Friday, February 29, 2008

trains, elephants but no bungee

A 6am start today, but we had Dad's hot loaf of bread to keep us company while we drove.

We arrived in Mossel Bay in good time, had a quickie lunch and dropped Mom, Dad and Fiona off at the train station before booting it to George ourselves by car, a 45 min drive.

Unfortunately we couldn't all take the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe since it would only be going one way.

But we got to see their pics afterwards, some posted here.

The next morning we visited The Heads at Knysna, followed by a visit to the Elephant Sanctuary in Plettenburg Bay.

We were all very impressed with the hour-long tour. There are 6 elephants at the sanctuary, either orphaned or abandoned.

They are given as normal a life as possible, while also using them to educate the public.

We got to walk with the elephant, trunk in hand.

It is the most awesome feeling; they actually grab on to your hand, sucking it up into their trunk, while hot air blows out, creating a sort of tickling sensation.

See pic of Fiona walking her elephant, Matt feeding his, and a group shot of us (with Matt trying his best to be an elephant in the background).

It's adorable how, when they walk in single file, the one behind always grabs hold of the tail of the one in front with his trunk.

Today was a day of trying to be like elephants; see Mom and Dad trying to walk tail-and-trunk as well.

While driving to our cotttage accommodation in Tsitsikamma, we stopped at the Bloukrans Bungee Jump site.

It claims to be the world's highest commercial bungee jump in the world at 216 metres high!

I was preparing myself for this moment. I knew we would be passing and thought I would summon up the courage to do this one jump.

But earlier that morning, our landlady at the B&B in George told us that one of her son's friends who came to SA for a visit and did that jump ended up getting a detatched retina. Every so often, when he drives, his eyeball would do a complete 360 degrees without warning! That quickly put us all off doing the jump. Imagine that!

So after watching a couple of brave-hearted souls hurl themselves into the canyon, we continued driving towards our destination.

That night, we finished off the day with a yummy fish dinner at the Tsitsikamma National Park while watching the sun set into the Indian Ocean.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

3 wheel fun

Today we ventured down to the Cape of Good Hope in style.

After having rented a side-car for a day in Hazyview with Anice during our xmas holidays, we decided to do it again.

This time we got a 1930 Chinese sidecar, leather jacket and matching helmet to boot!

My grandfather (Dad's dad) was in the Hong Kong Police Force and also rode a Chinese side-car while on duty. My father says he remembers climbing on the bike as a kid and going for a ride.

Again, I was nominated to play Support Vehicle Driver with my beloved Peugeot, while Mom, Dad and Fiona took turns in the side car and on the bike.

See pic of my sexy car model.

They absolutely loved the ride, especially going down Chapman's Peak Drive and along the coastal road.

As we arrived to Cape Point, we found the tram was closed, so up we climbed to the lighthouse to be rewarded with a stunning view of the oustretched ocean.

We returned via Simon's Town to see the penguins.

While Matt went to drop off the side-car, the others went up Table Mountain to see the sunset.

See some of their stunning snapshots.

After a quick dinner of take-out pizza, we prepared ourselves for an early start tomorrow.

We will be spending the next 5 days on the Garden Route. Tomorrow we will drive to George along the Indian Ocean, a 6 hour drive.

So to help us keep going, Dad kept his promise by making a piping hot loaf of egg-enriched bread for the ride.

See pic of him carefully measuring out the flour into the bread machine. Ooh, his mother would be proud ;)

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

this side of reality

Today was a wet and drizzly day, quite fitting for our Imizamo Yethu (aka: IY) township tour.

IY, or sometimes known as Mandela Park is one of the many township settlements in Cape Town; this one is situated in Hout Bay, and was created by the Apartheid government who forcibly removed residents to this area in order to create a greater ANC presence.

As soon as apartheid rule was abolished, there was an influx of people swarming into IY in search of a better life. Unfortunately, this has only resulted in more cramped living conditions.

Promises of better housing, of decent services and of jobs have come and gone long ago. Unemployment stands at more than 50%.

Most of the men work in construction or as gardeners, or not at all, in which case they spend their days in shebeens (unlicensed bars). The majority of the women, those who are lucky enough to be employed, are domestic workers.

For me, this township tour provided an inside view into the life of the majority of my students in the Hout Bay Music Project Trust.

Many of them live in these types of shelter, where privacy is a luxury. It is another world in itself, but it is a mere 3 minute drive from our house.

What does it do to a child who grows up in such conditions? What does it teach a young mind about the state of our society, of our values? Do they think about these things while we teach them how to play a difficult passage in Pachelbel's Canon in D major?

Afrika Moni, our guide, was extremely knowledgeable and a true entrepreneur with a very concerned outlook for South Africa.

Now that his tour business has grown (he employs 4 other tour guides), he is expected to care for extended family and friends who are unable to find employment or who are plagued with sickness. It is a burden and one I cannot imagine bearing.

He took us to see a local shebeen, a nursery school, a Chinese-run shop which sells everything from sandals to kettles to water hoses.

Inside were two young (and bored)-looking Chinese men from southern China. It was interesting to hear their stories and how they ended up in a township settlement in South Africa!

Matt did a lot of the translating for us, which totally shocked Afrika Moni.

Here we were, 4 Chinese- looking tourists and one blond, blue-eyed guy, and it's the Blondie who was speaking in Mandarin to the shopkeeper!

We tried to explain to him that Mandarin and Cantonese are two different types of Chinese, but he still couldn't believe it. We all had a good chuckle about it.

We ended our tour with a traditional lunch, prepared by Sherley, a Basotho lady who moved to Cape Town in her youth.

She is a very kind-hearted woman who has done well for herself. Her grownup children have left home and she runs a B&B in IY now, as well as catering for large tour groups for lunch or dinner.

She served up a scrumptious meal of roasted chicken, creamy spinach and pap. For desert we had homemade melk tart, a South African favourite for many. Enjoyed with a cup of rooibos tea, it is divine.

Monday, February 25, 2008

doing the tourist thing

Last night we picked up Fiona (my cousin) at the airport.

Her first time in Africa, it was great to have someone else from home here and to show around.

On Monday, we planned to go up Table Mountain but the "tablecloth" (clouds) was too thick and there would have been 0 visibility at the top.

See pic of Fiona (and Dad's arms) with a covered Table Mountain in the background.

Instead we went to Signal Hill and walked around Bo-Kapp district, the Muslim quarters of Cape Town with their colourful houses.

After a scrumptious fish 'n chips lunch at Hangberg Harbour in Hout Bay, they took a catamaran to Seal Island.

Thousands of seals congregate on this island year-round, leaving no square inch unoccupied.

See pic of unrealistic reinactment of the Titanic and fishermen throwing their snoek onto the pier from another day's catch.

That night we went to Moyo at Spier's, a stunning display of South African culture, entertainment and cuisine.

A bit on the touristy side, but it is very well organized and impresses every time.

We take all our guests here and the reviews are always the same: nothing less than excellence.

This time we booked a table in one of their treehouses which overlooks the entire area.

There is free wine-tasting, you get your face painted, you are treated to live dancing and singing, and the spread of food and drink is unbelievable!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

cruisin' in style

On Saturday, we woke up to a perfect day, weather wise, for some Harley cruising.

We arrived just before opening hours and found this sign on the door of the Harley Davidson office (see pic).

Minutes later, the owner arrived, in a Harley of course. He confirmed any and all stereotypes of Harley riders: unshaven, wild hair, wearing leather and big clunky cowboy boots.

Actually we could hear him coming from blocks away, that low grunt/gurgle which so many Harley enthusiasts find so addictive.

We knew we were in for a fun day! So as soon as the papers were all filled out, off we went, towards the winelands of Cape Town: Stellenbosch, Franschoek and Bainskloof Pass.

While I puttered along in my little green Peugeot, acting as the support vehicle with all the food and drink and gear, Mom and Dad took turns riding with Matt.

I had a short go on it after our traditional Cape Malay lunch in Franschoek, although I must admit I almost fell asleep while on the back! I blame it on the huge babotie and wildebeest lunch.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

full moon day

Today ABC FOR LIFE held a healing/ drumming workshop for our students at Sentinel Intermediate School.

Lead by Marita, an active community member who is involved in a lot of alternative healing methods, she was joined by Patrick, an African drummer enthusiast who runs workshops for companies and groups around town.

I brought Matt and my parents along and we all joined in, drumming, stretching and breathing.

The kids loved it - especially the drumming - and it proved quite successful for those who come from a rather difficult background and have no other outlet to release their frustrations.

In the afternoon, we drove the 3 hour distance to Cape Agulhas, the most southernly point in Africa.

Mom and Dad, who were, just a month ago, at the most southernly point in the Americas (Cape Horn) on their South American cruise, desperately wanted to set foot here as well.

It was a warm and foggy day, but as usual, the sea was rough and unforgiving.

See pic of Dad peering into the distance while Mom rummages around for the perfect stone to add to her collection of rocks around the world.

Later that night, after a braai at home, we attended a Full Moon Drumming Circle, also hosted by Marita and Patrick.

See pic of Matt and Dad wearing their Ghanaian shirts, both xmas presents from Anice.

Seated around a big bonfire, we thumped and pounded our djembes with some very talented visiting musicians from Mali.

This time I remembered to take off my ring, unwilling to bear the thought of what might happen if i were to bend it like last time!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

as beautiful as in the pictures

Waking up to a beautiful day, Mom and I went for a stroll on the beach.

Swarming with at least 50 dogs - and their owners - we dodged flying balls, sticks and frisbees while we ran in and out of the frigid Atlantic ocean.

See pic of Mom on beach and us making a shadow-pose.

Later that day, we went to Signal Hill to admire the sights of Cape Town, heard the Noon Day gun go off, drove down to Muizenberg and around to Kalk Bay where we had lunch on a restaurant that was literally built in the water on stilts. It was fantastic, feeling the spray of the waves while we chomped on fresh fish 'n chips.

And while I went to attend to my piano students, they meandered around Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.

They were rather surprised at just how beautiful Cape Town was, and how "modern" the buildings and infrastructure was.

Of course, coming from minus 35 degrees Celcius when they left Canada to PLUS 35 degrees may play a wee part in their perception of just how gorgeous it is here.

Monday, February 18, 2008

knitted with love

We picked Mom and Dad up at the airport at 11pm, zipped home, had a late-night meal and helped them unpack our presents.

Our favourite: matching hand-knitted (very) yellow vests from Grandma Ma - and a scarf for me!

She seemed to have remember Matt a bit smaller than he really is. Well, they will certainly come in very handy during hardy Canadian winters!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

check! and check!

On Saturday, we checked two more things off our "Things to Do Before Leaving SA" list: propelling ourselves down a metal 1.25 km half-pipe track on a bob-sled on wheels at Cool Runnings. It's quite fun and exhilerating, a great rush. See friends Paul and his nephew as they zoom down the track.

We followed that up with a rugby game at Newlands Stadium. It was the first match in Cape Town for the Super 14 Rugby, and the Bulls and Stormers put on a good show.

It was crazy hot and all i can really remember at this point is that there were crowds of people screaming and shouting, creating more unnecessary hot air.