Looking for a great training/fitness app?

When training for the 2 Oceans Half Marathon in Cape Town, I needed something to keep track of my progress, and force me to beat my best, and challenge myself. For this, the Nike plus running app was perfect. It kept track of time, average speed per km, fastest and slowest laps, as well as a GPS map overview of where I ran.

This helped me up my distance and speed, and was a great aid for improving my running fitness. But now I am entering a physique program/competition, and will have to do more than just running to compete. So what apps would I recommend for this… Fitocracy!

Fitocracy is a social fitness app, and allows users share the workouts, recipes, tips and other details in a Facebook-like way. It is a good way to interact with like-minded people, and to take interest in your workouts.

You can also track what exercises you did on what day. You find the exercise, enter number of reps, enter the weight used, and presto! The app then calculates a score for you, dependent on the weight (or if you logged running, your time and km’s) and number of reps and exercises you did. Your scores add up, and you advance “levels”. You can then track, in comparison to yourself as well as other like-minded people, you progress and see if you are improving. The stronger/faster you get, the higher your score from a workout.

The app is very simple to use, and does not take a long time to update. I dont have time to sit and play on my phone all evening, and I would assume you dont either.

So give it a shot if you are keen. It may change the way you gym 🙂

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Dream cars: What I would do with a R400k budget

Although many young people either don’t have a car, or have a car that is a hand-me-down or on a low budget, we often dream of the day we can get ourselves something special. I have thought about the days when I myself can afford something nice, something that can turn heads, and also has the practicality required for the urban city life. Below I have detailed 3 of the cars I would consider for various reasons as my R400k Dream Car.

The New Mercedes A-Class

K53, Cars

New Mercedes pocket rocket

With a cost of R392 606, this is a luxurious, yet very sporty option to get for your R400k. This new model is a vast improvement looks-wise on the previous model, and also comes with a monster under the bonnet.

The A250 Sport comes with a 2.0l four cylinder engine that generates 155kW (165kW in Sport mode) and 350Nm of torque. This car is a ripper, giving you a whole lot of luxury and sporty-ness in one very good looking shell. With the price being just below the R400k threshold, you get a whole lot of badge for not such a lot, if you were to compare this car to other cars in its class.

In terms of the economy, the car is able to get a fuel consumption of around 6.6l per 100km (claimed by Mercedes), although if I were to own this, I probably would be a bit heavy on the accelerator. But who’s counting when you are unleashing a hot hatch, consumption isn’t the main reason for this car being purchased. However, if you want power and consumption, best you buy the A220 CDI… diesel power, great economy. But that’s another review.

In terms of the speed, this car rockets from 0 to 100km/h in 6.6 seconds. Not bad given that you are driving a car make that is more known for their luxury than brut speed (with the exception of the AMG department).

What sets this car apart from other cars that I will be reviewing is that you get a whole lot of extras standard when you get this top of the range model. So for just under R400k, you get a whole lot of luxury, speed, and class. This is my pick for my money.

Volkswagen Golf GTI

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Golf just keeps churning them out. Wow

The Golf GTI, for a long time, was my ultimate (realistic) dream car. With performance always being up there with the best of its class, and the build quality always being reliable, this was the bench mark for hatch-back vehicles all over the world.

Like the Mercedes above, the golf has a 2.0l engine, powers through the use of a twin-turbo system known as the TSI system. This allows the car to have extra power at both low and high revvs, allowing for smoother acceleration, and less turbo lag.

For a price of R382 800, it is well priced for a very well built, good looking and sporty hatch-back vehicle. Although this car is sometimes regarded as being expensive when it comes to its speed in comparison to other hot-hatches, I don’t believe this is the case. I don’t believe, in my personal opinion, that the other hot-hatches have the same build quality and reputation. From my own experience as a VW Polo Tdi owner, I find that the build quality, service quality, and reliability is top-notch. Noddy badge to Volkswagen.

I know most people that read car blogs are only interested in speed, so here are the specs… The new Golf 7 GTI has 162kW of power, and 350Nm of torque, making this car very similar power-wise to the Mercedes detailed above. This translates to 6.5 seconds to get to the 100km/h mark, which is quite respectable indeed. The claimed fuel consumption is 6.0l per 100 km, but as mentioned in the Mercedes review, this is a very unlikely figure given how strong the gravitational pull of the accelerator pedal is.

What makes me lean more towards the Mercedes is that you get a lot of items/extras included when you buy it, as opposed to the Golf which seems to have a lot of optional extras on the pricelist which seem like they should be included anyway when you buy the car.

On the whole, you cant go wrong with a Volkswagen. The GTI is the hatch that, for me, revolutionised the hot hatch era. Without it, the Mercedes above would not have happened, and it would have forever been included in the mommy-car department. Thank you Volkswagen.

Audi A3 Sportback 1.8l FSI Quattro

k53, cars

Fast, yet practical

I was originally going to give my 2 cents on the BMW 1 series, however the Audi has caught attention more lately. So my blog, my rules.

This model is not exactly in the same range as the Golf or the Mercedes, given that it has the 1.8l engine as opposed to the 2.0l engines of the former vehicles. However, this car still gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

With an asking price of R370 000, this is the cheapest of the options above, and its not all that much slower.

A friend of mine recently purchased a brand new Audi A1 1.6Tdi, and I know, I know, it’s a bit of girly car for a guy to drive. But that being said, the A1 is actually a very nice comfortable car, with a killer sound system, nice ride, and sleek interior. This is the same with the A3 Sportback, except even more so.

The 4 wheel drive system will give the vehicle better handling when going into corners, as well as in wet or variable conditions. The Quattro system was the innovator when it came to all-wheel drive systems in sedan, and now hatch back, vehicles. It has set the bar very high, with other car manufacturers trying to follow suit.

The car is not as quick as the GTI or A250, taking 6.8 seconds to get to 100km/h. However, with the all-wheel drive system, it would be interesting to have this car compete around corners or on a track. With 132kW and 250Nm of torque, this is the more reasonable, and less crazy of the lot, giving you just enough power, without losing its mind. With a combined travel cycle of 6.6l per 100km, it compares favourably with the hot-hatches above.

Summary

I might be biased towards the Mercedes, given that my family has always been a Merc family, and that the new Merc is a “new” model out on the street, but I think that is where my R400k would go. But if I were to think with my head, rather than my right foot, I would have a hard time deciding between these three cars. They each have their own benefits, pros and cons, and features that make them unique. I would need a three-sided coin to realistically decide which to choose. So when having a tough choice, ask around. Good luck with that.

What car to get as a first car with a R110k budget?

Once you have passed your learners license, and are planning on getting your South African drivers license the next step would hopefully be to get yourself a car. Obviously everyone has a budget, and this post wont cater for everybody. I will post some more tips and ideas on what you need to think about when buying a new car, and what options there are available. For more car reviews on my blog, look on the right at “What are you looking for” and click “Cars”.

This post look specifically at NEW cars, but I will later put a post on how to buy 2nd hand cars.

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The car above is the Hyandai i10, a small, reliable car that wont cost you an arm and a leg in fuel. On the highway you can average 4.2 litres of fuel per 100km, and you should get around 4.8l/100km on your average day-to-day travel. This is the base model which comes with what you’d expect in a competitive small car market, airconditioning, mp3 player, and electric windows. All new Hyandais come with 5-year/150 000 km warranty to give you piece of mind if any covered components were to break during normal driving.

This is a very convenient and safe vehicle, perfect for anyone looking to save fuel and ultimately money.

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The next option is a very popular option, being the Volkwagen Polo Vivo. This car replaces the now non-existent Citi Golf, and is the entry level Volkswagen vehicle.

Although I am a Polo fan, having driven a Polo Tdi for many years, I am not quite sure what to think of the Vivo. Sure, Volkswagen has a great reputation for quality vehicles and services (I can attest to that), but you dont get that much in the way of extras. For instance, the 1.4l basic Vivo (with only 2 doors) has a starting price of R110,500 but for airconditioning you will have to add another R8,110 onto the price. You also need to add in the mp3 player at a cost of R3,200. It all starts to add up.

Dont let the extras and additional costs take away some of the good points of the Vivo. The car drives very well, and is solid. Volkswagen are generally very good with their services, and the car will likely hold its value well compared to other cars in its class. It’s just the extras that are going to cost you if you are not careful.

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The last car of this post is the Chevvy Spark. This car does infact come in other colours if green is not your favourite (not my favourite either).

The Chevvy starts at R103,400 and comes in a variety of trim and colour options. Chevvy state that the car averages 5.4l/100km, and comes with ABS brakes and 2 airbags to ensure that the car is safe. The car has a 1.2 litre engine, power steering and key operated central locking (which cant be said for all cars in its class).

Out of the cars that I have looked at I like the Chevvy best for its looks, value for money, as well as the extras that you get. The one downside that you get with the base model is that you dont get radio, as its “radio ready”. This isnt too much of an issue though, given that the price is still lower than the competitors. Put a radio/mp3 player in and you are ready to go.

With all new cars, you need to bear in mind how much things like insurance will cost you for each model. Other factors to take note of is that the colour of the car can affect the insurance cost. For instance, my Polo Tdi is black, and has the GTI mag (standard). It looks pretty cool when it’s clean, but since its black it becomes a higher “hi-jack” risk for insurance companies. So I learnt the hard way that black is not always the best. Also, black cars get dirty very easily. Best advice… white. So when choosing a car, perhaps give your insurance company a call to see what the various pricing options are for the cars you are interested in.

These aren’t the only good small cars around, but what I have written in my post is true. Look around, because you can find some awesome little cars with lots of extras for a decent price tag.

Woolies, oh how you have disappointed me!

So this year I bought a pair of Woolies Studio-W shoes from their W-Collection for work. I needed shoes for work purposes, and decided to buy the more expensive leather shoe with the idea that the higher price and the “better range” of shoe would result in better quality. I was bitterly disappointed.

I began my working career at the end of January this year, going into the professional world. I needed to buy smart, working clothes. Naturally Woolies would be my first choice, as they have branded themselves as being a high quality establishment, producing clothing to last. This was not the case with me.

I paid a little extra to get the Studio-W shoes, on the advice of the sales staff who said that the shoes were top quality, and were built to last. I figured this would be a better idea than buying a pair of shoes that were half the price, but would not last. I am all about good quality, and generally prefer to spend a bit more when buying something so that it would last a little longer. My running shoes which take a pounding were quite expensive Adidas running shoes. Although they were expensive, they lasted me 4 years before I traded them in for new ones. And even when I traded them in, they were in decent condition. This theory that I applied for buying running shoes, I applied for my work shoes, expecting the same result.

Maybe I missed a sign that said that Woolies shoes only last 10 months, and maybe it was wrong for me to assume that they should last longer than that.

The shoes had a hole right through the middle of the sole (exposing my sock to the elements), the heels on the soles had completely worn down, and the soles were coming off of the rest of the shoes. And after my shoes were taken in, the assessment was that it was normal wear and tear. These expensive shoes have had the shortest lifespan out of all the shoes that I have owned, and frankly I am quite disappointed.

The service that I experienced was also not great. I dropped off my shoes last Friday, and the customer support person said that I would get a call over the course of the weekend to hear the status of my shoes. The call never came. I had to drive to Woolies, only to find they had no idea what I was talking about. I phoned a few times, and only now (Wednesday) I got a call to find out the status of my shoes. Until then I had to borrow shoes for work.

This is not the Woolies that I have grown up knowing, with both the quality of the product and the service disappointing me. So now I have to go buy new shoes. Hopefully I can find a pair of shoes that will last more than 10 months, otherwise my working career could get very expensive.

Sunset Cruise from the V&A Waterfront

 For a while now I have known that you can do a boat cruise from the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town to enjoy the sunset, and the spectacular views of the city. Yet, despite knowing this, I had not going on one of these trips, nor had a look at what the trips offer.

My girlfriend and I were having our anniversary, and her sister was down in the Cape for a visit, so I felt that maybe this particular weekend would be a good one to check it out. So we got to the Waterfront and walked along the boatfront to have a look what tours were on offer.

Tigress

The Cat that we were going to sail

There were many boats, of various shapes, sizes, and styles. You can even go on a pirate party boat, Arg! But we decided that the best boat would be the Catamaran as shown above. With capacity for 60 people, but only ferrying 16 people this evening, it looked like the obvious choice.

Another sailing boat ferrying people for the sunset cruise.

The boat we went on was named the Tigress, and had a very experienced crew that were both knowledgeable, and witty. They made the trip very worthwhile for all on board. The cruise not only took you on a breath-taking cruise past one of the worlds most picturesque coastlines, but also provided all on board with unlimited champagne whilst cruising. And not the cheap stuff either!

The highlight of the trip is undoubtedly having hundreds of dolphins swimming around, next to, as well as under the boat. It was a very cool experience, and something that I hope to do again in the near future. I will forever remember this cruise due to the perfect weather, unrivalled views of the city, dolphins riding alongside the boat, as well as the company who enjoyed it with me.

To make a booking, or find out more about the cruise I went on, go to http://www.tigresse.co.za/.

Sunset whilst enjoying a glass of champagne.

Clanwilliam

Clanwilliam in 30 seconds

I was sent up to Clanwilliam, a very small town in the Western Cape, for work a few weeks back and thought it’d give my 2 cents on what attractions the town has to offer.

Clanwilliam

Clanwilliam main road

Although the accommodation where we were was not up to scratch (without mentioning names), there are many small guest houses in and around the town that provided a very homely feel when you stay there. Prices are reasonable, starting from R350 per person per night, and EVERYTHING is within walking distance.

During the September/October months, the town is abuzz with tourist, and people who made the trip up from Cape Town to see the flower festival. Colourful wild flowers cover almost every hill you can see with vibrant colours, transforming the landscape into an artwork. The restaurants, hotels, and bed and breakfasts depend on the flower season, and derive most of their yearly income from this part of the year.

Clanwilliam flowers

Vibrant colours everywhere you look

The Clanwilliam dam is a popular destination, due to its camps sites situated on the banks of the dam, as well as the skiing and boating experiences you can find there. Skiiers from all over the Western Cape converge on Clanwilliam to take advantage of the perfect skiing conditions at the windless, sunny destination.

Clanwilliam is Rooisbos crazy, with every air freshener, guest house and even milkshakes using rooibos tea. There is also a famous rooisbos factory in Clanwilliam that generate huge volumes of tea, as well as supports the local community with jobs.

For nightlife… well there isn’t really much in the form of nightlife, except Die Kelder, a restaurant/bar that plays music, sport, and has really well priced food. R79 for 400g of ribs and a whole bunch of chicken wings… not bad if you’re a city slicker. They also serve pizzas, burgers and the usual pub restaurant food that one would expect (except just larger portions).

Just a fair warning, do not go there during the peak of summer! Clanwilliam is known to be one of the hottest places in South Africa, with temperatures often getting well over 40 degrees celcius. Rather stay in Cape Town and go to the beach.

Green Shebeen Wine

Green Shebeen Wine – Organic and Cool

A few months ago I met De Vos Meaker when he came to my flat to hangout. He had with him a guitar, a laptop, and a couple of bottles of wine. Any stranger that brings wine into my house is an instant friend, but the wine he brought with, I did not recognise.

Green Shebeen Wine

3 uniquely cool bottles of wine

De Vos brought “the blend” to my place and placed it down on my coffee table. “A very cool bottle of wine” I said, “Where did you buy it?”. He hadn’t bought it, he had made it. Being only 20 years old, this is highly impressive.

The wine is 100% natural, certified organic wine. I was slightly sceptical when looking at the wine, since I tend to go for wines that I know (being a student at Stellenbosch University) but I overcame my scepticism to give it a shot – it’s free wine.

Delicious!

The wine is abundant with fruity flavours, and is very easy drinking… exactly what you want from a new-to-the-market red blend. Needless to say, we polished off all of the wine during the course of the night, thinking that in hindsight that he should have brought more.

To learn more about Green Shebeen wines you can either check out their website, or like them on Facebook.

www.greenshebeen.com

www.facebook.com/#!/greenshebeen