March 25, 2011
3/25/11 - 3/26/11 94 °F
Tony says that when the alarm clock rang at 3am Ruby turned around and tried to crawl so deep under the covers so that Tony couldn’t see her and continue to bother her. YIKES! Not a good way to start the day. Regardless, we were out of the house by 330am but not before waking up poor Ian (Sven’s dad) on accident. No one else should ever have to get up that early! We were so lucky to have met them. Off we went to Cape Town to catch our 6am flight, which by the way happens to be the cheapest time to fly! We had a little fiasco with Avis rental car trying to charge us double but as you all know by now—Ruby knows how to handle that sort of thing. We quickly checked in and both fell asleep before the plane even took off. In Johannesburg we were burning up because we were wearing our Cape Town cold-ish weather clothes. Of course we also made the mistake of skipping the A/C in our rental car for the day (saved US $5) and totally regretted it! Between dodging street vendors on every corner coming up to our open windows and worrying about getting car-jacked in Joburg it was not easy! We picked up our camera today yay! However, it’s not fixed because they didn’t have the right parts and we paid $25 to have them tell us what was wrong with it (which we told them when we dropped it off). We did a little bit of shopping and Tony finally gets to get rid of his HIDEOUS, hole-ridden, smelly, dusty sneakers that he’s been wearing like a homeless bum for the last 2-3 months. Someone please, send him another pair of shoes for his birthday! These ones may not last long. . they only cost $7 USD. Now we find ourselves at another airport getting ready to head to Tanzania. Luckily we found a power outlet so we can work on the laptop for a bit and get caught up BTW, if you ever come to South Africa, remember to save ALL your shopping receipts because they’ll refund the 14% VAT you pay on all goods purchased here. . of course all the wine we bought doesn’t count because we drank it all already!! Just be sure that you’ve spent a large amount, otherwise it’s not worth your time.
March 24, 2011
3/24/11 - 3/25/11 70 °F
This morning we decided that we would go to the southernmost point in Africa, and it is not Cape Point as some would have you believe. Of course we couldn’t resist driving to Cape Agulhas since we had visited Cape Horn earlier this year. . . we wish Carey, Gerald, Mike and Loz could have joined us at this Cape as well! Tony is what we would call an “eager beaver”; this means if we plan on leaving the house at 7am, he’s ready at 6:45 with daypack in hand at the door driving Ruby crazy!! Tony finally managed to get Ruby out of the house and in trued Froude road-trip style drove directly there without stopping. Luckily it’s only about two hours away; the landscape in this area of the world is a lot like what you would think: dry, wind-blown and desolate. We had the opportunity to see and feel where the cold Atlantic and warm Indian ocean currents meet. After a picnic near the lighthouse overlooking the cape we started our drive back, before long Ruby had Tony stop and turn back to take pictures of: a red flower, bales of hay, and a windmill. We hope you enjoy the photos, maybe you’ll even see Tony revving the car in the background! On the drive back we headed to Stellenbosch to find a skatepark. . . let’s just say it’s a lot easier to find the end of the African continent than it is to find a skatepark in Africa! We had a map, verbal directions, and several stops to ask people. Apparently it’s “behind a church just down the road” no matter which direction you’re going to or coming from! Hahaha we spent at least an hour driving around churches hunting down this skatepark. . . in the end, we never found it! Ruby says we should have gone wine tasting instead! It’s a lot easier to find WiFi in South America than it is in South Africa so it took us a while to get in touch with Sven and Anka. Luckily we were happy to meet them for a delicious pizza at Col’Cacchio back at Stellenbosch. . . along with a bunch of pro mountain bikers in town for the big EPIC race coming up. Go team Anka and Tracey! We originally planned on getting our food to go but with the good company it was hard to leave. Afterwards we rushed home because like usual we were trying to enjoy every last minute and putting off some important things like packing and planning. We’re all packed, checked-in and ready for bed, its 1am. .unfortunately now we only have 2 hours to sleep.
March 23rd, 2011
3/23/11 - 3/24/11 82 °F
First thing in the morning we stopped at a shop where we bought a new universal battery charger for our camera—unfortunately we had to return it because it fried the battery! That’s when we learned that opening at 8am really means 815 in South Africa. We also have to laugh because EVERYWHERE you go in this country you will find guys wearing bright yellow or orange vests in the parking lots. These guys are “volunteer” parking guards and will watch your car for a tip---we learned from Ian that we were giving them waaaaaay too much money because we have to tip EVERY time we park our car anywhere. The average should be just 1-2 rand total and we were giving between 5 and 10 rand each time. Well, at least our rental car stayed safe right? We had just a few goals for the day, unfortunately the rest of our day was a series of failures—we were not able to get a battery for our “backup” camera since our other camera was in the shop, we didn’t get to go to Green Market Square because it was closed for a concert set up, we didn’t get up to Table Mountain because it was too foggy . . . etc. . The highlight of our day was at the end of the night-- we were so excited to finally see Sven and Anka. They have the most hectic schedule right now between Sven just getting back from a photo shoot in New Zealand and Anka getting ready to ride the EPIC race (it’s called that for a reason). Luckily, they were able to take a break from their busy schedules to come down and visit their parents and share in a brai that night. We enjoyed wine and delicious food and also met Anka’s riding partner Tracey (who happens to be one of the top women’s downhill cyclists in the WORLD) and her husband James from England. It was a really fun night just catching up—plus we saw “Battle at Kruger” on YouTube which is a do-not-miss recommendation The pics from that night are on Ian's (Sven's dad) camera so we still have to post those.
March 22nd, 2011
3/22/11 - 3/23/11 78 °F
While Ruby was getting ready Tony was busy getting directions to the Cape of Good Hope. Of course, we instantly got lost. Lucky for us there was a map in the car that Ruby could use to find the way. It was a really beautiful drive and we stopped at a small town to visit a place called Artvark which is one of Solveig’s favorite boutiques. We looked at some gorgeous African arts and crafts and look forward to collecting some on this trip! We kept making our way along the coastal highway until we finally arrived at the Cape of Good Hope. To our dismay we discovered that this is actually NOT the southernmost point in Africa and knew that we would have to make our way to that point later. Regardless, this area was gorgeous and like the southernmost tip of south America (Ushuaia) the weather fluctuated by the minute, one minute it was sunny and warm, the next drizzling and then windy after that. The aquamarine water was the perfect backdrop to the jutting cliffs seen all over this cape. We hiked up to the top of Cape Point where there is a lighthouse and found out exactly how far we are from our new home in New York. On the drive to the Cape of Good Hope we had to stop because some ostriches decided to say hello and poke their funny heads around just next to our car. Afterwards it was a bit surreal to be sitting drinking wine while watching some antelopes grazing at the water’s edge. On our way around the western edge of the cape we passed by Chapman’s Peak pass and this windy road as well as Table Mountain which was shrouded in fog but you could kind of make out the 12 apostles. After that long day we were ready for a break near the waterfront in Cape Town. We ended up near Solveig’s shop which specializes in making amazing patchwork coats. After months of searching, Ruby finally found a pair of feather earrings. By the way, she’s been looking for the perfect pair ever since she saw Loz’s back in South America?! The beautiful day was punctuated with a terrible dinner at the waterfront . . . what do we have to do to get a decent meal around here??
March 21st, 2011
3/21/11 - 3/22/11 83 °F
We started our day with a glass of tea on the lower porch overlooking the water. Soon after we were invited upstairs and had multiple cups of coffee and tea with Sven’s parents Ian and Solveig. We talked for hours and Tony drank so much tea that he could hardly stand still. Before his head exploded from too much caffeine we decided to drive down to Betty’s Bay. Clarence drive is very scenic and one of the best for whale watching. Unfortunately it’s not whale watching season so we just watched the water. Along the drive we saw the Hottentot Holland Mountains which are really “crumbly” tumbling into the sea. We drove down to a beach that is known for African Penguins which were previously called Jackass penguins because of the braying sound they make. Understandably, they were eventually renamed because they only breed in South Africa! You can tell these apart from other penguins because they have black dots on their chest. It was a great time to visit because it’s breeding season right now! Ruby says “so much for a dog, I want a penguin when we get home”! Their adorable formal outfits and waddle are just too much to resist. We’ll see. . . . it might be a little hard to find a New York City landlord that will allow us to have a pet penguin We hear that winter in NY will be perfect weather to keep him on the back porch! We also saw lots of rock hyraxes--see if you can spot one in the pics below. It's the closest living relative to an elephant (but a lot smaller!). Afterwards we went for a little hike in the botanical gardens nearby. We watched the sunset on our drive home and found out that all the really good restaurants in Gordon’s Bay close before 9pm!
March 20th, 2011
3/20/11 - 3/21/11 83 °F
We got up and lazily made it out of our room. Breakfast was well underway and someone has cleaned the kitchen (which by the way was trashed). We wish we could have helped but neither of us were in any condition to help last night and there was no way we could get out of bed this morning! Sorry about that guys! After an amazing home cooked breakfast (and talk about using tampons to fill bullet wounds) we started making plans for our day. Sven told us we could stay with his parents and we decided to keep the rental car. Now with the important stuff lined up we continued with our day by sitting around the house, listening to Neal and David's hilarious search and rescue stories (by the way-- Americans are always getting lost hiking in the mountains of SA). We gave up on trying to figure out how the hell they play cricket! A few hours later David pulled up in his car (the toothless dragon) with lunch meat, bread, and a drink called Crèsme soda that tastes like an American cleaning product called Pledge. They say that it’s a great hangover drink but we just think it’s just good for cleaning. A few hours after lunch a bunch of us finally made it out of the house and to our first winery called Maison. It’s a boutique winery that only produces two wines, one white and one red, it was pretty good but Ruby liked the blue cheese and biltong they served with the tasting better. Next we surprised Helandia at Rickety Bridge for another tasting. We purchased a few bottles of the 2009 Foundation Stone, one for our hosts in Cape Town and the other for our hosts in Franschoek. When we returned to the house Dale had been busy cooking banana bread and carrot cake. We are soooo spoiled. We all sat in the sunshine on the porch eating Dale’s home-made cakes which reminded Tony of Vicki’s carrot cake. We traded stories about Bear Grylls and our own adventures from scuba diving to sky diving. It was a great way to end our time in Franschoek and we hope to see our new friends out in New York sometime! After motivating we started our sunset drive down to Gordon’s Bay. The sky was a gorgeous orange and red color with dark silhouettes of mountains and trees. We arrived into the small harbor town of Gordon’s Bay and meet Sven’s dad Ian at their beautiful house. It was still a little early so we decided to walk down to The Tavern just down the road for a quick bite and drinks.
March 19th, 2011
3/19/11 - 3/20/11 90 °F
We started our day with a scenic drive over the pass to Franschoek. We decided on the scenic drive because the only other way to get there was toll road that cost $5 US! We’re so glad we took the pass over the mountains because we got to see some amazing views of the town and surrounding area. As soon as we came down into town we noticed a beautiful winery built into the side of the hill with great outside tables in the shade. We grabbed a few wine samples and a great cheese plate here. The winery was called Cabriere and as it turns out this is where our friends Sven and Anka got married!
After figuring out which wineries would be open on the weekend we got in the car and drove over to La Motte. The buildings are amazing and if we remember correctly the wine was very nice too. The outside eating area was something out of a magazine and we would definitely recommend this one if you’re ever in town! We even stopped to smell the roses Our next stop was Grand Provence just around the corner. The design and surroundings were amazing but they had eucalyptus notes in their wines which tasted TERRIBLE. The last winery for the day was Rickety Bridge. Helandia, who was pouring our wines was super sweet. . . little did we know that we would end up striking up a conversation with David and Neal who were sitting just a table away and that ALL of us, including Helandia would end up at their house for a brai, ping-pong and more wine drinking that night. Let’s just say, after all that wine Ruby “retired early for the evening” ;-) Neal and his roommate Dale were super sweet and invited us to stay over in one of their spare rooms. We feel so lucky to meet such warm, welcoming and open people. We love South Africa!
March 18th, 2011
3/18/11 - 3/19/11 85 °F
It’s before dawn and Tony and I are still heading southwest on the N1. We took a nap for about 4 hours—either this rental car is super comfortable or we’ve just become accustomed to sleeping in vehicles of all sorts!? We are surprised by how minimally populated much of South Africa is. On this drive we’ve had stretches of 100km (60 miles) where we haven’t seen any people or houses! It reminds us a bit of the drive in middle America minus the farmers. At 1pm we are soon approaching Worcester which is one of the main points of South African wine country and we can’t wait to pour a nice chilled glass of white after this long drive! Soon after arriving we decided on a small hotel called DA Rooms in the middle of town (with the help of the local tourist office). The room only had a bathtub....who takes baths anyway? What’s the point? Ruby needs a shower after taking a bath and unfortunately there wasn’t one in our room We drove just out of town to a winery called Balance. We had a few glasses and even picked up a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc. We’re looking forward to trying Pinotages which are one of South Africa’s specialty wines. We didn’t have much time until the wineries would be closing so we got in the car and booked it over to a couple more wineries and by then we needed to eat! We passed out quickly after a good dinner and all that wine. . .
March 17, 2011
3/17/11 - 3/18/11 92 °F
The morning was spent updating the blog and getting caught up on laundry. Afterwards we said our sad goodbyes to Carine and Jim before heading out to explore the “Cradle of Humankind” in Maropeng. Their house is really close to Maropeng which is the origin of some of the oldest human fossils ever found. We battled for space with a huge group of school kids. They have a terrific museum with tons of fossils and useful exhibits. We loved the crazy boat ride illustrating the 4 elements: earth, water, wind, fire. Unfortunately it was clearly built for kids since we bumped our heads on some of the turns. Afterwards we quickly dropped our camera off at the Canon service center in Randburg and are crossing our fingers that they’ll be able to fix or replace it ASAP! We hope to pick it up before we leave Joburg on the 25th. So you’ll probably notice fewer pictures temporarily. . . Next we rushed to catch our bus to Port Elizabeth from Park Station only to find that they lost our reservation?! Then they proceed to tell Ruby that the entire bus is fully booked without any standby seats . . . and no other companies have any buses leaving on the same day either. Meanwhile Tony is trying to return our rental car but dealing with tons of extra charges. Of course after dealing with the bus fiasco Ruby was in no mood to deal with these extra charges and the first thing Ruby said was “We’ve got a problem” and the lady behind the counter replied “There is no problem” and Ruby said “Oh yes there is”. Tony had a look in his eyes as if somebody had just pulled the pin out of the grenade and took two steps back. Needless to say we got our rental car at the correct price and proceeded to get lost in Johannesburg soon after. There are tons of roads in Johannesburg and I think we have managed to find all of the ones with toll charges, some tolls are as much as 45 Rand ($6.50) ouch! The plan is to make our way to Cape Town and wineries
March 16, 2011
3/16/11 - 3/17/11 88 °F
We started our day today with a sighting of a family of warthogs hanging out at the end of the driveway. Tony said to keep my distance and that he would jump onto the fence if they charged at him! On the way out of the gate we stopped to see the African Wildcat that the security guards had raised from a kitten. It was like being on a game drive even before we left the property! The wildcat did look a lot like a domestic house cat but was a lot harder to hold (this is the same breed that the Egyptians used to breed the tabby). We didn’t really know where we were going so we just followed Carine who had driven this road many times before and had a Garmin GPS. By the way, I don’t know if we got a photo of it but she drives with 2 pairs of sunglasses on. It looks pretty funny, but like Tony was saying, whatever helps her drive! We soon discovered that not only are South Africans bad at giving directions, they're also bad at putting directions into the GPS! Sorry Carine you’re still the best and so lovable, we’ll just blame the GPS for a 6 hour drive taking us 11 hours. She even packed us an amazing lunch with more food than the two of us could possibly eat
There’s a reason they call it the panoramic route—there were gorgeous multi-colored green mountains and green fields all along the way. We arrived at our first destination-- a location where the river had eroded the rocks to look like large circles and potholes called Bourke’s Luck Potholes. After a short walk around we were back in the car and on our way to the next destination . . . or so we thought. Carine put the location “Blyde River Canyon Drive” in the GPS and next thing we knew we were driving down a gravel road that was getting narrower and narrower until it was just two tire tracks and a large mud puddle leading to a road requiring a 4x4. Well, Carine made it through the puddle and started her way up but with our small car we weren’t even going to try. We started on our way back to town and got a call from Carine saying to hold on because the road got even crazier a little way up. Carine’s GPS had another way to get up to Blyde River Canyon and as we drove Ruby looked at the map and knew we were going in the wrong direction but we’re not from SA and maybe we’re looking at it upside down or something? The funny thing is that we drove in the opposite direction for about an hour until the GPS told us we had arrived. Well this GPS must have been the same one the bus driver was using in Mendoza, Argentina because just like then we were in the middle of nowhere at some random intersection. After that failure we gave up on trying to see Blyde River Canyon and decided to just get to our next destination: Pilgrim’s Rest. This is an adorable old mining town tucked away in the hills that reminded Tony of a small Colorado town. All the locals told us that if we’re in this area we HAD TO stop at Henrie’s Pancakes. Ruby had the chicken and mushroom stuffed pancake and Tony with his sweet tooth ordered the apple pie pancake with ice cream. After that nice relaxing lunch we started a long drive home, well it wouldn’t have been that long but of course the GPS sent us in the other direction for an hour so it was two hours longer that we thought it would be. We arrived into Pretoria around 11pm to Jim and Carine’s amazing home. We were really tired and really thankful that they had an extra bedroom for us to stay in. There where photos of the family all over the house but their wedding photos were our favorite. We thought Indian weddings were exotic, but these two had a Scottish wedding with an elephant AND a cheetah I don’t know how we’re going to one up that wedding? We kept Jim up late talking about our adventures and the crazy drive. At the end of the night we could smile about how crazy of a day it was.
March 15, 2011
3/15/11 - 3/16/11 85 °F
We woke up today around 7am to drop Jim off to the airport. At the airport we learned that “Full Coverage” is not actually an accurate statement for rental cars in South Africa. FYI: Avis does not cover flat tires under any of their insurance policies!? After driving around to just about every tire store in town we chose the cheapest one. It wasn’t that cheap but it was still about $50 less than what Avis wanted to charge us! We drove back to the house and unfortunately Ruby’s GI upset was back in full effect. There was no way Ruby was getting out of bed so she stayed home while Tony and the girls went to the Amarula Factory for a tour. Amarula is an alcohol made from the fruit of the marula tree and one of the only places the marula trees grow is in Phalaborwa. It reminds Tony of Kahlua and cream and it’s yummy! Tony came back to the house and grabbed Ruby (who was feeling much better). Then we all headed off to the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Center about an hour away near Hoespruit . . . what a terrific experience. It was created to help animals that have been caught in snares, injured, poisoned or otherwise disabled. We actually got to interact with so many different beautiful birds and animals. The Bateleur Hawk bent his head down so we could pet his neck and his feathers were far softer than anything we could imagine. The 14 month old black rhino’s skin was super dry, tough and thick which is not exactly what we expected. This little rhino was rescued when her mom was killed by poachers for her horns. Remember folks, take it from a doctor: rhino horn does not cure cancer or any other disease, it has the same medicinal properties as your toenails. Meanwhile the young cheetah’s fur was slightly rougher than you would think. Ruby enjoyed that so much she went back to pet the cheetah twice! Tony got to hand-feed meat to a vulture and the guide told him to avoid trouble he should “try not to look dead” hehe. There’s nothing like watching a huge lioness snarl at you from behind a wire fence to make you realize how vulnerable we really are. After the long day we headed back to the house and Carine spoiled us with a really delicious and healthy dinner. . . and remember animals always have the right of way in Africa!
March 14, 2011
3/14/11 - 3/15/11 92 °F
We never imagined we’d be up at 6am heading out to Kruger Park today! We stopped at the airport to pick up our hilariously tiny rental car (it’s not that small . . . until you pull up next to an elephant). Our goal was to see 3 of the “Big 5” and by the end of the day we did better than that. We drove around the park spotting giraffes, zebras, water buffalo, African elephants, impalas, hippos, rhinos, a lion and all sorts of birds. You have to be careful with the clever little monkeys at the rest stops. We ran into some that tried to steal our food out of the car while another monkey distracted us! A little later Jim spotted a white rhino just by seeing a horn under a tree and lucky for us the rhino stood up so we could get a full look at him. Ruby must be good at pattern recognition because about 10 minutes later she spotted TWO white rhinos lying far away under a tree and all you could see were their horns as well. Our lucky day, 4 of the big 5 and three white rhinos at Kruger! We stopped for lunch in the park and started our drive back to town. We had signed up for a night game drive and were rushing back to make the 5:15 pm pick up when Tony and I got a flat tire at about 5:05pm only a few kilometers from the hotel pick up point! Thankfully Tony can change a tire almost as fast as a NASCAR mechanic and we were on the road in less than 5 minutes. We inadvertently missed the turnoff for the hotel and ended up at the gate to Kruger Park and we felt so defeated until a land rover drove up right behind us—lucky for us it turned out to be the night ranger with our group! It was so worth it! Right at the beginning a large male elephant crossed our path, turned around flapping his ears and took a step towards us. Ruby was crouching in the corner in terror since she was on the side of the truck closest to his tusks with only a thin layer of canvas between if he decided to charge! We loved the white-spotted owls which our guide the “owl whisperer” was teasing with “Hoo-hoo” calls. It was just too funny to watch the poor owl walking around confused looking for the other owl. We also some rare birds, giraffes and more impalas but the real highlight of the night was a pack of wild dogs walking right in front of our path. WOW! Those are very rare in the park—only about 250 of them in total in a park the size of the Netherlands. We got very lucky and this was a great way to end the night.
March 13, 2011
3/13/11 - 3/14/11 92 °F
We got up today and had tea and rusks (a type of biscuit). Well I should say Tony got up today and had rusk and tea, Ruby had been up for hours with GI upset. After a few hours in the bathroom she was feeling much better and we were off to pick up a rental car from the airport. . .or so we thought. The airport “opened” at 10am and we were sitting at the rental car counter waiting. The only reason the airport opened at 10am was that an airplane landed at noon and someone had to be there. Unfortunately for us those people arriving at 10am weren’t rental car people! Well we finally rented a car but it’s not going to be ready to pick up until tomorrow. Jim took us out on our first game drive of this trip. He has been coming to Kruger for years and makes a terrific guide. The funny thing about it is that you can drive your own car and drink beers . . . also Ruby thought she needed some special safari outfit but it turns out you can wear a dress and flip flops if you want to! This is not what we imagined when sitting on our couch in Cupertino planning this trip Everything in the park is “at your own risk” so you do want to be weary and not get out the car or drive too close to an elephant in musk for instance! The wildlife is scattered throughout the park and it really is a bit of an adventure to go out looking for them. Shortly after entering the park and driving on a dirt road we turned the corner and encountered a landscape right out of a National Geographic magazine. While sitting in the car admiring the gorgeous African sky, two young male African elephants emerged from the trees, crossed the pond and the road just a few meters from our car! Thankfully they weren’t in musk—otherwise we would have to worry about them charging at us. During the rest of our drive we spotted all kinds of other wildlife. Some of our faves were the a lilac-breasted roller (bird), a bee-eater (bird), fish eagle (big bird), impalas, wildebeest, water buffalo, and even a “last minute giraffe”. We drove back to the house and then over to the far side of the property to watch the sunset. We sat by the pond for some Amarula on ice and snacks at sundown (they call it a sundowner). For dinner we had a traditional oxtail soup cooked over an open fire in a large metal pot called a potjie. After a long day we decided to relax in the living room and all was mellow until a cute little mouse ran across the room and under a dresser. Being the men of the house Tony and Jim thought it would be a good idea to tip it up and look under. The mouse immediately ran out and over Tony’s foot. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him jump so high! Tony blamed it on all the Discovery Channel we’ve been watching and thought he might be on an episode of “When Animals Attack”. We relaxed over drinks for a few more hours until we couldn’t keep our eyes open anymore. We feel so lucky to have met such amazingly nice people in South Africa. We are truly getting the local experience with Jim and Carine and hope we can repay the favor some day!
March 12, 2011
3/12/11 - 3/13/11 88 °F