South Africa: A Logistical Post

   I think a chronological recount of a great vacation is a pretty boring way to tell a story.  So as with my posts about our trip to Spain last year, I will not recount our trip that way.  However, I will do one post that just briefly explains how we got there, where we stayed, and that gives a brief overview of our activities to give a context for my future posts. So, this one will be boring.

Itinerary:

May 31 – Depart US

June 1 – Arrive in Cape Town at 9:30PM

June 2 – Robben Island and City Exploring

June 3 – Cape Town to Port Elizabeth and transported to Shamwari Game Reserve. We go on our first game viewing drive.

June 3-8 – Shamwari Game Reserve

June 8 – Return to Cape Town in the PM

June 9 – District 6 Museum, Castle of Good Hope, Township Tour of Langa

June 10 – Table Mountain, Aquarium, Shopping on V&A Waterfront

June 11 – Cape Penninsula Tour – hike between Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope, Simon’s Town, Hout Bay, Kirstenbosch Gardens

June 12 – Groot Constantia Vineyard, World of Birds, last-minute shopping; depart 11:35 PM for Amsterdam

June 13 – Amsterdam

June 14 – Return to US

How We Got There

We flew Delta and KLM, from Raleigh to New York to Amsterdam to Cape Town and returned the same way.  Thanks to David’s use of his vast quantities of Sky Miles, we flew business class.  Delta’s business class had good food and terrible seats for sleeping.  KLM’s business class had terrible food and more tolerable seats for sleeping.  I was actually able to sleep substantially on the KLM flights, which was good, because it enabled me to sleep through meals rather than having to look at that disgusting Dutch food.  On the entire trip, the only meals that I skipped came on 12 hour KLM flights.

David on the flight from New York to Amsterdam

I like this one of David on one of the KLM flights, because he looks like a relaxed European gentleman kicking back with a copy of the Financial Times:

We spent several hours in airport lounges, enjoying free drinks and stale cookies. Here I am at the Amsterdam Schipol Airport one:

For transportation between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, we flew South African Airlines Express.  It was fantastic. In a flight of about an hour in length, they served a “snack” that was more like a meal and was far tastier than anything we ate in the business class cabin of KLM.  Also, they served multiple beverages in a short flight. 

Where We Stayed:

When we were in Cape Town, we stayed at the Cape Town Westin.  This is solely because of David’s Starwood points and status.  The first two nights we were there, before we went to Port Elizabeth, we had a great room with an amazing view.  We woke up in the morning to this view of the Victoria and Albert Waterfront and Signal Hill:

That’s the Green Point World Cup Soccer Stadium that you see there in the center:

When we came back to Cape Town after our trip over to Shamwari, we were upgraded to the largest room on the floor, but it lacked the view of the waterfront.  Instead we got this view of downtown Cape Town:

It wasn’t as great, but to compensate, we did get a very large walk-in closet!

My other favorite features of the hotel (which was comparable to a Westin in any other large city):

1. The friendliness of the staff.

2. The delicious breakfasts in the Westin Executive Club, complete with 10 different types of fruit juices: I started every day with a glass of spinach and papaya juice which helped me feel healthy for about a minute and a half before I consumed a large breakfast of African Eggs Benedict with Ostrich. The views from the Executive Club were fantastic!

3. The spa on the top-level complete with its indoor infinity pool with Atlantic views:

4. My favorite feature is one that was common to most establishments we visited in South Africa. It was the puppy-themed toilet paper in the bathroom. There were puppies on the toilet paper!  This explains why I love South Africa; they put puppies on toilet paper there! I can’t emphasize enough how happy this made me.

 

We stayed five nights at the Bayethe Tented Lodge at the Shamwari Game Reserve. This place was pretty much perfect.  I mean that quite seriously.  I mean, it too had the puppy toilet paper.  We also had canvas walls and a thatched roof! A plunge pool!  An outdoor shower where monkeys could steal our grooming supplies! A warm tent even in the chilly nights once we figured out we had a heater! The creaky wood floors! A central lodge perfectly decorated with dung beetle pillows! An outdoor deck overlooking a watering hole for the animals! We were in the bush! We had spiders sometimes! I saw a snake once even though it was winter! We ate lunch watching warthogs at the watering hole! The food was delicious and with such large portions!

In other words, I really liked the place.

Here are some pictures of our tent.  All of the tents were secluded and private, so that meant at night it was very, very quiet and very, very dark.  So dark that the night skies were amazing.

Here are some pictures of the common lodge area, which is where we ate our meals:

 

The grounds at Bayethe, looking down to where our tent was.

 

Before, I close this post, I should also mention that on the way back, we stayed for 24 hours in Amsterdam. I will talk more about my Amsterdam feelings later, but I will just mention that we stayed at the Sheraton connected to the Schipol airport, which wouldn’t be worth mentioning at all except that we got upgraded to a big suite that even had two bathrooms. This served to temporarily lessen the depression of leaving South Africa.

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