Friday, October 02, 2009

Return to the Cape, Day 2, Dubai to Villiersdorp

We had arranged a car to pick us up at 6am for the ride to the airport, so that we could be sure to be there on time for our 8:30am departure for Cape Town. The roads are empty at that time of day, and the airport check in desks were pretty uncrowded, so we were past security and on the airside of the airport by 6:45 or so, giving us plenty of time to do some duty free shopping and grab breakfast. The only duty free purchases we really planned to make was to buy some incense, which was easily accomplished, and then I decided to buy a spare pair of sunglasses, since they’re so expensive in Beijing (for good ones).

The flight from Dubai to Cape Town is a bit less than 10 hours, and it seemed that the seats were a bit less comfortable than on the previous flight (it might be my imagination, but I find that 777s are just not that comfortable in comparison with A340s). Unlike the previous flight, this one had on-demand movies and TV shows, so we had a lot of fun picking movies and shows to watch. Among those that I can recall seeing were “Winged Creatures” (which Liz told us specifically to watch so that we could discuss it with her when we see her on our return flight through Dubai), “Moon”, “The Proposal” and a few episodes of “Arrested Development”. What a civilized way to pass 10 hours!

We landed in Cape Town a bit ahead of schedule, and the bag retrieval process was pretty smooth. Everything was smooth, in fact, until it came time to get our rental car, since the Thrifty counter had no computers working so they could not search for our reservation and had to reinstate everything manually. While I took care of this I asked J2 to go to the mobile phone desk to find out why my SIM card that I bought on the previous trip was not working. Well, it turns out that the company we were using (MTN) had a 90 day use-it-or-lose-it period, and since more than that had transpired since we last used it the card was deactivated and my number given to someone else. So much for using MTN ever again! I instead bought a Vodaphone card that will last for two years.

Once in our car we headed straight for Porcupine Hills, one of the properties we are considering buying, located between Elgin and Villiersdorp. The drive from the airport to this area is incredibly easy--you just get on the N2 highway and keep going until you get to Elgin, then turn left a bit and before long you’re at the farm. The drive was stunningly beautiful--the clear blue skies with puffy white clouds contrasting beautifully with the green landscape and rugged grey-black mountains. The only downside was that we stopped at a gas station to get some drinks and when we arrived the car next to where we parked had just had its window smashed and a laptop computer stolen from inside.

We arrived at the farm before 7pm and were greeted by Murray, one of the owners. Our room for the night was in the “Cottage”, a lovely stand alone house with one large bedroom, a loft with two more single beds, and a nice bathroom and a little pantry area, done up with beautiful furniture and decorations. The owners had left us a gift bottle of locally produced strong apple cider (this is an apple growing area) and our real estate agent, Nicole, had left us a gift box with some preserves and a bottle of locally made wine. After a quick clean up we headed to the farm’s bar and had a drink with Murray while nibbling on some of his home-grown olives (delicious) while waiting for Nicole to arrive. When she did, around 8pm, we headed to Murray and his wife Fiona’s house for dinner. Fiona is American and met Murray while he was working in Botswana at the Okavango park (though he is a nice Jewish boy from near Johannesburg). They have had this farm for around 10 years, and have done a lot of work on it, though we would not see that until daylight. Nicole was a chef in Joburg who learned of the Elgin Valley while tasting the wines of the Oak Valley estate in Elgin at her restaurant; upon tasting the wines she decided to move down there herself, buy a farm and grow her own grapes (which she is doing; the real estate gig is a side business). Nicole made the dinner, consisting of freshly caught mussels in a delicious wine and cream sauce, while we provided the impromptu dessert--a box of Chinese moon cakes that we brought as a gift for Nicole, Murray and Fiona.

After a really lovely evening with the three of them we were just exhausted so we headed back to our cottage for a well deserved rest.