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Our 2nd visit to Southern Africa and again, not our last one!


Ladouce

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Ladouce

Thursday, 29 November 2017
Yesterday we didn’t do anything. Just relax at the pool. After more than 10 days of travelling/being active it is very nice to have just a lazy day. 

Toda is our 10th wedding anniversary. One of the reasons we are making this trip now. We wanted to return to Southern Africa this year, and we had the choice between either June or November. Because of our 10th anniversary, we have chosen November. This was discouraged by all travel agencies I approached because of the high temperatures. Well in the last few days it was around 40C, so we are not complaining.
 
After breakfast we packed the car again and on our way to our next stop. Canyon Village, near Fish River Canyon. We opted to take the long route. This is almost 5 hours without stopping, the short route is over 3 hours. But according to the hotel owner in Aus, Piet, the long route is worth it as it as has great scenery. And he is definitely right. From Aus to Rosh Pina the road is tarred but from there on it is gravel again and goes through  Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontierpark. This park was also on my wish list to visit and stay, but it just did not fit in the itinerary anymore. Now we are here, driving straight through it and really enjoying it. Maybe next time we will stay here but then I would go in a different time of the year. It is very hot and dry in November.

 

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We drive along the Orange River. This is the same river that runs through Augrabies. This river also continues to Upington. It is a lifeline for this region because it is an important source of water supply. We also see this when we come to Ausenkehr. This village is located just outside the park. It is really weird to see but from a desert-like area you drive in green area which has vineyards for table grapes. Huge fields with only grapes. We had seen this in Upington, but here the transition is even more extreme.

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In the park itself we see a few Klipspringers but unfortunately no other creatures.

 

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In Aussenkehr we stop at the local shopping mall where Tim buys a pair of flip-flops in a very modern store. At the Spar we want to buy some bread and toppings for lunch. But to our surprise the Spar had its own local KFC. Only with much tastier chicken. We buy a tray with fried chicken fingers / strips and lunch as the locals do. Another nice detail. On arrival at the shopping center there are two long lines with people to the left and right of the shopping center. It appears that they are waiting for the 2 ATMs. It is not known to us whether this has to do with the fact that it may be payday or that the machines have just been filled.

The last stretch from Aussenkehr to the hotel is uneventful. Upon arrival at our hotel we get a very warm welcome. As it is very hot again and we have been in the car for some hours, we take a short rest in our room.
 
At the end of the afternoon we have a toast on our anniversary a nice, cold glass of Amarula and check our email.
 
Since this hotel is also in the middle nowhere, we have to have dinner here. Until now, food & service in all the hotels has been very good and also tonight is no exception. At check-in I ask the staff member if they can do anything special during dinner for our anniversary. Tim has just walked away and does not know anything about it. The staff does a great job; our table is decorated with rose petals and candles. Very sweet. The food is lovely again with two starters, a choice of main course (spareribs or Gemsbok filet) and a dessert. And of course we have glass (or 2) of Vonkelwijn  (MCC - South African Champagne). It is a very nice 10th wedding anniversary.
 

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Ladouce

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Because the temperatures are quite high again, we decided to get up early today to visit the Fish River Canyon. This canyon is the second largest canyon on earth after the Grand Canyon in the USA. The canyon is in a National Park so at the entrance we have to pay entrance fee. In the park you can visit a number of viewing points where you can look into the canyon. It is very quiet and at all viewpoints we can really enjoy the silence without anybody else present. The splendour of nature is overwhelming. It is so impressive and you feel very small when you look at it. It is not allowed to walk down. In the Namibian winter you can do a 3-day hiking trip through the canyon, but in this time of the year it is too hot. 

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At one of the viewing points Tim sees 4 zebras. They are the so-called Hartmann zebras. These are mountain zebras that you only encounter in a mountainous environment. They are somewhat smaller than the "normal" zebra and live in smaller groups. They are also much more shy than the other zebras. We see this kind of zebra for the first time and even though the distance is decent, we can see them very well through the binoculars.

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However, when we drive back to the exit of the park, I see a small group of zebras walking at the left of us. Much closer than we have just seen. 

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At the entrance of the park there is a restaurant where we have a cup of coffee. After all, we remain true Dutchmen who want to drink coffee at 10:30. On the terrace is a couple that we have already encountered at 2 of the viewing points. I was already aware that they are Dutch, so we start talking and exchange our travel experiences. We really like to hear their experience with the Renault Duster; as this is “new” car for us and you see them very much on the roads in Namibia. They seem to like the car. Although they have not done any 4X4 tracks. They stay in one of the two sister hotels of our hotel. The Canyon Roadhouse, 25 km from our hotel. It is the oldest hotel of the 3 hotels but very special. The story I heard is that after the construction of the hotel, the owners had no money left for the decoration. They then came up with the idea to use old car wrecks. Owners of wrecks could deliver these to the hotel. This was a huge success and it has become a very nice location. In the central area of the hotel you find the reception, restaurant and shop; it is a combination of a garage and a sixties American diner. Both outside and inside are the car (wrecks); outside the trees sometimes literally grow through the wreck. Since it was not too far from our hotel we drive here for lunch and we could immediately fill up the tank of the car.

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At the end of the afternoon we are booked on a sundowner drive. This is 3 hour trip through the Gondwana Canyon Park. It starts at 15:30 and we go with the hotel car with a guide / driver. At the end of the ride we will have a drink and a snack in a nice place to enjoy the sunset. We are perfect on time in the central hall but no guide to be seen. He comes only at 16:00. Given the discussion between our reception and the guide, we suspect there is a misunderstanding. Especially when the guide reports that it is actually too early to leave. The sun is only setting  around half past eight these days and if we are already back at 19:00 it is somewhat on the early side. If we had left at the correct time, it would even have been before.

 

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The drive is really very nice. We have 2 drivers/guides. Because it is low season another of the drivers joins our tour. The park is not very old. It has been acquired by some businessmen in 1996. The started converting farms to a protected nature reserve. Nowadays the park is more than 125.000 hectare and it houses mountain zebras, oryx/gemsbok, kudus, springbuck, ostriches and leopard. But the last ones are not easy to find. It is a very nice park and we had one of our best guided drives. As there were no other cars or people around, it was all very quiet. What we liked was that we saw large herds of animals such as zebra’s, oryx/gemsbok and ostrich running across the fields. 

 

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The drive was so nice that instead of the 3 hours, it was a 4 ½ hour drive. Upon returning, the manager was already waiting for us. Tonight we were going to have dinner at the sister hotel (Canyon Lodge) which is 2 km away. The agreed time was 8:00 PM and we did not return until 8:30 PM. We quickly put our cameras in the room, freshened up and out again. We were taken to the other hotel by our same driver and brought back nicely after dinner. Very good service and a very nice last evening in Namibia. Tomorrow we go back to South Africa.

 

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Edited by Ladouce
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Ladouce

Friday, 1 December 2017

 

-Namibië-
ek het n oomblik hier stil gestaan
en onder die skoon lug en sekelmaan
besef
dat hierdie land
my hart laat warm brand

 

Today we leave Namibia and go back to South Africa. We packed our suitcases,  bought some souvenirs in the hotel and then it is time to go. Part of today's route is the same as last Thursday. Until Aussenkehr we drive the same gravel road. At Aussenkehr we turn left onto the asphalt road to the border with South Africa. This road runs along the Orange River and past fields with table grapes.

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At the border we first report to the immigration of Namibia. Fortunately, it is not busy, only a family of 3 people before us. We fill out the exit form and wait, and wait, and wait. When you leave Namibia, they want a fingerprint of all your fingers. Fortunately, electronically, but that is exactly the problem. It just does not work with the mother of the family. It takes forever and then father and daughter also have to do 10 fingers. But we are lucky again because behind us the line is growing even faster and there are now about 12 people waiting behind us. As soon as we have done all formalities we are allowed to go and drive to the next stop. The South African immigration; fortunately, it is much faster here and we are back in the car within 10 minutes.


We drive the N7 into the country and continue to follow this road until Springbok. Here is our guesthouse for tonight, Kleinplasie. Coming from Namibia and before that Kgalagadi, Springbok feels like a madhouse. It is very busy and we have no desire to go into the city. Fortunately, we don’t need to because we can have a meal at our guesthouse. We share a pizza for lunch and in the evening we have dinner here as well. The room is huge and includes kitchen and bottle of wine. Always a nice gesture! In the beautifully landscaped garden, they have funny white chicken walk around. They even have a look around the door of our room. Unfortunately there is an open-air concert in the neighbourhood which goes on until late. Luckily I have some earplugs in my travel kit.

 

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Ladouce

Saturday, 2 December 2017
Not only dinner was very much at Kleinplasie but also the breakfast is very extensive. After breakfast we will  go to our next stop for 2 nights. Clanwilliam, the rooibos capital of the world. We will not drive directly but we will make a stop in Lambertsbaai. Lambertsbaai is located at the Atlantic Ocean and it houses 1 of the six sites world-wide where Cape gannets breed, and it is the only breeding site easily accessible to the public. The island which is almost three hectares in size, is connected to the mainland via a breakwater. It is an important breeding and roosting site for seabirds, particularly Cape gannets and cormorants. Cape fur seals can be seen sunning themselves on the island’s rocks.

 

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When we enter Lambertsbaai, there is no indication on the “Bird Island”. We therefore first drive through the village, look around the harbor, then drive south again out of the village because I did not expect the island to be in the center of the village and on the map it also looked like it was somewhere south of the village. On the way Tim helps to cross a turtle. Or maybe the turtle is very angry because he just crossed and Tim put him back to where he started.

 

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After 15 km on the road South, we find no bird island so we check our travel guide. As it turns out, the bird island is at the harbor. Where we had been about 15 minutes before. When we drive back to the harbor we still do not see an indication. It is just not there. We pay 5 Rand parking fees (€ 0.30). Entrance is included in the Wildcard, which we bought for our visit to both Augrabies as well as Kgalagadi.  You can reach the island via a dam. The first meters you do not smell anything but then the stench starts and it gets worse with every step. Fortunately, I always have a shawl with me which I can use now to put over my nose. There are thousands of birds and besides the stench it is also a cacophony of sounds. But it is a beautiful sight to see all the birds together. Besides the Cape gannet there are also seals and cormorants. 

 

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We finish our visit with a very good sushi lunch in the harbor. After lunch, we drive to Clanwilliam. Our guesthouse Yellow Aloe, is located in the center of this village / town. As written earlier, this is the rooibos capital of the world. In this area all rooibos tea is growing and harvested. It will make a great souvenir.
 

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Ladouce

Sunday & Monday,  3 & 4 December 2017
We are slowly starting to get back into the Dutch rhythm. No longer very early to bed and we also get up later. We don’t do it on purpose but it just happened because of the change in scenery and locations. It will also make it easier for us when we get back home. After a late breakfast we go to the Cederberg National Park. It is very close to the village; so a short drive today. 

 

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Today we do not need to pay an entrance fee because we only drive through the park. Fortunately, because the only animals we see are goats, sheep and cows. And none of them were very wild. It is a nice park and we even drove a 4x4 route that was pretty tough in some places. But for us it was not all very exciting. It is especially a park where you have to hike.

 

At the end of the afternoon we go back end just hang a bit around the pool. While enjoying a glass of Vonkelwijn. After all, it is Sunday and we are still on holiday. We eat at Floris, one of the 3 restaurants recommended by our landlord. The food is fine, not spectacular but that we were not expecting that. For the first time since the start of our holiday we had to walk to a restaurant for dinner. All previous nights,  we had dinner at the location where we slept. 

 

After breakfast, the suitcases go  back in the car. We buy some rooibos tea to take home and we are back on the road again. Today we go to Langebaan, on the Atlantic coast and at the West Coast National Park. It is not a long drive so we take it easy. We stop in Saldanha to view the bay and harbor and have lunch.

 

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From Saldanha we drive to Langebaan. This town is located on a lagoon and our hotel overlooks the Langebaan Lagoon. A really beautiful view. After we have checked in we drive to the West Coast National Park. This is a relatively small park of only 200 km2. It is around the lagoon. We see here all kinds of beautiful birds such as flamingos and ibises. Unfortunately it is not the best time to visit this park so besides a turtle we see no other animals without wings. The vegetation is very lush and green.

The wind is also pretty hard and at our last stop on the Atlantic side we even have to put on a jacket. Tonight we eat fish at the hotel. After all we are at the coast where the fish is fresh. 

 

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michael-ibk

Love teh Gannet colony, quite spectacular!

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Ladouce

This last part is not so much about animals/wildlife anymore but it will be the last few days of our 3 week SA/Namibian holiday.

 

Tuesday & Wednesday, 5 & 6 December 2017
Today we are leaving the coast and travel to the wine region of South Africa. We will drive via Stellenbosch to Franschhoek. For most Dutch people, Stellenbosch is the best known place in this wine region. Stellenbosch is a vibrant university city and you can also see many buildings in Cape Dutch style. We stop in the centre of the village for a coffee and walk around a super touristic market where only African souvenirs (made in China) are sold. We continue our trip to Franschhoek. The landscape is beautiful, green and many vineyards. Each winery is marked along the road with a large brown sign. So you do not have to look for that small, nice vineyard with good wines as you need to do when you drive around in France. We stay 2 nights at the Lavender Farm Guesthouse, just outside Franschhoek. A beautiful location with swimming pool and the suite we have is amazing. It is definitely the best place we stayed in during this trip. 

 

Franschhoek is called the culinary capital of South Africa because there are so many good restaurants. My biggest wish unfortunately could not be fulfilled. Until May of this year, Margot Janse was the chef in the kitchen of the Tasting Room. Margot is a Dutch chef and she was voted best chef in Africa in 2012. Unfortunately she stopped working here just too early for us to visit the restaurant. But we were lucky that new restaurant opened in the same place; it is called La Petite Colombe. This is the sister restaurant of the restaurant La Colombe in Cape Town. Since the opening a few months ago, the reviews have been very good. And I managed to get a reservation here for the Wednesday evening.

 

Tuesday evening we have dinner in Ryan’s Kitchen, which is a very nice dinner. And for us the prices are very low for this type of restaurants. 

 

Wednesday morning we have made an appointment at the Franschhoek Motor Museum. This is a car museum which houses the private car collection of a very rich South African. His collection is more than 330 cars and about 80 of them are set up alternately in 4 sheds. The museum is part of a larger estate where wine is made and where you can also have tastings. So after looking at all these cars we take the estate tram to go to one of the tasting rooms for a wine tasting. Because of the great weather we have this tasting outside. The sparkling wines we taste are very nice. And we have a cheese & meat platter to go with it. After the tasting we buy ourselves some wines to take home. 

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Upon return to our guesthouse it is siesta time. The temperature has already risen considerably and the combination with alcohol is not that good.

At 19:15 we are picked up by the same driver who had also taken us to Ryan’s Kitchen on Tuesday evening. At la Petite Colombe we are warmly welcomed. The restaurant offers a 9-course dinner or a 5-course dinner. We opt for the 5-course dinner, together with the matching wines. This means that for most courses we have to make a choice between two dishes. The nice thing was that Tim and I had the different choices. So we both had a different menu. But for both of us it is a successful evening with tasty dishes and nice matching wines.

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Ladouce

Thursday, 7 December 2018
This morning we have to leave our beautiful spot in Franschhoek. On to Cape Town. But via a detour with penguins. Just south of Cape Town is Simonstown or Simonsstad with a colony of black-foot penguins. This is our first stop this morning. A wonderful sight to see hundreds of penguins from very close. I have never seen penguins in the wild so this is a first for us. As it is very warm a lot of the penguins are in the water and some of them are trying to get some shadow next to the big boulders. Of which this beach gets its name, Boulders Beach.

 

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Our second stop was Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. A location we cannot miss as it is part of our Dutch heritage. The view is beautiful but we also notice that we are getting back into the real world again. It is slowly getting busier with other humans. In Fransschoek it was still very relaxing but both Boulders Beach and Cape Point are very touristic with the real big busses loading them on and off.

 

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After these 2 stops we drive via Chapmans Peak Drive, a winding scenic route through the mountains, to our guesthouse for the next 2 nights. 

 

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PeterHG

So nice to see your pictures of Fish River Canyon and the Canyon Roadhouse. We visited the same places last year and enjoyed them as much as you did. Great pictures of the Gannet colony and of the Penguins! 

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  • 2 weeks later...
xelas

Great photos, and I like readfing about attractions we have skipped when in Franschhoek.

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