Awesome local find – Durban’s Haunted House

When visiting a place for the first time, it’s always nice to get some local recommendations. But I have never had a recommendation this awesome before. I was on a trip to Umhlanga when a local lady in the form of Mzansigirl showed me to the haunted house. The nature of this place is so ‘local’, that I can’t find it on Google and I can’t remember how to get there.

This massive house was built on the beach and abandoned decades ago. There’s nothing left but an empty shell of a building with sea sand washed onto the floors. Over the years, teenagers and young people have come here to hang out and gradually, all the walls have become covered in graffiti. There is not an inch of bricks left bare.

I joined in Instawalk to capture this epic site at sunset.

How to get there: If you can find Beach Bums in Durban, then you just have to walk onto the grassy area next to it and you’ll see the haunted house. That’s as far as my directions go.

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This was the best start I could wish for on my first visit to Umhlanga, and for that matter, KwaZulu-Natal’s coast. It’s a great place, especially when Cape Town can’t shake off her wettest winter in a long, long time.

Visit Umhlanga without breaking the bank, easily. Just have a look here: Umhlanga – vibrant and affordable

Tales from Kruger | 04 | always on the road

If you’ve never been to the Kruger National Park – or any game reserve for that matter – then there’s one specific quality that you have to have to be able to enjoy it. you need to be okay with spending hours in the car. The only way to see the animals is to drive to where they are, and the only way to do that is to spend lots of time in the car. The fact that you’re limited to 40km/h most of the time and the fact that you’re generally not allowed to get out of the car makes being content with hours in a car even more important.

Now, being in this amazing place for three weeks on end means quite a lot of hours logged behind the wheel. And I can tell you that the moments where you get to photograph some awesome animals are exactly that, just moments. Moments compared to hours spent in the car. I’m not complaining though. I managed to make the most of the car experience, bonding with the windmills, including the car window in my shots and staring at the deserted road in front of me through my lens every now and then.

Check out these five recommended roads to drive to spot animals in the Kruger

Lonely windmill

Probably the loneliest road I've driven so far.

Hyenas on the H6

Sometimes, just sometimes, the cars are in the way a little. But it’s always nice when the animals decide to some to you rather than you trying to crop that bush out of the shot.

Zebra on S1/Doispane Road

Baboon love

Stomp stomp stomp

At this particular instance, I made the stupid mistake of driving by a herd of elephants that were busy munching just off the side of the road. So just as I drove on, they all decided to cross the road en mass. Pity.

June

How a rental car looks after two weeks in the bush. I dubbed her June.

Impala on the S114

Life from my window

Biyamiti private road/S139

Life through the other window

A Cape Tonian in Umhlanga

Not having been to Durban before is not uncommon in Cape Town. I don’t know whether it’s because we already have a whole heap of beaches or whether we just think that there’s no better seaside city in South Africa and therefore we won’t visit any of the others, but there really are a lot of Cape Tonians who have never been to Durban. Me included.

Until today.

Thanks to work and a press trip to San Lameer I’ll finally be able to see the Sunshine Coast. Although I won’t be spending that much time in Durban itself, I’ll be seeing quite a lot of Umhlanga Rocks. I hear it’s quite the holiday destination and, even if it’s not, it’ll be nice to soak in the sun for a few days.

So what does the Cape Tonian plan to entertain herself with while she’s in Umhlanga? Here are a few of the things I’m looking forward to.

The beach

umhlanga beach

It may look a little crowded here, but I’m hoping that the winter months bring with them fewer crowds. I love the idea that I’ll be able to swim in warm water in the middle of winter while the sun is shining. You don’t get that in Cape Town. 

The curry buffet

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From what I’ve gathered, you can’t visit Umhlanga without burying your face in the smart buffet of curries at The Oyster Box Hotel. This really is one of the things I’m looking forward to the most and I’m thinking it’s definitely going to be worth the R240.

A touch of Argentina

bar ba coa

A strange thing to look forward to in a South African seaside town, but this seems like a warm and friendly place. Also, everyone seems to love Bar Ba Coa‘s steaks, and what better way to balance out a night of curry than with a good steak?

A nature reserve and a forest

umhlanga

So apparently the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve is quite the treat. With pretty walkways and lots of reeds in which to loose yourself. Sounds like a good way to walk off above mentioned steak and curries. There’s also this indigenous forest called Hawaan Forest, sort of next to the nature reserve, that I’m quite amped to explore.

A shark dissection

shark

I’m still deciding if I’m really excited about witnessing this particular experiment, but I hear it’s something the kids enjoy, so I might as well check it out. Right? This is going down at the KwaZulu Natal Sharks Board.

Getting pampered

san lameer

Not that I’m really a pamper-loving sort of girl, and not that San Lameer is anywhere close to Umhlanga, but getting a free massage has never been a bad thing.

Please post comments on the things you think I should do (or whether you think I’m being completely insane and Umhlanga is actually a horrid place where no one should set foot – which I highly doubt). I’m amped to finally see this side of my country though.

How to spend a rainy Thursday afternoon in Cape Town

So it’s been raining the entire day and you were caught in a particularly strong downpour as you walked from the office to your car. Now you’re driving and all you want to be is home.

Don’t go there though. Rainy Thursday afternoons have much more potential.

Drive directly to the Book Lounge in Roeland Street. If it’s after 5pm then you don’t have to pay for parking anymore and, if you’re lucky, the casual car guards haven’t showed up yet. Now you can browse books to your heart’s delight, drink a warm cup of coffee or tea downstairs and settle in one of the deep chairs for a bit of a read. Alternatively, wrap up your day, make your to-do list for tomorrow or (and this usually happens to me) collect arms full of books, spread them out on the table below and take your proper time to decide what you want to buy. In other bookshops I tend to make much more rash decisions because there’s never space to sit.

booklounge market

Now you can go and get some dinner. The Hope Street Market is literally just up the road, but you might want to drive there. It’s a particularly cosy spot, partly because of the warm food and live acoustic music, and partly because the hall is generally packed to the brim with people in scarfs, coats and hoods. The food is hearty, but also readily made. So no cooking, no dishes and no takeaways. Grab a glass of smooth red or a craft beer, try and find a seat (the most challenging part of the evening) and either  meet up with friends or make a run for it and eat your food at home. If you’re planning to sit though, the upstairs area is your best bet.

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Once home, there’s still an entire chunk of the evening left, but unlike the sluggish-series-and-microwave-meal-evening you would’ve had had you gone directly home, you now have proper food and proper books.

So much church, so pretty

Even if you’re not a religious or church-going person, it’s hard to ignore all the intricately detailed and beautiful churches spread out across Cape Town‘s city centre. Like this one, for example. It’s the methodist church on Greenmarket Square and, although it serves as a convenient meeting place on the square, it’s also rather beautiful to look at. It’s a little difficult getting a clear view of the entire church, what with all the stalls, shoppers and coffee-drinkers around, but if you stand right in front of the front doors and you look up, the view is quite something too.

greenmarket square church

Matroosberg – my every-winter place

It’s not often that I return to the same weekend-away spot over and over again. But I just can’t help making a weekend to  Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve an annual event. I’ll even go as far as to say that this is my favourite place to go away to during winter.

The obvious reason for my return is because this is the one place in the Western Cape where you’re most likely to experience actual snowfall and white mountains. I haven’t been lucky enough to make snow angels in my home province just yet, but I will keep on going back until I do. Still, although the chance of snow is a very strong drawcard, Matroosberg is about much more than just seeing snow. It’s simply an inspiring place to be.

As mentioned previously, this is a winter destination. I don’t think that it will be horrible here in summer, but I do think that if you can find a place that can make Cape Tonians enjoy winter then you’re on the winning end. Plus, it’s only 2 hours’ drive from Cape Town.

It’s one of the few places where we are happy that it’s below zero degrees and we wrap ourselves up without complaints to go out and find frosted grass and frozen puddles in the early hours of the morning. It’s our excuse to mass produce smoors and binge on red wine in front of the fireplace. It’s about finding yourself surrounded by the province’s highest mountains, in a hut crammed with mattresses for 20 people, where there’s no electricity but where none is needed and where you wake up to the most magnificently crisp and vibrant sunrises imaginable. It will make everyone love winter.

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Sunrise from the Metrorail

With petrol prices absolutely sky-rocketing (and rocketing higher still into the universe) I have decided to start taking the train to work. And it’s been great so far, considering that today is day two of this new mission. Riding in cars also get on my nerves and walking from the station to work allows for a bit of excercise. All in all a few not-so-bad reasons to explore our country’s very old (and sometimes frowned upon) public transport system.

Now it may not be the safest of options for a girl travelling alone, but I’m hoping that constant vigilance will protect me. Phones and ipods shouldn’t be flaunted either.

So on my second day of Metrorail travels, I captured the sunrise through the window. Beaut.

train sunrise

HQ – for the love of steak

Disclaimer: you don’t have to eat meat to indulge in the brilliance that is HQ. Keep reading, you’ll see.

There’s a lot of beauty found in simple things. I’m talking uncluttered, but masterful. Simple, yet brilliant. And that’s exactly what you’ll encounter when you spend an evening at HQ. Loosely based on a French dining concept, Headquarters specialises in one thing and one thing alone.

Steak.

Which means that they’re good at it. I would much rather eat at a place that knows a lot about one thing than a little about a lot of things. So here’s how it works:

First, you get a warm welcome at the door and you’re shown to the lounge and bar area where you can have a quick drink while you wait for you friends. It was a Monday night when we went and Mondays mean live music from a Bob Marley cover band. They were busy setting up, the fire was blazing and we were soon nice and toasty.

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Now you go to your table. These are stacked quite close together, but it’s not bothersome at all. In fact, it created quite a cosy, friendly feel.

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You look down at your menu.

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Yup, that’s it. There’s a separate drinks menu, but this is stamp is only thing resembles a food menu in here. Makes for much less clutter on the table.

Now you can spot the other tidbit of information on the table – two-for-one Mondays. Score.

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Next up, the drinks come and you’re asked only one food-related question: How would you like your steak? That gets written down on your table. Like this.

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Now there’s a bit of time to drink, chat and enjoy the music which is just loud enough so that you can groove along to the songs, but soft enough so that you don’t need to strain to chat to the other people. It’s all very well balanced.

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The food starts coming. First up is you starter. All of these are the same and they’re just perfect to get the taste buds ready.

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And now, for the main treat – a quality slice of steak, with butter and herb sauce and perfectly crispy French fries. These are what I would imagine gourmet McDonalds fries would taste like – extremely delicious. And the steak? Well, I’d say it’s close to perfection.

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Now vegetarians, don’t fret. Except if you can’t stand being surrounded by so much meat, you can enjoy a delicious mushroom substitute with the same fries and the same yummy sauce.

Just as you get about halfway with this impressive plate of food, the waiter comes by with a large dish and offers you more sauce and more fries. Yes! That just happened! So a good idea would be to get going on your fries before they come around so that there’s space on your plate for another proper helping.

Now you can order a spot of dessert if you feel that you can handle it. I couldn’t, but the creme brule on the table next door did look rather delicious.

And that’s it! Two hours later and my tummy couldn’t be happier.

HQ Cape Town

HQ

100 Shortmarket Street,
Heritage Square
021 424 6373
www.hqrestaurant.co.za
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Opening times:

Monday – Saturday
Kitchen serving 11h30 – 22h30
Bar open till late