The nature reserve is situated on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Yes, an actual nature reserve in the middle of a concrete jungle and the beautiful suburb of Lonehill makes for the perfect settings. The entrance to the Reserve can be found at the dead-end on Calderwood Road.
A few years ago we decided that we were going to swap birthday parties for new experiences and adventuring. It was definitely the best decision we have ever made. Seeing as my eldest son was celebrating his birthday we decided to go on a hike and do some fishing at the Lonehill Nature Reserve. After some research we were convinced that taking the “Granny path” was the right decision to make considering we had kids on the hike starting from the age of 7. So we entered the reserve and made our way to an isolated picnic bench at the foot of Lonehill Koppie. Signage in the reserve is seriously lacking and all we could find were white arrows on the rocks. We however couldn’t figure out which was the Granny path and decided to just wing it. The kids, filled with excitement and enthusiasm raced up ahead. I what I would do to have that kind of energy and zest for life.
The steep, jagged rocks made this hike up, rather challenging. Within a few minutes we simultaneously asked each other if anyone knew a granny fit enough to make her way up this “far from even path”, then decided we would be bringing my hubby back to do this hike when he turns 55 (he was the event coordinator on this occasion which is normally my job). This hike is definitely not meant for inflexible people with short legs (referring to myself), because I honestly found myself crawling more than climbing. All the reading I had done prior to our visit, mentioned and some even warned about the local dassies, but all we came across was dassie poop and lots of it. It was rather extra and had the kids screaming that the place smelt like a pig farm. I must admit it got them to the top much quicker than expected.
We made our way through a collection of boulders, and had to use ladders to get to the very top. The first ladder was missing a rung which saw my hubby drag us ladies onto the top of the boulder. See what I meant earlier when I spoke about short legs ?!?! Ascending another ladder saw us reach the very top. As the slight breeze washed over our faces we sat there taking in the beautiful views of Johannesburg. The kids were super excited because they could see Monte Casino and the Mall of Africa from up there Now what makes you think these are city kids? We also saw many beautiful birds and several lizards, but no dassies. The kids loved the nooks and crannies of the found at the boulders.
We made our way down but holy hell …. it was steep and I definitely felt it on my knees the day after. The perks of having a big bum is that it was easy and safer sliding down those boulders. Our way down was much easier than the way up that’s for sure. Within a few short minutes we were done with the hike. I have to admit that we were left feeling rather disappointed. We were in the swing of things and our sense of adventure was crying out for more.
All in all it was a fun hike especially perfect for little kids as it isn’t too long. I love that the Nature Reserve is directly next to the park, which is where we ending up spending the rest of the day. The adults chilled under the trees while the kids fished at the little lake and played. A fun family outing that I would highly recommend especially for families with kids.
Always on the hunt for a new adventure, this time we found ourselves in the quaint little town of Parys on a white river rafting expedition. Just an hour and a half’s drive from Johannesburg, Parys in the Free State makes for the perfect day trip.
I’m a firm believer that exercise can be fun and there are so many ways to be active and keep fit while enjoying the great outdoors. This type of approach allows for the perfect opportunity to change things up so you never really get bored. In addition to that, keeping active with my kids is vitally important to me. I refuse to raise couch-potatoes so adventuring provides the perfect solution without them even realising it.
I have been white river rafting before, but this was a first for the kids. We arrived at Real Adventures and did the necessary paperwork. Then headed down to a hangar where we suited up with a life-jacket and helmet. We eagerly hopped onto the bus and were transported to the pitching point. The bumpy ride on the bus, with the driver constantly attempting to avoid potholes, felt like an adventure on it owns.
An extremely important, detailed and absolutely hilarious safety briefing (which had us in stitches) was conducted. After that briefing I was convinced that the OS Lines (Oh Shit Lines) were going to become my new best friend. Oh and let me just mention that carrying those rafts down to the water’s edge was no mean feat, especially for the little ones. As a result, the complaining started well before we hit the water.
It was an absolute scorcher of a day so one final time of packing on the sunblock and we were on our way. Looking back, I think the use of a peak cap under that helmet would have been a great idea. We hit the water and looked rather professional heading out that morning, but only a minute into the rafting did the real fun begin. Everyone basically just paddled in circles lacking serious coordination and direction. We however quickly learnt that communication was the key. My hubby was clever and left me with my little one, while my teen went along with him. My 9-year-old who’s like my siamese twin, who just wants to sit next to me and hug me all the time, wasn’t very keen to sit up front. On a good day he has verbal diarrhoea and I honestly think he said “MOM” at least 50 times in the first 30 minutes. At this point I already needed a glass or two of wine to take the edge of. Lemme keep it real and say that I was very tempted to chuck him overboard. I mean he did have a lifejacket on, so he would have been okay.
Due to the shortage of rain currently being experienced in South Africa, the water level was rather low which meant that the rocks were going to be challenging. Our guides warned us about this on numerous occasions. Did we heed their warning? No not really! This resulted in us spending a lot of time stuck on top of huge rocks and we were expected to do the “Vaal River Cha-Cha” (rocking back and forth). It also meant changing our position rapidly by moving to the front or back of the raft to get back into the water. So I was basically tossing my little one around to get things done. I gotta admit, it was a great workout for both my arms and my hips. Woooohooo for mom’s guns I tell you.
Rafting in Parys is a grade 3 and the rapids were rather intense, so much so that one of my friends was flipped out of her raft and into the Vaal River. Aside from a bruised knee, she was okay and everything turned out well. That somersault was so impressive that it was later named the Lenise Vaal River upside-down. Yes the risk factor is there, but that applies to anything in life really. I refuse to let the fear of what might happen, hold me back from living my best life. Most importantly, I want to impart with my kids, a sense of adventure and a passion for life. I want them to be fearless and ever ready to explore the beauty that the world has to offer.
One last thing, if you want to test a relationship then I strongly suggest you go river rafting together. River rafting is all about communication and compromise, and a whole lot of upper body strength. We had an amazing 3.5 hours on the Vaal River even with the sun baking down on us. I still have the sock tans as a remembrance. This was absolute fun for the whole family, especially my little one who basically gave up paddling to lay back and enjoy the view, while we did all the work. River rafting is an excellent form of exercise and a great upper body workout. It was in fact so much fun that we have already booked our tickets to head back for round two in a few months.
Maboneng Precinct found in downtown Johannesburg, South Africa is a place that truly sets my heart on fire and makes my soul sing. It is a happy place for any creative out there.
“There are far, far better things ahead than we leave behind” – CS Lewis
This once declared no-go zone, received a face-lift of note in 2008 when the area was transformed into a cultural haven. “The precinct has since grown into Joburg’s most unusual and innovative areas, offering live / work and entertainment opportunities within a fully integrated urban set-up”.
My family and I absolutely love the vibe and atmosphere that Maboneng has to offer. If you are looking for us on a Sunday morning there’s a very good chance we will be found hanging out at Market on Main. Sunday market vibes with an abundance of oh so yummy EVERYTHING. After we feed our faces, we then casually walk the streets looking for new artwork that comes in the form of murals, graffiti and structures. We love the Precinct so much that in December 2016 we did a family lifestyle photo shoot in the streets of Maboneng, which made for the perfect setting to showcase our new lives in the City of Gold.
Our most recent visit to Maboneng on the 30th of December 2017, saw us playing tour guides to some of our friends. Due to the festive season Market on Main wasn’t open and the same applied to several shops and restaurants. Despite it being rather quiet I must admit that it was an absolute pleasure to have Maboneng (literally) to ourselves. We took tons of photos and let our crazy sides take control. It’s a place where your creative side is unleashed and you get to play, be free and live in the moment. My kids in particular have the best time whenever we visit. I love the friendliness of the people and how everyone is so helpful.
I think it’s rather apt that Maboneng means “Place of Light”. This culturally diverse urban area overflows with amazing people who are blessed with an abundance of talent in terms of art, design, entertainment, entrepreneurial skills and music. Every inch of the precinct can be felt to your core, ensuring you leave feeling completely enriched.
Your first trip into Maboneng may leave you questioning your choices and could possibly see you turn your car around and head home without even making it to your final destination. Don’t let the trip in, scare you and put you off. This cultural oasis is a must see and its’s experience I promise you won’t regret.
In true form, I managed to squeeze in a few more adventures before 2017 came to a close. I’d been dying to make my way out to the Orlando Towers in Soweto, South Africa and on the 30th of December I did exactly that with a group of friends.
The Orlando Power Station is a decommissioned coal-fired power station in Soweto. The power station was commissioned at the end of the Second World War and served Johannesburg for over 50 years.
It was the windiest of days, but we were still able to make our way up to the viewing platform. Thankfully bungee-jumping was put on hold due to the extreme windy conditions so there was no pressure to jump. I need to mention that I’m absolutely terrified of heights yet I somehow always seem to find myself prioritising my adventurous side over my fears. Utter craziness if you ask me. So the way to the viewing platform comes in the form of a rickety cage that speedily makes it way up the side of one of the towers. The ride up is super intense as the shape of the tower means that the position of the cage is ever-changing. It’s also not the smoothest of rides and is insanely noisy which adds to the drama.
I can’t express enough how damn grateful I was to get out of that cage, when we had finally reached the top, with the only problem being that the cage was also our way down. We made our way up a flight of stairs and then I found myself crawling on the viewing deck. Yes, I crawled, like actually crawled on all fours. I immediately made my way to wooden crates positioned in the center of the platform and stayed there for a while.
The wind fortunately settled a bit, and I was able to check out the view and pose for a few pics (of course I made sure I clutched onto someone or something). The towers are unbelievably high and on a windy day it almost feels as if the towers are moving. The artwork on the towers themselves are super impressive and can be seen for kilometers. The view from the top of the towers however isn’t anything to write home about, but it’s cool to say that I made my way to the top of Orlando Towers despite my incredible fear of heights.
Even though the towers are commonly associated with “bungee jumping”, there are way more fun things to do. While the majority of the things to do at the towers are for the thrill-seeker / adrenaline junkie, I still recommend that you make a trip out to the Orlando Towers aka Soweto Towers and check out this iconic South African landmark.
A few pointers before you head out
No valuables are allowed on the viewing platform (things like bags, caps, cellphones and cameras)
You can ask for a photographer to take photos of you when you are on the viewing platform (for a price of course)
There is an age restriction for kids to partake in the various activities
The festive season has always been extremely traditional with the same routine year after year. Hours spent cooking, entertaining, overindulging and with very little exercise, and the grand Christmas feast being the highlight of course. This year however, close friends of ours invited us to join them on a camping trip for 5 days and we gladly accepted. It was our first camping trip as a family so with much excitement and as much uncertainty, we geared up for a festive season with a difference.
I was concerned about veering off course, missing training sessions and unhealthy eating habits rearing its ugly head. After some thought I soon realised that there was actually no reason to be concerned. That in actual fact, this was the perfect opportunity. The perfect opportunity to be active despite being on holiday. Amazing summer days and nights, the beautiful outdoors and no distractions provided the ideal setting to stay motivated and on track.
Camping is indeed loads of fun but it’s also lots of hard work. The preparation, well thought-out minimalist packing, setting up of the camp site and let’s not forget the pitching of the tent, which should be pretty easy unless your brand new tent arrives without any instructions.
In my attempt to be active on a daily basis I took my yoga mat, one set of dumbbells and my brand spanking new Befit resistance bands along. None of these items took up any space so I had no reason to leave them behind. The idea wasn’t to do formal exercise daily but I did want to do a few workouts here and there. I’m naturally an early riser which turned out for the best due to the excessive temperatures. We went for early morning walks which was pretty cool considering that the Loskop Dam provides the most amazing scenic views. On the first day we also did a full body workout before the heat picked up. It was great to have company to exercise with and made it loads more fun.
I also managed to squeeze in a workout on Christmas morning, however it was a little later than normal and it was exceptionally hot. I ended up with a severe case of heat stroke which resulted in me feeling extremely horrible. Headaches followed by vomiting saw me sneak away from Christmas lunch to rest it out on a hammock. In the past I would have just stuck it out and not listened to my body, but I no longer feel guilty about prioritising myself and resting when my body needs it.
Later that afternoon upon everyone’s return from lunch, we made our way down to sit alongside the dam while the men and kids did some fishing. We sat in the shade of the trees and enjoyed the breeze as it came off the water. Fishing is not really my thing but it was relaxing to just sit around and do nothing (something I don’t normally do).
Most of our time was spent swimming in an attempt to keep cool. We often swam several times a day as the kids couldn’t get enough of the water. I must admit that the cool water made those insanely hot summer days extremely pleasurable. Loads of fun in and alongside the pool was had, and it was great to horse around with the kids. I honestly think I got my fair share of vitamin D this festive season as I normally avoid the sun like the plague.
Due to the fact that I had heat stroke, I opted not to exercise the following day, but the resort is fairly big and we did do a lot of walking, clocking far more than 10000 steps a day. We also did things like throw a frisbee around and play putt-putt, which was more like adventure golf. Not the best of courses saw us constantly running after the ball in all directions.
The resort had organised a hike for the guests and we all joined in. The initial part of the hike was tough as it was a steep accent but it was so worth it. We started at 7am so it wasn’t that hot initially but temperatures peaked soon after. According to my fitbit the climb up was 40 odd flights of stairs. Upon reaching the top we were presented with a view of the Loskop dam which was absolutely stunning. It really was a beautiful sight to behold.
In terms of sticking to my plan of keeping active, I can honestly say “mission accomplished”. My eating on the other hand went for a loop as I didn’t eat my regular five small meals a day. I also ate far more carbs than normal and I drank more alcohol than l had planned on. I’m however not beating myself up about it. It’s life, I had a good time and therefore I have no regrets.
As a family we are always looking to try new experiences, and we got the opportunity to go rubber-ducking on the dam. Omg, it was amazing and we absolutely loved the speed. An hour and a half on the water kept us cool while providing us with pure tranquility. We even saw impala, kudu, monkeys, baboons and a fish eagle from the rubber duck. Pretty cool indeed.
The other highlight of our camping trip was the lack of television, laptops and most certainly emails. We didn’t miss it one bit truth be told and that digital detox was essential, needed and very much welcomed. I did have my phone with me but usage was limited and used more as a camera.
My kids benefited just as much from this camping adventure as I did. The guys we went camping with, were awesome and taught them to fish. Fish were caught by both boys and a new skill was learnt. They were super chuffed with themselves. Ash is definitely more patient and the fisherman in the family. He even got me to try my hand at fishing (no photographic evidence of this though). Sky on the other hand is the fire-maker. He loved learning to make a fire and now wants to make a bonfire all the time. These boys love the outdoors and really surprised me by they way they coped. No moaning, groaning, fighting or complaints of being bored. The highlight was probably the fact that I let them bath skip. As for the hubster, he had an okay time but the jury is still out on whether camping is his thing or not. As much as I’ve always been a self-declared city girl, I’m pretty adaptable and easy-going. The only thing that constantly played on my mind was the thought of coming across a snake. Hate those little MOFO’s.
All in all we had an amazing time and really got to switch off and reset. It’s just what we needed as a family.
A very special thank you to everyone involved in ensuring we had an absolute blast on our first camping experience We can safely say that we are looking forward to many, many more camping adventures.