Gordon and Heather McConnell

Newtownards, Northern Ireland

25 and 27 March 2006

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25 March 2006

Gordon, Heather and myself started our journey in Cape Town by joining Elizabeth Bowen and Molly Stejskal (two sisters who had been travelling with me the day before) as well my wife Bette at a Freshlyground concert held at Spier near to Stellenbosch. Freshlyground are an up and coming new South African music group.  We had a wonderful evening together at a concert which truly was wonderful.  

 

Heather enjoying the concert

 

Its shoes of an lets enjoy time for Gordon at the concert  JJ

 

Gordon, Heather, Elizabeth, Molly and Bette at the concert

 

Gordon stands up to show all where we were sitting J  during the interval period at the concert which, as can be seen, was after sunset.

 

Please click here to watch a video of everybody enjoying themeselves at the Freshlyground concert
Please do not download this file unless you have a broad band connection


 

27 March 2006

We started out our cultural tour/township visit day at 09h00 when I collected Gordon and Heather from the Table Mountain Lodge.

 

Gordon and Heather admiring a king protea in a private garden just outside the Afrikaans Language monument near Paarl

 

We spent some time going through the history of South Africa before visiting the Afrikaans language monument

After our expereince at the Afrikans language monument we moved on to the township of Kayamandi.

 

Heather having fun with the kids in the Isibane Sempumulelo crech

 

Gordon finds a young friend at the creche

 

5 little kids in a row1 JJ

 

Enjoying a wonderful lunch at Lily's home

 

Gordon and Heather listen attentively to Lily telling them her life story

 

Meeting Lily's one month old granddaughter

 

Taking a walk through Lily's home

 

Meeting all of Lily's family

 

Gordon, Lily and Heather in Kayamandi outside Lily's home with its magnificent view.

 

We visited Shumi Ndlebe at her home where she and her son Charles posed for the above picture.

 

We moved on to the Ikamva Lethu Center where we enjoyed a dance show by Masakhane and Loyando took Heather and Gordon thorugh his African dance steps.

 

Please click here to watch a video of the McConnell's dancing with Luyando of Masakhane
Please do not download this file unless you have a broad band connection

 

We stopped in at Nosandile and Johannes's shack home and met the children from the neighbourhood who joined us for some fun

 

 

With Nosandile, Johannes and all their neighbours childern

 

We moved on to Zone J and visited the St.Pauls church where we joined the evening service

 

Please click here to watch a video of the McConnells in the St.Pauls Church
Please do not download this file unless you have a broad band connection

 

After our visit to the St.Pauls church we handed out pears to the childern of Zone J in exchange for trash bags and thereafter once again moved on to the Ikamva Lethu Centre so as to enjoy the music and song of Bana Bagotso.

 

 

Please click here to watch a video of the McConnell's having fun with Bani Bagotso
Please do not download this file unless you have a broad band connection

 

We ended our journey with a light supper at De Zoete Inval in Stellenbosch.


Spending a day in the township of Kayamandi with Heather and Gordon was quite an experience for me as they were such easy, outgoing, friendly people to be with. They both had an ability to be able to make friends with all around them so easily and in the process they made many new friends in the township. Kayamandians simply took to the McConnells with ease and this resulted in us having a fantastic time together. The above pictures certainly are testimony to this fact. This was a wonderful tour and a great day for all.

THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH
GORDON AND HEATHER.


Amazing letter received on 14 April 2006

Dear Selwyn

We have been home now for 6 days and are slowly recovering from one of the most memorable holidays we have had - and we've been fortunate to have had many! We first of all we wish to thank you once again for the amazing 13 hours we spent with you on the 27th March, not forgetting the fantastic Freshly Ground concert on Saturday evening. We were really touched by the lovely comments you made in your email to us. We felt incredibly privileged to have you giving us such wonderful insights to your country and introducing us to Kayamandi. We too felt you were not a tour guide, but a close friend taking us on a journey of discovery. We are on a mission to tell everyone here about Kayamandi and its people, and encourage them to visit. 

Let us tell you some of the great experiences we had in South Africa since we left Cape Town. On Tuesday we stopped briefly in Franschoek, where I (Gordon) got my glasses repaired! We didn't linger too long as we had a lots of miles to cover. We paused briefly in sleepy Montague for a picnic lunch then motored on to Oudtshoorn. We were bowled over by the magnificent, dramatic and ever changing scenery along R62, no one, even the guide books had prepared us for its beauty!. 

De Opstal was a good choice of accommodation. Our room was spacious and strewn with lavender & petals. The hotel was quite quiet (the week before the Karoo festival) but our hosts could not have been friendlier or more generous - a free packed lunch and free laundry! We certainly discovered that wonderful Afrikaans hospitality and directness you told us about! . The next day we did the Swartberg Pass - incredible - a real must for tourists. Not a journey we'd like to do every day! We loved Prince Albert where everyone was so friendly and laid back. The drive back by Meiringspoort with the rock formations was stunning. We even had the company of a mongoose for our picnic. We dined that night at Jemima's, one of the best of the many good meals we had, almost as good as Lily's!!

The next two nights were spent at Knysna. Azure house was lovely and had fantastic views overlooking the town and the lagoon. It also had the advantage of being self-catering so we had a chance to reduce our calorie intake. In Knysna we visited a internet cafe to check up on our daughter's e-mails and came across your e-mail to us and our photos on your web-site - we burst out laughing in the cafe at our antics in Kyamandi! We took an evening cruise on a catamaran past the heads & out into the ocean. We both sat up front and got thoroughly and enjoyably wet; it was a wonderful experience and definitely recommended. The next day was spent at Plett, with a visit to MonkeyLand with a very informative guide, and a walk along part of the Robberg peninsula, and again we were so impressed by the beautiful scenery.

Before arriving at Tsitsikamma Village Inn the next day we saw bungie jumping off the Bloukrans Bridge and also called down at Storms River Mouth. It was a bit overcast and the suspension bridge was closed for repair to the path. However that did not stop us from having a lovely walk, seeing our first dassie and most importantly some amazing sightings of dolphins. The Village Inn was excellent. 

Sunday had us driving to P.E. for our flight to Durban. We arrived at The Chase in Eshowe to find that the mother of our host, Jane Chennell, was critically ill, and in fact died that night. Jane showed amazing strength and courage. She and her husband were perfect hosts and we soon became good friends. It was they who had arranged our tour around the Zulu villages with our guide Henry Bird for the next day. Henry is so like you, Selwyn, in so many ways. His knowledge, enthusiasm and love of his work and country was so obvious. After collecting us, Henry picked up our Zulu interpreter, Victor, a twenty-something Zulu lad who is studying cultural tourism and is an author. Among other things, we visited a Sangoma, a lady in her eighties who has spent the last 60 years weaving mats, had a Zulu lunch at Victor's house, and I tried some of the local home-made beer! After an excellent day we were recommended to dine at Shakaland. This surprised us as we thought it to be too touristy!. It is certainly geared for the tourists but they put on an exception meal and very enthusiastic dance show of 50 - 60 performers for a very low price. A great time was had! Also it was at Eshowe that we heard of our daughter's engagement.

Our next stop was Thula-Thula reserve. As no-one had said much about Thula-Thula to us we weren't too sure what to expect. We arrived before 10.00, just in time for a two hour safari walk followed by a delicious lunch then a rest before a three hour drive around the reserve. After that we were treated to a gourmet dinner served around a bon-fire. We then got up early the next morning for a two and three-quarter hour drive before breakfast and our departure at 10.00. We had fantastic weather, which lasted to the end of the holiday. Although the reserve may not have the Big Five it certainly makes up for it in its genuine friendliness and intimacy. From the moment of arrival to departure we couldn't have been better looked after. It has only 7 lodges, but is soon to expand with a big increase in land and animals, and introducing lions. Definitely to be recommended. We just hope it doesn't lose that special something when the expansion is completed. 

From Thula we had a long drive to Cathedral Peak Hotel. Being tired, our first impression was that it was too big and perhaps not our style. However once we unpacked, got refreshed and had a look around we could not fail but be impressed. The hotel had everything but was well spaced out so it didn't feel like a holiday camp village. The setting definitely had the 'wow factor'. I saw most of it through the lens of my camera! We spent our time relaxing, taking shortish walks and over-indulging on the plentiful and sumptuous food. 

We were sorry to leave on the Friday for our 21.25 flight from J'burg. We left the hotel at 14.00 giving us plenty of time - so we thought. We approached J'burg as it was getting dark and expected to follow the signs to the airport, except that there were no signs on the N3 coming from the south. We followed a sign to the city and picked up the airport sign to discover that we had arrived at Rand airport! We were becoming anxious as we didn't know how to get to the international airport, it was dark, we were lost, it was getting near departure time and we were in J'burg !! Eventually we got there just in time. When we were at check-in I discovered I'd left my camera bag in the car. After a mad dash back to the rental office we rushed through the airport and boarded our plane and relaxed.

What was our impression of our first visit to South Africa? We are full of so many great and lasting memories it's still taking time to sink in. Our visit to Kayamandi was a highlight. The warmth, the genuine friendliness and most of all the great strength of spirit of everyone was so inspiring. Thank you for showing us that important part of South African life. We'll never forget it. The travel brochures and guide books cannot show the true beauty, grandeur and vastness of your country. But scenery is nothing without the people, and we not only found everyone so warm and welcoming, but also felt that in the short time we had, we started friendships we wish to renew. We know that we have only seen a small part of it, but certainly plan to return. Next time we would like to visit in spring (perhaps Oct 2007) who knows? There is still a lot more of Cape Town to explore and we would certainly use Table Mountain Lodge again and we would like to meet up with you, visit Kayamandi again and make use of your local knowledge once more. On route we bought the excellent book 'Seven days in Cape Town'. The Winelands, Route 62, the Drakensberge and Thula-Thula would also be high on the list of places to revisit. 

We cannot stop talking to family and friends about our trip, and we have plenty of photos and lots of stories. It is for us to say a huge thank you to you, Selwyn, and to promise you'll be the first to hear when we manage to set up a return visit. In the meantime we will keep an eye on your website, and hope you'll let us know of any news or developments. Our very best wishes to Bette, and to all we met in Kayamandi.

With our love

Gordon and Heather

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