Chapter 11 Egypt Germany and South Africa

 

SUPPORTING SLIDES

 

 

South Africa

 

Johannesburg On Arrival +

Tshukudu Private Game Park Near Kruger South Africa+

 

TSHUKUDU 2

Tshukudu To Johannesburg

Johannesburg To Gariep Dam Hotel

Gariep Dam To New Bethesda South Africa Owl's House

New Bethesda 2 South Africa To Graaff-Reinet

Middlemore The Willows Historical Guest House

Middlemore To Knysna

Middlemore To Knysna 2

Knysna South Africa

Knyswa To Mossel South Africa Garden Route

Mossel Bay To Houw Hoek Inn

Houw Hoek Inn

Hoew Hock Inn To Capetown South Africa

Capetown Victoria Quay

Capetown Aquarium And Docks

 

Sunday 3 August Cairo

 

Richard dressed me by 6.30 am, so we could enjoy the large free Hotel Sobieski buffet breakfast prior to our 7.30 am pick up. Breakfast, as usual, was sumptuous, but we were too rushed to really enjoy it, and I settled for scrambled eggs, frankfurter and a coffee from the myriad of choices.  Both Richard and I were waiting with our luggage at the front door in the pleasant sunshine at 7.30 am when Zygmunt pulled up on time.  The trip to the airport was quick an uneventful, a ten minute drive, and then we embraced Zygmunt for the last time and said goodbye.  Checking in with Lufthansa was straight forward, though they insisted on assigning me a window seat as company policy. We were boarded smoothly, and the stewardess allowed me an aisle seat by freeing up the seat next to me in the nearly full A320-200 plane. “Company policy states disabled people sit next to the window so that in an emergency, they don’t obstruct able bodied people from getting out,” she told me, “but since your friend consents to take the window seat, it’s ok.” I drank a pleasant German red wine on the plane and we arrived in Frankfurt at noon.

 

We were unloaded using a elevated machine which then lowered to bus height to wheel me directly onto a terminal bus, which drove parallel to large taxiing jets for a kilometre to Terminal 1’s, special treatment lounge.  A blind person, young children in transit and two other people in wheelchairs occupied this lounge.  I emptied my leg bag in the disabled toilet, which, to my surprise, emptied automatically.  Five minutes later, I was wheeled to the departure lounge and smoothly boarded on the Airbus Industrie A320, sitting on my Roho Cushion, destined for Cairo.  “Wonderful,” Richard said, “So smooth, no thinking or worries.  We were looked after every minute. What a contrast to our treatment at Heathrow Airport!”

 

I was placed in the aisle seat of a double row, with Richard next the window.  The stewardess insisted we switch, so I quickly told her, “If you want me moved, then you do the lifting. Richard won’t do it.”  She backed off quickly and left us alone. The plane was delayed two hours on the ground, so our flight to Cairo took six hours.  I waited for a red wine before consuming my evening meal, of codfish, roast potato and spinach so passed the time peacefully without coughing; listening to a pleasant classical music channel play Gofe’s Grand Canyon Suite, watched the Musketeer on my multi-channel LCD screen and thoroughly read my Lonely Planet Guide to Egypt.  I learned that three Egyptian pound exchanged for an Australian dollar, (in fact, we received four) there were no Egyptian coins, only Piastre notes, that small notes are rare and need to be hoarded for tips, that everyone wants tipping for anything, that Cairo had a city population of eighteen million people, and had as close a density of people per kilometre as any city in the world. I was warned correctly that traffic was incredibly heavy, using a cacophony of horns, and ignoring all traffic lanes and even the red lights. Headlights are frequently left off at night.

 

I was reminded that Cairo has been a famous tourist destination for over two thousand years.  I had read Herodotus, the ancient Greek historian in my third year honours Greek history course in 1969, and even in 500 BC, he wrote, ‘Concerning Egypt, I will now speak at length, because nowhere are there so many marvellous things, nor in the world besides are there to be seen so many things of unspeakable greatness….’I was looking forward to the visit and seeing Pyramids, temples and monuments with anticipation.

 

We reached Cairo at 11.00 pm Cairo time, after setting our watch forward an hour. The stewardess told me to, “Remain seated in your seat, until all the other passengers had left,” and I replied with acerbity, “I’m hard likely to get up and walk out.” She was embarrassed saying, “Regulations require me to say it.”  Then troubles began.

 

The Egyptian attendants took thirty minutes to arrive and bought no aisle chair with them, so the plane’s tiny chair was used instead. Although my seat rest arm was raised, when I boarded, none of the stewardesses could raise it again, meaning I required an enormous lift over the armrest.  For the first time this world trip, the wheelchair had not been bought to the airplane side as requested, and after harassment of the ground personnel by the German staff, this required another fifteen minutes.  The assigned Egyptian staff did not have keys to bring me through locked doors, and had to depart for ten minutes to get a customs official, and then Richard was not allowed to accompany me.  “Please,” I thought. “This is totally chaotic. Get your act together. What a terrible contrast to the German well oiled efficiency.”  We got our baggage okay, and obtained money from the ATM. 

 

Touts pushing taxi rides bombarded us with rates double the thirty Egyptian pounds quoted by the lonely planet guide. I took my time, brushing them off, examined the tiny unairconditioned Fiats, and finally chose a modern air-conditioned Mercedes limousine with airbags and a driver who spoke English, for $17.00 for the forty minute twenty-five kilometre drive to the Conrad Hotel. The car was easy to transfer into and big enough to contain our wheelchair and luggage. The driver was cautious and sane, giving us a pleasurable ride through the upmarket Heliopolis, an area of ornate houses and schools of the wealthy to the five stars, twenty-five story Conrad Hotel, located on an island in the middle of the Nile River. “You best have a reservation here,” the driver said.  “These hotels are usually all full.”  I recalled the typical scam where drivers try to divert their clients to other hotels where they get a commission.

 

I was comfortable and relaxed when we reached the Conrad Hotel, and our Internet booking, made last November, 2002, was recognised, but the room for the handicapped was occupied so we obtained a twelfth story, number 1206 room, reeking of cigarette smoke, but viewing the Nile River from high above the city.  These rooms were fully sound proofed against the monotonous traffic roar, sirens and mullahs calling the faithful of Cairo. The rooms were roomy and fully air-conditioned against the Mediterranean summer heat. I recalled too many nights spent in cheap hot hotel rooms in tropical and cities of Mediterranean climate, sweating, unable to sleep and tormented by mosquitoes. I poured myself a glass of Finlandia duty free Vodka and sat on the balcony enjoying the view, and then went to bed at midnight feeling relaxed and happy.

 

The Conrad Hotel, opened in 1999, next to the Cairo World Trade Centre, boasts of a pool, bank, restaurants, bars, night club with belly dancing, casino, and the hotel seemed to lease the foyer and reception rooms nightly for wedding receptions. My Internet price was $200.00 nightly including the 25% room taxes.

 

Monday 4 August Cairo

 

I was awake at 8.00 am, and the usual BT procedure occupied my time until 11.00 am, during which time I enjoyed an $8.00 pot of coffee from room service and talked with Lily whom had rung me from Perth, Australia.  “I was rung by the bank about a $6000.00 withdrawal, and thought you might have bought me a nice gift,” she teased.  I explained the withdrawal and ascertained that life was proceeding normally for her.  Once dressed, we were able to change rooms from 1206 to 407, the handicapped room, directly facing the river, with a roll-in shower. The move met repacking and we were re-established by 1.00 pm.

 

Richard and I then took a normal Fiat unairconditioned cab to the famous Cairo museum.  Driving here, I discovered, was not too scary because traffic speeds seldom exceeded forty kilometres an hour, and were usually much slower. There were rows of luxury tour buses and we fought our way through crowds of touts selling papyrus paintings.  There were scores of guards belonging to the Historical and Antiquities Police, all carrying automatic weapons.  We passed through a metal detector and our hand luggage was x-rayed. Even our hotel uses metal detectors.  Egyptians take their security very seriously. I received a waiver of the $6.00 admission fee, but paid for a $4.00 camera pass.  I hired an elderly white haired guide whom spoke excellent English, who told us he had retired from being a lawyer and was a Doctor of Philosophy.  I was to pay him $35.00 for two and a half hours of guiding.  He was actually very good, taking us in sequence through the old, middle and new kingdoms, and to the marvellous extensive King Tutankmamun exhibitions.

 

The guide said,   “This museum has been in operation for a hundred years. The lotus is the symbol of the upper kingdom, the papyrus, the lower kingdom.” We were on our way. Quickly, I saw a huge number of statues, sarcophagi, stone carvings, and pots, which overwhelmed me, particularly since some items were 6,000 years old. We passed on seeing an exposed mummified body for an extra $10.00. Many items were safely enclosed in glass cases.  This was a huge collection of the oldest artefacts that I have ever seen, probably the biggest collection of old relics in existence.  The most stunning display was the relics found by archaeologist Howard Carter in a tomb in 1922, belonging to King Tutankmamun.  These include a solid gold inscribed casket, the famous twenty-two kilogram gold face mask, and everything required to live in the afterlife, beds, chariots, boomerangs, bows and arrows, pots, and so on.  The collection was enormous.  (Photos)

 

However, the museum is unairconditioned and the temperature outdoors in mid-summer heat approached forty degrees Celsius.  We had a quick overview of the museum for three hours and called a halt, paying off our helpful guide.  I visited the museum souvenir shop and bought three cd-rom movies in VCD format for $100.00 with movies of the museum artefacts and pyramids.  There were also stunning black and white eight by ten photographs of Egyptian life, taken a few years ago, which I failed to buy at $25.00 each, but would like to order via the Internet.

 

Leaving the museum, we wandered over to the hearby Cairo Hilton hotel to use their ATM to withdraw more money.  I got my shoes polished; paying the shoe man’s inflated $3.00 price without haggling and Richard asked the man if he could take his photograph. The polisher consented. When Richard took the photo, a group of nearby soldiers pointed their guns and began shouting, shaking their heads.  The shoe polisher shouted back, and they quieted down and resumed smoking and chatting.  Richard was shaken and said, “I hate Arabs and will never come back to this place.  They are unpredictable.” Richard was suffering from a cultural shift and he had not travelled much in his life, other than the USSR and Germany, and then on to Australia. I was finding that he did not adapt well to new situations.  The Egyptians are anti-photography, and other than taking pictures of historical sites, one needs to be very careful. It was fortunate Richard had asked permission first.

 

We crossed a busy highway and ate our only meal of the day at Lagrillon Restaurant, where I drank a litre of Stella Egyptian beer and ate red and white fillets of fish, made with a red and white wine sauce. The meal was tasty and cost about $30.00 with the beer.  Richard commented on the child labour in Egypt.  “There were a group of young children about twelve in uniforms coming in to work in the kitchen.  I also saw lots of young kids begging or shining shoes.  They don’t seem to attend school at all.” A waiter grabbed a taxi for us and charged the cab driver $2.00 for getting the fare, an expense the cab driver passed on to us. The final fare was what we had paid to go to the museum, about $3.00.

 

I was suffering from heat exhaustion by our return at 7.00 pm, and felt drained.  I sat and enjoyed the air conditioning, and then felt better after a shower, going to bed at 9.00 pm. Richard went to the second floor restaurant and told me later, “I tried to sit near an Arab with headdress and he told me loudly and rudely to ‘piss off.’  I sat elsewhere and complained to the waiter, who said, ‘He’s a rich businessman from Saudi Arabia and they hate foreigners. Please stay well away from him.’  I then explored the hotel, visited the casino in the basement which is only open to non-Egyptians, and departed from the hotel from a small door at the rear.  Within a hundred metres of the hotel I witnessed abject poverty, a huge pile of garbage spilling across the road, with children and adults rooting in it like pigs.  I was shocked at the proximity of great wealth and total poverty.”

 

Tuesday 5 August Cairo

 

Richard dressed me by 8.00 am, but annoyed me by failing to plug in the digital camera the previous evening in spite of my request.  Irritated at his laissez-faire attitude, I said, “We need to recharge the camera battery for two hours before we leave today, Richard.  I didn’t come all the way here to see the pyramids without getting my photograph taken in front of them.” Richard went for a swim in the hotel pool, while I typed.  At 10.00 am we went to the hotel restaurant for a coffee, amidst hectares of gleaming marble, and then went outside to hire a car and guide for the day.  I bypassed the official costly limousine service, and talked with the uniformed porter outside who quickly recommended a friend. We settled for congenial Mohamed Abo Elela (MOB 012/3378714), in his mid-30s, married with a six and four year old boy and girl.  He spoke reasonable English, drove slowly and cautiously and owned an air-conditioned Hyundai, charging $60.00 including tip for eight hours.  I think we overpaid him, but the exchange rate is so favourable to us that it is a shame not to be generous.

 

The Egyptians have built a series of American limited access freeways through Cairo, with concentric ring roads and large cloverleaf interchanges.  Signs are in English as well as Arabic, and traffic was light on the ring roads. Navigation didn’t seem too difficult.  We proceeded out of town at a moderate pace without any scary driving, which suited me.  Soon we saw green vegetable gardens and palm trees alongside the four lanes, mostly empty freeways, with the pyramids looming massively on the skyline. We travelled through the city, which encroaches almost to within a few hundred metres of these national monuments, and then we paid $6.00 per person entrance fee, and $1.00 car fee to enter the actual pyramid site.

 

The road winds around between the two largest pyramids, approaching one within fifty metres, and then climbs a steep sand dune to a large car park, filled with fifteen tourist buses and touts for horse and camel rides. This vantage point overlooks all three pyramids, with the city shrouded in a heavy layer of smog as a backdrop, but the pyramids are magnificent, and monumental in size. The oldest pyramid at Giza is the Great Pyramid of Khufu or Cheops, 137 metres high, completed in 2570 BC with 2.3 million blocks. Southwest of the Great Pyramid, 136 metres high, is the Pyramid of Khafre, which appears taller, being on higher ground, with its peak still capped with polished white limestone casing.  The third pyramid is that of Menkaure or Mycerinus, 62 metres high, with a deep gash in its north face from an unsuccessful attempt to dismantle it in 1186 AD.

 

Dunes surrounded the pyramids and were used by the camel riders. “They are constructed from granite blocks shipped 1,500 kilometres from Aswan,” the guide told us.  “The outer protective layers have been stripped away over the centuries for building, but some can be seen near the top of one pyramid.  The granite is covered with windswept sand, making the rock appear like sandstone.  I’ll take you to the entrance now.”  Actually, the Lonely Planet guide suggests they are made from limestone blocks, which, from the worn condition of the stone, is probably true. I got out of the car to look at the view and to take photographs, but the forty degree Celsius heat soon encouraged me to return to the cool car.

 

We drove back down the hill and were admitted to a busy car park within a few metres of a pyramid, with a queue of people waiting for entrance into a very small tunnel. I noticed that the individual granite building stones dwarfed the people standing next to them.  We then continued around the pyramids to the Sphinx, with body of a lion and head of a person, which guards the approaches to the pyramids.  The name Sphinx came from the Greeks who named it after a mythical Greek monster that set riddles and killed those who failed to solve them.  The Sphinx was much smaller than I expected, although I knew the nose and beard were missing. The Sphinx was inaccessible for easy wheelchair access from a few steps, sand and stones on the walkway so I waited in the cool car and looked at it from a distance of about five hundred metres.  Richard told me, “I saw a strange sight.  About twenty kilometres from the tourist queue, I saw an Egyptian on the ground bleeding heavily from the abdomen.  Another man was shouting and kicking him violently.  I think he had been stabbed with a knife.”

 

We travelled a little further and stopped for a photograph of Richard on a camel.  The owner had initially demanded $15.00, but Richard knocked him down to $1.00.  I drank a Sakara beer while I waited, not as good as Stella but not really ‘camel-piss’ as the guide jokingly described it.  “Now, I’ll take you to a mosque in the old city,” our driver told us, and we followed a rubbish strewn street and a polluted, rubbish filled canal. “Look Richard, there’s a dead horse,” I exclaimed, as we passed the dead animal, its mouth open showing yellow teeth, its body beginning to bloat in the scorching sun on the edge of the filthy canal.  The driver didn’t comment, as Egyptians are proud of their country and take offensive when foreigners focus or even photograph backward aspects of their civilization.  We eventually accessed the empty ring freeway and were soon travelling across town to old Cairo.

 

“This area is the ‘City of the Dead,’” the driver told us as we drove through the necropolis, and approached the mosque.  “This whole area is a cemetery with mausoleums equipped with rooms but the poor people squat in the tombs and play on the graves. Cenotaphs serve as tables and washing is hung from tombstones.”  The mosque itself located in the citadel, surrounded by defensive stonewalls, was really large and required an entrance fee of $5.00. The citadel was home to Egypt’s rulers for seven hundred years, begun in 1176 by Saladin as a defence against the Crusaders. It eventually became a military garrison, used by the British and Egyptians. The guide told us, “We’re visiting the Mosque of Mohammed Ali, built from 1830 to 1848, where Mohammed lies buried in a marble tomb to the right of the door.”  The mosque’s interior, covered with Egyptian carpets and illuminated by gigantic heavy chandeliers, was constructed in a Turkish style like the mosques I have visited in 1972 and 1975 in Istanbul. Unlike Gothic cathedrals, the structure was square with three enormous domes, inlaid with silver and gold, forming the structure’s ceiling.  Outside the mosque, we had an excellent view of the city, from a broad terrace; the city was foggy with pollution. A second mosque was below us, and the white domes of Cairo’s oldest mosque were visible in the distance. The heat was oppressive and suffocating, but no worse than a hot Perth summer day, and I quickly opted to return to the air-conditioned car.

 

Next, our driver did, as all tourist drivers do worldwide, and that was to take us on the obligatory trip to a tourist trap, with gold and silver shop, T Shirt Shop and tourist buffet restaurant.  The gold and silver products were lovely but I didn’t enquire as to the prices.  Richard in an ungracious fit of pique waited outside, refusing to enter the shop.  The buffet restaurant was great, at 4.00 pm, a nice first meal of the day, of beef, chicken, salads, vegetables, cakes, diet Pepsi and bottled water for $15.00.  Richard bought XL Egyptian cotton T Shirt; we bought fridge magnets and pushed on. 

 

We talked with the driver concerning our next activity. The time was nearing 5.00 pm. He wanted to return us to our hotel, and then take us to the Sound and Light Show at the Pyramids in English at 8.30 pm, or put us on a boat cruise by felucca with a lateen-sail on the Nile River at a fee, the driver said of $30.00 per hour, but I knew the Lonely Planet Guide suggests $4.00 per hour.  I think the driver was seeking substantial kickback, from his eagerness to take us. We settled with having him drive us around the central business district, telling us about the buildings, until 7.00 pm, and then dropping us off for good at the Conrad Hotel.  In the CBD, we saw at least ten government ministries, each in a massive twenty-story building.  The Egyptian government bureaucracy is really very extensive.  We drove along the Nile River, where the palaces of the wealthy occupy the riverbanks, and stopped on the centre of a six-lane bridge to watch the river for twenty minutes. “See those tiny rowing boats.  Entire families live on them, fishing, cooking and sleeping their whole lives,” the guide said and added, “This Bridge was constructed by the French engineer who built the Eiffel Tower.  My house is very close to here but I’m on the second floor or I’d invite you in.”

 

We returned to the hotel at 7.00 pm and said farewell to Mohamed.  I typed, and went to bed at 9.00 pm.

 

Wednesday 6 August Cairo

 

We will be getting up at 1.00 am tonight, so my plan today is to relax around the hotel, avoid the intense heat from the radiant sun, constant noise, exhaust pollution, and traffic jams and to have a rest for tonight’s airplane flight from 7.00 pm.  Today’s BT procedures delayed my getting dressed until noon, but I enjoyed a lovely night’s sleep in a soft bed in a quiet cool room and a long hot shower in the wheelchair roll-in facilities.  Richard spent two hours organising laundry while I worked on the laptop.  On returning, he exclaimed disgustedly, “I’m exhausted trying to talk with Arabs who don’t know English.  I found a laundry place in the World Trade Centre next door, about $10.00 each with pickup at 7.00 pm; everything dry cleaned.  I talked with a taxi driver and he told me he’d take me to a belly-dancing nightclub for $50.00 and could even organise a Tunisian girl for the night for $200.00.  I was disappointed that I didn’t go to a night club last night, but I was afraid of being kidnapped.”  I replied, “I think your biggest risk, Richard would be the Tunisian girl.”

 

Richard and I explored the world trade centre, which looked shabby, with many of the upmarket shops closed.  We ate lunch, a spicy chicken burger and coke for $2.50, but I ended up coughing, although yesterday I’d been fine.  Richard complained bitterly, “I gave the girl an Egyptian fifty pound note and she short changed me ten Egyptian pounds. ($2.50)  I counted my change and she looked scared, and then turned a bright red, when I pointed out her mistake.  I think it was a calculated attempt to cheat me.  I’m really disappointed.”   I visited the Conrad’s business centre and emailed my Journal to Lily and George for $5.00 and then had a small glass of Finlandia Vodka and rested from 8.00 pm until 12.30 am.

 

Richard swam, and picked up the laundry at 7.00 pm, again saying, “The Arab bought out most of the laundry and then to my surprise and annoyance demanded an additional tip of ten Egyptian pounds for the rest, on top of the eighty Egyptian pounds I had paid.  It was blackmail, but what could I do but pay it. Everyone here seems to be trying to rip you off for as much money as possible.  At least the laundry was dry cleaned and pressed neatly.” Richard rested from 8.00 to 12.30 am, and then began packing for our 2.00 am taxi to the airport.  Our Lufthansa flight leaves at 5.15 am. I listen to Arab singing in the background from the live entertainment in the BBQ Restaurant directly opposite our balcony and I close the Egyptian segment of the trip, albeit a brief one, thinking that Cairo would be a hard city to handle in summer as a backpacker. Yet the low Egyptian prices make the country a bonanza for those on a strict budget. “That’s why Egypt is so popular for Polish tourists,” Richard said.

 

Thursday 7 August Frankfurt Germany

 

We were up at 12.30 am, dressed by 1.15 am and paid the $800.00 hotel bill by 2.00 am.  I chose an air-conditioned Peugeot for the night trip to the airport. “Look at the night life,” Richard commented.  “It’s 2.00 am and there are lights, people and music everywhere along the Nile River banks.  I think I could get to enjoy Cairo after I’m over the culture shock.  Perhaps I will come back one day after all as it’s cheap and lively.”  The driver increased to 100 km/hr on the freeway without headlights, to my concern.  Anyone on the highway ahead of us was dead, because we couldn’t see a thing.  But we arrived at the airport at 2.45 pm, about twenty-five minutes for twenty-five kilometres, and I gave the driver $20.00 including tip. A normal taxi would be $7.00. 

 

Terminal 2 at the airport was chaotic.  There were lots of fellows to help with the luggage for twenty-five cent tips and we cleared security with x-rayed luggage.  Outside Lufthansa, we witnessed a crowd of milling people with no guidelines for a queue.  We took nearly an hour, standing in the heat in a queue of a sort until 4.00 am to get our boarding pass for LH 593, an Airbus Industrie A330-200.  Then, an official latched on to us and guided us through immigration and customs ahead of queues and we reached gate two for our Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.  We were hustled through the gate, being told that there was no time for duty free shopping since the flight time was 4.45 am, not 5.15 am as on our ticket. The flight time had been changed, unbeknownst to us.

 

The boarding was a comedy in incompetence by two Egyptians whom spoke no English and did not have any training or experience in handling disabled people.  Richard disappeared, flatly refusing to lift, when they tried to get him to do it.  They had no idea how to lift and were weak as babies.  They half-dragged me into the aisle chair, ignoring my bad posture, and failing to secure the seat belts properly.  I nearly fell on the floor of the plane, to the horror of the stewardesses and then kept falling sideways.  It took them fifteen minutes for them to get me to seat 40, holding up the entire boarding process, because I was improperly strapped in and half off the boarding chair.  I was stuck on every seat.  Then, they were too weak and unskilled to lift me over the armrest into my seat.  In frustration the German purser did it, while they watched, and he vowed to write a letter to his company reporting the situation.  I noticed wryly that there was no talk of giving me the window seat.  These jokers left, smilingly congratulating themselves on the good job they had done.

 

The four-hour flight was enjoyable, with a glass of red before a good breakfast and no coughing followed by a two-hour sleep. I viewed of a Helen Clark narrated documentary on travel sites in New Zealand, followed by a nature documentary filmed in Northern Canada on life around a small lake, including a moose giving birth to its young.  There were a number of very black Sudanese or Ethiopians on the plane, with the women in colourful native costumes and very long black braided hair, and the men in silk suits, looking quite out of place.  They knew no English or German and their children were excited with the LCD screen.

 

We arrived to a cloudless forty degree Celsius day in Frankfurt about 8.00 am.  People were dropping from the heat, and the medical attendants were dealing with emergencies, so we waited for them for an hour in the plane seat until 9.00 am. There is a weakness in employing paramedics as lifters and today illustrated that weakness well.    A nice stewardess chatted to us for an hour, telling us about her job and routes.  “Frankfurt has the biggest airport in Europe, rivalling Heathrow,” she told us. “There’s not much of a historic nature to see since the city was destroyed in World War II.”  The purser gave me a 750 ml bottle of quality Spanish wine, disclosing, “I was embarrassed for you and for the other passengers, watching those unskilled clowns drag you in and nearly drop you.  I certainly intend to follow up.  Accept my apologies on behalf of Lufthansa.”  I was delighted. 

 

When the medical team arrived, the strong white-clothed paramedic easily lifted me from the airline seat, over the seat armrest and into the aisle chair, where they took the time to secure me properly.  It’s a pleasure to have well-trained and experienced personnel to handle me. We were taken to the terminal, and then it took fifteen minutes to locate our luggage that had been stored.  A very helpful Brazilian lady assisted us to get our luggage via a computer, Euros from an ATM, exchange money at a bank and to find a taxi.  I finally got rid of my twenty-five Northern Irish pounds for Euros, with a Euro costing me $2.50; Europe is a costly place these days with a meal or taxi fare being around twenty Euros.

 

None of the regular Mercedes drivers would transport us, so we eventually found a Mercedes station wagon that took us at 160 kilometres an hour down the autobahn to the Express Holiday Inn, Langener Strasse, Moerfelden, about fifteen kilometres from the airport.  That is the fastest I’ve ever been in a car and I was ill at ease, but the Mercedes seemed stable. Our reservation, which I had made in November 2002, was on record and we checked in for ninety-two Euros ($170.00) at noon, very tired, to the disabled room 106, on the first floor, and obtained a wheel-in bed for Richard to supplement the single double bed. I drank some of my tasty Spanish wine, unwound and slept from noon to 6.00 pm, in the well air-conditioned room, with even an excellent roll-in shower.  The CNN English news narrated the effects of the heatwave across Europe, but we were cool.

 

At 6.00 pm the heat outside was still hot at thirty degrees Celsius.  Richard and I enjoyed a Czech beer and soup at the Inn’s bar, and then walked two hundred metres across a highway and down a forest lined road to a forest restaurant where we dined under a shady tree.  I ordered Pepper steak and a tasty Warsteiner beer and shared the large meal with Richard whom had ordered nothing.  The cost at $45.00 for a single main plate and beer was astounding after our $15.00 meals in Egypt.  Then we returned to the room, I worked on the laptop until 9.30 pm and then I went to bed again.

 

Friday 8 August Frankfurt

 

I awoke at 8.00 am after a sound sleep. The plan today is to loaf around the hotel, which is isolated in a forest, until 2.00 pm which is our checkout time, and then return to Frankfurt airport to wait for our 10.40 pm Lufthansa flight, LH 572 747 to Johannesburg, South Africa.  I had envisaged a visit to the CBD, but the heat, nearing forty degrees Celsius, and high price of taxis terminated that idea.  We were both well rested today, after yesterday’s nap and a twelve-hour sleep.  Being rested between flights is a crucial feature of a well-organised travel schedule.  Richard started the BT process around 9.00 am and finished at 11.30 am, including a very enjoyable high-pressure shower from the hand piece in the roll-in shower. We also ate a filling breakfast included with the room price. Having a good shower and breakfast certainly improves the day ahead. A shower is a privilege after going for weeks in Canada without locating appropriate shower facilities in most of the disabled hotel rooms across the country. Then Richard commenced packing, for the next ninety minutes.  He likes to be slow and methodical, with emphasis on slow, but today we aren’t in a hurry and have the day to relax.

 

Our checkout time was 2.00 pm, so we booked a 2.30 pm taxi which drove us at a scary 140 km per hour to Frankfurt airport, dropping us off at 3.00 pm. (Twenty Euro) We checked our luggage with Lufthansa special services, without a queue, and then waited six hours in the Lufthansa special needs lounge, which offered free coffee, tea, cokes and orange juice. I left the lounge for a 5.00 pm dinner for fourteen Euro, or $30.00. The lounge was comfortable and empty, so the time passed pleasantly, reading a John Case paperback novel that I had purchased.  At 9.45 pm we were escorted through immigration and boarded directly on the 747 jumbo jet without joining the normal packed departure gate crowds.  Lifting into the airline seat was accomplished quickly and professionally.  The whole process was very easy.

 

I stayed clear of food on the ten-hour flight to Johannesburg, and avoided any unpleasant coughing, settling for one glass of red wine.  Perched on my roho cushion, I also avoided pressure problems.  The only unpleasant incident to occur, happened when a German man behind me said something in German, and then pushed my reclined seat forward forcefully and aggressively.  I immediately rang the stewardess and complained, and she spoke in German at length to him.  I again reclined my seat.  Next, the purser came and spoke at length with the angry German, whom lost his case, and I stayed fully reclined except for meals.  I realised later that his wife, a hugely fat lady was behind me, and she experienced difficulties. Had he been less aggressive, I would have been more sympathetic.  I slept poorly on the flight.

 

Saturday 9 August Johannesburg

Map of South Africa  Indian Ocean

 

We touched down smoothly in Johannesburg International Airport, Kempton Park, at 9.00 am right on schedule, and two very strong black porters made up for lack of skills or training with sheer height, size and strength and they managed the lifts without finesse but okay.  One escorted us through all the formalities, to an ATM where I withdrew a thousand rand and to a bank, where I experienced a very nasty shock.  I had planned and budgeted for this trip in South Africa at an exchange rate of four rand to an Australian dollar, but the rate had dropped to two rand to the dollar, doubling all my budgeted prices.  Suddenly, my Avis BMW station wagon jumped from $100.00 to $200.00 a day with a $250.00 drop off fee in Capetown.  My City Lodge hotel near the airport, a simple budget small-room accommodation jumped to $235.00 a day, more than the five stars Conrad Hotel in Cairo. What a disappointment. I was in shock. A hundred dollars daily for car and room is fine, but $200.00 for each eats up one’s budget quickly.

 

My plan became to leave the big city tomorrow.  Johannesburg is the largest African city outside Cairo, It is 2,000 metres in elevation, gets its rainfall in summer from December and January, and is also the youngest African city, founded in a gold rush in 1884.  It’s also the most expensive.  I told Richard a bit about the country, “The population of South Africa is forty-two million, of which thirty-two million are black; five million are white, one million Indian, and the rest coloured.  The Boers make up sixty percent of the white population and speak Afrikaans, their own language.  There are about 25,000 Polish migrants here. Lily and I spent six weeks here in the 1980’s, driving around with my parents and we had a wonderful holiday. We visited Kruger National Park and saw lots of wild game from elephants to lions.”

 

As we drove to our hotel, we noticed lots of angry blacks sitting around campfires besides the road, or begging at car windows, we kept the car doors locked and guessed that the unemployment rate here is high.  Our hotel was on the corner of the R24 Freeway and Barbaraweg, in Kempton Park, about five kilometres from the airport, overlooking a mammoth complex of cooling towers for an electricity generating station. Security around the hotel is tight with fences, electronic gates and a security guard.  “It’s unsafe to walk alone in Johannesburg,” the receptionist told us.  “Hire a guide if you want to go there.”

 

We checked into our room, which was non-handicapped, at noon. Richard phoned a Polish friend for ten rand ($5.00 for local call) that he had attended primary school with and the gentleman offered to drop over to hour hotel at 1.00 pm.  Andrze Tromcznski (jtr@mweb.co.39 Box 782640 Sandton 2146) is an engineering surveyor, married to Janine (2711 804-5962) and has two boys, Alex in year 2 and sixteen year old Ryan.  He arrived in his new Prado about two pm at the City Lodge, and we followed him back on wide freeways, R24, and then north on N3, onto Marlboro Road, overlooking vistas of bone dry or burnt grass.  We reached his house in about a half hour, in the middle class suburb of Sandton, where he lives in the Camelot clusters community with border guard, and a five strand highly electrified fence surrounding the community wall. All Sandton communities seem to have walls, topped with electric fences, phenomena that I also observed in my 1988 USA trip through San Diego and Los Angeles. The home itself also has a secure wall. We set in the warm afternoon sun near his pool, drinking three Amstil beer brewed locally under license from Amsterdam. 

 

He cheerfully showed us his year 8, 1969 Czestochowa graduation photograph of his primary school class, showing Richard and himself together, as both had attended primary school in the same class, and told me, “I trained in Czestochowa as a surveyor. Then in 1981, I migrated to Austria and applied for refugee status.  I waited a year in Austria, learning English and then was accepted in South Africa as a surveyor in 1982. I’ve surveyed or travelled all over Africa including Zambia, Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi and Namibia. I love Scuba diving but also race speedway bikes. I was in Czestochowa two weeks ago, for two weeks, and came off a bike while racing, cracking my collarbone.   I divorced my Polish wife and was single ten years and then married Janine, four years ago.  I’ve lived in this house seven years with no crime or unpleasant incidents and the community is multi-cultural, mixed with Jewish, Moslem, Indian, black and white residents.”

 

About this time, Janine arrived home with the two children.  Alex, the younger, is out going with longest dark hair, a quick smile and is very good at soccer, with medals to prove it. The sun was hiding behind clouds so we retired inside to admire the interesting collection of African hardwood carvings that Andrew has accumulated in his travels to Malawi and Zambia, depicting village life of grinding grain.  Andrew also demonstrated a 1930 wind-up gramophone that he had purchased in a flea market to play 78 records. It sounded loud but incredibly scratchy.  We then sat down for a Polish snack, Tatar, raw ground beef, raw egg, spices, crumbled bread and onions.  It is eaten spread on bread and tasted good.

 

Andrew started a fire to warm the room while Janine prepared an incredibly tasty, spicy South African stew, and told us, “I have a South African black father and Portuguese mother, and grew up here, learning Afrikaans and English and now some Polish.  I’m employed as an IT specialist, installing and training employees in use of computer programmes such as salary packages, inventory and so on.  Andrew is often away, but I stay here to give the children stability in schooling.  Since the end of apartheid, things here have improved immensely.  I was forced to learn Afrikaans, but students today have a choice of eleven national languages. But a little prejudice still lingers as exemplified when I was picking up Alex from school.  A white student called out, ‘Alex, your nanny’s here to get you.’  When I visited Poland, I found the Polish people unfamiliar and uninformed about issues of colour, and they would turn their backs and laugh.”

 

During the meal we celebrated with Vodka and Polish toasts, and then things were rounded out, after the meal with two very excellent glasses of fiery Cape Brandy.  I had been up all the previous night on the plane, and had not slept for nearly thirty-six hours, so I was getting a little sleepy from the drinks.  Andrew kindly guided us back to our hotel and I got to bed about 11.00 pm, and slept soundly.

 

Sunday 10 August Johannesburg

 

The day was pleasant, wall-to-wall blue sky and sunny, like a Perth summer day, but only eighteen degrees Celsius. I was dressed by 9.00 am, and by 10.30 am Richard had us packed to drive to Durban, South from Johannesburg on the N3 freeway.  I decided to phone a friend of mine, Neville Cohen, who promptly answered his phone.  “I’m going out today, but would love to see you at 6.30 pm.  Take the first Linksfield N3 turnoff, turn right, and proceed three kilometres to a golf course, then two more to a gas station.  My flat 406 is right behind it.”  I thanked him, cancelled our departure for today and we set out to visit the Sandton Shopping Centre; R24, to N3 North, turn off on Marlboro Road, drive to its T junction end, and turn left onto Katherine Street, through to a right onto Fifth Street and the shopping precinct.  We reached the shopping centre without any wrong turns although the cloverleaf, what seemed like a 180-degree turn from the R24 to N3 was very tricky and Richard stopped on the one hundred and twenty kilometres per hour freeway to assess the situation. “Don’t worry, as there’s no-one behind us,” he said to my protestations, as a car whizzed by honking. Fortunately being Sunday, the freeway was fairly quiet.

 

Sandton Shopping Centre is very large and modern.  I purchased a road map ($30.00) and SA to Australian power adapter ($30.00), and then ate a $9.00 hamburger.  The appreciation of the rand is hurting us badly in the financial hip pocket. Richard spent $35.00 for two bottles of water and some fruit.  We made the trip back without drama, getting in to the hotel at 3.00 pm and catching up with our writing.

 

I had first heard of Neville from my spinal surgeons Sir George Bedbrook and Ailie Key in 1979, and Lily and I dropped in to see him on our first South African trip in December 1984 to January 1985. Neville is an engineer who is a paraplegic and manufactures hand controls and wheel chairs. He encouraged me to import his hand controls to Perth and for ten years afterwards, I retailed and organised the instillation of hand controls, selling about one a month.  In 2000, Neville visited Perth and took Lily and myself out for a lovely meal, overlooking the Swan River.

 

We reached Neville’s fourth floor flat at 6.30 pm, navigating in the dark without mistakes, and reaching him via intercom, through a high steel security gate, and a security guard.  Neville is 71 years of age now and has been in a wheelchair for fifty years; chain smokes furiously, and underwent heart and bowel surgery last year. His hair was grey but he was as affable and charming as ever.  “Welcome to my home,” he greeted us warmly, and proceeded to replan our trip to include Tshukudu game park, six hours drive north of Johannesburg.  “Its 1,050 rand per night per person,” he told us. “That’s $1,200.00 a night for two of us,” I exclaimed worriedly. “No, you’ve got the exchange rate wrong, since you get four rand to the dollar.  I’ll phone your hotel, and prove it to you.” Neville did, and I realised that things were half of my previous calculations.  I put my money concerns aside and happily consented to go, but sadly the place was fully booked with a film crew. 

 

Neville is well known there and refers three friends a month, so he negotiated in a friendly manner to get us a room anyways.  The owner is a Polish woman, Ala who was in Siberia in the Second World War, also 71, and Richard chatted to her for ten minutes in Polish. They said that they would ask the film crew there if one would double up, sharing a room, freeing up the quadriplegic room and she would ring back. “I’ve got a friend, Ed Bailey from the US, and he flies out and stays there for three months every year,” Neville told us. “He loves it there.  Tshukudu is much better, indeed ten times better than Kruger Park, and they heal animals as well.  You go for walks and see lions.”

 

On Neville’s wall is a large picture of a traditional Japanese home with thatched roof, and multiple tiers of thatch up the tower.  Richard enquired and Neville replied, “My parents migrated from Russia and Poland to South Africa where I was born. I love to travel and have driven all over the world including a lengthy stay in Japan.  I’ve modelled my home on the Japanese using black people still skilled in thatching roofs. This skill is dying out.”  Richard would have liked to learn more but Neville changed the topic.  He has friends all over Africa, and recommended a Bed and Breakfast in Platen burg’s Bay with roll-in shower.  “Don’t forget to take the choo-choo, the steam train from Knysna.  It’s a two hour trip along the coast and is unforgettable,” Neville advised.  “I wish you had contacted me a few days earlier and I would have accompanied you to the game park and contacted my friends and told them you were coming.  I could have organised an amazing holiday for you.”

 

We went out with Neville for a pizza meal on his ground floor and he greeted everyone in a familiar friendly manner.  We enjoyed the food with a Lindeman’s Bin 444 Cabinet Sauvignon that I had purchased in Poland. We discussed the game park at length, and I asked about his future travel plans.  “My last trip to Perth knocked me around a bit and I don’t think I’ll leave South Africa again.  I’ve done more than fifty trips abroad including Egypt, where I really enjoyed doing a boat trip down the Nile River.  I’m still travel a lot in South Africa and still run my wheelchair manufacturing business.”  Then we returned to his flat at 9.30 pm.  The call of approval came through from the Tshukudu Game Park.  We said good-bye to Neville and drove back to the hotel. I was in bed by 10.30 pm, thinking about our big drive to the boondocks, tomorrow. Neville had ‘made my day’ with the updated news on the exchange rate.

 

Monday 11 August Game Park Tshukudu

 

Richard was up by 6.00 am and I had finished the BT procedure and had been dressed by 9.00 am. Richard packed, I paid $250.00 for two nights and we were out of the hotel at 9.45, travelling down freeway R 24 to the airport.  We entered the departures lane and asked a policeman for help. In a heavy South African accent he said, “You need to take the Boksburg exit,” but Richard couldn’t decipher a word he said. I listened with more success. I briefed Richard but he missed the Boksburg exit. “Go around the airport and do it right,” I said unsympathetically. Richard did, and got it right; we were on our way.  From the Boksburg Highway, we soon saw the N12 to Benoni, Witbank, Middelburg, and Belfast.  We drove on a N12 freeway, at 120 kilometres an hour for the first two hundred kilometres, through a thick haze of smoke, from burning grass. The land is flat, denuded of trees and bleached under the dryness of the winter sun.  We past numerous gold mines, and saw the cooling towers of large power generation stations.  A toll fee cost $8.00. 

 

We then headed north on   R540 to Dullstroom, a tourist town, with restaurants and lodges, and we stopped, with Richard disappearing for an hour.  We proceeded on to Lydenburg, and took the R36 to Ohrigstad.  Here, Richard obtusely tuned out and missed four signs and arrows telling him where to go in a row, proceeding unerring straight, ignoring signs for a left or right turn. He required my irate constant redirection and made two U-turns.  Then, he missed our first group of elephants and zebra grazing along side the road, lost in his own world.  We drove on through increasingly rugged and forested terrain to the Blythe River Canyon, the third largest in the world after the Grand Canyon and Fish River Canyon in Namibia.  Zulu people marketed pots at every bend while the Drakenburg Mountains soared to the east.  Beyond the canyon, we drove searching for R527 to Hoedsprout and finally reached the turnoff ninety kilometres from Zaneen. From the game resort centre of Hoedsprout, we turned left at the T Junction and drove four kilometres to the entrance of Tshukudu Game Park and signed the visitor’s log. 

 

We drove a dusty dirt road into the Lodge, and we were given Windhoek beers from Namibia. “Don’t worry about reception, relax,” Sandy the receptionist told me.  We met Ala who started the Lodge. She told me, “Our family, the Sussens, who purchased a five thousand hectares cattle farm in the Central Lowveld, founded Tshukudu Game Park in 1980. I grew up in what is today the Ukraine, but then was part of Poland and I was sent to Siberia in World War II, and then came here as a refugee, marrying a ‘bushman,’ and having two boys.  We ran a safari business and I cried when we sold our big home to come here, as there was nothing, only bush. We built it slowly over the years, to boast of the big five, elephants, rhino, lions, leopards, and buffalo.  We have breed and sold 270 lions and care for sick animals. We take thirty guests, at $250.00 per person, per night, including excursions and meals.  We run at ninety percent occupancy, through word of mouth and the Internet. Enjoy your stay.” 

 

We checked out our room and was told, “Ed Bailey, a quadriplegic, built it for himself, and put in ramps. It’s got a roll-in shower, and two beds, with outer sitting room and thatch roof.”  We relaxed, and then met Sirvana, a three year old, pet Cheetah and our ranger, Chris, complete with a 357 handgun.  He told us, “Cheetahs make excellent pets, like dogs, and you may pet her, she loves it and purrs.” We drank Castle beer from Johannesburg, and watched hornbills feed and chatter as the sun quickly set into a red haze to the west.  Lions in an enclosure a kilometre distant roared powerful bellows. At 7.30 pm we met the other guests for dinner, next to an open fire.  I enjoyed red wine, stir-fried ostrich and talked to a beautiful Polish girl, with long black hair, Darita, in her 20’S, from Warsaw who is writing Ala’s biography, to be published in Polish. “I’ve organised the publisher already and have been here five weeks interviewing Ala,” she told me.  “She is a truly remarkable lady with a fascinating story to tell of hardships, resilience and perseverance.” We relaxed, chatted, and then went to bed at 10.00 pm.

 

Tuesday 12 August Tshukudu

 

Richard showered at 5.45, dressed me by 6.30 am and we then drank coffee with other guests until 7.00 am.  Then Ross, a Ranger, picked my hundred-kilo mass, and lifted me vertically a full metre onto my roho cushion on a land rover seat.  It was a remarkable feat of strength, compared within some airline attendants who struggle to lift me two centimetres to slide me into an airline seat.  “I’ve practiced lifting Ed Bailey,” Ross aid. “He’s an American footballer, big fellow, who broke his neck at the age of twenty seven in the US army.”  Our ranger was a young fellow, Chris, who drove me out to feed the animals, while Richard walked with a small group of tourists and another ranger accompanied by a one year old lion.  Chris told me, “We spend one to three years training, to pass ranger exams, learning guns, astronomy, biology, geography, the flora and fauna.  We need to know how to socialise with the tourists, yet guide them and keep them safe.  I’ve never had to fire my gun at an animal yet.”

We reached the waterhole, about a kilometre from the camp, where a herd of Cape buffalo, Warthogs, and White Rhinos with calves gathered.  “The White Rhinos are bigger than black rhinos and have much wider mouths for eating grass.  We feed all the animals during the dry winter months, a thousand dollars of hay daily.”  I watched the lion club charge the buffalo, then flee back to the safety of the tourists when they retaliated, heads down, horns pointed.

 

We returned for a large breakfast at 8.00 am of cereals, scrambled eggs, bacon, fresh fruits and juices. From 9.00 am to noon, we drove through the game park in twenty-eight degree Celsius warmth, under cloudless skies.  This did not feel like winter, but more like a Perth summer day.  Ross again hoisted me onto my Roho in a Toyota, and we followed single lane dirt roads through thorny acacia bushes and grasses bleached white from lack of rain.  We saw large vultures circling and located a freshly killed black spotted jackal, throat lacerated, killed by Silvana, the pet cheetah.  We drove on to other muddy waterholes, water pumped from underground with a 1930’s Lister pump, supporting crocodiles, hippos, rhinos, buffalo and warthogs. Chris noted, “We’ve seen three of the big five.  That term refers to the five most dangerous animals to hunt.  Buffalo, for instance, will circle and attack a hunter from behind, as a herd, in revenge for the death of one of their number. Wounded buffalo will charge and kill any human for years afterwards in retaliation.” As we drove, we saw lots of other game, kudu with long pointed horns, gazelle, tiny Steenbock antelope, zebras, and others.  Chris gave a good rundown on each animal, life span, mating habits, weight, gestation period, characteristics of males and females and so on.  These rangers are very knowledgeable and highly skilled.  At 10.30 am we stopped for drinks, and then returned at noon to the lodge.

 

Lunch was large and delicious with calamari as entrée, Guinea Fowl as the main course and a desert as well. I typed and rested after lunch until 4.00 pm, and then was hoisted again into the Toyota for another three hour game park tour.  “It’s hot now, but will get cool when the sun sets, so take a jacket,” Chris warned.  Again the drive was very pleasant.  This time we caught up with a large female elephant and her young calf. “Becky has been raised here and is tolerant of people, so we can approach her in the vehicle and actually touch her and the baby,” Chris said. He did so and I stroked the rough trunk of the mum, eyeing large ivory tusks nervously.  We drove on, stopped for drinks at 6.00 pm and watched a colourful sunset.  The last hour was chilly, and we drove in darkness with Chris spotting game with a powerful light.  We saw nocturnal animals including a bush baby and gemot and then located a fully-grown female lion.  “She’s got a male friend across the fence in Kruger Park, and she’s waiting fruitlessly here as they can’t meet,” Chris said.

 

 We arrived back at the Lodge at 7.00 pm and I spoke with Neville Cohen in Johannesburg, and phoned a schoolteacher friend of mine, Ms Rynolds of mine in Tzaneen.  “I’ll meet you at your school, Tzaneen Primary at 1.15 after school for a quick visit,” I promised. Then we ate Kudu meat as the main course with Ala kindly giving me a bottle of Stellenbosh cabinet sauvignon.  We sat next to the fire with a film crew from Perth, Western Australia.  Ross, the cameraman, related, “I’m from Ocean Reef, and work for Channel 7, but took a month’s leave without pay, to do a documentary for the Discovery Channel, on ‘Before Its Too Late, Africa’s Disappearing Wildlife,” to show in December. Jody from Margaret River is the producer and hired Damien, here, as sound and myself for this project. We also did a short corporate film for Tshukudu.”

 

I drank some wine with them, and then went to bed at 10.00 pm.

 

Wednesday 13 August Johannesburg

 

Richard awoke at 6.00 am, we showered in the roll-in bathroom and I was ready for a large breakfast of cereal, freshly squeezed orange juice, scrambled eggs ands bacon.

I then paid the bill, a little under $1000.00 at $250.00 per person per day.  Neville very kindly obtained a twenty percent discount for me, saving $200.00 and thank you Neville for organising a lovely stay. We said goodbye to Ala, Sandy and Ross, and felt we were leaving a family; we set out past elephants at 10.30 for Tzaneen on R527 and R36.  Tshukudu is located in bush veld or savannah, and we rapidly climbed a steep hill to a subtropical region, 2000 feet above sea level.  We reached Tzaneen, about a hundred-kilometre drive west at 12.15, pm and stopped to search for a tropical fruit for Neville, a cross between a grapefruit and orange.  No one in the fruit market had heard of it.  We then found Tzaneen Primary School, and entered as the school closed, to find Ms Reynolds who teaches English. 

 

Lily and I had met Marty Reynolds, his wife, and young children Mark and Natalie in 1984, in Tzaneen through the local ham 2-metre repeater. We spent a day on their farm at 4,000 feet and enjoyed ourselves greatly, then spent the night in a Tzaneen hotel listening to fruit bats eat fresh mangoes over the roof of our room.  Mrs. Reynolds stayed in contact and her letters were often depressing, Marty’s alcoholism, their divorce, and loss of the farm and the teenage pregnancy of Natalie.  More recently, the news has been better, with a visit by Ms Reynolds to Auckland in New Zealand. “My brother migrated there and I went for two months at Christmas and had a good time.  I’m considering the option of migrating, but it’ll depend on the children’s’ decision.  Natalie’s thirty-three now, still single, and I see Greg, the thirteen year old son every holiday.  He’s a lovely boy.  This school is a government one, integrated, as all schools are now, but still seventy percent white because of the $80.00 monthly fees.  Wealthy blacks and Indians send their children here because of the higher standard of education.  I’ve been here for a year now, after teaching in an all black school.”

 

We said goodbye, and Ms Reynolds guided us to the R36 Duiweiskloof route to Pietersburg, a road running along plantations of pineapple, tea and bananas, and then climbing steeply to a high veldt plateau at 1,500 metres. We admired magnificent vistas looking down on subtropical plains nearly a kilometre below us. The luxuriant verdant vegetation became scorched grasses with cactus. “It’s got more passing lanes, although it’s longer in kilometres,” she told us. “It’s a five hour drive from here to Johannesburg, with four toll gates on N1.”

 

We reached Pietersburg about 4.00 pm and missed the N1, turning prematurely to the cricket stadium.  Then we accessed the N1T, a limited access toll road, which has very little traffic, and Richard consistently maintained 130 kilometres per hour, and occasionally 140 kilometres an hour.  I dislike high speeds but the empty, straight, wide road, with a new BMW made the speed relatively safe.  The landscape consists of flat grassy plains broken by mesas and the occasional hill. “It’s very much like western Australia,” Richard noted. “There’s no farms or houses or civilization at all.  It’s just very dry empty boring plains that look desolate.” We reached Neville’s flat in Johannesburg by 8.00 pm without an error, eating a Wimpy Burger and accessing the ATM on the way.  Service stations here such as EngGen don’t take visa, but they do provide a Visa          ATM. The landscape was boring scorched plains, offset by mesas and visas from rolling hills across broad plains.

 

Outside the tall security fence, which surrounds Neville’s flats, an all-night security guard hassled us about parking the BMW.  “I offered him $5.00 to watch it for us,” Richard told me, “and he was very happy.” At Neville’s fourth story flat, we met Mandy, and bright, young, energetic L1 paraplegic, in a Quickie Wheelchair who boasted, “I love SCUBA diving, and also fly small planes, rally drive, and water and snow ski.  My day job is as a travel agent, but I’m here together to help Neville edit his 70th birthday VHS tape, where he made a moving half hour speech.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”  Neville commented, “Mandy is remarkable, she can do anything.” Mandy helped Neville plan my trip through the Garden Route to Capetown, for about an hour, and then I retired to Neville’s spare bedroom, filled with boxes of Co-Driver hand-controls which he manufactures. “I sell about two hundred a month,” Neville said, “and have improved on my older model that you imported.  I can sell them to you for $400.00.”

 

Thursday 14 August Coles burg (Gariep Dam)

 

Richard was up at 6.30 am and dressed me by 8.00 am.  I spilled a tiny amount of drinking water on my laptop keyboard, and the computer died, anxiety provoking indeed, but I told myself, it would be fine in a half a day when the moisture evaporated.  Neville was going at 9.00 am and we met John, who has worked for Neville housekeeping for eight years.  He prepared coffee, Richard packed, and Neville again reminded us of the route, the N3 south, turn onto N12 to Kimberley, and then the N1T to Bloemfontein, 450 kilometres south of Johannesburg. He added, “I’m sorry I didn’t get a chance to take you to my Japanese house on the river.  It accommodates fourteen people and has three roll-in showers.  We could have done a cruise in my boat too.”  We left at 10.15 am with Richard saying, “Neville is a very wealthy man as he owns property all over the city.”

 

Johannesburg is a massive sprawling city and we took an hour to finally clear the city, driving past black townships, with three by four metre brick or corrugated iron huts standing on sand with an obligatory small outhouse.  The huts did have electricity. The freeway system, three to four lanes wide is excellent with huge signs giving ample notification of routes, in time to alter lanes.  We navigated with no errors.

The N1T is a continuation of the same highway and scenery as our trip south from Pietersburg, south on a wide, straight, empty toll-road with a 120-kilometre speed limit through flat bleached plains, broken by mesas and hills.  We pass the occasional desolate black township; tiny huts squatted on sand in the middle of vast empty plains. Living in places like that does not bear thinking about and I feel unsafe even driving past these centres of human misery at 130 kilometres an hour.  We passed a white lady broken down near a township, waving frantically and looking terrified.  A radio programme chats about the huge demand for dangerous creams for whitening skin colour, which are still in high demand, in spite of ‘black pride.’ “I used one,” one caller said, “and got serious sunburns every time I went outside in the sun.  They are dangerous.”

 

We eat a hamburger for lunch at 2.00 pm at a service station and fill the car with $65.00 worth of unleaded, at about the same price per litre as Perth, a little over a dollar. We bypass Bloemfontein, a major city on the freeway and drive past windmills and grazing cattle, mesas and hills a further hundred and fifty kilometres to Gariep Dam, fifty kilometres north of Colesburg, and the largest dam in South Africa.  We arrive with the setting winter sun at 6.00 pm, and check into the Gariep Dam Hotel, for $100.00, which stands at the top of a large hill overlooking a large artificial lake backed by purple hills. The hotel was empty but the receptionist told me, “We have an ANC Congress meeting here tomorrow and every hotel room here and in the town is taken for two days.”  We were lucky not to be a day later.  Our room has a large balcony and an incredibly scenic view of yachts, islands, water and hills.  Its cold, perhaps ten degrees Celsius and the hotel is empty, but we enjoy a delicious restaurant meal of fresh Kingclip ($18.00), Escargot ($5.00) with a $15.00 bottle of Cape Boplaas cabinet sauvignon.  I was in bed by 9.30 pm after phoning Neville with a progress report.

 

Friday 15 August Middlemore

 

Richard was up by 5.30 am and bathed for an hour, completing my BT process by 8.30 am.  I watched an impressive sunrise from the picture windows of our room over the lake, then typed while Richard organised laundry ($10.00), took photos, and packed.  We were packed by 10.30 am, after fruitlessly trying to make reservations from the hotel switchboard.  We finally got going on the N1 to Colesburg, and then turned onto the N9 to Nieu Bethesda, and Graaff-Reinet. Progress was held up by frequent roadwork, but the scenery was stunning, barren plains, intersected by mesas, large rolling hills, canyons, passes; everything scorched bone dry.  We saw ostrich, a few cattle and some sheep, but not a much civilization at all. The scenery reminded me of Arizona, the Pilbarra in Western Australia, ore Central Otago in New Zealand. 

 

The scenery was usually stark and barren with a mountain pass, before we turned

Off the N9 to Nieu Bethesda, a remote hamlet of a few hundred people isolated in a small valley, about a twenty-five kilometre drive on a mud road over mountain passes. “We’d never get here in the rain,” I said.  “Look at the steepness of these inclines, and the creek spillways across this trail. Isn’t the scenery spectacular?  There’s even snow on that mountain peak.” We were given sweeping vistas of broad barren plains from a thousand metres above.

 

It was with some relief that we spied the white steeple of a Dutch Reform Church in the distance. I recalled Neville Cohen’s words. “You must see Owl’s House, owned by Miss Helen, a school teacher, who eventually committed suicide at 78 years of age, dying a horrible three day death from swallowing caustic soda. She was a recluse, who kept to herself, obsessed with colour and owls.  She ground coloured glass in a coffee grinder and painted her rooms with fine coloured glass. She filled her entire back yard with cement figures, mostly of owls.  The house is preserved as a national site and is the same as when she died.”

 

The house was well signed posted, and we passed a cart pulled by donkeys, men on horseback, and boys on bikes waving excitedly to us.  The house has large owls painted on the outside, five steps to negotiate and a $3.00 entrance fee.  Inside, I couldn’t decide if she were mad or an unappreciated artist.  Richard commented, “If she were born earlier, she’d be burned as a witch, if she were in a different location like New York City, she’d be a rich venerated artist, here she was a sad obsessive hermit. I myself think she was sane, and an artist in exile, many kilometres from anyone to appreciate her talents.”  There were many facets to her personality, those erotic photographs of women hanging on the wall, don’t fit the image of an aging spinster.  The multiple bottles of preserves indicate other interests.  The cement statues were everywhere, some incorporating wine bottles, reminding me of Agnes Turcotte in Wawa, Ontario, whose husband built a large log fort, then constructed an entire church from cemented whiskey bottles, called The Church of Departed Spirits. Rather than describe the art, I recommend the reader look at our multiple photographs and decide for oneself, artist or crazy lady!

 

As we drove on to Graaff-Reinet, we listened to South African national radio.  News of the big power cut across Ontario and North Eastern United States, the biggest since 1965, which I remembered.  We also listened to news items about youth in Durban heaving bricks through car windows at stoplights to steal handbags, and I recalled that Ms Reynolds was robbed that way.  Finally, students in Johannesburg were striking because a new rule forbade them to invite visitors to their rooms.  Public comment was very conservative and negative, with callers saying, ‘band them from university,’ a modern form of apartheid.  Don’t they know that mixed residences have been instituted across the western world for many years?

 

We stopped in Graaff-Reinet for a drink, and Richard disappeared without notice for an hour, to my annoyance.  “I went for a walk to take in the feel of the place,” he said.  “Yes, but now its 5.30 pm, and we’re too late to view the valley of desolation,” I replied.  We also missed the reconstructed nineteenth century village at Graaff-Reinet, but with our time frame, this was inevitable.

  

The N9 from Graaff-Reinet passes by the Valley of Desolation, similar to Death Valley in the United States, a unique sandy valley devoid of rainfall and vegetation. The road then was arrow straight through a dead, flat, empty plain.  Richard drove one hundred and thirty kilometres an hour from 5.30 pm to 6.45 pm, when we reached hills and a pass, in the dark.  “We’ll stop at Willowmore,” I said.  “I don’t like driving at night, and we’re missing this unique scenery.” We pulled into the town, population about a thousand, with limited lighting.  “I wasn’t scared,” Richard said, “but I know unemployed people with no money or food are angry, and the town seemed mostly of black people.  In the dark in a BMW, we could be targets of opportunity.” “Relax,” I replied, “Follow these signs to a Guesthouse.  We’ll be housed soon. Think of this as an adventure!”

 

On a warm summer day in 1856 Frederick Lehmkuhl developed a homestead that became the village of Willowmore in 1864, the gateway between the Great Karoo and the harbour at Knysna. The Dutch Reform Church built a rectory, which later became a girl’s hostel, and today was our accommodation as the Willowmore Historical Guesthouse.  We were warmly welcomed by Deon van der Merwe, (HTTP://www.baviaans.co.za/willowguesthouse), a friendly large Afrikaans, who rearranged guests and assisted me to a cabin.  Our traditional room was outfitted with nineteenth century furniture, brass beds, antique chairs, dressing table and an old original oil painting. Unfortunately it was also unheated, about fifteen degrees Celsius, and cold. Our dinner was delivered to the cottage, babotie for Richard and I ate very tough Calamari and tough rump steak consumed with a Carling Black Label beer, brewed here under license from Canada.  We ate, and then went to bed to escape the cold at 10.00 pm. Richard later told me, “I heard four women visitors getting very vocal and pissed at the bar, and I intended to join them, but I fell asleep.”

 

Saturday 16 August Knysna

 

We dressed by 8.30 am and ate a hotel breakfast of fried eggs and bacon, checking out about 11.00 am. The cost with meals was $150.00, which I felt, was excessive, but last night we were very pleased to get any accommodation. I’m not sure why we were so slow getting going, but I need time to type my journal, and Richard likes to walk and explore. We drove for an hour to Uniondale, turned off the N9 there onto R339, a secondary road, and then drove to Adventuur, where R339 narrowed to a double lane dirt track running ninety kilometres over a series of towering, blue tipped mountain ranges to the coast at Plettenburg Bay or Knysna.

 

I would never have taken such a road without Neville’s urging when he told me, “It’s safe as long as there’s no rain, and it winds between vertical canyon walls of brown rock, and around the sides of mountains, offering stunning, sweeping views of green valleys and stacked layers of bluish mountains.”  Neville was very correct; the drive was wonderful, although it took us four hours on single lanes, hairpin turns, but mostly taking time stopping to take photographs of sweeping vistas.  “This is the best scenery I’ve seen in South Africa and I think it looks much like the Kimberley in Western Australia,” Richard commented.

 

We stopped at a small café, half way along the narrow road, run by Annualise.  “I’ve been here two years and love the solitude,” she told us.  “My husband has MS, so I run the farm, raising cattle, goats, chickens, maize, corn and lots of fruits; apples, bananas, pineapple and so on.  We use a horse to plough steep slopes and use a solar panel and batteries for electricity.  My twenty-two year old son is in West Palm Beach, Florida in construction, but he comes back to visit.  I won’t fly. I enjoy meeting people through my shop.  Drive slowly as there’s many accidents on this road from speeding.”

 

We continued east for another hour winding up and down mountainsides, with rainfall clearly increasing as indicated by large pine plantations and green fields.  We have moved from rain shadow to orthographic rainfall, caused by the mountains cooling the sea breeze.  Finally, we descended a final time to the lush green fields of the coastal plain at Plettemburg Bay and Highway N2.  We photographed the harbour, and then drove sixteen kilometres north towards PE, or Port Elizabeth to Monkeyland.

 

This nature reserve has monkeys from all over the world, sixteen species and over two hundred animals in a free roaming park or sanctuary.  My experience with monkeys in India and Malaysia has been negative, they grab your personal possessions and bite you if you resist.  Nevertheless at 4.45 pm we paid our $20.00 admittance, with the wheelchair free and entered.  Our personal guide was Dale, an enthusiastic young lady in her early twenties, who knew all the monkeys by name, and their habits.

 

 I learned that primates have opposable thumbs, eyes that face forward, large brain and minimalised smell.  They are divided into four groups, prosimians such as lemurs, being the most primitive. We found the lemurs charming with long bushy tails.  The New World primates from South America were in abundance, mainly the very clever capuchin monkeys, tiny spider monkeys and marmosets.  Dale told us, “Capuchins bond with a single human for their lifespan of forty years and die broken hearted if separated. Few humans can last the distance so they shouldn’t be kept as pets. They are clever at figuring out latches and locking game keepers in cages.”  The third group, old world primates included baboons, vervet monkeys and langurs. Apes are the most advanced primates; lack tails, and includes humans and orangutans. I recalled seeing orangutans with Lily in the Sanderkan sanctuary, Borneo Island, Malaysia.

 

I wasn’t aware that the staff there intended to drag me up twelve steps to a long narrow suspension bridge stretched high above a gorge.  Two strong young men did the work and Richard gave directions, and then wheeled me across the swaying bridge.  I was thrilled and a little scared by the adventure, and certainly felt well catered for.  I would recommend a visit to Monkeyland to anyone.

 

We drove back to Plettenburg Bay in the dark and checked into a large four-star hotel, directly overlooking the harbour, called Protea Quays, for $140.00 including breakfast.  We ate fresh cob and sweetfish at Fisherman’s Café on the harbour, with a $12.00 bottle of their own red wine. The room contained a roll-in shower, good heater, so after 10.00 pm we slept comfortably.

 

Sunday 17 August Drive Towards Capetown

 

We were up by 9.00 am, enjoyed a shower, followed by large free buffet that came with the room, and then wandered through the tourist sites in the harbour. A wood carving of a tree root turned into four or five nude Zulu ladies reaching upwards enthralled me.  There were numerous ocean-going yachts in the harbour including one with a modified airplane wing as a sail.  I’ve never seen a similar sail.  We dropped around to the train station to admire the choo-choo, a narrow gauge steam locomotive that pulls tourist cars fifty kilometres to George.  Neville had adamantly insisted, “Whatever you do, don’t miss this trip.  It’s truly fantastic, winding between the sea and mountains, with breath-taking scenery.”  Yet, the train didn’t run Sundays; we were a day late and didn’t want to wait until Monday.  It was a missed opportunity.  Still Neville’s description of boarding frightened me.  “I got four strong men to lift me through the window.”  Neville’s half my size and weight, and I’m a quadriplegic.  Richard had announced, “Forget it mate. You’re on your own as I’m not fucking my back for this crazy venture.  The fucking monkeys were bad enough!”  Sometimes, it is better to move on.

 

We headed to George at around noon, and followed stretches of the narrow rail track, which follows the ocean.  “Neville’s right,” I thought. “This rail trip would have been great.”  I recalled my last narrow gauge rail trip, with my parents in 1977, from Cairns up the mountains behind the city. I hadn’t been in a wheelchair then.  I had ridden the Polar Bear Express from Cochrane to Moosonee, in Northern Ontario in September 1988, and getting on the normal size train then had been back breaking work.

 

The road, N2, wound up and down mountains, revealing long views of green fields and winter crops.  From George, we drove to Mussel Bay, where we stopped on the beach front, surrounded by huge homes, hotels and condominiums.  “There’s a lot of wealth here.  This is a lovely place to live,” I said to Richard. We drove on. “We can get accommodation in Caledon,” I said, and we arrived with the setting sun at 6.00 pm.  Only the casino accommodation was suitable at $300.00 a night, so we pushed on south down the N2 freeway.

 

At 7.00 pm we were still on N2, about ninety kilometres from Capetown.  Richard exclaimed, “The drivers are crazy here, passing me doing 140 kilometres an hour at night on this serpentine road.  I have to go fast; otherwise they pull out to pass in the face of oncoming traffic.”  I wasn’t feeling very comfortable with Richard’s 110 speeds on a single lane sharply winding road, at night.  I noted, “Here’s a sign for the Houw Hock Inn, Hotel and Conference Centre, to the right. Let’s stop here.”  We pulled into the two story white building, advertised as being in operation since 1834, and charging $135.00 per night, with a fire in our room and breakfast included.  “I haven’t slept in a bedroom with an open fire since Drumbeg in 1956,” I exclaimed.  “It’ll be fun, and we’ll take it.”

 

We went for dinner right away, passing a box of golden yellow peeping ducklings, in a box next to a warm fire.  A big black porter told us, “They’re mine. I love to watch them on night shift since they bring me a lot of pleasure.”  We passed a huge antique lounge room, and entered into a low wooden ceiling dining room with a hot open fire in the middle.  I sat next to it, of course. Wilbert, our fifty-year-old stately waiter who smiled with gold teeth, told me the history.  “This Inn is on the site of a toll gate, established by the Dutch East Indian Company and is the oldest licensed hotel in South Africa. Cattle trails ran in front of the Inn and in the early 1900’s Capetown Circuit Judges stayed here.  The ground floor was built in 1779, and the upper storey was added in 1869, with adjoining farm buildings converted and added as dining rooms and conferences centres.  The entrance boasts of the biggest blue gum in South Africa, some 250 years old, and nearly three metres in diameter.” 

 

After this exposition, I ordered a Houw Hock dry red bottle for $8.00 and Lasagne, and enjoyed my meal.  A big warm fire greeted us in Room 14, our large historic room, with small pane glass windows.  Richard explored. “It’s a huge inn really, fifty five rooms, two pools, a barn for Saturday night dances, tennis, squash, snooker, table tennis, even satellite TV in the rooms.  There’s a really large scenic hill behind the property.”

 

During the night I slept well and I awakened occasionally to the dancing orange lights of the fire.  ‘It’s burning well,” I thought but Richard had a different story.  ‘I froze my ass off and got up three or four times to add wood to the fire, as it burned too quickly.  I was cold and didn’t sleep well.”  “You’re going to like living in the Ukraine next year,” I sarcastically replied regretting the comment after I’d made it. I hate sarcasm.

 

Monday 18 August Capetown

 

Richard was up showering by 6.00 am, dressing me with BTs by 9.00 am, in time for a lovely buffet breakfast. Wilbert served me scrambled eggs, with sausages and bacon, far more than I could eat with juices and coffee.  We finished at 10.00 and Richard packed until 10.45 am.  At 11.00 am we were mobile.  The car radio warned of cold weather, “A maximum of ten degrees today, freezing temperatures tonight, and the first snowfall is expected on Table Mountain for seven years.  Expect high winds and frequent showers.”  As we reached the Cape, rolling green farmers fields warned me that this area was like Perth, receiving winter rains and storms, and summer droughts. The northern part of South Africa is reversed, with winter drought, and summer rains.

 

On N2 we continued to climb verdant mountains, and then descended into fertile green pastures, or the yellow of canola or pine plantations. Winds buffeted and rain pounded the car all morning.  At Somerset we turned off N2 to visit Stellenbosch, site of two large universities and South Africa’s major wine production area.  We drove along hectares of vineyards in heavy rain, and then viewed the city quickly, with its wealthy Cape architecture. From Stellenbosch, we took R301 to intersect with the N1, which leads directly to central Capetown.

 

I recalled driving the N1 from Johannesburg, through Kimberley to Capetown in 1984 accompanied by my parents and Lily. The Kimberley Big Pit, which produced millions of dollars of diamonds, intrigued me greatly on that visit and we spent a day of that six-week South African trip touring there. I felt saddened thinking of the changes in the last twenty years, my parents dead, Lily with a declined interest in travel, and other friends whom I’d visited in the past dead from cancer; Bernard Langdon-Lemieux, Gail Emerson, and Gerry O’Reilly. Other friends had become disabled, like me, such as Allen Armit and Perry Ferns experiencing some blindness. “Carpe Diem,” I told myself.  “Enjoy the present as the future is never what is expected.  Enjoy every minute of this trip and don’t think about the past.  Remember, since that trip in 1984, you’ve had lots of adventures, travel and you became a registered psychologist and gained an interesting secure career.”  I felt happier.

 

Approaching Capetown on N1, we drove past enormous stacks of sea containers, anchored ships and tall buildings reaching the Victoria and Alfred Dock front, and stopping at the City Lodge.  “No point seeing Table Mountain from the top,” I told Richard.  “The entire mountain is shrouded by heavy grey clouds and rain.  What a miserable day!’  I hadn’t planned to reach Capetown until tomorrow and had booked for Tuesday night. The hotel was booked tonight, as Neville Cohen had warned could happen, so we settled for the Capetown Lodge at $175.00 per night, settling in at 2.00 pm.  I had negotiated $135.00 for tomorrow night.  The cold damp weather had set off a persistent annoying cough from 10.00 am, and I wasn’t feeling very well. I relaxed and worked on my journal as heavy rain pelted the windows. “The location doesn’t matter,” I told myself, “Because I’m not going out in this windy, freezing, rain anyways.”

 

I tried to get a haircut, but the barber had left fifteen minutes before at 3.00 pm.  I tried confirming Wednesdays 11.00 am flight SQ405, with Singapore Airways, but I only received their answer phone. I thought of phoning Lily but it was 11.00 pm in Perth.  I settled for more red wine as I watched the grey sky and rain streak the window of room 601. I told myself, “Think positively, as this is Perth’s typical winter weather and you’ve missed it this year.  This is only a little reminder.  You thought winter in South Africa would be like this, but you’ve been very lucky as it’s mainly been blue skies and temperatures in the 20’s.”

 

At 6.00 pm we descended to the second floor for a grain-fed steak meal at The Famous Butcher’s Grill.  The steak, rare medium, was excellent and cost only $12.00.  I returned to the room for an 8.00 pm early night, annoyed by a chant of a Moslem cleric shouting on a loud speaker from across the street. My right leg is swollen almost twice the size of my left leg and I discuss this with Richard.  “It’s not normal, but it’s been like that most of the trip,’ Richard said.  “It’s not red or getting worse.” I could really let my imagination run on this adversity. I thought, “Perhaps the circulation is impeded by a blood clot.  I could get deep vein thrombosis on the fourteen hour flight from Capetown to Singapore on Wednesday and end up dying.”  I felt anxious, looking at the badly swollen leg and disputed my negative thinking. “See a doctor in ten days when you get home. If it’s been like this for months, things should be ok a little longer.  Richard straps your leg bag to that leg, and the bottle at night.  The straps might impede circulation. Try using your other leg as an experiment.  Also, the left leg spasms frequently, and that may keep the swelling down on the left leg.”  I felt only a little worried now.

 

Richard left to explore the city.  “I walked for nearly an hour, and then paid $12.00 to see a nude black lady dance at a night club.  I wasn’t frightened because there were security guards everywhere, but a nightclub staff member said it wasn’t safe on the streets and walked back with me to the hotel.”

 

Tuesday 19 August Capetown

 

The air conditioner in room 601 rattled, made a lot of noise and work inefficiently all night, but I warmed up with lots of blankets and stopped coughing.  Richard showered from 6.00 am to 6.45 am, and then dressed me, so we could breakfast at 7.30 am on the fifth floor.  A girl played the piano, as Richard loaded up his plate.  He has added a large belly this trip, by eating all he possibly can at every buffet meal.  His habit of sampling food, and then leaving it uneaten on his plate, bothers me. “I like to try everything, in search of something new, but if I don’t like it, I leave it,’ Richard explains.  ‘It’s a case of your eyes being bigger than your stomach,” I think. 

 

It had been nearly two months since my last haircut in Ridgetown, Ontario, and I was headed towards hot, humid weather, so I had a haircut and beard trim for $ 8.00.  Teagan, a young looking assistant, offered tools to the barber, like a nurse assisting a surgeon.  “She looks sixteen,” I told the barber.  “No, she’s twenty-four and has a baby,” I was told. The barber continued, “My sister in law is in a wheelchair too, from being shot during a robbery.  Now, hijacking cars is the biggest problem, and wealthy people tend to avoid flashy cars for that reason.”  I replied, “I heard on the local news that five men held up a staff room in a local school, robbed the teachers, and then drove off in a teacher’s car.  It possessed a satellite tracking device, the police found them and in a gun fight, shot and killed two of the robbers.  Wild west stuff.”  The barber had finished so I returned to the hotel.

 

We checked out at 11.00 am and drove to the Protea Pier Hotel, which took two hours to check us in.  At 1.00 am we drove to the Victoria and Alfred Quay, a magnificent collection of shops and home of Two Worlds Aquarium.  The weather was miserable, rain, high winds and about eight degrees Celsius.  I got drenched and cold while being pushed from our car to the Aquarium, but found their presentation world-class.  I enjoyed the seals, penguins, and the several large sharks, which swam in circles in a multi-story pool with glass walls reaching beyond and over our heads.

 

After the Aquarium, we did the Maritime Museum which was very poor, and then sat in front of a roaring hot fire at Mitchell’s Scottish Pub enjoying a Guinness, drying off and getting warm.  “It’s almost 5.00 pm.  Why don’t we eat here,” I suggested. We chose the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Sushi Bar, which served up a hot very delicious Seafood Currie and an enormous glass of excellent house red.  Richard ate sushi and curried prawns, saying, “This restaurant is really good.  I’m surprised it’s not packed.” I agreed.

 

We filled the car with gas, after driving along rolls of high-rise condominiums of the wealthy overlooking a threatening Indian Ocean, which broke in magnificent breakers on the rocky coastline in high winds. Then we returned to our room, which was large, well heated and included a kitchen.  “This is the best room we’ve had all trip,” Richard noted.  “Not quite,” I replied, “You almost dumped me trying to push me up the steep ramp, to a tiny lift, and there’s no roll-in shower.”  I was in bed by 8.00 pm for a four am start tomorrow.

 

Richard when out to explore and told me, “I found a bordello about a hundred metres from the hotel, paid $15.00 for a drink and use of the pool table.  I talked with the girls, and when they pushed me for action at $200.00 I told them I was interested in the manager’s girl friend, whom wasn’t a prostitute. I enjoyed the chats but came back in an hour.  Overall, I liked South Africa most for the friendly people there, although the scenery was unmatched, especially on those narrow dirt roads we took through the mountains. That was really cool.

 

End of Chapter 11