Begin forwarded message:
From: Robn Diekow <robn.syheidi>
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
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
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
A few of my friends strongly disagree with my politics, so, they might want to skip this post, even though it is 100% facts..
Here is a link to MANY, far more than 58, admitted, proven, False Flag attacks carried out by various govts. I suggest that you follow the links and the links within links. They lead to hundreds of examples.
I found one of the links to be redirected, so I post a better link below this main link.
My position is that Robn & I want our govt to move back toward honesty and to reduce corruption. Plus, to actually have honest elections and so much more. We require that this happen peacefully and lawfully.
President Kennedy pointed out that, "Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable." The violent ones VERY seldom end well. Do not go that route.
Even more news from Robn,
I will add photos over the next few days and then remove this sentence.
From Plettenberg, on Aug 14, we headed out for Knysna (pronounced nye’s-nah) and points west. A nearby place for a hike with big trees had been recommended but when we got there, someone was sitting on a bench claiming that there was a 40R entrance fee. This we did not believe. He looked anything but official and there were no signs or other indication of restricted entrance. Plus, when we weren’t interested in paying 40R, he offered a discount and said we could pay after the walk. Perhaps we should have just ignored him, but we chose instead to simply leave.
On my trip past this area in 2011, we were watching the weather very carefully. It can turn dangerous very quickly, and it took us 4 days to get to Hout Bay. The weather was unstable and might go bad quickly. There are few places to seek shelter in this part of the world.
At Knysna, we went to the “Heads” (the entrance to the harbor) and I confirmed that, when I sailed by here in 2011, I would have been extremely uncomfortable entering that harbor which I had been told should be done only with local knowledge. They were correct. There were breaking rollers across the entire entrance. We watched a tour boat going out – shallow draft, large engined, well powered boat – which aborted twice before getting out. We read about ship wrecks there – at least one of which was denied insurance as the company decided that the wreck was deliberate. Maybe. It is a tricky entrance, on a GOOD day. Some insurance companies prefer to not pay out. Just take in.
We also read about a boat building company there that was about to close down when WWII began, because the workers all wanted to enlist. The military stopped them in time and said, we need ships!. They built 640 vessels for the Navy including wooden submarine hunters. (This surprised Dave, as he was familiar with wooden mine sweepers. Some mine are set off by the magnetic field of the ship. But, low and behold, have a look at the second link, just below.)
The company then went on to build fishing boats and yachts including winning ocean racers. So the harbor entrance was obviously passable and I could have gotten in – but I would not have done so without both local knowledge, and a great deal of nervousness. I do not regret giving it a pass – as beautiful and interesting as it is.
Evidence of a huge fire from a couple months ago (started June 7th) was everywhere. The destruction went on for many miles. There were storm force winds at the time, exacerbated by the fire itself. In many areas, just the bottoms of the trees were damaged. It looks like it was sometimes brush fire under the tall trees. Sometimes this killed the tree. Sometimes just the lower branches. The top was still green and the tree might survive.
Also, often the trunk was intact and they seem to be harvesting those somewhat blackened logs.
We continued on to Mossel Bay. This had been a planned alternate shelter if I felt that the weather window would not hold till Hout Bay. At decision time it was quite a debate but I decided to continue on and we made it all the way without incident. While in Mossel Bay, we visited a replica of the ship Bartolomeu Dias used when he came here in 1488, but I did not feel that it gave an accurate idea of what life and sailing was like back then. It seemed too POSH inside. Interesting nevertheless.
Much more interesting, for me at least, was a visit to Pinnacle Point where the development of a golf course led to the proper examination of several large caves in the area for the first time. Lots of evidence was found to indicate that humans had inhabited them 162,000 years ago – tools, ash, bones, shells. Our guide showed us lots of features of the historical record, like the period when the cave was sealed off by a huge sand dune which allowed for transparent clean seepage of flow rock. This means that the stalactites from one era were clean and shiny. While the earlier ones were sandy and gritty, due to sand and dust being blown into the open cave mouth.
The cave was sealed off at the end of the middle stone age, explaining why no evidence of late stone age habitation was found in this particular cave although it was found in other nearby caves that had not been sealed off. Thirteen caves in all. There maybe others hiding under current dunes. At the time that the caves were inhabited, the ocean was up to a couple hundred kilometers away due to lower sea levels. What archeological treasures await in caves that are now under water?
The guide was very knowledgeable and well spoken and presented a clear picture of the record – much more convincing that the one we saw near Jo’berg. Which doesn’t make the latter necessarily inaccurate, just less convincing.
While in Mossel Bay, we stayed with a well traveled lady who had broken several glass ceilings – like visiting an oil platform, when ONLY men were allowed, and had been to a very remote, and dangerous part of Victoria Falls, and working with rich Arabs to find top employees. She also had some interesting culinary experiences eating things which most people in our culture would not be able to stomach. Let’s just say bugs and worms, in countries where the locals ate them. Yet again, no shortage of interesting conversations.
We did some laundry here as it had been a while, since most airbnb’s don’t offer that option – at least not AirBnBs in our price range. South Africa must have a tiny heating bill compared to the USA. Not only do they not heat their homes and leave their doors and windows open to the fresh air in very cold weather, but they also don’t use electric clothes dryers. Fancy that! They simply hang them up on racks to dry. Zero expense. Zero carbon. (Except a bit for occasional ironing.) Just a bit of patience.
Before leaving Mossel Bay, we went to the tiny Aquarium where one can swim with the sharks – 2 of them in a tank. We declined, not because they were sharks, but because we were not interested in getting cold and wet. It had an octopus and a few other bits of sea life. Precious little other than the chance to swim with the sharks. For non mariners, however, it may very well have been quite interesting. I couldn’t say. For us, the owner was the interesting part. Alan Jardine has a fascinating life history.
Next we went to the ‘Iron and Washing Museum’! It was locked but the hours posted indicated that it should be open, so we inquired at the laundry next door and they opened it for us and got a video going for us to watch. Very interesting. They have over 640 irons! Plain flat irons, plus those for ties and hats, and socks, and various kinds of pleats, and those fancy collars. The collection showed not only the variety of specialty irons but their development from irons heated on a stove, to irons with hot coals inside to stay hot longer, to gadgets that would heat one, while another was in use and, and, and. Plus washing machines and ringers and all sorts of other items related to making and caring for clothing and even a few other items. I found it fascinating. So much effort! Of course that was for the gentry. I doubt very much that the clothing of the masses in previous centuries ever saw an iron. Contrast that to our mass production throw away wardrobes.
From Mossel Bay, we stopped next in Still Bay for a night. I had booked three nights under the impression from AirBnB’s web site that it was within walking distance of Cape Agulhas. Not. The web site includes information from Google Maps but the scale is covered up by a rectangle that offers you the chance to change language and currency. Without the scale I sometimes lose track of how much I have zoomed in and out. Since I wanted to spend time at Agulhas, we changed the booking to one night which we spent with yet another fascinating couple. We had planned to take a breather to catch up on recording memories and sorting pictures. Yeah, right. We talk and listen too much. They fed us lavish meals and told us fascinating things. Had a great time, and great food, and slept soundly. Then finally made it to the southernmost tip of South Africa.
Here we did find a place to stay without distractions as our hosts promptly took off for adventures of their own leaving us in a little self contained apartment. It’s a remodel that provides almost everything you could want in a minimalist space. On entry there is a shower to the left, a kitchen sink next to it then a half bathroom. Opposite the shower, to the right of the door, there is an under counter fridge under an L shaped counter. Under the end of the long leg of the L which stretches away from the door, is a drawer for silverware with a couple of shelves under that. They had a two burner hot plate, toaster, electric fry pan, pot, and skillet. Between the fridge and shelves is leg space with a chair on each side of the counter. Under the short, narrow leg of the L along the wall is more shelving with plates, cups, glasses. Above, on the counter, is a micro wave oven and electric kettle. Dave sat at the counter inside the L with his computer in front of him and stirred our supper on the hot plate next to him. This was the kind of efficient use of space that sailors appreciate. Behind him was the bed with night tables and a wardrobe. Only trouble was the electric fry pan was no longer non stick and the heating element was uneven. A very minor problem that far too many people in the world would love to have.
We took time out from letter writing to go down to the tip and watch the waves and visited the light house. (Twice.) So that brings me up to date. What have I left out? Oh, one thing: Somewhere I had a pizza for lunch that was so different from anything I can remember that I simply have to mention it. It was roasted beet root, butter nut squash, macadamia nuts, and pumpkin seeds! (And the usual tomato and cheese). It was GOOD. I’ve had a lot of meals lately that have not fit the usual mold, and I am enjoying the variety and the novelty.
Hope you are also enjoying life,
Robn and Dave
Dave is adding photos over the next few days. When done, I will remove this paragraph. Enjoy.
From East London, on Aug 5/6, we continued on down to Port Elizabeth (PE), where we met a school teacher who hosted us and clarified quite a bit of South African History for us – not that I could regurgitate much of it! It is one thing to list arrival dates and battle dates which is already beyond my memory capabilities but to understand the why is what is important and at the same time probably unknowable. Just as pundits are trying to analyze how Trump came to power and are really just guessing at umpteen theories, I think the same holds true for all historical events. It is easy to say that the US joined World War Two because of the attack on Pearl Harbor but there were a great many other factors that led up to that event.
South Africa was ruled by whites made powerful by their technology, but that technology did not teach them how to get along in peace with other cultures. They apparently feared the blacks who outnumbered them and believed that total control was necessary to maintain their power and lifestyle. The US story of slavery and control over blacks is somewhat different since the numbers were so different. Blacks were not as much of a threat to the power structure as in South Africa. Revolts in the US were a threat to the wealth and the economy rather than actual life. Revolts in South Africa, due to the sheer numbers, were a higher risk to life and limb.
I find it fascinating that the result of these fears is always suppression. Suppression of rights, freedoms, and privileges of others. A drive to increase the differing living conditions. In actuality, the masses of people, not being as greedy as the haves, are generally content to put up with a great deal of inequality. The haves, I think, must recognize at some level that they are being very unfair and that eventually the have-nots will get tired of being treated unfairly and object. Yet instead of sharing a bit with them and treating them better, they clamp down all the more with sheer force of law and/or arms.
Once this cycle is set it becomes rather difficult to change. If the powers that be begin to share with the have-nots, the latter tend to remember the previous injustices and seek recompense for past behavior. They tend to not be satisfied with just a few bones tossed their way once the lines have been drawn. A great deal of turmoil could be avoided if people would simply work together in cooperation instead of people holding onto a sense of superior rights that they use to justify helping themselves to more than their share.
Enough of my soap box!
We visited with friends of mine from 2011. One helped me with visa hassles back then and the other sailed with me from PE to Hout Bay. It was good to see them again. I got to know them better this time around since last time I was so wrapped up in my own situation that I wasn’t paying near enough attention to the people around me. We also went to the Addo Elephant Park and saw a variety of wildlife. When it came to the elephants the first ones we saw were difficult to make out in the brush, but then we saw one on the far side of a brushy field. We watched for a while and then he came towards us. He would pause from time to time but was still wandering in our direction so we sat tight. Sure enough, he came up quite close. Judging by his size I would say it was a teenager. Later we saw a group of about 14 and then a family of all ages and sizes.
Above: Enroute to Addo. Low clouds in the valley.
Above: Many side roads are gravel. Often ‘corrugated’, ‘washboard’ or ‘corduroy’ type roads. This is good advice.
Above: Our first Addo animals, seen from a bunker. A Greater Kudu (R), and a Warthog (L).
Above: 3 Greater Kudus. One of the largest species of antelope. Bulls weigh 190–270 kg (420–600 lb), with a maximum of 315 kg (694 lb), and stand up to 160 cm (63 in) tall at the shoulder.
Above: One of the favorite pastimes at Addo is mooning the cars. A Zebra. Animals were often far away and, without a telephoto, not a good photo.
Above: This is the ‘teenager’ that began far, far away, and kept getting closer. Just wait….
Above: It decides that the bush, halfway between the elephant and the car looks tasty.
Above: our best Elephant Photo, so far.
About: Getting a drink.
Above: Family getting closer to us. Some folks did not read the, “Do not hang out of your car!” sign.
Earlier at the Kragga Kamma Game Park we had seen rhinos, giraffes, a variety of members of the antelope family, wild dogs, a mongoose, ostriches, warthogs, and, and, and. There doesn’t seem to be much interest in sticking to indigenous animals.
We also went to the South End Museum which tells the story of forced re-settlements into segregated ‘homelands’ designed to ensure that the races stopped mixing. The community (one of many) had been a harmonious mix of working class people of various colors. This threatened the ruling Afrikaners and they began a policy of separating the living spaces.
We worry that America is moving in that terrible direction, with some few, but powerful people in our government promoting ethnic hatred and violence.
Of course, I had to visit the marina again for my trip down memory lane. And then we went to the Grass Roof Cafe for an organic vegan lunch. Their gardens right outside the restaurant provide their ingredients, which are also sold to the public.
We also spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to get our phones to work properly and learn how to buy our data and not waste it. It was disappearing way faster than normal as companies have gotten better and better at getting your devices to do things in the background without your knowledge or permission. It is a lot more noticeable when you are paying for each Mb. We heard that someone did an experiment where he downloaded a variety of phones with different data packages, made SURE that NOTHING was running even in the background and kept track of the “data usage”. One company falsely claimed that data was being used, which is outright theft. Personally I object to the expiration of purchased minutes or data simply because a time period has elapsed and consider that theft but at least that is admitted in the description of what you purchase – this was NOT part of the contract. Am I surprised? Hardly.
(Dave here) Similarly, AirBnB has been wonderful for our trip. We have met so many great folks and seen different aspects of life in the countries that we have visited. And, for much less than a hotel. BUT, I discovered that they are skimming extra money from us. They have a clearly posted service fee that they charge for their service.
Their website says, “…we charge guests a service fee between 5% and 15% of the reservation subtotal.”
Our recent bookings are all between 12 and 13%.
Then, AirBnB, not so publicly, charges an additional 3% for converting my US$ to the host’s currency. OK, but I want to pay in the local currency, since I have a credit card that does not charge a foreign exchange fee, and I want to save the 3%. But, that is not allowed. And, they gave us a terrible exchange rate, so that we lost 8.94%, not 3%.
We have been looking into the rules and, counting charges to the Host and Guest, AirBnB gets about 36% of the money above board and, in our case, nearly 9% more as hidden fees. That is creeping toward 50%. Hmmm…. They make almost the same as the Host.
There was more to see in PE, of course, but it was time to move on, and we headed for Plettenberg. On the way we went down to the ocean at Stormsrivier and hiked to the suspension bridges. The trail was on a steep cliff side and had many sections of board walk and stairs to make it more accessible. Enough elevation change to make us old fogies short of breath. No regrets, of course, as we need the exercise and the scenery was fantastic.
From there we went to our next AirBnB. Here we stayed with a couple who brought their mask making and chocolate businesses down from Jo’berg. These are venetian style masks rather than African tribal masks and they are the only source in South Africa (or did she say the whole of Africa?). https://www.lacarlamasks.co.za The owners are as eclectic as their business – as someone else said. We had very enjoyable conversations with them. They have 3 dogs and about 3 domestic cats. The native large cats keep eating the domestic ones. We thought that they had one peacock and his half dozen hens, but we soon learned that they are wild pea fowl that think the place belongs to them along with several guinea hens. Some days there were several peacocks and lots of various birds, large and small.
Above: The front show
Above: Mooning me and, more importantly, a Pea Hen. She seemed to strut off in a huff!
Above: The tail’s normal mode. ‘Reefed’ in sailor talk.
Above: A peacock right outside our open window and door. His legs are just long enough that he walked up the stairs. They fly well enough to spend the night in a tall tree.
Above: If you actually need a good reason to not trifle with a baboon, these canine teeth might convince you. Packs of baboons are in the area, but since the humans that live here, started having human males urinate along back property line, they stay away. They have come into the house and done some damage, looking for food. But, no more.
From this base we ventured out to see more sanctuaries. Monkey Land and Birds of Eden the first day, Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary the second. Most of the monkeys in Monkey Land are not indigenous to South Africa and they can not mix predatory monkeys with animals they would attack, so they limit their charges to smaller species. They claim that they do not interact with the animals (i.e. touching or hand feeding), but I’m not clear what difference it would make. Several of the monkeys were totally comfortable walking amongst us on the trails – simply ignoring us as they chased each other.
Some steal items from the guests. An iPhone and a hair clip, with the lady’s hair extension, come to mind. Not quite a toupee, but the woman was upset to loose it. One was trying to open Dave’s backpack. So much for maintaining distance!
The bird sanctuary also had many non indigenous birds of all sizes. Most of them I could not name for love nor money. Pheasants, parrots, swans, guinea hens, I am semi familiar with, but not all the truly colorful ones nor the “little brown jobs”. One guinea hen followed me around for a long time and seemed to be begging for attention. It even brushed up against me. I had difficulty resisting the temptation to pet it. They are amazing when viewed at less than arm’s length.
A small parrot, who was probably a pet before coming here flew over our heads and sought our attention. A finger held out was all the invite it needed and it flew over and climbed up onto our shoulders. Bit one of my buttons off! We did not know how to get it to leave but a pair of other birds chased him off. Later, we saw the sign saying to not allow them to land on us. Oops. Why not put the sign at the beginning of the trail?
At Jukani they have assorted cats from around the world, mostly from zoos and circuses and the like. Animals that can not live in the wild because they never learned to hunt for themselves. Joy Adamson taught Elsa to hunt for herself and was able to reintroduce her to the wild. So it can be done, but I can believe that it would not always be successful and that the animal would probably have a high risk of being killed by humans, or other predators. The number of cats and other animals needing a retirement home must be huge.
We were particularly interested in seeing Spirit, featured in the movie “The Animal Communicator” about Anna Breytenbach. I couldn’t say why – we just did. When we were on the tour, Spirit was in his shelter minding his own business. We were told that he might be more visible closer to feeding time and if we came back later in the day we could skip the tour and someone would accompany us to the viewing platform near him. We did so and he was sleeping off in the distance. He moseyed a bit closer but chose not to come close. That’s fine. A twelve minute video about Anna and Spirit is at:
The following day we went out to the World Heritage Site at Robberg Nature Preserve. Hiked for a few hours along steep trails that reminded us of the Hike near Milan a year ago. I would guess that it was about 3 plus Km or a little over 2 miles, but with a lot of elevation changes. Part of it was a long steep slope of thick soft sand and we were glad to be going downhill rather than up. I’m not sure if it qualified as a dune – which I think of as ever shifting – given the amount of bushes and the dimensions. It is maybe 6 meters across at the narrow parts and dropping from an elevation of 120 meters as near as we can guess from the map, over a distance of some 600 meters. A slope of 1 in 4 to 1 in 5 in places. Too bad we didn’t have an appropriate board and skills to slide down! We saw lots of seals but from a long ways away. We were far above them, which limited the smell a lot.
It was very good exercise, stunning scenery, good weather, a wonderful day.
I’ll take a break here before continuing. I really enjoyed Plettenberg and find it interesting that I never considered visiting it with Heidi. On the other hand, my charts do not make it look at all inviting, I had not heard of the place as a potential stop, plus it is not far from Port Elizabeth and Heidi and I needed to cover distance when we had the chance.
Cheers, Robn and Dave
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 on Aug 5th, we headed down the Transkei. This was a section of SA that is mostly just widely separated 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 only 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.
Above: The Transkei was pretty empty most of the way, and this time of year, dry and brown.
Above: Nearing one of the few towns near the highway. Notice that the houses are generally widely spaced.
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. We were going 100 kph / 62 mph.
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….
Above: Entering a different town/city in the Transkei.
Above: The “Expressway” goes right down Main Street and the pedestrians sometimes just wander across the street in the traffic. But, we are not going fast at that point.
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