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“A portrait of our children, once a week, every week, in 2014″

Willow: A shy moment
James: Beach baby
Bailey: Jonkershuis for early supper
Robert: Bedtime rituals

— Emily

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i heart christmas… 5 more sleeps!

Hello wonderful readers, we are so excited to let you know that we have lined up some AMAZING prizes for this year’s I Heart Christmas festivities!

The fun will kick off on Monday 1 December and every day there will be a new giveaway. So tell everyone you know and enter, enter, enter. Of course there will be some house rules (see below).

Have fun, and good luck!

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The rules are simple:

1. Anyone residing in South Africa can enter.
2. Only one entry per person, per giveaway is allowed.
3. You can enter all the giveaways but if you are a lucky winner of one, you won’t be eligible to win another. It’s only fair.
4. Winners will be announced the following day after each giveaway.

Picture credit: Oh Happy Day!

— Liza

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lunch in the winelands

I’m always loathe to say we’re starting a new ‘series’ of posts on the blog, as it’s quite a commitment to keep it up but Lunch in the Winelands is beneficial on so many levels so here we go…

We’ve got a list of wine farms we’re keen to visit but never any time to actually go out there and enjoy them! A couple of weeks ago we finally got to tick Middelvlei off the list. We booked for the Boere Braai lunch – doesn’t that sound yum? Middelvlei is situated very close to the Route 44 market, so it’s easy to find. They’ve got a lovely big sandpit for kids as well as plenty of lawn for running around, goats and chickens to feed, scooters to ride, marshmallows to toast on the fire and even a tractor ride (by prior arrangement).

The food was phenomenal. We started off with homemade potbrood cooked on the fire and served with pates and jams. We then moved onto the main course of braaibroodjies (also cooked on the fire), chicken kebabs, lamb chops, green salad, potato salad and pumpkin fritters. And we finished off with coffee and creme brulee. A serious feast!

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— Liza

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“A portrait of our children, once a week, every week, in 2014″

Bailey and Robert: Sometimes they play nicely together
Willow: Pink ice cream at Hout Bay harbour
James: Making friends with a tiny speckled piggy and a duck

— Liza

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Day 4: a night we’ll never forget

This morning we woke up to the sound of birdsong and mooing cows. Rather different to the usual song of crying babies that we’re used to. After breakfast Frikkie and another guide at the camp, Ernest, took us on a walking tour around the camp. Zingela is made up of three base camps constructed along the Tugela, each with its own accommodation and eating areas. They all have their own style and are as comfortable and picturesque as the last.

The tour took us all morning – up hills and down valleys, and this was before the three hour hike we knew awaited us at midday. The part of the trip that we had been most unsure of. Our itinerary just said that we’d be spending our last night in a rural village, when we asked specific questions all we got were vague responses and general reassurance that we would be well looked after. There wasn’t a moment where we felt we would be in an unsafe situation, but we were after more detail. Like, are there toilets? An important question, seeing as our entire enjoyment of the experience depended on the answer.

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Looking out across the river towards the mountain we climbed later that day

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After a strong cup of tea and more rusks, we packed our rucksack with all we needed for the night in the village and met up with Ernest, Thebi and Bonnie who were to be our guides on the hike. They were born there, have grown up there and do the three hour hike daily, there and back! Lithe and with an unrelenting pace they hopped and skipped up the side of the mountain like sure-footed duikers, while we trudged on behind. We were so grateful for our kit from Due South. We wouldn’t have got far without the light, easy to wear rucksack that carried everything we both needed easily and comfortably, plus our water bottles and binos. Lunch at the edge of a dried up waterfall overlooking the valley recharged us before we set off again, feeling totally unprepared for what was to come…

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Ernest

Ernest

The beautiful Thebi, who hosted us in her home.

The beautiful Thebi, who hosted us in her home.

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Bonnie

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Throwing rocks at ‘the can’ – a good luck ritual that they do every day

Lunch stop

Lunch stop

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Yet another cow. Liza is mad for cows.

Yet another cow. Liza is mad for cows.

By the time we reached our second pitstop I was feeling rather overwhelmed. The enormous silence was deafening and the feeling of being so utterly remote caused a creeping panic to start in the pit of my stomach and work its way up to my throat.

We had no idea where we were going to be spending that night and Frikkie chose that moment to tell us that in Zulu tradition an unmarried man was not allowed near the house of an unmarried woman. Our host Thebi is unmarried, so he was going to be somewhere else, on the other side of the village, in Ernest’s house.

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The boys went off in one direction and we in another. Thebi’s house was made up of three huts on the outskirts of the village. She lives there with her baby boy. The first room was where we were received. Here we were given a grass mat to sit on and left, while Thebi went off to draw water and light the fire for supper. We were exhausted, sweaty and more than a little out of our depth at this point. Women from the village came, and hoards of children, they sat on the opposite side of the room and watched us, giggling when we asked them questions and chatting amongst themselves, no doubt about the tired, bedraggled looking tourists in front of them who may well have come from another planet, for all we knew about each other.

Both sides of the room started to gain confidence though, and before long the mama’s sang, while the kids danced and clapped. Babies were handed to us and we were shown a little bit of the feminine side of life in the village, after all the work was done. Lots of chatting, raucous laughter and spontaneous bursts of song.

There were so many kiddies, they all seemed to belong to everyone, as no one woman treated any child more lovingly than the next. We learnt that a lot of the little one’s mothers have jobs in the big city and only come home a couple of times a year. These little ones are absorbed into the village and loved and cared for as if they were family. We learnt the next day that “orphan” in Zulu is intandane, which can also be translated as “most loved one”.

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We slept in the third hut, under traditional blankets, snug and safe from the chill winds outside. We were expecting to go to bed as we were, filthy and exhausted after our long hike, but Thebi had heated water, drawn from the village well and brought it to us so we could wash before we crashed into bed.

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So many things come to mind when I recall that night. It was in many ways a difficult experience. The culture shock itself threatened to overshadow everything – it was not a ‘quirky African experience’, but getting a first-hand experience of people’s real lives. There’s no electricity, no running water, no toilets and life is hard. That said, there is little or no crime and the people we met were warm and full of hospitality. We were asked back by everyone we met on the road out. “Come again,” they said, “next time stay with me and my family!”

Who knows, maybe one day we will!

Thank you Open Africa for an amazing experience. Next time you are thinking of taking a holiday in and around this amazing country of ours, check out their website and what they have to offer.

— Emily

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Day 3: beautiful Zingela

After our two amazing days in the Berg, we waved goodbye to Bahati Tree Lodge and had breakfast at a sweet little coffee shop called Ady’s Queen of Tarts in Winterton. The food was so good and it was the perfect place to buy presents for everyone who was helping us out back home. Such tourists.

Our next stop was Weenen, where we left our trusty Chevy and met up with our very own Camel man Frikkie, who hauled all our luggage onto his stripped down 4×4 and proceeded to take us on a very rough, two-hour 4×4 drive deep into the bush. Frikkie was our best friend for the next two days. Really though. He was our game ranger, guide and emotional support system, as well as a fount of information who never got tired of our endless questions about the area, the camp, the foliage, animals (and stopping for every single cow so Liza could take pictures, there were lots of cows), surrounds, history etc etc… we loved Frikkie.

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When we arrived at Zingela Safari & River Company we were definitely in “bush mode” and had NO idea what to expect…  Zingela is African bush glamping at its most lovely. Unspoilt, uncommercialised and owned and run by people who love it more than anything. Mark and Linda Calverley have been constructing the camp for over 30 years, you can see the passion in their faces when they welcome you and the pride with which they talk about the land and its surrounds.

The thing that hits you first about Zingela is the enormousness of it. The huge expanse of hills and valleys, scrub lands and unending sky, untouched by the hands of man. Just nature, the way God intended it to be.

The vast, echoing silence punctuated by the bark of a baboon and the chirping cicadas hits you next. It’s the sound of Africa, which does more for the strung-out city mama than all the therapy and spa-days ever could.

The accommodation is luxurious without being pretentious and the food, facilities and activities are perfection. Plus, they comb the sand so it’s straight and neat all the time, which Liza loved. Real Africa, only neat!

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The view from our beds!

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After our river rafting adventure, we each enjoyed a hot bath under the night sky… bliss

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Bentley the resident Great Dane. There was a Jack Russell called Diesel too, but he was very grumpy so we steered clear

After settling in our beautiful room right on the river which was constructed out of stone from the area with a thatched roof and tented doors, we made our way back to front of house where we gulped down a hot cup of tea and some rusks before we hiked up to the “pimple” with Frikkie and a clutch of interns who are studying tourism and doing their practicals at Zingela.

The “pimple”, aptly named for its protrusion at the top of the hill, is the perfect spot for sundowners and game spotting. We saw warthogs, giraffes and buck while we sipped on beers out the can (something we don’t do too very often!). One of the interns, Hector from Islington, had never left the UK before. He literally stepped off a plane from London and headed for the bush – talk about polar opposites. He also proved to be the world’s best barman (bless him), keeping our glasses full at all times – from our sunset beers on the “pimple”, G&Ts round the fire at base camp, wine at supper, Amarula after supper and on a night ride to feed the wild pigs. Nothing like a shot of Amarula after you’ve just been elbow deep in mielie corn tossing handfuls to pigs.

We also got to experience an impromptu white water rafting experience under the light of an enormous full moon, which left us both completely certain that we had just experienced the funnest night of our lives. Such a rush. Halfway along the river we stopped at Frikkie’s “private” beach where Hector seemed to magically appear at our sides toting more Amarula and Old Brown Sherry to fuel us for the rest of the paddling journey where we steered from the front of the boat, while Frikkie was really doing everything at the back. If you’ve never done white water rafting, at night, with the moon as your guide, you really should. We’ll never forget it.

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At the top, admiring the view

At the top of the “pimple”, admiring the view

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Full moon rising over the Tugela River

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— Emily

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