SA Weekend Trips: Clarens & Afriski

Lets venture to the land of mountains for a perfect weekend away…

Clarens ( Free State)

Clarens, a small rustic town nestled in the Free State, is approximately 3 hours and 30 mins from Johannesburg – which makes a great weekend destination out of the bustling city life into the farm lands.

You have a choice of wonderful self catering accommodation in beautiful homes that can be booked via www.infoclarens.com and many other of the usual sites like booking.com, safarinow etc. However since Clarens is a big weekend away destination for both locals and tourists…getting a place on short notice is difficult so best to book accommodation well in advance. (We started looking about a month before, and we struggled to find places that were available for this weekend)

Accommodation – Talking Trees

We could have not found a better place…Talking Trees had that charming country feel. Beautifully decorated and homey. The lights and TV were left on by the caretakers knowing that we would be arriving after 5pm, which was very welcoming.

4 bedrooms, nice cosy lounge and dining area with gas fireplace.  Full DSTV bouquet. Fully stocked spacious kitchen with all necessary amenities (including shot glasses).  And outside patio and braai area that would be perfect for those summer months.

Rating: 10/10  House was spacious, clean, beautiful and perfect for friends/family looking for a home away from home. Towels and cleaning service (after you leave) included. Cleaner can be booked to come through during your stay at an extra cost. No hassles with picking/dropping of house keys. Mountain Odyssey (booking agent) were friendly and even let us have a later checkout time when I called that morning. Absolutely loved this place and it will be my 1st choice whenever I go back.

Contact Sarah-Jane, Lisa, Ralie and Gavin (the whole family) at Mountain Odyssey. They will be waiting with a warm and friendly welcome to assist you with your Clarens accommodation and activity needs.

Tel: 058 256 1173/1480   Email: odyssey@isat.co.za

Let the weekend begin…waiting for the boys to arrive so the party can officially begin ๐Ÿ’ƒ๐Ÿป

Having a few drinks and playing games

There are mainly places to eat, art galleries, artsy and home decor shops around the main square. It’s safe to walk around at night and the square is full with lively people.

Besides for a peaceful place to relax, if you’re looking for adventure there are a lot of activities that can be done around the area.  Like horse riding, white water rafting, paintball, hiking, dinosaur fossil tours etc. etc.  And off course it is a good base camp when making your way to cross the border into Lesotho and go skiing at Afriski. Which is what we did.

We left JHB around 1pm on Friday, arrived in Clarens around 5:30pm, picked up the house keys (in less than 10 minutes), ordered some take away pizza from the same place, and headed over the house to chill and have a few drinks. The rest of our group joined us later that night and we had a fun time playing games, joking, laughing and talking till about 2am. We had an early 7am start the next day to make our way to Lesotho and try our hand at skiing. This was a first time visit for me to Clarens and a first time adventure activity (for me and most of group) – so the excitement levels where high and off course it made for an unforgettable weekend experience as can be seen from the pictures below. Afriski took up the entire day and luckily when we got back to Clarens around 6pm the shops were still open so we could buy some braai stuff. Although in hindsight – braaing after a long day out was probably not the best of ideas and in the cold winter weather. Takeaways would have been easy.  We still had a pretty good time, had a lot of shooters and the “who can hold their liquor” competition between Dan and I was by then in full swing (started from Afriski). Off course I won๐Ÿ˜Ž๐Ÿ’ƒ! You can’t compete with an Indian in this game๐Ÿ˜‚ …ha ha, also the fact that he was lights out by 9pm automatically made him the loser and the muse of our fun (sorry Dan you asked for make up on your face – it provided a lot of entertainment, I haven’t laughed that hard rolling on the floor in ages๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜‚). The tiredness however crept in and we all were eventually in bed by 12pm. Sunday we lazed around in the house, sat out in the sun for bit chatting and then made our way up to the main square to drop of the keys, have an early brunch and walk around a bit before we set back to JHB. Another day would have been perfect to have really enjoyed the house and relaxed after the hectic day out.

Best Recommended For: chilled weekend aways with friends/family. With the option for adventure activities if you get bored.

Afriski Mountain Resort (Lesotho)

At least a 2 hour drive from Clarens, through windy endless roads around the mountains and frozen mini rivers and waterfalls,  you will eventually reach the entrance to Afriski Mountain Resort.

As first time skiers it was a little daunting waiting in long lines.y being given boots and then told to stand in another line for skis…not knowing what to do or expect. Luckily we had a friend who had been there before. But as a vertically challenged lady at first I thought how am I going to carry these skis around…but after both boots are securely on your feet and it’s just the skis, they weren’t that heavy and quite manageable in the end.

Snapshot of our day skiing

Tips:

  1. There are only 2 sessions a day for ski school, the first being at 11am.
  2. If you are planning on getting breakfast there, like we did and which we never ended up doing, you need to leave Clarens latest 6am. So that you get there around 8/08:30am with sufficient time to spare. I would suggest you eat 1st then go collect tickets and get geared up as this process will take you at least an hour if they busy.
  3. Wear gloves…you will need it for all the falling on the snow and especially for holding onto to the pulley that takes you up the slope.
  4. You will get hot pretty quick  – skiing is hard work and if the sun is out its gonna get warm.  Wear layers that you could possibly take off and have pockets that you can stuff things like your scarf etc. in.
  5. Don’t carry a bag if you can ladies – use your jacket pockets to keep your phone, lip balm and wallet/money – it’s so much easier.
  6. Take some water with you, you can leave it one side at the bottom of the slopes or in your jacket if it has a holder. I was so parched all the time…as mentioned before, learning to ski was hard work and the strength I needed to hold onto the pulleys tired me out.
  7. Keep at it. The more you try to practice the moves and methods, the more you will get it. The trick to walking sideways is to bring your feet inwards so that the tips of the skis are going in the snow. The trick to skiing โ›ท is to lean forward – you will never fall leaning forward…the skis and tightness of the boots prevents you from falling forward (TIP courtesy from Mike๐Ÿ‘Š). You will however fall sideways and backwards going up the slopes via the pulley system… but don’t be ashamed everyone falls. I fell almost every time. After the 1st few times I was no longer embarrassed just exhausted and annoyed because now I had to get myself up.
  8. Go with some great, nice and helpful guy friends who can keep u motivated, help carry your skis around and most of all help pick you up when you fall!!
  9. If you battle to get up and have no upper body strength like me and if there is no-one to help…take off the skis with your hands.  This is much safer. The chances of you popping/dislocating your knee caps are high… you fall with locked knees and in awkward positions. Sadly there is no evidence of Mike and I playing twister on the snow ๐Ÿ˜„LOL! But that memory will be etched in our minds forever. NB! Never push yourself or let someone pull you in a manner if it feels uncomfortable or sore. (The no. of knee injuries seen from skiing is pretty high and the recovery time is months  – let’s try to avoid that ๐Ÿ˜‰ shall we.)
  10. Be prepared for aching sore muscles for the next few days. Shins, arms, shoulder blades etc. get a real work out. Stock up on that Voltaren and a hot someone to help massage it in๐Ÿ˜‰.
  11. Finally – Have some fun!! Experience what the world has got to offer, don’t be afraid, let go of those fears and embrace the falling. Go conquer those slopes!

Travelling with awesome friends makes for awesome adventures ๐Ÿ˜Š

A Day in Parys

The 1st of July is a day for trying things for the 1st time!

Ask me to wake up early on a week day and I’ll never get up… but waking up on a weekend to go on an adventure and I’m up at 05h20, 40mins before my alarm.

Once we’ve introduced everyone to each other and all had some coffee at Dan’s – we ready to set out on our road trip to Parys in the Free State. The one and half hour drive there was a breeze when you chat the whole way. Especially when 3 out of the 4 ppl are ex/current KPMGers… LOL we r the best and so it was a given right from the start that we were gonna get along like a house on fire.

And boy did we get along…with all the banter, laughter and sheer good vibes you would think we knew each other forever.

First stop O’s Restaurant for some proper vaal brekkie to get us energised. Breakfast was good and hearty. The light drizzle that began as we entered Parys has stopped and 10mins later as we arrive atย Earth Adventuresย the sun is fully out. Yes! Theres that South African winter weather we love.

Clay Pigeon Shootingย – Activity No.1

Indemnity forms filled, the bakkie is packed and we’re off for our 1st activity – Clay Pigeon Shooting.

For those who have never done this – the clay is in fact not shaped in pigeons ๐Ÿ˜ but are just round disks…booo… bit of a disappointment for kimmy who was expecting clay pigeons.

The 4 musketeers: Daniel, Me, Jaco & Kim

Having never shot a firearm before in my life, I was a little worried about the after shock many people have told me about with shot guns. This fear was amplified especially since I’ve been suffering with a neck and shoulder spasm for the past week and my two physio sessions may just be going to waste after this. But no lil muscle pain is gonna stop me from having fun and doing something I have been wanting to try for ages. I will have to bear the consequences after. ๐Ÿ™‚

Our instructor shows us the in’s and out of handling the shot gun, the disks are lined up, the shot gun is loaded and Daniel takes the first round. Damn!! We are totally impressed with Dan’s shooting skills – he hits all of them. ย Up next was Jaco and he did pretty well too – he only missed a few. WELL DONE BOYS!!

Daniel making it look easy

Jaco showing us ladies how its done

Kimmy taking a shoot

As for us girls… did we suck big time! Ha ha… to be fair it was our 1st time, I didnt carry my glasses so my eye sight wasn’t the best for aiming ๐Ÿ˜‹ and that gun was heavy to hold up! All in all though it was a great experience and with a little more practice MAYBE we will eventually shoot one. ๐Ÿ™„LoL!

By the way, the push back from the shot gun into your shoulder was not bad – if held correctly and pulled in firmly you dont feel much of a jolt. But boy did that first shot (and i think more the unexpected shock) knock my cheeks! Check out the video Dan graciously took and titled “Vicky suffering from PE”… ha ha ha๐Ÿ˜!

(Note: I am however paying the price right now – 9hrs later – as I write this blog, because my right shoulder is now buggered and I am in pain again ๐Ÿ˜ฆ My physiotherapist is not gonna be happy with me on Thursday.)
Quad Biking – Activity No.2

Now for the real fun… quad biking. I’m pretty sure the boys didnt expect me to be as in control and kick ass out there when I couldnt start the quad. It was not my fault… I did what I was suppose to do but it just wasnt starting…off course when the instructor came over and pushed the button it started…but by then I had juiced it up a good few times!!

I’m off first, behind the instructor and the boys are told to go at the end. Am I glad I was first ’cause I put my foot down whenever I had a chance with the instructor – whilst the others were far behind us. The boys will say it was because they were behind Kim, who was slow…But I dunno, was she??

We went over some rough high bumps and I managed to do some circles with the quad …whoop whoop… which I have to admit was pretty cool. I’ll never do that with my car so when our instructor told us to try, and thanks to Jaco’s tips, I was definitely gonna give it a go.

P.S. After ending up behind Kim at one stage … she was the slow one. Sorry boys.

Even though at the end of the quad biking you are baked in dirt… I really enjoyed it and I so wanna do that again but faster!

The team after a thrilling intro to quad biking

Adventure activities done…now for some cold beers and ciders, whilst we re-live some of the days excitement and decide our wine route stop.

Vaal Wine Route Festival – Activity No.3

Stonehaven on Vaal it is – simply because they had the most wines to taste and food pairings (which were not actual pairings but just platters to nibble on). Stonehaven is a pretty location right next to the vaal river, with many different sections to laze around, eat and drink.

Me and Kimmy getting in a selfie

The entrance to Stonehaven on Vaal

The wines according to Dan, Kim and Jaco were not that good but none the less, the company definitely made it enjoyable. We at one stage was probably the loudest table there with all the laughing and banter. ๐Ÿ˜‚

12 wines tasted for R30 …from sparkling to combination wines.

Hands down great company makes for a fantastically fun day!

These guys are definitely travel and adventure buddy material – look out for our next adventure story, I have a feeling that this is just the beginning. ย #LifeIsGood

Xoxo, Vikki

Wroclaw and its Gnomes

Wroclaw is one place you can’t say I have nothing to do, ’cause even on a cold morning with hardly any stores open you can go gnome hunting and see the town at the same time!

Thats right gnomes. Wroclaw loves gnomes and there is approximately 495 (maybe more) gnome statues located throughout the city. 

You can simply walk around and spot them along the way OR download the App (Wroclaw Dwarfs) to see exactly where they are around you. If you spot a new one you can add it onto the App as well.  Be warned though its not as easy as you think – they are small, some are on walls and poles, and some in stores/pubs/buildings etc. We went into the University’s Law Faculty building and the post office to find these guys.

Unfortunately it was a very cold drizzly morning and we did not really see much of what Wroclaw had to offer. But the Gnome hunting provided us with something to do this early morning (whilst everything was closed) and we got to walk along the river bank and in between the streets.

So if you find yourself here with nothing to do, try out the App and make a little competition out of it should you be in a big group.  

P.s. we found 70 in 2 hours!