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De Hoop Nature Reserve - Ocean House Part Three

Part III

sunny 85 °F

Hiking in the morning and a boat ride in the afternoon, it's hard to imagine that there is so much to do here because I think I am in the middle of nowhere. Also as I have explained the warm weather and minimal wind that we have experienced is not common this time of the year and in fact the weather is changing tomorrow, so in anticipation of that change our host has scheduled this boat outing today while the weather is great.
I am excited to go on this little excursion because they told us that there will be many birds.
Back up into the big Land Rover for the drive across the reserve to the lake, along the way see ostrich, the rare bontebok , Cape mountain zebra and some eland. Cape Leopards are not really common here, in fact I think they are more of an urban legend, Calvin insists the do exist and have been seen on hidden cameras. But because they are so rare the animals here within the reserve are very relaxed, As we drive by they hardly take note of us and continue to graze and stroll along the open fields.
We arrive at the lake and find a rickety dock with a small pontoon boat with a canopy. Calvin, Vusi, Clive, Tee, Allan and I cast off for our adventure on the water. Many birds and ducks in and around the lake, Calvin and Vusi are great spotters and I try to catch them in my camera, I have been looking forward to shooting the birds and hope i get a couple good shots. It's very peaceful and the wind is blowing a little bit. We travel across to the other side but the water is very shallow and we have to hang out a bit farther from the opposite shore line that is covered with pink flamingos and pelicans. The pelicans remind me of home and the brown Florida pelicans I love so much, but they are much bigger. Someone spots an eagle (I think it is Vusi), on top of a tree pretty far away and in an instant all the birds are disturbed and the flock takes off in flight. Allan and I try our best to capture the scene. ( yes, pictures coming when I get a stronger internet connection).
It's peaceful on the lake and we now start to drift with the motor off and the gin and tonics poured. We talk about all things and listen to Vusi tell us about where he is from in Zimbabwe. He is a tall and gentle man who is soft spoken. He is Matabele and the regime in Zim have not treated them well to say the least so those that survived have tried to make a life in other places while maintaining their homes or farms as well. His oldest son runs his farm with over 100 cows, which is a sign of wealth in these parts. I could listen to Vusi all day and I am sure he has many stories to tell. Maybe next trip!
Meanwhile back to the Ocean House for a little rest before dinner. It's exciting to think about what chef Jose' has prepared for us tonight.

Posted by Lauriesam 19:51 Archived in South Africa Tagged #offthebeatenpath #southafrica #oceanhouse #dehoopnaturereserve #hospitalityatitsbest Comments (0)

Exploring De Hoop - Ocean House Part Two

What's a puffy?

sunny

Rugged luxury and first class hospitality

We quickly unpack our bags to get a bit organized in our new digs and meet up to go for some dune boarding and sundowners on the dunes near the beach. We all take a turn on the boards, I am not brave enough to stand, but I like sitting on the board and sliding down. It's not much different than sledding and snow boarding it's just a lot warmer and you can go with bare feet. This weather is for me. We are drinking or choice of wine, beer or gin and tonics as we watch the sun going down over the dunes with the wavescrashing on the beach in the background.
I am trying to absorb the essence of where i am in this great nature reserve. We are at the point where the sand dunes end and the rocky cliffs begin. You can walk for miles zigging and zagging up, on and over the small strips of beach. It's so relaxing after being jammed in the Jeep for almost four hours and the sea air is now our tranquilizer. We make our way back to the house and have a little time to get ready for dinner.
After a great hot shower I wander out to the patio where a beautiful table waits for us, the candles are lit and the fire is burning bright. On the way I am noticing the beautiful details in the house, each room with large picture windows inviting the outside to come in. The decor says come stay a while, or sit here an read a book, have some tea or take a nap on me. But there is no time to wander now dinner is ready. We start off with an amazing beer batter bread, I could have stopped there. The chef promised it is a very simple recipe 500 grams bread four, 1 peroni beer, 2 tablespoons baking powder and 2 tablespoons of sugar, mixed tougether and sprinkled with cheese, in this case cheddar then baked at 180C. (Don't blame me if it doesn't turn out) I just loved the consistency and definitely wanted more. Next comes a filet steak cooked to perfectionand a great wine, what more can you ask for?
As usual dinner conversation centers around the question, "Are there any snakes here?" Allan asked this question wherever we go. It's always the first question and never the last. The answer, surprisingly enough is usually, "hardly ever," or "10 years ago in the parking lot," or " not this time of the year." South Africa is known for it's dangerous venomous snakes like the black mamba, puff adder and more. Some move fast and are afraid of people or not interested, some territorial, some move slow but who cares, we don't want to see them. And then there is the law of attraction.
After a beautiful breakfast the next morning we take off from the house across the path and through the fynbos, more questions about snakes and we are told it is almost winter and it is very unlikely we would see a snake. They live in the low bushes and eat mice, etc. Not five minutes later we spot a dangerous puff adder slithering across the path stretching about 4 feet, they are kind of fat and have a big head with yellow and maybe some orange, I assure you I am not that close. A puff adder, aka.'PUFFY', 15 feet away! He is clearly not interested in us. Allan amazingly brave, but as Teresa said, "We almost lost Clive."
Somehow we all survived the sighting and carried on for a long hike up and down the sandy path for a couple of miles in the 90 plus degrees. The water of the Indian Ocean is quite cold, it's deep blue and in the shallows more green in color. It was a calm day, hardly any wind and hotter than any day recently our hosts could remember.
By mid day we are ready for a break and we have a nice lunch on the beach under umbrellas to keep us cool. I become the official photographer while everyone plays volleyball, Calvin, Admire and Tight give Allan, Clive and Tee a run for their money. Everyone had fun, but I am thinking the Ocean House staff probably wish we were a bit better at volleyball , but never let on if they did! Admire and Tight, brothers from Zimbabwe are great athletes and were as competitive as Clive and Allan, which made the match even more fun.
With no puffy's in sight we relax and enjoy our lunch on the beach.

Posted by Lauriesam 07:09 Archived in South Africa Tagged #offthebeatenpath #southafrica #dehoop_naturereserve #oceanhouse_morokorufamily #africanadventure #snakesliveheretoo #pufadder Comments (0)

A Long and Winding Road - Ocean House Part One

Paul McCartney would approve

sunny 94 °F

Sometimes when I travel I wonder if I have gone to far

Leaving the posh but relaxing environment of Stellenbosch we hop in the Jeep and leave all the shops and restaurants behind. We head off to the East South East of on a long journey on a very hot day. We are five people , 4 big duffels, 4 big backpacks full of camera equipment, some tex bars,water and peppermint crisps all shoved into a Jeep Wrangler.
We are told it is about three and a half hours and it is a very hot day, probably 90+ degrees F. We are all very cheerful taking in the scenery along the way we stop for a quick break after about 2 hours, the scenery changes from some small towns to just farm land, a small wind farm, brown fields on rolling hills that have been harvested already. Even though it is so hot we remember they are going into fall here.
After another hour we turn off onto a rocky road, not the ice cream, for the last very bumpy 30 K before we arrive at thegate of theHoop nature reserve. Here we left in the good hands of Calvin our host at the Ocean House. We now climb up into an open Land Rover for the last 15 or 20K to our home for the next three days. This road is rockier and bumpier than the one before and the car has been here before, it takes the bumps and rocks like a seasoned pro, helping to set the scene for this remote place. This part of the reserve is all Fynbos, ( fine bush) over 1000 species of them, sand dunes and beyond that the Indian Ocean. Another 20 minutes bumping along taking in the scenery and breathing in the sea air laced with the different fynbos as the new adventure begins. What lies ahead is truly special.90_IMG_4402.jpgIMG_4401.jpg
The staff meet us with a traditional welcome song, hand towels to refresh and cool and a tall Shirley Temple to rehydrate. There is a stark contrast from Stellenbosch and the lush green sophisticated DeLaire Graff property with all the statues and manicured grounds to this completely wild nature reserve which makes me feel a bit like I have landed on the moon. I haven't even seen anything yet and I am in love with this place. It has all the elements of nature that I love. The sea, the sand, rocky cliffs, sand dunes and animals grazing freely it is just about heaven on earth. There is a calm here that I have never experienced anywhere else. No noise, no ambient light and no TV and just enough internet connection to be happy. All I can hear are birds singing and before I unpack I ask our host and hostess if we can stay an extra night! IMG_4407.jpg90_IMG_4419.jpg

Posted by Lauriesam 22:45 Archived in South Africa Tagged #offthebeatenpath #oceanhouse #dehoop_naturereserve #morukuru_family #hospitalitydoneright Comments (0)

The Joy of Delaire

And the people that make it great

sunny 90 °F

What is a place if not for the people who are passionate about what they do?

Delaire Graff is a stunning property that wraps its graceful arms around you when you arrive. Coming from the busy waterfront in Cape Town the short drive takes you through the townships and then suddenly pass the vineyards and wine farms of Stellenbosch. It's a striking contrast that weighs heavily on me as we make our journey. Ultimately we make the turn off and climb the hill that brings us to this magnificent property. We turn in and the gardens greet us like an old friend. I remember how I felt when I arrived the first time and I take in the stunning gardens with the beautiful statues as we drive up to the lobby. The hotel itself is perched on a hilltop surrounded by the vines of Delaire. Above us are the jagged rocky cliffs that seem to lift out of nowhere, Simonsberg to one side offering a dramatic view from our room and Leopards landing, a short climb above the Chardonnay vines where you can see clear across to table mountain in Cape Town.
The gardens blooming with many flowers and birds chirping a welcome song. Just sitting on the balcony of our room and doing nothing is something.
It's remarkable beauty and it must be savored. It might take a minute to slow down and take it all in, to really empty your mind and absorb it all.
We had dinner on the property at Indochine the first night and what might have been an ordinary, albeit delicious meal was transformed into memorable experience with the help of our amazing server, Jean Claude. His passion for the food and his desire for us to enjoy ourselves was amazing, he described the choices on the menu as if they were his precious children and guided us to pick the things that he knew we would enjoy. Finally upon offering us dessert, we informed him there was no room left and his face dropped, I thought he might cry. He went on to describe two choices we might like to share among us and of course we ordered and were not disappointed with our choice. The food was truly delicious.
We also spoke with the Sommelier, Kyle, who really loves what he does. He directed us to a great red blend for dinner, but the best part was how he took his time to ask what we liked and the properties of the different wines. Kyle tells us he is preparing for his master sommelier test I was humbled as he took the time to help me understand what I liked and translated it into terms that made sense to me.
We met Kyle the next afternoon in the restaurant just looking for a glass of Chardonnay. I just started drinking white wine, so I really did not know what to ask for. He had me taste one or two, and then explained that I like the big Chardonnay with a bit of Oak, not much citrus! I could listen to Kyle talk about wine all day long.
On our second day we decided to have a picnic up at leopards landing at sunset and asked the hotel for a cheese plate and a bottle of wine. Allan, Clive and Tee hiked up and I took the buggy, I arrived and to my suprise they had layed out a blanket and pillows and set a table for us with a beautiful Delaire Terraced Block Chardonnay on ice. The cheese plate turned out to be a hamper full of fruit, cheese, crackers, smoked salmon and we brough a beautiful sourdough bread from Babylonstoren. The wine was just beautiful and we finished the bottle easily. The weather did not disappoint and we were treated to the most amazingly clear view and sunset. It was an evening to remember. We might have looked a bit like the three stooges (well four) because of our many cameras, IPhones, GoPro's and Clive's drone. The serenity of the evening was captured on every device we had which made us laugh at ourselves. Just before sunset another couple came up to enjoy the sunset and enjoy a glass of champagne. They left quite soon after the sunset to make their dinner reservation. I realized our wine was finished and they may not have finished the bubbly, so I went over and helped myself to their bottle. I think the bubbly put us over the top. I am not sure any of the pictures will really capture the moment, perhaps due to the wine, but It was fun trying.
On the last day I decided to have a facial. Delaire is known for it's spa services and I booked a facial. My therapist, Misha, did an outstanding job. I don't know what she did during the facial, but it was so relaxing and nurturing I almost cried. My skin was glowing when I left and I felt fantastic.
As I read this over I don't think I have really captured the essence of this place. The beauty all around that is nature, the statues in the gardens and the lobby plus the art work that hangs on the walls. There is something to enjoy at every turn. That paired with all those who work here that bring their passion and joy to work daily makes Delaire Graff a really special place.

Posted by Lauriesam 23:18 Archived in South Africa Tagged #south_africa #stellenbosch #delaire_graff #passionatepeople Comments (1)

Cheers, It's Wine Country

From Cape Town to Stellenbosch

sunny 85 °F

It's only about an hour from the hustle and bustle of Cape Town's water front to the lush and elegant Stellenbosch.
Our accommodations in Stellenbosch are pretty spectacular, it is so peaceful here you can here the leaves rustling on the trees and the birds chirping. The rooms have large glass doors that fold up close against the side so the room is wide open to the view of the vineyards across the way. There is a lovely breeze and it is mesmerizing to watch the tall soft grasses bending gently in soft air currents.
During the course of th day the scenery changes as the sun travels from east to west casting it's rays across the valley in the morning and in the afternoon sending it's warm glow to the tall mountains to the east.IMG_4322.jpgIMG_4311.jpg
Just like the food and wine this the place to be savored, slowing down to take it all in. ( due to slow internet, I will add photos later)
Stellenbosch has an abundance of fresh produce and meats from local farms which makes eating here a gastronomic experience and a privilege.
Today we visited Babylonstoren www.babylonstoren.com. This is a wine estate with a working farm, bakery and more. In summer I would suggest getting here early so you can walk around before the heat sets in, the grounds are stunning. As you enter you are greeted by roaming chickens and roosters, there are some shops in the buildings and as you pass this area you walk out into the beautiful gardens resplendent with herbs, fruit and vegetables all planted to complement each other. The Babel restaurant sits within the gardens and is dining experience to be enjoyed at a slow pace. Each dish has a suggested wine pairing or else you can order from the wine menu. I believe all the food is from the farm, you can check that on the website. The restaurant is all white with glass walls on two sides so you can enjoy the scenery, the kitchen is open so you see the action from your table. On either side of the glass walls are some picnic table outside under a lattice with creeping grapevines . The white thatched roofs of the cape Dutch architecture completes the picture. Each plate is a picture, I would be hard pressed to say if the food was more delicious or beautifully presented. IMG_4341.jpgIMG_4336.jpgIMG_4335.jpg90_IMG_4323.jpg
Driving through Stellenbosch you will see there is no shortage of vineyards to visit, some just do wine tastings, some with tours and food tastings and some like Babylonstoren with accommodations, spa, tours, special events, restaurants, bakery, butchery and more. Each place is unique and your experience is enhanced by the people you encounter along the way, those who work there and those who had the vision many years ago.

Posted by Lauriesam 07:06 Archived in South Africa Tagged #southafrica #stellenbosch #babylonstoren #winecountry Comments (2)

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