Last night, we met our two trip guides, Raymond (a South African guy who totally looks like the guy from Nsync with the goatee!) and Francis (a Dutch woman whose handshake nearly crushed some bones!). There are a whopping 22 people on the trip, and we quickly discovered that Canadians proudly make up nearly half the group! There are also a few Americans, some Germans, and two Irish girls. Some couples, some friends, and a bunch of solo travelers. A few coincidences too - there's another guy named Ken from Vancouver, and we recognized the sunburned Asian guy from Surrey that we passed during our hike up Table Mountain the other day. What a small world! The meeting was more of an intro and paper-signing ritual than anything else, and we were told to be ready at 7:30am and had the rest of the evening to ourselves.
When we asked the hotel staff where to go for dinner, they pointed across the street to the Gold of Africa Museum. A museum for dinner? Ok... But inside, through a back door, was a huge tented outdoor restaurant with traditionally dressed local waitresses and infectious African music beating in the background. We were told it was an "African experience menu" that would be followed by entertainment. Perfect! So our cute little waitress, (a girld also named Pamela) wore a beautiful golden embroidered skirt, lots of big beaded jewellry, and colourful decorative painting on her face. The food was incredible (and plentiful!) - orange Mozambique prawns, peri peri sweet potatoes, crisp flatbreads with bean spread and roasted peanuts, fish cakes, roasted lamb, coconut vegetables, and spicy peanut spinach. It was fantastic! With a glass of local reisling and the energetic drumming, singing, and dancing amongst the tables that followed, it made for an awesome final night in Cape Town - and our only expensive dinner yet!
Anyway, fast forward to today. After one last sleep in a real bed, we were eager to hit the road - and we were the first ones on the truck! Our home sweet home for the next month and a half was parked out front, and we were both very impressed by the size, functionality, and comfort our overland truck seemed to provide. Two rows of comfy seats with big sliding windows, locking compartments under each seat, big bins on both sides of the truck for bags, tents, food, coolers, chairs, and even a propane stove! Looks like we're traveling in style.
After a quick stop at the beach for a nice view back at Table Mountain, we hit the road and headed north out of Cape Town. We were happy to be out of the city... the busy streets quickly gave way to rolling fields of hay and wheat, vineyards, and farms with cattle and ostriches. We stopped a few times for water and gas, then once more as we climbed up to the top of the Cederberg Mountains and had a nice view down onto the plains we had just crossed. From there, it was only a few kilometres past the far side of the mountains that we pulled into Gekko Backpackers - a little hostel set on an operating orange orchard - for the night. They made the first day easy on us, with a short drive and nice shady lawns to pitch our tents and relax for the afternoon. We took a walk down to the Olifants River (Afrikaans for "elephants", which used to roam here), but didn't opt to stay long in the hot sun with talk of so many poisonous snakes and scorpions hiding in the grass around the trail. The rest of the afternoon was spent reading, snoozing, and wandering around the orchard as the sun set.
Raymond and Francis whipped up an awesome dinner of pork chops and sausages on the fire, and after the announcement that breakfast was at 5:15am tomorrow morning, everyone pretty much went straight to bed - after picking the snails out of their backpacks and checking their tents for snakes, of course!