August 2013 Update

Rand slides against Dollar means Cape Town even better bang for your buck!
South Africa has a lot of strengths. People are resilient and super friendly. We have awesome landscapes, world class infrastructure, great educational insititutions, fantastically diverse culture, rich textured history, delicious food and wines, great sportsmen and women, Nobel prize winners, groundbeaking surgeons, semi saintly world paragons, and let’s not forget biltong.
Unfortunately, there’s a few things we also lack. Snow – so no skiing. A president and for that matter a ruling party with credible moral leadership.  Economic and social equality.  Comprehensively effective primary education, especially in maths and sciences.  Swimmable water temperature in Cape Town.  Most brutally for PG TOPS, the Rand slide against foreign currencies, especially the Dollar, really affects the gas price and our bottom line.
However,  the good news for all our clients is that we fixed our prices for the year before the currency went kablooey – foreign visitors to these fine shores therefore get more bang for their buck and can eat, drink, be merry and hire awesome tour guides more than ever.

Happy to report we are currently sliding UP the Tripadvisor scale, and currently sitting at No 7 out of 154 Activities in Cape Town Central. A big thanks to the whole team for this, but especially to super guide Roelf Hamman who is all over our Tripadvisor these days. Challenge accepted for the rest of the team!
Our Dutch Chickens come home to roost
Piet Hein and the visiting hockey players from Kennemer Lyceum were back this winter to compete in the Cape Town Hockey festival. Yolanda had her hands full with 20 Dutch Schoolboys this time. Among other things they visited Newlands rugby stadium, were semifinalists in the tournament and had an overall great time with the PG TOPS team.

 

It needs be said that PG spent some time with the Dutch as well, but in a different setting. While the team were running around showing off Cape Town, I took a family holiday that stopped off at the Tour de France and World famous Alpe d’Huez, where I was respecting a lot of Dutch culture (read Heineken).
Summer weather
While I was gallivanting, PG TOPS enjoyed a bumper July, which is unusual for wintery July. The Cape Town winter weather of course is still better than London summer, but still. We didn’t expect to have our second best month ever! If I had three thumbs they would all be up!


Big thanks to all the usual suspects for the support, to the Big Guy upstairs for giving us great sunny weather balanced with some intense rain (the reservoirs are full on the mountain), and to the team for all the hard work. Special mention to not-so-newbie Bianca, who really stepped it up in the office this month to keep things together while Yolanda was going Dutch. 

 

THE RULES
We have three governing principles in PG TOPS:

1.Welcome to my life

2.Spread the good news

3.It’s about how well I do NOT my job (read: Exceed Expectations!)
As my life doesn’t normally involve buying diamonds or ostrich handbags (this might be why I’m still single) neither should yours. Grounding principle for us is that we don’t have a cousin/brother/sister with a carpet/perfume/diamond/leather handbag shop that you just HAVE to visit. I was reminded of how much time people waste on tour on my recent visit to Turkey, where by careful maneuvering from our tour guide, I managed to watch a leather jacket fashion show in the middle of a Turkey heatwave, got a carpet weaving demonstration, watched how they crack onyx rocks, got diverted into an overly expensive pool once used by Cleopatra (I do look 7 years younger now, but that’s beside the point)  and generally found myself bemused by the overt chasing of retail sales and wasting of my time.

So although I LOVVVEEED Turkey, I am also happy to know that there is a lot of bad practice out there concerning supplementing tour income with commission on shopping – and that’s a reason why we are as busy as we are. We just DON’T DO IT (sorry Nike).

I do have a cousin with an art gallery. But then I have a helluva lot of cousins. Just saying.
Santa Shoebox Project

Time does fly! It’s almost October again, which is when we go into overdrive at PG TOPS to pack Christmas shoeboxes for underprivileged kids. The Santa Shoebox Packing Party will occur on 20 October. 40+ Christmas pixies will roll in to laugh and have fun while packing over 200 boxes. We are going to start the pledging drive in all earnest come 1 September and the lists open – in the meantime, please contact us if you want to get involved. A donation of 20USD (payable through Paypal or EFT) buys a single box, and the generosity of friends, family, clients and suppliers helped us hit 150 last year.

Should you want to get involved in your personal networks to raise some money for us to pack boxes for you, you can email us at info@pgtops.com for more information. R150 or 20USD buys a box for an underpriviliged kid containing the following items:

Toothpaste and tooth brush
Bar of soap and wash cloth
An outfit of clothing
Educational supplies
Sweets
A toy

 

To see how much fun we had last year, check out the Youtube video on here.

That’s it for now sports fans… roll on the rest of 2013!

Fynbos – some interesting information

I actually need to work on my Nature Walks assignment now, but then decided a blog on Fynbos will be better. It will in a way a learning process as I need to do a little bit of research at least for this. This is yet another successful procrastination method!

Fynbos is Afrikaans that literally translates to “fine bush” and this is due to the fact that the leaves and stems of the plants are very fine and fragile. The Cape Floral Kingdom, one of only six kingdoms, is the most diverse with flower species than any other Floral Kingdom.

One of South Africa’s eight heritage sights is the Cape Floral Kingdom and is the smallest floral kingdom in the world! Stretching only 90 000 sq. km it boasts with 1300 different species per 10 000 sq. km.

Looking at my research material I can really agree that it is the smallest but the richest of kingdoms as all the flowers look the same in the nature guide that I bought earlier this year and this is going to be a daunting task ahead.

There are three main groups in which the Fynbos can be classified into:

  1. Protea – usually tall shrubs with broad leaves
  2. Erica’s – heath like shrubs
  3. Restios – similar to reeds

The Protea family area usually shrubs or small trees that almost seem stemless. There are over 360 species and was named after the Greek god, Proteus, who has the ability to change himself into various forms. The National flower of South Africa is also known as the Protea, in a way making sense as well due to the fact that we have so many wonderful cultures here in South Africa!

Erica’s has about 860 species and is also known as heath as they share some a close resemblance with appearance. There are about 660 species that are endemic to the Cape, meaning only found here and is one of the bigger genus in the Fynbos family.

Restios is a very versatile plant species as it basically occurs in all the Fynbos habitats. They also rely on wind for pollination and some of the species are used in South Africa as thatching for roofs of houses and other structures.

More than 8000 species of the Fynbos also needs fire to survive and flourish. Some of the Protea species only release their seeds and germinate after being exposed to fire and smoke; due to this the Table Mountain National Park has controlled fires every 12 – 15 years to ensure that this species continues to flourish.

The Fynbos species also enjoys nutrient poorer soils and is thus great for the Cape region as we have a lot of sand stone. The plants get introduced to the slopes, spread out and with their root systems help prevent ground erosion in certain areas. The species also has a higher burn temperature, if I can put it like that, and is also planted to prevent wild fires. There are a few alien removal programs where they take out the water thirsty, easy burning alien plants and reintroduce our natural plants which are very waxy, helping them not to burn. It is quite interesting how nature was created and how every little specie and stone basically has a function in the Cape.

Rooibos (Red Bush) is also part of the Fynbos family and is a proudly South African herbal tea. It also looks like the French want to trademark this…but that is a different story.

I think I am motivated now to go work on that assignment, 12 days is the deadline I set myself, but I don’t think this is going to happen. First, a cup of Rooibos tea and a snack will have to be in order!

Till next time…

 

 

Lessons from Mandela

Mandela’s Way: Part 1

Richard Stengel wrote a great book called Mandela’s Way – buy it at http://www.kalahari.com/books/Mandelas-Way/632/34998810.aspx

I was given this book for my birthday a few years ago, and as the great man is nearing the end of his days, I thought it appropriate to reiterate a few of the leadership lessons as detailed in the book, and as taught by Madiba in his life and actions:

BE MEASURED

Mandela radiates calm. Control is the measure of a leader, and in the midst of turbulent situations, he always remained calm. The test of leadership is to keep your head, when everyone around you is losing theirs…

LEAD FROM THE FRONT

Leaders must not just lead, they must be seen as leading. And take risks. Undeniably, spending 27 years in jail for your beliefs exemplifies that principle.

LEAD FROM THE BACK

As much as Mandela loved the limelight, he knew he had to share it. Richard Stengel talks of walking with Mandela in the fields of the Transkei, and him explaining the intricacies of herding cattle:

“You know, when you want to get the cattle to move in a certain direction, you stand at the back with a stick, and then you get a few of the cleverer cattle to go to the front and move in the direction that you want them to go. The rest of the cattle follow the few more-energetic cattle in the front, but you are really guiding them from the back.” He paused. “That is how a leader should do his work.” True story.

LOOK THE PART

Mandela would never tell anyone not to judge a book by his cover – because he knows we all do. Although he is a man of substance, he would say that it makes no sense NOT to judge by appearances. Appearances matter, and we have only one chance to make a first impression.

HAVE A CORE PRINCIPLE

Nelson Mandela is a man of principle – exactly one: Equal rights for all, regardless of race, class or gender. Everything else is a tactic. And although his tactics have changed over the years, his principle has never wavered.

 

There’s more good stuff. Follow up blog to follow… in the meantime, it’s a great book. Recommend you get a copy!

Native Land Act 2013: The Idiots guide

THE NATIVE LAND ACT

Felt like a bit of a rant on a rainy day. It has been 100 years since the old SA Party introduced one of the earliest Apartheid laws, the Native Land Act of 1913.

Without pretending to be an absolute expert on the subject, here are some of the salient points pertaining to this particularly nasty piece of legislation:

  1. The Black majority was evicted off existing land and reallocated to so-called “reserves”, which would constitute only 13.5% of the arable land in South Africa
  2. Their ability to buy or own land in these reserves was restricted. This was done to to make it easier for white farmers and mine owners to recruit cheap labour out of these reserves.
  3. Although the law was scrapped in 1991, correcting the wrongs has been slow, and the government, more than 20 years on, has been woefully unsuccessful in reaching its targets of land restitution.

It’s 2013, and a lot of people are still incredibly frustrated about the situation. To the effect that the government is putting plans in motion to scrap a “willing buyer willing seller” concept and will appoint an impartial arbiter, who will make the call on which land and at which price should be restituted.

A lot of debate around this stuff. And crucial to the whole thing is food security and respecting of property rights, while redressing the past. I was a bit confused when I read this yesterday though:

The Spokesman for the Ministry of Rural Development and Land Reform Mtobeli Mxotwa said, in this Sunday’s Sunday Times: “The Department has recommended that foreigners are barred from owning land. The country cannot afford to give land to foreigners to establish golf estates and game farms while our black people are crammed into unhygienic shacks and makeshift structures on the urban periphery.”

I wonder if this chap has ever been to Capaia winery in the Swartland. http://www.capaia.eu/winery/.

Bought in 1997 by Austrian bluebloods, they injected massive amounts of capital to develop the land into a working, job-creating and largely export driven enterprise that not only has injected masses of money into the economy, but generates continues revenue through exports, tax revenue and job creation.

Damn these foreigners. They bought a farm, developed it, spent a lot of money, support a bunch of families today and generate much needed forex for the country.

I’m not quite sure who owns what – but speaking as a tourism professional and seeing the positive spin that Foreign Direct Investment from loaded Europeans specifically has done for our industry, I fail to see how it would benefit land rights to stop rich foreigners from investing here.

Under Mr Mxotwa’s argument, an estate like Grand Provence, which is a functional, revenue generating and job creating estate (a favourite place for us to stop on tour) should never have been sold to foreign investors. No, it should have been sold to the original land claimants at a discounted price. They, in turn, would not be able to run it along the same commercial lines because of lack of capital, and the industry would lose a plum destination which would, at best, revert to a subsistence farming setup supporting a couple of dozen families (they would probably be worse of than under the current structure).

A beautiful estate like Del Aire Graff would never have been developed to be the absolute jewel of the winelands it is now (R300 million he spent. Count those rands.) No, Mr Graff should have taken all his filthy diamond millions and rather invested it in… Australia? California? Who needs him?

Without Foreign Direct Investment in this country, we are dead in the water. The kind of idiotic statements as I read this weekend reminds me of how many ill-informed people there are out there. I agree that there should be some kind of local component to FDI – and I was under the impression that the already highly restrictive BEE laws dealt with that issue.

Tourism currently provides one in every 12 jobs in this country. And if we’re going to prevent foreigners from throwing money at us to make our country more attractive for visitors, well hell. Why don’t we just keep on going, and ask them to stay home altogether? Who needs their EUROS and DOLLARS? Those golf estates, wine estates, game farms that the country cannot afford to have? I think we can’t afford NOT to have them. I don’t know what Mr Mxotwa is smoking, but I would like some. Maybe then I would understand his logic…

In the meantime, here at PG TOPS (wholly owned by a native South African – I am an Afrikaner, after all) we will continue to show off the amazing progress that places like the winelands, Cape Town, Nelspruit with all its exquisite game reserves and the Garden Route with its magnificent golf estates. And pay a few salaries along the way. And make a few people really happy. And hopefully be part of the solution in a constructive, forward thinking and inclusive way.

Speaking in my private capacity, but pretty sure I speak for Tourism across the board when I say: Foreigners. We love you. Come. And keep on coming. We’re waiting with open arms…

Tripadvisor rewards PG TOPS for Excellence!

Nice one! Tripadvisor recognizes PG TOPS for consistently delivering as a premier private tours company in Cape Town! The reward signifies us being among the top 10% of all businesses worldwide on Tripadvisor. Because our clients love us.

We achieved this high honour by:

1. Our bubbly personalities (Yolanda take a bow)

2. Our varied and sometimes unfathomably strange knowledge base (Roelf that’s you)

3. Our lightning responses to enquiries (I sleep with my Berry under my pillow)

4. Our wonderful support team Bianca, Godfrey, Rudi, Nela, Erica, Nicole, Tish, Donavan, Pam, Norman et al.

Well done team!

April 2013 Newsletter

 

THE LONG WALK TO FREEDOM!

 

Braveheart. Nelson Mandela. The lady that just got released after 16 years in a Thai Prison as a drug mule. They all have one things in common…. FREEEDDDOOOMMM! Let’s celebrate Freedom, and Freedom Day, by way of my now slightly more irregular newsletter…

In this issue we celebrate:

1. Our Freedom to welcome newbies into the fold: Take a bow Bianca Smith. Nela is gone but not forgotten, but while she’s off getting her higher education, Bianca has stepped in to become our new girl Friday, and specifically minded the store while the rest of us was off on the Otter Trial. We also welcome the extended G-force into the PG fold, and we introduce by way of Roelf’s epic first Cape Argus cycle race – the PG TOPS gogo girls. 

2. Our Freedom from Technology: The team turned off our Berries and packed all our worries in an old kit bag and smiled… smiled… smiled… the world famous Otter Trail was this April ticked off quite a few of ours’s bucket lists. The trail was not without turbulence – over 42km and 5 days of epic hiking through rainforest on the coastline, we braved raging rivers, water shortages, the whiskey running out, banged up knees, wet sleeping bags and the threat of inclement weather. All’s well that ends well – with a super bunch of hikers and ably sent on our way by my lovely parents, we had a jolly old time. Roelf learned how to yoga! The Gentleman showed he is not just a pretty ginger face, but also has perseverance to spare! Yolanda’s hair turned exotic after not being washed for a week! The G-Force kidnapped Bob the Builder. Suzie sang Vincent by the campfire. Team Afrovibe shared their goodies… and what goodies they were!

Epic. We’re definitely doing this again.

3. Our Freedom to choose: Just yesterday, I took a VIP group of German golf pros for beers at Tallas, a real local dive of a bar out in Gordons Bay. Did they love it? You betcha. I want to celebrate the fact that, at PG TOPS, we don’t always stick to the script. Yes we make sure our clients get the full monty of experiences, but sometimes a boeriebraai at Cape Point, a detour into the townships in the middle of a wine tour or even dinner in a local home makes sense. Happy to report there’s a lot of friendly folks in South Africa who are just to happy to extend a warm welcome, and that’s why we – as a country – are going places. Give yourselves a self five!

4. Our Freedom to work with really cool people: Our local and international network keeps on growing. Particularly pleased to have had a fresh flow of bookings from Betsy at BJ Adventures, we are doing a ton of work with Rob and the Crew over at ATA, and as always stalwarts Clive, Warrick and the CPR girls keep us ticking over. Contract guides Nicole, Erika, Donavan, Rudi, Norman, Nicolene and Tish have all been wonderful. And Rudi test drove the new Earthstompers Quantum this last weekend – nice addition Hendrik. Good to see associate businesses rocking forward as well.

5. Our freedom of speech: We all know Yolanda exercises this particular right with gusto. Looking forward to unleashing her at this year’s tourism Indaba in 10 days in Durban. We have a packed diary as we go and see old friends, makes some new ones, shake some hands and kiss some babies. Our expanded product includes a lot more regional trips, and we are just about ready to offer the total solution of safari, sun and sea. Will keep you posted…

That’s it for now. I’m going to exercise my right to a cappuccino.

PG

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South Africa: More than the big five

Speech 16 October: New York Travel Adventure Expo, Pieter Geldenhuys

I’m a lucky man. I get to live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, inhabited by a Rainbow Nation of different cultures and creeds. Today, with you, my business is to showcase the reasons why South Africa is one of the most amazing places in the world.

My name is Pieter Geldenhuys. I am an Afrikaner, and I am proudly African and South African.

People generally perceive Africa as a wild, untamed savannah where herds of antelope run free and lions are still the king of the jungle. This holds true in parts of southern Africa, and particularly in the majestic Kruger National Park, but South Africa is so much more than the Big 5.

What is the Big 5? Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Elephant, Buffalo… but in fact, we are the only country in the world to boast the BIG 6. Whos is no 6? The Southern Right Whale, which annually visits our southern shores for calving. But South Africa is about more than the Big 5, or even the Big 6!

Allow me to share what is South Africa:

South Africa is Cape Town, arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world and the home of iconic Table Mountain.

South Africa is the Cape Winelands, from where fourth generation winemakers are exporting noble cultivars to the four corners of the world.

South Africa is th e Wild Coast of KwaZulu Natal, with its tropical vegetation, rugged coastlines and rich heritage.

South Africa is the picturesque Garden Route, where iconic surfing destinations and secluded forest biking trails are only topped by the world’s highest bungy jumping bridge.

South Africa is its abundant national parks, ranging from savannah lands to desert to indigenous forest.

South Africa is the small village of Mvozu, the birthplace of Nelson Mandela, where ancient African traditions are alive and well. South Africa is the city of gold Johannesburg, Africa’s economic powerhouse.

South Africa is the hospitality of its people, who will make you feel welcome in 11 different languages, or in their home no matter how fancy or modest it may be.

South Africa is Nobel Peace Prize Winner Nelson Mandela, first president of democratic South Africa and a global icon.

South Africa is groundbreaking surgeon Professor Christiaan Barnard, the first person to successfully transplant the human heart.

South Africa is democracy and vibrant debate. It is growth and expansion. It is poverty and wealth. It is tropical rainforest and desert flatlands. It is a majestic mountain peak, it is a rare flower. It is a lion, leading Africa forward into the brightest of futures.

Powerful rhetoric apart, let’s be honest. South Africa has its challenges, and we are dealing with them as best we can. But our greatest asset is in our people, whose unrestrained enthusiasm and sincere hospitality contributed so visibly to the unqualified success of the 2010 Football World Cup.

If the United States is a melting pot, South Africa is a kaleidoscope. We like to think of ourselves as the rainbow nation, where all colours, religions and cultures can co-exist harmoniously.

Can I share with you some facts and figures? We hosted more than 400,000 visitors during this year’s Football World Cup, and they had a great time. Slick infrastructure, friendly locals and an absence of crime-related incidents has led to a massive shift in the world’s perception of South Africa.

Yes you can go on safari and see Lions, Leopards and Elephants! Yes you can go be pampered at one of a number of luxury safari camps, go on game drives and sip sunset champagne in the bush. But for the budget or youth traveller, there are affordable options to also experience a bush safari for under $100 a day.

At the southern tip of Africa, lies iconic Cape Town. According to Conde Nast magazine, it has some of the finest hotels and restaurants in the world. But for the adventure and youth traveller, it is also a paradise. Its rock star budget activities are visiting the myriad of pristine beaches, hiking the many mountain trails or simply exploring the beautiful city centre.

But Cape Town also has a history steeped in cultural diversity. Architectural gems dating back to colonial times are juxtaposed by the reality of the economic divide as evidenced in the shanty towns. Visitors have the opportunity to get involved through several safe and professional voluntourism projects, working to uplift these communities. Or they can immerse themselves in everyday shantytown life through a locally arranged day trip.

Beyond Cape Town, there is a variety of activities on offer. Some examples are: Touring over 300 wine farms in the Cape Winelands by bicycle, minivan or self drive. The exquisite landscape and historic towns will never fail to enchant. Or go swimming with Great White Sharks, take a surfing or kite-surfing lesson, fly down a forested slope on a mountain bike or go deep sea fishing round the Cape of Good Hope and see some whales close up while you’re at it!

Our experience as the South African Youth Travel Industry has taught us that our visitors, particularly from the US, do not just want to do the traditional tourist meccas like Cape Town and the Kruger National Park. They want to immerse themselves in our rich culture, traditions and even problems. They will balance their contribution with the following popular itineraries:

Option A: The Garden Route is the stretch of coast in the Southern Cape between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. On this 500 mile route, one can ride an ostrich, visit ancient caves, go canopy ziplining through rainforest, hike rugged coastline, visit secluded beaches, visit with monkeys, go see the whales calving, visit the world’s largest bird sanctuary, swim with sharks or learn how to surf in legendary Jeffreysbay. Not to mention the world’s highest bungy jumping bridge at over 650 feet!

Option B: Overlanding: This safe and adventurous way to explore Africa runs out of Cape Town or Johannesburg to our northern neighbours, namely: Botswana, Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and beyond. The Skeleton Coast and the Namib Desert! The Okavango Delta! Victoria Falls! Lake Malawi! Mount Kilimanjaro! The Serengeti! Depending on time and need, it all starts in South Africa…

Option C: Visiting our wildlife parks. The most popular parks are driving distance from Johannesburg, including the Kruger Park, the Pilanesberg or a number of private game reserves. Big 5 viewing opportunities abound, and one could take a safari in a truck, a hot air balloon or even on the back of an elephant! And while you’re in the area, why not swing by nearby Mozambique, or visit the kingdom of Swaziland…

And I haven’t even touched on our untamed Wild Coast between Durban and Port Elizabeth, voted by youth travellers as one of the most chilled out areas in the world. South Africa’s lush coastal regions frame the arid landscapes that comprise our interior. These desert highlands, so obviously inhospitable and worthless, ironically turned out to yield the world’s richest diamond and gold fields. Recently the route from metropolitan Johannesburg to Cape Town has been voted by Newsweek as the world’s best road trip.

700 million years ago, the rest of the world split off from mother Africa. Our journey since then has been an interesting one. Through time and tribulation, joy and sorrow, South Africans have weathered the storm, and the joy and resilience of our Rainbow Nation has been an inspiration to many. Our people, our places, our national treasures stand ready to welcome the world. Come visit us, and be part of an amazing journey in a country where history is made every day.

South Africa. Live it. Love it. Thank you.

— Pieter Geldenhuys
PG TOPS Travel and Tours

Welcome to my life….

Braai – we love it.

As I am sitting in the office now, overlooking the cold and wet city below, I pictured myself now with a fine glass of wine in front of a warm fire. Then it struck me, as we are in April the seasons are changing, the majority of our warm summer days have been used up and we are heading now to a cold and wet winter again. When living in paradise you can’t have great weather all the time I guess.

Therefore I am going to dedicate this blog to  BBQ’ing, Chisa Nyama, Barbies – BRAAIING!

September 2007 was a great one as Archbishop Desmond Tutu got appointed as a sponsor, if I may, of the National Braai Day initiative. Archbishop Tutu said that although we have 11 languages in South Africa, a diversity of people and cultures, one thing that we all understand is the term BRAAI. Paraphrasing one of his quotes he said that it is an institution that binds people together; you come with your friends and family, make a fire and braai – it is South African – even the T-bone steak is shaped like our continent.

I cannot agree more. If you have ever been to a proper South African braai you know that it is a social event where people tell stories, laugh and just have a great time while bonding around the fire regardless of your race, politics, which rugby team you support or if you are from Tweebuffelsmeteenskootmorsdoodgeskietfontein or Nkandla.

As with many professional subjects and areas, there are also some braai jargon. Here is a list of the ones I use most.

  • Bak – a dish, made from aluminium or stainless steel, used for storing the meat before and after it is braaied.
  • Blitz – although this is a brand-name, it is used as a universal term in South Africa for fire lighters of any kind or brand. A frequently asked question at a braai is: “where is the blitz?”
  • Boerrie – braaied boerewors in a bread roll with homemade tomato & onion relish- similar to a hotdog, but worlds apart in taste.
  • Dopentjop (dop-en-tjop) – appropriate for a ‘bring and braai’ – you may bring your dop (drinks) and tjop (meat of choice).
  • Braai broodjies – toasted sandwiches made with cheese, tomato, onion and a dash of chutney, then slowly braaied over light coals until golden brown on the outside and the cheese has melted on the inside.
  • Chakalaka – gravy made of tomato, carrots, greenpepper, onion, curry, oil, chilli – though most of it can just be curry alone. Some also add green peas as well. It is nice and chilly!
  • China – your friend, buddy, chommie.
  • Doek sag – a way of describing very tender meat, as in “hieriesteakie is nou vir jou doek sag!”
  • Eish – eish is often used to refer to ice cubes you add to your drink when you braai. Eish can also be used as a term to express a feeling of extreme surprise or astonishment.
  • Hey – often used at the end of a sentence to emphasise the importance of what has just been said. It can also stand alone as a question. Instead of saying “excuse me?” or “pardon me?” when you have not heard something directed at you, you can always say: “Hey?”
  • Howzit – this is a universal South African greeting and you will hear this word throughout the country. It is often accompanied with the word “Yes!” as in: “Yes, howzit?”. In which case you answer “No, fine.”
  • Izit? -this is another great word to use in conversations. Derived from the two words “is” and “it”, it can be used when you have nothing to contribute if someone tells you something at a braai.
  • Jan Braai – the man behind National Braai Day.
  • Jislaaik – a term also used to express surprise.
  • Karate-water – brandy.
  • Slappap – a variation of traditional maize meal porridge. Served with the tjops.
  • Tjoppie – 1. a friend 2. when you forgot someone’s name and do not have the guts to ask them again.
  • Vleisie Tan – to braai.

This is when you are desperate for a braai!

 

There is always reasons to braai: no electricity, social event, Wednesday and even just to have some nice heat on a cold evening. Some men also feel much more comfortable behind the grill than in the kitchen and will treat their wives to a nice braai once and again.

Wednesday and Saturday evenings are one of the more popular days to braai in South Africa and then of course a Sunday afternoon braai or Potjie (cast iron pot that you basically make a stew in) is always a winner.

Braaiing is also seen as a healthier alternative to cooking as all the lard drips off the grill and onto the coals. The only reason when this can be seen as “unhealthy” is when the socialising after the braai gets to 3:00am (which happens quite quickly) and yes, one can have a vegetarian braai as well! I have had a few friends over that are vegetarians, threw some vegetable skewers over the flames with a few nice side dishes and viola, everyone is happy!

24 September is Heritage day in South Africa and also National Braai day. What a better way to celebrate our heritage than around a fire?

This video gives me goosebumps every time – ENJOY!

Have a look at their website for some fantastic braai tips, tricks, recipes and a ton more lingo!

Till later!

 

Such a Cupcake!

Cupcakes, Fairy Cakes or Patty Cakes whatever you call them we all love these sweet little carb filled delights for tea, lunch, hey…I even have them for breakfast from time to time.

I got asked when I will blog again and whilst consuming this delicious treat I thought…TODAY IS THE DAY!

These treats were first mentioned in American Cookery in 1796 as a cake baked in a small cup ~ makes sense, cupcakes! The term cupcake however was first used in Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats by Eliza Leslie’s Receipts cookbook in 1828.

They got their name from being baked in a cup or ramekin, prior to the use of muffin/cupcake baking tins. In later years cupcake recipes became known as 1234 cakes because they are made up of four ingredients: one cup of butter, two cups of sugar, three cups of flour, and four eggs – easy to remember, even for me!

Cupcakes have gained a lot of popularity over the years and since the early 21st century cupcake shops have popped up faster than you can shake-‘n-bake a batch; with reality shows and “gourmet cupcakes” all over. I would like to think that our local favourite spot is Charley’s Bakery with their Mucking Afazing brand and deliciously artistic cakes and cupcakes and sweets and desserts and mmmmm…COFFEE!

They are also very popular as wedding cakes these days because no-body needs to worry about portioning that huge cake. It is a friendly self-help “dankie-tannie-sakkie” size and even the kids enjoy them (so does the adults, they feel like kids again.) Diabetic? Do not have a sweet tooth? No worries, these days you can find from bacon flavoured to diabetic friendly. It seems that cupcakes are limited to one’s imagination, just be sure to try them on yourself, or like I did, get a volunteer at a jewellery store to try the newest creations (now I am miss the days in the kitchen of the guest house).

I have the main ingredients…I have the oven, the tin and the liners…40 more minutes and then I will be home free whipping up a batch of these delicious treats. Dinner is served. Maybe not the best diet a few days before the Cape Argus but I will use “carbo loading” as an excuse!

My Favourite Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 1.5 cups sugar
  • 5ml vanilla essence
  • 125ml milk
  • 125ml water
  • 125g margarine/butter
  • 25ml oil
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • Pinch of salt

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C and prepare your muffin pan (line with cupcake holders).

Beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla together for 5 minutes (basically dissolve the sugar and get a nice fluffy, creamy mixture). In a separate microwavable bowl mix the milk, water, margarine/butter, oil and microwave for about 1 minute. Mix this with the egg mixture. Sift all the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and gently fold everything together.

Place the batter into your prepared cups (fill each cup about ¾)  I usually use an ice cream spoon to have consistent size in the cupcakes. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until cooked. Cool and decorate with icing. I usually make use of 1kg icing sugar, 500g Marvello butter, 1 egg and 2ml vanilla essence (mix everything together and add some colouring if you want, can also substitute 125ml icing sugar with cocoa powder for chocolate icing).

I am off, a bit of work to do before I go bake like crazy.

Till next time!

 

 

PG’s view on the 2013 Budget Speech!

PIETER G GIVES HIS BUDGET SPEECH!

 

Breaking news. Why the hell do I always write my newsletter when it’s 35 degrees plus outside? As we stride contemptuously, arrogantly confidently into a bright, glorious and hopefully breezy (that means cooler) year, I hereby present you with my take on the national budget….

CHOO CHOO… ALL ABOARD FOR THE GRAVY TRAIN!

Politicians are overspending on fancy cars and expensive homes.  We’ve all read about the Prez’s R220 million home upgrades, and he’s pretty sensitive about the whole thing, to the point where he broke out in tears in Parliament. Who can stay mad at a guy who’s so in touch with his feminine side? In fact, he’s in touch with loads of people’s feminine side. But that’s a whole different story…

In the meantime,  over at PG TOPS HQ, we’ve splashed out on a Nissan Qashqai to add to the fleet, I’ve done some upgrades to the office (DIY fixing of the braai area, fixing some faulty piping, unblock some drains). Our bill wasn’t exactly R220 million, but probably not to far off either. It helps that I used my dad as free labour.

YOUTH EMPLOYMENT INCENTIVE

If I’m reading correctly, the inestimable JZ has doubled the public sector wage bill in his tenure. That’s either a hell of a lot of new jobs, or a lot more of the current guys getting more dosh. Either way, no wonder Glenfiddich is doing so well in this country. I am, however, encouraged by noises that the youth wage subsidy is back on the discussion table.

At PG TOPS, we believe it’s better to apologize than to ask for permission.  Consistent with this philosophy, the team hit Madame Zingara’s Theatre of dreams to top off a busy February. It was an ill-disguised reward/bribe to Yolanda and Roelf for enduring some crazy hours again, and a fitting send off to Nela, who is going back to college after a super six months interning with PG TOPS. We’ll miss you Nela. However, the job we wanted to give you will still be filled, so we will also be increasing our private wage bill by hiring Bianca Smith end of this month. Boom! Another job for the ever growing economy… now if the government could just move it, maybe they’ll even help me pay her salary…

GDP GROWTH

The Gross Domestic Product in SA is set to grow by 2.7% this year, after about 2% last year. This is not enough for us to reach our targets of job creation and increased prosperity for all as a country- so we’re hoping the government will start making the right noises to attract more investment, and put in place some structure around youth labour and job creation.

At PG TOPS, we’re up about 30% year on year so far on the numbers. And I’m pretty sure we’re working not harder but smarter. A lot of it is attributable to the awesome team, everyone is trained up like NINJAS and we’re now bringing some more fantastic people into the industry. Thanks guys, and also, thanks to our loyal clients and network for making it happen.

CUTTING TAXES RAISING TAXES

So Gordhan gave us some personal tax relief. Top man.
However, booze cigarettes and petrol are all being slapped with heavy taxes. Now I don’t mind the ciggies so much – bad habit anyway. And the booze I can live with, but why hit us so hard on the gas? Come on… Petrol is going up 80c a litre this month… man. I feel violated.

We’re doing a 15% increase in our pricing from 1 May onwards to slightly offset our increase in costs.  We’re maintaining ratings outlook on our pricing of AWESOME. Not cheap. Not expensive. Just such value for what you get…

NDP

The National Development Plan, the blueprint for SA’s prosperity as put together by THE MAN Trevor Manual has been widely accepted and lauded as a feasible way forward to fix the social and economic woes of this country.

I’m all for it. If we can bridge the execution gap, that is… however, the budget seems to reflect in part the practical implementation of the plan, and we will be spending a gazillion in public works programs over the next decade. Gearing for growth, we like it.

The PG ADP (Awesome Development Plan) is a lot more simple. We don’t have a 20 year plan, however we do have a 20 day plan. It includes both me and Yolanda going on exotic holidays to farflung locations, and Roelf and Nela sweating bullets servicing the business that is coming our way.

Our medium term goals for the ADP is Rudi getting his guide credentials, Bianca skilling up to rock the office environment, Yolanda dominating her final year university studies and Roelf hitting a sub 4 Argus cycle tour. Should we achieve these goals, we can look forward to a positive outlook for 2014!

In summary: In the coming year, PG TOPS will focus on growing our economy while keeping our expenses down, upskilling our workforce and actively contributing to our communities through corporate social investment initiatives.

Hey, maybe we SHOULD be running this country.

And that’s it for my budget report.
Take care true believers,

PG
pieterg@pgtops.com
www.pgtops.com
Welcome to my life…