|December 10/11/12, 2016
Toronto to Munich, Germany
We flew Air Canada from Toronto to Munich. We spent a sleepless 7 hour night flight in the back row, not only unable to recline our seats back but with the passengers in front of us reclined into our laps!
We enjoyed German brewed coffee in the airport before stepping out into the festive atmosphere. The Christmas decor consisted of a large skating rink that was full of skaters, and a large, festive market. We hopped on the train ride for a 45 minute ride to Marine PLatte in Munich. We rode up the escalator and I was awed by the historical buildings looming overhead. The quaint little shops sold baked goods, gluevine, sweets, sausages, Christmas trees, etc. and the people meandered through the cobblestone streets with the benefit of no traffic. I couldn't help but notice there was no one walking around with cell phones or Tim Hortons coffee in their hands, which was so refreshing! If you wanted a coffee you actually went in and sat down and enjoyed a specialty coffee and a baked good at one of the shops. We had a traditional German lunch which was delicious and consisted of beer, sausage, mashed potato and a pasta with basil pesto sauce and parmesan. When we arrived back at the airport we took advantage of a hot shower before the long flight to on South African airlines. We held our breath as we boarded as were still travel weary from the uncomfortable night flight the night before with Air Canada and much to our relief we had comfortable seats with leg room (we paid extra for that). South African airlines were most hospitable and the food was good! We dozed somewhat in our upright position. We woke to the sun shining and anticipated landing in the land where Abe was born and I suddenly realized it was my 60th birthday!
December 12 to 15, 2016
Manyane Campsite, South Africa
"The Manyane Resort offers the keen outdoor enthusiast superb accommodation in Chalets and Tents or well equipped Caravanning and Camping facilities. Manyane of Golden Leopard Resorts provides a variety of recreational activities from mini golf to swimming pools. However, the real attraction (as with most game lodges) is still the incredible wildlife of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. Several accommodation options within the camp cater especially to families and groups of friends"
We spent the day getting used to the contrast of hot, sunny weather from our cold, snowy climate at home in Barrie. We drove to Manyane Campsite and got settled in a beautiful setting with all the facilities you could imagine in a campsite. There was a restaurant, pool, washroom facilities that included a bathtub and great kitchen facilities for washing up the dishes after a bbq or braii as they say in South Africa. It was early to bed in our tent listening to the sounds of birds and the quiet of nature as we anticipated going to Pilanesberg National Park tomorrow to see the abundant wildlife in the felt. I slept deeply catching up on the last 2 sleepless nights!
Pilanisberg National Park, South Africa
"Pilanesberg National Park is only three hours’ drive away from South Africa’s largest city (Johannesburg).
Pilanesberg National Park exists in a transition zone between the dryness of the Kalahari and the wet Lowveld vegetation. This rich transitional zone attracts an incredible variety of game animals, flora and fauna that are not often found living side by side. Virtually all of the animal species native to southern Africa can be found here, including the Big 5, wild dog, Roan, Tsessebe, Sable antelope and more than 360 species of birds. The relatively small size of the park, and its unusual ecological richness, dramatically increase your chance of encountering the Big 5 in their natural environment. Enjoy a leisurely Safari experience, or a surprise weekend escape: Pilanesberg allows you to choose your own adventure. Pilanesberg National Park is set within the crater of an ancient volcano, formed 1.2 billion years ago by overflowing magma. The landscape and rock formations we see today are the enduring reminders of this magnificent occurrence
Park Area: 550km²
Currency: South African Rand
Seasons: Dry season in the winter months (April to September), and wet season in the summer months (October to March)
Popular attractions: Big 5, hot air-ballooning, day trips, Lost City at Sun City
Nearby airports: O.R. Tambo International (220km)/Pilanesberg International Airport (inside the park)
Nearest cities: Johannesburg, Pretoria, Rustenburg"
We were delighted to wake up to many monkeys cavorting throughout the campsite. A warthog and her baby joined us for breakfast as well! After a leisurely breakfast and coffee we were off the park to see the abundant wild animals in the veld. The prevailing feeling of peace and tranquility in the never ending veld overwhelmed me and I felt I could live in this place. The animals meandered peacefully allowing us to observe them in their natural habitat. The first animal I saw was the elegant giraffe emerging from the bushes to show us how beautiful she was. I was constantly delighted as we saw birds, rhinos, wildebeast, zebra, rooibok, warthogs, turtles, dung beetles, and the elephants put on a show for us while enjoying a nearby salt block! The grand finale was to see not one but two leopards! We were told that it was common to see lions but some people wait a lifetime to see a leopard. We never did see a lion but we were so grateful to see the magnificent leopards! We found an incredible view at the top of a hill and enjoyed the scenery immensely.
Sun City, S.A.
Sun City was developed by the hotel magnate Sol Kerzner as part of his Sun International group of properties. It was officially opened on 7 December 1979; at the time it was located in the Bantustan of Bophuthatswana.
As Bophuthatswana had been declared an independent state by South Africa's apartheid government (although unrecognized as such by any other country), it could provide entertainment such as gambling and topless revue shows which were banned in South Africa. These factors, as well as its relatively close location to the large metropolitan areas ofPretoria and Johannesburg, ensured that Sun City soon became a popular holiday and weekend destination. The United Nations had imposed a cultural boycott on South Africa in condemnation of apartheid. To overcome this, Kerzner offered substantial financial incentives to performing artists to use Sun City as a venue. Several famous performers disregarded the boycott and performed at the venue, such as the Beach Boys, Linda Ronstadt, Cher, Millie Jackson, Liza Minnelli, Frank Sinatra (1981), Paul Anka, Status Quo, Rod Stewart (July 1983), and Elton John (October 1983).
British rock band Queen's series of performances at the venue in October 1984 in transgression of the boycott caused considerable controversy, prompting criticism in the British music press, a fine from the Musicians' Union and their inclusion on the United Nations' blacklisted artists. Following the criticism, Queen strongly defended their decision, citing the fact that they had insisted they played only to desegregated audiences. They donated to a school for the deaf and blind to prove their philanthropic values. In the late 1980s, Queen's song "We Will Rock You" was used as the sound track to Sun City's 60 second video promo, which was shown as commercial on SABC-TV and also when opening shows in Sun City's Superbowl auditorium .
In 1980, Sun City's "Superbowl" hosted a racially mixed world heavyweight boxing championship fight between champion, American Mike Weaver, and challenger, South African Gerrie Coetzee, on 25 October, won by Weaver by thirteenth round knockout. The fight was for Weaver's World Boxing Association world heavyweight title.
In 1985, E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt made the venue the focus of his music-industry activist group, Artists United Against Apartheid. Forty-nine top recording artists collaborated on a song called "Sun City", in which they pledged they wouldn't perform at the resort because of their opposition to apartheid. Additionally, Simple Minds included the song as part of a live medley on their Live in the City of Light double album in 1987.
December 16 to 18, 2016
We arrived in Boksburg to the home of Abe's best friend Chris. Chris lives in a lovely 2 story home with an additional home on his property that his son and family live in. The grounds are beautifully landscaped boasting a "Pride of India" tree in full bloom along with rose bushes wafting their fragrance as you walk by the gardens. Our first meal was in a Portugese Restaurant that served such delicious homemade food along with a homey atmosphere. Another evening we had a traditional "braii" as they call a bbq in S.Africa. The meat is bbq'd over a coal bbq…no quick propane bbq's here! They do it the old fashioned way. Dinner consisted of salads, garlic bread, lamb chops, sausage, steak and wine. What a wonderful family and Chris must be so proud of his son and his lovely family. Abe is ill though with fever and diarrhea and has been since an ill-fated meal at Sun City.
We woke to the smell of cappuccino that Chris made us to start the day and the sun was shining as usual in December. Zita the black scottie dog was becoming Abe's 2nd best friend as he fed her biltong (beef jerky). We then headed to Ludwig's Rose Gardens. Ludwig's rose gardens were stunning and he has created a masterpiece of roses. We enjoyed lunch at "Rose's Kitchen and it consisted of salads and quiche. There was a small store and they sold homemade rose oil, and everything you could think of made of roses.
In the evening we could no longer see the familiar big and little dipper but instead saw Saturn and Venus as well as Orions belt. We are 16,000 miles away from home and are the furthest south we could possibly be.
We ate brunch at a popular restaurant before going over to my first "S.African mall" which really was very similar to mall's at home. Abe not feeling well again and we picked up over the counter remedies (specto for his stomach and throat spray for his sore throat) at the pharmacy.
It was time to catch the much anticipated train to head to Durban. Uber picked us up and brought us as close as possible to the train station door. We walked quickly through the chaos and deteriorating surroundings. We found our waiting area for the Shosholoza Meyl Railway premier train and were ushered in by a guard with a R1 rifle at his side. We were safe in the luxurious waiting room and soon we were boarding our overnight train. Our room was a cozy little suite complete with linens, bathrobes, towels, slippers, toiletries. We headed to our dining car for dinner and were served an appetizer tray of pickles, olives, tomatoes, fish and a bowl of soup followed by your choice of chicken or beef with veggies accompanied by wine. The grand finale for dessert was tera maso and so delicious! Abe was brought back in time as we saw "Germiston" station where Abe began working on the steam trains on vacation and weekends at the age of 14.
Durban - December 19 - 24
We slept as the train rocked toward Durban and we woke to the green, rolling hills of Natel province. So beautiful! We showered and coffee was served to our cozy suite. We enjoyed the view and had several hours to view the scenery since the sun rose early. Breakfast was quite delicious. We loved the train ride and soon we were pulling into the clean and modern train station of Durban. Such a contrast to Johannusburg which was at one time a thriving city and now was a sore eye to behold. Durban was a refreshing change! Abe's brother David was to meet us in Durban station. The brothers had only seen each other 3 times in the 18 years since Abe had immigrated to Canada. David and his lovely wife Sheri made us so welcome and at home. They had fresh fish and salad waiting for us for lunch. After a refreshing swim in the pool we readied ourselves for a traditional braii with their friends celebrating their 25th anniversary. We were so fortunate to be included with this lovely family. We had our dinner on their balcony overlooking the Indian Ocean. The ship lights blinked in the distance as they waited for their turn to come into the harbour. A lovely breeze was enjoyed to end the hot day.
We woke early these mornings and walked on Umshangha Rocks along the Indian Ocean. It was so beautiful and my camera was busy capturing the crashing waves, fisherman fishing, surfers, kite flyers and I thought if only the sea salty smell in the air could be captured as well! We walked all the way past the long sandy beach through the mangrove on the boardwalk and back. In the meantime a phone call was made to Abe's brothers Doctor and an appointment was made within 2 hours as Abe's illness kept reoccurring (private medical in S.A.). The Dr. visit only cost $50.00 and the rx was only $5.00…turned out he had gastro enteritis. He quickly returned to health once on the medication.
We had a lovely drive to Balito. We swam in David and Sherry's pool and felt ourselves relaxing in their warm hospitality. Abe was feeling better each day and was able to enjoy a braii that evening. One day David and Sheri drove us to the "Piggly Wiggly" in Midmar. There were lovely unique shops selling all the local products such as wine, cheese, chocolate, stained glass, clothing, soaps, candles. We then drove to Howick for a late lunch and sat on the balcony of Tumbledown Restaurant taking in the incredible landscape as far as the eye could see. The owners were a happy couple and their two children helped out in their time off from school. We were served delicious appetizers and a main course (see pics) complete with chocolate mousse and creme brule.
We visited the botanical gardens in Durban which were impeccably maintained and we strolled through the tranquil surroundings at our leisure. Trees over 100 years old and tropical flowers including orchids surrounded us. Afterward we drove to Amanzitote and had lunch overlooking the Indian Ocean. Our favourite past time was swimming in the warm ocean and rolling in the huge waves as they swept us to shore. On the way back to Durban we got a little lost and ended up in the wrong end of Durban which felt like a bad movie to me. We were surrounded by so many cars, taxis and people there was literally not an inch for anyone to turn around. We crawled along in the chaos for a long time before the never ending street finally ended and we could make a turn toward Durban out of the bedlam. We felt relieved as we pulled away and onto the highway home. We stopped off and bought some of our favourite beer "flying fish with lemon" and enjoyed it after we managed to set the alarm off at Abe's brothers home and security arrived to check us out! We had a cool swim after the cold beer before bed.
David took us to the King Shaka airport which was very new and we said our goodbyes. Abe and David won't know when they will see one another again and as they hugged told one another goodbye I was moved to tears as I felt the impact of how immigrating affects families so far apart from one another. Our mango flight to Joberg was only 1 hour and Chris was there to pick us up. It was very peaceful at Chris' home in Boxberg and we picked up some pizza and chicken for dinner to celebrate Christmas eve with Abe's best friend.
Bocksburg - Dec 24 - 28
After at least a 12 hour sleep I awoke to Abe's homemade breakfast and coffee with rusk. Chris' sons family and daughters family dropped in throughout the day and we watched National Georgraphic and relaxed. We had a lovely platter of various food for our Christmas dinner and toasted the day with wine.
Another day of sunshine and we hopped in the car as Chris was taking us to see the lions in nearby Hartisbeesport. Such a beautiful drive and we loved seeing the variety of well cared for lions in the park. The highlight was playing with the lion cubs and being able to hold them! We had a delicious spaghetti dinner and salad with Chris' family. Chris must be so proud of his son and his lovely family. We were so fond of them in the short time we had spent with them. The grandchildren are delightful.
We visited with an old friend of Chris' and Abe was acquainted with him previously. He was a delightful 83 year old full of life and laughter. We drove to a local nursery and then onto "The Secret Garden" which had a variety of unique shops with books, antiques, quilts, jewellery for sale. We had a delicious lunch of falafel and salad which we really enjoyed.
Capetown - Dec. 28 - 30
Now we are flying to Capetown on a two hour flight and we quickly found our hotel "The Parliament" downtown Capetown. Capetown was so clean and well kept. We jumped in our rental car to explore this gorgeous part of the world. Table mountain is a popular tourist attraction but was far to busy with the crowds of tourists that the Christmas season brought. We headed up Signal Hill instead and found the view to be breathtaking. We drove down south down the coast all the way to Simons Town. It really has to be the most gorgeous country in the world!
We needed cash the next day and headed to the local ABSA bank and found the ATM with an ever watchful guard close by. As soon as we took our card out though we were surrounded by swindlers and they stole our card. The guard did nothing and was obviously in on the theft. The bank manager could do nothing either unless we reported this to the police and that meant coming back for a court case which we could not do since we live in Canada. So the thieves got away but we put a phone call in immediately to put a stop on our card to find the thieves had already stolen $400.00 off of it! I realized as we were in the bank that the tellers all worked behind bullet proof glass! The thieves had quite a scam going but we were thankful we were not harmed and we put it behind us and carried on. We tried out the "red bus tour" and soon realized we were going to be sitting in traffic in the hot sun for hours so hopped off and began the long walk back stopping for a cold milkshake on the way. We found the "purple bus" and headed to the tranquil and beautiful local botanical gardens. We enjoyed the trees and gardens and a cold beer before heading back and having the "purple bus" break down on the side of the road and finally getting another bus for the ride back to Capetown. We stopped and picked up a delicious dinner of hake and snoek fish with fries which we really enjoyed.
In the morning we headed over to "Castle of Good Hope" before leaving for Hermanus. "Three factors allowed the Dutch to gain a strong foothold at the Cape. First the Portuguese avoided the Cape after an incident in 1510 which +60 of their men were killed by the indigenous inhabitants. Secondly, when Portugal became virtually a province of Spain, she suffered at the hands of Spain's enemies, especially the English and the Dutch. Thirdly, an attempt to claim the Cape for England was not supported by the king. The way was therefore clear for the Dutch to increase their trade with the East, stopping frequently at the Cape. In 1602 they established the Dutch East India Company (VOC) which was a combination of many traders working together to share financial risk and resources. The VOC subsequently grew into a powerful international company which in 1649 decided to establish a formal refreshment station in the Cape. This was considered a good investment and Jan van Riebeeck was commissioned to establish such a post. On 6 April 1652 he anchored in Table Bay to establish a permeant settlement. One of his first tasks was to build a fort as the interests of the Dutch East India Company's latest asset had to be protected at all costs."
Hermanus - Dec. 30 - January 2, 2017
Another breathtaking drive along the coastline to Hermanus. We arrived at "Rose Cottage" and Roz and her little dashund Fergus welcomed us. We shopped downtown for some food as we had a kitchen included at our cottage. We highly recommend "Rose Cottage" if you are planning a trip to S.Africa! We meandered on the winding roads surrounded by grape farms and seeing signs for wine tasting all along the roads. We saw baboons which I was happy to have the opportunity to see as they are so big compared to the monkeys we were used to seeing (also very dangerous)! We found the La Vierge wineries to sample some wine and we were seated up on the balcony and had a breathtaking view of the wine farms all around us. The six varieties of wine were served at leisure and we enjoyed a relaxing time. We made our way back to Hermanus and enjoyed exploring the quaint downtown. We chatted with an elderly man from Luxenberg who was wintering in Hermanus as we sipped our cold milkshakes. Our host at Rose Cottage had kindly made dinner reservations for us for New Years Eve at the "Lemon Butta" restaurant. We were seated upstairs overlooking the cold Atlantic Ocean with its rolling waves. We dined on sushi, king clip and hake with veggies and followed by creme brule with kahlua and vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce. So delicious!
We found a beautiful sandy beach and swam in the very cold Atlantic ocean which was a huge contrast to the warm Indian ocean we had been experiencing. Again we enjoyed rolling in the huge crashing waves as they lifted us to shore. I will always remember those waves and always miss them when I am swimming in our lake at home.
DeKelders/Gansbaii - drive to Capetown Jan 2 - 3
Another gorgeous drive along the coast to Gansbaii and nearby DeKelders. We stopped by in Stanford to celebrate New Years Day with wine and beer tasting. S.Africa boasts the best of wines! We enjoyed the view of rolling endless hills while seated outdoors under an umbrella shaded from the hot sun.
We arrived at DeKelders and found our accommodation "The Roundhouse" which was really a round house complete with a hot tub on the top balcony, which later we enjoyed as the sun went down (3 stories high complete with a circular staircase in the middle of the house). The Roundhouse was lovely and the pool in the back yard was refreshing after the hot drive. We shopped for food as we had a small kitchen which was so appreciated while travelling. We strolled along the coast line in DeKelders and hoped to see some whales which this area if famous for. We were a little late though as the whales and their babies usually migrated by November. We did see some seals though. We found a little cove though which was a popular swimming place and I enjoyed another cold swim in the Atlantic. I could not get enough of the sea and found myself up early on our last day walking down to the cove and swimming just one more time before we had to leave. I ingrained the smell of the salt air in my memory and will never forget the magnificent coastline we had been travelling on. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to experience the beauty that we have been surrounded with. The Roundhouse put on a lovely breakfast as well before we headed back to Capetown. We decided to travel inland to see some contrasting sights even though the pull to the coastline was hard to resist. We drove through mountainous passes on our way to Franshoek. Once again my camera was buy as it captured the mountains, rolling farmland, inland lakes and evergreen trees. In Franshoek it was obviously wine country as we saw the miles and miles of grapes once again. Once again we found a lovely restaurant tucked in the hills and Abe enjoyed traditional potjie. It was a beautiful winding drive most of the day and we arrived back in Capetown in the middle of the 2nd day New Year's Parades. It was pure chaos and we could not get to the hotel with all the detours that were all over the city to accommodate the parade. Unfortunately I had forgotten some clothes at our Parliament hotel and needed to pick them up before heading to our hotel on the other side of the city. We finally parked on a sidewalk and Abe walked to the hotel while I stayed in the car. The crowds were squeezing everyone as they pushed there way along and finally Abe returned with my clothes (yay) and we managed to find a way out of the craziness. We settled in our last hotel before flying back to Johanesberg and strolled down the street for a cold beer and pizza and burgers. We were up early to catch our plane back and once again Abe's best friend Chris was there to pick us up.
Bocksburg - Jan. 3 - 4
To Abe's delight Chris had found him a roadhouse! Abe had been dreaming of having a "blondie" or a "dagwood" sandwich before returning home! A roadhouse is really quite unique as you drive up and park and read the giant menu in front of you and the waiter/waitress comes to the car to take your order. You can eat it in the car or in some roadhouses you can go to an inside eating area. They serve fries, hotdogs, hamburgers, fried egg sandwiches, blondies and dagwoods, milkshakes, ice cream just as though we were back in the sixties!
It was time for our long flight back to first Munich, Germany and then home. We arrived at the Johannesburg airport saying our goodbyes to Chris and once again not knowing if we would see Chris again. It was bittersweet to have such a feeling about someone that you care about. Then the news that our flight was delayed for 3 hours. Oh and it was such long flight to begin with so we waited and we got through the restless uncomfortable night to find our flight in Munich was delayed 2 hours also.
Toronto - January 5
It was approx. 20 hours flying time so the additional wait meant a long time before arriving home. Much to our delight we were put in business class and it was luxurious to have leg room and big seats and to be served with warm clothes to refresh ourselves with. The food was delicious too. After watching a few movies we finally arrived in Toronto! We hopped on the train to Union Station. It was sooooo good to be home despite the cold, wintery evening. I am so grateful to live in the safety we have in Canada. Something I didn't mention throughout this blog was every home has bars on every window and door along with high fences surrounding their property with electric wiring on the top and hooked into a security system. Iron gates shut and open electronically to drive in and out of. There are miles and miles of squatter camps with illegal immigrants as they flow in through the borders from parts of Africa that has no infrastructure. The unemployment is almost 40% therefore crime is skyrocketing along with murders. Millions of white people have left the country and many that are still there are not able immigrate as the S.African dollar (rand) is worthless compared to our money (1 to 10 value) and a university degree at minimum is required to immigrate. S. African infrastructure is deteriorating continually. When you lock your car you need to double-check that someone has not been watching and blocked your lock so they can break in and steal your car. I breathed a sigh of relief to not have to look over my shoulder and to feel safe as I drove to the store with my purse casually over my shoulder and that I could take my wallet out at the cashiers in plain view without being fearful of it being stolen. Children in S. Africa play inside their high electric fences and are unable to skip down the road and call on their friend or go for a walk down the road after dinner…they do not know any freedom that you and I know. Families drive with locked cars and closed windows. I will always admire those that cannot leave and carry on with optimism and much courage. I will always remember S. Africa for its immense diverse beauty and be grateful for my safety at home.
I will end with a plaque that was on a memorial bench in Pilanesburg National Park overlooking the vast veld (pronounced felt). It was written in Africanns (see pic) and translated it means "Memories, beautiful memories are the dry firewood which every person collects for the dark winter nights, which each and every one will encounter somewhere on the road ahead". Definitely I will plan to continue to collect all the dry firewood I can in this lifetime. Thank you to all that we encountered on our journey to make it such a beautiful one. Love Kim & Abe