Gourmet Mushrooms

Today Andrew and Gillian took us to lunch at The Wild Mushroom Boutique Hotel and Academy at Vlottenburg, outside Stellenbosch.  It was a wonderful meal and gave us the opportunity to experience some exciting mushroom flavours combined with exotic wines.  Our host, Adrian, certainly knows his stuff when it comes to fungi and he was able to take us through our tasting with detailed explanations of not only the mushrooms, but also the wines and why they had been chosen to accompany the various dishes that were presented.  Our eyes and taste buds were exposed to a new array of flavours and we also had the opportunity to see and be taken through the whole process of mushroom propogation and cultivation.

We all left feeling that we wanted to learn more about mushrooms and perhaps even try growing some ourselves, so there’s a pretty good chance we may enrol for one of their courses or go on a field gathering expedition with the Academy.

Differential Weathering Patterns

Hiking on the Wild Coast of South Africa was a wonderful experience, heightened by the ever-changing patterns in the Ecca Shales which occur throughout the region traversed.  These rocks display the most beautiful shapes and textures resulting from differential weathering and erosion and the following images illustrate some of what was seen.

These features result from differing degrees of cementation caused by the migration of cementing agents along joints and fractures and around loci within the rocks. When these are exposed, the better cemented and, therefore, harder sections form positive features, whilst the softer portions of the rock are removed.

Dot’s Dash 2012

Its been over a year since the fire swept through the mountains behind Kleinmond and the fynbos is recovering well, but still has a long way to go.  There are no signs yet of the magnificent Erica pillansii, or of the hundreds of other beautiful wild flowers that have always characterised this area. Ten hikers, led by Tricia, nevertheless enjoyed a good outing in warm, windless conditions and had a good work-out in the process.  I managed to make a hash of the notice concerning starting times, but those who arrived at the notified time were patient and waited for the rest of us.

We stopped for tea at Spooknek, where a very gentle breeze helped to cool us down, before the slope down along Dot’s Dash.  Along the way we were rewarded with many pink Tritoniopsis lata blooms as well as occasional Watsonias, Spiloxene (?) small pink Ericas, Mimetes, which seem to be recovering fastest, and a new bloom to all of us, which we were unable to identify, but which looks like a Stilbe.  Christine Wakfer later identified it as Lachnospermum umbellatum.  I was also amazed to see field mushrooms growing amongst the rocks at Spooknek.  One wonders how they got there, but Lynette had a theory – she suggested that someone may have been riding there and that the spores might have been deposited by the horses.

The final descent was remarkable for the wonderful new path which has been made into a virtual staircase by the Kleinmond walkers, who have done magnificent work heaving huge rocks into place to make the stairway.  When it was all over most of us stopped in at the Kleinmond waterfront where we had a very good lunch.  I re-measured the walk and it was 6.8 kms.

Mud, Glorious Mud

The muddy banks of the Duivenhoks River provided a wonderful place for the kids to have some fun last weekend.  Jamie, Travis and Jordan made the most of it and spent a few hours diving, slipping, sliding, splashing and crashing and, despite many hard falls and full-on collisions, never had anything but smiles on their faces.  What I should have done was made a video of their activities, but I’m afraid these stills are all I have.

Family Reunion at Oshoek, Vermaaklikheid

My seventieth birthday was a good excuse to get the family together for a bit of bonding.  Too bad the birthday was ten days before the weekend, but we didn’t mind and everyone was assembled for our opening dinner on Friday evening.  Unfortunately the weather did not play ball for most of the weekend, but we all had a good time.  We even had special T-shirts printed for the event and this time there were enough to go round and they even fitted everyone.  A real highlight of the event was when Keagan, Lexie and Robyn sang a song for me that they had put together and which was accompanied by Keagan on the piano – after only a few weeks of music lessons!!

We hired the Main House and Peter’s House, so that the oldies, Gill, Renee and I could have some peace in the latter, whilst the rest of the gang occupied the Main House.  Actually the accommodation forced us to go this route, as we would actually have preferred being all together!  We were very comfortable with everything needed at hand and I can recommend this establishment as a good weekend retreat.

We all took turns to do the catering which meant that we had five excellent meals.  Andrew and Gillian got the Saturday night slot and pulled out all the plugs with a Tarzan Roast.  This can be seen in the pictures below.  It took 6 hours to cook so Andrew and his willing assistants had their work cut out watching it slowly ripen whilst many beers were consumed!

There was a 15 man cricket match on Saturday, which kept everybody well entertained.  Unfortunately the dress code was fancydress, so any photographs taken have had to be censored!  Each one of us had to face 14 balls bowled by each member of the family, so we all bowled 14 balls and faced 14 balls.  There were no winners, but we all had a lot of fun.

Of course, there were many bikes and some serious riding and I even recall the odd fall.  The birds were plentiful, a couple of friendly cows came to graze on the extensive lawns and the grandchildren really enjoyed slipping and sliding in the lovely mud at low tide.

I, personally, can’t wait for the next get-together!

Walking on the Wild Coast

We were delighted when Helen asked us to join her and her group for a four day hike on the Transkei Wild Coast.  Most of us had done the Wild Coast Meander, but this time we would be doing the Combo, a combination of two sections of the Meander and two sections of the Amble.  Alasdair and Helen, Eileen, Keith and Debby, Kinki, David and Lynette and Renee and I set out on Monday the 5th and drove to Port Alfred where we stayed overnight.  This allowed us the easy task of only a short hop to East London on Tuesday, where our hosts met us and bussed us the last leg into Wavecrest, whence we would commence our walk.

The route

Helen had decided to spend two nights at Wavecrest, so we had a good opportunity to explore the beautiful area around the hotel as well taking a boat ride up the river to see the mangrove swamps and any birds that were around.  We had the unusual sighting of a pair of Fish eagles, each carrying off half a snake!  It also afforded me the chance to celebrate my seventieth birthday knowing that I could sleep off any ill effects the next day without having to worry about a 14 km hike on the beach!!  It was a privilege to share the day with such good friends!

We set out on Thursday and covered the 14 kms to Trennery’s without any problems, despite it being quite hot in the forest area at the start of the walk.  Fortunately, the coast was cooler and we could swim at any of the sandy beaches.  The ferry at Kobonqaba took the form of a canoe and the poor ferryman was quite exhausted after ten crossings, as he could only manage one person at a time.  Our first guide, Dina, left us in the capable hands of Alex, who saw us through to our hotel where a cold beer or two hit the spot!!

The next day we had a good walk to the mouth of the Kei river, but the tide was too low for the car ferry to operate, so we sat around on the muddy river bank for about an hour before we could cross.  We said goodbye to Alex, and were met by Nopiwe, who made sure we didn’t get lost in the forests on the way to Morgan Bay.  She was a knowledgeable lady and provided good company on the walk.  Our accommodation had been good all the way, but it seemed to get better with each day!  We also enjoyed splendid meals wherever we stayed.

Certain members of our party (who shall remain nameless) chose to take a lift to the top of the cliffs which dominated the start of our walk to Haga Haga on Saturday morning!  Four stalwarts, however, walked up the hill and were rewarded with wonderful views of the dolerite cliffs and the pounding waves at their base.  After a few kilometres we had a river crossing and were pleased to note that, with the low tide, we only had to wade through shallow water.  Some lucky girls got carried across, but most had to get their feet wet!!

We traversed some very beautifully weathered shales along the last few kilometres to Haga Haga and the shells on the beach were varied and plentiful.  It was another day of pleasant warm weather and we were all thrilled by the remote beauty of the area through which we had to walk.  The beer at Haga Haga was icy cold and the beds soon sagged under the weight of ten weary bodies.  At dinner we were blown away by a magnificent buffet which would have fed 50, but there were only 16 guests that night and we all over ate!!

On Sunday we awoke to a rainy day, but we still had 16 kms to go and this over the roughest section of the route.  We resolutely set forth and it wasn’t long before we were soaked through!  Some of us abandoned our ineffective rain gear and just enjoyed the weather.  Unfortunately, the rain made for slippery conditions underfoot and, despite our taking care, many of us fell.  It was only sheer luck that prevented any injuries, which could have been disastrous given the remoteness of our route.  Luckily the rocky sections over which we had to scramble only extended half way and we were able to enjoy a long and beautiful beach for the last 9 kms.  Our last night was spent at Crawfords Cabins at Cintsa, a beautiful resort, which we were happy ro arrive at, so that we could strip of our sodden clothing and get warm!!  Blisters and bruises were tended and we assembled for our final dinner before falling into bed, happy that we had completed our 57 km task in pretty good shape.

The next day saw us returning to East London, where we collected our cars and set out for home, or wherever.  We will all look back on the walk with good memories of a most enjoyable outing in the company of good friends.  We all agreed that we will have to go a long way to have a better experience.  Thank you all for your wonderful company!!

Click on an image to enlarge it.