Posts from the ‘South Africa’ Category
This post was going to be about Hermanus, South Africa. But Hermanus is just one of several spots along The Garden Route with eyegasm-inducing scenery, charming cafes and and enough whales and dolphins for an entire season of Mammal Planet.
Prior to leaving on our trip to South Africa we announced that we were going to rent a car and drive from Cape Town along The Garden Route, ending in Knysna. Our friends and relatives set their DVRs to cover the nightly news so they wouldn’t miss the reporting of our grisly murders (best case). As much as we hated to disappoint everyone (again) it was an easy, safe and wonderful experience.
One of the first places we stopped was Betty’s Bay, a desolate, gorgeous area of rocks, crashing waves and Jackass Penguins. (The correct name is African Penguins. They’re also called Jackass Penguins because they make a braying noise like a donkey, aka jackass, and because it’s a funnier name.) We were there in May and it was chilly but the chill seemed to deter more sensible types so we had a long strip of beach to ourselves.
There’s a boardwalk that essentially goes nowhere so we bumbled on past the end of it and came to a charming place called The Southern Cross Cafe. The woman who owned it was so Zen it was almost unnerving but she made good tea and was an artist. We were all BFFs by the end of our visit. Sadly, it appears from a web search that the cafe is now out of business.
We finally reached our destination, The Arabella Hotel and Spa in time for dinner. When we stayed there it was still a Westin property so we stayed for free on our Starwood Amex points which we so dearly love. This is the property where, upon meeting a charming couple from Ireland, Brunette famously told them that her favorite place in Ireland is “Dingleberry”. They avoided us after that.
The hotel website pompously claims they “deliver grandeur in design”. It would be fun to go back and call room service and ask them to “please deliver some grandeur design, hold the mayo” but that probably won’t happen.
If you’re one of those people who inexplicably travels the world to hit little balls with a stick there are several golf courses in the Hermanus area, one of which is this hotel’s 18 hole, 72 par Championship course.
One of our day excursions from our fancy pants hotel was to Plettenberg Bay. We took a boat trip that produced the highest critter-per-dollar ratio of anything you could ever do in nature! The boat was launched in an alarming fashion which the company, Ocean Adventures, referred to as “the dolly trailer system”. The passengers get into the boat and then it’s basically launched into the sea (they say “pushed” but we know the difference between a push and a launch. Maybe.) In any event they were a very good tour company that we recommend.
In the beginning of the trip Blonde was highly distracted by an enormous, dorky, excess saliva producing German man who proudly announced that he travels on a U.S. passport (forget why). He was such a rude man lurching about in a manner that put him in front of everyone’s pictures that Blonde wanted to contact the U.S. embassy to see if his U.S. passport could be revoked. However, a pod of enthusiastically mating Southern Right Whales managed to get Blonde’s attention off the passport abuser.
We weren’t in a small boat but we weren’t in a big boat either and when you have whales that can weigh up to 60 tons apiece and they’re gettin’ it on to the whale version of Barry White, vigilance is a good idea.
Plettenberg Bay has so many mammals that if you had a huge net and a great deal of strength you could scoop up a lifetime supply. Besides the whales there were Bottlenose Dolphins cavorting all around. How they didn’t bang into the mating whales was a mystery to us.
A word of caution: Your camera may get wet on this boat trip. Blonde took her brand new most expensive camera ever along with its expensive lens and it survived. However, she is not someone to model yourself after when it comes to treating electronics sensibly. On the other hand, if you don’t have a zoom lens you’re going to have a lot of pictures of dots.
And just because the aforementioned camera was taken on this trip you are going to be subjected to two more photos from Plettenberg Bay.
Our trip to Plettenberg Bay, German/American dork notwithstanding, was an incredible amount of fun and left us famished. The tour company showed us the way to a little fish restaurant along the beach where either the food was amazing or we were just so hungry we thought it was amazing. Didn’t matter to us!
We did another day trip from the Arabella Hotel and that was into the town of Hermanus. Hermanus claims to be the home of the largest Southern Right Whale Festival in the world and we see no reason to question that claim. Even when there isn’t a festival they have the world’s only Whale Crier who blows a kelp horn when whales are spotted in Walker Bay.
We enjoyed the scenery in Hermanus and had a very civilized lunch at the The Marine Hermanus Hotel, a Relais & Chateaux property right on the coast. We didn’t stay there but it would be lovely to do so. A quick rate check shows the cheapest room, including breakfast, for two people to be about $320 USD a night in July.
Hermanus is touristy but it wasn’t overly so in May and it has managed to retain its charm even with its popularity and how many people can you say that of? We found a gelato shop which is enough to get us to rate anywhere favorably. There are also some very nice little shops, a craft market on the pier and rocks where kayakers can smash themselves and then entertain tourists as the kayakers struggle to get out of the water.
Lengthy as it is, this post barely touches on the fun and beauty of The Garden Route. To summarize: You should go.
Traveling with a delusional five foot tall supermodel wannabe was the gruesome fate that befell Blonde on a trip to South Africa with Brunette. Brunette is generally agreeable to having her picture taken, usually asks to have it be deleted because her hair was frizzy and about once very 5 years likes a picture of herself. Blonde is the annoying person who asks total strangers to take her picture, is convinced that she’s way better looking in real life and is a major show-off. When a role reversal inserts itself into a long-standing relationship the results can be traumatic, as they were in this situation.
On the flight to South Africa, which seemed longer than the entire televised U.S. political convention of whichever party you hate, Brunette throughly read Sky Magazine, a publication of Delta Airlines. Blonde drank, took Ambien, slept, snored vigorously and never glanced at the magazine.
Upon arrival in Cape Town Brunette was clutching Sky Magazine in her perky little paws and waving it in her drug-addled and groggy sister’s face. The cause for this level of excitement over a free airline magazine intended only to delay passengers from getting homicidal while sitting on the tarmac for days? The opportunity to have one’s picture be selected to appear in the magazine by sending in a photo from (presumably) some intriguing location.
Blonde assumed the contest was to win a free trip somewhere or at least several million miles with Delta. Blonde and Brunette are as excited about travel contests as hookers are about pro golf tournaments and will do even more debasing things to win a trip (than a golfer). Blonde wasn’t thinking clearly but assumed this meant she’d snap a pic of Brunette in some exotic place in South Africa and that would be that. Wrong!
While Blonde had been snoring Brunette had had someone come in and transplant a blonde’s ego into her cranium. All of a sudden she was demanding to have her picture taken not only multiple times but multiple times everywhere we went every day, until somehow the magazine “vanished”. (Don’t tell her what happened – she’s lousy at guessing the end of mysteries and still doesn’t have a clue that the cleaning lady didn’t really steal the damned thing.)
You may be wondering why this post has so many pictures of Brunette with the magazine. It isn’t because there has been any demand for these photos. It’s an attempt to garner sympathy for Blonde and for James Gradwell, a highly skilled professional photographer and tour guide from Cape Town who was also duped into little Mrs. Bossypants’ scheme.
There was no enjoying the scenery. Now everything was merely backdrop for a photo-op. The normally mild-mannered Brunette became a photo shoot director as well as a supermodel. She ordered her sister, James and even elephants and penguins around to get shot after shot designed to thrill the photo editors at Sky Magazine. “No, take it from this angle. The light’s better here. Make it look like the elephant’s reading it. You didn’t get a good enough shot of the magazine’s name. My hair looks frizzy in that one. They better not pick the one of you, this was my idea! People always like penguins so take another one here. How about under these rocks for an artistic shot?” After several painful days of this, using both Blonde and Brunette’s cameras as such photographic gems could not risk getting lost or somehow destroyed, the magazine was “lost”.
Blonde consolingly reminded Brunette that it would also be available on the 37 hour flight home so she would have another chance to get the email address where she could submit her certain-to-win entry. Brunette was stressed that, as she usually takes about a month to get around to uploading her pictures and the deadline for the next issue was the end of the month, Blonde upload her pics for Brunette pronto after arrival.
The sisters got home. Blonde uploaded the pics and nearly crashed Al Gore’s internet in the process.
Brunette submitted her picture and waited to be notified that she had been selected.
She was not notified.
She was not selected.
Blonde, James and the elephants and penguins would never got those days redeposited to their lives.
Prior to writing this post Blonde asked Brunette if she recalled what the prize had been. Brunette’s literal response was : “Oh, I certainly do- absolutely nothing, other than having my picture in Sky Magazine. And I didn’t even care if I was recognizable. (Author’s note: like hell she didn’t – you be the judge.) The picture with the magazine all covering my face (with the elephant) was my favorite. Guess it was temporary insanity.”
Temporary? Seemed rather long-lasting at the time. Insanity? Oh yeah.
Delta Skymiles photo editor, if you’re reading this, please print Brunette’s picture in your magazine, even if it’s beside a porn ad. Especially if it’s beside a porn ad.
Brunette always meticulously complies with luggage weight requirements. Blonde complies in a blonde way. This translates to both sisters leaving with luggage that (barely) meets the requirements. On arrival at our first destination Blonde starts shopping as if she is going to open a boutique the size of, say Harrod’s, when she returns home. (Blonde once spent all of the money she brought to Mexico between the check-in desk at the hotel and getting to the room. It was a table full of nice jewelry near the pool and it would have been rude to ignore it.)
The outcome of Blonde’s shopping is analogous to getting up the morning of your Weight Watchers meeting, weighing yourself and seeing that you lost 4 ounces. Then, to celebrate the loss, immediately prior to the meeting weigh-in eating 14 pounds of risotto and being shocked when the scale shows you gained weight. Blonde’s luggage eats a lot of risotto and Brunette won’t even be able to relate to the analogy.
Despite her vows to be shopping-celibate in South Africa Blonde immediately began purchasing large bowls, monkey balls (not literally from monkeys but it was fun to try to give you that impression), clothing and possibly even a well-taxidermied fully grown male rhinoceros. She also made small purchases; a pair of lovely black elephant-hair earrings and a diamond necklace (Yes,she made sure it was certified cruelty free. She learned her history from Leonardo Di Caprio!).
B&B were driving ourselves from Cape Town down along the Garden Route to Knysna. We had a Honda CRV and that sucker was happy to swallow all of the evidence of Blonde’s consumerism run rampant. It swallowed more than Linda Lovelace in her heyday.
By the time we arrived at the wonderful St. James Country House Hotel (after missing it on the first of several attempts) and opened the back of the CRV, even Blonde knew that her possessions now probably weighed more than the actual plane that was to take us to Nelspruit. But addicts are clever and find ways to fool themselves that their behavior is acceptable. So do blondes.
Brunette fretted as she didn’t have any excess capacity to help out and even Blonde was beginning to get concerned. Then Blonde’s resourceful blondicity kicked in. The first flight we were taking was on a plane from George (kind of like having an airport named “Mike”) to Johannesburg and it did not have the same weight limitations as the one to Nelspruit. At the conclusion of the safari we would be flying back to Johannesburg to spend the night at the airport’s Intercontinental Hotel before heading home. Problem solved!
The staff at the St. James in Knysna were so good to us we kept thinking they had to be mistaken as to who we really were. Blonde decided to test their kindness by asking them to contact the Intercontinental at the Joburg airport and arrange to have a porter with a luggage cart meet B&B’s flight from George. Blonde would then turn over the majority of her belongings for them to check until her return and take only a backpack with enough clothes for three days to the safari camp. Brunette was agog at the sheer absurdity/arrogance/brilliance of the plan and what she saw as the low odds of it all being executed successfully.
The arrangements were made (clearly large tips were heavily implied). We got up at 5:30 a.m. the day of our departure to drive to George, turn in the car and get the first of our flights. We knew that on the small plane we wouldn’t have our luggage in our possesion so each carefully determined what we wanted to keep in our purses and in the inside zippered pockets of our tourists-on-safari pants.
The flight from George to Joburg went smoothly and a natty chap from the Intercontinental was waiting with a large luggage cart as we exited the plane. Blonde and the man managed to heft her excess possessions onto the cart, he provided a claim check and in minutes B&B were on their way to flight #2. Blonde was radiant with success. Brunette was amazed that once again her sister had escaped the consequences of her behavior. All was copasetic.
As we boarded the flight to Nelspruit a fellow passenger had an anxiety attack about the prospect of either flying in such a small plane or flying in it with Blonde. There was a delay as he had to disembark and his luggage be removed. Blonde saw that, humanely, as evidence that there would have been enough capacity now for all of the stuff she had just checked.
We arrived at Nelspruit, were met by a van sent by Kirkman’s Kamp and spent a couple hours bumping along roads and through scenery that varied from beautiful and unexpected (avocado farms?? WTF??) and sad but not entirely unexpected (poor settlement towns).
Upon arrival at Kirkman’s we went to our little cottage to settle in a bit as we were too late for that afternoon’s expedition. As we sorted out our belongings we each removed our carefully concealed treasures from our secret zippered pockets. Blonde removed the recently acquired diamond necklace and elephant- hair earrings. Brunette removed a crumpled tissue, a smashed small bag of some sort of crackers and a stick of chewing gum. We simultaneously exclaimed “blonde and brunette pockets”! Hence the name of this blog.
Aren’t you glad you know?
And BTW Blonde’s luggage was safe and secure waiting for her back at the Intercontinental. The whole caper was pulled off brilliantly and Blonde didn’t learn a thing about being more conscientious in her packing or shopping.
When B&B went to Western Cape National Park in South Africa we saw this sign, sans baboon. Seconds later a man, loosely holding a sandwich bag, came out of the cafe. The baboon swooped in, stole the sandwich and then went to eat it under the sign. Now that’s an interactive advertising display!