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Published: January 26th 2009
After much anticipation and decoration, Christmas in Dar finally arrived! Paul arrived safely on the evening of the 23, and we spent the days re-acquainting ourselves face to face, swimming in the campus pool, and hanging out with the other groups sticking around for the holidays. Christmas morning, we had a lie in and then unwrapped presents. It almost felt like I was with family doing the usual present opening, as Mom, Dad, and Kim had cleverly planned ahead and gotten my presents to my tree in Dar! I was very, very spoiled.
Some of the girls and I (my crafting group, don't laugh) decided to go all out for the Tanzanian Christmas and we managed to find some super attractive (NOT open to debate) Christmas Kanga fabrics downtown, which we promptly brought to our tailor to have fashioned into holiday dresses for ourselves, and shirts for our men. I like to think of them as the Tanzanian version of the "holiday sweater." It was a big hit at the Christmas dinner, and definitely helped to make it seem a little more like Christmas in the sunny, tropical heat of Dar.
On Boxing Day, we headed off to a local orphanage,
Note the crosses and the giant trees... lovely, really
which I'd been to already once before while waiting for Paul's arrival. There is a little 1 year old boy there that I am completely enamoured with, and he likewise paid me all of his attention each time I visited. We fed the babies and played with them for a few hours, but it's always heartbreaking to leave. I have a distinct feeling that I will be making more regular visits to the orphanage this new year. Just to play, don't worry Mom and Dad, no babies for Alex anytime soon!
Then, bright and early on Dec. 27, Paul and I flew down south for our South African adventure! After a full day's travel, and some mix-ups with the hotel address (it had nothing to do with my stellar navigation skills and keen sense of direction!), we found ourselves at The House on the Hill, in Cape Town. It was perfectly situated in the middle of the Water Front, and Long Street, 2 popular destinations when in Cape Town. We headed down to the Water Front, a nice 10 minute walk in the much cooler and enjoyable Cape Town weather, and had our first official date, with pasta and wine!
The holiday ensemble group... you can't deny it's sexy
The next day, we headed off again for a scenic drive along the coast, to our next destination, first stop on the Garden Route: Hermanus. Now, usually Hermanus is known as one of the best places to go whale spotting, with boat cruises, etc. available. With our luck, whale season is in no way in the months of December or January. So, not a single whale was spotted... though there may have been a dolphin or two. We spent our 24 hours there walking around the cute little town, enjoying the watery scenery, and eachother's company. The next day, with a little hiccup requiring a return to Hermanus to pick up some forgotten goods, we headed up to Oudtshoorn, home of Ostrich Show farms! We stayed in a FANTASTIC little bed and breakfast, with lovely hosts. Paul tried some Ostrich in his dinner, and we spent some time walking around the town, in addition to visiting a wildlife sanctuary (more like an African Zoo) where we thought maybe Paul would get to go Crocodile cage diving, until we actually saw the cage diving set up: 3 crocodiles in a zoo-like pool enclosure, and a little cage that gets lowered in
Waves and Gray Skies
in Hermanus... so much colder than Dar!
so you can look at them "up close." Not so authentic. Not so cool. Continuing on the cool strand, we headed to "the best" Ostrich show farm, where we were given a tour of the baby ostriches, egg hatching process, feather uses, leather uses, and then.... we entered the Ostrich riding arena. I had big ideas of being totally brave and riding an ostrich, but when it came down to it, I chickened out and just sat on one. Those things are big and scary! Basically they lift up the wings, you sit, and then the wings are lowered onto your lap... did you know there is a claw hidden under the wings?! I found out right before I got on one! We ended our tour by watching an ostrich race; I bet on the littler guy of the two, and lost. Sigh. That's what I get for being a betting woman.
From Oudtshoorn, we headed on to Knysna, known for its lagoons and for being oyster capital of the world. We stayed in another excellent Bed and Breakfast, complete with spa bathtub! We relaxed here for 3 days, touring the town, taking scenic drives to see The Heads, a
Not soft or cuddly, at all.
failed attempt to go to the top of a hill for a view (cloud coverage foiled said idea), and possibly coolest of all, we went to an elephant orphanage and fed and petted the elephants! We had a nice 5 course meal for New Year's Eve, after calling about 15 restaurants to find a place that would take us last minute! At said restaurant, I (yes, Dad, your youngest daughter and most picky eater known to mankind) tried my first oyster! Not my favorite taste, but the mussels were pretty good! A nice quiet night in after dinner, to ring in 2009... Then, Paul came down with a nasty case of food poisoning, and we're blaming the oysters. It didn't hold us back, we continued on our road trip and headed to Plettenberg Bay, where Paul headed straight to bed and I sat outside enjoying the beautiful views from the valley our hotel was in. We had a quiet day/night due to the illness factor and then spent the next day driving around and looking at the beaches and various little sights of Plett. Our final night of the Garden Route found us in Tsitsikamma National Park, staying in a
The final nail in the coffin of my chickening out...
log cabin, complete with our own barbecue! The park had all sorts of great hiking routes, but we really enjoyed the rustic cabin and barbecuing aspect of it all. When we left the next morning, we took a stop on the way back to Cape Town and watched some people taking the World's Highest Bungee Jump! SO HIGH. I was almost tempted, but then remembered that I'm too chicken to ride an ostrich, much less jump off a bridge!
After a 7 hour drive, we ended up back at our hotel in Cape Town, for a week. It was nice to unpack and settle in one place for a bit. We let ourselves relax a lot, but still managed to walk around the Water Front, Long Street, and Main Street. We also did a tour of Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela was kept. It was interesting, but VERY touristy and not as effective as I thought it would be. We met up with Kim's friend Grant, and his girlfriend Robyn for some dinner, in the very Mediterranean Camps Bay, and then made plans to go ice skating and to the casino with them a few days later! So
Standing on Ostrich Eggs
A little mean, as they are real eggs waiting to hatch, but cool to find out that they can hold so much weight!
fun! Then we went cage diving with the Great White Sharks! I thought I'd ride on the boat, see the sharks and then decide if I was brave enough to go in, after watching others do it first... but the minute we'd spotted the first fin and they asked for people to hop in the cage... I was the first one in! It was awesome to see the shark up close and personal, bumping into the cage a few times, and at the end it even grabbed the cage with its teeth! The visibility was really poor, so if the shark bumped into one side of the cage while I was on the far end, I wouldn't see it coming and had a bit of a shock! I managed to go in the cage 3 separate times, and was even the last one in it at the end! I'm a total convert... bring in shark feeding without the cages!
Following this adventure, we wanted to climb Table Mountain the next day, but it was covered in clouds! We put it off til the afternoon, but the clouds didn't leave! Our final Cape Town adventure found us doing a full day
Much less scary than the riding prospect!
of Vineyard touring! We went to 4 different estates and tasted about 8 different wines at each! Some places even included chocolate and cheese tasting. The tour started at 8:30am and finished at 5pm, and after that much wine, I was set for a good 48 hours! We bought several bottles and a big bag full of cheese to take back to Tanzania, and we've been enjoying it here ever since. January 11 found us getting up super early to board planes back to Dar. Sigh. South Africa has so much to offer in sightseeing and activities and is so very affordable! I'd love to go back again, given the chance!
Happy New Year to all, I hope 2009 finds you healthy and happy!
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