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Entry 29D - Fourth week with the Penguins

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Entry # 29 D –Fourth week with the Penguins

Monday, October 16 – Wine Tour

When asked, Nicole and I selected the tour that was classified as the fun tour for our wine land adventure. A large, gregarious Afrikaans man named Stefan was our tour leader and said that our lunch would be bread and water. If we were lucky, we would also be given butter. (This should have been my first clue!). He had 6 different CD sleeves full of disks that he kept changing and entertained us with dancing while driving before we had made it out of the neighborhood.

We loaded into a minivan that had a young couple from Norway in the far back, Nicole and I in the middle and the driver and a silent woman partner in the front. Okay, it was going to be a very small tour. As we were driving towards Cape Town, Stefan received two phone calls that two other sets of people were to be picked up. Not sure where we were going to put them. Before we got to town, Stefan regaled us with poor jokes and had grabbed my knee three times. I was becoming not amused at him by this time. In town, we ended up picking up three young British boys and Stefan said that it would only be for a short time in this configuration and we would pick up another vehicle.

I ended up between the middle bucket seats in the aisle, one of the new guys crammed into the back seat with the Norwegians, and in the front seat, the silent woman sat on the lap of one of the boys. He was not complaining.

We went to the Durban Hills Winery, a large farm with an excellent view. They had the full compliment of wines and we began with the whites. After the first wine, Stefan came by and poked me in the ribs, at which point I asked him to please not touch me again. He apologized at this point and was hands off from the rest of the trip.

Nicole and I decided that as we were stopping at 4 wineries, that if we found something we liked at each winery, we would alternately buy a bottle. I chose our first wine that we tasted which was a Sav Blanc that was nice and dry. The young Norwegian boy had a sticker under his glass, so he received a free bottle from the winery. We crammed back into the van, Nicole and I were in the far back seat for this stretch, and off we went to pick up the other vehicle. Nicole and I agreed that we would prefer the other driver and decided to change vehicles when the opportunity arose. As we arrived to pick up the other car, Stefan told the three boys and the Norwegian couple to get in the other car, which left Nicole and I with Stefan. (Not what I had originally hoped for, but it turned out to be the best for Nicole and I).

We had to drive into Stellenboch to pick up the remaining couple, and it is the second oldest settlement in the Cape Region and the home of one of the few Afrikaans University. It was originally a farm for the first governor who did a really good job establishing Cape Town. Quaint and neat, it looked lovely and very much a college town with cafes and little shops. The final couple was a pair of students, a Japanese girl and a Belgium man, who did not sit together but were a couple. We met the other car at the second winery, Simonsig (again named after the first governor), which specialized in Champagne.

It had the look of an old established winery and the rose brut champagne we tasted was lovely. Nicole bought a bottle. I ended up buying a red (I know, surprise! As I normally only drink whites). I noticed that all of the wine farms also had magnificent stands of roses, so I stopped for a photo.

PHOTO – Jane and roses

It is not uncommon for you to see a rose bush at the end of every row of vines. Stefan said that because they in the same family as the grape vines and therefore, if a pest was beginning to infect the vines, it would show up in the roses first. The technology is so advanced now that they don’t need the roses for that purpose, but they are still planted for tradition. I never knew that fact!

Our Japanese woman was not handling her wine very well, was not feeling great and hung her head out of the window the entire way to the our lunch stop. Lunch was at another winery and we given a plate with some type of pulled meat, rice, mixed veg, pumpkin and a small salad. The meat turned out to be what Stefan called venison, and it was Springbuck. I tried a little of it, and while it did not taste too bad, I was not up for game meat for lunch, especially not very cute game meat.

Back in the van for our third tasting of the day at a family run establishment that had a large barnyard full of animals to admire. One pen offered huge land tortoises (some attempting to increase the number in the pen), chickens and goats, while the other pen had lots of ducks, wallabys (that were in hiding) and two adorable potbellied pigs. Across the pasture were miniature donkeys, and the farm also had a large selection of dogs including Great Danes, Staffies and a very old but very cute dachshund. As they only offered one white variety, there was nothing at this farm that we felt we needed. By this stage of the tour, the Norwegian and British compliment were swilling down every last drop of their glasses, and getting louder and sillier with each glass. Once again, the universe knew better than I did and fixed the cars so that we were not traveling with them.

Our last winery was a wine group that offered 7 different labels out of one tasting room. They had a lovely looking restaurant and I wished at this point, that I had by own car so that I could return on another day. I bought another white and Nicole found a rose she liked.
See what I know now section at the bottom of this week. The younger set were out of control by this time and were singing loudly to the music, breaking wine glasses and spilling (or pouring) wine over each other. As this was our last winery, this would be our final drive and Nicole and I and the Japanese/Belgium couple went with Stefan in the other car and the silent partner got the rowdy 5.

It turned out to be a better day than it looked to be in the beginning and I am glad that I went. The weather had been very windy in Cape Town, but as we were farther north and away from the coast, our day was sunny, cool and very pleasant.

Tuesday, October 17 – Peninsula Tour

I had an 8am call for this tour and I was really looking forward to this tour, seeing the Cape of Good Hope and the penguins in the wild. The wind was fierce and I knew that it would be a blustery day. I took along my fleece and my fleece penguin cap from NZ.

Imma (pronounced Emma) was right on time and I found that I could not get the front door open. The security system had a two handed mechanism where you have to turn one knob and then release the door with other hand. My hands and wrists are still fatigued, but luckily Sasha was home and could help be get out the door. Imma was a charming Afrikaans woman who has been leading tours for 12 years. We had three other people to pick up in Cape Town so we chatted happily until we got there. My tour mates were the cutest three German seniors in their 80’s, a brother and sister and the brother’s spouse. Imma had not problem doing the tour in two languages and I picked up a fair bit of the second commentary when she explained it again in German.

We got out at our first look out in search of whales and the wind was so strong, it knocked my over on my butt. The picture gives you an idea of the strength of the wind.

PHOTO – wind.

During my trip, I had a chance at informal language lessons in German and Afrikaans. I know now that Shurn(sp?) means nice in German and the same word in Afrikaans is Moya.

As we rounded the corner on our coastal road, there were a long line of cars pulled over, a sure sign of whales. Sure enough, there were 4 of them in plain view and one of them was very close to the shore. Imma said that means that they had young with them. I had forgotten my binoculars, so I didn’t get a very good look, but I could definitely tell that there were some flippers and tails in the air, waving as me, I am sure.

As we had stopped to view the whales, we overlooked some houses with charming thatched roofs. Wonderful to look at and very interesting, and Imma said cost 3X the normal insurance if you have one of your house.

As we moved closer to the Capes, we entered the new Table Mountain National Park area. There are still some private holdings on the land and one was an ostrich farm. We stopped and said hello to Gertrude and Herman, a breeding pair. I fed grass to Gertrude and got to see up close her lovely eyelashes. There is a picture of me feeding Gertrude and it reminds me of the one of Annie when we went to Tidbinbilla in Australia when I was young and she fed the Emus. Before we left, a male in the next pen did a lovely courtship dance with a lovely display of his wings. It was wonderful to get to see them up close, even though they weren’t in the wild. They are still on my list to see in natural habitat.

Photogene and Gertrude

We entered the portion of the part going to the Capes and there was lots of signage warning us about the baboons and how they are attracted by food. CARE had told us that any time a baboon begins to eat human food and becomes to depend on it, it is a death sentence for the animal. Sooner or later, the baboon will overstep the boundary and they will be shot, as they will then be classified as a menace.

As we entered the part, Imma said that there was a good chance for us to also see zebra, eland and bushbuck. We kept our eyes peeled.

The tour would end up showing us two Capes in Africa; Cape Point, the southern most part of Africa and the Cape of Good Hope, which is the most southwestern part of Africa. The one thing that we would not see was Cape Angules, the place where the Indian and the Atlantic oceans really meet! (Poop!)

As we got to the Cape Point, we rode the funicular rail up to hill. Then we climbed the 120 steps to the top lighthouse on the point. It was determined after a boat called the Lusitania broke up on the Bellow Rocks, that clouds could easily obscure the light from this lighthouse on the hill. So, they erected another one at the base of the rock. I did get lovely views of both Capes from the lighthouse, but you had to hold on to your hat and camera, as the winds were still very strong.

We had lunch at Simonstown before we went to Boulders Beach to see the penguin colony. I had a wonderful lunch of fresh kingklip fish. My mission from Ditte was to find the key chains made out of beads in the shape of penguins. I had to search three different stores, but I finally found them.

Boulders Beach colony – all the adults are molting which could mean a lot of abandoned chicks (not really abandoned, but chicks that have no one to feed them as the adults do not fish during the month long molt) Very cute, Quen posed with his distant cousins.


A surprise on the tour for me was a stop at the wonderful botanic gardens called Kirstenbach Gardens. In the shadow of Table Mountain, these gardens were gifted to South Africa when the Englishman who owned the land died without spouse of children. It runs with only 10 staff and 200 volunteers and was wonderful. The Proteas where one of the main drawing cards and I saw lots of them. To my additional joy, there was Zimbabwe sculpture exhibit on the grounds, similar to the one that was in Denver several years ago. I really would love to have one of those stone sculptures, but until I have a garden to do it justice, I will hold off.

We left the gardens but not before we had a mongoose sighting and Imma and I fed the helmeted guinea fowl. Imma started with just one hen, and then another joined her. Before long, another one came running to her followed quickly by a fourth. Before we knew it, another trio saw the food and hotfooted it over to her. They were lovely and they really liked the peanuts she had brought.

PHOTO – Jane and guinea fowl

I thoroughly enjoyed this trip and would love to come back and do it again. Next time, I will bring my own car so that I can spend more time in some areas.

Today was Ditte’s last day at SANCCOB, so we met at Castello’s for pizza. I forgot the key chains and will have to send them to Ditte via Zita!

I heard all during dinner and from Nicole that the center is expecting the intake of 350 abandoned chick from Dyer Island. Our days will become very busy from now on.

Wednesday, October 18 – left with only 23, returned with over 400!

Since my last visit to SANCCOB, there was in influx of over 400 penguin chicks. With the parents in an earlier-than-normal molt, the chicks were essentially abandoned to feed themselves, which they did not have the knowledge to do. Over 400 chicks between 4-11 weeks of age were rescued from Dyer Island. Had they not been taken from the island, they would have died, as the parents during a molt do not swim and fish, as they are no longer waterproof. The adults live off their fat for the month, but the chicks could not fend for themselves.

I arrived to be assigned a pen with 40 chicks with Jennie, who had helped me so much as I began at the center. They are very sweet looking, all downy with some new feathers emerging, but mainly little bits of down here and there. As our pen was already divided into two pens with different ages, we had to come up with a way to further divide the pen so that we could sort out who had been fed and who had not. The regime for the day would be Darrows at 8 and 4, water at noon and three fish at each feeding at 10 and 3. They were not very glad to see us and did a lot of open mouth breathing to show us how stressed they were. Once we got the first fish into them (which was amazing enough as they were being asked to eat whole fish by the vet), they caught on pretty quickly and were swallowing by themselves. By the time we fed them in the afternoon, they were doing even better and the wiggling had calmed down considerably.

It was a very hot day and Jennie and I were dripping with sweat even though we were under shade. When you are in oilskins and arm protectors of neoprene, it gets a little hot!

It was a good day, even with only a short 15-minute lunch. I spoke a lot to Francis who has a special affinity with birds and I could tell that he was very present with us today. The birds upon intake yesterday were only dewormed. Monday, they will be blood tested and I would expect that there might be shuffling of the pens, as various ones may need medication. They won’t be able to swim until they finish their molt, so we still only have one pen that is swimming. I don’t think I will still be here when they begin to swim and it will be amazing to see how they will manage to get 400 birds to swim several times a day.

They were not able to release the small number of birds yesterday, as the seas were so rough. Today when the sea was calm, the center was too busy and could not arrange for a driver. Hopefully, they can release tomorrow, as there will not a be release next week. I have asked for 364’s armband that I intend to put on my new stuffed penguin from South Africa. Quen will still always be first in my heart, but I must admit that I will always remember 364 and his love bites, bruises, nips. I hope that I get a chance to feed him one last time before he goes back to sea. Maybe tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I work again, but Friday I am off and will go to Robben Island. I am looking forward to it

Thursday, October 19

Same as yesterday with the same amount of work and also cleaning the pens. Needless to say, with the added work, we were behind schedule. We were still going strong at 6pm, but I had to leave for my massage. I had called to see if it was possible for me to arrive a little late, but she had a client right behind me, so I hurried and made it within 5 minutes of my appointment.

My massage was fabulous! I stared with a quick shower, (as I had to come directly from work which had been hot and full of fish), a half leg wax and then a half hour massage. As Marta was working down my back and arms, as she got to my right arm, the crystals were releasing and sending energy up my arms to the top of my head. It was wonderful. Almost simultaneously, my nose began to clog which I thought was just my normal massage nose clog. As we ended the massage, I was on my back relaxing for a half hour as she handled another client. All the time I lay there, my right hand especially, was pulsing like it was breathing or gasping for breath. It was wonderful to feel the energy and be able to acknowledge all the work that my hands have done over this entire year. I kissed each finger and palm and back and thanked them for their previous and ongoing support. My hands are finally awake!

As I got home from my massage, on my bed was a package from my friend Bette in NZ. Inside were my spare contact lenses that I had left with her and lovely NZ apricot bars! YAAAH!

Friday, October 20 – Robben Island Trip

It was a misty morning when I took a taxi in to town for my Robben Island Tour. Before that I went to the VAT tax refund office to understand their rules for receiving a refund of the taxes I paid on products in SA. I didn’t want a recurrence of my OZ experience. I can begin processing the paperwork 7 days prior to departure and must have the items with me at the airport. I will plan to mail them from the postnet just before I leave SA.

My cold was still present so I stopped at Kauai for an apple juice pick-me-up with honey and ginger. YUMMY!

As we boarded the boat to take us to Robben Island, still under overcast skies, we were told that the boats we would take were the same ones used to transport prisoners during the Apartheid years. I found out later that the boat that I took both ways, the Dias, was the one that the author of the book, Island in Chains, had taken to and from the island during his 10-year incarceration.

On the way to the island, I was in search of penguins as we had release them close to the island last week. We came across one, all along in the water. Then within 3 minutes, another lone penguin. This was a little worrisome to me as lone penguins are easy prey for predators. Finally, less than a minute later, there was a fishing party of about 15 penguins in a pod on the water. Hopefully, our two loners found their way back to the group.

As we docked on the island, the sunny had finally appeared and when we looked back at Table Mountain, it had a ruff of clouds midway down the mountain and the top was poking out.

PHOTO – Tmountain with clouds.

We loaded on to busses and our guides were Thado (from the Langa township that I visited) and our driver from Khayteshia Township. They were both very knowledgeable and excellent speaker and the driver gave us a very heartfelt thank you so all that the outside nations did for South Africa and the boycotts that helped end Apartheid in SA.

The island has been used as a prison since the 1600’s and during its time, had different prison complexes in use – the old prison, the convict prison, the political prisoner prison. During Apartheid, it only housed convicts and black political prisoners. Coloreds (Indian, Malay, etc) and female political prisoners were housed in high security prisons near Joburg. On the island, the political prisoners began arriving prior to the prison being built so that they were housed with convicts. The wardens tried to get the convicts and the coloreds to take sides against the black prisoners, (with better meals for the coloreds and convicts and better privileges) but what ended up happening is that most of the prisoners shared what little they had and it built more cohesion between the groups instead of separation.

One of the first stops on the bus tour was the limestone quarry where the black political prisoners worked 6 hours a day for 13.5 years reducing the limestone into gravel for the roads on the island. In 2005, 5 years after the release of all the prisoners (which happened in 2000), there was a reunion on the island at the quarry. Nelson Mandela after the ceremony took a stone away from the quarry and put it near the road. All 1000 people in attendance did the same and now there is a little pile of stones to symbolize that apartied is truly buried. They have all agreed that they will meet on the island every 5 years until the last of the survivors is dead to remember and commemorate their experience.

All of the tour guides on the island are former political prisoners who now live on the island in the former quarters that housed the prison guards and their families. Some of the guards have also returned and work at the museum. People are amazed that both sides can live in harmony, but they do. One of the main topics of his talk was how the authorities at the time assigned different diets to prisoners based on type of crime and ethnic background. The black and all political prisoners usually received the most meager diet called Diet B. See the chart to compare to the C diet of for colored prisoners. While neither is princely, the C diet is obviously greater.

We only had two hours on the island and this being our last stop, we felt a little rushed and would have liked more time to ask questions and go into the individual cells. Nicole who went on the tour after I did said that former inmates had left little messages on the walls of their cells which I wished I had been able to see and read. As they mentioned, the museum is in a constant state of improvement, and hopefully some day they will allow more time per tour.

It is hard to believe, but the feeling from the prisoners and in all the literature that I have read of seen, the prisoners do not have ill will again their jailers. As Nelson said, I am no anti-white, I am anti-white supremacy. As our tour guide later pointed out, they prisoner during their time knew that two wrongs would not make a right, and so they left their prison without much of the baggage that you might expect them to carry. Those that survived the prison left the island and most of them went on to lead productive and active political lives and helped to establish the government that is now SA.

On the way back from the island, I read An Island in Chains, written by Nairoo Indres who had been political prisoner for 10 years. We were on the actual ferry that had taken him to Robben Island in the early 60’s.

When I got back to the wharf, there were 4 African Fur Seals sunning themselves on the steps leading down to the water.

Photo – Fur Seals.

I treated myself to a wonderful shrimp salad and then went to the movie, An Inconvenient Truth. It is a documentary based on the slide show that Al Gore has shown around the world over 100 times. In my mind, it is a must see and clearly and emphatically describes global warming and this it is with us now and not something that will happen in the future. There had been several reviews in the local paper, most complimentary and one rather sour. It does appear as the Al Gore show, but his points about the science behind the existence of global warming are real and compelling.

Still had the slight head cold, which I later determined to be my body shifting energy after the massage from earlier in the week.

Saturday, October 21

I was the supervisor of pen 2, the largest birds, the gannet and also those with medication needs. 36 birds. With a knowledgeable volunteer for the morning and a person who had never been at the center as my general helper we began the day with fluids and medication. New for today, I was asked to give IM injection to a bird. I watch the first one and was ready for the second, but things were moving so fast that a staff member did the second injection for the day. At least I will be ready for the next time. I realized half way through the day that I don’t want to be in charge during my volunteer work. I did that a home and am not even sure that I wanted that.

Oh well, several old friend were still in the pen including 200, the little sweetie that I met last week, and 414 who is getting quite large and should be ready to go on the next release.

We were told first thing this morning that another 270 birds would be arriving today. So I spent some of my day helping Marlis construct temporary enclosures for our new guests. 401 plus 270 in this week and only 7 releases and two deaths (not at SANCCOB but at the nursery residence). With these statistics, we will soon be overrun. Hopefully, there will be a good number to release next week. Let’s hope we have the staff to make the release possible next week.
Marlis is also a baboon foster mommy, so we spent time speaking about our favorites and how much we enjoyed our time at CARE

I have only about a week left and I feel that when I leave, I will be ready and will remember my time at SANCCOB with fondness and appreciation for all that I have learned, both about the penguins and about myself.

Nicole and I opened our first bottle of wine tonight and shared a pizza. An early evening with the book and Kleenex for my nose.

Sunday, October 22

I started the morning with 6 band-aids on my right hand, a record up until today. We will see what the final count is at the end of the day. Our number had increased over night and now there are three new pens with chicks.

I supervised pen 3 today that held 74 birds with Zita as my main helper. Was a little plugged in as Zita was still not tubing the birds as of 8am this morning, so I had to do all of them. This did not help me or my birds, who were only taking about 30 mls of their 60 before they threw up. Nola said it was stress and that 30 mls if fine.

Nola, the vet, trained Zita on tubing at noon, so she was finally a fully trained volunteer. YAAH! Luckily, Heather when she had finished her 35 birds, she would swing by and help us, so it ended up being one pen of about 25 birds for each of us for each of the 5 fluids or feeding times. Thank you Heather.

As it was Sunday, we had tons of volunteers who had come for the day to help. Most of the plastic mats are well under control and are looking much better now that we have the center’s Wap machine back and functioning.

As there have been so many birds taken in lately and they kept running out of arm tags, today in pen 3, were did an inventory of our birds and who needed new or duplicate arm tags. Basically, all of them needed at least one. At the 4:00 fluids, we ended up with three teams working. Step one was to catch the bird and call out the number to the team. Step two, Team member would arrive with scissors and the required number of armbands and cut off the old one and put on the new ones. The clasp was rather tricky and hard on the fingers and the longer it took, the more they wriggled and dug their claws into the holder (me, Zita and Heather). Step three, darrows was administered. My guys again were pretty stressed and some ended up with just a little bit of darrows. Tomorrow will be better as they won’t need arm bands again.

Nicole and I walked to the store for some groceries and then home for dinner. Tomorrow I will ask Carole about shifting my schedule so that I can have one day off with Nicole to go up in the Cable Car to Table Mountain and I will also tell her that I am moving up my final day.

I am looking forward to my Wednesday off where I am not planning anything more exciting than taking myself out for breakfast, a possible movie, and laying outside on the marvelous bed with pillows and reading.


I have found lately that most of the tours I have been on involve couples, so having a traveling partner is a good way not to feel like a fifth wheel all the time.

The next time I am offered a choice between a serious and a fun tour, I need to ask a lot more questions. Fun tour can be a euphemism for filled with lots of 20 year olds. That might work on some trips, but not on others, I will most likely have a more pleasant time with people closer to my own age or outlook.

I have also found that I am now wanting to spend more time in places, or have the chance to go back later for a more in depth explore. A car is a definite must the next time I want to tour in South Africa. I will park it in big cities, but it sure makes side trips easier.

Posted by ladyjanes 04:34 Archived in South Africa Tagged postcards

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