07 February 2012

The Cape of Good Hope

Posted in Talking about . . .

Oh, the glorious Cape of Good Hope!

I’d forgotten just how exquisitely beautiful the Cape is . . .

We flew into Cape Town on a Sunday morning, to be met by bright sunshine and a bright Adie Buckland - a splendid start to two and a half fabulous weeks!

That first afternoon, we went down to the Waterfront, and just basked in the late afternoon sunshine and the beauty of the place as we sipped a luscious Cape rosé – heavenly . . .

The hustle of the waterways with Table Mountain towering over us all

The hustle of the waterways with Table Mountain towering over us all

The next day, I attended a lunch at the gracious Cape Town Club with old classmates – it didn’t take more than a few minutes for the old stories to come tumbling out and the years simply melted away. What fun it was to re-experience the characters of my adolescence in their maturity. The truth is that it was only their bodies that had changed somewhat – their personalities were just as engaging as they were more than 40 years ago! And look at the 3 portraits of gravitas behind us . . .

Jane Buckland, Judy Mossop, Wendy Carter, Mish Boyes, Arddy Mossop, Cathy Pennington, Janie Hope-Robertson, me, Sally Starke

From Left to Right: Jane Buckland, Judy Mossop, Wendy Carter, Mish Boyes, Arddy Mossop, Cathy Pennington, Janie Hope-Robertson, me, Sally Starke

For the next two days, it was a wonderful melee of running around the reservoir in Oranjezicht in the early summer mornings, lazing by the pool, Scrabble games, lunches and dinners out, exploring the city, and lots of fun!

Houses in the old Malay Quarter

Houses in the old Malay Quarter

drinking rosé at the poolside A 30-year competition!

Drinking rosé at the poolside, A 30-year competition!

Then we picked up a car and took off on a road trip around the Cape. It was fantastic! We started out in Tulbagh (a tiny country town), site of an enormous earthquake in 1969 that all but flattened every building. The National Monuments Council decided to restore one whole street of historically significant buildings, and this street (Church Street) is now home to gracious B&B establishments, restaurants, art galleries, a museum and an information centre. It’s rustic, but very charming. A parallel street (the main street of Tulbagh) is a fabulous example of rural, small-town South Africa, with general dealer stores being the mainstay of the economy.

Typical Cape-Dutch home in Church Street Paddagang (Frogs’ Way) Restaurant

Typical Cape-Dutch home in Church Street, Paddagang (Frogs’ Way) Restaurant

The general dealer stores The general dealer stores

The general dealer stores

Then we drove through Wolseley, Worcester, Robertson, and Ashton, finally ending up at Wildebraam, a berry farm about 5 kilometers outside Swellendam. The 3-hour drive took us through the beautiful Breede River valley with mountains on either side. This valley used to be the fruit-growing heart of the Cape. Now, the fruit is gone and it’s all vineyards. It felt sad. However, we could not deny the beauty of the area and the quaint, typically Cape Dutch architecture throughout the region.

Cape farmstall Cape winelands

Cape farmstall, Cape winelands

Breede River Valley Worcester

Breede River Valley, Worcester

We stopped at a farmstall and bought dried fruit, biltong, droewors, and koeksusters . . .mmmmm . . . I did most of the driving and Brian quickly took to the co-driver role – anticipating my needs for yummy food or water. Excellent fellow - you’d think he’d grown up with roadtrips! The pictures of biltong and droewors don’t do justice to their deliciousness, so here are koeksusters, which are syrup-coated, plaited doughnuts. I can’t help but think longingly also of oliebollen and poffertjes . . .

Oliebollen Poffertjes Koeksusters!

Oliebollen and Poffertjes (remember them?) and Koeksusters!

The cottage on the berryfarm Wildebraam was set against the Langeberg mountains, providing an exquisite backdrop to our comings and goings. We went running along the dirt farm roads; we had a fabulous meal in an Italian restaurant in Swellendam, we explored the wonderfully restored buildings and historical sites in the town; and we lay around, eating koeksusters, gorgeous fruit and drinking rosé. What heaven! And I did enjoy the Xmas lights in Swellendam . . .

Langeberg mountains Our jogging road

Langeberg mountains, Our jogging road

La Sosta Restaurant Xmas lights in Swellendam

La Sosta Restaurant, Xmas lights in Swellendam

Then we went on to the coast, spending two nights in a lovely B&B right on the beach at the Wilderness. The beach runs away in both directions endlessly with fine white sand and thundering surf. I used to live here, and my runs took me down memory lane alongside the lagoon.

We explored the coast, and then drove inland towards the semi-desert area of the Little and Great Karoo. We took the road less travelled over the Swartberg mountains through a long, narrow pass in the mountains called Seweweekspoort (“seven-weeks-gateway” – named after the length of time it took the early settlers to cross the mountains into the hinterland). It was pretty impressive! A lot of it was dirt road, although very well graded so the going was relatively smooth. Once we were back onto the tar-seal, we sped along through the Karoo towards Matjiesfontein where we spent our last night.

Suddenly, I saw a snake crossing the road – because of its colouring, I only saw it as it went under the wheels of the car. There was a loud thud as it slapped up against the chassis of the car. I drove for a few seconds and then remembered that snakes sometimes are thrown up into the chassis where they may stay until the car stops and then come out . . . I turned back to see if it was on the road. It was, and Brian took a picture of it through the window. My snake expert informs me that it was most probably a Rinkhals (Spitting Cobra) by its length, colouring, and scale-type. Although I felt really uncomfortable about killing this creature, my activated snake-phobia reminded me of one of the reasons I love living in New Zealand - No Snakes!

Sunset over Wilderness beach Seweweekspoort

Sunset over Wilderness beach, Seweweekspoort



We had the final night of our roadtrip at the Lord Milner Hotel in Matjiesfontein. This historic site is part of the Anglo-Boer war history, as well as the development of the great railroad from the Cape to Cairo. The hotel was very glamorous at the turn of the 20th century and again in the 1970s. It is now a little run down, but still provides a beautiful oasis in the middle of the arid Karoo. The enormous swimming pool was pristine and deserted; the once-splendid dining room was half empty and decorated with tired tinsel; the sitting rooms still hold antique pieces, but many are broken. The grounds are kept in very good order, and the gardens are well-tended. There was a tree next to a pond that held more weaver-bird nests than I’ve ever seen. Smart birds – keeping their babies safe from snakes . . .

The Lord Milner Interiors The Lord Milner Interiors

Lord Milner Hotel interiors

Lord Milner Pool Weaver Bird nests in Matjiesfontein

Lord Milner Hotel Pool, Weaver bird nests in Matjiesfontein

Then it was back to Cape Town and the preparations for Christmas. We had four more days with Jane and Adie and had marvellous meals at The Foodbarn in Noordhoek, the Winchester Mansions in Sea Point, and Chez Buckland in Oranjezicht! We also had drinks at the Mount Nelson – another reminder of a bygone age.

At the Foodbarn with Jane and Adie At the Winchester Mansions with Jane and Adie and Murrays

At the Foodbarn with Jane and Adie, and at the Winchester Mansions with Jane and Adie and Murrays

Then it was off to stay in our own apartment at Constantia Place – the retirement complex where my step-mother, Liz, lives. What a gorgeous setting for a gracious retirement! Kate was there from London as was her brother (my step-brother), Mark, from Cambridge. We had a superb Christmas dinner at the Cellars restaurant, with Brian, myself, Mark, Kate, Liz and her neighbour and friend, Celia. On Boxing Day we went to Fish Hoek for lunch with my bridesmaid and school friend Jude and her partner Valerie; and drove to the Hemel-en-Aarde valley to La Vierge vineyard and restaurant for lunch on the 27th December. What a fabulous setting that is – even the view from the toilet in the ladies’ room is through a floor to ceiling window overlooking the vineyards!

Xmas eve at the Cellars The view from the ladies' loo at La Vierge

Xmas eve at the Cellars, The view from the ladies' loo at La Vierge!

Chloe, Jane, me

Chloe Buckland, Jane Buckland, me

We left Cape Town on the 28th December to spend 3 days in Singapore in preparation for our return home. Singapore was hot, humid and very crowded. In spite of that, we had a good time with Sasha (a colleague of Brian’s from the University of Canterbury who now lives in Singapore) and his family on New Year’s Eve, and managed to get in a little shopping on Orchard Road (as you do), and explored the historic and ultra-modern aspects of this interesting city.

Marine Bay Sands Resort Singapore skyline

Marine Bay Sands Resort, Singapore skyline

Orchard Road - New Year's Eve Orchard Road - All the Time!

Orchard Road - New Year's Eve and Orchard Road - All the Time!

Old Singapore; Antique model

Antique model of old Singapore

We finally arrived home on the 2nd January. The weeks that have followed have been an interesting mixture of relief at being in very familiar environments; joy at being reunited with our marvelously comfortable bed and our well-appointed kitchen; and sheer delight at being able to see and hold our darling family and friends. We’re both back into work, and are thoroughly enjoying re-living our incredible journey through the blogs. I’m so glad I wrote them! And I cannot possibly finish the travel blog without paying tribute to my incredibly clever, patient, and wonderfully enthusiastic brother, Matthew, who did all of the technical bits involved with getting my words and pictures onto the website - baie dankie, boet!

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Comments (1)

  • Claire Marquet
    Claire Marquet
    29 February 2012 at 05:04 |

    Hey Fran,
    I have thoroughly adored catching up on your blog while attending a grave yard shift at work (in my break of course) What great fun you have had.

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