Three Stage

Those of you who are local to the Collingwood area will recognize the Name Three Stage as it refers to a set of Mountain Biking Trails on the Niagara Escarpment. These trails are challenging and afford a beautiful view of the area. I thought they would be a good allegory to our trip to South Africa.

First of all our trip was in three stages: There was the 12 Day Gate 1 Classic Tour of South Africa, the time we spent independently exploring Durban and Cape Town and the Bokbus 4 Day Garden Route Tour. Each stage had its merits and gave us an opportunity to explore South Africa further.

South Africa is blessed with a wide variety of spectacular scenery; much more so than either of us had anticipated. The country also continues to have its challenges. Just because apartheid is over does not mean things are all better. Economic hardhship is widespread and the divide between the haves and have nots is enormous. Corruption is still prevalent and there are many high crime areas. Although I enjoyed the trip and the people we met, I did feel relieved when I returned to Canada and did not have to worry about safety issues (when on our own and after dark).

Images of South Africa

From the Mountains

On the Panorama Route

To The Oceans

The Cape Peninsula Atlantic Ocean

To The Animals


Zebras on Safari

To The People

Eswatini Choir


Secondly, our journey home was in three stages: Cape Town to London (11 and a half hour flight) followed by a four hour layover in London) London to Toronto (about 7 hours) and then the trip from Toronto to Collingwood (about two hours). We were very fortunate that our son Jeremy and his wife were returning to Collingwood from Florida the same day that we arrived back in Toronto. There was only 20 minutes difference between our flight arrival times so we were able to get a ride back to Collingwood with them and catch up on all our news at the same time. How lucky was that!

Thirdly, every trip Terry and I take is an opportunity to learn more about the World and ourselves and to better refine how we like to travel and with whom.

Would we return to South Africa? Probably not because it is so far away and many other places beckon. Are we glad we went? Most definitely; it was somewhere we had wanted to go for some time and we were happy to have accomplished that goal.  Now about that next trip…..


Museum Day in Cape Town

On Tuesday, our last full day in Cape Town, Terry and I decided to visit some of the numerous museums in the city. We stopped in the Company Gardens to chat with Steve. He was an African from Uganda who had come to South Africa for better work opportunities and to escape the conditions in Uganda. Steve had a kiosk in the Gardens where he sold water, other drinks and snacks. We always tried to buy our water from him and he was so generous he usually tried to give us an extra drink as a gift (which we didn’t accept). He was happy to see us every time we came by.

Steve From Uganda with Ruth in the Company Gardens

The Slave Lodge Museum was a stone’s throw from Steve’s kiosk and that was the Museum we decided to explore first. The building had undergone a lot of changes over the years but originally had been used to house the slaves who worked in the Company (Dutch East India Company) Gardens. The slaves toiled from dawn to dusk in the Gardens and then often had to serve in the Lodge at night when it was used as a brothel. Life was very hard and numerous slaves perished and were replaced by others. The company did not use natives as slaves who were indigenous to the Cape Town area as they did not want war with those tribes. Slaves were imported from East Africa, India and Mozambique. Frequently African tribes sold other Africans to be slaves.

The Slave Lodge

 A variety of artifacts, films, letters and exhibits detailed the horrific history of the slave trade in the area and went up to the time of Apartheid and beyond.

Article From the Apartheid Era

From the Slave Lodge, we walked through the Company Gardens to the South African Jewish Museum. We started with a tour of the Garden Synagogue or Shul. The present building was errected in 1905 after the original synagogue became too small to fit the size of the congregation. A volunteer who was a member of the congregation gave us a great tour of the Orthodox synagogue.

Print of the Garden Synagogue

The interior was beautiful with wonderful stained glass windows that depicted the months of the Jewish Calendar and the Jewish Holidays.

Stained Glass Windows

Stars of David surrounded the light fixtures in the ceiling.

Star of David

The congregation currently numbers 1000 and about 150 to 200 members attend Shabbat services each week.

Interior of the Synagogue


 Many of the Jews in the Cape Town community emigrated from Lithuania and in the South African Jewish Museum there is a recreation of a shtetl which depicts life in the country many of them left behind. On the day that we visited, several school groups were touring the Museum. The students enjoyed dressing up in the clothes that would have been worn in the times of the shtetl and having their phots taken.

Recreation of Shtetl Dining Room

The Museum details the important role Jews played in the Cape Town Community and how they became a voice against Apartheid.

The Holocaust Centre shared the stories of those South Africans who had survived the Concentration Camps of World War II. It was heartening to see the many descendents of these survivors.

 Although there were numerous other Museums and Art Galleries in Cape Town, by then it was afternoon and we were museumed out. It was time for a break and this was the day we walked over to Charley’s Bakery for a treat and a rest.

From the number and variety of Museums available in Cape Town, I’m sure one could spend a whole week and not have time to explore all of them! We were glad to visit the ones that we did.



Betty’s Bay Penguins

Monday morning, Devon picked up the three of us who had stayed at Mossel Bay. We drove to collect the others from their Safari Lodge. At this particular game reserve, the animals are fed so it is different from Kruger National Park where the animals do their own hunting and foraging. The five from our group had gone on an evening Safari and a morning one and got to take many photos of animals on their drives.

Safari Lodge

Devon consulted with the group (which he was always excellent at doing) and asked us if we would like to go to Hermanus and then Betty’s Bay or directly to Betty’s Bay. Since we already had a long drive ahead of us and it was not whale watching season (main claim to fame for the Hermanus area) the group decided to head off directly to Betty’s Bay to see the Penguins. 

The Betty’s Bay area seemed very bleak (windswept) but there were many people who had summer homes there. None of us could figure out what the attraction was as it was quite smelly (from all the kelp) and the ocean here was too cold for swimming. 

Windswept Hills at Betty’s Bay


However the Penguin Colony was great. There was an elevated boardwalk we walked along where we viewed numerous penguins living in their natural state.

Betty’s Bay Penguin Colony


Basking in the Sun

Posing for the Camera

On the Boardwalk

Lunch was enjoyed at the sole restaurant in Betty’s Bay and then we were off headed back to Cape Town. Devon stopped a few times so we could take some pictures of the ocean. At one of our stops there was a lone surfer and a shark spotting station.

Heading Back to Cape Town

The traffic became heavier as we got closer to Cape Town but we still were dropped off at our hotel, the Radisson Park Air before 6pm.

Terry and I were very happy we made the decision to take this second tour on our South African trip. It provided us with opportunities to view more of the amazing natural beauty of South Africa and meet interesting new people in a safe group situation. Devon was an excellent driver, manipulating the large van through some exceedingly tight spaces and driving quickly but safely at all times. He shared the information we needed to know but did not talk constantly which some guides tend to do. Devon gets full marks for striving for group consensus when making decisions about where to go and where and when to stop. He adjusted timetables and schedules as needed and it was much appreciated by the group. He told us his goal is to one day own his own tour company as he knows just how and where he would run the tours. We wished him every success in the future.

Our driver and guide, Devon


Garden Route Continued

Sunday morning, after Gvanta’s bungy jump adventure, Devon drove us all back to Knysna so we could see the Knysna Headlands. One side of the Headlands is a very popular place for expensive holiday homes and the other is a protected area that one can only visit with a permit.

Knysna Headlands

We are on the side with the holiday homes.

Terry and Friend at the Headlands

One of the options for this tour was a Safari adventure and night at a Safari Lodge. Terry and I and Gudrun had already done Safaries on other tours so we opted to go to Mossel Bay instead. Devon drove us there first and then took the other five people to the Safari Lodge.

The Arofsa Lodge in Mossel Bay had a great swimming pool which we used and then enjoyed some reading time and sunshine around the pool.

Pool at Arofsa

Following our swim and reading time, we walked downhill to the centre of Mossel Bay. Mossel Bay was named after all the mussel shells found there. It is a popular holiday destination with a very mild climate.

Walking Down to Mossel Bay

One of the town’s claims to fame is the Post Office Tree which is said to be over 500 years old.


In Front of the Post Office Tree

We were searching for a specific Seafood Restaurant, the Kingfisher for dinner which turned out to be a taxi ride away. The three of us enjoyed a wonderful meal with one of those inexpensive South African Sauvignon Blanc Wines. There was no way we could walk that huge uphill back to the Arofsa so we took another taxi back. (The taxi ride cost a whole $4!) We taught our friend how to play Five Crowns and had a good game outside by the Patio area. After the sun, wine and cards, I was toast and ready for bed.

Bloukrans Bungy Jump

No, Terry and I did not lose our minds and go bungy jumping in South Africa but one of the members of our  Garden Route Tour Group did and we were so excited to be there and watch her adventure.

Bloukrans Bungy

Two of the nurses on our Garden Tour had bungy jumped previously, one of them in New Zealand. However, the member of our group who was going to jump at Bloukrans had never jumped before and was very psyched up for the whole thing.

Originally, Devon, our guide was going to take Gvanta to the bridge and pick the rest of us up later on but we all insisted that we wanted to be there to cheer her on. So Devon arranged for us to have an early breakfast as Gvanta was scheduled to jump with the 8:30am group. 

When I saw the size of the bridge I just thought – WOW!  The jump involves taking a zip line from the edge of the bridge to the middle where one jumps from and then after the jump one is winched back up to the bridge. Not for all the tea in China….

Bloukrans Bridge

There are many other Bungy Jumps in the world but this bridge at its highest point is 216 metres.

Other Bungy Operations

All of us gave Gvanta a hug before she went off to sign the papers and get into her harness.

Zip Line to The Centre of the Bridge

Bungy Jump

After a number of swings, they winch you back up to the bridge.

Gvanta Being Winched Back Up to the Bridge

She was one happy lady after she completed her jump and told us that all her emotions were running together just before the jump but she was concentrating so hard on jumping properly that she was not nervous during the actual jump.



After the jump, she was elated and we were all thrilled for her.  What an adventure!



Garden Route Day Two

Devon picked us up shortly after 9am on Saturday morning. We were off to a Saturday morning Market near Knysna on the Garden Route. But there was lots of gorgeous scenery on the way there especially at the Mountain Passes.


Mountain Pass Photo Stop

The views of the Indian Ocean were also spectacular.

Overlooking the Indian Ocean


 The Knysna Market had a huge Food section as well as a Craft area. There was every kind of snack available that you could imagine. Terry and I liked the section that was specifically set aside for dog owners.

Dogs and Their Owners

We sampled some yummy fudge and bought some home baked tortilla chips. Then we went over to the Craft section where I found some used books (I had gone through all my reading material) and I purchased a few Craft items. 

Next stop was Knysna which Terry said reminded him somewhat of Wasaga Beach. There was a Pedestrian Wakway and Yacht Club area with numerous boats. 

Knysna Waterfront


It was very busy as there was a High School Water Polo Tournament being held. Those players really work hard doing all that swimming and then trying to score a goal with the ball. There were different sections for the Girls and Boys.

Water Polo Tournament

Following our stop at Knysna, we drove on to Plettenberg Bay where we had a Seafood Lunch. Terry and I took off our shoes and waded in the water which was not as warm as it was in Durban.  We watched the kayakers who were having a very difficult time getting out past the waves.

Kayaker On the Way Out

 Plettenberg Bay was pretty but we were off to our next stop; a wonderful hike in Tsitsigamma National Park. I was really glad I had my hiking poles with me as the ups and downs were very steep. Our hike was an hour of amazing scenery: waves crashing over the rocks, trees clinging to the mountain side, rocking suspension bridges and solitary beaches.


Steep Downhills

On The Suspension Bridge

Taking a Break on the Beach

When we came back from the hike, we found a solitary penguin on the beach. He must have been blown off course from somewhere.

All Alone

It had been a very busy day and we were all glad when we reached Stormy River where we would spend the night. Our unit was quite a distance from the others so we dubbed it “Cabin in the Woods”. We had a fabulous view of the Mountain.


Cabin in the Woods

Mountain View from the Cabin

Terry loved the hammock on our veranda.


Chilling on the Hammock

Inside, the Unit was quite luxurious with plush bathrobes, a dressing room and our own fireplace.

Inside the Cabin in the Woods

But what are the chances? There on the bookshelf was one of the same books I had purchased at the Knysna Market earlier in the day. How many novels are there in the World? What a coincidence!

We made our way to the Dining Room, enjoyed a great dinner with our group and even made it back to the Cabin safely through the dark. Day Two of the Garden Tour had been another very memorable day.


Garden Tour Day One

While we were still in Durban, Terry and I realized we needed to plan what we would do with the rest of our time. Many people had told us about the beauty of the Garden Route so we began researching tours to that area. We settled on a company called Bokbus Tours. They had a combination 4 Day/ 3Night Garden Route Tour that departed from and returned to Cape Town. The reviews I read were positive and the Itinerary sounded interesting.

Our collection time was supposed to be about 6am on Friday February 28th. That was one time our phone came in very handy as the Driver/Guide Devon called us. He was waiting around the corner from where we were but eventually he found us and we were off to pick up the others. There were already four women on board and we would pick up two others; one in downtown Cape Town and one in Somerset West (on the outskirts of Cape Town).

Bokbus Garden Route Tour

Our drive on the first day was long as we drove throught the Klein Karoo area to Oudtshoorn but our Guide, Devon was great about providing many opportunities for photo stops and washroom breaks.

Our lunch stop was in Oudtshoorn, a town along the Route 62 Wine Route which is the longest Wine Route in the world.

Route 62

The restaurant we stopped at had a musical theme. The place mats were old LP Vinyl Records, the walls were adorned with posters of Marilyn Monroe and all of the Menu Items had names relating to musicians. I had the Smokey Robinson for lunch which was a great salad.

Oudtshoorn Restaurant

Then it was back on the road until we reached the Ostrich Farm. Our tour was very informative and we had many photo ops. Terry got to be hugged by an ostrich – sort of!

Ostrich Hug

This ostrich was Betsy, the only one our guide told us that was relatively friendly.  I declined the hug but many others in our group went for the experrience.  The black ostriches were male and had the most sought after white feathers. During the time that ostrich feathers were the height of fashion, ostrich farms in the area really prospered. Now the big market for the farms is the Ostrich Meat. 

Male Ostrich


Ostriches usually live 30 to 70 years and have been on Earth for 120 million years.  Their eyes are bigger than their brains (not the brightest apples in the bin) and they can see clearly for a distance of two kilometres! They can run very quickly – speeds of 30 t0 40mph which they can sustain for at least half an hour – you won’t outrun an ostrich. They are the only two toed birds and can use their toes to protect themselves in the wild. A slice from the toe of an ostrich can kill a lion. Their eggs weigh 3 to 4 pounds and are quite strong – that makes one big omlette!

Terry on the Ostrich Eggs

After the Farm Tour, we hurried on to our next activity which was a tour of the Cango Caves. The Cango Caves are limestone caverns which were discovered in 1780 by a local farmer named Jacobus Van Zyl. He found the first chamber which was as long as a football field. Eventually two more chambers were discovered and the Caves are still being explored today. The Caves are a very popular tourist attaction. We took the Standard One Hour Tour but there was an Adventure Tour where you had to crawl through an opening that was only 15 cm high at one point.

Chamber in the Cango Caves


Deep in the Caves

Limestone Column

Eventually, we made our way out of the Caves and to our Bed and Breakfast which turned out to be a lovely Inn on a quiet side street. The plan was we were to get together for dinner at 7pm. One of our group and our Guide were staying at the local Backpackers and we told Devon we would meet them at the restaurant. We had passed it on our way and were sure we knew how to walk back to it. Well that was a mistake; we got lost, went into another restaurant where the owner very kindly offered to help us. He wanted to know the name of the restaurant where we were going but we didn’t know it. Then he asked us where we were staying. It turns out we didn’t know the name of that either. Terry had left his phone back at the room but luckily I had a piece of paper in my purse with Devon’s phone number. The restaurant owner called him for us, found out where we were going and explained how to get there. What a sweetie! We learned our lesson and from now on will make sure we know where we are staying and where we are going!

The Name of our Oudtshoorn Inn


Dinner turned out to be amazing. I had the Ostrich Fillet which tasted rather like sweet chicken. Devon offered to drive us back to the Inn but we walked back with the others without getting lost.

It had been an amazing day and evening!


Cape Town Walking Tours

Ruth and I decided that we would take advantage of the “free” walking tours that were being offered in Cape Town.  Of course, as most of you know they are not really free as your guide not only mentions tipping is expected but he also gave us the Trip Advisor recommendation. (100-150R or $10-15 ) for the 90 minute tour.  We knew exactly where to join up with the Tour as we had been there once before during our previous time in Cape Town.  Google maps suggested it would take somewhere between 9 and 15 minutes to get there.  It took neither as we used almost 40 minutes to get there.  Cape Town has many street corners but not that many street corner names.  In the end we simply continued to ask people as we walked along in the general direction of where we thought we should head.  The last person we asked said go “left, then right and finally left”…..Hey it worked.

Our guide, Sheldon, although not that “famous Sheldon” was very passionate about South Africa and where it was headed.  The group gathered at the  Green Market which was filled with vendors and 100’s of refugees that were squatting on the church steps and side alleys.  Their bedding were tied in rolls and stored in the branches of the trees.  Others had makeshift tents and cardboard.  No water except from jugs was available.  Meat and fish lay on wooden platters to dry in the sun so it would last longer.  The government was working on a plan to move them.  Most of the refugees were arriving from other poorer parts of Africa to begin a better life……Zimbawe, Somali, Mali or Nigeria.

Famous statue of Nelson Mandela giving a speech

 This balcony is where Nelson Mandela delived a speech from Parliament.  He had chosen this particular balcony rather any of the higher level ones as he wanted to be closer to the large gathering of people.  Our group of about 15 walkers consisted of tourists from Israel, Denmark, Germany and China.  Our Guide was very informative as we walked and came upon various building and landmarks within the city centre

Ruth, after having cheese cake at Charly’s

Sheldon told us this was the best bakery in town, so, of course we had to come back later to check it out.  We both enjoyed large super rich pieces of cheesecake.

A painted mural of Nelson Mandela on a house in District Six

Like many other South African cities during the 1970’s there was forcible removal of the non white residents to resettle a desirable section of a city into a whites only residential area.  In Cape Town, 60,000 non white residents were removed from District Six during the 1970’s.  In 1966 District Six was declared a “whites only” area even though only 1 % of the population was actually white at the time.  The area was declared a slum, had a fair assortment of vices……crime, prostitution and drinking.  However, it is the location within Cape Town and it’s proximity to  lower Cape Town that actually attracted the Apartheid folks.  Most of the residents were removed to Cape Flats, a township area some 25 kilometers away.  In South Africa, the word township has come to mean “shanty town”.

Here I am in front of one of the brightly painted houses

 The most colourful area of the walkingtour was the Bo-Kaap area of Cape Town a section of different coloured houses and cobble stoned streets.  First inhabitated by the free slaves,  BoKaap was the Malay section of the city.  Many of the residents were Muslim, though not all and Cape Town’s first Mosque was built here.  Our guide gave us several explanations of why the houses were painted in so many bright colours.  Firstly, men arriving home in the wee hours of the night could best find their own house by its colour.  Secondly, for some reason coloured paint was less expensive than white paint.  Likely, neither explanation is accurate as some said it was in defiance to Apartheid who mostly owned white coloured houses.


The Atlas Spice Shop

A great place to buy all the spices used in Malay Cuisine.  Ruth and I have done many walking tours in places we have visited throughout the world and always enjoyed them as we can find the various sites within the city but the guide provides the history of all the points of interest.  In truth, the “free” walking tours are never free.  The guides are tipped and they must return some of their earnings to the company that runs the tours.  No matter, we enjoyed these two tours and learned more about Cape Town and its history.


Cape Town Revisited

Tuesday February 25th saw us returning to Cape Town. This time we decided to stay closer to the V&A Waterfront as we love that area. The condo we rented was very spacious: two bedrooms, two bathrooms, two balconies (one with a view of the Harbour and the other with a view of Table Mountain), three TVs, four air conditioners and a washing machine (which always makes me happy).  The unit had a very well equipped kitchen although all we ever had there was breakfast. There was also a pool but it was so windy during our stay that we did not use it.

Cape Town Condo

View of the Harbour

The V&A Waterfront was about a 20 minute walk away from the Condo and there was a pedestrian walkway we could use that provided a bit of a short cut. The Waterfront is such a vibrant area; there is always some musical group performing and there are great shops, restaurants cafes and bars. It is definitely a place to people watch.

Smoothie Bar at the African Food Market


Waterfront Sculpture

Just like we have painted moose sculptures in Canada, they have colourfully designed rhinos here. I liked how this one matched Terry’s shirt.

Terry and the Rhino

This group decided to stop and see the seals.

A Stop to See the Seals

Ferris Wheel at the Waterfront

The Ferris Wheel is a Waterfront landmark that can be see from quite a distance. 

We enjoyed some great Seafood meals here and one of our favourites; the Aperol Spritz.

Aperol Spritz Time


It did not matter what time of the day or night we visited the Waterfront; it was always a happening place.



Durban: Our Seven Days

One of the many long Piers along the Durban beachfront and Promenade

 Hi,  it’s Terry again filling in for Ruth as she is busy having a hot tea and doing a crossword puzzle……she interupts me only to ask me for assistance in sports related clues.   Before this trip, Ruth had mentioned to an acquaintance in her Probus Club that she was going to South Africa on a winter trip……when Ruth mentioned we had planned to visit and stay in Durban for a week, the lady’s comment was “why would you want to do that?’.  Ominous?……perhaps.  Okay, staying a week was too long and the information about safety and the location of our accommodation had its drawbacks.  Oh and Day One rained hard from morning until night.  As the week wore on, Durban began to appeal more as we continued to do different things.  At 6:45 each evening we could hear the call to prayer from our room as the location was very near the Muslim learning centre.  At noon to 2pm the power in most of Durban went out…a supply and demand issue, I am told they call load shedding. Many South Africans blame the government for the power problems. One company has had a monopoly on electricity and the system can’t meet the needs of the country.


In The Indian Ocean


The Indian Ocean was on our “bucket list” and it did not disappoint.  Wonderfully suited if you happened to be a surfer.  It was lined with palm trees and thick greenery that was well suited to sand where the black faced “Durban Monkey” hung out.  Every 50 metres or so there was a long pier into the ocean.  On each beach, there was a small flagged section for swimming as lifeguards watched it.  I say swimming but there is no swimming…….In Durban the ocean is warm and rough, people play in the waves,  They are far too numerous to attempt to swim.  The beach nearest to where we are staying is “Snake Park Beach”.  Ruth is terrified of snakes so I am not sure why we are here, but we never saw a snake at any rate.


That’s me in front of the Moses Mabhida Stadium

 This wonderful stadium was viewed from almost anywhere we travelled about in Durban.  It was of course built for the 2010 FIFA world cup which South Africa hosted.  It was named after the General Secretary of the S.A. Communist party, now who would have guessed that…Besides sporting events, it hosts concerts and tourist activities that include a few deep bungy jumps and some type of cable ride that affords the participant a 180 degree view of Durban.


Ruth on the promenade as the sun began to set

 As the evening rolled around, the hot temperatures of the day cooled, the waves continued to crash and the promenade came alive with activity.  ‘Joggers, skateboarders, walkers and families filled the paths.  On the adjoining grassy areas, impromtu soccer games sprung up.  I regret not taking part in this time of the day as we initially felt we needed to get back to our safe haven early.  At no time did I feel unsafe…..we were at times bothered by beggers asking for money or food.  These were mostly young men whose issues likely were drug related.  Each day on the promenade the same guy would approach us for help.

 One day, we took the took the Durban Ricksha Bus which travelled throughout the city for 3 hours while a guide provided commentary.  We took the bus  as we were advised not to walk all over the place to get around which is our norm in places we travel to.  We saw beautiful areas of Durban and others that were vastly overcrowed, dirty and filled with large groups of people just hanging out.  All of South Africa has an unemployment problem…..countrywide sitting at 27% while places like Durban are much higher.  The railway lines were strewn with garbage as were the streets that bordered the large markets.


Ricksha Bus


Durban proved to not be what Ruth and I had expected but at the same time I wouldn’t say it was a disappointment.  We had to adjust what we normally do…….we still went for long walks either along the beach or promenade.  We still ate in a variety of restaurants, including a wonderful tiny Paskastani eatery and take away place that was just a few short blocks from where we stayed.  We talked to many local people who worked either officially or “unofficially” nearby.  Surprisingly, most came from elsewhere:  Congo, Swaziland, Zimbawe or Mozambique. They came for a better life and for some, that turned out to be true, for others not so much and they talked of returning to their homelands. As travellers in this land, South Africa, Ruth and I are part of the visible minority in almost every location we manage to get to.  This was definitely true in Durban. It is a comfortable feeling, it is how it should be as we are now in Africa.

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