Posts Tagged ‘roadtrips’

Mud Camping

A weekend camping trip to Albert Falls to celebrate Lisa’s birthday seemed like a fabulous idea … until the torrential rains started as we were all getting packed up to head out on Friday. It had mostly stopped by the time we arrived, but UGH the muddy mess that awaited us! Regardless, we had a fabulous time, and gorgeous weather Saturday and Sunday for chilling by the lake and cruising on Terry’s boat.

Our muddy home for the weekend

Our muddy home for the weekend

The (questionably smart) people at the campsite next to us had brought their tiny adopted vervet monkey who was abandoned by its mother. This was the highlight of John’s weekend – and possibly his year:

Monkeying around

Monkeying around

Cornhole at dusk

Cornhole at dusk

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Prawn(less) Shak

Field trip! We headed up the North coast to a randomly located bush/beach bar called the Prawn Shak. I call it a ‘bar’ rather than a restaurant, because there was so little food! All the more room for drinks, as it turns out.

Johnny has been wanting to go check it out for ages, so we’ve had plenty of time to imagine the piles and piles of prawns that would be found at a so-named establishment. And although the Shak does serve up a 7-course lunch over the course of about 5 hours, the prawns were few and far between. In fact, I think it was about 14 bites of food total over the course of the day! Regardless, a great time was had by all, and we’ll be back again for the ambience — with some snacks in my purse!

The view from our table. There’s a “group walk” to the beach between courses 4 and 5, but we couldn’t be bothered.

The greatest mug of all time!

LB + JG at the PS

I did not partake (you can guess who did), but one of the prawny offerings is a tequila shot with a live baby prawn (or two) in it. Down the hatch!

An end of day swing on the bar-swings with Steph and our favorite mug (which may have come home with us – shhhh)




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Add to the list of things you can buy on the side of the highway here: giant mushrooms (of the edible, not hallucinogenic, variety). They’re called Makowe, and they grow wild – and basically overnight – in the sugarcane fields after lightning storms. Sounds crazy, but even National Geographic concurs.

We bought some on the way out of town with Steph and Terry (it’s always handy to have a Zulu translator when you’re haggling over highway produce), and cooked them up with our steak ‘n grits ‘n eggs feast the next morning. [update: It’s been 10 days now, and we’re all still alive.]

Workin’ the window at the shroom-thru

Giant mushrooms ready to hit the grill! They weren’t life-changing, but anything with that much butter and cheese has to be at least pretty good.


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Life of Leisure

Back to Leisure* Bay for another fabulous weekend at our friend Ed’s beach house! The weather wasn’t ideal, so we focused more on the leisure and less on the bay.

* rhymes with “pleasure” here – a pronunciation difference that I actually like! Say it out loud – it just sounds softer and more leisurely, doesn’t it?

JG and I put on a fabulous spread for breakfast, including biscuits, sausage (homemade, since “breakfast sausage” isn’t a thing here), hash browns, eggs, and an enormous pot of cheese grits that spanned the entire weekend.

Roxy spent the entire weekend sleeping on/under our fellow houseguests. Clockwise from top: John, Tash, Tyson (I love that she has one foot tucked under her Cocker Spaniel boyfriend), Jaime

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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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And with one last stop, the Rewind time machine will deliver us back to present day! A quick recap of July, and then back to our regularly scheduled programming.

July highlights…

Attended the Durban July for the 3rd year in a row. This year’s theme was weird (“A Material World”, all about recycling, which makes perfect sense for a festive horse race party event. ???) So we didn’t go as all-out as last year, but I did rummage through the recycling bin to whip up a couple of on-theme accessories.

On her: BioClassic washing detergent, BonAqua water bottle cap. On him: egg carton, green tea box, Coca-Cola cap.

Celebrated my birthday a few times.

Red wine and bday cake at Mocambique restaurant on the actual day; more red wine and more bday cake with the ladies a few days later.

Got an iPhone! YIPPEE! I had wanted one for my birthday, but called it off a few days before because I just couldn’t get past spending that kind of money when I already had a perfectly working smartphone (more of a lamephone, but a phone nonetheless). My sacrifice was rewarded when JG played in a golf tournament two days after my birthday and received an iPhone 4S as a door prize! I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere.

The finest iPhone cover that China Mall had to offer!

Attended a Muslim-Hindu wedding reception.

The ladies (relatives of the bride) are lined up to exchange gifts with the groom’s female relatives.

Attended (JG) and crashed (me) a conference at a swanky resort just north of town.

The view from JG’s VIP “garden suite”

While JG was off hobnobbing, networking, golfing, and spa-ing, I spent a few days in his office helping out on a huge proposal that his company was invited to bid on with just a few days’ notice. No word yet if “we” won the business, but I have to say it was fun to be in the mix of a frenetic project for a couple of days. I love the flexibility of working from home, but I do miss being part of a team. I know the grass is always greener – most of you reading this now probably don’t have a snoring pug in your lap or your bare feet propped up in the windowsill under your desk – so let’s call it a draw.

The sea view from Johnny’s desk, which I never knew was so lovely at 7am.

Attended our friends’ Lyn and Steve’s beautiful beach wedding just south of the city.

A windy but stunning start to a beautiful life together.

…for which I made the cake! Vanilla cupcakes, chocolate cupcakes, and carrot cake topper – all smothered in 9 pounds of cream cheese frosting and decorated with chocolate seashells and crushed cookie “sand”. I made the stand as well, and can’t even pretend to be humble about this one: it ROCKED.

Steve and Lyn were kind enough to bring the carrot cake to breakfast the next morning, where a huge table full of hungover people absolutely demolished it.

Roxy gives us a subtle hint that she would like to be included on our next trip, please.

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OMG, are we still doing this? Yes, apparently so. Even though it’s August now and we’ve just returned from an amazing 2-week holiday with John’s brother and his family which I’m dying to catalog… I still feel like I need to catch on the past first. Right then, let’s catch up to present-day already! In no particular order, we…

…cheered on the runners in the world’s largest and oldest ultra-marathon, The Comrades. Even on a “downhill” year like this year, I can’t wrap my brain around running 56 miles in a single day.

Pug catches some shade on a hot and sunny day

…dabbled in boozy gummi candies! Grape candy + coconut rum = delicious. Gummi cola bottle candy + bourbon = gross.

For one of the Aussies’ many going-away parties – with a Georgia theme, natch.

…spent a fabulous weekend at our friend Ed’s house in Leisure Bay on the South coast, celebrating his fiancee Dana’s birthday.

Family portrait on the exact rock where our friends got engaged earlier this year. Aww!

We’ve invented African Rules Corn Hole, which involves a small and feisty Pug running back and forth between the boards. She occasionally steals a bag, but she’s completely impartial and always an equal handicap to both sides.

…spent a lovely but stormy evening at the rugby.

Sharks win!

…finally said a sad goodbye to the Australians who officially went wheels up at the end of the month.

What so proudly we ate, at the Moffitts’ last leaving.

…failed to snap any pics of the 5k that we ran – the same one I had done two years ago, and in which I trimmed 2 full minutes off of my official time to bring it down to a blistering 35 minutes! Hey, I run, which is all that I claim.

June, finis!

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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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I need to put this rewind on fast-forward! I’m finally taking photos again, but I’m determined to get caught up on the missing months before I start blogging in real-time again. (What, you thought this blog was for you?)

March: month of dam trips, birthdays, and soap-eating. Read on.

We took two weekend trips to different parts of the same lake: Albert Falls Dam. Only about an hour away; a game reserve, so there may be zebras drinking out of the lake next to where you launch your boat; and always fun to get away with the peeps.

Simpsons clouds on a perfect day at Albert Falls

We celebrated Johnny G’s birthday a few times. Once at dinner at a tasty Cuban steakhouse (with a group including the dearly departed Moffitts, sniff sniff), and once with a redo of the Beer Olympics! A huge hit again in its second year, we had representatives from Sweden, Mozambique, India, two different teams from the country of Hawaii (??), and the fan favorite Somali Pirates.

Celebrating JG’s birthday like grownups…

…and like kids. Viva Germany!

I made a pretty stellar cake for a friend’s daughter’s 18th birthday:

Possibly the most humid day of the year in Durban – it was a battle to keep the frosting from sliding into a swirly blue puddle.

And finally, what would March be without a Pug-bingeing incident? We’ve been vigilant about keeping food out of her reach, so she resorted to this instead:

Yes, that’s a bar of SOAP. Words fail me.

March, out (like a lamb)!


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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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