Friday, April 29, 2011

It's Friday, let's go BRAAI...!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

"Surviving" Jonkershoek

 In my previous post I mentioned about the predicted cold front heading towards Cape Town. Three cold fronts later and tired of staying indoors it was yet again time to explore the outdoors and what better way than to do another "survival" trip with the little survival man? When we left for Jonkershoek just outside Stellenbosch the weather was opening up, but a stubborn dark cloud was still hovering over the Jonkershoek Valley where our next expedition was about to take place. But this is what survival is all about and how do you tell an excited 4-year old that he cannot "do survival" because of a possible runny nose afterwards? Jonkershoek is nestled between the Hottentots Holland Mountains and a perfect place for hiking and mountain biking...and in our case...playing ULTIMATE SURVIVAL. At the highest peaks snow was still visible, but getting there was not a possibility at all and we were happy sticking to the easier routes.

It took us a while to get to one of the shorter hiking trails after taking the wrong direction in the circle route that is running through the Jonkershoek Nature Reserve. But, when we arrived the little survival man was ready to take on the challenges that only Mother Nature could throw at us. Armed with only a map (that is what we've made him to believe) we headed into the mountains. Our aim was to find water and any possible food sources.  The latter only presented itself in the form of a dead grasshopper, but my son was clearly not hungry when he suggested that his mom tries it first. Water was in abundance, with streams everywhere as could be expected after three days of continuous rain. Food however was scarce, but mom was there, so we had nothing to worry about. The sun was struggling to get through the clouds, but the cold wet weather added to the experience and the need for proper shoes was clearly illustrated as we went along over rocks and through water. When the little survival man stepped with his one foot into a stream, he immediately wanted to get rid off his "survival shoes". Fortunately mom was clever enough to pack in his water boots, which in the end saved us from a lot of trouble. 

Reading the map. Important.
Anthill. Mmm, food maybe?
We were still on track but when it looked like we were going to get caught in the rain, we took an early turn-off through one of the plantations. This not only provided us with more things to discover, but more importantly a place to sit down and have our coffee and rusks. The little survivor man requested Rooibos tea and oats cookies, not even realizing that survivors don't usually have this luxury. The rain never came. After about two hours of walking we reached a road and saw our first human life in the form of a mountain biker. We were saved yet again. Our little survivor man was very pleased with himself, the only problem is that he wants his next survival experience to be in the snow or the desert. This is going to be a difficult one to solve....

Filling up
Building a soft "bed"

Sunday, April 24, 2011

"Surviving" Paarl Mountain

My 4-year old son has become a big fan of Bear Grylls from the Ultimate Survival series (aka Man vs Wild and Born Survival). Playing survival in the back garden unfortunately according to him is not "wilderness enough". Finding a suitable environment where he can put his recently acquired "survival skills" to test is a bit tricky, especially if finding water, shelter, food and ultimately other human life has to be part of the exercise. I have been thinking of places to take him, but unfortunately we usually find the "other human beings" before we find the need for water or food, so I had to extend my search to a more remote place. Even though I knew that human beings will usually form part of any safe area around Cape Town, I remembered that my last trip to Paarl Mountain was quite "in solitude", apart from one or two mountain bike cyclist and the visitors to the Afrikaans Language Monument. So that is where we "were dropped off" for our survival experience.

We first explored a small ravine with a very unexpected waterfall. I could see that he was anxious in moving on after we've found our water source, not preserving any of his energy at all. From there we went straight to the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve, hoping to find food and shelter and to continue our search for human life that could probably save us from perishing in the wild. Even though Bear always moves down into the valley where finding humans are much more likely than at the top, I still wanted to stand on the top of Paarl Mountain "just for the T-shirt" award, so we headed upwards instead of downwards. (Un)fortunately we ran into two ladies taking pictures. My son decided that they looked "human" enough for "our rescue", forgetting completely about the shelter and food that we haven't found yet. There were enough overhanging rocks and caves which he later pointed out as the perfect place to shack up for the night, but I had no intention on staying up there in any case, especially not after seeing earlier on the weather forecast that a cold front was heading towards Cape Town. By the time his stomach reminded him that we never actually found food either, my wife came to our rescue with croissants and rusks...and coffee for the exhausted expedition leader. Thankfully there was no need to catch and skin wild life after that, which I knew was not a good idea in a Nature Reserve anyway.

Apart from the fun I had pretending with my son that we were in the wild and having the adventure of our lives, I was amazed by the beauty of the rocks and vegetation. I had plenty of time for pictures, although it is not always easy when survival is your main concern. Watching him in the rear view mirror fast asleep as we headed home, I could see that he was very pleased with being "rescued" at last.

Paarl Valley..civilization at last!

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Friday, let's go BRAAI...!

If you were also one of the clever South Africans that noticed that taking 3 days of leave could give you 11 vacation days over the next two weeks, then braaing is definitely on the menu for many of you. This weekend is Easter Weekend having Friday and Monday as public holidays. On Wednesday the 27th we have Freedom Day. On Monday the 2nd it is Worker's Day because the actual Worker's Day that is the 1st of May is on a Sunday this year and automatically moves to the following Monday. So, if you are one of the lucky ones that will be having a wonderful break take care, drive safe and make sure you've collected enough fire wood....

Monday, April 18, 2011

Moon sets and camera settings

So after last night's attempt to capture the moon in all it's glory...with little success, I decided to get up early this morning and catch the moon before it sets into the ocean. I got up at 6 am and it was still dark when I reached the beach, ready for that award winning picture. Someone once told me that what the eye can see the camera can see, but there's a catch. You have to know the camera settings. Easier said that done.

So, all saturated from the information I gathered from the internet last night, I was ready to put my skills to the test. It was a bit scary on the beach so early in the morning, and I was wondering if a story about how my bike got stolen and I got mugged would not have been better than the one I am about to tell about my photography skills...or the lack thereof. I can sum it up in once sentence. No, let's make that one word. Frustration. It is obvious that I don't know the settings yet and the other way around if what my eyes sees correlates to what my camera saw this morning them I must be blind as a bat...or at least in need of a thick pair of glasses. I did most of my shooting on Manual mode, playing with aperture, ISO, etc. But somehow I just cannot get that prefect setting. I took about a 100 pictures before my battery ran out, and all positive thing I can say about the morning is how beautiful Cape Town is today. As the moon was setting, the sun coming up and the traffic starting to build up behind me, at least I could appreciate what Cape Town had to offer this morning. It was one of the most stunning mornings I have seen in a while. Some of the motorist passing greeted me with hoots and waves just to tell me that they are also aware of the beautiful moon set.

At around 7 I decided that enough is enough and that a photography course might be the way to go. Not wanting to go home I headed straight for a breakfast and coffee at my favourite restaurant hoping that I can still absorb some of the fresh morning. My coffee was just put in front of me when my wife called and told me that she is stuck in traffic and that a lift on the bike at that point would be very appreciated. I finished my coffee, skipped the breakfast and went home to fetch her. There was a gas leak in Montague Gardens and a broken down bus on Marine Drive, so the only way one could get to work in Montague Gardens in less than 15 minutes was on a helicopter, which I don't have, or a bike, which I happened to have. I took her to work and felt yet again sorry for the motorists all stuck in their cars. I still cannot understand why everyone does not considering biking as an option. Anyway, I guess we all have our reasons for doing what we do, or what we don"t do.

So, back to my photography. More disappointing results. I wish I had some friends with good camera skills that could take me for a quick crash-course on photography. I seem to take better pictures when the sun is shining and I use Auto mode. Unfortunately I can do this with my point-and-shoot as well, and what"s the fun in that. Although my pictures will not make the National Geographic, at least it gives an idea of how stunningly beautiful the morning in Cape Town was. All I hope for now is that Windguru's prediction of some afternoon wind comes true. I can do with a kite session on a sea that looked like a mirror this morning. For my's back to the books.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Breakfast Review - Melissas

My Saturday morning did not start of well. I was taking my family for breakfast and was hoping to do a place where I have not previously done a breakfast review. We headed off to Phillidelphia to see if we could find a table at The Pepper Tree Restaurant, but when we drove into Phillidelphia at 8 am I could see that no-one in that little town was awake. The Restaurant only opens at 9am. From there we went to Melkbosstrand, but from a previous experience I knew that most of the places there were also still closed. At Eden on The Bay it was the same story, so we eventually decided to go back to our favourite restaurant. As we were turning into the road leading to Carlucci's we noticed that Melissas was open. Well, I have not done a breakfast review for Melissas, so we pulled over and headed straight for the breakfast menu.

I know this will probably upset some people, but I don't really like the "trendy vibe" at Melissas. The food is not bad, and you find very interesting things to buy there, usually handmade or organic, but everything is overly expensive. But we were doing a breakfast and the closest I could get to bacon and eggs was the "Traditional Breakfast" at R48. Now this is what's taking the piss out of me. Just around the corner there is a little coffee shop called Carlucci's, where you get exactly the same breakfast and they ask just over R20 for it. The service is better, the view, well Melissas does not have a view...and the crowd is just nicer. Now why can they serve a breakfast at that price and Melissas ask double the price? Ok, I know the stuff about exclusitivy and whatever, but I don't see the point in eating there where I can get more breakfast for my buck at Carluccis.

I have to agree that the morning atmosphere in Melissas was quite appealing, but you can clearly see the difference in people visiting Melissas compared to Carlucci's. My first introduction to Melissas was some years ago when I was taken to the Melissas in Durbanville. I didn't like the yuppie look everyone had, but I guess that doesn't make a restaurant good or bad. So I cannot really say anything wrong about the place, but next time I would rather go back to the place I like more.

No Moonligthing as a photographer

Tonight we had a beautiful full moon in Cape Town. I have never taken any pictures of the moon, or let me rather put it this way.... I have some pictures where the moon features in the background, but is usually just look like a white spot. So tonight I decided to see if I could improve my photography skills in moon capturing. My first couple was yet again white spots on a pitch black background, so I decided to go for the Internet and see if i could find some tips. Eventually I had the following: tripod, timer ("mirror lock-up" didn't work), ISO 100, F5.6, shutter speed 1/250 and a 70-300mm lens. And of course my Canon EOS 400D camera. There was a remarkable difference between my first and my last shots, but somehow I still couldn't get the focus right. I can see from the pictures that the moon's surface is not smooth like a baby's bum, but the focus was not good enough to show the detail as I would've likes to see it. I tried Manual Focus but that was worse than Auto Focus. Maybe with another lense, or maybe I still did something wrong, but after about 50 shots this is the best I could come up with. Maybe someone can give me more tips....

Friday, April 15, 2011

It's Friday, Let's go BRAAI...!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Breakfast Review - Readers Restaurant

I don't really know if I could do a breakfast review on this restaurant. We arrived, a total of 14 people at this restaurant on a Saturday morning and ordered 12 breakfasts. No-one looked on any menu. Coffee was served and when we left we all had to give R50 to cover everything. I guess it covered the tip as well. The reason why I have decided to include this one in my breakfasts reviews was because I might not return there for breakfast, but only for one reason. Despite the fact that the staff was very friendly, I left there still very hungry. The two litte sausages didn't taste that fantastic and I think the scrambledd eggs came from one egg. I asked for a menu to look at their options or at least to figure out which one we've ordered, but the menu which was given to me had no breakfasts on them. When I gave the menu back I was asked if I wanted to order lunch, but we were on our way and despite that, lunch probably would've filled those empty spots in my tummy. But, let's not be too hard on the place. The atmosphere is good, the setting in beautiful Tulbagh amazing and if we arrived one by one and not in one dust cloud, things might've been different I guess. Go check it out, but arrive slowly....

Monday, April 11, 2011

Monkeys of the Banana Republic

So Julius Malema said that Helen Zille looks a bit like a monkey when she dances. I guess one has to agree with him in a way. She should stick to what she does best, politics, and leave the dancing to what the ANC does best....uhm....dancing I guess. When I compare these two political figures below I find it hard to decide which one looks the most like a monkey. Actually I don't really care which one dances away with the first prize, but what worries me the most is that these are the people trying to run a country and its people...MY country...the one I love and would like to live in forever.

So...all I can say is....... "PLEASE GOD, HELP US!!!"

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Tulbagh Breakfast Run

Just when we thought that we should pack away our sunscreen and flipflops and take out our raincoats and heaters, then Mother Nature turns around and bowls us with a yorker between the legs. On Saturday, amidst shorter days and lazy sunshine she threw in a bonus summer day, complete with high temperatures and late afternoon southeastern wind. I was asked to join a Saturday morning breakfast run, and although I was hoping to get more gravel riding in towards another destination, I eventually gave in and joined a group of 12 bikes for a morning ride to Tulbagh. The group consisted of 3 adventure bikes, 5 cruisers and 4 speed bikes. Thinus, the leader of the pack had a new BMW S1000RR and what better way to share in his excitement than to do an accompanied "exibition flight" while he introduced his new wheels to us, the road and whoever else was interested?

We left Melkbosstrand at about 8h20, driving towards Malmesbury, Riebeeck-Kasteel and finally to Tulbagh where we had our breakfast at the Reader's Restaurant on 12 Church Street. In the short 20 minute section from Riebeeck-Kasteel to Tulbagh the temperature changed from 22.5 degC to 28 degC. After breakfast we decided to split up, most of the guys going back via the Bains Kloof Pass and the 3 "more adventurous" guys turning west hitting the gravel. Our aim was to get closer to the West Coast where we were hoping in finding cooler weather, but with limited gravel roads near Tulbagh this was basically also our only option to get as much sand as possible for our return section back home. With two GPSes and a map we left for Gouda where Ettiene filled up his KTM. We would find that neither the GPS nor the map would really take us where we wanted to go, but eventually we did most of the way to Darling on gravel. Roodt was taking the lead and myself and Ettiene was taking the dust, but every now and then the KTM was getting a bit impatient and overtook us leaving us eating dust for desert. I have to admit, despite my loyalty to BWW, the KTM 990 Adventure S looks like it belongs in the dirt and makes the BMW look like  a commuter bike for rich people. Not that I consider myself rich, but like some people who buys SUV's for traffic congestions to and from work I felt like BMW's F800 was a bit similar in that respect. Too nice to get dirty. The sound that the two exhaust pipes makes on the KTM also made me wonder if BMW can really compete with KTM on looks and charisma when it comes to a more offroad looking bike. I wouldn't know which one handles the best on off-road terrain, but the KTM definitely looks better. Anyway, I think with my short legs I would look like my 4-year old son on my wife's mountain bike if I had to turn in my GS for a KTM.

Even though we probably took three completely different roads than what we had planned on the map, we really enjoyed our ride and stayed on gravel for most part of our trip back to Darling. That is one thing I like about being able to do dirt roads, you really see places that the people in cages or the speed bikes and cruisers never see. It is like an adventure discovering new places, and the best for me is when we find river crossings with small bridges. It is then when I really feel like I am somewhere out there away from all the noise and day-to-day worries.

From Gouda we went back to Riebeek-Kasteel then headed towards Malmesbury where we refreshed ourselves with something to drink. The temperature was reaching the mid-thirties already and once again I was glad that I recently bought a summer jacket, although by now it looked like I have played with it in my son's sand pit at home. Nevertheless, we felt good and excited for taking undiscovered roads all the way to Darling. We stopped quite a few times to confirm our location, but strangely enough with a map and GPS we were never sure if we were on the right road. The road from Malmesbury to Darling caused for much excitement as the gravel had already turned into loose sandpits in some places. I remember riding this road a couple of month ago when it was just graded, but this time it was definitely a different ball game. It seemed as if Ettiene's KTM was again leading the pack and once or twice we really felt as if we were floating on air when we crossed  the little sandridges running along the road.  Even though we stayed on the hard sections of the road it was inevitable to cross loose sand all the time and once  appearing from the dust I saw Roodt running along like he was walking on hot coals while trying to stabilize the bike underneath him. I don't have that privilege, my legs are too short and I had to stay upright no matter what. We did eventually arrive in Darling unhurt and there we were riding up and down trying to find the street leading to the West Coast Road. Fortunately the majority of the streets in Darling are not paved either so it also counts as "off road" I guess. When we finally reached the West Coast Road, we stopped for a while and took some pictures, participated in some more bike talk like bikers all over the world usually do and planned our next trip, or at least planned to stay in contact via email until our next trip.

Although we were all heading back to Blouberg, Ettienne left first, followed seconds later by Roodt and finally when I had my iPod in my ears and my gloves on my hands,  I followed suit. Even though I was doing about 140 km/h hoping to get to the beach in time for a quick kite surfing session, I couldn't catch up with the other two who were obviously doing the same speed as me if not more. What a great day. I was expecting a boring road trip to a breakfast venue and eventually ended up having a pleasant day with great guys sharing the same interest than me...biking!

When I reached home the fun didn't end there. The wind was good for kitesurfing and what better way to get rid of the dust than doing it in the ice cold refreshing waters of the Atlantic? Thanks Mother Nature, you really spoiled us. What about the rest of the weekend.....?

Friday, April 8, 2011

It's Friday, let's go BRAAI...!