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Bushveld Oranges
19 Jul 2013
 
     

Bushveld oranges – nothing quite like them.

Driving from Hoedspruit to Ohrigstad, it seems like every single resident of the province is on the roadside selling oranges, and after a few kilometres I noticed that these oranges were nearly the size of my head, so I pulled over to investigate further. Large they were indeed, and juicy, soft and sweet. What surprised me more was that the orange & curio stalls lined the road right through the pass that holds the Strydom tunnel – as a Western Caper I am used to the mountain passes being rather devoid of humanity! Needless to say I returned home with a massive bag of oranges.

 – Erik

Spring has arrived
17 Jul 2013
 
     

Check out these spring flowers – apparently it promises to be a great flower season. This pic was taken at Enjo Nature Farm, in the heart of the Biedouw Valley last week. And it proves one thing – you don’t have to go all the way to Namaqualand to see the daisies; when it comes to flower-viewing this little-visited valley in the northern Cederberg is a well-kept secret. Less than four hours from Cape Town the pet- and kid-friendly Enjo Nature Farm is a wonderful base if you want to enjoy the floral splendour. The lovely thatch cottages are surrounded by orange, purple and white daisies, there a fantastic walks and if conditions are right the farm owner, Moritz, a qualified pilot, might be persuaded to take you for a flip in his plane. Now that’s ‘doing the flowers’ differently!

More info: www.soulcountry.info
– Fiona McIntosh

Herb Tours
11 Jul 2013
 
     

New herb tours in the Cape Winelands

Yeah yeah, you’ve done the wine tastings, the cheese tastings, the olive tastings and the chocolate tastings. But when was the last time you did a blind tasting of local herbs? If trying to distinguish between oregano and sage, tatsoi and watercress, parsley and coriander appeal then get down to the Allée Bleue Wine Estate for a guided tour of their herb garden. Although better known for it’s wines and fruit, the Franschhoek estate is one of Western Cape’s biggest herb producers – as you’ll discover on the funky tour of their hydroponic tunnels.  In season about a ton of herbs is harvested every week so next time you’re browsing the fridges of Pick ‘n Pay, Checkers, Fruit and Veg City or Spar searching for fresh ingredients for your latest curry or tasty pasta, you’ll have a good idea where the herbs come from.

The tours, which are followed by lunch, washed down with some of the estate’s wines of course, are R185 per person. Tel (021) 874 1021 or email [email protected]. www.alleebleue.com.

 – Fiona McIntosh

Air Fever!
10 Jul 2013
 
     

Air shows are incredibly voyeuristic – everyone is wonder of the advances in technology, the sleek new wings. And I love the thrilling formation flying displays. I’ve been to air shows all over the world – last year I was even fortunate enough to watch the ominous black wing of the Stealth Bomber blast through in the skies over San Francisco.

Granted the Margate edition of the KZN Winter Air Show couldn’t match that star-studded line-up – though they did achieve a world first formation when an Impala and a L29 jet flew together – but, despite the ominous weather, it was a crowd puller none-the-less. The cloud had a silver lining; with some of the planes unable to make it to the show due to bad weather in other parts of the country the organisers let spectators in for free and by mid-morning we were watching thrilling aerobatics and parachute displays in beautiful blue skies. What a bargain! The final KZN Winter Air Tour of 2013 is this Saturday, 13th July and it promises to be a good one.

 – Fiona McIntosh

www.facebook.com/KZNWinterAirTour

Die Koffiekan
4 Jul 2013
 
     

On the outskirts of Modimolle, near the bridge, is a small home improvement centre, and in the corner is my favourite coffeeshop in the area - Die Koffiekan. The coffeeshop is located in the corner of a nursery and birdpark, with several exotic species. 

For example, here I learned that Toucans live in flocks of around 6 birds, and lay 2 - 4 eggs each year which are cared for by both parents. Also, the spectacular beak only develops after the birds hatch. This would be a great place to take the kids so that you can enjoy your coffee in peace while they are distracted!

The best part? Cinnamon-sugar pancakes at R4 each - so that you can order a whole plateful :-)

Thrilling Waterberg
3 Jul 2013
 
     

The Waterberg is classic bush veld, with lots of rugged trees that definitely have some shrub genes in them, and a never-ending sequence of rolling hills, interspersed with flat mini-savannas and a wealth of streams (hence, the Waterberg). This is not the lush green of the tropical coast, nor is it the majestic peaks of the Cape Mountains, but this landscape has a uniquely African feel to it, and it holds a special place in my heart. This is also adventure country, with zip slides, quad biking, mountain biking, 4x4ing, and the like on offer. A place then where you can come to shed yourself of any thoughts of your usual 9 to 5.

For example, I went to the Thaba Kwena crocodile farm to look for a wallet... I mean, to take close-up photos of the crocs, sorry! There are several wildlife sanctuaries in the area, where you can have some pretty intimate educational encounters, but do remember to call ahead - for most of these guys, the main goal is to sanctuary-ise the wildlife, and tourists (understandably) take second place. Especially cool are the elephant rides, and the zip slides, but there are also quad bikes, hikes and a million other ways to burn a calorie and raise the heart rate. Go wild, so to speak!

Churchills
2 Jul 2013
 
     

CHURCHILLS

Situated just off Windermere road in the east coast city of Durban; Churchill’s is a great place to enjoy a cup of tea, sipped from antique, china cups and eat” home-grown muffins” served in vintage flower pots.

Every inch of the coffee shop is exciting to look at- with posters from your grandparent’s days hanging from the doors as well as antique furniture, jewellery and kitchenware on display. If you’re really into the old-school, there are even items up for purchase. It’s one of my favourite coffee shops in Durban because it’s affordable, not too far from the beach and embodies the laid-back lifestyle of the city.

 – Daniella Toscano

Hollywood's Cheetahs
1 Jul 2013
 
     

Ever wonder where Hollywood’s animals go when they’re not lighting up the Silver Screen. Well, most likely, they’re taking a well-deserved break in the Natal Lion Park, a few kilometres from Ashburton. I had the opportunity of meeting Sasha, one of the cheetahs who starred in Duma (2005). After initially a tad reluctant, she warmed to me quite quickly, and I even received a sandpaper lick on the face. The cheetahs are not always available for viewing and are kept under the loving eye of their caretaker, Silvana Stockley. However, the park is open for general tourism at R100 a car. I was lucky enough to visit a few months after a new litter of lion cubs had come into the world, and had a ball playing with these fascinating creatures. At the same time, a few staff, maintaining gleeful rapport with passers-by, were attending to a sick baby rhino. Everywhere I looked there was something else to behold, in this menagerie of star cheetahs and other rare mammals. If you’re ever in the area, take a trip to the park, situated in the valley of a thousand hills and home to a thousand wonders.  

 – Matthew Jones

The jungle bites
30 Jun 2013
 
     

Two weeks after finally finding our way out of the jungle I’m still pulling out thorns. I’ve never been anywhere so aggressive as the Belize rainforest. Everything bites – even the palms. The jungle has sophisticated ways of repelling unwanted visitors. The way was littered with booby traps. As the vines tripped you up, the strangler fig did its best to garot you; and when you lost your footing on the slippery karst pavement, there would be a prickly trunk perfectly positioned for you to grasp in order to arrest your fall. The worst were the Warrie Cohune Palm and the 'give-and-take' tree. The fallen fronds of the latter are covered in poisonous razor-sharp thorns and have a nasty habit of whipping up around your calf when you stand on them, temporarily paralysing your leg. Great fun when you’re trekking for days! Nature’s humour is evident in the fact that the only known antidote to this poison is found in the tree's own sap. 

 – Fiona McIntosh

Green House at Babylonstoren
29 Jun 2013
 
     

The Cape winelands are beautiful at any time of year, but at their most picturesque in early winter colours so now’s the perfect time for a leisurely tour. Stopping off at the Green House at Babylonstoren, on the Simondium Road near Klapmuts is a real treat. The informal eaterie won the Boschendal Style Award in association with Visi at the 2012 Eat Out awards and the setting is spectacular, with guests sharing the space with herbs and exotic fruits and vegetables that struggle to survive in the main garden, or eating out under the shade of the surrounding oak trees. Take a tour of the magnificent gardens then enjoy a cuppa, fresh juice or homemade ginger beer as you construct your own sandwiches from their selection of freshly baked breads, cheeses, charcuterie and garden salads.

The Green House is open seven days a week from 10h00 until 16h00.

Text: Fiona McIntosh
Image: Shaen Adey

www.babylonstoren.com

The Test Kitchen
29 Jun 2013
 
     

British born chef Luke Dale-Roberts trained in England and Switzerland before practising his art in Asia. He has been crafting food around Cape Town since 2006, and has collected numerous awards. His latest restaurant, The Test Kitchen in Woodstock, has done the same. The word on the street is that this is one of the most interesting fine dining menus around – Luke says the name refers to his desire to experiment with the menu.

In December, The Test Kitchen won Best Restaurant of the Year at the 2012 Eat Out Dstv Food Network Restaurant Awards. Then, on in April, the famed chef went one better, scooping the ‘Cacao Barry One To Watch award’ at World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards gala in London. Each year one restaurant is given this vote of confidence, signifying the belief of the team of 900 gourmet judges that it will be in the top 50 ranked restaurants on the planet the following season. Not bad for a restaurant that’s only two and half years old!

 – Fiona McIntosh

www.thetestkitchen.co.za, www.theworlds50best.com

Jessica's
29 Jun 2013
 
     

Jessica’s

I drove the R62 recently and was surprised to discover how many really top-notch restaurants there are tucked along the funky route. One of my favs is Jessica’s on Montagu’s main street. It was a chilly night so we ate in the cozy dining room surrounded by the works of local artists, but on previous occasions I’ve dined under the stars in the leafy courtyard. You can order al a carte, but my advice is be adventurous and try one of the tasting menus. Chef Heinrich-Werner‘s creations compete with those of the top chefs in the Mother City and included a scrummy prawn and chorizo starter and one of the best Thai curries I’ve ever tasted. Game features strongly on the menu and the signature dish is typically Karoo – a duo of chargrilled lamb loin and braised leg of lamb (which has been cooked at a low temperature for 36 hours) served with mille feuille potato and rosemary jus. Worth driving all the way to Montagu for!

Text: Fiona McIntosh
Image: Shaen Adey 

Jessica’s Restaurant, 023 614 1805, www.jessicasrestaurant.co.za

Excelsior Manor Guesthouse
27 Jun 2013
 
     

There are very few things in life that beat a farm stay for relaxation. Granted, a pampered retreat is lovely and does the job, but the quickest way to switch off from the daily grind is to sit on a stoep drinking a glass of red wine and watching the rhythms of harvest season playing out in front of you. Farm stays definitely suit some personalities better than others, as a farm tends to be surprisingly vibrant, with voices coming from the orchards during harvest season, tractors 'putting along merrily, and some kind of animal trying to get your attention. However, if you like to engage with the scenery rather than just look at it, this might be just what you need. 

We arrived at Excelsior just in time to find the tasting room still open, but with a twist. We had hardly entered when we found an alchemist’s kit handed to us. I may be using my artistic license here, but an alchemist is exactly what I felt like as I stood in front of three barrels of red wine with my measuring tube and formula sheet, constructing my own unique blend of red wine, which turned out to be even more unique when I turned a tap the wrong way and had wine spurting out the top of my bottle! Perhaps I should not have insisted on trying all six of the suggested blends...

Nonetheless, my blend is now sitting proudly in my collection. After the wine tasting/blending, we ventured off to explore the farm. We were kindly provided with a vehicle, as my little car would not suffice for the scale of exploration that was offered to us. We cruised along orchards, through gates and around fields, and eventually wound up on a tar road miles from where we started. Best of all, we were encouraged to liberate some clementines if we found any (they were Delicious), and never once felt unwelcome even once we were distinctly on the neighbouring farm. Sadly we had to leave for Joburg the next day, because I would have loved to borrow a bicycle and go mad on the network of dirt tracks.

Pictured: The evening glow over the tasting room

Angala Boutique Hotel
26 Jun 2013
 
     

Angala Boutique Hotel & Guesthouse - http://www.angala.co.za/

We dedicated the last week to exploring the magical kingdom of the Cape Winelands. With more scenery than you'd think possible, and hundreds of things to do, this made for a jam packed week. We started with a trail ride in Tulbagh, and spent our first night near Franschhoek.

Our destination of choice was Angala Boutique Hotel, which is situated behind the Vrede en Lust wine estate, so that you drive through the vineyards and emerge on the slopes of Simonsberg. From this height, you have the most spectacular view across the farm dam and all the vineyards onto the majestic Boland mountains. The restaurant and rooms are nestled in trees which are beautifully merged into well kept gardens that have been cleverly designed to ensure that the rooms have added privacy without spoiling the view. There is even an eco-pool, and by this I mean a swimming pool that uses a carefully maintained gravel bed with a selection of aquatic plants to filter the water, making for a crystal clear yet chemical free swimming experience.

We knew we still had a lot of exploring to do, but it was mighty hard to drag ourselves away from the luxury and tranquility of Angala!

 

Sad News from Eagle Encounters
24 Jun 2013
 
     

In their June newsletter, we received sad news from Eagle Encounters - to see what these amazing people do, check out www.eagle-encounters.co.za

Rest In Peace, Brutus

We are all heartbroken that Brutus, our beautiful, gentle-natured Martial Eagle, died recently.

Brutus came to us from a wildlife sanctuary in Dubai where Dubai Port Authorities had intercepted him and 3 other Martial Eagles. All 4 eagles had been crammed into tiny boxes marked ‘Finches’, where they couldn’t even stand up. These poor birds were being smuggled from Zambia to a collector in Europe and, according to the records; they had been squashed in the boxes for 2 weeks without food or water!

In the beginning, Brutus was very wary of us, which was to be expected considering his history. Over time, however, he grew to trust us and we had the great privilege of being able to love and enjoy this amazing eagle. Last month Brutus picked-up a rare strain of e-coli infection, which we managed to isolate and treat successfully. Unfortunately, this infection must have severely compromised his immune system because he then also contracted Aspergillosis (a lung infection) that hit him hard and we were unable to save him.

Brutus was greatly loved and will be sorely missed by all of us at Eagle Encounters. Our thanks go to Caz Knights & Nigel Fossey for being Brutus’s sponsor over the past years.

If you are in the Cape Winelands, do go visit Eagle Encounters:

http://www.nightjartravel.com/activities/eagle-encounters

Doyle’s Delight
23 Jun 2013
 
     

The welcome that we received in wonderfully laid back Belize lulled us into a false sense of security and we were somewhat taken off-guard in our attempt to climb Doyle’s Delight, the country’s highest peak. The 1124m mountain lies deep in the jungle, on the border with Guatemala. It’s only been climbed a couple of times before, and now I understand why.

Suffice to say that we didn’t actually manage to find the mountain despite the best efforts of two local ‘guides’ - Mayan villagers both of whom had topped out several times in the past – and a unit of the Belize Defence Force assigned to protect us from illegal loggers. After a week of wandering round the jungle being munched by mozzies and ticks, scratched by thorns and soaked by 24-hour thunderstorms we returned dejected and convinced that the only ‘delightful’ thing at all about the commando style expedition was sighting this rare black orchid, the national flower of Belize.

And in case you are wondering, the peak was coined Doyle’s Delight by a botanist who was helicoptered to the summit (definitely the way to go!) In his book, The Lost World (1912) Sir Arthur Conan Doyle quotes ‘there must be something wild and wonderful such as this, and we’re the men to find it out!’ Not this time!

 – Fiona McIntosh

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