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Cappuccino Puppy

May 31st, 2018

puppy-bitou-river-lodge

White…….

Think crisp white sheets, cool in summer… or a fat white sofa next to a crackling winter fire…. or solid white walls paying tribute to their traditional Cape-Dutch design…. or a silky white puppy cuddling amongst cushions … cue the violins….

Or not.

Turns out that white wasn’t such a clever colour choice for a puppy living on a farm next to a river. The silky white Zazzi is an enthusiastic explorer of rivers. Also an intrepid investigator of molehills. In that order. So instead of a puppy the colour of cream, she usually looks more like a cappuccino: foamy on top, brown underneath. When she goes plunging & bouncing through the long grass, she comes back covered with freckles of grass-seed, to add to the effect.

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But – magic wand – once she’s been brushed at bed-time, the silky white reappears & for twelve hours she looks & feels (& lounges) like a model Doodle.

She might not be the right colour for a farm girl, but she does have the right temperament: nothing is too scary to try at least once. The lessons along the way have sometimes been painful, but she’s learned quickly. She knows, for example, to move away fast from a disturbed fire-ant nest & at the same time she found out that fire-ants don’t survive repeated river dunkings (luckily). She also knows that the horses don’t enjoy visits from her in their field & that they move with frightening, thunderous speed. The cat refuses to play and his claws are best avoided. Sacred Ibises, hunching next to the water like old men in a row, are to be respected. Butterflies are impossible to catch but that doesn’t mean one shouldn’t try.

And so two months have flashed past since I fetched her in Prince Albert: we’ve owned her for half her life. She’s learning how to behave, how to walk on a lead, how to sit-stay ; and that jumping up is frowned on. She loves puppy classes for the delirious joy of playing with the others – that roughandtumble that only puppies understand – but getting her into the car to drive there requires sneaky subversion. She’s getting very quick to sniff out the double-cross.

Recently we started on the town experiences: pavements, hooting, big wheels, scary sounds, fascinating smells. Hills gives you a check list with your puppy food. So far Zazzi has met a washing machine, a bicycle, a hair dryer & a tumble dryer – but a Hot Air Balloon?? Help. Anyone?

Puppy-socialisation

New puppy for Bitou River Lodge

March 19th, 2018

Coming on Monday, ready or not!

That feeling of, Seriously? Was this really such a good decision ?? I’m not ready for this upheaval in my life! They’re going to hate me for the upheaval in theirs…

Which is, of course, nonsense.

And anyway she’s coming on Monday, ready or not.

The ‘she’ is our new puppy, a little blonde bombshell. ‘They’ are the family of animals already here, with their established routines, their easy discipline, the understanding of the rules (If You Have Just Swum In The River, You are Not Welcome On The Lounge Carpets).  Well, they might not actually understand the rules, but they mostly stick to them.

A new puppy? Not so much.

The very best thing about our animals is that they get on so well.  Mushki Cat  is The Boss & everyone knows it. He comes for walks round the farm with the dogs & they’re allowed to chase him, but they know exactly which line not to cross.  He has claws and attitude.

Mr Cat

Mr Cat

Nella minds her manners with the cat, but demands respect from Kian, who’s too chilled to care and just goes with the flow. He’ll enjoy a puppy. Nella might very well not. It’s potentially stressful being a new puppy’s owner, disrupting the familiar with the outrageous, hoping that things will work out happily for everyone.

And let’s face it, we haven’t had a puppy for years. We adopt adult rescue dogs & that’s that. This puppy adoption goes against all of our principles. But with a son-in-law who’s super-allergic to dogs – twenty-four non-stop sneezes on his first visit to Meet The Parents – and a brand new granddaughter who’s very likely to take after her dad, I’m taking no chances. I’ll put up with the puppy messes, the chewed table legs, the holes in the lawn, the puppy-training classes, the missing shoes… It’ll all be worthwhile. In the end.

And face it, she’s very cute. What’s not to love? Here she is: Lady Zazzi McDoodle. See you Monday!

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Espresso anyone?

January 26th, 2018

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Disappointment.

This isn’t a good look on the face of a guest when you pour their filter coffee at breakfast at Bitou River Lodge, Plettenberg Bay. So off you go to try again. Five tablespoons of Bootlegger’s finest filter coffee in a two-cup plunger, this time? Hmmm, they say. Not bad. Just missing that special something…. it’s called espresso.

So how was I going to up my game and provide quality espresso for my guests?

I’d heard stories from other guest-house owners about disasters caused by guests operating self-help coffee machines unsupervised, about the loud noise from the beans being ground, about the problems with cleaning machines effectively.

Sadly I crossed the Smeg coffee machine (red!) off my list.

How about a Nespresso machine then? But … those pods are not at all eco-friendly and our Lodge is committed to green solutions.

What else? I was stumped.

Then I had not one but five Italian guests arrive, along with an espresso-fanatic German who travels everywhere with her own tiny Moka pot which makes one cup of espresso, stove-top. I was fascinated. The traditional Italian method of percolating coffee on the stove made perfect cups of espresso over and over again.

So I found a family of Bialetti Moka Pots: Papa Bialetti, Mamma Bialetti and Bambino Bialetti. Between them they can make sixteen cups of strong, black espresso at a sitting, or can serve just one guest or two.

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I received rigorous training from my experienced team of six guests (it’s not as straightforward as you might think).  I asked some horrifyingly naive questions: Can you use boiling water in the bottom chamber? A shocked chorus of NO’s!  I thought it would speed things up, but speed, I learnt, is Not The Point. Even if you do have a polo match to get to. Why won’t the Mamma Pot function at all on the large gas burner? Because it’s not hot enough, go figure. You have to have a blast of heat directly under the pot – and again, Speed Is Not The Point. Are espresso cups an essential part of drinking espresso? YES!  Right, got it – and also got the cute little cups.

Even with the cute little cups I don’t think I’ll ever get used to drinking such strong coffee – but it was so much fun learning how to make it properly and seeing the new look on my guests’ faces…

Satisfaction.

Big up to Rudston, Nadia, Diego, Gillian, Patrizia and Regine, who got my year off to a stylish start!

August 2017 – Plett – Building and Growing

August 24th, 2017
Photo: @gotravelbug

Photo: @gotravelbug

Ten weeks ago we were living with the strong smell of smoke everywhere we went in Plett. We scanned the hills for billowing smoke clouds and raging flames, day and night. We checked the wind strength every few minutes. We donated food. Clothes. Shelter. We cried a lot. We hugged strangers.

It was devastating for all of us. We’re still getting over it.

But finally we’ve had soaking rains that will have put out the last of the fires in the deepest tree roots in the most inaccessible valleys. The fragile grey ash will soon be full of green shoots. Plett is growing again.

In more ways than one…

All the volunteer units are involved in a massive training exercise today, to be better prepared for potential disasters: this involves many locals giving up a lot of time to help others. Even sometimes, their lives. We heard today that our 24-year-old volunteer firefighter, Brad Richards, is being awarded the Order of Mendi for his bravery during the fires.

“Brad was already at the gate and I ran onto the deck and I said to him: ‘Brad, the world doesn’t need another hero and please be careful’ and he said ‘Ma don’t worry. They need me. It will be fine’ and he left.”

It wasn’t fine. He never did make it back home. We honour him.

We honour everyone who helped during that time. The people who raced around in the path of the fire, cutting dogs free from their chains in Kranshoek. The people who rescued terrified horses. All the helpers in the old Edgars shop, who tried to make sense of loss & bewilderment. The evacuees from Kranshoek, who softly sang hymns throughout that long night in the community hall….

Turning a traumatic experience into one filled with hope.

And Plett is, once again, hope-filled. Rubble has been removed. Homes are being rebuilt. Trees have been pruned back, gardens replanted. Many new jobs have been created, which is always good news.

And, as well, we have two new eating-out experiences in Plett, both excellent in their totally opposite ways.

Golden Palm Plett

The Golden Palm, in the Lookout Centre, is a tiny Asian Steam Kitchen with a small, delicious menu. Chris can only seat twenty and only opens for lunch and sometimes for dinner. Make a booking! www.goldenpalm.kitchen

Old Rectory Plett

The Old Rectory, next to Hobie Beach, has also opened and is well worth a visit. They’ve kept sections of the original old house, as well as the thatch, and it’s beautiful. A champagne lunch on the terrace is a real treat. www.rareearth.co.za/the-old-rectory

So don’t think of Plett as a sad grey place. It’s not. Only ten weeks after the fire-storm we’re building and growing. Don’t stay away!