Am I Far From You
November 26, 2005
We started out our day today with a very nice breakfast in the hotel here in London. Then, I caught up on a few emails while Markus braved the cold to get a hair cut. After he returned, we went to the Natural History Museum as they had an exhibit of the Annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year awards. There were about 100 photographs in an incredible display - the photographs are presented as large "transparencies" that are backlit and measure about 24" x 18". We were really blown away by a handful of the entries, not that the remainder weren't really good as well, but they just didn't have that wow! factor.
We also started to walk through the dinosaur exhibit, but it was very crowded and we decided we were probably cutting it a little too close to our departure time so we headed back to the hotel. The museum itself is absolutely gorgeous - the entrance hall is like a cathedral! And as with most of the museums in London, admission is gratis. We will definitely plan a return visit the next time we are in London.
We checked out of the hotel, jumped on the Tube, checked in for our flight and waited in the lounge. We were about 45 minutes late departing, but the pilots (the flight was so long at nearly 12 hours that regulations required more than one pilot) assured us that we would make the time up and arrive nearly on time.
November 27, 2005
As the flight crew indicated, we landed in Cape Town almost exactly on time. Our impression was that the airport was relatively small - not much larger than Barbados! And, amazingly efficient - it took only about 30 minutes from touch down until we had cleared both immigration and customs. We stopped to get our rental car and we were off. We rented a condo for the week and we had the address so we went first to check out the area then we stopped into a local ocean side cafe for a coffee (after all, it was only about 9:30 on a Sunday morning) and to get some change to use the pay phone. We contacted the property manager that is handling our rental and he agreed to meet us in 10 minutes. We got checked in, but then had to waste a little bit of time while the staff of one finished cleaning. We spent the time walking along the waterfront and then drove to one of the many markets that are nearby. We bought a few items for lunch and headed back to the apartment.
The building and the condo are a little bit older but the million dollar view is indescribable! There is an open floor plan that combines the dining room with the living room and part of the kitchen. The entire area is surrounded by sliding glass doors that look out to the sea. There are two bedrooms and two baths - bigger than we need - but it is wonderful to have so much space. The kitchen is a little bit dated, but has every modern convenience (dishwasher, micro, washer and dryer), so we're not complaining! And, we're here for the view anyway. The constant roar of the sea is another bonus!
We have included a couple of pictures of the condo to the right, and below is a panoramic view created with my new camera by fitting together 4 separate snaps. It isn't perfect (we are still working on our technique), but at least you get to experience the Wow! And, yes, the sun really does shine in that brightly, starting about 3:00 in the afternoon. We actually have to wear our sunglasses because it is so bright inside - how fun is that! Luckily, we can open the doors to let the cooler ocean breezes flow through the room, otherwise it would get really hot, really quickly.
If you have Flash or QuickTime, you can also click below for the 360* tour. If you aren't sure, just click on the link and if it loads - great! A word of warning though to those of you using a dial-up connection (Dad, Grandma and Chris), the QuickTime tour is a huge file and will not be downloadable to your computer, so give it a skip. You should, however, be fine with the Flash file.
We were fairly proud of ourselves - after flying overnight, we actually managed to stay awake until 9:00 tonight! Of course, we nearly passed out when we crawled into bed.
November 28, 2005
We slept late this morning (no surprise there!) and had a nice light breakfast on our terrace. Then, we headed down Beach Road (the same road that our condo is on) to Victoria Road, which runs along the coast. The views were incredible. From Victoria Road, we turned on to Kloof Road, which runs to the ridge between the Lion's Head and Signal Hill as well as to the lower station where you catch the cable car to the top of Table Mountain.
We decided to first check out Signal Hill - we could see all of Mouile Point and our condo from here (picture at the left) and of course, the view of Table Mountain (picture at the right) was fantastic. It was pretty hot already, particularly in the sun, so I had some Italian ice cream (doesn't that seem strange to have gelato in the south of the African continent?!). After Signal Hill, we drove over to catch the cable car to the top of Table Mountain (3500 ft.). It was a little bit hazy, but the views were amazing. We could see all the way to the end of the Cape of Good Hope!
The park at Table Mountain is beautifully maintained and there are numerous walking paths to choose from. There is also a gift shop and a self service restaurant and bar. We stopped for a refreshment in the restaurant and sat on the terrace enjoying the view across the Twelve Apostles. At the left is the scene as we ascended in the cable car. The harbour area at the right of the picture is the Victoria and Alfred waterfront. The picture at the right is of the lion - his head is on the left with Signal Hill forming his rump to the right of the picture. In the distance is Robbin Island, home to a prison for nearly 400 years, the most famous occupant of which was Nelson Mandella.
As we descended in the cable car, we saw two men rappelling down the side of the mountain (we thought of you Wendy and Ed - you would have really enjoyed the challenge!). Markus took a picture of the side of the mountain - they rappel down, in stages, to the grassy area and then there is a dirt path and some stone steps that lead down to the road. We heard them talking on top of the mountain before they started down - they estimated that it would take about 3 hours to complete the journey.
We stopped at the market again on our way back to Mouile Point and then stayed-in for the balance of the evening. We are not completely recovered from our jet lag (even though it's only 2 hours time difference) and it feels so wonderful to be able to stop and enjoy a quiet evening (or two!).
Following a leisurely breakfast this morning, we set out down the coast road toward the Cape. The weather was quite cloudy, but at least the rain held off. We stopped in Hout Bay along the way and then picked up Chapman's Road (beautiful coastal road built by POWs during WWII) to Noordhoek.
We continued to Cape Point National Reserve and then through the park to the Cape of Good Hope, the most southwestern point of the African continent. The road runs along the sea and is supposed to be a good whale watching area, but sadly, we didn't see any. However, we did come upon a flock of 6 ostrich along the park road out to the Cape. They are such peculiar birds!
We also drove up to the visitor's center at Cape Point. From this vantage point, you can see the Atlantic Ocean on one side of you and the Indian Ocean on the other. Visibility wasn't great so we decided against the uphill climb to the lighthouse lookout.
As we were leaving the park, just as we came through the gates, I spied 3 zebras. We later found out that they were Cape Mountain Zebra. Unfortunately, we weren't close enough to get any photos. Admittedly, the animals were hard to see, but we were amazed by the number of vehicles passing by on the park entrance road that never even bothered to slow down and take a look.
We took an alternative route back to Cape Town and were rewarded with the sight of a colony of seals on a rock in False Bay. We also stopped at Simon's Town to see a penguin colony. I had forgotten that penguins make their home in South Africa. We didn't get back to the apartment until almost 6:30, but it was a very exciting day!!
We had a leisurely morning and then we went shopping at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. It is a very nice shopping area with a couple of larger department stores and numerous smaller upscale boutiques. There is also a supermarket as well as a food court and about a dozen nice restaurants with outside dining along the quays. We bought a couple of books for our safari - one is just a notebook to keep track of daily vehicle checklists, etc. and the other is a book on Southern African mammals. The mammal book is really great as it has pictures, typically of both the male and female and also provides information on habitat, range, size and habits. Since it is limited to the southern part of the continent, we have a good chance of seeing many of the animals listed.
After shopping, we had lunch at one of the waterfront restaurants. Markus had steak and I had ostrich. It was a lovely meal with very good service. The sun was shining for most of the afternoon and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Some of you may be thinking that I have made a typo in referring to the V&A Waterfront as Victoria and Alfred and not Victoria and Albert. The name really is Victoria and Alfred - it is named after the two basins in the working harbour around which the waterfront complex was built. Additionally, during a visit to Cape Town in 1880, Victoria's second son, Alfred, laid the first stone in the construction of the breakwater.
December 1, 2005
We can not believe that it is the 1st of December already - Christmas is just a bit more than 3 weeks away! We are definitely not ready for the holidays.
Not much touring today - instead we used the day to catch up on laundry and trying to finalize our safari details. There was a problem with availability for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so we had to do some juggling of the itinerary.
in place of an exciting journal entry today, here is another piece of Cape
Town trivia. Cape Town is often referred to as the "Mother City"
and I went looking for an explanation of the origin of this name. According
to www.cape-town.org, the story is that in the 1930's an unknown party wrote
to the local Cape Town newspaper claiming that Cape Town was the only city
in South Africa that could justly call itself a metropolis. The public took
to this description and because the word metropolis is derived from the Greek
derivation of meter or metros meaning mother and polis meaning city, the nickname
of "mother city" was born.
We did end our day with a little bit of excitement. As we were finishing up the laundry, we heard noises outside and went to investigate. We were treated to a fireworks show - we had a perfect viewing vantage point from the side patio.
December 2, 2005
Today is our last day in Cape Town - we have really enjoyed our visit here. The city is lovely and quite easy to navigate as a tourist. Unfortunately, as with many areas of South Africa, crime remains a serious problem. Cape Town will never achieve its full potential as a major tourist destination until this issue is dealt with. Also, a huge division remains in the socioeconomic level between the black population and the white population. There are large segments of society living at sub-poverty level, in shanty towns on the road from the airport, for example. It's hard to say, based on such a short visit, but it does appear that things are changing - but change takes time and we estimate it will take another generation to achieve results.
So enough about that. This morning I worked on the next part of our adventure, that being Hong Kong and Singapore. We should finalize our bookings in the next day or so. It was quite a bit easier to nail down than the safari, that's for sure!
This afternoon, we went back to the V&A Waterfront and treated ourselves to a "last day in Cape Town" lunch. We didn't realize it until we arrived there that Cape Town is a stop on the Volvo Ocean Race. Seven boats began leg 1 of the race in Vigo, Spain on 12 November. As of today, 3 of the 7 have completed leg 1 and we saw these boats docked at the waterfront. One boat is scheduled to arrive tomorrow morning and one on Tuesday. The remaining two have withdrawn from leg 1, but are meant to be in Cape Town for the In Port Races on 26 December. The boats then head off on leg 2 to Melbourne on the 2nd of January. It was really fun to be at the waterfront today - the atmosphere was quite festive!
And, in keeping with the festive mood, we had lunch at a Mexican restaurant overlooking the harbour. The food was excellent - but there was way too much of it and we brought half of it home for dinner! After lunch, we went into Cape Union (similar to Eddie Bauer) and I got a baseball cap with a zebra print. I need it to keep the sun from my face when we are on safari.
In the evening, we returned to the condo and finished laundry and a few other chores. It was an early night as we have a 7:30 AM flight tomorrow.