SOUTH AFRICA WESTERN CAPE & LONDON TRIP REPORT, SEPT/OCT 2013
Dear Madiba, it's spring in South Africa! The rainbow nation is reborn! The Western Cape has burst into a riot of wildflowers. From the foothills of the Cederberg to the West Coast National Park, the fynbos is ablaze with color. Tortoises, hidden beneath the flowering fynbos, venture out into the open. Wild game graze in the beautiful Postberg section of the West Coast National Park. In the foothills of the Cederberg, a young snake scoots down a hole lightning fast, and my biologist husband wisely resists the urge to grab him by his disappearing tail! Each morning, I hear the call of birds singing unfamiliar songs.
I sit on my stoep on a hillside at Oudrif, isolated in an attractive river valley in the foothills of the Cederberg. The river valley lies in shadows, while the sinking sun lights a yellow blaze atop the green fynbos on the hillsides. Listen to the river shush and sigh. She invites me to forget the past. There is only this moment, in harmony with the mountain fynbos. There is only this silence, waiting on the banks of the river, serenaded by the birds. There is no safer place to lay your secrets bare.
Another time, another place. In the little Karoo, on another hillside, I sit on the stoep at Oulap Country House near de Rust. My view is of the valley below, with farms, tiny white blips of sheep below, and the hills. The purple, rust, and green hills speak to me in the sunlight of mid-day. The silence gives birth to words. Thoughts stir. Poetry can be a word soup. A bird insists “blee blee blee.” The dog likes company, even mine, and is blissfully unaware that I'm not a dog lover. He chooses to snooze on my foot. Barefoot in flips. Fur on skin. Hot day. The hills fold us in their arms.
What is my story? How do people, struggling alone, cry out in poetry from their broken hearts? From their healing souls? Am I healed when I find my voice? Must the pain be deep enough before poetry bursts into flower? How deep is the well of joy from which poetry springs?
Thorns in the rose bushes.
Bees in the honey.
Tears in the silence.
How does the writer find her way?
Why do I wait for the world to realize I am full of the very wonder, joy, and sassy energy that was discouraged long ago?
South Africa has been a feast of flowers, skies that cry and then smile joyfully in the sun, friendly people, jobless people at a crossroads waiting to be needed, Sauvignon blanc, and gourmet food to feast on. The Western Cape of South Africa is magnificent in the springtime! I'm mind-boggled. I'm rich. I'm naked.
Dear Madiba, there is an eternal spring in the hearts of the people of the rainbow nation, because you had the vision to leave them a legacy of hope. I never had the honor of shaking your hand. But everywhere I went in South Africa, when I shook the hands of your people and looked into their eyes, I saw your suffering, your perseverance, your forgiveness, and a shining joy of hope for the future... I saw all of this reflected in the eyes of your countrymen and women in South Africa. I often heard your name on their lips. Your story speaks to all of us who have felt imprisoned during dark times. Farewell, Madiba, our father. You have inspired hope throughout the world.
My biologist husband and I spent 3 weeks in the Western Cape of South Africa in the spring of 2013 (September & early October). We rented a car, and traveled as far east as de Rust in the Little Karoo, as far north as Paternoster on the West Coast and the foothills of the Cederberg, and as far south as Cape Point on the Cape Peninsula. We fell in love with the Little Karoo, the Cederberg region, the west coast, Cape Town & the Cape Peninsula. The Overburg was our least favorite region, but this was partly due to the rainy & cold weather, and the fact that it was too early for spring to reach the Overburg. We wish to return to South Africa, and focus one future trip on the west coast as far north as Namaqualand in the spring. We also want to focus a future trip on Cape Town and the Little Karoo areas in the spring, and possibly add either the Great Karoo or the Garden Route. We will definitely fly into Cape Town again, as it's a wonderful city to visit, surrounded by beautiful countryside!
We stayed in 6 accommodations in the Western Cape of South Africa, and we loved all of them except for 1. Rouxwil Country House wasn't a good choice for us, although it works for many return visitors. It's a working wheat & sheep farm in the middle of the Overburg, near Caledon. For us, Rouxwil was much too isolated, and for my biologist husband, it didn't work out well to be staying on a farm. I was also disappointed that the owners of Rouxwil were too busy working the farm to offer all of the services that had been offered by email and on their web-site. But the food was excellent at Rouxwil. If you don't mind staying on an isolated farm, and you can get by with very spotty internet and are already familiar with the Overburg area, then you may like Rouxwil. But we were disappointed, and if we return to the Overburg, we would stay on the coast, probably in Hermanus, as most of the sites we wanted to see were near the coast, and we found the location of Rouxwil to be inconveneint for us.
We loved the other 5 accommodations in the Western Cape of South Africa, and highly recommend them! See the list below.
I have also included the hotels for our London sleepovers. We flew from LAX to Cape Town via London, with a 3-night sleepover in London. Loved the Marylebone Hotel in London, which has an amazing breakfast. On the trip home, we flew from Cape Town to San Diego via London, with a 2-night sleepover in the Marriott Hotel London County Hall. This hotel has an ideal location, but the food at breakfast was just average, and the beds were uncomfortable and worn, and the hotel was overdue for a renovation at the time of our visit. Because of the uncomfortable beds, I won't stay in this Marriott again until they get new beds.
OUR HOTELS & Flights: (September & early October 2013)
Flew LAX to London on Air New Zealand
47 Welbeck street, London
(Excellent breakfast...charming location...small rooms, so book the biggest room that you can afford. Frits was the great hotel manager at that time, but I wrote to him recently to thank him belatedly and learned he has moved to the Kensington hotel in South Kensington...Highly recommend the Marylebone!)
Flew London to Cape Town on British Airways
Majeka House, Stellenbosch, South Africa
(Amazing gourmet restaurant, Makaron; fantastic breakfast; luxurious rooms; great mid-sized indoor heated pool.)
Ah! Guest House
1 Mosselbank Street, Paternoster, South Africa
(cozy & charming cottage near the sea in Paternoster; Arnold is a great chef; Highly Recommended!)
near Clanwilliam, Cederberg, Western Cape, South Africa
Bill & Jeanine Mitchell
(Unique; 1 ½ hour drive east of Clanwilliam in the foothills of the Cederberg very eco-friendly; great retreat for writers, artists, and nature lovers. Highly Recommended!)
An African Villa
19 Carstens Street, Tamboerskloof, Cape Town, South Africa
(Wonderful base for our visit to Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula; Highly Recommended; I award the 4 hands-on owners a zillion stars for their kind and generous help with my itinerary by email before we arrived, and for their kind hospitality throughout our stay!)
Oulap Country House
near de Rust in the Klein Karoo or Little Karoo, South Africa
(It was an honor to meet Jans Rautenbach and to stay at Oulap on a hillside near de Rust in the Little Karoo. Great base for a day-trip to Prince Albert and the Swartberg Pass. Highly Recommended! Internet is sometimes down, so email more than once if you don't hear from Jans. )
Rouxwil Country House
Overberg region, South Africa
(Rouxwil was disappointing for us... The location was inconvenient, and the owners were quite busy running the working farm, and not able to offer the services which had been promised by email and on their web-site. But the food is excellent, and the rooms are lovely.)
Marriott Hotel London County Hall
County Hall, Westminster Bridge Rd., South Bank, London, UK
(Excellent location; breakfast is just ok; mattress on bed was old and worn, and they couldn't find us a room with a better mattress...but they said they were overdue for a refurbishment at the time of our visit. I won't stay here again until they get new beds.)
British Airways: Flew home from London to San Diego
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SOUTH AFRICA WESTERN CAPE TRIP REPORT: SEPT/OCT 2013
SOUTH AFRICA WESTERN CAPE & LONDON TRIP REPORT, SEPT/OCT 2013