Carpe Diem Dammit – why the hell not?!

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Last Thursday evening after the most amazing rain snow had fallen all along the Hex River Mountains.  Yes, for you wintery Northern Continental and Hemisphere people this is a common occurrence but for us Capetonians the white cold powdery stuff is a bit of a myth.  We do get some snow in South Africa, regions like the Drakensberg and Lesotho but Cape Town…not so much.  The Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve, just after Ceres, is the most accessible spot for us to go for a day to experience this phenomenon but windows are short.  Once the sun comes out it starts to get drippy very fast.  We have been up there twice in the past nine years.  The first time Jesse was 10 days old and he was definitely the warmest of us all.  We just went to Klondyk Cherry Farm before Matroosberg.  The second time Olivia was 3 and Jesse 5 and we went into Matroosberg.  We thought we would do the 4×4 route but it was pretty hairy and ended up just going along the 2×4 track and it was more than enough for us.  Olivia lasted all of 10 minutes and then sat in the car and cried about sore fingers and toes.  We had come woefully under prepared!

Jesse at 10 days old on the fields by Klondyk Cherry

Olivia (3) and Jesse (5) in their first snow on Matroosberg

For the last few years since then we have been promising the kids we would take them, but after each first snow fall we would put it off saying there would be better to come.  We would wait and watch and invariably there was no better snowfall and we had missed our chance!  Then we would have to say to them, “Next year.”  So this year we changed our tune.  At the first sign of snow up in Ceres, after the first wintery storm came through, we gapped it.  For the day we put work on hold, took the kids out of school and went to play in the snow.  We took a moment and built a great memory.  For what they missed they gained 100 fold in quality family time, rich laughter and life experience!

Okay yes, there are extenuating circumstances which enables us to take these opportunities.  We work for ourselves and our kids aren’t old enough to be writing exams but so often we let things go past us for fear of stepping out of our comfort zones.  Simon and I are guilty of that so often but every so often you get it right and our family snow day was one of these.

So if you get lucky and take the gap to go up to the snow, here are a few tips to prevent miserable kids:

Tammy’s top Tips for a Fun day at Matroosberg

  • Leave really early.  We left at 6:30 am and were there by 9am.  We then had a few hours before the sun came over the mountain.  The snow started to melt around mid day.
  • The day permit for Matroosberg is reasonable.  We didn’t do the 4×4 route but just went slightly higher than the first car park and went along the 2×4 route a bit and walked.  Lots of snow and not too many people.  Cost for the whole family was R170 (R50p/adult and R35p/child).
  • Take loads of shopping packets!  If your kids are wearing gumboots (lace up boots are preferable), put their feet in a shopping packet first and then tuck it into their socks.  Snow goes straight down the top of the boots and within a few minutes their toes are icy and wet = miserable child.
  • Take extra socks, shoes, and clothes.  Jesse had soaking wet trousers within 20minutes from doing snow angels
  • Must have water proof gloves!!!!
  • Sunglasses and hat that covers  your ears
  • Take food along.  You are on top of a mountain on a farm!
  • Have fun with your kids!

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Richtersveld – Tierhoek Campsite Review

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A panoramic view from above the Tierhoek campsite

In my previous blog I touched on the Richtersveld in general (click here to see).  Again, I am no aficionado, this was my second time going but it truly is a special place.  When looking into going to the Richtersveld, obviously the SANPARK’s area is well documented and you can pick up a phone and ask questions about the campsites etc.  But there are lots of areas outside the park which are run by communities and are still a part of the Richtersveld.  Tierhoek is one of these and like many community run sites in Namibia and Northern Cape, they seem to have been started out as a community initiative that over time has been neglected.  Regardless, Tierhoek is a must if you are happy to ‘rough it’ for a night or two as this is a stunning and photogenic spot with its soaring orange boulders, panoramic vista from the campsite, the leaning toilet (which the kids found hysterical) and an old sunken car or two.

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Jesse loved this car!  It seemed to capture his imagination completely

The sight is on a slight rise at the base of a kloof and from the campsite you look down over the plane.  The silence and the stars at night are incredible.  The first time there we got to watch a thunderstorm in the distance with lightening brightening the sky and stars lighting up the foreground it was an epic show of nature.

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The first time we camped at Tierhoek we watched this incredible lightening show

There are a few various places to camp up the little valley, but both times we have camped at the top where there are big boulders and two unused reservoirs.  The first time  there was not a breath of wind when we setup camp but maybe the thunderstorm in the distance should have tipped us off.  During the night it slowly started to pick up and our winner of a campsite became hell.  People had chucked their plastic bottles and cans into the empty reservoirs.  This means that at night the bottles and cans get blown around the reservoir forming the noisiest orchestra possible! We lay there for an hour hoping that the wind would soon stop…to no avail!  Pillows were put over heads and my husband huffed and puffed while tossing and turning – the kids typically slept on obliviously.  Simon finally climbed into the reservoir in the early hours of the morning and took the biggest culprits out, but it was a very long night!  This time we sent the kids in with leather gloves and a black bag as soon as we set up camp.  They found it hysterical chucking out the cans like missiles!

 

In the morning a fog bank rolled in over the plane and watching the big boulders turn orange around you as the sun rises is magic.  After packing up camp, we took a hike to the top of the koppie and the view is breathtaking.  There is no specific path and you can boulder hop your way up.  It is a very easy one to do with the kids and they loved the feeling of being on top of the world.

 

Another hit with the kids is that the campsite also has a network of boulder caves that they had a ball climbing through.  They start right behind the braai area and come out around 10m behind the campsite.  Send a dad in first just to check that there are no ‘critters’.  They were also seriously chuffed to find a huge scorpion when they did the required scorpion hunt with the UV light but otherwise there were no other encounters.

Seriously, if you are en route to the Richtersveld National Park, you won’t regret stopping here for a night en route.

 

Tammy’s Top Tips for Tierhoek 😉

  • Take cash, the community running the site do come past every so often.  I think it is around R20 pp p/night
  • Arrive being willing to share the campsite, there are no bookings so anyone can be there
  • No water or ablutions.  There is apparently a water source in the next valley over if needed.  We took shower bags and rigged them between to rocks.  The kids got filthy climbing through the caves and ontop of the rocks and into the reservoirs so it is pleasant for parents being able to wash them down before bed.
  • Leather gloves – always useful for picking up rocks, collecting rubbish or wood etc
  • Sturdy shoes for the kids.  Takkies for the hike and gumboots for when they go looking for creatures.
  • Definitely do the walk to the top of the koppie.  It is truly a magical view!
  • If camping at the reservoirs, check to make sure there aren’t any large plastic bottles or tins in.
  • As always, good wine and good company!