I’ve mentioned before that I am not a wild fan of beach destinations and now I have remembered why – when it pours with rain as it did in my three days here – bar a couple of hours there is very little else to do except watch TV box sets – am loving Succession and read and plan more travels in 2020 – so that’s what I did. However, given I was in Mauritius I knew I would never be closer again (2.5 hour flight) so decided it made sense to stop by and add it to my places visited list
A quick visit to Victoria, the smallest capital in the world – was indeed quick – it was very wet and very small. A market and a Hindu temple and ten minutes to walk around. Too wet to visit the botanical gardens
Market and inside the Hindu temple in the smallest capital in the World – Victoria
For the two hours that the sun came out I grabbed a taxi driver and asked him to drive me around the island – pretty I guess. I understand that the rules of Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other UAE locations have brought up a lot of land and are building holiday homes and hotels there. It made me laugh that although they own their massive holiday homes they all choose to stay at the Four Seasons when they visit!
Beaches but also too much over building for rich visitors – the locals are not keen on this sale of the land
Beaches of Beau Vallon where I was staying
In a way I quite enjoyed the drama of the stormy weather – and at least it remains at least 26 degrees here however wet it is:)
Storms are gathering and the light in the building is looking back at my abode.
Off to colder climes for a bit on my next stop ………
Great relaxing end to our visit to South Africa was a six day chill in Mauritius – another new country for me.
Our hotel – Sands Suites was situated on Flec en Flac (love saying that!) beach. Even when it rains it clears up very quickly so an easy place to just sit and watch the ocean.
Sands Suites Flic en Flac
We also took a walk through the forest along the coast to Tamarin Bay – very pretty.
A huge highlight for us was Walking with the Lions at Casela Park (thanks for the recommendation Lorna) and sanctuary. Luckily these animals are well fed (!) and you get an hour walking and interacting with them. Very cool – once I stopped being scared!! We spent our hour with two white lionesses. Magic.
Watching the girls do their thing
Walking with lions involves being led by them as you hang on to their tail. And like household cats they love a good petting
As we walked around the park we encountered more lions on the safari drive.
Lions having fun
And very excitingly we also got up close and personal with the white and golden tigers. They are BIG. Apparently they tried to do visitor interactions with them way back when it they tended to attack for the fun of it – so as that was not very good for business they stopped it.
Tyger Tyger burning bright
The ocean does t just look good during the day- it also produces a lot of sunsets like these.
Sunset from Sands Suites Flic en Flac
And finally I had to say bye to Trudy and Alan – as they headed off back to the UK while I am off to another beachy spot.
A two hour drive took us to the charming town of Hermanus – especially famous for its whales – and we did see some from the hotel deck. But the real “Wow factor” for me here was the stunning hotel we were in – The Birkenhead House – designed by the same people as the Silo Hotel mentioned in my previous post. This is what I call classy luxuries bliss – and it was complimented by amazing food – all meals included – and while this is not something I would usually do – once you get here you are glad you did as you don’t want to leave the place for even a minute.
Public areas in the Birkenhead Hotel
Contemporary and comfortable design is key at the Birkenhead House
My bedroom and plunge pool at the Birkenhead House
Then after a breakfast that looked like this ……
Luxe brekkie at the Birkenhead House Hotel
it was wonderful to take a 90 minute cliff walk into Hermanus to walk some of it off and enjoy the views along the way……
Cliff walk into Hermanus
Only to return to this ……
Home made scones with a view at the Birkenhead House Hotel
Just as well I only stayed for two nights….
Another two hour drive took us to the town of Swellendam. A very pretty small town and nice to stop at a less touristy place for a night. The scenery en-route was stunning and the local Drodsky Museum was nicely done.
Classic views on the road to Swellendam
Dutch cape houses including our bed and breakfast at Hotel Roosje van der Kopp
Finally, we finished our time in South Africa with a visit to the lovely Franschoek – a much busier place than when Trudy and I last visited decades ago but still absolutely charming.
We loved the Hugenot memorial and museum – really interesting info on how they came to settle in the western Cape and who knew Roger Federer was descended from them and had visited his relatives there?!
The Hugenot Memorial in Franschoek
The Hugenot Museum – with boy in pink hot pants ?!?
As for the food – goodness it was good. The first night we went to Reuben’s which we loved (and the chef is a local) and I enjoyed two kinds of steak tartare.
Eating at Reuben’s
and the the second, to officially recognise Trudy’s birthday year, was the fantastical La Petite Colombe – the pictures are only half as good as the food and the experience. A must visit if you are in the area.
A zen feel to the food at La Petite Colombe
The surprises keep on coming at La Petite Colombe
We also enjoyed our stay at Plumwood Inn – very convenient for the Main Street yet tucked away too.
And of course you can’t visit this area without doing at least one wine tasting day which we enjoyed in Stellenbosch for the whole of our last day – forgetting we had to be up at 5am for our flight to …….?(watch this space)
Scenery around Stellenbosch and the vineyards are looking good
Trudy, Alan and I enjoying a day at some local wineries in Stellenbosch
Have already booked a longer stay in SA for early 2021!
Now it is time to explore Cape Town and the Western cape of South Africa. I already know I will return here for longer so this short visit was a nice taster and reminder of a wonderful city – last time I was here was around 1993 – things have certainly movie on since then.
Our apartment was a five minute walk from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront area – this is the place where everything happens in Cape Town so it is great to be close by. By day it is a fun place to visit to eat, shop, listen to live music and generally watch the world go by. By night it is very prettily lit and buzzing – also very safe and well patrolled by security guards.
Day time at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront with Table Mountain in the background
Night lights at the V and A waterfront.
On the next sunny morning we headed off to the impressive Kirstenbosch Botanical gardens – massively large area to wander about and enjoy flora and sculpture – would definitely recommend.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens surrounded by mountains
I wanted to take a look at the Silo Hotel (formerly an actual silo) which many people had recommended to me. I went for lunch and loved the interior design of the place – I didn’t know at the time that I would be staying in another hotel by the same owners when I reached Hermanus – more of that shortly.
On a much more sober note we toured the District 6 area and the township of Langa. It is always difficult to decide whether it is a good idea to be a tourist in these kinds of places – not because they are scary but because you don’t want people to feel they are being stared at. This tour was better because once we reached the township we got off the bus and a local resident took us around and explained how the townships began and how they were slowly (way too slowly) being modernised into more acceptable public housing and less corrugated iron – but they are still overcrowded and the wait for some for the better style of housing has been more than 20 years.
How people are living in the townships near Capetown
The District 6 Museum was well put together explaining the history of the area where people were segregated into different “varieties” of colour – black, Malay, coloured and of course had most of their rights curtailed as a result and they were housed in different areas so many families were pulled apart if they were interracial at that time. The definitions of each group are awful to read as you consider that humans took the time to classify other humans like this. If it was not clear what group you belonged they did a pencil test – this involved putting a pencil in your hair – if it stayed put you were black if it fell out you were coloured. How strange and distressing we humans are at times.
Traditional African recipes embroidered on cloths
District 6 Museum of life in the townships and the resettlement of the coloured people during apartheid
I always love a long (and luxurious of course!) train journey so taking Rovos Rail – first from Victoria Falls to Pretoria and then a day later on to Capetown- is the one to do in Africa for a longer trip.
Rovos Tail was started by a train enthusiast Rohan Vos who originally bought a couple of carriages to beautify and use with his family but now it is available to everyone and includes beds, a bar/lounge an observation car and a dining carriage.
It takes a while to get use to the jerking and brake sounds on a train when you are trying to sleep but the movement seems to do the trick and there’s lots of time for afternoon catch up snoozes. The food – four course dinners but sensibly sized portions – was consistently superb and they offered a great choice of South African wines.
Exterior views of our train with observation car at the back on a brief leg stretching night stop.
Plush interiors and dressing for dinner is required- makes it very orient express like!
Out first stop was the Hwange national park in Zimbabwe when we went out for a 3.5 hour early morning game drive. We were lucky to spot a pair of cheetahs in the distance plus zebra, antelope and a dozy pride of lions who looked liked they had been well fed recently – always good to know when you are a tourist! Certainly seeing the African wildlife again has made me want to do another proper safari when I can.
Zebras, cheetahs and antelope
A lazy pride of lions
After three nights on the train we arrived at Pretoria for an overnight stop at a hotel. This is not the most interesting place on earth but I’m glad I had an afternoon and morning there. On arrival we visited the Union Building where one of the SA parliaments is housed (the other is in Capetown). The building bottom left is an old synagogue now in disuse so no access allowed but it was also used for the infamous treason trials of many political prisoners including Mandela and Sisulu.
Old buildings in and around Church Square in Pretoria
A wonderful sight is the giant sized Mandela sculpture looking over the city. We saw some little 4 year olds come up to see it and they ran up to it shouting “we love you Mandela” completely unprompted – they were genuinely excited. He is so beloved here – and for good reason. We need a few more like him around the world.
The giant Mandela sculpture. I barely reached his calf muscles!
On our second day in Pretoria we headed to the Vortrekker monument high above the city – which is a memorial and museum to the primarily Dutch settlers who trekked to this part of the world and started a new life here. Unfortunately for them, the Zulus and other tribes were already here and wanted to defend their land, so there was a lot of bloodshed on both sides and this is not skimmed over in the museum although it is only really focussed on the Dutch side of the history. I loved the giant stone frieze which was made up of about 50 panels depicting the stories of what happened including the important role the pioneering women played in starting a new life. Well worth a visit.
The exterior and interior of the Vortrekker Monument in Pretoria
Some of the stone reliefs in the museum area below the monument
Back on the train again for a two night journey – first stop was Kimberley – the world famous source of much of the world’s diamonds and where De Beers first started chaired by Cecil Rhodes (who seems to be loved or hated depending on your disposition about imperialist!) who originally made his money in the diamond mines. Some of the mines were still open but the one that we went round is now a museum town replicating the mining heyday and includes the famous Big Hole – it is the largest man made hole in the world. We had a great guide who had worked in the mines and was passionate about diamonds – and after all who can blame him; if they were good enough for Elizabeth Taylor, they are certainly good enough for me!
Kimberley and the BIG HOLE
The final stop on the train was a cute town in the middle of nowhere called Matjesfontein. Originally a “nothing place” the concept of making it a small town where visitors would stop to see how people lived back in the day came from a Scotsman – and he was right – people do come – although it certainly wasn’t crowded at all – other than the 40 or so of us on the train.
Buildings in the town of Matjefontein – and wait, is that Harry Potter serving at the local bank?
An excellent museum (Marie Cawdon Museum) actually on the station platform had all sorts of interesting collectibles from Victorian times – cameras, kitchen equipment and my favourite – the apothecary – it was a huge place (remember we are in the middle of nowhere) – I loved it as much as I loved stretching my legs.
And so our train journey of rattling sleep, fantastic food, varying scenery, windswept observation carriage moments and lots of delays (trains here give British Rail a run for their money) ended in Capetown 6 days after we left Victoria Falls and traversed a large chunk of Zimbabwe and top to bottom of South Africa.
The end of the line…..
And now on to spending time in Capetown and surrounding areas – apparently there is a lot of wine to be tasted around here – as if I didn’t know:)
Joined my friends Trudy and Alan – to celebrate her big birthday year – for a trip around Southern Africa which started in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe where we stayed at the splendidly colonial Victoria Falls Hotel.
Exterior views of the Victoria Falls Hotel shared with some local warthogs
Interiors of the Victoria Falls Hotel where they make a darn good gin and tonic.
On day one we walked one kilometre to the entrance of the Falls. Visit at this time of year means the falls are at their lowest levels so some falls are not yet visible but equally it means you can see the falls that are visible without a massive spray getting in the way.
En route from the hotel to the Falls
The wet part of the Falls
The dry part of the Falls – all this will be under heavy water in four or five months
The Vic Falls Park borders onto Zambia and this is where we met a young baboon who clearly wanted to show us all his/her best sides for instagram worthy shots – so here they are before this one becomes famous!
This youngster loved posing for the camera
In the evening we booked a sunset Zambezi river cruise – cocktails and dinner were very enjoyable indeed.
On our second day we had an early start for a day in Chobe National Park in Botswana and after innumerable border patrols were were in another country.
We started with another cruise which at this time of year is a great time to see animals as they are in plentiful supply near the waters before the rains come and they can go further inland for their food.
We saw African buffalo, elephants, hippos, impala and crocs.
African buffalo – not sure who’s watching whom?
African crocs – not too scary compared to those big buggers in Aus
I never appreciated that when hippos are in the water they are generally walking rather than swimming – they are bad swimmers! But they are less log-like when you see them on land – and they like to spend the day on land at this time of year.
And then so many elephants ….
Highlight was stumbling across a group of elephants having a wild mid bath – so lucky to see this
In the afternoon we went off for a game drive – saw lions in the distance but no leopards:(. However lots of impala – so pretty. Sadly we also saw three elephant carcasses – many are dying of starvation due to lack of water which means lack of food.
Impala in the beautiful Savannah’s of Chobe
And finally we endeavoured to enjoy enjoying ourselves in various parts of Zimbabwe!