Epic Argentinian road tripping..

Comments 3 Standard

After spending a few days in Buenos Aires, experiencing “The Tango” and sampling local street food, we started our 8000 km road trip, to El Calafate, home to the Perito Moreno glaciers in Southern Patagonia.



We started our adventure and headed towards Bariloche, about 1700 km’s South. Founded by early Swiss mountain explorers, Bariloche is home to beautiful lakes, snow and lots of chocolate.

We’ve spent the better part of the year camped out at beaches and we were looking for something a little different. We found an amazing house on a river about 40 km’s North of Bariloche. The community of Villa Llanquin has 300 residents, no internet and a manually operated three car ferry.


We’ve repeatedly heard how good Argentinian meat and lamb is and it really lives up to its reputation. Being proudly South African I would defend our country as the best meat producer in the world, but now that we’ve eaten the local meat here, it really is a step up from anything we have ever tasted.

For New Years, we ended up spending the day swimming on the banks of the river, in-front of our house, braaing steaks, drinking bubbles and generally just lapping up the surrounding nature. The house is one of those places that is incredibly chilled, so much so that I read three books in 10 days. We were also treated  to a traditional lamb on the spit by our Air BnB hosts, Juma and Ines, which took five hours to cook.


After Villa, we continued our road trip to Southern Patagonia, which has scenery unlike anything we’ve seen on our travels. Along with the hundreds of kilometers of gravel roads, this part of the trip was a real adventure.

Having travelled for a year, we’re now quite comfortable just driving until it gets dark and then looking for a place to stay, with some nights hitting the jackpot and others not. One great night was when we were running out of petrol, fifty kilometers along a very bumpy gravel road and came across what could only be described as an oasis with beautiful horses, pink flamingos and acres of wetlands with thousands of birds. Its one of those travel finds that makes road tripping so much fun. We ended up sitting in the farmers house, drinking local wine, eating lamb and taking the kids horse riding.


Our farthest point South was to be El Calafate, a small touristy town, close to the Perito Moreno glacier, one of the world’s most unique sights. It’s an incredible experience taking a boat and watching huge shards of ice break off and explode into the water. Although the kids are still young, I think this is one of the experiences that they will remember for the rest of their lives, as to them, they had gone to Anna and Elsa’s ice palace from Frozen.





Argentina is known for its wine and steak, but one of the things that we both weren’t aware of, was the very bad National roads. One minute the road will be beautifully smooth and the next you’ll be re-directed on to a gravel road for hundreds of kilometres. It made us realise how fortunate we are living in South Africa, as we truly have some of the best roads in the world. I won’t even mention how absolutely atrocious the Argentinian drivers are.



We’ve started our way back to Buenos Aires, stopping in San Rafael, just South of Mendoza, the capital of the wine area. We’re currently staying on a 40 hectare estate owned by a Palestinian who has settled in Argentina to retire. The “estate” has all the amenities you could dream of, big pool, barbecue area and acres of trees and grass. We’ve spent the last week in the pool, picnicking, barbecuing and generally just chilling. Unfortunately, we only have another two weeks here and then we start the trek back to South Africa.

We’ve really fallen for Argentina. It’s a rugged country, filled with amazing people, untouched scenery and experiences. Along the way, two very special dogs have found a place in the kids hearts, Chorros and Nala, we’ll be back to see you some time in the future.



A taste of South America…

Comments 3 Standard

We changed travel plans considerably for the last leg of our trip based both on what was best for the family and the amount of time left before heading back to South Africa.

We flew straight to Buenos Aires, as we were looking to settle for a while and get integrated into a community, as we did in Sri Lanka. After spending four months in Europe, we arrived wanting a South American experience and Buenos Aires was really just like being back in Europe.


Uruguay has never been on our bucket list. It’s a country famous for Louise Swarez, great meat and a president that drives an old Beatle, doesn’t take a salary and lives on a farm. As with Sri Lanka, we didn’t know much about the country, but as we headed out of Argentina, we made it our first stop and found exactly what we were looking for.


We started off in Monte Video, a small capital city. We spent a few days sampling the local food and getting to know the culture. Ronelle’s Aunt Elize, a family friend mentioned a place called Punte Del Este, about an hour North of Monte Video and after some research, we hired a car and headed up the coast, stopping along the way to see some smaller towns.

Punte Del Este is called the “Miami” of South America. It’s famous for its relaxed lifestyle, beaches, great restaurants and in season, a busy nightlife. It’s the place where Paris Hilton and Mark Zuckerberg have been spotted holidaying.


At first glance, Punte is not particularly beautiful, having accommodation for sixty thousand people and a local population of five thousand people, meaning there are a lot of high rise buildings. We ended up hiring an amazing two bedroomed flat on the 12th floor with incredible views of the ocean.

Punte is unique, as the main part of town is on a very thin cape and residents can choose between beaches on either side of the coast. This means that you can stroll to a wind free beach at any time of the day.


Once in the apartment, we were able to settle into life, signing up at a local hotel for gym, kids club and access to all the hotels facilities. We were also able to stock up on groceries and cook regularly for the first time in almost a year.

Life was very simple in Punte, we woke up, walked to the beach, rode bikes, had long siestas, cooked dinner, watched the sun set and slept. I guess, when you’re away from home with no commitments there isn’t much more to do.



One of the reasons why we also wanted to settle was so that we could have a semi traditional Christmas with the kids and having a place where we could cook lunch and laze around was something that we all needed. We ended up having a real “South African” Christmas, cooking lamb, gammon and Ouma’s trifle.



Uruguay is a fantastic place, from the friendly people to the meat and the great beaches. It’s a really a conservative society and although the living standard is quite high, there is no excess like in many other countries that we’ve travelled to.

Our seven-week stay in Punte was just the tonic for the next and final part of our travels, an 8000 km road trip to the South of Argentina to visit the glaciers….


Road tripping USA..

Comments 2 Standard

The first time I visited San Francisco, was when I was road tripping during 1995 with Robbie and Barry, two South African friends. Unbeknownst to me, my future wife treaded a similar path a few years later. We were both hoping to rekindle some of those times, but this time together with some twins.

Ronelle had bypassed San Fransisco on her previous trip and I was really excited about showing her some of the places I had visited. Unfortunately, this time, San Francisco, didn’t live up to expectations, but we did manage to see a few sights.



We were all pretty happy to get going, this time on a three week road trip, driving through Big Bear, the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas and on to Atlanta to visit Emily, one of Ronelle’s best friends from Rhodes University.

As I’ve mentioned, the US is a fantastic place to road trip. It’s also one of the most picturesque countries to travel in, as each state offers something completely different and the road system lets you drift from place to place without much hassle.


Travelling with kids is tiring; as you don’t get much personal time and they need constant attention. Europe, in particular, tired us out, as we did a lot of travelling, caught up with friends/family and rarely spent more then five nights in one place, for four months.

We both agreed that we needed to find a place to rest up for ten day or so and get back to some normally, we found that in Big Bear, famous for its skiing resorts during the winter season.

We drove South about 500 miles from San Francisco to reach Big Bear. There is something to be said about driving through the Mojave dessert, tunes playing, kids happy and the open road. It’s an uniqueness that I haven’t found road tripping in any other country and one that is incredibly enjoyable.


Big Bear is the quintessential skiing resort town, ski hire companies, surfer looking dudes and filled with wood cabins, most deserted as it was off season. We found a beautiful place in the middle of an outer village and settled in for ten fantastic days of watching movies, braaing and just enjoying a break from our travels. After ten days, it was time to get on the road and continue the adventure.



Both of us have been to the Grand Canyon before, but it really is something that you could see a few times in life. It’s so vast and beautiful and changes every hour of the day. It was great re-living some fantastic memories of when we were on the road earlier in our single lives. Having said that, last time we were there, Ronelle and Emily slept in her car and I slept in a forest to save some money. How times have changed, as we booked into the local Holiday Inn.




From the Grand Canyon, we headed to Las Vegas, the home of opulence. We ended up staying in the Golden Nugget, a monstrosity of a hotel with 3500 rooms and a swimming pool with a built in aquarium, so you could swim with the sharks, without actually swimming with the sharks.

Vegas is crass and common as you could imagine, with bikini clad croupiers dealing Black Jack around the pool, to massive Moet and Chandon cocktails at ten bucks a pint. There is not much more to say about Vegas that hasn’t already been said. It’s one of those places that you have to see to believe.


Vegas is slowly increasing other parts of their tourism industry and has some amazing shows throughout the day and the night. A friend of mine organized tickets to Mystére, Cirque De Soleil’s show on the strip. It was the kids introduction to a large live performance and they were really blown away with all the lights, acrobatics and explosions.



Vegas is one of those places that everybody should see at least once in their lives, but four nights is sufficient to get a taste of how not to live your life. Thankfully our friend Emily invited us to her place in Atlanta for a taste of the real America.

Atlanta was amazing. It’s a large City with a small town atmosphere and the Southern hospitality is second to none. We ended up spending ten nights at Emily’s and it’s an experience that will stay with us for a while.

Emily works at the CNN headquarters and gave us a personal tour of how CNN works and showed us the studios. It was an amazing experience, especially as it was with a staff member and we got to see parts of the company that aren’t normally open to the public.



Atlanta is also home to Coca Cola and in true American tradition; you can visit the Coca Cola World, which we duly did. We also visited the Aquarium, which is possibly the most opulent place to keep fish that we’ve ever seen. The “dolphin show” was akin to a Hollywood block buster, with a male choir, choreographed explosions, with dolphins ducking for cover. It’s certainly an experience, but I think that aquarium aficionados would not have approved.


Although we didn’t initially plan it, we ended up spending Halloween in Atlanta. Halloween is so American and it’s such a part of their culture. Try telling South African kids that you walk around the streets at night, knock on doors and people give you sweets, whilst everyone is dressed as their favorite character. Kerala didn’t believe us until she actually got her first haul of candy, then, they switched on their cute faces and the loot came pouring in. This was an experience that they will forever remember.



Our road trip and visit to the US was longer than expected, but still too short. America is a fantastic place to travel and Atlanta certainly stole our hearts. We’ve added it to the growing list of “we could live there”

Then it was off to South America, a place that we’ve both never visited, but heard a lot about..


New York, New York….

Comment 1 Standard

One of the things that I promised Ronelle when we met is that we would visit New York with our kids at least once in our lives, so finally getting there was one of the big ticks off our bucket-list.


New York is one of those places where you feel like a kid walking around, regardless of how many places you’ve travelled to. As South African’s we’ve been inundated with American culture through TV and it’s amazing to see this culture in the flesh.



When you’ve been on the road as long as we have, travel fatigue can set in, but for some reason, New York just shakes that out of you and demands that you love her. We spent time in Central Park, Times Square, did an open top bus tour and visited ground zero.



For or our sins, we visited M&M World and then we took the kids to BOTH Toys R US and the Disney Shop. Giving your kids loads M&M’s and then letting them loose in a Disney Shop is something to behold! However, one of the highlights was seeing the Statue of Liberty, as the sun set over the Hudson.




New York is amazing. It has its own culture, foods and people. Although the general perception is that New Yorkers are hard, we found them completely the opposite. Maybe its just because we had Darth Vader and Snow White with us most of the time, but we found people to be very friendly, helpful and really proud of their city.

As we were in the area, we planned to visit an old friend, based in Massachusetts, in a little town called Essex. The US is the ideal place to road trip, with easy roads, cheap petrol and relatively cheap car hire.

We headed to Laureen’s , about 5 hours North East of NYC. Laureen and I met in ’95 when tripping throughout the US and have caught up a few times since, both in the US and South Africa. One of the things I love about travel is connecting with people that you have met along the way, no-matter how our lives have changed.

markand laureen

Laureen, with her usual charm had hung a South African flag outside her beautiful house. On the first night we ended up drinking a glass of wine or two, talking about “the old days” and feeling a little tender the next morning. It was really great catching up with Bryan and Reenie’s little boy Flyn, who Kai and Kerala really loved playing with.

Before we knew it was time to head back to New York to catch an early flight to San Francisco…


A final friends catch up…

Leave a comment Standard

We changed plans a few times in Europe, both based on budget and time. Prague is a city that I really wanted to see and luckily enough an old friend  of ours lived in the centre and invited us to spend some time with him.


We ended up taking a day train from Budapest and as luck would have it, we ticked off another of our bucket list, fine dinning on the train. It was really a surprise to find a restaurant of that standard on a train. Straight out of a movie, with massive glass windows for maximum viewing, fine cut glass and very cheap A-grade food. It’s one of those moments when you sit back and don’t have to say anything.

We arrived in Prague to be met by Kuba, our friend who showed us to our Air Bnb Accommodation. Air BnB is always a bit of a lottery. Overall its been a bit of a disappointment, as a lot of the time the accommodation is not like the pictures and can be quite dirty. Luckily, we hit the lottery this time, as the apartment had a great view of daily life, was next to Prague centre and was exceptionally clean.


Meeting a friend who is native to a city is always the best. We’ve really enjoyed meeting travellers, but having that local knowledge of where to eat, what to see and just generally how to fit in quicker makes a city so much better.


Luckily, Kuba, who lived a minutes walk from where we were was able to spend a lot of time with us and the kids really liked him, after having met him in SA when we were working together.

Kuba made our Prague visit, introducing us to the most fantastic local restaurants and showing me some of the less touristy spots on a great Saturday walk around the harbor. We were also spoilt with a braai in a locals mystical garden…



Although the kids really liked Prague, they are kids after all and really missed some child friendly things to do. As fate would have it, our overnight bus to Switzerland was fully booked, so we decided to make the 1000 km journey into a road trip and hire a car for a week, returning it to the airport in Switzerland.

Lee-Anne, whom I met in Japan when she was teaching and one of Ronelle’s best friends from University, was now living in Neu Ulm, Germany, which happened to be on our way to Switzerland, so we decided to camp out at her place for a few night’s and catch up again.


We also surprised Kai, who is the biggest Lego fan, by taking him to LegoLand, an incredible little town completely made out of Lego. He had trouble breathing for the first 5 minutes of our Legoland visit and was running around like a mad man, not really being able to comprehend the amounts of Lego that were around him. He also got to meet his “hero” Darth Vader..










Needless to say, the kids got their fix and before we knew it, we were kissing Lee-Ann goodbye and were on the road again, this time to visit the ex CEO of Tourism Radio, in a little town called Biehl. Once again, it was great to catch up with Jacques, Regula and their beautiful kids, Jill, Raul and Freddy the dog.

Watch out for Jill, she won the mixed doubles Junior Olympics and is well on her way to winning Wimbledon. I’m looking forward to sitting in the members enclosure “golf clapping” when she holds the gold trophy. She has promised to mention me in her speech.

Our last few days in Switzerland were spent at a friends flat, relaxing and planning our US adventure and as usual, with a blink of an eye, we were on a plane eating chicken or beef winging our way to New York…

“the new Europe” …

Comment 1 Standard

Travel is about exploring new places and unearthing gems that you never thought you would find. Croatia is a gem.

Our travels took us from Venice via ferry to Croatia, to an island called , Mali Losinj. Mali, is in the North of the country and is part of a chain of islands that stretch to Zadar, a large city on the West Coast.

Our accommodation turned out to be better than expected as it was next to the crystal blue sea, had views for miles and a braai area…. what more could you ask for.



We’ve travelled substantially over the last months and have spent time in some great beach destinations, but Croatia was just on another level. It’s the only place that I’ve been to that has scenery that rival’s Cape Town’s. Mali Losnj has the clearest water that I’ve ever seen, it literally is turquoise.

As transport on the Island isn’t that great, we hired a car for 5 days so that we could explore the area.

Italy has Portofino and the island of Mali has Veli Losinj, a quaint little town situated on the waters edge, with restaurants, touristy shops all overlooking a little harbor. We always try to let the kids have new experiences and took them on a submarine tour, needless to say it was a real hit.



Another bonus for Croatia, is that the prices are on par with South Africa, which you don’t find too often when travelling in Europe. This enabled us to spoil ourselves a little and eat some incredible food, especially the local lamb.

We left Mali and traveled by ferry through the most beautiful islands I’ve ever seen. It’s what paradise, in my mind looks like. Deserted islands scattered all through the Dalmatian coast. We both just can’t seem to figure out why we have never visited Croatia before.

We spent a few nights in Zadar, with a great “old town” and then headed to Dubrovnik, possibly the most famous City in Croatia. One little known fact is that when you drive to Dubrovnik, you have to pass through passport control, as a small part of Bosnia crosses to the Croatian coast, cutting the country in two.

Nell’s mom managed to get us a flat just outside of town, close to the harbor, but far enough away from the thousands of tourists that flock to Dubrovnik each day. The old town is beautiful and is surrounded by a two kilometer wall dating back to the 12th century, which you can walk around to get fantastic views.




The prices are also three times what we were paying up North, but that’s expected with the amount of tourists that visit this UNESCO World Heritage Site. We did manage to climb through the city walls and find an amazing little bar that served chilled beers and had a huge great rock, where tourists were jumping off into the ocean.



After a few relaxed days down South, we started the trek to get to Budapest. Originally we weren’t going to travel that far with Piet and Renette, but Budapest looked like an amazing city and life in the road was fun. Unfortunately we couldn’t get a flight directly to Budapest, so we flew to Zagreb and then trained to the Hungarian capital.

We were very happy when we finally hit Budapest and waking up the next morning in this amazing city was one of our travel highlights…


We named Croatia and Hungry, the new Europe. Not only because it was our first time in both places, but the energy was palpable. Budapest is filled with University students and everywhere you go there are young people, which really makes the city feel alive. On top of that, for the first time in our travels in Europe, we could actually call a country “cheap”. Budapest has everything that the more traditional touristy European cities has, but also has the benefit of being hip and trendy.


Like many other cities that we have travelled to, we opted to do an open top bus tour to acquaint ourselves with the landscape. Budapest is massive and although the public transport is very good, we’ve always found that if we do an open top bus tour on day one or two, we’re able to really get the best out of the city.


Budapest is a city of two halves, divided by the Danube River, with Buda is on the West bank and Pest on the East.

One of the highlights was eating the local cuisine. The meats were all slow cooked, pork was crispy and the beer was cold and cheap! Top this off with a local Kurtoskalacs or chimney cake and you’re in heaven! Although it might not look like it, it certainly rates in the top three meals of our travels this year. Budapest has so much to offer and it’s on our return bucket list.





On a sad note, we also said goodbye to Piet and Renette, our traveling companions who continued on their travels. It was a bit of a weird experience, as for the whole month of August, we had friends and family visiting us from home and now it was back to just the four of us again.




Famiglia e amici!

Comments 3 Standard

One of the nice things about travel is meeting up with friends and family in beautiful and exotic places around the world. When we mentioned a meet up, there was a collective “ITALY”

We spent a few weeks travelling from the South of Italy and met up with Muso extraordinary, Stefan and his beautiful Belgium minx Anke in Rome. We ended up hiring an apartment together and spent five amazing days seeing some sights, eating pizza and consuming large amount of great Italian wine!




Next it was off to a farm house in Florence to meet up with Brad , Jodie, their twins boys Aidan, Camie and little girl Mckenzie. Also, not to mention, Nell’s extended family, Christopher (AKA Stoffel), who flittered in from some unknown destination.



It’s an amazing feeling catching up with such good friends after seven months on the road. As we had been spending such short periods of time in each place, it was great to unpack our clothes and settle in for nine days of braaing (barbeque), swimming and chatting, plus having Kai and Kerala’s besties to play with was just perfect.

One of the reasons we hooked up was for our twins forth birthday. The setting was beautiful, in the middle of nowhere, with friends, lots of bubbles, cannoli’s, and very happy kids!



As usual, all good things come to an end, but luckily, it was the start of a very cool adventure with Piet and Renette, Nell’s mom and dad.

Next stop Venice……..!


I’ve been travelling for 20 years but have never made it to Venice. It was worth the wait! There is such mystery about the place, the people, the café’s and obviously the water.



Best of all was that “Oupa and Ouma” were there as well, which gave us some time off to explore the waterways and sit and enjoy Venetian life. Brad and Jodie also surprised me and trained in from Florence for a really good night of food and wine!



Thanks to all of our friends & family for making the effort to come and see us, it was amazing to catch up away from home!!


Sicilian flavours…

Leave a comment Standard

Syracuse, or Syracusa as it’s locally know is a beautiful old town bordering on the Mediterranean and is filled with amazing Sicilian restaurants, small walkways and touristy gift shops. Italy has suffered heavily from the 2008 financial crisis and unfortunately they haven’t dealt with it very well. They think that ripping off tourists in the short term will help to rebuild their industry, when in fact it’s quite the opposite.  I questioned a restaurant proprietor why we paid 8 euros for a small piece of cheese who promptly told me to f-off, but luckily it was only a once off and the rest of the stay was everything we imagined that Sicily would be.


Like a lot of European towns, Syracuse has an old town. Some cities seem to think that because its old, it doesn’t need repairs, but luckily in Syracuse the local council value their old town and obviously spend a lot of time, money and effort on keeping it in perfect shape, which really adds a lot of value. As I mentioned, the town sits right on the Mediterranean, which means you get old town and beaches combined.



I’ll always have great memories of sitting with Ronelle on the main square drinking Aperol Spritz watching the kids run around the 500 year old square with an accordion being played in the background.



After five days in whats now one of our favourite places in the world, we travelled across Sicily to its capital, Palermo.

Palermo is a vibrant old city that is a bit tired and dirty, but still has a lot of charm. It’s not the most kid friendly and the local taxi drivers are something to behold, but never the less it still offers tourists that typical Sicilian flavour.





One of the highlights for us was watching the Godfather 3 in Palermo and then visiting the  Teatro_Massimo, where the final scene was shot….


….and not to mention the local Sicilian food, which was  huge hit with kids. This was especially true at one of the local fishing villages, where we sampled an array of local seafood pasta.




We had a love hate relationship with Sicily. The local infrastructure for travel is almost non existent, the taxi drivers rip you off at any given time, but it has a certain romantic old world charm that made us feel like we were in a 1950’s movie.

Marvellous Milano!

Comment 1 Standard

Milan is a massive Italian city, filled with beautiful people, beautiful architecture and beautiful pizza’s. There is something to be said about tasting an Italian pizza in Italy for the first time. For some reason, the tomatoes are sweeter, the dough softer and the salami spicier.

Milan is akin to Johannesburg verse Cape Town. It’s a city of wealth and workers, without having the culture and panache that Rome has. There are however a few stand out features, namely the Duomo Cathedral, their cemetery and of course the ice cream.



The Milan Cemetery  is not only the largest we have seen, but completely over the top, with massive tome stones that look like small houses and pathways that look like roads. It really is a sight and as you can imagine, the Milan elite are very comfortable in death.



Milan also offers the best ice cream in the world. Creamy and sweet doesn’t even begin to explain how good it is. It’s quite difficult being on the road and not having the same health and guilt structures like at home, especially in Italy as pizza is a staple diet and ice cream is an every day affair.

IMG_8266 IMG_8268 IMG_8265








We really enjoyed the cosmopolitan lifestyle of Milan, but as usual, as soon as we were settled, we got on the road again.



Gorgeous Greece..

Leave a comment Standard

Time is meant to stand still when you travel, as each day is new, with no real routine. Unfortunately, that hasn’t happened to us and time has literally flown by. We’ve had a few people comment on the lack of blog updates, so apologies, but we have been busy, visiting/meeting friends, on trains planes and automobiles and dealing with the daily grind of life on the road. Excuses over, here we go…

We left Turkey with a heavy heart, as it was some of the easiest travel that we’ve done and with some of the best food.

We headed over to Kos, Greece, for a few days to wait until our connecting flight to Milan. Kos is in the South Aegean Seas and is 4km’s from Turkey. You would think that being so close the two cultures would have merged, but in fact it’s quite the opposite. Kos is the quintessential Greece, with white stone houses, baklava and really friendly people.




We made the choice to skip exploring more of Greece and head straight for Italy based on cost and timing, but after three really enjoyable days, we’ll definitely return one day.