Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On way home... Newcastle & Drakensberg

We head for home tomorrow, with probably a stop-over somewhere to break the journey, but I'm guessing that will be just at a truck-stop somewhere in the middle of nowhere so this is probably the last blog entry for this holiday. The time has gone so fast, but when I look back at the photo's from the first campsite we stayed at it feels like we've actually been away for ages. We are so comfortable traveling in Max, and it is going to feel so strange to be back in our home in Cape Town again.

After leaving Morrungulu on the 31st we stopped for the night just before Maputo at a place we once stayed at 11 years ago called Casa Lisa. It was a place that stuck in our minds because back then Alex and I had spent 5 weeks traveling Southern Africa in our Land Rover and by the time we were at the end of our journey we had just used up the rest of our cash for a silly speeding fine that a Mozambique traffic cop decided to totally make up on the spot (long story...), so when we had to stop for the night just before heading back into South Africa we found Casa Lisa and they let us stay for free! So of course we knew it would be a good place for us this time, and we even enjoyed their hospitality and had a delicious supper too. We were the only ones there, but they opened the kitchen for us and we felt very welcome. Needless to say we didn't stay up for the countdown, but we spent the evening chatting with the kids about the year past and the new year ahead. Kaylin is still thinking about her goals and achievements she'd like to set for herself for 2012, but Xan was very specific with his...... he really wants to learn how to ride a motorbike! With Alex as a dad I am sure he is going to achieve this, but I have already told him I'm busy that day, doing anything other than watching - more about this a little further on in the story....

We decided to go through the Swaziland border which was a great idea because it was really quiet and they gave us no hassles at all. Then after that back into South Africa and straight to a KFC to celebrate! We then drove as far as Newcastle and found a caravan park. Unfortunately the majority of Newcastle was there to celebrate New Years Day, and we nearly turned away but the huge police presence there assured us that they were there to make sure that the day visitors left at 6pm. It took them a while longer than expected, but once tucked into our cosy Max we felt secure and could enjoy the evening. The camping spot was a good one though, with a great play ground for the kids so we enjoyed a sleep in the next morning while they played outside - thanks kids!
Now for the part where Xan's dream starts to become real..... to our surprise as we left the caravan park, just around the corner we spotted a Motor-Cross track! Of course we stopped and got the kids bikes off so they could have a bit of fun. After they finished their first lap some guys arrived with motorbikes and showed Xan how the big boys do it. He LOVED it! What a great start to the year for him.

We then headed towards the Drakensberg for the final part of our holiday. Drakensville Resort is such a great place for a family holiday. This place has it all! After a full day here today we've enjoyed the pool, waterslide, putt-putt, giant chess, braai, ice-cream, stunning scenery, thunderstorm, a bee-sting in the mouth (Xan, but he's fine don't worry), baggy-rash & bruises from the waterslide, and much more. It was a great way to end off the holiday.

We've had a great time away as a family. These "Max" trips are really special to us, and have created so many memories and there are still so many more memories to make. We're not sure where our next adventure will be.... We've talked about Malawi, Northern Mozambique, or even storing Max in Kenya again and doing our touring from there.... the possibilities are endless. But for now we are looking forward to arriving home, to our friends and family back in Cape Town. We've also realised that sometimes holidays like these are best shared with a group of friends, so we haven't made any set decisions for our next trip, we'll just see where this year leads us and take it from there. Looking forward to a great 2012!

Friday, December 30, 2011


We haven't had any signal down at Morrungulu, which has been lovely and peaceful, but today we're spending the day at another holiday resort 1 hour walk down the beach. We did this a few days ago and enjoyed it so much we decided to time it with low tide this time so the kids could ride there bikes here. It's Alex's birthday today, so we'll be staying here all day to celebrate and enjoy a lovely lunch before some more relaxing at the pool and then riding/walking back to the campsite. Morrungulo is a stunning campsite. Even thought the place is totally full with South Africans, mostly from Joburg with their fishing boats and jet ski's, it isn't loud or cramped at all. We were placed in a stunning spot surrounded by tropical trees just a short distance from the beach and the dive centre. Unfortunately on both mornings that we booked ourselves a dive the conditions weren't great and they decided they couldn't launch the boat so we haven't done any diving at this spot. We're not too disappointed though, the sea hasn't been as calm as it was in the beginning of our holiday. We've been enjoying the campsite and the kids have had a chance to make some friends. We've been for long walks on the beach collecting shells, and even had a game of putt-putt! Yesterday I felt like some fresh bread so we took a walk out of the resort and into the local village nearby. To our surprise we saw a big crocodile skin hanging in a tree - the locals said it was caught in the Pomene River a while back! Apart from that wild life, this place has been great for catching frogs. Xan came into the truck this morning while I was preparing Alex's birthday cake and decided to put a frog onto my shoulder! It seems we've had encounters of all kinds this holiday..... from Bats at Beline, to crabs at Pomene, then snails at Barra lodge along the path to the restaurant (crunch crunch), and now frogs in Morrungulo!
We've decided to start our trek back tomorrow, one day earlier than expected. We did some calculations and our next booking we've got is in the Drakensburg on the 2nd Jan, so we better get started. We'll be taking the advise from other travelers and heading through the Swaziland border. We're not exactly sure where we'll be stopping to sleep for the 2 nights before we arrive there, but it's the only uncertainty we've had this trip, so it's quite exciting. For today though, we'll sit back and relax...... Happy BIRTHDAY Alex!!!!!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Last day at Lighthouse

Today was our last day at Lighthouse Campsite, Barra. It was a fantastic one! We woke up fresh and the kids got stuck into some Sand Art which kept them busy and happy for quite a while while we relaxed and enjoyed the slow start to a hot day ahead. We then got our beach gear together and headed down to the rock pools for a long morning of snorkeling. Kaylin and Alex swam out to a ship-wreck about 20 meters off the edge of the reef, while Xan just played with his boats in the shallower pools. Kaylin was very happy to have spotted an octopus in the wreck along with plenty other stunning fish. By the end of the morning the beach was packed full of holiday makers with their Christmas day cheer! We then went back to our truck and enjoyed a gourmet braai along with some local cucumber and tomatoes that I had bought from a lady walking past this morning, followed by a fresh mango and pineapple fruit salad - I'm loving all this fresh local food. We haven't bought any fish though, although we get offered all day by the locals. Stax of prawns to buy but unfortunately we're not mad about them (mum, you'd love it here!).
After lunch we relaxed a bit while staying out of the mid day heat and then headed down to the other side of the point to catch some waves. What fun! The kids have really learnt a lot about the sea this holiday and they are managing to catch and ride the waves all the way to the beach. I feel really blessed to be part of this active family, doing the things we do, creating the memories we're creating.
We're ready to leave this campsite tomorrow morning, as we head a bit further north to Morrongulu. I'm not sure what the signal will be like there but I am hoping we'll be able to update the blog without too much trouble. If not, then we'll be in contact when we can and until then we hope you all have a fantastic holiday as I am sure most of you are off work this week and will be making lots of memories with your families too!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Lighthouse Campsite

We've been at Lighthouse Campsite, Barra, for the past 3 days, and have another 3 till we pack up again and move on. This campsite is only a 45min walk down the beach from Barra Lodge, but the adventure along the sandy road to get here took us a little longer than that. Firstly Alex wanted to explore the area a bit and see if he could find the famous surfing spots because the swell was predicted to be pretty large during our stay, but after taking a wrong turn along a sandy track we got quite stuck and had to deflate the tires a lot which wasn't a bad thing because the rest of the way to our campsite was on a soft sandy track too. So we didn't find any of the surf spots, but we did stumble upon a great little deli on the main road into Tofo (little surf/backpackers town near Barra), where we stopped for a light gourmet lunch, and stocked up on a few little luxuries (It's called 'chilli', for those visiting the area sometime in the future).
Lighthouse Campsite as you can guess is on the tip of a rocky part of the beach, and has a classic lighthouse shining it's magic every night. I don't know how to describe it, and I couldn't possibly take a photo that would capture how absolutely stunning the scene is when you stand outside at night, with SO SO many stars in the sky, and then with the big rays of the brilliant lighthouse shining around and around. The lighthouse is about 20 meters from our Truck, so we get to see the top of it glowing and turning, which really is a magical scene.
Apart from the position of this campsite, it really doesn't have much else to offer. The beach is great, and on low tide there is a lovely rockpool that we can safely snorkel in. The rest of the time the kids have been loving the waves. Alex has taken the StandUp Paddle Board out a few times, but it's been a bit too 'choppy' for me.
On our first day here we decided to do the long walk back up the beach to Barra Lodge so we could book ourselves a few more dives. The kids were great, no complaints the whole way there and back. Of course we managed to sneak in a swim at their pool while we were there before the long walk back to the Lighthouse. Alex then walked the whole way there again early the next morning for a dive, and he will do it again tomorrow morning.... things are obviously getting busy there because they have told him to be there at 6h30! I am sure it will be worth the early morning, it always it! We are already looking forward to when the kids are 10 years old, so we can all go scuba diving as a family, they are hooked on snorkeling already! For now though Alex can enjoy the early ones, and I'll enjoy the sleep in!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Barra Lodge

The past 3 days at Barra Lodge has been such a luxury. We booked ourselves into a Casita, which included dinner & breakfast - wow, what a spoil! We've enjoyed the space that the little casita has offered, but we miss a few little special luxuries that Max has to offer us (ie. the coffee machine!). We were tempted to bring it to our room but didn't quite know how to disguise it through the reception area.
To be honest, when we arrived here 3 days ago it felt like we had been taken out of the tranquil paradise of Pomene, and into the hussle and bussle of a busy tourist resort filled with holiday makers. We were so surprised to see how this place had changed since we were last here 8 years ago. They are clearly making lots of money here. We got over our shock pretty quickly and decided to enjoy the place for what it has to offer and it's been great! So great in fact that we've decided that we'd like to come back here soon! It's so easy to fly into Inhambane (of course Alex say's it's just as easy to drive up too), so we'd like all our friends to know that if you are keen to join us for a week of fun in the sun & sea in the first half on 2012 then let us know. The self catering casita's are really reasonable and the scuba diving here is WORLD CLASS!!!! As some of you who joined us here for New Years in 2004 know, I'll get things organised and we can really have a great holiday together, and now we get to enjoy it with our kids too!!! Seriously, let us know if you are keen! If you've never experienced 'Africa', and are in need of a tropical island with the added benefit of luxury but not too over the top, then this is the place to go for a holiday.
OK, enough about the next holiday, there's so much to tell about our last 3 days here.....
We've been on a few dives each, and as expected it's the best part of the under water ocean we've ever been to yet! On both of Alex's deep sea dives he's seen White tipped Reef Sharks, Rays, Eels, Lion Fish, and loads more. I really like the smaller things, which have been plentiful! Octopus, SpearManta Shrimp, Peacock Shrimp, Stone Fish, Crocodile Fish, stax of stunning Anemones with there cute domino & clown fish. I'll be going for a deep dive tomorrow morning, and I'm really hoping we'll spot a Whale Shark on the way. If so then we'll all jump off the boat and snorkel around it - I'm really hoping for this!
Another highlight here was on our second night we had an amazing Seafood buffet supper at the Beach Bar. Wow, what a spread! We were also entertained with a local group of drummers and dancers. The kids just wanted to dance along with them so after the meal we decided to stand up and have our own little dance as a family (in the back corner of course), the kids loved this and it was definitely a night to remember.
Today we decided to spoil ourselves a bit more and enjoy one of the special activities that Barra Lodge has to offer - a catamaran trip to Pansy Island! We set off at lunchtime, the weather and sea perfect! It felt like a dream. We cruised along the water smoothly (thank goodness!), and anchored just off the island. The kids had so much fun snorkeling around and even more fun finding as many perfect Pansy Shells as we possibly could - 27 to be exact!!! We then got back onto the Cat to enjoy a delicious meal which included yet again prawns! I think this must be the staple food in Mozambique. Even Xan tried a few prawns, he's not too sure about them yet though, but he's brave enough to try anything. The trip was stunning, and has been my highlight of this holiday so far.
Tomorrow after my dive we'll be leaving this bit of luxury and heading to a campsite not too far away - in fact it's just down the beach about 10km's! I've got a feeling that it's going to be a bit rough compared to the luxury of the resorts with swimming pools we've been staying in since we left home, but I'm ready for it and I'll enjoy feeling back at 'home' in Max our Truck! Looking forward to our first great cup of Coffee too!!!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

More about Pomene.....

We're at Barra Lodge, Inhambane now, with GREAT internet signal so we will make sure to update you all regularly for the next while.
Even though we are here, there is so much more to tell of our time we spent at Pomene, so here's the stories.....

As I mentioned in the last blog post, the road down to Pomene takes about 2 hours, of major 4x4 skill. Max did great and we were happy to arrive to the friendly staff at Pomene Lodge. We spent 5 fantastic days there, then packed up to head south, only to discover we had mis-counted and we actually had another day booked! Back to our camping spot and then to the pool to relax before braving the sandy 2 hr trip back to the main road. It poured with rain that last night, which made the road the next morning extremely muddy and slippery which tested Max's abilities even more! It was great fun, but it did take a bit longer than the 2 hours driving in.

During our stay at Pomene, we decided to sign up for some activites. We went on a wonderful QuadBiking trip, Alex and I both managed to get a ScubaDive in, and the kids even went for a horse ride on the beach! There were so many highlights, but I'd have to say that the best one would be our early morning walks to the end of the sandbar, for a fresh swim before the rest of the resort woke up. It felt like were stranded alone in tropical paradise.

Pomene is definitely a place we'll come back to! I miss it already!