Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Table Mountain*

Cape Town
November 10th, 2008

After much admiration of Table Mountain, the backdrop landmark of Cape Town, we decided to properly meet her. We put on our climbing gear, boots, shorts, and shirts and after looking sufficiently European minus the walking sticks, we popped into the car and drove towards her. Stopping at the information office we enquired how best to hike up the mountain. The park officer, a friendly woman with an easy smile, told us to drive up to the wendy house and park and the trail is easily laid out. It would take about two to two and a half hours to climb. This was encouraging, we read in our guidebook the hike was difficult, took three hours and wasn’t to be taken lightly.

We arrived at the wendy house and thought we might need to check in but no, no nanny state here. And thus we started our ascent. Walking up stair like rocks, we naively waited for the path to flatten. This didn’t happen after twenty metres, after fifty meters, after two hundred meters, well it didn’t happen for the whole journey. Puffing on, we moved along. Conversation was short between wheezes. Lizard. See. Look. Beautiful. Lekker view. Wow. Both afraid to stop as we might not be able to continue we kept going. An hour and fifteen minutes later we made it. And it was worth it. As luck had it, it was a clear sunny day. Breathtaking views overlooking the city, seeing Robben Island from afar, seeing the coast with its brilliant clear blue waters, and also enjoying all the flowers and plants growing on the mountain top, it was in a word heaven.

* Not exactly North Battleford, but still nice

34-21-24 South Latitude, 18-29-31 East Latitude

Cape Point

November 9th, 2008

We decided to drive up to Cape Point, the meeting place of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans- a “must-do” when visiting Cape Town. Arriving at the National Park we were surprised by the volume of tourists. Tour buses lined the parking lot in neat rows. People everywhere completely unaware of what is around them, staring into space, crowding for photos, and generally a bit annoying as tourists usually are (ourselves included  ). Once we moved away from the main building, the crowd thinned and we made our way up the paved trail to the top of the hill. At the top beautiful scenes lay before us, crashing waves, rocky cliffs, and a few boats in the far, far distance. In a word stunning, it was absolutely stunning.

Descending towards our car and our packed lunch waiting for us, we saw another trail pointing in the direction of Cape Good Hope. After munching on avocado sammies, and crunching on apples and carrots for the sake of detoxing before retoxing, we decided to walk. It was a great trail and had the advantage of a secluded beach branching off, a beach with bright greenish water and the whitest of sand. Deciding to go for it, we went down a steep staircase followed by an even steeper sand bank. Sinking into the sand with each step, we made it to the shoreline. We enjoyed a lazy walk along the tide loving the cool water hitting our feet. Going back up to the trail wasn’t as fun, but we did make it in one piece.

As we headed back towards Cape Town we passed Bolders beach, a place known for the African penguins which live there. They used to be near extinction with only two breeding couples in 1982, but now boast a colony of 3,000. They were super cute, mostly standing down wind and closely together. There was one however who was waddling along solo on the other side of the beach, with his wings flapping slightly at his side. He was the icing on the cake.

Cool Bay

November 4th, 2008

Driving along the coast on a beautiful winding road we made our way to Koeel Baai, a place not on our trusted map but one which was recommended by a friend. Enjoying the road trip, we admired the striking scenes of aqua blue water, rocky yet green cliffs and white sand with the occasional whale indicating his presence by blowing water. We arrived at the campsite early, well early for us, at two o’clock. Upon arrival we were told that to stay here we would have to go to the council office to book and pay, near the Pick n’Pay grocery store. Off we headed, as we drove and saw no sign of the P n’P we called the help number we were given. The shop was about 30km away from the camp site. Karel was determined and I was ready to find another spot. An hour later, finding a P n’P, paying for a site, and back at the campsite we found our spot. Camping right by the beach it was beautiful.

We enjoyed the perfect weather, the perfect view and the perfect company (we are newlyweds after all). As we sat around our braai, business ideas rolled off our tongues. Eating our steaks we dreamt. Imagine if we had a restaurant here…with sundowners…full moon parties…bus services to local universities…surf competitions…employ local staff…offer scholarships…do some community development…ya… and brunches…yum, brunch. I wonder if you could do brunch by the beach, you know have lounge chairs to rent, and people could tick a sheet of what they want, ya…like room service, or it could be in picnic baskets… Our ideas drifted easily into the sunset. Content with our business plans and ideas we went to bed, happily dreaming of our life filled with possibilities.


November 3rd, 2008

“The best place to see whales from land in the world” our travel guide proudly said of this town so we decided it was a must see. As we arrived in town and drove beside the ocean, we clearly saw a whale poking his head out of the water about 30 metres away in a cliffed area. We rushed to park, jumped out of the car only to find the whale must have jumped back into the ocean. We could see other whales about a hundred metres away, blowing water. We walked along the path to move closer to them. Then we sat and watched. During our time in Hermanus we saw whales lifting their heads out of the water so they can see what is around them, whales breeching in and out of the water (taking as much energy to breech once as humans use in two days), and blowing water. It’s so lovely to hear the crash of the waves, smell the salt in the ocean, and see whales.

South Africa’s Next Top Model

October 27th, 2008

We drove up the Lion’s Head in Cape Town to enjoy the spectacular views. It was amazing to see the beautiful city below. Snapping away at one of the rest points, Karel and I decided to snap one of us. Holding out the camera with one hand I snapped. Looking at the photo Karel had a strange expression on his face. Redo. I snapped again. Playing back the photo, again Karel was squinting or something, blaming the sun even though I managed the photo fine. The same thing happened again. And again. Finally Karel put his shades on in hopes of getting a winning shot. Success at last. Unfortunately Karel’s modelling dreams are over.

Hide Park

Addo Elephant Park

October 18th, 2008

Day two started by going to a hide situated just beside a watering hole. Walking down a bendy path, trying to make as little noise as possible, we arrived at the hide. It was a wooden structure with benches and peep holes all along it. The view point is about ten metres away from the watering hole. Lucky for us, there were no other people present but there was a group of four elephants enjoying the occasional drink. It was amazing to see them suck up the water with their noses and then spray it into their mouths with their long trunks. Two elephants even held trunks, okay it was one elephant who was keen the other just tolerated it for a while, but still it was so sweet. Again careful not to disturb the animals, Karel and I developed a system of sharing our excitement. We signed basic signs to each other, most likely looking ridiculous but having too much fun to care.

Party of Elephants*

Addo Elephant Park

October 17th, 2008

After spending time on the coast, we were ready to return to the animal kingdom, well Nature Reserves anyways. We drove to the Addo Elephant Park, near Port Elizabeth. Entering with high hopes of elephant sightings and armed with a map, we began our game drive. As we lapped around we saw some Leopard tortoises. . With spotted shells, leathery heads and funny claws on their legs, they were gorgeous and could be spotted in the bush eating plants or on the roads drinking from water pools formed by recent rains. We also saw a family of meerkats, our own meerkat manor (however we didn’t narrate the scene we saw, well not too much)! One was scouting, or keeping an eye out for predators as the little ones played on. Interestingly we saw two meerkat on the move, accompanied by a yellow mongoose.

Continuing our drive in the distance we saw some elephant. As a result we decided to head in their general direction. Getting closer, we could see loads of them. A whole party*. We stopped the car and just watched. It seemed like they might cross the road. It was amazing. I was basically out the window. One by one, in a near perfect line, the elephants crossed, five metres in front of the car. All sizes. And it wasn’t just five or six elephants it was thirty one plus or minus a few. There were huge bulls with red dusty backs, having brushed themselves with sand to keep cool, protective mums watching over their young, and beautiful babies, which come up only to the knees of the adults and have the skinniest of trunks. Snapping away as much as I could, Karel kept a steady eye on the herd, hands on the steering wheel and foot near the gas, not completely trusting the group to be as relaxed as they were. The difference between an African knowing wild animals are wild and the tourist considering if it’s possible to pet an animal or maybe even ride him was apparent. Luckily the herd, even with babies was relaxed.

Excited, exhilarated and not believing our luck, once they crossed the road we followed them as best as we could. We parked again, wondering if they might move again. They did! Moving to a small watering hole, they drank water. It was brilliant seeing their little tails and huge bums forming a ring around water. Several more pictures later we were the happiest tourists ever. Buzzing with enthusiasm we headed for our camp ready to enjoy some lager.

* Because party of elephants is much more fun than herd of elephants.

Coffee Bay

October 15th, 2008

Karel and I headed to Coffee Bay, slightly off the beaten path but well known to backpackers. We set up camp at the Coffee Shack, a brilliant hostel which supports the community by training staff, offering scholarships, purchasing school equipment, offering Aids education, and providing opportunities for school choirs to raise money.

We decided to do what our guide book and the local Coast-to-Coast book suggested and walk to the Hole in the Wall, a rock island which should not be missed. Setting off early, with a lunch of avocado sandwiches, fresh fruit, nuts and a thermos of tea, we made our way. A few metres out of the hostel and we quickly made some new friends. One was small, fat and white with brown spots and one thin, wiry and black. Yep, you guessed it, two dogs. Karel and I were pleased with the company we acquired and eagerly started our hike.

The coastal walk was stunning. Imagine people searching for mussels in the shallow rock pools, aqua blue water, distant dolphins and the occasional whale blowing water on one side and rolling green hills with goats, sheep and the occasional hut on the other. Enjoying every moment, time passed quickly.

After about an hour, we were approached by some local young men aggressively asking about the dogs and claiming that they have bitten and killed their goat. Penalty for such a crime is full payment of what the goat costs. Karel and I shocked. Surely these dogs couldn’t, wouldn’t commit such a crime, besides we were with them the whole time. The accusation was shrugged off, as Karel explained we were with the dogs the whole time.

We continued our walk. Breathing the fresh air and admiring the gorgeous scenery once more. Passing a rocky beach, a woman came up to us. Again we heard the goat story. Thinking we must look very stupid to believe such a story, Karel patiently explained that we were walking with the dogs and watching them the whole time, he also mentioned that we were staying in the backpackers. Again the potentially hostile situation was averted.

Arriving at the Hole in the Wall, we were a bit disappointed. It was nice but highly overrated. The walk to the “attraction” was far more spectacular than the Hole in the Wall itself. We sat down and enjoyed our lunch. The dogs slept peacefully, especially the little one.

Making our return, we passed a few goats. Picture our horror when we witnessed the sweet natured black dog running full speed, diving for a goat. Karel and I speechless looked into each other’s eyes. Wordlessly Karel ran after the dog, running after the goat. We spoke, we shouted, we even pleaded for the dog to stop. Eventually he did. Suddenly man’s best friend became public enemy number one. Tried as we may, we couldn’t get rid of the dogs. There became a pattern. Dog chase goat, Karel chase dog. Luckily we made it back without any more encounters with the locals and the goat population remained in tact.

The Magic of the Bushman

October 9th, 2008

Listening to the African rain, beating its sound on the top of our car we headed inland to Drakesburg, the ‘Berg’ as it’s fondly referred as, for a change of scenery. Picture beautiful purple and dark blue mountain landscapes, dotted with tall, thin Cyprus trees, icy streams and red bush with the occasional dairy cow, and you’ll see the Berg. Its beauty is a source of inspiration and provides a sudden desire to buy oil paints and set up an easel even to those without talent (a.k.a. me).

We eventually set up camp at the Sani Pass Backpackers Lodge, where the chocolate cake and cold beers they had available became our new staple diet. The offer of a ‘bushman’ walk was too tempting to resist, so we signed up for the next day’s hike. 9:00 am the next morning we rose with vigour in our step, taking our clean hiking boots out to play. Guided by a Lesotho white man, Matt, we started our journey. Kindly, perhaps too kindly, pointing out the different flora we encountered Karel and the others took out their cameras at each one proudly taking photos from all possible angles. One Gigabyte later and many photos richer we made our way up to the top of the hills, listening to the baboons bark and seeing the Eland eyeing us up.

What was at the top? Absolutely inspiring, no words really can describe the magnificence of Bushman paintings approximately 8,000 years old. Paintings held in partial caves overlooking the beauty of the valleys below were drawings of hunting preparation, celebration, Eland, and more. The detail of the people, white hair of the shaman, the bags carried by women, the bow and arrows of the men, the clothing worn, and any decoration of bead, was delicately painted.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lesotho...One day by foot, 3 hours by horse and an eternity by car

October 12th, 2008- still the same day

The fun we had with the children would soon fade as we noticed our petrol was nearing empty. Also of note was that our water tank too was empty. Unfortunately we were ill prepared for Lesotho, as we quickly got used to the comforts of South Africa. However we weren’t too worried as our map marked a settlement. This was would be the first village we would go to which was actually marked on the map. We arrived at Semhonghong and asked where the petrol station was. No English. Diesel? No diesel, that was clear. Where diesel? Puzzled looks. Pointing towards the south. And off we went again.

We stopped every person we encountered, slowing at village after village asking about fuel. No dice. The ‘empty’ light lit. Mother F$%^er. Next village. Diesel? At last an English speaker. Thank the lord. No diesel here. Far, far away. One day’s walk. F$%^. Diesel? Another English speaker. No diesel here. Far, far away. Three hours horse ride. F$%^. Diesel? No diesel here, down hill, long ways. Sehlabahlebe, diesel there.

No idea where we were, or how far it would be to Sehlabahlebe, Karel and I both wondered when the car would stop, silently pondering our fate, not wanting to say anything out loud as it might seal our fate. Hopefully not while we were climbing one of the many steep inclines, or even worse one of the inclines which a sharp corner. The lanes were all single, so we might cause a road block. This may not have been a problem as we so far had only encountered one other vehicle early on our trip. We eventually reached the down hill section of the journey. Good for saving on petrol.

At the bottom of another mountain, Sehlabahlebe. We saw a man. Diesel? Maybe if you pay me. F$%^. We’ll ask someone else. Karel spotted a man getting out of his truck. We stopped. Karel climbed out of our car and approached the man. Greeting him kindly, he asked the question we had asked for the past two and a half hours. Diesel? Yes, there is a place up just up the hill. Almost there Nessie, our beautiful car, almost there.

We arrived at the fuel station. It was unlike anything I’ve ever seen. No pumps. Only barrels and a hose. The owner, a Chinese man, directed his employee to get fuel. The man sucked the hose until the petrol came and filled a smaller well used container. This was then funnelled into our fuel tank. At last diesel. We’ve learned our lesson Africa.

Lesotho...How many Lesotho children can fit in the backseat of our car?*

October 12th, 2008

We woke up to the sound of roosters crowing, a donkey hee-hawing and the smell of a fire burning. It was five o’clock. We packed up the tent and brought out the camera. Asking if we could take photos, we were well received. Happily snapping away, we later showed them their photos. This was met with much amusement, pointing and laughing.

Saying our good-byes we wished each other well. A final hand shake with the chief and a kiss on the cheek later (me to him) we left. We drove all of 100m, when a group of school children wearing a royal blue school uniform, with a woolly v-necked jumper edged in gold, crisp white shirts underneath and assorted skirts and shorts, flagged us down asking for a lift. A group of two became a group of six, who piled in to our backseat. It was so full that I actually needed to get out to shut the backseat door.

It was an eventful trip, filled with laughter. The children spoke English quite well so we were able to introduce ourselves by name and age. Me being 28, made me very old. I was asked if I had a child, and when they learned I didn’t, it made me very strange indeed. They attempted to teach us different vocabulary, and my mispronunciation provided great enjoyment. The only word I remember now is hoo-hoo which I think is a chicken, but it might actually be an egg. 3 kms later we delivered the children to their school, a walk which normally takes them an hour and a half. I’m sure their teacher would be pleased with us, six excited children over an hour early for school.
**Answer six