A Hundred Elephants
(Monday 23rd December, 2019)
In the morning we left leisurely by 8:00. Today would be a lot of driving prior to our game drive in Addo Elephant National Park, and it was promised to be a warm day with over 40 degrees – and it delivered that with a staggering 42 degrees. It was hot, hot!
Our first stop was at a farmstall in Jansenville, a quaint although expensive café/curio shop/book shop/wine cellar. Most people got their morning coffee here, surrounding by innovative recycled items.
Next was a shopping stop in Addo town where we were given an hour to sort out our own lunch and buy whatever necessities. I got a mediocre pasta salad and T got a mediocre sandwich; not the greatest lunch success. It was very warm waiting for everyone to finish their shopping, because even the wind blowing was very warm (think hair dryer) and in no way, shape or form refreshing.
On the drive between Addo and the Addo Elephant National Park there were many, many lemon farms. Otherwise, the landscape in the park had a lot of bushes with pink flowers, which looked very pretty as they were dotted in between the other foliage, adding a touch of colour. T and I managed to see some cranes on the fields beside the road while we were driving, which was cool.
We made a stop at the reception of the national park so our guides could take care of payment and permit. They have a waterhole there, plus an underground hide, and as I went there I already saw a group of 22-25 elephants (plus a kudu and some buffalo) hanging out. It’s always cool to see.
The game drive itself brought about lots and lots of elephants, maybe over 100 in total. Both observed from further away and very close up, feeding, swimming and crossing roads. There were a fair amount of very small calves, too, hiding underneath the belly of their mother or older siblings. At one point, scattered across the landscape in different groups and different directions, there was probably 70 or so in sight at once. It was (still) really incredible to see, and this time we even got to observe a big group by a waterhole for many minutes. At another point there was also a parking place where you could get out and walk through the bush to watch a water hole from a hide. There, we could see the fantastic sight of elephants and zebras with thunder and lightning darting across the sky in the background.
Highlights were of course all the elephants, but we also saw Red Hartebeest, warthogs, zebras, kudus – and a sunbird. With that dense, thick shrubbery I think you’d have to be very lucky to see anything more. The park was all right, but we go there again tomorrow afternoon, so we’ll see if we’re bored of the elephants by then. But, at least there will be some new people in the group.
At 17:00 or so we arrived at our lodge for the night(s). They have 5 dogs here, English Pointers, who will bring you rocks, place them on your foot and then wait for you to throw them. It’s kinda cute, but we were asked to not play with them as it can damage their teeth. Also, it sort of became less cute when the dogs started peeing on our tents..
A Merry Christmas
(Tuesday 24th December, 2019)
We had a leisurely morning here on the Danish/German Christmas. Breakfast was served at 7:45 and we departed for Port Elizabeth at 8:30. We were going to drop the two group members off and in return pick up 5 new ones.
The drive only took about 40 minutes, and we made our first stop by the mall, picking up water etc. T and I went to a coffee shop and got ourselves a smoothie and milkshake to kill time. My lemon/mint smoothie was very good. Afterwards, our driver guide dropped us off by the Beach Hotel in Port Elizabeth, and from here we had 2.5 hours on our own, also being responsible for getting our own lunch today.
T and I walked out on the pier and along the beach promenade. Port Elizabeth is an old town, established by the British back in the days. It is now both one of the most important/busiest ports in South Africa, and one of the tourist hot spots. The beaches are sandy and look nice with their clear water, and supposedly they are also nice for swimming.
We walked through a park filled with souvenir sellers/stalls (both local white and black people selling), and I ended up buying a cute stone hippo.
We then walked to the restaurant where we would meet at 13:00. Here we ran into two members of the group already having their drinks there, and we joined them for some nachos and drinks while waiting for everyone else to arrive.
By 13:00 we said our final goodbyes to the two leaving members, and we also got to greet our new ones. We have a couple from New Zealand (though of Indian origin), two separate Dutch people, and another German. The tour is now almost exclusively Dutch and German..
From then on we drove back towards Addo Elephant National Park for another half day game drive, this time starting from another gate. We didn’t see as many elephants today, but there were some awesome sightings:
– very young hyena babies jumping out of their burrow to join their mother.
– a proud male lion crossing the road in front of us.
It was well worth it.
We got back to the camp late because of the lion, which meant dinner would take place at 20:00. Again today the meal was not our cook’s finest creation, although the curry taste was good. One of the ladies had bought some Christmas biscuits which she shared with us for dessert, and that was very nice of her. She’d also given us all a little Christmas card and a pin (for charity) this morning. A little touch of the Christmas spirit.
After dinner and our briefing for tomorrow, we sat around the bonfire in the boma, chatting for a while and enjoying the warmth of the fire. Overall, this was a good day.
Embarking on the Garden Route
(Wednesday 25th December, 2019)
By 7:00 this morning we had taken down our tents and we left at 7:30. Our first stop for the day was Jeffrey’s Bay, which is a popular surf spot, hosting a large surf event or competition in July every year. We initially went to a mall to do some shopping, but it being Christmas here, the supermarket turned out to be closed. Upon learning that, we were driven to the beach where we dropped most people off, some of us still going to the shops in the truck.
Back from the shops we disembarked on the beach. I walked along it with two of the Dutch. The beach is nice but again not that overly special to me. We had an ice cream and it was quite nice. When we got back to Chuck, our cook had lunch ready for us.
Next stop, entering into the picturesque Garden Route, we went to Tsitsikamma Adventure-something company, which has different zip-lining options. Some people of the group went to do the 3 slides option, others to do the 8 slides one. T and I just went for a walk on a path along the small river, seeing two waterfalls and enjoying the forest, afterwards sitting by the café while waiting for the rest to finish up. It was actually getting pretty cold here at this time of day, the weather having changed from nice and sunny to cloudy and rainy.
We then had a short stop and a little walk by Storm’s River Bridge, which I think our guide had told us was the highest stone bridge in South Africa. They have made a walk-way of wood so you can walk underneath and around the pillars to enjoy a nice view over the gorge.
Our last stop on this rather long day, which some group members seemed disappointed about as it isn’t Christmassy enough, was at the site of Big Tree. The oldest tree in South Africa. It was a 500 metres walk through the forest (dense), which smelled really good. Had it not been for all the people, it would have been a wonderful serene and quiet experience, too. I enjoyed it quite a lot, even if Big Tree on its own didn’t seem so special.
By 17:00 we arrived at our lodge for the two coming nights. Very nice place with a large camp fire by the bar, which we spent some time sitting around for drinks and talks. After dinner we came back to enjoy the warmth and the rest of the evening.
Hiking and Bungy Jumping
(Thursday 26th December, 2019)
The morning started at 7:00 with breakfast. The weather this morning was more sunny and warm than yesterday, which was nice.
We were due for a hike in Tsitsikamma National Park this morning, so we drove for a short while to get to the parking lot. Tsitsikamma is a coastal/marine national park on the Garden Route, and so we would be walking along the coast line to a waterfall.
The place was very busy because of the holiday season, people coming here to camp, hike and do various day trips. It’s a great place for hiking and has multiple trails, and supposedly the Otter Trail (which we walked a minor part of today, the full length can take 7 days) is in the top 10 of most scenic coastal hikes in the world.
At first we dropped the people off who wanted to do the shorter hike to the suspension bridge, then we went a little further down the road and set out on the walk to the waterfall. It was 6.4 kilometres and would take about 3.5 hours. It was a nice walk along the coast with the wild waves and the pretty shades of blue of the water and the sky, ocean on one side and forest on the other. The beginning of the trail was simple enough with a defined path and ‘stairs’, but eventually it turned into long parts where you have to climb around on a bunch of rocks and sort of find your own path. It was fun, though, and no super steep parts to conquer.
It wasn’t unbearably warm, but it still felt nice to arrive at the waterfall after a sweaty hike. The waterfall itself was pretty cool; there’s a natural pool beneath it that you can swim in, and the water naturally drains into the ocean. There were a fair amount of people there, most enjoying the pool to cool down. We sat there for a while, enjoying the sound of the waves in one ear, and the sound of falling water in the other, having our lunch.
At one point, going back, there was a little height difference between two rocks, and somehow I landed wrong on my left leg, sort of falling. It hurt, and it hurt worse after I’d had to walk 3/4 of the way back on it. I had to put ice on it when we got back and to keep it up/in rest – we’ll see how it plays out. At least nothing is broken!
After everyone had finished their hikes, we drove on back towards the lodge, most opting out of the ‘Woodcutter’s Journey’ activity as we had been warned it was often a disappointment. It was to be removed from the itinerary from 2020 on because of continued bad reviews. A few still went, and later on it turned out that they had had a substitute guide (for the summer) who had actually done well, and the people who went did enjoy the experience.
For those people who wanted to do the world’s highest bridge bungy jump (216 metres), the jump had been moved up to today’s afternoon at 17:00. Tomorrow they had been fully booked. There are 4 people from the group doing it, including T – therefore I’m going with them so I can watch.
The weather, unfortunately, turned on a dime (literally took 10 minutes to turn from blue skies to pouring rain and chilly temperatures). None of us had closed our tents fully so we weren’t too happy about that.. but I guess the people doing the jump had other things on their mind.
When we arrived at the bungy jump place, there was an issue with the reservation where the person taking the booking hadn’t placed it correctly in their system.. after some correspondence with our cook/guide, they set it right and ‘our’ people got a spot to jump. They got in their harnesses, then went on the zip-line taking them out to the middle of the bridge (under the road where the cars pass), and then they had to stand there and wait for their turn. There were a lot of people out there still, even in the pouring rain and strongish winds.
Due to the bad weather, we stayed inside and watched the adrenaline seeking jumpers on the screen, showing live feed from each person’s jump. It took a while before the first one from our group jumped, but it was fun to see. You almost felt frightened with them, seeing their terrified and nervous faces, and you almost got excited with them, too. People were cheering in the restaurant and it was cool.
It all went well and we got everyone of them back in one piece. They picked up their certificates and ordered their pictures and videos, and then we drove on back to the lodge. We were there at about 19:30, but due to the rain and lack of electricity, our scheduled ‘Christmas’ dinner was nowhere near ready. The rain meant we all had to squeeze into a small space to eat without getting soaked.
But a merciful soul had closed our tents for us, and therefore they were mostly dry inside, except for one unlucky person whose mattresses had suffered some water intake.
We eventually managed to have our dinner, which was held by candlelight due to no electricity. The food for this ‘Christmas’ dinner was chicken kebab, rice with saté sauce, hake and sweet potatoes, salad and then Australian rum balls for dessert. Group members had helped cook some of it. It was pretty good, especially the dessert, though it is not like the Danish ‘romkugler’.
Grand Garden Route Scenery
(Friday 27th December, 2019)
This was the latest morning yet, having breakfast at 8:45. It was also the longest I’ve managed to stay asleep inside the tent (which meant it must’ve been a cool and overcast morning, keeping temperatures tolerable). The leg felt better and less painful, although it still hurts or feels wrong, to be fair.
I helped our cook out with breakfast, making the fruit salad. One of the other ladies has a tooth that broke, and she really needs to see a dentist, so some of the others were calling around to try and find a dentist who’d take her in as an emergency case. It was harder than you’d think to find someone in the area, and they called about 6 clinics before they could get an appointment. So she’d have to take a taxi to another town and then meet back up with us at our next accommodation.
After breakfast we drove up to the accommodated people’s place (they stayed at a different lodge this time) and picked their things up.
The weather is very volatile today, one moment hot and sunny and the next cloudy, rainy and chilly. They say it’s because of the coast, but even Danish coastal weather is not that ambivalent. It continued to be like this as we made our way to our first stop of the day, Nature’s Valley. On the way, we had a brief photo stop at a vista overlooking the bay from above. Quite pretty.
At Nature’s Valley we made a stop and had a few hours on our own. The ocean beach is a short walk away, pretty with mountains on the side. There’s also a lake you can swim in, with the beautiful green mountains as a backdrop. It’s also possible to hike around here, but the trails are long and we wouldn’t have enough time to do them today. It is not raining here, although the grey clouds are lingering threateningly.
I just walked down to the beach and back – to spare my leg a bit – and then sat on the shore of the lake, enjoying the view. I only wish it had been more quiet here but you can’t have everything you ask for.
After lunch we drove a bit of the way towards our optional activities of the day. In the first place we could choose between going to Monkeyland or Birds of Eden (both animal sanctuaries that offer free-roaming space). They cost about 280 Rand each, which I thought was too expensive for 1 hour. Therefore, me and a few others spent an hour sitting in the restaurant area in Monkeyland, which honestly wasn’t too bad as the monkeys could still be seen roaming around from there. It is a rather large, open area where 10 species of monkeys saved from poor conditions, can climb/run around to their heart’s content. From our spot by the restaurant we saw about 4-5 different species, including Gibbons, Black-and-white-ruffed Lemurs, and some very curious Ring-tailed Lemurs close up.
Those who went to either place had enjoyed it.
Next we drove to a place called Tenikwa Wildlife Rehabilitation and Awareness Centre, where most people went to see the sanctuary for big cats. It was also an hour’s guided tour and the price was 250 Rand, which I again thought too steep for seeing big cats in ‘cages’. Those animals are so much more fun to spot in the wild.
Afterwards, we learned our hotel in Plettenberg Bay had been fully booked and so we had been moved to a hotel in the town curiously named Wilderness. This meant an extra 1-1,5 hours of driving today. The drive was quite scenic, however, with mountains on one side and ocean/lagoons on the other. Lots of water sports going on, and when we arrived in Wilderness, there were also many paragliders. Would be cool to try.
But on the way, it was disconcerting to see how the poor live in tin shacks on one side of the hill, and the other side – sometimes only divided by a road – would have large, ocean-facing houses with big glass façades, which looked like holiday homes for rich people. Obvious vulgar wealth disparity there, glaring you aggressively in the face. We also see many more white people around here than we did in the eastern parts of South Africa.
Our hotel for the night is halal, and therefore we had to stop by a liquor shop to get whatever alcohol we needed with our food tonight. We had been allowed to bring our own by the restaurant manager. By the time we got to check in, it was 19:10 and we had dinner scheduled for 19:45 so it was only a short time for showering and getting settled.
Dinner time rolled around, and initially the restaurant didn’t seem to know of our dinner reservation for 21 people. Then they said they could only offer us fish’n’chips, and then they changed their mind on that, too, and gave us access to the whole menu. It was a bit of a mess, and so after our briefing for tomorrow, some people decided to go elsewhere and have their dinner. I stayed put and had a burger, which was okay. Afterwards it was an early night for most folks.
A Detour to the Cango Caves Inland
(Saturday 28th December, 2019)
We started our day’s driving very late today, having breakfast at our own leisure between 7:30 and 10:00. I woke up at about 8:30, longest and nicest I’ve slept for a while. Didn’t even hear T come back from his fancy dinner last night, though he did say it wasn’t very late (23:30). Guess I was just out cold! He said they’d gone to a restaurant where everyone else was wearing suits and nice dresses, and they had just shown up in their shorts and sneakers. Nice!
Anyway, I went down for breakfast, which was quite standard, although their choice of muzak was really bad – a lot of people actually commented on this.
We had to check out by 10:00, but for some reason we weren’t due to depart the place before 11:00. Most of the people were ready by the truck at 10:00, but alas not everyone so we still had to sit around and wait.
We had a short photo stop by Kaaiman’s River Pass, which offered a very nice view over Wilderness and the beach, and also over a railway pass crossing the sandy river banks below.
Our next stop was for shopping and took place in a mall in or near George. We had 40 minutes to get whatever we might need, but we were told there’d be no bar at the camp tonight so I guess wine and beer was high on the list. We also had to get our own lunch today, and T and I found some ostrich biltong which was also quite good.
Driving on, the mountainous landscape between George and Oudtshoorn was very beautiful. The road snaked along the mountainside, allowing some stunning views over the valleys. Oudtshoorn itself is located in the Small Karoo semi desert. This particular area is known for having a lot of ostrich farms.
We did, however, not stop in Oudtshoorn at first. We drove to Cango Caves, which is a famous attraction in South Africa. It is a very large cave system, not yet fully explored. You can do regular tours here to some of the first chambers, but they also offer adventure tours where you have to squeeze through claustrophobia-inducing spaces and narrow passages. Our scheduled tour was just a regular guided one.
We had an hour to spend at the centre before our tour. The visitor centre there really is very big (3 floors), and it obviously accommodates a lot of tourists yearly. They had an interpretation centre, an auditorium with a 20 minutes video about the caves and the exploration process, a candy shop, as well as a restaurant. The cave, curiously, was accessed through the top floor.
At 15:30 we got let into the cave area along with maybe 50-60 other people. It was a really huge group of people (probably also because of holidays and whatnot, it was very busy); it was to the point that the amount of people sort of felt detrimental to the overall experience. There was a lot of murmuring and screaming, and it wasn’t easy to hear the guide amidst it all.
At least the first two chambers were very large, impressively so. Because of the acoustics, the first one has actually been used to host concerts (and could hold up to 1000 in audience). It stopped, however, when guests began vandalising the caves by bringing pieces home or by burning their names into the limestone walls. There were some beautiful, strange and intricate formations in there; sort of made me think of some of the more spectacular stone carvings on some human made churches. But the forces of nature are responsible for this, which is quite amazing to think about. Some of it really got my imagination going, as the formations could sort of look like carousels, small towns or really anything.
The cave tour felt a little on the short side for me, and our 2nd guide (our group did split into 2, not that it helped much as the chambers got smaller and they still filled up) was not as informative. Overall, I did enjoy it and thought it was interesting how such large caves of “nothingness” can be inside/underneath a mountain. Some people found the experience a bit boring, however.
After the caves we drove back to Oudtshoorn and saw our accommodation. It’s a very full holiday campsite for camper vans. Lots of kids around. Hell on earth. Though the facilities are clean, I think this is probably my least favourite spot so far. Camping in a tent is fine, but far away from other people is preferable, in relative peace and quiet. This was just chaos. This is the last night in a tent so I’ll manage.
We had dinner at 19:45 but because we were doing a braai, it got delayed until 20:30. We had pork chops, chaka-chaka (yummy), veggies with a cheese sauce, garlic bread and then two different ice creams for dessert. It was the last dinner our cook would make for us so she made it a little special. We all gave her a round of applause and some appreciation.
The starry sky is also pretty impressive here, if again not for all the electrical lights that wash some of it out a bit. Not as bad as home but not as good as in the desert. After dinner and washing the dishes I went back to the tent for an early night.
Back to the Coast of Hermanus
(Sunday 29th December, 2019)
Breakfast started at 7:15 by which point we already had our tents packed away. Afterwards, everything got stored away in its proper place in Chuck The Truck, and then we drove along Route 62, which was very beautiful scenically at times. It was a rather long drive and we had a bushy-bushy/photo stop and a toilet stop by a gas station before our ‘longer’ first break of the day.
The first longish stop was at a place called Ronnie’s Sex Shop. It is basically a café/bar/fast food place in the middle of nowhere in a mountain range. It was a quirky place, but also a bit of a tourist trap, and the 30 minutes we were there felt kind of long.
Some driving after the ‘sex shop’, we stopped in Swellendam for our lunch break. The drive into town was very pretty with the mountains as a picture-perfect backdrop. We had almost 2 hours here, and since it’s Sunday, almost everything was closed and there weren’t a lot of people around. We walked up and down the main street with a few of the other group members before we sat down in one of the few open restaurants. The food was good and we all enjoyed it.
At 13:30 we proceeded our drive towards Hermanus, some of it being very nice and some of it being lots of farm land. I saw another few pairs of cranes on the fields, which again was cool.
At around 15:15 we arrived in Hermanus, which is especially known for its coast-based whale watching. Whales (Southern Right Whales) come to the waters here to breed from July to end November, so unfortunately we are here a little bit too late for that activity.
We checked into our hotel which is cool enough, and then I went for a walk as I had spotted a few book stores in town. The town is nice and clean and safe, it seems. Also not too busy at the moment, though there are a lot of people around (mostly white). The book stores were unfortunately closed because it is Sunday, so I walked along the coast line back to the hotel. It’s a pretty coast line, I like it a lot. If I went to Cape Town again, a day here for some whale watching might be well spent.
For dinner, our cook had booked us a table in a local restaurant. It served both seafood and meat so there should be something for everyone. We arrived by 19:25 and only got our main dishes by 22:00. To boot, it was on the expensive side for South Africa, so not everyone was entirely happy about it. Sadly, they had burned my hake to the point is was inedible because of dryness, so I was a little sad with the experience, too.
In any case, Hermanus is a beautiful little ending to this adventure, which I have quite enjoyed overall.
Final Ending of the Tour in Cape Town
(Monday 30th December, 2019)
We had our breakfast at the hotel at 7:00 so that we could be ready to leave for our last drive with Chuck, departing at 8:00.
Our first stop was in Betty’s Bay, a place with expensive looking houses, where we would be able to see the African Penguins. A narrow, wooden board walk took us along the rocky shore where penguins in moult (and other birds) were either resting or cozying up as couples. It was cute and nice to see.
After a bit of a scenic drive, we had a photo stop by the coast; really beautiful spot, but also cool because the dark shaded clouds were rolling in on the mountains on the right while the sea and coast line on the left was bathed in sun from a clear blue sky.
Next on the itinerary for today would be our wine and chocolate tasting at Hidden Valley near Stellenbosch. On the way we saw some strawberry farms, though the area is obviously mostly known for its wines.
We had 5 different wines (2 whites, 1 rosé, 2 red wines), each paired with a home made chocolate. So, none of the wines were good in my opinion, though the chocolates were delicious. The last red wine, however, went very well with the dark cherry chocolate and it kind of made it good.
Apparently, our driver wasn’t feeling too well today, so we rather abruptly drove to Stellenbosch where we would have our lunch break – then he could get a couple of hours of rest. Those 2 hours felt kind of short in this city, as it seemed to be a cool place to explore. We had to just go to a restaurant. We found one which had a good lunch offer, 2 dishes for 130 Rand, and the food was delicious! However, we only just made it back to the truck by the designated time. In retrospect, I kind of thought it would have been nice to have lunch before the wine tasting, but this also worked out I suppose.
Now we were driving into Cape Town and rapidly approaching the time for our goodbyes. I didn’t feel much about it, in fact I felt mostly happiness overall.
When we had arrived at the drop-off point and everyone had removed their things from the insides of Chuck, we said our goodbyes in the hotel lobby. Our cook said I had been such a nice, sweet and easy person to have with her, just going with the flow – I think our guides, too, had been challenged by this particular mix of people. We were not a family, just a bunch of strangers who happened to share some proximity for a while. There were no tears this time, and I didn’t feel any sadness either.
Anyway, there appeared to be a bunch of refugees outside the drop-off hotel and by the church near Greenmarket Square where our hotel is located. We were told they were from countries such as Burundi, Rwanda, Somalia, Ethiopia and even Pakistan. They were no danger to us, we were told. There was, however, some tension between them because of a conflict between to tribes/chiefs among them, so there was a police presence in the area. None the less, a porter escorted us across the square and to our hotel around the corner. He had only just dropped us off inside the door when there was a loud BANG(!) from outside, and when I turned around, I saw people running away.
I wondered if it was a shot and it was a bit of a “what the fuck…” moment. A security guard went out, then a bit later returned to reassure everyone that it was “just” a stun grenade that the police had thrown to disperse the fight. Exciting spot to be, huh?!
We relaxed for a short while in our surprisingly nice hotel (it was rather cheap, hence the surprise) before meeting some of the others at the foot of Lion’s Head. We were planning to hike up there to enjoy the sunset.
With a not fully good leg (it’s getting better and better, though), I made it through the steep parts and got to the top and it was nice. We enjoyed the view from up there for a while, but ultimately decided to go down to a lower plateau to enjoy the sunset so that we wouldn’t have to descend the steep climbing parts in the dark.
It was a pretty sunset, and it was mesmerizing to watch the clouds spill over Table Mountains and the 12 Apostles and then dissipate suddenly in a weird, straight line. Especially from a height it looks curious.
The light was also wonderful, and we enjoyed the moment until the sun was gone, at which point we began our descent down the mountain. We had to use a torch in the end as it got dark, but Cape Town unveiling the beauty of all its lights at night was really cool and special. It sort of unfolded as we turned a corner.
At the bottom we got an Uber and all 4 of us went down to Waterfront to have dinner together. We settled on a brewery and each of us ordered a pizza and beer and we had a good time. We were done at around 23:00 and then we went back to our respective hotels, saying goodbye for good.
Happy New Year From the Plane!
(Tuesday 31st December, 2019)
Morning started lateish. I had set my alarm to 9:00 but I naturally woke up at 8:30 and couldn’t get more rest. The refugee situation (observable through our window) looked more ‘normal’ today, with the touristic stalls being prepared for the day on the square. Still a lot of police around, though. Anyway, I got everything packed up in preparation for check-out at 11:00.
T wanted to do other things, but I wanted to go forth with my plan of visiting World of Birds. I had checked and found it cheaper to buy a day ticket for the CitySightseeing busses than taking an Uber alone. I thus went to the CitySightseeing office where they also sold me the entry ticket to World of Birds for a discount. I got on the first blue line bus and went on my merry way. The surroundings of Cape Town are really nice, though there is some gross apartheid history resulting in displacement, slums and poverty..
It took almost an hour to get to World of Birds, so I was there just before 12:00. There was quite a lot of people, mostly families. I started out by going for some lunch, not having even eaten breakfast. Next I began exploring the place, first going through a circular path through some aviaries.
There’s a circular path going around the whole bunch of aviaries on the premises, but there are also paths allowing you to walk inside them among the birds, too, and I very much enjoyed the experience and watching the beautiful birds up close. There were parrots, storks, flamingoes, hornbills, ducks, peacocks, cranes, monkeys, snakes, ibis etc. A lot of pigeons. Many things to see.
In the first aviary there was a smaller, red parrot, and when I stopped to watch it, it ran to the side near me and as I talked to it, it raised one foot and sort of opened and closed it in a ‘wave’ almost. So I waved back at it. Then it made a sound and repeated its gesture, and there we stood, doing that with each other for a good while. It was very sweet. I spent about 2.5 hours there, and afterwards exited to take the blue line back to Long Street.
It was a good thing I left that early, because it took a long time to get back into Cape Town. Traffic because of New Year’s Eve was bad, and there were a lot of cars everywhere. It was a scenic drive, overlooking the different beaches that we also saw last year. I made it back at the hotel by 16:00 where I met with T at about 17:00. We decided to just go to the airport early.
We were at the airport much earlier than we were able to check in, having to wait for 2 hours. We met one of the Dutch couples while waiting, they had also opted to go to the airport earlier and were due to take the same flight to Amsterdam. We had a little chat and it was nice.
At 20:00 we were able to check in and go through security, at which point T wasn’t feeling great. Stomach issues. I needed some food, however, so we went to the only restaurant there after you pass security. Got some nachos and some drinks.
After the meal we still had time to pass, and now we’re sitting here at the gate waiting. The airport really is dull and small. I think I thought this last year, too, but then happily forgot.. Dang it. I kind of wish I could just take a sleeping pill and then wake up again once the plane lands at its destination. That’d be a merciful kind of magic.
In the plane they played a little ‘Happy New Year!’ song at 24:00, and we could observe some of the fireworks in Cape Town from the window – on land. A few people got mimosas but overall there was nothing special to this new year’s flight whatsoever.
A Fresh Year Back in Denmark
(Wednesday 1st January, 2020)
The flight was okay, certainly less turbulence than on our way our to Joburg. I managed to get some light sleep and even an hour or two of deeper sleep. I did not feel very good though, my stomach acting up slightly as T’s had yesterday (and apparently continues to do).
We landed in Schiphol a little delayed – due to weather conditions (it was extremely misty here) we had to circle around the airport up above for an additional 15 minutes. We have a lot of time before the next flight so for us the delay was okay.
We got something to eat and then went to sit by our gate until it opens. We sadly didn’t have enough time to venture into Amsterdam, which we had otherwise thought might be a cool idea. The temperature difference was quite noticeable, there being 0 degrees and misty in Amsterdam. It also seemed they had no heating on in the bottom of terminal D where we had to wait; it was very cold to wait there.
Moreover, the plane got delayed because of an issue with a wheelchair (?), and then the crew was unable to open the electric door (?). We set off about 25 minutes later than planned, but after a nice and uneventful flight we touched ground in Copenhagen only 10 minutes later than we should have. We’re eager to get home and out of transportation by now. Sadly, the train only leaves at 19:40 and we will be in Esbjerg at 23:23, so there is still a bit of the journey left for us. It has been a long, tiring day, spent not in tip-top health. Sleep will be welcome.
This trip has been very good and I have enjoyed it a lot. I have gotten a good impression of South Africa, from the poverty in the eastern part to the wealth in the south of the country. I have learned more about its history and I have travelled through many different landscapes: mountains, woodland, savannah, farm land, semi-desert and coast. I now have a real appreciation for the sheer size of this country, and an appreciation for the natural and cultural diversity found here. I have enjoyed game drives and wildlife, cultural experiences and encounters, beaches, and I’ve enjoyed and taken in every experience.
I have marvelled at the way of life in Eswatini and it’s patriarchal society, and been amazed by how far we have come in our part of the world, I have tried to learn some Zulu and participated in a dance session, and I have met the friendly people of the beautiful Lesotho. I have thought about and been touched by the wealth disparity of this country, and felt appalled at living conditions of the poor, as well as pondered about some of the choices being taken.
I do think it’s true when it’s said that South Africa is ‘Africa Light’. It does not come across as raw and unpolished in the same way as other African countries I’ve travelled through has. It is palatable in a different way, sort of more relatable and less shocking. On this trip, Lesotho came closest to the Africa I experienced on my previous trip; Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia. In this sense, I remain mostly fascinated with the countries of eastern Africa, dreaming now of visiting Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Kenya and Uganda – possibly Rwanda.
Lesotho and the Kruger game drives were the highlights of this trip for me. Lesotho with its sort of barren nature, fighting off a drought – friendly people trying to make an honest living. And of course my horseback ride along the mountains.
Kruger for its lush, green beauty, and for the special sightings we had the luck of seeing, and which really made me feel high at the end of the day.
Hermanus was a good place for our last day, and I enjoyed our revisit to Cape Town and Lion’s Head, if only just for a brief moment. However, I think that this trip spells me finished with South Africa until further notice.
Last updated 7th February 2020.