So how in the world did I decide upon Africa for this year’s vacation? Well, my answer would be why not? We have traveled a lot – Europe, the Caribbean, Canada, the United States – you name it. But never to Africa. And with my love of animals – again, why not?
Did some research on-line and decided that late August is a good time to go – the end of the dry season, so it is easier to see the animals and the weather is not too hot. After a lot of research, trying to decide on Tanzania or Kenya or South Africa, I finally decided on South Africa so we could add a side trip to Cape Town into the mix. Once I decided on South Africa, there were about a thousand more choices to look at. First, I had to decide if it was to be Kruger or somewhere else. I looked very closely at a small, family owned camp called Kwa Mbili. It had tents – we could have that “Hemingway” experience! But then, realizing that late August is the beginning of winter, I had second thoughts about freezing in the tents. Plus, Kwa Mbili was in a malaria area and I just did not have it in me to worry about that while on a holiday. So, more research.
I ended up deciding on Madikwe Private Game Reserve. This is a relatively new reserve, only about 21 years old. It used to be farmland and someone purchased about a bazillion acres and re-introduced the wildlife. And what a success it has been! Plus, it is sustainable. And, unlike Kruger, they have a strict rule about only three safari vehicles at a sighting at one time – which helps to preserve that “wilderness” feeling. So, Madikwe it would be! And since there are several game lodges in Madikwe, how to decide on which one? Trip Advisor was my best friend while trying to decide this. In the end, I used the advice of Monique Vally, at Rhino Africa and decided on Madikwe Safari Lodge (a fantastic place!) and More Quarters. Since both are owned by the same owner, the More Brothers, we got a bit of a break on the costs of the trip. But with the great exchange rate between the US dollar and the South African Rand when we were there, it was a great deal for us. It was the airfare with Delta that killed me, cost-wise. But so worth it – I’d do it again in a heartbeat!
Day One –
Wow! We arrived in Johannesburg’s airport after about 16 hours on a Delta flight. The place smells so bad! So exhausted, but met by a smiling and cheerful face from the Rhino Africa Company. He was so kind and talked about the city as we were driving through the evening rush hour in this city of about 9 million people. After about a 45 minute drive, we arrived at The Residence Boutique Hotel.
Oh my gosh … I’ve never before stayed at such a wonderful hotel! We were met at the door by about 4 or 5 staff members offering a warm cloth, an evening sherry, many smiles and helpful people who brought our two duffel bags to our opulent room. It’s a bit of a maze to walk through all the twists and turns, but at every turn there was something beautiful to behold. When we walked into our private courtyard, there was a huge claw foot soaking tub (yes! outdoors!), two rain showers and a table with two chairs, along with the lush flora and greenery.
Then we walked into our room – with several chandeliers, a decanter of sherry, mini fridge (complimentary contents), extremely comfortable king size bed with loads of fluffy pillows. There was a closet with a safe, a hair dryer, robes, slippers, a Nespresso machine, a tea kettle, a wonderful sound system that even includes two speakers in the en suite bathroom. There were apples, candies, biscotti cookies and oh so much more.
Then I walked into the (indoor) bathroom – wow. Another huge soaking tub, a rain shower, a toilet, a bidet and a sink. Oh, and towels the size of room carpets.
You would think this is enough, right? So, we washed the 20 hours of travel off our faces and hands and reappeared at the bar for a before dinner drink. Again, the service was beyond approach. I have never, ever experienced such fantastic service. A glass of wine, a few snacks of olives, chips, pretzels and nuts. But, even now, service goes beyond expectations.
As we were planning to have dinner at the restaurant in the hotel, we were brought menus to decide while we were still relaxing before the fireplace with our before dinner drinks! We decided and let the attentive waiter know what we wanted. We continued to sit by the fire until he came to inform us that our appetizers were ready if we would like to go to the dining room. And so we did.
While sitting there another couple came into the dining room that we had met briefly while enjoying our before dinner drinks. We continued our small talk and spontaneously decided to move to a table for four to enjoy dinner together. As we were enjoying our homemade chicken pie (fabulous!) and lamb shank, we also enjoyed getting to know this Johannesburg couple who are also well-traveled and relatively close to our age. We also tried a wonderful South African red wine, as recommended by our waiter. Finally, hardly able to hold our eyes open any longer, we bid our new friends good evening and retired to our luxurious room, but not after every single one of the staff wished us a good sleep. Amazing attitudes and something you rarely experience while traveling.
Well, we got back to the room and realized that a turn down service had occurred during our absence. But it certainly was not your normal turn down service! In addition to the usual turn down of the bedding and a chocolate on the pillow, there was also a long stem red rose on the pillow, the slippers placed by the bedsides for our use, a nightcap and bottle of water placed with a glass on each side of the bed for both of us. Music playing, lights dimmed and the television tuned to the travel channel! What a turn down service. But wait – I walked into the bathroom and an oil diffuser had been lit in there to gently scent the room. And bath salts. And two bottles of bath oil. I’m beginning to wonder if this is what heaven is like … So we finally crawl into bed and sleep wonderfully in the luxurious quiet.
Day Two –
I wake around 7 the next morning and decide to soak away the travel in the indoor soaking tub with some of the bath salts and bath oil. Mmmmmm …. Then I dry off with one of the carpet sized towels. A quick shower and get ready for the day and pack up, as we must leave this heaven to go to the safari bush camp later this morning. So we go to the dining room for breakfast.
Good heavens! First they bring coffee and tea for us. Then they bring a “cold breakfast” that is enough food to feed six or more people. Cereals, fresh and dried fruits, yogurts, breads, cheeses, cold cuts, milk, two kinds of juices and more. Now, I’d be happy with that, but then they come to take the order for the “hot breakfast”! Eggs of all kinds, breakfast meats, and more. So I order perfectly done scrambled eggs and beef sausage with wheat toast and sit there with my delicious English breakfast tea having one of the most enjoyable breakfasts I’ve ever had while traveling.
Come back to the room to pack up and they have already been in to make up the bed, change the towels and tidy up! Goodness! Like I said, the service here is unapproachable. I am sad to leave and I’ve been here less than 24 hours! But today it’s on to Madikwe and more adventures!
Ok! After the small plane ride to Madikwe – I felt like Indian Jones – (and on the way I saw a herd of elephants from the air – a real National Geographic moment!) we are finally here.
The room (suite) is fabulous – an outdoor shower, an indoor shower, two sinks, separate toilet room, closet, living room and bedroom. Plus two decks – one with a small pool and lounge chairs and a table with chairs and the other with the outdoor shower. And when we were picked up at the airstrip by Andre, our ranger for our stay, on the way to the lodge we saw a giraffe, warthogs, impalas and elephants.
We stood on our deck and watched elephants in our “backyard” for about an hour before departing on our first game drive. And what a drive it was! Lots of elephants , a troop of baboon (contrary to a popular FaceBook and email item, a group of baboon is NOT a congress, but a troop. It’s amazing how many people will argue about this, but I think the rangers know what they are talking about!), lots of birds, a herd of zebra, a ground squirrel, a mongoose, Cape buffalo (after dark, so they were hard to see) and not one, not two, not three, but FOUR cheetahs!!!! They were four brothers who had brought down an impala and were absolutely stuffed – their tummies were extremely bloated – and you could smell the effects of the bloating in the air! Ha! Can you believe it – four cheetahs!
After the evening game drive, there was a group dinner at the Boma (outdoor common dining area with a fire pit) with the other guests at our lodge (including Andre). So many delicious dishes from the grill – I had to taste each one! What an incredible day. It is a six o‘clock wake up call for the morning game drive, so more tomorrow!
Day Three –
What an incredible morning game drive. The serenity of the African bush in the time around dawn is indescribable! It is the “busiest” quiet you have ever experienced! We started off seeing a jackal, large herd of zebra. Beautiful, beautiful creatures!
Interesting fact on why the zebra look chunky – they eat grasses. Combine the cellulose and sugar that the grass breaks down to when digested with the water they drink and you get fermentation. Hence the reason for the “beer belly”!! A little further on the road we came across a herd of giraffe. There were probably 10 or so giraffe in this group, including some youngsters. They are so stately towering over even the trees in the bush. They allowed us the pleasure of observing them for quite a long time.
(Wow! Sitting here working on this writing on one of our decks and I just heard a very loud elephant trumpet. They must be very close by! )
Anyway, back to the game drive of this morning. There was a real treat. We came across some very rare wild dogs. About 8 or so pups! We sat there observing them for a while and then along came the alpha male. What excitement this caused amongst the puppies! They greeted him with excited yips and eagerly followed him into the bush.
More giraffe and zebras followed by a fantastic sighting of the rare white rhino. There was a group of at least 3, maybe more. We had to go off path, but our wonderful ranger, Andre had no issue with this. We got very close to these elusive animals. After a trip to a dam where we saw a herd of about 200 lion fodder – er, I mean wildebeest and a huge warthog along with some more zebra and impalas. Then we came upon a huge termite nest – well over 9 feet high. Amazing! A drive through the plains and along the road a small herd of ellies (local term for elephants), of which one was a baby of about 9 months. It was so amazing to watch them for a good while.
Back to the camp for brunch then a very welcome and relaxing shower in the unique outdoor shower. I am sitting by the private plunge pool writing this and listening to more elephants snort and trumpet. A nap calls so I will be fresh for the evening game drive. More to come!!
What an evening drive! Just magical! After a quick cup of tea and a couple of biscotti, off we go with Andre, also known as “Professor” among his colleagues. And for a good reason, I may add. First it was only the three of us and we went to a nearby dam where there were some wildebeest and other antelope stopping for an afternoon drink. There were also many ducks and Egyptian geese. There was a beautiful bird of prey, a Fish Eagle sitting atop a large tree in the middle of an island in the dam. It is closely related to the American bald eagle and is such a regal bird. While watching these animals, we noticed a very small mongoose digging for a meal. He just dug and dug and dug. We never determined what it was, as we had to head back to the lodge to pick up some other guests, but suspected a snake. He was so persistent that I hope he finally got his dinner!
After picking up the others, we started off seeing ellies, zebra and giraffe. No matter how many of these gentle creatures I may see, I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing them. I could watch them for hours. We went to an area that the Springbok live in and watched them dance around the rocky ledges for a while. They are very territorial, but oh so graceful, much like the mountain goats of the Rocky Mountains in Colorado.
And then we saw something astounding. Two male lions (brothers) eating the giraffe they’d brought down. I was absolutely mesmerized by these two magnificent creatures. I could have stayed there for days, watching them. But, missing the sunset we watched for quite some time. This is something I will never forget. And then … enter the jackal. I could not believe how fearless they were, trying to steal a bite of the lion kill! There were three of them and I didn’t see them ever get more than a small bite, if even that.
We stopped for sundowners, a most civilized safari custom. Andre stops the Land Cruiser, pulls down the grill, whips a tablecloth over it and pulls out wine, liquors, beer, snacks and more! After it was dark, we circled back around to the lions. When driving up, I saw a sight that almost brought me to tears – one of the lions crossing the road. Just seeing his size, his majestic airs – well, I really do understand why he is The King. We parked for a while and watched them. One was asleep a few feet away and the other was resting right beside the carcass. The jackals kept trying to sneak in, but the lions knew they were there. Occasionally a snort from one of the lions would chase the jackals away for a short while. Funny thing when the lions were sleeping, I could hear them snore! After a bit, we had to leave, I am saddened to say.
Driving through the reserve after dark is quite an experience. We saw a spotted hyena scampering through the shrubbery. We stopped to gaze in awe at the southern sky. Venus, the evening star, the Southern Cross, Hercules, Scorpio, Leo, Cancer, and a spectacular view of the arm of the Milky Way, along with a few shooting stars! So beautiful. Driving back to the lodge, we stopped by the dam and saw a white rhino family! A cow, a baby and a bull. Again, so incredible! Back to the lodge for dinner and then I just about fell into bed, dog tired. Arriving to our suite, the fireplace lit, and the hot water bottles warmed the bed. All was wonderful until the knock on the door at 5:58am for the morning game drive.
Day Four –
A quick cup of English breakfast tea and delicious rusks and off we go, under overcast skies and a chilly breeze. We see the birds, the zebra, and the giraffe and then … once again are lucky to see the rare wild dogs! There were probably 15 or 20 of them, and a small herd of ellies in the background.
Then, Andre tracked down a herd of about 200 Cape buffalo! They are skittish, shy creatures and hard to get near. They knew we were there and as soon as the wind changed, they left in a hurry. But, boy, are they intimidating. It was once said that they look at you like you owe them money. Yep, that’s about right. Such a treat to see them, though! Our first night drive, we saw them, but it was so dark and they were very hard to see. It felt more proper this time.
We headed off to find a place to stop for coffee (same story – stops the Land Cruiser, takes down the grill, whips out the tablecloth and pulls out snacks, the implements to make French press coffee and Amarula to add to your coffee!)
We then walked over to one of the huge termite hills. “Professor” Andre gave quite a good lecture on the termites and their social structure. Interestingly enough, he said if you cook them with a little garlic, they taste like peach butter, only crunchy.
We began the last part of our morning drive, looking for the rhino, since Andre had seen the bull’s tracks earlier. We saw ellies, impalas, kudus and more zebra. Then Andre slammed on the brakes and hopped down to study tracks. Leopard! So we go on for a while down this little rarely used road. Shortly Andre sees another track and a bit further on I see another track! We find an ellie, the kudus, impalas … but no leopard. So we start back to the lodge on a main road. All of a sudden we see a covey of Guinea fowl and two sentry guineas high up in trees. They are all in a tither. We stop, and watch and listen. The sentries are looking one way and then another. Andre catches a quick glimpse of leopard tail! So we wait and watch and listen more. Finally the sentry guineas quiet down. The leopard has moved on. Sadly, we leave. I do not want to get my hopes up too high because I know how difficult it is to see the elusive leopard. But I will hope…..
We return to the lodge to our delicious brunch. While sitting at our table, we find that there is a complementary massage for each of us! What an unexpected surprise! We finish our brunch and the therapist follows us back to our suite. We each get a half hour back, neck and shoulder massage. What a treat! However, no time for a nap, so I’m a bit cranky and tired for the afternoon game drive. I’m sure it will be fine once we get started, though.
Yes, it was fine, of course. We started out being literally in the middle of an elephant herd of about 20 – 30 ellies. What a feeling! Andre told us that one young bull might actually chase us when we left, and it sure felt like it was going to happen, but it did not.
There were wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, kudu, impalas, spider nests, lots of birds, grasshopper snacks, another gorgeous sunset but it was fairly quiet. After sunset we rounded a curve in the road and there were two bull giraffes fighting for the affections of a female. We watched for a while. It was awesomely amazing!
Then we found a beautiful spotted eagle owl. He was simply beautiful! And it had an amazing wingspan when it finally took leave. Another really fun Boma dinner with everyone here that was super enjoyable. I just about fell into bed when we finally got back to the room! (Where, of course, the fireplace was lit and the hot water bottles were in place, warming the delicious bed!)
Day Five –
Another pre-dawn wake up call. This morning was different, though. We drove for about a half hour, during which we saw a brown hyena (usually solitary while the spotted hyenas are in family groups, lots of birds, and heard jackals calling good morning to each other across the plains. Great experience!
Then we parked and took about an hour and a half hike through the brush. How different this was! First we saw a giraffe. It is crazy how different the animals react when you are on foot instead of in the Land Cruiser. He was extremely nervous and left quickly. Then a small herd of impalas, which also were very skittish because we were on foot. Then two warthogs who again made it known that they knew we were there. A bit longer and we came upon more warthogs. Finally back to the Land Cruiser for the civilized custom of coffee in the bush and the short drive back to the lodge. Saw a herd of Springbok that were so beautiful!
Brunch and then a long much-needed nap. Awaken by the trumpeting of ellies! Took a shower in the outdoor shower that was simply lovely. Opened every single door (they accordion to make it completely open) in the room and you have a clear view over the plain where the ellies love to spend the afternoon. Sounds of ellies, trees being broken and all kinds of birds. Such a lovely, relaxing afternoon. Almost time for three o’clock tea and the afternoon game drive. Can’t wait!!!
Started the afternoon drive off with giraffes – lots of giraffes! Then ellies – lots and lots and lots of ellies! Then zebras – lots and lots of zebras. Then impalas – lots and lots of impalas! Then a herd of gnu. Birds, birds, birds! Springbok, steenbok, wild dogs, and lion!
A beautiful 8-year-old male with a black mane! He is majestic, regal, and stately! There needs to be a better word to describe lions! And next to him is his younger brother and two lionesses with who they will be mating. I could have sat and stared at them for days. It was incredible!
Then on to the watering hole where we watched three ellies fight over the water source. They were kicking each other, pushing each other – like children fighting over a toy! Then more ellies before a stop for sundowners and another beautiful African sunset! It’s like Santorini – the sunsets never get old! If I’m not mistaken, I believe André said at one point today we were in Botswana.
Driving after dark, Andre spotted a Genet cat in a tree! It was amazing. Had a tail like a ring tail lemur. It was so well hidden in the tree, if it had not been for the distinctive tail, I never would have seen it! But then, a bit later, in the dark, he spotted a two-inch mouse in the road! Go figure. I don’t know how he does it. When we got back to the lodge for dinner, we briefly dropped off stuff in our suite before returning to the main building to eat.
We walked in to candlelight. There were rose petals strewn all over the bed. The fire was burning brightly. But, the best part was walking into the bathroom to a steaming hot bath with bath salts and flower petals in the bath! This place is wonderful! I was a bit disappointed that the fire would be died down and the candles burned out and the water cold by the time we got back from dinner, but it was so touching that they made our last night so special. After dinner, security escorted us back to the suite, as usual. Much to my surprise, the fire had been restoked and the bath water rerun. So we were able to enjoy everything after all! How amazing is that service?
I know there are so many pictures of the lions, but I cannot help myself. I love the big cats! And the little cats. Oh, all right, I love all the cats! I the pictures below, you will see the candles that were lit for us, along with the little chalkboard they used to write little notes to us every single day – along with doing all of our laundry every single day!
Day Six –
The last morning……we started out seeing a brown hyena. And the jackal who had been following him, hoping for a free meal. Ran across a cute little baby tree squirrel.
We ended up at this huge hill/rock of beautiful limestone formations. But, this was the cave the bats lived in! Four of us went in (Andre, Steve, Alex and me) and Jerry and Betty waited outside. There was a colony of about 150,000 – 200,000 bats! We were walking through this huge cave on the softest dirt . . . . . I mean bat guano! Spiders we saw, lots and lots and lots and lots of bats! Snakes, including black mambas live in here too, but fortunately we did not run across one – I would have needed new knickers in the best case if we had seen one of those! Outside again, we watch a Martial eagle soar above us – I stood mesmerized watching it for as long as it stayed near. (In the pictures, the bats are the blurry spots – it was so dark and I had to use a long shutter speed, so maybe you can make them out.)
Then steenbok, ellies, impalas, kudu, giraffe, a fish eagle, more birds (a lot of ducks and geese), adolescent giraffe, a pack of the rare wild dogs, and a few more ellies.
Then, a surprise – a coffee in the bush with all three Madwike Lodges where the staffhad prepared fresh crumpets! They never cease to surprise me with all the extra little touches!
Back to the lodge for a final brunch. We pack and come to the main lodge for our brunch. Just sat and visited with Steve and Betty and their son Alex until Andre came rushing in to tell us that our flight time had been moved up and we had to leave very quickly. We rushed to the airstrip and it was waiting for us. He drove us directly onto the tarmac and to our waiting plane of six passengers. Again, the Indiana Jones feeling as we left this wonderful lodge and all the memories we collected in only four short days. What a wonderful trip.
Last night Jerry and I were talking and we both agreed that if we’d gone back to Atlanta today, we would have been very, very happy. But, Cape Town awaits.
So we make it through the confusing mess of the smelly Johannesburg airport and arrive to rain and cold here in Cape Town. I have absolutely no desire to walk around in the rain tonight, looking for a place to eat. Instead I want to soak in the huge tub and order room service. Which is exactly what we do. Cape Town will still be here tomorrow. I am dog tired yet again. This vacation is wearing me out, but in a good sort of way. I just don’t want to feel cranky and tired, so I hope Cape Town can be a little more relaxed than Madikwe was.
Day Seven –
Slept very well in the comfortable bed, especially with the chilly weather. Glad we had the foresight to pull down the extra blanket before we retired for the night. I am happy for the custom of hot water bottles in the bed at night tonight! I cannot figure out how the bottles stay hot all night, though. During the night I was awaken to the sounds of very heavy rain and wind. Who am I kidding – it sounded like a hurricane outside our windows!
But the morning dawned with breaks in the clouds and only occasional rain sprinkles. Hopefully it will clear up shortly so that we can enjoy Cape Town. More Quarters is very beautiful. Bare wood floors and lots of white. A clean, airy feeling. High ceilings add to the feeling of airiness. Our suite has a living room, dining area, small equipped kitchen, bedroom with a roomy cupboard and a nice bath with a soaking tub, sink, shower and toilet. bathrobes, slippers, nice toiletries. Nice place. Views aren’t much, though, as it sits in a residential area of the city center. From the bedroom and the living room, our main views are of other people’s decks or living rooms (directly into their apartments). From the living room, you can get a glimpse of Table Mountain. Had the usual African breakfast consisting of the cold breakfast followed by the hot breakfast.
We took a little walk around the immediate neighborhood of More Quarters. Lots of restaurants and real estate businesses. We did find a place that we found out later is rated pretty well on Trip Advisor, Arnold’s, and we plan to try that for dinner. I felt like I was in Brussels the way the proprietors would come out and try to lure you into their restaurant. We did score a bottle of wine if we go back. When we found out it was so highly rated, that made our decision!
It was very cold and sprinkly today. At two, we took the shuttle to the Victoria and Albert Waterfront. It’s a bit like Pier 39 in San Francisco, only on a much larger scale. We did souvenir shopping and got some pretty nice things. I’m really happy with all we purchased for our family. Couldn’t buy a whole lot because we are doing this entire trip in a duffel bag and a daypack. After that we found a little pub, Ferrymans, whose sign indicated they were the original waterfront restaurant and pub. Jerry got a couple of beers, and I (boringly) got a sparkling water. Loved the cute little sign inside for “Sailor Jerry”! We shared a basket of calamari, shrimp, spring rolls and fries. It was some of the freshest and best (most tender) calamari I’ve ever had. Totally terrific!
After that we rode the Ferris wheel and had some fantastic views of Table Mountain, Cape Town, The Waterfront and the harbor. After that we wandered into a building where artists sell their work in individual booths. It was all nice, but we didn’t really see much that made us go “Ah!” Until we met this artist from Zimbabwe who did relief art on natural fiber made from elephant dung.Yep – you read that correctly. His work was so beautiful. We purchased a relief of elephants to take home and frame with our other travel art we’ve collected over the years. Then we just wandered around a bit until it was time for the shuttle to pick us up and bring us back here.
We will go to dinner a bit later. But we did find out that our trip to The Cape Of Good Hope has been arranged for tomorrow! Excited about that, for sure!
Dinner was quite an experience! Went to Arnold’s and had red lentil soup that was absolutely delicious. However, I should not have ordered it. Their entrée portions are huge. And I got a sampler platter of African game meats. Ostrich, kudu, crocodile and warthog. Absolutely delicious but I could not finish it nor could I eat the fries or veggies that came with it. Plus we had a free bottle of dry red South African wine. Amazing dinner. But we weren’t done yet – we shared a chocolate and white chocolate mousse for dessert. I’m not a big white chocolate eater, but this was the most amazing mousse! Totally fabulous. The ostrich was ok, but I didn’t care for the peppercorn sauce on it. The kudu was good with a mushroom sauce on it. The crocodile was ok with gooseberry chutney on it. Now the warthog – it was my favorite!
Just as we were finishing up, we struck up a conversation with the guy sitting next to us. Visiting from the UK, he lives near Newcastle and has been here almost a fortnight on holiday. Great conversation with him, even though we never even exchanged names. So tired again and another early morning for another adventure!!
Day Eight –
Again, completely exhausted and we still have to go to dinner. And it’s raining again. I do not want to walk to dinner in the rain again. But there is no other option unless we order the “room service” from the Italian place again. And since it wasn’t that good…..
Today was ok. We took the trip out to the Cape of Good Hope. It was rainy, windy, stormy and very cold. There were a lot of animals on the cape – lots of baboons, elands, birds, ostrich and others. It was great to see it and take photos, but the weather was absolutely miserable. It cleared a bit when we got to Boulder Beach and saw all the penguins and when we had lunch at the Seaforth Seafood restaurant in Simonstown.
But everything felt rushed, rushed, rushed. Andre (at Madikwe) really spoiled us by taking all the time we needed and completely explaining every single detail and stopping for all the small stuff. But we had to rush because about half the people on this tour were only doing a half day and we had to squeeze all the good stuff into the first half of the day.
I could have done without the second half of the day if I’d known it would be like that. Oh well. The afternoon was spent at Kristenbosh Gardens here in Cape Town. They were beautiful and there were some nice views. Hopefully the weather and the tour to the wine country will be better tomorrow.
And dinner was pretty miserable on top of everything else today. We were going to go to Nelson’s Eye, as recommended by the concierge here, but it was pouring a cold rain like a monsoon again.
So, we opted to walk next door to DaVincis, the Italian place. Still got soaked and frozen, as it is cold, cold, cold! We were put at the worst possible table in the entire restaurant. Right by the front door where every time someone came in, we were hit by a blast of cold air. This is the table where people who order take out sit to wait for their pizzas. I sat there with my gloves on for the first part of the meal. MISERABLE!
Ordered salad and pasta, along with garlic bread. The waiter brought oil and vinegar for my French salad and when I opened the vinegar to sprinkle on my salad, there was no sprinkle spout on the bottle and about a quarter cup of vinegar poured out into my salad. I was still able to eat about half of it, but geeze. Really? The “garlic bread” was not what I was expecting at all. It was more like a garlic pizza. It was good, but again, geeze. The pasta Alfredo was delicious, but by now I was just ready to come back to the room and get warmed up.
We leave and return to the room, and turn down service did not occur tonight. No hot water bottles in the bed, no bottles of water to drink. Fitting end of the day, given the way today has gone. It snowed on Table Mountain today.
Day Nine –
And today dawns with more rain. And it snowed yesterday in the Winelands, where we are headed today. And there was bad flooding in the Wineland area. And it is cold and windy again. I mean, who comes to Cape Town, South Africa to rain every day, snow, flooding, wind, and cold?
Well at least today we will be inside more because we will be drinking wines. So we drive to the wine lands, only about 45 minutes away. The drive is beautiful, wild calla lilies growing along the side of the road. We come across lots of farms, with cows and sheep dotting the hillsides.
We stop at the first small winery, Aruna. It was really nice, if a bit chilly inside. The wines were delicious and several cheeses were served. I wish I’d not had such a big breakfast, as it would have been nice to taste them. As it was, I did not even try one cheese. But the tasting room was gorgeous.
Then off to a little town that was full of artists. We stopped to wander around the art shops for a bit, only the skies opened up again the entire time we were in this picturesque little town. So, mostly I just wanted to get dry and warm again.
Then off to Moreson’s winery, where we tried sparkling wines. This was fun! Much smaller place and very informal, but quite a nice chap pouring for us and very knowledgeable about his products. Philippe, our guide for the day had purchased a freshly made loaf (on the estate) of olive bread to have with these wines.
Then off to the university town of Stellenbosch. It is gorgeous and pretty large. We stopped to wander around through the shops and have a light lunch. Jerry and I chose a little Italian place where he ordered a sandwich and I got calamari and hot chocolate. This community is Afrikaans and most people speak it. Our waiter started out speaking it to us, but quickly changed to English when we explained we were Americans. Food was delicious – as it always is here in SA. The South Africans take their food very seriously. Portions are huge, bugger than American portions. It’s always served very hot and fresh. You may wait a tiny bit longer, if they are busy, but I think that is because nothing is prepared in advance.
We started to walk around the town a little because the rain had let up a bit, but then, boom! Down it poured again.
So we drove to another winery nearby and the afternoon was spent at a very large, very beautiful and very commercialized winery owned by the golfer, Ernie Els. (Yeah – I didn’t know who he was, either) The wines there were not even as good as the smaller wineries, but it was very pleasant and comfortable and WARM! We tried 8 or 10 wines or so. The flagship wine, the Bordeaux was the best. Very nice afternoon, considering the weather.
Driving back into Cape Town, we saw a lot of the “townships” where the illegal shanty houses have been built. Interesting about those. Wikipedia defines the South African township as – “In South Africa, the term township and location usually refers to the urban living areas that, from the late 19th century until the end of Apartheid, were reserved for non-whites. Townships were usually built on the periphery of towns and cities.” You will see these shanties with satellite dishes for television all over the place. People live here until they can afford to rent or buy their own place. It’s very interesting to learn how the South Africans “classify” themselves. You have the whites, the coloreds, – which is NOT a derogatory term here – it means people that are not black and not white, such as people of mixed race and people that may have middle eastern backgrounds, the Asians (which many call “chinese”) and the blacks.
For dinner tonight we made it to Nelson’s Eye. Great steaks – Jerry had a T-bone and it was wonderful. However, I simply could not resist and I got the calamari one last time. Fabulous! A bottle of wine, a garlic roll, and cherries flambé and crème brûlée to finish up our “last supper” here in Cape Town. Took a taxi back to More Quarters since it was almost eleven when we finished dinner. Practically fell into bed again. (We need a vacation from the vacation!).
Day Ten –
Slept in this morning and awoke to the sound of rain again. Sigh. It had stormed all night again. Went down to breakfast and had just about finished when in walk Anka and Adrian, her nephew. We’d done our first safari drive with them at Madikwe before they moved to a different lodge. Small world! We greeted each other as long-lost friends. I wonder if we will run into them again next year in Italy? LOL!
Late check out here, so we are packing and just chilling a bit before we have to leave at 13:30. Snow on Table Mountain again yesterday……. Driver picked us up at 13:30 or so and off to the Cape Town airport. Flew in to stinky Johannesburg’s airport (seriously, it smells like sewage in that place) and on to Atlanta. One long trip. Almost 23 hours to get home to Atlanta.
What an experience! I absolutely love the proud, South African people. They are so nice and friendly. Never once did I feel unsafe. Johannesburg gets a really bad rap with the press, but if I am ever lucky enough to visit again, I will take an extra night in Johannesburg and take a city tour during the free day to learn more about this historical city. The people that work in the bush are passionate and amazing. They all seem so incredibly knowledgeable about the animals and they really, really care about the animals and they care that you care about the animals. It’s amazing. And in Cape Town – well, it’s such a vibrant, hip city. I would love to return during the spring or fall or even summer just to see everything again in good weather.
I would do it again tomorrow, given the chance. South Africa is a wonderful place!