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Homeward bound..

8 Nov

Time is coming when we must make another move and our thoughts turn to how the hell we’re going to get back to Cape Town and the airport.

Normally, we’d have a longer stay – three times longer. Normally I wouldn’t have got sick. Normally we’d have spent more time at the bus and liberated the car from storage. Normally we wouldn’t have spent a small fortune on car hire. But it’s been a funny old trip.

However, I’m not complaining. And what is normal anyway..?

There’s been some definite high spots and we did get to spend time with friends and family. John’s Dad is doing just fine and he and his welfare were after all the main purpose of our visit. And I will be travelling home under my own steam and not in an urn, as John at one point feared.

So… how are we going to get back to Cape town?

There seems to be a couple of options:

  • Cadging a lift to the bus with Geoffrey and Minerva as they are – sort of – heading that way at – sort of –  the right time. Then it’s just a matter of getting a ride over the mountain (an hour’s drive).
  • Splashing out more cash on car hire and travelling many, many miles to visit a virtual friend of mine up at the Pilanesberg National Park and possibly even run in a visit to John’s other son, Conrad, now at a private game reserve near Hoedspruit, at the same time.  Time would be tight but it is just about do-able and I’d really love to meet Tony for real, as would John.

Naturally, the latter is the most appealing, even if it is not the most sensible. We have a prolonged shall we?/shant we? moment, then decide to check if it fits in with Tony and…

It doesn’t – our dates being the only ones when he can’t accommodate us, already having visitors then. Bugger.

Decision made then. Shame, but that’s timing for you. We’ll make a plan for our next trip for sure. And that’s a promise.

Here we go then…100_2888

This is the transport they – tactrac – use to ferry their victims trainees around and, now they’re all dropped off, there’s plenty of space for us two.

Do click on the above link to see what they do. Very interesting.

We break the almost 500 mile journey with a stop at Paradise Beach, where Minerva’s parents have a place. Here, John gets to go a’hunting for and removing those nasty bad snares, with Geoffrey and co, while I chill out with the girls.

And Jasmine…100_2885100_2822

Aw..  a gorgeous Miniature Schnauzer. Seven weeks old.

We overnight, once more, at Rudi’s who is conveniently placed around the halfway point.

There is an ulterior motive…100_2887

John wanted to buy the kids one of these for their lovely home. And we managed to utilise it on the journey.

We’ve done this trip loads of times but I never tire of the view…100_2899100_2897100_2906100_2894

Ostrich…?

Yep.

And I still love those Clarice trees. To bits.

Fast forward and we’re at the bus. Looking a bit forlorn and neglected but so would you if you’d been left alone for two or three years. Nothing a bit of TLC wouldn’t sort out.

I’m very fond of the old bus but, sadly, we’ve no time to spend here. No time to get the power or water hooked up so…100_2908

This is the way we brew up.

And what on earth sort of spider made this web..?100_2913

Some sort of mutant that I sure as hell do not want to meet. Ever.

That aside, I wish we had longer here.

Friends Rosemary and Piet, who  live up a mountain, took pity on us invited us for a braai and gave us a bed for the night. Lovely people.

Piet drove us round his farm and showed off his new venture – he’s always busy and doing something.

Holiday homes…100_2919100_2917100_2915

He and his son have got the building of these down to a fine art and they are superb. All have fine views and none overlooked. Internally they are brilliant too – sorry I didn’t get a pic. Those that are finished are booked up well into next year.

Piet’s home, that he built himself and is constantly improving, and surrounding land is lovely…100_2921

As is the fybnos there…

It smells delicious too.

Turns out they have to be in Cape Town on the same day we fly. Sorted.

John often says that things will sort themselves out. Seems he’s right.

We board the big white bird, me clutching my huge cache of drugs. I’ve even been prescribed an inhaler – just in case and only to be used in emergency.

What could possibly go wrong..?

Things can only get better..

6 Nov

While I do my time – three days and nights – at the Plett Mediclinic, John continues with a much-modified plan and sees our friends onto their aeroplane bound for Blighty. He then returns as far as Knysna (about a half hour away from the hospital at Plett) and stays over at friend Rudi’s place, just outside the town on the road to Rheenendal.

I’m due to be discharged the following day around noon so John duly pitches up to collect me. John settles the bills I’ve racked up (because I’ve managed to get my cards frozen due to consistently entering the wrong pin no – I really wasn’t well) and then I’m free to go. Free is not the best word to use here mind; my stay was actually extremely expensive. But of course I am worth it and, not wishing to critisize our wonderful NHS, I wonder if they could have cared for me so well and in such a timely manner. Besides, I am hoping the insurance will cough up (how very fitting) once I get the claim in.

So, I’m out, feeling much, much better, though perhaps a little more mortal than normal. Final diagnosis was a chest infection and not pneumonia so am thankful for small mercies.

We head once again for Rudi’s, via a pharmacy at nearby Sedgefield to collect my mega amounts of muti, which should keep me going.

Rudi is a very talented chap. He made these…100_2779100_2781

Such workmanship. Stunning.

It’s all in the detail…

As these insets show. Love ’em.

But his first love is sculpting and he’s really churning it out now. His current favourite subject being his Great Dane Ziggy…

Incredible. As ever, click on image to enlarge.

And here’s the real thing…100_2886

Ziggy, in the flesh, more a small horse than a dog.

We overnight and spend the next morning here, a great visit, then it’s off again to PE.

The ever-so-special Evelyn takes it upon herself to look after me…img_20160923_093734431_hdr

All part of the recovery programme. Also making my breakfast, coffee and biscuits and anything else I need. I want to take her home with me.

John reads about solar powered cars that are travelling from Jo’berg to Cape Town via Port Elizabeth so this we have to see. We assemble ourselves at the beachfront car park where they’re due to pitch and wait. It’s blowing an absolute hooley (typical of PE – AKA windy city) so our walk on the beach was a little worrying – I’m well wrapped up but afraid I might be blown away!

We’ve no idea what to expect but are truly blown away when they start arriving…100_2808100_2806

They’re quick!

And on display in the ‘paddock’…

100_2813This one was our favourite…100_2810

More practical, with space for two seats and panels inside…100_2812

A Polish entry.

You got to love this one though…

An old Beetle with a random solar panel strapped onto a roof rack..hee hee.

Some team action…100_2799

Re-charging…

And the innards…100_2805

Not sure about the driving position…100_2804

And these things travel on the road!

Hell of an entourage though – horns, hooters, flashy lights – real African style.

Speaking of African style…100_2785

This epitomises Africa really.

We saw this on the way to Sundays River mouth, which turned out to be very special indeed. We were charged a nominal entry fee – enough to keep out the riff-raff – and after a bit of a drive…100_2829

There was this…100_2832100_2833100_2834

100_2825Almost otherworldly.

Easy to think you were at the seaside…

100_2827100_2826

But no, it’s a river mouth…100_2860Special eh?

It’s a huge site with walking trails, picnic/BBQ areas, pool, kids area, holiday cottages, fishing and so much more. Probably best to let the pictures do the talking for a while…

And I adore the Prickly Pear…100_2869

Look like big flat feet with lots of toes…100_2851

Toes that burst into flower…100_2876

Wish we’d been a bit later, when in full bloom.

But needed to be earlier for the Aloes…

Just past their best before date.

A heron before John drove at it…100_2835

And after…100_2836

And this is Kudu dung..100_2875

Apparently.

Sundays River…100_2874

A great place.

This has been our transport…100_2840

An ancient Toyota Venture.

And this…100_2879

Is where I want to live.

When in PE..

5 Nov

So  why were we in South Africa at the end of their winter/start of spring and before the sun has properly got its hat on? Or indeed why did we leave a delightful, warm autumn in the UK when another couple of months would have ensured we missed a gloomy, cold winter at home and pretty much guaranteed long lazy days, much hotness and suntans?

Why oh why..?

Back in July, John’s dad, Terry, had a fall and broke his hip. Bugger. A subsequent hip replacement operation had reportedly gone well…oh, and he turned 90! John’s sister flew out there in July to put some help in place, re-jig the living arrangements and generally organise whatever was necessary .

So our visit to PE was all about seeing how he was doing a month down the line, spending some time with the old feller and doing whatever was necessary to make his life easier.

Pleased to report that he is doing just fine and came to meet us when we pitched – walking without a stick, let alone crutches, zimmer frame or any device we’d assumed he’d be needing. I think the twice weekly pilates – that he started aged 80 – has stood him in good stead and, probably, already being very fit and active, considerably aided his recovery.

To the point where he can, with care, still manage the 39 steps to the street…100_2795

Well done sir!

John did a few little practical fixes as required and desired but otherwise Terry, with the help of the lovely Evelyn who called in most days, was still fairly independent.

All of which meant that we could go and do what one does when in PE…

100_2766-2100_2772100_2771100_2770100_2767100_2766

Addo Elephant Park.

And…

Bay World.

We did the beach, ate out and showed our friends around the area, doing the tourist bit. The two Johns work in aviation, so a trip to the SAAF Museum was not negotiable.

And this particular John jumping into this old war bird was inevitable…100_2773

An Oxford. Go here if you  are also an aviation nut interested to read more about this and/or other historic aircraft they have there.

We spotted this at N2 City,  the local shopping centre…

100_2796

Crowd control? Mobile dentist? Inflated ego?

What do you reckon?

Since we were last there, the flamingos have moved in opposite…

John wanted to sling bricks at them to make them take to the air but I wouldn’t let him in case of injury/arrest. Would have made a brilliant photo though…flying flamingos that is, not the John being hauled off to jail.

All too soon, it is time for friends John and Jake to head back to Cape Town for their flight home, their ten day break almost over and we decide to drive back with them, along the garden route, and  put them on the plane.

The plan was to make this journey over a couple of days, with the odd detour thrown in for sightseeing, visiting friends and generally letting them soak up some more of South Africa.

And we could go see the bus on the way back. Great.

But we all know about the best laid plans..

Despite much cough medicine,  hot water bottles, early nights, paracetamol and talk of witch doctors, my chestiness was getting worse and, on the morning we set off, Boatbird was seriously struggling for breath, feeling dire and actually turning blue.

Involuntary euthanasia was considered but it was (thankfully) decided that  a doctor be found en route…

The doctors at Kareedouw – a waiting room, but not as we know it.

By now I’m panicking like crazy clearly distressed at being blue, breathless and a bloody big burden to my travelling companions.

As is John…

100_2777

Not.

Long story short, I was seen by a very nice lady doc who stuck me on the nebuliser and, suspecting pneumonia, told us to go to the nearby hospital in Plettenberg Bay where she’d organised x-rays.

Very scared now, I paid the doctor’s fee and off we popped to Plett.

I was X-rayed, admitted, put to bed and stuck on a drip before you could say intravenous antibiotics; tubes delivering oxygen were poked up my nose, temperature and blood pressure measured, blood taken and  examination/interrogation performed by an eminent physician.

By now, I’m more comfortable and just happy to be being looked after. I’m in a private room, that costs £200 a night (and that’s before doctor’s fees, meds, pathology services and so on) with top class en suite facilities, regular meals, radio, TV, slaves on demand and Loads of Attention.

I  surrender myself to the expertise of the experts and the nurse’s tender ministrations. I may as well make the most, relax and accept my fate.

It is what it is and there’s precious little I can do about it.

                                                                                                                        to be continued…

Boatbird flies south..

26 Sep

It’s been a while, as faithful followers will know, since I last darkened the doorstep of sunny South Africa. Five years to be precise. So I was well ready for some sunshine and looking forward to meeting up with old friends, seeing familiar sights and generally being back here.

We (that’s me and Boatbloke, his friend/co-worker, John, and his son, Jake)  flew into Cape Town on the 9th – minus our luggage and, in my case, plus a stinking, snotty cold. So a good start..

The briefest of re-unions at the Bot River Hotel…100_2733

Not a great picture but, trust me, some terrific honky-tonk piano by the barman going on here.

And a great headline when the hotel changed hands…100_2732

Also a rubbish shot but reads: Next generation takes over the reins in one-horse town. Brilliant!

Hopefully will get back this way and spend some time, check out the bus etc).

Anyway, long story short; picked up cases the next day and headed off in our hire car to **Touws River, where John’s youngest son, Geoffrey, was busy training the latest influx of wannabe anti-poaching rangers. This is a gruelling process, involving much PE and running to the top of the mountain and back, managing their supplies (to be carried on their back through the bush) and generally following instructions.

It’s quite a facility  here and we were given the full guided tour in this…100_2735

Saw this and thought of you Graham Harris!

It was used in Bosnia by the paras, and just the job for the terrain here…

100_2737

There’s a wild animal cleverly hiding behind the rear view mirror…honest.

100_2736

But in safe hands with Geoffrey at the wheel.

Our friends, John and Jake, were even allowed to have a go on the shooting range with both shotgun and pistol – both proving very useful with both. I could have had a go but didn’t want to damage my reputation of being a useless female by out-shooting them, so declined.

Geoffrey gave us a demonstration of making fire…100_2739100_2741100_2742100_2743100_2744And I swear the braai tasted all the better for it.

Geoffrey and girlfriend, Minerva, have a lovely home here , designed by her father (and Geoffrey’s boss) Marcus. It’s a round house, is perfect, and comes complete with a herd of dogs…100_2738

Two of which are captured here.

We stayed over at the house of Marcus and Hilary; Minerva’s parents – another superb house, also designed by Marcus.

Next day we head for Port Elizabeth and John’s father, deciding to take in the odd dirt road to break the monotony of the N2…100_2748100_2747100_2746100_2745

All good fun.

One of Boatbloke’s shortcuts, even if it did add several hundred ‘klicks’ to an already long journey.

By now, I am wheezing and hacking away like a good ‘un. Anybody think I was a heavy smoker or something…

We wend our way towards PE…100_2731100_2730Spotting the obligatory baboons.

And Arriving at PE in time for a sun-downer or two…100_2765100_2764

With that glorious backdrop of the Swartkops river estuary, as viewed from John’s dad Terry’s house.

The beach is a short walk away and it’s Indian Ocean here in the Eastern Cape, so chances are it might be warm. Or not…

Spring has only just sprung so temperatures are not those of mid summer, which it has always been on my previous visits, but more like 20 something. The sea hasn’t had a chance to warm up and feels bloody cold to me. That said, the spring flowers are delightful…100_2790100_2791100_2792

Even more so the roadside blooms, which I hope to be able to feature soon. A shame we missed the aloes – looks like they are just going over.

Fires still burn in the living rooms at night, when temperatures drop into the low teens, and I’ve not had a lot of use for the shorts and flip-flops that I optimistically packed. Yet.

But I have made good use of the electric blanket. Well, I’m a sick bunny don’t you know.

**It wasn’t until I saw the road sign that I realised this was the spelling. It will be forever known to me as Toast River.

Hills, Views, Caves, Stones, Bones and… a Space Turtle?

2 Mar

Our roving reporter is on the case again, sending more shots from his latest visit to the the west coast of South Africa.

They went walkabout into the wild and wide open spaces…100_2720_stitch

Around and about the area where Geoffrey currently lives and works.

They went up in the hills…Southern skies lodge from the hill opposite

And above the Rooibos tea fields…rooibos 1_stitch

They walked and climbed in the sweltering heat, which he said reached a staggering 47 degrees C on occasions, swimming in reservoirs to cool off.

John said he thought it was a bit hot!

They kept an eye open for caves, knowing the signs and getting a feel for finding them…100_2813

Large…bushman's cave

A bushman’s cave.

And small…caves, large and small

Complete with bones, this one. Click to enlarge and have a poke around.

They had a sleepover in one of them…100_2804

Cosy.

A room with a view…

100_2779Especially on a misty morning…cave 2_stitch

Wow.

But sadly no paintings to be found.

Been said John’s a bit of a caveman. Like father like son, I’d say.

Geoffrey douses the fire…

dousing the fire

Where they cooked up sausages and drank  beer. No stomach churning bush tucker trials here, though it’s hardly glamping.

There’s lots of these…100_2761

And these…100_2774

Not sure what either are called but some are found only in this area.

And here’s the space turtle…

Rocks eroded into wierd shapes, space turtle

Or, if your imagination is a little jaded, rocks that have eroded into weird and interesting shapes. 

I don’t expect there’s too many of these about. What do you see?

Speaking of rocks…100_2493

A rare collection of treasures…Nature table R

I imagine the bulk of these were collected by the boys but if I know John, he will have had a hand in a few of them.

He loves all that archaeological stuff. Hand axes, digging stones and so on. John just has a knack of stumbling on these relics and cannot go anywhere without bringing back nature’s souvenirs.

He will spend hours perusing these in museums. We have some fun days out.

We have some back at the bus too – spoils from previous years – obviously irresistible to the John.  

Even back in the UK, we’ll go for a walk and he’ll end up with a pocketful of bits and bobs. Sometimes he even picks up washers, nuts, bolts, rubber bands or other such useful items, which he hands to me like presents to be cherished. And I do,  of course.

Maybe it’s a condition with a name – like Tourette’s. But quieter.

Bless.

Unlike me, John is very much a morning person and captured this…Klipspringer at dawn

Klipspringer – a small African antelope – at dawn.

Some of the panoramas are 2/3/5 or more pics that I’ve stitched together. That really is such clever software.

Now John knows I can do this, he is taking snaps with stitching in mind and I look forward to the next batch.

This one has to be my current favourite…view 1_stitch

Stunning.

Don’t forget, you can click on any of these images to bring up to full size. A further click will enlarge that particular area of the photo, should you wish to see even more detail.

A Murder of Crows

23 Feb

A suitably sinister collective noun for that oh so evil harbinger of death and doom. The stuff of nightmares and horror stories…Crows reward

Ah. That’s another myth exploded then. Up a bit, right a bit – aaah, that’s it!

This is the Pied,  or white chested, crow found – you guessed it – in South Africa. Well that’s where John found it anyway or, to be more precise, that’s where the boys found it. You’ve had a glimpse of this one before, on the West Coast farm, where John is once again visiting; this time helping his youngest to shift his belongings, in readiness for the move to Amakhala where he will join his brother.

It’s an intelligent creature that makes phone calls and sends texts…Crow making a phone call

I think this one is  female…Crow trying on shoes

As has a taste for trying on shoes.

And likes a drink…Crow turning the tap on for a drink, pity he cannot turn it off aftterwards

Actually turning the tap on when thirsty but, sadly, hasn’t mastered the art of turning the tap off afterwards. Maybe it’s a male after all.

And for my next trick…Crow's has found a rand coin on the floor

You dropped this John, here it is…Crow offering me a Rand

Now put it somewhere safe. Please.

Speaking of the Rand, when I was last in SA I was getting around 10-12 of these to the pound. Now it’s more like 18-20. That’s just not fair. Usual bad timing on my part.

Of course, there’s plenty of less tame creatures around these parts, as this pile of poo indicates…Leopard droppings

Leopard droppings.

Snakes too…can you see the worm

See it? A Puff Adder.

Quite deadly and, because of its highly effective camouflage, is prone to being stepped on. Despite being a slow mover, the puffie strikes extremely quickly, its highly toxic venom inducing massive tissue necrosis. Prompt and proper treatment can prevent death but this snake is thought to kill and maim more than any other African snake each year.

A sobering thought.

Skin of the Black Spitting Cobra on the left and Puff  Adder on the right…100_2733

Do I detect a shudder?

Fortunately, the only casualty is Tikkie the Terrier…Tikki took on a rotweiler and a pitbull and was lucky to escape with so little damage, her tail was bitten too.

That’s what you get for pissing off a  Pit-bull and taking on a Rotweiller. Poor little wounded soldier.

I promise the next post will contain  fabulous flowers, panoramic landscapes – including my latest stitched masterpiece.

Coming soon..