Cdnpearly's Blog

Pearl's musings

Tourists on the loose! November 2, 2014

IMG_3483Our final few days in Cape Town we were 100% tourists.  Instead of opting for in-depth, one-on-one experiences like our Table Mountain hike and the Cape of Good Hope excursion, we opted for the Double Decker Hop-On-Hop-Off bus!

With trusty maps in hand, cameras slung around our necks, and copious sunscreen applied, we ventured onto the big red bus. Cape Town has several routes canvassed by the HOHO* Bus.  Our first stop was the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.  It’s a beautiful property, showcasing many specialized florae.  Paths meander through native species, trees, historical plants and medicinal/traditional flora.

Since it was early springtime, many of the trees and plants were not in

Jonkershuis

Jonkershuis

bloom–likely in a couple of weeks it would be spectacular.  Still, we really enjoyed our stroll through the garden.  Cape Town and Santa Barbara seem to share a similar climate in that we observed Jacaranda, Coral Trees, and many succulents we see here at home.

Jonkershuis

Jonkershuis

From the garden we rejoined the HOHO Bus route to the legendary Constantia Wine Estates.  This region is as rich in history as it is in its breathtaking scenery.  Groot Constantia has been an important vineyard since 1685, with connoisseurs like Napoleon (he had cases of Constantia wine shipped to him whilst in exile on St. Helena!)

Tasha and I enjoyed a tasty lunch at Jonkershuis–recommended by Albert.

Camps Bay

Camps Bay

Next day, we took advantage of the HOHO Canal Tour–it was a leisurely cruise through the very ohlala waterfront area, home to many celebrities…alas we didn’t see any.

Back on the HOHO Bus, we hopped off at incredible Camps Bay.  You’ll recall that we saw Camps Bay from the peak of Table Mountain earlier in the week, but really to appreciate its beauty, you need to be at sea level.  It has a Malibu feel to it–beautiful ocean, beach and people, great restaurants, high property values etc.

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

Our final stop was at Bo-Kaap.

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

This historic neighborhood was my favorite part of Cape Town.  Our HOHO tour guide lead an informative and respectful tour through the cobblestone streets and brightly colored homes.  He explained that the homes were originally built for slaves.  Dutch settlers brought Asian slaves to South Africa and gave them homes–so slaves could live as family units, separate from their masters.  After slavery was abolished, these former slaves painted their homes with bright colors as a statement of

Bo-Kaap

Bo-Kaap

freedom.  Houses in this enclave maintain these hues as an historic homage to their residents’ story.

Tasha and I both felt somewhat uncomfortable walking through neighborhoods, taking pictures** etc.  However, our Uber driver assured us that residents were very proud of their homes.  They never dreamed that their neighborhood would be of any interest to anyone.  The driver had first hand knowledge of this since his grandparents and parents were born and raised in Bo-Kaap.

Happy Anniversary Pauline & Graham!

Happy Anniversary Pauline & Graham!

We also had the great fortune to meet up with our dear friends Pauline and Graham!  We celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary at Karibou.  Congratulations!  And more about Pauline and Graham in the next post!

GOLD!  At Albert’s excellent

Gettin' Down at Gold!

Gettin’ Down at Gold!

recommendation, we spent our last night in Cape Town at a wonderful restaurant called Gold. Per Albert’s suggestion we

Gold Drum Teacher

Gold Drum Teacher

arrived at 6pm to take in the drum lesson.  As super keeners, we were the first to arrive and sat in the front row, center to take full advantage of the instruction!  30 minutes of bliss!  Our teacher was AWESOME!  We were remedial amazing talented fun students!

Following the drumming, we enjoyed a fabulous dinner featuring a tasting menu of African dishes from all over the continent.  Tasty!  Even with my precious Canadian taste buds!

Tasha & "Friend"

Tasha & “Friend”

The pièce de résistance was the troupe of singers/dancers that circulated throughout the restaurant.  I think you would have to be a hunk of wood to not resonate with that lively music!  So, as I chair danced to the rhythm, the troupe pulled me up to join them in a dance.  Full disclosure:  I am a terrible dancer!  However, I gave it 100% effort and as a result, I was invited up a second time!  Tasha was singled out by an admirer!

Albert!  We had the best time and it was the perfect finish to our Cape Town experience!

*HOHO = Hop On Hop Off

** Our tour guide explained that we were all welcome to take photos of the homes, but if we wanted to take pics of the residents, please ask permission first–fundamental manners, really.

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Cape of Good Hope, 2 Oceans and Some Penguins! October 26, 2014

Long Beach, South Africa

Long Beach, South Africa

Hout Bay, South Africa

Hout Bay, South Africa

A full and complete day!

On our recent South Africa holiday, Tasha and I spent an entire day exploring points south of Cape Town.  And it was epic.

Sandra from Africa Dynamics set us up with a wonderful tour guide–Albert Pote.  Albert picked us up at our apartment and the day started with a stop at Hout Bay–a little fishing village with a lovely marina.  Lots of sea life makes this a popular spot to view seals.

From there we wandered down the coast and over some hills with incredible vistas including beautiful Long Beach.

 

 

 

Tasha and the ostrich!

Tasha and the ostrich!

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Cdnpearly and the ostriches

Albert stopped at an ostrich ranch.  He taught the finer points of feeding these HUGE birds!

 

Pincushion

Pincushion

From there we entered the Table Mountain National Park.  The pincushion flowers were spectacular.

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Two Oceans Restaurant

IMG_3441

Two Oceans Restaurant

Two Oceans Restaurant

Two Oceans Restaurant

Lunch was at the incredible Two Oceans restaurant at Cape Point.  Albert had arranged an amazing table overlooking False Bay.  The restaurant is open air and the views are as good as the food!  Birds and baboons also enjoy the Two Oceans, so squirt bottles are placed strategically along the railing–guests and staff “encourage” the creatures to move along with a well placed squirt of water!

 

 

 

 

Cape Point

Cape Point

Following our lunch, we took the Funicular (cable car) to the top of Cape Point.  It was bustling with tourists, but Albert expertly guided us to the best vantage points where we took photos and simply soaked in the location–the southern-most tip of Africa.  Also, we could see the delineation of the two oceans–Indian and Atlantic.

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

Well, actually, that’s not quite true–the oceans don’t seem to mind where they co-mingle!  However, tradition suggests that Cape Point is the meeting place of these 2 bodies of water.

Albert recommended hiking between Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope.  Since the weather was glorious (again!) and the views promised to be spectacular, we strolled along the well maintained board walk/path hugging the coast line high above the beach.  Tasha and I loved every moment of this hike.

 

 

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African Penguin

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African Penguins, Boulders Beach

From here we traveled north and stopped at Boulders Beach in Simonstown where the ever popular African Penguins hang out. These adorable creatures were formally known as Jack Ass Penguins due to their distinctive mating calls!  Everyone loves penguins!  So it was pretty busy here, however, once again, Albert knew the best place to view and take pictures.  A lovely boardwalk lead us through a wooded area where we saw the penguins’ burrows (nests).  As we approached the beach we were delighted by these sweet birds–waddling on the beach, swimming in the surf, falling/jumping off boulders in the water…mesmerizing!  Definitely worth stopping here for awhile!

Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope

And just like that, our very full day of sightseeing drew to a close!

If you have the chance to explore this remarkable area, I recommend a tour with Albert.  He immediately understood the type of activity we enjoyed and tailored the day to suit us.  Albert’s knowledge of the area, history, culture, sights etc. was impressive.  He also suggested some other activities to take in during the rest of our holiday–and offered to help us book reservations.  We took him up on his generous offer and in my next post, you’ll see how much we really enjoyed them!

 

 

Feet on the Table! October 16, 2014

Table Mountain

Table Mountain

Lucky me!  I returned to Africa for 2 weeks recently with my good friend Tasha, including 6 days in beautiful Cape Town!

Having never been to Cape Town before (technically I have been to Cape Town before–so my mom says, when I was an infant…but that’s a story for another time) I wanted to make sure we hit all the well known spots…and Table Mountain towered above all the options–literally!

My research on Trip Advisor lead us to Hike Table Mountain and Riaan.  His hikes are currently ranked as the Number One activity to do in Cape Town.  After completing Riaan’s survey and some email back-and-forth, a route was selected:  Porcupine Ravine to Maclear’s Beacon, and across the top of Table Mountain where hopefully we would ride the Funicular (cable car) down to the parking lot.

Our path up the mountain...

Our path up the mountain…

Riaan picked us up at 6am and we were joined by a Canadian couple.  Within a few minutes we were ready to begin.

It is daunting to look up…waaaaaay up…to the top of Table Mountain and realize that we were going there!

I suspected that I might have been a little deluded over enthusiastic about my fitness level on Riaan’s survey when I was sweating like a pig winded on the approach to the trail head!  Riaan however, chatted easily as we walked along the path–pointing out beautiful and rare orchids, as well as many other plants.  He provided a thorough and riveting history of Table Mountain (it’s older than the Himalayas and it was 3 miles higher than its current elevation at its creation).

Porcupine Ravine Summit--view of Camp's Bay

Porcupine Ravine Summit–view of Camp’s Bay

Riaan immediately assessed the strengths and weaknesses of our group and offered the perfect combination of challenge and support for us all.  The Canadian couple were experienced hikers (the Rockies are their backyard) and I was at the other end of the spectrum–a “bag of hammers” struggling with a nagging shoulder injury and weak quads!

Despite my fitness deficit, Riaan patiently and expertly got us all up the Porcupine Ravine where we enjoyed an early lunch and a breathtaking view.

While we basked in the warm sun, gentle breeze and a 360 degree panorama, Riaan explained that we were very lucky to have the perfect day to climb Table Mountain.  It’s not uncommon for visitors to climb into full cloud, heavy wind–miserable conditions with no view!  And to add insult to injury:  the cable car shuts down in high winds, so the poor souls who have struggled to the top now have to hike down as well!  Fortunately for us, this was not the case!

Everlasting

Everlasting

Table Mountain Lakelet

Table Mountain Lakelet

Riaan lead us across the top of the Table to the highest point on the mountain–it’s a remarkable mesa (hence the “Table” moniker).  Beautiful spring flowers, lush green vegetation set against the ancient rock formations were stunning.  We didn’t encounter another soul on our trek–it felt like our own private mountain.  It was worth all the effort of climbing to experience this natural wonder.

A peaceful lakelet suddenly appeared and I took advantage of a small puddle to rest my weary feet on the “Table”.

Hiking towards the cable car structure we noted a couple of phenomena:

Table Cloth starting to descend

Table Cloth starting to descend

1.  The Table Cloth descending.  Table Mountain is known for changeable weather patterns.  One of these is a thick blanket of cloud that sweeps up the backside of the mountain and spills over the top and front.  It looks like a lovely white table cloth from a distance…not so lovely if you’re climbing in it!

Feet on the "Table"

Feet on the “Table”

2.  Crowds of tourists swarming the cable car/gift shop area.  After the quiet solitude of the 7 hour hike, the onslaught of people was jarring.

Our group braved the mob and took the quick and easy trip down to the parking lot where we met a taxi to return us to the car, and home.

Hike Table Mountain is, without a doubt, the only way I would recommend to experience this icon.  Riaan is the perfect guide and host–he knows these mountains like the back of his hand.

Next up:  The Tip of Africa and The Cape Of Good Hope