Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Moving Out of Cape Town



The class awoke to another beautiful day in Cape Town. While we are thankful for sunny skies and warm weather while here in Cape Town, we are even more thankful for the news from back home that the snow and wind has subsided.

Our first stop of the day was at Greenpoint Stadium near the waterfront in Cape Town. Greenpoint Stadium is one of 8 new stadiums being built or remodeled for the World Cup soccer tournament which begins in June all across South Africa. It was a unique honor that we were the first sizable group to receive a “group tour” of the recently finished stadium. The stadium hosted its first soccer match last Saturday and several more warm-up events are planned prior to the big tournament. The stadium is designed to have an ocean theme with flowing lines across the upper deck and light but multi-colored seats intended to resemble the shades of sand and corral at a beach. We had the good fortune to walk out onto field level of the pitch (the game field) but we were instructed sternly, repeatedly and seriously to not walk onto or touch the grass. We finished our brief tour of the stadium with a group picture in the stands followed by another first – the first group of South Dakota agricultural leaders to perform the wave at Greenpoint Stadium.

After leaving the stadium, we took a short bus ride to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront district. This is a major tourist attraction in Cape Town with high-end retail shopping, lots of restaurants, unique gift stores, boat tours, helicopter rides and lots of people watching. Most members of the group set off on a mission to finish off gift lists and find something memorable to bring home from Cape Town. A few in the group took the opportunity for a helicopter tour of the cape and were fortunate to spot whales from the air. Others enjoyed a fresh seafood lunch at one of the many oceanfront restaurants. Everyone was happy to have a few hours to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of this beautiful ocean-side city.

After lunch we headed about an hour out of Cape Town to the Paarl area for a tour of the Vesuvio Estates, where they raise 500 hectares of various olive trees, crushing their harvest into award-winning Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Our host, Gert Van Dyk, is the farm and factory manager. Our tour began with a brief overview of the farm operations and was followed by a tour of the onsite processing facility, an olive oil tasting and, finally, a driving tour through the farm. The farm has over 150,000 trees and of their 500 hectares, only about 30 are irrigated. Their olive harvest will begin in mid-April and will finish sometime in July depending on yield. The current owners of the farm bought it in a state of disrepair in 1996 and through intensive management of their resources and some expansion of hectares planted have grown production from 50 tons in 1996 to 1200 tons expected this year. Other facts that we found interesting were that a new tree will take 6-8 years to become fully productive and that an olive tree has a virtually unlimited productive life. Vesuvio does not export any of their olive oil as demand in South Africa alone is greater than what they can produce.

As I write this, our class is on a South African Airlines flight to Johannesburg. We expect to arrive at Irene Country Lodge near Pretoria at about 9:30 this evening. The weather reports look good for our highly-anticipated tour of the 120,000 head Karan Beef feedlot tomorrow. We all seem to be doing fine and thinking of everyone back home often.

Post-flight update: We encountered our first minor travel glitch tonight. The motorcoach sent to pick us up broke down on the way to the airport and a replacement had to be dispatched. After about an hour delay we were on our way to the lodge. We will be blessed if that is the worst of our travel problems.

Post-arrival update: We arrived safe at Irene Country Lodge. We were greeted by a chorus of 15 native singers that entertained us as we checked in. Everyone is thrilled with the accommodations.

Posted by Dawn (GSM) and Jason (Reporter).