We flew from Buenos Aires to El Calafate, the jumping off point to see the illustrious Perito Moreno glacier. El Calafate also had a lake with a nice marsh for birds including flamingos! Seeing the flamingos in their natural habitat was a nice surprise.
Lago Argentina in El Calafate – surprised by flamingos!!
Flamingos n El Calafate
Lago Argentina, El Calafate, sunset
Perito Moreno glacier outside of El Calafate
Perito Moreno glacier – most amazing glacier
Perito Moreno glacier – beautiful formations, up close on boat
Perito Moreno glacier
Viewing decks at Perito Moreno glacier
Perito Moreno glacier up close from viewing deck – giant calving happens all the time – iceburgs falling into the water – amazing to see in person
Perito Moreno glacier and lake
Walking around the viewing decks at Perito Moreno glacier and lakes
After our day tour to the glacier, we headed for El Chaltan for some hiking. Driving into El Chaltan, we were struck by Mount Fitz Roy and the surrounding mountains, which looked like a natural castle. We spent the next few days hiking around, and Jen did a day tour to the Viedma glacier to go ice climbing! Jen got lucky with good weather and a small group, but unfortunately a back injury from falling in Bariloche prevented her from really getting after the ice. Jen got to go on this expensive adventure while Jon enjoyed another hike, since he had used up his adventure cash mountain biking.
Drive from El Calafate to El Chaltan – amazing blue/green, glacial fed rivers
Crossing a bridge on drive from El Calafate to El Chaltan – amazing blue/green, glacial fed rivers
Bus ride into El Chaltan – glimpse of what we were going to be hiking around for the next 3 days
Hike to Fitz Roy
Approaching Fitz Roy
Up close at lake in front of Fitz Roy – we met two Americans with two Argentinian guides hiking up that were going to climb it – cool, but crazy!
View of Cerro Torres and Fitz Roy from summit of a nearby mountain
30 min hike to viewpoint outside of El Chaltan
Looking down the valley with El Chaltan from viewpoint outside of town
Approach to Cerro and Lake Torre
Lake Torre with Cerro Torre and glacier
Jon at lake and Cerro Torre
View en route to glacier lookout, Lake Torre, El Chaltan
Viedma glacier – amazing dark blue
Viedma glacier outside of El Chaltan
Jen’s guide leading the way along the Viedma glacier
Jen in slot ice canyons within the glacier – amazing experience
Hiking along the Viedma glacier
Jen ice climbing Viedma glacier
Jen in slot ice canyons within the glacier
Jen ice climbing Viedma glacier
Viedma glacier panorama
Next, we were really excited to meet up with friends from Boulder: Jenn (who also met us in Beijing!), Andrea, her husband Ryan, and Harlan. They were joining us to hike the famous W track in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia! We had already had a few winter ski hut adventures with Andrea, Ryan and Harlan, so this was not our first backcountry adventure together.
We arrived in Chile a few days early to plan, buy food, and pack. We hiked in to the first campsite on our own, and headed up the hill to try to see the gorges “Los Torres” peaks while the weather held out. Torres del Paine is famous for severe and changeable weather, so any sun is a blessing! We waited and waited for our friends to arrive at the Refugio, and they finally made it around 9 pm due to some South American antics. Since they were on a shorter (and more luxurious) vacation, they opted for staying in the refugios and paying for cooked meals, while we camped and cooked for ourselves.
The next morning, the rest of the group hiked up to the Los Torres peaks, and later we all took off for our next campsite at Los Cuernos. The next day, we hiked up the French Valley to some of the most amazing views of the hike. Unfortunately, the photos from this part of the hike did not turn out due to some snow and low lighting, but we could hear either glacier calving or avalanches thundering as we hiked towards the glaciers hanging off of the huge mountains. That night, we relaxed by joining our friends in their backcountry hot tub that came with the cabins that they booked. Unfortunately, we did not make it up to the glacier at the end of the lake (to complete the W) due to 80 km/hr winds which kept us up all night by literally slapping us with the tent. We will be back to hike in this park again! Patagonia with its granite rock formations was probably the most stunning scenery of the trip.
Start to our 4 night Torres del Paine “W trek”
Hiking in the valley leading to Los Torres
Break along the bridge heading along the “W trek”
Jen & Jon at Los Torres
Approaching Los Cuernos (“the horns”)
Valley Frances and glacier
“Girls gone Patagonia”
Spectacular glacial lakes along the W Trek
Hiking up the Valley Frances
Valley Frances – weather wasn’t great in the valley, but blue skies outside the valley
Valley Frances glacier
Awoke from our campsite to a beautiful morning, with moon, at Los Cuernos
Beginning of the Valley Frances with early morning light
Los Cuernos hot tubbing!
Los Cuernos and the ladies
Big, blue, glacial lakes in Torres del Paine
Morning at Los Cuernos – with rainbow!
Friends, settlers, and scenery – thanks Harlan for bringing the game!!
Sunset at Paine Grande
Paine Grande campsite – really, really windy that night!
Ryan with impressive slack-line skills
Views looking back at Valley Frances, Los Cuernos on catamaran ride back
Views looking back on catamaran ride back
Well deserved beers back in Puerto Natales
We had an amazing time with our friends, but they were heading to Buenos Aires and we headed to Brazil in time for CARNAVAL!
The next part of the trip really knocked our socks off. It was probably the best scenery of the trip.
We drove from the rainy glaciers on the coast into the lakes and mountain views of Wanaka. On the great advice of our friend, Kate, who lived in Wanaka, we stayed at our favorite backpackers of the trip, Wanaka Backpacka, with gorgeous views of the lake, and a friendly vibe. We loved biking around the lake, and hiking to another glacier with some friends from the hostel. We even saw a movie at a great theatre in town, which serves homemade ice cream and cookies at intermission. Yes, intermission!
Lake Wanaka from far up, on the drive coming into town
Lake Hawea, next to Lake Wanaka, on the drive into town
Along the bike path of Lake Wanaka
Memorial bench of Jen’s friend’s late husband on the bike path of Lake Wanaka . It was special for us to visit the bench!
River running from Mt Aspiring National Park
Crossing bridge to Rob Roy Glacier track with two friends (from Alberta, Canada and Boulder, CO) that we met at the hostel
View across river on Rob Roy Glacier track
Rob Roy Glacier, Mt Aspiring National Park
View coming into Lake Hawea from Lake Wanaka along the highway coming into Wanaka
Bike Park in Wanaka on top of the hill overlooking town, lake and frisbee golf course
On top of hill with mtn bike trails descending in all directions, Wanaka
Hoola-hooping with a view at the vineyard outside Wanaka
Sunday funday at vineyard in Wanaka – wine, food, music on the hill
Apps at Wanaka Backpacka, our favorite place we stayed on the entire trip!
Wildflowers along Wanaka Lake bike path
We wished we could have spent more time in Wanaka, but off we went to Glenorchy, to camp and do a day hike of the Routeburn Track, a Great Walk in New Zealand. Some of the Lord of the Rings movies were shot in Glenorchy, and it did not disappoint, aside from some small battles with sandflies, our constant foe. We wished we could have done the entire Routeburn hike, but unfortunately the logistics did not work out. We will be back to do the rest of this hike!
Water along the river of Routeburn track was spectacular
View approaching Glenorchy from Queenstown
Incredible view along Routeburn Track
Sheeps and mountains of Glenorchy, NZ
Posing along the Routeburn Track
Looking over the valley and Routeburn Falls Hut
Sandflies! Swarmed by them while camping in Glenorchy before our Routeburn Track walk
Driving into Queenstown, we couldn’t help feeling giddy at the sight of the gorgeous peaks of the Remarkable range above the clear blue water of Lake Wakatipu. We did another bike ride around the lake together, and Jon did some mountain biking. While Jon was mountain biking, Jen headed to bask in the sun with some ice cream and a Bostonian friend, Jenny. Just when we decided that the day couldn’t get any better, Jen and Jenny were invited to join a spinning speedboat on the lake and canyons for FREE! Granted, the boat’s captain was only practicing and we were his second ride, but it only added to the excitement. Did he actually mean to almost swerve into that rock or pole? We’ll never know, but we survived the ride, delighted and declaring that the day really was the best ever. We topped off our perfect day with the perfect gigantic burger from Fergburger, more great advice from our friends Nick and Sarah. We can’t wait to get back to Queenstown!
Coming over the pass from Wanaka into Queenstown
Biking along the lake, Queenstown
Biking from Queenstown to Allenstown
The Remarkables mountains
The Remarkables mountains on bridge in Allenstown
Queenstown and the Remarkables Mountain Range
The Remarkables at sunset, viewed from our hostel common room
Pano at the end of a mtn bike trail along the lake in Queenstown – lots of pretty little coves and beaches like this
Moke Lake, outside of Queenstown. Next time will stay at the campsite here.
Beginning of the mtn bike trail around Moke Lake and Lake Dispute
Pass from Moke Lake above Lake Dispute
Lake Dispute, looking back to pass and mtn bike trail
Overlooking Bob’s Cove from mtn bike trail, outside of Queenstown
Gravity powered go-karts/luge-karts at the top of Queenstown Hill
Queenstown from atop Queenstown Hill – Jon biked up vs. taking chairlift
FERGBURGER! Delicious place that everyone goes to in Queenstown – Jen and I split “The Big Al” – nearly too big to fit your mouth around
Posing along the road to Glenorchy outside of Queenstown
View from bridge in Allenstown
Jen and Jenny, friend from Boston we met in Wanaka, on their FREE jet boat ride ($129 pp value)! Jon was mtn biking, had he been there the girls probably would not have been approached by company
View of the Remarkables from our hostel
From Queenstown, we headed to Te Anau to tramp the Kepler Track, another Great Walk. We were worrried that our sunny weather luck had changed, as the forecast showed three days of rain. However, we only had mysterious clouds that would come and go, revealing the tops of mountains or bottoms of lake. We lucked out with only occasional sprinkles of rain or misting throughout the entire 3 day 53 km (33 miles) walk, aside from the last hour, when we were stuck in a big downpour.
Llamas next to our backpackers in Te Anau
Sunset over the Kepler mountains from living room of our backpackers in Te Anau
Brod Bay on Lake Te Anau, part of the Kepler Track
Superb trails, bridges, stairs along the Great Walks – Kepler Track no exception
Looking back down at South Fiord of Lake Te Anau, below the Luxmore Hut
Early morning rain and sun – no filters, just amazing light 🙂
South Fiord of Lake Te Anau in the morning, covered in clouds, but mountains now appearing
On the top of Mt Luxmore along the Kepler Track
Sweet backcountry toilet
Along the Kepler Track
Along the Kepler Track
Along the Kepler Track
Along the Kepler Track, viewpoint just before descending to the Iris Burn Valley
Moss covered trees right at treeline
Walk from Iris Burn hut to the Iris Burn waterfall
Pano on Mt Luxmore, Kepler Track
Pano above Luxmore Hut, on path to Luxmore cave
Coming around Mt Luxmore, Kepler Track
Jon and Kiwi brother and sister hiking pals we met, on ridgeline above Iris Burn Valley, Kepler Track
Descent into Luxmore Cave – first backcountry cave we’ve ever explored
Jon going into Luxmore Cave – can hike down 30 mins, waay down – we just went a few minutes, having to crawl and remain crouched gets uncomfortable quickly
We actually have Pinterest to thank for our days in Southern China’s Zhangjiajie National Park. Jen found photos of this place on Pinterest. In spite of the Pinterest dreams, we never could manage to pronounce “Zhangjiajie” correctly, so we started calling it Jumanji instead. So, I will continue to refer to it as Jumanji in this post.
During trip planning, we figured that we could try to get there from Guilin. It didn’t look that far on a map, right? Wrong. Different province, and quite a distance between the two, especially when we discovered that the overnight tourist bus to Zhangjiajie, promised by several websites, did not exist. We were at the bus station, coming to terms with this information when we were told that a bus leaving for another town where we could catch a train to Jumanji was leaving in ten minutes. Without much thought and no great alternative, we jumped on the bus to avoid losing another travel day. We boarded to a bus full of stares, as we were the only non-Chinese on the bus.
It was on this bus ride that we learned just how rustic toilets can get. (A warning to our delicate readers: the next few sentences are definitely about toilets.) We had already discovered that standard toilets in China are as follows: a squat toilet, BYO TP, which may or may not have a sink, which almost never has soap. This includes toilets in nice areas. The one exception were our toilets at the hotel. (THANK GOODNESS.) However, the squat toilets at the one stop on our locals-bus had the added bonus of lacking doors or walls between squatters, and only small bricks separating the holes in the ground. Lovely! I would rather go in the woods.
We rolled in a town called Huaihua around nightfall. Unfortunately, the town was not even in our guidebook, and we had no access to internet to book accommodation after our quick decision. Then there was the unfortunate fact that we don’t speak any Chinese – we had learned that few people speak English in outside of tourist areas of China, even at our hotels. We had been getting around with a combination of help from our hotels and a translator application on the iPhone.
Stumbling off the bus to a street that was completely shut down at 7 pm, we were suddenly surrounded by a group of Chinese people who all seemed to want us to come with them. We were feeling a bit overwhelmed when suddenly we heard a meek, “Hello, do you need help?” A young Chinese couple had come to our rescue. They guided us out of the excited mob and towards a hotel. They even helped us check in, as no one at the hotel spoke any English. Jen was so appreciative that she hugged the girl, who almost certainly did not appreciate the physical contact. The hotel was actually pretty disgusting, but overall we were still happy to have been helped.
We made it onto the train station the next day (On our own! Victory!) and boarded a train for Jumanji. It was on this train that we experienced the trash and other small kind acts from our fellow passengers mentioned in the last post.
Jumanji was all that Pinterest promised it to be, and more. Spires of karst limestone in deep valleys, including the spire that supposedly inspired the mountain in the movie Avatar. We climbed up 3,878 steps (according to our guidebook) the first day, to incredible views of the formations in the valleys below. We also soared through the spires on gondolas and watched the valley wall as we descended on a 335 meter glass elevator.
We walked around, and quickly learned what it must be like to be famous, because at least once an hour, Chinese people would request to take photos with us. It would usually start with one group pose which would turn into many other arrangements with their extended friends and family. Other times, folks nearby would see the photo session and want to have their own photo series with the random Western couple at the park that day. Occasionally other Chinese people would randomly snap photos of us as they walked by: sometimes covertly, other times not. A couple of times, we would request photos of the event as well, if we were feeling especially amused by our new-found paparazzi. Although we have been asked to be in random photos before, the frequency of our paparazzi in Jumanji was astounding.
A zillion steps to climb to get to the top – luckily we took the cablecar down.
Descending in the cable car – amazing views. Youtube has a guy in a squirrel suit zipping by the mountains and cable cars – nuts!
One of many Chinese tourists asking for pictures with us – fun to feel like celebreties!
Bridge over a valley very, very, very far below.
Zhangjiajie – it really does look like a more jagged, green Grand Canyon in spots
Zhangjiajie – The Chinese Grand Canyon
Taking the elevator down the cliffs was really cool
Pano looking up at a set of mountains from the bottom of the elevator
(a very tall) Chinese pagoda structure at one of the entrances to the park
Mountain “needles” all throughout the valley!
We couldn’t find someone to take our picture in the heart locket 🙂
One of the more elaborate spreads at one of many many food stands within the park
After walking down 1000’s (literally close to 2 km of mostly steps), it was nice to take the tourist train down the rest of the way
View in one of the valleys in the park
Walk along the river that cuts through the park
Along the river that cuts through the park – – seeing the mountains first from above looking down, then from below looking up, was cool
View at one of the entrances to the park
Another view at the same entrance to the park
Looking down the valley after our first hike up – the view was worth it
Jen at one of the many lookouts along a 2.5 km loop at the top of the park
View while going up another set of cable cars
“Locks of love” at the “Greatest Natural Bridge” within the park
“Avatar Mountain” – James Cameron says his inspiration was from somewhere else, the Chinese don’t buy it and insist its from here 🙂
View looking across the valley, near “Avatar Mountain”
Alongside one of the trails, evidence of the 1000’s and 1000’s of visitors that come through the park each day
View of the third tram in the park – we took a bus to the top of this one
Pano of the biggest and nicest McDonald’s we’ve ever seen, in the mountains of a Chinese National Park
Snapshot of a man keeping cool – everywhere we went in China you can find men with shirts rolled-up, takes some getting used to
Taking a “sedan” – don’t see how you can’t feel bad having people lug you around, especially given how steep and long the steps along the “trails” get
Monkeys! Love to dive-bomb for loose food and drinks – we learned from our Thai monkey run-in
Monky momma and baby!
We had two other interesting cultural experiences in Jumanji – pushing grandmas and kids doing their business in public. The first, pushing, usually involves shoulders etc in crowded areas, but in the particularly beautiful viewing platforms and while attempting to get on a bus, we experienced the two-hand push of grandmas.
The second, pooping kids, starts with holes in the crotch of small children, usually under the age of 4. It’s common for children of this age to have the entire crotch of their pants open from front to back. We learned what this was for when we saw children doing their business on the sidewalk, on the street, or wherever they had to go. It could be into a bag, onto newspaper, or directly onto the ground, whether number one or number two.
We ended the time in Jumanji (alright, Zhangjjiajie National Park) amazed by both the views and the cultural experiences.
Now onto big city living, Chinese style – Shanghai and Beijing (with some 2,000 year-old warrior action thrown in-between).
At the time of writing this post, we are rolling through the Chinese countryside on a train. Outside are pretty terraced rice fields with small hills rising between. Inside, people are smoking cigarettes, spitting, (seemingly) yelling, and throwing all of their trash onto the ground, including peanut shells, wrappers, and plastic bottles. However, our seat mates are friendly; one even bought water for us from outside the train at a stop! Another practiced her English with us and gave us little moon cake snacks. Such are the pleasures and difficulties of our time in China.
Jon and I had been in Southeast Asia for about 6 weeks at the time we entered China, plus the last 4 days spent in Hong Kong. However, arriving in mainland China was still culture shock akin to a slap to the face…with a fermented fish.
We flew into Guilin, China, and pleasantly surprised to have no issues with Visa or arrivals whatsoever – we can probably thank the arrival at the small Guilin airport for this. We were instantly attracted to the mountains surrounding the town, and eager to explore one of the top tourist cities of China. There was a night market that ran up and down the two streets that are hotel was on, which was cool, but other than that and a very artificial setup downtown with pretty lights all around the downtown lake. Overall, the town of Guilin was “meh,” but the surrounding scenery was gorgeous.
The beautiful karst mountains of Guilin, as seen from above!
Bridge around the lake in Guilin, lit up perfectly for photos
Bridge and gate around lake in Guilin
Another bridge lit up around the central lake in Guilin
Crossing the river in Guilin, lots of wide sidewalks to walk along
Night market outside the doorstep of our hotel in Guilin
We did take a one day tour to “the Dragon Rice Terraces”, about a 3 hour bus ride from Guilin. Situated deep in a river valley then rising up the sides of the mountains were centuries-old rice terraces. Jon had a lot of fun hiking and exploring the trails and villages that winded throughout the terraces; Jen took the gondola due to an ankle injury.
We did have to endure the Chinese-style tour. We quickly learned that this involved a Chinese tour guide speaking incredibly loudly for incredibly long stretches through a loudspeaker, in addition to being shuttled around like cattle. Even the oft-used horn on the bus seemed to be at volumes many times the U.S. standard. All volumes in China – speaking, phone calls, car horns, microphone, etc – seemed to be at much higher volumes than we are used to in the Western world. Or, perhaps the rest of the world. We learned our lesson…no more tours!
Good shot of the rice terraces along the mountain side
Mountains and rice terraces!
View from near the top of the gondola
Taking the gondola up, spectacular views
View from near the top of a hiking trail, looking down the valley
Our lunch – rice cooked over the fire in bamboo – it was delicious!
View from near the top of a hiking trail, looking down the valley
Rice terraces as seen along hiking trail
View from near the top of a hiking trail, looking down the valley
River we crossed while taking the walking detour a km or so through a village because of road construction
Village school kids taking a break to say hi to us while walking along our detour due to road construction
Our next stop was Yangshuo, which according to our guidebook is now often the preferred tourist city over Guilin. To get there we took a “bamboo boat” river cruise down the Li River. It was gorgeous scenery: the river is even featured on the back of the Chinese 20 Yuan bills!
View within the harbor of our Li river boat cruise
Li river shores, often with a few locals milling about
Good shot of the bamboo boats we were in
We weren’t the only bamboo boat on the route!
Huge vertical walls along the river
Karst mountains along the river
The views were spectacular at nearly every corner
Our boat mates taking a pic of us
Karst mountains along the Li river
Li river karst mountains
Karst mountains along the Li river
View of karst mountains from the boat
Couldn’t pass up a laminated postcard pic with the $20 bill scene at the end of our tour!
Yangshuo was one of the highlights of China. The “town” (which in China still means a population around 300,000) is surrounded by mountains and a river, and the central part of town is a pleasant place to stroll around and explore. The lively walking street had it all: bars, restaurants, live music, and even archery!
Best of all, Yangshuo is the perfect place to bike around. We took off from our hotel just outside town, biked through town, crossing rivers and valleys leading outside of town to a mountain hike. On the way back, we followed the Yilong river, which winds among the mountains and back rounds end up back in town. One of the best (road) bike rides ever!
The karst limestone mountains around Guilin and Yangshou were stunning, despite the culture shock. We headed for more mountain views in Zhangjiajie, China!
We took an overnight bus from Zimbabwe to Johannesburg, and I have to say that we were ready to be in South Africa again. Despite the bad reviews we had heard of Johannesburg, we had a great time in the big city. We went out to nice meals and fun bars and clubs in a trendy area near our hostel. Jo’burg was surprisingly hip but still laid-back. It was encouraging to see diverse groups of people, at least in the ritzy nightlife scene. We met friends from the US and Botswana in our hostel and joined them for the night on the town.
The next day, we visited the Apartheid Museum, which was incredibly powerful and beautifully presented, and the World of Beer, which was commercialized and worth skipping. As we were walking out of the World of Beer, we received a phone call from our friends from the hostel. “Um, can you pick us up? Our car was stolen!” “Of course!” “We’re in a shopping mall.” “Be right there.”
We drove as the sun set…and we drove and drove. We saw a sign for “Soweto,” the historical township, and current high crime area. We started getting nervous. Not a good idea to drive here at night. Random objects in the road, then people walking in the road. “Don’t stop at stoplights,” we had been told, which was easy because the street lights were mostly out, adding to the darkness and our increasing anxiety. We called our friends: “Our GPS must be wrong! It drove us straight into Soweto!” “No, that’s right – we’re in a shopping mall…in the heart of Soweto.” Well, that would have been good to know – we thought we were driving to one of Jo’burgs chic malls. Despite our better judgment, we picked up the stranded group in Soweto. “Now, can you drive us to the police station?” “Allllright.” We didn’t get out of the car for the entire two hour rescue mission, even at the sketchy-looking police station. It turned out that they had stopped at a chain food shop in a strip mall, and their car had been stolen in less than 6 minutes in broad daylight in a crowded parking lot. All in all it was quite a long rescue mission, and they never did find their car. We were glad it wasn’t us and happy to have helped.
After a few days in the big city, we headed to the Drakensburg Mountains. We spent a day staying with the hospitable and kind family of Jon’s friends from college, Cameron, on a beautiful cattle farm. We then spent a night in their rustic cabin near the entrance to the national park into a section of the Drakensberg Mountains. We hiked to some cave paintings, and tried to stay warm with a fire. Jen came down with a stomach bug, so Jon went on a hike in the morning, and then we headed for the coast and warmer temperatures.
Durban had perfect temperatures and a nice beach, a perfect antidote to freezing nights in the highlands.
Overall, we loved our time in Africa… the people, the diverse natural beauty of desert, coast, mountains, and valleys, and of course, the animals. We both agree we will make a return trip to Africa, it is a special place.
Mountain bike hangout at cafe in Green Side, Jo’Burg – neighborhood where we stayed
The Browns farm in Nottingham Road, SA – where Cameron grew up and where we stayed with his family – so nice!
Jen hiking in the Drakensberg
Path along the river in the Drakensberg
Cave paintings 2,000 – 4000 yrs old in the Drakensberg
Giant’s Castle ridge trail, Drakensberg
Giant’s Castle ridge trail, Drakensberg
Jen trying to stay warm in the Brown’s cottage in the Drakensberg
The 6 km promenade in Durban Jon long boarded up and down
One of many beaches along the promenade in Durban
The 2010 Durban FIFA World Cup stadium from the promenade
View from the promenade in Durban
Beach along the promenade in Durban
A South African HS choir group in Durban for a competition taking pictures with Jen for 20 mins – we took this one with some of them!
But for now… next-up, brief stop in the Middle East and then on to Asia! Can’t wait!
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.
We continued to sleepy Knysna, with its lagoon and stunning cliffs.
Next was glamorous Plettenberg Bay, where we had the highlight of our mini-tour: a hike along Robberg Peninsula, a nature reserve.
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.
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.
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.
We stayed on a beautiful farm with the nicest elderly South African/English couple that ever could be.
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.
We head out to wild Namibia tomorrow, for sand dunes, big game, and real adventure! Can’t wait.
…it really is hard to imagine 9.5 months of days like this…
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.