Reflections and images from my travels

Archive for July, 2011

The Top 10 List and a few words about Richard Berry

Here is my top 10 list of experiences for this South African adventure (including London):

10. The initial drive through Moremi Game Reserve viewing wild African animals for the first time

9.  The early morning run through the Royal Parks in London before it awakened

8.  The rainy walk through St. James Park with views of a shrouded Big Ben that last night in London

7.  Sitting around a campfire in the Botswana bush with friends enjoying the sounds of nature and a wee nip of scotch

6.  Enjoying a glass of champagne in the Botswana bush with Brian and friends as the sun set over the African plain

5.  The hike up to Lions Head

4.  The early morning run from Camps Bay to downtown Cape Town with the sun rising over Table Mountain

3.  Lying on a boulder on the top of Table Mountain with Anna simply looking at clouds

2.  Floating down the calm, glass like Zambezi River in a canoe raft with friends at sunset

and can I have a drumroll please…..

1. Playing “Pig” in the Zambezi River- what can I say, I felt like a kid again!

To conclude, I just want to say a few words regarding Richard Berry. As I mentioned previously, Richard Berry is a professional photographer whom I often travel with and who accompanied us on this trip to Botswana and Zimbabwe. He was responsible for organizing this portion of the trip and always does this professionally. I am often asked about Richard and why I continue to travel with him on his photography tours. Certainly I have developed an interest, and I hope some skill, in photography. Much of the credit for my photographic development has to go to Richard. I think one of his strongest assets is his ability to teach what is often a confusing and technical subject. The sign of a great teacher is to make complex things simple and understandable. In this regard Richard is very successful. A more important aspect to me, however, is the opportunity to step outside the reality that I have created in my current life in order to enrich my personal and world view. I crave going to new locations that I have never visited and experiencing things I have not yet done. Richard’s photographic tours provide these opportunities in addition to the photographic aspect. Personally, I find this an irresistible combination. Over time I have come to know Richard and am proud to now call him a friend. Perhaps this provides some insight as to why I keep attending his photographic tours and workshops. If you have any interest in developing your skills in photography or are just looking for a great adventure I again urge you to check out his website :

Until next time goodbye. Oh, by the way, do not delete the link to this blog. I plan to keep it active for future adventures and will continue to contribute to it. There is also a nasty rumour circulating that I will be traveling to Bhutan this October 2011. Could it be true? Please check back at that time to find out (tease).

Cape Town Capers Concludes… pleasure!

Our time in Cape Town was rapidly coming to a close. Would we get to the top of Table Mountain? It would not happen on June 29 as this was our full day wine tour. I know, I know but someone has to do it. The South African wine industry is actually doing very well according to our tour operator. Apparently, in the last year wine sales were up over 30% (I believe we nudged that up to 31%). I have to say that our intensive research during our stay of South African wines certainly explains why. Almost every wine we tried was excellent to superb. It is amazing how many wineries are located close to Cape Town. The weather forecast was predicting a somewhat cloudy and rainy day which was perfect for checking out some wineries so off we went.

Our tour operator Sim was graced with only Anna and I that fateful day. Excellent a private wine tour. In total, we toured three different wineries Anura, Tokara and Vergenoegd (I cannot even pronounce that last one sober). Each were completely different in their character. We were treated like royalty at each. At Anura we had a sampling of locally produced chutney, a superb selection of cheeses and a sampling of six different wines as well as a tour of the wine cellar. Tokara Winery was itself a work of art with stunning architecture and a world-class restaurant. They also produce a pretty mean brandy. We also sampled six wines at Tokara. The final winery Vergenoegd was one of the oldest having operated for about 270 years. Of interest they do not use any pesticides but prefer to use a duck (the name of many of their wines is Running Duck) who apparently love to ingest insects on grape stocks. This final winery honestly produced some of the most consistently great and smooth red wines I have ever tasted. We also sampled six wines here as well. It is a good thing I am completing this post after the fact as I’m sure if I did it that day it would not have made much sense. Please do yourself a favour and try South African wines at your local liquor store. I decided to bring back a Tokara 2009 Directors Reserve white wine and a to die for Vergenoegd 2004 Old Cape Colony port wine. if you are interested in trying these give me a shout but be quick as I cannot promise the wine will age any further than the end of this July.

In addition to our tours of the wineries, we also visited the towns of Stellenbosch and Franschoek. Both of these are very attractive towns located within 45 minutes of Cape Town. They themselves are worth a visit. We had a wonderful lunch in Franschoek which has many internationally known restaurants and is a culinary paradise and walked around (Anna shopped) in the beautiful university town of Stellenbosch. It has many beautiful buildings in the old Dutch colonial style as well as a stunning Dutch Reform Church seminary.

What a fantastic day we had! After another spectacular dinner we fell into sleep wondering if changing occupations to a sommelier was soon to be our next career path.

June 30 found us starting to get organized for packing for our departure the next day. We spent a good portion of the morning doing this and were not sure if we were going to fit in all of our purchases without extra bags or charges. We decided to open another bottle of wine and not worry about it. As we completed packing we walked outside of our B&B and noticed that the top of Table Mountain appeared clear. We quickly hailed a cab and drove up to the base of the mountain. Our taxi driver pointed out that the sign at the entrance of the base stated that the mountain was closed. We couldn’t believe it. We told him to drive on anyway and were thrilled when we saw people in line purchasing tickets. The cable car trolley moves at remarkable speed and you literally get to the top of the mountain within five minutes. We were so glad that we were able to get to the top. The views were absolutely spectacular. We were able to spend two hours with quite clear conditions just enjoying the views and walking along the top of the plateau. At one point we laid on a boulder and just stared blankly at the beautiful cloud formations thankful to be alive. I swear Anna had the widest and happiest smile pasted on her face on top of that mountain. This was the final big adventure of our trip and we simply immersed ourselves in the experience. Of note you can vote for Table Mountain as one of the new seven natural wonders of the world. We certainly will place our votes.

July 1 was our last day in Cape Town. We were certainly going to miss this beautiful and vibrant city. We secretly promised ourselves to come back and enjoy it again some summer. Even though we had experienced many of the pleasures it had to offer there is no doubt another trip would be filled with new adventures we spied during this trip. We also agreed we would come back and stay with Meryl at our B&B. She, Lulu the dog and her staff were an absolute delight and we both felt we treated like family.  Our final couple of hours were simply spent walking along Camps Bay Beach and hiking out to a small outcrop to lie on boulders (I know it doesn’t sound comfortable but it truly was) listening to the Atlantic Ocean crash up along the rocky shoreline. What a fitting end to our trip.

Our journey home consisted of two overnight flights with a brief stay at a day room at the Sofetil Hotel during our London layover (thank you for the great suggestion Teresa). I certainly did not feel as tired coming home as I had when we departed. We arrived back in Calgary July 2 at about 8 PM. It was nice to see my father and sister Lucille at the airport to greet us and transport us home. In addition to my previous Galapagos trip this ranks as the best travel experience I have ever had. I simply look back in wonder at all of the varied and engaging experiences that we had. Truly we felt blessed.

I will likely have a final post to list the top 10 experiences we had during this African adventure. In that post I also just want to say a few words about Richard Berry. Please check back.

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Cape Town Capers Continue!

Sunday, June 26 was the day for us to start our ventures away from the B&B. Botswana and Zimbabwe were not the best places to go for a run. Therefore, I decided to run from our B&B to Green Point Stadium and back early in the morning. There is a wonderful series of pathways and promenades that connect each individual bay until you reach the waterfront in downtown Cape Town. What a glorious run. The weather was perfect and running at sea level is always a treat ( a nice legal form of doping).

As the weather was looking more promising, we decided to book a cruise to Robben Island to tour the decommissioned maximum-security prison where Nelson Mandela spent a good portion of his imprisonment as well as so many others. The visit consisted of an initial bus tour explaining the history of the island. We had no idea it was also a leper colony and animal quarantine station prior to its more infamous transformation as prison during the apartheid era. Our guide was very knowledgeable and told us that each historian who guides on the island is responsible for detailing the historical information accurately but with no predetermined script for visitors. I found this interesting. The remainder of the tour of the actual prison was then carried out by an actual ex-political prisoner who told his tale and also those of many others. This was a very humbling and troublesome experience but worthwhile as their stories are integral to the complex tapestry that makes up South Africa. We were allowed to see the actual cell that Nelson Mandela spent so many years in. It is hard to believe one could maintain their sense of optimism and humanity with the conditions that these prisoners lived under. During our subsequent explorations we were also able to view the two other prisons that Nelson Mandela also spent time in prior to his release. It is very worthwhile to visit Robben Island as it is meant to stand as a historical site and reminder of the policies that continue to shape the ongoing formation of this country.

The next day we undertook the Cape Point Tour. This was a relatively formal minivan tour with approximately 10 participants in total. It took the entire day. We decided this was much preferable to renting our own vehicle. The driver and tour leader again was very knowledgeable and added to our experience. We visited Hout Bay and boarded a small glass bottomed boat to visit a small seal island ( which lived up to its promise and contained seals). It was a great photo opportunity. We then proceeded to drive up through Chapmans Peak which is a spectacular drive and gives stunning views of Hout Bay. Further on we passed Cape Point Nature Preserve, the Cape of Good Hope, the penguin colony at Boulder, Fish Hoek, Simons Town, Constantia and finally the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. We spent quite a bit of time at the Cape of Good Hope and climbing up to the lighthouse at Cape Point. It was a great way to see a good portion of the famous Garden Route. This area of South Africa is gorgeous. If I come back I think I would be braver and rent a vehicle and spend several days further exploring this gem of an area.

Tuesday morning found me running from Camps Bay to Hout Bay and back again. I really enjoyed the early morning runs. However, I did discover that this stretch of highway is particularly busy and the shoulders are often filled with enthusiastic cyclists who travel in packs and cycle in to Cape Town for work. It was nice to see how many South Africans exercised regularly. I was feeling particularly energetic this day so I also climbed Lions Head which gives spectacular views of Camps Bay as well as towards downtown Cape Town. You are more likely to have good visibility and no cloud on Lions Head as opposed to Table Mountain. The vast majority of people take the cable car up to Table Mountain but I feel they are really missing out on a great experience by not doing this hike. I started from Camps Bay so I had a healthy elevation gain. The climb did include a section of ladders and hand holds and a few steep sections. I certainly expended some calories that day.

Most evenings found us back enjoying the restaurants of Camps Bay followed by a leisurely stroll on its promenade enjoying the cool evenings. Sleep often came easily afterwards. Many people were surprised that I was going to spend an entire 10 days in Cape Town. I can certainly tell you it is very easy to fill up your days with all of the activities that one is provided with in this area. I have come to realize that it is often better to spend more time in one particular area than running around to multiple ones. You seem to get a better sense of the place you are in and I find it less stressful. Soon our Cape Town experience was coming to an end but we still had a few more adventures to get under our belts. At this point we were quite fearful that we would not get up to Table Mountain as it is often covered with a very particular and stubborn cloud formation known as the “Table Cloth”. One could always venture up but the visibility would be quite poor. We remained hopeful however. Read on to the next post to see if we were able to finally experience Table Mountain unobstructed.

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Cape Town Capers!

Believe it or not, Anna and I are on our way home. We just completed 10 days in Cape Town South Africa. I did not update any new posts as we were very busy and the Internet connection was very challenging. We are currently in London, England waiting to board our final flight back home today. This will be the first of three posts regarding Cape Town. If you do get a chance to come to South Africa you must come to Cape Town. All of the recommendations I got from my South African friends were spot on. Cape Town is a melting pot of cultures, extremely cosmopolitan, visually stunning and you have so many options for activities, restaurants or just relaxing.

When we arrived we did not really realize how tired we were from all of our safari adventures. Thankfully, the weather cooperated as it was very cold and raining and difficult to go out to participate in any activities. We decided to stick around our B&B for about three days sleeping, relaxing and getting ourselves organized. This was extremely easy to do as our B&B was most accommodating and conducive to this type of activity. We stayed at 51 on Camps Bay B&B with our superb hostess Meryl. She had two support staff -Michelle and Peter- who made us feel completely at home. Our accommodation was comfortable and very well maintained. It was the perfect place to relax when you needed to but also very close to all the amenities you required. Camps Bay is approximately 15 minutes by taxi ride to downtown Cape Town where all of the action is. However, it is much quieter and provides easy access to Lions Head, Table Mountain and ventures out towards the Cape. We also had wonderful restaurants within 10 minutes of walking.

Anna was very patient as I worked on the blog which took a lot longer than I expected. Wireless Internet connectivity practically tripled the time it took to update the blog. I had a great sense of accomplishment when it was finally finished by Saturday evening. For our first four days we usually slept and awoke to a wonderfully prepared healthy breakfast, read or relaxed in our rooms and then ventured out on Camps Bay Drive to check out local shops and restaurants. Overall, our restaurant experiences were superb. Excellent winter special prices, quiet compared to summer, very friendly service and excellent food. I would almost venture to say the quality of food was superior to the food I experienced in southern France last year. Venison grill, local seafood, wonderful pastas, decadent desserts and a superb collection of wines meant this was a culinary nirvana. We definitely made the most of it.

Despite all of this decadence we did actually get out and explore the area which I will review over the next two posts. Stay tuned.

Anna’s Zimbabwe Photos

Hi everyone. I thought I would post a few of Anna’s photos from the Zimbabwe part of our African adventure. Anna has never picked up a DSLR before but hopefully you will see how far a few of Richard Berry’s lessons can get you. Enjoy!


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