2015 – The Final Episode

It’s taken me a long time to get around to writing this, since it has such a feeling of finality.  I may never see my beloved South Africa again.

And especially after reading Paul Theroux’s book Last Train to Zona Verde, which I got as a Christmas gift – somehow that made it even harder.  To read someone else’s words that echo your own joy and sadness, your thoughts and questions, makes it hard to get down to this last page.

However, I really have to tell you about Marina Beach.  WOW!! What an incredibly beautiful place.  Miles and miles of white sand beach – and my apartment was *right on*  the beach. It’s a very small condo development called Coppins Cove and they don’t really advertise, so if you’re ever going give me a call and I’ll put you in touch.

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View from Kitchen

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View from my balcony.

Lots of animals, and it was birthing time (spring there) and the babies were too cute.  Monkeys and dassies carrying their young all day, and the condo cat watching from her sunny bench, interested but enjoying the spring sun too much to actually do anything about it.

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Dassie mom and baby

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Dassie baby

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Monkey mom and baby

I would just love to find someone(s) who would like to split the cost of buying a place in this small development and sharing it.  It was so beautiful, clean and quiet.  A nice fish restaurant across the road on the beach.  Not too far to town.  Just about perfection.

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Condo cat. There is a whole colony of feral cats across the road in the bush, too.

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Lunch with some local ladies at the beach resto.

The drive from Marina Beach to Durban when I had to leave, was just a comedy.  I took the inland road since the winds were very bad.  I was later told that they were just under hurricane force.  Anyway at one point on the meandering road the police were warning drivers that there were trees down on the road and to drive slowly.  I did see a couple trees down, but the one I saw best was the one that came down on the hood of my car.  It bounced up over the windshield without doing any damage that I could see when I looked later. I was so busy trying not to drive off the road that I didn’t really take in too much about the tree, but when thinking about it later think it must have been one of those huge 30 ft tall bamboos.  I think it was too light and bouncy for a tree.  But anyway, I eventually had to get on the highway, and about an hour from Durban, my car started giving me emergency messages that the battery was not charging.  I pulled over as soon as I could and called the rental company and asked it they thought I’d have enough battery to get to the airport, but no one there or in the shop knew.  So they sent a car out from the nearest town to trade me.  They looked in the engine compartment to see if they could find a loose wire or something and what they found was two dassies – one alive and running back and forth, too scared to get out of the car even when we banged on the sides, and one fried on top of the battery wires he had eaten the insulation off of.  I did get the trade car and got to the airport in time for my flight to Johannesburg and home, so it was all good, except for the poor dassie who should have chosen his snacks better.

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Fried dassie

So off I came home, having loved my trip and my time in Kenya and South Africa so much, loving the countries and my friends there, and sad to be going home, but still looking forward to my own bed.  SuperMax mixed emotions.

The best thing about the trip home was that I managed to snag a cheap(er) upgrade to first class on one leg of the homeward bound trip. My grief, what a difference that made! To arrive not feeling like a pretzel is a beautiful thing.  To fly and have a menu that lets you choose the parts of your dinner, to have a proper blanket and pillow, and to be able to recline is so different from the way I usually fly that I was in awe that people could actually travel this way all the time.  Just WOW!!

All I can say is, do it if you can.  Travel (NOT tourism) changes you in very deep ways that can only be good.

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2015 – Part 4 – A Secret Garden

This part will be mostly pictures.

After I came north up the coast again, once I’d completed my Storms River stay, I went to Margate and stayed at the same place I always stay – Treetops Lodge.  Unfortunately the place, or at least the self-contained unit I stayed in – and I always stay in the same one, on the end, so I can see the monkeys pass by in the mornings – hadn’t been kept up at all.  I think nothing had been done there since 2007 when I first stayed there and it is the mould and mildew that get me the worst.  Even though I had had a case sent to them of the new stuff that breaks the spores (ZeroMold) so that it doesn’t come back, I still couldn’t stay in the unit for very long even with the windows open, and still breathe.  They sure hadn’t used the stuff on that unit.  Anyway, I’d had enough, and as much as I love their deck, couldn’t take the lack of maintenance any longer so moved down the coast to Marina Beach.

What a score that place was – I’ll tell you about it in the next and last installment.  And I got it, basically, due to the kindness of strangers.  I’ve said this many times, that travelling would not be nearly as fun or as serendipitous without the kindness of strangers.

But anyway, my landlord at the new place took me to see this local site, where someone had landscaped the vacant lot next to his own house and made a gem of a little park-like garden.  It’s just stunning!  So this will be mainly photos of the garden, with not much explanation, especially since I don’t know the plant names.

I hope you enjoy them.  If you know the flowers, let me know the names if you want.

 

 

 

 

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2015 – Part 3

(Remember, small pics are clickable to big pics.)

After Johannesburg I started down south. This time I took the plane to Port Elizabeth instead of to George.

I was actually quite disappointed that I wasn’t going to Tembe, because I’d wanted to take some of the senior class members from both my friend Party’s school and from Asibuyeni, where I taught the first time I was in S Africa, on a trip to Tembe Park, as I had done with my Asibuyeni learners when I was there. Despite emails and FB messages to everyone I knew, no one got back to me with the park education director’s name and contact info to get it set up. I was so disappointed that I just skipped the park entirely.

Anyway, when I landed in Pt Elizabeth, I got a room at Urban Manor where I have stayed before. Lots of pictures in prior years’ blog entries. I’d rented a car, so spent a couple of days there, got my hair cut by Reinette, my favourite hairdresser in the world (she can still razor cut). Reinette actually has relatives here in Hamilton. I’ve told her that if she comes to visit, she should bring her scissors.

Then I drove down the coast and pulled in at Storm’s Rivier, one of my very favourite places in SA. The little main street is very touristy, but in a good way. Lots of places to sign up for adventure tours – things like zip-lining, rafting and bungee jumping. Also some craft and souvenir shops, a grocery store and Marilyn’s Diner, devoted to Marilyn Monroe and the 60s. There are more photos of Tsitsikamma and Storm’s Rivier in previous blogs too.

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Marilyn’s 2 – Pink Cadillac

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Marilyn’s

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Marilyn’s 3

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Marilyn’s 5

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Marilyn’s 4

I checked in to my favourite hotel down there, Tsitsikamma Village Inn. Such a relaxing vibe there. The people that own it used to own the Tsitsikamma Lodge but it got bought out by a chain concern so they came here and you can feel their influence the minute you walk in. Lovely rooms, two cats, lots of wild birds, some ducks if you go out back. Another place I’m really going to miss. I kicked back here for a few days while I took the bit in my teeth to accomplish my main objective here, the zip-line canopy tour.

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My Tsitsikamma room

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My Tsitsikamma cat

I had tried to do it on two previous visits, but chickened out both times. I knew I’d be really upset with myself if I didn’t do it this time, since it was my last trip there. No more chances – I HAD to do it this time.

I did, and I was so terrified for the first few jump-offs that I couldn’t even open my eyes, but by the end of the trip (10 jump-offs) I was looking and actually smiling in the trip. The staff was amazing – kind and patient, and so were all the other vacationers taking the trip. A young couple from Singapore took some video of me with their phone, and so did a South African young lady who was there with her sister, and I think, her uncle. It was amazing and I was so pumped that I had actually done it, I think I grinned for about a week.

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From terrified . . .

 

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. . . to triumphant

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Granny zip-lining

 

One of the really funny things that happens when you’re travelling is what you can jury-rig to fill a need.  Many times plugs were far off the ground and once I got the adaptor and the very heavy transformer plugged in things would need to be propped up in order to not fall apart.  Here I’ve got the local telephone directory, the Bible, the in-room menu set like a tent and a package of complimentary cookies from my tea tray all holding up my set of plugs so my notebook would charge.

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*I* am the mother of invention!

After being in recovery mode for a couple days, I headed back to Pt Elizabeth and Urban Manor. It was Canadian Thanksgiving that weekend, and I always get a bit homesick when I’m away for Thanksgiving. The restaurant I used to like to go to, The Coachmen, has move from just around the corner from the Urban Manor to new and larger premises on the beach. Still the same good food and service though, and you really can’t stay homesick too long with a view like this.

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View from the patio of the Coachmen restaurant where I had my Thanksgiving fish.

Then it was back to the airport – the GPS took me through an industrial area and into the middle of a cow pasture where any semblance of a trail disappeared. Always easy to find kind souls to put you back on the path though, so I followed a gentleman from the nearest peopled area to the airport and got ready for my flight to Durban.

So much of travel depends on the kindness of strangers – wherever you are.

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2015 – Week 2

This won’t be a very long entry, since I only spent a few days seeing friends in Johannesburg.

One friend I didn’t get to see though, is Clint, a chap I met on my first trip to South Africa.  He was working as a ranger, I think, at the place I stayed while I volunteered, Tembe Elephant Park.  He now has two enterprises that he runs, Royal Designer Reptiles and an organic truck farm.  If the photos are any indication, both are doing well.  So sorry I missed you Clint.

The trip from Daktari to Johannesburg was several hours and I’d driven a lot of it myself before so it was nice to have someone else driving. I took Ashton’s Shuttle Service this time instead of flying.

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Whatchamacallums

You see these  – things – I don’t know what they’re called.  People have suggested designations but I don’t think I’ve heard the correct one yet. Just huge piles of huge rocks, looking as if some giant child has dropped a handful of Lego blocks.  I know it must have happened from glaciation, but not sure what they’re called.  They fascinate me.

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Waterfall in canyon

The trip also went through some of the canyon roads, and we stopped at a small gathering of craft shops for a break and to take photos.  It’s incredibly beautiful here.

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Craft stores

When I did get to Johannesburg I spent an afternoon with my friend Reg, which was lovely.  We just chatted, caught up on things, had some snacks and just kicked back for a while.  His partner Thierry was away on a conference so I didn’t get to see him – and I didn’t get a picture of Reg and I which I regret.

Spent time too with my friend Karen.  We went to church and back to her place for lunch and the afternoon.  I was amazed at her rose garden.  She has many wonderful plants and bushes but for some reason I just hadn’t ever thought of roses and Africa in the same sentence.  I’m going to miss Karen a lot, so I hope she gets over here sometime soon.

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Karen’s rose garden

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Karen and I after a good visit.

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2015 – Week 1 – Daktari

(Remember, all photos are clickable links to full-sized pics.)

I went to Daktari first this trip as it was the farthest north I was going to go and everything else was quite a ways south. I had volunteered at Daktari on a previous visit and really wanted to see it and the people – and the critters – again on this, my last trip.

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The road into Daktari is long and dusty. There are actually 3 roads you have to take after you leave the highway and for a lot of the way the roads are fenced because there are wildlife reserves on both sides of the road. One day I saw 4 giraffe behind the fence and it is amazing how good their camouflage is. Another day there was an escaped giraffe on the road. One day a zebra running behind the fence and another day I had to wait for a tortoise to cross the road. You just never know what you’ll see next.

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Not too much had changed. The rooms had changed a bit – new mozzie nets – and the little frog that used to sit on my mirror and watch me brush my teeth in the mornings had been replaced by a gecko. The frog (or its grandchild) was now behind a picture in the room.

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The squirrels would steal the toilet paper if you left it out and stuff it between the double walls of the bathroom to make a nest.

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The volunteers were all new of course, and a lovely group of people. There are now some full-time volunteers who stay for 6 months or a year so they get to know the place really well as well as the surrounding communities which they work with in conjunction with the education of the local children.

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Volunteers

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Working

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VERY hard!

Sunday is kind of a day of rest for the volunteers except for feeding and cleaning of the resident animals. Last week’s children have gone home and the new children don’t come until Monday. There is a lovely tradition of having crepes with Nutella at noon, then just lazing around for the afternoon.

While I was there I took some side-trips to places I wanted to see. A museum which turned out to be inside Kruger and when my sat-nav finally got me there it was closing. So many tourist sites in Africa don’t have good directions or even a proper street address so they are sometimes very difficult to find. They also tend to close quite early.

I did manage to get to see Jessica, the hippo of TV fame, that lived in the house with the family that rescued her when she was a baby. She has been displaced by another rescue baby and is a bit put out about it but is getting used to sleeping on her mattress by the river and interacting with the wild hippos as they come around. She will eventually go off with a mate, perhaps. Meanwhile she’ll come to the dock so tourists can feed her and give her the tea she loves.

I also visited a reptile farm nearby which didn’t make me feel any better about walking in the long grass or under trees. I go to Africa when I do because there it is early spring and most of the spiders and snakes are still not very active and that’s the way I like it. I’m just a total chicken when it comes to those two things, mainly because they tend to startle you when they show up. I mean you can see a zebra coming from a long way away, but usually a snake doesn’t make its presence known until it’s much too close for my liking. Funnily enough though, an elephant can be 3 feet away and you won’t see it. It’s amazing how they can just sort of disappear so easily when they’re so huge.

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Hen at the snake farm. Any bets on life span?

A couple new things at Daktari are the marmosets and the squirrels. When I was there previously Leia was the only marmoset around and she was caged. She and her relatives now run the camp and come to search your bags and body for sweeties. And Leia has had some run-ins with the larger vervet monkies trying to defend her territory and was almost scalped in one such occurrence. The little squirrels also come looking for treats and for scratches.

Both the antelopes and the porcupines who were previously taken in as orphans or injured have had several more generations, and though they were released to the wild they still come back for treats sometimes, though the newer generations tend to stay on the edge of the camp and not interact directly with humans as much, which is a good thing.

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Resting in the shade

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Belly rubs, please?

I took my Gravity Light to Daktari to donate it. South Africa is having significant problems with electrical distribution and there are frequent black-outs so anything that can help give light in an emergency is helpful. They use a lot of solar light too.

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Gravity light makes its own power with a weighted sandbag.

One photo I will post here looks strange as the guinea fowl (the spotted one) turned its head just as I snapped the pic so it looks like it has the hornbill’s head. There are actually 3 birds in this picture.

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I really, really enjoyed my time this week, just seeing things and people again.  If you ever have a chance to do any volunteer work, Daktari would be an excellent choice.

There are a couple more videos on the YouTube channel (cybercroneca) in case you wanted to see a bit more, or you can scroll back in this blog to my first visit.

Thanks for reading, and please make all comments, ask all questions on the comment section of the blog so I don’t have to answer the same question more than once and so I can keep all comments together.

 

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More travel tips

** !! Never, EVER, pay for accommodation or any attraction by bank transfer unless you know the vendor and his/her reputation .  This method of payment is becoming more popular as credit card fees eat into vendors’ profits.  BUT it has also become a haven for scam artists who will ask for bank transfer payments, and when you arrive there is no accommodation or attraction there.  They will have web-sites and everything on-line but nothing else and you will be out your money.  If you pay by credit card, you will be able to get your money back.

** Amor’s Creations, the hair stylist I went to in Port Elizabeth to repair the mess from my haircut at the salon in the Green Line mall, is excellent!

** The Coachmen Restaurant in PE also makes a really nice meal for a fair price.

** There is a small deli just down the road from Amor’s Creations in PE that makes the best potato waffles – other types too.

**  Manna Bookstore Trade and Exchange in Storms River Village needs your trades!!  Don’t forget . . .

** The Friar Tuck restaurant in Margate does a great steak, and they use lovely Karan beef.

** Uvongo Book Exchange has lots and lots of books!  Just off Marine Drive in Uvongo/Margate.

** Bushwillow Lodge guesthouse in Hoedspruit is a great place to kick back and relax if you are going to Kruger Park or other neighbouring places – and they have the resident bushbaby, lots of birds in the trees – beautiful place.

** A couple good restaurants in the Khamengelo (sp?) Mall on R527 in Hoedspruit – there’s a sports bar in the back right corner and an Italian restaurant in the front left corner.  There’s also a Wimpy there if you like that kind of stuff.

** The computer shop in the Pick ‘n Pay Centre  in Hoedspruit is wonderful – fix any problems with your electronics, have supplies and friendly efficient service.  I’ve lost their card, but will try to get their name from the friends who live in the area.

*** And my favourite find!  SIGNATURE cosmetics.  Due to allergies, sensitivities and so on I haven’t been able to wear cosmetics of any kind for years and years.  Signature is a line developed in SA from the old Coty ‘recipes’ and when I wandered through the store, just browsing to see what was new, I stopped to sniff the mascara, which is the cosmetic I miss most.  No reaction from my sinuses or eyes!!  I don’t have that lack of reaction even to the most expensive hypo-allergenic cosmetics on the N American market.  I bought a couple and they are great.  No problems whatsoever.  Available at most large shopping malls or by mail-order from the company website: http://www.signaturecosmetics.co.za/

** Second favourite find: Mohair socks.  SA is trying to move forward with a fledgling mohair industry, so there are many small shops selling different things made from mohair.  I decided to try the socks, since it’s hard to get wool socks here and I have to have my wool socks for the winter.  I love them.  Warm and cuddly (a lot like me!) and I hope to get more .

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Amsterdam

 

 

 

 

 

The stop-over in Amsterdam was lovely, as before.

This time I took the tram to the flower market – what a sight!  A whole street with shops filled with bulbs of every imaginable variety.  Many I have never heard of or seen before.  Some delft for sale and even plants sealed in cans.

Had lunch at a lovely little cafe on a corner, then walked along the canals for a bit before getting back to the airport.

 

Delft planters and touristy stuff

Delft planters and touristy stuff

 

 

 

 

Bikes and boats everywhere - what an orderly, well-run city!

Bikes and boats everywhere - what an orderly, well-run city!

Just look at the tiers and rows of bicycles parked across the canal!

Just look at the tiers and rows of bicycles parked across the canal!

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