Monday, October 22, 2018


We started our drive from Aquila to Cape Town, with a stopover at Stellenbosch.

During our two-hour drive, we had a Mohammed Rafi fan who had brought a CD of his collection of Rafi songs on karaoke and entertained us with his singing. Our tour manager conducted 'housie'; there was also 'musical tambola' conducted by yours truly. Our guide Melody too, on popular request, sang melodiously for us - it seems she had been in the opera! And she was great in histrionics too - a very versatile lady.

As we neared Stellenbosch, we could see stretches of vineyards, with young plants, as harvest of grapes was over in February, the hottest month of the year.

Melody informed us that the neat little town of Stellenbosch is famous for its cheese and universities, along with its vineyards.

It is also known as the 'City of Oaks'. Old and young oak trees dotted the place.

The place is also famous for its Dutch architecture - the facade of the buildings are all typical.

We reached 'Spier Wine Farm', established in 1692, for 'wine tasting'.
The wine-tasters were seated on one side of the long table and the non-tasters on the other side. The former got to taste three varieties of wine, one after another, after vivid explanation about the particular type.

The latter were offered two varieties of grape juice and we were more than happy with them. You would say we had let go of a unique opportunity. Not really. We had had a sip of wine during our Europe tour a couple of years ago, and that was enough for us.
After that, we took a stroll inside the place and also around the lush garden, enjoying the warmth of the sun and the cool breeze. 
After spending an hour and a half there, we got into our coach at 12 noon and 
bid adieu to the cute town.

An hour's drive later, we reached Cape Town.
We stopped at the sprawling mall 'Mandela Rhodes Place'. 
There was a very interesting statue of Nelson Mandela inside - made of wire mesh ....

We were booked for lunch at the posh Indian restaurant 'My Favor8', located there.
The lunch was really tasty; the buttermilk was particularly relished by all.

We were then driven up to Table Mountain - it was a foggy afternoon, but the next day's forecast was even worse. We were keeping our fingers crossed for the clouds to disappear, but the chances of a cable car ride were bleak. We got to know that the chances of clear weather there was a mere 25%. 
It turned out that we weren't lucky - no cable car ride. 
We stopped at Signal Hill, looked around and clicked pictures.

Looking down from Table Top Mountain, we could see the cluster of the little specks of houses, enveloped in a white blanket of fog.

We took personal pictures within the Table Mountain frame - it does look like a framed picture. 

As we drove down the mountain, we enjoyed the picturesque scenery.
Driving around Cape Town towards our hotel, we saw the interesting 'flag-of-South Africa-building' housing Mc Donald's!
What we noticed about the houses were that they were all painted in bright colors - 

so the streets looked like a painter's canvas!

We reached our hotel, 'The Bantry Bay', located a stone's throw from a beach and checked into our rooms.

The room had a small balcony - ours overlooked the street - the shops, we were informed, closed at 6 pm.

Our room also had a kitchenette. It motivated me to cook something .... if only we had come with the full family .....

After an hour's rest, we drove to Victoria Wharf - also known as Victoria & Alfred Waterfront.

A picturesque place, it had a sprawling mall bang in front of the shores.

We had almost an hour there. 
As I had just a list of typically African curios, I skipped all the branded stores and entered only the stores selling African artifacts. All the shops would accept $, so I had no problem. I picked up wooden ladles, wooden African map, bead n' wire items ..... I had already bought the famous painted ostrich eggs from Oudtshoorn for Rand 300. It turned out to be a good thing - it was costlier elsewhere.
A few photos against the backdrop of the ocean, and our day was made.

Dinner was at the Indian restaurant 'Vintage India', after which we retired to our hotel rooms.

The next day had a packed schedule. Luckily it was a bright sunny day.

Before going for breakfast, we decided to walk down to the nearby beach - it would be a shame if we missed it. We remembered our vacation in Hawaii last year, where our resort was located close to the beach - just like this.
We were delighted to get some great pictures and returned to the hotel. 
The mountain 'Lion's head' which had been looming in our frames since we reached Cape Town, was visible from here too.

We then went for breakfast in the hotel's dining hall, 
 where we chose seats from where we could have a glimpse of the ocean - yes, again.
We started our day's program after 9 am. Again a scenic drive .......
it was simply breathtaking to see the clouds descending on the 'Twelve Apostles' mountain ranges. After a brief stopover for a photo stop, we continued our drive and 

reached Hout Bay at 9.45 to catch our cruise for Seal Island at 10.15 am .

It turned out to be a nice breezy cruise during which we could drink in the beauty of the scenery, 
which needs no words of description. 
As we approached 'Seal Island', we got to see the sloppy seals lying on the rocks.
We went around the rocks and started our return. The one hour cruise was really satisfying.

We then got some half an hour for a quick shopping in the little shops lined up there. Surprisingly, these shops also accepted $. So I could satisfy my urge for bargaining and shopping, and procured some nice stoles for Rand 100 each.

Soon we started our drive to Boulders Beach. Again we passed by several peaks - we could see thick metallic ringed fences used to prevent landslides. Our guide Melody told us about the grand cycle 'prix' - some 30,000 cyclists participated in the cycle race along the picturesque route.
Then we were driving along the beaches all the way. We passed by Simon's Town, named after Simon van der Stel, an early governor of the Cape Colony. Located on the shores of False Bay, on the eastern side of the Cape Peninsula, the quaint town has been a naval base and harbor for more than two centuries. Interestingly at False Bay, on one side, you see the Atlantic Ocean, and on the other, the Indian Ocean.

We reached Boulders Beach, a sheltered beach made up of inlets between granite boulders, and part of the Table Mountain National Park. It is located in the Cape Peninsula, near Simon's Town towards Cape Point, near Cape Town in the Western Cape province of South Africa.
First we went to the beach and enjoyed the kiss of the soft white sands and blue-green waves against the beautiful backdrop of mountains.
Then we had our Indian lunch at the restaurant there, where 
we also celebrated the birthday of one of our tour companions with cake 
and ice cream.

As we started walking towards the penguin colony, we saw some vendors selling interesting items made of wire and beads but there was no scope for shopping for want of time.

Boulders is a popular tourist stop because of a colony of African penguins which settled there in 1982. These African penguins, currently on the verge of extinction and now under the protection of the Cape Nature Conservation, are only found on the coastlines of Southern Africa. 

Although set in the midst of a residential area, it is one of the few sites where this vulnerable bird can be observed at close range, wandering freely in a protected natural environment. From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony has grown to about 3,000 birds in recent years. This is partly due to the reduction in commercial pelagic trawling in False Bay, which has increased the supply of pilchards and anchovy, which form part of the penguins' diet.

We could get to see lots of penguins at close quarters - they were not bothered by the presence of so many visitors or human sounds. It was also surprising how they were surviving in a warm climate like this.
Needless to add, we had a great time with the penguins.

It was time to leave for our next destination - Cape Point, about half an hour's drive.
We took the funicular train ride up the place. 
Then we enjoyed the scenic splendor from various points.
Then we climbed the steps to the iconic lighthouse....

We were all back to catch the funicular train much before 5 pm as we did not want to miss the last train down.

We then drove to Cape of Good Hope - the southern most tip ......
and a group picture and

personal picture to carry back home ....

As we started driving back, we got to see some baboons, with kids in tow, walking back to their homes.

As we started driving back to Cape Town, the wonderful experiences of the day lingered in our minds.
After dinner at the Indian restaurant 'Raj', we returned to our hotel.

The next morning, after breakfast, we checked out of our hotel and drove to the international airport.  On the way, our packed lunch boxes were picked up from 'Vintage India' restaurant. It was really a cute gesture from our tour company 'Veena World' - feeding us very well - till we boarded our flight back. 

We took leave of our loving guide, Melody, thanking her for everything.

We flew to Mumbai via Addis Ababa, each of the flights of around 5 1/2 hours duration, with a layover of over an hour at Addis Ababa.

As we landed in our homeland, we were glad we had undertaken this tour, which had begun on a note of apprehension, only to turn soon into an unforgettable tour full of vivid,  interesting, unique, and memorable experiences.

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