Well, there’s something I never thought I’d say. Never, ever imagined I’d visit this country.
So far, we’ve been here for about an hour, and driven 20kms from the border, but we have spent the last few days camping along the Orange River on the South African side. The river forms the South African / Namibian border and is a true oasis in the desert. The Orange River starts in Lesotho, many hudreds of kms to the south east, although it may originate from further away under another name. We have been looking across the river at the Namibian side … and now we’re here.
More updates later, just wanted to check in and let you know where we are. Heading to the Fish River Canyon – 2nd largest canyon in the world, after that other one in the US.
We have been in South Africa for 3 days but have suffered load-shedding 4 times already. South Africa is suffering load-shedding because it cannot generate enough electricity, so suburbs have power cut off for two hour blocks. The first night we were here the power went of for 2 hours from 6pm to 8pm, but we were zoned out from jet-lag so it didn’t matter.
Friday night getting ready to cook dinner, and bang the power goes off for another two hours. Then Saturday morning we get up early because we are collecting our 4WD, we leave the apartment at 8am and bang the power is off again. On the way north we stop at a supermarket to get more supplies, but we knew driving through town that the power was off, as the traffic lights were all out. The supermarket has a huge generator screaming outside, and inside is half -dark with only some of the lights operating. This is South Africa 2015, but they are building new power stations and it will all be fixed – in 2020!
UPDATE: As I wrote this post I wondered why someone was running a generator in a powered Caravan Park, until I realised – off course the power is off- and we are load-shedding again!
No, it’s not my birthday, or Greg’s birthday. I spent my birthday driving part of the way from Jo’burg to Cape Town the last time we were here. For my birthday, Greg had tried to book us into The Test Kitchen in Cape Town, but it is booked out months in advance. As soon as we knew we were coming back, Greg emailed to make a booking and got us in. Which was pretty lucky as at about the same time as he emailed, The Test Kitchen made it to number 28 in the Top 50 Restaurants in the world. It’s also regarded as the best restaurant in Africa. It is now booked out until March next year.
We had lunch there yesterday and it was superb. Beautiful setting, in part of an old biscuit mill in Woodstock. The restaurant has an open kitchen and we were able to watch the 15 or so chefs at work. We sat near the dessert chefs who were baking micron-thin sheets of pastry and doing various other components of the 2 desserts, then later in service all the action was right there as 4 of them got busy plating up.
We decided to have the 7-course tasting menu and even though it sounds like a lot of food, it was ‘just right’ and we were hungry again by dinner time. It was all delicious, beautifully presented and very artistic with lots of different parts to each dish – foams, barks, crumbs, sauces. Greg took a photo of the menu, but I don’t think the resolution is high enough to be able to read. I didn’t make notes because each dish was very complicated and I wanted to just enjoy it all. You can read more about the restaurant and the food here . The service was excellent, the waitstaff knew all about every dish they served. I had a glass of wine, Greg stuck with water. The whole thing cost about the same as a not-very-fancy restaurant meal at home.
And then we went and bought a small mountain of food and other ‘essentials’ to go with the 56kg of camping gear we brought with us and came back to the apartment to cook the lasagne we’d bought at Woolworths the day before. Woolworths here is like David Jones at home. And to complicate things just a little bit more, David Jones at home is owned by Woolworths here.
36 hours after leaving home, we arrived in Cape Town. When they invent a faster way of moving from one place to another without all the waiting around at airports, I’ll be the first in line to use it. We had quite a long wait at Changi Airport, so we made good use of the time by getting a room in the transit hotel for 6 hours and catching up on some sleep. The plane stopped in Jo’burg before going on to Cape Town, and because of some technical problem, we were delayed for about an hour while it got sorted out.
There was a little boy sitting in the row behind us and he was pretty horrible for most of the flight from Singapore …. until he fell asleep 10 minutes before we landed in Cape Town. Excellent.
We’re staying in an apartment right in the city, in an old Art Deco building that was originally the offices for the South African Mutual Life Assurance Company. We’re on the 5th floor
The weather is about the same a home – around 16 and fine today, with showers predicted for tomorrow. Table Mountain was shrouded in cloud, and it was quite windy when we went walking in the city. We’re really trying hard not to go to sleep too early, although Greg has snuck up to the bedroom and it’s a bit quiet … I’d better go and make sure he’s still awake!
We had such a great time travelling in South Africa earlier in the year that we decided to go back and see some more. This time we’re hiring a 4WD, so we can get to more places, although you may recall that we did take the ‘road less travelled’ a few times on our last trip.
We’re starting and finishing in Cape Town, and the basic plan is to drive north to Namibia, hopefully as far north as the Angola border, then head east to Botswana and see more of The Beautiful Country, then back to Cape Town. Alexander McCall Smith fans will note that we have given him a nod in the title of this blog.