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Nightjar Travelled
18 Nov 2013

On Monday 11 November, Garmin organised a helicopter flip to give a few lucky people the chance to try out the new Garmin Virb – a great little action camera. I was very fortunate to be able to cover the morning for Nightjar Travel.

The day started at the NAC Makana heli pad near the V&A Waterfront, where we were given our cameras for the trip and shown how to use them. The Virb is incredibly easy to use – you just slide forward the record button and you’re A-for-away.

Then we had a quick safety briefing, met our pilot for the flip and headed across the tarmac to our ‘bird’ for the morning. I’d never been in a helicopter before and was so excited for this opportunity to see the most beautiful city in the world from the air (not that I’m biased or anything about Cape Town).

We got our seatbelts strapped on, headgear adjusted and took a few selfies – helicopter headsets are a good look on anyone. Then it was up and away.

Cape Town obviously heard that we needed some excellent shots for this whole day to be worth it and decided to put on a real show for us. Blue, blue waters and bright, sunny skies made this helicopter ride absolutely magical.

We took a quick spin past the Cape Town Stadium, and then headed off down the coast.

As the helicopter flew down the peninsula, we passed all of the beautiful beaches at Clifton, Camps Bay, Hout Bay and Noordhoek.

Cape Point put on a spectacular show for us, with gorgeous blue waves crashing against the rocks. It was also great that our pilot took us round the point twice so that the people sitting on either side of the helicopter got a good view of the point of the peninsula.

Our route back took us up the other side of the peninsula. The Indian Ocean looked beautiful and quite inviting – until the captain said he regularly sees sharks and was hoping that we would see one on this trip. It would’ve been quite something to see that large shadow lurking under the water, but fortunately for the swimmers down on Muizenberg beach, the great whites stayed away.

From here, we cut inland across the southern suburbs – giving us a bird’s eye view of the massive houses in Bishopscourt and Constantia. As we rounded the mountain, the city bowl sprawled out before us. Cape Town really is one of the most beautiful cities in the world!

This whole experience was fantastic – and the NAC Makana pilot was brilliant, giving us so much information and history about what we were seeing all the way through the flip. I would highly recommend taking a trip around the peninsula and seeing it from the sky.

Guest blog by Faeron Wheeler

For more awesome footage filmed with the new Garmin Virb see

Athens, Greece
17 Nov 2013

Within minutes of arriving in Athens I realised it was unlike any city I had ever been in. It wasn’t towering skyscrapers and massive highways but winding cobbled walking streets all focused around the ancient archeological wonder that made Athens famous - the Acropolis. Towering above the city, it serves as a centre that fluidly mixes the ancient magical old world charm with a new modern style. 

Walking through the city there are street musicians playing quietly on every corner. A guitar, accordion or a strange instrument called a mandolin, all provide the perfect soundtrack to an afternoon in Athens. On the steps of a building an artist is hunched over an elaborate drawing of the street with the distant towers of ancient ruins. 

Our walking tour of the city took us past Hadrian’s Arch, the Temple of Zeus and the Panathenaic Stadium – first ever home of the modern Olympic Games in 1896! We watched the 'Changing of the Guards' outside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and finished the day with a spectacular view of the sunset from the Acropolis, watching as this white marble city, ancient Agora, Parthenon and Acropolis turned the faintest pink and orange as they reflected the slowly setting sun – nothing is rushed in Athens, not even the sun! 

- Shan Routledge

JuMeLi Café
16 Nov 2013

JuMeLi Café

I had heard a lot about this thriving little café on the corner of Clark Road and Davenport in Glenwood. One day, on my way home from varsity, I decided to grab a coffee there with a friend. I immediately fell in love with the cute and quirky café not only because of the incredible murals and art displayed on the café walls, but also because of the array of people I found sitting and happily enjoying a coffee there. Perhaps the inviting and intriguing feel of this café is due to its name ‘JuMeLi’, a mash up of the names of the owners’ three children. I’m glad to see that Durban is embracing this ‘coffee culture’ more and more, with JuMeLi being a testament to this. 

 – Ashleigh Bargate

Picnic on Tradouw Pass
15 Nov 2013

If you’re heading to Swellendam or onto the N2 from Barrydale, take the delightful drive over the historic Tradouw Pass. This winding route through the steep-sided kloof is one of the most impressive of all the Cape passes, offering up spectacular and ever-changing views. There are several places to stop safely along the route that is cut into the hillside high above the course of the river, and you can follow the old road down to swimming holes and waterfalls cascading off the cliffs.

The incredible road is the masterpiece of the famous engineer Thomas Bain who, apparently, loved following rivers as he believed rivers know best. He was known as ‘the man with the theodolite eye’ and his modus operandi was to travel on horseback through the area where he wanted to build a pass, armed with a theodolite and compass, making sketches that eventually became passes. Driving the route is stunning at any time of year but is particularly impressive in the late autumn when the pass is a blaze of magnificent red aloes, many of which - along with indigenous trees - were planted when the pass was rebuilt, widened and tarred before its reopening in 1980.

 – Shaen Adey
Image copyright Shaen Adey

Overberg Canola Fields
14 Nov 2013

Travelling along in the Overberg near Bot River in early spring, you're treated to endless fields of canola brightening up the countryside with their luminescent yellow blooms. Set against a rugged mountain backdrop, this is breadbasket country, where fynbos and birdlife flourish and a river runs through it.

There are wonderful hiking trails in the area, including the 4-day Green Mountain eco route, as well as horse-riding, quad-biking and fishing on offer, with great eating places and a plethora of wine estates to tempt your gustatory palate after such a visual feast.

Surrey Mansions
13 Nov 2013

The exquisite and well-kept art deco building in Durban, Surrey Mansions, dates back to 1937 and was designed by Langton & Barbourne. The intricate, pastel coloured and New York’esque block of flats on Currie Road truly made me stop and stare. You can’t quite get enough of this picture perfect high rise. The quirky building was made even more endearing to me when a young girl, about six, came bounding up to me to ask if I’d like to come inside and photograph inside too. Isn’t it great to know that one of Durban’s beautiful buildings is being housed by beautiful people too?

 – Ashleigh Bargate

Wild Zebra
12 Nov 2013">

Wild Coast – Friendly zebras and breath-taking beaches

Hluleka Nature Reserve is the Pondoland’s Southernmost reserve. It’s only 800 hectares but extremely picturesque – beautiful secluded golden beaches bordered by palm trees and over-grown natural forest beckoning the explorer. Interesting rock formations and caves carved out in cliffs will have you wandering for hours.

When we arrived, we were greeted by five nonchalant zebra grazing on the lawns near the chalets. They acknowledged our presence with brief glances before resuming their happy munching. The chalets are well-equipped, and elevated to provide wonderful views. On the first morning, upon waking, I sat up in bed, gazed sleepily out of the large glass window and said good morning to whales and dolphins.  

Hluleka Nature Reserve (Eastern Cape Parks)
Tel: 047 531 5290 Fax 047 531 5291
Or book through main office:
Tel: 043 701 9600 Fax: 086 611 1623
E-mail:[email protected]

Guest Blog by Rachel Lang

Oktoberfest, Germany
10 Nov 2013

Oktoberfest, Germany

The Oktoberfest is the most well-known beer festival in the world and tourists pour in from all over to experience this annual party. In 2011 the festival hosted 6.9millions visitors who drank 7.5 million litres of beer and ate the equivalent of 118 oxes and 522,821 roasted chickens!

Having grown to proportions and world-famous, Oktoberfest is a once in a lifetime experience and on arrival I was prepared to drink and eat my own weight in beer and local dishes. What I didn’t realise was the extent of this experience. At the centre of the spectacle are 14 large beer tents, which are set-up along the Wirtsbudenstrasse in the northern part of Theresienwiese and can accommodate up to 8,500. That’s not counting the additional hundreds or thousands of seats in the adjacent beer gardens. Surrounding this is a maze of carnival games, roller coasters, merry-go-rounds, and small stalls selling hot-nuts, famous heart-shaped gingerbreads and pretzels.

Add to this the girls in dirndls and men in lederhosens and it is an overwhelming experience. Your arms also get quite a workout holding up the ginormous glasses they serve the delicious local beers in! Arrive early so you can fully appreciate the entire festival although I advise you to indulge in the beer after you have had your fun on the roller coasters!

- Shan Routledge

Plodding the Daisies
10 Nov 2013

Walking the Daisies is an excellent concept. Not only does it keep my inner 'tree-hugger' content - by plodding over 50km to Darling, you get to be kind to your body before a weekend of heavy indulgence and mischievousness.

When the first Daisy Walkers set off back in 2008, the route wasn’t all too inspiring. A two day schlepp along the R27. Luckily the walk has grown enough for an alternative route, which is rather exceptional and there are segments which I’d recommend as a little weekend stroll.

To get to your destination you have to grab your comfiest pair of Hi-Tec’s and get your camera ready for our immaculate West Coast, some sandy dunes and a whole load of well-trodden trails surrounded by our prickly fynbos friends. 

The segment which made me smile constantly, begins on the northern border of the Koeberg Nature Reserve and then follows for the next 14km to Silverstroom Resort (camping and caravanning). This jaunt follows a coastal jeep track which will appeal to anyone, no-matter their fitness level. From rocky pools for a dip to some striking sea-cliffs, it's a couple of kilometres that effortlessly makes you forget that Table Mountain is still staring over your shoulder.

– Kai Fitchen
Photo by Wesley Davis

Kai Fitchen won Readers’ Choice in Nightjar Adventurer 2013. To nominate someone for the 2014 awards, go to

Southern Sun
9 Nov 2013

I am not much of a “go on holiday and stay in a hotel” kind of person, but The Southern Sun Hotel in Durbs is definitely my exception to the rule. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be able to wake up every morning and have the option of either stepping out the door straight onto the Golden Mile Promenade, or spending a lazy day at the pool deck, surrounded by a panoramic view of the city?

The hotel has a total of 734 rooms, two breakfast venues, two fully equipped gyms, three swimming pools (1 heated), 15 conference venues, eleven restaurants and bars, free WiFi and is soon opening up the Camelot Spa, which sounds like heaven.

There’s no argument here really, so if you want to treat yourself on holiday, this would be the hotel to choose.

 – Daniella Toscano

Salomon XT Wings 3
8 Nov 2013

Review: Salomon XT Wings 3 trail-running shoes

Having rashly entered the 50km Three Peaks Race, I was disappointed to discover my only trail-running shoes were short of a sole. So, I hurried down to Cape Union Mart, where the assistant recommended a pair of lurid blue Salomon XT Wings 3. Normally as a matter of principle, I ignore whatever these assistants recommend and choose anything else instead, but I was in such a hurry I succumbed to his advice. I’m very glad I did, because these shoes came up trumps.

The chevron-patterned outsoles provided a firm grip, giving me confidence descending the steep muddy slopes of Devil’s Peak and slippery boulders of Platteklip. The hard rubber protective toe caps meant I didn’t break any toes when I struck a rock, staggering down the Lion’s Head. The gusset stopped small stones and debris working its way under my heel. And the quick-pull lace and pouch system meant I didn’t have to worry about my laces snagging on fynbos and coming undone. The shoes were a bit harsh on the joints on the tar sections, but I was happy to trade that for the security and comfort on the mountain. I didn’t win, mind you, but that probably wasn’t the fault of the shoes.

Overall, I’d happily recommend the Salomon XT Wings 3 if you’re predominantly running off-road.

 – Reviewed by Matthew Holt


How doth the little crocodile
7 Nov 2013

How doth the little crocodile… protect those eyes and ears? Well, this one, about 1m in length, was photographed in the Okavango River next to the pier with a flashlight shining directly into one eye. You can see the nictitating membrane, which also protects the eyeball underwater without cutting out vision completely. A reflecting mechanism inside the eye makes for better night vision, while in the daytime the pupil narrows vertically, like a cat's.

Those eyes, ears and nostrils on top of the head allow almost total submersion while hunting. With highly developed senses of smell and hearing, there are also special muscles that raise and lower special flaps over the eardrums for watertight protection – worthy of the envy of any diver who has suffered the agonies of ear pain.

Green With Envy
6 Nov 2013

There are so many great little spots in Durban to go grab a coffee with friends, and my latest discovery was the gem which is ‘Green with Envy’.  Upon arrival my friends and I were in awe by the peaceful miniature rainforest we found ourselves in… the further we explored, the more excited we became about our new refreshing and charming coffee spot. ‘Green with Envy’ not only has a great greenhouse resembling a café, but also a quirky art gallery, small gift shop and a neat nursery. We couldn’t help but enjoy ourselves and laugh away a couple of hours under the trees along with friendly and caring staff!

– Ashleigh Bargate

Various Viewpoints
5 Nov 2013

Various viewpoints in Durban

Durban has some of the most breath-taking views which I am in awe of time and time again! The chance to see the extent of Durban’s coastline, Moses Mabhida stadium and the harbour, whether at the break of dawn, sunset or under the stars, cannot be missed! First up is ‘The Cube’ on Innes Road which not only offers a great lookout point but also showcases the work of some local artists. The small park on Currie Road, just past Surrey Mansions, also holds the promise of a spectacular view. Lastly, and my top contender, is ‘The Viewpoint’, also on Currie Road, which presents a view of the majority of this beautiful city as well as a great picnic spot for some time with loved ones.

 – Ashleigh Bargate
Photo by Calum Oberholzer

4 Nov 2013

There’s so much to explore!                                                  

Capetonians are snobbish and full-of-themselves; I can say this because I’m one of them! This self-importance is largely justified by the exciting and diverse beauty which surrounds us. Mountain-biking, trail running, a superb coastline, paragliding,  and the list goes on. What’s got me hooked is our hills!  I’ve spent hours scrambling up them, hanging off them and happily damaging myself on them. 

Training for my big mountain expeditions is pretty simple; you run up a lot of mountains. What’s nice about this is I have fun and get fit. On top of it we are spoilt for choice!

“If we just had snow, we’d live in paradise,” a typical snobby Capetonian catch phrase. Paradise was sprinkled all over the Cape this year, even TM! Immediately, my Osprey pack was stuffed to the brim with rope, axes and my warm CapeStorm High-Down, ready for Jonkershoek. Steep climbs began and with my lungs feeling energised, a day of snow, climbing and utter guilt that I hadn’t played around this part of the world more, began! 

That day, my snobbish love for the Cape swelled up like a fat blister I found on my foot, that evening.  

– Kai Fitchen

Kai Fitchen won Readers’ Choice in Nightjar Adventurer 2013. To nominate someone for the 2014 awards, go to

Kai prepares to his next adventure
3 Nov 2013

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” – Helen Keller

KAPE 2 ATACAMA has been a rough year in the making. An expedition like K2A involves a lot of TLC. From building the right team, fund raising, ironing out logistics for 8 months at sea and on the road.

Training for everything from those big snowy peaks to prepping for the Cape to Rio (Say, what?!?). Ensuring I have the lightest and best gear and then *most importantly*, tirelessly searching for at least one inspirational quote for the all important Facebook page . (I’m still unaware of the importance of those silly hash-tags.)

I’m living my passion and my head is always submerged in K2A prep. I’m stubborn and obsessed with making next year as successful  as possible, however, with this tunnel-vision comes the dilemma of not enjoying this wonderful journey I’m on. The people I’ve met this year have been so inspiring and how MY KAPE has grown, is really something to be proud of. So, even when proposals are rejected (which happens a lot!) and when things don’t always go my way… it ultimately comes down to celebrating and embracing uncertainty and failure.

 – Kai Fitchen

Kai Fitchen won Readers’ Choice in Nightjar Adventurer 2013. To nominate someone for the 2014 awards, go to


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