We can see clearly again

alphen 10 march

What a pleasure to see the mountains clearly again and to not have the stench of fire in ones nose while walking the four-legged wonder.

Last week was hell. Mountain fires, the hottest day in 100 years, driving through smoke, smelling smoke all the time. It’s not over yet because the mountains are still burning in Jonkershoek near Stellenbosch, and other regions, but the Peninsula is back to normal, whatever that is.

If you’re on Facebook check out these excellent photos from the Silvermine area (only part of the 6000 hectares that burnt last week) – fire is always so photogenic.

My previous entries about the Tokai Manor House and ghost received hundreds of hits last week because there were rumours that it had burnt down so people were Googling it like mad. It has not burnt down, it is still there. The surrounding plantation did burn however, and a few houses in Zwaanswyk.

And of course these fires didn’t actually fit in with my planned tours but some improvisation around clients’ special interests helped a bit, and I even landed up being a guide in my own old neighbourhood. Check it out here. I’ve just received awesome feedback from them so clearly I did something right.

Ok, enough blowing my own trumpet; it’s wine o’clock and the garden needs watering – I have a special way of combining the two.

It’s action-packed at Boulders!

Penguin love

Penguin love is a balancing act.

South Africa’s most famous penguin colony, Boulders Beach, is action packed at the moment .. and oh boy are those cute little birds getting action!

It’s a lascivious den of iniquity – the beach and surrounding area is crawling with penguins mating and cuddling and courting and all of it boldly done in full view of tourists, kids included who giggle and ask awkward questions. It’s all about the eggs really. Making eggs, sitting on eggs, protecting eggs, hatching eggs.

We’re so privileged to have this treasure on our doorstep. Many Capetonians don’t have the time to drive all the way down to Simon’s Town but we guides have all the luck, we get to visit them all year round.

My best time of day is late afternoon at the end of my favourite tour.  The light is lovely and casts long shadows, there are less people round, there are more penguins as they come back from the sea all fattened up, settling down for the night.  You can watch the interaction between single penguins clearly looking for trouble as they try to interfere with those protecting their eggs. Here and there a couple will start the process of mating which is hilarious to watch as they rock and over-balance before abandoning the effort, only to try again a few minutes later.

The singletons stand alone – where are their mates? They could be out at sea, they might have fallen prey to a predator, or perhaps they have yet to find one.

The family groups – the young chicks are easy to spot with their grey/brown fluffy down, standing very close to a parent, safe and protected, for now.

Every now and then there is a brief skirmish as a potential interloper is dealt with and a naughty penguin is sent on its way, away from the eggs or the chicks.

I could stand and watch them for hours and luckily most of my clients are happy to do that, too.

penguins long shadows penguins near homes penguins 2

We struck Gold!

Phil at Gold

After two postponements we finally got to Gold Restaurant last night for an African evening of drumming, food and dance. One of the perks of my job is being invited to try stuff like nice hotels and restaurants so that I can include them in my tours. Love it!

I hadn’t told Phil that the evening was to start with a drumming session and it turned out to be a perfect surprise – he’s under pressure at the moment so he gave that drum a good hiding. Our hands were red and very sore afterwards but it was lekker to make all that noise in time with all the other people – we brought the roof down, man! When the session was over I went to look at our lovely instructor’s hands – wow, talk about callouses! Phil wants to join a drumming group now but he didn’t see that man’s hands.

Then it was yummy time. The meal consists of 14 courses … everything was absolutely delicious … mostly small tapas size bites of different foods from various African countries. We polished off a bottle of excellent Rickety Bridge Shiraz while we worked our way through all the dishes being brought to the table one after the other. My mouth is watering as I write this and I could kill for a plateful of the Moroccan chicken pie.

During the meal a Malian dance group entertained us with singing, dancing and more drumming … one of the puppets took a shine to Phil, as you can see in the pic above. Most people were given a little fondle, but Phil got a complete cuddle.

I’m totally going to take visitors there or recommend it to my clients, it’s a really nice experience, combining all the elements of the diverse culture of Africa.  Check out their website  and look through the menu for details of all the courses, and bear it in mind for functions or a different evening out. I’m going to book my big school reunion there next year, many of my old school mates have left the country and not been back for many years, and some have spouses that have never been here at all – they will love this, and it’s not even expensive!

Tanzanian fish

I completely forgot to take photos of the first few courses which is silly because they were the most photogenic and you could see the crockery properly – it’s very pretty crockery! The dish on the bottom right was a sublime Tanzanian fish, one of our favourites.

Dancers at Gold



Very fast dancing

Spring, kinda


First day of spring and I’d hoped to go and see the flowers in the West Coast National Park and at the same time test the new company wheels on an open road. But it rained this morning, then the sky was overcast for most of the day, and the flowers, being mostly daisies, need sun to show their faces – as you can see above, a field of orange daisies all with their petals shut.

So I changed the plan and Heather and I went to the little village of Philadelphia for lunch. They call it a town but there’s a church, a post office, 2 streets and 3 restaurants, so I’m sticking to village. It’s only about 40 km from the city centre but you may as well be way out in the sticks, since it’s surrounded by farms and canola fields which look stunning at the moment. I wasn’t very inspired to take outdoor photos but I took a few in a little gem of a shop called Magical Minerals. They specialise in crystals and minerals but also have a rather decent selection of gifts and fun retro items.


Remember these? Kaleidoscopes!


Not the full poem and the title is misspelled but still one of my favourites.


Very retro – press underneath and the character collapses.


Even more retro – cheaper than the collapsing character but more entertaining.


Kicking myself for not buying some for the next season of Game of Thrones.


Told you it’s spring!


Classic Cape Dutch gabbling on this house but the section in the middle is puzzling as it looks Victorian.
I enquired on a ‘Cape buildings’ group on Facebook and was told this: “A whole Cape Dutch style (as opposed to the original Cape Dutch Architecture) developed after the design and building of Groote Schuur. A number of English architects, schooled in arts and crafts, started practise in SA. This is the result thereof. The style still exists and continues to develop.”


The new wheels.
I wanted Heather to drape herself seductively across the bonnet but she can only do that in a bikini so this will have to do until summer.

A hot winter’s night in Gansbaai


Continuing the theme of trying to ignore the current weather as the Cape of Storms lives up to its name, here are some pics of Gansbaai, taken 2 weeks ago when winter turned into glorious summer for a week.

Firstly, let the record show that Gansbaai is a very unlovely town. It has amazing sunsets but the town is nothing special, never mind that it’s slap-bang in the middle of the Overberg which is a magnificent region. Gansbaai has managed to outkak itself.

It’s famous for two things: poaching (okay, it’s notorious for poaching) and shark-cage diving. Poaching is another topic altogether but the shark thing surprised me. I’ve not been comfortable with the idea of chumming to attract sharks for the sole purpose of human thrills and big profits (and I mean big, this is huge business and tourists are flocking to do this) but after my recent site visit, talking to people, getting a feel for the place, I suspect that one of these days I will get into that cage and give it a go. Hey, why not?

Oh and, although my Overberg tour features the lovely 5 star Grootbos Nature Reserve just a few kms away, I did find a really nice guesthouse in Gansbaai where I will happily take clients and I recommend it highly; it’s a gem in this drab town. Saxon Lodge has lovely hosts Dave and Caron, comfy rooms, and great views.

Tours du Cap

The little black bit at the bottom of the sun is …. Cape Point!


Saxon Lodge – nice comfy friendly guest house. Note the blue sky. Nice to remember.


I feel bad because I’ve forgotten the cat’s name but he was very sweet and totally blind, yet he managed to get around easily and always seemed to sense my presence. We hung out quite a lot.



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.


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


*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


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.


A flute of champagne on my arrival


My lounge, all to myself


Sunset from my balcony


View from my bed in the morning with my coffee


Even the kitchen at the Villa has a piece of art


In case you forget to bring a book to the Villa


One of the many lounges in the Villa


The Villa pool


Musical soirees at the Villa are mandatory


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



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.


More art


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


Exterior view of the Villa

Flowers on coffee table IMG_2566 IMG_2629 Protea in bowl


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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