Addo Elephant NP… SA trip part 5

With last leaves on trees here falling and teaching us how to let go, it’s time to focus on new things or pick up old habits…shall we continue where we left off in the South African road trip blog posts?

Where the previous post left us in Plettenberg Bay it is time to move on. Next stop: Addo Elephant National Park. The first part of the drive leads us through Tsitsikamma NP. If we would have had more time, would surely have planned an extra night(s). It’s where ocean meets jungle, where wild meets wilder and leaves you speechless.

Time to leave Western Cape and Garden Route for now and enter Eastern Cape province. Our accommodation for the next two nights is Gerald’s Gift Guest House in Addo.

Another gem and highly recommendable and, bonus, within a short drive of the NP. But let’s leave that for tomorrow, first up a refreshing swim, garden stroll, lovely dinner, some mingling with the other guests, enjoy the sunset and a good night’s rest (after husband took care of the two giant spiders in the room)

Addo Elephant National Park, South Africa’s third largest reserve and malaria free, is of the ‘self-drive’ principle, though if you pay some extra you can opt for having a trained guide accompanying you in the car. You can try to spot the Big Five there, Big Seven if you include the Southern Right Whale and the Great White Shark at the Indian Ocean coastal belt. Though, as the name suggests, the reserve is most known for the herds of elephants. When the Park started, in 1931, there were only 11 of them, now there are over 600 of these giants! Best place to spot? Near a waterhole, though you will bump into them all over the park.

To spot lions (and/or leopards) it’s best to go early morning or evening (and take a guide with you). Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any.

In total we spent over six hours in the park, just to point out that there’s lots to explore and observe! Stay safe at all time and follow the park’s well-indicated routes and guidelines. Keep distance unless of course some animals choose to observe YOU more closely. The park also offers some hiking trails and picnicking areas.

We had far encounters with elephants and some scary close ones too…

We saw an abundance of zebras showing all hair styles and can confirm they do justice to their name as we often had to stop the car (and enjoy the view) as they were blocking the road…

We saw warthogs and buffalos, wilde- and hartebeest, ostriches, all kinds of birds, and lots and lots of other wildlife.

The park consists out of five different biomes, different ecological areas (like for example fynbos, forest, karoo…) each defined by their typical plants and animals. So many biomes combined in one park is rather unique and offers you as a visitor a great diversity. And, of course, a chance to observe the largest land mammal on our planet in its natural habitat is a wonderful experience.

Join me next time, in the SA series, when we’ll continue our trip and head to Oudtshoorn.

Ingrid

xxx

The best shower is a shower of memories

(yours truly)

https://www.addo.org.za/

https://geraldsgift.co.za/

BE-Staycation: NP Hoge Kempen

Our most recent staycation trip brought us to Limburg province, Flanders’ green lung and home of Belgium’s only National Park. National Park Hoge Kempen has six access points, each highlighting another aspect of this landscape which had a gigantic transformation after its coal mining past.

Connecterra, the park’s main gateway offers multiple hiking trails and stunning views. Whether climbing up the stairs of the head frame up to a height of 12 meters or to the top of the ‘terrils’ stone heap, it’s here that the mining history and how it effected land and environment can be best felt.

We stayed two nights in MOMO, a lovely interbellum villa in Lanklaar, listed building, and restored keeping as much of the original characteristics as possible.

The owners also have a restaurant Au Nom de Dieu, within walking distance which we can highly recommend. If you stay in MOMO you can also opt for breakfast here. Or, alternatively, you can head to Two Oh Five, The Bakery by Panerex for a full breakfast or brunch experience.

On our second day we explored the NP through gateway ‘Mechelse Heide’ again offering a diverse range of hikes this time through forests, heathlands (blooming in August and September) and longtime abandoned pits.

On our last day, before heading home, we made a quick stop and stroll in Bokrijk with the awarded ‘cycling through water‘ path and nature domain ‘Vallei van de Zwarte Beek‘ in Beringen. Those more into shopping can always head to Maasmechelen Village for some al fresco shopping fun.

With its 12000ha and 220 km of hiking trails NP Hoge Kempen was our main destination during this trip, however region has plenty more on offer for nature lovers.

Another staycation well spent! I’ll be back!

Ingrid

xxx

https://www.nationaalparkhogekempen.be/en

https://vakantiehuismomo.be/

https://www.aunomdedieu.be/

https://www.facebook.com/twoohfivecoffee/

https://www.visitlimburg.be/en/cycling-through-water

https://www.natuurpunt.be/natuurgebied/vallei-van-de-zwarte-beek-beringen

BE-Staycation: Antwerpse Kempen

Little throwback to latest weekend trip where we, that is my friend Kathleen and I, explored the so-called ‘Antwerpse Kempen’, a large natural region roughly situated east of Antwerp, where picturesque towns with monumental abbeys are embedded in a land dominated by forests, wetlands, heath and sandy grounds.

We started our trip at the Norbertine abbey of Tongerlo (which confusingly lies in Westerlo). You can visit abbey and courtyard and/or do the ‘Lindendreef’ hike which is about 2km and takes you around the abbey’s walls. For lunch or diner you can head to opposite Torenhof and the adjacent ice cream and bakery shop explains the always happy buzz at ‘lekwei’ ( or in English ‘lick meadow’ cause that’s the inviting meadow where you enjoy the local yummy ice)

We stayed in B&B Welcome Home in neighbouring Eindhout and that name says it all. The home of Stijn & Stijn breathes that welcome cosy feeling. Rooms are spacious and spotlessly clean, bathroom luxurious and the breakfast is to die for. Make sure you’re hungry before you put your feet under the table. We did a pre-breakfast hike so could enjoy to the fullest! There’s a lovely garden with cosy corners and some animals, so children would definitely enjoy it here too. Oooh and Sam, one of the two dogs is a very cooperative photo model!

Photo credit @kvbendeg

The B&B is ideally located for hikers and nature lovers as immediate access to some lovely hiking trails.

Photo credit @kvbendeg

We had lovely dinner in the Orangerie garden of Hotel Geerts in Westerlo and for lunch or mouthwatering desserts and ice creams head to Kasteel Kaneel. Desserts and hospitality are great and bonus points for the unique setting. More than approved! Upon arrangement with owners you can opt for lunch and/or dinner in b&b too.

On the second day, after our morning walk and copious breakfast, we drove to Averbode abbey. Another Norbertines abbey, founded in 1134, and lying at intersection of three Belgian provinces. The land surrounding the abbey belonged to the noble family of ‘de Merode’ and was later on sold to Natuurpunt (Belgian nature conservation organization). While visiting church and abbey grounds is worthwile our focus this weekend was breathing in nature. The ‘Bos en heide‘ or ‘heath and forest’ trail showcasts the region’s assets perfectly: dense forests open up in wide sandy and heath covered ( blooming in August) landscapes.

Photo credit @kvbendeg

Well deserved treat and closure of the trip! Cheers, see you next time!

Ingrid

xxx

https://www.kempen.be/ontdek-de-kempen

https://www.tongerlo.org/

https://averbodemoment.be/en/the-abbey-2/

https://www.natuurpunt.be/natuurgebied/averbode-bos-en-heide

https://bbwelcomehome.be/

https://www.kasteelkaneel.be/

https://www.hotelgeerts.be/

BE-Staycation

No surprise to those who know me that I am always on the lookout for tips for trips close by that also satisfy my need to be in nature. With husband taking some time off work last week we embraced the whole ‘staycation’ mode we’re all in and explored some great hiking trails. So just tag along as we explore three of Flanders’ finest nature getaways.

1/ Hageland: Zoutleeuw – Het Vinne – Linter

Our first trip lead us to Hageland region in province of Flemish Brabant. After a quick lunch in Zoutleeuw we explored provincial domain Het Vinne, home of the largest (and only) natural inland lake in Flanders. Though at the moment no water to be seen as the lake has been drained for remediation works of the soil. Water or not, to my opinion, absolutely still worth the visit! There are five marked nature walks to explore, with great vistas, a lookout tower and bird watching huts. After the walk don’t forget to reward yourself at the domain’s cafe.

Before heading home we stopped in Linter where you can find the stunning ‘Helixagon’ by Frederik Vaes. Inspired by nature and the honeycomb shape it’s an art sculpture that offers a unique perspective on the surroundings, so do climb in and enjoy!

If you are still in hiking mode, opt for the ‘Linterse walk’ a loop walk in the valley of the Large Gete river and for a sweet treat do head to ‘Het Melksalon’ for some pie or refreshing ice cream! Tested and more than approved!

2/ Flemish Ardennes: Zwalm – Brakel – ‘t Burreken

Our second trip brought us to Flemish Ardennes in East Flanders province and with the word Ardennes in it you know you’re up for hikes with a somewhat more challenging character. We explored nature domain ‘t Burreken, where Mother Nature opens up all registers: deep valleys and steep hills, formed by numerous streams. There’s a berry garden, showcasing over 40 inland and local berry varieties. The lush area is home to the fire salamander, also the name of one of the two hiking trails. With the day we visited one of thé hottest this year, we only did a tiny exploring hike and promised ourselves to come back and discover the domain later this year.

We found a lovely lunch spot at ‘Moeder Agnes‘ in Brakel and with renewed energy explored the region some more on the so-called Mine Workers trail.

If you’re a cyclist fan, you can head to the nearby ‘Wall’ of Geraardsbergen: a 1075m steep cobblestoned classic in Flemish (and beyond) cycling and for the more cultural orientated there’s a poetry along the Wall.

3/ Vlaams Brabant: Tervuren – Vossem

For third and final hike in this post we’re back in Flemish Brabant province, this time exploring Tervuren area. Tervuren is known for its Royal Museum for Central Africa and the adjacent parc were we usually take the Warande trail. Broadening our horizon we opted for another path, the Voer trail and were not disappointed. The first part follows the meandering Voer stream and second part opens up in agricultural fields and hills with lovely vistas.

For refreshing local beers, head to ‘In den Congo’, a cafe with outside seating in church’s (12th century) shadow.

So, whether die-hard or ‘easy-does-it’ kind of hiker (I’m the latter btw if you’re curious) hope the above gives you some inspiration on where to walk when in Flanders. Join me next time?

Ingrid

xxx

https://www.toerismevlaamsbrabant.be/en

https://www.visitvlaamseardennen.be/

Spring has sprung…

…yes, there are still certainties in life! In this locked world, the door to nature remains wide open, whether it’s sticking your nose into the growing herbs on your own balcony or exploring the wildlife in a local park.

You come and go, you come and go

Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams

Red, gold, and green

(lyrics Karma Chameleon – Culture Club)

Putting all senses on focus will help to pick up the latest birdie twitters on thé pop-up event of the year, called Spring.

No event is complete without a colourful decor…




…or attendees in fluffy outfits, searching for snacks and, yes, well, some a little overdressed…


Pretty crowded pool party at times, with Egyptian goose, moor hens and the mallard ducks all having babies!

Want to attend a similar event? Just step outside and take a local nature hike. Use this time to explore your ‘close-to-home-world’ and above all:

Live life in bloom!

Hope you enjoyed this Spring pop-up!

Next time some day-trip inspiration, close to home (as I don’t see us travelling soon just yet) and, of course, there’s also SA’s Garden route to continue further, so stay tuned and keep inspired!

Ingrid

xxx

(All photos taken at Solhof or de Reukens in Aartselaar, Belgium)