Saturday, June 28, 2008

June 28 Madrid

I had breakfast and then walked to the venue. We were locked out but after some frantic waving we were let in. I didn't have time to register before going to meet my group. Just before I got to the room, the power went out for the whole floor when someone plugged in a laptop. I gave my opening having the participants follow along on their own laptops. No AC. A couple of hours later, AC was restored. Whew!

Working group

Outside the venue

We went for tapas after the working group was done. I couldn't get money from the ATM.

Tapas at the bar of the Alboran

June 27 London - Madrid

Our plane got in a bit late to London. I got a wheelchair so I didn't have to walk. Phil got on the train to his flight and he was off.

My plane got into Madrid almost an hour early! I got my luggage with no problem and found the metro, When I got out at Nuevos Ministerios, it was very hot and my luggage was very heavy so I hailed a cab who didn't know where to let me off so again I had to lug my bags.

I ended up at the residencia and checked in. To get to my room, you go down a flight of stairs, through several turns in the hallways, down another half flight, more turns; up a flight and down a hallway. However to get back to the start, I walk a few steps down the hall out a door and am quickly at the entrance. Obviously, I can't return the way I can exit because of security.

I had dinner in the residencia with several colleagues.

June 26 Pretoria -- in air toward London

Up very early to walk to the University of Pretoria where Judith hosted a breakfast for faculty from 3 universities. I panicked when I saw the scope of this "informal" gathering and put together a quick Power Point. I think the presentation went well. I was stunned to learn that UNISA has 260,000 students!

Judith and Phil at University of Pretoria

Judith's Office Door

Then a colleague of Judith's, Katherine Malan, took us to the Voortrekker's Monument and past the union building.

Voortrekker's Monument

Later Judith had a young man, Ezra, from her department take us all to downtown Pretoria and see the old buildings there.

A smoky cab ride (because of the fires along the highway) to the airport and we were off. I got quite ill on the flight; I thought I was going to pass out. It was very hot and crowded in the plane and we had missed lunch. The flight attendants let us sit in the galley until I recovered. I slept most of the 11 hour flight to Heathrow.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

June 25 Pretoria

Up early. Had breakfast at the Guest House and Judith came in a taxi to pick me up.

We got to the conference venue. My presentation was after the opening session, but was considered the keynote. There were over a hundred people there, all invited by the government. People came from academia and from industry.

The conference lasted all day and then we went to Judith's where she prepared a braai (South African barbecue) for us. We ate in her lovely garden, with the braai fire keeping us warm.

June 24 Madikwe to Pretoria

Our last game drive. We were on a quest to find leopards for one of the guests. All we did was run around and we didn't see much.

But the really fun time started as we left the lodge. First, the elephant came back and drank from the pool.


Then on the ride out to the airport we saw tons of animals: a ton of wildebeest, zebra and impala crossed in a line in front of the jeep. Then we saw our first jackal.

But the real fun was at the "airport" itself. The plane was nearly an hour late, and I have posted a very jumpy video of that.

When we got in the plane, we had two aborted take offs because giraffe kept getting on the runway. Finally the pilot hopped out with the prop still rotating and the plane slowly moving forward. He ran into the bush to chase away the giraffes! He jumped back in, turned the plane around again and we did take off.

In coming plane video

On the Plane

Giraffe on runway

Landing in Johannesburg was also interesting to be so close to the ground for so long.

We checked into the Pebble Fountain guest house. To get to our room we went through the kitchen! Judith Bishop gave a dinner party for us in her lovely little home in Brooklyn, Pretoria. Guests included Hermi Boraine from NACI and her husband, and Cheryl de la Ray from SET4W. We had lamb with lavender and wonderful wines.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Madikwe June 23

Once agin the alarm woke me. Although I didn't sleep too well. The game drive in the morning began with a huge group of baboons in the road in front of us. Soon after we saw 6 lions feasting on what remains of the kudu they killed. Gruesome but interesting.


Lions feeding on kudu

At the morning coffee stop Phil and Beckson, our guide, had an impala spitting contest to see who could spit a piece of the poop the farthest. Sample os the poop are displayed on the morning coffee table. Ugh!

Coffee and Impala Poop

We saw a lot of Cape buffalo. They are big!


Before lunch we took pictures of ourselves in front and in back of our cottage. On the way to lunch we were surprised by an elephant eating the plants around the hotel!

After lunch I called Sandy Hulshizer to see if she could help me get my bone stimulator charger.



We spent the afternoon game drive trying to find cheetah or leopard with no success. We did spot an African Wild Cat which was about the size of a house cat.

Madikwe June 22

Up early for the game drive. I especially enjoyed the baby elephants. We saw lots of animals again. I bought an Impodimo t-shirt -- 285 rand but nice. Lunch by the pool -- chicken and couscous and salad. A short rest and then another game drive. It is bitter cold after dark. When we returned for dinner, the fire was very smoky. We had kudu for dinner. It was like a bit gamey beef and very good.


Friday, June 20, 2008

Johannesburg to Madikwe

Up early to get shuttle to airport. Phil tipped the wrong guy! Then we struggled to get the driver to understand where we needed to be dropped. But eventually we made it to the Fed Air shuttle. The waiting room for the ariline was about 5 kilometers away from the main Johannesburg terminal. It was more like the Ambassador's club, with lovely food and drink for free. We had a very long wait for our flight to be called. There is no security. The only thing that happens is that they weigh your bags. Our plane was a one engine Cessna Caravan I that holds 15 max. It was the pilot, co-pilot, one young guy, six girls, Phil and me. The flight to Madikwe was about an hour. The "airport" is just a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Not a building in sight. The lodge operators send a jeep and rangers to meet you. Our driver was Beck, short for Beckson.


Immediately we saw three lions. This was quickly followed by 2 giraffe with a bunch of zebra. We got to Impodimo after about an 45 minutes journey. It is quite pretty. But our room is very far from the lodge and my foot was very tired. I was hungry and they brought us a small fruit basket and we had some of the wine -- a half bottle cost $12! This is a soak the rich kind of place.


We met for tea at 3 and were soon off on the evening ride. We were gone about 3 hours. I was most impressed by the close up rhinos, a ton of Cape Buffalo and a spotted eagle owl who posed an dkept turning his head nearly all the way round. The terrain here looks almost identical to the Texas Hill Country, If you plopped me down that is where I would say it was.


Mossel Bay to Johannesburg

We had to pack and breakfast to go to the Diaz museum by 8:30. I used the internet and found a geocache and saw that Chloe had a fever.

We were joined by our guide who had taken Uli to the plane in George. We first looked with no avail fof the cache under the "post office tree" -- an old milk wood tree where sailor's left notes in boots to message messages. The museum held a replica of the ship that Bartholomeu Diaz sailed from Portugal around the Cape. The replica sailed from Portugal to Mossel Bay in 1988.

Francois at the Post Office Tree

Diaz's Ship

Settlement aka Township aka Informal Housing along the road

I went back to the hotel and found better info on the cache and we looked again and finally found it! Hooray!

Today was mostly a driving day -- we stopped for lunch in Swellendon, a town with lots of quaint Cape Dutch houses with thatched roofs. I had really good fish and chips and Phil had chicken pot pie.


The ranger called to say they found Phil's camera and I called Judith. They are mailing it to her in Pretoria and we should have it!

It rained on and off all the way back to Cape Town and rained hard when we drive along the coast. We had a two hour wait at the airport for our plane.

The plane was an hour late taking off and then made an aborted landing in Joburg because another plane had stalled on the runway! Got to our semi scary motel after being "taken for a ride" by a gypsy cab even though we got it at the official taxi stand.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Knysna to Mossel Bay

What a lovely morning! Same breakfast of myriad choices. Phil chose bread, fruit, cheese and meat. I had cereal and then the same. Getting coffee as usual was difficult.

We took a boat to the nature reserve. Hair-raising trip up the mountain. Phil elected to walk down. Of all the tourists, I was the only one that rode down with the driver. However I was able to walk on the lovely path the hikers took on the way back

Featherbed Nature Reserve Channel

Phil and Barb at Featherbed

A very nice lunch plus too much dessert

We drove to Botlierskop Reserve: terrific game drive. We saw nyala, then others on the official drive. This place is known for its black impala. We also saw elands, waterbuck, wildebeest, cape zebras, water bucks, etc. Phil lost his camera just as we saw cape zebra.

Botlierskop Entrance

Sam the Elephant

Lion’s Roar

Black and Normal Impala

On to Mossel bay where we had a huge meal with Uli and Francois
Back to the room for Phil to read and Barb to compute

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day 5 Oodsthoorn to Knysna, South Africa

Oudsthoorn to Knysna

After a nice breakfast we went directly to Cango Caves where we took a tour. The first chamber was huge, and had been used from the 1960’s to the 1980’s as a concert venue, but concert goers had broken off stalactites as souvenirs so no more concerts. The cave however, was quite nice.

Our room at the Protea Hotel

Cango Cave

Then off to the Highgate Ostrich Farm, both a farm for tourists and the second oldest working ostrich farm in South Africa. We got to “ride” an ostrich, watch them being ridden and raced, saw how their feathers were used and how chicks were hatched and raised. Then we ate ostrich for lunch! We were also serenaded buy the staff.

Phil and Barb on Ostrich

Noontime Serenade

We had about a two hour ride through a valley and then through the mountains down to the town of George, where we followed estuarial lakes to the Indian Ocean coastal town of Knysna where we will spend the night.

View above George

Flowers in Kynsta

View of Featherbed Nature Reserve, a World Heritage Site in Knysta

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

June 17 Day 4

Once again, a very nice breakfast. We checked out of the hotel and our tour guide, Francois, picked us up. There was only one other tourist, Uli, from Germany. Francois never stops talking and his favorite subject is politics. He is hard to understand, partly because he wears the mike too close to his mouth and partly because there was a ferocious wind and the window leaked. We drove over spectaular mountain passes.

Our three stops were first at a patisserie/winery Rooiberg. Since we had eaten notlong before and the patisserie had no real seating because of a private birthday party, Phil and I elected to taste wine -- a sauvignon blanc, a chardonnay and a pinotage. I thought the sauvignon blanc was exceptionally good.


Then we drove to the Joubert-Tradauw winery, a family-owned farm for lunch. The owner was very handsome and the food, mostly from his farm was wonderfully fresh. Freshly baked breads, lentil soup, and "tapas" of chicken, root vegetables and cooked fruits. The owner poured samples of two of his wines. I enjoyed the chardonnay and had a glass.

Our host

The final tourist stop was at a wildlife park Kango Wildlife Ranch in Oudtshoorn. It is a mish mash of wildlife but in nicely arranged natural areas.

Croc Teeth

We were there for the feeding of the large cats. For example, a lion was eating a mule leg complete with hoof and hide and a tiger gnawed a deer head. Ugh!

Tiger feed

We got to the hotel which does not have internet in the rooms and our room was furthest from the dining room. My foot really hurt so I complained to our guide and he got us the honeymoon suite right next to the dining room. It is a round detached building like an African hut complete with a thatched roof. Guess it pays to complain!

Round room

Monday, June 16, 2008

Day 3 In and around Cape Town, South Africa

Portswood Hotel. We had a wonderful breakfast at the hotel. We were curious about the hotel. Turns out it used to be a prison and 15 years ago they turned it into a hotel. The old water well is in the center of the lobby.

We went on a tour of the Cape of Good Hope, heading down the west side and coming back on the east. The first stop was at Chapman Peak. View in background is Hout Bay.

On the way to Cape Point we saw ostriches and a family of baboons. I rode the funicular to the base of the Cape Point light and Phil walked up.


Cape of Good Hope

Baboon Family

Next stop was in Simonstown to see the nesting African Penguins, formerly known as Jackass penguins because of their bray.

Lunch back across the street from our hotel where we tried find a better transformer for my bone growth machine, but went in a circle and got only an adapter for South Africa which is different from all others I have. We grabbed fantastic falafels at the mall before continuing on our excursion to Stellenbosch wine country and two wine tastings.

The first was at a little winery, Anura, which means frog. The wine was excellent and they have a deal when you can have it sent from their US distributer without paying the shipping. We got a case!