Sand dunes at Soussusvlei

We departed Cape Town on an Intercape bus; 20 hours to Windhoek.  The 20 became 25, and in the middle of the night we crossed the border between South Africa and Namibia.  We were forced to turn over our passports to the South African police, and they handed them back to everyone after the immigration process on both sides.  Everyone, except Jen, who stood nervously after watching all 60 some people, including Jon, receive their passports.  “Where’s my passport?”  The officer shuffled around nervously.  GREAT.  Then he pulled my passport out of the back of his pants, with a twinkle in his eye.  He had been hiding it as a joke!  VERY FUNNY.

We took a tour to Soussevlei, sand dunes in the Namib Desert.  We had a great time traipsing about the dunes and the dead trees, despite the wind.  Jon even climbed the “Big Daddy” dune in record time.  Then it was back to Windhoek, where we enjoyed some more game meat and craft beer.   We’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Garden Route: Stunning coastline and mountains

After the sun ran out in Cape Town, Jon and I jumped in a rented pint-sized, yet trusty, “Chev” (AKA Chevrolet) “Spark Lite”.  Jon began the task of learning to drive on the left side of the street! To our delight, he was mostly a champ, with only a few minor lapses into the right side of the road, and we survived.

We spent long days in the car, driving east from Cape Town on the Garden Route, watching the scenery as we rolled by.

Our first stop was blustery Mossel Bay, where we enjoyed a delicious seafood dinner while watching the waves crash, and a lovely seaside coast walk the next morning.

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Jon hiking along coastline at Mossel Bay

We continued to sleepy Knysna, with its lagoon and stunning cliffs.

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Looking across at some spectacular property along the cliffs in Knysna
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Jon where the ocean comes into the bay in Knysna

Next was glamorous Plettenberg Bay, where we had the highlight of our mini-tour:  a hike along Robberg Peninsula, a nature reserve.

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Panorama at Roberg Peninsula in Plettenberg Bay – STUNNING scenery

Here, we also stumbled upon a farm with homemade organic cheese, meat, cream, etc, and naturally Jen went nuts bought entirely too much food to eat and cart around with us.  We stayed at a B&B in a nature reserve, with 360′ views of both the forest and the beach.

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Incredible view in the common area of the guest house in Plettenberg Bay – lucky to share it with just the owners while it was the off season!

Jon delighted every time someone passed us and gave us the universal “thank you”: a few flashes of the emergency signals.  Jen delighted every time someone called her, “MAMA.”  We won’t discuss the time when Jon almost lost his wallet.

Upon the solid advice of Cameron, a UVA friend of Jon’s, we headed inland for the drive back, through some amazing mountain scenery.

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Mountain pass heading up from the coast to the scenic, more in-land “Route 62” route.

We came upon an ostrich farm and Jon tried out his hand as an ostrich-jockey.  Jen declined, but had a hilarious time watching two men try to hold back the poor ostrich that ran like mad when it realized that Jon was on his back.

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Jen and the foster mother ostrich – she and her mate raise young from abandoned eggs
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Jon “Ostrich Jockey” Wohlers

We stayed on a beautiful farm with the nicest elderly South African/English couple that ever could be.

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View at the farm where we stayed in Montagu

We drove quickly back to Capetown through some pretty mountains so that Jon could meet up with Cameron to mountain bike… unfortunately, when they got there it was pouring and had to cancel.   Instead, they met up at a REALLY good brewery in town, Devil’s Peak, named after the mountain next to Table Mountain.

Jon and Cameron at Devil's Peak Brewery in Capetown
Jon and his UVA friend, Cameron, at Devil’s Peak Brewery in Capetown

We head out to wild Namibia tomorrow, for sand dunes, big game, and real adventure!  Can’t wait.

Wine tours, penguins, Apartheid history, cliffs, sunsets

With four sunny winter days packed with the top-sights and activities under our belt, I think we can safely declare Cape Town as incredible.   After our first day Tuesday, Wednesday we visited Robben Island where Nelson Mendela was imprisoned for 18 years, along with hundreds of other political prisoners during the Apartheid.  We then walked around the Waterfront, had fresh fish and chips, then went to dinner with Cameron, Jon’s UVa friend who lives here, and his wife.   Yesterday we took an amazing wine tour in regions that seemed similar to Napa or Sonoma – except perhaps a bit more spectacular with the mountain backdrops and bottles of your favorites for $6 vs. $20+.  Today we rented a car (driving on the left-side a first!) and began the day with a hike (and literally climb in some parts) up Lion’s Head with spectacular views across from Table Mountain, hugging the ocean.   In the afternoon we headed out to the Cape Peninsula, driving over Chapman’s Peak to Boulders Beach and the penguins, then to the Cape of Good Hope.    We love South Africa!

Wow! What an amazing first day…

…it really is hard to imagine 9.5 months of days like this…

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Being Coloradans, we began plotting when and how we would climb Table Mountain as soon as we set eyes on it.  We set out the first morning.    It was cold and wet (no rain, just waterfalls and puddles left over from lots of rain yesterday and overnight), but an incredible 2 hr hike, lunch at the top, and then a tram ride down. After a taxi ride back to the hostel and a hot shower, we caught one of the local doubledecker, open-top sightseeing tour buses that go around the city and took the route that goes around Table Mountain and the surrounding towns that we could see from the top of the mountain.  We also stopped along the route at the botanical gardens and Camp Bay – both very cool!  We ended the day with an African game meat platter – croc ribs, warthog ribs, gemsbock and ostrich – and some SA wine.

It’s going to be a great trip!

And, we’re off!

After a few wonderful days in Boston and Brooklyn, we have arrived safely in Cape Town… to cold, wind, and hail!! (?)  However, we have an amazing view of Table Mountain from our hostel, and the next several days will bring sun, sun, and no rain!  It is approaching winter here, so Cape Town should be the coldest of our destinations.  In about a week, Namibia will be 70-75 and sunny with no rain.  Then it’s hot hot hot the rest of the Roundabout!

The view from our room in Cape Town!
The view from our room in Cape Town!

 

Great friends in Brooklyn!  (Missed a photo of Smoot)
Great friends in Brooklyn! (Missed a photo of Smoot)

What’s on Jon’s back?

Like Jen, for our close to a year of travel I have a backpack full of clothes, toiletries, and gear + the electronics.

IN SUMMARY:

36 things to wear:   3 shorts, 8 t-shirts, 7 boxer-briefs, 6 pairs of socks, a long sleeve shirt, hoodie, a pair of jeans, hiking pants (that can convert to shorts), all in packing sacs.   A puffy jacket, a rain jacket, trail running shoes, Chaco’s, visor, baseball cap, beanie hat and gloves.   To buy on trip:  button-down going out shirt, flip flops.

14 pieces of gear:  sleeping bag, silk liner, tent, knife, duct tape, zip ties, travel towel, day bag, dirty clothes bag, travel guide books (2), headlamp, journal, and 60 liter backpack.

13 toiletry items:  deodorant, toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, mouthwash, face soap, shower gel, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream, razor, sunscreen, bug spray, all in plastic bags.

11 pieces of electronics:  camera, iPod, iPhone (his & hers, WiFi only), Global Droid (for voice using SIM cards), laptop, external hard drive, Nook (his & hers), backup charger, plug adapter, and headphones.

**********************************************************************

DETAILS:

FOR COOL & COLD:

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Icebreaker hooded thin jacket and long-sleeve shirt and Patagonia rain jacket and puffy.

Below, light-weight jeans, North Face hiking pants (double as shorts with tear-away legs), Brooks trail running shoes, and Chaco’s (Jen made me get them, but must admit very functional).   I need to get cheap flip flops for showers and beach 🙂

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FOR WARM & HOT:

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Mesh shorts (will wear them biking along the way), visor, baseball cap, cotton boxer-briefs, swim trunks, various biking and hiking socks, and running shorts.

Gray v-neck t-shirt (my one “going out shirt”, will probably pick-up a button-down along the way), Nike running shirt, and Quicksilver plaid shorts (my favorite pair, only ones I brought, we’ll see how long they last)

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Icebreaker, Ex-Officio and Under Armour boxer briefs, Under Armour running shirt, Icebreaker base-layer (medium weight) t-shirt, and finally four Icebreaker t-shirts to wear nearly everyday of the trip.

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ELECTRONICS:

Going small and light, so point-and-shoot camera only: a 16 mega pixel Canon Powershot A2500 (goes in green case below), 10″ Asus T100 Notebook/Tablet, 1 TB External hard drive with DropBox cloud backup, 2 nooks, backup USB mobile charger (the blue stick below), international plug adapter, iPod touch, iPod Nano, his and her ear bud headphones, headphone splitter, and iPhone5’s.

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THE REST OF THE STUFF:

Tent, sleeping bag…

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…duct tape, zip ties, dirty clothes bag, hat and gloves, toiletries, travel books (took Southern Africa and Southeast Asia, shipped Australia and New Zealand to Jen’s friend in Australia), and Eagle Creek travel bags (all those white bags for packing clothes, a MUST HAVE, incredible how helpful they are to organize and condense packing)…

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…another dirty clothes bag, more toiletries, knife, mace (Jen made me bring it), towel, journal (thanks, Loucine!), silk sleeping bag liner, day pack…

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…and the backpack to fit it all in!!!

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