Stellenbosch is a lovely town with a first class university – one of the top four in South Africa.
I got to wander into the campus and talk to students – one studying law, another studying languages, and others studying finance and marketing. They were all bright, enthusiastic, motivated and optimistic about their future.
The university smelled of intelligence. I loved it. It is a wonderful place full of open minds and students exuding intelligence and curiousity. We all felt it would be a splendid place to take courses.
Close to the university is a beautiful botanical garden. Would it exist if it were not virtually right next door to the university? I wonder.
Inside, we found fabulous displays of flowers plus a gorgeous water garden and a lovely overall ambiance of good will and generosity.
I was very touched by the overall quality of design and variety of plant material as well as the attention to detail and high level of maintenance.
In the gift shop, I bought a book for my grandchildren – How the Giraffe got Tall plus some other terrific gifts.
At the Protea Hotel, where we are staying just outside Stellenbosch, we had a spectacular view from the patio over nearby communities with their all white houses, apparently a colour designated by the municipality to create a cohesive, uniform look.
From Stellenbosch, we went to one of my favourite gardens – Babylonstoren, a place originally designed by French architect Patrice Varatella who managed to create a superb synergy between Africa plants and stylish geometric French design.
At Babylonstoren, we wandered into the Prickly Pear maze and then up to the Indigenous Garden and on into the magnificent, world class clivia woodland walk where we found between 7,000 and 9,000 clivia.
There were many amazing sights at Babylonstoren, including a chamomile lawn – beautiful to walk on with bare feet.
One exciting moment was when I talked to staff about Longwood Garden in Philadelphia and explained how the garden there was doing an intensive clivia hybridizing project,
The staff at Babylonstoren were glad to hear about this because they have been looking for a partner to work with to do clivia hybridizing.
I think Longwood are going to hear from them very soon. I do hope they produce a new clivia and call it Clivia Canadiana in recognition of the part we played in bringing these two illustrious gardens together.
From there we went back into Stellenbosch for lunch. We spotted a new shop featuring the works of Portchie.
Inside the shop, we were delighted to find Portchie painting. We were thrilled. We introduced ourselves and bought everything we could carry.
He is such a sweet and gentle person. We have to get him to come to Vancouver some time to do a show.
I loved going out into the street to drag more people into his gallery to buy more of his uplifting works.
Out of gratitude, he pointed us to his favourite restaurant where we had an excellent lunch.
From Stellenbosch, we headed east to Oudtshoorn where we visited the ancient Cango Caves with its huge concert-hall size rooms with amazingly sculptural rock formations.
During a visit to an ostrich farm, where we learned all about the life of this prehistoric-looking bird with its powerful legs and long neck and ability to run at high speed.
We were shown how strong an ostrich egg is: sturdy enough that we could even stand on it without breaking the shell.
One egg is apparently the equivalent of 24 chicken eggs and takes a couple of hours to cook.
The birds came close enough for us to feed them and we were able to get great photos, but thankfully the practise of allowing tourists to sit on them has been abandoned. It was never a pretty or graceful or respectful activity. I’m glad they stopped doing it.
On we moved, from Oudtshoorn, through the coastal mountain passes to Knysna where we lunch and shopped at the waterfront where making our way to Tsitsikamma National Park where we explored the coastline.
Some of our group are returning to Cape Town today while others are moving on to Krueger National Park for a safari (game drive).
Information about future tours will be featured here. For more detail email me at the address below.