Cape Town – Woodstock

The area now known as Woodstock was inhabited by the Khoi San until the arrival of the Dutch in the 1600’s.  By the middle of the 19th century it had become a fashionable seaside resort.  This changed in the 1950’s when the beach was destroyed due to land reclamation to enlarge the foreshore.

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St Mary the Virgin Anglican Church at 1 Station Road, Woodstock.

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Woodstock is a suburb of Cape Town and is about one kilometre from the city centre.  Many of the buildings are being renovated.

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Some are still neglected.

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Street artists are trying to make the area colourful.

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Many older houses are being restored.

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This circa 1903 building is one of many in Albert Road that has been restored.

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Every Saturday morning a market is held in The Old Biscuit Mill in Albert Road where artists and craftsmen display and sell their goods.

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The changing of Woodstock into a ‘trendy’ area has had a negative effect on the local residents who are been forced out by high rentals.

Cape Town – V&A Waterfront and surrounds

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We walked to the Waterfront towards midday.  Lunch was a plate of fresh mussels from the west coast.

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We watched yachts taking tourists around the harbour and out into Table Bay.

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This little train takes visitors and children around the Waterfront.  The man with the flag controls the speed and stops the train to allow pedestrians to pass.

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These life size statues are of South Africans who have won the Nobel Peace Prize.  From left to right: Albert Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk and Nelson Mandela.

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Watching over the statues of our famous leaders, is Table Mountain.

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We walked back to the Marina admiring the gardens and the views.

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Later we went with friends, to a local Greek restaurant which was having a special wine tasting event.

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This part of the city has lovely Edwardian homes.

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The wine farmer gave a talk about his wines from the farm called Groote Post.  It was a dairy farm before they planted  vineyards.

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Each course was matched with a wine from Groote Post.

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Greek food and South African wine go well together.

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After much food and wine we took an Uber taxi back to the Marina and a good night’s sleep.

Cape Town – V&A Waterfront and Blaauwberg

Staying on the Marina behind the V&A Waterfront is to be right in the hub of one of the main tourist attractions in Cape Town.  From here one can visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for decades.  Visitors don’t need a motorcar and can call an Uber taxi if we they need transport.

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This is the view of the famous Table Mountain from the Marina.

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The Waterfront is part of the working harbour of Cape Town.

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Enjoy breakfast while watching the harbour activities.

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We later went to Blaauwberg from where you get wonderful views of Table Mountain across Table Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.

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The small village of Blaauwberg has lovely restaurants with magnificent views.

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The beautiful turquoise waters are typical of the Atlantic Coast.

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This artistic display was outside one of the local restaurants.

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Views across Table Bay from Tableview  towards Table Mountain.

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That evening we went to Grand Beach Cafe near the V&A Waterfront for sundowners and a light meal. The sea was calm and there wasn’t a breath of wind.

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People on board this yacht were enjoying the calm evening.

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Drinking South African wine while watching the sun set is a local tradition in Cape Town.

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A last boat sailed into the light craft harbour, which is quite near the main Cape Town harbour.

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We had a lovely meal with our toes in the golden sand at the Grand Beach Cafe.

Pride of Africa Visits Kimberley

The second day of our journey  from Pretoria to Cape Town found us enjoying a leisurely breakfast on board this genteel old lady called Rovos.

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Gazing out over the dry hinterland of South Africa while the scenery slowly slips by….. This is what Rovos Rail is all about. Going back to a time when people were not so rushed.

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The staff produce gourmet food from this small kitchen.

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After breakfast we joined fellow passengers on the observation deck at the end of the train. 

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We have met people from Denmark,  Finland,  Germany,  Yorkshire, Portugal, Japan as well as a few South Africans. 

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We passed several small towns on our way to Kimberley, the city in the Northern Cape that is famous for its diamonds.

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Just before Kimberley we passed tens of thousands of flamingoes.

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We stopped at Kimberley station and disembarked for a tour of the Big Hole.

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Frank our tour guide was very informative.

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Kimberley has lots of restored buildings and is preserving its Colonial past.

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After a short drive we were taken into the village museum and the Big Hole.

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All the kimberlite (rock that contains diamonds) was removed by the miners.  The granite ring, that is now full of water, is the remains of the volcano that created the diamonds and spewed them out of the earth.  Many of these diamonds were washed as far as the shores of Namibia by the Orange River.

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The building with the green roof is still the head office of the De Beers Mining Company and the AGM is held there each year for sentimental reasons.

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This gear was manufactured in Glasgow and brought by boat to Cape Town  and then taken across the vast interior by ox wagon to Kimberley.

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We went inside a replica of a mine.

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We explored the village museum.

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We were greeted by the staff of the Rovos Rail.

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We boarded the Pride of Africa.

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We were served a world class meal.  Each course was accompanied by a South African wine or port.

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All the staff on the Rovos Rail are well trained  and make sure you are cosseted and made to feel at home.

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After watching a beautiful Karoo sunset we went to the 1939 dining car for a four course dinner.

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We went to sleep knowing that we were in good hands.

On board Rovos Rail

Yesterday we took our first trip on the world class Gautrain.  We left from Sandton, the main economic hub of Johannesburg.   After 30 minutes of gliding above the busy traffic and watching the heart of the economic machine that drives our country, we arrived at Pretoria Station.

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From there we took an Uber taxi to the private railway station of Rovos Rail.

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Outside the Rovos Station.

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Inside the lounge.

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The Rovos Rail is a private company run Rohan Vos. He has named each engine after one of his children.  This one is Brenda.

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A visit to the Rovos Museum is a must.

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We appreciated seeing the animals that Rohan cares for at Rovos. Too old to work, he has given them a home.

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An old steam train was brought for the guests to explore and enjoy. This one is called Shaun, named after the eldest Vos son.

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After a lovely tea and welcome by Rohan, we started to board.

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All aboard for Cape Town!  Next stop Kimberley to visit the Big Hole and Diamond Museum.

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This coach is a restored one from 1939.

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The viewing deck at the end of the train is open.

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It is wonderful to relax in a lounge, watching the lovely Highveld vista’s move slowly by. One reason we chose the Rovos is because it travels slowly and one can enjoy the countryside.

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Guests can enjoy a drink before dinner. All drinks are included in the price.

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There are two dining cars. This one is a replica of one from 1928. The attention to detail and comfort is amazing.

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The delicious four course meal was produced in a small kitchen attached to the dining car. A wonderful first day….

Day 7: Caprivi Strip (known as Zambezi Region since August 2013)

‘Hot water is a blessed thing!’  These words had new meaning for me when we stayed at Ngepi Camp in the Caprivi area of Namibia in mid-winter.

It was June and we were staying in reed huts on the banks of the Okavango River.  Ngepi Camp is very eco friendly and uses solar energy,  however in winter the sun does not reach the solar panels until about 11 am so there is not much time for the sun to do its work.  Also the solar panels were covered with dust which blocked the rays of the sun.  A bucket of water tossed over them improved matters vastly………….

On the morning of  13 June 2012 we visited the Mohango Game Reserve.  A few startled kudu darted across the road.  This park is known for Roan and Sable antelope herds and has four of the big five.  Over 300 bird species have been recorded.

We stopped to admire an enornmous baobab in the park.

Baobab trees can live for thousands of years.

While Vermaak, our chef,  made us a hearty brunch under the trees, Marion and I explored the river bank and saw an African Jacana which is sometimes known as the ‘Jesus bird’ because it appears to walk on water while it trots over the lilies, its long toes and nails spreading its weight.

We were lucky enough to see the rare Reedbuck.

Later that afternoon we travelled back to Bagani to find the site of the old pont that had been the only way over the Okavango before the Bagani bridge was built.  We were told to make enquiries at the local clinic.  Les had been stationed here with the South African Police during the late 60’s and was keen to re-visit the site.

This photo of the old pont was taken by Les in the 1960’s.

Trenches were dug by the SAP members to protect their camp.

They had to guard the pont as this was the only way across the river.  Here is a young Les in uniform.

The pont was guarded as it was a strategic crossing for the military and local community.

There was lots of time for fun and the pont made a good diving platform.

Anyone watching out for crocodiles?

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The remants of the old pont can still be seen on the opposite bank.

The SAP camp was under an enornmous tree in this wooded area.

This was the local shebeen or ‘kuka’ shop.  We gave our kind guide a lift back to the clinic and thanked him for showing us where the old pont had been.

Back at Ngepi Camp we studied the board showing the many activities that are available.  If you are a keen bird watcher there are many birds in grounds of the camp so there is never a dull moment.

These upside down mokoros make wonderful seats for sitting around the pub area.

At night a fire is built for guests.

Botswana to Caprivi: Day 6

It was almost mid winter and the temperature had dropped below zero during the night.  We were staying at Ngepi Camp in a reed treehouse on the banks of the Okavango River, in the Caprivi Strip, Namibia.  On the morning of Tuesday 12 June, we woke up to find the river covered with mist.  Nothing was stirring.  The morning was still and quiet and very cold.  The hippos that had been very vocal during the night, were now silent.  We heard an owl calling in the distance.

Gradually the mist lifted.  Making our way towards the camp where Vermaak of Mpafa Tours always had a hot pot of coffee brewing, we stopped to listen to the sounds of birds.  Even though it was winter and not the bird season, there were many birds around.  This area has over 500 species of birds and is a haunt of bird lovers from all over the world.  The best time for bird watching is from September to March.

The grass was still covered with frost.

We were enjoying the first rays of the sun and admiring the vegetation.  On a branch high above the ground were three Verreaux’s Eagle Owls.

The owls were awake and alert and we enjoying the warmth of the winter sun.  The birders among us were very excited as no one had ever seen three owls sitting on one branch before.

After breakfast prepared by the staff at Ngepi, we decided to explore the area.  We stopped to watch some local children dancing and to purchase some miniature mokoros as momentos.

We crossed the bridge over the Okavango River.  We were on our way to see the remnants of Battalion 32 or ‘Buffalo Battalion’ .  This battalion of the SA Army was stationed in the Caprivi in the 70’s and 80’s until it was disbanded in the 90’s.

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This map shows the Bwabwata National Park and the Popa Falls.

A boom gate blocked our journey.  We enquired at the office nearby and were told we had to buy a permit to enter Buffalo Camp.  Fortunately South African rands are accepted in Namibia (N$1 = R1) so we handed over about R100 and continued on our journey.

We passed through the old South African Army camp that was known as Battalion 32.  This is now part of the Bwabwata National Park in an area called Buffalo Camp.  The road in this area are very sandy and in parts the sand is very deep.  It is not advisable to go there without a 4.x 4.

Remnants of the old army site.

This cross was probably put here by someone who lost a loved one during the war years.

The old army buildings are now overgrown by the vegetation.

There are plenty of buffalo near the river.

This magnificent kudu kept an eye on us.

We stopped to watch a lilac breasted roller.  Reluctantly leaving this reserve we headed out to find Popa Falls that we had heard were more like rapids than a waterfall.

After driving up and down the road for a while and after asking some pedestrians for directions, we eventually found the small dirt road leading to the falls.  The road is next to a prison and is unmarked.  Litter is scattered all over.  The area looked very neglected and unappealing, but we carried on, determined to see the falls.

On the road near the falls we stopped at this office and made enquiries.  The young woman behind the counter took R10 from each of us and we continued to the falls.  Not expecting much, we continued along the narrow sandy road.

The sound of roaring water filled the air.  The Popa Falls were a wonderful sight.  People who visited the falls on the side of the river where the popular lodges are, said it was not as impressive as the view from the neglected side that we visited.

Kim and Bronwyn were amazed at the speed and roar of the flowing water.  The sand on the small beach is clean and squeaks as you walk on it.   The power and size of the Okavango River is very impressive from this vantage point.

Had we known what a lovely spot this was, we would have brought a picnic basket.  We walked up river for a while and then decided that we would head back to Ngepi for some lunch.

We left the falls and crossed over the bridge again.  We travelled through the small village of Bagani back to Ngepi Camp.

On our return trip we stopped to support another group of children singing and dancing to attract the tourists and earn a bit of pocket money.

We were entranced by the sight of some drums being transported on a sled drawn by oxen.

That night we heard drums been beaten all night.  We thought back to the oxen drawing the sled with two large drums.

That afternoon we went for a cruise on the river.  We were surprised to see Vermaak in the open air bathroom.  He was waiting to wave as we went past.

While travelling in the boat we passed some of the various reed houses alongside the river.

We saw a diverse selection of birds such as the Little Bee-eater.

The little egret has black legs and yellow feet.  This makes him different to all the other white herons in this area.

As the sun slowly set, the birds settled for the night.

The river banks and sandbanks were alive with birds.

The golden sky formed a perfect backdrop for the birds, reeds and papyrus.

We watched in silence as the sun sank slowly into the Okavango and then turned the boat and headed back to Ngepi Camp.