5

Midweek Spa Break

We had our bathroom basin replaced on Wednesday last week and couldn’t use it for two days.  So we used this as an excuse to go away for a midweek break.

In the heart of the Cape Winelands, on Route 62,  lies Robertson also known as the Valley of Wine and Roses.  This is where Trip Advisor found us Rosendal Spa which had an attractive package that included Dinner, Bed and Breakfast and 2 spa treatments each.  Just what we needed!

Roses and grapevines have the same type of soil and sun requirements.   Farmers plant rose hedges near the vines not only to make their farmlands look attractive but also to attract bees and to provide a habitat for beneficial insects which will prey on harmful insects that cause damage to the grapes. Robertson is a particularly fertile valley where everything grows well making it a very pretty place to visit.

After driving the hour and half picturesque route we arrived at our stunning accommodation.

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Reception and Restaurant

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View of Rosendal from the other side of the dam

Our room opened onto the pool area and as the weather was hot the pool offered welcome relief.

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Looking toward our room from the pool area

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A bit chilly at first

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But so refreshing

The dam had a variety of birds to entertain us and on a walk around the estate I found some others too.

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A confiding Cape Robin showed up quite frequently

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Black Crowned Night Heron hiding in the reeds

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Red-knobbed Coot

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Cape Canaries in the vines

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Cape Canary

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Red-knobbed coot

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Common Moorhen

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Little Grebe – but I prefer it’s former name – Dabchick

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Female Bishop

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Farm Dam passed on my walk

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Yellow-billed ducks seen on farm dam

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Speckled Mousebird

On Thursday after breakfast I had a facial and Earl a pedicure.   Our therapists were excellent and we enjoyed an hour of pampering.  We then went into Robertson to do a bit of shopping as it offers a slightly larger variety of stores than Bredasdorp.  Even so we struggled to find any that still had men’s shorts in stock!  But we did not return empty handed after finding the required item at Jeep.

 

In the afternoon we went for an African Wood Massage – an hour and a half of pure bliss.

Our meals could be taken in the restaurant or on the deck overlooking the dam.  Even in the evenings it was warm enough to sit outdoors.

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Sunset over the dam

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Earl’s shot of the crescent moon

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The Lamb Shank was delicious

 

We always feel proudly South African when we meet tourists who tell us how much they have enjoyed visiting our country and usually they tell us about the excellent service they receive from establishments they stay at and restaurants they visit.  We met two German girls who were having a very adventurous time.  We gave the some tips on what to do when in Cape Town.

 

Another couple who were our age and from England told us that they’d had a great time up until that day!  I’m sharing their story here as a warning to others who visit our beautiful land.   Crime is a problem here!  Be aware and watch out for scammers! This couple were driving in their hire car from Paarl to Robertson when they a BMW hooted and flashed lights at them, indicating that they wanted them to pull over and stop. Not wanting to break the law they obliged.  “Where are you going?” an official looking man asked.  They told him.  “Well you need a pass to go there.   Follow us and we will show you where to get one.”   They were taken to an ATM. “Put your card in there and your pass will be issued.”   Unfortunately the gentleman obliged and his card was cloned.  He realised this when the machine did not spit it out again.  The scammers, of course, were gone and nowhere to be seen. He went into the bank and his card was cancelled.   Then it was a two hour session at the police station before he could continue his journey.  Please people,  demand badges and names before agreeing to this kind of thing not only in this country but in any one.   Be on your guard and vigilant at all times.  And in this country avoid driving long distances at night.

Naturally this incident upset our new friends but they said that other than that their experiences here had been positive.  They’d enjoyed an amazing trip to The Kruger National Park and were now about to do the Garden Route.   Hopefully, the bad incident will soon be forgotten.

On our way back to Struisbaai I couldn’t resist taking this photograph.

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A refreshing change from your usual scare crow!

 

 

 

 

 

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2

Retiring Adventurously – Homeward Bound

12 January 2015 – Outjo to Robertson to Cape Town

The sun gets up a little later here in Namibia than it does in The Western Cape so we are up at 5 in order to get to the airfield by sunrise.

We pack the Landy – no lift in a luxury vehicle this time – and set off for Outjo.  The canvas roof is on but the windows do not wind up. It is a tad chilly but not uncomfortable but the wind is now not blowing through my hair but rather through my ear!  I am glad that I kept my jersey out and drape it over me for a little extra warmth.  All goes well – the usual cowboy style driving at break-neck speed – but I’m used to this now.  What I do not expect is a slight change in the weather and rain pelting down in big splats onto the windscreen – and no working wipers.  This does not daunt our host and he races on with gay abandon.  Indeed, I do find it quite exhilarating.  Abrie offers me his jacket which I use as a shield at the open window more as wind than rain protection as here the rain comes straight down and does not enter the car at all.  We drive snuggled together for some time and then like magic the skies clear and the rain is gone. Suddenly, Abrie screeches to a halt – there is an apparition in the middle of the road which turns out to be a tall Herero teenager with a bag upon his head.  He is hitch-hiking.  Abrie tells him to jump into the back.  He grins his thanks broadly.

The Landy that took us there

The Landy that took us there

We arrive at the airfield. Phineas, the caretaker, greets us and helps us pack the plane. Earl takes the young man to town where he is to drop off the Landy. The chap who took us to the farm will bring him back and then keep the Landy till Abrie’s return.  Before they go the young Herero gives Phineas his cell and he poses for a photo in front of the plane.  I decide to get one of him too.

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The young man is kitted out in his best town clothes, cell phone plugged into his ears, music blaring like any modern teen.

Sunrise at Outjo

Sunrise at Outjo

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We are soon in the air again.  The mini-gymnast troupe are touring with someone else now.  I fancy myself a seasoned flyer and take my seat with not a care in the world.  What I experienced this weekend has dispelled all my phobias and I will live dangerously and fearlessly from this day on!

The Robertson Valley

The Robertson Valley

Breede River runs through it

Breede River runs through it

We fly over Springfield

We fly over Springfield

Abrie lands the plane and taxis it straight into the hangar – without bumping another plane.   The fit is perfect.   We drive to Springfield have a cup of tea, pick up some wine and we’re off back to Cape Town.   We take a scenic route via Franschoek. We marvel at the contrast between our home province and Namibia – Both have their own unique beauty – the one rugged, flat and dry, full of character the other green, lush and gentle with towering mountains.  Wow – I just love that I get to experience it all!

Franschoek Valley

Franschoek Valley

4

Struisbaai Gathering of Three Generations – A Visit to Springfield Wine Farm

Earl rushed me to be ready by 7:30 and dragged me off to the local doctor’s office.   Of course it was closed so we went to the harbour to check out what the fishing boats were doing and then went to OK Grocer for freshly baked croissants.  By this time the surgery had opened and Dr Fourie kindly took a look at my injured hand.  “Best to have it x-rayed,” she said so after gulping down a croissant and jam we headed to Bredasdorp.  I am happy to report that there are no bones broken.  We called Lauren and Allan with the good news.  While waiting for them to join us we had a quick cup of coffee at Wimpy – Earl ordered breakfast. It took ages to come and he hadn’t finished when the kids arrived.  Service at Wimpy Bredasdorp much to be desired!   Anyway, the kids parked their car and we headed off to Robertson where Abrie Bruwer was expecting us for lunch.

Allan is a bit of a wine buff and a huge fan of Springfield so this visit was a special treat.  Many years ago Earl had done some refrigeration installations for Abri and he is also a fellow Struisbaai fisherman.

The drive to Robertson from Struisbaai is very picturesque and of course we did some high speed bird-watching too. We totalled over 30 birds of prey of which most were jackal buzzards but there were also some steppe buzzards, black shouldered kites, yellow-billed kites and pale chanting goshawks. There were also Egyptian Geese, Spurwinged Geese and blue cranes aplenty.

Blue Crane - Our National Bird

Blue Crane – Our National Bird

Steppe Buzzard

Steppe Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard

Jackal Buzzard

Pale Chanting Goshawk

Pale Chanting Goshawk

 

We were served with chilled Miss Lucy wine and Abri cooked fresh yellowtail in a way that we’d never experienced before. He sliced the fish thinly, coated it with a mixture of 1 and half cloves of fresh garlic, salt and vinegar mashed in a pestle and mortar and then dipped each piece in flour before shallow frying it in olive oil. It was served with pumpkin and salad and was to die for.

After lunch he took us on a tour of the farm.   Allan was in heaven!

Today the  winemaking is an incredibly sophisticated science. The equipment used is mind boggling.  Abri is a fourth generation winemaker and his children are all training to join the family business.  It certainly is in their blood.

Lauren and Allan enjoying a glass of Miss Lucy

Lauren and Allan enjoying a glass of Miss Lucy

Abri Frying Fish

Abri Frying Fish

A delicious lunch

A delicious lunch

View from the house

View from the house

Springfield 1

This sprayer negotiates the narrow aisles between the rows of vines – amazing

Sprayer

 

Lauren vines

Examining the crop

Fencer

This incredible contraption creates tensions the support wires for the vines using a winch and a stain gauge which regulates the strain on the wire on the wire so it does not break.  The I beam down the side of the tractor allows the winch mechanism to cover three rows of vines. 

Creating fence

First the bottles are washed

First the bottles are washed

Bottles ready for packing

We watched the wine going in, being capped and finally they are ready for packing

We were also shown the cooling tanks which were huge and quite fascinating.   Everything is so high tech.  No more hand picking the grapes and stamping them with bare feet!

It was certainly an interesting day.  Thank you Abri!

 

 

 

 

 

4

Weekend Breakaway – Good Hope Farm Robertson

We decided on the spur of the moment to take off for the weekend.  We love Robertson for the bass fishing and bird watching opportunities.  Over the years we have stayed at a few places but Retreat Cottage is one of our favourites.  This time we decided to go to a place we haven’t been to for a number of years – Good Hope Olive and Wine Farm.  We first stayed at their Mountain Cottages which had a ‘loo with a view’. We got to know the owner, Shirlee but she has since sold and we wanted to stay at the Fishing Cottages which are somewhat more rustic but attractive as they are right on the Bass Dam.

I phoned to book at lunch time and by 3 o’clock we were packed on the road with very little packed in the way of self-catering!  So after checking in we headed to the town of Robertson for dinner.   The Bourbon Restaurant came highly recommended and we were not disappointed.  It had a varied menu. Earl settled for Lamb Shank and I had a sort of Pitta filled with delicious middle eastern vegetables served with tzatziki.

After dinner coffee

After dinner coffee

Our accommodation was rustic but comfortable.  The stone floors meant did nothing for warmth but we had a heater and wonderful electric blankets.  Between the two semi-detatched huts there was indoor/outdoor kitchen – wonderfully equipped and perfect for our needs.  The Dam Cottages would be perfect for a group of friends who wanted to share some time together.

A beautiful mountain setting

A beautiful mountain setting

The view of the dam was fabulous.  We were the only guests on the farm this being very low season.  In summer and on long weekends it is hard to get accommodation in the Robertson area.

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Situated next to the bass dam

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The Dam

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A hammock could be fun

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Enjoying morning coffee on the bench with a view

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Master Chef Earl cooking breakfast

Master Chef Earl cooking breakfast

Good Hope Farm is a working farm and one wakes to sound  turkeys gobbling and cocks crowing.  There are pigs and sheep and horses too.

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Cheeky Pig

horses

horses

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Christmas Dinner?

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Good Looking Sheep

 

Earl threw in a line or two but the aim was to do a bit of bird watching.  There were a few birds like coots, herons, Egyptian Geese and darters on the dam. On Sunday morning we were amused to see a heron give way to the superior claim to the float to a darter.

Heron on a float in the middle of the dam

Heron on a float in the middle of the dam

The darter approaches

The darter approaches

The heron flies off and the darter takes the perch

The heron flies off and the darter takes the perch

Darter

Darter

The area is good for all the Karoo specials.  I was hoping to find the Karoo Robin and I was in luck.  The pale chanting goshawk is also common in the area.  Here are some birds that we had fun finding.

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Cape Sparrow

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Bokmakierie

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Bokmakierie

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African Pipit

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Familiar chat

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Familiar Chat

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Black Headed Heron

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Black-shouldered Kite

Karoo Robin

Karoo Robin

Pale Chanting Goshawk

Pale Chanting Goshawk

 

Pale Chanting Goshawk

Pale Chanting Goshawk

Rock Kestrel

Rock Kestrel

 

stone chat

Stone Chat

Hereunder some photographs of the beautiful scenery – the mountains stood out clearly and  we were stunned by the stunning autumn colours of the vines and trees. The Elgin area displayed some beautiful trees in their rustic apparel.

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2

End of School Holidays

For a teacher school holidays are a time to recharge batteries – or so that is what we are told.  But actually when you are a wife, mother and involved grandmother it is a time to catch up with your other life!  Like having your hair done, getting a manicure, servicing the car and catching up with friends and family.  Did I do any of these things –  I did catch up with two friends and I had the car valeted.  Many hours were also spent preparing material for the new term but most importantly I also spent a fair amount of time  getting  my visitor’s Visa for England organised.  This is not as simple as it sounds.  There is a comprehensive application form to be filled in online, a fee to be paid and an appointment with the Visa4UK company to be made.   Supporting documents have to accompany the application and getting them together is a mission.  If you do not have hotel bookings you have to prove that the person you are staying with is a British citizen has a job and can support you.  I am eternally grateful to my friend, Linda for supplying me with all the requirements within 24 hours of receiving my requesting email.  Then  24 hours later after filling in the online application  twice because I was thrown off right at the end of my first try and had to start all over again, I was able to pay the fee and make an appointment with said company.   My appointment was on Friday at 1 p.m. the last day of the holidays so I did not have to take an afternoon off school to get it done!  (They are in the city and close at 3 p.m.)

My darling husband took me in to the city for my appointment .   The weather was gorgeous and we were early.  While we were waiting for my appointment  we had a cup of coffee and a croissant.  “”Let’s go to Robertson for the weekend,”” he suggested.   So we googled the number of our favourite cottage on a farm in Robertson and were in luck – they could accommodate us.  So after my one hour appointment we raced home, packed and were on the road by 3:45.

Retreat Guest Cottage can be found on a  peach, apricot, grape and citrus farm  at the far end of a dirt road jutting off the Robertson-to-McGregor tar highway.    It boasts two lovely bass fishing dams and we have been going there on and off for several years.  The cottage is rustic but comfortable and we just love the peace and tranquility of the setting.   The main reason for weekending here is for the fresh water fishing but also for the wonderful birdlife.

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Not the Arniston Hotel – but quite comfortable thank you

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Enough space to relas

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Cosy Kitchen

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Personal Chef and Caterer

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View from stoep

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View on other side of cottage toward the mountains

Rusty kept us company all weekend

Rusty kept us company all weekend

Earl was fishing at before I opened my eyes

Earl was fishing at before I opened my eyes

Rusty and I took a walk to find Earl - Rusty invited me in for a swim but I declined

Rusty and I took a walk to find Earl – Rusty invited me in for a swim but I declined.

The birds were a bit nervous of the dog walking with me but some of them still obliged by posing for portraits.

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Cape Turtle Dove catching the early rays of sun

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Common Waxbill

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Tree full of yellow canaries

Double Collared Sunbird in moult

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Bokmakierie – taken a long way off

Grey-backed cisticola

Grey-backed cisticola

Stonechat

Stonechat

Retreat Cottage

Retreat Cottage Back

Front of Retreat Cottage

Front of Retreat Cottage

Succulent Garden next to the cottage

Succulent Garden next to the cottage

We took the scenic route home on Sunday afternoon and stopped to photograph one or two birds.  We drove through the picturesque little town of McGregor which was rather sleepy on this lovely Autumn day.

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Pale Chanting Goshawk - Common in this area

Pale Chanting Goshawk – Common in this area

McGregor

McGregor

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Interesting shop fronts

IMG_0284So after a wet and stormy start we ended the holiday with a lovely sunny weekend and it was back to school on Monday!