Welcome to the Wild Coast

Traditional home of the Xhosa people, the vast and astoundingly diverse Eastern Cape province with its rolling hills and sparkling coastline and Wild Coast is also the birth place of Nelson Mandela. He was born and raised in the village of Qunu.

Coffee Bay

Formerly known as the Transkei, the Wild Coast was one of the four independent territories during apartheid until it merged with the Eastern Cape in 1994. The second largest of South Africa’s 9 provinces it's one of the countries most undiscovered tourist attractions.

Lusikisiki

The name of this town comes from the rustling sound of wind as it moves through the grass, named by the local AmaMpondo people. Roughly 45km inland from Port St Johns this town has changed very little over the years. Remote and untamed, time stands still. The AmaMpondo people are friendly and welcoming, the main road of the town bustles, as people move around conducting business.

Lusikisiki

Flag Staff

Driving down the main road was a true rural experience. Hundreds of people line the streets going about their daily affairs, with no rush, cars and trucks make their way slowly, giving way to almost impossible driving situations. The town’s name was derived from the practise of running a white flag up a flagstaff every Sunday as a signal to prospective customers that on this day the shop was closed. The shop was for Zachariah Bowles and his partner, Mr Owen. Established in 1877 as a trading store in the business centre of town.

Flagstaff

Xhosa Tribe

The rich and colourful cultural of the Xhosa people is evident in their clothes and their “ click “ language. In Xhosa culture women are easily recognised by their heavy dress, matching turban and colourful dots decorating their faces. Beadwork similar to the Ndebele is an integral aspect of Xhosa tradition. I was fortunate to meet this beautiful lady sitting behind a burnt out church. Although shy, she was very proud of her appearance. I wished i had more time to sit and speak to her.

Xhosa lady
Burnt down church outside Lusikisiki

Port St Johns

An incredible and unassuming combination of breath- taking views and craggy sea cliffs and idyllic unspoilt beaches. Situated at the mouth of the Umzimvubu River this is one of the top destinations along the Eastern Cape Wild Coast. If your vehicle allows for it take the road up the mountain alongside the river for a magnificent view of the jagged coastline below. The town centre itself is fairly run down but the natural scenery makes up for it ten fold.

Umzimvubu River at Port st Johns
Port St Johns
Port St Johns

Beach 2

Seeing the Nguni cows on the beach was one of the highlights of our trip. The cows come down to beach each day to cool off. Nobody really knows why, but the placid animals seem to enjoy the attention they receive and pose for photos in one of the most romantic settings in the country.

Nguni cows on beach 2
Nguni cows on beach 2

The lodge on the beach

The breathtaking sunset I awoke to was from the balcony of this cozy lodge. Originally a farmhouse built in 1929 it’s one of Port St Johns oldest, quaintest buildings set in a lush subtropical garden.

The Lodge over looking the river
Sunrise over Port St Johns

Steve’s Pub and Restaurant

An inviting spot on the main road through town. Sitting outside on the covered veranda we had difficulty choosing from the extensive menu. This is the most valuable location if you are planning the dirt road route to Coffee Bay, the question Why ? quite simply if it wasn't for Steve and his map we would probably still be roaming the hills of the Eastern Cape. He has a hand drawn map that he has put together with co ordinates, distances to travel and locations. There is no such map on Google and without it you will get lost. Besides the delicious and affordable meals , Steve is a life saver.

Steve's Pub and Restaurant
The map from Steve's Pub and Restaurant

The dirt road

Villages dapple the landscape and hills cloaked in golden grass are characteristic of this area. Thatched turquoise rondavel huts dot the hills in this unspoiled land. Don’t be fooled by the beauty through, this road is not for the feint hearted, one can expect no less than 7 hours of driving with no petrol stations, restaurants and shops ( only the odd spaza shop ) for rugged, untamed beauty and with no need to be rushed by time one couldn't find a better journey. Driving in the dark is not recommended as in some areas the road is in very bad condition. Also only suitable for 4WD vehicles with a strong, solid suspension.

The dirt road from Port st Johns to Coffee Bay
Turquoise rondavel huts

Coffee Bay

Just 8km down the road from the Hole in the Wall, with rustic accommodation (there is no petrol station in this town ) this is the only other coastal town, besides Port St Johns to have a tar road entering it from the N2. The town was named after a ship that lost its cargo of coffee beans in a wreck off the Wild Coast and the beans were supposedly washed up on the beach to germinate there.The laid back peaceful vibe will have you begrudgingly leave when your holiday is up.

Bead ladies at Coffee Bay
Coffee Bay

Coffee Shack Backpackers

The most fun backpackers and accommodation in the area, located right on the beach at the Bomvu River. From private rooms to dormitories and camping they have it all.Waking up in the morning and going for a stroll to the beach, buying beads from the local women was like being in a tropical paradise.

Coffee Shack Backpackers
Coffee Bay

Local “ man of all connections “

Zuko was our life saver in Coffee Bay . After having an issue with our vehicle he found us mechanic and spoke fluent English. Next day he brought me some local bead sellers and offered to show us around. And if we needed a good smoke he could assist with this also :) Every town needs a man like this, friendly and well connected.

Zuko

Hole in the wall

A geographical marvel, the extraordinary natural arch with the thrashing surf, is particularly jaw dropping during high tide. The hole is directly in the path of the Mpako River and it is this, that has eroded the hole. The local Xhosa people called it “ izi Khaleni” which means “ place of thunder “ legend says a young maiden fell in love with the mythical “ sea people “ such was the love of this sea person for the maiden that he and his people rammed a hole in the side of a lagoon wall with the help of a huge fish so they could reach her. She was never heard from again.

Hole in the Wall
Hole in the Wall

Mthatha

Found in 1879 and declared the capital of the Transkei . This is the lively and colourful centre of the region. One of the greatest attractions is the Nelson Mandela Museum in the Bhunga Building in Owen Street. Here one will find the closest airport if planning to fly into the area to travel around.

The scenery of the Eastern Cape is spectacular and the best way to explore this rugged and remote region is with a 4WD vehicle, but that said most roads are in good condition even if they are gravel. I loved it and will be back to see more.


KZN Weekend Roadtrip

As all travellers know, the journey is just as important as the destination. So an impromptu weekend trip with a girlfriend over Easter was bound to be fun. Traveling by car is exhilarating, with windows down and wind blowing through our hair , the open road was full of possibility.

Near Villiers

We left Joburg early, hoping to miss the masses that converge on the KZN beaches each holiday season. Cruising down the N1 through the sun-drenched strips of cosmos the riotous explosion of colour of these attractive flowers adds cheer to the otherwise flat and drab landscape.

Cosmos Fields

Meandering through the magnificent countryside, these are some of the spots that we recommend stopping at.

Warden

Situated on the Cornelis River, the town was laid out on the farm Rietvlei in 1912. I have always loved the particularly large Dutch Reformed Church here that can seat around 1750 people. This time we stopped and took a stroll down to the river, clean and flowing strong it was refreshing and a good spot to stretch our legs.

Warden

Sterkfontein Dam

Just outside Harrismith on the alternate route to Durban is the third largest dam in South Africa. The town of Harrismith was founded in 1849 and has the 3rd oldest golf course in the country. The dam is not only beautiful but also unusual , as almost all of the water is pumped up the escarpment from KZN. Be sure to stop at the look out and buy some clay crafted animals from a local artist.

Sterkfontein dam
Sterkfontein Dam

The Border Post

The 85 year old stone farm house borders the provinces of the Free state and KZN. Perched at the top of the pass its an ideal location to stop for a scrumptious farm meal or even stay over in the guest house. Take a walk over the road to appreciate the sweeping views below.

The Border Post
The Border Post

Oliviershoek pass

Used as an alternate route to Van Reenen’s Pass, the winding pass overlooks the Northern Drakensberg. My memories from childhood have never left me on this section of the Drakensberg route. One winter we were the last car allowed through when the road was closed due to heavy snowfall. On many other occasions we would see the baboons playfully running along the rocks or even sitting on the roadside. History says that Piet Retief and his trek party climbed this pass on 19 October 1837.

Oliviershoek pass
Oliviershoek pass

Cathedral Peak

This 1930’s mountain resort is surrounded by some of the world’s most stunning scenery. With an abundance of wildlife , plants and rock art there is something here for everyone. A popular spot for guided daily hiking trails which includes seeing the Bushman paintings, there are also horse - rides, fly fishing and every imaginable outdoor sport. Drinking a hot cup of coffee at the base of the misty mountain range was sheer bliss.

Heading towards Cathedral Peak
Cathedral Peak Hotel

Escort

A rather unattractive town established in 1848, the main economic activity is farming with a large bacon and processed food factory situated on the edge of the town. Some beautiful old sandstone buildings are scattered around and worth looking at. The green Alice bridge on the outskirts of town is rather ugly at first sight but while driving through it one suddenly appreciates its design and strength.

Church in Escort
Alice Green Bridge

Umdloti beach

A tiny resort town on the Dolphin Coast only 25kms north of Durban, it is well known for the dolphins that swim in the shallow waters. Ideal for families with children because of the large natural rock pool and it’s comforting to know that there are shark nets in place and well trained life guards on duty. The 5km of of sandy beaches are enticing and as we soon found out, difficult to pull yourself away from. Even if we looked like a well cooked tomatoe.

Umdloti beach
Umdloti Beach

Howick falls

These mesmerising falls are known to the locals as KwaNogqaza, the “ place of the tall one “ the 95 metre cascade falls into a pool of water, regarded by the Zulus with superstition and said to be the place of the spirits ancestors. According to legend a serpent - like creature lives at the bottom of the falls.I was interested to learn that Mark Twain visited the Hawick Falls hotel in 1896. The main attraction of this town one can also enjoy a Gorge Walk if you have time.

Howick Falls

Anew Hilton hotel

The elegant and upmarket hotel is perfectly located on the doorstep of the Midlands Meander. We decided to spend our second night here experiencing old world charm in the 4 star building with its imposing Tudor lines.Established in 1936 , it has 97 spacious rooms and a gorgeous outdoor pool for those hot summer days.

Anew Hilton Hotel

Nelson Mandela Capture sight

While meandering one will see the large steel sculpture and visitor centre marking the arrest site of Nelson Mandela on the 5 August 1962. He went on to spend the next 27 years of his life in prison. This cultural and historical exhibition is the largest artwork using laser - cut metal beams in South Africa, affected by the sun changing its position above the monument. The effect of the tall beams on the ground also changes. The monument is located at the end of a winding path, which represents the long walk to freedom that he took towards his goal.

Nelson Mandela Capture Site

Lions river station

The old goods shed has been preserved and is now the spot to go if you want to buy some Nguni cow hides, amble amongst the gallery of sculptures and fine art or enjoy a steaming hot cup of Terbodore coffee. The name of the town , Lions River originates from the last lion shot in the area in 1856.

Lions River
Lions River

Piggly Wiggly

Situated on the beautiful property of Highgate Wine Estate , this distinctive outdoor shopping centre is the ideal breakfast stop. After a hearty meal we strolled around and couldn't resist a nougat flavoured ice cream from Wedgwood ( undoubtedly the best ice-cream I have ever tasted ) With activities for young and old, we recommend fitting this into your travel agenda.

Piggly Wiggly

Nottingham road junction

Also known as Notties Junction, is a shopping and leisure centre in the heart of Nottingham road. Serving delicious country meals in a relaxed setting with a variety of shops like Chocolate heaven you won’t go home empty handed. Just down the road is the St John’s Gowrie Church, in April 1884 John King donated the grounds where the small wood and iron church would be built and opened in February 1885. A beautiful church ground to walk around and pay homage to those who lost their life during the World Wars.

Heavenly chocolate at Nottingham Road Junction

The Pig & Plough
As a savvy road tripper I have learnt to savour the road side stalls, and quaint eating spots along the way. Just outside Winterton is this delightful restaurant. Sitting outside on the stoep I noticed the miniature train track above us that winds through the top of the building. Smelling the berg air this was our final tourist stop before heading home.

Pig and Plough
Pig and Plough

A fun filled weekend, we only touched on some of the beautiful places. What a beautiful country we have, so much to appreciate and such glorious weather
Go and hit the open road and see where your car will take you.


Four Seasons Hotel - Escape to reconnect

You don't need to travel far to enjoy a weekend in the city’s urban forest. With the hustle and bustle of vibrant Jozi it’s important to set some time aside and unplug from city life.

Not only is the Four Seasons Hotel renowned for its luxury, service and sweeping views of the golden city but it now takes the lead in the hotel industry with its preventive measures put in place through the Lead with Care program.

Four Seasons Hotel
Four Seasons Hotel

Lead With Care

This program focuses on providing care, confidence and comfort to all the hotel guests, employees and residents within in the new COVID environment. The aim of this program is to ensure everyone who enters the property feels safe and reassured. The best part is that the quality we have come to know and expect from this 60 year old global brand has not been compromised, in a actual fact it has enhanced current procedures. One of my favourites is the Four Seasons App and Chat that allows guests to control how they engage with others. Relaxing on my lounger at the spa I could order a meal and drinks, request a late room check out, have my luggage collected, make another spa booking and call a golf cart for a lift back to my room. These were just some of the topics that I could receive assistance with that limited face -to - face interactions but at the same time I had an efficient and friendly conversation on the chat.

Four Seasons Hotel

Rooms have lead with care kits which includes masks, hand sanitiser and sanitation masks. Extra masks can be requested at any time. The rooms are disinfected daily with EPA approved products and areas like the mini bar are no longer stocked with items that lead to many people having to touch them. Eating at the restaurant is always a highlight of a stay at a hotel, starving and in anticipation of a delicious meal I was happy to find that the menu was digital and as we entered each person was given a plastic bag to put their mask into when they removed it , thus preventing germs from attaching to services.

Four Seasons Hotel - Care Kit in each room for each guest

A haven of relaxation

One of the best places to receive inner peace, is to be rejuvenated at the luxurious Spa. With a gorgeous view of the swimming pool one can easily loose track of time lounging or swimming lengths in the pool. Spa staff have all undergone training on how to provide personalised care in a thoughtful and attentive manner that balances guest safety while still providing comfort and professionalism. Living in a polluted city I opted for the VIP O2 oxygenating facial treatment, the therapist wore a mask and shield while working her magic. Washing her hands continuously I felt at absolute ease. The 75 minute treatment does not involve extractions, the french skin care products, Biologique Recherche. revived my skin leaving it feeling soft and silky.

Four Seasons Hotel Spa
Four Seasons Hotel Spa
Four Seasons Hotel Spa

Hearty fine dining

A destination in itself. Whether its a lingering lunch or romantic dinner, Flames Restaurant is going to surpass your expectations. With expansive views of Sandton CBD in the distance and the sounds of animals emanating from Johannesburg Zoo, expect to be treated to delectable dishes.

Four Seasons Hotel

Stylish but relaxed, most guests arrive dressed up for the occasion. Driven up to the restaurant by a caddy in the golf cart, I was pleased to see the plastic divider that prevented any guests from having personal contact with each other. The caddy, just like all other staff on the property wore a mask that covered his nose and mouth correctly. A lot of the staff also work with gloves on and maintain a decent distance when taking orders or just having general interaction with guests. My recommendation was most definitely the juicy salmon, while waiting for your meal don't be shy to order one or maybe two of their signature cocktails while enjoying the ambience.

Four Seasons Hotel - Breakfast
Four Seasons Hotel - Flames Restaurant
Four Seasons Hotel

For the love of comfort

With 80 rooms a guest can expect a one-of-a-kind feel. Elements employed to release the tension of hotel guests, rooms and public spaces don't have upsetting patterns on the walls. In line with current trends where texture is embraced the colours on the wall allow a guest to feel lost in their experience, one they will probably want to repeat. With a few bright hues to animate the space a soothing joyful atmosphere has been created.

Four Seasons Hotel

The bathroom is an open invite to relaxation and a sure-proof method of alluring guests through the promise of ephemeral luxury. With a bath, shower, his & hers basins , giant towels, a towel warmer and lots of space all ones needs are catered for.

The stylish decor is carefully thought out and cozy, but not over - the - top flamboyant. Waking up in the morning to see the sun creep over the horizon was probably one of my most special moments.

Four Seasons Hotel
Four Seasons Hotel

For a luxury staycation, epic weekend break or long, leisurely holiday with 5 star pampering the Four Seasons hotel should be on everyones bucket list.
With all the changes in these unprecedented times it is comforting to know that the hotel staff are working together to give the best possible experience for their guests while following their guidelines in the Lead with Care program.

Four Seasons Hotel
Four Seasons Hotel

www.fourseasons.com


The Rand Club - where legends meet

The oldest private member’s club founded in 1887 in Johannesburg and amongst one of oldest in South Africa, (The Cape Town Club was created in 1878). has so much to tell.

The Rand Club

In December 1886, after a day of business, Cecil John Rhodes suggested to Dr Hans Sauer that they should walk around the new town layout and choose a spot for a club. After walking for some time Rhodes suddenly stopped and said “ This corner will do for the club “ and so the club was born with shares of 10 pounds purchased by each person wishing to become a member.

The Rand Club - Cecil John Rhodes

This swanky, historical social institution was where the first gentleman's club was built and is without a doubt one of the city’s finest heritage venues. Over time three club houses have existed here, the second being erected in 1890 and the third and current club house occupied in December 1904.

The Rand Club

There have been numerous momentous occasions over the years, from the Jameson Raid where committee members where arrested to the Royal visit in April 1947 and sadly the fire that caused catastrophic damage in June 2005. Restoration began in 2006.

The Rand Club - Dome

Although gentleman clubs are hardly as popular today as they were in their hey day, the tradition lives on …now some of the country’s most exclusive clubs are country clubs where membership remains strictly by invitation only along with exorbitant annual membership fees, for example The River Club which is one of the most prestigious golf courses in the country , established in 1911 has membership fees of up to R400 000 per annum.

The Rand Club - The Ballroom

A gentleman's club was originally set up by men from Britain’s upper classes in the 18th century and succeeding centuries. The standard style of a club was to include a formal dining room, a bar, a library, a billiards room and one or more parlours for reading , gaming, socialising and smoking of cigars. Private places that were designed to allow men to gather over stiff drinks and create friendships with other men, at a stage these clubs were regarded as a central part of elite’s mens lives.

The Rand Club - Founders Room

Waltzing in the front door one gets a whiff of the aristocratic flavour, a reminder of dark smokey cigar lounges cluttered with velvety couches. But then a second glance makes one realise how fresh the historic old gem feels. With a fresh coat of paint and some modern touches one feels the glamour and energy.

The Rand Club - Restaurant

The exquisite antique lift is in its original form, installed in 1904 and up until the fire in June 2005 it still operated manually. The motor has now been changed. Being in an old elevator creates an immediate connection to the past, just imagine all of the people who have been up and down in that elevator over the centuries. The magnificent embellishments and wood paneling add to the uplifting experience in a literal sense, while indispensable in modern buildings I still opt for climbing the grand staircase.

The Rand Club - Elevator

The imposing staircase is one of the impressive features in the club. Exclusive elegance as it beckons one to climb up to the next level. The red plush carpet embraces the glorious flight and the mahogany path upon which one lays ones hand . This is a delightful ancient feast for the eyes as ones feet make a contribution to the hundreds before you. Looking upwards, the eye catching dome is a focus point, it was made of stained glass but also destroyed by the fire . Later restored complete with new designs it showed structural defects in its leaded glass. A new initiative now sees a bright silk screen image done by David Tahle. The plan is for this image to change annually.

The Rand Club - Grand Staircase

While modernising the club ( love the wallpaper that flows throughout the restaurant ) in order to appeal to millennials, some rules still honour tradition with phones and tablets banned in the club’s upstairs communal areas. The purpose is to network and communicate with people on a personal level.Sitting at the 31 metre long teak bar which is reputedly the longest in Southern Africa, is like taking a trip to yesteryear. Sipping on an African beer, one can just imagine if the walls could tell stories.

The Rand Club - the 31 metre bar

Women were not admitted until 1993, having been inside on numerous occasions I have never felt unwelcome. Dress code has relaxed over the years to allow for welcoming of new members, it is more accessible and in an ideal location with the Reya Vaya bus stop just outside.

The Rand Club - roof top views

Life size portraits of Nelson Mandela and Rhodes adorn the walls on the second floor. The magnificent library had its foundations laid during the construction of the second clubhouse. There is an Africana section as well as english section. Walking into the library is a WOW moment, any book lover will be in their element.

The Rand Club - Portrait of Nelson Mandela

As work continues on the building it can only get better. Now offering accommodation for members and non members I couldn't imagine waking up in a better part of Johannesburg listening to the daily hustle in the streets below.

The Rand Club - one of the rooms to stay in
The Rand Club - Bathroom for one of the rooms

This opulent, timeless South African icon is open to everyone and welcomes each person warmly.

The Rand Club

A personal tip, try and make contact with Brian Kent, he was my guide and an encyclopaedia of knowledge. His passion for the the inner city and buildings is evident as he shares his stories.

The Rand Club - Brian Kent

www.randclub.co.za


Welcome Home to Bosheuvel Country Estate

This hidden gem is found on the outskirts of Johannesburg in Nooitgedacht. Set in a lush garden, the rustic boutique hotel offers a chic and homely feel. This country retreat is set on 33 hectares of land is in easy proximity to both Johannesburg and Pretoria

Bosheuvel Country Estate

Bosheuvel Country Estate

Bosheuvel Country Estate

The heritage of this 112 year old farm has been preserved by converting the old farm house into a welcoming boutique hotel and restaurant. The transformation took place from 2002 until 2008 when Mitch and Juanita Van Den Bos took over. In the 1950’s it was a turkey farm and in the 1970’s a pig and cattle farm. Constructed from coro brick and blending in effortlessly with the bush, the hotel allows guests to continuously experience the natural beauty of their surroundings.
The red 1939 Vauxhall parked at the entrance immediately caught my eye, Mitch bought it from a farmer who sold it at an auction in the Free State and now it stands grandly at the door welcoming all guests.

Mitch Van Den Bos , owner at Bosheuvel Country Estate

Bosheuvel Country Estate

Mama Elisa has been the cow whisperer of approximately 360 head of cattle for 12 years, the cattle comprise of award winning Pinzgauer, who have won awards like the Pretoria Interbreed Gold Cup and Royal Show Interbreed Gold Cup. Our tour around the farm with Hotel Manager Paddy included visiting the 300 free range Pigs and 180 Sheep with their adorable lambs. The farm gets approximately 16 tons of fruit and veggies a day via the veggie market to feed the animals. Feeding time is something not to be missed, the frenzy of cattle running eagerly towards the food is astonishing, it’s a bit like watching a dusty ballet as the farm hands whips float gently through the air, touching a cow to make it back up, surprisingly the cattle trot obediently towards their heap of food with a ravenous appetite.

Mama Elisa at Bosheuvel Country Estate

Prize bull at Bosheuvel Country Estate

Cattle auctions also take place at the farm. The best yearlings are selected and taken to the waiting pens. At the sale ring, buyers and sellers walk around studying the bawling beef. Sitting on bare concrete steps the bidding begins, farmers can either refuse the price and take their cattle home, or accept. The sound of slamming gates as cattle are moved is heard, dust and noise pour into spectators ears, noses and mouths. As the auctioneer chants, enticing buyers to bid, owners sit waiting to see how their cattle will fare against the competition.

Bosheuvel Country Estate

The farm is not only known for its animals but also the boutique hotel which features conference facilities, a spa, out door swimming pool and activities like fishing and picnicking. What you see from the entrance does not prepare you for what’s tucked neatly inside. Checking into one of individually decorated rooms feels both comfortable and comforting.
The 9 en-suite bedrooms are spacious and include complimentary wifi, each is equipped with a small fridge as well as a tea and coffee making station,I felt like I was at home. My room had a balcony that shared the views of the idyllic garden that enhanced the overall sense of tranquility. The immense beauty immediately captured my heart. Surrounded by such splendour and the sounds of birds chirping in the trees it was difficult to pull myself away. Accommodation is standard Bed and Breakfast style.

Bosheuvel Country Estate

Bosheuvel Country Estate

Bosheuvel Country Estate

Bosheuvel Country Estate

The atmosphere and charming hospitality will have you eating all your meals at Cattleman’s Kitchen an exclusive farm restaurant on the property, the dinning experience is second to none. The on – site abattoir ensures that only the best cuts of meat are used for their Farm – to – fork style food. Generous portions are whipped up and can satisfy any craving. For those wanting to take some fresh food home, the Deli on the property sells everything from cheeses to meat and anything in between.

Bosheuvel Country Estate

The area surrounding Bosheauvel is steeped in history and has many things to do. Happy Island Water Park, Crocodile Farm, Hiking & Mountain Biking are but a few of the activities to be found. The Cradle is not far off for those wanting to indulge in some local history.

Bosheuvel Country Estate

Creating a unique and memorable experience for each guest , ensuring personal attention from tranquil rambles through the magnificent surrounds, sipping on refreshing beverages at the pool, and a superb dinning experience, guests are sure to leave feeling pampered , refreshed and eager to return.

Bosheuvel Country Estate

Bosheuvel Country Estate

This an authentic slice of farm life that exudes calmness and depicts the pinnacle of elegant farm accommodation and food.

Bosheuvel Country Estate

If you don’t stay over, I highly recommend stopping by for a hearty farm lunch.

“ WELCOME HOME “

www.bosheauvelestate.co.za


Timeless elegance of Pera Palace

Standing proudly on the rise across the Golden Horn, just a street below the bustling Istikabal Avenue sits this throwback to Ottoman - era Istanbul. This golden thread connects one to the late 19th century era. Built in 1892 with the purpose of hosting the passengers of the Orient Express it was designed to offer the most convenient stay for the Paris - Bosphorus line travellers. This posh hotel is more than just one of Turkey’s most elegant establishments. It is a historic monument that represents the character, style and spirit of Istanbul. The hotel holds the title of “ the oldest European hotel of Turkey “

Pera Palace

The iconic hotel was the first building in Turkey to be powered by electricity, other than the Ottoman Palaces and also the only address in the city able to provide hot running water for its guests. The elevator is the second oldest in Europe ( the oldest being the one at the Eiffel Tower ) this was the first electric elevator in Istanbul

Second oldest lift in Europe, and it still works at Pera Palace

It rapidly became a favourite location for those visiting the Turkish metropolis and has been graced with many notable people over the centuries. Agatha Christie, the “ queen of detective writing “ for one stayed in room 411 regularly between 1926 and 1932. One of the most requested rooms at the hotel, with its’ rich crimson and burgundy brocade, her favourite colours and a replica of her typewriter on the desk. Urban legend tells that during the 11 days that she went missing, she was here at the hotel. It is also said that the key found in her room can open Agatha Christie’s diary, which holds the secret to her whereabouts for this time. On 3 December 1926 she vanished after learning about her husbands affair, her car was found abandoned by a lake but she was no where to be seen. Agatha claimed to have no recollection of those 11 days so it became an ongoing mystery. Her diary has never been found.

The room of Agatha Christie at Pera Palace
Agatha Christie room at Pera Palace
Replica of the type writer used by Agatha Christie

The only room that cannot booked is room 101, the museum room of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Turkish Republic. On his 100th birthday the room was turned into a museum, it preserves the old furniture and decoration and some of the Presidents personal belongings. One of these is an old clock whose hands stopped ticking exactly at the moment of Ataturk's death.

The museum room of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk at Pera Palace
Mustafa Kemal Ataturks bed at Pera Palace

Interesting facts

Designed by French- Turkish architect Alexander Vallauri in a blend of neo-classical , art nouveau and oriental styles.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk had been staying in the building since 1917
The rose shaped domes open up like petals and where the old style air con system
It underwent a 23 million Euro restoration process in 2006 taking two years to complete
The hotel witnessed the declined of the Ottoman empire, the founding of the Turkish Republic and two world wars and a Cold war.
In the lobby is a palanquin that was used to transport people from Sirkeci railway station to the hotel.
Prominent figures who have stayed here include Brodsky, Mata Hari, Ernest Hemingway, Agatha Christie , Jacqueline Kennedy- Onassis, Alfred Hitchcock, Ismet Inonu and Pierre Loti to name but a few.

A palanquin that was used to transport people from Sirkeci railway station to Pera Palace
The rose domes open up like petals to allow air to flow in at Pera Palace
The rose domed ceiling at Pera Palace
Ernest Hemingways room at Pera Palace

Advantages

Heart of Istanbul in the Beyoğlu district
Pera museum is a few 100 metres away
Easy walking distance to many restaurants, cafes, clubs,bars and Taksim square
Safe to walk around at night
Spectacular views of the Golden Horn known as ‘ Little Europe “
Cabs are located right near the hotel, making it easy to get transport.

View of the Bosphorus from my balcony at Pera Palace
Different floors in Pera Palace

Hotel features

Indoor pool
Rooms have classical style combining European and Ottoman influences
Hard wooden floors with floor - to ceiling windows
Each room has a TV and mini bar
Majority of rooms have a balcony
Agatha Christie Restaurant offers contemporary Turkish Cuisine
Orient Bar is ideal for meetings and travellers want to mingle and socialise.
Kubbeli Saloon tea lounge offers gentle live piano music
Pera Spa has a hammam with a heated marble platform and foam bath
Steam bath , hot tub and sauna
Fully equipped gym
Free WiFi

The gym at Pera Palace
Indoor swimming pool at Pera Palace
Marble Hammam at Pera Palace
loved my room at Pera Palace
Bathroom found in Greta Garbos room at Pera Palace

This is a unique heritage of culture where you can not only visit as a tourist , but also stay as a guest . The epitome of timeless elegance, this hotel was and still is the place to be seen.

Stepping out onto the balcony
Reading in the lounge, Istanbul by Orhan Pamuk
Agatha Christie Restaurant in Pera Palace
Magnificent lounge in Pera Palace

www.perapalace.com

 


5 Star Bush luxury at Noko Camp

Picture yourself relaxing in an infinity pool with a drink in hand soaking in infinite vistas of the tranquil 48 000 hectare reserve and Palala river below. Or outside on your private deck with a cup of steaming hot coffee, while the morning sun warms your face and birds serenade you with song. One of South Africa’s premier , malaria free Big 5 Game reserves , nestled in the heart Lapalala provides breathtaking natural beauty.

Sunrise at Noko Camp

This is what dreams are made of. Situated in the Lalapala Reserve is the Noko Camp. A 5 star luxurious retreat in the middle of the African bush,where you can not only see some of the most unspoilt natural splendour and an abundance of wildlife, but also indulge in three scrumptious meals a day prepared by first class chefs, relaxing massages, cocktails with a view and two games drives a day with a professional and knowledgable ranger.

Noko Camp
Noko Camp

Noka Camp comprises of 4 tented and stilted luxury villas complete with a private heated plunge pool and one family villa. The meticulously clean rooms boast a modern bush style with contemporary furniture made from sustainable , South African products , crafts and textiles where possible. Products have been sourced from the skilled, local community. The Mogalakwena Development Foundation is a community project based in the Limpopo Province not far from Lepogo Lodges.  The Foundation was established to enrich the lives of underprivileged people enabling them to learn a skill and better their lives.  The Montebello Design Centre is where Mogalakwena also exhibit their work.  Talented craftsmen and women have made the bed mats that lie by the bed and the colourful table mats on the tables.  The palm they use is Palala Palm taken from the winding Palala River which is the river flowing under the lodge. One of my favourite locally produced products was the hydrating hair oil in our room made from fabled baobab and mooring trees, perfect for the knots in my long hair after a game drive.

Noko Camp
Lounge area of the villa
Twin room at Noko Camp

The rooms are spacious with an open - plan bathroom featuring under floor heating and a sunken bath that has uninterrupted views of the wilderness. Air con is standard as is wifi through out the property. Lodge facilities include a cosy library, curio shop, viewing platforms overlooking the park, lounge deck, wine cellar and tree top gym. The room is filled with surprises including bottle holders and slippers that are made from recycled plastic - the most comfortable pair of hotel slippers I have ever slid my feet into. The best part is we could take them home. The gold coloured water bottles personalised for each guest with their name written underneath was another WOW gift. Perfect for the game drives, once home it became ideal for the office desk.

Sunken bath at Noko Camp

A wide variety of activities are available which include safaris, bird watching, bush walks, boat safaris, bush camping, photographic safaris, iron age site, bushman paintings, yoga deck, spa facilities, star gazing, whiskey and gin tasting and a visit to the Lapalala Wilderness School.

Out door tree top gym and yoga area
Noko Camp
Cosy Library

There is ample wildlife, so be sure to carry your camera at all times, there are many species of game including cheetah, rhino, elephant, lion , zebra , baboons, jackal , giraffe, buck and 235 beautiful bird species to name but a few.

Giraffe at Noko Camp
Zebra at Noko Camp
Lion at Noko Camp

As the sun retreats and the moon comes out, enjoy a glass of African wine under the darkest skies and admire the twinkling sky with the clearest constellations. On a clear night one can see the 7 sisters, and some of the planets in our solar system.

Sleep under the stars and wake up to a magnificent sunrise

Two of the most critical factors of any African safari are the game viewing and lodges. On a perfect safari they should complement each other, and Noko Camp does just that. This is a not - for - profit lodge, where 100% of the financial gains are reinvested back into the Lapalala Wilderness for the benefit of the wildlife , conservation and future generations. Lepogo Lodges is entirely off-grid and all energy is self- generated through the bespoke 250m solar walkway. It is believed that they have the first solar walkway in South Africa. Attention to detail is every where like the bathroom aloe garden created from the little aloes that were moved during the building of the villas.

Solar walkway
Noko Camp

For an authentic and wild safari experience Noko Camp is ideal. Here is where your imagination becomes reality and the experience is life - changing.

Views from the villa at Noko Camp

For info and bookings go to : https://lepogolodges.com/noka-camp

info@lepogolodges.com

Call : +27 87 094 5869

African Synergy : + 27 11 782 0636

 


Exploring the Midlands in 48 hours

Last minute getaways are the best, I often find that we over plan for holidays and still land up forgetting the essentials. I decided on a weekend away in the Natal Midlands, one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa with its endless rolling green hills with quaint towns dotted along the route. We packed our bags and within 10 minutes were on the road, what we didn't have we would make a plan - that’s our family philosophy.

Blossoms in Rosetta

Nottingham Road

I have always said this charming, heart -melting town has a weather system of its own. It’s recommended to have a jacket close by at all times. Winding down the road from the postcard - pretty village of Rosetta one enters this picturesque chilly town with its abundance of lush green pastures for dairy farms and sheep. The Junction has retained its origins as a country farm stall. This shopping village in the heart of the Midlands Meander is a perfect stop to stretch ones legs and get a quick bite at the spacious restaurant with a playground for the kids. A gaggle of geese waddled towards the pond rather intrigued by my boisterous boys.There is so much to see in this part of the Midlands that a drive through does not do justice. South Africa’s most successful Micro Brewery nestles in the shady grounds of the elegant Rawdons Hotel. This thriving brewery has been delighting visitors since 1996 and they claim their success lies in the purest spring water drawn from the artesian well on their property combined with the use of the finest quality hops and malted barley.

The Junction in Nottingham Road
The Junction at Nottingham Road

Ixopo

Originally called “ Stuartstown” the original Zulu name of “ Ixopo “ has prevailed. laid out in 1878 Ixopo is most famously described by Alan Paton in the opening lines of Cry,The Beloved County : “ There is a lovely road which runs from Ixopo into the hills. These hills are grass covered and rolling , and they are lovely beyond any singing of it . “ This delightful town is not a major tourist attraction and is often often overlooked by those wondering though the Midlands. Some things worth seeing are the two churches built in the 1800’s that are still in use, the striking landmark Cross that was erected on Medal Hill in 1972 to promote goodwill among men, a memorial sundial located in the grounds of the magistrates court, Dead Men’s tree which stands outside the Old Post Office Buildings and Ixopo Prison which grew from the remains of an early fort in 1900. Nearby is the Buddhist retreat Centre where people have been visiting for over 20 years. Not far from the dam is the breeding site of the rare Blue Swallow, the Endangered Wildlife Trust has appointed the Buddhist centre as custodian of these rare swallows. Former President Nelson Mandela declared the Centre a Natural Heritage Site. The old Railway station caught my eye,I have always loved train travel. It served the area until the mid 1980s, the steam train that offers day trips is called Paton Express and was lovingly restored by entrepreneur Julian Pereira, still travels the same route through the tall gum trees and natural forests that Alan Paton referred to in his writings as the “ small toy train “ climbing from the Umzimkulu Valley. I jumped from the platform onto the old locomotive, visualising the mist swirling gently into the sky as the train clunked and screeched out of the station. The Zero 39 Lounge is the cosy restaurant that runs from the immaculate station building,don’t leave without savouring one of their juicy burgers.

Paton's Train Station
Paton's Railway
Patons Express

Mariathal Trappist Mission School

The mission founded in 1887 , served as the first seminary for priests who had studied overseas. Its present site is on the road to Richmond and Umzimkulu. Built by Francis Pfanner it now functions as a public school and as a gathering point for the local community. This combined boarding school in 2020 had 1146 learners with 35 teachers. Boarding facilities are provided for the female students. The perimeter of the property has a neglected cemetery where previous Brothers and Bishops are buried. A peaceful property filled with smiling, friendly faces that pop out of all corners its well worth the stop. The church and structure have been maintained and leave one in awe as you look up at the bell tower.

Mariathal Missonery School
Mariathal Missionary Church
Mariathal Missionery

Richmond

Situated on the banks of the upper Illovo River it was established in 1850 by British Byrne Settlers. The best way to explore this town is on foot. Walking the streets ones sees so much more. The Old Court House with the dilapidated prison cells in the back garden is for the adventurous. The St Marys Church built in 1853 stands proudly amongst manicured gardens . This unspoilt building with its low wall is inviting and peaceful. The Museum down the road with a tank that stands to attention in the front garden is only a teaser of whats inside. The curator has put a lot a lot of effort into maintaining and gathering artefacts. I found it very interesting to see snippets of the formal colonial way of life from these areas.

St Mary's Church in Richmond
Old Court House in Richmond

Winterton

Founded in 1905 , this town is situated on the banks of the Tugela River. A fairly small town, the drive down the wide tree - lined main road is scenic. Nestled at the foothills of the majestic Drakensburg this was always our last stop before arriving in the Central Drakensburg as children. Cosy coffee shops, a well looked after museum and other little shops of interest add character to this otherwise laid back town.

Entering the town of Winterton
Winterton Museum

Warm and welcoming is the best way to describe each town. Unique in their own way they are all oozing with character and happy to welcome local visitors who may pass through or linger a little longer.


Fashion District & Little Addis Tour

One of the most colourful and interesting tours in Joburg.
Browse the inner - city’s fabulous array of colour and designs on a 5 hour walking tour of exclusive boutiques, fabric stores and cutting - edge studios in the historic garment district. Walking with our fashionista guide through the vibrant heart of Johannesburg we got an insider’s take on latest fabrics and designs.

The Fashion District

Perfect for art, cultural and fashion buffs, this tour has no large crowded groups or big busses. Just small, intimate groups with a passion for Africa and its communities. Introductions aside at the Thunderwalker, we walked over to Ghandi square where the statue of Ghandi is one of only two statues in the world that depicts Ghandi as a young lawyer.

Ghandi Square

Urban Zulu ( Urban Heaven ) fashion which officially opened in 2002 and Urban backpackers was our next stop. Founder and director, Papy Kaluw has a fascinating story of how his little empire grew. It started out with the clothes his mother would sew for him back home in The Congo, he launched his business with no formal qualification and taught himself to design clothes from scratch. With hard work and determination he is surely the mouthpiece for South African urban culture now. The brand produces quality yet affordable fashion items, walking around inside the Urban backpackers , which is within walking distance of Ghandi square precinct one comes across designers hard at work. The sun terrace offers the best vibes and views of the city where one can enjoy the city’s buzz, this is the gathering place for people from all corners of the globe.

Urban Zulu
Urban Zulu

While walking through the fashion precinct one discovers independent , beautifully made, unique fashion - all ethically made and / or designed in South Africa. Look out for the Sheshwe fabrics, these are printed dyed cotton fabric which is widely used for traditional Southern African clothing. Originally dyed indigo, the fabric is manufactured in a variety of colours and printing designs characterised by intricate geometric patterns. Da Gama textiles is the only producer of Shweshwe worldwide, the fabric designs are part of their Three cats range. Their hallmark is its niche market branded merchandise that has become synonymous with quality. Walking through @109 , a one stop sewing shop on the tour one will see the beautiful collection of Shweshwe fabrics which are very reasonably priced.

@109 one stop sewing shop
Sheshwe fabrics

Weaving through the maze of shops, it is said there are over 100 small to medium scale shops with distinctive creations, to the new trend of Afro- chic , these shops are treasure troves of fabrics and accessories. This concentrated area of shops and services relating to the fashion industry is the largest on the continent. My favourite stop was at Dianna Fashion, the sea of colour from all around the continent is out of this world. She has been in business for 15 years now selling fabrics, it’s a true Aladdin’s cave when you walk into her shop.

Fabrics inside of Dianna's
Dianna, has been running her fabric business for 15 years

We visited the Fashion Kapitol with 30 shops, offices and studios. The arcade that links Pritchard and Market streets through this closed space was set to be Africa’s Fashion capital when plans started coming together in 2008. Rees Mann one of the people who has been a driving force behind the revamping of Johannesburg’s fashion district, is the third generation from his family of garment entrepreneurs in this area. His family having started out here in 1948. Speaking to him at his shop , his passion for the industry and inner city is evident as he shares with the tour group stories of the city that is so close to his heart. His vision is the city’s rebirth as a pan-African, cosmopolitan hive of energy.

At The Fashion Kapitol
The Fashion Kapitol

The three heritage buildings at The Kapitol are two houses dating back to 1892 and 1895 and the cabinet makers workshop and furniture store built in 1928 the year Johannesburg gained city status. Look out for the blue plaque on the wall while admiring the colourful wall of images depicting scenes from the city.

Painted wall at The Fashion Kapitol

Moving onto the Ethiopian quarter in the Medical Arts Centre we enjoyed the smell and flavour of good Ethiopian coffee, this lengthy process starts with the roasting of coffee beans in a flat pan over a tiny charcoal stove, the pungent smell mingling with the heavy scent of incense that is always burning during the ceremony . Did you know that only women make the coffee in Ethiopia ? the coffee production in Ethiopia is a longstanding tradition which dates back dozens of centuries. Ethiopia is where coffea arabica , the coffee plant originates.This building was a labyrinth, with multiple floors of everything Ethiopian from clothes, to music, jewellery and the delicious little restaurants and bakeries tucked away in corners I felt like I had arrived in Addis Ababa.

The Ethiopian mall
Ethiopian coffee served with popcorn

All good things come to an end. The tour finishes off back at the Thunderwalker were everyone is taken down stairs to Zwipi Underground to view the famous bank vault.

The Thunderwalker

This tour gets the 3 “ f’s “ from me
Fun
Fabulous
Fascinating

For more info on this tour and other Inner City tours contact www.joburgplaces.com


Experience Soweto through the eyes of Lebo

If it’s fun and interactive that you crave then this is the best way to see Soweto.Daily tours take you into the heart of this vibrant and historical township or “kasi “. Oozing with colour and friendly people who warmly welcome adventurous travellers’ this is a one stop location that will cater for all your needs.

Lebo's Soweto backpackers
Leo's bicycle tours in Soweto

Lebo Malepa started the backpackers from his family home in Orlando West in 1999, since 2003 it has been officially open when tourism was just starting to take off in Soweto. A new concept to both locals and visitors, Lebo went on to open South Africa’s first accommodation for backpackers that is situated in a township. Now 20 years on, he and his wife Maria from Sweden run a business that not only provides for them but also contributes to the local community through employment and by supporting local businesses. One could say, Lebo had a dream that he has watched grow over the years.

Lebo Malepa with his tuk tuks

A variety of tour options that reveal off - the - beaten - track spots means there is something that will appeal to everyone. The bicycle tours are both half day and full day. They offer an on - the - ground experience which includes many stops to appreciate the history and the public art that can be spotted on many walls. Walking tours are relaxed and the the best way to meet and interact with the local people while tasting local foods, doing some shopping and learning some township lingo “ Tsotsi Taal “.
All tours are guided by local, knowledgeable guides who can speak the local languages and explain the area to you.They are charismatic and energetic, not only do they tell you about the “ obvious spots “ but they also share what many would say is the unwritten story of Soweto from a locals perspective.

Children of Mzihlophe

My favourite was the sunset tuk tuk tour through some of the backstreets of Soweto. The tour included Vilakazi street.The most famous street in Soweto, it has been rejuvenated to a brightly-lit weekend entertainment hub with dance clubs, live music venues and popular drinking spots. This is the only street in the world to have two Nobel Prize winners as its residents. It is within walking distance of the Hector Pieterson Memorial museum and includes attractions like the Mandela House , the Tutu’s former home and Winnie Mandela’s house is not far away either.

Vilikazi Street

Riding in a quirky yellow tuk tuk through the streets of Mzihlophe which loosely translates as “ white village “ I was told how it was previously a hostel for around 10 000 men who lived here and worked on the mines, in local municipalities etc. Change started to take place from 1996 when the hostels became homes to families . This predominately Zulu speaking community is bustling with energy, children run in the streets, women carry all sorts of items on their heads and the men sit in groups socialising at shebeens and playing games. Amidst all this, the township finds time to breathe and relax in the beautiful open spaces and parks just like the one behind Lebo’s with its mural covered walls.

The streets of Mzihlophe in Soweto
Mzihlophe in Soweto

For a full and un - rushed experience the best is to stay overnight. There is a variety of accommodation ranging from budget style dormitories, to private double and single rooms, camping and camp chalets. I stayed in the double en suite room, this immaculately clean room with a private bathroom and quaint cosy garden outside was just perfect. Complete with Wifi I found my comfy spot in the garden and watched the heavy storm clouds roll in.

En Suite double room at Lebo's
Courtyard area around rooms at Lebo's

One gets the feeling you have arrived in a village with its deep sense of homeliness. From the sheep that had a lot to say to me, to the hammock swaying gently in the cool ambiance of the tropical type garden, with its vibey Beach Bar and the smiley, friendly staff. Brewing of home made beer and the aroma of the delicious potjiekos being prepared on the fire . All this combined with the laughter of children close by makes one feel relaxed and welcome. This is home away from home.

Leo's camp site

Soweto is an experience like no other. Staying at Lebo’s where the activities, tastes and sounds encourage you to linger longer and spend more time exploring this hip urban lifestyle were tradition and customs have merged with modern day living.

www.sowetobackpackers.com

#betheexperience