Some Winter #ShotLefts

Even though the June vacation comes hand-in-hand with some of Cape Town’s most miserable weather, it’s also a cosy time of hot chocolates, pretty coats and roaring fires. For some added luxury and adventure, a winter getaway is the little marshmallow on top!

There tend to be two camps of holidaymakers in June: those that jet off for European summers and those who take on the highways for a local #ShotLeft. And why not? It may be dull and freezing in Cape Town but there are some incredible holidays that are actually best experienced during winter!

Wild Coast, Eastern Cape

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The serene combination of grassy hills and seaside is what makes the Wild Coast so unique.  Image:Jenna Solomon

Coffee Bay is the true gem of the Wild Coat: a settlement so small I can’t even call it a village that sits right beside the ocean on hills dotted with Chinese aloes. It’s known as a good spot for surfing but the coastal hiking is the highlight of any trip to the Wild Coast. 

Chintsa is another key stop on the Wild Coast which our laid-back hosts in Coffee Bay promised was “Coffee Bay on steroids!” It is larger but after Coffee Bay, I couldn’t think it any better.

My reflective experience on the seaside hills

  • sea-view
    The sublime views from hilltops really make the hike worthwhile.

We took a guided hike to Hole in the Wall which, through the course of the day, saw us strolling amongst cows, spotting dolphins, teetering on the edge of a rocky cliff, stopping in a local Xhosa village for beer and wading through the sea to the next uphill path. Along the way, we met locals who, despite being so obviously poor, were incredibly welcoming. After such an epic walk, Hole in the Wall was no longer that interesting compared to the welcoming locals and strenuous journey.  It was a beautiful hike that also exposed me to the sobering realities of rural life and the contradictions of life in such a stunning country.

What to wear hiking on the Wild Coast

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My sturdy shoes and my walking stick were the best accessories on this hike!  Image: M Solomon

This is not a stroll on the soft sand; it’s rocky and uphill quite a bit so the wrong clothes (especially shoes) can ruin what should be a beautiful experience. 

  • Wear serious hiking shoes or good takkies. Also have a few plasters for any blisters.
  • If you’re like me and my mom, find yourself a sturdy stick to help pull yourself up the way. It’s also quite reassuring when you’re on a high cliff edge.
  •  A hat is an absolute must!
  • Otherwise, wear just wear comfy clothes.

 

National Arts Festival, Makhanda

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Makhanda really comes to life with vibrant markets alongside the festival. Image: Emma Dachs

Driving through Makhanda on the way to Hogsback one year, I could really see how the National Arts Festival totally brings the town to life! The festival takes over the university town in the June/July holidays with both acclaimed and up-and-coming performances on the programme. It’s mainly about theatre but you can also look forward to comedy and some of South Africa’s best musicians like Freshlyground and Mafikizolo. Talk about making the most of bad weather!

I haven’t been to the festival (yet!) so I asked  Emma to share more about her time there!

Emma’s charming arty experience

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    With so many shows and experiences on offer, Makhanda becomes a truly vibrant destination during the festival. Image: Emma Dachs

“I’ve been going to the festival since I was a child. Both my parents studied at Rhodes University and so Makhanda has always held special significance for me. This charming town comes alive during the festival. It provides an opportunity for South Africans to witness our country’s creative talent at its best. From late-night stand-up comedy to dramas, there is always something on offer for everyone. You can walk through the town, wander around the stalls, look at art exhibitions and watch a variety of incredible plays and performances. The Makhanda festival truly provides for an unforgettable experience.”

What to wear to the festival

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The festival’s trademark fashion is hipster and comfy. Image: provided by Emma Dachs

The vibe in Makhanda during the festival is very arty and hipster, and this shows in how festivalgoers dress!

  • Emma recommends comfortable clothing that’s fairly stylish.
  • Also make sure to have a bag to keep all your tickets and other essentials!

 

Searching for Snow

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The landscape an other-worldly transformation during snow season.
Image: Erin Gemmell

There have been a few times that my mom has planned holidays around seeing snow. That’s how desperate we are to actually see the snow that makes town so freezing in winter. Unfortunately, the closest I’ve come to snow is not that close at all: a few melting puddles a hundred metres up a ragged hillside outside of Sutherland. I didn’t even think it worth the effort of leaving the car. But some people really do find some much snow they get to build snowmen and have snowball fights! One such person is Erin who travelled to the Matroosberg to see the snow just last year and she has some excellent tips for making sure you have the best time!

Erin’s surreal snowy experience

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    This was the most snow the reserve had seen in about a decade! Image: Erin Gemmell

“It was a really fun experience, and we were lucky to go on the day we did – it was the most snow the reserve had seen in a decade or something like that! It really felt like we’d been transported to another world!  We didn’t even get to the lodge because the snow was so thick. It was honestly a breathtaking and I would go snow-chasing again in a heartbeat. And then on the way back we stopped in Spur for hot chocolate and burgers!”

What to wear in the snow

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Erin dressed comfortably for the snowy experience.
Image: provided by Erin Gemmell

As beautiful as the snow looks, it’s difficult to enjoy it if you’re not dressed appropriately. Luckily, Erin’s shared a few tips for those of us looking to go snow hunting this winter!

  • Make sure you wear multiple layers (including socks)
  • Wear WATERPROOF clothes, especially shoes (if your body gets wet it’s just unpleasant
  • Gloves are also essential. If the snow is fresh and not too wet then fabric gloves are fine but waterproof are better. If you only have fabric gloves then bring multiple pairs in case yours get soaked.

 

Game reserves

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Going to a game reserve is an exhilarating experience for a winter holiday.  Image: Jenna Solomon

True luxury is just an evocative word for comfort. I think we most appreciate luxury when we’ve been very uncomfortable, say, on those game drives that take place so early it’s still dark. Coming back to hot baths and roaring fires after hours in an open Landrover with just a blanket is one the most blissful feelings in the world! And there’s no where better to experience this than in our own “backyards”: game reserves. And winter is the best time to go on safari as the rain brings all the animals to watering holes, making it easier to spot them!

My exhilarating veld experience

  • elephant-family
    The endearing elephant herd is a highlight in the reserve.

My family went to Botlierskop Game Reserve outside of Mossel Bay years ago but it still tops my other winter game reserve getaways. It’s a small reserve and there aren’t any free lions but there is so much to do within the park! Waking up at dawn to go on game drives, returning to the fires in the dining room, horse riding during the day and relaxing in the spa along the river are some of the loveliest memories I have!

What to wear on safari

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Even if the skies are clear, it’s often chilly so dress warmly. Image: M Solomon

From morning and evening game drives to dinners and horse rides, there’s plenty to keep in mind fashion-wise for a game reserve getaway.

  • Thick jerseys and jackets for game drives. You may even find gloves helpful!
  • Takkies are good for horse rides and nature trails.
  • It’s nice to change out of your outdoor clothes for meals, especially dinner, so bring smart-casual items with, too.

Ready for your #Shot Left?

Whether you want to flee the cold for the mild Wild Coast or are ready to embrace winter in the snowy mountains, these local getaways make even the coldest weather seem charming! And these incredible destinations are all on offer right here in Mzansi!

 

What are your travel plans this winter?

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