South Africa 2016

Posts from our early 2016 trip to South Africa and Namibia

Kulala Lodge – Day 1

I’m writing this while lying in bed in my tent in the middle of the Namibian desert. Mosquito netting around the bed, fan whirling overhead.

We had a lovely omelet (cheese, mushroom, tomato, bacon) for breakfast at the House on Olof Palme hotel in Windhoek. I managed to connect my iPhone to the USB port in our Ford Ranger truck before we headed out for our long journey out to the Kulala Lodge in the desert at Sossusvlei. That seemed to work very well, even providing us with music from my iTunes music library along the way. We missed a turnoff as we exited the city, but google maps led us back to the correct road in no time. We were expecting pretty good roads for most of our trip, but had been warned that the last few kilometers would require our “four-wheel-drive” option. So we were a little surprised when we found ourselves on gravel roads almost the minute we left the city. But that’s how it was today — gravel roads all the way. Five and a half, or maybe even closer to six hours of bouncing and jouncing our way on desolate gravel roads across what turns out to be a VERY large country!

I drove for the first section. The drive was actually not at all bad because the terrain and the scenery was so very interesting. We saw lots of baboons and kudos and other wild animals along the way. We went over a couple of winding mountain passes too. And we saw only a very few other vehicles on our road — and while that made cruising along at 100kms/hr okay, it also made you wonder what we would do in case of a breakdown.

We finally got to a service center and lunch break at around 1:30. At a corner named “Solitaire” there were gas pumps (we’ll wait to fill up our diesel truck on the return trip) and a small bakery. Freshly-baked desserts and drinks and we were refreshed enough to continue our cross-country bouncing.

We were getting close — our GPS was telling us that we were only 200 meters from our destination– but when we drove through the gates of what we thought was “our place” the security guard informed us that it was another 30kms to the Kalala resort. The final 20kms were indeed a bit rougher as we followed a single lane, lined on either side of the road by sharp rocks that had been painstakingly laid to act as a curb.

And then we arrived. Two people came out to meet us in our truck, offering wet towels and a glass of ginger beer as a welcome. We parked our truck and took our very dusty suitcases out of the truck box. We were led into the reception area and “Stella” introduced herself and gave us a little introductory talk. Then we were shown to our lodges. Very cool. Well actually, it was still very hot outside. But the lodges were ridiculously well-appointed for where we were in such a remote part of the world.

Soon we were back in the main building, enjoying a cool draft beer and looking out at the red dunes in the distance. After a short afternoon nap and a refreshing shower we were back in the lounge for a sundowner gin and tonic and a visit with one of the managers. Our guide for tomorrow morning’s early excursion to the sand dunes also came by to introduce himself to us.

Dinner was excellent. Although a chicken dish was also an option, all four of us opted for the “game steak” (kudu) dish. Starter, main course, wine, dessert and coffee. All very good–as was the conversation around the dinner table.

By ten o’clock we were all back in our cabins, getting ready for an early wake up tomorrow morning. I took half an hour to write my journal even though I’d have to wait for a better internet connection to post it. And then, lights out.

Kulala Lodge – Day 2

dune-panorama
The knock at our door came at 5:15am. “Good Morning! Here’s your hot water.” We got up and got dressed. Sue made some instant coffee. We went to the dining tent for breakfast. Our driver and guide, Mike, introduced us to Boo and Oliver, from Wales. They would be joining us on this adventure. At 6:15 we were in our 9-passenger Land Rover “paddy-wagon” and bouncing our way on the trail to the world’s third largest national park.

IMG_2156After passing through the park gates we were on a ‘tar’ road for the next 45 minutes. Mike pulled over every once in a while and gave us a little educational talk about rocks and animals and wind and rivers. Rivers? Not here! Not anymore. In the meantime quite a few paddy-wagons full of dune walkers were zipping by us. Oliver finally asked if it wouldn’t make more sense for us to go to the dune NOW while it was still not so hot (that IS why we got up so early,after all). Yes, okay.

This “dune” thing has become such a phenomenon, such a tourist attraction, that the dunes actually have names. Dune 45, Dune 47, Big Momma, Big Daddy, etc. We passed Dune 45 where there was already a long line of trekkers filing up the spine. No, we’re not going there; that is too easy, too gradual and not high enough. Our big ‘bus’ smooshed its way through some deep soft sand and finally parked under the shade of some dusty old trees near Big Daddy. At 359 meters it was positively monstrous compared to Dune 45’s 60 meters. We’ll hike up that one. Yeah, we’re tough.

And so we begin. It’s like walking on a very soft beach with deep sand where your feet sink in with every step–only uphill and along the crest of that hill. Your left foot takes a step, sinks a bit, right foot steps, it slides deeper — so you try to stay right up on the crest as best you can. And the first 100 yards are the steepest. But after that it’s not so bad. And the temperature is fine, maybe even a bit cool at the start.

We go along, single file. Soon Boo, Sue, and I have gone ahead of the rest of our group, although we can hear Robert and Oliver talking as they climb along behind us. We pass a few groups until we are making fresh tracks, ‘breaking trail’, onward and upward. Occasionally we stop and then Sue gets a sense of vertigo and it’s a bit tricky to get going again. But the view is grand, and it’s actually fun, not as difficult as I had mentally prepared myself for.

We get up to a height of about 120 meters and it’s time to decide if we continue on (it looks like the rest of the hike will be steep all the way to the top), or we stop here and “walk” our way down the smooth side of the dune. It’s around 10:00 and the morning sun is now switching to “bake” mode. We’re not stupid. We’ll go down here.

mud-closeupWhen we get to the bottom we are on the dry bed of a former lake. Now the ground is a pattern of gray shiny crinkly tiles. There are tree-sticks, old dried-out black acacia trees, slowly dying where they once used their 35-meter-deep roots to survive in this harsh environment. We take photos of the gray layer of sand, in front of another big orange dune, and a blazing blue sky with a few wispy clouds overhead. THIS is the Namibian poster shot. Ever since Paul Martens gave Sue one of his fine “dune” photographs around 25 years ago, we’ve wanted to visit this place and see it for ourselves. THIS is what we came here for.

dune with sue and rudyWe get back to the bus and have a cold drink. One or two more stops at other dune sites, and then we’re on the way back to the lodge.

Sue had a refreshing swim in the very cold water of the pool. We showered and headed to the mess hall for lunch. Vegetarian lasagna or pork schnitzel? Not bad.

Siesta after lunch. It’s about 40 degrees and WAY too hot to do anything. I didn’t think we’d be able to sleep but we did.

We went back to the main lodge for “afternoon tea” at 4:30. It’ll cool off soon.

Supper was at 7:30. The sun was just setting behind the hills in the distance. Tonight there was a buffet dinner. Tomato soup, potatoes, cauliflower in sauce, and a choice of lamb and beef steak. Not our best meal–the meat was too rare and too tough, but we’ve eaten far too much anyway. We’re not going to bed hungry.

We sat around the table and visited until we were the last ones in the dining hall. Another glass of wine? We went to our rooms at 10:00. Sue washed a couple of my shirts — hopefully they’ll dry by morning.

Back to Windhoek

A leisurely start to the morning. We both had slept at least nine hours by the time we got out of bed at 7:00. Eggs, bacon, toast and coffee for breakfast. Then we threw our luggage back into our very dusty truck box and began our five-and-a-half hour ride on bumpy gravel roads back to Windhoek.

Robert drove the first half of the trip. We again stopped at the service centre in Solitaire, although this time we filled up the truck with diesel and bought a few snacks for on the road. Arlene still hadn’t quite come to terms with the vegetable wrap from our visit here a couple of days ago.

At times the road seemed less bumpy now that it had on our trip down. But not always. We again saw quite a few wild animals along the way: ostriches, baboons, kudus, zebras, oryxes, Impala, and lots of big “sociable weaver” nests. There were a few more vehicles on the road, but for most of the trip it felt like we were out in the middle of nowhere all by ourselves.

We pulled into Windhoek at around 2. Back to our “House on Olof Palme” B&B. Parked the truck and checked in. Had a refreshing “Windhoek” beer and a little nap.

We ordered in pizza and ate it in the dining hall. We needed to check out early to catch our flight back to Cape Town tomorrow so we paid our tab and arranged for a morning coffee.

Back in our room we tried to watch a bit of CNN (yeah, they get that here!), but we soon tired of that same-old, same-old news cycle. How about some cricket? Meh! The wireless had more or less petered out in our room, so Sue read and I one-finger-typed my journal entry. Early to rise? Early to bed.

Windhoek to Cape Town to Hermanus

Just after midnight the power went off at our hotel, the House on Olof Palme, in Windhoek. In fact, the power went off in the entire surrounding neighbourhood. We woke up a couple of times during the night and the power was off all night. That meant no air-conditioning. That meant that when our 5:00am alarms went off, we were completely in the dark. Luckily Sue had packed our suitcase the evening before.

The woman of the hotel was up — and boiling water on her gas stove in order for us to have a cup of coffee before we left. I felt a bit sorry for her — this was beyond her control, happened relatively infrequently (according to her), and made her a little worried for her own security. Her husband was out of town on one of his regular ‘game-hunting’ trips; the rows of electric fencing around the top of the 7-foot wall surrounding her place was now dead — and although she had TOLD us there was not a lot of crime in Windhoek, you could sense that she was worried also for her safety.

Air Namibia aircraftWe backed the truck out of its parking stall in the dark and headed toward the airport. By the time we got to the filling station next to the airport and topped up the diesel in our tank, the morning sun was already warming up the day. We checked in. Customs again. We had plenty of time to sit in the big airport and have a coffee. While I was in the washroom the power went out. Total darkness. Lots of comments about this being the ‘worst airport in the world’. Finally the backup generator kicked in.

The flight back was good — hot breakfast, some black dude causing a big disturbance a few rows back, a bit of turbulence just before we landed in Cape Town. We disembark. Queue up for the passport control again. Pick up our luggage and walk out. I used my phone app to get an Uber taxi. “Head for Meeting Point #3.” I could see the little car icon on my phone driving around the loops, right near where the arrow showed we were. No car. Could not connect. Cancel taxi. Try again. Same, same. Other passengers around us walking around staring at the Uber app on their phones, then up at the signage, then around at the cars, then back to their phones. This is not working. Cancel again. This is pissing me off. I’m sure I’m getting charged for each of these cancellations. We walked back to main lobby and the first guy we see we order a taxi. He contacts James, a cab driver, and soon our stuff is in the trunk of the car and we are heading back into Cape Town to our apartment. The meter ticks along as James wants to make friendly. Don’t we want to hire him to drive us all the way to Hermanus (an hour and a half ride)? Much cheaper and better than having our own car. Bla, bla, bla… and the meter is ticking along at nearly DOUBLE what it should be! When we get to our apartment we scold him properly, and pay him 50% more than what it should have been.

Now we get a couple of sandwiches from Giovanni’s and have lunch in our apartment. Re-pack a bit and load up the small trunk of our Volvo. Robert and Arlene squeeze into the back seat of our 2-door, holding packs on their laps, and we’re off.

Happy hour in HermanusThe drive to Hermanus is amazing! WAY nicer than Sue or I recall. After we’ve passed all the shanty-towns that line the road from the suburbs of Cape Town to the airport, we pass through green fields, orchards and vineyards, over a mountain pass, past a golf course, through some beach towns, and finally end up in Hermanus. Our B&B is just a few blocks DOWN (closer to the beach) from Paul and Shirley’s house. We park the car, empty the trunk, register, get our rooms. Reconvene upstairs at the bar on a large balcony that gives us a clear view of the miles of white sand beaches just below us, and the green fynbos growing on the mountainside behind our place. Spectacular! Beer and wine is available on the ‘honour’ system here — take what you want, mark it down, pay for it later.

Back in our room Sue has a little nap. I finagle with my devices, trying to get everything plugged in with my various adapters and then fighting with a weak wifi signal. We Skype with our kids — doing our best to catch bits of what they are saying and looking at pixelated jerky images of them on our screen. Oh well, maybe tomorrow when we switch to an upstairs room we’ll have a stronger signal.

Paul & Shirley's yardAt quarter to seven we are all dressed up and heading up the street to Paul and Shirley’s for dinner. They greet us outside when they see us coming. For Robert and Arlene this is a visit to a former ‘home’ — they’ve stayed at this house for a couple of weeks twice before, about 8 years ago. We get a quick tour of the house and the yard — it is LOVELY. Paul has a wood fire going on his large braai outside, Shirley is making a salad in the big kitchen. We drink wines Paul has selected from his large wine cellar. After a short while we are joined by Meghan and Casper, friends of the Martens’s whom Robert and Arlene met and got to know on their previous visits here.

After an hour of barbecued ‘wurst‘ and drinks we go inside and are seated at the large wooden dining table. Potatoes, salad, chicken, steak — all done just right and so delicious. And we talk. Later we have dishes of assorted ice creams, followed by plates of cheese and crackers. It is a lovely evening and a lovely visit.

It’s after eleven when we say goodbye. We’ve sort of arranged to meet again, maybe do a wine tour with Paul and Shirley. The four of us walk down the street in the quiet darkness, back to our Lavender Manor Lodge. Tired. Windhoek to Cape Town to Hermanus. It’s been a LONG (we’ve been up since five!) but very enjoyable day.

Hermanus ‘cliff walk’

Breakfast at the Lavender Lodge is great: bacon and sausages and eggs any style and toast and fruit and coffee, etc. It’s going to be a week of Saturdays for the Nikkels.

After breakfast we went on our first ‘cliff walk’. Robert joined us, Arlene stayed in bed to try to sleep away her stomach problems. Our first stop was at a little ‘OK convenience store’ not far from our place, where I ‘topped up’ my phone card — so now I’m good for another month. We went back across the street and headed for the cliff walk along the ocean. We walked for 3 or 4 kms until Robert thought he’d better go back and check on Arlene. Sue and I continued. The walk was mostly paved or cemented path in and amongst the rocks on the shoreline, sometimes weaving a little farther away from the shoreline, back through the fynbos that grows in the wild here.

At one point we headed back to the main road for a short stretch, but soon we were back down along the shoreline. After just over 6kms we were near the end of our walk — and we’d arrived at what we believe is the very apartment block where we stayed in December of 2001, and from where we’d watched the big Southern Right whales playing

Marine Court apartments
Marine Court — we rented an apartment here when we stayed in Hermanus in 2001

in the bay with their calves.  I took a picture of the apartment building, for “old time’s sake”.

We walked around the little markets in this part of the city and finally we sat down under one of the big umbrellas at an outside ‘food court’ and had lunch: Hake and fries and a draught and a cappuccino. We did a bit of scouting around after lunch, even checking in with a real estate office to see how /what are the opportunities for us to perhaps rent a furnished apartment for 3 months here next winter — just checking.

After that we started on our walk back to our place. It took about an hour and a half to get back home, but once we did we made ourselves comfortable out on our balcony (over looking our parking lot, but looking out to the big mountain behind our place. Robert came up and joined us for happy hour.

After drinks and a quick shower it was time for supper. I’d called Lizette’s Kitchen to reserve a table for four for 7:00. We took the car the 10 blocks down our road and parked in the parking lot. We got a table — and a good thing that we’d reserved because the restaurant appeared to be fully booked. We had just put in our food order when Sue noticed Paul and Shirley getting off their little Vespa motorcycle outside. Ho, ho!

They join us, and the six of us move to a smaller room in the back of the restaurant for dinner. Paul and Shirley have brought 3 ‘new’ bottles of wine with them — this is a ‘tasting’ evening — they are making some decisions regarding what kinds of wine they will want to export to Manitoba — that is the business they are in. And tonight we will get to help them ‘choose’!

We share a lovely evening with them — and their wine. When, at around 10:00, we get up and say goodbye, we’ve arranged to run up a trail on the mountain behind our place together with them tomorrow after breakfast. And we’ll be going on a wine tour of some of the wineries they deal with on the day after tomorrow. This will be fun!

We all squeeze back into our Volvo 2-door and head back to our house, 10 blocks back up along 10th Street. I park the car and soon we’re joined by Robert and Arlene back on our patio. The evening is cool, but very comfortable. We can hear the crashing of the waves, and sometimes catch a whiff of the salty sea from our place up here, too.

By eleven the Dycks have said goodnight, and it’s Rudy and Sue alone in our first floor hotel room. We have a small old-style Sony TV — we watch a bit of CNN. I write in my journal and Sue reads her iPad until we are both tired and ready for bed. The cool breeze is blowing through the slatted shutters of our ‘patio door’. Let’s hope it’s a good day weather-wise tomorrow — I’m looking forward to climbing that big mountain.

Over berg and dale

After another fine breakfast at the Lavender Manor Lodge we got ourselves ready for a hike up the ‘Overberg’ mountains just up the street from us. Paul and Shirley had offered to lead us up to the top — Robert and Arlene decided they would not go up today and rather wait until Arlene was feeling a bit better. We also wondered if we should go — it was very misty outside, the top of the mountain was shrouded in dark grey clouds, and there was a bit of rain on and off. Maybe the trail would be too wet? So we sent a text to the Martenses — no, they were ready to go!

We set off up the road at 9:30. The road leads up to the base of the mountain and from there we took a short turn and then followed the path as it ‘zig-zagged’ up to the top. The mist was cool and a bit uncomfortable — we were soon sopping wet, water dripping down our faces and shirts soaked right through — but this was still a lot more comfortable than a super hot day!

The fynbos vegetation was lush and green. We visited all the way up, so the actual climb was probably less challenging than what we had imagined — but TALKING and hiking at the same time does present some extra difficulties. Not to be deterred, I just kept yapping away for most of the morning hike.

We got to the pole at the top of one of the craggy hills — time for a photo before turning around and heading back. It actually cleared up a little as we made our way down, but by the time we dropped off Paul and Shirley at their house and got back to our B&B it was raining again. So we had to take off our shoes and tip-toe up to our room and get showered and changed. We hung our wet clothes on the adirondack chairs on our rooftop patio and hoped the sun would come out sometime later today so things would dry out.

In the meantime, Robert and Arlene had put on their raincoats and walked the cliff walk all the way to town. Now we got a text asking if we’d like to join them. It was still raining and I figured they would probably want a ride back. So as soon as we’d showered we hopped into the car and drove to the point. We found the Dycks sitting at the Auberge Burgundy restaurant. They were waiting for us.

Sue and I shared a plate of calamari. The rain seemed to have stopped, but it looked like it might fall again any minute. We all got into the car for the ride back to our B&B. Back at the room, Sue had a bit of a nap. I worked on my Namibia desert photos — selecting and uploading them to my journal entrees from a few days ago. I had a LOT of photos, but managed to whittle things down to a more manageable size. (You can check out my photos here — Kulala Day 1 and here — Kulala Day 2).

Soon it was time for happy hour up in the lounge. Then we got our jackets and headed out, down our street to “The Grotto Beach”. We found our restaurant, “Dutchies”, and got a table for four inside. We ordered. The girls had kingclip, a local fish, and thought it was very tasty.

After dinner we walked back up the hill to our hotel. I got a text from Paul and Shirley — we’re all set for a ‘wine-tasting’ excursion, leaving from their house at 10:30 tomorrow morning. Yes!

Wine Tour

Another great ‘Saturday’-style breakfast at our B&B — scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes. Then at 10:30 we squeezed into our car and drove up the five blocks to Paul and Shirley’s house. From there they led us out of Hermanus and out into the surrounding countryside for a day of wine-tasting. Shirley had made a few cheese-cakes which she was delivering to some of the vintners whose wine the Martenses import into Manitoba.

Our first stop was at the Bouchard Finlayson Winery. There we were introduced to the owner, Mr Peter Finlayson. He was working in the back, but when asked if he would do a tasting with us he immediately left what he was doing and took us to the tasting room. He asked for the ‘big’ glasses, even though we’d been instructed not to swallow, to use the ‘spittoons’ on the table or we might not make it through the day! The Martenses credit Peter with ‘opening doors’ for them when they first started in the import business. He sat at the end of the table and called for one wine after the next. He had a quiet demeanor, and as we tasted the various wines, gradually working up to some very expensive vintages, he would make comments about each one and ask for our ‘opinions’. Peter reminded me of Ernest Hemingway, and it felt a bit like we were in a movie, sitting around a big wooden table, with the godfather at the head.

Bouchard Finlayson

Because of the big traffic jam on the main highway into Hermanus, we had changed our route this morning. To get to the next winery we took a ‘shortcut’, or at least an alternative road. We drove through some very beautiful country, but quite bumpy gravel roads, for about 45 minutes. After passing through the tiny town of Bot River, we turned into the driveway to the farm and the home of Luddite Wines. A big truck was just delivering a load of grapes to the wine press. It is harvest time in the wine region; we are visiting wineries at their busiest ‘work’ time of the year.

We parked and walked up to the home of Niels and Penny Verburg. They welcomed us warmly and introduced us to their friends, Melissa and Ewen, who were joining us for a homestyle dinner. All ten of us sat around their big dining room table. Niels, who came in from the shop wearing big rubber boots and grape-stained shorts, began pouring glasses of wine for us to taste. He also told us how he started making wine 16 years ago, after working with wine-makers around the world. Niels is a big burly, sunburned, cheerful South African. He LOVES making wine ‘the old way’. Less technology, less additives and manipulation and interference of the process, and smaller batches. His newest wine, Saboteur, is a bit of a surprise hit, and there is a sense (and maybe a bit of regret) that it may force the Luddite winery to scale up their production. Niels said he didn’t care about the money, he just wanted to live a good life on his farm, make wine and play golf. I believed him.

After several glasses had been poured it was time for lunch. Penny served the delicious cold tomato gazpacho soup she’d made. Fresh bread. Two huge platters of salad with barbecued steak, tomatoes, feta on a bed of lettuce. Paul and Ewan were sent down to Niels’s wine cellar to select a dessert wine to go along with the homemade cheesecake Shirley and Paul had brought. We felt like we were part of a big family here — everyone sharing stories, laughing and talking, and getting to know each other.

Niels’s day had started off a bit late when the first truckload of grapes arrived at noon instead of at 9 in the morning. He needed to get back out there. So we said goodbye to our new friends and headed out to the shop to have a quick tour before going on to our next winery. Again, Niels took time to show us the workings of his small-scale operation. As busy as he was, there was always time for friends, even if they are new ‘friends of friends’ as we were.

Niels and Sue

Our last tasting was at Gabrielskloof. Peter-Allen is the son of Peter Finlayson, the owner of the first winery we’d visited today. Paul and Shirley describe him as one of the new young ‘rock stars’ of the South African wine industry. Again, he was busy working in the shop when we arrived, but immediately volunteered to take us for a tasting and a tour, not doubt due to the promise of some of Paul and Shirley’s homemade cheesecake. We again sat around a large wooden table in one of his big luxurious tasting rooms and began another round of swishing and spitting. We each had 3 big glasses in front of us, and Peter-Allen poured 3 whites followed by 3 reds for us to taste.

Then we left the tasting room and headed for the ‘factory’. Where Niels’s operation was all-natural and back-to-basics, this one was all high-tech and big volumes. We walked through 3 floors of all-steel refrigerated vats and new oak barrels and crates and palettes of bottles. Peter-Allen pulled a big syringe of wine from assorted barrels and squirted a sample into each of our glasses for us to taste. Spit into the gutter, move on, do it again. I think we tasted nearly a dozen wines at the Gabrielskloof Estate.

Gabrielskloof

Paul and Shirley had one more winery to visit (and deliver cheesecake to) but it was after 4 o’clock and the Dycks and Nikkels were tired from all that ‘hard work’ and ready to head back to our hotel. We retraced our route through the countryside and got back to Hermanus around 5:00. Just in time for happy hour in the big common room over-looking the ocean. For once we could sip our glass of wine and not spit!

What should we do for supper? Our lady suggested Harbour Rock and offered to call them to make a reservation for us. So at 7:30 we were at this busy ocean-front seafood restaurant at the ‘New Harbour’ in downtown Hermanus. The girls ordered fresh prawns, Robert had a seafood platter, and I had sushi. We were nearly finished our dinner when my phone chimed — a text from Paul and Shirley: Casper and Meghan have invited all of us to their house for dinner Friday night! Wow! How can you help but not fall in love with this country? Good food, great wines, and marvellous friends!

Shopping in Hermanus

Sue and I slept in this morning. We almost missed breakfast, and that would be a BIG mistake! Although Sue gave me a little talk this morning about how I would need to make friends with our treadmill again when we go home, I could not help myself and ordered the full breakfast (eggs, bacon, sausage, mushrooms, tomatoes, and white toast) when I sat down at our table. Everyone else showed some restraint, so I felt a bit bad about that.

misty-mountains-behind-our-lodge
The sun tried to work its way through the clouds and mist that hid the mountains behind our B&B from view for much of the morning.

It was raining again when we woke up and it looked like it might be cloudy and rainy for much of the day. What to do? Well, one old guy (by that I mean a LOT older than us) and his wife, upon leaving the breakfast room, recommended we go visit the Lembu Art Gallery in town. Why not!

When we met the Dycks downstairs, all ready to go — they were wearing their snazzy red and green rain jackets and had hiking poles in hand. What’s this? Are we walking to town? No, let’s take the car.

We parked near the center of town and headed for the art gallery. Not NEARLY as exciting as Mr Old Guy made it sound, although Sue did come out with a little shopping bag in her hands. We wandered around for a while, and then decided that this would be the perfect time and place to look for rain jackets for Sue and me. And after not too much ‘shopping’ we found some!

Well, after all that ‘work’ it was time for lunch. We’ve been looking through some discount coupons we got from our friend Helene (in Sea Point, Cape Town) and we found a coupon for a restaurant called ‘Lemon Butta’. The menu looked okay. We went up the stairs and got a good table where all four of us could sit and look out into the bay (where big Right Whales play in October and November). All we saw were divers looking for crayfish and a misty horizon. We ordered fish (Hake) and chips — except for Sue, who ordered a salad. A couple of old-timers at the next table interrupted our conversation a few times, giving us some ‘advice’ and sharing some local insights.

After lunch we took a short walk around the bend from the point and saw a few ‘dassies’ (Rock Hyrax, or rock badger) relaxing and playing on the cliffs. Robert and Arlene took the car to go look for some special ‘port’ while Sue and I started along the cliff walk heading back to our B&B. It was cloudy, not hot, very comfortable for a walk. Along the way I got a Facetime call from Alex and Max — it’s Thursday morning at home. They are leaving for Grand Forks after school today. Max was happy and interested in seeing the vegetation and the ocean and beaches on our walk, and was quite talkative. It was great to visit a bit and show him where we were.

We got back to our room, showered, changed into the clothes we’d bought in town earlier today. Then we joined Robert in our upstairs ‘lounge’ for happy hour. I called Lizette’s to make a 7:30 dinner reservation.

We headed out onto the street at 7:15, walking the 10 blocks to the restaurant. We got an outside table and ordered, but soon asked to be moved inside because it was cooling off outside. We got a text message from Paul and Shirley — they are on their way home from another day of wine-tasting and would be joining us in about half an hour. We’d finished our food by the time they arrived. True to form, they brought another fine bottle of wine with them and while they ate their food we visited and drank some of their wine.

At the end of the evening (10 o’clock) we arranged to meet Paul and Shirley down at the Grotto Beach tomorrow morning at 7:30 for a brisk 12km walk along the beach BEFORE our breakfast. Whoa! That means we will NOT be sleeping in tomorrow (like we have been most of our mornings here). We may even miss our great breakfast here at our hotel. But we’ll get to experience the beach, the sand at low tide, and a great walk.

A walk on the beach

Unlike yesterday morning, when we both slept in and nearly missed breakfast, this morning we were both up before 6am. We had set the alarm for 6:45 in order to meet Paul and Shirley down at the beach by 7:25 for a walk along the beach. The sun rose at 6:30 and low tide was at 7:35 today, and according to Paul and Shirley, going for a 12km walk on the firm sand left by the tide was one of the best things to do in Hermanus.

Robert and Arlene needed both their alarms to get up in time to join us. The four of us drove down to the beach parking lot where Paul and Shirley were waiting for us.

Jellyfish on the beach
A jellyfish in the sand

The plan was to go for a brisk walk along the beach until we reached ‘the rocks’ just over 6kms east, and then return to the parking lot. Along the way we saw thousands of mussel shells (the seagulls seem to have no issue with ‘red tides’ which have kept fresh mussels from being served at many of the restaurants we’ve visited). We saw other shells too, and a couple of stranded jellyfish. We even saw a dead seal that had been left behind by the tide. Although it was sunny at the hotel when we left, a heavy mist was rolling in from the ocean and for most of the walk we couldn’t see the mountains that run alongside the coast. So much for the scenery, but it sure made for a comfortable walking temperature.


Not too many other early-morning walkers out, although we DID meet a few, some taking their dogs for a run as well.

Hey, a fort!
Hey, a fort!

When we got to ‘the rocks’ there was another group (about 6 people) who were stopping there for a quick energy bar before continuing their walk. I climbed up to a ‘fort’ in the rocks — apparently someone actually lived there for a time during the war.

And then we walked back. It was nearly ten o’clock when we got back to the parking lot. The sun was doing its best to get through the fog and it was warming up. And there were quite a few more people out on the beach now.

We made it back to the B&B before they stopped serving breakfast (7:30 to 10:30). Good thing, too, because we’d worked up a powerful hunger with all that walking (and talking)! After a quick shower I headed down to the dining hall and had my scrambled eggs and sausages.

Our view of the sea -- from the 'big room' upstairs at our lodge.
Our view of the sea — from the ‘big room’ upstairs at our lodge.

We sat in the upstairs big room for part of the morning. Shirley Martens stopped by to drop off a bottle of Ratafia for Arlene. They had been looking for Ratafia yesterday but apparently the liquor store was sold out. After making a call to another wine store and confirming that they had a dozen bottles in stock, we decided to combine a Ratafia run with a visit to the town centre for our lunch stop.

And so we went to town. Parked the car, got the wine, and ended up at the ‘La Pentola’ restaurant which had been recommended to us by our B&B host as well as the couple behind the counter at the wine store. Good choice! Four lovely plates, good drink, nice friendly service, and a view of the ocean. THAT’S why we love South Africa.

By 4 o’clock we were back at the hotel — and still the rain forecast for 2pm had not arrived! But a cloudy, misty, windy afternoon, especially after a long lazy lunch with a glass of beer or wine, easily lends it self to a bit of meddach-schlop.

And then it was time for happy hour. Our host lady had tried to get dinner reservations at a few nice restaurants for us this morning, but it’s Friday — the weekend — and the restaurants she tried were all booked up. So I’d called ‘Dutchies’, the little beach restaurant a few hundred metres down from our place, and confirmed a 7:30 table.

As we sat in the big room, having a glass of wine, the rain started. A little late, but at least the iPad weather app was not a complete write-off. And it rained pretty hard. This would be a good test for our new ‘water-proof’ rain jackets! We decided to take the car down to the restaurant.

When we got there we thought that likely the bad weather had scared off all the customers — there was nobody here! But after parking our car and opening the door to the restaurant we learned that bad weather was NOT bad for business! The place was full of customers!

We got a table in the corner and ordered our drinks. Then dinner. Not bad! We had a fine meal and even better dinner table conversations. Around 9:30 we finished our ice-cream dessert and got back in the car, headed for home.

We met again, this time in the ‘big room’, and shared a glass or two of Ratafia, from the bottle that Shirley had brought this morning for Arlene. It’s our second last night in Hermanus — our second last night together with the Dycks. It’s been fun. We’ll miss them when they go home on Sunday.

Saturday in Hermanus

It’s our last full day in Hermanus. The sky is slightly overcast; every once in a while we get a few sprinkles of rain but not enough to warrant wearing our new raincoats. After another nice breakfast at our Lavender Manor B&B the boys put on their ‘hiking’ shoes and prepare to ‘scale’ the craggy mountain behind our place; the girls will walk 6kms along the cliff walk to the town centre. We arrange to meet there for lunch.

Robert has walked this hike quite a few times when he was here in 2008 and 2009, and it’s on his ‘to-do’ list. Today’s his last chance; tomorrow the Dycks are going back to Cape Town for one last night before flying home on Monday morning. It’s not nearly as misty and foggy today as it was when Sue and I did this hike with Paul and Shirley early in the week. Still, with all that ‘experience’, Robert and I manage to take the ‘wrong’ path up the hill, going the ‘long way round’. No problem. Just a few more steps on my ‘MapMyRide’ distance tracker app. We have a nice walk up to the marker at the top, It’s still amazing that what from the ground seems like an incredibly high and nearly vertical climb is really quite a manageable and maybe even comfortable hike — it’s that “zig-zagging” back and forth that makes it so.

We’re nearly all the way back down, by another circuitous route that is NOT the way we intended (but you can’t REALLY go wrong here! just keep walking DOWNHILL!) when my phone dings. “Where are you at? Should we reserve a table at The Pear for lunch?”

Half an hour later Robert and I have showered and are driving the 6-minute drive into town. I park the Volvo next to a Maserati in the public parking lot (South Africa seems to have more than its fair share of expensive and exotic cars!) and head to the Pear restaurant. There are Sue and Arlene, sitting at a table under a big sun umbrella, waiting for us. It is noon, time for lunch. The Pear is a very nice restaurant. We are served by a sweet young girl. Hake and chips, beet-root salad, wasabi prawns, along with cold draught beers and a glass of wine. So civilized! So courteous and polite. It’s Saturday and lots of ‘locals’ are out and about, including school kids.

After lunch we go to the big Checkers grocery store. We’re in charge of the meat for tonight’s braai at Paul and Shirley’s. Robert and Sue select the lamb chops, chicken skewers, and Boer wurst. By 3 o’clock we’re back at our B&B. The nice lady who is our host gladly puts the meat in her fridge for us. Time for a bit of R&R in our rooms before we meet again in the big room for our last happy hour here.

At 5pm we head to the big room. The little lighthouse lamp on the bar is lit — that means the bar is open. Two small bowls of chips are on the bar, a jug of ice cubes, a lime — hey, i’ll have a G&T today! We sit and visit for an hour. Now there’s a text message from Shirley and Paul: Come on by!

The four of us set out, carrying a bag of meat for the braai and another with a couple of bottles of wine. When we get to Paul and Shirleys the braais are already lit and Meghan and Casper are already sipping a glass of wine in the backyard. We join them. Robert gets the ‘wurst’ going on the barbecue — it is delicious! Paul has set out a row of assorted wines and announces that all the bottles will be opened tonight — they all need to be tasted! So we have our work cut out for us! I ask for, and get, a tour of the house from Shirley. It’s a very nice house indeed!

Once we’ve eaten the wurst Robert gets the chicken skewers and lamb chops cooking on the braai. Soon we are all seated around the big table outside in the backyard. The food before us is fantastic! the meat is perfectly cooked, small potatoes and a big salad, and Casper has made a couple of braaibroodjie, a toasted sandwich of bread with tomato, onions, butter, salt and pepper (and it could have cheese, although these didn’t) that is toasted in a closed grid over mild coals on the braai. All the food (and drink) is delicious.

Paul is leaving tomorrow morning at 7, flying to Indonesia. Still, he seems unconcerned about that — and doesn’t act at all perturbed or anxious about leaving. That’s what we’ve come to know as ‘the South African way’.

We sat around the table and visited — talked about South Africa, the history and the direction its headed. A good visit that went on until about 10:30, when we took our leave.

When we got home I wrote my journal entry and went to bed. It’s been a great Saturday in Hermanus!

 

Goodbye Hermanus, Hello Cape Town

Sunday morning, our last day at the Lavender Manor hotel. Might as well have the “full” breakfast again today (scrambled eggs with sausages AND bacon!). After paying our account we loaded up the car (and I mean LOADED UP THE CAR!) and headed outta town. There were paragliders circling over the tops of the mountains — quite a few; probably ideal conditions for that today: a bit of cloud cover, not too hot, and not too much wind.

robert-with-car-at-shore-driveInstead of taking the direct route to the Cape Town airport, we followed the southern coastline; we did not need to hurry since Robert and Arlene’s flight is only tomorrow morning, and we had all day to kill — so why not enjoy some of the great South African scenery and do a coastal drive. And it was worth it! Good roads, a bit of up and down, lots of motorcycles, cyclists, and expensive cars taking advantage of the weekend. We were lucky to get only ‘GOs’ at all the ‘Stop and Gos’ (single-lane construction roadblocks) just outside of Hermanus.

south-shoreThe scenery along our route, especially for the first hour, was fantastic: the ocean, the sky, the fynbos growing on the side of the road. I was hoping to find a string of ‘beach cafes’ once we hit Gordon’s Bay and the Strand, but surprisingly, we drove right through those towns and couldn’t seem to find a decent restaurant. Finally, deep in a residential area, we stopped and asked another motorist for a recommendation. Without hesitation he suggested a winery-restaurant that he had worked at, the Waterkloof Estate. We put that into our Google Maps GPS and proceeded to drive the 20 minutes UP a hill to the winery.

waterkloof-winery-in-somersetAt the top of the hill was a very modern-looking building. We parked and went inside. Sorry, without reservations we would not eat there — they were all booked. Quite a fancy place it was, too. Okay, what next? Could the lady at the winery recommend something — perhaps even call for us just to make sure we’d get in? Pleasure! Yeah, except every place she called was booked. Finally she found a place on the beach front that did not take reservations but suggested that we’d get in. We paused for a picture outside the ‘restaurant in the sky’ before heading back down the hill and into Somerset West.

By now it seemed that we knew the layout of the town — we’d probably driven every main road at least once before! It was around 2 o’clock when we found the restaurant, De Brasserie, right on Beach Road. Nice too. The lunch was great, and then Robert and Arlene paid for us to boot!

And then it was time to head for the airport hotel. We dropped off our friends — they are flying to Munich tomorrow, then home the next day. We only felt a little sorry for them — they are only going to be at home for a short time before they head off on their next holiday! We said goodbye — it has been a very fun couple of weeks travelling together with Robert and Arlene and we’ll miss them.

A half hour drive from there back to our apartment in Green Point, Cape Town. Home Sweet Home, my dad would say. We parked in the garage and hauled our suitcase full of dirty laundry up to our room. Open a few windows, let some air in. Water the plants on the balcony. Make a grocery list. Watch a bit of TV. Listen to the action down on the street below.

At 6:30 we went out to “Wooly’s”, the grocery store down the street, and came back with two big bags of supplies. Then I went to the “Big Route” pizza place around the corner and brought back another of those great-tasting pizzas. Supper at our table. A clink of our glasses, “Pula!”, with a nod to Robert and Arlene who taught us that toast.

After supper I hooked up my computer to the TV and we (finally!) watched the first episode of the 5th season of Homeland. Pretty good, although, true to form, by the end of the hour (9:30, for goodness sake!) we were both nodding our heads and doing our best to keep our eyes open!. But we finished it! And then Sue poured us each a glass of Ratafia (thanks, Arlene!) that was in our box of bottles in the trunk of the car. (I think Arlene probably meant to keep that partial bottle for THEIR final night in South Africa, but again, the best we could do was offer another toast to Robert and Arlene (“Pula!”) and then drink their wine.

And that was Sunday. Time to go to bed — we have an early tee time at ‘our’ Metropolitan golf course tomorrow morning.

Back in the groove (rut?)

I awoke at 5:57, 3 minutes before my alarm was set to go off (how does that work?). It’s still dark outside. The sun came up at 6:30. By then I’d finished my first cup of coffee and woken up Sue. A plate of fresh mangos and bananas and it’s time to go golfing!

We were paired up with Fritz and Gerald. Fritz (German) was a 70-year-old ex-CEO of a health insurance company, and had Suzanne, a 30-something-year-old ‘caddy’ pulling his golf cart around for him while he ‘flailed’ away at his golf ball. Gerald was an 86-year-old English professor (of engineering) who couldn’t hit the ball quite as far as he did in his prime. He too had a caddie, Archie, an old black man who quietly gave him (and me too!) tips as we made our way around the front 9 holes. Gerald and Archie left us for the second nine. Monday is ‘cheap gold’ day at the Metropolitan, so it’s quite busy and our took us 5 hours.

Black Label Beer
Note the slogan “Champion Men Deserve Champion Beer”! Makes you wonder what kind of beer Champion Women deserve…

We filled the car with gas on the way home. Lunch up in our apartment — I had leftover pizza and a Black Label beer (remember the slogan “Hey Mabel, Black Label!” when we used to have Black Label in Canada?).

Then Sue started a load of laundry and we went to buy more beer and groceries. Back at home we soon had a big drying rack of clothes hanging out on our balcony. I managed to find the same hairdresser I always go to in Canada, and got myself looking cleaned up and spiffy, too.

We’d had so much trouble staying awake watching ‘our shows’ yesterday evening we decided to continue our series this afternoon, BEFORE supper. We watched 2 more episodes of “Homeland”.

I had some fine spicy chili-flavored Biltong with my G&T for happy hour. I was looking at the movie options at our local cinemas and noted that they are showing a couple of those ‘packaged’ Oscar-nominated shorts — live-action and animated. We still had not watched any of the ‘best foreign’ films, and only one of the ‘best documentary feature’ movies. So I looked online to see what our options were and found a couple that I could download. That slowed down the internet pipe enough to make reading Facebook posts on Sue’s iPad nearly impossible! What to do?

Supper was an ‘at-home’ braai today. The temperature wasn’t nearly as hot as it had been here for our first 3 or 4 weeks. In fact, the high was 24 and it was cool enough to slip on a sweater while I stood out on our balcony flipping the pork tenderloin and boerwurst on the Weber. Washed that down with cold (large) Windhoek Draught Lager. And just like that we are right back “in the groove” here!

After supper I ‘paused’ the big movie downloads so we could watch a bit of TV. We hung in there for a while — Sue better than I — but by 9:30 we finally surrendered and went to bed.

Another walk to Sea Point and back

Another beautiful morning (after a ‘full-moon’ night). Very little breeze and sunny and around 19 degrees when we got up, with a high of 24 forecast for the day. Sue got up and put in another load of laundry.

Sue on a rocking horse on the Sea Point Promenade.
Horse-racing at the Sea Point Promenade.

After our morning coffee and fruit it was decreed that we should go for a long walk today. And so we did. We walked out to the lighthouse and then as far southeast as we could along the promenade in Sea Point. There were paragliders, joggers, cyclings, and walkers out in full force.

I <3 Plett
Hey, looks like our illustrious senator from Landmark has fans here in Cape Town!

When we got to the end we turned around and walked back the same way — for a total of just about 12kms. Now that’s a walk!

By the time we got back home clothes drying on the laundry rack on the balcony were all dry. And it was time for lunch!

After lunch we decided to get serious about all the movies we still have to see before the Oscars this Sunday night. The five ‘Best Foreign Films’ and five ‘Best Documentary Feature’ nominees may well be some of the best movies we’ll see! I had been busy downloading but there are still a few I need to ‘find’.

Considering it was early afternoon and we’d likely be able to stay awake through the movie, I decided we’d start with one of the ‘Foreign’ films; one with English subtitles — that would demand our full concentration. We watched ‘Theeb’, a film from Jordan. We had no trouble staying awake — the story took a few twists and turns and we really enjoyed it.

It was getting close to 4pm and we were expecting a Facetime call from Alex and Max. They were just eating breakfast, seemed happy, although both had lost their voice! But they said they felt much better than they sounded.

After the call we watched another foreign ‘Best Feature’ nominee, ‘Mustang’, a movie from France, which takes place in Turkey. Once again we had to follow along with the English subtitles, but again it was no problem — another gripping story.

Sue and a seafood platter for 2.
Sue and a seafood platter for 2.

It was 6:30, time to go for supper. We walked to the V&A. We ordered a big seafood platter for 2 and watched sailboats and seagulls as we ate our prawns, mussels, calamari, and fish dinner. After dinner we went to check out what was playing at both cinemas. We also stopped in at the big Pic’nPay department store in the basement to get a few supplies.

The sun sets at 7:30. It was still twilight as we walked home at around 8 o’clock. A bit of reading and computing and then off to bed.

Oscar Shorts

After breakfast I worked on some files on my computer while Sue continued to read the Nelson Mandela “Long Road to Freedom” book. We had an early lunch and just before noon we headed to the V&A to see a couple of movies. They were showing 2 “packages” — the first was all 5 films (plus a couple of bonus films) nominated for Best Animated Short Film followed by the 5 “Best Live Action Short Films”. We’d never gone to see the short films before, so this was a first. Sue and I both are not really fans of animation, but most of the films we saw were at least interesting if not exactly life-changing. I was surprised at how many of the short films had very simple animation — like Family Guy or even ‘flatter’ than that — nothing like the Pixar Toy Story ‘realistic’ animations (or the silicone models used for the Oscar-nominated Animated FEATURE Film, “Anomilisa”. And plot was not the most important component in quite a few of the films. I’d say my favorite of the group was “We Can’t Live Without Cosmos”, a 16-minute Russian film.

We had a 20-minute break before the next film ‘package’ so we had a cappuccino in the theatre’s cafe. While sipping our coffee we got a text from Robert and Arlene — their flights were delayed and after a total of FIFTEEN flights for their visit to Africa, they ended up having to stay overnight in Toronto before getting an early flight to Winnipeg this morning!

The second set was completely the opposite of the first: each of the five short “live action” films was incredibly good — gripping stories and great acting and well worth the seven bucks we paid to see them. The films represent work from Germany, Kosovo, USA, UK, and Palestine — my favorites were the German “Everything Will Be OK (Alles Wird Gut)” and the film from Kosovo, “Shok (Friend)”.

Sue and I were both cold from sitting in the nearly empty theatre for 4 hours — so we went for a long walk along the coast in the late afternoon sunshine to warm ourselves up and to get a little exercise. We walked to the lighthouse and then through Green Point park, ending up at Rocomama’s hamburger restaurant near our apartment. We’d had an early lunch, so why not an early supper!

When we got home I Skyped with my parents. We sat out on the balcony and read until the sun set. More reading inside until after 8 o’clock, when I set up the TV and we watched another of our “Homeland” episodes. That was so good we watched another. A little CBC News and it’s time for bed!

“See You at the Top” — by Zig-Zagging

Woke up at around 6. Made coffee. Another beautiful day here. It’s not supposed to be so hot today — maybe this would be a could day to go hike up to Lion’s Head? Double portion of mangos, bananas, and toast — we’ll need the ‘fuel’.

Sue got herself lathered up in Coppertone, put on her hat, filled a bottle of water. Running shoes for both of us. And shortly after eight, we’re marching up the street behind our place. My phone, with Google Maps, is directing us up on High Level Street, up a little side road, and then we’re walking on a gravelly, rocky path through the trees on the side of Signal Hill. Not too tough a climb — but steady upwards, through the trees, out onto the grassland, still on the shady side of Signal Hill. It’ll be hot on the way down. The GPS says it’ll be 5.7 kms to the top and it should take us just under 2 hours. Up. Another time as far/long coming down.

Conditions are excellent. We meet only a couple other ‘hikers’ on the trail. When we come to a fork in the trail we take the one that goes more ‘up’. Gradually climbing, zigging and zagging LONG distances at the bottom, then gradually the turns come more frequently as the mountain narrows towards the top.

We’re finally past the ‘grassland’ section, the path is more rocky again, sometimes big rocks laid down as steps, sometimes small logs tied to keep the steps from washing down the hill. And it’s getting steeper. But the air is not too hot, and the higher we go the more breeze we get. I sure hope we don’t have to carry that full water bottle all the way UP the hill, and then back down again. Better drink a bit. No, it only bloats me and then I have to pee. Okay, how about we leave it here beside the path and we’ll pick it up again on the way down.

Once we start the more ‘serious’ climb we are joined by more trekkers. It’s a pilgrimage. We’ve heard there are ladders and chains near the top, but Sue has also read that there is an ‘easier’ route. We don’t find it. When we get up the first ladder and we encounter a section of ‘hand-over-hand’ climbing Sue loses her enthusiasm. And now I have to endure a constant haranguing to “be careful” and “we don’t have to go to the top”, etc. Well, I haven’t walked all this way to NOT climb to the top!

I’m relieved when Sue finally decides that she is going to stop. She will sit and wait for me. I will carry on — after all, I think I must be very close to the top.

But I’m not. Now I’m following a path that is basically a ledge! and climbing up more ‘ladders’. And at a fork in the path with a sign warning one way is the ‘recommended’ way, the other (pointing up to a system of chains linked to walls of rocks) is ‘at your own risk’ (at whose risk is the rest of the way?) I choose the ‘recommended’ path. Zig. Zag. More up. Steps. Up. I’m happy to see more people, so at least I know I’m on the right path and if I twist an ankle there will be people here to give me a proper burial.

I won! I made it! I hiked up Lion's Head - Feb 25, 2016
I won! I made it!

And finally I approach the very top. This is the Lion’s Head. We’ve walked up the ‘rump’ (Signal Hill) and crossed the ‘saddle’, and now I’m heading for the crown. I clamber up the last 100 metres. And I’m on the top! Along with about 20 others. Congratulations they say. I say it back.

Made it! My first panorama shot from the summit. The marker, the ocean, the city, the mountain.
Made it! My first panorama shot from the summit. The marker, the ocean, the city, the mountain.
The 'Seven Apostles' (mountains) on the left, then Clifton Beaches, the marker at the 669 metres above sea level.
The ‘Seven Apostles’ (mountains) on the left, then Clifton Beaches, the marker at the 669 metres above sea level.
Now what? Knees are a like jelly, my feet are killing me, and Sue is waiting for me on a ledge down below, about 45 minutes from here!
Now what? Knees are a like jelly, my feet are killing me, and Sue is waiting for me on a ledge down below, about 25 minutes from here!

I get a Russian guy to take my photo standing on top of the tallest rock. My camera (I didn’t know it could record all these things!) says I’m at 666 metres above sea level. Wow! That’s quite a bit higher than the hill we climbed in Hermanus (330 metres, I think). I take a couple of ‘panorama’ shots. And one of the Dassies (mountain rats?) sunning themselves on the rocks. I eat the trail mix in the baggie in my pocket. And then it’s time to go back down.

I decide to follow a couple of climbers who are taking the ‘at your own risk’ chains route. Good choice. Much shorter. Sue must be very worried about me by now. She’s been waiting half an hour since I left her — sitting patiently at about the 519 metre mark, NOT sipping her water. Now we’ll carry it down with us!

But we miss a turn on the way down and end up near the parking lot on the road going up to Signal Hill. And there’s a canteen selling “cold” cokes there. So we sit and have a coke. And then punch in ‘home’ on my GPS and walk right back ‘over the saddle’ of the lion, and eventually back on our original trail, down, down, down, to Green Point.

We arrive at our apartment at around 12:30, hot, sweaty, aching feet, tired, happy, hungry, thirsty. Shower and lunch.

After lunch we sat down to watch another Homeland episode. Sue went to ‘Woolies’ for some groceries and in the meantime I FaceTimed with Max and Alex. When Sue came back we watched another Oscar movie, “Amy”, considered the best bet for Best Documentary Feature.

We had a great supper ‘at home’. I spent a bit of time deleting about a thousand photos that the Russian guy had taken of me on top of that big rock on the hill! (Yikes!) And then it was time for (what else?) another documentary feature nominee, Cartel Land, a story about vigilantes vs the drug cartels in Mexico. Not bad, although Sue nodded off for a bit during the show. It was 10:45 when it was over, and not a minute too soon — bed time!

 

Pizza Friday

I phoned the golf course to see if they had tee times available today. They did not, so we didn’t go golfing. Instead we sat around and frittered the day away. We watched the last of five Oscar documentary feature, “The Look of Silence”. We read. We went for coffee. We had happy hour. We had pizza for supper. We watched an Oscar animated feature, “Inside Out”. We had ice cream.

That’s about it.

Saturday, in the Park

Woke up at around 6. Made coffee. We checked devices. Then Sue made bacon and eggs for breakfast. It was a beautiful sunny day — the forecast was for about 23 degrees, but it looked like it might get hotter. Out on the street I could see masses of people of all ages running on the sidewalk beside Main Road — another ‘Family Run’ day here in Cape Town. Sue was itching to go for a long walk.

Lion's Head from the Promenade
Lion’s Head from the Promenade

But first I had some computer work that I wanted to finish. So Sue sat there patiently, reading until I was done. And then we hurried out — had to get this done before the midday heat. We headed out past the stadium to Mouille Point where the lighthouse is. Lots of people out today — families, couples, kids, cyclists. There were a lot of parasailors coming down from Signal Hill, landing in the Green Point Park. We ended up walking to Sea Point and back, about 12 kms. When we got back to the lighthouse we stopped in at one of the many beachside cafes for lunch.

Lots of parasailors in the park today
Lots of parasailors in the park today

On the way home, as we walked through Green Point Park, we saw a mass of people coming INTO the park from the other side. As we got closer we realized that we were walking into a giant GAY PRIDE parade! Yikes! We hurried through the first part of the parade and got across the street. As we walked by the Spar grocery store, we stopped in to pick up some bread. I bought a big fat weekend newspaper from Benjamin, the guy who works our street, selling papers to cars while they wait for the traffic light to change.

I had a snooze in the afternoon. Sue read. After happy hour we had a Facetime call with our kids, so we had a chance to see how their home renovations are progressing.

We watched 2 ‘Best Documentary Feature’ films: “Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom” and “What Happened, Miss Simone?”.

Sue made a great chicken salad for supper. We watched a few TED talks and went to bed at about eleven.

Bus ride to Hout Bay and back

Scrambled eggs for breakfast. I worked on another website on my computer while Sue read her Nelson Mandela book. Another gorgeous day here at Green Point — lots of people here this morning. The annual Sunfoil Cape Town Big Walk was happening today and the route followed the Sea Point promenade. Hundreds, if not thousands, of people in red t-shirts were doing the walk. We could see them from our balcony, and smell the barbecues and hear the marching bands all morning.

What should WE do today? How about we take the Cape Town city bus down as far south as it will go, all the way to Hout Bay? We have the bus ‘cards’, it’s really very cheap to ride it, and it would be a great day to visit the beach towns along the way. We could have lunch in one of those towns.

The view from the Blues Restaurant overlooking the beach at Camps Bay.
The view from the Blues Restaurant overlooking the beach at Camps Bay.

We left our apartment at around 11:30. Caught the bus just down the road from here. The Sunday traffic along the one road that goes down along the beach slowed things down a bit, but we were in no hurry. Sue had a 2-for-1 coupon for a restaurant in Camps Bay, so we decided to get off the bus there and have lunch.

Sunday lunch at the Blues Restaurant in Camps Bay: Yellowtail fish for Rudy, prawns with risotto for Sue.
Sunday lunch at the Blues Restaurant in Camps Bay: Yellowtail fish for Rudy, prawns with risotto for Sue.

The Blue Restaurant opened at 12 noon, and we were there not long after that. It quickly filled up. The restaurant was on the second floor, right on the main beach road, and we got a table outside on the balcony overlooking the beach. The food was very good.

After lunch we wandered back to the bus stop and waited for the next bus to come along. The distance from our place to the beach at Hout Bay was just over 20 kms. It was the last stop on this bus run so when we got to the final stop we got off the bus. We walked down to the beach. There was a busy restaurant overlooking the beach. We went upstairs to the bar and sat down and ordered G&Ts. They were large! And the place was hopping here too. We spent about an hour there, enjoying the warm afternoon sunshine and looking out at the big surf rolling in on the white sand of the beach.

Dunes Beach Bar in Hout Bay -- G&Ts for Happy Hour.
Dunes Beach Bar in Hout Bay — G&Ts for Happy Hour.

The ride home was a little more complicated! First we found out that the bus station where we got off the bus was NOT the place to catch it going back to Cape Town. We ended up walking about a kilometre to another bus stop on the main road. We sat there for about 5 minutes until the bus showed up. We got on, and took the back seats. As we made our way (slowly) up the coastline the bus gradually filled up. By the time we got to Camps Bay, about halfway, the bus was packed and continuing to pick up more people! And it was moving very slowly — traffic now was just barely crawling. And the late afternoon sun was reflecting off the ocean and heating up Sue’s side of the bus pretty good. No air conditioning here! By the time we got CLOSE to the stadium in Green Point Sue had had enough. We’re getting off. We’ll WALK an extra stop or two just to get out of that hot bus!

We got home and showered. Whew! Then we watched a bit of the Sunday morning American talk shows. It didn’t take long until we were tired of that. Sue made supper. After supper we started watching a German movie I’d downloaded — but we both had trouble keeping our eyes open (and we needed to have our eyes open so we could read the subtitles!). We switched to a couple of episodes of Homeland and managed to stay awake with the help of a dish of ice cream and some chocolate.

By ten o’clock we were ready to call it a day. We have to get up early tomorrow for our weekly Monday morning golf game across the road — and the forecast is for a warmer day again tomorrow.

The Oscars: The Morning After

We woke up at 6. Our tee time at the golf course was for 7:35. While I made coffee I checked the news online, thinking I would find out who won what at the Oscars. BUT THEY WERE STILL GOING ON! Our 6am is 10pm at home, and only 8pm in California. Well, we didn’t have time to sit around and wait for all the winners to be announced — we had some golfing to do.

We were paired with the O’Reillys from London. John and Irene were very good golf partners. John retired from a career in mining and that had given him opportunities to live in many interesting parts of the world. (He was even stationed in Lynn Lake in the early 60s!) They had lived in several African countries, as well as Australia, India, Papau New Guinea, Oman, and Iran. They still have a second home in Oman. They’re here in Cape Town for another week, before flying back home to London.

We finished 18 holes and were home for lunch at around 12:30. Now I could see the complete list of winners and losers at the Oscars. Sue and I have had a good time watching as many of the Oscar-nominated films as we’ve been able to. There have been quite a few very good films, lots of ‘okay’ films, and a couple of “meh!” or “huh?” films. We hadn’t really picked our own ‘play-at-home’ winners, so we weren’t really cheering for any particular movie or actor. Still, finding out that “Mad Max” won 6 Oscars, although not surprising based on some of the predictions we’d read, made us scratch our heads a bit. I SERIOUSLY tried watching that movie three times. The third time was on the plane ride here — lots of time, nothing better to do, I’d seen the beginning half hour twice before (before turning it off in utter boredom), so I was determined to watch at least the ‘middle section’. After all, Charlize Theron was nominated for best actress, and she’s a good-looking woman — surely I can watch the movie just for that! But no, I’m sure I didn’t make it through the first hour. Oh well, like I said, we had fun watching lots of movies, and if after all that we still don’t recognize a ‘great’ film when we see it, so be it.

After lunch I had a bit of a ‘meddach-schlaup’. I worked on some web stuff again, had happy hour, then went out for supper at around 7:30. We had Thai food at the ‘Simply Asia’ tonight — very good. We picked up a new container of ice cream from Woolies and came home to eat it while we watched 2 more episodes of Homeland. (only 2 left). After watching (yesterday’s) CBC National news it was time for bed.

Movie Meal Specials for Two

Just like Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit”, today I enjoyed TWO breakfasts! The first one was our usual breakfast, fruit and toast and coffee. Then, after a couple of hours of wasting time reading the news (nothing ‘new’!) I went out for a second breakfast. I was already hungry at 10 o’clock, and knowing that our lunch today would only come at 2 o’clock and I probably wouldn’t last until then, I went out for a muffin and another coffee. I went to a new little cafe just down the street. That was probably a mistake! I ordered a coffee and a blueberry muffin from the menu. A couple of minutes later I noticed my waitress going out the front and down the street. Then she came back. She brought my coffee and informed me that they don’t have any blueberry muffins — would it be alright if I had a cappuccino muffin instead? Sure. Out she went again, returning 5 minutes later with a paper bag. Hmmm.. I guess she went out to buy a muffin for me. But it was at least another ten minutes before she brought me my muffin, (on a plate with a square of butter, a little dish of red jam, and a fork). Ah, I see what she was doing. She “added value” to the muffin she picked up next door. By now I had noticed the sandwich board standing on the sidewalk in front of the neighbouring coffee shop, advertising coffee and a cappuccino muffin for 30 Rand! I should have just gone to THAT restaurant! Oh well, the muffin was good even if I only ate it long after I’d finished my coffee. When I finally got the bill it was 43.50 Rand. “Value added!”

Sue and I headed out at around 1 o’clock. Walked down the main road, back into the city. Along the way we stopped at a car rental shop to see about renting a car. We got to our restaurant, Societi Bistro, right at 2 o’clock. I’d called there yesterday to book it for lunch today. I had come across the (unfortunately named) Labia Theatre, an old small movie house that was showing current movies at discount prices. Movie tickets were only 45 Rand, which is $3.87 Canadian. Not only that, on certain days they offered ‘deals’. The Tuesday deal was you could go to the Societi Bistro restaurant just down the street from the theatre and get 2 pasta main courses PLUS 2 movie tickets for 90 Rand. We were pleasantly surprised at how nice the Societi Restaurant was! and the pasta dishes we ordered were “f-f-FAB-ulous”! So we sat outside in the courtyard, eating our pasta and drinking our wine and enjoying the lovely afternoon and the great view of Table Mountain.

Cappuccino at the Labia Theatre
Cappuccino at the Labia Theatre

Around 3:30 we wandered down the street to the movie theatre. We ordered a big cappuccino and sat at a small table until our 4 o’clock movie began. (What a life, eh?) We traded in our restaurant receipt for 2 tickets to see the new Coen Brothers movie, “Hail, Caesar!”. We entered Screen 1 (the cinema was showing 4 different movies on 4 screens) and found our seats. We decided to sit one row AHEAD of the other couple that were already seated and awaiting the start of the movie; that left 172 seats still available in case anyone else would show up! For a cheap theatre this one had a pretty big screen. And the seats were relatively new and fairly comfortable. Maybe a bit TOO comfortable for Sue, who promptly slept through a good chunk of the movie! I guess it might have been that carafe of wine, although Sue was adamant that the movie was at fault — NO story, NO plot, NO romance — the WORST Coen Brothers movie yet, etc, etc. Okay, okay — but at least it had a great soundtrack and quite a few funny bits.

We were out at 6 o’clock and slowly walked the 3.5 kms back to our place. Although we both were not really hungry due to that late lunch we’d had, we nevertheless ate a hearty supper — no point in messing up our ‘routine’! And speaking of routine, after supper we got into our positions on the couch and watched the last 2 episodes of Homeland, followed by (yesterday’s) CBC National News before once again heading off to bed.

Super Wednesday

It was late in the evening on Super Tuesday in the United States of America when we woke up. It was the dawn of Super Wednesday here in South Africa. We are far away from the noise that is America. We are in a different time zone, in a different hemisphere, in a different world. We do not have the daily reminders about all the nonsense in the world (we don’t have any ‘real’ TV channels in our apartment, and the daily paper I buy from Benjamin down on the street occasionally is mostly about what’s happening in the local rugby and cricket leagues). So while ISIS tries to drag the world back into the Middle Ages and Donald Trump drags America back to the adolescent ages, Rudy and Sue eat their peaches and bananas and peanut butter toast and then drag their clubs across the road and enjoy a round of golf on the manicured greens and lush fairways of Cape Town’s Metropolitan Golf Course. Quiet. Beautiful. Peaceful.

We golfed with a South African (Durban) couple today. Peter and Lynn. Lovely people. Good golfers. After our most relaxed (and quickest — we never waited for the group ahead) round here yet, they invited us to join them upstairs at the clubhouse for a drink. A bottle of white Ernie Els for the ladies, big drafts of craft beers for the gentlemen. Before lunch. Civilized.

We walked home and had lunch at around 2:30. After lunch we checked our email and the news. The silliness of the American primaries just keeps getting more bizarre (and discouraging). Where are all the ‘normal’, educated, decent, thinking, caring, civilized people? Why are they allowing this?

We skyped with the kids. We watched “Labyrinth of Lies”, a German movie (subtitles) — still from my collection of Oscar-nominated foreign films. Very good. Sue made (another) delicious supper. We skyped with Ed and Val, who are enjoying the Arizona heat for the month of March. We watched the first hour of an old movie, Romeo + Juliet, starring a very young Leonardo DiCaprio and Clair Danes. Then we switched to the CBC National before heading off to bed at 10:30.

Something big is happening here…

All day there was more action than usual down on the street. Something is going on — traffic is backed up all the way up past our apartment, the Main Road down at the corner has constant traffic, the sidewalks are full of people. And it’s only Thursday.

We sat around inside most of the day today. Sue did another load of laundry and made some serious headway on the book she’s reading — she says if she has another good day like this tomorrow she’ll have finished “Long Walk to Freedom”, the Nelson Mandela story she’s been reading for the past week. Speaking of reading, I haven’t been. And that was one of my ‘to-do’ things for this trip! Well, so was drinking red wine, and learning how to tell a shiraz from a merlot — but that hasn’t happened either. At least Sue is getting more informed every day, but me? Like my mother emailed today, ‘what a sad life! all I do is drink beer and watch soap operas.’ I’d like to say that’s not true, so today I didn’t watch any soap operas. So she’s only half right.

So instead of watching more soaps, after another nice skype with Alex and Max late this afternoon, Sue and I headed out to Sea Point for a long walk. LOTS of people out and about. Families, kids, moms, joggers, dogs and their walkers. And folks enjoying sundowners as the sun melted into the ocean. That’s what it does here on the west coast. Every night. And tonight we saw that the preparations are well on the way for a MAJOR sporting event that will take place right here in our neighbourhood this weekend: The Cape Town Cycle Tour – The World’s Largest Timed Cycle Race, when on the morning of Sunday, 6 March, 35 000 cyclists will line up to ride the 109km route through some of the world’s most spectacular scenery that includes the iconic Table Mountain as a backdrop. We will not be riding, but we certainly will be watching from our front-row seats! (more about the race here)

IMG_2364And so we walked a couple of miles down along the coast, turned around and walked all the way back. And more! We continued along the coast all the way back to the V&A. Sue had taken along 2 coupons (still from that discount book that our new friend Helene gave us back in January) for 2-for-1 main courses at a couple of fancy restaurants on the wharf. And tonight we ended up at the Karibou, a restaurant specializing in South African cuisine.

IMG_2362We had a very nice calamari appetizer, followed by Kingclip fish of the day for Sue and a stuffed chicken breast for me. A fancy-shmantsy ice-cream and sticky doughnut thingy dessert for us to share. I won’t mention the wine and beer. And when that cloudy ‘table-cloth’ finally slipped down off the top of Table Mountain we got to see a(nother) spectacular sunset and the colorful lights of the many restaurants that ring the harbour here. We walked back to the apartment under streetlights. It was 8:30.

The patio doors were open. No screens. The ceiling fan was on medium. The noise from the traffic outside had subsided. Linda Ronstadt, Laura Smith, Levon Helm, and Warren Zevon were taking turns singing old favorites on the Sony stereo where my iPod is plugged into. It’s calm, for now. But not for long! Cape Town is getting ready for LOTS of visitors — it will be an exciting weekend here.

Friday Night Pizza, #123

As busy as it was just outside our apartment all day today, the opposite was true INSIDE our apartment. Not a lot of activity here. Sue did a load of laundry and finished reading her Nelson Mandela book. So she started her next book. I spent all morning looking online at things to do in Cape Town (maybe we’ll actually DO them sometime!) and the afternoon working on web stuff. For a while it looked like we might take the bus out to the Old Biscuit Mill for lunch, but when lunch time had come and gone so did that notion.

There was action on the street below, and even in the garage below our place: I guess a few of the apartments here are available for short-term rentals, AirBnB, and so there were cars with trailers full of bikes unloading and groups of cyclists moving into apartments for this weekend above and beside us.

We finally DID leave the apartment at around 7:30, but only went as far as Mario’s, the Italian restaurant just around the corner from our place. Friday night, and with 35,000 cyclists and their friends and families here for the weekend, EVERY table in EVERY restaurant was busy tonight! Mario’s is an old ‘family’ restaurant, not as ‘hip’ as most of the places around here, and whenever we walk by it it looks ‘quiet’. But tonight it too was packed. We were lucky to get a table. We had a big bowl of mussels as a starter and a wood-fired pizza to share.

And that’s it for today! When we got home I sat out on the balcony and breathed in that cool evening air and listened to the talk and laughter coming from other balconies around our place for a while. And then I went to bed.

Saturday is Market Day

We got up early and had coffee. It was foggy outside but I could see hundreds of cyclists riding along Main Road just outside our balcony. They’re getting ready for the big Cape Town Bike Race tomorrow.

We ‘made a plan’ to be in Woodstock, an area on the east side of Cape Town, in time for a nine o’clock breakfast. Sue had read about a great breakfast dish served on Saturdays near the Old Biscuit Mill. According to their website, the Old Biscuit Mill is now “a vibrant, warm-hearted little village in the heart of Woodstock where talented people come together to share, collaborate and … show off the heart-felt passion.”

We checked Google maps to estimate what time we’d need to leave from our house in order to get to the mill by 9 — and were on the first bus by 8 o’clock. We ended up waiting for quite a long time before finally getting on the second bus. That bus took us for quite a long ride before we got off just a block away from the mill. It was nine o’clock when we walked through the gates into the shopping arcade.

A woman offered to take a photo of the two of us in front of the Old Biscuit Mill which is at the heart of the shopping area. When Sue asked her where we might find breakfast she immediately directed us to a small booth where a team of cooks were whipping up ‘Rostis’. Well if it isn’t exactly what Sue had read about! So I got some coffees while Sue stood in line waiting to get 2 ‘rostis’.

According to the Old Mill site, “a Rosti is a dose of heaven served on a paper plate, complete with a potato and coriander base, tender bacon, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, a poached egg and the best hollandaise sauce you will ever taste. Throw some chives, salt and pepper on top, and you have yourself the best breakfast of your life.”

After breakfast we wandered around the “Neighbourgoods Market”, enjoying samples at many of the food stalls. I went to look for the ‘Woo Themes’ shop, a company that makes themes and plugins for WordPress, some of which I’ve used — but the shop was closed on Saturday. We also looked in on the famous restaurant, The Test Kitchen.

It was starting to drizzle a bit so we headed back to the bus stop and took the bus back to town. We decided NOT to take the second leg of the trip by bus, opting to walk back to our place from the Civic Centre, a 30-minute walk.

Sue read and I sat at my computer for most of the rest of the afternoon. We had our little ‘happy hour’ out on the balcony in the late afternoon — there have been literally THOUSANDS of cyclists riding their road bikes out here since early this morning. I hope they have a great morning tomorrow.

At around 7pm I lit the barbecue. Sue made a salad and we had that with our pork tenderloin. It was delicious. After supper we watched a couple of documentaries on Netflix. It was just before midnight when we went to bed.

Cape Town Cycle Tour – 2016

When we got up this morning the first of about 35,000 cyclists were at the start line in downtown Cape Town. It was a perfect morning — sunny, little wind, not too hot, not too cold. With that number of cyclists, it would take until just before noon when the FINAL group would be setting off for this 109km race around the cape. All morning, from just after dawn until after we’d had our bacon and eggs and headed out to the stadium, we saw thousands of cyclists, all dressed in cycling gear riding towards the city centre (start line).

We went across the road at around 9:30 and the area around the finish line, near the stadium, was already packed with cyclists who had completed the race. These were the ‘fast’ riders — who rode the loop in just over 2-and-a-half hours! The fastest woman in the race finished in 2:51. Many racers were part of a team, and those teams were now enjoying refreshments at their sponsor’s tents which were set up along the route in Green Point Park and along the road in Sea Point. And fans stood on either side of the road and cheered as the cyclists were finishing their last kilometre.

While it is the largest timed race in the world, not all 35,000 participants were ‘racers’. No, we saw lots of mountain bikes, even some fat-tire bikes, and quite a few tandems. It was a great day for a race. There were lots of friends and families and fans supporting the cyclists. It was a remarkable undertaking, well organized and well run. It’s incredible that a city like Cape Town will shut down major routes leading into and through the city for the better part of a weekend in order to make an event like this possible.

We had lunch at home, spent the afternoon reading and computing. We went to Hudson’s and had hamburgers for supper. We FaceTimed with the kids when we got home. Then we watched a bit of Netflix and went to bed at just before 1:00am. We have an early tee time tomorrow morning, but right now the wind is blowing pretty good and Sue says the forecast is for rain tomorrow; but we’ll see about that in the morning.

Chance of rain?

When Sue woke up this morning at 6 she was expecting to hear the pitter patter of raindrops on our window. That’s what the weather forecast was. That would mean we would likely cancel our morning golf game at the Metropolitan.

That would be wrong. As the morning sky began to brighten it was clear there would be no rain today. Just another perfect day in paradise. Rudy, get up. We’ve got a 7:30 tee time.

After coffee and fruit we walked across the road to the golf course. Other than a few rows of porta-potties, there was little evidence of yesterday’s massive cycling event. This may be Africa, but the cleanliness and efficiency of city workers put OUR big cities to shame. Roads and sidewalks are clean and in great shape. The parks are green, clean, maintained.

We were a bit early for our golf game, but the starter told us to just go — so we golfed, just the two of us, for the first nine holes. That’s not happened for us at this course before. By the time we got to the 10th tee there were some groups ahead, so we had to wait. We decided to pair up with another couple once it was our turn. Marty is a South African who’d lived in Vegas for 25 years before moving back her in 2001. Mara was his ‘office wife’, an Italian woman who was in Cape Town to study and improve her English. And to golf. Kabaam! That woman could drive the ball off the tee! Out-drove the guys every time. Anyway, we had a good time golfing today. Sue played one of her better games, while my game was not-so-good. But, as I say when the game’s not so good, “I had fun.”

We walked back to our apartment and had lunch. Then we sat around for a bit. Sue tried (and failed) to have a nap. Alex and Max skyped. At around 6 we left for a long walk to the Ocean Basket restaurant down in Sea Point. By the time we got there we were hungry. Fish and chips and prawns and sushi. All good.

We took the MyCiti bus back to our place at around 8:30. Back in our room, we watched a bit of TV. I was tired (all that walking out in the sunshine! how can the weather-man get it so wrong?) and couldn’t keep my eyes open. At 10:30 we went to bed.

Sue has an “absolutely delightful” lunch in Franschhoek

IMG_2405By shortly after 10 o’clock this morning we were in our white convertible Volvo, top down, zipping down the N1 highway. We were on our way to Franschhoek, by way of Paarl. We’ve never been to Paarl before and it’s only a little bit out of the way, so today was our day to check it out. We basically drove into the city, up and down Main Street, and then out again. We passed a couple of great-looking golf courses on our way out. We were about to enter the main drag of Franschhoek when we got a text from Shirley Martens — we had hoped to have lunch with her and our old friends Graham and Paddy (we stayed at their ‘Bird Cottage’ for 3 weeks 15 years ago). Well, that wasn’t going to happen today. But now it’s on for TOMORROW! Okay, no problem. We’ll just go for lunch by ourselves today, and we’ll come back here tomorrow afternoon, after our golf game. It’s just over one hour to drive here, and we’re looking forward to having afternoon coffee at Paddy’s house.

The little town of Franschhoek sure has changed in 15 years! We parked on the main road and wandered up and down the length of the street. Lots of new shops. Lots and LOTS of tourists browsing through lots of souvenir and knick-knack shops. We DID recall some of the older buildings — the mini-mart grocery store, the post office, and the book store. We had made a reservation at the Haute-Cabriere Wine Cellars and Restaurant for one o’clock, and we didn’t want to spoil our appetite, so we couldn’t try any of the delicious-looking pastries to go with our cappuccinos at a little bakery-cafe. Then we waked to the ‘top’ of Main Road, where we used to turn right to go to Bird Cottage, and where there is a historic monument to the Huguenots who settled here in the 17th and 18th centuries. That French heritage is why we saw the red-white-and-blue flags everywhere, and why there is a lot of French spoken here. We remember the monument as a landmark for us from our earlier time here. (In fact, here is a photo of the two of us in front of it in December 2001.) We took a few photos.

And then it was time for lunch. We drove up to the Haute-Cabriere estate and parked the car. They had a table for us outside, in the shade, with a view of the Franschhoek valley below.

And although Sue decided NOT to try the BIG lunch with fancy-schmancy wine-pairings for each of three courses (or six if you wanted the complete kit). So she had the line fish of the day (Angelfish) and I had the pasta dish of the day. And both plates were as delicious as they were attractive! Sue could hardly eat a mouthful without first declaring how “delightful” this was.

After lunch we drove past our old stomping grounds at Bird Cottage (we’ll check it out more thoroughly tomorrow) before heading back home. The roads are great. The traffic was crawling OUT of Cape Town, but we were heading IN, so rush hour didn’t slow us down at all.

I worked on the computer and Sue read before supper. Then we watched the last few episodes of “Making a Murderer” on Netflix. Sue announced that she  “couldn’t IMAGINE eating supper” so I had to help her visualize it. We ended up having SANDWICHES for supper — thereby switching our lunch and supper around — so we were able to eat all three meals today, in spite of having messed up the routine by having a big (delightful!) dinner for lunch. Yeah, I guess our entire day was “delightful”.

Bird Cottage Revisited

I was going to call this post “Body Parts”. Or maybe “Bawdy Parts”.

We went golfing at the Metropolitan again this morning. Most often we have found that a big part of our golf games here is that we get to meet new and interesting people. Almost without fail. But not ALWAYS. This morning we were paired up with Yuri and Elena. They thought they were going to golf by themselves, but at the last minute the starter asked them to allow Sue and me to join them. I think they were disappointed. The weather conditions were absolutely ideal this morning: sunny, a light breeze, not too cold, not too warm. Perfect. Our golf partners were the opposite. They were Russians. They were VERY rich. Yuri (age 54) owns quite a lot of high-end commercial real estate in Moscow. He was proud to show me his membership medallion for the Skolkovo Golf Club, a new, very expensive, very exclusive, world-class golf resort in the heart of Moscow. He and his wife (“second marriage,” he explains) Elena (age 34) own two homes; one on the golf course in Moscow, the other on the Spanish island of Majorca, right on the ocean, again, on a golf course. They are staying at the One&Only, a $1300/night luxury hotel here at the Waterfront in Cape Town. Yuri is a typical Russian: red face, wide shoulders, big paunch, no neck, gold chain, constantly smoking expensive cigars, loves to drive the ball a mile. Elena is gorgeous! Beautiful face, beautiful figure. Luminescent skin, freckles on her cheeks, hair tied back in a ponytail, immaculately dressed with an enormous gold-chained purse hanging from her rented pull-cart. When she addresses the ball she wiggles herself into place, plants her feet firmly in a wide stance, ‘twerks’ out her butt in that little skirt of hers, and squeezes out a little more cleavage as she puts her elbows together and bends over the ball. She too has a big golf swing, although I found it a challenge to follow the flight of the ball — I was too distracted watching her line up to hit it! (Sue later claimed that some of Elena’s best assets were “not original parts”, but they looked okay to me.) Elena and Yuri may have been rich and beautiful (okay, Yuri wasn’t at all beautiful) but they were not fun to golf with. They spoke very little English and only when spoken to. They looked unhappy. As PJ Reimer once said to me many years ago, the Russian people are a ‘grim’ people who go through the day looking glum and even sullen. They look joyless. We couldn’t wait to finish our game and get out of there. (Shooting my worst golf score EVER may have contributed to my feelings about the morning — maybe I just wasn’t focusing on my game?)

We hurried home and showered and had lunch. Then we hopped back into the car and back onto the N1 freeway, heading back to Franschhoek. The drive was just over an hour. We stopped to buy flowers and chocolates in the town before winding our way through 4 or 5 miles of bumpy narrow back roads up into the countryside where Graham and Paddy Howes live. Back to Bird Cottage, the little house in the middle of a vineyard where Sue and I stayed in December 2001. Our friend Shirley Martens had organized an afternoon coffee with the Howes and us. A chance for us to reconnect after 15 years.

Graham (who couldn’t make this reunion work yesterday because he was at the dentist) was not home when we arrived. Shirley and Paddy were in the kitchen getting lunch ready. We took trays of bread, cheese, and coffee out onto the ‘stoep, the front porch. Paddy looked just as she did 15 years ago. It was great to see her. She is in her mid-seventies and she told us she’d had her hip replaced 4 times since we last saw her. (See what I mean about body parts?) She moved a little slower, no longer did pottery in her studio, but still kept active. Her children and grandchildren live nearby so she’s busy with that. And she does a lot of photography and she paints.

We hadn’t quite finished our coffee when Graham’s LandCruiser came rumbling up the driveway. Do you remember us? It’s good to see you! What’s new? Graham joined us on the veranda. He’d just had two hearing aids installed in town. He kept looking around, a bit distracted, wondering if that was a car or an engine he was hearing whenever the wind rustled the leaves in the trees! Oh, his eyesight wasn’t very good, his hearing was failing, and he thought maybe even his brain was deteriorating! But an hour of visiting convinced me that he was as bright and lively and interested and interesting as I remembered him. He’s in his late seventies and had just come back from a pretty strenuous hike to see the baboons in Uganda — he was about to lose his (purple) toenails from the steep downhill hike in the jungle. He was now preparing for a big ‘cook-off’ to be held in the Franschhoek park on Sunday — a friendly competition to see who can make the best ‘potjiekos‘ (traditional South African stew cooked outdoors in a big black 3-legged pot). Graham joked that this year his secret ingredient would be ‘duck’, instead of a young child, the more ‘traditional’ ingredient that cannibalistic Africans might have enjoyed!

Paddy had an appointment in town and it was 5 o’clock, time for us to say goodbye. Sue and I went for a quick look at the inside of Bird Cottage before we left. Not much had changed in there — the old kitchen, the bookshelf, the clawfoot tub, the outdoor shower… And then we headed back to Cape Town. We may see Paddy again — we invited her to join us at our apartment on Saturday afternoon to watch the Street Carnival parade which goes right by our place. And Shirley invited us (again) to come for a stay at her lovely home in Hermanus. We’ll see.

Back at the apartment, Sue went to the Butcher Man to buy some chicken skewers. For supper she barbecued them with potatoes and onions on our balcony while I visited with Mike, the “parking attendant” working the evening shift on our street. He’s one of the many self-appointed parking assistants who work here illegally. They hope to get tips for waving at oncoming cars while you try to park or get out of your parking spot. Mike is from the Congo. He is quiet, friendly, and likes to visit with me while I’m at the barbecue on the balcony and he’s working the sidewalk down below. Today I went down to the street and listened to him tell me what his life is like. Very interesting. (But this entry is getting WAY too long and I need to go to bed. Ask me about Mike sometime and I’ll tell you more.)

Thursday at home in Cape Town

We went for a long walk on the promenade again this morning. We had gone a few kilometres when I started feeling a bit weak. A little shaky. Was it because I stayed up too late last night? Or maybe I just need a bit of energy. We were near the the big public swimming pool where there are quite a few small food booths, so I sat down at one of the picnic tables there and ate a delicious crepe with nutella and bananas. That cured whatever it was that ailed me!

The trees at the parking lot along Sea Point.
The trees at the parking lot along Sea Point have been ‘bent’ over by the constant ocean breeze. They provide shade for the cars that are small enough to park under them.

When we got back we went grocery shopping. After lunch I worked on a website while Sue finished reading her bookclub book, “The Woman Upstairs” (4 stars from Sue). The kids Facetimed a bit.

I went to pick up sushi for supper. It was starting to get windy — the forecast is for LOTS of wind tonight. On the way to the restaurant I met my new friend Mike, the ‘parking guy’ from down on our street. He’d been ordered off our street by one of the security guards from the apartment across from us who was going to call the cops if Mike didn’t leave. Mike saw me, called hello to me, asked my how I was doing. He was on his way to the beach — he’ll sleep there tonight. Maybe he’ll try coming back to our street again tomorrow night. He was all matter-of-fact about it!

Sue and I ate our supper and then doddled around some more until around 9pm. I Skyped with my parents. Then I queued up another Netflix documentary, “The Hunting Ground”, and we watched that. Had another Skype with Ed and Val in Gold Canyon. It was midnight when we went to bed.

Friday Night Pizza, #124

Oh boy! What did we do today? (Well, you COULD just go and read #123 over again!) That’s NOT to say it wasn’t another ‘red-letter’ day here. There’s not many things I like better than sitting next to Sue for the better part of a day, she reading quietly without interrupting phone calls or looking up recipes and putzing around in the kitchen, me coding on my computer and listening to Jeffrey Foucault and Leon Russell and Linda Ronstadt all mixed together into one incredible playlist. Good coffee in the morning. A little action on the street below every once in a while to help you remember to get up and relax your shoulders and take a look at the beautiful city outside your balcony. Lunch. Nice bread, with layers of ham, mayo and mustard, avocado, and now with a new twist — aged cheddar! — on top. A handful of spicy chips on the side. A glass of that elixir that is Pilsner Urquell. You might think that the afternoon could only be a let-down after such a mountain-top experience. Nope. More of the same. Throw in a Facetime call with the kids who are watching the snow melt on the deck in our backyard and now you’re probably starting to get envious. The programming has a few detours and bumps, but never so bad that I couldn’t find my way back on track, ultimately ending up where I was hoping to get to. No crises. No interruptions. No obligations. And that playlist is still feeding us one great song after another, connecting the now with a memory from the past — occasionally you just need to take your hands off the keyboard and listen closely and wipe a few tears.

As the afternoon sun began its slow slide into the ocean we finally pulled ourselves away from our sanctuary and headed out into the evening. They are setting up tents and scaffolding along the Main Road, getting ready for tomorrow’s “Cape Town Carnival“, which includes a two-and-a-half hour parade that will end at our corner tomorrow night. We head to the V&A. Sue wants to shop. I decide to stay out of her way and buy a ticket to see a movie, “Knight of Cups”, which, it turns out, is the most impenetrable, indecipherable, abstract load of crap I’ve had the pleasure of walking out of in quite a long time. So I go for a walk and end up ‘rediscovering’ the way into the Waterfront we used to take when we hung around here in 2002.

IMG_2418I meet Sue at the San Marcos restaurant back at the V&A. It’s a lovely evening. Lots of people out tonight — and as we eat our pizzas we talk about how ‘everybody’ should come here at least once in their life — such a cosmopolitan, sophisticated but relaxed, BEAUTIFUL place in the world! We each eat half our pizza, get the rest boxed, and walk back to our apartment. Short-sleeves, shorts, sandals, even now at night. (I STILL have not worn either of the two pairs of long pants I packed for these three months. How is it that even when we think we know how to pack light we still over-packed!) Mike, the self-appointed car parking attendant, is back on our street and wishes us a ‘good evening’ and asks how our day was. How our day was? Yeah well, I already told YOU how our day was.