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Cape Town

Having left on day one, the eleventh of November at eleven o clock we arrived safely at Heathrow for an eleven hour overnight flight. Day one blurs into day two as we arrive early morning. There are eleven of us in our group. We take a city tour before heading up towards Table Mountain.

The top has been closed for several days but is now open, however this means the queues are very long. They are also added to by the exciting news that on 11/11/11 the mountain was voted into the SevenNaturalWonders of the world. Our Guide is John Finch who circumnavigates the queue problem quickly. Up we go and we spend a long time in the Sun shine admiring the wonderful views. But we are about to learn something about Cape Town and why it is also known as the Cape of Storms. Within minutes a cloud rolls in completely obscuring the views and making the temperature drop. Everyone heads for the cable car down. Those just arriving after hours of waiting are disappointed. (Thankfully, for them, it cleared ten minutes later as quickly as it came).

Evening meal at the waterfront with some fellow travellers. The sky is clear and we may see some of the Southern stars for the first time.

Cape Peninsula

We head South to explore the peninsular. The coast road has one breathtaking view after another. It also has some rather dangerous sections where rocks tumble down, or the ground has subsided. Several of the areas we pass through used to be colonies for the poorest inhabitants but now they are transformed into top dollar residential palaces with an amazing Atlantic view.

From the coach the beaches look wonderful with clear water breaking on white sand, but of course the water is freezing all year around so only surfers venture into it. Fish Hoek Bay is the most dangerous place to swim or surf in the world as far as Shark attacks go. John explains that the recent pursuit of Shark Cage Diving has brought the level of attacks to the current one every three months. These attacks have so far always been fatal. Even if the swimmer gets back to land the shock has been too much. In other areas watchmen sit on high ground able to scan the shallow clear waters and give the alarm. Our destination is the Cape of Good Hope. Simply a romantic point on the map in my childhood;

now becoming a reality. This is the furthest South West point of Africa. And so for the purist geographers NOT the point where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic. In fact, the southernmost point is Cape Agulhas, about 150 kilometres to the east-southeast. The Atlantic and Indian oceans meet at the point where the warm-water Agulhas current meets the cold water Benguela current and turns back on itself – a point that fluctuates between Cape Agulhas and Cape Point. However, the Cape of Good Hope marks the point where a ship begins to travel more eastward than southward.

A view Northwards from the lighthouse of the East and West coastlines

Thus the first modern rounding of the cape in 1488 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias was a milestone in the attempts by the Portuguese to establish direct trade relations with the Far East. We return via Simons Town, a Penguin colony and the Botanical Gardens.


Robbeneiland is an island in Table Bay, 6.9 km west of the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town roughly oval in shape, 3.3 km long north-south, and 1.9 km wide. It is flat and only a few metres above sea level, as a result of an ancient erosion event. It was here that past President of South Africa and Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela and past South African President Kgalema Motlanthe, alongside many other political prisoners, spent decades imprisoned during the apartheid era. Among those political prisoners was current South African President Jacob Zuma who was imprisoned there for ten years. The boat takes 300 across at a time in 20 minutes. Therefore the operation of getting that many around to see everything is fairly slick. After a tour in a bus we escape from the coach and it gets interesting as we are shown around by an ex-inmate. It is a remarkable and complicated story which I cannot do justice to.

Our group gathered together after lunch. We leave Cape Town on the North Road on which you may travel (if you take enough fuel with you) to Cairo. We however, stop after an hour or so in Franschhoek.

The area is away from the hustle and bustle of Cape Town and our hotel is a quiet Spa. We all ate together, but it took them until eleven to serve us three courses.

Cape Winelands

We spend Anabelle's First Birthday travelling through the valleys of Stellenbosch and Paarl visiting two vinyards for some wine tasting. Most of the wines we taste are rather young and there are buyers around who are trying to spot something they can lay down for a year or two which will improve.

Nevertheless it is a lot of fun and those who did not spit it out actually had no more than a glass before and after lunch. Using the feet to extract the last drop from the skins was recently banned and repalced by a hydrolic baloon press. Apart from the flavouring problems, the fumes of the open vat used to make the staff light headed.

To Oudtshoorn

On our way to Oudshoorn we stop in Hermanus to do some Whale Watching and we are in luck.

Although it is late in the season we see several Whales as they swim up close to the shore in search of food. Continuing by coach we go through several mountain passes. These roads follow the oldest roads in the country, but those roads themselves followed the paths created by migrating Elephants. There is much evidence of recent bush fires. Several of the plants in this region require the occasional fire to continue their life cycles but the recent years have been dryer than usual leading to more fires across the region.

Oudshoorn is the centre of the late Victorian fashion-led ostrich feather industry.

We stay overnight at the Queens Hotel.

To Knysna

Morning visit to an ostrich farm. These birds can deliver a kick which will rip you open from top to toe with fatal consequences. They are particularly jittery when they have eggs to protect.

The prosess is explained in detail and the chance to ride an Ostrich befalls the lighter members of our group. The we have lunch in their restaurant consisting of Ostrich fillet, rice and veg. This gives us time to digest everything we have learned before hitting the road again.

Our next stop is Knysna at the Belvidere Manor on the coast of the Indian Ocean. This is an exciting complex of holiday homes on a colonial scale and we are presented with a three bedroomed cottage for ourselves.

Garden Route

Featherbed is a privately owned Nature Reserve situated on the Western Head of Knysna and accessible by ferry only across the Knysna Lagoon, home to forty nine ship wrecks in the last two hundred years on the razor sharp rocks.

We drive to the top of the Western Head stopping at spectacular viewpoints en-route.

The walk down twists and turns to the coast and then we arrive at a natural rock arch.

After that yet another spectacualr meal at the jetty. Bck on the coach we continue along the Garden Route to Tsitsikamma Forest and Stormsriver Mouth.

We do another short coastal treck and watch the spectacular waves crashing on the rocky shore.

More of a day for photographs than for commentary.

Lentil Bobotie


45 ml sunflower oil
2 onions, chopped
500 g butternut or pumpkin, peeled, seeded and cubed
5 cloves garlic, crushed
7 ml chilli paste
5 ml medium curry powder
2 dried bay leaves
6 ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
15 ml ginger paste or freshly grated ginger root
24 sprigs fresh coriander (optional)
10 ml each sugar and salt milled black pepper to taste
250 g brown lentils, cooked
4 jumbo eggs
400 ml milk seasoned well with salt and pepper


1. Heat oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan and sauté onions and butternut until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, chilli paste, curry powder and bay leaves (or 4 fresh lemon leaves), then add fresh tomatoes and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes.
2. Stir in ginger, coriander and sugar, season to taste and simmer, covered, until butternut has just softened. Remove lid and cook over high heat (reduce) until liquid has almost evaporated, 15 to 30 minutes.
3. Layer lentils and vegetables in an ovenproof dish, starting and ending with lentils. Pour eggs, beaten with milk and seasoned well, over and bake at 180 ºC for 45 to 50 minutes, until golden brown and set. (We also like the mince Bobotie)

A long but leisurely 500K return to Kaapstad via the pie and other shops. The scenery gradually changes. We drop seven off at the airport and only Hugh and Veronica remain with us for the extension to the Zambia side of the Victoria Falls. The forecast for the amount of water is not encouraging. Perhaps they will be dry. If so we will try to go across to Zimbabwe where there may be some. It is 04:30 now, we leave for Livingstone in fifteen minutes.

To Livingstone

We spent a week travelling by coach Eastwards but on the map the entire route is unbelievably small in comparison with the whole country. How the first settlers ever managed to move inland is astonishing but now we are about to come face to face with someone who must be considered a Grand Master of exploration. We fly for about three hours via Jo’burg to stay in the town of Livingstone located in the country of Zambia.

I am on BA6291 seat 11A on a B737-300 right now and there is some unexpected turbulance as we fly over Botswana.

Our hotel is right on the bank of the Zambezi 2Km before it tumbles into Victorial Falls.

An evening Sunset cruise is on offer which turns out to exceed our expectations. The crew serve us a selection of tastey snacks while we drift along close to the bank. When wildlife is spotted they get in close.

The Vic Falls Bungee jumping club offers a free taster (No strings attached) but we decide against it. Instead, the four of us have organised ourselves and agreed our activities for tomorrow. The problem is that there is not much water falling over the falls on the Zambian side. If we visit Zimbabwe we will enter Zambia three times before we leave and each one requires a visa. Additionally Zimbabwe may charge so we have decided to take a different approach. We have an early start.

The Devil's Pool

We were expecting to be disappointed at the lack of water for our visit to Victoria Falls. At the maximum of 10^6 Cubic litres per second (Enough water to keep Australia going for a year falls down in two days) they look like this:

However the spray, which rises to 700 feet and can be seen 70 Kms away, can be so intense that often nothing can be seen of the opposite side. Under these conditions the authorities prohibit the use of cameras. Full flow also means you can not stand here:

And you certainly can not have an early morning swim in the

Devils Pool which is situated here and obviously only accessable in the dry season:

A powerful speedboat takes us to Livingstone Island towards the edge of the falls. We follow our guide David, in single file into the water and swim a path to a rock outcrop on the VERY edge. We all pay careful attention to what David now has to say. We must jump in and about eight feet away from the rocks. He shows us. We follow.

We have all given our cameras to a second guide, who brilliantly manages to use the correct one for each shot and as you can see takes a great picture considering what he has to work with. We all make it onto the ledge for a group photo.

Now one by one, we turn around and with David holding our feet, we crawl to the edge to look down.

We all carefully follow the exit strategy, swim back to the Island and are then presented with Eggs Benedict and Coffee. We returned to our hotel stunned by our experience occasionally uttering one word comments. Amazing. Unbelievable. Wonderful. Astonishing and so on.

We are soon off again, this time for a sedate viewing along the trail on the other side. The current falls are the seventh cataract. From the trail we can see the sixth where the falls used to be. The eighth is forming and will eventually create a new spectacle. We can just make out the next group going through the routine at the Devil's Pool, at the end of the rocks, just below the branch in the top right of the photo. The recently built Knife Edge Bridge where you can get the best soaking in full flow, can be seen on the left. Zimbabwe is the area in the top left where most of the spray is.

To Botswana

The drive to the border is one hour through unchanging bush on a straight road. As we turn off there is a queue of lorries ahead as far as the eye can see and much further. It takes up to ten days for them to get to the front and onto the Kazengula ferry one at a time. Here the borders of Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Zimbia are all within a minute of each other. (Do not get on the wrong boat).

Our mini bus drives us straight up to the passport control, we are through in ten minutes. Normally I would avoid porters if given the choice, but here in the muddy banks of the Zambezi ( did I mention it was raining and we got covered in mud from a convoy of army vehicles that went passed us?) I would like one, but there are none. Anyway everything gets safely across by speedboat and a further couple of hours finds us in the relative luxury of Muchenje Safari Lodge , with a view across a vast Chobe River flood plains into Namibia.

We have had lunch and are about to embark on an afternoon safari with our friends and two new companions from Holand. Nick is our ranger and is very experienced at spotting and identifying Birds and Animals.

We explore for a couple of hours without seeing another safari party. Towards Sunset we park up on the river and another four safaris join us for drinks. Then as the light is fading word is out and we rush off as one to spot a Loepard. It is a young male, quite pale and white, we only get a fleeting glimpse as he runs acrfoss the bush but it was from very close quarters. But we have tarried too long and now Nick must put his foot down to avoid a fine at the exit.

Chobe Game Drive

The Rangers split the day into sessions: Early Morning, All Day, Afternoon and Night and you can sign up as you wish. We go for All Day.

After lunch we transfer to a boat which proves to be very exciting. A Hippo chases us and we get very close to a big Croc.

Homeward Bound

We leave Chobe early our trip to the airport should take 50 minutes. We spend half of this time on the the amazing A33 dead straight through the park for 60Km. We have to slow down for the Zebra crossing...

We meet our next guide who takes us across the border to our boatman. It goes smoothly and we meet our final guide for the trip who takes us through imigration and onward to the airport. There is unexpected turbulence over Botswana, but we arrive in Jo'Burg OK. It is a shame to travel by air 90 minutes in the wrong direction. Time passes in Jo'Burg and now we are in the air probably just over Livingstone. I crack open my complementary Malbec and I have time to reflect.

The first week was easy going with quite a lot of coach time. We enjoyed the food and drink although the service was unpredictable. When we entered Zambia it became much more exotic with sights ad sounds we were unfamiliar with. This became even more intense in Chobe. So many people have helped us experience a holiday of a lifetime, some like Nick in Chobe devoted themselves to us and our safety while others remained in the background. Since I started writing journals on holiday, this has been the hardest to write. Why is that? Perhaps SA is similar to UK and so it is hard to find quirky details to write about. In Chobe, pictures replace words. I look at them there just on the left and I can not believe I took them.

The big five are depicted on the SA Rand notes. We Photographed three, and had a good look at a Leopard but he was too fast to photograph. There are no Rhino in Chobe.

Bonus Story

Our driver in the first week was Albert

Our first trip on the roads was from the airport and we passed by a serious accident involving a taxi. John told us that the standard of driving was remarkably bad. The next day the papers were full of another crash with several dead. Despite the chaos around him, Albert was very smooth and patient, he gave us an extremely safe and comfortable ride. Only on our last day together did we discover this was his last trip before retirement.

Bonus Photos

Veronica rides Ostrich

Lion Flame

Robbeneiland guide and ex inmate

Draft Beer in Oudtshoorn