Lamberts Bay, sunset, yo yos, camping, explore, adventure, West Coast, South Africa, travel, gypsified, road tripping, south african road trip, backroad adventures in south africa

Winter wandering along the West Coast: Lamberts Bay camping

On the short (and possibly illegal) drive from Elands to Lamberts Bay, we encountered several cars heavy-laden with surfboards and saw a few stoked-looking bodyboarders changing into and out of wetsuits at Doringbaai.

This spelled only good things for Lamberts, which made Guillaume step a little more firmly on the accelerator.

True as bob, popular surf spot Yo Yos was pumping: 3 – 4ft lines marched into the bay, with a stiff, yet gentle offshore wind combing the perfect a-frame peaks. Surfers whooped as they carved up the playful walls, the sun slowly setting behind them, leaving streaks of incandescent pink, orange, purple and blue in its wake. (This beautiful description courtesy of Guillaume).

We witnessed all of this from the neighbouring municipal camspite, where we were pitching our tent for the next two or three (we hadn’t quite decided yet) nights. Guillaume had gallantly sacrificed his surf to help set up the camp in the last bit of light.

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Elands Bay, Lamberts Bay, West Coast, South Africa, travel, gypsified, road tripping, south african road trip, road signs, backroad adventures in south africa

Winter wandering along the West Coast: Lunch in the Elands Bay cave

After a warm and cosy night at Die Opstal in Paternoster, we packed the bakkie once more and set off bright and early towards Lamberts Bay.

With only 150km to cover, we decided to take it super slow and stop ever so often along the way. Instead of tracing our way back along the R399 via Vredenburg, Guillaume took us on a scenic back road adventure through St. Helena Bay, where the prevalence of Lucky Star branding suggested that this must be the tuna and sardine canning capital of the West Coast.

The chilly morning skies were clear and blue, forming a striking contrast with the rolling green farmlands unfurling to the left and right.

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Paternoster, West Coast, South Africa, travel, gypsified, road tripping, south african road trip, atlantic ocean view

Winter wandering along the West Coast: Paternoster

At the beginning of June, Guillaume and I set out on a little road trip up the West Coast.

We’d been looking forward to it for a while, as it marked an important milestone for us: the end of our long distance relationship.

After living and working in Riversdale for almost two years, Guillaume was back in Cape Town for good and we wanted to celebrate with a bit of adventure.

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Rod's Trail, Betty's Bay, mountains, hiking, overberg, overberg hiking, adventure, travel, explore, fynbos, kogelberg

Snaps: Rod’s Trail, Betty’s Bay

While the past week or so has been a rather stormy one down here in the Western Cape, I must say, we’ve really been blessed with some particularly pleasant winter weather.

And nowhere is a bright winter’s day more beautiful than in Betty’s Bay. Anyone familiar with that side of the world will know that for 80% of the year it’s a high energy zone – all gale force winds and stormy seas. But when it decides to take a breather and… just… rel…ax, it’s seriously the most exquisite place in the world.

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Cute white alpaca at the Alpaca Loom Coffee Shop & Weaving Studio

An adventure of unparalleled cuteness? Alpaca my bags!

It was just before 8am on Heritage Day morning and Marli and I were rushing along Agter Paarl road in an effort to get her to a trail run – that would be starting in about t-10 minutes at Spice Route – on time.

I was still a little groggy and bleary-eyed and not yet able to fully appreciate the picturesque scenery unfolding (at top speed, I might add) around me: spring-green vineyards with hazy purple mountains towering above them, white ducks kicking up concentric waves in otherwise glassy dams, little houses sending tentative columns of smoke up into the blue – preempting the braai fires that would later be lit.

You know, the standard sort of winelands prettiness one can expect from this time of year.

And then I suddenly found myself doing a double take – as though my body responded to what I’d seen before my mind could quite register.

It was a simple black silhouette on a sign post – recognisable in its absolute ridiculousness, unmistakable in its unexpectedness:

“Alpacas!” Marli and I exclaimed in unison.

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The naming of things

“Nadia. What does it mean?” our guide, Nhlanhla ‘Lucky’ Mavusa, asked me as we made our way – slipping and sliding – down a steep embankment to a collection of 4 000-year-old rock paintings in Swaziland’s Nsangwini Valley.

“What does what mean, Lucky?” I replied, a little confused.

“Your name!” he exclaimed.

“Oh! Hmmm… well, I’ve looked it up. In Russian it apparently means ‘hope’ and in some other language it literally means ‘nothing’, which kind of sucks.”

A moment of silence from Lucky.

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The impossible question of the bucket list #BlogVember

The only quick answer to the bucket list question is exactly what Susan Sontag said in the quote above. Word for word.

I’ve always had a sprinkling of wanderlust in my soul, undoubtedly inspired by my parents, who have only ever needed half an excuse to hit the road in search of adventure and never thought twice about lugging their kids around on whirlwind tours – whether it be of Europe, Namibia or the vast network of roads criss-crossing our country. (Thanks Mom and Dad!)

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Living the little things

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The other day I was walking along Sea Point Main Road on a mission to draw money and get face cream or hair conditioner or some such mundane toiletry from Clicks, when I found myself captivated by a series of completely ordinary slice-of-life scenes playing themselves out around me.

The wind was pumping, sending flyers, sweet wrappers and leaves into colourful whirlwinds on the pavement.

Outside a Chinese takeaway shop, two bright red and gold paper lanterns were being bashed to and fro, their long tassels tangling and untangling in the wild dance. Underneath one, a wooden ladder had been set up and on the ladder a man – maybe the owner, maybe a manager, maybe just a good friend – squinted into the oncoming gust. He had a pair of scissors in his hands, and in the split second it took me to walk past, I saw him ascend the rungs and start to trim the tassels.

I suddenly realised that this was a first: I had never seen someone trim the tassels of a Chinese lantern outside a takeaway shop before and wondered at the sight. It was entirely ordinary. Nothing I had ever thought about, let alone, hoped to one day witness myself. Yet there was something poetic in the moment that caught the breath in my throat and made me feel glad I had been a passer-by just then.

A few steps further, I saw a family huddling around a table in KFC. The kids in their swimming costumes looked wild-eyed and elated, while the adults seemed wind-swept and exhausted. One little girl stood on the sill of the large window, leaning against the glass, swaying from side to side, holding an ice cream in her right hand. She momentarily lost control of her momentum, sending the ice cream hand smashing into the window pane and leaving a sticky white smear in its wake. Turning to the scene of the crime, an expression of horror flickered across her face, but almost immediately settled back into dream-like serenity when she saw the ice cream was still pretty much intact.

Shooting her mother a glance, she quickly started wiping the mess she had made with her other hand, probably hoping that no one had noticed. I giggled to myself and longed for the simplicity of ice cream cones and swimming costumes and hiding from the wind on a summer’s day.

Later that evening, while attending a show in Stellenbosch, I found myself zooming in on a guy in the band’s back line, playing the tambourine with all the seriousness of a heart surgeon doing a triple bypass. I was completely mesmerised by the way he seemed to snatch the rhythm up from somewhere mid-air and shake it out with a snap of his wrist, his eyes pinched closed in musical rapture. He was pouring his very soul into the menial task of playing the tambourine and it was beautiful.

Mulling over each of these random occurrences now, I can spot the golden thread stringing them all together like semi-precious stones.

It’s something Guillaume and I talk about a lot and, I guess, it comes down to ‘ living the little things.’ Appreciating the moments between moments, because they are, after all, what life is really made up of.

Just before I started writing this, I got a notification that someone had favourited one of my tweets… a tweet I had sent way back in 2012 (who knew I even tweeted back then – haha!). Serendipitously enough the favourited tweet ties in perfectly with ‘living the little things,’ linking to a post on Letters of Note about an astronaut Dad writing to his one-year-old son.

The quote I shared said: “Basically, I miss the elemental things of Earth that we are blessed with each day on the planet but often take for granted.”

This is preceded by said astronaut dad listing a bunch of things he was homesick for:

fresh air blowing in my face. Green, green grass and swaying trees. Birds chirping. Tulips popping up in spring.

Taking hot showers. Lying on the couch. Falling asleep with two big pillows surrounding my head. Diving into the swimming pool after a long, hot run.

Tinkering in the garden. Looking out over the lake as the sun sets. Feeling the warmth of the sun. Gliding across the water in a kayak with fish jumping in my wake.

All tiny little things we hardly take note of, but no doubt enrich our lives.

Living in an era where we practically have the world at our fingertips and on our doorsteps, it sometimes feels like if we aren’t living an epic life, we’re really not living at all.

So, we update our Facebook feeds with glittering ‘Life Events’ – far-flung travels, anniversaries, degrees, engagements, births, weddings, starting dates of dream jobs.

Our profiles become an unrealistic shining resume of epicness, odes to our greatest moments, while we conveniently gloss over the in-between.

While I’m a big fan of celebrating the big things, I don’t think it should be at the cost of the little things.

In a piece titled, ‘What happens when your epic journey ends and all that changed is the scenery?‘ Chris Colin says if he could give his younger self some tips about travel, the first thing would be:  “stop looking for epic crud.”

He continues:

Travel seems big from the outside — epiphanies, transformations, the radical pffft of the mind blowing. But up close it’s just a bunch of tiny stuff. When’s our train again? How come American money isn’t this colorful? Huh, the squirrels look weird here. Turns out tiny stuff is what life itself is made of.

So, here’s to the little stuff, the moments between moments, the pillows under our heads, the morning cups of coffee, the smiles between strangers, holding hands while crossing a busy road, watering the garden, walking the dog, goodnight kisses, laughing at silly jokes, eavesdropping on conversations in the bus, taking pride in our tiniest tasks.

My grandfather’s passport

It was just over year ago that my Oupa Marius passed away. He breathed his last – a peaceful sigh, my brother said – surrounded by loved ones on the 16th of June 2013, which also happened to be Father’s Day.

While it felt sudden and unexpected to me at the time – I mean, I’d spoken to him just a few days before and he’d said that he was feeling better and would be heading home from the hospital soon – I guess it wasn’t really.

He was going on 89 and had lived a life fuller than most.

In the time he walked this earth he had been many, many things: a husband, father, grandfather. A teacher. A writer. A cultivator of crops. A singer. A laugher of the highest order – it would always start deep in his stomach, bubbling up and inevitably end with him wiping tears from the corner of each eye. A lover of God’s good creation with a passion for exploration.

He was an adventurer and traveller who knew exactly how to get off the beaten track. And if you happened to be with him when the whim to take the road less travelled hit, boy did you just have to hang on and surrender to the ride.

In my oupa’s mind, roads marked with no entry signs in the Kruger National Park only meant better game viewing opportunities. And those who said you couldn’t 4×4 with an Elantra obviously lacked imagination and guts.

I think it’s this part of my grandfather’s character that I adored the most. Cursed with a tendency toward timidity, I have always envied and admired that sort of robustness.

(So much so that, in recent months, when faced with a challenge or posed with an out-of-my-comfort-zone opportunity, I’ve taken on the mantra: “What would Oupa Marius do?”

And always end up thinking: “Actually what wouldn’t he do?”)

Of course this resilience went hand-in-hand with the sort of free spirit you simply couldn’t quite pin down. It was no doubt the driving force that had propelled him and my Ouma Naomi to the furthest reaches of the earth.

I recognise the fluttering of that spirit so poignantly in myself… although I haven’t allowed it to move me nearly as often as I would have liked it to… yet.

So, last year, while spending time with my gran and the rest of the family before and after the memorial service, I was struck by the sudden urge to see, touch, inspect the passports my grandfather had filled over the years.

At first I found this urge weird and completely out of place. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it. So finally decided to ask my gran if she knew where they were and if I could have a look at them.

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Taking up her walking frame she accompanied me to my Oupa’s study. Filled with books, magazines, files, stamps and all sorts of bric-a-brac that he had spent hours poring over, the study had become a place of comfort and commemoration to most of us. A shrine.

She opened one of the desk drawers, scratched around for a bit and finally brought forth a pristinely preserved specimen of the all-too-familiar green booklet.

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Casting a quick look over the front page, my Ouma handed it to me and said it dated back to the late 70s and early 80s. She mentioned a stamp or two I might spot and then left me to indulge my curiosity.

Although the passport had by no means yet been filled, what I found inside captured my wanderlusting imagination.

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From Transkei (yes, you needed a passport to get to the wild coast in the old days) to Turkey, Italy to Iran, Cyprus, Malawi and Bahrain, my grandparents had travelled to a delectable selection of unlikely destinations.

While I remember them visiting Australia and the US in their later years, I had no idea that their taste for adventure had been so all encompassing. I suddenly wished that I had known this earlier. That I could sit down and ask my Oupa about Iran. What was it like back then and if he thought there was any comparison to the politically-isolated place it is today. Which spots I should visit when I finally take those trips to Turkey and Malawi. If Cyprus should feature on my destinations-to-visit list.

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My Ouma must have seen how taken I was with the outdated document and graciously told me to keep it as a memento.

It sits safely on my bedside table and every now and then I turn to it for inspiration.

Although my Oupa was a particularly well-travelled individual there were a few places he (and his passport) never got to explore. A few of the places I simply have to see for myself.

South America with a backpack, for one. Oh, and also India. Morocco, Costa Rica (the sloth sanctuary in particular) and Zanzibar. I’m not too sure about Scandinavia, but I’m willing to bet he wouldn’t mind visiting again. And, of course, gorilla tracking in Uganda.

So, I hope Oupa Marius’ passport is ready for take two, because it’s coming along. A tangible token of his special spirit of adventure.

The story about that one time I hitched a ride in the cockpit

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One of the perks of working as a travel writer for a news website that went into a joint venture with an aviation company, is the fact that I get to book local flights for dirt cheap. They’re called rebates.

Now, the thing with rebates is that once you’ve purchased your pocket-friendly ticket, you have no guarantee of making it onto the flight you’re hoping for… or for that matter any flight following it, until who knows when. If there’s no space, there’s no space. That’s the risk you willingly take. You’re a standby passenger and, well, that could make for some stressful situations at times.

As I found at Lanseria airport on Sunday.

I’d had a wonderful weekend celebrating my lovely little friend, Jerusha’s marriage to her Gideon. The wedding was tearifyingly beautiful and feet-hurtingly fun. The food was fantastic. The music a good mix of Afrikaans sokkie, soft rock, pop and Bollywood.

Happiness! Beautiful bride & dapper groom. A colourful shot from the #sukhdeoraathwedding #latergram

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The only downside – I had to be up at the crack of dawn the next day to find my way back to Lanseria.

After far too few hours’ sleep I headed to the airport and, groggy and bleary eyed, approached the check-in desk.

The dark haired lady behind the counter looked at me with that strange mix of delight and pity, as she shook her head energetically. “No, no sorry. This flight is completely overbooked… and actually to be quite honest, so are all the rest for today. But you can come back just before boarding closes for the next one and we’ll check again.” (Which would only be three hours later).

Ba-boom! Went my heart. What?! This is not right. This is not my luck.

Knowing well my tendency to overthink and hyperventalite, I decided that this was a perfect opportunity to practice a little bit of restraint. To swap my natural inclination toward melancholia for a bout of uncharacteristic sanguinity.

I treated myself to a smoothie at Kauai, settled into one of their nice soft couches and picked up the copy of Eat Pray Love my mom and I once bought together.

That awkward moment you realise you're some sortof stereotype while waiting at Lanseria Airport

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I passed the time and eventually sauntered over to the check-in desk once more, oozing faux calm, exuding false cool.

This time it was a guy, practically a boy.

I stated my case. And again that infuriating mix of disdainful pity and glee. “No ma’am. I’m sorry. This flight is completely full… umm, ja. You’re actually out of luck for today. All the flights are full. Maybe you can try getting onto the 6am one tomorrow morning. But, wait, that also looks pretty choc-n-block. Ja.”

I wanted to reach across the desk and punch the little sucker in the face. Instead I leaned over and said something that surprised even me.

“How about the jump seat?”

The little punk looked up in shock.

“The j-j-jump seat? Ummm… ja, ok, that could be an option. You’ll have to speak to ticket sales.”

So I did. And they said they’d ask the captain. Which they did. And the captain thankfully said yes.

He also instructed the cabin crew to keep me in the back for take-off – something about bad weather.

So I ended up sitting strapped into one of those funny little fold-down seats with an air hostess on either side.

They obviously hadn’t been keen on having their space invaded, but we soon hit it off and had a fat chat. We jabbered away about their jobs and mine and airports and airplanes and holidays and kids and Cape Town and Joburg until they had to leave for trolley service.

Once they’d finished they returned and asked if I wanted to move to the cockpit now.

To be honest, I wasn’t really too keen on trading in my new-found bffs for the certain male chauvinism and arrogance of the pilots. But, gosh. When would I get this opportunity again? To see that view… and all those many little buttons?

“Yes, that would be cool,” I said.

So, off I went, passing all 30-something rows of passengers. What they must have thought, I don’t know, as I nonchalantly entered the cockpit and didn’t re-emerge until landing.

The air steward unfolded a little seat for me, just behind the pilots, placing me squarely between them and the door.

I had to strap myself in – a complicated system of seatbelts crossing over my shoulders, circling my waist and even pinching my crotch. Like I was about to drop bombs in a war zone.

The two pilots swivelled round to take in – from behind their aviator-covered eyes – the nosy passenger who would be encroaching on their sacred space.

At this point, it’s probably worth mentioning my outfit: floral shorts and a white vest. Could I look any more ditsy? Could I look anymore ‘affie plaas’? No. No. I couldn’t.

My Christmas shorts #christmas #summer #floral

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I could almost hear them groaning. And I could feel our collective expectation of an hour-and-a-half of awkwardness enfolding us like the thunder clouds outside enfolded the plane.

Not knowing what else to say, they stiffly explained a few things to me: “this is the autopilot section. This is the button we press to talk to the cabin. There’s another plane passing us on the right. There’s the Vaal River.”

But somewhere over the vast expanses of the Karoo we managed to relax into a comfortable camaraderie.

The one I like to call the Silver Fox (what? He was pretty handsome and had salt-n-pepper hair) had been rather quiet at first, leaving the ‘gawe boerseun,’ his co-pilot, to entertain me, but after a while felt a little left out and started quizzing me on life in Cape Town.

Which were the cool places to go? Where did I live? Why did I think Sea Point was dodgy? Because it really isn’t. Is it hard to meet guys in Cape Town? (yup, even that. Apparently he’d heard this lament from many-a Mother City-based female friend) Did I like my job?

Then we chatted about Brangelina moving to Joburg and some other celeb-related banter.

In between they’d mumble inaudible gibberish into the speakers hovering in front of their mouths, exchanging co-ordinates and wind directions with far-off towers and, I don’t know, passing aircraft?

Table Mountain and Lion’s Head emerged from the distant clouds and they started pointing out landmarks to me once again:

“There’s the Langebaan Lagoon,” the gawe boerseun would say, pointing out the window on his right, after which the Silver Fox would find something to point out on the left: “Paarl, there’s Paarl… and Stellenbosch is just on the other side of that mountain… and there’s Durbanville.”

“There’s… what’s that place called again? Ah, Robben Island,” – Gawe Boerseun.

“There’s Somerset West and Strand and Gordon’s Bay. Oh and Helderberg. I hiked up it once.” – Silver Fox.

“Oh, cool! And look! There’s Hangklip,” – me.

*Kriek kriek*

I’d obviously overstepped a boundary. This was their territory, not mine.

Fortunately, we managed to skim over it quickly enough and in no time we were descending into Cape Town International for the smoothest landing of my life, with a front row view.

Taxiing along the runway, we had fallen into a comfortable silence, which we simply weren’t sure how to break.

I mean, how does one say good bye after the intimacy of the cockpit? I thought of silently folding back my chair and retreating without a word, but that was impossible. Among the million little buttons, there was one to open the door. And I just didn’t know which.

So, we waited.

Finally, the Silver Fox broke the silence.

“Umm… Nadia. I’m going to have to ask you to get up. I drank too much water, you see, and really need the loo.”

*kriek kriek* and then we all burst out laughing. The Silver Fox hurriedly unlatched the door and in a gentlemanly fashion, allowed me to walk first, despite his desperate state.

A throng of passengers swallowed me and swept me along and before I knew it, I had left the plane behind and was navigating the passages of the airport.

And so I will be forever doomed to listen to the captain’s welcome when I board a flight, hoping to one day hear: “Good evening ladies and gentlemen this is your Captain speaking. Welcome aboard this flight. Wind directions blah blah blah. My name is Silver Fox and with me in the cockpit is Gawe Boerseun.”

I don’t know what I’d do. Probably not much. Sit there, smile and remember that one time I hitched a ride in the cockpit and found that there was much more to these muffled voices than weather updates and landing announcements.