Top things To Do in Southern Drakensberg

Ever wondered what there is to do in the Southern Drakensberg? Well, let me point you in the right direction to find your perfect blend of country serenity and outdoor adrenaline.

Written & pictured by Monique van der Walt

The Drakensberg (Dutch – Dragon Mountains) is the largest and highest mountain range in South Africa, described best by her Zulu name “uKhahlamba” which means ‘barrier of spears’. The mountains majestically span…read more 

My Father, Our Father

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“You cannot change the past for, I dare say, you might learn something from it” -Alice Through the Looking Glass

This is a post that is kind of an extension of my What I’m About page. I’m always tweeting about “Never forget your WHY”. Afterall, your Why, in my opinion, is what makes or breaks your brand. This post includes a little of my Why, as well as my a bit of How & Who.

My earthly father is my biggest role model other than Jesus. It is from him I have learnt my ambition and entrepreneurship. Without completing school my dad started his own business, manufacturing and selling safes, strong room doors, gun safes etc.  He set a goal to provide each of his children a fully paid for home upon his death. He drove our beautiful South Africa,  selling door-to-door in the 70’s-80’s. Many a story he tells of travelling long distances through the rural Eastern Cape (then Transkei) and Kwazulu-Natal (Then Natal); I think he passed on his love for roadtrips to me also.

In 1980 he bought a plot on Chapman’s Peak Mountain in Hout Bay, Cape Town for R8000 and built our family home bit-by-bit, selling it near 20 years later, around the same time as his business. Now he “flips properties”, buying, fixing himself, selling; along with everything else, he is an efficient and versatile handyman and  the ever-consistent entrepreneur.

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Perhaps one day I will live this dream too, only the Father knows the plan

Over the years I lived in many places. I have lived on the breadline and in the heart of townships & ganglands. I have earned excellent commission and squandered my riches. I have worked for minimum wage and lived beyond my means. I have studied to earn better and climbed to corporate ladder. I think all these experiences have taught me so much about real people, real culture, real wonderful South Africa.

And so this brings me to my new home, the place I have found freedom and complete peace, in Bulwer, KwazuluNatal. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I have such a love for this province., even as I type this I tear up (odd I know). So yes, my dad paid for this “fixer-upper” home, I am so privileged, blessed, loved.

However, I am not and never have been a spoilt-rich-kid. My dad taught us to work for our pocket money from a very young age. Over the years he offered incentives for jobs at home and his office, which increased with inflation.

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Forgiven so that I can Forgive. Unashamed because of Mercy

Unlocking and opening his work gate 5 times  week while on school holiday earned R5.00. Washing his VW panel van (the commercial kind with only front windows) paid R20 – R40. Adding up his work ledger was sometimes a paying job, other times I did it for fun, I love numbers.

And one on my favourite jobs was eradicating house flies, at R0.50 – R2 a fly. The budding entrepreneur in me defrosted meat on the windowsill or in the microwave to draw every fly in the neighbourhood (I am proud to say that I have retained my skills, swatting: level expert). How many afternoons were a flurry of anticipation at my father’s homecoming. I would wait for him to finish supper before proudly presenting him with haul for payment.

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Focus on the good things

The entrepreneur in me has continued to evolve, studying, working, studying while working. But it has never been about money. I am the kind of person that becomes my brand; I commit wholeheartedly to the care of that brand, hence my progression to corporate Public Relations and subsequent study.

And it is also from that part of my character that this journey began. I realised that I could never maintain giving 100% to someone else’s brand, the personal cost was too great.

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The Father’s Freedom

There are many uncertainties in this journey of faith; limited reserve fund, facing my past, and of course self doubt. But despite all this, I know in my heart I’m on the right track.

I recently learned that my father has told my new Bulwer community that this is my house, and I have made my own money in my life. When I heard this I was in awe of the humility of this man. He has come from nothing and has given everything to provide for his family, achieving and surpassing his initial goal. He is true role model and indeed a precious gift from my Heavenly Father.

The writing my autobiography has shifted slightly out of focus, like what often happens with plans, they evolve. I now find myself exploring yet another talent: photography. So much so that I’ve just made an investment in a Canon 80d camera body plus kit lense 18-135mm, and done a beginners workshop with My Photo School in Durban, KZN.

This ties in perfectly with my love of sharing beautiful our Father’s breath-taking creation and I am learning and loving “photography tourism/journalism”. Add this to my PR and Social Media knowledge and I realise (over and over) that I am I have been given so much.

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Changes a foot

Every single blessing, talent, ability and gift I have received: It has only been given to me to be used.  So use it I shall; for the love of my country, the honour of my earthly father’s dedication, and the fulfillment my Heavenly Father’s plan.

Colmar & Countryside

Today we went to Colmar. The initial plan was to go to the Eco Musee, but unfortunately it was closed. The famous Alsacienne storks were everywhere to be seen on its rooftops.

 

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Eco-Musee Alsace

From there were went to Colmar, mainly to see the statue of liberty replica

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From there, we took a slow drive back through past Masevaux and on to Bourbache-le-Haut

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The baby pine trees

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We stopped at the top of the road down to Bourbach-le-Haut, and took a short walk to view one of the war monuments.

 

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“To Our Dead”


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The view over the valley was breath-taking, even though we only appreciated it for a couple of minutes, due to the icy wind.

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Below us us lies the sleepy Bourbach-le-Haut, a town of some 300 people.

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This is the road we took a good 6 times while staying here. The Tour de France travels along this route.

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Bourbach-le-Haut nestled below

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The Castle & The Christmas Shop

 

The next day of our adventure was to the Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle and the Christmas Shop

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The Haut-Koenigsbourg castle located above the village of Orschwiller

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The town is another tiny village, nestled in-between endless winelands

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We wound our way through the town, up to the Castle

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The Castle was built by Frédéric le Borgne, duke of Souabe and a member of the Hohenstaufens familyview more history

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It is cold and eerie inside the castle, you feel like you are back in the  12th Century, when the Castle was built.

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Throughout, small period windows allow you this astounding, breathtaking glimpse of what the duke saw on a daily basis

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After the Castle, we went down into Orshwiller for lunch, and ended up at The Hupsa Fannala

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It was a quaint place, the food slightly higher priced, but most delicious

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And from there, on to Riquewihr, in search of the Christmas Shop

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This was my favourite town of the trip

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The main street is only pedestrian (and delivery vehicle) access, the cobbled wonderland becomes from the start

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For those who prefer not to walk, the little tourist train will show and tell you around the fairy tale town

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Here, I found something I have never had before (and would not normally eat, should I not have been on holiday)

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Banana Sorbet !

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Made with real bananas, it was absolutely delicious, so much so that I hunted for it in every other place we went to, but did not find it

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We wandered through the village, taking in this surreal, movie-set like village

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The smell of mouth-watering treats, sweet & savoury capture every  sense

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Tourist and locals alike congregate in the the gorgeous winstubs (or wine rooms)

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Just one of of the boulangeries (bread-ery) / patissteries (bakery), its windows lined with multi-coloured macaroons

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Ha, and finally, the famous Christmas Shop

The Feerie de Noel is the main reason why this town holds the best memories for me.

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 The store is set up like many of the stores here, almost like a ride, one way in / out. And, as soon as you enter, it feels like you have climbed aboard the Polar Express

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As you venture further into the wonderland, you feel as if you have just woken up in the  Santa’s Factory, it really gives you that warm-and-fuzzy feeling.

No cameras inside – check it out here.













Pictographic – Masevaux

From Paris we journeyed aboard a train to Mulhouse, and from there hired a car and traveled to our home for 10 days, Bourbach-le-Haut

One of the nearby towns, the perfectly picturesque Masevaux

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The entire town is like a movie set, small quaint houses, shops and cobbled streets

In the town centre, is the Hostellerie Alsacienne.

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Everything about the place is fabulous; from the Star of David chairs, to silver cutlery, and mouth-watering meals; fantastic enough to warrant a second visit before leaving the region

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The above is the Trout Amande

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And the Duo de Poisson

The whole town is like a movie set

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The silence of the midday break shattered by our touristic presence

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The town hosts a variety of  activities, from flower contests and organ festivals,  to The Passion Play

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The flowers are not yet in full bloom, but still breathtaking.

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The midday day break is from 12:00 – 14:00 daily.

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You will find all shops closed, with only restaurants welcoming customers.

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We found this affected particularly the smaller towns.

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The spring flowers creep from behind the wood pile

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Almost everything one sees it photo-worthy

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Citizens are rewarded for beautiful gardens – Concours maisons fleuries

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A couple of weeks later and we would have seen even more glorious colours

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But all in all, Masevaux is easily one of the prettiest towns

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Adding to its appeal, is the surprising small number of tourists about town

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Opulence – The Palace of Versaille

From April 29th to May 12 myself, mother and two sisters traveled to France.

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This is the first of my posts, Opulence, fitting, as on the morning of this day, 3o April 2014, we journeyed to see the (in)famous Chateau de Versaille

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Fortunately, we went with a tour, so we were able to skip the dreaded queues, which were horrendous, even out of season.

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Versaille was home to Louis XIV, also know as the Sun King.

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This is because he was so self centered. He even had all the rooms in the palace built centrally around his own room

The short little beds of the French are most odd. I heard, which I cannot verify, that back in the old days, the French were so fat, that sleeping lying down posed a danger to their health.

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They therefore used to sleep sitting up, or as upright as possible, shortening the beds so they could not be completely horizontal.

Like I said, I cannot substantiate this, nor find another viable explanation

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When the castle was built for Louis, the required fountains were not The Gardens are incredible and by far the most worthwhile of all the viewing.

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The gardens stretched for miles, and I would have walked or ran them all if not for our shuttle back to our Parisienne apartment

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What fascinates me is that men and women, dressed in appropriate 17h century garb, walked the same halls  wherein I moved and breathed

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I found the inside of the palace almost stiflingly opulent.

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Honestly, I could not wait to burst free into the gardens.

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The decadence is shown in magnificent paintings on the ceiling, causing many a tourist collision.

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Once outside, I could breath easy again

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God made beauty, outshines man’s feeble attempt to harness and manipulate it.

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The town of Versaille is one of the more well to do areas of Paris, about 30 minutes (depending on traffic) from the Champs-Elysee 

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When the fountains of Versaille were first built, to run them constantly was impractical due to the sheer volume required, and impossible with the limited engineering knowledge.

So, the estate merely hired enough staff to turn on each fountain as King Louis passed by until they figured out a more viable solution.

**Look Out for the next French Adventure**

*For detailed history of the Palace of Versaille, please visit their homepage

*Unfortunate many of the fountains were under construction at the time. April/May seems to be the time of year for construction in France, as we encountered at least 5 significant places with unsightly scaffolding enshrouding the fabulous architecture.

 

Sunrise over Sea – Another Fantastic Durban Sunrise

 Yes, another fabulous Durban Sunrise session this  yesterday morning.

Let me clarify about the title of my last post Durban Autumn Sunrise. I know it is not yet autumn in the southern hemisphere, but the crisp chill in the mornings  gives the impression of an early autumn.

THIS SUNRISE SESSION:

In the  hazy confusion of the predawn light, my focus falters, my lens afraid of the dark

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All is eerily quiet, the rays seem to be taking an eternity to break the horizon and flood the world with glory.

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Finally, the beginning of the end of the hazy, uncertain pre-dawn

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The break of a new day, all creation in its glory on display

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Silver lining, stalks, its the birth of a new day filled with promise

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The Woolly Neck Stalks and the cat are used are also out and about to watch His majesty grace this earth again, simply for us to enjoy

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No matter what circumstances occur, there will always be a sunrise.

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Something amazing and beautiful always emerges from even the darkest hour

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Something first dark, then serene and beautiful, turns into a powerful force

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The light of that power now touches everything it encounters

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All fear and confusion are conquered, all things working together for good, for beauty and for a new day

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Harding, KZN – Roadside Countryside

On Tuesday 11 February 2014, I was on the road again, the N2, this time Harding, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

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Besides the SA National Roads-works underway on the N2, the drive was most pleasant and beautiful.

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I took a couple minutes here and there to capture on camera the beauty of our Lords creation.

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The drive took about 2.5 hours there and 2.5 hours back to Durban.

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The coastal area here is know as Hibiscus Coast, contrasting sugar cane fields and rolling dark hills

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Mt Moreland KZN – Barn Swallows & Legavaan Sighting

The weekend before my Cape Town Christmas trip, my friend and I went up to Mount Moreland, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa.

Mount Moreland is about 15 kms from Umhlanga, and is best known for its Barn Swallows.

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The public can view this awesome sight of the up to 3 million Barn Swallows descending on their roost.

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This initiative is courtesy of Mount Moreland Conservancy

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Visitors bring their own chairs, food, drinks, binoculars, and mosquito repellent.

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The roosting time is about half an hour before sunset, but we went on the trip for the serenity and quite of the landscape.

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A pathway leads from the top of the view point, down towards the marshlands

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I begin descending, the only sound the wind whistling and rustling through the cane fields

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The path rounds a bend, and a tunnel of foliage leads down to the marsh, igniting the imagination

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The sparse clouds provide little relief from the midday sun, I head back up the path.

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En route out of Mount Moreland, we crossed a bridge

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Stopped to take photos, my friend noticed a Legavaan (or Rock Monitor) in the road behind us in the road

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The Legavaan vanished as quickly as he had appeared, scampering back to the safety of the brush.

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Further along our route back to Umhlanga, we came across the Dust Pit Tavern.

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It is housed in a picturesque building, Cape Dutch style almost.

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The road home

Cape Town – Christmas 2013

As I do every year, I went to my hometown for Christmas.

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These are a few pics of the places my family and I visited.

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En route to Somerset West, on the N2, we passed Cape Town Studios (A rather windy day).

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They are currently doing a 16 week shoot for the series Black Sails.

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Some of their other recent projects include Max Max: Fury Road and Safe House.

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Hospital Bend interchange. Big Lions Head in the distance

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Devil’s Peak

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The back of Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak from Ottery Road

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Kirstenbosch Gardens

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Cycad at Kirstenbosch Gardens

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Beautiful quiet stream

Peaceful shade and cool of the trees.

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A pathway opens the door to all sorts of wonderment as it leads mysteriously through the foliage

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Tadpoles thrive in the merry stream, creating hours of fun for kids and adults alike

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The rocks of the stream is God’s playground, children climbing, building and frolicking about. Families from all over gather on their picnic blankets in pockets of shade, most likely eating Christmas lunch left-overs, as we did.

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That same afternoon, Friday 27 December 2013, the rolling cloud seeped over Table Mountain.

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The temperature dropped with the onslaught of the cloud, a welcome relief.

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I thought o the families at Kirstenbosch, all breathing a sigh of relief in the shade of the cloud.