Marloth to Nelspruit
Such a bummer to say good-bye to Marloth Park and all that beauty, but onward we travel with so much more to experience in South Africa before leaving in 3 weeks. Given the late start after laundering all the sheets, towels, etc (at Bush Laundry in the Bush Center thanks to Jan and his hard-working ladies) and cleaning/closing up the house, we decided to drive just far enough to get through all the construction zone nuttiness (one can expect to wait for at least 45 minutes and THIS is where I see all the litter offenders) and spend the night in Nelspruit. I wasn’t planning to write about this part of our journey, but because we stayed at such an impressive hotel, I’ll write a quickie.
First off, Nelspruit is pronounced Nell-Sprite if you’re American and pronounced Nile-sprate (roll your tongue a little on that ‘r’) if you’re South African. And that is about all I know about Nelspruit.
We stayed at the Mercure Nelspruit Hotel on the corner of N4 and Graniet Street. Due to the hotel’s decent rate (about $65.00 US), I had mediocre expectations. Wow. Totally surprised.
Mercure Nelspruit Hotel (1-6 scale): Found on Booking.com.
Not one complaint about cleanliness, and I usually have at least one.
General Accommodations: 4
We were in room 306 on the bottom floor. Normally, I prefer to be up as high as possible for 1) any chance of a view and 2) noise reduction. But the bottom floor worked for us given all the luggage to lug (NOW I understand the origin of that word 🙂 ) in and out of the car. There was but one step on the bottom, and there were a bunch of steps for the 2nd floor rooms.
The coolest part about this place is how the grounds are designed. The rooms, which are VERY spacious, are in buildings that look like town homes. The place looks like it’s been around for a while despite the decent upkeep. The kitchen area had plates and silverware but no cookware. Scott used the microwave to heat up our dinner (guess…yes, rice and beans) on plates. There was also no hand soap in the bathroom or dish soap/sponge in the kitchen. Not a problem given I travel with Dr. Bronners – Magic Pure-Castile Soap Organic Almond – 32 oz.,which I use for everything-washing from clothes, to body to fruit to dishes.
General Environs: 5
One can hear the busy N4 when outside, but the rooms were quiet inside. With only a 15 second walk to the pool area, which was more like an oasis, we were in a good spot. It was a pleasant place with a simple but beautiful and elegant lobby. The front desk guy, Joe, was gentle and sweet as was Elvis, the bartender. We bought two beers (Amstel) for 40 Rands (about $3.60 US) and the drinks came with a big bowl of fresh popcorn mixed in with peanuts and raisins. Overall, I highly recommend this place if you find yourself in Nelspruit.
Onward to Jo-burg
Another surprise was how quickly we got to Jo-burg from Nelspruit – only 3 hours despite the fact Google told us it would be four. Finally, we beat Google! Our 4-hour wait at O.R. Tambo International Airport passed quickly. This was another surprise to me, how beautiful is the Jo-burg airport. Despite the fact we flew into this airport only 2 months earlier, I had no recollection of it. Jetlag at its finest.
We flew on a Mango
James and the Giant Mango. Hmmm…sounds like the name of a cool children’s book. I may be onto something here.
Mango airlines, a South African company, is the equivalent to our Southwest back home. Our roundtrip flights to Cape Town were about $90.00 US/each. Not too shabby. The flight is about 2 hours and 15 minutes. And Cape Town airport, also quite nice. I’ve been SO surprised at how classy the airports are in Jo-burg and Cape Town. Clearly I have misguided expectations, setting them too low. Is that a glass half empty thing or am I setting myself up for a big happy surprise which gives me a full glass and a half?
The Southern Suburbs of Cape Town
We’re staying at a place called Ascot Gardens in Bergvliet, the Constantia Valley, about 20 miles outside of Cape Town. Bergvliet means Mountain Streamlet in Afrikaans. Ascot Gardens is on lovely grounds – chock full of lush flora and several house-type accommodations.
Rating Ascot Gardens (1-6 scale)
Our place, the Jack Suite had a clean bathroom and kitchen, and the comforter smelled freshly washed (this is very important to me given how most places do not wash comforters).
General Accommodations: 5
It’s a lovely suite. And you can’t beat the price at $55.00 US/night. Large, we have a full kitchen, fully equipped (with pans and great cooking utensils) and a medium-sized fridge, a living area and separate bedroom with two twins. The shower, despite some fiddling with the hot water, works great as does the other plumbing, again with a bit of jiggling on the toilet handle. There’s a washing machine in a common area – hooray! Cold water only and must hang clothes to dry. Cost: 15 Rand and it’s all donated to a local charity.
A tranquil pool area where one can hear the soothing sound of fountain water is just around the corner from our suite. Add to it, there’s a charming library with all the pamphlets one could possibly need to explore the area along with shelves of books to read, share and replace.
General Environs: 5
We’re super close to the wine country beach towns, which we really like, but not as close to the city as would also be nice. Given the train station is a short walk (about 10 minutes), it’s easy to get to the city. For only 7 Rand (about 70 cents US) we are in the city within about 35 minutes. And when driving, parking is a breeze in Cape Town and super cheap (about 50cents/US per hour in a garage and about 10 Rand/hour on the street – look for the Parking Marshall so you can pay in advance).
Mostly, I appreciate the privacy and the easy accessibility in and outside of Ascot Gardens. We have a remote to operate the gate to the compound – all the houses here are gated given the curious security issues in South Africa of which we’ve had no issues whatsoever. The folks who were managing Ascot Gardens while the owners were away, Leslie and Marieta, are sweet as can be and accommodating as is the owner, Barry. They agreed to help us store some bags while we hit the Garden Route for nine days. It’s a safe and lovely place that I would certainly highly recommend to others -especially if you prefer returning to a calm, quiet and comfortable home after a busy day in the city.
Shoeless in Cape Town
Several weeks ago, I made an appointment to see a dermatologist during this planned visit to Cape Town. Motivated by a suspicious growth on my nose, I decided not to wait given the unpredictability of our living situation. Dr. Whitaker, in Kenilworth seemed like just the kind of doctor I needed to see – she has good referrals and a detailed online presence. I learned something new while sitting in her office (arriving an hour early I had plenty of time to check out the other folks in her waiting room): the younger Cape Townies are shoeless! Naturally, I in all my germiphobe glory had plenty of questions for them. This shoeless phenomenon is a cultural thing. One guy told me it’s about the surfing culture, and another gal told me it’s about comfort. They even drive shoeless. I barely walk barefoot in the house let alone outside. But I appreciate the fact these kids are footloose and fancy free.
Update – Good news! There is no skin cancer, only sun damage (I use the only loosely). This was a good wakeup call-reminder to covering up and using (nontoxic) sunscreen. Relief.
Scott’s brother, Laine, who was in town for just two days of our 13-day visit (divided up into two trips separated by an upcoming journey along the Garden Route), gave us a tour of the local and charming beach towns here in the Southern Suburbs. Starting at Muizenberg (south-east), cutting across the Southern Peninsula at Sun Valley and up through the west coast of Cape Peninsula on Chapman’s Peak Drive through Bakoven, Camps Bay, Bantry Bay, Sea Point, Mouille Point, we ended this stunning journey at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town proper. Wow.
This cape is the most stately thing and the fairest cape we saw in the whole circumference of the earth.
~From the journal of Sir Francis Drake, on seeing the Cape for the first time, 1580
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Check out the other South Africa posts below:
South Africa Post #1: Our first Kruger National Park Safari
South Africa Post #2: Babysitting a Banded Mongoose Pup in Marloth Park
South Africa Post #3: When Zebras Visit
South Africa Post #4: Daily Living in Marloth Park, South Africa
South Africa Post #5: Kruger Restcamps: Skukuza, Satara and Olifants
South Africa Post #6: Kruger Safari: Full Moon over Letaba
South Africa Post #7: Kruger Safari: Treasure Hunting in Tamboti and Lower Sabie
South Africa Post #8: There’s a Mongoose in my Ear!
South Africa Post #9: Peering through God’s Window at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #10: The Dam Boat Tour at Blyde River Canyon
South Africa Post #11: Rare Sexual Encounters of South Africa
South Africa Post #12: To the Wildlife of Marloth Park
This is South Africa Post #13: Nelspruit to Cape Town
South Africa Post #14: Moved to Tears on Freedom Day
South Africa Post #15: Penguins in South Africa?
South Africa Post #16: The Southernmost Tip of Africa
South Africa Post #17: Birds of Eden at Plettenberg Bay
South Africa Post #18: Dear South Africa: I love you, but…
South Africa Post #19: Elephants at Addo National Park
South Africa Post #20: The Garden Route: Nature’s Valley and Wilderness
South Africa Post #21: Endangered Bontebok
South Africa Post #22: Top Five Cape Town Experiences
South Africa Post #23: Chasing Rainbows in South Africa
South Africa Post #24: Vegan Wanderlust in South Africa
South Africa Post #25: Ubuntu