I will admit to being completely and utterly useless at Memes (as much as I am flattered to be asked). I usually a) forget, and by the time I remember it’s no longer relevant; or b) I can never decide who to tag which takes me straight back to a) again. But my friend Trish over at Mum’s Gone to tagged me in this new travel Meme, and I did absolutely promise – so here you go…
Again, it has taken me ages to get around to, because how do you decide? We have been lucky enough to visit a lot of places, and lots of them have been Great Journeys for different reasons, but the best one of the lot so far? I think it would probably be our trip to South Africa, as I have yet to visit another country with such wonderful welcoming people, and it is just beautiful!
We set off for our 24 day Garden Route adventure in December 2003, with perhaps the biggest pile of suitcases we have lugged about to date, starting off in fabulous Cape Town – a diverse city of bustling streets, markets and incredible restaurants, all under the spectacular backdrop of Table Top Mountain. From the top we spotted dassies (related to Elephants strangely enough) and our very first whale in the beautiful blue far below.
Then it was onto tiny Montagu for a few days relaxation at Mimosa Lodge, a place that prides itself on its food and wines.
After this came a very special visit to Oudtshorn where we came face to face with ostriches, and got up close and personal with some cheetah cubs (where I had a shocking experience after accidentally touching the electric fence!!). We stayed at Oulap House, the home of a wonderful couple who are celebrities in their own right. We didn’t know at the time, but our host Jans is actually famous for his anti-apartheid films. He spends his time promoting South Africa culturally, as well as being looked upon as a father figure by local people. He is also a master story-teller, and after dinner we loved listening to tales of local customs (like the hired mourners at funerals, paid to wail loudly). His lovely wife Almeri looked after us so well, and enjoyed watching England’s World Cup Rugby victory over Australia with Mr R!
We then travelled to Plettenberg for a stay at Hog Hollow. This amazing lodge has such lovely staff, and some incredibly talented chefs! There are is no such thing as private dining here, all guests are encouraged to eat together around one huge table, and many a friendship was formed over dinner!
We also stopped off at Knysna, where we met up with very good friends, and enjoyed a stay at Phantom Forest - an Eco Reserve with beautiful tree top suites deep in the heart of the jungle. Needless to say the accommodation is surrounded by wildlife. I loved this place, but the only slight drawback? The warnings that doors and windows are properly closed, or you risk a few monkey visitors in the night. Having a slight phobia of all things simian at close quarters, this would have been my worst nightmare, but I managed to sleep after checking the windows a hundred times, and wedging a chair against the door!
Hermanus beckoned next, and we stayed at Schulphoek Guest House right on the beach. As it was December it was ideal for whale watching, and we went out to spot them on a memorable boat trip (decked out like fishermen to keep dry)! I remember the sea being rough, and the dark shadows of Great Whites that passed beneath the (inflatable sided!!) boat had me slightly nervous, but once we had made it through shark alley (home to the thousands of stinky seals that the sharks call dinner), we were rewarded with the unforgettable sight of a Southern Right Whale and her not insubstantial calf.
And then it was onto Franschoek, the heart of the wine region, and gorgeous Franschoek Country House, where before too long, the first of our guests arrived…
We were married the next day under the biggest Jacaranda tree I have ever seen, and in front of 18 of our nearest and dearest who had travelled from around the world to be with us for our special day! Although I have to say after that “pre-honeymoon”, I am surprised I could still fit into my wedding dress!
And the day after, once we had all recovered from the festivities, we spent the day at Boschendal in Stellenbosch for a huge picnic in the vineyard, where of course there were plenty of wines to choose from to go with lunch!
The remaining few days passed in a blur of spending time with friends and family, and visiting various places together. Boulders Bay was on the list, with its beach loving penguins, as was Kirstenbosch and Cape Point! The sight of my Dad driving along here with a grimacing baboon hitching a lift on his windscreen will stay with me forever, as will the many other funny and of course special memories we gained on that trip!
We are contemplating going back next year for our tenth anniversary, but it will of course be with two monkeys of our very own…