Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pieke - Twin Peaks in Jonkershoek Reserve

Niall joined a local mountaineering club for a walk up the Twin Peaks at Jonkershoek Reserve, not far from our house. The group started at 7:00 am and ended at 7:00 pm! They were up the top at about 11.30am, but took a more meandering route down again! 12 hours and 15km of Spectacular hiking/climbing to the summit of Pieke.

The climb started with some steep rock scrambling along a river and then got interesting with some nice exposure. This route would be impossible to figure out without a guide. At one point near the summit, we had to pass through a tunnel/arch to exit the mountain for the descent. Wonderful ocean and mountain views from the top (1500m).

The group was very international including American, Libyan, German, French, Namibian and Niall.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Mid-April update

School holidays take 1 are over, but they were fantastic! Fiona had a choir workshop on the first weekend, which taught the singers and conductors some fantastic skills. The kids had friends over to play and then on Sunday we went and saw Cirque du Soleil in Cape Town. We had front row seats – it was so good! The kids were captivated by it all, but particularly the miming clown who had us all in raptures for at least 20 minutes by himself on stage. The acrobatics of course were fantastic too.

Then off for a week in Pringle Bay at Niall's aunty's house. 'The Barn' as it's called is a huge holiday house that she rents out to various church and other groups, and family of course! It's right on the sand dunes opposite the beach. We had mostly wonderful weather with the exception of one very windy day. It was beautiful and warm, unlike other visits we've had to Pringle Bay in Sept/Oct. The water was freezing (coming straight off the antarctic), some might say numbing!

We had a very relaxed few days building sandcastles, walking and jogging, having some friends visit, reading and playing games. On Wednesday we went to Hermanus and had a lovely lunch at our favourite restaurant in a cave on the rock platform overlooking the bay and saw some Brides whales (lucky us!). Our German friends, Dirk and Martina and their kids, stayed over Thursday night and spent a lovely morning on the beach and then had a wonderful picnic at the Botanic Gardens at Betty's Bay. So much great food and fantastic company. We all had a wonderful time. And to top the week off, we had a braii birthday dinner for cousin Naomi's 3rd birthday.

Niall preached for the first time at our local church. His aunty and uncle came to support him and Laura and I helped sing a song (Over my head) for the kids. The service was well received and now the cat's out of the bag as to who we are and what we can do, no doubt we'll be even more involved in the future.

The kids have started their winter sports – both are doing hockey and Connor is also continuing soccer (we're avoiding rugby!). We only have 2 weeks back and then get a week off for Easter – we're looking forward to another break, this time at home! The kids both had good school reports (they get a report every term). Laura got 9/10 today for her Afrikaans test – she's doing so well!

Niall and Fi have had their first date night (without kids!), thanks to our American surrogate aunt and uncle, Andrea and Richard. So nice to see Stellenbosch at night and have a movie and dessert out – yum! Prices for movies are so cheap here - $5 each!!!!

Last weekend a large fire burnt on the Helderberg mountain, 10 mins from our house. 11 houses were lost and a number of vineyards were burnt. It was an amazing and eery sight to see the vertical line of flames heading down the mountain towards houses. We were lucky not to even have much smoke in our direction.

We're ready to launch into the easter holidays now. Happy easter everyone!

Friday, April 01, 2011

April 2011 update

This month Niall has been ploughing through his readings and doing oral exams and has just completed them all (as of today) all with Distinction. So, now on to the Thesis. To balance out all that hard work, he went on a HUGE walk with the local mountaineering club. He came home happy but very dehydrated and sore (esp. the feet!).

Connor had an excursion to a vineyard where they learnt how wine is made and did some grape stomping! Today is the second last day of school and they had a 'fun day' organised by the Grade 7 students as a fundraiser. They had a hall full of activities including Wii consoles, table tennis, pillow fights, tug-o-war, targets, DJ, obstacle courses and so much noise you wouldn't believe it. The kids had a great time - even Connor coped with the noise! Laura lost a tooth when she was eating a lolly - what a surprise!

Our housewarming was a great success with over 35 people joining with us from school, church, family and SPICE (spouses of students/lecturers) group. It was great to have everyone there and eat some yummy food (of course!). And our last suitcase of gear arrived this week, so now we have everything we're going to have! The delivery included some essential additional items brought over by Niall's Aunty Janet including vegemite, sunscreen, deodorant, decor containers and reusable shopping bags - all things you can't get here or are much cheaper/better in Australia!

Second hand kids bikes are hard to come by, so we have now bought the kids new bikes, which we will hopefully take back to Australia with us. Connor only just learnt to ride without training wheels before we left Australia; now he's going really well as he adjusts to his new bike (no back wheel brake), with gears! The bikes are part of their Christmas gifts from family in Australia, so it's been a while coming!

We have enjoyed a jazz concert in Cape Town (courtesy of Aunty Elaine) and continue to host friends at our house and have been to a friend's house as well. This has been a great blessing getting to know so many lovely people.

Fiona is enjoying SPICE group with many spouses from all over the world. We had a lovely picnic outing recently where we played 'air ball' (volleyball without the net!) - what a funny group we looked!

We recently were loaned a keyboard, so the kids are hoping to do music lessons starting next term. Fi's been using it for singing practise, now that she's started singing lessons. And the kids love using the keyboard to play rhythms and of course the inbuilt demo. God continues to bless us and support our needs.

We are both still earnestly searching for work and are praying that we will find something soon as we are drawing on savings now. Fiona is going to apply for permanent residency to make it easier to work here. Meanwhile, we are kept busy following up leads and sorting out various applications we need to complete for the Home Affairs Department (very archaic system here!).

While we know people are missing us (and us them!), we're forging ahead making a new life for ourselves here. Stellenbosch is a lovely place to live and we're all very happy. We're looking forward to school holidays starting this weekend, seeing Cirque du Soleil on Sunday and to a week in Pringle Bay at Niall's aunty's house. So until next update, so long!