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.

 

The Big Five: Africa Part 2 October 27, 2012

The Big Five–the holy grail of safari!  Historically, this referred to the most difficult animals to hunt on foot, as well as the danger factor, rather than size.  Today, it’s a check list for many tourists that want to see the “stars of the safari”.  During our 5-day sojourn at Idube, Barb and I saw “The Big Five” and more!  Rob the Ranger and Ronald the Tracker, provided ample opportunities to observe these magnificent animals up close, in their natural setting and completely safe for human and beast alike.

So…here’s Number One!

We saw many elephants around the Sabi Sand region.  Surprisingly, they walk  very quietly.  Despite their massive size, they can disappear into a thicket in a heartbeat, or conversely, reveal themselves seemingly out of thin air!  We observed a lovely herd on our first drive, in the pouring rain.  This group included a baby–Rob estimated that she was around 6 weeks old.  If you look closely, you can see that her feet are still pink!  Adorable!

We also came across a posse of 4 adolescent males playing in the dam near Idube.  They goofed around for 2 hours+!  It was interesting to observe their interactions and to hear their trumpets (it’s loud!).  (Video of this is being prepped as we speak and I’ll share it in a future post.)  At one point, a 5th male sidled up to join in the fun, but the original four shunned him.  Poor guy, tried hard to fit in, but ended up sulking away.

Since we had the luxury of 5 days, we never felt rushed during any of our animal “interactions”.  Rob seems to have a knack of knowing just how long to linger at a site–allowing guests to watch, photograph, or just be zen with the surroundings.  If you can swing it, I definitely recommend a 4-5 day safari if at all possible.

Number Two

Leopards!  These are my favorites of the Big Five.  Their eyes are a spectacular greenish color–and so very intense!  This picture (left)  was taken on day 2 of our safari.  The leopard nonchalantly strolled by our jeep.  I could have reached out and petted her tail as she passed by–but Rob made it very clear early on:  NO LIMBS OUTSIDE THE VEHICLE.

We also had several opportunities to see leopards at night.  One was venturing into a rival’s territory.  He walked the perimeter, marking and growling to announce his presence.  Another evening, we saw a baby leopard in a tree, waiting for his mom to return.  And our last morning drive, we came across this beauty (right), seeming to pose for us!  Breathtaking!

Already on my list for the next safari:  See a leopard haul its kill into a tree.  Since lions and hyenas aren’t successful tree climbers, leopards are known to drag their meal into a tree for safe keeping.

Number Three:  Rino’z!


Unfortunately, there are too many idiots out there who think that poaching these magnificent animals is a good idea.  So, I have intentionally misspelled the word so as to prevent said idiots from searching on the internet to locate these creatures.  We were lucky enough to see rinoz several times on our trip.  On a particularly memorable encounter, a male was checking out a female.  I guess he felt we were threatening his chances with her and so decided to intimidate us!  Rob predicted this behavior and  as the male was taking a run at us(!), Rob (the Rockstar Ranger) calmly stood up and in his best “dad voice” said “Don’t Charge!”…thankfully the charge halted and Mr. Rinoe made a sharp right turn before reaching our jeep!  Thrilling!!  I asked Rob later if he had a Plan B (just in case the male hadn’t followed instructions)…Rob said, “Reverse…FAST!”

Number Four:  Lion!  

Our fearless leaders–Rob and Ronald were marvelous trackers.  Check them out in action, inspecting a trail for signs of recent animal activity.  Success!  A lion foot print!

We were treated to several amazing lion/lioness experiences.  We observed a pride of lionesses stalking an impala on our first drive.  They worked as a team and it was truly incredible to watch them in action.  As it turns out, the impala got lucky that day, but it was impressive nonetheless.  Evidently lions don’t need to eat that frequently.  A solid meal will do them for at least a week.  As a result, we didn’t see male lions doing anything but sleeping and digesting!  If you’re interested in seeing real life lion v. buffalo  click here to see a video captured by Ronald (FYI, it’s a little gory).

As you can see, life in the bush can be violent.

Here you can see evidence of a recent tussle.

Rob explained that this lion and his brother had a shake down recently.  While they both survived, this guy is sporting a nice scratch.

Number Five:

Buffalo!

I’m certain there are those that really find buffalos enchanting…I am not one of those.  So, while it was really interesting to see them and to “complete the list”, I didn’t really resonate with them.  That being said, there can be no denying that those horns are impressive!  And I wouldn’t want to make them angry–a herd of worked up buffalo would be frightening!

Check out the beautiful yellow-billed oxpeckers, enjoying some tasty bugs on the baby buffalo’s back!

So that’s a wrap of the Big Five.  Which one did you like best?

Next up:  more beautiful animals that didn’t make the top 5 cut!

 

Safari: Trip of a lifetime, Africa Part 1 October 23, 2012

SCRATCH!  That’s the sound of a biggie being scratched off my bucket list.

Safari!  Africa!  Destination I’ve only dreamed about…until last week!

A trip this epic requires several blog postings, so be prepared to be amazed for the next couple of updates!

My sister Barb (see Santa Cruz Island post) and I travelled to South Africa recently.  It’s a long haul to get to Johannesburg from North America.  For me, it was a 29 hour ordeal, including a 7 hour layover in Heathrow.  I arrived at JNB, red-eyed (having taken 2 overnight flights on the journey) and exhausted.  After the disappointing setback of discovering my luggage was still in London(!), I met my Hyatt Shuttle driver and was quickly in the hotel enjoying lunch with Barb.  A quick shopping trip to Woolworth’s for some essentials, and we were off to meet Greg–a high school friend, who happened to be in Joburg on business–for dinner at the Butcher’s Shop & Grill in Nelson Mandela Square.  A tasty meal and lively conversation ensued–catching up with each other  since we last met:  high school graduation!!

Sidebar: Thankfully I had packed my malaria meds and other essentials in my carry-on luggage AND I purchased travel insurance.  Both these precautions paid off during this trip, since my suitcase was MIA for 4 days!  Also, if you are planning to fly into Johannesburg, I recommend pre-arranging a shuttle pick up, rather than trying to arrange transport on the fly.

Back to Adventure:  The next morning, Barb and I flew to the Sabi Sands Game Reserve.  This region borders on the famous Kruger National Park.  Fences between Kruger and the private game reserves have been removed, so animals can move freely around a vast area.  Nice!

We were met at the tiny airfield by Rob the Ranger.  Unfortunately, it was pouring rain (55mm total accumulation)cue the TOTO  Africa song.  Thanks to the jeep’s awning, we arrived at Idube Game Reserve in pretty good shape.

Sidebar: Selecting a safari can be overwhelming.  I started my search by googling 5-day safaris in Kruger.  My requirements were: safe, comfortable, affordable; meals and game drives included.  I checked each possibility on TripAdvisor for reviews.  Barb and I eventually settled on Idube Game Reserve through Africa Dynamics’ Sandra Collier.  Sandra is based in Washington State, so we were able to communicate on the phone easily.  She answered every question and made booking our trip so easy.  Her colleague in Canada met with Barb, as well.

Additionally, I was able to save thousands of dollars on my flights, thanks to YAPTA.  This website tracks flights that you select.  When/if the price goes down, they send you an alert email.  My airfare went from $4000+ to $1600, round trip.  So, it’s definitely worth looking into!

Return to adventure:  Idube offers 2 game drives daily (early morning and late afternoon/evening) as well as an optional safari walk.  Rob was our fearless leader for these outings.  I didn’t know what to expect in terms of animal viewing, safety, comfort, etc., but Rob has set the bar hopelessly high for future safaris.  This man knows flora, fauna, stars and more.  Rob has an uncanny ability to predict what an animal will do, and as a result, each guest is completely safe even while in the presence of “dangerous” animals.  He has such an affinity with his surroundings–I actually observed him carefully drive around a dung beetle on the road!  Every question we had, regardless of how many times he must have heard it before, was answered promptly, thoroughly and thoughtfully.

Ronald, the keen-eyed tracker, worked in tandem with Rob.  Sitting out front of the jeep, his sharp eyes picked out tracks on the trail, or animals in the distant bush.  He astonishingly spotted a tiny chameleon on a bush as we drove by it at night! Ronald prepared the jeep prior to each drive–including cozy blankets for the cool nights and rain ponchos for the damp excursions.

Every drive included a refreshment break.  Think safaris are “roughing it”?  Think again!  Part way through the morning, Rob and Ronald selected a picturesque setting, hauled out a table with a table-cloth(!), hot drinks and fresh-baked muffins for our nourishment.  In the evening, our repast usually took place in a wide open space that showcased the planetarium-like night sky.  Very civilized, indeed.

I cannot miss the opportunity to rave about the food at Idube!  Chris, the chef, is impressive.  Her culinary creations were so tasty and beautiful.  Fresh baked bread and croissants; tantalizing entrees and the desserts must be seen to be believed.

The wait staff:  Auphrey, Constence and Mavis were lovely and attentive.  Patrick was our safety escort.  Since Idube is a small lodge that allows all creatures to roam freely (except elephants), guests are escorted to and from their rooms at night.  That extra layer of security was comforting…especially given some of the interesting noises we heard through the night!

Finally, Andrew and Lauren! Idube’s team leaders.  This dynamic couple sets the tone for the lodge.  They are bright, enthusiastic, professional, genuine, caring, positive, funny–you get the picture!  Lauren singlehandedly wrangled my lost luggage from Heathrow to Zebrawood chalet.  I was so delighted to be reunited with my bag (cue Peaches and Herb:  Reunited song) I burst into tears!  Thank you Lauren!!

So, that’s the background and personnel for our adventure…next up?  The Big Five!  Here’s a sneak peek of what’s to come…

Finally, completely unrelated…recently I have been asked for my coffee steak rub recipe.  With pleasure, here it is:

Mix 1/2C coarse ground coffee beans, dark roast (I usually use decaf for the lightweights in the group) + 1/4C kosher salt + 1/8C coarse ground black pepper + 1/4C brown sugar.  Rub onto steaks, both sides.  Allow to melange for at least an hour.  Barbecue.  Steak should rest for 10 minutes before serving.  Enjoy!

Incidentally, this recipe makes enough for several meals–I store it in a sealed container in the fridge for easy access.  Bon appetit!