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The second half of the holiday went from Port Elisabeth to Stellenbos, on the Ado Elephant National Park, then Knysna to Aestos B&B , From that to La Plume at Volmoed near Oudtshoorn, Further to Somerset West , Guesthouse De Molen, and the last destination is the Monkey Valley Nature Resort.

The trip from Knysna to Oudtshoorn was not too long. At first we drove along the coast and had many a spectacular view of the Southern Cape coast. It was a varied landscape, dry but lush green as well. At George we went north through a mountain range with a spectacular scenery. When we passed the passes, the area changed into a half desert, the Klein Karoo. There are rivers and brooks, and in the plains where water is supplied, agriculture is possible. It is the ostrich capital of the world. Ostriches are held for feathers, meat and leather. A century ago it was high fashion and a kilo ostrich feathers fetched more than a years’ family income. And ostriches produce quite a lot, so the farmers became filthy rich, and that showed in the magnificent buildings and farmhouses they build. Our destination today was such a paradise, called La Plume, our guesthouse. Built more than a century ago, it offered the finest hospitality in a Victorian environment. Furnished with antiques and with a sharp eye for sophisticated details we enjoyed the luxury of the 19th century, with the comfort of the 21th century. The décor was the Zwartberg mountains far at the horizon. It was hot –as usual in the Klein Karoo- and we enjoyed the pool, discovered the area and looked for feathers. Everywhere were ostrich feathers. Ostrich are by far the biggest birds in the world, much bigger than the Australian emu and are to big to fly. The males were giant, more than 2 m high and black, the ladies slightly smaller and brown. The eggs are big as well. The feathers are indeed light and soft. Mariska loved to play with it. Her favorite game: I had to blow the feather in the air and she tried to catch it. In the evening we got a delicious 6 course meal with exclusive dishes like springbok carpaccio and –of course- ostrich steak cooked to perfection. Absolutely impressive is that the car was washed before departure.

With fond memories of La Plume we left for a 6 hour trip to Somerset West, near Cape Town. We followed the Klein Karoo, a high plain between two mountain ridges and saw interesting details like magnificent ostrich farms, lots of ostrich and vibrant communities. But as well arid agricultural area’s that has been left. In the half desert there were small green area’s where water was available. The area is famous for wine as well and has a long tradition in it. The mountain passes like with interesting grassesthe Huisrivier pass, where we saw a crashed vehicle deep down, were absolutely gorgeous. We often halted to enjoy the scenery. The last pass was the Tradouw pass. There we saw a valley side complete covered with protea bushes. In the foreground were lots of aloe.

After passing the high passes often in a stunning landscape, the landscape changed in agricultural area. This is better described as destroyed nature, so we chose as soon as possible the N2, a national Main road that took us quickly to Somerset West, to guesthouse De Molen. It was run by a Dutch couple for one and a half year now. It has 10 guestrooms, divided over a few buildings in a wonderful park setting on a steep hill. Our main room was a generous 65 square meters large and we had a roomy bedroom and bathroom as well. The roof was made of the traditional material, a kind of sturdy grass. A big terrace with view high over Somerset West completed this amazing facility.

Next day was the meeting in Cape Town of the relatives of Sally and Peter, planned to marry 2 days later. On our way we saw townships next to the autobahn that were fabricated from rusty corrugated steel, plastic and other junk. They were stuffed close together, an appalling sight. It was even so appalling that I did not take pictures from this misery. Kaapstad however is a modern and vibrant town. The lunch was at the famous Round House, at the foot of the Tafelberg.

It was a great lunch, followed by the strenuous walk up to the famous Tafelberg, rising 1000 meters above Kaapstad, with almost vertical sides. But of course there are many paths up, some are dangerous, some only difficult. We took the ascent that the unfortunate Dutch lady took earlier the week. She fell while descending and died, her partner survived. Most of the guest preferred to take the cable car to the top.

The Platteklip ascent was breathtaking, not only while it had a magnificent view, but as well while it was steep. But it was rewarding when we reached the top. On the top there was of course a nice view to all sides. It was autumn and only one type brilliant colored flower did catch the attention. One bird was in our neighborhood. Up the mountain friends and relatives, who came with the cable car, met and waited for the sunset, that happened exactly on time. as usual. It displayed of course great colors. That was good for pictures but worried us as well as it indicates the approach of a frontal system, and that just before the wedding! We took in the dark the big cable car down to the valley. It is a very modern design, circular in shape that turns slowly, so everyone gets a chance to see the view over Kaapstad. This view was breathtaking as well.

We returned to Somerset West for our last night there. Next day we went, indeed in the rain, to the Monkey Valley Nature Resort. We seemed to have booked an apartment, but it was too dark, so it was not as expected. We upgraded it into a bigger dwelling with three double bedrooms and two bathrooms, on 2 floors. Situated higher on the hill, we had a nice view and it was very comfortable. We planned to stay here 3 nights, before departure to home again. It was still raining and that spelled no good for the wedding next day. Fortunately the clouds began to break after 6 o’clock and some blue sky became visible. It looked like the frontal system has passed. The sun set again, always good for a few nice pictures. Very special was the view to the Tafelberg from the south, with the “tablecloth”cloud spectacular on the top. In the evening we enjoyed the open fireplace in our house.

Next day Saturday was the big day, the wedding of Sally and Peter. In the morning the sun welcomed us but a strange layer of mist was covering the beach. The beach at Noordhoek is the widest I’ve ever seen, and is of shining white sand. In the morning the Bedouin tent was built in which the ceremony would take place. About a hundred guests were attending, most of them from overseas, from all continents. The atmosphere was casual, in the warm sand. Sally came in at the side of her father, proud as a queen and beautiful . It was very emotional to see the wedding of such a nice couple. Peter will forever deny it, but he had tears in his eyes. Luckily a handkerchief took care for that problem. The party went on in the Monkey Valley Nature resort with a series of activities.

Memorable were the sabrage of the champagne, that is that the top of the champagne bottle is cut off with a special saber in an expert motion, an old army tradition. The champagne tower was then filled. For a couple living in London there was only one logical choice, Moet et Chandon champagne, as this company holds a Royal Warrant to supply champagne to Queen Elisabeth II. In total 20 bottles of the noble drink were available. During the exquisite dinner, the guests were entertained by a music, a band, a magician, dance and a few sketches of family. For those still not running out of steam at the end of the evening, the party was continued at the Eagles Nest, high on the hill. The party was only over after the brunch, next day.

For us still time to explore the Cape peninsula. It is an amazing piece of nature. We climbed high over Simonstown, a harbor. We enjoyed the view, and to our surprise we were welcomed by navy ships spraying water with their fire brigade ships. Only later we found out that it was not for us, but for a navy open visitors day.

We proceeded to the Cape National park. The vegetation there is fynbos, low trees and shrubs, with small leaves. All over the year flowers can be seen. In fact is it the most rich of the 6 known Floral kingdoms of the world. More than 1000 flowering species are indigenous here and a few only exclusively to this area. Some look very familiar as many are all over the world indoor or balcony plants, like the world famous geranium. One plant is here abundant and rare in the rest of the world, that is the wonderful protea, the national flower of South Africa.

We went to the end of the National park and we climbed a few hundred meters up the rocks, to the Light House, were a black lizard was basking in the sun. Here we are at the most south westerly point of the African Continent and here the Atlantic ocean meets the Indian ocean. The cold Antarctic water meets the warm tropical water. That gives a rich source of nutrients and hence life. The area is famous for sharks, whales and whale sharks. And for baboons who try to steal food. There were many guards with sticks protecting the visitors from the baboons, and we indeed saw an incident of a baboon, bobejaan in Afrikaans, jumping against a tourist to steal an apple in his hand.

After a few stops near the sea we went back to Monkey Valley but not after we saw penguins at the eastern side of the peninsula.

The car was washed and careful cleaned with the vacuum cleaner of the apartment, so it looked like new. Unfortunately the car did not survive without damage as apparently someone made a small dent in the side of the car by slamming his car door against ours. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. On our last day we visited the Silvermine National park, where we discovered real amaryllis flowers (what we buy in the shop as amaryllis is in fact Hippeastrum).

An enormous spider was luring insects, like this yellow black striped bug. Ants made here a paper like nest in a tree. Some leaves are very fine, no wonder the name is fynbos. Near a dam we took a rest.

This is the protea capital of the world and we liked to see some special ones. We found a few nice ones. As well strange leaved plants, an interesting insect nest made of leaves and suspended in the air by a kind of spider web and interesting flowers. We followed a remote path that was long not used, shrub and trees were blocking the path. It was hardly to see where it was. At last we almost lost it, so we had to find a way through the bush and then Birgitt discovered THE find, the Mother of all protea’s: a gigantic protea, as bigger than a head, ever bigger than we have ever seen on pictures. We took some pictures of it, grateful that we had illegally strayed from the worn out pathways.

Mariska liked it a lot and screamed exited if she discovered an interesting flower. We were delighted about such a great end of a marvelous holiday. Further we found more nice protea’s and heath in full color, and could not resist to take a picture.

It was time to leave South Africa. Our way was through Khayelitsha, a main road through the biggest shanty town. Nowhere something green, only barren ground decorated with plastic and other waste. Hardly any shops and no fuel stations. A few buildings were visible, usually schools without a trace of green either. There were however some better quality houses, but all behind concrete fence and barbed wire. But improvement for the poor people was visible, every few hundred meters a blue plastic mobile toilet. You better do not image how they did solve this before. The shanty town ended near the autobahn at the airport en then we found a fuel station. The cashier was protected like in a bunker. No wonder: the crime rate here is appalling.

Drop off of the car was fortunately no problem, the employee was so blinded by the clean and shining Toyota that he did not notice the small dent. We had ample time to check in and in the departure hall we could not resist to by a bunch of protea’s from our last Rands, the currency of SA.

In the departure hall suddenly appeared lots of somethings, looking like large black penguins. But a closer examination revealed that it were women, dressed in the appropriate attire for the hadj to Mecca. That explained why the big Boeing 777 was fully loaded.

In shopping paradise Dubai I could not resist to buy a complex Motorola PDA phone. Interesting is that it has as well Arabic characters on the keyboard. Even more interesting is that it has Arabic software as well. The surprise came after loading the battery. Five times a day the phone wakes up and an imam loudly urges to pray while indicating that Mecca is at 166 degrees. I still did not find out if and how it can be stopped, and wonder how that imam in my phone can be laid to rest forever.

We arrived at home in Almere at schedule and our bunch protea’s keeps the memories alive of a wonderful holiday. South Africa is a great country with many nice people, many of them living in gorgeous villa’s and driving shining cars, enjoying the nice climate. It has and a unique nature.

But if you travel you get mixed feelings. The misery of the poor black people is everywhere noticeable. They only get it better if the economy grows and that only can be organized by the present upper layer. The easy solutions are already tried out, now it’s waiting for something that works. Anyhow, education is a basis for improvement ad it is good to see that everywhere children are attending schools in school uniform. And further is needed much, very much patience. Soon there are elections again, but no one had high expectations from that.

The history of South Africa is very complex and not well understood by most people. To have a better insight, please visit Wikipedia Clicking here \
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