Archive for South Africa

I never want to hear Lady Gaga again!

Not that I don’t like her, mind you.  I was frantic for something to listen to on these long drives where you’re lucky if you can get a radio station to hold for 10 minutes, so I went looking for some discs to play.  Got some conscious hip-hop for the Three Musketeers and got some more today.  But that day the only music I saw that I thought I might like (have tried to get Johnny Clegg’s new release, but nowhere to be found so far) was a double disc of the Lady on sale.  So I got it and that’s what I’ve listened to, exclusively, through the hours long drive through the Oribi Gorge and the almost 9 hour trip to get here yesterday.  It’s enough . . .

I got a disc by Cherilyn Macneil who I really like.  She had a group called Harris Tweed, but people in the British Isles made legal noises over the name of the band, so now it’s called Dear Reader.  If you don’t know it, check out Harris Tweed and especially a song called Ode to Confusion.  I love it, and the new disc seems to be really good too, what little I’ve heard of it – but will get plenty of listening time in tomorrow on the 7 (est) hr drive to Tsitsikamma.

Today was another lazy day.  Breakfast here is only between 7 and 8, so I had breakfast, then a long nap.  Woke up at noon, went looking for music and groceries for supper.  Tried the local Mickey D’s – they don’t have Big Macs!  Have all the chicken stuff and a flatbread chicken sandwich they call a foldover which I haven’t seen at home, and the fish fillet.  Had lunch there and then got the music and groceries.

Did I ever tell you that you CANNOT get pure fruit juice here – except apple?  I mean, the stuff is 100% fruit juice, but everything is mixed.  Nothing is 100% of one fruit.  Not even Ceres!!  Why I can’t get a jug of pure orange juice in  a country with so many citrus groves and fruit juice plants is beyond me.

Another realisation is beginning to dawn and maybe those of you who have lived by the ocean can tell me how it is for you?

I’ve always dreamed of retiring near the ocean, but on this trip am finding that I don’t like it much.  It’s beautiful, and smells wonderful, and sounds great – but everything is always damp and clammy.  Your clothes are damp, your bed and pillows are damp, your towels are damp before you even start your shower!  When I get home I’m going to have to wash everything I brought with me in Lysol to get the mildewy smell stopped, I think.

I need some desert time to balance this clamminess.  Tsitsikamma is more inland, so maybe I can get things dry at least.  I still love so much about the ocean, but maybe I’ll have to plan to live a bit more inland and just go and visit lots?

Going to grab some supper, read for a while and tuck in early, since I’ll need to get an early start tomorrow.


P. S. Another thing I’ve discovered here is that if you want to get photos of flowers in the tropics, you literally have only a couple hours after they bloom before they start fading, falling apart and being eaten.



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Don’t EVER trust Your GPS!!

I’ll talk about the good stuff first.

There are enough hadedas flying overhead, screeching, to satisfy even MT.  They’re big birds with downward curved beaks – long ones – which they use to root up grubs and insects in the grass I think.  At least that’s what it looks like they’re doing.  They’re quite pretty, seeming to be quite different colours as the light hits their feathers from different angles.

Saw another big bird today in a tree just off the porch here, big and dark coloured with a short flat topknot.  His call was sort of a ‘whoo whoo whoo whoo whoo whoop whoop whoop’  I’m counting on MT knowing what it was.

The drive through the gorge was beautiful!  Took a hike through the forest to see Hoopoe Falls, and you can forget that if you’re ever here.  The hike took me two hours there and back – granted I’m a pretty slow hiker – through some paths that were six inches wide along the side of a cliff, over fallen trees, up and down rocks, past numerous centipedes, both the black ones and the red ones, and past one pile of what looked like monkey poop, which was when I started wondering if maybe I should go back to the car.  But I could hear the hoopoes and the falls and really wanted to see them.  Didn’t see any hoopoes and the “falls” was all of two feet high!  Was I p.o’d!  Sweat was even dripping off the end of my pony tail – all for what?

Hoopoe Falls?  Good grief!

Hoopoe Falls? Good grief!

The path to Hoopoe Falls

The path to Hoopoe Falls

Well the bad part was that I smacked the car up.  It’s the damn GPS’s fault – again.  Getting to the gorge it told me to take a turn and it was shortly after that that I realised that the ‘road’ was fast narrowing into a small one-track sand lane.  I was looking for a place to turn around when I came to a very steep bit with deep dry sand.  I shifted right down and made a run for it, but the car stalled out after spinning its tires.  With the stall I lost my steering and brakes – at least any I could manage, and the car slid backwards down the hill into a rock.  Ripped the bumper and creased the rear quarter panel.  What that’s going to cost me will prevent any further vacations for a while, I think.  I don’t think – I know!

The car still runs OK and all the lights appear to be working – going to go out now that it’s dark and check again though.

And the damn thing still doesn’t count exits on the roundabouts properly.  Took the exit today that it told me to (I was behind a big truck so couldn’t see what was ahead) and I ended up in a huge mall parking lot.

I use two maps, my google directions when they’re available and the GPS and I still have trouble arriving where I want to go.  Best advice?  If your map or google seems to say different, ignore the GPS.  It will take you places no tourist was ever meant to see!

I finally got to the top of the farmer’s lane today and there was a big fence with a huge sign that read “GPS Users:  This is NOT the road to Oribi gorge.  Return to main road etc”  He has made a big space to turn around, and kindly helped me check under the car to make sure nothing was leaking.  He says he gets literally dozens of travellers up there as their GPS reads his laneway as a road.  He had to put the fence up since the lane ends abruptly and a few feet later there is a cliff that gets you to the gorge much more quickly than you might have planned.  He is also building a few cabins up there which will have a spectacular view of the gorge and making a trout pond too as well as more cabins down in the bush.  Will be worth seeing when it’s done I think.

Oribi Gorge 2

Oribi Gorge 2

Oribi Gorge 1

Oribi Gorge 1


Anyway, I’m a bit low right now about the car accident, and anxious about how much it will cost.  Just hoping I don’t have any problems with Avis about it, but for sure if I ever have to rent a car again, will make sure that I have time to wait until they give me the size I want.  Again ordered (and was promised) a VW Golf, and got this huge Toyota which has a seat so low I can barely see over the steering wheel and surely can’t see either the rear end or the front end to tell where they are.  And you know I’m not short, so it’s a very weird car, made for N American males only I think as they have longer bodies from hip to head.

Have another lizard fast food joint outside my door.  A CF light in a big glass enclosure that there will be 4 or 5 of them sitting on it at night just waiting for the moths and other bugs to come sailing in to them.

Oh, also for you language buffs – saw a sign on a bathroom decorator’s shop the other day – in a good, upscale part of town too – “Bathroom Bizarre”.  What a difference spelling makes, eh?  Also saw a fish and chip menu that gave you the option of “tartare” sauce with your fish.  EEK!

Now I really am going to go.


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Sunny days

Yesterday was a sleep-in day.  Kept getting up and going back to bed.  It was fairly chilly so I was quite happy there.

Today went to the bird park and there were some intersting birds there, the best of which was the giant hornbill.  He was a ways up in the tree so I don’t know for sure how big he was, but it looked as if, if he stood on the ground he would almost reach my shoulder.  He was ENORMOUS!!  (Actually just looked them up, and average size is 4-1/4 ft (130 cm) head to tail, but doesn’t say how tall).  (Google ‘giant hornbill’.  A couple great articles/videos there)

There were a lot of other birds I wasn’t familiar with, like the vasa, who was quite a good talker, and a lot of mutations I hadn’t seen before too.  I was kind of sad though since it seems that their diet consists of sunflower seeds either entirely or primarily – even the nectar eaters.  and they have not really been socialized properly and have had no stimulation.  Too many birds plucking or just sitting crouched way back in the pen, behaving like that poor abused parrot I got from the rescue.  I know if he tried to run a place like that in Canada or the US, he’d be shut down before you could turn around.

The rest of the day I just sat on the porch here and watched the birds, or wandered around the grounds.  Good variety of birds here, and a feeder hung out near the deck.

It’s much more tropical here than up north.  The grounds here are all indigenous trees and shrubs, so palms of different kinds and many I don’t have a clue about.  It’s really quite beautiful and peaceful.  And the stream at the bottom of the property, which you can now hear since the rains, but not see due to the ‘jungle’ down there, is making a lovely racket, which tends to soothe me right into a drowse.




It’s a hard life, eh?

I’ll be off to the gorge tomorrow, then Sunday will drive to East London I think since I don’t want to do the whole way to Tsitsikamma all at one go and end up arriving in the dark.  Did that last time and missed the gate/turnoff 3 times.

Guess I should go and try to make my Sunday night reservation . . .


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Lovely day today

What a great day!  Despite the weather office’s prediction of rain solid for the next three days, Maria from Florida sent me some sun and it arrived before I woke up this morning.  It was a beautiful, sunny, breezy day.

I just futzed around, went to a second hand book shop and traded the books I’ve read for new ones (there were walls of books there, so spent some time, I’ll tell you), went to the mall and found some great hip-hop music for the grandkids, had a nice lunch and looked at some longer term rental accomodation for when I retire.

This is a school break, hence the traffic.  Everyone says it’s pretty slow here when school is in so should suit me just fine.

I want to visit the bird park tomorrow and see the local gorge the next day where there is supposed to be some spectacular scenery.

Fingers crossed about the weather.


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I’m in Margate now.  Had a tire going flat on my way down today and had to stop and keep getting it filled up.  Will have to get it fixed tomorrow.

Rained all last night while I was at Tembe.  Nice to sleep in a tent – especially a luxurious tent with indoor plumbing – while it’s raining, but not so nice to drive down here in a day-long thunderstorm.   Couldn’t see the tail-lights of the car in front much of the time, and the roads aren’t built to prevent water buildup and the consequent hydroplaning, so it was a longer trip than I’d hoped. Still raining and 65 degrees.  I don’t know why I persist in coming here to get warm when I know it doesn’t seem to be the right time of year.

And to top it off, the GPS is mental.  Must have maps older than the ark.  Thank heavens friends told me just to come straight down N2, because the GPS kept sending me other ways, and I’d end up on these little dirt roads going into strange places – and on top of that it can’t correctly count exits on roundabouts.

Margate, and all the other nice little beach towns here that I was dreaming of have become one long single entity without break and with humongous traffic.  Doesn’t seem to be the place for me at all.

The bed is damp and cold so I’m not real thrilled about that either.  I don’t think there’s such a thing as a heater in this whole country.

Wish me some sun and warm weather, OK?


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Saturday again

Actually MT  – maybe I didn’t explain well, and yes, afghan was the word I was looking for – the spaniel is apparently a true type but I forget which kind they told me.  Everyone here seems to have several dogs and it takes me a while to remember their names and types.

One of the dogs here is a supposedly impossible cross between a German Shepherd and a Jack Russell.  Oddest looking dog, but fast, funny and a little bit on the crazy side.  Likes to jump in the air and grab tree branches in his teeth and swing from them, growling, and trying to rip them off.  The Jack Russell is the one who likes to come and sit on my lap in the mornings when I am on the porch reading.

The dogs have all been very well trained though and do not come into your cabin even if the door is open.

At Daktari they had 4 and one was a Boerbull, which was a new type for me.

Here they have 5, 4 of whose names begin with M, and then there’s Roxie.

I’ve never really been interested much in sports, and of course you can’t avoid it here.  Springbok colours are everywhere right now and the most freguently heard question on the streets is “Did you hear how we did today?”  I do however, love the ‘haka’ that the NZ team performs before their games and actually got to see it this year.

It was also very cold and windy here last night and my little cabin has a gap under the door that a good sized dog could shimmy through and typically (non)fitting SA windows, so the breeze in here last night was so strong that at times my blanket was flapping where it hung over the side of the bed!  And no spare blanket either.  There is no place to put such a thing in this tiny cabin!  So I went to bed in my hiking socks, long pants, T-shirt and fleece jacket.  I don’t sleep too well that way so am up early and will get my skirt and top out of the suitcase that’s still in the car and hang it and hope the wrinkles shake out.

I am to go to Party’s house for lunch (I did.  It’s evening now).  All his male relatives came and his wife, named Cinderella, if you can imagine (nicknamed Sexy Cindi), started in with snacks and cooked a whale of a lunch for us.  Party, Cindi and their boys enjoyed the videos I showed them of the porcupine, genet, ostrich and bush baby.  They told me that bush baby used to be considered a delicacy in this area, but not enough left to make a decent meal any more.


They also gave me more information on the Tsonga/Zulu business.  If you read the histories, this is supposed to be a Tsonga area, but now everyone calls it a Zulu area and everyone speaks Zulu.  But there seems to be a resurgence of Tsonga pride going on and they will tell anyone who will understand that they are not Zulu.  The Zulu they speak is a different dialect than the Zulu spoken by the ‘true’ Zulu(s?).  They were cut off from the rest of the Tsonga people when the borders were drawn between SA and Moz, and after some generations, now the Tsonga in Moz tell them they aren’t really Tsonga, and the Zulu here tell them they aren’t Zulu. They’re getting mad about the whole thing.  What a bunch of problems the Europeans caused by arbitrarily drawing borders without taking existing tribal lands  into consideration.

I really want to see more countries, but it’s not going so well.  I was hoping to get to Moz this time, but each attempt has been thwarted as it was last time.  Botswana would be a dream com true, as would Madagascar.  Malagasy music is so varied and incredible I’d so love to hear some in its home and see some of the lemurs and butterflies before they’re wiped off the face of the earth by the forestry and mining companies.  I may just try and scoot across to Madagascar instead of doing the east coast here.  It’s the Oct (1 – 10) school break so things here will be booked up and busy.  I’ve got a couple days to mull it over, so we’ll see.

Had actually decided I would visit the shebeen tonight with one of the staff here, but it went all night last night until about 10 this morning, and started again mid-afternoon.  The music is louder and the road coming in had many drunken folks on it, so I decided that the party had gotten way ahead of me – and way ahead of where I ever wanted to be, so here I am.  But I can pack for tomorrow, so no real loss.

Stafford, the owner, and Harry, his helper, are going to drive me to the main road tomorrow.  It was so kind of them to offer, but I suspect they were just anticipating the inevitable.  If I get stuck again they’ll just have to come and push/pull/dig me out anyway.  Pisses me off that I can’t drive this when others can.  Though Party got stuck going out today, on his way home – and he had a bakkie –  so I don’t feel as bad as I did.  Around here, Pride goeth before digging your own ruts!

My fat little froggie was back on my porch when I came home from dinner, and he ran under the doorstep when I opened the door, so I guess that’s where he lives.  He’s a cutie, but not as cute as Gorgeous George.

The rain brought out the centipedes and they are everywhere.  Considering how little I like them, I think maybe I’ll put the sheet over my head when I sleep tonight!  And the cicadas are starting to come out too, and just the two near my cabin made more noise than your average rock band.  I couldn’t believe the racket was actually cicadas, but apparently they’re huge.  and they seem to go to sleep shortly after sundown, which is thoughtful of them.

Time to sleep.


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Lazy day

It has rained most of today.  At least that will make it easier to drive out of here on Sunday morning, I hope.

Just sat around, read, listened to music, stared at the view outside and listened to the rain on the tin roof.

Multicoloured scenery

Multicoloured scenery


School children I visited yesterday

School children I visited yesterday


Had a fat little frog on the doorstep last night – cute little fellow – and saw a pied woodpecker today.

Going for lunch to Party’s house tomorrow.  I think maybe his wife is curious about this foreign woman he is working with, so will set her mind at ease and in the meantime enjoy a good traditional meal and get to meet his wife and three children too.  Should be excellent.

Cindi, the youngest son and all the (male) relatives at lunch

Cindi, the youngest son and all the (male) relatives at lunch

Been eating fish every night pretty much.  Love fish and don’t get enough at home.

One of the dogs here is some kind of spaniel that looks as if it’s been crossed with an afghan .  Anyway, she is the one that came and sat with me today.  When she didn’t get invited into the cabin, she just sat outside under my table on the porch and watched me read.

There’s a shebeen down below me in the village, so I hear the music each evening until about 9 or 10, but this is Friday and seems to be running late.  Maybe I should go down and join the party?  Only kidding.

Been hearing a lot about the local nkosi’s justice and tribal court.  He seems to be very keen to stamp out crime in the area, to the point where offenders will have their relatives phone the municipal police if they’re arrested by the nduna’s men and ask to be taken into their custody.  This guy apparently doesn’t fool around.  They’d love him in Texas – and apparently do here too.

Rain keeps me drowsy, so will toddle off now . . .

Next day:

The lunch was lovely and many new people to meet.  Tomorrow to Tembe.

The day after that:

Tembe Resident

Tembe Resident

Tembe was great.  I got to see Tom and Vusi and also my friend Fanisile who was one of the women I taught basic computer programs to when I was here before.  She went on to graduate from her course in Hotel and Resort Management.  The game drive was fun as usual, dinner was good – and the big bushbaby that kept hanging around (literally) in the trees waiting to be offered fruit or sweets was a hoot.  The bed was comfortable, the shower was hot and the sounds of many animals lulled me to sleep.  What more can you ask?  Well actually, I had wanted to get a picture of Fani and I together, but she had to go off on some project, so no picture and I didn’t even get to say goodbye!

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