Friday, October 24, 2014

Regyne - the biggest commercial protea farm in the world

The Tsitsikamma is more than just indigenous forests, rugged coastlines and adrenalin filled adventure activities.  I'm going to lie if I say I didn't know it, but its always great to spread the word.  Our Sho't Left in the Tsitsikamma and Eersterivier area included a visit to Regyne, the biggest commercial protea farm in the world.  Tours of the farm is organised by Oudebosch Farm Stall who does a tour and lunch as well as a tour and afternoon tea and cake option for groups. 

Joining us on the tour were fellow travel bloggers Dawn Jorgensen of The Incidental Tourist, Di Brown of The Roaming Giraffe and Linda Markovina of Moving Sushi.  We were met by Hanli Viljoen who took us on a tour of the farm and its facilities.  Regyne's protea fields cover 80 hectares and they produce flowers primarily for the export market.  Proteas are cut, sorted and trucked straight to the airport for export.  Hanli started off by showing us their sorting shed and cold room.  Because it was weekend there were no staff on site, but she explained the process they followed.  Most of the proteas were shipped out the day before but there were still an impressive variety of flowers in the cold room for us to see.  From here we moved onto the protea nursery where Hanli spends most of her day.  It was unbelievable that the proteas are actually grown from seed and how the seedlings are handled before going into a field.  We also visited one of the fields where they grow King Proteas, South Africa's national flower.  Seeing them grow like that makes me want some in my own garden.  I didn't think the KidZ would be very interested in the farm, but they actually paid very close attention and I think enjoyed it and learned as much as we did.

Disclosure: We visited Regyne Protea Farm as guests of Oudebosch Farm Stall.  I received no further remuneration, wasn't asked to write a positive post and keep full editorial control.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Sir Percy FitzPatrick Lookout in Sunland

Sir Percy FitzPatrick, (24 July 1862 – 24 January 1931) is probably best known for writing the book Jock of the Bushveld, but also played a big role in the early development of the Sundays River Valley.  In his younger years he was involved in gold and diamond prospecting in Mpumalanga where Jock of the Bushveld also plays off.   In 1895 FitzPatrick became the secretary of the Reform Committee in Johannesburg which conspired to overthrow Paul Kruger's South African Republic.
 At the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War (1899–1902) FitzPatrick helped to establish the Imperial Light Horse Regiment but was prevented from active service by ill health.  He was knighted in 1902 as a Knight Commander of the Order of Saint Michael and Saint George.  He served as one of eight Transvaal representatives in the national convention of 1908–9, where four British colonies were consolidated into the Union of South Africa and went on to serve as a member of the parliament of the Union of South Africa.

After coming to the Sundays River Valley he established the Sundays River Settlement Company which encouraged people to settle in this area.  He also played a very big role in the establishment of the citrus industry in the valley and the amazing irrigation system of this area was his brain child.  His idea was to channel water from the Orange River, six hundred kilometres away from Sunland, into this arid area thus enabling agriculture to flourish here, as it does today, providing employment for the many local people.
FitzPatrick bought a piece of land next to the river from where his guests could enjoy the stunning view of the surrounding valley.  He even had a lookout platform built on the land where visitors can still go to marvel at the view.  After his death he was buried at The Lookout where he's wife is buried alongside him.  The Lookout and the surrounding land was donated as a public space my his daughter and son-in-law in 1953 and the site was declared a National Monument. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Enjoying the view at Bruce's Beauties

There are some really tranquil spots along the Jeffreys Bay and St Francis coastline where one can sit and take in a view of the ocean.  Passing through St Francis Bay I had an hour or so before a meeting and decided to grab a couple of Geocaches.  One of the caches was located close to the legendary surf spot, Bruce's Beauties where I found this young lady taking a break on a bench overlooking Bruce's.  The sea was fairly calm so there weren't any surfers out there on this specific day. 
So how did Bruce's Beauties get its name, you ask?
In the 1960's, surfing film pioneer Bruce Brown hunted the world's perfect surf spots for the cult film classic ' The Endless Summer'.  He wanted to find the "Perfect Wave" and at St Francis he did.  The spot became known as Bruce's Beauties and is renown as a surf spot for the fearless.  This exposed point breakis seen as an ultimate wave ride.  Unfortunately due to development along the coastline the break isn't what it used to be but two or three times a year the conditions are just right and then you know this is the place to be if you own a surf board.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Eersterivier - the Tsitsikamma's hidden gem

Hidden on the rugged eastern coastline of the Tsitsikamma is a little gem that not a lot of people know of.  Somewhere you can get away from it all and enjoy stunning scenic coastal landscapes bordered by cliffs and lush vegetation.  Somewhere you can take in a bit of beach life and lots of vitaminSea without being trampled underfoot by crowds.  This little hidden corner on the Garden Route is Eersterivier.
One can't really call Eersterivier a town or a village.  Its rather a collection of privately owned (mostly) holiday homes.  There aren't any hotels and I can't remember seeing any guesthouses, but  it is possible to rent on of the 19 houses that Tsitsikamma Seaside Accommodation manages on behalf of the owners.  A couple of weeks ago Penny of Tsitsikamma Seaside Accommodation invited us for a Sho't Left weekend and we got to stay at Shick Shack while we were there.  Shick Shack was anything but a shack as it sleeps eight people in four bedrooms and has the most stunning view of the coastline (bottom middle picture).
The area around Eersterivier is really beautiful but the main attraction is the beaches.  Its is a rugged and rocky coastline but there are lots of little coves and gullies along with the main beach on the western side of the village.  The centerpiece of the beach are fossil dunes with very interesting sand stone features.  It is here that you find one of the most inviting swimming spots around, the blue hole.
At low tide we took a walk around the sea side of the sand stone formations and found a couple of holes in the rock.  We came back at high tide and looked down onto it from above.  They turned out to be blow holes, shooting water up into the air from them every time a wave hits the rocks.  When you explore the rock pools and around the back of the sand stone formations, just be aware and keep an eye out for spiky sea urchins, specially if you have children with you.  The pools and gullies are actually excellent for snorkeling so bring your equipment with you if you would like to explore a bit under water as well.  Another warning though.  Keep within the safe zones when swimming and snorkeling as there are dangerous rip tides beyond the rocks and gullies.
In addition to beach walks there is also a couple of short hiking trails in the area where you walk through the surrounding fynbos, some that follow the top of the coastal cliffs and look down on the whole area from above.  Golfers would love the nearby 9 hole Fynbos Golf Estate with its views of the ocean and the Tsitsikamma Mountains as a background.  About 30 minutes away is Storms River Village with its forest walks and adrenalin filled adventure activities. 
Eersterivier isn't a proper village so there are no shops and atm's.  Luckily the Oudebosch Farm Stall and coffee shop is only about 10 minutes away with most visitors getting what they need from the supermarket there.  Its also ideal for breakfast and lunch or just a quick coffee and milkshake.
The Tsitsikamma is a true Garden of Eden and if Adam and Eve lived in this garden and had the opportunity to go to the beach, Eersterivier would have been that beach.
Disclosure: We enjoyed this visit as guests of Tsitsikamma Seaside Accommodation and transport was courtesy of the team at ECTOUR.  I received no further remuneration, wasn't asked to write a positive post and keep full editorial control.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Supertubes on a calm day

Jeffreys Bay is famous as a surf destination and one of the reasons is Supertubes.  Supertubes is said to be the best right hand point breaks in the entire world both in consistency and quality.  Generally Supertubes break for about 300m or more but if conditions are right and the surf is big enough then it links up with the surrounding surf spots and result in a ride of about a kilometer in length.  I'm not a surfer and have never had the opportunity to try it, but I enjoy scenic views so on my last visit to JBay I stopped by the Supertubes view site.  It was a beautiful day although not one with big surf.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A thousand years in the making -The Tsitsikamma Big Tree

One of the best know attractions in the Tsitsikamma is The Big Tree, one of the giants of the forest and thought to be up to 1000 years old.  The Garden Route from the Tsitsikamma through Knysna to Wilderness is famous for its indigenous forests and precious trees, amongst them the Yellowwood.  The Outeniqua Yellowwood tree is also South Africa's national tree which makes this particular Outeniqua Yellowwood even more special.
Getting to the Big Tree is very easy.  First of all there is a big parking area right next to the N2 highway where you can leave your car.  From here its an easy 10 minute walk into the forest on a boardwalk.  In total the walk is about 500 meters each way and a great way to get away from the rush of the main road and get closer to nature.  Walking along you get to see what the forest looks like inside and plaques name some of the trees you pass along the way.  Suddenly the queen of the forest looms up in front of and over you.  A magnificent tree that was spared the woodcutters' axes during the late 19th and early 20th century.

This tree stands 36,6 m tall and has a trunk circumference of 9m.  An information board next to the tree gives all the relevant stats.  The Big Tree may not be as tall as American Redwood trees or as wide as a Baobab, but she is magestic.  I really enjoy seeing people crawl around on the path to find the best angle to try and show her size.  I kinda had to do that to take this picture above.  From the tree there are two additional trails covering 2,6 km and 4,2 km for those who would like to get in touch with the forest a little bit more.  So next time you fly along the N2 through the Tsitsikamma, why not pull over and go and pay homage?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A Tsitsikamma Sho't Left

We really don't need much motivation to pack our bags and head somewhere for a Sho't Left weekend.  Not at all.  Even more so when the invitation for that Sho't Left comes from the Tsitsikamma which is only an hour and a half from our home base in Port Elizabeth.
A call from Penny of Tsitsikamma Seaside Accommodation along with an earlier invitation by Anneline of Storms River Adventures had us planning a weekend that included some beach time, nature time, family time and ultimately, adrenalin time.
An early departure on Friday afternoon had us driving west on the N2 from PE and taking the Oudebosch turnoff on the eastern side of the Tsitsikamma.  A short time later we reached the seaside town resort village cluster of houses called Eersterivier.  Eersterivier is just that, a collection of holiday homes along the beautiful Tsitsikamma coastline and Penny manages 19 of these which get rented out to the public when the owners aren't using them.  We stayed in Shick Shack which was anything but just a shack.  It sleeps eight in four bedrooms and has a sublime view of the coastline from its deck .  Perfect to sit and relax on after a hard day of Tsitsikamma'ing.
Saturday morning we spent a bit of "beach time" exploring the Eersterivier beach with its fascinating fossil dunes and sandstone formations.  The two most notable features for me were the blue hole, perfect for swimming, and the blow hole which gets spectacular at high tide.  We decided to head inland for a little while and went to explore the town of Kareedouw just across the mountain before stopping at Oudebosch Farm Stall for lunch.  Just a few kilometers from Oudebosch is Regyne Protea Farm, the biggest commercial protea farm in the world.  Oudebosch Farm Stall organizes tours of the farm for groups during the week, but we were lucky enough to join a couple of travel bloggers on a private tour that afternoon.
Sunday started with a bit of a sleep in before packing up and returning to Oudebosch brunch.  Then it was time to head to Storms River Village for the highlight of our trip, a Tsitsikamma Canopy Tour with Storms River Adventures.  And what an adventure it was.  Being in the business I'm in I've had the opportunity and privilege to go on this a couple of times before, but it was a first for the rest of the Famdamily with Chaos Boy volunteering to take the lead just behind the guide.  Drama Princess was slightly nervous but the second guide was on top of things and she got to do a couple of tandem slides with him until she was comfortable enough to go on her own.  Sliding along the 10 slides through the canopy of the indigenous Tsitsikamma forest 30 meters up is always a highlight and something we will remember for a long time.
I will do separate posts with some more information about all the activities
we participated in in the coming weeks.
  Disclosure: We enjoyed this visit as guests of Tsitsikamma Seaside Accommodation, Oudebosch Farm StallStorms River Adventures, Tsitsikamma Tourism and the team at ECTOUR.  I received no further remuneration, wasn't asked to write a positive post and keep full editorial control.