Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Diamond City.

Part of our holiday plan was to spend some time exploring Kimberley. We chose not to camp in Kimberley itself and that is how we ended up staying at Riverside and in retrospect we are very happy with that decision.
Before we Tackled Kimberley, we spent a day in the Mokala National Park, which is about 20 km from where we are camping. It is a fairly newly declared park situated in this amazing countryside. There are plenty thorn trees and lots of game, largely antelope. There is one campsite with only 6 sites and each site has its own kitchen and ablution facility and then there are 2 camps with chalets, all beautifully positioned and overlooking the Riet River. This is for a future holiday, when we can no longer get into the rooftop tent. For now, we camp. It is also a lot easier on the budget.
On Monday morning we headed of into Kimberley to go and do the tourist thing. Where else to start, but at the Big Hole. We went there about 20 years ago when the kids were small. I cannot remember much, other than the Big Hole itself, but now they have upgraded the whole place and it looks like a tourist attraction. Apparently De Beers put up many million Rands for the upgrade.  It is like the Diamond version of Gold Reef City.
From there we went to explore some of the more exciting historical places in Kimberley, of which the first was the Star of the West. This is a pub that opened in 1875, was run by a Prostitute and has never closed its doors in all these years and has always traded as a pub. The Prostitute who owned it is long since dead and gone, but there is interesting evidence of her presence, like the trap door behind the pub counter, going down into the cellar, where she apparently kept her diamonds. There are also rooms upstairs where she practiced her trade. The original bar counter is still in use to this day. I bet it could tell many an interesting story!! The interesting story for us on the day was that when we arrived at the pub at about lunchtime, we opened the door to a deserted pub and a bar lady fast asleep at one of the tables! We were a bit unsure as to how to handle this, when an apparently regular patron arrived.  He gently woke her up and I think it is going to take a while for her to live this one down. Well worth the visit, as the food was good, the wine was good and cheap and the atmosphere was wonderful.
My number one on the list was to visit the Kimberley Club and that is where we went after lunch. Oh Boy! What a touch of the old world, Clubby, Colonial and lovely (CJ Rhodes walking down the stairs!). The club secretary spent some time with us and shared a lot of the history of the Club and Kimberley and we were permitted tohave some wine in the “Members only” bar. Great experience and well worth the time spent there.
On Tuesday morning we were off to the Boer war battle site of Magersfontein and then back into town to visit the Mac Gregor Museum. For the history fundies, both of these visits are a must. There is a great deal of Boer War history in the area and many sites to visit and good info from many sources. We found the Magersfontein site really moving and informative. After all the history it was again off to my kind of history, this time to the Halfway House, another pub from the Diamond rush era. The origins of the pub are steeped in the history of Kimberley and one of South Africa’s best known characters, CJ Rhodes. The story goes that he needed a place (pub) where he could have a drink that was half way between his residence and work, he also is reputed not to have dismounted from his horse!  Alas, not nearly as romantic as the one of the day before. Cannot have it all, I suppose.
And so our stay on Kimberley came to an end.

Slow connection unable to upload photos!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

A “draai” through the Free State.

The Christiana Camp site was lovely and the scenery superb, but EISH, the ablutions were shocking and the shower this morning was COLD!!!!! I must say it was a very hasty “shower”. 
We set of towards our next destination via the roads lesser travelled to Boshof, our first stop. This is the town where “Volkspele”, originated. They must have been terribly bored there, because to this day there is not a great deal happening, or maybe it is because there was not much happening that “Volkspele” started. Volkspele  is just another form of allowing girls and boys to dance together and smooch legally!!
We had a lovely experience in Boshof. We stopped for coffee at Bubu’s Coffee and Gift shop. This is situated in what used to be the original Magistrates Court, then it became a church hall and after that a mill and finally a coffee shop. Obviously there is a story behind all this, but too much detail, is too much detail.  The coffee shop is also a gift shop, with lots of the inspirational message  and little goodies for sale, much like what you get at the Christmas markets, etc, The music playing was, strictly sixties and early seventies, and played on no less than a Tedelex Blaupunkt music centre, on long playing records. This is exactly what I bought with my first salary from our good friend Peter who worked for the best music shop in Parow at the time. I paid all of R 300 odd for it then and it played for many years in various dwellings at top volume, Tommy, Shirley Bassey, Listz piano concertos and many other favourites of the times.
We also met 2 guys on bikes who were travelling through SA on the byways. They had left Velddrif a week or so ago and they were heading for the Caprivi in 5 weeks time and then to Luderitz. We shared stories and reminisced over the music and this and that and then they were off on their way and we were off on ours. The rest of the day was slow travelling through the Free State, stopped at little towns, taking pictures and eventually arriving at our next destination, which was Riverside Campsite on the Riet River. What a beautiful place. Owned and run by Lucy and Phillip van Wyk, managed with an iron hand and absolutely spotless. There are 4 dogs, of which one is a Labrador, who resumes the role of security officer. He sleeps either in front or behind our tent the whole night. His best buddy is a 9 month old Jack Russell, which is cuter than cute. Needless to say they have found the way around us!

BuBu's Cafe

Free State Travel

Free State Road block

Friday, May 11, 2012

Travelling through the Western Transvaal(now North WestProvince)

After 3 lovely days and nights in the Pilansberg, we set off on our journey of exploring the old Western Transvaal. The whole idea of this holiday was slow travel on gravel, where possible. Many secondary roads, which in times gone by, was gravel, is now mostly potholed tar. We have decided that gravel is a lot better than potholed tar. The great thing about the secondary roads is that you see the country differently and the traffic is nonexistent other than maybe the odd truck laden with maize or cattle feed or whatever they are transporting.
I would think that this part of the country is not a tourist destination, however there is beauty in every part of this remarkable country of ours and there are resilient, hardworking, fantastic people everywhere. One thing that is noticeable in the North West is the fact that the farms are manned, modern and operational. So many other farming areas in the country seem to be deserted these days. Other than grapes and wheat, it seems like everything else is grown in this part of the world, maize being the main crop, by the looks of things.
Yesterday we travelled through towns like Swartruggens, where we bought lovely wors, Coligny, where we found the oldest Silos in the country and bought some wood and then we ended the day on a farm 11 km outside of Ottosdal, where we camped for the night. The campsite, if one can call it a campsite, was a place to camp on the shores of the dam. The setting is beautiful. The campsite was largely built by the family’s grown up children who had moved to the cities and used it as an escape from the rat race and it is rustic to say the least. We spent the evening braaiing in the lapa and watching the sunset and the cattle coming to drink water.  The sky was alight with stars because there was no light pollution. Coming from a city one can hardly believe that there are so many stars visible.
The shower at the campsite was not functioning too well and the owner of the farm invited us to go and have a shower at the main house in the morning. The main house is well over a hundred years old and is run as a farm guest house and what a house it is. It is filled with genuine old furniture that has been in the family for as long as the house, pictures of the family adorns the walls and lovely works of art everywhere.  The guest house has got touches that set it apart, like silver table ware only seen in movies like Titanic. We were invited for an “after shower cup of coffee” with the proud owners of “Ouplaas” and what an experience to listen to these people who have lived there for all their lives, reared successful children,  invested in the area and are proud of their roots.  We left feeling that we have made new friends.
We left the farm at about 11.30 and then went to explore the towns on our route. First stop was Ottosdal and the local butchery for meat for tonight. I love the butcheries in country towns where you can select your meat and still get advice from the butcher or his wife and where you know that the wors is fresh and made to his special recipe. Lunchtime we stopped in Schweizer- Reneke for a drink at the local Pub and Grill, which happens to be the farm house of the original farm on which the town was built. It is well over a hundred years old and has the most beautiful pressed ceilings. We also happened to have the best priced gin and tonics we have had anywhere in SA!
Tonight we are sitting on the banks of the Vaal River in Christiana. Our neighbours are the local Traffic chief and his wife who heads up the Ambulance service in the town. They live in the town and have just bought  a second hand caravan and are camping in their own back yard, so to speak, to test it out. Great idea, I think! Often we do not appreciate what is right there in our own world and we go out searching for things we think that can make us happy, instead of appreciating what we have.
On that philosophical note it is good night. The Texan steak from Ottosdal is ready, the red wine is in the glass and we are ready for supper.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

From Moon and Sixpence to Pilansberg

Well on Friday was the wedding at Moon and Sixpence and what a lovely event it was!
We started off the day, after packing up our home of a week, with breakfast with Alister and his lady friend at the Drift Inn at Muldersdrift. It is an old style hotel , a bit Wild West, with a Dining room with a Pool table in the middle and a proper Bar, where the guys from the street come in for a “dop” and then there is the ‘Kroeg’, where I imagine, serious drinking takes place over week ends. Good pub food at reasonable prices though and surely that is the recipe for success in today’s world.
The Chapel
At lunch time we checked into “The Moon and Sixpence” for the wedding and the night. As “parents of the bride” we were privileged to stay for the night. The venue is lovely and very Tuscan looking. The little chapel was simple with only candles and wooden benches and beautiful windows that overlooked an immaculate garden. The bride was beautiful and loved every moment of her big day.  The ceremony was conducted by their Catholic priest and was touching and real. It was a family event and the extended family of the groom, who is Portuguese, is wonderful people and made us all feel so welcome into their family. The food was out of this world. If ever we were to get married again, I will select the Moon and Sixpence for venue and the quality of the food. It was exceptional, to say the least.
Bride & Groom
Through the Chapel Window

At about midnight we called a halt to the celebrations and we all stumbled off to bed, which was about 20 metres away and crashed for the night. After breakfast the next morning and the good byes, we all went our separate ways. Dick and I were off to Pretoria to visit friends. Our first stop was Dick’s old friend, Mac and his wife Linda for a lunch time braai with lekker  pap and sous and a steak. Cannot get much better than that!!! The rest of the week end was spent with old Pretoria friends and we had a great time. Too much food, too much wine, but never too much friendship. It was lovely to see old friends, to chat and just to be. We felt truly blessed.
On Monday we booked into Pilansberg on their “pensioner’s special” and with all the other oldies we are having a great time. It is a lovely park, with excellent facilities and different scenery. We have travelled around and have seen lots of antelope, elephants, rhinos and plenty birds. You can find the Big Five here, however I would think, like anywhere else, it is just about luck and being at the right place at the right time. We never seem to get that right! At the end of the day it is about the experience and the general enjoyment. We have a lovely campsite, we have pitched out tent and we have a braai going and a glass of red wine in the hand. What more would one want just at the moment???

Pilansberg Autumn Scenery

Some BIG friends............

and some small camp friends!!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Last night of camping in Jo’burg.

I cannot believe that a week has come and gone again. A week that was filled with so much excitement and new discoveries and wedding preparations and time with the children. Meeting new , soon to be, family and having this wonderful campsite as our home.
We have travelled through Jo’burg in all directions, competently guided by Lucy, the GPS, with whom I have had a love/hate relationship forever. I have always claimed that she is a real Blond, but now I think she is a Jo’burg girl, because she took us everywhere that we needed to go, without a hitch.
Tomorrow morning we pack up and meet Alister, our eldest son, and his lady friend for breakfast before we book into “The Moon and Sixpence” the wedding venue for the night. The wedding is at 15.30. Dick is a bit nervous as he has to do a reading and a prayer during the ceremony, but I am sure all will be well.  After all, he is the father of the bride!

Country Park Camp Site

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Roamin’ Randalls arrive in Jo’burg.

I left Cape Town on the morning of 26 April and travelled as far as Colesberg, where I spent the night in the Guinea Fowl Lodge, a lovely homely place with a warm clean bed with 3 different shades pink sheets on the bed and piping hot water in the shower. Tea and homemade rusks on arrival. The evening meal I enjoyed at “The Plattelander” Restaurant where Karoo Lamb, in various forms, is the main attraction on the menu,. Clearly the Lamb Shank is the favourite , as I observed many a portion being brought to the tables surrounding me.
If day one was spent travelling with Roadworks and “stop/go” as the main attraction, day two was spent travelling in RAIN through the Karoo and a great deal of the Free State. Thank goodness it was a Public Holiday on the Friday that I arrived in Jo’burg, which meant that the traffic was less hectic than normal. I met Dick and his group at the Mondior Hotel at the Emperor’s Palace where we spent the night before he dropped off the group at O.R.Tambo in the morning and we were off on our way to start our holiday.
We have set up our home base at the Country Park in Muldersdrift.  There is a permanent camping area, much like Hardekraaltjie in Bellville and then the lovely campsite, which seems to be used largely by private Overland vehicles and by the sounds of it largely German or Dutch. It is very peaceful and there are lots of birdlife around.
On Saturday morning we set off on our first “touristy” outing. A few months ago there was an article in the GO! Magazine about a guy that does walking tours through the Inner city of Jo’burg, Dick thought this might be the best way to revisit the city and booked us on a tour. Well what a lovely experience that was.  Over the last 10 years there has been a big effort towards the Revival of the Inner city of Jo’burg. The main area at present is around Newtown and the South Western part of the city. We walked through areas of the city where I am sure it was pretty unsafe a few years ago. Now there are coffee shops and restored Power stations and wonderful street art and a general feeling of pride in the city. There has been huge investment from the private sector, and the local government has also come to the party. I mean buildings that were falling apart and were filled with squatters not too long ago (2009) are now show pieces and stand proud in the inner city once again, as Head Quarters and office space to a large Gold Mining Company and a Multi venue Function facility.
Chancelor House today - 2012

Photo of Chancelor House taken in 2010 (through a window)

We spent the whole day walking the City, taking pictures, drinking coffee and ending up in Braamfontein where we were treated to the most magnificent sights and views from Randlords. A 22 story high-rise where the very top floor has been turned into an entertainment area with a balcony that gives you a 360 degree view of Jo’burg. It is absolutely awesome. Randlords is where they film the TV program Carte Blanche every week. The loos have the best views that I have ever experienced. Our last stop for the day was the Saturday Market, this is the same concept as the Biscuit Mill in Cape Town or the Slow Market in Stellenbosch.  We were really tired and hungry by then, but that was soon fixed with a splendid burger and a glass of good old Cape wine. What a fantastic day this was.
Mens Urinal - Randlords - What a view!
A view of Jo'Burg from Randlords

On Sunday we were off to the Cradle of Humankind to check up where our real origins were!  Maropeng   is a very informative experience with interactive displays of good and understandable information from the origins of the universe through to the origins of man. It is very child friendly and judging by the general crowd around on the day, a well supported and well loved outing for many families. We ended the day with the visit to the Sterkfontein Caves. This is also a worthwhile experience, going underground to see the actual area where the first hominoid fossil skeletons, dating back 2.16 million years ago, where found in 1936. The area where the Paleontologists are still working to extract the fossil of “Little foot” is closed to the public, all we see is the locked iron gate. 
On Monday we were back into the city to visit the free museums only to find they are all closed on a Monday. What to do! Walk around, explore some more and different streets and take photos of the buildings and just generally enjoy the city.

Another view of Jo'Burg also from Randlords

The best is to return to our “holiday accommodation” in Mulderdrift where we are entertained by the birds; Crowned Lapwings, Fiscal Shrikes, Grey Louries and lots of other “Little Brown Jobs”. We have been enjoying the lovely sunsets and braais at night.

More Photos to be added once we have sorted them out!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Start of the 'Slow Way Down' trip.

The big day has arrived. Caretha left Cape Town this morning to drive up to Jhb where I will meet her at the end of the tour I am presently on. I received a phone call this morning from Caretha telling me that although she had plugged the fridge in to power and switched it on yesterday it was not cold, she stopped off at Campworld  to have them check it out, as yet I do not know the outcome, but I have contacted National Luna and am waiting for a reply from them.

The plan for the holiday is to be in Jhb for Mandy's wedding on the 4th of May, do some of the touristy bits around there, like The Cradle of Human kind, SOWETO and Aprtheid Museum, Inner City Walking Tour of Jhb. Then to do the "Slow Way Down" back to Cape Town over 12 to 15 days, travelling on as many dirt/gravel roads we can find and stop off in the little dorpies along the way.