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Penguins to Puku: Report on Cape Town and S. & N. Luangwa

Penguins to Puku: Report on Cape Town and S. & N. Luangwa

Old Aug 19th, 2008, 08:02 PM
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Penguins to Puku: Report on Cape Town and S. & N. Luangwa

First and Foremost—THE WINE LIST. I am putting the finishing touches on my wine list that will appear in red at the end of Cape Town and Simons Town.

Tripgirl, if you are reading, I hope you tune in to that part because you may get a chuckle and your comments and insights will be appreciated.

Unlike the wine list, which is nearly complete, the photos are far from it and the link to them will have to be at the end of the report.

The first photo that will eventually appear in the Kodak Easy Share Gallery album is surely destined for Africa Geographic. I believe it is a photographic first of an interaction never before witnessed. So BillH, Skimmer, and Andy Biggs take note! The picture is so remarkable that I no longer suffer my camera inferiority complex, “Pentax envy.” In fact, I’ll be expecting a call from Banana Republic.

Itinerary:

Cape Town and Simons Town was arranged by me in consultation with African Shark Eco-Charters and their recommended local tour operator, Take2 Tours. The rest was booked The Africa Adventure Company.

July18 Fly from Chicago to DC to Joburg to Cape Town

July 19 Arrive in the evening in Cape Town; o/nt Waterfront Hotel with airport transfer by Take2 Tours

July 20 morning Robben Island, Cape Town city tour and sightseeing drive to Simons Town by Take2; o/nt Central Hotel

July 21 Full Day Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve; o/nt Sea Spray

July 22 morning-Shark Trip 1; afternoon-penguins at Boulders Bay; o/nt Sea Spray

July 23 morning-Shark Trip 2; afternoon-Baboon walk w/Baboon Matters; o/nt Sea Spray

July 24 morning-Shark Trip 3; afternoon-Kirstenbosch Gardens w/Take2 Tours; o/nt Sea Spray

July 25 morning-Shark Trip 4; afternoon-Baboon walk w/Baboon Matters; o/nt Sea Spray

July 26 morning-Shark Trip 5; afternoon-penguins Boulders Bay; o/nt Central Hotel

July 27 morning-Shark Trip 6; afternoon-Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve w/Take2 Tours; o/nt Central Hotel

July 28 morning-Shark Trip 7; short visit to penguins; transport to airport w/Take2 Tours partner; fly to Joburg & o/nt Southern Sun O.R. Tambo

July 29 6:30 am Joburg-Lusaka flight, on to Mfuwe, drive to Kakuli (Norman Carr) in South Luangwa

July 30 Kakuli

July 31 Kutandala in North Luangwa 5 nts

Aug 5 Depart N. Luangwa to Mfuwe to Lusaka to Joburg to DC to Chicago

Aug 6 After a 90 minute bus ride, arrive home
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Old Aug 19th, 2008, 08:11 PM
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CAPE TOWN AND SIMONS TOWN

Take2 Tours Though I knew nothing about the company, I stuck with this recommendation by African Shark Eco-Charters. And I am glad I did!

From my first email correspondence, which soon escalated into an assault from me on Take2’s inbox, I was impressed. In 18 months of contact, I made many tweaks, date changes, and alterations to my plans. All were accommodated graciously by owner, Wayne, with guidance and redirection bestowed when needed.

I ended up having Wayne book the hotels I chose (from choices recommended by African Shark Eco-Charters and Take2) and get my Robben Island tickets. He made sure I had all the confirmation numbers, and provided copies on my arrival.

He was especially helpful with Robben Island where there was a slight problem with the booking office and he alerted me to bring the credit card used to reserve the ticket.

Wayne was great in every respect and contributed in a huge way to my enjoyment of the Cape Town environs. His general knowledge of the area was immense and he knew the tricks and short cuts for what I wanted to do, such as hiking certain trails in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and dropping me off and picking me up in the best spots.

He made the time-saving and money-saving suggestion of having me do Robben Island on my own, my first morning in Cape Town, after checking out of the Waterfront Hotel and storing my bags at reception. Then he picked me up at the ferry dock, we retrieved the bags, had lunch, and began our Cape Town sight seeing that ended in Simons Town.

He had some good back up plans when last minute changes were needed. The cable car was not running on Table Mountain so instead we headed up Signal Mountain for nice views. The noontime canon blast on Signal Mountain represents the longest running daily cannon firing tradition in the world. Chapman’s Peak road was closed, so we went as far as we could and then headed to scenic Hout Bay.

Though I did not do a township tour, I ran into a family at the baboon walk who was raving about their recent township visit. They mentioned their guide named Wayne. When I inquired further, we discovered it was our very own Wayne of Take2 Tours!

Even with all he did for me, I believe I did not even really tap into Wayne’s forte. He could recommend what to order at various restaurants in and around Cape Town, from entrees to dessert. (I did follow some of this menu advice with great success.) He knew the wines and wineries, where to get the best croissants, what art galleries to go, which gift shops had the most unique book selections, the charms of each bay around Cape Town. For anyone with epicurean interests beyond, say, munching a sandwich and Ranch Doritos on the shark boat in the stench of Seal Island, Wayne would be a most valuable resource.

Wayne’s helpfulness and dedication can be seen in this example. On the day we went to Kirstenbosch Gardens, I came right off the shark boat to meet him at the dock. He arranged for me to change clothes in the restroom of a nearby restaurant, so I could remove some long underwear and other layers that I needed on the boat. We piled my extra clothes, including my waterproof socks and balaclava, in the back seat and we were off. After a lovely day at the gardens, Wayne drove back to Sea Spray. He gathered up the huge pile of clothing, which represented about four extra layers for top and bottom, with his one arm-—my waterproof socks and balaclava dangling. He was on his cell phone with his other hand to Rikki Taxi or somebody on my behalf, as he schlepped my wardrobe down the steps to the entrance of Sea Spray. He truly had his hands full with helping to make every part of my Cape Town trip enjoyable.

Why I based myself in Simons Town When I was first investigating a stay in the Cape Town area, I had these priorities in no particular order (a) Robben Island (b) Great White Sharks (c) Baboon Walks (d) Penguins (e) Cape Nature Reserve (f) ocean views. Regardless the activities, I had to have a safe environment where I could walk around comfortably.

It didn’t take much research to realize there was a place where I could do it all and it would work logistically. Two words: Simons Town. Or, depending on what source you are reading, one word: Simonstown.

Simons Town just might be my new Favorite City!
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Old Aug 19th, 2008, 08:42 PM
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Great start, Lynn. I'll be skipping your wine recs, so thanks for putting them in red and saving me a lot of trouble.
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Old Aug 20th, 2008, 09:59 AM
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Robben Island Comments Only Robben Island was clearly a Cape Town activity and that’s why we put it right at the start of the trip since I arrived in Cape Town.
The morning departure is at 9:00 am and returns about 12:30 pm back at the Waterfront dock.

This was a tremendously moving experience for me, not so much because of the physical buildings I was seeing, but because our guide was a former prisoner. Once on the island, we spent quite a bit of time sitting, looking out the bus window, and listening to Guide Mosebe (spelling?) explain the area and his experiences in prison. He told of his first impressions of Mandela, which were quite negative, and how he came to respect, admire, and follow the man. It was riveting.

Seeing Mosebe’s view from his cell and where his bunk stood while he explained to us his typical prison day routine was surreal. He even recited a poem he had written while in prison. Somebody asked Mosebe if he sometimes became emotional during these tours. He responded that a few weeks ago, he came around a corner and the sudden sight of the prison building that had been his home caused him to collapse and fall to the ground. It took him a few minutes to recover and continue the tour.

This is not a tour for little children, at least not the way I did it. There is too much sitting still and listening for the attention span of little ones. It is not like a museum where you wander around at will and can escape with fussy kids. We had an incident on our bus where a 2- and 4-year old were causing a disturbance and being allowed to do so. Mosebe had words (and rightfully so) with the parents who were very defensive and argumentative but after that they kept the kids quiet by feeding them biscuits non-stop.

Mosebe also admonished an adult whose cell phone went off and who took the call (chat, chat, chat), talking over Mosebe’s account of hardship and torture in the prison. Unbelievable! Fortunately, these incidents were early on in the tour while we were on the bus and detracted only momentarily.

* If Robben Island is a priority for you, plan it for your first day in Cape Town so if the ferry cannot sail, you have some backup days. Bad weather and waves cancelled eight straight days of trips before I arrived.

* I walked the 2-3 blocks to the Clock Tower where the ferry to Robben Island departs, leaving from The Waterfront Hotel about 7:40 am, sunrise in mid-July. The Waterfront area employs its own security and it was very safe as I wandered around until 9:00 am departure time.

* Buy your tickets a few days before departure. Maybe even a few weeks or months. I had Take2 Tours do this for me and charge my credit card about $18, a tremendous value in my opinion. Maybe you can call the ticket office direct.

* If you can pick up the ticket the day before, that’s good so you do not have to wait in line just before your trip departs. The ferry holds about 260, so that’s lots of people in line.

* Hang onto your confirmation number and bring your credit card that you used to make the Robben Island reservation. I had a small problem due to computers or something and the confirmation was helpful for me.

* The 30-minute ferry ride was not enough to cause me to reach for the bags that are provided at each seat, and I had not taken anything to prevent seasickness, but I was glad to get off when we docked. Seas were rolling but fairly calm that day with only a few white caps.

* On the lower deck of the ferry, a video on the history of the island plays on the way over and a video on how the ferry you are riding on was made plays on the way back.

*You get to see Mandela’s cell. That was what drew me to Robben Island. By the end of the visit, I found the cell itself to be just a tiny part of the overall Robben Island visit, as I experienced it.

* I had been told about the infestation of rabbits on the island. They were everywhere and pose a big environmental problem.

* If you are going on to Boulder’s Bay, don’t worry about not being able to get pictures of the numerous but elusive penguins on the island.
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Old Aug 20th, 2008, 06:37 PM
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Great White Sharks at Seal Island in False Bay departing Simons Town with African Shark Eco-Charters
All the details, plus info on accommodations, are contained in a previous post, linked here. http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...4&tid=35149177

Penguins in Boulders Bay in Simons Town Comments
* It is so easy to get to the penguins on foot from anywhere in Simons Town. It is about a 20-minute walk from the shark boat dock along the main street and walking around Simons Town is completely safe. The prominent naval base there seems to contribute to the safety.

* There are two entrances to the penguins along the main street. I would suggest entering at one and exiting at the other to be sure you cover all their habitat areas.

* The entrance fee is 25 Rand, but if you just want to walk along the boardwalk that is the farthest from the ocean, where the penguins nest and hang out, there is no charge. I always paid the entrance fee for greater access.

* The hours of operation for the park vary by season, but in July it was 8:00 to 5:00, with the last people admitted at 5:00, but you did not have to leave right at 5:00 if you were already in.

* I had read to avoid visiting on weekends because it can get crowded. There was even a sign at the entrance that indicated: Open, Closed, and Full. I can’t imagine how unpleasant it would be if the place reached maximum capacity. But in July there were not many people and I couldn’t tell the difference in numbers between weekday and weekend.

* There were dassies sitting around (singular dassey) that lived near the penguins and were submissive to them. They are like rock hyraxes.

* Around 4 pm to 5 pm, groups of penguins came ashore after fishing in the ocean. That was exciting to see them waddle out of the water onto the beach en masse. About an hour to an hour and a half before they made it to shore, you could look out in the ocean and see groups of tiny black and white shapes bobbing in the waves in the distance.

One night the penguins arrived about 4:50 pm on the main beach. Another night one small group got back about 5:45 and the other penguins were still at sea and looked like they would beach themselves in an area where you couldn’t see them.

* I spent two 3-hour sessions with the penguins and one final short visit before leaving for the airport and enjoyed every minute. In contrast, I overheard others saying they were not that impressed with the penguins, plus they smelled. It’s true about the smell.

* I saw tours that spent less than an hour with the penguins. That is plenty of time to cover the entire grounds and see probably 100+ penguins—adults, chicks, juveniles—on the beach and in the nesting areas. It is not enough time if you want the perfect penguin picture or you want to watch more than a few twig’s worth of nest building or you want to wait for them to swim ashore after their day in the ocean.

* Wayne of Take2 suggested having Malva, a traditional bread pudding dessert, at the restaurant at Boulders Bay. I did not manage to order it at that particular location.

Comments on the Baboon Walk with Baboon Matters I felt this encounter was right up there with the gorilla and chimp visits. The baboons are habituated to human presence in similar manner and you get a close glimpse of troop life for a couple of hours, with no set time limit for the visit.

Participation in this activity at 250 Rand/person (lots less than the $500 gorilla visit) supports two dozen local monitors who help keep the baboons away from the towns so they don’t raid these inhabited areas. It is a win-win-win scenario for the local citizens who want to be baboon-free, for those employed as monitors, and for the Cape Chacma Baboons—the only protected baboons in Africa.

* There were two troops you could visit, named for the dominant male in each, and I visited both George’s troop and Eric’s troop. Each troop had the whole spectrum of members and they were equally interesting as they went about their business of eating, grooming, mating, sleeping, nursing, playing, sparring, and climbing trees, in our midst.

* Six people go on the walk, so I’d reserve early, since this is popular (and reasonably affordable) for families, who can take up the majority of the 6 spots with parents and a couple of kids. I requested my walk dates and times through the Baboon Matters website about six months in advance.

* Walks require a minimum of two participants, but Baboon Matters agreed to take just me if no one else joined when I scheduled, since I was willing to pay for two under those circumstances.

* There are both morning and afternoon walks that spend about 2 hours with the baboons. My schedule allowed only afternoon visits, which seemed to be a great time to visit.

* The guide carries water that Baboon Matters provides in a backpack and you can stop for drinks any time.

* You meet at the Baboon Matters office, about a 10-minute ride drive from town. It is easy to get to by Rikki Taxi or even the train that runs frequently and stops in Simons Town, then heads down the tracks to stop across from the hotel and offices where Baboon Matters is located.

* From the Baboon Matters office, where the 20-30 minute orientation takes place, you drive to wherever the baboons happen to be and begin the walk. This drive component can be tricky because only certain staff members are licensed to drive paying guests. So you might end up getting a ride with other guests who drove there if you don’t have a car.

One of my scheduled visits even got switched to a different date because of this driving issue. I think more staff are in the process of getting the needed licenses.

*Jenny, the founder, and all of the staff are super people with very interesting lives and tales.

* The baboons were completely non-aggressive, in contrast to behavior that may be witnessed at the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. That’s because the aggressive baboons have been fed and have learned they can acquire food with hostile actions. Wayne of Take2 Tours even told me that the baboons in the reserve target children and people with gray hair because they offer the least resistance to attacks for food. In contrast, the baboons on the walk do not associate people with food and see the monitors and the guide as dominant.

* Unlike gorilla visits, you do not have to stay close together in a small group and remain still. You can venture out several meters in various directions for better views and photos during much of the approximately two-hour visit. We remained prepared to regroup or relocate ourselves at the direction of the guide if needed.

* For one of the visits, the climbing was rigorous, over rocky hill slopes. We felt like mountain goats. In addition, this area had been burned previously and had charred remnants all over. We all ended up with black clothes by the end of the walk, even the guide. Cold water was suggested for washing the charcoal stains out, and it worked, thanks to the complimentary use of the washing machine at Sea Spray.

* The Baboon Walks alone should make Simons Town a prime wildlife destination.
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Old Aug 20th, 2008, 07:37 PM
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Hi Lynn,

thanks for the great report so far. The Baboon Walks sound as though they are really interesting and provide an opportunity to appreciate baboons.

Looking forward to the N & S Luangwa report.

Cheers,


Pol


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Old Aug 20th, 2008, 07:49 PM
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Lynn, I am also looking forward to the Zambia portion of your report as I am headed there in mid-October for 3 weeks (Kafue and N & S Luangua -- though Mwaleshi in the N rather than Kutandala...) Cheers, rickmck
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 06:54 AM
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I was just wondering when your departure date was, RickMck. I am sure Mwaleshi will be outstanding too and that the camp has some of the same elements that I appreciate about Kutandala. So keep that in mind when I start gushing about the wonders of Kutandala. I've just never been to Mwaleshi.
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 06:56 AM
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Kirstenbosch Gardens Comments These botanical gardens are located about halfway between Cape Town and Simons Town and are world renowned, up there with Butchart. I enjoyed an afternoon at Kirstenbosch, which was about right for me, but true garden enthusiasts would want a full day to take it all in.

The gardens are home to the Fynbos species, plants that represent their own Kingdom and are unique to the Cape. There are plants that date back to before the dinosaurs and whole groves of Birds of Paradise. Egyptian Geese and Guinea Fowl roamed the grounds and enjoyed the ponds while sunbirds flitted from flower to flower. You can walk on raised rocks in streams that meander through fern forests.

I especially liked the sculpture garden, where African sculptures are creatively positioned among the plant life, and the vlei with beds of Calla Lillies surrounded by Papyrus.

Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve Comments (Also referred to as Cape Point Nature Reserve) It took about half an hour to get there from Simons Town by car. I spent one and a half days walking trails with magnificent ocean views, driving with Wayne of Take2 Tours though the park in search of wildlife and to see the Fynbos and other endemic vegetation, and just sitting along the beach to watch the waves roll in. You could hike through the park’s many trails for days and wave watch for hours on end.

Here are the hikes I did: From the main Cape Point parking lot, I hiked up to the First Light House and back down to the parking lot and then took the trail that descended to the water’s edge. (Wayne lent me his plant guide, which was helpful, then drove down to the parking lot next to the ocean to meet me.) At a leisurely pace, stopping for photos, spectacular views, lizards, striped mice, and flowers, that entire route took about 100 minutes. The lighthouse segment was easy walking and stair climbing and took about 40 minutes round trip. Even if you turned back before getting to the lighthouse, you would still enjoy spectacular views. Going down to the ocean was very rocky in parts and included both some uphill and down hill walking.

I repeated that hike later in the day without so many stops and it took 20 minutes less. Also from the main Cape Point parking lot, I did a 30 minute round trip hike to the Second Light House. The views were continually breathtaking throughout all the hikes I did. If you do not want to hike, there are many scenic lookout points where you can pull over in a car.

It is always extremely windy at the reserve, so I was glad I wore my wool hat to keep my head and ears warm on the hikes.

We saw quite a few ostriches and some baboons while driving around the reserve. There are also unique antelope species present, plus the rare zebra sighting.

Rikki Taxis (07 23 874 366 in Simons Town) I had read and heard about these, but wasn’t sure if the name was short for rickshaw or if there somebody named Rikki with a car or what. In Simons Town there were about three Rikki Taxis (otherwise known as just Rikkis) running at any given time. They could be described as well worn micro-buses. More than mere transportation, they approached a cultural phenomenon.

I used this very reasonably priced service numerous times but after just a couple of rides, the drivers knew my name and where I was staying. They were all so friendly and good-natured, it was like getting a ride from your buddy—the conscientious buddy who would always show up on time and never forget to pick you up. You could call for a ride as needed or schedule a trip hours or a day in advance. They had just gone to 24-hour service so you’ll never be without a Rikki in Simons Town. The Cape Town Rikki Taxi is a separate company I was told, even though the name is the same.
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 08:06 AM
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Great report, as usual! Looking forward to the Zambia portion since that may be my next Africa destination.
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 08:26 AM
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When I was in NLNP for a season, I stopped at Mwaleshi Camp several times. It surprised me to see a pride of lions so close to the camp a few of those times-hunting. Just so you know, right along where you walk from the airstrip to the camp.
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 10:01 AM
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With all the interest in the Zambia part of the trip (though no hunting lions in NL this time) I better get my fingers flying to finish up the Cape Town stuff, including

THE WINE LIST,
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 10:16 AM
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Oh no, Lynn! Now you're making me want to go to Simons Town -- yet another Africa trip to daydream about for the future.

Thanks for the report (and for all your info on the other thread about white sharks, my husband's favorite animal). I'm looking forward to following along through the rest of your trip.
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 10:57 AM
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Actually, I'm quite interested in The Wine List also-love SA wine!
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 02:17 PM
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MoreMiles, I believe the list may disappoint you, but it is going into the report no matter what.
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 02:21 PM
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Restaurants The complimentary breakfasts and fridge at Central Hotel, the daily lunch served on board the shark boat, the lovely self catering kitchen at Sea Spray, and the anticipation of Guz’s cuisine at Kutandala all resulted in only a couple of restaurant meals for me in Simons Town. But they were memorable.

- Pescado’s – Known for reasonable prices and fish, Pescado’s is where I ate my first ever Hake and Chips. I’d had eaten chips before, of course, but never fish called Hake.

During dinner I was joined by an affable guy who immediately began rubbing my ankles and legs. My husband had been clear on the no shark cage directive, but had he said nothing about calf caressing, so I figured it was fine. I knew what my dining partner wanted and against my better judgment, I relented. There was too much tasty hake for me anyway, so I dropped a couple of small pieces on the floor and my new friend halted the ankle rubbing to gobble them up. He hung around a few more minutes to enjoy a couple more bites of fish and then the friendly feline trotted off. I finished the meal alone with a dessert of Malva, a tasty bread pudding that is a local delicacy.

- The Meeting Place – I often order two starters instead of one entrée and that was the plan at The Meeting Place. I had settled on the Parmesan Asparagus and asked the waiter to choose another starter and a South African wine for me. He chose the Moroccan Couscous and poured me a red wine and wrote down the name of it, at my request. My meal, including the wine, was delightful and now I had my wine list.

THE WINE LIST—SOUTH AFRICA, JULY 2008

Goats Do Roam


That’s it. My one wine. And that’s what it’s called. The only wine on my list and it turns out to be goat wine. How embarrassing. It’s not like I’ve listed all sorts of impressive names such as Chardonnay, Shiraz, Cabernet, and Sauvignon and the Goats can Roam discretely in the midst of the these. No, with a single entry, the goats can roam but they can’t hide.

I did not ask what year it was, so I don’t know just when these goats were roaming, nor do I know exactly in which vineyard they chose to roam.

I googled the wine, hoping for some redeeming qualities. I found that it “woos adventurous and discerning consumers.” I may not be all that discerning, but I’m a tad adventurous and it’s nice to know that I was being wooed by my beverage while savoring my asparagus. With increasing enthusiasm, I read it has “full bodied distinct dark fruit and spice.” I vividly recalled some full bodied dark fruit taste during that meal. But then I wasn’t sure if it was the wine or the raisins in my Moroccan Couscous.

“This whimsically named robust wine is perfect for the cold months.” Well, there you go—it was the perfect combo of whimsy and robustness and the perfect choice for July. I drank red Goats do Roam wine and I’m proud of it!

Zambia’s next.

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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 02:33 PM
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You may see a similarity in the name of the wine and 'Cotes du Rhone'. Also in the Goat Door (Cotes d'Or)

Good wine despite the whimsy.
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 03:14 PM
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Hi T'lynn,

great report, of course.

for us, our CPT must see was the table mountain, and like you, we scheduled our "must see" for the first day, so we cold fit it in later if needs be. But needs didn't be cos it was fine and clear of all table cloths on the first day so we got up very early with no problems.

sorry you didn't get to do it as it was a real highlight, as were the Kirstenbosch gardens. i agree that it's a good idea of visit earlier in the day if you're a garden lover [teh light is better in winter] - but if you have a puncture on the way and have to change the tyre by the side of the road with all the advice you've received about NOT stopping, EVER, ringing in your ears, you get there a bit late. but it was stil gorgeous.

love the wine list,

regards, ann
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 03:57 PM
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Lynn, that was too funny about your "dining partner"! I thought you had come across the foot masseur from the V&A Waterfront.

The "Goats Do Roam" wine comes from the only winery I ended up visiting in South Africa, the Fairview. They feature their goat tower on a lot of their labels. I think you can get this wine at Cost Plus World Market in the US. The winery also makes and sells goat cheese. They love their goat puns; how about a bottle of "Bored Doe"?
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Old Aug 21st, 2008, 05:35 PM
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You're right-way too short a wine list! On to Zambia.
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