Shelly Beach and Transkei

Update from Robn, written about 13 Aug

This trip to South Africa was started by the desire to visit my friend and it turned out that she lived in the same compound where we were now staying in Shelly Beach. That was convenient, and a good thing, since she is working full time including quite a bit of overtime. She had very little time to spend with us and since the locals don’t go out at night, unless they have a car, which neither she, nor we did, I’m not sure we would have ever actually been able to get together other than on her day off.

We had a good visit, but we unfortunately got more information about the South African economy than we really wanted to know. We thought things were bad in the USA – and they are – but it is worse here. The locals describe it as having gone from a first world economy to a third world economy. Minimum wage varies from job to job: I saw one figure of only 10.78R per hour! (13R equals $1) or less than a dollar an hour. My friend was making more than that, due to the nature of the job, at about 16R per hour. Even though quite a bit more than some jobs pay, it is still insufficient to live on. Next May a new national minimum wage of 20R (3500R per month) will kick in. But that doesn’t help now. Wonder what will happen to housing rents.

She wants to be self sufficient and have a place of her own so we helped with shopping for a rental. Found a place for 1500R/month with only a bedroom. Toilets/showers were a few hundred meters up a hill. Electricity for lights was extra. It was way off the main road. The same complex had another unit for 2500R with bunk beds to sleep 4 people and a derelict bathroom. No kitchen. No electricity. I believe the water was extra. These are, I gather, typical housing for the under classes – although better than the shanty towns. The difficulties of keeping a job while living in such conditions overwhelm me just thinking about it.

On the other hand for 3000R ($230) we found a really nice apartment, with bed, bath, lounge, and kitchen – furnished! Modern, middle class. Go figure! Trouble is, until she gets a raise or two, that’s just not doable. She had a fellow worker eager to share such a room with her, which would have been a great solution, but she was warned by others that she would be left holding the bag as the eager one was not likely to be working there much longer! (Plus she had an infant child to boot, which had not been mentioned.)

So we researched options to the best of our ability for a few days and then decided to go ahead with our road trip to Cape Town. We had only turned up one possible option which was far enough away to make commuting a problem. Until something came up through the grapevine, the search would need to be suspended or, at any rate, there wasn’t anything more we could do.

We traded in a 2 day rental for a 30 day rental. (Not waiting 2 days would have doubled the price of the month long rental! Why are cell phone and car rental contracts SO COMPLICATED!?!) Said our goodbyes and good lucks and headed down the Transkei. This was a section of SA that is mostly just black residential areas. Places where families live while the bread winner is elsewhere earning money. The homes dot the hill sides along with fields full of livestock. Mostly cows, goats, sheep. Saw 2 or 3 pigs. The only chickens we saw were being loaded into a car’s boot (trunk in America). I suspect there are more chickens that we just didn’t see.

We saw almost no sign of any vegetable gardens, but maybe because it is winter. More likely because the soil doesn’t support much besides grass for livestock. No signs of any industry or commerce except for tiny bits in a couple of townships. Far far too many people with no evidence of any source of income – but as I said, the income earners are elsewhere. Further north there were lots of sugar cane fields around Durban, but not in the Transkei.

There are no fences and the livestock are sometimes on the road – usually crossing but potentially just standing! The speed limit through most of this region is 100 Kph (62.5Mph) but is often, or rather usually, exceeded – except when there is a heavy truck slowed by the hills and safe passing is not possible. Not surprisingly there is a high accident rate in the area. One man almost walked out right in front of us on the freeway!!! Happily he realized at the last hundredth of a second. A very near thing.

At one point early in the day, a line of vehicles was slowed by one of these trucks. At the head of the line was a very long empty Sugar Cane truck with two long semi-trailers, followed by a Greyhound Bus, followed by a heavy equipment truck, with a couple of cars in between, then us, then a few more cars behind us. The bus recognized that it was not safe to pass so it crawled along at the speed of the Sugar Cane Truck (Don’t know why it was so slow when it was empty, but it was.) The cars recognized that passing both these long vehicles required extra passing space and also prudently waited for a passing lane that would eventual be available.

The truck slowed down even more. The entire line came to a crawl. Someone behind us decided that he could pass the entire line if it was going that slowly, and came roaring past us, accelerating as he went. Meanwhile, the lead truck was turning 90 degrees to cross the highway into a field. The passing idiot found himself facing a wall of truck across the entire highway. I do believe that would have ended his passing career if the bus driver hadn’t dove toward the ditch fast enough to give him room to pass behind the cane truck. We are glad he was watching.

It helped me to stay on my own toes and warily watch for other idiots and recognize when they might try to pass despite it being dangerous. They still managed to surprised me, but we had no personal close calls. The traffic was not actually heavy. I did my own passing but only in the passing lanes after getting stuck behind the real slow pokes. We saw 5 or 6 dead dogs and I think one dead sheep. Sheep, cows and dogs all crossing the freeway at times.

In this remote area, they had a proper divided, limited access highway much of the time, but it went right down the main street of some of the towns on the route. A few times we found ourselves in what appeared to be downtown pedestrian districts judging by the number of people wandering around on the road carrying on conversations and the like. Sort of like after a parade has just finished back home. Happily we were moving at a crawl, but still….

We made it to East London, just as it was starting to get dark and settled into our AirBnB. The wi-fi router chose that day to give up its ghost after we grabbed a couple of e-mails, so we were unable to do much on line. Our hostess had sold the home a few days earlier and was preparing to move to the UK before Christmas. Hosting was not high on her list of desirable activities but she welcomed us anyway and we had a pleasant visit.

Next day I visited the yacht club where I had made my second landfall without Gerhard, enjoying a trip down memory lane. I was surprised at how huge East London is compared to what I had seen of it from the harbor, which was practically zilch.

Enough for now. More soon.

Cheers, Robn and Dave

27 July

Robn is also writing, so we will try not to duplicate.

In this one, I will just be filling in some gaps.

Our AirBnB choices were excellent, with the exception of one night that Robn describes later.

One BIG thing that we noticed was that most homes are somewhat fortified with tall walls, topped with pointy things and then 6 to 10 electrified wires, 2 to 4 ft higher yet. Then dogs inside the compound and bars on the windows, and heavy steel barred gates at the doors, then inner doors, with, sometimes double locks. The sign below says, “Armed response.” And, we are told the private security arrives VERY quickly. Whew!

We have been repeatedly warned to not go out on foot, after dark. In some areas, the Police are NOT your friend, and when they hear our American accent, make try to extort money by made up infractions.

Keep the doors of your car locked at ALL times. Do not have ANYTHING in the visible part of the car and keep your cell phone out of sight. (Tricky when using it to navigate.)

It reminds me of Panama, back in the ‘Bad Old Days’ in the 1980s, when 1/3 of our friends were mugged, even us.

The ZAR or South African Rand is about 13 to the dollar, which is not easy to do in one’s head, but most prices are much better than in America.

We ran into a person that seems otherwise bright, but it came out that he believes the wide spread hog wash that the Earth is actually flat and there is a conspiracy to hide that.

Before you say that he has fewer brain cells than a small stump, realize that there are hundreds of very sincere sounding web posts explaining the Flat Earth view and pretending to explain away the “MANY obvious flaws” in the idea of a spherical world.

I can only assume that the original sources of these sites are pathological liars, BUT, I think that our acquaintance was genuinely fooled. If one is gullible, weak in math and Science, and has never spent much time at the sea or a large lake, it would be easier to be fooled.

Having crossed oceans, using a sextant to find our position, having seen the Green Flash, and so on, we were not even SLIGHTLY taken in. But, it was a shock to see this unfortunate victim.

I have no theory as to WHY this is promoted so much.

Another interesting experience: We knew it was Winter, or Early Spring, here. At the first AirBnB in Johannesburg we awoke to find the weather door wide open which allowed the dogs to come and go through the locked grill door. Okay, but the temperature was only 35 F degrees = 2 Celsius! I don’t think they were wasting heat. They did not heat the building. They just managed with quilts and leftover daytime heat. The second place did the same thing! Both places provided propane heaters in our rooms to accommodate our pampered expectations. One of the things that we forgot is that Johannesburg, and much of the surrounding land is at about 1755m/5,758 feet in elevation. This, combined with sleep deprivation and jet lag caused us to tire easily, Very easily.

The days were ALL sunny and clear, which combined with the altitude to cause the very cool nights and about 70F/21C in the daytime. But, we had clothing for that, so it was OK. Also, they had heaters and hot showers.

Robn already covered most things, so I will stop here.

We are having lots of fun. As we left our suburban, non-AirBnB lodging yesterday for a walk, a medium sized monkey or smallish baboon, ran across the road, perhaps 100 ft, 30m, in front of us. I wonder what he thinks of the electric fences. This neighborhood seems MUCH more relaxed. Very few electric fences and even some walls are low. And, the second day their were several more monkeys close by on roof tops. Might justify the window bars.

Dave & Robn

Arrival in South Africa

Written about July 19,


Belated Update. We are doing well.

I think my last update, was in February. I have been having a computer problem, with the software that I use for these updates. But, I recently seem to have fixed that.

It has been so long now, that I may not remember all that is happened. But I will take a shot at it, it may not be in correct chronological order.

I spent some some time with one of our friends in Olympia. We have many interests in common, so it is always interesting to visit him. We also went to some political things in Olympia. It is our state capitol.

We also discovered this website:

There is a small fee for being a member, but it allows us to contact people who welcome us to visit them for a few days, for free. We have done it quite a few times now, and each time, the people have been very interesting, and fun to visit. One couple live in a rural area that, during our walks, seemed to have so many neighbors with often several recreational vehicles, that we suspect that there are more RVs than families, over a several mile area.

We have been to many various political rallies, marches, classes, and the like. It is encouraging that there are so many people that are finally getting fed up with the massive problems in our government. This is often nonpartisan. Huge numbers of people would like to have the vastly more cost-effective health care that we could have. Huge numbers of people are tired of having made up wars, that seem to mostly be invented to help the very rich. Pretty much everyone ought to be on board for honest, verifiable elections. But, so many people still have not seen the proof of the mess we are in.

Since our last update, a very young British friend that we knew from Trinidad, fell to her death, while on the mast of a very large sailboat, and another friend from the Seattle area died very suddenly from brain cancer. She was a Buddhist and very active in so many of the same political things that we are. We attended her Buddhist memorial service, and also the nondenominational memorial service.

Recently we have been house-sitting the house of the recently departed Seattle friend. This helps both us and the estate.

This seems like a pretty short update for so many months, but I think it covers the high spots. Now that I have my software working better, I will see if I can find time to make some posts that refer to things that occurred quite some time ago, but I think you would find interesting.

Dave & Robn

Silva Method Class in Seattle

Back in 1972, I took a self improvement class that changed my life.

It is based on a Western method of getting very deep levels of meditation and shows you many valuable tools that your mind can do, but few people are aware of.

This class is designed to teach you an easy, Western form of mindful meditation, that can be learned to a useful level by the second day, yet allows you to get to deep levels of the mind and control your brain frequency without biofeedback. Like anything, you get better with practice, but you will be amazed at how much you can accomplish after just a few days. The remaining days are to teach you more things that you can do, and to help you continue to improve the mediation skills.

Some people have already learned to use some of these parts of their mind, but the class gives you a virtual toolbox of skills to use, as you see fit, in day to day life. You learn to control your own mind and to be able to keep others from controlling your mind. Some students have reported that when they went to stage hypnotists, that they could do every one of the wonderful or even bizarre things that people can do under hypnosis, BUT, they had complete awareness, AND, they could do, or not do, what the hypnotist told them. THEY were in complete control.

You will be able to use new mental skills, including, being able to go into a deep state of mental and physical relaxation, within a very few minutes. With practice, we can do this with our eyes open, even while walking, and in formerly distracting environments. From these deep levels, it is easy to fall asleep within 5 or 10 minutes, when you want to. Similarly, you will learn how to stay awake, when needed, much longer than formerly. And, a 15 min ‘meditation nap’ will ‘recharge your batteries, more than you would think.

You will be shown how to recall your dreams, and, with practice, most can change their dreams ,or even have dreams to predict the future.

It includes methods to get rid of headaches and in the late 1960s and early 1970s was the only way known for many people to eliminate debilitating migraines. You will learn to control pain and bleeding and speed healing and significantly reduce the risk of infection.

You learn ways to make your memory amazing, to be able to simulate situations in your mind and to set goals that actually come to pass VERY often. Your ability to visualize, including all of your senses, will improve and, with practice, can get very powerful. There is even a form of psychic ability that you will be able to do, by the last day. It continues to get better with practice, but you will be amazed even on just the 4th day.

This link will help, but I think that the price quoted is just for the first two days. The total price is $1,394.00.

Dave & Robn