Posts Tagged ‘family’

Bush to Beach to Berg

For the first half of August, we had the honor of playing host and tour guide for John’s brother Chuck, his wife Tracy, and their sons Charlie (14) and Alex (12) — collectively “The Chucks”. We drove more than 1,000 miles, saw dozens of animals, ate our way across SA, slept in luxury tents and a leaky cave, laughed ourselves sick, and generally just had an absolute blast.

Click on any photo to launch a full-size version of the slideshow

The photos and captions tell the story pretty well, but here’s a bit more context to how we spent our 13-day vacation. It’s amazing how quickly 2 weeks flies by when you’re having fun!

Part 1: Bush

After The Chucks’ 8pm arrival on Saturday night, we grabbed some takeout and had a quick catch-up session (and first-ever Roxy meeting!) on the patio before sending them off to bed. On Sunday – despite what should have been a very jet-laggy morning – everyone rolled out of bed fairly cheerfully and we were on the road by 11am after a nice pitstop by our monthly neighborhood food/craft market, The Wonder Market, for some breakfast and many, many coffees.

We arrived in St. Lucia mid-afternoon in time to check into our lovely guest house, then rolled straight over to the docks to board a cruise of the estuary in search of crocs and hippos. Many wild animals later, we enjoyed a delicious feast at a Portugese restaurant and then retired back to the lodge for some vino and chitchat.

Monday morning found us on a day tour of the wetlands, all the way up to Cape Vidal. All in an open-air Land Cruiser with an affable guide named Paul, complete with a lunch braai on the beach. By mid-afternoon, we were on the road again to head another hour north to Thanda game reserve.

We spent an amazing and relaxing 3 days at Thanda, where we were completely spoiled by the staff and amazed by the animals. We not only saw the Big 5 (elephant, rhino, lion, cape buffalo, leopard), we actually spent considerable time with many of them. There were also cheetahs, hyenas, warthogs, zebras, wildebeest, and too many types of bok to count. I can’t say enough good things about Thanda – if the opportunity ever presents itself, GO!

After a final early-morning game drive on Thursday, we said goodbye to Thanda and headed back to Durbs.

Part 2: Beach

Although the weather had been gray and rainy in Durban the whole time we were away, it was blue sky and warm by the time we returned. So we stopped off for lunch by the beach in Ballito on the way home, and then enjoyed a chilled night in with everyone’s favorite Pug.

Charlie (who answered “That sounds awesome – I want to do that” to every activity idea that I suggested) wanted to do the swing at the World Cup stadium, which is billed as the world’s largest swing (106m high, with a swinging arc of 220m). That’s basically jumping off of a 35-story building. John and Chuck agreed to take the plunge with him, while Alex, Tracy and I watched from stadium seats. It looked terrifying!

With Chuck hoarse from screaming like a little girl on the swing, we headed out for some lunch and a steadying beer. The plan was to grab lunch by uShaka Marine World and then head inside the water park for the afternoon, but the awesome and pragmatic Alex declared that the park was “too expensive”, so we opted for the free Umhlanga beach instead.

We had had the brilliant foresight to ask Terry and Steph if we could have the whole Durban crew over to their place for a braai Friday night, so all we had to do post-beach was clean ourselves up and head down the street. It was total fun to see our blood relatives mixing in with our Africa family.

After having our planned surf lessons canceled due to poor water conditions (it was lovely and warm and sunny out, just unfavorable surf) we spent all day Saturday hanging out at the beach at the Durban Undersea Club, playing corn hole and drinking beers. We rounded out the day with a soccer match at the World Cup stadium – Durban’s own Amazulu vs. the Kaiser Chiefs. It didn’t end well for the hometown boys, but a good time was had by all.

Surf lessons got waved off again on Sunday, so we hung around the house a bit and then headed down South to Umlazi township for an all-day lunch at Max’s Lifestyle. Meat and beer, beer and meat, rinse and repeat. As the sun went down, we decided to call an end to “lunch” and head home to rest up for the next leg of the trip…

Part 3: Berg

We headed out early Monday morning to rendezvous with the mountain guide who would take the boys on an overnight hiking trip to camp in Zulu Cave high up in the Drakensberg Mountains. As the boys disappeared up the trail, Tracy and I headed another hour into the Berg to The Cavern hotel and spa, where we spent 24 hours in the lap of (relative) luxury while the boys survived on cheese and crackers and slept in a cave. But the boys related that they had a fabulous time, and the pictures are simply breathtaking.

Once the team was back together on Tuesday morning, we headed out for a bite of lunch and then retired to Terry’s fabulous cottage for the rest of the day. Clean and rested up on Wednesday, we headed over to the treetop canopy tour for some ziplining. A heated bowls match and a delicious dinner rounded out the day, then most of us turned in for a good night’s sleep (**certain members of the household whose names may or may not rhyme with Con and Muck may have stayed up until the wee hours solving the world’s problems / drinking bourbon).

After an epic breakfast on the back patio, we packed back into the van and headed for the Midlands to do some meandering. Chuck – whose love of indigenous trinkets is only rivaled by that of his brother – continued his souvenir shopping spree, with the day’s haul including a bull’s horn, a springbok hide, a wildebeest skull (a gift for JG), and an iron warthog statue named Lil’ Coo. After an early dinner pitstop in Pietermaritzburg, we got back to Durban in time to change into comfy pants and have a group screening of The Fighter.

Friday morning (what?! How did it get to be Friday already?!) found us down at Warwick Market for a bit of a cultural tour and some final purchases at the weekly bead market. Terry served as our tour guide / Zulu interpreter, and I think the Chucks were suitably impressed (and slightly horrified) with the aisles of traditional medicine components.

And with “Zulu Market” checked off of the list, it was time to (SOB!) head back to the airport. Our luck with the weather held out just long enough, as the skies broke open while we were returning the rental car.

It was an unforgettable trip seeing amazing things with some of our favorite peeps in the world. A million thanks to our first family visitors for making the trek to SA – we’ll never forget it!


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Rewind: April

April found us at another dam, this time Inanda Dam for Easter weekend, where a group of the usual suspects rented out a couple of large-scale safari tents. Hilarity ensued, as always. Oh, and I baked a taaaaasty (if slightly startled-looking) bunny cake in honor of my grandmother “Nanny”, who always carried one on her lap on the Greyhound bus from Lynchburg to Roanoke when she came to visit for Easter.

Another dam fine weekend

Maybe not my best effort style-wise, but still delicious (coconut cake, by the way)

We also spent an awesome weekend at Uvongo Beach, about an hour south of Durban. This was our last hurrah (well, the first of many last hurrahs) with the Australians, who as of June became quasi-Americans! But before they packed up and left for Atlanta, we stole them away for one last weekend of good food (including an American-style breakfast, complete with cheese grits), good drinks (maybe just a few too many), and good times. And although neither Australian nor moving to America, English Andrew is always a welcome addition to the party.

Long, lazy lunch at The Trattoria in Southbroom. Poor Nikki is always the designated photographer, and therefore never in any photos. But she does exist, I swear!

A touch windy, but a stunning day to chill out on the beach

And why not round out the month with one more little trip?! After we unpacked from Uvongo, we repacked and flew off to Virginia for our semi-annual visit. The first half of the trip fell in April, but I unfortunately didn’t take a single picture of our weekend at Chuck’s gorgeous cabin with our siblings, their spouses, and our 6 rowdy niecephews! I remember being extremely cold and tired, but also having a ton of fun running around in the woods, corn-holin’, hatchet-throwin’, fire-watchin’, and bourbon-drankin’ (including several of Aunt Jeane’s signature Bourboncellos: bourbon + limoncello = yum!)

Sunday afternoon, we were off to Roanoke for 5 days to hang out with our parents. On Tuesday of that week, April rolled over into May, so I’ll leave you here for now…


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Oh, January. The Monday of months. I only have a handful of photos to remind me of what we did, so I just went through my email inbox to see what I could come up with. And as Mondays go, January was a doozy:

  • John’s debit card was cloned. Crafty thieves here — they can alter an ATM card slot so that it becomes a card reader and heists your numbers. Then it’s a quick frenzy to use the numbers as many times as possible before the victim catches on. Luckily, we caught on pretty quickly — and our bank (who normally sucks) refunded all of our money within about 3 days.
  • My Dad (who is turning 80 in October!) fell in the their kitchen and broke his hip. He went through a grueling 10-week recovery in hospital and rehab, but was back in the condo by early April! It’s definitely slowed him down a bit, but he’s as feisty and stubborn as ever, so getting along okay.
  • I had my first root canal. Really not as bad as everyone makes it out to be. I mean, they RIP OUT THE NERVE, so once that bit’s over with you don’t feel a thing!

So, yeah, the Monday of months.

On a bright note, we did treat ourselves to an amazing one-night getaway to Oribi Gorge since we hadn’t done anything elaborate over the holidays. Having a rough month? I can absolutely recommend a night at The Gorge Spa to take your mind off of it!

A room with a view, at Oribi Gorge. (And NO, we didn’t do the gorge swing!)

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Rewind: December

Ahhh, December. How did we spend the holiday season in 2011? We…

  • Attended our first Zulu wedding, complete with the “white wedding” at a scenic mountain lodge in the morning, followed that afternoon/evening/night by the traditional tribal bit at the groom’s home in Umlazi township. Total fun, and a cool glimpse into a different culture.
  • Spent Christmas in the Drakensberg with Steph and Terry’s wild and wonderful family. While by no means cold, it’s at least a bit cool-ish in the mountains, so easier for a Virginian to pretend that it’s proper Christmas weather! Great times, and always a treat to be so warmly embraced by our adoptive family when we’re so far away from our own.
  • Did quite a bit of hanging out in and around the pool and yard. Lame? Maybe. Awesome? Definitely.
  • Nursed Roxy through another of her idiotic food binges: this time, it was approximately 2 pounds of Christmas cookies I had baked to give to friends (and not just any old cookie — those super rich, super dense “magic cookie bars” smothered in sweetened condensed milk). It was an AWFUL day for everyone involved (thanks Steph, thanks Jaime!)
  • Hosted some friends from Cape Town for a quick visit (Simon of Alphabetical and &Union fame, and his girl Gabby)
  • Had a low-key NYE at home with a few friends and a lot of homemade pizza

And possibly my favorite part of December this year… We decided that instead of sending gifts to our niece and nephews, we would pack up 6 boxes of food, toys, school supplies, and toiletries to send to the kids we got to know when we were in Mozambique. I drew up a short questionnaire for our niecephews about their favorite stuff like sports and school subjects and toys, had them fill in the answers, and then printed each out along with a photo. The six boxes were stuffed with canned goods, soap, toothpaste, stickers, balls, games, pencils, notebooks, and all kinds of other goodies, and also a photo and info about the kid the box was “from”.

Steph and Terry delivered the boxes during their post-holiday trip to Mozambique, and reported that the boxes were an absolute smash! Christmas in Moz (in poverty-stricken Inharrime, anyway) is a day for spending time with family and celebrating with a special meal (they may splurge on a chicken), but gifts don’t really come into play. So for 6 kids to receive 6 boxes of stuff? Pretty exciting.

I got Steph to help the kids fill out the same questionnaire that the American kids had done, and then shared the results. It was humbling, to say the least. Favorite toy for 4 of the 6 Moz kids was “a ball”. Mae’s most prized possession is “my shoes”. Favorite meal for most of them: “chicken”. Anyway, it was a fun project, and really helped to put us in the holiday spirit. If S&T are willing to lug 6 huge boxes through 4 border crossings again, we’ll have a re-do for 2012!

December, out!

Champ and Zasembo tie the knot!

At the township party with my new BFF Benathi – who later styled my hair for me, and when I asked how it looked, she said “Pretty good – but it’ll never look as good as mine”. Truth!

Johnny shares his holiday sweaters during Christmas in the Berg with the Gersbanks

Christmas afternoon cocktails at the Moffitts

Chillin’ by the pool on Boxing Day

Roxy’s belly after ingesting 2 pounds of cookies

Doing what we do best with Simon and Gabs

Mae, Olimpio and Ezio dig into their Christmas boxes while Steph translates a letter from one of the American kids

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Rewind: November

So let’s kick this thing off with a bit of a recap of the last 9 months. When we left you in early October, Roxy was seeking shade under my butt and JG and I were recovering from another epic visit from Devin and Tyler. I really couldn’t tell you what the rest of October was spent doing — though I would assume sleeping normal hours, drinking less, eating better, and getting ready for a bunch of travel in November.

Which brings us to… Virginia! We enjoyed our semi-annual trip “home” during the first two weeks of the month, and spent it in our usual whirlwind style. Including:

  • A fabulous weekend at the Greenbrier at John’s Aunt Jeane’s beautiful vacation house. We drank bourbon under piles of blankets out on the porch by night, and played outside in the insanely cold but gorgeous weather by day. We were joined by both of our siblings and their families, so there was no shortage of fun to be had with our 5 nephews and niece!
  • 5 days in Roanoke visiting our parents — including a mini family reunion at John’s parents’ house, some good downtime in my parents’ awesome new condo (where I had spent a stressful week in August helping them move, so it was good to see it through more relaxed eyes), and — much to John’s excitement — a Hokie game on TV! During normal hours! With chicken wings!
  • One night visiting family in Kenbridge, with more bourbon (by a fire, this time) and more freezing cold. Great to catch up with the “country” Hawthornes, and always fun to witness the whirling dervish that is Cousin Jackson.
  • One last night up in NoVa with my sister and her peeps, then we were on a plane again! It’s always too short, but we’re so glad that we get to see everyone 2x/year.

Once we arrived back in SA, we had a few days to unpack and repack, then we were off to Cape Town to meet up with Catherine! She was in town for a conference, so we flew down to spend Thanksgiving weekend with her and another Richmond friend, Taylor. Hilarity ensued:

  • First, on the way down, my flight was struck by lightning. As soon as the BOOM/FLASH struck, my (female) seat partner and I (who hadn’t even acknowledged each other an hour into the flight) immediately grasped hands and proceed to freak the F out together. Everything turned out fine, but it was a funny moment to suddenly find myself holding hands with a stranger.
  • Thanksgiving dinner was celebrated at The Grand with a few of our old CPT friends.
  • We spent Friday touring Catherine and Taylor around Franschhoek, complete with delicious charcuterie lunch at Bread & Wine, and our traditional end-of-day bubbles on the front lawn of Haute Cabriere. I love Durban, but I do miss the winelands!!
  • Saturday found us on the road to Hermanus to freeze our butts off while looking for (nonexistent) whales, and then to a lovely night in the Elgin Valley at a wine farm owned by one of John’s colleagues. More freezing cold, more fires, more drinks (I’m sensing a theme for November), but a night of bellyaching laughs with some old and new friends.

I think that does it for November! All in all, a fabulous (though cold) month, filled with many hours on many planes (only one of which was struck by lightning, thank God) and lots of friends and family. Next up: December!

Living the good life with sis-in-law Tracy at Aunt Jeane’s

I may have cheated on Roxy just a little bit with Cousin Tanky

Gorgeous weather and setting for some corn hole action with Jeane and Chuck

Johnny G under a dogpile of nephews

Cousin John + Cousin Jackson

Finishing off a stunning day in Franschhoek with Catherine and Taylor

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Indonesia… 5 Weeks Late

Sorry it’s been so long since we’ve posted! First, we were on holiday; then, we moved; then Roxy and I were too busy being fat and lazy while Lizzy was busy in Virginia helping her parents move. But we’re all back in SA now, so it’s back to life — and blogging — as usual!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Our trip to Indonesia was absolutely amazing. My brother and I have always thought of our cousins as more like extended siblings, so it was amazing for Lizzy and me to get to experience Indonesia through the eyes of my cousin Sara-Manson who lives there with her new hubby Chad. Also visiting were Manson’s brother / my cousin Bo and his wife Casey , along with two of Bo’s buddies from his Hotlanta days, Disco and Christie – or as Lizzy dubbed them, Crisco.

Manson and Chad were the perfect hosts – everything was organized and booked, and every event went off so seamlessly that it was easy to forget just how much planning had been done. And it’s quite dangerous to subject a new spouse to so much Hawthorne mojo so early in the marriage. Chad was touch and go for a while, but came out with minimal scarring and just a slight nervous tick.

What a place, what a group of people, what a trip! Lizzy’s captions on the pictures tell the story, so please take a few minutes to click through them. I just wanted to touch on a few highlights.

  • The Chinese market in Jakarta on our first day was amazing – where else can you buy your eels, dried squid, live cobra, 80 cent DVDs, and wiener shaped bottle opener and stop by the temple for a quick prayer, all in one convenient spot?
  • And Bali is just super cool. The laid back vibe hits you right in the sweet spot, and I can’t stress enough how refreshing the positivity, happiness, and joy that the Balinese bring to everyday life is. Such cool people.
  • A highlight for me was having a local Yogi take Lizzy, Manson, and I through a traditional Balinese Hindu healing ritual in an ancient local natural spring temple. Absolutely amazing.
  • And the sights! I could have stayed on our 5 star villa for 6 months without getting bored.
  • The 3 (yes, three) massages I had during our stay were the best I’ve ever had – and priced at about $20 for an hour. The villa had the nicest, warmest staff in the world.
  • Our bike/scooter ride through the countryside, the art, the food, the market in Ubud, all amazing. I picked up the book “Stuff White People Like” from Bo in our White Elephant gift exchange – it’s an absolute classic, and is reminding me of how White I am as I write this.
  • The Hotel Mulia, where Chad works and he and Manson live, is stunning. The number one hotel in Jakarta, with 1000 rooms. And who else do you know who has a night club in their basement?!

Thanks so much to our gracious hosts for showing us your home country, and to our fellow travellers for a holiday we will remember always. Enjoy the pics!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Click play to begin, the speech bubble to turn captions on/off, and the arrows to navigate. Or just click here to launch a full-size view of the album.

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May 21 marked 6 years since we high-fived each other in front of family and friends to become The Hawthornes! This year’s anniversary fell on the final Saturday of our VA trip, so we toasted over a lovely and low-key dinner with my sister and her family. Even with half of the guests eating off of plastic Disney plates, it was still slightly more upscale than last year’s venue!

So happy (belated) #6 to my #1. Here’s to another fab year!

Who says you have to shower on your anniversary?!

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