Saturday, August 29, 2009

My Conclusion.

Ever since I saw my first Tarzan movie at the age of 7 my passion has always been to travel and I am lucky that I have had the opportunity to do so. Having travelled (mostly) solo which is great having all that freedom, and having travelled with friends and family too, nothing beats travelling with your children. It is without doubt the most amazing and magical times ever; watching your children grow and learn whilst enjoying all the things that you do.

I think back to some of the most amazing experience I have had or seen, the Migration is the Masaii Mara, The Ganges, Temples and Jungles in Asia and even good old Disney Land in Florida, doing all that stuff with Kieran made it all the more special, and as much as I really enjoyed going to Vietnam last summer on my own, it would have been enhanced by having him there and I don't think I would travel now without him.

In nearly 6 weeks we have had just one grumpy moment which we put down to tiredness, and considering we have lived in each others pockets for all that time, I don't think that has been bad. Of course, I nag about the campervan being left untidy and dirty socks left lying around, and there were several occasions when say, I would be trying to prepare dinner after a long days driving, the fire needs making, we need to fetch water from somewhere etc etc and Dan would come along and start playing his guitar, and there were occasions when that guitar was nearly rammed up his...... but both lads quietly ignored my traits of OCD ness and all potentially stressful moments were very rare and quickly diffused.

Doing all the stuff we did wouldn't be easy if it weren't that both boys have huge levels of tolerance. Natalie, the girl we met back in Cape Town wrote in Kieran's scrap book that we were 3 guys facing each challenge with a mere shrug of the shoulders.

Well, there were loads of challenges that were testing. Cold showers on a frosty morning, insect bites and stings, sea sickness, the odd tummy upset, cooking and eating in the dark, not quite sure what that last crunchy bit was! (that might have explained the odd tummy upset) the long, dusty, bumpy drives, the early morning get ups, sometimes at 5:00am, occassionally having to hang about, blisters on your feet as we embarked yet another 10km hike up a mountain, the various injuries that we acquired, the heat, the cold, the wind, the dust, the rain, the dirt, I think our longest without a wash was about 5 days, but smelly boys don't mind that! All that and more, and not once did either boy whinge or complain. ( I know many adults that would have!). They took everything that was thrown at them and they treated each obstacle as a challenge to overcome. They spent the entire 6 weeks (early mornings an exception) with a smile on their faces, and if they weren't smiling they were laughing!

I am incredibly proud of them both and hope there are many more trips to be had!


Finally home. Got in yesterday evening after a slight delay. We missed the flight back to Jersey so had to hang about for 5 hours at LGW whist on standby. The last thing we needed after an 11 hour flight on what I reckon is the worst airplane in the world but out of our control so not much we could do so no point moaning. I wll hoever moan about Virgin. They may have great service but they cram you in like sardines on their planes and I don't think I will ever fly with them again.

On arrival at LHR we first encountered the problem of 1 lost suitcase, quickly resolved, then caught the coach to LGW. Unfortunately there had been a bad smash on the motorway which meant the usual 1 hour journey took 2 hours, and we missed check in by5 minutes. (been there before - Foo Fighters Ash, Lou and Vicki), although our excuse this time was more genuine as opposed to just arived at the airport when we felt like it after having such a great weekend!

Anyway, we're home now, totally shattered and Kieran has gone to his mum's and I am missing him like crazy already having spent nearly every minute of every day of the last 6 weeks with him.

So, to sum up the last 6 weeks.

We stayed in 3 hotels, 7 campsites, 2 backpackers, bushcamped twice and 2 bandhas. We abseiled, sandboarded, hiked, quadbiked, climbed mountains, jet boated (and crashed), kayaked with whales, dived with sharks, walked with monkeys, dined with antelope, dived with crocs, cliff jumped, surfed, mountain biked, caved, white water raftered, tubed, scuba dived, canoed, drove through the most amazing scenery that we have ever seen, seen loads of different wildlife and interacted with some of it too and met some great people. Oh, and we drove 5751 km. We did contemplate driving around in circles n the last day just to make it up to the 6000, but we weren't sure how well our dancing in the street would ahve gone down in downtown Jo berg!

We have all had our favourite moments, whilst Dan enjoyed playing his guitar around the campfire, Kieran liked going to slepp in one place and waking up in another, we all agreed that our favourite places were the Coffee Shack, though Jeffrey's Bay may have just edged it for me. We had too many incredible experiences to list but among the top was, for me seeing humpback whales up close. Kieran said that despite the seasickness he loved diving with sharks and we all agreed that the most fun thing was the quadbiking on the dunes back in Cape Town at the start of the trip. Of course there would be scary moments too. Kieran says his was the near monkey attack in Sodwana Bay, for me it was walking along the ridge after the cliff jump, and Dan said he was really worried when I was stuck in the cave in Swaziland. What I didn't write before was that whilst I was squeezing myself to a near death, Dan, Kieran and all the others were right behind me, all crammed into a very small cave and they were having a hard time too as it was really hot and uncomfortable, and if I couldn't get through, then they were stuck too!

We had some comical moments, I rememberDan opening the door at the Swartberg Pass and the wind blowing it off, and we all laugh like mad when Kieran tried to take a pee off the mountain in Blyde River Canyon. Ever heard the expression 'pissing in the wind' Kieran leaned the meaning if it!

My biggest challenge was the caving, whilst Dan said out of all the things he did, climbing Table Mountain was still the hardest physically. Kieran said the one thing he really found hard was the cliff jump, and thanks again to Billy for getting him through that. It really made his day.

I asked the boys what memory sticks out the most of the entire trip. Dan said his birthday at the coffee shack was the best birthday he has had, and Kieran said the last evening at Coffee Bay when he went body surfing with Billy and Amy in the huge waves was one of his most memorable moments. For me I think it would be Table Mountain, which was the first thing we all did together at the very start of the trip, when we were looking forward to doing all the things that we have done. the day was so good that having had the perfect start I knew it was going to be a great trip, and I was right.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Johannasberg - A Meat Feast!

Only 2 hours to go before we leave for the airport and fly home. We have spent the day by the pool, but having a short break as a damn cloud has blocked out the sun for a few minutes. Dan had a face like a back of a bus this morning as today was GCSE result day and he was a tad anxious about how he had done. He soon broke into a smile when he learned from his mum that he had passes in 10 of them, so well done to Dan, and we might have a sneaky cider later to celebrate.

We reached our hotel without incident, though we did get a little lost. We decided not to do the Pretoria route (which I am gutted about) and instead decided a shorter route below Jo Berg instead, however, missed a turning somewhere and nearly ended up in Kimberley before turning round and eventually finding the road we wanted. Sign posts around JoBerg are rubbish, and it took 3 hours to eventually find the hotel which is in sleepy old Mulderdrift.

I was gutted that we skipped Pretoria as yesterday the army rioted against the police, and not having had any adventure or danger over the past few days, I was sad to miss an opportunity to put my photojournalistic skills to the test again as I reckon I could have got some good pic's.

Last night we dined at the Carnivore and happy to report that giraffe wasn't on the menu so that arguement was settled. We politely declined all vegetable and salads and just insisted that they bring out the meat. Carnivore here works the same way as it does in Nairobi. There is only one instruction. Eat as much as you can and where you are done, lower the flag on your table. The flag stayed up far too long on our table, and it was a continuous stream as waiter after waiter satisfied our game meat cravings.

Aside the usual chicken (breasts, wings and liver), pork (sausages and joint), lamb (leg of) and beef (sausages, steak and joint of) which we all had generous servings of, we also chomped our way through eland, gemsbok, springbok, kudu and crocodile. The huge joints of meat are bought to your table on a sword which has been slowly roasting over an open fire and the waiter carves slices of meat which fall onto your plate in a mouth watering mound. I must have a piece of crackling from the pork 30cm long and just as wide.

We ate till we literally couldn't lift the fork to our mouths. Actually, we discarded the forks after the 3rd or 4th plateful and just used our fingers, much easier, and walking back to our rooms afterwards was actually quite painful. We lay in bed with a mountain of meat slowly working it's way through our digestive system and the room was silent apart from groans of satisfactory discomfort.

Every time I eat at the Carnivore I always think of one particular lion I saw on a game drive once. I think it was a couple of years ago. Mum and Antoinette will remember. We were on our way back to the camp near the Mara River when we spotted an old moth eaten looking male lion lying on the side of the road in the grass. He was still bloody around the mouth and his stomach was so extended from eating whatever it was that he had just caught and killed, that he could barely move. We stopped to take a couple of photo's and were amused by his heavy panting as he struggled to lift his head to see who we were. So full was he, that if we had got out and stroked it, I don't think it had the energy to move. That's how we felt last night. Wonderful.

The boys devised some kind of point scoring system over dinner, it was too complicated to keep track, and we all agreed that if we opened a resteraunt back in Jersey it would be like the Carnivore. Dan introduced the rule that vegetarians would be barred, Kieran introduced the execption to the rule that vegetarians would only be allowed if they were on the menu! I am not quite sure what I am creating here, but apologies to any vegetarians I may offend with this posting.

The hotel, Misty Hills Country Hotel is quite possibly the nicest hotel I have ever stayed in. All stones and thatch with wooden beams and big open fires in all of the rooms. It is a little bit of a maze, but the grounds are stunning, and the room decor amazing. Our shower is like a granite farmhouse, and we have a bath too which both boys enjoyed last night. I though I had better wash my feet as the receptionist was making it very obvious that he didn't approve of my blackened toenails and after scrubbing them for about 15 minutes, they are only slightly grubby looking now. The sould of my feet are however stained black. That's what you get I guess from spending nearly 6 weeks barefoot in Africa. Both K and Dan have similar issues with their feet, and Dans hair is well and truly dreaded now, and Kieran's is so long even I think he needs a haircut!

A huge clap of thunder outside just now means that that cloud is here to stay and I think that has put pay to my afternoon by the pool. Knowing the boys, they are probably conjuring up ideas at what dangers a storm can bring, and I had best go find them before they climb onto the roof and try invent a new sport like lightenening surfing or something.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Graskop - Blyde River Canyon & Waterfalls.

Before we arrived in Graskop we thought we had already seen the best views that SA had to offer, but what we can see from our campsite tops the lot.

We look down into a deep and narrow valley where a cliff jutts out on one side with a sheer drop of over a 1000 metres and the other side a long wall of spectacular cliff, just as high. In the valley, thick rainforest as far as the eye can see. We just can't take it all in, and we struggle to understand why the lady who owns and runs the campsite is so miserable. If I lived here, I would be the happiest bunny on the planet!

So the last couple of days have seen us exploring the local area. We spent a day driving along Blyde River Canyon where we stopped at all the different viewpoints to be dazzled by each one in turn. Fisrt stop was the Pinnacle, an impressive rock formation poking up from the escarpment, and a waterfall 100's of feet high which we all nervously stood as close to the edge as we dared to pose for photographs.

Next stop was 'God's Window' with more spectacular views over the lowveld and a short rainforest trail. We watched the fog rise here and it was incredible that the scenery we were enjoying so much suddenly became completely shrouded in a thick blanket of cloud. We didn't bother to stop at 'Wonder View', instead we headed straight for Bourke's Luck Potholes. This is a small canyon where the rock formation is pepeered with bizarre cylandrical holes which have been naturally eroded by whirl pools over thousands of years. We had great fun here leaping from rock to rock and exploring all the nooks and crannies, trying to avoid getting wet from the waterfalls that fall here also.

There was no fog here, just a few km down the road from where we were when we were completely covered in it and it was amazing to see again how it can be totally foggy one minute, perfect blue skies the next.

After the potholes we continued driving along the edge of the canyon stoppping at more view points and being totally blown away each time. The Blyde River Canyon snakes along for 30km and is by far the most spectacular sight we have seen yet. It is impossible to describe the size and beauty of it, photos can't do it justice. Looking down a 1000 metres onto a cliff, which in turn stands another 1000 metres tall towering over the valleys dwarfed by the cliffs and mountains is just incredible and we could have spent hours standing, open mouthed as we were treated to one of the wonders of the world.

Everytime we spotted a new rockface we would drool at the thought of abseiling down it, or scaling up it from the bottom. The Blyde River which winds through the 26000 hectare valley wetted our appetites for more kayaking and kickstarted conversations of returning in summer for white water rafting or kayaking when the river would be at it's most spectacular. Dan said he wants to paraglide through the whole canyon, Kieran says is going to take up rock climbing. Adrenaline junkies the pair of them!

The last stop of the day was the 'Echo Caves' which personally, having seen dozens of caves full of stalagmites and stalagtites, I wasn't that fussed in doing, but both the lads wanted to and they thorougly enjoyed the short 600m crawl through them. We all learned about the ancient tribes that used to live in the caves, and Kieran loved that many of the rocks were shaped like animals, we saw ostrich, rhino, buffalo, horses, sharks teeth, squid to name but a few.

We drove our 5000th km today and once again we stopped to dance like looneys on the road. Our 100th was on the Swartberg Pass, 2000 was in Addo, 3000 was at the bottom of Giants Castle, 4000 was in Sodwana Bay Nature Reserve and 5000 was along the Blyde River Canyon. I don't know how many hours driving that has been, but at an average of 70kmph I could make a guess at about 70. That doesn't sound that much in 5 1/2 weeks, but when you take in toilet stops, refueling, rest stops, leg stretching stops etc, I think we can double that.

We have listened to so much music whilst driving along, Dan has me hooked on Megadeth now, and conversations have covered pretty much everything. The games continue, especially The Game Of Life, which is getting a little tiresome now as we have played it continously since Jeffreys Bay and I clock up around 40-50 press ups each day. Do the boys let me off? No. Never and yesterday Kieran tried introducing a rule which meant all press ups had to be done with a bowl of dirty washing up water underneath your face. Dan wanted to introduce the candle rule. I'll let you work out for yourselves what that involves. needless to say, the idea was thrown out!

The last couple of days has seen us design our very own purpose built overland truck, complete with 3 bedrooms, kitchen and living area. No bathroom. You have to clean those and it's not nice. In fact, we have a shower and loo in the campervan and the best thing we did was bar anyone from using it so we don't have to clean it. Instead, we use the shower room for storage, mainly hanging up wetsuits. anyway, why use the toilet when there is a perfectly good road! Back to our truck, the best feature, as well as decent storage for kayaks and surfboards and sound system in the cab with 3 bucket seats, is the ramp at the back which provides easy access for our quadbikes. This truck will drive over any terrain and our plan is to drive through every country in Africa, then across the Middle East, India, China down to Malaysia, through Indonesia, NZ and OZ, ship across to South America for our journey through every country there, through Central America, Road trip through the US and Canada. We don't know how long this will take, or how we can pay for it. Perhaps tomorrows conversation can be working that problem out!

We spent the day today driving around all the waterfalls in the area. First stop was Horse Shoes Falls, which at first thing in the morning was quiet and isolated and gorgeous. Kieran and I had showers, Dan thought it was too cold, but fair play to him as you will learn later. We didn't think we would make the waterfalls today as a very low fog came in last night and it rained. Our first rain since leaving Cape Town. That didn't put us off our BBQ though and whilst we sat huddled round our campfire in our ponchos and the rain bounced off us, we enjoyed slightly soggy (and somewhat charred) spare ribs.

The next falls were the Lone Creek Falls and this had to be the coldest water yet. Colder than anything I had been in and as I posed for a photo standing ankle deep I could only manage about 2 minutes before my feet started to hurt. The falls here fell 68metres into a small pool and both boys dived in. Fair play to both of them. It was the quickest swim yet. As soon as the picture had been taken they were both straight out and wrapped up in towels.

The 3rd falls were Bridal Veil Falls (70m)and none of us swam, though I got slighlty wet by standing behind them. One minute I was nice and dry, then the wind changed direction and there I was, having the 2nd shower of the day!

Other falls we visited were the Sabie Falls, not much to write home about, The Mac Mac Falls, very spectacular and the Lisbon Falls. The most beautiful I thought. We had the best fun in the first 3 though as we saw these from the bottom, where as the others we viewed from the top.

So, as I write this, this is our last night camping. Tomorrow we drive to Jo Berg and return our campervan that has been our home for 5 weeks. A last night in luxury at the Misty Hills Hotel where we are looking forward to dining at The Carnivore. Having been to the Carnivore in Nairobi several times, we our all looking forward to a meat feast. Kieran has requested that no-one eats giraffe, and whilst I have complied after he put forward a very good arguement, there is still some debate between him and Dan on the subject which has rumbled on for a couple of days now.

We are taking the long route to Jo berg, via Pretoria to our hotel which is actually on the suburbs out side it. So we are not actually going through or into Jo berg. I think I have put Julie through enough worrying without her dreading the thought of us (Kieran) getting lost in what is know as the murder capital of the world.

Taking Jo berg out of the equation, I think SA has very bad press in terms of it being a violent country riddled with crime. Haven driven over 5000km over 5 and a half weeks, and met dozens of people, locals, expats, tourists and travellers, we haven't seen or heard a sniff of anything unpleasant happening at all. OK, I know 5 and a half weeks isn't terribly long and that we have only seen a fraction of the country, but based on our experiences, I would feel much safer wondering around South Africa than London. Or give it a few years, St Helier!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Swaziland Part 2. Mountain Bikes and Caves,

So this brings us up to date. Right now we are in Graskop, more about that later.

Our last day in Swaziland saw the biggest challenge I have ever faced yet. Caving.

After a very relaxing morning we hired mountain bikes and did a short safari around the park. Animals we saw were mostly antelopes, zebra and wildebeeste. And more wart hogs and an abundance of birdlife. We did see a few hippos in the distance and a couple of crocs close to the shore. We are so used to being up close to the animals now that we didn't give it a second thought to stand on the shore whilst a croc swam past just a few metres from us. It showed absolutely no interest in us at all. Perhaps the crocs in Swaziland really are vegetarian.

After lunch we visited a cultural village where we were entertained by local and traditional dancing and singing, then we set of for our caving expedition. We joined a small group, a couple from Oz, a couple from Belgium and another English guy. First we hiked for an hour through the bush (and up a mountain) then, clad in overalls and sporting hemets and torches, our caving adventure began. I thought it might be more extreme to do this at night, then thinking about it sensibly realized it doesn't matter what time of day you do it as you are underground and it is dark anyway. I always wondered what the attraction was to caving and thought it was a lot of fuss about nothing. Just crawling through a few tunnels and going down a few holes. Boy, did I learn!

Having survived this, I can say that it is the hardest thing I have ever done, and certainly the most extreme. Forget abseiling, bunjy, rafting etc, this was the biggest challenge of my life yet,

Caving, not recommended if you don't like spiders, bats, small spaces and the dark is done through several km of tight narrow passages and holes which how I squeezed my frame through I have no idea. Kieran and Dan found it relatively easy, aside the climbs and drops, but for me, it was bloody exhausting and at times I was literally lying flat on my stomach with rocks pressing up into my rib cage, rocks pressing down against my spine and as I inched myself painfully to get through the hole that I convinced myself I could get through to a hole just about big enough for me to crouch in, I was trying to work out whose stupid idea was this.

At one point I just managed to get my shoulders through by twisting awkwardly, then wriggled my chest at another impossible angle through only to find my butt was wedged fast. My legs dangling in thin air so I could not use them to lever myself forward and as I tried tried to motivate myself by saying out loud, "come on Chris, bigger guys than you have got through here" my worse fears came true when the guide said, actually, your the biggest yet, and I didn't think you would make it.

As I lay there stuck fast, chuckling to myself thinking, of all the things I have done, I am going to die in a frigging cave, my gorgeous, beautiful son came to my rescue by pushing hard against my feet so I could slide just another inch across the ground, laden with bat crap and bugs, where eventually I freed an arm to grip onto a rock to pull myself through, and as I came out the other side the relief was immense and the agony finally seemed worth it.

Both boys thouroughly enjoyed the caving and by the time we hiked back down the mountain, we were all literally dead on our feet. The sensible thing would have been to hit the sack, but we decided to soak our aching limbs and muscles in the local spa (called Cuddle Puddle) where we mixed it up with the locals.

We were sorry to be leaving Swaziland and gutted that we are missing the Festival of Umhlanga by just a few days. The Umhlanga is an annual festival in which 1000's of bare breasted maidens travel from all over Swaziland to take part in a week of dance and song for the king. One 'lucky' girl gets to be picked bythe king to be his new bride. The current king has 9 wives. His predecessor had 120 with allegedly more than double that number in girlfriends and mistresses. The current king appears to be a little less active, which, in country where a third of the adult population is HIV+, may be wise.

I was thinking of introducing the Umhlanga back in Jersey on my return, but I fear advertising for naked young ladies to come round and dance for me in the hopes of a marraige proposal may not be met with the same enthusiasm. Plus, there's the little matter of the "marriage" at the end of it and that would just put a dampner on the whole occasion!

Swaziland - White Water Rafting, Tubing and lots of animals!

Thursday/Friday 19 and 20 August

Swaziland is great. It's fantastic. The people are so friendly. Every shop we go into we are asked how we are, where are we from, who we are etc etc. Every person we drive by waves and smiles. The scenery is stunning too.

Not even an hour after a very stress free border crossing we were taking breakfast under an acacia tree in a small valley surrounded by mountains. (reminder to self. Wear shoes when in close proximity of acacia trees).

Having crossed over the border, I was surprised to look back on all the travelling I have done to realize that this is only the 3rd time I have crossed a border by land. France-Spain, Uganda-Kenya and now SA to Swaziland.

We drove straight to our campsite which is in the Mwhaline Nature Reserve, a conservation park set up by the king in the 60's. Animals are plentiful here, we haven't seen any of the big 5 yet, but we are visited frequently by a whole host of antelope, wart hogs, guinea fowl to name but a few. Kieran hasn't befriended any dogs here, but, we have all become quite close to an Eland who is so tame that it actually pinches food from out table as we eat.

The boys built a lovely camp fire on the first night, I say camp fire, more like a bonfire with flames shooting up in excess of 8ft high, and I had a minor panic attack at the thought of burning the park down! Eventually it settled to a much more sensible size where we could sit near it and toast marshmellows.

On the 2nd night we ate inside the campervan, the first time this entire trip that we have done that and if I may say so myself, I rustled up a wicked chicken and bean curry which we complimented with apple and cream slices. I didn't make the apple slices, my bush tucker cooking skills don't stretch that far, we purchased those from a local bakers earlier in the day.

There is a small pool here with a very pronounced 'swim at own risk' sign which Kieran enticed me into. The swim was shortlived as I was convinced something snakelike was slithering around my feet and my exit from the ice cold water was as graceful as my entrance. (NOT!)

We white water rafted on the mighty Usutu. Wrong time of year for the fast water unfortunately and at times the river was so low that the rafts were wedged on the bottom, but when we did hit deeper water it was lovely to cruise down the river and take in all the surroundings. We rafted in a small group, Me and K in one raft, Dan paired up with John, an Irish guy, and Laura and Garry from Belgium was in the 3rd raft. There were several guides too in individual rafts. These were the smallest rafts I had used as all my previous rafting were in the big rafts.

Although the water was slow, the rapids were still quite high and it was great fun being bounced down them. As the most experenced rafter within the group, it gives me no pleasure to report that I was the only person to be thrown from their raft and as Kieran was sent shooting down the river with a look of slight concern on his face at the prospect of suddenly being solo, I was smashed against what felt like every rock in the Usutu. That's what we wear helmets for. I can handle bumps and bruises to all the other parts of my body, but I was sure grateful for my helmet! Of course, the helmet offers no protection against the crocs that lurk in the Usutu. Thankfully, they are all vegetarian here. Or so we were told!

Tubing was a similar experience but instead of rafts we are in individual donuts and being swept down the rapids in those things were great fun. And, whereas everyone came out of theirs at some point, I proudly stayed firmly wedged in my donut throughout. Both K and Dan came out of theirs and thankfully injuries were confined to just bumps and scrapes. The rocks here are soft and rounded. If they were like the ones at Coffee Bay, razor sharp and jagged, we would be mailed home in pieces.

We got told off at the end. K, Dan and I started to mess about when we hit calmer water and we started to tip each other out. Then Dan let my donut down to which I promptly sank and then we really started to get silly before we were reprimanded by the guide who looked confused as he tried to work out which one of the 3 of us was the adult!

So, as I write this it is about 7:30am on Friday morning. I am sat outside the campervan looking out over a small waterhole lined with tall trees dwarfed by the surrounding hills. Our friendly eland is sniffing around about 10feet from me, and guinea fowl are pecking around my feet. it's like a scene from snow white! And as i am enjoying a delicious cup of coffee and thinking 'it doesn't get much better than this' Kieran appears with breakfast that he has cooked for his old dad. God I love Swaziland!

Leaving Sodwana Bay on the Worst Road in SA!

Wednesday 18 August

Our last day in Sodwana Bay was spent relaxing by the pool as all diving had been cancelled due to the extreme sea conditions. It would have been nice if the diving had been cancelled before our first dive and not during it, but there you go. We can't have everything.

Getting out to 7 Mile Reef past the waves was again another hairy experience. I learned from Rob, the very camp dive manager who nicknamed me 'trouble' for some reason, that this stretch of ocean is called the Grave Yard. No prizes for guessing why! Anyway, we arrived at the dive site and after a hurried entry and descent we found ourselves being tossed about on the bottom like peas in a washing machine. We were diving as a large group. Yaku, who was babysitting us, and another group of about 6 Dive Master students with another instructor. As soon as we were on the reef we knew that this might not be such a nice dive and within minutes everyone, bar Dan and I, were whisked away with the current. Dan and I had found a nice little reef to shelter behind and were enjoying looking at the few fish that could handle the pace when everyone dissapeared. We waited for a few minutes for a gap in the surge, the went back up to the surface where the RIB picked us up. Not before I delivered this mornings breakfast to the fish first. I can't believe I have been sea sick twice on this trip!

Eventually other heads popped up in various places and we battled with the waves and current to land everyone safely before heading back to shore. I think the dive masters were feeling a little embarrassed as before hand they were giving it large, and it was Dan and I who handled the situation better than all of them. Rob later informed me that this was only the second time diving had been cancelled in over a year. Still, no worries, no harm done and the afternoon spent within the safety of the swimming pool was highly enjoyable.

We departed Sodwana Bay early eveing on the worst road yet. Only about 70km long, but having to drive at around 25km for the entire length, it took about 3 hours till we reached the main road. We got to the border of SA/Swaziland at about 9:00 which meant we were too late to cross and had to wait till the morning. Both boys were already in their bunks and fast asleep, so I parked up with ll the lorry drivers and it wasn't long before I joined them in the land of nod too. First, i found a little bar, where I enjoyed a beer with the truckies and watched the first half of the Burnley Man Utd game. It was 1-0 to Burnley when I left. Did it stay that way?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Sodwana Bay - Paradise and attack of the Killer Monkeys!

Today a monkey crapped on the campervan floor. I'll explain how that happened later but first let me tell you about Sodwana Bay and how we came to be here.

Those that know me will know how my love affair of Africa started, and Sodwana Bay came about much the same way. Years ago I watched a documentry which featured Sodwana and I said to myself this is one place I must visit and it has been on the list ever since.

Sodwana is a little piece of heaven tucked away in the corner of SA near Mozambique, pristine beaches edge a rainforest and the bush. It reminds me a little of Cape Tribulation in Australia, but with huge waves and wild animals. We have done nothing much except dive, canoe and sleep by the pool. So good, that, after conference, we decided to burn of Kruger in a few days time, and have an extra day here, and an extra day somewhere else, probably Swaziland.

Diving here is good. Unfortunately Kieran can't dive. 2 reasons, they are very strict re age. 10 years old minimum, but also, the diving is not ideal as the shallowest dives are around the 14 or 15 metre mark, and the currents are strong. Whilst Dan and I dive, we do only 1 or 2 a day, K entertains himself back at the resort, or takes himself off to explore the jungle.

Going for a dive is an adventure in itself before we even get into the water. Huge waves crash onto the beach and we have to negotiate each breaker in the rib to get out to the reef. Seriously scary when you are being bounced about on one of those things at top speed with a 10 ft wall of water ready to smash you to pieces, and every journey out gets the heart beat racing with everyone on the boat clenching, eyes tight and hoping for the best, except the skipper who I suspect is quietly chuckling to himself as we all quietly soil ourselves!

One day in particular was very special as just as we were about to get in, up pops a humpback whale and her calf. Both animals breached, then spent about 5 minutes on the surface, turning to wave their enormous fins in the air. When they went, it was a truly magic moment as they both lay side by side and together, as if practised in perfect syncronicity, waved their fins before diving under. I actually found myself waving back, and with embarrassment turned to the rest of the boat to make up some excuse, but they were all waving too. One of those special moments and even Dan looked excited.

The reefs here are good, but not as spectacular as some I have seen, but the fish are in abundance and there have been many things I haven't seen before. Favourites are the Honey Comb Moray and Clown Trigger Fish.

The canoeing was a little dissapointing. We did this in a lake where crocs and hippo's live. Unfortunaley it was very windy and we could not get to the other side so could only view them from a distance. That was the hardest paddling I have ever done, it was like rowing a tank uphill. Dan had the guide in his boat and together they found it hard, I had Kieran, who just lay there and let me do all the work. My shoulders felt almost Hulk-like afterwards!

Bugs here galore, and Kieran has been bitten badly several times on his hand. He obviously tastes better than us as Dan and I have hardly has so much of a nibble, Kieran collects lumps and bites daily. Poor boy. Some of them are reall huge and must hurt like hell. He is smothered daily in Savlon and the Zapper, (which he calls Frank) is in constant action. Still, aside a little complaining when he remembers, he has not let it ruin his time here.

We leave here tomorrow night, the plan is after our last dives and relaxation by the pool, we will set off late afternoon/early evening and head up to the Swaziland border. If we get to cross it great, if not, we will bush camp somewhere and cross the border Thursday morning.
If one thing sticks in my mind about Sodwana, it will be the hundreds of monkeys. Monkeys everywhere. I had monkeys watch me in the shower the other morning, Kieran had them in the shower, we have had monkeys sit on our loo, dance across our table, in our room, we had one sat in the driving seat of the campervan, hands on the steering wheel, and we had one cheeky monkey in the back, jumping up and down on our bed. I shouted for Kieran to get the camera and he followed it in to take a picture. We then had a lesson and thought back to Tom in Monkeyland who explained how monkeys stick together and if they feel threatened will let out a call, and all the others will go to it's aid. This is exactly what happened, and no sooner had it let out it's cry, dozens of monkeys jumped down and adopted the attack position. K and I immediatley exited the campervan and let the monkey out, but it took a while for them all to calm down, and had we not taken quick action, I reckon we might have come off very badly in one helluva a gang fight. Still lesson learned and it was incredible to see how these cute creatures can quickly turn into vicious and dangerous animals. We still think they're great and I don't care what anyone says. I want one as a pet!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dundee to Sodwana Bay via the Battlefields.

This morning I showered to an audience. More of that later!

We left Dundee yesterday at 6:00am and drove very slowly to Blood River through what must be the thickest fog I have ever seen. When I stood at the back of the campervan, I could not see the front, and most of the road was through dirt tracks. Our campervan is now quite filthy on the outside and we have written in huge writing on the back in the grime "Smelly Boys On Tour".

As well as Blood River we explored Rorkes Drift and Isandlwana. Here's the history part -

Blood River. On 16 December 1838 a small force of Voortreckers avanged the masacre of Piet Retiref's diplomatic party by crushing an army of 12,000 Zulu's, the river running red with their blood. The battle site is marked by a full scale bronze recreation of a 64 wagon laager. The fog certainly added to the atmosphere here as we walked around the monument and the battlefield.

Rorke's Drift. 22/23 January 1879, 139 British soldiers successfully defended a small mission staition against 4000 Zulu. For more information, watch Zulu!

Isandlwana. This is the site of a battle between Zulu and British soldiers and many graves and monuments mark the spot where many men were killed. For more information, watch Zulu Dawn!

After visiting all those battlefields we drove to Babanango, the sole purpose was to have a beer in Stan's Pub, which was Michael Caine's drinking haunt during the filming of Zulu. We then set off for an 8 hour drive to Sodwana Bay, where I sit now. Our drive took us past a host of small villages and towns where old men would dance to imaginary music in the street and kick out at us as we sped by, and old ladies waved their arms and poked out their tongues.

So, to this morning's main event. Now, for those who think that I have brought the boys to some dodgy camp, or we have run out of money and I am entertaining to replenish funds, you couldn't be more wrong. First let me set the scene. We are staying in the most gorgeous Bandha, with ensuite bathroom. The thing about the bathroom is, that it has no roof. So you are completely open to the elements. There is also a lot of wildlife here, mainly monkeys (of the blue balled variety), deer, warthogs, stoat, hippo and other things that I have not seen before and don't know the name of, and the animals are quite tame and wander in and out of tents and bandhas. This morning, when I took my shower, it was to an audience of a gang of monkeys, all sitting in the trees above my head. quite a unique experience I thought and I quite enjoyed the occasion, that was until I heard one of them laugh!

Drakkensberg. Waterfalls and Mountains.

14 and 15 August.

The drive from Durban to Estcourt didn't take as long as I thought it would and after dragging 2 grumpy boys from their pits to breakfast, (never turn down a free meal cos you don't know when you are going to eat again) we left at 7:00am on the dot and arrived in Estcourt at 10:30. And that was with having a long toilet/rest/telephone/shopping break.

We took a drive to Giant's Castle, a magnicient peak standing at 3400 metres tall, and it was here that we experienced our first sight of the Drakensberg Mountains. Actually our first sighting was nothing more than a hill which we all got excited about, then getting closer to it, we realized that the clouds behind were mountain tops capped in snow.

Now, we were really knocked out and once again, the scenery has just blown us away. we stopped short of the base of Giant's Castle on a very narrow winding road where we all got out, screamed, sang, danced in the middle of the road, whistled and generally acted like mindless idiots to celebrate the passing of our 3000th km. Much to the amusement of a passing motorcyle gang who applauded us as they whizzed past.

We drove up as far as we could without having to pay the entrance fee, then turned round and headed for the Royal Natal National Park which was to be our base for the next 2 days. It was nice to arrive somewhere in daylight for a change with time to spare and whilst I prepared dinner the 2 boys went off to explore where they found some waterfalls.

Tip! when asking Dan to check if you have charcoal, ask him to actually look inside the bag!

Still, I managed to save the day by just making do with the few lumps of charcoal that were left and we enjoyed steaks and roasted veg in front of a wicked campfire, dwarfed by the mountains, under the stars and listening to the waterfalls in the distance. My feet toasted by the fire and a cold beer in my hand....does it get any better than this?

The boys decided to sleep outside on this night. Why they chose now, the coldest place we are to visit, where the temperature drops below zero at night, I have no idea, still, I left them to it and whilst I lay nice and cosy in the campervan, they shivvered and fought for space next to the fire under a mountain of blankets, sarongs and towels. I was woken in the middle of the night by Kieran who had decided enough was enough, and he confirmed his arrival by squeezing his frozen little body next to my very warm one, to give the old man a cuddle cos he was cold!

Dan lasted all night, and when I stepped out in the morning, he was laying on the (now extinguished fire) under a bigger mountain of blankets and towels etc amongst a gang of guinea fowl that were busy inspecting every cm of the ground around him, searching for titbits.

We hiked to the Tiger falls whilst in Drakensberg. Our original plan was to hike to the Tugela Falls which is the world's 2nd highest waterfall. Having done the 1st, the Angel Falls in Venezuela some years ago, I was keen to knock off number 2 then work my way down the list. Unfortunately I had not researched properly, and we did not have enough time to do this as the hike to the bottom, then onto the top would be at least a 2 day affair. Also, it is winter at the moment so the falls are just a trickle, so it would be better to plan this properly and return to do it in summer when they are at their prime.

Tiger falls was a 5 hour round trip and took us up many steep inclines and paths. Our route took us via the Cascades, a series of smaller waterfalls in which we stopped off for a rest and a splash about. It was a relief to finally arrive at the Tiger Waterfalls after a hard slog, however the reward was not as great as the hike. These falls were nothing more than a trickle too! Tiger Falls would fall approx. 15 metres and you can stand in a hollow about half way down, where we climbed and imagined what it would be like to look out through the watery curtain when the falls were at their best. Although a trickle, there was enough water falling for a half decent shower and Kieran and I stripped off for just that. Dan was a bit too shy to join us and was visibly cringing at the sight of his uncle and cousin showering butt naked under the icy water.

We drove up as far as we could for a picnic to see the Ampitheatre. One of Drakensburgs most dramatic features, the Ampitheatre is an 8 km wall of cliff and canyon which I am sure would be even more spectacular from the top as it is from the bottom where we were viewing it. Another to add to the list of things to do again and I have a feeling that I will be returning to Drakensberg on the next road trip, which we have decided could be Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and ending in SA.

Both boys are talking of more travelling, I think Dan has made plans to travel with his mates and Kieran has a list of countries to visit as long as my arm. We all feel that 5 1/2 weeks is not long enough and we wish we were here longer. 3 or 4 months would be better though the trip Kieran has planned for himself and the old man could take at least 2 years.

I am so gald that my son is not one to sit and watch TV or play computer games all day, though if he were, it might be cheaper and I would have less grey in my hair. Talking of TV's we haven't set eyes on one, or even thought about it (until now) since Cape Town which feels like an eternity away, and Kierans play station thing hasn't seen the light of day since we left Heathrow. His new game that he bought still has the wrapper on it. Of the 8 books I brought along, I have read about 100 pages of one of them. I guess that is an indication of how much fun we are having. We are still ploughing through the 'Power of One' though progress is slow!

We left Drakensberg for what should have been a relatively short drive to Dundee, our base to visit the Battlefields. Unfortunately 3/4 of the way to Ladysmith, we were one of the first to arrive on the scene of a pretty bad car smash. Having experienced car crashes before in Africa, I had a gut feeling that this might not be too pretty so I insisted the boys stay in the campervan whilst I investigated. The prognosis was as I thought and a matatu had taken a car out and judging by the body parts strewn across the highway, there were at least 4 fatalities. I was told by the police that nothing would be getting through until the coronor had been located and that could take several hours. We decided to turn back and drive to where we almost came from and take a different route which added several hours to our trip. Inconvenient, but not as inconvenient as it was to the poor unfortunate people that lay spread over that stretch of road. We finally arrived at Dundee well into the night.

The campsite at Dundee was stunning when we saw it in the morning. We discovered we had parked on the side of a lake. Dundee was a little bit like a hicksville, or SA equivalent of Sark. People not too sure of their parentage and some dragging one foot along as they shuffled along talking to themselves. Kieran had befriended another dog last night, this time a bull mastiff who did very well with our leftover BBQ, and I was sure that the dog, who he named Bruce dragged one paw as it walked along too!. Still the bathrooms were the best I have ever seen. Urinals and sinks springing up from rocks in an absolution that resembled a grotto. Oh! and hot water too!

Durban - Sharks and Sheeps Brain.

12 & 13 August

We spent 2 nights in Durban in total. To be honest we didn't see much apart from the Waterfront/beach, which was right in front of our hotel, the Natal Sharks Board and the Gateway Mall. It would be unfair to give a verdict on the place having seen so little of it, but the little we did see we enjoyed.

There does seem to be far more street kids here however, and it was a little unsettling at times to see so many of them, and adults too off their faces on glue. Our campervan was too high to fit into the hotel underground carpark so we had the worry of having to leave it outside on the street. There was a little security box which I found around the corner and I was able to park right outside it. I befriended Ali and his brother who were the night watchmen for something and they promised to keep an eye on it for us. They were of course generously rewarded! Ali, after being given the guided tour of the Official Smelly Boys Road Trip tour bus went off, and bought back some friends who also wanted a look. At one time there was about 4 of them crammed in the back including Tandy, a collosssal woman with the most enormous behind I have ever had the pleasure of being crushed by as she pushed her way past me to inspect the fridge!

Tandy was obviously a business woman and we struck up a bargain. She did our entire weeks laundry, including sheets and duvets which she stripped off the beds herself for 50Rand. Bargain!

The sharks board was a very interesting visit. We now know everything there is to know about sharks. Next time an animal rights activist harassases you whilst you are enjoying your bacon butties, ask them (her) is she wears lipstick! 90% of lipsticks are manufactures using oil made from sharks liver. We got to watch a shark disection. This was a shark that had been caught in one of the nets used to protect bathers/surfers from the big dangerous sharks. Surfers are often mistaken for turtles, (not seals as some believe) and divers mistaken for dolphins. Yeah, cos all the dolphins I have seen carry big tanks on their backs!

Since the nets have been put in place, serious shark attacks have decreased from about 10 a year to 1 in ten years. Although about 300 sharks die a year after being caught in the nets, 1000's of others are tagged and released and the research that has been done has been invaluable to the conservation of this species. Tourism has also been boosted, during the height of the shark attacks in the 50's and 60's people stayed away, and South Africa was the first country to put the Great White Shark on it's protected species list. Well done guys!

After the Great White, the next 2 most dnagerous sharks in SA are the Tiger and the Bull, or Zambezi as it is know to some. I have already dived with Tiger's and we are looking forward to the prospect of diving with Bull Sharks up in Sodwana Bay where there are no nets and plenty of Bull Sharks. (just for the sake of bragging I have also dived with the Oceanic White Tip, which is the 3rd most dangerous in the world).

The disection was really quite a messy affair and when the stomach was cut open, the stench made us retch. Then when the guy pulled out the remains of it's last meal which included some fish, still whole, we were almost heaving. The icing on the cake was when the intestines were turned inside out. According to the lady who was explaining which bit was what during the diesction, the Great White has 2 penises. Or 'thingamagigs' as she so scientifically put it. We are not convinved and will google this on our return.

The Gateway mall was really Kieran's treat, and he spent the day skateboarding in one of the worlds largest skateparks. He met some dude who gave him a new deck and he helped do something to his wheels so he spent the day grinning from ear to ear. My thanks goes to said dude who has saved me bundles as Kieran no longer requires a new skateboard. Made lugging it all this way worth it now!

Kieran also went on the D-Rex, which is like a huge wave machine. He did pretty good too, but once you come off your board you are sent shooting down this little tunnel where you are spat out the other end and I think perhaps he banged his head, and various other parts of his body too many times and he had had enough after about 45mins. Dan had a quiet day as he had a bit of a headache, perhaps all the partying in Coffee Shack was catching up with him, and he took himself off to watch an underwater documentry on the IMAX. Both boys did climb the worlds highest artifical climbing wall though.

We let ourselves down badly in Durban and had a sneaky MacDonalds for tea on the first night, however more than made up for it on the second when we dined in a Pakistani resteraunt and feasted on dishes whose names I can't remember or pronounce. The highlight was definitely the sheeps brain which, tasted OK but we all agreed the texture was a little spongy!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Coffee Bay - It's Lakka to be Lakka when you're Lakka!

Coffee Bay. Thank God places like this still exist in the world. The perfect back packers. Beautiful, isolated, chilled out and party like hell! Dan and Kieran have certainly seen and heard things now that they hadn't before. And perhaps shouldn't have!!! I really thought I had seen the last of these places years ago when I first travelled around Thailand, so I am happy that we found the 'Coffee Shack'

Coffee Bay, so called because of the coffee trees that used to line th beach following a ship wreck which spilled it's entire cargo of.... coffee beans, is tucked away in a little corner of South Africa literally miles from anywhere. No shops, no telephones, no facefaff or TV's and electricity only sometimes, it's perfect. It is very basic, don't expect hot running water and room service here. The main building resteraunt/bars/dorms are right on the beach, but if you are staying in the bandas across the beach, then at high tide you have to wade to your beds. We stayed in a banda for the first 2 nights, then the campervan the last 2. This is also the only place in the world where even the cows are beach bums and it was funny the first morning wading down to breakfast in between a heard of cows on the beach.

This is very much a chill out during the day and party like mad at night, and our first 24 hours was just that. The night we arrived was Dan's birthday. I had said to Kieran that he could stay up to midnight to see Dan's birthday in, and by midnight the party was well and truly kicking with drinking games galore. (England beat the dutch in the final for those that care!). The bar has it's own set of rules, the main one being the rule of the Buffalo where you are not allowed to drink with your right hand. If you are caught, someone will shout out Buffalo and you have no choice but you have to down your drink in one. This is serious stuff. No exceptions and the whole place screams at you until you are done. Kieran became chief Buffalo spotter and I think many people may have blamed him for their hangovers the next morning, and the barstaff nick named him Buffalo Soldier!

We have made many friends here from all over the world, from Jim and Mohamed, doctors from the Sudan, Gabriel from Brazil, Ralph and the boys from Holland, Billy and Sam who came to SA to work, borrowed a car after one day and went AWOL, Preston, an American who hooked up with Billy and Sam along the way somewhere, A group of 6 guys and girls who are travelling around in an overland truck, learning to surf as they go, Colin and Tim, 2 lads from Southampton, Amy and Nicky, 2 19 year old girls on their travels, (Dan said that in the 4 days we were at Coffee Bay, there was only one occasion he spoke to Amy when she was sober)! 5 mad Irish lads who are all trainee doctors who have just done a stint in a medical centre in Namibia. (These guys are seriously mad and their injuries grow as they travel. At least they can all treat each other Dan pointed out!) to the many others from Germany, Holland, Portugal, Spain, SA etc etc etc. Most people are on gap years or have just finished Uni, so I am the granddad of the place, whilst Dan and K are the only kids, I say kids, Dan is just a couple of years younger than some, so really had mixed in well and made some good friends, whilst Kieran just fits in with everyone and I have been really proud of them both as they have held their own and socialised with nearly everyone very well.

It's strange but nice to see your 9 year old hold a conversation with a group of adults from all different backgrounds, different countries, but that is part of what travelling is about and he is so cut out for it. Several times I would wonder where Kieran was and find that he was playing pool with someobne from Brazil, or chatting on the beach with a load of Dutch or had gone swimming with Billy or Amy or Colin or Tim or whoever.

It wasn't all just partying, we did some pretty cool stuff during the day too. One day we went for a 10km hike to the Hole in The Wall. The hike was along the coast but it was all up and down the cliffs and was pretty tough in places. We did walk across some gorgeous beaches too where we could take off our shoes and soak our feet in the sea which felt like heaven. It was weird putting shoes on again as this was the first time I had worn shoes since climbing Table Mountain which now seems about a hundred years ago!

The Hole in The Wall is a narrow strip of rock in the middle of the bay, I don't know how tall, but big, and with a huge arch way that had been eroded through the middle over hundreds of years. The fun part is climbing up and jumping into the sea that surges through the arch. Huge waves come crashing through, and the trick is you jump and time your landing just right so the wave carries through to the bay, otherwise you get sucked out and could end up in serious trouble. Apparently someone nearly drowned last week! It was great fun jumping, but the current was really strong and you really had to swim hard when you went in, even with the waves. Kieran did jump as well, but from a safer place, but Dan went in, as did most people and it was well worth the trek to do this.

The other thing we did which was great fun was the cliff jumps. This too was a hike, but a shorter one, again along the cliffs and through some caves where we got to a perfect spot with sheer walls and deep water. Unfortunately the rocks we had to climb in order to jump were razor sharp, and more than a few of us are now sporting cuts and scratches to out hands and feet, but they'll heal! I thought I might have got out of this one as I am not a great fan of heights and I won't even go off Rozel harbour wall, and I was sure that Kieran wasn't going to do the jump, which was about 15metres high. My guess is the top wall at Rozel is about 8metres, someone might correct me if I am wrong. So this was double give or take a metre. Dan of course stepped straight off, as if he was jumping off the side of the pool, and of the 20 or so of us that came to do this, about half bottled it. Kieran kept trying, and just at the point of giving up, Billy talked him into it and the 2 of them jumped together. Which meant, that if my 9 year old son can do it, then I am going to have to, and their was much laughter as I, after about half a dozen attempts, stood knees trembling, before closing my eyes and jumping, screaming like a big sissy all the way down. This was the smallest jump and Kieran did it a few more times whilst some did the jumps that were much higher still. Fair play to them. Unfortunately on Kieran's last jump, he landed awkwardly and did a sort of reverse belly flop. Bit like a back flop. I reckon you could have heard the slap all the way in Durban, and we had tears for a few minutes until the shock had passed.

The walk back after this was very hairy, in fact I would go as far as saying that this was the first time this trip I was seriously worried. Part of the cliff we had to climb or walk along was like a ridge, about 30 or 40 cm wide, but with huge drops either side. There was nothing to hold on to so balance was essential as was taking it very slowly and carefully. The boys didn't seemed fazed at all, but I really didn't like this and was mighty relieved when we reacheded the other side where at least we had one side to lean against when finishing the scramble up to the top. I think it's bad enough when you are scared for yourself, but watching your own flesh and blood on that ridge too was not a nice experience! Still we survived, though Kieran was complaining his back hurt still so I gave him a piggy back all the way back, (about 2 km up and down mountain paths in the fierce African Heat) for him to make a miraculous recovery in time to do more cliff jumping in the river further inland. This time much shorter jumps though!

So, that was Coffee Bay, we were only supposed to be there for 2 nights, but ended up staying for 4, sacrificng 2 night in Durban, but we made so many good friends, and it was sad to leave. In fact Kieran was really upset as he had particularly become very fond of Billy and Amy.

It was an early start this morning and again I set off whilst the boys were sleeping in their beds. It was nice to drive along the 'right' road this time and I drove past hundreds of kids all making their way to school. I stopped and picked a load up at different points and they were very appreciative, I am not sure how appreciative Kieran and Dan were having their 'bedroom' invaded by a load of chattering Xhosi school children whilst they tried to steal a couple more hours kip, but if these kids are willing to walk 20 km to school there and back every day, the least I can do is help a few of them out and give them an easy start to their day.

After leaving the school kids behind, (there are about 3 schools between Coffee Bay and the road to Umthata and I made several school runs!) I picked up some other hitchhikers. One old boy though I wasn't actually sure whether he was hitching or not. I think he might have just been some old tramp on the side of the road, but he came along for the ride anyway and appeared to enjoy it!

In Umthata, which is Nelson Mandella's birthplace, I had the campervan checked out and we discovered that there was a problem with the brakes. They have now been fixed and the little light on the dash has gone off, and after breakfast and a little more campervan maintenance, set off for Durban where we are now.

After roughing it for the past however many days, we now have the luxury of a hotel for a couple of nights. I had a shower today which was nice, and I looked in the mirror and had quite a shock to see a beard there! I'm still deciding whether to leave it or get rid of!

I'll make that decision in the morning.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Jeffrey's Bay To Coffee Bay via Addo.

After my last entry where I slated the surfing community, (I should be clear that I don't want to exterminate all surfers, just some of them, there are some that are very nice people - Mr and Mrs Moffat for example!) within 5 minutes of logging out guess what I went and did. I went surfing! Oh, it gets better though as the board I had hired for Kieran was too big, so off I went, across the road into the little shopping precinct, fully clad in my wetsuit, to get him a smaller board. Then, I ran back to the beach, with the said surf board tucked under my arm. I had momentarily become one of those running wetsuit clad surf board carrying surfers I was so rude out about in my previous post. And not only was I running down the beach, my journey started in the shopping precint!

Jeffrey's Bay was great and we were sad to leave, but leave we did, taking in a quick lunch at SuperTubes and then onto Addo. I was so tired from the night before that although it was only a 3 hour drive, I was glad when we arrived. We did a very quick game drive around Addo which is a National Park, primarily set up to save elephants who were becoming endangered in this area. We did see some elephants, but not much else and I have to say that, having been spoilt countless times on safaris in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda, Addo wasn't doing much for me, or the boys at all.

We did another game drive the following morning and after an hour of spotting nothing, we decided to call it a day and head off to Coffee Bay.

I was pleased to see the scenery had returned, driving through the mountains again, probably not as spectacular as we had before, but beautiful sights none the less and today's driving was much easier although some of the roads in places were a little hard at times.

We have invented some games to play whilst driving along, as well as the 'What am I' game, we are also laying, 'Guess The Road Kill' and 'Guess the Rockstar Grisly Death' game. At one point, roadkill was nearly caused by us. Often you see signs with a picture of a deer or some other creature, but very rarely do you get to see these animals, but on this occasion, the sign which read, 'Caution, wild animals for 150km' meant just that, and several times we had to swerve to avoid hitting a cow, horse, sheep, goat, dog, antelope etc etc. You expect to see the odd cow wandering along a country lane, but on the maon road? It was quite a funny site. The other game we play is the 'Game of Life' where if anyone says the word 'MINE' they have to do 10 press ups. We even pull over on the motorway for the forfeits where at one point both Dan and Kieran were doing pressups at the side of the road. Much to the amusement of the traffic speeding past.

Our drive took us through many towns and villages through what I call Black South Africa where, when we stopped for drink and toilet breaks, we were the only white faces around. Lots of people hitch hike to get around and we gave some people a lift. I thought it would be a good way to learn about the locals and their lives, unfortunately, language was a barrier. I don't speak very good Xhosi, but I do enjoy hearing all the clicks when they would talk back to me.

We did get lost at one point, turning off on the wrong road and what should have been an hours drive through a very bumpy road turned into a 4 hour drive through dirt tracks and mountain paths as we took a very scenic and at times very scary drive past many villages well off the beaten track. It was getting dark as well and trying to focus on where the potholes were was becoming a real job, and the car now has a few rattles that perhaps didn't before. There's also a little light that came on and has stayed on. I have no idea what that means. Maybe it will go away next time we drive.

Fortunately we picked up a couple of hitchers, Eric and his wife who were making there way back from market and they crammed themselves and all their wares into the front and directed us the 80km back to the right road before unloading themselves out in a dark country road where they dissapeared to God Knows Where!

This is really rural SA now, and by the time we arrived (eventually) in Coffee Bay, I had been driving for a straight 12 and a half hours.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Jeffrey's Bay. Surfing - my verdict.

This entry now brings me completely up to date. We haven't had much internet access over the past week or so, so I have been writing everything down and then writing up when I can. At the moment we are in Jeffrey's Bay. The boys are still asleep in bed at Island Vibe Back Packers, and I am feeling slightly stiff after sleeping on the beach last night following a full moon beach party.

The boys didn't sleep on the beach and they were tucked up in bed by midnight after watching lots of loonies juggle fire and other crazy things around a big fire on the beach whuilst listening to Dan and some other guys play guitars, some othe guys play drums and it was all rather cool and relaxed. Though by 3:00am I decided to discard the builders helmet that someone had plonked on my head and get my head down.

Jeffrey's Bay is South Africa's foremost centre of surfing and surf culture. Surfers from all over the globe flock here to ride 'Supertubes' which has been described as the perfect wave. The pro Billabong championship was here just a few weeks age with the worlds top surfers and I guess this is really something of a surfers paradise, complete with huge Billabong, Quicksilver and Roxy stores in the town.

I had a 2 hour surf lesson today with the dreadlocked Rob and I am now at the stage of getting my back foot up, but I am afraid my bulky frame isn't quite as flexible as it used to be, and the added restirction of a wetsuit, made getting the front foot up almost impossible. We surfed pretty much most of the day and both Kieran and Dan are standing up no problems. Some of the waves are quite big and powerful and I had trouble staying on my board some of the time, but the lads coped really well and Dan is looking the part with his blond dreadlocks. I really enjoyed surfing today, but I am still not convinced surfing is for me.

I think that is mainly down to surfers, who I find quite possibly the most irritating breed on the planet at times. Is it really that hard to string more than a few words together. Do we have to act like we are stoned all the time. Seriously, adding 'dude' and 'man' onto the end of every sentence is not cool. And guys, there are other things going on in the planet aside surfing.

What I don't get is why do surfers move around on land at the pace of a sloth, but as soon as they get their wetsuits on, they spring down to the water as if the last wave ever was just about to break and if they didn't get their fix they would be in cold turkey for the rest of their lives.

Fortunately, most people that stay at Island Vibe are travellers or back packers and have stopped off to have a go at surfing or they do surf but don't feel the need to bore the rest of the planet about it and enjoy a conversation about other things too. We have met some great people here and we have all enjoyed surfing together and having a laugh, but generally speaking, the consensus is most surfers are tools and to conclude and deliver my verdict, I am adding surfers to my list of people that I would exterminate first if I was King of the World. I would probably place them somewhere inbetween Jehova's Witnesses and Traffic Wardens. I make no apologies to any traffic wardens who might be reading this who are JW and like to surf!

Someone who I wouldn't extermintae is Simon, a really nice guy we have met who has been bumming around Africa for 7 years. Simon lives in a tent and gets by by selling jewerelly. His big long dreadlocks attracted the boys to him and they bombarded him with questions yesterday whilst going through his jewerelly range where he made bracelets and ankle bracelets which both boys, and actually me now, are laden with.

Knysna - Jeffrey's Bay. Monkeys and Bunjy Jumping.

Wednesday 5 August

Outr first stop from Knysna to Jeffrey's Bay was Plettenburg Bay where we spent a couple of hours sitting on the beach in the hot african sun watching the whales entertain boat loads of whale watchers in the bay. I reckon Plettenberg Bay has just broken into my topm 5 best beaches around the world. One day, I am going to have to jot all these 'best of' lists down!

Next stop Monkeyland. Guess what Kieran wants for a pet now! Tom, a Canadian ' monkeyologist' took us on a guided tour of the 14 hectare rainforest where over 200 monkeys, from 14 different species leapt above our heads from tree to tree, or scurried from bush to bush through our legs or over our feet. It was great to be so close to the primates and monkeys we particularly enjoyed were the squireel monkeys, the lemurs and the gibbons. There is a strict rule of no touching, and because of this the monkeys do come really close. sometimes, the off pair of sunglasses or camera gets snatched. they got nothing out of us today! The hilight of this excursion was the 20m high rope bridge walk across the canopy where we can either look down upon the monkeys, or watch them at the top of the trees.

After Monkeyland, a short drive took us to Storms River and we stooped at the Bloukran's Pass where I had a little surprise for Dan and Kieran. The world's highest bunjy jump at 216m. Unfortuanely Kieran was too young, (even after lying about his age), but he was able to do the flying fox. Then we discovered he was too light for that. Such was his disappointment, theat we got round that by strapping him to Dan. That worked, and the 2 boys did the world's highest zipwire at 200m high and over 200 m long over the Bloukran's Pass. I can tell you that from where I was watching from the view point, they were just dots, the pair of them dwarfed by the shher height and size of the pass as they zipped down the wire.

Dan, then showing no fear whatsoever, with Kieran behing his cousin for moral support, then threw hinself off the bridge with nothing but an elastic band tied to his ankles to save him from a grisly and messy death. Now I did a bunjy jump some years ago in France, and I can tell you, that was nothing in comparison, so, fair play to both boys for doing the zip wire, and a big hats off to Dan.

It has been noted by the many people that we have met that Dan and Kieran are a couple of adrenaline junkies. My mission is now to find something that they are afraif of. If, at the end of the trip, we have enough cash, then I am considering them doing a parachute jump. I haven't mentioned this yet as I wont hear the end of it until they do it. But, if being tossed out of a plane at 10,000feet doesn't scare them, then I fear nothing will.

Outdshoorn - Ostriches & Crocodiles

Monday 3 August

Our usual day starts with me driving off at around 5:30 am whilst the boys are still sleeping and arriving somewhere spectacular for sunrise where I wake the boys and we have breakfast marvelling at some wonder.

This morning we took breakfast at Cape Argulas, the most southernest tip of the African continent. This is also the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, and we can boast of having had one foot in the Atlantic and one foot in the Indian Ocean at the same time.

We then took the road all the way up to Montagu where we stopped for lunch and bathed in the hot springs. The temperature of the hottest pool was 43C and apparantly the radioactive minerals have special healing properties. We shall see!

The stunning drive up was through acres of green and yellow and I don't think I have ever driven through such beauty before. One particular hilight was the driving through the Kogsmanskloof Pass which was a huge arch cut out of the rock. The drive from Montagu to Outdshoorn was, without a shadow of doubt, the most stunning yet. When we weren't dwarfed by mountains either side of us, we were driving over them looking down over the landscape. I could have stopped on every bend to get a picture of every different view, but there is no way I could capture the true beauty on camera.

Tuesday 4 August

This morning's breakfast was taken on the Swartberg pass. It is said to have the most spectacular views in the country. The highest point is 1600m and the road leading through it is narrow with huge drops either side. This drive is taken very slowly and carefully. We didn't have breakfast at the top due to the wind. So windy was it, that when Dan opened the door to let Kieran pout for a pee, the wind blew the door right off. Thankfully it wasn't taken down the side of the mountain, but we did have a shock, and once we had managed to semi secure it, we drove to a safer place to put it back on, and let Kieran out for his pee.

Munching on bacon butties whilst gazing over the Karoo has registered in my top 'places to have breakfast' in the world.

Outdshoorn is all about ostriches. If Kieran had his way, we would now have a pet ostrich, as well as a penguin and a dog. There are over 130 ostrich farms in this area and we had such a laugh with one particular herd when we stopped to take photos. As we got out of the camper van they all came running over to check us out. Even funnier was when all there heads were down to peck at the ground, if one of us made a noise, up would come all the heads together.

We visited an ostrich farm and are now knowledgable in everything you need to know about an ostrich and Kieran and Dan rode one. Watching the boys speed off on these great clumsy birds, being supported by a ranger running along either side to stop them from falling off as they were bounced along: Now that was funny.

Next stop was the Cango Wildlife Ranch. Although there are many animals here, and we were pleased to see the enclosures were spacious and resembled the anilmals own habitat as much as possible, the main reason to visit here was the crocs. Some one back in Cape Town told us of a place where you can be lowered ina cage, in a pool of crocodiles. And this was it. after lying (again) about Kieran's age we all had a go and spent abpout 20 minutes each with these beasts. We were lowered right amongst them and at one point one big old crocodile pressed his nose right up to the bars. I put my nose as close to his as I dared and as tempted as I was to actually touch noses, I refrained. We had heard of a previous visitor who decided to tickle one under its mouth. Let's just say, he wont be doing that again!

Although a little on the comercial side, it was a great experience nonetheless, and in terms of animal encounters, we are really adding to the list. I'm starting to wonder if there is anything left to do!

After lunch we headed to Knysna where we started our drive along the Garden Route. Now, I am not too sure about this yet as so far, we haven't seen anything that's truly stunning. At times I wondered if we were actually on the right road! Maybe we have been blown away so much by the scenery of the past 3 days that the Garden Route now seems nothing more than ordianary. From the road that took us into Hermanus along the coast, Kogmanskloof Pass, Route 62 from Montagu to Outdshoorn, The Swartberg Pass, and driving through the Outeniqua Pass on the way to Knysna, it's a miracle I have been able to keep my eyes on the road.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hermanus Pt2. Hump Back Whale.

Sunday 2 August

Today was a day which ranks up there with best experiences of my life.

We took sunrise at the whale viewing point in Hermanus. Porridge and hot tea whilst gazing across to the mountains which were changing from every shade of red and orange as the sun rose behind them and tuned the sky from crimson to blue was just about the perfect start. We spent most of the morning walking along the cliffs, spotting the odd whale, actually, not alot of activity today, just a mother and it's calf as apposed to yesterday when we really didn't know which whale to look at next.

Kieran and Dan had great fun scrabbling along the shore and I took photo's of them trying to avoid getting wet as the waves crashed into the rocks, sending towers of spray high into the air to rain down over all who dares to venture in their reach.

Sunday's at Hermanus seem to be a pretty laid back affair. There is a small market where we browsed through trinkets and souvenirs, most people just chill out in the sun, fish from the rocks or picnic on the grassy areas. There was an African band playing today and listening to that just completed the scene. Even the dassies were out, stretched out in the sun across every available rock.

This afternoon we went kayaking. lead by Rhian, a group of 8 of us, Canadian's South African's and us paddled along the shore in eager anticipation of what we might see. Straining at every opportunity in the distance, but also looking below as too as sharks often hunt amongst the kelp we were kayaking over. We didn't see much of note, a couple of inquisitive seals came to check us out every so often, and after about 90 minutes, we were heading back, thinking that today might not be our day. Just turning into the bay where we started, suddenly to our left and not to far away a huge jet of water shot up from the surface, and up popped a whale.

I cannot explain the excitement that we were overwhelmed with, but being this close to a hump back whale was incredible. All the strict instructions given to us by Rhian at the start of the session ( it is against the law to go within 300 metres of a whale ) took a nose dive out of the window as we all started to paddle furiously towards it. Rhian threw a temper tantrum and threatened to end the trip right there and then, (yeah, good luck with that!) but, we all regained our senses and eased back. forming a semi circle from the allowed distance to view this magnificent creature. This particular whale must have been in playful mood as it kept coming closer and closer until it dived down and swam right underneath all of us about 1 foot or so beneath the surface. Apparently there is nothing in law that states the whale can't come within 300 metres of us! As stunned as were all were, there was an air of tension as this thing was pretty big, and we all felt very small and helpless indeed.

It's next trick was to dive down and pop up about 5 metres right in front of Dan's kayak. Now, anyone who knows Dan will know that he doesn't express himself very much, but even he let out a shriek on this occasion.

We were all so lucky to have been this close to a humpback whale which followed us for several minutes as we paddled back to shore. I don't think I have ever been this impressed by an animal before in my life, and not even if Jonah himself had appeared, we would not have been more impressed.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Hermanus Pt1. Penguins, Sharks & Whales.

OK. Have been out of touch for a few days, so here is what we have done since last posting.

Friday 31 July.
So we left Cape Town today and headed for Hermanus, but via Cape Point which was a slight detour but as we weren't able to do this yesterday due to going to Robben Island, we decided to forfeit an afternoon in Hermanus instead.

The weather today was lousy, rain, rain, and more rain. And misty. And cold. At times the rain was so heavy it was really quite difficult to see the road in front of us. The route was pretty enough though and we drove through lots of nice towns. We started on the Victoria Drive past the Twelve Apostles, not that we saw them through the fog, fortunately we did see them the other day from the jet boat before we were crudely ejected!

The road we really wanted to drive down was Chapman's Peak Drive but sadly it was closed due to the falling rocks. There is some controversy surrounding this as it is costing about a zillion Rand to make safe and the road doesn't actually go anywhere. it's just a nice drive. Some people think the money could be better spent. Anyway, we had to drive around it and we passed through a million towns all called Sunnyville, ot Sunny Town, or Sunny Bay. Sunny bloody everything except the weather! By the time we reached Cape Point it was still raining and the fog hadn't lifted so, even though it took about 3 hours to get here (after a few wrong turns!) we decided not to go into the National Park as a) we wouldn't see anything, b) too damn cold and wet!

A quick turn around and a drive up the coast saw the weather cheer up a little and by the time we arrived at Boulders Beach, the rain had eased off slightly and we got out to enjoy the penguins. Again we didn't want to go for the long hike in the weather so we decided to pay attention to the remaining stragglers that seemed to mooch about the carpark instead. We may not have see the main colony, but this old boy who we got chatting too in the car park showed us a secret path and we hopped over someone's fence and walked a short way where there was a group of penguins nesting and we really enjoyed spending some time here. Kieran got a great shot of me taking a photo of some penguins, and unbeknown to me, there was a cheeky one right underneath me and it reached up and was pecking on my camera strap which was hanging down. Kieran really loved the penguins and now wants one as a pet.

After Boulders Beach we made our way up through Simon's Town, Fishoek and Kalk Bay, we drove past the Cape Flats where thousands of people were displaced from district 6. This was quite an incredible sight, just thousands upon thousands of tin huts stretching as far as the eye can see.

Without doubt the best part of the drive was the road taking us into Hermanus. By now the sun was out and the mountains were striking against the now deep blue sky, and to our right miles the ocean which we followed for about 60kms or so. We all agreed that this was one of the most stunning roads we had ever travelled on and our feelings were confirmed when we caught sight of our first whale as we drove along. And not just a whale swimming along, one that breached which caused such excitement, I nearly drove us off the road and into the sea to join it.

We arrived at out campsite not too late and having set up camp, I realized that I had forgotten to buy charcoal and wood. It was just as well really as when we tried to drive out we well well and truly stuck in the mud. Had we discovered this in the morning at 5:30am when setting off for our shark dive, we would have been well in trouble. After about half an hour of trying to get out and digging ourselves deeper, and spraying the camp with mud, there was nothing for it. Dan got his first driving lesson. Between us, with Dan's skillful driving and my careful placing of an assortment of stones and branches, and some pushing, we finally drove out of the swamp we had created and set up camp on a dryer spot. By the time we got the BBQ and fire sorted it was dark, we couldn't see what we were eating, but we enjoyed it none the less.

Saturday 31 July

We had been give instructions by Eileen to meet at 6:45am. Eileen had informed us that we were about 15 minutes to the meeting place. My calculations of 8km from Hermanus, and 57km from Gaainsbaai meant that unless I drive at 260 km per hour it was going to take slightly longer and I concluded that Eileen didn't really know what she was talking about.

A group of 22 of us crammed into a little boat which was dominated by the large cage hanging off the back. It took about 20 minutes to get to Dyer Island then we started churning out chum 5 minutes further on. The sea was a little bumpy, but most people coped OK. Until we stopped. Now the boat just rolled from side to side. Kieran was amongst the first to be sick and I was doing OK until I tried to pull my wetsuit on, then up came my cornflakes too. Of course Dan was feeling fine. He really is a very good sailor and he wasn't fazed by even the most violent of rolls. The little sod!

I have to say full credit to Kieran and I was so proud of him. He was really poorly, as in violently sick, he was freezing cold, yet so determined was he too see the sharks, he still, through the vomiting put on a cold and damp wetsuit, which, when feeling well and warm is unpleasant enough, and lowered himself into the cage to be thrown around a cage of icy cold water so he could see the sharks. The 3 of us spent about 20 minutes looking at the sharks. Everytime a shark approached we had to duck under the water and we really saw these huge beasts up close as they swam past us in all their glory. some people reckon there were about 5 or 6 sharks in total. I know I saw 3 different ones, and I think we all appreciated these awesome creatures even though we had to contend with being thrown all over, the cold water and the sea sickness. I have to say that they didn't seem that scary at all and I do believe that they really do get bad press. OK, they eat the odd human now and then, but there are billions of us. There's not many of these things left and we are so lucky to have seen them in the wild and close up. (another box ticked!).

Heading back to shore everyone was seriously sick and I chundered several more times. In true Mullane fashion I let out a celabratory whoop with each deposit. "why can't he just be sick normally like everyone else" I heard some poor woman whine!

Kieran was now wrapped up in a blanket, fast asleep across my legs and Dan was wandering through the heaps of people, some lying still clutching their stomachs, others sat up with heads in hands, all looking green, and turning greener when Dan was asking where he could get something to eat. Even when we motored past the Seal Colony could no-one look up such was the gloom and doom of sea sickness and we were all grateful when we finally made it to dry land, where, making a very speedy recovery, Kieran asked if he could do it all again.

We spent the afternoon in Hermanus parked up in one of the whale watching view points and watched the assortment of whales below us in the bay. Hermanus really is gorgeous, and even has it's own whale cryer who lets out a different sound depending on the type of whale seen.

Hermanus was originally a fishing village and still retains vestiges of it's inheritence. The town is cocooned in rocky hills with craggy peaks and when not admiring the scenery or looking at the whales its just nice to chill out and relax, take it all in with a book, and occasionally look up to see Kieran climbing on the rocks, trying to tempt the rock dassies out of their hiding places, and listen to Dan play his guitar in the background.

The camp site we are staying at is OK'ish. The boys have made some friends and Kieran has befriended a stray dog which follows him everywhere. Even to the toilet. He sits and watches us as we eat our dinner round the camp fire in the evenings and he guards the campervan at night whilst we sleep inside it. I have drawn the line at him coming into the campervan, and it was an emphatic NO, when asked if we can take him with us.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Cape Town Pt 6. Thulani Mabasu

A very quiet day today. No accidents to report, no protest marches, and no adrenaline filled adventures. Today, it was just nice being a tourist. God it was dull!

The cloud lifted today and Table Mountain returned to us, but unfortunately was completely covered again by late afternoon so the helicopter ride was again cancelled and Sandra and Zak have inherited this as well.

The campervan was delivered today and now sits proudly in the hotel carpark being guarded by some homeless guy who I have promised breakfast to if he makes sure no harm comes to it during the night. He assures me that he will guard it with his life and Kieran has been put on stealing rolls and croissants duty from the breakfast buffet tomorrow morning.

We had the best milkshakes in Cape Town today from 'Mr Pickwicks', a cafe come pub. This is where the gorgeous Natalie works when she is not helping people step off the edge of Table Mountain. Kieran has really taken a shine to her, so we drove across Cape Town so he could give her a present and say goodbye.

Dan's dread locks are looking positively better than they did yesterday and thankfully most of the beeswax has either evaporated or been rinsed out, whatever has happened to it, he no longer looks like he took a head bath in the deep fat fryer.

This afternoon we caught the ferry to Robben Island, something I had been looking forward to since planning this trip. Yesterday at Slave lodge we learned a lot about Stephen Biko, today it was Nelson Mandela's turn. We met a great old guy on Robben Island, Thulani Mabasu. Thulani spent 18 years in prison on Robben Island for blowing up a government building in Johannesburg. He said no-one was killed but 57 people were injured. I guess really he was a terrorist, but one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter and we really liked this guy so we were not going to let the small matter of a bombing spoil a friendship.

Thulani told us about his time on Robben Island and also about his time spent with Nelson Mandela in prison. Conditions were really poor and even now to this day Thulani still has nightmares about his ordeal. Of course we saw the cell that Nelson Mandela spent his time in when incarcerated and also walked through the court yard where he was allowed, after negotiation with the wardens, to plant a small garden.

I guess one of the things that was difficult for me to comprehend was the relationship he has with some of the former wardens. When asked, he told us that the guy who drives one of the ferries to Robben Island was one of his warders and they are now friends and he invites him over to his home and cooks for him every so often. I guess another example of how people can forgive and move on and not dwell on the past. Thulani signed Kieran's scrapbook and underneath his name wrote, last political prisoner released 1991.

Not sure when I am going to update next as we hit the road tomorrow. So, until next time take care and we will too, and next time I check in, hopefully we will have dived with great whites and kayaked with whales.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cape Town Pt 5. Matatu's, Protest Marches and What? No Mountain?

We thought we would have a much quieter day today following yesterdays excitement. It was only when lying in bed last night and reflecting on the day that it really sank in. I think it took that long for the adrenaline rush to subside. I don't think I actually mentioned yesterday how cold the water is. It's winter don't forget and that piece of water we were thrown in had just come straight up from the Antartic and was just a tad on the chilly side. The other thing that hadn't occurred to me till much later was isn't this the place people come to see Great White Sharks? Oh how we chuckled over that this morning at breakfast! I am pleased to report that Kieran's leg is OK, though you should see the bruise.

So, we thought we would kill the day by visiting some museums before our helicopter ride and Sunset cruise. The cloud I have ordered is well and truly here and the table cloth I was hoping for resembles a bloody great blanket and Table Mountain is nowhere to be seen! So, I may not get that shot after all.

The first thing we happened on today was a market just by the Castle of Good Hope. We have discovered that by far the cheapest way to get around town is by matatu, taxi-minibuses. These guys drive like they are crazy, of course, the more fares they get, the more money they make, so they all drive at high speed and it is a huge race competeing for fares and I guess the quicker you drive around Cape Town, the more times you get to go around it, meaning more fares, meaning more money. There doesn't seem to be a limit as to how many people they will squeeze into one of these things either and the locals don't seem to be that fussed about where or who they sit on. As Kieran discovered this evening when, amongst all the arses and elbows that we were jammed up against, an elderly gentlemen just plonked himself right in his lap. Unfortunately I didn't know the Swahili for, "excuse me sir, you are sitting on my son" and niether could I converse to the lady beside me "madam, your elbow is crushing my testicles".

The market wasn't much to write home about but Dan was able to get his hair 'dread-locked' properly here, and whilst we were waiting for Angela from The Congo to finish the job, a huge commotion suddenly made it's way up the street. If there were going to be protests against the government, it was going to be a day when we decided to visit down town! K and I went to check it out, it looked a little hairy in places so I quickly deposited kieran back to the safety of Angela from The Congo, grabbed my camera bag and decided to mingle. This was to good an opportunity to miss.

Now, I had seen protest marches before in Athens, and had coped resaonably well when confronted with around a 1000 angry Greeks marching towards me whilst I sat in the middle of the road to get that perfect low shot, but a 1000 angry South Africans wielding pick axes, shovels and clubs was something totally different. I had 2 choices, run like hell, or stand my ground. I chose the latter and it was like the parting of the Red Sea when they reached me and swarmed all around me as they passed, whisking me up in the melee and carrying me along for good measure. God knows what they were chanting, but it sounded good so I joined in and soon became part of the hubbub and I would say they took to me pretty well, the only white face amonst this ocean of chaos and occasionally they would stop and let me take their photo, or I would be tapped on the shoulder and the scowls and shouting would change to toothless grins to pose for me. Once establishuing that I was not in any immediate danger, I ran back and got the boys, Angela from The Congo had finished the mission in hand and had been paid, and we went back to view the march from a safe(ish) distance. Unfortunately, it had pretty much died down by the time we reached the crowd, so we didn't stay too long, and decided to go and visit some museums instead!

This pretty much took up the rest of the afternoon, well that and some shopping on Long Street where my son shops like a woman. Well and truly stocked up on Vans (shoes) now, well who can resist a bargain at 15UKpounds a pair. We've also got hats, big old woolly hats in Rastafarian colours, what with Dan and his dreadlocks and Kieran in his multicoloured beany, it was like walking round Cape Town with Bob Marley and his brother!

Because it was so cloudy the helicopter ride was cancelled, just as well, knowing our luck we would have flown straight into the side of Table Mountain, and we decided to knock the sunset cruise on the head as well as it would be more like 'The Fog' than 'Tequila Sunrise'

We pushed the boat out tonight and dined at a great resteraunt in Cape Town called Ngoni's Kraal. Kieran, being Kieran decided to find out who the owner is on arrival and within minutes Colin Nygoni, the owner was sitting with us and was learning all about our adventures so far. Colin has a son who is also 9, and I think he took a shine to us, and as well as desserts on the house, Dan and Kieran were given free T-Shirts. We have decided to see how much stuff we can blag this trip, and so far the count is 1 helicopter ride, which we hope to take tomorrow, a sunset cruise which we are going to give to Sandra and Zak, and Irish lady and her 10 year old son who have been travelling around the world and we have become friendly with, and 5 T-shirts. Not bad for 5 days work I guess.