Monday, October 19, 2009

A Little Escape

*Warning: Lots of Photos.

This past weekend was the last weekend that we would have to spend with Mike and Jenny before they buzz back up to England. We thought it would be nice for us all to go away together for the weekend and see a new part of South Africa that none of us have witnessed before. After studying the map and trying to decide on a place that wasn't too far of drive for a 2 day stay we decided on Swellendam, a small, very Dutch town embedded in the countryside and at the foot of mountains.

Rolling hills for miles.

Beautiful Blue Cranes

The drive there was amazing, and was very similar to the rest of the drives we would have over the weekend. Fields and fields of nothing but rows of corn and wheat with the occasional vineyard thrown in. Sheep grazing, and every once in a while we'd pass a field of Ostriches (Ostri), or a dusty windmill that looked as if no one had serviced it for ages.

Friday we arrived at our guest house to drop our bags and freshen up with some gin and tonics before heading to fill our bellies. We went to the house next door for dinner, a place called The Powell House, named after someone who used to live there. It was run by a lovely couple. The husband served the meals in the dining room and the wife worked in the kitchen preparing the incredible things that came out. It really was just a house that was converted into a kitchen (something we would find out was quite common in this little town). But the ambiance was lovely, the wine tasty, and the food phenomenal.

Saturday, first on the agenda, was heading to the Bontebok national park to see if we could find any of the protected Bontebok. It turns out they aren't as scarce as we thought (at least not in the park). We also saw some zebras and other gorgeous things.

Loads of Aloe plants everywhere.

A little fishing spot in the park.

I think this Bontebok is pregnant, look at her big belly.

They let us get quite close.


We even saw zebras!

After the Bontebok park we had a quick bite to eat and then wanted to head to the coast to another nature reserve called De Hoop. There is supposed to be loads of whales, some zebra and the occasional leopard (unfortunately we never saw the leopard). We hiked up the stunning sand dunes down by the beach and watched the whales for a bit. A really spectacular place.

Eliot in the dunes.

Whales! Tons of them hanging out in the surf.

Mike, Jenny and Eliot.

Proof that the Bontebok are recovering their numbers. We saw so many babies.

After De Hoop we'd had a full day of Bonteboks, whale watching and driving. On the way back we rode the "Hand Ferry", a ferry completely operated by hand. It's not too far over the river, but could you imagine doing this everyday? What a great workout. The ferry is R35 and can carry up to 3 cars.

Swing your chain around the wire.

Walk away from where you're headed, and repeat.

Pretty simple concept really.

You can even drink a beer while doing it...

...or talk on the phone to your best mate!

That night we went for another homestyle dinner at a restaurant with no menu. Again, run by a husband and wife, with the husband out in the dining room, and his wife helping in the kitchen. It was definitely the type of place where you feel like you should help clean up afterwards, very warm and very welcoming.

The menu for the evening was:
Starter~ Fresh baked whole wheat bread served with butter and pate.
Soup~ Creamy broccoli soup- love love love broccoli!
Main course~ Beef fillet served with mushroom sauce, Pork fillet with a chili soy sauce, Meatballs wrapped and cooked in spinach leave and roasted potatoes. Not for the vegetarian, but could definitely make a vegetarian consider changing their ways.
Dessert~ Vanilla ice cream with raspberries and drizzled with Port wine.
We were all completely filled to the brim in the best of ways.

The Connection restaurant.


Coffee and wine, what's better than that?

Sunday we explored the small town of Swellendam. There are a lot of historical buildings in the town, so we checked out the museum and the surrounding structures. The first of these building was built in 1747, so a lot of history, and some really interesting stuff to see.

Most of the houses had thatched roofs.

This guy was our tour guide for a lot of the time.

We took the scenic trip home through all the fields and vineyards and stopped along the way for lunch and viewpoints. I'll admit, there's something about a moving vehicle that causes me to crash out and I slept through most of the photo ops. But we had a really great weekend with Eliot's parents, and we experienced parts of South Africa that we didn't even really know were out there.

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