Tata (i.e., Michaela) in South Africa (Guest Blogger!!)

I arrived in SA after a long, long flight from Atlanta, which became easier as I sat by a nice couple from New Orleans. We had a quick dinner and went to bed. The next day, I got settled, adjusted and we met Jon for lunch at La Terasse Rooftop Cafe, a Moroccan restaurant in a nice hotel. It’s a really nice place that uses a traditional pot, the tajine, to prepare everything. That night, we packed for the trip to Cape Town.

The next day, we drove down to the airport in Johannesburg to fly to Cape Town (CT). We rented a car and drove to our spacious Airbnb apartment in the Sea Point neighborhood. We then went to Kleinsky’s Deli for a nice lunch and drove to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, where we walked a lot – up and down the hills – and saw South Africa’s unique, amazing plants. (It is its own biome!) Then, we went to the Chef’s Warehouse, a famous restaurant with a preset menu which they bring it out in waves. The next day, we headed out early to do the Cape Point drive, which goes down the peninsula on the southwestern side of CT. It has stunning vistas, lovely beaches, and a famous park that has the cute African Penguins (aka ‘jackass penguins’). We ate lunch at a yummy restaurant in Simon’s Town and then drove to the southernmost point of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope (which now is technically considered the second southernmost). It was quite a serious hike up the mountain, and we saw almost 360 degrees of ocean. We ended the day with lunch at Dunes Restaurant, a popular place in Hout Bay. We got up early the next day and headed to Table Mountain to line up with our tickets for the cableway. It’s quite popular and we were glad to have gotten there early! We finally made it into a car and took the quick ride up to the top, rotating 360 degrees so that we could see the whole city along the way. The weather was perfect and we took great pictures of the city. (We also helped a tour guide manage a group of local youth who were being totally irresponsible and fed rock dassies, a cute rodent that is native to the mountain and should not be fed human food.) We walked around for a while and headed back down via the cableway. We went to the V & A Waterfront, a nice harbor that has restaurants and shops. There’s a food market with lots of stalls and vendors so we grabbed something to eat. Na’ama and I went to have high tea at a fancy hotel there, the One & Only. It included lots of savory sandwiches and a huge table of sweets. Then, I stayed at home and had a light dinner while Jon and Na’ama went out for a date night. The next morning, it was time to check out of our AirBnB, so we got our stuff together and planned to walk to breakfast. After a scary incident crossing the street (they surely drive on the wrong side of the street…!) at a narrow part of it, a bag of ice on my head and a nice breakfast at Jarryd’s in the neighborhood, Jon and I headed to the Two Oceans Aquarium to explore. (Na’ama had already been so she walked around the Waterfront.) Then, we headed to the airport, returned our rental car and flew back to Johannesburg.

Jon had to leave early the next morning for a business trip to Swaziland and then Na’ama and I went to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. It was a powerful experience. Then, we met up with a private tour guide to see the township of Soweto. He took us around, showing us the “good, bad and ugly” (as he described it) aspects of this interesting place. We saw the extremely poor parts and the rich parts, as well as a museum dedicated to the student uprisings and Mandela’s home. That night, I just had a quiet night at home. The next day, we went to the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Pretoria to explore and look at the unique group of birds they have there. Then, we had brunch at their restaurant, the Blue Crane, where we had a few bird visitors come up to our table. After that, we went to see the movie “Victoria and Abdul,” which was very enjoyable. That afternoon, I went to be checked by a doctor Na’ama found to make sure there was no damage caused by my little accident in Cape Town. (All was good.) We then were picked up by Na’ama’s friend to head to Johannesburg to see “Evita,” the musical. We ate dinner at a Japanese restaurant in an Italian-inspired casino (!) and then saw the show, which was great. We got home very late and went right to sleep. After a good night’s rest, we left early for a half day at the unique and special Bakwena Spa. It’s a package where you get breakfast, drinks and three treatments – a full body massage with hot stones, a foot massage and a head and neck massage. It was lovely, and I felt like a queen! It was great to be pampered by my daughter. Then, we headed back to rest after all of these massages and went to pick Jon up, who returned from his trip in time for dinner at an Afrikaans restaurant called Die Bosvelder. I got to see a traditional South African meal – it’s lots of meat.

The next morning, we left early for our safari at the Madikwe reserve, northwest of Pretoria (and right at the border with Botswana). We had to get into the reserve at a certain point and were asked to park at a reserve station where our safari guide came to pick us up to take us to the lodge. Our lodge, Mosetlha Bush Camp & Eco Lodge, is the only one inside the reserve. (The others, which were quite fancy, were situated along the perimeter.) It’s quite a place and definitely an eco-lodge – no running water or power – so that was something to get used to. You wash your hands with water from a well that was always in the bathroom and then used that water to ‘flush’ the toilet (i.e., pour it down the toilet). The showers involved filling a bucket, running the water through a heating system (called a ‘donkey boiler’), and then putting it in a bucket on a pulley in the shower, which has a drain coming out of it that mimics a regular shower. It was quite an interesting experience. The lodge encouraged socialization, so the common areas had a lot of couches where guests could talk and get to know each other between game drives and meals. The drives left each day in the early morning and in the late afternoon and we saw some incredible things – two cheetahs (brothers), the endangered wild dogs, a family of lions with cubs of various ages, the endangered wild cat, lots of giraffes, zebras, and elephants, a kill (😥), and so on. It was great. We did get rained on one day which made things a bit damp, cold, and uncomfortable but the lodge provided us with blankets that are water-resistant so that helped. All in all, it was quite the experience!! We left after three nights, grabbed lunch along the way and then got settled back in Pretoria.

On our last day, Na’ama and I were to fly back to the U.S. together, so we got ourselves ready for the trip, had lunch out and then Jon took us to the airport. It was a longer trip back (16 vs. 14 hours) so we tried to make the best of it with movies and some sleep. We made it back to Durham safely and started to get adjusted back to the new time zone! What an incredible trip and what gracious and generous hosts! It was once in a lifetime experience for me to cherish for the rest of my life.

– By Michaela


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