A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: MissWalker

Cape Town

... and home

overcast 16 °C

10 August 2017.

The morning was cold and grey with rain expected in Cape Town. Table Mountain and Lions Head were covered in cloud. We were so lucky that we were able to go up Table Mountain on a clear sunny day – it doesn’t happen too often.

We had breakfast at 8.00am – what a luxury to choose what time you want breakfast! We walked a couple of blocks to the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest building in Cape Town. We had a look around and walked up on the walls, and stayed for the 10.00am key ceremony followed by the firing of the cannon.

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We walked to the Parliament buildings and the Slave Lodge museum (didn’t go in), the Company's Garden and then walked back along Long St to return to the hotel for our late check out at 12.00pm. We walked back to the markets and had a quick look … didn’t need to buy any more because our bags are packed and are very full!

We had lunch and went back to the hotel to wait for our airport transfer at 2.00pm. At the airport I had to say goodbye to Jude. We’ve been travelling together for over six weeks and we’ve shared a lot of experiences … some incredible and unforgettable experiences.

My flight to Johannesburg left at 4.45pm and all three flights (Cape Town – Johannesburg – Perth – Canberra) were on time. I arrived in Canberra just after 9.00pm.

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Some thoughts about doing this type of holiday …

I chose to do a NOMAD adventure tour because I was looking for something that I hadn’t done before. I’m glad I did it but couldn’t recommend it to everyone … you need to be prepared for the very long days, for the extremely rough and dusty roads, to be in the truck with a mix of people (some loud, annoying people) during those long days, to accept all types of accommodation, to sit outside in the heat/cold on a little camp chair and eat food that you won’t always like. On the first leg of the tour there were long stretches without any signs of civilisation, which means there’s no toilets, so we had plenty of ‘bushy bushy’ stops … this wasn’t a problem for the group we had but might be for some people.

But there are a lot of positives to this type of travel. We covered so much ground and went to some really remote places that a tour bus couldn’t go. I loved watching the incredible scenery along the way, which changed every day. We met some very friendly people – we found that service people (particularly in restaurants) and taxi drivers were extremely grateful to just have a job and not only provided great service with a smile but were always ready to have a chat.

The biggest positive was the amazing experiences we had. The game drives in Etosha, Kruger and Addo … it takes your breath away when you first see a lion, hippo, rhino or elephant close up. There are so many highlights (right now it’s all a blur), but I will always remember walking with the lions and the private game drive when the elephants came up close enough to touch … although these were not in the NOMAD itinerary and involved an extra cost.

Despite the warnings of violence and robberies in South Africa I never felt unsafe there or in any of the countries we visited, even on the few occasions I was out by myself during the day (not at night but I wouldn't go out by myself at night anyway).

The 42 day Southern Circle covers a lot of ground (11,696 kms) and has a variety of experiences to suit people that are reasonably fit. This tour can be broken down into shorter legs and we had some people start or finish at different points along the way. NOMAD’s most popular tour is the 20 day Cape Town to Victoria Falls.

I wanted an adventure holiday and that’s what I got. There were some days when I wasn’t feeling well or there was some tension within the group, or I was over-tired and I just wanted it to stop. No, I can’t get back on that truck again … but I did and I’m so pleased that I survived the 42 days!

Posted by MissWalker 23:05 Archived in South Africa Comments (2)

Southern Circle: Day 42

Back to Cape Town

sunny 16 °C

9 August 2017

Breakfast was at the winery at 8.00am and we left in a mini bus at 9.00am for a Cape Town cultural tour. The guide went through Cape Town’s history (we’ve heard it a few times) and pointed out some sites in the city.

We made a stop at the District Six Museum. District Six was an area in Cape Town where freed slaves, merchants and immigrants lived. It became a ‘white only’ area in 1966 and 60,000 people were forcibly removed.

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Next we stopped at the township of Langa. This is an area where poor black people are crammed into tiny houses, some provided by the government and some are no more than shacks made out of old bits of wood and rusty tin sheets. We had a guide for the walking tour in the township. I didn’t like the tour straight away when he said we were going to a bar to taste beer and we all had to pay. The bar was a tiny shack and the beer tasting was out of a can … everyone who tasted (not me) had to pick up the can and blow the froth and sip from the can (the same can for everyone). We went into a house with a couple of bedrooms that is shared by a few families – this felt very invasive because the people were there doing their daily chores. After a while the guide asked for donations of 50 Rand (that’s around $5) to buy chips to hand out to the kids. Again this didn’t feel right and I didn’t give him any money. He bought a couple of big bags with individually packaged chips and the kids came running from everywhere (this is obviously a regular occurrence) and it was a frenzy of small children trying to grab as much as they could.

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Back in the mini bus and we drove past another couple of township areas and headed out of Cape Town to drive to Stellenbosch, where the truck was parked. We had an hour in Stellenbosch to look around and buy some lunch. Jude and I spent most of our time looking through the markets in the town square and didn’t leave much time to find lunch. The town square was filled with people, many lying on the grass soaking up the sun – today is a public holiday in South Africa for Woman’s Day.

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Back in the truck again and on the home stretch, but first a stop for wine and cheese tasting. Unfortunately for us this was the same winery that we went to on the first day of the tour (first and last day!). Jude, JP and I have been on this tour together for 42 days … we wore our NOMAD t shirts and had some photos taken together to mark the occasion. The shirt shows the route we took and says Cape Town to Cape Town 11,696 kms.

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We arrived back at the NOMAD office just before 5.00pm. All the luggage was unloaded and we all went our separate ways. For the two of us it was a celebration of surviving the 42 days.

We checked back into the Strand Tower and the friendly staff remembered us from our stay six weeks ago. We caught a taxi to the V&A waterfront to do a bit of shopping. The shops were open but unfortunately the craft market was closed because of the holiday, so we went to a restaurant and had a lovely dinner instead of shopping.

Posted by MissWalker 20:31 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Southern Circle: Day 41

Ostriches, Ronnies Sex Shop and a winery

sunny 18 °C

8 August 2017

Despite the tiny bed I had a good sleep but woke up quite early … maybe excited that the tour is nearly over and I can go home and sleep as long as I like in my own bed! Breakfast was at 7.00am (outside on a freezing morning), the last truck breakfast and we had scrambled eggs, but no toast again. We departed at 7.30am and had an appointment for 8.00am at an ostrich farm.

A guide told us about ostrich feathers and hide, we had demonstrations on making a feather duster and carving eggs and had a look at the incubation room. Then it was time to feed the ostriches. The smell near the pen was horrible and the ostriches were ugly … I wasn’t feeding them! They go crazy when someone holds out their hand with some feed … the males are not very gentle and will peck at fingers as well as food.

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We drove through the little town of Calitzdorp … JP’s home town. Later we had a quick photo stop but I think we’d already passed the most spectacular scenery as we drove through a mountain pass.

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We made a stop along the way at Ronnies Sex Shop. The sign on the building originally just said Ronnies Shop but someone added the Sex and it became a place for tourists to stop and add to the bra collection hanging in the bar and the messages scrawled on the walls and ceilings. It wasn’t a great place to stop but we got to sit in the sun and warm up for a while.

The final truck lunch was beside a service station. It was actually one of the better lunch stops because there was a grassy area with tables and benches. As it was our last truck meal it was good to see Conrad package up the leftover bread rolls and salad and give it to the employees at the service station.

Around 3.30pm we arrived at the Le Bac winery in Paarl, our home for the night with a beautiful big bed. We all ate dinner at the winery’s restaurant. After dinner the students in our group decided it would be a good idea to have a party … a very rowdy party that went quite late. Not great for all the people trying to sleep!

Posted by MissWalker 06:00 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

Southern Circle: Day 40

Oudtshoorn and Cango Caves

sunny 20 °C

7 August 2017

This was a frustrating morning. We were supposed to leave early and visit an ostrich farm and Cango Caves today. But a few people got together and decided they wanted to do whale watching, despite not letting Conrad know when he booked our whale watching for yesterday … instead of being firm with them he booked it for this morning which meant everyone else had to wait around all morning and the plans for today had to be changed.

Jude and I met at 7.30am and walked to the beach (there’s a path through the dunes) and enjoyed walking on the sand for an hour. We had a late breakfast at the resort and checked out at 10.00am. The plan last night was that the truck would take the whale watchers into town and be back to pick everyone else up at 10.00am. After we checked out we realised that we were the only ones there and we sat and waited for an hour before the truck turned up … we were not very happy!

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It was about 11.45am when we finally departed Plettenberg Bay. We made one quick stop for fuel and had to just keep driving because we had a 4.00pm tour booked at Cango Caves. We drove through a mountain pass with stunning scenery but we couldn’t stop for photos. When we arrived at our accommodation in Oudtshoorn it was nearly 2.30pm and we had to unpack our luggage, have lunch and be ready to leave at 3.00pm. The rooms are a bit strange, there are four beds in the room ... four tiny child size beds! Conrad had made hamburgers and packaged them individually and had fruit boxes and grapes, so lunch was very quick.

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The one hour tour of Cango Caves was very good. The caves have several chambers with spectacular formations.

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Back at the accommodation it was the usual hunt for wifi, which wouldn’t work in the rooms. I went to the reception area and spent some time updating the blog … I’m still a few days behind. At 7.30pm we had our last truck dinner and it was a feast … we had a braai (bbq) with ostrich steak (it was good), sausages and chicken with potatoes, corn, salad and garlic bread. JP even made apple crumble for dessert. I won’t miss sitting on a little camp chair in the dark and cold while trying to eat with a plate on my lap.

Posted by MissWalker 21:34 Archived in South Africa Comments (0)

Southern Circle: Day 39

Whales and dolphins - Plettenberg Bay

sunny 22 °C

6 August 2017

The people who were late yesterday were actually in the truck early today and we departed just after 8.00am. The Bloukrans Bridge was only about half an hour’s drive and the people doing the bungy jump left to get harnessed up. For the rest of us it was a pretty boring couple of hours waiting for them to return. We had a coffee and cake in the café – you can see the bridge and they have a big screen so you can watch people jump and see the terror on their faces – then went for a walk to fill in time.

In Plettenberg Bay Jude and I and another two ladies were dropped off for the whale watching activity. We registered and then had to wait quite a while for a bus load of people to arrive. We were all given a life jacket and we walked to the beach where the boat was on the sand. We climbed a ladder and sat in our seats, then the boat was pushed to the water’s edge and the engine roared into life and we were thumping through the waves.

A female whale and calf were spotted near the beach and we stopped a long distance from the whale (boats are not allowed to get too close to a calf). The action was all on the other side of the boat and I could barely see the whale. The boat travelled a bit further along the coast and it was lovely and warm and sunny but when the boat turned around we were directly into the wind and it was really cold.

Two whales were found together (it’s whale mating season) but again it was on the other side of the boat and it was difficult to see, although I did see some fins and the heads pop up through the water a couple of times. We had to move on from there because there’s a time limit on how long a boat can stay.

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Next we encountered a pod of dolphins. They were on either side of the boat and they were wonderful to watch but impossible to photograph … they come up so quickly and are gone before you can push the camera shutter. Here’s a terrible photo that I had to crop … but at least I got them in the photo.

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We were back at 2.00pm – we didn’t even get two hours on the boat because we started late because of the bus group. It was disappointing that the time was so short and that I just couldn’t get any decent photos but at least I saw some whales and dolphins, unlike my whale watching attempt in Iceland where I saw nothing. The beach landing of the boat was exciting … the boat is lined up and the engines rev as the boat gathers speed, you have to hang on tight to the bar in front as the boat is going fast when it hits the sand and comes up onto the beach.

The truck was there to pick us up and take us into the town for a late lunch. We had a couple of hours but it was pretty boring because it’s Sunday and the shops were shut. Jude and I had some lunch and found a supermarket before the truck came back for us.

We are staying just outside Plettenberg Bay at The Dunes, a lovely resort next to the beach. My room is big and modern with clear warm water in the shower. So many of the lodges we’ve been to are run on solar power and the lights are so dull you can hardly see, and the last place had brown water that was either scolding hot or stone cold in the shower (there was no in between). This place feels like a bit of luxury but of course we are only here for one night.

There was no truck dinner tonight but there is a restaurant at the resort. Jude and I skipped dinner because we had such a late lunch and for some peace and quiet away from the rest of the group. It had been a bright sunny day but the rain was back tonight.

Posted by MissWalker 14:13 Archived in South Africa Comments (1)

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