Robberg Nature Reserve

If you happen to make your way to Plettenburg Bay along the Garden Route in South Africa then I highly suggest you make a stop and walk around the Robberg Nature Reserve. It’s a nature reserve on a small peninsula extending from the oceanside town. The hike will take you about 2 hours if you go the shorter route and closer to 4 if you go all the way out. We opted for the shorter route after having done a 9km hike in the rain the previous day.

You’re in for some geological wonders, seals, sand dunes 100m above sea level and generally awesome views. Why are you still sitting there? Go do this hike!

We Saw Cheetahs Today!

I know my posts have been all over the place and things haven’t been in order. The first step is admitting I have a problem and it’s something I’m working on. But seriously, we saw some cheetahs today! Sure, they were in big cages, but pretty cool stuff nevertheless.

Viva La Residence! (Franschhoek)

I have to preface this post by saying that I hope you all get the chance to visit this place at some point in your life. Pretty amazing.

Last Friday night we (Reidruffs) headed to Franschhoek for some wine tasting and a night at the La Residence. A colleague of mine, Andrea, had mentioned that this place is amazing. She had firsthand experience given the fact that her boyfriend, Nick, works there. I was not skeptical and was really just looking forward to it.

Our arrival was greeted with 5+ smiling faces, waving hello to us as we drove through the gate. What? Upon alighting, a glass of bubbly wine was placed in our hands and the girls were given mini bouquets of flowers. I could get used to this. We were amazed at the decore and the scenery in front of us. Here’s what we saw:

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I believe I was asked to be pinched multiple times to wake up from the dream I was in. But wait, there’s more. Andrea had mentioned that we wouldn’t want to leave our rooms once we arrived and I believe she was right. Each room is uniquely decorated for the 40 max guests a night. Shan and I had the Armani room. The thing that is so unique about the place is not only the extravagance of the rooms, but the size of the bathroom as well. Again, I’ll let the pictures do the talking:
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We spent the rest of the day enjoying the pool, the scenery and a great dinner with our host, Evan. Please be sure and keep an eye out for Evan as he is full of wine knowledge. He made our dinner a memorable one. Thank you to Nick for arranging.
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Lunch in Heaven

I’m a big backlogged at the moment with my posts so I’ll try to fill you all in soon. So let’s start with Heaven.

A couple of weeks ago Shan and I made the decision to get out of town for the weekend and headed to Hermanus. It’s a great beach town and I’ll post some pics soon. On Saturday we headed out of the area and decided to check out the Newton Johnson winery per a recommendation of local.

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We stopped in for a wine tasting and lunch at their restaurant, Heaven. The scenery was great and the food was pretty good. I’m thinking the risotto is not their specialty so I suggest trying something else if you make the trip. All-in-all it’s a great place to stop and enjoy some wine for the day.

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Stellenbosch

Saturday kicked off the weekend in wine country. Destination: Stellenbosch. Mission: Drink and Be Merry.

Our friends, Tom and Gabby, came around our place at 11am and we headed off east. 45 minutes away and we were there. Yep, it’s that close. Can we please move here already? We checked into our Life & Leisure guesthouse and set off for food and wine. We stopped in Wijnhuis for lunch. Easily top 5 bread I’ve ever had in my life. I live for those moments where something is so good you can list it in your top 5. Probably why I like to travel so much.

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Post lunch was a stop by the Brampton Wine Studio for a tasting as we waited for our driver to arrive at 2pm. We were served our 3 wines slowly as the driver arrived. He honked. We acknowledged him. Tom got up and told him we were waiting on the bill and we’d be there in a minute. Literally a minute went by and the driver honked again. Mind you, we had arranged a private driver to take us to 4 wineries with no expectation of timing. What’s the rush? Turns out there were two others in the car and they were waiting on us. We got the bill, downed our final glass and we were off.

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First stop, Glenelly. A chic, modern building with an almost sterile feel to it. The wines were very good. The scenery was amazing.

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Next stop, Knorhoek. A nice secluded winery amongst some trees. Again, amazing place to spend an afternoon. They even have a guesthouse to stay in. Mental note. More wine was enjoyed despite a somewhat grumpy server. Tom and Gabby declared the cheap wine so tasty they bought a whole case for 250 Rand (roughly $30). More sober tastebuds may prove otherwise; however, I still declare it a steal.

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Next desired stop, Quoin Rock winery. I say desired because it was closed.

Next real stop, Meratie. No tasting, but they were happy to sell us a couple of bottles. Nice picnic tables with rolling hills of vineyards; ok!

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Next stop, Peter Faulk. I’m glad the other place was closed. Sure we were told they weren’t serving anymore, but cooler heads prevailed. Note to all you travelers, if they say it closes at 7pm, it actually closes at 6pm. I’m still failing to see the logic here, but nevertheless we were able to secure ourselves at least a full glass of wine. The joy of this place was the lawn full of giant bean bag cheds. Yep, it’s my new word: ched (chair + bed). Moving along. We enjoyed the sunset and view for about an hour and contemplated life and why we live in places that don’t look like this.

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I declared this day a success.

Our Journey to Cape Town

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Our journey to Cape Town consisted of the following:

  • Going to CVG 5 hours early in an attempt to catch the earlier flight to Boston
  • Why? We had a 30 min connection in Boston. Meaning, the plane would arrive at 6pm and our next flight left for Amsterdam at 6:30pm. This would officially leave us with 10 minutes to get off the plane and board the next before they closed their doors.
  • Did not catch the earlier flight to Boston and thus forced to return home. This was actually nice because it gave us some time to relax.
  • Return to CVG for our 4pm flight. Flight was delayed multiple times due to a redirected Boston flight that found its way into Cincinnati. As such, we didn’t depart until about 4:30pm. I know you’re all smart, but I’ll clarify anyway, this meant we would arrive at the time of our next flight’s departure. Ugh.
  • Check for next flight to Amsterdam. The next day at 6:30pm. Ugh Ugh.
  • During our flight from CVG to BOS we discovered that our free wifi was telling us that we had a slight chance to arrive before our flight left despite the delays. Why? 160mph tailwind. Our flight was only 1 hr 20 min which I believe is normally 2 hours.
  • We arrived in Boston. Shannon pushed us to the front of the plane so we would be the first ones off. A job well done.
  • We got off the plane at 6:25pm. ‘No way’ I said. The lady greeting us once the plane door open said ‘Yes way.’ She nicely asked us to RUN! Again fortune was on our side. The next flight literally left from the next gate.
  • Board our flight to Amsterdam at 6:30pm with 238 passengers glaring at us.
  • All this ended up being much ado about nothing because our flight didn’t leave from Boston until about 7pm. Why? The same strong tailwind was going to put us into Amsterdam 2 hours early which wasn’t allowed. Flight time was only about 6 hours. Sweet.
  • What was not so sweet. Captain came over the speaker half way into our flight asking everyone to sit down (including flight staff) due to extremely heavy turbulence. What could improve this? Boy who cried wolf. Smooth flight the whole way.
  • Nice break in Amsterdam to have smoothies and bread.
  • Next stop, Cape Town. 11 hours.

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Amboseli Safari Video

Jacob’s Magic in Magadi


Jacob having a little magic fun with the local children.

Safari Pictures Posted

I’ve finally managed to get through all of the safari pictures from Amboseli and the Masai Mara and posted them to my smugmug page. Enjoy!

The Masai Mara
http://photography.jbwoodruff.com/Travel/Kenya-2012/20121216-Masai-Mara/

Amboseli
http://photography.jbwoodruff.com/Travel/Kenya-2012/20121214-Amboseli/

Lake Naivasha
http://photography.jbwoodruff.com/Travel/Kenya-2012/20121208-Lake-Naivasha/

A Little Taste of the Masai Mara

There will be more pictures and stories to come, but I wanted to get these out before we headed out later today to go back home.

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The Flight that Almost Wasn’t

Apparently someone in the flight booking department didn’t want me to leave Kenya, because as of 30 minutes ago, I had no seat on a flight out of the country. I luckily checked my flights and found that this serious mistake had been made.

After 20 minutes on the phone I had been told that the original flight had been cancelled and I was now going to have to fly through Amsterdam, then to Paris and finally on to Cincinnati. I told them that Shannon’s flight had not been cancelled and was the same flight I was originally on. After 20 more minutes, they concluded that we were right and that I could get on the same Kenya Airways flight to Paris from Nairobi.

Next up was the seating, I did not have a seat even though I was originally next to Shannon. Another call and we’re all squared away.

Thank goodness calls to the U.S. are only 5 shillings a minute.

Weekend in Lake Naivasha / Mt Longonot Lodge

Shan and I decided to spend the weekend outside of Nairobi to enjoy neighboring Naivasha. Our goal was to enjoy Hells Gate National Park and see some hippos. What we got was so much more.

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We booked a night at the Mt. Longonot Lodge based on the notion that I thought it’d be cool to stay near an extinct volcano. Turned out to be a good thought. We were the only ones there. The place was built back around the second world war and turns out that Ernest Hemmingway’s 2nd wife lived there. I believe we actually stayed in her room.

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Our meals were served in a fashion that I can only explain as being a hollywood depiction of Africa. Table out in the grass, under the acacia tree, with a breathtaking view.

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The staff Klaus, Duncan and Kris were wonderful. Klaus is a 70 year old German gentleman who arrived just a couple of years ago to spend the rest of his years in what I consider a paradise.

We started the weekend with a trip to Hells Gate National Park for some bike riding. I’d been there before just a couple weeks prior, but had such an amazing time that I wanted to bring Shan. It did not disappoint. Our ride started with an approaching thunderstorm, but we threw caution to the wind and headed out. A little rain never stopped us. We saw zebra, warthogs, gazelle and even managed to see a herd of water buffalo (thankfully from a distance).

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We made our way to the gorge for a nice tour. Our guide Joseph decided that we were the adventurous type and we took the double black diamond way into the gorge on a rope. I was very proud of Shan as she hurried her way down as I was the one feeling timid. It was cool though as on my previous trip we avoided this way so we got to see a lot of new things. I couldn’t help but feel we were hurrying through our journey though. I later learned that Kenya was playing Uganda in soccer; it then made a lot of sense.

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Our return journey on the bikes presented us with the most amazing rainbow we both had ever seen.

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It also presented us with water buffalo just about 5o feet off the road. Having heard quite a few stories about the dangers of water buffalo we weren’t really sure what to do. We did what any clueless person would do and we proceeded and at quite a quick pace. The first group we encountered seemed to take a step toward us. We watched with held breath as we sped by. Phew. Then another group on the right. This group was startled and ran away. We escaped unscathed and with a good story. We certainly weren’t in any danger, but sure was an interesting moment. Just glad there weren’t any lions.

That evening we had an amazing dinner, bon fire and enjoyed the sky full of stars. We saw water buffalo and hyenas at the watering hole. I have to say that it was a great night sleep on a very comfortable bed.

The next morning we arranged to go out on a nature walk at 7am with a Masai guide. Nothing like walking in the bush of Kenya. The sound of a herd of gazelle running is quite an amazing sound that I hope you all can experience some day.

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Breakfast was ready for us when we returned and in their amazing fashion was situated again in the grass land outside the building. I’ve really never felt so relaxed.

It was a good thing because what came next was a boat ride to see Africa’s most dangerous animal, the hippo. This boat ride was amazing on Lake Naivasha. We saw hundreds of birds and dozens of hippos. I can recommend this trip to anyone.

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Our return trip found me driving Klaus’s 25 year old Land Rover Defender through the fields of the ranch in pursuit of 3 ostrich. I think this weekend was a perpetual dream to me as I kept feeling like I needed to pitch myself. Truly an amazing two days.

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The trip was capped off with another amazing meal on the porch of the lodge as a rain storm came in. It was chilly and great weather for a nap, which I happily obliged myself with.

Me and the Acrowbats on Diani Beach

Yes, I know acrowbats isn’t spelled correctly. It was what they call themselves.

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The Mombasa Ferry

When I arrived in Mombasa this weekend I really had no idea where I was going. I know that I needed to head south to Diani and that was about it. The cab driver dropped me off and told me to walk ‘that direction,’ very helpful. I found myself walking upstream with a few hundred people coming my way, making their way into Mombasa. I later found out that they had just alighted from the ferry.

I made it to the ferry waiting area just in time for the waterfall that fell out of the sky. It rains here unlike anywhere else I’ve ever been. I waited for about an hour for Jacob to get there from his bus trip. I opted for flight.

After some time we eventually got onboard. The reason I’m writing at all was a realization that I had regarding news I sometimes have read. You hear about hundreds of people dying as a result of a ferry sinking.

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Now it makes sense. They pack these things with people and send them on their way. Fortunately, the crossing in Mombasa is relatively short and the ferries seem to be in good shape. It certainly was an experience.

Lake Magadi: I’ll Finish Now

In the interest of sharing the rest of the tale, I’m going to try and tell the rest of the story now. It might be long.

We left the waterfall and made our way back down the mountain. It was a fairly long way down and we were all pretty tired. Great views though.

That night I made the decision to stay at the camp with Nikolai, Martin and Jacob. The campsite was about 10 minutes outside of town with a nice mango tree above it and a common area for cooking and eating. It rained, but we had a great time watching the baboons in the mango tree above our tent.

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We were trying to think of innovative ways to get our beer cold which involved us putting it in a small stream near the campsite (didn’t’ really work). We cooked some snobroed that night which is essentially flour, water and salt dough wrapped around a stick. It’s apparently a very danish thing to do; it’s their version of smores. We even taught the masai guard how to make it; he was pretty good at it.

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The 4 of us slept in a tent that night as the baboons continued to throw their mango seeds down on us. I woke up around midnight and had to pee really badly. The only problem is that I knew that the previous day there had been a leopard and a spitting cobra in the camp. Next problem, it was pick black outside and I mean pitch black, no light. I grabbed my flashlight and headed out. A little different than worrying about meth heads at night in Adams county.

We woke up the next morning and headed out for a baboon walk. We had a guided walk to go learn about and see baboons. It was pretty cool and the guide was very knowledgeable.

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Next up was our trip to the hot springs. We didn’t take the normal road this time and our guide insisted that he knew the way. This was quite the experience as we drove across the Kenyan savanna. I can’t really explain it other than by saying that seeing this all from the roof of a 1970s landcruiser at high noon was other worldly and felt like we were back in time. Did I mention it was hot? The car was acting up a bit and sputtering all the way and I couldn’t help but feel a little helpless knowing that our water supply was kind of low and we seemed to be heading to the middle of nowhere. It’s interesting being at the equator at noon as your shadow disappears below you.

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Eventually we arrived at the southern part of lake magadi. The flamingos were back and we were at the hot springs. This area was a little like the skeleton coast of namibia, but smaller. We got out of the car, guys got our suits on and we headed into the water. I was the first in and let’s just say the water was a little hot. Much hotter than a hot tub and much stinkier with the sulfur. Very awesome experience though as I slid my way into one of the pools and enjoyed the bubbling water around me…for about one minute until I was cooked.

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We had lunch. I met some masai women who were selling their jewelry. They seemed to appear out of nowhere once they heard the car coming.

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Now was our time to head home. We got about 10 minutes away and the car died. Flat out died. We pushed it, trying to jump start the thing and no dice. We apparently got some water on something that didn’t like it. We spent the next hour waiting, contemplating how we’d die, measuring our water and realizing we didn’t have more than a liter between 7 people. Uh oh. Good news, we could see the Magadi soda plant and we had plenty of battery in our mobile phones.

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After an hour, we tried the car again. Success!!!

Talk about feeling kind of helpless in a tough moment. I knew we weren’t going to die, but definitely made me feel pretty uncomfortable for a bit there. Bad news, we were still about 6 hours away from Nairobi.

We got back into Magadi. I immediately bought a couple cold drinks. Funny how you go a couple of days in hot weather and forget how nice cold drinks are. Before I go on, we noticed something very interesting when we arrive in Magadi. There was a ‘golf course’ that clearly has long since been taken care of and very dry. Not sure if people still golf on it, but got a great picture I’ll share. As we got into the town, school was letting out. The strange thing about this was that every kid had their own bicycle. Clearly the town is doing pretty well from the factory. They even had a community swimming pool.

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Our trip back is easy to explain. We made it; barely. It got dark soon after on our way back. The car sputtered the whole time with clear issues in the fuel system. It started to rain a lot. Clouds covered the mountains we went through. Traffic was bad. It was quite the stressful trip and made me realize how important having a reliable car is, how much we overlook the fact we have good roads, traffic laws, etc. in the U.S. The guys spent hours singing any and all songs they knew; I put in my headphones.

For all of the pics from the trip, here’s the link: http://photography.jbwoodruff.com/Travel/Kenya-2012/201210LakeMagadi/

Diani Beach Wailres Acrowbats

I keep planning on writing about my trip to the coast this past weekend, but work and events keep getting in the way.  In the meantime, here’s a shot I captured on Sunday while on the beach.

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Lake Magadi: The Waterfall

The whole reason we really wanted to hike that day was to visit a waterfall and do some swimming.  As I relayed before, we paid a little more to get the chance to see the waterfall without knowing if we could even reach the falls.  Our guide, James, mentioned a cliff we would need to climb down.  He was mostly right about this.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any pics, but it was very steep and the rocks were very loose.  I was the guinea pig to go down first.  It really wasn’t too bad.  I actually had a lot of fun.

This is the sight that greeted me at the bottom.

We took a refreshing dip.  Mouths closed.  No peeing in the water.

Lunch spot.

Nice view under the waterfall.

Cool dragonfly.

A real jungle scene.

View from the top of another waterfall.  This one was a little bigger at about 200 ft.  You can see Jacob on the left.

Lake Magadi: The Hike

One of the biggest planned activities while in Ngurumani was to hike up in the mountains in the surrounding area. We set out around 8 in the morning for a 3 hour tour, a 3 hour tour.

Our primary goal in the hike was to stop at a waterfall at the top. It was probably a 7 or 8 mile hike with a 3000 foot vertical up and 3000 down. It was a pretty hard hike. We passed many Masai who actually live at the top of the mountain and have to do the trek many times a week for food and other stuff. Unreal seeing these old women carrying 50 pounds of supplies up the mountain with no shoes and a strap around their head to hold the bag.

Martin and Diana taking a break on the way up.

Once we got to the top we were greeted by a Masai man who insisted we pay 500 Ksh (~6$) a person to go visit the waterfall. We had already paid the conservation fee to our guide and now we had to pay another. I believe it was mazungu tax. After much discussion we paid 1000Ksh for our group and were on our way down the cliffside.

Big dust devil in the distance near Lake Magadi.

Not many Masai appreciate being photographed.  This boy really wanted me to take his picture.

 

Lake Magadi: The Guest House

A quick post, but thought I’d share where I stayed the first night in Ngurumani.  The toilet had a shower head over it; great for multi-tasking.  Large spiders littered the room, but I was grateful of their mosie-killing abilities. Kenyan pancakes are great with Nutella.

Lake Magadi

Our adventure this weekend revolved around Lake Magadi.  To quote Wikipedia, it is the southern most lake in the Kenyan Rift Valley.  The lake is 80% soda ash and is highly alkaline.  This makes it a perfect place for flamingos.

The first thing we noticed when we arrived in town was a giant factory.  This is home to the Magadi Soda Company, which is now owned by the Indian Company, Tata.  The town had a swimming pool so it was clear that the factory’s presence has allowed the town to prosper.

I unfortunately didn’t get any great pictures of the actual soda ash, but image a giant lake full of grey mashed potatoes.  That’s pretty much it.

The car did not break down in Magadi; however, we were in need of fuel and the town was all out.  Apparently the next truck with petrol wasn’t due in until Monday.  Crossed our fingers that they would have fuel in Ngurumani, our ultimate destination.

Here are some pics from the area.  I’ll have more later in a related post for our return trip home.