Monthly Archives: July 2013

Week 27 – Finding Educational Opportunities when least expected

Week 27 – Finding Educational Opportunities when least expected


Leaving Mozambique wasn’t as hard as it could have been. JJ and I had been invited to go onto Clarens, by a friend, to join her and her children, at her timeshare in the Maluti Mountains. Instead of driving back with the boys we went onto our second holiday, from the beach to the mountain. I felt really blessed having previously heard very positive reports about this part of South Africa. Clarens certainly lived up to its name. We spent hours exploring the picturesque arty village set in a valley surrounded by the Maluti Mountains, a part of the spectacular Drakensburg range. A few hours were dedicated to wondering around the village square seeing what the talented local artisans have on offer and sampling cappuccinos and scones at the numerous coffee shops.

The timeshare resort, Kiara Lodge, is a quality resort with everything on hand to make the visitor feel at home, from its quality finishings to its beautiful setting in the valley surrounded by mountains. The children spent many hours playing in the playground meeting new friends, returning to the lodge only when tired, hungry or thirst.

We enjoyed three memorable excursions. The first was to a local dinosaur walk. The second was a drive through the Golden Gate nature reserve and the last was a visit to a 514 hectare farm that was for sale.

Dinosaur Walk

Tel 083 469 4703 David Groenewald

Fossil HeadIf I’m honest I wasn’t sure how this dinosaur talk, including the excursion to observe fossilised footprints of dinosaurs in the sandstone, would pan out for all of us. I needn’t have been concerned, if anything it was far better than I could have imagined. The talk was riveting and the walk was historic, pun intended. Normally the few hours spent learning about dinosaurs that roamed this area, at the Clarens Dinosaur centre, is spent with David Groenewald. However on our visit our host was his father Dr Gideon Groenewald, who discovered Massospondylus footprints in 2007, accompanied by his wife, Susan. They are geologists and have produced two geologist children, now in their 20’s. This is not surprising considering how they managed to bring dinosaurs alive for each of us in our group, not a mean feat considering our wide age range audience from age 9 to 47 years old.

When the giant southern super-continent Gondwana was still intact this area of land, where Clarens stands today, should have been a desert area. The geology of this area, over 200 million years ago was explained as an anomaly, at the time period where all the dinosaur, and reptile, remains have been dated. Dr Gideon Groenewald was handed the task to solve this mystery. After 11 years of study he came up with the theory presented to us and what is being written down in the geology books of today. This area was swamp land caused by an extremely high mountain feeding water into a basin teeming with plant and animal life.

Dinosaur EggFossilised skull after skull was produced for our inspection. We held dinosaur, and ancient lizard, fossilised parts in our hands and were particularly excited when a fossilised dinosaur egg was held up for inspection.  This egg was part of a famous nest of dinosaur eggs, discovered by paleontologist, Professor James Kitching, in the Golden Gate dinosaur nesting area. In Canada they discovered inside one of the eggs the fossilised remains of a dinosaur baby embryo, providing answers to many questions palaeontologists had about dinosaurs.

Dinosaur FootprintOnce the talk was completed we set off in our cars – destination dinosaur footprints. The excursion was 15 km outside Clarens. This part of the tour was presented by Susan Groenewald and she approached it in a logical, step by step manner, making real what we were about to see imprinted in the sandstone. Recently made animal prints where noted in the sandy bank of the river. Then an area of recently dried and cracked mud was highlighted. The pattern of ripples formed in the sand, just below the surface of water, was pointed out to us, and the height of the ripples in relation to the depth of the water was discussed. Shortly after this we reached the area of sandstone exposing 225 million year old dinosaur prints, where we had the opportunity to observe fossilised cracked mud, fossilised ripples and over twenty clear dinosaur prints. It was even possible to make out where a dinosaur slipped and recovered and where another walked.

Our informative guests made an extra stop at the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, for our benefit. An impressive 40 km long tunnel was dug and fitted with a pipe to transfer water from Lesotho to the densely populated Gauteng area. A sample of the gigantic pipe was left on display which the children couldn’t help but climb inside.

The Golden Gate National Reserve

The Golden Gate is a breathtaking sight, a kaleidoscope of mountains and valleys. The red ochre sandstone hues set this place apart from anything I’ve seen previously. Unfortunately our views were disrupted by misty rain. We stumbled upon a Vulture hide and were able to catch a brief look at a vulture picking on a carcass. I have a powerful urge to return to this magnificent place, to spend time walking in these mountains and hopefully get to see the many cave drawings.

Farm for Sale

This visit got our, my friend B and I, creative juices flowing. We lost ourselves in the dream of a way of life away from the city, where we could have space to live off the land and to become self sufficient. Prior to this I’ve never experienced the vast size of 514 hectares. It even had its own mountain. My trees would have a home. This experience has motivated us to come up with a plan to make this become a reality. I started by reading up on sheep farming and looking for heirloom chilli seeds. I’m not sure why it was these specific things that I chose to focus on, yet I learnt that cashmere and angora wool are produced by goats, not sheep, as I automatically thought. Sadly I don’t do goats!


JJ and I had some lovely discussions tucked up in bed in the morning. We covered our aspirations of being a good moral compass, and we discussed relationships in depth. It was lovely having this precious time with my daughter without the men in the family present. Yet it was a bonus when Bruce arrived to share the final weekend with us.

My friendship with B developed deeper connections during this Clarens trip. Her generous, easy going nature made the holiday a pleasure. Relationships on holidays can be put to the test and this certainly demonstrated to me the solidness in our friendship. I will be forever grateful to B for this time in Clarens it was memorable.

Holidays for me involve time spent evaluating my year and it is when I get time to read. I finished reading The $100 Start-up. I started reading it for JJ, she wants to make money, however it went over her head. Moreover the book fired up some rusty synapses in my idle brain to try. I also plan to spend time with JJ on this subject matter. In addition I read Free to Live: Create a Thriving Unschooling Home, by Pam Laricchia. I agreed with her simple rules of a successful unschooling family environment – Curiosity, Patience and maintaining connected relationships with each other. The only thing missing, I felt, was exposure to the world around us. This is something which I feel is integral to fire up an interest in learning. I’ve decided an article on exposure is needed to help make sense of its importance to me.

Not having access to TV at home meant it was a novelty to watch some programs in our lodge. Interestingly we were drawn to the documentary channels in particular Animal Planet. There was a gripping encounter of an airplane crashing into the Pacific during WWII. The survivors having to survive amongst sharks, they travelled over 2000 km in over 40 days only to be captured by the Japanese and thrown into a Japanese prisoner of war camp. They survived the camp, another miracle, and went onto tell their story. Another documentary was about elephants and prompted the discussion, with JJ and her friends, on how elephants live in a matriarchal society where as western humans live in a patriarchal society.

Once back home I started to focus on eating raw during the day and still joining the family for a cooked evening meal. It wasn’t a real success as food and me don’t do restrictions all that well. Although I feel I did get more raw food into me, I have chosen to focus on that success as opposed to all the slip ups. The less said the better.

Interesting websites visited this week:

JJ asked me the difference between adverbs and adjectives, so I got online to research the answer.

Made From Scratch: Yogurt in a Thermos or Oven! via @NotQuiteNigella. Awesome! I consume tubs of natural yoghurt on a daily basis – this is certainly a must for me.

My article has been published in WeSaidGoTravel on Exploring Magaliesburg  a very special place for me.

My article on Boredom Poison, originally published in Life Learning Magazine, was submitted to Ezine. It has now been published but I need to check on its progress.


We had arrived at Clarens. It looked really cool the lodges looked identical because we went with my friend, her brother, and their mom, so we stayed in different lodges me and my mom in one and my friend and everyone in the other they were beautiful lodges they each had a little kitchen and a very posh bathroom and a cute little lounge with a TV and a cosy bedroom it was very nice. In the morning I got up it was my first day, I was going to explore the place. Then I heard a knock on the door it was my friend, I opened the door and went with her and we jumped on the trampolines with her brother.  It was cool on the trampolines, we investigated the place, there were to playgrounds one had the trampolines and a jungle Jim, and the other had seesaws and a jungle gyms. Next to one of the jungle gyms, there was a giant chess board and you got to play on it but we never had time to play there, and there was putt-putt it looked really cool, next to the chess and putt-putt was a restaurant, a tuck shop, a games room, and an indoor pool.  That night we had omelettes, that was made out of what we had brought to Clarens, it was deeee-vine he he.

Water PipeThe next day we went to a dinosaur talk, it was amazing you have to go there. The guy talked about dinosaurs and ancient crocodiles, it was very interesting the guy that did the talk was the man who found out that in the time of the Gondwana the land was not dry and without any water. It had lots of life because there was a 12 kilometer high mountain feeding a deep basin filling it with water – it was amazing. He had fossils and everything I was soooooo amazed he he. Then we went to a site where we actually saw 225 million year old dinosaur footprints! We went and stood in a huge pipe and tried to climb up the side.

In Clarens there is a little block with shops and restaurants it was very nice I saw a dress that I really liked so I bought it with the money my mom gave me to spend at Clarens. I love the dress he he. I also bought a cool ammonite and made my mom jealous. We slid down the hill in Clarens next to my lodge on a piece of cardboard it was really really really really fun he he. We played putt-putt it was really fun, I got two hole in one’s I was so proud of myself. I think I want to start playing golf again he he I am so crazy. We went and swam in the indoor pool it was so nice and warm, it reminded me of in England because that was the only place I could swim indoors at he he.

We went to look at a farm because some day my mom and her friend want to move out onto a big plot and build their own houses and grow their own vegetables and stuff so we just went to look at it to see what kind of thing they were thinking about – it was awesome. Then the next day my dad arrived and we showed it to him it was cool he he. We went to see the Golden Gate it was cool. We went up high on top of a mountain in the car and my mom watched the vultures eating a carcass it sounded cool. That night we watched Madagascar and Despicable me it was nice he he. We watched animal planet and boomerang they were both really cool he he. I Played hide and seek with my friends it was really fun he he. Finishing off the day with a bath bomb bubble bath it was peaceful. My mom made us a chocolate coin treasure hunt. Mom read a few chapters of Whale Adventure. It was so sad. I feel so sorry for the whaleL. I’m trying to learn how to hula-hoop because I forgot but then my hoola hoop broke oomph. We played head bands it was fun he he. I Played with Lego and played on the jungle gym with my friends it was awesome he he.

I was really sad to leave Clarens but I was excited to see Bluebell and Sweetpea and Charlotte he he.

Other things that I’ve done this week:

Boiled myself eggs perfectly

Played Minecraft

Answered questions in a magazine and found out what an adverb and an adjective is

We discussed elephants living in a matriarchal society, whereas western humans live in a patriarchal society.

Week 27 Cloud Tagxedo