Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Ten best meals

Pella lunch
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Well, while we are at it, and before we forget, we present our favourite meals:

1 First meal in Aleppo, upstairs in an old Christian house, served the most tasty hummus and kebabs and salad and chips, washed down surprisingly enough (we were in Syria) with local beer

2 Second meal in Aleppo, in the souk, pita bread, lined with tomato sauce and herbs, with tasty kebabs, and for almost nothing. No beer, this was lunch and a very Muslim place.

3 Lasagna on the Omo, one of the last nights, so a good ten days since we last saw a shop, cooked in a Dutch oven, lit with local firewood, under the sand. Delicious, meaty, tomato-ey and cheesey. No beer as that had run out after the first day!

4 Steak at Jessica's, in Montague, Western Cape, one of the top hundred restaurants in South Africa, fillet steak, with a sauce of mushrooms, cashew nuts and blue cheese and washed down with Springfield whole berry Cabernet Sauvignon. Heavenly.

5 Yemeni dinner in Kawkaban, served in the nafraj of an old house in this mountain village. A massive spread of Yemeni dishes, too numerous to mention, including the best chips in the world! Yemen is chip capital of the world, no contenders!

6 Bedouin barbecue in Wadi Rum, served in our bedouin tent, cooked in a Dutch oven (again) under the sand, our guide bringing his wife over to do the work, before sleeping in a tent a little bit further on.

7 Lunch in Pella, Jordan, as shown in the attached photo, perfect salads, hummus, fresh fish (for me), kebab for Fred, and with the most beautiful view down to the historical site below in a green valley, surrounded by parched earth.

8 Somali lunch in Hargeisa, in a garden restaurant on the banks of the Tug, notable for the Somali rice, full of cardamoms, cinnamon, sultanas and other ingredients. We did not eat the accompanying lamb shin, just poured the gravy over the rice.

9 Enjera in Ziway, a stop on the bus-route up from Awasa ro Addis. One of the cheapest, but the fullest and tastiest enjera of our trip, with dollops of spagheti bolognese, dirowot, cheese, salad, and shirowot. All for less than a dollar, washed down, no doubt with coke.

10 Coffee in Asmara, with Hana, her sister and family, the whole coffee ceremony, with incense, popcorn, rasting and grinding of coffee beans and an obligatory three cuos, followed by a hot enjera. Unforgettable company. Thanks again, Hana.

A change of perspective

Hargeisa market green and orange
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

It is an odd thing that since we have been back home, the trip seems to be very much in the past. All of it, even though it was only just two weeks ago that we were enjoying the afternoon sun on the rocks of Sandy Bay on the Cape.

While we were still there, the whole trip seemed to be very close, even though it was almost six months ago since we took the ferry boats across the Bosphorus to book the tickets on the Toros Express to Aleppo. It seemed then that almost every day could have happened yesterday. But now, every day is part of a package which is part of the past.

No problem: it just feels odd.

And being at home has many advantages: we have alredy seen many of our friends and have enjoyed evenings upstairs, candle-lit, with good food* and wine, our music. And the eather has ben mostly good... cold and sunny and already the evenings are getting longer. And the funny thing about missing late summer, autumn and early winter is that it seems almost like yesterday that it was mid-winter.

Again, odd how the mind works.

* - including borenkool and hutspot and other Dutch specialities (seeing as we all now have to try very hard to be Dutch!)


Harar blues
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Wat gaat het toch allemaal snel… De afgelopen week weer naar school geweest en het gevoel van het reizen is al aardig aan het verdwijnen. Maar misschien ligt dat aan mijzelf.
Op school waren een aantal veranderingen doorgevoerd die even slikken waren. Om opeens leerlingen 75 minuten in plaats van 50 minuten bezig te moeten houden, dat viel even niet mee. Maar het prettige is dat we nieuwe lokalen hebben en niet meer in van die containers zitten. In de rookvrije docentenkamer staat een nieuw koffieapparaat die de koffiebonen ter plekke voor je maalt… het lijkt wel een Ethiopische koffieceremonie. Buiten op de patio staan af en toe een paar diehards te roken. De ‘we lossen het samen wel op -cultuur’ is kennelijk toch omgeslagen. Leerlingen staan nu te roken op de openbare weg omdat ook het schoolplein rookvrij is… docenten houden de wacht!
Het lesgeven was even weer wennen. Het grote geluk is dat ik veel paralel groepen heb en dat scheelt weer voorbereidingstijd. Maar tijdens de pauze, op weg naar de docentenkamer gebeurde er iets waar ik nog steeds aan moet denken. Al lopende gleed ik uit over een boterham met vleeswaren… en ik dacht meteen ‘dat probleem hebben we in Afrika niet’ Ik wil natuurlijk niet de moraalridder uit gaan hangen maar toch... Toen ik het later aan een klas vertelde keken ze me wat meewarig aan. Gelukkig zeiden ze nog niet ‘misschien moet U die boterham opsturen’.
’s Avonds merkte ik hoe zwaar het was geweest om aan vier groepen achter elkaar les te geven. Ben dan ook bijna direct na het eten naar bed gegaan.
Dinsdagavond met de geschiedenissectie uit eten geweest nadat we eerst gezellig wat oude boeken hadden opgeruimd. Ik ben altijd weer trots om te mogen werken met zulke geweldige mensen.
De rest van de week verliep ook prima. Vrijdagavond Baantjer gekeken en met de vriendenclub naar de ‘Groene Olifant’geweest voor onze traditionele clubavond. De bitterballen en de biertjes smaakten weer als vanouds. En niet eens gedacht: ‘goh Fred van dit geld had je ook een Afrikaans kind naar school kunnen laten gaan’
We hebben de sleur alweer snel te pakken… Maar hopelijk niet te snel.

Working on the photos

Berbera girls getting ready
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
It has been a while... plenty of time all of a sudden, half the day on the computer and still no blog... writer's cramp, or the shock of being at home, after all teh stimulation of travelling the past few months.

Anyway, apart from fixing the computer of various bugs and inconsistencies, and looking around for a possible job, I have been thinking about what to do with all the photos taken during the trip. It was a good thing that the Microsoft program which came standard with the computer refused to open files, as it got me thinking and looking around, and before long I was downloading the Adobe Photoshop Elements program. This is the less extensive and complicated of Photoshop, at a competitive price, but still needs a lot of investigating. Anyway, the first results are to be seen on the flickr page, where some photos have had their colours enhanced. Sometimes it works and sometimes not.. the camera is usually pretty good the first time... but at times it really does make a big difference, like in the attached photo. This'll be keeping me busy for a while, I reckon.

Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, Namibia, Botswana, Laos, Belarus, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Oman, Paraguay

Calling: Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, Namibia, Botswana, Laos, Belarus, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Oman, Paraguay, Ecuador, Mongolia, Greenland, Colombia, Senegal, Gambia, Mauretania, Mali, Niger, Congo.... come to the blog and make it a round 100 for the month!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Dutch Somalis/Somalilanders in the UK

There was a very interesting article on Dutch TV yesterday evening about all the Somali/Somalilanders who have left Holland to start a better life in the UK.

Apparently, since 2000, about 95% (approx. 30,000) Somalis/Somalilanders have left Holland and many have gone to the UK, mainly Birmingham and Leicester. They were filmed speaking Dutch, on the street and in their shops, watching Dutch TV and singing in Dutch (something which no doubt our stupid minister of Integration would approve of, having recently repeated the Rotterdam City's idea that only Dutch should be spoken on the streets here in Holland).

Most of them have received good education and training in Holland. They cite Dutch bureaucracy, lack of enterprise culture, Dutch policies towards immigrants and asylum seekers as the main reasons. Apparently, the Dutch system is more directed at the less-well educated people (like maybe those from Tyurkey and Morocco - it was said), denying them the chance to get on in life.

The MP for Leicester, Keith Vaz was interviewed and he thanked the Dutch for giving the Somalis and Somalilanders a good education and allowing them to come over to enrich British society and culture. Now it seems that over half of teh Dutch living in the UK now have a Somali/Somalilander heritage.

If only Ayaan Hirschi Ali would find somewhere else to go... (and you don't want her in UK for sure)!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mum

Hello Mum,

Happy Birthday! I don't suppose it is beach weather outside, but at least it might be sunny. We hope you enjoy your day and look forward to seeing you soon.

Love, Fred and Charles

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Most useful things taken with us on the trip

bedouin sheep market
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Another list, in no particular order:

1 Hat/cap/cloth - the sun was often very strong, and our hair isn't as thick as it used to be

2 Sunglasses - the sun was often very strong

3 Light sheets - the beds were sometimes a bit rough

4 The dry-quick towels - they dried very quickly

5 One lambswool jumper each - it did get very cold sometimes (usually in the mountains)

6 Cream for spots/bits - very soothing at times

7 Portable hard disk - until it failed in Eritrea, whereupon all the photos had to be burned onto CD's

8 Fred's Lowe walking boots - worn every day for six months

9 Dust covers for rucksacks - for keeping the rain and dust out

10 The candles from Annie - giving us indeed light in the darkest moments

11 Binoculars - for watching the birds and the animals.... with even Fred getting good at identifying birds

Least useful:

1 Mosquito net - never used, always supplied, wherever needed

2 Cork opener - particularly in Yemen and Somaliland!!!

3 Raincoat - hardly ever used (hehehe)

4 Mastercard/cirrus debit card - only Visa, if anything at all, in most of Middle East and Africa

5 Msn messenger - yahoo messenger is what they all use in Africa!

Some strange items from the news

Red in Borama
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Three quite possibly disconnected snippets from the news recently.

1 South African girls travelling abroad, working in London, are signing up as models/porno stars to help pay for their time away. Apparently, the pay is much better than working in a shop or restaurant. London agencies reported large numbers of South Africans on their books.

2 The Nigerian government has is introducing pre-emptive legislation to ban same-sex marriages, and also to ban anyone advocating gay rights or gay equality. The law was needed to stop the “gradual incursion of homosexualism and lesbianism and gay marriages into Nigerian society”

3 The Rotterdam city council has stated that only Dutch should be spoken on the streets of Rotterdam.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

‘In Lusaka hebben ze nog geeneens krijt’

Bijna een week terug in Nederland. En bevalt het? Om eerlijk te zijn: het valt niet mee. De eerste dag is het natuurlijk altijd weer leuk om in je eigen huis te zijn, je vrienden weer te zien en de post door te nemen maar dan…
Vorige week liepen we in korte broek en was het ongeveer 30 graden, dat is nu wel anders.
Elke avond gingen we lekker uiteten en hoefden we ons geen zorgen te maken over wie de boodschappen ging doen. De prijzen leken veel sympathieker. Het landschap boeiender en over het werk hoefden we ons al helemaal niet druk te maken… dat komt in januari wel weer.
Maar nu is het dan zover… januari is gekomen en wij hebben te maken met een nieuwe realiteit, of is het toch weer een oude realiteit in een nieuw jasje? In het nieuws lijken de discussies nog steeds te gaan over Lonsdale-jongeren, extremistische moslims, Nederlands praten op straat etc, etc. Ook in de politiek lijkt er weinig verandering te zijn. Wederom was er sprake van een bijna kabinetscrisis alleen ging het dit keer over iets anders dan de vorige keer.
Donderdag even naar school geweest. Leuk om alle collega’s weer te zien. Maar iedereen was erg druk. Er was een toetsenweek in combinatie met projectwerk. Ik zag een aantal collega’s al weer driftig met gekleurd papier heen en weer te rennen. Het was weer tijd om te knippen en te plakken.
Andere collega’s liepen met bruine enveloppen onder de armen op zoek naar de juiste groep, het juiste lokaal etc. Weinig verandering of toch?
Nieuw was dat op school het 75 minutenrooster was ingevoerd en dat valt voor een groot aantal collega’s niet mee. Daarnaast was de nieuwbouw gereed. Communicatie gaat nu vooral via de computer. Toen ik dat thuis wilde uitproberen merkte ik al direct dat mijn computer te oud was voor dit soort dingen… Moet ik dan een nieuwe halen om in de toekomst mijn cijfers op tijd en digitaal in te kunnen leveren of …?
Tijdens ons reis door Zambia hebben we in een township een schooltje bezocht. Op vrijdag 2 december heb ik een stuk voor onze blogspot geschreven:
“Aangekomen in Misisi, de naam van de township, werd het ons al gauw duidelijk dat we nog lang niet de ergste armoede van Afrika hadden gezien... die stond nu op ons te wachten. De hutjes en stenen huizen zijn op een vuilnisbelt gebouwd, of anders gezegd er ligt zoveel rotzooi dat de mensen op hun eigen vuilnisbelt wonen. Er zijn een aantal openbare toiletten en de meeste zijn kleine hokjes met een gat in de grond. Sommige zijn opgetrokken uit plastic zakken.
We hebben eerst een lagere school bezocht. De schapenhokken van mijn vader waren daar nog luxe villas bij. Een groep kinderen zat op houten bankjes in een donker hok waar het enige daglicht door de gaten in de dakbedekking kwam. Ze waren (of leken) nog erg jong. In totaal gaan er zo'n 100 kinderen naar deze school. De school is opgezet door de township zelf en krijgt geen of nauwelijks geld. Af en toe komt er wat geld, boeken, krijtjes, schriften en posters binnen van een toerist die via Benson de school heeft bezocht.
De kinderen zijn voornamelijk weeskinderen en ook hier zijn malaria en aids de grootste boosdoeners. Als je dit ziet dan ga spontaan denken waar is mijn bankpas. Van alle scholen die we gezien hebben, was dit toch echt wel het ergst. Maar goed waar moet je beginnen? Bij het dak, dat straks met meer regen in kan storten, bij de schriften, bij de pennen? Het lijkt bijna onbegonnen werk. Ondertussen kijken de leerlingen je vriendelijk aan en scanderen al staande prachtige volzinnen zoals: Good morning Sir. How are you Sir?
Aan de wand hangen posters in het Engels die gebruik worden om kinderen Engels te leren, boeken zijn er niet laat staan tafels om aan te zitten…”
Mijn computer weggeven aan deze school heeft geen nut omdat er geen elektriciteit is. Een paar pakjes krijtjes sturen? Die zijn gebroken voordat ze gebruikt kunnen worden. Misschien is het belangrijkste wel om het hoofd koel te houden en steeds, als het hier allemaal tegen zit de beelden van die school voor ogen te houden… en te bedenken dat ze in Lusaka nog geeneens krijtjes hebben.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Happy Birthday, Harry!

Hello Harry,

Happy 4th Birthday. We hope you are having a lovely day and that Mummy has made you a nice big surprise birthday cake! We look forward to seeing you soon in Amsterdam if we do not see you sooner in Sheffield.

Lots of love,
Uncle Fred and Uncle Charles

This is what they will be fighting over....

leaving Assab
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
This is a photo of what much of Eritrea looks like (well, at least the southern part). It seems inevitable that there will be another war here, between Ethiopia and Eritrea, a war which nobody in either land seems to want, except maybe the military and political elites, for their own ends.

Things have been escalating again and I found this excellent article (on what is an exceptionally good site - openDemocracy) about the state of the conflict and how it came about (surprise, surprise, the Western powers have also failed in a BIG way): Africa's next war

But, my goodness!!!!! What is this? UK cuts Ethiopian government aid I am not exactly sure why "Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was once seen as a key British ally".
An ally in what? Against what? In favour of whom? Anyway, I hope the British governemnt can find a way to continue to help the Ethiopian people, as they say, through the aid agencies (well they can try) and the local authorities.

And when the Prime Minister of Ethiopia is not picking a war with his neighbour he is killing, arresting and holding without trial his fellow Ethiopians - see this report:
Ethiopia: Hidden Crackdown in Rural Areas

Ten worst moments

Wadi Rum evening
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
We'll go through them quickly, in no particular order:
1 Row about petrol in Hargeisa
2 Row about petrol in Asmera
3 Robbery in minibus in Addis
4 Late arrival in Obock
5 Losing photos/cameras breaking down
6 Having two mobiles stolen
7 Fight wth minibus drivers near South Luangwa
8 Breakfast in Etosha*
9 Sand mite bites on the Omo
19 Flies in afternoon in Wadi Rum

* - this is when Jannie's wife, Petra, told us, in front of everyone who was there, that she had not gone swimming with the other the previou evening, but had gone to her tent and heard us, Fred and myself, gossiping about her and her family. We were SO embarrassed!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Top ten moments

More colour in Agordat
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Fred and I have had a few chats about the best and worst and we seem to be in reasonable agreement, so here in descending order, we have the top ten moments. We have other lists which we may publish in the next few days. Any surprises here?

Ten - the first night on the Omo

Fred keeping hold of a raft
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
By the hippo pool, under the rocks, rapids out on the river, setting up camp for the first time, before a downpour of rain, eating dinner with our new companions, anticipating the coming two weeks on the river... and all night the sounds of a grunting hippo.

Omo River

Nine - walking around Axum

Fallen obelisk, Axum
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
With Michael and Lance and our new friend Gotacho, he of the rrrrolling R's. We had no high expectations, but it turned out to be a lovely walk, taking in the obelisks, churches, monasteries, garden-like countryside blooming with aloe veras, views across the plain to old battlefields in the direction of Eritrea, past locals bringing their livestock to the wells and so on.


Eight - our first lion(nesses) in South Luangwa Park

Nice cat!
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
South Luangwa

Seeing the animals was not our first priority, but between the long pauses of not seeing very much at all, there was the thrill of seeing beautiful beasts in teh wild (albeit protected). The lion is the king of the beasts and although we had to wait to Etosha to see our first male, we were very excited to see six females at the end of a long day in South Luangwa. The rhino's in Hluhluwe/Imfulozi were also very special.

Seven - Meeting the tribes people

Himba man with a Tafel!
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Omo People

Could be the Himba in Kaololand or the Bedouins in Syria/Jordan or the Yemenis or the peoples from Gash Barka in Eritrea the Mursi, Hammer, Bodi Oromo or Somali people in Ethiopia etc. It was every time a privilege to meet these people and to encounter their culture.

Six - arriving in Aleppo

Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Toros Express

After 32 hours in the Toros Express, we were finally in the Middle East, a melting pot of cultures, past stoney fields littered with plastic bags, through the suburbs, into Baghdad station and out onto the busy streets full of yellow taxis.

Five - the walk down and around an the Qadisha Valley

waterfall, Qadisha
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Qadisha Valley

Another beautiful day, from the Christian stronghold of Bcharre down into the peaceful woodlands of the Qadisha Valley, past fruit groves, refreshing waterfalls and monks' retreats, being offered food, drink and hospitality along the way.

Four - Petra-by-night (for Fred), Sunset horseride in Petra (for Charles)

Aiman in sunset
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

An incredible setting, fascinating historical monuments amongst beautiful rock formations, hidden at first by the night, lit up only by candlelight.... and then viewed from above, on horseback, as the setting sun shined through the dust being kicked back by the horses galloping in the distance. Not to forget, the hospitality and friendliness of the bedouins.

Three - Walking around (rather than up and down) the mountains of Al-Hajjera in Yemen

Ali and Fred
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Hazra Mountains
Hazra Mountains

Early morning, high up in the green mountains, walking past beautiful medieval villages, with their towers and distinctive Yemeni architecture, along terraced fields, passing colourful flowers and birds, tremendous views at every turn, in the company of Ali.

Two - Meeting the lads in Jigjiga

Happy in Jigjiga
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Meeting the lads in Jigjiga - well could be anywhere really, but walking around towns, chatting to people as we went, this is what we enjoyed most. Not necessarily chatting about anything in particular, but smiling, shaking hands, being friendly. And we could never forget the two bus-rides - to and from Jigjiga, with the qat ladies and the contraband!

One - Arriving at Hargeisa airport

Two young Somalilanders
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Coming 'home' after just over 43 years away. The flight was a little delayed, to increase the tension, the skies were blue, the runway clear, the 1950's terminal all white and intact, being met by Farxan, from Edna's hospital. I could have kissed the ground, but that would have been overdramatic - just had the biggest smile on my face, which, with the odd exception, stayed with me the whole week in Somaliland.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Cape Coon Carnival

During the early colonial period, slaves in and around Cape Town, South Africa were given time off to celebrate New Year’s Day. The period of celebration, which included dressing up, face painting, feasting, music, and dance, became known as the Cape Coon Carnival, after the coons from America.

The carnival took place last Saturday in and around Green Point, where we were staying, and this area of pretty painted houses called Bo-Kaap. Singing bands and colourful costumes and no pictures!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Back home!

with Gillian, Henk and Martin
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Yes, we are back!

Arrived early at just after 11, to a bright but cold sun, and a welcome party of Henk, Martin and Gillian at Schiphol airport. Jon and Pieter just missed us,as we had landed early but came over later for coffee, joined by Arnaud, Mariette, Vera, Timon and Quinten (born 9 October 2005). Great to see everyone again.

Henk took us out for a walk later in the afternoon, finished off with dinner at the Grone Olifant and a beer at Ruk en Pluk.

The house looked exactly the same as we had left it, thanks Hugo and Howard for cleaning up yesterday and leaving a fridge full of food, including Dutch cheese (the ONE type of food we missed the past six months) and for leaving the wine undrunken!!! But what happened to the tree? Hmmmm.....

It feels good to be back home and in the coming days we will be sorting ourselves out during which we will try to get in touch with everyone again.

Strangely enough, the camera decided to work again today. How could taht happen? Hmmmm.....

Saturday, January 14, 2006

And then it started raining...

... just as we left the previous internet cafe.. the clouds have come over Table Mountain and are giving the gardens here what they need... and giving us a taste of what we can expect when we get home!


Vandaag is het dan zover... we gaan terug naar huis. Over een uur of vier moeten we op de luchthaven zijn en om 00.45 vliegen we van Kaapstad naar Amsterdam. Als alles goed gaat zijn we zondagmorgen, 15 januari om 11.35 op Schiphol. Het vluchtnummer is KL598
De laatste dagen stonden in het teken van wijn en plezier. In Franschhoek, Montagu en Stellenbosch hebben we een aantal wijnboederijen bezocht en de hele range geproefd.
In Montagu hebben we een nacht gelogeerd in een pracht van een huis dat gerund wordt door een Nederlands echtpaar. Alles was tiptop verzorgd en smaakvol ingericht.
Hun advies om te gaan eten in het restaurant 'Jessica,s', was een gouden tip. Het vlees was zo mals als boter en dan nogeens aangevuld met een heerlijke wijn. Het enige nadeel van het restaurant was de inrichting. De muren hingen vol met foto's, schilderijen etc van honden... het leek wel een trimsalon.
Op weg naar Kaapstad hebben we het laatste deel van de wijnroute gedaan.
In Kaapstad hebben we gelogeerd in 'Big Blue', de backpackers hostel waar we met de Kerst ook waren. Warme verwelkoming van Mel van de receptie en Marlon van de bar. 's Avonds wat gegeten maar niets haalde het bij 'Jessica,s'.
Donderdagmorgen zijn we met de auto naar Kaap de Goede Hoop gereden. Een prachtige route langs de tal van baaien. Het gebied is erg afwisselend met 'fynbos', heide en tal van prachtige bloemen. De grillige bergen lijken of als ze uit 'Lord of teh Rings-film' komen of was het andersom? Op de Kaap hebben we de rots beklommen om het punt te zien waar de Indische Oceaan en de Atlantische Oceaan elkaar ontmoeten... spectuculair. Op de terugweg gestopt in Camp Bay en daar wat gegeten.
Gistermorgen zijn we naar de Tafelberg gereden. De bedoeling was simpel: we gaan die berg beklimmen. De looproute is redelijk ver van de kabelbaan verwijderd en het was danook slim om zo dicht mogelijk bij die looproute te gaan parkeren. Het was behoorlijk steil maar dat was voor een sportman zoals ik geen probleem. Na anderhalf uur waren we boven en erg trots op ons zelf. De uitzichten waren adembenemend (ook zonder uitzicht lukte dat) Als tractatie zijn we met de kabelbaan naar beneden gegaan... dat was een rit van zo'n vier minuten!
Na de lunch zijn we naar Sand Bay gereden om onze vrienden Nigel en Tuomo op het strand te ontmoeten. Rest van de middag lekker in de zon gelegen en af en toe wat gezwommen. We moeten toch zorgen dat we een kleurtje krijgen nietwaar?
Na het strand uiteten geweest. Het restaurant "The Nose" heeft een prachtige wijncollectie maar helaas was de steak een droge lap. Jammer want we hadden juist besloten om de laatste dagen wat meer steak te gaan eten omdat het redelijk goedkoop is en lekker...
Vandaag eigenlijk niet zoveel uitgespookt. De rugzakken gepakt en toen in de stad wat winkels en met name boekwinkels bezocht. Nog even een kappertje gepakt en nu nog even een hapje eten voordat we vliegen.

We hopen dat jullie een beetje genoten hebben van onze blog. Met name Charles heeft er veel energie ingestopt. Beide hebben met plezier er aan zitten werken. Of we thuis nog een tijdje doorgaan met de blog, is nog de vraag. Maar wie weet doen we nog een 'nabeschouwing' of een top tien van de hoogte punten, beste hotels, beste eten etc... Dus blijf ons volgen.

Time to go

Somali restaurant
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Not long to go before our flight now and all of a sudden the journey is almost over. Not bene thinking too much about coming home, more about how we can fit all the things in that we wanted to do. And now the realisation that we are going to leave the rainbow country in the middle of summer for cold grey Amsterdam. It will be odd to see people dressed up in coats with jumpers, gloves and hats after all this time.

Having a bit of a flat day today, not doing too much, did not make it to Kirstenbosch, but been hanging around the centre of Cape Town, looking for books and presents, until all the shops shut abruptly at lunchtime, before we had the cahnce to actually buy any presents... oops!

Dinner last night was rubbish... we had been on a winning streak and it was bound to end - a pity to have spent so much money on tasteless fried camembert and cardboard tasting and textured sirloin steak. Oh well, we have another chance this evening, maybe a simple pasta at Zucca, we'll see.

We set up the blog to record our adventures on this trip and as this trip is now ending we will have to think about what next? We will probably record a few reflections of our trip in the next few days... we have had quite a few discussions recently about our best and worst experiences of all types of things and it will be interesting to see if those change when we get back home.

It has been almost six months and so many memories seem to be so fresh. Time has not gone fast, not gone slowly - just been used up and now we are ready for coming home nad being back with our friends and families and back in our house.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Second-from-last day

aloe vera
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

Was spent first climbing 800 meters to the top of Table Mountain, with clear views over Cape Town City Bowl. A steep climb up the rocky kloof, past the colourful fijnbos, including aloe vera's like these (from Yemen). A great sense of achievement having reached the top, where we chatted with others who we had seen on the way up. Taking plenty of stops, we made it in one hour and a half, making it one of the shorter, bnut no less interesting climbs. The highest vwould have been Debre Bizen in Eritrea and the climb to the village on the Omo tour, both of which were 2.5 hour climbs. And then there were the climbs on donkeys and mules, but these do not count!

The view down the Cape along the Twelve Apostles was blanked out by localised mist so we could look only down at the City Bowl, Robben Island, the suburbs/townships out to the east and Blouwbergstrand to the north. I have been very disoriented here in Cape Town where the sun and moon both rise from what I instinctively think is west, but is, of course east. Getting to the top helped undertand the lie of the land a bit, but it took a good long study of the map back at the car to work it out completely, and still it feels wrong.

Back down by revolving cable car, which we took to preserve our knees. Apparently there is a great new and widely used drug to help repair damaged cartilege, so if it works, we may climb down the next time we are here.

Then a salad lunch on Kloof Nek road, before driving round the Lion's Head, through Camp's Bay and back to Sandy Bay where we spent the afternoon. Today, totaly clear and very hot, we sat/lay on the rocks and occasionally immersed ourselves in the refreshingly cool and clear waters of the Atlantic Ocaen. Our friends Nigel and Tuomo joined us and we related our respective adventures since thet dropped us of in Tsumeb about five weeks ago. Nigel confirmed that the co-editor of a book recording stories the San tell, in their words, Alison White, is the person we met and enjoyed the company of at Nick and Abi's wedding, over four years ago. A small world. He also confirmed our thoughts about the San/Bushmen and how sophisticated their knowledge is of nature and the envirionment, such knowledge helping them survive so wel the last 30,000 years. Was good to see them, but they are busy chaps and did not stay too long. No dolphins topday, but plenty of healthy sea-weed and brightly coloured anenomes, and again, the amazingly beautiful shaped and coloured rocks/boulders... we were on the one shaped and sized like a whale.

Back here in Cape Town, time for a little internet, before a good dinner at the Nose!

Tomorrow, we have a full day, as we fly out after midnight... so time for Kirstenboasch Botanical Gardens and some book buying if we are not already overweight. Still no craft purchases! What self-control, eh?

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Too beautiful to be true

Lupins - close-up
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
But true it is. It was so beautiful five years ago when I was here and again today. The Cape Peninsula.

Perfect weather. A low mist lying over the calm sea early in the morning, the sun's rays shining off the towering Table Mountain.

An early start, round the coast to classy Camp's Bay and even classier Llandudno, over the pass to the beautifully situated Hout Bay and along the spectacular Chapman's Peak Drive to the long white beaches of Noordhoek, then across to Simonstown, the charming home of the South African Navy in False Bay, where we made our first stop.... for a camera (which is made in China, has a flash, comes with two Agfa films of 27 photos (made in Germany)for just over ten pounds - how CAN they do it???) and a coffee and cake.

Just down from Simonstown is the famous Boulders Bay where we swam in the ever so clear and not-too-cold waters of the Indian Ocean, together with a load of eccentric wobbly (on land) African (previously Jackass) penguins. Fantastic, not only for the penguins, but the boulders are so beautiful, the sea so blue and the views across the bay so clear.

From here we drove down to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, which we shared with mostly French and Americans, two nationalities we have seen very little of in the past six months and some Asians (the people we have sen the most of by far are English and Dutch, some Germans, Italians and Spanish and a sprinkling of Scandinavians and some East Europeans and Antipodeans - but not many even of them). In fact very few non-Europeans. The skies were still clear without the mist that normally gathers when the Indian Ocean collides with the Atlantic. Flocks of cormoprants at the bottom, while we spotted our first Elands (a magnificent bull, with a furry face), some Bontebok, a long-eared mouse and a very cute striped mouse - but the best was still yet to come...

Dark clouds were gathering as we passed Scarborough and Misty Cliffs, so we took a detour round Constantia before crossing back into the clouds through the wooded slopes of Hout Bay, past millionaires's row and back to Llandudno, where we popped down to Sandy Bay for the best time of the day.

A smallish white sandy beach, under the mountains on three sides, large rounded boulders reaching out into the sea... great for clambering over and from jumping across from one to the other, dilled with rockpools, covered with limpits and mussels, the green fijnbos backing up to the mountains, some orange lichen clinging to the rock, as the sun came in and out of the mist and cloud. It was late faternoon and a mist was forming over the sea again, and just then with the sun's rays shining bthrough we saw a group of dolphions playing around, jumping in and out of the water. A magnificent sight. A perfect way to round off our trip during which we have been treated to some excellent wildlife sights!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Heaven on Earth

Lunch at the Bat Centre
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

The scene is set as such: The sun shining in a deep blue sky, a wide valley surrounded by craggy mountains, mist creeping over and hiding their peaks, a nourishing river flowing along the bottom.

The land a patchwork of bright green vineyards, each row starting off with a pink or a white rose, a hedge of bright red cannas, lines of well pruned fruit trees, full with apples, peaches, pears and apricots.

Wine estates of white Cape Dutch houses, their doors open to welcome guests to taste the wines on offer: sauvignon blancs, wooded and unwooded chardonnays, sparkling, syrah, pinotage and cabernet sauvignon.

Horse stud farms dotted around, stallions kept apart from the mares who are tending their young foals.

There is nothing like wine country, the country we got to love in Italy and more especially Tuscany. The South African version is as near to perfection as could be.

We started the day off with a delicious and well-presented breakfast in the pretty gardens of La Malherebe, by the pool, before returning onto the Route 62 to Ashton, before a detour down to Bonnievale at the start of the Robertson wine route, which took us to five wineries including a very good organic one called Bon Cap. Then we put on some kilometers to get to Villiersdorp before crossing the spectacular Hottentot-Holland mountains to the up-market and very pricey Franschoek, the beautiful drive over to Stellenboash and the less than beautiful drive from there through the townships of Cape Town back to Big Blue Backpackers here in Green Point.

P.S. Yesterday's meal at Jessica's was simply amazing. We treated ourselves to fillets of steak, witha sauce of mushrooms, pecorino cheese and cashew nuts (finely ground), served with a magnificent Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon from the Springfield Estate in Robertson. We reckon we ought to eat lots of steak here as it is extremely high quality and much cheaper than back home!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Driving Miss Daisy to Montagu

Township art
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Almost at the end of our long journey back from Cape Town, we have moved about 200 kms (so overshot Rome) to the small town of Montagu, still on Route 62. Veryt quaint, with many Cape Dutch houses and up-market guesthouses and B&B's. We have treated ourselves to a night at the La Malherbe, with exquisite rooms, a lovely garden, a pool and the promise of a sumptuous breakfast. Tonight we eat at Jessica's, which is said to be in the top 100 restaurants in RSA.

The ostrich we had last nibght came as a bit of a disappointment, not that it wasn't good, but was not really that special.. a slab of tender red meat. The accompanying wine - Boplaas Cabernet Reserve was excellent though.

The drive today was fine, we stopped off every now and then, notably at Ronnies Sex Shop, about which we had been told by both Alison and Tiny, which turned out to be little more than a wayside bar, albeit with displays of bras, knickers and baseball hats to accompany the graffitti all over the walls. Strange.

Tomorrow, back to Cape Town, from where we will spend our last days investigating the Cape and its beaches, as well as a hike up Table Mountain, weather permitting.

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Monday, January 09, 2006

For the last time... for now...

Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Cheap, I know, but.....

(Photo is from the Zulu coming-of-age ceremony, back in Eshowe).

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Have we had this one already Patsy, darling?

The elders
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Ummm…. We started on the Chardonnay, moved quickly over to the reds, in ascending order of fullness before finally attacking the ports, eventually the vintage ports… mmmmm….. very good. De Krans is the namely of the winery and they export all over Europe except France and Italy and mostly to UK and Germany. Well recommended.

And so we ended our afternoon, walking distance from Die Dorpshuis, where we took a plunge in the pool on arrival, to refresh us from the blistering heat (how things changed).

During the day, we took the car on an amazing journey, up the Groenfontein valley, where we stopped to identify countless numbers of birds, as we passed through a green oasis, with the odd ostrich farms, very quaint farmhand’s cottages, all with beautifully coloured gardens, past by a very very old and large tortoise on the road (fortunately on the side) and with views up to the Swartberg (Black Mountain). Then along another wider river valley before finally ascending the pass, some 2,200 metres high, with fabulous views in all directions, before descending toward the Seven Week Pass, one of the most spectacular natural formations I have ever seen. Layers of red sandstone sediments, compressed and pushed upwards and squeezed across and then snapped open to provide a very narrow winding gorge through the mountains, the light throwing shadows of the jutting out rocks. Fate was playing a cruel joke by first breaking my camera before showing us this wonderful place. Oh well!

At the bottom, we found the quaint town of Prince Albert, with its many white Cape Dutch houses, many housing cottage industries such as cheese-making, mohair wool production (beautiful multicoloured rugs available), artists galleries and good cafes. We decided on a picnic and left with some bread, cheese and soft drinks for a return journey, this time through the Meiringspoort, a smaller version of the Seven Weeks Pass. Again the colours were amazing, today in the sun, the black mountains (there was also a bit of cloud cover), the black of the burnt tree trunks, the black of the male ostrich, set against his snowy white plumes, the pink soil, the yellow flowers of the acacia trees and the lush green of the trees in the valleys, as well as all the colours we had seen yesterday. As we have noticed before in dry areas, a slight change in the water conditions can lead very quickly to the big change in the vegetation, and so it was here too.

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Fred at Madonna and Child waterfall

We zijn onze laatste week ingegaan… we kunnen het zelf niet geloven. Zes maanden!! Maar goed het is nog niet de tijd om een overzicht te gaan geven (trouwens dat soort van dingen zijn beter op een Oudejaarsavond). De laatste week gunnen we ons zelf een soort van mini vakantie in onze macro vakantie. We hebben een auto gehuurd en toeren daarmee door Zuid Afrika.
De afstanden hier zijn geweldig groot. Om een voorbeeld te geven de bustocht van Kaapstad naar Durban duurde meer dan 24 uur (1800 km!)… nu rijden we in onze eigen tempo terug richting Kaapstad.
Donderdag zijn we van Durban (tweede keer dat we deze leuke stad bezocht hebben) naar Hogsback gereden. De tocht ging door de Transkei, het gebied van Nelson Mandela. Beide lezen op dit moment zijn boek ‘The long road to Freedom’. Dus het was stoppen geblazen in het dorp Qunu waar Nelson opgegroeid is. Daarvoor een bezoek gebracht aan de regionale hoofdstad Mthatha waar een Mandela-museum is gevestigd. Dat museum maakte op grote schaal gebruik van stukken uit zijn boek en we hebbben niet alles gezien omdat we het verhaal van het boek eerst willen lezen.
Qunu is nog steeds bezig met de opbouw van een soort museum, informatie en scholingscentrum. Het project ziet er geweldig uit en men gebruikt veel locale mensen, materialen en technieken.
Na deze twee Mandela trekpleisters zijn we via een prachtige maar helaas mistige en natte bergroute naar Hogsback gereden.
Hogsback doet wat Tolkien-achtig aan. De reden is dat zijn ‘nanny’ daar vandaan kwam en haar verhalen waren een inspiratiebron voor zijn ‘Lord of the Rings’.
De backpackershostel was vol met jonge en gezellige lieden. Men veel plezier hebben we ons in het gezelschap geworpen en al etend en drinkend kennis gemaakt met tal van reizigers.
Vrijdag hebben we samen met Stefan en Martine een pracht van een wandeling gemaakt. Helaas was het bos erg slipperig en dat was dus uitkijken geblazen voor de wat oudere jongeren zoals ons. De tocht leidde naar de waterval met de prachtige naam ‘Madonna and child’. Voor die tijd gezwommen in het natuurlijke rots zwembadje. ‘s Avonds natuurlijk weer gezellig aanwezig in het restaurant annex bar met als gevolg dat zaterdag (het regende de hele dag) voor mij een totale rustdag is geworden. Charles is gaan paardrijden en kwam totaal doorregend weer thuis…
‘s Zondags vroeg vertrokken en richting ‘Gardenroute’ gereden. Helaas het weer bleef verschrikkelijk en de mist en regen begon ons redelijk te irriteren… dat wordt nog wat voor als we thuis zijn… Maar niet getreurd na regen komt zonneschijn.
Van de ‘Garden route’ overgestapt op ‘Route 62’... de beroemde wijnroute. Prachtige omgeving met een rijke scharkering aan kleuren. Het is een soort van halfwoestijn gebied maar er worden veel druiven en tabak verbouwd daarnaast zijn er tal van struisvogelgfarms.
Via deze prachtige route kwamen we in Calitzdorp. Al snel vonden we ‘Die oude Dorpshuis’ waar Tiny en Alison ons een pracht van een kamer aanboden, in combinatie met een hartelijke gastvrijheid en een super maaltijd. We hebben ‘s middags de omgeving wat verkend en ‘s avond lekker gegeten onder het genot van een goed gesprek en een goed glas wijn.
Vandaag met de auto door de spectaculaire bergen gereden. De kleuren zijn geweldig! Ons autootje heeft het gelukkig gehouden en dat was niet altijd even gemakkelijk gezien het slechte wegdek.
Na een bezoek aan Prince Albert, zijn we terug gereden en hebben we een van de beroemde locale wijnkelders, De Krans bezocht. Zalige en misschien ook wat minder zalige wijnen geproefd… en daarna nog een aantal goddelijke ports.
Kortom we genieten nog even van de laatste zomerweek van Zuid Afrika en van de lekekre wijnen. Morgen op weg naar Montague en Robertson, ook in de wijnstreek….

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

Red hills, ostriches and port!

Funky ostrich
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
We are now in a semi-desert area, known as the Klein (or Little) Karoo, having made the 800 km trip over from Hogsback (again this distance would take us just a little bit further than Basel, on the way to Rome, or if we were continuing on our journey from Basel, we would be between Arezzo and Rome, maybe in Chiusi or Orvieto).

We set off in the early morning, with the mist still thick and the rain still pouring down. Down the valley we went and then all the way down to the coast - the Sunshine Coast - with the same weather which accompanied us all the way along the Garden Route, until we stopped for lunch at a garage in a place called George, Fred getting us into a Wimpy. The food served there was about the worst you could possibly imagine, but it did give us timke to look at where we were going - by now we were heading for Cape Town) - and we decided to cross over the coastal mountain range (the Outenaqua?) and across to the Karoo.

Being semi-desert, one might have assumed it to be dry and sunny and that was very much the hope. As it turned out we did get a bit of sun after we crossed the pass, but it soon clouded over again, but this time dry.

The colours were simply amazing.. the dark clouds over the mountains, making them look purple providing a vivid background to the visats of red earth (and white sheep), blue fijnbos (fine bush), yellow flowers of the aloe veras, the bright greens of the willow trees and the pale yellows of the grasses on the verge. It was as if I was being teased by thye powers that be, my camera now not working and so unable to pick up on these incredible colours in this particular light.

As we descended we came into ostrich farm country around Oudtshoorn. Funny to see these birds in their pens, each pen filled with ostriches of the same age, from small chicks to large adults. You can ride them too, but both of us being over 70 kg, we would not have been allowed!

As we followed the R62 (the longest wine route in the world, apparently), we passed the Red Hills, and again, I so much missed having a camera as the forms and colours and shadings were outstandingly beautiful. Maybe we go there for a walk tomorrow.

We have ended up in a place called Calitzdorp (quite by coincidence - nothing tom do with the fact that it is the Port (wine) centre of South Africa! Welook forward to tasting it with our dinner (of ostrich steak, of course!). We are staying in Het Dorpshuis and we think we will stay for 2-3 days, there being so much to do and see here, about which, more later. Great ladies running Die Dorpshuis - Alison and Tiny, both make us feel really at home.

As it happens, the ostrich cook is not here today and Tiny, the evening manager and cook - who is not SO tiny, says we can better wait for tomorrow for ostrich, so we ate Karoo lamb... delicious, polished off with glass after glass of port, on-the-house, eating our dinner in the company of some very pleasant South Africans, a change from the backpacker people we have been mixing with.

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Riding the range

Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
This is a photo of me on a grey horse in Uspallata, Argentina, not Hogsback, SDouth Africa. This is because yesterday teh weather was in fact too bad (misty and rainy) to take pictures and also because my camera seems to have packed up... from one minute to teh next not being able to register a picture, it seems. Much teh same happened with my previous Sony Cybershot camera. Both had had planty of use, but that's no excuse.

The ride, on another grey horse, this time part Apaloosan, and very big, together with Renee was good, despite the rain. It was on a very remote farms in the hills above Hogsback, which took ages to find, along very very bumpy roads past very large cattle ranches. The views looked like Scotland with the heathland and bogs and marshes, and then also a bit like Argentina with willows growing in the valleys. There were many birds including the very colourful Red Bishop and Yellow Weavers, as well as the spectacular Widow Bird, hovering over the reeds with its very very long tail! Also very many kestrels, the odd heron and some very loud Ibises. The animal life consisted of a herd of twenty very playful and exotic looking Black Wildebeest (with white tails).

We also managed a couple of long canters which turned into gallops, which is always fun!

Back in Hogsback, all teh hot water had gone from the showers as everybody had come in soaking wet and the clothes never dried the whole night either, while the rain kept coming all night long.

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

What we can learn from the bushmen

Bushman elder
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
The bushmen have a culture and way of life which has existed for 30,000 years, which in my reckoning make them the most successful race on the earth at the moment. It is not the least bit coincidental that their culture has utmost respect for the earth, taking out only what can be readily supplied and never over-harvesting.

If we contrast their culture with ours, which is not only using up resources we have inherited from our forefathers but is also borrowing very large amounts from future generations in order to create a massive spending and consumption spree, whilst resources are running out, replacements, if ever to be available, have not yet been developed and while the earth's weather systems are being chnaged by greenhouse gases, the icy poles and glaciers are melting, rains and harvests are failing and people starving and so on and so on.

Shouldn't we be using the Bushmen's knowledge, techniques, culture to help us unravel our all-consuming culture, rather than thinking that we have anything to teach the bushmen?

Should we not be thinking about un-developing rather than trying to develop other more sustainable parts of the world?

Visiting the bushmen and seeing how they deal with their environment has been one of the most impressing things we have done on this trip and has made a great impact on our (well, mine at least) thinking.

This morning I visited the Eco-Shrine, where a local artist has created a shrine to mother Earth, dealing with issues such as the sustainability of life on earth, the role and the history of the bushmen, the incredible uniqueness of what we have on earth and how fragile it is, reflecting very much the issues which have bene on my mind recently.

May I recommend Bill Bryson's Short History of Almost Everything? It does not deal directly with issues of sustainability but it does show how unique the earth is and how wonderful and incomprehnsible nature, in all its forms is?

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A day in Hobbiton, sorry Hogsback

It was a lovely sunny day yesterday, just right for relaxing on the freshly cut lawns by the flower beds, filled with roses, nasturtiums, honeysuckle, lavendar, lillies and agapanthus, reading the Nelson Mandela book, looking out across the wooded valley to the three rounded peaks of the Amatolas, whilst birds sang in the bushes and monkeys jumped around from branch to branch.

We also went for a long-ish walk down through the very wet and slippery forest to the series of waterfalls and natural swimming pools at the bottom. The water was muddy from the rain, but provided cool refreshment from the warm muggy air under the trees, as we swam amongst the little black worms.
We had met up with a couple of young Dutch people, Stefan and Martine, who were working in Port Elizabeth on various projects (Stefan on the success or otherwise of black economic empowerment projects and Martine working in schools and an HIV/AIDS project) and spent a very pleasant afternoon with them.

Back at the lodge, after having spotted a few of the very rare Cape Parrots (only about 300 left in the world) and after dinner we got chatting to a couple of young Dutch girls, Kim and Renee who were also over to work in Port Elizabeth, again on projects, and we spent a very fun evening with them, Fred especially as he did not make it back to the room until after 4.30. He is still sleeping now. It is a very sociable backpackers place indeed. It'll be strange to be back home and not be meeting new people every day... but at least we will be back with our friends, something which we are looking forward to enormously. (Only a week to go!!!)

Today, I hope to go horseriding, possibly with one of the girls, as long as it doesn't rain (it is cloudy now). Otherwise, more time to finish off the Mandela book.

Tomorrow, back on the road, down towards the coast to either Plettenburg Bay or Knysna, subject to the weather.... if it is still misty and cool, we may try to reach Cape Town and environs.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

A racially divided country....

Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
We are now in the beautiful Amatola Mountains, at a place called Hogsback, 250 residents (mostly white) in the forests with views across to the mountains. There are birds and flowers everywhere, the sun is shining and the air smells so clean and fresh.

Yesterday, we arrived in thick mist and drizzly rain which we had had for about the last three hours of our long long drive from Durban... again not what teh topurist brochures would have us believe. The distance in the end was about 770 kms, which is a bit further than Amsterdam to Basel, on the road to Rome, the measure I always use to measure long driving distances. We did it in about 11 hours stopping off a few times in what used to be the Transkei, to take pictures of the hillside villages and, of course the Nelson Mandela Museums in Mthata and Qunu. The one at Qunu where he grew up is not quite finished but it looks amazing. A youth training and exhibition centre, it has been built by local peple using local materials of rock, stone, mosaics, wood etc, the locals being taught also how to use these materials. Amazing to look at the hillside with isolated houses and rondavels, a few cattle and gots wandering around, no trees, the river at the bottom of the valley and think that one of teh greatest men alive today was brought up and grew up here!

The tourists brochures will talk about the South Coast (south of Durban), becoming the Hibiscus Coats, becoming then the Wild Coast, becoming then the Garden Route, it will also say that we have left KwaZulu Natal for Eastern Cape. All sounds quite harmless, until you actually make the trip, and cross the mountain pass from KawaZulu Natal with its green grazing pastures, large farms, massive forests and cross over into rocky ex-Transkei, the mountainsides full of samall dwellings where the !Xhosa people live, including the families of the 2 million people sent there against their wills by the Apartheid authorities. Amazing to see and one is really left wondering how things are ever going to change dramatically. The white farmer on his good land, completely mechanised growing food very efficiently has his place just as much as the many many subsistence farmers working the other side of the boundary.

Today we are loking forward to walks into the forests and up into the mountains, looking out for exotic birds, such as the Cape Parrot and the Knysa Turaco, whilst seeking out waterfalls to splash about in and cool down. Idyliic, it really is!

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Today's rhino!

Today's rhino!
Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
On South Beach, Durban.

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Backpackers lodges and other matters

Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Since we arrived in Southern Africa, Zambia, to be precise we have mainly been staying in backpackers' lodges. For the unitiated, as we were before we started staying in them, iot might be useful to explain a little bit what they are like.
In essence they tend to be family-run places which ahve a mixture of accommodation from single and double rooms to dorms to camp sites in the garden, with prices to match the level of accommodation. Toilets and showers are usuually communal. There is often a swimming pool, a bar and some sort of eating facility as well as a kitchen where guests are allowed to prepare their own meals. We have not done this in general, as it is too much bother and the meals provided are usually very good., although we have taken to buying muesli and fruit for breakfasts in the mornings.
The guests who stay here are not usually the just-out-of-school, spoilt middle class brat types, but a range of people from people-like-us, to families and to young people, sometimes travelling in a group, sometimes alone, mostly tourists soemtimes local holidaymakers. We do not get the big tour groups of dissatisfied ready-to-murder-each-other tourists, which is good, as they tend to fill places like this out totally, pushing out everyone else.
Being family-run, they are all different individual types of places, each with their own character. Much better than any corporate hotel.
Good value too, as they tend to cost between EUR 15 for two beds in a dorm to EUR 25-40 for a double/twin room, for the both of us. Better value if we did not avail ourslves of the bar facilities, the dinners and the internet, but that is another story! We are sort-of keeping within our budget, having previously increased the budget when entering Southern Africa and there may even be some travellers cheques left over. The Rand started doing a Kwacha on us today and seemed to have risen by 5% from yesterday to this afternoon!

Just another thing... we would like to congratulate the tourism authorities of kwa-Zulu Natal for doing such a good job at promoting this part of the country, and there are leaflets and booklets and websites all over the place with magnificent photos, everywhere in sunshine and talk of the hot summer sun. Well actually, although it is a great place to be there are also lots of boring bits, liuke the motorway up north, all green rolling hills covered in sugar cane na dthen miles after miles of eucalyptus forests. Also, although we have sene the sun and it has also been very hot at times, it has been more cloudy and extermely humid, as you can tell by the marks on our shirts and T-shirts in the photos!

Tomorrow, we get up early as we have an eight hour journey west, out of kwa-Zulu Natal through what is nowe Eastern Cape, previously Transkei, wjhere we will stop to visit the Nelson Mandela Museum in Umtata and may visit the vikllage in which he was born, before getting to Hogsback in the Amatola Mountains, which is said to have influenced Tolkien when he created Middle Earth. Promises to be cooler there at least, if not devastatingly beautiful with forests, mountains and waterfalls.

Finally, as you may see if you look at the photos, we spotted another rhino today, this time on the beach in Durban, meaning that we have seen a rhino every day this year!

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"Cry, the beloved Country"

Nieuwjaarsdag de hele dag met 'ons' autootje rondgereden in het nationale park in Kwazulu. Normaal ga je met een gids/chauffeur maar wij dachten dat het misschien ook wel leuk zou zijn om zelf eens op zoek te gaan naar de wilde beesten.
We werden algauw getrakteerd op onze eerste neushoorns. Ze waren wel een eindje weg maar toch... Niet veel later stonden we bijna oog in oog met een enorme olifant. Ik moet toegeven dat het wel even schrikken is en dat je ook wel een beetje angstig wordt als zo'n beest richting je auto gaat wandelen.
Na de olifant ontdekten we een groep van vijf neushoorns die druk aan het grazen waren. Ze zien er agressief uit maar toch is dat een verkeerd beeld... ze zijn lekker aan het grazen en maken zich niet druk over wat er rondom hun gebeurd.
Later op de dag moesten we een tijdje wachten op een olfant die rustig stond te drinken en daarmee de weg blokkeerde.
Verder nog tal van neushoorns gezien en natuurlijk allerlei vogels, herten, buffels en tal van bokken.
Al met al waren we niet ontevreden over onze eigen tocht.
De volgende dag richting St Lucia om daar in het park tal van vogels te gaan bewonderen. Mooi niet dus.. behalve wat valkjes, was er niets te zien. O.k. een neushoorn en tal van kudu's maar die zie je dagelijks. Het strand was prachtig maar het water was helaas te gevaarlijk om in te zwemmen. Dus we moesten ons tevreden stellen met een strandwandeling.
Gisteren weer op weg naar Durban gereden. Eerst een bezoek gebracht aan een 'cheetah-farm' waar tal van katachtigen in grote, ruime kooien zitten. Deze beesten komen veelal uit gevangenschap en kunnen eigenlijk niets meer. Ze worden dagelijks gevoed en men gaat er vanuit dat ze op een dag misschien weer terug de natuur in kunnen. Maar dat wordt voor de meeste een groot probleem.
Nu weer in het benauwde en hete Durban. Het is hier drukkend en je loopt hier danook alleen maar te zweten.
Het natuurhistorisch museum en de kunstverzameling van Durban zijn erg indrukwekkend. Met veel plezier hebben we deze twee musea aanschouwd. Verder nog een project voor lokale kunstenaars bezocht. Een van de dingen naast het maken van manden is het maken van kunstvoorwerpen uit ijzerdraad en kraaltjes. Er worden prachtige dingen gemaakt maar om het nu allemaal aan te gaan schaffen?
Vandaag eigenlijk niet zoveel uitgespookt. Een bezoek gebracht aan 'The African Art Centre' en daarna aan een soort van 'zwemparadijs' annex winkelcentrum.

De straat waar deze internetcafe aan zit, is erg berucht. De meeste winkels. trouwens dat zie je vaak zijn voorzien van hekken en traliewerk. Overal lopen bewakers rond. Een politieman vertelde ons dat we onze camera in de rugzak moesten doen en die goed onder controle moesten houden.Er is veel werkeloosheid en dus armoede. De criminaliteit is erg hoog.
We hebben ons erg verwonderd over de raciale verhoudingen in Zuid Afrika. Zoals Charles als schreef zijn de verhoudingen nog erg ongelijk. Voor vele zwarten is het erg moeilijk om aan een (goede) baan te komen. In de meeste gevallen hebben zij de laagst betaalde baantjes. Je ziet nog steeds weinig zwarte mensen in bijvoorbeeld managersbanen. De regering heeft een politiek van positieve discriminatie. Elk bedrijf is verplicht om een bepaalde hoeveelheid zwarten aan te nemen. Maar daarmee heb je nog niet de betere banen voor zwarten. Opleiding is ook nog vaak een probleem. Kortom er is nog genoeg werk aan de winkel.
Net begonnen met het lezen van Nelson Mandela's biografie 'Long walk to freedom'. Daarna misschien toch maar Cry, the Beloved Country van Alan Paton lezen.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Day at the Races... well, an evening at least

Yes, on the way down to Durban town centre, past the excellent and very colourful Botanic Gardens, we saw what looked very much like a grandstand, a bit similar to the one at Ascot. Then behind the fence we could see a beautiful turf track being attended to by two young women with henna-ed faces, who told us they were racing today and that the first race would strat at 5.40. After some negotiation between ourselves it was decided that I could go, provided I was back at the Hippo Hide by 8, in time for happy hour at the Roman Lounge.

We spent the afternoon, mainly walking to and finding the Town Hall with its Natural Science Museum and Art Gallery (also both excellent and free!). We even saw a rhino again, making that three days in a row.. albeit that this rhino was stuffed! Then we met a chap walking down to the Bat Centre and we joined him.. he is being given a studio where he makes works out of re-cycled plastic and was just setting it up.

Fred took a taxi back up the hill, while I had a long-ish walk through not-so-safe looking areas to get back to Greyville Racecourse, under a dark sky, with flashes of lightning while my clothes were wet and dripping with sweat. The raxces were both similar and different to waht I expected - similar in that the racial divide was whites as owners and trainers, Irish as jockeys, blacks as stable boys and security men and Indians and whites as punters - no surprise there. What was a surprise was that it was free to enter, the track looked immaculate, bright green under the floodlights, under a purple sky, the paddock resembled the better parts of the Botanic Gardens with its well tended lawns and exotic trees, whilst the horses looke dabsolutley magnificent, their sweat gleaming in the floodlights.

I succumbed to just one bet, using up all the change I had in my pockets, going for Afghanistan, ridden by a jockey Shearer, he was top-weight and did well to come second... so I start another betting year in the negative (last year, 2005, was another postive one and I am still carrying around 4 twenty pound notes which I am sure I won on Take The Stand in the Gold Cup, last March - but maybe not). Also spent time chatting with a knowledgebale young man working as a security guard who told me that thuis was his penultimate race meeting before he goes off to work for the South African Defence Force.

On the way ut, I was advised by the friendly ladies at the entrance that I ought not to walk, that it was dangerous and that I should take a taxi. It wasn't far, but t was up a hill, and it was raining by now, so I took the taxi, even though the price he charged was equivalent to being robbed anyway!

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Makes me mad!

Connected with the racism below.... I thought I might just write about some of the things which are said here far too frequesntly and which make me mad:

1 "South Africa is going to go the same way as Zimbabwe" - what a complete nonsense... the history and social structure and political and legal sysetms in the two countries are so far apart and anyway, what hapened in Zimbabwe after many many years was a result of Mugabe trying to divert atention away from a corruption scandal which probably would have cost him the next elections.

2 "The blacks preferred life under apartheid" - oh yes, really?, like having no rights to vote, having to carry passes around, being treated as lesser human beings? I don't think so....

3 "The ANC government has done nothing since it has been in power" - again what a lot of nonsense..... they have a programme (already in good part realised to provide water, toilets and electricity to most villages in South Africa.... amongst other things.

4 "Black economic empowerment policy (whereby companies are required to have a certain number or proportion of their employees being black) is going to ruin the economy -" - I wonder..... and anyway, such a policy will only go a tiny part of the way to putting right what went on under white rule.

One hears this sort of nonsense not just from the native Afrikaners (whose own culture I can best describe as being based on beer, braai and racism, with a mix of old-style Dutch Reformed self-righteous superiority) but also tourists who have spent too much time talking to such people.

A wonderful country, South Africa certainly is, but it has been screwed up enormously by over a century of white supremacy and latterly apartheid. It is going to take a very very long time to become normal.

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Filthy rotten racists

Sorry but....

just come back from a delicious dinner at our favourite restaurant in Durban, Spiga d'Oro.....

where we were servced by a not particularly friendly waiter, who happend to be American, with a bald head, a long goatee and rings in all strange parts of his ears... yuk!

we were also helped by a charming black man, well dressed in black, who served us drinks - wine and water.

it was all a little bit expensive and the tip was quite a large amount.... we gave the black chap the money, but the change was brought back by the American who did not bother to say 'thank you'. This annoyed us not a little bit as we already expected that a black man would not be allowed to bring change back to the table and because the white American showed very bad manners.

We asked the black chap how the tips were shared and he said he had no idea... he never saw a tip... so he assumed that the owners (a family from Rome, one of whom is alos a waiter) kept all the tips.

We asked the white man and he said the tips were shared between the waiters.

Now obviously, the tips are only shared between the WHITE waiters, and not the black staff. SO racist and so unreasonable. The black chap did a far better job in terms of customer service than the white one and he got nothing... except teh tip which we shoved in his hand as we left.

Maybe we have had too much to drink but we are well p***ed off...... racism from the Afrikaners we have come to expect (and we have some other stories on that score... but from Europeans, we expect better.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

2006 - the year of the rhino!

Originally uploaded by CharlesFred.
Hello again, in 2006, which for us, is the year of the rhino, having seen 18 yesterday in six groups and another one today. Great, as had never seen wild rhino's so close up before and they are such wonderful animals, so peaceful; grazing grass, while their public image is of a ferocious beast charging at anyone who gets too close. They look as old as the earth, with their thick dirty skin and horns which look like they have come down staright from teh age of the dinosaurs.

New Year was seen in in good style at the fabulous Isinkwe Bush Lodge, set in typical bushveld, with a charming bar around an inviting pool. We first made acquantiance with the resident (wild) bushbaby) before getting chatting to an Italian family, two school teachers as parents and a beauiful young daughter, named Lisa. None of them spoke much English, so it was nice to practice some Italian.

After some vigourous dancing by the bar, midnight/the new year was greeted with us listening to Radio Swaziland as they played that Gimme Gimme Madonna song as sparkling wine was served and fireworks let off, the other side of the pool... not too many fircrackers, unlike the Hogeweg, for fear of scaring away the wild animals.

The next day, we had a much better start than in 2005, as neither of us had any bad effects from the night before, and after having a healthy breakfast of fresh pineaple, mangoes and bananas, we set off for the Hluhluwe/iMfolozi National Park, the first to exist in South Africa. It was great having a car and having the freedom to do what we liked, with no frustrations about teh driver/guide being in a hurry, or not stopping etc. We saw an abundance of animals in waht was a very attractive park, of grassy and wooded hillsides, many giving strategic views over other parts of teh aprk, and it was at some such vantage point where we saw our first rhinos... two blobs on a hillside about 2 kms away. We were SO thrilled and followed them for about half an hour, eventually getting to within half a kilometer away of them.

Thereafter, two very close encounters with very large bull elephants, who got Fred all scared when he though we (or they) got too close, the elephants being wild and much larger and stronger than our flimsy little Korean car.

We later saw a family group of rhinos close to the car, but a little lhiddne by grass, a BIG male, a mother and two young. We were close enough to here them move through the grass and munch away at the grass they were feeding on.

Then a little further on,a magnificent male, all by himself, drinking at a pool near the road. We spenta nother good half an hour with him, as he moved around, with teh windows open and the camera cliocking at every new angle. Strangely beautiful and ceratinly captivating.

We saw plenty of the other what I call 'dirty' animals, namely warthogs and buffalos, as well as impalas, zebra, teh very very beautiful nyala (male and females) and finally, just as we were leaving the park.. some giraffes! It was a good day in the park!

Today we have spent our time in the nearby Greater St Lucia Wetlands National Park, which includes a mighty lagoon, long stretches of beaches and forested sand dunes. Spent most of the time walking along an almost deserted beach (all the others were Afrikaners out fishing), past the rockpools, over the rocks, along sandy beaches, past extremely fast pink crabs, up to teh bat-infested caves. As we drove to the end point, we saw, in the clearing many animals including kudu (magnificent maels as well as dull females, the small but colourful steenbok, waterbuck, zebra, wildebeest, buffalo and a sole rhino, none of which was expected. WE had expected to see many sea and estuary birds, but saw none, not even a lone seagull, just some kites and finally an osprey, possibly because we did not actually get even remotely close to the estuary. Still, more than satisfied and now we have to rsuh back to Hluhluwe to have a shower before dinner at 7. Tomorrow, we return to Durban for a couple of nights before the long return journey to Cape Town.

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'Geen Wim, geen Freek en al helemaal geen Youp'

Oudejaarsdag zijn we van Eshowe via St Lucia naar Isinkwe gereden. De bedoeling was om daar in het bushcamp een aantal dagen te logeren en daar Oud en Nieuw te gaan vieren. Voor dat we in ons kamp aankwamen, hadden we al het een en ander beleefd.
Onderweg kregen we een lekke band. Het verwisselen viel mee maar opdat er slecht een noodband aanwezig was, was het zaak om de andere weer zo snel mogelijk te repareren. Dat was gemakkelijker gezegd dan gedaan. De man van de garage, we zijn open tot 12 ur i.v.m Oudejaar, vertelde ons dat de band vervangen moest worden omdat er een grote scheur aan de zijkant in zat. Verder dat de Kia-banden een afwijkende maat hebben en niet in voorraad zijn. Hij heeft wat rondgebeld maar dat mocht allemaal niet baten. Oplossing twee banden die iets groter zijn achter geplaatst. Nou nu hebben we dus twee nieuwe banden aan de auto en twee oude banden in de auto. Maar goed we konden weeer rijden.
Onderweg gestopt voor een flesje wijn maar de rijen voor de drankewinkel waren zo lang dat we daar geen zin in hadden.
In St. Lucia hadden we meer geluk... een witte, een rode en een bruisende wijn kunnen scoren.
Terwijl Charles zijn foto's op een cd ging zetten, heb ik een biertje gepakt in de lokale bar annex pizzaria. Omdat ik de auto in de gaten wilde hoduen, kwam ik naast twee jonge mannen te zitten. Deze Boeren, stonden me toe dat ik aan hun tafel ging zitten. Ze waren vriendelijk en hadden al genoeg gedronken.Van het een kwam het ander. Het begon met de taal. Ik sprak toch wel Afrikaans, hopelijk. Met een opmerking als: 'Als jou nie praat Afrikaans nie ken jou beter die bek houe' (of iets dergelijks). Ondertussen tapten ze de ene racistische mop na de andere. Toen ze mij vroegen waar ik geweest was en ik in het Engels vertelde waar we waren geweest, vertelden ze me dat ik misschiebn wel de Zulu's etc had gezien maar niet het echte Boeren Zuid Afrika. Daarna kreeg ik nog een opgewild lesje Afrikaanse geschiednis en dat Jan Smuts een verrader was etc etc. Ook de achterbuurman en vrouw bemoeiden zich met het geheel en een ieder was trots om Boer te zijn. Ik was blij dat ik mijn biertje op had en af kon rekenen.
Verderop in de stad zagen we hordes Boeren. Het leek wel een Amerikaanse Redneck city. Ze stonden op de achterbak van hun pickup, te drinken natuurlijk. Terwijl de bestuurder met een biertje of iets dergelijks aan het rijden was. Muziek knalde de straat in en allemaal op weg naar de drankenhal om te zorgen dat ze die avond geen gebrek zouden krijgen.
Ons bushcamp had een zalig buffet georganiseerd. We kwamen al vroeg aan de praat met een Italiaans echtpaar en hun dochter van 12. Mijn Italiaans is erg slecht maar de dame en heer in kwestie vonden van niet en ratelden alles behalve rustig verder in een rap tempo.
Na het eten ben ik maar even naar de bar gelopen om daar wat te kletsen met Engelstaligen. Het echtpaar was te moe om Oud en Nieuw uit te zitten en gingen rond 23.30 naar bed. We hebben gedanst tot 24.00. De eigenaar had vuurwerk en champagne geregeld... werd het toch nog een gezellige en leuke avond. En neit eens misselijk van de oliebollen en niet geergerd dor Youp.. Volgend jaar maar weer?

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