A Travellerspoint blog

Day 8

South Africa

rain 60 °F
View Russ and Beth go on safari on Weimerrv's travel map.

Well we got to sleep in today because our adventure continued at 9am. This was the last day we get to sleep in for the rest of the trip. We travelled to the whale watching town of Hermanus along the coast road called Clarence Drive. A beautiful road for motorcycling! Today was overcast and rainy until 4pm so our sightseeing and picture taking was somewhat limited but we did dodge the raindrops to get some decent pictures. On the road to Hermanus we passed a troup of baboons (several babies as well) along the way. You may be familiar with the African Big 5, elephant, lion, Cape buffalo, giraffe and rhino....well today we saw the little 3 - baboon, dassie and lizard; interesting but not quite as spectacular. We were traveling along False bay, the bay has the largest concentration of Great White sharks in the world and we passed several shark spotter shacks along the road. They fly different flags depending on the shark conditions- kind of like flags that show beach or wind conditions. (please see the pictures). We took a mountain pass road back to Stellenbosch and got dropped off in the downtown area to sightsee a bit more and have dinner. We toured the botanical gardens by the university and went to a store and bought an olive-wood giraffe. It is quite large and is being shipped home. We had dinner with our new friends Ross and Donna from Montreal. Our dinner was very good and we had a nice bottle of Pinotage. We made it back to our hotel with aid of the restaurant staff and Uber since none of our phones were working! We had a nightcap in the lounge and learned a new abbreviation - LIA - life in Africa, which means take it easy and don’t worry things will work out!

Posted by Weimerrv 10:44 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day 7

South Africa

overcast 63 °F
View Russ and Beth go on safari on Weimerrv's travel map.

Today we deviated from our published itinerary and the experience we got to share because of that deviation was priceless to Beth and I. Our day started with packing our bags and heading towards Stellenbosch, a famous wine region in SA. We made our first unscheduled stop at the Fairview Estate winery where we enjoyed a selection of 6 wines each paired with a different cheese. We thoroughly enjoyed the tasting and the resident goats that had their own little castle. We proceeded to Drakonstein prison- this is the last prison that held Nelson Mandela before he was finally released. We were taking pictures of the statue and flag and chatting when a Mercedes Benz rolled in and a very nicely dressed woman got out, a BMW rolled in and a man got out and started chatting with our tour guide David. It turned out that the government was getting the house that held Mandela returned to the state when Mandela walked out of the prison. The opening day for tours was coming up in January but the nicely dressed woman was married to a government official (from another country) and the man with the BMW was going to her a tour. Well David convinced the tour guide to allow our group to join in on the tour - what fantastic luck! The tour guide - Manfred - was very passionate about his subject. He had worked at the prison and had met and worked with Mr. Mandela. The tour was very moving and he gave us the whole history from The Eight’s conviction and sentencing to the eventual release of Mr. Mandela and then a bit about his life after becoming a President, the symbolism surrounding their country’s flag and the country’s subsequent struggles. Beth and I were moved to tears several times during the tour and lecture. I was struck by one of Mandela’s sayings - “I either win or I learn - I never lose”. Nelson Mandela’s humanity is a shining light for all to see.

After leaving the prison (we each got to go out the Freedom Gate which was the gate Mandela exited when he left prison for the last time). We went next to the university town of a Stellenbosch. During our short time in town we visited a beautiful a Dutch Reformed Church and had a lovely chat with two volunteer guides. They had a beautiful organ -please see the pictures. After the town tour we went to our hotel which is also wine estate. We had a nice wine tasting and a great dinner with wine at each of the 3 courses. Another wonderful day in South Africa! The serendipitous addition gave us an experience we will never forget.

serendipitous addition to our tour will be hard to beat.

Posted by Weimerrv 11:12 Archived in South Africa Comments (3)

Day 6

South Africa

sunny 65 °F
View Russ and Beth go on safari on Weimerrv's travel map.

Today’s tour started down the western cape towards the Cape of Good Hope - the southwestern point of Africa. On the way to the park we passed Camp’s bay with its beautiful views and expensive condos to Clifton where the hoi polloi have homes to Houts bay where illegal immigrants have taken over some of the best land around the bay. We stopped at Houts bay to shop and then continued along the cliff road to the Cape of Good Hope. We stopped at an ostrich farm and got our first look at a pair of baboons. We arrived at the cape park and you may remember from our blog post Yesterday I mentioned that baboons were are pests the farmers drive off with paintball guns. Well today at the cape it was Baboons, Baboons and more Baboons. We saw whole baboon families with babies clinging to their mothers as they sauntered along. In fact, baboons in the park have their own minders to keep them from stealing tourists’ stuff like handbags or anything that might hold food. We also saw more wild ostrich and a couple of eland, which are large antelope. We arrived at the Cape of Good Hope to find it overrun with French tourists that didn’t get the idea of queuing up for pictures. We saw flocks of Cormorants and Seagulls in a feeding frenzy diving after sardines. On the back side of the cape is False bay and the Indian Ocean. We got a much better view of both the Atlantic and the Indian oceans from the top of the cape lighthouse. We reached the lighthouse by taking a funicular - a train pulled up the hill by a cable. Leaving the lighthouse we drove up the eastern cape to see the penguins. We were not disappointed. The African ( or Jack-ass) penguins are quite cute and very photogenic. I also saw a Dassie or hydrax - a kind of mountain rabbit with no tail. After a bunch of pictures and an ice cream cone we headed back to our last night in Cape Town. Tonight for dinner we were hosted by a local couple - Virginia and Wayne. V&W have been hosting tour groups once a week for 4 1/2 years. They were wonderful hosts, the food (local and family recipes) and wine were delicious and Wayne described the political and economic scene in SA since Nelson Mandela was president to the present which was very interesting. I especially liked the chocka-wocka, a spicy bean dish. After a nightcap in the bar we retired to write the blog and pack up for our trip to Stellenbosch and more wine tomorrow.

Posted by Weimerrv 12:28 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Day 5

South Africa

sunny 75 °F
View Russ and Beth go on safari on Weimerrv's travel map.

Today was a beautiful sunny day, perfect for our trip up Table Mountain and tour of Cape Town. We met in the lobby with our fellow explorers minus 2 that had just arrived and had to go back to the airport for their luggage. Our first stop was a cable car ride up Table Mountain - wow what spectacular views and the top was quite flat so you could explore along the top for over a mile. The Atlantic was quite calm today so the waves weren’t as great as yesterday but it was so clear you could the Cape of Good Hope ( which we will travel to tomorrow) and the Constantia wine region we visited yesterday. We took a lot of pictures and saw several lizards. After we descended the line to go up had lengthened to about a 2 hour wait. Our next stop was the Malay district and it’s beautiful pastel painted homes. We also visited the Houses of Parliament ( they meet in Cape Town for 6 months and Praetoria for 6). We visited a park that has previously been a vegetable garden for the Dutch East India company used to provision ships. From downtown we proceeded to a diamond tour, which very interesting. We saw diamond cutters at work and had a glass of wine while folks shopped in the store. The company, Shimansky, specializes in Tanzanite, which is mined in only one mine on the slopes of Kilamanjara. The mine only has about 12 years of life left, after that, no more Tanzanite. After a snack and rest we met to go to dinner. The dinner was at the Gold restaurant which features a native drum lesson and a 14 course meal of traditional African dishes. The drumming was fun and the meal was delicious. We also Saw a floor show and had our faces painted. If I get ambitious I will post the full menu. After dinner we headed back to the hotel for a nightcap (a gin and tonic to chase the malaria away) and off to bed. Tomorrow - Penguins!

Posted by Weimerrv 12:21 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Day 4

South Africa

semi-overcast 65 °F
View Russ and Beth go on safari on Weimerrv's travel map.

Three observations from today...
1. Cars stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk.
2. People are friendly and are glad we are here .
3. African names have a meaning. We met someone today whose name means “make peace” and had a great conversation about Nelson Mandela. And our waiter’s name tonight was Unique and he had probably heard everything that could he said about his name. We have been intentional about connecting with people and have found few Americans here but lots of Europeans, especially Germans.

Today was a Free day so we got on the hop on off bus and headed to Kirstenbosch, the botanical gardens . Along the way we actually could see the top of Table mountain and observed the clouds falling over the summit like a waterfall. The foothills and slopes had some interesting looking trees called Stone pines. When we arrived at the botanical gardens we were struck by how large they were. All the land was donated by Cecil Rhodes of Rhodes scholarship fame ( he died at the age of 49), he was a visionary but staunch British Imperialist. Some of the highlights of the gardens were amazing birds of paradise, Egyptian geese, many birds and flowers and an owl that allowed us to get within 3 feet of him to take his picture. We took a snack break at a Tea Room and got back on the bus and headed to a winery, Groot Constantia - Groot means Great. This place has been a winery for over 300 years and produced wine for Louis the 16th and Napoleon. We did a tour of the wine operation and then headed to the tasting room to try some of the wine. The bar tender took a liking to us and just kept pouring wine. Good thing we weren’t driving home. The wine was fabulous and we enjoyed our time there. We got back on the bus and drove along the African coastline back to the hotel. One word...spectacular! It was so beautiful! The pictures I took don’t do it justice but a Beth’s pictures are much better. it was a really great day. Tomorrow our official tour with our group will start and we are interested to meet our fellow explorers.

PS the gardens have an even bigger mole problem than I do. Mole hills everywhere there was green grass!
PPS the winery and surrounding farms and homes are being invaded by baboons. In order to keep them from destroying the grapes the winery uses paintball guns to run off the baboons.
PPPS along the coast there were beautiful Million Rand homes and condos with Billion Rand views! Must use the local currency when pricing things in South Africa....

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Posted by Weimerrv 10:29 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

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