Tuesday, March 25, 2008

a long-legged birthday surprise

Today was Matt's 34th birthday, and after a french toast & maple syrup breakfast, a giraffe came to pay him a visit!

We have been "extremely hectic" packing and planning our journey and throwing a party was the last thing on our minds.

So we decided to take the night off and celebrate at one of our all-time favourite Cape Town restaurants: Miller's Thumb.

Afterwards we went to see Into The Wild, a journey about a young man finding his way to his dreamland: Alaska.

Based on a true story, the film tracks his wild adventures and experiences but when he finally reaches Alaska, only then does he realize what true happiness is, and that is to enjoy the journey and the people that you come across, and not the destination.

We couldn't ask for a more suitable film for the journey we are about to embark on in just a little over a week.

Happy Birthday Lovely!

Monday, March 24, 2008

The World's Poorest Billionaires

This Easter long-weekend we hosted one of Matt's old highschool mates, Elijah. Zimbabwean, but based in Gabarone, Botswana, with his family, he was here on a conference near Cape Town and stayed with us for a few days.

It was good to meet him after hearing so much about this "funny, outgoing, beer-guzzling" Zimbabwean guy. He definitely lived up to his description!

Also, a friend of a friend, Irene, who's living and doing research at Wits University in Joburg right now, came down to Cape Town for a conference where she was presenting her paper. I first met her when Matt and I went to Joburg back in September.

So for a while, we had a full house which is always nice. Deep discussions on the delicate state of Zimbabwe, its upcoming Presidential election and how ridiculous it is for so-called billionaires in that country to be queueing up for petrol all day long, flowed throughout the night. Not to mention the wine and beer and port...

On Thursday, we met the President of the Zimbabwe Lawyer's Association with Elijah and over drinks, she showed us a million dollar (Zim) note.

The number of zeroes were not the shocking part; the fact that the note had an expiry date was! As i write this, $1 USD = $30, 137 Zimbabwean Dollars, an inflation of more than 100,000%!! Apparently calculators have been made redundant because it just can't compute that many zeroes anymore.

On Friday night, we went down to Theatre on the Bay to see Ennio, (aka The Living Cartoon), an Italian comedian who's famous for his quirky paper-cartoon costumes, where he "seamlessly morphs into over 50 parodies of our favourite cultural icons backed by a vibrant and eclectic soundtrack." The whole show was very clever and knee-slapping -kind-of-funny.

Earlier that day, we had a Good Friday braai and one of Matt and Elijah's other classmate from highschool, Marius, and his family joined us as well. Marius, a white Zimbabwean is living and working in Cape Town. He brought along his two adorable little boys, Murray and Jack.

Since we don't get much opportunity to entertain young children, Matt and I planned a little easter egg hunt for the two boys. I don't know who enjoyed themselves more, them or us "adults!" But even with their easter baskets full, they were well-mannered and shared their sweets with us.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thanks to all for your encouraging words of support for our next adventure. It's a lovely feeling to know there are people "traveling with us".

Also, I've just finished posting a few more entries about my parent's visit ... see the February 2008 and the March 2008 links on the sidebar.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Grand Plan

Sorry for the fuzzy map, but here's the genreal route we are planning on taking: South Africa, Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, Rwanda, DR Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan, Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland, France, UK (possibly Jersey).

The movers come March 26th. We plan to leave April 1st, earlier if possible. In between, we'll test out our rooftop tent on FOXY, have a big farewell party and finish last minute preparations.

We figure if we budget one week per country, it will give us enough cushion for any "unexpected" events (ie. visa issues, car trouble, upset tummies). We hope to be in London by early/mid August in order to see family and indulge in fast food and hot showers.

Then we'll hop over to Ottawa/Toronto to visit more family before flying to Vancouver, where we'll pick up our cargo which will hopefully have arrived from Cape Town by then, and ferry across to Victoria Island where Matt will begin his 2 year full time renewable energy technician course at Malespina College. And where I will be desperately looking for a job to put bread 'n butter on the table! ;)

After a rather successful blitz this week of selling our couches, chairs, PVR (tv recorder) and dishwasher, I will be bidding farewell to my beloved green Peugeot in 8 hours. I've sold it back to the dealership where I bought her from. We have already found her a buyer but going through the dealership eliminates the hassle of selling privately.

As for my piano, it looks like i'll get it specically crated and shipped along with the rest of our furniture. If i try to sell it now, i will most definitely lose money and, anyway, i'm told it is worth a lot more in Canada than in SA. Enough said.

Exciting stuff. We are relishing in the whole planning and researching and preparation of this trip.

As for accessories, yesterday we bought a solar shower, some excellent maps with GPS coordinates, camping chairs, a tire repair kit, a 4x4 first aid kit, and a couple of cans of pepper spray for those "you just never know" moments.

And just last weekend we participated in the Nissan Offroad Tactix course. While the morning was all about theory and 4x4 driving hints, the afternoon was spent on the trails, trying our emergency stall starts - uphill and downhill on a 30 degree angle, going through "hippo pools" which are basically huge ruts in the dirt, and traversing ditches that are almost my height.

Even though Matt is more at ease with 4x4 driving and has had quite a lot of experience, I needed to learn as well - just in case. I was pleased to find myself really enjoying it.

It's certainly a challenge to try and figure out the piece of road ahead of you, which may seem impenetrable. But the puzzle is to work out an angle of attack and to just go for it. It's as much about staying under complete control as it is about selecting the right tactic to use.

Gosh, listen to me. I sound like i know what i'm talking about. Well, it'll come i'm sure.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Dream

The Dream has begun.

We bought Foxy this morning, a sturdy 1993 Land Rover which will take us north across the great African continent.

Our plan is to leave South Africa on April 1st, go through Namibia, Zambia, Tanzania, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.

From there, we plan to take a car ferry across the Red Sea to Jordan, go through Syria and Turkey before beelining it to London to make our mid/late August deadline.

The Dream has taken on a life of its own, gathering more and more momentum with each passing hour. Our every waking minute is consumed with The Dream, even though we still have our furniture and shipment to deal with, items to sell, documents and visas and carnets to apply for, vaccinations and medical certificates to obtain, and of course, work issues to wrap up.

But it feels so good to be productive each day with this simple goal: The Dream.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Moving Forward

It's fantastic to be moving forward with a mission again.

My parents and Fiona have just left and we've been planning our next move.

Just a few days ago, Matt and I decided to do the classic "Cape To Cairo" overland trip in a 4x4. It's become quite a common route for travellers who want to experience Africa. Luckily, as circumstances have turned out, we have been granted the time and freedom to do so now.

We have known for a couple of months now that we wouldn't be staying in SA for that much longer. Due to a financial meltdown with Matt's company, the new management have finally decided to forego starting up the African office.

Although we knew we would probably be leaving, we didn't know when or where to. So idle we sat, waiting and waiting, month after month. Mind you, we couldn't complain too much since we had a gorgeous house with a stunning view, and well, Cape Town is as fantastic as people say it is. For its beauty, its lifestyle, its pace of life. Still, if given the choice, I prefer to be on the decision-making end than waiting endlessly for an answer that will determine your future.

We entertained the idea of staying and for Matt to find a new job. The renewable energy sector in SA is booming due to all the power outages; poor planning and mismanagement by the government has resulted in a critical shortage of electricity, with no end in sight.

Without a work visa for Matt and a spouse visa for me, it meant having to get sponsored by another SA company all over again, which involves a lot of hassle, bureaucracy and more waiting, something we weren't so keen on doing.

So the decision to leave was made.

Now things are moving forward and I'm thrilled. I was rather upset at the fact of having to move so soon again, especially haivng just set up house, met great people, started to be busy in ABC FOR LIFE and the Hout Bay Music Project. But i've made peace with it and think it is the best decision we could make in the longrun.

And now with our new adventure coming up, we couldn't be more excited!

Everyone we tell about our dream roadtrip say it's great that we're taking advantage of our youth and time and the fact that we have no commitments, mortgage, children, or ill health.

I nod and agree but something inside tells me that I don't quite fully understand the freedom that we've chosen at this point in our lives. I feel like it is one of those things that will make more sense when we have completed our journey and I will be looking back upon it with fond memories, decades from now.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

summing up, in Dad's words

With lots of hugs and few tears, they left today.

Matt and I plan to go back to Canada at the end of the (northern hemisphere's) summer, so until then ... a brief summary of my parent's South African experience:

"Anjulia and I have been in South Africa for three weeks and will depart shortly------ Anjulia is going home to brace the fore-casted storm and I am journeying on to meet Anice in Accra, Ghana.

Since leaving Ottawa at -25 degrees C, we have had no problems enjoying and adjusting to the average 35 degrees C temperature.

Anjulia and I have shopped the local supermarket; travelled along the Garden Route in Matthew
's SUV; rode a side-car of a motorcycle to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point; seen the most southern part of Africa, Cape Agulhas, where the Indian and the Atlantic Ocean meet; sped along the 120 km/hr limit highway in a Harley; strolled in the enchanting Kirtenbosch Botanical Garden; eaten some wonderful seafood and local specialties; visited a school where the students played the African drums; walked through two townships to witness the living conditions after the Apartheid rule; met so many interesting people; rode the nostalgic train from Mossel Bay to George; taken the ferry boat to visit Nelson Mandela's prison cell on Robbin Island; fetched the chance to ride the cable car to the top of the Table Mountain for the spectacular sunset view; sky-dived from a twin-engine plane at 10,000 feet above (at least Anjulia and Fiona did it while Bonnie, Matthew and I were denied by the strong gusts of wind); explored Kruger National Park to find the Big Five (rhinos, leopard, elephants, lions and buffalos)................and so much more.

In the meantime, we have heard personal accounts and experiences of the ugly rule of Apartheid, witnessed the sub-standard living quarters, read and seen the sad state of the HIV/AIDS conditions, talked about the economics and the politics of this young Republic, experienced some daily social hardships of the less privileged, felt the struggle of a developing nation, with hope.

In these short three weeks, we have only experienced some tiny bits of this warm exciting land. We saw the beautiful as well as the ugly sides of South Africa.

Bonnie and Matthew, with their resourcefulness and stamina, have been excellent guides and hosts. We are so happy to see them since Xmas of 2005 in Canada.

At the same time, I managed to break their table in the balcony, to break out in swelling of the feet and hands resulting in visiting the doctor twice and also my favourite place: the pharmacy, with prescriptions. Otherwise, we both are in very good health."

Until then, a warm South African farewell.
Kam @ Capetown

Sunday, March 02, 2008

frying in the ostrich capital

Last night we overnighted in a friendly hostel in Oudtshoorn in the Little Karoo, ostrich capital of SA.

They had reliable internet connection, mouth-watering triple chocolate brownies (with no nuts!) and a cook-your-own-ostrich-egg breakfast.

Did you know one ostrich egg is equivalent to 24 chicken eggs???

After checking out, we spent the morning underground, deep in the depths of the Cango Caves.

While Fiona stayed above ground, the rest of us went down and walked around several chambers, admiring some very impressive stalagmites and stalactytes.

We then got to the "adventure" part where we had to crawl on our bellies and contort our bodies in awkwards ways in order to get through tiny holes and passageways.

With some pushing, pulling and constant encouragement, we all made it through! Not without breaking quite a sweat though!

After a quick lunch - of ostrich of course - we took a quick detour to drive "South Africa's most beautiful pass": Swartberg Pass.

Immense and stunning in nature and architecture, it is hard to imagine how a road was ever conceived to be a viable solution to get between the mountain ranges.

We passed an intensely hot afternoon at the Cango Wildlife Ranch.

I cannot claim to have had a pleasant time here as it was just way too hot for my liking.

I do remember seeing some beautiful tigers and cheetahs, but even the crocodiles looked as exhausted from the heat as I felt. It took a lot of effort not to jump the fence and join him in his little pond.

Back to George we went that evening, just in time to dine in one of the few restaurants open on a Sunday.

The next morning, while our guests were to fly directly to Kruger National Park for some real safari game drives, Matt and I will be driving back home to Cape Town.

What an amazing 5 days on the Garden Route. I think i need a holiday after today, harhar.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

a touch of adrenalin

A day to remember, certainly!

It doesn't take much explaining, except to say in the morning we did the Tsitsikamma Tree Canopy Adventure experience, where we swung from platform to platform like Tarzan.

In the afternoon we all decided to do a tandem skydive from 10,000 feet out of a twin engine plane.

It was a perfectly clear day and what better place to do it than in gorgeous Plettenberg Bay?

The jump includes a 20 minute tour of the peninsula in the plane.

Though it seems like a cruel joke to me to make those jumping sit an extra 20 minutes with their adrenalin pumping in their veins, just to prolong the inevitable...

Mom and Fiona went first, as the plane could only take two at a time and they were the most nervous/anxious (see their 'before' pic).

But after they touched down safely again, they couldn't stop raving about it. It shows on their smiles, no? (see 'after' pic)

Fiona called her mom in Canada the moment she caught her breath again, she was so excited.

That night we watched her dvd video of her jump, a superb souvenir for such an experience.

Unfortunately the wind decided to choose this moment to pick up force and so the rest of us couldn't jump. A sign or an excuse? Well, next time, perhaps over Niagara Falls!