Posts Tagged South Africa travel tips

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:

** 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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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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The curses of technology – and lots of animals.

Well, I’m not sure what else can go wrong with technology here.  I still can’t get my notebook connected and my camera won’t be recognized by this computer.  I was writing updates every day and saving them on my notebook, and I copied them to my thumb drive to enter here and for some reason they saved as *.doc.x which I have never heard of before so I can’t get them on here either.

So far, so good as for the rest of the trip.

Backpacker kitchen and showers

Backpacker kitchen and showers

Mariepskop Backpackers

Mariepskop Backpackers

The Mariepskop backpackers that I stayed at was nice and clean and I had a chalet all to myself – well me and the gecko I squashed in the door frame because I didn’t know he was there.  There was a really nice couple there from Zim – he was a headmaster and she was a teacher, so we had lots to chat about.  They were here to visit his brother and so he came to the backpackers as apparently he’s a real bushman and his place is unsuitable for guests.  He says he has bush babies that come to his kitchen window to be fed and if he rescues a baby bird, he cages it so his dogs can’t get it and sets it on the windowsill and the parents come there and feed it.  I may go out to visit to see this menagerie. The backpackers also warned me that there are breeding mambas on the property so I didn’t go walking too far.  They had 5 dogs and a cat – one Ridgeback with no ridge, 2 Jack Russells, one ? and one cross between the one I can’t remember and a Russell.  Everybody here has numerous dogs.

There are four here (Daktari) that wander the property, and that’s before you count the warthogs that try to eat your shoes, the blind donkey, the squirrels, horses and hornbills that come to be fed – and Spikey the African porcupine who visits at night for food and likes to be scratched under his chin.  And those are just the “loose” animals, not those we will be taking care of.  I can’t wait to get some photos up of Princess the marmoset and the meerkats and all the rest.  This is gonna be fun.  And the way they feed you here, I have fears that I’m not going to be able to lose the 10 lbs a month that I count on when I travel.

I’d better let someone else use this, so more soon.

Princess Maya, the marmoset

Princess Maya, the marmoset

Resident leopard - NOT tame

Resident leopard - NOT tame

Piggies that love me

Piggies that love me

Eeyore the blind donkey

Eeyore the blind donkey

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Travel Tips – South Africa

This will just be a list of the things I found useful and not.

My VASQUE BOOTS: I love them. Wonderful support, both on the footbed and on the ankle. They are so comfortable I’d like to wear them around the house like slippers.

I didn’t do serious climbing in them, but walked many miles in both sand forest and city pavement, and they were great for both places.

Only caveat – double knot the laces, as they come undone really easily.

KATADYN MICROFILTER WATER BOTTLE: Filter worked well, bottle was a bit stiff for my hands at first, but it loosened up. No tummy upsets during 3 months away.

BIG SERIOUS caveat: This bottle will develop some kind of problem if it’s on your pack or anywhere where the sun is shining on it. It starts to wick the water out and you can start with a full bottle, and when you go to get a drink (as I did) you will only have an inch of water left in the bottle. This could be dangerous!! I have written Katadyn about this, but so far have received no comment or acknowledgment.

TILLEY HAT AND CLOTHING – The hat was good, but I’m not really impressed by the clothing at all. First of all, it doesn’t dry overnight as promised, even in the area of South Africa that’s in drought conditions. Also, the sizes are wonky. If you try on a pair of long pants and they fit fine, you can’t just grab a pair of short pants of the same style and expect them to fit – they don’t. The rise is quite different in those two, and the shirt lengths are quite variable. I ended up with one shirt where the last button was above my belly button and the shirt ended shortly (no pun intended) thereafter. It looked ridiculous on me. BAH!! I’d already tried on 3 shirts where the length was fine, so figured I could just grab the 4th and I’d be OK.

South African Post Office: Don’t use it at all for anything other than post cards. NOTHING I mailed home got here, and nothing I’ve sent there since, eg: letters with photographs, Christmas cards, has reached the intended recipients. Enquiries to SAPS about my missing parcels that should have arrived here have received no reply.

*** One parcel I sent by SAPS just arrived now, it late January, though it was mailed in mid-October.  It was in reasonable shape, and better late than never.  I had sorely missed it, since it was the tin on composite board art work (the artists paint part of a street scene, then take pop cans and so on, and cut them up to make the buildings in the scene.  Since many of the buildings are actually tin, and more have tin roofs, the effect is very evocative).

DHL Freight: Most of what I sent home arrived, only the CDs stolen out of the package, but most everything else was smashed and broken. I was brokenhearted – all my souvenirs and gifts for my grandkids gone. Now, for their part, when I put in a claim, which had to be done directly with DHL-SA, they were efficient and reasonable with that. Unfortunately, that doesn’t get me my stuff, and as I’m likely to be unable to ever go again, that hurts.

AVIS Rental cars: Good cars, clean, not any problems. Friendly efficient service if you’re dealing with them in person. Dealing on the web for reservations and so on is useless. Used them more than once and was always happy with both the vehicle and the service.

Dealing with anyone, just about anywhere in SA on the web, with the exception of hotels and some B&Bs is pretty useless. You won’t get a response any sooner than if you’d sent a letter by Pony Express, if ever.

ENTERPRISE Car Rentals: Uh, no. Rented a car from them at Jozie airport to drive up to Louis Trichardt, and the car had a tire that had a nail in it and leaked, which I had to get fixed, and also had 200km on the meter and a partially empty gas tank, which I didn’t discover until I stopped for a bite to eat at a highway place. There again, they were fairly easy to deal with when I took the car back and showed them the bills, but the manager did some kind of trade-off on the bill for those costs and I was too tired to figure out who, exactly, benefited from that, and now I’ve lost the bills, so I’ll never know.

ROSE’S RADIO TAXI: In Johannesburg, this company is wonderful. Jozie is a huge spread out city and the drivers for other companies don’t seem to know it well. They want you to tell them where to go, which most tourists can’t do. Rose’s drivers either know where they’re going or find out before they set off.

I may add more things here as I think of them.

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