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Category: Adventure

Tsitsikamma National Park

Driving in South Africa has proven to be a rewarding experience with ever-changing landscapes to partake. The popular Garden Route that stretches from Storms River all the way to Mossel…

Driving in South Africa has proven to be a rewarding experience with ever-changing landscapes to partake. The popular Garden Route that stretches from Storms River all the way to Mossel Bay in the Western Cape deserves the rave and praise as the most scenic stretch along our road trip. Views of open vistas, deep gorges, verdant pine forests and endless mountain ranges continuously unravel as we snake through the highway.

Tsitsikama (Storms' River) (2)

We stopped over at Storms River to spend a few nights and explore the adjacent Tsitsikamma National Park. Tsitsikamma is a khoi word meaning “place of abundant or sparkling water”. It is hard not realize the expanse of water around this region as vegetation remains fertile and drinking water from the tap is even sweet!

Tsitsikama (Storms' River) (5)

Noted for its spectacular scenic hikes and perfect camping spots overlooking the Indian Ocean, this park is a holiday haven for locals and visitors alike. We spent the day exploring two trails; one to the mountain top and another to a waterfall. The hike into the waterfall was a new challenge, climbing between and on rock boulders, balancing on stony ridges and negotiating loose sandstones.

Tsitsikama (Storms' River) (8)Tsitsikama (Storms' River) (10)

However it was not the final destination that gave us the greatest satisfaction, instead it was the adventure along the journey that allowed us to truly take in the beauty of God’s creation.

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Hole In The Wall

Nothing comes cheap – especially if you’re on a hunt for mind blowing views off the Wild Coast in South Africa. The road into this hidden gem named Coffee Bay…

Nothing comes cheap – especially if you’re on a hunt for mind blowing views off the Wild Coast in South Africa. The road into this hidden gem named Coffee Bay costs us a lot of dodging on the dirt road into this coastal haven. Pot holes scattered 80km of the tar road leading into the bay. We traveled at 40km/hr on a rough roller coaster ride. Rondavels mushroomed on the green hills as we entered, school had just finished for the day and children in their uniform tracked back to their homes in joyful glee. We left them with a trail of dust as we negotiated the road.

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Coffee Bay named after the coffee plantations in its nearby surroundings is off the beaten track. We decided to pay a visit after much rave and recommendation by locals. ‘The Hole in the Wall’ was a must-see, so we hired a hike for R100 to bring us there by foot. He introduced himself as Eric, small in stature with a blue beanie and a little drawstring bag carrying no more than his wallet and a handphone. We started our hike up a dirt road and veered onto the edge of the mountain. The views were fantastic as we saw waves lapping into the coastline and big boulders causing magnanimous waves. The next 3 hours brought us up and down 4 mountains on almost invisible trails. We walked on the edge of rocky mountains posing possible threats to accidents at a slip of the foot. We threaded on gentle grass sharing spaces with busy sheep chewing their breakfasts and lazy cows having a sleep-in. We hobbled on pebble trails and followed the sturdy goats up the mountain range. At each ascend a greater view awaited us, from generous gorges to steep crevices. We stopped for photos and the much needed water breaks every now taking in the beauty of hidden paths.

Coffee Bay (9)

After 3 hours of treacherous but rewarding walking we finally arrive at ‘The Hole in the Wall’ – literally what its name connotes, it is a hole in the middle of a rock wall. Waves crash into it creating dramatic washovers. This window in the middle of the water was a natural wonderment. On a less windy day, daredevils jump off the wall into the hole and wait for waves to carry them into the quiet beach. We settled under a tree and enjoyed the view while munching on our toasties and cold drinks eventually snoozing for a few minutes before starting our 3 hours hike back to Coffee Bay.

Hole in the Wall Hole in the Wall

With our bodies all relaxed and hardly any energy to tooth-pick our eyes open, walking back was a difficult feat. Eric had mentioned that maybe we could hitch a hike back if we spotted any vehicles going that direction. We prayed hard for a car, but continue walking. Up and down dirt roads praying for a miracle. No car was in sight, the roads look lonesome with 3 hikers trudging along. Finally after much prayer and buckets of sweat, a police truck veered by, Eric stopped the car, we put on our puppy dog eyes in hope for some sympathetic-empathy and…. sure enough! The policewoman waved us into the vehicle. Terence and Eric climbed into the open trunk at the rear and I at the back seat sharing the seat with a half-dead chicken.

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The ride back was bumpy but much appreciated.

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Game Drives At Kruger National Park

A sense of respect and admiration dawned on us as we surveyed the large expanse Kruger National Park, home to the largest density of animals in South Africa. We are…

A sense of respect and admiration dawned on us as we surveyed the large expanse Kruger National Park, home to the largest density of animals in South Africa. We are now in their territory with a different set of rules we had to follow. From the level of noise to the distance our vehicles should be – in respect of their privacy – this was nature’s playground – and we are but humbled visitors.

We enjoyed the privilege of going on 6 game drives with a very knowledgeable ranger, Mike, a local Durbanian and our tracker Elvis who spent his childhood and growing up years in the bush hunting for elephants, rhinos and buffaloes as his father and grandfather did for generations past. Thankfully conservation awareness has proven testament to its efforts as Elvis and the communities around have ceased poaching as a source of income. Instead they work as skilled labourers and well respected people within the safari community.

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Every game drive lasted about 3 hours as Mike and Elvis mutually decided on the route we should take. A frequent question always preceded each game drive, “What would you like to see today?” On the first day we answered bright eyed, “Lions!” On the same game drive we saw zebra, impala, buffalo, giraffe, kudu, hippo, elephant and of course lion!

Cuddled up on the bed of sand on the dirt road, a ‘coalition’ of lions was found snoozing under the setting sun as temperatures started to cool. ‘Coalition’ meaning a pride of all male lions. Our 4×4 pulled up a few feet away and we watched in quiet splendor. Their eyes would twitch as flies buzzed by, occasionally they will smother their paws over their faces as they let out enormous yawns bearing fierce teeth. The earth came to a standstill, we even held our ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’.

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The Big 5 was our ultimate aim – we had already spotted the lion, buffalo, elephant and rhino but the leopard was still out of sight. Our search continued as Elvis our tracker kept his eyes steady on the road to spot leopard tracks. His tracker seat allowed him full visibility as his chair was right in front of the 4×4. At the instance Elvis spotted leopard tracks, he would signal Mike to slow down. Elvis would carry a walky-talky and leave the vehicle by foot to trail the tracks. He would snake into lowbush shrubs, sandy river beds and grass laden expanse – wherever the tracks brought him. All this time we would continue in our pursuit for other big game.

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On every game drive, we would stopover for a ‘drinks break’ where a make shift table would be set up and covered with a checked table cloth. Goodies were pulled out from green picnic bag and laid on the table. For morning game drives we would enjoy a steaming hot cuppa whilst on evening drives we quench our thirst with some wine, beer or juice. Our munchies ranged from roasted nuts to jerky to dried fruits. The best treat was of course the view, overlooking watering holes where buffalo, elephant and hippo splash and drive or peering into the dry Timbavati river bed where buffalo rest in the morning heat.

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Still the most rewarding experience was with the beast of the bush – our personal favourite, lion. We spotted the same coalition with one lioness one morning just about to wake from slumber in the rise of the morning sun. Absolutely unperturbed by our presence they continued to snooze, tossing around every once in awhile. After about 20 minutes of watching, the lioness slowly awoke, gave a big mighty yawn and a relaxing cat stretch before standing up and making its way around our vehicle. We watched in silence. Within the next few minutes, the entire coalition stood up one at a time and took turns walking pass our vehicle before sitting down for another cat nap. Each came within few inches to our vehicle, surveyed our vehicle, regarded our presence and moved on. The few minutes was heart stopping and teeth clenching. There was absolute silence except for the ear shattering shutter clicks from Terence’s camera. Each time the shutter went off, my knuckles clenched harder on the metal bar. We sat awe-struck by their presence and broke out into quiet but hearty smiles after the last lion passed our vehicle. Our eyes met Mike and Elvis and we just knew that this was another breath-taking moment where mankind respects beasts and vice versa.

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Sifnos Island

Sifnos is a largely unassuming island part of the Cyclades, a group of islands on the Agean Sea. It is much smaller than Santorini, the famous Mama Mia island or…

Sifnos (1)

Sifnos is a largely unassuming island part of the Cyclades, a group of islands on the Agean Sea. It is much smaller than Santorini, the famous Mama Mia island or Mykonos, the luxury island visited by celebrities. Small was ideal since we were looking for a break (from a break!).

Quiet in nature and frequently flocked by Greek vacationers in the summer, Sifnos was a hush when we arrived. Small shops lined the bay, a few cars dotted the tiny streets and the ferry waved us goodbye. This tranquil state was to be continued for the next 2 days. We rented a bike and scooted ed around the rugged and abrupt rocky landscape, tiptoes the quiet beaches, squinted at the immense whiteness of buildings on the island and Robinson Crusoe’d on this petite island.

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The narrow pedestrian cobbled streets wind around the blocks of white square houses, twisting and turning with a view of the sea to offer at every corner. The view from the wide expanse of the Aegean Sea is punctuated by the little churches with blue domed roofs.

While the coastal outline of Sifnos is typically barren, within this tiny island is amazingly lush with greens and vegetation. Animals dotted the humble olive groves and veggie patches – from goats to sheep to donkeys.

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Being off season allowed us experience the Greek way of life – watching mothers hang out the clothes, children walking to school and men immersed in their construction and rebuilding of the properties. We learned that people on the island worked only 8 months a year, the other 4 months were spend repairing and reconstructing hotels, restaurants and making more pottery in time for the summer crowd.

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Up And away To The Highest Peak In Germany!

A break from cities and into small towns in hope to find a more intimate setting, charming shops and less traffic – we found ourselves in Garmish – Partenkirchen, 2…

A break from cities and into small towns in hope to find a more intimate setting, charming shops and less traffic – we found ourselves in Garmish – Partenkirchen, 2 hours away from Munich. This little town is the base of Zugpitze, Germany’s highest peak, a haven for skiers and snowboarders. We stayed in Garmisch for 2 nights and spent our time walking the snow covered walkways in the woods, weaving in and out of cobblestone alleyways, admiring 18th century wall murals, eating ice cream and taking the cable car up to Zugspitze.
Garmisch-Partenkirchen  (34)Garmisch-Partenkirchen  (5)Garmisch-Partenkirchen  (10)
The weather was fine and dandy at 2c when we left Garmisch for Zugpitze. The ticket up the peak set us back 74Euros (for 2 pax), so we vouched to spend a many hours on the peak as possible. The first leg of the journey was in a train, making several stops to pick up skiers along the way. They came in full skiing gear, lugging their skis and waddling like colourful penguins into the train. We observed, somehow enthralled by this new sport (at least to us). We were like snorkelers admiring divers who effortlessly throw themselves off the boat in full diving gear.

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At the foot hill, we clambered onto a huge cable car that cranked its way up extremely steep terrain. Lime boulders stared at us in the face, I looked down and my legs went jelly. As the cable car doors opened to let us out, we were greeted with a whisk of biting cold wind. At 2692 metres, the temperature had obviously dropped. We grimaced at the fact that -11c with strong gushes of wind was what we will have to endure in order to capture the incredible sights at such heights. Despite the fist clenching, knee knocking coldness, Terence managed to capture amazing views of endless snowcapped mountains rolling on into the horizons. These mountain range is shared by four countries; Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland.

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There was also a novelty set up at the peak – igloos! Made entirely by snow/ice, the interiors radiated a pleasant cool and hand chiseled walls adorn the igloo rooms. Travelers can even spend a night in and igloo room complete with comfy fur coating on a mattress embedded into the ice. Dim lights made the room glow in wonderment as the ray catches the hand chiseled art on its walls.

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If I Had Wings I Could fly!

The drive from Rotorua to Taupo was a buffer to calm our nerves for what’s to come. We had called to book us slots to dive from 12000ft from an…

The drive from Rotorua to Taupo was a buffer to calm our nerves for what’s to come. We had called to book us slots to dive from 12000ft from an airplane – yes! it’s sky diving. Given the fact that a professional will practically do most of the work whilst you are strapped onto to him doesn’t discount the fact that it’s pretty darn high to be plunging down.

We chose Taupo Tandem Sky Dive as our operator and paid NZ$219 each. They got us geared up in long red jumpers, harness, belts, sky beanies and eye shields. Wasting no time at all they walked us through some simple instructions and ushered us into the jet plane with our professional divers. Positioned steadily on the run way was a tiny little jet plane with a flimsy looking see through sliding door that opened up for our entry. About 10 of us piled into that plane and the door casually shut.

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At 8000ft my heart was already beating like crazy. I couldn’t hold onto Terence’s hands since he was way at the back. I later found out that he was also trying to psyche himself for the jump! At 11000ft, I was thinking to myself “I gotta be crazy, is there a chance for me to change my mind?” Too late, my diver (Patrik) whispered into my ear “This is it, are you ready?” He gave me some final instructions and signaled me to move towards the door. Within seconds my camera man (a hired diver) motioned a thumbs up and we were OUT! *Silence* Then it was screams all the way as I felt my heart leap out of my body and I was just falling. The camera man in front of me made me do silly gestures, made me smile at the camera and wiggle my fingers – all I could think of was, I need to fall in style, so this is my only chance!

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At 5000ft the parachute was released and instantly from a horizontal position we were flung back up into an instant vertical position. It was no longer flying because I felt we were flying. The parachute looked immense as it towered over us, Patrik glided us above the waters then onto the mountains, he made a 360 degree swoop around showing off Taupo’s stunning scenery. Everything looked so small from above, the cars looked like toys, even the jet plane looked puny. As we glided onto the runway, the parachute gently rested us back on land. Terence came gliding in a few seconds later with a pure surge of adrenaline written over his face. We were ecstatic and still in awe at the madness we put ourselves through just to see NZ at a different perspective.

Skydiving at Taupo (1)Skydiving at Taupo (10)

Worth every penny paid?! Absolutely! We’ve got photos and a DVD to refresh our memory of that moment where we allowed ourselves to fly!

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