Sunday, 30 October 2011

India, LA, CT

From India to LA to Cape Town 

The Kaushal group of travelers was all born in India. They are a sixties generation group of friends who have shared experiences in Alaska, Antarctica, China and Australia.  

My Indian American friends.
 Rita was first to arrive, and asked me if I was available as a taxi the same evening. The!-cape-town.html
presents its clients with many efficient services and amenities. Their taxi service providers are reliable and economical.  

After the inbound transfers our first stop was 
The Castle was originally a fort constructed by the first employees of the Dutch East India Company to the Cape. In reality research indicates the first fort was a wooden structure to the west of the current castle. 
Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope

From the Castle we ascend to passing by the Parliament, Company Gardens, Tamboerskloof and Oranjezicht. 

The upper station is just over 1000 meters above sea level, and on this occasion clouds were flying dramatically over the sandstone ridges. Table Mountain and the Peninsula Range consist of two groups of sedimentary rocks, namely the Graafwater Formation and the Peninsula Formation.  Underneath the surface and exposed on the lower slopes and coastline we see the huge boulders of ancient Granite mother rock.   

Our Peninsula Tour meanders along the Atlantic Seaboard and we spot some South African Fur seals at Oudekraal. The name suggests the original bias value of these species and a name change is overdue. These are protected mammals in South Africa.
I like to call these flowers snow.

White sand beaches decorate the 65km drive to Cape Point, and we stop to photograph Long Beach and Witsands. 

From Cape Point we view Dias Beach and Cape of Good Hope. This is a dramatic and iconic location loaded with history and legend. Before the navigators Dias and Da Gama we can only guess what this landmark meant to our African ancestors. Cape Point remains one of the most visited landmarks to South Africa’s four million annual visitors.  

Our next destination is Boulders Beach with its colony of African Penguins. Short boardwalks take us right to the heart of the colony. We spot blues who are young penguins in the molt from furry feathers to adult feathers. remains an exciting, educational and interesting part of the Peninsula meander.

After visiting the penguins we enjoy lunch at  

Kirstenbosch Gardens: is a highlight a the end of a Peninsula exploration. Walking through the gardens and searching for the national flower of South Africa [] keep the guests involved right to the end of the long day and myriad of activities and sights. The Gardens were secured by Cecil John Rhodes            [ ] and gifted in his legacy to the people of South Africa.  
Protea Cynaroides
 After the days activities the sunlight over the back of Table Mountain is soothing and calming.

As we approach we hear the singing and chanting of the strikers. The news Papers explain that the striking workers demand a better wage and holidays over Christmas. It strikes me how the operations of the museum function normally even thought there are about forty workers striking on the steps of the Gateway building. 

The atmosphere at is chaotic and crowded, reminiscent of Deli and Bombay. Though the dining is spectacular. Complex curries and abundant dishes compliment the Kaushal Group’s brief visit to the Mother City. 
In memory of Cecil Rhodes
 During the outbound transfer the guests assure me how they appreciate Cape Town and plan to return. The typical check in is complex and chaotic, with struggling to check the group in and connect they’re Johannesburg flight to Hoedspruit. At last we wave good by and I wonder when I will visit India. The land of color, curry and inspiration.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Effi Halla Group

We met at the modern face of ORTI Airport, as I shared the stories of the World Cup with my new guests. I met 36 guests from Israel, one stood out of the crowd and seriously informed me: “Kirsten is a Jewish name.. 

We drove to Mpumalanga and the guests enjoyed the grassland Highveld scenery.  We stopped for lunch at Middelburg and a Supermarket in Lydenburg, before ascending the marvelous Long Tom Pass. Between Sabi and Graskop we explored Mari Shires waterfall and some refreshed their faces with the cool mountain stream, the joys of nature.

The full moon led us to Blyde River Canyon and the comfort of in the heart of the canyon. The unique experience of breakfast with the three Rondavels in the background is a must for any visitor to the largest green canyon on earth.

Departing early, we visited the sights of the Canyon, Lisbon Falls, Gods Window, Potholes and Graskop before descending into the Lowveld and Kruger National Park. The guests saw Kruger Park as a highlight and we saw herds of elephant, rhinos, lions, hippos, wild dog and much more.  In five hours time we were fortunate with the abundance and variety of game. After another long day the luxury of 

Leaving south towards Swaziland, we drove onto the N4 east arriving at  Jeppes Reef boarder post. The Swazi crossing is a vivid reminder of the complex states in Africa’s Political tapestry.

Passing Piggs Peak and The Gogola Dam we arrived in the capital Mbabane. We enjoyed a walk in the capital around the Food Market and Traditional Medicine or “Muti” Market.  In the afternoon we enjoyed lunch at Swazi Candle Factory, a great lunch stop for the route. We entered back into RSA at Golelaand arrived at Ghost Mountain Inn at eight in the evening. During the delicious dinner we excitedly chatted about the awaiting Zulu experience, some enjoyed the dancing and singing at Ghost Mountain Inn late into the night.   is one of the accommodation highlights in the Kwazulu-Natal Province.  

 Umfolozi-Hluhluwe Park amazed us with its wildlife and nature integrated with the Zulu Culture and legacy. I discussed Dr ian Player’s books about his days spent in these heavenly gardens, the essence of wilderness and history of the land, the friendships and connections he mended with Zululand. We spit on a rock and add it to the pile, bringing us some necessary good fortune on our journeys. 

 Entertainment by singing Zulu warriors and ladies met us at Shakaland. After a traditional lunch at this movie set homestead portraying the proud and colorful history of Shaka’s people, we learnt more about the people of the heavens. Our guide was informative, educational and amusing.

I recommend in Umhlanga for it’s comfort and views of Durban, the second most populated city in South Africa.  Though the line between city and metropolis obscures the true rating of city size in South Africa.  

In Durban North we visit Mitchells Park, this was once the home of an Asian gift elephant called Nellie, and today hosts a large variety of Avifauna, flora and animals such as Primates, opossums, a tortoise over a hundred years old and goldfish. A random collection of lives symbolic of Ethekwini’s ranking as a vagabond, historic, semi-tropical world city. 

 In the dark dangerous heart of town we explore markets with vivid Asian aromas, scary African muti imported by the diaspora of sugarcane workers, slaves and the myriad of cultures this city harbours.  Downtown hustle and bustle of a tropical complex city, I guide my guests carefully through the challenges of notorious down town Durban.  We walk through Victoria Street market, with a strikingly beautiful shrine obscured and hidden by the grey black intoxicating highways that snake over the taxi ranks and markets. We smell fish and stare at amputated heads of black goats in the Fish market, and we walk around the block as I nervously check the head and tail of my group snaking through a dirty urban African Eden.  

After Mitchels Park and the Indian Markets, we get to the beach. An amble along the newly renovated Peers is enough to create and appitite and my guestsrequest we proceed to lunch options. (I’m forced to call this tour Buffet Destroyers..) So uShaka marine world is the setting for lunch, with an ample supply of “American Take Aways..

We visit the Botanical Gardens hosting a rich collection of Orchids and depart for King Shaka airport.

A stand off ensues after the ground staff of the flight informs us that it is over booked.The Tour leader does not allow anyone to volunteer to miss the flight and get a hotel stay plus free domestic return ticket of choice.  After some drama the complete group boards the short flight to Port Elizabeth   

The late dinner is relaxed and the foods delicious, with a night view over Madiba Bay complementing the service…  The next morning we leave for the Garden Route.  The guests enjoy the hanging bridges of Storms River Mouth and also lunch at the Garden Route National Park. We also enjoy visits to the Big Tree and Bloukrans River Bridge though no one options for a Bungee jump.  

Dinner is presented on the Paddle Cruiser on Knysna Lagoon next to the Knysna Heads, a remarkable setting. At Joe checks us in and helps us with all the questions and requests of the guests. Boogie served a delicious breakfast and was friendly and warm to our group. 
The following morning we walk from the River Club to the Waterfront to start the day, observing the lagoon and it’s islands.

From Knysna we depart in the direction of George and stop over at Victoria bay. A leisurely amble takes us to where the surf breaks strongly on the rocks.  We visit George and take the Outeniqua Pass over the Mountains to get to Oudtshoorn.

In the afternoon we meet the amazing residents of Cango Wildlife Ranch. Safari Ostrich Farm treats us with a delicious BBQ dinner. We check into OudtshoornHotel looking forward to the Swartberg and Caves experience.  

Largely the hands of prisoners built the Swartberg Pass. Today it is an attraction that presents wonderful scenery with abundant hiking trails and birdlife in the area. Our Guides were excellent, not leaving one stone unturned in their attention to detail and service. 

We enjoyed lunch at Prins Albert and drove through the exposed geological formations of Meiringspoort returning to Oudtshoorn. At CP Nel Museum MrsBoshoff presents a tour of the facility and receives us warmly. At six the local community at the Synagogue welcome the guests from Israel to a service and braai. 

On our journey to Cape Town we visit the Dias Museum, Swellendam and Hermanus We watch the whales sailing in the distance.  

The view of False Bay is layered with clouds as we enter the Cape Flats over Sir Louwries Pass. I explain how thankful we are for rain in the relatively arid Western Cape. 

The Cape Sun is an icon in the five star hospitality history of Cape Town, and ideally situated for exploring the Mother City. 

The Castle of Good Hope was built on the beach by some of the first European settlers to the sub continent as a fort. Slaves were used in its construction as the Europeans feared attacks from passing ships and local cultures alike, from the onset unable to live at peace with those who they met here. 

Centuries later the Castle houses museums delving into the wars and histories of all peoples that inhabited the Peninsulas shores and mountains.
We marvel at the historical Change of the Guards.

The Jewish Museum is our next stop and my personal favorite part of the museum is the Zappiro exhibition, a must see for anyone who knows about Zappiro.

After our exposure to culture and religion, we enter the nature of the South African Museum. Darwin’s theories and work was perhaps not fully recognized in his time of visiting the Cape, today we realize how ground breaking his work was. The Darwin display at the South African Museum is impressive, informative and interesting.
 The San exhibit at this museum is spiritual and stimulating. We will stay poor if we don’t learn from the culture and history of the first people.

In the afternoon we visit Stellenbosch and Bergkelder that presents us with a complete cellar tour of their facility dug into the side of Pappagaaiberg. 
Stellenbosch was originally called First River, as it was the first river the early settlers encountered traversing the Cape Flats.  

Early evening we ascend the Cable Car to summit Table Mountain. The Khoi people called it Hoerikwaggo, simply meaning Sea Mountain. The Layers of Sandstone weathering at an even pace is the reason for the flat summit of this iconic ancient mountain. 

On our last full day together we explore the Peninsula. Seals, Penguins, Capes and Oceans are few points of discussion during our 120 km drive up and down the coasts. Everyone agrees that it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. 

After our Peninsula exploration, we return to the Gardens Synagogue. It’s a special Jewish occasion as the holy books are revealed and celebrated once a year. The guests are welcomed at the ceremony and invited to the braai following the formalities.

I run to the station to catch the last train home. I think of Israel and it’s neighbors. 

Every Guiding opportunity is also an educational experience. I learnt of a new culture, people’s space and how different cultures communicate.

I make the train just in time. I can’t wait to get home to my dog Biko and my space, home.  

With great appreciation for the work of Jutta and Yaron.

Thursday, 06 October 2011

Guiding expose me to wonderful new friendships like meeting the Gonzalez family from Mexico here in Cape Town. Juan Carlos sent me a kind letter and pictures.

Maybe I will get to surf Mexico soon!

Hola Kristen! Te escribo este e-mail para mantenernos en contacto y para agradecerte por tu excelente trabajo. En verdad la pase fabuloso.
Te envio un par de fotos que espero te agraden.

Con afecto y admiracion.

Juan Carlos Gonzalez 

PD: No dudes en venir a visitarnos a Mexico.

Sunday, 02 October 2011

Gruppo Juan Toselli

Gruppo Juan Toselli

From Argentina to Africa 

Our journey started at Cape Town International Airport, upon arrival the guests were eager to share their safari stories of preceding days.

Their Cape experience started with passing by Kayalitsha and Langa, some of the intricate complex local cultures and peoples of the Cape Flats. 

In the afternoons we see the youth and sporty of the shack lands practicing their football and even cricket skills on the  dusty pitches next to the dangerous highway proving their passion for sport. The economical divide is intertwined with cultural diversity in the unique mix called The Cape Flats. 

The guests were welcomed to with the historic majestic view of Table Mountain in the backdrop. 

 Early the next day we ventured up the mountain with
 An unforgettable part of the Cape experience, we ventured on a hike of Table Mountain to see the vistas of the city, Lions head, Table bay, and Cape Town Stadium in the background, we were taken with the views.  

Table Mountain is the only geographic feature on earth with a constellation named after it. French astrologer Nicolas Louis de Lacaille named the constellation, Mensa, after Table Mountain in 1754. The Khoi people simply called it Hoerikwaggo, Sea Mountain

Sunday morning we set of for the Klein Karoo and Garden Route. This part of the country is special year round, but this time after some recent good rains the breath taking colors of the flowering plants of this mostly arid region took our breaths away. 
 We ventured and explored the As I often use this road, it feels more like a person I’m getting to know better, every time we meet, he shares a new story with me. Whether for magical flowering plants or ancient archaic fossils and rocks, the point is take the Route 62, you will never get off it. 

Few regions match the warm hospitality of the Klein Karoo. This name Karoo may come from the word karos, and that could be a skin used as a blanket.  The Klein Karoo and embraced us with their hospitality and a delicious farm lunch.

The next morning we visited

Today the parts of Cango that is open to the public is relatively easy to access and we can choose between an easy 600 meter penetrating to more adventurous tours where a lot of squeezing and sweating is at the order of the ...darkness. 
The deep Limestone and water flow of the Swartberg is the cause of these incredible caves formed over earth’s history; it hosts unique formations hundreds of thousands and millions of years old. 

After Cango we were on our way to the heart of the Garden Route at Storms River Mouth. But on our way we had to cross over the Outeniqua Mountains and pass. This meant more spectacular views and photographic opportunities for everyone.

We enjoyed lunch upon arrival at and strolled along the cliff pathway all the way to the suspension bridges of the Storms River Mouth.

 The Storms River Mouth is the start or finish of hiking trails into the Outeniqua Mountains and the coastline of the Garden Route.   It accesses spectacular hiking trails like the Otter-, the Tsitsikamma- and Outeniqua Trails. 

Our stay at was the highlight of the trips accommodations. With excellent service and great breakfasts only surpassed by the best location of the Knysna Lagoon. 
Some guests opted to enjoy a visit to and some enjoyed a visit to the magnificent views of the  Nature Reserve, both explores the natural significance of the Knysna area. Elephants once roamed the Knysna Forests in large numbers and this population became extinct at the hand of man. Their continued presence and conservation bears witness of our attempts to address our ignorance in our relationships with the world around us, and all it's children. 

Suzy in this picture is one of the original members of the herd, Emilia made instant friends although she was sure not to get her toes trampled. 

Our next destination was Hermanus and everyone was looking forward to meet the migrating whales of the Cape Province. On our way we stopped for lunch at › ... › SwellendamRestaurantsThe Connection. We enjoyed a delicious lunch served with a creamy mushroom sauce sourced from local forests. The owner Oliviero is one of a few South Africans with the knowledge of the delicate task of mushroom harvesting.

From Swellendam followed the beautiful area of the Overberg as we drove past flocks of Blue Cranes, the National Bird of South Africa.  

Upon arrival in Hermanus we noticed groups of tourists along the walkways on the lovely cliff pathways observing whales. The ease of whale spotting and relaxed atmosphere of Hermanus makes for a unique whale watching experience. All enjoyed dinner at the impressive next to the old harbor and in the tranquil town center.   

On our last overland day we drove around False Bay to Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. Our driver Miles Titus drove comfortably and safely throughout the journey, and kept his vehicle spotless! 

Our journey was interesting, educational and informative with a great program. The group members participated on every possible occasion. All guests were looking forward to a return to Mzansi and thanked  Tilly Malone at for a great holiday. 

morning safara

morning safara

Cape Town's 12 Apostels

Cape Town's 12 Apostels