Life Unparalleled

Loving Life as a Foreign Service Family – Current Parallel 6° 27' North- Lagos, Nigeria

South Africa- Happy 18th Anniversary!

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Ben and I have been married 18 years and been together for 21 years. Our relationship is now old enough to get married and drink! It really has been a magical ride and even though it is cliche we really love and enjoy each other even more than we did years ago. We have always made making a big deal about our anniversary a priority and have done some really great dates (more about that in another post). We knew we wanted to do a trip to South Africa as soon as we were posted to Lagos. I visited 20 years ago and fell in love with the country. Ben was eager to get his chance. We hoped to take the whole family but other vacations used our available time and money and SA got pushed to the side. We have been aggressively working to pay off the consumer debt we acquired through all of the recent changes in our new life so we had decided that sadly an anniversary trip was off the table. Ben decided to check into how many credit card points we had accumulated- it was enough to cover our tickets. We reviewed our Marriot Hotel reward points- it was enough to cover a couple of days of hotel. Ben had been working so much overtime that he had leave time he needed to utilize because it would be forfeited once we moved. Margaret our housekeeper and nanny could stay with the kids. We were assured over and over that SA was very affordable and that food and transportation would be a lovely surprise. It was a perfect storm of wonderful and we made our plans.

We had two goals and two goals alone, spend time together and enjoy being outside in nature with as few other humans as possible. South Africa is a popular destination and it has been fabulous hearing stories from our friends various trips. Some go to safari. Others to eat all of the meat they can. Others still are drawn to the amazing vineyards and wine tastings while others enjoy the city and nightlife. Such a great country to have such variety to offer everyone.

Even with well laid plans the diplomatic life threw us some curve balls. In order to reside in Nigeria as a US citizens we need to have visas. We are lucky enough to have two year diplomatic visas rather than having to renew every couple of months like many others. Our visas were set to expire soon so Ben took them to get renewed. Something that was supposed to take 10 days ended up taking 3 weeks and we weren’t sure the trip was going to happen. We got our passports two days before we traveled. Ben traveled to a different part of Nigeria for work the Sunday before our trip, planning to return on Tuesday, the day before we were to leave. He assured me he wasn’t cutting it too close. His flight on Tuesday was canceled for poor weather and there wasn’t a new flight until Wednesday at noon. That flight was delayed. He landed in Lagos, was driven home from the airport, took one hour to pack then got back in another vehicle for us to leave for our trip. That is cutting it close!! When we walked with our luggage out for the waiting car this is what we saw.

The car had overheated. The driver assured us it was fine but we figured 50/50 chance we would make our flight. We made it though!
When we landed we headed to our first stop but needed to stop for lunch, this restaurant in Gordon’s Bay was calling our name.

Our friends Sarah and Brianna recommended we visit this beautiful town called De Kelders. It was on the coast and boasted some of the best whale watching in the world. It wasn’t the season for whales but the bed and breakfast looked beautiful and what we really craved was peace and quiet and an absence of people so we decided to book it. We are so glad we did. Cliff Lodge was just what we needed. The owners moved us to the biggest suite and it was one of the most breathtaking places I have stayed at in my life.

Heated mattress pad!
We laid in these great chairs and looked at the stars every night. Ben checked off a bucket list item – viewing the Southern Cross constelation
Whale watching. It wasn’t whale season but we spotted a couple of spouts anyways.
Ben went for a morning run both mornings we were there.
He remembered he actually loves running. Something hard to remember running in Lagos.

A nature reserve was a ten minute walk away and we decided to spend the day exploring. It included Klipgat Cave which was residence to Middle and Late Stone Age People. It was an interesting archeological site. We had the beach basically to ourselves for much of the day with only a few people coming and spending a small amount of time.

Really great potato chip flavor at first it has a vinegar kick followed by BBQ spices with a chili pepper kick that lingers. Very delicious! I love trying different chip flavors when we travel.
Ben running in for a swim.
Cliff Lodge had the most beautiful hand woven tapestries made by a local artist of the bay. Stunning!
The breakfasts were top notch

No pictures of our meals in De Kelders. In the prime tourist months there are three restaurants walkable distance from our B and B but it is winter so we drove 5k to the nearest town. Thyme with Rosemary was a great restaurant and we enjoyed beef and, ostrich, springbok, and mussels. Grey Goose was the other restaurant and we ordered mussels (me, I ate them every day), fish, and fish curry, and the food was just fine but not amazing in my opinion. Everyone is always curious about costs, dinner in a resort town with two appetizers and the most expensive food on the menu plus drinks ran about $40 USD. A date with not so great food out in Lagos runs about $50-120 USD. Have I mentioned our food budget has tripled what it was in Utah.

Ben cruising along driving on the right side of the road. Much easier to do after some sleep. He didn’t sleep on our red eye at all and the 2 hour drive to Cliff Lodge was pretty miserable driving on the opposite side of the road.

We were sad to leave Cliff Lodge but were excited to explore around Capetown. On our way we stopped at a roadside store that had local produce, wine, soap etc. In general we felt very safe everywhere we went this roadside restaurant and stand though was guarded by police with guns and dogs and we felt right at home. Didn’t even notice them until we were leaving the parking lot. Sad.

Our next hotel was a Marriot hotel- 15 on Orange Street. Yep, that is the name. It was a lovely 4 star establishment and our view couldn’t be beat. That is Table Mountain our our window. We enjoyed watching the clouds roll in every night around sunset before we hit the town for dinner.

For dinner it was recommended over and over to visit Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. It was a nice place with shopping and street performers. Walking around a normal mall felt odd and out of place. We grabbed a late lunch

This flat bread with lamb, feta, mushrooms and rocket was one of the beast meals I ate! From the above food stall. We also tried the beef but the lamb was much better. Cost for both was $10 USD

We decided to spend our first sunset on Table Mountain. Some people hike to the top but most take the cable car. Which freaks me out because the inside rotates the entire ride up meaning you can’t hold on to the handles. For someone with height fears it wasn’t ideal but the views were pretty great. I visited Table Mountain 20 years ago but for the life of me I can not remember how I got to the top. I know I didn’t hike it but I don’t remember the cable ride either. The bottoms of the cable cars are used to haul up and down all the water(and waste) used on the mesa top.

I love the local flora!
Look closer, rock climbers seen on the way back down.
More climbers. No thank you. I used to rock climb in high school and college. My fear of heights worsened significantly once I had kids. So odd. I also no longer like roller coasters.
Mystery ferret like animal.
Ben’s altimeter with the cause for the altitude change in the back ground.

A quick Uber back to V and A Waterfront ($3) we chose Belthazars for dinner. It was highly recommended had great steak options and 250 different wines on the menu. We ordered steak every night we were in SA and always had enough left over to eat it with bread and fruit for lunch the next day. The food was good but very pricy compared to everywhere else we ate, the drinks were twice as much as anywhere else but the selection was great. Dinner cost- 1 appetizer, two steaks, dessert, drinks $150 USD

Breakfast in bed! This picture doesn’t do it justice, those bowls are huge pasta bowls. The two trays covered our king sized bed. Enough food with our leftover steak to feed us lunch. If you are paying attention there is seafood at every meal. I am very excited for Spain! Our adventures took us the 1 hour drive down the coast to the Cape of Good Hope.

This photo should be titled
“No dammit, we are in this photo alone you jerk tour guide!’

We had been waiting in line to snap a solo picture when a tour guide arrived and instantly jumped the queue (something I have gotten very sensitive to after living in Lagos). When I called him on it he said the sign was a duplicate on each end so that many people could take double photos at once. I can see his point when there are hundreds of people but there were about 6 waiting in line. I gave him my very strong opinion that he should know better as a guide, there were some choice words spoken and we got our solo picture. On our hike up Ben and I discussed wether our patience has grown since arriving in Lagos and we decided in some ways yes. Traffic really doesn’t get to us anymore, we are patient to get things repaired or if people are late. However, my tolerance for rude people, people (or their things) who take up too much space and people who can’t line up and take turns has shrunk to practically nothing. Seriously, I have a meltdown every time we arrive to our gate at the airport going back to Lagos.

The hike to the view point was super steep, this is essentially a ladder.
In the previous photo we were standing on top of that cliff
We saw osrtich which is rare to see in the park.

A story about ostrich. They are terrifying creatures. Basically dinosaurs. Their claws are huge and legs powerful, strong enough to break bones. When I was a teen I would help my veterinary dad care for ostriches on a farm near our home. Domestic ostrich are susceptible to some disease with a name I can’t remember and they had to have blood drawn periodically. I would go with him to assist. You draw blood from the neck. Even with the help of a special pen someone has to grab the beak and stretch the neck so he could reach the vein. That someone was 15 year old Dy! It was as terrifying as it sounds and I got bitten and pecked more than once. Creepy dinosaurs!

One more ostrich story, my grandma and I were driving down the road when we looked to the left to see an ostrich running beside the car. Yep, in Utah. End of story.

We drove around the peninsula to hike up Cape Point, another little walk much steeper than it looks.

Disappointing – no Lagos, Nigeria, nor Leeds, UT on this sign
Windy at the bottom of Africa
There were no snake warnings in any of the natural areas except this sign on top of the little restaurant, that had a natural roof. My guess is the food attracts mice which brings in the snakes. Lots of warnings about aggressive baboons though of which we saw none of.

Our afternoon was spent at Boulders Beach aka penguin beach. African Penguins used to be known as jackass penguins because of their distinctive braying, and they’re the only penguins found on the continent. Colonies can be found from southern Namibia all the way around the South African coast to Port Elizabeth, but few places offer as remarkable a viewing point as Boulders Beach. We were able to watch many parents with their chicks. They don’t get their adult black and white feathers until they are 2 years old. Ben and I were commenting that we are really glad we don’t need to feed our babies by vomiting down their throats.

Capetown was so clean. There is a huge push to reduce plastic usage and most of the plastic bags we got from shops were degradable like this. We usually carry reusable bags but the duty free places required you to take a bag.
Clouds rolling in

Our last night we ate at Den Anker at V and A Waterfront. It was recommended by some South African friends as a favorite for steak and seafood. Are you noticing a trend? I ordered the 1 kg mussels, which for my American friends is 2.20462 pounds. They were to die for. Ben got a tuna steak which he said was ok, and the beer taster which just reminded him that he tends to not like IPAs or beer with lots of extra flavors. So if that is your thing you would love this place. Cost for 2 entrees and drinks- $40 USD There are many many much cheaper places to eat in SA we just didn’t go there. We only had four days, our hotels provided breakfasts, and we packed our lunches so we were willing to splurge a bit.

Nelson Mandela beadwork at the airport
More Mr. Mandela

We spent 4 1/2 days in South Africa and 36 hours in airports or on a plane to get there. Africa is a big continent. It was a long and inconvenient trip but still worth it. We had a great time and our goals were met, lots of time together enjoying nature and good food. A couple of our friends have spent up to 2 weeks in Cape Town and I thought they were crazy, but having visited twice and still not having experienced and seen everything I hope to, I understand their choice more. Now we are packing for our family trip to Malawi and Kenya. We leave five days after returning home from South Africa. We have a pretty great life and are making the most of living in and seeing the huge continent of Africa.

One Comment

  1. Wow, what a great trip! Very well documented.

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