time

A lot of work is needed to remove the alien invasive plants but it's still pretty

Anything surrounded by these beautiful mountains is lovely and we’re so lucky to have open spaces like this minutes from busy suburbs.

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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