September 21, 2008

Greenmarket; Hout & Camps Bays

While the others went to Robben Island (nice boat ride but they thought tour was just OK), we went to the very small Greenmarket Flea Market and African Women’s Trading store. We bought very little. We drank coffee and ate a custard tart of Portugese origin (Elizabeth could not remember the name). We drove to Hout Bay for fried calamari and hake at the “Fish On The Rocks restaurant. We drove to Camps Bay and ate ice cream and then walked along the beach.

September 20, 2008

Table Mountain by Cable Car

When we had finished with the gardens, we called Goodman who informed us that the cable car was now running. He drove us to the station and paid for half (65 rand each) of our return trip (since the way down was included in the tour). Goodman and Elizabeth stressed that it is critical to have a return ticket because then you are guaranteed a ride back. Also, if we heard a siren we were to run back to the cable car because high winds were approaching and we might have to walk down if the cable car stopped running. There was no queue to the cable car. The cable car floor rotates so everyone gets to view every direction. The downside is that you cannot hold on to the railing around the edge because it is always moving.
The views were spectacular as you would expect. We never got a map with our ticket so we just wandered around the top – taking pictures every 20 feet. We got some good closeups of a Dassie. When we had made a complete circle, we got some coffee and a muffin to enjoy outside in the glorious sunshine. There was a queue when we were coming off the mountain but we waited only about 10 minutes. We called Goodman while we were waiting in line and we saw him drive up just as we were approaching the lower station.


Breakfast included cereals, yogurt, fruit juices and full cooked English breakfast. We ate as though we were going to climb Table Top mountain but actually Kris, Jacqueline, and I agreed to opt out of hiking the Skeleton Gorge up to the top. Ladders, scrambling, and walking along the edge in parts seemed too dangerous and strenuous. We dropped the hikers off at Kirstenbosch and Goodman drove us back to the Table Mountain Cable Car station. It was too windy at the top and the cable car was not operating.

Goodman drove us back to Kirstenbosch, paid for our tickets because they were included, and we began to wander. We saw beautiful African themed sculptures, flowers, a bit of the Skeleton Gorge trail, and the Royal Chelsea Garden display that won an award for creativity.

We ate lunch from the cafeteria – pile what salad, hot vegetable, and meat dishes you wanted on a plate and pay based on weight (they subtract the weight of the plate). The food was delicious (100 rand for 2 plates) and we ate outside in the sunshine while watching a magician entertain about a dozen children (7 or 8 years old) at a birthday party.

September 19, 2008

Capetown District Six Museum, Company's Garden, Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

In Capetown, Goodman dropped us off at the District Six Museum. 60,000 people were forced to leave their homes when this area was declared a “white” zone. The area never was developed. Our museum guide was a child when this happened. Jacqueline told us that her grandfather lived on Hanover Street in District Six before he emigrated to the UK between WWI and WWII.

We walked through the Company Gardens, past the statue of Cecil Rhodes (as in Rhodes scholars) to the gate of the Mount Nelson hotel.

We checked into Underberg Guest House. The room was spacious, nice shower bath, complimentary bottles of red and white wine (they are associated with a wine farm in Paarl), room safe, coffee/tea kettle, fridge and free wi fi access. We ate lunch at a nearby hamburger / bakery joint.

Goodman dropped 3 of us at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront while the other two tried to get to the Township Tour. Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria, began construction of the harbour in 1860. The first basin was named after himself, the second after his mother, hence the name. I shopped while Kris and John enjoyed beer at the Mitchell’s Brewery. Kris and I caught a taxi home for 50 rand.

We met at the honor bar before dinner. We drove back to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and ate dinner at the Cape Town Fish Market. Kris loved his sole but my miso soup was salty, my tea bitter – the side vegetables were tasty but the portions small. The service was so, so slow but the waiter did split our bill.

Prince Alfred, second son of Queen Victoria, began construction of the harbour in 1860. The first basin was named after himself, the second after his mother, hence the name.

Boulders Penguin Colony

After breakfast, we drove to the Boulders to see the African Penguin (formerly Jackass Penguins for their braying call) colony. I took many, many pictures including 2 juveniles nestled up to a parent. They look full size but they are still in baby brown color.

September 18, 2008

Cape of Good Hope

It was raining hard in the morning as we drove to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. We hiked the Shipwreck trail on the Atlantic Coast in driving rain. We saw remains of a WWII shipwreck and later a 1965 shipwreck.

We returned inland via vast fields of grasses and wild flowers – carefully avoiding a turtle in the middle of the path. We walked a 3 hour hike in about 90 minutes (combination of motivation and physical ability of group)!

We were soaked. Elizabeth and Goodman drove us to the Cape Point lighthouse but nobody wanted to take the funicular up to the lighthouse. We just wanted to drink coffee and go home to change our clothes. Elizabeth promised we could visit the Penguin colony the next day. We came back to our rooms (not cleaned) and hung up our wet clothes. Elizabeth ordered in pizza and Kris / John got themselves beers from the bar.

At night, we drove to Solole Game Reserve and dined at Rijoja - and enjoyed wine, fishcakes, mussels, calamari, 3 scoops ice cream. Warm at last.

September 17, 2008

Huguenot Tunnel, Du Toitskloof Mtns, Taal Language Monument, Paarl Bretagne

We passed through the 3.9 km Hugenot tunnel to reach our trailhead in the Du Toitskloof mountains. The surrounding rock faces were cracked and silver, with some faces broken away to reveal soft orange bands and blotches. We parked near the exit of the tunnel and proceeded to the Krom River Trail in the Cape Nature Reserve. Elizabeth brought garbage bags and cajoled us into picking up litter for the good of the planet. When we began our hike in earnest, I discovered that although I can walk 15 miles over hill and dale on a trail, I am unsuited to "scrambling". I found the loose rocks, toe holds, and long jumps unmanageable. Elizabeth admitted the trail was even more washed out than when she checked it out one week earlier and a bit slippery. Thinking about how difficult living in London with a broken leg would be, I had to turn back. The others waited while Elizabeth escorted Kris and me back to the bridge. Kris and I read in the van and chatted with Goodman.

We ate a picnic lunch of bread, crackers, varied cheeses and dried meats, fruit and salad ($20 for 2) under the shadow of the Afrikaans Taal Language Monument. I loved the simplicity of this monument and the manicured lawns and gardens. Afrikaans (1 of 11 official languages in South Africa and the world's newest language) was influenced by Dutch, German, English, many African languages, and even Malay.

We then “scaled” Bretagne, one of the three domes which are the 2nd largest granite domes in the world (the largest is Ayers rock in Australia). Miraculously, my boots held and I was able to reach the top without slipping to my death. One woman did lose control, coming down faster and faster until she fell over. Some sections of the chain link railing had broken, which rendered it useless in places. I was grateful to have conquered this boulder.

We reached Mabaruli Lodge in a suburb on the Peninsula later that evening. Our room had a double and a single bed, beautiful bathroom with shower, was very roomy and included free wi fi access. Elizabeth worked in IT in a former life and used these skills to put the finishing touches needed to make my wireless work. We drank and chatted with the manager / bartender in the outside bar. He claimed to always feel safe out on the Peninsula. Again, we used the laundry service for the reasonable fee of $5 per large bag.

We drove to a nearby mall for a seafood dinner ($30 for 2). We started with a huge greek salad, beer, and wine. Kris had 6 pieces of sushi and I had a platter of grilled line fish, calamari, and shrimp.

September 16, 2008

Hermanus Wildflowers, Wild Woman and Whales; Moyo Dining Experience

Spring (UK fall) in Hermanus yields wild flowers and whales in abundance. Easy trails through Fernkloof Nature Reserve lead us through green hills decorated with sprays of pinks, yellows, reds, whites, blues and even charcoals.

Waterfalls pour into a pool of liquid stained by tannins to the color of dark brewed tea. The rockfill dam reservoir is up to 70% this week, but will empty in summer.

A steep descent drops us into to Bientang's Cave Restaurant in Walker Bay, named after a completely self-sufficient woman who protected her cave in the late 1800s. She hurled rocks and insults at intruders, and then disappeared under mysterious circumstances. While gorging ourselves on grilled line-fish and calamari ($35 for 2), we spot our first whale, a Southern Right. (And no, I am not trying to pass off a log floating on the Thames for a whale - this is for real!)

After lunch, we stroll along the Fernkloof Cliff Path, spotting almost a dozen Southern Right and Humpback whales breaching, diving, spouting, and swimming on the surface

One final photo of a Dassie (Cape Hyrax - most closely related to the elephant) lounging on the patio of a posh house overlooking the ocean is a whimsical end to a day of flora and fauna in Hermanus.

The day may have ended but we still need to experience Moyo at Spier. It is a chilly evening to dine under tents, and the blankets Moyo provides never quite keep me warm. Shortly after we are seated, a woman uses a delicate brush to paint our faces with what I describe as "white-out." We swivel around to view dancers on one entertainment stage and can peer a bit in the distance to see entertainers on a second stage. The buffet offers ostrich, venison, mussels, fish, and many native dishes I cannot begin to describe. We enjoy everything we try. A man gives us each a postcard to fill out and address to any place in the world, and he promises to stamp and post it for us (mine arrives home in the UK a few days after I return). Five singers croon sweetly at our table during dessert. Our bill for two, including our share of two bottles of Pinotage, is less than $60 including tips. After living in the UK, this is like eating for free!