Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200612 1 South Africa



FRIDAY 1 DECEMBER 2006 – Corrine and the children set off to Cape Town, as it’s her Mum’s birthday this weekend.  Jannie has to work but says it’s no problem for us to stay another day.  In the afternoon Steve visits Dr Ewin for his Hepatitis A booster.  Ewin does a cheaper price for cash and waives his consultation fee, R220 (£17.50).  Spend the rest of the day in the house watching TV with Jannie calling home from time to time to load beer into the garage.  His liquor shop must close on Sundays but shebeen (illegal township drinking establishments) owners know to come to his house to buy beer.  He arrives back late evening and cooks a superb steak dinner then stays up with Steve watching cricket.



SATURDAY 2 DECEMBER – Both Sannette and Jannie have phoned the council to protest about the ridiculous booking system for Jongensfontein Caravan Park.  The officer new nothing about it and gave permission for us to stay there.  The only trouble is that the weather has changed and after heavy rain through the night it is still cool and stormy.  We review our plan and decide to continue heading west.  Millie starts to show off when we overtake a car and a motorhome whilst going up hill!  Stop in Heidelberg only to find out the caravan park is closed after being washed away in a flood.  The nearest one is within a nature park but you must book ahead and the office is closed over the weekend!  Late morning we reach Bontebok National Park.  The road into it is atrocious but admittedly they are working on it.  The caravan site and all accommodation are closed for renovation and will remain so until next April.  With the whole of the year to do the work it is hard to think why they schedule it over the busiest holiday period, welcome to African logic.  Our Wild card saves us the R20 (£1.60) pp admission.  The receptionist assures us the roads within the park are better than the ones coming in.  Head off on the circuit and soon discover that the roads are just as bad.  Fortunately we do get good sightings of the rare bontebok, antelope half brown and half white that bob around like a donkey.  Give up after a short distance and rattle our way back out to the main road.  Check onto Swellendam Caravan Park, a pleasant spot on the edge of town with grassy stands and fine views of the Overberg mountain ranges.  We bought a box of apricots at the fruit & veg barn for R10 (80p) so I use some to make a fruit crumble then stew others in brandy to preserve them.


R118 (£9) pensioners rate. 


SUNDAY 3 DECEMBER – Millie is in a bad mood and won’t start, the ignition is totally dead, so it seems we are back to the old problem.  We eliminate the battery by trying and failing to jump-start.  Steve tinkers around and tightens a few wires and eventually gets it going, probably shaken loose on the rough roads yesterday.  Back on the main highway it’s a pleasant drive to Riversonderend where we make a late morning fuel stop.  Millie refuses to start and we are pushed to the parking area.  One of the attendants comes over and gets involved in trying to help.  Under the bonnet he fiddles around with some wires and gets the starter motor turning over but it is making a bad noise so we try to turn off the engine quickly.  Unfortunately even after removing the ignition key the starter keeps going!  Bloody marvellous, first it won’t start and now it won’t stop!  The garage boy disconnects the wire and suggests we call a mechanic.  There’s an additional R140 (£11.20) Sunday call out fee but we can live with that.  Jacques Naidoo arrives and thinks we originally had a simple loose wiring problem but now have a big problem having damaged to the starter motor by running it.  He’s confident he can get it repaired, possibly today but if not tomorrow.  He tows us to a grassy area by a pond beside the garage (24hr), where many other people have stayed when broken down. Reasonable free camping if we were not right by the main road!  Heavy rain during the night masks the sound of trucks that pull into the garage.



MONDAY 4 DECEMBER – We have a reasonably quiet night with little traffic.  Steve walks into the village and books me in to the hairdresser for tomorrow.  Potter round in the van and discuss numerous plans to encompass the van problems.  In the afternoon the local children are playing around in the pool with a huge inner tube and they enjoy us taking photos them so they can look at them afterwards.  The resident geese make their evening stroll through the garage much to our amusement. 



TUESDAY 5 DECEMBER – The garage was much busier in the night with lots of lorries stopping.  I get little sleep so when I wake up for my 50th birthday I really look it with bags under my eyes.  Never dreamt that we would be spending it broken down at a garage!  Mid morning the fuel tanker arrives and guess what, we are parked too close to the tanks so have to be pushed out of the way.  When Jacques towed us here he assured us they would not need to use them but maybe that was when he thought he would have us fixed up yesterday.  We sit by the van getting high on the fumes.  I get a lift up to the hairdressers where I have foils; my hair cut dried and straightened, R250 (£20), hope it takes years off me.  The hairdresser presents me a bottle of the local rose bubbly known by the local lads as a “panty dropper”.  Celebrate with an evening meal at the truck stop café.  An old sierra model car pulls onto the forecourt and it sounds terrible.  We hear the driver speaking in an English accent telling the attendant he broke down a few km’s back.  They ask the attendants to wash the car and during this time we begin chatting.  They are over on holiday and have borrowed the car from friends who didn’t want to know when they phoned him after breaking down.  Chat about lots of things very quickly and offer them a bed for the night if they don’t want to go on, as it is getting dark.   They really need to get back to Hermanus tonight but will turn back to us if they feel they have problems soon after leaving.  Reckon there could be the makings of a soap opera based on the comings and goings at this garage. 



WEDNESDAY 6 DECEMBER – Receive the news that the starter motor has had one part repaired in Hermanus but for the rest it has to go to Somerset West, even further away.  We’re very frustrated as Jacques was so sure he could get the job done quickly and we could have had a push start and driven on to Cape Town.  A breakdown truck has also broken down at the garage and the driver asks us if we will keep an eye on it overnight whilst he goes for parts.  At lunchtime Cherie and Francois arrive and we take them for a meal.  These are our friends from New Zealand whom we first met in Fuerteventura; Francois is an orthopaedic surgeon and examines my ankle.  He suggests 20 minutes of muscle exercise every hour to prevent my leg from withering away and offers other advice including a recommendation that I wear the support boot for the next 6 months when out walking or on rough terrain.  By the time they are ready to leave the mechanic has not returned so I leave Steve with Millie and hop in the car with them.  We are off to Kleinbaai where their daughter Michelle lives and works.  She is staying in a house with stunning views over the bay and we soon settle in.  There is room for me to sleep in the lounge if Steve doesn’t catch up with us today.  Michelle lives with co-worker Isabel (from France) and Hanny.  In the evening they all go out for a farewell meal, Michelle is leaving on Friday and Isabel next week.  I relax in the lounge and have access to the remote control so for once I don’t have to watch football.  Call Steve and learn the garage phoned him at ¼ to 5 to say the mechanic was half an hour away (having had the repair done in Cape Town), but he never arrived.



THURSDAY 7 DECEMBER – It’s lovely waking up with ocean views again.  Michelle works for Dyer Island Cruises and they have kindly offered us complementary whale watching cruises, normally R695 (£56).  Call Steve just after 8am to tell him the cruise departs at 10am.  The mechanic is actually working on the van so Steve will try and drive over in time to join us.  The tour begins at the White House with Michelle briefing us on the wildlife in the area; we have a chance of seeing the marine big 5 of whale, shark, dolphin, penguin and seal.  After donning our bright orange weatherproof courts we make our way down to the harbour to climb aboard the small inflatable boat.  Steve still hasn’t arrived when the tractor launches us into the water.  It’s quite choppy at sea as we follow the coast east.  First sighting is the rare humpback dolphins that frolic in the waves but not too close.  Relocate to the area where the shark boats are anchored.  People pay stand in a cage dangling from the side of the boat in the hope of getting a closer encounter with the great white sharks that patrol these waters.  Unfortunately there are no sharks to be seen.  A little further out we spot a southern right whale with a male calf.  It does lots of lob tailing and gets quite close to the boat.  Frustratingly I find that my digital camera will not react quickly enough to get decent shots.  Heading off towards Dyer Island it gets really rough and a number of people become seasick.  Close to the island we can see the African penguin and lots of birds.  Opposite Dyer Island is Geyser Rock, home to approx 60,000 fur seals.  Between the islands lies a stretch of water 100m wide and 5m deep.  Home to the densest population of Great White shark in the world the passage is called “Shark Alley” and with so many seals in the water it’s like a McDonalds swim thru for sharks.  I have never seen so many seals in one location and they are fun to watch.   They sunbathe on a huge beam of wood.  It’s the keel of a ship, Prince port, which was wrecked on Geyser Island in March 1885.  With the side panels down the ship makes a speedy but bumpy return to the harbour where I’m very relieved to see Steve and Millie waiting.  The van is fixed in so far as it now starts.  The original problem was just a loose wire, which could have been fixed quickly under the mechanics R140 (£11.20) Sunday call out fee.  However the starter motor repairs have pushed the bill up to R1500 (£120).  Back at the White House we view the DVD of the trip before returning to Michelle’s house for lunch.  Francois is tired so he has a nap whilst Cherie takes us for a drive to Pearly Beach then around Gansbaai.  In the evening Cherie cooks a typical South African meal of boerworst, pap and tomato and onion sauce. 



FRIDAY 8 DECEMBER – Today Cherie, Francois and Michelle are heading to the airport and we are driving further along the coast.  Make the short drive to De Kelders to have breakfast perched at the top of the cliffs.  We are now at the opposite side of Danger Point peninsula at the tip of which the “Birkenhead” ship sank in the 1800’s.  The Captain coined the phrase “women and children first” as he was the first person to suggests this system of disembarkation.  From the lookout we get fine views of Walker Bay and also spot rock dassie for the first time.  They look like a rabbit sized guinea pig but amazingly are related to the elephant. Further round the bay we stop at Hermanus and look at the war memorial.  Among the names is that of Squadron Leader Roger Bushell, a Hermanus Old Boy and the leader of “The Great Escape”, about which the famous movie was made.  The town is also famous for the land-based whale viewing and we get superb sightings from the lookout on Marine Drive with good examples of lob tailing and a spectacular breech.  Whales come to this bay to give birth and linger here until its time for them to head south, around now.  We continue following the coast west towards Cape Town and it’s a superb drive.  The road runs by the coast through pretty seaside towns and bigger resorts but also climbs up through the mountains.  We turn the last headland to enter False Bay directly opposite the Cape of Good Hope.    After lunch and a snooze at a rest area we continue to Gordons Bay where Elize meets us and leads us to their home.  Not only do they have Millie’s twin parked up but also a third motorhome of the same type that belongs to their friends.  They make us very welcome and attend to our motorhoming needs.  Tonight they are going to a birthday party and the invitation has been extended to us.  Tony & Wendy own the other motorhome and live nearby and it was Tony’s birthday yesterday.  Most of their other guests also own motorhomes and are all in the 50’s so we fit in very easily and have a great time.   Carol & Trevor (cousins), Tom & Christine (Radio Caroline DJ), Tony & Marjo (big Africa trip).  It’s after midnight when we finally leave.



SATURDAY 9 DECEMBER – Neil and Elize have 2 cars and suggest we take one and go off for a drive.  There’s a nice circuit taking you through the wine region so we head towards Stellenbosh.  We pass a strawberry farm with lots of funny scarecrows so pull over to take a close look.  It turns out to have a big farm shop also trading as Mooiberge winery with wine at very competitive prices. We stock up for the festive season.  Bottles start at just R10 (80p) but we splash out on some “Shamwari” Shiraz that has been reduced from R120 (£9.60) to R20 (£1.60).  Stellenbosh town is very nice with lots of Cape Dutch style white buildings.  Being Saturday it is also rather busy and parking difficult so we make do with a driving tour.  Boshendel winery is recommended and it’s really picturesque with the large manor house backed by the mountains.  In the gardens you can buy a picnic hamper of gourmet food, R110 (£8.80) pp, and either sit at the tables to eat it or put the tablecloth on the grass and sit there.  Even more upmarket is their 6 course buffet lunch at R195 (£16).  We had seen a magazine article rating it as 5* so at one stage it was planned that we would be here for my birthday (wonder if it would have been any better than the truck stop restaurant).  Tonight we are having a braai so don’t want to eat now as well.  For R15 (£1.20) you can have a wine tasting selection of 6 glasses of your choice.  Frustratingly I cannot drive and Steve doesn’t want to chance getting stopped for drink driving, as that would surely put him over the low limit they have here.  A spittoon option is offered but promptly refused!  There are wineries everywhere, probably a larger concentration than we have seen anywhere else.  With the large white mansions and vineyards growing up the mountains slopes it is really stunning.  Franschhoek is the next town and at the end of the main street there is a huge dramatic Huguenot Memorial.  The “cats road” climbs steeply towards the pass with superb views back down the valley, so much so that we stop a number of times as gets better and better.  Once over the pass the weather makes a quick change from hot and sunny to cold, rainy and misty.  The scenery also changes as we emerge into an area where apples are grown.  Over the next pass the rain stops and it’s sunny, cloudy but very windy, talk about a day of contrasts.  Dropping down towards Gordons Bay we get even more excellent views. Elize cooks us a braai in the evening and we enjoy their company.



SUNDAY 10 DECEMBER – Again we are offered used of the car so take ourselves off along the coast to the adjoining resort The Strand.  You could be in a Spanish holiday resort with a number of high-rise hotels behind the beach but the view across the bay of Table Mountain is a bit of a give away.  The afternoon is spent chilling out and with Steve investigating the spaghetti wiring of Millie.  We meet Neil & Elize’s daughters Claire and Carly who we have a good chat with.



MONDAY 11 DECEMBER – Elize is taking us for a drive into Cape Town. In Somerset West we pick up her friend Alice before heading off on the motorway.  There are a few road works but generally traffic is light. Alice points out some new and attractive flats that were built for the people of Cape Flats.  Unfortunately most tenants found they could get more money by subletting them and staying in their shacks.  She detours to show us the Sea Point area before dropping us at the Victoria & Albert waterfront.  It’s a most attractive area of shops and restaurants backed by Table Mountain.  Check out the ferry to Robben Island but it is fully booked until Saturday.  We visit the new Ice Bar, R50 (£4) created entirely out of ice.  You don thermal hooded capes before entering the bar, a constant 20C below.   The bar and bar stools are made out of ice but at least there is a cushion to sit on.  Ice carvings and pictures decorate the room and there’s an ice slide for the children, and Glen.  The admission price includes a soft drink, which we take in the outside sunny bar area.  What a contrast as it is a really hot day, almost feel like nipping back in for a cool down.  Stop for lunch at the Mitchell Brewery where Steve samples an unusual beer whilst we eat a reasonably priced pizza and chips.  Following this I need an ice cream and as we enter the nearby food court Elize hails us.  Given the size of the waterfront it’s amazing that we should have run into each other at just about the time when she was going to phone us to arrange a rendezvous.  Dodges has recently been voted as having some of the best ice cream in the world but I reckon I would have to sample a few more varieties to confirm that.  Heading out of the city we tour the Bo-Kaap area where all the houses are painted in different bold colours.  A very good introduction to Cape Town.  In the evening I cook us all a shepherds pie for supper followed up with chocolate orange pancakes.



TUESDAY 12 DECEMBER – After leisurely departure preparation we hit the road heading towards Cape Town.  Turn off to enjoy a scenic drive around the coast towards Fish Hoek.  En-route we pass Cape Flats with thousands of shanty style houses in very poor shape.  John Neil is another Hospitality Club host and he has parking space for us on his drive and offers use of an adjoining flat for kitchen and bathroom facilities.  He is aiming to either emigrate to Australia or spend lots of time there in a motorhome so conversation is easy.  He goes out for the day and leaves me at the computer where I discover cheap and also free phone calls using skype. John is letting his house out over the Christmas period but says we are welcome to stay until the 22nd December, brilliant.  



WEDNESDAY 13 DECEMBER – Drive to the next suburb called Glencairn, between Fish Hoek and Simon’s Town.  Hospitality Club host Sheila is waiting for us and she has just returned from a trip to Europe including visiting Yorkshire.  She lives with her cats in a bungalow with superb views over the bay and an inviting swimming pool on the terrace. She offers us use of the 1-bedroom self-contained flat (used as a timeshare in the past) and Millie can be parked reasonably safely at the side of the road.  She is going to be alone at Christmas and would welcome us to stay at this time.  A tentative plan is made for us to stay with John until about the 20th then move over to Sheila’s until the New Year.  Drive to The Boulders area just past Simon’s Town to visit the penguin colony but parking in the van is too difficult.  Nearby is the Country Club that Sheila has recommended for meals.  We get a hot, freshly cooked tasty lunch very cheaply and notice they have an excellent menu on Christmas day for R145 so make a provisional booking.  In the afternoon Steve helps John doing some work on his sisters car and then John helps us by fixing the petrol gauge that had stopped working.



THURSDAY 14 DECEMBER – Potter around in the morning.  With access to the Internet I can really catch up with things and do a bit more onward research.  In the afternoon we join John as he takes his sisters car for the road test.  In the waiting room is a warning poster stamped by the Police.  It tells of a new gang with a strange initiation.  At night they must drive around without headlights on.  The first car that flashes a warning becomes their target and they must kill all the occupants.  We’ve heard this warning from a few other sources and feel it worth repeating as a warning.  Continue to the Blue Roof shopping centre at Muizenberg.  John’s girlfriend Linda is here with her daughter Lisa who is over from Glasgow on holiday.  We meet them for coffee and for me a slice of delicious chocolate and banana “death by chocolate” cake.  In the evening John goes out to the cinema leaving Steve & I to watch TV.



FRIDAY 15 DECEMBER – Late morning we set out with John for the Cape of Good Hope.  He points out lots of interesting things as we travel along the coast.  Baboons are everywhere and becoming a bit of a pest but we still love to watch them.  Enter the National Park saving R55 (£4.40) admission by using the Wild card.  At the end of the road is the visitor’s car park and from here you can either walk or take the funicular up to Cape Point.  The lads walk but I have no choice but to pay R35 (2.80) for the return ride.  It’s really blustery and cold at the top but the views are superb.  The Cape of Good Hope can be seen just beyond Diaz beach but the ocean is not as rough as we expected.  John takes us on a scenic detour going back and we get exceptional views down over Simon’s Town.  Linda comes over late afternoon and in the evening we all go to the Imperial Garden Chinese in Fish Hoek.  John’s daughter Natasha, husband Wayne and children Stephanie and Jessica join us.  The R65 (5.20) buffet is superb with lots of seafood.  Return for coffee at Natasha’s where we try to phone our granddaughter Natasha to wish her a happy 7th birthday.  Unfortunately they are out at a Carol concert where Daniel is singing in the choir. 



SATURDAY 16 DECEMBER – John’s house is up for sale and he has open viewing tomorrow so Steve helps out by mowing the front lawn before heading off to the local pub for his football. 



SUNDAY 17 DECEMBER – Sheila has offered to take us for a drive and we set off over Chapman’s Peak toll road, R23 (£1.85), where we get superb views in both directions along the west coast.  Parts of the road are cut into the cliffs and it is quite dramatic.  The road drops down into Hout Bay where we stop at the Sunday craft market.  There are many different crafts available but the pretty beaded Christmas tree decorations seem to be best sellers.  Along the bay we visit the Mariner’s Wharf, partly still used as a fishing wharf but with many buildings now converted to restaurants and shops.  The hake and chips at “Bayside Halaal” is excellent and good value at R22 (£1.75).  Also in Hout Bay is “World of Birds” sanctuary, R55 (£4.40).  You wander through over 20 large aviary complexes with birds from around the world.  Many of them we have never seen before.  Most of the aviaries are free flying so you get really close to the birds.  There are other animals as well including lots of different monkey species.  I get quite worried in the squirrel monkey cage.  Their fur is yellow and black and I am wearing a yellow dress and have my big black support boot on.  They congregate around me and seem to think I am one of them.  When it looks like they are about to climb up my leg when I make a lame excuse and hobble off.  Our tour continues along the coast towards Cape Town passing the attractive bays of Llandudno, Bakeoven and Camps Bay – not the gay beach as that’s at Sandy Bay.  Traffic is heavy so Sheila turns up into the mountains.  From Signal Hill you get fantastic panoramic views of Cape Town, the coast north and south, the Twelve Apostles mountain formation and Table Mountain itself with the table cloth (low clouds) just going on.  Sheila helps out at an animal rescue centre called Tears and they are having a fund raising event at a new property they have bought.  We join her for the braai and chat to a few locals.  Another superb day for us.



MONDAY 18 DECEMBER – Join John for a drive to the shopping mall, noticeably busier.  Steve walks down to Fish Hoek in the afternoon.  Early evening we all set off for Linda’s for a drink before taking her and daughter Lisa with us for a meal.  Monday is rib night at the “Tavern & Ale”, olde worlde English style pub, where R48 (£4) buys you a full rack of ribs, chips and veg.  Steve says it is the best ribs he has ever tasted.  I stick to the “A la Carte” for an excellent chateaubriand steak. 



TUESDAY 19 DECEMBER – Give Millie a big clean up inside whilst the bedding is being washed.  Take a walk to the nearby Spar shopping complex before lunch.  Steve is disappointed when his evening plans, for John to join him at the pub watching Liverpool, are scuppered as the match is cancelled because of dense fog.  Such a shame when the weather is so nice here!



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