Just back in SA after a fantastic week in Mozambique. Here’s a mini album of some of that week – more to upload from our camera, because it’s not always ideal to be flashing an iPad around. We saw city life in Maputo, left in shreds by civil war that finished only 20 years ago but now rebuilding itself valiantly, beach paradise at Bilene beach, about three hours’ drive from Maputo, and more beach at Ponto da Ouro, accessible only by 140k of sandy track, which took us four hours from Maputo.
Best not to read on if you are of a sensitive disposition.
We’re just back from an overnight trip to a country area east of Durban, and there Mike demonstrated ‘bokdrol spoeg’ (pronounced bock droll spuch), officially The Most Disgusting Sport Ever Invented. You can see it on YouTube.
Step 1 Find buck poo (I kid you not). For un-Africans, this is like sheeps’ droppings.
We now understand why so many South Africans leave their country for England, where we play cricket, bowls and tiddlywinks.
… or ‘we love Durban’ in Zulu.
More on African taxis. Last night Mike drove us into Durban as rush hour started in the black area of town – bit earlier here, about 4.30pm – where there are probably at least as many taxi vans as cars. We got stuck in a huge, honking mass of metal, with taxi people jumping out and shouting at car drivers to let the taxis cut across them. Mike wound the window down and started arguing back in Zulu, which surprises and entertains the taxi people, because hardly any white guys speak Zulu.Then one particularly determined taxi driver mounts the pavement to our right so he can come across the traffic at right angles to everyone else, to cross all the lanes to the far side where he wants to turn off.
Taxi drivers can be viciously territorial about their routes, with gun fights not infrequent at taxi stands. The few women drivers must be as pushy as everyone else or their passengers complain when all the other taxis are faster. Passengers pay around 1 ZAR per kilometre for short trips, which isn’t cheap on a low income. If passengers complain about the driving or service, they can be boycotted by drivers, who jointly refuse to pick them up at their regular stops. Mike said his dad once went to pick up his workers, who were stranded by a taxi strike, and was warned by the workers never to do that again, for fear of retaliation.
Ate delicious fish and grilled prawns for dinner at the Durban Underwater Club, which is on the south shore near the docks. Lots of families, a little bar, plastic tablecloths and about £3 for our supper.
Took the funicular to the top of the Moses Mabhida stadium, built for the 2010 World Cup. Then visited an apartheid museum, in the former Native Affairs Building, from where the British-run administration ran the ‘Durban System’, to control the black workforce and set up black-only dormitory townships. To finance the considerable cost of this without burdening the white taxpayer, the administration monopolised and taxed sorghum beer, the black workers’ drink, which was sold at high cost only in municipal beerhalls. This prototype of segregation was replicated across South Africa, from the 1920s.
Tonight – a family braai at the Korcks. Yum.
Pootling happily in Durban at the moment. Great to be with the Korcks and meet Bailey’s little girl Sage.
Hot and sunny yesterday so we walked along the beachfront, which was refurbished for the 2010 World Cup, and is now a great promenade area for runners, cyclists, families and tourists like us. Young guys had made these striking sand sculptures as a way of earning a few rand if you stop to look or take a photo. People try anything to make some money: we witnessed a woman ordering 100 little wire, beaded ladybirds from a man making them on the street, and he said he would work all night to fulfil the order by the next day, for 50 cents a piece (around 15 ZAR = £1).
We’re about to make what might be a treasonable statement, so don’t tell anyone, but … we think South African tomato ketchup is (whisper it) better than Heinz. Spicier, not so sweet, just – better.
Heavy rain expected here tomorrow. We just saw newspaper pictures of floods in False Bay near Fish Hoek, where we were two weeks ago. Like many at home, we are watching for news of Mandela’s condition.
Been without a serviceable internet connection for the last few days, so here is a whizz through what we’ve been up to …
Cango caves were unlike anything we’ve ever seen. Main chamber is so vast they used to hold concerts for over 1,000 people there. On 1 Jan 1994, a lady underestimated her size in squeezing through one of the cave entrances. She got stuck, badly, and the others in her group were stuck in the chamber behind her, for 11 hours.
Storms River Mouth is a stunner. You can stay in cabins that are practically in the sea. Arum lilies, agapanthus and red hot pokers grow wild. And we saw three whales (go sailing by)! Quite a way out but clear with our binoculars. Humpbacks, apparently. Very special.
Great quote from our waiter and all-round star at La Plume: ‘My grandmother used to say that drinking decaf coffee is like swimming in an empty swimming pool.’
Jacob Zuma must be reading our blog because he’s just been to the place we recommended for fish and chips, in Hout Bay near Cape Town.
Plettenburg Bay, where we are staying for three days – see the sunrise pic. Nothing further to say.
Driving back to Plett on the N2 today (a fast and relatively busy road, bit like the A3), we come across a baboon family on a day out on the middle of the road. Several big adults and four cute little babies.
We say ‘this is amazing’ to each other at least ten times a day. So grateful to God for so many amazing blessings. Off to Durban tomorrow.
Number of typos etc in this blog = appalling. Blame haste because of rubbish wi-fi which crashes, and holiday-induced inattention to detaaiil. Bear with, bear with. Apologies to Jubilee lead pastor … Stephen is the man! Also, can’t work out why some photos load bigger than others. I’ll get the hang of this interweb one day.
Not sure if this rather random stuff is of interest to anyone, but as we’re blogging partly to have a diary of our trip, here’s some more stuff we’ve noticed … I started writing this on the guest house verandah, and realise now that it’s almost dark, and getting chilly …
Land … We’ve had conversations with at least four people – black, white ‘English’, Afrikaans, and oddly, an American ex-pat – where they turn the conversation quite quickly to who got to South Africa first, and by implication, who therefore ‘owns’ the land, with varying degrees of impartiality. This may be stating the obvious, but it seems to run deep. And, tethered as it is to the wrongs and rights of the past 350 years or so, it’s not going to go away. The ANC youth wing is currently making noises about appropriating land in the Jo’burg area.
Burial grounds… between our guesthouse and Oudsthoorn, some 15k, there are 27 little graveyards on family farms. Family and workers were buried in the same plot. This went on until a fairly recent census found there to be dozens of people in the area with impossible ages – 130 years and more – because pensions of the deceased were still being claimed. That was the end of Burials ‘R’ Us. The last De Toit buried at La Plume was during WWll.
Mission stations … We are in awe of the faith of men and women who came to the Cape as missionaries, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. We drove through an old station yesterday, and it would be daunting to live out there today, let alone without modern technology, medicine, transport etc. We didn’t have time to visit a renowned station called Genadendal, which means ‘Valley of grace’, but the Moravian missionary there was hounded by illiterate Afrikaans farmers, who were outraged at his teaching literacy to their black workers, and his giving refuge to the maltreated. A teacher training college opened in 1838 was closed in the 1920s because of continuing opposition to black education. Mandela apparently named his official Cape Town residence after this place.
Ostriches … what are they like! We’re surrounded by ostrich farms here. They are enormous, weird-looking but elegant – jolie-laide – and a bit bonkers. Sort of supermodels on the edge of a hissy fit.
And finally . .. Schlindler’s lift
We’re now into week 3 of our amazing African adventure, and much has happened since our last blog. Susie flew home on Sunday, after a great two weeks together. Before she left, we spent an eye-opening and inspiring day in the Cape Town townships – we’ll tell you more about that when we sort out some teccie hitches with our photos.
Peter and Gill have driven about 500k east this week, and are a long way from Cape Town in every sense. We spent some time on Monday visiting wineries in the Robertson Valley. It was a gorgeous warm, sunny day, and as it was a public holiday, lots of Cape Town families were having a day outdoors. You just rock up to a winery you like the look of, and taste a few of their finest, often free, with staff explaining the wines to you. What’s not to like.
As soon as the sun goes down, it gets very, very cold, very quickly, and guest houses here really aren’t into heating. We arrived in a barely-one-horse town called Swellendam, 220k from Cape Town, which is the third-oldest Cape town settled by the Dutch. Dinner was delightful – Peter recommends the springbok – but in a restaurant so cold that we kept running to the open fire to warm one side of us, while the other side froze. Had an interesting discussion with our host, Etienne, who had moved back from Jo’burg, about the role of the Church in pulling South Africa out of its difficulties. Visited a museum of rural Cape life, housed in the old magistrate’s house called the Drostdy. Came away knowing a lot more about the indigenous Cape people, and the Dutch-British conflicts than before, in a good way.
Then we hit the road again, taking the marvellous Route 62 through a range of scenery that was never less than spectacular, from mountain passes, to semi-desert, to wide valley plains. Wonderful, and on a hot, clear day. It feels very frontier-land out here, with little towns that are in the middle of nowhere, and farms and workers’ cabins that are even further from nowhere. Stopped at a little wayside shop in Calitzdorp, and bought Coke and dried fruit, which is a local speciality.
We arrived at our next guesthouse as the sun was setting, which is more stressful than it sounds, as we got slightly lost and it’s really hard to see signs out in the country. La Plume, near Oudsthoorn which specialises in ostrich farming, is outdoing our experience of luxurious living so far, ever. They gave us an upgrade and we estimate we could fit our London bathroom about 3.5 times into the one here. Thank you, Jacqui’s Auntie Barbie, for the recommendation! We may be unable to leave – we’re looking into launching Everyday Oudsthoorn.
Tomorrow we are to explore the Kanga Caves, about 25k north of Oudsthoorn. Watch this space.