South Africa - January 2024

January - February 2024
Savanna, safari, sun, sand, stuff Read more
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  • Day 1

    Day 1 - A bit weird and civilised

    January 19 in England ⋅ ☀️ 5 °C

    We’ve grown accustomed to flying West over the past couple of years - whether to the Caribbean, the US West Coast, or New York - and the timing of those flights to work with time differences has dictated our airport experience. 06:00 alarms, early morning cab rides, early afternoon flights - there’s nothing wrong with them, per se, but it can feel a little rushed. Flying South for this trip, with only a two hour time difference means an overnight flight, and an evening departure. Our cab isn’t due until 15:30, and our flight doesn’t depart until 21:10. As a result, we have what feels like a luxurious amount of time to get ourselves ready. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’d finished packing yesterday. For me - that’s actually a pretty good result. I’ve been known to start packing a week before we’re heading off somewhere.

    Around lunchtime, I realise i’m both bored, and not really of any help to Vicki’s packing efforts, so I relocate to the pub. It’s all a bit weird, but also civilised. We’re heading through Friday rush hour traffic to get to Heathrow - a journey which can be a ball-ache at the best of times. We’re amazed though, when what could have been a 2 hour journey is done in 75 minutes. We’re at the airport with some 4 hours to spare. Happily, we’re more than capable of passing the time. We locate a bar, and settle in for the duration. We read, we cackle, we booze. A couple of hours passes in the blink of an eye, and it’s time to board our flight. As we’re heading towards the gate, we get chatting to a few different couples, and we’re both struck by how relaxed and easy going everyone seems to be. The rush of the short haul business flights has ended, and all of the flights remaining for the night are long-haul - Joburg, Rio, Buenos Aires, Sydney. Folks are heading off on their travels, going to see loved ones, starting a new life in some cases. There’s a positivity to the throng that I just can’t remember experiencing in recent times.

    We’ve treated ourselves to Premium Economy, as we’re on an overnight flight. With the best will in the world, I know I won’t get much/any sleep in an economy BA seat. We arrive to our seat to find a young couple directly in front of us, with their newborn baby. Our hearts sink. I mean - noise cancelling headphones can only do so much… Vicki is a little disconcerted when the pilot says that our wings need de-icing. It’s a fairly common occurrence in colder climates than the UK, but it’s a new experience. Whilst she’s soooooooooo much of a better flyer than maybe 15 years ago, there’s a lingering distrust of aircraft and flying. Meanwhile, I’m enthralled by it. I’ve never seen the wing de-icing happening. In the dark night at Heathrow, the cranes lowering a massive pressure washer type spray onto the wings kind of reminds me of an alien movie. It’s v cool. The de-icing delays us a little, and we take off closer to 22:00 than is ideal. The pilot assures us though that we’ll have a quick flight, and should still land into Johannesburg on time.

    At the end of the dinner service, I’m struck by the gargantuan difference between my neat and orderly tray, and the devastation wreaked by Tropical Storm Vicki. She’s not delighted when I capture this feeling for posterity’s sake.

    It’s getting late, and we both want to try and maximise sleep. One more wine to see us off, I reckon….
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  • Day 2

    Day 2 - Sun, Sandton , Savanna

    January 20 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 18 °C

    Day 2 - Sun, Sandton, Savanna
    Fair fucks - the baby did not make ANY noise. Not a jot. Bless her little cotton socks. Her Mum and Dad are equally surprised / pleased. Vicks and I both sleep fitfully, but manage around 5 hours - enough to see us through the coming day. As we start to descend into OR Tambo airport, my view out of the window speaks of sunshine and warmth. Coming from a week of sub-zero temperatures in the UK, it’s going to be a blessed relief.

    Our driver, Norman, meets us in arrivals, and whisks us over to Sandton, a plush and lush suburb of Johannesburg. I’ve only ever used Joburg as a stepping stone - a first or last pit stop on my way in or out of the country, and this trip will be no different. It’s just never held an attraction for me. Going back 20 years to my first visits to South Africa, all I heard about the city was the risk to tourists, which didn’t exactly endear it to me.

    We’re staying at the familiar Sandton Sun hotel. We unceremoniously dump our bags in our room, and head out in search of sustenance. Sitting on the sun deck (albeit in the shade), we both find ourselves sinking into our chairs with a warm sense of wellbeing. Vicki dives into a large Chardonnay, while I have my first Savanna on African soil in 5 years. Both hit the spot in the best possible way…

    We have actual chores to do this afternoon. Grocery shopping, hire car collection and so on - so despite the incredibly strong temptation to put roots down, we drag ourselves away. 30 minutes of mall wandering later, we’re back in the Atrium bar at our hotel. I get the car collection out of the way, and reward myself with a stunning glass of Cabernet Franc. Of such things will our days be made…

    We’re ready for dinner a little earlier than needed, so head back to the sun deck for sundowners. The sun is still hot, but the Savanna is cold. I’m struck by how the balance of the clientele has changed. When I first visited in 2003, it was unthinkable that a smart hotel like this would have had black customers. Now, the balance is 90/10 in favour of customers of colour. There is a growing indigenous middle class in South Africa, the happy result of decades of affirmative action policies that are seeing folks get a fair break. I suspect not all of white South Africa is entirely supportive, but fuck ‘em.

    Dinner this evening is at Trump’s Grill on Nelson Mandela Square. I’ve avoided eating here in the past, for the daft reason that it might be associated with that orange faced dipshit. It’s not - Trump's is a decades old family butchery in Johannesburg, and in 1994 they opened their restaurant. I’m the idiot. We’re given a brief tour of the wine cellar by the enigmatic Michael, and a quick tasting of some reds that should go well with our meal. Our food is delicious. Simple, but incredibly tasty. Kudu fillet for me, and a South African rib-eye for Vicki. We judge the amount perfectly, and even have some of our amazing Pinotage left to accompany our post dinner ramblings. We’re not quite ready for bed, so head back to the sun deck for one last glass of wine. The place is jumping. The DJ is playing a passable version of house music, and for a moment - it feels like we’re in Ibiza or Croatia.

    One glass turns out to be quite sufficient. We wobble back to our room, and collapse into bed, knowing we’ve got an early start tomorrow…
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  • Day 3

    Day 3 - Pt 1 : The long/not winding road

    January 21 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    We are both less than impressed with our 06:15 alarm call. It’s a necessary evil though, as we’ve a long drive ahead of us. After our Las Vegas / California road trip in 2021, I reflected that somewhere around 4 1/2 to 5 hours should be the limit of what we attempt in a single day. I’m testing the reaches of that today, with a drive of 4 and a bit hours down to Umzolozolo, the safari lodge that will be our overnight stop. We’re both a bit more organised than we give ourselves credit for, and are ready to check out by 07:30. We’ve done a decent job of rinsing the hotel bars and restaurant while we’ve been here. We’re both pleasantly surprised to find that our total sundries bill is a shade over £70.

    I’m not normally a fan of motorways, and typically much prefer the road less travelled, to the one infested with idiots that make the average journey a pain in the ass. Today though, we’re covering a shade over 400km, and have a relatively narrow arrival window - after 12:30, but before lunch at 13:00, so motorway it is. We head off at a steady 120 km/h (the speed limit) on the mighty N3 between Joburg and Durban. The car intermittently beeps at us, and it takes us longer than it strictly should to figure out that this is the automated toll pass letting us know we’ve passed a toll point, and have been automatically charged. Further down the road, there are toll booths to pass through, but closer to Joburg, it’s a highly efficient automatic system. Driving down the N3 evokes memories of a similar trip 20 or so years ago, LONG before the advent of average speed controls and electronic toll gates, of 160 km/h cruising speeds to shorten the mammoth distances between stops, of a fairly lax attitude to the so-called alcohol driving laws… Our journey today is a somewhat more sensible affair. Highway driving in South Africa is, it turns out, a much less stressful experience than the UK. For a start, there are WAY fewer vehicles on the road. Secondly, the roads are pretty simple and straight (pardon the pun) forward. There are stretches where the road disappears in a straight line into the horizon 20-30km away. Some find the lack of corners at best boring, and at worst stupefying. I am not amongst them. After 2 hours, we’ve covered more than half the distance.

    We leave the highway maybe 20kms from our lodge. After 10 of those kilometres, we turn off onto a dirt road, which takes us deep into Nambiti private game reserve. The road is, well - let’s not call it names. It’s a rocky, slippery track, with hidden pot holes and the occasional ditch. We’re in a small Suzuki. The two do not mix brilliantly. We take it fairly steadily, but there are still a couple of hairy moments. We’re both pretty pleased when we arrive at the park gate. Parking up, we’re met by our driver, Lymon, who drives us the last couple of clicks to our lodge.

    Oh. My. God. This place is freaking amazing. Our last safari experience in South Africa was at Kruger, a place I’ve visited many times, and which I love. It’s intentionally targeting the mass market, with accommodation options from as little as £10 per night. It’s usually self-catered, with a small cafe and restaurant for those not fussed with cooking. Kruger has paved roads, and you’re as likely to find folks driving themselves around the park as taking an organised game drive. One of the big rest stops in Kruger will likely have 200-300 people staying at any one time, and there are 10+ such big rest stops across the park. Umzolozolo has 5 rooms. On arrival, we’re greeted by the team singing a song of welcome in Zulu. We’re welcomed by name by every member of staff, wherever we go. They even spell Vicki’s name correctly. We grab a much deserved drink, before tucking into a fabulous lunch. We’re taken to our room, which is spectacular. An incredible view over the game park valley, a stunning plunge pool, a bathroom that is quite a lot bigger than is strictly necessary, an outdoor his and hers shower… We have a couple of hours before our afternoon game drive. I spend some of it in the plunge pool. We’re conscious that our game drive is three hours long, and there’s not always a great place to use the bush bathroom, so we’re somewhat parsimonious with our liquid intake. I reason that wine is a dehydrating agent, so it’ll probably all be fine…

    Lymon collect us and our sundowner coolbox just before 16:00. We were asked earlier what we’d like to drink at the rest stop during our game drive. Savanna for me, G+T for Vicki. Another couple were due to join us in Lymon’s truck, but have decided to rest this evening (the guy is ensconced in a Premier League game…), so we have the luxury of our own personal driver. Lymon asks what we’d most like to see during our stay. Our last safari together in Kruger was great, but lacked one game experience - big cats. He nods, and we head off into the park.
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  • Day 3

    Day 3 - Pt 2 : The Circle of Life

    January 21 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    The roads towards the part of the park where the lions were sighted earlier today are pretty basic - very bumpy and rocky. The jeep makes short work of them, but in the back, we feel a little like we’re being thrown around at times. It’s still very hot, with hardly any breeze. Driving across the African plains is one of my very happiest places. En route to the North of the park, we meet some kudu - easy to spot from the white stripes across their back, and the amazing spiralled antlers the males have. Whisper it, but they’re also incredibly tasty… We see a herd of wildebeest (or gnu) alongside some mighty water buffalo and some zebra. In the distance, we can see some Waterbok. I’ve only brought my iPhone for photography, as:

    a) we’re only here for 1 night, and I typically only use my SLR for wildlife, so it felt a bit of a faff, and
    b) when I took my SLR out to charge its battery, it was covered in an as yet unidentified sticky substance, and I didn’t have time to figure out what it was, much less clean it ready for use.

    As a result, I’m conscious that my photos won’t do justice to the majesty of these amazing creatures, but we’re maybe a little less worried about that than we used to be…

    The two male lions we’re tracking have been spotted near Nambiti plains, having taken down a young giraffe. It sounds like they’re in a food coma, and readying themselves for a deep sleep. They may not move until tomorrow. We spend some time trying to locate them, but it’s ultimately fruitless. We elect to stop for our sundowners. Jeez - it’s the smartest bush bar I’ve ever been to. Previous safaris have been more of a toss a beer from the cooler / open it with your teeth type scenario. Here, Lymon sets up a small table for us (part of the jeep’s optional equipment apparently), and lays out some snacks for us - dried mango, chilli corn kernels, some drowoers (a kind of dried boerewors sausage), and some nuts. Vicki’s gin and tonic is poured in front of her and she’s given the choice of lemon or lime. Lymon says we can use the bush bathroom (behind the truck), which we do. It’s incredibly civilised for the middle of the African bush.

    Lymon suggests we take another look for the lions, as he’s had some intel in from the network of rangers across the park. We head back to the spot we were looking earlier, and find another truck parked up, who have figured out where the boys are, but they’re not visible in the long grass. We can see long stems of grass moving as the lions roll around in their slumber, but it’s not exactly a Kodak moment. Tracking them down has taken quite a chunk of time, and trucks are supposed to be out of the reserve by (around..) 19:00. We head back towards Umzolozolo at a brisk pace. We quickly see a large, female giraffe. Lymon is all but certain that this is the mother of the youngster killed by the lions, desperately looking for her child - it’s a reminder of the brutality of the circle of life…. In the distance, a thunder and lightning storm is kicking off. Huge forks of lightning around 20km to the West of us. As we drive back to the lodge, it feels like we might just be aiming for the eye of the storm. Happily we’re not, but it provides us with some entertainment as we bundle across the rocky terrain.

    Arriving back at the lodge, we freshen up, and have dinner. The food is amazing. I have venison for my main course, which changes daily depending on what local antelope are available. Tonight it’s Eland, which is the largest antelope in Africa, and compares with the Canadian Moose in size. It’s delicious eating though, with a much finer flavour than the Kudu I ate in Johannesburg. Vicki’s Kingclip fillet is delicious as well. We’re eating outside in a boma - a generic Swahili word for an enclosure. There’s a raging fire in the centre of the boma, and our fellow guests and we are seated around it. It’s a spectacular little piece of Africa. It’s trying to rain, but we never get the sound and light show of the thunderstorm that we feared. We manage one more glass of wine in the bar after dinner, but we’re both tuckered after a long and busy day. We’re back in our cottage before 22:00, and asleep before 23:00. We’ve an even earlier alarm call in the morning…
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  • Day 4

    Day 4- Pt 1: What time do you call this?

    January 22 in South Africa ⋅ 🌫 16 °C

    The 04:45 alarm is brutal - for one of us. Vicks has not slept well, and elects to stay in bed instead of going on our morning game drive. We’ve had a pretty full on few days, including transcontinental travel, and I think she’s just tuckered. I head out though, grabbing a quick coffee before heading into the park at 05:30. As I’m on my own, Lymon suggests I join another group going out. We’re still only 4 guests in the truck. My guide this morning is Noles - Umzolozolo’s chief ranger. She’s a pint-pot bundle of energy, and has the most amazing eyes for spotting game. At one point, she spots a rhino a couple of kilometres away from us. Even through my binoculars, I’m not 100% convinced it’s not a big boulder. Our game drive is pretty successful - lots of kudu, zebra and wildebeest. We see a huge male hippo having a snooze in a small lake. The sun rising over the savannah is beautiful. There’s a dewy mist in the air that the sun is desperately trying to burn through. It’s quite ethereal. We spend some time with a hunting black-backed jackal. It leaps around looking for its prey of small rodents. Utterly jaunty. We spot a small herd of Eland - one of the biggest antelopes on the planet. They’re skittish, so can ’t get too close for fear of spooking them. Around the corner, we come close to that rhino that Noles spotted earlier. He’s a big boy - recently imported into the park as part of efforts to continue to rebuild the population after decades of poaching. Poaching remains a critical threat to these majestic beasts, but the anti-poaching tactics *seem* to be working.

    We receive a radio call from another jeep that two of the park’s cheetahs have been spotted to the North West of us. There are also two lions sleeping with a kill nearby. We choose to head over to the cheetah spotting, and take off at pace. We stop to say hi to some giraffe, and after 15 minutes of being thrown around the back of the truck, arrive to find two cheetahs with very fat bellies snoozing after a kill. There’s still some blood around their mouths, so fresh is the kill. We spend 20 minutes with them, swapping between the naked eye, binoculars and the camera on my iPhone. They’re such stunning creatures - so graceful on the move. These two are going nowhere though. I flick through my photos, and the distance to the cheetahs is just too far for my phone to take decent pics. I shall draw a picture for Vicki so she doesn’t feel she’s missed out.

    We stop for a bush coffee - black coffee, with a glug (technical term) of Amarula cream. Delicious. The sun’s getting properly hot now it’s 08:00. We decide to head back to the lodge for breakfast. I check in on Vicki, who’s had another nearly 4 hours of sleep, and who feels much better for it. We have a quick breakfast, hear a large warthog butchering an orphaned baby warthog (circle of life etc etc), and get ourselves packed for the next phase of our journey.
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  • Day 4

    Day 4 - Pt 2 : Foot off the gas...

    January 22 in South Africa ⋅ 🌫 15 °C

    We’re having a much deserved, lazy afternoon. The last few days have been pretty full-on, and some slower paced meandering is called for. We’ve a ‘relatively’ short drive down to Nottingham Road - about 2 hours all in. Back on the N3, despite it being a week-day/work day, the motorway is still blissfully quiet. We stop for a critically urgent Savanna at the Nottingham Road Hotel, then head down to our stop for the night, Rawdons, which is just a few minutes down the road. I remember coming here 20 years ago for a pit-stop beer while heading through the Kwazulu-Natal Midlands. It’s a very pretty country hotel, with a pub attached, serving beers from the Nottingham Road Brewery that’s located onsite. We have a quick snifter, get checked in, and then have a late lunch. The weather has turned decidedly cooler. Vicks is a little chilly sitting outside the pub having a drink. As we walk down to our cottage, there’s the faint hint of some rain. Not what we ordered at all. My early start catches up with me, and I have a deep, afternoon nap. We’re staying in a lovely cottage by the estate’s lake. As I wake from my nap, I open the curtains to a beautiful view, and the sound of Ibis calls.

    Our late lunch means we don’t need dinner, so we grab a bottle of wine from the bar, and spend an hour or two in the guest lounge. I think we’re amongst maybe 4-5 total guests? It’s certainly very quiet. This week is the first week back for school kids in SA after their long summer holiday. It’s a Monday. These things combine to mean that we very much have the run of the place. We decide to take the rest of the bottle back to our room to watch a movie. The pace of our day is exactly what we needed. We’re both looking forward to a good sleep, and are in bed shortly after 23:00…
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  • Day 5

    Day 5 - Not the weather we ordered

    January 23 in South Africa ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    I’ve sprained my ankle. Completely own fault - in Sandton on Saturday, I wasn’t looking where I was going, and walked full pace into a metal bollard. The sprain has worsened over the past day or so, to the point that I suggested I sleep in the second bedroom in the cottage, to save Vicki from kicking it in her sleep. I’m a little discombobulated when Vicki wakes me at around 04:00 to let me know there’s *something weird* flying around the other bedroom. I briefly consider putting my brave boy pants on, and going to investigate, but determine that ultimately, that’s a much later job. We’re up by 07:30 for breakfast, which we eat in a deserted and eerily quiet dining room. There’s a persistent drizzle in the air. By the time we walk back to our cottage from breakfast, it’s become rain. The sky broods, and we both make sure our waterproofs are readily accessible should we need them. There’s a bit of a chill in the air as well. I suspect we’re not going to be doing a lot of outside stuff today…

    We check out at 10:30, and head South towards Pietermaritzburg to meet my v old friend Jooj for lunch. It’s been fully 18 years since we saw each other and sooooooo much has happened in that time. We stop at Howick Falls on the way, a beautiful 100m and powerful waterfall on the Mgeni river. It’s mizzly overhead, and the spray from the falls contributes to an overall sense of dampness. We head off the southbound N3 at Hilton, and cruise down into Maritzburg, through some places that jog deeply seated memories. One brings back a particularly haunting flashback of a crushing hangover the day after the Rugby World Cup Final in 2003. I considered myself fortunate that most South Africans wanted England to win more than Australia (just) so I had a lot of folks with whom to celebrate. That was also the night I learnt that ‘Double Spiced’ is not the name of a rum, and that I’d been drinking double Spiced and Cokes all night. Ouchie.

    Meeting Jooj is amazing. We fall back into an incredibly easy sibling-like patter. She’s just great fun to hang out with. I tried to describe her to Vicks the other day, and the best I could manage was a bundle of crazy fun energy… She doesn’t seem to me to have changed at all from the teenager / young adult I first met 20 odd years ago. All too soon, it’s time for us to continue on down to Durban. This is the shortest, and yet most stressful drive we’ve taken thus far. The highway south of PMburg is properly busy, and contains more like the proportion of dickhead drivers we’re used to in the UK. Happily, we’re only an hour from our overnight stop in Umhlanga Rocks.

    Checked in and settled, we head for a wander on the beach. It’s windy, overcast, and trying to rain. We decide to cut our losses, and head to a cool little beach bar called Sunsets and Mermaids for some wine… A lovely bottle of Vergelegen later, we realise time’s getting on a bit. We hustle back to our hotel (it’s all of 15m away) via the Pick N Pay for a bottle of wine, and get ourselves a bit freshened up for dinner.

    We eat at a new place called Mitera. Greek influenced Mediterranean menu, very reasonably priced, very tasty. The rain is really coming down now. We’re seated on a little outdoor but not outdoor terrace, so don’t get drenched. I commit a bit of a FUBAR by accidentally ordering Pastitsio (a carb and protein laden, heavy, pasta based meat pie type thing) as a starter, when I had meant to order Spanakopita (a feather light, filo pastry pie containing spinach and feta). It’s very tasty, but I suspect is going to leave us whatever the opposite of light on the loafers is. Our mains are sensational. I have some amazing grilled prawns, while Vicki wades into a lamb shank Kleftiko. More than sated, we waddle across the road back to our hotel, and briefly discuss watching a movie before falling into a deep, food-fuelled coma…
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  • Day 6

    Day 6 - Westward Bound

    January 24 in South Africa ⋅ 🌙 19 °C

    I have a bit of a weird night’s sleep, and when Vicki wakes, she tells me she’s been the same. Some loud noises through the night, and I actually wake up during the night feeling a little queasy - the result, no doubt, of the oversized feasting at dinner last night. We skip breakfast, and get ourselves ready to head to King Shaka, the new international airport built outside Durban for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. As it’s a domestic flight, the security protocols are quite a bit lighter - no real worries about liquids and the like. We’re here in plenty of time, so park ourselves after security control at the brilliantly named Zululand Brewing Company pub for a couple of wines/Savannas to ease us into the flight. The 2 hour flight is largely uneventful, and quickly enough, we’re landing into Cape Town International, where we’re told the temperature has been in the high 30s for the past week.

    Happily, our drivers MPV is heavily air-conditioned, and the traffic gods are kind to us. We’re soon checked into Hyde Hotel, our home for the next week. It feels quite luxurious to be unpacking clothes, rather than living out of a rucksack as we have been for the first few days of our trip. We’ve not eaten much today, so head out in search of sustenance. We find a great little seafront bar called Rockpool, and settle in. It’s busy - for a Wednesday night, really busy. The views of the dying daylight sun over the South Atlantic are beautiful. There’s a real southern California feel to this part of the Cape Town coastline - palm Trees, long stretches of beach… Fed and watered, we head back to our hotel, and have a bit more of an explore. There’s a rooftop pool and bar, which has amazing views towards Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. We sit at the bar, and chat to Adrian, the bar manager, over a glass of a decent Pinotage/Malbec blend. We start to watch a movie, but the long day is rapidly catching up with me. I’m struggling to keep my eyes open by 23:00, and collapse into bed.
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  • Day 7

    Day 7 : Cape Town Capers

    January 25 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 17 °C

    We both sleep much better. At 09:00, the sun is already warming our apartment. We take a look around the rooftop pool and bar during daylight, and take in the views. We grab an Uber into the city centre to the District Six museum. It’s a very simple museum, taking up a small corner building in the heart of what was District Six during segregation. The story it tells is anything but simple. It leaves me angry, sad, and dejected. For those unfamiliar, after the Western Cape had been colonised by white ‘explorers’, District Six became a bustling, multi-cultural neighbourhood following the ending of slavery in and around Cape Town in 1834. In 1966, the white, apartheid government decreed that the neighbourhood would be razed to the ground, and rebuilt as a whites only district. More than 60,000 inhabitants of District Six were forcibly removed from their homes, and relocated to the Cape Flats, outside the centre of Cape Town. It remains one of the most egregious acts of racist abuse under the apartheid regime. The everyday stories of everyday folks that lived through this horrific treatment are both heartwarming and heartbreaking.

    We head over to Bree Street in search of food and wine, and find both at a great little seafood place called Seabreeze. We manage to find a shady table (in the shade, not dodgy - obvs), and cower from the stifling afternoon heat. It’s 32-33C today, and feels it. After a lazy lunch, we walk for 20 minutes to the Mount Nelson hotel - one of THE great hotels of the world. It’s set in plush gardens, standing in which you just wouldn’t know you were in a bustling, modern city. We’re both staggeringly hot after our walk, so hide out inside the Planet Bar where the air-conditioning does wonderful things. I have an Inverroche Amber - a local (ish) Cape gin, and Vicki spends some time paddling around in the deep end of her Chardonnay. It’s a very civilised place to spend some time. We grab an Uber to pick up our hire car for the next 10 days, make a quick pit stop at Pick N Pay for wine/Savanna/biltong supplies, and head back to Sea Point. The heat is still with us, so we head to the rooftop bar for a well deserved sharpener. I have a dip in the pool.

    We freshen up, and head out for dinner further down Sea Point beach - The Greek Fisherman. It has a beautiful courtyard set back from the road, which even on a Thursday evening is packed. We have some calamari and Spanakopita (ordered correctly this time…) to start. Both are sensational. Vicki’s main of simply grilled Kingklip is aces. Kingklip is actually part of the eel family, and has a firm, white texture not dissimilar to hake or halibut, and a beautiful flavour. The roast lamb I have is beyond brilliant. It’s also the size of one of Jupiter’s moons, and I struggle to finish it without assistance from my coaching team. When it’s done properly, Greek food is one of my very favourite things to eat. The philosophy is to do simple things to very high quality ingredients, and the result can be magical.

    A 20 minute walk back to our hotel serves primarily as a digestive aid. We briefly consider a nightcap at the rooftop bar, but defer to watching the second half of the movie we started last night. We bravely make it to the end this time, and celebrate by falling into bed for sleeps.
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  • Day 8

    Day 8 - Pt 1 : Penguins on the Peninsula

    January 26 in South Africa ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    No idea why I’m not sleeping well, but I’m not. I wake up at 04:30, and just can’t get back to sleep. I get up for a couple of hours, do some vaguely useful stuff, and happily manage to fall back to sleep for another hour or so before our alarm goes off. I know it’s not anxiety or stress driven, so really have no explanation for it. I can always nap later if the need takes me.

    We’re up and out in decent time today, heading over to the Cape peninsula. On the way South, we take the coast road - meandering through Sea Point, Camps Bay and down to Hout Baai. These are some of my favourite coastal roads - just stunning scenery… In Hout Baai, we take the road up and over Chapman’s Peak, a tight and twisty road over the mountains. The views are breathtaking, and we stop a couple of times to breathe them in. On the South side of the Peak, we take a wander down onto Noordhooek beach - just the most stunning expanse of pure white sand I’ve ever seen. It joins up with Kommetje to the South, and runs for around 4 miles. It’s all but deserted. The sun is beating down, and the march across the sandy beach is a little more body taxing than we’d signed up for. We cool down in the car a little, and head to a brilliant little brewery called Aegir, just up the road in Noordhoek. Their house beers are terrific, their food equally so. A burger for Vicks, and a proper New York style hot dog for me. They also make a hot sauce in-house. I pour a little on my purlicue and lick it. For 5 seconds, it tastes amazing! The flavour is then overtaken by intense heat. Beads of sweat appear on my forehead almost instantly. I hiccup. Turning the bottle, I read the ingredients. I am idiot. 100% idiot.

    Recovered (me) and sated (both), we’re back in the car for the quick drive down to Simonstown, where we’ve an appointment with some African Penguins. We’ve visited these guys before, but they’re always great fun to hang out with for a while. We both adore the way they walk - which can best be described as ’10 pints in’. The juveniles are just shedding their soft fur, and readying to go in the water for the first time. Some are mid-moult, and look more than a little dishevelled.

    We take the inland road back to our hotel, which takes us up and over the mountains, and down into the city bowl. Traffic’s building as we approach the Friday rush hour. Vicki passes the time by dozing quietly next to me. We’re back in our room by 16:00, and I’m ready for an ice cold Savanna.
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