Friday, December 26, 2014

Sedgefield, Swartvlei, and a Catamarang

It’s amazing how time flies; Christmastime is upon us, festivities are in full swing, and before we rub out our eyes it’s going to be the New Year. We’ve been at St. Ancothesa for more than 2 weeks, and this post is going to be about our second weekend. At the end of the month I will post an overview on the farm; it’s during the weekends that we put out tourist hats on and “head off on an adventure”.

On the 20th we drove to Sedgefield via the Prince Alfred Pass through the Knysna forest. Because we did the scenic route it took us the whole morning, but it was well worthwhile. Starting at Uniondale, then passing through Avontuur, a tiny place not worthy to be called a town, we drove the Prince Alfred Pass and through the beautiful area including Diepwalle, Gouna, etc. made famous by the book Circles in the Forest by Dalene Matthee. We stopped at the Valley of Ferns and took a 15min walk through the giant plants, some as high as 4 meters!


Prince Alfred Pass.


Some of the corners and rocks had names; it was very amusing. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Through Devil’s Chimney to The Hell

Our first weekend on St. Ancothesa farm was very exciting as we drove to surrounding tourist attractions and slept over at a very hot place: The Hell. It  included perilous roads, narrow caves and ostriches. Here’s what we did....

Saturday the 13th we were off towards an area famous for its ostriches; Oudtshoorn and surroundings. We stopped at one of many ostrich farms and was just in time for a tour.

Most of the ostrich eggs are incubated by machines, and the newborn chicks are kept indoors in crates for the first 3 days; baby ostriches doesn’t have to eat or drink for the first 3 days of their life! They are then transferred to ostrich couples outside who are too stupid to tell them apart from their own chicks; their brains weight about 40g, versus one of their eyes weighing 60g!

One day old chicks. Their feathers are still hard from the egg yolk.

Our funny guide with Betsy, a very greedy ostrich. 

We had opportunities to feed them, ride them, stand on their eggs, and even get a neck massage from them (it was more like an ear massage). A fellow tourist even got a kiss from an ostrich.

Maarten all fluffed up. 

Theuns on the incredibly  strong eggs.

A hilarious video of my mom riding an ostrich. Me and dad did as well, but mom took the trophy with her screams. 

Next, we visited The Cango Caves. Mom, Theuns and me did the Adventure Tour while Maarten and dad did the Heritage Tour. The first caverns were massive and well lit; I could take a few pictures. Our tour group was a bit too big (over 40 people) and we felt that the whole setup was very commercialized; the stone was slick from all the thousands of people who’ve walked and touched it. It was still exciting though; we went through 3 narrow spaces; The Tunnel of Love, Devil’s Chimney, and The Postbox. Everyone survived, despite some spaces being only 40cm high.

A person for perspective. 

Theuns with a stalagmite. 


After this, we tackled the Swartberg Pass; a high pass over the Swartberg mountains with a beautiful view from the top. We gained a lot of respect for the engineers Thomas Bain and his father Andrew with their teams of bandits, who built it in the 1900s. 

Spot the boys. 

Finally, we were on our way to The Hell.

Gamkaskloof, or “The Hell”, is a beautiful valley in the Swartberg mountains. The name has nothing to do with the place, it is a lush paradise. The name comes from the road, which some inspector had to travel often to get to the isolated community there. When asked how his journey was, he usually replied “like hell”. You drive approx. 2 hours on 40km, and experience some serious adrenalin rushes on the way.

Beautiful proteas along the way. 

What a view. 

Once there, we were served a traditional hot plate of “boerekos”, and slept over in our 2 little hiking tents. The next day we drove to the tourist centre (through a river) and bought T-shirts and hats, as we realized this was one of the things you don’t do often and therefore we had to “been there, done that, and bought the T-shirt”. On the way there were a couple of restored houses where farmers had lived who were part of the close community. Most of the valley and the surrounding area is now a nature reserve.

 The restaurant garden.

Picturesque, as well as celebrating that we made it.


The Gamkasriver we had to cross to get to the tourist centre (not a very tourist friendly outline of the valley). 

A lovely old restored house to rent... In The Hell. 

The next day, we drove back to St. Ancothesa via Prince Albert, Meirings Poort, De Rust and Uniondale. We stopped at a beautiful (as well as overcrowded) natural swimming pool and waterfall through Meirings Poort.

Down on the other side of Swartberg Pass.

Meirings Poort.
 The waterfall.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Our First Week at St. Ancothesa

Last Saturday we left Stormsriver and drove on through Plettenberg Bay, Knysna and George to our next volunteering farm, St. Ancothesa. On the way, we drove over a few magnificent bridges including the highest bungee jumping bridge in the world, the Bloukrans river bridge. 

Bloukrans river bridge.

We stopped at Knysna and took pictures from a lookout point over the Two Heads.

Wilderness’ long white beach was briefly sighted....

On through George, we arrived at the farm and was warmly greeted by our hosts, Jan and Anel Burger, as well as their 3 year old son Jandiesel; a very nice and busy family. After introductions and a braai, we spent our first night in a house with lots of space ! The rest of the week, me, mom and the boys helped at the small local school with all sorts of administrative tasks as well as putting up posters and keeping the children busy. We also cleaned our house, worked in the garden, and sorted out our own school books.

The Kammanassie mountains. 

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Our Week At Stormsriver

This week has been absolutely wonderful, as we had no school and 100% vacation. My dad still had to work though. This week's camping at Stormsriver was a dream of my mom - to be so near to the waves you could almost feel it crashing on the rocks....and hear the sound all the time. Surrounded by beautiful nature with sea, forest and mountains all close together, we all had a good rest physically and mentally. Less than 100m from the sea,we've had an amazing view all the time.

Attics in the swimming pool (we couldn't really swim in the ocean because of the rocks; the water was too cold anyway).


Friday, December 5, 2014


Now and then, remember to check Parents' Thoughts, Elna's Musings, and The Boys' Corner for updates. I will be posting about this week on Saturday, but meanwhile go look at our thoughts on November (especially The Boys' Corner; they've got a really funny video! 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Tourists in Port Elizabeth

For our 2 weeks here at Port Elizabeth (PE), we had school and work on weekdays, but during the weekends, we were officially tourists. Here is what we did in PE.

We went to see the working harbour and saw really impressive ships (like that big one in the photo).

We visited Bayworld, an Oceanarium, Museum and Snake Park in one. It was kind of run down though, and we could see it had had better days. The movie Dolphin Tale 2 gave us a glimpse of the challenges all conservancy related organizations face. The Oceanarium had very few animals (some fish, seahorses, seals and penguins), and the Snake Park took 5 minutes to walk through. The Museum was very impressive though, and even bigger and better than the East London Museum!

Sad turtle.

He smiled for us. 

Penguins. They all seemed sad though. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Life at The Willows

Currently we are staying at The Willows, a beautiful and neat resort on the seaside 10km from Port Elizabeth. Our spaceship/tent setup has "upgraded", as we now sleep in the 2 little camp tents and the inside of the big tent serves as a school/work room. It is necessary as we've had rain and mist, and working with books, laptops, etc. under the canopy of the tent only would have damaged it.

The only workspace for 5 of us....

We're finishing up school and resting with our "tourist activities" now and then for change, but the general idea is that in the week my dad has to work and we have school. We've Geocached ( some more (which is treasure hunting all around the world; we found 3 just in the resort!), watched sunsets, and swam in the ocean.

Geocaching in the night!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

1820 Settlers' Country

After a day of rest (and washing) at Bellevue, we were on our way to Grahamstown via Port Alfred and Bathurst. In Port Alfred we saw the Marine with lots of sailboats anchored. It's something you don't see often in South Africa, and reminded all of us of Norway.

Bathurst, as we soon discovered, is the pineapple capital of South Africa. We didn't even know they farmed with pineapples in the area. We visited the Giant Pineapple and bought some pineapple jam.

This region is where the British Settlers arrived in the 1820's, who were often attacked by the native Xhosas and struggled trying to build farms. Places like Bathurst, Grahamstown and Salem grew as the people gave up on farming and moved to town. In Bathurst we visited 2 little churches that served as forts when the Xhosas attacked.  Both were beautiful to look at and the cemeteries had a special atmosphere.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Shipwreck Trail

From 8-12 November we hiked the Shipwreck Trail along the Sunshine Coast, starting at Port Alfred and walking mostly along the beach to the Fish River estuary. Overall it was beautiful as well as very windy.

We slept over at Bellevue Accommodation the 7th, in a very comfortable house. Packing was a mission but 11:30pm that night my parents could finally get some sleep as well. The next morning, on my dad's 44th birthday, Dave (the manager of the trail) drove us to Port Alfred beach where we set off with a strong (and rather cold) wind in our face. Since we were slackpacking, we only walked with day packs as Charlie (the slackpack manager) drove our heavy luggage and food from hut to hut. Here is the trail's website:

On dad's birthday, at the starting point.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Camping at Chintsa

It is November 2014 and we left behind Byrne Valley and drove all the way through the old Transkei for a short visit with friends in Ugie. We then took the road down leaving the mountains behind as we drove to Chintsa, a tiny holiday town near East London, South Africa.

On the way from the mountains to the sea, the view from Satan's Neck (what a name). 

It was nice to be on our own as a family again for a while, although we had to have a serious family meeting to sort out relationship issues, irritations, frustrations, communications, and attitudes. On arrival we put up tent as the only people in the campsite. As usual, it was an organization of a higher level and me and my mom were not allowed to help at all. The tent was up in a record of 1 and a half hours.

Early stages.

Halfway there...

 The rain and wind proof setup.

Our campsite, Rendezvous Caravan Park, is really neat and lovely. There is a Launderette, so we could do all our washing - a highlight in my mom's week! We also had our own private bathroom facilities, which was very nice.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Farewell and Reflection; OverThere Farm

Friday was our last day at OverThere Farm. Our first volunteering farm and first month of this adventure, it's been an experience we won't forget quickly. Here follows some of the things we hadn't mentioned in previous posts.

Our accommodation had a lot of space and we appreciated that, despite the rats that had parties on the ceiling. Thankfully one of their cats (Smuglin) decided she likes us a lot and often hunted in the room. She also liked snoozing on our bed when we weren't there...

Our rat hunter.

Friday, October 31, 2014


While at OverThere Farm, we had quite a lot of happenings going on, from visiting 'tannie' Pam's lovely tea garden to separating cream. Here are a few.

We went to art class once or twice with Mirte and Femke at Pam's, as well as visiting her tea garden as a family. Every time we went it rained though, so we sat on the veranda, not in the beautiful, flowering garden.

Dear old tannie Pam and her dog, Puff.

Now where did all the cookies go....

Saturday, October 25, 2014


Usually after milking and teatime every morning, the project of the day is tackled. Here are a few projects we've done in our time here....

Sunday, October 19, 2014

New Life

On OverThere Farm, there are quite a lot of animals who are looked after daily and provide food as well as amusement. Since our arrival, there's been a few new faces and we've experienced the wonder of seeing new life.

Solitaire gave birth to a calf, Uno, who at first got kicked when he tried to drink. But after getting the baby to a dry warm place and giving the mother time, she calmed down. Jerry milked the new mom and we bottle-fed Uno. After some time together, he managed to drink and is well and energetic now. 

Newborn calf.