Sunday, September 1, 2013

Homeward Bound Day 30

Up early as we decided to get to the airport and have breakfast there. Traffic was light being a weekend and we were soon checked in, bags dropped and heading to the Air Canada lounge to meet up with Chad & Agnes whom flew up the previous night from Johannesburg.

We easily found them and began telling stories of our adventures in Cape Town and their Safari near Kruger Park. We saw many pictures while having a relaxed breakfast.

Our departure time was approaching so we said our goodbyes and headed to the gate for our flight to Vancouver. Their flight to Calgary left shortly after 1 o’clock local.

Away we went and I took the opportunity to read some of Marc Wolffe's "Out and About" article that he does for South African R/C Modeller. Very entertaining! The flight was uneventful except for some poor guy in the back having some heart issues. Page for a doctor etc. but we did not divert at all.

Once in YVR the paramedics were on scene and checked out the individual. We managed to get out without too much delay.   We cleared customs & Immigration and connected to our flight home to Victoria. In the door at 1500 local after a stop for groceries.

What a trip! Had some great experiences, met lots of great people and enjoyed pretty much every meal that was put in front of us. It’s time to go back on a diet and prepare for our next adventure... hey is that a pub over there? :-)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

London Day Trip

We touched down in London at 06:10 and collected our baggage, cleared Customs & Immigration and headed off to the bus depot. Our hotel was a Holiday Inn by the M4 and as the previous busses that we used on our first week in London didn’t connect well, we used the Hoppa Bus that took us directly to the front door.  Expensive but convenient.

Our room was not available so we stored our bags & headed back to the terminal and the tube. Familiar ground! We set off to meet our cruise friends Dan & Vicki Hitchens who live 20 minutes outside Birmingham. They took the train down to spend the day touring around with us.
Dan, Vicki and Kelly await our Clipper Catamaran
Tower Bridge
Belfast and the Shard
We met up at one of the tube stations and quickly got re-acquainted. As we had no real plan it was decided that, after a stop at Starbucks for some badly needed caffeine, a boat tour around the Thames would work well.  The Clipper would whip around between the many stations along the Thames so we could hop on or off as we liked with a day pass. Dan loves a bargain and had a couple two for one passes... Kelly was impressed!!

We cruised around and went past many familiar sites we had seen the previous trip..,, the Belfast, the Eye, Tower Bridge, the Horniman at Hays etc... we continued on down to Greenwich Village and walked around the area. Saw the refurbished Cutty Sark and toured around the village doing a little geocaching as we went.. Look a pub I yelled! In we went for lunch and a pint of Guinness:-)

London Eye
Cutty Sark
Dan's floating pub! The Wibbley Wobbley
We jumped back on the clipper and headed to this neat old boat that Dan had once been to. The Wibbly Wobbly was an old German boat converted into... yep you guessed it.. a pub! We had another pint and enjoyed the ambiance of the old gal. We chatted about upcoming cruises, recent weddings and enjoyed each others company. A great afternoon.
Obviously they have not heard me sing:-)
Outside the O2 Dome

Next stop was the O2 Dome and all the facilities within. Incredible structure with many restaurants & bars (Yes... pubs too!) We queued up for our return trip to Monument Tube Station enjoying the high speed catamaran’s performance when the skipper opened the taps up! A little water splash never hurt anyone!

Kelly is always goofing around :-)
Trying not to get wet on the Clipper
Once there we said our goodbyes unsure when our paths would cross again. Open invitations to visit were duly swapped and they headed off home. We jumped the tube and after one transfer we were back at the airport and the Hoppa Bus to the Holiday Inn.

We were upgraded to an executive room and after a quick bite of dinner, we hit the rack exhausted. At least Kelly was feeling better now.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Good Bye Cape Town Day 6

Our last day in Cape Town as we start our long journey home. Kelly awoke in the night not feeling well and immediately blamed it on the beef carpaccio that we had at dinner... funny thing is I had a huge amount of the very same beef and I was fine :-) Must be a bug of some sort.

She tried to have some yogurt at breakfast but bowed out and went back to her bed.. poor thing. Our hosts at the Blackheath Lodge gave her some medicine but I walked down to the corner pharmacy called Clicks and picked up some Gravol and Gaviscon.
Outside the Blackheath Lodge

I started packing up and she awoke feeling slightly better. The lodge let us stay in our room until our pickup time at 13:00 so there was no rush. We finished up packing and our driver arrived to take us to the airport. Kelly was a trooper and we were soon onboard our flight to JNB (Johannesburg). We initially wanted to go direct to London but that privilege would cost another $800 on British Airways. We decided that the money was better spent on our 5 days in Cape Town and a short sit/transfer in JNB. We were right!
Kelly gets a snug from Soda.

Our flight up to JNB had a mechanical glitch (a brake temperature sensor that was giving erroneous temps to the flight crew) and for a while a return to the gate was a possibility. Luckily the sensor returned to normal and we departed to the cheers of the passengers! Hey we were cheering too!!
On our way.
A quick two hour flight and an arrival right over the Midvaal Raceway that hosted the World Championships the week before. A bit of walking, website updating and we once again loaded up the very same plane and we were off to London on the red eye flight. We changed our phone’s sim cards to our UK one we had purchased almost four weeks earlier so as not to be without data!! God forbid! :-)

Sleep came easy, especially for Kelly.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cape Town Day 5

Lazy morning for me as Kelly heads for coffee and her breakfast. I am a bit slow today as I wake up. Messaging with Marc Wolffe regarding afternoon plans as we hope to meet up for a local tour around the town.

Breakfast done, everyone showered and off we went to the famous V&A Waterfront Mall. 266 shops catering to every woman's fancy... And a couple of men's shops to... iStore, men's clothing etc.

We split up and then cruised the mall scoping out a couple eateries for lunch at the same timel. We hoped to run into the Jesky's here but never spotted them in the expanse of the mall :-) texting will have to do!

Kelly and I rendezvoused at noon and had a nice lunch at Willoughby's in the mall. After that it was back home as Marc will be stopping by to grab us. He arrived and we drove down the hill to the Winchester Mansion were the Jesky's are staying. We called up but no one was around... they had a tour in the morning. We left and after driving a couple kilometers got a text from Tim saying that they were home now and could they come? Marc wound around a traffic circle and we were in front in short order. We loaded up and Marc did his best impression of a tour guide:-)
Marc's plane hauler conveniently turns into a 7 passenger van! Who knew!
 He took us out west to the Otto De Plessis Drive for some great views of both Table Mountain and the adjoining mountains. Incredible site! We found a geocache nearby and introduce everyone to our "other" hobby. We explained how it all worked and they thought it was pretty neat to find a cache.

Great view!
Tim gives a two thumbs up.
Marc drove us out towards the Koeberg Nuclear Power Station where we enjoyed an light snack and a refreshment at a local waterfront establishment. We headed back to town and Marc dropped off the Jesky's and came over to our lodge for a juice. He had to wait out the traffic so we had a good conversation about F3A and the recent worlds.

We thanked him and then headed downtown to the La Boheme resturant for our last dinner in Cape Town. Another great meal! We are batting a 1000:-)

Back to the BHL for our final sleep. We start our journey home tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cape Town Day 4

Up early today as our pickup for the game farm was at 06:30. Quick coffee and we were off! It's a two hour drive to the Aquila Private Game Reserve.

The weather was rotten in Cape Town this morning with blowing winds and rain. Our route took us along the N1 which is the main highway to Johannesburg. Once through the Huguenot Tunnel the weather dried out and it was just higher overcast clouds and no rain. We had a pit stop at Worcester for bathrooms & snacks then back on the road.  We hoped this would be the weather at the game reserve :-)

On arrival we paid the entrance fee and were greeted by a peacock in full bloom as we headed to the buffet style breakfast. All very good and as we left early before our Guest House served our usual breakfast, we tucked in hard ;-) We sat with another couple from England and enjoyed the rest of the day with them.
Amazing colors!
Wow that is impressive!
We transferred to a touring vehicle and we were taken deep into the heart of the African wilderness! Well not quite as it was a 4500 acre reserve of open land surrounded by hills and small mountains. The property is fenced but very large and allows the animals to freely roam within the game reserve area.
Hang on tight!
Male Ostrich (Black body & white feathers)
Neat to see these two elephants in open ground.
 We drove around the property stopping at various vantage points to view the animals.
Oryx Antelope
We had a short break midday for some refreshments and a leg stretch. As it was cold and windy we took the Sherry:-) Nice warming effect I will admit.

Our driver/bartender:-)
 We drove up into the hills and entered the lion area. We did see them but they were way out of camera range for us. A couple people has 400mm lenses and I am sure they got good shots.

Next stop was the rescue/recovery center across the road. These animals were being cared for and I believe they will either live out their lives here or be reintroduced into the wild.
Cheetah... amazing!

Something we said? :-)
Alligator... they are sleeping and not noticing me creep into their pen for this shot.
Leopard that is in a smaller caged area about 200 x 300 feet. Looks very healthy and is ready to go back to the wild I believe.

Back at the main facility we were treated to another great buffet lunch and the requisite gift shop stop. Kelly managed to avoid spending more rands as her bag is officially "over gross" for the trip home. We loaded up and headed home to the Blackheath Lodge in Sea Point , Cape Town. Weather turned miserable and stayed that way for most of the journey home.

Two hours later we were dropped at our door and after getting changed, we cracked a bottle of Anura Sauvignon Blanc and sat by the fireplace with the cat Soda:-)

Dinner tonight is at Harvey's at the Winchester Mansion. This is NOT the Harvey's Hamburgers you're thinking of :-) We took a short cab ride down and on arrival, decided to check and see when Linda & Tim Jesky would be arriving. We had spoke at the World's about getting together and I was pretty sure this was the place that they were staying. We inquired at the front desk and low and behold they had checked in and were in the bar at that very moment! In we went and quickly found them as they looked through their computer for pictures of the cheetah that hit their car at Henley field!  Some insurance deal I think? Kelly had a picture of the offending creature on her phone! What luck.

We had a great visit and decided to have dinner together in the hotel. We chatted about their trip to Kruger, the Worlds, kids and their plans while in Cape Town. 

We said goodnight as we headed home to Blackheath Lodge and they sorted out their rooms. We will try and meet up tomorrow afternoon sometime.... maybe even visit with Mark Wolffe.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cape Town Day 3

Today was our “Wine Tour” day in the Stellenbosch area. We were up at 6:30 for our showers and breakfast. Pick up was at 8:15 am and we were on our way. One stop down by the V & A Waterfront to pick up two more folks for our wine tour.

We headed out of town on Hwy 1 towards our first stop at Anura Vineyard. This is one of the many wine producers in the area and we were treated to a great tour of the facility, the barrel room, crushing room and fermentation tanks.

Our onsite guide was Francois and he gave a great presentation on the process of wine making, blending, aging and finally tasting.. our favorite part:-) Following the tour we were treated to a sit down sampler plate of fine cheeses and numerous wine tastings. Although Kelly and I are white wine drinkers we did sample several reds as well as a nice port. Our cheese plate also featured small french bread along with several condiments of fig jelly, garlic jelly and a carrot something or other. The fig was my favorite:-)
Francois explains the barrel process.

The fermentation tanks.
Filtering machine.
We bought a bottle of wine and fig jelly and headed to our next stop of Franschhoek. We had 45 minutes to wonder the local streets and check out the small shops that lined the main town road.

Too bad it was closed:-(
Buildings in Franschhoek.
Main church in Franschhoek.
Next up was as stop at Tokara Winery and this place was unreal! Gorgeous grounds with an immaculate tasting room adjacent to huge filtration tanks. Large windows overlooked a vast hillside of grape vines. Sadly the low cloud blocked the fantastic mountain ranges.
Heading in for our tasting. Incredible.
Vineyard views.
No expense was spared here!

The tasting room feature a huge mechanical clock that was a work of art in itself. Kelly wanted to take the huge fireplace home... too bad she’s already maxed out on baggage weight:-)
Kelly gets comfortable.
Now that is a fireplace!
Clock mechanism.
Next stop was the town of Stellenbosch were we had a couple hours to have lunch and explore the shops. Aside from being a famous wine region it is also a university town as there were many students everywhere. We did a bit of geocaching and shopping then headed for our last stop, the Vergenoegd Estate Winery. It is pronounced Fer- huch...... ah forget it!  There is no way to write it out:-)
Artwork in the park in Stellenbosch
They gave us a great wine tasting and explained the process for maintaining their vineyard. They use a huge flock of flightless ducks that pick off the many snails that love to eat vines. They use these ducks as a “natural pesticide” and heard them out to the fields.  They even showed us some baby ducklings as well as fertilized eggs... a little more than we bargained for but interesting none the less.
Vergenoegd Estate Winery dates back to 1773... feeling old here :-)
These plagues identify historical buildings.
Kelly gets the full tasting as our driver Sim looks on.
Snail eating ducks!
Once home we had a drink and relaxed before heading down the street to the Duchess of Wisbeach Restaurant. It was very good as all the Bleackheath recommendations have been. Back to the room to blog and relax as we prepare for our wildlife tour tomorrow.