The art of rest and relaxation

The second half of a two-part feature on visitor Sarah-Claire Picton’s experiences on holiday at the Sunshine Coast.

TRANQUIL WATERS: Writer Sarah-Claire Picton enjoying her overnight houseboat experience on the Kowie River Picture: ROBYN MCMILLAN

MY Ndlambe and neighbouring areas journey turned into a dance of sorts, a forget-me-not rhythm that grew organic with its incessant beat – a hint for me to soak up the hours that were beckoning exploration.

My flagship experiences were two characteristic Kowie River adventures – a River Wild Safari day trip to Mansfield Game Reserve and an overnight stay on a houseboat; a deep house event at The Lounge; endless summer at a pool of noodles and laughter at the Halyards Hotel and Spa; a New Year’s Eve spontaneous backpack booking at Kowie Backpackers; culinary “bests” and cooking up tradition; and, indeed, a few surprises.

Turned out that Mother Earth and Father Time had a surprise visit from Lady Luck, who I reckon had brought a copy of Talk of the Town and agreed upon a bolt from the blue.

The water and the vibe was warm at the Halyards, a place that proved consistently hospitable and played host to where the Kowie would become more than only other people’s streaming natural playground.

The four-hour leisurely river cruise-meets-safari launched from the Halyards Hotel to drift up the Kowie River to Mansfield Reserve. The landscape undergoes a transformation from lively marina goings-on and people in holiday limbo to the indigenous flora and fauna flanking the river beds and seemingly reaching the sky in some areas. The fine spray of passing ski-boats left me and my prince (aka boyfriend, Simon) refreshed and ready to roll.

The game drive had us encounter wildebeest, impala, zebra, Egyptian geese, and, an uber-affectionate giraffe called Gambit. Friendly “kisses” with this gentle giant ended the drive and followed by a buffet braai – pap, chops and a shared “Cheers!”

TOUCHING NATURE: Meeting Gambit, the friendly giraffe at Mansfield Game Reserve Picture: SARAH-CLAIRE PICTON

Curving along the Kowie back to the hotel gave me time to reflect and be thankful.

Next was an overnight experience on a houseboat. Departing from the small boat harbour adjacent to the Halyards, Simon and I had boarded the La la manzi (meaning sleep on water) for a night of houseboat heaven. The boat was built by Chris Fourie of Port Alfred Fishing Academy, for his wife, and co-piloted by Petrus Nzima, who operated and managed Port Alfred houseboats in the marina. “He is a friend that helps when I need help,” Fourie said.

Swimming in the Kowie was my personal “must”.

While Port Elizabeth may claim the moniker of “the friendliest city”, the heart of the Sunshine Coast is a strong competitor. Pouring truth to this observation was an invitation by a stranger-turned-friend to join her for an evening at The Lounge. Deep house beats, friendly faces and – the best – a few games of foosball brought the sinking into lounge comfort.

Checking into Kowie Backpackers was symbolic of a true journey – the one that hits you with surprise. The backpackers were full of countdown cheer and eager to unite – no surprise with this, speaking of experience. But after hustling for a taxi number to check out town, we soon realised that much of Port Alfred closed early – heralding us to head to the bunk beds and follow suit. We greeted 2017 with an early start and walked to the Caltex to refuel with culinary essentials: a pie and samie, water, newspaper, two take-away coffees and Tornado Paddle Pops.

These rank high on any gastronomy journey. Further culinary “bests” are those that bring the flavours of soul and good company. Ocean Basket birthday festivity came with a delightful delivery of a lit sparkler and a song, and the fresh chilli in a side serving but most special – a plant gifted by family and friends.

Other gastronomic musts, all with superb service, were: Guido’s Restaurant (T-bone); Coffee at the Mall (cheesecake and coffee milkshake); and Burksies (breakfast amid tranquillity).

GREAT ASPIRATIONS: The start of the trail from the Great Fish Point Lighthouse Picture: ROBYN MCMILLAN

Meeting up with Dave Marais (Shipwreck Hiking & Canoe Trails) two days prior to my departure was an insightful, engaging, educational and empowering dialogue. The aim was to trek 12km, starting from the Great Fish Point Lighthouse along the coast, past Three Sisters, to reach Riet River. But family trumps adventure; and thus the hike took a “hike”. We made it to the historical lighthouse on the day of departure, managing to pack in a guided trail, led by Simphiwe Memani, down to an expansive beach, the dunes shimmering silver with the ocean in the background.

We waved “adios” as we hit the road back to reality. This year is the time to embrace it all, folks…“These are the days now that we must savour…These are the days that will last forever. You’ve got to hold them in your heart” – Van Morrison.

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