After another lovely cooked breakfast, our vehicle was delivered…yay, David drove it up the enclosed driveway of the manor so we could go over it without being on the street. Only just fits…. We loaded all our gear in, and had to have the electric fencing turned off, and held up off the car by a broom, while we backed out.
We headed off, ready to start our next adventure, top temp of 33 deg C today!
Exit, for the N3 Motorway, was closed due to a bike race, this was not good. We drove a bit further following the GPS to the next exit, nope this one must have been closed for a while as it was blocked by old concrete barriers. Oops lost in the bowels of down town Johannesburg…aaargh. After a couple of more tries & the GPS getting confused & loosing connection, we finally found the correct motorway.
We drove thru 6 different tolls till we reached Harrismith where we did a bit of grocery shopping, this is an experience as items are all different from home. Finding the exit back to the N3 was also an issue for the GPS, we took the wrong turn again and were headed in the wrong direction, we found an off shoot & made our way back to Harrismith & found the correct exit. All was going well until the driver- no names here, decided to take an exit to Bergville which wasn’t the correct highway number. Following the trusty GPS rather than the written instructions. After nearly getting divorced we turned around & paid another toll to get back onto the N3 we just left. We finally found the exit 194 and were back on track.
The road to the Champagne Castle Resort was easy going, and once near the top, very impressive, the only problem, the clouds had rolled in & we were now getting a thunder storm, we didn’t get to see the grandeur that these mountain ranges boast. The Champagne Castle Resort & Hotel sits at approx. 5500 ft – nearly as high as Kosciusko.
We checked in and drove down to our chalet – no 2, the outside looked fantastic, old style hatch roof- very authentic, the inside…wow, this place is gorgeous- I don’t know how much we paid, but back home I would rate this as 5 stars. 3-bedroom, 3 bathrooms, chandeliers in all rooms, a huge fireplace, under floor heating, heated towel rack and the list goes on. What a dream of a place to stay, and this is before we saw the view from the huge loungeroom window!
There is a note in the kitchen asking for visitors to put their food out of view as they are having issues with the local baboons!
The clouds cleared up a little bit for David to take photos, unfortunately the staff advised it is supposed to rain for the next 4 days or so. What bad luck for us.
We decided to eat at the restaurant tonight, you have to have long pants on after 6pm, but this wasn’t an issue as the temperature had dropped quite dramatically & we were wearing jumpers – luckily, we all packed 1.
The meal was a buffet and was ok, Brendan & I ate a few different things, David not so much.
There was lentil soup, peri peri chicken wings, roast pork and duck, vegetable cottage pie, rice, venison curry, a strange pasta dish & a variety of cooked vegies. Cheese platters, wild berry moose, bread and butter pudding, ice cream and a lady making fresh pancakes – yum
After dinner we all crashed.
We slept surprisingly well, though awake from 4.30 local time, decided not to back to sleep, we need to get used to early starts!
We had a cooked breakfast, of bacon, eggs & tomato. As well as toast & fruit salad.
We did a bit of laundry – hanging it out in the bathroom.
Avis picked us up & took us to the depot where we would collect our vehicle, this took about 35 minutes. Unfortunately, the vehicle was not like we requested…firstly they were giving us the wrong one, a vehicle with only 1 fixed tent area plus a ground tent. They then realised it was for a different customer, then ours had a small pull out awning where it should have been a 270 deg one. We were not happy, after a few calls it was agreed that they would get someone in this afternoon to put on the correct awning we had booked. Then they hit us with a $3k security deposit….err. they paid for a uber driver to bring us back to the hotel & would deliver the vehicle either late this afternoon or early tomorrow.
Patrick was our divers name, there were lots of beggars at traffic lights on the way back- Patrick said it is approx. 27% unemployment at the moment
We were dropped off at the campus corner shopping mall, which is only a few blocks from our hotel, approx. 700m. We had a quick look around – there was a lot of shoe & phone stores. Ah a Woolworths store -something familiar. We searched for that shop, and when we found it, it, was as a clothes store…not what we were expecting. The grocery store is called Pick & Pay, pretty much the same as woollies or IGA, but with different branded items. We grabbed a few things such as fruit & chips etc for the afternoon. We also found a liquor store with once again similar stuff only differently named, grabbed a 6 pack of corona & a few vodka drinks for me…see how we go. Brendan was excited to see the sour vodka bottles for sale -they have these as shots in Aus, not sold in bottles like here.
We had lunch at a little coffee shop before walking back to the hotel.
Temperature is 36 degrees.
We are going to sit around the pool an relax for a while.
We had an early morning start and after saying goodbye to the animals were driven up to the airport, had 2 notifications of 1-hour delays…oh joy we are off to a good start!
The 14-hr flight, 2 hr delay & bus trip to the terminal from where the plane bay was, took its toll, we looked like a zombie with our eyes hanging out of our heads coming off the plane.
We made it …. Hello Johannesburg South Africa.
Immigrations was easy & there was no customs – hope this continues thru to the other countries.
It was a 35 min drive to our accommodation – Melville manor – so we didn’t get to see much, though the roads we travelled on were all 1st class freeways, which I hadn’t pictured. We saw J’burgh city centre lit up at night, high rises and lights- just like you would see at Sydney.
The hotel is quaint, you walk into the main house, where breakfast is served, and past a sitting room to the outside terrace area which leads to the pool, our rooms are straight off there. No 6 & 7 ( Brendan has his own room)
You walk thru a French door to the bedroom – ours looks out to the terrace & pool – Brendan is next door– we also have a jasmine bush outside the door- smells lovely.
After having a shower & freshening up we crashed for the night.
Brendan’s head cold was worse last night, so very little sleep for all of us, but we soldiered on. We had a little bit of a sleep-in, this morning – when we got out of bed it was 7 degrees – much warmer than yesterday.
David’s Birthday today – woo hoo – happy birthday to you – kisses and cards were given before venturing downstairs for another buffet breaky.
Brendan took over David’s camera & happily snapped pictures of everything that caught his fancy – Brendan’s favourites were the different types of medals, David’s was the plane exhibits’, mine , well I am not really sure, I liked the dioramas of the war grounds for Gallipoli & also some of the old photos. We stayed for a bit over 2 hours making our way around the exhibits – soaking up the history.
We than left for the National zoo & aquarium – we had a date with a wild animal!
On arrival we had a sausage sizzle to fortify our strength before heading to the display of my most favourite animal of all time – the snow leopard….at least we could see them this time!. Both leopards on display were curled up a sleep not too far from one of the viewing area ‘s, it was actually a good spot for us to just look at them for a while – unlike the tiger who was right down the back of his enclosure.
Brendan noticed that the fur was not as grey as normal but had beige colours thru it – this is what happens during the warmer months, I also took note of the huge paws – you wouldn’t want to be hit by one of those.
Brendan was in charge of the map & in no time at all, we had seen all the animals on display – most were soaking up the sun & having a snooze though. Now it was time for our date. We were picked up in a golf buggy & driven to a new area of the zoo which isn’t opened to the public yet.
David & Brendan had the first encounter, they were bought out into an enclosure with a female cheetah. The cheetah was lying on the ground munching on a bone while the boys were able to pat her, you had to kneel with one knee on the ground, but be ready to stand up as soon as the cheetah got up. One of the keepers took photos , I was outside of the exhibit but had a really good spot to video their encounter. Once the cheetah had finished ( they don’t have sharp teeth so they cant break the bones only chew/ lick off all the meat ) the cheetah sat up for a few more pats then gave Brendan a quick rub/ nudge on the leg before walking over to where I was and jumped up onto an elevated platform, looking over at far away enclosures.
Next was my turn, as you can only have 2 people per session, I had a stranger with me. Unfortunately the keeper changed the area we patted the cheetah, I now had my back to David & Brendan & they couldn’t see anything to video, but I did get a few photos to document the experience. The keeper went over some facts on cheetahs while we were patting happily away, for example cheetah do not have sharp claws they are more like a dogs claw, they do not roar & they only live up to about 7 years old in the wild.
The cheetah was the same one, the boys had patted, so she didn’t stay put for too long, but I had enough time for quite a few pats which she must have liked ‘cause she purred a lot, it was just like patting a huge kitty – I want one!
I was a bit disappointed, with the money you pay for this experience I expected a little bit more, but can at least now say I have been up close and personal with a cheetah.
We were returned to the meeting spot to continue looking at other exhibits, one more look at the snow leopards to get my fix before we left to go home. Of course when we found one of the snow leopards it was coming out of a pen then casually walked down to a lower viewing area, we then walked around to have another look only to see the back end & tail swish by as she walked back up to the top ! I am sure she was doing this on purpose….you guessed it, we had to go back up to the top for another look – David then spotted the other snow leopard curled up about a metre from the fence sound asleep , we watched her for a while than made our way back to the car – only stopping for a certificate which proves we survived a cheetah experience, its now official!, & a few mementos.
We made it safely home .
We woke up & put the TV on – fantastic …it was minus3 degrees out side..holy moley that is cold…When we opened the blinds it was to find fog every where…hmm, not a great start to the morning…is this a bad omen
We went down stairs to the restaurant and had a buffet breakfast – there was a mixture of hot & cold breakfast favourites as well as plenty of fruit, cereals & breads – it was quiet a large spread – there was even a special chief to cook your own personalized omelettes..
We packed our gear up for the day, we had reservations at 10.00 for an hour Segway tour- we were all looking forward to this. It is now a barmy 4 degrees
We signed all the paperwork , donned our very fashionable helmets & watched our 5 min instructional DVD intently – yeah we could do this – ha , piece of cake – well maybe David & Brendan, I am not the most graceful at balancing..
We were individually helped onto the Segways & given a quick demo before being let loose on the practicing area, hey this wasn’t too bad, I can do this….before long I was manoeuvring around like a pro
David & I borrowed gloves – another fashion statement – they suggest this, as you can get a bit of a breeze – you can go up to 12km speed wise, I was now starting to regret my decision of not having my jacket on.
We followed the guide in single file, going back over the bridge, avoiding pedestrians and bicycle riders, crossing roads etc, we had the first of 2 free times on a grassy park – we had a few photos & tried to do a bit of videoing. We had another free time in front of the old parliament house where we saw the aboriginal tent embassy, after this the people who were only on the 1/2 tour departed & the rest of us continued on,we then went down to the lake foreshore, sight seeing such places as floriade – doing a neat loop back over the bridge again and back to the centre – the tour seemed to go really fast, but at the end we all had really cold faces, David’s & my feet were aching – from not moving them around, Brendan’s hands were numb .. and we all had huge smiles…….we all agreed that this tour was great fun and definitely worth the money.
Next stop the Royal Australian Mint – we stepped inside ..at least it was warm in here..the first thing that your eyes are drawn to it a cone filled with $100,000.00 of $1.00 coins – so pretty !. There are other displays of old equipment that has been previously used,as well as different coins- such as a $5.00 coin. We also saw a gold plated $100.00 & $50.00 note. As you make your way up the 5c steps( the faces of the steps are covered in 5cent pieces), you can view the working areas – but being Sunday no one was actually working. There are many displays of how the coins are actually made – from design to end product. There are also other displays of coins designs which were rejected etc, Olympic medals, even coins which have been made incorrectly
Only coins are made here in the ACT- notes are made in Victoria.
We decided to go to the war memorial & have lunch, once we got there & eventually found a park, it was a huge wait for lunch – seemed every man & his dog was visiting today..change of plans – find a McDonalds’, then back to the hotel , find a chemist & let Brendan have a rest.
This was a good plan except the GPS seemed to want to take us the long way everywhere, & when we found the chemist it was closed…we did find another one inside the mall, where we bought some cold & flu tablets – as well as some wine & coolers – maybe we could get a better sleep tonight… Once back at he hotel Brendan had a rest & then the boys watched the sharks take on the roosters – 2 happy boys – sharks won
We noticed a Mexican restaurant last night, while walking around, so we thought we would give it a try…bad move.. it wasn’t very nice. David had a chimi-changa which didn’t look too bad, but was dry, Brendan and I had burritos, which mainly consisted of rice & beans..sorry but we wont be going back there.
Brendan was actually feeling a bit off, this morning, with a headache & sore throat, but we packed our bags and headed for the Australian capital city for the long weekend even though it was going to be cold – how brave we were ….
We kept checking the temperature on the outside 13, 11, 10, 8 – oh no it was getting colder as we neared the ACT…thank goodness we packed some of the ski gear…I think we may need it..
Once we neared Canberra we decided our first stop would be the Deep Space Communication Complex as it was on the other side of Canberra & it was already midday. We found our way out to Tidbinbilla – after a few wrong turns – thanks to the GPS which had no record of any of the address we searched for! As you neared the facility you were asked to turn off any devices as they may interrupt communications. ( they might not be able to talk to E.T )
The complex is one of only 3 tracking facilities in the world responsible for providing vital 2 way radio contact with dozens of unmanned robotic spacecraft exploring the solar system.
There were many of large satellites to look at – from a distance – you couldn’t get to close to them, an actual piece of moon rock, a full scale replica, of the Mars explorer rover, which we actually have our names on- we have a certificate and all), rockets, space probes, space hardware, – astronaut suits, equipment etc
whilst we were viewing the large Radio Antenna just outside the back of the centre, we ran into an employee who was on a break, sitting in the glass viewing room – soaking up the some of the warmth of the sun. He turned out to be very chatty & was very knowledgeable – in between his many stories, he filled us in on a lot of different facts – such it takes 6 minutes for the commands sent via the satellites to actually reach the mars rover…- also about a poor bird who got in the way of a radio stream – there wasn’t much left of him to clean up – it was like having your own personal guide
it turned out to be a really nice afternoon – even though it was cold,so we ended up lunching on the balcony overlooking one of the large Radio Antenna before making our way back into Canberra, to the hotel
David seemed to be jinxed – we were stopped at every traffic light !
The GPS decided to play nice & we found the way into the Crowne Plazza Hotel without too much fuss – it only dawned on us as we turned down into the hotel that this is actually connected to the Crown Casino – hopefully it wouldn’t be too noisy
The rooms were quite nice and spacious & had everything we needed. it was only a short walk to the Civic mall shopping area – the area was lit up by hundreds of fairy lights in the trees at night. We had thought to walk to the local club but as Brendan was feeling worse we found a nice Pizza restaurant, APK, for tea. David had a chicken schnitzel while Brendan & I shared a pizza – 1/2 special BBQ meat + 1/2 tex mex (which had corn chips ,sour cream, chillies & beef ) this was really nice !
We took Brendan back to the hotel for a hot shower & panadol before bed – hoping he would be OK in the morning.
Place holder for our Korean Trip
As part of a school hosting program, Brendan and I will be travelling to South Korea this month, for 10 days.
It should be exciting!