If your idea of a holiday is finding some peace and solitude while sipping Mai-Tai’s on the beach, Plett over Easter weekend is not for you. Come to think of it, having children is not for you either. Both are filled with more bubble and bustle than you’ll know what to do with. Should you have chosen to embrace the amusement and vivacity that children bring, you have probably also, at some point, chosen to embrace the seaside village of Plett.
The Garden Route, where Plett is delightfully nestled, is filled with quaint little towns, beautiful seaside villages and white sandy beaches that stretch on for miles. There is no shortage of things to do either, which for a family like ours, is blissful. Don’t get me wrong, kicking back and shaking off the manacles of the daily grind is a non-negotiable, but getting out and finding exhilarating adventures that expand your mind and challenge you physically, is just as important.
Cue: hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, body surfing, forest runs for days. And these are just the obvious ones.
You can swing from the trees while on a canopy tour, tube down rivers and jump into gorges, but with a son as reckless as Lincoln, we are waiting a few more years before taking the kids on any of these – I’m rather fond of my little family of four.
So when the holidays finally rolled around and we hit the road heading to Plett, we started narrowing down the list of Easter week activities. There was cookie decorating, egg painting, and chocolate eating, but none of those required us to leave the house. Murphy’s bad holiday weather meant that after days of rain and wind, we were incredibly grateful for those 3 activities because we did a lot more of them than we had anticipated. When the weather did allow, we added in some much needed beach time, charming coffee shop excursions, sneaky G&T sunsets, and made sure we threw in some mandatory hiking for good measure.
Plett has a beautiful peninsula that edges its way into the Indian ocean, forming the south-western tip of the bay. This is the Robberg Nature Reserve. It is surrounded by turquoise waters and plays host to a colony of barking seals, and a range of vulnerable fish species, as well as indigenous bird life happy to flit in the vegetation around you. It seemed the perfect choice for our Easter weekend hike.
The magnificent Robberg peninsula. Viewing it from the start of the trail.
Had I been more prepared, I would have planted Easter eggs as we walked, surprising the kids along the way with tales of where the ‘Plett bunny’ came from. But alas, I was a pitiful parent and made my kids walk the entire way without any chocolate morsels. Despite this, they excelled as usual, sometimes plodding, sometimes skipping ahead, being bird watches, shark spotters and swimming in the rock pools on Robberg’s end. They seemed to need very little encouragement on this hike, despite its 11km distance, and by the time they reached the beach at the end, they dived into the water with wild abandon, leaving the adults to rest on the sand.
There is an abundance of delight on this hike. From the rock formations that date back to the break-up of Gondwanaland, 120 million years ago, to the diverse and often unexpected wildlife sightings, there is something for everyone. The hike covers various terrains, from shrubby fynbos and cascading sand dunes, to a tree-lined walk way with a canopy of birdsong. The Robberg point takes you down to sea level where you cross Whale rock, an expanse of rock so large and covered in lichen you feel like you could be traversing Gondwanaland in an era long past. Unfortunately, being Easter weekend, we were not lonesome hikers. We had a barrage of tourists hot on our heels, everyone keen for some fresh air and sunshine. Most of them opting to do the shorter routes (of which there are several) meant that at least at the point, we acquired the perspective we so often go in search of on our hikes.
It was serene and beautiful.
The most beautiful expanse of solitude.
Back in the bustling tourist hub, with half of Gauteng and a large dollop of Cape Town, we found the refuge we needed after a long hike: the ice cream shop. Ignoring the vast quantities of Easter cookies and gooey chocolate we had already consumed, our eyes devoured the ice cream before it made its way to our mouths. A heavenly end to a gastronomic week away. Despite all the people, the queues at restaurants and the parking palaver, Plett remains one of our ‘most favouritist’ holiday spots.
A recent foray up Little Lions Head had us looking down on Sandy Bay and the southern end of some of South Africa’s most prime real estate. Llandudno. Oh, how the sun shines brighter, the air smells sweeter, and the houses are built for royalty.
Our not being royalty means spending time in this neck of the woods puts us at a distinct advantage, we can truly appreciate it. The views are spectacular, the cleanliness top notch, and being relatively remote meant the rocks we chose to explore were entirely devoid of people.
There is a huge rocky outcrop that extends around the southern bend of Llandudno, sneaking in and out around the coastline towards Hout Bay. Exploring the section before Sandy Bay was a treat we’ve been anticipating for a long while. Saturday’s weather was perfect form for a morning next to the sea, so we gathered the kids, had a delicious breakfast at our local favourite spot, and hit the rocks.
The more popular Llandudno rocks to explore are at the northern end of the bay, there are almost always people hopping around the rocks and solitude is a luxury you don’t have there. Now I realise having two children means solitude is a luxury we don’t have anywhere, but I would happily pick the company of my kids in the outdoors. They are happy, inquisitive and respectful. Three qualities we constantly encourage, placing great importance on them in our explorations. So, taking my monkeys (including my husband) and hitting the lesser-known rocks on the southern end, was bliss.
If you park in the Sandy Bay parking and walk down the road instead of towards Sandy Bay, you will discover a path leading straight out to the rocks. There is no bush whacking required, and the rocks are almost touching the road.
The view is breath taking.
Arriving in the morning meant we were lucky enough to catch the last of the cool misty air, giving the bay a magical quality and making you feel even further away from the mundane. We were pleasantly alone, and allowed to roam the rocks, climbing, hopping, and appreciating the beauty that surrounded us. We found a perfect rocky cove where the waves swept in and out at a pace that allowed us to play in the water without being knocked over. The water was as expected, unequivocally frigid, but a beautiful fresh start to the warmer weather and the promise of spring.
This is a hideout I intend to visit often in the coming warmer months. If you looking for something a little off the beaten track, I would recommend giving these rocks a try.
Would I do this again? This is an affirmative. Absolutely. Yes. Let’s go!
What to be aware of? Llandudno gets the sun quite a bit later than the rest of Cape Town, being on the west side and all. So if you go early in the morning take a jersey, there can be a nip in the air.
Some of the rocks are quite knobbly, I would suggest a pair of flip flops or comfy shoes to go rock hopping in.
I anticipate finger wagging and head shaking, but our latest adventure was less un-clad than it sounds.
I remember my parents always saying, “It’s not your driving we’re worried about, it’s everyone else’s”. Well, this scenario was the same, kind of. It wasn’t our being naked you had to worry about; it was everyone else’s.
Sandy Bay is Cape Town’s only fully nude beach, and it is breathtakingly beautiful. It is just south of Llandudno beach, along a stretch of mountain and coastline that is nature reserve. There are no houses, no shacks, no man made structures of any kind, only pristine white sandy beaches and incredible rock formations stretching out into the Atlantic. To get to it, you have to walk about a kilometre from the parking lot at the southern end of Llandudno, or, and this is obviously the route we prefer, you have to climb the Hout Bay sand dunes and then go down the other side until they reach their end on the beaches of Sandy Bay.
Our adventure began with the idea of riding to the sand dunes and playing on them for the morning, this part is not uncommon in the least. I needed a run so this started off well as the kids sped along next to me on their bikes, while Dad took the car as a much needed fall back plan for the way home. After making our way to the top of the Hout Bay dunes we couldn’t help but jump and dive our way down the silky-soft windblown sand, until we were already half way down the other side, Sandy Bay side. Obviously, being halfway down, we decided it only logical that we go for a jaunt on the beach. So as our sand dune wound itself down into a stubbly rocky path, we gave the kids a quick instruction guide as to how to conduct themselves on the beach.
1. There is to be no pointing. Particularly no pointing and laughing!
2. They must stay with us at all times.
3. If we issue an instruction, they will listen.
With the puzzled looks, we quickly explained that this was a place that some people like to wear no clothes, and they are permitted to wear no clothes. This is not a place for us to judge them. I’m not sure this sounded at all strange to them as they are no strangers to nudity. They would be naked all day everyday if it were up to them, and I think they quite seriously believe that if adults wanted to be naked they would be too.
But caution did prevail and we wanted the children to be prepared if they saw anything strikingly uncommon, which lets be honest, is likely on a nude beach. It is winter however, so climatic conditions were in our favour. The beach was almost devoid of people, so it was the four of us, a large expanse of pristine beach, and kilometres of rock to explore. It was perfect.
South Africa, having more crime than we would like, meant that Shaun, being the careful and vigilant husband and father that he is, instructed us to leave all valuables at home. He didn’t want to attract any attention. This is a valid concern in this area, but one which makes taking photo’s, to show you how incredibly beautiful this area is, impossible. It did give us a chance to prance around on the rocks and follow them out into the sea, unconcerned about sea-spray from enormous waves breaking over the flowing forms of ocean-crafted boulders.
By mid-day we could see the determined, all weather naturalists arriving along the Llandudno path, so quitting while we were ahead, we decided to make our way up the dune and back over to the safety of our clothed neck of the woods. It was relatively easy to steer the children around boulders and along paths that completely obscured the view of any sun-seeking nudists. I feel our chances would have been somewhat diminished had we attempted this in summer. But given our children’s complete nonchalance to anyone else within eyeshot, I’m not sure they would have even noticed. Their focus was on bouldering, playing make believe games on their ‘pirate ship’, gargantuan wave spotting and nibbling on pre-packed snacks.
Getting them back up the knobbly path to the sand dune was a somewhat tedious feat, but once they reached the sand dune and scrambled their way to the top, they promptly turned around and dived and giggled their way back down it again. Thankfully we have learned, through much practice and trickery, that our children’s ‘exhaustion’ can often be attributed to boredom, which was obviously the case here. I tell you this as a warning, don’t let your children fool you.
Would I do this again? Yes. But probably not in summer. Or any great weather. Or after midday. Despite our mild concerns before heading onto the beach with the kids, this turned out to be a great morning out. A perfect example of a spontaneous adventure gone right! … This is not always the case with children.
This is a truly beautiful, remote piece of Cape Town to explore, if you’re feeling ‘ballsy’ enough.
What to be aware of?Sadly, as with all of our incredible country, crime is a reality. Keep your eyes open, keep your wits about you, and don’t take anything valuable. There have been reports of muggings along the path from Llandudno.
As for the obvious nudists, we managed not to encounter any at close range. They were around, tanning, strolling on the far side of the beach, but nothing that caught our children’s eyes or interest.
Shoes, we left in the car, but the knobbly path after the dunes, is rather knobbly. It didn’t faze Shaun or the kids, but my clearly delicate paws took a beating along the trail.
The dunes, looking into Hout Bay.
The view above Sandy Bay towards Lions Head.
Beautiful fynbos paths next to the beach.
Photo credits obviously not my own. Thanks to www.millerslocal.co.za and www.noxrentals.co.za.
Disclaimer: Shaun and I are not prudes. When it comes to our children however, we would rather err on the side of caution.
When the going gets tough, head to somewhere you know you’ll be happy! Or in our case, be lucky enough to have that on the cards anyway! San Francisco… the Cape Town of North America… you could not have showed up on our itinerary at a better time. The Prius driving, dog toting, hipster capital of the world. Wow. I did not expect to come across a city so full of hipsters that even I would be tempted to grow a beard just to fit in. Shaun tried desperately to get his 10 chin hairs to grow but all the Bob Martins in the world could only get those bad boys to grow while simultaneously dipping his chin in fertilizer. He did however have the headphone wearing computer staring look about him as he was buried in work while we were there, a good thing too or we would have gone out to far too many awesome restaurants and only worsened our now distinctly diminishing travel funds. Running out of money (as we always seem to do at the end of January, travelling or not) sucks rather more harshly when you find yourself in Napa Valley. This is not a place for you if you are travelling on a budget. We are doing what we must but it would be a lie to say it is not stressful and downright hard. Why do I mention this depressing tidbit you might ask?.. just so that you know we are not floating along on our 6 month trip on a bed of $100 notes and being fanned with enormous cheques. Shaun and I are already discussing how we will redo this trip when we are grown ups (and taking daily swims in our money like Scrooge McDuck). Mail me if you want tips on how to do America in style, we have some great ideas 🙂
But trying to be the ‘family focused less money driven’ travellers that we are (or lets face it we wouldn’t be doing this trip to begin with), we found ourselves a sunny apartment near Golden Gate park in San Francisco and thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor city vibe that ‘The Bay Area’s’ got going. The city is open, full of parks and beautiful old-school buildings. Obviously, the bridges are something special, and those along with the ‘cable cars’ and other public transport that runs on electric lines is something unique to this city. Riding on the cable car feels like you’re on a roller coaster in the middle of a suburban street – it’s awesome! I was thankful for the automatic car we were driving because doing hill starts on those hills in a manual, would give me some proper wiry grey hairs. There are laws on ‘curbing your wheels’ when you park, totally understandable when you look down the hills, and going to the twistiest street in the world also happened to leave us standing at what felt like the steepest!
In true Wuth fashion, we decided to undertake the impossible – keeping a 3 and 4 year old happy, quiet, and in their seats for a 2 hour (near black tie) performance of Beethoven’s ‘Mass in C’ by the San Francisco Symphony and Choir. It is comical how badly it went, starting with our seats being next to the orchestra and looked upon by thousands of others. We were virtually on stage for 2 hours. Lincoln wasn’t so keen on the idea. And he was tired. Great combo. The trifecta was that we couldn’t secretly feed them to keep them happy because everyone could see us! Anyway, to cut a long and embarrassing story short, I ended up carrying a very tired, just pre-tears Lincoln out in the middle of the second half and in the middle of one of the soloist’s performances. I wanted to die. We will freely admit that it was ambitious, even for us, but the performance was magnificent!
Lincoln seemed to take a real liking to the floors in San Francisco and made a habit of falling off his bike and or scooter and or flip flops on a regular basis. How he isn’t covered in bruises baffles me. Lola is ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ to Lincolns ‘The Fast and the Furious’. She thinks it’s Sunday, everyday. Strolls are gentle and when we take them biking she often circumnavigates the same lamp post numerous times, looking at all the flowers, testing a grass patch for mud and seeing if her bike will fit between poles. Lincoln is now so fast on his bike that when we head to the park one of us has to be dressed for a run. We sprint next to him for at least half the way and yell at him to move over when there are oncoming pedestrians. It can be very perilous when gaining on a runner who has earphones in, it becomes a game of chance, will they stay on their side of the path or veer in?!.. The time has come for some proper brakes, pedals and potentially a skills lesson or two! I’m afraid teaching him caution is something that has at least thus far, been totally lost on him.
All this is what made our morning hike to Lands End on our last day in San Fran more endearing. There is a rock labyrinth at the point which the kids spied, and made a dash for. You can walk through it in a couple of minutes, but Lola rather quickly lost interest and mozied on out to climb the rock wall next to her. Lincoln walked the whole thing, then walked it backwards, repositioning every stone that was even slightly out of place, leaving a far more beautiful and precise maze than the one he walked into. Shaun and I were swelling with pride watching our special little speed demon, who seemingly races around not noticing a thing, take so much time and effort perfecting a rock path he never broke to begin with. It’s like you unknowingly put your child in a box, and one day they climb right out that box and do something you didn’t think in their character at all. I love those days. Challenging what we think we ‘know’ about someone, about who we think they are. Lola has done it countless times on this trip too. Maybe it’s being so far away from what is ‘normal’ to them, maybe it’s just growing up and who they always were, but it is fascinating to watch them emerging as interesting, deep individuals, sometimes in the way you expected, and sometimes in the most beautifully unexpected ways.
I recently read some words of wisdom that I thought really applied to our family at the moment;
‘To love a person is to see all of their magic, and to remind them of it when they have forgotten’.
This journey, as incredible as it has been, has also been rather overwhelming at times. There have been hard days. There have been days where we haven’t all been wonderful people, and there have been times we have needed gentle reminding of who we are and why we are on this journey. Reminding each other of their magic has been more necessary on this adventure than ever before in our relationship. We’ve had to build each other up and bolster confidence. Sometimes we can’t see the wood for the trees, or beyond the obstacle right in front of us, but knowing we’ve got someone there to encourage us has shown a quiet strength and gentleness I’ve never noticed, or needed to see, until now. We have learned a lot about being the confident support for each other, even in the midst of our own fears and anxieties. It is something that arrived quite unexpectedly, and something I am immensely grateful for.
‘Back to reality’ weighs heavily on my mind this week as we find ourselves in the South of the US, in the cold, although reality is a strange thing to call it. None the less, the last few days have been an adjustment period for us, having to actually dress into pants and a t-shirt seems hard work after needing only spandex for the last 23 days. We have however been welcomed with an incredible display of fall foliage in Atlanta, and as we drive our way down to Savannah, I find my excitement growing in anticipation of the cotton-picking country and uniquely Southern surroundings.
Although leaving Mexico was like tearing myself away from a slice of black-forest cake (unbearable!) I feel blessed to still be a family of 4! I don’t mean to sound mellow-dramatic, but we had our fair share of events! Aside from Lincoln’s near drowning episode, our almost being run over by a car, wading through a lagoon with crocodiles (we were warned afterwards!), driving in buses on suburban roads in excess of 120km an hour (regularly! – speed limit 50km/h), we also discovered that Lola has somewhat of a celebrity status in Mexico. It turns out that not only blond hair, but ringlets of blond hair is so uncommonly seen, that we were followed, stopped, gawked at and generally treated as celebrities everywhere we went. Mexicans are a friendly bunch, and had no hesitation in stroking Lola’s hair, telling her how beautiful she was, asking if it was real, asking where she got it, did we ‘paint’ it, did I curl it, and taking pictures! It got so overwhelming for Lola at times that she took to hiding in clothing rails in the shops and under benches (with Linky in tow of course). One day on the beach Lola made friends with a little Mexican girl who she played catches with in the sea, every time this little girl caught Lola she would stroke her hair and pull on the ringlets, laughing and throwing her head back squealing with delight. Lola has always been complemented on her hair but nothing had quite prepared us for this level of admiration, it was quite astonishing. Needless to say, after all the attention, we feel rather lucky to have left with her in tow.
Me, on Isla Mujeres.
Loving the water!.. in Playa del Carmen.
We fortunately managed to steer clear of any drug cartels, unfortunately didn’t meet anyone named Jose, we were called gringo’s only once, drank way too many margarita’s, ate way too many nachos, and had only a fleeting moment in a sombrero, making our Mexican trip feel almost complete. What an incredible place to spend 3 weeks. The sea is a tepid bath, only a lot saltier, with some incredible bath toys. It is rather like swimming around in the first fish tank as you walk into the Cape Town Aquarium – lots of little Dory’s and coloured fish swimming amongst the coral – only a lot roomier. Waves are mellow, currents mild, and it always seems time for a snorkel and a beer. Having bought the kids arm bands (water wings) when we got there, they found a whole new enjoyment of the water, not just the pool, but the sea too. They would cruise out into the turquoise waters with us and bob around checking out the fish. After Lola was replaced by an alien look-a-like version, complete with adventurous tendencies and an outgoing personality, she decided she wanted goggles too, and took to snorkeling like Schumacher to a race car. It just might be the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! She would stick her whole head under the water and kick like crazy, only she had water wings on so she couldn’t go under water, leaving her with her bottom up in the air and her head submerged. She did this for hours. Linky on the other hand, was surprisingly content to bob around on the surface, occasionally latching himself to one of our necks, steering us around and yelling “Go faster… go faster”! It was an amazing experience to be able to enjoy the sea like that with the kids, and possibly even more magical because I never, not for one moment, dreamt that they would be happy to venture into the waves with us – okay, baby swells, but still.
We couldn’t visit Mexico without checking out some of the Mayan ruins, so we spent a morning exploring the incredible Tulum ruins, and another day at Chichen Itza. Absolutely magnificent! We felt throwing 2 days of culture into our trip would be enough of a distraction from the white sands, only to find ourselves thrusting our over-heated selves into the sea at the Tulum ruins anyway to escape the 35 degree sun (the sun scorches here in a way South Africa can only dream of!). We felt sufficiently proud of our ruins exploration, given that we had to carry the itchy (prior mosquito onslaught), crying, sandy, disinterested children around when all they wanted to do was sit in the shade and eat an ice cream! We have learned that the one thing our children don’t handle very well is the heat. It’s like their brains have a melt down and the only way to calm them down is to put them in the pool, the sea, or give them an iced something… anything! After Shaun and I had had enough of the whining and were largely ignoring them, umm… I mean we had water in our ears and couldn’t hear them, we had a sweet, impressionable old lady stop and use her towel to dust the sand off madam Lola’s feet because she had decided she couldn’t possibly put on her flip flops while her feet were covered in sand!! But all that aside, the Tulum ruins were incredible and worth the whine we had as an accompaniment.
We managed to psych the children up for the Chichen Itza ruins by telling them we were going to climb crumbling old buildings that were even older than granny and grandad, this worked believe it or not – until we got there. Turns out you not allowed to climb them anymore, only look. Those of you with kids know how much less appealing that is. Thankfully we had rain on this outing and not the blistering sun, so luck was still in our favour, sort of. The weather treated us gently and we had only a tender caress of drops after the initial onslaught we had in the car on the way there, almost sending us to an early grave as we tried to dodge the potholes. The ruins were magnificent though, and so large that they even managed to hold the kids attention for a while.
What was almost as amazing were the 4 snakes we saw that day. We’ve lived in Africa all our lives and I don’t think I’ve ever seen that many snakes just ambling about, or a bird catching one for dinner. The jungle in Mexico really isn’t something to sneeze at, even though plantations of white powder can be found around many corners. Evidence of this activity are the many road blocks you have to pass through as you drive along the high ways. Soldiers patrol with impressively large guns, rivaled only by the equally large machete’s the locals carry, as you do, for opening coconuts, cutting grass and weeding! Sorry… I was talking about road blocks, they are impressive. They are also hazardous. When renting our car we wondered why the first thing it says is the under carriage of the car is not insured, after seeing the size of the speed humps, on the highway, we understand! There are almost no road markings, few warning signs and no pedestrian crossings. Driving in Cancun is like negotiating a city full of Joburg taxis in rush hour. You have to drive fast to avoid being driven over by a bus, you have to push or you will never merge into another lane (which you’re never warned about), and you have to have little regard for your life or your vehicle. I was both happy and scared when we returned our rental in favor of public transport. I’m happy we experienced both, but getting around took its toll on my hair colour – definitely more grey, and my liver – many glasses of wine to calm my nerves! 😉
This is one of the highways. This is the only warning of the massive speed bump that is right there! You may not notice the hump… it would clean the bottom of your car right off!
After seeing a large portion of the Riviera Maya (Mexican East Coast) we have a good idea of the best places to go for a peaceful getaway, or a tourist paradise. We can see why people are starting to travel further South for a holiday – Cancun is extremely over priced and so over populated with hotels, it feels a bit like Las Vegas looks. Further South you find more authentic little spots, still pricey, but beautiful and unspoiled. Isla Mujeres, a small island off the coast, is relatively unspoiled too and small enough that you hire golf carts to drive around the island instead of cars. There is some amazing snorkeling and fantastic beachside restaurants. Given that Cancun is only 40 years old (it was a fishing village in 1974 with about 117 inhabitants!) it is incredible to see the development and sheer number of hotels – tourism being its only revenue stream.
Zooting around Isla Mujeres in our golf cart. Such fun!
Very tired children after a day of exploring the island.
Isla Mujeres – still a small village feel.
But enough about the history lesson, internet there sucked, no big surprise, but it made working difficult, as if the beaches didn’t make it hard enough! So Shaun is retreating into his hermit shell to nurse the company and get his groove back. He’s never been capable of delivering anything but the best so juggling family time, exercise, sightseeing, constantly moving locations and work has him wired – he is considering a caffeine drip. Thankfully we came back to America with a stash of freshly roasted coffee beans! The children don’t give me enough time in the day to make coffee, so I have to make do with snacking on the beans. So far our trip has been what we hoped it would, challenging in the many ways we knew it would be, but delightful in so many others. We continue to be grateful that we were able to make this trip a reality.Signing out… the temporarily sun-tanned Wuths! xxx
After writing my last post, I am feeling a little sheepish, as the cold picture I painted will only truly begin towards the end of this month. As I lie on the beach in Mexico, typing away, I realise that since writing the above I have not only gained a well needed tan, but have also had over a week of blissful heat and sunshine! Before we dive head first into a cold like we have never experienced, we decided to throw in 3 weeks of summer vacation on the Caribbean coast, very excellent decision!