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African Safari 2017

Our South African Safari, June 2017 ~ PART One
~ The Adventure Begins

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This adventure began with a bit of a hiccup. As we were at the LaTam Check-In counter for our 11:30 AM flight, the agent asked us for our YELLOW FEVER vaccination certification. Apparently, according to WHO, Argentina is a designated YELOW FEVER area. I was not aware of this, and apparently our travel agent, Christine Eichin, had never had a client who began their trip from any place other than the United States, which is not a YELLOW FEVER area.

Pete had the certification in his International Certificate of Vaccination book from our 2012 trip to San Martin Island in the Caribbean, and I had a letter from the same doctor stating that I was exempt from the vaccination due to the contraindication of Age. I learned a new word: contraindication in medicine, is a condition or factor that serves as a reason to withhold a certain medical treatment due to the harm that it would cause the patient. In my case, my age. The agent said that the letter was not legally acceptable for international travel. He refused to allow us to fly because he said that when we reached Brazil I would be returned back to Argentina. If you can imagine our level of disappointment, you must multiply that by 1,000.

After a wild goose chase to find the government office which the LaTam agent gave us that could fix the problem, we discovered that it was actually closed on weekends. We ultimately ended up going to Hospital Alemán, the EMERGENCY entrance, since it was a weekend, and were extremely fortunate to find a doctor that would make an entry of contraindication in my International Certificate of Vaccination book. With this we returned to the airport and were so happy to find that the LaTam people were still there. A very nice young lady was able to rebook us on almost the exact same flight itinerary for the following morning. We left for home with boarding passes in hand, and were too distressed to eat, and sleep that night was also difficult. We had missed our first day in Cape Town, but we were grateful that for now that was all.

Christine was able to change our Cape Town and Peninsula tour from the 12th to the 13th of June. We were met in Cape Town by a wonderful young man from Spingbok Atlas who got us to our driver who was from the same company, who took us to our hotel, The Taj. After 20 hours of travel time, including six hours of lay overs in Sao Paulo and Johannesburg, we were ready for a good nights sleep in a real bed. Fortunately, the Taj has wonderful beds, equivalent to the “Heavenly Beds” at the Westin Hotels world wide. We arrived at the hotel around 11:00 AM, which gave us ample time for a shower and a long nap before going for dinner.

Our room was large and had a great 9th floor view of Cape Town. The Taj is definitely a Five Star hotel.

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The bathroom had a huge window to the living quarters, but it had a shade that could be pulled down for privacy.

The lobby was magnificent, and the dining was excellent. We enjoyed a very nice local wine with our dinner.

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After a good nights sleep, we went for breakfast at around 8:00 AM. We were met at 9:00 AM by our guide from Springbok Atlas Charter, Desmond De La Cruz, a very knowledgeable guy, who took us on our tour of Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve.

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Our scenic drive was filled with questions, and Desmond was full of answers. We reached the Cape of Good Hope, where we start taking lots of photos.

There was a cable car called the Flying Dutchman that took us to the top of the point where there was a lighthouse.

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The coast line was very rugged and the stormy weather made it appear very ominous for sailing ships.

Next Desmond took us to a quaint little town called Simon’s Town, were we could visit a South African penguin colony, and on the way we passed by an ostrich farm. I understand that they can kick like a mule. They are such a strange bird.

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There was a board walkway which took us through the penguin colony. It almost felt like we were back in Antarctica, minus the snow and ice.

We had lunch in Simon’s Town at a place called the Harbour View Restaurant. It was packed with what appeared to be a tour group of freshmen college girls, and they took over the whole outside seating area with the view of the harbour, so we sat inside at the only available table. The food was fine, and the staff were friendly. It was nice to relax for a bit.

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Next Desmond took us to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, which is a UNICEF World Heritage Site. We barely scratched the surface because the place is so huge, and the weather was a little drizzly, which is great for photographing gardens, as we learned on our trip to France when we visited the home of Monet and walked through those beautiful gardens.

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There were some awesome sculptures which added an artistic sense of beauty to the place.

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From the Kirstenbosch Gardens we headed back to our hotel. It was early afternoon, and the hotel had given us a free drink card for the pub on the corner adjacent to the hotel. It was early afternoon so we decided to have a cocktail before getting ready for dinner.

The pub was very nice, and they had some sort of cucumber festival which was to be celebrated in a couple of days, where you simply brought a cucumber with you, and that cucumber would treat you to a Gin and Tonic. Sounds crazy, but what the heck, everybody’s got to have a gimmick. I had no idea what the bar tender was going to do with all the cucumbers. ;o) The wall going up the stairs was a huge blackboard on which they had written the drink specials. Pete chose the Black Widow and I chose the Victoriana. The bar tender brought us a treat which was a paper thin crust of some sort, topped with julienned bell pepper, cheese and several other condiments. It was very good, but messy to eat, especially as the flat bread lost it’s crispness.

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My Victoriana was so so, but Pete’s Black Widow was quite good. We had a second round and I got the Black Widow.

Directly across the street from the Taj Hotel was this church which had a Jazz Club bar and restaurant just to the left of the entry steps. It was called The CRYPT Jazz Restaurant. We decided to have dinner there tonight. We got there at around 800 PM and the musicians were just tuning up there instruments. They weren’t bad, in fact the jazz music was pretty darn good.

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We actually enjoyed the evening very much. There were a couple of ammeter vocalists. The guy was from the local university, and was studying music and drama. The girl was just a friend of one of the musicians I think, and she was really bad. I’d never seen a vocalist read the words of the song they were singing from their smart phone.

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Our meals were pretty good. I ordered the Fig and Gorgonzola Tart and Pete ordered the Linguine.

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For desert Pete ordered Creme Brulée and I ordered the Cheese Cake. The real desert however, was the jazz music.

I’ll admit that touring Cape Town doesn’t seem much like a safari, but bear with me. In the next chapter Desmond takes us for a full-day Cape Winelands tour where we visit three bodegas, and on the following day we will be flying to Mpumalanga (Kruger) - staying three nights at the MalaMala Private Game Reserve. So, stay tuned. I promise it does get much better.