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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.










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.





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.





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.

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.





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.


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.




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

In the cable car on the way to the top




The cables at the top

The restaurant/bar at the top serves wine and beer, too. They would never do that in the US.






These brazen birds were everywhere, much like grackles in Texas.


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.

View of Capetown Arena, built for the 2010 World Cup.

View of Lion's Head, a 2,195 ft peak.

View of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned.



We stayed for a few hours on the Mountain and the clouds started rolling in.




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)

Padre Day 5: Just Horsing Around

We all woke up around 9a the next morning to a beautiful, sunny day.

Mike immediately hit the beach for some surf fishing while Vi made us some sausage and egg breakfast tacos. We washed them down with mimosas. We fought hard for that O.J. and couldn't let it go to waste. Vi was feeling pretty tense and on the search for a massage so I drove her down the strip to a little place to get a chair massage. I worked on the trip journal while waiting for her. She felt much better and afterwards we met Mike on the beach.



We brought our game of washers so Mike dug holes to get a game set up.

No sooner did he have it set up than the beach graders came rolling by! He had to start all over.

We played in the surf.



When the beach got old, we walked over to the Wanna Wanna and Mike and Vi played some volleyball.

In the early afternoon, we got ourselves prettied up and headed north on Padre Blvd. The further north we went, the more the dunes spilled out over the road. In some places, we had to drive on the wrong side of the road to go around them. We arrived for our afternoon appointment of sunset horseback riding on the beach.


We were a nice-sized group. It was the three of us and an adult family of four from Minnesota who were in Padre for a wedding. Our guides were Colton from Nashville and Rebecca from Germany. The guides set about matching us up with horses according to our experience levels. Mike and I were the most experienced riders there, which wasn't saying a whole lot.

Mike was given a horse named Dozer.

Vi was put on Splash. She stayed at the end of the line, terrified for most of the ride for some reason.

The lady in front of me was saddled up on Pokey. I had a high school boyfriend named Pokey. That relationship didn't end well. Twice. I was pretty glad I wasn't riding Pokey. Instead, I was given Larry.

In the stalls, Larry was tied next to his girlfriend, Blondie, the only other horse with which he gets along. Apparently he's the resident bully. He wanted to be the first in line but he didn't care for the other horses smelling his rear. A real horse conundrum.

We rode across the road to the beach; we even trotted for a while. I thought I was going to bounce out of my clothes. As we walked along the surf, I couldn't get Larry to walk IN the water and Mike couldn't get Dozer to walk OUT of the water. We couldn't even see Vi as she was too far in the back. We rode up over the dunes and across the ridge to watch the sunset.


Then we crossed over to the bay side and watched the tide roll in.


The ride lasted about two hours but I think my butt lasted only about one hour. I could barely walk when we were done. It was a beautifully done ride and not one of those nose-to-nose trail rides that are so common. It was my favorite part of the trip. Of course, being the animal lover that I am, I was worried about the treatment of the horses and questioned the guides extensively about this. The horses all looked to be well taken care of and the facilities were clean and in great condition. The guides also explained that the owners have several ranches and the horses are rotated in and out to pasture to give them a break from the tourists.

After the ride, we went back to the condo and changed out of our dirty, horse clothes for dinner. We went to Laguna Bob's, a small restaurant/bar on the bayside with live music where we loaded up on pina coladas, peel and eat shrimp, and french fries. The live music wasn't really to our liking and Vi and Mike wanted to play pool so we tried next door at Louie's to see if they could play there. Louie's only had one pool table and it didn't appear to be clearing anytime soon. We were told the only other place in town with pool tables was a divey bar called Kelley's Irish Pub, right around the corner from our condo. We decided to give it a try. They played three games of pool while rocking to 80s hair band music on a table repaired with fishing line. It was our kind of divey place!

Posted by zihuatcat 20:58 Archived in USA Tagged south padre vi Comments (0)

Padre Day 4: Lending Nature a Helping Hand (or Flipper)

Feeling much better, Mike woke early today and wanted to get some surf fishing in before we started our planned activities for the day. I stayed in the condo and made breakfast. He wasn't gone too long as the only thing he could seem to catch was significant amounts of seaweed. So after breakfast, we drove down the street to the South Padre Island Birding & Nature Center. The birding center is a non-profit organization set up to educate the public about the birds, flora, and fauna in the South Padre Island area.

There is a five-story tower with beautiful views of the Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.



Over 3,300 feet of boardwalk winds its way through the sanctuary.

There is a small museum that highlights the various species of birds and animals commonly found in the region.

We made our way down the boardwalk and came upon a thirsty hummingbird that had yet to fly south for the winter.


Blue heron.

Long-billed curlew (sandpiper).




Common gallinule.


We passed by several people with huge, telephoto lenses. Apparently people come from all over the world for South Texas birding. When I was in Tanzania the previous year, I met a British couple who had booked a month-long trip to South Texas for nothing but birding. As the South Padre Birding Center is only one of nine birding centers in South Texas, I'm guessing this is a prime area. We enjoyed our short time there but the humidity was about to kill us so we decided it was time to go.

Our next stop was Sea Turtle, Inc., the island's turtle rehabilitation and rescue center. Sea Turtle is also a non-profit organization, whose goal is to rescue, rehabilitate, and release turtles that have been injured or stranded. The organization also provides college scholarships to biology students and hosts a summer internship program.

The facility has large tanks serving as a home for each turtle and a sign posting its individual story. The four listed below have permanent homes at the facility as they cannot be released back to the sea.

Erika is an Atlantic Green turtle that was attacked by a predator and stranded in November 2013. She is missing her right front flipper and half of both her back flippers.

Boudreaux is an Atlantic Green turtle that stranded in July 2012. He had previously lost his back left flipper and his front flippers were tangled in fishing line attached to an old fishing rod. Due to the fishing line entanglement, he is now missing his front right flipper.

Allison, another Atlantic Green turtle, was the victim of a predator attack in 2005. She was left with only one flipper. For many years, she could only swim in circles. Then a Sea Turtle intern designed a prosthetic flipper for her. It was the first ever prosthetic turtle flipper made. Since then, they have improved on the design many times.

Merry Christmas, an Atlantic Green turtle cold-stranded on Christmas Eve in the late 1980s suffers from genetic defects.

After visiting with the turtles and making a donation to the center, we stopped at the condo to grab our fishing gear then headed to the Port Isabel pier for some afternoon fishing.


Almost right off the bat, I had a pull on the line but to my chagrin, I had caught a ray. Unfortunately, it broke the line and disappeared before we could reel it in and remove the hook. We spent the next couple of hours losing our bait to the thieves of the sea.


By now we were getting pretty hungry so we decided to try a well-recommended restaurant called Pier 19. What a mistake that was! I ordered crab stuffed shrimp topped with a hollandaise sauce that was so horrible I couldn't even finish it. Mike stuck with a plain, fried shrimp basket and they couldn't even do that well. To top it all off, the touristy pirate boat kept sailing by, firing off its cannon at us every few minutes. We couldn't get out of there fast enough.

We decided to go back to the pier and try some night fishing. It was amazingly crowded. And windy. We got a lot of strikes but no fish, although Mike did catch someone else's tackle. We gave up and went home. It was almost time for our friend, Vi, to arrive. She was joining us for the rest of the trip. She arrived about 10p and we spent some time relaxing with some drinks in the hot tub then called it a night.

Posted by zihuatcat 19:18 Archived in USA Tagged south padre vi Comments (0)

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