Category Archives: South Africa

Happy Days – Cape Town to Swakopmund

Cape Town, South Africa

I always thought Africa would be something I’d do in way older age. It seemed daunting in terms of time and cost. But then, I realized that by camping and cooking your own food everyday (well, helping to cook), costs can be kept relatively low. And, I had time. So, I joined my 11th trip with G Adventures. Can you tell I like this company? No, I don’t get paid to say any of this. This blog barely gets visitors anyway.

54 days, 10 countries, many hours spent on the road. There were 21 of us to start (+ the G CEO and the driver, George and Joseph, respectively), and only 7 of us were going the entire distance.

Travel tip: Visas were not required for up to 90 days for U.S. citizens in South Africa, Namibia and Botswana.

Trawal/Cederberg

Our first stop was a wine farm and camping site called Highlanders. There was a pool here but, it was getting late in the day and we all opted for the wine tasting instead. Here, George taught us how to put our tents up and take it down, something we’d be doing almost everyday to the point of it becoming an automatic, involuntary action. Like coffee in the morning. Or morning poo.

At night, we all sat around the campfire and went through several rounds of Would You Rather. Among the dirty ones, there were some serious questions, like “Would you rather be the only one to transform into a T-rex or be the only human living amongst them?” Well, what if you were a homeowner? Would you still retain the deed if you became a T-rex? Is estate planning necessary? Are you still covered under the Constitution? I know, serious.

We camped our last night in South Africa by the Orange River, where we could see Namibia just on the other side.

And, the next morning, we went canoeing for about 2 hr in the river. I agreed to partner up with someone without realizing what I was getting myself into.

“Ah, this is nice.”

(10 minutes in…)

“So, how long more do we have to go? I’m tired.”

She then proceeded to stop rowing. Just like with Trump’s presidency, I was exhausted within minutes. I seem to have bad luck with canoeing/kayaking partners [Re: Odda, Norway].

Fish River Canyon, Namibia

Fish River Canyon is Africa’s largest canyon and a magnificent beast to watch a sunset over. We didn’t have permits to hike down into it (apparently, it’s a 5-day hike that you need to book in advance).

Rachel taking photos that I won’t get to see for another decade (hehe).

As we were walking towards our dinner spot, “someone” needed to relieve himself but the only coverage available in this vast canyon was this one tree (and luckily the darkening sky). But, as he tried to do his business, strong winds began going in the wrong direction and ultimately prevented him from doing so. Nature didn’t want his nature. Nor did he want his nature on his nature. Savvy?

Namibia’s night sky was incredible. We cooked and ate dinner against this backdrop and George treated us to boxed wine. Not a bad capture for a point and shoot, right?

Namib Desert / Namib-Naukluft Park

En route to our next campsite, Sossus Oasis Campsite, we stopped for lunch by the only tree that we could see for miles. It provided adequate shade and pleasantness as long as you didn’t inadvertently walk into one of the low lying thorny branches.

Desert for miiiiiiles. We had to cover our noses and mouths every time an occasional car or truck passed by. No matter how frequently you washed your clothes, there was always sand and dust embedded in the fibers.

According to this Evolution of Man, I clearly haven’t progressed much (I am second from the left). I’m also wearing my banana shirt so, I guess that’s fitting.

The campsite where we were staying made a poor choice of fencing off areas with a thin metal wire not too far up from the ground, about mid-calf level. It was easy to forget to step over it, especially when going to grab your 3rd or 4th beer. I tripped and face-planted onto the sand in said scenario and slightly damaged the camera I had slung over my arm. So, yea, I really haven’t progressed much in life after all. Going to the bathroom in the middle of the night, half asleep with a head torch, proved to be a serious challenge and others have tripped and fallen also. Just not in front of everyone else like I had. Whomp whomp.

Dune 45, nature’s Thighmaster.

We made it just after sunrise and the red hue was on full blast. We sat here in complete wonderment…before we littered the undisturbed sand with our footprints as we ran almost uncontrollably down the slope.

By the time we reached the bottom, I had grown a sand dune inside each shoe. Hayley was smart to have taken off her shoes and walked barefoot.

We then took 4×4’s to Sossusvlei, a salt and clay pan, where we then embarked on another thigh-mastering journey into…

…what appeared to be a Dali painting, minus the melting pocket watches. Officially, Deadvlei.

Me: “I walked halfway up the dune where you can get a more panoramic view.”
Courtney: “You mean, you walked a quarter of the way up…”

She was right. But, my legs felt otherwise.

At our next campsite, the guy running the camp took us on a walk to show us the desert and talk about how the Bushmen survive. Various desert plants can remain dormant for a long time while dry and sprout again with water, an adaptation clearly useful with unpredictable rainfall. The surrounding sand contained black iron which can be maneuvered around with a magnet. Beetles are able to hydrate by collecting condensation on their backs in the wee hours of the morning. And, there are hideout spots within the sand where spiders hide. I have no idea how he spotted them but he stopped at a seemingly random spot, kneeled down to reveal the teeniest tiniest hole in the ground, opened up a small flap with a blade of grass to reveal a slightly larger hole, dug into the hole with his hands until he reached a white ball, then provoked that white ball enough until the legs popped out of it to reveal a highly alert creepy ass white spider. GAHHHH. Quite loudly.

We then took a drive around the desert to see zebras galloping among the neighboring oryx with the African sun setting in the distance. There are sunsets, and then there are African sunsets. Ahhh.

This campsite also had a watering hole that animals frequented late at night. So, after dinner, we grabbed beers and chairs and sat silently a good distance away for almost an hour. A group of zebras finally came by. They were like little kids fighting for the water fountain after their gym period. Then came the farting, as if water was the last component to add in their bodies to cause a chemical reaction. It was a whole chorus of the flattest, thinnest sounding passing of gas. If sound can be described as 2-D, this was it. It took a whole ab workout for all of us to keep our laughter silent. Whatever our age, farting noises are always hiiiiilariousssss.

First came the Arctic Circle. Then came the Tropic of Capricorn. HRC (standing as CRH), crossing imaginary latitudes, one by one.

Our amazing group, standing by our overland adventure vehicle, lovingly named Lando Bloom. Because it’s not a truck, it’s a Lando. And if I heard this line one more time, I would’ve exploded.

Left to right: George (CEO), Rukshana, Rachel, Isabelle, Hayley, me, Kristina, Hayden, Ashley, Chris, Phil, Joseph (our driver), Courtney, Connor, Kate, Robyn, Viv, Erin, Mandy, Shani, Nadine, Alex and Tanja.

Flamingoes!

Swakopmund

We took a break from our tents and slept in actual beds for 2 nights. Except, 15 of us girls were stuffed into one room stacked with bunk beds, while the 6 guys enjoyed a more sprawled out space. Something seemed unfair. At least we were able to catch a part of the Olympics on TV and watch a replay of Usain Bolt’s win! We also tried oryx, kudu and zebra for dinner. That was creepily delicious. Although it’s not really different from eating beef, I still felt some guilt while eating it.

Now in the city of adventures, we did everything from skydiving to quad biking to sand boarding. Being on a budget limited me to just sand boarding and I almoooostttt landed that jump. Almost. If I hadn’t said anything, I could’ve just had you believe that I did. Hm.

Then, we did the other kind of sand boarding. Remember to keep your elbows and feet up. Oh, and your mouth closed :T (Photo credit: H)

On the way to our next campsite, we stopped for lunch by the Skeleton Coast, a graveyard for ships that were unaware of its craziness. It was also endearingly dubbed The Sands of Hell by early Portuguese sailors. The Bushmen called it The Land God Made in Anger. I will name it The Gentle Giant…Who Will Then Rip You To Shreds.

August 7 – September 29, 2016: Ultimate Africa

Good Hope

Cape Town, South Africa

We officially made it to Nelson Mandela, Elon Musk and Trevor Noah country.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – we grabbed lunch at the Tea Room before taking a stroll through the gardens. The day was very golden and much deserved after laying over at Ethiopia’s Addis Ababa Bole International Airport for a second time.

We got used to it being forbidden to lie on the grass in the public parks in China that being able to lay on this was such a delight. Yes, a delight. Now go get me biscuits for my Earl Grey, love.

Magical trees from another world, a world where Obama was still president.

Travel tip: It’s not really safe walking out in Cape Town when it’s dark. Uber was really easy to use and actually pretty cheap throughout the city. We even used it to get into the city center from the airport.

Next morning, we took an Uber to the cable car entrance of Table Mountain which was under its annual construction the week we were there. So, we began our hike up from there. Everything was great until we reached the midpoint, when my mind/body decided that I didn’t want to do it anymore. Just like that. I still completed the hike, though, just with cement blocks for legs.

As expected, it was totally worth it. It was so damn windy up there that at times, the entire top would be covered in clouds, aptly called the “tablecloth.” Oh, and I also ate a really juicy pear up here.

The view of Lion’s Head, Sea Point and Green Point out yonder. If you have a day to spare, take a leisurely stroll along the promenade from Green Point to Sea Point.

Stellenbosch

And, the best part? Well, the best part was probably the combo of Table Mountain suffering + the chateaubriand I ate later that night as a reward. But, the next best part? WINE TOUR. We booked with Wine Flies and visited 5 wine estates in the Stellenbosch area. The first two we visited were Lovane Boutique Wine Estate (above) and Annandale Wine Estate, which is owned by ex-Springbok player Hempies du Toit. We were given a sampling of chocolates in the first and not enough bowls of biltong (best meat jerky ever) in the second.

The next two were Middelvlei Wine Estate (pictured) and Villiera Wines. At Middelvlei, we were served a farmhouse lunch that, while being mass produced for the throngs of tourists strolling in and out, somehow managed to taste like it was especially made for us. A true homecooked meal that made you feel all cozy inside. Grilled meats, grilled sandwiches, a nice small soup and a salad.

Last stop – Remhoogte Wine Estate. By then, everyone else on our bus was utilizing the spit bucket. My spit bucket was called my esophagus.

CHEEEEESE, Gromit.

And, if you haven’t guessed it already, I passed out on the ride back to our hostel back in Cape Town.

V&A Waterfront, where we caught a ferry to Robben Island (try to book this in advance!).

This is Nelson Mandela’s tiny cell, with nothing but a bucket, a small table and a floor mat to sleep on. As if being imprisoned wasn’t bad enough, black prisoners were given only shorts to wear, even in the harsh winter season, and very little rations to eat. White prisoners were given way better nutrition. Communication with the outside world was highly censored and book privileges were limited. Mandela had to write his book in secret in the middle of the night with the help of three other inmates. Persistence and perseverance. I suppose those two are taught for a reason, huh?

Our tour guide was a former prisoner who, in retelling his stories of the cells’ horrible conditions, found redemption and the will to forgive and become friends with the very guards who had tortured him. Now that’s very in the spirit of Mandela.

And, then, ROAD TRIP!

Around the Cape of Good Hope.

H&C now became the trio HRC, in full support of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

The original cast of Jackass on location at Boulders Beach. (They’re called Jackass penguins or, African penguins.)

Travel tip: Check out the market at The Old Biscuit Mill and grab a cortado there at Espresso Lab Microroasters. Order a steak at Hussar Grill, a burger at Royale Eatery, seafood at Codfather, breakfast and flat whites at Jason Bakery & Origin Coffee Roasting, beers and app’s at Bootlegger, and, yes, go get that cheeky Nando’s!