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Acornhoek Crafts
17 Feb 2014
 
     

Rebecca Chiloane was just back from harvesting the materials she uses to make jewellery and home décor items when we arrived at her home in Acornhoek. She happily opened the storeroom to show us the beautiful beadwork that she’s famous for. Rebecca used to be a gold and silversmith, but finds that working with beads and natural materials like seed pods involves much less risk and just as much creativity. She works from home now, making necklaces made from monkey orange seeds, which she dyes in a range of vibrant hues. She also makes elaborate chokers, bangles and earrings from plastic beads and mats from sedge and recycled sweet wrappings.

Rebecca sells most of her wares to people from her neighbourhood, occasionally venturing to the near-by town of Hoedspruit. She’s excited with the potential to grow her market now though, thanks to a new arts and crafts route in Acornhoek and Bushbuckridge that introduces visitors to the area to artists and entrepreneurs. The web-based guide (www.everytrail.com/guide/art-and-craft-guide-mpumalanga-lowveld-south-af...) gives names, contact information and GSP waypoints for each stop on the route. You can set your GPS or map software (e.g. Google Maps or Bing Maps) or download the app, making it easier than ever to find your way around this area on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park, where road names and signs are few and far between.

- Dianne Tipping-Woods

Mitchell Park Zoo
17 Feb 2014
 
     

Mitchell Park Zoo

Tucked away in the middle of leafy Morningside is a quaint little zoo. Established in the early 1900’s Mitchell’s Park Zoo was originally an ostrich farm. Now it’s Durban’s only zoo. The mini zoo is home to a range of animals including birds, meerkats, antelope, raccoons and even a shy bushbaby. Look out for the park’s oldest resident, an ancient tortoise called Admiral that was bought to the zoo in 1915. Surrounded by a park and playground the zoo is a perfect outing for kids. There’s also the Blue Zoo Restaurant if you’re feeling peckish. And at less than R10 for entrance it’s a steal.

- Megan Pilditch

Langebaan Windsurfing
16 Feb 2014
 
     

Langebaan Windsurfing

Langebaan Lagoon, with its shallow estuary, is ideal for beginners as well as those seeking high speed, flat-water action. Within 15 minutes from the village there are a range of spots offering incredible wave sailing and strong, steady winds.

Book your lessons in advance - in one or two hour sessions. The courses are presented every day from mid-September through to the end of March...

(GPS coordinates: -33.082265, 18.032089)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/activities/langebaan-windsurfing

Hoi An, Vietnam
16 Feb 2014
 
     

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is known as the famed “Tailor Town” of Vietnam because of the hundreds of tailor shops that line the streets. You can get anything made, from dresses to suits, to shoes and bags, to tops and coats…

Set on the Thu Bon river, Hoi An was once an international trading post and cultural crossroads. Hugely influenced by the Chinese and Japanese, Old Town was built by traders in the 16th century as a port of trade – centuries later, some of the same families that once worked the trade industry still own the houses lining the river and have preserved their history and homes. Crossing the road into Old Quarter the tailor shops give way to double storey Chinese shops with intricately carved wooden facades and moss-covered tile roofs, which have withstood over 300 years of weather and warfare! The balconies are veiled with bougainvilleas and hanging orchards curtain the downstairs windows giving the streets an overgrown kind of beauty - you almost feel like nothing has changed since the days this was a bustling commercial sector. 

As we wandered through the maze of walking streets, I was awestruck by the quiet contented atmosphere and the seamless mix of tourists and locals, the past and the present. The place was intoxicating, and all thoughts of Hoi An, Tailor Town were lost as we explored Hoi An, Ancient Heritage Site.

- Shan Routledge

Buda Castle, Hungary
16 Feb 2014
 
     

Situated on top of Varhegy (Castle Hill) in the capital of Hungary, Buda Castle is quite the sight to behold. The imposing castle sits 48m above the Danube River and acts as an unofficial lookout point from which to view the diverse city of Budapest. You can take a walk around the castle and admire the majestic architecture or visit the National Gallery and Budapest History Museum, both which sit on the top of the hill. If you have the energy, take the slower more scenic route up to the castle on foot. The steep ascent is tiring but well worth the effort. Try exploring the castle at night, it’s an interesting and fresh way to appreciate the castle and Budapest. 

- Megan Pilditch

Horse About
15 Feb 2014
 
     

Horse About 

Run by a couple that has been around horses all their lives, Horse About is the real thing. Their magnificent horse trails and horse activities start from their home base on the Fable Wine Farm in the Witzenberg Valley, where their horses live and graze as a herd in large paddocks. Their rides include favourites such as romantic rides for two, complete with picnic basket and sundowners, moonlight trails through the vineyards (obviously only around full moon) and any combination in between.

John and Jo’s love for horses especially comes through in the work they do with kids. Apart from riding, their activities include education on safety around horses, feeding, grooming, learning about tack and how to use it, as well as developing a bond with these regal animals. "Cowboy and Indian" birthday parties are a perennial favourite...

(GPS coordinates: -33.349689, 19.212947)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/activities/horse-about

Umdoni Park Challenge Trail & Event
15 Feb 2014
 
     

Umdoni Park Challenge Trail & Event

Umdoni Park boasts a combination of flatter open running coupled with steep and technical sections as you navigate your way towards the Nkhumbane River. It is generally quite sandy in places due to its proximity to the beach. Rocky and harder packed trails - and the occasional dirt road - add to your running options. Finally, you can also explore the myriad of anglers’ trails along the rocky 3.5km shoreline...

(GPS coordinates: -30.394291, 30.689836)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/trail-running/umdoni-park-challenge-trail-event

The Donkin Reserve
15 Feb 2014
 
     

The Donkin Reserve in Port Elizabeth

At the heart of the city of Port Elizabeth, there’s a very special collection of art and architecture that brings the various elements of the city’s complex identity into stark relief.  It centres around a small space known as The Donkin Reserve. 

At the heart of the reserve, the Elizabeth Donkin Memorial is dedicated to the wife of Sir Rufane Donkin, who founded the city after arriving in the area in 1820. The inscription on the pyramid that looks out over the city to the sea reads: “To the memory of one of the most perfect of human beings who has given her name to the Town below.” You can read more about their love story in the lighthouse next door. Built in 1861, it’s now a tourism information office and the headquarters of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism.

The pyramid is surrounded by an astonishing 470 square metre mosaic that colourfully interprets the lifestyles, cultures and activities typical of the city and its surroundings. There are vibrant ceramic pineapples and other agricultural produce, aloes and wildlife that represent the area’s natural heritage, a beautifully rendered assortment of creatures from the sea, depictions of the areas people and cultures and more.  

It’s one of the 67 public artworks that form part of the Route 67 art meander. In its immediate vicinity, you’ll notice the large metal cut-out of Nelson Mandela, at the head of a line of South Africans queuing to vote. There are ‘ship sails’ on the lawn and giant wind chimes and statues you can ponder and interpret at will. There’s also a giant South African flag (apparently the largest in the country), and this is before you’ve even left the terrace. You can find out more about Route 67 and the self-guided Donkin Heritage trail from Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism - but be warned – there’s more to see than you might initially imagine – I’d have loved to have had more time to explore. 

- Dianne Tipping-Woods

Chilleks Place
15 Feb 2014
 
     

Chilleks Place

This shisa nyama joint in Walmer Township won the first ever Nando’s Shisa Nyama Championship which took place in Gauteng in October 2013. I was lucky enough to eat there soon after their victory on a trip to Port Elizabeth hosted by Nelson Mandela Bay tourism.

I met the team that beat a dozen contestants from around the country to take home the R25000 prize – but more importantly, I got to sample their winning-fare! Their prize-winning dish consisted of marinated pork kebabs, mango salsa and pap – delicious!

Known as “Coach,”  Vuyisile Meko, who manages the place, and braaier Lutho Mabilisa were both endearingly humble about their victory, saying that they just did what they always do – focus on quality, and getting the unique flavour their customers like just right. 

Vuyisile, a former Premier League football coach, grew up in Walmer Township and went to high school just up the road from the bar and restaurant he now manages. “Here you’ll see everyone knows everyone; it’s a very friendly place,” he says. 

Guests select their meat from the butchery next door where Pabalwa Gongqoba or Siphosethu Zitshu will help you to choose between  beef, boerewors, chicken, pork and lamb – unless you want to try them all. Lutho, also known as Scott, cooks the meat out back and it’s served in the bar with pap or chips and their signature salsa. We ate our meal with some Black Label quarts and the meal – with a selection of 3 meats - cost us about R30 each.

On Friday nights, DJs play and it turns into a club; Saturdays there’s often sport to watch, and on Sundays there is apparently a jazz vibe. There isn’t good signage on the way to Chilleks (Vuyusile is working on that) but they have an active Facebook page and are on Google Maps. You can also call them on 073 547 2826.

- Dianne Tipping-Woods

Ilala Weavers
14 Feb 2014
 
     

Ilala Weavers

The Ilala curio shop features one of the largest collection of traditional Zulu baskets under one roof.  But there are loads more than just baskets for sale. Comprising a number of rooms with interesting nooks and crannies, visitors can enjoy an adventurous shopping experience.

The small Zulu Cultural Museum, which is housed in a separate building, houses some unique artefacts dating back to early in the last century. The displays include items relating to dress, eating and drinking, hunting and fighting, music and dance and more. Definitely worth a visit. To complete the picture, there is a full service restaurant on the premises...

(GPS coordinates: -28.007455, 32.276845)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/shopping/ilala-weavers

Gliding in Bloemfontein
14 Feb 2014
 
     

Gliding in Bloemfontein

If you're an experienced glider pilot, all you need to do  is get to Bloemfontein and make contact with the Gliding Club. The club is not in a position to offer recreational flights to novices, but it does offer a course of lessons for those wanting to learn to fly a glider. The modern clubhouse features everything from a sports bar, swimming pool and braai to camping facilities…

(GPS coordinates: -29.036116, 26.169348)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/activities/gliding-bloemfontein

Ribbokkloof Lodge 4x4 Trail
13 Feb 2014
 
     

Ribbokkloof Lodge 4x4 Trail

The Ribbokkloof 4x4 trail includes a 3km riverbed obstacle course and a 27km scenic route through peaceful Highveld vegetation. If you’re lucky you may spot a shy mountain reedbuck or even a family of warthog out for a stroll. The trail provides enough variation for novices to enjoy themselves as well as an exhilarating challenge for experienced drivers. Another bonus is that the trail has been designed to ensure no damage to your vehicle...

(GPS coordinates: -25.58944, 29.817302)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/4x4/ribbokkloof-lodge-4x4-trail

Groenvlei Muishoek MTB Trail
13 Feb 2014
 
     

Groenvlei Muishoek MTB Trail

The quiet and peaceful Groenvlei (“Green Marsh”) of today was known as Helhoek (Hell's Corner) in days gone by. If this little piece of information tickles your interest, read more about the farm's history since 1837 on the website.

The route follows farm tracks all the way; follow the detailed directions (your hosts will brief you) up two passes, through at least eight gates, past reservoirs and over steep necks. Several beacons will guide you along your way...

(GPS coordinates: -31.819295, 24.247921)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/mountain-biking/groenvlei-muishoek-mtb-trail

Durban Natural Science Museum
13 Feb 2014
 
     

Durban Natural Science Museum

Take any kid to see a life-size dinosaur and you will without a doubt make their day. Throw in some “real” giraffes, insects, birds and other wildlife and you’ve just about made their life. The Natural Science Museum in Durban may be rather small but what it lacks in size it makes up for in quality. The animal displays are well lit, interestingly designed and educational. And parents, there’s a captivating art gallery upstairs if you feel like some culture. And the best part about the Museum is it’s free. Parking is sparse on Durban’s inner city streets so try parking at the Royal Hotel across the road.

- Megan Pilditch

Vredefort Meteorite Trails
12 Feb 2014
 
     

Vredefort Meteorite Trails

If ever you travel to Parys and the surrounding Vredefort Dome, take your hiking boots, because the amazing Meteorite Trails are not to be missed. As you tramp through this inspiring World Heritage site, you will have time to discover a range of ecosystems varying from bushveld and riverine forest to savannah ridges. They’re populated by a rich and diverse selection of mammal, reptile, bird and indigenous plant species.

The Meteorite Hiking Route isn’t a single trail, but rather a configuration of trails of around 60km in total length. The advantage of this is that you are able to vary the configurations and intensity of your hike, from an easy day walk to a multi-day guided trail...

(GPS coordinates: -26.921955, 27.240729)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/hiking/vredefort-meteorite-trails

Skoorsteenkop Rock Climbing
12 Feb 2014
 
     

Skoorsteenkop Rock Climbing

This impressive crag above Hout Bay is one of the best kept secrets on the Peninsula, offering some superb routes in the intermediate grades.

Most of the routes are long and vertical and the rock is solid, coarse sandstone with lots of interesting flakes and pockets. There are no easy routes and no super-hard ones either. This is a perfect spot for strong novices or intermediate climbers...

(GPS coordinates: -34.023801, 18.371939)

Read more at www.nightjartravel.com/climbing/skoorsteen-kop-rock-climbing

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