Trip Report- Capetown/Garden Route

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Sep 20th, 2004, 07:15 AM
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Join Date: Jul 2004
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Trip Report- Capetown/Garden Route

Day 1- Arrival into Capetown

We stayed at Klein Bosheuwel, approximately 2 minutes from the Kirstenbosch National Gardens- great location. The accommodations are lovely. Immediately Nikki, the owner, takes me on a tour of several rooms on the property for me to choose from. All are lovely, but I immediately take the option with the bath in the corner surrounded by windows and an inviting view of Table Mountain. We take a tour of the property and all of the gardens that Nikki and her husband have carefully cultivated.

We are off to Kirstenbosch to take in some of the national botanical treasures. We stop at the tearoom, where I get scones and a chocolate milkshake (delicious) and my companion goes bold ordering a sandwich with ?chunky cheese.? As it turns out, the cheese is actually cottage cheese.

We dine at Capetown Fish Market, where I select prawns and linefish for my dinner. Prawns are a safe choice, while linefish was the catch of the day. After asking twice, I?m still not sure what type of fish it is, but it had the consistency of salmon, just white, with a strong fish taste. It was fish, with no distinct flavoring. The prawns were more flavorful, but I was happier with the simple vegetables and rice. I was somewhat surprised about the blandness of it all- nothing distinctly tasty or different than a basic grilled fish in the United States. I did have a Sauvignon Blanc from the Vederland vineyard, which I did not enjoy much at all.

Monday, August 30, 2004
Day 2- Workshop at Kirstenbosch

Tony and I awake after 8 hours feeling rested for the time being. We had downstairs for breakfast, which is a lovely spread of cereals, yogurts, and fresh fruit. The housemaid/cook also prepares eggs, bacon and toast for us. We are stuffed and appreciative of the personal attention. Our host gives me rooibus tea, typical of South Africa, and instructs me to impress my co-workers with my own bags during teatime. I gladly accept.
Lunch is from the café at Kirstenbosch. I inadvertently order chicken salad on a croissant- although not knowing that it was indeed chicken salad- very tasty with pineapple!

Nikki makes arrangements for our dinner at Lupos, a restaurant not far from the guesthouse and grants us explicit directions and instructions for tipping the car watcher. , which is much appreciated.
Along with a set menu, the restaurant offers a buffet of Cape Malay/Mediterranean inspired cuisine for R110. I enjoy many of the different selections- sampling a variety of different items- all unique to our taste buds. Our favorite was a sweet potato, squash, and green leaf salad tossed with honey mustard. The house Sauvignon Blanc for the evening is much improved over the previous nights. Tony and I split a highly recommended dessert, which is a chocolate pie type confection with a chili graham cracker crust. Very rich and very unusual. I have never had to drink that much water from eating a spicy dessert. Lupos is definitely a restaurant that I would go back to!!! It was wonderful.

Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Day 3- Tourism in Capetown

Tony and I decide to try and take the cable car up to Table Mountain, weather providing.
The morning reveals perfect weather, and armed with directions and maps, Tony and I are off to the mountain. We drove along the coastline, which was lovely. Tony drove, so I had a lovely view along the way. I saw the infamous Twelve Apostles Hotel?.the location is very unique.
At Table Mountain, we took the cable car up the mountain, which was pretty nice.

After descending back down, we drove to the VA Waterfront, so that Tony and I could do some shopping. We had another nice lunch at a seafood restaurant, Baia, with some Portuguese flair. I had a wonderful zucchini and leek veloute and some prawns, which were good. The house Sauvignon blanc as well (of course). We did a little shopping- not exactly great deals in the area, but cute stuff.

We ate dinner at Jake?s, another recommended restaurant courtesy of Nikki, after being unable to find the Italian place she recommended. I had a spinach, mushroom, walnut phyllo starter, which was excellent. For my entrée, I ordered chicken duxelle with a honey mustard sauce, which was fabulous fabulous as well. I haven?t eaten so much food that I liked in a long time. For dessert I ordered Cape brandy malva pudding- which is a drier bread pudding type concoction. It was pretty good, but nothing compared to Tony?s deep fried ice cream, which was tremendous!

Wednesday, September 1, 2004
Day 4

We worked during the day, which suited us fine, as the rainy winter weather finally appeared in Capetown.
Dinner was arranged at Madame Zingara?s. I tried their infamous chocolate chili steak, which was different (to say the least). The starters were fabulous, the entrée was just alright. The ice cream/fruit/meringue dessert was definitely the least pleasing dessert of our trip thus far. I wonder if people just go there for the bohemian/eclectic atmosphere, or the crazy hats they get to wear. Tony and I definitely agreed that the entrees and desserts were not as spectacular as at the other restaurants where we dined. In general, I think the large group of us (about 20) thought the atmosphere was lovely, the appetizers divine, but the entrées just alright.

Friday, September 3, 2004
Day 6

Our final day of working! My husband arrives and our vacation is soon to begin!
We depart for Sanbona Wildlife Reserve immediately following the conclusion of the workshop. We arrive at Sanbona in the evening, and are greeted by staff with warm hand towels. We stay at Khanni Lodge, which has only 4 rooms for guests. The lodge is beautiful and Jonathan and I are impressed with this ?free? weekend getaway. We are quickly shown our room, including the outdoor shower, which is impressive. We have a secluded patio area with a view of water and the mountains and vegetation in the reserve. It?s very relaxing. We head quickly to dinner, served in the dining room, along with our companions and Reyno, the ecologist at the reserve. He applied for funding from Conservation International, so he gave us great attention and there was significant discussion about CI and his work on the reserve. Dinner was good, but not fantastic, as Jonathan and I can hardly remember what it was when writing this 2 days later.

Saturday, September 4, 2004
Day 7- Jonathan's writing

Our wake-up call is at 6:30 with breakfast at 7 and the morning game drive soon after. Breakfast was the South African/English standard that seems to be the same everywhere. After grabbing our jackets for the chilly morning ride, we were off with my colleague and her husband with a ranger. On our first drive, we were thrilled to see springbok, gemsbock, wildebeest, more dusseys, Egyptian goose, and other birds. The highlight of this drive was a close encounter with 4 lions. At one point our land rover vehicle was within 5 meters of one of the males. Quite incredible.

After the morning drive, we head to the secluded patio off our room and relax on the chairs, listening to nothing but frogs and birds in the background. We enjoy watching an African darter (bird) dive for fish and dry its wings. We nap in peace.

Reyno, the ecologist at the reserve who was giving us special attention, took us on an extensive afternoon game drive, highlighted by baboons, more oryx at a much closer distance, many zebras, eland (of oryx origin) hippos, klipspringer, ostrich, mongoose, ground squirrel. We went to see two cheetah in the boma, awaiting release into the reserve. We got a good look at the zebras, including an expectant mother, as we drove down into the part-time river basin. Since the dam was knocked out over a year ago there had been little rain leaving a dried-out river basin. Since it is often underwater, this is the only place in Sanbona where off-roading is permitted.

Overall we were extremely impressed by what animals we did get to see, especially considering that Sanbona is a 54,000 hectare property with a uniquely appropriate quantity of animals (spread very thin compared to other game parks).

Sunday, September 05, 2004
Day 8

This morning sightings included a male lion in the North, mouse, the Secretary bird (apparently not seen often), malachite sunbird among others. This morning?s game drive was particularly frigid, but our hopes held off the rain long enough. Jonathan became accustomed to driving on the wrong side of the rode by driving the return trip to Capetown. We are staying again at Klein Bosheuwel, but in a less enjoyable room as before- and overall, a less enjoyable experience at this guesthouse. Dinner is at a pasta/pizza spot next to the Pick ?n Pay grocery store where we buy shaving products for Jonathan (after having destroyed his electric shaver Saturday at Sanbona) and the correct visitor?s power adapter.

Monday, September 06, 2004
Day 9

After the standard breakfast, we were off to the Waterfront and Robben Island. After the 30-minute ferry ride to Robben Island, we board a bus to tour the island. On a sour note, while attempting to take a picture of the limestone quarries, we notice that the memory stick in the digital camera is no longer in the camera- and with it, the 75-100 pictures of our trip. We are disappointed and realize that it?s probably gone missing permanently.

After the return ferry ride, we stop at Harrie?s Pancakes. We order milkshakes and pancakes with cinnamon/sugar and banana/caramel- a healthy lunch!
We head to the photo shop in the pricey mall area to find another memory stick. We end up buying a whole new digital camera with a much better zoom. We don?t entertain the idea that we are getting a good deal.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004
Day 10

We depart Capetown for the Winelands, driving through Stellenbosch en route to the town of Franschoek. We stop at the Huguenot Chocolate factory for some chocolate for others, and ourselves and look at various shops nearby. We head to the Huguenot Museum and read some history stuff, until we get hungry for lunch. Lunch is at La Petit Ferme, which is highly recommended and only open for lunch. We each have a glass of white wine from their vineyard and have a phyllo starter with goat cheese, sun dried tomatoes, caramelized onions and mushrooms- which is very good. For entrees we order the popular rainbow trout and a chicken dish with goat cheese and potatoes. Both dishes are very good. We top it off with vanilla pod crème brulee- all for under $45.
We head to Haute Cabriere for wine tasting and taste their sparkling wines that they are known for. They are alright in general, and Jonathan likes one sparkling wine enough to purchase. We don?t particularly learn anything new from the wine cellar tour, as our guide isn?t able to answer my question or Jonathan?s question.

We head to Plumwood Inn, our guesthouse in Franschoek for the evening. After checking in and chatting briefly with the owners Roel and Lucienne, we arrange for an evening reservation at Le Bon Vivant. As all the vineyards and wine tastings have already closed, we head to our cozy room where we drink some water and eat some of our chocolates while watching some random television programming.

At Le Bon Vivant we sit fireside and watch the chefs prepare our meal. There is only one other couple in the restaurant. Jonathan ordered the Surprise five-course meal. We were both given a little ravioli stuffed with vegetables and chicken, which was a tasty starter. Jennifer ordered the 3 soups, fried bleu cheese starter and a chicken entrée. The 3 soups were prepared in little pitchers and consisted of chicken broth, cream of potato with salmon, and a cucumber cream based soup. The cucumber soup was really, really good and we were pleased to see that Jonathan?s second course consisted of that course. Jonathan?s first course was a smoked salmon, which he enjoyed tremendously. The fried bleu cheese croquettes were served with fabulous pears. Jonathan?s third course was a fish-like cake with a shrimp tempura. His main entrée was venison, which he thought was extremely good. Jennifer?s chicken was surrounded in broth with vegetables and good, but not particularly exciting or unique tasting. But we were both extremely full from the multiple courses along the way. We both had the surprise dessert, which was three little different desserts. It consisted of an apricot sorbert with a fortune cookie type shell, a cone of chocolate mousse, and a bon bon with chocolate lacing- all very tasting, and light, small servings. We had a bottle of Bellingham Rose wine, which we really enjoyed. All this for R352 or approximately $70 with gratuity.

Wednesday, September 8
Day 11

Today we finally did some real wine tasting. At Franschoek Vineyards we were able to sample a wide variety of wines from several different vineyards. For R20 total we were able to sample 10 different wines, and ended up purchasing a few (including a bottle of the Bellingham Rose that we had the previous night.) Our next stop was Graham Beck Vineyards for another tasting. We sampled all that we wanted of their line and ended up purchasing a champagne, a red wine that matures best after about 10 years, a white, and an extremely popular dessert wine. From there we began a long drive to Mossel Bay. We suffered some confusion over which way was supposed to be the scenic route (under directions from Roel, from Plumwood Inn), started off on N2 back to Capetown for a few kilometers, and endured a light lunch at rundown roadside establishment before reaching Mossel Bay. We?re not sure but we think the actual name was ?Restaurant.?

Once we found our way to our destination at African Oceans, we were absolutely delighted by our accommodations: a spacious suite with king-size bed, kitchenette, bathroom with extended tub & stone shower, ocean-view balcony, and a garage parking space. Thus far, this was the surprise of the holiday ? particularly considering that it was one of the cheapest rooms we had booked. We closed the day with a mediocre (poor) dinner at the Lighthouse restaurant located at The Point of Mossel Bay. Jonathan?s sole didn?t have much going for it, while Jennifer?s prawns were quite good, until listed on the bill at R160 ? what an outrage. The restaurant supposedly had on the best views in the country?we didn?t agree.

Thursday, September 09, 2004
Day 12

We rise early and take a stroll along the beach. We also enjoyed seeing the wide variety of homes along the beachfront and the unusual landscaping. After breakfast, we headed to what we thought was a whale watching boat trip. After problems with the African Oceans staff (which first booked us on the shark cage adventure, and then changed it to the Seal Island trip) we eventually departed on the Seal Island trip because whale watching wouldn?t depart until later in the afternoon, if at all. This one hour round-trip boat ride took us around a small rock island that is home to somewhere between 3000 and 4000 seals. Once we got close enough to see the seals, the views were incredible.

After a decent lunch at a pizzeria at The Point (which has probably a better view than the previous evening?s Lighthouse view) we were on our way to Knysna. We went slightly off of the beaten path and through a roadblock of cattele to take a couple photos of the ?Map of Africa.? The shorter than expected drive took us to Tonquani Lodge, where we were once again surprised at our accommodations. The two-bedroom suite has one bathroom with a tub and one with a stone walled shower. There is a personal pool outside on the lower level, although the temperature will probably not be warm enough for a dip.

We drive around the town of Knysna. We decide on dinner at 34 degrees, which is not quite a restaurant, not quite a deli, according to its advertisements. We thought it as both a restaurant and a deli. It also has a little shop attached to it, where we purchased a few items.

Friday, September 10, 2004
Day 13
After a breakfast of pancakes (cross between crepes and normal pancakes, but mushier and much smaller, we head to the little area of Knysna where locals have stands selling handicrafts. Jonathan shows his bartering prowess (aka willing to pay list price), while I nail down some fair prices on a few items that I wanted to buy. We head to Plettenberg Bay, the neighboring town of Knysna. Here we go on a monkey ?safari? at Monkeyland. I agree that it is an unfortunate name for the sanctuary. We sit down for a light lunch before the walking safari and are greeted by many different monkeys intending to steal some of our chips. We are given a water bottle to squirt the infamous terrorist (thieving) monkey away. We see a great deal of monkeys and lemurs and it was a pleasant experience.

After Monkeyland, we are off for our ocean safari- with the specific intent of trying to find all the whales that we keep hearing about. This ride is one of the highlights of our trip for me (Jennifer). We book with a company that has permission to come within 50 meters of the whales, and one that is partnered with a dolphin conservation research center. After speed-boating our way up the coastline (which had us giggling), we set out to search for marine life. We again see many more Cape fur seals, but are eagerly scanning the ocean for whales and dolphins. We are never able to capture a picture, but we saw a great number of bottle-nosed dolphins.
Soon after we catch sight of the top of a Southern Right whale. Jonathan and I are ectastic and I?m thrilled to pieces when it actually proceeds to swim right underneath the boat. I get a lovely shot of its callosities on its back, so now I am a happy camper. We see more and more blowholes. We never get a perfect picture, or see a whale breach, but we are pleased with the experience nonetheless. To end the boat ride, the boat does a kamikaze entrance onto the beach, which shocked the two of us. It basically just means that the boat powers up very fast and heads to the beach at a great speed and runs ashore.

We head back to Tonquani and debate about where to dine for supper. I have a recommendation, but Jonathan takes us to another location at an establisment on the Heads. The dinner is terrible, and Jonathan barely touches his own food. We decide that he?s not allowed to make anymore meal choices, as he is definitely 0 for 3.

Saturday, September 11, 204
Day 14

We check out of Knysna and head for Tsistsikamma National Forest for our treetop canopy tour. Jonathan enjoys himself, while Jennifer is somewhat disappointed in what we see and what we don?t see.

After a light lunch at Tsitsikamma, we head to our last location of the trip- Port Elizabeth. Today?s driving obstacle were the hoards of baboons in the road. This was much more pleasant than the two stand-offs with charging cattle en route to the Map of Africa earlier.
We arrive to our guesthouse, Lemon Tree Lane, where we have booked the executive room. The room is lovely and we again have no complaints about the accommodations or size.

We quickly head off to the Boardwalk to do some final purchasing of souvenirs for family and friends. For supper, we dine at Wicker Woods, which we thoroughly enjoy. We have a half liter bottle of sparkling wine, a bottle of white wine, veggie springrolls, tomato and pumpkin soup, cauliflower soup, Cajun chicken breasts, fillets of springbock, and chocolate springrolls for not much money at all- approximately $60. We are very pleased with the service and the personal attention of the chef. We leave pleasantly full.

Sunday, September 12, 2004
Day 15

Our final day of touring South Africa!
We begin the morning with a hasty breakfast, as some miscommunication about timing between the guesthouse and Schotia has us running behind schedule. We are picked up for our final game drives. We decide to book the full day combination drive with Schotia, rather than self-driving at Addo. With the grass and shrubs being so tall, our little rental car would have made viewing very difficult.
The first game drive is at Addo National Elephant Park. Here we see two herds of elephants, kudu, warthogs, lovely birds, and various antelope. We are pleased to see anything as the weather did not cooperate for prime viewing of any animal.

After a light lunch, we are driven to Schotia Game Reserve, a private game reserve that specializes in evening game drives for the best viewing of the lions. The first game drive in the afternoon reveals more gemsbok, giraffe, red hartebeest, wildebeest, bushbuck, duiker, grysbok, impala, jackal, vervet monkeys and zebra.
After our tea break, we head out into the sunset for the lions on the reserve.
We spotted a lioness with two cubs early on, which was lovely, and allowed for some great pictures. Next we were off to find the male lions, one adult and 4 subadults. We definitely found them. They were lying in the road as we approached. We stopped the car and the lions, most specifically the adult, came to inspect us. He was probably within arm?s reach of me. The other subadults (nearly full grown), similarly inspect the car, while one lays down in the road directly behind us.
At this time the vehicle completely dies and won?t start again. The guide attempts to let the vehicle roll down the hill a bit to get it started, but the lion behind the jeep begins to roar. I keep getting asked if it?s still there, so I?m just leaning a bit trying to see. It continues to lay there. Meanwhile, all the rest are disturbed and begin to circle the car. Our guide gets out of the vehicle, making noises and shining lights to get the lions to move. We all get antsy and one particular person fears that that the lions are ready to charge. Everyone tries to get him to radio for help, but he?s convinced that he has it under control. After some tense 10 minutes of having huge male lions pace within feet of the vehicle, we finally roll back enough down the hill to get the vehicle started again, while (thankfully) the lion rose from the road as we reversed towards it.
The guide continues to point out springbok and other ?tame? game but the rest of us just sit in silence, not particularly caring about seeing more antelope, but more intent on mulling the last few minutes.

Back at the camp we have a very good dinner of venison stew, great rolls, veggies, other stuff, and some sort of bread pudding for dessert? and beverages of choice. All in all, we saw a lot of animals? but it wasn?t nearly the authentic experience that Sanbona was.
Unfortunately, like Botlierskp, this private reserves brings in a lot of non-native animals including giraffe, and some deer from Vietnam. It?s almost like a zoo experience, which is disappointing.

We head back on the drive to Port Elizabeth, for our last night in Africa. I think we?ll be back?

jen79 is offline  
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Sep 20th, 2004, 08:27 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Sounds wonderful, thanks for the feedback.
Am glad you enjoyed le Bon Vivant - we thought the food and service excellent, especially for the prices.
We also enjoyed our stay at Plumwood Inn - the rooms aren't huge but we felt the location, the attention to service and the peaceful nature was just right. Did you enjoy your stay?
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Sep 24th, 2004, 05:34 AM
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Posts: 49
We did enjoy our stay- but it was just amazing to see what the difference in rooms was from one town to the next.

We had absolutely huge places in other areas for much less money.

I do feel like we had wonderful rooms with less tremendous service and then an alright room wtih better service.
I'm still not complaining though, because everything was extraordinary.
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Sep 24th, 2004, 07:18 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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We found that the space per price ratio improved the further from Cape Town we travelled...
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