Touching Elephants

We awoke in our room with the magical view over Knysna, having had a good sleep. We were given breakfast on our private terrace, and watched as the sun broke through the clouds and gave superb views. The owner of the B&B had made scones and bran muffins for our breakfast, and they were very good.

We were already packed up, so after eating, we drove 20 minutes to the Knysna Elephant Park. A conservation park established in 1994, it has dispelled many myths about the domestication of African elephants. They take on orphaned elephants, and rear them, but also train them to be able to interact with humans. We arrived at the park and watched a short safety video, then were taken on a tractor to meet the elephants. There were 6 of us, and we had each bought a small bucket of food to feed the ellies with. As we arrived, the herd came hurring over to see us. The rangers had got the elephants used to standing behind a rail in order to get fed by hand (so that they dont crush any people in their eagerness to get fed), and all but one naught chap lined up nicely. The rangers soon had the wayward elephant behind the rails, and we fed the grasping trunks our bits of fruit and veg. The elephants were very insistent, and soon had eaten up everything.

Ellies2 Ellies4Once fed, Lena and I joined a ranger who introduced us to various of the animals, who range in age from 6-25 years. We observed a few simple safety rules (mostly so as not to get crushed (the ellies don’t understand the concept of giving way, or considering size), and had a wonderful time touching and talking to the elephants. The majority were ladies (5 ladies and 2 young bulls), and they were patient, and very happy to be stroked and petted. It was really fantastic to be this close.

After our visit, we drove north again, stopping at the Storms river bridge to have a walk along it. It sits 120 meters above the canyon, and is very breathtaking. We are now at Port Elisabeth Airport, waiting for a flight to take us home to Durban.

Cape Town to Knysna

Travelling day today. We had a lovely breakfast on the hotel terrace for the last time, then loaded up the car and drove out of Cape Town. The weather was worsening as we drove – we had the perfect weather for our visit to CT, but today remained quite drab, and we had spots of rain along the way. We had opted to drive the Garden route, to take in some of the lovely coastal and forest sights, but today was about rain and cloud.

We stopped at Mossel Bay for lunch, and had a look at the Post Tree – an ancient tree that was used by the very early sailors in the late 1500’s and well into 1600’s, as they sailed around the tip of Africa exploring the routes to the East.

Arriving at our B&B at Knysna, we were shown to our room, which has the most stunning views straight across the lagoon and between the Knysna Heads, the cliffs that guard the inlet from the sea. Knysna room viewUnfortunately it is pretty misty, so our views are limited, but we could still see well enough. We took in the views for a while, then went for a drive to the heads, and stopped at a supermarket for some food. We are both pretty tired, so just got some fresh salad, and ate it in our room looking across the lagoon, along with some lovely biltong that we bought today on the road. I think that we have had enough of eating sumptuous meals every day, and just wanted to veg out a bit. Todays drive was about 500 Kms.

Now just doing a bit of inter-netty, and will probably have an early night before our next leg of the journey tomorrow, ending up in Durban tomorrow night. Exciting!

Last day in Cape Town

Today was our final full day in Cape Town, and we were feeling the effects of having been running around madly and cramming things in. So, this morning, we decided to take things a bit easier. After breakfast we stayed in and caught up on photos and blogs and things. We then went to the Waterfront, and did some shopping for necessities such as flip-flops, sun cream and travel adapters.

We then got onto the city bus tour, a “hop on, hop off”  open top double decker, which covers much of the central city and surrounds. It was a pretty grey day, and when we set off we couldn’t even see the mountain. The tour was interesting, and well narrated. As we progressed, much of the cloud lifted, and at times we could see almost the whole mountain. It got very sunny and quite warm on top of the bus, so we hopped off at Camps bay, and had a lovely lunch overlooking the beach. We then had a walk along the beach, picking up shells and avoiding the sales people peddling their wares.

The Tablecloth, the cloud covering often seen on Table Mountain
The Tablecloth, the cloud covering often seen on Table Mountain

We got back on the bus for the final part of the trip back through Seapoint. We had a wander through the craft market in the Waterfront, and nearly bought quite a lot of things, but space is a premium for us at the moment. Back to the hotel, we had a swim again in the beautiful infinity pool that looks straight down onto the sea. Then a bit of a snooze, and dinner on the terrace of our hotel. The bay was beautiful at night, and we ended with a stroll along the pier. Back in the room we packed up, ready for an early-ish start as we head up the garden route, travelling north along the Indian Ocean, aiming for Knysna tomorrow evening

Coastal drive and mountains

One of the reasons that the Cape is so beautiful is that the geography is quite rugged. There are bays, mountains, inlets, flat areas, forests, wetlands and much more. the land shapes are very non-uniform, so there are many different weather patterns depending upon the shelter and aspect of a particular area. Some can be quite blustery and cool at any given moment, while a ten minute drive to the next area will provide a calm and sunny and warm environment. The geography also provides stunning views, so yesterday we picked up our hire car, did a bit of faffing about, and then drove down the Camps bay coast.

We aimed for Hout bay to start with, and had an easy meander with lovely views of beautiful beaches, spectacular homes, and blue blue sea. We then took the Chapmans peak drive, which is among the most beautiful in the world. It is cut into the rock in many places, and twists and turns with the mountain, giving countless “oooh” moments. We kept stopping for pictures and to catch our breath. The drive had taken us along the Atlantic coast, but Chapmans Peak drive took us over the mountains of the Cape Point, and down to the Indian Ocean side. This bay is called False Bay, and has quite a different look and feel. The Indian ocean is much warmer than the Atlantic, and this temperature differential can give rise to interesting weather phenomena.

Overlooking Hout Bay
Overlooking Hout Bay
View on Chapmans Peak drive
View on Chapmans Peak drive

 

Anyway, we stopped at Simons Town for lunch. This was a large British Naval base, and is still a key installation for the South African Navy. It is a pretty little town, and we had a pleasant lunch overlooking the bay and battleships. We headed further south down the coast after eating, but didn’t go all the way to the point, instead turning back and stopping just outside Simons Town at Boulders beach.

Boulders is home to a colony of penguins, and along with every Japanese and German tourist in the southern hemisphere, we parked up and walked down to the shelter to see the penguins. They are very cute looking animals, and we watched them doing penguin stuff for a while. We also bumped into the three Mexicans who we had met on our wine tour – they were leaving the penguins as we arrived.

Penguins at the Boulders
Penguins at the Boulders

After spending time jostling with the Japanese cameras. we drove northward around False Bay towards Muizenberg. We stopped here, and then visited various surf shops getting equipped for the sea. We were wary of leaving valuables on the beach while we swam, so we bought a waterproof wallet, and some straps for our glasses so we could wear them in the sea without fear of losing them. I had a bad experience many years ago in Spain, where I lost my glasses in the see, and couldn’t drive for 2 days while I waited for a new pair to be made by a Spanish optician. Costly, and wasted time.

Anyway, after we had visited most of the shops in Muizenberg, and added a hat for Lena to our purchases, we went to the beach. The Indian ocean is warmer than the Atlantic, but this far south, it is still quite cool. It took us a few minutes to build up the courage and immerse ourselves in the surf, but then we had a really lovely swim for about 20 minutes. There were a lot of people in the sea, and surf school with some young people trying to stand up on their boards. We swam and shrieked, and had a lovely time.

Drying off a bit in the sun and light wind, we then rove back to Cape Town, and popped in to the hotel for a quick shower. We then drove up (in pretty bad traffic) to the cableway station at the base of Table Mountain, and rode up to the top to watch the sunset. The day was really clear, and we were at the top about 45 minutes before the sun set, so we walked around to the different sides, taking in the fantastic views and pointing out places that we had been. Table Mountain stands just over 1 Km high, and is very unique in terms of its flora. It is on its way to being designated as a world scientific heritage site, and is one of the the most beautiful places I have been.

Sunset from Table Mountain
Sunset from Table Mountain
Us at Sunset on Table Mountain
Us at Sunset on Table Mountain

Lena didn’t enjoy the ascent, but was brave, and one on top was absolutely enchanted by it. About 15 minutes before sunset we settled down on some rocks with a fab view of the sea and sun, and watched while the sun sank in to the ocean. We (Lena) also took zillions of pictures. Once the sun had set we walked back to the cable station, and rode down to the bottom again, I think the car can fit 64 people, and only takes a few minutes. The floor of the cablecar rotates through 360 degrees during the short trip, which means you get a full view all the way around – a very good idea.

We drove back to the hotel, then walked to the Waterfront (Lena was nervous during the walk, worried that we would be mugged or kidnapped or worse), and had a great meal of spare-ribs, accompanied by one of the wines we had bought the day before on our wine tour.

Another great day in South Africa’s Mother City.

Wine tasting

Who starts drinking wine at 1010 on a Monday morning? Well, we did today. We had booked a tour, called “The un-pretentious sommelier”, and at just before 0900 this morning, we were collected from our hotel by a lovely guide, called Ferne. She already had the rest of our group in her minibus, collected from other hotels. There was a retired Scottish couple, and three young Mexican people, and us.

After a brief intro, we headed off towards the winelands. Ferne is very friendly and knowledgeable, and had the skill of being able to put people at ease – in other words, a perfect guide. She took us to four farms, each very different from the next, and made a magical day for us. The first farm we went to as called Anura, in the Stellenbosch region. We started with a tasting led by a chap who had worked on the estate for 22 years. We tried 6 different wines, starting with some whites (not my preference, but some were quite nice), and moving through the stronger reds, finishing with a dessert wine. We then were taken on a tour of the cellars and were shown the process by which wine is made and set aside in barrels. We had a bit of a walk around the gardens, which were very pretty, and then headed towards the next farm.

Wine tasting at Tokara
Wine tasting at Tokara

The second farm we visited was the most modern of the day. A beautiful new building, infused with art from local artists, Tokara felt a bit more up-market than the rest. We stood around a bar while being explained the various wines, followed again by a lovely pudding wine. We then were treated to an olive-oil tasting (they grow olives here, too), and ate the best Kalamata olives that I have ever had. Needless to say, we bought some oil and a bottle of olives.

After Tokara, we aimed toward Franschoek, but stopped after a few minutes to eat lunch at a little restaurant on the road. Lunch was great, I had a burger, and Lena tried bobotie, a South African speciality. Just to make sure we were kept in a compliant mode, the lunch came with a large glass of wine.

The wine-tasting team - our compadres for the day
The wine-tasting team – our compadres for the day

On into Franschoek, and another beautiful farm, this one called Solms Delta. A very old farm, it had been producing fruit rather than wine til the early nineties. We sat outside under a shady tree, and enjoyed the wines and commentary from another knowledgeable sommelier. The views of their vineyards were lovely, and we roamed around the grass barefoot, relaxing in the sun and again enjoyed gorgeous wines. Our guide had chosen this estate to get married on, and we certainly understood why.

Tasting wine under the trees at Solms Delta estate
Tasting wine under the trees at Solms Delta estate

The last farm we visited was in Paarl. The estate, Fairview, is very well know for both wines, and cheese. They keep around 800 Swiss mountain goats and make unusual and very lovely cheeses. This time our tasting was self guided – they gave us a list of the wines, and we could choose whichever we wanted to try. The experience also included unlimited visits to the cheese tasting counter. I think this was the best of the wines we had tasted all day – maybe because of the intoxication level, but we really felt these wines were our favourites, and we bought a couple of bottles. The cheeses were amazing, and we made sure we got our moneys worth from the tasting – we were also inspired to buy some of the other produce: a Tomato jam (I know!!!) and a honey/mustard combination that is heavenly.

Back at the hotel we had a swim in the beautiful pool which looks out over the bay. We were then collected by Adam, and his lovely girlfriend Louise, and went for a great steak in Seapoint. We were also treated to a very pretty sunset. Roni joined us as we finished, and we had another half hour of chatting, before retiring back to our palace.

The hotel pool, which sits directly above a 4 meter drop into the sea
The hotel pool, which sits directly above a 4 meter drop into the sea
With Adam and Louise
With Adam and Louise

 

Cape Town – Day one

Table of contents for Honeymoon - SA '13

  1. Cape Town, Yo!
  2. Cape Town – Day one

We woke up feeling much refreshed after our long day of travel. We showered, and went downstairs for breakfast, which was heavenly. The restaurant is mostly an outdoor terrace overlooking the ocean, with stunning views of the whole of Table bay. The food was brilliant, with lots of fresh fruit, cold meats, smoked salmon, eggs, fruit juices and much more. All tasted great. Mostly we just sat and stared at the ocean though, this place is simply spectacular.

The view at breakfast
The view at breakfast

After we ate, we got a lift in the hotel minibus to the Waterfront, a re-developed area that is one of the focal points for Cape Towns visitors. Lots of shops, food outlets, outdoor spaces, live music, and a colourful mix of people, this is situated in the Victoria and Alfred dock in Cape Towns harbour.

The view from the Waterfront towards Table Mountain
The view from the Waterfront towards Table Mountain

 

We did a bit of shopping, quite  lot of Lena going “oooh”, and walked around taking in the sights. After walking around or an hour or so, we decided to take a trip out to sea on a fast catamaran, which offered a guided tour for an hour and a half. The trip took us out to sea, all the way around to Sea Point and back. We had a marine biologist as a guide, and he was full of interesting information. The sea was quite windy for the first 10 minutes that we were out, but once we got around the harbour wall it settled down.

We say quite a few seals and dolphins, 2 whales (well, we saw their water spouts), and a few penguins. We also saw a lot gulls, terns, waves and boats. It was quite exciting, though many of the guys on the boat were more interesting in watching Lena try and sit like a lady whilst in a short skirt on a bouncy boat than actually appreciating the sea-creatures.

Our hotel from the boat
Our hotel from the boat

 

Lena on the boat
Lena on the boat

 

Seals in the sea
Seals in the sea

After we got back, we bought some food to eat on the go, and headed back to the hotel. We showered and went for a drink, and were joined a bit later by cousin Roni. It has been some years since we last met, and Lena hadn’t met Roni before, so we had a nice time catching up, and looking through our wedding album. after an hour, Roni’s son Adam joined us, and we went for a drive through some beautiful parts of Cape Town before heading to Table Mountain.

Our intention had been to go on the cable car up the mountain, but it was closed due to high winds, so we drove along the mountainside for a while , looking at the views over the city and taking pictures. We then drove down to Camps bay, had a stroll on the beach, and then had a lovely seafood dinner at a cafe overlooking the sea. Unfortunately the low cloud obscured the sunset, but we had a lovely time, eating and drinking and talking. We got a lift back to the hotel, and passed out on the bed with the lights still on, not having brushed teeth or anything. We woke up in the middle of the night, quickly sorted ourselves out, and went back to sleep. A good start to our holiday.

Cape Town, Yo!

Table of contents for Honeymoon - SA '13

  1. Cape Town, Yo!
  2. Cape Town – Day one

Yay. Our honeymoon is fully underway. We have just arrived in Cape Town, after a  very long two days. Yesterday we both finished work at lunchtime, and then had to think about what to pack.  Neither of us had really made any packing advances beforehand, so we slowly sorted out the house and packed our bags at the same time. Late in the afternoon we called past Richard and Sandra for a quick cuppa and to drop off a key, and then headed to Manchester Airport.

Courtesy of my now slightly diminished Radisson point collection, we stayed at the airport hotel. I dropped off Lena and the bags, we checked in, and then I took our little car round to the long stay car park. We had a nice meal at the hotel, and then retired for a few hours of sleep. I was too excited to sleep properly, and only had about 3 hours of actual sleep, while Lena managed a few more. We were up at 0315, showered and walked via the connected sky-way into the airport.

Checked our bags through to Cape Town (we flew via Amsterdam), we then went to the lounge and had breakfast. Boarded the flight to Schiphol, and a quick shot over the North Sea saw us land in Amsterdam at around 0815 local time. We went via the KLM lounge to try wangle an upgrade, but the flight was already full and we couldn’t move. However, we actually had really good seats, at the window right in the front of the cattle-class cabin, with loads of leg room, and a fab set of hostesses who looked after us. The flight is a long one, took us about 11.5 hours, and their is no easy way to pass this.

Lena is a poor flyer, very nervous, so I spent most of the flight with my hand crushed between her sweaty palms. The food was very good, the service great, the weather pretty smooth, so the flight was about as easy as it could be without being able to teleport.

We landed in Cape Town at 2230 local time. We were off the plane pretty quickly, through passport control, grabed our bags and being met by our driver all within 15 minutes. He was a convivial chap, who gave us commentary on the 15 minute trip form the airport to the hotel. We are staying at another Radisson, and courtesy of my loyalty membership (I stayed over 100 nights in 2 years in Amsterdam Airport Radisson while working there), we are being beautifully welcomed.

The porter who took our bags congratulated us on our honeymoon, and when we got to our room, which is lovely and has a sea-front view with a balcony, there were sculpted swans on a bed that was strewn with petals, a gift of some cheese knives, and a complimentary bottle of champagne. We were too tired to have the champagne, will do so tomorrow. We haven’t unpacked, also leaving that for the morning. Lena is asleep already, but I wanted to quickly write up this blog before retiring. Looking forward to a long sleep, and then exploring Cape Town starting in the morning.

These are the views from our room balcony:

Balcony view2 Balcony view3 Balcony view1

One more sleep (ish)

Excitement continues to mount. Today was the last full day of work – I have a few calls and some admin to complete tomorrow, and by lunchtime I will be finished work until December. We have decided to stay at the airport tomorrow night, as our flight is at 05:55 on Saturday morning, so we will start to think about packing once Lena gets home tomorrow early afternoon, get ourselves and the house sorted, and then head off on our South African adventure.

Ben is here tonight for a last supper (I made chilli beef ramen). Just doing some sorting out of photo-linking etc to make sure we can get our pics online when we are blogging about our holiday. Lena has become distracted by photos of our wedding, so I am writing a quick note here. I am pretty tired after a few busy days in London, including a company event and some good steaks and alcohol last night. Nearly bedtime, methinks…….

Less than a week now

We head to Manchester Airport on Friday. We are staying there, as our flight to Amsterdam-Cape Town leaves at 05:55 in the morning, so we gain an extra 90 minutes sleep that way. We are both finishing work at lunch time on Friday, then will get packing, and head to the airport.

We have started writing lists, buying toothpaste, batteries and extra knickers for the trip. We discovered that Lena needed a visa a few weeks ago, but fortunately that is now sorted out. I have to print out lists of hotel bookings, car-hire reservations and the like. We will be away for 3 weeks, and I am so looking forward to it, and have used my full project manager skills to make sure everything is arranged, in place and good to go.

I will try to keep a daily diary here of the trip, and put up some pictures – i guess it will depend on what we are doing, and if we have wifi wherever we are. Very excited!

One more Saturday

Well

my poor blog has been very neglected for ages. This has been a very busy year, but there is no excuse. I have missed out blogging about starting a new job, Lena qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, our wedding preparations, the wedding and surrounding celebrations, Lena starting a new job, The girls both moving into shared accommodation at their respective college/universities, Ben starting college in Leeds, my 50th birthday, and probably a few more bits and pieces that don’t spring to mind right now.

Anyway – in less than two weeks time, we are heading to South Africa for our honeymoon. We got married in June, and had a fantastically special time. We had visitors from South Africa, Australia, Russia, Latvia, Sweden and the UK. We shared magical moments, and memories for a lifetime were made. I might get around to publishing pictures on here, but they are all on Facebook, so go and take a look.

We have been saving and planning for over two years, and our holiday starts with a flight to Cape Town on the 9th. I hope to keep a diary on here as I have done for other trips in the past, so this post is to try and get me back into the habit of blogging. I will post again before we go, but needless to say I am very excited.

We still have the big event of Span turning 21 next week, which is quite a milestone. Can’t quite believe I have a baby who is 21, but I do. I guess my folks can’t imagine having a 50 year old son.

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