October 24-26, 2023
Chaos, tumbling, fumbling, and bumps
The start of the tour began as a gray, dismally cloudy day, but like most vacations, ended up with the sun shining. We started the day with a leisurely breakfast then soon headed off with Claire to conquer Table Mountain, or maybe more appropriately, surviving Table Mountain. We headed off and decided that, due to the weather and work of climbing up Table Mountain, we would take the tram to the top. Table Mountain History, Cape Town, South Africa The views, while not exemplary, were surreal and we felt as if we were a part of a mystic adventure. We were lucky enough to see a rock hyrax or Dassie – the closest animal to an African elephant – perched upon the rocks looking wet and bedraggled and pining for the sun to come out. Deciding erroneously that walking down would be easier than going up Table Mountain, we headed for the trail. We started clambering down the rocks, sliding hither and thither, and occasionally sliding on the wet-slicked rocks. Dave – the ever trusty Park Ranger – kept a steady middle ground, holding Kathy’s hand on one side and gently easing her down from the top, while steadily holding Claire from the opposite side. Halfway down the mountain, the sun broke through the clouds treating us to a stunning view of the shores of Cape Town framing the city that basked in the sunlight. Continuing down, Kathy slid on her butt to get from rock to rock while Dave continued to steady us and guide us in our path down the mountainside. A short while before the end of the trail Claire took a minor tumble and Dave came to the rescue applying bandages to the gushing wound that caused her to become lightheaded and weak. (Okay it was a minor scrape but Dave does need credit for the medical encounter – It’s our story!) Another tumble and a couple bumps and bruises later and we were finally down the mountain. What should have taken three hours instead took six hours, yet it was time well spent. A memory that will stay with us forever!
We then had a quick trip back to the hotel where we cleaned up and met to discuss our dinner plans. Deciding on going to a local ramen house, we set off with another new friend, Tilly from Australia, and Claire where we dined on some of the best ramen noodle bowls. The broth and noodles were savory and delicious. Afterwards, we headed back the hotel for dessert, some ibuprofen, and then bed. Tomorrow was expected to come early as it begins the start of our tour.
The day dawned sunshiny for Kathy and Dave as we were up and about to begin our day of travel. We went from the bus to the plane and then back again to a bus, our home away from home for the next few days. We soon saw ourselves at the township, Soweto, which means South West Township and was the home of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. The adventure was set to be a bicycle tour of the local area with stops along the route to learn more about the area. The temperature was not conducive to riding a bike in Kathy’s opinion, so she lagged behind, staying safely in the bus while Dave “sped” through the streets of Soweto. Sped again might not be the best word. We don’t know the right word for “barely keeping enough momentum to keep upright.” Along the way we were treated to a local dance by some residents of the community. Quite a good day was had by all. Eventually we got to the hotel, but then chaos ensued. The room had multiple issues and we moved after unpacking and laying all of our items out. After getting finally settled, we were off to dinner, which was a nice place called Tribes. The restaurant, located in a complex reminiscent of the Vegas strip, was a nice place that offered a variety of menu items. The meal, while excellent, was followed by the chaos of trying to split a bill nine ways. Why it was done this way still boggles Kathy’s mind. The meal took approximately an hour – paying the bill took about thirty minutes! When Kathy asked the tour guide, Wes, he just stated it is South Africa. So while the meal was excellent, the final impression left something to be desired. Like many things the first and last impression is what stays with you the most. Luckily our first impressions have been amazing from our first landing in Cape Town.
October 26-28, 2023
Lions and Leopards…Oh, My!
The first day after landing in Johannesburg, we set off on our long “trek” via bus to get to our next lodging that was located on the edge of Kruger National Park. Settling in, we explored our new surroundings which were lovely “huts” that included a separate bedroom, another bedroom that had twin beds and nice kitchenette with a spacious bathroom. Most importantly in the heat of the African climate, the room had a strong working air conditioner! The hotel, Aan de Vliet Holiday Resort, was run by a group of lovely people that exuded the joy and kindness that we have come to savor in South Africa. The night was spent relaxing and taking our time chatting with our new friends. Dinner was a great meal that included some really weird random discussions about death plans, last meals for death row inmates, and colonoscopies. Not your normal dinner conversation. Shortly after dinner, Kathy and Dave headed back to their rooms to get ready for an early morning wake-up call to go on our safari to Kruger NP. South African National Parks – SANParks – Official Website – Accommodation, Activities, Prices, Reservations Little did we know early meant a notification at midnight about a very important meeting back in the USA, oh and then one am, and then one at two am, fortunately! we had a no interruptions from two to four am at which point we staggered up to get our “bag breakfast” and head off. The early hour was well worth it!! We set off with our driver, Happy, (yes, that is his name!) and started the drive around the park. Immediately we spotted some impalas, then some zebras, and some elephants. Soon it followed some sightings of baboons, giraffes, and some sleeping lions. It seemed like around every corner we saw wildlife. We were also treated to some flying birds that were unique including a black berry coron and a yellow-billed hornbill. Lunch time finally came at a normal hour of noon and at which point we dined at a golf club. Yes a golf club in the middle of the park. What a unique and amazing experience that would be to golf “at your own risk” around hippos, elephants and the like. Lunch was amazing and Kathy and Dave each relished having a real milkshake. Kathy’s was lime and Dave’s the typical strawberry. Heading back to the hotel tired but exhilarated, we enjoyed hearing about everybody’s experiences they had on the drive. Between us all we got some amazing photographs. Our driver, Happy, made us all happy and happiness abounded among us as we saw what many of us had only dreamed about. Kathy saw her elephants; Michael got to see his lions, and Claire was close to happy tears after seeing a leopard up close and personal. Each individual on the trip is unique and interesting and we have enjoyed meeting and discussing their lives. We have people from Northern Ireland, Scotland, Switzerland, England, Australia, Canada, and the US. They have been interesting to meet and discuss the various aspects of their careers and life. All in all, not a one is difficult to get along with and we are happy to be with such a nice group. Each one of them had different moments of joy upon seeing the animals and beauty of Kruger National Park.
The wake-up call on the 28th of October didn’t come as early – thankfully – and we got the opportunity to sleep in and leisurely eat our breakfast. We next head off to Timbavati Safari Lodge our next stop in our journey.