36ONE MTB Challenge

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If you have followed my earlier posts, you would know by now that my husband has become a fan of the mountain bike and I really enjoy the trail runs. There are a few races which stand out from the so-called “normal race” and one of them is the 36ONE MTB challenge which took place a couple of weeks’ ago.

1000 riders, yes you read it correctly, 1000 riders completed the course of 360 km in a maximum of 36 hours. You could sign up as a team to do a relay, or enter solo which my husband did. The start was at 18H00 so they only had a maximum of 60 minutes riding time before it got dark. Then they rode the whole night….and in the Karoo area the temperature drops from a lovely 32 degrees during the day to a freezing 2 degrees during the night at this time of year….The supporting vehicle, consisting of our kids and me, arrived at checkpoint 3 around 6 am and only 7 riders had passed through by that time. The checkpoint was lovely. A fire was going, the volunteers were making hot coffee and pancakes for the supporters and the music was playing. When the sun started to rise every rider who came in was greeted with great applause from the supporters.

At about 07h30, Martin arrived, cold as hell and I’ve never seen him in such bad shape. I was, of course, worried, but pushed him to carry on. He was cold, freezing cold…but after about 30 minutes (according to him afterwards, too long) he climbed back onto his bike and the kids and I drove the car on to the finish line. There we waited and waited and waited…

At 11.40, only 17 hours and 40 minutes after the start, my husband arrived, with a smile on his face! He finished 25th in the solo riders category. I’ve never been so proud of him as I was to see him cross the finish line that day. I don’t ride a bike but I do run and I do know what goes on in one’s mind when you are out there. When I think back, two years ago Martin had never competed in a MTB race before and to be able to achieve this solo, is absolutely amazing.

Safari with Head over Hills Travels

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Head over Hills Travels, what do we do?

If you want to come and experience South Africa, we offer personal friendly ways of making your dream come true. We have been living in and exploring South Africa during the past 15 years and we genuinely believe that we have found both excellent and reliable partners to work with in order to give you a memorable holiday. My husband and I are originally from Sweden so we have some insight into what it feels like for first timers to visit South Africa (or any international country), as well as what to look for to make unique memories for returning guests. So some of the questions we ask all our clients first up is pretty simple: what do you want to do? How many days/weeks can you be away and what is your budget? If you can let us know that, we take care of the rest. Simple huh? If you send us an email to info@headoverhillstravels.co.za, you have already started your journey with us to South Africa!

From our experience, one of the most asked question from our guests when travelling to South Arica is for a really good safari experience. Where else can you experience wildlife as nature intended? There are several great game reserves to choose from that offer different experiences. We’ll go through some of our most used and favourites.

Kruger National Park is the most well-known park in South Africa and trust us it is a huge park. With over 2 million hectares, one can see large herds of elephants, prides of lions, cheetahs, wild dogs and rhinos over and over again. But you can also wander around for hours without seeing so much as an impala. You need to traverse great distances and we recommend a good healthy dose of patience. One of the features of the Kruger is It is an easy self-drive reserve. There is also a wide variety of accommodation, everything from simple self-catering bungalows to luxurious all-inclusive resorts with organized game drives. Kruger National Park is located in northern South Africa and you need to put the 3-5 days of your travel time. The area is unfortunately not malaria-free, however that shouldn’t stop you from going there as it really is an unforgettable experience.

Pilanesberg National Park is the second largest reserve in South Africa of about 50,000 hectares. This reserve is famous for its rhinos and it is rare to leave here without having seen them. There are also large herds of elephants and lions but not to the same extent as in the Kruger Park. Pilanesberg is also made for self drives. One can choose to stay on safari resorts adjacent to the park or combine with Sun City, a luxury resort that has everything you could wish for and a little bit to it. Pilanesberg is in a malaria-free area.

 

Besides the bigger more commercial parks as mentioned above, there are a number of smaller reserves in the country. Many along the Garden Route, all the way from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. They are all between 2000-12000 hectares and you usually stay in bungalows or bush villas inside the Reserve. Here you will go on guided game drives with one of the parks game rangers in one of their safari vehicles (bonus this leaves your hands free to take pictures and the guides are all trained to provide the most interesting facts about their reserve and the animals within them). The game drives usually occur early morning and early afternoon, which is the best time to spot animals because they tend to hide in the hotter time of the day. Other times of the day you can spend relaxing at the pool or taking advantage of some of the other activities available like bush walks or lounging on the terrace. Animals often come very close to the lodge so you have to always be on guard. We usually make use of Gondwana Game Reserve and Kariega Game Reserve. Here we have satisfied guests and we have a good relationship with the owners so can assure that your stay will always  be up to our standard, we do however love exploring and are open to any options you might have in mind. All reserves in these areas are malaria-free.

Looking for the most amazing African experience visit our website www.headoverhillstravels.co.za for more information about us and our tours.

 

 

Golf in South Africa

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We have so many requests from guests who want to play golf when they visit South Africa. Some guests only want to come over to play golf so I thought it would be great to provide some interesting insights about a few of our favorite golf courses in this country.

Sun City (which is two hours’ drive north of Johannesburg) has two golf courses; Gary Player Golf Course and Lost City Golf Course. Gary Player is a walking only course, you are not allowed a golf cart.  You can request a  caddy, we recommend this option due to Sun Citys location, it can occasionally get very hot.  Gary Player is best known for hosting some of the world’s greatest golfers for the annual Nedbank Golf Challenge (formerly the Million Dollar Challenge). Gary Player has regularly been named one of the leading golf courses in South Africa.

When you play the Lost City it’s mandatory to have a golf cart. It’s s a pretty long course so trust me it is not a disadvantage. From the golf course, you have the opportunity to view the wildlife as the golf course boarders to the Pilanesberg National Park, which is South Africa’s second largest Game Reserve. A funny little bit of info is that one of the holes has real crocodiles in the water hazard … and no, you do not try to get your ball back if you hit the hazard….The green fee is currently R750/person on both courses.

In our home town Knysna you will find Pezula Championship Golf Course. Here you can choose to walk or make use of a golf cart, most people prefer however a cart, because of both the long uphills and steep downhills. The course is challenging and sometimes a little difficult for beginners. Holes 1-9 are more forgiving than holes 10-18, but the last ones are also the most spectacular with views of the Indian Ocean. It is not inconceivable that you get to see wild baboons on the golf course but they are pretty harmless and actually pretty cute (word fo warning-don’t get too close or feed them). Head over Hills is a corporate sponsor at Pezula, which means that our clients can play at a preferential rate of, currently R800/person.

A little way down the road in Mossel Bay, there is a golf course that is incredibly spectacular and unique- Pinnacle Point. This golf course is designed by renowned golf course architect Peter Matkovich and straight from the start the golf course was voted among the top 10 new courses in the world. The awards keep coming and Pinnacle Point is currently rated among the top 20 courses in South Africa. Golf carts are mandatory, which you will understand when you get there. Spectacular views of the Indian Ocean await you on this course, there are no less than seven of the holes that line the Indian Ocean rock cliffs. Yes, the golf course can be challenging for beginners but is well worth a visit. Current a green fee of R1075/person.

Also nearby is Fancourt, here you will find three golf courses; Montagu, Outeniqua and The Links. All courses are rated among Golf Digest’s top 20 courses in the country and The Links has been named No. 1 several times. Both Montagu and Outeniqua have an incredibly beautiful parkland layout and you can easily walk the courses but golf carts are available. Green fees are currently R950/person. A beautiful warm-up area is available to golfers before and after play. The Links is a private club which means that the course is not open to the public, however limited tee times can be arranged. Green fee R2100/person.

Arabella Golf Club is another personal favourite, which is located just outside the town of Hermanus, about 1.5 hours drive from Cape Town. The golf course suits both beginners as well as pros. Golf carts are available but I actually prefer to walk this course. The golf course is nestled between the mountains and the lagoon and nature is stunning beautiful. Green fee R1260/person.

We offer spectacular tours that are geared towards any level of golfer and can incorporate any of these awesome courses into a package for you! Read more about our awesome tours on our website www.headoverhillstravels.co.za

The Oyster Festival

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The annual Oyster Festival in Knysna, is one of South Africa’s most popular festivals. Athletes, sport lovers and family fun come together during the days and wine tastings, oysters and champagne at nights. It takes places during the first week of July (7-16 July 2017) and time has now come to secure your entry for the different races and accommodation. If you don’t feel like participating in any of the sports event, there are so may other things that you can do.

  • The BIG5 sport challenge. This prestigious multisport event includes a MTB Race, the Knysna Forest Half Marathon, The Featherbed Trail Run, Knysna Dragoon’s Lagoon Mile Swim and the Momentum Health OatWell DualX, powered by PeptoPro. The BIG5 Sport Challenge has become a bucket list item on the local and international endurance and adventure race calendar. In this multisport stage-race event, athletes compete all five pre-determined events (above) and a point system is used to determine the winners. Entries are limited to only 125 each year.
  • The BIG5 Lite offers athletes a reduced distance challenge and the option of choosing one event from a number of disciplines including mountain biking, road cycling, open water swimming, paddling, trail and road running to make up their five events.
  • You can also enter all the races individual and there are a lot for the rest of the family to experience, like a family hike in Hakerville or a children cycling tour and an adventure race.

 

 

A family getaway in Wilderness

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A family getaway

Last weekend we decided to leave Knysna and go away somewhere with the family. We did not want to travel too far so we went to Wilderness, which is located half an hour’s drive towards George. We found a cozy little cottage in an area called Hoekwill. The cottage had everything we wanted for the weekend; a porch, a braai area, fantastic views over the Outeniqua Mountains and best of all- no cellphone coverage.

Hoekwill located just five minutes from Wilderness, where there are plenty of restaurants. Pomodoro is a personal favorite with really good pizzas and although we took with us to make the food in the cottage, we started the weekend with a yummy stone baked pizza there.

The rest of the evening was spent with board games, snacks and a fantastic sunset. Obviously, it was also a good glass of wine to this.

On Saturday morning, Martin took the opportunity to explore the cycling routes and went early before the rest of the family was up. We then took us to George and the Outeniqua Farmers Market. There are several good markets along the Garden Route and we usually go to the popular Wild Oats Market in Sedgefield so it was fun to see something new. This is also mainly focused on food, both to eat and take home but there are also local craft and flowers stalls. They had a good playground for children and live entertainment for all ages.

We have heard a lot about the Giant Kingfisher Trail and the Half collared Kingfisher Trail in Wilderness and it was now our time to venture out into the forest. There is no need hiking boots, but a good shoe is recommended. It is well prepared hiking trails, a little too well done for our taste but it makes it easily accessible to a large audience of people. Our children had a lot of fun, jumping over the roots and climbing the steps without complaining in the slightest. You can choose to take a bit more tricky road by wading across the river, or you can take the Ponton Crossing which we did on the way home. Once at the end of the trail, there is a small waterfall, absolutely beautiful but not as big as we expected it to be. You can swim but you have to watch out for slippery rocks when it has rained. Can heartily recommend this trial for just a rainy day though, because you walk in the forrest so you get no huge amounts of water on you. The forest is magical and if you look around and trying not to make as much noise, there are plenty of beautiful birds and animals on display. We got to see both the Knysna Loerie and the Blue Duiker on our little excursion. It takes about 3 hours return so bring plenty of water and perhaps a snack. As on all SAN parks pay a small entrance fee before you start your hike.

 

Cape Town

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Cape Town is one of the world’s most beautiful cities. It has been said by many, and it is according to me very true. When I go to Cape Town, I am always excited and there is infinitely more to do in Cape Town and maybe that’s why so many return again and again. Whether you want to be active, to be cultural, lounging, swimming, eating good food or drinking good wine, there is something there for you. The views are divine and the friendly people help the city to become so popular. There are many millions of tourist in Cape Town every year and the most popular tourist attractions are still Cape Point, V & A Waterfront, Robben Island, Table Mountain and Kirstenbosch National Gardens.

Cape Point is located in the southwestern corner of the Cape Peninsula. Many people are confused between Cape Point, which is the most southwest tip of Africa and Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. You can go on guided tours but it’s also very easy to drive yourself. We usually recommend starting from Camps Bay and drive along the west side through Hout Bay and along the incredibly beautiful coastline Chapmans Peak. Here you can stop along the way on the signposted parking spaces and take endless beautiful pictures of the view. Once at Cape Point, which is actually a nature reserve, you walk up to the top of the mountain and you’ll have a magical view both towards Muizenberg and out towards the Cape of Good Hope. You can also take the cable car up to the top if you do not want or can walk it. Cape of Good Hope is of course a bit of a bucket list when you are here, but it is a quick stop at the coordinates and not much more to see. The way back is on the east side through Simons Town and Boulders Beach penguins, which have accumulated over the years and now reside. One can see the penguins in the area, but if you want a really good close-up you can go into the National Park and follow the designated route to the beach. The last leg home goes through Muizenberg and back to the hotel. An excursion that can be up to a full day depending on how much time you spend on the different sites. Lunch can advantageously be eaten at Cape Point or in Simon’s Town.

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, or as popularly called the V & A Waterfront is one of South Africa’s biggest tourist attraction and has been exploited to having numerous restaurants, hotels and shopping centers. Just along is Cape Town’s harbor and Table Mountain provides a majestic impression over the harbor. You can discover live music and festivals, shopping, local home and decor, and some of the best restaurants in Cape Town are presented here. If you would like to take the ferry to Robben Island or another excursion to the sea, this is where you’ll find it. The Waterfront is a delightful variety of local as well as tourists.

Robben Island is probably best known for where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his total of 27 years. But who knew that the island was also used as a leper colony and Animal Quarantine Station or that during The Second World War, the island was fortified as part of the defenses of Cape Town? It is a fascinating historical insight into how life on Robben Island has changed the people, both prisoners and guards. Well worth a visit according to me.

Table Mountain, this majestic mountain that stretches about 1085 meters above sea level and overall has had over 24 million visitors, is a must when visiting Cape Town. The views are magnificent and on a really clear day, you can see  all the way to Cape Point. You can get to the top of the mountain in two ways. Either you take the most popular one, the Cable Car. Or, you can take one of the three hiking trails that is starting at the Upper Cable Station and explore the summit further. By Table Mountain is part of a World Heritage Site, the vegetation is phenomenal. With over 1450 different species of plants you can see the different varieties of fynbos and even the local animals dassies running around on your way up.

Kirstenbosch National Gardens is a botanical garden at the eastern foot of Table Mountain. There are a wide variety of local flowers, shrubs and trees, and whatever time of the year you decide to visit Kirstenbosch, there is always something blooming. However, if you want to see the fynbos at its best is the end of winter, spring or early summer in force (August-November). If you visit Cape Town on a Sunday during the summer months November-April, I highly recommend visiting Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts. You pack along your picnic basket and a blanket and enjoy the atmosphere and the music and you have a different summer memory to take home with you.

 

Nature’s Valley

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Nature’s Valley is a small holiday resort located between Plettenberg Bay and Tsitsikamma. The beaches are miles long, so there is always plenty of space.

Indian Ocean waves hitting pretty far out, which means that it is more easily swum here than in many other places. However, one should be aware that there are no lifeguards and there may be harsh underwater currents.

If you do not want to swim in the sea, you can go to the rock pools. There are several of them in different sizes. There are beautiful fish, starfish and we even got up to see an octopus in one of them. I have never seen my son getting out of the water so quick.

There is a small shop where you park your car, but it’s best to pack their own picnic and then just relax and spend the day at this beautiful beach. Don’t forget to bring your umbrella with because the sun is getting very hot during the day.

Oudtshoorn and hot springs in Calitzdorp

By | Klein Karoo, knysna activity | No Comments

A perfect outing for the day is to leave Knysna after breakfast and then drive via George to Oudtshoorn. It is two hours drive and the scenery changes drastically after you have passed George. There will be a more open and barren landscape with the majestic mountains in the background get all closer. It is noticeable that more and more farmers are doing agriculture and ostriches are plentiful. You also pass vineyards and orchards on your drive.

We went first to the Cango Caves where a spectacular underground wonder can be viewed. The myth says that the Cango Caves was first explored by a local farmer around 1770, but most likely has caves existed there for millions of years. You will find fantastic formations of stalagmites and stalactites and the lighting is magical. During a period of time, the caves were used for concerts but unfortunately due to vandalism, it stopped  and today the caves can only be viewed by guided tours.

After the visit to the Cango Caves, we stopped for lunch at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge. At Buffelsdrift Game Lodge you can stay over and get a unique bushveld experience in the heart of the Klein Karoo. You can go on an open vehicle game drive and view elephants, rhinos, buffaloes, giraffes and kudus, or as we did, had lunch and were fortune enough to see the hippos playing in the dam next to us.

We continued our journey to the Calitzdorp Spa and the hot springs. The pools are known for their natural healing waters with rejuvenating mineral water. The hot springs are not visually inviting, but once you’re in, it’s wonderful. You can really feel the minerals and the water is very smooth. There are several pools with different temperatures and the warmest gets up to 50 degrees Celsius.

 

Head over Hills Luxury Retreat

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At Head over Hills Luxury Retreat is where I spend most of my days. It’s a luxury guest house with eight rooms or suites. They all have their private balcony from where you can soak in the beautiful views. We often have dolphins playing in the crashing waves and now and then a whale will show off its greatness of being the master of the sea.

Our guests always ask me which room I like the most, and there is no doubt that our main suite, the Elephant Honeymoon Suite, is the one. The suite is very spacious and you will have a huge private balcony and your own access to the pool. We have a ’Hästens’ bed in the room which make us the first establishment in South Africa that is using their luxury beds in three of our suites. In colder days, the sauna and the fireplace will heat up the room nicely.

Our fairly new walk-in wine cellar, is my husbands latest project. As a former golf professional, Martin knows that what ever you do, you have to practice and train to develop your skills. So not just any wine is going to be listed at Head over Hills. Only the wines that have a story and mean something to us are going to be part of our journey. To browse through the wine list should be an experience, like the rest of your stay at Head over Hills Luxury Retreat. All the wines have been hand picked by us and I can honestly say that Martin has tried each and every one (not year) that we store in the cellar.

Our kitchen is offering, except for breakfast, daily lunches and dinners. We are using local produced food as much as we can and sometimes it is hard to get hold of eco-friendly products, but we are trying our best.

Picture this: You have selected a glass of wine from our wine cellar and you are sitting at the table and waiting for the dinner to be served. The sun is about to set in the ocean and the sky are changing colors from clear blue to pink, then purple, then red…This is how we enjoy our summer evenings with our guests at Head over Hills Luxury Retreat

 

Hills Sports & Golf Club

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One of our golf groups for last year was Hills Golf & Sports Club from Sweden. They had booked the entire villa at Head over Hills Luxury Retreat, which they used as their base for the five nights they stayed in Knysna. Head over Hills Luxury Tours had booked them to play Goose Valley Golf Club, Pezula Championship Golf Course and Simola Golf & Country Estate during their first three days. Then a full day of adventure to Mossel Bay and challenging Pinnacle Point Championship Golf Course. The group were spoiled by our in houses chef and the last day they had a traditional South African Braai. The wine cellar was a popular place to visit and the hand picked wines were enjoyed by each and everyone. They also tried out our local restaurants JJ’s and Freshline Fisheries. The group also had time to enjoy a relaxing sport massage by Annett and Geraldine from Oxi Health and even if the weather wasn’t on top during their stay, they all contributed to happy faces and positive energy.

After five nights the group travelled to Fancourt and spend the last three rounds playing golf at Outeniqua, Montagu and The Links at Fancourt. We asked if they could choose only one golf course to play which one would it be? The Links was the number one golf course amongst most of them.

When a holiday is finished and you are back home, it is time to go through all the photos that were taken during their stay. That is how your memories stays with you a long time ahead.