South Africa Summary
We continued to Cape Town on Air Mauritius. The flight was about six hours. On arrival we were picked up by a van from our guest house Ashanti Lodge. Ashanti was popular with the backpacker crowd; they had several Internet computers, a travel agency, a money exchange (very handy) and a bar. Our room was a family suite and separate from the main hostel building, so it was quiet. There was a nice courtyard area and three locked gates/doors to get in. We learned that high security was the norm for South Africa: walls, fences, armed guards, concertina razor wire, locked gates and security alarms everywhere. We didnít know if these were vestiges from the past or still necessary as we never felt unsafe walking or driving around the city and surrounding areas. After three nights at Ashanti, we moved to our more permanent lodgings in Camps Bay, a small beach community about 15 minutes from downtown Cape Town. The house and beach were lovely as were our hosts John Gardner and his mother Maureen. We had views of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean. The only practical way for us to get around Cape Town was to rent a car as taxis were very expensive and public transportation not well developed. So we rented a small car and were able to get around. The weather during our stay varied from sunny to windy and rainy. Lauren had her 12th birthday in Cape Town. We fixed her favorite breakfast in bed, took her for a manicure and pedicure and to see the movie Miss Congeniality Two. We also stopped to play with the squirrel monkeys at the World of Birds animal park in nearby Hout Bay and ended the day with a sushi dinner. The downside of our time in Cape Town was Todd aggravated his old back injury, which kept him flat for a few days and Cheryl finally gave into the pain and visited the dentist for a root canalÖ.
After two weeks in Cape Town we flew two hours north to Johannesburg and rented a Toyota Condor, which is similar to the Toyota Qualis. We then drove five hours to the town of Nelspruit, the nearest town to the southern part of Kruger National Park. We were expecting to hear from our friends the Foxes, but after they left India, we received no email, so decided to proceed without them. Shortly after checking into our hotel in Nelspruit, we got a phone call - the Foxes were there in Nelspruit and had tracked us down by calling every hotel in the Lonely Planet guide. Thirty minutes later we were having dinner together at an Italian restaurant and catching up from our last meeting in Nepal. Early the next morning, we met for a terrific Motherís Day breakfast at their hotel, called Loerieís Call Guest House and then stocked up at the local grocery store for our safari. It was about an hour drive to Melelane Gate, our entrance to the park. We spent the next five days driving (slowly) through this beautiful park, viewing giraffe, elephant, rhino, hippo, lion (just once), many types of antelope, hyena, baboon and Vervet monkeys. The birds were also spectacular. We stayed at cottages provided by the park, went on morning game drives, night game drives and a morning bush-walk escorted by two armed guides. We were able to book most of our accommodations through the South Africa Parks Internet website.
Kona Moment: The foliage is reminiscent of Hawaii, with many plumeria trees, palm trees, and poinsettia. Our landlady/host Maureen had vacationed on Kauai two years prior. The stars at Kruger were bright and reminded us of night viewing on Mauna Kea.
Starbucks: We prepared our own morning coffee with a small electric hot pot given to us by our Cape Town landlady.
Weird McDonalds Menu Item: Drove by, but didnít stop - too many other good places to eat. Also, at Kruger Park we were told that the impalas are nicknamed "McDonalds" because they are the most readily available source of food for the lions and leopards and they have markings on their hind-quarters that look like the letter M when viewed from the rear.
Cultural Moment: There were several. Hiking up a hill and picnicking on a beach at the end of the continent, Cape of Good Hope; a large baboon jumping up on our car after we stopped for a look on the way to the Cape; seeing the wild animals at Kruger National Park. At Kruger we stayed in camps surrounded by electric fences; we were inside and the animals were outside roaming in a park 215 miles long and 40 miles wide; it was a magical place.