Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Cape Town, South Africa

Craig Writes;
18/10/13 It was a long and uneventful flight but here we are in Cape Town in our 15th floor apartment complete with raging gale force winds and million dollar views. 

Aahh, nothing like the feel of the wind in ur hair, but not when ur just trying to shut the front door
Our stunning panoramic view

It was an eleven hour overnight flight which was time enough for four movies, two meals and not much sleep. Consequently, our first day was going to be very gentle. A partial unpack, buy some groceries and take a nap. 

19/10/13 It turns out the rental cars lighter jack is broken so it's not charging the GPS we had hired with the car. We have to go swap cars .While we're there changing the car over the nice young fella in charge at Thrifty gives us some tips on where to go, and, where not to go. The Stellenbosch wine region is picturesque and has some beautiful wineries and restaurants, a drive down to the Cape of Good Hope is definitely worth the effort, the N1 highway is very safe to drive both night and day, the N2 is good till you get past the airport then you may find that "they" may throw rocks at you or you may find burning tyres being rolled into the middle of the road. And that is during the day. He made a very clear point that you "NEVER, EVER go past the airport on N2 at night"
Point taken.

Our plans today were not going to take us far off the tourist routes. We headed into the Victoria and Albert waterfront area, affectionately known here as the V and A, for some lunch and a look around. Then it was a drive to Table Mountain where we took the cable car up to the top. WOW!!.

Those tiny little cabs hold up to sixty people

The views are spectacular from this massive rock, that at 260 million years old, is older than both the Andes and the Rocky Mountains. We were lucky that the famous Cape Doctor had blown away the fluffy white blanket of cloud that seems to perpetually cover the peak. It was late afternoon by the time we were at the top and having not dressed for it, the wind chill factor bit almost immediately. We took the standard tourist path and drank in the stunning panorama that a clear day at the top offers before making our way back to the shelter of the cable car. The ocean was a glistening Liberace cloak of daimantes and the stretch of barren mountain looked bleak and forbidding. As we headed back a massive billowing tide of slowly rolling grey clouds start to move in from the south devouring the view. A good time to start back.

Captivating views

The mist begins to roll in

That was it for today. By the time we finally rolled in the door of our apartment it was 7pm and time to sit, enjoy a glass of red, nibble on some tasty local goats cheese,  salted crackers and enjoy the setting sun.

Another stunning sunset

20/10/13 We took to the roads today for a drive out to the Kirstenbosh Botanical Gardens. While not bowl ya over material they were interesting enough. Highlights were a real live Bird Bath, built in 1806 by Colonel Christopher Bird. I'm not making that up. In 1806 he built a bath, in the shape of a bird, to capture the free flowing spring water that cascaded down the mountain.

Colonel Birds bird shaped bird bath
The sculpture garden was, uumm, interesting?  

One of these is not a statue

The 240 million year old petrified tree stumps were amazing. It was like they'd gone passed stone and almost had a metallic feel to them.

Really really old wood

There was a prehistoric section with plants species that had been around since way before the prehistoric era and have survived to this day because they are too damn tough and prickly to eat. The Dell was our favourite. A beautiful canopy of trees formed a shaded and cool spot to sit and enjoy the surroundings and the fun wooden carvings.

It just seemed like the right thing to do at the time

We headed off down the eastern side of the Cape on our way to Cape Point and stopped into the Black Marlin for some lunch.  Winner!! A lovely seaside restaurant with sweeping views of the Indian Ocean.  We got three lobster bisques, four seafood mains, three glasses of excellent chardonnay, two coffees and a huge desert. Damage = $65.00. 

Where the hell was I going to fit this

Perth is such a rip off.

From here we battled more insane drivers on our way to Table Mountain National Park. It seems the driving #&ckwits here are in a definite demographic. Namely, Audi, BMW, and Porsche drivers, all with fast cars and slow wits. 
The roads to the Cape are festooned with baboon signs warning of their deviant behaviour. 

We can't say we weren't warned

The waiter at the Black Marlon warned us the clever little buggers were quick and given the chance they'll be inside your car going through your glove box before you can say, aaarrgghhh. All the way through the park and all the way up to the stunning views of the Cape Point lighthouse, we saw not one. We reluctantly took a photo of a bronze baboon and baby at the bottom of the funicular resigning ourselves to the fact that was as good as it was going to get. 

 A sign of things to come

Driving out of the car park we saw a small furry bundle on the side of the road throwing a plastic coke bottle around.  Aawww how cute. 

This little fella sucked us right in

We pulled over and half a dozen other cars behind followed suit. By the time Christina had gotten out of the car to capture a memorable "kodak moment" relatives of the little juggler had appeared from everywhere.

Talk about an ambush

Without any warning an army of hairy bare butt bandits came charging. They were all over the place, stopping traffic, bouncing on cars, and bashing on windscreens.  Christina had gotten out on her side to take a photo and didn't see this big male charging across the road towards her. I yelled and she just managed to get back in and close the door before he launched himself onto the bonnet and bashed the windscreen. 

One minute he's there

Next minute he's here, on out bonnet

He  left a small crack that would later creep halfway down the windscreen and cost us the price of a full replacement.  Suddenly the door handle starts to rattle and the door begins to open. Another of the clever little bastards had snuck around the back and was trying to open the door from the outside. We slammed the door shut, locked it and decided that maybe it might be time to get out of Dodge.

A beautiful Bengal
21/10/13 What a fabulous day today. We drove out to Paarl to visit The Drakenstein Lion and Chimp sanctuaries. The lion sanctuary is full to capacity with a number of lions on a waiting list. Apart from the "standard" lion there are also three very rare white lions and two Bengal Tigers. 

We seemed to have got their attention

Would that thin wire fence really stop them , geez you hope so

The lions have all been saved from circuses and private zoos where they have been unbelievably cruelly abused. Broken jaws, busted eyes etc etc . Some were also taken from the closure of the local Tygerberg Zoo and some from Canned Hunting facilities

Makes me proud to be a Leo

Canned Hunting is without doubt one of the most evil and cowardly acts a human could perpetuate on an animal. These regal and majestic creatures are either captured, stolen, poached or in most cases these days, purpose bred, to be put in a cage where wealthy people can come and shoot them from behind the safety of a set of steel bars.  The carcass' are then gutted and the skins stripped, prepped and packaged for the "mighty hunter" to take home as a trophy for their wall.
It is a gutless and despicable act. Unbelievably, it is so popular now in South Africa that there are specialised breeding programs in these hell holes to get lionesses pumping out as many cubs as they can. 
Shockingly, this is a perfectly legal practise.
The going rate is $20,000 for a "standard lion and up to $200,000 for a rare white lion. I'm sure it comes with a pre written script to describe the" heroic and dangerous adventure the "hunter" undertook, their life on the line as they fought an epic man vs beast battle. Arseholes!  I'll state here that I find trophy hunting involving the slaying of an animal by shooting in the wild from a nice safe distance to be just as  gutless and despicable. Hunting where the animal is killed for food or clothing is a different story. 
All trophy "hunters" are Arseholes. That's my final word on it.  

The Lion Sanctuary is a magnificent place for these creatures to live out their final days.  They are here till they die. They are fed and seen to if they are sick but outside of that there is no human contact. Their enclosures are big enough for them to go unseen if they choose. As the overwhelming majority, if not all, have been taken from captive environments and not the wild, their chances of survival in the wild would be greatly reduced if they were let loose.

There are only a half a dozen chimps at the chimp sanctuary. Two males sharing one area and a group of four sharing the other. They are very cheeky animals, and very clever. They have the reasoning and intelligence of a seven year old human child. And, interestingly, the keepers at both sanctuaries say they are extremely dangerous and that they would rather face a charging lion than a rampaging chimpanzee. 

I know he's supposed to be really clever but he was peeing in the drinking pond, go figure

This old girl had a blankie, so cute

The fact that they are tremendously strong, 3 to 4 times strong than an average adult male human and able to strategize makes them extremely unpredictable and capable.  They are also the only other living creature, besides humans, who kill for pleasure.
Might be time to watch Planet of the Apes again.

We had lunch just down the road at the Fairview Winery.  It was that good and that amazingly cheap that we started thinking about coming back to South Africa just to stay in the wine producing areas.  The area is very picturesque and the wines and the food were superb.
It was a brilliant day to be finished off with a glass of wine, a beautiful sunset and some home delivered pizza for dinner.

Words cannot describe..

22/10/13 The wind had subsided to a mere gale force this morning so I decided to go for a walk along the Cape beach before breakfast.

This was our local beach

It was an opportunity to reflect on our travels, collect some smooth black rocks I suspect are  just well washed lumps of coal and watch a seal body surf the dumpers right up to the shore line. It is our last day in Cape Town and although we had done everything we wanted to we couldn't just sit around admiring the view so off we headed to Stellenbosch, the wine region recommended by our helpful car hire captain. It's a charming little town but there really isn't a lot to do in the area.  An old general store called Oom Samie Se Winkel is a bit of an institution here and was by far the most interesting thing to do. It is a huge maze of a shop that has an eclectic range of stock, some of it looking like it dates all the way back to it's opening in 1904.

Oom Samies's was a total blast from the past

You can buy anything here from a pair of pre war nylons to a brace of dried fish to a 1936 Portuguese Tokay. It was a remarkable stroll back through the last century.  Our original thoughts were to find another winery and duplicate the dining experience of yesterday but we had all had a late breakfast followed by coffee and cake in one of the little cafes so lunch was looking a long way off. As tempting as it was to wander the streets for a few hours waiting for our appetites to return we decided to bank the memory of our outstanding lunch experience yesterday and go find a McDonalds to do a bit of internet surfing. Then it was back to the apartment and a total pack as the alarm was going off at 5am the next morning.
Safari here we come.

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