The bungalow we stayed at in Cape Town was a holiday-home that the owner (who lives in the UK) rents out for short periods.
There’s something wonderful about living in someone else’s house as opposed to a hotel. You get glimpses of their life, their likes and dislikes, the differences in culture and lifestyle that you just don’t get from the impersonal tones of a hotel no matter how luxurious!
The kitchen, for instance, was stocked with wonderful spices which we were free to use ( we replaced them of course, and also left some others back, cos it works both ways doesn’t it?) and I ended up buying some amazing marinades and seasoning to bring back with me which I now use liberally in my cooking.
The bungalow itself was wonderfully rustic, with a thatched roof and lovely garden, and with grounds so large that we could easily mistake it for a small park. And for us folk who live in the city in the middle of a desert, all the greenery was a welcome change! I would wake up in the morning to the sight of the sun creeping up from behind the mountains and the rays glistening off the lake in the far distance.
The house itself had a lovely green hedge with vibrantly coloured flowers growing all over and spilling down the walls like a curtain. It all felt so surreal.
But it was very real of course. Especially the security around the house, which was downright alarming!
The caretaker, Sharon, came to meet us with a bottle of wine and a barrage of instructions on security that made me feel like I was living in a war zone! Every so often she would tell us “it’s all perfectly safe, we’re just being careful” and try to reassure us before launching into another security feature we had to be aware of, like the motion-sensor around the perimeter of the house or the electric fences that would not only fry your brains out if you touched it, but would also alert the ” Armed Response” to come around (to pick up the left-over carcass no doubt!).
The key-chain had a set of colourful buttons, blue to open the gates, green and gray… I stopped listening after a bit cos it was all a bit too much, and I just couldn’t bring myself to feel worried about security when the surroundings looked so lovely and peaceful.
Besides this little detail of security though, everything was perfect! We were up in the hills, the days were long and mostly warm and the nights bitterly cold. We had a fireplace that I absolutely loved. I spent a lot of nights lying on the comfy couch in front of it, reading A Year in Provence (which I found in the owner’s library) with the sound of the wind whistling outside and the wood crackling in the fire inside… bliss! (Oh! I’ve become quite the expert on building a roaring fire now! So proud of myself! :D)
Of course, when you put together a crazy group of 20-somethings and set them in Cape Town, you can expect a lot more than just peaceful hours by the fire.
We’d rented two cars at the airport for the duration of our stay, and when we weren’t frolicking in the pool, we went around exploring the wine-routes and wine tasting (without using the spit-bucket :D ), explored a national park on quad-bikes (where I had my first taste of African “rusk” which is more like a nuts & grains filled biscotti) abseiled from Table Mountain (which was AWEsome!), hit some of the popular nightspots and ate everything from springbok pies to grilled crocodile meat. (yeah, you heard right! crocodile!)
Ooh!… talking about food… I think I’ll need a whole new post to describe the food we had there, and it’ll still not hold a candle to the real thing! Living in a desert means that most of the food we eat is imported, which involves a lot of preservation techniques that robs the food of it’s freshness.
Africa has the good fortune of having fertile land and amazing resources (if only they had a good leader!), and the food we ate was directly from the farm and organic, with the veggies still fresh with dew and meat so juicy and succulent that it simply melts away (and goes directly to the waist no doubt! But who cares about that when you’re on vacation eh?!).
Every single restaurant we went to had food so delicious that we we always over-ate, and then groaned for mercy to the stomach gods!
Even Food Barn, which the men in the group were grumbling about being too high-brow and expensive (250 Rands for a set 3 course menu including dessert, which I think is pretty okay) had really good food!
I think we were mostly disappointed by Food Barn cos the previous afternoon we’d lunched at the Toad in the Village, which is a stone’s throw away from the Food Barn. The atmosphere of the place, enhanced by the beautiful blue skies, the breeze in our faces (we sat outside) and the friendly black lab lying below our table… was so fabulous that nothing else could quite compare.
At least that’s what we thought, until we went to Mama’s Afrika! This place had a live band playing african acoustic-y music with a lot of dancing involved. And the characters we saw there! I swear, there was a guy at the other table with a hot pink hat and a feather boa to match (okay, it was his birthday and they made him put it on :P).
This is where we tried their game platter. Crocodile meat is surprisingly tender, and then when I thought about it, I figured it made sense, cos they’re cold-blooded reptiles. And when I thought about it some more, I realized I’d pretty much eaten a giant lizard, and that made me wanna gag!
Springbok was good, tasted kinda like mutton, although I found it strange that the springbok was the national animal of the country! I mean… you don’t find Indians selling tiger-tikka in restaurants do you?
We had fairly regular meat for our braai (African for bbq) though. We figured we should definitely have one, since we’re in braai country. Unfortunately, we also tried magic mushrooms (most of us for the first time) that night! We were too tripped out to bother too much about the braai. We ended up burning all the meat and eating mostly salads. But we were all in such rib-cracking good humour that it didn’t really matter anyway!
We went to Boulder’s beach National Park that was a sanctuary for…wait for it… penguins!
(Are you as surprised as I was?)
They cute and funny and all over the place! They mostly just sun-bathe (curiouser and curiouser!) and when they’re not waddling from one place to another, stay extremely still as if they’re all playing a game of statue!
A visit to Africa isn’t complete without viewing at least one wild animal, and I had my chance when I went to a vineyard at Stellenbosch where they also had a wildlife sanctuary. That’s where I met Joseph! He liked me, purred when I rubbed his back! :o)
Leaving a place where you’ve had so much fun is the toughest part. And the end of this particular vacation was tougher than the others I’ve been on.
It’s fine when you’re leaving for a vacation. You’re so excited and pumped up on adrenalin that you don’t feel the jet-lag as much. But when you’re returning from a holiday, especially such an active one as this, it just leaves you feeling (and looking!) like a zombie! We left the villa at around 4 pm and I got back home in Dubai around 1pm the next day. The details in between are all foggy but involved a lot of running after flights and disturbed sleep in between in-flight meals!
I got home and swore to myself to only travel to places that were not more than 3 hours away from Dxb!
I stuck to this resolve for about a day… until I went through the pictures!
Memories really are priceless!
Maybe next time I’ll just save up and fly business! ;o)