Durban

The monkeys were no longer cute and once again a pest, even in a hot humid17191933_10154562135954436_1394289897800749756_o
city as Durban.  They found their way into our Airbnb house in Berea and stole our bananas.  It was great entertainment for our kids and Miss N still talks about the monkey stealing her banana!

Durban was our final destination, to wind down, relax and continue to catch up with family.  There was nothing on our agenda, no need to do or see anything except Granny, who unfortunately needed a medical procedure after her birthday weekend so we became well acquainted with a local Durban hospital.

_DSC5274-59We did manage to get to a library at Miss N’s insistence and we had a beautiful family photoshoot on Umhlanga Rocks by Tilani from Marshmallow Images.  She obviously ignored the advice not to work with kids or animals and succeeding in taking beautiful photos we shall cherish.

We also made it to Mitchell Park Zoo which the price tag of 10 Rand gave away it’s poor resemblance to an actual zoo.  But the Blue Zoo cafe is lovely and has an outdoor jungle gym with some crafty activities and a child minder and delicious food.

I would have liked to have called our overnight flight back home to Sydney uneventful, except that Miss N threw up only about 7 times between the airport and flights.  I’m glad we fed her a strawberry milkshake preceding this sickness so at least my clothes were stained a bright pink colour as opposed to the normal gross brown vomit colour. But this too shall pass and the kids did eventually sleep on the plane and I did read other mummy blogs warning me to pack spare clothes for everyone.  Wise words.

The excitement and smile on my kids faces as we entered our home was palpable.  They _DSC5385-73were happy to be home and have a sheer abundance of fluffy toys to play with.  Jet lag was tough, but nothing that a team effort couldn’t cope with for 5 rough nights, and thankfully now is just a distant memory.  All worth it and now we get to relive it when I one day get around to making a holiday photo book!

Midlands Meander

DSC09031Just like that our Garden Route holiday had finished. Now it was time to celebrate with cake for our dear Granny’s 95th birthday.  We flew uneventfully to Durban, hired a car and off and away on another long day of just under 3 hours of driving to the Drakensberg Mountains.

I had done my research and saw that this route (also known as Midlands Meander) has a DSC08984lot to offer and found it difficult to choose where we would actually stop.  I picked a town called Howick as it was more or less halfway, more specifically a cafe called Yellowwood, and what an amazing find.  It again had an amazing playground, plus farm animals to gaze at and pat through the fence.  It had a nice view of the Howick waterfall and it backed onto the Umgeni Nature Valley Reserve and monkeys, zebras and buck were spotted.  Food was reasonable too and WiFi connection too.

This place was that good that we wanted to stop here on the way back too, but it is closed on Mondays, so we had pizza at a place nearby called Delish Dish Family Pub which had a little playground and trampoline.  Another winner.

DSC09035Howick Falls is pretty and touristy when you get to the viewing point.   But we were tourists, so we didn’t mind browsing the market stalls.   There perhaps is a walk to get to the bottom of the falls, but some locals suggested it had closed down and we weren’t organised or game enough to find it.

Other family members also stopped at a Lion Park (Natal Lion Park) outside Durban and a small game park but given all the adventures and animals we have seen, we decided to take things easy.

The Drakensberg Mountains are gorgeous.  We stayed in chalets called Mount Champagne which had a pool and playground onsite.  We were a clan of 30 + people 17358825_10154562061939436_3116953272423959613_oranging from 8 months old to 102 years old so needless to say there was a lot of activity  going on, lots of hugs, lots of attention, babysitters and lots of food!  I even had a chance to go canoeing with a group of cousins, venture to Waffle Hut  (who knew savoury waffles were a thing?)  and do a waterfall hike with the kids leaving from the Drakensberg Sun Hotel.   We got to see monkeys to the point where they became a pest and stole food any chance you left the door open for a second.

We also got a chance to  spend quality time with Granny and family from Spain, Australia, Israel and South Africa, even if it was for 3 short days.  And there was cake!

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Cape Town

With a 2 hour journey to go, we were just about finished our road trip ending in Cape Town.  We left during kids sleep and stopped some 40km short of Cape Town centre at a cafe called Bamboo Garden Restaurant which was another example of South Africa’s wonderful child friendly cafes with an awesome sandpit and jungle gym.

DSC08764Next door is the Bugz Play Park which I thought might be a great opportunity for the kids to go a little nuts.  Don’t get me wrong, they had a fun time, but my daughter seemed to like the frog statues the most and hugged them for the good part of an hour.   It is a glorified playground with lots of good climbing equipment, sandpits, swings, slides, and a cute water splashing station.  Oh, and a train that circles the premises.  After that, you have to pay extra for every other activity – face painting, water slides, petting farm, carousel etc.  And I already thought it was a bit of chutzpah to charge for the adults  (although still cheap by Australian standards!).   I’m not convinced she had so much more fun here than in any other jungle gym.  Nearby I believe there is also a lion park and a giraffe house which given the amount of animals we have already seen, I opted to go to to Bugz Play Park instead.

And just like that, we were in Cape Town and booked into our Airbnb in the City Bowl for IMG_6759the next 5 nights.   Cape Town is perhaps the mosts spectacular city I have ever had the pleasure of visiting.  Simon and I have been there before but we decided hiking up Table Mountain for a day was not on our  list of things to do with kids this time round.  The accommodation was lovely, spacious, great location and the host even provided a cot for us,  and there was a playground 20 metres away which was a big gift. But being in the city doesn’t compare to being on spacious properties on farms.  Miss N started acting up in Cape Town and not sure if it was the environment or the fact that she has been on the road for 2 weeks changing houses every few days.  Nonetheless, here is the list of  what we did in Cape Town:

DSC08836Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – As advertised, it is a most spectacular botanical gardens.  We ate lunch at the restaurant there (Moyo) where the waiters wear a type pf traditional African garb and did traditional face painting for those kids and adult who were game.  The gardens have plenty of bird life, and there is a fun tree tops walk on a bridge.  My best memory from the afternoon was allowing Miss N to go tree climbing on some fantastic trees, and playing hide and seek in one of the sections.

Noordhoek Farm Village – We drove here via Chapman Peaks Drive which is worthy of DSC08863mention, as it is a most spectacular route.  It is windy, slow and picturesque and rather expensive (it is a toll road).  But worth it.  Noordhoek Farm village is a collection of shops and cafes with most importantly an ice cream shop and a playground.  It was a pleasant stop on our way to Simon’s Town.

Simon’s Town – What could be better than combining a beach adventure with penguins. DSC08871 We paid a small entrance fee to enter Boulders Beach and although the water is quite freezing, the penguins are fun to watch.  We climbed over and under some rocks (boulders?) to find penguins snoozing, swimming, waddling and just minding their own business.  It also happens to be a stunning beach with lovely lunch spots on the main street.

V & A  Waterfront – Walking around here was more enjoyable for the adults than the kids, but nonetheless it was lovely.  There were overpriced markets and a lovely food stall to get all different cuisines.  We did some seal spotting (and smelling), climbing jungle gym equipment and  contemplated playing giant chess but opted for the shade instead.  We did go to the Two Oceans Aquarium – Aquariums are always a hit, and this DSC08929one also had the bonus of being in a great location (V & A waterfront) and have a great kids play area where i dare say we spent more time than looking at the fish.  They had activities, games, books, and a puppet show.  Another fun activity was Scratch Patch Mineral World.  There is an area full of these minerals that is a great sensory experience for both of the little ones.  It is essentially a shop so we didn’t stay long, but it was a good place to pop in to.

We had a day exploring Sea Point.  I can safely say when we met up with a friend for DSC08944coffee that I did not do my research and the cafe we went to had no entertainment for kids and it made such a difference to my enjoyment of my meal! As opposed to Strolla Restaurant  where we ended up going for dinner and loved it!  Miss N got to make her own pizza and there was a children’s room with lots of activities.  Great food (I remember the felafel burger…mmmm……) and a stunning sun set over the ocean.

IMG_0110 We also got to a point in our trip where all Miss N wanted to do was go to a library.  So off we went to Sea Point Library and boy was she excited to see so many fluffy toys!  Near the library was Green Point Park which is a fun little public park where Mr. A made a South African friend.

 

 

 

R62 to Robertson

Traveling along the R62 from Outdshoorn to Robertson was one of the days on our travels that I was dreading. From door to door, google maps estimated 3 hours and 20 minutes in the car. And did I mention my 8 month old son doesn’t like cars?

DSC08640But we strategically timed it so that we would be driving during his 3 day time sleeps and it actually worked! We started off earlyish and headed to the first town along the way called Calitzdorp about an hour drive. I remember reading and hearing people talk about these lovely little towns along the R62, but Calitzdorp was nothing noteworthy for us (although I later heard there are hot springs around). We stopped off and had something to eat at the last shop on the main road called Ebenhart restaurant which had a little garden with a pool in it. Needless to say, Miss N’s clothes came off and she enjoyed sitting on the edge splashing.

Back in the car, with both kids sleeping, we drove for as long as we could and didn’t end DSC08642up stopping in any other towns until Montagu. The scenery was often spectacular, but photos through the car window would suffice for our memories.  We stopped at a place called Die Kloof Padstal which had a great menu and a great outdoor space complete with cubby house, trampoline, sandpit and other fun activities for the little ones.

DSC08695And then we had one more short drive to Robertson. We stayed at a place called Goedereede Guest Farm for 2 nights which was one of the loveliest places we stayed. We stayed in a beautiful 2 bedroom cottage on an actual farm which grew grapes, peaches, plums, watermelons, rockmelons, cherry tomatoes and capsicums. The host family were lovely and to their own folly, gave us permission to pick our own fruit and veg.  So we did!   We went a little nuts, and over estimated how many cherry tomatoes and peaches one little family could eat in a week! The farm was big which made for good hide and seek games. It also had a few dogs, cats and chooks which fascinated the kids. There was also a pool but we didn’t get a chance to use it with all this fruit picking and wine drinking.DSC08744

We went to one winery called Rooiberg which was just down the road. In a rare divine intervention moment, both kids were asleep and we were able to taste wine in peace. In our exuberance, we also went a little nuts and bought some 9 bottles of wines for the rest of our trip/return to Oz. When the kidlets woke up, we ate, we played on the jumping castle and jungle gym, and climbed the biggest red chair in the world. Another tick from my bucket list!

Oudtshoorn

The journey from George to Oudtshoorn (or however you spell it) is fairly easy in that its short. 45 minutes or so.  Someone suggested we travel through Montagu pass but as we reached the turnoff, the sky was looking armageddon like so we took the easy direct and quick route.   As soon as we crossed the mountain, the sun beamed down on us and the terrain had drastically changed to desert.

DSC08515We stayed at Kranskloof lodge – another one bedroom self contained unit with a picturesque swimming pool.  It was rather central to all our destinations and there is a cute deli down the road with a playground and make home made apricot jam.  (They were also kind enough to do our washing for us, and somehow bring it back smelling beautiful and clean.)

Oudtshoorn the town was rather small and unremarkable except for the groceries. DSC08387 Cango Wildlife Ranch north of Oudtshoorn was a hit. A rather interesting and odd collection of animals with a fantastic guide. We enjoyed seeing the crocodiles jumping, and getting a great view of the big cats.  We were taken on a guided tour for about 60 – 90 minutes which was very informative. We also spent a lot of time in the kid area on the playground.  There is a water play area so remember to bring swimmers as it is hot! There is also a petting zoo where the largely unsupervised farm animals (think sheep, goats, bunnys) run away from the toddler and appear rather scarred and don’t want to be there.

DSC08559Cango ostrich farm is one of the many ostrich farms in the area that probably do the same thing.  It was an interesting 45 minute tour that the adults and kids enjoyed.  I learnt that ostriches have more vertebrae in their neck and can turn around 360 degrees.  Males and females have different colours.  They can reach speeds of 70 km/h.  You can stand on ostrich eggs and they won’t break (although if a baboon drops the egg it will break!)  Volunteers were allowed to have the ostrich eat out of their hand, give them ‘hugs’, ‘massages’ and I had the pleasure of ‘riding’ an ostrich for all of four seconds before falling off.  Glad I could cross that off my bucket list!

Cango caves was pretty impressive as we carried the kids/ dragged the toddler throughDSC08581
the hour tour.  As I was entertaining Miss 2.5 year old, I missed most of the explanations and talk but I could still appreciate the beauty.  And the rendition of the South African National Anthem in the caves concert hall.

 

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En route home from Cango Caves we stumbled across a restaurant called The Old Mill which was a good find.  It was pretty (can be a function venue), had a playground, wifi and some bunnies and ponies just hanging out. Being vegetarian we resisted from trying ostrich but the pasta was pretty memorable!

 

George

It was a relatively short drive of 1.5 hours from Plett to George, which we broke up DSC08279further by stopping at Knysna’s East Head cafe which was spectacular for its view and the food was pretty good too.  There is an outdoor children’s area of blocks and chalkboards.    We had to wait about 10 minutes before a table was ready, so we went for a short stroll to the heads.

The other place we stopped at was Timberlake Village  which was a cute kid friendly group of shops with an outdoor playground. There is a fairy shop with a 5 Rand entry to a fairy garden which was something a little different.

DSC08360We stayed at a lovely place called Farmlands B & B and were met by the lovely Vanessa who went out of the way to make us feel at home.  The accommodation was a smallish one bedroom apartment with a common kitchen, dining  and outdoor area.  We stayed here for 3 nights and enjoyed a lovely home cooked breakfast every morning.  There was a (non fenced) swimming pool on site, some dogs, a fig tree and horses in the next door paddock.  It was located a 15 minute drive to the main part of George, but around the corner from our main attraction in George – Redberry Farm.

Redberry Farm is a kiddie heaven for all ages.  A free playground got us started before DSC08319we bought a container and went a bit nuts picking strawberries to fill it. The bunnies were cute to watch and that’s about all the entertainment our kids could handle.  The maze and the paddle boats were a bit beyond them.  The gift shop was nice to browse through and the cafe had lots of strawberry related items on the menu for lunch.

Apart from the farm, we didn’t have any must dos and thought we would see what came up. George Botanical Gardens had a small entrance fee, and while I will say it was nice, it was nothing spectacular (wait until Kirstenbosch in Cape Town!) However, it did give us an opportunity to have a nice picnic, kick a ball and be a little silly.  And let’s face it, we all need some of those days.

DSC08337The next day was a beautiful weather day which called for a beach. Harolds Bay was closer to us than Wilderness beach and what a wonderful little discovery!  Besides having the compulsory sand and water, Harolds Bay had some fabulous rock pools where we saw starfish, crabs, octopus hiding under rocks anemones, and some other sea creatures which I do not have the vocabulary to describe!  A unique experience for me, who lives in Sydney with beaches at my doorstep.

Vanessa, our host had told us about a chicken farm called Red Barn which was close by and she buys her local organic Shakespeare-read eggs.   We took a little detour with the thought of educating our children about where eggs come from (the good ones, where the chickens beaks are not razed and they are not in DSC08343jail.)  After some windy up and down roads, we arrived to be greeted by a friendly Kiwi who was more than happy to show our children the hens, and even let Miss N collect an egg.  It is not a typical tourist place, which made it even better as there weren’t hoards of people around.  Other fun things about the farm is the odd emu that is at the front – not that the emu is odd, but it’s rather odd for an emu of all animals to be living on a chicken farm in South Africa!  I also have this farm to thank for allowing me to try shitake mushroom biltong.  At long last, this vegetarian got to try biltong!

DSC08354Outeniqua Transport Museum was on my list of things to do, so we did it.  We didn’t do the power van trip, mainly because we weren’t organised enough/grey unpromising clouds/the thought of being stuck with needy whiny kids for 2 hours in a closed space for fun 😉  The transport museum itself was not really my thing.  My daughter is not overly enthused about transport unless she gets to sing the wheels on the bus. But it did entertain her for a while, climbing up and down off trains.   And my son, well, he doesn’t get a say in any of it anyway as he is only 8 months old. Sorry.

One more thing about George. Panarotti.  I’m a little late to understanding this Temple, as I believe it is a chain of Italian restaurants across South Africa and abroad.  We stumbled across this place while looking for another restaurant, but quickly chose Panarottis because of it’s awesome indoor jungle gym and child minder.   The food was pretty average, but did I mention the child minder?!!

 

Plettenberg Bay

After agonising over where to start our garden route journey, we decided to fly to George and then drive to Plettenberg Bay, simply because it meant 1.5 less hours driving in the car.

DSC07525We stayed on this beautiful property just outside the main streets, close to Plett airport, although thank goodness it is a rather poor attempt at an airport so it was not noisy.   We discovered this gem on Budget Getaways although it is no longer available for the rest of 2017.  It was a spacious 1 bedroom cottage with a huge garden on a farm, some horses, cows and a couple of friendly dogs meandering in and out.   Our neighbours on the farm were the parents on one side, their son and family on another side (which meant swings and trampoline on site), their daughter on the other side who runs an exquisite restaurant called Ouland Royale (highly recommend the vegan pie and vegetarian quiche), and the parents in law behind us.  They were all as friendly as each other, and home grown tomatoes were left on our doorstep. The other lovely pro was that they are equipped for babies, and they had a high chair attachment, some toys, a baby bath and a portable cot on offer.

We decided to spend 6 nights is Plett – partly because the thought of relocating too often with the little ones was daunting, and partly because there was a lot to do!  Turned out we had glorious weather and it was the perfect amount of time to both see things and relax at our new ‘home’.  Here is a list of attractions we went to:

  • Monkey Land – A wonderful one hour guided walk through the bush with monkeysDSC07569 and lemurs playing or sunbaking.  Able to use a stroller, although would have been better with carriers for children, as our pram wasn’t the 4WD type. Miss N enjoyed the curio shop the best and would have stayed for another hour playing with all the soft toys had we let her!
  • DSC07635Birds of Eden – This huge aviary is next to Monkey Land. Whilst there were some stunning birds and it is stroller friendly, birds aren’t really my thing (says she who will cross the road and walk backwards at the sight of a magpie).  There were flamingos towards the end which redeemed it for me, but not something I would do again in a hurry.
  • Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary – This is the place to see lions, tigers and other cats DSC07687including servals (did you just learn a new animal?).  Another one hour guided tour and very interesting to learn about the animals, but I would try go last thing in the afternoon or first thing in the morning when it is not so hot.  I heard that in the afternoon, the animals are waiting to get fed so are down by the fences.
  • DSC07700Plett Puzzle World – Next to Jukani, it has a lovely little playground which is free to use and includes a maze and a trampoline (Note to Australians – ignore safety standards or lack thereof).  The cafe has some cute games like big jenga and connect 4 to play with.  For older kids, there would probably be some interesting puzzles to do, but for littlies, it was time to go home for naps.
  • Knysna Elephant Park – Who goes to Africa and doesn’t encounter an elephant?  My
    daughter and husband had the elephant experience for about 45 – 60 minutes of patting and feeding the elephants, with an educational experience.
  • IMG_0035Robberg Beach – Just beautiful.
  • Robberg Nature Reserve – We decided not to let kids get in the way of a good hike, but they did.  Instead we got to enjoy the 30 minute hike around part of the peninsula using carriers for the kids.  Before we completed the loop, perhaps about half way, we walked a little further to view the seals down below and then backtracked to returned to the carpark.
  • Old Nick’s Village – We happened to go on a Wednesday on the way back to Plett from the Crags and stumbled across the cute markets there.  Some nice hand madDSC07811e artist shops if I had lets say a spare 10000 rand.
  • Adventure Land – We picked a 30 + degree day to enjoy these water slides and pool. Good choice.  There are smaller waterslides for toddlers, and great waterslides for adults.  We took turns and had the kids watch us enjoy ourselves.  The playground and trampoline were too hot for use
  • Harkerville Market – Open on Saturday morning, we enjoyed browsing, patting some bunny rabbits and digging in to some Thai food.
  • DSC08035The Heath playground – So inspiring,  Amazing.  Kids spent a while here, and we enjoyed a cake from the cafe there.  But alas, watch out for splinters on the wooden play equipment. Located outside the entrance to the Radical Raptors.
  • Radical Raptors – An unplanned great decision after playing at DSC08187the Heath to see the Radical Raptors show.  Our 2.5 year old donned a glove and let the owl and hawk land on her clenched fist.  She still imitates this with her toy owl a month later.
  • Global Village – Nice outdoor playground, but we didn’t stay for long as there was too much to do and see.
  • The Table – A nice restaurant with a kids room and kids can make their own pizza on a Tuesday night I believe.  The pizzas were pretty good with original toppings. IMG_0050