Breathless in the Giants’ Playground

Living on the False Bay coast, the annual migration of Southern Right whales to our warmer waters to mate and calve is easy to take for granted.  It’s almost synonymous with these parts and I assumed I’d more than had my share of the greater experience.

Until I headed up the Whale Coast to board an environmentally sensitive whale-watching catamaran in Hermanus this weekend that is.  And that really took my breath away time and again.

Imagine being so close to a creature weighing the same as ten elephants that you can hear it exhaling through its’ blowholes, or feel the spay as it breaches near the boat.  Like my swim with dolphins off Ponta do Ouro last year, this boat-based whale watching trip ranks right up there as a top responsible tourism interaction with the creatures that fill our oceans.

Nothing beats lobtailing, when that magnificant tail rises above the water,

19-IMG_259820-IMG_259921-IMG_2600or the breaching,22-IMG_260323-IMG_260524-IMG_2606 the blowing,35-IMG_266725-IMG_2607or the spyhopping – when they decide to take a peek at the world above the waterline.42-IMG_2682And if you look carefully in the photo below, you’ll see that the whale to the right is an albino.

34-IMG_2653Especial thanks to Southern Right Charters and the crew of Miroshca for an incredible afternoon.

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You know you’re in Overberg country when …

….. you stop for moerkoffie* served in enamel cups at Dassiesfontein Farmstall, where they stock everything a Cape Town girl could want – wine, chocolate and flowers :-)35-IMG_2201….. you spend hours browsing through the bric-à-brac and antiquities inside and outside37-IMG_219943-IMG_217841-IMG_218238-IMG_2192

….. the locals shower one another with affection  32-IMG_2230(ok ok some do turn their back on you)34-IMG_2218….. the protected Blue Cranes shriek across the fields19-IMG_2285and the Jackal Buzzards keep a patient watch for a tasty snack from the overhead power lines.

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* Afrikaans coffee, which is ground coffee in a bag brewed in a kettle

 

 

‘Good Morning, Mr Mandela’

I did resolve not to buy any more books until I’d dented at least some of the pile of 60 still begging to be read, but when Zelda la Grange’s much anticipated book about her life as Nelson Mandela’s assistant was launched on Thursday, I rushed to get a copy.

I read it in a day, assisted by loads of tissues and if the social media is anything to go by, the first print run is already sold out.

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Those expecting loads of dirt, celebrity gossip or a tell all book are going to be disappointed.  La Grange has said in the book and in interviews leading up to the launch that it’s her story and not Madiba’s.  Instead it’s filled with ancedotes of his later years and lessons she learned from him in the 19 years as gatekeeper to one of the world’s most loved icons.

But Zelda does document the sadness of Mandela’s last days, the blunders by the government medical team treating him and she lifts the veil on the family infighting as Madiba clung to life.

She shares how, unbelievably, Mandela’s widow Graça Machel, had to get accreditation to attend her husband’s memorial service with only four of her family members allowed at her side and how at the last minute and even though she was wholly excluded from any of the arrangements, Zelda rushed around calling in favours to get accreditation for Mandela’s closest friends as well as celebrities Bono, Charlize Theron and Oprah Winfrey, all of whom had conveniently been disregarded, despite Madiba’s wishes, by those swinging the sceptre.

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Good morning, Mr Mandela is filled with courage, tenacity, integrity, tenderness and most of all love and respect.

From Bowling Green to Bowl of Greens

Formerly a disused bowling green in the foothills of Devil’s Peak and dwarfed by Table Mountain on the top side, Oranjezicht City Farm is a growing inner city farming project run primarily by volunteers, on the fringes of the City Bowl.

Interactive and child and pet-friendly, the farm’s vision is to get people to understand what they are eating and where it comes from.

Visit the popular Saturday organic market or do a guided self-harvest on Wednesday afternoons, weather permitting.  For more information on opening times and location visit the farm’s website.

The site also has a fascinating history and some of the cobbled bridlepaths remain from what was at one time the largest farm in the Upper Table Valley, occupied by the Van Breda family for seven generations.

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Books for Africa

The Cape Town Book Fair has returned to the Mother City, this time as the South African Book Fair.  Bummer that not one but two of the guest speakers I badly wanted to see didn’t pitch (shame on you both!), but there was a lot to see, loads of books on sale and I was particularly taken by this attractive display of Iconic South African writers by the Department of Arts and Culture.  Plus it’s also a small comfort to see that not all my income tax money went to upgrading Nkandla, president Zuma’s controversial luxury residence !!

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Jorgensen’s Distillery

No trip to Wellington is complete without a visit to Jorgensen’s Distillery.  Situated on Versailles Farm in Regent Street in the heart of the town, it’s one of those places where time seems to stand for a while, despite the bustle of country life outside.

Versailles is home to “Still Man” Roger Jorgensen and his family and two gorgeous, exuberant pittbulls who make wonderful ambassadors for the breed, proving once again that there are no bad dogs, ever, only bad bad owners.

But back to Versailles, home of finely handcrafted spirits with understatedly elegant packaging:  Think moonshine and mampoer and the prohibition.  Add to the alchemy an impressive apothecary from a sleepy shed where Roger keeps his potion ingredients to a modern day legal setting.  Add a lazy and slightly neglected vineyard to the backdrop and you have all the necessary imagery to conjure up this delightful distillery in your mind’s eye.

Roger is that passionate about his craft he should bottle his enthusiasm too while he’s at it.  It was inspirational to see that he’s as at home in his small outdoor plant nursery as he is making potstill brandy, vodka or Field of Dreams, Jorgensen’s unusual handcrafted organic absinthe, a combination of colouring herbs and flavoured spirits.

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He also makes a damn good cocktail despite his protestations about being terrible at it.  Mine was a Nordic Snapper, his adult version of the ubiquitous Bloody Mary.  I thought I was opting for the healthy, vegetarian option considering it was mid morning, but be warned, this drink has a kick like a Platteland donkey – which isn’t surprising considering the alcohol content of the aquavit – that spirit our Nordic forefathers warm their bones with in winter.  After drinking half, it felt more like I’d ordered Thor’s Hammer, another aptly named drink from Roger’s cocktail list that tries to disguise its potency, this time under the guise of a cucumber puree base.  I’d suggest booking a B&B in town when you visit, just to be safe :-)  Then you can also linger longer.

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My Nordic Snapper

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The still – where it all happens

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  Love at first sight – Tuscan, ambassador of my absolute favourite breed (sorry Schalk, Mom still loves you)03-IMG_0871 Simplicity – in the table decorations and the snacks and the whole Jorgensen operation.

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At least the lemongrass swizzle sticks were non-alcoholic, as was the home-made lemonade.