Friday, September 23, 2011

On to Africa!

 August 26, Arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa and stayed at the Protea "Fire and Ice Hotel - a very modern hotel in an art deco theme. I had dinner with John Suffolk, Nigel's dad (Nigel was a long time dive master at PPR). The next day we departed for Soweto, to visit the home of Nelson Mandela and had a native lunch of mystery meat and local greens, interesting?
The following day we flew to Victoria Falls and departed immediately for Botswana to stay at the Chobe Safari Lodge. It was a super room and great food and very early morning drives. We saw a lot of wildlife - great herds of elephants, cape buffalo and Hippopotamus enjoying the Chobe river. It was very dry but we did see the elephants in very large groups swimming the river. They were swimming to get to a small island for some fresh grass!. A family of warthogs were grazing on the lawn by my front door!
A few days later we departed for Victoria Falls where we enjoyed a walk along the edge of the cliff.  A rainbow was visible the entire time above the spectacular falls. The following morning we boarded a helicopter for the "Flight of Angels" over the falls and the river. I had a front seat view with glass under my feet and all around!!! I have a video if you wish to see the wonderful scenery, so when you are at the resort, Ask Me!! Then a tour of the local market to buy, buy, buy! That evening, we had a lovely 5 course meal with matching wines at the Livingstone Room at the Victoria Fall Hotel. This hotel was a grand ole hotel built in the 1800. We were also staying at this hotel and my room had such a high sided bathtub that one would need a pole vault to enter.
The next day we went in search of the black rhino and took an elephant ride. Harriet Anderson was my riding buddy and we had a very fat wide ride!!(also have a video of this event!!) That evening we had our evening meal in a private home that had 16 family members staying in what appeared to be a 2 bedroom house.  However, the meal was very well served and we did get a sample of the native diet ! No jelly belly yet!!!!
We then had a visit to a local school where we were entertained with native dancing by a group of students from grades 1 to 6th level. I was so impressed that I gave the teacher my hat that I bought especially for the trip!!
We traveled to Zambia to the Livingstone Airport to catch our flight to Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport. We seemed to be doing a lot of flying around but Africa is a BIG place and lots of area to cover. Kruger National Park we had several game drives.  I actually opted out one day and had a full day at the spa!!!
Following we flew to Capetown to a wonderful hotel, the Village, a Spier Hotel. My room was complete with a fireplace and a pool right outside my back door. Had a wonderful tour of the wine region with a wine tasting at Dieu Donne, and lunch at their restaurant in Franshchoek. Perhaps the best meal of the entire tour!!.
Arriving back at the hotel, it was time to pat the cheetahs in the rehabilitation center, have a wine tasting, and dinner!!!
Next morning we journeyed to Capetown, and did the cable car ride to Table Mountain. Got a great computer generated picture of me being in the cable car all by myself when really there like a couple of dozen other people in the car that revolved 360 degrees before it reached the top!
The Cullinan Hotel was definitely a 5 star and had a Green Globe rating. I did not see how they earned it when they would not honor reuse of towels and changed the sheets every day!!! We missed out our first attempt to go to Robben Island because of rough seas and clouded conditions, so did a tour of their aquarium, which had the biggest moray eel I have ever seen!!! It had mostly indo-Pacific fish but a cute colony of jackass penguins, and lots of sharks. Luckily we were there for the afternoon feeding of both!! The next day we had a tour of the Cape of Good Horn, complete with a funicular ride to the top for a fantastic view of the entire cape. Back to Capetown for a taxi ride out to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens where the national flower which is the Protea was in full bloom but little else as it was the end of their winter. Last day in South Africa was spent on a whale watching expedition. The southern Wright Whale come into the area of where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic - the water is quite warm considering how close it is to Antarctic area. These giant whales spend from June to November in this area mating and having their calves, which weigh like 400 lbs when born!. A smooth ride the next day to Istanbul and then to Madrid to see the Prado museum with its wonderful art. Arrived back to the USA too late to catch a flight to Grand Cayman, stayed at the Mia Hotel in the Miami airport, surprising a very quiet place!!! Back home to 56 inbox items, lots of dirty clothes and a new dining room.!!!! Come see!!!

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