Saturday, October 29, 2011

Blyde River Canyon part 2

On Monday morning, we all woke up bright and early, ready for another day of fun. Darin was still feeling pretty tired out and sore from our big day on Sunday, but for the most part, he sucked it up. After breakfast, we left our cottage and headed out to see the sights. Our first stop was the Pinnacle, a large rock rising up from the canyon below. It was pretty impressive, but there was only a tiny railing to keep my precious children from falling to their death, so I was not really having the best time. We looked at the big rock for a while and then Darin held the kids hands so they could peek over the edge at some waterfalls and then I fell over dead from a heart attack. Ok, I didn’t really, but man, do I hate having my kids up high!!! 

We piled back into the car and headed to God’s Window. We started walking to get to the lookout point and were confronted with stairs, lots of stairs. The kids took off running up the stairs, so we had to follow. Each time we got to the top, there would be even more stairs. I think we made it up 2 levels, then decided we had seen enough of a view to appreciate God’s Window : ) Next we went to Bourke’s Luck Potholes, which was amazing! There were pools of water and little waterfalls and such smooth rocks. It was just so beautiful. The kids loved looking in the small pools and seeing all the tadpoles and little fish. My mom and I sat with our feet in the water for a while. It was beautiful out. By this point, we were all very hungry and tired, so we asked if there were any restaurants around. We ended up going to a Forever Resort and had a huge buffet lunch. It was amazing. Salads, cheeses, soup, bread, drumsticks, pasta, potatoes, pork loin and dessert! It was so good. When we arrived there wasn’t anybody there, but by the time we had filled our plates once, the place had filled up with a bunch of different tour groups. We ate and ate and ate. It felt so good to sit and rest and eat in the air conditioning. 

After lunch we headed back out to see a few more sights. Our first stop was the Three Rondavels, which are three large rock formations that look like traditional round huts. Then we did a little shopping and Jori sat with some women and watched them make bead necklaces. Dear Darin was ready to be done, so we headed off for one more stop, which was just a lookout point with another view of the canyon. There was a lady crocheting hats out of plastic bags, and the kids just plopped right down to watch her. They love seeing how things are made and it was fun seeing them interact with this lady. After this stop, we headed back to our lodge. Darin stayed in to relax a bit and the rest of us headed down to the pool. The water was so cold, but I told the kids I would go swimming with them, so I did. 

After swimming, the kids found something to keep them occupied until bedtime-grasshoppers. Very large grasshoppers, or locusts, or katydids, which is what the kids called them. They had 5 of these creatures that they put in a plastic bag. Then they named them-Hopper, Hoppy, Una, Blacky and Bacon. Yes, Bacon. They seriously played with these things for hours. They wrote all the names in a notebook and were being very secretive about it all. Jori was trying to train them to jump on a piece of cement. They even ate their dinner outside so they could monitor what their new buddies were doing. Before bedtime, all 5 climbed up on the wall of our chalet. The next morning, 2 of them were still there, and the kids played with them for another hour. Who knew that bugs could be so entertaining?

On Tuesday, after the kids played with the bugs, we headed to the pool for one last swim. This was around 7 in the morning. My mom and I watched them swim while the guys started packing up the car. After having breakfast and second breakfast, we headed out for the last day of our trip. We drove for about an hour and arrived at our first, and final, stop-Sudwala Caves. We walked up many stairs and were greeted by a very cool breeze coming out of the opening of the cave. We had to wait a bit for our tour to begin, and while we waited, we were told that a huge black mamba had been spotted under the deck earlier in the morning. Black Mamba’s are deadly snakes, unless you happen to be very physically fit when they bite you. Sadly, I don’t think any of our group would have survived a snake bite. Maybe my dad, but the rest of us would have been goners.

Our tour guide, Victor, arrived and we started our tour of the cave. It really was pretty amazing. He told us that long ago the cave was used as a hide out for a Swazi prince and his followers. We saw a lot of interesting rock formations and learned about stalagmites and stalactites. We crouched down through low passageways and climbed on slippery stairs. I don’t think any of us thought the tour would be as interesting as it was. Victor started the tour by telling our kids that if they touched anything or didn’t listen to him, they would be thrown down into a pit, and they listened better than they ever have before! I wish Victor could come and live with us full time : ) When our tour was finished, we stopped and ate lunch at the restaurant that was on site. There was a pet parrot in the building and the kids had fun listening to it say “hello” and “bye-bye”. 

After lunch, we decided to check out the Dinosaur Park, which was right next to the caves. Tyson loves dinosaurs, so it was fun to walk around with him as he saw all the sights. There was also a real live crocodile in a big tank. The poor beast was so hot it just lay in its little pool of water. We did see it move its eyes a few times, so we know it was alive. Our trip was almost over, but we wanted to have one more new experience. Between the cave and the Dinosaur Park we had walked past some pools with little fish in them. These fish were brought over from Singapore and if you wanted, you could pay to have these fish nibble on your feet. All of us, except for Darin, thought this would be a fun thing to try. So we had our feet washed and then we stuck our legs into the pool. At first the fish just swam away from us, but then they started nibbling. It was such a weird feeling. We were all squirming and laughing and shrieking. 

The kids’ legs were too short, so they weren’t getting nibbled on at first, but then the giggling started. Well, Jori was giggling, but Tyson was not really into the fish nibbles. He was moaning and groaning, and it just made the whole thing funnier. We sat with our legs in that pool for 30 minutes and walked away with the smoothest feet in South Africa! 

Then it was time to pile into the car again and begin the drive home. We started out the drive with Jori saying her stomach hurt. We were ready to pull over and then she just fell asleep. Tyson watched a DVD and the rest of us talked, looked out the windows and slept. We made it back to Pretoria and stopped for dinner at McDonalds. Then we finished our drive home. We would love to go back to the Blyde River area again as there were many things that we did not get to see and other things that we’d love to see again.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Blyde River Canyon

Well, my parents arrived on Wednesday night, and after 2 days of unpacking (so much unpacking!), renewing old acquaintances and catching up on sleep, we left for our holiday on Saturday morning. During our lunch stop, we ran into a group of Americans. In the group was a couple from Hudsonville, Michigan, our hometown! Dr. Dykstra (dentist) and his wife Jan. Such a small world. After talking a bit, the world got even smaller, as we discovered that Jan’s brother goes to our old church (Hi Buteyns!) and her cousin was my mom’s dear, dear friend, Cheryl who recently passed away. 

After that stop, we were on our way again. Our next stop was Pilgrim’s Rest, which was a gold mining town many years ago. The kids were thrilled to feed a pair of donkeys some carrots and then to make things even more exciting, they got to go on a donkey cart ride down the main street. They looked SO CUTE bouncing around in the back of the cart. I am sure there were more things to do in Pilgrim’s Rest, like panning for gold, but we decided to keep moving to our final destination for the day.  We arrived at the Panorama Chalets by mid afternoon, early enough for the kids to go swimming before dinner. The pool here is amazing. It is built into the edge of the cliff and there are rocks in the pool that the kids can climb on. After some time swimming, we came back to our cottage and made some mac and cheese and some s'mores, courtesy of Grandma Willie and her marshmallow crème, hot fudge and box of graham crackers. Yum! Once the kids were in bed, the adults played Skip-Bo, or “Ski-boo” according to Tyson. Then it was time for bed as we were all tired out and we had a big day planned for Sunday.

Sunday morning we headed out to our first stop, Forest Falls. We had the whole place to ourselves. We had a lovely hike, along a river. It looked like we were in a rainforest, just so different from the “Africa” that we are used to. We walked and walked on a narrow trail, with lots of rocky areas and slippery mud. Jori was our little tour guide, saying things like “I’d prefer it if you came this way” or “I don’t think your son should walk here” (to me). If there was an area where a big rock jutted out or there was a slick patch, she’d stand there with her walking stick and point it out to Papa and Gram.

Then she’d run on ahead again. Tyson kept finding all sorts of good “thinking spots” that he wanted to try out, but there were so many gnats that would swarm around our faces when we were at rest, that we tried to encourage him to keep moving and stop thinking : ) Both kids did a great job walking and didn’t complain at all, which was a very pleasant surprise. We walked, and we walked and we walked for about 45 minutes, then we came to a logging road, but no falls. We couldn’t hear them and didn’t know how much farther we’d have to go, so we decided to just turn back. 

Next stop, Mac Mac falls. Here we had to walk down some stairs and on a little path, but the view was worth it. The waterfalls were beautiful and the kids had fun climbing on some rocks while we took pictures. After snapping plenty of photos, we headed out again to Mac Mac pools. This was our favorite stop of the day. There were some natural pools that we could swim in. They were FREEZING, but we were all so hot from our hiking around that we were eager to get wet. There was a rock cliff that people were jumping off of into the pool below. It looked both terrifying and fun. Darin, being the brave soul that he is, jumped first. Then he took the kids up to see if they would jump, but they were both too scared. So I went up to show them how easy peasy it would be, but I was rooted to the spot in fear. It just looked such a long fall from where we were standing to the water below and I am just so not a fan of heights! I made Darin jump again and then I made a little girl, who was probably about 7 jump twice and finally I decided that I really wanted my kids to see a brave mommy in action, so I jumped! And yes, I did plug my nose. It was not as scary as I thought it would be, but the water was SO cold that I just wanted to get out of there as fast as possible. After I jumped, the kids were both feeling a bit braver and they both jumped off with Darin holding their hands. I jumped a couple more times and then our brave 5 year old jumped in by herself to her daddy waiting below. Tyson was still feeling a bit nervous and another little girl jumped in ahead of him. She then latched on to Darin and wouldn’t let him go, even though he had been treading water waiting for Tyson to jump. He was so tired and the stinking girl WOULD NOT get off of him. He said that he can see why people drown when they go out to rescue someone who is drowning because it is so much effort, especially in cold water. Tyson never did jump, which his little sister had to keep pointing out over and over and over. “I am much braver than Tyson because I jumped by myself.” “Wasn’t I so brave for jumping by myself?” and on and on and on : ) 

After hiking and swimming we all needed a rest. My parents and I slept for a couple hours and Darin ended up taking the kids swimming.  The kids never seem to run out of energy!! After resting up, we headed back out for one more adventure-The Big Swing. This is something that Darin had seen on line and being an adrenaline junkie, he wanted to give it a try. As soon as we got there, I was not feeling very good about the whole situation. The walkway out to The Big Swing was kind of rickety and Darin had read that someone had died on The Big Swing a few years ago, and we ended up on a kind of rickety platform on the edge of a HUGE cliff WITH OUR KIDS. I hated it. HATED IT. I felt like I was going to throw up. The only thing I hate more than being way up high without a high wall keeping my from the edge is having my kids be way up high without a high wall to keep them from the edge! Ugh.

The Big Swing was looking a little intimidating, so Darin decided to start out by going on the zip line over the gorge. He had to run off the ramp. He said that was the worst part. I could hardly watch him because in my mind, the cables were about to snap and I could just picture my husband plummeting to his death. But he made it back with a huge smile on his face. Next my dad went, and he had a great time too. THEN my little Tyson, my 7 year old, precious firstborn son, wanted to take a turn on the zip line. I DID NOT want him to, because I thought he would freak out, and I knew it was going to freak me out if he went. Poor kid. He kept saying “Why are you mad at me, why are you mad at me” because I was getting all anxious and mother hen-like saying “Are you sure you want to do this? It might be very scary.” But he was adamant that he wanted to go on the zip line. So they harnessed him up and I clung to the rail and then the man gave him a shove and off he went, over the gorge!!!! Yes, my BRAVE 7 year old, went on a zip line over a 400 ft deep gorge. He LOVED it. His face was just so lit up when he came back and right away he said he wanted to go again. We were all so proud of him. Well, almost all of us. There was one member of our party who was off pouting and crossing her arms over her chest. Any guesses on who that would be? Poor little Jori was too small to go on the zip line and that just burned her up. She was throwing a little tantrum and running away on the creaky walkway, which of course made me get all frustrated and anxious. She kept hiding behind a building and she’d peak out with her arms crossed and give us dirty looks. It was pretty funny. 

After Tyson went on the zip line, he kept telling me “It’s so fun mom, you should go” and once again, I wanted to be a brave mommy. Darin told me that it wasn’t scary and that there was no drop at all, just a little ride across the gorge. So I got harnessed up and ran off the platform. It was kind of fun. I had my arms out and was enjoying the cool air. Then I looked down and it stopped being fun. Have I already mentioned that I hate heights? I don’t know why I keep doing this to myself. In 2008 I bungeed off the Blauwcrans Bridge near Knysna, and now I was hanging over a deep gorge on a zip line. After I went across, I had to wait for the guy to pull me back in and I had all sorts of horrible images in my mind of the cable snapping or my harness breaking and I just wanted to be back on solid ground. I got on the ramp and I think Darin could tell I did not really enjoy myself. Tyson kept saying “Why didn’t you like it” like my aversion to heights was a personal affront to him because he loved it so. From now on, I will just keep my feet on the ground, thank you very much! So while I was zipping over the gorge, my dad decided that he wanted to do The Big Swing, because you only live once! So he got harnessed up again and then he swung out over the gorge. It wasn’t a bungee jump, because you don’t really bounce back up. He jumped and we couldn’t see him and then there he was, swinging back and forth above the trees far below us. Darin decided that he also wanted to have an adventure, so while my dad was walking back up (430 stairs!) Darin jumped. It turns out that having to walk back up from the landing point kind of took away some of the fun from the jump. They were both so tired. Darin ended up laying on the sofa in the cottage for a couple hours until he finally felt well enough to get up. So the swing was not necessarily that great. The kids swam again and then once they were in bed, we played more Skip-Bo. 

Stay tuned for the rest of the trip…

Monday, October 17, 2011

Random news of the week

In 2 days, my parents will be arriving in South Africa! We spent all Saturday morning cleaning the house in preparation for their arrival. The kids are so excited to show Papa and Gram all around our little corner of the world and Darin is all geared up to play Canadian Salad, his favorite card game ever!

We went on a game drive on Saturday night and saw a HUGE kudu by the side of the road. Darin and I both jumped when we saw it because it was RIGHT THERE, looking right at us and showing off its beautiful twirly antlers. It really was amazing. The kids are getting to be such good animal spotters. Jori has to keep count of how many things she sees first, which drives Tyson nuts. It is fun seeing how excited they both are when they see something without Darin pointing it out first. I must say that I am also quite proud of myself for making a spot because my vision is so poor that I rarely see things without having Darin (or Jori) point it out to me first. 

I have made pear crisp twice in the past couple weeks and it is delicious! The pears here look the same as our pears back home, but they aren’t soft, which is a bit strange. Thankfully they do cook up nicely in a crisp. I also made caramel sauce to go on top of the pear crisp. The first time I made it, it turned out perfectly. The second time, it burned. The third time, it didn’t want to thicken and then it ended up getting a little too thick and was more like chewy/crunchy caramel candy. Not bad, per se, but a bit rough on the teeth.

Our kids have been having a great time swimming in the neighbor’s pool. We are so thankful for generous friends who are willing to share their space with us! It has been quite hot here, so cooling off in a pool is a huge treat for the kids and Darin and I both love having a chance to snuggle with some babies while the kids are splashing around. 

A couple nights ago, we read about the fruit of the Spirit during our bedtime devotions with the kids. After we had read through the list a few times, we talked about the one fruit that each of us needs to work on. Right away Tyson said that I need to work on patience and that he needs to work on self-control. Those were the exact same answers that Darin and I both would have said. We had to think a bit harder about what fruit needs to ripen in Darin and Jori’s lives. We finally decided that Darin could work on being more joyful. Jori was even tougher to decipher as she is really pretty mellow and good natured, but Darin and I figure she could be more faithful. She tends to be a bit wishy-washy. She can go from really loving a person and being your best friend, to giving grumpy looks or saying unkind things when she isn’t happy with you. So we all have a bit of work ahead of us!

Today we saw a rhino on our farm! Darin actually saw it crossing the road when he was coming back from Tshepo Ya Bana, so he zoomed home and picked the kids, Amos and me up. Then the 5 of us tracked the rhino down. It was HUGE. We followed it all over our farm and onto the next farm for about 20 minutes. We did not have our camera, but we called the Hardings, who also came to see the rhino, and one of the volunteers with them did have her camera, so we’ll have to get some pictures from her so we can show you all what we saw. 

Did I already mention that my parents will be here in 2 days? Can’t wait for Wednesday night to get here!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Race by Tyson

We went on a game drive to look for animals.  When we got home we locked the gate.  I wanted to have a race with my dad.  I looked back I was running in the grass then doooooooooooooooosh! I slamed my head in a thorn tree, then I fell to the ground.  I went inside.  I was bleeding all over that’s why I had to take a bath.  I went inside the house to tell my mom what had happened.  I started to cry.  I took a shower, then it was all better.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Random news from the past several weeks

Jori and I were walking home from TYB today and I was having her practice spelling some words. Out of nowhere she said “I wish my name could always be Jorin” (which is her given name). I asked her why and she said “Then people would know there is an ‘n’ at the end”, which didn’t totally make sense to me so I probed a bit more. She said “Some people spell my name right, J-O-R-I, but some people think my name is Jori-ya and they spell it J-O-R-Y.”. She sounded so sad and disgusted by this, that I had to hide my smile as I consoled her and told her my name is also often misspelled and mispronounced. 

Speaking of names, Jori went through a time where she was calling her brother “Ty”, which drives me nuts. I am all about Tyson and Tys, but he is not a Ty!! I had him start telling her “Why do you keep calling me that? It’s not my name.” : ) That must have worked as I have not heard her say that for several weeks!

Tyson likes mustard! I am so glad I have one child that likes condiments as it makes me feel less guilty about buying them for myself. 

Jori cut her bangs. Not all of them, but she took a chunk out right at her part, which was the best possible place for her to cut as it of blends in. Apparently there was a bug stuck in her hair and neither she nor her brother could get it out, so she thought cutting her hair was the only option. It happened on a Saturday morning when Darin and I were both still in bed and after the cut, they came and handed us a chunk of her hair. What a way to wake up.

Darin’s beloved Vikings are 0 and 4. He is still a diehard fan and will continue to watch the games, even though his wife thinks he is nuts. Every Sunday night, I have to start screening our emails to make sure no one has written anything about the game as he does NOT want to know the outcome until he has a chance to watch the whole thing. Due to our being in South Africa, he usually is still watching the game late on Monday or even into sometime on Tuesday. During this time, we also cannot check facebook because then he’d know how the game turned out and would ruin all the effort Darin has put into watching the game in the first place! 

I drove by myself for the first time last week. Some of you may have seen this information posted on facebook, but I thought I should post it here as well. I took a little trip to the post office to pick up a package and the peace and quiet in the car was almost as nice of a gift as the package itself! Not quite, but it really was so nice to be out on my own enjoying a bit of freedom. I hope Darin will start letting me go for longer drives in the near future. My parents arrive in 2 and a half weeks and I want to be able to take my mom out for coffee. 

Right now it is just before 6 on Monday night. We all just ate random bits and pieces for dinner and now the kids are taking showers and getting their pjs on. We met friends after church for lunch yesterday and then went to other friends so Darin could watch the Vikings game with a friend, so we ended up being gone from 7:30 in the morning until just after 11 at night. It was a very fun, but very long day and both kids have had their share of crying spells today, so bedtime is JUST around the corner!

Snakes by Tyson Fey

On Saturday we had some friends over from Pretoria.  When they first came we played.  Then we ate dinner.  A girl named Aliya saw a snake.  It tried to hide but it didn’t hide.  It went in my mom and dad’s bathroom.  We sprayed doom on it to make it come out but it didn’t.  We stood back to make it come out and it did. A guy named Jared caught it we begged to go with across the road to let it go.  We did get to, then we went to bed. 

On Sunday, a friend came over from across the road.  While we were playing, I(Tyson) saw two snakes.  I called my mom and dad!  “There’s snakes!  There’s snakes!”  My sister got my dad.  He brought a broom and a bucket.  He swept one in the bucket.  He put another bucket on the snake.  That snake died.  We think it was the doom that killed it.  My dad threw it over the fence.   

Build Them a Home Progress Report #3

Wow, wow, wow!!! We are only $50 away from reaching our goal!! Thank you to everyone who gave over the past week. The house is really taki...