We are in the US enroute to Trinidad

Actually, I just wrote this to some friends that have not heard from us for much too long. So, readers of the Blog will know some of the beginning. Feel free to speed read down to the new info.

We are both very well. Last Summer we went from Seattle to South Africa to visit a dear friend of Robn’s. I think we were there about seven weeks, traveling all over the place. We had a great time, even though it was their winter, and many places we stayed were unheated, with doors and windows open. 14C, 57F is better left outside, in my opinion.

Due to the peculiarities of the airline industry, it was less expensive for us to get from Durban to our boat in Finike, if we flew to Cairo and Athens first. Since neither of us had ever been to Cairo or Athens, we spent about a week in each one. That was also very enjoyable.

We then went to the boat, where, several years ago, I began rebuilding the engine, due to a mysterious lack of oil pressure. At one stage I decided that the engine was so old (1974), that I bought a complete gasket set, with the intention of replacing all the gaskets and O-rings and seals. We arrived back at the boat a couple of years ago and, as I was tearing down the engine, I had a new idea on why there was no oil pressure. It would’ve been quite simple to fix, but I had already taken so many things apart, that I decided to continue with the earlier plan of replacing all the gaskets. In the process, we discovered some parts that we needed to order. For some reason, they were not available in Turkey or Sweden. It’s a Swedish Volvo. However, I ordered them from a really good Volvo dealer in the Chesapeake area, that I have bought from many times in the past.

Then the fun began. Someone in the Marina, incorrectly told me that FedEx was the shipper to use, but when the parts arrived at customs in Istanbul, they decided that I had put on the form that I was my own agent. No one could (would) ever show me a copy of the alleged form, so I assume that they were lying. Since I "had chosen to be my own agent", FedEx could not bring them through customs. They were charging me US$60 a day, for storage. No one seemed to have any idea at all what was going on. After about a week, I think I determined that I had to be a Turkish citizen in order to get them out of hock. I think I had about US$350 invested in them, and US$150 for shipping and they were going to charge me $350 duty. There seemed to be nothing that I could do in Turkey, so with the engine still mostly disassembled, we returned to America. Due to airline prices, we spent a little time in Zurich & Paris, to save money. Back in America, I argued with FedEx about getting the parts returned to the sender. For some reason, that was going to cost over US$350, or more, with no guarantee that it would work. So, I did truly abandon them. At least the FedEx person that I was talking with on the last call, refunded the shipping cost since I had never received them.

We bought new parts and hand carried them in our luggage, which worked flawlessly. I think we ended up spending about eight months in the US before traveling to South Africa, etc.

So, when we finally got back to the boat again, we finished putting the engine together. The oil pressure problem was solved, and it ran fine.

By May 2018 I would need to take the boat out of the country, just for a few hours, to reset the five-year maximum time in the country paperwork for the boat. It seemed like a much better idea to take the boat out last fall (2017), but the US and Turkey were in a spat. US citizens were not allowed visas for Turkey and vice versa. We were already in the country, and so were okay. But, if we left, we might not be able to get back in for who knows how long. That did not bode well. So, it was either move the boat to Italy or some country that was not at odds with America or get a Turkish residence permit. We ended up doing the latter. Supposedly, we now have two years of access. How long is your Panamanian residence permit?

Again, the airline peculiarities dictated that we fly from Finike, actually Antalya, to Oslo Norway, to New York, to Trinidad, as the least expensive way that we could find to get to Robn’s boat.

We were doing quite well on our to-do list before leaving, but, the night before our flight, we accidentally learned that the road between our city, Finike, and the city with the airport, Antalya, was washed out. A friend’s father had just made the trip, and instead of two hours, it had taken 4 1/2, traveling by tiny, twisty, side roads. It didn’t take much imagination to wonder, with all the rain we were having, if some of those roads might wash out, also, which would make it almost impossible to get to the airport, without a several day bus ride starting off in the wrong direction and doubling back.

So, we had a major change of plans. We finished our last-minute packing, and instead of getting a nice night’s sleep, before a leisurely trip to the airport, we hired a car to drive us. The roads were not as bad as we had feared, and we got into town about midnight, so we got a hotel room, and had them drive us to the airport the next morning. At least we got a little sleep.

Since we had not been to Oslo before, we spent a week there, in the snow. But, we had enough clothes that it was not a problem. A Finish person once said, "There is no such thing as bad weather, but sometimes people make poor clothing choices."

Then we flew to New York and rented a car and drove to Old Sturbridge Village, which is a collection of old buildings and has employees that are demonstrating what life was like about 1830. I had never been, and Robn was last there a very long time ago. We both had a great time. Then we continued our rental car to our AirBnB in Cambridge which is a suburb of Boston. Perhaps you’ve heard of Harvard and MIT?

We visited the Boston area for a couple of days, but cut our visit short, because they were expecting a snowstorm, with high winds, and perhaps 12 inches (30 cm) of snow. We made it safely to Lincoln Massachusetts, where Robn grew up, and she took me on a tour of her old stomping grounds and we saw the house that her parents built when she was 6. It was the first privately funded Solar Heated home in America. Her dad was an MIT Mechanical Engineer.

We are presently visiting a friend of Robn’s that lives here. Then we will visit Robn’s brother and sister-in-law, in upstate New York, and then fly to Trinidad.

More as it develops.

Dave & Robn


A Fortress that we passed yesterday

We are on our way to Megisit also known as Kastellorizo. A tiny Greek Island 2 miles off the coast of Turkey. There is an old Fortress here, and a partially sunken city. It is worth a Google. I think the name of the town at the Fortress is Kalekoy, Antalya, Turkey.

Still in Turkey

Date: Mon, Jan 22, 2018 at 8:54 PM
Subject: Still in Turkey

We have been busy in a leisurely way for the past few months. Nothing much worth writing about. We got residence permits for two years so that we can come and go without worrying about visas. We were told that there was no minimum maximum lengths of coming or going but afterwards found information that indicates that if we stay away for more than 6 months it would invalidate the permit. So we need to take a closer look at that. We need to take Alegria outside the country to reset her 5 year permission to stay but right now the weather is not very conducive.

Rain and excess wind every few days. Last night we had hail. The only weather windows have been on the weekends which, of course, means dealing with officials outside normal hours. So we have used that as an excuse to sit tight and wait for better weather during the week. I must admit, though, that we have not checked to find out whether our assumption is correct, that there are extra costs to doing paper work on the weekends! We also have been doing preparations for the outing at a snail’s pace. To the point where even with a weather window during the week we might not be able to go out. Dave got the prop cleaned enough but that was a month ago so it probably needs redoing.

A couple of days ago we had a fascinating call from a guy on FB. We had gotten really curious about the thinking of Flat Earthers, and Dave had gotten into an exchange with one who, not being able to defend his position, simply called him names. He moved on to another believer and posted a question. Instead of getting a written response, the computer rang! Never had that happen before. It was 4 AM his time but we ended up spending an hour (?) talking with him. It was fascinating. I would sum up my take of him as openminded, courteous, brainwashed, evangelical. He was certain of his position based on his logic and the conviction that we were duped by our lying government. He was the first flat earther we have talked to who was able to articulate his position and actually acknowledged some of our points with “that’s interesting” and seemed to be trying to figure out how to square it with his views.

As near as I can understand him, he started out with a belief that the government could not be trusted. They lie all the time. So that created doubts about the claim that the earth is a globe. I mean come on, how can anyone be expected to believe that New Zealanders could live upside down on the bottom of a globe and not fall off? Anyone knows that kids have to hang on to the spinning merry go round or get flung off, so why should we believe that we can spin so much faster on a global earth and not get flung into space or even feel the centrifugal forces? And when presented with the issue of boats dropping over the curve of the ocean, it is dismissed at “perspective” by which I believe he means “optical illusion”. I mean, it is pretty obvious that we can’t trust our eyes — because of perspective – when parallel railroad tracks appear to converge in the distance. Water is ALWAYS flat, there is no way that it could be shaped like a ball (unless frozen) and if it appears to be, then that is just another example of “perspective”, i.e. optical illusion.

All the arguments in the world won’t help him overcome that childish logic because his trust in the explainers is zilch. There were a couple of times when he actually acknowledged that there were internal inconsistencies in his view but a lack of understanding of some points did not translate to a problem with his view but only with his understanding of it. At which point he admitted that he was going on faith. On his belief in God.

He remained polite, acknowledged that we had different views, did not call us stupid, but did seem to be convinced that if we studied the correct information from sources better able to explain reality, then we, too, would ‘see the light’.

He did understand that there are people deliberately trying to confuse people so that they would not know what to believe, including themselves, and would trust no one. The puzzle to me, is why he decided that the flat earthers were not in that category. I can only figure that basic science and math never made sense to him. Other wise he said things that made total sense, and we had the feeling that he was not shy of brain cells.

Meanwhile, we watch with disbelief the childish behavior of partisan bickering not only on FB but also in the hallowed halls of Congress. The ruling oligarchy has definitely gotten the hang of multiple tactics for maintaining their monopoly on power and access to ever more wealth. Divide and conquer. Fear. Mix fact with fiction to create self doubt and confusion. Attack every little pushback. Overwhelm. Wholesale spying. Overrule rights. Ignore laws. Election fraud. Harp on the negative.

Scarily, maybe we are underestimating the effect of poor schools, poor nutrition, and poisoning. If we are as smart as we like to think, then why could we not explain the global earth to some one willing to listen? That is really scary.

I want to plan for a better future rather than just slow down the march to a worse one. With many people fearful of too much change too fast and everyone arguing over what we would like that future to be, it appears that we are stuck. With discussion limited to sound bites and ‘likes’, ideas are not being generated as fast as they could be. We ARE making advances on all sorts of fronts and I need to stay positive and believe that we will find solutions in the time available. Talk about a leap of faith!

I’d be interested in your view of a ‘better world’. What would it look like?

Cheers, Robn.

Athens till now w/pictures

Subject: Athens till Nov 6

Date: November 6, 2017

Athens was definitely cooler than Cairo but I was still exhausted and it really interfered with our ability to do any sightseeing. We did go to the Acropolis and the museum there and thankfully I was up to it. I had been worried since one has to climb quite a bit – at least it looked like a lot in my current energy state. But in the end I was fine. There is a great deal of restoration work going on and a great deal more to do. I always have far more questions than there are explanations available. I always wish I could view a time lapse video showing the full history of construction, decay, damage, and restoration cycles. Ah well.

The previous day we had gotten dropped off in town by our host with plans to sightsee but I simply wasn’t up to it. Even getting to the bus stop to return home seemed a chore. We had stopped at a proper restaurant – not a fast food place or street vender – for some lunch and as is often the case had trouble finding vegetarian fare. But we selected a couple of dishes. Mine was a beet root salad with yoghurt. I tried the yoghurt and it tasted really weird, but I tried a second bite and this time it ‘bit’ me. I was startled – it was almost like a mild electric shock. Dave tried it and said it had spoiled. We told the waiter and ordered a different dish in its place.

Later they told us that the salad dressing was not spoiled, it was a mixture of mayonnaise, yoghurt, and vinegar! Yuck! I doubt I would have tried it if I had known. But I suspect it was more the difference between expectation and actual taste that bothered me – if I had been expecting mayonnaise and vinegar flavors then I might have diagnosed it as ‘not to my taste’ rather than spoiled. Despite that, I am still far more adventurous with food than I used to be. Not that I’m ready for chocolate covered insects, yet.

Our stay in Athens was brief. We were eager to get back to Alegria – almost a year since we had left her. We had finally given up on the idea of going by ferry. The information was just too vague and or complicated as to how to get to the ferries, how to handle all our luggage – if they would even allow it – what would happen if trips were canceled due to weather, etc. So we had bought airline tickets and had to go by way of Istanbul to Antalya, followed by the long taxi ride to Finike.

While waiting outside for a couple with whom we were sharing the taxi ride, I felt assaulted by all the smokers who were understandably lighting up after being deprived of their nicotine for hours on end. It all smelled vile to me and made me feel physically ill. I tried to stay away from the smoke but it seemed to be everywhere. Cigarette smoke has always bothered me to some extent but never to this degree. Not sure what the difference was.

Eventually we made it back to Alegria and still had to deal with some chores before we could settle down for the night. Then it was back to our Finike activities. Saturdays: our weekly provisioning at a large farmers’ market. Wednesdays: gap filling at a smaller farmers’ market. Lots of stairs – outdoor stairs – to climb for exercise. The tallest one where I have counted the steps is 169. Another set is 137. The first time this year, I struggled to get up that 137 steps. There is a bench about half way up where one can sit and catch one’s breath. This is one of the nice things about Finike: benches scattered everywhere. I had to stop frequently. There are so many flights of stairs that we can take a different route each day and tackle different stairs in different combinations and different orders. I felt horribly out of condition. I still wish I was in better shape but I’m probably doing pretty well. Yesterday I jogged up 300 steps! I couldn’t do more than 40 at a time and had to rest a couple minutes after each jog with chest heaving, but still! Sure a far cry from that first struggle up half that number.

We still have trouble tearing ourselves away from our computers (despite frequently lousy service) but we have put the engine back together – some steps twice – and, ta dah, it is finally running again. On Sundays (except for Summer) Sandra has a charity sale to raise money for vet bills for stray animals – especially spaying and neutering. She has something in the neighborhood of a hundred local people – in addition to yachties – who come and buy clothing, books, kitchen stuff, boat stuff, odds and ends, and cake and tea. There are plenty of donations and an amazing quantity of stuff – that all needs to be taken out of storage each Sunday and what isn’t sold put back in storage. So we help with that a bit – the unpacking mostly.

Sundays there is a potluck barbecue which we sometimes go to and sometimes skip. We are also culling the boat’s contents as she is a bit overloaded with more than needed. We added stretching exercises before our walks and there are always, as with everyone, misc unplanned activities.

Last Wednesday, Nov 1, for example, we headed off at 8:30 for a 2 hour exercise and walk and arrived home about 2:30. What happened? Well, when we go on our walks, we also pick up litter (and stop to visit cats and dogs, trying to befriend the strays). Dave more than I, but I do join in. So as we were filling an empty half cement bag that day with trash, a car stopped just ahead of us. The driver was a manager and Doctor at the local hospital and he said that he had noticed us and driven around the block in order to stop and say thank you! He wanted a picture that he could post as a lesson to stop littering and/or help clean up. He also invited us to come up to the hospital for some tea. So we agreed to come up in another hour.

We continued our stair climbing and litter picking and then bought our gap filling veggies at the Wednesday market and then met him at his office. His assistant and also his wife joined us for the tea. Much of the conversation that they were involved in was in Turkish – of which I picked up two words! But his basic English was quite good and we learned that a new hospital is being built near the waterfront to replace the aging collection of buildings that should have been torn down 10 years ago. He also told us of various interesting places to hike and view ruins.

When we were leaving, he introduced us to another gentleman – a secretary(? mayor?) of Limyra, one of the places with interesting ruins that we had been told about. This gentleman spoke some German, so I was able to understand that he was going home (7km away) and coming back in 2 hours and we were invited to go with him. So we did. It turned out that he is also an amateur archaeologist and collector of large stone building-part artifacts. He showed us his depot – one wall of which was left over from the Byzantine era.

We walked a bit on our own and saw a large tower, that was approximately a 15 ft cube, on a larger platform. About a fourth of the cross section was partially eroded away making it clear that large blocks had filled the interior as well – it was not hollow. Most sections were made of blocks which were made up of smaller stones cemented together (by man?). The Romans had excellent concrete but this actually looks like it may have been quarried – although where it might have been quarried I have no clue. But there were also a lot of solid rock blocks – perhaps it had all been faced with them and only some remained. However, as far as I could see there were a lot of solid blocks and aggregate blocks all in the same plane. A really strange mix with no rhyme or reason that I could figure out. Our host said it was the grave of the son of Augustus Caesar.

Gaius Caesar was the oldest son of Augustus’ daughter Julia from her second marriage to Marcus Agrippa. His younger brothers were named Lucius and Agrippa Postumus. Gaius and Lucius were destined by Augustus to succeed him, since Augustus himself lacked a son. Both boys were adopted by Augustus as his own children in 17 BC. In 3 AD, Gaius was wounded during a siege. He became quite ill and set out to return to Rome. By the time he had reached Turkey, his condition became worse. He died at Limyra on the 21st of February during the year 4 AD. – quoted from: https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/research/monetary-history-of-the-world/roman-empire/chronology_-by_-emperor/imperial-rome-julio-claudian-age/gaius-caesar-son/

logo.png Gaius Caesar – Son | Armstrong Economics
Gaius Caesar Died 4 AD Gaius Caesar was the oldest son of Augustus’ daughter Julia from her second marriage to Marcus Agrippa. His younger brothers were

We also saw what looked like a road paved with fancy blocks that was a couple of feet under a river. Our host
said it was a Roman road but that a 400m section of the road subsided due to an earthquake and it is now under water.

So, that, glory be, brings me up to date.

Cheers, Robn and Dave


Begin forwarded message:

From: Robn Diekow <robn.syheidi>

Subject: Cairo

Date: November 3, 2017 at 2:45:09 PM GMT+3

In Cairo I had trouble functioning. The heat really got to me and I had no energy. Despite that we did make it to the Egyptian Museum. Personally we found it disappointing as it was simply a huge collections of artifacts. Quite repetitious and no explanations to speak of. We had planned to go from there to Giza but I wasn’t up to it so we headed home. Stopped at an ATM for some cash. Got the receipt but not the cash. Took a lot of walking to find the right place to complain and were finally assured that we would be reimbursed if they found an error in the machine’s accounting.

Next day we caught a bus towards Giza and became pigeons of a local huckster. He claimed to be visiting from Alexandria and was going to show his son (about 6 years old) the pyramids. He could show us the entrance that the locals use which would be cheaper than the tourist entrance. We had already gotten a price from the airport tourist desk and figured anything less than that would be an improvement. The ‘local entrance’ was pretty much a recess in a wall. That was our first clue. We were introduced to a ‘guide’ and mounted on camels. They then explained our 2 or 3 options and the price for each. We ended up spending about 2/3rds of the the airport quote (which would have included getting there and back). It was more than double what our host had told us it should cost – but I think he (our host) had been talking about just an entrance ticket and then walking – no camels. Anyway it was supposed to be an “All included” price. One is supposed to haggle in Egypt but we aren’t good at that so we paid what was asked (less a pittance that we didn’t have in change) and started out feeling that we had paid way too much.

Off we went on our first (and so far only) camel ride to view the pyramids from different angles, and access to the Queen’s chamber in a smaller pyramid. I had specifically stated that I wanted to go to the King’s chamber but once it was too late to complain, they claimed that the King’s chamber tickets had to be purchased early in the morning and were no longer available for that day. According to what I read later, they sold tickets in two batches, AM and PM while they insisted it was AM only. It could have changed after the posting I read, but I doubt it. Was it a communication problem or a bait and switch? I suspected the later but once I made it to the Queen’s chamber I quit worrying about it as I was feeling so tired and hot that I don’t think there is any way I could have made to the King’s Chamber anyway.

Then, we wanted to see the boat on display but they insisted that it was closed. They said not possible. We said, okay, thanks for the camel ride and tour but we will manage on our own for the sphinx. They got quite controlling and insisted that it was not permitted to be without a guide. We did not believe this based on what our host had told us but we ended up giving up the argument. Partly because it was a lot easier to ride than walk, I think. So we visited the sphinx and then returned to where we started. We were then told that we owed the guide a tip. No way. The price quoted had been “all inclusive”. The guide had spoken no English except for “lean back, lean back” each time the camels got up or down. Nothing had been said about a tip. The father from Alexandria no longer seemed like a chance fellow tourist but rather a scam artist. He got quite rude in his demands for more money for the guide. We told him he was welcome to tip the man if he wanted to but we would not. He had paid for part of our bus fare to Giza – a paltry half buck or less and tried to use that to guilt us into returning the courtesy. It left a sour taste but not enough to ruin the day. It was still fun to ride the camels and see the pyramids up close.

On to Athens.
Robn and Dave

Shelly Beach to Durban

Written about Nov 1

Spent a few more days visiting with my friend when she was able to get off work. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out how to manage our luggage, remaining visits, and airport arrival by means of local buses and Uber. No go. Finally gave up and rented another car with drop off at airport. Caught a local bus to go to the local airport. This is the kind of 15 seater van that we use in most of the countries we visit but this was interesting in a different way. Ala shades of Apartheid, these were generally black only. Not by regulation but the whites are apparently scared of them and choose not to use them. The blacks had no objection to our using them however and were very friendly.

The bus we caught was decrepit to put it mildly and took us to a bus station in town to transfer to an airport shuttle – which was an even more decrepit Toyota station wagon. We are trying to remember how many people they crammed in there – 2 in front not counting the driver, 4 in the way back, 4 in the middle seat minimum. I think there was another row of 4 but Dave’s not sure. This one had lost the passenger window which had been replaced with plastic and duct tape. It looked full but the passenger in the front seat – a very large woman slid toward the center as far as she could and I got one butt on the edge of the seat and somehow the door (the one with the plastic window) was pushed hard enough to latch. I was squashed. Dave was similarly shoe horned into the rear and I thought we could go. But no. They managed to get two more people in before leaving.

The bus rolled backwards before the driver slipped the clutch and got her started. For the rest of the trip he would only stop on a hill so that he could jump start if stalled but he didn’t shut it down. The gears groaned, rattled and popped. I’m not the least bit surprised that whites would not want to ride in a vehicle like that, but we made it and most buses were in MUCH better condition. When we got to the airport, the driver again parked on a hill and then went around to the back to let Dave out. This took a few minutes as he explained to his passengers in Zulu or some other African language how to reach over Dave’s legs and down to pull on a jerryrigged contraption to release the latch. They had trouble doing so and different tactics were tried before they finally got it open.

Rented the car and headed north. Visited the Pure Venom tourist attraction of snakes, lizards, turtles, crocodiles and misc. other creatures – including bunnies and birds.

Next stop a visit with another friend from 2011. It was great to see her again and she was also able to reconnect me with her daughter with whom I had lost touch. (Mother and sister of a friend in Port Elizabeth.) I had given up hope of seeing her but ended up having a long, spur of the moment, visit. Picked up our luggage that we had stored while on the road trip and got to the next airbnb late.

Our hostess this time is a school teacher at a private(?) elementary school for black children. She invited us to come and visit her students which we did. They showed off their command of English and I shared a couple of pictures – one of Heidi, and one of a classroom in Fiji. And the questions went on and on and on.

It was finally time to fly on to Cairo. 7 weeks in SA and we sure saw a lot.

On to Cairo
Robn and Dave

Agulhas to Shelly Beach via Cape Town

I confess that I have been very bad. Robn wrote several group letters that I did not post to here. My flimsy excuse is that I was trying to find time to add photos. The way I do it it is fiddly and I seem to keep putting it off, but just to post her email is easy, so here we are.

Robn’s post was written about Sept 11.

I was trying last night after going to bed, to sort out some memories. I remembered a particular ocean front place (no sand) where I dipped my foot in the water curious as to how cold it was. But where, oh where, was it? It was more by process of elimination than actual memory that I decided it was most likely to have been Still Bay. Google Maps satellite took me on a visual tour of Still Bay, and, sure enough, that was it. Confirmed. Memories can sure blur together and get confused. Least ways, mine can, and from what I read and hear, I am not alone.

The water was cold but not too cold. I am sure that a younger me would have been willing to swim in it briefly. Rather like swimming in Washington where there is a bit of shallow still water able to get warmed by the sun. Warmer than Puget Sound. On the other hand, like the shallow still water in WA, the water in which I dipped my toes may have had that same chance to warm up even though there was some activity from the surf flooding and ebbing onto the rocks. All in all a totally useless test of whether the equatorial water coming down the east coast of Africa was still warming the waters.

I was just rereading an e-mail from my sail in 2011 where I mentioned the water temperature dropping from 85 degrees off Durban (!!!) to 55 degrees off Hout Bay. At Agulhas I dipped my foot in the Indian Ocean, walked a few feet, and dipped in the Atlantic – at least according to the plaque there that claims it to be the meeting place of the oceans. Both chillier than Still Bay. I don’t believe I would have ever chosen to go swimming there. I think my brother, Gerry, would have in his polar bear swim days. Don’t know if he still does them.

From Agulhas we had to go inland to stay on paved roads as the dirt roads are simply too full of washboards, pot holes, and gullies. We stopped at Bredasdorp and visited the shipwreck museum. It was mostly your typical collection of stuff retrieved from ship wrecks. But is did include maps with the names of famous shipwrecks and showed how dangerous that entire coast was, with large numbers of wrecks along all of it. I wonder to what degree the sailors feared that coast and to what degree the dangers were so much a part of life that they did not concern themselves. As we do when driving on our highways.

Once heading west again, we spied a column of smoke, dark brown, and called 112 to report it. The drought here is still severe with water levels in the Cape Town reservoirs down to about 32% and the last 10% unusable. They expect one more, hopefully decent, rain before the dry season hits again and lasts until next June or so! With the Knysna fire still fresh in memory, but even if it hadn’t been, it was prudent to verify that the fire authorities were aware of this fire.

The 112 phone was answered by Johannesburg and it took a while to get it rerouted to someone more local who told us that they were in the process of responding to that fire. Not long after, while we were still in range, we saw the smoke turn white, indicating steam. The route was through farm lands with canola or rapeseed probably the most common crop.

We rejoined the coast at Gansbaai. But then had to go back inland again, to get around Marina da Gama which was a huge project to create a housing development with shallow water ways out of a previous ‘lake’ or ‘swamp’ or ‘wet lands’ – I’m not clear what was there before.

Settled into another AirBnB for a couple of rainy days and caught up on computer stuff. Then drove around False Bay, had lunch in Simon’s Town, and continued towards Cape Point, known to sailors as the Cape of Good Hope. Belatedly noticed that our gas tank was getting low but it still said 180 Km to go or thereabouts. We still had 30Km to the point, another 30 to get back to our present location and maybe another 30 to get to a town with a gas station. (We were assuming there was nothing available in the park). So that should only use about half of our fuel and surely they would be conservative and leave you with a reserve, wouldn’t they?

We decided to take a chance and drove another 200 meters to discover a previously unseen entrance to the park. The entrance fee was more than we felt like paying so we changed our minds and headed for Hout Bay. Arrived at the first gas station several Km past where the gas gauge started flashing and no longer gave an estimate and the bars were below the Empty line! We sure won’t trust that info any more. The gas station was closed as they were out of gas! The next one was still open, however, and we tanked up with only a couple liters short of the tank’s capacity. That’s cutting it close.

On the way to Hout Bay we had to travel a toll road. Part of it is carved into the side of the mountain with a rock ceiling and cantilevered out over open space. I think tolls were justified for that road! Tourists in Hout Bay pay the toll just to go up to the view point! Jenny had taken me to the view point so memories were again coming back.

We drove down to the marina and got permission to walk the docks for my memory lane trip. The attendant said that he remembered me and mentioned that there was another widow there on another boat at the time I was there. That rang a bell, although I don’t believe that I ever succeeded in meeting her. The docks were in much better condition than in 2011 and quiet. I have strong memories of a heavy surge for a day or two that was bad enough to make it very dangerous to try to ‘walk’ (lurch) on the heaving docks. This day was calm like the day that I did my first solo – from the fuel dock to my slip, almost a straight shot in perfect conditions.

Then I went looking for Hout Bay Holidays run by Jenny (mentioned above) who had been yet another friend, with whom I have lost contact. She stopped answering my emails about 2012. I found the building, now used by an architect, but no info on Jenny. I then went to my favorite health food place but they were already closed for meals. Lunch only, no dinner.

Continued to yet another AirBnB up in the Cape Town suburbs, which served its purpose, but where I did not feel at home. She said welcome welcome, but all the interior doors including the living room door and the dining room door were closed all the time. We were asked to use the dining room for meals rather than eat in our rooms, which I have no problem with, but somehow that closed door to the dining room made me uncomfortable. Maybe it was because she had also said that we were welcome to use the kitchen – for salad or sandwiches – but not for cooking. She made a point of asking us to conserve water due to the severe drought in Cape Town and then told us to flush the toilet after every use which is the single biggest water waster. We also were not allowed to meet, let alone be friendly with, her 5 dogs!

As I said, the reservoirs are down to almost 30% after two years of drought and the last 10% is not accessible. They are hoping for one more rain before the next 9 months of dry season! One more rain? That’s pretty severe. The town she lives in has the highest rate of ignoring restrictions and the utility is having to install regulators to cut off supply to those who abuse it the most – some consuming 10 times the permitted amount! I ignored her flush every use rule when I felt I could get away with it. To top it off, she has faucets that drip if you aren’t very careful and really should be seen to by a plumber. We did not shower there – figuring we could wait until we were soon back east where there was more water available.

We went to the Slave Lodge Museum, the Botanical Gardens, the Natural Science Museum which were all worth seeing but probably not worth describing unless you need to know whether to go yourself. Also drove north to “view the flowers” which were not as spectacular as we had expected. Kind of like seeing “little brown job” birds that birders get all excited about. Perhaps it just wasn’t ‘our cup of tea’.

Then we went up Table Mountain which certainly does have a lot of spectacular views. They say it is older than the Andes (and Rockies, and Alps). Used to be under water. Mostly granite and some still remaining sandstone.

Needed a couple more days in Cape town than originally planned and our current hostess was only available for one, besides which I’d rather stay somewhere I felt more at home. So we moved a bit south near False Bay and found a much friendlier place where we even got to go for a row on one of those canals mentioned above in Marina da Gama.

Time to head back east. Decided to do it in 3 legs with stops in Plettenberg and East London. First leg was 520 Km and I found driving with the necessary concentration to be tiring, so I’m glad we didn’t opt for longer. Second Leg 510 Km, third 530 Km – all approximate, but worked out well at dividing it fairly evenly. Someone told us that all the little towns are “one day apart by horse and buggy.” Had lunch at Delish Cafe and the dishes were indeed delicious as indicated. Don’t remember any other stops so it must have been an uneventful day.

Day Two we went to the Garden of Eden, had lunch at a Vegan restaurant – 120R for all you can eat but it was Indian. Most options too spicy for me. Still enjoyed it. Visited with our hosts at the AirBnB and relaxed.

Day Three. Did a bank errand before heading off on the next leg. I’m not familiar with local banking practices so I went to the counter to deposit cash into an account. I was informed that there would be a 6% service fee but that I could do it outside at the ATM for far less!!! Huh?? Depositing CASH costs money now? She took the time to find some crisp bills that would give less trouble in the machine and spent MORE time advising and assisting than it would have taken to simply make the deposit! What a crazy world we live in. So I made the deposit outside with the help of yet another bank employee.

Then we were off. Stopped at the “World’s highest Bungee Jump” Google maps says: Bloukrans Bridge Bungee is the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee at 216 meters (709 ft) above the Bloukrans River. It is situated at Bloukrans Bridge on the N2 Highway at the border between the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape in the Tsitsikamma area of South Africa’s Garden Route.

Not far east of there was Stormsrivier bridge. WOW! What a view! The sedimentary layers had been turned upright and worn to create a very uneven landscape but then an earthquake must have caused the deep crevice at right angles to the layers. River at the bottom of the surprisingly narrow cleft. Absolutely stunning.

I find geology fascinating and beautiful. Every where I look I wonder how it all came to be. Makes me wonder what happened in a past life to make me so interested. The sea water seems to be in my blood with my love of cruising, but geology seems to be there too.

We left the highway at Port Elizabeth to go to the Grass Roof Cafe again. On the way (according to Google Maps routing even though we had a sense that it was not the best way) we came across a fire. It was a grass fire just getting started at an intersection, but already a couple hundred square feet. Mostly smoke and embers rather than flames but definitely dangerous and likely to spread given the high winds and dry conditions. Dave tried to stomp it out but quickly realized it was growing faster than he could stomp and came back for water. Meanwhile I was calling 112 and, again, having to wait to get put through to the correct jurisdiction before I could report it. They have no idea where you are calling from. You must tell them a nearby city.

Another car also stopped and attacked the fire with water bottles and several local people showed up on foot with branches with which they beat the fire. By the time I finished telling the fire department about the location I was able to tell them that we appeared to have gotten it out but that they should double check that it didn’t reignite.

So we continued on. A few hundred meters on was another fire! This one was much bigger with actual high flames and we were out of water. Dave went to get the attention of people at the house just downwind of it and I called the fire people back and had to clarify that, yes, I had called before, and no, it was a different fire and much more alive. Then I joined Dave at beating it with branches. Eventually the neighbors joined us but we never got as many fighters as at the previous smaller one. Go figure.

After a while, Dave decided that the bigger threat was now amongst the bushes next to the burnt and burning grass and went inside stomping on flames with his shoes since there was no room to swing a branch. He asked me to point out anything I saw since his view was obscured. Yeah, right next to your foot! Where? Right there. Where? It must be under that branch. From where I was, it looked like it wasn’t under it but it was apparently on the opposite side of his line of sight. Got it out. Then the fire department showed up and took over. So we went and had our lunch wondering if the universe had sent us by that route to be sure we could help with the fires. Boy, did we smell of smoke!

After lunch we had the usual driving of everything from 20Kph to 120Kph depending on whether we were stuck behind a heavy truck on a steep hill or not. Then it got even slower! Decided there must have been an accident. Yup. Luckily I don’t think anyone would have been severely hurt by what we saw. It was a regular truck (not semi) but was pulling two trailers. It was loaded with a lot of huge empty water storage tanks and the windage exceeded the ballast. It had flipped over onto its side in a one vehicle accident but was across the entire 2 lane road. Cars were able to go (carefully) onto the slanted shoulder to get around it but the bigger rigs were stuck waiting for the wreck to get cleared.

Between the empty water tanks and the fires, it was after dark by the time we arrived in East London so we stopped for supper before the restaurants all closed since the remainder of the drive would be in the dark whether we ate or not. We still stank of smoke so we were even more appreciative of our showers than usual.

Day four was pretty uneventful. Animals were in the road occasionally as usual but not a problem. This time through the Transkei we could see gardens so that answered my earlier question as to whether we didn’t see any simply because it had been winter.

Settled into a different AirBnB that turned out to be no closer to my friend’s new place than if we had stayed at the first place but it was, at least, cheaper. What I can’t figure out for the life of me is why it had NO towels nor soap – especially dish soap. We were warned that dirty dishes would cost us 200R (15$) and we were not warned (contrary to the host’s claim) that we would need to buy (or bring) soap. AirBnB clearly said that towels and soap are included.

They did notify me that there were no towels provided – after the booking was confirmed – in an email attachment I had not noticed, attached to the key instructions. The place had all sorts of extras like plastic picnic table settings as well as regular. There were plenty of good pots and pans, 30 clothes hangers, a vacuum cleaner, an ironing board and iron, etc. Even a washing machine! But no towels. When I e-mailed the host (in another city) she seemed miffed that I expected any. She stated unequivocally that they are not included and she had told me so. But, I had to go to the earlier email and discover that there was an attachment. Can anyone provide any logic for this? They did provide sheets, which would need to be laundered, and toilet paper. Most places give us about eight or ten pillows. For what? We have to find a safe place to store them.

The previous place in this town had also not come with towels until asked, but they did happily provide them on request. I still don’t understand the lack of default inclusion. No where else, only in Shelly Beach.

That was back on the 2nd, so I am still a week behind but this seems a good stopping point. Dave will try to get the photos more up to date. We have Internet here and the phone internet is much less expensive here, too, in Cairo.

Robn and Dave