AFRICA reprise The Eastern Cape – 13th Oct 2018 – Day 30

The Tsitsikamma Park is my favourite place in the world, though Lord Howe Island is a close second. It is ‘just a beach to some but for me there is the history mentioned before. It has magic. The cabins and Park office huddled against the fynbos covered cliff, the sound of skiet rok (shooting rock) where the ocean continues to throw it’s fury, the pathways in the dense underbrush in the gulleys and slopes, hidden tunnels of green safety, and the sea mist hanging over it all. This place is alive. It breathes. I can feel the seas power here like no other place.

Ailine was keen to be down on the beach for sunrise. The web had 6am as gate opening, so we were there, but it has changed, to 7am. David tried a track but that was blocked so we returned for the excellent breakfast.

I had four main things to cover; walk to the swing bridge over Storms river, walk the short blue duiker trail, watch skiet rok, and walk some of the Otter trail.

The bridge walk is fairly strenuous, and about 1km long, Most is on board walk, but it is up and down along the cliff edge. The bridge is substantial, now part of the Dolphin trail to the west. We saw a blue duiker nibbling leaves, not a usual sight. I crossed to the bay on the west side watching the waves crash on a shore littered with pebbles, boulders, twigs and sticks. But bus loads of people arrived disturbing the peace as they rushed for the selfies before moving to the next view in their limited time. I later counted 10 busses and 500 people at least. The restaurant burned down and has been replaced with a marquee on the rocks very close to skiet rok. Some pollution was evident behind it too. However Ailine and I spent a lot of time shooting the wall of water coursing over the rock, a difficult thing to do as the big waves are infrequent and easily missed. In the mid 90’s visitors were few, perhaps 20 at any time. The jagged slate sheets provided shelter for a variety of aquatic life – what remains is a mere shadow.

To get away from the crowd, I climbed the blue duiker trail to the cliff top, through the tunnel of green trees on the edge, up timber steps or rocks, emerging into the sunshine in the 2m high fynbos. Flowers were not abundant as they were on our visit in the 80’s, but still good to see. Here one only hears the sea roar and the wind swish, or a bird twitter.

We had lunch at the marquee, then David and I started on the original Otter trail, now the waterfall Day walk. The start of the Otter is now near the entry gate. The fall is said to be 3km taking 3 hrs return. We started but David ran ahead while I savoured the walk slowly (legs still feeling the climb two days back) till I reached a long section of boulder hopping. I cannot believe we crossed that so long ago with four kids and packs. I doubt I could do it now. David returned, 45min each way.

We left at 4, stopped at the Storms River motor bridge (1954), where two Swiss girls asked for a lift to PE. Lemon Tree Lodge suggested a place next to the yacht club for a meal. We found it with some difficulty in the harbour – a dodgy area. The place is a fishermans ‘club’; it was very rowdy but the food was cheap and good served by an energetic articulate Xhosa. An interesting place reminding me of ‘The Great Gatsby’, a people trying to forget the situation they are in. On the street at the traffic lights was a white man about 28 begging in the strong cold wind. Not the first we saw, Every house in the up-market area around Lemon Tree has a high wall and electric fencing. The owner spoke of her concern for the future, as this city has a strong black presence. Many names of streets and venues have been changed – the Bay is now Nelson Mandela Bay, not Algoa.  Grahamstown is no longer. Businesses have been expropriated. The owner here has a beautiful large home/B&B, in a posh area, but could it all be lost? In contrast, we have met many who are pleasant and helpful even the watchmen at night. The Xhosa guy at the 1820 Monument stated the obvious when I queried about his feeling in a building commemorating an invasion from his perspective – “we cannot change history, we must learn from it”. I fear he may be  outnumbered, certainly out voted, by those whose desire is to gather power by encouraging the masses to do as they please. The rural towns are still in good shape, but the cities are lost.

Blue duiker
Swing Bridge
Skiet Rok
Boulders on Otter Trail

AFRICA reprise The Western Cape, Grahamstown – 12th Oct 2018 – Day 29

It rained heavily; the forecast was for more but clear tomorrow. I would walk in the rain but Ailine and David were not keen, instead opting to drive to Grahamstown to free up tomorrow. I agreed as it was only 170km according to David. Once on the road I saw that was to PE with a further 130 to Grahamstown. We were committed by then and it made sense in a way.

The only interest in this rural farming area are the amazing lush green paddocks.

Grahamstown is of interest to me for several reasons. It’s one of the first towns settled by UK immigrants in 1810, before the main party in 1820, my father’s forebears. A monument and Art Centre was built in 1964/68 overlooking the city to commemorate the event. My 1st year University was here at Rhodes, our 1st year of marriage, and the birth of Karen. We visited all the places that held significance for me.

The Settlers in the UK were encouraged to emigrate  with fables about the wonderful pastures and climate but found Algoa Bay (Port Elizabeth) uninviting. A sand, mud and rocky place on the edge of a wild windy almost treeless bay. The land was infertile, and hard. Only the Coega river ameliorated the tough life ahead. People had brought inappropriate flat packed timber homes and furnishings like pianos. And while the native Xhosa were initially friendly, battles broke out over cattle and grazing rights leading later to frontier wars. Nature in the form of elephants, leopards, baboons and other wildlife were also a problem.

First stop was the Settlers building overlooking the city. On my visit in 1987 we bought prints of paintings by those people, so I expected more than we found. The building is more an arts centre and theatre; Settler information was nowhere to be seen. We were guided through it for 15 minutes by the informative reception guy.

I attended Rhodes in 1965, travelling from the mine in Mashaba in Rhodesia with Phil from Gatooma who studying for ministry. We had a stopover in Jo’burg with my sister to break the long two day journey (2000km). I have no idea how I found Phil, nor where I stayed the first few nights in Grahamstown. I registered for Geology with the other hundreds of students in the intimidating main entry hall through the arch off High Street. Queues formed in front of labelled tables for the various faculties; ‘Arts’ ‘Science etc. My turn came: ’‘What are you registering for?” “Geology Sir”  “So you will also do Chemistry, Physics, and Maths – Next!’

I searched the notice boards and Town Hall for a room and eventually found a dark front room in a small Railway house at the opposite end of the High Street from the Uni (no longer there). The couple were good to me; one Saturday we drove down to Kowie (Port Alfred). On my 15 minute walk to lectures I noticed an Indian guy just a block away also going so we would chat on the way. It was unusual for an Indian to attend a European Uni and I thought the apartheid very wrong.

Hilary came down about two months later, but the accommodation was clearly unsuitable. By this time I was in need of a haircut and persuaded Hilary to do it, but a blunt scissors is not sufficient; the result was embarrassing. On Monday I crept up High Street to a barber near the Cathedral who had to do a very short cut.

I enquired again about a room and discovered Vicky’s advert on a Uni board. A junior lecturer, she and a tall pom had bought an old 5-bed house at 20 Francis Street and were letting 3 rooms. Two were already taken so we were left with the large extension room on the left side. It was probably a dining or living room and we loved it. A yellow timber floor, high ceiling, a door off the front veranda, and tall sash windows on all three external walls. In contrast to the current dark room, this was filled with light. Rent was more than for the other rooms and we had to furnish it. A bed of course and colourful curtains, which Hilary made using a borrowed machine. All six of us shared the kitchen and bathroom. The railway passed about 3m behind but we became used to it. We saw the house on a visit  in 1988 and it was still a student home, but today it looks like a family home with a playground and garage.

Vicky was a very nice woman, about 30. The other front room was occupied by the tall pom. His fees were paid by the Zambian government as he was a policeman. He even had all his gear including a rifle. Another we called the mad bomber as he was very left, studying Arts of course. The last was a studious quiet woman from Wellington near Cape Town. Across the road in a small house on the edge of a school playing field lived a single woman with kids. She had a few chooks and a rooster. Towards the end of year exams, the pom found the crowing too much so one afternoon he shot at the bird, watched by us from our door. He missed and we hastily hid in our rooms. A few minutes later we heard a knock on the door. Our pom played the innocent ‘A shot! At your rooster! No I’ve been studying. Didnt hear a thing’. We could hardly contain ourselves. The pom moved to temporary rooms at the uni.

Daughter Karen’s home-coming could have been a disaster; instead it was welcomed by all. Vicky took many photos, the mad bomber babysat, the pom took a mild interest, and the student helped as she found time. It was a difficult year but memorable. I am grateful to those four and wish we could catch up.

We returned to Rhodesia with Phil in his little mini. He rigged a rope under the boot lid tied to holes in the roof gutters as support for several cases including a steel trunk stacked on it to window height!  Hilary and I could hardly move we were so tightly packed. And Karen slept most of the time in her carrycot on top of packs next to Hilary on the back seat. It was the day of Ian Smith’s Declaration of Independence in Rhodesia  – but that’s another story. I walked alone into the great intimidating hall, then through the arch, down the main street past the cathedral and Town Hall, ending at a building in which we considered renting before 20 Francis. The room is upstairs, a roughly enclosed veranda, draughty and not weather tight. It was disappointing to see how dirty and run-down so much is.

AFRICA reprise The Western Cape, Tsitsikamma – 11th Oct 2018 – Day 28

The weather has changed, become cloudy, and tomorrow will be rainy, so we agreed to spend today ‘on the top’ and tomorrow’ down the bottom ie in the Park.

The top involves some dodgy driving, planned months back. My intention was to at least photograph the Bloukraans River mouth. This place is where a significant family event took place in about 1976-8, when we ie Hilary, and the four girls, walked the Otter Trail, a 50km trail along the coast, across river mouths (the Kleinbos, Elandsbos, Bloukrans, & Groot Rivier), on the rocks and in the rain forest on the edge of the cliffs facing the Indian Ocean. It can only be walked from east to west (from the Park Office to Natures Valley, and walkers should keep to the stages between rude log shelters. The stages vary from 8km to 15km per day. We were naive, and not prepared as well as we should, having never walked a trail before. The trail must be booked a year ahead as it is so popular and restricted to 10 per day (or was in 1976/8). As a result one meets no one for 5 days. One cannot cross the Bloukrans at high tide so it is necessary to plan for a low tide crossing. As I recall, we understood that it is possible to cross on several hours either side of the tide change, so we planned to cross at mid-tide about 4-5pm leaving us sufficient time to walk the 20 minutes to the next shelter before dark. We arrived on time to find the waves rolling in over the sandbank, too high for the girls especially, and for me who would have to take each across and throw them the last 2 metres across the deep channel against the far side rocks. So we sat waiting for the tide to go out, becoming more concerned as the weather changed as it did today. The clouds covered the moon. I kept testing the water, and decided we would have to try at 7.30, as I was unsure when the tide would start to rise again. I was very unsure of the situation, so we all prayed for help in the crossing, then walked into the water. It did not part but the clouds did, allowing the moonlight to peep out as we walked the 50cm deep water on the sandbank. Hilary crossed first, swimming the 3m strong stream to reach the rocks on the other side. I threw the bags over standing on the edge of the channel up to my waist, then each girl went across with a push from me, and lastly myself. At that moment Hilary asked “Whats in the water?” I turned around and there they were – the otters, which are seldom seen! And with that, the clouds moved over the moon again. Coincidence? Dont think so.

We still had a way to walk to the next shelter, but the rain held off. Hilary had good night vision so she led and we kept a good pace when she suddenly stopped, looked right, and said ‘Is that the hut?’ It was. We were dead tired, it was late, but we were under a roof – and the rain fell.

So today we drove to the east of the Bloukrans through the toll, then down the old road to the Forest Station, where we asked permission to travel into the forest plantation as no entry signs proliferate at the entry points. The process is simple – a self check-in of a form at the gate. David drove us to a point on the bluff as near as possible to the river mouth, but it was not possible to walk through the thick fynbos scrub. So we decided to try on the east side, a longer more complex route, from the Coldstream logging camp. The no entry signs were up here, and no self check-in, so we were a little concerned. The tracks are for logging so are rough, but we eventually made it to the point where the emergency track to the river mouth starts, having past forestry people. I couldn’t wait to go down, but it is very steep, the steps are often almost vertical (logs pinned to the ground). The tide was coming in, the clouds were dark, just as they were so long ago. I was grateful as a hot sun would have made the climb out even tougher – I had to stop several times to recover. But there it was, the rocks and sand where we crossed, the deep tannin-stained water meeting the incoming sea. I spent 30 minutes on the beach before climbing out. There is now a board detailing three possible crossing points dependant on the water level, though I would not have liked the other two that night either – they are not easy along the vertical cliff face on the west side.

We found a short way out to the highway, and then to the old road  bridge across the Groot Rivier, where my stepmother leaned on the rail and I took a photo with the old 127 Brownie box camera. The short walk into the forest is delightful – the only sound the birds and water. On the way out I met a couple celebrating their 50th wedding day, by travelling this area where they once lived. They too are Christian (Brethren in the past) and have similar fears for the future. Lunch at the cute Crags Farm, above Natures Valley, returning to the Big Tree (it is) near Storms River. We crossed the high Storms River bridge (bungee possible here) to another track to find the spot overlooking the Storms River Park Office and accommodation on the beach, from the west. (If I had looked at the maps I have, I would have seen it marked as ‘Look out’! We drove there from the town but found a shorter way back. The lookout offers a full view of the Park Office area, and a foot track leads down to it now. Several people came up while we were there. The east wind was very strong , standing on the platform. A crew were pinning a satellite dish to the ground in preparation for the Otter Trail Run within the next 2 weeks, an event that is now world renown. Apparently a cycle race through the forest is another popular event according to Mike the owner here at Andeloni. I cant imagine how tough these would be.

Dinner tonight was at the up-market Tsitsikamma Village Inn, an extensive accommodation place, with a large beautiful dining room, and good food.

AFRICA reprise The Western Cape – Ladysmith, Knysna, Tsitsikamma – 10th Oct 2018 – Day 27

Breakfast was a typical huge farm style meal. Not the best B&B though, breakfast is extra!

Heading east over this undulating plain with the mountain range to the north, the road soon led down to the relatively flat plain of olive green fynbos  to Oudshoorn. At a glance there is nothing to recommend the fynbos, but on closer inspection there are variations in shades of green interspersed with yellow and fuchsia coloured flowers against a backdrop of tiered, ever higher blue mountains. 

Oudshoorn was once renown for fashionable ostrich feathers, but over time a use has been found for every part of the bird. In 1975 we visited an ostrich farm, watched them race, and the girls sat on them. We also toured the Cango Caves, the largest in SA; a narrow passage, the ‘post box’ was claustrophobic; we all remember it. 

The Little Karoo drops down the steep Outeniqua pass near the coastal town of George, where we turned north east. The Wilderness is still a pretty small town on a large estuary. Wind swept houses crowd the ridge facing the sea, while others huddle amongst the thick leafed dune bushes facing inland. The gardens proliferate in this sheltered zone. 

Knysna is a large regional town popular with retirees, known for a long history of logging and fine yellow-wood & stinkwood furniture. We checked the best known shop, Fechter; most is now a blackwood as the other are rare finds. I was surprised to find the price for a thick top yellowwood table to be only Au$4000 and a pretty two-seat bench at $750 (not cheap in Rand though).. Enquiries revealed that shipping is prohibitive, as high as 3 times again.

A stop at the heads is warranted; the narrow gap causes strong currents between the sea and the large inland lake as the tide changes. 

Plettenberg Bay is a popular beach town, catered by numerous hotels. 

Natures Valley marks the end of the long established Otter Trail, a tough 5 day walk from the Tsitsikamma park entrance to the east at Storms River mouth. We became aware of it on a holiday from Mooinooi to Cape Town and back along this Garden Route about 1976. A few years later, we returned via Durban through the Transkei (a difficult trip without a passport at the time). We were not prepared as well as we should; Maria was only about 8. All food had to be carried in and we didn’t have the light foods of today ie heavy tins. The exciting few days will need telling another day, briefly Maria was ‘lost’ for an hour at the Lotteringrivier; crossing the tidal Bloukrans River at 8pm required divine help, and the end at Natures Valley did not go as planned. 

Today we walked across the broad sand of the Groot Rivier at Natures Valley, to just opposite the trail end on the bluff. The late afternoon sun lit up the craggy walls, reflecting on the wash of the incoming tide. A couple had climbed to the top of a rocky pinnacle standing silhouetted against the blue sky.

We drove the old twisty road through the gorges, as I did so long ago, rather than the newer highway where cars speed along unaware of the deep forest beauty below. The dark brown tannin stained water flowing fast to the sea, past the tall old yellowwood trees hung with moss and vines. The forest perfume enveloped us as we drove the unmaintained road, past rock falls. I fear it will be closed one day, such a shame to lose an iconic road. 

David had booked our B&B in small Storms River town. I was surprised at the change to this once private logging and road camp. Almost every building is now devoted to tourism in some way. The 30 year old Andelomi B&B, operated by two families, is set in a pleasant garden of shrubs and trees.  A row of good ensuites face the track on one side, and a lawn on the other. At one end is the kitchen/dining and reception. WiFi is only available near the office. As they no longer offer dinner, we walked round to the Bistro, who offer a decent menu. We sat outside initially as the place was full, but moved inside later as it became cold.

AFRICA reprise The Western Cape – Cape Town, Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Caledon, Ladysmith – 9th Oct 2018 – Day 26

The lifts were still not working. I made two trips with my bags and the lifts then worked. David took his in the lift to L3 where the owner met us and then the spare flat key was missing. I made the trip up, then he found it in his bag. Not a good start

Still cloudy today. Very long traffic lines into the city. Passing miles of shacks along the BMW & Mercedes packed highway, shrouds of power cables feeding 10 shacks from a single pole. The low cloud hides the mountains. We pass the white gabled homes, estates, and vinyards, Spier, Tassenberg, La Pomier, Zorgvliet, Molenvliet, Pniel. Boschendal. All homesteads have a low white wall defining the boundary, giving a sense of solidity.

Stellenbosch is world renown for the wine, old gracious homes, and the mountains. Ailine & I spent over an hour shooting them! It also has a very prestigious university, once only Afrikaans. Confirmation of the vast changes here – two women sharing coffee in a cute cafe, one black, one white. Just a conversation between two friends; maybe there is hope yet?  

Franschoek (French Corner) is significant to me as this was the town settled by the Protestant French Huegenots, persecuted by the Catholics, the forebears of my mother. A symbolic monument and museum was built at the top end of town to preserve the history. The complex consists of three identical small one-room buildings linked by an arch with the text “Post tenebras lux”, a Latin phrase translated as Light After Darkness. It appears as “Post tenebras spero lucem” in the Vulgate version of Job 17:12. The phrase came to be adopted as the Calvinist motto, and was subsequently adopted as the motto of the entire Protestant Reformation. In front is a larger building, the museum, currently under repair. All are flat roofed, embellished by corbels (plaster) and painted white.

The first Huguenots settled in the Cape in 1688, and the memorial was dedicated on 17th April 1948. The figure of the woman holds a bible in her right hand and a broken chain on the left, symbolising freedom of religion. She is looking south from Europe to her new land. The ‘fleur-de-lis’ on her dress attests to nobility of spirit and character. She casts off the cloak of oppression and stands above the earth in spiritual freedom. Their art and culture are represented by the harp, agriculture by the corn and vine, industry by the spinning wheel. The sun and cross depict the Christian faith. The pool (under repair) expresses tranquillity after strife, and the three arches behind her represent the Trinity. The entire memorial is enclosed by a half circle colonnade. Viewed from the front against the high mountains, it’s a lovely place moving me to thank God for my mother’s faith. To one side stands a sun dial on which are inscribed the names of the ships and families.

The next town was Caledon, not without numerous photo stops up the high pass for views of the valley. Caledon is the town of my mother’s birth. I have little data about her, but she had a framed postcard of a shelter the Botanical garden which I hoped still existed. Indeed it does! Near the entrance facing a large pond though my recollection is of flowers in front. It had significance for her living so differently thousands of miles north in Rhodesia. The garden did not disappoint us; at first it appears dry and barren but quickly one sees carpets of flowers, several small stone & timber rest or viewing shelters hidden along the thickly planted stream running to the pond. Large trees, rock faces, bridges, narrow tracks run everywhere up and down both sides of the stream. Ericas, daisies, and cactus crowd on the tracks. And up above where this Karoo fynbos park ends are balancing rocks on the mountain range. The park has a reputation as a hide for druggies, so its not visited often. We only saw gardeners

Good lunch in a Wimpy Bar for past memories. The owner had a bar in another town, but moved here as it offered a better return. Not happy with life in general, and I can’t say I’m surprised; my mother would not recognise or like the town now.

We made many more photo stops along the road for the large open, neat wheat fields against a backdrop of another majestic mountain range. We crossed the steep Tradouw pass into the semi-desert Little Karoo where most of this broad east-west valley is covered by short fynbos and flat top hills. Another high range marks its northern extent into the Great Karoo beyond, continuing for thousands of miles north. Barrydale was a lovely sight in the late sunlight in the valley against the mountain. 

Our stop is Volstruis B&B in Ladysmith. A large old house conversion, 4m high ceilings, well appointed ensuites but no wifi though it claims so on its web. I had a lamb stew at a local eatery, served in a miniature black three-leg pot on a large plate of rice, sweet potato, fresh beans and carrot. A very Karoo meal.

Huegenot Memorial

AFRICA reprise – The Western Cape – 7th Oct 2018 – Day 24

Because of its natural beauty, Cape Town can never be a disappointment; majestic, impossibly flat, Table Mountain, blue ocean, tucked away cove villages on the slopes, gracious white gabled homes hidden behind ancient oaks and trimmed gardens, or surrounded by neat lines of vinyards. Constantia, Groot Schure, Hout Bay, Fishoek, Tokai – strange names. The city lies on the north east slope of the mountain, sheltered ( sometimes) by the arm of Lions Head and Signal Hill. Its old, set up by Jan van Riebeck in 1752. The only castle south of the equator was built on the sea front to guard the safe harbour. Today it is stranded several  inland by the reclaimed ground, initially for the railway, later for port extensions. We spent a few hours here to sense the history; the slave quarters, the long dining room, prison cells one can hardly lie down, surrounding a large courtyard overlooked by the Captains room. 

The Company Gardens adjacent Parliament, the Great Synagogue, St Georges Cathedral, and other public buildings, set along a leafy tree lined avenue. 

Bo Kaap, the pastel coloured blocky homes of the Moslem Community on Whale Street had us shooting from all angles in the morning light, causing traffic issues! 

Koopman de Wet house, once a furnished example of an early home, is now boarded up sadly, surrounded by seedy shops.

And lastly the District Six museum, displaying how the ‘Coloured’ mixed race people lived in this designated area. I was told it was unsafe for others to venture there. Sadly the area had become valuable and the people were forcibly removed during the 1970s by the apartheid gaverment. 

Groet Constantia was established as a vinyard in 1685 using cuttings from Europe. A simple house initially, though with the Dutch gable, it was extended subsequently so the complex now has a new cellar and two restaurants. It still sells home grown well regarded wines. It is approached along an avenue of very old leafy oaks. I saw it as a 7yr old which impressed me so much, I had to build on at Forth, Tasmania, and in 2002 in Perth as a B&B. 

These are all places I visited with my mother in 1952  my sister, Myra, lived in a suburb here, Bellville. Mom had nursed me through Rhumatic Fever over several months so Dad sent us by train from Salisbury (Harari), a 3 day journey via Botswana.

And we ended the day shooting the mountain from Blaubergstrand across the wide bay. The view from here has been painted and photographed since the beginning of the colony, so why not us?

 

AFRICA reprise – Victoria Falls to Cape Town 6th Oct 2018 – Day 23

I’m waiting for the Kenya air flight to Cape Town in a new spacious air-conditioned airport. On the ground floor so I will need to carry my 12kg bag up the stair.

As we drove the 22km to the airport, on a wide well maintained road, lined by the green thorn trees and blank stemmed brown leafed mopani, I debated whether I am more Rhodesian than South African. I think so but will wait till Im back in Perth. The taxi driver was Matabele. His heritage goes back to Lobengula then living in ‘The place of slaughter’, Bulawayo, some 400km south east. It was he who Rhodes and Jamison negotiated with for land and free passage. He later became concerned about the deal, so caused the death of many settlers, in particular, the decimation of the Jamison party who fought to the end.  The Matabele are an offshoot of the Natal Zulu. Now this history is dragged from school days so may not be absolutely correct!

Its a 3hr flight on Kenya air to Cape Town, the ‘Mother City’. Established as a victual stop for the Dutch East India Company ships in the 1800’s, it was later taken by the English. However, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was here way before that, only erecting stone crosses where he harboured. And before him? The Hotentots a people now mixed with black and white, the ‘Coloureds’ as they were named in the apartheid era.

It is interesting to see how the ‘sins of the fathers are passed down to the 7th generation’. When the British took the Cape, the Dutch were well established, not that the British cared. The Dutch were treated as 2nd class people; their children forced to English schools, the developing Afrikaans language banned. And so the Great Trek started; wagons pulled by teams of oxen were loaded as families sought a place far from these laws. It is said they also chose to not have homes in sight of the smoke of neighbours, but could also be due to the need for larger land in the semi- desert Karoo. And so as they gradually migrated north they came in contact with the local Bantu peoples, requiring encircled laagers as protection. Meantime the British decided to send people to the south eastern area around Port Elizabeth, encouraging them with very upbeat information on the place of honey! Amongst these 1820  settlers are my Scottish ancestors. They faced hard times in the poor soils and fiery Xhosa cattle raids. My farther was born in King Williamstown not far inland; my first year university was at nearby Rhodes Uni in Grahamstown, and daughter Karen was born there too.

Gold and diamonds were discovered in Johannesburg and Kimberley, starting a rush by prospectors around the world; the Dutch, led by Paul Kruger, were overwhelmed by this hoard; the British once again took charge, ignoring treaties, precipitating the Boer Wars of the 1890’s and 1900’s. The Boers fought a cut and run war against the red troops until the British played dirty by emprisoning the Dutch families resulting in death and disease, and hate till now. Once again the Dutch were under the yoke of British rule. The two world wars did nothing to improve matter; many Boers supported Hitler with some exceptions like General Jan Smuts who later became Prime Minister.

1948 was a turning point. The English United Party lost power to the Afrkaans Nationalists which became more draconian over time, treating the Black people as they were in the past. The sins of the fathers. I should add that my mother was of French Huegenough stock, similar to the Dutch so I often felt ‘in between’.

Our flat in Cape Town is at the top of an iconic 9 story art deco building in the heart of the city. Love it. A lady met us and took us on a tour enthusiastically. Formally the Old Mutual, it was converted to flats in the ‘70’s. The exterior is decorated with friezes and figures; the heavy brass doors to the tiny lifts are engraved. The core is an empty space with all flats on the exterior. All are double height with interior stairs to a second balcony bed or dining space. Quirky and unconventional. 

We left soon for Lions Head. We have made the steep climb on the slope of Lions Head to where solid rock rises vertically to the top, for a sunset view of the west side of Table Mt and the 7 sisters. I’m here early to find a spot clear of proteas. Its hot with a cool breeze occasionaly bring the scent of proteas and other flowering shrubs. Far below the blue sea breaks on Clifton beach and rocks. Its peaceful; the soft, sea waves are a background to the occasional bird and more frequent hikers. So peaceful, but I know that those homes down there are locked down as night falls.

As the sun set, an eagle called high above along the cliff face. We walked and slid down in the dark,David well ahead as usual. They decided to go to the harbour for dinner.  It was after 8 before we ordered, nearly 10 when we left. The meal was too large; I should not have eaten it all. A 4 man band played loudly, fortuneately a Country &. Western style I like. Its now 11.30

AFRICA reprise – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) – 5th Oct 2018 – Day 22

I watched David ride the swing and zipline at the Lookout cafe on the gorge edge this morning. Fairly tame he said, but not my idea of fun. The cafe provides a good view of the bridge and the many rafts negotiating the rapids. Didn’t look too tough but THAT would have been fun. Too late now. Getting here requires a vehicle though the distance is minimal, owing to a small herd of elephant that badly injured a guy recently. Baboons and a few warthogs stroll the streets but it is safe to walk where street lights exist.

The northern Zimbabwe Shona tribe are well known for carving, especially of soapstone. A large market 20m from this hotel has a massive variety, one stall in particular owned by an old guy Chris, caught my attention yesterday. I decided to buy a small carving of the Zimbabwe bird of the Great Zimbabwe ruined city near what was Fort Victoria. The stone walls are beautifully cut and placed, similar to the well known Machu Pichu on a smaller scale. Large areas of the country are terraced too and speculation is that Arab slave traders had it done – or a people now extinct. The bird emblem is located there. Ailine ended up buying a lot including an excellent very large heavy elephant carving, probably by local Ndebele.

Chris is talented; besides carving he plays music at a local venue, mentioning ’By the Rivers of Babylon’. He could easily fit in New York’s Harlem. He also said that Mugabe’s party never won here and that all lived in peace. Any outsider had to conform! I feel sorry that he has never seen the world, living in poverty relative to us, yet wonder if its not better than our ‘civilised’ west in these ‘politically correct’ anti-Christian times.

We moved David’s bags to the Victoria Falls Hotel, then taxied across to Zambia in three taxies ie from hotel to Zimbabwe gate, then to the Zambia gate, then several km to Livingstone. Both customs have similar long buildings, a glassed office with passages each side, in and out of the country.

Oranges are currently cheap in Zimbabwe.  We saw at least 50 heavily loaded bicycles pushed by guys across to Zambia to make a 100% profit. Its about a 10 km hilly road they do twice a day in the heat. Tough life.

The taxi driver in Zambia pointed out many buildings and a shopping complex built by Chinese, now abandoned. The adjacent ‘Safe Harbour’ hotel is open but not in good shape. The driver claimed they were still here but didn’t say what they do. They dont employ locals, but provide loans to government that will never be paid, effectively buying Africa.  Many years ago they built the rail from Lusaka to Tanzania with virtual Chinese indentured labour. 

Livingstone is the fourth largest city in Zambia, comprising long main street, one traffic light at the cross road to Namibia, a few colonial era buildings and many more recent. All are in typical African disrepair. We were dropped at the far end next to a high long shed divided into many stalls displaying colourful local craft. Ailine bought some though the US$ are running low. David tried to change 50’s into 10’s at one bank; we were ignored but had success at the next.

We selected a busy local cafe for lunch having seen Europeans on both sides of the counter. One customer was a huge man who responded that he often ate here so we felt safe to eat here too.
Guards with guns are common in both countries which may explain the apparent safety. Tourism is very important; truck loads of young arrive as well as the older European rich or self-drive South Africans, and they have to keep coming.


At 4pm our taxi took us to the Zambian park gate for sunset. Despite the lack of water, enough fell in two spots to make it interesting, especially the first which offers a good view all the way down the fall chasm, overlooked by a Livingston statue. We had to be out by 6, 15mins before sunset, but managed to get some good shots (I think, as checking them is not possible on these long days). We opted to walk 1 or 2 km to the Zimbabwe side across the bridge as the steam train was there for sundowners. David asked the loco driver if I could blow the whistle- and I did! Ailine and I were dead by then so a taxi brought us back.

After a shower I walked 10 mins to the Victoria Falls hotel for a very tender venison dinner followed by a sundae and coffee on the terrace of this gracious old building. A great way to end this visit to what was ‘God’s own country’, a taste of the glory days. The garden perfumed air accompanied me on the short walk back to my hotel.
It’s 12.40am now and an early morning start tomorrow.

AFRICA reprise- Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) – 4th Oct 2018 – Day 21

David booked the old Victoria Falls Hotel for one night yesterday but this place promises to find a room for me by tomorrow night. I checked at the posh Shearwater hotel but they are full.

Breakfast at the cafe again, and then off to the falls for morning shots at 5 points (1,2,3,7,8}, while David did the Livingstone Island dip. I could see him from point 8 as I finished and left for the Falls cafe at the gate, leaving Ailine to do her multi-shots. The cafe was crowded, service slow, but a welcome rest spot.

David showed up at 1, after which we set off again to make sure the afternoon shots were good!

Arriving back at the hotel at 6pm I was told I could stay in the same room. Relief; I was about to ask at the camp which has very old brick rooms scattered under large trees. Some look maintained but most are not. Not the best, but very cheap.

I noticed that a new soap tablet had been added again today; I now have one from each day here – which reminded me of a story about soap in hotels.

 What to Do With Hotel Soap

  The following letters are taken from an actual incident between a London hotel and one of it’s guests. The Hotel ended up submitting the letters to the London Sunday Times!

Dear Maid,

     Please do not leave any more of those little bars of soap in my bathroom since I have brought my own bath-sized Dial. Please remove the six unopened little bars from the shelf under the medicine chest and another three in the shower soap dish. They are in my way.

Thank you, S. Berman

Dear Room 635,

     I am not your regular maid. She will be back tomorrow, Thursday, from her day off. I took the 3 hotel soaps out of the shower soap dish as you requested. The 6 bars on your shelf I took out of your way and put on top of your Kleenex dispenser in case you should change your mind. This leaves only the 3 bars I left today which my instructions from the management is to leave 3 soaps daily. I hope this is satisfactory.

Kathy, Relief Maid

Dear Maid – I hope you are my regular maid.

     Apparently Kathy did not tell you about my note to her concerning the little bars of soap. When I got back to my room this evening I found you had added 3 little Camays to the shelf under my medicine cabinet. I am going to be here in the hotel for two weeks and have brought my own bath-size Dial so I won’t need those 6 little Camays which are on the shelf. They are in my way when shaving, brushing teeth, etc. Please remove them.

Thank you, S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,

     My day off was last Wed. so the relief maid left 3 hotel soaps which we are instructed by the management. I took the 6 soaps which were in your way on the shelf and put them in the soap dish where your Dial was. I put the Dial in the medicine cabinet for your convenience. I didn’t remove the 3 complimentary soaps which are always placed inside the medicine cabinet for all new check-ins and which you did not object to when you checked in last Monday. Please let me know if I can of further assistance.

Your regular maid, Dotty

Dear Mr. Berman,

     The assistant manager, Mr. Kensedder, informed me this morning that you called him last evening and said you were unhappy with your maid service. I have assigned a new girl to your room. I hope you will accept my apologies for any past inconvenience. If you have any future complaints please contact me so I can give it my personal attention. Call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM.Thank you.

Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Miss Carmen,

     It is impossible to contact you by phone since I leave the hotel for business at 7:45 AM and don’t get back before 5:30 or 6PM. That’s the reason I called Mr. Kensedder last night. You were already off duty. I only asked Mr. Kensedder if he could do anything about those little bars of soap. The new maid you assigned me must have thought I was a new check-in today, since she left another 3 bars of hotel soap in my medicine cabinet along with her regular delivery of 3 bars on the bath-room shelf. In just 5 days here I have accumulated 24 little bars of soap. Why are you doing this to me?

S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,

     Your maid, Kathy, has been instructed to stop delivering soap to your room and remove the extra soaps. If I can be of further assistance, please call extension 1108 between 8AM and 5PM. Thank you,

Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Mr. Kensedder,

     My bath-size Dial is missing. Every bar of soap was taken from my room including my own bath-size Dial. I came in late last night and had to call the bellhop to bring me 4 little Cashmere Bouquets.

S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,

     I have informed our housekeeper, Elaine Carmen, of your soap problem. I cannot understand why there was no soap in your room since our maids are instructed to leave 3 bars of soap each time they service a room. The situation will be rectified immediately. Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience.

Martin L. Kensedder, Assistant Manager

Dear Mrs. Carmen,

     Who the hell left 54 little bars of Camay in my room? I came in last night and found 54 little bars of soap. I don’t want 54 little bars of Camay. I want my one damn bar of bath-size Dial. Do you realize I have 54 bars of soap in here. All I want is my bath size Dial. Please give me back my bath-size Dial.

S. Berman

Dear Mr. Berman,

     You complained of too much soap in your room so I had them removed. Then you complained to Mr. Kensedder that all your soap was missing so I personally returned them. The 24 Camays which had been taken and the 3 Camays you are supposed to receive daily. I don’t know anything about the 4 Cashmere Bouquets. Obviously your maid, Kathy, did not know I had returned your soaps so she also brought 24 Camays plus the 3 daily Camays. I don’t know where you got the idea this hotel issues bath-size Dial. I was able to locate some bath-size Ivory which I left in your room.

Elaine Carmen, Housekeeper

Dear Mrs. Carmen,

Just a short note to bring you up-to-date on my latest soap inventory.

As of today I possess:

     – On the shelf under medicine cabinet – 18 Camay in 4 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.

     – On the Kleenex dispenser – 11 Camay in 2 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 3.

     – On the bedroom dresser – 1 stack of 3 Cashmere Bouquet,

     – 1 stack of 4 hotel-size Ivory, and 8 Camay in 2 stacks of 4.

     – Inside the medicine cabinet – 14 Camay in 3 stacks of 4 and 1 stack of 2.

     – In the shower soap dish – 6 Camay, very moist.

     – On the northeast corner of tub – 1 Cashmere Bouquet, slightly used.

     – On the northwest corner of tub – 6 Camays in 2 stacks of 3.

     Please ask Kathy when she services my room to make sure the stacks are neatly piled and dusted. Also, please advise her that stacks of more than 4 have a tendency to tip. May I suggest that my bedroom window sill is not in use and will make an excellent spot for future soap deliveries. One more item, I have purchased another bar of bath-sized Dial which I am keeping in the hotel vault in order to avoid further misunderstandings.

S. Berman