Adrenaline Much? Bulwer Mountain with Wildsky Paragliding by @Monique_PR_
Let’s face it, jumping off mountains is not everyone’s thing, and I have yet to decide if it’s mine; so I was more than happy to live vicariously through two paragliders-in-training with Wildsky Paragliding.
Less than 2 minutes’ drive from my house, Wildsky Paragliding is a school and lodge at the foot of Bulwer Mountain. Operated by married couple Hans and Ria, Hans established Wildsky in 1996 after giving up corporate engineering for his love of the outdoors and extreme sport. Hans is a South African National Paragliding Instructor, has flown for Team South Africa and has Springbok colours in paragliding.
As Hans drove myself and the two trainees through Bulwer Biosphere to the jump site called the 1000 (1000 ft high), he related interesting facts about the area and paragliding, the different heights the trainees jump from and the impact of the weather and wind. I looked up at a darkening sky and wondered how long we had before the rain let loose over the autumn landscape of the Southern Kwa Zulu Natal Midlands.
As we climbed higher, a solitary silence settled over the 4×4, as if a war between head-fear and heart-desire raged inside the trainees. There was a palpable sense of anticipation, adrenaline, and sheer want for bragging rights.
At a precariously steep part of our ascent, my blood ran cold looking out of the window, we were so close to the edge! But in my morbid curiosity I asked, “Hans, has anybody ever fallen off the mountain here?”
“There have a been a couple.” Hans went on to explain how, out of fear of the edge, drivers had perhaps over-compensated and gone too far right, driving on the unstable ground where mountain becomes road. They correct way is to drive nearer to the edge (shock horror), to get the required traction and angle to ascend this part of Bulwer Mountain.
From the jump site you look directly down on my little Bulwer, and I excitedly ran to the edge and said out loud to no-one in particular “Look, I can see my house from here!” I scampered to each vantage point, taking in the northern & southern Drakensberg and the KZN Midlands. I was in awe of the vast landscape peppered by the colourful Zulu huts that burst with beautiful ethnic character. And then of course I found selfie-perfect high-up spot with Bulwer Village in the background below.
All the while the two-way radio crackled through the pristine silence; down below at the landing site Ria kept in constant contact with Hans on current conditions and other need-to-knows. The aim of the game was to get as many jumps in that day, so the trainees could proceed to the next level.
The first trainee confidently galloped off Bulwer Mountain and was guided down by Ria, while the second and more intrepid of the two, followed and did just as well. It was around this time that Hans dropped the bombshell and asked me “Do you want to *jump?” (*tandem flight with Hans as I have not completed the training to jump solo.)
My heart was in the air and on the floor, but then my practical mind found two worthwhile reasons to procrastinate: 1) I was wearing a strapless bra that had the tendency to become misplaced. 2) Out of excitement I’d forgotten to eat breakfast and it was 1pm. I sheepishly explained the latter of the reasons to Hans, and the wardrobe malfunction to Ria later, both I’m sure recognised how welcome the excuses were (face palm).
The trainees each jumped once more before the weather put a stop to our adrenaline antics. As we descended, the rain and wind swooped upon us and I pondered how fragile we are as humans afore the forces of Creation.
The aroma of fresh rain on untouched foliage washed over me, I closed my eyes and breathed deeply, appreciating this natural experience. And when I opened them, before me was a beautiful sight of two cows lazily watching me from a hill in Bulwer Biosphere; the ultimate ending as I love cows!
I have an open invitation to hurl myself off Bulwer Mountain with Wildsky Paragliding, and one day I shall conquer my fear and do it. Until then, I shall continue to live vicariously through your pictures, parables and posts. So share your adrenaline stories and other travel memories with the #TravelChatSA community, because through sharing we experience South Africa together.
Text and Images Monique
And that is only one special moment in South Africa by @DoroLef
Tears are streaming down my face, and it feels as if my heart is about to break. The sky over the Kalahari has that typical colour of blue over a dry savannah. The clouds are of a bright white. They are sparsely scattered over that wide big blue but hover majestically sized above my head. I drive over soft sand before the track turns into gravel, the Land Rover rattles loudly. The only thought my brain puts on repeat is that I can’t leave this place. I manage to repress a sob as soon as the ranger at the Twee Rivieren exit gate comes in sight.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is 920 kilometres from Johannesburg and 1080 kilometres from Cape Town. True, it is a bit of a drive involved getting there. For most of the day, you won’t see any other humans. It is phenomenal that fast food outlets and any form of entertainment program are unheard-of here.
Days are spend with outings over red sand dunes, through grassland savanna, past camel thorn trees, always searching for wildlife sightings, like for example lions and giraffes, hyenas, and owls. During breaks one sits under a (hopefully) big enough tree, to read and to drink invigorating cups of Rooibos tea. Back in camp, nothing beats baking bread over an open fire. When the bread turns out crusty with a soft centre, and you eat it freshly made, and still warm as an afternoon snack with homemade apricot jam plus more cups of Rooibos tea one starts wondering why you would ever eat anything else.
In the very late afternoon, the sunset is a show you will never forget. Then everything happens rather quickly. The first star pops up in the sky, and more and more stars come out to play. There is no light pollution. Soon there is a vividly sparkling sky. The campfire’s burning; you prepare dinner, sip some red wine and just sit. The stars are almost touching the savannah.
At bedtime it is pitch dark, lights are out throughout the camp. Often one wakes up due to the roar of lions. Imagine the growling sound a cat makes and please multiply that by 100. Lions apparently roar to communicate with their pride. It is an all-embracing sound, a loud and clear one, travelling somewhat solitary, through the sound of the nightly silence.
The enchanting wilderness of this semi-arid region within the Kalahari Desert is captivating. I travel and live with the expectation that the best is yet to come. I had so many countless delicious experiences that I can’t really say what the best was. On top of that, I appreciate the smallest adventures and know how to celebrate them. I just told you about one South African moment that touched me deeply. As I said in the beginning tears were streaming down my face, and it felt as if my heart was about to break, the moment I left the Kgalagadi NP after my first trip up north.
Having travelled across Southern Africa extensively, I can say without a doubt that there is never a dull moment. I hope to stay healthy to see much more in the future.
Text and Images by Dorothée Lefering of The Touristin.
Every day spent in South Africa is an experience that is unique by @traveltonia
It´s simply impossible deciding on one favourite experience in South Africa. Every day spent in South Africa is an experience that is unique. A simple lunch by the beach with amazing views onto Table Mountain is something special as is walking trendy Kloof and Long Streets in Cape Town.
Experiences I have really enjoyed in Cape Town include a sunset cruise departing the V&A Waterfront every evening. Whilst drinking a glass of bubbly you get to enjoy breathtaking views during sunset. To end this romantic experience, many restaurants at the Waterfront offer alfresco dining.
Another great way to experience Cape Town is to make use of the Red Sightseeing Bus. Many new routes have been added lately so one can even take a trip to Cape Point including a visit to the famous pinguins or the Winelands. I always like checking their webpage for updates and specials. Taking the sightseeing bus is a fun activity for young and old as well as for locals. So, take the bus and hop on and off.
South Africa has of course more to offer than just Cape Town. If you take a 2 1/2 hrs drive to the region of Robertson for example you can enjoy warm country hospitality and good wineries. One of my favourite experiences is the so called the “Wine on the River Festival”. This festival usually takes place on a weekend at the end of October and is something really special. All the wineries of the region come together at the banks of the Breede River and one can taste wines as well as local food. A little boat takes you up and down the river whilst you enjoy a glass of wine and snacks you chose from one of the many stalls.
Not far from Robertson you can experience the quaint village of McGregor. Here I enjoy the architecture as well as the galleries and traditional coffee shops. The little village has even got some wine estates and a donkey sanctuary that definitely counts as one of my favourite experiences. Just drop them a little donation and you are welcome to spend some time with the donkeys on their beautiful farm.
Driving further on the R 60, definitely take a drive to the historic town of Swellendam. Since my first visit to Swellendam I´ve fallen in love with this cute little town. The whole of Swellendam is an experience not to be missed. The architecture of the houses, the little shops and restaurants as well as the beautiful landscape surrounding Swellendam and the magical fairy sanctury. Yes, you heard right. Swellendam has its own little fairy sanctuary and this is more of a spiritual experience than a ´children only activity´. Take a good book, find a place in the sanctuary and enjoy the moment. After you´ve said your goodbyes to the fairies and left your wish list with them, have some coffee and cake at the Moonshadow gift shop opposite door. The outside of the shop will remind you of a Tibetan tea house. Well, check it out for yourself and browse the shop afterwards.
South Africa is a huge country, offering a million unique experiences and I´ve got so many more on my bucket list.
What is your favourite experience, or what would you still like to experience in South Africa? I can´t wait to read more stories and get more inspiration for my next trips.
Text and Images by Antonia Krauss of The Vegan Rainbow
Long walk through the Tankwa – A Uniquely South African Hiking Experience by @Winelands
We’re sharing about our favourite travel experiences in South Africa and one that I’ve enjoyed that stands out for me as one of the most memorable and unique was walking the Tankwa Camino from Calvinia to Ceres over 10 days during September 2014. We were a group of about 50 hikers that set out to walk the long gravel road through the Tankwa along the R355. At a distance of 250km, it is the longest uninterrupted stretch of road between two towns in South Africa. The rugged beauty, vast open spaces and intense silence of the Tankwa Karoo really hit the heart. I had one of the most refreshing holidays in terms of detoxing from technology (no cellphone signal for most of the way!) and recharging batteries emotionally and spiritually. Walking for hours every day you have a lot of time to think (or not) and to enjoy nature, but also to connect with your fellow dusty pilgrims. Complete strangers become friends. Deep conversations. Lots of laughs. Nights at camp by the fire, telling stories. Just unforgettable in every possible way. It was a long, tough endurance hike, but worth every dusty step and sore muscle.
It is definitely NOT for beginner hikers though. Apart from being crazy to walk such a long route on a dusty road in the middle of nowhere ( J ) you should be okay with going without some basic comforts. Pitching your own tent every day and getting by with only a 5 litre plastic container of water to wash with every day. You only walk with your day pack with your snacks, lunch and water. Your tent, camping chairs, clothing and other small bits are transported in a couple of trucks to every next stop where camp is set up. Delicious dinners are provided. The daily distance is 25km on average. But oh so worth it! The organisers, Danie & Rhina Pieterse from Calvinia, now take multiple groups during the year. But book well in advance – it has become extremely popular. See www.tankwacamino.com for details.
There are so many breathtakingly beautiful hikes to do in South Africa. So many incredible sites to see. And so much to experience. This country will steal your heart and make you return to it’s captivating gorgeousness for the rest of your life… Prepare to fall in love if you plan on visiting for the first time. If you’re a South African… Celebrate everything that is magnificent about this piece of the planet we are privileged to call our Home!
Text and Images by Marlize Stander
Feature Image by Marlize Stander