Day three and four… Ostriches, penguins and puke

After Jess finished with the hair braiding, we had another sub-par meal at Spur. Jess loves the playground and face painting and our hotel owner had told us they have AMAZING ribs. Hmmm not so much! Ah well, it was cheap and cheerful and their birthday song was stuck in our heads for the days following. More specifically, it was stuck in JESSICA’s head for the following two days, prompting many a chorus of “SHUT UP JESSICA!!” as she alternately sang, hummed, whistled, and drummed the tune into random surfaces. Annoying to say the least, but it has become the unofficial trip anthem for the moment!

We arrived back at the hotel to no power. I’d had big plans to finish packing in expectation of an early morning departure, but swiftly abandoned them after fumbling around with my headlamp on for a few minutes. I did, however, feel slightly vindicated in my decision to pack said headlamps even though Grant was questioning their utility! Thankfully the water was still hot so we all had hot showers to warm up before bed as the in floor heating was also off.

We had big plans for day three to get up early, pick up the car and head up table mountain. Our wonderful host at DysArt has suggested that we could extend our stay a few hours and leave our luggage safely locked in the room while we went up the mountain. The fog, however, had other ideas! Abandoning our plans to see the view from the top, we finished another lovely breakfast and said a tearful farewell to Daisy the hotel cat. 

A word about this hotel – I cannot say enough amazing things about the hotel or the people who run it. It was a quirky, arty little botique property with tons of charm and character, beautifully appointed stunning rooms, and an endlessly cheerful, helpful and entertaining staff. The location was extremely convenient as well. Also, a cat named Daisy. In short, the perfect hotel. 

We piled into a cab and headed to Thrifty to pick up our car. I had ordered an automatic because I’m terrible at driving standard! We filled out all the paperwork and they brought a little blue car around for inspection. Before we even got out the door, though, the manager was waving is back inside. No  no no… I can’t give you this car the back seat is stained! Ok, fine, they bring around a little grey car a few minutes later. Grant heads out to do an inspection and notices that the rim is really bent; begging for a blowout. Needless to say, the manager isn’t giving us this car either!! Now, unfortunately, we have depleted the entire stock of automatic vehicles!! 

As they call around looking for another vehicle, Grant and I are pouring over a free map from a local jewlery store trying to work out where we are going; they are also out of GPS! Just as we figure out a plan of attack and eye up the next couple of intersections, the lady tells us her guy is going to give us a lift to their Table Bay location to pick up the only remaining automatic vehicle in the area… Unless we want to wait for someone to fetch one from the airport, of course. No thank you! We have already waited close to an hour! We all pile into this guy’s tiny car – putting his bag onto Jessica’s feet and off we head to Table Bay. 

Upon arrival, we have to unload all the motorcycle helmets from the trunk of our car. Apparently this guy’s kiosk is barely big enough to stand in so he stores everything in rental cars in the parking lots! The fuel tank isn’t full and we still have paperwork for the original blue car with the stained seat, but we are past caring. In we pile, and off we go!

Upon asking directions to Simon’s Town, the rental guy told us “turn left, keep going.” Easy enough until we run into a road closure with no detour marked! There were other fun obstacles like a tree pruning company parked smack in the middle of a roundabout, a team of guys and trucks repainting the lines down the side of a very narrow highway, equestrian crossings, and lots of construction to contend with. Grant’s introduction to South African driving was entertaining to say the least. It’s been a while since he’s driven on the “wrong” side of the road, but it’s all coming back. 

We wound our way slowly down the Cape Peninsula, marvelling at the beautiful scenery that the lifting fog was beginning to reveal. We were amused by the flashing sign announcing an equestrian crossing (when people seem to just wander into the road at will) and the signs telling us to look out for penguins and baboons  and reminding us not to feed either!

We finally found our way to Boulder’s Beach Lodge. This was the absolute antithesis of the previous hotel. An unlovely, surly woman checked us in. We were told the room had no safe, the hotel restaurant closed at 4:30 so best get dinner in town, and the much touted penguin curio shop – that Jess had SO been looking forward to – was closed. Boo. We reluctantly checked our passports into the front desk safe thinking we’d drop our cash off before bed so we wouldn’t have to take it diving the following day. (Never happened the whole place shut down by 7pm… I think there were only two rooms in the entire place occupied!)

The room was really a small family apartment with a little kitchenette attached. The place was rank with mildew and I could see mould when I cared to look closely. I didn’t. The walls were peeling and rotting and, under it’s blanket cover, the stuffing was coming out of the couch and there was a suspicious yellow stain….

Grant immediately forbade Jess sleeping on the narrow top bunk of the most rickety metal bunk beds I’ve ever seen. There wasn’t even a ladder – she had to scale the end of the bed to get to the top! We pulled out the pack safe and locked all the electronics into a bag under the bed because there was no safe and the door looked as though a gentle nudge would cave it in! 

Our belongings somewhat secured, we set out to explore. We walked the length of the boardwalk along the beach; peering at penguins and their babies resting in the trees and bushes for the day. Adorable!! I defy ANYONE to watch a penguin walking and not smile.

At the end of the boardwalk we realized that a) we were FAMISHED b) we were well behind our intended schedule for the day, and c) we had entirely forgotten that we had planned to head for the Cape Point Ostrich farm that afternoon! With the clock ticking, we ran into the nearest restaurant we could see to grab a bite to eat. How fortunate for us we did! It ended up being the best meal we’d eaten in South Africa this far. Great food and good prices! I had a chicken curry pot, Grant had some local chicken dish and Jess had another in a series of endless margarita pizzas. 

We walked back along to boardwalk (as fast as anyone reasonably could when surrounded by penguins) and hopped into the car for the drive to the Ostrich farm. 

The farm was a lot more fun than I had really expected and we actually learned a fair bit about ostriches – for instance the have an EXTREMELY short memory unless you are their parent (whatever they “imprinted” on – can be a human) or their mate. They have a human lifespan and could literally go sixty years without seeing their “mother” and recognize her immediately. But someone they’ve just met will be forgotten in minutes. We also got to feed a pair of ostriches and took many funny photos of each other trying to hold still while a giant bird pecked our hand! 

I also learned just how EXPENSIVE ostrich leather is! Unwilling to shell out (pun intended)  upwards of $500 for a new handbag, I purchased a carved egg shell candle holder. Fingers crossed it survives the next month without breaking!!

We debated a quick drive through the nature reserve to the lighthouse, but didn’t really have enough daylight left to make it worthwhile. It’s strange to have sunset before six pm again! It’s ALSO strange that every shop seems to close by six even in the most touristy areas. 

Instead we headed back to Simon’s Town to get our bearings for the early morning shark dive departure. We’d had confirmation that the trip was going to go ahead, so we were getting pretty excited. After some wrong turns and a bit of backtracking, we figured out the parking situation and wandered into the shop to confirm morning plans. “It’s going to be REALLY cold tomorrow – wear as many layers as you own.” The girl said. She also said: ” make sure you take seasickness pills because it might be a ‘bit choppy’ farther out.”

Off to the shops with a few minutes to go until closing time to find some gloves for dad and a new tuque for Jess that would fit over her braids! We stopped at a convenience store to buy stuff for breakfast and headed to a restaurant near the dive shop for dinner. It was steak night so Grant and I both had fillets for about the CAD equivalent of $7.50 each. They weren’t bad, either! Jess had ribs again and hated them. 

Back in the hotel for the evening, we set about getting ready for our early morning shark diving adventure. Eventually, however, the braying calls of the penguins drove us outside to see what they were up to out there. They really do sound like Jackasses! 

Man are they adorable though. Little penguins wandering around the parking lot, and hanging out on the rocky beach. We hung out and watched them for awhile and startled a fair few with our camera flashes. I tried to take a flash free photo of two of them and they tried to eat my lens! No more sitting still that close for that long for me! Luckily it was almost a full moon do we could see them quite clearly without our (handy!!) headlamps. 

By the time I had finished getting ready for the next day and charging everyone’s electronic devices, everyone else was asleep. I had brought earplugs in anticipation of the loud penguins and the 5am start to our dive day. Grant laughed at me. Feeling foolish with everyone else sleeping peacefully and only the occasional distant bray to be heard, I put the earplugs on my nightstand and went to sleep.I didn’t hear a thing until my alarm the following morning.

Grant, on the other hand, was not so fortunate. He woke up to use the toilet around two or three am and several penuins had surrounded our apartment. They were braying DIRECTLY under the kitchen and living room windows. He tore the place apart looking for the earplugs he had laughed at me for bringing! He never found them on the nightstand (sensible place, I thought) and didn’t want to wake me. He was a very sleepy kid when I rolled him out of bed the next morning!

The long awaited shark dive was finally here!!! Dressed in a thousand layers and carrying every camera we possess, we made it to the pier in time to catch the boat; having hastily eaten ginger tablets in the car on the way over. Jessica insisted I wasn’t allowed to drug her again so we went natural this time with some real drugs for backup. (Jess missed the whale watching and dolphin swimming in Hawaii because she was passed out from gravol.) 

The ride out to seal island was an exhilarating rip through choppy seas into the rising sun. Beautiful! There were twelve passengers and four crew on board a relatively small boat. We arrived at seal island just after sunrise and started to look for sharks trying to catch seals. A few minutes in, we spotted a very recent kill. A few flashes of fin, a bloody spot in the ocean, and some sea birds fighting over entrails was about all the action we saw there.

We drive around a bit trying to spot more sharks hunting. No such luck. They wound out the decoy seal and towed it past the island a few times trying for a breach. Also no luck. Finally it was time to anchor the boat and jump in the cage. 

We had discovered that Jess could actually go in the cage if BOTH parents agreed to go with her. Despite the 11-15 degree water, Grant and I agreed to go in when our turn came. She was SO excited! We couldn’t go first because they needed four people and none of the couples (obviously) wanted to split up. “Grandma” wasn’t diving, so our threesome worked out OK… Just not first. Well Grant and I were more than OK with not going first as we watched the guys gear up and jump into the “washing machine.”

The crew hadn’t been able to tie up at their preferred location – the ‘launch pad’ where seals launch into the ocean off the rock – due to the increasing wind and increasingly choppy seas. Still, things looked pretty good when a huge shark swam by just as the first group was about to enter the cage. Most of us missed this quick drive by, but it boded well for some solid cage action and everyone was excited!

I went back up top for a better view. Unfortunately, at this point, I began to overheat due to the layers I was wearing, the curry from the day before decided to make an unscheduled gastrointestinal appearance, and my face started to hurt. The choppy sea and the bright sunlight added to the mix. I rushed downstairs to de-layer and use the toilet but the damage was done. Seasick. So so so very very seasick. Took a dramamine. Too late. 

The next couple of hours were viewed through a haze of nausea and face pain. I’d brought anti-nausea meds but no painkillers. Oops. I was very very relieved (but sad for Jess) that we never got a turn to get in the cage. It was simply too choppy and there were no visible sharks… Despite the incessant thumping of a huge stick on the floor of the boat and the chumming of the water. The noise! The SMELL of the chum… The nostril clinging STENCH downwind of seal island – home to an estimated 40,000 seals. Unhappy Tammy… Everyone else is happily eating chocolate muffins. The bastards.
Finally… FINALLY we pack up and head for the pier. “Look at the horizon, dear, it will help.” Oh piss off grandma! Do I look stupid? (Well, yes, I suppose I do, rather)

I puked over the side on the way back. Very glamorous. Extremely embarrassing. I’m now THAT person. That – gasp – UNPREPARED – idiot tourist. I can’t even explain that most of this nausea isn’t from seasickness. Not that it matters, really, but I’m feeling pretty wimpy to be so sick in front of so many people from such a preventable thing. For which I have drugs in my pocket, and bands on my wrists. For which I’ve been preparing for months and importing special less drowsy medication from the U.S. so Jess won’t fall asleep again. (She napped anyway – mouth full of chocolate muffin) Never mind. Barf. Never see these people again anyway. Puke. I hate them all anyway… Muffin eating jerks.

I collapse on the first bench I see coming off the boat, amid stares from passers by and well meaning advice from my erstwhile shipmates: “you’ll feel better now that you’re on land,” “drink lots of water, dear, you’ll be dehydrated.” Gah! Leave me in peace people!!

Grant heads in to pay (they gave us a 50% no shark discount) and then takes me to the hotel to nap and shower and pack up in peace for two hours while he takes Jess off for lunch and more penguins. Love that boy!

When he returns, I’ve more or less got my act together and the packing is almost done. We finish packing the car and check out. The lady who checks us out this time is super sweet and VERY concerned that we are leaving a day early (I double booked on purpose to have the room late) “is anything wrong with the room?” Seriously? Where does one begin? 

Our drive to Spier estates is uneventful. Everyone is exhausted from the early morning and we just want to check in and crash. We arrived shortly past four… Too late to dash to town and drop off laundry as planned. We were greeted by smiling friendly staff who ply us with free wine and drive us the very short distance to our room in a golf cart. Jess’s first ride in a golf cart, in fact, and she’s ecstatic. 

This room is as beautiful and sumptuous as the last one was grimy and unwelcoming. Just WOW. Went for a walk to get our bearings and enjoy the estate a bit before dinner. Then came back to the room and I spent about an hour doing laundry in the sinks and hanging it all over the massive bathroom. (I’m now roasting it by the fire to get at least some dry for tomorrow!) 

We headed for dinner in the beautiful hotel restaurant …. AMAZING. Stellar service, gourmet food, all for $65 for dinner for three with dessert and wine for Grant… Including the tip! I had oxtail stuffed in calamari with roasted veggies and garlic mashed potatoes and Grant had bacon wrapped chicken… Jess had a margarita pizza. Dessert was rediculously amazing. We all trooped back to the room afterwards exhausted. 

Jess had a bath and is still nursing the rash she has had for a couple days. I am PRAYING it’s not to do with the malaria meds because I don’t know what to do if that’s the case!! We are giving her antihistamine and topical cream. Fingers crossed it goes away soon.

Everyone is asleep. I’m drying clothes by the fire and tapping out far too long of a blog post on my phone. Time for bed – big day planned on this beautiful estate tomorrow! 

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