Sunday 29 January 2012

WT - Cape Town


We only had two nights in Cape Town but what a beautiful city particularly the western suburbs. Our first day was a bit of a nightmare having arrived at the outskirts of Cape Town during the evening peak hour traffic and at the wrong location (correct address but wrong suburb) and wondering what the heck I had booked us into since we were in a very seedy neighborhood. Once we made some adjustments to the Garmin, we arrived at a very stylish address in the tourist area. The hotel didn't look like much but The Hyde at Sea Point is ultra modern luxury where it counts - the suites (at a reasonable price - the name is not Rockefeller after all as Dad keeps reminding me when I spend more than ZAR2.80 on an ice-cream for him).

We have become quite accustomed to the 'City Tours' red double deckers that we have found in almost every city that we have visited. Cape Town is no exception and we made use of the 'hop on - hop off' policy to enjoy all the sights which came with head sets for the audio tour. Part of the tour included cable car ride up to the top of 'Table Mountain' but unfortunately when we got to the cable car services had been suspended for safety due to strong winds and thermals. Although a little dissapointed at not getting to stand on the top we had a fantastic time. (Little did I know the next 48 hours were going to be a nightmare of my own doing for the most part in two parts).

That night Guy called to advise us that Danny had had a head on collision on his way home. Another vehicle had veered onto his side of the road with a drunk behind the wheel and whilst Danny was uninjured, the car we had helped him purchase was pretty well totalled. The other driver had managed to get his car going and fled the scene but Danny had his vehicle registration which he passed to the police. We are just so grateful that Danny is okay, the rest can be sorted eventually.

Part one;

Later that day we were in town trying to find a camera store/service centre in order to have Ronnie's Nikon looked at since it had started playing up quite a bit. We would need some cash and we were passing an ABSA bank in the Mall with ATM's in a foyer area so I asked Ronnie to wait a moment while I drew out some funds. There were two guys using ATM's and the third was free as a guy was just leaving the machine and appeared to be leaving with his drawings. As is my custom I check the machine for added devices even though the bank was still open for trade. Everything went well until I was about to leave, my cash was in my wallet and all of a sudden one of these guys leans over and grabs my card whilst offering to help me close the account which is open. He palms the card but I missed that and believed that the guy is just a helpful buffoon who had shoved my card back in the machine. Now it seemed that I could not get the card back while another guy advises me that I need to press 'zero, my pin and cancel' in order to release the card - stupidly I give it a go with my hand covering the pin entry.

Unbeknown to me a third guy was crouching down watching while number two was repeating himself and number one was advising me to go into the bank to get my card back - then they were gone and two ladies advised me that I had been robbed after these three had ushered them out in order to roll someone (me). I immediately called my bank and cancelled the card... or so I thought (the lass I spoke to even asked if I needed emergency funds from Visa to which I replied "No, I have my Business Card - I'll simply replace the funds when I get home and get a new card"). I was to find out three days later that although my request was on record the card was not cancelled but internet banking had been suspended. In the meantime I tried to report this incident to ABSA bank staff as they were closing and they simply ushered me from the building so that they could lock the doors - not interested, I should come back the next day. I said I would be leaving for Singapore as the door shut in my face and locked.

A young security guard working the Mall overheard me and took a statement and did his best to assist but I assumed that everything was under control. The incident had taken about 30 seconds and about 2 minutes later I had cancelled the card, they didn't have my pin as I had covered up. That's when Ronnie who had been outside says she saw this guy crouch down while I was at the ATM. Okay still maybe no big deal it's a debit card, it's been cancelled "lets get back to the hotel and check online", I said. On doing this we found that the account was frozen but still had our funds - (I was going to transfer the funds to another account as an added precaution - "over precaution, account is suspended - that will do" I thought). The day after we arrived in Singapore I went to pay for some goods with the Business Visa Debit card and was very surprised to have the transaction denied. I immediately checked in an ATM and found the card had been cancelled - "Blooming heck, they've cancelled the wrong card!" I said to Ronnie. (We managed to settle the purchase with pooled resources but that left us in a really bad position).

We made our way back to the hotel and checked online while ringing the bank. The Personal account showed a balance of several hundreds in un-cleared funds. The bank confirmed that a request had been received and that all the security questions had been checked but for some reason the card had not been cancelled and yes they could see repeated withdrawal transactions on the 25, 26 & 27. No there were actually no un-cleared funds, the account actually had a zero balance. I asked to check the Business card and was advised that it was still active too and would I like to cancel it as well.... what do you say! It was then suggested that Visa could advance me $5K if I transferred the money from the business account to my personal account - which had been drawn down from less than an hour ago... not flipping likely!!

Thanks to Michelle (our good friend and admin manager) who physically transferred funds to an old bank account that I had not closed prior to leaving on holiday - Ronnie has a card and I could split the funds between some old accounts to ensure that not all the eggs are in one basket.

Part two;

Our last night in Cape Town I couldn't sleep very well, probably due to anger at myself for being robbed so easily.  At about 04:30 I gave up trying to sleep and decided to prepare for our flight to Singapore. I pulled out the ticket's and double checked flight number, airline, departure time and ......... what the? Departing from JHB! "No that's not right I specifically asked for Cape Town and was assured that there would be no problem.... how did I miss this for crying out loud?....I've handled these tickets so much that they are falling apart but I missed this!! We are in the wrong city and our flight leaves in 10 hours... BUGGER!" I thought.

Okay, I had to stay calm - "don't panic" I told myself, "put the kettle on and have a cuppa while I consider our options". I did just that and realised that there were several options but the quickest and easiest would be to get to JHB to put everything back on track. I then woke Bonnie Ronnie "We have a problem" I said as I woke her with a cup of tea in my other hand. "What now!" she says. "Here, drink your tea... I have a solution but first, our flight doesn't leave from here, it leaves from JHB" I replied. "What? Why?" she exclaimed. I explained that I had already tried to resolve the issue online, not enough time and the Singapore ticket office wouldn't be open till at least 08:30 which would start to cut things a bit fine. We need to pack immediately and go to the airport and see if we could get a flight to JHB, failing that we could look at changing our flight or postponing.

We packed up, using a bathroom scale we found that we would be about 12kg overweight - nothing to do now but bite the bullet. We managed to find two seats on a British Airways flight which would get us into JHB at about 11:30. Plenty of time for our Singapore flight at 14:30 providing there were no delays....given the last 24 hours... The excess would cost us ZAR40.00 per kg but we were able to negotiate the purchase of additional baggage allowance for ZAR350.00 which was a heck of a savings. Fortunately all went well and we arrived in JHB on time, collected our baggage and checked it, in record time. We had 30 minutes to ourselves so grabbed some Brunch - pheew!

I leave you all with some photo's of beautiful Cape Town, visit if you can but remember you are not safe at an ATM, even in the ABSA bank while it is open for trade.


Friday 27 January 2012

WT - Garden Route

After a wonderful stay at Port Elizabeth we made a late start to our drive through the Eastern Cape's Garden Route with particular focus on a stop at or near Jeffreys Bay (just for you Chantel.... no just kidding we were going to check out your home town anyway).

We stopped at Sea View Lion Park to add the cats to our 'Big 5' viewing list and thoroughly enjoyed seeing all the wild life, some nice pics taken of a variety of  wildlife before making our way to the Lions enclosures. We were able to see Lion and Tiger. We then stopped in at the Kiosk and Admin building. We found that we had an opportunity to interact with Serval, Lion and Tiger cubs. An opportunity that obviously would not present again in a hurry so we jumped at it and booked all three species for both of us.

The volunteer handlers took us into the Serval pen first and instructed us not to make any sudden movements of too much noise, also to avoid touching the face or ears of the cubs. Well!... within seconds of us entering, Ronnie bent to stroke one of the cats (the male) and the female next to it took a swipe at Ronnie providing her with one puncture and two little scratches. Ronnie moved her arm like lightning and while the volunteers exclaimed that nothing like this had ever happened before... the female cat had come around to lay near me and seemed quite okay. I was filming and not posing a threat when suddenly the female Serval cub started clawing my camera arm. I'm still not sure if she thought I was a clawing post or if she wanted a light snack but once she bared her teeth in a snarl, it was time to leave. I am on a lot of medication to thin the blood which means that I bleed like the proverbial stuck pig and things look far worse than they actually are.

So there I was with claret running from half a dozen punctures and scratches, looking as though I had just tried to steal the cats lunch by disguising it as the semblance of an arm.. trying not to drip on anyone while I made my way to the men's room so that I could wash the wounds and stop the bleeding. While other visitors were trying to avoid contact with my claret, I was trying to retain as much as possible since I've become quite partial to it of late. I succeeded - yay!!

That was it for Ronnie however, "NO! Absolutely no way! We are certainly NOT going into the other cub's enclosures!" exclaimed Ronnie when I suggested we were ready to continue. "You just DO NOT KNOW WHEN TO STOP!.. DO YOU?" she screamed at me, on the verge of hysteria. I knew better than to say a word as she stormed off "I'm going to the ladies!" she stated. She was gone quite a while, I just sat quietly waiting for her return (If you have ever met 'Angry Ronnie' you will understand that there is no messing with 'Furious Ronnie'). Suddenly she was back with some disinfectant salve on a gauze pack and went about fussing and clucking like an old mother chook (Aussie slang for 'mother hen') as she took care of my wounds. Apparently one of the young volunteers told Ronnie that there was no possibility of an infection....bad move, it was after copping both barrels that the salve was produced... poor girl. We donated our tickets to the protection and preservation of Africa's wildlife before hitting the road once again.

Jeffreys Bay is everything Chantel said it would be and more. We took a drive around the town and then made our way the main beach and I had a swim while Ronnie paddled. We both thought that the sea salt in the water would help the wounds heal quickly. We were both pretty hungry after the events of the day and decided that we needed a feed at one of the beachside cafe's and somewhere to rest our weary heads. Once we had eaten we set about looking for a bed for the night and also a Vodacom shop to renew our  pre-paid data pack. I'm using about 40GB per month and that can be pretty expensive here in SA at almost R1,000 per GB. Fortunately I've been able to take advantage of some Christmas specials at R400 per 20GB.

We found the Vodacom shop as it closed, we would have to come back or look for another along the way so we decided to look for a bed in St Francis Bay or Cape St Francis. We met a wonderful young couple running a tidy little B&B as we entered St Francis so we booked in for the night and went for a walk along the beach and lost track of time watching the sun set on such a lovely warm sultry evening. I love the way the light reflects on the wet sand and took some photos as a memento, not that we have a shortage of photos. It was around 10pm before we got back to our bungalow, for a hot bath. I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

The next morning we had to deal with a few messages from solicitors in relation to the business sale which delayed us somewhat. Surprise! Surprise! the unsubstantiated claims of revenue loss due to my actions remain unsubstantiated. Prompt, full disclosure is what is required under the contract and almost two months is hardly prompt. A breach of the contract? I think so, could be a whole new ballgame! Anyway we would prefer a nice relaxed holiday free of this added stress and time consuming nonsense - we are thinking of compensation now.

We managed to get away at about 10am and headed first to Cape St Francis and the Penguin Refuge there. After a little while exploring and enjoying a makeshift brunch at a local cafe we headed back to Jeffreys Bay and the Vodacom store where we purchased another 5GB data pack. Next stop Tsitsikamma National Park.

This route is not called the Garden Route for nothing, there are so many sites to see and things to do in every direction along the way. Wish I were a few years younger with a little more time on my hands, if it's action adventure you want then this is the place for it. Mountain climbing to riding wild rapids with a whole lot more  in-between. Bonnie Ronnie and I settled for a bush walk among a few other more sedate activities, to visit some very old tree's after crossing a bridge in both directions. Me teasing the heck out of Ronnie about Africa's maintenance programs, needles to say I had to practically drag her back over the bridge. Poor Ronnie was feeling the heat and a bit pooped by the time we got to the old tree so to give her an energy boost I suggested she keep an eye out for some of the abundant snakes..., we were back at the car in no time at all.

At Stormsriver we came across a 1950's Rockabilly Centre called 'Stuck in the 50's' with tributes to all the greats of that era and in particular Elvis, made Ronnie's day and I was forgiven my earlier cruelty. They made the best Banana Split I have ever had and the kids in the next booth pestered their Dad till he relented and sprung for the R40.00 extravaganza... wonder if our ooohhing and aaahhing had anything to do with it.

Next we stopped in picaresque Knysna to visit some Elephant at the Knysna Elephant Reserve. I inquired about a tour and we were advised of an imminent riding and feeding opportunity that I was keen to try but Ronnie was dead against any activity that would bring us within cooee (Aussie slang for within shouting distance) of another wild African beastie (Ronnie would later go on to deny this and state that she had misheard the time as 18:30 instead of 15:30). Pity - but that was that for the elephant, we didn't even get to see a live one and they are our favorite African animal. From there it was a quick refuel and on to Mossel Bay with a quick stop at possibly one of the most beautiful towns along the route, Plettenburg Bay.

I really wanted to see a bit of the history in Mossel Bay and my wish was granted. First things first though,  we checked into 'The Point Hotel' which is literally on the point and our suite on the fourth floor was one level above the ground ensuring that we had sea mist on the balcony (and in the room id we left the door open) as the waves broke on the rocks almost directly below us, you have to see the pic's, unbelievably beautiful although a little noisy in the middle of the night (crashing waves). We had caves and lighthouse up to our right and restaurants and bathing area protected by the rocks down to our left - Awesome! Of course we went up to explore the caves and then down for a swim till quite late that evening.., absolute heaven!

The next morning after an early but very lazy start we made our way to the Maritime Museum where we had the opportunity to board the Bartholomew Diaz replica ship, named after it's master. Now those guys were real adventurer's when you see their living conditions you gain a new respect for those early explorers... no 'Garmin GPS navigators, laptops or iphones for the crews about to sail off the end of the earth... just an adventurist spirit, common sense, guts and determination (sadly lacking today). It was raining quite heavily at the time so we didn't stick around to check out the original outdoor 'Tree' post office.

The drive was interesting to say the least, winding slippery mountain passes in blinding rain is a challenge at the best of times, throw in some South African 'Taxi' (Chova chova) drivers and it becomes downright deadly - SA road death figure for December was over 1000. South Africa is no different to Australia when it comes to speed camera revenue raising, using the argument that there are not enough Police and that those resources are better used in fighting crime etc etc.... however more and more South African drivers are simply removing their registration plates for long journeys and then drive at ridiculous irresponsible speeds and although I saw a large number of police I never once saw them doing anything other than sleeping, congregating or operating radar. I did have the opportunity to witness one "Road Traffic Police' vehicle overtake an overtaking vehicle on a dual carriageway blind rise left hand bend with double white lines clearly visible (no lights or sirens as he was just part of the traffic). If this is the example set, what hope is there? The minister for transport is suggesting new laws and powers to cancel licences on the spot, not much point in my opinion if current law is not being enforced. One needs to actually have a drivers licence in order for it to be cancelled I would think, so this would be a bit like putting the cart before the horse.

Anyway, the weather cleared as we approached Cape Town and we had magnificent views from the top of the pass. A very beautiful city indeed.

Female strikes as Ronnie pets the male - see the paw on the bracelet.
A few seconds before the attack on me, she seems fine.
cub wounds after the clean up
Ronnie's cub wounds.