Friday, 29 January 2010

An agglutination of Agriculturists.

My intention was to finish up the enthralling tales of my holiday today but I have been in misery city this whole week. Ever since I have been back at work not a single thing I have done has worked. What a great start to the year. Blegh. All parents and future parents please write this down:

"dear small person from my loins, do not become a scientist. You will get paid very badly to fail constantly. Which kind of makes sense but is not much fun."

So I am holding back my holiday memoirs til next week when I feel perkier. I have also been getting home after 10.30pm, so I haven't even been able to read blogs properly. I have been a terrible blogger. Apologies!

I shall leave you with this instead:

How scary is the human herd mentality? I witnessed a good example of it last night. A huge herd of students were coming out of a lecture. A few started to cross the road when there was a gap, and of course the entire herd followed, even though there were cars right there having to stop and dodge them by the end.

It is quite a hilarious phenomenon. If you are alone, you look left and right, and if you see a car approaching slap bang where you need to cross you will not go. But if you are in a herd you don't look, you just go, because if they are doing it so can you... squeeesh. I guess so long as you stick to the middle of the herd you are allright, your friends can act as a buffer.

And the bigger the herd, the worse the effects. In a really large herd, all but the leader completely lose their minds and surrender to the hive mind, which just says "go".

It is not so hilarious when I happen to be the one to succumb to herd mentality though; then it pisses me right off. I'm thinking " Dumdeedum - wait a minute there is a car at my thigh why am I in the middle of the road fucking hell I succumbed to herd mentality again didn't I?"

This happens far too often. Down with herds, down! Although I seem to enter herd mentality in any herd greater than one, which does not bode well for my survival.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The trip of awesomeness part 3: Road trip cont.

Nieu Bethesda to Montagu.

Nieu Bethesda is only a few hours from Colesberg along a dirt road. It is a tiny dorpie that only got electricity in the 90's. I know people who spent childhood holidays there, and I am sure it is like a city in comparison to what it was, but there can't be more than 60 people living in the town itself, and apparently about 900 in the township section. The local kids there ride around bareback on horses. Everyone is so open and friendly. It is probably the safest place in the world. My statistic.

We went straight to the Owl House museum to see the art that Helen Martins had left behind in her yard and in her house. This place blew me away. I loved it so much. Partly because I have a fantasy of living far away from everyone and making funky colourful paintings all over my house.

I took about 1 million photos of the place. Unfortunately I filled up my flickr quota for the month, so will have to keep adding them later. But if you want to check them out, you can mail me for my flickr name.

The entire interior of her house is covered in ground glass. There are so many sculptures of weird and wonderful things in her yard, it takes hours to try and look at them all. It was definitely worth the trip to the middle of nowhere.

Then we read our books under a tree, walked around the entire town (it didn't take very long), read some more, walked some more, then I had a Karoo burger at the pub and we went to sleep. Such party animals.

By the way, zoologists (Helen, Luke, EEbEE?) I need your help. We saw the weirdest animals (to me) in Nieu Bethesda. The were roughly squirrel sized, yellowish gold in colour, had tails but not quite like squirrels, much fatter and sturdier tails than squirrels, more like skinny hairy beaver tails(??) and their bodies were similar to meerkats. They even did the upright standing thing. But their tails seemed quite unmeerkatlike to me. Does this make any sense? I didn't manage to get any photographic evidence of these meerkat beavers.

On the way out the next day I saw my first dassie!!!!!!!!!!!! and a baboon. Oops apparently BFG saw a dassie in Harrismith so I lied on yesterday's scorecard.

Man that day was hot. Apparently it hit 40 degrees. And we had no aircon. Poor BFG. He drove 10 hours that day. But we stopped constantly for orange lollies, which appear to be his kryptonite. I also had him stuck on 20 questions for about an hour trying to come up with "marshmallow". He got as far as, they are man made but not an appliance, and come in herds, for aaaaages. It's so obvious, innit?!

The most memorable part of the day's driving was Magdalen. We picked up a tired lady walking somewhere along the N9 before Graaf Reniet. It turns out she was walking to a job as a domestic worker in Swellendam (about 500km)! She had been walking for 2 days to cover ground that we drove in an hour. It was Saturday and she had to be at work on the Monday. No one had picked her up in that time. She had no money, but she told us that it didn't matter because God was looking out for her. She had two kids back in Aberdeen, which is a minute farming town in the Eastern Cape.

Magdalen was a pretty cool chick; we told her that in Oxford for some reason they pronounce her name "Maudlen" and she was highly amused by that. She told us stories of her holiday in Joburg and schooling in George.

At the time we were planning to stop in Oudtshoorn, which is a far far walk to Swellendam, but she was happy for the ride. We hit Oudtshoorn at midday in full 40 degree heat and decided it was too early to stop for the day. We figured we could camp the night at Barrydale. There is some pretty spectacular scenery around there along the R62 I have to say. Love that route.

At Barrydale, we dropped off Magdalen on the road to Swellendam. BFG decided he had the juice to drive to Montagu after all, which was our hoped for destination. We sat at the corner, watching Magdalen walking slowly away...

then we realised that if we went via Swellendam it was still only about 2 hours to get to Montagu!

We ended up taking her to her sister's doorstep in Bonnievale. I was very happy that we could do that, because I was thinking while we were at Barrydale, imagine we bring her all this way and then leave her to walk for the next day or two and she gets raped along the way?

Now I know that the route is very quiet and the area probably really safe, but would you feel happy letting any woman you know, wife, sister, girlfriend, whatever, walk alone from Barrydale to Bonnievale (roughly 100km)? Maybe you would, maybe it is just me, but I just could not feel sure that she would have been safe. And when we drove along there were hardly any cars, so the chances of her being picked up were very slim, and then I worry about strange men driving alone...

If it was me I would have been a bit scared. And dying of heat. And she had no money. Just saying.

When she left she asked us for our cell number and we gave her our SA one. Now I feel like such an idiot because we are back in the UK and our MTN number will expire and she promised to phone to tell us how she was doing and to answer "Maudlen" but she can't. I feel really sad about that. Maybe she will think we gave her a fake number. Wah. But you know what, I actually know where she lives, so you never know, maybe this is not the end of the Magdalen files. Anyone live in Bonnievale?

Anyway, after all that we got to Montagu, where we wanted to be, BFG was toast, and the rest is for another day.

trip scorecard:

Dassie score:

BFG: 2 (apparently, including his mystery dassie in Harrismith)

strange beaver-meerkat sightings: too many to count

awesome trippy statues: hundreds

random strangers with biblical references picked up: 1

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The trip of awesomeness part 2: Roadtrip!

The trip of awesomeness part 2a: Harrismith and the general Free State region. Also the Northern Cape.

-we loaded up our car with about a year's supply of food, including cascades of niknaks.

-we drove for 3 hours

-both of us failed to check the directions for the actual climbing campsite we were headed to, inaptly named Mount Everest resort. We used to go there when I was at school so I figured it would come to me. I also figured if you drove into the town of Harrismith and then headed for the mountain, all would be well.


-Luckily some kind locals gave us directions and we made it to the campsite just before it got dark.

-We were the only people there. The campsite is around the corner from the rest of the resort and up against a mountain.

-I must say I was a bit spooked at first. I have not been around such darkness, such quietude and so many animal noises for a long time. But soon the total awesomeness of our surroundings got to me. There were so many stars! I still got spooked when I had to walk to the toilets though.

Proof that we actually climbed.

-We got lost trying to find climbing that we both thought we would remember, but after 12 years I was blank. We found other stuff that we did recognise and climbed that. We were the only people in the mountains. That is a very special thing.

-Um. It was very hot. BFG got very burnt. I applied sunscreen like a mental person.

-We saw at least 4 different types of buck, some Wildebeest and a mom and baby Zebra. Also some Americans, who are now running the resort.

-That evening there was a spectacular Free State thunder storm that unleashed its fury upon us. We sat in the car and enjoyed. Our tent survived, hooray!

-I remembered this place as something really special from our school trips, and it really is. I definitely want to go back.

-Then we drove, with BFG getting reaccustomed to how you are meant to drive in SA, ie. pull over into the emergency lane for people to overtake, and try and overtake in single lane freeways with no central reservation. He managed.

-I became reacquainted with the joys of South African radio. I have one thing to say: ERK!

-While chilling at an Engen One stop in Bloem we realised one of the tyres on our Kia Picanto (poo car) was dubiously flaccid. We grew concerned. We phoned up Europcar and they told us we could just exchange cars if we came to the Bloem airport. Talk about lucky, getting a flat right in Bloem instead of somewhere in the bundus!

- Some people may argue that Bloem is the bundus. I beg to differ. They had a Pep.

Not our dream car

- BFG's dream car is a citi Golf. He has pined for citi Golf his whole life. We managed to persuade the Car lady to give us a Golf. Who was she to deny a sweet boy his dream? BFG was so happy. And the boot was twice as big. Sweet.

BFG's dream car.

-We managed to drive out of Bloem into a full on storm, Free State attack number 2. Scary.

-We made it to the metropolis of Colesberg in the Northern Cape and decided to go no further. It was swelteringly hot in Colesberg. I slept without a blanket!!!! You have no idea how exciting this was for me!!! And I was not wearing a jersey!!!! I felt completely naked!!!! Any more exclamation marks anyone?


trip scorecard:

Dassie score:


thunderstorms: 2
buck seen: very many
sun rays absorbed: lots and lots
car changes: one
Times we got lost: once

Monday, 25 January 2010

The trip of awesomeness part 1: Durban

I have been in hibernation these past few days trying to recover from the nasty shock that is the Real World. What a bleak, harsh place. You spend your holidays sleeping and doing one fun thing after another, so going back to work was like a slap in the face with a frozen tuna.

I am hoping that recounting my adventures will cheer me up with happy memories.

Here is part one of the SA roadtrip 2010 chronicles:


- One of the first things I noticed after stepping off the plane is how friendly everyone is. People just randomly chat to you all the time. I was a bit shell shocked at first but got back into the groove pretty quickly.

-At O.R Tambo airport the first thing we saw when we looked out the window was someone reversing along the freeway for quite a way. Then we knew we were home :)

- It was monsoon season in Durban which meant it rained pretty much every day we were there.

-This was torture, because we were champing at the bit to swim in the sea.

- I rediscovered that Durbanites do not like going to the beach.

- We hung out with my aunt, had braais, ate lots of food and bonded well with my aunt's DSTV.

-watched some bizarre Afrikaans movie with two "Bill and Ted" type misfit characters who clearly never left the anal phase.

- The place was crawling with Vaalies (what do you call Vaalies now that they are not Vaalies any more? Gauies?) We were amongst them with our GP numberplate and our general confusion over where we were going.

-They have changed all the road names in the city centre, which leads to much fun. Some of the roads still have the old names with a line through them, some not. Our map book included some of the changes and left some out. Also new roads have been put in which confused the hell out of us. We managed somehow. We did get lost a few times, but Durban is small.

-We went to Moyo, on the one sunny day, and it was very fun being painted and sung to, but I must say sitting so close to the sea and not swimming was killing me.

-On the final full day we had left in Durban we decided that we had to go swimming in the bloody sea. Unfortunately the monsoon was in full swing. This is me going for a balmy stroll along the azure coastline:

I was using the umbrella as a shield.

-While this may be a commonplace scene in the UK, trust me, we were the only people at the beach apart from a few workers and they were looking at us as if we were deranged.

-Needless to say we did not swim that day, but we scooted off the next morning before we left and finally swam in the Indian Ocean. Hooray! Note to self, do not go on holiday to Durban before April.

-We also took the cable car up the funky new Moses Mabhida stadium like real tourists, and it was totally cool to see an aerial view of ole Dirtbin.

IT is good to see that Durbs has finally been deemed worthy of a revamp (read bulldozing every old landmark to the ground), because it was really starting to look a bit sad and crumbly for a while.

view of the Durban Country club, in full colonial splendour.

Durban beachfront being bulldozed.

Final Scorecard for Durban:

Dassie score:
BFG: 0
Po: 0

monkeys seen: a measly one

times we got horribly lost: at least twice

sea swims: 1

Wednesday, 20 January 2010


I am back in the UK.


I spent 24 hours travelling and have to be up for work tomorrow.


It is cold. I bet you never saw that one coming, aha! Apparently they have been having Armageddon weather here while I was gone but it is grey and drizzly now, which is perfectly normal.

My special stash of niknaks, biltong, alien green smarties, and funky biscuits got stolen from my bag. Bleak, bleak am I. One of the main reasons I go to SA is to stock up on the food of awesomeness and it is all gone. At least they didn't steal anything of real value I suppose. Although, who can put a true value on alien green smarties? I guess I should be grateful that I have been saved from obesity though, cos I probably would have eaten all that stuff in one go.

I am sorry to report that I did not have any sushi, milkshakes or Steers burgers while I was there either. To be fair, we were camping in Steers free zones for much of the time.

I shall report back on my trip of awesomeness sometime soon, but now I actually have to go to a freaking writing class, although I have just walked in through the door. Meep.