Saturday, June 18, 2011

oh no!

one whole night without Internet- LOL- we left the Knysna hotel fairly early after a nice breakfast- which always seems to be included here.  our direction was Plettenberg Bay area.  we found our hotel as we drove past on the way to the Tenikwa Animal Preserve.  here they are making amazing efforts to save the leopards and cheetahs which have populations decimated by human encroachment and poachers.

we learned that cheetahs are the most endangered because their migration patterns and range has been very broken up by human development and therefore they live in pockets which have now suffered so much inbreeding that the species is threatened in yet another way.  at this preserve they are doing cross breeding to enlarge the gene pools of the various pockets of cheetah population.

they had two four month old cubs who were being minded by a "nanny" - the only thing you could call the poor woman who was chasing after them repeatedly to keep them in the low walled enclosure- as they had just learned they could jump as high as the wall.

after a short video on the work of the preserve we were guided through the various areas of the preserve where the cats were living. we saw African wild cats and Cheetah and a Leopard and Caracals and Cervils. 

we ended up spending several hours there and were very glad for the time spent as it is unlikely that we will see any cheetah and only a small chance for leopards. 

after leaving Tenikwa we went to Monkeyland- LOL- which was a similar idea to Tenikwa only it provides habitat for various primates.  we will see no monkeys on the safari as far as we know and because they are among Phil's favorites we stopped to visit.

we laughed when we saw that the monkeys side with the Friedman boys as they too refused to eat the beets...LOL - the bananas went first and then various other fruits and sweet potatoes but no beets!

from there we went to the third preserve in the area - for Elephants- here we learned a whole lot about African elephants (I have ridden elephants in India x2, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos so we skipped the ride but opted for the walk with the elephants.)  walking with the elephants was waaay fun - you hold your palm up behind you and they rest their trunk in your hand and then you walk along with them.

it was sooo fun and afterward we were able to touch the ears and the trunk and the tail and see inside their mouths to view their teeth.  along with being very educational - it was very fun to BE with these gentle giants up close and personal.  two of the elephants there were rejected by Krueger because they had been raised in someones back yard and two were there because they had been captured for the circus but whomever was arranging their shipment to some foreign land failed to get the correct papers and they were left at ORTambo airport until the Sanctuary could take them.  The total population there was five elephants.

after the elephants we headed back to our hotel and that is when we got the bad news of no Internet connection.  our room however - is lovely and overlooks a beautiful river that heads into the Indian Ocean. 

after a brief organizing stop we head into Plett (as it is called) to have dinner.  we chose the Med Grill where Phil had prawns for starter and I had the most tender snails I have ever eaten.  then for dinner I had a pasta dish and Phil had duck.

we returned to the hotel - where there was a beautiful full moon on the river - and the next morning a nice sunrise from over the mountains reflecting on the same river.

tomorrow (today now) we have to return to George and get our flight to Jo-burg which is where we are now.  on the way back west we stopped in Knysna for a short walk and then at two stops along the Indian Ocean - one right on the beach and another overlooking the surf from the cliffs above.  we were early for our flight and so we got an earlier plane.

the hotel here is quite nice for an airport hotel and tonight we can organize one final time before we head into "the bush"

I will get time to do one more post before we are off line for 12 to 14 days... tomorrow night after our township tour and after we meet six others from our group of 14 total with us... the other six have been on the pre trip to Kruger National park.  we decided that three nights each at four camps would be enough nature for us LOL.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

it wasn't decaf!

and so I am up in the middle of the night not being able to sleep...

a huge storm came through here after we got home from dinner and it just poured for hours - but things have quited down now... hopefully that means clear weather for tomorrow or I guess I should say later today-

so I thought to get up and put down some thoughts I had tonight when we were at dinner - half way around the world or maybe more... but of course now I am befuddled from not sleeping and so have no coherent thoughts or even a clear memory of what I wanted to say. 

anyway my mom went to the mountain with us the other morning - she never made it to South Africa so these are all new countries for her and she would have really loved the beautiful views of the city below and the short but lovely paved trail on the flat topped mountain. 

here are some educational photos from the morning on the mountain:

and here are two food related photos- first from the menu at Den Anker where we had the pictured seafood platter of an earlier post and then the "high priced" dogs advertised outside the District 6 Museum.  I found the menu item funny first because it was pithy about the jealous dogs and then because the French translation is nothing like the English- it says roughly your dog eats them at home and you eat them in a restaurant--- LOL and since I do not speak Dutch or Afrikaans I have no idea about the third description.... except of course that it mentions the name of the place we ate... and a dog (hond)

OK I am totally making this up but maybe it says what the hound craves is right here at Den Anker???

so maybe it was worth getting up to write even if I forgot what I intended to say- LOL

good thing

now that we are here in the Garden Route (stunningly beautiful) and we have had our first glance of the surf of the Indian Ocean - it is a good thing this part of the trip is fairly abbreviated as left side driving is challenging. 

we got the car with no problem and only made one wrong turn out of the airport due to the lack of knowledge of where the airport was located in relationship to the city whose name it bears.  the main road was full of twists and turns and two lanes to one lane changes - up hills and down.  tonight we have gales with a sprinkle of rain - however we are snug in our palatial room here at the Rex (the king's hotel.)

never one to pass up an opportunity I informed every hotel we booked that we were celebrating our tenth anniversary with a trip to SA.  therefore we have been upgraded to a suite at the standard room rate.  we certainly don't need the space but who is going to look a gift horse in the mouth as my dad always said.

and the view of the hillside surrounding the lagoon of Knysna:

and tonight we went off to a local seafood place called 34 south- named for the latitude of the town. 

grilled prawns and calamari- we figure we won't get much seafood in the bush - so go for it now...

airport land

well we are here at the airport waiting for our flight to George and since we had amazing Internet connection I thought it would be a good time to post but I haven't really got a whole lot to add to yesterday's posts.  Our driver today spoke about how difficult it was during the transition times when they were waiting for the elections to declare Mandela president.  she said they really thought the place was going to go up in flames and everyone had horded basic supplies of water and canned foods etc. 

she said it would have been so easy for him to have come out a hardened man but he chose otherwise and gave everyone the gift of freedom in a place that for so long had been the opposite - had been all about divisiveness and oppression. 

already I am looking forward to returning to Cape Town and seeing the rest of the things we didn't get time for this time.  I think our two days in the Garden Route will be lovely as well but Cape Town has - as the driver put it- a certain vibe... it is the place South Africans go to when they want to come to the "happening" place... the wine the sea the diversity of people who live here is quite appealing. 

the above photo is posted for TB - it just seemed like you...LOL

so more as we go- we have Internet until Saturday night Sunday morning and then off to "the bush" LOL which is hardly the usual PSF choice so it will be interesting if nothing else.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

more cape

the same deal as the last post about the photos- maybe we will get lucky - who knows?

so today we weren't quite as lucky on the weather and it was raining quite heavily this morning.  so we decided to go to the District 6 Museum which is a museum about the destructive forces of apartheid.which is explored through one neighborhood (District 6) which was ordered to be whites only and suffered the forcible removal of - in this order blacks then Hindu, Muslim and Jewish immigrants along with colored (mixed race) and other artist and leftist who lived together quite peaceably in the neighborhood.

this happened from 1906 through the 1960s and at that point the neighborhood was demolished. later when Mandela became president they repatriated some of the residents and have been building housing in the razed area for those few who are still living who had lost their homes.

afterward we went to change some money and then went to the Castle of Good Hope to tour the fortress there.  it was the typical fortress- dungeon - torture chamber and barracks tour.  we had lunch there and walked across the city back to our hotel as it had stopped raining but the mountain was still completely shrouded in clouds. 

a quiet afternoon getting the first blog entry up and organizing luggage- we leave tomorrow for the Garden Route and fly to George mid day.

Dinner was at Savoy Cabbage one of the top places in the city and it was FABULOUS!  I started with the olive and feta tart and then had "the three little pigs" as the main.  by far - by FAR the best pork chop I have ever eaten.  the three ways were chop - loin and belly and each was amazing as was the dab of date butter that the dish was served with. 

we will definitely want to return there on our way back through here in three weeks.

and to round out the entry here are some photos from our breakfast room:

cape town

Note- the connection at the hotel is less than dial up speed so I will insert photos later at a location where I get a better connection---
Arrived in Cape Town late on Monday night – the flight from Amsterdam being 11 hours (all day essentially) on top of the overnight flight from Chicago to Amsterdam but we made it and so did our luggage.  I had booked a car to take us to the hotel as I had heard there was a dearth of taxis for the late arriving flights from London.  The man at the reception was very welcoming and our room was lovely.  The hotel is quite like a gallery and there is art everywhere. 

Breakfast on Tuesday morning was also very nice but we got our first idea that they don’t have the same political correctness thing going here as the menu in the morning had a cover with a black woman’s portrait with huge sambo style lips. 

Because Tuesday was sunny and beautiful we immediately decided this was the day to go to the top of Table Mountain.  We booked the cable car for the morning and also a trip on the Robben Island ferry for the afternoon. 
Table Mountain is the most outstanding feature of Cape Town – towering over everything in the “City Bowl” you reach the top only by cable car and even though you would think it was barren on the top there is an amazing and completely unique ecosystem on top. 

After we had finished the mountain we met our driver Alfred (who had brought us in a taxi but waited for us) who then took us down to the V&A waterfront to catch the ferry for Robben Island – which is somewhat like Alcatraz in that it was a maximum security prison on an island off the Cape Town port.  But first we had a chance to have a seafood lunch at Den Anker with every type of seafood in a mixed platter.

Then it was a quick boat ride across the harbor to the dock where the Robben Island museum is located.  Robben Island is the place where Nelson Mandela was held for 25 years.  He and other political prisoners spent time at hard labor here after sham trials.  The guides to the maximum security prison are former inmates.  Our guide spent five years here for taking part in student protests when he was 19 years old. 

Mandela cell
As we returned to the port it started to rain a bit but we did have a beautiful sunset

Dinner at Caveau - an excellent pear and Gorgonzola salad followed by pork belly with caramelized Jerusalem artichokes, Phil had shrimp and then fish.  Then we were off to bed as we were tired after a long day and it being the first one!