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Positano

"Positano bites deep." ~ John Steinbeck

overcast 14 °C
View Italy and Paris April 2015 on Anja Fourie's travel map.

Where did we stay? Hotel del Mare Sorrento

The little town of Positano is built on a mountainside of the Amalfi Coast. This popular tourist town has steep little streets all the way down the beach. All the houses are built in the enclave here. There are car parks at the top of the hill as this small town simply does not accommodate anything bigger than a motorcycle or bicycle.

"Positano is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone. Its houses climb a hill so steep it would be a cliff except that stairs are cut in it. I believe that whereas most house foundations are vertical, in Positano they are horizontal. The small curving bay of unbelievably blue and green water lips gently on a beach of small pebbles. There is only one narrow street and it does not come down to the water. Everything else is stairs, some of them as steep as ladders. You do not walk to visit a friend, you either climb or slide." - John Steinbeck (Harper's Bazaar, 1953).

Narrow Streets of Positano
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Under the Tuscan Sun

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Positano is made popular by movies such as Under the Tuscan Sun. The lead character, Frances, walks on the beach and explores the streets of Positano. She also meets Marcello here.

You can see the cliffside houses of Positano in the background. This is one of the most popular movie locations for Positano. If you are a fan of the movie, explore Positano and take a photo at the railing where Frances is standing at. It also gives great views of the surrounding area and the beach below.

In the movie, Marcello also introduces Frances to Limoncello. This is a Lemon liquer that Positano is very popular for. Families and restaurants usually make their own Limconello. Limoncello is traditionally served chilled as a type of after dinner digestive. Positano shops are lined with lemon souveniers and bottles and bottles of limoncello. It is made from the zest of lemons steeped in alcohol. If you are trying to imagine the taste, to me it tastes similar to a chilled and alcoholic MedLemon. The limoncello will be served mostly in restaurants as a complimentary drink after dinner, as digestif.

Do yourself a favour and buy a few bottles of these. They are fairly inexpensive here and the towns along the Amalfi Coast are definitely known for making great Limoncello.

When life hands you lemons, make limoncello
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Drinking Wine at Positano Beach
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The Beach Cliffsides of Positano
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Mount Vesuvius spotted on the road out of Positano
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Goodbye Positano - Amalfi Coast Sunset
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Posted by Anja Fourie 03:42 Archived in Italy Tagged beach italy amalfi positano lemons limoncello under_the_tuscan_sun Comments (1)

Dubai, The Desert City

"It is 'the Vegas of the Middle East' or 'the Venice of the Middle East' or 'the Disney World of the Middle East', if Disney World were the size of San Francisco and out in a desert." ~ George Saunders

sunny 37 °C

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My first day in Dubai, I walk from the hotel to the train station. My first experience of the Dubai sun left a white line on my shoulder of where my handbag strap was. A perfect white line, surrounded by red itchiness, reminds me: You're in the desert now.

Everything in Dubai is bigger and better. Even the sun is hotter here. Dubai is always growing, always improving and expanding. If you can build it, Dubai will build it bigger and much better. Landing in Dubai, the heat gets to you immediately. It is early in the morning and still dark outside, but a temperature of well in the 30s is already burning down on the desert city.

The United Arab Emirates, consists of 7 different emirates. The earliest mention of Dubai is in 1095 AD, but the earliest recorded settlement was only in 1799. By 1833, the Sheikhdom of Dubai was established when Sheikh Maktoum in Butti A-Maktoum took 800 of his tribesmen to the Dubai Creek. The area around the Creek was where Dubai really started growing. The area around here is the older part of Dubai and dusty streets and older mosques can be observed in this neighbourhood. Most of the 53% of the Indian population of Dubai, also seem to reside here and exploring this part of Dubai, makes you feel like you just stepped straight into India.

1. The old neighbourhood of Dubai

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Dubai built their economy on oil, after it was discovered there in 1966. Dubai is a global city with such a diverse population. Local Arab Emirati’s only make up about 17% of the population, which means that they do get first pick when it comes to jobs. The rest of the population consists of about 53% Indians, 16% Pakistani, 9% Bangladesh and 3% Filipinos.

Indians and Pakistani’s all seem to be taxi drivers or construction workers. Shop workers, cashiers and waiters all seem to be Filipinos. It is my guess, that the very rich children of the Emirati are not going to work as a cashier or shop girl, as they don’t need to. As most local Emirati seem to hold the wealth in Dubai, who will do these jobs for them? The thousands of foreigners, of course.

Today Dubai has moved away from being an oil economy, as the quantities of oil found in Dubai would not have been efficient to establish this city. It has moved to a Western type economy and gets its wealth from tourism, real estate and financial services. It is also famous for its skyline with some of the highest buildings in the world.

2. Difference between Dubai today and in 1990

With just 20 years of development, Dubai has change into a massive cosmopolitan city. With the main road of Dubai being just a single road a few years back, it is now a wide highway, with no signs of a desert in sight.

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3. The Burj Khalifa

Burj means tower in Arabic, so The Burj Khalifa is thus the Khalifa Tower. Khalifa was the name of the president who bailed the tower out in the time of economic crisis. At 829,8m (2,722 ft), the Burj Khalifa really towers out over the Dubai skyline. It can almost be seen from everywhere in the city. This massive beacon of Dubai engineering, with 163 floors, dominates your view every day. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest man-made structure in the world. The Burj includes residential space, office space, restaurants, bars, clubs and the world’s second highest swimming pool which is located on the 76th floor.

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4. The Dubai Lake Musical Fountain

Right outside the Dubai Mall, which is the world’s largest mall, is the Dubai Musical Fountain. The Musical Fountain is also situated at the bottom of the Burj Khalifa. It is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. It is set inside the manmade Burj Khalifa lake. 6,600 lights are used with water that can shoot up 275m. It is accompanied by a range of music. Performance times are 1pm and 1:30pm, and then every 30 minutes from 6pm until 10pm, and on weekends from 6pm until 11pm. Each show is different and lasts about 3 minutes.

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5. JW Marriot Marquis Hotel

The tallest hotel in the world, is the magnificent JW Marriot Marquis Hotel in Dubai. The hotel is a 77 storey twin tower, skyscraper complex. It features a magnitude of restaurants, bars, business centers, conference halls, as well as massive 3,700 m2 spa and health club. The hotel is 355 meters high.

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6. Dubai Marina

The Dubai Marina is a district in Dubai which is situated along a 3km artificial canal. Along the canal, there are residential buildings and villas, as well as many restaurants and shops. This is a quiet neighbourhood with residents jogging along the canal, people dining and watching the water, and dinner cruises taking place on the canal with brightly coloured boats.

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7. Dubai Bars and Clubs

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As Dubai is an Islamic state, pubs and bars that you would normally see in a Western country is not the norm here. A bar or a club must be connected to a hotel to serve alcohol. Thus, the prices for drinks in Dubai are skyhigh, just like its famous skyline. Here are some of the nice bars I visited while in Dubai.

Connected to the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort, is the Barasti Beach Bar. A wooden deck extends onto the beach, which some soft beds located on the sand. The bar is very small though and drinks may take a while to order when it is very busy.

We also visited The Irish Village, a massive pub which is connected to the Tennis Stadium. It is located in the commercial area of Al Garhoud, a residential and commercial district. The Irish Village was built with Irish craftsmanship and with building materials shipped from Ireland. The venue is outdoors with live music creating a great vibe.

On my second last night, I went to the Armani Prive Club situated in the Burj Khalifa. The bottom 39 floors of the Burj Khalifa house the Armani hotel. The club is very expensive and to get in our names were put on the list by a friend. A lot of girls, and a lot of prostitutes are dancing around in small dresses. The music was really good and dancing the night away was fun here. The club only starts to get packed at about 1am, which is strange as it closes again at 3am.

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8. Jumeirah Park Beach

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Located in the Jumeirah district of Dubai, this white sand beach stretches along the south coast of Dubai. There are many resorts and hotels located along the beach. The Palm Jumeirah is also located along this stretch of sand. For everyday beach-goers you can go to Jumeirah Park, pay 5 dirhams, and walk onto the beach through there. Here you will find a small wooden deck built on the beach where you can buy take-away food including burgers, sandwiches and salads. There is also a juice bar. We rented a big umbrella and three deck chairs, all for the price of about 60 dirhams, which seems very cheap. The water is nice, with ’n big waves and you can swim comfortable. The water isn’t packed. There are signs up that ask beach-goers to please support customs and wear swimming clothes that cover more the thighs, for men, and a one piece swimsuit, for ladies. This is of course ignored as all the girls are in bikinis. The mix of the Middle Eastern and Western worlds in Dubai can be seen on the beach, with girls in bikinis providing a stark contrast to women fully clothed in their black abaya and burqa.

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9. Dubai Records

Dubai is a record breaking place everything being higher, bigger and better than the rest of the world. This is remarkable if you take into account that a few years ago this was all mostly desert. A total of 110 Guinness World Records are held in the Emriates. Here are some of the records currently held by Dubai:

1. Burj Khalifa: This building, standing 829m high, holds a few records on its own, including Tallest Building in the World, Highest Residential Apartments, Most Floors in a Building and many more.
2. Largest Shopping Centre: The Dubai Mall spans 548 127 m² and can house about 1200 shops.
3. Longest Driverless Metro Line: The longest fully automated metro network at a length of 75km.
4. Tallest Residential Building: Princess Tower at 413.4 m high.
5. Tallest Hotel: The JW Marriot Marquis with its 77 floor twin buildings and at a height of 355m.
6. Largest Indoor Ski Resort: With a total area of 22,500 m² covered in 6000 tons of snow, Ski Dubai offers 5 ski runs, including 1 advanced run, and a 3000 m² Snow Park for tobogganing and sledding.
7. Largest Automated Parking Facility: This parking facility located at the Emirates Financial Towers spans over 27,606 m². It is completely automated and can support 360 cars/hr. at a maximum speed of 1.25 m/sec.
8. World's only 7 star Hotel: The Burj Al Arab, formerly also the world's tallest hotel. The cheapest rate for one night in this hotel is 1800 dollars.
9. Largest Artificial Island: The Palm Jumeirah is a group of artificial islands built of the coast of Dubai which houses hotels, condos and resorts.
10. Dubai Fountain: The biggest fountain that can shoot water the highest at a height of 275m.

Posted by Anja Fourie 09:08 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged beach subway sheikh dubai uae emirates heat burj_khalifa jumeirah jw_marriott burqa abaya emirati Comments (1)

Boracay Island, The Philippines

"I'll take you to the Philippines, We can go there, Jump on a plane." ~ Apl.de.Ap (Take me to the Philippines)

sunny 28 °C
View Philippines Trip on Anja Fourie's travel map.

Not much more than a 4 hour flight from South Korea, lies the Philippine Archipelago which comprises of about 7,107 different little islands. Of these only about 2,000 are inhabited. The first island that we visited is the popular tourist destination, Boracay Island. Voted, The Best Island in the World 2012, by Travel+Leisure, this island has sprawling beaches, clear waters and a strip of beach bars.

On the 4th of August, we got up very early for our 8 o'clock flight. As we walked to the bus stop close to our apartment block, the one wheel of my bag broke off. Not such a great start, but my excitement quickly made me not care less about a broken bag. The first bus of the day came around the corner as the sun started rising over Incheon. The bus takes about 45 minutes, depending on traffic, but soon we arrive at the airport and check in our bags. We are ready to embark on our journey to the Philippines!

About 4 hours later we arrive in Manila. It is typhoon season and everything is wet. It is raining incredibly hard and unfortunately for this airport you have to walk all the way around on the outside, to get to departures again. The plane ride down to Kalibo Airport is very bumpy, but we are suprised by beautiful weather when we land there.

1. Hello Philippines!
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Boracay is one of the smaller islands in the Philippines. It is situated 315km south of Manila and forms part of the Panay Islands. It is just 2km north of the bigger island here. This means that we had to fly from Incheon to Manila, transfer from Manila to Kalibo airport, take a 2 hour bus ride up north to the ferry station, and then make the 15min journey by ferry to Boracay Island. Then we got on a little bus to the main part of the island, where our hotel was. We stayed in Island Nook Boutique Hotel. This place is situated right on Boracay Highway, the biggest road on the island that goes from the one side to the other.

2. Island Nook Boutique Hotel
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The island is only about 7kms long, has a total area of 10.32 squared kms and the narrowest point is less than a kilometer. This narrow point is where most of the hotels, bars, beaches and action can be found in Boracay.The two main beaches, White Beach and Bulabog Beach are located at opposite ends of this thin stretch. White Beach faces West and Bulabog faces east. You can easily walk from the one side to the other with a direct road. The famous White Beach is where all the bars and restaurants are situated and also the main swimming area. If you walk to the other side, Bulabog Beach is where all the extreme sports are situated. Here you can also get a little boat to take you to one of the other, quieter beaches down the island or for some snorkeling.

As we arrived pretty late at our hotel, it was already dark when we headed out for the first time to go and explore Boracay. The first thing you notice here is the scooters. Always everywhere and always going. There are barely any big cars here, just small busses, motorcycles and the tricycles.

3. Crazy streets
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4. "Get anything over the counter" Pharmacy - we were laughing at how really strong pills that you need definitely need a prescription for back home, can just be bought through a little window like a burger at McDonalds' drive-thru.
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Our first night there, we saw a fire show on the beach. Soon we realised that not all of these dancers are in fact the tiny girls that they appear to be. There is something a little "more" to them. Our first ladyboy sighting confirms the fact that we have arrived in South East Asia.

5. Fire Show on White Beach
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ILIG ILIGAN

The next day we head out to do some activities. Our hotel had discounts on a lot of the activities, so we organised a boat trip through them. On the other days we mostly just took the flyer from our place down to Bulabog and organised it ourselves. One of the trips you can do, is take a little boat and go snorkel. After this, they take you to Ilig Iligan Beach. This beach is basically deserted. Just a few locals roaming around, some people snorkeling, and some goats walking on the beach. There are two restaurants, huts really, where you can get some lunch. We went here three times during our week in Boracay, but for the second two times we opted not to do the snorkeling and rather just relaxed on the beach. There is a road to the beach, but it is not fully developed enough for the tricycle to complete the journey, so taking a boat there is the fastest and best way.

6. On our way to Ilig Iligan from Bulabog Beach
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7. Beautiful beaches of Ilig Iligan
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8. Ilig Iligan Restaurant ~ waves crashing in beneath your feet as the tide rises, ladies selling you beads while you wait for your food, and delicious Filipino food cooked on the beach, makes it all a very unique experience.
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9. Swimming and Diving for Star Fish
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PUKA SHELL BEACH

It is possible to take a tricycle to Puka Beach, which is situated to the North of the island. It is basically right next to Ilig Iligan, but you can travel straight to this beach via the main road. With the tricycle it takes approximately 15 minutes to get there. The name originated from the Puka shells found on this 800m, beautiful stretch of beach. The beach at Ilig Iligan is situated in a smaller bay, making it protected from the elements and thus there is now wind or waves to really speak of. The beach at Puka is more open and the small waves crash very close to the shore. Here we just swan, tanned and drank coconut milk/

10. View from the tricycle, on our way to Puka Beach
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11. At Puka Beach
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BULABOG BEACH SPORTS...

At Bulabog we also did some other fun activities. The banana boat is blow-up banana shape boat, which you sit on and then get pulled behind a speed boat. It doesn't go very fast, but is fun. After this, half of our group decided to also do the Flying Fish. This basically works on the same concept, except that the Flying Fish has "wings" on the side, causing it to lift out of the water at more than a 45 degree angle. Our one friend fell off and lost both his boxers and his pants. He managed to save his pants, but had to let his boxers be eaten by the fishes.

12. Banana Boat and the Flying Fish
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BORACAY NIGHTLIFE...

We spent the whole day on the beach, had afternoon naps and then went out for dinner. Dinner would usually be had at a restaurant in D*Mall or on the restaurant strip at White Beach.

13. Dinners in Boracay ~ Adobo, Rice, Fish, Buffets, Hobbit House (Lord of the Rings themed restaurant with little people)
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14. Going out in Boracay ~ On our break from Korea, we couldn't escape the Koreans as they love The Philippines. Ou favourite place to start was Tribal Bar, a makeshift bar on the beach. Here they even served Savanna, a South African favourite! At Tribal Bar they also did juggling tricks and we ordered big dispensers of alcohol with Wang-Wang inside. Wang-Wang is basically just a mixup of everything at the bar. Our nights would always end at Summer Place, where we would dance the night away.
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SAYING GOODBYE TO BORACAY...

After a week in Boracay, we finally had to say goodbye to Boracay and make our way to Palawan, our next destination. We had a 10am flight, which isn't that early, but factoring in the almost 3 hours it would take us to get to the airport,, we were up very early that morning. We fell asleep on the ferry, and fell into semi-comas in the bus during the 2 hour drive to the airport.

15. Very tired on the Ferry
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16. Tiny Kalibo airport
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Our next stop is Puerto Princesa on the Palawan Island. Here we will be seeing one of the 7 Wonders of Nature, the Underground River!

TOP TIPS...

1. Do pack light. For Boracay you barely need any clothes, but your swimming costume and a few nice dresses. I took a variety of shoes and never wore anything but Flip-Flops.
2. Do be prepared for the mosquitos. We were basically killed by mosquitos every night. It seemed like nothing we bought there worked for us, so do take something along that had proven to have worked for you in the past.
3. Do book your flight to Caticlan Airport. We didn't know this, but Caticlan is an airport 5mins away from the ferry port to Boracay, where Kalibo is 2 hours away. Spare yourself the hassle and book you flight into Caticlan rather than Kalibo.

Posted by Anja Fourie 01:36 Archived in Philippines Tagged beaches boats beach philippines filipino manila boracay mosquitos caticlan kalibo apl.d.ap philippine_air summer_place Comments (0)

Deokjeokdo, South Korea

Exploring a Korean island

overcast 21 °C

Buddha's birthday is on the 28th of May, conveniently falling on a Monday this year, giving us all a lovely long weekend. For this long weekend we decided to visit one of the numerous islands populating the Korean coast. One of these islands, Deokjeok Island, or Deokjeokdo (do meaning island in Korean), is the largest island of the Deokjeok-myeon islands. It is located in Ongjin County which falls under the jurisdiction of the bigger Incheon Metropolitan. Living in the Dongincheon area, we are very closely situated to Yeon'an Pier, which is Incheon's ferry port. Deokjeokdo is aproximately 75kms from the port and the ferry takes about 1 hour to the island.

1. Map
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2. Waiting at the Ferry Terminal
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3. Fun on the ferry
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We left the ferry at approximately 10am on Saturday morning. Arriving at the island, numerous ladies are cleaning and drying small Rays. This I have tried and it is very hard and chewy and not nice at all. It comes to your table resembling squid, but then suprises you with its wet cardboard taste. Passing the ladies with their Rays, we walk up the pier and wait for the busses from our different pensions to come pick us up. Pensions are Korean style guesthouses. They look like small apartment building with maybe three floors. Bedding is provided, but this is Korean style. You sleep on the floor.

4. Partying in our pension room
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At night, some bands were playing on the beach. Apparently it is also Deokjeokdo weekend custom, for the English teachers that is, to go in their animal onesies. I went as a panda.

5. Animals at Night
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6. Animals at Day
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After a nice long weekend away, we return to the port to catch the ferry back to reality. On the way back, we don't race for the outside of the ferry, but rather a nice chair inside, where we can all fall asleep on the way back home, to Incheon.

Posted by Anja Fourie 02:48 Archived in South Korea Tagged water beach island south_korea ferry pension deokjeokdo deokjeok Comments (1)

The little town of Wagon-House-Cliff

Arniston, South Africa

semi-overcast 25 °C

The first half of our Saturday we spent at Agulhas, before returning to Arniston. At Arniston we went to the hotel to warm up with Hot Chocolate with a beautiful view of this dangerous ocean in front of us. Arniston is a tiny coastal village.

1. The hotel and beach view
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2. Me, being extremely excited about something
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Arniston derives its name from the Arniston ship that sank there in 1815. She was part of the British East Indian fleet and was rounding the Cape to return wounded soldiers home to England from Ceylon. A chronometer was a very expensive instrument at that time. The Arniston didn’t have one, so her Captain had to rely on the other ships in the fleet to know where he was. When a storm separated him from the other ships, he had to rely on his own intuition to navigate himself home. When the captain rounded Waenhuiskrans, he thought that is was the Cape of Good Hope and started to steer the ship north. This meant that he ran the ship ashore onto the rocks at Waenhuiskrans. Of the 378 people on board, only six managed to swim ashore. They started to make their way to Cape Town when they realised their mistake. They were found on the beach by a farmer’s son. A memorial was erected on the beach by the wife of Colonel Giels. Their four children died on that fateful day.

3. Arniston memorial
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The inscription on the memorial reads: Erected by their disconsolate parents to the memory of Thomas, aged 13 years, William Noble, aged 10, Andrew, aged 8 and Alexander McGregor Murray, aged 7 (the four eldest sons of Lieut. Colonel Andrew Giels of H.M. 73rd Regiment) who, with Lord and Lady Molesworth unfortunately perished in the Arniston Transport, wrecked on this shore on 3rd May, 1815.

4. At Arniston you can also do some whale watching
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While at the hotel we decided to take a walk to the nearby cave. Arniston’s other name is Waenhuiskrans. This is an Afrikaans name which literally means “Wagon House Cliff”. The reason the town was given this name is because the cave that can be found here is big enough to house an entire wagon and its oxen. This is a limestone cave and can be found to the right of Roman Beach, which is about 2km south of Arniston. The cave can only be accessed at low tide as the cave is under water during high tide and thus very dangerous.

5. On our way to the cave
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6. Steps down to the cave
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According to the pamphlet we got at the hotel, it is best to plan your trip to the cave at sunset. The reason for this is that the darkness of the cave makes the colours outside even more spectacular which means that sunsets seen from inside the cave must be amazing. When the last ray of sun sinks below the horison, a green flash can be seen. This 2 second flash is caused by the dispersion of the blue light. Unfortunately we weren’t there are sunset, but the cave was still pretty spectacular. It really is as big as described with the prettiest rock formations inside. The roof is spectacularly grooved as a result of the water erosion. At the far side of the cave, the rocks and sand are still wet. Kelp was also lying here and this is proof that the ocean does completely fill this cave at high tide.

7. Almost there
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8. The Cave
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That night we made dinner back at the house and then decided to go out for a drink. Arniston has no pumping nightlife and this we found out on the Saturday night. We wanted to go out for a drink, but finding the hotel closed for a private function, we had no choice but to go home. There are no other bars or restaurants open in this little town that time of the night and it was only nine o’clock!

9. Dinner time
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The next day we decided to explore the white washed and thatched roof houses of Kassiesbaai. This is a 200 year old fishing village and it has been declared a National Heritage site and South African Monument. At some of the houses you can enjoy a traditional meal consisting mainly of fish. An arts and crafts shop is also set up. Most of the residents here still make their living from the sea.

10. On our way
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11. Welcome to Kassiesbaai
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12. Arniston harbour
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13. Cute cousin playing on the anchor outside the hotel
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After that we headed back to Roman’s Beach again for some ice-cream. At this ice-cream stand you can only choose between strawberry and vanilla or a strawberry/vanilla mix. If you don’t like any one of these flavours, then you’ll just have to do without ice-cream.

14. Roman’s beach: path to The Cave can be seen at the far right
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15. Ice-cream on the beach
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16. Soft lime stone at the beach makes for interesting sand art
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After that our weekend at Arniston was finished. After lunch and some careful packing, with me still managing to forget things, we headed back home.

17. A Goodbye sunset
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Posted by Anja Fourie 15:22 Archived in South Africa Tagged food beach memorial ship cave south_africa ice-cream arniston Comments (0)

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