De Addis Abeba a Ciudad del Cabo (From Addis Ababa to Cape Town)


The Mother City
April 19, 2012, 3:31 pm
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We’ve arrived (albeit a week ago) in the Mother City, our final destination (well, for the purpose of this trip and the blog anyway) and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Cape Town.

Dinner on the patio

Dinner on the patio

Although we’ve just been here seven days, a lot has happened. We’ve enjoyed delicious wine again – both at Steenberg for Gus’ 50th birthday party as well as at a few of the many gorgeous vineyards in Franschoek and have eaten amazing food, I’ve started running again (man, that’s been hard going but I had to start somewhere. The beautiful scenery helps take my mind off my screaming lungs and heavy breathing just a bit), we’ve told just about everyone now that we’ll be moving to Melbourne in a matter of months (we’ll be travelling by plane this time!) instead of settling in Cape Town as originally planned (Cape Town will just need to hang on for a little while longer) , we’ve driven along Chapman’s Peak Drive, one of the most amazing mountain roads in the world (and stopped for champagne and sunset views along the way), we’ve been for mountain walks and have climbed Lion’s Head, which will probably be one of the most memorable walks for me for a while as that’s where Alberto proposed. I wasn’t quite expecting it, I swear!

Beautiful Steenberg

Beautiful Steenberg

The valleys of Franschhoek

The valleys of Franschhoek

Enjoying delicious wine at Moreson in Franschhoek

Enjoying delicious wine at Moreson in Franschhoek

Hout Bay and the Sentinel

Hout Bay and the Sentinel

Chapman's Peak Drive

Chapman's Peak Drive

So with at least five more weeks to go, I’m sure we’ll have many more good times in Cape Town, a city that is rather special to me (and not just for recent obvious reasons :-p ).

My surprise

My surprise

For now though, I guess this is my last installment for the blog as we’ve reached the place we intended to after leaving London five months ago.

Thanks for following our travels and reading about our many adventures – it’s been great to know you’ve been travelling along with us.

Our African journey was emotional, definitely challenging and at most times amazing, but nothing quite feels as right as being home!

Goodnight and good luck!

Goodnight and good luck!

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The Beauty and the Berg
April 19, 2012, 3:02 pm
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Our Easter weekend was a special one – we spent it with friends at Paul (and Candice’s) family farm, Shawswood, in Howick in the Natal Midlands. We were gathered there to be part of Emma’s christening and to celebrate Candice’s 30th birthday (themed ‘A Pink princess party’). It was great catching up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while, we had a good amount of fun and shared lots of laughs. The farm and its surroundings are beautiful too and we were made to feel so welcome there – I was quite sad when it came time to say goodbye.

Gorgeous Emma with her godmother, Bron

Gorgeous Emma with her godmother, Bron

Pretty in pink!

Pretty in pink!

The farmhouse at Shawswood

The farmhouse at Shawswood

The Natal Midlands

The Natal Midlands

After leaving Shawswood, we spent two days in the Southern Drakensberg. The Drakensberg mountains are amazing (each time I come home and whether it’s a new part of the country I visit or a familiar one, I always marvel at how beautiful the landscape is). The berg is the highest range in Southern Africa and according to trusty Wikipedia, ‘geologically, the range resembles the Simien Mountains of Ethiopia’, so it’s no wonder I loved the Simiens too.

Taking in the view from Stromness

Taking in the view from Stromness

Birdwatching in the garden

Birdwatching in the garden

On our second day we drove up Sani Pass and into Lesotho for a four hour hike. Sani Pass is a notoriously treacherous (even more so in winter when parts of the road freeze over) piece of 9km road (I’m not even sure you can classify it as a road) that winds up over the Lesotho mountains. We went up in a 4×4 driven by a man named Stuart, who told us he’s driven the pass thousands of times. It’s recommended that your mode of transport is a 4×4 (there’s no way our little Nissan Micra rental would have made it) but apparently from the Lesotho side, border control will allow just about any type of vehicle to descend the pass. Watching the 4×4 mini bus taxis trying to navigate the switchbacks was pretty unnerving!

On the way up the Pass

On the way up the Pass

The infamous Sani Pass winding up the valley

The infamous Sani Pass winding up the valley

Last section of Sani Pass (can you see the bulldozer and the pub?)

Last section of Sani Pass (can you see the bulldozer and the pub?)

Our hike to Hodgson’s Peaks and Giant’s Cup was great, even if it was a little fresh (the thermometer said it was 6 degrees outside). Our company for most of the walk included Basotho ponies, sheep grazing on the hillsides, their bells tinkling as we walked by, and their shepherds who most of the time we could hear but not see as they sat camouflaged and wrapped up in their blankets. Thankfully we failed to attract the attention of the shepherds’ dogs who Stuart said can be quite vicious, neither did we meet any weed smugglers along the way (parts of the track form the smugglers’ route).

Welcome to Lesotho!

Welcome to Lesotho!

We couldn't resist taking a photo of this . . .

We couldn't resist taking a photo of this . . .

Hodgson's Peak

Hodgson's Peak

After the scramble to the top of the southern peak, we came back down to warm up and have a drink at the Sani Top Chalet, apparently one of the highest pubs in Africa. We then climbed back into the Land Rover and held on for a wide-eyed descent.
All in all, it was another good day in Africa!



Durban delights
April 11, 2012, 1:46 pm
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Durban involved more laziness and some family time with my aunt, uncle and cousins.

My cool cousin Tyronne and Alberto

My cool cousin Tyronne with Alberto

I wonder if Chloe will start a new trend?

Tys and Mish's gorgeous girl, Chloe - will she start a new trend?

Alberto celebrated his birthday in Durban and we started the day off with a walk along the beachfront followed by lunch at a nice pub overlooking the Valley of a Thousand Hills (which is conveniently situated just past the Comrades Wall of Honour so I got to see my name in lights – or rather fixed to a concrete brick – and it felt quite cool).

Along Durban beachfront with Stellie

Along Durban beachfront with Stellie

It's up there - on the Wall of Honour

I've earned a place on the Wall of Honour

A birthday surprise

A birthday surprise

We did do a little bit of exercise and hired a tandem bike to ride along the esplanade, we hopped on the Skycar for a trip to the top of the Durban football stadium, had a picnic on the pier by the Umhlanga lighthouse and you guessed it – we did a bit more shopping too!

Tandemming outside the stadium

Tandemming outside the stadium

Durban skyline from the Skycar

Durban skyline from the Skycar

Umhlanga Rocks beach

Umhlanga Rocks beach

 



Joburg – shopping centres, traffic and one precious baby
April 11, 2012, 1:12 pm
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And then it was on to Joburg to catch up with my schoolfriend Candice and her husband, Paul, and of course also to meet the newest addition to their little family – gorgeous six month old Emma.

Hello beautiful!

Hello beautiful!

Wouldn't it be cool if we could suck our toes?

Wouldn't it be cool if we could suck our toes?

We spent our week chilling, chatting, cooking, shopping (Alberto just about has a complete insectless wardrobe now) at the numerous shopping centres dotted around Joburg, enjoyed a picnic with goodies from the organic market and spent lots of time with Emma.

Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton

Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton

A common Joburg sight

A common Joburg sight



Mpumalanga rocks!
April 5, 2012, 1:40 pm
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After a somewhat shaky welcome to South Africa, things drastically improved, starting off with our eventual arrival at Nelspruit Backpackers. Natalie and Paul and their three kids (plus the three dogs and two cats) soon made us feel at home. Their warm hospitality, their kind and friendly travel advice and the laidback atmosphere of their home/backpackers made me remember some of the things I miss about South Africa.

It seems that some nasty little bedbugs followed Alberto from Maputo so after nuking some of our clothes and throwing out a few more, we had a much needed mini shopping spree (never thought I’d be so excited to see a shopping centre, after a few hours in one though, the feeling soon passed) which also lifted my spirits after my horrible illness the day before.

For our first weekend, we hired a car to explore a little bit more of the surrounding area. I’ve never visited this part of the country before and Mpumalanga’s beautiful – I definitely want to go back. After a slow drive with the Drakensberg escarpment keeping us company for most of the way, we stopped off at Maholoholo, a wildlife rehabilitation centre situated between the mountains and the Kruger National Park. The guys at the centre really do an impressive job and are obviously passionate about what they do – rescuing lions and cheetahs severely injured when caught in snares (not a nice thing to see at all), nursing orphan rhinos as well as rehabilitating leopards, numerous birds of prey and wild dogs.

Lovely leopard at Maholoholo

Lovely leopard at Maholoholo

Lord of the beasts

Lord of the beasts

Just some of the vultures at Maholoholo

Just some of the vultures at Maholoholo

The orphaned rhino

The orphaned rhino

We camped that night at Swadini, an immaculate resort within the Blyde River Canyon nature reserve (the ablutions at the camping grounds were spotless and SO much cleaner than any of the bathrooms we’d used during the last four months!) and were up early the next morning to see the beautiful sights of the Blyde River Canyon.

Swadini camp grounds

Swadini camp grounds

We stopped off at various viewpoints (including God’s Window) along the way, the Three Rondavels spot being my favourite, and visited the famous Bourke’s Luck potholes.

Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon with one of the Three Rondavels

Blyde River Canyon with one of the Three Rondavels (top right corner)

Bourke's Luck potholes

Bourke's Luck potholes

The aptly named 'Wonderview'

The aptly named 'Wonderview'

With the afternoon still ahead of us, I persuaded Alberto to drive to one of the Kruger gates (at R48 – approx. £4 – per (local) person per day, it’s certainly money well spent). We spent the next three hours driving around spotting elephant (Alberto almost drove into this guy, he didn’t see him as he stepped out almost infront of us), giraffe, rhino, hippo, fish eagles, various types of buck, zebra and warthog. I could have happily stayed for hours more but it was getting dark and we had to get to the gates before they closed. And to round off a really great day, I even saw the Jock of the Bushveld memorial that’s placed outside one of the gates!

Front row seats for a prime viewing

Front row seats for a prime viewing

Giraffe bum!

We got to see their faces too . . .

Rhinos!

Rhinos!

Beloved Jock

Beloved Jock



My beloved country
March 22, 2012, 4:48 pm
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South Africa. Home. We made it. Ok, we’re not yet at our final destination, Cape Town, but we’ve survived Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi and Mozambique. And I can honestly say give me the challenge of running another Comrades over backpacking through Africa any day!

And as a welcome home gift, I’ve been diagnosed with a bacterial infection (the dizziness and vomiting started as soon as we crossed the South African border – great timing) and I spent my first few hours in Nelspruit at the doctor’s with a drip in my arm while blood tests were being done. I’ve been given lots of drugs and have just popped a few and had some yoghurt and they seem to be doing the trick. Fingers crossed.

So far, our trip’s been tough and it’s been emotional but we’ve seen and shared some amazing things (and some not so amazing things!) along the way and had loads of fun but now we need a holiday. And that’s exactly what we’re going to have as we make our way to our final destination, Cape Town (but this time in style – in our very own rental car!).

More news about our adventures in my beloved country to follow.



Country no. 6 – Mozambique
March 22, 2012, 4:38 pm
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Like Lilongwe, Blantyre didn’t hold much interest for us (although the queues of unmanned cars waiting for petrol were possibly longer). Malawi is beautiful with its mountainous landscape and gorgeous lake but it’s a mess, and apparently things have got progessively worse over the last year or so. There’s still no petrol, the cost of the little food that there is is extortionate and good luck trying to get any foreign currency.

One of our favourite things in Malawi (after baobab trees) - Cherryplum and Cocopina Sobo!

One of our favourite things in Malawi (after baobab trees) - Cherryplum and Cocopina Sobo!

So we decided to get out of there and head to the border for challenge – I mean country – number six, Mozambique.

Tete, a nondescript and ridiculously expensive mining town, was the first major town on our way towards the coast. After resigning ourselves to the fact that our basic room with communal bathroom was going to cost more than our room in Zanzibar, we dumped our bags and went in search of lunch. That’s where Tete redeemed itself a little because my frango (grilled Portuguese chicken), custard tart and proper Portuguese Delta coffee were all delicious!

But my happiness didn’t last long. As my dad had been stationed in Tete while he was in the army, I thought I’d take some pictures for him. As we were walking down the street, we were stopped by two policemen, one of them quite a lot more obstinate than his colleague. He began harrassing me in Portuguese about my entry stamp (as a South African I don’t need a visa) and we weren’t quite sure how things were going to turn out (he was rude and obstructive as he wouldn’t explain what needed to be done to solve the non-existent problem. Of course he wanted money but he wasn’t going to get any from us). Thankfully, a young local guy stopped and asked me in perfect English whether the police were harrassing me. He then went over to the nasty little policeman and I’m not sure what was said, but the policeman soon left us alone after telling Alberto that there was an issue with my entry stamp.Whatever. One thing you learn in Africa – NEVER trust a policeman.

The excitement for the day wasn’t to end there. The joys of Mozambican travel involve at least six hours on cramped and old buses that depart – this is the best bit – at 4am. We thought we’d be clever and go to bed at 8pm to be up in seven hours. However, seven hours later, we were still awake. The noise of the traffic and the music of the cars as they sped past and the people shouting/talking in the street below meant neither of us got any sleep.

The next morning got off to an even better start. Upon arrival at the bus station just before 4am, we found out that our bus driver hadn’t turned up for work. We were then all shoved onto another bus and left for Chimoio at 4.30am. Ok, could be worse we thought. And then it did get worse because the music started on our bus that was to become a travelling nightclub. And it blared from 4.30am (nevermind most of the bus was trying to sleep) until we got off six hours later. At this point, we were ready to get the next plane to Joburg.

But then we arrived at the Pink Papaya (and yip, almost everything in the house is pink but you don’t notice that after a while :-p), a German owned and run guesthouse in the quiet town of Chimoio and what a difference it made to the way we felt! Anja, our host, was brilliant and did more than enough to make us feel welcome and comfortable and soon we felt ourselves relax. We spent three days catching up on washing (some of our clothes got washed in a machine for the first time in three and a half months thanks to Anja!), eating awesome chicken from the churrasqueira and we even finally got a chance to cook vegetables (we’ve missed them!) for ourselves in the guesthouse kitchen.

The good times at Pink Papaya came to an end all too soon and it was time again for another early morning bus, this time to Vilanculos. Thankfully, there were no speakers on this bus. Soon we would be on the coast.

I think we were pretty spoilt with the beaches in Zanzibar because we weren’t all that impressed with the beach at Vilanculos. However, we did do a day trip out to Magaruque Island, which is part of the Bazaruto Archipelago, and that was beautiful. We almost had the whole island nevermind just the beach to ourselves.

Magaruque Island, Bazaruto Archipelago

Magaruque Island, Bazaruto Archipelago

The beach at Magaruque

The beach at Magaruque

Onde esta Wally en Magaruque? (Where's Wally at Magaruque?)

Onde esta Wally en Magaruque? (Where's Wally at Magaruque?)

From there it was on to Tofo via minibus, a rather choppy ferry crossing on a dodgy little boat and then another minibus. I think that quite a long time ago the beach at Tofo was probably beautiful but sadly now it’s been spoilt by the many guesthouses, hotels, restaurants and bars that have been built along its shores.

Tofo beach

Tofo beach

We just spent the weekend at Tofo and then took the bus back to Inhambane, a pleasant and quiet little town (and long ago important trading port) with evident Portuguese and Arabic architectural influence, about 20km away. I liked it there.

18th century cathedral in Inhambane

18th century cathedral in Inhambane

One of many old buidlings in Inhambane

I thought the old Beetle complemented the old building quite nicely :-)

How do you like . . .

How do you like . . .

. . . d'em coconuts?

. . . d'em coconuts?

A sunset swim in Inhambane

A sunset swim in Inhambane

And then on to the big one – Maputo. I suppose my sister and I have this city to thank for our existence – my mom and dad met on the steps of the cathedral one weekend over 35 years ago :-)

Maputo!

Maputo!

My mom and dad met on these very cathedral steps

My mom and dad met on these very cathedral steps

The Maputo railway station

The beautiful Maputo railway station

If you can avoid twisting your ankle or falling down an uncovered manhole while trying to navigate the broken pavements and can get past the litter that lines some of the main streets, it’s a pretty cool city. Yesterday we hired a tuk-tuk\taxi thing to take us for a ride along the Avenida Marginal to see the beach at Costa do Sol and finished up by treating ourselves to high tea at the Polana (darling).

Breakfast in the city

Breakfast in the city

Our ride for the afternoon

Our ride for the afternoon

Grilling chicken along the Costa do Sol

Grilling chicken along the Costa do Sol

Here you go Dad, the 'lemon squeezer' cathedral

Here you go Dad, the 'lemon squeezer' cathedral

I say, a spot of afternoon tea and cake at the Polana (one of the oldest and flashest hotels in Maputo)

I say, a spot of afternoon tea and cake at the Polana (one of the oldest and flashest hotels in Maputo)

Maputo’s a city I definitely wouldn’t mind coming back to visit as I’d love to explore it some more and experience the fish market where you choose fresh fish and then have it grilled and to wander around the markets, probably to buy more textiles!

I can’t help but wonder what my dad would think of Mozambique now after all the years he spent here?
In memory of my grandfather. I hope he has found some peace.