Terrific bushveld breakaway

I went with a friend to Mabalingwe Nature Reserve for the weekend and what a fabulous getaway. We took leave on Friday and drove the easy, just over two hour drive to Mabalingwe in Limpopo Province, 32km west of Bela-Bela. We arrived in Bela-Bela and stopped at the Pick n Pay for some groceries and at the Biltong Inn for biltong where I also interestingly got rose pedal jam. We had lunch at the Strawberry Khaya which is on the way to Mabalingwe. It is the cutest tea garden where you can sit outside and the tables have games such as Monopoly, 30 seconds, Scrabble, etc if you are in the mood. I had a mince and cheese vetkoek and the food is not great but it is such a cute place that you are willing to forgive them.

We stayed at a chalet at the Ingwe camp that can sleep six people with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a loft. It has a fabulous big stoep with build-in braai where you can sit and watch some of the animals walk right by. On Friday evening we experienced the longest electrical storm where the sky would just light up with lightning. After probably four to five hours there was some rain but the electricity went out intermittently until there was none and with only a crescent moon it was pitch black. It was very late when there was suddenly a lot of commotion with bakkies with their hazards on flying past. It was only the next day that we learned that the veld was set alight, probably by the lightning and people were trying to get the fire under control which they only managed to fully extinguish by late Sunday afternoon.

Although the reserve hosts the big five, we only saw the buffalo but we had such beautiful days with special and fun moments filled with stunning sunrises and sunsets that it didn’t matter. We saw a few different buck species, hippo, birds and even a snake crossing the road. On Saturday morning we had fun car rally moments while skidding through the mud due to the rain from the previous evening and us driving in a normal car and not a 4×4. In the evening we decided to have dinner at the pub only to find out the pub stops serving food at five and the restaurant had venison on their menu which we don’t eat. By the time we decided to have a braai and buy meat and charcoal from the farm stall it was closed as well and we had to settle on the buffet at the restaurant or yet another samie at home. The specialty dish for the evening was crocodile with head and feet on display. We could barely eat the few chicken pieces from a very dreadful chicken dish after sawing that. The restaurant’s buffet was horribly overpriced and really appalling but the pub lunch on Sunday was good. It was a fabulous weekend and I could have done with a few extra days but after my USA trip in August I have almost no leave left and it is always good to end a holiday on a high note. What a great weekend!

Magalies meander

It is long weekend and yesterday a friend and I decided to have a little road trip and explore the bushveld along the Magalies meander. We didn’t have anything definite in mind but was geared with the Garmin and the names of few places we thought we could try. Our first stop was the Lesedi cultural village which is on Malibongwe Drive and about 30km from Johannesburg.

Lesedi means light and the people of Lesedi take you on a cultural experience where you are introduced to some of South Africa’s ethnic groups: the Zulu, Basotho, Xhosa, Ndebele and Pedi. You are welcomed to the village by the sound of the marimba, shown some history from a short DVD presentation before going on a guided tour of traditional tribal homesteads in the African bush where you learn more about their culture and traditions. Some brave souls also tried a bush delicacy in the form of mopane worms (actually a caterpillar) at one of the stops. I prefer my protein in the form of a steak so I passed on this one.

Overnight accommodation is also available in any of the villages. The tour ends in the Boma with a blend of song and dance to the rhythmic beat of African drums. After the tour you can have a true African feast in the restaurant or roam around in the Ndebele village where you can buy beautiful African curios. The tour was really informative and fun.

We decided to have lunch at the Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij in Skeerpoort where I had traditional Dutch kroketten. They have various activities such as picnics, biking, horse riding, hiking and birding. There is also a children play area outside and some farm animals. The farm has a great farm shop that sells delicious goodies, homemade cheese and wine – a great treat.

On our way home we drove through Krugersdorp and stopped at the Silverstar Casino. We had supper at a fabulous restaurant called Steak and watched the musical fountain display outside. The fountain is apparently the biggest in Africa and second biggest in the world. It was a spectacular show!

Supermoon, party trick and the Radisson Blu

I had a pretty boring study weekend with the only excitement when I went to my friend’s house on Sunday to watch the super-big and super-bright supermoon as it rose (ooh and ah) followed by destruction in a PS3 car rally game (eat dirt sucker!!!). Yes, after some studying almost anything is fun!

I attended a conference session at the Radisson Blu hotel in Sandton and what a great hotel. It is opposite the Gautrain which is just superb as it is so accessible as well as being close to Sandton City. The hotel is trendy, the staff friendly and helpful, the food good and the conference facilities great, except the free WiFi which couldn’t handle all the traffic with everyone wanting to connect.

The food consisted of dainty and interesting dishes such as little glass jars filled with mash and a lamb stew, petite mushroom pies in a puff pastry, small fillet skewers or fish nuggets in a little side dish. The dessert was also remarkable with what seemed like small slices of a brownie with pistachio and a caramel layer or the most delicious bite size moist orange infused coconut cake with a syrup that was not too sweet and finished with cream and a piece of dried orange – to die for.

It was fabulous to sit outside on the deck by the pool between breaks to catch some sunlight and it was a relaxing and beautiful day away from the office. I also saw the greatest invitation ever, party trick of note – an invitation where the words appear by the warmth of your hand on the paper. It is thermochromic or temperature sensitive ink. It is very 007-ish and reminds of secret messages you used to write your friend with invisible ink (lemon juice) where the words appeared when heated by candlelight. This is just so much better.

A day away from the office is always rewarded with irrational, short-tempered and stressed people the next day. Here is an example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iziP3Lnq0lw

High tea at the Michelangelo Hotel

I met up with friends for high tea at the five-star Michelangelo hotel in Sandton at 14:30 and it was simply superb! They have a buffet of savoury and sweet eats with fresh fruits, cheese and crackers which you can enjoy with coffee, tea, hot chocolate or cappuccino. There is also a chocolate fountain where you can dip strawberries or marshmallows in. I was surprised to find they had sweet pink prickly pears as I haven’t had those in years. You sit in the Il Ritrovo lounge facing the Nelson Mandela Square and the seats are inviting and comfortable. There is also a pianist playing beautiful soft music on the grand piano. It was a beautiful, warm and sunny day. The Michelangelo hotel is centrally located in Sandton and easily accessibly as the Gautrain is right next to it. The service was terrific and overall it was a marvellous afternoon out with friends; definitely a must if you are in town.

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Montecasino

I went to Montecasino on Saturday night for a fun night out. Monte’s tagline is “Gauteng’s Premier Entertainment destination” and it is so true. There is something for everyone. The many restaurants cater for all different tastes, from Kai Thai, Gourmet Garage with some interesting burger combinations, Metropolis Lounge and Grill on the Square that serves a fabulous fillet with real mushroom sauce and Ciao Baby Cucina that offers great breakfast buffets to name but a few.

There are stunning movie theatres with the Il Grande if you want to watch a movie in absolute comfort, ten pin bowling, hot air balloon, bird garden, dinner/dance and two theatres of which the Teatro is probably South Africa’s best theatre, currently showing Phantom of the opera. It also has a casino in the complex and has an open air Piazza which sometimes hosts free open air concerts, especially over New Years or during product launches. I had a great time.

Hartbeespoort dam (Harties)

What fun! I was supposed to go with my cousin to Harties yesterday as her husband was going to run around the dam but due to injury this was postponed but then this morning just after nine, my cousin called to say we were going to Harties. First I was, ooh and ah, but it didn’t take much convincing and 40 minutes later I was in the car and on my way. Harties is about an hour’s drive from Joburg/Pretoria. Coming from Joburg, you have to cross the bridge and go through the tunnel to get to the snake park. There is usually a bit of a delay due to the timed one-way bridge. I was however very entertained as I saw a woman on the back of a bike in pink stilettos – a first! We decided to take the children to the Snake and Animal Park which also offers a ferry-boat cruise on the dam.ImageIt was a fun day out and a hot 28 degrees Celsius. I got to see baby meerkats which were just adorable.

We went to the Wimpy after the park as the children wanted to play at the playground and we were too late for the famous Sunday buffet lunches at the surrounding restaurants. Harties offers plenty and is ideal for a long weekend away as it is close to the city but tranquil and quiet to allow you to switch off and relax. It was a fabulous day.

Opikopi Pretoria

What fun! Had a great day with the family yesterday at Opikopi in Pretoria. No! not the drunken, motherless Oppikoppi festival by Northam but Opikopi the quiet and enchanting guest house in Erasmuskloof. It was gran’s 80th birthday party and it was awesome. Opikopi is a really great venue and ideal for a private function. I loved seeing the family and it is great to know we have four generations alive and well. A very special occasion indeed.