18 Petty Road
Cranbury, NJ 08512
Daily we praised our good fortune at linking up with Marion and Protea Tours. They were the making of our days in South Africa.
Imagine. You are driving down a moonless black, washboard road somewhere several kilometers off N1 in central South Africa. A fence post - a hut. Then suddenly a burst of light as you enter the compound of this amazing Victorian mansion complete with fountains and Rococo elegance. The door flings wide and the owner of De Oude Kraal - a hale and hearty gentleman beams, “You are just in time for dinner.”
Dinner turns out to be a five course meal - each with its own wine. Guests are few and select. Friendships are formed - gifts are exchanged. Mark, a UNESCO executive with whom you have discussed the agony of global aids over brandy, takes you under his wing. As you depart, he proffers a bottle of wine worth slightly more than your rental car which he advises you open five years hence.
But I get ahead of myself. Our magical airliner lands in Jo’burg (I am ever stunned by the mystical privilege of flight - crossing an empire in an afternoon). As Marion has assured us, a warm gentleman greets & whisks up to the Airport Grande Hotel. We crash. For reasons epileptic, Bart rebounds too late for the first scheduled flight - but we race to Federal Air who with utmost hospitality. (Can you believe the ever watchful eye of Marion calling us to announce our missed-flight blunder??)
However, we missed nothing.
Now you have to understand. Safari for us previously has meant our own pup tent and a driver - nights crouching before a campfire with hyena eyes shining in the dark. But this was Lorraine’s retirement year. Time to splurge - and time to experience the very best that Marion (or anyone) could arrange.
This safari lodge remains one of several colonial fiefdoms able to quell poaching in the old colonial baron tradition. You do not mess with these owners or their hired patrolling armies. The rewards are reaped by us tourists and the animals under their dogged protection.
The years of wildlife desensitization allows our jeeps to approach the beasts with amazing proximity. We watch the drama of a leopard making a kill - the hyenas marauding - another leopard’s intrusion. Life in the wild - Reminiscent of Washington D.C.
At night after great feasting and singing we retire to sip fine scotch before a fire in our chalet. Ah, simple elegance.
Cape Town - Bantry Bay - what an ideal selection of venues to experience the surging crash of the Atlantic at the tip of Africa.
Kelp and ocean froth swirl beneath our balcony. Thanks for guiding us here. We hike the Shipwreck trail (heartily recommended) and other tracks. Though Robbins Isle and the trek up Table top were closed (due to excessive wind and a recent death) there was plenty of other fabulous hiking.
And Ah the Wine - since Lorraine and I grow our own grapes and make our own wine - “Chateau Bonne Chance” visiting the Paarl wineries was especially fascinating for us. When owners heard we did wine, even as a mere hobby, they were pleased to shower us with advice -what fun - what wines!
Then we drove off toward the Karoo. We were so glad we opted for this route as opposed to the more towny & cozy “Garden Route.” Stopping at Karoo National park we experienced their amazing fossil trail - hiked their stark and haunting moonscape (thanks for steering us here.) We also took a night game drive here” wandering ant bears, Kudu, and orynx and other strange beasts. Do not miss this frigid fascination.
Then off to De Oude Kraal - then Golden Gate Park and the Royal Natal National Park for superb hiking. Tell your American clients that they experience mountains as highly colored as the Grand Canyon. A soul inspiring place to clamber. Your suggestions of lodges were, as always, excellent.
Driving on, we landed in Durban for Lorraine’s International Library Conference. Durban crystalizes the crime born simply of vast numbers of folk with no hope of employment. Keep remembering: under these circumstances, you’d steal too. Interestingly when we queried native South Afrikaners as to their economy they assured things were on the upswing. But when we told them that the average Black was poorer than at during Apartheid, their answer was invariably - “Oh, yes, of course, the blacks are poorer.” That 95 % so easily ignored in the spirit of President Chenney and his pet monkey. The tragic, deliberate ignorance of power.
Upon leaving Durban, we took our car up along N3 and headed for Joburg and the Sterkfortein Caves. We stopped at a marvellous little bed and breakfast in Winterton called “Swallows Nest.” This lovely guesthouse was run by a hospitable lady - I will send you her details ad contact info so that you may use her later with our recommendations.
We arrived at the caves- and again you had found the ideal hotel for us - right on sight. We loved the whole experience.
Marion, in short, we cannot thank you enough. You gave us not so much luxury or thrift, but enhanced experience. You considered not the price, but the value, cleverly organizing our days so we - governed by our own whims - could glean the best experience.
As we say in America, You do damn well.
Again our many thanks,
- Bart & Lorraine