Australia – B&B – 10th Dec 2018

What a day! It started at 6.45 am and ended at 11pm. Running a B&B is not all fun; a lot is work. We had three rooms occupied by a Singaporean family – husband, wife,father, and mother, plus two energetic boys about 5. They arrived at 11pm as the plane was delayed. I met them at the door and went to bed. I allow over an hour to prepare for breakfast; the table is set the night before, but the bread, croissants, fruit, yogurt, milk, orange juice, fresh fruit, butter needto be laid out, the kettle boiled, and coffee percolated. And we try to eat before opening the door  at 8, so our fruit, yogurt, cereal, eggs & tea to be prepared too.

Then we often wait for the guests to arrive – today was no different. The husband came in first at 8:45, and the others came and left for the next 90 minutes. The boys were everywhere, the husband played the piano for 10 mins (asking afterward!), but they were, as usual, a pleasant family. Hilary usually provides scrambled orfried eggs, but with a large Asian family, boiled eggs are often easier, kept warm in a basket and towel. The croissants I warm in the small oven when required.

Then we rushed upstairs to turn the three rooms before I left at 11.15 for my Monday meeting in town. I managed to clean all three bathrooms (always my job), and we made the beds together, but I could only vacuum one room required tonight. The bus into town and back plus a one hour meeting, sees me back at 2pm for lunch, followed by completing the cleaning, and then washing the many dishes.

Then it’s dinnertime. Guests often arrive between 5 and 7, but not tonight. We leave a key outsidefor the regular (mining) guys, however we wanted to check his next night as it falls on Christmas, hence the 11pm wait-up.

  • So there it is. Why do we do this? Because it has several benefits:
  • A steady income to augment the pension;
  • An interest in retirement (other than a hobby);
  • Sharing travel (and B&B) stories with the guests;
  • Physical and mental exercise (cleaning upstairs, keeping accounts)
  • A reason to keep the property in good shape (things cant be left for another day); and
  • On occasion sharing our faith – its always a delight to meet Christian guests.

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Australia – B&B – 3rd Nov 2018

We had two local young women here, celebrating school end for one. The most awkward breakfast I have experienced, as they were engrossed in each other. Guests usually engage us by asking for information on places they intend to visit, and about our B&B experience. I tried to encourage this but it seemed unwanted, which was confirmed later by the poor review. Such a shame.

AFRICA reprise – Natal – 20th Oct 2018 – Day 37

My last day in SA is unlike the last day in 1981. How can one feel sad for leaving a place that no longer exists? No, SA was certainly not perfect then, but its worse now in so many ways. Every town, city, beach, road, business, is deteriorating like rust on steel. I have been told this by so many, I have seen it, experienced it. Its largely due to corruption at middle to high levels as the average person is still pleasant and helpful, the guards, parks rangers, waiters. Poverty is rife for everyone. Black and white guys make a living of sorts as unofficial parking attendants, or toilet cleaners, at fuel stations, or ‘guides’ in the airport for tips. Sad to see it.
Brian, Yvonne, & I had a late breakfast on the patio, watching the many birds attracted by Brian’s feeders, before leaving for Durban King Shaka airport. The highway makes it a quick easy 2hr drive across the rolling green hills of cane, bananas, and grass with the blue ocean, and waves crashing on the fine white sand to the right. The Mango checkin woman was surprised to see two of me on the flight ( I had 2 seats owing to my concern about 1 bag only).
OR Tambo airport is a maze of floors, ramps and gates which I found unclear. As I was early, I also had to find a seat away from the boarding lounge where I write this. Should board in 1.5hrs to arrive in Perth 9 hrs later.

Brian & Yvonne.s home

 

AFRICA reprise – Natal – 19th Oct 2018 – Day 36

Brian took me on a walk around this place. It has accommodation for 443 couples/singles, probably covering 2 hectares or more. It is steep though! We had lunch at the café, I updated this on the free wifi, and we drove to Uvongo and Shelly beaches to the north. The wind had picked up so the waves were huge and surfers were out, and fishers. At St Michaels I chatted to a photographer for a while, also a learner though she has sold a few requested images. Waves were crashing on the rocks, especially at ‘orange rocks’. Most beaches are at river mouths where the high sandbanks separate the sea from fresh water. I find that wave power fascinating – pity they are not at Perth due to the reef. 

My last decent sleep tonight before the 25 hr drive/fly/wait/fly to Perth followed by another 9hrs afternoon and evening before sleep again. The joys of flights.

Library

Entrance to Café & Library

AFRICA reprise – Natal – 18th Oct 2018 – Day 35

I am impressed with the Retirement Village in which Brian and Yvonne live. Completely enclosed by security, on a very large area on the old sand dune hills, heavily gardened ie big trees, lawn, flowers, bushes, paths between 2-bed homes, some flats, a frail-care building, cafe for meals if wanted, a large library, post office, chapel, large pool. Its like a resort. Because of the hills, it can be a problem for some to walk it, but you are not in someones face either, in the separate homes.

We drove south stopping at various beaches, and a coffee farm/cafe for lunch. Brian bought a coffee anytime pass, so we could taste the 8 flavours they sell, some blended with Brazilian or Ugandan coffee. I had a ¼ cup of each and bought a packet of the mild blended coffee – the dark roast was just too strong and bitter. We also had a tour of the process, from the seed to the product. The ‘bean’ is actually a berry, a thin sweet external skin and flesh, covering the larger seed. When ripe, they are hand picked, run through a mill to separate the skin from the seed. That is dried (sun and in driers). The external is used for gin or composted. The seed is then roasted in a furnace; mild is less roasted.

The evening I drove 9km to Spurs; similar to any steak house with an American décor. 

AFRICA reprise – Natal – 17th Oct 2018 – Day 34

The weather had changed, clouds hung over the mountains, and then the rain started. I left at 7.50am, arriving in Margate about 3pm, Having stopped for some time, first at Winkelspruit, then Umtentwini.

Winkelspruit is significant as the place I went to with my parents as a 6-7 year old, where we stayed in a timber frame house on the hillside overlooking the river and sea. It may have been a lodging house, and I think the owners were friends. For a long time I thought the ‘winkel’ was referring to a sea urchin, only later that it means ‘store river’. Now its all flats.

It is also the place of our last holiday (July 80) before leaving for Australia. The sardine erun was on, a spectacle not seen as often now.

We had lost faith that the country could survive as a western nation, and considered Australia. On our last day I bought a newspaper to start the fire for a braai, read it first, and found an advert for a geologist on a tin mine in the Queensland Atherton Tablelands, a beautiful area, and decided to apply. That started the process for emigration. In December we attended the Australian Embassy in Pretoria, and by February had permanent residence status – unheard of today. I wrote to a contact in Brisbane, Tim Spencer, asking for addresses of mining businesses; he posted a long list. I found later that some were managed by the same office so they received several letters from me. At Easter I flew to Perth, stayed for two nights in the Grand Hotel opposite the Rail Station (now a backpackers) arriving at 4am. I was a wreck that day knocking on many doors, including Western Mining where I met with a geologist I had worked with at St Helena Gold Mine. He drove me around Perth, up to Kings Park, in a car with huge kangaroo bars, very common at the time. He had arranged a flight to Kalgoorlie for me, where I was met and driven to KambaldaThat was a very good team in those days, and I would have been better off there financially, than Tasmania, but I was keen to go where the rain fell, and there were forests, mountains, and rivers. That Thursday evening I was surprised to find the Hay Street mall busy. I remember speaking to an evangelist. I had booked to fly to Melbourne on Friday at 3pm, and only had time to visit Greenbushes Tin office – they were upset I had left so little time for them.

I expected to still have time in Melbourne to visit Electrolytic Zinc, but had not realised the distance and time change, arriving that evening. I rented a car and drove into the Dandenongs, spent time in the city, and the Botanic Garden, loving it all. Monday I went to EZ. Most of the interview was me asking for information, rather than the other way. At one interview I was told my gold experience would be best suited to the Victorian gold mines – I was unimpressed thing of very old mines rather than the State of Victoria! I flew on to Sydney, visited a few there, staying in a flat with a woman I had met somewhere I can not remember. It was the next weekend and we drove south to the Royal National Park, and north to the park there – it was all good, but the mines were of course inland. On to Tim in Brisbane, spoke to Mt Isa Mining, another great business, and finally to another geologist I worked with in Townsville. EZ called to say they had arranged a flight to Wynyard in Tasmania, and for a rental car to check Rosebery out. Looking on the map, I thought it would take an hour to drive – owing to the twists and the Hellyer gorge, that took 2 hours. I found people playing footie in a drizzle, walking in the street, as though rain didnt touch them! I met the team at Rosebery Mine, returned home and 6 weeks later were in Melbourne, Wednesday 6 June 1981.

Umtentwini beach was ‘our’ beach for several holidays. We would set the umbrellas up near the path through the high trees and sand dune vegetation from the car park, past the cafe, to the beach. The kids loved to swim there between the flags, or else in the sea pool further to the south. Today, the cafe is also a backpackers. We stayed in thatched square rooms (I thought they were round till recently) in a park-like area called Eden Park. The town has retained most of the natural vegetation, including the big trees. The rooms are now privately owned as homes. We loved the area so bought a block on Lugg Ave, only reselling after leaving SA, enabling us to buy a block in Tasmania.

AFRICA reprise – Natal – 16th Oct 2018 – Day 33

I had no intention of an early start – just as well as the clouds and mist was low. I was unsure what to do, having accomplished all yesterday. And we had decided that the planned drive and then walk to the Sentinel peak was too ambitious. A model in the Visitor Centre shows the truth of it. However the weather was improving, David and Ailine were considering the gorge walk, and I still had the Thendele shot to do. The Lion walk looked too boring in the open, so I saw them off at the car park with some concern. David would go to the end as usual, and he was very unprepared. Ailine would walk slowly, with limited water and biscuits like I did. And two cameras.

I drove back to the Centre, and decided to walk the Tiger Falls, Lookout, and Cascade. I was informed that it was best to go up on the Tiger side, returning on the steep Cascades side. Good plan as the Tiger is slow and steady with some steps, but the Cascade is so steep that a ribbed concrete path was constructed a long time back. Hard to come down, but very tough going up. It is a good walk, should take 2 hours, but I stopped several times to chat, and have lunch (limited again). About 3.5 hrs. Tiger Falls is in a small patch of rainforest in a ravine; more a fast drizzle today than a fall. Had a chat to two older women in the shade, waiting for the husbands to show up. I was asked about the Karroo sandstone here which gave me a chance to mention the Creationist view. This is near the high point so it was all down from here. The Lookout rock certainly provides a very long view down this valley – I would guess at least 70km, while the sandstone cliffs rise up behind and to the side. As I sat having lunch, I wrote 1pm. I’m sitting at the top of the tiger falls track looking down the long green valley of rolling hills, and deep rain forest ravines of rushing streams. The only sound I hear is the cascading water carried up here on the cool breeze. An occasional bird calls. I feel the cool breeze and hot sun. Its worth the 6km hike.”                                                                         

It is pretty area.

The cascades are worth a look, not large today but sufficient for a good image, especially with the red stained cliffs soaring above. The track is easy after that, much is wheel chair friendly. I emailed Ailine and she was back at her car, dead tired, having almost accomplished what I did. But David was not back, It was now 4pm so we were worried. Many had returned, none had seen him. When the last couple came out, they said the same. I was ‘home’ by then, but drove back, asking at the gate what the procedure was. They provided phone numbers (also at the track start) and said the gate would be kept open for us. I found Ailine still waiting alone ie no guard and no cars. She had already called, being told to wait for nightfall. I talked to distract – and then David called. Reception is poor to none on the track. He was 30 mins away – became 45 before he was out. 6.30 and the Park guy called to ask whether David was out. I am reassured by their competence. David had gone to the end, in a difficult poorly marked area. He has hurt a knee, and his ankle, which slowed him down.

Dinner was late but good, there again. And that’s it for the holiday.

AFRICA reprise – Natal – 15th Oct 2018 – Day 32

I survived. And the photo is great – I think anyway.

I was up at 5.30 and into the park as the gate opens at 5. I was keen to get 4 particular shots someone had put on the web. As he wrote, the first lookout just above the Visitor Centre is overgrown and only glimpse is possible. The dam reflection was outstanding as the was almost no wind as I arrived, but picked up after 10 mins. With the east sun shining on the Amphitheatre on a very clear morning – well it could not be better. Next was the Tugela river shot in the water on the boulders. I don’t have his afternoon cloud reflection but it is still good. I had arranged for breakfast (and very good too, the full deal) at 7 so I hurried back the 10 minutes, and then came back for more of the same in case I could improve them. I didnt have time to shoot the 4th image as I intended to walk as much as possible of the gorge.

“There is no more popular nor picturesque walk than the Gorge walk; it should not be missed, and to enable you to make the most of the trip, take a full day over it. For the first 6,5 kilometres beyond the foot of Thendele hill there is a very good path and no steep climb. No special directions are really needed. The path winds along, above and parallel with the Tugela river. Not long after crossing the intersection stream from Devil’s Hoek, look out for the Policeman’s Helmet on the high ground to the right overlooking Vemvaan Valley. The last 1 600 metres through the Gorge entails three crossings of the river (simple enough unless in flood). Many visitors to the Gorge turn back at the first crossing. This is a pity, as the most picturesque scenery at Royal Natal lies at the far end, and walking the additional 600 metres is rewarding. Cross the stream and re-cross, keeping to the path which is on the right-hand side of the Gorge, and keep on until you reach the chain ladder on the cliff on the right-hand side. The chain ladder is at the mouth of the tunnel. This tunnel is approximately 55 -65 metres long. Use the chain ladder to skirt the tunnel or scramble through the tunnel, though a ducking is likely, and so get into the Amphitheatre. Boulder-hop up the Tugela for about 800 metres, where each few metres gives you a complete change of scenery. A steep path up the left-hand bank of the Eastern Buttress Gully leads to the Tunnel Cave. If you stand with your back to the chain ladder, this path will be directly in front of you. From the cave there is a wonderful view of the Amphitheatre wall, with the Sentinel on your right, and you will be able to look over the Tunnel. If you proceed around the cave you will obtain an excellent view down the valley towards the hotel. Warning: keep a lookout for thunderstorms, as a heavy storm may bring down the river and delay your return trip by a few hours. The best spot to picnic is at the end of the path, (11 km : 3 hours). (Whole trip 22,5 km : 5 hours 30 minutes).”

He makes sound easy – it is not. It is almost constantly uphill, sometimes steady, but often up rough steps of stone or poles. It is completely in the open, only ducking into snatches of rain forest in the ravines; the contrast in temperature is surprising. Birds hide here but I all one hears on the open area is your laboured breathing. I considered turning back many times, but set a time limit – 3 hrs in and 2 back starting at 10am. I managed to get to the first Tugela crossing – as he writes. I was not well prepared as the visitor centre was closed on my initial pass, and I didn’t think they would have much (correctly as I saw the next day). I had muesli, a tangerine, and a flask of water. About half way I saw in the high distance, people on a white lookout rock. I could not believe it was still so far to go, but I did get there – its about 20 mins before the 1st crossing. I took many shots but have yet to check them. I was back as planned, but dead tired. The last 30 mins were a matter of just moving as my legs and hips are not what they were! Looking back, it was an achievement, but not one I want to repeat.

There is no store or food place anywhere near here, but David and Ailine are at Berghouse 9km away plus 5 on the worst dirt road high on a hillside. Ailine was shooting the sunset from there, repeating what I saw last night. The place prepares meals on order. I was uncomfortable driving back in the dark past the small homes of the Black people.

AFRICA reprise The Eastern Cape – 14th Oct 2018 – Day 31

Lemon Tree is a very upmarket B&B, well appointed rooms, antique furnisher, a large dining room leading onto a veranda, pool and colourful garden on one side. The rooms are accessed by a similar but narrow path from the gate down the other side, leading into a small courtyard filled with pot plants, a central bushy vine and 4 rooms. Other rooms are in the house, and at the front are two one above the other. The top is accessed by an external stair. All very tastefully done. BUT, every house in this upmarket area is fenced etc….

e had an excellent breakfast, left leisurely for the airport, queued, and then were informed the flight had been cancelled last May, before the booking was made. How is that possible? The flight appears sometimes on the SAA web too!! We were given the option to fly to Joburg, wait, then to Durban, arriving 5.30pm, far too late to then drive to the Drakensberg. At that point the BA desk opened, so David bought tickets for that – fortunately seats were available. We arrived in Durban 1 hr later than planned, which made me nervous as the B&B I have booked is in a Black housing area from what I see on Google, but it is the nearest place to Royal Natal National Park. The Park was already booked out when I tried.

No one seems to stick to the speed limits though David was booked last time. I had a 3.5hr drive, leaving at 3, so I didnt spare the little Hyundi. Despite that, I finally arrived here at 7, having lost time in Bergville to grab a Kentucky burger L, and then find this place in the dark. I missed the sign in the dark concentrating on many people on the narrow road, and relying on the GPS, not entirely wise.

As expected, this is owned by locals – full marks for being first (?) to run a B&B. I will see how it goes, but at the price R350 ($35 per night) one can’t expect much. No internet. A row of good size rooms, a decent bed and linen, tea/coffee/fridge, ensuite. The building is not to a good standard, but clean and serviceable. The dining area looked ok when I arrived. The young woman who met me was pleasant, and assured me with a smile that I will be safe – and anyway there is a guard next door!

As dusk fell just short of Bergville, I just had to stop for a shot. The amphitheatre was a dark blue in silhouette against a blue to pink sky, with lower ranges in paler blue and a valley in front. I couldn’t stop at the best spot but I have yet to see the image on the pc.

Hope to survive the night…..