#GreensGoTroppo – all about our Mauritian adventure

If you’ve had any interaction with me at all, both in real life and online, you’ll know that I’ve just had the best vacation E.V.E.R! It’s all I spoke about for months beforehand and it’s all my sweet dreams are about now.

A couple of months ago, Belinda, based in Dubai, decided that the very best way to celebrate her milestone birthday was with her family on a tropical island. Cue a ton of excitement from all of us and a mad panic to renew passports and get kids’ unabridged birth certificates. That, in itself, is the subject of an entirely different blog post.

July seemed a very long way away back then, but time flew by and before we knew it, the big day had arrived and the Dubai Green and the Jozi Greens were jetting off from ORT to meet the Perth Greens in paradise.

Ready, steady, fly!
Slightly dishevelled!

We stayed in the most fabulous resort – Beachcomber Trou-Aux-Biches – worth every single star of its 5 star rating. The 13 Greens shared two villas, each beautifully furnished with ALL the creature comforts including a private pool, outdoor showers and more Nespresso than even my caffeine addicted body needed. The beds were incredible – Jon reckons he should have worn his fitness tracker to roll over and kiss Jess goodnight – they were big, like super king size! The whole hotel, from the villas to the restaurant restrooms, was scented with the most unbelievable fragrance. I found out later that it’s a Beachcomber fragrance called Royal Orchid.

Basically, our days were spent as follows:

  • Wake, Nespresso, dress in appropriate resort wear – ie bathing suit, shorts, sarong.
  • Buffet breakfast where you have no choice but to try ALL the food then swear you’re not eating until supper.
  • Beach/pool, read, roll over, repeat.
  • Decide you’re peckish and might head up to the restaurant for a bite of the buffet lunch. You have no option but to try ALL the food. Wonder if you’ll possibly be able to eat dinner?
  • Back to the beach/villa to read nap.
  • Sundowner drinks and the butler arrives with a plate of pre-dinner snacks. Amazingly, you’re able squeeze one or three of the spring rolls.
  • Dress for dinner and a golf cart to take us to one of the numerous hotel restaurants – Italian/Thai/Indian/Gourmet Seafood/Themed buffet)
  • Drinks and chatter after dinner at one of the villas and blissfully to bed.

The Greens did mix it up a bit by snorkeling, canoeing, pedal boating, stand up paddling, a glass bottom boat trip and a trip into Grand Baie and a few walks to the Trou-aux-Biches village for some retail therapy. We could find pretty much anything we may have needed at Chez Popo supermarket.

That’s not me…

So snorkeling. Can’t say that was my favourite thing ever. I am a massive scaredy-cat when it comes to swimming, especially sea swimming. So the first time we went out on the snorkel boat, I decided I wasn’t even going to try. Then FOMO struck as I watched everyone bobbing about, so I borrowed a pair of flippers and tried to climb off the boat. Panic and nerves set in and I just couldn’t do it. The next time we all went snorkeling, I decided to try again, this time with the safety of a life jacket. I actually got off the boat that time. But I was too busy popping my head out the water to find Nemo. I had to make sure the boat hadn’t sailed away without me! I am quite comfortable to now admit that snorkeling is not for me. I am quite happy to marvel over the wonders of the ocean floor from a safety of a glass bottom boat.

We decided to celebrate Belinda’s big birthday on Friday night and we were treated to a barbecue in our villa, cooked by one of the chefs and served by our amazing butlers. The hotel staff made the most incredible effort and it was a special night. We spoiled Belinda with some bling in a teal box and a photo book of memories. I think the photo book that we created for her was a hit! 

Wasn’t the table setting just gorgeous?

On Saturday we had to say a sad goodbye to the Aussie Greens, so we had to take a traditional family selfie before they left.

After that, we were all very subdued. Cocktails were necessary…

And on Sunday – it was all over. My only regrets – that the hotel shop had sold out of the Royal Orchid fragrance diffusers – the little memento I was planning to buy myself to evoke memories of my week in the tropics. Oh and that I didn’t get to meet our celebrity neighbours.

Yes – I almost forgot to tell you – we had celebrity neighbours, just a few villas away! Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway are staying at the resort to film a movie. Sadly, I only got to spot the back of Anne – but other family members got really good sightings and Jess even made eye contact with Ms Hathaway. I did consider doing some real stalking, but that would be a bit uncool, you know?

A resort holiday is absolutely indulgent from the minute you set foot on the resort, but everyone agreed that by far the biggest treat of all was spending a full week together as a family. The cousins bonded, as did the mom, siblings and siblings-in-law, and we all treasured the quality time together.

I am also so grateful for the opportunity for my kids to experience an overseas trip. Travelling broadens your horizons in so many ways. I am pretty sure an overseas gap year is definitely on Ewan’s to do list now! He’s even talking about wanting to be an exchange student.  And I have a travel bucket list as long as my arm, so it’s time to start doing some planning and budgeting!.

P.S. I wanted to call this post How the Greens got marooned – you know… marooned on an island and a play on the colours – geddit? Instead I chose #GreensGoTroppo – that was our chosen holiday hashtag for all pics we shared on social media. “Troppo” is a nod to the tropical island experience and Aussie slang for going nuts. And since we shared the week with the Aussie Greens, it seemed appropriate!

Our Wonderful Vacation (Part 1)

I started writing this post on the long drive between dorpies in the great Karoo. The scenery in the Karoo is beautiful in a desolate, African way. Windmills, sheep, greeny-brown vegetation, big sky, dusty towns and long, straight roads. 

I’ve shared some of my favourite photos on Instagram and Facebook already but thought I’d share them  and more in a blog too for some context. 

On the drive down, we overnighted in a tiny town called Victoria West. We have had great luck with food in the small dorpies this holiday! 

This was quite the best lamb pie I’ve ever tasted! We found these pies at a little padstal advertising Pizza Hut and Karoo Fried Chicken! Got to love a good sense of humour!   
 
We had dinner at the Karoo Deli in Victoria West. They weren’t technically open for dinner but we popped in at lunch time and the restaurant owner said that she was cooking for another couple, so she would cater for us to! She laid out the best spread of boere food that only my late Ouma would have been able to compete with!   

Our Capetown accommodation was fabulous – we stayed in a house Nick found via AirBnB in the Marina Da Gama in Muizenberg. 

Below is a photo I took of the kids from the look out tower in the house. 87 steps to get to the top of the tower! The kids counted! 

And the view from the deck!  

A view of the marina from the tower…
 

As soon as we had unpacked we took our first trip And then of course the first trip to the beach!

  
 
After collecting our race packs from the CTICC on day 2, we went to Hout Bay and the best fish and chip lunch at Snoekies.
  

Oh, and a drive over the incredibly beautiful Chapman’s Peak! This was a recce mission before Nick’s big ultra run a few days later!

  On one of the afternoons, I met my friend Elsabe for a coffee and cake at the Olympic Cafe in Muizenberg and took this photo on the railway line across the road. I just loved the bright colours oft the buildings against the blue sky!
 
Of course we spent a fair bit of time just chilling – books and wine… Bliss! 

Credit to Claire for this pic. 
 

Even though us adults considered it to be less than ideal beach weather, the kids still insisted on swimming and boogie boarding. I’m sure our next trip here will involve surf lessons!  

  

And of course Claire posed upside down… #handstandsaroundtheworld  

A highlight I didn’t take any photos of was a lovely lunch last Friday with my cousin Graham and his family.

I haven’t seen him or his wife Careen in years and have never met their son, so it was great to catch up. The kids loved meeting a cousin they didn’t know and spent the afternoon playing. 

Careen ran Two Oceans the next day and it was wonderful to see Graham’s familiar face supporting the runners on the race route! 

The next day was race day, which I’ve already blogged about in my previous post. 

Stay tuned! I will be back soon with part 2 of my my vacation blog post. 
  

I did it… And got the medal (and t-shirt)

Nick had a little idea, a few months back to run a race in Knysna, and his little idea somehow turned into a whole bunch of us traveling down to do this together, with supporters!

The runners:

  • Me
  • Nick
  • Jonathan (Nick’s brother)
  • Jeanette (RWFL friend)
  • Lance (RWFL friend)
  • René (our RWFL branch manager)

The supporters

  • Ewan and Claire
  • Jessica (Jon’s wife) and their kids KD and Rachel
  • Bradley and Connor (Jeanette and Lance’s kids)
  • Nick’s mom, Denise
  • Belinda (Nick’s sister, all the way from Dubai)

We arrived in Sedgefield on Tuesday after an awesome overnighter in Nieu Bethesda. The drive through the Karoo was beautiful!

 I was determined not to overthink the race and just enjoy my holiday. We did all sorts of touristy things in Sedgefield and Knysna for the next few days.


For the most part, I succeeded in not thinking about the race , but the nerves caught up with me on Friday and I spent loads of the day very much in my head, stressing. I was hoping that the excitement would start to build once we collected our race packs, but I think I felt even more scared once we were registered.

 

There was one very funny moment when we were out to lunch with everyone. I received a whatsapp from my friend Debbie, asking how I was feeling about the race. I replied, except it was out loud instead of by text and everyone heard a random declaration of “terrified!” from me.

Friday evening was all about prepping for the race. We ate pasta for dinner and pinned our numbers to our shirts and did lots of pottering around, checking and rechecking that we had everything ready for our trip into the forest the next morning.

At bedtime, I had a cup of chamomile  tea in the hope that it would induce some sleep. I actually managed about three hours of uninterrupted sleep before I started waking at regular intervals to check my watch and make sure we hadn’t missed the 3:15am alarm.

At 4am, we headed off to Knysna, where we parked our cars at the taxi meeting point. Lines of white minibus taxis were waiting to ferry the 8000 odd participants into the forest. I can’t quite imagine the logistics that an exercise like that must take!

We were dropped off in the forest at about 5am, where it was pitch black, but surprisingly not terribly cold, yet. An enormous pile of furry red blankets was available for the first few thousand runners in the forest and we each grabbed a blanket in anticipation of the chill. We were most grateful for them as the temperatures seemed to drop in the few hours that followed.

I did think that the sight of hundreds of people walking blindly into the dark, dank forest, cloaked in red blankets would seem just a little creepy and cult-like to the uninformed onlooker!

After our dark trail walk to The Glebe, we were greeted with bonfires, Toilet Town (a flush of portaloos) (Yes, I just made up a collective noun) and an incredible snack station, sponsored by Pick ‘n Pay.

Knysna half! Crazies together. Cold but warm under our blankies sponsored by Momentum #running #RunRevolution #knysnahalf

A post shared by Sam Curley-Young (@curley_young) on

We huddled and chatted for the next few hours, trying to get comfortable and stay warm and dry. The forest floor was a wet, muddy mess and we were thrilled when we remembered that we had a roll of black garbage bags in our tog bag. We had packed them to wear if it rained, but they turned out to be extremely useful for sitting on!

By this time, the nerves were replaced by excitement and I was looking forward to getting going and the euphoria that I knew would follow once the race was complete. 

Finally, at around 7:30, it was time to make our way to the start line and take loads of start line selfies. Photos clearly are a very important part of the whole experience!

Just look at all those people! It took at least 5 minutes to get under the start banner!

People were clothed in a crazy assortment of old and tatty clothing which was discarded in the skips at the start line or tossed to the people along the road side, chanting “Knysna Mara-tonn”. For the first while, the chanting seemed fun, but by kilometre 3, I thought I might strangle the next person who I heard chanting anything!


The race started with a couple of hilly but very manageable climbs. I was feeling optimistic about how things would work out. That optimism lasted for about 9kms and then things got tricky. My plan was to take it easy for the first half of the race and speed up for the second half but the race got decidedly more difficult as we got further along. The road was narrow and rocky and there was absolutely nowhere to just run for any decent stretch.

Between trying to find the side of the road where the camber wasn’t too hectic or too many stones or the sand wasn’t too soft, it wasn’t a fun run. And when we finally got out of the forest, we had a very short patch of decent running and then the Descent-from-Hell as we ran through the Simola Estate. Words cannot describe that downhill. No matter what I had heard about it, I naively thought that a down hill meant I could gain some time. I was so wrong!  The only way I could manage was by going really, really slowly!  I can’t remember the exact point but somewhere around kilometre 16 or 17, I became really emotional. I was tired, it was damn hard and the end was still a long way away. I talked myself out out of the tears and promised myself that I would have a good cry if I actually finished the damn thing. Right then, I ran past a water point where orange quarters were being handed out – they were quite the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted! I’m not sure if it was my little pep talk to myself or the energy boost from the oranges and water, but  I had the strength to continue.


The last few kilometres were a blur of sore feet and excitement that the end was in sight. I was eagerly looking out for my family and friends. As I crossed the finish line, I  saw them and simultaneously, burst into tears. Nick and the kids were waiting to hug me and I buried my sweaty head in Nick’s sweaty chest and sobbed and apparently swore a little 🙂 And then I had to reassure the kids that I really was okay, just extremely emotional!

Apparently everyone got a little teary when they saw my exhausted tears. I’m so grateful for my awesome running family and their amazing support!


I was also amused to find out that Ewan’s friend Bradley had set a countdown timer to the cut off time just to create a touch of drama!


After the race, I went on a hunt to buy the race shirt which I had not ordered when I entered the race and then we all went home for showers and food. And naps. Oh my word, quite possibly the best nap I’ve ever had! And we rehashed the race over and over and over again. And rehashed it some more the next day.

So that was the story of the race. Three months of preparation, anticipation and excitement and all over in 3:19:51.

I do still have some thoughts on my performance on the day, where I’m at with my running and where to from now, but I will save that for my next post.  For now…  I did it. And it was something I never ever thought I would be able to do!

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