In contrast to what some people believe that 2012 will be the end of the world, 2012 is the best year in my life so far, because so many things happened this year and reasons to be grateful keep on increasing daily. This trip to South Africa is a very good example. The company where I worked was awarded with two seats in this incentive program from Global TV. You see, I did not know anything about it and from out of the blue my marketing director chose me and a colleague to participate in this trip. That day when I received the e-mail was when I had the best feeling in the world, a mixture of pure disbelieve and incredible happiness. Most people probably will put South Africa at the end of their list of holiday places. Yeah, that includes me too. Not that I hate the country, but it is more of because getting there is very expensive, not to mention the accommodations; in addition, due to my limited knowledge about the country, I did not find it interesting to visit. But hey, it was all free!
So there I was on the night of November 15th strolled along the departure terminal of Soekarno-Hatta International Airport looking for Saphire d’Consulate Louge where I met other participants of the trip and from which together we flew to Cape Town International Airport via Dubai International Airport. It was my first experience in flying more than 3 hours in one way. The flight to Dubai took 9 hours, transited for 3 hours, and continued with 8 hours flight to Cape Town. Fortunately, Emirates in-flight entertainment and service was all top notch, they provided 3 times meal in one flight and had blockbuster movies such as Dark Night Rises and Total Recall. Since South Africa is 5 hours later than Jakarta, I tried to directly adjust my body clock with the destination country to avoid dragging jet lag. My strategy seemed to work, because when we arrived at 5.30 PM South Africa’s time, I felt nothing but enthusiasm and relieved.
Cape Town International Airport had a major development when South Africa was chosen to exhibit the FIFA World Cup of 2010. Ryan, our tour guide from Smailing Tour explained that before facilities were poor and confusing. But I witnessed a really modern and well-organized airport, so I was sure that what he said was true. As we walked out of the airport, Michael, the local guide for Cape Town greeted us along with some staffs to handle our luggage. That was the first point where I realized that we were all really in for a treat. We hopped-in to our tour bus and we were on our way. Our itinerary for that first day in Cape Town was only to have dinner at the Hilderbrand Restaurant and then checked-in at the Commodore Hotel to close the day. Hilderbrand Restaurant was positioned perfectly at one side of the famous Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (V & A Waterfront). Dinner was already arranged when we got there. The appetizer was a delightful tomato soup, the main menu was either sirloin steak or grilled chicken steak, and the dessert was ice cream. As we waited for the main menu, I anxiously went around the restaurant and took pictures of the surroundings. I just could not ignore invitations from beautiful building lightings and passing boats on the docks nearby. After I thought I had enough, I went back to the restaurant and surprised with the breaking news. One of the participants lost his bag which was hanged on his seat just minutes during his toilet break. The thing was, he ignored the tour leader’s warning and nobody saw anything. His small bag contains a digital camera and passport, such a major bummer! There on forward, lesson learned, I always carried my bags around even if it was only going to the toilet. When everybody finished having dinner it was already 9.00 PM, so we left the restaurant and walked to the hotel. Apparently, The Commodore Hotel was just 5 minutes away from V&A Waterfront. Although the hotel seemed to have a ‘classic’ look, the room was spacious, had a window that can be opened, and also wi-fi connection. I unpacked a little, brushed my teeth and went to bed instantly. The first day of the trip passed so quickly!
The next morning we reassembled at 7.00 AM for breakfast at the hotel restaurant. As a four stared hotel, The Commodore provided a wide range of breakfast menu, so whether you choose American breakfast, Continental breakfast, or any other style, I am sure you can. As I walked to find a table outside, I found that day as a bright Saturday morning with a strong cold breeze. It was a different atmosphere and I really enjoyed it. It was also the same reason why our agenda was changed by putting Table Mountain as the first attraction of that day. During the 30 minutes bus ride, our guide told us that we would be using a cable cart to reach the top of the mountain, which was 1.085 meters above the sea level. He further explained that it was why the weather played an important role in the success of our visit to Table Mountain, because a mixture of strong wind or hard rain and elevation created an unsafe situation in riding a cable cart; accordingly, the management held a full right to shut down the facility as a preventive measure in avoiding a crash. Tickets were immediately distributed once we arrived at our destination, we then queued for 10 minutes before it was finally our turn and 5 minutes later we were already standing at the top of Table Mountain. I was amazed with the view and it was really hard to explain by words. I will let the pictures do all the talking.
View at the feet of Table Mountain
View at the top of Table Mountain
One hour seemed very fast, I could not have enough pictures in my camera and iPhone for that kind of view. I rushed back to the cable cart terminal and joined the others to catch our ride down. The next stop for that day was the house of parliament. The city of Cape Town, despite not being the capital of South Africa, is home to South Africa’s Parliament – Cape Town is the legislative capital, whilst the seat of government is in Pretoria, the administrative capital. We spent no more than 20 minutes and I only had a few good shots of the building, but I thought it was enough. We continued our trip, passed the town, and went on to Constantia Valley to visit the Groot Constantia Estate. Inside we were scheduled to taste some of the best wines produced by the estate. The vineyard is very popular among wine enthusiast because they made a range of quality wines; moreover, it is also said that great characters such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Louis Philippe of France, and members of the British Royal House were amongst loyal drinker of their creation. I read their brochure which explained that Constantia Valley was bestowed with the influence of the sun, wind, oceans, and fertile soil; those were all the factors needed to harvest a unique and sweet tasting resource for Groot Constantia batches. That day 5 types of those batches were on our table and ready to be tasted. To be honest, after the fifth glass I could not tell the difference, perhaps because I was not a regular or knowledgeable drinker of wine. Nevertheless, I guessed the effect was the same for everyone, temperature seemed higher than when we first entered the place, if you know what I mean.
The group left Groot Constantia around noon, it was time for lunch and that was the purpose of our next destination. For me, drowsiness is the casual side effect of alcohol, thus, I spent 45 minutes of bus ride by sleeping. When I woke up, we already arrived at the Western Cape to have lunch at the Cape Town Ostrich Ranch. Situated in the Cape Dutch-styled farmhouse, the restaurant specializes in ostrich dished-offering. In addition, the restaurant also provides guided tours around the farm. In my opinion, this restaurant was one of the best places that we had for a meal, not just because they served juicy and tender ostrich filet menu, but also because the setting of the restaurant was just stunning. I was much impressed with how they used Bougainville as a cover for the outside area of the restaurant; it worked for both function and esthetic. On top of that, another thing that I liked was they provided coffee and tea at the end of the meal, fabulous! My last sip of coffee marked the beginning of our farm tour. We were then introduced with Hermann, our guide for that day. Hermann was originally born and bred in South Africa, but apparently he was a descendant of pure Indonesian; that explained why his name sounded familiar to our ears. Anyways, the tour followed a 40-minute informative trail, including the museum, the ostrich leather factory, ostrich feeding, and the best part was sitting on a live ostrich. So at the end of the tour, each of us took turns and photographed while sitting on the back of the largest bird on earth.
Cape Town Ostrich Ranch Restaurant
Male ostrich have dark feathers
As soon as everyone was ready, we were requested to head back to the bus for the last venue of that second day in Cape Town. In matter of minutes we were already on our way to Canal Walk, the third largest shopping center in Africa which hosted over 400 stores, numerous restaurants, and 20 cinemas. The announcement instantly jolted the ladies member of the tour who seemed excited in spending some amount of their Rand money. The tour leader caught the ladies expression well, he gave us 4 hours of free time to explore 141.000-square-metre of retail area which I concluded having more-less similar width with Kelapa Gading Mall 1 to 5, a mall in Jakarta where I live. Me and my colleague from the company spent the time went in and out several stores. After a while I could say that prices were pretty much the same with Jakarta, however, we found several interesting brands or stores that were unavailable back home. A shopping bag and hours later it was time to regroup. Earlier before we split for the free time, we were briefed that dinner would be held at Taiwan, a restaurant serving Chinese food located at La Piazza restaurant row. O yeah, that reminds me, Canal Walk and Kelapa Gading Mall also share another similarity besides its width; both have a restaurant row section that is called La Piazza. Unfortunately, the food was not as sharp as Chinese food restaurant that I normally found in Kelapa Gading. Dinner at Taiwan that night concluded our second day in Cape Town.
La Piazza at Canal Walk Mall
It was another 7.00 AM morning-call for us, because that day the tour was going to cover even a lot more miles up to Cape of Good Hope, which was the most south-western point of the African Continent. It was one of the many reasons why I felt very excited and another was because the itinerary also included seeing live seals and Jackass penguins at their natural habitat. I had never seen a seal or penguin with my own two eyes, moreover at their home, so I was sure it was going to be a great tour day. In addition, we also had the Twelve Apostles, lobster lunch at Fish Hoek, and the old lighthouse at the tip of Cape Point. I guess everybody realized that proper timing was crucial when having a day that packed, because after we were being told that the bus was ready, each of us quickly boarded the tour bus without being told. I found an empty window seat and made myself comfortable. As the bus drove away from the hotel, I looked out the window and noticed that a lot of people were jogging, riding bikes, running their dog, or just sitting along the shoreline fences. It was not something like I saw the day before, but then I remembered that it was a Sunday morning and it all made sense. I imagined about living in Cape Town, kept a dog, and walked it every Sunday just like those people I saw. However, it was just short illusion because an amazing view unfolded before my eyes. A breathtaking view of mountain lines on the background combined with white sandy beach on the foreground; we were minutes away from our first stop, the Twelve Apostles. It was hard to digest all that beauty and took photos at the same time. Unfortunately, we were only given 20 minutes because we had to keep things on schedule.
The Twelve Apostles
With a view like that, 20 minutes felt like a very short while and we were back on the road. Hout Bay, an active fishing harbor that was populated since the late Stone Age era, was our destination. From which we were going to join a boat cruise to see Cape Fur Seals at Seal Islands. As it was a major tourist attraction, when we got there lots of tourist already filled the spot queuing for tickets. Yet, we did not have to queue for anything, because tickets were directly distributed to us just before we entered the boat. Onboard I found information on one of the walls that said the boat was licensed to carry 120 passengers. No wonder it was quite big; it featured an ample outside, an undercover area, individual seating, and onboard bar facilities. But space was not part of my worry, the strong tide was. A few days before I went into this trip, I Googled Seal Islands and found that huge population of seals living here attracted great white sharks to inhabit the sea below. I really could not imagine accidentally thrown overboard by the waves hitting the boat. Thus, no matter what I did, I always held on something tightly. Even when we passed the famous Sentinel Mountain, I insisted on capturing it by hooking one arm to a steel railing while the other holding the camera. I only had a few good shot because the boat was rocking so hard from side to side, but I immediately forgot about it as we arrived at the main attraction. Seal Island is a small land mass that rises no more than about six meters above the high tide mark and it is named so because of the great number of Cape Fur Seals that occupy it. I was lucky that my camera covered quite a distance between where the boat stopped and the island, since we could not get closer due to shallow sea level. To be honest, it was hard to see the seals clearly from where I was standing, but from my photos I saw that there were hundreds or thousands of them on the island. I also spotted several seals with the size twice from the others; however, I was not sure whether they were the alpha male or anything else. And for 20 minutes long the boat circled the island making sure that everyone onboard got their share of view and captured every angle, afterwards the boat slowly left the island heading back to Hout Bay. It is true, seeing something with your own two eyes is much different than seeing it from other people’s view.
Cape Fur Seals at Seal Island
A cruise boat circling the Seal Island
It was a good business day for the boat owners, because another group seemed anxious to board the boat as we move closer to the dock. We then took time to check out the stalls along the dock which mainly sold authentic South African souvenirs, such as wood carving in the shape of African animals, leather bracelets, beads, key-chains, fridge magnets, and ostrich eggshells. Although it did not come cheap, that last item was the most hunted by our group, whether it was carved, hand-painted, or just glazed. One ostrich egg sold around 150-160 South African Rand depending on your negotiation skills and that sum of money equaled 155.000 Rupiahs in Indonesian currency. Somehow I did not fancy it, maybe it was because I could not think anywhere to place it, and so I kept my money for something else like authentic local food. Speaking of which, my stomach growled for food as the day approached noon. Yet, the others got carried away in shopping spree madness and we already passed lunch time when we got back to the bus. I was relieved to hear that the next stop was the Bayside Seafood Restaurant located exactly in one side of Fish Hoek beachfront. What was also exciting, our tour guide told us that getting there involved passing the scenic route of Chapman’s Peak Drive, a spectacular road which hugged the near-vertical face of the mountain from Hout Bay to Noordhoek, while the western flank of the mountain fell sharply for hundreds of meters into the Atlantic Ocean. The road was once closed in the 1990s after a rock fall causing death and subsequent lawsuit, but then reopened as a toll road in 2005.
Decorated ostrich eggs
Chapman’s Peak Drive
Half an hour later we arrived at Bayside to have our lobster lunch. That day we were blessed with a beautiful bright sky, so the beach was crowded with people swimming or chilling under the sun. I recognized several good objects to capture around the restaurant; hence, I left the group and walked out for a few minutes. When I got back, the appetizer was served, it was oysters. To me they looked and smelled funny, but I was curious to try one. And I was right, evidently one was enough! Up until now, I still do not understand how something like it can be so expensive. The main menu was definitely better although a bit fishy. 800 grams of grilled lobster served with rice and stir-fried vegetables perfectly sufficed my hunger. While a cup of coffee guaranteed to keep our eyes open during the following afternoon and closed our lunch session.
Beachfront of Bayside Seafood Restaurant
800 Grams of grilled lobster
We were back on the road heading for Boulders, a beach positioned between Fish Hoek and Cape Point, to see a colony of estimated 3.000 Jackass penguins which were set up in 1983. Before getting there, we passed the city of Simon’s Town, the home of the South African Navy. Accordingly, our tour guide told us that for more than 2 centuries Simon’s Town had been an important naval base and harbor, previously for the Royal Navy and currently for the South African Navy. Furthermore, he also told us that the town is named after Simon van der Stel, an early governor of the Cape Colony. While listening to his explanation, I observed the sea was good for swimming and the big-round boulders on the sandy beach provide some shade and shelter. Too bad we did not have the privilege to enjoy it. Nevertheless, the penguins cheered me up. Although we only saw them from the provided boardwalk along the coastline, it was a rare view still. Not every day you got the chance to see live penguins that acted silly, swam the sea, teased each other, stood together, and instinctively made a formation; truly a scene to capture. After I thought I had enough pictures, I rushed back to the bus looking for air conditioner. The sun stopped me from staying longer because it was such a brilliant day, even too brilliant. I really felt tortured being outside at that time of the day.
Entrance to Boulders Beach
As I got back to the bus, a few people were already there chilling; I guessed that afternoon we all felt the same heat wave. A few minutes later, everybody completely regrouped in the bus to see the second last attraction for that day, which was the old lighthouse at the tip of Cape Point summit within the Table Mountain National Park. As you can imagine, the summit is very high and takes a lot of time to walk by; fortunately, the venue is equipped with The Flying Dutchman. It is the official name given to the inclined funicular railway system that provides a quick, comfortable, and convenient means of reaching just below the summit of Cape Point. It only took three minutes to get to the summit and everyone on the group was immediately indulged with yet another stunning view. That little hint of view made me totally agreed to categorize Cape Point as one of the most spectacular sightseeing spots in South Africa. Appropriately, a lot of time needed to explore a spectacle like that, but time was not a privilege. So I made a little run here and there to take enough pictures from every angle, but especially the old lighthouse. I managed to cover the whole complex within 30 minutes duration, just in time to regroup at the funicular and went down together with the group. It had been a long day and we still had one more stop. Cape of Good Hope is popularly perceived as the meeting point of the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans, situated at the junction of two earth’s most contrasting water masses – the cold Benguela current on the West Coast and the warm Agulhas current on the East Coast. That was why when I looked closely at the sea water, it had two different colors. However, at that time I was not aware about these facts and thought it was just a casual natural occasion. As a matter of the fact, we all did not aware of it at all and busy taking turns photographing each other in front of a sign that said we were at the most south-western point of the African continent. Too bad!
View from the summit of Cape Point
The old lighthouse
Cape of Good Hope
It was around 5.00 PM when we left Cape of Good Hope and the night started to creep in. I fell asleep not long after I found my seat on the bus and so did everyone else. That day ended with having dinner together at Mr. Chan restaurant at downtown Cape Town. It was the second Chinese food meal that we had during the whole trip and the flavor chart was increasing, since it was more delicious than what we had at Taiwan restaurant the other day. A superb way to close that marvelous third day in Cape Town!
The previous night I was too tired and lazy to take a bath. Hence, I only washed my face and brushed my teeth before bed. Alas, that meant I had to wake up earlier than early on that fourth day. The reception called my room exactly at 4.00 AM. I rushed to take a bath, packed my bags, and went down to the hotel lobby to regroup with the other tour participants. It was the day when we took the 6.30 AM flight to Johannesburg with the local Mango Airlines. On the way to Cape Town International Airport, Michael, our local guide said his goodbye. He said we had seen the best and then we could see the rest, he also wished us a great time within our remaining holiday. I thought it was well said and very appropriate. Leaving early from the hotel was a good decision, because 30 more people checking-in at the same time took quite a while, not to mention queuing to pass the metal detector. By the time we reached the boarding room, I took some time to eat my breakfast which was prepared by the hotel in boxes and given to each of us when we left. And when the announcement to board the plane roamed the room, I was just having my last bite. It was a good morning indeed when I found out that I was given a window seat, because I could see how sunshine slowly surged the mountain and sea surface below.
Morning flight with Mango Airline
We arrived at the OR Tambo International Airport of Johannesburg around 9.00 AM. Brian, our local guide throughout our stay in Cape Town, greeted us outside the arrival terminal. Apparently, in Johannesburg we used the same type of tour bus with Cape Town. However, something very unfortunate happened. A small rock splintered from a grass cutting machine and hit one of the bus emergency glasses. The glass shattered in small pieces, but thank God nobody was hurt in that incident. Brian quickly coordinated with his office to arrange a replacement bus which going to pick us up at the nearest gas station. We waited an hour until the replacement bus was ready and quickly continued our trip to Pretoria, the executive (administrative) capital of South Africa. Therefore, that day’s main attraction was to see the Union Buildings, an official seat of the South African government and offices of the president of South Africa. The Buildings are one of the centers of political life and poses as an emblem of democracy in South Africa. And although not in the center of Pretoria, the Union Buildings occupies the highest point of the city and constitutes a South African national heritage site. It was also the location of presidential inaugurations. That was why I thought it would be interesting if we could get a tour inside the building, yet it was impossible. Nonetheless, photos from outside the building already sufficient for me to say that I had visited the symbol of democracy in South Africa.
The Union Buildings
Union Buildings was one of the two places we visited in Pretoria, while the other is lunch. Thus, we took another 15 minutes bus ride from Union Buildings and arrived at Lai Jing Chinese restaurant. Lai Jing would be the third and last Chinese food meal that we had along the trip and certainly tasted the best amongst other Chinese restaurants that we encountered. Every meal provided in this trip was always more than we needed. Even though we tried to finish them all, most of the time there was always leftovers. For me it was such a shame wasting food like that, but I ate more than could and that was that. As our appetite was satisfied, it was time to get back on the road. Our final destination of that day was the Sun City resort complex, 2 hours drive from Johannesburg. I did not have enough sleep the night before, combined that situation with a full tummy made me felt drowsy; eventually I fell asleep not long after I sat down. Unluckily, in the middle of my glorious nap I felt hot and uncomfortable. I was forced to open my eyes and checked out what was going on. At that time we were driving in the middle of a desolated and hot desert; thus, I raised my hand to test the wind coming from the AC outlet and I thought was not as cold as before. Then I concluded that the air conditioner inside the bus could not balance the extreme temperature outside. In addition, we were still an hour away from the resort. So there we were battling with heat for an hour long until we reached our destination.
On the way to Sun City
Established in the end of 1979, Sun City is a luxury casino and resort that is located in the North West Province of South Africa. It gained popularity when it was privileged by the South African government to conduct gambling and topless revue shows that were banned in all over South Africa. These factors, as well as its closeness to large metropolitan areas of Pretoria and Johannesburg, ensured Sun City soon became (and stayed) a popular holiday and weekend destination. At the size of 64.8 km², the complex has magnificent features, such as 4 hotels, 1 casino, 2 international-standard 18-hole golf courses, water sport activities, wave pool, and access to Pilanesberg Game Reserve. For me the most interesting attraction was the game reserve, because I was not much of a gambler, golfer, or swimmer. Hence, when our tour leader offered an optional tour into the game reserve, I was among the other 25 tour participants who booked a seat. However, we were not doing it that time, because it was better to enter the reserve early in the morning when the animals were out looking for food. Thus, it gave us higher chances to see them. In addition, we first had to check-in at the Cascades Hotel, our accommodation for the length of our stay at Sun City.
The Cascades Hotel
Morning view from my room
The outside look of Cascades Hotel reminded me of Marbella Hotel in Anyer, Banten, Indonesia. I even got the same hints of oldness when I entered the lobby, but I chose not to care. I felt tired and really wanted to lie down for a while. So I quickly took the card key being distributed, went up to the sixth floor, and entered my room. Apparently, in contrast with the old external look, the room was nice. It was spacious, clean, comfortable, and had big sliding window at the width of the room to enjoy the mountain view. For the first time in that trip I could spend some time to relax and enjoy a little TV while drinking my afternoon coffee. As time flew with every minute I spent watching TV, suddenly it was already 7.00 PM, time to regroup with the others at the hotel lobby to have dinner. That night we were in for another treat, since it was a buffet at the Calabash restaurant inside the casino compound. That restaurant was also specifically selected because of its position. After dinner we were scheduled to see a cabaret show at a theatre also in the same building. And the last agenda for that night was free time session to try our luck with slot machines, black jack, American roulette, poker, or any other game available in the casino. None of them interest me at all, yet it was still thrilling to see the others playing while enjoying a glass of cold beer. Some win and some lose, but then again it was the whole essence of the game, right?! The game still went on until I emptied my glass. As always beer made me sleepy and that last gulp was the end of me. I decided to get back to the Cascades hotel and slept early for the game reserve early on the next morning.
Sun City Entertainment Center
Inside the casino
Unlike usual, it was my alarm that woke me up that morning. It was 5.30 AM and the ones who already booked a seat to see the game reserve had to gather at the lobby at 06.00 AM. With a time that short I only brushed my teeth, washed my face, changed clothes, and then rushed down the elevator. When I got there, a few people were already there including our tour leader and a park ranger. The ranger was picking us up using a large custom designed diesel car for us to tour the reserve. When it was time to leave, our tour leader did a head-count and made sure that all participant was there. We slowly drove away from the hotel until arrived at the gate of the Pilanesberg Game Reserve. The ranger then turned off the engine and conveyed several warnings, including to always sit along touring the reserve and not to feed the animals. As we passed the gate, a wide savanna disclosed in front of our eyes. Its green was golden exposed by the sunrise and the sky was clear bright blue. Its beauty spans in the area of 572 km² and recently considered as the most popular public game reserve in South Africa. This comes after many years of trailing the Kruger National Park. Its proximity to Johannesburg coupled with the fact that it is malaria free has led to its new found popularity. Such high praise needed proof and I could see that everyone was anxious to be impressed. We entered deeper into the reserve while the ranger communicated with his buddies using a hand-held two-way radio. Our ranger suddenly stepped on the gas and shouted to us that his buddy spotted a group of lioness. He also told us that we were very lucky if we able to see the lion, because even for him who drove through the reserve daily it was a rare sighting. We arrived at the spot and two other cars full of passenger already there ahead of us. Everybody, including me, stood up and ignored our ranger warning. Our eyes anxiously swept the savanna inch by inch to find one of the big five, a group of animal considered the icon of the African continent. And we found them; three lionesses were walking between the bushes. They were not like any lions I had seen in the zoo before; they seemed fierce yet so serene; they had the posture for power yet walked gracefully; and that they were free, free to leave us in awe. When they were finally gone, we left the scene to roam other areas of the game reserve and hoped to find more. We had been driving for 15 minutes when the ranger made another sudden move and U-turned. One of his teammates called-in sighting of a lion just distance away from the lioness sightings. Seemingly, it was out from its den for breakfast. I noticed a disturbing smell when we first stopped there, but it did not seem to bother the lion from enjoying its breakfast, carcass of a zebra. It was the first time I saw a lion eating its prey with my own two eyes. Eventually, along the two hours circling the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, we met four animals out of the big five; they were lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, and rhinoceros. In addition, we also encountered giraffes and wildebeest. However, it was unfortunate that we could not complete the list with leopard, but then again they hunted at night, so the possibility was really slim.
Savanna inside the Pilanesberg Game Reserve
A lion with its prey
A rhino with its baby
At the end of our tour, the ranger dropped us off near the hotel and we walked the rest of the way. Afterwards, we all had breakfast and returned to our rooms. During the day we were given an option of exploring the complex or replacing our sleep that was taken by touring the reserve. I chose to explore because I did not feel like sleeping and everyone seemed to feel the same. We took it easy and only visited a few places, such as the wave pool and Sun City Entertainment Center. To be honest, those places were nothing special; nevertheless, it was still a good way to spend the day since I had several good shots from the exploration. In addition, that exploration was also the last agenda for that day and that point forward we were free to do anything what we want to do. Considering on the next evening I would be flying another 17 hours to Jakarta, I planned to sleep for a while as a preventive measure from getting sick when flying home. In reality, I overslept and woke up around 7.00 PM because of hunger. I took a quick bath and went down to have dinner with my colleague. As it was our last night in South Africa, me and my friend wanted to close the trip with a glass of beer. We then walked to the casino again since it was the only bar that we knew and the closest around the resort. Unsurprisingly, at the casino we met several friends from the tour who was there before us playing all kind of games. To some, the thrill of gambling enfolds certain persona that cannot be resisted. In contrast, me and my friend plus another that we met at the casino were not interested at all and continued with our original beer plan. So we sat there at the bar, ordered a few glasses, and smoked our cigarettes. We were so engaged with our conversation and did not notice that the smoke of our cigarettes caught the attention of a few Caucasian teens sitting next to us. Out of the blue they approached us and politely asked for a smoke. That one stick apparently bridged our differences and started hours of interesting conversation with them. They told us that the four of them were college students who at that time on vacation, yet they had to work their way through holiday by working at their parents farm near from the resort. From them we also understood how South Africa had changed since Apartheid was abolished, yet the impacts were not always positive as natives sometimes stretched the boundaries of their freedom to legitimize stealing from foreign immigrants. That and so much more, our conversation flowed endlessly; however, the one thing that I remember, they told us that our cigarette smelled like weed and it would be a definite sold-out if they had it there in South Africa, what a laugh, what a night, and what a closure!
The wave pool of Sun City
All good things must come to an end and so did our South Africa trip. The gang sluggishly gathered at the hotel lobby waiting for the bus to arrive; yet, it never came. Our bus had trouble again, this time it was the machine. The tour leader took an initiative and hired the Sun City bus to save time. An hour later we arrived at one out of three stops that we made at that last day. It was lunch at the Carnivore Restaurant inside the Misty Hills Country Hotel complex. It was a unique and very meaty lunch, as the restaurant featured an all-you-can-eat grill buffet of giraffe, wildebeest, ostrich, pork, zebra, and crocodile meat. It was even more interesting when the waiter came and served the meat, as it was skewered on a Maasai sword and sliced directly on our casted-iron plates. When eating we were advised to use one of the six sauces provided at the table, each with a specific function. And among all that I tasted that day, I conventionally enjoyed grilled pork meat the most.
Entrance to the Carnivore Restaurant
A huge charcoal grill
Six different sauces
Carnivore restaurant was one out of three stops that we made that day, while the second was a big souvenir shop called Cambanos and Son. For me, buying gifts or souvenir is a confusing experience, because I always try to find something that is unique and useful at the same time. As it was the last chance to shop, I spent an amount of time searched the store and decided to buy fridge magnets instead. Actually stuffs were more expensive than the ones we met along the trip, but the store had a complete variety of souvenirs, starting from wood carving, precious stones, key chains, t-shirts, animal skins, and many more; so I thought we were paying more for a more comfortable way of shopping. I queued at the cashier and looked around. Seemingly, everybody was also busy selecting stuffs and making sure that they did not miss anyone back home. The group eventually bought more souvenirs on top of all the things that they had bought along the trip. Back on the bus, I overheard several conversations with the same main topic, how to check-in at the airport without being charged for overweighed luggage. To them I offered to check-in under my name since I was only using 9 kg out of 20 kg limit per person; of course one of them immediately took my offer and I was glad to help.
Cambanos & Son
Inside the store
That conversation on the bus took us to the third and final stop before going to OR Tambo International Airport. This place also involved spending more Rand as it was the Sandton City Shopping Center, the third largest shopping mall in South Africa. I had an amount of Rand money left and I thought it would not be beneficial if I kept plenty of them. We were only scheduled to stay there for an hour, thus, I quickly browsed the stores and thought what to buy with my money. After walking far enough, I resolved myself in buying a pair of sneakers. It had a nice color mix and was not available in Indonesia, yet I was surprised when seeing the tag inside the shoes, it was made in Indonesia! I bought it anyway and kept enough Rand money as a reminder that I had visited South Africa. Just in time, I finished my transaction at the cashier and it was time to get back on the bus. Sad as it is, the end was near. Around 10.00 PM our plane to Dubai International Airport took-off and it marked the first half of our journey back to Indonesia. The next morning we arrived in Dubai and boarded another plane to complete the second half of our journey. And the trip officially ended when we reached Soekarno-Hatta International Airport of Jakarta at the evening of November 22nd.
For more pictures of my South Africa trip, this is the link to my Picasa album.