Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Ziplining in Addo on the longest double zipline in Africa

The first thing people think of when they hear the name Addo is elephants.  On that front the Addo Elephant National Park is doing an awesome job attracting people to the Sundays River Valley.  But the Addo area is so much more than elephants and the rest of the big 5.  More than just animals for that matter.  The whole Sundays River Valley is a beautiful area with scenic drives and views, history, great eateries and a wide variety of accommodation and activities.  The new kid on the block is what everybody in the valley is talking about at the moment though.  Adrenalin Addo officially opened on 1 September and offers the longest double zipline in Africa.  A whole 500 meters long, up to 60 meters high and I got to try it on an educational organised by the guys from Addo Tourism.

Arriving at Adrenalin Addo in Sunland between Addo and Kirkwood, the first thing one notice is the platform up on the hill across the river.  That and the stunning surroundings with the Sundays River flowing in front of their centre, subtropical ticket on the hillside and citrus orchards all around.  While I waited for my fellow adventurers to arrive I enjoyed the view from the deck with a quick coffee to calm the early nerves.  Looking up I thought to myself that it looked seriously high but as a seasoned zipliner (or at least I would like to think so) I wasn't going to allow that to stop me from doing it.  Once the others arrived we got kitted out in our gear and we were ready to go.  First up though was crossing the Sundays River on a raft.  Coming back we would be flying overhead.  The guides conduct a bit of a tour on the way to the top pointing out plants, fossils and the remains of the first irrigation channels.

Once we arrived at the top and climbed the platform I suddenly realized how high it really was and my fear of heights seriously kicked in. My fear took a back seat though when I started to look around. WOW! Looking down on the valley with all its farms and the Sundays River flowing through it is truly stunning.  We had seven in our group so the first three pairs went together with one solo zipliner coming last.  After watching the first two pairs go it was my turn.  I had Yvonne from Addo Tourism on my left and we were pumped.  As the guides hooked us up they explained what they were doing.  Two clips on the wheels (sorry, I have no idea what the proper word for this is) and a backup line behind us.  Step off the bench and... 3... 2... 1... GO!  

Stepping off and letting go was heart in throat time for me but once you are off and going all the fear is gone.  What an absolutely amazing sensation and something very hard to explain.  From start to finish the zipline takes about 30 seconds or so and once you hit the automatic brake at the end you just want to go again.  I've been playing around with video clips on my camera lately and has started to experiment with a video editor on my laptop.  This was such a great experience that I couldn't help but to throw something together for this post.
 
Adrenalin Addo is situated about 15 minutes from the Addo Elephant National Park and a great add on for visitors to the park either leaving on the way back to Port Elizabeth or as a break before heading back into the park.  They're also going to offer light meals some time soon so it would be a great lunch and zipline stop while on tour as well.  Other activities offered are a giant swing (which I didn't get to do this time around) and canoeing on the Sundays River.
 
Disclosure: I enjoyed this visit as a guest of Ryan and his team at Adrenalin Addo, organized by Yvonne of Addo Tourism and the team at ECTOUR.  I received no further remuneration, wasn't asked to write a positive post and keep full editorial control.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Railway line sunset

Picture this.  The R60 between Robertson and Worcester in the Western Cape.  Kinda in the middle of nowhere.  Nothing in sight other than the remains of an old railway station  Two guys park next to the road and dash across, climb through an old fence, hop over the railway line and run of into the bushes and fynbos.  Moments later they emerge and start walking back to the car.  What do you make of this?  For most regular folk it would probably be a very suspicious sight.  Confusing at least.  Not if you were a Geocacher though.  This was exactly what happened on the way to Cape Town recently.  Our last cache for the day before the last stretch to the Mother City had us do exactly that.  On the way back to the car the sun started to set behind the mountains on the horizon and I whipped out my phone to snap this picture.  My favorite pic from the trip.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

World Tourism Day - Nothing more fun than a Sho't Left.

September is Tourism Month and on 27 September every year we celebrate World Tourism Day.  Tourism is one of South Africa's biggest export products and with that I mean its something that brings foreign tourists and thus also foreign money into the country.  Tourism is an important player in our economy as it creates a job for every 12 tourists visiting the country.  But I'm not here to talk about the economy. 

Over the last couple of years SA Tourism has started to focus more on promoting travel in South Africa to South Africans and they do this through the Sho't Left campaign.  South Africans love to travel but many aim to go overseas.  Why?  Right here in South Africa we have pristine beaches and coastlines, incredible mountains, magnificent open spaces, epic views, interesting small towns and world class game reserves. Our urban culture has as much to offer as our nature and it really doesn't have to cost an arm and a leg.  Yes, there are many places that cater for the international market at prices us South Africans can't afford, but there are also many more that caters for ordinary South Africans like you and me.  For a start, check out the Sho't Left deals page. 

What is a Sho't Left?  A Sho't Left is a short break away, usually possible over a weekend, only a couple of hours from home.  More than a day trip but less than a week long holiday.  Something like the Cape St Francis area in the photo.  Only about an hour or so from Port Elizabeth.

Nothing is more fun than a Sho't Left from PE as seen in this Sho't Left campaign video.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Tsitsikamma Lily

My three favorite flowers are aloes, proteas and arum lilies.  All flowers you can see in gardens and parks but at their most beautiful when you see them out in the wild.  Aloe flowering in the Karoo, proteas in the Fynbos on a mountain side and lilies growing wild in the forest.  This lily I found next to the path on the way to Kerneels se Klip in the Tsitsikamma National Park.  I was hoping to find one in the sun but being in a forest means lots of shade.  

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Hiking the Bushbuck Trail in The Island Nature Reserve

Port Elizabeth has some excellent short hiking trails that are perfect for a morning or day out in nature yet still within a stone's throw of the city.  As an outdoor enthusiast and avid Geocacher I've had the opportunity to do most of the trails around the city with one of the exceptions being the Bushbuck Trail through the Island Nature Reserve.  For this reason I was very excited when I got a call from Erenei Louw of Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism inviting me to join NMBT and the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency on a guided hike through the reserve in celebration of Tourism Month.

The Island Nature Reserve is located about 25 km from Port Elizabeth and is accessed via the Seaview Road.  The reserve forms a sub section of the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve and comprises 480 ha of indigenous Alexandria coastal forest boasting tree species such as Outeniqua yellow-wood, white and hard pear as well as white milkwood.   Fauna include small blue duiker, bushbuck, vervet monkey and bushpigs with more than fifty species of birds having been recorded.  The reserve offers 5 different trails of various lengths and we decided to do a combination that had us cover a distance of about 10km.  

Erenei and I were joined by Done' Louw of NMBT and our guides Nomfuneko Mbete and Sizwe Ndlumbini who led us out at a brisk pace on a beautiful Spring morning.  Forests have a special place in my being with the Tsitsikamma and Knysna forests being part of my soul so walking off into this piece of coastal forest had me relaxed and unwinding from the first step we took.    

It wasn't long before we saw movement in the milkwoods and a sudden flash of scarlet red told us that we had spotted a Knysna Loerie in the thicket.  To the observant hiker there are so much more than just the different indigenous trees to see.  Berries and fruit, colourful little flowers, spiders sitting in their dew covered webs and different types of moss and lichen.  As we were approaching halfway, Sizwe suddenly put up his hand for us to stop and be quiet.  A bushbuck doe was standing not twenty meters away in the underbrush looking at us.  Quite a shy antelope it was a treat being able to spot one so close to us.  She had one last look our way and casually disappeared.  Not long after we got to our turning point at a trig beacon which, once you ascent it, gives a beautiful view of the Lady Slipper Mountain and surrounding area.  The return journey was mostly downhill but I couldn't help but laugh at my two slightly unfit companions who started to struggle a bit with cramps.  It didn't stop them though and we completed the 10 km walk (and found three Geocaches) in just short of four hours. 

I have to be honest and say that I was pleasantly surprised with what the Island Nature Reserve dished up for us.  The trails are well maintained with good signage and if I could give them one piece of advice it would be to do a proper map for hikers to take with them to see the trails on.  For those who don't like to hike, the Island offers beautiful grass covered picnic spots and is one of the only public areas around Port Elizabeth that has proper braai facilities.  Now that I have been there I really want to go back with my family and isn't afraid to recommend it to anybody looking to get closer to nature.  The Island truly is a reserve that Port Elizabethans should be very proud of.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hillside village in the Ciskei

The road (R72) between Port Alfred and East London runs through what used to be the former independent homeland of the Ciskei.  All along the way one sees small Xhosa villages scattering the countryside.  Coming from the East London side just before the Keikamma Pass there is a little village on a hillside on the left.  I've always wanted to snap a photo of it and the chance finally came on my last trip to Slummies.

When you look at a scene like this its hard to comprehend the simplicity of the existence these people carve out for themselves here compared to how we live in the cities.  Its a hard and isolated life and compared to us they are a lot less fortunate.  I often wonder though if its not us city folk that are less fortunate living behind high walls never even seeing our neighbours, rushing everywhere all the time and having everything at our fingertips.  We have become soft and probably wouldn't survive a week in those kind of circumstances.  Yet we are all happy even if we live in very different ways.  Oh my word.  I just wanted to post the pictures and I here I started to go all deep and philosophical.  Anyhow,  the reason I wanted to post this today is that its Heritage Day and even though our heritages (and way of life) are all very different we are all South Africans living in the same rainbow country.  Happy Heritage Day.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Crossing the Kei River by pont

Most South African travelers and road trippers have probably heard of the car pontoon at Malgas in the Overberg, but I wonder how many actually know that there is one across the Kei River in the Eastern Cape as well.  In years gone by the Great Kei River was the border between South Africa and the homeland of Transkei.  Today crossing over means leaving behind what you know and heading to a land of country side villages, friendly people, beautiful scenery, rugged and unspoiled coastline, relaxing family hotels and resorts; and, unfortunately, rough dirt roads.  The land of the Wild Coast. 

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to head down to Kei Mouth for the first time on a trip to Trennerys Hotel.  To get to it we had to cross the pont and suddenly yet another experience to tick off my South African travel bucket list was waiting for me.  Unlike the Malgas pont the Kei Pont is mechanical and uses an engine to get to the other side.  With incoming and outgoing tides it may have been tough to cross the wide Kei River by pulling a rope and it goes slightly quicker so you don't have a long wait if you arrive and the pont is on the other side.  On arrival at first I thought that we may have to wait for the pont to take the taxi in front of us across first.  The pont skipper stepped up though and told the driver to pull forward and space was made for us, the car pulled up and we were on our way.  All to soon the "cruise" was over and we were on the road again to our overnight destination.  The cost to cross? R70 for the car and its two passengers.