Monday, November 9, 2020

2020 Holiday - Last days


Day 3 - Wednesday


We woke to a very pleasant, though cold, morning.

We again had breakfast outside on the patio, and were treated to the (well, for us anyway) unusual site of a number of paddlers out in the bay, but all without paddles. Everyone was simply using their arms and hands to propel themselves! Talk about hard work!

After breakfast, we went off in search of Boulders Beach, where the penguin colony is situated. I'm ashamed to say that after all these many years, both of us have never visited! We found parking just outside Seaforth Beach, and received some information about Boulders from the car attendant who was on duty at the time. It was quite a cold morning, and we decided to warm ourselves up with a walk from there to Boulders - not very far at all.




We arrived at the entrance a few minutes later, and decided just to take a walk along the boardwalk, instead of entering the reserve itself. Almost immediately we saw our first bits of life - not penguins, just a dassie and one of the many attendants who are on duty there!






As usual, there were many more than just one dassie, and being as curious as they are, we had two come quite close to have their photos taken (and of course, to see whether there might have been any titbits forthcoming)!













The stroll along the boardwalk was fabulous. Lots to see along the way, including some penguins living in some specially designed "homes". Couldn't believe the amount of noise the penguins make, nor the amount of "guano" they leave behind! One of the authorised "locals" is shown on the left, and two "squatters" below!


There was also a fair number of the natural structures from which "Boulders Beach" got its name, and you can see some of them here, together with some of the colony's local residents.


When we got back to the parking area, we stopped off at the local curio shop, where Jacqui found an addition to her fridge magnet collection. Both of us were extremely warm when we arrived at the car, so Jacqui removed her jacket, and I took off the jersey I was wearing. Problem was that in order to remove the jersey, I had to take off my spectacles. Having yet another of my "senior" moments, I decided to put them on top of the car. And then having yet another moment (they must have been on special that week!), we drove off leaving the specs on the roof of the car. 

We went off in search of some whales that we were told were out, and after passing Miller's Point, driving for about ten minutes, Jacqui spotted a few. So I pulled over so that we could get a better view, and then the realisation struck that I didn't have my specs with me! Realising what had happened, we rushed back to the parking area, but couldn't find them. We spoke to the car guard on duty, who told us he had spotted them on the ground just a few minutes before a Mercedes drove over them. He went and fetched the mangled remains from his hut, and they were damaged way beyond repair!

I had my cataracts removed and replaced with new lenses about 4 years ago, with the result that my long distance viewing is quite good, so driving without specs is not a problem at all. So it wasn't a total train smash!

We had planned to take the drive around Cape Point. through Scarborough, and past Kommetjie on the way to Chapman's peak anyway, and I said to Jacqui that there must be a Clicks store somewhere along the way, where I could buy a cheap pair of reading specs to tide me over till I could get an optometrist appointment once we got back home. I found a pair of specs at Clicks at the Longbeach Mall, and they proved adequate for the remainder of our break.

A quick lunch at the Spur there, and then we took the long, but scenic, drive back to Fish Hoek along Ou Kaapse Weg and then Boyes Drive.

Spent the rest of the evening relaxing, while it got colder and colder outside.


Day 4 -Thursday

We woke to a morning that was freezing cold, and which was accompanied by gale-force winds. We decided to have breakfast at the local Spur, and it was good value, well-cooked and very presentable. 

We followed that with a drive back along Boyes' Drive, and then went back to the Noordhoek area along Ou Kaapse Weg. We decided to have a stroll around the Sunny Cove Mall (we hadn't been there for years and years), and were surprised to see how little it had grown since our last visit. The development of the Longbeach Mall, which we visited on the previous day, seems to have been preferred for development both by developers and outlets. 

I was hoping to get a shot of Long Beach, so we took a short drive up the start of Chapman's Peak, looking for a suitable spot to stop. Eventually found one and parked, and then went to take the shot. Well - the wind was so strong I could hardly stand! The weather generally was poor anyway, but even a tripod would not have helped get a decent shot. I took a couple anyway, and this is the best of the bunch. The Kommetjie lighthouse can be seen in the far top right of the image.

Freezing cold, I got back into the car and we went off in search of lunch. The obvious stop was the popular Noordhoek Farm Village, so that's where we went. First stop was Cafe Roux. We had visited many years previously, but it would appear that the Covid-19 curse has taken its toll on what once was a fine restaurant. All that was on offer was a pay upfront and order your food section, a place to wait to collect your order, and then some tables where you could choose to sit! Nice for some, but just not our style!

From there we went to The Foodbarn, an eatery that had received many rave reviews on the internet. It was quite full, so it looked like a good choice. When we checked the menu, however, we found that the cheapest bottle of white wine (the "house" wine") was R180. Now we don't mind restaurants making a fair profit on the food (especially the food) and wine that they serve, but really today, especially after how Covid-19 has wrecked the economy, and the income of individuals, that's pushing it! Once we saw the prices of the food on offer, and the selection on offer, we politely got up, excused ourselves, and left! Just not for us, thank you!

We then decided to go back to the Brass Bell for lunch. Took a lovely drive through Sunny Cove, and then along the road leading to Fish Hoek, where we passed a flat that we once had a look at as one of our options to purchase as a holiday weekend place. In the end we chose the flat in Melbosstrand, and in retrospect, it was a fantastic choice. If we hadn't chosen Melkbos, I would have missed all those wonderful shots that were on offer from our balcony. If you would like to see what I mean, click on this link: Views from the balcony.

When we arrived at the Brass Bell, the weather was so poor, and the seas were so rough, that the whole bottom section of the restaurant was closed. So upstairs we went. They had just started with their Summer specials, and while Jacqui decided to try their burger, I decided to give their chicken curry a go. Ordered it done medium, and I can honestly say it was absolutely delicious. It was served with a pappadom, white and yellow rice, chutney, a tomato and onion salsa, and a tzatziki sauce, and I left nothing on the plate except the spoon and the fork! Seriously recommended!

We had a window seat and thoroughly enjoyed seeing the waves break over the pool walls. After lunch we went to the outside dining area (obviously deserted at the time) to take some more shots. It proved more difficult than I thought, with lots of spray from the waves and wind meaning that the camera had to be constantly wiped off. The following demonstrates what I mean.


After trying for about half an hour to get a really decent shot, we were so cold that we decided to call it a day and return to the warmth of our flatlet. 


Day 5 - Friday

I had been able to secure an optometrists' appointment at 12h00 that day, so we packed up nice and early. But not before being able to admire and appreciate a beautifully moody morning. This was the view from the outside balcony.


It was a fabulous and different break - short but most relaxing. Our thanks again to our hostess, Lorraine. We will be back!





Friday, October 16, 2020

2020 Holiday Day 2 (Tuesday)


We awoke to some early morning showers, but they didn't last long and cleared up by 10h00. 

Contrary to the extremely flat seas we experienced on our first day, they were a fair bit rougher, with the promise of some strong seas later in the day. 







Looking at this photo of a fellow photographer doing his thing at one of the tranquil rock pools immediately below our balcony, one just can't imagine what was to follow later in the day.





For some time now, I have been wanting to pay a visit to the Dalebrook tidal pool to see the various stone statues that someone must have spent hours putting together. I must confess to having being somewhat disappointed, as there were only a few of them left when we got there. Not sure what happened to them all, possibly broken down by the wind and seas? Anyway, it was still worth the visit, with quite a few people making use of the swimming pool while we were walking around. Here is just one of the remaining statues, followed by a shot of the waves breaking against the rocks. The second photo shows the promise of the larger swells that followed later in the day. The last photo shows just how beautiful the colours are in the tidal pool itself, plus the clarity of the water there.






After our time spent at the pool, we decided to take short walk around St James to have a look at the various sets of steps that lead all the way from the Main Road right up to Boyes Drive.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      We started off at Jacob's Ladder. Unfortunately I have not been able to find out how many steps there are, and I wasn't going to count them myself! Jacqui passed up the opportunity as well! Suffice to say that when originally built, it consisted of 120 steps, but these were added to as and when extra residences were built up the mountain, until it finally reached Boyes Drive.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        From there we went to Ley Road, two streets away from Jacob's Ladder. Right at the top of the steps, on Boyes Drive, is where Jacqui rented a room when she was much younger (before we met). So it was a bit of a nostalgic visit.
After that it was a trip to the iconic changing huts on the beach. Unfortunately, as you can see, many of them (if not all) are in serious need of repair or refurbishment. There were two huts that were destroyed by a fire recently, and some fire damage can be seen on the first hut. I was standing on the area previously occupied by the huts before the fire when I took the photo.

And then our explorations took us to Kalk Bay harbour. We could see the waves outside were building up, but it was still a little while off high tide, and it was quite calm inside the harbour walls. Here are a few images taken while walking around.


At this stage we were quite hungry and thirsty. The restaurants in the harbour itself, apart from the Lucky fish and chips restaurant, which we didn't fancy that day, were closed. So we forced ourselves to once again try the Brass Bell restaurant on Kalk Bay station. The last time we visited, we were seriously unimpressed with the poor service and over-rated food, but were hoping that things had improved since then. 

And it turned out to be a great choice in the end. We both thoroughly enjoyed their grilled calamari, prepared with a hint of chilli. Jacqui chose to have salad with hers and I had the chips. All washed down with a chilled bottle of Protea Sauvignon Blanc. Gorgeous! In addition to the great meal, we were treated to a floor show as well! At this stage of the afternoon, high tide was just minutes away, and the crashing waves started to make their presence felt inside the restaurant! We fortunately were unaffected, as the window at the table we chose was closed. But the windows at the table in front of us did not close properly (one of the problems of living at the sea) and the couple sitting there received a good helping of sea water! The cushions they were sitting on got drenched, but they themselves escaped largely untouched! Needless to say, they moved tables after that.






We stayed for a few minutes while finishing the wine, then paid and went to the deck outside the restaurant, from where the following photo was taken. Part of the restaurant can be seen on the left.






Finally back to On the rocks, where we spent a relaxed late afternoon and evening.

To be continued.....





Wednesday, October 14, 2020

2020 Holiday - Day 1 (Monday)

We normally go for our annual holiday earlier during the year, during the cooler months - April or May, but with the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, it was just not possible this year. We had originally planned to spend some time up the West Coast.

When we eventually were allowed to travel again, we decided to keep it really simple this year - both in time spent away from home and distance from home. I have often talked of making  a trip down to the Fish Hoek area for a day visit, and Jacqui suggested that maybe that should be our destination for the holiday.

We aren't the easiest people to cater for, with one of our main considerations being whether the place we stayed at had a king-sized bed. Neither of us are small people and we simply enjoy the extra space it allows to get a good night's rest. Next on the requirements list is a wi-fi connection, and finally the ability to have the option of watching the news on TV in the evenings. On-site parking is an added benefit.

So automatically a large number of accommodation options gets eliminated, and sometimes we get what we want with the rest of the offering slightly inferior to what we would like. My favourite accommodation search engine is Safarinow.com - their presentation of what's on offer is for me the most comprehensive and normally answers most of the questions one might have.

And this time we narrowed our search down to one major possibility - "On the rocks" in Sunny Cove, Fish Hoek. What a gem! Not only does it have everything we need and want, there is a view and a lock-up garage thrown in! And on top of it all - a friendly and accommodating hostess! There is a large bedroom, tiny bathroom, and small living area - all beautifully equipped. And then two balconies - one small one leading out from the living area, and an under-cover one leading from the bedroom. We thoroughly enjoyed our stay and can recommend the place unreservedly!

After we left home, we took a nice leisurely drive through to Fish Hoek, this time opting for the route along the Main Road from Muizenberg rather than taking Boyes Drive. We had a relaxed lunch in Fish Hoek itself and contacted our hostess as we left for the venue. She was waiting for us when we arrived, after opening the garage door, situated on Simonstown Road.

We spent the rest of the day just unpacking and relaxing, planning our routes for the rest of the trip, had a drink or two and a light supper, and took some photographs of the accommodation and the view from the small balcony.

Here are a few photos.







This is the view of the under-cover patio as one walks out of the garage. The door to the bedroom is on the right.













The view of the same patio, but this time from the sea end.














The bedroom and en-suite bathroom.














Living area leading to the second patio. Not seen is a cupboard/shelf unit with kettle, cups and saucers, etc. and tea, coffee and sugar.












Part of the view from the second patio.













Close-up of the opposite side of the bay, with the Kalk Bay lighthouse just in view.













The 4 o'clock Metrorail passenger train on its way from Fish Hoek.














Paddlers on their way out of the bay for an evening training run.
Beautiful early evening to end the day


Unusually for this time of year, the evening was actually extremely cold. Both Jacqui and I froze our butts off that night, but there were plenty of warm extra blankets available, and we made use of them for the remaining part of our stay.

To be continued.....



Saturday, September 26, 2020

Saturday morning drive to Theewaterskloof Dam

After seeing a Facebook post from my friend, Selwyn Lloyd, showing Theewaterskloof virtually overflowing, Jacqui and I decided to take a trip to the dam to see for ourselves. 

It was quite a cloudy morning, with intermittent rain, and when we left Somerset West the temperature was around 12° C. Once we had passed the top of Sir Lowry's pass it dropped to 11°, and then to 10°, then to 9°, and finally to 8°. With the wind blowing gently at the dam, it felt like much less!

When we reached the bridge crossing the dam, I took two shots, the first looking north, the second looking south. It had just started to rain again, but I was inside the car before it got too heavy.

Looking North

Looking South

From there we took a short drive along the road turning off to Franschhoek, and I took some more photos. I am including some shots taken in previous years just for comparison purposes to show just how times have changed. The photos aren't exactly comparable, but they aren't too far off.

November 2017

November 2018

September 2020

Then turning back and looking towards the bridge, here are two more comparative shots.

2017

and then today, 26 September 2020.



Finally, a quick head back home. But of course we just had to stop off at the Elgin Railway Market for a cappuccino - one of the best you will find in the Western Cape. The market was humming, in spite of the bad weather - really great to see. And I saw one of my favourite signs again, and this time decided to take a shot and share it with everyone!


Till next time, take care! And remember to dress smartly at all times - one never knows where these cameras are hidden!




Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Stellenbosch University Botanical Gardens

As always, click on the photos to bring up a larger view.

Tuesday 15 September 2020

I spent about an hour or so with my Fujifilm X-T2 and 80mm Macro lens, walking around the gardens looking for some macro shots. For those of you who haven't been here before and might like to visit (it's R10 per entry), here's a map on how to get there:

It was quite a chilly morning, even though the sun was shining. By the time I left it had warmed up a bit, but the wind  had also started up, making hand-held macro shots too difficult. The gardens were quite well patronised, with a small restaurant that makes great cappuccinos! Lots of bees around, but not too much else - I think it was a bit cold for that.

Here are some of my shots on the day:

Bee on pincushion protea

Granadilla flower

Pincushion "fur"

Fly

Pond lily

Daisies selection

It was a really nice and relaxing way to spend and hour or two. It looks like the restaurant caters mainly for breakfasts, though there are some light lunches, with a "Dish of the day" (Babotie and rice with vegetables when I was there) on offer. Pleasant and friendly staff on duty, ably looked after by Karin, the manager.



 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Aquila Private Game Reserve




The Aquila Safari Lodge is a 4 star establishment in the Southern Karoo. It is named after the endangered black or verreaux eagle (Aquila verreauxii), shown above.

The reserve is a 10000 hectare conservancy and is situated in the historic town of Touws River, in a valley between the Langeberg and the Outeniqua Mountains in the Karoo. The 10,000 hectare conservancy has evolved from its early days of only being home to various antelope species, to now featuring what is known as the Big 5 – elephant, lion, buffalo, rhino and leopard. In addition, there is a substantial number of other wild game, all of which (apart from the lions), roam freely on the reserve.

Because of the Covid-19 lockdown regulations, Jacqui and I were unable to go away for our annual short holiday this year, and like millions of others, were feeling quite house-bound. And then, soon after the travel restrictions were lifted, we saw a special weekend package offer from Aquila for two nights' accommodation, two breakfasts, one lunch, and two dinners, plus two safari drives, all included! It sounded like just what we needed. So we just scraped in with a booking on the last weekend in August before the offer expired. At the special price of R5800 it was certainly worth it!

We had a room on the top floor of the main lodge, and this was our first look from the balcony.


Apart from the live animals, there are a number of art pieces scattered around the lodge. Here are my two favourites.






When we went to bed on the first night, it was extremely cold. Thankfully there was an airconditioner in the room, but the beds unfortunately were fitted with summer sheets, and there were no electric blankets! We were frozen! We woke to a morning temperature of close to 0 degrees C, and it had obviously been colder during the night. The photo on the left shows the view from the balcony, looking right.


The rest of the morning was taken up with breakfast, exploring the grounds when it wasn't raining, and then lunch and off for the afternoon safari drive. At about 15h00 it started snowing! Just a light dusting, but snowing nevertheless! The drive had been scheduled for 15h30, and we got there a little bit earlier, but by then there were already three or four safari vehicles in front of us! We were supplied with blankets and rain jackets, and they did help counter the freezing temperatures outside - just a little! The game drive was reasonably interesting, and would have been extra special for those folk who might have been first-timers, and who wanted to be close to the animals, even though they weren't quite in their natural habitat. But that was fine - you want completely realistic, go to the Kruger or similar places! 

There was a number of small children staying at the lodge for the weekend, and for those who hadn't seen the animals  before, it would have been a spectacular treat. During our drive,  we did not come across the leopard, nor the buffalo, but here is a selection of some of the other animals on the reserve.












About 5 minutes before the end of the drive, it started snowing again. That, combined with the howling wind, meant that when we got back to our room, both of us were shivering uncontrollably! So we turned the aircon up, had a drink or two, and finally thawed out! We decided there and then that we would give the final day's safari drive a miss!

Needless to say, the summer sheets on the bed that evening were not that attractive! But it was better than sleeping in the chairs or on the floor! 

Sunday morning found us awakening to an outside temperature of -3 Degrees Centigrade! Probably ok if you're used to that sort of thing, but we aren't, and it was bloody cold! We had booked to do our second safari drive at 10am, but went and informed them that we would pass. Had our final breakfast and seeing we had some extra time, decided to go home via Ceres, hoping to see some snow.

That turned out to be a good decision - here are some of the scenes we encountered on the journey home.




If we had to summarise our thoughts regarding the lodge, they would be as follows:
  • Though it is classified as 4-star, we probably thought that was slightly optimistic, and would have rated it 3-star ourselves.
  • We appreciate the the virus restrictions have caused some ridiculous procedures to be implemented - for "safety" reasons, of course, and those obviously encroached on the services that were offered. But it meant that by the time you eventually got your plates of food back to the table, they had gone cold. We found the food to be of average quality only - acceptable and edible, but certainly not memorable.
  • We thought that a bit more planning could have gone into organising the parking area. Parking spots were not marked out, with the result that guests, in their normal inconsiderate way, tended to waste an incredible amount of space, meaning that a number of guests had to park quite far away from the rooms. Though porter services were available, this parking situation could easily be improved.
  • On arrival, we found we had a leak in our room. We reported it immediately and were given great service in having the issue resolved. It even included a visit from one of the managers and a complimentary bottle of wine for our trouble.
  • I will end off on what it probably the lodge's greatest asset - the staff, including the management. They really do have an excellent complement of staff members, who are always friendly and willing to go the extra mile for you. Every single staff member we dealt with fell into this category. They were certainly one of the highlights of the weekend.




 



2020 Holiday - Last days

Day 3 - Wednesday We woke to a very pleasant, though cold, morning. We again had breakfast outside on the patio, and were treated to the (we...