Itinerary – Cape Town to Mabuasehube, Kgalagadi

Distance: 3500km Duration: 15 days Countries: 3

IMG_6738I have decided to do a series on some of our itineraries.  When you start planning your trips, it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start.  Where do you overnight?  What is a good distance to travel with kids? What is a realistic travel time vs what the Garmin says? (FYI -it always takes longer) 

IMG_6461Simon and I tend to be a bit chilled when it comes to planning (read VERY), but we have very organized friends.  We like to ‘wing it’, but when travelling into Africa that is not always the best option, especially with little kids.  So it is really helpful to have friends who like to plot and plan.  One of these useful sort of friends to have is our neighbour, Mike.  He loves to spend hours researching various routes, alternative and less travelled options etc.  We have been to some incredible places because he saw something on google Earth and then traced it and plotted and planned.

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To Drive is the Holiday

Before our Kgalagadi trip, Simon and I had done the Okavango and various others, but always without kids.  The drives to the beginning of our adventure destination were generally loooooong, and the thought of being in the car for that duration with our young children was frankly terrifying.  But we have come to realise that this is because the drive for us was a means of getting to a destination.  Mike and his wife Georgie have taught us differently.  They took us on our first family overlanding trip when Jesse was 5 and Olivia was 3 , showing us that these long journeys are possible with kids. They changed our mindset; the drive is the holiday.   The distances they suggested were shorter, which meant that you could stop along the way and if the kids needed time, you had it.

IMG_6838Back to the Useful Friends

Back to the reason these organised friends are so useful, they are very detailed.  And with being so detailed comes very detailed trip itineraries with time lines etc.  I thought it was overkill to start, but it really helps with planning your days, lunch stops and so on.  Where Mike and I differ is that he can’t stay in one spot for too long.  I would recommend a 2 night stay more often and subsequently we have compromised on trips since this first one.So here is the first overlanding trip we did as a family to the Kgalagadi.  You can then get an idea of the distances we travelled, where we stopped and then use it as a guide to start your own adventure planning.

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Itinerary Notes

A special thanks to Mike Borgstrom whose itinerary this is.

Vryburg – DO NOT use the community campsite (unless it has had a revamp) That experience now goes down as one of the ‘remember when’s’, which is great story telling now but not so much fun to experience at the time

Route – If going into the Botswana side of Kgalagadi, I would do the trip the other way round. So enter Kgalagadi either at TweeRivieren or Namibia and then head through to Botswana and out McCarthy’s. Reason being is that the Botswana side is so wild, so when you get to the SA side it is much tamer and feels a bit of a let down.

Booking – The SA side books up so quickly and that is why we had to do our trip a bit higgledy piggledy. We had to take the bookings we could for Nossob and Mata-Mata and then work the trip around that.

KGALAGADI_BOTSWANA 2013 ITINERARY

I hope that it helps with your planning and if you need any advice or have a question, please feel free to send it our way.

Lots of love

Simon and Tammy

Epupa Falls – Namibia

Jesse and Olivia could not say the name without laughing hysterically!  For them this was up there with toilet talk.  But they were also beyond excited to see the waterfalls featured in the animated movie, Zambezia.

Epupa Falls is one of the most incredible places to visit.  Situated in the northern most region of Namibia in the Koakaland on the Angolan border.  It is fed by the Kunene River and is 0,5km wide and drops down in a series of waterfalls that spread over 1.5 km.

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Epupa Falls taken close to the town

Getting there

The road to Epupa is pretty amazing.  Like most roads in Namibia it is gravel, but it is well maintained and a 4×4 is not necessary.  It is possible to get there without having to do a whole overlanding long trip, like we did.  You can fly into Windhoek and rent a standard car and drive up.  It is far more accessible than I expected.

Taking the trip from Windhoek, you will need to look at overnighting en route.  It is never worth pushing distances in Africa just in case something goes wrong.  A great place to overnight is around Etosha.  There is a new camp on the northwest side called Olifantsrus that has camping and chalets that friends stayed at and raved about.  We spent three days on our way up in a Game Reserve called Erindi and then overnighted in the town of Opuwo before getting to Epupa.  If you decide to rather push the distance and stay in Opuwo, we stayed at the Opuwo Country Lodge.  I would forgo staying in Opuwo unless necessity requires it as it is not a great town.  They have a good campsite, though you definitely need to book during school holidays.  We stayed the night on the weekend, so there was lots of music and partying going on in the surrounding area.  The road up to the lodge was a bit tricky and the area you go through not great.  The lodge area is well fenced and there is security.  The hotel itself has an amazing view.

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The view from the hotel

Fuel and Food

We did our major food shop in Windhoek, as you can get pretty much everything.  Fuel is something you have to plan for as you always want to have a bit more that needed just in case a petrol station doesn’t have, which is possible.  You are pretty much guaranteed to get good diesel at Kamanjab.  We filled our jerry cans at this point.  When we got to Opuwo we just topped up the main tank.  This is due to not always being able to get 50pp diesel there.  At the main garage in Opuwo there is also a decent Shoprite if you need to get some basics you have forgotten.  I had forgotten flour to make bread, so could get a local brand there.  Click here for my yummy beer bread recipe.  There was also cash machines and banks if you need access.

Culturally

Just before reaching Opuwo, you will start to see Himba people.  If you have children, it is a good idea just to show and discuss with them what to expect.  The women are completely topless at all ages.  When we got to the garage to fill up diesel, our car was inundated with Himba women trying to sell their wares and then also young kids from different tribes begging for sweets and money.

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Olivia watching the children

My son found it very overwhelming and our friends son, who was 12, didn’t know where to look.  So discussing their culture is a good way to prep so that the children know what to expect and can be respectful.  I love showing them such diverse cultural differences.  It shows that diversity is beautiful and that respect is a human right regardless of how different we are!

Himba Women

Himba women riding to get water

If you do stop to take a picture, you will have to ‘pay’.  They want sweets or medicine, which you don’t want to give as they are both addictive.  Supplying fruit or food is better.  Also paper and pencils or pens are great, especially for kids.  Be mindful of giving things in plastic, as the packets/bags/wrapper will most likely just be thrown onto the ground and not disposed of properly.

They are also a nomadic people, so you will see shells of villages and camps.

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Outside an abandoned Himba hut

Epupa itself

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Our first Baobab just before reaching Epupa

Epupa is like a little green oasis.  The campsites and lodges are all along the river right above the start of the waterfall.  We stayed at one of the most furthest along campsites called Epupa Camp.  Don’t get confused by Epupa Falls Lodge, we went there and then panicked as they were full and didn’t have our booking.  We then worked out we were in the wrong place.  It is a quieter campsite a bit higher up the river.  They have both camping and little chalets.  The main area has a bar and a swimming pool and wifi.  You can sit and have a drink and a dip in the pool or walk across the bridge to a little island.  You can’t swim in the river because of crocs and must just be wary when walking along the river bank.

The campsite was treed with date palms.  There was a shower and loo ablution stand per two camps with a donkey boiler.  The staff would light the donkey boiler morning and night, though the mornings tended to be a bit tepid as needed more time.   The showers don’t have a roof, so you shower at night looking at all the stars.

 

Just beware of monkeys, don’t leave any food out unattended.  They are so quick and if you turn your back for a second, they grab and run.

If you need any washing done, there will be local ladies at the gate to the campsite in the mornings.  You give them your washing and your powder, though I would supply the powder per wash as they pretty much used most of what we had budgeted for the whole holiday.  The rate charged depends on how many garments there are.  You also buy firewood at the gate from the locals.  Make sure that you have lots of change as you have to pay exact amounts.  This goes for pretty much all remote places throughout Namibia.  So often we wanted to buy wood etc but only had large notes and the local didn’t have any change.

With regards to safety, always beware of petty theft.  So don’t leave things unnecessarily out and unattended.  Walking through the town to the falls was very safe and we didn’t feel worried at all.

Activities

IMG_8110The falls itself is free to access.  We walked from our campsite and you can stand right on top of them.  There is even a walk down to the bottom of the valley.  If you want to go to the view point, you will have to pay money.  It wasn’t a lot and the best time of day is definitely later towards sunset.

Epupa Falls

Above Epupa Falls

There is a village tour and also a river rafting trip.  Both are organized through your place of accommodation.  We did the river trip with the kids, which was such fun.  You get driven roughly 8ks up the river and then you paddle back down.  The rapids were very mild, so very safe with the kids.  We saw crocodiles and birds and had our snack and cooldrink on the Angolan side of the river.

We spent 3 nights at Epupa, but I could have happily spent more.  It is tranquil and beautiful and so culturally rich!

Clothing guideline for an Overland Trip

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I am not a khaki and strops and socks kinda girl, no sirree!!!!!  Neither do I need to blowdry my hair and wear full make up but don’t deny me my mascara and nail polish and cute tops.  Just because you have to be practical doesn’t mean you can’t do pretty.  My husband does not subscribe to the same.  As long as he is comfortable he couldn’t care less, neither could our son.  My daughter on the other hand as been spotted in a leotard and tutu in the desert with leather gloves and takkies!

Like any holiday or weekend away, we always tend to take way too much.  The one trip I took my knee high Timberland leather boots!  Yes, they are comfy but flip packing those things was a pain in my b-hind.  So over the years I’m starting to get better at packing for both myself and the kids.  (I do check my husbands packing and tend to shove a few extras in without his knowing.  Once he went with two t-shirts and some board shorts and hardly anything else! He froze his ass off)

When you don’t have the luxury of wheelie bags and a 32kg limit but rather an ammo box measuring 235(h) x 395(w) x 505(l) for 20 plus days of travel with both hot and cold weather, you get clever.  Thank God for the micro down jackets which have come out in the last few years that pack away into tiny bags.  They have made my life soooo much easier.  So we each have one crate for clothes and then there is a shared crate for shoes and toiletries and another for the families towels etc.  So for a family of 4 there are 6 crates that are allocated for personal and then the rest are food etc.

This is all my clothes on my list below in one crate – it can be done!!!!

So here is my do or die live by list for roughly 15 days.  You will need to hand wash whenever you have available water.  If you want a food packing guideline, click here

Clothes for The Pink Puff (Olivia)

  • 3 shorts – no cuff turnups as sand gets in them and usually comes out in the car.  Half of the Namib desert seemed to end up in our car due to cuffs and pockets.  Try to keep to darker colors as they don’t show the dirt so much.
  • 3-4 leggings – I tend to pack more as they back up as extra PJ bottoms. Track pants are bulky to pack.
  • 6-8 tshirts and vests
  • 3-4 light long sleeve tops
  • at least one skirt or dress for the pink puff is essential
  • 2 warm hoodies – no zips because if they need to sleep in them if it is cold, zips are uncomfy.
  • 1 wind breaker –  we use the lightweight ones from Kway
  • 2 pj’s – one short and one long.  I am very strict that they are not allowed out of the tent till they have changed as they then get played in and filthy.
  • enough panties and socks so that if you are not in campsites you have enough to get by till you can hand wash again
  • 1 swimming costume
  • 1 buff/head band that can be used as a scarf or head band
  • Hairbands & clips – if your daughter has long hair, plait it!  This keeps it so much more manageable.  They will stick their heads out the windows of the car and if you can’t necessarily wash it that often it becomes a nightmare to deal with.

Clothes for Jesse (Boys)

  • 4-6 shorts (he gets so much dirtier)  Board shorts are best as they wash and dry quickly and sand doesn’t get into them like normal fabrics
  • 2  tracksuit pants – can double as spare pj’s
  • 6-8 tshirts
  • 3-4 long sleeve light weight tops
  • 2 warm hoodies – again try for no zips
  • 2 pj’s – one short and one long.  Again, they have to change before leaving the tent.  I set their clothes out the night before.
  • 1 windbreaker
  • enough undies and socks so that if you are not in campsites you have enough to get by till you can hand wash again
  • 1 buff/head band that can be used as a scarf or head band
  • 1 broad brimmed sunhat
  • when Jesse was little I would take waterproof lightweight rain trousers, as they kept him clean when playing (you can get them from Cape Union Mart)

Shoes for kids

  • Crocs or strops: You want something a little more covered than a slip slop but easy to put on getting in and out of the cars and that they can also shower in
  • Wellingtons/gumboots or hiking boots: shoes that cover the ankle if they are mucking about in rocks and bush where scorpions and snakes may be, so it covers the ankles.  My kids don’t have hiking boots so we take gumboots and takkies (trainers) but space could be minimized by just having hiking boots

Examples of some essentials for the Kids

Splash Pants from Kway               Jesse lives in his Keen strops       Lightweight Kway Jacket

If you need a basic guideline on kids and their toys/entertainment when overlanding, then please click here.

For the Hubster:

  • 3 pairs boardshorts
  • 1 pair cargo shorts
  • 1 pair long trousers/jeans
  • 5-6 tshirts
  • 1 lightweight long sleeve shirt (great for keeping the sun off)
  • 1 fleece
  • 1 light down jacket
  • 5-6 pairs underpants
  • pj’s – simon takes a long light weight pair of pants that can be layered with socks and the fleece top and then just sleeps in his jocks if hot
  • couple pairs socks – at least one warm pair and preferably dark
  • takkies/boots
  • slip slops/strops – needed for shower and in and out the car
  • beanie
  • cap/sunhat

For Me:

  • 2 pairs black leggings – I take my Nike full length ones.  I can then run in them if I want otherwise they are so comfy for evenings etc.
  • 2-3 pairs shorts – cutoff stretch denim is my go to as they are hardy and don’t get as dirty but they are a pain if you want to wash as take a while to dry.   Stay away from a turnover cuff as sand sits in it.  Short gym leggings are also versatile.
  • 6-8 tops
  • 1 shirt – I find they are great to keep the sun off and cool and an easy extra layer
  • 1 light weight dress – sometimes you just don’t want to wear shorts and t-shirts
  • 1 hoodie/fleece
  • 1 down jacket
  • 1 set light weight PJ’s – I layer with hoodie if cold
  • 8-10 pairs panties – on a hygiene side, panty liners are a must
  • 1 swimming costume
  • 2 sports bras – they are much more comfortable to travel in and dry quickly
  • 1 scarf or light sarong
  • 1 cloth bag to put all your underwear and socks in.  It helps keep the crate tidy.
  • Paez shoes – these I swear by.  Lightweight, they keep your feet clean and easy on and off and they don’t smell.

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    My faithful Paez.  I swear by them!!!!

  • Trainers/takkies/hiking boots – I just take my trail running shoes.  I can walk in them and also try get a run in where possible
  • Slip slops for the shower
  • Buff – I take a couple as they are great to keep your head warm, a scarf and then I also use them to keep my fringe flat when I am drying it 😉
  • cap/sunhat

For the Trailer:

  • 2 sheets – we put them both on the bed at the same time.  You can then swop them round by putting the dirty one at the bottom.  You then don’t need to pack them into a crate.  Also, they are tan color so don’t get as dirty.
  • 1-2 pillowcases – can do same as the sheets or just use one and turn it inside out when needed
  • Micro fibre towels – get the biggest size as they are just nicer to use. They really pack small and dry quickly.  I don’t love them but its functional.K-Way Trek Towel XXL
  • Fleece blanket each – these are used in the car and also to line the sleeping bags for very cold nights.
  • Kikoi/sarong – these are great for a multiple of uses.  If its hot, to sleep under, and as a second towel.  Once when we were in the Okavango, it was stinking hot and there were flies everywhere and we couldn’t sit in the tent as it was stifling.  We would dip the kikois in the water and then just lie under them.

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My aunt and brother hiding under a kikoi from the heat and flies

Richtersveld – Fluospar Valley Review

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Setting up camp in the riverbed next to the mine.

The Fluospar Valley, like Tierhoek, doesn’t have a lot said about it online.  Again, like Tierhoek, it is part of the community initiative but we never saw anyone to pay any camping fees to.  I did find basic fees and info here.

I wasn’t too sure what to expect.  Simon had been before and raved about this old abandoned mine with Fluospar just lying everywhere and crystals that you could find scattered around.  He didn’t exagerrate!  The kids had a ball finding all different gems and rocks and then also throwing the fluospar in the fire that night where it then burns bright green.

The drive in was not too hairy and very accessible in a 4×4 and the trailer had no problem.  We got there a bit late so camped in the riverbed next to the mine as we would have gotten to the ‘official’ camp area in the dark.

We even had a light rain shower en route in, which feels like a little miracle when you are in such a barren area.  Camping next to the mine was perfect.  The kids did the obligatory scorpion hunt, but didn’t find much.

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The kids with the UV lights (and gloves) looking for scorpions

On the GPS, there was noted that there was a spring 30-40mins from the mine.  So the next morning we decided to head up and see it.  Well the drive took us nearly 2hours and the going was rough.  It was sandy, hot and the spring a bit anticlimactic.  So, I wouldn’t recommend the detour unless you are spending two nights at the mine and just want to do a day drive.  To do the drive and then still have to come back and head out of the valley severely limits your time.  If you are going to the spring and have a trailer, we would recommend off hooking it and fetching it on the way back.  But the safety is always an issue as there are herders around, but it should be fine.

We did take a drive down to the old deserted mining village.  There was the obligatory deserted old car, crumbling houses and old windmill.  You can have such fun taking pictures here.

So if you are going to the Richtersveld, I would definitely recommend doing the Fluospar Valley en route to Tierhoek before heading into the official park.

Tammy’s Top Tips 

  • Get to the area early enough that you have enough time to explore and look for stones
  • Avoid these bushes, they are complete bastards to deal with as they look soft but get stuck on everything!

     

  • Don’t go to the oasis unless spending two days there
  • There is no water or ablutions, so come prepared
  • Take time to wander the abandoned mining village
  • Find large pieces of fluospar for the fire as smaller ones dissipate
  • There are no large wild animals except for snakes and scorpions
  • Light a fire, star gaze and drink a nice glass of wine and enjoy the silence

Shopping for an offroad trip

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Packing our trailer is like a tetris game sometimes.  Writing lists of what is in each box and sticking it on the top of the ammo box lid really helps

So I was chatting to friends of mine who are heading off to Namibia for their first time doing something slightly wild and untamed.  Going to these wild and rural places is amazing but so often when we don’t know where to start or what to bring it can turn into an overwhelming experience.  So here are some of the things that I would recommend especially when travelling with kids.

You need to have a rough idea of distances and times to be covered each day.  The one thing which has made a HUGE difference is that on the days that you are having to cover quite a large distance is to have a meal already made.  This worked so well for us because as we arrived at camp my husband would setup and I would prep supper for the kids and it would be ready within 10-15 mins.  You then weren’t having to set up camp and then start to prep meals on fires etc and have children who were moaning and unhappy.  We took along a bolognese so only had to cook the pasta, a chicken curry so just cooked rice and just froze them before hand.  Always have a few backup ‘easy meals’.  I take a few pesto’s that can be put on pasta or soups that only need to be opened and heated.  Again, problems can arise like wheel issues or engine problems so that you can be delayed getting to your destination.  In places like Namibia and Botswana there aren’t exactly restaurants you can just pull up to en route.

It’s also good to be prepared to make some bread.  If you don’t have time to knead and leave then try my Beer Bread on the Fire as it is quick and easy to make.  Irish Soda bread in a pan is also a winner.  This can be used for lunches and breakfasts and doesn’t need a lot of prep time.

Don’t forget to zip loc or wrap anything in paper bags or cardboard.  We opened our trailer once to find flour everywhere when the bag exploded due to driving on rough roads.  An oil lid also popped off once and a Jimmy’s Braai sauce also exploded….cleaning those was no funding the residue and smell lingered for ages!  We also bought milk in cardboard cartons and they started to leak due to rubbing along the bottom of the crates.  The next time we put a layer of bubble wrap and paper and it was much better. Also labeling your crates with a basic list of what is inside can be a huge timesaver.

When kids have to be in the car for lengths of time they seem to snack  incessantly.  I would make a ‘lunch box’ each morning before setting off.  Bars, biltong, a sandwich and fruit.  You can’t always stop when they expect lunch so this holds them off for a while but takes a bit of planning as you have to make sure you have enough for the whole trip.

So below are some essentials I take along.  It is a pretty basic list but its a good start to then build from.  Let me know if there is anything you would think is an ‘essential’ that I should add as well 🙂

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Before we modified our trailer all the food had to go into crates.  It was a permanent game of shuffle

BASIC SHOPPING LIST

Condiments: salt, pepper, olive oil, cooking oil, fresh garlic, liquid stock sachets, dried rosemary, basil and thyme, mayo, tomato sauce and butter if possible, jam, peanut butter, nutella (can be used for smores), bovril/marmite, honey, mustard, pesto.  We forgot all spices our first trip and food was pretty bland! Nothing like a pooitjie with no spices. I like to take along some smoked paprika, chilli, curry powders so that we have the option of a curry or a tagine on the fire.

Lunch aids (when you can’t get bread): pre-packed wraps – we use the Woolworths ones as they last long, they can also be used for bacon and egg breakfast mornings when bread may be finished.  Dry biscuits like provitas and rice cakes are good backups and snack fillers if necessary.

General Food Goods: Rice, flour (either decant into a tupperware or double wrap), couscous (can be used for salads or supper base), baking powder, baking soda, oats, marshmallows, teas & coffee, sugar, bottled beetroot, olives, sundried tomatoes, vinaigrette, tuna, tinned tomatoes, baked beans, corn, tomato paste, longlife cream, longlife milk, coconut milk, custard, marshmallows, marie biscuits (for smores), tinned apples (Desserts in the Desert), jelly (a winner with the kids but have a tupperware with an airtight lid)

General Items: Rubber gloves, leather gloves (for collecting wood), dishwashing liquid, handy andy, hand washing powder, dish sponges, wire pot scrubber, kitchen cloth, dish towel (they get so dirty so pack a few extra) double thick black bags (often you have to take your rubbish along and you don’t need them breaking), smaller bags for rubbish, extra thick tinfoil, plastic wrap, kitchen towel/serviettes, wet wipes, zip loc bags various sizes (great for leftovers as they then fit in spaces in the fridge as containers can be restricting), a few tupperwares

I am a firm believer in not skimping on the good things because when you have those added ‘luxuries’ a hard day just becomes that much more palatable and good food should never be compromised on!

Shop, be adventurous and enjoy

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Desserts in the Desert

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There is nothing nicer than being in the middle of nowhere and being able to have a pudding that is more than toasted marshmallows.  Don’t get me mistaken, my kids LOVE toasted marshmallow squished between two Marie biscuits with Nutella.  It is my quick go-to treat when camping but a warm pudding can’t be beaten.  My son Jesse absolutely loves apple crumble and it is the biggest treat when away.  It’s also really easy to take along on long trips as tinned apples work perfectly well and the makings for the crumble just need butter brought.  It’s been a bit of a hit and miss trying to get the crumble to be more crumble like and not turn cakey.  So I have finally managed to get it right!  So here are my tricks.

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We love to throw peaches or apricots in with the apples for added yumminess

Firstly, when putting your fruit into the pot try to not add any of the juice or as little juice as possible.  This will minimize the amount of moisture lessening the steaming effect. With regards to what to use, cast iron works well but be careful not too much heat.  I have a standard Cadac pot which I prefer over my bread pot as the fruit doesn’t stick.  The crumble must not be too thick on top either.  And then the final winner, instead of putting a sealed lid on top, you put a few layers of tinfoil.  Pierce holes around the outside quite close to the edge.  This lets steam escape while still being able to put coals in the middle.  The first time I let the coals burn down and then ash fell through the holes.  So rather use larger coal pieces and rotate them.  We always take the heavy duty tinfoil on our trips, so if you have the lighter stuff be careful.

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Our first attempt with tinfoil.  Credit goes to my brilliant friend Nena, who suggested it after I moaned about the steaming!

 

It takes roughly 45mins to an hour and you need to rotate it so that all the sides get the fire heat too.  As with making bread on the fire, you just need an even spread of light coals underneath the pot.  Again, rather have too few and add a bit more than start too hot and burn it.  You will need to replace the top and bottom coals a few times during this time.  I generally make the apple crumble before prepping the rest of dinner and as soon as the fire is lit.  This is because it can go on the outside while the fire is burning down for the braai.  Any leftovers are great for breakfast the next day!

So here is my recipe.  It is more of a basic guideline.  I am no chef and more of a taste as I go and adjust.  So try it out, change it up and share with good company in beautiful places.

RECIPE

I generally make for roughly 4 adults and 4/5 kids

2 large tins apples

1 tin peaches or apricots

Drain all the juice and put in the pot.  There should be an even covering on the bottom of the pot.

If the apples are sugar free you may need to sprinkle some sugar on

You can add cinnamon sugar and raisins depending on your kids and friends

For the crumble:

4 tblsp soft butter

8 tblsp stone ground flour

6 tblsp sugar

I add some oats as we like how it makes it a bit chewy

Mix together with your fingers until the consistency is ‘crumbly’.  My standard test is if I squeeze some in my hand that it can stick together.

 

Put it over the top of the fruit.  You want a good covering but maximum of 1.5cm thick.  I then put a light sprinkling of cinnamon sugar on top.  Cook until golden on the coals next to the fire.

 

Who needs Mars – go to the Richtersveld?!

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The van Nierop’s – Simon, Tammy, Jesse (8yrs) and Olivia (6 yrs)                                                              The van Lierop’s – Deon, Nena, Noah (10yrs), twins Zoe & Liam (turned 8yrs on the holiday)

My mum always says that if you want to jump off a building then maybe you should go bungy jumping first!!! She always wonders how many people have thought half way down, “flip, now this is a bad idea”.  Yes, my mum is a little unconventional.  So, for all those people who volunteered to go to Mars, then I think they should go to the Richtersveld first.  Well, that is if we are to apply my mothers wonderful logic.

This last Easter School holidays, South African schools had nearly three weeks instead of the usual one week.  So we spontaneously decided to go camping with our friends, the van Lierops. (Yes, I know! We were the van Nierop’s and van Lierop’s)  Everything in and around Cape Town was pretty booked so we suggested the Richtersveld.  Many people do the Orange River, but going into the Richtersveld is largely overlooked by families.  Well, most of the families I know have never been.

Below the kids saw their first Petroglyphs.  So sad that people have felt the need to draw on the rocks.  Maybe in a thousand years time they will be seen as ancient Petroglyphs too 🙂

From black pyramid like hills jutting out of yellow ground to huge boulder like mountains to a green river valley with the Orange River running through, it is a truly amazing place.  We built cairns, hunted for scorpions, fished, put fluospar rocks in the fire to see how they burnt green, drove to a spring up a barren river valley, saw petroglyphs, went for early morning runs, climbed up some amazing mountains and windmills, and spent quality time as a family.

We took five children between two families ranging in ages from 6-10 years and it was magical.  As a family going into wild places, this is one of pretty low stress.  We didn’t have to worry about the kids too much as there are no lurking predators.  So, if you want to go somewhere that is remote and dramatic and slightly otherworldly and isn’t going to be a one way ticket in 40years time, then we would recommend this dramatic beauty.

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I will post soon on the various places we camped and what was loved and what was seen as torment and suffering by some very vocal children.  Until then, dream big and dream different, anything is possible!

 

Irish Soda bread in a pan

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Our recent trip to the Richtersveld was magical and this is a pic from our buschcamp at the fluospar mine.

When you are in the middle of nowhere your options for buying bread at a corner shop are….well….not possible.  So you are either left with stale Woolies rolls which last so long because I dread to think what is in them.  Otherwise dry provitas or rice crackers….which lose their appeal after a few days.  Wraps last pretty long and are lovely with salads and veg.  Again, fresh ingredients are limited in the middle of nowhere and there is only so much tuna mayo you can eat in a wrap before gagging.

We do have a cast iron bread pot, but by the time you have set up camp and got supper ready the last thing you feel like doing is kneading bread and leaving to rise etc.  I always have these grand ideas to make bread everyday and pre kids I did it quite a lot on our trips.  But the reality with kids and camping make it seriously unlikely.  My time is now spent finding toys left in cliff holes or rounding up kids from chasing the locals goats up the mountain or stopping them from scorpion hunting without gloves..  The glamorous life of parenting!

Yet again my friend Elaine came to my rescue!  She gave me the amazing beer bread recipe.  I was moaning about the limited option while chatting through logistics on one of our sanity cycles (she is my cycling partner, so many hours are spent together on our bikes).  She then said her family had a recipe, one of those passed down from the grandmother to mother, where you make a semi flat soda bread in the pan and it all mixes together in one bowl and no rising and kneading needed.  I begged and pleaded and promised lots of chocolate in repayment for the recipe.  Woohoo!

So I tried it on our recent trip to the Richtersveld and it was amazing…well the third attempt was.  In typical me fashion I didn’t read the recipe properly.  I was so eager I scanned over it and assumed by the name that baking soda was used….a whole whopping two teaspoons!  The first ‘loaf’ looked amazing and I thought it smelt a little strong, but without trying it I promptly made a second (we were having bacon and eggs for breakfast).  My husband sneaked past and nabbed a piece…and promptly nearly threw up.

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It tasted disgusting!!!!!  I re read the recipe and suddenly realized it was baking powder and not baking soda.  Stupid name!!!!  It was also a weird yellow color when done with the baking soda but I had ignored that as well.

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Anyway, attempt 3 and 4 worked out a dream and what a brilliant, quick and tasty bread.  I made it a few times on our recent Richtersveld holiday.  So without much ado, here is the recipe:

INGREDIENTS

2 Cups Flour

2 tsp Baking POWDER

pinch of salt

(mix dry ingredients through with a fork)

270ml warm milk

(will flop if milk isn’t warm)

METHOD TO MAKE

Put all dry ingredients in, run a fork through and add the warm milk.

Mix together using a spoon.

I used a 25cm pan and I lightly olive oiled it but you can use butter too.  We just didn’t have much for our trip.

Pour batter into pan.  It will sort of lump in the middle.  I then dusted my hands in flour and could then spread it out on the pan with my fingers.  You sort of work it outwards.  Put over a medium to low heat and cover and leave.  When the sides start to look more ‘cooked and firm’ and you can get a spatula under, then flip.  Roughly 5mins a side….very roughly as I never timed it.

Then slice horizontally and eat warm with whatever you have available or wrap in tinfoil and keep for lunch.

I made 2 ‘loaves’ and they comfortably served 4 adults and 5 kids.  You cut the loaf into 4 triangles and then in half horizontally.  You then get 8 ‘slices’ per loaf.

As I said before, it’s the small things that make trips to remote areas heaven 🙂

 

It’s the Little Things that count

Just because you’re in the middle of nowhere doesn’t mean you have to suffer.  I have come to realize that when you are out in these remote amazing places it is the little things which just ‘make it’.

 

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Finding a small shop in the middle of nowhere and getting some ‘luxuries’.  Below is a picture of the shop….we nearly missed it

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So here are some of my non negotiables to making all things good while camping:

  • Good coffee – thank God for aeropress
  • Good wine – pack more red than white so don’t have to worry about chilling
  • Good food – you can do more than just braai on a fire
  • Clover full cream or low fat long life milk tastes the best (it doesn’t kill the taste of your Rooibos tea)
  • A comfy pillow – I will sacrifice clothes for my pillow
  • A sheet or kikoi to sleep on – it really makes a difference
  • My Paez shoes – they pack flat, light and are closed! Socks and takkies can get very hot but slip slops aren’t always practical and your feet get dirty
  • Facial wipes – means I can wear some make up 🙂
  • The solar shower bag – nothing better than a shower after a dusty day
  • My kindle
  • Good music
  • A good comfortable camping chair (a lot of time is spent sitting round the fire)

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