A Travellerspoint blog

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)

Botswana Day 11: Happy Little Killers

For some reason, there was no wake up "call" this morning. No one arrived at our tent or anyone else's in camp. One of us happened to wake up at 5:10a. I walked across to Brenda's tent and woke her up. Somehow, we all made it to breakfast anyway and were in the vehicle by 7a. I was pretty pissed. I get that things happen but the guides were so nonchalant about it. No one even apologized.

I stewed about it while we watched some giraffe.
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And then out of nowhere, the neighborhood pack of seven wild dogs appeared. I forgot about the morning mishap at that point.
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They were running and jumping in all the water puddles and mud, having a blast.
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The dogs set off down the road and we followed eagerly behind.
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They flushed out a red lechwe but he managed to escape unharmed.
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These zebra were briefly in danger but the dogs ran on by.
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Suddenly, out of the brush runs a terrified, baby impala. The dogs took off after it. I could hear the baby snorting in fear.
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They all disappeared into the brush and the noise stopped. The baby impala was torn apart in seconds. We drove around and caught up with them eating away on the other side.
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After their baby impala snack, the dogs forged on. This elephant was in no danger.
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I was a little worried about these baby giraffe but the dogs ran right on thru and disappeared into the brush. We stayed with the giraffe.
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Some southern ground hornbill were poking around.
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Along with a red lechwe who posed pretty well for me.
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A shot of some flowers which seem to be rarely spotted in the bush.
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We decided to head back to the mating lion pair and see if we could catch them in the act. Lucky for us, they were feeling amorous.
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We were running short on time so we started to head back for camp. We all had a plane to catch. We said goodbye to the noisy hippos and birds.
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A spoonbill waved to us.
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Then suddenly, sitting in the middle of the road, was a female leopard. She took off for the brush as we got closer so we followed for a bit.
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Seeing her was a great way to end the safari. We made it back to camp and had a quick lunch of fish, rice, and salad. We grabbed our bags and caught our last bush plane flight of the trip back to Maun.
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We arrived in Maun in the afternoon and had enough time to walk out of the airport for a bit. We just ventured down the street and had a much-needed drink close by before returning for our flight to Johannesburg.
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Posted by zihuatcat 15:13 Archived in Botswana Tagged africa safari botswana Comments (1)

Botswana Day 10: Dead Hippo Makes for Smelly Lions

It was rough to get up this morning as the nearby hippos were noisy all night long. It's a sound I enjoy and it's oddly comforting but after listening to it all night, I had enough. Mike was feeling better but had an awful headache so I set off without him again. My car mates were the same as the day before but Mr. Antarctica Louie was being exceptionally obnoxious. It's accepted protocol that each group rotates thru the three seats of the vehicle so that everyone has the opportunity to sit in the front seat and everyone has the not-so-great experience of sitting in the third seat. Louie didn't seem to think this protocol applied to him. It was his turn for the third seat and he refused. I disliked him even more. Tom and Chris graciously offered to sit there as Brenda and I were not about to let Louie off the hook.

The day started off with a couple of impala boys.
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A vulture eyeing something below.
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A giraffe.
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A mixed herd of tsessebe and zebra with some babies scattered throughout.
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Our guides heard about a cheetah family with a kill so we headed over to see if we could find them. We came upon a mother and two cubs with a reedbuck she had killed the day before.
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The cubs were playful.
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Mom was not.
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She was keeping a close eye on the kill.
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And trying to keep it hidden from other predators.
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She relaxed after a while and showed her cubs some love.
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I finally got a good pic of a red lechwe. I loved these guys. When they feel threatened, they head straight for the water. It's beautiful to see them bounding thru it.
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Some marabou stork and zebra were keeping them company.
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Mike was up and about when we got back to camp for lunch. He joined us for some lasagne and salad and then we spent the afternoon watching thunderstorms from the front porch of our tent. He was feeling better and came out on the afternoon drive with us.

We caught up with a mating pair of lions. They were taking a break at the moment.
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The rain had livened up all the animals like nothing I'd ever seen. This kudu was definitely showing his excitement.
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The birds were out.
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A leopard tortoise.
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And a giraffe with birds.
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The impala were also excited, jumping about.
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This one had a genetic mutation.
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Just as it was starting to rain again, we got a report that the Marsh pride had killed a hippo a good distance away. This particular pride was well-known for killing hippo so we voted to brave the rain and drive there. It took about 30 minutes. When we arrived, it was one of the worst stenches I've ever been exposed to. Between the stinky lions, the mud, the hippo feces, and the decomposing hippo itself, it was a lot to take. We got as close as we could stand.

The males already had their fill.
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It was time for the women and kids to eat.
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We stayed with the pride longer than we should have and it was a rough trip back to camp. The rains brought out huge, flying termites. We were driving pretty fast and the termites were flying right into our faces. It was horrible.

The termites had invaded camp as well. Since there was no electricity, they placed lanterns up and down the long dining table. All this did was draw the termites in. They were getting in the food and making a huge, disgusting mess. Finally, the guides took our rather forceful suggestion to set the lanterns off to the side. That drew the termites away from the table, at least, and still provided some light to enjoy tomato lentil soup, roasted chicken, and potatoes. After dinner, we returned to our tent to pack up for the next day's departure.

Posted by zihuatcat 11:59 Archived in Botswana Tagged africa safari botswana Comments (2)

Botswana Day 9: Boating in the Bush

After a day of rest, I was excited for the 5a wake up call. Mike, on the other hand, was having a flare up so he stayed behind again. We all met for breakfast as usual before the drive.

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Our vehicle mates for the day were Tom and Chris (a couple from the US), know-it-all Louie, and cool chick Brenda. I decided to sit with Brenda because neither of us wanted to sit with Louie. This turned out to be a good decision as she and I got along famously. Our first sighting of the day was a black-backed jackal and pup wandering thru the tall grass.
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We then came across a freshly-killed impala. He had been speared in a fight with another male. Obviously, he was the loser.
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You could tell it had just happened, as the wound was fresh and bubbling. It didn't take long for the scavengers to appear. A hyena and jackal began lurking around....suspiciously. They were skittish thinking a predator had killed it and would be back to claim its prize. We could hear the other impala snorting all around us as they were thinking the same thing.
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We moved on from the impala to watch some vervet monkeys frolic for a bit. These monkeys are easily identifiable by the blue balls on the males.
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My vehicle mates had chosen to go on a 1.5 hour nature walk during our drive. This basically consisted of seeing a few skulls and hearing about plants and poop. All of this would have been fine except it was hot, hot, hot.
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Tsessebe
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We came upon a lone male cheetah lounging under a bush.
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A herd of zebra hanging out by a hippo pond.
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Then it was back to camp for lunch and a much needed nap. For the afternoon, we had all decided to take a boat ride down the river rather than a game drive. The boat ride started out as a nice, leisurely glide thru the water, admiring the flowers and water birds.
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We arrived at a nursery for marabou storks. These poor guys are so ugly and their babies are as big as they are.
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Just as the sun was going down, a couple of elephants made a river crossing in front of us. They were so deep that at times, you could only see the tops of their trunks just above the water.
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We lost some time with the elephants so the boat ride back was anything but leisurely. It was full speed in the pitch black with bugs flying right into our faces. I couldn't wait for it to end and was exhausted when we got back. I skipped the group dinner and went to check on Mike, spent the evening catching up on my journal and reading.

Posted by zihuatcat 16:57 Archived in Botswana Tagged africa safari botswana Comments (0)

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