Category Archives: South Africa
After picking up the last remaining bits from Ballito for the wedding we headed out to the Rain Farm. Having watched the video on their website and seen the photos I was really looking forward to seeing what it was actually like. It was around 15 km off the main road and the amount of pot holes on the road were absurd!
As soon as we arrived at Rain Farm I started keeping my eyes peeled for wildlife. Doubtful that we would actually be able to see any so close to the roads. I was wrong, I think we had turned two corners before we came across the giraffe – all 5 of them all together almost like they were all waiting for my arrival – such a magnificent sight with them all having a nibble on the bushes. Sadly I didn’t have my camera or phone to hand & just gazed in awe of the wildlife so different to that in the UK.
We went and dropped the majority of the stuff down in ‘Zebra‘ – the honeymoon suite where I was staying with Lauren for the night, then went and had a look in the Boma at the set up and so on. It really was starting to come together, the fairy lights were up, the tables were nearly all laid out and the table runners & chair ties were in. It gave us all tingles! We had a drink with her parents on the veranda by the bar overlooking some of the landscape & I officially had my first beer since September!!
We went out for Lauren’s ‘last supper’ at Hops in Ballito which was right down on the beach (& had WIFI!) we met her friend Niki down there and her friend from Jo’Burg – Estrade and her husband joined us. There was lots of giggles as we chomped away on our food & cocktails (tho as mine was REVOLTING I moved to Light Coke!) We headed back to Rain Farm after our food, time was getting on and we still had a couple of bits to do before bed time.
Our main plan was to chill out a little, open the champers, jump in the jacuzzi and then hit the land of nod so that we were both well rested & relaxed for a long, long day ahead. This, somehow, didn’t exactly work. First there was the small issue of the frog that was hopping around the jacuzzi, La’s least favourite animal and I spent some considerable time trying to coax the ruddy thing away from the jacuzzi and out the pigging door. Total fail – bloody thing went in behind the jacuzzi and refused to come out! I’m there all ‘come on froggy, froggy, come on out you come’ – it took one look at me & turned his nose up at me before hopping off. Cue a mass of expletives from the a very flustered me!
It’s fine I thought, we will just forget about it and opened the bubbles & poured some out for La & I. She, during this time, was still trying to send the email with all of the songs on to the DJ for tomorrow night. The reception in the room was preventing it from sending so the tablet was wafted around the garden for a while, standing on tiptoes, waving it, shaking it, nothing. There was no other option, we would have to try walking up to reception as there was more coverage up there. So, already in our swimmers, towels around our waists in the PITCH BLACK we started heading back up the dirt path. I was indeed, how do I put this, BRICKING IT. (Despite telling La that of course I wasn’t scared – I mean what honestly could happen?!!) So much for our chilled out relaxing evening?!! After several more button presses, much wafting & reaching to the sky, the bloody thing STILL refused to send. Sod it. We’d do it first thing. Little could be done now.
We headed back to the room and pulled the covers off the jacuzzi and after La sticking a toe in & noticing that it was absurdly warm at 35 degrees and not quite so much as a hot bath but more a wet sauna temperature wise. I’m a flipping wimp with sensitive skin with the warm (just ask Mum!) I dipped about a cm of my big toe in before returning to the instructions on the wall to work out how to turn the bloody thing down!! Dear god this was clearly NEVER going to happen. Having followed them to the T all the way through 3 or 4 times (remember I’d had only one reeeeevolting MOOHHHEEETTTOOOO so this could in no way be referred to as a drunken faux pas!) we were getting NO WHERE with lowering the temperature at all. Sod it was confirmed and in we both went. We lasted, I’m really not kidding here, 30 seconds, if that, in there enjoying the bubbles until we both decided that actually it was not even enjoyable and both worried about our spray tans, how girlie?! How unlike me!?!
I had a quick shower & washed my hair before bed as I wasn’t allowed to wash it in the morning as it was being upstyled (like I knew what that meant?!) and so would be far too flimsy. I think it was lights out at 1130. Mission accomplished so far with a sober bride tucked up in bed ahead if her big day in the morning. 10 brownie points to moi!!
The week between the two main events was predictably hectic, to put it mildly. On the Monday I headed over to my Aunt and Uncle and spent the night with them as it seemed daft to be all the way over here and not catch up with them at all. It was lovely to see them and catch up on all their news.
We rushed around getting bits and pieces and paying off a number of the services that are all involved with the wedding. Met with the photographer who was lovely and gave me a lot of jip! He will get it back on Saturday, big time! The ideas for the photos all sound fabulous and so them, no really posed shots all natural and using the surrounding scenery (I’m still hoping for a giraffe or something similar to casually wander by behind for a quality African photobomb!).
Lauren didn’t want to pay for a spray tan for herself but as I sure as hell needed one so I paid for hers too as a treat on Thursday morning. The rest of the day was taken up with us trying our hardest not to rub up against anything touch anything or get wet. We also mildly panicked as it proceeded to get darker and darker as the day went on. We were both desperate to shower by the time that we could came round and get the stuff off!! We have to be thankful that it was not a day like when I first arrived and unbearably hot. I’d have been sweating it all off – lovely thought, hey!
Tam came around and gave us a hand with the menus as we were both at rather a loss as to how exactly to display them or add that extra touch. She came up with an idea instantly and so we all plaited brown ribbon and raffia, I think raffia is on everything as far as I can work out! The dogs were loving chasing around all tangled up in it.
The Oscar Pritorius trial was quite some focus of the week – there is actually an actual dedicated channel to the live reporting and feed from the court and as ridiculous as it sounds it’s hard not to get sucked into it. Still unsure, still no idea if it was with intent or not. The other piece of news that we’ve been keeping up with is the Malaysian Airplane that went missing randomly and there has been no trace of it since. The scenes of the poor poor families of the missing are heart breaking it has to be said. Looking forward to the flights home already?!!?
Friday came round all of a sudden and the miserable weather, though still warm, earlier in the week seemed to have passed and there was not a cloud in the sky, apparently it had all gone to the UK where there was thick fog – amazing what info you get on Sky News International!! With the dogs taken to the kennels first thing it was very quiet in the flat as La and her parents ran around sorting some last bits and picking some last things up too. The sounds of the crickets and the Hadedas really are so calming, though they are mainly out at night to be fair. At least the bunch of monkeys that were sending the dogs bonkers yesterday were not seemingly around on all of the roofs today. There were loads of them all sitting on roofs teasing the dogs of the neighbourhood. Such bloody pests.
As soon as I arrived back at the flat yesterday I spent a while stuffing the gift bags for today and putting all the bits and pieces out ready for the big event today. 25 bags all sorted with the Hen bag all sorted too – all of the pieces out of my main luggage and in one bag so I didn’t have to faff around this morning.
We were off early to see Lauren’s dress for another fitting and also a fitting for the Mother of the Bride’s outfit which was being made by the same lady. It was beautiful. I had no idea what to expect and I thought it was simply stunning and stunningly simple. I was extremely privileged as it has only been myself and La’s Mum who have seen her in the dress.
Finally the day had come. I was as nervous as hell with all of the months of preparations and little bits that I have been working on and completing over the past few months I suddenly got really nervous that Lauren wouldn’t like anything I had done. I managed to keep a surprise until this morning the colour theme as I had told her what I wanted her to wear – all black – and she was going to see all of the accessories when I went out?!!
Lauren’s friend Tam, who I’d been Whatsapping with since mid Feb, picked me and the multiple bags up and we headed over to the Botanical Gardens where we were holding her Hen Party/Picnic Lunch. It was more than ridiculously hot & I was indeed sweating from every pore of my body. It was a similar sensation experienced while on the Great Wall in China. I took a change of top and to be honest I wasn’t even going to wear the hot pink bolero and hot pink shoes either but it was just WAY too hot.
We initially set up in a location right by the top entrance on Sydenham Road so that everyone could find us easily as none of us knew each other!! As soon Kirsten arrived the sun had made quite some appearance and so we shifted over a little further and were in the shade.
Lauren arrived with her Mum but we told them to dump their contribution and go for a little meander in the park whilst more people arrived. I only recognised some of the ladies by what they were bringing! I was relying entirely on them introducing themselves to the relatively bossy Brit who has been barking orders since before Xmas as what she wanted from them all. Thankfully they did and everyone looked fabulous in their black and hot pink outfits it was awesome I was most pleased. The amount of food that we had in the end was absurd!! We could have fed an army!
The cupcakes that Lizelle brought were absolutely spot on for what I was hoping. I know I shared images of what I wanted with Kirsten but I really couldn’t send them on to her too 😉 they really were superb and, having tasted them, utterly delicious.
Once people had started eating and mingling a little I started handing out my gift bags to everyone and they certainly went down very well. The Mother of the Bride and the Mother of the Groom loved their sashes and little Survival Kit for the wedding. Once people had been looking at their bags I gave Lauren hers, you know, just so she didn’t feel left out and all! She started putting all of the bits I had got her that she had been so worried about for so long. Thankfully, as I knew, she loved them all & found them all hilarious, the glasses especially!
I knew that she didn’t want a stripper and to be honest I really couldn’t bear the thought of one either. But every Hen Party is not really complete without one, and so of course, I couldn’t disappoint!! I introduced him and brought him out, all wrapped up, much to a very bemused and worried Lauren as to what the bloody hell was happening. She opened the following to many giggles. It was PERFECT! And Lauren LOVED IT.
We packed up as it all wound down and popped everything back in Tam’s car who dropped us back off at home to change and ‘freshen up’ good god I was so hot, so drained and so relieved. I think my late night was starting to catch up with me and the stress of today going well for my La. But it was a success in my book and I was thrilled. It was just what La wanted, and she was I think more than relieved that there were no nasty surprises.
We headed to a bar close to the flat where we met up with the guys and Ray was looking somewhat shabby after being plied with shooters galore on top of beers. He could actually hardly stand! We sat and watched the rugby and chatted and had a few drinks & some food. It was a lovely evening but I was fading rapidly and so when Lauren’s parents headed home after the rugby I joined them to then try sleeping. We left La & Ray partying on, fair play it was their evening a once in a life time!
After a fairly decent flight, the success at Heathrow of getting all the Hen Party stuff through Security as hand luggage and not letting the cube with THE dress, appropriate bra & fat pants in (I kid you not) & of course my Bunny leave my sight and literally NO sleep, I finally made it to Durban to be greeted as soon as I got off the plane by a waft of hot air. It certainly didn’t do that when I landed in Jo’Burg a couple of hours earlier! We were inside too!!
Oh good god I’m going to spend the majority of the week sweating, beats freezing I guess like back at home! Waiting for the luggage to arrive (with fingers crossed & begging for it not to have got lost on route) I ‘slipped off’ the oh so attractive DVT socks – I really have no idea why the hell some bright shmuck has put L and R on the toes but then I did buy them on the way back from Australia in the summer. (Incidentally, did you know I went on the Lions Tour?!?)
I spotted my La as soon as I got my big bag and headed for the exit doors. My heart rushed to my mouth as I tried a faster pace with but with my two roller bags and my big ‘hand bag’, I’d say, as I’m now in Africa, that I had about as much grace as an elephant running (ie ALL OVER the place). Let go of everything for THE biggest and THE best bear hug EVER. I think we both even managed to squeeze out a tear or two!! It was just amazing, amazing, A-MAY-ZING to see her & have our pined for hugs we’ve been Whatsapping about for months. We quite possibly could have been stood there for a whole while longer, but we were kind of blocking the exit! That welcome & that emotion of seeing her. That was worth the ticket price alone. Never mind the ‘real’ reason as to why I’m here!!
We already had jobs to do with a trip from the airport straight to La Lucia Mall (yes I’m sure I looked & smelt a beautiful sight having been in the same clothes for the last 24 hours). The vest top purchased at Heathrow in Fat Face suddenly became the best buy ever as I had a quick change of top in the car park (with a fair few onlookers). One of the things I guess I learnt at Boarding School (AKA the institution) was the ability to dress & change with out displaying any ‘bits’. Job done. It wasn’t just a shopping trip though we were there to look at a sample of the table displays for next weekend & to buy a fan for my room – I needed one there & then, I tell you I was frickin melting by this stage and I’d only just arrived. It was, to my credit, 33 degrees so I think I had literally every right to feel a wee bit ‘glowing’!! We caught up with La’s folks too there who had only arrived last night from Botswana (& without their bags, I’d have been spitting chips hey! And of course Ray who chipped up just in time to see the arrangement for the centre pieces of the tables.
Back at home I got to meet the doggies – Kye and Luna, Jack Russell’s as divine as anything and, as warned, absolutely no knowledge of personal space!! But I’m an animal & kid lover – it doesn’t phase me & they both calmed down after the initial MASSIVE excitement!
I have been back in the UK since Thursday morning and life officially sucks – I now have to cook for myself and I am stuck in the same place with no future of moving on anytime soon! The rain has been vial, the house is flea-d up to the nines, I am overdrawn at the bank (oops!) and had nothing but bills to open when I got home. Back to reality with rather a large bump I say!!!
My 5 days with Juliet and Uncle Ant were pure bliss. It was so lovely to spend quality time with them both. We did nothing exciting but it was just what I wanted. Juliet took me to an amazing Bird of Prey Sanctuary on the edge of Pietermaritzburg on one day, a place that she is very fond of – and I can so see why. The birds are all unable to live in the wild for one reason or another and they are in beautiful, huge cages that are meticulously cleaned. I was most impressed. It was lovely to see some of these amazing birds so close up and really appreciate their beauty. We watched a fabulous display as well and we were SO close to the birds it was unreal. The only place that is similar that I can think of is the Hawk Conservancy place near Andover that we used to go to as children – I don’t remember them being kept in such good condition though. I also went out with Juliet to lunch at her friend Rosalie’s where we had a delicious lunch with some delicious cake that I have the recipe for and am going to try and make – it sounds easy – knowing me I will cock it up however!!! They played bridge and (as old and decrepid as it sounds) I did some cross stitch.
It saddens me that the only family that actually give any appearance of giving a hoot about me live so far away. It just reminded me again that if I ever get married one day (in the VERY distant future)- the guest list is going to be piss easy as I won’t have to bother with family. They didn’t even have the common curtosy to reply to my 30th party would you believe? (I hasten to add that they are all WELL into their 40’s bar one who is 38) so why would I bother inviting them to a wedding??!!! At this rate – I think that the price of not having the others would actually pay for Juliet and Uncle Ant’s tickets!!! (Hmmnn now there IS a thought!!). I felt so comfortable in their company – as one should with family. SO alien a feeling compared to those back in the UK who don’t really bother to take the time to get to know me as a person, something I have found so very hard to deal with over the years and a major factor of why I utterly DETEST Christmas and why I am a year or two off buggering off on my own for the whole period to a country that does not ‘do’ it. It’s why time with them is SO precious, to remind me of what relatives are actually like (apart from M,D & H of course) and get my ‘fill’ of it before heading back to the dry desert of family back in the UK.
From Juliet and Uncle Ant I moved on to see Lauren which was just wonderful. Juliet sweetly dropped me off at Knowles Spa in Pinetown where La picked me up and we headed up to the Northern Drakensburg 15 km from Clarens in the Free State not far from the boarder with Lesotho. I swear we both had a case of the verbals the entire journey up which was great. Made me realise even more just how much I ruddy miss her. Why is it that 2 of my closest friends (Ile in Romania) live so god damned far away and another is buggering off in August? I am not really helping myself am I?! We had shed loads of brandy and Coke when we got there in the most beautiful of places with stunning scenery all around, bright blue sky and sunshine. We knew however that it was going to get pretty bloody cold at night. It took us bloody ages to get the fire going – I say us but really I mean Lauren! And we sat like old fricking ladies outside in front of the fire with hotties shoved up our fronts and about 3 jumpers on wrapped in a blanket each!!
Carlos and Bob joined us that evening – Lauren’s ‘friend’ (for want of a better word!!) and a friend of his. I had heard quite a lot about him and how they are very similar and so suited and blah blah blah. To be fair, yes – yes they are. I felt really quite honoured that La wanted me to meet him. I was shattered for most of the weekend and FREEZING. The reality of having to head back to the mundane shite that I have back in the UK was really starting to make me feel incredibly apprehensive about returning home. Would things be better permanently this time or would it all be just like getting back from Egypt all over again? I had to head back to the diet, the SAD light, the fricking herbal teas at night, the daily bursts of exercise, the no beer, the therapy sessions starting, the thought of no rugby with Rach, the general pants feeling and not knowing why and the fact that the excitement of a holiday ALWAYS has the flat point after when you wish you were still there – but mine is 10 times worse. I was quite glad to be left all alone on the Sunday late morning for a while to have an opportunity to gather my thoughts as I also typed up bits of the blog from the last couple of days from the trip. I convinced myself to ignore those feelings and not to let them get in the way of enjoying the valuable time with La. Looking back I feel really bad as I know that I was not the usual chirpy Em for the time we had left in Durban once back from the Berg. I think at one point I would have done ANYTHING to have stayed away from the UK for another week or so.
Saying goodbye to La was hard. I was bloody good in body but in mind I was falling to pieces. About saying goodbye, about the fact that the next time I see her will be on Skype (I officially love you whoever invented that) about the fact that this was it. The holiday EVERYONE is now officially sick of hearing about is at an end and I have not got another booked (yet!) to starting looking forward to. I had tear or two in my eye as I walked through security and was fine on the first flight as I headed up to Jo’berg. It was as we started to taxi down the runway in Jo’burg that I friggin lost it. I was trying to cry quietly – you’ve probably tried it at one point yourself, but my head was having none of it this was no few tears this was full on bawling. I couldn’t bloody stop. The oriental dude sat one away from me passed a tissue, bless, and I think I managed to make out – saying good bye to friends for him to understand whilst hiding behind Bunny and the sobs. What a pathetic mess I must have looked.
It got worse though. I was doing fine until I watched Bride Wars – please, really don’t bother it is utter crap. One of the brides no longer has any family left and so no father to walk her down the aisle and this was something that La and I were talking about over a 5l box of wine – this is us we are talking about we met over the garden fence and shared a bottle of wine each on our first meeting!!! We had made pinkie promises about a number of things and this set me off once more. Never something I have talked about before – must have been the sodding wine damn it. And I was supposedly off my face on 4 glasses at a wedding earlier this year – hmmnn I think not people – something else a foot there! I will remember that evening in front of the fire in minus degrees red faced from the red wine, sides splitting from La’s Hyperthermia in a bra moment – a true classic.
It was a brave choice to go on my own – Gulliver’s I mean. But I always knew it was absolutely the right thing for me to do. I saw it as a making of (with hopefully less of the breaking moment) in my recent bout of black cloud and whilst it has not even been a week since my return I am optimistic. I received an evaluation form from Gulliver’s in the post this morning with a reminder that the 2013 Lions in Australia Trip is now open for advanced registration. . . . now there is a thought!!!!
The breakfast looked amazing and I tried so hard to eat some but my stomach was still having a party to which the rest of my body was not invited and the mouthful of croissant that I tried was quite enough so it told me. I was of course donned in the Bath face tattoo, Lions colours and the wig, the flag and for the first part of the morning I was also wearing the Bath Tubs Shirt as I had promised Robbinhio (is that how you spell it?) from ERE that I would wear it on the last match day. Ok I never worse it into the stadium but even if I had he would not have seen it was it was cold and so I was wrapped up.
We were taken to Soweto by bus for our big bar which today was Gulliver’s only as we had sorted out various things with Soweto Rugby Club and so everything for the pre-match entertainment was going to be there. It was a long way from the hotel to put it mildly. Driving into Soweto was heart warming as the streets were all full of people waving ferociously at the passing buses, namely small children. We arrived at a large gated area which turned out to be the rugby club. The grass was all brown and there was the pitch and then the massive marquee which was brilliantly equipped inside for us all with food and drink outlets and a stage on which there was entertainment at times. Its weird hey, in the 2,500 I saw not one of the Bath lot but then in the masses the previous week I saw each and every one! The portaloos here were way better than the Rec – I nearly took photos of them they were that impressive, you also have ladies that were going in after each person to clean them down to ensure that they stayed in a good condition. The thing is you wouldn’t be able to find people willing to do that.
I wandered over to the Gulliver’s Barbarians match with some of the others. There were loads of us that were going but somehow no one seemed to follow on behind us. Ah well, I still wanted to watch and, frankly, if anyone wanted to find me all that they had to do was to look for the wig! See there were benefits to wearing it separate to looking like an arse! The others went of to get more drink but I stayed put after being asked to do a small report for Super Sport – their Sky Sports I guess. Well I as going to be picked on at some point really – I was asking for it rather! I milled around as I kind of lost the others and really could not be bothered spending most of my time looking for them and so I went up to quite near the stage where a bumped into FatBoySlim (the guys from Dubai – not Boyzone though) who were also taking photos of the dancers on stage. The men all seemed to do a couple of random moves and it was like a competition to see who could land on the floor with the loudest bump. Really quite odd.
There was a movement back towards the buses and so I joined in the snake. The open way was so small that it was a bit of a bottle neck to get out and taking quite some time I was with none of the Pink Leopards but I could hear them all right – ‘BEASTIALITYS BEST BOYS’ I didn’t half giggle – particularly as I was standing next to Cooch as they started! Finding the coach took me a little while as all of the Gulliver’s coaches were all parked in the same place. Once back on the coach we all started moving off and I put face paints on John and Amanda at least some of them were getting into the spirit with me!
Getting into the ground was no problem compared to last week to put it mildly. I had my cans of soft drink take off me which I was quite annoyed about as I later found out that others had managed to get beer in. We stood soaking up the atmosphere for a little while. Some Bok had a sign up that said F%£k the Queen, Our blood is green. It was very interesting watching the majority of the other South African supporters’ reactions to the sign. They were getting way more incensed than we Brits were. I could not see a programme seller anywhere which was really annoying as I was not happy with the idea of going home without one.
I made a move to the seats with Val and Alan who I was sat next to. There was NO BLOODY WAY that I was going to miss the pre-match entertainment on the pitch this time for anything or anyone. It was chilly in our seats to put it mildly. I was glad that I had a windbreaker in the bottom of my bag as that did help keep me warmish. Our seats were up the top-level this time and the sight of the mass of red shirts around the ground was far more impressive than in Pretoria I have to say. I have a feeling that there was only a small selection of us over where we were as looking down to the left there looked to be a sea of green rather than broken up with the red tops of the Lions. Just to our right was the Sky box, you could clearly see Simon, Dewi, Will and the others. I took some photos of them and we chanted Dewi, Dewi give us a wave – which he dually did! I couldn’t stop giggling to myself as I have the picture of Jimmer shining his head on the TV with the duster and the Pledge from earlier in the year!! I was sat near to Simon again and big Keith and then the rest of the guys were all down in front. We had some obnoxious Bokka shite standing in the aisle for the first part of the match and Peter (of Fatboy Slim fame!) asked him if he could move or something to that effect. The Bokka guy pulled out his VIP pass and abruptly told him that he had it which means that he can go anywhere and sit anywhere that he wants in the stadium. How absurd was that? If there was a fire we would have all been screwed!
I was glad that we had made the effort to get there in time for the pre-match stuff. Apparently it was exactly the same as the week before which Alan oh so sweetly pointed out to me several times, knowing full well I had not made it for the start of the last match – the shit! The anthems were awesome and I made sure that I recorded both of them on the camera.
The match was totally different to last week. We were not so amongst the Lions supporters and I guess being more out in the open the atmosphere I don’t think was as electric. I guess also the series had been won and we were looking to win for honours sake. We needed a 2-1 loss and not a 3-0. The Bokka supporter who stayed on the stairs for most of the match was an aggressive shite and nearly every time that we got the ball or were making progress up would go his middle finger-pointing to us whilst he continued to watch the play. He was the only sort of hostile supporter that we really ran into. The match itself was pretty violent and the fights on the pitch were frequent and namely started by them I have to say. We ended up in winning though which I have to say was a huge relief. The trip out (rugby wise) was not all in vain – thank god!
We were all quite quiet I have to say on the trip home. The reality that it was now all over really and the others were all heading home tomorrow and I was moving on without any of them was all sinking in. I still had two parts of my holiday to look forward to though, firstly Juliet and Uncle Ant and then staying with Lauren. I thought the whole thing would go really quickly – being only 12 days on tour but, to be fair it really did not speed by at a rate of knots
I packed and got ready to meet the others that I was going for supper with in the bar. It was bloody lovely to be asked if I wanted to join people for a change than falling into gate crashing or organising it myself! We went to a sort of burger place in the square and had a delicious steak supper. We concocted the Pink Leopard cocktail – vodka, cherry liquor and lemonade. It tastes rather like a refresher bar but do-able!!
I am not really all that good at final goodbyes and so come the end of the evening after we had gone on for one more drink and I had had a Milo to try and keep warm I decided that I would give more than my contribution to the drinks bill and walk away. I could feel my eyes welling up already at the thought of saying goodbye. The only way to have done it and not look like a mahooisve tit. I got back to my room in one piece and decided to write a little note to everyone that I had not seen that evening for Simon to read out on the bus the following day and slipped it under Sue and Clinton’s door the following morning on my way out. I don’t know if it ever got read out but I felt more at ease for not seeing everyone the night before to say goodbye personally.
I went to sleep a little bundle of excitement. Despite one part coming to an end I was spending the next few days relaxing with my Aunt and Uncle – I could not wait. I had not seen Uncle Ant since 2002 I don’t reckon. I have officially toured out!
I felt like crap this morning. Lack of sleep and the anticipation of yet another bloody flight with my poor glands that were now swelling every flight day. I should have stayed on the double G & Ts the night before, I swear a hangover would have been easier to deal with! Certainly less painful!
The airport at Neilspruit was all thatched and like one of the safari lodges. The weirdest thing about it was that you could go and sit outside and enjoy the sunshine while you waited for your flight – which most of us did. I however sat in the shade and shivered as the heat of the sun and the brightness were clearly going to give me a headache. I found some random version of Red Bull that was vial in a hope that it would kick start me into gear. I just wanted to curl up in a ball and have a cuddle from Mummy. Anyone would think I was 13 not 30!! I HATE being ill. Word had spread that I was one of the last to go to bed and that I was joining Boyzone in a ‘new song’. Doesn’t take long for word to get round hey! I love the fact that people sounded surprised that I was the last to bed the previous night. Mum would have been so proud/relieved – if only I had actually slept the week before the trip and I’d have been a fricking night owl. I’m getting old!!
The hotel in Jo’burg was miles away from the airport and so it was nice to get to see a bit of the city from driving through in the security of a bus! I remember Dad once telling me that it was a tiny city when he first flew in there and that it has grown as a city at such a rapid rate. I felt that I saw evidence of that in the fact that there did not seem to be any similar sorts of areas of architecture. Everything seemed mismatched and random.
The area that we were staying in was Melrose and it is a richer area of the city and thus in some ways ‘safer’. The hotel was unreal. SO smart, so not us! The lifts were awesome, one had only tiny wee lights on the ceiling and black walls – like what I imagine the inside of the tardis to be on first entering. The other was multicoloured lights but it too felt like a spaceship! I’m not sure you area meant to rate hotels on their lifts, but if you did – this was tops!! It was very boutique style and there were flowers everywhere made out of tin cans – very African. Every little last detail had been thought of. In the room my bed was HUGE – I would have to swap pillows every hour if I was going to sleep on them all! There was a DVD player in the room with surround sound and a choice of 6 movies. The safe was behind a painting and the bath – OMG! For starters it had two rubber ducks on it! But it was massive and surrounded by a curtain so privacy could be given – clearly not needed for me. There was a separate walk in shower which was massive and a separate loo with the all important phone in. The tea and coffee selection was dead posh and they even had hot chocolate and yummie biscuits. Everywhere you looked there was something else to look at. There was a card on the bed welcoming me personally as a guest – I guess everyone’s had one of these, but still – I was very impressed.
I got out the laptop ready to update the blog. Bugger. It turned on but then the screen just went black as if it had been turned off. Was not going to worry about it – can do nothing. So I ran the biggest bath ever instead and then realised that you can actually watch tv whilst in the bath!!! I did several laps of the tub and freshened up ready for the evening – our last night all together and Gullivers had a restaurant booked across the square for us all and it was all paid for apart fromt he drinks – bonus!!. But first a celebration event of the tour held in the auditorium.
This was the opportunity to cheer each individual and point out memorable parts of the tour for them, falling down a flight of stairs pissed, Robben Mountain, are we nearly there yet?, spotting Kangaroos, temporarily loosing passport, loosing the band for the Big Bar in ½ hour of being given it and basically spending most of the time drunk. I must remember to try and get the list off of John at some point as that would be quite good for the scrap book. We all had an Amarula as our name was called out and then last but by no means least, was Simon’s turn. We had got him a Lions ball that we had all signed a Bokka Shirt as a present from us all. I think he was quite touched. He wore the shirt out the following night.
We then all headed across to Moyo which literally faced the hotel. We had no choice in the menu and so I was bit miffed when the joyous waft of ruddy peppers greeted me when the food was placed on the table. None the less it was a good evening with much entertainment provided by the staff (and guests) and of course we gave many a rendition of some of our repertoire of songs, clearly though the tamer ones. There was a band on too, the voices sounded very familiar and on reading back at the hotel in the guide book I read that they often have well known bands on at night playing for the guests. Janette and Sarah tried to get me to go and dance – not on your nelly. I don’t think that the two left feet funky chicken really goes down all that well when dancing to African Music. Most of us had our faces painted which, of course, I started as was first to be asked. I look like a rabbit in head lights in the photo that was taken so I will need to Dr that a little!
I departed early before I started falling asleep and I could already feel my stomach churning from the food that I had tasted before declining a full portion. At least it was the last night hey. I really had done rather well not to be ill with it in the Kruger. I took a moment on my balcony soaking up the noise from Moyo before I shut out the night and headed to bed. I instantly recognised the song that they were singing as one off of my Mundo Afrika Album but can’t remember the singer’s name. Happy memories!
I can not honestly believe that I managed to make it up and out of my tented hut by 5.30am. I seriously considered showering but frankly it was a) way too early and b) it was WAY too cold to even consider it seeing as there was a gaping hole to the outside!
We had planned our truck for the day the night before but sadly it did not work out. Alan and Val sweetly made sure that I was with them as I was wondering around like a headless chicken for a while trying to work out which truck had friends on and also space! We ended up in starting a new one and had Chris and Jeremy as well as Peter and Sarah joined us. I had filled my hottie had a mass of layers on and also the blanket off of my bed as well as the blanket that was already on the truck – no seriously it was that cold as the wind was bitter and there are no sides – obviously so you can see the game easily and thus take photos. We had Pat as our guide who was great I have to say.
By 8.30 we had already seen a Lion sighting and were all hyped up and excited about what else there was to see out there. The views of the bush are just amazing hey. The natural beauty and seeing such ferocious beasts in their natural environment; NOTHING beats it. This is what I had been dreaming of after the matches. Sitting in the bush with a sundowner of a Castle (a small one mind – did not want a repetition of one of the family trips when I HAD to go and the guiders shone the search lights away from me as we were in the hunt for Lions at the time which were thought to be really close – never peed so quickly in my life!) biltong and soaking up the beauty of my surroundings. Sadly we never were out late enough in the Kruger to have Sundowners so instead it was the bar with the others – not quite natural surroundings but definitely more memorable.
All in all on the day we had 5 separate sightings of lions. Admittedly it was pretty darned hard to see some of them without binos and had we taken photos there would have been nothing there – you would have just had to take my word for it that there was a lion in the picture! I could hear all that Pat was saying much more clearly than the lady the night before and it was as fascinating as ever. I could so easily do their job – looking for game all day every day – I really doubt that I would tire from it.
We spent ages looking for crocodiles lying out of the water sunning themselves but sadly only saw one – Pat could not understand quite why none of them were out. Bless her though she checked loads of waterholes looking for them for us! We saw a fabulous sight – not for the feint hearted – of an Impala hanging from a tree – Pat had seen the leopard that had killed it the previous day with it in this tree and so we sat hopeful that we would see the leopard itself. There were so many cars though waiting there too that there was not a chance sadly. Pat was telling us that they are quite shy animals and that it would be very unlikely to see any with so many cars around. The cars were all people that are from the Gauteng area, Pat had pointed out from the car plates. She told us that they ruin game watching at times as they just sit waiting and watching the big cats and thus block off the road for others to be able to see them too with a good view. She was right hey, the amount of people in their cars that were just sitting there with their coffee and biscuits watching was unreal. Also the amount of people chatting/shouting at each other as to what we were looking at was unreal – if I was a lion I would have just though stuff you, I want peace and quiet and disappear into the bush away from all of the roads.
It was quite amusing hearing the radio calls to and from her husband in another jeep with some more of our lot – I think with Simon, Jeanette and Ian to name a few keeping check on where the other was and what they had seen and so on. They have their own names for the animals and things so that they don’t start saying over the radio lions etc as those in the tucks could get all excited and expectant and they might have moved by the time that the other gets there. She was explaining some of them to us – of course I can remember none of them now!! They were all derivatives of say Zulu and so on that only made sense to each other. Quite sweet really in some ways!
We stopped for lunch at one of the rest stops and lunch was all laid out for us ready and waiting. We were one of the first ones there though as we had been closer than the others as we were looking at the best Lion sighting that we had that day of a male lion, quite a young one we thought as the maine was not humungous. The beauty of sitting admiring him, how lucky were we? I kept having to pinch myself. A serious wow moment. Of course most of the lunch had peppers in it but truthfully I really was not that hungry anyway so it did not bother me. I spent a while watching the vervet monkies playing in the trees with the food stuffs that they had nicked off of picnickers close by before we headed off again. Chris and I were hopeful that the rest of the days sightings would all be out of the left hand side of the truck as we had had NOTHING on our side what so ever – typical!
Sadly we saw very little game in the afternoon, Pat spent most of the time looking around waterholes for us for the crocs and we also went back to the leopard kill just in case it had come back for some more food. It must have been around somewhere as they never leave their kill apparently for other animals to take. I spotted these really weird trees with sort of a green fruit of some form on them which I aptly named the Christmas bauble trees as I swear they looked like decorations on a tree. Birds had clearly sort of attacked them as they had a pattern on them of some form. I really wish that I had taken a photo of them as you SO would have seen where I was coming from!
Just as we were coming back in there was the 5th Lion spotting – to be honest pretty blooming difficult to see it through the thick grass in the area but there were loads of cars around and it could clearly be seen through the binos – but once again, not one to really get a good photo of. My hair was full of the dust from the road and so on getting back I headed straight to my hut to shower, at least while it was kind of warm outside as the sun was going down rapidly. I hate to think what colour the water was but I felt so much better after it. I applied the joyous mossie stuff everywhere. I had not seen one the whole time I was here but I was not taking any sodding risks as if anyone was going to be bitten it would be me. I am irresistible. I swear I am not going to miss the smell of the deet one little bit it hums like there is no tomorrow. I then sat and uploaded my photos from the day onto my laptop. Wow – I was actually quite impressed with my photographic skills – even when everything was on the right hand side! I phoned Juliet to see how she was and give her an update on what I have been doing and how things were going and then I phoned Mum and Dad – it was their wedding anniversary. I would not be at all surprised if half the camp didn’t hear my conversation. Poor Mum struggles so much and I guess the phone line must have been pretty poor anyway. I always sound, to those that don’t know that Mum is deaf like I am being REALLY rude as I have to speak really slowly for her to really hear well. Putting Dad on was not going to help apparently as he as deaf too at the moment as he has a double ear infection – he was clearly trying to be sympathetic for me!
The time flew by and I realised that it was past supper time. I really could not be bothered with supper as I knew that everyone would be at tables and Id look like the norman trying to find somewhere to sit. I really wished, and I can honestly say that this small part of the evening was the ONLY time of my entire trip that I wished to God I was travelling with some people that I actually knew. I’m an independent bugger but there are times when one just can’t be arsed. This was one of those moments. So the way I battled through was to order a double G & T with the full intention of getting something down my neck to take the pills with and retire to bed. Didn’t quite happen. I ended up chatting and so on to Jeanette and Sarah and had some of their vino that no-one seemed to be drinking and we all huddled around the bar area as it was pretty much only Pink Leopard left in the place and it was warmer there (apparently). As you can probably imagine another sing song was had – good old Sunshine Mountain and more. Once again we were also entertained by the bar staff who came out to join in and alcohol was consumed and such the like. I finally spoke to Boyzone and gave them shit for not talking to me earlier and that it was easier for them to come and talk to me than me to them. Anyhoo was the last to leave the bar with Boyzone and had somehow encouraged them to learn an actual Boyzone song to sing on the coach as a laugh. So they spent a while writing the lines down and practising after listening to it on the laptop. Apparently I was going to appear as a backing singer , yeah right – with my thoat I was having difficulty in even speaking/shouting. I obviously dutifully agreed (with no intention of actually fulfilling the promise)!!
And to think I would have missed out on all the fun if I had not gone to supper!
In reality I have no idea how I survived the flight my glands were agony and the ascent and decent was the worst by far. I grinned and bared it though – we were off to the bit I have been wanting to do the most – the Safari to see all of the animals – hopefully! I kept my head down and checked in as I was feeling so pants that I just knew that if anyone had asked me how I was feeling there would be Victoria Falls down my face. I reckon if anyone had told me that they could get me home to Mummy in 20 mins I would have gone.
We were given a torch and the remote for the air con and I remember putting my stuff in my room and it feeling like a blinking sauna and so I wacked the heating right down as I was going to roast later. Once our bags had been dropped off in our rooms (carried by people on their heads mainly despite there being a truck thing) we got extra layers as suggested as we were going out for a quick drive after ‘lunch’ but as we were later than expected (thanks to the CHAOS at Cape Town airport) we were only going to get about an hour and a bit of a drive as the Parks board are strict about what time you have to exit the park – and at this time of year because of the darker evenings it was half five.
Lunch was a bit of a no go area for me as it was riddled with peppers and I really didn’t fancy having to put up with the after effects out here and so I had a most delicious meal of potatoes and rice – with a beer too of course!! On some of the layers went with the camera and binos around the neck and I was ready to go. The breeze soon started getting to us and soon I had all of the layers that I had with me on and could hardly move for fabric!! It did keep me warm on the trip though. As we were not really likely to be able to go very far into the Kruger on this evenings visit I was not too hopeful of seeing any of the big 5 for starters and would have been quite happy just seeing some of the buck.
We were way luckier than that – we saw some zebra, a lone young male elephant, a giraffe, several buck and simply my favorite that evening of some white rhinos. There were three which we assumed were Mummy, Daddy and baby. It was simply wonderful sitting there in the golden light of the evening sun watching these three listening to us in case we were any danger to them – rhinos are very blind and so would probably not have seen us but have very acute hearing and you could see their tiny ears flapping away. When another car came up (not one of the other lots of jeeps) you could tell that they were getting flustered as their little ears were going tenfold. God it was great though. Literally just there in front of us these prehistoric looking animals in their own natural environment – once again the thought went through my mind that I really need to get a job as a ranger (is that the right word?) I would spend my life, every waking moment, going around the park just sitting and watching the animals – they are just so beautiful.
The evenings entertainment was a bomba – outside with traditional music and dancing – the clue there is in the outside bit. Bloomin freezing. But I had come well prepared. I went and put all of my bits and pieces back in my room and filled up my hot water bottle and shoved it up my jumper in between several of the layers so as not to burn my skin! OHMYGOD what an idea. I was roasty toasty standing in the bar where it all looked like we were smoking the air was so cold. Holding a cold beer too was really not the best of ideas as my hands were rather chilly to put it mildly. The conversation was hilarious and although we were all really cold it did nothing to dampen the spirits. The food itself was fairly non-plus and basic but then we are in the middle of nowhere and so there has to be a little bit of give. The ‘entertainment’ was in my view rubbish – we later heard that inside had a massive choir entertaining them where as we had 2 guys playing on xylophone type things and then one girl sort of dancing. And I mean sort of. No one was really taking much interest and I thought that she was just keeping warm until the rest of them came and joined her, but no, once she had disappeared I realised that that was actually it.
The fire was soon surrounded as we realised just how much heat it was giving off and of course the singing started all over again! We managed to keep it fairly clean though, most unlike us, as there were children around and most of our songs are not really ones that we felt the parents would be too impressed if their kids went around singing them?!!! We were however ‘told off’ for singing too loudly as there were some people that were sleeping and that we should consider at least moving inside at 10pm also as the bar closes. I think that most of us were quite happy to make our move to bed at around that time as we had a 5am wakeup call for breakfast and so on before we headed out for our full day safari. Eeeek, so excited!!! I emptied my hottie and refilled it patting myself on the back for the ingenious forward planning! Some of the others had no heating in their rooms at all; I had turned it back up to 31 when I came back after the safari and so it was nice and warm in there. I felt mighty relieved that mine was one of the few that was actually working.
Loads of the others had been really concerned about me in the morning and word had spread like wildfire that I was not quite myself. It was actually lovely to know that some were really quite concerned. I apologised for being a moody bitch and explained that if I had to talk about it that I would have started crying and wanted to go home – what a wuss hey!!
It is a fact Cape Town has to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world. (OK take away the townships – but every city has a dodgy area – just look at Bath!)
It was an early start on our first morning after an evening of Ostrich Steak the night before I skipped breakfast, mainly because I was late and we headed off on the trip of Robben Island. This was what I have really been looking forward to doing – 4th trip and finally I made it (first trip was actually before it was a World Heritage Site). Sadly didn’t make it onto top deck which was a pain but there we go. The trip over was pretty calm which was a relief and the view of Table Mountain from the boat was just superb. Almost worth the trip alone.
When we arrived on Robben Island we were escorted onto buses which then proceeded to take us around the island looking at several of the ‘sites’ apart from the Maximum Security prison itself. We were told the history of the island, most of which I knew from reading in the guide book but I never remember reading about the buses I have to say. I was kind of hoping that we were free to walk around the island – its not that small after all – and that there would be placards at various locations to explain what things are or the history behind it. The only time that we were allowed off the bus was at a particular point which gave the most fantastic views back across the sea to Table Mountain and the city itself. Wow. Just how lucky were we with the weather – it was this time last week that the Lions played the Emerging Springboks here and the weather was AWFUL and I was personally a little worried about just what we would do for the three days (yes yes, apart from drink!) and about what a crying shame it would be for all of those that have never been here before. Really didn’t need to worry – if my legs were not as bruised still (marble effect on my calves up to my knees, from the crushing I presume) I would actually be in a pair shorts right now.
Getting back to Robben Island, Simon and I had to be content with just taking photos out of the bus window which I have to say I was a little miffed about. The view over the bay – yes. Well the photos of me there are not all that great it had to be said. I was a little worried about the water breaking behind me on the rocks as the spray kept coming up and I was rather adamant that I was going to get soaked. They will just have to do though. Once we had been whisked around the island we were dropped off at one of the entrances of the maximum security part of the prison and greeted by our guide who was a former prisoner from 1986-1991. His accent was really strong so you had to listen very carefully to what he was saying to hear and understand. It was fascinating but there were times when I really couldn’t hear a word that he was saying – namely when we were in the outside areas as there were some people who talked the whole way through. I was quite disappointed really having been looking forward to going for so long. The bottleneck to see his actual cell was mental and so I hung back in the hope that I might get a little more time to take it all in and get a decent shot. Sadly there was another group behind us and when I went to take the photo one was almost on walk by mode and I was jogged by some arse when I took the photo and so the camera focused on the bars rather than the interior – I only noticed this when I uploaded them onto the pc earlier.
It was still despite all that very, very humbling to see the tiny spaces that the men were in for such a long time for standing up for something that they believed in rather than for actually committing a serious offence and the political prisoners were deemed to be far more dangerous than common-law prisoners and were thus treated far more harshly than say one that had murdered, raped etc. It really beggars belief.
For lunch, which was part of our tour we were taken to a lady’s house in Langa. She clearly rakes in the money from this as her house had two floors to start with as well as being extended out the front as well as the back. The lady was Xhosa and made a right welcome for us going on about watches and how she never needs to wear one and that she was currently going by the time on the Chinese clock on the wall. It was all in relation to what we call different meal times and that we have different foods for different meal times, when for them food is just food what ever time there is no speciality for say breakfast. (I think that is what I understood from it anyway!) We were entertained by some Xylophone / glockenspiel players throughout our lunch, with of course the hard sale afterwards of a cd of their music. Whilst it was very authentic and all that – not quite your Ladysmith Black Mambazo stylee that I so dearly love – I decided against investing in s copy. I overheard the gentleman sitting next to me at lunch describing to another couple where he and his son came from in Surrey (he was from another group – Leopard Purple if I remember rightly, staying in the Mount Nelson) Blow me he lives in the same village as Sue and Peter and knew them. Small world hey!! Lunch itself was a massive spread of traditional Xhosa food and I got stuck into the sweet potato and pumpkin that I love so much. I had to be rather careful with the meat dishes as there were a lot of peppers lurking about in things and I really DIDN’T want another lovely reaction to them thank you very much.
The afternoon part of our tour was to a township where we had lunch and saw inside one of the hostels in the township of Guguletu. Having seen the schools of Tipini and Nelson Mandela Schools in Umtata some 9 years ago, I was more prepared for the sights that we saw than some others. The streets are full of debris and as for the little streams – they are as murky and what have you as you see on Comic Relief films. Something I certainly was not prepared for to put it mildly. Not all of the accommodation was shacks made of corrugated metal there were some houses – but I use the term loosely. But these were closer together than terraced houses; I know that is not physically possible but still. They can extend their ‘houses’ forwards or backwards or upwards but obviously not sideways. Most of this type of accommodation is used as hostels but not in the sense that us Brits think but there is one rooms with like 4 beds in. Each bed is for a different family – be that 2,4,6,8,15 children and the adults or just one male. There is no privacy. They are usually taken up by men that have come from the Eastern Transkei to find better prospects of work in Cape Town and even when their wife comes to visit they are not left alone in the room (catch my drift there?!). There were loads of shards of glass all over the floor and yet the majority of the small children were running around with bare feet. I won’t go on too much more but it once again made me thankful for all that I do have. It also reminded me that I have not remembered to arrange another sponsor child now that my time with Sein in Kenya has come to a close – must contact Action Aid again on my return.
The evening came the turn of the Gulliver’s Forum which was being held in another hotel – good lord it was posh! A 6* apparently. We had free beer and wine and soft drinks as well as some pretty decent nibbles, a lot of which I found to be fish before we had the forum. Jason Leonard and Rob Lowe (SA flanker, back in the day) were the guests, Jason was staying at our hotel and it was hilarious watching all of the guys swarm around him like flies!! Jason this, Jason that. The evening was good fun and Chris from our group managed to win the signed shirt from the evening’s stars through playing heads and tails which was nice for him. It was very interesting hearing Rob’s views on Peter De Villiers – clearly not his favourite and believes that he has a lot to answer for. Interesting, interesting.
Table Mountain was the destination for the following morning and I headed up there with Simon and the chaps from Dubai on what must have been one of the first cable cars up to the top – no queue what so ever – main point of going at that time obviously. The view as ever was simply spectacular. I don’t think that I have ever seen it as clear as it was. The smog that seemed to be lingering over parts of the bay that we could see from Robben Island the previous day all seemed to have blown away in the night. Its divine in its natural beauty and the sheer drops from the side are just amazing (and pretty scary too!) I was all ready to abseil down the side but sadly by the time that we had gotten back around to the side where they do that the wind had picked up rather and to be honest – I bottled it! We went and had a coffee instead – what a wonderful view to have a coffee with, looking back over the Twelve Apostles. Better than your average busy Starbucks in the centre of a town, even if the coffee still wasn’t all that good – the view made up for it ten fold!!!
Coming back down we headed back to the hotel for a bit, Simon was off to Camps Bay to see some friends and the guys from Dubai were planning on spending the afternoon at the Waterfront. So I gate crashed as I didn’t really fancy going down there on my own. We had about an hour and a bit in the hotel before we left though and so I totally repacked my bag so that I have everything that I need for the next few days on the top, dirty washing on the bottom – Hilda bless her can have that when I get to Juliet!! I hand washed my strip as I suddenly remembered that I had not done so and it stank. I hung it out on the back of a chair on the balcony for the afternoon and as it was such a beautiful day it was all ready to be folded up and put away in the case when I got back to the hotel later on in the day. Had a delicious steak lunch and a few beers and whilst the chaps sat and drank a bit more I popped into a shop here and there to have a look. I only ended up in buying a casual Sharks shirt though, namely because I can fit little else in my blinking luggage which is already overweight!!
Sadly the plans for Mama Africa didn’t work out as the others were lateish back from their day trips and exhausted. To be honest it kind of worked out the best as my throat was REALLY killing and my glands were all up to I went down stairs and got a packet of crisps and some chocolate and had that as my supper so I could take the Malaria tablets and so on. I was in bed at 8.15 feeling a poorly girlie I found a blanket in the cupboard and put that on the bed as well and I turned the light out at 9 hoping that it would all go away and I’d be as right as rain in the morning for the flight to Nelspruit/Mpumalanga and the Kruger.