I’ve been seeing daily ads in my Facebook newsfeed for a place called Sekelbos Restaurant, so decided to take The Bean there yesterday for a light bite. Sekelbos, as explained to us by our polite waitress (whose name I didn’t get) is a type of wood that is said to burn for ages, but never to ash.Continue reading
Circles in the Forest: Oakhurst Farm Cottages
One of the followers on my Facebook page asked for a few facts about me, so here they are – 13 of them because I’m not superstitious.
Also, four come up in this post:
Forest-lover, but not tree hugger
Enjoyer of puns
Growing up I spent time reading South African author, Dalene Matthee’s books because they were set in the Knysna Forest, which is an hour’s drive away, and also because I knew they would be our Afrikaans prescribed literature at some stage. She published many books, but the two I think would be her most well known are Fiela se Kind (Fiela’s Child) and Kringe in ‘n Bos (Circles in a Forest).
Last weekend, after literally being home from Victoria Falls for two days, I set off on another adventure with three girlfriends from work, Catherine, Yoki, Rhonda and Kerryn (Rhonda’s daughter) to Oakhurst Farm, where we stayed in one of the quaint cottages, called Kween’s Kaya (Queen’s Home). Apt, considering that we are amazing gals who could rule the world if the humdrum of work and paying bills didn’t stand in our way.
We arrived at dusk on Friday afternoon, using trusty Google Maps. We found our accommodation with no problem. There are various types of accommodation available – check out the website here. Our home-away-from-home was clean and well equipped. What I found particularly lovely is a box of different toys in one of the cupboards, for those people travelling with young ‘uns, and a really cool way to play Tic-Tac-Toe, or as some others may know it, Noughts-and-Crosses.
We lit a fire in the small indoor fireplace, more for atmosphere, than warmth and dinner prep was begun shortly after.
I go away every year with the same group of friends and every year is an experience because we gel as a team. One loves to cook, others don’t mind washing or dishes and I love setting the table. We have a silent understanding that we’re all away to relax and that there is no need to keep one another entertained.
Saturday morning after a hearty breakfast we set off to explore the farm a bit.
It is a working dairy farm so we saw many cows.
We also got to sample the fresh farm milk because our hosts had placed a bottle in our fridge. Soooooo creamy!
There is a lovely playground for children, a delightful farm shop, a farm pool in which to cool off and activities such as archery and horse-riding, costs of which are not included in your stay.
Beautiful pastures, meadows and dams are dotted around the farm, and the dusty road is lined by tall Bluegum trees.
We decided to do the Forest Walk, (which this forest lover, but not tree-hugger was happy about).
It is meant to be a 5 Km circular route, with a waterfall just past halfway. Not one of us thought to bring water, nor did we think that we would be character candidates for Kringe in ‘n Bos, volume 2. We found the waterfall with relative ease, although the water was more of a trickle than a fall.
Maybe I’m biased after having seen Victoria Falls, who knows? On the way to the waterfall, we saw a sign that read, “To Cottages/Church” and decided that this was the way home. It may very well have been, had we not gone to the waterfall, because after circling back to get on that trail, we ended up doing almost 10 Km in total. Catherine pretty much summed it up in a single sentence “It was fun, and then it wasn’t anymore”.
Mental note to self: Do not wear jeans during a hike, regardless of the distance.
Additional note to self: Take water, regardless of the distance.
While the distance was slightly killer, we made it and we got to see some beautiful things walk.
Rhonda spotted a skull in a hole in the ground. I of course immediately thought murder in the forest, but it turned out I read too many mystery novels. The victim was a baboon. Did you see what this Enjoyer of Puns did there? Kerryn adopted it, christening it Bobby/Bobbi (because we’re not anthropologists, so we couldn’t sex it just by looking at its orbital sockets), intent on gifting it to her Biology teacher.
Back at the cottage we all wolfed down our lunch (tuna or ham & cheese rolls) and Kerry and I headed off to the outride we’d booked for the afternoon. Her horse was called Striker and mine, Home James. We had a lovely walk on the farm and again through the forest, guided by Isaac, who comes from a jockeying family and clearly loves horses. He even showed off some of his dressage moves in one of the meadows.
We got back to the cottage and soon the fire was lit outside for a braai. We were intent on dining al-fresco, but we found quite a few eight-legged creepy crawlies which very quickly made us rethink our plans. This mild arachnophobe was just grateful to be inside, because even though there were spiders indoors too, they were smaller than the one that had nearly hitched a ride on me because I’d been standing too close to the wall it was on. After dinner and washed dishes, we all checked out to Club Duvet. The walk had tuckered us out.
Sunday morning, we headed home after another delicious breakfast, but not before stopping at Hoekwil Country Café, for something to drink.
Whenever I’m with Catherine I always feel the need to drink a pot of tea, preferably Earl Grey. The friendly waitress shared a story with us about the café’s cheesecake having been voted the best cheesecake in South Africa in 2010.
It may be nine years later, but oh my giddy aunt, the cheesecake freak in me had what Sally had when she met Harry. I will drive to Hoekwil again just to have cheesecake; it was that good!
Tomorrow is Catherine’s birthday and she’s invited some friends and I to join her for lunch at a place I’ve not been to yet, and on Sunday I will be taking my mum and dad to lunch at a new place that opened on Thursday less than five minutes’ drive from my house. Reviews to follow next week 😊
In the meantime, have an amazing weekend, and if you’re crazy enough to venture to the stores for the biggest shopping day of the year, don’t get trampled by the Stampede of Shoppers.
Review: Old Drift Lodge, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
Arriving at the five star Old Drift Lodge was an experience in itself. I was welcomed by the Manager on Duty, Farai and the resident “Granny”, Hilda, who is learning the ropes. To ward of the sweltering heat, I was given a cool, damp towel and my suitcase was whisked off to my quarters, while I was checked in, over my first (of what would be a few) cocktails.
The main area of the lodge, where all meals are served, overlooks the Zambezi River. The furnishings are classy and comfortable. The décor speaks to the history of the Old Drift Town, and has the touch of Africa visible throughout, with chessboards that have wild animal pieces.
Every day the lodge has brainteasers up on the chalkboard, which is a great way to get the travellers (which are from all corners of the Globe) to interact with one another.
I was escorted to my accommodation by Granny and taken aback by the size of it. The king size bed was covered in crisp white linen, and there was an elephant made out of the towels on my bed, along with a personalized note, welcoming me to the lodge.
I was given a quick tour of the lodgings and told that if I needed anything (including a change to the beverages in the minibar), it would be arranged. I tested the theory by asking for a bath to be drawn for me upon a return from an excursion my last evening, and it exceeded my expectations.
While the lodge specializes in being a couples-destination, the luxury tents are able to sleep four persons: two on the king size bed, and two more on twin beds, in a separate room. My personal feeling is that this is not the sort of place to bring small children, given the wild animals roaming around, and because the idea is to retreat from life and truly rewind.
The bathroom boasts beautiful his-and-hers handbasins, made of copper.
There is a large indoor shower, as well as one outside. What sold me on this lodge (and I considered a few!) was the outdoor bathtub. Who wouldn’t want an indulgent bubble-bath, while overlooking the Zambezi, with the possibility of view game as an added bonus?
If you’re wanting to cool down, every room is equipped with its own private splash pool; sometimes used by the passing elephants to grab a drink. If this happens and the water is left a bit murky ‘n muddy, one call to reception is all it takes for it to be turned back into sparkling blue. On my last day, I enjoyed an ice-cold local ale, Zambezi Lager in the pool.
After dinner every evening, each resident is accompanied to their room by a ranger, in case there are wild animals roaming about. This is a requirement of the National Parks Authority, and a necessary one. One evening there were both Cape Water Buffalo and a herd of elephants roaming around the lodge.
I had a busy time during my holiday, wanting to do as much as I could in the short time I was in Victoria Falls, but the staff at the lodge are flexible and always willing to help. For example, lunch is served between 13:00 and 15:00, but if one arrives back from an excursion a bit later, something to nibble on can be arranged.
The lodge offers sunrise-, and sunset cruises (whether a single person, or a number of people) are booked, as well as game drives, and nature walk safaris. The sunrise cruises include coffee, hot chocolate, and tea for your enjoyment on the river. For those that can’t resist, there is Amarula for the coffee too. Oh, and the most delicious biscuits too; the oats crunchies are dangerously addictive!
During afternoon excursions, there are alcoholic beverages available – on the sunrise cruise you can enjoy a sundowner while you gently chug along, and the game drive has a pop-up bar somewhere along the route, where travellers can sip on something cold, enjoy some bite-size snacks and soak up the breathtaking view.
All the guides that accompany guests on the excursion are extremely knowledgeable of the area, the animals and the vast array of birdlife that can be found in- and around the lodge.
The meals at the lodge are next-level delicious! Chef Gabriel and his team indeed know their onions. The menu is a five-day rotational one, as Farai explained to me, but if there is something specific a guest would like to have, it is easily arranged.
Breakfast is a continental one to begin with, and guests can order an assortment of hot meals, which are prepare to order. I had eggs benedict one morning, and the Rangers’ breakfast the next. One thing that I love about the meals served is that the hot meals are served on hot plates, keeping the food warm throughout.
At every meal, Chef Gabriel makes a turn at the tables to make sure the guests are enjoying their meals. The waitstaff are polite and always at the ready to fill your water glass or get you a drink to have with your meal. I only had lunch at the lodge once, given my hectic schedule. It was Fillet of Tilapia (one of the 80 types of fish found in the Zambezi).
The dinners at the lodge are a culinary experience, with a selection that caters to all tastes.
I had dinner on two of the three evenings I was at the lodge (as I attended a dinner excursion on the Bushtracks Express one evening).
The travel agent that booked my stay at the lodge is a friend, and mentioned to them that I was coming to Victoria Falls as a to-myself-from-myself-40th-birthday-present. On the last night I was there, the manager on duty, Lessley, joined me for dessert. Halfway through that cheesecake, all the staff on duty came out singing “Happy Birthday”. For a minute I thought it was Lessley’s special day, but it turned out that I had been blessed with a birthday cake, which I was quite willing to share with the other guests, but they were all “well fed” with no extra space for cake. I ate a piece and had the rest divided amongst the staff.
On my last night, I came back to my room to find an envelope with my name on it, and a note inside. Again, it could have just read “room 6”, but that personal touch made it special.
I wish I could remember everyone’s names to thank them individually for their incredible hospitality, but for fear of (unintentionally) leaving someone out, I am simply going to say a universal “thank you!” to everyone at Old Drift. Being at the lodge has opened my eyes to the beauty of Victoria Falls town, the Mighty Zambezi and given me renewed hope for the future. I arrived at the lodge as a weary stranger, but left feeling like part of the Old Drift family. I’ve left a part of my heart there.
You may be rated as five-star by travel standards, but in my book, you’re a 10 out of 5 😀
Thank you for the memories! Ones I will treasure forever.
As many of you know, I lead a relatively healthy lifestyle. Healthy Herbalife shake for breakfast, healthy snacks, moderate exercise (which has gone for a loop recently due to a recurring injury) and water or tea as opposed to coffee. Yesterday though, Eve, Elizabeth’s elder sister celebrated her 50th birthday, and so they packed in some sugary treats for me today: marbled meringues and a generous slice of lemon meringue cheesecake. On some plane maybe they knew that I’d be getting news today, news I’ve been waiting a long time for. I’d been expecting the information to be exactly what it was, but the finality of it clearly messed with my brain chemistry.
Every so often, the company I work for arranges for short training for us – usually it is by the same person, a relationship psychologist who teaches us to apply the skills we already have to improve both our relationships within- and outside the workplace. His last talk was nutrition-based and how blood-sugar levels affect our moods. In very simple terms, he explained that if our blood sugar reaches a certain low level, the adrenaline and nor-adrenaline our body excretes has the same impact on our brains as a person seeing a lion. Judging by the number of calories I’ve consumed already (I’ve devoured every morsel of The Toppie’s homemade steak & kidney and all the sweet goodies Eve packed in for me) I must have a pride of lions on the prowl in my subconscious.
Pic from PetRescue.com
Time for water to flush them out and replace them with delighted, rainbow-farting unicorns, because goodness knows, I can’t pack up and move to Scotland. For those of you who don’t get the reference – Google is your friend – search for Scotland’s national animal.
Survival of the (Un)Fittest
I survived last night’s personal training with Steve. Barely! I am stiff in places I’ve never had places before. I am grateful that we only did upper body last night, because if we’d done legs as well, my gait would have surely rivalled that of John Wayne.
Food wise, I still not hungry. And I’m still craving cake. And freshly brewed rooibos tea – which I’d make if I could lift the kettle! On Thursday evening I shall detach my legs from the rest of my body and send them to the gym on their own.
Seriously, if I don’t have a banging hot body after the ten sessions I’ve paid for, I’m going to eat an entire New York baked cheesecake in a single sitting.