Tigers and Taxis

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I had to go back to the airport today. For reasons that would make an interesting story where it not that my blood pressure would not survive the telling 😢.

Suffice to say, my little white car was to be swapped for another little white car. Well in the end, for a little bigger white car. Perhaps I should be more precise, and leave the ‘little’ out of the ‘little bigger’. I cannot reach across to adjust the left hand mirror of the new white car. Which I guess makes it a Much bigger white car since the previous ones were so little I could reach my hand out the left window almost without effort – though why I would want to is another question 😂

But I digress.

I am reading an absolutely fascinating book, “Tiger”, about a particular tiger in the Primorye territory in far east of Russia – now that’s got you intrigued I bet 😂😂. But there is more ; the book also looks at the relationship between prey and predator, through the millennia, and all the related theories and hypotheses.

I am sure you see why I have found it fascinating😂. Concepts like the umwelt and umgebung are discussed; hunters and predators use these techniques without knowing they do so. They can move into the umwelt – the world of the other, filled with the perceptions it (the other ) alone knows.

Driving from Sea Point to Cape Town airport at 4pm was a mistake – more traffic than the Monash on a bad day but it did give me time to reflect on both tigers and taxis.

And the umwelt

All us drivers still in one piece on South African roads have acquired this skill.

How else can you explain that split second when you pull back because you ‘feel’ that taxi apparently contently cruising in the lane alongside you has decided to switch lanes. Because there is no slowing down, no head turning to look this way, no indicator- No Indication At All. But sure enough a millisecond after you feel it, it happens and you are kind of prepared and a collision is avoided.

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That umwelt when

your skin feels trouble before your brain has time to register and the driver in front of you stops – just stops – to let someone out or in. And then after this event offers a casual wave out of their window in acknowledgment of your quick thinking 😟

The umwelt again;

When you, minding your own business wait patiently at the red robot (lights). Not a pedestrian in sight. The green light, first gear engaged and there it is : foot and breathe suddenly suspended by the umwelt, as a pedestrian from nowhere runs across the road against the red light in that strange double legged run facing you ( as though that offered some solid shield of protection?) and you continue to drive again with unblemished record 😃

And imagine, prior to reading “Tiger” I, and now you, just thought we were good drivers – we had no idea it was actually about the umwelt 😜😜😳 

Time warp?

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30/10/2016

Time warp? …..

Ek sit nou in Die Kerk.

As ek omkyk sien ek net ‘onse mense’ – no rainbow nation here 😟
(This is an observation, not a judgement: after all there was no English service anywhere in the local region)

Feels no different in any way from when I was dragged to NGV as a child – more than 50 years ago. I don’t remember the sermons ( only the boredom of a young child 😂) but pretty certain it wasn’t too different from today’s :

Which began:

Die tweede (gebod) is : jy moet jy naaste liefhe soos jouself. Geen ander gebod is groter as die twee nie. Mark 12:31 ( the second commandments love your neighbour as yourself)

Ons weet wie ons is; Weet ons wat pad ons loop? (We know who we are but do we know where we are heading)

Is the question raised in the second part ….

The humility and commitment in prayer and deed to ‘sorg vir die Ander’ is real and almost visceral in this place:

With earnest prayer for courage to ‘los die bekende, en doen die Godswerk wat nie maklik is nie’ (let go of the familiar and do His work, which is not easy to do)

Which raises that universal question –

who is ‘ons naaste’ (our neighbours) :

That paradox between intellect and heart :

The paradox of this stunning complex country

Or perhaps the paradox of man ?

The struggle between Self and Anders (others)

As I said, just a reflection on this sabbath day😃

The struggle between self and selfless

As I said, just a reflection on this sabbath day 😜

A Glorious Day

31/10/2016

When the Mother City chooses to sparkle, she does so like no other city.

Which is why I and hordes of others were up at six to ‘promenade’ along the Sea Point promenade ❤️. This is a ‘public space’ and ‘the public’ are here.

Some are waking from a night sleeping rough and some continue to sleep; well, it would seem, even if rough, as they don’t stir while we, and as I said there are many of us, pass them by. At the risk of denting the exhilaration of this morning, I will dare to wonder how many of these men (only saw men – the women? I know there are women doing it tough) began as someone’s son with plans and dreams – perhaps they sat at a Steytlerville roadside waiting for a break once?

Did I tell you my travelling companion called me last night? At 11.48pm – but that’s another story 😃
People.

The two Italian men. I know they were Italian because they spoke that beautiful singing language. I’ll correct t myself right there; one spoke it, volubly. The one dressed in natty yellow cotton shorts, belted, pocketed and creases perfectly ironed with a natty white shirt. His companion, whom I presume found every word fascinating was silent, all in black, listening attentively as the singing followed me for the length of my ‘promenade’

The young mother, niftily dressed in jogging gear pushing an equally nifty pram in which was, I presume a nifty baby, although all I could see was a cap which had fallen off its head onto its (his or hers, I could not be sure) face so it (he or she, there was no way of telling) could not see a thing. And the nifty mum of course could not see either.

The modern way is to have the baby looking forward in its pram (be it a he or she) and the pusher (be it a he or she, I notice) looking down – surprisingly? at their phone.

What happened to mother and child facing each other as they go out for their walk – a mutually shared experience of talking, singing, ogling each other. Gone with the shared family TV watching I guess. It is, as I said A Brave New World – see me blogging ✍️

Another new mother, or at least I hope a new mother, came jogging towards me with her little one tightly bundled in that nifty pram which is clearly compulsory for promenading. I say I hope newly mothered, meaning there is anticipation of change in the future.
I have been struggling to find a polite description of what came towards ‘us’, me and all the others walking in the opposite direction. I have failed to do so. Giant melons, two of them, advanced in a threatening manner and then we realised there was a body attached to them, and occasionally we spotted a head between the bounces. 👀
I watched those around me and the look, almost without exception was one of incredulity that such anatomical gymnastics was possible without serious damage. Our new mum ( we hope she’s new and this is not a life long condition) seems oblivious of any discomfort either to herself or those approaching her on the path. She returned on the two further occasions I ‘promenaded’.

Everyone, it appears is beckoned by the glorious beauty of this city to emerge and ‘promenade’. A deliciously lived lady of indeterminate age – hunched over so the top of her hat was more readily visible than her face. Her arms and legs as gnarled as the dried white game biltong I used to love, only brown, that leather worn brown that speaks of years of use. Arms and legs moved with a rhythm born from determination rather than ease. And I smiled with admiration.

Big bold muscled young men walked with little dogs (why big men, little dogs?) and ladies were dragged along by their large canine companions. There were also the clearly professional dog walkers, shirts with pictures of dogs and in case you didn’t quite get it, they had dogs, three and on occasion four. 🐶🐕🐩 Each on its own lead and more interesting it’s own agenda. I had to stop and watch with interest – another blog perhaps?

A young man robed in black, white tassels visible under his waistcoat, head appropriately covered walked to or from, with his velvet zipped bag with gold embellishments under his arm and a far away look – apparently oblivious of the world.

Hang gliders , gymnasts, bathers, clothes washers, bird watchers, people watchers, coffee drinkers …..

Sea Point on a glorious day can keep you occupied all day

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“Everest”

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Whenever I have to get up at 4am 💤😳I set my alarm to sound, twice, thus ensuring I can sleep soundly till then. Though why I do this is, perhaps a question I should ask (and answer) myself.
You see, I don’t really need to wake up at times like this because I don’t really sleep 😳. My brain seems to mistrust even my reliable iPhone alarm system, (set to play a suitably rousing tune), and keeps me in that twilight zone of non sleep, every so often checking the time and finally being so relieved it is four am so that I Can Finally Get Up.

In the dark, and silence, Jess and I put our hiking gear on and make our way downstairs trying not to wake the neighbours.

We had been invited to walk up Lion’s Head to watch the sun rise, and, since there was no mention of abseiling or jumping down, I assumed the invitation included walking down 😜.

So I found myself in the company of three young, fit women, at the car park at the foot of a mountain we could not yet see. Then they were off, chatting away and disappeared into the darkness. And I found myself wondering why I thought this was a great idea.

I am fit, but in the fading darkness I felt my age and three weeks of doing nothing but eat and drink as I followed as best I could. The path is broad, sandy and not too difficult to negotiate if you discount the angle – which is Up. To begin with, that is. Just as I found my rhythm so to speak, it changed to steps and boulders and my rhythm disappeared, together with any hope of keeping up with the young ladies who had so thoughtfully included me in this little gig.😂

The only thing that didn’t disappear was the angle – it remained Up.

I had company now though. A gentleman, backpack, walking stick, hat – a real ‘professional’ hiker attached himself to me. Thankfully as it was still early morning and not quite light and he had walked this route often and could point me in the right direction when necessary.
I was very impressed with the fact that he could talk and walk at the same time – something I most certainly could not do – and talk he did (and wave his walking stick- often dangerously close to my face as I clambered up rocks behind him😳).

He grew up on Robben island which one could see well from our lofty vantage point. I learnt it was a prison in 1600, a leper colony in 1700 into the 1800, a naval radio base (his childhood years) in the 1950’s, before we all knew it as where Mandela, Mbeki and co were incarcerated.

And then no one spoke as the last chain and ladder were negotiated and we pushed ourselves to get to the top for an amazing sunrise.

No words could adequately describe the awe and exhilaration of this sight and even the photographs fail.

With the dawn came the light so to speak and the rather small summit shrunk considerably as bodies clambered up over the ridge and joined us jostling for position.

I had this awful fear of someone toppling over the edge simply because there were five ties too many on the lions head. So without further ado I headed down.

Now this sounds simple, but believe me it was anything but simple. There is a narrow path. Do not think of a clear flatly graded walkway; think of boulders and rocks that require either very very long legs or very solid bottoms. You’ll work out which I used 😂

And that is not all, there are sections of chains and ladders that require strong nerves, and hand feet coordination (like that manual car driving 😜) and patience. As fast as we were trying to descend (some our ladies were due at work at 8am) so were a remarkably large number of athletes coming up.

Heads down, listening I think to some steroid pumping something, sweating, puffing, on a mission – which did not allow for novices like yours truly. The problems became particularly acute at the steep boulder sections and the chains/ladders.

Then I understood what it must feel like in modern times on Everest. Here am I trying to descend before my courage fades, but am forced to stand still, using valuable lung capacity as these young hulks shimmy up. At the same time I’m trying not to look down – it is a long long long way down – the view is startling, infinite and without interruption to the car park

My turn now to clamber down some rocks, hanging on to the metal foot or were they hand holds? At the same time as the next wave of body flesh arrived from below and had to wait for me to complete my descent. They puffed and snorted surely not to rush me, but to maintain their rhythm? Nothing could have rushed me – I hung on for dear life, acutely aware of the view they had as they looked up at me, acutely aware of the drop below should I hesitate for a second, acutely aware of how many climbers had failed, permanently not on their ascent but rather their descent – I have read all the Everest books!!!!
Acutely aware of how absurd it was of me to presume to do this. Alas, too late she cried.

And then the boulders were cleared, now just the steep steps and I would be passed the danger zone so to speak. I began to relax, in time to see some of those supreme beings who had run past me on the way up, now pass me on the way down!!!!

As the yard arm reached a respectable hour, about 7am I saw more ‘normal’ people setting off up past me. Some of them looked as though they were heading for a stroll in the park; no park here
Another group had brought their dogs, which left us wondering to this very moment where they were heading. One gentleman had a ‘work jacket’ on and another couple were limping at the start – a little like Jess and I are still doing two days later whenever we try to go up or down stairs.

Clearly again, those questions of fit and faint hearted come to mind

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The Bush..

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The vista
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Relaxed
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but oh, so alert

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grazing so contentedly

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It is a Brave soul that attempts to capture ‘The Bush’.   For those of my friends who know the Bush, words are not necessary and can never do it justice and for those readers who have never known the Bush, words are all I can offer knowing full well, before I even begin, that they can never do it justice.   So to you all, for different reasons, forgive in advance my paltry attempt at sharing the ‘Bush’

 Welgevonden (place well found) sees us rise at 5am although the waking of the birds with morning song begins even earlier.

A quick strong coffee and we are on our vehicle; bundled up against the early morning cold.   Very little is said as the smell of the overnight light rain fills our bodies with joy – it is dry and the drought here is crippling and the smell of rain is exhilarating.   We have our binoculars and the sense of anticipation that only a game drive can bring.   

It doesn’t matter how many times one walks or drives in the Bush, the unpredictability of what nature will reveal makes every trip have the same sense of anticipation.

In this case the terrain is new to us- mountainous, red boulders everywhere as we drop into open plains and climb out 0f them to reveal breathtaking vistas of the next rolling plains.

We stop every so often to gaze at zebra, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, giraffe, warthog, wildebeest.   We sit and savour the silence that epitomises the ‘Bush’.   Precisely because it is Not silent; only we are, as senses respond to the call of the ‘Piet my vrou’ – a bird call that Is the Bush;  the brown hooded kingfisher, so small so exquisite with such a large call you know he is there long before you can find him, the wild cry of a fish eagle.   There is the sound of the grass in the breeze, again a sound uniquely Bush.   The cicada, frogs, all contributing so that we are silent.

Suddenly energy changes and bodies tense, voices are raised in whispers, adrenalin begins to pump as right alongside us are cheetahs.   A sight so unexpected that no matter how often one has seen them, this sighting is like the first.   

And there is mother and three cubs, with bellies so full you feel they could be pregnant (except of course they cannot be) and we stare in wonder, torn between watching and experiencing or recording to experience again and again via our cameras .    And then a male appears and the most extraordinary fight right before our eyes ensues and continues for about twenty minutes;

The male harassing the mother ; the cubs running around squealing; the mother backing off ; the male coming back; the cycle repeated over and over again as we watched enthralled, horrified and bemused.   Nature revealing a pattern of behaviour no one was familiar with.

A young elephant entertains with a show of bravado that involves mock attacks at us and at an imaginary foe as he raised his ears, and little trunk and ran forward bellowing as loudly as he could.   Practicing for his future role as protector of his herd.  

The beautiful precious rhino, horns intact grazing so close to our vehicle I could have leant out and touched him.

And in this particular day it stays cloudy and cool so when we stop for a cup of tea and a rusk, we huddle together hands curved round our mugs breathing in the warmth, savouring every moment of a unique time in the Bush.   

Because every visit and every drive through our Bush is by its very nature unique.  

And so still no words describe it, which is why we say, “it’s in our blood”

8/11/2016

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all photographs belong to Jessica 🙂15027953_10207978902570098_1626473969246999285_n Another thing about the Bush – one usually makes good friends, often from countries far flung, as in our case.   Friends who kindly shared their photographs with us.

Thank you Pim Van Dam for this photograph                                         _MG_9720t.jpg

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Friends in the Bush
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Enjoying themselves outdoors
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and in…..
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Celebrating life
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and the privilege of what Ekutuleni had to offer

Trains and tears….

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Melbourne, weep.

A city as sophisticated and elegant as Melbourne Still does not have transport from its airports into the city.

Here I am, on a Friday evening in third world Africa, saying good-bye to my ‘baby’  Jessica, at the main Oliver Tambo Airport.    Painless the travel was, 30 minutes from home to airport, and when I was ready to go back, 35 minutes from airport to my front door

There is a distance of 33km, as the crow flies, from Sandton, where we ‘live’ to the airport. This can take more than an hour on the freeway, and longer if there is a traffic hiccup, which of course sounds quite familiar to my Melbourne ‘family’.

Except there is

The train;

the Gautrain.

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Conceived in 2000 and completed in 2010 (imagine Melbourne thinking that far ahead!!).   I visited during the construction and there was disruption, no denying that.   In some of the busiest parts of the city  where large, sophisticated stations were built.

Big disruptions.

And we quietly muttered and grumbled and navigated our way around construction sites where there should have been roads.

And it cost heaps, estimated at SAR 3.5bill it ended up costing in excess of SAR25bill.

And it created jobs – heaps of them; more than 120 000 jobs and 15 000 courses for unskilled and management were made available.

It has 80km of dual railway line, 30km of tunnels and includes ten new stations.  11km of new bridges.

Other interesting trivia is that it involved about seven and a half million cubic meters of spoil [ph] and the tender papers took 7 hours to deliver and took up 18.5cu metres!!!!

A really a massive project –

As I said, Melbourne,

a big commitment.

But oh, does it work.   For a fair cost, one can park in the parking provided (and there is enough) get on a spotless, quiet train that leaves every 12 minutes and takes less than 20 minutes to deliver you right to the airport.

Why, oh why can a cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria plan and work together to create a state of the art commuter system to their major airport and Melbourne has a gridlock drive, hugely expensive parking and slow unreliable buses into the city and then perhaps if you lucky into the suburbs.

Melbourne weep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A long flight….

We sit alongside each other : an empty seat between us.   And neither body spills over into it, which should give rise to a minor celebration on a long haul flight.   But there is no celebration. In fact there is nothing; not a look, smile, nod, scowl, absolutely nothing.  The empty seat is as solid a barrier as if there had been a body in it.   Each of us is absorbed in our own worlds, our thoughts private creating this strange isolation in a plane so large and full.

It is a long flight, this flight ‘home’ .  In a way it begins at 5.30am when I wake with the light in my room and go for a walk, because there will be sitting and sitting, effectively two days of sitting.

Then there is the packing.    The usual struggle to get back into my bag the stuff I easily took out on arrival.   Why doesn’t the same amount go back in? Every time!!!  So I negotiate with myself – you’re coming back soon so leave this behind, and that, and it would be a good idea to leave these shoes too.   (Which of course it wouldn’t as I will need to replace them at home 😜) but it’s all part of the long journey home.)

There are always people I didn’t get to see, the last minute phone calls- all somewhat unsatisfactory as I’m sort of half gone already; the private negotiation with my guilt about those not made;  the rushed shopping for someone I had overlooked.   The constant recalculation of how much time before I must leave going on in my head like a needle stuck on a long playing record.

There is the security of a ritual lunch out with two special special grannies.   Conversation somewhat muted, as we go over the highlights of my visit;  more effort than usual is required to fill the silences.   15107318_1377524708933297_2543157797124281220_n

And suddenly time has run out and I must leave, lock the bag, throw it on the back seat – the car is never large enough for anything but a pair of runners to fit in the boot, regardless of the little drawing of 4 people, 2 bags on the computer screen when you book it.😂

Hugs and tears, each parting is more painful than the previous and I shut myself off from the figure still standing at the top of the driveway as I drive off.

Family and friends text and call all the way to the airport so my concentration is challenged and my heart is blessed.    

img_5696Car drop off zones seem far more complex to access than car pick up zones, round here, switch lanes, to the far end.   And then back again to the airport!!!

The bag next, wrapped in plastic so no one can open it.   Not even me, at the other end 😜.  It takes superhuman patience to cut open a bag wound in ‘African’ plastic after two days of travelling.   Funny I never feel the need to do the plastic thing going into SA, but always do going into Oz, something about our customs people make me very nervous.

And then joy of joy; my most special friend is at the airport; this too is becoming a ritual.   She stands with me as I check in, she smiles and distracts me as I hand in my phone card and effectively cut off ties.   She joins me for a cup of tea as we talk and laugh and share and use up some of the three hours check in time.   She always pays and I always let her.   And then again, it’s time and I must leave again.  We laugh and hug and pretend it’s not for long and I walk through the gate that marks the point of no return.

It’s a long flight this flight home.

My boarding card says gate A00, the gate is marked A0.   

My boarding card says Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi, the sign at the gate shows flights going to 5 destinations, but not Abu Dhabi.

You will understand, if you have been following my journey, why I am very careful these days about times and gates 😜😜😜

So I check with the nice young man sitting next to me; he too is going to Abu Dhabi and is confused now that I point out the minor discrepancies between boarding passes and gates.

I look for an official – but we are sitting at gate A0 – the furthest gate of the airport and no official seems to venture that far😂😂.

The nice young man and I begin talking.   We have an ‘airport conversation’ which is at the same time intimate and remote.   He is visiting his sister in Sydney for her 40th birthday celebration.   He rode the 97.4 bike ride yesterday.   He works for Sandvik;  he ran up the berg and has a nice t shirt to commemorate the race.   

I’m about to learn about his ex wife and the work she does when an official arrives, asks for our boarding passes and moves us into two rows.   We smile, we’ll finish our conversation shortly.    We don’t.   We don’t see one another again, despite being on the same plane for 23 hours.   Such is the world of travel

Drinks are served by a friendly steward.   Red wine alongside, Diet Coke for me (why did I ask for it, fizzy and unattractive) – surely I could have thought of a better companion to my dinner.    Or perhaps it is exactly the right match for my dinner, for while the menu handed out earlier with such flamboyance describes a succulent lamb briyani, the reality is far from that .    I wonder if the expensive tickets really do translate to excellent meals?  I will never know.

We doze, my silent travelling companion and I.    I wriggle, fiddle with the movies but can’t concentrate, put the flight path on and watch as I and the aeroplane on the screen move ;

Time since departure 20 mins

Time since departure 2 hours

Until 10 hours later I see

Time to destination 20 mins.

The a three hour wait and another 14 hour flight.

What’s with going home?  The same flights – reversed I’ll admit, and transits tackled with So much more care.    It is though, essentially the same.   

So why is the trip home longer?

Quieter?

Slower?

Is it the difference between looking back over something as against looking forward to something I wonder? 

One way you can create; imagine a perfect reality. 

The other way the reality is exposed to you.  The joy, the pain, the fractures.   

And there always is a fracture, sometimes appearing long after like a chip in the windscreen unnoticed till it shatters suddenly. Other times like a serpent trapped and lashing out in a frenzy to protect itself from what it sees as an enemy. 

Sometimes we can mend; sometimes not.

Sometimes it has to do with living two different lives in two different places; sometimes not.

Sometimes it has to do with choices we make, sometimes not.

Is it the knowledge that I leave a ‘home’ troubled, groaning, needing willing hands , and I go to a ‘home’ where things are good and, out of sight, I can quickly forget about the poverty, corruption, pain and enormous beauty and potential I am leaving, that makes the trip feel so much longer?

Or is it simply I am flying into the sun, ever east, forward chasing the clock.img_5591

I doze as I sit in my seat,  34k,  last row of the plane, second leg of the flight, listening to the cabin crew talking, digesting another largely indigestible meal advertised as lunch.

I ask myself why lunch and not dinner since the plane has been plunged into darkness; every blind pulled down, forcing us to pretend it’s night although the sun shines blindingly on the white clouds beyond the Perspex.

My flight path aeroplane shows 10 hours to go

It’s a long flight ‘home ‘

Perhaps a blog?

30th October 2016 – Jarryds, Sea Point. ♥

After a glorious walk – still pinching myself re this trip
I’m told by those that know more about FB than I do (aka my girls) that my musings not suitable – so I shall, perhaps, get round to blogging for those kind enough to be interested ( there I go again – too long 😂😂) till then enjoying my coffee

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Time with friends

Such a special time with friends from so long ago.   Time marches forward to a rhythm that isn’t always of our choosing, so when the opportunity  arises to suspend ‘life’ and savour the memories and the present, why wouldn’t I?

This was such an occasion.

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Quaint and
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beautiful

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Veldrif
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Beginning to look like Greece
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with charm
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and some money
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Die Kaapse Doktor  ( very strong wind for those non S Africans)
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waai
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very hard 🙂 🙂
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Saldana Slipway Restaurant
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with food and views
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to captivate

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A Sunday in the Cape

The last time I drove through the Cape on my own was more than twenty years ago.   I did it often; always however,  with an agenda, a business meeting at a winery, or a dairy, at a set time.   Which meant, of course, there was little time to dawdle, to savour the views, to sit and ponder the beauty.

This Time, I had Time: as much as I liked, so I pottered.

Meandering back from visiting friends in Veldrif aiming for Cape Town and taking whichever road tickled my fancy:

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St Helena Bay:   The Colours
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The last of the flowers ..
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..in patches everywhere, still
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Ready for winter
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St Helena Bay – and still this doesn’t do it justice
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Paternoster. Carmen my hostess and chef at Ouma’s Kitchen
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lekker vis
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And my view – iPhone doesn’t do it justice
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and no complaints about the bill either 🙂
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Paternoster: Too much sun, not enough water
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Paternoster – watching me watching them
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Saldana – seems somehow to fit into the landscape
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Langebaan –
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my turn next visit

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always 🙂 🙂 🙂
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Always ahead of me
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driving back on R27 :  The mountain, a magnet for the eye

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