Trees beautiful trees.

After visiting England, where the trees are so huge and beautiful,

and I became so fascinated with them, it has been great to see so many beautiful trees in Natal. I can see why Durban was a favoured colonisation place for Brits. Amazing trees are everywhere here and have the space to grow to their fullest extent. There is nothing like a fully stretched out tree even in an industrial area.20170610_090512

In Durban luckily the alien police have not attacked the trees that line the streets, and so you will find a host of the best trees from around the world. In this HOT climate you can always find cool parking. The trees take precedence in the street, as you can see here, 20170111_103209and it has been amazing to see different trees blossoming at different times of the year.   At the moment all the coral trees are blossoming their red flowers. Its red season.

A little while ago it was orange with these amazing trees from Madagascar flowering along the streets.

Previous to that was these red flowering wide spreading trees. The red flowers made a crown on top.20170118_111834

On many of my walks, next to the houses are these unexpected fairy glades.

Of course my favourite place is the Durban botanical gardens. What I like most is that it is FREE to go in at any time, unlike the fee at Kirstenbosch. Its not that I resent the fee at Kirstenbosch..which is actually cheap compared to England where I paid R500 for a much lesser experience! (see previous post on the Eden project ..okay you can use your ticket for a year, but have no option for a once off visit.) The trees here are so exotic! This was a repository of all the corners of the Empire, a mini Kew gardens.

The intention behind the gardens was not  positive, as most colonial enterprises, and many plants were “stolen” in order to create a sort of “seed bank”, as medicine was essentially herbal at the time. Many of the trees come from India and Madagascar and further east. But they have been allowed to grow and grow and are stunning! I have been going back often to visit the changes over the seasons.

The first trees that really struck me were these cannonball trees. Mainly because the heady scent of the exotic flowers were so strong, I had to stop. I couldnt see the cannonballs but later in the year I found them in the place of the flowers.

There are simply HUGE banyan trees. (The ones here are small compared to ones in India that spread over 2 acres and people even make houses inside them)  These are fig type trees that spread sideways with roots that drip down from the branches. They are grown for good luck and are a symbol of immortality.

Banyan trees are thought to have spiritual significance, with the Lord Shiva being the branches (he has many arms), the Lord Vishnu the bark of the tree, and the Lord Brahma, the great God,  the large powerful roots of the tree. They have been used medicinally for centuries.

This is the legendary Bodi tree that the Lord Buddha sat under meditating to find enlightenment

There are other wild fig species with incredible trunks.

The palms are truly majestic 20170410_095224and there are these ancient Woods and many cycads that were brought here a few hundred years ago and are also huge.

There is a fern garden with magical tree ferns  and ponds with lotus flowers,

lots of water birds and a couple of pelicans

and a special grotto with exquisite orchids.

My all time favourite are still fever trees, with their distinctive yellow trunks.

They were called fever trees because they looked like they had jaundice and were near to malaria areas. The bark is also used to cure fevers .Other medicinal trees are cinnamon (once more valuable than gold) with multiple health benefits including lowering cholesterol and blood sugar , rauvolfia caffra( called african quinine..very important in conquering africa). The bark has been used traditionally for many things including malaria. Look at http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Rauvolfia+caffra for more.

 

A sunken garden is very neat and reminiscent of English country gardens, I say.20170126_105714

New developments are this butterfly park where all the flowers grown are to attract certain butterflies.

As with Kirstenbosch they have music evenings and open air movies. I havent yet been to any, but fully intend to go. People use the gardens for special occasions like birthdays.

There is a lovely old fashioned tea garden run by volunteers with HUGE crumpets and scones and tea.

The best is the monkeys that race through the trees and a host of feral cats that watch you while you drink your tea. 20170204_113144

 

Driving in Durban

One of the things that shock you the most in Durban is the driving, especially if you come from generally polite Cape Town and having spent a year in ultra-polite England. (although their motorways are a lot like Durban)

Here its like everyone is on steroids the minute they enter the road system. Everone hoots all the time for every misdemeaner, like taking one second to take off at the robot, or DARING to switch lanes even if you have signalled and checked for cars..there is always another racing into your bum.

Cars pass both left and right no matter what you do. They are always going the fastest they can, and trying to get ahead of the person in front no matter who they are and even if ,or especially if, cars are piled in front. Cutting across three or four lanes vertically is quite normal, and simply stopping in ANY lane by putting on their hazard lights is considered sufficient excuse.

I tried driving in the left lane, but discovered that, since there is no yellow line, as in other south african cities, the left lane IS the yellow line. After some close shaves in cars stopping without warning right in front of me, and lanes suddenly leaving the motorway, I decided to try the second lane. This is infinitey safer, but beware as the left lane then becomes the passing lane as well as the right. It feels a bit like a kyalami race track.

Most people blame the taxis, and they certainly are guilty of all the misdemeaners expressed above..the worst one being HOOTING..mainly for custom. I think all taxis need a special sound for custom so that they dont use their general hooters, as after a while you begin to switch off to all hooters. This is a dangerous thing to do. In England it is a finable offence to hoot for any other reason than an emergency so you rarely hear hooters. (British people are also solaw abiding mainly because their fines are HUGE, and you get fined more if you protest in court..a bit of a police state,I would say).

Anyway, I forgive all taxis because every taxi takes ten cars off the road. Imagine how many cars there would be if everyone in a taxi had a car? So I always am grateful and allow taxis their idiosynchronicities. Also, I have used them occasionally and they are far and away the best form of transport in South Africa. they are fast and efficient, air conditioned (often), not overcrowded, as most people think and will go anywhere and stop anywhere..unlike buses. They are also cheap for what you get.

I put the blame on the roads in Durban. The fact that there is no yellow lane ensures that the inner lane is a disaster area. Also, the road markings are bad, and you willsuddenly find that you are supposed to be in a right lane even altough you are going left off a highway. Also there are many offramps and roads that come into an intersection at an angle to meet a robot that is both red and green! Yes. unless you know the road, you dont now if you are supposed to stop or go or which robot slightly angled you should obey. Notice the robots in the photo below.20170406_064741

I just about killed myself taking this photo.

Durban has a glut of one way streets. Despite this, I must say they work well. I have rarely sat in traffic for long. The robots seem quite co-ordinated as a result, so despite theis photo, the traffic is not bad compared to other cities,its just that you have to constantly be vigilant that someone is not going to stop or turn in front of you suddenly.

More usual is HUGE trucks. As Durban is an industrial city, huge trucks are everywhere, and they dont drive slowly either..so its quite common to meet them in The right lane speeding with 10 new cars on their platforms or a number of containers. Can be quite fightening when they are on either side.

Durban also has high and huge highways, mainly because they ave to cater for high and huge trucks. I have not yet managed to get a photo of the astounding wall paintings on the N3 by graffiti artist Faith 47. I will post them up when I do. 20170327_162024There is an amazing vibe at the taxi and bus terminus, and I deliberately drive through just for a bit of it even though I risk my life getting around the thousands of taxis. the photo above is of the taxi rank area. There is loud music with a real African vibe and lots of market stalls selling everything from muti to plastic. 20170327_161938

I have been trying to get photos of the many white beggars in Durban. The only other place I have seen so many white beggars is in England. I’ve been told its because the weather is good that the Joburg beggars migrate to Durban, and back to Joburg in summer where the pickings are richer. I have an aversion to giving money to a white beggar, especially if they are young and fit. This is because I know they have been given every opportunity to not be on the street and have not taken them. (My bit of racism..sorry)

Homoeopathy at Durban University of technology..starting my course

We began our course with a blitzkrieg of mathematics to “clear up common errors” ..a so called bridging course. However, if you had any wobbles around maths, you would have wobbled more. The lecturer was very engaging..but perhaps too much so as he kept going off at a tangent and spending ages chatting about the origin of numbers in history and then raced over the actual issues. (reminded me a bit of Howard and other older waldorf teachers). I had not done physics since school for a very good reason but suddenly had to remember how to work out vectors. Luckily there was no calculus, as I would have been lost. I have totally forgotten logs and as I taught only up to cl 11, I had to relook at it. Also here it is very much applied.

Luckily having taught maths, I had all the algebra at my fingertips..a little bit of refreshing on trig..something I had avoided. Luckily I was also clued up on all manner of Cartesian planes.

Although I think people got a bit irritated by the lecturer going off on a tangent, he allowed a lot of interaction and error and in the end, we got to know each other much better  than otherwise. I learnt 4 names: Taylor, Lihle and siphesetle are all doing homoeopathy. Ben is doing chiropractice. A couple of others I now know by face if not name. There are a fair amount of Afrikaans speakers.!

A number have studied elsewhere for a year or so. (Lihle and Ben and a little afrikaans chicky, Heleen and one guy has a BSc too.)IMG-20170215-WA0002.jpg

There is a real mishmash of colours and creeds. Many African languages, Indian, Coloured, White, Taiwanese, Afrikaans, English. Hindu, Muslim including a couple in Hajibs, Christian. The lecturer made sure that we mixed and matched the colors in the rainbow nation. From this, we could see that all of us had issues and so made us less shy of each other. Also I did not feel so old, although I was clearly the oldest in the class..even older than the lecturer. It was a good way to begin. Also we were about 200 people from all the health science faculty: Environmental health, dental, radiology, chiropractice, homoeopathy, medical technology.

I must say I love the mixing of cultures..there is a great vibe.

Durban, if I haven’t mentioned a hundred times is HOT and humid. Luckily some of the lecture rooms are air conditioned..but they are closed during breaks..so we sit in the shade of the lovely big trees…

but it is still hot. I ice a bottle of water that I carry with me and keep an ice brick or two in a cool box in my car that I take out at lunch time to help me least the afternoon. I use it like a hot water bottle, except its cold. You HAVE to wear shorts or a skirt,otherwise you die (except on overcast days)..even then you die unless the wind is blowing. This is a little gimmick that I found at a flea market. It contains polymer beads that hold water and release it slowly to keep you cool. 20170216_135230

Durban University of Technology is a vast campus having 4 campuses across Durban..all in quite far walking distance. and there is a real maze of classrooms and lecture rooms and laboratories all linked by a maze of path ways. 20170208_064252.jpgThey offer a HUGe amount of subjects from art and drama to design, journalism and engineering, hotel school,

marketing and of course Health sciences. Here they offer radiology, nursing, chiropractice, homoeopathy, environmemtal health, medical technology.  the grounds vary, but there are lovely big trees and nooks and crannies and places to sit. Wifi is all over, so people spend a lot of time on their cellphones during breaks but we are not allowed to use them in class at all. The classrooms are airconditioned and have internet. The laboratories have good quality equipment..see these amazing zeiss microscopes.20170216_141636 I must say I prefer chalk and talk myself, as a lot of time is wasted setting up. However, all lectures and slides are posted onto a student website called blackboard so you can access anything. We all have dut emails and any notifications  go there as well. so if the university is closed for any reason, teaching can continue to some degree. The security is quite physical..classrooms are barred..trying to be tasteful, you can only enter with a student card.20170201_122339

We do a lot of practicals: anatomy (is dissection of a human body), physiology, microbiology and microscope work (histology) and also physics and chemistry. We also do diagnostics on each other in small clinic rooms.

Our class has a whatssapp group and we chatter away although we don’t know each other yet.img-20170208-wa0004 I can see that we will become firm friends at the end of this course as the University gives us many opportunities to do so and I am impressed with this. We have a course called personal and professional development where we discuss more personal issues, and go deeper into our reasons for being, with some journalling. On the whole its is a much more personal space than any other University..possibly related to the Health faculty that seems pretty organised. They have made real efforts to welcome us and make sure we attend lectures and pracs. They have even given us equipment and books.

We have only had one week of lectures so far. Much of it I know from my Bsc and am considering getting credit for some of it. But I have been helping the other students and feel good about that. I will report more on the actual content, which I am enjoying nevertheless. Many are just out of school and very nervous. The teaching, however is excellent. Engaging and thorough. There is no excuse for failing. The support is incredible.

The Trip Home..To Cape Town in 2 days

So after my very filling breakfast, I walked around the Durban waterfront comparing it in my head to old photographs from when we were small.

It hadnt changed that much..still had the kiddies pools 20161001_135757and cable car. 20161001_135817the sea was heaving with swimmers, 20161001_140003

but I felt that I needed to get out of the city before I would swim in the WARM sea. (Cape Towns waters are freezing). So I headed  via the coastal road.

We used to come to Amanzimtoti, which is now considered a suburb of Durban, in our holidays in our youth. It hadnt changed very much..just smartened up a bit. Then went on to Scottborough camp site, 20161001_160753

where we spent some summers camping in a canvas tent until my mother complained that she was not getting a holiday. After that we stayed at holiday flats and cheap hotels.

The campsite at Scottborough was EXACTLY the same  as 40 years ago..next to the railway and right on the beach.

The sand is quite different to cape Town. Yellow and grainy.20161001_165410

So I set up my flimsy tent that I had bought in England and never used and shlepped back to SA. I was going to have a early night for the first time in 4 days.20161001_164532 Well the weather decided differently. After a wonderful day, a storm came up and almost blew my tent away. So I had to get up in the middle of the night to lift some heavy rocks to anchor it. After that I had a decent-ish night.

I was up early to get on the road as I had to be back in CT at a certain time. I decided to go a slightly different way, but still short cutting through the Karoo. Luckily the weather was overcast, as it can get very hot. there were beautiful views over the cane fields and the rolling hills of the Transkei. A bit more populated but still rural.

I was pacing myself and tried to take photos from my car rather than stop..a dangerous thing to do.

As I was going through the Transkei, just outside the Capital city, there were roadworks again. This time they had speed bumps..bad ones that you couldnt see and you could not go faster than 40m an hour over. I can understand why they had speed bumps, as this is the road that the taxis take to go to and from Cape Town and there it is always a race..nothing else would have slowed them down. Well we went for miles this way…it was too late to turn back and find another route.   Transkei was very pretty..houses on every hill, just like the Cotswolds in England. (see if you can guess which is which). Transkei is like I imagine England to have been long ago when they lived in Rondawels always perched on top of a hill..thats why the roads are so twisty.

You could see that development was happening, as the roofs were made of iron rather than thatch and walls made  brick rather than clay and often was square rather than round and even double story. At least  couple of family members work in big cities and support their families in the Transkei. There are few work opportunities here. Mostly the inhabitants are grandparents and children.

A little while later we came to more stop and goes. It was quite funny because every time we stopped, the doors of the many taxis would open up on all sides and all the men would hasten to the bush to pee. I wondered about the women.

I went through the mountain Zebra national park and saw what looked like albino springbokke. I had to stop because it was so unusual. Not a good photo you can just see the white buck running away. 20161002_175515 When I googled it, I found that there are 4 colour phases of Springbok. The white was not albino, and you could get black and copper colour,. (The website gave me the grillies, though because of how they wrote about them. (It was a hunting website)..as trophies to collect. “Besides the Common Springbok, there are three color phases that have become popular to collect. They are black, white and copper springbok. It is a fun and challenging quest that makes a colorful quartet in any trophy room when mounted together.” I live in a different world it seems.

I was not going to travel too late to find a place to stay, so as night fell I entered Graaff- Reinet and passed a small reserve. Although it had a sign saying it was open, it was closed but a kind guard took my details and gave me the key to a very fancy tented camp. He didnt know how much it would cost me, and at this stage I didnt care. He couldnt take money so I said I would pay in the morning. He gave me the gate code and I had a wonderful luxurious night..outdoor showers and toilets..but so tastefully done. I had no food with me, but the self catering facilities were top class.

I managed to do some walking around and although the camp was full, it didnt feel like it. I took this photo from the deck overlooking a dam..looks like a ghost also got in on it.20161002_201741

In the morning, it was so cold (after a hot day) that there was ice on my windscreen. 20161003_061137

I had to be on the road early as I had to be in Cape Town by 4pm. Luckily I heard people arriving to open the gate..but the office was still closed and another gate stopped me from going further. I couldnt afford to waste an hour, so I wrote a note with my details, left the keys  and ..having the gate code of the entrance (not the exit), I opened the entrance gate from the other side and left. I expected to hear from them and still wondered what they were going to charge, but have never. So thank you for that free night. I will come back some day as I would have liked to spend longer there.

So, I considered visiting my friend Diana who has a farm in Ladismith, but was running out of time. I will go another time. I stopped in at my sister for some tea. She was very ill with presumably a dose of flu that had come on very suddenly, but she covered it well. Only later she told me that she almost died as its seems she had actually an extreme allergic reaction to something and had to call the ambulance for oxygen as she couldnt breathe. She thinks it is the sprays that drift across the wheat fields. I worry about her being alone in RSE. But she is quite sensible, I think, and has since recovered.

So, hot and sweaty I arrived in Cape Town. I still had to go home, gather my clothes, go to deliver my car in town (50km away) as my sons girlfriend, Pia,  was borrowing it, had supper out in Obs, spilt a milk bottle in my handbag, then went back with my son to the house I was sitting before I could have a radox bath and crash again at midnight. I think I was crazy to drive up and down so far in such a short time..but what the heck, I got to see a good cross section of the country in a short time.

A cross section of the SA country in 4 days

I seem to do a lot of things in four days (see previous posts). The last time was London..well there its kind of a whole country in a few square miles. Well, this time I went across South Africa to Durban by the sea from Cape Town by the other sea. Why was I so foolish? Well I was heading for an interview at Durban University of Technology to study Homoeopathy next year. Only 2 places offer Homoeopathy, the other one is in Johannesburg, so there was really no choice. Also, they only take 35 students per year and ONLY ONE “mature” student..and that had to be me.

Now, I didnt realise that Durban was further away from Cape Town than Johannesburg and even further than Windhoek in Namibia. 1700 km to be more or less exact . Thats more than the whole of England from top to bottom. (England is 1349km from John O’ Groats to Lands end). Okay, we dont have lots of villages where you have to go 30 miles an hour to slow you down.  We have long straight and hot roads that go straight there, right? Well not quite. So I estimated that it would take me 2 days to get there quite easily at 100km per hour on average..I didnt intend to drive at the average speed of 140 like other South Africans. Well, it didnt quite work out like that either. Also I have a millenium Toyota (ie over 15 years old)…but it has a reconditioned engine.20160818_112845 I did consider flying, but not only would I have spewed huge amounts of pollution into the air (apparently 6 to 47 times as much as by car per person! Especially short flights, as the runway fuel is the most damaging. http://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2015/09/evolving-climate-math-of-flying-vs-driving/). Besides, I am still in travelling mode, and wanted to get an idea of the country I had been neglecting for so many years. What is South Africa like now? The last time I had been to Durban was 10 years ago, when my son and I went for a round trip to see all the skate parks with his BMX on the back.

So off I set, visiting my dear sister along the way. She lives in Riviersonderend, a sweet little village 200km from Cape Town, with many skeletons in the cupboard. But thats another story better told by her.

A quick cup of tea, and I had to get a bit further..like another 400km to George. Looking for a place to camp was not so easy…it was out of season so everything was closed at about 5. I finally found a rondawel (a typical South African round building..last used in Europe at stonehenge 3000BC, for those who dont know) where I spent the night. .serenaded by frogs, as it was on a river. I finally nodded off at 12pm, woke at 5am to continue my drive. (5 hours sleep). I went for a little walk before I left in the morning, and found some wonderful medicinal plants everywhere. Although this place was a typical RESORT, in the most typical south african way.(.including the black and white TV),

it gave me a sense that it was a haunt of some sangoma or other.

There was a beautiful landscape across the river where an irritating sound came from..like a couple of flies, and I realised it was workers riding lawnmowers over a golf estate. Welcome to civilization. 20160930_064457

Following wrong directions, and realising my Afrikaans was not as good as I thought, I headed off, got a speeding fine for going 78 in a STUPID 60 km zone (downhill on a pass outside a built up area. Consolation was that the fine was only 400 rands as opposed to 2000 in Britain for going 37 in a 30 zone.) Realising I was on the coastal road which was much longer than any other, I decided to cut inland back to the short cut road I intended to be on, on an old road I hadnt been on for years..thinking that it must have improved. (It used to be  a windey dirt road..very beautiful) Prince Alfred Pass..yes, colonial throwbacks everywhere..George..prince Alfred…Baden Powell drive (the coastal road outside capetown), Durban (sit Benjamin D’Urban).

Well, it was very beautiful still..if not more so, as it is now a reserve of tropical forests and ENORMOUS trees..but the road is worse.

Well it took me 3 hours to go 75 km. Not only because I couldnt go more than 30km per hour, but because it was so beautiful, I HAD to stop and photograph. I WILL be back to look properly…but not in the rainy season, as I can see that the roads wash away regularly. I did come across a strange sculpture at one point.

From here to karoo..dry straight hot roads..beautiful in an endless way. I had lost a lot of time and had to get to Port Shepstone (colonial) at least, as my interview at DUT was at 9.30 am the next day.20160930_113608

Well, it doesnt help to calculate when there are road works along the way..you know, STOP wait ten minutes (and go). This Karoo town had ENORMOUS cacti. 20160930_132125

It was getting dark as Ii went through the edges of the Transkei. This was when the roads lost all their signs, started winding up and down hectically and no one dimmed their lights..it also started to have waves of thick mist and light rain. The views were likely spectacular, but I could not see them, where I was going, where the next town was and how far away..so I drove blindly. By now, my neck was killing me and my bum was totally numb, and my eyes were glassy. I stopped in a typical one street town for petrol..nothing else was open for trade..not even KFC. Luckily I had some dry biscuits and cold tea in my flask. .

At this point, I knew I would need to drive through the night to get anywhere.

50km from Port Shepstone (more colonial), driving through cloud banks, I decide I was going to crash..as in sleep, if I didnt want to crash..as in accident. So I turned off the road into an inlet…there were no lights, so I assumed I was in the middle of nowhere, folded back my seat and slept uncomfortably.

In the morning I discovered I was in a sugar cane field. At least I knew I was close to Durban. I got going at 5 (another night of 5 hours sleep), coffee at the garage and off to Durbs by the sea via a convenient motorway. I wisely decided to leave the sight seeing till later.

Durban was a revelation of hooting taxis and busyness. I dont think it was the safest place, judging by the security walls.

I hadnt had breakfast, but decided to find my place of Interview. Of course I hadnt banked on the fact that because of the #Feesmustfall protests, the place was closed. Luckily I found an open gate. and found that the interview was still on. I hastily bought a couple of apples from a vendor…they do not have breakfast places in downtown Durban.. only chicken outlets..it was a bit early for that.

I was last to be interviewed, as my case was special..being so “mature”, so I was only released at 12. No tea was offered only water. All the Interviewees were YOUNG..still at school and very nervous..so I had some use in allaying their fears. These were pictures of some of the homoeopathic remedies on the wall.

I was interviewed by a true cross selection of the Durban population: Afrikaans, English, Zulu and Indian..all women. It was a good interview, and I was instantly offered a place..the only “mature” student. After that, I realised that I could eat a horse, raced off to the waterfront and finally sat down to an ENORMOUS breakfast with coffee served in a POT, while looking over the sea front. BLISS.

I will report further on the trip home.

 

 

Finding a garden to garden

Having spent a year doing a lot of gardening at Ruskin Mill, I was itching to get my fingers into South African soil. However, since all I owned could fit into my car, I had to go find one. Luckily for me, Alice Linton, a Scottish lady, who had to urgently go to Scotland to her 92 year old mother had such a one. I am now house sitting a beautiful house overlooking the sea and three lovely dogs that I walk daily. As a result, the pounds that I put on eating all the carbs in England have started falling off. (I am also eating a lot more protein and fat, thanks to the banting diet.)20160918_122254Okay, this does look like an English breakfast, but its got a lot more (for much less)

So, this is the garden a month ago:

and this is it today.

Things definitely grow here despite the mingy rain and the sandy soil. Of course the place is literally buzzing with bees. and butterflies and all manner of insect life..something I missed at Ruskin Mill, where animal life has fled. Birds twitter all day rather than the squawking of crows. Here are some of the multitude of fruits that I cant keep up with.20161105_084901these bees were devouring the nectar.

Oops here are some of the multitude of fruits that I cant keep up with. I have given to friends, family and everyone who loves them. Sorry you are missing them, Alice.img-20161016-wa0000

I am living in this very retro cottage:

everything is retro, including the bath:

I have this wonderful view over the sea

and go for dog walks to all these places a spit from the house:

The dogs love moleing in the dunes or running in water

Nights were dark and you can see almost 360 degrees of stars. (couldnt photograph those) Tonight is the gibbous moon. But its the sounds that grab you. Frogs croak all night and now that has been replaced by crickets and cicadas (christmas beetles to us..as they come around christmas).

We celebrated my son’s 25th birthday, and so we invited friends to a real south African braai, and despite (or because of) their age, there were cartwheels on the lawn as the sun went down.

I am now planting out the HUGE amount of tomatoes you seeded, Alice,  and I cant find enough space. You will bear the fruits of these when you return. Lucky you.20161105_085041

Being a tourist in my own country

And so I returned to South Africa after a long flight via Dubai. I was nervous about getting home, as there was so much trouble in Europe and the middle East. I never thought I would think that the safest place to be was actually South Africa in its lonely corner far away. I had a good seat in the plane and could watch as the landscape changed from green square patches over Europe and the UK, then the dryness of the middle east, the absolute blue of the immense sea, the dryness and occasional patches of cultivation through Africa. you could see a transition into SA, where cultivation was more extensive and defined, but still dry, as it was the end of winter, and then coming into the Cape where everything is green again, extensive wild mountains with lush green patches of cultivation.

I couldnt help feeling like crying when Table mountain appeared through the clouds and we landed in Cape Town, and I realized how much I missed this beautiful land. After that I found myself relishing everything I had previously taken for granted and felt like a tourist in my own country, as if seeing things for the first time:

SO, HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN SOUTH AFRICA?

Well first was that you dont have to deal with a machine for everything. Second people smile and are helpful. Third, there are many black faces, which are rather rare in Britain. So arriving at the airport the smiley BLACK faces with AFRICAN accents and a smattering of Afrikaans and that wonderful, South African accent. People could actually understand what I said first time I said it. The airport was clean and open and efficient, and not cluttered with shops and harassed people.

Familiar people

In Britain everyone was a stranger. Of course, the best was seeing my son again, and realizing how much I missed him. Then bumping into familiar people everywhere.

Then there were so many other things I discovered over the first weeks back:

One ply toilet paper.20160814_093004 In England I could only get 2 and even 3-ply toilet paper, thats so smooth its like using plastic.  One ply absorbs so much better. I never thought I would appreciate that. In the UK, you also go through a roll very quickly, and they all have methods of cutting corners, like making shorter rolls or wider inner cardboard or thicker rolls.

 

 

 

 

 

Large sachets of sugar in the coffee shops. 20160808_144128In the uk, they give you such tiny sachets, you need at least four in a cup. Here I only need one and a half and its more than sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee shops allow you to help yourself to condiments..as much as you like. In Britain you get charged for each sachet (R15 each!). and the price of coffee in a cafe. What a relief to pay from 15 to 20 rands rather than 40 to 50.20160816_133723

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue skies are a normal occurrence rather than unusual, 20160805_135130and I headed for the first beach, where there is soft white sand rather than hard round pebbles or purple mud. And so is bare feet. I had bare feet only once the entire year in England.

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BEACHES IN ENGLAND

Wide vistas, where you can see for miles

rather than just a hedge, which is mostly what you see when driving around in the UK.  Where there are views, you are not allowed to stop..or you get charged a parking fee!

Pavements on BOTH sides of the road, and wide enough for 3 people not just one. I realized that South Africa is a generous country.

Parking that is FREE and available.

Wide, well engineered roads with furrows either side for rain run off and NO potholes. Yes, dont kid yourself, South African roads are much better than the UK, where rain constantly potholing the badly made roads that have very bad drainage, and then taking ages to fix them.

Money is not so heavy and we only have only 7 coin types that are light as opposed to 8 heavy coins in the UK,(including 1 and 2 pence that are worth F-all, and hardly ever used, but they insist on giving it.) My purse always weighed half a ton, and nobody wanted my change.

South African prices! Boy, was I glad to see those! when you are paying over R40 for a coffee or tea, R20 minimal for parking anywhere, even on the beach, R300 to enter any National Heritage site, R2000 for a small speeding fine going 3 mph over the very slow speed limit of 45kmph in a built up zone. The only cheap thing is cars at a third of the price in SA even taking into account the horrendous exchange rate

Despite there being many throwbacks from the colonial era, like the street names that hark to ye olde England,

most are quite reasonable rather than the weird names you find in England. Very occasionally you can rely on something odd.20160813_104007

It was really great to have someone put in petrol for me instead of doing it myself. 20160813_141127

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here you DONT PAY FOR AIR AND WATER. (R10 for 5 minutes or air or water in the UK, which you have to put in yourself! to me this is criminal!). Okay you do give tips in SA, but to have a friendly face doing it all for you its worth the tip which is much less. R10 (50p) tip is seen as a HUGE tip.

In the UK, you dont have to worry about your car being broken into, but it is true here too, as we have car guards. they also expect a tip but its nothing like the parking fees you pay in the UK. (more like 25p is generous for a whole morning)20160824_13454120160813_111538

Rain shelters over shops. In the UK, the shops do not have rain shelters over the pavements despite the fact that it rains constantly. In SA we dont use umbrellas because we know that it is easy to skip from shelter to shelter and whole streets are sheltered. This is something that is so generous that we take for granted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SA is also a very generous country when you go touring. Besides all the wonderful views, there are always special turn off places at the best views and road verges and MANY designated FREE picnic sites.

Real  Mountains. Everywhere.20160818_174953

Empty spaces for miles

Real wild animals, not just squirrels and bunnies.

Cows grazing alongside the roads. This was only true in one site in Britain,on Minchinhampton common.20160814_105146

Sunsets. In the UK, the sky is generally covered with cloud.20160818_174247

Night sounds. There are no sounds of frogs and crickets or night jars , or anything other than cars unless you live near the sea..and even then, you are never sure that it isnt the cars you are hearing.

Night skies:

To actually see stars in the UK is unusual. Although they often announce celestial events, on TV or radio, you never see them because the skies are always clouded or too many lights. Capetown has a lot of light scattering, but even then, you can see the stars because there are no clouds.

Good Libraries with actual books.

Libraries in the UK are terrible. They have very few books, the choice focuses around British writers..usually romance or thrillers. There are NO interesting non fiction books to expand your mind (only history books about Britain..nothing too controversial) and its all self service. Books taken out with a machine, books handed in with a machine, and only one librarian for the entire library (and a few volunteers) In SA its hard to choose a book because there is choice, friendly librarians to help you locate a book, which, if they dont have it, will find it for you. Also videos for free. (In the Uk you pay R20 to loan a video or music..and not much choice.)

National Art gallery and museums do charge you in SA, but the fee is reasonable. R30=1.50 pounds) In the UK, some of the art galleries and museums are free, but despite what they say, most are not, and they charge you at least R180 (9 pounds)to R300(15 pounds)! Even if you take the highly inflated exchange rate out of the picture, you are usually paying the equivalent of R100-150. They do say that it is valid for a year, but who is going to come back inside a year? South African Art is also very exciting.

Route markers tell you which direction you are going. This one tells you it is going SOUTH.20160825_174401I cant tell you how often I got lost in the UK.I had no sun to work it out as it was cloudy and no mountains or landmarks..just hedges hedges hedges. Route markers just told you which route you were on, and if you didnt know the town you were going to (there are so many funny names) you could easily be heading to Landsend when you should be going to Norfolk. I kept having to back track.

The speed limit in built up areas in England is 30mph (48kmph) and you darent go above it. so everyone creeps through the towns, thats why it takes so long to get anywhere. Distances are measured in time not miles. In SA it is 60kmph (37.5 mph) a little more reasonable. Top speed in England is 70mph (112mph).

 

 

Roads are STRAIGHT.

The only straight roads in England are the roman roads and the motorwys and there are only a few of those. Further confusion arises at circles that are everywhere and can lead you in a totally different direction to your map even if you follow the signs. Heaven forbid if you are not, you may end up on a highway. These have very few exits, so you could be going for man miles before you can turn around. In SA if you head one direction, it rarely changes..this could be boring, but it makes for easy driving where you can relax rather than be on tenterhooks looking for the next exit, or back tracking when you discover you are not in the town you thought you were. All towns in England are pretty, but also all look the same, so if it wasnt for the signs, you wouldnt know where you are.

Cars older than 15 years and not in peak condition are seen everywhere on the roads.

Dogs run free and are not muzzled.

Toilets have a mechanical flush that actually needs you to touch the handle and energy to use.20160819_150844

Spring has sprung with the first South African wild flowers.

People talk loudly and shout across streets. People laugh with a belly laugh. People talk straight so you know where you stand. They actually want to know how you are when they say “how are you?” They rarely use the word “nice”. They hoot at everything. They say sorry if you get hurt even if they have nothing to do with it. Ubuntu is not just a trade name on a can of cola..it is a living everyday reality.20151020_134719

Viva South Africa, Viva. I am so glad to be back.