Looking back on a Whirlwind Week in Cape Town

My goodness, what a whirlwind of a week this has been!

We picked up mom-in-law Lissi (visiting us from Windhoek, Namibia) from Cape Town International Airport last Saturday, and spent a leisurely afternoon at home, giving her some time to relax before launching into a jam-packed program of activities.

Sunday

On Sunday morning, hubby and his mom braved the ocean waves and the southeaster wind to do the Seal Island Cruise with Circe Launches from Hout Bay Harbour. The custom-built passenger vessel, the Calypso, can carry about 100 passengers on deck and has viewing ports at the bottom of the boat so you can look down into the ocean. They regularly run out to Duiker Island, a rock in the ocean just off Hout Bay’s Sentinel, that is home to a large colony of Cape Fur Seals.

All aboard the Calypso!

As I am a landlubber who gets queasy just looking at video-clips of boats heaving up and down on the waves, I declined their kind offer to tag along, even though I find seals most appealing and photogenic creatures. (Update: You can read a more detailed blog post about it here: A trip to Seal Island with the Calypso).

"Why hello there, handsome... do you come here often?"

Instead, I had a restful morning, cleaning up my hard drive in preparation for the week’s flurry of photographic activity. Around lunchtime, my Mom and I made our way to the De Waal Park in the Gardens, for a Concert and Picnic in the Park, organised by several Lions Clubs of South Africa (have a look at my blog post: Mellow Music among the Lions). The SA Army Band Cape Town treated us to some beautifully mellow music in the warm summer sunshine, which we enjoyed over a healthy picnic of buttered seed loaf, fresh salad, and of course tea.

Lions Concert in the Park with the SA Army Band Cape Town

Monday

On Monday morning, Lissi and I drove through to the HQ of 3 Medical Battalion Group in central Goodwood. 3 Med was one of the participants in last year’s Cape Town Military Tattoo, entertaining us with a re-enactment of a historical drill dating back to 1911 (which is almost 100 years ago). A kindly corporal showed us around the HQ, and we chatted to some very friendly and approachable people in uniform.

3 Medical Battalion Group performing during the 2010 Tattoo - the horse-drawn ambulance wagon dates back to between 1899 and 1911

They gave me a copy of the latest Reserve Force Volunteer magazine (in which three of my articles have appeared! Triple Yay!!!). This magazine, which comes out twice a year (summer and winter), contains articles about Defence Reserve related events taking place all around the country.

You can download copies of the magazine from the Reserve Force Division website – the link to the PDF is here. If you do, have a look at page 19 (an article I wrote about Artillery Open Day 2010, held at Potchefstroom in August), page 22 (an article about the special program of activities presented at the Castle during the FIFA 2010 World Cup), and page 26 (an article about Vaatjie Moravian Primary School, which I’d written about previously here).

The school children at Vaatjie Moravian Primary School sing the South African National Anthem for us

Our next destination was Youngsfield Army Base, far to the south, to pick up some music CDs from the SA Army Band Cape Town, who have their HQ at the Base. This is also where they trained the Drill Squad, which is made up of various school children from Mitchell’s Plain, for the 2010 Tattoo (have a look here). Lissi had been so impressed by the Army Band’s performance on Sunday, that she wanted to buy a CD to take back home to Windhoek with her. As the band was rehearsing when we arrived, we were made welcome by a friendly bandsman who treated us to some much-appreciated cups of tea, before we received the CDs from Major Martin Chandler.

The Drill Squad from the Western Province School Marching Drill and Exhibition Association in their snazzy uniforms proudly march onto the parade ground at Youngsfield Army Base to show off their routine

In the early evening, the three of us did a short walk around the Green Point Urban Park, which is amazing and definitely worth a much more extended ramble (and write-up ;-)). (Update: I’ve just posted some pictures about it here.)

A water feature on the central walkway - can you see the red-and-white-striped Mouille Point lighthouse in the distance?

When we walked around here with a playful border collie named Blew-Girl in April 2010 (see here for a walkabout), the park around the brand-new Cape Town Stadium (Walking Tour Part I and Walking Tour Part II) was still being constructed.

Our proud new Cape Town Stadium - last week, it was the stage for visiting Irish rock band U2, who performed in front of a capacity crowd of 70,000

It was amazing to see the finished product. The Green Point Urban Park is really impressive – lots of educational material, pretty sculptures, an interesting biodiversity garden – inviting the young ones – and the young at heart – to meander and explore.

The biodiversity garden is a gorgeous little treasure trove of information on plants and wildlife

Tuesday

On Tuesday, I took the two moms to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (Adults normally pay R37 a head, but South African pensioners get in for free on Tuesdays – note, though, that Namibian pensioners sadly do not).

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is vast - you will never see everything on a single visit, so you'll just have to come again and again!

At 10h00 every day, a volunteer guide is available to take visitors to the gardens on a guided walking tour (included in the price of your entrance ticket), which can last from 1-and-a-half hours to more, depending on the levels of interest and energy of the participants. A most knowledgeable guide by the name of Jack Dunwoody took us aaaalllll around the Gardens that day.

Our excellent guide Jack teaches us all about the plants and animals at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

It was fascinating and very educational, but the relentless heat of the sun baking down on us was making us wilt… We hadn’t eaten since early morning, and weren’t carrying enough water with us. (Tip for next time: Take an apple and a bottle of water. By the way – a bottle of still water at the Cafe Botanica will set you back R12 – ouch! Rather bring your own.) We recovered with a scrumptious picnic on a bench in the shade, and took it easy for the rest of the day.

A picnic on a shady bench is always good for the spirit - the two moms are having a great time!

Wednesday

Somehow, Wednesday turned into a busy-busy-busy day. In the morning, Lissi and I visited the Quilting Bug in Meadowridge, which rightly calls itself “A Patchwork and Quilting Paradise”. The colours of the materials are always so pretty, that I was almost tempted to learn quilting myself. Lissi is a passionate quilter, and she wanted to buy some items that she couldn’t get up in Namibia.

After dropping her off in Fish Hoek to visit family for the day, I met with Linda at the Millstone Farm Stall to chat about the latest alarming developments in the Oude Molen Eco Village. A couple of articles written by Teresa Fischer appeared recently in the People’s Post newspaper:

  • “‘Consultation will come’: Stakeholders taken by surprise by Oude Molen proposal” (01 Feb 2011) – PDF
  • “[Oude Molen] Pool faces immediate closure” (01 Feb 2011) – PDF
  • “Ultimatum for Oude Molen tenants” (22 Feb 1011) – PDF

It looks as though the powers-that-be are trying to get rid of the current tenants by changing the terms of their lease agreements and increasing their rentals by up to 600% (! horrendous!). Presumably, their plan is to re-develop the site, although it’s not sure yet whether it is for business, for industry, or for housing. If lovers and supporters of Oude Molen don’t want this to happen, they’ll need to keep their ear to the ground and their eyes peeled for rezoning notifications in the press.

The Millstone Farm Stall

Afterwards, I picked up a few copies of the latest edition of the Pinelands Muse from Glynnis, who interviewed me for an article about bloggers in Pinelands (I wrote about this really exciting development here). I had just returned home, when Lissi returned too, having gotten a lift from her family. After a delicious supper of roast chicken, with grilled butternut and potatoes, we parked off in front of the laptop, feet up, to watch a DVD. Bliss! Now that’s the way to recover from a run-run-run day. πŸ™‚

Thursday

As soon as the customary rush-hour traffic had died down on Thursday morning, we drove through to the Castle of Good Hope, which had been my home-from-home during the run-up to and for the duration of the thrilling Cape Town Military Tattoo in November last year.

The venerable old Castle of Good Hope, dating back to between 1666 and 1679, is the oldest surviving colonial building in the country

We arrived just in time to witness the daily 10h00 Key Ceremony with the Closing/Opening of the huge main gates to the Castle. This ceremony is performed by the Castle Guard in their handsome navy and white uniforms. The man in the centre of this group has just collected the keys to the front gate of the castle, and is being escorted across the courtyard to lock/unlock the gates. In the olden days, the gates were opened every morning, and locked again at nightfall. I guess it still is now, but the ceremonies are performed during the daytime to cater for tourists. πŸ™‚

The Castle Guard perform the Key Ceremony and the Closing and Opening of the Castle Gates

I then took Lissi to meet the friendly people at the Defence Reserves Office in the Castle, and we all shared some delicious chocolate cake and tea. Afterwards, we returned to the front courtyard to experience the firing of the signal cannon. Lissi almost jumped out of her skin – that insignificant looking cannon packs a mighty punch, let me tell you! We went for a brief walkabout around the Castle, up and down the ramparts, until we were about to melt into a little puddle in the baking heat. It was yet another hot late summer day in Cape Town.

The firing of the signal cannon is always a highlight for tourists and visitors - though probably less so for the people who actually have to work there!

Grateful for the aircon in the car, we drove straight through to the Millstone Farm Stall for lunch – and some ice-cold freshly squeezed grape juice and apple juice! We spent the rest of the day recovering from the heat, which included a brisk dip in our delightfully cold pool.

We have a tasty and healthy lunch at the Millstone Farm Stall

That night, the four of us went to see Riverdance at the Grand West Arena. Unfortunately, I cannot show you any photos – because cameras weren’t allowed. Can you believe it?! Not even cellphone cameras. Urgh. Don’t you just hate that? Sigh…

I’d yearned to see Riverdance ever since Irish dancing first made the headlines at the Eurovision Song Contest of 1994 (YouTube clip) – and this was the very first time that they staged it in South Africa, so I had been tapping my feet in eager anticipation!

<Imagine beautiful photos here of the stage and the dancers and the musicians and the backdrop>

My only gripe (well, apart from not being allowed to take photos! sheesh!) was that the venue was… to put it bluntly… shite. We had seats in the front central section, which was nice, because we had a straight-on view of the stage; however, the seats were all on one level, instead of slanted, so all we saw was heads in front of us – no view of the dancers’ feet, which, in this type of dancing, is surely essential and part of the charm of the whole show. Fortunately, there were two live (?) television monitors mounted on either side of the stage, which helped tremendously. But all the people sitting up the left and right sides of the auditorium must’ve gotten cricks in their necks from looking sideways…

Why, oh why, did they not choose a nicer venue, like the Nico Malan Opera House, for instance? I guess they wanted to cram in as many people to see the show as possible, but at R250 a ticket, a more beautiful venue with more comfortable seats would’ve made a big difference.

Nonetheless, it was definitely worth going to see the show! We were totally swept away by the dancers and the music – they were truly excellent, and the standing ovation at the end was well-deserved!

Friday

On Friday, hubby had taken the day off, so the three of us headed south towards Simon’s Town, where we picked up tickets for Sunday night’s Picnic at Admiralty House with the SA Navy Band.

Group picture at the Cape of Good Hope - the most southwesterly point of the African continent

From there, the road took us further south to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, where we stopped briefly at the Da Gama Cross and the Diaz Cross, as well as at the impressive and educational Buffelsfontein Visitor’s Centre. Next up was a photo opportunity at the most southwesterly point of South Africa (the Cape of Good Hope), before we joined the tourists on the funicular up to the old lighthouse at Cape Point. From here we followed a small well-made track along the ‘knife-edge’ to a lookout above the new lighthouse. (Remember that I’d written about that here? Well, as it turns out, the abyss wasn’t too bad after all!)

The new lighthouse stands on the rocks far below us

Lastly, we popped in at the enchanting Good Hope Nursery and Tea Garden (which we had visited previously) for some tea, sandwiches, and carrot cake to fortify us for the long way home.

Carrot cake at the Good Hope Nursery and Tea Garden

Saturday

On Saturday, we took the two moms on the 3.5 km Woefie Wandel (a “woefie” is an affectionate name for a dog in Afrikaans) through Parow in the morning.

Dogs - and woefies - as far as the eye can see

Last year had been the first Woefie Wandel – the Afrikaans-speaking, northern-suburbs equivalent of the Wiggle Waggle Walkathon, which is organised by the Cape of Good Hope branch of the SPCA in November every year and is usually held in the leafy southern suburb suburb of Tokai (I’d previously written about the 2008 and 2010 Wiggle Waggles). It is a fund-raising initiative, and it’s always a lot of fun.

We have completed the Woefie Wandel 2011!

From here, we continued along the N1, via Worcester and Robertson to visit the Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary, located a couple of kilometres outside the quaint rural village of McGregor. We had first come to this peaceful place in July last year, and promptly decided to adopt a most handsome furry donkey named after Donkey in Shrek (they look just the same!). We had visited the sanctuary again in October last year for the St Francis Day and Remembrance Ceremony. The time had definitely come for a follow-up visit.

An idyllic picture of tranquility and peace

We re-energised ourselves with some tasty toasted sandwiches in the restaurant, before volunteer Mike took us into the paddock to meet the donkeys up close. The mood in the paddock was quite different today: two very young donkeys rescued from Seidelberg Wine Estate had recently joined the herd, and, like naughty children, were getting up to all kinds of mischief. In addition, Dowwe Dolla was in heat, and even though the male donkeys had all been gelded, they clearly still had happy memories of… um… tomfoolery with the ladies. It was not as quiet and peaceful as usual!!

Restless donkeys being chased around the paddock by a mischievous young'un

Nonetheless, we simply had to introduce our moms to our adoptee β€˜child’ Donkey. He has the same kind of stick-straight-up hair as I do. We adore him… can you tell?

A Family Photo πŸ™‚

It was a swelteringly hot day, and we were pretty exhausted by the time we returned home in the laaate afternoon.

Sunday

On Sunday morning, we took Lissi for a leisurely ramble around the Silvermine Reservoir, finding ourselves a most delightful picnic spot on the northern edge of the reservoir.

A tranquil early Sunday morning at the Silvermine Reservoir - a cocker spaniel goes for a dip in the cool water

We had a couple of slices of last night’s herb focaccio from Magica Roma, and polished off the remains of yesterday’s supremely decadent chocolate cake, with copious cups of thermos tea.

A reflective group photo

There was just enough time to return home for a quick shower and a final luggage check, and for me to burn a couple of DVDs with all the photos we had taken during the week, before we brought Lissi to Cape Town International Airport for her flight back to Windhoek. As we stood there in the huge modern departure hall, with its monitors and check-in desks and people milling around, it was hard to believe that, just a few hours earlier, we had been sitting at the edge of the Silvermine Reservoir, listening to the buzzing of bumble bees, the twittering of birds, and the splish-splashing of water against the rocks.

Bye, Lissi! Until next time!

And then, as though the week had not been sufficiently jam-packed with exciting and magical adventures, hubby and I attended Sunday afternoon’s Picnic at Admiralty House in Simon’s Town, where the inimitable SA Navy Band in their spick-and-span black-and-white uniforms entertained a large crowd of picnickers with marvellous music. The wind was quite blustery at times, unfortunately, sending notes and caps and music stands a-flying – and even tumbling over two heavy speakers and injuring one of the bandsmen. The Band handled the difficult conditions with supreme professionalism and aplomb, and much good humour.

The SA Navy Band performing at Admiralty House in Simon's Town

About halfway through their program, Commander Kenny Leibbrandt announced that they were assembling an impromptu choir to sing along with “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music. About 10 people from the audience were chosen or volunteered to participate.

And suddenly, he mentioned my name and instructed me to come up to the front too (I am a fan-follower on their Facebook page, and had left a comment that I would be attending the concert – Note to self: Don’t do that again! ;-)). It was like being called to the principal’s office! For a millisecond, I confess that I contemplated running away and hiding – but the vibe at the Concert was so laidback and relaxed, with everyone in such a happy, cheerful space, that I plucked up the courage to join the choir.

The 2011 Admiralty House Garden Party Ad Hoc Choir sings Edelweiss

As the Band performed several other numbers from The Sound of Music, those of us who knew the words just sang along, or if we didn’t know the words, we just hummed along with the melody… Honestly, it was suuuch fun. (Update: A separate post with pictures is now available here: 2011 Garden Concert at Admiralty House)

What an incredible, exciting conclusion to an unforgettable week!!

20 thoughts on “Looking back on a Whirlwind Week in Cape Town

  1. Lovely interesting post Reggie. Would love to visit the Greenpoint urban park, sounds like the developers kept to their mandate to produce a park area for the public.
    Have a good week. Glynnis

  2. Thanks for the most interesting set of pictures and stuff. I particularly like the shot of the two Mom’s that was nifty. The Seals are cute and I am capturing the horse drawn ambulance to send on my Slow Scan TV image collection. What an amazing set of words…

  3. Thanks for the wonderful and highly interesting week. Besides having had a great time you introduced me to some wonderful heartwarming people. Your pictures are stunning. Lissi

    • Hello mom-in-law Lissi!

      Welcome to my blog, and congratulations on leaving your very first comment in the blogosphere. πŸ™‚ I am glad we had such a great time and look forward to reading *your* blog one of these days.

  4. Wow, I can’t believe all the things you managed to pack into a week! What a great hostess/tour guide you are! πŸ™‚

    I really like the idea of the “Woefie Wandel”. Just wonder if our dog would be able to handle something like that. She’s more difficult to control with other dogs around.

    • Thanks, Lisa. πŸ™‚

      Yeah, from what I’ve read about your puppy (A year of chaos?!), Rosie might find it difficult to contain her excitement at being surrounded by so many hundreds of dogs. Best to bring Willie along to keep a firm grip on her lead, while you take photos. For the blog, you know. πŸ˜‰

  5. Goodness gracious Reggie – you weren’t kidding about being busy!!! You packed in such a wide variety of activities and excursions into a week, lovely to read about it all.
    I think you deserve a holiday now πŸ˜‰

  6. Ah, she’s from Namibia! Can you help a geographically challenged reader? Where is Namibia? (How funny that you were called up to the front… smiling, imagining that.)

    • Hello Kathy

      Namibia is the country to the north of South Africa. It was a German colony from 1884 until 1915, and was known as German South West Africa at the time. Then it was ‘taken over’ and administered by South Africa until 1990, when it gained its independence. It is a vast country with a low population density, except around the major centres. Windhoek (where mom-in-law and my hubby come from) is the capital and it lies more or less in the centre of the country; Swakopmund (where I come from) lies on the western coast, just north of Walvis Bay – these are two of the larger centres. The greatest number of people live in the north, near the border with Angola, because the most fertile areas lie along the Kunene River. Much of the rest of the country is very dry and there are laaaarge desert areas, such as the Namib Desert (all along the western coastline) and the Kalahari Desert (towards the eastern border with Botswana and South Africa).

      And thus ends our Monday morning, Human Rights Day, geography lesson about Namibia – a Truly Fantastic Tourist Destination. πŸ˜€

  7. hi…it is grant and linnie…you should try a trip to eastern cape…the hogsback…you will enjoy.
    they claim jrr Tolkien got his inspiration from the mountains,forests and rivers,waterfalls there.

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