Monday 20 July 2015

Things to do in and around Hluhluwe

Black Rhinos

I was recently asked by a guest what activities are available in and around Hluhluwe and how long should they stay if they want to see a good assortment. So I sat down and made a list and suggested they stay for 2 weeks or more.

Here's why

Game parks

1.    Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Memorial Gate
         -28.068617, 32.141379
         17 km from The Fever Tree
Taken about 3 kms from Memorial Gate in the very late afternoon, 4 June 2015

Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Nyalazi Gate
         -28.259543, 32.005874
         46 km from The Fever Tree via the Park
         52 km from The Fever Tree via N2
2.    False Bay Park, part of isiMangaliso Wetland Park
         -27.989694, 32.351225
         14 km from The Fever Tree
3.    Western Shores, part of isiMangaliso Wetland Park
         -28.221837, 32.359294
         45 km from The Fever Tree
4.    Easter Shores, part of isiMangaliso Wetland Park
         -28.357085, 32.419901 (entrance just outside St Lucia)
5.    uMkuze Game Reserve, part of isiMangaliso Wetland Park
         Mshopi Gate, -27.598741, 32.299052
         57.2 km from The Fever Tree
                   Mantuma Camp, -27.590217, 32.216671
                   via N2 70 km from The Fever Tree

Purple crested Turaco (or Loerie, if you are old-school)

1.    Sodwana Bay, -27.540467, 32.678543
              95 km from The Fever Tree
2.    St Lucia, -28.372690, 32.428298
                   71 km from The fever Tree
3.    Cape Vidal, -28.1281, 32.5596 (via St Lucia)
                   102 km from The Fever Tree 

Other stuff to do
1.    Bayete Elephant Interaction, Bayete Zulu Game Reserve 074 100 5221
         -27.835781, 32.083896
         39 km from The Fever Tree
2.    Emdoneni Cheetah and Serval Project, 035 562 7000
         -28.102602, 32.274933
         17 km from The Fever Tree
3.    Scuba Diving, Coral Divers @ Sodwana Bay,
         -27.540467, 32.678543
         95 km from The Fever Tree

And then there are the walks, and the horse rides...and...and...and.

If anyone wants to add to the list, please leave a comment with the details.

Thursday 18 June 2015

A green cave in the making.

I just love cosy courtyards. In fact, I love them to such an extent I have a board on Pinterest  with more than 100 pins that I accumulated for inspiration.

When we bought the property, the courtyard was empty and barren. This was the point where my very fertile imagination came in very handy. I did not see the bland generic walls and the couple of straggly pot plants. I saw a green cave filled with lush foliage and flowers and comfy chairs.

This was the first step to get there.
We put up the main beams for the pergola, making sure all the measurements were correct. At this stage the wood is still unpainted.
They all fit quite nicely....

So they all came down, got painted and went back up again

The covering laths got screwed into place.
The creeper Mondia Whitei planted in the corner started to grow the beginnings of the green cave. 

A bit of furniture and there you are.

Now fast forward a year or two....

And this is now...
The beautiful carved screen was found abandoned on a building site.

The entrance to one of the new suites leading off the courtyard.

The cave is taking shape and what an adventure it is figuring out what grows best where...

Wednesday 17 June 2015

Gardening teaches you patience Part 1... Dealing with clay soil

When we first moved into the property that would become the guest house three years ago, the half acre of land around the house was an expanse of weed infested lawn and a couple of exotic plants. Dotted here and there were few indigenous trees and some fruit trees. 
We started with the beds around the house, and getting the weeds out of the lawn. This was the point where we realised we were dealing with an entirely different kettle of fish to the sand we were used to. The soil was hard as a rock and turning over a new bed required a pick axe, a garden fork and a lot of elbow grease. The clay was so hard we had to water it first before we could dig it over, and of course wet clay sticks to EVERYTHING, shoes included!

Clay soil has a bit of a bad rap, but there are actually some benefits!
Let's start with the good stuff:
1. Clay is much more fertile than sandy soil as the individual clay particles are negatively charged. This enables the soil particles to 'hang on' to other elements such as potassium, calcium and magnesium, the good stuff that makes your plants grow.
2. Clay soil also holds on to water better than sandy soil. While it can get easily waterlogged, it also means that you have to water less often.
3. Have you ever tried to get weeds out of clay soils? Man, those roots are glued down. This firm grip of the roots in the clay mean that the plants can survive extremes of moisture and temperature which they would not be able to do in sandy soil.

Along with these benefits there are also some challenges:
1. Clay soil is very hard to dig. When we dug our new beds we had to use a pick, a fork and a shovel, in fact everything we could to break the clods that formed.
2. Wet clay sticks to everything.
3. Water does not drain well. In fact, in the beginning we had puddles forming from all the rain.
4. Clay soil can form crusts that can make it hard for seed to get a grip. When the crusts are really dry, water just runs off..
5. Retaining moisture means that the air surrounding roots can be severely limited. While too much air around roots, as with sandy soil, can be dangerous, too little air is also not good. Choose your plants wisely depending on how much drainage you have in different spots in your garden.
6. Slugs and snails just LOVE clay soil as it remains wet for longer making it easy for them to move around. Believe me, this is the kind of wildlife I do not want in my garden.

So there. Part blessing and part curse. Now we just have to learn how best to deal with it. 

Stay tuned for the next post, How to fix the problem of clay soil.
My gorgeous lettuce growing in my modified clay soil.

If you have found this post useful, please drop me a line in the comment section to let me know. 

Sunday 7 June 2015

Some things I wish I knew before I started a guest house, but they wouldn't have stopped me anyway.

 I had forgotten how much I like to write so it is good to be back. 
So here goes.

Trying to decide which post to write, out of all the ones I have swirling around in my head,
is like trying to decide which tomatoes seeds to buy from the heirloom seed catalogue: Near Impossible. 

So here are my 8 things I wish I knew 3 years ago, in point form for now, but soon to be
blog posts on their own, so you know what to look forward to for the next few weeks!

1. Getting a guest house up and running from a badly maintained house is hard work.
REALLY hard work.
2. Building always costs twice as much as you thought it would and it takes twice as long.  
3. Many guests have no idea what the differences between a hotel and a guest house are.
4. No, you cannot have your friend stay over if you only paid for a single. Yes, I did notice,
and yes, you really do have to pay extra. No, it does not mean that because you paid for
a single you can bring a friend to share your room for free. You have to pay for the extra
5. Gardening teaches you patience.
6. Not all the 'how to's' on Pinterest work. In fact, most of them don't. Watch this space for
some epic Pinterest fails!
7. The internet is full of misinformation, for example, egg shells do not keep slugs out of
your veggies.
8. No, I do not get bored going to the game park 3 times a week. It is different every time
we go.

 Watch this space! Even better, subscribe using the link above so you never miss a post!

Stay tuned.