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South Africa

S Africa Days 8-9: Fire and Food Porn

After a few long days, we slept in today. We were supposed to visit Robben Island by boat, which we were both looking forward to, but Mike was having a flare up and needed to rest. So I spent the day at the Wharf, by our apartment, shopping and exploring my own. Shopping is usually better on my own anyway. I had made reservations for dinner about six months in advance at the Test Kitchen, a restaurant on the Top 50 Restaurants in the World list. Unfortunately, Mike was too sick to go. I thought about going on my own but honestly wasn't in the mood. Instead, I went next door to the One and Only and had the chef's tasting dinner at Nobu. One of the great things about South Africa is the exchange rate. This dinner would have cost me about $250 in Dallas but in Capetown, it was only about $100.

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Mike was feeling a bit better the next day, our last day in Capetown. He wanted to do a little shopping so instead of going to the Wharf, I had the bright idea to find a market I'd heard about downtown. We took a taxi there and were dropped off. The market turned out to be more of a local shopping market with clothes, shoes, etc rather than a souvenir or craft type place so we didn't stay long. We thought we weren't far from the apartment so we started walking in what we thought was the right direction. It was most definitely not! While we were lost, we came across some shady dudes who made us pretty uncomfortable. Luckily I spotted a taxi and almost got myself run over trying to flag him down. He stopped and took us back to the Wharf.

We did some shopping and stopped off at Mike's favorite tapas place for drinks on the patio overlooking the harbor. While we were there, there was a fire onboard a ship in the harbor. I don't think anyone was hurt but it caused quite the uproar for a while.

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After the excitement died down, we headed back to the apartment to get ready for dinner. We had reservations at La Colombe, a French restaurant outside of Capetown in the Cape Winelands. This restaurant was previously on the Top 50 Restaurants in the World list and it definitely deserved that award.
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One last night cap at the One and Only, a bit of packing, and we were once again ready for a good night's sleep.

Posted by zihuatcat 12:06 Archived in South Africa Tagged south africa capetown Comments (0)

S Africa Day 7: Seal Party on the Cape

This was the day I was most excited about....we were going snorkeling with Cape Fur seals. It was an early morning start as we drove to Hout Bay to meet our guides. When we arrived, we were fitted with heavy duty wetsuits and boarded our boat to head out for the trip. Some seals were hanging out in the harbor.
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It was a beautiful ride out to Seal Island. Once there, the guides went over safety information and then gave us free time to snorkel with the seals. They were incredibly interactive and entertaining but the little buggers were so quick, it was impossible to get a decent pic.
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We were given about an hour to snorkel but the water was so cold, even with the wetsuits, that Mike and I could only stay in about 30 minutes. We retreated back to the boat and warmed ourselves with some hot chocolate.
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The Cape peninsula is scattered with beautiful beaches throughout. On our way back to Capetown, we stopped off at one, Fish Hoek Bay, for a little souvenir shopping and fish and chips at Mariner's Wharf.
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We got back to Capetown and as we parked the car, we realized that Table Mountain seemed pretty clear today. Mike suggested we take the opportunity to visit since visibility is such an issue. We didn't want to miss it. So we got cleaned up and drove over.

Table Mountain is a plateau that sits about 3,000 ft above Capetown. There is a cableway that takes you to the top where there is a restaurant/bar and a viewing area with multiple platforms. The views from the top are outstanding (so is the wind).

From the bottom
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In the cable car on the way to the top
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The cables at the top
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The restaurant/bar at the top serves wine and beer, too. They would never do that in the US.
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These brazen birds were everywhere, much like grackles in Texas.
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View of Signal Hill, where signal flags were used in prior times to communicate weather warnings and anchoring instructions to ships. Now, every day at noon, the South African Navy fires cannons from the top of this hill.
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View of Capetown Arena, built for the 2010 World Cup.
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View of Lion's Head, a 2,195 ft peak.
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View of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.
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We stayed for a few hours on the Mountain and the clouds started rolling in.
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We decided it was time to go as we certainly didn't want to get in a crowd trying to get off the Mountain.

We had a lovely seafood dinner while listening to music that night at Pigalle and our standard nightcap at the One and Only. It was a long day and we were ready for bed.

Posted by zihuatcat 10:38 Archived in South Africa Tagged south africa capetown Comments (0)

S Africa Day 6: Penguin Party on the Cape

Our plan was to start the day off with a visit to Table Mountain but unfortunately, the clouds and weather were not cooperating. This is a very common problem with visiting Table Mountain so the general travel advice is to check every day and fit it in when you can. Today was not that day.

So instead we drove to Simon's Town, a small coastal town about 20 miles south of Capetown. If the weather had been clear, the drive would have been a beautiful one along the coast. For us, the drive was drizzly and long due to construction on the two-lane road.
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We arrived in Simon's Town, where the weather had cleared, a little hungry so we decided to stop off at the Seaforth Restaurant for some lunch.
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We had a beautiful view of the water while eating lunch and passed the time watching people enjoy themselves on the beach. I have no idea how they were able to tolerate that cold water.
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From the restaurant, we walked down the road about a mile or so to Boulder's Beach. This area is a safe home for African penguins, animals that are on the verge of extinction. The colony started with just two breeding pairs in 1982 and has since grown to over 3,000 penguins.
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We left Boulder's Beach and continued south on the Cape to Cape Point, stopping off at an overlook along the way.
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Cape Point is the highest peak on the Cape Peninsula. To reach it, you park in a lot below and ride the Flying Dutchman Funicular railway to the top.
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Flying cormorants with their funny looking webbed feet.
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Mike hiked to the top to see the view from the lighthouse, which was built in 1860. It's no longer operational as it was built at too high an elevation. It was frequently not seen by ships because it was covered in clouds.
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Down from Cape Point is the more well-known, Cape of Good Hope. This is the point on the Cape where ships round the peak of Africa and change direction from south to east. It's commonly thought to be the southernmost tip of Africa; however, the southernmost tip is actually Cape Agulhas, where we visited from DeKelders.
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It was getting late in the day so we started back to Capetown. The GPS, which had worked perfectly up until now, decided to take us on a short cut. This short cut was a one-way dirt road that got so narrow at times the bushes were scratching our rented BMW. I cringed when I heard the scratches and felt the potholes. We could see the highway up ahead. Yet when we finally got to the end of this road, there was a locked gate separating us from the highway. We had no option but to turn around and go back down the rut of a road.

Once we made it back to Capetown, we cleaned up and took a taxi to dinner at NV-80. I had a delicious steak and Mike had some beautiful prawns.
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We ended the evening with a nightcap at the One and Only Hotel next door.

Posted by zihuatcat 12:21 Archived in South Africa Tagged penguin africa capetown Comments (0)

S Africa Day 5: Wine Country

Finally feeling somewhat rested, we left Cliff House in the morning. We were driving to the winelands, specifically Franschoek, spending the day there, and then heading on to Capetown for several days. Driving in S Africa is quite easy once you get used to the steering wheel on the right and driving on the left. The roads are well-marked and well-paved. It was a beautiful drive and we stopped at an overlook above the town of Franschoek.
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Although the surroundings were beautiful, the town itself was crawling with tourists. There was slow traffic, difficult parking, and crowded restaurants. I was starving, however, so we stopped off for lunch before our wine tasting.
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The wine tasting we chose was a vineyard just outside of town called Rickety Bridge. A beautiful setting, amongst the mountains, where we sat on the porch and tasted five different wines.
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They had a red that was our favorite and we ordered a case to be shipped home (which we later split with our friends who took care of the dogs for the three weeks we were gone). It was getting late in the afternoon and we wanted to reach Capetown without a lot of traffic. We arrived in Capetown about an hour later and made our way to the wharf area to our apartment at Lawhill Luxury Apartments. We had a beautiful, two-bedroom apartment with a balcony overlooking the water. I loved the artwork and tried to figure out how I could smuggle the wild dog picture back to the US.
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This is the One and Only Hotel where would go for a nightcap at the bar before heading home each night.
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The view from the parking lot was of cloud-covered Table Mountain.
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We wanted to explore the wharf before it got dark so we freshened up and walked around the area to find dinner as well. These locks were just down from the apartment and are used to adjust the water level as boats enter and exit the marina. We caught a small boat exiting as we were passing by.
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We walked around the wharf a bit, just checking things out and getting the lay of the land.
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We settled on a tapas place for dinner and sat upstairs on the deck so that we could people and boat watch.
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After dinner, we stopped off at the One and Only for some of my favorite Havana Club rum then collapsed into bed in anticipation of a few busy days ahead.

Posted by zihuatcat 15:03 Archived in South Africa Tagged africa wine capetown Comments (0)

S Africa Days 1-4: Downtime in DeKelders

Day 1:
We arrived in Johannesburg late afternoon. Calvin from the African Rock Hotel was there to meet us. Unfortunately, we had to spend some time at Western Union getting our wire transfers sorted out. Our travel agent had been able to communicate with my parents back home to get some money transferred as I hadn't been able to call the bank from the bush. We got it all sorted and made our way to the hotel. On the way, we saw a poor man riding a bicycle get hit by a car. I have no idea if he survived but I sure hope so. We couldn't tell how serious it was.

The African Rock Hotel is a nice, little boutique hotel in a residential neighborhood.
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I had pre-scheduled a massage for 6p so we both took showers and got ready for that. A nice lady came to the room and did the massages there. They were much needed to relax us after 10 days of bouncing around the bush. After the massage, we had a delicious three-course dinner of spinach and cheese bruschetta, beef filet with potatoes and vegetables, and chocolate cake with caramel sauce. It soon began pouring rain so we retreated to our room to re-pack, organize money, and get some rest before yet another travel day.
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Day 2:
The rain had stopped by morning and we were up and ready for breakfast by 8a. Mike went with eggs and bacon and I settled on french toast and bacon.
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Givemore drove us back to the airport for our flight to Capetown. We were getting pretty familiar with the Johannesburg airport by now so we knew the ropes on where to go and what to do. But this time, South Africa Airways bused us to our plane. It was a huge plane that was only half full. The flight was a few hours yet there were no snacks and no free drinks. Our previous flights to/from Maun were on a much smaller plane with full meals and free drinks so this was kind of a let down. We arrived in Capetown and picked up our silver BMW for the two hour drive to DeKelders.

DeKelders is a small town on the coast, east of Capetown. I had originally found it when researching shark diving. Shark diving was something we both wanted to do but, ultimately, we decided it was not eco-friendly. We didn't like the idea of chumming the sharks and interrupting their normal migration and eating patterns. But I liked the town and we wanted to stay somewhere on the coast so we booked three nights at Cliff Lodge, another small, boutique hotel on a cliff overlooking the ocean. We were greeted with champagne by the owners, Gideon and Priscilla.
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It was almost dinnertime when we arrived and Gideon recommended a place within walking distance. Apparently, a neighbor of theirs served five or six tables in his home on certain nights. He had an opening and Gideon made a reservation for us. We walked a couple of blocks over to Neal's place and had an outstanding meal of beet soup, purple cabbage salad with oranges and blue cheese, fish and zucchini, and strawberries with ice cream. He also served homemade hummus butter which was extremely addictive. I could have eaten that all night. After returning to our room, we had some drinks on our balcony and enjoyed the rest and peacefulness.
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Day 3:
The next morning, Mike woke up early and hiked down to the coast, along the rocks.
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I woke up when he returned and we had breakfast on the balcony, admiring the view of the ocean below. Gideon joined us and asked about our plans for the day. He was going out for a cave swim and asked Mike to join him. I tagged along with the camera as the water was just too cold for anything else. He loaned Mike a wetsuit and off we went.
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We arrived at the spot and the guys jumped in with Gideon's dog, Tallulah, keeping watch the whole time.
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The water was cold but the air temperature was getting really hot by now. We went back to the room to cool down a bit and charge our phones, which was quite the challenge.
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In the afternoon, we decided to take a drive into Gansbaai and Kleinbaai, two small towns about 30 minutes away. We stopped off at the Great White House in town and had a snack and a drink. The gift shop there had whole whale and dolphin skeletons on display. After hanging out there for a bit, we drove five minutes down to the seafront to see Dyer Island Nature Reserve. Dyer Rock, just offshore, is where some 50,000 Cape fur seals congregate and raise their young. They use the sea between Dyer Rock and Dyer Island to search for food. This brings in the sharks, which brings in the tourists for cage diving. The area was deserted that day because it was cold and windy.
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There wasn't much to do here so we drove back to Cliff Lodge and relaxed on the balcony until dinnertime. You can see Gansbaai just across the bay from our room.
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For dinner, we drove a few minutes into town and went to Rosemary's, another recommendation of the hotel. It was one of the best meals of the trip. We started with springbok carpaccio. Mike had Mozambique giant prawns.
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I had warthog ribs with a chili glaze, potatoes, and veggies. The ribs were absolutely delicious.
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We shared a bottle of shiraz and ended the night on the garden patio with Amarula. Thankfully it was a short drive back to the hotel.
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Day 4:
Our last day in DeKelders started and ended pretty slow. It's amazing how tired we still were from so much travel and safari. We slept in and didn't get moving until about noon. We drove eastward to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of the African continent. The tip divides the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
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Had we been more peppy, we would have stopped in the lovely town of L'Agulhas and explored more but instead we headed back to the hotel. For dinner, I ran into town and picked up a pizza at Giuseppe's and we spent the evening eating pizza in bed and watching movies.

Posted by zihuatcat 14:29 Archived in South Africa Tagged africa safari johannesburg dekelders Comments (0)

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