RHKKMK'S First trip to South Africa

Oct 15th, 2009, 02:11 AM
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How fitting that he will be haunting the Africa forum over Halloween. One can only hope that he tries to pet the lions. Exactly how many pandas are there in South Africa?
Gpanda is offline  
Oct 15th, 2009, 02:58 AM
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Gpanda, exactly zero. They were all eaten by the lions. On Halloween, I think Bob & Karen are slated to be spending "the holiday" with Smeagol & Muffin, and I believe they plan on celebrating Smeagol's birthday with her. While in Boston last weekend, Karen told me the story of how Muffin got his name---it was very cute.

bookchick is offline  
Oct 15th, 2009, 04:12 AM
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BC you are correct B&K will be in England for Halloween and yes celebrating my birthday (which is the day before!!NOT Halloween - although some people think i'm a bit of a witch)

Whilst we don't usually make a big thing of Halloween i may make a bit of an effort this year due to our American visitors....
Smeagol is offline  
Oct 15th, 2009, 04:17 AM
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Make sure you drag Bob out to the moors on Halloween. With any luck, the Hound of the B will be out there to greet him.
Gpanda is offline  
Oct 15th, 2009, 06:25 AM
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Have fun, B and K. I'll try to slip over to this board and do some reading; but I'll be back in BKK during most of your adventures on this trip. Cape Town is on our to-do list. I'll be anxious to read your report.
simpsonc510 is offline  
Oct 15th, 2009, 11:31 AM
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Andy- the Moors are about 140 miles away.....
Smeagol is offline  
Oct 15th, 2009, 11:32 AM
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The Boston GTG was a great success and all seemed to have lots of fun…

Tuesday Oct 13, 2009 and Wednesday, Oct 14 and Th Oct 15—one blur..

Hedley picked us up at 1615 as pre-arranged. We made a quick drive to Logan, maybe 25 minutes. Check-in was speedy and as we already had seat assignments, we were in good shape. We had dinner at Legal Seafood’s Bar at Logan---Swordfish for K and clam chowdah and Caesar salad for me..

The flight was American Air, Boston to London (Heathrow) using FF miles….flt 108 departing at 1905 and arriving in London at 0650, economy class, 2X4X2, aisle and window.
We had a layover of 13 hours which was perfect, as it allowed for a mini-GTG with Lucy (bluebella)…. We met her at 1230 at Emperor of India in Maidenhead, UK for a wonderful Indian lunch (papadon, sag paneer, shrimp yellow curry, butter chicken with a spicy sauce, garlic nan and plain rice—kulfi for me and cheese cakes for them)….. we had wonderful conversations, mostly about fodorites (we talked about everyone, except Gpanda) and Thailand…

After lunch we had time to ride around Windsor Great Park, through Eton and Windsor and a short visit to the Queen’s Great Park Farm shop. We returned the rental car to Alamo (37 pounds for a nice mid-sized Vauxhall sedan) and moved on to the new terminal 5 at Heathrow…. We were quite impressed with this new terminal… Not dissimilar to the new Bkk airport, only bigger I think… We had a snack and lazed around a bit before boarding our British Air 747 flight for Capetown, South Africa…
B/A does not allow seat choices prior to 24 hours before flt, but we were on A/A so did a checkin when we arrived this AM. The best seats we could get were rows 47 and 48, aisle seats, behind each other… We survived. Karen ate dinner, but I skipped it. We took sleeping pills and slept decently, on and off, for the 11 hour flight. I loved my new Ipod which my kids had given me, and I had loaded with music…

We arrived at Capetown to wet pavements and a quickly emerging sun at 0735, about 30 minutes early. There are no immigration forms, and the line moved quite quickly… BTW, you need a full passport page for the on-arrival visa. We picked up our Thrifty car, a Nissan mid-sized sedan, and withdrew some cash and then we were on our way to the Mouille Point section of Capetown.

Our hotel is the 4 star (???) La Splendida on Beach Road, directly across the road from the famous red and white lighthouse and the open ocean… The location seems quite fabulous, but the hotel is a bit worn, although the staff is very friendly…. Arriving about 10AM, the room was not ready, so we went into the restaurant (very friendly wait staff) and had hamby’s and chips for lunch… The receptionist came to our table and told us the room was ready about ½ way through lunch. We are in room 201 on the second level with full sea view. The room and bath are ok, nothing special--- about $205 including tax. Worth about $130 imo… We are quite content and there is a gated parking area in back of the hotel (30 R per 24 hrs.)… We are disappointed that wi-fi is $20 per day, but it’s free in the restaurant…
After unpacking and a 2-3 hour nap, we took a drive along the waterfront, past the new stadium, near to the hotel, and drove as far as the V&A waterfront…. This area looks from the outside like any major city’s renovation project turned over to retail… We will investigate it later. We turned around and drove in the opposite direction, also hugging the waterfront. BTW, driving is very easy here… We do note that many streets are unsigned, but there are good directional signs… We continued along until we reached Lower Kloof where we began our drive up to Kloof and eventually to Signal Hill Rd which dramatically climbs one of the major hills surrounding Capetown. It is far lower than Table Mountain, which today is shrouded in clouds.

The views are magnificent all along this drive. Being Spring here there are many wildflowers all along the roadside: white, yellow, orange, purple and many others. At the summit we get out to observe the marvelous views of the city and waterfront below and also some of the other mountains. The wind nearly blows us away. Its cool but very comfortable, although K puts on her down vest up here.. We can see our hotel..

We return to sea level via another road and decide we have done all we can for today…
We stop at a wine shop and Karen buys two reislings ($5 and $11) and I buy a 6 pack of Amstel ($5.). Back to the hotel just before it pours rain again… Perfect timing…

Dinner will be NOW in the attached restaurant.

There was a big party in the restaurant, but luckily we got our orders in first….The staff are all black and amazingly friendly and welcoming. Our waiter had a great sense of humor…. The wi-fi would not work..

K had a carafe of chard, I had water with lemon.. they brought some pizza/ Syrian bread wedges and a tray of cheese, minced garlic, and minced green peppers to spread on the warm bread..
Karen had the very tender veal special, served over pesto pasta and a medley of delicious fresh veggies .. I had the prawn special---1/2 kilo of tender medium shrimp sautéed in garlic and served with French fries. K had a crème brulee and I had a brownie with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream…. A delicious meal -- 278 R--~$45.

We are tired, so back to the room for tv and bed.

Tomorrow is our “moving” GTG… Selwyn will pick us up at 8:45. I have brought him two small cameras which he ordered and had shipped to me last week from Amazon.

We are anxious to meet local fodorites and to participate in the activities that Selwyn has planned for us.
rhkkmk is offline  
Oct 15th, 2009, 01:07 PM
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Ooh, Ooh, Ooh - this is just great. Thanks for the on site, real time (well, almost) travelogue.

I so loved Cape Town, and have even corresponded with Selwyn about a return trip (which may never happen,) so I'll travel along with you.
taconictraveler is offline  
Oct 15th, 2009, 01:20 PM
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Springtime in Cape Town sounds appealing. Will you be heading down to Simons Town and the jackass penguins? Franschhoek in wine country is a worthwhile place to spend a day -- plenty of shoppes to keep K busy. (You're missing a delightful weekend of cold rain in Boston.)
DonTopaz is offline  
Oct 15th, 2009, 04:17 PM
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Don, I sent the cold rain from Michigan. They had it all weekend long here while I was in BOS enjoying the (mostly) sunny skies. Tonight for a treat, we're supposed to have sleet! (I didn't intend that to rhyme, but hey, let's go with it.)

Smeagol, dear, no one in their right mind would ever think you a witch. B&K have described you in the loveliest terms, and I trust their judgement.

B, off to not a bad start, I think things will pick up considerably after you meet up with Selwyn. Sounds like you're a bit disappointed with your hotel, but things could be worse...you could be anticipating a sleety evening...I'm chalking things up to jet lag, and hope you & K enjoy your next Fodors GTG on a different continent than the last one.

bookchick is offline  
Oct 15th, 2009, 10:38 PM
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we're off for the day with selwyn and other fodorites... should be very interesting
rhkkmk is offline  
Oct 16th, 2009, 09:31 AM
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BC -
Smeagol is offline  
Oct 16th, 2009, 10:59 AM
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Thanks for another start to what I believe is going to be a fabulous report, I too have followed you from SA (been to Argentina three times), then your recent trip to Russia (which we also want to do) and now this.....which is where I'm thinking of planning for next Spring.

Sounds like all is going well.....happy travelling!
owlwoman is offline  
Oct 16th, 2009, 04:08 PM
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Smeagol-That would be about 224 Kilometers. maybe he'd fall asleep in the car. Now, you Africa and Mideast Fodorites can feel the pain usually reserved for us on the Asia Forum.

BTW, it snowed in Boston today. October 16 and it snowed! Unbelievable.
Gpanda is offline  
Oct 16th, 2009, 08:36 PM
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Waiting for more of your escapades. Gpanda really misses you but hates to say so
cigalechanta is offline  
Oct 16th, 2009, 10:46 PM
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i have a next report segment almost ready... we spent a fabulous day with Selwyn Davidowitz yesterday and our mini, very mini GTG..

We visited a township which was a real eye-opener and several other sites...
this morning we will begin our drive around the cape... its a fabulous day...

details to follow...
rhkkmk is offline  
Oct 17th, 2009, 01:57 AM
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more, more, more...
Hanuman is offline  
Oct 17th, 2009, 08:09 AM
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Yes, what happened to the rest of the day's activities with Selwyn? If you can't tell the full story than you shouldn't start at all.

Have fun. Bring back some of that wine. .
tengohambre is offline  
Oct 17th, 2009, 11:31 PM
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Friday Oct 15

Morning came very early after naps the day before and general clock adjustments…. I slept quite well, but K claims to have been awake for 2 hours during the nite..
In any case we went downstairs for breakfast about 7:30.. I had a cheese/mushroom omelet, and K had eggs benedict.. both were delicious and a great start for the day..

Our GTG day was to start about 8:45… Months ago, there had been a posting asking if there had ever been a GTG in Capetown. From this post a GTG was developed and 7 of us signed up… We were quite excited to meet Selwyn and the others…. Selwyn arrived in his comfortable van and informed us, after introductions and hugs, that we would be only 4 for the GTG as two other parties had had to cancel… We were disappointed, but were nevertheless happy to participate with a reduced number. We drove to pick-up the other member—Kurt… He lives high above the city in a lovely neighborhood… Come to find out both his wife and selwyn’s are professors at the same university… Such a small world..

After some winding through the city, with a full narrative by Selwyn, we got onto the highway heading out of town, towards the Afrikaans Monument, the only monument dedicated to languages in the world.. A visit here is truly unique both for what it represented (negative) and for its grandeur and originality. It sits on a hill surrounded by a lovely garden. We loved visiting this site. It helped us to understand much more about the SA’an history in the 20th C and before, as related by Selwyn. Kurt, btw, is a transplanted American, but shared with us a wealth of info on SA as well.. At the beginning of our visit S sat with us and shared tons of info about SA history and its people… We did this over tea and delicious carrot cake ( not as good as Karen Kimball’s Karrot Kake, however). The monument is located in Paarl, once the center of the Afrikaans movement in this area.

Back on the highway, we headed to Stellenbosch in the center of a wine producing area and one of the best universities in SA. Selwyn is an alum… We drove through the university and even visited a huge rugby field where team members were practicing.

I should have noted that every place we looked the scenery was magnificent….mountains/hills, wildflowers, vistas, the sea… We now understand why people love the Capetown area… We also got spectacular views of Table Mountain, the flat mountain overlooking C.

Next we headed for the highlight of the day, a several hours visit to Kayamandi Township. This township houses 14,000 approximately, in what is best described as largely deplorable conditions. Many ‘houses’ have no electricity, running water or sanitary facilities. Selwyn has been working with the residents for many years and is well received by the town folks. This place is amongst the worst poverty we have seen in any place… The kids are very cute, friendly and loving, as are the adults. We visited a butcher—no refrigeration… a green grocer at the road side… we drove by open or oil can fires where food was being cooked. There were lots of idle people as there is little work… It seemed so odd to us as the township is surrounded by lush vineyards…
Our first major stop was at the home of Lilly Ngwexana, an up from the bootstraps miracle lady. She had prepared a delicious “local” meal for us… Quite a feast actually. She also runs a homestay in her home. First we had a bean and corn soup, then a curry chicken stew and finally the main meal of roasted chicken parts, a pumpkin and corn veggie dish, spinach and onions and a spicy veggie kalaka mix dish, plus homemade steamed white bread… WOW, was this good!!
For this the charge was 220 R/2 persons. During the meal she told us her life story which was intensely interesting… She has been written up in newspapers for her life story and culinary ventures.. She is simply charming. I think she is best described as a hard working woman activist, in the best sense of the word. After lunch we said our good-byes to her and drove around the township, observing the intense poverty and idleness of the population. Some housing is made of concrete and wood, but most is tin scraps, old lumber and any other type of “permanent” materials that can be scraped up. Everyone was clean and happy on the outside anyways, but you could feel a certain unrest inside them…

We made many stops. We visited the bleak insides of a few houses. Some had running water, some not. We spoke at length to one man and his family inside their house, where 8 people ‘exist’. Many had tv’s as their only form of entertainment. This is very close living! The family of 8 that we visited share their sanitary facilities with 49 other people. It is located about 500 feet in back of their shack down an alley. There are communal clothes washing tubs in a central place also. Their house has no running water and one of the teenaged children carries water jugs on her head from a central location daily… No hot water at all….

Eventually we made our way to a small youth center which Selwyn funds. They currently serve about 30-40 kids from 8-14. Many of these kids are “sponsored” by outsiders. Education is the goal, but it’s a hard road I think. In the afternoon they are given time to do their homework in the spacious building and then they have recreation like dancing for fun and a different kind of learning…..They performed for us doing dances from local to the tango to the waltz.

After this visit we picked up apples that Selwyn had ordered when we entered the township. We drove to a central location where the van was surrounded quickly by small children. We did not just give out the apples, the kids had to work for them. They were given plastic bags and had to look around the area for trash and at the end return to the van with a bag of trash to get an apple. During this time we visited two “houses”. As reported above the conditions were bleak…

We returned to the van and the kids were waiting. One of the older girls went and got a small wheel barrel and each kid gave Karen their trash and Selwyn gave them each an apple….Lesson learned… do a good deed and be rewarded.

After this we left the township and headed back to capetown. We were dropped off at our hotel where we had left about 11 hours earlier---exhausted, but enlightened..

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant---huge individual pizzas….

Afterwards I typed part of this, K went to bed and I crashed shortly after that…
rhkkmk is offline  
Oct 18th, 2009, 12:35 AM
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Saturday--- a day to drive the peninsula

We woke to bright sunshine…Breakfast downstairs.. We now have become very friendly with the charming black waitstaff, especially with “pleasure”, a wonderful young woman who brings our breakfast each morning… Her name is Portia, but her normal reply to everything is “pleasure”…

We have a couple of sources for our full day drive around the peninsula. Karen, with suggestions from Kurt and Selwyn has decided that we should drive from east to west. Later we decided that especially on the west side this is the best decision as your views are more spectacular.

Driving is very easy. They of course drive on the “wrong” side of the road. Our car, which had only 32 miles on it, is excellent and holds the road well…

We traverse the city once again to reach the N-2 to the N-3, both fantastic roads.

We pass small towns and the sea is constantly on our left. Our first stop is in Kalk Bay, where we see people standing along the road side looking out to sea with cameras and spy glasses at hand…. We pull over and join them. Between us and the water are a fantastic wild garden of shrubs and flowers, tended by volunteers, and the railroad tracks. But in the bay are a pod of whales frolicking---4 we think. We spend quite a bit of time there…

We continue along reaching Simon’s Town, a lovely Victorian seaside retreat. We continue to the south and see signs for Boulders Beach, the penguin reserve. We park and pay our entrance fees of 35 R each, which seems steep, but later decide that the facility is fantastic and well kept. There is a small visitor’s center and raised wooden walkways which lead down to the rocks (boulders) and the shore where the birds are found. The scene is fantastic with a lovely fine white sand beach, huge smooth boulders, surf and magnificent houses built up from the shore. You watch the birds from the walkway, maybe 6 feet above them. There are hundreds of birds and maybe thousands more offshore on another huge boulder… I have tons of pictures. This is an enjoyable stop.

After this, we return to Simon’s Town in search of lunch. We easily find parking on the main street and with the help of the ever present “parking guard” we park. The guards are black men who are self appointed parking assistants. You pay them a small fee and they “watch” over your car while you are away. They wear a distinctive vest. We have found them everyplace except in garages, for instance they were in the parking lot at the penguins….

We headed down towards the harbour on foot. I looked back and right above our car hung a balcony with restaurant tables on it…BINGO… lunch….The restaurant and the store below it are called The Meeting Place. The main interior room looks more like a lounge, with white wooden furnishings, tables and couches. Bingo. The balcony over looks the main street and down to the harbour. Karen orders a shrimp salad plate and I order a spicy sweet chicken wrap… YUM. After lunch we check out the store downstairs and a few other places. We buy the best shortbread cookies bordered in chocolate… Time is fleeting so back into the car.

Soon we come to the entrance to the Cape Point National Park. We pay our entrance fees of 150 R/2.

The landscape comprises about 6 differing floral kingdoms, from lush scrub to arid rock. Wildflowers and flowering shrubs are everywhere… WOW. The roads are good. We drive to the end, Cape Point, but decide not to go up (or should I say, I decide)… We double back to the side road we had seen to the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern point in Africa---Selwyn says this is not true… Here we get out and enjoy the sea and surf, towering rocks and peacefulness, with only a few others until a huge bus arrives.

We take pictures here with “flat Stanley” for our grandchildren.

In a couple of places we see wild animals…. Ostriches, with babies, and a small cow like creature with horns… a few birds.

We continue with fabulous views all along….Finally we reach Chapman’s Peak Drive, a fabulous narrow drive high up cut into the rock… This has been closed for over a year and only very recently reopened…. So we are among the first to visit. At the end there is a toll of 28 R. Money well spent. Along the way there are small beachside communities. This is without a doubt the most fabulous seaside cliff drive we have ever taken!!! Beth you would have died…cliffs of hundreds of feet drop off from roadside.

We continue along until we reach the outskirts of Capetown, not far from our hotel.

We returned to the hotel to freshen up and prepare for the kind invitation we have received from fellow Fodorite Maeri (Capetownfolks) to come to her house for drinks and to view the sunset. She lives in a lovely home high above the sea overlooking the whole city. She and her husband prove yet once again what a fantastic group fodorites are. We bond immediately. She is very enthusiastic and welcoming. Her 17 year old daughter and younger son are poised and friendly. Bruce, the husband is a delight.
We share some SA champagne, lots of good chat and a lovely time including a great sunset, which she had ordered especially for us.

Later we motor into the city and head to the V&A waterfront complex for a delicious dinner at Balducci, one of their favorite casual haunts. We have our first local fish, Yellow Tail. A very pleasant evening added to a wonderful day… It doesn’t get any better than this.

We part after making a date for tea on Sunday. Karen leaves with a ton of suggestions for shopping from the women.

Tomorrow, we plan to ride the open air bus around the city, shop and wander the city.
rhkkmk is offline  

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