FUN-travel: South Africa – Safari

September 18, 2010 by · Comments Off on FUN-travel: South Africa – Safari 

The ABC’s of Africa

A = Awesome
B = Bummer
C = Celebration
BB = Big Bummer
RBB = Really Big Bummer
TA = Totally Awesome
VG = Very Good

Day 13 – Wednesday, September 15 – Port Elizabeth to Hoedspruit (Greater Kruger National Park) – sunny, hot, 90’s

Boys Bucking Heads

  • B– 8:05 am flight
  • BB – have to drive 2 hours to airport (do the math)
  • A – plane takes off 15 minutes early
  • B – have 3 hour layover in Joburg
  • A – catch up on email
  • B – takes 45 minutes to figure out how to get WiFi in airport (no one seems to know for sure)
  • A – take off on time – arrrive 1:40 pm – baggage delivered in parking lot by tractor
  • B – drive one hour to lodge (only 30 miles but 30 mph speed limit)
  • A – staying at Simbavati River Lodge on banks of the Nhlaralumi River in Timbavati Private Game Reserve (borders on Greater Kruger National Park) has expansive deck with breathtaking views overlooking  the river
  • A – lunch being served, afternoon game drive is from 4 to 7:30
  • AA – first safari ever! first 5 minutes run into elephant herd of 20 – then 3 giraffes – then 4 zebras – then lots of impalas – then pride of 5 lions lounging & napping after dinner of baby giraffe – more elephants
  • AA – OMG – this is major Wild Animal Park on Steroids!
  • C – the thrill of seeing all the animals

FF (FUN Facts) – AA = awesome adventure

Levon the Lion

More FF – Impalas are the “McDonald’s” of the bush – their fast food for the lions, quick and easy – lowest on the food chain, they are voracious breeders, all babies born at the same time

Day 14 – Thursday, September 16 – Greater Kruger National Park – 2 game drives – sunny, hot, 90’s

Walter the Water Buffalo

  • A – awake to symphony  of birds chirping and baboons hooting
  • B – knock on door saying it’s 5:30 and morning drive is leaving  (we never got our 5:00 wake up knock) jump up throw on yesterdays clothes, attempt to get a least a half cup of coffee and we’re off
  • 1st drive – 5:45 to 9: 15 – 5 kudus – then more elephants – then 1 leopard sprawled out on high termite mound – then southern yellow billed hornbill AKA the “flying banana” & Kudzu from Lion King – then springboks – then pack of 6 hyenas laying in road – more impalas
  • A – lunch @ 3 with show of young elephants butting heads & playing in river
  • 2nd drive – see pair of African hawk eagles perched high on branch stubs of dead tree – then herd of water buffalo 600 strong surrounds our jeep as we sit & stare each other down – then water bucks – then for the Big 5 finale “Rudy the Rhino” at the water hole! (witnessed him fully & properly mark his territory by doing his business “pooping” and then kicking it to fully spread it around & stepping in it to insure he carries it with him in his every step as he ventures on – then 3 more giraffes – more impalas
  • A – back to lodge and hippos are on banks of river right in front of deck
  • A – after dinner sit around the campfire
  • C – have seen the “big 5”

FF– elephant, leopard, lion, rhino & water buffalo make up the “big 5”

Day 15 – Friday, September 17 – Morning Game Drive & Johannesburg  – cloudy, overcast, cooler, 70’s

  • B – not many animals out
  • A – find another pride of lions (3 young males) lounging & napping after big breakfast of water buffalo – poor boy was jumped at the water hole – see 3 more giraffes and a 2 week old baby – more impalas, spring boks & water bucks
  • TA – small airport & like flying pre 9-11, no metal detectors or bag check to speak of

Leona the Leopard

FF – elephants trample everything that gets in their way, even huge trees (which is one of the ways their tusks get broken off) – absolutely amazing how the animals just “blend into the landscape” & how the hawks sitting in dead trees appear to be extensions of the stubby branches

Rudy the Rhino

Safari Recap: Kruger is famous for seeing the “big 5” which is why we wanted to come. It was very dry and brown with lots of dead trees. We thought we would see a larger volume of all of the animals. On our last drive we drove and drove with very few animal sightings. The winter is the dry season and the summer is the wet season. The weather this time of year is warm to hot during mid day and cool to cold at night. Trust me, when they say to bring layers of clothes they’re not kidding. So glad I grabbed my coat at the last minute before we left the states. Remember that you are driving in a convertible jeep and the sun hasn’t come up when you start. I highly recommend you bring a hood, vest, jacket and gloves if you want warm hands. They do provide blankets which are great for taking off the morning chill. As it warms up, you start peeling the layers off.

FUN-travel: South Africa – Cape Town

September 17, 2010 by · Comments Off on FUN-travel: South Africa – Cape Town 

The ABC’s of Africa

Green Market Square

A = Awesome
B = Bummer
C = Celebration
BB = Big Bummer
RBB = Really Big Bummer
TA = Totally Awesome
VG = Very Good

Day 7 – Thursday, September 9 – drive to Cape Town – half day tour – windy, cloudy, 60’s

  • B – no hot water in room
  • A – offered another room with really hot water
  • TA – receive complimentary bottle of wine for inconvenience
  • A – 9:30 am pick up and drive to Cape Town – arrive 11 am
  • TA – Walden House, lovely old Colonial home with 7 suites – get upgraded to master suite with fireplace & just remodeled with double headed shower – full city, Table Mtn. & Signal Hill views from our wrap around balcony
  • A – take drive up to Signal Hill – full views of Cape Town – drive along coastal communities – drop off @ 1 pm for ferry to Robben Island where Nelson  Mandela was imprisoned for 20 years – return to Victoria & Alfred Waterfront – walk around – street musicians & acts abound – back to Walden House by 6:30 – wonderful dinner @ Beleza on corner $30 includes bottle of Pinotage

FF (FUN Facts) –  Cape Town is called the Mother City – blending of Eastern, African and Western ways of life constantly evident in architecture, dress and local customs

Robben Island

Day 8 – Friday, September 10 – Cape Town – half day tour – windy, sunny, a bit warmer, high 60’

  • A – incredible spread of food, both hot & cold at guest house

    Table Mountain Tram

  • A – 9:30 depart for walking tour of Cape Town – go to Castle of Good Hope, built by Dutch between 1666 and 1679, houses the Military museum – walk through downtown Company Gardens
  • A – shop at Green Market Square – vendors selling African masks, stone & wood carvings, fabrics, drums, jewelry, etc.
  • B – lunch, wait too long & just so so
  • A – nice walk back to Walden House
  • A – dinner at Miller’s Thumb $40 – eat kingklip fish

FF – food & wine is extremely reasonable

Day 9 – Saturday, September 11 – Cape Town – Free day – sunny, windy, warmer, high 70’

  • BB – sharks not breaching due to beached whale they ate (tummies are full now)
  • A – hop on double decker city sightseeing bus
  • A – table mountain aerial tram is open
  • B – 35 minute wait to buy tickets
  • A – only takes 4 minutes to top (3200 ft) and floor rotates 360 degrees
  • B – still have vertigo and a bit afraid of heights (can’t look down)
  • A – seat in middle of tram stationary
  • TA – perfectly clear day, can see for miles
  • A – continue bus tour, get different perspective on top (drove the same route on Thursday in car)
  • A – end up back at Victoria & Alfred waterfront shops, have lunch, shop
  • A – back on bus with drop off at Green Market Square, more shopping
  • B – bus no longer running, must walk back to guest house (1 mile) been walking lots already
  • A –Maharajah Indian restaurant on corner, VG lamb curry, vegetables, rice & of course bottle of SA wine

Cape Baboons

FF – why you want a driver/guide here? They drive on the wrong side of the road and you can drink more wine!

Day 10 – Sunday, September 12 – Cape Town – Full day tour to Cape of Good Hope – sunny, warm, high 70’s

Cape of Good Hope

  • A – 9:00 am start @ Bo-Kaap neighborhood, lively, bright colored painted houses – drive south on east side to keep sun on our side
  • 1st stop Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens – 22,000 southern African flowering plants in a setting of mountain streams, pools and rolling lawns
  • 2nd stop Simonstown – Boulders beach has resident colony of jackass penguins
  • 3rd stop – Cape Point in Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, said to be the romantic meeting point of two mighty oceans, the Atlantic and the Indian – Sir Francis Drake called it “the fairest Cape that we saw in the whole circumference of the Globe.”
  • A – see roaming bontebok, ostrich and baboons
  • TA – west side drive to Chapman’s Peak very steep, winding & a lot like Big Sur
  • A – back to Beleza for another great dinner & even eat dessert this time, in celebration of my dad’s birthday coming up next week

Westerncape Recap: This is the first time we have ever stayed at guest houses instead of hotels. All of them were rated 4 stars and we were quite impressed with the service, food, and rooms. Our neighbor Jeff is from South Africa and when I complained about how expensive the quotes were for this trip he suggested B&B’s.  Hotels are quite expensive here. Now that Chris is retired, we no longer have a need to continue our loyalty to both Marriott and Hilton hotels. We are going to use our points up for free rooms when we are in cities where rooms are expensive (like Paris at the end of the trip.)  Jeff also suggested using his brother Stephan who has a travel agency in SA. And we are glad we did! We have felt very safe and comfortable everywhere we went. The cities have ranged from beautiful and quaint to very cosmopolitan.  We specifically chose to come at this time because we wanted to see the sharks’ breach. The best time for that is in their winter months of June, July & August. We were at the tail end so didn’t get to see them in Shark Alley. One of the surprises we hadn’t thought of was all the spring flowers that were in bloom. Overall we give the Westerncape 2 thumbs up and highly recommend seeing it.

Jackass Penguins

FUN-travel: South Africa – Franschhoek & Wine Region

September 8, 2010 by · Comments Off on FUN-travel: South Africa – Franschhoek & Wine Region 

The ABC’s of Africa

Nelson Mandela Statue

A = Awesome
B = Bummer
C = Celebration
BB = Big Bummer
RBB = Really Big Bummer

Day 5 – Tuesday, September 7 – Hermanus to Franschhoek – low 50’s – very windy & cold – warmed up to 70 inland

  • A – bag finally arrives after midnight
  • RBB – cut open, rifled through, items missing (highly suggested you shrink wrap your bag)
  • A – pick up 10 am for 90 minute drive to Rusthof Country House in heart of the historic French Huguenot valley of Franschhoek (Napa Valley of SA)
  • A – delightful town – take walk, have lunch @ Rueben’s & glass of Chardonnay/Pinot blend (quite good & never heard of before)
  • TA & VG – dinner at Le Quartier Francais (like the French Laundry in Napa)

FF (FUN Facts) – TA = Totally Awesome & VG = Very Good

Day 6 – Wednesday, September 8 – Franschhoek – sunny, warm 70’s

  • A – wine tasting tour starts 9:45 – landscape of Cape Dutch wine estates sprinkled throughout valleys between massive mountains
  • A – 1st stop Lynx – very boutique vineyard – buy VG blend bottle Shiraz/Mourvedre/Viognier
  • A – 2nd stop Kanonkop – see biggest bottle of wine ever – 18 liters = 24 bottles
  • A – stop at prison where Nelson Mandela was released on 2-11-1990
  • A – drive to Stellenbosch – South Africa’s second oldest town – est. 1685
  • A – 3rd stop Rust En Vrede – impressive spread of stainless steel vats & cellared bottles
  • TA – 4th stop Bilton Winery – pairs custom made Belgium style chocolates w/their wines YUM! – buy Matt Black blend of Cab/Shiraz/Petit Verdot/Merlot/Pinotage/Mourvedre

    Rust En Vrede Winery

  • A – 5th stop Glenwood – very boutique – only 4 barrels made of their top wine
  • A – 6th stop Boekenhoutskloof (longest winery name in the world?) buy 4 bottles of VG wine, 1 of which we had last night

    Bilton Wine & Chocolate Pairing

FF – Cape Dutch Style – thick white washed walls, small-paned shuttered windows designed to keep out summer heat – thatched roofs with elegant gables keep houses cool in summer and warm in winters

FUN-travel: South Africa – Hermanus

September 7, 2010 by · Comments Off on FUN-travel: South Africa – Hermanus 

The ABC’s of Africa

A = Awesome
B = Bummer
C = Celebration

Day 1 – Friday, September 3 – Depart San Diego 10:45 am –  to Johannesburg, one stop Atlanta

Auberge Burgundy

  • A – Delta Business Elite Class – full lay down seats – free, used points!
  • B – plane delay Atlanta
  • B – Chris’s walking shoe sole comes off (must wear shoes regularly as glue dries out over time)
  • B – I have  vertigo from a virus for last two weeks, still a bit dizzy
  • A – no eardrum rupture or pain

Day 2 –Saturday,  September 4 – Arrive Joburg (locals speak) 6:30 pm – pleasant enough to sit outside

  • A – have driver waiting
  • B – Chris’s other shoe sole comes off (at least they match now)
  • BB – Chris’s bag never left Atlanta
  • C – great Pinotage at airport hotel!

FF – FUN Facts – Pinotage = wine blend of two French grapes – Pinot Noir & Cinsaut (renamed Hermitage in SA) created in 1925

Day 3 –Sunday, September 5 – Depart 9:00 am to Cape Town & Hermanus – arrive 11:15 am – jacket cool, rain overnight (48 – 66)

African Art

  • A – driver waiting – off  to Hermanus, coastal town 90 minutes
  • A – find shoe glue in grocery store $6
  • A – lovely room at Auberge Burgundy in heart of town on ocean
  • A – street market find – one-of-a-kind beaded necklace R55 = $7.70 US – (feel bad working him down to $7.00)
  • B – great dinner and wine at Paradiso
  • BB – bag still not delivered

FF – BB = Big Bummer

Day 4 –Monday, September 6 – Hermanus – low 50’s to high 60”s – windy

Our Great White Shark Pic

  • A – going for Great White Shark boat trip
  • B – pick up 6:15 am, still dark
  • A – see lots of sharks  up close and personal
  • B – water too cold to cage dive
  • BB – Chris gets sick – poor boy barfed 3 X’s
  • RBB – volunteer girl working on boat slips off the back and into the water just as shark swims by
  • A – gets pulled out with no bites
  • C – it’s our anniversary, have great meal and more great SA Pinotage!

FF – RBB = Really Big Bummer


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