It’s all about ….

It’s all about the right horse, I was told by those who know best. And those who know best are, of course, those who ride all the time.
So why would I doubt them?
After all, they are regular riders who know horses well and are, I was told, the people one should ask for advice when embarking on a riding adventure.
Except, precisely Because they are riding fit and do so all the time, perhaps they are Not the people to ask?
What do I know? I set off to the gym confidently believing if I did the exercises (squats, sit ups etc) as prescribed, for a few months, I would be fine, as it all depended on having the right horse 😳
So there I was, with dire warnings from many friends about the madness of this adventure; the pain I was going to feel in unmentionable parts of my body, the risk I was taking, still ringing in my ears. My stomach slightly knotted as my brain tried to convince my body that those that Know, say I’ll be fine, it’s all about the right horse.
So I waited for Howard from African Horse Co to arrive at our meeting place, Farm 215. at the designated time of 10am having overlooked of course that the riding world runs to its own clock – dictated by where the horses wandered off to graze; how the old car felt that morning (riding in my limited – very limited experience seems synonymous with old cars – the cost of the one mode of transport dictating the cost of the other 😜), which saddle was where etc.
And then suddenly, after hanging around for an hour or so, there I was being handed ‘my horse’ – Luke
Far from sitting down and gently talking me through the week’s plan with words of encouragement ( the picture I had created in my head 😂) with a question/answer type session. Breyten advised; “Howard said hi”, and “up you get!” Which of course I couldn’t do without a step ladder 😂😂
Luke was a large animal – the largest of the three horses – and I was the smallest, or perhaps shortest is more accurate, rider. Somehow that didn’t seem quite fair 😩.
Since there was no ladder, I needed a leg up; and that was the case every time I wanted to mount him, for the entire week! Alas? I never did get to master the art of lifting one leg as high as my shoulder, putting it into the stirrup while balancing on the other and then swinging myself into the saddle, all on one elegant motion 😂
Nonetheless before I knew it I was on the back of a large horse and off down the road to, well I wasn’t quite sure where.
Reminding myself I needn’t worry – it’s all about the right horse.
And of course it is. All about the right horse.
And the legs, and the thighs, and the back and even the feet (6 hours in stirrups and you find parts of your foot you didn’t know existed 😳)
But it is about the horse. And Luke was the kindest, most gentle soul and within half an hour I knew he would not surprise me, well not much anyway. After all he did bolt when the bus greeted him, and we shot into the bushes when the bushbuck shot out of the bushes, but as bolts go, they were gentle ones, even for me, a beginner.
His back was broad and comfortable. His walk was steady if a bit slow. I asked him to trot and he did, not reluctantly nor in mad haste. It felt like he was indulging me: you want to trot, okay we can trot. Oh, you prefer a canter, no problem, I don’t mind cantering.

When we were galloping and I could hear Sparky galloping up behind me, I prepared for Luke to increase his pace. He didn’t, he stayed reliably steady. A ‘man’ beating to his own drum.
He never embarrassed me by moving when I was trying to mount or dismount him, something I was most grateful for 😃 He waited kindly, nuzzled me when I stood close, shared my sandwiches and even, dare I say it looked pleased to see me each morning.
And at the end of 5 glorious days of riding I agreed that it’s all about the right horse.
Perhaps Howard was right when he said. “If you had to chose a husband, you would want one like Luke.   Reliable, stable, predictable, trustworthy, safe”
Did hear a small voice somewhere whisper “and boring”.

I could not be sure.

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Where in the world….

am I?

this crazy planet is amazing.


A swim in the the Gulf of Oman had me looking ahead to Afghanistan, right to India and down to the Maldives as I swam in luke warm tender waters.

Alone, but not alone

Fisherman down the way celebrating their bounty.

And a stop to buy fresh bread, back in Al Ain as we watched the sun set on a remarkable two days.

fresh fresh
made the same way for centuries
cooked along the sides
and so the day ends


A must visit again part of our world.

 

 

Just confirming …. 

For Thomas and those of you who followed my previous adventures (and if you didn’t, you could see it on “Don’t Ask”)

Here I am; 

Right airport;

Right gate;

Right time;

No reading; 😢 

So in theory I’m all set – 😜😜🙏🏻



All set ✈️✈️

Procrastination

I have friends who are organised.   

They plan their trips a year in advance, they know where they are staying, 🚂which train they will catch from which platform; ✈️which bus will be used from which side of the street.   And they pack – neatly, 👔👖👗👢organised, with nothing left behind.   All their ducks neatly in a row.🐤

I wish I could be like that.   

I have no idea where or when my next trip will be, which means when it does happen, it is a little like a whirlwind of organisation with no structure, but an ebb and flow, like an amoeboid being pulled by the currents.    

This trip is no different.   

Of course I am hugely excited; of course I will have a wonderful time; of course it will all work out; and of course I have no idea what bus I will take from Dubai to Al Ain because my flight has changed, but I have been unable to change my bus booking.    And of course I will not miss another flight.  😂

I am so fortunate to have friends all over the globe inviting me to participate in the adventure of Life, with new ones joining my circle daily.   Even Dawn from Etihad, in Manchester, (me in Oz – Etihad in UAE – go figure) who helped me with my flights went beyond the call of duty – thanks Dawn.

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Tickets paid for, trail booked, friends waiting to meet me – so so fortunate.

 

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So why the hesitancy in packing, why the knot in my stomach and the voice that says, if it is all cancelled, it will be fine.   You can stay, walk with your friend, tend to your garden, spend time with friends, be close to your daughters.

Must buy Panadol, tummy meds, antibiotics – maybe not.   But then again remember what happened last trip. 😂  Suntan cream, band aids (plasters),   And then again I probably won’t.   Oh yes and don’t forget adaptors.    Camera?   Just phone?

Friends have lent me packing capsules in an attempt to get me ‘more organised’ and 24 hours before my flight leaves, I have still not packed.   I shall do so shortly.   img_7358


And as I write that sentence, I am reminded of how all weekend I said to myself, I will start packing, …. But first I’ll mow the lawn.    I’ll get packing…… But first I’ll do the washing….. I’ll get packing….. But first I’ll vacuum the house (why I hear you ask? )    I’ll start packing …. But first  I’ll write a blog 😄

😄So here I am – about to pack, my room looks like a bomb has hit it, the dog is restless, I really should try and get some sleep but  know I won’t.    What to include in the case and what to leave out –

Binoculars, maybe not, riding gloves – don’t forget.  One pair of shoes or two?   Beanie or sun hat?   either way I don’t exactly get it right – so I guess it hardly matters. 😂😂

I always promise myself I will be more organised next time 🙂 🙂 🙂

Am I the only traveller that leaves in such a state of mixed emotions with everything done  at the last moment.   😩😜

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May Take
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Will Take
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Must Take
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Can’t take

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 ‘

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 Simple Twist of Fate – Joan Baez

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The only elephants we saw 🙂
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Sunday’s River area – so green right next to so dry – not that far from the Karoo
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The roadside
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Beautiful in a silent eerie way
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and large against the skyline

 

26/10/2016

Taking last minute of photos of the bridge as I left Steytlerville, I noticed a young ‘coloured’ man on the road waiting for a lift out of what for him, had been a dead end – I mean even more of a dead end that the road was – he had come to look for work.

No way could I drive past him without my conscious being troubled all the way back to PE. There is no train, there are no buses, there will be only me all day …

And I hear my ‘South African family’ gasp at the thought of my picking up a hitchhiker. But how could I not? I trust my instincts and He knows my motives and so far neither have let me down 🙏🏻
And smart blonde that I am👍🏻😜 I made him sit in front so I could ‘keep an eye on him’ 😜😳👀👁

I stopped and asked where he was going – a rather rhetorical question since wherever it was, this was the only road either he or I could take. This was lucky because while I am pretty much bilingual, the cape coloured lingo sometimes leaves me flummoxed.😂😂. And this was one of those sometimes. I had no idea where it was he was going to.

My travelling companion wore the uniform green ABSA Springbok shirt that is almost a uniform in this corner of the world; a single earring, floppy hat, slops and he had with him a kit bag – bulging, split and tied together with rope – containing all his worldly possessions. There was also The Phone in his pocket – I worked that one out cause I could hear music coming from his left leg as he leaned through the window to talk to me.

The difficulty in communicating wasn’t entirely because I couldn’t speak the lingo or understand it. Ja Mevrou, Née Mevrou, Dankie Mevrou were all quite clear. But pretty much anything beyond that was lost through the gap – a large gap in his teeth. Well, the truth is there actually weren’t any teeth that I could see.

There was a time when no front teeth was considered attractive amongst Coloureds, but whether that is still the case, or this was another physical indication of the poverty I saw all around, I cannot say.

Either way, I had my ears and brain very focussed as I tried to chat and then gave up as I drove us to wherever, when, I presumed he would say – let me off here please (or similar 😜)

He is 26 years old and had been looking for work since he was 14. The longest job he had been offered was 6 months – he gushed (or I think he did) about how wonderful that had been – packing lemoene in Kirkwood. Worked for ‘n onderwys’ but only for two weeks cause he left his holiday home to go back to teach and December is too far away to wait for him to come back for two weeks.

Travelling on my own allowed me to ‘sing’ at the top of my voice or talk to myself and even answer myself . This would not work however with a travelling companion, so I tried the radio which could not ‘find a channel’ in the Karoo. I doubted my classical music would be a hit and instead invited him to use his phone. And so we travelled listening to, not rap or heavy metal, which would not have surprised me, but tikkie draai musiek and Afrikaanse liekies – not quite Sarie Maree but close enough.

Contained, each with our own thoughts.

Mine:
He’s travelling 180km because he heard there is work there – two days work mind you. He had travelled to Steytlerville for the same reason. But if there was work there it had long since been completed by someone else.

I probably should be nervous of him – people always tell me I’m mad, the things I do.
He seems ‘neutral’ enough – was going to say harmless, but that sounds like a word to use for an animal.

A Simple Twist of Fate

– what if I was born Coloured in the Karoo
– would someone give me a lift from nowhere to hopefully somewhere?
What if……

His. I can only guess
I’m going 180km because I heard there was work there. Never mind that I travelled to Steytlerville for the same reason. This one may be the one ….. Even if a weeks work.

A Simple Twist of Fate

– what if I was born White, in Uitenhage, Port Elizabeth or even Johannesburg.
– would I have a Chevy spark or a Kia Rio

And I waited for him to say ‘hier Mevrou’
He did.
Long after the turn off to Uitenhage – someone’s radar had been switched off – could equally have been mine – so back we went to the turn off and there I left my travelling companion with some Rands and best wishes ….

The future? Itinerant worker chasing rumours of employment, with dreams and prospects fading as more younger people join in the same search for a decreasing job pool. Security- plans-place to call home ( and I thought I had a problem with home😂😂) health, community?

Hope?

A Simple Twist of Fate

He went his way and I drove on to family, food, drink, phone charger, and a life I can more or less plan.

The PE wind came up and my little white car, with whom I had negotiated a truce – third and fifth gear agreed to a clear separation, so we ambled more happily at 100km/hr now, nothing over though or those wheels again 😂were blown about on the freeway.

The scrub along the way had a less than usually bedraggled appearance :- hundreds of coloured plastic bags were caught in them and filled with the wind so they looked like giant coloured flowers
I so wanted to stop and take a photo but would probably have been blown to Cape Town and without my toothbrush – well that wouldn’t do. 😜

People watching

Killing time people watching :

Woman covered from head to toe in austere black – eyes not even visible

Sitting next to fair skinned ‘mature’ lady wearing very short shorts, shoe string strapped top not covering much and slip slops

The contrast – imagining what each makes of the other – assuming they have even noticed the Other

“Home”

Adieu to an interesting part of Africa

And so the end of an amazing and exhausting adventure and Home beckons

‘Home’ to friends who mean the world to me and know me to my core and still chose me. I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

“Home is where the heart is”, is for me, too simplistic.

Perhaps there comes a time when one must just accept – ‘Home’ isn’t always there for everyone. Fate conspires for many, and quite arbitrarily it seems, to confound the idea of ‘Home’ – whether through physical loss or rejection .

When we look at returning to the old ‘Home’ or staying in the new, Lady Macbeth comes to mind : ‘Returning were as tedious as go o’er’; so we end up with a foot in each camp – a wobbly somewhere.

Precious memories and links to our old ‘Home’ that keep us chained by a golden thread and special loving kind friends in our new ‘Home’ where we try to create memories that are spun too of golden thread – all very fragile.

I see it in my girls, in quiet moments when the earth is still – a certain look, a longing to ‘belong’, to be part of the rituals of a ‘Home’ – celebrations, mournings, laughing, weeping. I see it and I know it – it’s been my search too.

The joy of seeing my special ‘old friends’ will always be tempered by the knowledge that I must say good bye to them again

And That sadness will be softened by the knowledge that I will see my daughters and my new dear friends

And still we’re luckier than some – I met some Rwandans who have no threads at all – who got married with strangers celebrating with them – who could not go back to visit old friends and who have to start new traditions – alone
And that’s just for starters ….. Syrians, Somalis, Iraqis, Afghanis, seems
Home is certainly not available to everyone 😥 so perhaps in this life it must be after all wherever the heart is, pending the next place of rest ❤️

Thanks Uganda , Rwanda and Kenya for a great experience

Always a ‘last visit’

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Livingstone- my companion for a week
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The open air snake pit 😃
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Poor soul – tried to mount her(?) several times, always falling off, always in slow motion

Last visit in Kenya – could have spent more than three hours here – very interesting;
Early man – “Lucy” Leakey etc

Colonialism – so interesting to read the story from someone else’s perspective – treatment of locals after they joined our forces in WW1 beggars belief

Joy Adamson is referred here – a remarkable artist apart from lions

Natural history – so interesting

Snake park – very sadly neglected
Two highlights of it in photos 😜  7/10/2016