The World is a Book

Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Author: kateg (page 2 of 19)

Cape Town Tour Guide and Restaurants

 

Fancy sushi at Nobu

We ate at some pretty great restaurants while in Cape Town. It’s a very cosmopolitan and impressive city with top chefs opening all kinds of places.

We got to have sushi at Nobu and sample African delicacies of zebra, ostrich, warthog, kudu and mopane worms.

 

 

 

Grandma’s not too sure of the worms.

Neither is Auntie Jo!

The worms were a little hard to get down psychologically and tasted best to us when roasted rather than softer in a sauce (squishy that way). Max also liked the biltong which is jerky from various kinds of African animals and available all over the place. It’s kind of South African fast food.

 

 

Our favorite evening was a visit to the number one tripadvisor rated restaurant in Cape Town: Mzansi. The restaurant was started by “Mama” in her house in Langa Township.

Mama!

She has a team of local township cooks and musicians and serves about 20 visitors or so a night. The food is delicious and everyone tries to make you feel welcome and “at home.”

Don’t the kids look like they are having fun!

The musicians are great but the fun started when they get everyone included with homemade shakers and drums. We laughed so hard we couldn’t keep up – although our musical talent is such that it was hard to anyway. The township is not a place you drive to at night by yourself but they arrange safe transport to and from and we felt completely secure the whole time. Really a must go to spot.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g312659-d5996581-Reviews-Mzansi-Cape_Town_Central_Western_Cape.html

 

 

 

The driver (Stephen) who picked us up has ended up as a family friend. Erika Green (amazingly talented daughter in law) created a website for him and we hope he will soon be on tripadvisor. He is the nicest tour guide and we really enjoyed getting to know him and learning about life in southern Africa. Please consider contacting him if you need any tours in the region.

Stephentarisai@gmail.com

27 73 315 9849

Website:

http://buyer-alexander-86673.bitballoon.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Fancy meals with family

All kinds of things on offer

Brunching with family

And of course these are everywhere — huge here

 

Oudtshoorn

Views driving up to Oudtshoorn

 

 

Ostriches and cheetahs were the memorable pieces of this town in the desert. It took about 1.5 hours to get here from Wilderness and the drive up was lovely with well maintained highway through mountain passes and into the little karoo.

As soon as we got into the desert we started to see fields with ostrich in them. Seems to be loads of farms up here. We visited a big tourist one and got to learn about the whole process of farming them. A tractor ride around the farm and feeding them was enough; the kids chose not to ride the ostriches. Max did get closer than the rest of us – we are just not bird people.

Max contemplating riding ostrich

Max enjoying ostrich later!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next day we visited Cango Animal Ranch and it was really fun and informative. The animals are pretty close and the guides are well informed about them. They have a couple of electronic surprises that make you laugh but aren’t overly cheesy.

Max eating croc — seems to be a trend for him!

Large Crocs

The best was the cheetah encounter. We saw a couple do this earlier and the cheetahs were fast asleep (the do that for about 20 hours a day) and it didn’t look too scary to hang out with these lanky, SLEEPING cats. However we decided to have lunch and then go in and apparently the cheetahs also had lunch and woke up.

We were taken to the first area with “the girls” but they were pacing and looked a bit active so the guides took us to the boys’ pen. These two were also wandering around and were certainly more playful than earlier. I almost backed out and wouldn’t let the kids in but Grandma set off with gusto following the guide so we were committed then! For a woman who an hour prior had raced away from feeding the birds, she was suddenly

The cheetah lay down with a sigh and then started to “growl” which was nerve wracking. The guide laughed and just kept petting him and shared that he was simply purring like a house cat. Everyone had a turn petting him and the guides were clearly very comfortable with these animals and you could see they respected and cared for them a lot.

The cheetahs are bred at this ranch and are sent around the world to zoos and parks in order to strengthen the gene pool, which is apparently a bit weak (inbreeding in the wild due to reduced areas to live in). They are not sent to ranches where they are killed as the lion parks do. The lion parks breed lions so visitors can play with the baby lions but they are later sent onto ranches where rich Americans can come in and shoot their trophy easily because the lions are tame and unafraid. We had read about those and chose not to support that unpleasant and sad side of tourism. Also the cheetahs are certainly not drugged as the tigers are in Thailand (thankfully I’ve read that has been closed down). These creatures were lively for sure.

Later at dinner, Charlotte asked us all which or favorite animal was. We all chose the cheetahs or tigers. She however sighed and shared that her favorite were the baby guinea pigs. They had a petting area with a big pen full of about 30 guinea pigs and she was able to sit in there and feed and play with them for ages. Those were her chosen favorites: such a softie.

 

Wilderness

This town was only about half an hour away from Knysna but had a completely different feel yet again. It’s quite small and on the ocean with a river running through it so water sports abound. It’s also surrounded by national park, which means great hiking.

Garden in front of our little apartment

We found this amazing B&B that was right on the river with free canoes and paddleboats and the kids could swim off the dock. There weren’t many rooms and we had a little private cottage with it’s own walled terrace. Everything had thatched roof and stone walls and the décor was Egyptian/South African. I loved the claw foot tub with chandelier over it in the bathroom and chandeliers hanging from rafters. The staff members were very friendly and booked our restaurants and helped suggest hikes and places to go. Breakfast on the terrace overlooking the river was lovely with full English including big pot of teach and coffee. I could have stayed there much longer as it was so relaxing.

 

 

 

Moontide Guest Lodge: http://moontide.co.za/

The restaurants in town were excellent as well. We ate one night overlooking the ocean and the next at a more local spot that only did steaks, chips and salad. Those were some of the best chips (French fries) I’ve ever had and the steaks were pretty darn good too! We also had Italian with outstanding wood grilled pizzas. Helps too that the wine to wash all this down is so darn cheap. Seriously cheap at about $1.50 a glass in restaurants and rarely would you find an entire bottle above $10 in a restaurant. Grocery stores they are about $3-$6 for good South African wine.

 

We did need to work some of this food and drink off so had a long hike in the national park. It was pretty hot going but the trails were well marked and maintained and mostly quite easy to maneuver up and down. We had to cross the river in one place and there was a pontoon boat that you stood on and pulled on the ropes to get back and forth. Quite hard work going across until I realized that being in the front, I was the one doing all the pulling! Coming back we put Charlotte up in front.

 

There was a lot to do in Wilderness considering it’s a small town. Very well located to reach other places too and would be a great base for the Garden Route.

 

 

Knysna

The Heads at Knysna

Getting to Knysna from Colchester took about 4-5 hours with a stop for lunch. We had a place that was just out of town that ended up being delightful. It was on a road into an area called Rheenendal and reminded us a lot of northern California with small farms, yoga, organic farm stalls, and teashops. Our apartment (2 bedrooms) was one of four by a couple who had spent years traveling and then decided to settle back in her homeland. They renovated an old school up on a hillside overlooking a lovely ravine. The work they have done on this place is amazing. The apartments are very Scandi and calming with soft colours and uncluttered feel and the outside has little paths leading to hidden benches and repurposed flowerpots and artwork dotted around.

Gorgeous views of the valley from the apartment.

There were also delightful gardens to hang out in although the duck ponds were empty of water because of the drought. They had also hacked their way down the ravine and made a very walkable but long trail down to the river at the bottom. We got about half way down this accompanied by their lovely dog but it was getting dark and strange noises were heard (baboons and monkeys live there) so a hasty uphill journey ensued!

Woodlands Self Catering:

http://woodlandsknysna.co.za/

Knysna is a nice beach town but we liked our little place up the mountain best. We did try the oysters and beer that the town is famous for. We didn’t love the oysters as they were a bit stringy and overly salty compared to Florida ones plus they served them with overly sweet dressing. Cooked ones were good according to Grandma but raw only OK. We found a nice grocery store with decent fruit and vegetables (it’s been more limited here so far) and got delicious figs and mangos. We also ate local organic lamb and pork from the farm shop that was delicious eaten on the terrace overlooking “our” ravine. It was nice to be homebodies for a couple of nights.

 

Off to Port Elizabeth and Addo National Park

We flew from Jo’Burg to Port Elizabeth (PE as it’s known) via Mango airlines. A low cost in-country airline that was fine for bags (one checked free) but no free food or drink. We survived, as it was an hour flight!

Then we picked up the rental car and headed out of town on well-marked, good roads and highways, to Colchester about 30 minutes along the coast. This is a small town on a river and is right next to the south gate of Addo Park. This is a newer gate and the area is quieter than the main town of Addo which is good as apparently there have been attacks on the road into the northern gate of Addo as it goes through an industrial/township area.

We stayed at a nice B&B and had a 2 bedroom little house. Fun set up and all our needs met. The owners were very nice and booked our tour into Addo for us with a guide who grew up in the house next door to them (so knows the area well).

http://www.addogatewaylodge.co.za/

Addo Elephants

Our tour guide and her husband picked us up in the morning and we were thrilled to be the only people on the little bus. We spent the day with them in Addo and Janie was amazing at finding animals and telling us all kinds of facts about each of them and history of the park etc. Her husband also knew a lot about the plants and birds so it was nice to have all this expertise along. At lunchtime we reached the main gate area and while we wandered around the exhibits and gift shop, they set up a delicious BBQ (braa) and cooked up lamb chops, chicken kabobs, and local sausage. They set a fancy table and provided wine and beer plus an amazing desert of malva and custard (a South African pudding).

I haven’t tried this recipe but looks good and similar to what we ate. Also some other good ones on this site:

http://simply-delicious-food.com/south-african-malva-pudding-easy-frozen-custard/

So I skipped over the animals we say and focused on the food. Tells where my heart lies! But the animals were amazing. We saw a monkey first just a few feet into the park and went on to see loads of elephants, zebra, various kinds of antelope, buffalo, warthogs, ostriches, dung beetles, termites, vultures, lion, tortoises, and a little ferrety thing (Janie wasn’t with us to see itJ There were probably more but it was so impressive and fun I’m forgetting. To see these animals in the wild and just doing their own thing naturally was so much more rewarding than in a zoo or nature park. Janie interpreted lots of their behaviors for us and it was then fun to try and spot those later on in the next groups.

 

https://www.sanparks.org/parks/addo/

Sundays River and Sand Dunes

Sundays River and sand dunes

The next day we did the Sundays River ferry cruised with the B&B owner’s husband. He has a great boat that cruises along the river to the estuary and then stops so you can scramble around the huge sand dunes. Max, Charlotte, and I managed to climb our way up these and the views at the top were amazing. The sand was so soft it was difficult to get up but very easy to get down!

Nice little town. Not a lot to do other than the boat and Addo plus one pub restaurant. But it was fun and relaxing.

Kliptown Youth Program

I didn’t want this organization to be buried in a blog post as it really is an amazing place. Kliptown is one of the oldest districts in Soweto and is where the Freedom Charter was signed in 1955 but it seems to have been left behind the other areas and is painfully poor despite more than 45,000 people living there. There is no electricity or running water or sewer available. People rig wires across roads to other areas and manage to steal electricity for periods of time but nothing is permanent. Water comes from 50 wells that are around the town and people gather here to fill containers for drinking and cooking, washing clothing, and cleaning off children. Toilets used to be buckets that were emptied in the night by paid workers but now they have porta potties in various spots around town. Sounds like an improvement but we were told that these are often not emptied for a long time and when they are, it’s during the day and fills the entire area with smell. Anyone can use them who walks by – community toilets.

Inside a Kliptown house

There is an estimated 75% unemployment rate in Kliptown and one third of the residents are HIV positive. Many of the families are single mothers and teenage pregnancy rates are high. There are no schools, no healthcare, and no real shops to buy food and goods: remember this is for 45,000 people!

After School Program

KYP

Within Kliptown is a charity youth program called KYP. They now help over 200 children everyday with breakfast, lunch, and after school academic, social, and sports support. KYP is working toward empowering young people to become self sufficient, successful and also to give back to the community along the way.

They received a large grant through CNN and were able to build a computer lab. The children take classes and use this after school plus during the day, classes are held for adults in the community. There is a large kitchen where staff prepare sandwiches for children’s breakfast and then later a hot lunch.

http://www.kliptownyouthprogram.org.za/

 

One of the community wells

There are NO schools in this township. Children must walk to other areas for school and this is often around 45 minutes each way and across rail lines and busy roads. If they are able to get there, they face stigma at having no uniforms or books and so KYP provides these. Children were also hiding in classrooms during break because all the other children had sandwiches to eat and they had nothing. KYP now provides sandwiches, as that is often the children’s only breakfast/mid morning meal.

When they first started, KYP promoted university attendance with all their graduates but quickly found out that this was not necessarily the best fit. So now they work one on one with high school students to help them figure out what they would like to be trained in or learn as a career. Sometimes this is a trade school and sometimes two year or four year university programs. They have quite a few successful graduates who now give back to KYP.

There is a community garden and parents are asked to help work in the school in some capacity. Extra vegetables are given to parents and very little waste is thrown out because much of the kitchen scraps are also given to families in need.

The program fund raises through sending the dance group and teacher abroad plus of course visitors who are offered t-shirts to buy (no pressure is put to donate at all), and online fundraisers.

Anyone traveling to Jo’Burg is invited to visit the program or spend time volunteering, as there are many ways to help. Please consider taking a look:

http://www.kliptownyouthprogram.org.za/involved

Cruel Trip!

We knew it would be tiring but wow were we wiped out the first couple of days in South Africa. We left Florida on a Tuesday evening and had an overnight flight to Gatwick (9 hours). Then it was a car across London to Heathrow where we couldn’t check in and so hung around the front of the airport a few hours until they accepted our bags 3 hours prior to flight time (9 hour layover). That was Wednesday. We got onto the flight Wednesday evening and flew 10.5 hours to Johannesburg, which meant we had two overnight flights with one day at an airport in between. We were highly ready for proper beds and a shower by that point.

We got money from the ATM and a local sim card and then an easy drive to our apartment hotel. Then we slept – a lot. The first few days we took Uber to the mall and the Big Red tourist bus, which allowed us to see the city as an overview. Another day we headed to the zoo because we wanted to walk and enjoy being outside but since our knowledge of the parks was limited, the zoo was a safer option. It was a little sad in terms of animals but fun watching large family and friend groups picnic and play. We always like to visit zoos in new places as you tend to see locals more and get a feel for family life. Although the disclaimer at the zoo was a bit disconcerting given lions and tigers — oh my!

 

The best thing we did in the city was a tour by Felleng Tours. It’s run by a husband and wife who have really taken great pains to know the city and get to know local people; especially in Soweto. We spent a day with Rudy and it was such a joy getting to know him and see the city and hear so many stories. We went to Soweto because he was able to take us to an after school program and spend time visiting with them. I had been unsure before because I had visions of tourist buses zipping around to take pictures of all the poor people. But this was not like that thankfully. We visited a tiny little roadside café and tried the corn meal (think grits).

 

Max wasn’t too impressed with the roadside cafe.

Traditional Healer

We went to a market and met a traditional healer (picture above). They are paid by the government to treat patients and are quite respected by government and local community. We ate the local doughnuts and walked around Freedom square where copies of the Freedom Charter are on display.

Then we went to Kliptown, which is the poorest township within Soweto. I had thought of Soweto as all one township when in fact it is many with millionaires (just a few) down to those still living in abject poverty. Some of the areas have small blockhouses and others are corrugated metal cobbled together into shantytowns. It was a huge area that seemed very vibrant and full of life.

Kliptown Market

Later we visited the Mandela Museum, which was small (his former home) but interesting. Winnie Mandela still lives nearby and we drove by her house, which is quite a fortress with bulletproof windows etc. Still if you saw the bullet holes in their shared home and the stories about police firing shots and petrol bombs at the home when Winnie and her children were living in it, it’s easy to see why a fortress would be preferred.

Great information — Apartheid Museum

We were able to spend a few hours at the Apartheid Museum. It’s a lovely modern museum that shows the development of apartheid, South African history and the life of Mandela. A good way to spend an afternoon learning about the local history and also to see the links to other countries, political beliefs and find (sadly) crossover to current affairs in the US.

Anyway I highly recommend Rudie’s company: Felleng Tours.

http://www.fellengtours.com/

Picnics and hikes

I think we had the most fun in England walking and picnicking and feeding ducks. Simple things but with lovely weather and the green landscape, England is perfect for walking and sitting enjoying the country (well in August it was).

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One forest area was set up to encourage children to PLAY and make forts. They left branches and logs in piles out in the woods and kids could build shelters to play in. It was so much fun that all three of us got involved.

 

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Cambridge and Ely

 

We spent time revisiting (for me) two places I used to go to with the older boys when we were living around RAF Lakenheath in the early 90s. It was fun to see some of the old places but the base has changed a lot and I didn’t recognize much.

 

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South Wales

We only had a short trip to South Wales but it was a lovely area and we had fun visiting caves and family. Hope to go back and do some hiking and Charlotte wants to ride ponies on the beaches.

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