Day 13: Wild Life (no, that’s wildlife!)

A baboon at Cape Point
A baboon at Cape Point

Enjoyed my first full day in Africa with a drive to Cape Point, one of the most southern points on the continent — and probably as far south as I’ve ever been. Throughout the area are signs warning folks not to feed baboons as they are wild and can be dangerous. This one didn’t seem so dangerous, though he and his buddies did hold up traffic for a moment. I must admit, however, that I kept the car windows safely rolled up!

Later I did indeed see some African penguins. Some thousands have made themselves home in the area, though I only saw a dozen or so. As I was leaving the beach with the penguins, a gentleman asked if I’d seen the whales.


Yes, there there three whales off the cost, just hanging out. They were far enough away to look just like dark rocks rising out of the water. But rocks don’t move like these did. Cool! If the man hadn’t said anything I wouldn’t have realized there were whales to be seen. 

LUGGAGE UPDATE: Okay, so this is getting ridiculous. On a whim, I checked the website for the carrier that attempted to deliver my luggage to the Lake District hours after I had left the Lake District. Seems they are still trying to deliver my bags to some address in England. While I admire their persistence (and perhaps they only get paid for a successful delivery), I do wish they would do what they agreed to in an email sent to me DAYS ago and simply return the luggage to the airline so the airline can put it on a plane to Cape Town. As I’ll be leaving Cape Town on Tuesday morning, I’m rather doubtful my luggage will ever make the trip. And I am most sorry for the donations of toys, games, and supplies that are in one of those bags. 

Tomorrow I plan to attend services at St. George’s Cathedral, the Anglican Cathedral in town. This was, of course, Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s cathedral. I then plan to visit Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years during the era of apartheid. 

Thanks for reading my humble blog and for sharing your comments!

Bonus photo (to prove I really DID see penguins in Africa!):

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Day 12: A new day; a new continent

Lion's Head as seen from Signal Hill in Cape Town, South Africa
Lion’s Head as seen from Signal Hill in Cape Town, South Africa.

After an overnight flight from London I arrived in South Africa today, changing planes in Johannesburg before landing in Cape Town. I checked in at a lovely B&B near the ocean and set off to explore. I meant to take a road to Table Mountain, the majestic geological structure that dominates the Cape Town skyline, but ended up driving to a lookout on Signal Hill. The above photo shows the peak known as Lion’s Head. If look closely you’ll see some colored dots to the right of the peak. These are some of numerous hang gliders who take advantage of what I assume are the area’s usual breezes. 

A visit to the the Victoria & Albert Waterfront followed. This area has a huge shopping mall, numerous restaurants, and countless other opportunities to spend your money. And I did. On the spur of the moment I took a sunset cruise around the harbor. We saw some seals and a beautiful sunset. 

And now for the daily LUGGAGE UPDATE. As I reported yesterday, my bags had apparently not yet returned from their trip to the Lake District in time for me collect them before yesterday’s flight. After arriving in Cape Town I spoke with the local service that handles baggage issues, and they have promised to pursue the matter and to let me know what’s going. We shall see. In the meantime, I bought a new pair of sandals (well, Crocs, really) that look like slip-on sneakers. After wearing the same boots for 11 days and developing a persistent sore spot on a my right foot’s littlest toe I thought some new footwear was in order. Besides, I’ve been told (more than once) to keep my receipts for whatever I need to purchase so that British Airways can reimburse me when I conclude my trip. Oh, yeah, that sounds like another airline promise! Well, I’m keeping the receipts anyway. 

Tomorrow I think I may go see some penguins. Later!

Day 11: A Morning at Downton Abbey

The dining room at Basildon Park, set as it might be for the characters of Downton Abbey.
The dining room at Basildon Park, set as it might be for the characters of Downton Abbey.

Okay, so it wasn’t REALLY Downton Abbey, but the historic home at Basildon Park outside of London has been used for interior scenes for the BBC show Downton Abbey as well as other productions. Visited this today with my parents and their good friends Peter and Janet. (They’ll be visiting Highclere Castle on Monday, the “real” location of Downton Abbey.)

After that a quick drive landed me at the Heathrow Airport so I could reclaim my long-lost luggage.

Or so I thought.

It seems the delivery service that attempted to bring my bags to the Lake District hours after I had left had yet to return the bags to Heathrow as of earlier this afternoon. And so the hunt continues! Perhaps they’ll turn in up in time to join on tonight’s flight — perhaps not. Only time will tell, and at this point I’m not sure even God knows when, where, or even if I and my stuff will be reunited.

At least getting through customs and immigration in South Africa should be a bit easier to manage without the extra stuff!

Day 10: A Visit with Friends

A home in the village of Quainton, Great Britain

Said goodbye to the Lake District this morning and said hello to my parents and their friends Peter and Janet in Quainton, a charming village not far outside of Oxford. The above photo of a traditional home with a thatched roof with a thoroughly modern Mercedes Benz parked in front reminds me that Britain is often a study of contrasts. We enjoyed a wonderful meal together before watching a bit of the US Open Tennis Tournament on TV. This is the first television I’ve watched in five days, if you can believe that!

Tomorrow we will visit a stately home in which some of the interior scenes for Downton Abbey are filmed. Later, Mom and Dad will visit Highclere Castle where exteriors (and some interiors) for the show are shot. Later I’ll head off to Heathrow Airport for my flight to South Africa.

And that brings me to today’s LUGGAGE UPDATE: after arriving at Denham Lays (the name of Peter and Janet’s home), I got a phone call from one of the owners of the Ambleside B&B where I had been staying for the past five nights. Seems a courier arrived and wanted to deliver my long-lost luggage. Great, so it arrives in the Lake District just hours after I’ve left! The owner wisely refused delivery, and I expect (anticipate? hope? dream?) that my bags will indeed find their way back to Heathrow where I will be able to see them briefly before (shudder!) checking them through to Cape Town, South Africa. Your prayers for my long-lost (and much missed) luggage are much appreciated. Thanks!

Day 9: An Automotive Adventure

The view from the grounds of Lowther Castle.
The view from the grounds of Lowther Castle.

So today I thought, after a couple of days of walking and visiting Lake District sites near Ambleside that I wanted to get out and see something a bit different. Lowther Castle & Gardens sounded like just the ticket. It’s a genuine old English castle that until recently was falling into ruin. In the last few years, however, restoration work has begun. It’s far from complete, and some parts of the 130-acre site may never be restored to their former glory. Visitors thus get to see some bits that are in great shape, some that are getting there, and some that are still looking a bit ruinous. The castle is situated atop a ridge that provides an amazing view of the valley below. 

Getting to the castle, however, provided an automotive adventure. Some of the roads between Ambleside and Lowther are curvy and a bit on the narrow side. Going around one turn I moved over just a wee bit too far to my left to accommodate an oncoming car and banged the left front tire on the curb. Oops. Yeah, I blew the tire. Got the temporary tire on easily enough, but then had to replace the tire as it was beyond repair. I think my traveler’s insurance will help with this sort of thing, but thought it would easier just to pay for a new tire and sort out the insurance later. All I needed to do was pull out my . . . . Oh, really? I had no wallet. Just an empty pocket where my wallet always lives. I NEVER leave without my wallet! But I did today, and the 30 pounds or so in my money clip was not enough to cover the bill. 

Fortunately I have my credit card info securely stored in the 1Password app on my iPhone. (Don’t have it? This app keeps my passwords secure yet available across all my electronic devices. Fabulous app!) Bottom line: I got the tire replaced and was on my way in less than five minutes. I am grateful to the two very helpful gentlemen from AA (it’s the British version of AAA without what would be, for them at least, the unnecessary and inaccurate first “A”) who helped me sort out my best options for dealing with the flat and even led me the five miles or so to the tire shop they found for me.

On my way back from the castle (and driving perhaps a smidge more cautiously) I spied a sign that read “Ice Cream Farm.” Well, if you know me you know my love of ice cream. And a whole farm all about ice cream? How could I NOT stop? I got a scoop of “Banoffee,” a mix of banana and toffee. Sounded quaintly British and tasted sweet, creamy, and delicious.

Tomorrow I bid farewell to the Lake District and head south towards the Oxford area to meet up with my parents at the home of two of their dear friends who live in Britain.

And now for the daily LUGGAGE UPDATE: As a reminder, I left Dyersburg a week ago with a camera bag, a carry-on bag, and two pieces of luggage to be checked. As of today I have just the first two. Without boring you with all the gory details and emails and time spent on hold with couriers, I finally had a conversation with a British Airways representative who confirmed that both of my bags, while in England, were not making to Ambleside. We agreed that I could pick them up at Heathrow Airport on Thursday before checking in for my flight to South Africa. Yeah, that’ll work, won’t it? We shall see!

In the meantime, the lack of luggage has NOT affected my trip in any significant way other than to remind me (1) that I always pack too much anyway and (2) that it’s only stuff and has no intrinsic value. For example, what mattered today was not the luggage or even the blown tire but the amazing opportunity I had to wander the grounds of an extraordinary castle on a perfect sunny day in England. I am so blessed!

Below is a “bonus” photo that shows a view of the actual castle:

Lowther Castle
Lowther Castle

Day 8: A Journey Foretold

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The Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway

A little sore today from yesterday’s extended hikes, but not too bad. I’ve been working on a couple of good blisters that encouraged me to take a more sedentary approach to seeing the Lake District today. So of course I started with a half-mile walk! Well, that got me to the Waterhead where I picked up the first of two boats that carried me 10 1/2 miles south to Lakeside. As boats are limited to 10 mph, this took just over an hour. The day was cloudier and cooler than yesterday, but still quite lovely. 

In Lakeside I boarded the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway, an old-fashioned steam-powered train, for a short round-trip through history and countryside. Before leaving, I wanted to take a picture of the steam. Only tonight when I was reviewing my photos did it occur to me that the steam had created something looking like an outline of the African continent. Cool — especially since I should be in Africa in just a few days!

After the train returned me to Lakeside I visited a nearby Motor Museum. The collection was small but fun to see. Then back to the boat to travel back north to Ambleside. A pretty quiet, relaxing, and thoroughly pleasant day. 

And now (drum roll, please): the daily LUGGAGE UPDATE: On returning from my journeys I found that my new battery charger for my camera had arrived, thanks be to Amazon! The luggage tracking site, however, still showed my primary bag lost in limbo. So off to town I hiked to purchase a few more items of clothing. After a quick bite at a local pub (soup and a fruit tart), I checked the tracking site once again (since I have obviously gotten a little obsessed with my luggage). Lo and behold! That which was lost has been found! This good news is tempered by the fact that for reasons too weird and long-winded to explain British Airways believes I’m still in London. So I’ve emailed the delivery company in the hopes they will bring me my two bags by the end of the day tomorrow so I can take them the following morning when I leave the Lake District. How will this saga conclude? Will I receive my stuff in the next 24 hours? Or will we merely turn the page and begin another chapter in the ongoing saga? Stay tuned, friends, stay tuned!