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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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!