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.

Guesthouse with an identity crisis

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Guest houses generally have either one specific theme – marine, fynbos, forest, whatever – or they have no theme at all. I’ve stayed in a wide variety throughout the Western Cape but 2 nights ago I found myself in one that is so multi-themed that it is on the verge of a complete melt-down as a result of an identity crisis.

Surrounded by breathtaking mountains and pristine renosterveld fynbos on a large working farm yielding wine, tomatoes, pomegranates and other fresh produce, it is not satisfied with this to form a theme. The massive house (in parts unfinished at this stage) has a style combining Mediterranean villa with monastery minimalism complete with cloisters. Throw in a fictional romantic heroine, a Russian Byzantine shrine, and sell yourself as a packbackers lodge as well as romantic getaway. You can spend your weekend either feeding the pigs or buying the art adorning the walls. Don’t expect to watch tv on any of the large tv sets because there is no tv service, you need to get a dvd from the lounge, or a usb stick from the office – assuming you can find the managers because they tend to hide from guests.

If you’re hungry you can expect a very good breakfast but in the evenings you’ll need to negotiate the very bad 4 km long entrance drive and then another 5 km into the nearest town. And back again, so don’t drink much with your supper. You could, of course, arrange for a meal or braai in advance but you won’t know this because there’s nothing on the website to warn you and you’re not going to be told when you make your booking.

After several days of a less than perfect road trip I was in a foul mood when I discovered all of this and all I wanted was to sit on my balcony with a large drink and watch the sunset but there was no alcohol in the bar so we decided to go into town for a drink before supper. Of course the sun had set by the time we reached town.

A divine meal at an unpretentious restaurant saved the day and a good breakfast the next morning slightly made up for the strangeness of the guest house. The manageress who clearly doesn’t like people stayed in the kitchen, was never seen again. She’d better hang on to her boyfriend who appears to do all the work and knows how to handle guests.

It’s all very strange but not all bad. What is this place good for? Guided (or solo) fynbos walks, very reasonable prices (not sure how they make money actually), stunning views, and for booking the whole place out for your private special celebration or group weekend, with a theme – pick whichever suits you. Oh, and the rooms are massive with large bathrooms.

corner

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This is your view – 360 degrees of beauty.

cloisters

The creeper in the corner was full of very busy noisy birds at sunset and the sludgy dirty pond in the centre is home to frogs I could not see but heard all night.

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Spot the byzantine shrine

 

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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