Walk among the Vines

One of the great things about South Africa is the naturalness of the country. While one could sometimes wish for more sophistication, that is a First World problem, not a South African problem. I have been fortunate that I have been in places where it is reasonably safe. So with apologies to Bill Bryson…..here are some of my walks

After leaving Cape Town, I drove about 150km up the West Coast to Langebaan. Langebaan is a weekend retreat for Capetonians. In the week it is very quiet – it almost seems like a large retirement Village. I walked out of the town along towards Shark Bay, which is a place people like to go windsurfing. Having suffered the wind here, I can see why they would enjoy it.

Houses here are solid and there were very few flat roofs. Mostly quite high angles. I was blown back by the wind in the end, and can see why that type of construction is needed in the conditions here. I can only imagine what it was like for sailing ships sailing down this coast. No wonder they looked for the Cape of Good Hope!

While at Langebaan, I was working over at Hopefield – a small town about 30 minutes out of Langebaan. While walking around the centre (which took about 5 minutes), I noticed a coffee place. I went in and not only had a good coffee and lunch, but also saw some Rooiboos Red Mocha tea, with Coffee Nibs in. The owner had never tried it, so I bought it anyway and have been drinking it regularly. With Cocoa and Coffee in it (and no milk!), it tastes like a light mocha coffee.

After Langebaan, I travelled on a late Friday afternoon over to Stellenbosch. I arrived at the height of the traffic…and traffic here is often at a stop.
Stellenbosch is the centre of the Wine District around Cape Town. There are wine Estates all round and it fills up on friday with people visiting for the weekend, making the place full to the brim with mostly visitors. I went for a walk on my first weekend along the Eerstes river. Note the Brown water – from tannins in the timber further upstream. It seemed pretty safe, until I came to a notice on a fence and gate saying to only go further in a group etc. So I turned back.

During the week I travelled back and forth to Paarl, a road which seemed full of roadworks. they have a stop-go system which goes for kilometres. I waited once for 15 minutes before being allowed to proceed. The locals get out of their cars, have a cigarette and a chat while they are waiting. However they were certainly very impatient at other times. In south Africa, if a car pulls up behind you , you are expected to pull over to the shoulder and let them pass you. If you don’t, they flash headlights and horns etc.

This weekend, my biggest outing has been to the Lanzerac Wine Estate. I went there because I could walk the 3km there. I was not prepared to drive and do any wine tasting, so it was the only alternative. Lanzerac is one of the older Wine estate in South Africa. They have a large estate, with a hotel and restaurant and deli/tasting room. I went to the latter, as it seemed the least pretentious.

 

They offered 5 wines paired with chocolate, so I changed my mind from the five reds I had been going to try and went with their fixed alternative. As it turned out, it was a unique experience. The little chocolate bars were very different in taste to complement the wines. The Sauvignon Blanc was quite fruity so there were berries and fruits in the chocolate. The Chardonnay was so young, it was still growing – quite a bad advertisement for what can be a lovely wine, when well done. The Reds (Merlot, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon) were quite good. Thbe choclate with the  Pinotage had some coffee flavour. With the Cabernet, the chocolate included cinnamon and almond. Overall I found the wines a little bland and didn’t take anything back home to the hotel to drink. Instead I went into town and bought a bottle of the Diemersdorf Coffe Pinotage, which is another unique wine here that I have not seen anywhere else.

I also walked in the other direction along the Eerstes river. The highlight of this was seeing people washing their clothes in the water, but I did not feel comfortable to take photos of them. I also saw a squirrel which let me get close enough to take a camouflage photo, past one of the university buildings where I am working next week.

Another few days here, before flying to Johannesburg for my last week. I doubt I will get out much in Johannesburg, so I have enjoyed it here walking among the vines.

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About Robots and all that….

This gallery contains 26 photos.

“A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm. A robot must obey orders given it by by human beings except where such orders would conflict with the First Law. … Continue reading

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Garden Route Peregrinations

Knysna-panoramaAfter a lengthy flight via Hong Kong and Johannesburg, I arrived at the George airport and waited patiently for my luggage – the last suitcase off the trolley, though I had already seen it, so was not concerned. Into my chariot for the month – a VW Polo, so very similar to my home car…and I was off.

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The Garden Route is one of the beautiful parts of South Africa. Flanked by the Outeniqua Mountains on one side and the coast on the other side, it is a vast tableau of green, brown and yellow colours, with seemingly endless plains (veldts) and steep mountains, with passes to traverse to reach the Karoo (Semi-desertlike) within. I spent my time in and around George and along the coast.

I travelled over to Sedgefield from George. On the way, I stopped at the lookout looking towards Wilderness.

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Having been to Sedgefield previously, I wanted to look through the Market, so found my way there on Saturday. there are actually three markets there – food, outdoor and craft markets. There were lots of people there – apparently in Summer it attracts even more people and the Island can be overrun with traffic. Ironic, considering that Sedgefield is know as Slw Town. I enjoyed wandering around the markets – and had a nice coffee at the roastery that is on site. The musicians provided fine entertainments and there were several people dancing along with their foot-tapping music

I also looked around the Island, wandering around the lagoon and the neighbourhood. Sedgefield is also known as the first Slow town in South Africa.

There is a lake, a lagoon and several beaches at Sedgefield. Here is a photo of the lagoon

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sedgefield-a-frameI liked the a-frame houses there. I have always liked these, but have never been able to live in one – I did once live in a cathedral ceiling house and enjoyed the sense of space that one gets from having the sloping ceilings.

 

 

 

 

 

To go along with the Slow Town There are of course turtles in Sedgefield – both mosaic and live turtles. I missed being able to take a camera shot of one crossing the road in front of me, as I drove out – it wasn’t that slow!

On the back road between George and Sedgefield, this is taken from Kaaimans Bridge. Notice the colour of the water. Apparently the black colour comes from tannins.

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I also spent a few days in Knysna, in a very nice hotel, on the water at Thesen Island. Knysna is a place, where people from Cape Town, Johannesburg and overseas, often buy “Beach” houses. they are quite often empty of course, but there is quite stringent security to protect the resident places.

My examining place was a school on the hill overlooking Knysna and the Knysna Heads.

 

The school was damaged by a tragic fire, started far away, which caused huge damage to the district about 18 months ago. Here you can see where they are repairing the damage to the hill and  also notice the two houses – the brick house has been destroyed by the fire and the timber house – only next door – is untouched.

The hotel was called the Turbine, as it was developed after the closing of a power station. Inside are the turbines, that previously had run, to provide electricity to the area. The hotel was full of remnants of the power station, in the corridors and the rooms.

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The hotel was quite luxurious and boasted great views over the lagoon of Knysna. The lagoon debouches through the Heads into the Indian Ocean.

 

On my way to Cape Town, I stopped at Mossel Bay, further towards Cape Town. It broke the lengthy journey to Cape Town. It is a large bay, with the wide Santos beach and a nature reserve on the Peninsula.

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And so to Cape Town, where my tour continues for ten days. I am right next door to the Newlands Cricket Ground, where yesterday the Blue Bulls played Western Province in the semifinals of the Currie Cup (rugby). This game was won by the Western Province, who just held out after extra time to win 35 – 32. My view also includes the Kirstenbosch Gardens, the Rhodes memorial, and up to the back end of Table Mountain.

I have been in Cape Town before, so have not felt the need to explore too much yet. Not quite as exciting as my Garden route Peregrinations!

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Hong Kong Meanderings

It has been a couple of weeks since I last wrote …. mostly filled with one diploma examination after another. There was a typhoon here two weeks ago, so that weekend was mostly spent indoors, as we were warned not to go outside much in any case. However the following weekend was bathed in polluted sunshine – enough to burn a little.

On Sunday, I was taken out to Saikung and then to an Island in the South China Sea, fifteen minutes ferry ride away. The Island (like much of the rest of Hong Kong)  is owned by the Hong Kong Jockey Club and is basically an eighteen hole golf course. We had a lovely lunch in the South China Sea and a walk around the parts of the Island where non-golfers were allowed to meander. The course is apparently one of the few public courses in Hong Kong, so there was an emphasis on learning how to play the game, with a large driving range and learning centre. It was a beautiful day – relatively clear –  and with good company, it was most enjoyable.

 

After arrival back at Saikung, we wandered into a coffee shop – twice! – once for good coffee and once again to retrieve a lost Oyster Card (not mine!), which we found on the floor next to some people that had already taken our chairs. Saikung is quite a long way out from Hong Kong Central, but I am told that quite a lot of expatriates live out there, as the district is pretty much bush with little settlements dotted along the coast line. I am told there are a lot of good tramping walks out there. Saikung itself has a large fishing market on the waterfront, where the local fisher-people come in with their catch of the day and sell it. The sights (and smells) were extraordinary, with both fresh and dried fish products being added to many shopper bags during the afternoon

 

On the two Mondays, I decided to rent a bicycle and go for a ride (HKD$80 the first week and HKD$90 the second week – I bargained, because he wanted to charge me $100 the second week….). My first Monday, I rode from Tai Wai to Tai Po and back. Apparently about 20km each direction. The cycle path goes along beside the Shing Mun River for about 10 km and then one can choose to go to Tai Po, or to Ma on Shan. It was very peaceful after escaping busy Tai Wai, to ride along this perfectly flat path. Some of it was a shared path, but mostly the cycle path was separate from the walking paths and the parks. I remembered it a little from having examined out this way 5 years ago, but I really enjoyed having the bite of some “fresh” air on my face – and I did get burnt – despite using some sunscreen – on ONE arm. Silly boy! It wasn’t too badly burned, but definitely red…October in Hong Kong!!

I did get lost a couple of times…the bike path might be well signposted if you read Chinese, but I do wonder if not all the English signs were there. So I saw the centre of Shatin before turning back. When the path came to an end at the Tai Po waterfront park, I met some men who were flying their kites and they persuaded me to take over for a while. I tried to tell them about the many hours I spent flying a kite in my childhood, but their English wasn’t good enough and my Cantonese is little more than non-existent!

The next Monday ( today), I rode out along the same path but took a turning to go to Ma On Shan, which basically looks over toward Tai Po. I did get a little lost in the parks  and building construction at the end – taking a few paths that I am sure I was not meant to ride along, but nobody shouted at me, so I eventually found my way around and back again – only to lose myself on the return journey and end up by the Hong Kong Baptist University. Exciting stuff isn’t it!!

During the week, my time is of necessity taken up with work, but I have had a few vacancies, so have managed to get over to see more of the Nan Liang Gardens next to where I examine. They are beautifully cultivated gardens, with a little lake in the centre and a small temple in the lake. It is connected to the Chi Lin Nunnery by a bridge going over the road. I know I put some photos into my last meanderings, but here are some of the Nunnery and the shrines there. I was told to put my camera away at one of the shrines. When I immediately just went outside and walked along the windows looking in, the lady official, proceeded to follow me, so I waved at her, received the typical grimace in return and so I smiled and left.

I have had some amazing meals, but one that I should mention is a vegetarian hamburger patty . It included Beet, which many of you may know I don’t really eat after a childhood of choking on red beetroot in sweet vinegar. However this patty was amazing. It was a lot more beefy than any MacDonald’s burger I have tasted. Now, that may not mean a lot, but this was one of the best burger patties I have ever eaten. We had to barbecue it ourselves and it was really worth waiting for.

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So life in Hong Kong has been pretty busy. Everything here is expensive. I think you can still get cheap clothing in the markets, but I am not really interested in clothing that falls apart after been worn and washed a few times. The electronics I have been interested in are mostly cheaper or comparable in New Zealand, so I shan’t be disturbing Her Majesty’s Customs when I return. However I have enjoyed seeing even more of this fascinating place on my meanderings.

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Welcome back to Hong Kong

It was welcome back to Hong Kong for me this week, with my20171008_081417_005 return here for 6 weeks of examining – my first time examining here since 2014, so it was back to the Panorama Hotel again, and its view of the Hong Kong Harbour….

…..and rather large breakfast!

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It is not often that I think of Hong Kong as being very sport oriented. Indeed this last week has been too hot to make me think of any serious outdoor sport. However in my first full day here, I was fortunate enough to see an international bicycle race here in Hong Kong….and see it from very close!

 

The event, on Sunday, was the Hong Kong Cyclothon. This was a full day event, beginning at 5.30 in the morning and finishing about 5.00 in the evening. It must have created havoc on the roads, as many roads in a busy section of Hong Kong were closed.

I watched two races in the morning. They were the children’s races, with one race being those accompanied by an adult and the other with just children racing on their own. It was great to see so many children on bicycles, ranging from very small to almost adult sized bicycles. They completed about four laps of a course between the towering buildings of Hong Kong. It was amazing to watch some of them pedalling so quickly on their little machines – yet going so slowly. The participants were mostly boys, but it was good to see a few girls managing to be pretty competitive.

 

After a break – for lunch – I returned to watch the men’s international race, including some professional teams from Canada and Australia. It was fascinating to see this in action. By jumping over a small obstacle, I was able to cross the road in a long gap between riders and stand almost literally into the middle of the race. I spent some time talking to an expatriate Irishman, who was well involved with a number of the riders. He was timing the gaps for them and letting them know as they rode past. Eventually we both decided the policeman at the side of the road was beginning to look as if he might move us on shortly, so we moved away to the relative safety of the roadside.

Imagine, if you will, riding a three-hour race on a fairly bumpy circuit with several very sharp corners – which take some managing on those very narrow racing tyres – designed for speed, not for comfort…oops…I meant to say “not for control”…. Add to this the fact that it was about 32 degrees here. The riders must have worked very hard to complete this race. While not exactly the Tour de France, it was quite an experience to be so close to these kinds of athletes, whom I have often admired for their fitness level.

Monday was a wandering type of day – finding my feet again in the districts around the hotel in Tsim Sha Tsui. It was too hot for a major trek after picking up the paperwork for my first week’s work, so it was good to use the air-conditioning to stay cool. I also went up to where I am working mostly for the next 5 weeks – Diamond Hill. It was great to catch up with Veronica’s Mum there in the afternoon.

At Diamond Hill there is a well-known park, Nan Ling Park – right next to the building, in which I am working, so I can go there for a walk, when time permits. It takes about 20 minutes to walk round it, so it will be very useful. As is typical with parks in Hong Kong, there is still a lot of concrete, but there was also a lake in the middle, with a temple in the middle of the lake. Rather beautiful. There is a Bhuddist monastery attached to the park, but I have not yet had time to go and look through it.

I did find a path, of rather dubious integrity in the park, so I followed it back towards the entrance to the park. It was easy, but obviously not often used by the locals. When I emerged at the end of the path, a man who saw me come out looked at me as if I were an alien.

20171011_100449One of the things, that I notice about Hong Kong, is the juxtaposition of the countryside and the residential. Notice here how the buildings almost appear to overlook the greenery. We do often think of Hong Kong, the city, but there is a great deal of National Park area here – about 80% of it (according to internet resources) is parkland. However the two are often very close to each other. There is no sense of merging. It is rather like the seasons here now. Spring and Autumn are becoming ever shorter and Summer tunrs into Winter and vice versa…..

Another interesting sign of the times were the flags on the lamp posts, celebrating the 68th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, Beijing is starting to say “Roll on 2047”!20171013_130313

One night this week, after reading about a local café, close to the hotel, where the food is meant to be pretty good. I found it – downstairs, under a small, rather dingy hotel. It was rather confusing, as all the way down the stairs were signs advertising a massage parlour, so I hesitated to go down, but after asking somebody, I ventured down. The massage parlour had nicely decorated doors and there was also a small Vintage Whiskey shop there. I found the cafe and, for very little, had a lovely meal of Beef and Tomato noodles (made, not instant noodles), and a ham and cheese sandwish. It was a real find in this tourist area of Hong Kong. I shall return!!

After a week of work, I was quite tired yesterday, but I had arranged to go out to Veronica’s parents place. It was quite an adventure finding it once more, as they live on a large estate not too far from an MTR station, quite far away from where my hotel is. However I found it and after trying to check with the security person (who spoke no English at all), I returned an hour later to meet a nice security lady who allowed me to go to the lifts and up to their apartment. We had a lovely evening, with a meal of Hainan Chicken, Steamed fish and vegetables. They certainly have a “room with a view!”

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Today there is a typhoon warning in Hong Kong, so shops etc are closed. It looks like the sort of storm, we in NZ would still carry on as per normal, however I guess the authorities know much better than I do, how dangerous these storms can become. It has allowed me the time to send off my paperwork for the week and write this. Tomorrow is another day. I can continue my explorations if the weather permits.

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Not quite The Exotic Marigold Hotel….

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I arrived into Delhi after a relaxing business class flight from Hong Kong, Quite long enough all the same to be breathing recirculated air at low pressure – and the wine offering was two red wines – one a Shiraz, the other a Syrah – oops….they are the same grape …. that I don’t drink. For a change I drank white…..However the view, coming into Delhi, was wonderful with Divali fireworks lighting up the sky like a vast technicolor milky way.

Entry into India was straightforward, having already in New Zealand received an entry visa – with its tortuous and rather invasive questions about where my parents were born….and the like. The Indian customs agent in Delhi barely glanced in my direction.

I exited into the terminal to find……. quiet. I looked along the signs of the taxis waiting to pick people up. Two Mr Davids……I checked them both, but they were not for my hotel. So to fill in the time – we had arrived a little early – I went over to see if I could get an Indian sim card. Yes, it was possible – “passport and visa please” – which I showed them and then proceeded to give them my already prepared copies, plus a letter from the hotel where I was staying. After taking yet another photo of me, I had an Indian sim card – Speeds are variable – from lightning quick to turtle slow – even when it shows as 4G, however as usual the turtle generally prevails…

Another look along the taxi drivers and I had the great idea of going outside to check the ones waiting outside the terminal. Still quiet outside but no sign of the taxi promised by the hotel. “No sir, you cannot re-enter the terminal”………..even after I took a photo of the Indian policeman. I was stranded now outside. It was relatively quiet here as it was the actual evening of Divali celebrations, so I walked over to a taxi place, expecting the worst, only to receive a quick smile and before I knew it, I was on the 10 minute drive to my overnight hotel.

They were very apologetic about the non-appearance of their driver. However the porter also lost his way when showing me to my room. I figured that gave me an excuse to get lost as well! I spent about half an hour trying to work out how to activate my sim card and finding out what I had to go through to activate internet – passport numbers and dates of birth etc, which did not match the database at the mobile centre at first, as the people at the airport took rather longer to send in the information than promised…..(overnight rather than 15 minutes). Nor could I ring the people in the booth as I did not have mobile access at all….catch 22! The hotel was adequate for a night’s stay, but not very exciting. I didn’t get a chance to try the gym, nor the swimming pool, as I was up early the next morning for my worrying day with a flight to Jaipur and then a (hopefully) connecting car drive to bring me to Ajmer.

The one-hour flight to Jaipur was uneventful. I carried my under-7kg bag on the plane, with my shoulder bag inside it, as you are only allowed to carry one bag. I located the lounges in Delhi, which I will need on my return trip. I even talked to my neighbouring passengers! After locating my luggage in Jaipur, my car was waiting for me!

The trip to Ajmer was quiet for India, after the previous night’s Divali celebrations I presume. A little hair-raising at times, but nothing for India. I was interested in the many hotels that sat beside the expressway – generally surrounded by ….nothing. Flat uninteresting landscapes with very few people or settlements around them. They stick out on the landscape like massive warts – in reality, they look more like truck stops than a real hotel, though I imagine that they provide accommodation. Some are quite large and well decorated.

Ajmer is nestled into the hills, with a lake in the middle of the city. – rather like a huge volcanic cone with a lake. It is quite green and the traffic behaves itself a lot better than in the larger cities. Still a few hair-raising sights though. There are lots of cows on and around the road and large numbers of wild dogs – that worried me much more than the traffic of the cows.

 

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On my first full day here, I was free, so the local rep took me over to Pushkar – a town bordering the Thar Desert. Pushkar has a lake and apparently there are 52 staircases going down to the lake. It is a pilgrim site, where people descend the steps to bathe in the sacred waters. There is literally only the hills between Jaipur and Pushkar, so it changes from green to desert in the space of about 15 kilometres – not sandy straight away, but there is almost a line where the trees change size and type and you can see the sand more clearly.

 

They are preparing for a large cattle and camel market there this month, so there were literally thousands of stalls being put up – or already in place. They expect millions of people there for the market and you can see below their preparations for the cattle market place itself – a vast sandy desert-like site which will be covered in tents etc later in the month.

 Ajmer itself is a quieter Indian city – still noisy all the same. Car horns dominate the environment, with the Indian notion of tooting ones horn to let somebody know that you are passing them – and of course tooting at any car, animal or pedestrian that might be nearby. The pavement is more a dust bowl alongside the bitumen road, where people park, dogs roam and cattle…do their business. There are numerous stalls along the road and small shops, which often look dilapidated on the outside, but some have aircon and are much more luxurious inside – especially those selling international lines.

There are many women in traditional garb, though the men, almost to a man, wear jeans and shirt. No shorts here. Mine have been frowned on by several. Once I even dared to go down to the front desk in my bare feet and it was noticed immediately.

I was shown round Mayo College (for boys of course…), which was established about 140 years ago. It is set in the palace of one of the former princes of Rajasthan. Grounds there are manicured and it looks almost like a school set in England – which it probably set out to imitate. The boys there don’t sit Rock and Pop examinations. They sit Classical and Jazz instead.

I have however been examining at the Mayo Girl’s College here – across the road from the Boy’s College. It was established about 35 – 40 years ago, and has lovely grounds – not as large as the boys grounds, but I suspect the students at one or other of these establishments are very fortunate students. The girls are expected to have a balanced life, with music and sport as well as their academic studies. Given the bias in India towards the men, the girls here are very fortunate.

On Saturday, I was also taken to a club – men only – which had its roots in British Colonial times. The building was beautiful and it was almost like going back in time to former days, drinking on the balcony overlooking the lawns.

On Sunday morning early, I went for a long walk – before the “Only fools and Englishmen” time of day. It was about 12kms to the top of the lake and back. It was great to see families feeding the fish in the lake and also to talk to others , also trying to get some exercise in the cooler morning temperature. It has regularly started off about 15 degrees in the morning but rises quickly to about 30. I also saw quite lot of the local wildlife – no dogs…I am too scared of the packs of wild dogs to try to photograph them.

The hotel, where I am staying is quite old, but reasonably comfortable. A few funny little things about it, that would resonate with people who remember Fawlty Towers. The front house manager is almost as brusque as Sir John Cleese was and even looks like him, though not quite as tall. The waiters and staff are a delightful mix of obsequious and demanding. They know me as Mr David.

The shower has two taps, but if you turn on the hot tap more than about half a centimetre, you would be boiled alive. However it does not really matter as the cold water is tepid in any case, so you don’t really need it.

The hotel has wifi, but it is flakey at best, does not reach my room 95 percent of the time and Sunday, when I wanted it to talk to people back in NZ, it was not working. Watching them try to repair it almost wanted to make one ask, “How many Indians does it take to repair a router…?” However I shan’t attempt an answer to that, other than, there were six at some stage all round the computer server and lots of talk and shoulder shrugging and nodding of heads…

After two days, the wifi finally returned Monday night – not in time for me to put this up. However it gave me the opportunity to add photos of the wedding parade or “Baraat” which went past the hotel entrance that evening. This is the parade, where the Groom is going to the Bride’s house. It was accompanied by two elephants and two VERY loud cacophonous noise sources – one of which was a portable brass band wagon. I don’t think it is socially responsible to put the video up of this, as the noise was incredibly loud. However the photos were colourful and it is interesting to see the build up of already busy traffic after the parade….

So it has been quite okay at the hotel with good food and comfortable bed. Nobody serviced my room in two days over the weekend. I was glad I did not run out of water. Maybe they don’t do weekends…

All in all, it is quite nice here – not quite the Exotic Marigold Hotel however…….

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Lion’s Heads and Table tops….

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I set out Saturday morning to go up Table Mountain. The site showed that it was closed (wind), so I decided instead to climb up Lion’s Head, which is next door to Table Mountain. I drove in to the city and found a carpark directly opposite the track up. All is good so far!
Lion’s Head and its neighbour Signal Hill are set next to Capetown, part of the mountain group that dominate the centre of the city along with Table Mountain itself.
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The path up Lion’s Head starts off as a wide clay-lined path which roams innocently up the start of the mountain. As you climb higher the past becomes progressively less friendly and narrow.
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I did make a detour out to the side to take this photo through the rocks down towards Camp Bay and the Twelve Apostles above it.
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This is an early shot of the peak    P1050978
Eventually the path turns into steps, which then evolve into a rock path which – towards the top – has ladders, staples and
chains for people to use to help them clamber up to the peak.
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In the end I was beaten by my dislike (read “fear”) of heights, with the path becoming too narrow for me to feel safe and the remaining 10 metres or so to the peak looking like a vertical climb … This was the first ladder which I had clambered up happily about 20 minutes earlier…. that was brave enough for me
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Perching prcariously on a path which was barely wide enough for my feet to fit beside each other, I decided it was not worth the difficulty, so I descended to more stable surrounds. I started to take a photo but didn’t like the feel of being blown off this small path.
Afterwards, I went to the V & A ( Victoria and Albert) and wandered around on the waterfront. In the meantime, Table Mountain had opened and from the photos below, you can see what difference an hour can make on the weather here – remarkably  like Auckland, though a lot warmer in the present year!!!
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So came Wednesday…and the day dawned clear and blue with very little wind. I put my camera in my examining bag just in case and took off to work for the day. Sure enough at 4.00, in a break, the Mountain was open and the visibility was clear…! An opportunity not to be lost. It was far the best day I have had here to go up the mountain, so I decided to go in when I finished work. It took an hour to get through the traffic in the last 5 kilometres. the traffic was simply unbelievable. Auckland has nothing like it! There are endless traffic lights on the route. Some of them so close thta you can’t move because the NEXT robots (as they are termed here) are still red so nothing happens…and the lights take an incredibly long time to change.  Not to mention that when the drivers here want to change lanes they just change lanes….and you do not get in their way – in a rental car at least. My GPS (phone) started off saying the 5 kilometres would take 23 minutes and ended up saying 44 minutes at one stage.
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Having gone this far I decided to see it out and eventually ended up at the cable station to go up. They have just opened up the Mountain to evening viewing for the season, so I arrived on the top at 6.55, having set out from 19 kilometres away at 4.55!!
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Having done that, the view was amazing! The sun was setting, so I took a shot to rival the Kawhia shot that I use as the
background on my computer. I also went on their 30 minute trek – it took me about 15 minutes, including photos – probably 33 minutes for the large american tourists……or maybe I just don’t appreciate these things long enough  🙂
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The top of the mountain is very flat, with Fynbos growing – apparently some of them found only on Table Mountain. There are glorious views all round and of course the view down towards Cape Town is incomparable. This was a truly elevating experience in every respect. The photos can speak for themselves better than I can.
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On the way down I watched the people walking down from the Mountain peak. I think it would be a lot easier climb than Lion’s Head, as the cable station is not that far from the top of the Mountain – Lions Head would be a bigger climb. However that will have to wait for another visit, as I do not feel inclined to fight the Cape Town traffic once more, though it would be another great experience. This time I will have to make do with lion’s heads and table tops….
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Head in the clouds

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Today –  the day after NZ beat SA in the Rugby World Cup semifinal, the day dawned grey –
I guess you could say the sun did not come up…
I thought it might be a very good day to explore the Kirstenbosch Gradens here in Cape Town.
I drove in and arrived there without too much trouble. I didn’t know there was a market day just before the entrance, so I had to drive my way through cars going in all sorts of directions, trying to get into – and out of – carparks. Various men directing traffic, not always very efficiently. However once inside the Gardens, all was calm.
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The Gardens at Kirstenbosch are well spread out, with gardens ordered according to type. These are not gardens like the Hamilton Gardens, where everything is rather manicured. These are Gardens showing the wild vegetation of the Cape in its natural environment. There are Gardens of Erica, Fynbos, and Protea – among others. There are also gardens using little water, providing health benefits and of course gardens of edible plants.
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I found the King Protea ….P1050934
….and also the treetop bridge, which moved round rather disconcertingly, but apparently very safely.
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20151025_115706I also took the opportunity to climb up a large tree, which would be a child’s wonderland. No it was not always safe Mum  :)….. it took me back to when I was young and used to sit in a tree reading a book.
As I noted in my journey last week, the gardens tend to be dots of colour rather than splashes of colour.
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However the Nelson Mandela Strelitzia and the Red Coral tree make a brightly coloured tapestry effect.
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I have been to Kirstenbosch a couple of years ago, but this time I thought I would see how how high up the side of Table Mountain it goes. As it turns out, it goes all the way, though I turned back once I came to the clouds about 20 minutes short of the top. The temperature there (according to their website) was zero and visibility zero as well. I decided that I was not dressed for the cold and any adverse weather conditions. The photos below show some of my views as I ascended. As I returned, I noticed that a couple of helicopters flew past lower than I was. My watch tells me I climbed over 100 floors of stairs – I think that means 1km high at Fitbit’s stated 10 metres per floor.
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I ended up following a small ravine up the side of the mountain, with mostly very steep steps cut into the mountain and stopped when I met some people coming from Table Mountain down. They said they had taken about 20 minutes to get to where I was at the time. They were descending and were about 30 years younger (and fitter) than I, so I decided that discretion was the better part of valour – especially when they confirmed that the cloud I was in went right up to the top and the outlook was nil. I sat on a large rock next to a small tree, which was clinging literally and figuratively to life growing in a small crack in the rock and had some lunch.
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I was at the bottom again, I was very glad I had returned. The descent was harder on joints than the ascent and my knees were feeling weak by the time I reached the bottom – even though they are carrying about 10 kilos less than they were a few months ago. There is a sign that tells you when you are entering Kirstenbosch. I did not see it on the way up.
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I did see a few guinea fowl (and babies) on the descent from the clouds
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Table Mountain can wait for another (hopefully better) day.
This was a great day, with a challenging opportunity of getting my head in the clouds….
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Creatures Great and Small

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I set out early yesterday morning to drive along the coast road northwards to the town of Hermanus. Everything is further than it looks in South Africa. What looks like a hop step and jump on the map, seems to take much longer than one would expect. So I drove out past Gordon Bay and onto a road which nestles into the mountain beside the coast, with views across Cape Town Harbour – a haven, which I am sure has been a very welcome sight for many sailors over the centuries
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The first noticeable feature of this drive (apart from the scintillating view across the Harbour is the fynbos growing alongside the road.
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Fynbos is the heathlike vegetation, peculiar to the Western Cape and Cape Town areas. They are an astonishingly diverse group of plants with often colourful flowers with often very small differences between the various types. They don’t provide a carpet of colour – more like a pointillistic tapestry like this roadside vista. Below are some of the flowers that I saw in my various stops along the way along the coast road.P1050843 P105090120151017_085946 P1050849 20151017_094031 20151017_094130 20151017_093556 P1050850
I stopped at Rooi Els, almost at the mouth of the harbour looking across at the other side of the harbour entrance from Table Mountain and Cape Town Central- through a rather misty morning. This is a small settlement with several restaurants and very expensive looking houses among the red clay road, with a view out over the Cape Town harbour and the South Atlantic ocean.
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After this, I had a fairly short drive into Hermanus, the whale spotting capital of South Africa. Once there I made my way to Sievers Point, which was one of the lookout points that appealed to me. Once there I made my way down to the edge of the rocks – seeing a whale spume as I was on my way down the path to the lookout. I swallowed my dislike of heights and settled down right at the very edge, overlooking a long drop to rocks and stormy waters below. This was to be a long stint
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Whale watching is some akin to watching underwater submarine races (with the right company, submarine races could be said to be more exciting!). However after about 40 minutes of sitting, the siren at Hermanus sounded, letting people know that whales were in the bay and sure enough, they settled about 300 metres off-shore from where I was sitting. Great to watch, but just a little too far for good photography. However there was a small pod of about three whales, who  frolicked happily together. One of them appeared to be small and the other two quite large.
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After about an hour of watching them – and hoping they might come closer – I went for a walk along the Cliff Path. If you stop and listen, you hear a multitude of sounds of the animals around, that remain hidden from sight
However I  saw several small animals and birds on this walk. I couldn’t recognise the bird, but it had a tuneful call… Below is a lizard basking in the sun, a blue dragonfly that stopped long enough for me to catch it in my camera and a small rock rabbit, that scuttled away (almost soundlessly) and hid behind the branches of a bush – no doubt moving after I lost patience and walked onwards. I was told that Rock rabbits – though they may be small – are the nearest relative to the elephant……. true or false, it sounded true out of the mouths of the couple that told me this. You have to look carefully to see it in this photo.
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On my return to Cape Town, this time driving on the main highway, I stopped at Sir Lowry’s Point to take a photo overlooking Cape Town. Lowry’s Point is in the Hottentot mountains, that dominate much of Somerset West – where I am staying presently. I move more into the city centre next weekend for the remainder of my time here.
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And as a corollary, here is a photo taken from above Somerset (today) looking back over Somerset, Strand and Gordon’s Bay towards the Hottentots and up the coast – much clearer today.
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This was a stunning adventure for me, where I was fortunate to see all manner of creatures great and small.
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Cathaius interruptus

Spoiler: this blog post is really rather dull with very few photos.
Because of a typhoon in Hong Kong on Monday, I missed my last night’s connection to South Africa by about ten minutes – almost three hours late. Apparently Cathay have taken two or three days to catch up on cancelled flights etc, so the aircraft was late arriving into New Zealand. Very likely the plane next door to mine – which was loading as I disembarked at Hong Kong – was the plane travelling out, but they had already cancelled my onward flight in any case.
So after more than an hour of talking and negotiating, it was decided that I would not travel through Dubai to Johannesburg, but instead, take the same flights a day later. To those of you thinking that things would have become very fractious, you might have been surprised just how diplomatic I can be at times…They were still smiling at me after an hour! I am not sure, at the time of writing, that my last leg to George has been booked and confirmed etc. It was never booked by Cathay, but they seem to think they have managed to change it, so I will have to trust that they were not saying one thing but meaning another……
(Postscript to this: When I arrived to check in at Hong Kong airport, I found that my booking had been cancelled. they told me the flight had been cancelled. Another hour of waiting to be told that they had booked the same flight again and they would have a representative at the gate to help me through. I may even make an earlier flight if current flight information is correct)
I stayed in the Regal Airport Hotel ( at Cathay’s expense of course) – five minutes walk from the terminal. This is quite a nice large hotel and I have made the most of having a rest day, after arriving here at 2.00am (around 7.00am in NZ time), with very little sleep, as I had planned to sleep on the leg to Johannesburg overnight.
I decided quite early on to change into South Africa time, so I first got up for a nice buffet breakfast about 8.00. Salad, cooked tomato and bacon, melon, pineapple, coffee – all gluten-free. There were also various cooked dishes available, but I managed successfully to avoid them. Having lost the weight I wanted to lose, I am not about to put it all back on! So much travel in the next few months means lots of restraint needed at hotel spreads!
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After a quiet morning, my “South Africa day started with about an hour in a very nice gym here  – mostly quite a gentle workout, but it should help to work off the effects of yesterday’s flight. After then I went to have “breakfast” (at 1.00pm here) in the same buffet type restaurant as before. It is really quite impressive, with the food reflecting several cultures and types. Again I managed to eat very well and gluten-free. It was extremely noisy however, with, at one stage, about 150 people talking and laughing.
In the afternoon I went for a “morning” walk around the airport precincts. It was about 28 degrees, so it was rather warm for somebody coming from NZ’s very changeable Spring weather! The airport is far enough away from the centre of Hong Kong to avoid the pollution levels of the inner cirty, but it was still rather hazy, with the blue sky lacking the intensity of a clear New Zealand day. In the end though, the best view was that from my window. I must say that I did not hear a thing from the constant aircraft flying past. Note the haze in the background. this is a clear Hong Kong day…..it does lend a sort of “soft touch” blurring to the image.
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I am spending the “afternoon”  at the airport lounge before travelling overnight to Johannesburg. I have melatonin to take at a South african bedtime, which will hopefully help me to adjust more quickly to daytime hours the next day. Cathay would not book me on the early flight to George – in case I miss that as well, but they did say that I might be able to change to the earlier flight if I do manage to get through immigration and pickle up luggage quickly. The last time I did this flight, I was booked on the same early flight and made it easily, so we shall see.
It would be good to arrive early, but not a calamity to spend 4 hours at Johannesburg airport. I have lounge access – even for domestic flights, so I can always freshen up a little. Apparently a Cathay ground crew person will meet me at Johannesburg to take me through. I am not sure if that is a good sign , but Cathay have been quite helpful after initially creating the problem, because of their delay. The hotel here (plus food) is all at their expense, so I haven’t put out my budget…yet!!  🙂
I hope my future blog posts are rather more interesting than this blog, with rather more photo interest, however we shall see what adventures await after the “Cathay interrupted” flight.
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