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Game on…

19 Dec

When in the land of the big five, one has to go see what all the fuss is about. So last Thursday saw us here…

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Where we saw these…

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And lots of these…

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The most photogenic animal on the planet.

We’d heard tales that the buffalo…

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Could be a little grumpy, so I didn’t linger. The rules say that you shouldn’t park next to the animals, but the car in front had and was blocking my escape route, so I prepared to do some high speed reversing if I had to.

I’m driving us round in Terry’s little car, so apologies if the photography is a bit iffy. Nothing at all whatsoever anything to do with being scared witless by the close proximity of Big Scary Wild Animals.

Entering the cheetah enclosure, with proper game fencing and double gates that you enter like an airlock, is somewhat fear-provoking but, naturally, they saw us coming and hid. We speculated that they were all safely tucked away behind the greenery having a laugh at our expense. Bit like the Kit-Kat advert with the pandas.

But that’s not to say we didn’t see cheetahs…

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We did.

They call these ones tame – though I have my doubts about any wild animals ever being properly tame – and this is feeding time. Conveniently below the café area, where it was our feeding time too.

First class coffee and souvenirs on sale…

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BB can never resist a fridge magnet, and this one is so South African. Except there’s too few passengers – there would normally be at least another couple of dozen crammed in.

I have, on a previous visit to SA, stroked so-called tame cheetahs. They were behind a wire fence and we were instructed to present a fist, rather than an open hand, through this in order to pet them. They didn’t seem too bothered and apparently used to human contact as they were used in the film industry. Anyway, I still have both hands, thumbs and all my fingers.

We saw a Mongoose, Cape Hare, Warthog, Springbok, Bontebok, Impala, Water Buck and a Bushpig with babies. No Rhino, Porcupine or Ostrich though. They’ve recently introduced Lions, which we didn’t see either.

But it’s your luck on the day and we had a lovely time there.

There were other diversions, like this walkway through the treetops…

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But my companion wimped out. Being 92 years young is no excuse Terry.

The drive there and back wasn’t a long one, but interesting. We passed through some very affluent areas. Such disparity here – huge wealth and abject poverty existing side by side. I suppose that isn’t peculiar to Africa though, but rife the world over.

On a recent shopping trip, I am once again transported back to the 60’s…

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Popular brands I remember my mum using.

And if you didn’t fancy these…

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Then I guess these are OK…

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It says so on the tin so it must be true.

But the prize for best product names this week goes to…

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No mistaking what these are for!

But the clear winner (see what I did there?) in the ingenuity stakes, without a doubt, goes to…

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Glad wrap – aka cling film.

Not only does it have a roll almost empty marker, it is perforated. How useful is that? Never seen this in the UK – or anywhere else for that matter. I need this in my life.

Meanwhile, in the garden…

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Frangipani putting on a lovely show.

And…

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A Sunflower – many more in bud – seed scattered by the John.

You’ve heard of Dances with Wolves…

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Well this is Swims with Dogs.

The dog lady at the dam up behind John’s place.

Could have done with some of this myself today: 30c in the shade, little or no wind.

Scorchio.

Not gloating…

 

Moving on…

30 Nov

And we are off. Port Elizabeth, here we come..!

Pretty much a whole day’s driving at 411 miles – or 662 klicks as they say in South Africa – a good 7/8 hours on the road. But actually quite pleasant when there’s two of you to share the driving.

The scenery is stunning…

harvest-time

Along the garden route. Freeway all the way.

But it’s even more interesting when this is one’s mode of transport…

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Yep, it’s a FIAT. And we all know what that stands for.

OK – Fix It Again Tomorrow, for those of you on another planet.

John bought this from a friend, who didn’t want to sell it to him – because he was a friend. That should tell you something. Undeterred, John resurrected it from the dead and has been carefully nurturing it ever since, diligently checking over and replacing parts as and when.

He calls it the Mighty UNO. It’s way old and one has to really know how to drive to make it go, unlike the cars of today that practically drive themselves. (Some of course actually do.) It has a manual choke and a gearbox of the stick-in-a-bucket variety. Fortunately, I was brought up on this type of vehicle, back in the day, and actually enjoyed driving it. Just like old times..!

Anyway, John will offload me at his dad’s house in PE…

johns-dads-placeWhere I shall be staying until the new year. John, on the other hand, beetles back to continue working on his own place after a couple of days respite.

To the front is the Swartkops river estuary…

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estuary stitch

Glorious by day and night.

Lots of wildlife…

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A Goliath heron.

A postcard depicting the bay here…

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Bluewater Bay. The sailboat belonged to Terry – might well have been him sailing it.

Some local fishermen trespassing on the private jetty/parking…

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Not knowing they are on candid camera…

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Annoying the hell out of Terry.

Sorry, I missed a trick there. Top left shows a tray for birdseed, which attracts loads of our feathered friends and great to watch from the comfort of your armchair. Trust me to snap the tele when the tray is empty – of seed and birds!

And there’s a huge nature reserve at the back. I’ve never been here to see the aloes in bloom but am told they are quite a sight. Oh, and a beach just around the corner that I still haven’t been to – Indian ocean so the sea should be warm. Soon, soon.

So why am I here? Well it’s one of those win-win situations:

John’s father, Terry, is a spritely 92 year old who lives here alone. He is razor sharp in the brain department but, since hip replacement surgery following a fall that also mangled his shoulder, and recent trauma to his leg, he needs a little help with a few things: socks and shoes, monitoring blood pressure and medication, help with phone calls – he’s very deaf (a trait the John has inherited, though I think his is more selective). All pretty minor stuff really.

He can still get up and down the 39 steps that lead to the street…

With support – mostly moral. Can’t see them all here, but you get the picture.

There’s tortoises hiding in there too…

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Which dement the dog.

Terry makes his own bread (delicious) and here he is…

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Boxing up meals, cooked earlier, ready for the freezer. I should really take a leaf out of his book.

He has a maid/carer – Evelyn – who comes in three times a week, which is great ’cause on her days I also get served breakfast, elevensies and lunch; my bed made and washing done. I could get used to this.

There’s also a garden boy – Peter – who pitches up on Sundays to keep everything neat and tidy…

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This pic shows a fully equipped workshop and above, Terry’s late wife’s art studio that is accessed through the white gate seen in the other pics…up yet more steps.

She was a very talented lady who produced some lovely work…

Beautifully African and atmospheric. I like.

And there’s a driver – Carl – a phone call away.

Plus plenty of friends; some already having paid us a visit – curious to meet ‘the barge lady’. Hope I didn’t disappoint.

He no longer drives, because of the shoulder, so some chauffeuring is required. For instance, we went to the Armistice service at a local chapel…

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Looking smart complete with medals.

We go to his weekly Pilates session with the lovely Maria…

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Which he has been doing for the last twelve years – he started at age 80. I think it’s what keeps him so fit and enabled him to recover so well from surgery.

I am also having sessions now in the hope it will do similar for me…some hope! But Terry is quite tickled that I’m joining in.

We took the dog to be groomed…

Tiger – before and after.

And to the vet. But that’s a whole other story!

There’s also shopping and general day to day stuff. But I see my role more as that of companion, someone to chat to/watch tele/share jokes/stories with.

He has some jolly good stories too, being RAF and widely travelled. He’s lived in some exotic locations, including Malaysia (where John was born) and Libya (where John did some schooling). And he’s done some amazing road trips. I am finding it all fascinating. And, despite moving out here in the 60’s, he stills sounds like the Londoner he is. No trace of a SA accent.

Turns out, we rub along quite nicely and both enjoy a gin and tonic/glass of wine as well.

So, apart from a drinking partner, what do I get out of this little arrangement?

For starters, there’s free lodgings, which are very comfortable, and where  I have been allocated the master bedroom. This comes complete with en-suite (resplendent in 1960/70s avocado), adjacent office and private lounge with views to die for…

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I also get the run of the rest of the house and garden and the use of a car…

The Conquest: probably even more ancient than the Uno but meticulously maintained and still going strong – well, it is a Toyota!  Even if it does only have four gears.

Quite a popular model here…

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Though the later models are called Tazz.

And for my old buddies from Daewoo days…

There’s a fair smattering of these about – old and new.

It is of course summer here with temperatures in the mid to high twenties at the mo…

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In the shade

Probably going higher in December and January. And if I can miss much of the British winter, that alone is pretty much back of the net for me.

But there’s another thing. I have the opportunity to spend time turning an idea for a novel into the first draft of a book. So I have work to do. That’s the plan anyway. Starts with a vengeance this week. Really.

Crikey…it’s Thursday already! And I’ve been here a whole month.

To date, I have become a little embroiled in the daily life and ways of South Africa, which is largely the same…only different.

This is a yield sign…

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A stop street

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And they call these robots

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Their cell phone towers get disguised…

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This one masquerading as a lighthouse. I’ve seen ones up country done up like fir trees. Gets my vote.

The ‘lighthouse’, and sea beyond, is the view from the local shopping centre where you find these…

They are called trolley porters (says so on the back of his overall, but BB not quite getting that in shot) and are most helpful. When they’ve loaded you up, they take away the trolley too. No coins in the slot malarkey here..!

I’ve not yet managed to master this method of transporting goods…

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A fine example of head carrying.

This is still called a bridge…

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I just like it.

And it seems their policeman also take naps in the road…

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And I’ve already said about the brand names…

A couple more I spotted.

Oh, and the laid back cat at the hardware store…

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I could go on (and on and on…) but won’t. Expect I’ll be back before too long with loads more to tell you though.

But I must get busy with that book…

BFN xx

I do love a list..

12 Sep
shipwreck

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No, not that sort of list.

A list of what to do – must do, could do, should do. A list of what to take – must take, might take. And a list of what to get – most items here followed by a question mark at this stage. All growing by the minute…

Woman Reading Long List

As a wannabe spontaneous person, I guess that’s a huge fail. But, in my defence, I am planning a three month excursion to the southern hemisphere and have to be prepared…

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Third world. Don’t you just love it?

I’d already started the process of renewing my passport, it expiring in September, not realising I’d need it so soon but knowing I couldn’t not have a current one. Turns out this was a good move as, whilst the online renewal process is agreeably simple and speedy, the courier designated to deliver the finished product wasn’t.

Living on a boat/being of no fixed abode has its challenges and getting one’s mail is one of them. No friendly postie for me. I collect my mail from the Post Office, which works wonderfully well. Usually. When it comes to ‘signed for’ items, life can get a little complicated and, depending on the individual tasked to unite you with your precious/ID sensitive package, can be fraught with frustration. And it was. Very.

After several abortive attempts to meet with this (non) delivery person, I did what I had to do and arranged to collect from the local DX depot. Simple. Well it was, if you don’t count the numerous phone calls to the passport office (@ 35p per minute on the mobile) and those to the courier.

Still, mission accomplished. I have my new passport…

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Shame it’s not the new British version as promised with the exit from the EU but hey, let’s not go there. And no, you’re not getting to see the photo!

Tick-Box

Another item on the list (must do) is to ensure my drug dependency medication needs are catered for, so a trip to the surgery and pharmacy required. Now sorted and another box ticked. Going well.

Well it was. Opposite the chemist shop in Sawbo central is a trendy little boutique with all sorts of desirable things in its window…

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It’s the kind of place that never displays the prices so I’ve always avoided it like the plague. Like they say, if you have to ask…

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But yesterday there was a couple of lovely, loose fitting, linen frocks hanging outside with big red sale tickets attached. End of season and just the job for my upcoming trip. My ‘what to get’ list includes ‘clothes?’ and, before you could say that now was the perfect time to bag a bargain, I’d been sucked in and handed over the plastic to pay for both of these. Plus a (not in the sale but just what I’d been looking for forever) top.

But, no guilt here. I am so worth it.

The ‘get Hobo ready for winter’ list has morphed into a ‘prepare Hobo for abandonment’ list. And I do feel guilty about that. But, willing neighbours/friends have offered to be there for her/care for her, so I am reassured on that front.

My immediate neighbour will take on the role of looking after of my feathered friends…

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Feed the birds, tuppence a bag. For the Disney fans among you.

Takes me back. In another life, when I had the pub, we hosted many impromptu jam sessions. All sorts of musicians would turn up, from far and wide, and strut their stuff…

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As time went by and sobriety went out the window, the local musos would progress from classic rock and blues and turn to Disney. They’d belt out tunes from the likes of Mary Poppins and Jungle Book and we’d all join in. We all knew the words. Let’s go fly a kite… I’m the king of the swingers... and many more. Good times.

Ha ha, got you! Bet you’re all singing now!

Back to the future, said neighbour will take me to the airport too – probably just to make sure I’m really gone. Seriously, I’m always blown away by the kindness of boatie folk, yet never surprised. Looking out for each other – it’s what we do. And I love that.

Something I must do, sooner rather than later, is to order some currency…

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Right now, I can get almost twice as many Rand to the Pound than when I last visited.

My trip may be a month away but, as you know, time waits for no man. Or Boatbird. Before we know it, I’ll be winging my way to sunny South Africa, ready or not for what is to come.

Get to it BB.

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Get those boxes ticked.

Wait and See..

5 Sep

A much used and predictable response to numerous questions posed to parents by many an impatient child I suspect…

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It certainly featured highly in my youth.

Now I’m a grown up – allegedly – I realise why straight answers are so infuriatingly elusive. I simply do not know what will happen in the future. No-one does.

Whilst we may sometimes have a jolly good idea/strong gut feeling of the outcome of those what if/when/how/who posers, as adults now realise that nothing is set in stone. No-one knows when the fickle finger of fate will come into play and put the kibosh on all those well-crafted plans. Happens all the time.

But that’s not to say we shouldn’t make plans. I do it all the time. Sometimes in order to realise a goal, find a direction or purpose or, as often as not, out of necessity.

I’ll give you a for instance.

As a liveaboard boater, with winter looming large, I have to plan for the worst. This entails ensuring my cosy cocoon stays so…

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Meaning I need to prepare my metal tube for whatever the elements may throw her way. Sealing areas that could spring a leak…

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And checking my trusty multi-fuel stove over and repairing/replacing/refurbing as necessary being high on the to-do list.

Before…IMG_20180817_122939.jpg

Chimney swept.

After…

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Chilly morning/evening…

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Never. Not on my watch.

Estimating how much fuel to order to see me through the dark, dank days is really just a guess, albeit after 12 years of the lifestyle, a slightly educated one. But, given that coal bought at the summer price (delivery before October) is £2 per 25kg cheaper, I simply can’t afford to wait and see. It’s a no-brainer.

This time last year I ordered 50 bags – a huge outlay – but, as last winter went on forever and ever, there remains only five or six bags left over. It’s not all about the saving made though. If we have a lot of rain (more than likely), the approach to my boat will without a doubt be soggy  and waterlogged, meaning my marvellous coalman will be unable to deliver right to my boat. I’ve done my share of hauling coal in the cold and wet and, trust me, it’s not happening again. Ever.

I don’t do cold, so have placed the same order this year. Sorted. Well not quite…

Turns out I have the opportunity to spend three months this winter in South Africa, where it will be summer…

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After careful consideration – yeah right – I have decided to fly south. Yay! Back of the net! But what about all that coal?

Already taken care of my friends: 20 bags to one neighbour and 10 to another, leaving me enough to deal with any unseasonal coldness before or after my trip. Simple.

It’s a well known fact that I’m a little prone to over-thinking. But I’m learning that there really is no point. We cannot predict what will happen along this rocky road/choppy water we travel and most things can be undone/re-hashed or suitably circumvented with a handy plan B.

As plan B’s go, this one is probably one of the better prospects…

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This trip will take on quite a different meaning and shape to previous travels, but I’ll get into that another time.

Suffice to say, it could be useful and helpful to others and, if I get my arse in gear, productive and possibly profitable for me.

But who knows how it will all pan out? What will unfold? Who knows?

We will just have to wait and see…

 

 

 

Bongo Bongo Land..

29 Oct

No, not me. I’m not in Bongo Bongo land. Not this time. John is doing solo.

Shame. You know how I hate it here on the river. But BB is toughing it out, womanfully enduring all that this awful lifestyle throws at her: cold/damp/cramped/miserable. Rueing the day…

Stop this silliness. You know I’m only kidding right..?

OK, so some of his pics make me a tad envious…IMG-20171022-WA0004.jpg

MoonAnd hanker for those – oh so – wide open spaces.

But then, I rather like my unique view of the moon…IMG_20171029_173625.jpg

Through the round window.

And it only takes one good English sunset over the river…

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To make it all alright.

I confess to some nostalgia when I see the old bus…IMG-20171011-WA0000.jpg

IMG-20171020-WA0000.jpgReal rustic charm.

But my coal mountain…IMG_20171006_103653.jpg

Trumps his woodpile.

Yes, it is hot there but still needs a little burn up…Toasty at Toast Riveer

Of an evening.

This taken at the house of the first-born. As are these…Flea's place

Spot the dog

IMG-20171022-WA0001.jpgComplete with living roof.

And a solar cooker…IMG-20171022-WA0000.jpg

In which they bake bread, believe it or not.

Some local flora…

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Black-eyed Susan.

pride of madeira

Pride of Madeira.weaver bird tree

And a Weaver bird tree.

As far as neighbours go – here vs there…

Nothing in it.

He’s been busy clearing the land at Bot River.

And…water tank

Working on the water supply.

As has his mate Ian…IMG-20171022-WA0002.jpg

Maybe not so practical, but interesting.

John is in PE just now with his father, who is doing very well.

As are his nasturtiums…IMG-20171023-WA0000.jpg

Clearly, I can’t compete…IMG_20171025_151752.jpg

Gives me loads of joy though.

He is planning a fishing trip.

In this…IMG-20171026-WA0000.jpg

Good luck with that.

 

 

 

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…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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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…