Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Land of Neb Kills and Live Kills

Guest Post by Samantha Levin

It was such a treat to reunite with Jesse & Dave in South Africa!  They're doing great and enjoying the adventure of a lifetime.  One of our most memorable days in Cape Town was spent touring the Stellenbosch wine region just outside of Cape Town.  We began at the Ernie Els winery for our first tasting of the day.  As always, all the wines tasted the same to me but the scenery was really beautiful.  Apparently Ernie himself was arriving later in the day but, alas, not even Darren is VIP enough to drink in Ernie's private wine cellar with him. 

Gorgeous view

Next it was off to the Spier wine farm to enjoy a delicious buffet lunch at Moyo, have our faces painted with traditional tribal patterns and pet baby cheetahs.  Maybe these activities sound a bit random all at once but...when in Africa, right? 

That's my husband!
(The one on the right)
Show me fierce
Scott & me

Our third and final stop was the Rust en Vrede winery where we were seated around a big round table nestled underneath the shade of a beautiful [insert African tree name...I have not a clue].  It was so lovely, they practically had to kick us out at the end of the day; we simply didn't want to leave.

Would you want to get up from this?
Now, I was not part of the initial hatching of the Nebuchadnezzar plan but all I can tell you is that when we left Rust en Vrede, we had a 15 liter bottle of wine in tow.
Plans are hatched

Darren and Brian with the Neb coffin
Who cares if the restaurant we were supposed to go to the next night wouldn't let us bring our own wine?  How hard could it be to find a table for 15 with less than 24 hours notice, right?  "Where there's a will, there's a way," the person from Sevruga told us when we called so off to Sevruga we went.  Luckily, the staff's can-do attitude extended to opening the Neb (not an easy took 2 people and 2 corkscrews) and catering to a rowdy group of Americans with increasingly purple mouths.

Boys with the Neb
Girls with the Neb
Since most of us had a 6am airport pick-up on January 1st, the "Neb kill" night, as we affectionately began to call it, became our de facto New Years Eve celebration even though, for the rest of Cape Town, it was only December 30th.  A good time was had by all and we even made some friends along the way.

Where's Erica?

Facebook post from one of our waiters...leave it to us to find the only Jewish American waiter in all of Cape Town
On New Years Day, we said a tearful goodbye to Jesse and Dave (okay fine, I was probably the only one crying but what else is new?) and embarked upon the second leg of our trip: a 2 day safari in the Madikwe Game Reserve.

This was definitely one of the best experiences of my life and something I will never forget.  We stayed at (better yet, we overtook) a great little lodge called Motswiri with only 5 bungalows, great food and a wonderful, knowledgeable guide named Zede.  After arriving in the afternoon, Zede took us on a ride at dusk, then morning and dusk rides the next day and a morning ride on our final day.   

Of all the other Jeeps that we passed along the way, we were typically the only people wearing authentic safari hats.   Amateurs...them, not us - obviously!
I had no idea how close we would end up getting to the animals or how regal they look in person.  It was truly spectacular.

Some key things I learned while on safari:

- Lions are actually pretty lazy creatures 99% of the time.  But they're still awesome, especially when they roar. 
- Peri Zelig must have super safari vision - she was almost always the first person to spot everything!
- Safaris (at least our safari) are on par with cruises in term of quantity and quality of food.  Like Jesse and Dave, I enjoying eating well and often, so this was a delightfully surprising feature that I was not expecting.   
- The expression "hung like a horse" should definitely be revised to "hung like an elephant". 

No, that is not a fifth leg...
Despite a few torrential downpours along the way, each safari ride was great but it was our fourth and final ride that really blew us all away.  Not only did we spot the elusive buffalo, which brought our grand tally of "Big Five" sightings to four (only the highly rare leopard evaded us), but we also got to see the holy grail of safari...a live kill.  Darren and Daniela had told us about their gruesome sighting of the wild dogs two years ago so we set off at 4:45am in hopes of finding them again.  At first glance, they seemed fairly docile - a far cry from the mini Goldendoodle that I will one day convince Scott to love - but they kind of looked like scrappy little harmless dogs nonetheless.

Wild dogs on the prowl

Good lord, was I wrong.  As soon as an impala crossed their path, the herd of wild dogs morphed into bloodthirsty killers and started chasing her across the bush.  Zede knew exactly what was about to happen so he floored our Jeep and we began barreling through thick brush in hot pursuit.  We arrived just in time to see the impala struggling for life, to no avail, while about eight dogs feasted on her with more reckless abandon than Dave and Brian at Morton's (post-wedding, of course). 

Zede informed us that the dogs have to eat fast and furiously because, if they don't, a bigger animal will just swoop in and grab their kill out from under them...also like eating at Morton's with Dave and Brian.  How did we know that the impala was female, you may be wondering?  Oh that's easy...we knew as soon as we saw one of the dogs rip the fetus of her unborn impala baby out of her stomach and start feasting on that too.  Apologies if that was a big graphic, but it's true.  I was so close to the action that I honestly thought I was going to get sprayed with impala blood.  

Collectively, we probably took about 1,000 pictures and 15 minutes of video of this incredible sight so, now that we're home, we can relive it as many times as we want.  One thing that couldn't be captured on film was that smell..ugh, the smell was indescribable.  Actually, I'm glad I can't relive that part over and over again. 

Our final sighting - an elephant in our lodge's watering hole!
All in all, South Africa was fantastic and I'm counting down the days (230, I believe) until I can see Jesse and Dave again!    

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