One of the things I didn’t necessarily want this blog to be was a day by day itinerary of what we did because normally I found the travel blogs I read that did this to be somewhat boring and more like reading a tour brochure than an experience of travel. That being said I do know that some of you may also want an idea of day to day what we did so I will try to do a shortened (??) rundown of each country and some of the things we did and enjoyed. Obviously I’m also catching up on my posts as we were in S. Africa in Sept. but just haven’t had the time or internet connection until now (resting in Thailand)
South Africa started Sept. 7 as we arrived in Johannesburg and spent the first night with a friend from Seattle who had serendipitously been on the same flight from the States. We stayed at the Airport Grand Hotel (recommended). On the 8th we met a friend’s aunt and uncle who graciously let us stay with them the next few nights. Later that day we went to the Apartheid museum which is the one thing in Johannesburg I would highly recommend for anyone. It gave us a great overview of South African history and culture as well as the story of Apartheid.
We also were able to visit a lot of local artist galleries and the school our host helped to run. It was a three year program for Africans teaching them not only art but how to use art to start their own business as a trade. Erinn loved some of the art they were doing – we saw a collage of material being made by each student about schools and learning which would eventually be sewn together to make a giant mural quilt. We also saw some of a former students work with print patterns – making dish cloths, dinner place mats, and T-Shirts.
Later in the week we went to a modern dance performance of Carmen choreographed and performed by a young African woman. It was a powerful display and unlike anything I’ve seen in dance.
Friday of that week we left early in the morning to drive to the Mkuzi game (my post) reserve where we spent the next 3 days viewing animals, having braais and conversing with new friends.
On the 14th we drove to Durban and then flew to Cape Town on 1Time airlines (SA’s budget airline). Arriving in Cape Town we stayed in the Sunflower Stop hostel (not so recommended). As the weather wasn’t the best we walked down to the VA Waterfront and viewed the many craft shops and tried to restrain our buying instincts (nice job Erinn). We realized that being on an extended trip means we need to limit our buying because we don’t have the space to carry much more! There are a lot of wonderful things in Africa to buy – carvings, canvas paintings, jewelry. Erinn loved the carved hippos which came in all sizes and were big fat round pieces made out of wood, soapstone, granite, and jade. One of the things I really enjoyed was a man who made African animal scenes out of different pieces of wood put together and then shaded with a woodburning tool. We also were able to take in some jazz at the Green Dolphin one night – a S. African bebop pianist which was great.
We also had our first taste of the forewarned SA danger when a man approached us on the street for money and when we said no said calmly, “don’t make me get out my knife”. Thankfully there was a security person up ahead for a hotel and he eventually just backed away. We also talked to a woman at our hostel who had been mugged in mid-day but the man was caught as 4-5 people around her chased after him and surrounded him (good to hear that others responded). Walking back a different day in another area of town we also saw a woman talking to police officers about being mugged (also in daylight) so while I didn’t feel danger much it obviously does happen.
Also while in CT we hiked up Lion’s Head (pics) which was amazing and highly suggested (especially on a day where Table Mt. is clouded in and Lion’s Head is not). We saw para-gliders ad even had a man land right by us on the top!
Great White Shark cage diving was next as we drove out early from CT to Gansbaai. (my post) Upon returning we took the cable car up Table Mountain and hiked around the top (long day!). Everyone said you must do Table Mt. and everyone was right. The top has amazing flora and is an almost completely flat mesa where you can see all the way to Cape Point.
After CT we had one of the best times in Franshhoek one of the local villages in the wine region. We decided to stay in Franshhoek mainly because it was a bit smaller than Stellenbosh (another famous wine region) and was known for it’s cuisine. We stayed in a B&B on the outskirts of town and five minutes after arriving met a young honeymooning couple from Slovenia that became our touring friends for the next day. We visited several wineries in the region with Glennwood being our favorite. The woman who hosted was gracious enough to open early when we arrived and was informational and engaging. It was a small winery which I always personally enjoy more as it is usually much more personable. We ate some amazing food at La Petite Ferme (lunch only but some of the best French food I’ve had) and at the French Connection. The scenery there is fabulous with mountains all around and classic estate construction.
After Franshhoek (which we could have extended by at least 2 or 3 days!) we drove around Cape Point for a couple of days visiting Boulder’s Beach (penguins) and Cape Point Park (Africa’s most south-eastern point) and the lighthouses. Again this is a place we could have stayed longer as the hiking and chances to explore the beach and coasts are plentiful.
no images were found
no images were found
After driving through Cape Point we made our way through Hermanus (viewed the whales and stayed a night) and up through the Garden Route. One of the highlights here for me was Tsitsikama National Park. We had reservations up at KNP which was over 1400 km away so much of the driving trip was rushed and Tsitsikama was no exception. We had just a couple of hours to hike to a suspension bridge where a river met the ocean. Beautiful views and it was good to get out of the car and stretch our legs.
We drove through the Garden route (staying one night in Hogsback – where JR Tolkien spent some of his childhood) quickly and decided to move up through the central of SA instead of the coast – advised both in quality of roads and safety. (We originally had planned to go up near the coast through the trans-sky section of the country and stay in Swaziland one night.) This route took us through the Drakensburg region and Golden Gate & Royal Natal Nat. Parks.Again we quickly took in what we could mainly driving.
We reached Kruger shortly after that and spent five nights there staying in Pretorioskop two nights, Letaba, Satara, and Oliphants one night each. We took a morning, sundown, and night drive as well as a bush walk in Satara (it was said by many that the bush walk in Oliphants is the best w/ Satara ranking high on the sundown drive because of its many cats). I’ll let the pics do most of the talking here but I’ll say Kruger is amazing in both the ability to see animals and the relative ease and cost of traveling here.
no images were found
We had a couple of nights inbetween our Kruger section and a night at a private reserve, Elephant Plains in Sabi Sands (my post).We spent these nights in a local mountain town called Granskop and did some sightseeing of the mountain views and rock formations.
Then came our glorious night in Elephant Plains (my post). This was our splurge of SA and it was amazing. While we didn’t see nearly as many animals as in Kruger (surprising) we did see cats and were able to drive right up to a couple of leopards and a pride of lions feeding on a dead elephant carcass (it died of natural causes).
Finally we finished up staying a night in Hazyview and doing an elephant encounter experience… the highlight for me being kissed by an elephant – think giant shop vac on your neck.
I can’t end this w/o talking about our trip to the airport in which we nearly were lost (who knew that to get to the airport east of town you had to drive west for so long???) and battled traffic the entire way. I was grateful to get to the airport only to have to have some issues returning our cell phone rental and working out our air tickets which were in the computer system incorrectly! Anyway off to Hong Kong!