We arrived at our hotel very late in Nairobi, which was unfortunate as it was a really nice hotel. It was a hotel that was owned by the Red Cross, and all of the profits went back into Red Cross initiatives in Africa.
We ordered room service, which was probably some of the best room service (well, the only room service) that we have ever had. Burgers and fries. Hit the spot before we hit the hay at 9pm, as we needed to be up at 230am to get ready and out the door to the airport for 3am since our flight was at 5am headed to Cape Town.
The Craigholms all crashed after a tearful snuggle with Karen, and then got up and out the door on time. We arrived at the Nairobi airport where my nerves were a bit on edge. The last time that we flew out of this airport we, well I, almost got arrested for taking some stones home with me that we found in Tanzania. It was a big misunderstanding, and as you can see, I am not in jail.
I just kept my mouth shut, did what I was told, and let Deb do all of the talking. That way, there was no chance of me saying something stupid that would get us in trouble.
We boarded the plane for our long flight to Cape Town, and we knew that for all of us, it was going to be a gong show the next day as the Travelling Trenholms don’t do well on little or crappy sleep.
This was put to the test when we arrived at the Cape Town airport and we headed to Budget to pick up our rental car. Apparently, the North American and African/International booking systems don’t talk to one another, so despite the fact that we had an invoice saying that we paid the amount owing for the rental, the rental agency said we will had not paid.
After arguing with the agent, and after she consulted her manager that stayed hidden in her back office, we were no further ahead. She kept blaming on the computer and their system and that we had to pay again. That wasn’t going down to well after the long trip we just had.
Deb, bless her heart, got on the phone after we marched back to the airport so that we could call using a Canadian number, and spent the next two hours talking to Visa, RBC, and Budget. Everyone was blaming the other person, and no one could help us.
So, back we went to the rental agency, and magically the manager appeared and said that this happens not infrequently, and that she sent an email to their customer service department and the whole thing should be squared up by the time we dropped the car off. She has had to deal with this before. Have a nice day….
Well, that made us (well mainly Deb) even more upset since we could have avoided two hours of phone calls. Tensions were high, to say the least.
So, we get in the car on the wrong side of the car, and start driving on the wrong side of the road, and we have no idea what some of the signs mean, or what the rules of the road are here, so driving cautiously was a must. I don’t know if you have driven on the other side of the road, but for the first little while, it is hard to judge where you are in the lane. Deb kept gently (haha, not so) that I was almost off the road, driving over curbs, and needless to say we weren’t talking to much by the end of the drive.
We found our place in the suburbs of Cape Town, which promised to have a pool. This kept the kids excited and positive. So, when we arrived, we found that the pool was no bigger than the fish pond in Deb’s parents backyards, the kids spirits were crushed. Despite that, there was a tree fort, which I suspect is not very common in South Africa. So, at least there was that saving grace.
I decided to do my usual survey of the kitchen to see what it had left in the cupboards, which was not much. Not even salt. So, I opted to head to the grocery store which thankfully was just down the road and to the right…no major roads to navigate on my own.
I spent the next hour and a bit going up and down the aisles at the store (it takes about three passes of a new grocery store to figure out where everything is, especially when they don’t carry some of your staple favourites in obvious places….like applesauce), and loaded up my cart. I got to the cash and unloaded everything, rang everything through, and went to pay. New country, new financial adventures. My credit card was declined multiple times, which starts your mind racing about who scammed the card and where and how I am going to get a new one. My debit card didn’t work either, and my back up credit card was still packed in my carry on.
So, thankfully the staff was nice enough to put the groceries aside and the cold stuff in the freezer, and I drove back to get Deb and her credit card, which she wasn’t too happy about. Thank god I had ice cream and wine in the cart.
Her card worked and we were on our way back home, with hopefully a “RESET” button for the next day.
It is hard to imagine what it would be like to live in Cape Town on a day to day basis. Every property was surrounded by a 7 foot wall with razor wire along the top, and a security system on top of that. It wasn’t safe to walk on your own around the neighbourhood, and there were numerous security guards patrolling the parking lots of shopping malls and public places.
The other thing that was hard to imagine was living with the water restrictions that currently existed in Cape Town. They were recently in a “Level 6” restriction which meant that each person could only use 50L/d of water for anything and everything, including brushing your teeth. The dam that supplied the town with water was only 75% full, and by the time we got there, it was relaxed to a Level 5, which allowed us 70L/d. I have no idea how they measured this.
So, we had only a few showers while we were there which also meant that you collected the soapy run off water in a bucket to be used in the toilet to flush, did laundry twice at the house (the rest of the time we paid for it at the laundromat, which was totally worth it), and you bought water in bottles, which unfortunately increased garbage going to the landfills since they didn’t have recycling programs set up in Cape Town. It seemed strange that they could work hard at preserving water, but not preserving the land and the garbage going into it.
We tried to balance work with play as the kids had to get back on track with school. You could argue that they had a very intense lesson on African culture, zoology, biology of ecosystems, the timeline of human origins, and agriculture while we were in Tanzania, but it was hard to keep up with the school basics on game drives when you left early and arrived late back at camp.
Lulu doing online typing lessons
Wilson had a second opportunity to talk to his class by Skype which was a special treat. I am sure that it is hard to hang out with your parents 24/7 and your best play buddy is your sister. That being said, the two of them are getting along very well (most of the time) and are each others best friends. Both the kids got started on some online typing lessons that they are both enjoying, and Wilson put the finishing touches on his coffee and soup projects for school.
Wilson Skyping his class from the tree fort at our place in Cape Town
Then there was the play.
There is so much to do in the Cape Town and Cape of Good Hope region, that there is no shortage of adventures to be had.
Deb and I love to hike, and thankfully the kids love it too (well, maybe Wilson more than Lulu). We took the gondola up to the top of Table Mountain, which is notorious for being under a blanket of clouds, but on the day we went, it was picture perfect.
There was a thin veil of clouds spilling off of the top of the mountain, and it gradually cleared as we walked around and enjoyed the views and alpine low scrub vegetation that existed on the top.
We had another chance to geocache on the top of the mountain, which is always a lot of fun. We found it, but had to be secretive as there were a lot of “muggles” (yes, the Harry Potter term for normal folk … but in geocaching it means non-geocachers) around. So you have to make sure no one is looking at you when you are looking and logging your find.
The last time that Deb and I were in Cape Town, we didn’t get the chance to go up Table Mountain as it was clouded over, so it was a nice treat to get up there and create some new memories with the kids. We could have hiked around the top for days as it connects with a line of other peaks called the Twelve Apostles.
While we were on top we explored around, having fun with the alpine scrub and playing around, jumping from rock to rock.
We could have spent all day up here as there are a number of hikes on the top that would have resulted in magnificent views of the area.
As per usual, with each destination that we go to, we leave our little mark on the world with an inukshuk. Deb and Lulu built one together, while Wilson got creative and made one that was Poseidon and another Greek god that I cannot remember who it is.
Deb and Lulu making their mark on the world
WIlson’s finished product
We had planned on going up and down using the gondola as we were going to hike up a neighbouring mountain (about 2/3rds the height of Table Mountain), called Lions Head.
For a little perspective, this is Lions Head taken from the Table Mountain gondola
Evelynn and Larry hike up this one, but had to stop when it started to involve bouldering, chains, and ladders. Thank goodness this didn’t deter the kids, but it made it a bit of a challenge for Deb as she was wearing a dress…
The trail started off nice and easy, and then quickly turned into a thin stone edge that would have had railings by Canadian stanards
And the edge got thinner…
And steeper yet…
The kids really got over the fear factor of, well, one step to the left and you would plummet down a little distance to the rocks below….
Of course, along the way, we had to find a geocache, which was hidden on the edge of a cliff that you had to scramble up and onto.
Found the cache!
The kids were standing back making sure that they could yell up to Deb when I fell off the side of the cliff, but thankfully I didn’t need that kind of assistance. Log book check, and we continued on towards the peak.
Making the final ascent…
A happy crew with some strong kids that we are super proud of for persevering to the top. The view was worth it.
It was an invigorating hike, and it was super satisfying to reach the peak and share that moment with the kids. Their first major climb, short of Eagle Mountain at Camp Tawingo.
The panoramic view from the top. Click on the image to make it bigger…
We decided to run down the hill, once the path became more stable, as we were inspired by the people who were full on running up the mountain. Crazy, but they looked like the could handle it. We encountered some more people who were more at our fitness level that were walk running down at the start of the trail. I could keep up with them probably. I bet there are some crazy Strava segments on this hill.
An easy jog down…
The next day we woke up with hopes of getting down to the waterfront and jump on the first ferry over to Robben Island, which is where a lot of the political activists who opposed apartheid were imprisoned. We had trouble with the online booking system, so getting tickets in person was the only way. When we got there, all of the ferries over were booked until 3pm, so we had some time on our hands before we could go over to the island.
We kicked around the waterfront for the morning and afternoon, playing chess against some Germans, listening to some Soweto bands play music, shopping in the stores, and having a bite to eat in their food market where a bunch of small vendors served up local delacacies. Wilson even got to sit down and enjoy the sushi restaurant that had plates rotating around a conveyor belt.
Hanging out with the locals…
Eventually, we piled onto the ferry and headed out for the 15 minute ride across to the island. Deb had her acupressure bands on and topped up with Gravol to keep her sea sickness at bay, but as the day progressed, the winds picked up and so did the size of the waves.
Robben Island was a very interesting place. Back in the mid-1800s, it was initially a whaling station and stayed that way until whaling was no longer practiced by the late 1800s. They then used the island as a place where they quarantined people with leprosy for a while, until it was eradicated in the early 1900s, and then they needed some people to fill the hospital that they built on the island, so they turned it into an insane asylum in the 1950s.
In the early 1960s, the rise of the apartheid movement meant that they needed to “quarantine” the political activists away from the rest of the population to prevent them from spreading their message to other South Africans. The thought was this would have increased opposition to the government in power at the time.
However, this backfired since the political activists were highly intelligent, very resourceful, and had the ability to sway the opinions of the staff, to the point that they had to rotate the wardens through the island regularly. To harden up the “soft” political activists, they brought in hardened criminals…however, their opinions were swayed as well. Not good. Informed and (semi-)intelligent hard core criminals.
One of the key areas of the island is the famed limestone quarry, where prisoners gathered stones and stone dust to make buildings and roads on the island. There was a cave at the back that was initially used as a washroom and a store room, but soon became a place of meetings and parliament where the educated activists could discuss world events, strategize their next moves, and keep their spirits up.
The famous limestone quarry. You can see the cave at the back along the wall of the quarry.
Once we got off the bus tour part of the tour, we were met at the gates by Sipho Msomi who was our guide for the prison. He himself was a prisoner on Robben Island for 5 years. After he was sent to the island, he recounted stories of torture, solitary confinement, and the inner workings of the prison. How they smuggled in items like letters from other activists, newspapers, books … not your usual nail file and cigarettes that you would get at other prisons.
Our guide who had first hand experience at the prison.
It wasn’t until 1979 when they finally got beds. Thirty to forty activists would share a dormitory style cells where they slept on floor on woven mats. The higher profile activists had their own cells, which were no bigger than 8×6. In there, there was a stool, a bucket, and the mat for the floor.
Lulu looking around the ward style part of the jail. Thirty to forty prisoners would be in here.
These are the mats that they slept on up until 1979 when they finally got bunk beds as you can see in the back.
It was a great tour and put things into perspective for the kids. I hope.
This is Nelson Mandela’s cell. Not too plush, and barely wide enough to have him lie flat.
There were a number of African penguins that lived on the island that were cute to see, and it was a nice clear, but windy, day to visit the island.
A view back at Cape Town with the clouds draping over Table Mountain
There were a number of personal artifacts that were in each of the cells. This is a book of letters that one prisoner kept during the whole time he was imprisoned. There were trumpets, books, personal keepsakes…anything to keep their spirits up.
By the time we headed back to the mainland, the waves had really picked up, and Deb was happy to have taken her Gravol earlier.
A view of the harbour front in Cape Town after a rough ride back from Robben Island
We made it to the City Grill for a repeat meal, as we ate there 15 years ago and I have been dreaming about their giant wild game skewer ever since. I ordered one. And so did Wilson. Between the two of us, we finished most of it….
To continue on with our attempts at educating our children, and trying to rub some of Auntie Debbie’s wine knowledge, we headed to a local winery and gave the kids a chance to smell and sample some wine. Wilson liked it…Lulu didn’t seem to understand why we like to drink wine.
On our last day in Cape Town, we decided to pack it as full as we could with stuff. Why not…travel hard, play hard, and live life to its fullest.
Deb found this obstacle run called “Runstacles” which is held at an ostrich farm every Saturday. It is a 5km loop with 10 obstacles, and was pretty low key and had a handful of participants. The organizers told me that twice a year they have a bigger event with 35 obstacles and 2000 participants. I am glad that I wasn’t in that one!
We decided to do this as a family and just do it for fun. Some of the obstacles were quite hard, including the wall where we had to run up the wall and grab the rope to haul our butts over the top.
The over and under pole climb was fun as well.
There was a farmers bucket carry, tire drag, tire climb, rope climb, and crab walk which added some fun as well.
It was great to be out and active again, and it was a lot of fun doing this as a family (even though there was some complaining by the end of it by a couple of young ‘uns).
The rope climb up and over
The weeds were a little high, but they were pretty to run through.
A wall of tires was actually pretty challenging.
Duck! Watching our heads through the narrow passage ways.
Wilson and I doing the OB-1 power generator deactivation (Star Wars reference for those of you who don’t know) crawl.
The deadly rope climb…memories of gym class as a kid.
Deb in a precarious position…
Did I mention that this whole event was held on an ostrich farm?
Couldn’t resist a selfie with one of the locals.
We then jumped in the car, and headed south toward Simon’s Town where there was a large colony of African penguins, and the kids loved the cute penguins that they got to see up close and personal.
We had been in Simons Town last time that we were in South Africa, and made a quick stop here. The penguins were so cute and cuddly, and it was neat to see them in a natural habitat and not behind glass at a zoo or somewhere.
I couldn’t find a place to put my towel down, so I hung out at the back of the beach….hahah
Keeping cool in the shade…
There were some new babies hanging around which added to the “Awwww cute” factor.
Who can resist a penguin kiss….?
Further south, Deb and I got to revisit the Cape of Good Hope, which we visited on our last trip here. We had a picture that we took down here that we, well I, was determined to recreate despite the kids getting tired of us hauling them around all day.
We climbed to the top of the lighthouse point, where the winds were crazy strong. It was so strong that the kids could lean into the wind and not fall over. It was absolutely crazy.
The view down the coast of Cape of Good Hope
This is the Cape tip…
Then down we climbed and we made our way over to the actual Cape which is the most southwestern point of Africa, and often is thought to be where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet (they don’t though….they meet at a different place that will be in a post that is still being written).
The kids decided to go bouldering up to the Cape rather than taking the hiking path.
It was fun since the wind was nuts, which meant that the waves were crazy big too, which meant that the waves crashing into the shore made big sprays. The kids bouldered up the face of the Cape and we made it to the top where we had a family photo, and recreated the kiss once again.
Giving my sweetie a kiss at the bottom of the world.
Today provided me with a valuable lesson about this trip. I went into this day with the hope that Deb and I could recreate a very special and memorable time in our lives. A time where we didn’t have kids yet. And I was hell bent on recreating this moment with her. However, the kids had a different agenda, and Deb saw this. But I didn’t. It wasn’t until after I got up on the top, and the picture was taken that I realized that I shouldn’t be recreating memories of what Deb and I had from the past, rather I should be only being a part of and creating the new ones for our family that we can all enjoy for years to come. Let the old memories be old memories as you will never create the exact moment that created the memory in the first place. Ding! Lightbulb moment.
I guess that I finally figured out what “living in the moment” meant.
So, we hopped in the car and drove away, while I asked to stop and take some pictures of the amazing surf along the way.
We stopped in at a fish and chips spot right on the ocean where the fishing wharf was, and the place was packed full of locals, so it must be good. And it was.
There were some kids that were obviously less well off sitting on the edge of the wharf fishing with only a hook and a long string. Wilson noticed that one of the kids shoes were falling apart and he found the kindness and generosity in his heart to take over a plate of our food (as the servings were massive), and he gave the kid his shoes to replace his ones that were falling apart.
We got home in time to kick back and watch the Ironman World Championships online while we virtually hung out with the TriMuskoka gang back home who were doing the same thing…
Wishing we were there for the party….and then right back on the trip!!!
We filled up and headed home to pack up our house to head east towards Hermanus where whales hang out, flop around, breed, and have babies right close to the shore.