Wednesday, April 18, 2007

popping up for air, and a journey (bring an umbrella!)

Hi, this is cool, I unexpectedly find myself at the office with time on my hands, because the office computer crashed (NOT cool) and while it is being fixed, the computer guy is tapping away on keys, and needs to ask me the odd question, so I can blog!

And I must start by saying THANKS to Janet and CJ, who have both nominated me for a thinking bloggers award :). I am deeply touched and very chuffed. I would love to accept, but need some time to think about the 5 I want to nominate (really hard to get it down to 5!)

When i went onto the site for the award (here) and started surfing, i found some interesting articles and interaction about the whole thing, including a thought provoking discussion on what constitutes a thinking blogger (here.)

One of the sites I hopped onto had a discussion about blog spam in the comments. Having received one yesterday, it is a hot topic for me right now, this is what i wrote in the comments there.....
'In South Africa, as well as around the world, mass action has been an effective tool for change. Just as memes like Thinking Blogger Awards can start small, and snowball around the blogging world amazingly fast, so could a similar setup to expose spammers, and boycott their products. If the company or link is listed and publicised, and bloggers agree to actively boycott any such supplier, and pass on the list to as many of their contacts as possible, wouldn’t that hit spammers in the pocket, which is the only place they seem to hurt?'..................

So please do not support sam or his western decor, or follow his link!

African Travels #?...the rest of the Garden Route, and on to Capetown.
How about a quick trip to Capetown? And those of you who know me by now are already laughing and thinking "Quick, who are you kidding?" because we all know I tend to get a TINY bit carried away....

I am NEUROTIC about travelling over the holidays here, and usually try to avoid it at all costs. (The death toll on our roads is higher over 1 long weekend than in the whole of Australia in a whole year!) However our nephew was getting married in Capetown, and we couldn't miss that, so we had to travel over the Easter weekend.

We decided to minimise the madness by leaving at 4am on Good Friday, when hopefully the worst of the Thursday rush would be over, and the Friday drivers would still be in bed! Well, it wasn't a bad theory really, the roads were still busy, but not bumper to bumper. The kids and Ethan were coming too, but we wanted to come back a day later, so they went in the by now famous bloublitz, and we went in Babe who is Max's bakkie (which is S.A.- speak for van or light delivery vehicle.)
It was dark when we left and as you can see, it was raining, and driving conditions needed some pretty good concentration. But we made a point of stopping regularly to recharge our tired brains and fill up on coffee, so it was fun. The first stop was before sunrise, in Humansdorp , where we met Ian and C to give them their wetsuits.They were having a treat and spending the weekend at the Port Hotel in St Francis. After that, Ethan was sleeping like an angel, so we went straight through for breakfast with family in Knysna, (which you can read more about here)

We then continued onto the second half of the garden route, which I promised at that time to show you. But as it was bucketting with rain, and the roads were too busy for us to keep pulling over for photos, we just took a few passing snaps through wet windows, so please excuse the tatty shots, although I must confess i enjoy the atmosphere in some of them more than picture perfect shots!

leaving Knysna, here is a view of the famous heads, which is the mouth of the lagoon, and the narrow guage railway bridge.
And again the 3rd world/1st world dimension which makes life in South Africa so fascinating, here are Zimbabwean roadside vendors selling carvings on the side of the road as you leave Knysna.

You then travel through what is known as our lake district, past a string of lakes, each unique and lovely. Sadly the photos were terrible so we will just have to go back there one day when conditions are friendlier!
You pass through the little village of Sedgefield, full of holiday homes and paragliders.
and then through the little town of Wilderness, whose dubious claim to fame is that our last Apartheid State President, PW Botha, who was an evil little man who loved draconian leadership, died there recently.
(He was much loved as a target of political satirists and cartoonists, because his rather full lips, mean little eyes and self-righteously wagging finger were easy prey to their parodies!)
It boasts some amazing beaches, although this was perhaps not the BEST beach weather!!!
As you leave Wilderness, you go straight into the Kaaimans Pass, which is a steeply winding road and was washed away last year in the August floods. It caused huge chaos in our road transport system, as trucks and cars were unable to travel between George and Knysna for a while. This is the railway line that was also damaged, and the very picturesque narrow guage Outeniqua tjoe choo now has to go to Mossel bay instead of Knysna. As you can see, extensive repairs are still under way.

We bypassed George, but when i blog the return trip, we will visit the railway museum there.
By this time Ethan (2 and a half) was becoming lively to put it mildly, so we made our next stop before Mossel Bay, at the Great Brak River. We decided to feed him up really well and hope it would make him sleepy, while we had a delicious breakfast, he was entranced by a family of tame little wagtails that wandered amongst the tables. (PS it worked, as we left, he was fast asleep!!)
The road bypasses the major town of Mossel Bay but you can see all the storage tanks on the outskirts. Mossel Bay sprang to prominence during the Apartheid years, when the world was applying pressure with trade sanctions, and the Government realised we needed to be self sufficient in essential commodities. Natural gas was discovered offshore near Mossel bay, and although the deposit would not normally have been considered economically viable, because of the sanctions, it was developed, and Mossel Bay attained strategic significance.
The Mossgas plant is near the town, it is usually a blight on the lovely scenery, but i must admit in these conditons it took on a sort of ghostly beauty!
After Mossel Bay you pass through a string of pretty little towns, all about 30-50 km apart, and with mountains to the North of them.
The closer you get to the winter rainfall region of Capetown, the drier the land looks, despite the rain that day. These are the rolling wheatlands near Caledon
Then you go through a pass, and once again it changes, to an area of olive groves and fruit farms.
Our favourite roadside stop is along here, a wonderful place in Grabouw called the orchard, with a Dutch Bakery TO DIE FOR, home made jams etc, fruit, gifts, a winery, art gallery, and as far as Ethan was concerned, the best was the swing, even though the wind was howling and it was fairly cold!

You then go up a hectic mountain pass (Sir Lowrey's Pass) and the view from the top is spectacular, you see the Cape Peninsular and False Bay lying below.

From here you get down to the flat area through Somerset West, and then you get onto what locals refer to (with good reason) as "the Hell run".
On your left is the huge informal settlement (PC speak for squatter camp) of Khyalitsha, and the reason for the mesh on the pedestrian bridge over the freeway is to protect motorists from rocks which some of the residents delight in throwing at cars.
Again the whole 3rd world/ 1st world thing is so evident,
here are some Khyalitsha homes
and the amazing home we stayed at in Newlands....
the swimming pool has a window into the dining room! And this is the wonderful view from the patio.
This is typical of one of Capetowns good old suburbs, old oaks trees and the ever present mountain!
The day after we arrived, we went off to a Stellenbosch wine estate for the wedding, and took the opportunity to spend some time looking around.
This is the heart of the Western Cape Winelands, and it is lovely in Autumn.
How is this as a setting for a wedding?!!
The next day we went to Rhodes memorial in the afternoon (as I showed you a couple of days ago) and then we decided to go and watch the sunset from the top of Signal Hill.
Capetown's iconic mountains, Lion's Head on the left,(behind the trees), Table Mountain in the centre, and Signal Hill on the right.
Here you see Lion's Head better. See the three tall white towers at the base? There is much controversy over these buildings. Locals scathingly refer to them as "Tampax Towers" and there are many questions around how they were allowed to be built, in defiance of a City Ordinance protecting the view and stating that no building could interere with the view of the mountain. However that was years ago and they have sort of become a familiar landmark!

The views from the top are so spectacular, here is the bay, the greenpoint stadium with the infamous Robben Island ( home for many years to Nelson Mandela) in the background, the famous V&A Waterfront, and another shot of Robben Island (click to see it bigger, there is a yacht on its way there!)
The centre of the city is in the bowl formed between the mountains and the bay, but it extends vastly around beyond and behind the mountain too.
The sun went down over the Atlantic after a perfect day....
and we were treated to magic time as the lights of the city started to sparkle!
And reluctantly, that is where we will leave it for now, it is seriously late and i need to get home for dinner! I will share some lovely shots of the return journey when i get a chance.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

stop the hamster wheel, it's spinning out of control!!!

I have a ton of cool news and images to share with you, from recent travels and events, and life in general, but i just don't have 2 seconds to reduce the images for uploading, or put my thoughts together in any sort of coherent form! I'm preparing for a huge decor expo, and also getting ready to sell my art there for 4 days at the end of the month, and it is getting way too close way too fast! So please can I appeal to your patience, watch this space, I will be Back! in the meantime, here are a couple from the archives to whet your appetite!.....

A springbok taken at the Mountain Zebra Park near Cradock, last winter (we were insane enough to camp there, but it was so stunning and snuggling to keep warm in the tent had its compensations!) Will share that trip one of these days....along with twenty others i have already promised you...(do i hear you muttering Yeah Yeah, I'll believe it when i see it?)
Can't remember when or where, just love the light in this cloud!
ANOTHER trip you have to go on one day, to the semi desert of Namaqualand which bursts into stunning floral glory for a week or 2 each spring, on the way back we went via the western cape mountains.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

a trip to capetown

Hi, what a crazy few weeks, culminating in a trip to Capetown for our nephew's wedding (Congrats Rich and Annie!)

There is so much to show you, and so much to catch up on here, so in the meantime I am just going to give you a peek at one of our favourite spots in Capetown. Rhodes Memorial is built halfway up the slopes of Lion's head, to the right of table mountain.
If you look at the mountains in this Google Earth image, and imagine they are a lizard with the tip of the tail on the upper left, curling down and round , back up to the nose in the upper right, the tail is signal hill, the body is table mountain and as it curves up to the right the head is lions head. Where Lion's Head forms the lizard's nose, there is a lighter brown patch on the map, and if you look just to the right and below that, there is a whitish dot, which is Rhodes Memorial perched on the side of the mountain there, over looking a huge part of the city.

It consists of a "c" shaped building of giant granite pillars,
in the centre of which is a huge bust of Cecil John Rhodes. He was one of those nasty Colonial Heroes i was ranting about recently. A man of great vision, who dreamed of building a railway from the Cape to Cairo, he was also a ruthless exploiter. Coming down from the centre of the pillared building is a sweeping staircase, flanked by huge bronze sculptures of lions, and in the centre at the bottom is a huge high granite plinth with a magnificent statue of a man on a horse, looking out over the city.

As we left the sun was going down, and the rays through the huge old trees were lovely.
This tree sparkling in the sun is one of the rare silver trees, a member of the protea family and indigenous to the Cape town area. They have hairy greyish leaves which literally look silver in the right light.

And I'm afraid that's that, because Google informs me that my Picassa Web Album is now full, and i can't blog any more photos till i buy more space, or figure out what to do (like research swapping to wordpad or type whatsit), so this may be the last for a while. I won't have time for a few days to even think about it all. See ya all some time!