Friday, 30 December 2016

South Africa 5

We were on the home straight, the car was booked in to be shipped (I will write about that once it has happened), Charles had booked his flight for 15th Jan and I was counting down the days (often with dread) till I was home! 

We were finally heading to a Cape Town for a few days being tourists with my parents. The first afternoon we braved the traffic and caught a boat to Robben Island, an island full of past and recent history. Most recently it was used as a maximum security prison for political prisoners, most famously Nelson Mandela. It was an interesting afternoon, a tour of the prison with a former prisoner which was incredibly interesting - seeing where they were kept, hearing their stories of brutality and everyday life. The crux was seeing Mandela's cell, so small and bare. Despite the sadness of the place it was repeatedly said how the place was now an indicator of the positivity of the future. Driving around the island we saw other parts of the island, the graves of the lepers from when it was used as a leper colony, the village and the prison of Thomas Subuwe, another influential political activist. It was definitely a place to visit, watching the sun go down over the island as we got the boat back just summed up the day.

We were staying with Barbara a friend who we had met skiing 5 years beforehand. Her house was in Camps Bay, not far from Cape Town and we spent a great evening with her and crashed on her sofa bed! Day two of being a tourist we hopped on a red bus around the city. It was such a great idea as we could catch it in Camps Bay and get driven around the city stress free. Stopping off at Table Mountain we took the cable car up and down to see the stunning views it held, you could see for miles, well until the cloud cover came in! Hopping back on we walked around the food market for lunch, and spent the afternoon in the Botanical Gardens. It was a great, and cheap way to see a lot of Cape Town in a short amount of time. There was still more I would have liked to have seen but there is always another time! Toni, our other friend who we had also met skiing, arrived that night to Barbara's and amidst a meal and drinking we all caught up! 

It was an early start to day three, up at the crack of dawn to climb up Lion's Head. It was a national bank holiday so it was super busy but we all managed the hour climb (at some points pretty hairy!) up to the top to watch the sun climb higher in the sky. Table mountain to one side, and the Bay to the other it was an awesome reward! That afternoon my Dad ticked off another item on his bucket list and we we're invited to join.. a helicopter ride. As we had our ice cream before hand Dad and Charles were talking about open sides and army style manoeuvres, to which I laughed and turns out they weren't joking.. we arrived to a Huey helicopter ready to head off, safety briefing done we all sat down with our seat belts tight. It was an open sided ex-Vietnam helicopter, and the pilot looked younger than me (turns out he was but was incredible). We became air-borne, and the flight started out fairly calm.. amazing views of Cape Town, the mountains and the sea to the left. This all changed very quickly as pilot began to show us his skills! We did turns, flew meters to the ground and see, and flew up maintains! Much more interesting that a normal scenic ride! Toni and Mum ended up a little queasy but we were loving it! What a way to end our Cape Town experience! For Charles and I it was a quick drive back to Gordons Bay to meet his father, Nev, and Jenny, in their house before we spent an evening with them watching the sun set over the harbour at the yacht club!

Over the weekend we spent with Nev and Jenny we had a great time. Spending Saturday driving around the smaller, less commercial wine farms tasting and buying their products. The service and personable experience really made you want to buy their products even more! Pizza and good company topped off the first day with them, for the first time in a while I was asleep on the sofa by 9.. the afternoon drinking had tired me out! Sunday we all headed off, with Gemma, to the penguins, it was only the second time I had seen them in the wild! There we hundreds and the smell incredible.. the chicks were moulting their baby feathers and looked very tatty! We soon learnt that them and the cormorants are endangered - such a shame these beautiful animals are declining due to over fishing in the seas! Some lunch and a walk around the botanical garden topped off the day and Nev's mac and cheese was the icing on the cake! No complaints from me! 

From here Charles and I did different things, he drove me to Franshhoek to meet my parents and Toni whilst he was going to stay at Nev's until the 23rd. Franshhoek was a very pretty, French looking town with individual house dotted about the beautiful countryside. It was home to many wine farms with many French sounding names.. Dad had booked us all onto a wine tram around Franshhoek. A great idea meaning no one had to drive.. you got on then off again at different farms in the area. It was very commercial, and the farms were huge! The first one was Verde en Lust which was shocking! The wine was awful and the customer service even worse! It was such a shame as so far in my wine tasting experience it had all been so good! The next two were lovely, and the gardens at Babalonstoren amazing.. rows of fruit and plants! Not strictly wine tasting but a nice interlude! Dinner was st Rocos a stunning restaurant up the side of the mountain, the walk was definitely worth it! 

We left Franshhoek and headed further along route 62 towards Barrydale. On the way we visited some more smaller wine farms; much better service and a lot more wine bought because of it.. Arrabella being one of those we bought 19 bottles between us at! We stopped off at another, more expensive, farm but apart from the tasting didn't buy much, here in South Africa the cheaper wines often taste as good, if not better, than the expensive ones! We stopped off for lunch and met Toni's sister, Tracy who was joining the road trip, at Ronnys Sex Shop bar for a quick beer.. Charles and I had already stopped off there on the way down already! Our home for the night was at Wolvesfontein, a gorgeous (or divine as the owner kept telling us), rustic three bed-roomed cottage in the middle of nowhere in the Karoo Desert. It was just stunning and as the sun set we ate our curry and drank some wine! Another tough day in Africa! Charles in this interim time had been spending quality time with his Dad, doing boy stuff.. this, he told me, included finding car parts, tasting pork crackling, eating biltong, drinking beer and generally having a good time! 

After a trip onto a private game reserve the next morning, we slowly headed towards the Wilderness National Park, another place Charles and I had been before. The difference however was amazing, there were so many people (Christmas holidays etc) - all the sites were full and there was a real party spirit going on. It was the last night I would be camping on this trip (sadly not in the Landrover but in the hilux which was just as comfortable). A quick hike up the mountain the next morning and it was off to Knysna for lunch! Our lunch stop at Knysna was right next to the blue and turquoise sea, a quirky restaurant we had the best table right on the edge of the food was different but fantastic as we watched the boats coming in and out of the harbour! 

Our mini road trip was at an end, and we arrived st a Toni and Tracy's parents house on the golf course in Plettenberg Bay! It was very nice, tennis courts, a squash court and a swimming pool on site also! We settled in to a roast dinner braai, something I have yet to experience.. roast chicken, roast potatoes and a variety of veg including cauliflower cheese!! Yummy! Second day I began the transition into reality by having a hair cut and was then joined by Charles in the afternoon, who drove from Gordon's Bay, to play tennis and for a pre-Christmas celebration with my family. We were supposed to be sky diving on Christmas Eve but a rain storm prevented us sadly from doing so! It was bye to my family until England and back to Charles' Dad's house for the Christmas festivities!!

Christmas was a great day, another hot one (which takes some getting used to), and we trecked to Charles' cousins for Christmas lunch with all his family (around 25 in total!). Braai lamb, gammon and a selection of other veggies and goodies for dinner with a lot of alcohol! It was lovely to see all his family again, being joined by Mandy also! Boxing day was a lazy morning, and we went to the Afrikaans Language monument with Nev, Jenny, Mandy and Charles. It was an amazing sculpture, and the view was amazing with a coffee after! 

Mandy's last day was the 27th, she was heading off at 8pm, so spent the day at the Cheetah Outreach, went brandy tasting and then the bird centre. Was a great day again, and a chilled evening was definitely needed! 28th was DDay for me.. suitcase was packed and a lunch of sushi at Oceans 8 in Gordon's Bay! Soon enough it was time to board the plane.. definitely tough doing it but all good things come to an end!

So whats next... I start work next week, and am sat in the dark in the UK (at 5pm) writing this blog! Charles is in South Africa until the 16th Jan sorting out the car which he rubs in my face at all possible chance! The next chapter is about to begin, but the last was pretty amazing!!!