So a few weeks ago (time flies!) I visited Rosendal, a tiny little village in the Free State, for the first time. It sits on the edge of the Witteberge, which forms part of the foothills of the Maluti mountains, and is home to many artists and writers.
The Free State has a bleak beauty to it, especially in the freezing winter when it is every shade of dusty brown. The scenery around Rosendal is stunning, and ‘golden hour’ in the Free State is really something else!
We stayed on a farm about 5km from the village, and although it was lovely, I think next time I’d prefer to stay in Rosendal itself. The village lends itself to wandering its wide, dusty streets, having long lunches at its one and only restaurant, and sitting lazily on a patio watching the village’s pack of friendly dogs go past.
As I’ve discussed in many posts over the years, my skin has not always been the easiest. Hormones and sensitive skin have led to many years of breakouts and discomfort, ranging from small bumps to full blown adult acne.
Happily my skin has been pretty clear for about the last year, and I think monthly peels at Laserderm, and perhaps a simmering down of my hormones, have a lot to do with it. I’m still super wary of using new products, but also want to use products that are ‘high-tech’ in terms of handling the onset of wrinkles and ageing, that are full of natural ingredients, and aren’t tested on animals.
Although I would like to buy local, I have been using Paula’s Choice for the last six months, and I love the liquid exfoliant. I also use Lulu & Marula’s purifying treatment oil, which smells glorious and really seems to calm down breakouts.
I’ve also recently come across Skoon, a South African bespoke, natural skincare range (with a beautiful website and lovely, minimalist packaging). I’m thinking White Cloud Manuka and the Purifying Clay Cleanser to start. Their Instagram account is pretty glorious too.
It’s been years since I last went to a KwaZulu-Natal game reserve, but the three days I spent in Mkuze (part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park) were bliss.
The most unexpected part of the trip was the lack of fences around the camp (bearing in mind that the park has all of the Big Five). This meant that on two out of the three nights we were there, we had enormous bull elephants munching leaves right next to our tents. So close in fact I could hear their teeth grinding and their bellies rumbling. It was quite wonderful!
The park teems with delicate nyala and impala, and you’ll be visited at night by delightful bushy tailed bush babies. Another highlight was a teeny weeny rhino, still wobbly on its short, fat legs, and glued to the side of a very wide, very protective mum.
The KwaZulu-Natal parks seem pretty under-resourced and are, like all of SA’s parks, under attack by poachers. Two rhinos were killed the week that we were there, and a large male lion was caught in a bush meat snare (and thankfully rescued and repaired). That little rhino was such a lovely sight, but so bitter-sweet. It’s hard not to feel a little hopeless when you look at the stats, not just of poached rhinos, but elephants, lions, and just about every walking, climbing, swimming creature.
Fever trees everywhere
Hello little one!
Fancy hairdos from the resident crested guineafowl
Spot the kudu!
Bloody Marys in the bush
Is there anything better than time spent in the bush? I love big cities and I love travelling to foreign destinations, but the quiet serenity, expansive space and clear ebb and flow of life found in a reserve like the Kruger is impossible to beat. I love the excitement of driving around the park, never knowing what you might come across around the next bend (spindly legged impala? lumbering rhino? clucking franklin?). I feel like an utterly privileged guest in a place teeming with life.
I’m a sucker for the SAN Parks camps inside the park. The smell of the thatch bungalows, the green tiled bathrooms and the SAN Parks emblem on the sheets and tiny teacups all invoke such strong memories from my childhood, and I still prefer to stay in camps like Letaba, Shingwedzi and Shimuwini than in the camps on the edges of the park. This time though I stayed at Ngwenya Lodge, which looks out over the Kruger (and the Crocodile River, which attracts a huge amount of game), and is a 10 minute drive to the Crocodile Bridge gate.
My goal for this trip was to take as many photographs as possible. I have a bit of a thing for elephants – the more time I spend with them and observe them, the more I want to integrate and interact with them – and this trip was all about elephants! I saw more ellies than I think I’ve ever seen in my life! Over the course of the four days we must’ve seen about 300 elephant in total, and some really huge herds with lots of babies (you’ll notice plenty of different sized ellie bums in my pictures!). It was quite amazing, and has further entrenched my wish to visit the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust in Kenya … as soon as possible!
Amongst all the large eared and liquid eyed antelope, some highlights were seeing rhino – less than normal though, which makes me so incredibly sad and indicates the extent of the rhino poaching crisis in the park – and three lionesses with very distended bellies on a wildebeest kill. The Kruger remains one of my favourite, and one of the most soul soothing, places on earth and certainly one of the best wildlife destinations in Southern Africa.
I haven’t blogged in ages, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing some fun things (in amongst the grit of working for myself, hunting down new clients, and teaching heaps of yoga). Sometimes the fear of the blank document is just too much for me. I can’t bring myself to write, even though I know that the more I write, the easier it is. Admittedly by the end of 2014 I was totally overwhelmed with the on-all-sides assault of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and email. Brain = mush.
Anyway, enough about that! It’s a lovely, sparkly new year, and we were lucky enough to head off to Dullstroom for a weekend of deep breaths, rotund friendly ducks and delightful horses. Basically heaven.
My goal for the year is to release myself from Joburg more often – at least twice a month – even if it’s just on a day trip out of the city. We’re lucky to be close to an enormous array of beautiful landscapes and wide open spaces (some without cellphone reception!), so there’s really no excuse, except idleness, to stay city-bound.
In my experience Dullstroom is usually cold and misty, so I was intrigued to see the landscape in warm sunshine. Below are some pics I snapped in the lovely light (all from my Instagram).