A Glamping Experience!

Is anyone else feeling like this year must just end now? I am so ready for 2018. Although 2018 has been great (baby news, renovations and other lovely things) it has also been a year of difficulties. My pregnant body is tired of 7-day-work weeks and although that wont change come 1 January, at least it will feel like somewhat of a fresh start.

I’ve been revelling in my rare ‘off’ days lately, and so it was such a treat to be invited by Tented Adventures to come sty at one of their camps for a weekend a month or so back. Barry and I were all too eager to ditch the dry heat of Jozi and head to the Pilansberg Nature Reserve for 2 nights of bush bliss.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect – the website for Tented Adventures promised ‘an authentic African safari experience‘, but it also mentions ‘tent’, and to me anything in a tent is camping. So, it was with excitement and a little trepidation that we headed off early Saturday morning.

Upon arriving at the camp we were greeted by the friendly camp manager, Bennie, who showed us to our ‘room’ and told us to relax for a few hours until our 5 pm game drive. The tent was actually perfect – on a raised platform with plug points, a fan, hotel quality duvets and a sturdy bed, I could have quite comfortably stayed there for a week or more. The private area, to the side of the main camping site, had several tents and then the main tent – where guests would eat dinner together or grab a hot coffee and rusk before the 4 am game drive.

The heat was ferocious as we arrived, and unfortunately Barry had to leave to head back to town as we arrived to find a battery for his car. I took advantage of the alone time and static heat and stillness and dozed on the bed. Something I did the very next day as well. There really is something about the bush that just makes you so relaxed.

There aren’t ablutions on the site so guests do have to walk several hundred metres to the main campsite and ablution facility. I am no princess, but shared ablutions have never been my thing, ever, so I must admit it was the least favourite aspect of my trip. I can also blame my pregnancy, but having to wee all the time meant frequent dusty walks to and from the tent to the loos. I mastered the ‘roughing it’ look and managed to avoid washing my hair the entire duration of our trip.

Dinner was served after the game drives in the main tent. The food was simple but tasty, and we were so exhausted after 4 hours of game spotting that we downed our food and headed straight to bed. The website did mention that drinks were included, but they weren’t. Next time I would be better prepared and bring along snacks, such and booze for us to enjoy at mealtimes and on the drives. Luckily theres a campsite shop so Barry could buy some beer. No-fun knocked up over here nursed her water and Sprite. On the second night there was a power failure so we all headed to the main lodge restaurant for supper.  Not at all associated with Tented Adventures, this was one of the worst culinary experiences of my life – but made hilarious and fun due to the crowd we were with and the absolute comedy of the evening. The Manyane camp in Pilansberg really is stuck in the 1970s and the overall place could do with a huge revamp (and some waitron training!). Again, our camp manager Bennie really made a huge effort to make sure we were all fed and looked after and did his best at helping us in a situation he had zero control over.

Breakfasts were also served at the main restaurant and if you are a foodie, I wouldn’t suggest touching Pilansberg with a 10 foot barge pole. However, if like me, you are an animal and wildlife lover, then you can overlook the catering and come just for the game drives. An absolute highlight of our trip, we were fortunate enough to see of of the Big 5. Our rangers were enthusiastic and super knowledgable and I would go back and back and back just to relive the sightings and animals we saw. Game drives take place twice a day and after every drive you are met by the staff who make sure you are escorted to your tent or off the vehicle safely.

Tented Adventures is really reasonably priced and perfect for the bush lover who isn’t quite ready to take the camping plunge just yet, but is keen to dip their toe into some tented water. No kids allowed, which means apart from game drives there really is nothing to do except relax, read and refresh.

For more info, head on over to their website to find out more.

Thank you Tented Adventures – you prepped me so well that I actually went proper camping 2 weeks later!

 

 

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A Walk On The Wild Side

I’m back at work. Which means I’m desperately trying to find my new normal, whilst nonchalantly dressing up my fat jeans and re-learning how to wear a bra that doesn’t have boob flaps in them. To celebrate my last weekend of dedicated motherhood, I did a very un-motherhood thing and went away. This then meant that Carter had his first sleepover, and of course it also meant that my little treasure slept a solid 13 hours. Typical.

Before you start judging and throwing hypothetical rotten tomatoes in my face, please understand that I needed to get away. Because what’s a grief stricken almost-back-to-work mom to do? Drive three hours out of Joburg and drink her body weight in wine, that’s what.

The fabulous folk at the Protea Hotel ‘Ranch’ in Polokwane kindly hosted us for one of their ‘Chefs Tables’. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect (I mean, Polokwane??) but reality far exceeded my expectations. The Ranch Hotel is situated on a private game reserve just 25kms south of the Limpopo’s capital city, and from the second you drive in through the gates you feel relaxed. It’s very seldom that the drive up to a hotel reception includes roaming Blesbok instead of bellboys. I already knew that this place was going to be special.

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We arrived, unpacked, jumped on the beds (kidding. KIDDING) drank a sherry and made our way to the bar for a pre-dinner drink. I told you, we were wine serious that night. The resort is magical, and I’ve already book-marked it for my next annual girls holiday.

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The dinner, and the main reason for our trip, blew my mind. Hosted and created by ‘Chef Dan’ the food, ambiance and company was superb from start to finish. I loved how we were an intimate table of 10; we were joined by local media, tourism members and a few journalists from Joburg as well as the owner and marketing manager of The Ranch.

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I judge a good meal on the creativity of the vegetarian option (Lord, let me never see another carrot in phyllo pastry again) and Chef Dan and his team quelled my fears with each course.

Our food ranged from Salmon Tartar Blinis, to Gorgonzola Gnocchi, Beef Fillet Bordelaise and mouth-watering king prawns. Dessert was a South African take on a British tea – Rooibos pannecotta and honey gel cubes. Each course was served with a wine, and we drank everything from Champagne to Merlot to Petit Rouge. Not kak.

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Full and happy we stumbled back to the bar for a nightcap (I really cannot emphasise the seriousness of my task here friends). There we sat and chatted about the resorts history and got to know our fellow diners a little bit more.

The next morning we were up at sparrows poep to go and walk with the lions (No, not the rugby team, although some might argue that’s the fastest they’ll ever get. Yes, that’s a thing you can actually do there – and no, apparently sleeping in even when childless is not an option). Sadly, the rain was bucketing down so we we had to ‘paws’ (weak, I know, but this mum dumb brain is lingering) the lion walk. I’m seriously hoping to crack another nod to go back and experience the walk another time.

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All round a fantastic way to wrap up the last 4 months of maternity leave. Although, at the rate I’m going, these work fat pants may be here to stay.

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#GLAadventure Weekend

When Mercedes Benz South Africa invites you to be a part of an adventure weekend featuring the new GLA, the bush and some mountain biking, it’s impossible to say no. In-fact, it’s impossible to not jump up and down and squeal like a stuffed warthog (at least not in front of grownups), which I totally didn’t do, of course.

The weekend was part of a series of adventures throughout South Africa to showcase the new GLA and to put this (my new favourite) car through a series of challenges. I was invited to attend the inaugural adventure as blogger and social media person (do we have a word for us? if so, share please). I also happen to know how to ride a mountain bike** which must have helped with their selection criteria somewhat.

The first #GLAadventure took place last weekend in The Pilansberg and I (In very bad wifely form) left my husband at home to unpack and move into the house we had moved in to THE DAY BEFORE to join an amazing crew in the bush for a weekend which promised to be spectacular.

I got to hang out with the Captain of the Mountain Biking SA team, Justice Makhale (possibly the nicest guy in the world. I may just have a bit of a sporting hero crush now). Mzingisi “Ziggy” Ranaka, the winner of the adventure weekend (Ziggy is awesome friends, this man could bottle his energy and sell it), Khaya Dlanga – social media influencer of note. If awards were given for selfies, Khaya would be on the receiving end of many of them. Look!

I call this one ‘The Sunflower”

 

 

The Sunflower

The rest of the team, headed up by Director and Producer Peter Heaney (The man has pet chickens people!) ensured we got to hang with a ridiculously great bunch of people for 2 days.

I arrived at Pilansberg National Park on Saturday, just in time for lunch and a glimpse of the yet-to-be-seen Mercedes GLA. It’s one hot little vehicle that packs a serious punch. I particularly loved the way the seat-belt squeezes you just a little bit tighter – which apparently is the norm for most Mercs – but I’ll take it where I can I suppose.

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The Saturday festivities had started with a sparrows poep hot air balloon ride, so after lunch we were given a few hours to relax in our tents. Sorry, yes, I said tents. This was my style of ‘glamping’ though as the tent had a bed, a fridge and a plug point so my needs were pretty much sorted. I even got to game drive from the comfort of my duvet – as the animals came to us. I spotted these rather cute pyjama donkeys from my door and a sweet little dung beetle on the road.

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Dinner that night was held in the lodges restaurant which was lovely and chilled…and an early night as we knew there was a cracker of a start on Sunday at 5 am.

Sunday morning started off early and misty – and only the GLA looked good in the cruel early hours of the morning. Showoff.

#NoMakeupSelfie
#NoMakeupSelfie
Just chilling with Justice Makhale in the boot of a GLA. As you do.
Just chilling with Justice Makhale in the boot of a GLA. As you do.

I don’t mean to brag or anything but I Got To Drive My The GLA All The Way To Sun City and it is glorious!

We arrived at the Sun City Adventure centre and after a short briefing session “If you see a rhino you must just ride faster, OK?” we set off on our bikes while the rest of the crew jumped on 4-wheelers and disappeared for hours. I suspect up to no good, but who can say.

Riding with Justice is bucket list kinda stuff and he could not have been nicer about it. he even hid his laughs when I fell off (3 times… mud, OK!) and helped me climb on my bike and clip in when my cleats were too full of mud to do so myself. Yes, he literally held my bike in place while I got on, and pushed me off. No, he didn’t make me feel like the loser I was. Yes, I am a little bit in love.

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The 3 of us rode around the most gorgeous bushveld for a few hours and were more than happy to oblige when Peter requested we cycle at deathly speeds through huge muddy puddles and rivers. Anything for a good shot you know, and also, Justice was far too clean and I needed to get him to match my hot look. Look:

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At the end of the ride we were shattered, and filthy and happy and I could not stop smiling. I still can’t believe that I had the opportunity to ride with Justice Makhale. Best weekend ever right?

Unfortunately, being in the middle of the bush, there was no place to clean – so after a brief hosepipe shower (Kearney, keeping it classy) we set off on the final adventure of the weekend, and undoubtedly the most important; Lunch.

Lunch, however, was to take place on the top of a mountain which meant conquering my ridiculous fear of heights and climbing in to a cable car. Cameras were rolling the whole time so I tried to hide the vomiting and screams as much as possible. Thank goodness for my sweet cable-mates who held my still muddy hand and promised me a pizza if I was a good girl. I was. I got delicious pizza.

Oh, we're going in that thing? Aw-sum.
Oh, we’re going in that thing? Aw-sum.
Ziggy. Laughs  in the face of danger.
Ziggy. Laughs in the face of danger.

That whole thing about “conquering your fear”? – totally true. The view from the top of the Harties cable way was worth every anxious sweat drop. It was incredible and not even the photos do it justice. But I’ll try:

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I even made a funny and pretended to jump over the ledge. Because I’m such a nerd I cropped out the deck below. I’m pretend hardcore like that.

Look ma, no hands!
Look ma, no hands!

Lunch on top with this view was an incredible way to end a very special weekend. A huge thanks to the team at Mercedes Benz South Africa for inviting me to join in on this epic adventure, and to the entire cast and crew who made it all happen.

You can follow Mercedes Benz South Africa on Twitter @MercedesBenz_SA, Facebook and Instagram 

The end result? A wicked cool YouTube video!

** Although apparently you forget how to when riding with a professional and fall of and cant get back on and in general just look and act like a complete noob. 

That's A Wrap!
That’s A Wrap!
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It’s like riding a bike…

…Except it’s not.

My first ‘Do Something Different’ post starts with me mounting my very abandoned mountain bike and riding the Lion Man Mountain Bike race in Bela Bela. For those sticklers for technicality out there, yes, this is not my first A) Bike ride or B) Lion Man, but the fact that I haven’t nor been on my bike in over a year makes it a relatively new experience for me. (Sies, cheating and this is only blog one!)

The Lion Man mountain bike challenge is a yearly event held at Mabalingwe Nature Reserve in Bela Bela (Formerly Warmbaths). The race consists of a 35 or 80 km ride through the bushveld, and the chance to encounter one of the Big 4 en-route. This year the race format changed slightly with Nissan coming on as title sponsor, and the route lengths changed to 20km, 40 km, 75km and 115km. Knowing my bum could not tolerate more than 2 hours in the saddle, and also realising I had probably forgotten how to ride my bike I opted for the fairly ‘safe’ 20km instead of the 35 km which I did every year before this. For those who have never sat on a mountain bike, and ridden (over rocks,craters, abandoned water bottles and limbs – kidding) at speeds of over 35 kmph, do not judge until you have done so. It’s bloody sore, and your bum needs at least two days to recover afterwards.

The race was great, apart from the ninja 4km hill climb at the beginning. After stopping several times to fix my bike and a help a few teary weary guys around me, I finished in 1;29. Not too bad for reborn biking virgin.

The boyfriend braved the 40km and finished (after stopping for 2 beers at a pub in the middle of the route) in 2:30 and our friends Kris and Chett came in from the (very long) 80km ride at just under 6 hours.

It was a very long day in the sun, and kudos to my bestie Amy (read her blog here, yussie she’s one talented chicka) who sat through it all day, patiently playing puzzles on her iPad, and snapping a few pics.

Let me tell you, the beer and mini donuts went down a treat afterwards!

 

This is me, finishing. All smiles

 

Post race recovery fuel

Hold up! I have just remembered there was in-fact a ‘first’ for me this weekend. My car’s battery died as we were trying to leave the reserve, so the boyfriend and I managed to push it from its parking bay and jumpstart it using the very old and temperamental land Rover. Shew, not such a first-post cheat after all 😉

Honda. I am your Father.
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