Sunday, March 26, 2017

Safari: A World Away!

Our view of Cape Town's Waterfront at night
From Cape Town to the Savanna:

We had been looking forward to a safari experience for several years. Our plan was to land on the east coast of Africa with the World ARC and take the first weather window(s) available to sail around the Cape to Cape Town. This is not an easy sail to plan as the weather demands that you go on Mother Nature's schedule. After a long wait for a chance to head west, we took it.

Barb and Joe enjoying a taste of South Africa vino
We then spent two weeks making the passage and having work done on the boat in Cape Town so S/V Trillium would be ready for crossing the South Atlantic Ocean to Brazil. We had heard that their summer and Christmas break starts around December 15th, so we wanted to get things taken care of before everyone shut down. And they did stop working from about December 16 through January 7!

One of the biggest challenges we have had on this adventure has been the number of holidays the rest of the world celebrates! Somehow, we seem to have hit every official holiday in every country we have visited. There are holidays for everything and they are usually 2-4 days in length. Frustrating when you are trying to get people to work on the boat or you need to do some banking, etc.

Our "chariot" awaits! OMG!
The plan was to head to Botswana first and Dennis' brother, Joe and sister-in-law, Barb, were joining us on the safari. They were coming to Cape Town for a couple of days before flying to Botswana with us. We gave them a quick look-see around the Waterfront area and had dinner out under a view of Table Mountain. We would have a very early start the following day.

Botswana was our country of choice because they do not allow hunting of the animals. The only “animal” that is legally hunted is the human poacher! And they will shoot them on site. They are very serious about stopping the maiming and killing of wild animals for their tusks, horns, etc.

Our pilot was a young gal.
The first day of our adventure into the wild animal kingdom started with an early morning plane ride to Maun, Botswana. Once we landed in Maun with its small airport we were greeted by the Desert & Delta Safari representative.

Since we had to wait for Barb and Joe to arrive, the Meet & Greet gal suggested that we go to the local craft shops and "Peek and Pay!" I wasn’t ready to drop my dollars so early in the trip, but we looked at things. That was a mistake as there was a cute tee shirt I wanted, but thought I would see it again later. NOT! I should have paid! Delta, Alpha, Mike, November.

Once we were finally all together, it was time to board our first bush plane. OMG! I don't like the idea of these little 4-6 passenger planes. But it is the only way to get to the safari camps in a reasonable amount of time. So, I had to gather up my nerves and climb aboard. We were only allowed to have one soft-sided 20” duffle bag and a small backpack due to the size of the plane.

What a pleasant surprise when a gal hoped into the pilot seat! She was very young, too. I was fascinated just watching her as she checked out everything and began our approach to the small runway. Although a bit noisy, the flight was comfortable and interesting as we flew close to the ground (relative to larger planes) and around rain squalls. We can see squalls coming toward us on the ocean and can do some maneuvering to avoid the heaviest areas, but this time we were at eye level with the black clouds and could see clear spaces between the rain showers. It was interesting.

Look who is crossing the runway in front of our bush plane!
We had to stop at one of the closer camps to drop off some workers and pick up two guests who were moving to their next camp. I had been sitting next to a young lady who was in an administrative program to work at the camps while finishing her college degree in management. She would then spend three-month rotations at a camp with a two week break to go back home. This was to be her job after she graduated. This is how they staff the camps year-round.

Yah, right! International? Terminal? Passport Control? FUN!
Landing on a dirt runway and then taxiing over grass was a new experience. I was impressed with our gal pilot. When the new passengers boarded the plane, I was asked to move forward into the co-pilot seat! Yikes, now I could really see the ground and everything! At first, I was a little uncomfortable, but finally relaxed and settled in for the flight. The pilot reminded me not to touch anything with my hands or feet. I enjoyed watching her during the flight. And I had the best seat in the plane for taking photographs!

We finally reached the landing strip of our first camp. I was really excited that we were finally going to see the African Big Five: elephants, leopards, rhinoceroses, buffalos and lions. And I was looking forward to seeing the various camps our travel agent had booked for us.

This beautiful creature was the welcoming committee!
But first we had to land! I noticed there was a safari vehicle sitting along the runway. I later learned that anytime a plane is coming in or going out, they drive the length of the runway to chase off any wild animals that may be ready to cross in front of a plane.

Our first wild animal sighting was on the runway! After we had landed and were taxiing back to the waiting vehicle, a huge elephant sauntered across the runway! There is a good reason they check the runway before the planes arrive or take off! So, then we were off the first bush plane and into our first safari vehicle! We had arrived to begin an adventure of a lifetime!

A reality of life: the weak, old or ill do not survive.
Everyone is someone's meal!
The first two nights of the safari were at the Desert & Delta Savute Safari Lodge. What a lovely setting in the bush along the watering hole. We would spend our time here in very nice open vehicle with only six passengers, although most of the time it was just the four of us.

Our ranger, Qwist, maneuvered the vehicle in the most ideal position for us to see and photograph the animals. We were up close and personal with the most amazing creatures! Why do people want to kill these beautiful beasts?

The al fresco dining area and swimming pool
overlooking the watering hole of the Stolen River.
We stopped to see several animals on our way to the lodge! Our safari had begun and we hadn’t even arrived at the camp! This first camp was located in the Savute region of the Chobe National Park, which covers 4500 square miles and encompasses floodplains, swamps and woodland. It is a dynamic wilderness of sweeping savannah dotted with rocky outcrops surrounded by marshes and the Savute Channel. The Savute Channel is one of the greatest natural mysteries in Botswana as it alternates between flowing freely and lying dormant.

White linen dining in the bush!
Along with Big Game, Savute boasts the second-largest Zebra migration in Africa. The zebras move from the north to the south when the rains in November and December make the grasslands most inviting. We were lucky to be there in December and we saw hundreds of zebras. Of course, when the zebras move south, their predators follow so that increased our chances of seeing other animals such as lions.
The view from our private deck. Animals in the watering hole.
When we finally arrived at the lodge, I was amazed at the setting. We had our own private chalet with a viewing deck overlooking The Stolen River, which was mostly a watering hole at the time we were there. With only twelve chalets, the camp felt very personal. We were escorted by our ranger to and from our chalet when it was dark, as a safety measure for guests. You just don't know who or what you might come up against in the wild - especially in the dark!

The accommodations were beautiful. Each day the housekeeping staff made little designs on the bed as an extra touch. We had our own individual butler and maid. This was going to be very special!

There was cozy lounge with a cocktail bar, library and large fireplace in the main building. The dining building glowed with candlelight during later dinners.

And this was waiting for us after a very long day!

We were in good hands with Gwist.

At the river’s edge, there was a viewing deck where meals were served on nice days and there was a swimming pool. Unfortunately, we were there during the rainy season so most of our meals with in the dining building which was lovely as well. There are pluses and minuses to each season, so the rain was a plus as it brought the animals to the watering holes which had been very dry.

And this was our vehicle.
And this was just our first day! And we still have an afternoon game drive before dinner, and a night game drive before bed. More to come…

Monday, March 20, 2017

More Fun & Family in Cape Town

Dennis & Don hamming it up with the Great Men of SA!
Now that we are going to be in one place for a while, we can live like others do on land: shop, sightsee, visit friends, meet family, dine out, go to events, etc. All the things we can not do at sea! It is also time to say goodbye to Don, our crew, who has sailed with us for 3.5 months! Imagine putting up with me in a small space for so long!                                                                    

Photo taken by Don on his last night with us.
Don was a great asset to our Indian Ocean crossing. Besides being a good sailor, he was very entertaining. I have never known anyone who has a memory like his. He can break into a song or recitation from books or movies or childhood with the mere mention of a word. What fun! We will miss him and hope to see him when we visit the British Isles.

Thanks, Don, it was a great trip. And the Indian Ocean did not live up to its image except for a couple of times. Thank goodness!

Dining out with Don was always fun.
We had a lot of dock parties! Well, it is five o'clock here every day! I think I have had more to drink since joining this WARC fleet than I have had in my whole life! But getting together at the end of the day to share adventures, places to see and eat, etc. is a great part of cruising. Someone in this group is always suggesting something to do. Never a dull moment - we have enough of those at sea on long passages!

Love the gals on this WARC. So much fun.

The WARC Dancing Girls in the front dancing at the
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden concert.

Cape Town continued to give us beautiful evenings every night. Perfect weather and perfect temperature for sleeping. Often in harbor it is very still and warm or hot! We even had to pull out sweaters and fleeces a couple of times.

Dennis' brother Joe and his wife Barbara arrived in Cape Town to join us for our safari. They had joined us in Tahiti for our sail to Morea and Bora Bora back in French Polynesia.
They stayed in the One & Only Hotel just steps away from our dock. That made it very convenient for all. They all love raw seafood and enjoyed it in several places. I can hardly stand to look at it, let alone watch them eat those slithery, slimy things! I guess I leave more for them.

Dennis' favorite snack: raw oysters! YUCK!

There are always new things to see here. The town is alive and active day and night. Security is good as there are police everywhere. And, of course, like any city, you don't walk in isolated areas at night.

We walked by the dry dock where they were working on a ship. It really shows how big those freighters are and why you don't stand a chance if you get in their way. Since we passed it every day, we could see the progress on the painting project. I am glad we are paying for that bottom paint!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Cape Town Capers

Groups of performers were everywhere.
There was so much to do in the Cape Town area and especially at the V & A Waterfront. Dining out is always a highlight after a passage. The Galley Slave needs a break! Plus I like to sample the local cuisine and try the flavorings. I have been buying spices in each country so I can try to cook some interesting meals when we are back on land. As we have learned, meat is big in South Africa and they have some wonderful seasonings.

Many were solo performers. Very talented people.
Since we were in Cape Town for all of December into early January, we took our time exploring different parts of the region. Of course, the modern Waterfront is the most popular area in town with its shopping malls and restaurants. There was an outdoor amphitheater where non-stop entertainment took place. There were musical groups playing and singing on many corners – all with their donation baskets on the ground. And many had CDs to sell.

The Water Shed is a building in that area that hosts small boutique shops, many of which sell locally made artworks, home décor, clothing and accessories. There were many things to buy, but the lack of storage space kept this Shopperette under control. I did pick up some locally made beaded jewelry.

The Waterfront Mall was huge!
There were a couple of shopping areas at the Waterfront: The Water Shed, The Victoria and Alfred Mall and the Waterfront Mall. Great provision at Woolworths and Pick and Pay. We pushed the carts filled to the brim through the town and across the bridge to the marina! I found several dresses and some jewelry to bring back with me. I even found a place to get a halfway decent hair cut! Hopefully, Felicia won't have too much trouble reshaping this one.

Fun and creative things here. How about
this one for my dress for Nick's wedding?
Dennis and I spent a lovely day in the central city area where we browsed the native stalls at Green Market Square. During a great lunch on the sidewalk of a café, we watched many dancers and street performers show off their talent and collect what they could from the audience. There must have been a rule of some type that kept the groups moving in order as they seemed to have a set amount of time they could occupy the space before the next group arrived.

A lovely Christmas tree, but no snow!
We bought some art, jewelry and other items as we like to leave a little currency with the locals rather than buying in the stores. And the locals want you to bargain with them so Dennis had a little fun with it. I hate to bicker over the price so I leave it up to him. And usually the price is fair to me before the bargaining begins.

I was looking for African beads so I can make some one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry when I get home. One bead store had so many beads it was almost nauseating just trying to find what I wanted. But, of course, I did! I found some real treasures. I could have bought a lot more, but … Actually, I found the best authentic African bead shop in The Water Shed. These will make very special pieces!

In the city center, we found many areas where locals had stalls and were selling paintings, clothing, jewelry and stuff! Each one claimed that he or she was the artist or that a family member was. However, we noticed the same identical stuff in 30 other stalls. Hummm!

Recycled telephone wire baskets!

The city area also was filled with entertainers looking for a donation. We saw dance troupes of small children to old men playing an instrument. Everyone was looking for a way to make a dime. While entertaining, it was a bit sad.

This WARC fleet is wonderful at creating our own group events. We have Brits, Aussies, Americans, Norwegians, Swedes, Finns, South Africans, Canadians, Scot and Irish in the fleet so we have a great mix of ideas, traditions, foods, music, etc. Priceless!

We went to concerts in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, had a dinner in the nearby "township" with traditional homemade food, including Maldapoeding (Marshmellow Pudding which does not contain marshmallows!).

The woman who owned the restaurant shared her story of how it started and how they turned their house into the restaurant. Very inspirational and very good food. We were greeted with music from traditional instruments and after dinner we were invited to play the instruments and dance. Of course, dance! This is the most dancing group I have ever met. They even dance on the docks while singing! What fun!

Martin on Caduceus brought out the pipes
to welcome in the new year. Thanks, M.
Happy New Year 2017

Of course, the highlight of our group activities was the New Year's Eve Party on the dock. It started early and went late - very late, so I am told.

It began when Martin, the Scot on Caduceus, came marching down the pontoon in full kilt attire playing the bagpipes. The crowds of people on the apartment balconies along the marina enjoyed the festivities from afar. I think we were their entertainment for the daylight hours of NYE.

Everyone brought food and drink, hugs and kisses and a good time was had by all. It was amazing how everyone scurried around to create makeshift tables and decorated the area. Of course, the food had a very continental flare as everyone brought something. I found it interesting that when I said we would bring a large spread of cheese and crackers, the Brits thought of it as dessert. They were surprised to see that it all disappeared as appetizers just as I had planned! Continental differences. Salad before or after your main course???

We started around 1800 hr and I have no idea when it ended. We surrendered at 1 AM on January 1, 2017. John, Ann and Johnnie Walton joined us as John was there to crew with Trillium on the next leg.

Ann, Johnnie and John Walton from Grosse Pointe!
We met this fine sailor a number of years ago in church!
The party started on the dock, then people wandered over to the Waterfront to check out all of the entertainment as it is a family event there. Just before midnight we all seemed to convene again on the dock. At stroke of midnight, there was a fabulous fireworks display over the harbor. The next day was pretty quiet on all of the boats. People started surfacing mid-afternoon!

Happy New Year: Ringing in 2017

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Iconic Table Mountain

We had a closer as we approach the harbor.
The day after we arrived in Cape Town, the weather was perfect for a trip up to the top of Table Mountain. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining without it being terribly hot. It looked like a great opportunity to take in this tourist attraction.

The first thing you see is a cable car coming down.
Then you board one to head up to the top.
World ARC friends who had already been up to the top suggested that we take a taxi at 5 PM and go up for sunset. It was a great idea so we packed a bottle of wine and some glasses, donned our windbreakers, and headed off to see the iconic Table Mountain.
We took a taxi and he was able to drop us off right near the ticket window so we didn't have to walk up that steep hill. Elizabeth from Caduceus came with us as Martin doesn't like heights. It was definitely a good decision on his part. It is high in the sky!

Most of the city harbor area was built on reclaimed land.

Looking east from the top.

Looking west.

The snack bar at the top.

Back down the hill.

Elizabeth from S/Y Caduceus joined us.

At different times, clouds rolled through the area.