SOUTH AFRICAN VACATION – FALL 2015

Ok, I promised my family and friends that I would tell them all about our South African vacation, plus show them some of our pictures. So while I’m at it, I thought my cooking blog readers might also enjoy reading about our marvelous adventure. So therefore I have chosen my blog as my delivery method. So here goes – South Africa in 200 words or less. (Well not really in 200 words, but I am going to try and keep my narration as short and to the point as possible.) Right!!

Sunday, 10-25-2015

First of all – getting to South Africa from Camano Island, Washington is a pain in the derrière. (Both literally and figuratively!) Unless you have a crazy friend who wants to pick you up at 3:30 in the morning and take you to the airport (2 hours away) the day of your flight, you have to get a friend to pick you up the day before and drive you 30 minutes to your local airline shuttle pick-up-point.

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(Andy at Stanwood shuttle stop, exit 212, I-5)

Then you have to ride the shuttle to the airport, then take another shuttle to your hotel, spend the night at the hotel so that the hotel shuttle can take you first thing in the morning back to the airport 3 hours before your flight is due to take off! All this before you have even seen the inside of an airplane!

Monday, 10-26-2015

So now it’s 5:15 am and we are on our way along with what seems like a zillion other people headed for the airport. Delta wants us at the airport 3 hours early so that we have plenty of time to check in, check our baggage, obtain our boarding passes, and clear Security in a timely fashion. But really Delta, is it absolutely necessary to be at the airport 3 hours early, when the whole process usually takes about 30 minutes? But being good little travelers who do as we are told, we are now at our gate 2½ hours before the airplane is scheduled to lift its considerable weight off the tarmac.

We are now in the air for the first of 3 connecting flights to our destination – Cape Town, South Africa. After a flight duration of 4 hours and 50 minutes, we land in Atlanta, Georgia. At 7:10 pm EST, we board our next aircraft that will find us in Johannesburg a mere 15 hours and 20 minutes later. After what seems like 15 hours and 20 minutes of no space to put our legs, no ability to get up and move around, (except of course when we wake up the man sitting in the aisle seat), of choking down what we laughingly refer to as fodder, but the airline calls food, and having our back sides feel like they are about to fall off, we arrive at 4:30 pm in Johannesburg. Somewhere in all this time in the air it becomes………

Tuesday, 10-27-2015 – Cape Town (Villa Bianca)

After only an hour and 45 minutes we again board an aircraft for our final flight (a mere 2 hours) to our final destination – Cape Town. It’s now 8:20 pm in Cape Town. (I could add up all the hours we spent either waiting for an airplane or riding in said aircraft, but I am absolutely positive I would never travel again if I actually did that. So let me just say – it was an excruciating long time!)

After landing and a pleasant and easy taxi ride to our B&B, we fell into bed, slept like the dead, and spent the whole next day touring Cape Town as if we had been in South Africa for weeks.

Moral of the story. For long International flights, plan your arrival time for late evening when it’s not only dark, but everyone else is going to bed too. It makes the jetlag problem much easier to tolerate.

Oh yah, another little thing I should mention. Once we stepped off the plane in South Africa and realized we truly were in another world, all the misery of getting there started to fade away. And as the days went by and we found South Africa to be one of the most amazing places on earth, our hated airline adventure seemed but a distant nuisance. South Africa is simply like no other country.

So if you too are thrilled by beautiful scenery, fantastic people, wild animals, and terrific accommodations, food, and drink; South Africa is the destination for you.

Wednesday, 10-28-2015 – Cape Town (Villa Bianca)

Woke up and walked to the back deck of our B&B for our first really good look at Table Mountain. The night before it was dark when our host took us to see the lights streaming down the side of the mountain. Apparently, in the spring and summer months when the moon is at its fullest, hikers go up the mountain in the daylight hours and come down in the evening with headlamps and the light of the moon to guide their way. So from down below, it’s just delightful to watch this procession of lights slowly moving down the mountain side.

After breakfast, we took the tram up to the top of Table Mountain. We walked around for about 90 minutes taking in the amazing views and feeling incredibly lucky that we had visited the mountain under no cloud cover.

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But we were anxious to explore Cape Town, so we caught the red tourist bus at the bottom of the tram and rode around Cape Town on the open upper deck.

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We stopped at the Victoria and Albert (V&A) wharf and walked around an amazing high end Arts & Crafts building, enjoyed our first calamari and chips plate together, and then hopped the red line tourist bus again. We got off close to our B&B (Villa Bianca), took a taxi from there, relaxed a bit and went to a local restaurant for dinner.

Some sights along our way around Cape Town.

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Thursday, 10-29-2015 – drive day to Swellendam (Arumvale Country House)

Before David our host at Villa Bianca drove us to pick up our rental car, we decided to have one more look from the B&B’s back deck at Cape Town’s beloved mountain. And again we were blessed.

There is an incredible phenomenon that occurs on Table Mountain. The top of the mountain becomes shrouded in clouds. (Sounds fairly common for the top of a mountain, right?) But what’s amazing is that the clouds appear to be falling off the top. And in all seriousness, it looks like water spilling over the mountain and dissipating into thin air before it hits the ground. (I wish I could have attached a video, but this format for presenting my dissertation/travel log does not allow videos.  Plus I am so terrible at such things, you could barely have seen what I’m talking about anyway.) But as you look at the still picture, imagine the clouds falling away into nothingness.

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At the Avis office, we were given a red Hyundai I-20 to drive, which turned out to be the most gutless car ever engineered. In addition to no oomph, the car was cursed with a schizophrenic transmission. If the car was cold, the engine would race. If you wanted it to go uphill, which incidentally was about a third of the time, the transmission appeared to abhor the effort. It would lug, then race its demented engine, then lug some more, etc. etc. the entire incline. Very unnerving. Plus the turn signals were on the right side of the steering column! Which meant that every time I wanted to turn right or left, I turned on the windshield wipers. (Ok, Ok. That was not the car’s fault. That’s just how it is when a car is built for driving on the left side of the road!) After leaving the car rental place, we headed east to our next destination – Swellendam and the Arumvale Country House.

Our drive took us inland along the N2, the main East West highway in the area.

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We arrived mid-afternoon safe and sound, which by-the-way is not easy when you are driving from the passenger seat!

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Unpacked and drove into “town” for breakfast supplies, then dined at an amazing restaurant that evening. (I had wildebeest!)

Friday, November 30, 2015 – tour day

Sometime after midnight, I woke up and realized we were not alone. We had left our windows open and we now had a nocturnal visitor in our suite – a large orange cat whom we had met upon arrival back at the guest house after dinner the night before. (We think he was just seeking shelter from the terrestrial downpour that was hammering the area.) But now, what to do with the cat? We tried opening the door and shooing him out. No luck! Ok fine! We would close the window in our bedroom, shut the bedroom door, and leave the kitchen window open so the cat could escape. Well that worked swell until the cat left by the kitchen window and once again pawed our unlocked bedroom window open and entered our bedroom, complete with shut door. We tried again to encourage the cat to leave, but neither of us was willing to have a vein opened in the attempt. So….we left him in the living room again, but this time we locked our bedroom window after shutting our bedroom door. We both fell asleep and when I was awakened by Thomas the brat cat, as he is not-so-lovingly referred to by the guest house owners, I quickly got up and shut and locked (the girl can learn) the kitchen window too. I came to Africa to see wild animals, but I never dreamed our first encounter would be with a semi-feral domestic cat! This whole adventure kept us from sleeping soundly, and when we finally did awaken, it was 11:30 am. I fixed breakfast and we left the guest house at about 1:30 pm for our planned day trip.

One of the drives that was recommended by our guide books was the western leg of the Little Karoo. This drive offers a glimpse of what much of South Africa’s vast hinterland looks like. It’s a narrow strip of land, wedged between the Swartberg and Outeniqua ranges, and is a sere world of fantastic rock formations and scrub land. It is also the home to lots and lots of ostrich farms. (And baboons, as it turned out!) There are several dramatic passes that traverse the mountains to the coast and later on in the trip we tried to drive over one of them, but our car, the feckless machine that it was, simply would not allow us to proceed to the top. (More about Swartberg Pass to come.)

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Back in Swellendam, we enjoyed another marvelous dinner (I had kudu), then drove back to our self-catered country guest house to read, write in our journal, and lock all the windows before we turned out the lights!

Saturday, October 31, 2015 – drive day to Pt. Elizabeth (Admiralty Beach House)

Checked out and said goodbye to our hostess about 10:00 am. Our poor hostess was absolutely aghast that we were going to drive as far as Pt. Elizabeth in just one day! Apparently, people in South Africa do not drive long distances like we do. It was a long drive (520km or 336 miles), but the road was good, and we were used to covering vast distances in just a few hours. Along the way we stopped for a long lunch at a Mozambique café in Plettenberg (Plett to the locals) Bay. Saw our first vervet monkeys along the road and arrived at the 5 star Admiralty Beach House at 5:45 pm to be told that we had been upgraded from a basic room to a suite. (No extra charge.) Everything from Port and chocolates, to a large soaking tub and huge shower. Cuddly robes, fresh flowers – the full meal deal! Also, right across from the beach access. Truly first cabin! We went out for a lovely dinner, then an early lights out.

Sunday, November 1 – Addo Elephant National Park

Got up at 7:30, had breakfast and headed up to Addo Elephant National Park. Along our drive out of Pt. Elizabeth, we rounded a curve (on-ramp to another freeway), and found ourselves bumper-to-bumper with parked cars. The cars had stopped to collect the hundreds of plastic (thank God) 2 liter bottles of Diet Coke that had fallen off a soft-sided tractor trailer. Apparently the truck had taken the curve too fast, because he definitely had lost part of his load. There were Coke bottles strewn all over the road and on both shoulders. (This BTW, was the third truck we had seen in 3 days that had lost its load.)

Now one thing you have to say for the South Africans. They can absolutely make lemonade out of lemons! There was not one car, bus, truck, etc. that didn’t have people pouring out of its doors to collect bottles of Coke to stash safely in their trunks, back seats, peoples laps, wherever! People were even offering us bottles of Coke as we slowly wound our way through the parked cars and detritus.

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By the next day when we again drove that same route, not much remained of the horrific mess. The clean-up effort could not have been better choreographed had it been planned weeks in advance. And no class distinction here folks. Rich, poor, black, white. Everyone was laying claim to the spillage!

But back to Addo. Arrived a little past 11:00 am and immediately booked a 2 hour guided tour.

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Our guide was most knowledgeable and during our guided trip and afterwards, just driving around the park on our own, we saw: elephants, lions, red hartebeests, common duikers, Burchells zebras, a black-backed jackal plus 2 babies (which apparently is very rare), ostriches, blue cranes, warthogs (my personal favorite), bush-bucks, both a yellow and a large grey mongoose, meerkats, bok-maklerie (small green bird), Egyptian geese, buffalo, elands, kudu, vervet monkeys, flightless dung beetles, black headed herons, leopard tortoise, guinea fowl, and millipedes (about 4-5 inches long).  (Not bad for a simple drive through a National park!)

A few pictures of the animals we saw in the park – elephants, zebras, lions, kudu (a species of antelope) and ostrich

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Returned to Pt. Elizabeth through pouring rain, wind, and occasional fog. Had a wonderful seafood dinner and another early lights out.

Monday, November 2, 2015 – Schotia Safaris Private Reserve

A slow start to our day and a leisurely breakfast. Drove up to the office of Schotia Safaris and arranged for an afternoon and evening tour which included dinner. But the safari started 3 hours later, so we decided to drive around the area. Had coffee, then lunch, (I had Bobotie – recipe on blog) and saw more of the beautiful surrounding area.

When I first envisioned visiting South Africa, all I could see in my minds’ eye, was a picture of a large savanna, complete with a low rounded hill containing a single large tree, and a pride of lions happily resting in the sparse shade created by the tree. Well, that may be the way things are in other parts of Africa, but not in the Eastern Cape region. Here the vegetation is varied and plentiful. Large trees, short and tall bushes, and a variety of native grasses and flowers. So traveling around the area is a treat for the eyes. Of course, it didn’t hurt that our visit was in late Spring. The trees were flowering and all the bushes were green and lush, at least in this part of the country. South Africa in general, and especially a little further NE of Pt. Elizabeth, is suffering from a terrible drought. Watering holes that the wild animals depend on are either totally devoid of water or the amount of water is greatly reduced. And of course the farmers and ranchers are having a terrible time keeping both their crops and herds alive without their usual supply of water. Very much like what is happening in California and Syria.

While we were waiting for our tour to begin, we almost decided not to go because it was quite rainy and cold. But when in South Africa for perhaps the only time, you go on safari when the opportunity presents itself. So at 3:00 pm we boarded our Land Rover with two other couples, plus all the clothing we had brought with us that day, along with 2 blankets and ponchos provided by the safari company. (I should mention here that safari vehicles usually have roofs, but no side protection from either the beating sun or as in our case this trip, horizontal rain showers.) So understandably, we were not what you would call – warm. Regardless, the whole adventure was still worth every penny.

Some of the animals we saw that day:

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We had fabulous close up encounters with elephants, one of which explored pushing the Land Rover over with its tusks, but decided instead that the left front of the vehicle would make a great scratching post.

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Nothing like being gently rocked by an elephant as large as the truck you’re sitting in! Even our driver couldn’t believe what the elephant was doing. Those are our drivers arms and camera you see in the right hand part of the picture. After about 2 hours, we stopped for a hot tea break, then back on the trail. Still cold, still wet, still having the time of our life!

At about 7:15 pm we stopped for dinner in a huge open air lapa. A lapa is a thatched roof supported by wooden walls. This lapa was very large, and had reed and Sneeze-wood walls and was open to the skies, except for the outer edge where the dining tables were arranged. (The outer ring was covered by a thatch roof.) Several huge Schotia trees and a log fire were inside the circle.

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Dinner was typical South African food served by our drivers. We had rice, boiled potatoes, mixed veggies in a cheese sauce, rings of butternut squash, beef stew, roast chicken with a mushroom gravy, and rolls. For dessert, our first taste of Malva (recipe on site).

Then once more into the cold and wet Land Rover for our trip back, (complete with night-time elephant viewings), to where we had parked our car.

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A totally grand adventure that I am so glad we took. Then straight back to our B&B to plan our route for the next day, a nice warming sip or two of Port, and a wonderfully warm and cozy bed. (While we were out, the staff had turned on the electric blanket for us.) Like I said – first cabin accommodation.

I guess at this point I should take a moment to mention that getting to South Africa is not cheap (lots of air miles after all). But once you get there, at least in October and November of 2015, the price of everything was incredibly low. For example, in US dollars, our 3 nights spent at this beautiful 5 star B&B in Pt. Elizabeth cost us $291.73. That’s less than $100 a night! And dining too was amazingly inexpensive. Even dinners like the one we enjoyed at Dale’s Black Angus in a suburb of Cape Town cost us less than going out for burgers and beer at Red Robin! Andy had Chateaubriand, served with Béarnaise sauce flambéed with brandy, a shredded potato cake, sautéed veggies, a glass of wine, and an incredible Dom Pedro for dessert. They call it a Don Dales. A chocolate Dom Pedro with a double shot of Frangelico and Chantilly cream. (Recipe for a Dom Pedro’s at the end of the travel log.) I ordered what they call their “Special Reserve 21 Tenderloin”, which came with a baked potato and sautéed veggies. Total for both of us including tip – $38.17.

Same goes for the price of our rental car. For the 24 days we had the car the total was only $656. And we had ordered an automatic (always more expensive) and had paid for as much insurance as Avis offered. That’s only a little over $27 a day. Even gas was not expensive. And the price of art and the other treasures that we purchased as souvenirs were a bargain. So all in all, a very inexpensive place to visit.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015 – drive day to East London (Cove View B&B)

After another delicious breakfast we were once again on the road for the day. Destination – East London. We decided to take the lovely “sunshine coast road”, stopping only for lunch and gas. Arrived late afternoon only to be met by a guard at the gate of this very well protected community. After telling him where we were headed, and him making the appropriate phone call, we were allowed to proceed to our B&B. We were greeted by the manager and shown to our absolutely charming room with a stunning view of the Indian Ocean.

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Since we were in the country and not sure where we could find dinner, we asked our hostess for suggestions. She gave us a few, but then told us if we would like, she could order dinner for us and would gladly collect it from the gate and bring it back to the B&B. Amazing hospitality. So we took her up on her offer and enjoyed a casual and tasty dinner “at home”.

A note about security in South Africa. Almost every home or building is protected by fencing or solid walls topped with barbed wire or some other unwanted visitor preventative. Theft is truly a problem everywhere in this magnificent country. During lunch on the road to East London, the owner of the restaurant where we dined had warned us about safety especially once we got away from large cities. But we had not experienced what that truly meant until we got to this destination. The community of Cove Rock where our B&B was located was basically, for lack of a better word, an enclave. Our hostess said she never walked on the beach by herself. She always walked with a partner, and even then, never at night. From a stranger’s point of view, it looked like the houses were all imprisoned. (While driving inside the security fence to our B&B, I half expected to see guard towers along the route.) I must say, as dissatisfied with the US and its ridiculous general belief that America is the most impressive and civilized country on earth, I at least still feel safe in my own home. In South Africa, it’s constant vigilance.  And not just from the human population. South Africa has other home invaders that can cause damage, steal your possessions, and generally keep you at full alert. Monkeys, naughty little fellows that they are. Cute as the dickens, but faster than a speeding bullet at snatching everything from cameras and purses, to fruit happily residing in a bowl on top of a buffet. So the term “be prepared” is very appropriate to living or visiting South Africa!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015 – drive day to Port St. Johns (The Lodge on the Beach)

Now we are seeing the real South Africa. Small towns (villages really) packed with people, market stalls, cars, trucks, buses, domestic animals –  all coming at our car from every direction. Women with huge bundles on their heads, children in their school uniforms, delivery drivers parked in the middle of the street and pushing their product laden carts toward the vendors and shops along the street edges. All the visual stimulation you could ask for along with the cacophony that is indigenous to anywhere masses of humanity congregate. Unbelievable!

And along the highways and backroads, people walking or standing along the road waiting for a ride. Not uncommon to feel like you are miles from civilization, when suddenly one or two people are standing beside the road waiting either to hitchhike to town, or be picked up by one of the many privately owned buses (they look like a 12 passenger van) that are everywhere. And to our inexperienced eyes, there appear to be no structures (be it homes or barns) for miles around. And animals. We decided that all the fences we were seeing around people’s homes were not there to keep animals in. They were in place to keep animals out! You couldn’t drive a klick without sheep, cows, goats, horses, donkeys, or pigs grazing freely along the side of the road. And how at the end of the day anyone could tell their goat from the next guy’s goat, is way beyond my comprehension.

Rest stops? Are you kidding? Nary a one did we encounter. Plenty of pull outs with picnic tables, but not a one with bathroom accommodations. But oh the scenery. Tall hills and deep valleys with little clusters of homes (some of them shanties) everywhere you look. And students in full uniform – everywhere. And no matter how rickety some of the shanties appeared, there were usually clean clothes hanging on the line, small children and people milling around, and no one looking the least bit hungry. People would smile and wave, and yes, sometimes stare. But no rude or threatening gestures even if we were driving in areas that probably hadn’t seen a lot of tourist traffic.

We finally arrived at our destination late afternoon, settled in, and went for a walk on the beach along with a trip to the village bottle store we had passed on our way in.

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I wanted some gin. And Andy thought a nice bottle of Scotch would not be unwelcome. No Tanqueray for me, but they did have Gordon’s which seemed to be South Africa’s gin of choice. It is definitely not my gin of choice, so I decided to go native and bought a small 200ml bottle of Old Buck Dry Gin, produced and bottled in South Africa. I should have bought a larger bottle, because it was really nice gin. I looked for it later on in the trip, but never did find it again. Andy bought a 375ml bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label, and both bottles set us back about $17.

Now the Lodge on the Beach in Port St. Johns was the most rustic accommodation we stayed in the whole time we were in SA.

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A view back to The Lodge on the Beach safely tucked away in the trees.

20151104_151348The view from our deck

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Our deck

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Morning coffee on the main deck before breakfast

Our room was very simple, kind of run down actually, and the bathroom (just for us) was across the hall. But we had a small deck off our room (seen above) and a million dollar view of the small bay pounded by rolling surf! That evening we had dinner at a restaurant, and I use the term loosely, that was just up the hill from our B&B. This was your average 1960s hippy restaurant, complete with benches, big pillows, and a menu signboard. But the view was wonderful, the food decent, and the nice bonfire right in front of our tent-like dining room was not only warming but welcoming. By the next morning, I had decided that this was now my definition of paradise and I was sorry that we couldn’t stay longer. So farewell to Port St. Johns and on to Ballito and my favorite guesthouse of our entire vacation.

Thursday, November 5, 2015 – Ballito (Zimbali View Eco Guesthouse)

We left Port St. Johns about 10:00 am. Spent the day driving through more tiny villages and small towns and beautiful rolling hills speckled with homes – some ramshackle, some not so much. And along the road, lots of big trucks and tiny buses, and the ever present grazing domestic animals and people walking to God knows where. But it seemed like everyone made it eventually to the small conclaves of commerce to purchase their groceries and other supplies. Because if the women didn’t have large bundles on their heads, they were on their way to obtain large bundles to carry home with them. But no one seemed in a hurry. These walks appeared to be not only for business, but also for pleasure. It was not at all uncommon to see 2 or 3 women walking together, brightly dressed in flowing garments complete with ruffled aprons. (I liked these ladies immediately!) Some of the women even carried parasols against the afternoon sun. They looked as if walking along a freeway (or toll-way) in rural South Africa was as pleasant as leisurely strolling along the ChampsÉlysées in Paris. (Only I think these rather poor (by our standards) South African ladies smiled and laughed a lot more than their wealthy Parisian counterparts!)

(And no I don’t have any pictures of South African people. To my thinking, it is extremely rude to take pictures of folks without first obtaining their permission. So you will just have to form mental images.)

And again, lots of children walking home from school. All looking clean, happy, some munching on snacks, some listening to some kind of device that required ear buds, and all looking happy and healthy. And most notable of all, no one was in a hurry. And no one looked stressed! Truly amazing.

Late afternoon we came to Durban, the third largest city in South Africa. I drove while Andy navigated us through rush hour traffic. We made it through without either harming ourselves, any South Africans, or our car. But I was darned glad to reach our destination.

When we arrived at our guesthouse, we were greeted at the bottom of the driveway by our hostess Erika. This whole area of the town of Ballito is a steep hillside. So all of the homes and guesthouses are situated off narrow roads (lanes really) with sheer drop offs to the homes on the downhill side and incredibly steep driveways to the homes on the uphill side. Our guest house was on the uphill side.

Now those of you who have been to our home know that we have a steep driveway. But in comparison to the driveway at our guesthouse, ours looks like a shallow sand pile. This driveway was steep, short, and banked to the right. You had to stay to the far left or your car would get high-centered. And then when you got to the parking area, there were less spaces for parking than there were cars. So some lucky guest was always having to back and fill his car as not to cause damage to other cars or the building itself.

Since I was still behind the wheel when we arrived, I drove up the driveway successfully. But when we decided later to go out to dinner, Andy decided to back down the driveway.

Well our car was apparently not designed to go backwards. The engine was simply not equipped for that much downward pull. The engine made a horrible noise, and had Andy not been such a good driver, we would have gone over the road and into the garage of the home across the street from our guesthouse! Needless to say, we didn’t try that again! (The going down the driveway backwards, that is!)

But for all the travails with the driveway, the Zimbali View Eco Guesthouse was absolutely beautiful. Our room was divine, the view amazing, the guesthouse breakfasts unparalleled, and the owners, Herbie and Erika, as amicable as any two people I have ever met. And Herbie – what a cook! Gourmet breakfasts every morning, complete with jokes and smiles. Example of the kind of jokes we heard over breakfast: A midget psychic escapes – signs posted – small medium at large! (Drum roll please.) And – a concrete truck collides with a police van (you ready?) hardened criminals were released! (Sorry.)

We stayed at the guesthouse in Ballito for 4 nights and I was not ready to leave when our visit was over. Truly, if ever I decided to live in South Africa, it would be in Ballito.

Friday, November 6, 2015 – Ballito (Zimbali View Eco Guesthouse)

After breakfast we headed back towards Durban and then NW into The Valley of a Thousand Hills. Simply a wonderful area offering stunning views of hills and valleys dotted with traditional Zulu homesteads. We stopped for lunch at a restaurant we considered “the best of both worlds”. The restaurant was catered by the Thousand Hills Chef School. And next door to the chef school – the Porcupine Quills Brewery. So not only was the food exceptional, the beer was wonderful too. And all was served at a picnic table perched at the top of a hill overlooking the wooded hillside and the valley below. After lunch and a few stops at craft shops, we headed back to Ballito and a good nights’ sleep.

Saturday, November 7, 2015 – Ballito (Zimbali View Eco Guesthouse)

After another wonderful breakfast including Portuguese Chicken Livers, we headed out for another drive north of Durban called The Midlands Meander. Again through rolling hills, sugar cane fields, and fine craft shops. Our first stop of the day was the Nelson Mandela Capture Site Museum. The museum is a tribute to this amazing individual and the exhibitions display the political and personal journey of this beloved hero. In addition to information and pictures of Mandela, there was a 50 steel column construction, 31 feet tall that as you walk down a path comes into alignment to form a portrait of Nelson Mandela against a backdrop of rolling hills and valleys.

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As I walked through the museum, and down the path to the statue I was in tears. Such an amazing man, with such lofty goals of equality for his fellow Africans. Makes one feel humble just to walk on the same path he once walked. And to realize how far some of our brothers and sisters have had to walk, and how much they have had to endure, just to receive recognition as human beings. If for no other reason than to visit this museum, I will forever be glad I visited South Africa.

After visiting the museum and sculpture, and fixing my eye makeup, we went to lunch at a famous restaurant in the vicinity – the Cavesham Mill Restaurant. This was the first restaurant we had visited that was owned and operated by black Africans. I loved it! After having just visited the Mandela exhibit, it was like coming up for fresh air after having spent days in a mine shaft. Plus the food was marvelous!

After lunch, we visited one of the most admired ceramic shops in South Africa. It is located on the Ardmore Farm in the foothills of the Drakensburg Mountains of KwaZulu-Natal. If you want to explore their website to see some of the most magnificent ceramics imaginable, visit them at www.ardmoreceramics. Wondering through their shop, or even looking at their work is like visiting a ceramic museum. Absolutely amazing pieces of art.

Even though it was early afternoon, we decided we would head back to our room and just read and hang out for the rest of the day. Too many emotions and too much beauty can tire a person out very quickly. It can also lead a person to want an early martini or a wee dram of Scotch, along with an early dinner and early lights out in a lovely air-conditioned room.

Sunday, November 8, 2015 – Ballito (Zimbali View Eco Guesthouse)

Up early and to yet another wonderful Herbie breakfast. All the while we were at the Zimbali View Eco Guesthouse, I kept thinking that our friend Jim would absolutely feel like he had met his brother by another mother if he had been there with us. Of all the people I know, Jim would have captured the heart of Herbie, and Herbie would never have let go of Jim. If ever there were two peas in a pod, it’s these two guys!

So after a good night’s sleep and a tummy full of wonderful food, we decided to be brave and drive through downtown Durban again. This time with a goal in mind besides just making it through alive. Our destination – uShaka Marine World, the largest aquarium in the Southern hemisphere. It has a capacity of nearly 6 million gallons of water. You enter through the side of a giant ship, and walk down several stories to enter a “labyrinth of shipwrecks” – a jumble of 5 different fake but highly realistic wrecks, from an early 20th century passenger cruiser to a steamship.

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Within the labyrinth are massive tanks, housing more than 350 species of fish and sea life, including the biggest variety of sharks in the world, including ragged-tooth and Zambezi (bullsharks). And for whatever reason, the aquarium was not busy even though it was a Sunday afternoon. So viewing the exhibits and lingering as long as we wanted at each tank was no problem. After visiting the aquarium, we were hungry. And of course the only choice for me was fish and chips. (And no, I feel no shame over my choice of fish for lunch!)

On our way back to our car, we walked through a huge covered area full of shops. And outside one of the shops, just standing there waiting for me, was my favorite keepsake from our visit to South Africa. His name is Zimbali, and he is an 8-inch tall, 9½-inch long, by 5-inch wide metal warthog.

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He is absolutely wonderful. And why a warthog you might ask? Well I simply fell in love with the first warthog I saw at Addo Elephant Park. He (I think it was a he) was at a watering hole, and absolutely dancing around the other animals. His little feet were barely even touching the ground, and I was immediately reminded of one of my favorite Flanders and Swann songs – The Warthog. Now if you are unfamiliar with this British comedy duo, the actor and singer Michael Flanders and the composer, pianist and linguist Donald Swann, who collaborated in writing and performing comic songs, you are in for a treat. They are worth researching on the internet. If you would like to hear their delightful song about a warthog, and the reason for my love for this endearing creature, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWenRlN-sjI. (Sorry for the digression, but some things are simply too wonderful not to share with others.)

After my major purchase we headed back to our room and spent the late afternoon reading, sipping, and planning our route for the next day.

Monday, November 9, 2015 – Richards Bay (Aristo Manor)

As with most good things, there has to come an end. Leaving Ballito and our wonderful hosts at the guesthouse was like leaving home. We hugged each other like we had been close friends since childhood. And to think no more Herbie breakfasts, accompanied by the sight of dolphins playing in the water just off shore, was hard to imagine. But there were more wonderful discoveries to be made and it was time to be on our way. So we drove down the driveway from hell for the last time, waving frantically at Herbie and Erika, and me close to tears.

Before we left, Herbie had warned us that our next destination, Richards Bay, was basically an industrial city. That we would find it both dirty and stinky, so we were a bit worried. But by the time we got to “the manor”, we could find nothing to complain about.

One of the things I had wanted in the B&Bs and guesthouses that I booked for us was variety. And the Aristo Manor turned out to be a bit too fussy for our tastes. But it was nothing if not large, comfortable, beautiful, and had we happened to have been English royalty, I’m sure we would have felt right at home! So we did what any other travel savvy couple would do under the same circumstances. We had a drink, (pinky finger crooked ever so slightly in deference to our surroundings), went out for a fine dinner, planned our next day’s adventure, and went to bed early.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015 – Richards Bay (Aristo Manor)

We requested an early breakfast (6:30 am) so that we could get an early start to our day. We planned to visit Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve. And if you are interested in how you pronounce Hluhluwe, I will give you the same advice I was given by a nice older couple from Johannesburg. “Pretend you have had too much to drink, and then slur your words. If it sounds like schlu-shlouwee, you’ve got it right!” So bright and early (7:10 am) we hit the road.

Over the years we have driven on some very hairy roads and in some pretty awful conditions, but this day’s drive was white knuckles the entire time. Cars passing us on the right side, vehicles moving anywhere from 10 to 120 klicks an hour, buses stopping in front of us with no prior warning, animals grazing everywhere, and people walking in front of our car as if they were about to exercise their death wish. By the time we got to the gates of the park we were both mentally and physically exhausted. But we had pre-booked a 3 hour safari, so we proceeded into the park.

Now not unlike other parks and nature reserves we had visited, most of the roads inside are unpaved. But we had just entered “pothole hell”. And if there weren’t potholes, the road surface was washboard. And if you have ever driven a washboard surface for any distance, you know how frazzled you can become even after a couple of miles. So by the time we arrived to check in for our safari, we were both ready to take the first  park official we encountered, and feed him or her to the first lion we found! Of course it didn’t help that it was a nice mild 97 degrees outside, accompanied by high humidity. And then of course, the animals don’t like hunting or moving in super-hot weather either. So they were mostly sticking to the shady areas under trees and bushes and as far away from the nasty, smelly Land Rovers as possible.

We were however lucky enough to see some animals in spite of the weather – giraffe, zebra, warthog, nyala, buffalo, and both a white and a black rhino. (The black rhino appeared to be in just about the same frame of mind as we were, because at one point all of us, including the driver, thought the rhino was going to charge our Land Rover.) It turned out to be a fake charge, but I wouldn’t have blamed him in the least if he had followed up on his threat. We also saw a 10-12 year old male elephant who appeared quite agitated.

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Part of the reason there were fewer wild animals showing themselves in this park then others we visited, and then some appearing anxious, is because the Elephant Coast, where this park is located, is currently experiencing a terrible drought. Normal watering holes are gone, and the animals sometimes have to travel long distances just to drink from man- made water receptacles. Not the best of conditions for a wild animal. (Nor a frazzled American, if truth be told!)

After our tour we had lunch and Andy finally had an opportunity to taste “Bunny Chow”. Bunny Chow is a spicy East Indian curry dish that originated in Durban during the apartheid years. It is basically just a delicious curry served in a hollowed out small loaf of bread. Over the years Bunny Chow has become a favorite South African fast food. (BTW – no rabbits are harmed in the preparation of this dish.)

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After driving south out of the park, and finally leaving the potholes behind, we headed back to our country manor. I took a power nap while Andy also lay down, but just to read. (Or so I’m told!) Then down to the towns lovely marina for an early dinner. Andy, the more adventurous epicure in our family ordered Eisbein, a local favorite. Eisbein is a deep fried pickled ham hock. Really! As Andy put it – “a once in a life-time experience!”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015 – Richards Bay (Aristo Manor)

We requested breakfast at 8:00 am this morning since our day’s adventure was not terribly far away. So after yet another lovely South African morning repast, we headed north to the small town of St. Lucia. We experienced our first massive road construction project, complete with zig-zaggy detour routes along the way. One detour took us through the town of Mtubatuba. So Andy, with his ever active mind and stunning wit named our detour the “Mtubatuba Manuvah”.  Cute, right? Hey, don’t shoot me. I’m just the scribe!

We finally reached St. Lucia and promptly booked a seat on a river cruise boat. We were eager to see hippos and crocodiles in their natural habitat. And boy did we see hippos and crocodiles, along with a wide variety of beautiful birds wading along the shore or perched in the dense tree foliage.

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That “log” you see is really a crocodile

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I should mention that before our tour began we took a drive around the small town of St. Lucia.

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A fruit market in St. Lucia

On almost every street there was a sign warning people to look out for hippos after dark. We thought it was a joke. So while we were on our cruise we asked the captain of our vessel about the signs. He said he lived in St. Lucia and that every evening the hippos wandered from the river into town. Apparently they prefer drinking the water out of people’s private swimming pools to the water in the river. Then in the morning they make their leisurely way back to the river to spend the day in mud, glorious mud. (Not a bad way to spend ones’ life, wouldn’t you say?) The boat captain also told us, and we later substantiated his statement, that hippos are responsible for more human fatalities in Africa than any other large animal. So please take note. When in Africa, no selfies with hippos!

It was 4:00 pm when we left our cruise boat behind, and not wanting to be confronted by a hippo after dark, we decided to head back to Richards Bay and the Aristo Manor. After all, we had only one more evening to practice putting on English royalty airs! So as any other self-respecting member of the royalty would do in late afternoon, we had a stiff one before proceeding to yet another wonderful dinner down on the waterfront.

Just as we were finishing dinner, the wind came up, it started to rain heavily, and there was lightning all around the marina. Frankly, I was a bit scared. But Andy remained calm and drove us safely back to our room.

Let me tell you, life for an American on vacation in South Africa is pretty darn wonderful. Speaking of Americans, I should take this opportunity to tell you that after visiting all kinds of tourist attractions, staying in first class accommodations, and eating in lovely restaurants, we met no other Americans the entire time we were in South Africa. We met tons of Europeans, especially Germans and Swiss, but nary an American. First time ever on our travels that we haven’t been surrounded by tourists from our own country. For that matter, there weren’t that many tour buses lurking behind every pillar or post either. Very refreshing and delightful.

Thursday, November 12, 2015 – Kokstad (The Old Orchard Guest House)

Left Aristo Manor after breakfast and headed back along N2 towards Kokstad and the beginning of our return trip to Cape Town. The drive was quite nice without too much traffic, but it was foggy and raining lightly the entire way. Luckily we had seen the area in sunshine on our way up to Richards Bay. But what a difference in temperature between the two trips. When we had been driving towards Richards Bay it had been anywhere from 32C (90F) to 36C (97F). On November 12, the temperature was 11C or 51F. Brrrr!!!

We arrived at The Old Orchard Guest House mid-afternoon. What a delightful setting. Had the area not been experiencing a severe drought, our room would have been right over the water. As it was, the water was still only a few feet from our deck.

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Even though the water had receded, the birds were still in evidence. So we had a nice late afternoon drink and read on our private deck.

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As it turned out, the guest house also had a restaurant only 20 feet or so away from our room. Very nice just to be able to lock your room, go through your own personal gate, and within 5 seconds be at the front door of a lovely, circular hut-like building complete with a wood burning fireplace situated in the middle of the room. Needless to say, we chose a table right next to the fire.

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We hated to leave after only one night, but after breakfast we were back on the road and headed to East London.

Friday, November 13, 2015 – East London (A River Rest Bed & Breakfast)

Long driving day which included a nice morning side trip through fertile hills. We arrived at 5:00 to an absolutely beautiful and very modern B&B complete with a parking place in the garage. Wow!

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After getting settled, we took the maid’s advice and had a magnificent dinner at a restaurant named The Country Bumpkin. Now we all know that names can be deceiving. And if there ever was a restaurant ill named, this one could top the list. There was absolutely nothing “bumpkinish” about this gourmet restaurant. It would be like Canlis here in Seattle deciding to start calling itself the “Aurora Avenue Roadhouse”. Not in a million years! Back to our room and early lights out.

Saturday, November 14, 2015 – East London (A River Rest Bed & Breakfast)

After a lovely breakfast at 8 am, we headed out for a day drive along the Wild Coast Jikeliza Route. This road, potholes included free of charge, passes through some of the most vibrant coastal villages and some of the most remote beaches in the country. The area is known to be one of the most carefree areas on the planet, and to an outsider, most of the locals appear to be not in the least concerned with subsistence living. They just look like happy, easy going people.

Then back to our room and out for the only truly bad meal we experienced the entire 4 weeks of our trip. I decided that I was in the mood for Chinese food. Very bad mistake. The place was absolutely packed. And everyone and their dog was in line to pick-up meals to take home. So I figured this must be a great place to eat. Wrong. The worst Chinese food I ever ate. Andy too. If I had had just one more finger of gin in my over-the-yard-arm drink before going out to dinner, I swear I would have marched into that kitchen, whipped the wok out of the cooks’ hands, and prepared a decent low mein. Then after sharing some of my creation with our fellow diners, I would have shoved the rest down the cook’s gullet! The food was truly that bad. (OK, I got that out of my system. I can now return to my normal calm and reasonable narration.) In the restaurant’s defense however, everyone seemed to be having a wonderful time. Joviality ran rampant. It was simply a pleasure to watch and hear large tables of people so thoroughly enjoying themselves. The experience taken in whole was just another reason we so love to travel our home planet.

Change of subject. We loved the crossing signs, warning signs, and humorous signs posted all around South Africa. Crossing signs along the roads for animals – elephants, hippos, antelope, tortoise, and penguins. Warning signs posted in parking lots, along roads, virtually anywhere and everywhere – don’t feed the monkeys and baboons are dangerous. (Don’t see many signs like that in America!)

But what we enjoyed most were the humorous signs like the ones below. South Africans, as a whole, have a great sense of humor. Everyone seems to find humor in even the most tedious and mundane of circumstances. It is truly delightful to witness. Just another thing we so loved about the country.

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Sunday, November 15, 2015 – Jeffrey’s Bay (Dolphin Sunrise)

Drive day complete with “driving” rain most of the way. Arrived about 3:00 pm to our delightful cottage/hut and sunny skies. Splendid views from our cottage and right on the shore of St. Francis Bay, one of the best surfing beaches in the world.

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Apparently surfers come from around the world to “take the waves”. It must be true because there was never a time, during daylight hours of course, that we would look at the water and not see surfers riding the waves. Since we had driven through rain all day long, and were a bit fatigued, we decided to just stick around our cottage for the rest of the afternoon. We read, surfed the internet (some people surf on water, some on their computers), and generally just hung out until it was time to make the arduous drive to dinner, about 5 minutes away.

The picture below is of one of two extended port holes designed as children’s sleeping quarters in our cottage. And I tell you, any kid would love sleeping in one of these tiny capsule rooms. I almost slept in one myself. But better judgment prevailed. But I considered it, I really did!

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Monday, November 16, 2015 – Jeffrey’s Bay (Dolphin Sunrise)

Although we had originally planned to spend the day travelling around the area, we decided instead to go back to Addo Elephant National Park since we had so enjoyed our first excursion. And I am so glad we made that choice. Because we saw more of our beloved animals, especially elephants, than we had on our first visit. It was glorious.

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One of the high points of our second day in the park was seeing a lion really up close and personal. We were just slowly driving along, minding our own business, when we came upon a couple of cars pulled off to the side of the road. We stopped also and just waited until the traffic cleared. As we rounded a shallow bend we saw what had caused the other cars to stop. Here was a male lion, right next to the road, for all the world looking like a spectator at a parade. He wasn’t at all concerned that we were watching him. He was in position to watch us! That was absolutely evident. But not in a menacing way. Just hanging out in the shade of some bushes, taking in the action on what could have been for him, just another boring day in the jungle. Delightful!

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Tuesday, November 17, 2015 – Calitzdorp (Soeterus Guest Farm)

Drive day to Calitzdorp. Arrived just after 2:00 pm and was immediately greeted by the owners and shown to our room. They also mentioned that if we were interested, they were preparing dinner for their guests that evening and would we be so inclined to join the others? Would we be interested in having marinated grilled ostrich, sides, wine, and dessert prepared by our hostess Hannelie, who by-the-way, was a chef? You bet your Amarula and Brandy Malva Pudding we’d be interested! So we said yes thank you and proceeded with our original plan to drive to the top of Swartberg Pass before dinner.

Now for those of you who haven’t driven over this pass, allow me to tell you a bit about it. First of all it’s considered to be one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world. It offers some of the most amazing views imaginable. The pass also prides itself on being one of the steepest passes in South Africa. And like any pass worth its reputation, it’s absolutely replete with twisty hair pin corners and very narrow lanes. (Lanes heck – there’s only one lane, and it’s narrow!) But the views of other mountains and deep valleys are stunning, along with close up vistas of striking warped and twisted rock formations and interesting plant life. But unfortunately, the road proved too much for our poor little Hyundai (we feared for its transmission), so at about 2/3rds of the way to the top we turned around.

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We were so disappointed, but we still had seen enough to know what all the hype was about. If ever we return to South Africa, we are going to rent a vehicle that can go the distance! But as it turned out, it was time to turn around anyway. We absolutely did not want to be late for dinner.

But we still had time for a scenic route on the way back to the guest farm. Lots of free range ostriches, including a pen of young ones.

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But we were certainly glad we made it back in time for dinner, because dinner turned out to be incredible. We had marinated ostrich steaks that Jamesly (our host and owner) grilled on his Braai (BBQ). Hannelie made three salads – a green salad with an amazing vinaigrette, a shredded raw carrot salad with fresh pineapple, and a fresh green bean and feta salad. Along with the grilled ostrich and salads, she also served tiny buttered new potatoes. All of the dishes were wonderful and we ate until we were totally stuffed. Then she served dessert. OMG. Big squares of this amazing concoction (Amarula and Brandy Malva Pudding) with vanilla ice cream on the side. (Hannalie’s recipe for Amarula and Brandy Malva Pudding is on this site BTW.) And as dinner companions, our fellow lodgers could not have been more affable. We had a fabulous time getting to know them and exchanging bits and pieces of our lives with each other. I think this was the first time someone asked us if the whole Donald Trump thing was a joke, albeit somewhat tentatively. We assured all in the room that it was not a joke, but that we sure wished it was. I think we shocked everyone by our candor. But we weren’t about to sugar coat how we really felt about the whole subject. We made some new friends that evening and were sorry to leave them and the wonderful guest farm behind the next morning.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015 – Stellenbosch (Marianne Wine Estate)

Said goodbye to our wonderful hosts and our new friends and onward for our last long drive day. We drove the R62 which took us through the Little Karoo area again. Truly beautiful countryside. We got so lost in the town of Ladysmith that the police had to escort us out of town. (Only the Carrs can get a police escort without being either famous or infamous!) But thank God the police officers took pity on us. Or we would still be in Ladysmith trying to find the main road. How this happened. You all know how scenic roads can be. But in South Africa, scenic also means unpaved and unsigned. So getting lost in Ladysmith came about only because we decided to take the scenic route into town. And as we should have surmised, had we been paying closer attention to our atlas, our scenic little drive ended on the outskirts of town. And being away from any main roads, there was nary a helpful road sign to be found.* (That’s our story of how we ended up being run out of town by the police and we’re sticking to it!)

But eventually we arrived at the Marianne Wine Estate and were promptly told that if we liked, we could partake of that evening’s tapas and wine pairing dinner (it was a winery after all). We liked. So again we enjoyed a wonderful evening of fine dining and charming comradery between the overnight guests.

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*In general the road signs were great everywhere we drove, be it large city or small village. But if you got off the main road, you were totally on your own. Unless of course you stopped a police car and appeared lost and pathetic. (Not hard for us to do!)

Thursday, November 19, 2015 – Stellenbosch (Marianne Wine Estate)

Up at 7:00 am and after a delicious breakfast headed out on a day trip to the Cape of Good Hope. I was really excited to see this area because I had been reading and hearing about this part of the world since I was a small child. And the first thing I discovered was that this section of Table Mountain National Park covers over 19,000 acres. And like many of the misconceptions I had about South Africa, this area was not verdant, it was dry and consisted of rolling hills with low growing bushes until you reach the rocky cape itself.

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The route we chose to get to the park was along the Eastern shore and through many small and beautiful little towns. At one point we began seeing smoke drifting above the hills (they call them mountains, I call them hills!) Finally above the beautiful seaside resort town of Simon’s Town we actually saw flames. It looked like the fire had been set deliberately because it was burning along a long line parallel to the road and way up the side of the hill. Plus we passed 3 firetrucks right along the road, complete with full crews drinking coffee and having what looked like a high old time. We assumed (you know what that makes us) that they were just keeping an eye on the situation. So we continued on our merry way leaving all thoughts of fire far behind.

We drove into the park and headed first to the lighthouse. Rode the funicular most of the way up to the lighthouse, but then had to climb a fairly short set of stairs to the top. Absolutely amazing views and not like any other place on earth.

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After visiting the lighthouse, we drove down to sea level and actually walked on the southwestern most point of the continent. Kind of an amazing feeling to stand on ground that has been so loved by the South African people and so feared by mariners for centuries.

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On our drive out of the park we took a side road and saw bonteboks grazing not far off the road. (Bontebok are an endangered species of antelope.) As we approached the main road in the park, we were stopped and told that we would have to take the western road back to Cape Town. Apparently the fire we had seen earlier had not been set on purpose and the fire was basically out of control. It had already destroyed four homes and had actually made its way down the hill to the main road through Simon’s Town. The road we had traveled earlier that day.

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View from the lighthouse of the smoke from the fire above Simon’s Town.

On our way back into Cape Town, we drove along Chapman’s Peak Road. Work began on this drive in 1910 when it was considered an impossibility. But Charl Marais, a mining surveyor, wasn’t deterred by the task and set about surveying the route by sending a worker ahead of him to chop footholds and create rudimentary platforms for his theodolite. His tenacity paid off, and with the help of 700 convicts, the road was chipped and blasted out of the rock. It officially opened in 1922.

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The drive is absolutely amazing and beautiful beyond words. You drive along narrow lanes that look straight down to the sea. You also drive under overhangs of solid rock. Again, like nothing we had ever experienced.

But soon we were in something we experience all too often. Rush hour. Just like in any other large city, getting anywhere at 5:00 pm in Cape Town is impossible. But we eventually made it home and decided to treat ourselves to dinner at the prestigious Big Easy in Stellenbosch. Apparently the restaurant is partially owned by Ernie Els. Whoever that is! Then back to our pleasant room for another great night’s sleep.

Oh, one more thing about our drive to the cape; we saw Pink Flamingos. I absolutely love Pink Flamingos! (Couldn’t stop to take any pictures because we were zipping along at 120km on a busy freeway.)

Friday, November 19, 2015 – Cape Town (Sunset Decks Guesthouse)

Short day drive to Sunset Beach in the Northern suburbs of Cape Town and our final B&B. Since we had plenty of time we decided to take a side trip through Franschhoek, the culinary capital of the Western Cape region. The town is hemmed in on three sides by mountains, has a very Frenchified atmosphere, and is ever so lovely. I wish we had stopped and walked around, but we had an afternoon destination already planned. After leaving Franschhoek, we drove north over the beautiful Helshoogte Pass complete with troops of baboons. Several females were in each troop. And on the backs of these females – babies. It was marvelous to see.

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Eventually we worked our way down to the main road that leads into Cape Town.

In the afternoon we visited Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, which in 2004 was named a world heritage site. One of the features of this magnificent garden is the Tree Canopy Walkway, a raised steel and timber path that snakes its way up and through the trees of the Arboretum, with panoramic views of the garden and surrounding mountains.

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A truly delightful way to spend an afternoon.

Then on to the B&B and a safe arrival drink with our charming host Lance and his lovely wife June. After dinner at (and I kid you not) Dale’s Black Angus Restaurant for one of the most memorable meals I have ever eaten, it was early to bed.

Saturday, November 21, 2015 – Cape Town (Sunset Decks Guesthouse)

After breakfast, we had our car washed in preparation for returning it to the Avis car rental office. Now we have had our cars washed dozens of times over the years. But never like this car was washed. It took the crew about 40 minutes to go over this vehicle. They cleaned every surface inside and out until there was not a spot of dust, much less dirt clinging to any visible surface. I was absolutely astonished at the level of detail these fine folks applied to this totally unworthy car! But by golly when we returned the car to Avis, no points were taken off for anything! And we had ridden that poor car far and wide across the land. So with car keys turned in, and a free afternoon, we headed to the nearest open air tour bus stop and hopped aboard. We rode the bus until we got to the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Wharf, disembarked and I got down to some serious shopping.

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V&A Wharf with Table Mountain in the background.

Found my beaded giraffe, beaded bowl, and 3 batik panels.

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Had lunch at the local brewery and then headed back to the bus stop for a long two hour bus tour around Cape Town and environs. Back to the V&A Wharf for dinner and then a taxi ride back to the B&B to do some serious packing. Then early to bed so that we could get up, have breakfast, and be shuttled to the airport for our return trip.

A couple other souvenirs from our trip – a hand stitched wall hanging and a mask.

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Sunday, November 22, 2015 – Back to America

No problems with flights, connections, luggage, immigration, shuttles, or anything – except of course tired backsides and legs. But wonderful memories and a lasting appreciation of how lucky we are to be able to travel to such exciting places and see such amazing things.

Monday, November 23, 2015 – Back on Camano Island

Home again, home again – jiggity-jig!

My lasting impressions of the part of South Africa we visited:

Spring is a delightful time to visit

The countryside is beautiful

There are mountains everywhere you look

The Indian Ocean is marvelous

Vegetation is both beautiful and plentiful

Wild animals are fabulous to watch in their natural habitat

Getting out of your car in wild life reserves is forbidden (yah think?)

South Africans are generally friendly, happy, and come with a good sense of humor

Tourist accommodations are fabulous

Road signs are generally good

Roads themselves – sometimes good, sometimes not

The food is fantastic, especially the seafood and beef

Africans sing while they work

Almost everyone speaks English

Speed limits are for everyone else

In general, bathrooms in service stations (and I mean service stations) and restaurants are always clean

Cross walks – you’re kidding, right? Same with rest stops!

The right-of-way on roads is in the following order: children in school uniforms, small buses, trucks, grazing animals, adult pedestrians, everything else, rental cars containing tourists

Prices compared to the USA and Europe – low

Breakfasts, at a minimum, must include – granola, fresh fruit, yogurt, bacon, sausage, cheese, eggs, breads and pastry of various kinds, fresh juice, fried mushrooms, and hot tomatoes

Monkeys are naughty and should not be given food

Baboons are dangerous and should not be given food

Selfies with hippos are not a good idea

DOM PEDRO (ADULT BEVERAGE)

1 pt. good vanilla ice cream

½ c. heavy whipping cream

¼ c. Amarula liqueur (cream liqueur made with the fruit of the Marula tree. BTW – elephants love marula.)

2 tsp. brandy

grated chocolate, for garnish

Put all ingredients (except the grated chocolate) in a blender and whirl until smooth. Pour into glasses and sprinkle with chocolate. Serve immediately.

Variation: use chocolate ice cream with Frangelico liqueur

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Please let me know if you like this recipe. Thanks