Heading back to Moresby island today in preparation for our boat expedition the following day. We had to go back through Queen Charlotte to get there, meaning we HAD to stop at Queen B’s café, we really didn’t have a choice. First, however, we went for a little mooch around the town. We treated ourselves to another totem pole viewing and saw a truck load of bald eagles circling around above us and chilling on the beach.
As well as a row of ravens sitting next to the kid’s park. I think they wanted to have a go on the slide but thought we’d judge them if they hopped on (I would have FYI).
I had an enchilada at Queen B’s, which was scrummy and topped it off with a slice of pumpkin and pecan pie, which beat that enchilada hands down, even though it was a pretty good enchilada. But ain’t no enchilada as good as no pie. U get me?
We got to our hotel on Moresby Island, which was The Sandspit Inn. My door didn’t really shut, but that was easily overcome by using my total bodyweight to yank it shut after me. If you think about it, it’s pretty much an additional safety feature – no one is going to waltz in and steal my things if the door is too big for the frame and they can’t open it, are they? No, they aren’t. After battling with that for a while, I laid on the bed and vegetated for a while/the rest of the evening.
The evening was turning into night and I was looking forward to bedding down and getting in a good night’s sleep before we started exploring via boat the next day. No sooner than my head rested upon the pillow, did the hotel bar turn into some sort of club and start pumping out all of the bass. I don’t mind a bit of loud music, but it really is a surprise when your hotel turns out to be an absolute slave to the sesh and not the least bit interested in their guests getting a decent amount of shut eye. I can only imagine how loud the music would have been if my door wasn’t quite so snug in the door frame. Silver linings and all that.
We headed to a place called Port Clements today, there’s not much there and to be honest it wasn’t really worth the drive, but we did stop for another slice of pie on the way there (see, told you I’d opened the floodgate). The pie was at a place called Angela’s place, which happened to be another gas station-cum-diner, or a ‘social café and fuel station’ as per the sign.
I’d say that this pie had a better filling than the previous nights, but the pastry wasn’t as nice… So, I can’t say which one was better… I’d possibly lean towards the first one as the whole experience was just a little better.
We stopped to see the Golden Spruce on our way back, which was a GIANT let down. Basically, it used to be this big gold coloured spruce tree, until some proper nut job cut it down in a protest. I’m all for a protest and that, but cutting down a super old one-of-a-kind tree? Nah. You can have a little read about that sitch here, if you’re interested. Anyway, so we went there to look at this stump, which was exactly that – a stump. I’ll give you £1 if you can even see a hint of golden in this pic… thought not.
In this park, there were some huge trees, like, properly massive trees. Well over the wingspan of one girl. Some of them, it probably would have taken about 8 or 9 of you holding hands to go all the way around the tree.
I feel like most of what I talk about revolves around food, but I’m actually fine about that, so here’s some more about food… Because dinner was SO good last night, we went to Sherri’s Gas Bar & Grill again to eat. We had a summer salad, which was mad tasty – I’ve never had raspberries, blackberries, mandarin and nuts in a salad before, but I WILL be having it again, Mouth-watering doesn’t even begin to do this justice.
Following on from yesterday’s crab cakes, I couldn’t help but opt for another crab-containing meal. I had a crab patty burger, which was NEXT LEVEL. It was just… I can’t even describe it, it was so yummy. Moist, perfectly seasoned, beyond fresh. I could wax lyrical about this crab burger for the rest of the day if no one stopped me. Is anyone going to stop me? I tell you what would stop me though; stuffing my face with another crab burger.
Obviously, there was room for pie. Apple pie and lemon meringue pie (promise I didn’t eat both slices on my own). Apple pie was distinctly better than the lemon meringue – nicely spiced, pastry was fierce and the whole thing was just on ittttt.
Yummo. See, pie is becoming a serious problem for me. Like, it may even be an addiction. I’ve had 3 different kinds of pie in 1 day. HELP!
The day started off well with a breakfast of pancakes, streaky bacon and maple syrup. I feel like I haven’t really eaten that much maple since I’ve been in Canada, which is sad, because it is the land of maple syrup. I’d always thought that every single Canadian drank maple syrup like water… maybe I’m wrong… but if I lived in Canada where the maple be good and the maple be cheap, I would not be having the good stuff on a rare occasion.
We headed to Tow Hill (which I naively had thought was ‘Toe’ hill), I don’t know why, but toe on your foot just made more sense to me than towing your car, ya know? Anyway, we headed down there. Down there? Up there? Who knows, but we headed there. We were expressly told not to drive our hire car down any gravel roads, so, naturally, we headed off down a gravel road to this toe place. Once you get there, you have a bit of a hike up the trail to get to Toe Hill. At points, this gets pretty steep, but it’s all on a board walk, so there is no risk of falling to death or anything like that.
We headed to the beach first to have a look at the hill from there, and there is also a ‘blowhole’ on the beach too – but you can only see this do its thing when the tide is midway in, there’s a fair swell, Jupiter is in rising and the North star has combusted.
I decide that merely viewing the blowhole from afar is simply not good enough, one must in fact, climb atop the blowhole to truly experience it. So, I did.
The rock formations here are pretty cool, ngl. It was good to have a mooch around and have a look in the rock pools and scramble around very un-elegantly on various bits of rock I came across.
Next on the list was to hike up the actual hill. Now, this was the steep bit. To say I got a bit of a sweat on would be a gross understatement of the facts. I tried to take a selfie where I didn’t look too hideously warm, but I’m not quite decided on whether that panned out or not – I’ll let you decide on that one.
Once you get up to the top of the hill, it’s a pretty decent view. You can see out across the beach, and see people catching crabs, fishing and digging for clams.
We popped back down the hill (which was distinctly easier than the heart attack inducing haul up) and headed to Agate beach, aptly named, because there’s a tonne of agate to be found on there.
I can’t really say whether this was agate or not, but it looks kinda like it, so we will say it is, just so I can feel pleased with myself.
Dinner was swiftly becoming a priority, so we headed back down the gravel road we shouldn’t have been driving down, hit up the B&B for a change of clothes and bounced out again. We went for dinner at a place one of the women we had met at the top of Toe Hill had suggested. She said you have to look past what you see on the outside, because it essentially looks like a rough old petrol station – which turned out to be the entire truth.
Anyway, it was called Sherri’s Gas Bar & Grill, and it genuinely does look like a run-down old gas station from the outside, but I promise you it is worth going in there – the food there is one of the best meals we had on this trip, if not THE best. I had crab cakes for dinner and the crab was fresh caught that day, and it was DELISH. I can’t even rave about it enough; this crab cake was the best crab cake I’ve ever eaten in my life.
Swiftly followed by a slice of rhubarb and strawberry pie, which had been made by one of the local ladies, which was again, DELISH.
That first slice of pie seemed to open up the floodgates, and much pie was consumed after that point. Much to the detriment of my waistline upon my return home (the scales groaned under the additional weight, I’ll tell you that now).
The next couple of days involved travelling back to Whitehorse, the only notable happening was the consumption of some pickle sticks at the Airport Chalet in Whitehorse. I’ve never had a pickle stick in all my life – in essence, they are sticks of pickle (or gherkin if you are from da UK) which are bread-crumbed and then fried, resulting in the most glorious tasting things I have ever had the fortune to eat in my life.
We experienced a rather wonderful sunset as we were flying back to Vancouver – quite vibrant in colour, and I love the lil moon peeking through.
The following day saw us travelling to Haida Gwaii. Haida Gwaii is what used to be known as the Queen Charlotte Islands, in and around that area there are loads of cool first nation island ruins, where you can see the houses that existed on the islands, old house frontal poles and mortuary poles. First, however, we are heading to Masset where we have a few nights stay at the Eagles Feast House, which is a guesthouse right on the water.
When we land, we have about an hour and a half drive to where we are staying. The island is so peaceful, like, I’ve never been anywhere to tranquil in my entire life. It just has this aura of relaxation about it. The islands are being overrun with deer, and they are everywhere! We saw a little one on our drive toward Queen Charlotte, such a little bambi!
When we were in Queen Charlotte we stopped at this great little café called Queen B’s.
They have daily specials and everything is home-made and delicious. I had hummus, pita, salad and soup, accompanied by a cranberry sparkler.
We took in some totem poles, before arriving at our B&B in Masset, where I had a nice room overlooking the water.
I was looking forward to some downtime in Masset, we hadn’t anything planned, and it would be nice to have a break and just not really do anything. All the travelling we’ve been doing has resulted in a haze of tiredness. So, I settled down that evening for a date with Jake Peralta, of Brooklyn 99 (taking advantage of the free WiFi of course).
On the agenda today: making it back to Dawson City. We drive pretty much the entire way, without seeing a single thing; clearly our luck is never going to change, and we are never going to see a single interesting animal at any point during this entire month-long holiday. Are there even animals in Canada? Does a single mammal exist, larger than a squirrel? Well, it turns out, they do exist.
We’re not far away from Dawson City when we see a grizzly bear at the side of the road. I think we nearly all died in our seats – we genuinely couldn’t believe what we were seeing. All this time without seeing a bear, listening to everyone else we’d met telling us about all these amazing bear sighting, and we hadn’t even caught a glimpse of one. And here one was, literally a metre away from us, and with a 1-year-old cub!!
They were scared of passing traffic (particularly the little one) and each time a vehicle came past, the little one shot up onto the bank and into the trees, out of harm’s way.
We probably sat there for about half an hour, just watching them go about their business, munching on the grass and mooching about together. Bears are just glorious, are they not? If you think they’re not – then I am not interested to hear it, quite frankly.
High on bear spice, we carry on along down the road, only to see a MOOSE!! It wasn’t a daddy moose – so there were no giant antlers, but it was a moose all the same. The lady moose ran across the road, then made her way across a pretty deep stream (unsure at what point it becomes a river) and popped back out the other side. Our luck is truly changing!
We get to Dawson City and check into the Westmark Hotel. Now, this is by far the nicest hotel we stayed in on this holiday – but it is also the worst, and I’ll tell you for why. No WiFi, that’s why. There’s WiFi in the communal areas, but you can’t get WiFi in you room and I am SO not about that life. Why would you do that to people? WHY??? It’s like they are tantalising you with the possibility of good connectivity, and then just whipping it away at the last moment. I would rather stay in a much less nice hotel, with a normal WiFi policy.
That evening, we went to Diamond Tooth Gerties. Diamond Tooth Gerties is a gambling hall, where they do shows each evening; a ‘Vaudeville’ show (according to Wikipedia). Diamond Tooth Gerties is also Canada’s oldest casino – this knowledge is also courtesy of Wikipedia. For not that many Canadian dollars, you can spend an evening in Diamond Tooth Gerties – not only can you spend a night there, but your ticket is valid for the rest of the month, so you can spend the whole month there if you want to… or was it the rest of the year? I can’t remember now. Either way, it was a long time.
You can have your fill of dancing girls doing the can-can and flashing their bloomers. Many a quick change is done, and Diamond Tooth Gertie herself has a good old sing-song. Okay, it’s not the best thing I’ve ever seen in my life, but it’s a definite laugh.
The splits are done many times (as was much wincing on my part) and legs were more often above heads than not. They even get up a few guys from the audience to have a go – which is more than amusing.
Ooh, something I completely forgot to mention! In Dawson City, it can legit be 15 degrees Celsius, and EVERYONE is out in their flip-flops and shorts, and I mean EVERYONE. I’m sorry, but +15 is not warm enough to take your jacket off outside, let alone wear minimal clothing. These people are complete nutters, I swear.
When is there not driving to be done? There is always driving to be done. In Canada, one does not simply, not drive. Here, people think 2 hours is a short drive… Like, HUN, 2 minutes is a short drive – 2 hours, and you will need to present a strong business case to gain my attendance.
Anyway, we were heading back to Eagle Plains, which means we were going back through the mountains where it had been snowing a mere day or two prior. Well, when we passed back through that area, it was literally like a different planet. Snow was not a thing, it was well above freezing and there was actual sun.
The only downside to this, was that it was obscenely windy. So windy, that getting a decent selfie was impossible. So windy, that in every single photo of me, you can see my forehead. My forehead is a thing few have seen. Even worse than that, it looks like I have a Rod Stewart mullet going on, which is less than ideal. People were starting to mistake me for dear Rod and began asking for off the cuff renditions of Maggie May (I was only too obliging).
I can’t even describe to you how knotty my hair was after braving the wind at the Arctic Circle sign. It was almost like it had been woven into a mat: that’s how tangled up it was.
Also, how cool is this hazy mountain vibe? It looks like it was born to be on a gallery wall. All the pinks and greys and blue are just everything to me.
We stopped for a bit by the river to have a rest and stretch our legs. I made the MASSIVE error of getting out of the car and going for a wander down the river banks – I experienced major regrets. I don’t usually get bitten by mosquitos, but this was most definitely an exception. If I’d been wearing trousers like a sensible person, then none of this would have happened, but I wasn’t, I was wearing tights. Obvs not just the tights, cos that would be weird, but a tights and dress combo, like a normal person.
I got savaged by these little winged assholes, so, I had some properly mangy looking legs for like a week. Hot or not? Most definitely not. But, on the plus side, I did find a pebble that looked like a heart – so silver linings and all that.
It almost makes the mauled legs worth it… apart from the fact that it really doesn’t.
Had another pretty chilled day today – the place we are staying at keeps huskies, and if you are short on things to do, you can take one out for a walk. So, this is exactly what I did. Let me tell you one thing right now: HUSKIES ARE MAD STRONG. I don’t know why this came as a surprise to me (seeing as they pull sleds for a living) but by the time this walk was over, my right shoulder was dramatically less in the socket than it was when it began.
I even took out one of the smaller ones who was only a year old, but she was still ridiculously strong. Like, it was more like being pulled along by a horse than it was a dog. As a result, I think they should measure things in husky power, rather than horse power.
Even though I’m a fully paid up member of the ‘don’t really like dogs’ club, even I have to admit, these pups were frickin’ cute. Even when they did stop to drink out of puddles which were more mud than water and pause to consume what I think was some sort of moss. Yick.
I even let one eat a piece of dog biscuit out of my flesh and bone hand. But between you and me, that was the 4th bit of biscuit I had provided, after wussing out and dropping the other ones each time the doggo’s face came at me. But don’t tell anyone, please.
After my arm had been stretched sufficiently (if only I could do that with my legs), resulting ruined ligaments and tendons for life, we popped out to find the local car wash. The trouble with the roads around here, is that your car gets properly dusty.
Then, the dust gets everywhere, and when you get out of the car, you end up with mud all over the back of your trousers. Not that that happened EVERY SINGLE time or anything… it’s almost like I never learn.
We’re up nice and early again today, and once I’ve consumed a bucket of coffee and snacked on some more of that granola, we’re on our way to Tuktoyaktuk. Tuktoyaktuk (or ‘Tuk’ if you don’t have all day) is a hamlet which is north of the Arctic Circle, on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Until recently you couldn’t access Tuk unless by plane or ice road once the ocean had frozen. Just last year, they built a road, so you can drive all the way there from Inuvik. Because the road is pretty new, there is a low weight limit on it, meaning trucks still can’t get down there. But I am not driving a truck, so I can certainly get down there, and paddling in the Arctic Ocean is pretty tempting isn’t it? Especially when I don’t know a single person who has done that.
So, we head off; the journey takes about 3 hours in total, and let me tell you now, that journey is BORING. The scenery the entire way looks exactly the same, apart from a couple of pingos which appear out of the landscape along the way. A pingo is a mound of ice covered in earth, and this area is known as the ‘land of the pingos’. Yes, there are pingos, but I don’t think there are quite enough to legitimately name the area ‘land of the pingos’… ‘area containing some pingos’ would be much more appropriate I feel, but that is another argument for another day.
The first section of the drive is a little… well, a little uncomfortable, let’s just say that. There are some bitch-ass ruts on this road, and I felt like I was either going to smash my head into the roof of the car or hit myself in the face with my boobs – that’s how bumpy this was. This pic doesn’t do it one iota of justice, but I promise you a smooth ride, it was not.
As we were driving along, we came across a lonely little caribou in the road. I’m not sure if this little one was a girl or a boy, but it was pretty damned cute, so I am going to make her a her. Anyway, she was all on her own, which was kinda sad, because I feel like they aren’t really supposed to be in their own, so I am guessing she missed the rest of them when they made the migration or something… Or maybe she got left behind for some reason. Anyway, I managed to get some cute pics of the little lady, and she went for a bit of a jump around and trot along the road in front of us.
Once she’d sauntered off into the distance, we carried on, eventually arriving at the Tuktoyaktuk sign, for the obligatory pics.
As we drive in, we come to the realisation that the sea if still frozen – we were not expecting this! Usually by now it’s completely melted, but there is a definite amount for freezage going on here. We were booked onto a tour with an Inuvialuit lady, who is native to the area, and called Eileen. Once we have located Eileen, after borrowing a helpful Canadian lady’s phone, she comes and grabs us, and we head to her house. Now, I have to admit, I was dubious about the entire thing. When you arrive here, it really does appear if there is nothing here, not just limited amounts of things, but literally nothing, and in all honesty, it looks a bit of a state.
Eileen serves us up some traditional fare, some of which was edible and some of which was distinctly not, but I am proud to say I tried it all. There was caribou stew, which was surprisingly nice and dried whale meat, which was unsurprisingly un-nice; it just tasted so much like dead whale, I cannot even begin to tell you. We had some muktuk, which is the skin and blubber of a whale and this is genuinely rancid. Eileen was telling us that people cover it in brown sauce, and I can 100% understand why, because you do not actually want to taste that stuff when you are consuming it. Dried musk ox was the chewiest thing I have ever attempted to consume in my life, and I am sorry to say, that one had to come back out of my mouth as there was no chance that was going down the hatch without resulting in much retching. The smoked white fish was genuinely really tasty, and the piece de resistance was the bannock. Oh, the bannock [insert lovestruck emoji here]. If this bannock had DMs, I would be sliding right into those because this was the tastiest thing in the whole of Canada, hands down, no argument. No word of a lie, I am 97% sure I ate an entire loaf of it.
Eileen looking fierce in her mum’s dress parka – who knew there was such a thing as a dress parka?!
Her husband, Billy, took us out into his trappers’ tent and showed us some of the different animals he had trapped in his time. Whilst this was interesting, and really cool to see how they made a living, I’ve not got any pics, because dead cute ‘n’ fluffies actually breaks my heart. We headed back out and went to see the first Tuk sign, which was put there in the 70s, and is in relatively good condition, all things considered. Here we are looking like a few heavies outside da club.
After that, she took us to see her smokehouse which was on the beach, right next to the ocean.
I took this opportunity to remove my shoes and socks and have a paddle in the Arctic Ocean. Just to let you know – it’s cold AF. Like, next level cold, so cold that I have never experienced a chill like it. Icy doesn’t even do it justice!
It’s also really hard to get your shoes back on after you’ve gone for your paddle (as exhibited in the below photographic evidence).
Your feet are numb to the core and the pebbles are massive and the whole thing is a bit of a palaver; but it is SO worth it, just to say you did it. Even if I did get a higher than desired level of silt in my suede shoes.
You may have noticed that I missed a day out, if you did – then thank you for religiously reading this – you and the one other person who isn’t my mum should probably get married or something. Anyway, the reason I missed a day out, is because on that day I did literally nothing. I didn’t wake up until about 1pm, and for a couple of reasons; firstly, because the sun is up here until about 1am, and secondly, because all the driving had knackered me.
When I did wake up, I sat in bed and read my book, replied to a bunch of messages and emails, progressed to watching re-runs of Friends, Will & Grace and 2 and a Half Men and then ate a fat bag of granola and drank about a gallon of coffee. All in all, a pretty productive day, wouldn’t you say? I needed a break in all honesty – holidays are tiring when you are on the move constantly, never sleeping in the same place for more than a couple of nights, driving and straining your eyes looking for the non-existent wildlife of British Columbia.
The next day I managed to rise from my coffin at a slightly more reasonable time, but in all honesty, achieved about as little. What I did achieve, however, was the consumption of food. There aren’t many places to eat in Inuvik, in fact, the only options you have are a couple of hotels and one family-run restaurant. If I were you, I wouldn’t bother with the hotels and I’d stick with the family-run, which is called Alestine’s, if you’re interested.
Alestine’s is only open from 5pm-8pm in the evenings, so make sure you get there on time. This place is a cute little shack on Franklin Road, where they do all their cooking out of the back of a bright yellow school bus.
The service is friendly, and you’re served by the wife of the family, who is rushed off her feet constantly because of the popularity of this place. They have about 5 main course options on the menu and one dessert, which are given to change as and when things are in and out of season, or when the chef fancies something different. We entered in and who else did we see sitting in there, but Susan and Michael! We promptly park ourselves down on their table and ask them what’s good on the menu. After taking that in, I order the fish tacos at the recommendation of Susan. I’ve never had fish tacos, but when in Rome and all that…
My fish tacos soon arrived, and boy did I enjoy them. They came with fries (as does everything in Canada) and they were filled with fried white fish, mango salsa and a light coleslaw. YUM!! I wolfed those down in about 8 seconds flat, got my hands covered in sauce and ended up with chutney all round my face – so it was a good meal for sure. It took all my mental strength to try and not wipe my hands on my trousers. I’ll leave you to decide for yourselves whether I managed that or not.
I’m so bad with wiping my hands on my trousers. I KNOW I shouldn’t be doing it, but I literally cannot help myself – the desire is too overwhelming. It’s clearly much more ladylike and polite to wipe ones’ hands upon a napkin of a serviette, but I just feel like my trousers really do the job better, and it’s obviously way better for the environment if I shun all serviettes and refuse to use them. That practically makes me an eco-warrior, doesn’t it? Doesn’t it??????
Overnight it continued snowing, and when I looked out the window in the morning there was still a smattering of snow. I’d been looking forward to being snowed in and having to dig the car out and put on the snow-chains to be honest – but no such luck. All I got was to slip about a foot on the metal grid out the front of the hotel #MichelleODrama. Because it’s all kindsa of mountainous between here and the next stop (Inuvik) we decided to set off with an American couple we’d met in the hotel, called Michael and Susan. Safety in numbers and all that!
Because I’m a born daredevil, I opt to drive first and lead the pack as such. No sooner do we get down the hill from the hotel, does all the snow disappear – muchos dissappointios! However, in the place of the snow, was a sludge you would be hard pressed to call a road. There were some spots which were black-ice-level slippery. Some impressive skids were done in the 4×4. I think I pretty much held my breath for the entire drive – that’s how hard I was concentrating.
We start climbing up towards the Arctic Circle, the snow has made a reappearance and the temperature is dropping big style. By the time we reach the Arctic Circle sign it’s -5 degrees Celsius, the wind-chill factor making it a cool MINUS 20!!!! Chilly does not even cover it. The sign appears out of the snow and we pull over to get some pics. Now, this was a dramatic 10 minutes, even for me. I stop the car and I get out… And only I get out… It turns out that in the cold and snow, the passenger door and the rear doors have frozen shut and we can’t get them open. No amount of tugging is opening those bad boys, so an amount of clambering had to be done to exit the vehicle.
I was desperate for a wee by now, so I headed to the loo. It’s so windy here, I was almost blown past the lav – but I made it in eventually, after a long battle with the door. I get in there, and the loo seat is covered in snow. This is something I have NEVER experienced in all of my loo visits. A good inch of snow stands between my bare arse and the toilet seat… Hovering seems a good idea at this point.
After a tricky few minutes I exit the loo, struggling to do my trousers up in the freezing conditions, only to hear Michael (the American guy) shouting though the wind at me “Bonnie, do your trousers up! You are bringing the Arctic Circle into disrepute!”. Needless to say, this did not help me with doing my trousers up – not only were my hands frozen, they were now jiggling around uncontrollably as a result of intense laughter. And I was trying to run.
It was way too cold to get any decent photos, so we accept that we will have to stop on the way back and get the pics. Seriously weak selfie game was exhibited.
Ooh, I forgot to mention! When I got out of the car here, I got a high 5 from Michael saying I was a great little driver. Never has anything made my life more than this did. He is my new fave person.
I carried on driving and I’m not going to lie, it got beyond terrifying. Obvs I loved how terrifying it was, but it really was scary. It started snowing heavily and visibility was non-existent. All I could see in front of me was white, and the occasional flash of the lights on the RV we’d come up behind. Driving down this road, the wind was whipping up the snow from beside the road, meaning I couldn’t see where the road was or where the other cars were.
There isn’t anywhere you can stop, and even if you did stop, you run the risk of getting hit by another car who just hasn’t seen you in the snow – so I press on. This was white knuckle – I’m not gonna lie. When I eventually got out of the car, my hands were screaming in pain from how hard I’d been gripping the steering wheel. Even though I thought I might vom from the fear, it was EPIC and I would drive through another snowstorm in a heartbeat.
After the treachery of the icy mountains, the rest of the drive was pretty mundane. We crossed over on a ferry, entered into Port McPherson and stopped for something to eat at the tourist centre. Again, there’s hardly anything here, but a break was definitely required, and the local food cooked at the tourist centre was really yummy, making it worth the stop. They had bannock, soup and fish, all done on the BBQ, and they had a tipi set up that you could have a look in. One of the guys explained about putting up the tipi and told us it was his first time – pretty good for a first attempt I think!
As we were coming into Inuvik (which was to be our home for the next couple of days), we paused to stretch our legs. There was a short hike, which I opted for, turning out to be the most non-event hike of my life.
A lot of climbing and a whole load of nothing to see, apart from hella bear poo. But a selfie at the top was required all the same. Selfie game much closer to being ok point.
We arrived in the evening at Arctic Chalet, Inuvik, which was where we were staying. We had clearly interrupted the woman who runs its dinner, and she did not seem best pleased.
Apologising profusely to Judy, we were handed some keys and pointed in the direction of some wooden cabins, where snow-covered loo seats haunted my dreams.
Today’s the day we start the serious driving. Our aim on this trip is to reach the Arctic Ocean in Tuktoyaktuk in the North West Territories – it’s about as far as you can go without actually plopping into the ocean. The first leg of the journey is to travel from Dawson City to Eagle Plains and you’re driving on the Dempster Highway. Again, ‘highway’ is a fierce stretch for what is actually a gravel road. We’re hoping to see some wildlife along the way – it’s not a massively busy road, on account of the number of people wanting to drive in the wild wilderness being relatively slim, so we are thinking our chances are pretty good. We really should have learned by now, that we are not blessed with frequent and numerate animal sightings… but we started our travels with high hopes nonetheless.
There weren’t many places to stop on our previous journeys, maybe one or two gas stations and places to eat along the way. On the way to Eagle Plains, there really is nowhere to stop. There is nowhere to get a drink, there is nowhere to get something to eat and there is nowhere to get gas, so make sure you fill up before you go. It’s about 400km and it takes about 7 hours – less if you drive like your 18-year-old son, and more if you drive like your 81-year-old nan. The first place to stop off along the way is Tombstone Interpretive Centre, here you can learn about the wildlife in the area, stop for a rest and grab yourself a cup of Labrador tea from the stove. Labrador is a plant btw, not the dog.
There’s a few trails around this area, but because it was a bit miz on that day, we didn’t opt for anything strenuous. We followed the Beaver trail along to a beaver dam, in the hope that we would spot some of the toothy little fellows.
As I am sure you have already guessed, we did not. The most we saw was a sign of beaver habitation – a gnawed stump of tree.
The dry spell continues, as do the heart crushing feels. A chipmunk would do at this point… ANYTHING!! Whilst I was waiting patiently for a beaver to swim by (none did), I did see a squirrel (which I bet you can’t even see in this pic) and a bird. WOOHOO!! Not. No offense squirrel and bird, but we have you at home and you just aren’t what we made the journey for.
We continued along our way, keeping our eyes peeled for bears, moose and the like. We came across a creek; a red creek. This creek is red because it’s essentially rusty, which is pretty neat and it really stands out in comparison to the hundreds of very non-red creeks we had driven past that day.
So much of the scenery Is gawj, but as it was drizzling constantly there weren’t a lot of good photo ops.
After many, many hours of driving, we make it to Eagle Plains… just as it starts to snow. Now, we had heard that snow had been a possibility, but only on the high grounds, so we had thought we weren’t going to see any of those white flakes. Well, it turns out that Eagle Plains is pretty much atop a mountain, so snow shouldn’t really have been that unexpected.
It’s chilling right down now, and we’re glad to get inside the one and only hotel in Eagle Plains – the Eagle Plains Hotel (no one messed around with a creative name for that one, did they?). The most interesting thing about this place is that it was built in the 80s and not a single thing has been done to it since. There is a fairly large crack in one of the windows in the dining room which has probably been residing there since about 1984. Amusingly, in the dining room the tables come equipped with a miniature sled containing your sugar, coffee cups, pepper and salt (with an extraordinary amount of rice in it). When I say extraordinary – I mean the salt to rice ratio was pro rice.
This is the only place to get food, so you have to eat here, but they have a relatively decent menu considering they are in the arse end of nowhere, and they have daily specials too. In the bar you are greeted to what I would imagine is approximately a national parks-full of taxidermy mammals. On the plus side, we did finally see a moose… Positively devilish don’t you think?
Last night we went for dinner at Klondike Kates restaurant in Whitehorse. We are told it’s the best restaurant in town, but I’m slightly disinclined to agree with that. The food was nice, and the service was friendly, but it was no better than anywhere else we ate. In fact, other places were more fun and enjoyable. I don’t know whether it was entirely down to the atmosphere inside, and in my opinion, some of the other restaurants are better.
After we’d eaten, we went for a walk that someone in the hotel had recommended. To get to the walk, you have to cross over the river on the ferry, oh, and it’s a really easy walk.
The ferry comes and goes as there are people to use it, so if you wait there, they’ll come and get you, which is neat. We crossed over as foot passengers on the ferry, which takes about 10 minutes once you set off. Also, here ferry guys though – we watched this ferry go across so many times and not once did they make a single mistake. I swear they actually must be Gods or something… because it was genuinely impressive!
Once you come off the ferry and walk up the road, to get to the walk you need to take the first left into the campground. Keep walking through the campground until you see a yellow gate (a 10 or 15 minutes’ walk). Head through the yellow gate and down towards the beach – on your left-hand side there will be a break in the trees and you can cross a stream over a little bridge and you’ll be walking next to the river.
Across the river, you can look at the hills and keep your eyes peeled for some wildlife! Obviously we saw a grand total of nothing, in-keeping with the rest of the holiday.
As you walk along, you’ll come to some steamboat wrecks on your left. These were left here at the end of the gold-rush when they were no longer needed (they were beached on the banks of the river and have been left there).
These are pretty cool to look at – there are a few of them there at different stages of dilapidation – the ones further back are in better condition. I went for a bit of an investigate and wandered round the back and climbed up on top of one of them to have a look.
The sunset is beaut here, coupled with the fact that it never really gets dark (it was 20 hours of sunshine when I was there), so you can still walk around happily at 10/11 o’clock at night.
The next morning we went across on the ferry again, but this time by car. We wanted to drive up the Top of the World Highway and take a photo of ourselves next to the sign… so we drive for a while and didn’t find the sign, and we drove for a while more and didn’t find the sign… turns out the sign is no longer there… so we drove a LONG while for literally no reason! But, we did find some snow, so that was a win, kinda.
I took the opportunity to stake my claim on the snow, with a classic year 8 ‘Bonnie was here’. Do not judge me…
And a couple of people threw some snowballs at me… Hmpf… bullies!
We popped to Sourdough Joe’s for dins – FYI no sourdough is served here, despite the name. The food was yummay here and IMO it’s the best restaurant in Dawson City. It’s got a chilled vibe and it’s a bit of fun, making for a very enjoyable dinner.
After that we headed back to the hotel and popped into the bar. They have a guy who plays some tunes at the piano each night from 7 until 9, and I have never seen a man enjoy playing the piano more than this guy does.
Some jaunty tunes, a couple of Yukon Gold’s later and some money in the tip jar, made for a great end to the evening.
Breakfast was calling me, and Riverwest Bistro answered with a breakfast burrito. If you’re looking for places to eat in Dawson City, Riverwest Bistro has plenty of options. It’s a bit of a diner joint and it’s by no means upmarket, but the coffee was fresh, and the food was good, so you’ll have no complaints from me.
We went for a mooch about the town, stopping off in the Northwest Territories Visitor Centre. This place was really good, the lady working there (Dawn) was incredibly informative and hugely knowledgeable – it’s worth popping in there if you need some information about the drive up the Dempster Highway.
Whilst we were in there, we got to talking and she mentioned that there were some cyclists heading up the same way as us who needed a food package dropped off, as it was too heavy for them to carry with them. We offered to take their food package up with us, and feeling like exceedingly good citizens, we headed off with the food package (which turned out to be pretty damn heavy after you have been carrying it for 20 minutes). I can only imagine they were concealing bricks in their food package for some unknown reason.
To fill up our afternoon, we booked ourselves onto a goldmining tour. We had wanted to go on a trip with a native guy in a boat, but he was all booked up – so that was a no go. A shame, to be honest, because we’d been recommended this in the visitors centre and they seemed genuinely excited about it, so we were a bit disappointed, but you can’t have everything. We chose a tour with Goldbottom Mine Tours, departing at 1.30. I have to be honest, I wasn’t bowled over by this tour – I think it was lacking a little something. However, I do think you should go on a gold mining tour whilst you are here. Gold mining is the entire reason this town exists and it’s worth getting to know a bit about it, and the tour was still enjoyable, even if it wasn’t outstanding.
I’ll tell you a little bit about what goes down during the tour. You start off outside the tour office and head up the road to the Goldbottom Mine site (it’s a bit of a bumpy ride). Whilst you’re travelling, the guide talks about the mining history of the area before you stop off at the site and switch your shoes for wellies. The tour guide takes you for a look around the old house there, which is full of cool artefacts and has been done out to look like it would have back in the day.
You head up to a mining site which is in use at the moment and if you are lucky, you’ll get to talk to one of the guys who is mining there. We spoke to a guy named Dale, who told us about the machinery he was using and how much gold he was extracting on a daily basis – this was by far and away the best bit of the tour.
After that we headed back to the Goldbottom Mine site and he showed us how you separate the gold you have panned for from the black sand and other bits and pieces you end up with. This was interesting, and apart from the rude American woman basically rugby tackling me in a bid to get a photo, went off without a hitch. Once we were done with that, the tour guide showed us a huge nugget of gold which one of the people who owned the mine had found.
Here the rude American lady saga continues. We’re standing listening to the guy explaining about the nugget and she’s standing behind me, and I can feel her touching my hair. I pass it off as an accident and continue listening. Then she touches my hair again… Now I know this clearly is no accident, like, she’s kind of tugging on it – does she really think I can’t feel this? Hey, rude American lady – that’s actually attached to my head you know!!!!! CREEP. I end up having to move because I can’t actually address this out loud in front of all these people. The funny thing is, I’m pretty used to people touching my hair; people ALWAYS touch my hair. But, it’s usually accompanied by a verbalisation of the hair touching intentions, such as, ‘isn’t your hair long’, or, ‘isn’t your hair a pretty colour’. One does not simply touch another person’s hair in creepy silence. So, I placed myself out of reach of silent hair stroker and pretended it never happened.
Now it was time for panning for gold! This is where I came slightly unstuck, as I didn’t really know what I was doing and the man just kind of left you to it. I think they could do with working on this section of the tour, as I wasn’t the only one who found this frustrating. Eventually he came back and explained, but I was already miffed by this point, so I enjoyed it less than I wanted to. Also, Goldbottom Mine Tours, if you’re listening, a hot drink and a snack wouldn’t go amiss at some point in the tour. Whilst we are getting sorted with our wellies, it would be easy to sort out some tea and coffee and a biscuit, which I know would be appreciated by your tourists. Oh, and if you could weed out the hair strokers beforehand, that would be GREAT.
Back to the Burnt Toast Café, Whitehorse for some breakfast before the next leg of the journey. The girl serving was rushed off her feet – they were busy yesterday at lunchtime, but this was something else – they definitely need to get someone else in to help! There was a bit of a wait for food and people just kept on coming in (clearly this is the place to be! Either that, or there’s not really anywhere else to go, or a combo of the two). Anyway, the wait was well worth it, because the food was delicious. I had the Breakfast Sandwich, which consisted of a bun, filled with an egg, bacon, tomato and spinach, accompanied by hash browns (fried potatoes). BEYOND SCRUMMY!! And just the right thing to stave off the hunger on a 7-hour trip to Dawson City.
We hit the road, heading in the direction of Dawson City. The drive from Whitehorse to Dawson City is a long old drive (about 530 kilometres) and it takes a while, especially when you aren’t used to the gravel road and you’re on the lookout for wildlife. We saw precisely nothing the whole way, despite someone having seen 10 bears the day before. There are campgrounds along the way, and they are always nicely located. We stopped at one on a lake, which was really pretty – and they are always a good comfort stop as well – there really aren’t that many places to stop for a wee!
Ooh, so there’s this place you HAVE to stop at if you are driving from Whitehorse to Dawson City, it’s called Braeburn Lodge (located on mile 55 o the Klondike Highway).
You have to stop here because they do these GIANT cinnamon buns. When I say GIANT, I am not over exaggerating – they are literally the size of your face and so frickin’ tasty as well. There is no way you can drive past this place without stopping. It’s so out of the way that you get Carnation Evaporated milk with your coffee!
If you go to the loo, you’ll see people have decorated the back of the toilet door with graffiti (obviously I can only speak for the ladies’ loos here – I can’t say for the men’s – and I’m certainly not brave enough to go in there and check for you). But anyway, people are telling you what their names are, when they came and where they are going from and to. The one which stood out to me most, however, was one which read ‘7/10 would poo here again 2017’. That speaks to me, in a serious way.
Stop off at the Five Finger Rapids Recreation Site – there’s a nice trail here which goes down a set of steps first, then travels upwards. You get a great view of the Yukon river here, where there’s a tiny island with some nesting birds atop it. To walk to the top of the trail and back would take less and an hour, I’d say about 45 minutes… I took it upon myself to run it, so it didn’t take me very long (all that pent-up energy again).
We get to Dawson City in the afternoon; it took us about 7 hours to get up here in total. 7 hours on the road and we didn’t see a SINGLE animal, not even one! This was all kinds of disappointing, especially considering we’d heard about a guy who had seen 10 bears the day before – I think we were almost expecting them to be lined up along the highway with a welcome banner. They were not.
Dawson City looks like a cowboy town. I don’t know what I was expecting from the name ‘Dawson City’, but this wasn’t it. I think this place has definitely been named in jest, because a City this is certainly not. All the facades are wooden clad and painted in bright colours, it’s right on the river and it looks super cute.
To be honest though, at that point I was so tired from all the driving that I hardly knew my arse from my elbow. We were staying at the Downtown Hotel in Whitehorse, as hotels in Whitehorse go, it was good. Good Wi-Fi, coffee machine and clean and comfy. Oh, and it has swinging saloon doors on the front, so if that doesn’t persuade you to stay here, nothing will. I elected to skip dinner (a bit of a first for me) and headed straight to bed. Needless to say, I woke up beyond hungry and wondering why on earth I had elected to miss a meal.
Today is the day we go to Whitehorse! This is where the holiday bit of the holiday begins. As nice as it is, when you’re with family, it’s not the same as actually being on holiday. This is where we’re beginning our journey up through the Arctic circle and all the way to Tuk, so I can paddle in the Arctic ocean. Woohoo!!
Having got up at ridiculous o’clock (turns out you can still screech to a halt at red lights when there’s no traffic on the road) and arrived at the airport and made it through security, I was on the hunt for some breakfast. After having a wander round the available options, something caught my eye – something I thought too good to be true… FRUIT SALAD!! Never have I enjoyed a plastic cup full of fruit, in an airport, so much in my entire life. Honestly, I could feel the threat of scurvy leaving my body and I felt as if I could conquer the world. It really is amazing how much of a difference vitamin C makes to your existence.
We jumped on a prop plane and flew a couple of hours to Whitehorse. I was sat next to a guy who was backpacking… Well, I don’t actually know if he was a backpacker, but he certainly smelled like he was backpacking (unwashed clothes have such a distinctive smell). Safely arrived, we picked up our car from Go North Car & RV Rental. There aren’t many options when it comes to car rental in Whitehorse and the reason we used them was because they were the only rental company that would give us a full size spare tyre. Why is this important? Well, most of the roads we would be driving on are going to be ‘all weather roads’, which essentially means gravel and potholes. Services are few and far between, so if you get a flat, you aren’t going to get to the next spot with a donut tyre.
Once we get there, we check in at our hotel: Town and Mountain Hotel, Whitehorse. Again, there aren’t a tonne of options when it comes to places to stay in Whitehorse, but it was clean, so no complaints (and there was decent Wi-Fi)! Oh, quick thing – all hotels here look like they were built in the 70s and haven’t changed since, and that would be because they WERE built in the 70s and HAVEN’T changed since. All the artex and chintzy bedspreads you could wish for.
I’m properly rav by now, so we head out to find some lunch. We come by a place called the Burnt Toast Café and liking the look of it, head in. The walls are black and there’s rock music pumping out of the door, based on that, the food has got to be tasty, right? And I was right [insert drooly emoji here].
To continue staving off scurvy, I opted for a salad – but to be honest, the whole menu sounded DELICIOUS and based on everyone else’s food I saw coming out, it looked it too. I had the Gnarly Barley salad, which came with goats’ cheese and a maple and balsamic dressing; I can’t even begin to explain how yummy it was.
We went for a mooch around the town and had a look the gift shops… I’m still waiting for something to jump out at me to buy, I’ve not seen anything which speaks to me yet. We were looking for something to do for the rest of the afternoon; having read about the Takhini hot springs, we decided we’d give that a try. We got beyond lost trying to get there and ended up having to stop and ask someone. Let’s just say, that signage in Canada seems to be pretty much non-existent, rendering it nigh on impossible to locate anything if you don’t know where it is (much driving around was done).
Eventually we located it (FYI it’s further away than you think it is) and went for a dip. It cost $12 to get into the Tahkini Hot Springs and I think it’s worth it. There are two different hot pools at Takhini; one warm one and one hot one. It’s not glam here, but it’s relaxing and out in the open with a nice view. It would be amazing here in the ice and snow and they even have a ‘best frozen hair’ competition… I may be returning… To make it even more enjoyable there was a cute little chipmunk hanging around at the side of the pool having a snack. They are SO cute, AND it didn’t run away as I splashed over in its direction to stare at it (if only people were like that too).
After a hard day of lounging, it was time for dinner – turns out you can work up quite an appetite doing 100% of nothing. There was only one other place which stood out to eat: Klondike Rib and Salmon.
It’s hella popular and you can’t book – so there might be a bit of a wait, but that’s good – a wait means people love it! I had the special, which was 2 salmon skewers, a half rack of ribs, focaccia, garlic mash and roasted vegetables.
It was SO yummy, and SO much food; more food than a human should consume, I’m sure (of course, I ate it all). It’s fun in there, it’s a laugh and it’s bustling and busy, accompanied with great food – what’s not to like? If you’re looking for places to eat in Whitehorse, this is the one.
I have literally no idea what I did on the 5th June. All I have in my camera roll is a photo of maple syrup biscuits… Which, by the way, are hella tasty, so you should definitely get some if you happen to be in a supermarket in Canada. All this photo tells me, is that I must have been in a Walmart. That can’t have been ALL I did for an entire day, can it? I’ll have to have a think about it, I’m sure I’ll remember.
All I do know is, that getting up at 4.30 am to go to the airport to catch a flight to Whitehorse is looming. Oh wait, we went whale watching! That explains why I don’t have any photos on my iPhone – they are all on the camera camera, because there isn’t much of a chance of you getting a good photo of a whale in the ocean on your iPhone, no matter how good a photographer you are.
It was about an hour and a half’s drive from Vancouver to Steveston. Which is where we managed to catch a whale watching tour with Vancouver Whale Watch. We didn’t book, and we were fortunate to get the last 3 spaces on the boat which was just about to go out – close call! There are a few companies you can book with if you are interested in whale watching in Vancouver – they are all pretty similar and follow the same whales. It was a little bit of a grey day, but I was hoping that the lack of sunshine wasn’t going to stop the whales from coming out to play.
On our way out to sea we saw a few California seals chilling on some rocks; as much as I would like to like California seals, they are really not a pretty sight. I’m all for any kind of animal, but they aren’t about to win any beauty contests – cute they are not.
However, they do look pretty regal and commanding up on those rocks, even if they do STINK of fish… you can certainly smell them before you see them.
We picked up the pace, heading out to sea at a fair clip, looking for some orca, or killer whales. Now, these are my absolute fave marine animals – they are so unbelievably clever, and they have some serious emotions going on – I’ve no idea how you couldn’t love these guys. They all hunt in different ways, for different prey, depending on what is abundant in the area in which they exist. It’s so cool how they live together in their pod as a tight knit family unit, communicating all the time with one another. It’s so cool to listen to as well and we know so little about what they are saying to one another; it’s pretty majestic.
There were a couple of pods in the area and these are whales which live in the area. We found the pod we were looking for, made up of about 5 orcas and they had some little ones in tow.
It’s wonderful watching them surface; they are SO beautiful and it’s especially wonderful seeing the little one with its mummy. We also got to see the little one breach, picking up some pace and flinging himself out of the water and re-entering with a big splash! Unfortunately, I missed the photo opportunity – better luck next time!
We spent a long time with that pod, sitting and watching them in all their glory. Rolling around in the water and having what seemed like some good fun. After a while, we needed to start heading back, so we turned around and started making our way, stopping to see some harbour seals sunning themselves on some logs.
These guys are so much cuter than California seals, they are so chubby and roly-poly with massive eyes and they are just how you want a seal to look.
As we were heading back, we caught up with another pod of orca and these ones were much more active! Tails were coming out of the water and slapping back down, and they were a lot closer to our boat as well.
The little ones in this pod seemed to be having a whale of a time (pun very much intended).
Seeing this makes it all very much worth it. You never know what you are going to get with whales. They could be really active, or they could be calm and relaxed, but either way, it’s always a good experience and something well worth doing.
Today we headed up to Squamish and Horseshoe Bay; a couple of hours outside of Vancouver. It’s a pretty drive once you get out of Vancouver and get past all the red lights and stop signs available to screech to a halt at. I do so love coming to a smooth stop – I’m really starting to miss it… Anyway, we stopped off at Shannon Falls on our way up. You can walk up the trail here and you come to a pretty waterfall. There are a few steps to go up, but it’s not too tricky. It took us about 30 minutes to walk up, take a few photos and come back down. There are two levels on the Shannon Falls trail – the first gives you a view of the whole waterfall from the front, the second (a bit further up) gives you a more side on view, so you can see the torrent of water coming down.
I had some pent-up energy (on account of having done precisely no exercise since the last week) so I took a little jog up the steps… That certainly relieved me of all that pent-up energy.
We carried on our journey to Squamish. There isn’t a tonne of stuff in Squamish; it’s more about the journey to be honest, but there are some nice gift shops with some native art in them and some places to grab a coffee and a bit to eat. We stopped for lunch at a little place called Green Olive Market and Café, run by a husband and wife. I opted for a Greek salad for the following reasons A) Who doesn’t love a Greek salad? And B) I was starting to worry I was getting scurvy because they don’t seem to eat vegetables in Canada.
On our way to Horseshoe Bay from Squamish, we pulled in at Porteau Cove. As the name suggests, it’s a cove (who’d have guessed it). It’s got loads of drift wood which is well worth a climb over – I managed to get pretty far without having to touch the ground and without falling off. I hear balance is key here.
It’s really pretty here, with the water in the foreground and the mountains in the background and it’s so peaceful as well. It’s also got a campground there (Porteau Cove Provincial Park Campground), and if you were camping it would be a great place to stay I think.
I had a bit of an incident on the beach here at Porteau Cove. We’d walked down to the water to see how cold it was (pretty cold) and whilst we were down there, my mum asked me if I would show her how to do a squat – she’s thinking about working on her fitness and strength, you see. Now, I don’t profess to be a professional squatter or anything, but I definitely do them and I have done them in the gym as well, so that’s as close as you can get to professional in my eyes. So, I give her a quick demo on how to squat.
To show off my best squatting form, I prepare, get my feet in the right position and lower myself into a properly deep squat – I’m talking more than 90 degrees here. I regret this, and I’ll tell you for why. When I lowered myself in to the deepest of all squats, a thing happened. The thing that happened, was that I split my dungarees… My FAVOURITE dungarees [insert anguished emoji here]. As a cool breeze caressed my right buttock, I can only describe myself as entirely forlorn. I’m trying to look over my shoulder to see said split. I can’t see it, but I know it’s there – I heard it go and I can feel a certain chill overcoming my arse. Fortunately, I’m wearing a jacket which covers the split, which is a small mercy. Dejected, I head back to the car and I even sit in the front (a major risk to life), which I think shows the true extent of my pain. R.I.P dungarees – R.I.P… Rip… You get it? See, I’m funny even when I’m broken hearted.
We arrive at Horseshoe Bay, which again, is really pretty. We take a look round a souvenir shop and have a bit of a wander, trying to work up an appetite for dinner. We sit on the pier for a bit and watch some Amish people larking around in a group. They are all young – I’d say 25 and under. Whilst I am questioning the combination of ankle length, pink, floral dress and walking boots, one of the men wanders by, carrying a rather fetching replica Gucci handbag. I’m assuming it was his partners handbag, but I think it would be rather more fun if it was his, don’t you?
We went to Trolls for dinner. People seem to rave about it, so we thought we would give it a go. They are famous for their battered salmon, so I was after giving that a try, but they were fresh out of it, so that was a no go. I opted for cod, as the only other fish option was halibut and I wasn’t feeling that.
I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t amazing. It wasn’t bad by any means, it was tasty for sure, but I’m not sure it’s deserving of the reputation it has. I’m not sure what the moral of this story is, but I’d imagine it’s something along the lines of not believing everything you hear.
An interesting night’s sleep is the only way I can explain it. I was on a sofa bed, and I’ll have to say that ‘sofa bed’ is a bit of a stretch here – it’s really just like sleeping on the floor, but with a bit of foam underneath you. Now, my issue here isn’t comfort (it’s actually surprisingly comfy to sleep on), more the proximity to the floor. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that I’m not the world’s biggest fan of dogs, in particular the smaller varieties. My mum’s cousin has two rescue dogs, and unfortunately, they’re of the small variety and they sleep in the front room, not too far away from the sofa bed. Now you see my issue with the proximity to the floor?
I could hear them breathing, I could hear them rustling, I could hear them looking at me. I laid as still I could just in case my movement stirred one of them (if anyone even thinks of moving during the night, the bark alarms go off). I even slept with my trainers in the bed next to me on that night, for fear of them being sniffed by an unwanted snoz. Eventually I got over my crippling fear of tiny dogs and managed to get to sleep – but only after I’d taken the battery out of the clock which was insisting on incessantly ticking right next to my head. For some reason I woke up about 4am; I’ve no idea, but I couldn’t get back to sleep so I sat up and read my book for a bit (the lines now distinctly less blurry) until it was time for some breakfast.
We headed out to Granville Island after breakfast. We got majorly lost on the way there, not helped by the fact that my mums cousin seems to shun all technology, so there was no sat nav to follow and no Google maps to consult. After a while of driving around aimlessly, hoping that the right road materialised in front of us, we stopped off at a gas station to ask for some directions and got on our way to Granville Island (now heading in the right direction). It was a bit of a miserable day in all honesty and Granville Island is cute, but there’s not a tonne of stuff there – certainly not enough to keep you there for the whole day. There’s a market where you can buy crafts, fresh fruit and veg and all sorts of different foods. There’s also a few gift shops, galleries and boutique shops which are nice for a mooch around.
There are also some cool silos there which have been painted by a couple of Brazilian street artists who are brothers, from Sao Paolo. These silos are at the Ocean Concrete factory and are a bright and colourful injection.
After we were done there, we had a little drive through Stanley Park. It would be a great place to hire a bike and cycle round (we saw a load of people doing this), but the drizzle was turning to rain now, so a cruise round in a Jeep would have to suffice. But here’s what it looks like when it’s not raining.
After that, we popped up Burnaby Mountain to have a look at some of the totem poles. It was still pretty overcast, which was a shame, but that didn’t stop me taking a totem pole pic.
Oh, I’d almost forgotten – on that day, we’d also gone up to walk over the Capilano suspension bridge. We got there, and we were gobsmacked at the price; the tickets were just shy of $47… Having been over it before when I was a kid, we bypassed it based on the price. Extortionate! If I hadn’t been over it before, I’d have probably forked out for it, but bearing in mind that this is ONLY for entry to a national park and a walk over a suspension bridge, legalised robbery sprang to mind.
I’ve actually been in Canada for 2 weeks now… scratchy wifi and equally scratchy motivation have led to my lack of posts about my holiday. But, currently staying in a chalet in the middle of nowhere, has motivated me to start writing about it. Whether that’s because I want to tell you about my holiday, or it’s a result of pure boredom, we’ll never know.
I’m boarding a 10-hour flight to Vancouver, Canada, after an evening celebrating my best friend finishing her Uni work for the year. We celebrated with beer, wine and prosecco. These celebrations resulted in a terrifying hangover and a tour of the toilets in Heathrow Terminal 2. Much retching was done during the tour. After sleeping off said hangover with a couple of hours sleep on the plane, I managed to amuse myself with a few films on the plane (not that I can remember what any of them were now). I’m not a big film watcher, but the binge watch was necessitated by the fact that I couldn’t read, on account of all the lines being wobbly in my book – must have been some problem with the printing.
I haven’t been to Canada since I was a kid – I was maybe 10 or 11 when I was last here. So, I’m quite excited to come back! I’m not going to any of the places I went as a kid, but I remember it being a beautiful and relaxed country, so I’m hoping it is something like I remember.
Anyway, we get to Vancouver and it’s about lunchtime. We had to queue for years ‘n’ years to get through passport control, then queue for a bit longer to get out of the door. A lot of queuing, a lot of queuing. We get outside, and we’re waiting for my mums’ cousin to come and get us. To cut a long story short, we waited for a while (yes, more waiting) and after some reuniting hugs, we set out on our way to Coquitlam. My mums’ cousin has an interesting driving technique, let’s just say that. Not once did we slow to a stop, it seems that screeching to a halt at stop signs and red lights and blasting through amber lights are the only options – hair raising doesn’t even cover it.
We topped the night of with a surprisingly nice burger from White Spot. They do this really amusing thing here, where even if they blatantly have a restaurant full of tables available to seat you at, they make you wait 5 mins and then call your name (like there are tonnes of other people waiting) and tell you they are ready to seat you – what is with all of that? So, we eventually get our table in the super busy restaurant (super busy it was not) and sit down for this burger. Now, I don’t know if it was hella tasty due to the fact that I hadn’t eaten much since the night before, or whether it was just a genuinely good burger – but I can tell you now, I’ve never enjoyed a burger more. Good meat to sauce to accompaniment ratio; minimal bottom bun slip; nice ‘n’ juicy (they say it’s not a good burger unless it’s messy). I was so hungry, I didn’t even manage to take a photo of said burger. Hope you don’t mind a photo-less blog post…
First thing we saw today were a couple of giraffes having a cuddle. I’m sure they weren’t really having a snug, but that’s what it looked like to me, so that’s what I’ll say they were doing. Anyway, it looked CUTE, with their necks kinda twisted together.
We were out looking for a leopard today. There had been some sightings, and we were combing the area looking out for those beautiful spots. The other guests who were in the truck with us hadn’t seen a leopard yet, and they hadn’t done any other game drives, so the ranger was trying his best to find one.
We found some more elephants. There were two young boys play fighting with one another, which was so cool to see. I’d never seen them do that in real life – they were just like human teenage brothers! They were pushing and shoving each other and one of them turned and ran into the bush, swiftly followed by a tusk in the rump from his playmate.
They thundered off into the trees and we could hear them messing around in there; crashing into trees and crashing into each other it seems. There was a little one in the herd who was just staring to learn to use his trunk to strip leaves from branches. It was so endearing watching him learning. Struggling to control his trunk and tackle the branches, was just CUTE. They are so like humans in so many ways.
We stumbled upon a hyena laying out in the open. He was so chilled, and it turns out he wasn’t far from their den – so it looked like he had been kicked out. Maybe he came home late or something and Mrs Hyena wasn’t happy? Who knows!
Not long after that, we got a call telling us there were some hyenas feeding on a baby giraffe. They couldn’t tell whether the hyenas had taken down the giraffe themselves or whether they had snaffled it off of a leopard. Poor little giraffe. But that’s life I guess – and it’s interesting even if it is a bit horrible, so we decided to head over there to take a look.
On our way over there we hit a roadblock, a giraffe roadblock. There were 6 giraffes standing in the road in front of us, and more to the left and the right of us. They were non-movers.
We had to wait until the one at the front decided they were going to follow the rest of the group, and ran towards us and went to our left. Soon the others followed suit and the road was clear. These guys were probably the group that the little one was taken from – which would explain why they were acting kinda strangely.
We got to where the hyenas were feeding on the baby giraffe and they were all laying around on the ground. Their tummies were so full that they couldn’t get up, they looked like they had swallowed footballs! They were fit to burst, and all they could manage was to lift their heads and glance at us when we arrived.
They soon lost interest in us when the pups arrived and started squabbling over the remains of the giraffe. Mum had to wade in, and one of the little ones didn’t take kindly to her interference and started trying to bite her ankles – which was hilarious to watch. He was snapping and snarling at her as she tried to stop them arguing with one another.
This was a really nice sighting for our last one of our holiday. We have been really lucky with everything we have seen. Seeing the Big 5, then the Super 7 and only being one off seeing the Dangerous 9. All we need to do is stumble upon a Nile crocodile and we will have a full set (somehow, I don’t think that is likely). Some of the sightings we have had of these animals have been one of a kind and once in a lifetime kind of sightings. They haven’t just been glimpses of tails and ears in the bush, 300 metres away. We have seen animals up close and doing their thing. Which is beyond amazing.
I am really going to miss waking up each morning and seeing all these amazing animals. Going back home and opening the curtains to the odd one-legged pigeon and urban fox rummaging through a bin, isn’t quite the same. I’m sad to leave. I’m really, really sad to leave.
We are at a new place now, which is a lodge rather than a camp. I have to say, I much prefer the camp. There were loads less people and the whole experience was much more personal. We got here yesterday afternoon, so we had a game drive in the evening. I got a really good photo of a giraffe as the sun was going down, with the last of the sunlight on his face.
We also saw a hyena going down to the water to drink, which was pretty cool. I hadn’t seen one in the light yet. There was a hippo in the water, and they are super territorial, and as soon as the hyena had started drinking, the hippo was on its way over to it.
It got closer and closer to the hyena, until the hyena decided it was time to scoot off, well out of the reach of the hippo. It sauntered off up the bank and disappeared into the bush.
The next morning, we were out nice and early, and the first thing we saw was a hyena. They aren’t usually out and about at this time, so it looked like she was coming back from a hunt. Kind of like a “morning after the night before” thing.
We saw some more white rhino, which were lazing about and chilling. After our rhino encounter, we saw some elephants, and there were little babies! I don’t know what it is about baby elephants, but they are so endearing.
Just as we were heading back to the lodge, we found some buffalo. This now means I have officially seen not only the big 5, but the super 7 too! There were about 150 buffalo in the herd, and we watched them for a while.
It was interesting to watch the birds on the buffalo picking off the ticks and parasites from them. Their bright red beaks stand out against the brown of the buffalo.
Buffalo weren’t as ugly as I thought they would be, and their horns reminded me of an old fashioned Swiss milkmaid.
That afternoon, the first animals we happened on were a group of lesser mongoose. I love these little guys, as the interact with each other constantly. They are always chattering away and playing. Pulling each other’s tails, chasing after one another and engaging in a bit of rough and tumble.
We saw another hippo in a watering hole, and a giraffe came down to drink at the edge. It isn’t often you see a giraffe drinking and it was cool to watch the way they have to splay their front legs so they can reach the water.
Both hippo and giraffe kept a beady eye on one another, but there was no aggression shown by the hippo. I guess this must be because the giraffe doesn’t really pose a threat.
Just around the corner from these guys, were some lions. Yay, more cats!!! There were a few females and a male.
I still can’t get over just how much they are like out domestic cats at home. They do all the same things, and it’s so cute to watch.
Watching them stretch out and move around is beyond enjoyable. They all had a good wriggle and stayed dozing in the last of the afternoon sun.
After yesterday’s game drive, some elephants visited my tent. Eek! As it happened, I was in the shower. The showers have glass doors which look out into the bush, so, if an animal happens to wander by, you can see them whilst you are having a shower. An elephant walked past, just as I was rinsing the conditioner out of my hair. I wasn’t quite sure what to do. Do I run for the camera? Do I just carry on washing my hair?? Do I just stroll out there naked??? Who knows.
In the end, I grabbed a towel and wrapped it round me, and walked onto the veranda, dripping with water, to watch the elephant go about its business. It wandered on by, and went to find some food down the other end. I was just about to get in the shower when another elephant appeared. I wasn’t going to let this one go without a photo, so I grabbed the camera from inside.
The elephant walked down towards me, stopping to snack on some leaves and things as it went. I think it stopped to look at me for a bit, we made some pretty intense eye contact, and then the elephant wandered on by.
Another one came down, and the same thing happened, but there was less pausing this time. I guess because the other ones had proved it was safe to come through, so the elephant didn’t feel the need to eye me up in such great detail.
That afternoon on the game drive, we also saw rhinos. I’m not going to put any photos on here, because of the whole poaching sitch, and I don’t want to be the person that hashtags it on Instagram and points poachers in the right direction.
But we saw white rhino and we saw black rhino too. Funny story actually, we had seen the white rhino and we were driving off to our next port of call. I just happened to look over my shoulder, and I saw some rhino running along behind us. I had just assumed they were the same ones, so I didn’t say anything, and as it happens, the girl behind me in the truck saw them too and we both thought the same. It wasn’t until one of the guys told us what we were looking for, that we both piped up and said we had seen them.
The guys practically had their jaws on the floor, and I don’t think they believed us at first. But low and behold, there they were. Cool little fact about the rhinos, they are actually called wide lipped and hook lipped. It is thought that the Afrikaans word for wide was accidentally mistranslated to white, and from then on, they were called black and white. Another theory, is that because the black rhino is so aggressive, people thought it had demons in it, and it was possessed. And that the black and white thing was a bit of a ying/yang concept.
The next morning was out last game drive here in Thornybush game reserve, and I will be really, really sad to leave the Chapungu camp. As it was the last day, we decided to go searching for the final thing on our list; cheetah. The last cheetah sightings were way down in the south of the camp, literally as far as you could go. It was going to be a really long drive there to try and find these guys.
We drove for what seemed like forever. We stopped for a coffee and a leg stretch at a watering hole with some hippos in it. I was about half way through my coffee, when Jacques (the ranger) herded us into the truck and packed all of the coffee stuff up. We were driving at the speed of light, bouncing over the bumps in the road and narrowly avoiding thorny trees and branches. We slowed down and approached another truck which was stopped on the side of the track.
On our left-hand side was a female cheetah, making her way along through the bush. Shortly followed by 4 cubs [insert major heart explosion here]. These little ones weren’t even 2 months old yet, and they were still sooooooo teeny.
They are heart meltingly cute. They little tails stick up in the air when they run and they are so fluffy. They were all bounding around and playing with each other, just like little kittens. They were scrambling up trees, pushing each other out of them, and clambering back up again. They break my heart. It’s like they hold actual power over me.
We couldn’t get close because they were so small, and the guys don’t disturb them when they are that little. But just seeing them playing with each other, was enough to seal the deal for me, and ensure that I would definitely be coming back here again.
I didn’t want to leave the camp, I’ve had such a wonderful time there. I just wish I could stay on forever. It’s the best place.
We were up and away quickly this morning and out looking for a leopard. The guys were determined to find one this morning, and I think they were willing to go on all day to look for one of these elusive cats. We started off where we had lost the male leopard last night, and spotted a couple of warthogs on the way, having a munch.
It turns out, he is new to the area and hasn’t quite established a territory yet, so he is keeping himself to himself. We followed some tracks, but they disappeared across some hard ground, and we couldn’t see which way he had gone from there.
We drove down the riverbed looking for more tracks. It seemed that the leopards had been out in force this morning and there were loads of calls on the radio for leopard tracks leading in every direction. Out of nowhere, we were racing down the riverbed. Someone must have heard something on the radio! A leopard had been spotted, and the guys weren’t taking the chance of a leopard eluding us again.
You could tell how excited the guys were, and we raced towards where this leopard had been spotted. We rounded the bend and you could see her. Wow. She was so gorgeous. And accompanied by her 6-month-old male cub. OMG!! I nearly had a heart attack there in my seat. I love cats at the best of times, but these kitties are so beautiful. The markings on them are out of this world and the way they move and act just makes me want to explode, they are just like kitties at home, just bigger, and so beautiful.
The little one was feeling playful and affectionate this morning, and he kept walking in front of his mum and brushing up against her. He was stopping her to try and get her to play, but she wasn’t having any of it.
He was bounding around, just like a little kitten. Playing with things on the ground, running up trees, and generally making a nuisance of himself. They were chatting with one another and you could hear the little one calling and purring to his mummy.
He started jumping around in the trees and trying to jump on his mum. This made my heart MELT.
His mum stopped and he carried on walking, he had spotted a bird up ahead. He made a good job of stalking this bird, but to no avail, as it flew off as he was about to pounce. Mum looked on in amusement.
It was time to make ourselves scarce and leave these two to it, so we headed off in the direction of some elephants. We drove into the riverbed and waited. One elephant appeared and made its way up the bank.
The another one appeared, and another one and another one. They were all sliding down the bank on the left-hand side, and walking back up the bank on the right-hand side to feed.
There were lots of mummies with their babies. They looked so funny when they were trying to slide down the bank after their mums; we even saw one sliding on its bum.
One even trumpeted at us and tried to charge at the vehicle. He was a boisterous little one and he ran off to wreak havoc and bother the other little elephants.
There was one female digging for water in the river bed, the dug down far enough and was drinking water from the hole she had made. Her baby then came to try and get some water, its trunk was too short and the little one ended up having to get in the hole to get something to drink. Sooooooo cute!!
In total, there were about 30 elephants in this group. We didn’t count them exactly, but there in front of us, we counted 20 and a few had already wandered past and were straggling behind.
On the way back we saw some more zebras who looked like they were cuddling. They were actually grooming each other’s backs and getting the spots they couldn’t reach by themselves. Apparently, they sleep this way sometimes, and it’s kind of like a combination of a pillow and “I’ll watch your back, you watch mine” situation.
We saw a few vervet monkeys in a tree and a huge male kudu, just as we pulled into the camp.
We’d had some lunch and chilled for a bit, and whilst we were sitting at the lodge some ngala came up really close to us and were eating some of the vegetation nearby. These creatures are so sweet and they have such endearing faces and eyes.
The wind was still up and it was looking fairly overcast, plus it was quite chilly. We went out to see if we could see a leopard. Victor (the tracker), or Uncle Vic as he is affectionately known as, found tracks of a female leopard. We couldn’t quite tell where she was headed, but he made a guess and we scouted about for a bit, but didn’t see anything. He guessed that he had probably headed off in a particular direction, and we would come back later to see if we could find her.
We saw a few giraffes on the airstrip, which was cool. Apparently, they are a nightmare when light aircraft come in to land and the guys need to clear the runway. The giraffes come straight back onto the tarmac as soon as they are shooed off and they have to be kicked off again.
There wasn’t much to see this evening as it was still windy and it makes the wildlife go to ground as they can’t hear and smell as effectively. We drove around for a while following various tracks of various animals, and came up with nothing. We were trucking steadily along when I happened to look up at something which had caught my eye (I assume it was a bird) and my hat flew off. Rats! I wouldn’t have worried about it, but it was brand new and I was using it to try and protect my face a bit from the windburn that was removing my top layer of skin. We skidded to a halt and the hat was retrieved, in one piece, but somewhat dusty.
We headed to a small body of water, where we managed to see some hippos. Hippos are the most dangerous animals by far in Africa, particularly when it comes to humans. They are exceptionally territorial, and if you get to close or upset them too much, they will try to kill you. They don’t eat meat at all, but they don’t think twice about getting rid or something causing them bother.
The guide told us a story about an impala he had seen running away from some wild dogs. The impala had tried to swim across the water, but the wild dogs had met it at the other side. It tried to swim back, but the hippos had had enough, and killed the impala right there in the lake. They then wandered off to the other side of the water. This goes to show how angry they can be.
We also saw a tawny eagle standing at the edge of the water, taking a drink.
We trucked on for a bit and came across some wildebeest running around madly in a clearing in the bush. They were playing and chasing after one another, and kicking up quite some dust. They kept running around in circles and butting in to one another, it was really funny to see. We also spotted some hyenas running down the road and they crossed in front of us. We suspected they were heading towards the giraffe upon which we had seen the vultures feeding earlier.
We followed the hyenas, but as soon as we got back to the giraffe, we got a call on the radio about the leopard we had been tracking earlier. It turns out she had done exactly what the guys had thought she would do, but we had missed it. We raced in the truck to see if we could make it to the area before she disappeared (having to dodge a few bushes along the way), but we missed her, and she disappeared into the thick bush. Damn.
After that, we got another call from one of the guys saying that a male leopard had been sighted next to the airstrip, so we went that way as fast as we could. By now, you could feel the guide and the tracker getting frustrated, we had been after a leopard all day and we hadn’t managed to see one. As we got to the area where the leopard was sighted, we couldn’t see anything. He’d slipped into the bush and the guys were struggling to locate him in the dark, and the dense thicket. All of a sudden, we managed to catch a glimpse of the male leopard, winding his way through the undergrowth, but it was only for a second. Just enough for me to recognise that it was a leopard.
We’d lost him again and we really couldn’t see him this time. In multiple locations, we tried navigating through the bush using the truck. We came crashing over fallen trees and poor Victor on the front was having to fend off the branches and thorns like a madman, practically bending over backwards and laying on the bonnet to avoid being attacked by a tree. I came a-cropper on a number of branches, including one which decided to spear my hood and strangle me a bit.
It started raining, and it was decided it was time to head back to camp. You could feel the guys were raging about having not been able to see the leopard, and were upset that they hadn’t been able to show us. The elusive leopard strikes again! Funny, considering they are the most abundant cat in the area. But you don’t get to be the most abundant cat in the area for nothing. To be honest, I think we all thought it was a great laugh crashing through the bush and getting impaled with branches. Well, I did anyway.
We had a 5 am wakeup call this morning. When I say wakeup call, I mean someone came and knocked on the door of my tent to make sure I was awake. At 5.30 am we had coffee and rusk (which is a little bit like biscotti in the sense that is hard and best dipped in your hot drink), up at the lodge, and we jumped in the truck and we were on our way.
The guys had been hearing some interesting stuff on the radio last night, and we were in for a long and fast drive, to try and see something special. They wouldn’t say what it was, because they don’t want to disappoint you when you can’t see what they were looking for, but they were clearly buzzing about it and were super excited. I had my suspicions it was a cheetah, whereas Les thought it was a rhino… we will see!
We saw some zebra on the way, which the guy called pyjama donkeys (such a good name). Zebra are so vibrant in comparison to the other animals in the bush, and once you have spotted them, they really stand out against the background… If you can spot them in the first place!
We then spotted some elephant in the bush, it looked like there was only one or two about. The guys wanted to keep on trucking to catch up with whatever we were chasing, so we left the elephant and carried on. At about 7.45 we got to what we were looking for – a pack of wild dogs, amazing! Apparently, these guys haven’t been seen for in ages, they have been up in the northern area for a long while and this is the first time they have come back south in a long time.
They need an area of around 20 hectares in which to hunt, and they have the highest success rates of all predators. Some packs of wild dogs have a hunt success rate of 97 percent, how good is that?! They have incredible stamina, and they work together to run their prey down. The lead dog follows the animal they are chasing, and the others work to cut the prey off on the left or right-hand sides. They also use slipstreaming to help conserve some energy, and the lead dog switches over with one behind, to give itself a break.
There were a group of 6 adults and 7 pups. They had started off the season with 12 pups, so they have had a better than 50% survival rate, which is really good. They were so sweet, with their giant ears and all laying on top of one another in a big bundle. They were beyond cute.
We started off on the chase after the thing we were originally chasing, but over the radio the guide had heard no trace of the animal we were after, and seeing as it was another hour away and the wind was getting up, he decided not to continue going after whatever it was. We had the fortune of coming across a mummy giraffe and her baby, alone in the bush. The baby giraffe was less than a week old and he was still unsteady on his legs and was sticking close to his mum.
This little one was so beautiful, and I could have spent all day watching him. His legs were all gangly, and he looked so ungainly when he was running to catch up with his mum who had crossed the road. They are such wonderful creatures, and the height of them just seems impossible.
We drove down a bit further and saw another, slightly older female, who was expecting a little giraffe, or “carrying”. She was very tall and she had beautiful markings, which were so different from the giraffe before.
We saw an eagle in its nest in the top of a tree, and then we spotted an elephant. And then another elephant. And then a whole herd of them!
There was a little one too, who trotted across in front of us. They are so sweet and they always look like they are smiling and happy.
There was a young male who flapped his ears at us and trumpeted. The males stay with the herd until they are about 22 years old, after which, they get pushed out by the females to go it alone.
A young female legged it across on front of us, and I got some great photos of her in action, with her ears flapping and her tail swinging around.
We watched them roaming around in the bush for a while and doing their thing, then carried on up the road. We saw a female lioness with her two cubs, a boy and a girl, who were about 6 months old.
They were laying out in the open because it was windy, and this gives her better visibility and makes it easier for her to protect them when she can’t hear as well. These guys “belonged” to the male lion we saw yesterday. It turned out, he was just around the corner, and was fast asleep in the grass.
He has a big gash on his leg (which looks worse than it is), but it is taking a long time to heal because he is travelling so much.
They guys took us to a giraffe which had passed away from natural causes (a big male), and it was surrounded by vultures. They were stripping the meat from the carcass and fighting with each other. The giraffe had only been there for a day and a half, and it was already pretty much gone.
The vultures make such a racket, and they bicker with one another constantly, and I can’t say they are the most attractive of birds. They don’t have any feathers on their necks like the long ones on the rest of their body; this is so that they don’t get covered in animal innards when they are scavenging inside a carcass.
We saw a few warthogs and I managed to get a really good photo of a hornbill, who had been proving difficult to get a good snap of.
Considering this was all between 6 and 10 o’clock in the morning – I think we did pretty damn good. Oh, and it turns out that the animal they were looking for this morning was a female cheetah and her cubs. Ousshhhhh – I win the wager!!
Today we fly from Port Elizabeth to Hoedspruit, which is around the Kruger National Park area. I can’t say I am sorry to leave Port Elizabeth. There is nothing there and it is one of my least favourite places I have ever visited. We fly from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg and from Johannesburg we fly to Hoedspruit. The plane we took from Joburg had propellers – it has been a very long time since I have flown in anything with props. I think the last time I flew in a plane with props was when we were in Canada when I was about 10 or 11.
We had a wait of a couple of hours in Joburg airport, and we sat and had a coffee and I caught up on a few bits of life admin. This coffee place is the second place I have been able to find almond milk on this trip, so I was a very happy bunny.
We boarded the plane and set off to Hoedspruit. The airport there is so cute, it’s arrivals and departures “lounge” and more of a garage, it’s tiny. It reminded me of when we flew to a place in Australia and we had to take our own luggage off the plane. This wasn’t quite so involved, and they brought our luggage round on the back of a tractor.
We jumped in our hire car and set out to find the place we were staying; Thornybush Lodge. This turned out to be more easily said, than done. The instructions we had were not helpful, to say the least. We ended up driving round in a big circle, only to realise we had driven past the lodge right at the beginning and hadn’t clocked it (thinking it couldn’t possibly be that close). We eventually got there, after driving down loads of bumpy, dusty dirt roads. Which was really fun, well, for me anyway; not so sure about those in the back.
We spotted a fair few animals on our way, seeing giraffe, impala, and warthog. Quite a find, considering it was the heat of the day and it was about 33 degrees when we got there. Giraffe are so majestic, and it was amazing to just see three of them nibbling leaves off the trees as we drove past.
We get to the lodge and we are greeted with homemade lemonade and lunch. The lemonade is delicious, as was the lunch, and there are different salads to choose from and light bites. Super scrummy. We then had 30 minutes to sort ourselves out, and we were out on an evening game drive at 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
We are in what is called a “tented camp”, but to be honest, these tents are so posh, they are more like houses! They have proper beds and showers, and I even have an outside bath. The rooms point directly into the bush, so there is a chance you might see some wildlife wandering around when you open the curtains in the morning.
Whilst we are out, we see different types of antelope in abundance, including the tiny Duiker, which is very shy. We see loads of birds, including the Hornbill, who you might know from the film, The Lion King. We tracked some Elephant for a bit, but they were much faster than we were, and they made it across the border before we could see them.
By far the best experience though, was when we paused in the truck and a huge male lion leaped out from the river bed to our right-hand side and strolled straight in front of our vehicle. He was massive! The size of his paws was incredible, and he had a big gash on his right hind leg where he had been protecting his Pride from neighbouring male lions.
We followed him along, and he led us to where 4 members of his pride were laying out, snoozing in the sun. There were two young males, who were about 18 months old and two females. In a few months’ time, the young males will be kicked out of the pride to fend for themselves, as they will be well on their way to maturity.
The lions lolled about in the sun, laying on a nice flat bit of ground where we could get a really good look at them. We were so close, it was unbelievable; I had never thought I would be that close to a lion in my life.
After a long time watching the lions and learning about them (did you know that male lions could form a coalition? And they will look after multiple Prides of female lions in the area together? No, me either!).
We headed on for a bit, and found a good place to watch the sun go down. The sunset here is beautiful, and it is wonderful to watch the vibrant colours as the sun goes down, and the stark contrast of this in comparison to the dark trees in the foreground. We had a cheeky little alcoholic beverage as we watched the sun set, and I walked around the area and found some giraffe bones that were 5 years old to take a good look at.
We set off again and came across some baboons playing around in the trees, so we stopped to watch them for a bit. It always amazes me how agile monkeys are, they seem to defy gravity as they are leaping through the trees.
It was dark now, and we were looking for a leopard around the dry riverbed. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much luck, but we did see a tree frog, a hare and a cute little bushbaby chilling in a tree!! We headed back to the camp, and the first thing you notice is the sound of the frogs. They are SO loud, and they don’t stop. The only time they stop croaking for a bit, is if someone disturbs them. They stop for a few moments, but soon enough they are at it again. I wonder if it is all a big game to them, and whether they think it is hilarious to croak, knowing we can do precisely nothing about it.
We had some dinner, and then we were off to bed. We’d been up since 5.30 this morning, so we were fairly knackered. I sit here writing this, to the sound of a symphony of frogs. I wonder if they will ever stop, or if I will be dreaming of frogs… Or dreaming of throttling frogs.
Again, we attempted to find something to do in Port Elizabeth, and again we failed. We ended up stopping at a beach for a bit, where it seemed like everyone who had nothing to do hung out. It was overcast and really windy, so we didn’t end up staying for that long.
We went for a wander down the beach, and there was loads of coral washed up on the pebbles. I hadn’t seen any coral washed up on any of the beaches before, so this was interesting to me. There were all different types, and it was everywhere you looked. I would like to know why it was washing up on that beach in particular, but I can’t come up with an answer… It must be something to do with the positioning. Maybe I’ll never know!
I noticed one of the signs on the beach saying “zero tolerance” and then a list of things that weren’t tolerated, I couldn’t quite see what wasn’t tolerated, so I wandered a bit closer to take a look. On the list of things that were not tolerated, were dogs, lighting fires, alcohol and guns. Now, are guns and dogs really at the same level of public nuisance? Last time I checked, guns and dogs were definitely not in the same category. If you take your dog for a walk on the beach, do you go to prison for the same length of time as if you take your gun for a walk on the beach?! I think not.
Anyway, there is still nothing to do in this place, so we went back to the hotel and I read my book for a bit. I’m reading The Good Immigrant, which is a book written by 21 black, Asian and ethnic minority writers in Britain today. I’m only a couple of chapters in so far, but it’s been a good read. It’s interesting and it goes into different people’s experiences that they have had in their lives, and I like stuff that is real life.
I had a strawberry and banana smoothie and some sushi for lunch at one of the cafes on the bay, and went and chilled back at the hotel for a bit. I feel like I haven’t eaten enough fruit and veg on this holiday and I think I am on the verge of getting scurvy. I had better watch out for that.
We went for dinner at the same place we went to last night, which was Something Good. Seeing as it was so nice, we thought we might as well go back there and have what we knew would be a decent meal. There was live music on when we got there, which I love love love. It was just one guy doing covers of Bruce Springsteen and Bob Dylan songs and that kind of stuff, but live music is good and it cheered me up being able to sit and chill, listening to the music. I opted for a tipsy lemonade, which is a homemade lemonade with a double vodka in it. Yummy!
I am on my way up to Kruger National Park tomorrow, starting off in a tented camp for a few nights. Who knows if there will be wifi? Not I! So, if you don’t hear from me for a few days it’s because there is no wifi, or I’ve been eaten by a lion.
We went out in Port Elizabeth determined to find something to see and something to do. Turns out, it wasn’t that easy. We were supposed to be visiting friends whilst we were in Port Elizabeth, and we had planned to spend time with them, but as everything worked out, they ended up being in the UK whilst we were here in South Africa. If we’d known this earlier, we wouldn’t have stayed here so as long and probably would have been here for just one night instead of three.
I looked like a decent day, so I donned a summer dress and lace shirt, seeing as it was nice and sunny out. This was a big mistake. Over the course of the day it got windier and windier, and my skirt kept blowing up. It was impossible to hold down properly, and I dread to think how many people got a view of my butt. Sorry everyone!
We stopped for a drink at a café called Angelos which was on the beach. This tiny section of Port Elizabeth seems to be the liveliest part (but we didn’t know this at the time). I had a pineapple and apple juice, which looked pretty and tasted very much like pineapple and apple juice together. So, we are winning so far.
We head to Richmond Hill which is billed as being an up and coming area of Port Elizabeth with bars and restaurants. We arrived, and it was completely dead. There were no people there and no one was sat in any of the bars or restaurants. I appreciate it is the off season at the moment, but the lack of people made it very uncomfortable. We stuck out like sore thumbs and everyone was staring at us. So, it didn’t take us long to head back to the car and drive away. So far, Port Elizabeth is the only place where I have felt a bit threatened. It feels like everyone is staring at me all the time. People beep at me from their cars and shout things out the window. It’s super uncomfortable feeling like someone’s eyes are leering at you all the time.
That being said, I did have a man contact me on Instagram and ask me out on a date. He lives in the area and wanted to take me out. I said that I didn’t think there was much point, nice though he was, as I was leaving the next day to carry on my holiday. He invited me out for a drink in the evening, but, alas, I declined. I didn’t think his idea of a first date would be spending the evening sat at the dinner table with my parents. Maybe he was going to offer me his hand in marriage? Who know?!
We had dinner at a place called Something Good. A few people had mentioned it as being a decent place to eat, so we cut our losses and headed for it. I had a rock shandy to drink, the alcoholic content in it was zero to none, but it tasted like ginger beer and it was good. Gail had a tipsy lemonade, which was a homemade lemonade with vodka in it, which was really tasty.
For dinner, I had The Hangover burger, which came with a fried egg, cheese, caramelised onions, tomato, bacon and a jalapeño popper. I also treated myself to a side of tempura onion rings, which turned out to be an excellent shout. Oh, and the waitress said she loved my top, and I do so love an outfit compliment. It was all really tasty (especially the onion rings). The only downside was that my jalapeño popper gave me unbearable hiccups, and I thought they were going to tear out of my chest. I have never experience internal fire like it. But this is the fault of the consumer, rather than the fault of the jalapeño.
Oh, I forgot to tell you about dinner last night! It was soooooooo yummy. We went to this Italian restaurant called Mauro’s Restaurant in St Francis Bay. It is right in the harbour and serves some really tasty stuff and has a few speciality dishes.
The waitress there was great, and she took loads of time explaining the menu, their specialities and the specials they had on offer that day. I went for two of their speciality dishes, one which was a prawn soup (it was like a bisque with a mild curry flavour) and a scampi linguine, which came with tomatoes and a pesto sauce.
Both were beyond delicious, and I couldn’t fault either of them. They were both so flavourful and you could tell that some real time and effort had gone into making the dishes special and well balanced. If I ever come back to St Francis Bay, I will definitely be going there again. It doesn’t look hugely appealing from the outside, but I would advise you to look past this and go on in anyway. The owner of the restaurant (Mauro, funnily enough), came over and introduced himself to us at the end of the evening, and we had a good chat. He was half Austrian and half Italian, and had lived in South Africa since he was young, going back to Italy to train as a chef.
The next morning, I said goodbye to my room, which was about as close to the beach as you could get without being in a beach hut, and headed up to breakfast. I went for scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and tomatoes. I don’t think I have eaten this many eggs in my life, and I am probably on the verge of turning into a chicken any moment now (I think I can feel a beak forming).
We headed off towards Port Elizabeth after breakfast and noticed a sign for Jeffrey’s Bay on the way. We followed the signs for Jeffrey’s Bay because we had heard it was a good surfing spot, and we quite fancied watching a few surfers catching the waves. We got there, and it definitely has the surfer vibe. There are loads of guys around with sun bleached hair, in board shorts and bare feet (just what you want from a surfer, I think). We made our way to the beach, and there were about 30 kids all splashing about in the water. It looked like they were a class from a school as there were some teacher looking types on the beach with them (what a great school trip).
The beach at Jeffrey’s Bay is beautiful. It’s perfectly sandy and stretches on as far as the eye can see. We spotted some surfers up the way, so we ditched the shoes and the socks and made our way over to them.
There was a mix of guys and girls out there catching the waves. We stood there watching them for a while, riding the waves and falling in and doing tricks on their boards. There was one guy who was way better than the others, and he was doing some really cool tricks and running from one end of the board with another. I wish I was that athletic, and in my dreams this is how adept I will be at surfing when I have a go. In reality, however, I doubt I will even be able to stand up on the board for even a millisecond and will probably crash headfirst into the waves, if I can get anywhere near them.
Once we were done watching and I had had a paddle in the sea, which wasn’t anywhere near as cold as I had expected, we had a quick drink at a café and headed on our way to Port Elizabeth.
As we drove into Port Elizabeth, there didn’t seem to be a load of stuff here, and it was looking pretty industrial, which I guess is to be expected at a port! But it looked really busy, again, as I imagine a port should be. We found out hotel, which turned out to be pretty easy to locate, and we were shown to our rooms. I lucked out with a twin room, which was way bigger and much nicer than the double Gail and Les are in (heh, heh). It’s nice and noisy here and it sounds like a city. There is lots of beeping or car horns and shouting, which is making a nice change from the silence everywhere else.
It was dark by the time we got out for dinner and in the end, we settled for a Greek place called La Kouzina in Port Elizabeth, which turned out to be really nice. We shared starters of dolmades (vines leaves stuffed with rice), falafel and tzatziki and pita bread. The vine leaves were warmed through and they are a billion times better like that than they are cold. I ordered a mango daquiri, which was also really good. Often, I find daquiris can be a bit hit and miss, as a lot of the time they don’t get the ice smooth enough and it is way too lumpy, but this one was on point.
I had a main was good too; I had a wrap thing with chicken and hummus in it, which was tasty. I had another mango daquiri and I ended up finishing Gail’s second caipirinha cocktail (in which many lemons were harmed in the making of), and I was beyond full by the time I had sunk that. But I did it, not wanting to let a good citrusy cocktail go to waste. Because waste not, want not, right? I’m full of good deeds.
Today was a real day of firsts. We had breakfast outside on the veranda at the lodge we were staying at and the monkeys were running around and trying to steal people’s food. There was this one monkey which jumped right on the table in front of this guy and he screamed like a complete girl and looked genuinely terrified, which I thought was tres amusant. The staff had a slingshot which they used to scare off the monkeys. Just one look at it and they were off like a shot, back into the trees.
We travelled back towards Tsitsikamma National Park and pulled in at the Elephant Sanctuary, The Crags on our way. We had heard some mixed reviews from people about this place. Some people had said it was amazing and they had had a wonderful experience there, and others had said they found it a bit depressing. Most of the people who hadn’t enjoyed it had already been on a safari and seen the animals in the wild. We have become savvy to this mistake, and we always leave things like safaris to the end of the holiday, because we know you can’t beat experiencing animals in their natural habitat. Anyway, it was an incredible experience.
There are two different packages you can do, one where you take a walk with the elephants and you get to learn all about them and feed them, and another, where you do all of those things and then get to ride an elephant at the end. We chose the option with the elephant ride, because how many people get to say they have ridden an elephant?!
We started off by taking a tour of the grounds and the guide showed us the area in which the elephants sleep (which is always open so they can come and go as they please), then we had a look at the space where the elephants get to roam around in the day. He said it wasn’t as big as they would like and there weren’t very many trees, so they took the elephants out into the bush on a regular basis so they could do all the things elephants like to do. All the elephants here had been rescued for one reason or another. Some of them didn’t have any tusks and some of them had had a portion of their trunks cut off (they assumed as a result of being stuck in snares).
We got to hold hands with the elephants and go on a walk with them. When I say hold hands, I mean my hand and the elephants trunk. The elephant I was walking with was the Matriarch, and she had no tusks, but her trunk was fully functioning. They walked a lot faster than I had expected and she ended up pushing me along because I was going too slowly so I had to speed up.
We walked through a bit of the bush and stopped in an area where the keepers explained about the elephants. We got to touch the elephants whilst the keepers explained about each individual elephant and told us loads of interesting information about them. One of the cool things I learned was that elephants cry when they are upset, angry and happy, just like humans do!
The elephant I was with kept sniffing my trainers, and I was convinced that my feet must smell or something. But the guy told me that they remember by smell and not by sight, so they spend a lot of time sniffing around new people, and that if I came back in 10 years-time, she would remember me.
We got to give them some food, and then the elephant I was with sneezed all over me. Yuck!!! I’m so glad I was wearing my sunglasses, because I got elephant snot all over them and I think I would have been blinded if I’d been hit in the eye [hilarious]. It was pretty icky, but then, how many people can say they have been sneezed on by an elephant?
We walked back to the area where they spend the day and we got to feed them all some pumpkin. I know elephants eat a lot, but I hadn’t really seen what that meant in action. They ate a whole massive bucket full of pumpkin when we got back and they were still after more! By the end of that I was completely covered in pumpkin and mud and elephant snot, but it was so worth it.
After that we got to have a ride on the elephants. This was a great experience and the guide who was on there with me explained even more about the elephants and how they had come to be here. Again, I was surprised at how fast they moved and you could really feel all their muscles working underneath the blanket we were sitting on. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as I thought it was going to be, and to be honest I have had worse journeys in cars!
All so soon, the experience was over and we were heading on our way. But not before purchasing something from the shop so we could further help the elephants. I now have a cute yellow enamel bowl with a pair of elephants on it, which I will be using to consume all of my food as soon as I get home.
After the elephant experience, it was on to the second experience of the day. Bungee jumping – eek! It was with Face Adrenaline at Bloukrans Bungy, which is a 216-metre-high bungee jump off of Bloukrans Pass bridge. It’s the world’s highest commercial bungee jump, and the highest jump from a bridge. It’s also the highest bridge in Africa. I have never done a bungee jump before, so I thought I might as well start out with the highest one.
It was me and 5 or 6 other guys, all of whom were German. We walked across a walkway underneath the bridge, and you could see beneath you the whole way down. Loads of people don’t even make it past that bit, so I was doing well so far. When you are up there, there are so many guys working the ropes and stuff, there are easily 10 of them up there. They play music when you are up there to keep you pepped up and to try and stave off any fear.
They put you in order and they strap your ankles up and get you ready for the jump. They check, check and re-check that you are strapped up properly and then it’s time to go. They are taking photos of you and filming you the whole time, so there is evidence of every part of your journey. They made a big show of checking my safety (I don’t know if this was because I was the only girl, but they definitely took longer over me than they did any of the others).
Because your ankles are strapped together, you have to hop to the edge of the jump platform supported by a couple of guys. Then you put your arms out to your sides like you are Christ the Redeemer and they count you down. 5,4,3,2,1 and jump. You have to bend your knees and push as hard and you can and jump out as far as possible. It’s the strangest feeling as you leap through the air, because at that moment you are completely weightless and your life is quite literally out of your hands. You free fall for 5 or 6 seconds, and you start to wonder if there is ever going to be tension on the cord as you plummet towards the bottom of the valley.
All of a sudden you feel the tension and you are on the recoil. You bounce up and down about 4 times, looking rather like a ragdoll, and then you hang there waiting for the guy to come and get you. You hang upside down for quite a while, spinning around, having no idea if anyone is coming to get you. Out of nowhere, a man’s butt appeared in my face and I was being pulled up into a seated position and being winched up.
When you get up there they unhook you and unstrap you and pull you up. My legs had gone all wobbly from the adrenaline and I could hardly walk when I got off. I’d gone completely weak at the knees! I would definitely do it again, it’s exhilarating and that moment of pure freedom and helplessness is worth its weight in gold; there is nothing else like it. I have some proper photos of my experience, but I can’t get to them at the moment – but rest assured I will be showing you them as soon as I can.
It was a glorious day today; the sun was out and the weather was beautiful. We went up for breakfast and I had some boiled eggs (which I haven’t had for years) and an orange juice. Oh, and I found the resident kitty! Which made me happy as Larry. He was really old (17) and he meowed a lot which I loved, and we had a good chat.
I took a couple of photos of our villa in the sun, and the views from the veranda. I donned the dungarees, a white shirt and put my hair in space buns, and we headed out.
We drove into Tsitsikamma National Park and headed towards the Storms River Mouth. Here they have hiking trails you can walk along and there is one trail with suspension bridges you can walk across.
Having worked up a bit of a thirst, we stopped for a coffee at the restaurant there, and the coffee came in old fashioned enamel cups!
The restaurant was right by the sea, and there were some seriously big waves coming in and crashing against the rocks. The scenery was beautiful (I don’t think I’ve seen a bad view yet in South Africa).
We decided to go for the suspension bridge trail first. We walked up and up through the trees and there was loads of bird life flitting about around us and some great lookout spots along the way. We also found a couple of good spots to take some photos, and I ended up clambering up into a tree for a good pic. I almost ended up falling out because I put my hand down to steady myself on a branch that wasn’t attached, as it turns out. But I managed to grab on and save myself from any unfortunate mishaps – close shave! If I’d fallen out of that tree my pride would have been very much dented, and I probably would have landed on someone and squashed them, which would have been mortifying.
After about an hour we got to the suspension bridge and made our way across it. As per usual, on the suspension bridge, there was someone doing their best to rock it backwards and forwards to scare everyone (dick). Once they had stopped being an ass, we go across to the other side where there was a little pebble beach and some rocks.
I perched on the one of the rocks and we sat and looked out at the waves rolling in. Out of nowhere the waves started crashing against the bottom of the rocks we were sitting and the water came spraying up the side of the rock. There is a great picture of my turning round in shock to see the wave crashing up behind me.
We headed back across the bridge after taking a few more pics now there were a few less people on there, and headed back down the trail. We stopped for a quick snack and another drink at the restaurant and then headed towards another trail, which was a bit shorter. It was only a kilometre long, this trail, but it was a really steep ascent with hardly any steps. We were doing a lot of clambering over rocks and swinging around on bits of trees.
We got to the top of this trail and there was a great view of the ocean where you could sit and watch for whales. We wouldn’t have been able to see anything much because the water was so choppy, so we started out descent. We were supposed to walk alongside this waterfall, but as we got to it, you could hardly see it because the trees were obscuring the view, which was a bit disappointing. I trotted down the remainder of the trail and ran back to the car which was about a kilometre away. I collected the car and brought it back to Gail and Les, as they had been a bit behind me on the trail. Running in dungarees is distinctly harder than in your gym kit, which is hard enough as it is. Not going to lie – I got a proper sweat on.
We went back to Hogs Hollow Country Lodge and got ready for dinner. I wanted to get up there a bit earlier than we had the night before, as they served canapes before the meal and last night I only managed to get myself one canape, which is certainly not enough. We didn’t end up getting up there for dinner in time for me to get myself more than one canape [insert cry of anguish here]. I am determined to get at least two tomorrow, even if it kills me.
There were some new people at our communal dinner table and there was a couple from Aberdeen who had decent chat. I got talking to the husband and he seemed to take quite a shine to me and we had a really good conversation. He even showed me a video of some people bungee jumping off the bridge in Tsitsikamma National Park (which is what I am going to be doing tomorrow). And he jumped on the defensive when someone at the table said that young people can’t hold conversations anymore. Love this guy! It’s always nice when you get talking to someone you get on with and who clearly enjoys talking to you as well. The joys of the communal dinner table eh?
It rained here last night, not just a little bit but a properly torrential downpour. It rained all day, from about 6pm, and it was still raining when I woke up and carried on until mid-morning. It was tipping it down and it was so, so loud. I was still awake at 4 o’clock in the morning because it was keeping me up, it was that noisy. I spose I shouldn’t complain because they have a major drought issue here at the moment and they really need the rain (this was the first time it had rained in months really). But, the lack of sleep was a killer and I was shattered by about 10 am and I could barely concentrate on my breakfast.
I decided I needed a proper relaxing brain break day. We had been pretty full on, travelling around and sightseeing and whatnot, so I think a day of nothing was deserved. Plus, I was getting to the point where I didn’t have much brain space left and I needed to defrag a bit. I had a really chilled day; I had a bath, dozed for a bit and read my book, which is Jungle by Yossi Ghinsberg. Then I watched Tangled on Netflix (not afraid to admit I’ve watched that more times than I can count). I chose it because I didn’t want to concentrate on anything too much and I didn’t want to have to really listen in and follow a major plot. It was nice to sit and watching something where I knew what was coming, and that was uplifting and made me giggle a bit.
I felt kinda guilty not doing anything, but it was worth it to have a day of pure relaxation and sit there and do precisely nothing. As a result of me doing a whole load of nothing, I don’t even have a single photo to share with you. Nope, not even one. Nada. Zero. Zilch. It was good to no worry about social media for a day, and I didn’t bother checking any of my emails or messages or anything really. I enjoyed having a day purely for myself, where I wasn’t worrying about anything or anyone else at all. Pure bliss. I’ll be back to the usual holiday madness again tomorrow I’m sure. But I feel a lot better today after having a kind of “healing” day. Hopefully I’ll have a tonne of energy now and I won’t feel quite as lethargic as I have been feeling.
We were moving on from Wilderness today to a place near Plettenberg Bay, called Hog Hollow Country Lodge, which is in The Crags. For breakfast, I went all out and had eggs benedict accompanied by chakalaka. I never usually have breakfast, so eating a full meal in the morning time is very rare for me, but I didn’t fancy any of the buffet options and I feel kind of weird not having anything, so I went for the eggs. It tasted very much like eggs benedict and it reminded me why I don’t have this kind of stuff in the morning; it’s just too rich and sickly. But it was still yummy.
We popped down the road to Knysna and stopped in a cute little coffee shop there, and low and behold, they had almond milk. I haven’t seen any option for soya milk or almond milk whilst I have been out here, so I have been drinking black coffee, which is fine, but I do so love almond milk. I was a very happy bunny, so much so that I even took a photograph of my almond milk latte.
We drove up to The Heads in Knysna, which had a view of the bay and you could see out to sea from there. We saw a tonne of different birds whilst we were walking around up there and we even saw a cute lil’ mousey thing.
After that we stopped off at Plettenberg Bay, where there really isn’t much to look at. So, we did what we usually do, and stopped for a coffee and a cake. In this coffee shop out waiter took quite a shine to me (for some unknown reason) and kept looking at me when he as attending to our table. He seemed really shy and he didn’t speak to me, but he kept looking up at me from under his eyelashes and then looking away embarrassed. If I am ever looking for a husband in South Africa I will make it my mission to find him.
We headed back to the car, and after a brief altercation with the parking attendant in very broken English and a torrent of Afrikaans, we were on our way. We haven’t had any trouble with any of the guys up until now. You give them a couple of Rand for looking after your car and seeing out of your parking space and you are on your way. But this guy clearly wasn’t happy with his payment and decided that he needed to shout at me and stick his head in through the car window. I don’t mind giving these guys a bit of change, but to complain that you haven’t received enough money for doing precisely nothing is a bit cheeky in my opinion. They wave you out of a space in which you could easily back an artic lorry out of.
We made it to Hogs Hollow Country Lodge, The Crags and we sat on the veranda and awaited our rooms having been provided with a glass of champagne each (don’t mind if I do). Whilst we were sitting there some Vervet monkeys came down and were running around us and chasing one another along the railings and over the canopy above us. As I had my champagne I hand, I didn’t manage to get any photos, but I will be rectifying this as soon as I can.
When it came to our room, it turned out we had been upgraded. This meant we were staying in The Villa. Now, The Villa is more like a mansion, it’s MASSIVE. It has its own pool, the kitchen is bigger than ours at home, the baths are pretty much swimming pools and it even has a pool table and a table tennis table. Pure madness. I’ll show you it on a nice day, rather than it on an overcast day; so here are some pics from the site. It is every bit as incredible as it looks.
The service here is amazing too. When we came back from dinner, someone had been in and turned down my bed, put a hot water bottle between the sheets and placed a bedtime story on my pillow. I thought I was going to pass out because it was so cute and thoughtful.
It turns out there isn’t that much to do in the area around Wilderness, but to be honest, I was quite pleased as I really wanted a chilled day. After breakfast overlooking the bay, we went for a walk along the beach. I probably didn’t choose the best outfit to go wandering along the beach in; a burgundy corduroy skirt, a shirt, tights and trainers.
It was also kind of overcast today, which was a shame, but you can’t be blessed with perfect weather the whole time you are on holiday! We walked down the steps to the beach and as we were nearing the bottom of the steps, I realised the steps were broken. When I say broken, I mean the bottom flight of stairs weren’t there. They just stopped and there was a drop of about a couple of metres. There was no way I was walking all the way back up to go down another set of steps, so I decided to jump off. This could have gone very badly on account of how clumsy I can be, but fortunately I managed this without too much trouble.
We set about walking along the beach, and I was looking for a good pebble to pick up. I normally look for a heart shaped pebble when I am at the beach, but these were all way too smooth and round. But I did find a pebble that is pretty much a perfect circle, so that is now safely stowed in my rucksack.
We got down to the end of the beach and climbed up a set of steps which were much better maintained, and ended up in what appeared to be someone’s garden. We walked along the road a bit hoping to see a town or somewhere to get a drink, but there wasn’t one, so we decided to head back down to the beach to walk back.
We were on top of a massive sand dune, which I ran down, ending up with about a kilo of sand in my trainers. Sigh. We walked all the way back and selected a set of steps which came all the way down to the beach and walked back up towards the hotel.
After I had emptied all the sand out of my trainers, we thought we would drive to Mossel Bay as the guide book had stated it was an up and coming area. We got there and up and coming it certainly was not. If this was up and coming, I dread to think of what it was like before. There was quite literally nothing there. We sat and had a coffee and whilst we were drinking our drinks we read a leaflet about things to do in Mossel Bay. It turns out there is an iron museum in Mossel Bay. As in ironing, as in laundry. What?! In the leaflet it said that is contained over 900 different irons, some of which are rare. There is even an exhibition displaying different washing machines and mangles. TO be quite frank, I would rather roll myself through a mangle than go and see that. A little disappointed, we made our way back to the hotel.
Seeing as it was only the afternoon, we thought we would head down to the spa. So, I donned a bikini. Shortly after, I remembered why I never wear a bikini. It’s actually not comfortable wearing an underwired bra posing as a swimsuit when you are trying to relax, and I always end up so conscious of tummy rolls the entire time I am wearing one. I know I’m not supposed to worry about it, but I definitely still do. Maybe every roll’s a goal? Maybe not. Probably not. Anyway, I wanted to go in the steam room and sauna but they were both closed. Grrrrr. Fortunately, the lady working in the spa turned on the steam room so we could go in there and we sat in the jacuzzi and bubbled around for a bit whilst we waited for it to heat up. After sweating out what I am pretty sure was all the water I had in my body, I exited said steam room and went to get ready for dinner.
We struck out for dinner and ended up in a little place in Wilderness Village, a place called Cocomo Restaurant. We went in there because it looked busy and it was absolutely rammed. It does live music every night and it does these amazing looking pizzas. These pizzas are basically the size of the moon. I have never seen pizzas this big in my entire life. They cook them in their own wood-fired pizza oven and they have a serious amount of topping on them, scrimp on topping they do not. I am not ashamed to say I ate the whole thing, not ashamed at all.
I shouldn’t have eaten it all, because it took me about an hour to get to sleep because I was so incredibly full. But I feel like it was worth it.
Today we were travelling from Hermanus to a place called Wilderness. With no stopping, it would be about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from one to the other. We left the B&B at about 10am and headed towards Cape Agulhas, which is where the Indian and the Pacific oceans meet. It is the southernmost point of the continent of Africa, so it’s a pretty special place. We parked up and we decided to walk the rest of the way, which was just over a kilometre.
But first I needed a wee, so I made for the loo. As I walked into the cubicle, I realised someone had left their phone in there. So, I grabbed it and made my way back to the sinks to see if it belonged to anyone. Fortunately, the woman was still there and she was very thankful and thanked me for being such a kind stranger (yay for praise!), but then proceeded to ask me if I would put it in her bag and zip it up as her hands were still wet. I feel like this was a bit of a liberty to take, but obviously, I obliged because I am British and I couldn’t possibly refuse and run the risk of being seen as rude.
We started walking down the boardwalk to the most southern pointy bit of Africa. Some of the rock formations here were really cool and they were completely different colours. There were some light grey rocks and some dark brown rocks and some of them had orange bits in them. The views here were breath-taking, but it was also super windy here, so the weather didn’t lend itself to a selfie unfortunately (“how will we live without a selfie. Bonnie?!” I hear you cry).
When we got to the place, there was a prime photo taking spot where there was a sign which stated that this was the most southern point and where the two oceans met. We had to wait for a bit until it was our turn and I ended up having to take a few photos of people. I always end up being asked to take photos of people, I’ve been told it’s because I have an open face, but I actually think it is because they look at me and know that if I made a run for it with their camera, they would be able to catch me.
We took a few photos here and I clambered up onto the top of the rock the plaque was fixed to. It was pretty high and I really had to jump to push myself up on top of it. I got a little bit stuck and I looked like a beached whale rolling around on the top of this thing. But no matter, all in a bid to get a good pic (I’m not sure it was).
Then wandered up a bit and I clambered around on some of the rocks; because I can’t stop myself from doing childish things like that. Then, we turned back and headed towards the lighthouse.
After all that walking, we had worked up quite an appetite, and headed back towards the town to a little roadside restaurant we had spied on the way in. This place was basically a little shack on the side of the road, but it cooked your fish and chips to order. It was so yummy, the batter they put on the fish was super light, and the chips were just the best things. Needless to say, I ate the whole thing, to the point where I felt fit to burst.
All too soon we were back on the road and heading towards Wilderness. We drove for wat seemed like forever, through endless countryside and farmland and even through a township where all the kids waved at us as we drove though (so sweet). I got to the point where I was super tired from driving and I needed to pull over for a break. We stopped off in this tiny town where we couldn’t even find somewhere to get a coffee. Eventually we stopped to ask this guy who was standing by the side of the road and he very kindly invited us into his kitchen/museum/antique shop place.
I wish I could tell you the name of the place so you could all go and visit there. Not because the coffee was incredible or anything, but this guy was seriously good value. The amount of pure bullshit that he was spouting was absolutely incredible! I had to turn away and look at the wall to stop myself laughing out loud. The number of things this bloke had done in his life and the number of different jobs he had done, he would have had to have been about 150 years old to achieve all of this. He was telling us that he was training to be a pianist when he was scouted for his talent for opera. He supposedly trained as an opera singer and then lived in Milan for 7 years. My suspicions began to arise when he told us that he was fluent in Italian but could now barely even say hello in the language.
Next, he was telling us that he trained to be a chef in Italy, and then re-training in traditional South African cuisine when he got back to the country. He then went about telling us that he had a doctorate in speech therapy and he worked with the same group of eleven children from when they were two to sixteen. He gleefully told us that they had all finally learned the gift of speech around the time they were sixteen and he left them as they no longer needed him. I feel like he can’t have been very good at his job if it took him all that time to get them to speak. But then, I don’t have a doctorate in speech therapy, do I?
By far my favourite bit of this yarn he was spinning, was the bit at the end, where he was telling us that he was due to travelling to Milan to perform in an opera. In this opera, he would be accompanied by Andrei Rieu. I must have misheard, surely? Surely, he meant he would be accompanying Andrei Rieu? No, he didn’t. He is genuinely telling us that THE Andrei Rieu, was going to be accompanying him in an opera. Unbelievable. I don’t think I have ever laughed so hard in my life as I did when I got back to the car. I had been holding it all in for so long and I couldn’t stop it any longer. I laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed. And then I laughed some more.
Eventually we made it to our hotel in Wilderness, which is really beautiful, and I found myself a chair suspended from the ceiling to sit in. I tried to fight the urge to swing in it, but I couldn’t, and soon I was swinging wildly about the place in my spherical seat. Les enjoyed giving me a bit of a push, and the highlight of the evening was when he went to put his phone in the inside pocket of his jacket and it fell all the way through. More laughter ensued (and much snorting) and I seriously got the giggles. I think I had got a bit hysterical at this point.
Today we were going whale watching a few miles outside of Hermanus. We had to drive to the place in the morning for 9.15 am so we could get on the boat and go and see some marine life. Seeing as I was going on a boat, this seemed like the perfect time to don my nautical tee. I got this t-shirt from Primark for like £2.50 and it is white with blue anchors and tiny red hearts printed on it – super cute. Obviously, I teamed this with dungarees, and I went for white trainers and a white scrunchie (because I do so love colour coordinating).
We headed down to breakfast and the table was beautifully laid out (another shout out to Les Baleines bed and breakfast in Hermanus), and everything looked super scrummy. There was yoghurt already waiting on the table for us, and a muffin, granola and a piece of fruit each. I declined the yoghurt on account of the whole dairy thing, and Les quickly relieved me of the bowl. To make up for it I ate his granola out of the little jar and I ate Gail’s too. I inhaled my muffin too, which was really good and served in a tiny flower pot (appealing to my obsession with miniature things).
Soon we were on the road and heading towards our whale watching trip with Dyer Island Cruises. When we got there, we were greeted with coffee and muffins after we had signed in and paid for our trip. We were taken through a safety briefing, and we were also given a talk about the African Penguins on Dyers Island. Not so long ago, there was 23,000 penguins on the island, and now there are only about 2,000. This is due to the harvesting of the penguin guano from the island, which the penguins used to burrow down into to make their nests. The team at Dyer Island Cruises are doing some really cool stuff to help the penguins. They have devised some penguin houses which they make out of 100% recycled materials, which they put on the island for the penguins to nest in them. Apparently, the penguins love these things and they are desperate to get in there are soon as they can, and they are already carrying in twigs for their nests before the team have finished!
We got kitted out with a life jacket and a fetching orange waterproof jacket to keep off any spray, and we headed down to the launch point. I hadn’t realised that the boats were taken out of the water after they were used, so we got to watch the guys reverse the massive boat into the water on a trailer with a tractor and let her slip. We all got on and took our seats. Now, this boat had four 250 engines on the back of it, which had some serious oomph behind them. The second we were out of the harbour, we were going full throttle and absolutely flying over the waves. A few people got seasick, but fortunately I don’t get seasick like this. Put me on a boat in a force 8 and I’ll have no problem, but on the ferry from Dover to Calais I’ll get sick as a parrot – funny eh?
Not long after we got out to sea, we saw our first whale. It was a Southern Right whale, which gets its name from being in the Southern hemisphere and being considered the “right” whale to hunt. They were considered the best whales to hunt because they spend a lot of time near the surface, they move really slowly and they also float to the surface once they are killed. There’s a little fun/not so fun fact for you.
This whale was super chilled and she was lazing about and rolling around and laying on her back. She showed us her flippers and we chilled there with her for about half an hour.
Then, behind us there was a young male, who leapt out of the water and breached. I missed the first one (which was the best one) but I saw the next two which were slightly less enthusiastic. I managed to sort of get a picture of it.
After that, they spotted some more whales off in the distance so we headed over in that direction towards them. As the boat was moving away and we went over a wave I managed to lose my balance (the boat was barely moving) and I ended up kneeing a fairly hefty chunk of metal and I have a nice purple bruise on me knee – standard. The funny thing is, I actually pride myself on my sea legs and being good on a boat and not getting seasick. And there I am going arse over tit when we go over the tiniest wave known to man. Lets just say it caught me off guard okay? FAIL! Anyway, we moved over to the whales which had been spotted. At first there was just two, but then soon another pair appeared and all four of them were hanging out together. The spot where we saw the whales is a breeding ground, so I think they were there to make babies.
One of the females was diving and kept showing us her tail which I managed to get a few snaps of, which I am pretty pleased with! It’s so hard trying to judge where and when they are going to go down and come back up, so I had my camera at the ready the entire time and took so many photos – most of which I deleted because they were of precisely nothing because I had missed the good shot.
Once we were done with the whales, we left them to it and headed over to the Cape fur seal colony on Geyser Rock. There are 60,000 seals here so it was super noisy and busy (and seriously stinky).
They were all playing in the water around the rock when we got over there. They were splashing about and jumping out of the water and messing about with one another. There were some really little ones there as well, which were super cute.
All too soon we were on our way back to the harbour. We had been out for hours and hours, but I still didn’t want to go back. I love nothing more than seeing animals in their natural habitat and it was such an amazing experience.
After that, we had some soup and a bread roll at the place, then we were on our way back to Hermanus. It was still early in the day, so we went for a wander around the town and stopped for something to eat and drink in this cute little café called Aromatish Café and Bakery in Hermanus. They do the best looking cakes in there, and we had a milk tart, a slice of banting cheesecake and a carrot cake to share. Delicious doesn’t even describe it, particularly the banting cheesecake which I have never had before. It had an almond base to it, which is way better than the biscuit base on your standard cheesecake which I always leave.
Before we went bck to our B&B for the evening, we went down to the beach and had a drink in a beach bar type place called Dutchies which had been recommended by a few locals and then went for a paddle in the sea. Which was FREEZING, but it was fun running into the sea and then running away from the waves. It was like being a kid again – so freeing.
Today we are making our way from Cape Town to Hermanus via the coastal road. We went and dropped of our rental car from yesterday and picked up our rental car, which we will have for the next ten or eleven days. We were geared up for a difficult trip around the city, with my crappy map reading, but it actually wasn’t so bad. Everything is much easier in the day light and we recognised a lot of landmarks and road names as we were driving along. We stopped off at the first car rental place to drop off Gail and the luggage and paused to have another look at the map, to try and locate the second car rental place to drop the car off at.
The second we stop, that is when I lose my bearings on the map and start getting really confused. I have no idea which direction we are facing once we have stopped and the whole map thing makes even less sense to me than it did before. I try pointing the map in the direction we are travelling, but then I can’t read the road names and I start to get flustered – stupid illogical brain. But, as it so happens, the other car rental place was literally 100 yards from where we were. All we had to do was drive across the intersection. This was made much more difficult by a massive truck with a digger loaded onto the back of it, trying to make its way up this narrow road, and a very impatient Fiat Punto behind us. After a tiny bit of gesturing and waving, we managed to free ourselves of the truck and angry Fiat man, and made it to the place to drop the car off.
We loaded all of our gear into the back of a Hyundai Tuscon and made our way out of Cape Town. At this point I feel the need to mention that I have never made it out of a city so easily, as we did Cape Town. It was really clearly signposted and once you were on the right road, you were out of the city in no time. As we started driving towards the coast, we headed past a few townships (which I love looking at). Townships are like shanty towns or favelas, for those of you that don’t know. And all the houses are made out of bits of corrugated tin and plastic and whatever else can be found. Soon we were driving down the coastal road, but it was a teeny bit overcast and everything was looking a bit grey.
After a failed attempt to find breakfast in Gordons Bay (which was basically a ghost town and made us feel super uncomfortable), we found somewhere to eat in Pringle Bay. We found a cafe with some seats outside and I settled for a rosti stack; which is posh for hash browns, bacon, tomato and omelette. But a glorious stack it was, and it certainly filled a hole.
The waitress who served us was really sweet and she was practising her English (she spoke Afrikaans) and she was telling us about a riot that was going on in a neighbouring town, which had meant some of the staff couldn’t get in today. We had to go through this town to get to our next destination. Gail wanted to find a route around it, whereas I wanted to drive through it so I could see what it was like (classic Bonnie). It was my turn to drive, so I decided we were going to drive through said riot town, so we could have a look.
As we were driving towards the town, we could see some smoke rising. It looked like there was either something on fire, or a very big chimney spouting a lot of smoke. As we drew closer we could see there were lots of smaller fires as well as this big one. It was difficult to see whether it was houses that had been set on fire, or just fires that had been built, as it was up on a hill. As we got into town there were loads of police blocking off the main road and the fire engines were on standby. We had to bypass the main road and weave our way through the back streets to make it out of the town.
Once we were out of the town we headed towards Betty’s Bay. As we were getting closer to it we started seeing some signs for penguins. Yay! Another penguin colony! I followed the signs and we entered the bay where the penguin colony is. It was much smaller than the penguin colony at Boulder’s Bay and the penguin colony at Betty’s Bay was infinitely better in my opinion. The jackass penguins at Betty’s Bay were much closer and there were hardly any people there, so you could take all the time you wanted to look at them and take photos. The colony of African Penguins at Betty’s Bay was about a quarter of those at Boulder’s.
We wandered up the viewing platform and we came across one little guy right next to the walk way. I could have reached out and touched him, and I was desperate to, but I stopped myself. Knowing that A) he would have bitten me, and B) you shouldn’t touch them.
I took about a thousand photos of this little penguin and had a long conversation with him about the price of fish. Well, more just the random rambling (normally) one sided conversations that I have with animals I come across.
After I had my fill of the penguins we started heading back to the car and we saw a dassie, which is like a big rodent thing and looks kind of like a guinea pig. This little guy was clearly in need of a back scratch and kept rolling around on his back. He looked so funny and it made me laugh like a complete idiot (checkout my Insta to see a video here).
After that we whizzed all the way to Hermanus without any stops and located Les Baleines bed and breakfast after much driving around. This bed and breakfast in Hermanus is all kinds of beautiful. The rooms are gorgeously decorated and the bathroom is incredible. It’s worth staying a little outside of the town for such an amazing place. For dinner, we went to Burgundy restaurant on Marine Road. It had been recommended by the staff at the B&B and in a couple of the guide books too. The food was incredible. End of. We started off with some homemade bread which was sweet and full of seeds and nuts, and I had a main course of bobotie which is a kind of curry with an egg topping. I had the veggie version which was made with lentils and came with pumpkin fritters. I thought I had died and gone to heaven.
Today we were travelling down to Cape Point by car, and for that, we needed to hire a car. Last night we had asked the lady at the front desks to arrange us a hire car, but when we came down the next morning it seems she had forgotten, so we had no hire car. Great. We thought it might be a good idea but o see if we could pick up our hire car for the next leg of our journey a day early.
Turns out, this was not a good idea. It took the woman at reception FOREVER to sort this out with the car hire company, and then we got told we couldn’t have the car until 2 pm, which the woman said yes to without asking us. Clearly 2pm would have been way to late, considering at this point it was 8.30 in the morning. We asked her to cancel that (which she looked less than pleased about) and set about arranging a separate car for us to hire for the day. There were no cars left with the same company, and she had clearly had enough of our unreasonable demands at this point, so she put us in a taxi and sent us on our way to hire a car from Thrifty.
When we got to the place, it was closed. I like to think that she knew it was shut and the place had moved units and she just sent us there to mess with us, but we will never know the answer to that. The note on the door pointed us towards another unit, but having no idea where that was, we were a bit stuck. Fortunately we managed to wave at our taxi driver before he made it round the corner and he came back and picked us up and very kindly dropped us where the car hire place were operating from for free. What an amazing bloke, whoever you are, I salute you and I am forever in your debt.
By the time we got to the car hire place it was about 10 o’clock and all of the hire cars had gone. Winner! (that was sarcasm by the way) and we were stuck with a pretty pricey Mercedes hatchback. We couldn’t work how to out the blasted thing in drive, so we had to call the guy back out to show us, which he looked terribly amused about. Eventually we were away and driving. It took us a little bit of time to figure out where we were on the map, not helped by the fact that the scaling in the map was way off and you were looking for a road that you had actually gone past 2 minutes ago. We managed to get out, and soon enough we we’re heading down the road to Cape Point after only a tiny family argument in the car.
We drove back towards Hout Bay, where we had been the day before and decided to stop for some breakfast. Just before Hout Bay we spied this busy looking little cafe called Ta-Da, so we went in there. It was full of people and had an amazing vibe and an even more amazing breakfast menu. This place was basically like a shack on the side of the road, with wooden benches out front. I settled on a French toast combo, with fried banana, bacon and syrup – which was all kinds of yummy.
We sat there and watched some kids climbing around in the trees, in what was a beautiful Sunday morning and after a while we went on our way, but not without a trip to the loo first.
Cape Town is experiencing a major drought at the moment, hence the sign, but it made me laugh and I do love having something torrid on the back of the toilet door. We carried on driving down (or up? Not sure) the coastal road, stopping at view points along the way to take in the scenery and get some pics.
After a couple of hours we made it to The Boulders where they have a colony of penguins you can view. Now, I love me a penguin, they are so cute the way they waddle and they look like little old men. The viewing platform was chocca with tourists, but I still managed to get some decent pics and a selfie, of course. We spotted another viewing platform, so we made our way back the way we had come and around to the other platform.
On the way we saw some penguins chilling in the bushes with their babies. Amusingly one of the penguins tried to bite Gail when she was crouched down trying to take a photo of it.
We stood and watched the penguins on the beach for a bit, the best bit is when they try to walk up the beach after coming out of the water and a wave creeps up behind then and knocks them over, so cute!
After we’d had out fill of penguins, we carried on towards Cape Point. Along the way there warnings about baboons on the side of the road, so by the time we got to Cape Point I was dying to see one, and I wasn’t disappointed! We saw some adult ones jumping from car to car, and I saw a little one messing around with a car arial, who posed for a nice photo for me, before he started scratching his ear.
We started walking up the hill to Cape Point, I quickly dismissed the funicular railway because I like to think I am a hardy, athletic type [insert laughing, crying emoji here] and I started ploughing my way up the hill, leaving Gail and Les in my wake and narrowly avoiding some baboons who came pelting towards me.
After clambering up what felt like a million steps, we made it to the to of Cape Point, whilst catching our breath and mopping our brows, we looked out over the water and took the opportunity to take some photos. Then we started heading back down the steps, which I personally find worse than walking up, as it’s pretty hard on the knees.
I’m kind of getting to the point where I’ve had enough now. It’s about 4 o’clock in the afternoon and we’ve been out looking at stuff all day. On our way back, we stop off at Simons Bay for some food. The palace we had been recommended was closed, so we settled for Bertha’s on the harbour of Simons Bay. I opened for a seafood platter for one, which came with calamari, butterfly prawns, mussels and the catch of the day, the catch of the day was angel fish, which I kind of felt bad about eating because they are so pretty, but less bad once I tasted how delicious it was.
We drive back through the towns, rather than along the coastal road, which was interesting to see, if not quite as beautiful and ended up back in Cape Town as night fell. It was pretty difficult to get a bearing on where we were in the dark, and we had to do a few circles until we recognised where we were. That being said and all things considered, I think we managed to get back to our apartment without too much trouble. My map reading skills are shocking and I always start to panic when I can’t see where I am on the map, so it could have gone a lot worse. I have to say all the roads aloud as we go past and I think people think it is to help the driver, but it really isn’t – it’s purely so I can tick it off in my head as we go past. I’m that incapable.
I had planned to wake up at 7.30 and go out for a run today (harhar), but as you can imagine, that didn’t happen and I ended up sleeping in until 9 am. We had planned to hire a car and go to Robben Island and take a drive around the Cape Peninsular, but by the time we got down to reception it was about 10.30 am and it was kind of too late to hire a car, plus there were no tickets available for the ferry to Robben Island as they were all booked up. That will teach us for not getting our arses in gear and booking beforehand.
It was a clear and warm day however, so we decided we would go up Table Mountain instead. The past couple of days had been a bit cloudy, so Table Mountain hadn’t been an option, mainly because you couldn’t actually see the thing. If I hadn’t known it was there, I wouldn’t have believed you if you had told me it was there. We bought tickets to go up Table Mountain online before we went, having heard that if you get a ticket when you are up there, you end up having to wait in a queue for hours.
We got a South African Uber up to Table Mountain, the driver was very knowledgeable and took the time to explain how to drive to Hermanus, telling us what landmarks to look out for on the way. I forgot all of this immediately, so I still have no idea how to get to Hermanus. I think I’ll probably just follow the sat nav to be honest, or I’ll just use the force. The force always seems to work out for me. I’m like a homing pigeon, I’ve got that internal compass.
We get to Table Mountain and we join the queue for those who already have tickets. Funny isn’t it, joining a queue so you don’t have to queue? It feels very British. It doesn’t take too long to get through and we are waiting in the loading bay for the cable car in about 20 minutes. Now, I hate cable cars. I know they are 100% safe, and it’s not even the height that bothers me. It’s the swaying. The swaying gets me and it completely shits me up, so I start getting a nerve on as we waited. This was relieved somewhat by watching the Chinese group of tourists in front of us taking photos of one another. They were taking shots of one another on their Hwawei’s like it was nobody’s business, and I spied a few hilarious chin shots being taken. These pics were legit 85% chin and 10% visor and 5% scenery, and I had to turn away to stop myself snorting at them.
We got on the cable car and it turned out it wasn’t so bad. The floor rotated As we went up so we could get a 360 view of the mountains and the views from it, and this kind of distracted me from any swaying. We stepped off the cable car and WOW. We were greeted with an incredible view. When I say incredible, it was genuinely astounding.
The sky was so blue and the greys of the mountain rock were a stark contrast. I got some amazing photos from the top of the mountain, which isn’t so flat when you get up there. In comparison to other mountains it’s still super flat, but there were lots of rocky bouldery bits, which made for great pics when you stood or sat on them, looking like you were about to drop off the edge of the world.
We stood on the right hand side of the mountain and we wanted some clouds rolling in. This was such a beautiful sight. Because the top of the mountain is flat, the speed of the cloud coming in was amazing. It sped across the top of the mountain, and then dropped over the edge and ran down the side, just like it was dry ice. I have never seen anything like that before in my life.
We spent about three hours in total on the top of the mountain. We walked all the way around it and took photos at all possible angles. The air up there was so clear and it was so worth it, but I just wish there weren’t quite so many people up there, so we could have had a bit of peace and quiet to experience it in.
If I ever came here again, I think I would get up super early and go to the mountain ready for the first cable car up to the top. I reckon this would be an incredible place to sit and have a romantic breakfast picnic, so if I ever locate a significant other, I will be forcing them to Cape Town and up the mountain and ridiculous O’clock in the morning. So, sorry about that future husband or wife.
After the mountain we took a ride to Hout Bay. The drive to Hout bay was incredible. Something that has surprised me about South Africa is the incredible difference in scenery in such a small space. You can absolutely understand why so much filming is done here, as the diversity of surroundings is amazing. The coastal road we drove down to reach Hout Bay had some amazing views, and I would have liked to have been able to stop more and take some photos, but you can’t have everything (plus we were on a meter).
When we got to Hout Bay, I was half starved, so we went straight into a restaurant on the Mariners Wharf and had some baby Kingklip, covered in garlic butter (I can tell you now, I lived to regret this). We went for a wander along the beach and took some photos of the bay. We wanted to have a paddle, but the wind had got up by then as it was late afternoon and I think I would have turned into a block of ice the second my toe touched the water, so we avoided any paddling this time.
We got the bus back from here to Cape Town, and again, the views were absolutely astounding. It’s pretty hard to take decent photos on the top of a a bus, but I managed a few, trying my best to hold my phone steady over the rail of the top deck of the bus, whilst hold on to the camera, my rucksack and keep an eye on my iPad, which I was using to start writing this post.
Once we got back to Cape Town, this was where I started feeling the ill-effects of my butter consumption earlier in the day. I’m not supposed to eat dairy, and I know this, and yet I still insist on trying it and seeing whether it still has the same effect on me. Well, funnily enough, it did, and I ended up having to race back to our apartment pretty swiftly, so I could park my arse on a familiar loo. As soon as I did, all hell broke loose. I won’t horrify you with the gory details, but “better out than in” springs to mind. As does “natural disaster”. Heh.
Today we headed outside Cape Town to the wine region. At 10.30 am Roderik (our guide) came and picked us up from our apartment. We didn’t really want to spend the whole day drinking wine, because we aren’t upper fussed over it, so we headed to the cheetah sanctuary that the guy at the reception at the apartment had suggested we go to.
The outfit: black dungarees, jazzy shirt, frilly socks and white Nikes. Oh, and the rucksack.
I’m always a bit nervous about going to places like zoos or animal “sanctuaries”, because I worry a lot about the welfare of the animals and I can’t stand seeing the animals suffering, it breaks me. We went to Seaworld in San Diego when I was a kid (this well before the whole Blackfish thing) and even at 10 it broke my heart to see those beautiful creatures contained within concrete walls. I also remember seeing an elephant at a zoo not so long ago, swaying from left to right (just like a person rocking backwards and forwards in the foetal position), and it genuinely reduced me to tears. Seeing such intelligent and wonderful animals in such a state of clear depression – I can’t deal with it. So, I was a bit nervous about going to see the cheetah at the sanctuary.
We arrived at the sanctuary and we paid to go in and have a “cub experience”. This was where you got to go in the enclosure with the cubs (who were around 9 months old) and stroke them and sit with them for a bit. Here we met Kito and his brother. These two little guys had been born at a sanctuary a few miles away and their mother unfortunately hadn’t made it. They had been brought here and had grown up in the sanctuary. The people looking after the cheetah made is very clear that under no circumstances were we to touch their faces, tummies or tails, as this was more likely to agitate them – just like it would your domestic cat.
We had to always keep one foot planted on the ground if we were in a kneeling position, so you could move away quickly if needs be, and you were only to stroke the cheetah with a flat palm, so it didn’t tickle them. The lady who was telling us about Kito and his brother, is old us his brother was a bit agitated today and we wouldn’t be able to have any contact time with him; he kept jumping up and looking at what was going on around him and was distracted by the cars moving around outside and the comings and goings of the people. The staff let the animals get up and move around as they pleased, and we were to move out of the way if either of the animals wanted to get up, look at something or have a wander.
I was the last to stroke Kito, he’d decided he wanted to leap up and jump on a box when someone else was stroking him, so I got to stoke him whilst he was sitting up rather than laying down. After a few strokes, he started purring, and I stared talking to him (just like I do my kitties at home) and told him he was much bigger than my little cats back home. He turned around to face me and looked at me with his head cocked slightly to one side. The keeper who was standing by him said he never does that with anyone and that he must like me, which obviously made me feel like the Queen of the Cheetah, and I went out of the enclosure a very happy Bonnie.
Kito’s fur was rougher than I had imagined it was going to be, and at least I can say I have stroked a cheetah and put some money towards a sanctuary. I still hate seeing them cooped up like that, but they have been born in captivity, and it’s much better than them being someone’s pet.
After meeting Kito, we went to Spiers 1692 and went for their premium wine tasting option. This was made up of 6 wines; 2 white and 4 red. As someone who is certainly no wine conesoir, all of these wines were very pallettable, rather than tasting like vinegar.
My favourites were the Sauvignon blanc and the Pinotage, and we were soon feeling rather sozzled.
I went to the shop after and bought a bottle of the Sauv to take home with me – so, Claire, if you are reading this, please free up your schedule for my return.
The highlight of this day however, had to be when Gail walked into the glass door on our way out. It was like a slapstick comedy, and she strode straight into it and bonked her nose on it. I thought it was absolutely hilarious and I had to walk away as she recovered to save myself from laughing in her face. At this point she couldn’t see the funny side of it and was still insisting that she hadn’t seen it, rather than it being as a result of her wine intake (whatever you say mama G).
After that we went to another winery which was actually closed for renovation, but the door was open and the lady inside gave us a free glass of wine for our troubles and we met a massive dog panned Gustav. I generally don’t like dogs, but be was super chill and I even forgave him when he dribbled on me a bit.
Our final stop was another winery called Tokara which was beautifully situated and also grew its own olives.
We tasted their house wines (2 red and 2 white) and I’m not going to beat about the bush or sugarcoat matters here; they were disgusting. They practically too, the skin off of the roof of my mouth and they burnt my throat on the way down.
So, my advice; if you want a decent wine, pay for a decent wine. If you don’t want your throat to feel like it has been stripped with acid that is. Practically like Oprah aren’t I? Full of good advice.
Our flight was at 9 pm Thursday night and we landed in Cape Town on Friday at about 2.30 pm. It was an eleven hour flight to Johannesburg, a 2 hour wait at the airport there and then a 2 hour flight from Jo’burg to Cape Town. It’s weird, because we did so much flying and we are only one hour ahead in South Africa which is a bit of a mind fuck.
I watched Deadpool before I went to sleep and I actually laughed out loud at it (which is rare for me). It’s just the kind of humor I like and I love Ryan Reynolds, not even because he’s pretty, but because he is a genuinely hilarious man. I was stuck with the crappy plane headphones so I didn’t hear 100% of what was being said, so I think I will watch it again when I am back and get the full experience.
I know I slept for quite a while on the plane to SA, but I feel like I hardly slept a wink! There was a spare seat next to me, so I manged to lay down and put my feet on Gail so get comfy. Which was all well and good until she leaped up in the middle of the night with cramp in her leg and chucked me off. I managed to doze off again with my hoody on backwards and the hood up over my face, but soon the lights were up and it was time to awaken for breakfast.
After breakfast I started watching Lego Batman, which I know is super sad, but I was actually really enjoying it. But then we were landing, so I had to turn it off. Fingers crossed I’ll manage to finish that off when I am flying back.
We landed in Jo’burg, and got off the plane and went through customs. This was probably the quickest I have got through passport control in my entire life and all the staff were really happy and chatty – a complete contrast to the government employees in the UK who look like they would rather be hanging off the edge of a cliff by their finger tips with a spike shoved up their arse. Oh, and, I GOT A STAMP IN MY PASSPORT!!!! I was so excited about this, because I’ve only travelled to Europe recently and my passport is so naked. All my visas and stamps are in my passport from before, and I feel like I haven’t been anywhere cool in ages.
When we got to Cape Town, it was raining (of course it was), but we didn’t let this dampen our spirits (LOL) and we made the most of the evening we had left, and went out in the pouring rain to get some dinner.
I had butternut soup to start which was all kinds of yummy and snoek (which is a type of fish) for my main. We trudged back to our apartment in the rain, but not before asking the somelier in the restaurant for the best wine tasting places to go to. We have a name of a guy and he is going to give us a private tour, so lord knows how that will go! So we shall see how that turns out.
Anyway, I’m shattered and I can barely see straight, and it took me way longer than it should have done to type this out. So I am going to hit the hay, or the unknown bed in the unknown apartment that will definitely be uncomfortable.
I’ve been packing for my holiday this evening. I am the WORST at packing; I’m genuinely awful at it. Once second I want to take everything with me, the next second I only want to take a pair of jeans and two t-shirts. I’m so haphazard when it comes to doing stuff like this and I’m seriously disorganised. I know it is a great idea to write out a nice list with all the things you need to take with you and then tick them off as you pack them. But, in reality, all I do is grab stuff out of drawers as I see it and hope for the best. I always, always, always forget something, but is it even a holiday if I haven’t forgotten something? Doubt it.
Packing for South Africa is a bit of a weird one, because its going to be about 23 degrees in the day, but goes down to about 9 degrees a night. So, I need stuff that is warm enough and flexible too. Fortunately most of my stuff goes together so I don’t have to worry too much about taking “outfits” (another win for the lazy person). Pretty much everything that I have packed, I can mix and match, so I can breathe a sigh of relief. And if a chill sets in, I’ll just have to wear 2 of everything so I have layers.
Anyway, I shoved everything in my suitcase and tried to close it. Obviously it didn’t close, no matter how hard I squished down the top and grappled with the zip. I didn’t want to fight too hard with my case, because it is new and it would be a bit insane to push it to breaking point on its first official outing. FYI I love my new suitcases. I got a voucher from work for my birthday for Debenhams, so I used the money to treat myself to a new set of luggage. My old suitcase was super heavy, and it was basically my entire luggage allowance without any clothes in it. So, I treated myself to some bronzey/rose goldy coloured Tripp suitcases. My eyes turn into love-hearts each time I look at them – they are the stuff of dreams.
But anyway, I turned it upside down (the case) and emptied it all out and made an effort to fold things and place them in, rather than throwing my clothes in and hoping for the best. My method still wasn’t really working here, and I was somehow managing to leave loads of gaps in between things, and more things were at an angle than I would have liked.
I emptied everything out again and made a very conscious effort to do it properly this time, because you can only do things three times before you give up and just accept that it can’t happen. I properly fold everything; really, super neatly (which takes aaaaaaaaaages) and place it all nicely in my case with some thought about how best to use the space. It was kind of like Tetris but with clothes, and less fun. Eventually I managed to fit everything in and my case zipped shut like a dream, and I only had to encourage it to close a teeny weeny bit.
I heaved my case of the bed (not going to lie, I was breaking a sweat by this point) and I went off to find the mini weighing things you use to see how heavy your case is. The moment of truth: I clipped the mini weighing thing to the handle of my case. I waited for it to turn on and have a small malfunction before I lifted it up and took the weight of my case. Taking the strain, I lifted my case up and watched the number creep up to a grand total of… 16 kilos?! Wow. That’s super light! I thought it was going to be near to the limit if I’m honest. I could pack a few “just in case” bricks and still be under the 23 kilo limit.
Because it is so under weight, I feel like I must have forgotten something. Like, something major. Pants? Or shoes? Who knows… But I guess we will find out! I’ve got a few bits out to take with me on the flight as well, a couple of books and… Well, that’s it really. But I’m sure I’ll manage to get the rest of the stuff I need out before I go, without cutting it too fine. I must remember to take all of the chargers I need – chargers are always a hard one to remember I find. And I do not want to be frantically raiding Maplin at the airport for a dodgy looking iPhone charger. Although, I have located my luggage tags, passport holder and travel wallet (which all match by the way). They are also all stamped with my initials, which makes me basically feel like the Queen, the Queen shops at Aspinal of London when they have a 20% discount right? Right??? I knew it! Always had the feeling Queensie was thrifty.
It’s not long now and I’m starting to get excited for my trip to South Africa!! In just under 3 weeks time I will be boarding a plane and flying across the world. I feel like I haven’t had a holiday in FOREVER even though it wasn’t actually that long ago. But still, it was ages ago and I’m getting withdrawal symptoms. I need a holiday!
So I’m having one, and it’s a long one, and I can’t wait. I’m so psyched for all the incredible things I’m going to do and see. But most of all, I’m so excited for a proper break. I can’t wait to not have to go to work and sit in front of a screen all day and look at work stuff.
Our last full day in Madrid left nothing to be desired – it was exactly as we wanted it to be (which happens less than you may think on holidays). I think the reason behind this was becasue we had no time pressures, we weren’t going to see anything,we had nothing planned and we had no set timings. We also had no preconceived ideas of what the day was going to be like or how we wanted it to go.
We woke up around 11 am, so we had a good lay in (which to be honest I hardly ever get a chance to do when I’m away because my days tend to be packed full of things to do). Once we were up and about we wandered back to a shop we had found the day before which sold empanadas, where we bought not one, not two, but four different empanadas to share. We also picked up a bottle of wine, some lemonade and some crisps in a little super market. Now laden with picnic items, we began to meander our way to the Buen Retiro Park.
We got there and there were these really odd trees, the had been shaped so they looked like strange little puffs of green stuck on the end of the branches – so that obviously meant 10 minutes of iPhone photography to try and nail the good lighting through the tree that made us look all glowy (you tell me whether we succeeded or not – I suspect not). With the photo shoot completed we walked on toward the ‘lake’. Now ‘lake’ is a very loose term here, as what it really is, is a giant swimming pool with some fish and a few terrapins in it, but it has boats on it, so a lake we shall call it.
We found a nice sunny spot next to the lake with a bit of shade from some trees so I could hide my pale skin from the inevitable burn when the sun got too hot. We laid out the picnic blanket with a flourish and parked our buttocks firmly on the (slightly damp) grass. The menu was as follows:
Empanada 1: spicy tuna – yummo
Empanada 2: chicken – not sure where the chicken was
Empanada 3: cheese and ham – tasted like a cat food filled doughnut
Empanada 4: chorizo [insert Spanish lisp here] – yummo
White wine: nice and tasty, but harder to consume than planned, which I will explain.
We made the classic idiot English mistake of buying a bottle of wine with a corkscrew in it and not a screw top. And not being seasoned alcoholics, neither of us had a corkscrew in out bags. I know, I can practically hear you sighing at me over this. It is THE classic mistake to make when getting wine for a picnic and you look so typically touristy googling ‘How to uncork wine without a corkscrew’. So stupidly, the first thing we tried to do was push the cork inside the bottle. Now I think about it this is clearly a terrible idea as obviously you can’t push it inside the bottle because of the pressure, but I’m going to say we had had to much sun at this point and it had affected our intelligence. We then read online that you can get the cork out but firmly hitting the bottom of the bottle against a tree or similar, but we were too scared to do this for fear of the bottle smashing and wasting wine or resulting in serious injury.
So forlorn and seriously sober, I began to search through my bag for an implement that may assist us in our quest for alcoholic grape juice. And low, the holy grail was found – a pair of tweezers. I promptly set about gouging out the cork (which was halfway down the neck of the bottle after the previously ill fated attempt at removal) which took distinctly longer than I had anticipated. One pair of ruined tweezers later we were finally able to consume our wine, and thank God it was decent to drink – otherwise I think I would have lost my shit after all that effort.
Wine consumed, we decided it would be a great idea to take out one of the bathtubs they were calling a rowing boat on the lake. We hired a ‘boat’ for 45 minutes for the mere price of €6, which we thought was rather reasonable. We plonked ourselves down in the boat and headed out on to the lake. To say it was utter carnage out there would be an understatement. Boats were lurching around in all directions, the oarsmen bearing no regard to the other vessels. We managed to make it out to a clear spot, on the way to which we saw a dead fish (cod rest his sole) and a terrapin, or a floaty tortoise (which I think is a much better name). Here is where Claire spied a ledge that she thought would be the perfect place to precariously rest her Polaroid camera so we could use the remaining 2 photos doing ‘action’ shots of us rowing.