Rather a drizzly morning but that's no reason not to go for a beach walk (or a dip!). The sand was still pretty firm, rather than the tough slog it can sometimes be at high tide. And hey, now the sun is coming out in earnest so it's bound to turn into another great day at the beach.
Unfortunately, it was a bit of a drizzly, windy day - not the best for enjoying the Parlotones (or their warm-up act, Trevor Rebello) at Fancourt in George (part of the golf club's Festive Season Event calendar). I've played golf in worse weather, but somehow sitting huddled up under a wet blanket just doesn't cut it. Oh, well - they can't all be beautiful days, right? I suggested to my wife that maybe it's fitting for the holiday season. "What do you mean?" she asked naively. Me: "Well, what would Christmas be without some reindeer?" We left shortly after that.
Perhaps it's time to check out what's happening indoors at The Barns in Mossel Bay this season...
If you're interested in some great local art, be sure to check out Martnitz Steyn Art at 93 Long Street (on the left as you enter the village - roughly opposite the driving range). If you're eagle-eyed, you'll may spot a landscape of Great Brak River (the view out the door of the gallery, in fact), as another featuring the river mouth, cave rock and the winding section of the Great Brak River popular with swimmers on the northwest side of The Island. Otherwise, there are scenes from Nature's Valley and various still life and portraits.
The gallery opened just a couple of months ago and is run by the artist's parents who moved to Great Brak River earlier in the year (you can find the artist's website here). It's well worth popping in before you drive, cycle or walk down the road to see the excellent art (paintings, sculptures, a garden and more) which Elaine & Dries van der Walt curate at Art@39Long. You're likely to find Dries offering you a coffee...
For more artists in the Great Brak Village, check out the Art Galleries & Exhibitions category of this blog
If you're looking for a bit of excitement on the beach, Day 1, Stage 1 of the 2014 Trans Agulhas Challenge (billed as "The World's Toughest Inflatable Boat Challenge") is due to hit Glentana at about 10:44 a.m. on Dec 28th, before reaching Great Brak River ariound 10:50 a.m.
You can read more about the event in this Mossel Bay Advertiser article (though it seems they have the dates wrong) - or check out the blog posts from last year's event.
I haven't managed to get my hands on Jan Braai's award-winning "Red Hot" cookbook yet (named one of the top 3 "Barbecue Books in the World" at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards in June this year - and one of the best in South Africa in Dec 2013 - BTW, the term "barbecue" is their's not mine!) - Jan, is of course, the brains behind South Africa's National Braai Day - but I'm a big fan of Durban's Neil Roake and his Life's a Beach Cottage series (these are also former award winners but most are out of print as they go back 7-8 years now) and, of course, Carmen Niehaus of Huisgenoot fame.
This year's Christmas Dinner was a fantastic "Royal leg of lamb" (the butcher in town deboned it), a great couscous salad, a few veggies and a nice Kevin Arnold Shiraz 2010 (from Waterford Wine Estate).
Of course, what's a braai without a few improvisations? Sometimes I wonder how I'd manage without a decent hammer (to mostly whack things besides nails) and then duct tape and vice-grips to hold the things I've whacked with the hammer back together...
And yes, my South African friends, I *do* know a gas Weber is not considered a *real* braai! What can I say, I plead guilty and know I can't offer a suitable excuse.
For those of you who may not be from South Africa, there are pretty firm beliefs/rules here when it comes to what rates as a "real" braai: a wood braai (the only "real" braai), followed by a charcoal braai (which is barely tolerated by most South African braai fundies), and then much, much further down the list is the lowly gas braai, which basically doesn't even count as a braai - I know, I know... But it was still lekker! :)
If you are a fan of oysters, you're in for a treat: on Dec 12th, Hein Eksteen (South Africa's 2007 Spearfishing Champion) opened "Oyster World". It's a cozy little oyster bar with outdoor seating right on the bank of the Great Brak River, near the Hardware Store.
Hein's Wild Jumbo oysters are the largest I've seen in South Africa (the Large were also pretty Jumbo!). Lekker man!
It was another fantastic morning for a low-tide beach walk out to Pienaarstraand and back, and around The Island - the beach was nice and hard-packed, like walking on a highway...
After sitting behind a desk for far too long, it was time to get back on the bike. This time, to AfrikaBike at Le Grand George (then entrance is directly opposite the entry to the estate). As noted in this earlier blogpost, there is free entry to the public today, as well as tomorrow. I had a good chat with Fred Lingenfelder, one of the brains behind the operation. Though there are just 3 trails open at the moment (they have done all of the work in the last 6 weeks - no small feat!), they have big plans for the future, including a clubhouse, restaurant, bike rentals and storage - as well as several serious races scheduled for May 2015.
They have a small kiosk at the moment and will set up a big bonfire and braai this evening (no alcohol, as no licence yet), and if you're looking for some fun, they have an Eliminator Race that from 5 - 7 p.m., with the 60 best times qualifying for the night race that will start around 7 or 7:30 p.m.
Meanwhile, Fred is anxious to get tires on the ground - they need riders, so if you're interested why not drop by and check them out.
Incidentally, Fred tells me they plan to charge R30 for adults and R10 for pensioners and 12-and-unders, but will also be looking at seasons passes, etc. Their website has recently been updated, so you'll find more info at www.afrikabike.com
I tracked each of the 3 trails on Sports-Tracker - click on the image for the workout details (elevation gain, etc.). Both the Pink route and the Blue route are suitable for families/youngsters - the Blue is certainly more fun. The Red Cross-country route has was great for the first bit, dipping into the forest, but then there were some challenging uphill sections, including a few areas that weren't quite clear whether they were open or not. Nothing technical on any of the routes.
In keeping with the tradition of brass bands visiting The Island, the Boys Brigade brass band marched around The Island last night. A bit of googling reveals that Boys Brigade is an interdenominational youth organization first founded in Scotland in 1883. There are chapters throughout the world, including Great Brak River. The name is a bit of a misnomer, as there are both boys and girls in the band these days. They were fundraising for a trip to Durban in 2015. I spoke with a few of the kids who were collecting funds while the others were playing - they were all well-spoken and enthusiastic, telling me they played the trumpet, the saxophone or the drums. I also spoke with one of the adult leaders who told me they had other trips planned, including to Johannesburg. I took some very poor photos in the dark, as you'll see (I have yet to discover my strong suit in this life of mine - clearly photography isn't one of them...). One of the talented youngsters playing the drums was not much more than 3' tall! Anyway ,it was great to see!
It's pretty hard to take things too seriously when you're wearing flip-flops... but sometimes chores do need to be done. So, into the village for a quick haircut, signing up at the gym to hopefully get back in shape for the season and grabbing some grub for lunch at the Pick 'n' Pay. Not too onerous!
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