The best place on earth keeps getting better!

I’m sitting watching hippos sparring in the Crocodile river overlooking the Kruger National Park and reminiscing about the past four days in ‘the best place on earth’…

Ticking off the big five (lion, leopard, rhino, buffalo and elephant) sightings is a mere spinoff of much greater delights that these past four days have yielded as I continued to be awed by the wonder and natural beauty of this immense and wild savannah bushveld ….

It’s also the beauty of the trees, bushes, different grasses and rock formations, the changing landscapes and breathtaking views, the smallest creatures like the dwarf mongoose to the blue tailed skink to the cute dung beetle, not to mention the myriad of colorful birds – I saw 68 different varieties in 4 days – (not to mention a territorial aerial fight between two Black-shouldered Kites) that make a trip to the KNP unforgettable.

Adventure is also on offer – we witnessed lions mating every 15 minutes a stone’s throw from our vehicle, two rhinos fighting with a small baby rhino caught in the middle, we were chased off a bridge full of drinking ellies by a charging belligerent and loudly trumpeting elephant, got between a group of cross ellies trying to break up fighting male impala (it was rutting season) and stood a mere five metres from a chomping rhino (with a thin fence between us), all in a few days. Not to mention following two great male lions and a stalking leopard along the open road at night in an open vehicle!

I love the visceral sounds and fresh smells of the park – the earthy smell of the potato bush late in the afternoon to the dawn bird chorus in the morning. The tranquility of the bush is like a magnet to my soul and draws me to this place over and over to enjoy Mother Natures’s rich bounty.

Spectacular sunsets framed hot clear days spent with my ‘bush eyes’ on, spotting game as we ambled slowly down dirt road detours and main roads from one camp to the next. I stayed at Satara, Skakuza and Berg en Dal and was surprised at how nice and well equipped they were, each camp with its resident wildlife wandering through the camp unfazed by human visitors.

Some highlights include watching maternal baboons protecting their playful babies from the vehicles on the road, watching baby ellies mock charge us, seeing baby hippos, lion cubs, baby rhino, cute baby impala and zebra and giraffe.

I love the heart shaped noses of female water buck, the glossy coats of impala, the giant ears of kudu, the yellow socks of nyala, the long eyelashes of giraffe, the boss horn of male buffalo and the agile trunks of elephants, as well as the startlingly vibrant colours of a lilac breasted roller perched high on dead tree branches.

Mostly I love the stories of bush and animal folklore, the tidbits of information about rhino midden, sexing giraffe by their horns, impala rutting season and their large harems, hippos taking a dump as a mating ritual and vultures defecating on their legs as sunscreen ! All of this and so much more keep me coming back to this addictive haven of joy and peace that rejuvenates my soul – known as the best place on earth.

Heralding in the Chinese New Year with a bang! 新年快樂

I love Chinese New Year celebrations! For starters they happen over about three weeks… (spread through the weeks before and after the actual official date of the Chinese New Year) and the food, colourful parades, food, traditions, food, performances and fireworks (and food) make it a highlight on my bucket list calendar. Not to mention that in traditional Chinese culture this is the most important holiday of the year (no, I’m not Chinese but I could be).

This year (2018) I managed to get in several celebrations across Gauteng. My festival calendar kicked off at the magnificent Nan Hua Buddhist Temple in Bronkhorstspruit on Sunday 18 February, which came alive with colour, sound and fun festivities. After a traditional opening ceremony, the festivities kicked off with some serious firecrackers fired off to mark the start of the day. From my close up seating in the front I had to dodge a few hot pieces of wayward shooting debris. I should have followed my nephew’s example and stuck to the food stalls at the back.

This was then followed by the traditional dancing Chinese dragon (propped up by at least a dozen good men) and preceded by crashing cymbals and other noisy musical instruments.

The dragon dance (lots of weaving, wiggling and acrobatics to stand upright) was followed by four colourful Lions dancing, led and taunted by a plump teasing Buddha.

Traditional dancing, foods and handicrafts (and lots of curly lucky bamboo for sale) lent to the fun and excitement on the day and you could even join a guided 30 minute meditation to escape the burgeoning crowds and learn more about the Buddhist culture.

You could even paint your own chinese lantern or partake in a traditional tea drinking ceremony or throw your wish for the year (written on a ribbon with a coin on the end of it) onto the Wishing Tree! Red money lucky packets were dished out by characters in costume to wish us luck for the year ahead. What an awesome start to the Chinese New Year, but wait – there was more to come…

Joburg’s First Chinatown

The following weekend I joined the Chinese New Year celebrations in Joburg’s First Chinatown on Commissioner street, which culminated with a massive and impressive fireworks display over the CBD. Tons of food stalls, plenty of traditional entertainment and a huge crowd made it a loud, colourful and exciting evening downtown. I also witnessed a tea ritual meditation demo, which was fascinating and oh, so elegant.

We nearly had too much excitement when my buddy almost turned herself into a human firecracker and set herself alight walking into a burst of fireworks. Each shopfront has a huge firework chain hanging in front of their store which they set alight after the dragon has danced like crazy in front of their shop – apparently the loud flash crackers are lit to ward off the dragon and any evil, but almost had us alight too. We quickly realized not to get too close to the action as the procession of dragon and ear-drum popping loud firecrackers moved ceremoniously down Commissioner street!

Cyrildene Chinatown

On Saturday March 3 it is the turn of Cyrildene, Joburg’s biggest Chinatown, to celebrate Chinese New Year. The event is an exuberant, noisy and colourful affair, with the long main street, Derrick Avenue, filled with streetside food stalls and Cyrildene’s many restaurants all offer special festive menus. In the early evening a long parade begins to wind its way up the street, led by a colourful Chinese lion who is followed by dancers in traditional costume and a long, dancing Chinese dragon. Cymbals crash and firecrackers flare as the lion visits every business along the street. Chinese New Year in Cyrildene is a busy, noisy and exciting affair – watch out for the many wayward fireworks! – that makes for a most memorable cultural experience – and I plan to be there dodging the crackers from the safe distance of the many food stalls!

New year’s dinner at the Red Chamber

My friend Emma Chen runs the best Chinese restaurant in Joburg and it wouldn’t be a new year celebration without one of her famous theme evening dinners during their New Year celebrations (she even had her own huge Dragon draped across the ceiling for this special celebration).

In her own comical words…

Dear Dog Lovers

Funny how one changes. From a Jack Reacher action hero bang-bang Judge Dredd person, I suddenly find myself watching Love Actually and Jane Eyre.  The world appears rosy and I am happily in love – in love with this country of ours.

Of course, the truth is always more complicated.  This rosy-all-is-right-with-this-world frame of mind might also have something to do with the Chinese New Year celebration.  Lots of food and wine and firewater tend to put me in a good mood in any event.

The Year of the Rottweiler is simply what the doctor ordered – loyalty, justice, fairness, strength, alertness and discipline.  We can very well do with these qualities.   Plus the fact that Chinese Rottweilers do not bark “Woolf! Woolf!” they bark “Wang! Wang!“ which sounds just like “prosperity.”

Just shows you what great benefit a second language can be.

When you come to celebrate the Chinese New Year with us on the 27th (our New Year celebration lasts for 15 days), I would expect you to master these new words, only one word actually, lucky you.

Date: 27 Feb 2018 (Tuesday) night

Menu:

Stir-fried Prawns in Lettuce

Crabstick and Celery Salad

Steamed Scallops

Prawns with Fresh Fruit

Peking Duck

Rainbow Willow Fish

Plum Chilli Beef

Vegetable Fried Rice

Golden Nugget Tart

P.S. This is the Earth Dog year, so I guess there will be some muddy affairs on the horizon.

P.P.S.  If you absolutely hate Rottweilers, you may choose another breed of your choice; as long as they fall under the “canine” species and possess the above mentioned qualities.  We cannot lower the standard.

What it means: depends on your year of birth, the year of the Dog mean different things to different people.  It symbolises loyalty, faithfulness, justice and discipline.  Dogs are our oldest friends.  It should be a year of friendship too.  Dogs bark to communicate, especially to alert us to danger.

When does it start: based on lunar calendar, it starts on 16 February 2018 and ends 4 February 2019.

What to do: if you were born in the year of the dog, such as 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006.  You should wear something red close to your body for the whole year.  The easiest way to do this is to wear red underwear or a red bracelet.

Celebration:The Chinese New Year celebration lasts for 15 days, starting from the New Year Eve banquet and ends with the Lantern Festival.

New Year starts from getting rid of the old.  Before all the fun starts, everybody would work together to clean the house thoroughly.

New Year means new everything: from toothbrushes to socks, from toothpaste to shoes.  The thing to do is to start the New Year with new things literally.

New Year is about eating and drinking: depends on different regions, abundance of different food and drinks are consumed, non-stop.  Dishes of auspicious association are chosen to bring luck to the New Year.  Togetherness and wholeness are emphasised, such as a whole fish and whole duck.  Sitting at a round table laden with food and drinks, everyone shares, laughs, jokes, ganbeis.

New Year is time to worship the ancestors: the first thing each household does in the New Year is to light incense and bow at the ancestor’s tablets.  Then the junior members of the family must bow at the senior members.  Do not feel sorry for the junior ones as they receive a red envelope filled with cash in return!

Back to me – cash? What? There was none in my little red envelope from the first celebration?

Oh well, better luck next year!

P.S. the meal at Red Chamber was excellent, as always!

It’s party time in the city

A new year heralds the vibrant, colourful (and always late to start) Kaapse Klopse minstrel festival that takes place annually on 2 January in Cape Town.

Also known as Tweede Nuwe jaar (Second New Year), as many as 15,000 minstrels take to the streets garbed in bright colours, face paint, tinsel and sequins, and either carrying colourful umbrellas or playing an array of musical instruments. The minstrels are self organised into klopse (“clubs” in Kaapse Afrikaans or troupes in English). Participants are typically from Afrikaans-speaking working class Cape coloured families who have preserved the custom since the mid-19th century.

People consider the festival a rite of renewal that has been shaped by the Cape’s history. This yearly parade dates back to the mid-nineteenth century when the slaves in Cape Town were given one day off in the year (2 January). To celebrate, groups would dress up as minstrels, waving parasols, strumming banjos and making merry with music, dance and a parade from the District Six area through to the city centre. Many of the songs still sung today date back to the 1800s, with a fan favorite being ‘heer kom die Alibama’!

2018 saw one of the biggest gatherings, with spectators lining the streets the night before to claim their spot (a gazebo was a great way to mark off your spot in the front and make sure no one invaded your prime viewing spot). The parade kicked off four hours late that day and ran right up to the last poor troop hitting the streets at 11pm. The festivities ended in Bo Kaap with a huge street party that looked like someone had mixed glitter pots!

There is fierce competition amongst the troupes on dress (the more colorful the better), on the size of the troupe (whole families join the troupes to bump up numbers) and the array of musical instruments and dance moves. Some enterprising troupes even brought props with, like banners with their troupe name and suburb. The age range of revelers was from babies to 80 year olds plus!

Can you spell Ma-ki(e)-ti(e)?

Who knew there was a word to describe jollification, having a good time with friends and family, a feast? Yep, that’s a makiti and the annual Montagu Makiti was all that and more…

I had been missing the Cape after an extended period working in Joburg so it felt fitting that I should make a trip over the berg on a long weekend home and fit in a festival, several padstals and bonding time with #trustysidekick.

Bright and early on Friday morning we set off up Sir Lowrys Pass where I regaled said sidekick with my newly acquired tourist guide knowledge… like the fact that Sir Lowry Cole, after who this pass is named, insisted on having it built, despite objections from the British government. So when the pass cost £500 more than the £2500 he had told them it would cost, they decided to deduct it from his Governors pay. When the people of Cape Town found out, they took up a collection to raise the £500 and named the pass after good Sir Lowry.

We hadn’t gone far and stopped off to check out the Caledon casino and spa. Unimpressed we moved on to check out the little town of Bot River with its quaint hotel dating back to 1890.

The place was a veritable mine of antique treasures (including some already propped up at the ancient bar getting an early start on their drinking.). Definitely worth a stop and look see but we couldn’t find a spot for breakkies so we moved on.

At Riviersonderend we found a wonderful place on the main road for a delicious bacon and egg sandwich and stocked up on other yummy treats like the best looking bread and melktert I’d seen in a while (it tasted as good as it looked).

At Bonnievale we stopped for Tim Jan samples and despite the stuff’s awful taste we bought the hype about it being better than an enema to cleanse your system and two large bottles later we left feeling very proud of ourselves … until we realized we were headed in the wrong direction and had to make a u-turn on a dusty farm road to find the right route out of town in the direction of Montagu.

But not before stopping off at the Mooivallei dairy for the cheapest butter and cheese you can buy that side of the mountain! Stocked up with dairy goods, baked goods and trusty Tim Jan, we headed past the sheer granite mountains dotted with aloe trees, and through Cogmanskloof (also known as the hole in the wall) and into Montagu.

Montagu is famed for its hot mineral springs so we took a drive up to Avalon Springs set against the mountain side and checked out the hotel and springs. Definitely worth a visit with a bathing suit in summer but for today we made do with stocking up on a year’s supply of assorted dried fruit on our way back into town. At this point there was no longer room in #trustysidekick’s car to fit a prune!

Montagu history dates back to the 1700s and a farm. That was the start of a little village (Agter Cogman’s Kloof) that in 1854 was to become Montagu. The village was named for John Montagu, Colonial Secretary at the Cape from 1843 to 1852, seen as the father of the road system. He had a direct hand in the building of the Montagu Pass, Bain’s Kloof Pass and Michell’s Pass.

The cornerstone of the Montagu Dutch Reform church was laid on 1 November 1858. The church bought two sections of a farm, which they had cut up into plots, which were sold to raise money for the church. Later in the same year plots were sold on the other side of the river. Because these plots were sold at a lower price this section of the town became known as the “Vry-staat” (Free State). True story that.

The waters of Montagu had a great influence on its development. By 1860, 163 houses had been built. These houses were so well-built that some of them still stand. In Long Street alone five houses from this period can still be seen. This makes it one of three very important historical streets in the Cape.

History wasn’t on anyone’s mind during the annual Montagu Makiti- a fun weekend of markets and the locals finding an excuse to have a parade down the street, marching band and all!

I love the joy and jollification as everyone joined the colorful and loud morning parade which consisted of about three and a half floats, the local Harley Davidson club drive through, colourful ladies dancing on the back of bakkies and every school band, drummie troupe and dance troupe the town could muster up – but all in all a lot of fun and excitement for the small town of Montagu!

An old-world gentleman’s club and Baker’s stone houses… in the heart of Jozi!

Its been a while since I blogged and moving back to the city of my birth for a work contract initially wasn’t a cause for celebration. Who celebrates moving back to Joburg and a full time job? Plus, I was lamenting missing my mountain and #trustysidekick gallivanting across the Overberg with me. It actually took a trip back home and over the berg to get an AAK (attitude adjustment klap) and realise I was sitting on a goldmine here… literally.

Joburg is the city of gold, eGoli, built on gold and full of goldmines. So after having done my tourist guide course in July and lining up my Gauteng exam, why not explore my city of birth and reacquaint myself with its delights while I’m back in town.

Johannesburg is the richest and biggest city in South Africa, but even residents who love it labor under the weight of relentless comparisons to its beautiful sibling on the coast. Someone once summed it up perfectly. If Joburg and Cape Town were on a dating website, Cape Town would be the blonde in the bikini and Joburg would be the one with the really great personality.

Johannesburg was named after Johann Rissik (a clerk) and Christiaan Johannes Joubert (chief of mining) who both decided that the thriving gold miners camp (called Ferreira’s) of 1886 be declared a town. Initially the trek boers wanted to keep the rich gold find a secret, but that didn’t last long. The Transvaal Government did not want a repetition of Kimberley so Johannesburg was well planned as a city from the outset.

The Witwatersrand complex of cities stretches from Springs in the east to Randfontein in the west over a distance of 110km, the biggest metropolitan complex in Africa. Johannesburg remains the dominating centre over the other cities: Germiston, Boksburg, Brakpan, Roodepoort, Springs, Krugersdorp and Randfontein.

Johannesburg remains, even after one hundred and thirty years, exciting, vibrant and vital; one of the biggest cities in Africa with wide reaching influence. It is the only city of its size in the world not developed next to a river or at the sea.

But back to history… Two years after gold was discovered in 1886 there were 77 bars, 43 hotels and 12 billiard saloons. Tents and shelters were erected at such a speed that parked vehicles had to be dismantled in order to extricate them. By 1892 there were no fewer than 254 bars and hotels.

A year after gold was discovered, some of the snobby British imperialists decided this start up shanty town needed a real gentleman’s club, so in 1887 one of the great historical landmarks of Joburg was born – the Rand Club – which was founded on a site personally chosen by Rhodes himself. The original club was a single story brick structure with a wide stoep and iron roof. That and two subsequent buildings burnt down so that the current four story neo-Baroque grande dame of sandstone and baked brick was rebuilt in 1904 underpinned by a steel frame built in Glasgow.

Its male only, socially exclusive members were comprised of the early Johannesburg’s most prominent men of influence and they plotted in the bar to control the goldfields and the country – the failed Jameson raid was plotted in this very bar (which claims to be the longest bar counter in SA).

The Rand Club has recently been beautifully restored ans still displays the richness, comfort and elegance of its day and is worth a visit downtown. In its day it was a real axis of power and attracted visitors such as Churchill and Rudyard Kipling and was a quintessential English gentlemen’s club at the center of the worlds greatest goldfields.

While there, it is surrounded by many interesting old buildings that made up the former financial district. A walking tour of downtown Joburg is a great way to spend the day, which is exactly what I did through the Johannesburg Heritage Foundation on a sunny weekend in October (that and touring Forest town and Sir Herbert Baker Buildings around Parktown- more on that to follow).

Sir Herbert Baker was a friend of the great Imperialist Rhodes, who brought him to SA to ‘anglicize’ the country. Without doubt the masterpiece of Rhodes architectural accomplishments in SA is the Union Building, but Rhodes built several magnificent homes on the Parktown Ridge for himself and others.

A morning spent exploring these unique hand cut stone homes was time well spent.

Baker’s English style stone houses were built in the style known as ‘arts and crafts’ and key features were hand produced articles. Baker adhered to that school of thought. He used rough hand humed stone quarried on site with small wooden dormer windows set into the wall and exterior shutters and lintels set above the windows, which were a key feature of Baker.

Roofs consisted of shingles and carefully crafted chimneys made of stone, rough cast and red brick, with copper gutters.

Baker used different colored stones quarried on sites.

The magnificent Stonehouse in Parktown, with the best views up to Magaliesburg, was designed by Herbert Baker in 1902 as his own home, and is an important component of Parktown’s surviving architectural character. It makes use of natural building materials and its fine detailing makes this a splendid example of Arts and Crafts movement craftsmanship in South Africa. It was declared a National Monument, as have many other Baker homes on the ridge, all of which are currently privately owned and well worth a visit if you can get in.

Petal to the metal to see the feast of flowers…

I prayed for sun that day! #Trustysidekick and I set off early so as not to miss a bloom or bulb of the magnificent West Coast Flower season, which turns out brilliant multi-coloured displays of wildflowers each year between August and September.  

Timing and sun are crucial, To view the flowers at their best, we had to choose the hottest time of the day (normally from 11 to 3pm), also known in this neck of the woods as ‘extended-flower-power-hour’. Also important was to get to the park gate ahead of all the other hordes of visitors!

A quick stop at a padstaal en-route delivered the best toasted bacon, egg and cheese sandwich ever, made with real boere-brood (and they weren’t shy with the bacon!) for a mere 23 bucks. Re-fuelled and de-percolated (figure that one out for yourself), and with enough padkos to sink a ship, we set off for the Park gate and were the second car in line to enter. I had pre-printed the park form so it was a quick in and out to pay or flash my Wild Card and we were in, two loose cannons without a map or a clue, but with five cameras, three binoculars and two sunhats between us!

 We headed straight to the Postberg section of the park, which is only open to visitors in August and September every year and is renowned for its flower displays. Carpets of white, yellow, orange, purple, cream and pink flowers of all shapes and sizes, growing wildly and scattered as far as the eye could see made for the most spectacular display of nature I have seen in a long time.

The flowers always face the sun. Common sense dictates that one should drive towards the sun to enjoy nature’s dazzling display. When viewing flowers on foot, stand with the sun behind your back. Certain flowers don’t open when it’s overcast.

 Needless to say, we set off in the opposite direction and quickly learnt to look back, until we finally had the sun to our back and finally the grand displays revealed themselves to us. Lucky for me I had bought an idiots’ guide to the flowers at the Postberg gate (to raise funds for salt-licks!) and quickly become a blooming expert.

 A flower-power rule – respect the flower paradise – walk with care and don’t trample plants unnecessarily (and don’t pick any buds, bulbs or specimens). Yet despite a myriad of signs saying not to get out of your vehicle, we saw tons of butts sticking in the air as folks stooped over flowers photographing them at every angle to get that perfectly symmetrical shot. We followed suit and alighted often, but took care that no flowers were harmed in our pursuit of the perfect shot!

 The wildlife grazing happily amongst the flowers were an added bonus.  

Wildlife in the park includes large antelope such as eland, red hartebeest, bontebok, kudu, gemsbok, steenbok, mountain zebra, duiker and ostriches (including the cutest baby ostriches), as well as shy tortoises that risked all by crossing the busy roads.

 

 

Greyton Creative Arts Festival

As my friends know, I don’t need an excuse to go on a road trip! Before you have even told me about a Festival I am googling directions. If you don’t believe me, ask my friends! So when I heard or read about the Greyton Creative Arts Festival, and realised it was just down the scenic road (and by that I mean an hour away), I was there like a shot.

It was a warm sunny day as I set off up Sir Lowry’s Pass and down the other side through the fluorescent yellow canola fields, which made for many photo stops. I got to Greyton just as their famous Saturday Morning Market was setting up. It boasted fabulous handmade crafts which include leather items, woven goods, cushions, clothes, soaps, jewellery and much more – including a lama or two (yes, you read right!) that stared me down (but thankfully did not spit at me!). I was tempted by a host of tasty homemade delicacies and settled for two egg and bacon rolls, a cream puff and some other fabulous eats, all the while enjoying the small village vibe that Greyton is renowned for.
 Then it was on to suss out the art around town, with artists exhibiting far and wide across town, including in the Anglican Church Hall, loads of coffee shops set up pop up art exhibits and even the local DRC Hall charged a nominal fee of R10 to view a whole host of different medium artists. All the original works on display were for sale and I settled on scoring a deal at the local SPCA shop, where a local artist had donated a couple of her original oil paintings to help raise funds. Score for me, score for the pets!

 I love the fact that the festival poster is chosen via a competition where poster kits where given out, and artists set off to have fun creating artworks that were put forward to be chosen as the 2016 Festival images.

 The weather was sunny and almost as bright as the canola fields, the locals hospitable and warm and the art amazing. All in all, the Arts Festival rocked and I will be back to Greyton just for a visit because it is such a lovely and warm dorp just down the road from me.

Freaking awesome Fynbos Festival

I love fynbos. And every kind of Protea. And, well, flowers in general. So I have been quite taken with the abundance all year round of wonderful and varied fynbos in the Western Cape.  
 

In case you didn’t know, fynbos is a small belt of natural shrub and vegetation located in the Western Cape. It is known for its exceptional degree of biodiversity and consists of about 8,500 fynbos species which make up the Cape floral kingdom (and nearly 6,000 of them are endemic to this area). Take that Gauteng!

 The Cape Floral Kingdom is a 100-to-200-km-wide coastal belt and one of only 6 floristic kingdoms in the world. It is also the smallest is richer and more varied than in other regions of South Africa (that’s from Google!).

 It was with delight that I heard about the Cape Floral Kingdom show on from 18 to 22 August in Bredasdorp, about two hours west of Cape Town. The Cape Floral Kingdom is an annual event that celebrates fynbos in all its glory.

 This was one show I wasn’t missing for all the bulbs in Holland. So I hotfooted it after work the Thursday evening to Bredarsdorp, driving like a bat out of hell on dusty country roads with my trusty sidekick, Caren, to stay over at her in-laws farm. We were treated to a hospitable homestay and the next morning we all left bright and early to make it into town to get our reduced ‘locals’ ticket for the show (and saved R30 bucks in the process).

 We arrived at the venue, the local showground, and immediately made our way into the Mad Hatters Tea Party venue, where all the table décor of hats and handbags were made out of fynbos. Stunning displays of bright colours and intricately woven flowers showed the versatility of this lovely flora. After a few selfies with a display of proteas, we moved through the Fynbos Mountain – a manmade mountain specially constructed for the show, where the Cape Floral Kingdom is displayed in its natural habitat in specific areas around the “mountain” at the Expo. What fun, all sorts of professional and amateur photographers, and me, were taking tons of close ups of all the flowers on display. It was like the floral red carpet with flashbulbs going crazy to capture the flora fest. I clicked like crazy and will let my photos do the rest of the talking.

 

 

 

 

Where did you park my tractor?

Where did you park my tractor at the Napier Patat Festival?

Small towns have always been a magnet for me, drawing me into their rural, authentic charm and warmth. The people seem friendlier, the food tastier and the prices definitely cheaper!

It was with great excitement that we set out on the two hour drive to Napier one Saturday in July, to be a part of their annual Patat (which is actually a sweet potato) festival. The drive was through scenic hills and green fields dotted with cows and sheep, and the occasional clutter of ducks. Windmills, lone houses surrounded by tall trees and little water ponds or rivers broke the stream of green and brown as the single lane road stretched on into the country.

It is in my nature to stop at every farm stall or interesting looking shop on a road trip. I never failed in this as we pulled in along the way to the first farm stall promising fresh goodies. An eclectic cove of old and new things, most for sale but some not, greeted us at the traditional, old fashioned boere-store, run by a friend rustic couple who just happened to go way back with one of the peeps I was travelling with. In fact, Arend became something of a local celebrity on the day as he continued to run into people from his past, a cousin, an old girlfriend, an uncle and even an old schoolteacher. Some things don’t change much in old towns, including friendships and family.

Napier has a charming main road with the most eclectic bunch of shops selling everything from home-made foodie goods to stain-glass lampshades and everything in between. But before we could set out down the road exploring, we headed to the Napier Farmstall and Restaurant at the other end of town to sample their famous black pan breakfast! It was as good as it sounds, with everything – tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, bacon and other yummy bits – all fried up in a solid cast iron pan (black – what else!) with your eggs of choice plopped on top. They made a mistake by bringing out the hot fresh boerebrood first, before the steaming pans arrived. We had polished off the bread, accompanied with farm fresh butter and homemade jams, and had to ask for more for our black pan breakfasts! It was spectacularly delish and a good basis for the day’s activities, which included a Veteran tractor & Vintage car show; Harley Davidson Motorcycle show, Craft Market and Live Music and a Half Marathon through town. Further downtown they held a “Lang Arm Dans” and Potjiekos competition, but we never quite made it there.

It’s taken me several paragraphs to get to one of the most interesting features of the entire festival, and that is its scarecrow competition, where every little shop and stop along the main road decorates their own version of a scarecrow in fitting with that year’s theme. The many colourful and fun scarecrows along their streets welcomed visitors for this fun filled weekend, fine cuisine was enjoyed in the numerous restaurants, outstanding wines of the Overberg estates were available for tasting and there were fun events for the youth.

We spent the day exploring the town’s charms, including its lovely Dutch Reform Church in the centre of town with amazing architecture, as well as went to the actual festival itself off a dirt road on the schoolgrounds, where they sold lots of typical market food and other goodies. We wandered amongst the thirty odd and antique tractors on display, chatting to farmers and surveyed the row of about 20 different Harley Davidsons parked nearby, with their leather clad owners smoking or just looking hip and happening. Everyone genuinely seemed to be enjoying themselves and it was a great day, the weather was superb and all sunny and all in all, a festival not to be missed!