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BA to The Western Cape - 3 Towns in 2 Weeks

BA to The Western Cape - 3 Towns in 2 Weeks

Old Dec 29, 18, 4:10 am
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BA to The Western Cape - 3 Towns in 2 Weeks

Sometimes the Travel Gods smile upon you, and for us they did on 17 Jan 18 when, thanks to www.baredemptionfinder.com, we were able to acquire a pair of Club Europe/World seats for JER-LGW-CPT using our 2-4-1 Companion voucher! We happily parted with £1,005.36 in taxes and fees, and returned 137,500 Avios from our coffers to BA’s

With that obstacle overcome, it was time to get round to the detailed planning of our third successive annual trip to the Western Cape, to enjoy their Summer and escape our Winter. Previous trip reports are 16e CPT and 17e CPT if you’re interested. Even if you’re not, they are there anyway.

This time we decided to bypass Cape Town completely, and having juggled our schedules settled for staying in Hermanus, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch [in that order] for 4/5/5 days. So, in April, we made the assorted reservations. F’hoek and S’bosch were easy … same hotels, and the same room please, both booked by e-mail thanks to personal contact with the respective owners. Intense research by iWife also led us to a new hotel in Hermanus. I’ll get into the details as I cover separately each town and hotel we visited - all quite different, but all equally lovely.



PART 1 - Mr T8191, You’re ready to fly!

8 Dec 19. We awoke to discover that our l/h flight (BA2041) had been rescheduled. Instead of departing at 2000, it was showing variously anything up to 0200 the next morning! A bit of a flap at this end, mainly as we had a pre-booked taxi, but eventually timings returned to normal!

BA2773, JER-LGW, 1400-1500, A319, CE Seats 1A/C.

A leisurely 1215 taxi delivered us and our 2 cases to the airport, where everything was efficiency and calm. Within minutes our cases were tagged through to CPT, and we breezed through Security to settle in the Lounge for coffee and cakes. Efficient priority boarding through the drizzle had us on our way on time, with a very pleasant BA Afternoon Tea to help us on our way. I could see that iWife was in the ‘holiday mood’ as she asked fo champagne - to avoid embarrassment, I did the same.





The usual LGW arrival process ensued … walk to bus for eventual delivery underneath the Domestic/CTA Arrival and Reclaim area. We look forward to the impending revised arrangements involving an airbridge! As usual, we headed kerbside for a last cigarette or two …



… before heading back to Airside through the ever-cheerful and efficient Premium Gatwick Security channel. Settling in to the BA First Lounge by 1530, we had a 3-hour wait before boarding which was enlivened by hosting in mtikky so that he could enjoy better wine and food than in the normal Club Lounge [in theory!]. And as the sun went down, the view showed clearly it was time to get away from UK weather!!



At 1840 Gate 27 was declared … probably the longest walk available at LGW(S), and so we obediently trotted in that direction. On reaching our destination, we grabbed a couple of seats close to the impending action, and noted with surprise that there were no Tensa barriers or signage deployed. The only sign for a priority queue was abandoned forlornly against the wall. Even more surprising was the way everyone politely stayed well back from the desks, leaving at least 15 ft of clear space!! Where were the notorious Gate Lice we read about on FT?



BA2041, LGW-CPT, 2000-0945, B772, CW Seats 5A/B

Pre-boarding commenced unusually with pre-boarding for only Group 1 and 2, followed by standard Group 1 and 2 pax - than apparently Group 3/4 pre-boarding, etc. What actually happened later we don’t know, as by 1915 we were on board and seated! The PDB champagne was nicely chilled, and eventually at 2015 the airbridge was disconnected … at which point the Captain announced there was a bit of a hold loading issue! However, he also announced an 11h10m trip time, so we should arrive on schedule. Push-back at 2027, airborne at 2045, and drinks orders at 2115 … we’re on our way! Look out, Africa, here come the Gold OAPs.

A full CW cabin, and on our side the most detached and miserable CSD and CC we’ve ever met. Slow and robotic is the kindest things to say about them … not a smile or anything disturbed a totally mechanical ‘service’. A reasonable meal ensued … here comes the menu and photos.





Steak for me [bravely/foolishly] … the vegetables were cooked almost to a pulp, and don’t ask about the steak!



... and Chicken for her [in what she described as Bisto gravy!] …



By 2200 it was time for some sleep, and to sample the new White & Co bedding for the first time. Hmmmm. The ‘mattress topper’ was completely useless, and moved around of its own accord beneath me before ending up on the floor. The light blanket was acceptable, and the pillow good. The heavier blanket smelt horrible, and felt damp … I handed it to a passing CC for disposal!

At about 0600 (UK time?) we were all awakened to the usual BA Breakfast, and through the window I could see …. AFRICA!



We beat the Captain’s initial promise of an on-time arrival, and actually touched down at 0915 [local], some 30 minutes early. There then followed an excellent arrivals process. One benefit of sitting in 5A/B is that you’re right in front of Door 2L, and are usually amongst the first to disembark. We thus headed for Immigration at the front of the pack to find an almost empty hall! Maybe 2 dozen in the queue in front of us? Within a couple of minutes we were directed to a free desk, where the Officer scanned our passports, asked no questions, applied the usual stamps … and that was it! The bags took a little longer to emerge [10 minutes?] but at least ours were among the first and finally, in Arrivals, we found our now regular driver Adriaan. After a quick cigarette outside, we hit the car park and were on the road by 1000 … is this a record for CPT?

More to follow in a few minutes once I've struggled with photos for Parts 2-6!! !

Last edited by T8191; Jan 6, 19 at 4:43 am Reason: typos
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Old Dec 29, 18, 4:11 am
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Part 2 - HERMANUS, 9-13 Dec 18



I’m not sure how they calculate the timings, as the journey took about 2h … driven sensibly by Adriaan!





The journey took us up into the mountains along perfectly maintained roads. Very little traffic was encountered, so we made good time and after about 2 hours arrived (with a sadly chipped windscreen) at our destination.

Welcome to the Misty Waves Boutique Hotel!
https://www.hermanusmistybeach.co.za

My wife’s assiduous hotel searches came up with this little gem, overlooking the ocean and just a 500 yard walk to Main Street. Ideal, especially as it allows smoking on the room balcony [and, as we eventually discovered. in the garden by the pool]. A very large room (#501, designated a Honeymoon suite - oooh, Missus!) and with a huge integral bathroom with 3 [yes, three] different shower-heads in addition to the bath. A large 4-poster bed and comfortable furniture completed the ensemble, not forgetting the good-sized furnished balcony with views of the ocean and the spring-fed swimming pool and hotel gardens. Power points offered both types of SA sockets and, usefully, USB ports as well.









And what a delightful view of the ocean, the pool area and the restaurant!! We sat there for hours, reading our Kindles and sipping wine!





The overall hotel decor could be best described as ‘interesting’ … we loved it, but it’s not going to be to everyone’s taste.





Dining facilities are provided next door at the Heritage Cottage

… Breakfast is included in the room rate, with a reasonable cold buffet and hot options. Dinner offered some decent choices as well.

Kudu Fillet by Jackson Pollock?



Hermanus is a nice little town, delightfully situated and containing numerous small hotels: no giant Hiltons here! Main Street and the restof the town has a fair collection of shops and mini-Malls, and numerous places for eating and drinking.







During an exploratory wander, we stumbled on ‘Tapas’ which, surprisingly, serves tapas in addition to a tasty range of main courses. A mix of open-air and semi-indoor seating provided nice options, with [for us] the added bonus of ashtrays! Accordingly we called in for drinks or food or both almost every day.





Hermanus has a very charming stretch of rocky coastline, with a well-laid out coastal path running for several miles in either direction. Extremely scenic!





The Old Harbour.



We even encountered indigenous wildlife, in the form of a sunbathing Rock Hyrax, known locally as a Dassie.



Overall, a very nice place in every respect to spend 4 days wandering, eating, drinking and relaxing - we shall return! But inevitably it was time to move on to our next destination.




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Last edited by T8191; Jan 14, 19 at 1:48 pm
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Old Dec 29, 18, 4:11 am
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Part 3 - FRANSCHHOEK, 13-18 Dec 18

The trusty Adriaan arrived on schedule at 1200 for the 1h30m trip to F’hoek through the mountains and the wide open spaces in-between.









And here we are again: Franschhoek Country House and Villas.
We received a warm welcome as returning guests to our favourite room [as used on the last 2 occasions] and the almost inevitable welcoming glass of champagne to supplement the wine we’d already ordered!



Our lovely accommodation was ready for us when we arrived ….









We quickly booked dinner at the in-house Monneaux restaurant in eager anticipation of the super dining experience they offer. And when the time came, we weren’t disappointed. Specially favoured by a table strewn with rose petals [ They Know Who We Are ] we worked our way through a selection of beautifully presented Petit Assietes before retiring for the night. No, I can’t remember what these were, I would have to check against the menu!









Breakfast [included in the room rate] was the usual feast! A huge array of fruits, cereals, breads, pastries and charcuterie on offer in addition to hot items to order. They do a very nice Belgian Waffle with banana, bacon and Maple Syrup with a scattering of berries, which is my absolute fave breakfast!! Lady T goes for the more conventional options! Oh, and the “Breakfast in Bread” is divine!













“Breakfast in Bread”





Then it was time to take the hotel’s free shuttle-bus into town for a wander. I find F’hoek an odd place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice and clean and safe and attractive. In addition to assorted restaurants, cafes and bars, there are a few high-end shops, even higher-end Art Galleries and assorted Estate Agents! And a few smaller ‘tourist’ shops.



A couple of hours in town was quite sufficient, seeing as we’d been there before. Some nice artworks for sale, if you fancy a metal elephant or rhino, but a bit big for a carry-on item!





For a bit of variety we alternated our dining between Monneaux and The Village Grill and Butcher next door.
Village Grill & Butcher | Franschhoek ? Village Grill & Butcher | Franschhoek

Excellent food and wine at every step of the way, and at what to us was ridiculously cheap prices. Good wine at c. 70R for a large glass (under £4) and main courses around 180R (c. £10) … and upwards, of course.

Apart from the one foray into F’hoek, we spent most of our time lounging by the pool under the shade of an umbrella, with the occasional dip in the water to cool off [one pool heated, one not]. Cloudless blue skies and temperatures in the mid-80sF/30C discouraged excessive energy expenditure, but our Kindles saw extensive use. We were extremely relaxed, to the point of regularly forgetting the FREE Happy Hour[s] in one of the guest lounges … 1400-1700!







Our last evening was spent having another delicious meal at Monneaux, enhanced by a free bottle of wine, compliments of the Owner … “Choose anything you fancy”. Thank you, Sir! We did not impose too heavily on his hospitality! Returning to our room revealed the bathroom liberally strewn with more rose petals, and a lovely box of chocolates on the pillow!





Our final breakfast in F’hoek involved the Salmon Poke Bowl for her, and more Belgian Waffle for me.






… and then it was time to move on again. Strangely, it already felt as though we had been in SA for weeks, instead of just 9 days. I guess changing locations kept resetting our mental clocks?

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Last edited by T8191; Dec 30, 18 at 3:44 am
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Old Dec 29, 18, 4:12 am
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Part 4 - STELLENBOSCH, 18-23 Dec 18



Good morning, Adriaan - on time as usual! F’hoek to S’bosch is a simple and quick journey, without any impressive scenery … just mile after mile of vineyards, which is totally excusable in this context!

Back again to the Eendracht Hotel … a nice and clean Guest House right on the edge of the heart of town, if you see what I mean!

Yes, Room 8 with the small balcony as before, please! Not quite ready yet, so a gentle wander some 25 yards across the street to “Steam” for a pre-lunch drink, before making our way to the S’Bosch Kitchen just 100 yards down the street for exquisite Prawn Risotto. You can already see why we like the Eendracht - very conveniently located for life’s little essentials!





Steam became our regular haunt, being so close. A drink and a snack at mid-day, or pre-dinner drinks before eating elsewhere, fitted the bill perfectly. And the staff are absolutely delightful - friendly and efficient. They do a very nice Bombay & Tonic too, loaded with juniper berries of course! And some nice snacks! On one occasion we managed a lunch-time meet up with The_Bouncer who was having a day-trip out of Cape Town - we had previously ‘met’ on the Smoking Lounge forum on FT







Otherwise our eating out alternated between our 2 favourite restaurants in S’bosch …
The Stellenbosh Kitchen
and
Oppie Dorp

Both are highly recommended. Excellent food and wine at sensible prices, and as we found everywhere with friendly and helpful staff. The only problem is going to be shedding the weight we both put on during the whole trip!

Sharing Platter of assorted meats - Kudu, Springbok, Duck, Crocodile and Ostrich, IIRC.



Sharing Platter of Seafood



And some other more conventional stuff, including our first taste of Bobotie at a small restaurant (Dora’s) across the road from Steam.






Curiously, everywhere we went the front of house staff were not South Africans, but predominantly from Zimbabwe or Malawi. Eventually we discussed this phenomenon with a few servers - they said that the local people don’t like the working hours, and tend to lack the personality for the job. I’ll have to take that as gospel, having heard the same several times at different places.

And, with S’bosch being so tidy and compact, we wandered the shops and the Botanical Garden [the latter part of S’bosch University] …







And then it was almost over



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Last edited by T8191; Feb 8, 19 at 4:07 am
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Old Dec 29, 18, 4:13 am
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Part 5 - Back to JERSEY.

23 Dec 18.



We had managed to secure a late checkout from the hotel at 1200, and left our luggage in their capable hands as our taxi was booked for 1500 (not Adriaan, who was otherwise tasked, but he organised a substitute). A couple of drinks at Steam were followed by a nostalgic wander around town before departing for CPT airport. Everything went incredibly smoothly - having left the hotel at 1500, by 1600 we were airside at CPT! Bag-drop was quick and painless, Security was done in an instant and Immigration was just as quick … enhanced by a charming and cheerful Officer, who made jolly comments such as “Come back soon” and “I can give you a 3-month Visa so you can come straight back in.”

We were obviously going to have to hang around for over 3 hours, but at least there is a good BA Lounge at one end of the Gate area and a Smoking Lounge at the other end! Time passed quite comfortably and pleasantly, with a good range of food and wine on offer. Our only concern was the number of babies and small children destined to join us on the flight … with parents who spread their baby-stuff everywhere and thus occupied at least 6 seats in the process. Fortunately there’s plenty of seating available, and ample for both BA’s LHR and LGW departures in the early evening.












BA2040, CPT-LGW, 2010-0615, B772, CW Seats 5A/B

At 1910 we made our way to Gate A5, which is a long thin arrangement of seating and Tensa barriers and metal poles separating ‘us’ from Gate A6 which is further along.





We slid past the pack and found a couple of seats near where the action would presumably take place, and wondered how boarding was going to be managed with this layout and a 777-load of pax! At 1920 the pre-boarding began, and following some completely inedible announcement from the desk in the distance we just self-managed boarding as Group 1, SEQ 001/002.

Oh, joy, the baby-couple are in 5E/F … and the proud father is stowing their gear [including folding buggy] in several overhead lockers around Row 4. Fortunately, the flight is very lightly loaded and I would estimate our 5 rows of CW had about 50% occupancy. However, to our intense relief, once airborne they remained static and silent - not a sound from the baby!

A very charming young lady was our CC for this sector, and having managed to stow our bedding packs and carry-ons in one overhead she delivered our well-chilled PDB. We were addressed by name, which was something of a novelty! We pushed back at 2007, and we were soon sadly on our way home.



To my slight surprise, there were 2 rounds of drinks while the male CSD took dinner orders. As we both chose the fish, I enquired in the ‘Tiki’ NZ Sauv Blanc was nicely chilled, and I was assured it was. When it arrived, it was at room temperature!! I took the glass to the galley, handed it to the CSD and had a mini-rant about BA’s inability to present properly chilled white wine. I asked for a large Vodka on the rocks instead!









The meal was surprisingly edible, and the Hake just survived the cooking process, and with the assistance of a large glass of port, I attempted to sleep - and generally failed. The pillow was nice, the heavier blanket a bit too warm, and the mattress topper was left untouched. At least I was lying flat!! Poor iWife got no sleep at all - she just can’t sleep on a BA 777 for some reason.

On being wakened, we ate the BA breakfasts … I had the Continental breakfast bowl of meat and cheese, while iWife chose the Mozzarella cheese omelette. Both were fine!

We arrived at LGW at 0600, just as the curfew time ended, and after the expected quick disembarkation we made our way through unknown corridors to the empty UK Border where the e-passport gates were working fine! This was all good, as our next sector was due to start boarding at 0655. No time for a land-side cigarette this time! Having ‘Arrived’, we immediately ‘Departed’ via Security and headed for the holding pen at Gate 12.

BA2770, LGW-JER, 0735-0830, A319, CE Seats 1A/C

Perfectly straightforward boarding started a few minutes after we arrived - I didn’t have the c-w-s stopwatch to time things precisely, but we certainly didn’t have to wait long. And there we were for the last leg of the journey. A nice CSD, looking after the 4 rows of CE, who also addressed us by name and had clearly looked at his iPad to enable him to comment on our trip to South Africa. We declined another breakfast … and finally we broke cloud at around 500 ft to arrive back in Jersey, where it was predictably cold and damp!

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Old Dec 29, 18, 4:13 am
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Part 6 - REFLECTIONS

I suppose the first thing to note is the fortunate availability of Redemption seats to get us there and back cheaply and comfortably. £500 each could be described as a bargain! It would however need a jolly good sale to persuade us to actually pay for this expensive route, which would typically cost in the region of £4,000 each in CW. We’ve been lucky 3 years running now - I wonder whether we can be that lucky again for Dec 2019?

The overall strategy of the ‘3 Towns’ worked extremely well, especially as each destination and hotel were noticeably different. It felt like having 3 separate holidays! Hermanus was, for us, a new destination and proved highly enjoyable - missing out Cape Town this time proved fully justified. Returning to F’hoek and S’bosch meant comfortable and stress-free familiarity, with the added bonus of knowing which room to book for our best advantage. And with all 3 hotels being privately-owned, there was no trace of cookie-cutter anodyne accommodation!

Whilst F&B is pretty cheap by UK standards, our hotels weren’t. OK, we picked expensive rooms and hotels for most of the trip. Daily rates on B&B terms for us were:
Hermanus: 3,940R/day = c. £218
F’hoek: 4,450R//day = c. £247
S’bosch: 2,390R/day = c. £132
Having mentioned F&B, we were typically paying around 65R (£3.50) for a large glass of good wine, or a bottle at 140R (under £8). Supermarket wine for the room fridge came in at about 80R/£4.50 (or even less if you’re not fussy) so the hotel/restaurant mark-ups were very modest.

Having a known and utterly reliable taxi driver made changing locations painless. His charges were also very reasonable - 450R for the short runs and 650R for the longer ones, or roughly £25 and £36.

*********

I think that’s about it. We are utterly convinced that a couple of weeks in the Western Cape suits us perfectly, and is undoubtedly our favourite destination for a variety of reasons (weather, food, wine, people). However, we have other places to go in 2019, with the schedule currently showing up to July … Phoenix, AZ [again], Malta [again] and St Lucia [again, but a new hotel!]. Work in progress for September and December, hopefully Northern Virginia and the Western Cape again! It’s hard work being retired!!

Last edited by T8191; Dec 29, 18 at 10:31 am
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Old Dec 29, 18, 6:55 am
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Terrible life you have.... Great read.... I think there were crew issues on the outbound as the aircraft due to cover the Sector went tech...
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Old Dec 29, 18, 8:05 am
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Originally Posted by Skipcool3 View Post
Terrible life you have.... Great read.... I hunk there were crew issues on the outbound as the aircraft due to cover the Sector went tech...
Thanks! Yes, it’s a bu§§er, and the amount of planning involved deserves a break occasionally!

That would have explained the potential 0200 departure!! I was sure there was a bit of roll-over somewhere, as our Pre-Order wasn’t registered either. Fortunately there was enough “Beef or Chicken?” to go round!
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Old Dec 29, 18, 10:18 am
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Glad you enjoyed your trip over there and a pleasure to have met you in the FLounge at LGW. However having now seen where you've been, I feel I need to save up a tad!
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Old Dec 29, 18, 10:29 am
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Originally Posted by mtikky View Post
Glad you enjoyed your trip over there and a pleasure to have met you in the FLounge at LGW. However having now seen where you've been, I feel I need to save up a tad!
I will not deny the existence of a quantity of disposable cash on an annual basis! But at our age we have the house and the accessories we need ... so where to spend the money that keeps arriving?

And, if you can get there cheaply (Y?) it’s actually not that expensive.
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Old Dec 29, 18, 11:03 am
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I really appreciate your reports. They give us a sense of the destination and the ability to replicate any part of it if we choose. They make great references for future travel.
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Old Dec 29, 18, 11:42 am
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Great report as always Uncle T although you do surprise me (amateur!) in having the steak on BA......! Must try harder next time!
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Old Dec 29, 18, 12:17 pm
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Originally Posted by SanDiego1K View Post
I really appreciate your reports. They give us a sense of the destination and the ability to replicate any part of it if we choose. They make great references for future travel.
Thanks for that... that is my intention, rather than just saying “I had a great holiday”!
I do, however, appreciate that it’s not a cheap/easy place to get to for the majority here on FT.

Originally Posted by stu1985 View Post
Great report as always Uncle T although you do surprise me (amateur!) in having the steak on BA......! Must try harder next time!
Yeah, I know, but Chicken Breast with Sauce/Gravy of the day doesn’t inspire me either! I think I need to explore the Pasta or SPML options, because I’m really, REALLY, bored with BA mains.

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Old Dec 29, 18, 1:04 pm
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Thanks again for another good SA trip report.
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Old Dec 29, 18, 1:06 pm
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Originally Posted by nequine View Post
Thanks again for another good SA trip report.
You're welcome!
As SanDiego 1K noted, I hope these threads prove useful to someone, one day!
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