The Funky Fynbos Festival. Celebrating the outdoors like a boss.

It is just after 7 am on a Saturday morning.

I am sitting eating freshly flipped pancakes dripping with cinnamon and lemon juice, sipping the best coffee I have ever tasted. The sun is just starting to warm my bones and I feel my body relaxing after the 3 hour drive from Cape Town.

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Brightly coloured tents displaying artworks, colourful clothes and crafts draw my eyes, and then the sound system comes alive and my feet start tapping to Golden Earrings “Radar Love”

I’m feeling it. It’s the weekend; it’s festival time in Gansbaai.

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Gansbaai is a small coastal town in the Overberg, 163km from Cape Town. It is a good community with a strong emphasis on creativity, earth friendly living and a healthy paced rural lifestyle. Gansbaai and a few of the businesses recently won the top awards for sustainable and responsible tourism. Read more about Gansbaai, its delights, attractions and awards here

I am on a farm called De Uijlenes  . Continue just past Gansbaai and take the left turn onto the Baardscheerdersbos / Elim road and 15km after Gansbaai you will find yourself on this pretty farm in the flower valley.

The event is the 2nd Funky Fynbos Festival and it’s a celebration of the wild flowers, farm life, the wine, food and activities of this very pretty area.

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This year the 3 venues for the festival are the farm and wedding function venue De Uijlenes, the wine estate down the road called Lomond, Strandfontein Caravan Park and the farm and nursery Groeneweide.

The festival is also host to great outdoor competitions. A challenging MTB race on Saturday morning and a tough Trail Run on Sunday morning saw individuals and families pushing themselves to the limits through farm tracks, over rivers, up hills and down into the valleys.

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A new 4 x 4 trail was put to the test by enthusiasts at Strandfontein, and keen fishermen tested their skills and luck on Lake Lomond at the wine estate of the same name.

For the kids Fun Go Karts were a big hit, especially after they found a short downhill path and then the races were on. Face painting, Milo the clown come fire eater and the jumping castle donated by Grootbos kept the kids busy and happy all day.

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The refreshing ice cream from Moo’s Frozen Treats  was irresistible. I had at least one of each flavour and happily slurped and messed all over my hands, face and clothes, and then went back for more. At R5 a sachet, it was not my fault that I totally pigged out.

I spent two very happy days in the fresh air, walking around farms and forests, listening to great music and eating way too much.  The reggae sounds of the Rivertones blew me away, going to find them again and drag all my friends along.

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Of course we all adjourned to the pub on Saturday evening to watch South Africa take on Japan in their first Rugby World Cup game During half time we were entertained by the fire eating Milo, and after the game, magic happened.

As the devastated fans walked out of the pub, 2 of the musicians who had finished their paid stint got together and started jamming. The fire pit was soon sporting a blazing bonfire and we sang along, danced or chilled around the fire as Chris Else and Guy Feldman belted out tunes like they had been playing together for years.

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The highlight of the festival for me was the people I met.  Let me introduce you to some of them.

Kloeks and Henk. This multi-talented husband and wife team have invited me back and I will be going as soon as possible. Kloeks is apparently the best cook in the world and has a restaurant in her home. Henk grew up with a dad who roasted his own coffee beans way before coffee was an urban hipster thing. Henk is now the owner of the Naked Coffee works and says the secret to his coffee is the passion and unhurried pace of the process. I believe him. When not lovingly roasting beans, Henk can be found guiding tours of the ancient caves and shipwrecks in the area.  A local history buff, Henk can tell you stories for as many hours as you have to listen to his tales.

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Wayne Gabb, owner of the fantastic Lomond wine estate. Wayne certainly knows how to add fun into the serious business of wine making and life in general.

The Lomond wines are all named after different fynbos species found in the area. This wine producer works with nature rather than trying to dominate it. For wine that is very different but delectable, get yourself a bottle. I am not even I wine drinker but I enjoyed the Cat’s Tail Syrah immensely.

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There is something special going on in the grapes down there. Perhaps it’s a combination of the salty air, the scent of the fynbos and the imagination of the wine makers?

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At Lomond I met up with pop up chef, Craig Cormack from Roasters. He was preparing a sushi feast using trout caught in the Lomond Lake. We had a great chat about the importance of using fresh seasonal ingredients and how time taken to prepare and cook slowly is the secret to healthy, tasty food. Craig loves what he does and should be checked out by all foodies.

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Henk van der Walt from Overberg Aviation made me brave enough to have my first ever helicopter flip, in the smallest helicopter I have ever seen. It was incredible and I want more. We flew from De Uijlenes to Pearly Beach in the Robinson 44 helicopter and the ocean and mountain views were amazing. I was not brave enough to fly with the door off, but even so, seeing the mother and baby whales and a few sharks through the window was a memorable experience.

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I finally got to meet Cat Nyquist from Panthera Africa, a sanctuary for big cats that are unable to live in the wild.DSC_0528-01

Her enthusiasm for the animals and her determination to educate the whole world on why we must not interact with wild animals is inspiring. More about this sanctuary after I have visited and had the full educational experience. Prosperity for Predators, the Panthera motto gives me hope for the future of our wild life

Sean Privett, from Fynbos Trails and Witkrans cottages.  Sean is a botanist of note and a very innovative, nature loving person. He is also extremely active and has recently opened new MTB routes on his farm, and broke his leg while riding the ultimate South African MTB race, The Freedom Challenge. In between all these outdoor activities Sean does incredible work with fynbos, a nursery, finding new fynbos species and writing a book about them.

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Thanks go to Dave and Caron from Saxon Lodge in Gansbaai, and Michelle Williams from Sorted Solutions who made me so welcome.

I believe this festival is going to grow slowly into something huge and not to be missed. I will be back next year.

New Travel is inspired by a photogenic dish, drizzled with an infusion of foreign accents.

When food became a “thing” a few years ago I thought it was a passing fad.

Well, I was so wrong.

I am not a foodie. I don’t drizzle, infuse, blend or add chilli. In fact, I can’t really drive a kitchen very well at all.

Today at eTAS ( e Tourism Africa Summit ) one of the key messages was how food is playing a huge role in travel.

Firstly we were told that Chefs are being told to prepare photogenic meals. This means buffets are out. They look terrible in pictures. It seems that food must be pretty first, comment worthy second, and taste OK last.

Search online and you will find numerous links to tricks for photographing food. “Tweet before you eat” has become the norm. So much so that a restaurant did a survey and realised that numbers were down because people were staying at their tables longer. Only because of the time it took to photograph, edit and upload pictures of their food before they started to eat it.

What would have been bizarre a few years ago has become the norm. I even try to do it myself, but not very adept at it!

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In France where food is everything, they are considering banning the photographing of food in restaurants as they say the copyright of the plated food art belongs to the Chef.

I say the world is going mad, but we better start being nice to Chefs as they are becoming key role players in tourism.

Seriously, in Britain apparently a staggering 50 % of travellers make their travel choices based on  food. I thought I had misheard that statement, but no, it is a true story.

88% of destinations are using food as a reason to visit, and clearly it is working. We are told that travel is evolving and we need to know our customers and audience. Today I learned that my audience is either hungry or watches way too much TV on the Food Channels.

That said, it’s good to know that Cape Town as a global food destination is surpassed only by Vietnam.

Our visitors are hungry for a food adventure with Table Mountain as a pretty backdrop.

Restaurants seem to be the new way to start your online travel research. Any eatery that does not have fast free wifi and a presence on FaceBook, Instagram, TripAdvisor, and Twitter, and a charismatic chef who can produce photogenic food is missing out on a huge opportunity.

In conclusion, the marketing recipe for future success for any tourism business is to align yourself with food providers in your area, and find a way to whet the appetite of hungry travellers.

Hopefield, where the bees are relaxed and your time is your own.

 

Once again I am on the N7, turning off onto the R45, heading into the wonderful West Coast, this time to Hopefield.

As Table Mountain fades into the distance behind me, I start becoming aware of my surroundings.

I take in the very gentle rise of the hills dotted with the first few wild flowers. I notice the clarity of the colours in the copper, gold and bronze fields, and the deep green rectangles of lucerne, all framed by rich red earth.

I open the windows and it smells like the holidays. The air is clean and carries hints of farm life. The occasional whiff of cow manure mingles with the scent of aloes. The sun streaming into the car combined with the open space all around me is so relaxing that just driving is like a tonic.

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Then I spot that lovely sight of the wind farms, the beautiful white turbines reaching into the sky and catching the energy from nature. I know I am almost in Hopefield. This is a good thing as by now I am practically comatose I am so chilled.

This soporific state lasts only as long as it takes for me to park and get out of the car at Simply Bee.

Lizana from Simply Bee bursts out of the building, her bear hug of a welcome is so energizing she should be sold to Eskom!

Welcome to Hopefield.

 Although the town was named after two land surveyors called Mr Hope and Mr Field, the name is very apt. Hopefield shows me that even in 2015 it is possible to live in a way that is in complete harmony with nature and the environment. The people here are industrious without being hurried. Stress is not a common complaint and they all have that one commodity us city dwellers find so elusive. They have time.

Time to drink a cup of coffee outside, time to chat to a neighbour or help a friend.

Time to have a life.

This is not to say that Hopefield is a sleepy backwater. This delightful town built around the Sout River is a celebration of nature that embraces the modern technology when it needs to. The wind farms, internet companies and responsible tourism ethics are more advanced than in many cities, and the Merry Widow guest house is the very last word on urban hip in its décor. It also has the biggest, most complicated coffee machine I have ever seen.  

What is Simply Bee?

Simply Bee is a successful family business started in 1954 when Derick Hugo became a Bee Keeper. On retirement Derick and Marie resettled in Hopefield and manufactured and sold the honey.

In 2008 their daughter Helena and her husband Pierre van der Westhuizen took over the business and built it into the award winning company it has become.

This is how it came about.

Helena lived in the USA for 22 years and worked as an interior designer. This talent is very evident in the Simply Bee showroom which seems to glow in the sun from the colours of the honey and the warm woods of the beautiful old cabinets, sideboards and tables used to display the huge variety of products.

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Shortly after her return to Hopefield, Helena had a bad fall that immobilised her for a number of months. During this time she started experimenting, or as she says playing, with beeswax and propolis with a growing excitement. Being raised in a family of bee keepers her basic knowledge was obviously already solid, and her passion for the bees is evident when she talks about them.

Helena started seriously educating herself about everything related to bees. She talked to bee keepers, she read scientific journals,  conducted her own experiments, and observed her hives.

Then she did a course in Essential Oils given by a respected expert in Riebeeck Kasteel, as these natural oils complement and enhance the beeswax and propolis products.

Helena is one of many women who have a very sensitive skin, so her first experiments were products that she could use herself. They worked well and she started giving them away as gifts.

The gifts were very popular and the news spread via word of mouth and suddenly there was a growing demand.

Helena’s dream was to create a range of products that were suitable for sensitive skins, but more importantly, were priced so that all women could afford them.

With a good product at the right price, growth is inevitable and Helena went from word of mouth sales to selling at all the local markets. This expanded to stocking various pharmacies and shops in the area and now most sales are done online.

The range consists of over 60 products.

  • A full range of skin care products for women, many containing that wonder ingredient propolis.
  • Men and babies have their own special range of soaps, creams and lotions.
  • Candles, soaps, body balms, nail creams and hair care make wonderful gifts and are very affordable.
  • Pure and Raw Fynbos honey is a healthy choice for the whole family. There is even honey for kids presented in a teddy bear shaped bottle.
  • For the home, linen and room mists are the perfect natural alternative to chemical fresheners, and the leather and wood polishes make housework eco- friendly.
  • For animal lovers there is hoof balm for your limping horse, or swarm lure for bee keepers.
  • For outdoor enthusiasts the insect repellent does the job very effectively.
  • Fill up your First Aid box with natural antiseptics and ointments that work.

Simply Bee products can be purchased from 190 stockists in South Africa and the company exports to the UK, USA, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Mauritius.

The Feel Good Factor.

  • Simply Bee has created employment for eleven local residents so far, and they source all other suppliers and support services from the area.
  • Simply Bee is honey badger friendly and all their hives are placed on stands.
  • The bee hives are in fynbos rich areas where no commercial farming occurs. This means they are not exposed to any chemicals, making their honey 100% organic.
  • Conservation and the purity of their products are foundation of the company. All natural ingredients are only taken from plentiful renewable sources.
  • Helena personally controls the production process and ensures that distillation, extraction, steaming and hydrolysis are kept to an absolute minimum to retain the natural purity.
  • The Simply Bee Observation Centre provides education and awareness of the important role that bees play in our lives and the benefits of honey and other products.

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Bring honey and bees into your daily life.

 To encourage bees to your garden, plant Lemongrass. Bees love it as the Queen bee has a phenorome that smells like lemon, this attracts them to the plant. A garden full of bees is a happy, healthy garden.

  • Mix 1 teaspoon of honey and a pinch of cinnamon in half a cup of hot water. Drink daily. Where possible buy cinnamon sticks. They can be ground in a coffee grinder.This recipe can be beneficial to sufferers of high cholesterol, high blood pressure and arthritis
  • It is the only source of the antioxidant, pinocembrin, which is associated with improved brain function.
  • Honey contains enzymes, vitamins, minerals and water.
  • Did you know that you could live on honey and nothing else?
  • People suffering from allergies can also try this remedy but must use locally produced honey as this helps to build up your immunity.
  • Eat fats and make them work for you
  • Mix 1 teaspoon of honey with half a cup of luke- warm water and two teaspoons of lemon juice. Drink daily.This allows the body to absorb the good fats and eliminate the bad fats fast.

The Simply Bee Observation Centre.

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This educational, interactive experience teaches everything you ever wanted to know about bees.

A hive has been opened on one side to reveal the intricate workings of the colony. It is observed from behind glass for the safety and happiness of both visitors and the bees. The back door to the observation room is open so the bees are free to come and go as they please.  Honey tasting is offered after the talk.

Packages are available for schools, study groups or tourists and picnic snacks and drinks are included.    Booking is essential.

Simply Bee also has a room dedicated to farms they work with in the area. Displays run for a month and feature one farm at a time. Historical items displayed range from furniture and clothing to old photographs, documents, books and toys. A little story about the featured farm is given.

The tourism office and museum has a fascinating display of memorabilia from the past. One wall is dedicated to a vast collection of old cameras, while another section has some scary looking old medical and dental equipment. Victorian dolls, little girls dresses and stylish accessories will thrill fashionistas, and foodies will enjoy the large table filled with tins, kitchen utensils and crockery.

If you are planning to visit Hopefield, do it on a Saturday so you can mingle with the locals at the fresh produce market. It is just past Simply Bee, look for the big red doors. All sorts of delectable goods are for sale, produced by locals. The market is a great initiative that benefits the whole community.

Don’t leave Hopefield without a visit to the N.G. Church. In 1911 the Forster & Andrews Organ was purchased from England. This organ is so huge that the church had to be enlarged to accommodate it. It is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, and is still used every Sunday.

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A few kilometers out of town you will find Die Plaasmol. It is not easy to describe but I will try. Lovely gardens, the most creative recycling I have ever seen, a tea room, a pub, a number of little shops loaded with goods ranging from gifts to preserves, clothing to plants. It would probably take a day to explore this area properly.

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The owner, Fransie Russouw  is happy to share her ideas as she believes EVERYTHING can be recycled.Camping sites are available and a huge covered area is available for functions. This place is well worth a visit, kids will love it and can run free while parents shop or just relax in the shade and enjoy something to eat.

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Thanks to WestCoastWaySA for hosting me in Hopefield.

Slow it down with the Good Rebels of Darling. West Coast living & the best craft beer.

Darling is the name of a ridiculously pretty little town on the Cape West Coast, just 77 km from Cape Town travelling on the N7 and then onto the R304.

Darling is also referred to as the “flower of the West Coast” after the prolific wildflower displays in early spring (September, October) The town is best known for these wild flowers and for our unique home grown funny man “Tannie Evita” who performs at Evita se Perron. 

The town is an eclectic mix of old, new and arty, but it is a community who are mostly working together and getting it right, creating a very pleasant place to live in, and offering numerous attractions to draw the visitors to the area.

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I stayed at Darling Lodge owned and run by the delightful Stephen, a Swiss national who has been in Darling for just three years but is part of the community and totally in love with the town. The lodge is an immaculate Victorian home with all the modern amenities you need. The gardens and pool are made for long lazy days, drinks outside, and if you are lucky, you might be there when the locals arrive for drinks, snacks and an open air movie under the trees.

Stephen has become something of a Darling expert, ask him about the birding, hikes and MTB Trails in the area. He seems to be able to make anything happen effortlessly.

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Kit and Rene Haslam of Bistro 7 make dining out feel like having dinner at a friend’s home where the host just happens to be an outstanding cook. All dishes are made from fresh, seasonal products and sourced locally wherever possible. It is child and pet friendly and a delightful spot for lunch or dinner where  food is savoured slowly.

When you go to Bistro 7, do look out for Shiva, the Golden Labrador of Darling. Shiva lives at the Ormonde wine estate but he belongs to everyone in Darling. He does his rounds daily, visiting many establishments for titbits or a head scratch and he always pops into the local vet to say hi to the staff who cared for him when he had biliary. His last stop every night is at Bistro 7 where he waits patiently for his Eisbein bone before heading home for the night.

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Described as ” the funniest treasure hunt through an historic village ever!”  The Darling Mystery Trail is a great way for the whole family to explore and learn about Darling. The cost is a mere R25 and includes entry into the museum. Walk it, ride it, solve riddles,  and hunt for geo- caches if you like. Use your GPS, your phone or your just brain, you will have fun, find a treasure and stand a chance of winning a Darling weekend valued at R2000.

So hopefully now you have a feel for Darling, it’s sense of fun, the unhurried country pace and the varied attractions on offer. Being in Darling is thirsty work so I am delighted to introduce you to Darling Brew.

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Philippa and Kevin Wood of Darling Brew are experienced beer drinkers, having sampled many many brews during their adventures through Botswana, Mozambique, Kenya, Rwanda, Zimbabwe and Zambia.

They believe that YOU ARE WHAT YOU DRINK! 

In this hectic lifestyle we lead SLOW living has become something of a luxury, as time is the one thing we never seem to have enough of. Darling Brew believe that slowing down is so important that it is central to everything they do and why their slogan is Slow Beer.  Slow for the  fermentation process, and the accompanying lifestyle.

They presently have  three core beers. A Pale Ale, an Indian Pale Ale and a Light Lager.

Each beer has been carefully crafted and named after endangered or misunderstood South African wildlife. Who knew beer drinking was an educational, conservation experience.

Order a Slow Beer inspired by the Geometric Tortoise, a Black Mist if the Verreaux Eagle interests you, a Silver Back to cheer for the Honey Badger, a Native Ale to toast the Roan Antelope or a Bone Crusher if you identify with the Spotted Hyena.

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One thing they are not doing slowly is growing.

New venue opening on December 1st 2015.

Exciting times are ahead as the new home of Darling Brew takes shape. In accordance with the ethos of conservation and the protection of the biodiversity of Darling, the location has been thoughtfully chosen in the industrial area.It is encouraging to know as far as possible repurposed materials have been used, and that the beer bottles are used up to nine times before being recycled.

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Walking around the building site it is already possible to visualise how Darling Brew are going to bring the brewing of beer and the current taproom experience of beer tasting and light meals under one roof.

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  • A large parking area will provide secure, dedicated parking for all vehicles, including  tour busses, Quantums and other touring vehicles.
  • A children’s play area and a garden have been specially designed for families and outdoor fans.
  • A tasting room and bar on the mezzanine floor will overlook the working brewery.
  • A downstairs tasting area is wheelchair friendly.
  • The dining menu will offer a selection of inspired light meals that enhance the unique flavours found in the artisan beers. All produce used is locally sourced, free range and organic.
  • A Creative Centre is planned, and could have the potential for opportunities  for local crafters.

Inside the new building all kinds of impressive shiny vats and complicated machinery are ready to be tested or wrapped up waiting to be put to work.

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A three vessel system will facilitate increased capacity and uninterrupted brewing 8 times a day, producing 3000 litres of delicious Darling beer at a time. It is here where the new beers will be lovingly developed.

Watch this space as Darling Brew plan to release two new beers every quarter and more unique pairings to complete the taste experiences.

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I asked Kevin and Phillipa what they are most excited about regarding this new venture. I love their answer.

Significantly growing the ability of Darling Brew to create more beer and more exacting and consistent standards.This means that everyone that wants a Darling Brew beer can have one and together with the wildflowers, Evita se perron, the wine, the toffees, the art and people, be the export products that makes Darling so unique.  

Their dream is becoming a reality. Cheers to 100%  proudly crafted and enjoyed in Darling

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Thanks to WestCoastWaySA for hosting me in this awesome little town.

Want more information regarding beer pairings and other details to enhance the taste experience?

Take a look here for an in depth look at the infographic shown below.

Funky Fynbos Festival 18th – 20th September. 10 good reasons why you should go.

Spring has arrived and the Overberg is exploding with the colours, smells and tastes of nature.

This is the time to discover and fall in love with Gansbaai, a fabulous coastal town just 40km past Hermanus.

Read all about Gansbaai here.

Gansbaai is celebrating spring in style, and everyone is invited to the Funky Fynbos Festival.

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Please note the new times for the MTB and Trail Run Events.

19th September 2015 MTB RACE.  45km at 08:30 |  30km at 08:45  | 10km at 09:00

20th September 2015 TRAIL RUN. 30km at 07:30  |  12km at 08:45  | 6km at 09:00

Here are ten good reasons why you should be there.

  • If like me you have been hibernating all through winter, this festival is just the thing to get you  off the couch, away from the screens, and energised by nature.
  • 20150207_121617 You can go to relax and take slow walks on the beach or gentle strolls through forests or fynbos
  •  You can man up and compete in MTB races, trail runs, or 4x 4 adventures. To enter just click on the links below.

          Rockets Funky Fynbos Mountain Bike races.  10km, 30km or 45km.

          Cape Mohair Trail Runs.  6km, 12km or 30km

          Flower Power 4X4 events  Various degrees of difficulty

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  •  Win big time. All entrants to the trail run or MTB races automatically qualify for the lucky draw to win 1 adult Momsen Big Gun Fat Bike valued at R 12000, or  1 Junior Rapid Fat bike valued at R3750.
  • 20150822_123937Win some more. Up for grabs are cash or vouchers for shark cage diving, whale watching and accommodation. It could be your lucky day.
  • Test your golfing skills on the southernmost golf course in Africa. The locals say you can land of Boeing on this course, but not a golf ball. To enter the golf competition please contact the golf course directly on +27 (0) 28 384-1441 or  E-mail: gbgholf@gmail.com
  • Take the kids and keep them entertained all day, outdoors. Let them tackle the short MTB routes and trail runs, ride a horse or a pedal go kart, see a magician, have their face painted or take them to walk in the forest or to the caves on the beach. This town is big on family and there is loads to keep the little people active and happy
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  • Enjoy the flowers, the market stalls filled with crafts, food and smiles, and the slow country life.
  • Come for the day or better still, stay overnight. Click here for accommodation.

See you there.

Bring your walking shoes, a swimming costume, and an appetite for food and fun.

For more information go to www.funkyfynbos.co.za