South Africa Wrap-up

Another voyage is drawing to a close. It’ll take some time to get used to a non-nomadic lifestyle. But it’s always a pleasure to come home.

No longer camping, we spend a few nights at the Kleinbosch Lodge.

Annandale Road, near Stellenbosch

Our last visit is to Rust en Vrede wine estate. Very classy.

‘Rust en Vrede’ means ‘Rest and Peace’

Back in Cape Town, we visit the South African National Gallery.

‘It’s such a perfect day…’

We visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden for the first time.

The Gardens were built on grounds originally purchased by Cecil Rhodes.

Speaking of that arch-imperialist, we’re surprised to find an intact statue of the man in the Company Gardens in Cape Town. Among the kind of people who love to destroy statues of all imperfect men, his statues usually top the list.

‘Your hinterland is there!’

Nobody turns down his scholarships to Oxford, though, as far as we know. (Which are open to all races and religions, as specified by Rhodes himself.)

Anyway, back to Kirstenbosch. According to Wikipedia:

‘Kirstenbosch places a strong emphasis on the cultivation of indigenous plants. When Kirstenbosch was founded in 1913 to preserve the flora native to the South Africa’s territory, it was the first botanical garden in the world with this ethos, at a time when invasive species were not considered an ecological and environmental problem.’

The forest canopy walk

After visiting the gardens, we go for a pizza at Ferdinando’s, in the trendy Observatory district. The pizza is delicious.

Maria finds a place for yoga sessions on nearby Waterkant Street. (Nearby to where we’re staying, that is.) The hillside neighbourhood has pastel-coloured vintage houses, cafes and restaurants galore.

The Good…

The polar opposite of central Cape Town is the slum of Khayelitsha, which we pass through driving on the N2.

…the Bad, and the Ugly

Khayelitsha is one of the most notorious slums in Africa. Having said that, it’s still South Africa, so note that there are electricity poles and satellite dishes for everyone.

Let’s just say we’re happy not to have a break-down here.

Our last full day in Cape Town, we visit the SANCCOB seabird sanctuary.

Pool for the permanent residents

We pay extra for a personal tour. This includes a ringside seat to feeding time.

The waiting is the hardest part

The penguin feeder is easily the most popular human in the centre.

‘Hello, and thanks for all the fish’

Birds are cared for in all stages, from ‘still in the egg’ to release. This woman spends her day hand-feeding baby penguins.

There are veterinary surgeons at hand. This poor little guy needed to have a pin inserted to heal a broken foot. (We can sypathize – we both have titanium pins in our ankles.)

Better healthcare than Khayelitsha

They set him down to assess where he is in his healing journey.

Still a bit wobbly on his pins

Sight or Insight of the Day

The SANCCOB centre is in a neighbourhood named ‘Table View’. From here, you can see how Table Mountain is flanked by Devil’s Peak on the left and Lion’s Head on the right.

Our favourite view

The next day, we fly home. A 15-hour flight direct from Cape Town to Washington, DC, then a brief flight to Ottawa.

We have a feeling we’ll be back.

To the Wine Country

We spend a few days in beautiful Plettenberg Bay. There has been a lot of shark activity here recently.

Maria goes in anyway

There is a thick sea mist covering Plettenberg Bay for most of our time here. It finally lifts to reveal the surrounding sea and mountains.

Mossel Bay is our next stop.

The Bartolomeu Dias museum has a replica of his ship. This vessel sailed from Lisbon to Mossel Bay in 1988.

Cape Agulhas is the southernmost point in Africa.

Where two oceans meet

There’s a lighthouse you can climb.

You get a great view from the top.

Antarctica is somewhere over the horizon

The trip from Agulhas to the wine country goes through the Overberg region, full of golden rolling hills and vast grain farms.

Wineries on our list to visit include Boschendal, La Motte, Alto, and Rust en Vrede.

At La Motte winery
At Boschendal winery

While driving from Franschhoek to Paarl, we discover that when Nelson Mandela was released from prison, it wasn’t from Robben Island – it was from Victor Verster Prison. It’s still a working prison.

Nelson’s column

Speaking of Nelson Mandela, we are walking along a street in Stellenbosch when we come across a pair of his shoes in a shop window. It seems they were auctioned off for some fundraising event.

Big shoes to fill

In Paarl, we visit the Afrikaans Language Museum, which is less than riveting. But brings us to an interesting – but purely anecdotal – observation: about 80-90 % of the (white) South Africans we meet are Afrikaans speakers. (Most of whom speak perfect but heavily-accented English.) What happened to all the English South Africans? My theory is that many of them probably had access to British or other passports and left the country.

Sight or Insight of the Day

Our last camping experience is in Franschhoek. This is all the stuff we acquired for our comfort and convenience while on the road. As usual, there is a big giveaway.

‘Imagine no possessions…’ – John Lennon

We’ve camped about half the nights of our trip. Almost all of them delightful.

This photo is a visual reminder for any future voyage. We had precisely what we needed this time around.


Addo Elephant Park – Park Name Checks Out

After we re-enter South Africa proper, we spend a few days at the ultra-civilized Yellow Sands Caravan Park.

We revisit Addo Elephant Park. ‘Revisit’ because we came here on one of our previous visits. There are lots of elephants in Addo – over 500. So many pachyderm pics follow.

It’s good to be back in a game park. The first thing we notice is that the elephants in Addo are used to being close to people (in their cars, that is.)

Heading for our car

Even mama elephants with young ones don’t become tense and anxious.

Tense and Anxious? Moi?

Not only elephants. Many animals in the park that are usually very skittish and bolt at the first approach have become accustomed to carloads of visitors. They stand calmly a metre or two away while you admire them.

Like this zebra.

And this ostrich.

But elephants are still the stars of the show. We are amused by this elephant that doesn’t want to share his waterhole with a family of warthogs.

Every now and then, he sprays them with a blast of water to drive them away. They keep coming back, refusing to be bullied.

Of course, with a lot of elephants comes copious amounts of elephant dung. Addo is also home to the rare flightless dung beetle.

This vehicle brakes for dung beetles

And oceans of urine, too. Apparently, elephants can gush out gallons of the stuff. According to Global Sanctuary for Elephants:

“An elephant will urinate approximately 13 gallons (50 liters) throughout the day, voiding 3 gallons (10 liters) each time they urinate.  That’s the equivalent of 5 bottles of soda each time.”

Looks like more than 3 gallons

Anywhere there is a waterhole or a mud hole, there are elephants. These ones have found pitch-black mud that almost looks like crude oil.

They become so blissed out during these mud baths that they disconcertingly resemble dead bodies.

I break the rules and get out of our vehicle to help a small tortoise cross the road.

Maria keeps an eye out for lions

Another water hole, another mob of elephants.

It’s an important part of their socialization.

This juvenile is having a blast.

The park sometimes tops up the waterholes from a tanker truck. At first, the driver leaps out and manages to get thousands of tons of elephant flesh to back off by shouting. They gradually drift back, ignoring the truck and its driver.

Water for elephants

Several locations have fenced-in blinds, where you can safely observe the wildlife.

Elephants come in all sizes, from super-jumbo to pocket-sized.

We notice many zebras with foals at this time of the year.

Motherly love

Surprisingly, the gestation period for zebras is 12 to 13 months.

Mother-daughter outing

Sight or Insight of the day

Maria says we should include something about load-shedding. This is an everyday occurrence in South Africa, where the power shuts down. This can range from ‘inconvenient’ to ‘highly dangerous’. You kind of get used to it, but this morning, when the power went off yet again, we agreed this was getting really old, as they say.

As usual, there’s a good article in The Economist that sheds light on the subject – pun fully intended. There’s also a report from Harvard University warning the entire economy could collapse through the incompetence, corruption, and mismanagement of the ruling ANC. Pretty strong stuff.

So the ANC, which was bequeathed essentially the only industrialized country in the continent, has got a bit of explaining to do.

In light of all this, the election coming up in May should be interesting. Registration of voters has begun. We see this sign while driving through the town of Knysna.