23 October, 2014

An Oryx Holiday A visit to Cape Town

 To repeat the last paragraph of the last blog.....

Cape Town Airport is very large and beautiful. One of the passengers told us it has been voted the best airport in Africa. After going through customs, and making sure we had the right date on our passports, we met Grant, our guide.

He drove us to The Paradiso and we had wine with 3 appetizers...salmon and peach salad, a veggie antipasto, and butternut ravioli. Then he drove us to our self catering apartment which had 2 bedrooms each with its own bath, and a kitchen with an eating area and a small area adjoining with a sofa, fireplace and tv. Then we went to sleep.
On the left on other side of the 8 foot high barbed wire fence was our apartment.

Wednesday morning was cool and windy. Grant came about an hour late because he was involved in a hit and run accident. Someone backed into his van while he was sitting in it with the door open. They stopped for a minute and then took off. He tried to catch him but traffic got in the way.
Nevertheless, we had a fine tour of the southernmost part of the greater Cape Town area. We drove along the coast. We stopped at Kalk Bay which was a lovely little artsy town; 

Simon's Town where we saw a statue of Just Nuisance who was a Great Dane that the Royal Navy had adopted during WWII. He drank beer, slept with officers and was given a full military funeral upon his death. (This should be a movie!) 
Touching his nose brings good luck.

an area called The Boulders- a penguin colony and we found many of them living in the bushes. 

We continued on to Table Mountain National Park which is nowhere near Table Mountain. All along this drive the scenery was spectacular! 

The highlight of our visit to the park was getting to Cape Point...which you may have never heard of...and The Cape of Good Hope which is the furtherest south western point of Africa. Cape Point was absolutely breathtaking to behold. They are only about a 1/2 mile from each other.
The Cape of Good Hope

Cape Point is just east of the Cape of Good Hope.

While unsuccessfully looking for zebra for Diane, we did spot Bontebok, an relative of the antelope, baboons, and two ostriches which walked alongside our car. 

We went up the western side of the peninsula and eventually back home, where there was a cloud covering Table Mountain which Grant referred to as a tablecloth. 

A couple of interesting observations along the way. We saw the US Embassy which was situated next to a large prison and Cape Town rush hour traffic was bumper to bumper. It reminded us of Los Angeles.

We walked to dinner at a Mexican Restaurant called The Fat Cactus. This was at the request of Miss Johanna because it's been over a year and a half since she had Mexican food. We had chips and salsa and guacamole dip. She had a large chicken burrito and 22 Marguaritas. John had a pork quesadilla and 2 Kraft beers. Diane had  a spinach quesadilla and a strawberry Marguarita.

Day 2 
Grant picked us up and we drove through the downtown area. There were brightly painted houses...buildings which were occupied by former slaves...from India and Pakistan. Now this is a big Muslim area. 

We saw a few McDonalds  and a Subway. 

Although Parliament is in Capetown, the capital is Pretoria.  We also went past the stadium that was built for the 2010 World Cup and is referred to locally as the Toilet Bowl and if you saw it from above you would understand. 

Unfortunately, it is only used for a few concerts every year. When it is used for soccer games, it is a loss because it is the poor people who follow soccer and they cannot afford to pay high ticket prices. Then we went to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Center which was down on the waterfront area...very pretty and modern. A lovely place to just watch the water and relax or eat or shop. 

Table Mountain was  closed today so we headed out to the wine yards as they call them. Grant took us to the area of Stellenbosch. In this area there over 200 vineyards. Ernie Els was the first one we went to and was absolutely beautiful. We ended up having lunch there overlooking the vineyards in the valley and the mountains in the background. At one point Johanna was artistically challenged to take a picture of the Ernie Els wine glass against the scenic background. She took at least 20 pictures to get it just right. We were proud of Johanna for her uniqueness. When it was all done, the wine steward said, "Oh yeah, everybody does that!"

This is the Ernie Els Vineyard.

 John bought a golf shirt and we took some pictures of Ernie's trophies. 

Then on to a second wine yard called Muratie. The very first  owner was Lauren's Campher who fell in love with a slave girl who lived in a fort in Cape Town which was a three day walk. When she was freed, he moved her in with him. When he died he left the vineyard to her. This was very out of the ordinary...having a slave own land. She sold it. In 1763 Marvin Melck bought it and then sold it. It didn't get back into the Melck family until 1987. In 1927 Georg Paul Canitz bought it. On a regular basis he told his wife he was going to the chapel to pray. She thought he was wonderful. In reality he was visiting his mistress. When he did she found many pictures of her under the floor boards. Many of the names of the present day wines come from the people involved in this tale. 

And the third one we visited was Warwick Wine. Very nice. Warwick picked the present logo based on a story of a silversmith in love with the nobleman's daughter. The nobleman would not give his blessing and locked him in the dungeon. The daughter would not eat so the nobleman agreed to let the two lovers marry if the man could make a cup that two people could drink from at the same time without spilling. Within a week the silver smith did just that and the two were married. When the owner died he left the vineyard to his wife who became the first woman vintner in South Africa. John and Diane drank from the replica of this cup which represents love, faithfulness and good luck.

We returned at 4:45, and sat around for an hour and then went down to Checkers, a local grocery store and John and Johanna bought themselves dinner including a Lindt chocolate bar. 

We really didn't do too much today but we had the chance to see how beautiful the Cape Town area is. (And we had 15 sample glasses of wine!) 

Day 3
Today was the perfect day! The sun was shining, there were no clouds in the sky, and the temperature was perfect. Grant took us up to Table Mountain and we were able to get right on the cable car. This car has a revolving floor for its 65 passengers and an announcer with a great sense of humor. 

At the top we took MANY pictures of the Cape Town area. 

After this we went back to the Victoria Wharf and had lunch. John had steak tartare, Diane had white asparagus risotto, and Johanna had hake and angel hair pasta. 

At 1:00 we boarded the Nauticut and went to Robben Island. It took an hour to get there, with a 2 hour tour and then back home. We did see Nelson Mandela's cell but all decided we needed to read up on this part of history a little more. Our second tour guide had been a prisoner from 1977-82.He had been a student protester in high school at the time.

Grant brought us home. He was a terrific guide and we saw practically everything we had on our lists. We highly recommend him!

We had a quick glass of wine to finish it all up and then went out to DaVinci's for dinner. Africa's pizzas have no mozzarella but feta cheese instead.

Day 4
John and Diane took a walk in City Garden. It is a lovely park with families and couples strolling down the brick walkway. Many were feeding the squirrels and pigeons. We also saw 4 high school musicians- three trombones and a trumpet, playing on the street. 

We gave them a tip. Then we walked back to our place, had the leftovers from previous nights, packed up and had our driver take us to the airport. Johanna had to go to a different gate so we said our good byes early. It was a wonderful vacation and we want to come back here again.

IF our trip still interests you, I am loading videos onto You Tube almost every day. If you search You Tube for "An Oryx Holiday" there are about 8 of them. And I am only half done!!

Thans for reading our blogs. We would encourage everyone to visit Africa someday.

15 October, 2014

Global Handwashing Day

Today is Global Handwashing Day! Yes, it's a real thing....

Unfortunately, I found out about this too late - and was in Windhoek at the time - and so unable to plan anything for my village. BUT, since I will be here next year (probably not in the village though), I'm planning on getting ahead of the game and trying to set some things up...and maybe help them out a bit, even if I'm not actually present there....Plus, I can help pass along this info to other PCVs, and maybe get something going....

For those of you who are teachers, parents, or just involved with your community - 
The website for Global Handwashing Day has soooo many resources you can use - for FREE!

Check them out below (click on the picture)...and pass along this great health info...

Good luck and let me know what happens!

In Peace & Love,

13 October, 2014

An Oryx Holiday The Little Bugs preschool visit

An Oryx Holiday

After our balloon ride over the Namib Desert we visited The Little Bugs Preschool. Little Bugs is an early childhood development
center created by Namib Sky Balloon Safaris and offers free education to children the the Sossusvlei region. The following is a quick look at this school. Who could imagine that in the nothingness of a desert a place like this would exist!! You can look online to find out more about it or if, simply, you want to see better videos.

An Oryx Holiday - Part 8 - Erindi Game Reserve

8. Erindi Game Park

We left Erongo Wilderness Lodge and were just a few kilometers away from Erindi but it took us about 11/2 hours to get there because we were on a D road, which means we were traveling only about 30-50 mph. And once we got into Erindi we had to slow down to 30 kph because of elephant warnings. We saw no elephants but we did see baboons, giraffes, steenbok, and impala. And we were within 50 feet of two wonderful giraffes...one kept his eyes on us while the other one kept eating. 

We arrived at Old Traders' Lodge and were shown to our rooms...#29 and 30. We walked up to the restaurant which had a deck overlooking a large watering hole. It was here that we saw a large herd of African Elephants which are bigger than the desert ones we saw in Damaraland. 

There were 3 baby hippos down at one end and about a dozen crocodiles all around the hole. 

Our first game drive lasted from 3:30 to 6:30. Our driver and guide's name was Tim who gained Diane's confidence as he sat in the driver's seat waiting for us and loading his gun. The other three people were from Swakopmund and had been to Erindi many times before. He wanted to see a leopard and a pangolin, which is very rare. So we spent a good deal of this 3 hours looking for leopards. We never found one. We found a male ostrich sitting on a nest of 24 eggs.

 We knew it was dad because he was a very dark black color. He usually sits on the eggs at night because his color blends in with the night. The female is brownish and blends in with the bush during the day.We also saw 2 male lions, Goldie and Shadow, wildebeests, oryx, impala, eland, and zebra. Tim was able to tell us by looking at the tracks they left that a lion and lioness were mating on the road and that she probably swatted him afterwards. Mating is very painful for the female because the penis has a barb on the end of it which somehow helps to pull the egg down for fertilization. We went back to the lions who were brothers and had recently been in a fight but this week seemed to be the first time they were near each other again. Around sundown is the time when they wake up and after they stretch, yawn, and clean themselves, they roar. We waited but the roar never came. 

On the way back to the lodge it got dark. These guides are trained so well to see animals and interpret tracks. Tim, a young guy from Botswana knew from the time he graduated from high school that this is what he wanted. Besides an initial six month course he had to take all kinds of other courses on all other aspects of guiding. As we drove back to the lodge Tim waved a spotlight from side to side across the road. He was looking for the reflection of animals' eyes. Suddenly he stopped the 4x4, got down and picked up a spider. He knew it was there because he had seen the reflection of it's eyes.

We got back at 6:30, showered and went to dinner which was a buffet.

The next day we got up early and did another game drive...this time with Louie. Louie "talked shit"...that is he told us a lot about black and white rhinos' droppings. 

When the black rhino bites off a stalk of a plant, it is in a 45 degree angle at both ends...as he bites it off in sections. The alpha rhino poops in one place, after which he scratches the ground like a dog would after deficating. We also saw 2 lions copulating and Diane got to film her first pornographic film....which lasted 15 seconds after which the female rolled over on her back and went to sleep. Nature at its best!!

We were told during the mating season these lions will copulate 120-150 times a day, and ONLY when the female wants it. If he tries to initiate this, he may get seriously injured by the mrs. It may take as many as 3000 couplings for a lion cub to be born. Unfortunately, this male was shooting blanks. The breeding lion is enclosed in another area. We also say the oryx, impala, steenbok, and giraffes. For our coffee break, Louie took us high up so we could overlook a large area of Erindi. Up here we saw a black rhino roaming the bush, but we were not worried as he was 1/4 mile away.

When we came back for lunch we sat outside overlooking the waterhole and were fascinated by the interactions of 30-40 baboons who came to eat from the tree  by the waterhole. 

When they drank, they cupped their hands. Diane especially liked the one mom with a small baby. 

We also saw 2 giraffes licking the salt block. They approached the waterhole from far off. First we saw their heads above the trees and then slowly they approached.

For our evening game drive we chose to do the Telemetry Drive with Tim. His goal was to find the cheetahs. The animals are collared and so Tim plugged in Chester's number on his gps system and drove around pointing an antenna, stopping often to pick up the signal. We drove around for over 2 hours before we spotted them and even then they were so camouflaged the driver had trouble seeing them. 

We saw a honey badger which made Johanna very happy. The honey badger didn't give a shit. ( see You Tube video on honey badger). 
Look carefully...he's to the right of the picture.

We also saw lions, wildebeests, Eland, oryx, steenbok, and springbok. 

We ate dinner and during this time a large pack of wild dogs came to drink at the water hole. Just after dessert one of the employees announced that there was a black rhino right outside the restaurant. We ran out there to take a photo.

The next morning, we cancelled our walk with the cheetahs and went on our last game drive with Immanuel. On the way there John was very surprised by a kudu which ran right in front of him from inbetween the rooms. This drive was the same as the others except the driver spotted some fresh elephant poop and alas up ahead a short distance were 3 African elephants. We also were quite surprised to see the two cheetahs again...about 20 km from where we saw them the night before. During  the drive we stopped and got out and Immanuel set up a table and we could choose among coffee, tea, or hot chocolate. Amarillo was substituted for milk. It was during this time that Johanna got into a discussion with Immanuel about a woman's place in the world. He could not accept that a woman could work outside the home. He said a woman should cook and clean the house. The man should work. 

We had been here for two days and had gone on 6 game drives. By doing this we missed seeing many animals congregate around the water hole. So we told Tim we wouldn't be there for the afternoon game drive. Instead we sat on the deck overlooking the water hole for the entire day. We played with our computers and drank wine and really it was the first day we had done nothing. Little activity occurs at the water hole during the day. Many animals are active during the night and then find a shady spot during the day and go to sleep. But around 5:00 pm over the course of 45 minutes 3 elephants appeared and drank water and splashed sand on their backs and played. Over to the right there was a large group of hippos who had been laying in the sun all day and had just gotten back in the water. One of them called out to the elephants it seemed. One of the elephants walked over to the edge of the water and stood looking at the hippos for the longest time. Eventually he walked away. We saw wild dogs, hyenas, zebras, impalas, and wildebeests gather at either the water hole or the salt blocks. But the strangest sight was watching the hippos...who are supposed to spend 80% of their time in the water. One by one, very slowly, every hippo came out of the water and walked away from the water hole into the distant bush. We have no idea why or where they went as we left the next day without having a chance to talk to the guides.

07 October, 2014

An Oryx Holiday - Videos

Here are a few videos my mother has been working on from their recent trip (and they weren't quite finished when making the blog posts):

An Oryx Holiday - Part 7 - Erongo Wilderness Lodge

So the last time I blogged we were at Sussosvlei where we didn't stay very long because we had another long drive ahead of us on our beloved gravel roads. What I did to pass the time on these drives was to think about Namibia. It is a new country...only 24 years old, compared to the US which is over 200 years old. If I was president, how would I develop it? For sure, paving all these roads was definitely my first choice. 

Although I didn't research this I did think about dividing up the land. In some places fences can't be put up because of migrating animals. And how would I handle the different tribes and their centuries old customs? What about a police force sufficient to handle an entire country? With the Ebola outbreak in northern Africa, I would want to develop a really up-to-date health care system...people, technology, buildings, emergency vehicles, etc. I could go on as I'm sure you could. I guess it's never easy to be a president regardless of where you live!!

There are similar sights during all of our drives. We've  seen lots of termite mounds of two different colors, 
termite mounds are LARGE!

dry river beds, ( not sure whether that's because Namibia is mostly desert or is it because it's the dry season?) cattle, goats, occasionally sheep roam what looks like wherever they please, 

mountains of rocks rise out of the ground in the middle of desert land and often look as though someone placed the stones artistically.

 Water from the tap has been safe to drink...whether we were at Johanna's village or Windhoek. Johanna also tells us that gun violence is almost nonexistent here in Namibia. At none of the places we have stayed so far have there been few if any accommodations for the handicapped. On our tours there have been few safety regulations although there are postings that your participation is at your own risk, We've also seen windmills and solar energy use which surprisingly is very popular here. We have not seen anyone with a cigarette, and not a single boy with jeans worn at their knees!

When we neared The Erongo Wilderness Lodge we were told to call and they would meet us, which they did. Destin met us and took us up to the lodge in a 4X4 over a narrow rock bed. 

We met  the two caretakers and he took us to our rooms. We had to walk up a wooden or stone pathway for about 150 yards. Johanna was #5 and we were #6. The rooms are cabins built into the sides of large rocks. Both of us had porches overlooking the area. We showered and went to dinner. We ate outside as most, if not all the guests did. Our assigned table was in the corner overlooking a lit up watering hole.

 In the night sky we were able to identify many Southern Hemisphere constellations. Diane had stuffed pepper and Johanna and John had beef. We had spinach and feta cheese in phyllo pastry, then a green salad, and then the main course...and of course wine. We were last coming to dinner and so the last to leave. But before actually leaving we sat around the embers of the fire pit in the middle of the dining area.

In the morning we got up at 6:30 to take a 7:00 nature walk. 

We did not see any animals but we did see lots of animal droppings....zebra, dassie, baboons, and kudu.  
The little furry creatures are dassies. They were all over the place and not a bit shy!

This seems to interest nature lovers! The walk lasted until 9:00 and then we had breakfast. The internet was good and we caught up on our email and Facebook.

Unfortunately, we had to check out at 11:00 and are now on our way to Erindi.

04 October, 2014

An Oryx Holiday - Part 6 - Sussoslvei

Another post written by my parents during their trip to visit me in Namibia:

On September 3, we left Le Mirage and headed to the Erongo Wilderness Lodge...and drove for 7 hours on gravel yucky roads and getting mighty tired of the noise and the bumps and the sand. 

But first we stopped at Sussoslvei and took a walk to Dead Vlei which is at the bottom of Big Daddy (the big dune).....  The dunes at Sussoslvei are red...and big...and sandy. It is a desolate place! Matt Lauer was here a few years back. And if you make the trek, you might want to go sand boarding. Dead Vlei is an area amongst the dunes which is white because of the salt and contains many dead trees because nothing can grow in salt...not to mention the lack of rain! We climbed all the dunes and while everyone else sweated up a storm, we remained dry and sweet smelling.(not) As much as we wanted to hike up and down the hot and red and desolate dunes...darn... we had a long day ahead of us so we headed to Erongo, a one night stop before we hit the Erindi Game Reserve.

to be honest, this is not us!