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Cape Town Archives - A Familia Adventure

Living On the Front Lines

By | Musings, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never lived in Africa just what it entails. How after weekends like this, Africa and its many complexities reverberate in your bones, the challenges right on your doorstep can shake you to your core. Cape Town is always plagued by fires at this time of year, having our annual rainfall in winter means summers are usually dry, but this summer is worse. We have enough water in our reservoirs to last about another 60 days, after that we are the mercy of the Rain Gods. Fires have been raging on our mountain sides like they normally do, but Friday night’s fire took hold in a far more devastating way. It started in a shack in the informal settlement Mandela Park, located in Hout Bay. With shacks built one upon another with barely enough room to walk between, let alone enough room for fire-truck access or even firemen with hoses, the fire wrecked devastation, burning roughly 1000 houses, claiming numerous lives, and leaving a yet unconfirmed number of people, but estimates are around 10 000, with virtually nothing.

Living in the Hout Bay valley has been a sombre experience this weekend. We watched as thousands of people covered in soot, carrying what few possessions they could carry out of their homes, amble their way down to the main road, as blackened leaves and ash rained down around us. Sometimes all people could carry was the young, disabled or the elderly, while they left everything else to burn. We are used to fires, we – sadly – are even used to homeless people, but this was so different. Listening to the sounds of exploding gas bottles every few minutes, which sounded like bombing, made me feel like we were fighting our own kind of war. It seems wholly unfair; people who have so little, losing what few possessions they have.

There is a huge disparity between rich and poor in South Africa, and a natural segregation that comes with it. One of the positives of living in Hout Bay is that our children grow up with their eyes wide open, aware of people who have less, and those that have more. We see their houses, we spend time with them and we share stories. When devastation like this happens our children are virtually on the front lines. They see the queues of people waiting for food and water, and we are forced to talk about these issues, the fact that we have so much more than so many people in the world, and there are things we can do to help. Sharing our clothes, our toys and our food with people who have lost what little they had seems the least we could do. As much as I want to protect my children from the big-bad-ugly world, I also want them to know how privileged they are, I want them to know gratitude, and I want to teach them that they have a responsibility to give back to people who need help. We are not alone on this planet; we are each other’s keepers.

Residents of Mandela Park doing all they can. Photo credit: Sullivan Photography

 

It’s so easy to look past what’s going on next to you, think that someone else will deal with it, rationalise why it’s not your problem, but if we all did that who on earth would help? Thankfully Hout Bay seems to have a lot of people who don’t behave that way. There has been a spur to action to the point where there is no bread left in most of our shops, the shelves are being cleared by Hout Bay residents who are buying food and dropping it at designated locations where volunteers feed, clothe and medically attend to those affected by the fire. Organisations are rallying to collect funds to purchase new school supplies and uniforms for children who have nothing. The community at large seems to be doing wardrobe ‘clean outs’ and donating clothing to people with nothing more than the pyjamas they were wearing when they ran from their shacks in the middle of the night. It really is something inspiring to see, when your community and your neighbours stand up and do what they can to help. They give what they can give, and pass on all the love they can. I have seen more than a few onlookers in tears and heard parents talking about their children not being able to sleep because they are worrying about their friends from school who live in Mandela Park. Let us hope this care and concern carries on, because our community will need help for a while yet, with thousands homeless and many of them needing trauma counselling and support. We all need to do our part, whatever that part is, and we need to keep doing it after all the hype dies down. Thankfully the Hout Bay community has an incredible track record of pulling together. They are a beacon of light in a country that is still torn by inequality and racial differences. Despite our many problems, and we have them – make no mistake – there are few Hout Bay residents that will turn a blind eye on what’s going on around them.

After a heavy weekend, our own disappointments pale into insignificance when looking through the smoky haze of unfairness that surrounds us. Our own problems shouldn’t be ignored, but a disaster like this certainly puts them in perspective.

Love and thanks to all those volunteers out there who selflessly continue to give of their time and energy.

Thank you to www.sullivanphotography.org for the incredible images.

FYI – As of Monday morning there was still no electricity or water in the whole of Mandela Park, including the area that was unaffected by the fire. What most people consider basic human rights, are inaccessible for a large portion of the Hout Bay population. So while our attention is needed by those directly affected by the fire, don’t forget to check in with others from Mandela Park, make sure they have a way to prepare and cook food, enough water for basic ablutions, or offer those you know, at the very least, the opportunity to get clean at your house until water pipes are mended and electricity restored.

Obstinate Children and the Application of Speed. I Could Write a Thesis.

By | Cape Town, Hikes | 2 Comments

Having a body clock set to the crack of dawn can be a wonderful thing, especially as the weather turns and Cape Town’s mornings have a warm clarity about them. Jumping out of bed with a wicked enthusiasm to hit the mountains reminds me of what it was like going skiing. Only I get to put on far less clothing and needing the loo just before you leave the house is fraught with considerably less aerobics. Regardless of what time I wake up however, getting Shaun and Lola ready to leave the house is like trying to wake a bear from hibernation. There is much grogginess, grumpiness, and a general disillusionment about the morning. Dangling the carrot of a hike up the mountain, finally gets them to the kitchen, and after Lincoln and I have run several laps around the dining room and sung karaoke to countless songs while Lola and Shaun finish breakfast, we all scramble into the car to hit the only mountain in sight with no clouds on the top. In Cape Town, a warm clarity in the morning means nothing for the rest of the day; the weather here can turn like a cornered celebrity.

So with very few options, off to Constantia Neck we head. Being a public holiday, coupled with our poor forward planning and all of Cape Town’s active population having the same idea, we were stuck in hiker’s rush hour.

Never start hiking at 9am!

We had a lunch date at 12 so this set the tone for the hike upfront. The name of the game was speed. I’m quite sure I repeated this several times just to make sure everyone had got it.

No one got it. I would be lying if I said the kids hit the mountain with any speed what so ever. There was a lot of feet dragging, moaning about the fact that the path went up, eye rolling, staged protests, and several stops in the first 10 meters to sit on rocks. Oh yes, our children too, are human. We certainly can’t win them all. With a little whip cracking and threats of being left at home the next time, they did manage to up their game somewhat. There was more backpacking than usual, more whining, and more disenchantment, until we found our first snake that is. Noisy, black and a tail that seemed to go on forever, Lola was jolted into the morning with rapture! It (the snake and Lola’s rapture) made its departure rather hastily as we climbed the less travelled path to the top of Table Mountain. Lincoln and Shaun had opted to walk on the dirt road with the rest of the pilgrims, so Lola and I enjoyed that viewing alone. As we neared the meeting point of the two paths, we casually walked past another snake, this time a Boomslang. This too was rather noisy, and alerted us to its presence. Only after calling Lincoln and Shaun did the beautiful yellow and black snake slither its way onto the top of a bush and watch us for what felt like ages. I may casually mention it’s a boomslang now, but had we known that at the time I don’t think we would have stood by so casually. At the time we were intrigued that it showed such an interest in us, seemed completely at ease, and made its nonchalant way right in front of us along the path, instead of heading back into the bushes. It was an incredible sighting and reminded us how careful we should be when strolling along our mountain paths, particularly at this time of year. When you’ve done something enough times you tend to adopt a rather blasé attitude towards it. Mindful caution is never a bad thing.

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Shaun-and-Linky
Lola-sulk

The name of the kids game not having been speed, meant that we had to up the pace on the way down. In an attempt to get the children fired up, Shaun and I implemented sprint training into the hike. One of us would walk with the kids while the other ran down the mountain about 50 meters and then turned and sprinted back up to the others. We took turns doing this until we were exhausted and the effort was completely lost on the kids, whose comments were more concerned with making sure Shaun and I ran the same distance and sprinted as fast as each other all the way back. Lincoln, never liking to be excluded from a race, did finally join in. At no point however, did Lola bow down. Peer pressure is completely lost on that one (I’ll thank my lucky stars in 10 years time!).

I certainly won’t chalk this hike down as a win, the kids obviously didn’t feel it, despite the wildlife viewing successes. Sometimes though, Shaun and I just need to feel the mountain under our feet and get some distance between us, and the rest of civilisation. On that score a hike is always a win, regardless of how the children fair. Even a bad hike gives perspective, and sometimes that’s all we’re looking for.

Shaun

Perspective

 

Would I do this again?  Yes. We have actually done this hike many times, but so has half of Germany. It is a great walk, offers options for different fitness levels and has incredible views over the Constantia wine-lands and False Bay. It is popular though, so if you are looking to get some space, this isn’t the walk for you.

What to be aware of?  There are quite a lot of dogs on this walk; most are not on a leash. Be mindful if your kids are dog phobic.
Due to the efforts to restore the natural Cape Town flora, almost all of the tall alien trees have been cut down. This leaves a very sunny hike with little-to-no shelter. Go prepared: take water, hats and sunblock. We walked past more than a few overcooked tourists.

The south of Llandudno rocks.

The Lesser-known Llandudno Rocks

By | Beaches, Cape Town | No Comments

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.

Enjoy! Xx

 

It’s the Little Things

By | Musings | No Comments

This afternoon I was reminded that it doesn’t take a lot to make your children happy. Lola, now 6, and Lincoln, 5, are inseparable. When they’re not at school they are together, always together. So much so, that when one of them has a play date, I arrange one for the other as well. I’m always trying to keep things ‘fair’, the less fighting I have to deal with the more likely I am to be a nice person. Even with a 14 month age gap the kids think they are equals, they see no distinction in rank or ability; I consider this an incredibly fortunate thing, most of the time.

When it comes to what they do, they always have to be doing the same thing. It would be grossly unfair for one of them to be at a friend while the other is stuck at home. But being the unfair, negligent mother that I am, this is what I did today. I did not arrange a play date for Lola while Lincoln was at his friend. What was she going to do all afternoon? The extreme iniquity of the situation was unbearable.

Thinking that an afternoon alone with my daughter is a treat I am rarely allowed, I tell her that I will play with her. Unconvinced, she stalks into the house to find something else to moan about. At this point I make a conscious decision to spend the full 2 hours that my son is at his friend, with Lola.
So, we make lunch, and eat in Dad’s office, stifling giggles while he’s on a conference call. We feed him lunch and discuss Lola’s art from the last week. We mix up some icing and scrounge around for Marie biscuits to ice, decorate them with sprinkles and make numerous cups of tea. After distributing cookies to Dad, our cleaning lady and our gardener, we take the rest outside to have a picnic in the garden. Aside from the photo’s I took of her with her cookies, I did not look at my phone or reply to an email.
When 4 o’clock rolled around and I announced it was time to fetch Lincoln, she was horrified.
“This was the best fun ever! Better than all my other play dates. Can’t we have just 5 more minutes?”
And my heart melted.

Such a small thing, 2 hours alone with my daughter, and this is from a mom who is home in the afternoons. You think you are available, in-between running errands, answering calls and organising their lives. Then you stop, and actually give them your full attention, no “I just quickly” or “in a minute”. You stop your world for them, just for 2 hours, and it’s better than any gift you could buy in a store. Something so pure and simple, and you can see the sun shining out of their soul.

cookies

The end product - the new bedroom!

A Family DIY Affair

By | Cape Town, Musings | No Comments

Now this is a rare treat, a blog post about the Wuth family at home. While my normal writing covers our adventures outside the home, I thought it about time I let you glimpse the chaos within our walls. Given that the weather has been somewhat frosty of late, we felt the time had come to undertake a project we have been putting off for quite some time… mounting beds to the wall in the kids room, so they could both be ‘on the top bunk’ as the request went.

When they came to us with this idea a few months ago, we immediately put it into the ‘never gonna happen’ box. After a little thought and a lot of research, I found a do-it-yourself guide to building and mounting beds at your chosen height. This meant we could provide them both with the optimal ‘top bunk’ position, without having to fit four beds into one room.

I subsequently spent the next two months perfecting my plan and deciding what we needed to make this work. I thought my plan was pretty solid. The fact that I have no idea about engineering or ‘weight bearing joints’ was irrelevant, I was going to figure it out as I went. If the beds were a little wobbly, well, the kids would just have to be more careful on them.
So the kids and I spent the last week of the holidays painting their new room. Lola wanted black, Lincoln wanted blue. We called a truce with one wall of each. We were ready for the hard labour to begin.

 

Now something I probably should have mentioned earlier is that Shaun is not a fan of DIY. In fact, he rather detests it. Things never go according to plan, it always takes about 5 times longer than you think, and the finished product is never perfect.
So, after convincing Shaun that this was something that had to happen sooner or later, I drafted the plans for him… he was less than pleased with my design…

Shaun: “What happens if 5 children are bouncing on the bed at the same time?”

Mary: “Well they can’t can they? They will bump their heads on the ceiling!”

Shaun: “What happens when we’re all up there together?”

Mary: “Well we’ll have to move slowly.”

Shaun: “What happens if the bed collapses with the children in it?”

Mary: “Well then they’ll land on the mattress and it’ll be a soft fall.”

This carried on for a while. Nowhere in our marriage preparation classes did they cover DIY conflict. This should be rectified.

So, we (Shaun) spent the whole of Saturday morning redesigning my structural work, while I watched 2 months of fruitless preparation disintegrate in front of my eyes. We then spent the whole of Saturday afternoon at the hardware store, followed directly by the toy store where we had to pick up Lincolns birthday present for the next day. These shops are not places you should take your children to!
They literally pretended to be dogs at the hardware store, hiding in the kennels and crawling around on the floor. Have you ever seen the state of a hardware store’s floor at the end of a day? You should have an idea of condition they were in when we got home then.

We began our ‘Saturday morning’ project at 4 o’clock that afternoon. Anything tip you off that we were off to a bad start? By the kids bed time, 7pm, we had built the ladder and measured where the beds were going to go. If nothing else, Shaun and I have stubbornness in common. This meant the kids where going to listen to our drilling long into the night, so long in fact, that they were begging us to go to bed.

By 10 o’clock, we had one wall bolt in the corner of one bed and realised we had drilled the wrong size holes for all the others. We checked out for the night before one of us filed for divorce papers. As it turns out, Shaun and I aren’t that good at DIY’ing together. We don’t see eye to eye, particularly when things start going wrong.

Sunday was a new day; we would tackle the problems when we were fresh. The fact that it was Lincoln’s birthday would just mean that the beds would be a birthday present. The 2 social engagements we had planned for the day would have to be shuffled around. Totally do-able.

After a rocky start with a few ‘poorly drilled’ holes, prematurely dried cement and scraping my fresh paint off the wall, we got the job done at 6 o’clock that evening. Leaving enough time to take Lincoln out for his birthday dinner.

 

They did get to sleep in their new beds that night and the joy of it almost made the effort worthwhile. I know as the hard work fades to a distant memory it will look like a terribly sensible project. It is certainly flavour of the moment and all current play dates happen on the top of the bunk beds, yes, five bouncing children. Maybe Shaun was right all along, but that’s not something I’m going to admit in a hurry.

The peak of our climb - the southern most Apostle. Lions Head in the distance with Table Mountain to the right.

Summiting the Elusive Path

By | Cape Town, Hikes | No Comments

Everybody has one, a path they never seem to conquer. Maybe it eludes them for a month, maybe a year. Ours was almost 5 years, and in the most literal sense, we could not reach the end.

Sunday, being Fathers Day, Shaun decided we aught to tackle our nemesis. After a hearty breakfast of leftover pizza, we packed our backpack with our hiking essentials; 4 energy-bars, 6 granola bars, 4 apples, a bag of biltong, a bag of nuts, a bag of sweets and 4 bottles of water, and headed for Llandudno Ravine. This might sound like an awful lot of food, but when your children are climbing a mountain you could literally open the fridge and tip it into their mouths and it still wouldn’t fill them up. Rather safe than sorry we always say, sometimes. So anticipating the beautiful day that Cape Town was promised, we all set out in our summer staples. Being rather more sorry than safe with this one, we encouraged Lola to climb into my long-sleeved vest, thus sporting a pair of strangely fashionable trousers, bar the rather large hole in the middle. It certainly served its purpose, but it was a gentle reminder to improve on our planning skills. Thankfully our children are rarely cold for long, onwards and upwards and the layers get peeled off.

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All the energy in the world!

 

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Lola’s stylish ‘mom’s-vest-pants’.

 

The first part of this particular climb we have done a reasonable number of times. We begin, we get a fair distance, and just when the views start getting good, one of us professes exhaustion and we retreat for home. This has become somewhat of a habit. Sunday, however, was different. The children began the climb with such gusto that Shaun and I found ourselves panting at the pace. They climbed hard and they climbed well. There are a few scrambling points in this hike where they have to pull themselves up using rungs drilled into the rock, we like to let them do it because firstly they love it, and secondly it’s incredibly good for them. Although we are always standing beneath them in case they need us, we find they are capable of doing the majority of climbing on their own. It is undoubtedly their favourite part.

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In the shade of the mountain.

 

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Climbing – their best!

 

A large part of the beauty of this particular path is that there are few other hikers, there is little but the sound of mountain water dripping and trickling on its descent through the rocks, the cries of indigenous birds and the occasional squeaking for treats from the children. As we passed our previous highest point along this path I readied myself for a rumble of thunder or a blinding lightening strike, something to signify the importance of this next step. But as with most obstacles that are overcome, it was accompanied by a large side of ordinary, and a distinct lack of significance on the rest of the world. As the path wound its way up the ravine however, we silently cursed ourselves for never having completed it before. The world may have been unaffected by our bold steps, by our hearts weren’t. It was an escapist’s utopia in every direction. Incredibly beautiful and incredibly remote, it was a landscape filled with unexplored paths and weathered rock formations. The kids thought they were in heaven. They could climb, play, hide and watch the rest of Cape Town scampering about their busy little lives hundreds of meters below them.

 

One more rise up, as you crest the top of the mountain, you find yourself on the southern most Apostle. The most extraordinary view over the Western Cape Peninsula awaits. Songs have been written for views like this. It is nothing short of paradise. Five minutes alone on the nose of this apostle and you can feel the problems of the world draining away. Unfortunately the solitude can’t last long, and when joining the rest of my hiking party, half of which are pint sized people of course, peace and solitude were quickly replaced with giggles and games; the Croods being game of choice for this landscape. On strict orders from the children we were running, jumping and generally behaving like cavemen, until we met our exhaustion and had to rest before our perilous descent.

Although regularly fuelled and watered, after 4 hours on the mountain the children tend to lose concentration. This is a problem as it always occurs on the descent, just when they need their wits the most. They have the reserves physically, but without the mental attentiveness to their foot placements they tend to trip or slip frequently. When one wrong foot placement could mean a long tumble down a steep ravine, we like to resort to backpacking them, reserving our helicopter call-outs for more enjoyable occasions. This path required minimal backpacking, as there is only about ten minutes near the top that is a steep, uneven, rock staircase, hugged closely by rather a lot of nothingness on one side of it. With Lincoln’s natural inclination being to run, acting as sherpa seemed the obvious choice.

With the risky business behind us, we left them to wind their way to the bottom of the mountain as we enjoyed the last of the solitude that the unflustered Llandudno ravine provides. Six hours on the mountain is exhausting, but it puts a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

 

Would I do this again?
Without hesitation! Unlike our last foray up Table Mountain which had us clinging to the rocks on a ‘closed’ path on our descent, this climb was pleasant all the way up and all the way down. It is exquisite, it is peaceful, and it was worth the multiple attempts to get to the top.

What to be aware of?
· This is not simply a hiking route, there are small sections where climbing up the rocks is required. There are rungs drilled into the rock but there is one section which required a bit of careful negotiating, as the rocks are quite wet being mid winter and the rainy season.
· A fair portion of this path can only accommodate one person abreast. This happens to be the case along one particular section of steep drop off to the one side. I mention this as it makes holding your child’s hand and guiding them a little more difficult, but not impossible.
· I wouldn’t suggest this hike for children with little experience, but for everyone else, go for it!

Our Route
· Park outside Ruyteplaats Estate off the top of Suikerbossie road in Hout Bay.
· Walk up the outside of the estate and turn right on the path above the trees, follow the path to the left when it veers off and keep heading up the mountain…

Chapmans Peak Drive with a view to Hout Bay

Kids, Scooters and Mountain Passes

By | Cape Town | No Comments

On our quest to find exciting outdoor activities to do with our kids, we had over looked something as simple as taking them with us when we head out for our average exercise session. Our kids are no longer toddlers. We are no longer stuck in the phase of having to leave them at home when we go out training. But we’ve been doing this, because it just never occurred to us not to. We take them climbing mountains but don’t think them capable of joining us on our weekend runs (obviously not running too – they would need wheels). So we have recently set about rectifying this.

We have an incredible mountain pass on our doorstep, we can’t stake it as our own however, it is world-renowned. Visited by thousands of tourists every year, raced on by cars when shooting advertisements, and serves as the bane for many cyclists as they slog their way up it during the Cape Argus Cycle Tour every March. It is Chapmans Peak, home to some of the most outstanding views along the Cape Peninsula.

Every weekend both runners and cyclists alike take to the roads, many making their way through Hout Bay and over Chapmans Peak, or ‘Chappies’, as the locals lovingly refer to it. Cars travelling that route have learned that things will be a little slower, they’ll have to watch the road a little more carefully, and most sports people out to enjoy the morning respect the fact that cars need to use the road too. Every weekend Shaun and I join in the mix, running or cycling with the other folk set on enjoying the spoils of living in this city. Most recently, we let our children join in our morning fun, we let them breath the fresh sea air and stretch their legs while whizzing along the incredible coastal road.

After a bit of transportation scheduling, Shaun and I set out with the kids, their scooters, helmets, leather biking jackets and gloves in tow. To ease them into the idea (and because they had recently been down with flu), we drove to the top of Chappies so their first experience would be going down hill. All kitted out, we set off down the mountain. Lincoln threw himself into it without a second thought, his smile reaching from ear to ear as he hooked his scooter into the corners at a pace Shaun could barely keep stride with. Lola, in her gentle cautious manner, proceeded down the hill with one foot on the break, gently easing herself into the corners and glancing nervously at me to make sure I was alongside her. It was beautiful and peaceful on our end, exhilarating and fast on Shaun and Lincolns. The boys would wait for us every now and then, stopping to catch their breath until they could see we might go whizzing by, when they quickly leapt back onto the road to keep in Lincoln’s customary first position. He’s not one for sitting idly by while someone goes ahead of him, this is not reserved for scooters, bikes or walking, it applies to all sports, all of the time. He simply has no capacity for second place. Lola on the other hand, has all the capacity in the world. She is far more comfortable coming in second than she is coming in first. She likes to be one of the crowd, and she likes to be comfortable. This is something I am keenly aware of, as I suffered much the same fate for most of my life. Don’t get me wrong, I love to come in first position, but not at the expense of being pushed out of my comfort zone. This is still something I am wrestling with. But my guess is that Lola is going to be skipping along mellow road for a while yet, and I shouldn’t be in any hurry to spur her on as I could only just keep pace with her at the bottom of our 5km scoot-run. She had garnered enough courage to have me running at a pace I generally reserve for 100meter sprints. It was awesome to see her courage building like that! I’m not sure I could go much faster.

Lincoln and Lola were both psyched when they reached the end and expressed an unquestionable desire to do it again. The scooters worked incredibly well but they both complained of 1 tired leg the next day, while in their more dramatic moments walked around dragging it behind them complaining it wouldn’t work. I guess this spells more practice 🙂

 

Would I do this again? 

Absolutely! It wasn’t only the kids who loved it. It was so great to be out as a family on an ordinary morning doing our training. We are crossing into areas we haven’t attempted before and it’s exciting to be able to do it as a family. This obviously wouldn’t work all of the time but for an average training session it was fantastic.

What to be aware of? 

Your kids must have a very good awareness of road safety, and they must listen to you at all times. You have to set the boundaries upfront and be firm. If they don’t listen, game over. Make sure your kids are kitted out in protective gear, without question a helmet, but gloves and a jacket are great too, they will prevent scrapes on minor falls.

Lola nearing the top of a climb.

Encouraging Lizard Tendencies at CityRock

By | Cape Town | No Comments

If you live in Cape Town, as the wind howls outside and the frostbite eats its way into your bones, you will agree without a shadow of a doubt, that winter has arrived. What felt like a very short summer, has now departed, leaving me feeling a bit like a hound in pursuit of an elusive rabbit. As I chase the last remains of summer around the city, I am beginning to realise the importance of finding some awesome indoor activities to do with the kids, with stress on the word active-ities. So with rain on our doorsteps and wind at our backs, we found ourselves brazenly heading into CityRock, Cape Towns indoor climbing gym. I say brazenly not because we are overconfident in our abilities, but simply because we are going there at all. Two very rusty adult climbers and a four and five year old are rather an oddity at a place like that, but we did not let that deter us.

Shaun climbed in his youth, when his arms lacked the strength to get him to the top of a climb, his heart got him there. My heart has never carried the strength to get me up a sheer wall. When my arms failed me I simply hung there like a limp duck. Truth be told, I wasn’t all that interested in getting to the top. Heights scare the hell out of me and the thought of sheer willpower getting me up was simply not an option, I lacked the will. A lot can change in twelve years, the addition of two children not the least of it. So after kitting ourselves out with style deterring, yet robust harnesses, we hit the walls. Lincoln was strung up in a full body harness, his climbing abilities and lack of appropriate fear calling us to place him in the most secure outfit we could find. Lola, along with Shaun and I, stepped gingerly into our crotch harnesses and secured them to the appropriate tightness, where any hint of a bulge is encouraged to take shape into a full flung bakery selection. Truly a style essential.

Feeling right at home with the other trend setters, we scoped out the walls, finding what we thought would be the easier routes. All routes are marked with their level of difficulty, so if you know your level of skill, you are sorted. If you know your level. The children were actually easy, Lincoln took off up the wall with his customary ease, like his father years ago, his heart carried the strength his arms did not. The top did not elude him for long. After squashing Lola’s initial nerves, she took to it like a fish to water. After squashing my initial nerves, I was instructed by Shaun not to be a sissy, and to climb an ‘easy’ route, one he could do easily in his youth. He assured me anything less would be beneath me. I need not explain the lengths to which I couldn’t begin to climb this particular route. About four handholds in and I flaked out, effortlessly sliding back into my limp duck impersonation. This was not starting off well. Whilst desperately trying to stifle his laughter, Shaun told me to stop being so lame. I just needed to watch how he did it.

Without undermining my husbands physical prowess, he didn’t get any higher than I did.  This came as rather a surprise to both of us. Now both feeling a little sheepish, we began searching for routes that looked more to our adjusted skill level. Meanwhile, the children climbed happily up any wall, they obviously weren’t trying to stick to any particular route so the handholds were plenty, although spaced with adequate distance for their little legs and arms that it was still quite challenging for them. They enjoyed the climbing so much that they protested with vigour when Shaun and I wanted a turn to climb instead of just standing sentinel at the bottom.

If you have never climbed before, the basics are; you need to be in pairs (of equal-ish size). One person climbs while tied rather dramatically to a rope, while the other person, called the ‘belayer’, holds the other end of the rope at the bottom. The idea being that if the climber falls, the belayer will catch the tension in the rope (it is threaded through a loop at the top of the climb) so the climber does not fall, simply hangs in mid-air supported by the person at the bottom. This would explain the necessity of size, Lola for example would not be able to support my weight, or have the skill to hold the correct amount of tension in the rope as I climb. Shaun and I could each belay one child, and then take turns with each other while the kids rested and refuelled in the little canteen. It worked quite well, although belaying uses more strength than you would imagine.

 

We arrived mid afternoon and thought we had left ourselves too little time to climb, but at closing time, 3 hours later, we were all exhausted. Shaun and I both had shaky hands from all the rope tying and belaying, not to mention the lizard acrobatics up the walls (much to our relief, and debilitating state of embarrassment, we did improve as the afternoon went on). After a rocky start, we can’t wait to get back there!

Would I do this again?
Yes, yes and yes! Incredibly good strength training for us all, as well as teaching the kids coordination, perseverance and giving them mountains of fun! Incidentally I enjoyed it way more than I did in my youth.

What to be aware of?
The cost. It is not a cheap exercise. For access to the gym,  as well as hiring of shoes and harnesses, it cost in the region of R500 for the family. But to put that into perspective, it’s not much more than a meal out, so don’t gasp too audibly. It is good wholesome family fun, and you can stay and climb for as long as you like.
Children also need to be 5 years old to climb.

For details of CityRock, Cape Towns climbing gym, go to www.cityrock.co.za

Summiting Table Mountain … With Kids

By | Cape Town, Hikes, Parks | One Comment

Ok, so I know there are people who would argue with me when I say there is little better to do on a perfect day in Cape Town, than to head on a hike up Table Mountain, yes, on your feet – leave the cable car for the grannies and grandpa’s. But you can’t knock it until you’ve tried it, and it is beautiful. It is beautiful in a way you almost can’t describe. The way the sun hits the mountain and misty morning air with absolute peace. The sound of tiny creatures scampering through the bush desperately trying to flee the delighted cries of the children. The feeling of your heart pounding in your chest as you work your way higher up the side of the mountain, and the silence that meets you when you crest that final rise. Standing 1000 meters above the sea, looking down over Camps Bay, is nothing short of bliss. The quietness is strange at first, almost like you’re not sure what’s missing. You are completely removed from the constant droning of the cars, the incessant talking and hammering and barking. A bird chirping becomes a crystal clear sound, piercing the quietness, but then evaporating as quickly as it appeared. It’s magic up there.
This enchanted world isn’t lost on the kids either. They hear the quietness, they feel the peace, it’s taking them to a place where they can experience nature and see wonders in this world that can’t be bought in a store. It is such a vital experience for children of this generation to have, and not just once off either. When their everyday lives are constantly bombarded with images and sounds, flashing lights and perpetual adverts, they need to learn what it means to escape, to find their peace. Giving children some ‘quiet time’ is so often associated with veg’ing out in front of the TV or playing games on an iPad, when you compare that to real quiet time you realise how extremely twisted our notions of ‘quiet’ have become.

Lincoln running along the board walks on top of Table Mountain.

Lincoln running along the board walks on top of Table Mountain.

 

Our kids love the climb. We have learned that they prefer to climb rocky paths which require actual climbing, rather than hike a trail that requires only walking. They like to use their whole bodies, and they like the challenge of finding their own way over rocks in their path. It keeps the hike interesting for them, and saves us having to encourage them the whole way to the top.We have also learned they need frequent breaks, lots of little ones. Stopping for half an hour is actually more damaging than good as it lets the body relax and beginning the climb again is harder. Stopping for 1 minute every 10 minutes is great for them. They can have a sip of water and a small snack. It keeps energy levels up and gives them something to work towards. Telling them they have to keep climbing when they are needing a break is both dangerous and demoralising. Your wits have to be sharp but so do theirs, they need to be able to concentrate on their climbing and their balance. Regular breaks are key to that.

 

Watching your children reach the top of a mountain is one of the most rewarding experiences for a parent, especially when they are only 4 and 5 years old. You walked it too, so you know the effort that was involved and I would be lying if I said I wasn’t proud, it is a real achievement for them, and us of course, our inspirational pep talks were invaluable.

In our case, we climbed this particular climb a year ago with them, so we decided to extend a little further and hike across the top to the cable car. The walk along the top is extremely beautiful, you stroll through valleys filled with the largest Proteas I’ve ever seen, and climb rises covered with both ferns and fynbos. The vegetation is outstanding and the silence extends across all of it. We picnicked on a rocky outcrop with views over False Bay and across to Gordons Bay. We could see the entire mountain range that burned in the March 2015 fires, including Muizenberg, Kommetjie, Hout Bay and Camps Bay – our views were extraordinary.

 

Our rocky outcrop, and our views. Something extraordinary.

Our rocky outcrop, and our views. Something extraordinary.

 

Our travels across the top took us to Echo Valley, from where we could both see the cable car and hear the noise of the habitation. In the stillness and the quiet from where we had just come, the sight of the hoards was like crashing back to reality. We made a sharp b-line for the closest path to avoid the masses and began our descent down the mountain. What I neglect to mention is that in our haste to retreat, we chose to descend down a path that was ‘closed due to safety reasons’. If you choose to argue our sanity on this point I would not disagree with you. It was foolish and we were negligent.

What started as a peaceful, happy climb, deteriorated into dogged determination and perseverance based solely on the need to reach the bottom.

We ran out of water on the top, expecting to find a stream where we could fill our bottles, only to realise there is almost no water on the top of the mountain come March, the middle of the dry season. Just when we were turning into crusty semblances of our former selves, we found 2 puddles of water on the rocks that were the bane of our descent. We scooped those water swimmers aside and put our noses to the ground as we drained the fresh mountain water. It was our saving grace. Never have I been so happy to swallow unfiltered water lying dormant on a rock. Never did I think I would encourage my children to do so. After quenching our Sahara dessert thirst, what better way to celebrate than to sit down and have a good cry. As a pressure cooker does to release steam, so did I. My steam came out in big droplets, one at a time, each patiently waiting their turn, until I was once again calm. Nothing like a cry of frustration to ease the weight of knowing you made a bad judgement call, of knowing it when you made it but not listening, or recognising it for what it was. I knew the only way home was down, so we resumed our climb down the rocky ravine, guiding the children as they climbed down one immense boulder after another, passing them down to each other when the rocks where simply too high and too dangerous for them to climb.A 2 hour climb up, a 1.5 hour hike along the top, and a 3.5 hour hike down. What was meant to be a 4 hour hike turned out to be almost twice as long. After some choice language, nearly dehydrating, a good weep and a few discussions on when it would be a good time to call in a helicopter, we finally reached the bottom. We were all deflated, our feet hurt, and we were desperate for an ice cold drink, but we were down safely.The lesson to take from our epic hike, is don’t let the idea that you may have known better in the past, cloud your judgement on what you are currently attempting. When that more-than niggling thought tells you to stop and re-think your plan, don’t disregard it because in the past you have, and it turned out alright.

Shaun and I didn’t need to have the conversation on our errors up the mountain that day, we saw it in each others faces as we cuddled our kids before bed that night. While we tucked them in, congratulating them on their incredible tenacity during our adventure that day, I promised myself I would never take them down a closed route again. This was the last lesson I needed in that regard.

Closed route aside, it was an incredibly awesome hike! What an escapade.

 

Our family-selfie on the top of Table Mountain.

Our family-selfie on the top of Table Mountain.

Would I do this again?  

We will never do an unadvised route again with our children. But we will absolutely, one hundred percent, be taking them on the first part of this hike again! It was challenging, but an ideal hike for our family. We climbed up Kasteelspoort from Camps Bay.

What to be aware of? 

Plan! Plan! Plan! Stick to your plan. Changing your mind about the distance when you are half way through your hike is careless unless you know you have enough supplies on you. Running out of water is no joke. Realising you have no medical supplies on you when you need them is also no joke. Use the tips below!

  1. Have a map of your route and the surrounding area.
  2. Carry more food and water than you think you will need. Our kids eat significantly more than Shaun and I on a hike. This surprised us on our first major hike and Shaun and I had to go without in order to keep their energy up.
  3. Take a first aid kit. Just the basics. You’re packing light remember.
  4. Don’t walk an unadvised or closed route with your children! Putting yourself in danger is one thing, doing it to your children is iniquitous. This doesn’t mean you can’t do challenging routes, just stick to the advised paths.
  5. Tell at least one person where you are going before you leave.
  6. Take a phone with you, but keep in mind there may be no signal on the top of a mountain.
  7. Have the number for the mountain rescue service with you.
  8. Always carry a thermal, even on a hot day. The top of a mountain can have a vastly different temperature from that at the bottom.
  9. Pack a good sense of humour – things don’t always go your way!
  10. Remember you are there to have fun!!

If you have any hiking tips please feel free to share them.

Happy hiking!!

Cape Town Carnival 2015 - Somerset road

Cape Town Carnival 2015

By | Cape Town, Events | No Comments

The 2015 Cape Town Carnival exploded into the packed city streets in a flurry of feathers and swirling, glittering, streamers. Not only were the woman wearing little but crop tops and hoop dresses, but the men kept pace in loin cloths and headdresses too. Even the firemen did their bit by arriving in rather a hurry as they only manage to get half dressed. All this in support of the Elemental theme for this years Carnival, celebrating fire, water, earth and air.

 

We decided to attend this years Carnival as we have run out of excuses not to. We went expecting a half baked show with floats resembling those out of our varsity days, made in a stupor of alcohol and sleep deprivation, but boy were we wrong.

We stood face to face with life size elephants complete with elegantly moving parts, larger than life swimming fish and protea’s with dancing girls inside. Throngs of skateboarders cruised down Summerset road while a bevy of belly-dancers jangled along after them. Beautiful woman adorned with tails of feathers, others with skirts of ivy and choreographed dancers kept rigorously in check by well-camouflaged marshals, entertained us for over 2 hours.

 

Our kids were in heaven. With their disregard for anything regarding safety, we stuck them directly behind the railing in a sort of ‘caved out’ area from which they could not escape, be nabbed, or get into any serious trouble. With our bases covered we were able to stand back and enjoy the show from our tippy-toes as we peered over other onlookers shoulders, while our children sat in comfort, snacking on pre-packed treats and being entertained with hand shakes, high fives and fist pumps from dancers and musicians on their way past. If I was able to squeeze myself into the hollowed out area behind the railing without getting my head squashed between the bars and my rear kicked by countless onlookers, I would have wedged myself in there with them – they really had a prime spot.

 

The show was delightful and the atmosphere filled with all the ‘gees’ we South Africans have come to expect from our local entertainment. It was vibey and bustling and filled with Capetonian tang. There were plenty of food trucks lining the fan-walk providing everything from Columbian cuisine to soft-serve, and the restaurants lining the road were humming with excitement. All in all, this is a real Mardigra in the making, with a large dollop of South African flavour.

 

Would I do this again? Absolutely. Probably not every year as I believe they reused some of the floats from last year. But I think it would be fun to do with just grown ups too so we can join in the street party afterwards instead of racing to get the kids home. It’s a great party vibe.

What to be aware of? A lot of people, especially those with children, made a mad dash for the exit points after the parade. We needed to carry our children to keep their heads above the crowd. Either hang back and wait for the masses to leave, or make sure you can carry your kids if you intend on leaving in a hurry. Although it is possible to take a pram, I wouldn’t recommend it, you will find it difficult to negotiate the crowds and the pram will prove cumbersome. Consider taking a baby pouch or child carrier for young kids.