Monday, August 25, 2014

Part 1 - Garden Route, South Africa - The road trip

It has been more than a year since my husband and i visited his sister there. And i have been meaning to write down the details of our trip there, especially after so many of our friends traveled there in the last year and have been asking for information!

So here goes, finally!

This is part 1 of the trip - our 3 days in Cape Town - followed by Stellenbosch and Montagu..

After hassle fee visa applications, yellow fever shots, and a pretty comfortable 9 hours South African Airways flight from Mumbai, India to Johannesburg, we landed at my sister-in-laws place at Pretoria. We made this our pit stop.
After a 3 day sightseeing spree (Sun city, farmers markets, Rosebank, Pilanisburg Nature Reserve - we spotted a lion!!) with my sister-in-law, her husband and our absolutely adorable 3 year old niece, we dumped our non essential stuff at their place and were raring to go on our road trip - 15th to 25th April along the Garden Route.

This blog is dedicated to that road trip that my husband and i shared and was possibly the most efficiently planned road trip my husband has ever been on! The amount of time and energy that i spent in planning this! I had reached the last rung in the ladder to craziness world :)

Day 1 : 15th April
10:00 am: Arrival at Cape Town international Airport, followed by a really long walk to Thrifty car rental agency. We zoomed away in our rented VW Polo classic (the driving is disciplined, which is very hard to follow for an Indian! Also it is a right hand drive, so that was not an issue. My husband chose to drive, for obvious reasons - he is a good driver and i have bumps, scratches and dents on the roof of my car in India!)

We arrived at Protea Hotel Sea Point, a chain of comfortable and conveniently located hotels.

The staff here was extremely helpful, in fact the receptionist there urged us to go to the Table Mountain that very day as it was sunny. It was not in our plan, but we decided to go as he made it sound like it was the last day of sunlight on Earth! And we were so glad we did. Rest of our stay in Cape Town we had rainy, deary weather, followed by brief sunshine, but not like the day we arrived in Cape town - bright, sunny and beautiful!

Table Mountain - we had booked in advance, but we realized there was no need to do so. There were no queues. It takes about 45 minutes to reach Table Mountain from Sea Point. An amazing aerial cable way ride up, and the car swivels inside for a 360 degree view! - we reached a flat land of varied flora and fauna. Walk around the beautiful plain, observe the weirdly shaped plants and rocks and click amazing photos!

At 3 pm we returned to the hotel after a late lunch at a small Italian joint on a street behind out hotel.

Day 2 : 16th April

 9:00 am: We start bright and early and arrive at the Castle of Good Hope. Built my the Dutch East India Company, the castle is the oldest existing colonial building in SA.  Again, no need to book in advance, though we did - hello! remember my obsessive compulsive nature?! Unfortunately, the firing of the signal canon was cancelled on that day :(

We opted out of the formal tour and decided to take a walk around on our own. The castle is beautiful and the museum is excellent. Spend and hour here and you will get to know South African history thoroughly.

In the afternoon, we decided to head over to Kirstenbosch botanical gardens. It is, undoubtedly, a beautiful place with wide plains, varied flora, little rivers with wooden bridges, benches and lawns - there is not much to do here, if you are not a flora fauna enthusiast, but it is a pretty walk that takes you through interesting plants, like plants that have a unique fragrance section was lovely.

Unless you are extremely interested in plants and flowers and botany, i don't think this place will hold much delight for you. But again, to each his own!  Oh, but do visit the paintings and and art museum tucked away in a little corner of the garden
Pray you have good weather, we were caught in a torrential downpour, that came with no warning whatsoever!

In the evening we visited the V & A Waterfront. We wanted to visit the Gold Museum, but we couldn't find it. I ma serious, we checked and re-checked our GPS and maps on our phones, but we just couldn't find it!
V&A is an amazing place to just hangout. A special mention of Mitchell's Bar, an Irish pub at the waterfront - do have their buffalo wings, out of the world.

Day 3: 17th April
9:00 am - We push off early as there is a lot to be done on our last day at Cape Town. We leave for Simon's Town to see the Penguins and for a submarine tour.
We take the Chapman's Peak drive which is a wonderful stretch of road over the hill. Unfortunately, the weather was mean again today. But the drive was beautiful, nonetheless.

11:00 am : We stop at Simons Town for the ASSEGAAI submarine tour. A lovely detailed tour inside the submarine that lasts for about an hour and a half. The guide was an ex-navy man and hence the tour was interesting. They take you through the entire submarine - section by section. It is quite a revelation to see how many men actually occupy such cramped space.

Next stop - Boulders Beach - a nice long walk along wooden bridges surrounded by adorable little penguins and finally watching the penguin colony on the boulders, it was all so cute. There are signs warning you not to interact with the penguins, so no matter how charming they are you cannot lift one, put him in your bag and take him home!

Next stop - Cape of Good Hope. However the weather had turned horrid and the sun decided to go into hiding. But whatever we could see of the view, it was breathtaking. There is a lovely old lighthouse, which is now the viewing site - you can either walk up or take the tram, or as it called The flying Dutchman Funicular!

Bye Bye Cape town

Day 4 : 18th April
We drove down to Stellenbosch, which is an hour's drive from Cape Town. Our wine tour was scheduled for 10.00 am. We reached early and used the time to explore the pretty little town on foot. We had breakfast and amazing Indian chai (finally!) at a little cafe on the sidewalk.
The wine tour was organized by Tsiba Tsiba Wine tours. It included a visit to 3 wineries and tastings at each winery. My favorite was Muratie Wine Estate, complete with basement seating, yellow lighting, wooden chairs and adorable big dogs. We had a young American couple with us on the tour and the four of us had a blast.Actually, only 3 of us - my husband had to limit his wine intake. Unfortunately, for some reason we did not plan to stay in Stellenbosch but to cover the distance and halt at Montagu!

On our way to Montagu, we had another pit stop planned - FRANSCHHOEK MOTOR MUSEUM. I should probable invite Sagar to write a review of it here. If you are a car person, do go, is all i will say here. I had a difficult time getting Sagar out of here - what with my wine hangover and all! Also, this is a really difficult place to find. On your way to Franschhoek, keep a very very alert look out on your right. You will see a gate leading to the motor museum before actually hitting the town of Franschhoek.
 We also tried Malay cuisine at a local restaurant in Franschhoek - it is sweet - the curry is actually sweet! i quite enjoyed it.

Our stop at Montagu was at Somerset lodge. It is pretty little building, very easy to find. Our room included  a sit out, a kitchenette and a bedroom with attached bathroom, all very prettily done in pastels. If you are staying at Montagu, I would definitely recommend this place. David is a very friendly host, he showed us around the place and made out short stay extremely comfortable.

Part 2 of the journey coming up soon. It is exhausting writing a travel blog is what i have realized. And you don't want to just write about it - you want to go back out there and relive your experience!

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