Thursday, November 21, 2013

Exploring the Big Hole in Kimberley, and lunch at the Oleander



The other day, in South Africa living a Travelife, I had lunch at a beautiful little boutique hotel in Kimberley, the capital of the Northern Cape.

I spent the morning exploring the Big Hole, which is the old diamond mine of De Beers, just outside Kimberley.



This is one of the biggest attractions in the Northern Cape, as it's the source of millions of diamonds, largely mined by the De Beers company.

It's also reportedly the biggest manmade hole in the world.

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A TEMPORARY FLIRTATION

This was where I flirted with the idea of buying a diamond for a few very fleeting seconds. We were in the heart of diamond country after all.

But it was never a serious thing.


Instead I ended up buying a really beautiful artwork made by a local artist using brass wires to make a tree.

When I saw it, I instantly fell in love with it, imagining how nice it would look on my dining table as a centerpiece.

BRINGING BACK MEMORIES

Last dinner in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Then we went to lunch at this boutique hotel called Oleander, which is located on one of the prettiest streets of Kimberley. It used to be a private house, but one day the owners decided to sell it and move to Cape Town.

My meal here reminded me of another lovely boutique hotel created out of an old house, which I stayed in just a few weeks ago in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. I have very nice memories of this stay.

THE PRICE ISN'T RIGHT

That's the manager of the Oleander in Kimberley

Unfortunately, the price they wanted for this lovely house was way above market value for similar houses in the area.

They reportedly wanted five million South African rand. This isn't that unreasonable for lovely homes in many other cities, but it's pricey for Kimberley.

My guide told me: "It's not just the purchase of the house either. It costs a lot of money to maintain an old house, so prospective buyers needed to take this into consideration as well."

ALL'S WELL, END'S WELL




In the end, there were no takers for the house, so the owners decided to make it into a very upmarket boutique hotel instead.

I reckon it's the best place to stay in Kimberley, aside from the very historical Kimberley Club.

It was love at first sight.

THE NEXT TIME I FALL IN LOVE...



The Oleander has the loveliest rooms.

In fact, the next time I visit Northern Cape and drop by Kimberley, I've made up my mind to stay in Room #1.


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Kimberley is the gateway to anywhere in Northern Cape by plane. So you must either land here or at Uppington unless you drive in.

The next time I visit South Africa, I'd like to do Northern Cape again, and also the Cederberg Mountains. I also want to ride the Blue Train and Rovos Rail.

LUNCH IN A GRACIOUS OLD HOME



As for lunch at the Oleander, it was a simple affair.

I had a smoked salmon appetizer, and then a chicken pot pie with a salad, and ice cream to end -- all washed down with a nice pot of rooibos tea, of course.

This was all well and good, too.



Because from lunch, off I went to the private hangar of Kimberley Airport to board my Pilatus charter plane to the very end of the Northern Cape -- that point where it's just three minutes across the river by canoe to Namibia.

That's me, on my way to Namibia...

And, yes, I did paddle my way across the Yellow River to Namibia.

And one of these days, I'm really going to land in Namibia (vis-a-vis this illegal alien way of touching Namibian soil for a few minutes, in my bathing suit) and explore this beautiful country.

Namibia is at the top of my bucket list.

I'M CO-PILOTING A PILATUS



This wasn't just any small plane ride either, as the plane was all mine.

It was a relatively new state-of-the-art Pilatus with four very comfy seats in the middle, and then two jump seats at the back.


As I had it all to myself, I sat next to the pilot in the cockpit for half of the ride. He taught me a thing or two about piloting the plane, as well, since I was technically supposed to land the plane in case something happened to him.

All I can say is that it was simple but complicated at the same time.


Then, I went to the back and stretched out, enjoying the luxury of privacy and my own jet, on just another afternoon in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.

This is a photo from this morning's ride
from Green Kalahari to Uppington.
The pilot flew right inside a long ravine as a surprise for me.


Watch out for the 
Travelife Tour of Beautiful Northern Cape
May 2014

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