Sala Kahle, Totsiens! Goodbye in Xhosa and Afrikaans

The time has come to say goodbye. Again, this has been a wonderful adventure. My morning was going to be spent resting until we headed to the Winelands but our awesome guide, Desmond, who had taken the group shopping and to Table Mountain, phoned to say his friend, Edgar, a guard at Drakenstein, where Madiba spent his last 18 months under house arrest; would again arrange for us to go inside the house. What a special treat. This was Edgar’s day off but he would do this for us. This house is now a South African National Heritage Site and the prison is still a working prison with 4 prisons on the entire property.

Edgar met our bus at the entrance to the prison. It was Saturday and lots of families were making their way to visit their loved ones. Last year due to politricks no one was allowed inside the Madiba House so the group listened to Edgar at the statue. I’m so thankful we had favor this day. My own personal experience this time was totally unlike the last, which was exciting just having an opportunity that others don’t get. Today was an awesome spiritual experience.

This time, Edgar who was not in uniform this time, was more vocal, more animated with a very powerful delivery. It was quite moving. As we entered the house I could feel the spirit of Madiba moving about. As I sat at the dining room table where negotiations were held to end apartheid, as I sat on his bed, as I walked into the pantry, the only room in the house that was not wiretaped during his 18 month stay, where he and his personal chef could speak freely, as I walked by the pool where he would sit for hours reflecting on his life in the struggle for all people and the hardships he suffered on Robben Island…..it was like an out of body experience and 2 of his quotes continued to resonate through my mind: “In my country we go to prison first, then become President” and in a Feb 1975 letter to Winnie, he said, “Difficulties break some men but make others”. When he first got to the prison, he was already 70 and a racist guard told him he would never leave alive. When they wanted to release Mandela on Feb 9, 1990, he said, “No, not when you say, it’s when I say. My people know nothing of this arrangement”. He was released 2 days later when he and Winnie walked the “Long Walk to Freedom”, from Madiba House to the prison entrance.

I’ve had a connection with Mandela for 47 years. I doubt if anyone else in the group experienced what I did today in the house but it was quite apparent they were all very, very thankful for this rare opportunity. We said our goodbyes to Edgar, hoping to one day see him again.

Next stop was wine tasting and a fabulous lunch at the Mont Rochelle Wine Estate which is now under the umbrella of Sir Richard Branson’s holdings.

This day was a beautiful finale to our 2014 South Africa tour. We wrapped it up with dinner at the Signal Restaurant located on the Waterfront at the lovely Cape Grace Hotel.

If you care to join me next time in South Africa for the trip of a lifetime, it will be September 2015. Inbox me. Thanks for flying with me. You may move about the aircraft once the seatbelt light has been switched off.

Madiba House Entrance

Madiba House Entrance

Kitchen

Kitchen

Sitting room that was in the movie

Sitting room that was in the movie

Negotiations To End Apartheid Were Held at This Table

Negotiations To End Apartheid Were Held at This Table

Felt His Presence

Felt His Presence

Mandela's Bed

Mandela’s Bed

Me and Delta Dear, Dr. Bernadette Watts at Mont Rochelle Wine Estate

Me and Delta Dear, Dr. Bernadette Watts at Mont Rochelle Wine Estate

Michelle, Georgene and  Stephanie at Mont Rochelle

Michelle, Georgene and Stephanie at Mont Rochelle

Carolyn, Glenda,Bernadette, Linda and Lucille

Carolyn, Glenda,Bernadette, Linda and Lucille


Ms Jean Ingram,  the Life of the Party!

Ms Jean Ingram, the Life of the Party!

It’s All About The Township Children

Kat, Planning the Day. Always Working...

Kat, Planning the Day. Always Working…

Caught off Guard. Photography Courtesy of Jean Ingram

Anelisa and Ziyanda

Anelisa and Ziyanda

Life Orientation Classroom

Life Orientation Classroom


Ndumiso, Math Teacher

Ndumiso, Math Teacher

Today, my day was off to a great start at breakfast with those duck crepes wrapped around a little plum sauce and scallions —Yummy! The group would be going to Robben Island and then to Langa Township. I would pass on Robben Island and Langa since I’ve been many times. Remember, my love affair with Madiba began in 1967 when I was a senior in high school in Los Angeles and Mandela had only been in prison 3 years of the total 27 years. I cut class to attend a Free Nelson Mandela rally in Watts at Will Rogers Park, led by Activist, Stokely Carmichael. My plan was to go visit the LEAP Science and Math school in Pinelands where my childhood friend, Eugene Lemon of Oakland, Ca has spent his summers teaching children from some of the Townships. My dear friend Michelle Redding from the old Thoughts of Travel where I once worked, is part of this group. She had tons of school supplies including calculators and backpacks and health items including eyeglass readers, sunglasses, first aid kits, and oral hygiene items. It was like Jesus feeing the multitudes. She had already handed out to so many grateful residents in Soweto and still had plenty left to give away. I packed these items in my carryon and off I went to the school to meet with one of the Directors, deliver the supplies and get a tour of the school. This should have been on the itinerary for this group but things got hectic for me the last few months and it slipped my mind until Bay (aka Eugene) sent me an email last week asking if I would be visiting the school.

The school was about a $15 ride from the waterfront. The driver and I hit it off pretty good until his azz got lost, meter still running, I tried to be nice in telling him being lost wasn’t something I was paying for, turn off the meter. He was forcing my “alter”, Goldie, to come out of her cage. That is what he didnt want but got it anyway. Goldie let him have it with both barrels. After calling the school on her cell, got proper directions and upon safe arrival, fired the driver for the return trip, gave him a good tongue lashing and then threw his business card back into his vehicle. Goldie retreated back to her cage, Kat composed herself and into the school she strolled to handle the business at hand.

It quickly became evident how much love the staff and students had for Mr. Lemon. Mr. Babele (ba bee lee), a Director gave me an overview on the school’s program and then got 2 lovely 10th graders (Anelisa and Ziyanda) to give me a tour. One lives in the largest township, Khayelitsha and the other in Gugulethu. They both speak Afrikaans, Xhosa and English

We popped in and out of several classrooms — Math,English, IT, and Business. They both lit up when they explained the L.O. Class (Life Orientation). The chairs are arranged in a mcircle, they look forward to opening up to their peers and getting direction from their instructors. They are able to discuss sensitive topics they will not discuss with their mothers. The students are there from 830am to 5p. There are a couple of mothers that work magic by doctoring up the donated dry staples for the lunches that are provided for the students.

This school could certainly benefit from some fundraising and believe me, they are most deserving. You all will be hearing from me real soon about an upcoming project for the LEAP School.

After leaving the school, I stopped off at Green Market Square and picked up a few items then headed back to the hotel to chill on my balcony with pleasant thoughts of the days events and a perfect view of Table Mountain and the harbor.
Tomorrow: The Winelands, Lunch, Wine Tasting and a Surprise

Cape Town, Does It Get Any Better Than This?

We were looking at a 2.5 hr bus ride from the Game Lodge to Joburg but with traffic and a comfort stop, would we make the flight? The expertise of our guide, Joe and his driver, who took a shortcut thru the airport got us to the Joburg airport check in counter with less than an hour before flight time. We had favor. There was no one in our check in line and in 20 mins we were all checked in and practically at the gate well before boarding began. We were sad to say farewell to Joe but it was time to move on to Cape Town and a new experience.

Desmond, our Cape Town guide met us at the airport, loaded up the motorcoach and in no time we were checking into the 5 Star Table Bay Hotel at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. You should have seen the looks on their faces as the group entered this fabulous hotel. Well, you know it’s sheer fabulosity if Michael Jackson, Kimora Lee Simmons stayed here, and Obama shut it all the way down just before our group arrived on last year’s tour.
As small as this group is, we’ve had welcome signs in every hotel lobby we’ve entered this tour and with the General Managers on hand with a personal greeting for us. What a pleasant surprise!

We had dinner reservations at the hotel in an intimate, private room at the Camissa Brasserie. Again, menus and wine pairings arranged by yours truly and none were disappointed. Dinner was definitely on point through all courses. After dessert, I did my usual of excusing myself to handle the wine tab and saying good night to the group for the evening.

Table Bay Hotel has one of the BEST buffet breakfasts around – from made to order omlettes, crepes, Belgian waffles, every breakfast meat imaginable, sushi, spicy Thai noodles, duck, a fresh juice station serving most juices including: spinach, kale, cucumber, and beet root. After breakfast, we were off with our guide Desmond for the full day Cape Peninsula tour. We drove along the Atlantic seaboard past Camps Bay, Houts Bay and then over Chapmans Peak Drive. We made a stop to see the African penguins on our way to the Cape of Good Hope, the most southern point of the African continent. We were in full effect with our custom tees and definitely the topic of conversation wherever we went. Some even wanted to buy the shirts off our back.

Our driver hurried to get the shoppers back to Cape Town so they could shop and “negotiate”with the vendors at Green Market Square. I didn’t stop to shop with them but I heard they all got some great buys. Next years trip is already in place for September. If you care to join us on this wonderful adventure, don’t delay, sign up today.

Tomorrow they will take the ferry to visit Robben Island where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years in a one man cell. It will be an emotionally charged day with a visit to Langa Township in the afternoon.

Table Bay Hotel

Table Bay Hotel

Table Bay Hotel at Night

Table Bay Hotel at Night

View From My Suite On a Windy Night

View From My Suite On a Windy Night

View of the Waterfront From My Balcony

View of the Waterfront From My Balcony

Hout's Bay in the Backdrop

Hout’s Bay in the Backdrop

Yebo! At the Cape of Good Hope

Yebo! At the Cape of Good Hope

A 5 Star Game Lodge —The Only Way To Go

Our 2 hour drive from Joburg was most relaxing on board our luxury motor coach. There were only 11 of us but we had space for 40. En route we made a pit stop at the Chameleon Village. They’ve got every conceivable souvenir but the aggressiveness of the vendors ain’t no joke. As nice as I try to be; I had to let the “Kat” out her cage a few times. They soon found out they really didn’t want to tangle with her (aka Goldie).
Joe and his driver, Mbelle would drop us off at the Lodge and return for us 2 days later. The welcome committee was out in full force when we arrived, complete with drummers, our friendly Rangers and of all people, the General Manager, who remembered me from last year. As I extended my hand, this jolly Afrikaaner said, “Let me give you a big hug”. Wow! We’ve been shown nothin but love, respect and admiration every step of the way. The group was blown away with the warm reception and were they in for a real treat for the next 2 days.

Everything was first class. They loved the well appointed rooms, the private outdoor showers, the food and the fact that they saw it all on the game drives: cheetahs (only 3 in this massive park), leopards, lions, giraffes, zebras, herds of elephants not to mention the baby elephant that stood her ground, about to charge us….. Kat to the Ranger, “let’s get the heck outta here”.

Day 2 found several taking the shuttle to Sun City to shop, gamble, and marvel at the amazing architectural building designs there. Others in the group passed up the day trip in order to take advantage of the wonderful spa facilities at the lodge. Five Star Lodge living is the way to go if what you seek is total relaxation.
Next stop will find us in Cape Town. Stay tuned to hear about our adventures in one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Ivory Tree Game Lodge

Ivory Tree Game Lodge

Deluxe Room

Deluxe Room

Soaking Tub in All Rooms, complete with bath salts  and candles

Soaking Tub in All Rooms, complete with bath salts and candles

All Rooms with Private Outdoor Shower

All Rooms with Private Outdoor Shower

Amani  Spa -- One of the Best

Amani Spa — One of the Best

Great Shot on Last Early Morning Drive. Courtesy of Lucille Johnson

Great Shot on Last Early Morning Drive. Courtesy of Lucille Johnson

Leopard, After His Breakfast. Photo Courtesy of Lucille Johnson

Leopard, After His Breakfast. Photo Courtesy of Lucille Johnson

Show Me The Way to Johannesburg

The nonstop flight from New York was smooth and less than 15 hours with great food and service. With the health scare in West Africa, you can imagine the comments those of us coming on this tour had to deal with. First of all, we are in South Africa which is one of several countries on the continent of Africa. We are 4000 miles away from West Africa. There is only one way into South Africa from the west. There arent any reported cases of the illness here. My question to some: Would you be so concerned if we were going to Dallas or Nebraska? South Africa is arguably better equipped to handle a major health crisis than our beloved USA. The largest acute hospital in the world with about 3000 beds, the only public hospital serving the 3.5 million people in Soweto is the Chris Hani Baragwanath.

We were met at the OR Tambo airport by our same knowledgeable, dedicated guide for the past 3 years, Joe. He was involved in the struggle back in the early Mandela Freedom Fighting days and In spite of the horrible, dehumanizing treatment Joe received back then; you will never meet a more humble, caring human being.

Upon our arrival at the 5 star Michaelangelo Hotel, our group was met by the Sr Guest Relations Manager and the Front Office Manager. After serving us guava and fruit cocktail juices, we were given our room keys. The entire group was delighted to learn they had been upgraded to Deluxe rooms with views of Nelson Mandela Square and of course I was pleased with my Executive Jr Suite. Yes, I’m spoiled but what can I say?

Our first night in each city, dinner and wine is included. Restaurants, wine selections and the actual personalized menus are all hand picked by me. Tonight dinner was at the Montego Bay Seafood Restaurant in the Square. Everything was right on point.

The first day of touring was to Lesedi, the cultural village that takes visitors back in time to learn about tribal life which is followed by a dynamic dance performance and a nicely prepared lunch that included salads, chicken, lamb and the exotic meats I leave alone…….crocodile and ostrich.

Sunday church service in Soweto… The group popped in for a few minutes and presented my personal gift of 3000 Rand to Ms Florence, a Soweto resident I had the pleasure of meeting last year. She calls me from time to time and refers to me as “My Darling”. She was overwhelmed with emotion. I’m happy that I could be a blessing to someone here. Life in Soweto, lunch, Apartheid museum, Hector Pietersen museum was quite a full day. Tomorrow: We drive to our 5 Star Game Lodge and I so look forward to my private outdoor shower, under the stars at midnight

Michaelangelo Hotel at Sandton

Michaelangelo Hotel at Sandton

The group, hailing from San Francisco, Raleigh Durham, and  Orlando

The group, hailing from San Francisco, Raleigh Durham, and Orlando

Nelson Mandela Square, next to Michaelanglo Hotel

Nelson Mandela Square, next to Michaelanglo Hotel

Sandton City Mall, next to our hotel

Sandton City Mall, next to our hotel

Not a Shopper but Kat can't resist a pair of sexy, sassy  sandals --imported from Greece with Swarovski crystals. They happened to catch my eye in passing

Not a Shopper but Kat can’t resist a pair of sexy, sassy sandals –imported from Greece with Swarovski crystals. They happened to catch my eye in passing

Dinner first night at Montego Bay Seafood Restaurant

Dinner first night at Montego Bay Seafood Restaurant

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital

Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital

Learning About Tribal Life at Lesedi

Learning About Tribal Life at Lesedi

Ms Florence Overwhelmed by the Gift

Ms Florence Overwhelmed by the Gift

Nice Room Service Presentation--- only soup and salad

Nice Room Service Presentation— only soup and salad