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Published: June 25th 2017
Geo: -33.979, 18.5102
We took a somewhat circular route to Cape Town but this gave us the chance to see some of South Africas' famous wine country as well as the quaint towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. There are full-on multiday tours through the many wineries that dot this part of the country with serious sampling to be done at each stop, but since my wine palate stopped developing after too many binges with boxes of Gimili Goose (do they still put fine wine like that in cardboard boxes?) and given that I was the designated driver (not because she drinks but because DH has refused to drive anywhere that requires you to drive on the wrong side of the road), we elected to just enjoy the drive through this very picturesque part of South Africa.
The second big reason for our detour into wine country, and Franschhoek in particular, was to hook up with our friends from Vancouver who were also in South Africa. As some of our more attentive readers might remember, we recently introduced Don & Jill T, a couple who view anything less than 5 Star treatment as an extreme sport best avoided. In between Tribal Tradition
Body Treatments (a very unique African massage experience where the therapist strokes mimic the beating of African drums), Don & Jill did take in many of the finer wineries in the region. They had just come off a Rovos Rail trip which bills itself as a luxury cruise train (I had never heard of this terminology before) and apparently kings and presidents have indulged on this magnificent, moving five-star “hotel-on-wheels”. My recollection of their description may not be entirely accurate because I was trying to avoid the Trans Siberian Train glare from DH, but I think they said the train did a Victoria Falls drive-by during a decadent High Tea. They were also able to do a number of safari's, although in this case, to avoid the African dust and heat, the animals were forced to parade by the cabin windows while roaring, trumpeting, hissing, or squawking. At least, I think that's what they said- I was still trying to get my head around the turn-down service that involved a foot massage and a back wax.
I did point out to DH that the Wounded Zebra was also a moving “hotel-on-wheels" and we had our own unique turn-down service ritual
(although admittedly this involved turning the seating area into a bed, fixing something that had just broken, and/or trying to figure out where that weird smell was coming from). She wasn't buying what I was selling.
This collision of traveling styles took place outside the Hotel Blue Blood in Franschhoek. We had come off a day of ocean activities and were in desperate need of a clean-up but to get to the campground we had to drive right by the hotel so we made the fateful decision to pop in just to say hello. If you're old enough to remember the opening credits of the Beverly Hillbillies when the Clampetts pull up to the mansion in their jalopy, you can envision our predicament. Don & Jill insisted on seeing the Wounded Zebra and their reaction was not unlike someone witnessing a traffic accident- you want to look away but you just keep staring. After digesting the horrors of 1 Star travel, Don T insisted on having us park in the guarded hotel compound, use their palatial room to clean up (the entire Wounded Zebra would have fit comfortably in their bathroom alone), and head out for dinner right away. Don even
marshaled the hotel staff to help us park the campervan.
Since campgrounds in South Africa close the gates and turned on the electric fences at 5 or 6pm the wink-wink-nudge-nudge implications were clear- we'd be spending the night in the parking lot of one of SA's finer hotels. Having been thrown out of many fine (and not so fine) establishments in my day, I was not particularly comfortable with the arrangement but DH was surprisingly eager to spend time with people other than me, so off we went. We had a nice meal, bottles of local wine, and headed back to the hotel well after dark. Fortunately there were still porters on duty to lead Don & Jill to their room, while scattering rose petals before them. We skulked out to the parking lot under cover of darkness. We thought we had pulled it off until a loud knocking woke us up at about 1:00am and, sure enough, 3 security guards were evicting us from a parking lot- apparently one of the guests by the name of 'John Smith' was simply unable to sleep knowing that a dilapidated vehicle like ours was imposing on his 5 Star space. The next day
Don T (whose middle name, oddly enough, is JohnSmith) told us he scolded the hotel staff but the deed was done.
We did finish our drive through wine country and then headed for Cape Town. Suitably stung by our recent eviction we decided to beach the Wounded Zebra for a couple of days and check into a small hotel near the Cape Town waterfront. Locals and visitors alike will put Cape Town into any list of the top 10 most beautiful cities in the world (although with Vancouver on a sunny day taking the top spot, all others are jostling for second place). It does tend to be continually overcast so we, like many others, waited for a brief clear sky and then raced to the top of Table Mountain for some spectacular views of the city below. And no visit to Cape Town would be complete without a visit to Robben Island Prison where Nelson Mandela and others were held during the most shameful days of apartheid. It's amazing to think that Mandela was held on this desolate island for 18 years and yet, upon his release and election as the countries first black president, rather than bitterness and
revenge, Mandela governed with moderation and wisdom. I'm not sure which direction South Africa will go without him but the early results are not encouraging.
We also hooked up with Don & Jill again although we declined all offers of parking lot hospitality. We met for dinner on the waterfront a couple of times and walked back to our hotel well after dark. On the morning we were due to leave the local paper suggested that if the Western Cape was a country, it would be the fourth most dangerous country in the world- all major crime stats were spiking upward. I think we'll start curbing our midnight walks!! The one bright spot in driving the Wounded Zebra is that we are not often seen as a potential financial windfall- we've had locals in some of the countries rougher spots hand us money as we sputtered by.
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