Monthly Archives: December 2011

The World vs. the Southern Cross

The World vs. the Southern Cross
It's really a no-brainer, the Southern Cross wins hands-down. Who would want to sail around the world aboard The World anyway?!

Okay, I'm kidding, and so I'll just put it out there that if someone has a cabin aboard The World that they'd like to entrust to us for a while, I sure wouldn't turn it down. :)

The World – the largest privately-owned yacht

The World - the largest privately-owned yacht
The World, currently moored outside of the Table Bay hotel, is reportedly the largest privately-owned luxury yacht. She has only 165 cabins that are privately-owned - which means that you can't just go to a travel agent to book a trip.

Assuming that you have the cash, and the time to spend doing pretty much nothing at all, wouldn't it be awesome to own a cabin aboard this beauty?

A trip on the Waterfront’s Steamboat Vicky

A trip on the Waterfront's Steamboat Vicky
While waiting for Steamboat Vicky to dock at the V&A Waterfront I noticed that she appeared to be having trouble motoring against the wind, towards the jetty. She then slowly started drifting out of the yacht basin towards the Clock Tower and Victoria basin. The ground crew disappeared without trace and for about 15 minutes we waited for her to return, silently regretting purchasing tickets.

Steamboat Vicky eventually returned to the jetty empty. It appeared as though she's dropped her passengers off elsewhere to lighten her load for the return trip to her home jetty. According to the skipper they were having trouble with the 100-year-plus steam engine's water pump... and I guess you can imagine that a steamboat without a water pump is more of a boat, less of a steamboat. :)

We started the extremely slow trip around the harbour (according to the skipper the boat has two speeds, slow and stop). The trip lasted about half an hour - and in the next few posts I'll share a few photos that I took of other boats in the Victoria and Alfred basins.

If you decide to take a trip on Steamboat Vicky, I'd advise against sitting in front. During the trip I nervously kept an eye on the uncomfortably-hot flames that were leaping out from under the boiler only 50cm away from my ankle. Also, don't take a trip on a very windy day - the skipper had plenty of engine trouble trying to get old Vicky back to her jetty, and eventually dropped us off at a spot close to the Clock Tower.

African statue art

African statue art
We found these babies outside a shop in a side street (perhaps close to Shortmarket Street) in Cape Town. Stupidly I forgot to check the address, so I'm afraid you'll have to tour around the city center looking for the statues - that's if you'd like to find the store.

I wasn't sure if the grim-looking proprietor was happy for us to take photos so I moved our party along leaving him to assume that we were foreign tourists. :)

The girl with the green umbrella

Woman with the green umbrella
I shot the photo on Thursday - our last rainy day for a week or more it seems! The image reminded me of a movie that I saw a year or two ago in which the lead actress wrote a newspaper column under the name The Girl in the Green Scarf.

This perhaps isn't the most appropriate photo for 25 December, given that much of South Africa celebrated Christmas - sorry about that. :) Still though, if you also celebrated Christmas, I hope that you had a peaceful day, commemorating the occasion with those you love.

Bike in the rain

Bike in the rain
I've been posting photos of the beautiful summer weather that we've been having. For the past few weeks we've had a few days of warm weather followed by cold wet weather, followed by more warm summer days, followed by cloudy-rainy-windy weather.

I took today's photo two days ago - a very wet Thursday afternoon in Cape Town. The day started off cloudy with intermittent spots of sun. It then started drizzling a little, cleared up a little, and then rained down extremely wet and furry cats and dogs.

I think this bike's owner was hiding out in the coffee shop to the right of this pic. :)

You shouldn’t obey all traffic signs

Bent one-way arrow sign
One should normally obey traffic signs - but not this kind of one, ok?

It's annoying that some people find it necessary to vandalise signs without any apparent reason. I thought of trying to pull it straight, but then considered that a passing police officer may not realise that I wasn't the one who bent it... and I'm really not keen on prison cells - they're far too smelly. ;)

The Purple Turtle in Long Street

The Purple Turtle in Cape Town
The Purple Turtle is the building on the right - naturally. :) The bar was extremely popular about 10 years ago, and while I never actually visited I know plenty of people who were absolute regulars.

While the venue still seems very popular, I can't say that I know anyone who still goes there. I've since read reports on the web of how The Purple Turtle has lost its character, and even of how patrons have started feeling unsafe.

Have you visited The Purple Turtle recently? Do you love it? Hate it? Please leave a comment to tell us why it's awesome - or why it's not so awesome.

Girl-friends at the beach

Girl-friends at the beach
If you visit Camps Bay beach and find lying down on the sand uncomfortable and the scorching sun too hot to bear, you can hire one of those branded umbrellas or deck-chairs in the background of this photo. It'll cost you R25 for an umbrella and R50 per deck-chair irrespective if you're on the beach for 30 minutes or the whole day.

Imagine being an alien…

Camps Bay beach
We're burned by the sun, we easily dehydrate, and may at times get mild sunstroke - but yet we still choose to leave our dwellings and congregate next to large bodies of undrinkable water. We don't do too much for the most part; we lie on the sand, stand in the water, and sometimes swim or body surf.

Imagine being an alien and arriving at earth to observe our race. Assuming that (a) aliens exist, and (b) their world doesn't have the concept perfect beach weather, wouldn't our practice of spending time at the beach look kinda odd?

Hit the beach early!

Hit the beach early!
Camps Bay's busy season is in full swing. The beaches fill up quickly, the roads get congested early, and parking becomes about as scarce as friendly supermarket cashiers at Christmas time.

You may agree that these are great reasons to get to the beach super early - like before 9am! While the reasons I mention are good ones the best reason of all is that it's a good idea to get your naked skin out of the sun between 11am and 4pm.

It's easy to forget that our sun is more harsh these days than it was 10 or 15 years ago. I remember as a kid not having to pay as much attention to the sun's ravaging rays; I guess the scientists who made such a big thing of the depletion of the atmosphere's ozone layer had a point. :(

I'm not partial to leathery skin, I don't relish the thought of skin cancer, and I kinda like the look of untanned skin - which is why I always use SPF30+ sunscreen when spending time outdoors. If you don't already, it's probably a good idea for you to do the same. :)

It’s the sweetie man coming

It's the sweetie man coming
This photo, taken at Cravings Delicatessen in Sea Point, reminded me of the reality-type movie District 9, shot in Johannesburg.

The scene below shows the main character entering the home of an alien who's been suspected of criminal activity. I have the idea that one has to have grown up in South Africa to appreciate the humour, but I'd be interested to know if folk who have not grown up here find the scene amusing.

N****r balls. Really? What were we thinking?

N****r balls. Really? What were we thinking?
Edit: I wrote this post about 7 years ago. Recently I've learned that seeing the n-word typed out in full is triggering for many people, regardless of the context in which it appears. For that reason this edit redacts the word.

I guess it's no surprise that we no longer call these black sweets N****r Balls.

As a kid I was oblivious to the fact that the name given to these could be derogatory - I'd never linked the name to the obvious connotation, and I suspect that the same was true for most people (or kids at least) back then. Today they're simply called Black Balls, which I guess is a less objectionable name.

The word "n****r" has never been a commonly-used term in South Africa. We have our own set of offensive terms that have for many years now been considered unacceptable.

Picnic at the beach with Cravings Delicatessen

Picnic at the beach

We're definitely not into preparing our own picnic baskets - you could say that we're a little lazy that way. ;)  So I guess you'd understand why, when Cravings Delicatessen offered us a complimentary pick-'n-choose style picnic, we naturally couldn't refuse!

We placed our order beforehand, and arrived at Cravings in Sea Point (map) at about nine-thirty; that gave us time to enjoy a cappuccino first before grabbing our breakfast picnic bag and heading down to the warm and windless Camps Bay beach. I hired a beach umbrella from one of the local operators (the best R25 that I've spent in a while) and quickly unpacked the coolerbag, while Kerry-Anne munched some yummy biltong, which her taste-savvy nose had ferreted out from among the treats packed in by Cravings.

Included in our bag of goodies was the best home-made ground chicken burger that I've ever tasted (seriously), a huge wrap that was absolutely stuffed with fresh salmon, a cheese and jam croissant, one family-sized bowl of yummy frozen yoghurt (made from plain Bulgarian yoghurt), a protein shake, a mixed fruit smoothie, dried mango strips, a packet of hot-air-roasted nuts and the bag of much-appreciated biltong (which you may be interested to know is indeed halaal!).

Cravings focuses on good, healthy food; they have a fairly large variety to choose from, so visit their website for the complete menu and price-list. They supply a light-weight cooler-bag for which they hold a R120 refundable deposit. Disposable cutlery and paper napkins are included in the bag, but do remember to bring your own blanket (or towels if you intend heading to the beach).

A long-standing reputation of “Excellence in Maturation”

A long-standing reputation of Excellence in Maturation
Cape Town's history of wine-making started way back when Jan van Riebeeck (the first Commander of the Cape) brought the first vines to our beautiful part of Africa.

Some 200 years after this, in 1845, Jan van Ryn left Holland, landed in Cape Town, and opened a bottle store in the suburb of Rondebosch. The bottle store eventually evolved into the Van Ryn Wine & Spirit Company, whose name you can see on this 100+ year-old bottle of Harvest Brandy!

In 1884 Van Ryn's won their first international award; over the years they've won many more, including two gold awards for their 20-year-old Collector's Reserve and another two golds for their 15-year-old Fine Cask Reserve, in 2011.

Brandy tasting at Van Ryn’s

Brandy tasting at Van Ryn's

Our visit to Van Ryn's (map) was not only our first visit to a brandy distillery, but also the first brandy tasting that Kerry-Anne or I had ever attended - and I have to say that it was superb.

The Van Ryn's website lists several tasting options, and we had the pleasure of the Florentine Tasting, which I highly recommend. The Florentine presents four brandies, a 5-, 12-, 15- and (ultra-smooth) 20-year-old, all paired with delicate florentines (see the first photo below).

Jean, our taste-master, started off by explaining how you're supposed to cup the glass in your hand to transfer a little heat into the golden liquid. She then explained how you gently introduce the aroma to your nose, before taking the first sip and appreciating the refined liquid for the gold it is.

The atmosphere was sophisticated yet relaxed, and the personal attention - which allowed us to ask plenty of questions - was great. Van Ryn's looks pretty understated from the road, but once you're inside the complex you'll be surprised to see just how beautiful the buildings and gardens are. And besides, it's so close to Stellenbosch that it's a shame not to pop in for the short tour and tasting!

A cooper, a barrel, and lot of brandy

A cooper, a barrel, and a lot of brandy
We arrived at Van Ryn's brandy distillery at 11h30, just in time to join the second group of the day for a short tour before our eagerly-anticipated tasting.

Jean, our guide, took our little group through to the distillation room where she explained the process by which wine is turned to brandy. We then moved though to the room shown in this photo where Neville Ebrahim, a seasoned cooper, demonstrated the process by which barrels used to be made.

In this photo Oom (Uncle) Ebrahim was showing us how coopers used to shape staves that form the brandy barrels. His demonstration was certainly a highlight of our visit to Van Ryn's - I'd encourage you to take a tour if only to see Oom Ebrahim in action. :)

Tours start at 10h00, 11h30 and 15h00 on week days except for Sundays and public holidays when the last tour is given at 13h00. Visit Van Ryn's website for more information about the tastings and tours.

Van Ryn’s, one of Cape Town’s finest brandy distilleries

Van Ryn's, one of Cape Town's finest brandy distilleries
Every time that I visit the well-known Spier Estate in Stellenbosch I drive past the huge Van Ryn's sign inviting passers-by to a brandy tasting experience at the distillery (map).

After years of rushing past the sign and making mental notes to pay them a visit, we finally managed to get it together and organised a brandy-tasting outing. I'm normally more inclined to drink whiskey rather than brandy, but I have to admit that our visit to Van Ryn's and to pleasure of an ultra-smooth 20-year-old gliding over my tongue may just have swayed me! :)

Fast food at Ratanga Junction

Fast food at Ratanga Junction
I've sung Ratanga Junction's praises in my last two posts - so to add some balance to the mix I thought I'd express my opinion about the food outlets trading in the theme park.

As with any theme park, I guess, one's not allowed to bring food or drinks into the park - which means that the park's able to charge a premium for food that's not of a particular high quality. The situation basically feels to me like: "eat what there is and pay our price, or starve".

Now, I guess I should confess that I haven't visited Ratanga on a normal-operating day for a couple of years, so it's possible that I wouldn't feel as ripped off and dissatisfied as I did those years back. It's also possible that folk who love greasy fast food wouldn't mind paying premium to enjoy lunch in "The wildest place in Africa".

What's your experience of Ratanga Junction's catering been? How about similar theme parks? Am I being silly, are they all pretty much the same?

Theme parks!

Theme parks!
Most people, when asked which ride they love most at Ratanga Junction, will answer "The Cobra" (the big rollercoaster that you're able to see, sticking out like a sore thumb, when driving past along the N1 highway).

As I mentioned to Jonathan in a comment on my previous post - for me, the ideal day at Ratanga Junction would consist of numerous consecutive rides on The Cobra, Monkey Falls and Crocodile Gorge. What are your favourite theme-park rides?

We struck it lucky one day and visited the theme park on a quiet day. There was no queuing to speak of and we literally road The Cobra a dozen or more times! It was fantastic!

Monkey Falls baby!

Monkey Falls baby!
I slipped the words "best end of year function" and "Ratanga Junction" into my previous post. If you don't already know, Ratanga Junction is the large theme park located just outside of the city, along the N1 highway. Our company hired Monkey Falls (only the most fun ride) for our exclusive use, for the entire afternoon. No queues, no waiting, just fun. :)

Click on a few of the photos below tho see what I mean.

Learn the rhythm of Africa with Drum Cafe

Rhythm of Africa with Drum Cafe
Our IT department had the best end of year function that it's ever had. On arrival at Ratanga Junction we found dozens of African drums positioned on benches - and a quartet of African men patiently waiting for us to finish taking our seats. As we quietened down the leader started banking out a simple rhythm on his drum. Without hesitation we took up our drums and joined in the rhythm.

For the next half hour or more the group from Drum Cafe taught our posse of 100 rhythmically-challenged IT geeks a series of basic rhythms that culminated in a finale comprising everything we'd learned. It's difficult to explain how awesome the sound of 100 beating African drums is and how it seems to tug at the fibre of every African's being. Group drumming with Drum Cafe - or any such group for that matter - certainly is one of those must-do experiences.

The crackling of power lines

The crackling of power lines
Standing below these high tension power lines the crackling and buzzing of the electricity flowing through the wires grabbed our attention, fading out almost every other sound. It felt dangerous to be here and the lyrics of Aerosmith's Living on the Edge instantly came to mind - the chorus repeating in my mind as though being played by an old scratched LP.

Most of Cape Town's electricity is supplied by the two nuclear reactors at Eskom's Koeberg power station (map), located just outside of the coastal town of Melkbos. One of the reactors was shut down on 28 October for repairs - which effectively halved the station's power output causing the Western Cape to rely more heavily on power from the coal-based power from the Johannesburg area. After being down for more than a month Eskom recently announced that it had fired up the second reactor after successfully concluding repairs.

The use of nuclear power has been hotly contested for many years, and the recent disaster in Japan gave rise to even more concern over the proximity of the nuclear power station to Cape Town. I'm sure that in the possibly-unlikely event a disaster at the plant we'd all regret not getting rid of the nuclear power station years ago, but on the other hand I can't help but wonder of the amount of pollution released by coal-based power-plants warrants the relatively small risk. What do you think?

River rocks

River rocks
I can't find a specific reference on the SA government website(s) but it's pretty common knowledge that it's illegal to remove rocks from rivers flowing over state land. The reason is pretty simple - over time people would strip enough rock from rivers to negatively affect the ecology.

This said, I imagine that it's perfectly fine to remove rocks from rivers flowing through privately owned land (assuming that you're the land owner ;) ).