Not slumming it at all!

5 October 2018

Little Miss Cornelia woke up very late this morning, partly due to going to bed quite late, and probably more likely due to her waking at about 23:00 and then chatting away to herself for about an hour before finally falling asleep again. I think I was actually asleep before she was!

When she woke, she was very excited to see the parrot again. “I didn’t realise parrots could talk in real life!” she exclaimed. “I thought they only existed in stories!” She had obviously been thinking about it quite a lot and was parrot-obsessed over breakfast, which took place in Joan’s house. An amazing spread is put on for breakfast here. A real feast of pecan and blueberry muffins, jams and marmalades, muesli, rooibos and citrus sauce, all homemade and utterly delicious. So much for coming to Africa and losing weight!

I didn’t realise that checkout was at 10:00, so we took our time over breakfast: Cornelia managed 1.5 weetabix, a sausage and some baked beans; Ian had muesli, yoghurt and the roobois and citrus sauce (as did I), and some bacon and eggs; I had the same muesli concoction and some oat& honey toast with red grapefruit marmalade. Deeeelicious!! 

Cornelia was in a delightfully chatty mood,  and was talking to Joan as much as she could whenever she was in the room. She found Shona again, and played happily with her while Ian and I packed up ready for a second long day in BigBell. Yesterday’s drive was about five hours, and we were expecting the same again today. Joan was out picking mulberries from her tree, and whilst Cornelia didn’t want to try one, I certainly did and it was SO tasty. 

It was shortly after that that Ian mentioned that checkout was at 10:00 – something which he had read yesterday, but had oddly not mentioned to me. 🙄So, I gathered up our last few bits and pieces, apologised to Joan (who was very gracious about it) and set off.

It was our intention to explore Clanwilliam, as they have some incredible rock drawings in nearby caves from thousands of years ago, but due to Cornelia’s late waking and with a long drive ahead of us, we really needed to get going. 

I have changed Cornelia’s Kindle rules as she spent far too long on it yesterday and it’s potentially affecting her behaviour, and I have been allowing her to get away with it on the basis that she’s tired, or needs distracting etc. It’s not a great habit! So, this morning, I told her that she would need to wait an hour before she could have it, and we had a fun hour identifying different animal poos in our “Animals of South Africa” book, and talking about the various animals. In fact, that hour turned into two hours during which we read a Winnie and Wilbur book, played Connect4 and she did some of her Mr Men activity book, all without complaint. I need to come up with some more “in car” activities for her! 

The landscape as we headed north started changing from the green fields and mountains of yesterday to hilly, drier lands, dotted with small villages and little picnic areas within tables, umbrellas and benches. The road surface was still of decent quality although maybe slightly bumpier – yesterday’s roads seem to have been resurfaced recently and were in excellent condition. There were still plenty of green shrubs around, but you could tell easily that the soil is drier here. The temperature outside reached 38 degrees as we stopped for lunch, at one of the picnic areas. It was really good fun testing out our mobile kitchen and working out what changes we could make to improve how we (I!) work in it. Cornelia didn’t want much lunch (hardly surprising given her enormous breakfast), so we didn’t hang around too long, but she amused herself playing “shops” with her Connect4 discs, although she had to be very careful to avoid the vast amounts of broken glass on the ground around us. 

I drove the rest of the way to Namries Retreat in Namakwa, near Springbok. Now, I was expecting that we would be slumming our way around Africa, staying in bug-ridden rooms, but Drive Botswana have far exceeded our expectations. This is the company we used who have booked and organised everything for us, and so far, it has been impeccable. We arrived at Namries, thinking we were having a little self-catering cottage all crammed in together, but it is really five star luxury here. A huge cottage with two large en-suite bathrooms, a big kitchen and beautifully-furnished sitting room. We are feeling quite spoilt! They even have a small swimming pool here, which we weren’t expecting. 

Cornelia forgot her manners as we were warmly welcomed by Charlotte at Reception, but after a stern reminder, she collected herself and transformed into the happy, confident little girl we are used to! 

We drove around to our cottage and unloaded everything from BigBell. Cornelia spent ages bouncing between the two beds in her room and building a side / hammock / mountain out of the numerous sofa cushions, before we were ready to go to the pool for a cool down. Which was exactly what we got! The pool has been kept icy cold – maybe only 12 or 13 degrees – and it was slightly too cold for Cornelia to brave. Ian went knee deep initially and of course, not to be outdone, I jumped on in and made sure that they knew it was perfectly fine and very refreshing (while saying BRRRR in my head!). There was an enormous ant at the bottom of the pool (dead, one presumes, although Ian was keeping a watchful eye on it!) and, when Charlotte came out to ask us if we wanted any drinks (YES, beer!), she squealed “Snake!” and ran up the steps! Curiosity got the better of me, and I stalked the flower bed it had slithered into, in the hope of getting a photo, but no such luck, it had disappeared around the corner, so the gardener discovered. He then came to check that it hadn’t snuck through a hole in the wall and into the pool, much to Ian’s great horror. Now he had a snake AND and a giant to look out for! 

Cornelia, however, was not that bothered and decided she wanted to be “dunked” by Daddy, resulting in shrieks of delight. Conscious that we were at a retreat, we ended up having to ask her to shriek quietly, which felt totally contrary to the fun I was trying to ensure she has while we are away! 

When we left the pool, around 18:00, I suggested to Ian that we have a BBQ and eat outside, but I hadn’t fully appreciated how long it would take to cook the little potatoes I had prepared. I thought they would go straight on the coals (in foil) but Ian thought they would be better off on the grill over the fire. The only thing that appeared to be missing from this cottage was some outdoor furniture for us to sit on! I didn’t want to just eat our BBQ food inside, so improvised with one of the rattan stools from inside which acted as our table, Bugsy’s New Paw Patrol chair and the stone bench for me and Ian. 

We sat and munched crisps and drank wine, waiting for the food to cook. Bugsy was thoughtful and ferried the occasional crisp over to Chef Ian, who was busy watching the food cook slowly… 

As 19:00 ticked by, I decided we should put them in the microwave to finish them off. Or start them, and finish them off… So, it was very late by the time we finally ate, but Cornelia had had a brilliant time playing with her smouldering stick and looking at the stars and planets. She gobbled up her frankfurters and most of her vegetables, eventually asking if she could go inside to finish them off, before going back out to look at the stars again, using the wonderful StarTracker app. We gazed together and traced Scorpius, and found Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn, all completely visible from here. I remembered always saying how vast the sky seems in Africa, but it was overwhelmingly so tonight, and quite a special moment for me, as she sat on my lap, star spotting. ⭐️ 💫 🌟 

As she had showered earlier with me, I was able to put her straight to bed – she was exhausted – and after two stories, she was out like a light, leaving me and Ian to relax in the sitting room before heading to bed, hopeful for an earlier start in the morning. 

3 thoughts on “Not slumming it at all!

  1. You’re in the best place now and we’re jealous. Storm ‘Callum’ is rattling round the South West and It’s wet and horrid. Enjoy.

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  2. The sky in rural Africa is certainly comparable to ours in the desert Southwest of North America. Glad you are finding that the rumours of poor lodging and dining in Africa, especially in the south, is so much rubbish.

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