Monday, November 18, 2013

Canoeing and an al fresco dinner at Tutwa Lodge in Northern Cape, South Africa


Tonight, in the middle of the Green Kalahari of Northern Cape, at the very tip of the province and literally several kilometers away from Namibia, I had a most wonderful dinner under the stars, living a Travelife.

The venue was a new but ever so stylish, intimate and understated desert safari lodge called the Tutwa Desert Lodge, which I fell in love with almost instantly.

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PERFECT FOR GET TOGETHERS

It's the kind of place perfect to rent out in its entirety for a private holiday with family or friends.

It's not over-the-top glamorous like so many of the safari lodges and hotels in Africa that I love to stay in.

But it's simple and really pretty, and it's set in what is probably one of the most amazing landscapes in the world.


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ONE AMAZING LANDSCAPE

I've seen all kinds of landscapes by now, in my never-ending Travelife; and my recent trip to Tanzania was certainly full of stunning scenery.



But today, I was simply awed by the beauty of this part of Northern Cape, where we are the only people around.

Read more about this beautiful lodge in an upcoming issue of Travelife Magazine. I've decided to write about it as it's too good to keep to myself.

A FIRST FOR ME.
CANOEING DOWN SOUTH AFRICA'S LONGEST RIVER.



This afternoon, I actually went canoeing on the Orange River, which is largest and longest river in South Africa.

It's official. I'm now an outdoors person, although I'm pretty happy being indoors as well.

And this canoe trip was one of the most peaceful times in my life in recent memory.

DINNER UNDER THE STARS



Then I headed back to the Tutwa Desert Lodge to dress up for a very nice al fresco dinner on the terrace, and seated next to me was Morne Steenkamp, the son of the owner of Tutwa Desert Lodge.

He had flown his own airplane from Cape Town to Northern Cape just to have dinner at the lodge.

Yes, he treats his airplane like a car, and flies everywhere in it. His favorite plane is a Cessna, which he says is perfect for one person flying around; but he also has a couple of Pilatus in his garage.

FRANK CONVERSATIONS



We had a very merry time talking about all sorts of things, over wine he had brought that a family friend had made in her winery in Stellenbosch, which is near Cape Town.

I broke the ice by asking him a very frank question: "So -- are you doing this lodge because you have to or because you just love it? Is it your main business or is this some kind of passion or hobby?"

Morne smiled and said: "It's a passion."



The Steenkamp family businesses run all across South Africa, after all, so he can very well afford to have a beautiful lodge like this as a passion or a hobby.

TWO LUCKY PEOPLE



He said to me: "I'm very lucky to be doing something I love to do for a living. And you are, too."

We certainly toasted to that -- and I think that was the exact moment when I decided we were going to get along very well.

That and the fact that we both love the Earth Lodge of the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve in South Africa's Greater Kruger National Park.

OUR FAVORITE RESTAURANTS IN CAPE TOWN

La Colombe in Constantia
Later on in the evening, we had talked about the best places to visit in Africa and our favorite restaurants in Cape Town. 

It's La Colombe for me, with the Tasting Room and Test Kitchen as runner ups, by the way.

I still think La Colombe is the most romantic restaurant in Cape Town.

Test Kitchen in Cape Town

And on this trip I tried Five Rooms at the Alphen Hotel for dinner.

It was absolutely beautiful in terms of decor and it served incredibly good food.

Five Rooms at the Alphen Hotel in Constantia

Meanwhile Morne was pleasantly surprised at how good the food was at the Bahia by the V&A Waterfront. The V&A Waterfront is a typical tourist place, by the way, but he told me the food at Bahia is worth the trip.

And, of course, there is Jordan in Stellenbosch, which is on my list for a next trip to South Africa. I want to go back again next year. The chef at Jordan was just chosen best chef of the year for South Africa.

My other favorite, Camphors at Vergelegen at the Vergelegen Winery, is nearby as well.

Camphors at Vergelegen in Somerset West


SOMETHING FOR THE FLOOR.
AND THE MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION

After all the restaurant talk, I asked him my million dollar question: "Where can I get something for my floor and what should I get?"

If you're an Africa person, you'll know what I mean by this.



And yesterday I passed one of the few stores in the Northern Cape that stocked up on some of these products, but all they had were springbok.

I got one just to make a pair with another springbok I already have at home.

ALREADY GOT THE BEST

Anyway, he said: "The best skin is the zebra, of course."

Been there, done that.

And trophy grade at that, according to the Travel Companion, who bought one at the same time as well. We have matching pairs of zebra skins back home in Manila, although we both know I have the better one.

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A NEW IDEA

Morne then said: "If you ask me, I'd suggest the kudu. It's simply beautiful." A kudu is an animal found in Africa.

I asked, in jest, of course: "Can you help me get a leopard or a cheetah?"

He laughed and said: "Only if you're the Queen of Swaziland, or something like that."

But he did agree to help me source a kudu. He's so well-connected as his family runs something like a hundred businesses all over South Africa, that he could probably fly me in a kudu tonight if he really wanted to.

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THE TIMING OF A KUDU

He asked: "When do you need it? Tomorrow morning? In the next 24 hours?"

It wasn't as drastic as that.

So I said: "You can give it to me in Cape Town."

I'll be in Cape Town after all in a few days, and he is flying his airplane back to Cape Town tomorrow morning as well, while I go on to my next desert safari by private plane.


That's my Pilatus, following me all over the Northern Cape

The pilot and his pretty nice Pilatus is accompanying me the entire way, and so he's also enjoying the safari experience in the meantime.

And as we talked, about three dozen springbok pranced around by the swimming pool under a full moon, on a pretty perfect night in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.





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