27 November 2006

walking in the parks, discovering all things green are good...

If I haven't already said so directly, South Africa is a must for nature lovers. I know that we only got a small taste of what is actually available to experience. We want to go back for more. The sooner the better...

I've already discussed penguins and other critters. Now it's time to write about the flora (or at least try... I'm far from an expert on plants and flowers), while at the same time giving an overview of some of the parks we visited (excluding Jonkershoek)... I think the overview of the parks will be slightly better than any attempt to describe the Cape flora...

The Cape Floral Kingdom
In general, fynbos is the major vegetation type of the botanical region known as the Cape Floral Kingdom, a member of the World Heritage list and the world's smallest and richest floral kingdom. It has the highest known concentration of plant species – 1300 per 10000 square km. 70% of the world's fynbos species are only found in the Cape Floral Kingdom. Fynbos includes proteas, including the king protea, the national flower of South Africa, and ericas (heaths). There are over 700 species of erica found in South Africa!

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden only exhibits plants that are native to South Africa, which is quite impressive considering the size of the place (528 hectares) and the vast diversity of the plants, flowers, trees etc. on exhibit. Absolutely amazing! It's very beautiful and tranquil here - lots of green with bright colored flowers splashed here and there, good smells, and the peaceful sound of chirping birds...

My favorite part of Kirstenbosch was the Useful Plants exhibit, linked to the medicinal garden. You learn about what kind of plants can be used to cure illnesses, or alleviate symptoms, etc., as well as plants for food, making things (baskets etc), assisting in land conservation... they even had a whole section of plants that are used to treat sexually transmitted infections/diseases and another whole section of plants dedicated to treating the symptoms of HIV/AIDS in some way or other. Another interesting exhibit was one about how to choose plants for your garden at home, in particular plants that use little water.

One can easily spend a lot of time here. There's plenty of lawn space for a picnic... we'll try that next time ;-)

Table Mountain National Park
Table Mountain
Table Mountain is the most prominent landmark and a top tourist attraction in Cape Town. Table Mountain is called so because of its flat top; cloud cover looks like a tablecloth. The place is quite indescribable, but the website has a rather good way of expressing the splendor of the park:
The Park is recognised globally for its extraordinarily rich, diverse and unique fauna and flora - with rugged cliffs, steep slopes and sandy flats - is a truly remarkable natural, scenic, historical, cultural and recreational asset both locally and internationally. Nowhere else in the world does an area of such spectacular beauty and such rich bio-diversity exist almost entirely within a metropolitan area - the thriving and cosmopolitan city of Cape Town.

We took the aerial cableway up the mountain; we wanted to save time. Next time we'll do the hike up. We took this trail (don't remember the name – will edit once I do) which can be "hairy" if you're afraid of heights (I somehow managed OK), but well worth it. The views are spectacular, and there's lots of plant life to see; most of the animals were hiding. Be sure to wear long pants and proper shoes (not sandals!) when you're up there. There's lots of tall grass, bushes, Cape reed, and the such that can easily scrape you up... and it's a good hiding place for poisonous snakes...

Cape Point
A part of Table Mountain National Park, this park is one of the most incredible places I have ever been to in my entire life. It includes famous landmarks such as Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. Pssst... it seems like ostriches like to hang out on/around the road that leads to the Cape of Good Hope!

The whole area is huge and it's a good idea to have a car to get around. Also, if you visit Cape Point, bring some kind of jacket or sweater to protect yourself against the wind. Even if it's otherwise hot and sunny, the wind can make things chilly very quickly...

Oh, there are plenty of great photo opportunities, like the obligatory Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope shots...

as well as shots like this...

See boyfriend of feitpingvin's flickr site for the rest of the Kirstenbosch, Table Mountain, and Cape Point photos... (I may edit this page to link to them later on.)

25 November 2006

District Six

Just a quick note before this quickie entry... I've been really busy lately and haven't had the time to add much here... but the good news is that there isn't that much left to go... don't forget to check in... everything should be up by the first week of December. Now, on with District Six... :-)

At the start of our township tour, our guide took us to the District Six Museum. It's a very interesting museum, and unfortunately, we didn't spend as much time here as we ought to have as we had a schedule to stick to.

The museum focuses on the history of District Six in Cape Town, with reconstructions of the homes and businesses of District Six and other interesting exhibits. It also displays bits and pieces of the apartheid legacy – benches for Europeans only, whites only signs, etc...

The historical information is well worth reading. Yet seeing is believing... if you're ever in Cape Town, don't forget to make a stop here...

20 November 2006

sky and sea, though in captivity...

World of Birds at Hout Bay
World of Birds is the largest bird park in Africa and is an absolute must for bird lovers. After you pay the admission, you go into a very large circular area where you go in and out of different walk-through aviaries with lots of different species in them. The whole park has over 400 different species with a head count of over 3000 birds...

One of the first birds we met was this gorgeous golden pheasant. It's definitely one of the most beautiful birds I have ever seen – look at those colors! The picture doesn't do it any justice though. This is something you need to see for real!

What I really liked was that you could meet most of the birds up close and personal, quite literally. Sometimes, the birds would come up to you to have a closer look. Other times, you would go into the aviary and see nothing... then suddenly you notice lots of bird poop on the ground and then look up above you to see a bird glaring at you...

"Whaddya lookin' at, freak?!"

One thing that was kind of funny, was that some of the aviaries were “open air” but with wire mesh "ceilings." One of these housed cape sacred ibises, among other species. This of course caught the attention of a large flock of wild cape sacred ibises, so you would see a bunch of wild ibises standing on the wire mesh ceiling, looking into the aviary, while the ibises in the aviary looked towards... freedom?

As it was springtime, love was in the air. But sometimes, the Romeos go a little too far hehe...

World of Birds has more than just birds. It has lots of other animals, including meerkats, tortoises, big lizards, and different kinds of monkeys...

Two Oceans Aquarium
Located at the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town, this aquarium houses species from the Atlantic and Indian oceans, from fish to aquatic mammals to...yes...penguins ;-) Two Oceans Aquarium is also one of only two aquariums in the world that has a kelp forest exhibit. It's a very nice place – a good way to spend a few hours on a rainy day (or not).

In addition to seeing the wide variety of species on display, you can also watch the aquarium staff feed the fish, sharks, penguins...

"Mine, mine, all mine mowahahaha!"

Don't miss the freaky puppet shows either; they're meant for children but are rather entertaining for adults. They each have their own save-the-environment message, and have a sort of South Park feel to them, as indicated with the presence of the singing turd...

And, if you're willing to pay for it and plan well ahead of time, you can dive with some sharks or in the kelp forest. We didn't do this because it because we felt it was a bit of a hassle to have to do the advanced booking and know exactly when we were going to go etc. It would have sucked if we booked on a nice day and it rained the rest of the time, right?

Oh, and love was in the air here as well, though I'm not too sure about this one... interspecies love? Hmm...

19 November 2006

where two oceans meet...

Cape Agulhas, or “Cape of Needles”, is the southernmost point in Africa. The official position of the tip is 34° 49’ 58" south and 20° 00’ 12’’ east. Cape Agulhas is also the official meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. It makes for good photo opportunities...

Look, we're in the Indian Ocean!

And now we're in the Atlantic!

Because it was so easy to figure out where south was, I was able to show Mini Wolfgang (our beer- and wine-loving travel penguin) the way to Antarctica...

See how he longs for "home"... (though don't tell him they don't have beer there hehe)

While Cape Agulhas National Park may not be as spectacular as Cape Point, it's still worth the trip. The drive out is interesting, and there's plenty of fantastic nature and breathtaking views in the area. Plus you get the general amusement of being able to do the touch two oceans thing. Going up the lighthouse is also fun (we got to see the rock kestrel up there after all!); the admission to the lighthouse also includes admission to a lighthouse museum housed within.

It also seems like the area is being better developed for tourism at the moment - lots of building of beachfront properties, etc. going on. So the area will probably be set up to do much more activities than just the national park and the beach/aquatic sports within a few years, or at least in time for the World Cup...

For some interesting historical information about Cape Agulhas, see Wikipedia's Cape Agulhas page...

18 November 2006

Robben Island

There's more to South Africa than just beautiful nature, good food, and good wine. South Africa has a turbulent historical past that includes colonization and racial persecution, rebellion and resistance. However, the policy of the day is reconcilliation and hope. One of the best ways to learn about South Africa's dark past and potential for a bright future is by taking the Robben Island tour...

Robben Island is the location of the infamous prison for political prisoners during South Africa's apartheid regime. Nelson Mandela of the African National Congress is probably the most famous former resident. It's a half hour (I think it was) by boat to get there...

When we got there, we were greeted by Yasein Mohamed, once secretary for the Pan-African Congress in the Western Cape and a former political prisoner: He was our guide for the first part of the tour. He talked about the history of Robben Island - it has always been an on-and-off prison island. From the 1800s to 1932, the island served as a leper colony where people of all colors were sent if they had leprosy or any other "unknown" disease (unknown diseases = leprosy). Non-white male anti-apartheid political prisoners, i.e. black and colored political activists were sent to Robben Island starting around 1960 with Pan-African Congress founder Robert Sobukwe, once considered the most dangerous man in South Africa. White male political activists and all female activists were imprisoned on the mainland. The international boycotts against South Africa started after the sending of political prisoners to Robben Island...

Conditions for the prisoners were beyond harsh, and the blacks were treated worst of all. For example, you can see the different diets for blacks and coloreds. Furthermore, prisoners were forced to work at a quarry, without any sunglasses to protect their eyes from the glare from the white limestone... and all this was only "busywork"!! There was no demand for the limestone from the quarry at all! A lot of prisoners became blind or permanently vision-impaired because of this. Nelson Mandela included; ever notice his shades? You are not allowed to take flash pictures of him either (or something along those lines).

Certain prisoners were segregated from other prisoners, as to avoid "bad influence." However, it was relatively easy for prisoners to communicate with one another. For example, tennis balls would be cut open and messages stuffed into the tennis balls, and these tennis balls would be hit over walls separating cell blocks. The wardens dismissed it as blacks not knowing how to play tennis. No prisoner was allowed to communicate with the outside world; their visitors would sneak messages out for them. This was easiest for priests, who would hide messages inside their Bibles; wardens didn't dare search a priest!

Nelson Mandela brought about change, despite the conditions he was forced to live under. One of his goals was to make sure that the prisoners who didn't have an education, got one. Many political prisoners were doctors, lawyers, and other academics; they were able to sneak around the ban on educating inmates. Mandela (and other prisoners) even helped the prison wardens, hired for their brutality more for their brains, get an education and better themselves. The idea was that they too were victims of apartheid, that they wouldn't be the way they were had things been different. The right to education for prisoners was eventually given in 1966.

Our second guide gave us a tour of the prison blocks and tiny, spartan cells, including Nelson Mandela's prison cell, which nearly has “shrine status” now. We also visited the only current prisoner, in the slammer for protesting high alcohol prices and drunken rowdiness. We managed to help him escape hehe ;-P

Anyway, apartheid is officially over and the prisoners are doing their best not to hold a grudge – forgiveness and reconciliation and all. The idea is to not seek revenge for past wrongs, as this would make you just as evil as your oppressors. If only the whole world could think like that! However, one must not forget the wrongs of the past. The Robben Island tour is a good way for people to confront the harsh realities of the injustices of the past, in order to head towards a better future.

Besides the prison, housing for former prison wardens and officials, some churches, and the such. Robben Island has a lot of wildlife, including springbok, bontebok, ostriches, rabbits, and a penguin colony. It also has a bunch of eucalyptus trees brought in around 1890 – because of these water-slurping trees, there is no fresh water on the island.

Robben Island became a National Monument in 1996 and a World Heritage Site in 1999. It's one of the absolutely-must-see's if you're ever in Cape Town. Do get your tickets ahead of time though, especially if you're travelling during high season.

15 November 2006

monkey business

South Africa has a reputation for high crime. Among the more infamous perps, gang banger baboons. Here are some safety tips for dealing with these little criminals...

OK, all joking aside, the relationship between humans and baboons is love-hate. The chacma baboons are a protected species, and I do believe it's important to protect them. However, I can understand the frustrations some people may have, especially when you're dealing with animals that are smart enough to be able to open your door, go to your fridge, eat all your food, drink all your beer, and fling poo everywhere...

But who's fault is that? How do the baboons know to go to people and their homes in the first place, while other mammals shy away? For starters, you have dumbass tourists, South African and foreign, who deliberately feed the baboons, despite all the signs that are up and all the pamphlets given out saying not to. I mean, can you put it an a more blunt manner?

So you have these idiots teaching intelligent animals people = free food. And of course you have people who are generally careless, whether intentionally or unintentionally, and leave food where the baboons can get "easy" access. Anything from setting up a picnic to careless disposal of trash. The baboons quickly learn that where there's people, there's good stuff to eat, and well... the trouble begins. They go after human food instead of foraging for grubs like good baboons should...

The baboons themselves are kind of cute, especially the little ones, and they're interesting to watch. They seem to like to watch people just as much as we like to watch them. Like ostriches, they also have no regard for the rules of the road, so you have to watch out for them when you're out driving in places like Cape Point...

Some extra links for you:

13 November 2006

random activities in the Cape Winelands

Here are some of the Cape Winelands activities that you can enjoy that aren't winery visits/wine tasting...

  • Jonkershoek Nature Reserve
    We spent our first (almost) full day in South Africa here, as most wineries are closed on Sundays. It was good to get out in the fresh air and do some hiking, after our long plane trip and the stress of getting everything in order the day we arrived. This place is definitely worth a visit if you're ever in the region. Lots of gorgeous scenery here. We didn't see too many animals though, which is a shame. Do take the trail that goes to two different waterfalls. Very beautiful!

  • Oh, and we also saw this freaky VW Beetle-for-rent in the parking area hehe...

  • Stellenbosch Village Museum
    The museum is made up of 4 different houses that reflect Stellenbosch life during various times in the past. You start at the oldest house which is from 1709 and end at a house from around the 1850s. It's interesting to see how housing standards changed over the times. Especially the “toilets” (chamber pots hah!) and the eventual development of the first showers. And among the things that didn't change – onions hanging up in the kitchen. They say it keeps the flies away...

  • The Afrikaans Language Monument in Paarl
    It's hard to get an idea of the impressiveness of this monument without actually being there. When you go inside and play around a little, you get a freaky echo...

  • Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm
    OK, it's one thing looking at all the crocodiles that are farmed there. It's another thing to get the chance to hold a baby crocodile. A little Schnappi, though its name was Charlie. Baby crocodiles are very cute, and soft to the touch, like really old, broken-into leather. Which is what the crocodiles are actually farmed for – leather. Though there are a bunch of crocodile tails that go towards food. They also had this nifty albino crocodile that they kept in a tank indoors, and a few crocodiles that had birth defects or whatnot that would make them unable to fend for themselves in the wild...

And some general information about the main cities in the Winelands:

12 November 2006

township tours

A township tour is a must-do if you're ever in one of the large cities in South Africa. It's the only way to get a vague idea about how the majority of South African blacks live (unless you actually live there, you will never know)...

The guides for the township tours live in the townships you visit. Our guide, Godfrey, comes from Langa township outside of Cape Town, which was established in 1927 and has around 40,000 people. We also visited Guguletu and Khayelitsha townships.

Among some of the shocking eye-openers, you have this "shack" with one bedroom that houses 3 families, each family consisting of 5 or so people. The sanitary conditions aren't great either – if you're lucky enough, your shack has running cold water. Otherwise, you have to use the common water faucets outside. Some places have (reliable) electricity, and some don't. Though it seems like all the townships had an Internet café or two... heh...

If you're "rich" by township standards (earning R 6000-7000 a month), you could live in the "Beverly Hills" of the townships – tiny brick houses that look decent enough. They're a lot better than the shacks or the "cardboard box houses" that are set up illegally. You still have a lot of people/families living in these nicer houses though. Privacy seems to be non-existent. People who live in these often hire people living in the worst of the worst cardboard box houses as maids...

According to Godfrey, the blacks prefer living in the townships as to stay together. One big happy family; everyone looks out for one another. I can sort of understand that mindset, though it comes with a lot of other things and thoughts that I would rather not post here. At the same time, South Africa has a very high rate of rapes and violent crime, most of it within these townships... one big happy family? Hmmm... I can only imagine the tensions that brew when so many people are living so close together...


A township isn't a township without a shebeen, and our tour included a visit to a shebeen. Township shebeens are run by women but frequented by men (excluding female tourists). The drink of death is called umqombothi. One must be brave to drink that... and lots of township men sit in the shebeen and drink this stuff all day long. A cannister of that stuff costs R 7. It only has around 2% alcohol, so you really can't get drunk on it...

We also visited a witch doctor. We were told his specialty is love potions. OK. Whatever...

Our final stops were to Vicky's Bed and Breakfast in Khayelitsha township – a B&B intends to give tourists a more "real" township experience – and a daycare that was right next to Vicky's. Vicky's was interesting – the rooms were actually quite nice, and for R 190 per night, you get dinner and breakfast in the package. I would consider staying there for a night; it would be a good chance to get some more insight into township life once the tourist minivans are gone.

I'm still not sure how I felt about the daycare visit – if there's anything that made me feel like I was going on a "people safari", this was it. It was nice to see the kids so enthusiastic to see the tourists and sing for us and all, but I also got the "performing for us like trained animals" feeling :-/ Aside from that, despite cramming a lot of small children into two very small rooms, they seem to get a decent deal. They have a regular schedule of learning and play, and they get breakfast, a hot lunch (we arrived as lunch was being prepared), and snacks as well.

The kids were very cute...

11 November 2006

beautiful creatures

Here is a list of the animals we saw in the wild. Click on the links provided to see boyfriend of feitpingvin's pictures of these animals from his flickr site, or else to read some interesting supplementary information about these animals on Wikipedia or other sites.

This list does not include birds. The birds are in a separate post...

  • berg adder (Bitis atropos)
    We are quite certain it's a berg adder. I sort of disturbed it while it was sunbathing on one of the many trails at Table Mountain. It hissed and slithered off, but boyfriend of feitpingvin was able to get a picture of it (see first link if you haven't already done so). Eventually, I found out what would have happened had one of us gotten bitten. Um, nice...

  • various lizards
    Lizards were all over the place, in particular agamas and black zonures. They like to sunbathe on the rocks, and they don't really like being disturbed. But they're so cute! ;-)

  • tortoises
    This one almost became a splat – we were going to stop to get a closer look at some bontebok, and boyfriend of feitpingvin thought it was a rock at first but suddenly stopped... "is that a tortoise?" Indeed! And it was so small and cute and... confused...

    At Cape Agulhas, there were even warning signs about tortoises, warning drivers not to drive over them...

  • springbok
    Springbok is Afrikaans for succulent steak. OK, maybe not, but the steaks are succulent... :-)

  • bontebok
    We saw them at Booi se Skerm. Bontebok are a threatened species of antelope and consequently illegal to kill, for food or otherwise. So no bontebok steaks for us... :-P

  • southern right whales
    September/October is the peak of whale watching season. We were driving along our way to Boulders Beach and Cape Point when we saw all these cars stopped along the side of the road, and people were looking out into the sea... whales! Lots of whales, blowing water from their blowholes and hopping up into the air and waving their tails... so we had to stop too. You could even hear the whales making noise. A German couple we were standing next to told us we had missed the drama of the previous day – a whale had given birth, and moments after the birth, a great white shark came along and ate the calf!!

    The whale-watching viewpoint near Rooikrans at Cape Point is another good place to watch whales. The ones we saw there were only swimming along; no jumping or tail waving or anything like that...

  • Cape hyraxes (dassies)
    Dassies, or rock rabbits (link to Wikipedia site), look like big rodents or rabbits, but they're actually related to elephants!

  • baboons
    There's a lot to be said about the baboons, so I think I'll give them their own post... please stay tuned...

  • Cape fur seals. We saw these seals sleeping peacefully on the sunny docks, after our Robben Island tour...

  • tourists with cameras
    Not sure if they fall into the "beautiful" category though ;-P

  • unidentified frogs

  • unidentified furry animal with a tail (rodent-like)

08 November 2006

winery tours, part III

Here are some random wineries we visited while on the way to some place or other...

Haute Cabrière
We stopped here after our meal at La Petite Ferme. This Franchhoek winery is known for sparkling wines. We had a cellar tour as well as a tasting.

Their most interesting bubbly was a pink one – the Bella Rosa – which is a chardonnay with a hint of pinot noir. We bought a bottle and drank it when we were at our guest house in Cape Town...

From the bottle:
In vino veritas

Lurking in every glass
Of our Chardonnay Pinot Noir
Is Bacchus and reality
Sun, soil, vine, man
In a delicious manner
To celebrate life
And our dreams.

- Achim von Arnim

Groot Constantia
We came here after a trip to Table Mountain; it was along the way to a restaurant where we were planning on having dinner. Tasting had already closed for the day when we got there, but there was a group there and the lady in charge let us in anyway, and we didn't have to pay anything for the tasting, even though we offered. That was really nice of her! So we got to taste a few red and dessert wines. And it's a good thing the lady let us taste, because we ended up buying a bottle of their wonderful cab sauv ;-)

We were on our way to Betty's Bay when we drove by Raka... and then turned around to check it out. We did so because we drank a Raka Shiraz a few days earlier (see tasting notes), loved it, and were therefore curious about what else they had. When we arrived, we entered the main building, and nobody was there. We thought this was kind of strange, as there were wine bottles and tasting glasses set up at a table. We called out “hello...” and nobody showed up. OK...fine. (And very strange that we could just walk into a place like that.) We turned and walked out. As we were leaving, we heard a voice call out to us and saw a woman run out of a house nearby. When we met, she mumbled something about how typical it was that the moment she went to the house to take care of some laundry, people would show up...

Anyway, we told her about the wine we had (biography shiraz), which was why we stopped at Raka at all. She immediately poured us the 2003 version of the wine... DANG! The 2004 was quite good, but this... this was great! We also got to try lots of other good stuff, including good stuff that she tapped from the tanks :-)

We didn't buy anything though... hmmf... next time ;-)

This woman, Elna, was very interesting. Although she had knowledge about wine, she wasn't much of a wine drinker. It was fun talking to her. We could have talked all night, had we not been on our way to Betty's Bay to see the penguins ;-)

05 November 2006

stuffing the Ring of Fat - part I: Stellenbosch/Cape Winelands

DISCLAIMER: Food porn coming up! Do not read this report if you're very hungry!

Along with good wine, one must have good food and lots of it. Our Rings of Fat (RoF) demanded it! And the Western Cape does not disappoint in that department! By Norwegian standards, food is extremely cheap. Furthermore, the portions are quite large, like US supersizing, but the quality of what you get typically get in South African restaurants is superior to what you get in the States. The meat and fish you get is out of this world. Don't come here if you're on a strict weight loss diet ;-)

Information on the wines are in the tasting notes posts, either for whites or rosés or sparking, or for reds...

I'll write a separate post on South African cuisine in general.

OK. OK, enough of this boring chit-chat. On with the goodies!

  • The café at the airport. After we got the rental car in order, we decided to get a proper breakfast (the crap we got on our flight just wasn't working for us) and some coffee at the café at the airport, before heading out to Stellenbosch. We had oatmeal with bananas, and orange juice and coffee to wash it down. Very nice. European prices though.

  • Dros Restaurant and Wine Cellar at Stellenbosch. Grilled chicken with piri-piri sauce for me, calamari steak for boyfriend of feitpingvin. The chicken was tender and juicy and the piri-piri sauce gave a nice kick. And of course I tasted the calamari steak, which was tender and tasty. Afterwards, we had a huge piece of cheesecake for dessert, along with a glass of local port and some coffee.

    We had a bottle of wine with our meal (Drostdty-Hof Chardonnay 2005)... and got a second bottle of wine for free! They had this 2-for-1 special going. The bottle that was on special was sold out, and we ordered a different bottle, not really caring that we were missing out on the deal, and ended up getting a second bottle anyway. Very nice. That would never happen in Norway, or most other places in Europe ;-) We took the second bottle back to the guest house to have there...

  • Homemade dinner at the guest house. I made tasty ostrich burgers and salad. We had originally planned on eating out part of the time and cooking with local ingredients part of the time, but we found out that eating out was so friggin' cheap (for us) that it was best to eat out the rest of the time. Let someone else do the dishes ;-)

  • Breakfast at the guest house. We had a self-catering unit, so I always made breakfast. I would do that while boyfriend of feitpingvin was showering. Breakfast ingredients were pretty cheap – I usually made omelettes with free-range eggs, bacon, organic cheese, and tomatoes. Served with bread. Or we would just have slices of bread with peanut butter and jam, or meat and cheese, or whatever else. Washed down with skim milk and coffee made from powder (eek)...

    Oh, and at least in Stellenbosch, we usually had breakfast outside, on the porch ;-)

  • The café at Jonkershoek Nature Reserve. A very simple (but good) lunch, as we snacked on protein bars during our hike. I had a chicken salad and boyfriend of feitpingvin had a sandwich with egg and bacon, I think it was. All washed down with orange juice and coffee.

  • Cape Town Fish Market at Stellenbosch: we started the evening by drinking a Castle Lager. I had been warned that Castle = pisswater. I should have listened to these warnings ;-P

    Starter – escargot with butter and parmesean. The snails were gigantic! I've had escargot lots of times, and I don't remember ever getting snails that were so big. And very tasty.

    Main course – grilled linefish and calamari platter for me. Linefish is the South African term for fish of the day – didn't write down what it actually was and don't remember now). Boyfriend of feitpingvin had the grilled calamari cajun-style. Both were lovely and the portions were huge. RoF was very stuffed and happy. We had the Delheim Pinotage Rosé 2005 to go with the meal. Kind of unusual to have a rosé with seafood, but the combination wasn't too bad...

  • Basic Bistro (Stellenbosch): Mmm...lunch. I had a gypsy ham sandwich on “health bread” with mozerella cheese and gooseberry jam. Very tasty and filling. Boyfriend of feitpingvin had a chicken pasta with Egyptian spices (dukkah?). It was also quite tasty; the spices were wonderful. We both had Windhoek Lager, from Namibia, with our meals. Windhoek Lager is brewed according to German purity laws. It's not too bad for a mass-produced product. We also had some Tafel Lager, also from Namibia.

  • Fishmonger (Stellenbosch): an upscale fish restaurant in Stellenbosch. As our aperitif, we had a Savanna Dry Cider each. It's a popular cider from Stellenbosch and I can understand why it's popular – it's refreshing and tastes great!

    Starter – I had calamari stuffed with salmon, spinach, feta cheese, and garlic. Excellent stuff. Very tender calamari. Boyfriend of feitpingvin had mussels in a very tasty white wine sauce. Mmmm...

    We both had kingklip stuffed with with mushrooms, onion, tomato, and mozerella with paprika, beer, and garlic sauce as our main course. The fish was interesting – a very different flavor and consistency, but very pleasant, and the sauce was wonderful and rich. We had different side dishes though. I had vegetables on the side, as shown in the picture, while boyfriend of feitpingvin had potatoes.

    Our wine was the Della Cia Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (Meerlust).

    Booking is essential here! This place is very popular!

    Oh, and this is what a kingklip looks like ;-)

  • Goederust Farm Kitchen (Franschhoek): This was the lunch stop that was included in our first wine tour. We had bobotie for lunch. Bobotie is a traditional Cape Malay curry topped with custard, and is considered a regional (if not national) specialty. It was pretty good here, but I eventually made it here at home and got a much better result ;-) I'll try to post a recipe later on...

  • Jan Cats (Stellenbosch): starter – duo of crocodile and calamari with homemade tartare. Crocodile meat is light and has a nice, mild flavor. I eventually learned that crocodile meat comes from the tail of the crocodile. I'm surprised it isn't more popular...

    We had springbok with berry sauce as our main dish. The meat was lovely, a “light” (in color) red meat. It was very tender and juicy and tasty. The sauce was also quite nice.

    The wine was the Imbizo Cabernet Sauvignon - a wonderful game wine!

  • The Vineyard Kitchen at Dombeya/Haskell. I had an ostrich, strawberry, and pear salad and boyfriend of feitpingvin had ostrich fajitas. The salad was very nice and had a fantastic dressing. The fajitas weren't too bad either :-)

    We had a bottle of their shiraz with our meal, the one that wasn't a part of the wines they have visitors taste. Again, this is a shame, as the shiraz is excellent, and if people got a chance to sample it, they would be more likely to buy it...

    It was nice and peaceful here, with a nice view of the vineyards and mountains.

  • Sosati Braai Restaurant: this place is across the street from Basic Bistro.

    Starter – "Crocodile Sosati" - crocodile marinated in orange zest and chili. Mmmm...

    Main course – I had gembok (oryx) lasagne made with sweet potatoes instead of noodles. It was a very interesting version of lasagne. Gembok is very lamb-like (at least what I had) and the combination of meat in the tomato sauce, the bechamel sauce, and the sweet potatoes were surprisingly perfect. I'd like to try making something similar at home. Boyfriend of feitpingvin had grilled gnu (wildebeest). That was also delicious – the meat just melted in your mouth. Mmmm...

    Our wine of choice was the Slaley Pinotage.

    We also ordered dessert. I had milktart (melktert), a traditional Cape Malay dessert. It's kind of like a custard pie, but with more milk than eggs, and flavored with cinnamon. Boyfriend of feitpingvin had koeksisters, another traditional dessert, a sort of doughnut-like thing drenched in syrup.

  • La Petite Ferme: we had a very lovely lunch here after our trip to the language monument and the crocodile farm. They only serve lunch, from what I understand.

    Anyway, we had the Franschhoek rainbow trout served with tomato- and coriander-braised baby fennel gratinated in parmesean, diced potato with caramelized onion, rosemary, celery, white wine, and sherry. Oh my Flying Spaghetti Monster, the fish was absolutely perfectly prepared! It was amazing! And the portion again was huuuuuuuge!

    RoF also wanted dessert so it got dessert. I had the limoncello-doused polenta cake served with lemon ice cream and candied lime.

    Boyfriend of feitpingvin had the Aztec chocolate and chili pot lavished with coffee marscapone cheese and Marula nut brittle.

  • De Volkskombuis: my starter was "wild salad" – carpaccio of three different kinds of game wrapped in goat cheese, served on a bed of salad.

    Boyfriend of feitpingvin's starter was a crispy duck spring roll. We shared all of this – everything was absolutely delicious in each their own way.

    I ordered the pork loin stuffed with prunes and apricots for my main course: This was served with sweet potato mash and lots of vegetables. Tender and tasty meat. Mmm...pork...

    Boyfriend of feitpingvin had lamb curry, served in a potjie - a Little Black Bottomless Pot of RoF Doom. What's a Little Black Bottomless Pot of RoF Doom you ask? Let me tell you... you get served this cute though seemingly little black pot of food. And then you take a big serving of food, eat it up, and then get some more food out of the pot, eat it, get more food out, eat it, get more food out... it never seems to end...

  • We had the Rainbow's End Shiraz with our meal here.

The Cape Town food report will come later on, when you're done digesting this one... :-)

04 November 2006

tasting notes - part II

Here are some of the wonderful red wines we drank during our trip. Again, these are only notes for bottles of wine we had at restaurants or at our guest house. It would be a bit much to write up all the wines we tasted on the winery tours...

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2005 (Stellenbosch)
color: deep and opaque violet
nose: tobacco, anise, and other spices
palate: full-bodied, biting, slightly sour. Tanniny but not “snippy.” Flavors of licorice, tobacco, anise, spices, pepper. Should be consumed with a heavy meat dish.
grade: :-)-

Imbizo Cabernet Sauvignon 2003 (Stellenbosch)
Imbizo means “gathering of people.”
color: dark red
nose: over-ripe red apples, prunes
palate: mild and light but with a certain degree of full-bodiness. Flavor of cherries, slightly peppery aftertaste. An excellent wine to go with game!
grade: :-)+

Dombeya (Haskell) Shiraz 2003
color: deep and opaque violet
nose: powerful, with alcohol, tobacco, cherries, spices, and overripe red apples
palate: powerful and fruity, with paprika and ripe red apples.
grade: :-D-

Slaley Pinotage 2003 (Stellenbosch)
color: deep violet
nose: very fruity with a hint of tobacco
palate: full-bodied, but somewhat anonymous
grade: :-)

Rainbow's End Shiraz 2004. (Stellenbosch/Jonkershoek Mountains)
color: opaque, deep violet
nose: chocolate, concentrated cherry juice
palate: powerful, flavor of cocoa, some spices (cloves), hint of licorice. Slightly “sharp.”
grade: :-D-

Blaauwklippen Shiraz 2003 (Coastal Region)
color: clear and ruby-red
nose: earth cellar
palate: light, but nice with meat. Soft tannins. Flavor of cooked paprika. Bitter coffee aftertaste. Would also be nice with grilled bacalhau (dried cod/klippfisk) with lots of garlic, and perhaps even bacalhau com natas.
grade: forgot to give a grade...

(Thierry and Guy) Fat Bastard Shiraz 2004 (Robertson).
color: clear and ruby-red
nose: our spiced cherry liqueur, cloves, anise, cinnamon
palate: sourish, spicy, fruity, with a hint of red apples and cocoa and vanilla. Would work with hearty meat dishes. Also OK on its own.
grade: :-)

Raka Biography Shiraz 2004
color: opaque, deep dark red
nose: spices, earth, chocolate, cloves
palate: smooth and velvety, pleasant tannins, full-bodied but “cautious”. Lots of flavor.
grade: :-D-

Doolhof Renaissance Pinotage 2005 (Wellington)
color: deep and opaque violet
nose: butcher's shop/red meat (!!), barnyard
palate: Flavors of licorice and dark chocolate. Full-bodied and powerful, but not heavy. Pleasant tannins. Pleasant bitter aftertaste. Hints of pepper and paprika when exhaling. We asked the guy at the wine shop for a challenging wine – and we got one!
grade: :-D

Sequillo 2003 (Swartland)
(63% Syrah, 30% Mourvedre, 7% Grenache)
color: deep red
nose: spicy overripe apples
palate: full-bodied, discreet biterness, hint of lingonberries and sour cherries. Would be nice with red meat.
grade: :-)+

We had this last one on this list at home, but it's worth putting the notes up here. The story behind this wine will appear in the upcoming food report ;-)

Scarborough Red (Cape Point)
color: violet/ruby red
nose: prunes and raisins, very pleasant
palate: powerful flavor of dark berries, ripe red apples. Pleasant, discreet tannins in the aftertaste. Good aging potential.
Grade: :-)+

02 November 2006

the birds of South Africa

South Africa is among the top birding destinations in the world. This was a motivating factor for wanting to visit, at least for me. This site provides excellent information about the birds of South Africa.

Here's a partial list of the birds we saw in the wild. As much as I love birds, I'm not enough of an expert to be able to recognize everything. We also lacked binoculars - something which is now up towards the top of my wish list ;-)

    African, or jackass penguins (Spheniscus demersus)to be more precise. I wrote about penguins earlier. Yes, they're so special they got their own entry... :-)

  • Guinea fowl
    Guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) are very common, especially in places like Stellenbosch, where there are plenty of nice lawns for finding food, such the ticks that cause Lyme disease. When you get close to them, they run away (instead of flying). Even when they are in the street and a car comes along, they run, as fast as they can. They look really stupid when they run...

  • Ostriches
    We saw several ostriches (Struthio camelus) along the road that goes to the Cape of Good Hope (at Cape Point National Park), both times we were there. We also saw a couple of adult ostriches and a bunch of chicks at Bordjiesrif (also at Cape Point). From a safe distance, of course.

  • Rock kestrel
    We saw this gorgeous little birdie (Falco rupicolus, previously Falco tinnunculus) while up at the lighthouse at Cape Aghulas. I think we really hit the jackpot here; when we looked at some pictures of the lighthouse boyfriend of feitpingvin took before we went up, there were no birds there. But when I came up and started looking around, I saw it there, just sitting quietly on the rail, looking at me, and then boyfriend of feitpingvin, as if we were a bunch of freaks. In other words, too fascinated to be scared...

  • Sugar birds
    Sugar birds (Promerops cafer) are also very common, and come in different shapes and colors. They drink the nectar of the protea flowers, so if you see a protea, you're likely to see a sugar bird as well...

    Redwinged starlings
    Redwinged starlings (Onychognathus morio) are yet another very common bird species, and seem to like places where there are lots of people. If you're eating outside, they'll fly up to you, look at you, and start chirping very sweetly, hoping you'll toss them a little morsel...

  • Cape glossy starlings

  • Cape turtle doves (they like to start coo-coo-ing very early in the morning) and other pigeons

  • various birds of prey (in addition to the kestrel), out and about flying...

  • various ibises, such as the Cape sacred ibis, and cranes

  • various seagulls

  • various crows

  • various geese and ducks

  • Cape cormorants

01 November 2006


(I have posted most of this previously on another blog - I've updated some stuff and added some pictures ;)

Here's a nifty article about helping African penguins with fiberglass igloos (perhaps burrow is more correct) - manmade habitats to provide suitable nesting conditions, in order to bring their population up...

According to the article, the penguin colony at Dyer Island is off-limits to anyone other than researchers. The colony at Robben Island is also off-limits from what I understand. That's OK - there are two other penguin colonies that are accessible to the public, for those interested in seeing these wonderful birds in the wild. So boyfriend of feitpingvin and I visited both of them while we were in the area...

One of the colonies is at Boulders Beach near Simonstown (or Simon's Town - it's different in different maps and guide books). The other one is at Betty's Bay. Boulders Beach, as shown in the photo, seems to be the more "popular" of the two, the one you read about in all the guidebooks and the such, the one all the tour busses go to. I thought the colony at Betty's Bay was nicer in general and more interesting. We were there late in the evening (as opposed to being at Boulder's in the middle of the day), which was a shame as I would have liked to stay there longer...

The penguins are great - totally to-die-for cute, especially the baby penguins. At both places, you walk along a boardwalk... Sometimes the penguins are on the boardwalk and start running away when you approach them; you hear their big webbed feet clomping on the boardwalk, and since they're oh-so-graceful on land, they're constantly stumbling, as if piss-ass drunk, over their feet, quickly picking themselves up and running away again... if you approach them slowly enough, they'll look at you, look down at the sand, wondering if they should stay put or hop down...

Other penguins are on the sand but near the boardwalk, staring at you... some are sleeping... some are preening... lots of action...

Some of them were moulting and looked kind of scruffy, like my little friend with the mohawk... Others liked to show off their fine fatty plumage... and others just liked to make noise... there's a reason why they're also called jackass penguins... they sound like a braying jackass... other interesting noises we heard were the squirting sounds of the penguins shitting :-P

And speaking of shit, a lot of penguins had shit all over their feathers... I think that if not careful enough, a tourist could easily get caught in the line of fire...

More cool penguin pictures on boyfriend of feitpingvin's flickr site...

tasting notes - part I

As mentioned, South Africa being a wine-producting country was a big motivating factor in choosing it as our holiday/vacation destination. Here are our tasting notes for the bottles of wines we shared. I have not written up the tasting notes from the winery tours (way too many to write up), nor have I written tasting notes for wines by the glass I have had at restaurants.

White, rosé, and sparkling wines are in the first part of the tasting notes report. Red wines will come later, in part II.

White wines:

Drostdty-Hof Chardonnay 2005 (Western Cape)
color: pale yellow
nose: citrus
palate: full-bodied yet dry and refreshing, flavors of citrus and tropical fruits, long aftertaste. “Bites back.” Goes well with seafood and chicken. Also nice on its own.
grade: :-)+

Della Cia Sauvignon Blanc 2005 (Meerlust)
color: very pale
nose: citrus, grass, honey melon
palate: refreshing. "Anonymous" at the start but really develops itself. A different kind of dry, with a powerful grapefruity aftertaste (“bites” in the end). Flavors of tropical fruits, grass, hint of grapefruit.
grade: :-)+ with food, and :-) on its own

Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2006 (Franschhoek)
color: golden
nose: flowers, perfume
palate: interesting blend – the flavor of chardonnay with the hint Pinot Noir to make it all refreshing. Full-bodied, refreshing, slightly bubbly. Flavor of green apples and pears. Easy to drink. Lovely wine for summer, for example with seafood.
Grade: :-)+

Rosé and Sparkling Wines

Delheim Pinotage Rosé 2005 (Simonsberg, Stellenbosch)
color: pale for a rosé
nose: strawberries and raspberries
palate: round, full-bodied, slightly sourish aftertaste but not in a bad way. Refreshing, with the flavor of raspberries. Goes nicely with fish and seafood, also good on its own.
grade: :-)

Haute Cabrière Bella Rosa
color: orange with hints of pink. Very pleasing color.
nose: citrusy but otherwise difficult to determine
palate: refreshing dry flavor of grapefruit with a hint of orange. Slightly bitter aftertaste.
Grade: :-)+