Monday, 25 November 2013

Day 1-3: Cape Town-Cederberg-Fish River Canyon

Day 1 to 3 : Cape Town -Cederberg Mountains- Orange River/ Border crossing

** Internet is annoying me so only half done.. will update when I have a chance**

Bright and early departure from the beautiful city of Cape Town. Exciting to finally be on this tour! We had a long day of driving through varied landscapes. The drive was made longer by quite a bit of construction too.  We followed the coast and gradually moved into a dry grassland and then into farmland and wine country. The first stop was a beautiful view of Table Mountain from the beach. The truck looked a tad out of place parked next to the fancy condos. 

The guides of the tour are: Belinda and Hermann. Herms does most of the driving and has been guiding for 13 years. Belinda does all the cooking. Seems like a good combination even though this is their first trip together. 

The first campsite was a gorgeous winery, Highlanders Wine,  and even got to camp on grass! (This is a novel concept since most of the campsites during the tour were on sand!) A huge bonus was a pool that overlooked the vineyards and the river. And the showers had a beautiful view of the vineyards as well. Something to be said for open air showers with a view. 

Another day driving through landscape that changes rapidly throughout the day from vineyards to dry foothills to our destination for the day which looked like a gravel pit. The campsite, The Growcery, was right down by the Orange River and lovely. But the surrounds look like mountains of rocks and gravel. Even the locals think that the God just dump all the extra rocks there. Only downside so far of the tour is that the sheer amount of driving which means not a lot of walking or stopping to look at things. So I’m making a point of going for a walk around the campsite so Tan and Sarah and I and a campsite dog all went for a walk. The dog thought this was great fun! 
(rock mt pics, dog)

A wonderful way to start the day is a canoe trip down the Orange River. Beautiful warm morning for a 3 hour paddle down stream in a canoe like thing except it was inflatable and we used kayak paddles. No pics of this part yet since I wasn’t game enough to bring my big camera. Waiting on pics from other people who did bring cameras. Probably just as well since Emily and I ended up starting a few water fights even though we probably got wetter then everyone else! Hehe Great fun! 
(pic of river)

We crossed the South Africa - Namibia border today which I had been stressing about since I still don’t have my work visa from Harnas yet. At least Belinda and Alanna aren’t to concerned. Alanna says that a lot of volunteers don’t have their visas by the time they arrive at the airport or to Harnas. It sounds like things move slowly. Luckily, there wasn’t any issues at the border. 

And we had our first mechanical break down: a flat tire shortly after crossing the border but sitting in the Namib Desert. We are quickly finding out that there isn’t much that Herms can’t do! The tire was changed quickly which was good since the desert is living up to the stereotypical ideas and was very hot (high 30C) but lovely in it’s own way. 
(tire, fix , jumping pic)

And on to one of my favourite part of the trip: Fish River Canyon. Fish River Canyon is the 2nd largest canyon in the world behind the Grand Canyon. It’s 550 m deep, 27 km wide and 161km long. It is the oldest canyon and was formed 500 million years ago. Catfish can be found in the river , which is more like a stream and the hottest recorded temperature at the bottom of the canyon is 58C. 

The weather was looking bad with a big black clouds rolling in over the canyon but it ended up being a stunningly spectacular evening. Did rain for a few minutes to damp the dust and cool everything off. But between the thunder and lightening, black clouds a few rainbows and a stunning orange sunset. Spectacular evening! We ended up spending a few hours here watching with Tan and B attempting to get a lightening photo. Tan did get an amazing one over the canyon and sunset in back ground. 
(tan’s pic) 

I’m finding it a bit difficult to really describe this evening so hoping the pics will do it justice.  
(multiple sunset/canyon pics)

Also saw a baby puff adder snake. 

This day couldn’t get much better! And will be a hard one to beat!

Monday, 11 November 2013

Off on my tour!

Cape Town has been amazing! Beautiful place with lots of friendly people. Hopefully get  a chance to come back sometime soon!

I’m taking off on my adventure tour now. Which will take me up the west coast of Africa to Namibia. Heading up to the northern border to Etosha National Park and then back down to Windhoek where I get off. 

The group seems like a cool fun group from all of the world and whole range of ages and background. 

Not sure how much internet if any I will get so probably won’t talk to you for 2 weeks. But don’t worry will have lots of pictures and stories and will put them up when I get a chance! 

See you then! 

ps. This net is acting pretty dogdy so not going to add pics to this one. 

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Lazy day at the Market.

Successfully completed my first barganing at the markets today :D Wasn’t like I tried very hard but was kid of fun. It was a nice lady who surprised that I did actually come back to buy the table cloth. I think finding an ATM was tougher then negociating was, but then I did pass a couple different ATM that all seemed to be inside buildings with people hanging around them. 
My first purchase

The Green Point market

So bought a nice colourful table cloth that has little quails. Not buying anything with elephants or giraffes until I see some.

And I just met some of the people on my trip that starts bright and early on Monday. They seem pretty cool so far. Also met my roommate for the next 2 weeks, Jess. A few of us might go out for supper tonight when they get back from going up Table Mt. Will meet the rest of the tour group tomorrow night. 
 Here are a couple views from my hotel windows. It is a beautiful afternoon and Table Mt is totally visable. I'm having a pretty lazy day since my legs are still a bit mad a me from yesterday hiking.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Table Mountain Hike!

I knew that an all day hiking trip involving Table Mountain was going to involve doing some elevation gain aka going up hill but WOW hadn’t really thought it was going to be straight up!  

Though saying that, I may have encouraged the guide,Mike, by saying that I was an intermediate level hiker and loved doing the off the beaten path, not fussed to use the cable car to go up or down (aka tourist central). He took this to heart to say the least and I loved it! Legs may disagree slightly! Lol

We went to the back of Table Mt and started off by following an old water pipe road through an area that had a fire go through recently so the vegatation had revitalized and was looking lovely. I definitely came at the right time of year to see all of the wild plants blooming. Love all the proteas especially the big yellow pin cushion proteas. They are mixed in with some beautiful purpley -pink tall flowers which I need to write the name down. Mike did rattle off lots of names for lots of plants - some of which I will remember when I see next I’m sure.  

View from close to start of trail

First break spent in a cave.
When we got to the base of the mountain, we did a few lazy switch backs but even those were fairly steep incline and when we got to Blind Gully it was straight up. And the trail was a distinct trail for the most part but it sometimes reminded me of a goat track. And speaking of which there are Himalayan goats in the mountains which descend from a pair that escaped the zoo back in the 60s. They are now considered pests and we didn’t see any :( I don’t have any pictures of the actual track since I ended up having to pack my camera into my pack so I could use both hands to climb rocks with. There were a couple places that climbing gear could have almost been handy. That probably gives you an idea who steep and rocky it was. And Mike had to grab the handle of my pack once when I slipped - not badly but would have been a bit ouchy had I fallen. 
Mike and Blind Gully

We had a snack next to the Needle with a gorgeous view of Lion’s Head and watched para gliders floating around it. Could see the back side of where the cable cars arrive at the top of the mountain. Continued on up to the top. This part looks scary but actually was a lot easier then climbing vertically. The top offers a totally different landscape which is mainly Table Mountain sandstones which has been wind and water eroded into very cool shapes. 

The trail we took after leaving The Needle. Middle of picture -we
went to the right and over that square rock.
Me in front of Lion's Head
Break spot next to The Needle - rock pillar middle left, we sat bottom middle
We ended down through Echo Gully which follows a stream which is a nice but odd colour. It is a dark red which is actually from the plants in the area. Looks oddly pretty. Also enjoyed listening to the frog sing. And then down to 2 reservoirs which are beautifully made by sandstone and even saw a Rock Kestrel. And had lunch at the Mountain climbers club hut. It pays to have a guide who is a member :D Members get a key to the hut. Stunning view from the hut and its very well outfitted and taken care of. Two members are in charge of taking care of it and they make the trip up normally once a week if not a couple times. I even got to sign the guest book! 

Top of Table Mt, looking across to Echo Gully.

How's that for a colourful stream!

View from Climber's Hut

The hike down was easier since it was more of rock steps and some actual steps but stil hard on the legs. Going down for that length of time on that steep of an angle. Calves and knees were not impressed with me at all! 

The tired legs were sooo worth it for the stunning views of the mountains and the ocean. The ocean is such a beautiful teal with white sand beaches against the green/grey of the mountains. 

Black lizard that looks like a mini crocdile

Boulder + ocean + pretty flowers =gorgeous setting for awesome hike!

Multi coloured lizard

Also saw a fair few birds. Still need to track down a bird book. I will recognize the bird names when I see them. But some of them include: rock kestrel, red wing starling, sugar bush something (super long tail) and a sort of shirek. Didn’t see any goats but did see a couple lizards on the way down.

I went with Ventureforth tour group which specialize in hiking in and around Table Mountain but also mountain climbing trips and courses. I even lucked out and had a private tour! Woot! That is one thing about travelling by myself is that I sometimes have issues with booking tours if there is just me :( Boo. So this tour group gets bonus points for doing private tours with no extra charges. Can’t say enough good things about Mike as a guide. Awesome day of conversation on all sorts of topics, new tons about the area flora, fauna and history and Africa in general. Awesome awesome day! 

Mike the awesome guide
Finished the day with a meal back at Arnold’s, waiter even recognized me from the last time :D Super yummy milkshake with my pasta.

yummy pasta

Now to see if I can move tomorrow! Hehe 

Cape of Good Hope & animals galore!

It was an action packed day and made a good dent in my animal list :D

I spent the day on a day trip down and around the Pennisula including Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. Both of which are one of or is the most Southern point of Africa. One big misconception is that is where the 2 oceans - Atlantic and Indian meet. Not the case that happens further east. But the water does get quite a bit warmer due to two different currents meeting. The Atlantic ocean has a temperature of 18C and can drop to 7-9C. Needless to say no one actually goes to the beach to swim.

Cape of Good Hope is known for its ship wreaks which the original lighthouse didn't really help with. Turns out that where it was placed it was covered by fog a fair bit of the time. Oops! lol They have a new one up in a better spot now. The Cape is also the legendary home to "The Flying Dutchman".

Me at Cape of Good Hope
Baboon and young one at Cape Point

The baboons are a fairly common sight around the Cape. These 2 actually came up from way down the cliff and I had actually been in the process of switching lenses on the camera to get a better picture when they started to make their way all the way up to the light house. Then up on to the stone wall, around the lighthouse and down the pathway. At one point, I was probably only an arms length away from them. And nice thing is most people seemed to have gotten the "baboon warning" and actually gave them space and didn't try and touch them. See warning sign below.

Baboon Warning sign

Cape of Good Hope viewed from Cape Point
Leaving Cape Point, we added to the animal list with a rare and gladly seen from the vehicle a COBRA! I do have photographic proof, just a pretty bad one with me leaning over driver to get it as it slithers off the road. Zain (driver) said it was a young one but it was still 4 feet or so!

Also not quite as exciting but a family of ostriches plus 5 babies crossed the road in front of us. Also a few hundred cormorants and turns.

We did a quick stop to go and visit the very cute African Penguins who arrived in the 1980s ( only 2 pairs) and promptly took over the Boulder Beach. They have since grown the colony to over 3000 birds. And they are the only colony that lives on main land. They are about 2 feet high and well super cute. They seem pretty use to people since most of them were hanging out either under the boardwalk or very close to it. The first few minutes I was there I was searching for them until I happened to look down and there was about 5 of them. There were a few young ones who were looking a bit sad with half their fluffy feathers and half lovely smooth ones in. Not a pretty look!

African Penguins - Boulder Beach Colony

African Penguins

I do love my owls and these guys were one of my highlights for the day. We had an hour to wander around the Kirstenbosh National Botanic Garden. We found 2 young owls hanging out in one of the flower beds. Watched them for a few minutes then continued on where we happened to find a sign talking about Spotted Eagle Owls. They have had a pair return every year for the last few years to nest in pretty much the same spot. They seem to like having people around to help keep predators away. They really didn't seem to mind us getting fairly close to the young ones in broad daylight. It was only when we turned around that we saw the adult sitting in tree observing us and the young ones.

The garden them selves was gorgeous and probably less kept up or more wild then other botanic gardens I have been to. And there are a fair few different hikes that start from the gardens and go up into the Table Mountains.

Super cute baby Spotted Eagle Owl - 1 of 2 babies

Adult Spotted Eagle Owl

Botanic Gardens

Hout Bay was the first stop of the day and a lovely little fishing harbour with lots of seals. And the start of a scenic drive. The government closed the road and spent 4 years fixing it up and putting up fencing to prevent rock slides and overall update the road. Very pretty views of the harbour. 

Hout Bay

Hout Bay
A few random animals fact: Great white shark attacks didn't start happening until 2006. They now have a shark watcher system in place that involves different colour flags. 

The Constantia area is one of the best wine making areas and produced the first wine back in the 1600s! Lovely area but was slightly off putting driving past houses with a decent height fence with 10 strands of electric wires on top. :S Not sure if crime rate is actually that high or not. Have seen this around Cape Town as well. Though saying that we did drive past a 5 star hotel and golf course that is across the street from a max security prison where Nelson Mandela stayed for 2-3 years.

This tour was brought to you by African Eagle day trips. Highly recommend them! 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Fave Photos for the day

Just a teaser of what I did today :D Here are two of my favourite photos that I took. Will get a post up about today written up by tomorrow. About to fall asleep and have a big day of hiking tomorrow. 

Baboon and baby being picturesque with Cape of Good Hope in background

Spotted Eagle Owl (adult) in botanic garden. Hint: I saw  2 little fluffy ones too!

Cape Town

Just a super quick update to say yes I have made it safe and sound to Cape Town, South Africa. I arrived mid morning yesterday. The flight in from Singapore was good. Pretty much sat down and slept for 8 hours- even through one meal which is un heard of for me! Did end up with an empty seat between me and a nice South African man. Had some good interesting talks about the country, what to see and do. And about Africa in general.

The lack of immigration and customs did surprise me. I do have to check on maybe getting a South Africa visa - checking with travel agent- but thinking it was more of a mis communication with immigration agent. It's a novel concept to have a ride to the hotel already booked.

I'm staying at the Lady Hamilton Hotelwhich is nice, with a comfy bed and a lovely view of Table Mountain. The hotel is at the foot of it. Since it was pretty windy and the rain had started I decided a nap was appropriate which turned into about 3 hours!

Supper was delish! I went with a recommendation from the hotel front for Arnold's just down the road. Super yummy and friendly! I had a Fanta ( in an old fashion glass bottle!), steak salad with a side of namaqua biltong ( soft jerky). And a mini creme brulee for dessert.

Yummy steak salad
Creme Brulee

Off to the Cape of Good Hope and the rest of the peninsula tomorrow.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Singapore Stop

Quick post from the Changi Singapore Airport

Departure day has arrived! Managed to get through yesterday which was very emotional saying "see you soon" since I don't believe in "Good byes" at the farm. We got the popemobile (aka the Watson's Land Rover packed up with all of my boxes that are being shipped back to Canada by Wridgeway. So far I highly recommend them- they have been super nice with somewhat disorganised me :D

The Mill Park crew: (l to r) Peter, Lauren,Amber,Me, Kellie,Ciaran, Serena
Aaron and Sean
Spent a lovely evening down at my favourite hostel in Glenelg which is right on the beach in a big old mansion that reminds me of the Harry Potter Hogwarts- staircases everywhere. Caught up with former co-worker Christina and had a lovely catch up with her.

Departing today was a bit rushed which I blame on not having a watch. Still can't believe I am flying out on Melbourne Cup day of all days! And on a year that Mill Park Stud has a horse running in it! Fawkner, who has already won the Caulfield Cup a couple weeks ago is bred and we sold as a yearling, is running in the Melbourne Cup. This is a race that stops the nation and worth a mere $5 million.

And I was flying with my favourite airline, Singapore Airlines. And they lived up to it so far today. The flight was so smooth. And the pilots were amazing! Didn't even feel us touch down and actually had to look up from my book to see if we had - no bump or bounce at all. Evan ( brother who has is pilots licence) says that takes a lot of skill to put one of those planes down that gently.

And apparently it is monsoon season here which made some of the views on the free bus tour not quite as beautiful. But the lightening show made up for it! Due to the rain, I don't have any good pictures from the tour, but will say people should go check out the Marina Bay Sands hotel page. Spectacular looking hotel though really looks like it's 3 towers with a boat on top. The top is where a restaurant and pools are. Insane pics of it.

And the Airport is also very cool. Tons of shopping, movie theatres, butterfly garden, hotels and even a sky train to get from one terminal to the other. 

Fun Fact: 50 million people went through Changi Airport last year! 

Cool mosaic sculpture in the garden

One of the many pretty gardens and koi ponds

Well I think my 8 hour stop over is almost over, so I should go check to see if my gate is open yet. This wandering Albertan is getting really sleepy. Hoping this flight will be just has smooth and empty as the last one. I ended up with 4 empty seats on the way here and would love to have that again. 

Next stop Cape Town via Johanasburg for re fuelling.

Talk then. xx *falls asleep*

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Catch up on a few days

It has been a super crazy roller coaster of a week. I hadn't posted anything since I was mainly back at the farm packing and organising or in theory packing. I will totally admit to procrastinating a fair bit. What can I say packing gets very boring really fast by your self :( But got it all packed in the end.

But I do have some fun pictures to show......

Who wants to see more pictures of cute ponies??? Anyone?? Of course people do! lol

Follow the leaders!

Stroller & Me with Soli

That would be me riding Stroller in just a head collar. Not bad position for someone who hasn't ridden in 2 years. The other 2 were having fun following which was entertaining! 

I finally managed to stop by good friend/co-worker Tony's place up in the beautiful Adelaide Hills. Absolutely stunning area. He has done a beautiful job on the farm. A few ponds (dams), some sheep, lovely old stables. Could easily start boarding (agisting) horses on the property.

Scooter working the sheep

Beautiful dam

Lovely view from the deck of house.

And 2 farewell supper/BBQ during the week made for an emotional time but fun for the most part. It was insanely tough to leave the farm since they have become my Australian family. But I did get through it. Only have a couple pictures from the BBQ which happen to be my 2 favourite girls: April and Kellie :D 

That is it for this post. Talk soon!