Return Visit to South Africa

The afternoon guided tour of The Winelands by Hylton Ross Tours comprised a visit to a cheetah sanctuary, a tour of picturesque Stellenbosch and food and wine in The Anura Boutique Winery. The tour group included persons from Ghana, Greece, and Angela and I from Ireland. We had dinner that night in renowned new Balthazar restaurant, grill seafood and wine bar in the V&A in Cape Town. Balthazar was voted the best steakhouse in South Africa in 2005. The welcome literature contains the following: “indulge your palate; enjoy the best in life – from slick service to superb Karan beef aged in our butcher’s shop, a variety of South African game, export quality Mozambican shell fish and freshest South African seafood”. Dining in Balthazar was truly unique personal experience on a warm evening in full view of Table Mountain.

Next morning a representative of Budget Car Hire delivered the car and explained all of the conditions that are integral elements of car hire in foreign countries. The availability of a rental car enabled us to set off for Camps Bay for lunch and an afternoon on the beach among the throng of visitors to the ever popular seaside resort. The visit to Camps Bay was a rewarding afternoon in terms of photographic opportunities – an outdoor African art exhibition; a pristine metallic green Volkswagen Beetle car; an unusual motor cycle, which at first appeared to be a lady sunbathing semi naked; an improvised soft drinks refreshment booth in the form of a Coca-Cola can; and a men’s massage booth on the beach.

We achieved our ambition that night by dining in Hildebrand Restaurant in the V&A. For nearly a century Hildebrand Restaurant has been synonymous with excellence and cuisine and service. It has occupied various premises during its one hundred year history. In 1995, the restaurant took over the elegant historic site it now occupies, at the Pierhead of the V&A, formerly Harbour Café. Overlooking the V&A basis, the restaurant and its function room have breath-taking views of the working harbour. The menu, printed in six languages, offers a delectable selection of Italian, Mediterranean and Contintental dishes, fine tuned to perfection by its team of chefs. The fine selection of seafood dishes offer the diner an opportunity of savour the bounty of the oceans, fresh from the sea every day. The luxury Regent Seven Seas Voyager cruise ship was docked at Pier Four in front of Table Bay hotel in the V&A, as part of its maiden voyage around the world. The cruise ship had a full complement of seven hundred and ninety-five passengers and four hundred crew members. This influx of people was an added bonus to businesses in Cape Town. Most passengers availed of pre-arranged tours to experience the many and varied aspects of the Cape region.

We checked out of The Cullinan Hotel next morning and set off for a tour of the magnificent Cape Peninsula, which includes the Jackass penguin sanctuary in Boulders Bay and the picturesque towns of Simonstown and Fishhoek enroute. The drive through the Cape Point nature park was an exhilarating experience. The notable feature of the nature park is the phenomenal increase in the native baboon population coupled with their audacity in their manic search for food. The antics of individual baboons provide a number of excellent photo opportunities.

In the afternoon we drove from Fishhoek along the shore of the impressive False Bay to our next destination – The Erinvale Hotel & Spa in Somerset West. The drive along the seafront took us close to the sprawling township of Khayelitsha. After checking in to Erinvale Hotel & Spa on Saturday afternoon, I met Teddy Bowler, former Kerry footballer and businessman and we discussed matters of mutual interest. The two nights stay in The Erinvale Hotel & Spa provided us with the opportunity of spending a full day in The Winelands and a return visit to picturesque Huguenot town of Franschoek set against the backdrop of the mountains.

Before going to bed on Sunday night, we packed our luggage for a 5 a.m. departure for Cape Town International Airport to check in for the 7 a.m. flight to Johannesburg. I was awake shortly after 4 a.m. and I decided to shave and have a shower. We put our cases in the car; returned the door keys to the night porter and headed out in fine spirits as planned at 5 a.m., as the dawn was breaking. Shortly after getting on the motorway to Cape Town, I realised that I had left a casual jacket on the back of a chair in the hotel room in Erinvale. Panic! All of my cash in SA Rand and US$ were in the inside pocket. In my hour of desperate need, I saw two police vehicles parked on the hard shoulder ahead and I stopped to seek their assistance to return to the Erinvale Hotel & Spa to recover my jacket and currency. Immediately, one police officer signaled me to follow him and he guided me over the next over pass on to the lane with traffic traveling in the opposite direction towards Somerset West. We sped along to the exit for Somerset West and he waved me good bye. With the pedal to the metal, I reached the Erinvale Hotel & Spa in record time. I explained my plight to the security guard and he admitted me to the reception. To my amazement, the night porter/receptionist had taken my jacket from the room and he had placed the currency in an envelope. Inside the car, I put the pedal to the metal with a thirty minute time frame to reach Cape Town Airport. I emulated all of the great racing drivers as I maneuvered the small car at high speed between the lines of early morning traffic heading for Cape Town. Eventually, the airport came into view. Could I successfully manage all of the operations that included identifying the correct departure terminal? Was it possible to successfully return the rental car and reach the check desk in time for the flight to Johannesburg? As I drove in to the airport, there were cars to my right and to my left; construction vehicles were everywhere in a sprawling building site.

Eventually, I stopped the car and placed the luggage on a trolley and hoped that Angela was headed for the correct check-in desk. I followed the signs for the rental car return depot and at one stage it seemed I was driving further and further from the Airport terminal. I located the Budget Car Hire return depot and I handed the keys to the man on duty. I began my run to the airport terminal in the hope that Angela would be in the queue for the proper BA check in desk. It was with a huge sense of relief that I saw her standing close to the correct check-in desk. She confirmed that she had to make a quick dash from the International departures terminal to the internal flights departure terminal. A Good Samaritan assisted her in negotiating the obstacle course, which has resulted from the scale of construction of new buildings at the airport. We had completed check-in by 7.30 a.m. and boarded the plane at 7.45 a.m. As the plane left the runway destined for Johannesburg airport I heaved a sigh of relief and I was extremely grateful that I was not checking for a flight at Dublin or Heathrow Airports.

Article written by James J. Bunyan.