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Day 2

Day 2 was a bit of change of pace. We had no plans so it was spent resting, getting used to what time of day it actually was (although I am already doing that holiday thing of having no clue what day it is.) I read my book and watched the football with Dave; having enjoyed Tottenham's 1-4 battering by Man City I had to leave half way through the Arsenal vs Man Utd game while it was 1-3 to a strong Manchester side playing what appeared to be Arsenal's under 12s. I found out later that the final score was 8-2, so I am glad I didn't watch!

In the evening we went to "Sabine's" restaurant, to be filmed for Swellendam TV. This is a series of films that the Swellendam Tourist Board, of which my Mum is part, is putting together to advertise Swellendam as a holiday destination. At the moment Swellendam is very much an in-betweeny place, where people stop over on their way to somewhere else, and people think there's nothing to do here. But there's actually loads of great places to see and things to do all within an hour and a half's drive - and that's considered quite a short drive here. We were being filmed for a section on drinking at sunset (or sundown as it seems to be called here) with some of Mum's friends and their friends and all had to pretend we knew each other and were having a great time while saying "cheers" in a self conscious way. After that we ate, and I had the most incredible pasta dish ever, and there was so much of it I couldn't eat it all (unheard of for me) and a dessert called a Dom Pedro which is ice cream, chocolate sauce and Khalua. This was quite possibly one of the most beautiful things I've ever eaten, but the dairy overload fair killed me and I was good for nothing other than sleep.






Day 3

Today Mum had arranged for me along with the chap in the Leopard room (a guy from Holland called Mark who was travelling by himself and was going all over Africa) and the family in the cottage (Three Germans, Mum Heike and son Felix and Daugher Renée) to go around Bontebok National Park in the morning and then wine tasting in the afternoon.

In Bontebok we saw, well, lots of Bontebok.



There are Zebra as well, but they were clearly all shy and we didn't see them. Bontebok were nearly extinct about 85 years ago, but they have been saved from extinction by parks such at this. Bontebok are one of the fastest antelope there are, which is good for them, as they are REALLY visible, what with their white bums and white faces, which you would think makes them prime leopard food. Our guide, Pete, a friend of Mum's who does bus tours all over Swellendam and the surrounding areas, tells us that the Bontebok will use that white stripe by turning to face the lion, or leopard, or whatever it knows is watching, as if to say "Lion, I see you. I see you, and I run faster than you, so don't waste your energy".

We also see lots of amazing plants, including the Khoigood (pronounced Koy-hood) which appears to cure everything, and has a lovely curry smell, and the Aloe Ferox - the "bitter aloe" - which tastes bloody awful (yes, I tasted it) but is good for cuts, crazes and burns; and if you put it on you fingernails you will stop biting them. It's also really beautiful.

The views are spectacular.



You can swim here in the summer in the lake and fish too, if you buy a licence. You can also stay right in Bontebok park as there are little cabins and a campsite.

Then we all went off wine tasting, stopping briefly to pick up Mum and Dave Wildebeeste who apparently always goes wine tasting. He loves wine. He loves it so much, he drinks loads, gets pissed and starts showing off and then falls over. Reminds me of, well, an awful lot of you actually ;)

Wine tasting was brilliant. In this area none of the (many) wine farms charge you for tasting, you just rock up and ask to taste and they bring you out anything you want to try. As it was right at the start of the season and not too busy, and as many of them knew our guide and driver Pete most of the places just brought the wine out and left it on our table, meaning we could "try" as much of it as we liked! We went to four wine farms.

Bonnevale had a large selection of wines, and looked very posh, and you could go right into the factory and see all of the vats. I wasn't keen on many of the wines they had though. We did spot an eagle while we were tasting though, and it was definitely really there as we'd only tried a little wine at this point.

Next we went to Wolvendrift which had a much smaller selection of wines to taste, only three, but they were all beautiful, especially the Muscadel, a sweet dessert wine which was so delicious I bought a bottle. I'd have bought a whole box if you could bring back that much booze from abroad without duty fees! I also love their wolf logo. Our guide Pete told is that while there aren't any actual Wolves in South Africa settlers thought that Hyenas were a type of Wolf when they first came here, having never seen a Hyena. I don't know if this is true, but I like the story.

Our next stop was Bon Courage Where we tasted about a billion wines, including a white muscadel - lovely, but not quite as amazing as the Wolvendrift one; and a Rose Blush which was just gorgeous. Mum and I went halves on a crate of 6, and we've had 3 of them already! It's a beautiful sweet and fresh lightly sparkling rose without being oversweet or tart. It's just so good. Mum also bought me a teeny tiny hat, which Dave Wildebeeste insisted on modelling.




We also had lunch at Bon Courage, which is probably a good thing as we'd all had an awful lot of wine by this point. They do all provide you with a bucket to spit the wine into, but that seems like a waste to me!

We went to one more place, La Mont. They make cheese, and offer both cheese and wine tasting, and were very friendly, but what with the sun, the big lunch and the wine drinking tasting we were all ready for a nap!

Heike mentioned that she'd been disappointed not to see any whales during their trip, as she'd heard it was a good time of year to see them. I mentioned that Mum had told me De Hoop was a good place to go to see them, and she immediately made plans to go with her children, and asked if I would like to go with them! This was great as it meant Mum didn't have to leave Dave on his own with the B&B and also she didn't have to drive (Mum hates driving!) so of course I gratefully accepted her offer.


Day 4

We set off early in the mist (when there is a low mist over the mountains in early spring it's usually a beautiful day by about 10 or 11am) for the drive to De Hoop (it's pronounced de WHOOP so of course I say it as often as possible.

It's a LONG drive, with much of the road being dirt or gravel rather than the tarmac roads we are used to in the UK. On the way we say lots of birds and a mongoose, but as I still hadn't got batteries for my proper camera I only had my phone and failed to take any photos. We also saw, right in the middle of the road, a dead jackal. We all felt a bit sad, but at the same time it's a lot more exciting than the roadkill we are used to seeing! We saw a Stanley's Bustard, which has a funny fat white inflated bib thing on his chest, and lots of beautiful blue cranes, and drove past a number of Ostrich farms. I love Ostriches - they are so funny looking and so stupid. Mum had told us we'd know we were nearing De WHOOP when we saw what would look like snow covered mountains in the distance; but they aren't mountains, they are white sand dunes!

We have a quick wander around the lake where we see some pelicans and flamingos in the distance, then set off for Koppie Allen where you can watch whales from the shore! Heike was so worried she wouldn't see whales as all the places they'd been so far on their trip where there were meant to be whales had been distinctly whale-less. She needn't have worried, as seconds after we arrived at the beach we saw a whale raise its tail out of the water and bring it down with a splash. We then saw another, and another, and realised there where at least 6 whales out there, including a baby one! My phone camera is far too rubbish to have got any photos, but Heike had a super camera which took some great pictures. I have some copies so will upload those soon. We sat on the warm beach on the soft white sand for ages, just watching the whales play. There was no one else there, the beach deserted, and it was so peaceful. All you could hear was the sound of birds, the waves crashing on the rocks below and the whales splashing in the near distance.



We reluctantly left the beach, realising that we'd need to leave soon if we still wanted to avoid driving home in the dark.

As we drove back to the gate we found a herd of Cape Zebra! These are quite rare, and there was a BABY zebra too, and we were all very excited. Again, I have no photos, well, not ones where you can tell there are actually zebra in the picture, but Heike got some good ones so I will upload those soon.

We also found a big family of Baboons! I rather like Baboons. They weren't too bothered by our car so we managed to get really close.



Apparently there are also snakes and tortoises; btu we didn't see any. Possibly it was not quite hot enough for them, but also they are very small, and Africa is very big! There were warning signs though: beware of the tortoise and break for snakes!

Dave had told us that if we went the long way home we could get this little hand pulled ferry over the lake, so we headed of towards Malagas in the opposite direction to Swellendam to find the ferry over the lake.

It's a clever thing - pulled by guys with chains. As they get to the back of the ferry they unhook the chain, walk back to the front and pull again. It's quite fast, and despite signs saying that members of the public are strictly forbidden to have a go they are more than happy to let you. Local people often jump out and help too. In the picture here the guy at the back in the stripey shirt was in the pick up truck at the front of the ferry, he hopped off straight away, grabbed a chain and helped out.



Righ after I took this the guy in orange asked if I wanted a go, I declined politely as I reckon knowing me I would be almost certain to love my fingers or drown us all. We reached the other side without mishap, and headed back to Swellendam.

As soon as we arrive back Mum suggests we open a bottle of the Blush, I don't resist and we are most of the way through a bottle when CSI Miami comes on. I don't know which one of us suggests the drinking game, but it's no sooner suggested than we have a set of rules for it, and have brought through the second bottle just in case.





Mum:
Glasses on, DRINK
looks away from camera for no reason, DRINK

Em:
Glasses off, DRINK
Crap one liner that isn't funny and doesn't work, DRINK

Both players:
MAGIC EVIDENCE MACHINE - drink
Unintelligeble dialoge from blond lab woman - drink
Loads of gunfire from bad guys, but only bad guys get shot - drink
Blatantly obvious plot devise/bad disguise - drink
Racial stereotype - drink
WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA - drink

All of the photos from day 2, 3 and 4 are here.
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emmelinemay

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