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|Queen Elizabeth 2 - 2002
The Cape Town Line Part 2
Our tour to Stellenbosch today was full. The coach was fitted out with 5 seats wide, instead of the usual four. We were all surprised; Cunard usually specify more comfort.
The first South African wine was produced in 1659; Eerste (first) River Valley was opened up by Simon van der Stel. We passed several vineyards, including Spier where we would be having lunch later. Pinotage is the only local grape. It is pinot x hermitage and was designed by KWV.
When we arrived in Stellenbosch we drove around the town. Then just 40 minutes was allowed for the Village Museum visit. The museum comprises 4 houses, each from different periods and furnished in the appropriate style. There was a beautiful blue jacaranda tree in the garden, and another by the nearby church.
We were off again at 10.45 heading for Spier Winery and restaurant and the animal park. Our original booking was for a wine tasting at 1100 but on arrival we found that it had been delayed to 1200. So we had an hour to wander around the grounds and buy wines in the shop. We first bought the Wine magazine, which had a comparison of the 2001 Chardonnays, and also the Cap Classique (methode champenoise). The Simonsig fizzy had been doing well, and we also bought a bottle of each of two **** chardonnays. Then it was time for tasting the wines. There is a large tasting room, with benches and each place set with 7 glasses of wine. Dry Sauvignon Blanc Blauklippen 2001 Oaked Chardonnay Savannah 2001 Rhine Riesling Thelema 2001 Shiraz 60% Cabernet Sauvignon 40% Long Mountain 2001 "Asda" Merlot Spier Cabernet Sauvignon Kleiner Saltzer 2000 Rose Sauvignon Blanc/Red mix Capelands Classic Cape Red
Lunch was at the Jonkers Huis restaurant at 1230. The restaurant had an open Cape Malay buffet, similar in style to Walter Peak in NZ. It was excellent and we enjoyed sitting out on the terrace in the sunshine. The nice wines were Spier Pinotage and Chenin Blanc. Spier has a cheetah enclosure, with adults and 3 baby cheetahs, all brothers. There was also falconry, including a large black and white adolescent eagle.
At 1430 it was back on the coach heading for FransHoek. We stopped outside the Hugenot Monument and visited the Museum. It was rather jumbled but very interesting. Just across the street was the nice protea garden, and the Hugenot Monument. The protea is the national flower of South Africa and there were many excellent examples.
Then we were quickly onwards through FransHoek and past La Motte and other french named places towards CapeTown. We turned towards Paarl and the motorway. We saw large granite mounds on top of the mountains. These gave the name Paarl (pearl) to the area. Next we saw the 1975 monument to the africaan language - 3 tall pillars.
Our departure from Cape Town was difficult. QE2 was rolling around a lot. The sea was fighting against us. Nelson said it was often unpleasant around the Cape, and it would not get better until the next morning.
We moored just before 0700, then left on our excursion at 0800. In Durban we drove along the Victoria Embankment, past an old steam tug which was being renovated. We passed nice old buildings, some in art deco style. We passed the statue of Dick King and his horse. We headed first for Pietermaritzburg. Entering the town we passed Publicity House, and saw Parliament House. Gandhi was here and was thrown off the 1st class train carriage because of his colour. This led to his peaceful fight against racial prejudice. We turned past the railway station and back towards Publicity House, passing Parliament House and the statue of Queen Victoria. Buildings were very similar to the style in New Zealand, with porches, ornate verandas and some were art deco mixed with newer concrete blocks. Then it was over the river, past the cricket pitch and back towards Durban on the motorway.
The private Tala Game Reserve www.tala.co.za is between Pietermaritzburg and Durban. It is 7000 acres and the owner is hoping to purchase more land and expand. There are antelopes of several types, zebra, rhino, hippo and giraffes, but no carnivores (=cats). It is malaria-free, as you would expect from its location in the south. There are also 280 species of bird.
We were early, and arrived at 1115 when lunch was not available until 1200. Pity we hadn't spent longer in Pietermaritzburg but I suppose there was a risk of congestion and we could not afford to be late. There were 3.5 buses. More comfortable than the previous crowded trip to Stellanbosch. The park was large with accommodation lodges scattered throughout the site. We went to the main reception area where there was a central lounge/restaurant, a few hotel rooms and an expensive souvenir shop. The place was a no-cash site, for security reasons, although they did take cash for small items (postcards etc )
Lunch was "braai" - a buffet salad/veg bar with barbeque meats done outdoors. We sat on large tables on the terrace while the food was cooked. Dessert was fruit salad or treacle sponge. It was quite simple. Beer was tinned and wine was from a winebox. The red was pretty awful for a country which does produce excellent wines.
Our drive through the bush began at 1300. We were organised into landrovers seating 10, or larger buses. The game reserve has no big cats or elephants. But we did see white rhinos, hippos, giraffes and zebras and lots of buffalos antelopes and ostriches. This was an excellent 2 hour safari. Much of our visit was on rough dusty tracks, with a few exciting detours across the rough scrubland to get closer to the animals. With dust-filled eyes we bid the place farewell and headed back directly to the ship.
Our morning tour of Mauritius left at 0900. Mauritius drives on the English side of the road and English is the first language at school, although all the shops are labelled in french. Locals have to speak French and English, as well as their local dialect.
We left Port Louis to visit the Tamil Temple - very colourful and the highest in Africa. Then we continued to visit the tomb of Father Laval, a RC missionary who was canonified in 1979. The tomb was in a separate building, next to the Roman Catholic church. Unfortunately it was Sunday, and so we couldn't visit the church during the Mass.
So we moved on to the town of Pamplemousse, and its Botanical Gardens. Entry was free, but guides are extra. We spent 1.5 hours led through the gardens and looking at trees, finally reaching the famous giant waterlillies and their rare flowers. We were disappointed that the gardens had so few flowers when the rest of the island was so colourful. We also passed by the reproduction sugar mill, but didn't have the opportunity to explore.
After lunch we thought we should see something of Port Louis. There were water ferries from the stern of the ship, just $1 each to the waterfront. They were much cheaper and quicker than a taxi which had to go all around the outskirts of the port. We only spent an hour away, but explored the length of the waterfront, and walked through the shopping malls. Being Sunday it was mostly closed. Sadly the museum and windmill by the old Customs House was also closed.
After dinner we put on warm clothing, collected our cameras, and went outside. The Captain had announced that the Island of Reunion had been erupting when we passed earlier, so he planned a closer look. The volcano is well known for erupting every 6 months. So at 2230 we were facing a volcano and staring at its bright lava flow. We continued towards the island, only turning away at 2300. Reunion is very steep into the sea, so going close by was no problem. Everyone seemed to be up on deck to look at the spectacle.
It was a grey cloudy morning with half a tablecloth. We collected the tugs on the entry to the harbour at 0745. It took a while to manoeuvre her around, so it was well after 0800 before we were secured. Everyone who was disembarking had eaten early, and were sitting around the public rooms.
We had no trips planned today, just the shuttle bus to the V&A shopping mall. I was looking for the art shop to buy enough paints, brushes and paper to get started with watercolour painting; others from the class had been there the previous week. It was near to Mitchells Brewery, and next to a decent wine shop. There were lots of other interesting shops, including the Mint for gold coins, and woodcarving and other local handicrafts. Back at QE2 the VAT people were sitting in the midships lobby to deal with VAT refunds. Hopefully a cheque will eventually arrive in UK.
Being in port until late evening meant that there was a local show - Mpho and Uvimbo Band. It was the music of the South African townships and the lady singer Mpho was accompanied by two other, slimmer, ladies who sang and danced, It was really excellent. And included some of the click singing.
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