Sunday, April 29, 2007

Namibia (2): Moving along.

What was I thinking of? Or not. I failed to mention that our visit to Swakopmund, Namibia, coincided with the 5th Congress of Odonatology of the Worldwide Dragonfly Association, with attendees from 35 countries. And, first time on the African continent. Can you believe that? I'm sure my kiwi buddy Dr. Croc is interested. Did you know there are 5600 species of dragonfly worldwide, with 127 in Namibia! ( the weekly Informante newspaper) It was the Namibian critters that were the highlights of this year's event - in fact, the congress coincides with the release of a handbook on Nambian dragonflies. And the Post Office released a stamp! (Come on Croc, fess up, you were there laying low weren't you?). I can't belive I forgot.

And patching up another incomplete story: There was in fact a fourth brewer, InBrew NV, involved in the beer-cartel-of Europe story. But they were granted immunity and spared a fine for having dobbed in the other three. As in 'real life', you soon find out who your real mates are.

Paul Theroux wrote 'Africa is where people come to wait.' And consequently, it is where you come to have your patience tested. It took 55mns to book a train Swakopmund- Otjiwarango, probaby a five minute exercise at home. I won't labour the details, except to hint at the minefield of double negatives and 'Yes, there is no ... ' statements. But done, we were at Swakopmund station awaiting the 4:00pm train which begins its journey at Walvis Bay, 35kms away. At precisely 10:00pm. it arrived. But honestly, it was OK. The people around made it a nice wait, and a book.

This was a great trip. Originally scheduled to arrive at Otjiwarango at 1:00am, which in itself would have created some difficulties as the phone network had been down (!) and we had been unable to make accommodation bookings. But, hey. But now, and with an additional two hours falling behind schedule we arrived at 9:00am. Much more civilised. Whites don't travel on trains, and blacks generally ignore them because of unreliability. As a result we had a six-berth sleeper to ourselves. Luxury. In Namib the passenger service is one wagon thrown into a goods train. Lots of stops, and real slow. Neat way to travel.

The benefit being it turned into a 'game train'. Because of the delays we traveled through sunrise and the early morning and as a result saw a lot of game from the window, including a a way cool cheetah.

Actually, rolling back a whisker. South Africa was really like being on holiday. Pretty easy traveling. But now in Namib, a true sense of travel has begun. The trains have been fun, but shuttles are an experience. They leave when full. One wait was three hours - we arrived first (or just missed the prior, depending upon your perspective). The operative word being full. Deb sat with a six year old black boy on her lap for one leg of travel, his two brothers (12 and 8) alongside. Mum, Dad and the other three kids followed on the next shuttle, whenever. Over three legs we covered 525 kms. When in the middle of nowhere, and 100km from our destination (152km from departure) the van rolled to a halt. The driver and three other guys on board all huddled, making appropriate grunts etc., under the bonnet - I just sat and pulled out my book. I know, I know. Eventually, not long really perhaps 10-15 mns, the announcement was made: "We know the problem, but cannot fix. We have no knife." Ah ha! But I carry a SAK! (Swiss Army Knife, to the initiated.) They do whatever it takes a SAK to do, and we are off. But wait there's more, when I produce a BIC propelling pencil so they can unwind/untangle a cassette tape and get the music going again, a new title is bestowed: Mad - hero of the Namibian Highways.

What would Africa be without mentioning animals. In fact, I would be prepared to suggest they are what most/many people travel to Africa to see. I guess the Big Five being the trophy list. Before departure, Deb and I had ringed Etosha National Park as one of our 'destinations'. We were not disappointed. At best, it seems the tours do three days/two nights (and less). We hired a car and camped for five days/four nights. The benefit being able to park up at waterholes for hours and watch what unfolds, as opposed to this waterhole - tick, that waterhole - tick, let's get out of here. We were handsomely rewarded. But still one remains for us - the elusive leopard. Many people leave Africa without a sighting. We still have a way to go, and remain optimistic.

A benefit of waiting at the 'holes, is you experience 'herds of animals' behaviour. I need that young mate of mine, Pete, with me. One - he's a good buddy, two - he knows his animals, and three - I gave him a web-sourced list of collective nouns before leaving. He could tell me what 'herds' of giraffe, springboks, elephants and rhinos are called. I know its a 'dazzle' of zebra. For real, only because it rhymes with Deborah! (He could also solve another problem a couple of mates and I had recently, cycling through Naenae; What's the collective name for a group of bogans? My friend, who casts a shadow often mistaken for a total solar eclipse, swears blind it was Taita, not Naenae.)

We had a fantastic moment watching three large male lions for two hours, all to ourseves. It was like the Einstein relativity comparison of being on a date with a pretty girl - time just flew. And I was with Deb, and after 18 years. Isn't life wonderful.

At the Etosha gates we gave a local woman a ride to Tsumeb. She was stunned to hear I had moved countries to live with Deb. "Sister, you get the man to come to your country?" "Oh sister, how wonderful, you got the power!" I drove on silently. But thinking 'pigsarz'.

Back to a bit of reality. I read in The Namibian that Judaie Ibn Salem, a Saudi, lost part of his nose requiring seven stiches when assaulted by his two wives when threatening to take a third. "I swore I would do it because they were impolite and that's when I came under an even bigger attack." (Poor old Ibn Salem) "I never realised they would get so worked up. But really, the only way now to restore my dignity is to take a third wife." (He's a man of principles.)

While quoting The Namibian, I'll bet this is a headline you won't ordinarily see in Australian/New Zealand newspapers: 'Businesses fine with BEE, but say it must be properly rooted.' I could elaborate, but where's the fun in that.

Oh yeah another thing. Addresses given in Namib when in the bush, and all over Southern Africa so far, is long/lat GPS co-ordinates. Luckily for us hiring the less technically fitted vehicles, they also give 87kms west of the C362/D1209 junction. Just look for the sign on the gate.

Anyway, we've headed off to the north-east of Namibia and off towards the Caprivi strip. Until as recently as 2002, Angolan guerillas often raided. And there have also been separatist movements here. It's poorer than other parts of Namib, and infrastructure is worn down a bit - probably a government punishment. But what you can do now, and avoiding visa payments (which are damned hard to get anyway) is because you travel alongside the Okavango River-banks which form the border, nip over by boat for a quick 'Cola in Angola'.

Anyway the Okavango swings away from the border and heads south where we stopped at Ngepi Camp, an island on the river. From there we took a mokoro (dugout canoe paddled by a joker standing) along the banks and through the reeds. In this idyllic state I began to daydream, recalling canoeing the Wanganui with the legendary Speightsie. Awoken by a squeal from Deb, four hippos lunged out of the water giving hippo grunts(?) roars(?) (where are you Pete?). This was a tad too close for comfort. Yeah, I've read the stats hippos kill more people per year in Africa than any other animal. All thoughts of Speights vanished. There's close to nature ... and there is having to change your pants. We saw hippos in St. Lucia, South Africa but from a boat. A big boat. We were in a way-too-close-to-the-water freakin canoe. But hang-on, then a bloody great croc starts swimming across the river. Oh man. Canoeing the Wanganui with Roosters never seemed so appealing.

So now it's time to act like the Okavango River, and head for Botswana.

A man spoke frantically into the phone:
"My wife is pregnant and her contractions are only two minutes apart.
"Is this her first child?" asks the doctor
"No!" shouts the man, "this is her bloody husband!!

aka Mad

Monday, April 16, 2007

Namibia: Paternity Leave, Beer, gob smacking landscapes

Namibia: The country name that used to tongue-tie Deb.

But first some South African reflections. Just that, not judgements. I've learnt that no sooner than you think you have a country worked out and just as quickly an experience changes your opinion. So some reflections.

They drive too fast in South Africa. Not judgmental, a statement of fact. The speed limit on the open road is 120kph. Do that, and you go backwards. Hired a car for one week in SA and decided not to drive after dark. The highways aren't fenced in many parts, particularly where we were driving. But one evening we were going to fall just short so pushed on for not even an hour. Flashing police lights halted us, and in the middle of our lane was a bloody big bullock stone cold dead. Then 80-100 meters on (how fast were they going?) was a flipped bakkie (SA term for ute) on its crushed cab, with three dead people squashed inside. Very chilling. Bakkies fly past you with ten guys sitting on the wall of the back well, and another dozen sitting in the well. Man.
According to the Cape Times, the Easter road toll stood at 139, down from 232 for the same period 2006! Don't know their annual figure.

Despite the fact that an awful lot has been achieved in a relatively short time, injustices still remain in South Africa. There is a huge gap beween the fantastically rich (whites) and the impoverished (yep, blacks). Mind you a wealthy black middle class is emerging, in the large urban areas. We visited the Durban Art Gallery, in the Town Hall and saw a photographic display covering the black farm workers. Not a pretty life. We also visited the District 6 museum in Cape Town. In NZ terms, we would call it a Land Claim just waiting to happen. A whole district, black and coloured people were packed up, moved to Cape Flats townships, and almost every building demolished. The idea was to give whites land closer to the CBD. Not many took up the offer. They could see it wasn't going to settle smoothly. On a floor map in the museum, people are felt penning where they once lived - land claim?

The disparity is surely the cause of the security probems. If you don't have, and someone else does, well ... We actually felt very comfortable in Cape Town, taking the usual precautions (as they say). But again like I said, don't make an opinion too quick. A Cape Times story reports 'Crime has a severe negative to debilitating impact on Cape Town's investment opportunities'. In a survey on investment constraints, 'City businesses spent up to 7.8% of their annual turnover on measures to combat crime compared to the national average of 1.1%.' ' Almost 20% of the businesses surveyed said they did not report crime to the police, partly because they did not expect any result from opening a case.' But, sadly, it's also black robbing black in the townships now as what they call tic, we call P, the scourge metamphetamine runs amok.

One morning setting out for a run, and there were cops every where in the street. Burglars had broken into building next door, throught the lift well, right next to our open bedroom window on the third floor! And walking along one afternoon, a young kid had spread out and was counting his stash of cellphones. Quick as a flash they nick them from tables as people have coffee or a meal.

And the ANC is trying to re-write history. That is, down play the PAC role. That will be interesting to watch.

And one other observation. Sex sells. Advertising on TV is full of boobs, hotpants, bending over girls, innuendo. It's kind of primitive. Very 70-ies. And two speed boats at the beach: One named Playboy and the other Cassanova. It's weird. It's just a way of life.

OK, so it was a long trip from Cape Town to Keetmanshoop, Namibia. And I read the Cape Times, Tuesday April 10, cover to cover. Did you get this story back home? A Slovenian joker, Martin Strel , completed a record-setting 66 day, 5 268km swim of the Amazon River! He's already swum the Danube, the Mississippi, and Yangtze rivers. Asked about future adventures, Strel said "I am not going to do the Nile. It's long, but not challenging enough, it is just a small creek." Paraphrased, I guess Martin was just saying " The Nile is for wimps."

Some other Cape Town close offs: Saw the Unisys office, but didn't drop in. Well, we were on the way to a Wine Trip after all. And neat to see the stone crosses erected as navigational markers by Batholomew Diaz and Vasco de Gama down on the Cape of Good Hope. And when there, the Two Oceans Marathon (actually an ultra - 56km) was conducted with 10,000 entrants. There was also a half marathon which I would have run but entries closed three days before I became aware.

Anyway onto Namibia.

Namibia: Four times the size of Great Britain, population of just 2 million.

Namibia: Where politics has an engaging charm. Bear with me while I quote newspapers again. But this is a good one. From The Namibian.

'Men should also get "maternity leave" a Deputy Minister pleaded in Parliament yesterday. ... Speaking during debate on new Labour Bill, Deputy Trade and Industry Minister Bernard Esau said Namibia could follow other countries [allowing fathers paternity leave]. ... CoD Member Elma Dienda wanted to know how long this paternity leave should be.
Esau replied "Two weeks as a start".
This triggered fellow CoD member Nora Schimming-Chase to inform Esau, who seemed surprised by the sudden interest in his proposal, that women as a rule gave birth to only one child a year, but men could father many children annually and this would complicate the allocation of paternity leave.
"How many times do you want paternity leave?" Schimming-Chase asked him, causing giggles in the chamber.
Quipped Esau "[under Namibian law] I can only be married to one wife, so I can only qualify for ... such leave per birth in the marriage."
DTA Chairman, Philemon Moongo, a traditional leader, warmed to the idea. "Under customary law you can have different wives so you should also be entitled to paternity leave for each wife."
(Sparking laughter).
"I leave that issue to traditional leaders, the Moongos" Esau retorted. '

It went on, but you get the drift. It's Africa - I love it.

Namibia: One gob smackingly gorgeous handsome country. Blue skies; Clear skies.

Traveled by night train from Keetmanshoop to Windhoek. I love train travel. My first big adventure as a 15/16 year old was travelling by train Brisbane to Sydney to visit a school chum whose family had transferred. Exciting. And there's something reassuring about waking during the night and hearing the labouring engine toiling away through the dark.

Huge chunks are very arid - and the rest is desert! Reminiscent of Arizona, it even has the world's second largest canyon, the amazing Fish River Canyon. And lots like the Australian centre. Sunrise's pastel hues dappled the rust-ochre mountains, the pistachio-light straw grasses, and the daubs of olive green stunted bushes, and I could swear I was running in an Albert Namatjira landscape. But of course, it's just Namibia. Funny how we humans always need points of reference, comparison checks.

Travelling hunderds of km on dirt roads ('... the best dirt roads in the world' Namibia Tourism guide - and they could well be right.) to reach wonder spots, Deb and I have on a number of occasions just stopped the car. In the middle of the road - it doesn't matter. And just stared. At the nothingness. But actually, there's everthing. Game wanders across soon enough. Birds. And then you spot a flower in the dryness.

I had often heard the term 'under an African sky'. They're vast. Sunsets, as you'd guess, are magnificent. But at sunrise here, it comes up as a huge red fireball. And night is pure magic. The stars are sensational. And shooting stars. The Milky Way is as thick as soup. The Soupy Way? Doesn't have that same ring about it, does it? Did you know, there are 5 billion stars in the milky way bigger than our sun. Fact. The other night I lay and counted them.

Once, on a mountain bike trip, with my Wellington cobbers, somewhere up the back of the Awatere, one of the lads - a small bald headed front-runner, upon reaching the top of a climb and taking in the vista announced "Big country!" I looked out, and there was Taranaki and Ruapehu; across that water, Cook Strait, and there would be Wellington with Cape Palliser beyond. Across the other way, the beaches of Abel Tasman National Park. And behind, the range would stretch all the way to the Southern Alps. And if that hill wasn't there we could probably see Banks Peninsula. While appreciating the spell-binding effect of the view he saw, I recall thinking "But that's near half the country we can see! Nah, not BIG country." But I tell you what, this is BIG country.

Want a tip for your lists of places you should see: Naukluft mountains and Sossusvlei red sands desert (miles of red dunes as high as Kau Kau), and stay at Gecko Desert Lodge. Better still, stop creating the list - just go. When at Gecko we sat eating breakfast and watched a jackal hunting small Springbok - right in front of us.

Out on a Windhoek run one morning, up around Parliament and near the office of the Prime Minister, when along came a convoy of a jeep with four soldiers in battle fatigues and machine guns, three black tinted-window Volvos with flashing blue lights, and a follow up jeep with troops. Stopping near by, and from the middle Volvo with the country flag flying from the bonnet, out stepped the Prime Minister himself, Mr. Hifikepunye Pohamba , dropping in to see the PM as the budget was to be delivered that day- and the waiting police, soldiers and other stormtroopers all jumped to attention and saluted. But what could I do? Except stand erect, and give a Rooster salute. The troops didn't know what to do: Shoot me on the spot, arrest me, kick me in the arse. I solved their dilemma by jogging off to look at the Lutheran church and nearby museum.

Next day, Deb and I visited parliament. Deb asked a security guard if there was a chance we could look inside. He said he'd see if he could find someone. Out came David. His role is Legislative Council Liaison Officer. His job is to deal with "visiting statespeople and important dignitaries". Well David, my man, here we are. He reckons not many tourists ask to look around. He gave us an enlightening tour. "It's a shame you haven't got your camera" he said, "I could have taken your photo in the Speaker's chair" !!! While waiting for David, Deb read a poster stating Namibia has a list system with proportional representaion and tells the joker at the front desk that's what we have in NZ. He explains they have a President and a Prime Minister. Deb says we only have a PM - a woman. The guy bursts out laughing and makes a real 'get out of here' slap of his tummy. "She's been PM for 10 years" says Deb. "Oh" says the joker, realising he should regain composure, "do pass on my congratulations to her" !!! It's Africa - I love it.

Namibia: an HIV/AIDS infection rate of 47%. Oh man.

Another observation for you. What's with this Adventure Travel thing? Kids travel going from one thing to another, doing things they can easily do at home, and a million other places and that's their South African, or Namibian experience. Or New Zealand, or Australian experience. One poster reads: "If you do nothing else in Namibia, you must visit Swakopmund: Adventure capital of Southern Africa!" If you do nothing else... god spare me! Anyway, so far I think we have already seen a dozen so called adventure capitals of Southern Africa. And it goes "And today, like man, we did the extreme ultimate ... like you know, awesome man. And tomorrow we're going to, oh far out man, do the extreme ultimate ... if we survive tonight, when we go to Randy Rory's Bar for some bar-maid mud wrestling and get really smashed on tequila, like you know, awesome man." Yeah I know. I can remember thirty years ago. It was great.

True story: In a Cape Town kitchen talking to a couple of Aussie shielas, two gypsy queens, "Today Deb and I went to Robben Island" ... blank stares. "Had a look over the prison .... blank stares ... where Nelson Mandela was kept." "Oh that guy the song is about!" Save me.

Coincidently, a current read of Jan Morris in the Cuba chapter, provides an interesting aside. ' ... Once, In Havana, I interviewed Ernesto Guevara, then president of the National Bank. Thirty years later long after Ernesto had matured into Che and had become a world celebrated icon of the youth culture, I gave a lift to a hitch-hiker whose T-shirt bore a familiar picture of him - by then one of the best known photographs on earth. 'I bet I'm the only person you've ever got a lift from' I remarked, 'who has actually met Che Guevara.' ' Oh yeah' was the reply, 'Who was Che Guevara?'

Oh and what's with these 'Gap Years' thing? Droves of these kid poms traveling for a year. "We'll (they travel in groups never smaller than four) do South Africa for three months, then fly to Brazil, do Mexico, up to the States. We'll take a break (!!!) in Honolulu and Fiji before NZ and Australia. If we have time we'll do Thailand on the way home." "oh yeah, I worked for a month at MacDonalds." Yeah and travelled with mommy and daddy's supplied credit card in the back pocket.

I guess just another sign I'm getting old, and cranky. Speaking of which, getting old that is. And that damned losing your reading eye sight. Every new border becomes a real fuddle working out coins.

Anyway we did visit Swakopmund (where desert meets sea, and averages 8mm of rain per year!!!) and I figured I would do an adventure event - visit the Namibian Breweries! Damn. They transfered to Windhoek last year, and we just left there! Oh well. Shit happens. But on the subject of beers, they are pretty good here in Namib - it's the German influence. Windhoek Lager, Hansa Pilsener, Tafel Lager. They are popular in SA as well. Oh yeah, did you hear of the EU regulators bust and fining of Heineken (219.29 mill Euro - US$297.09 mill), Grolsch (31.65 mill Euro - US$42.88 mill) and Bavaria (22.85 mill Euro - US$42.88 mill) for forming a European beer-cartel fixing prices. EU Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes said "Instead of respecting the law, they instead covered their tracks." (New Era) Well, bugger me, there's a cunningly different plan. Naughty, naughty, naughty corporates.

Swakopmund is actually a charming town - a bit of Europe in Africa. I ran one day along the Atlantic coast, and next day 45mns into the desert, turned around and 45mns back. Sweet.

And in Namibia, English is the official language. While everyone can speak it, it ranks about fourth in usage behind German, Afrikans, and tribal languages.

We have some more Namibia to do: Etosha National Park and the Caprivi - sccoting along the border of Angola, but I think I will post this now. Enough is enough.

But, before I close off, from the 'completely out of nowhere':

Man City manager Stuart Pearce, when commenting on booing fans (post match with Arsenal - the team boo-ed) "Sometimes there is a bigger picture, but people pay good money. The next time I go to the theatre I am going to let some thespians have it." "It might make me feel better." Way to go, Stu!

Back in a minute. Godot. (handwritten note stuck to windscreen of parked car in Windhoek)

'When you are courting a nice girl an hour seems like a second. When you sit on a red hot cinder a second seems like an hour. That's relativity. ' Albert Einstein.

Rock on,


a.k.a. Mad

Roosters' Correspondent in Africa.

Monday, April 9, 2007

South Africa and Swaziland: developing a taste for Impala steaks and Kudu biltong


Globalisation. Funny thing, it's all over the world. And it affects travelling every bit as well. Accommodation, travel means, activities, food, housing ... you name it. At times you can wonder what country are you in. It just means you have to work that bit harder to try and find the real 'where-ever'. Does it exist? We have found some cool things, but we are in South Africa and that's the easy start to the journey, but also part of the issue. White South africa strives to be every bit the same as the western world.

But having said that, I now understand why we are seeing so many more South Africans arriving on our shores for reasons of having moved for security, and the future of their kids is a close second. Man, Joburg and Durban were electric. You become traped by nightfall and just don't go out. You keep your wits about you in the daytime as well. We experienced three incidents in Durban. The way people have to live their lives would just be plain tedious. But we have also stayed in rural areas and no issues. Guess it's a big urban area problem. Crickey, Joburg, Durban, and Cape Town all have populations greater than all of NZ. And 90% live in the townships - read some of the worst slum areas you can imagine.

But, don't get the wrong picture. We are having a cool time. And relaxed. If I could just work up the energy I'd tell you how relaxed.

Anyway, the first big tick off was the Super14 rugby game at the hugh ABSA stadium, Durban where the local Sharks met the Hurricanes. The result is now of no consequence. Strewth, the local fans are the most parochial I have ever come across. The ref is the devil incarnate, opposition players are abominations, and two poor lonely Hurricanes supporters waving their 'Canes flags are but people to hiss at. God, when I jumped up and waved the "TRY!" banner we get at games at home when Hurricanes scored their only try, you'd think I just farted in church. Until the end of the game. Then they are as friendly as. They were even asking for my Hurricanes shirt. The shirt off my back. I ask you! But ... at half time a friendly joker comes down, shakes our hands, gives us a warm welcome and introduces himself as George Laas president of the Sharks Supporters Club. He invites us to their club rooms post-match and appoints one of his cobbers as minder to take us there. They wouldn't let us buy a drink - on the house all night. Lucky the 'Canes lost is all I thought. But then in stroll Jerry Collins, Piri Wipu, Shannon Paku and Chris Masoe. They drag Jerry on stage and as part of the intro inform him that he is in luck as his friends Max and Deb are here! The expression on Jerry's face said 'Who the ...' Anyway they came over and started yaking to us before having to line up for photos by just about everyone there. End on the night one of the jokers drove us home. Great night. The Sharks can now become my favourite SA team. That makes them about 10 in the Super14 picking order.

Our paper thin plans took a detour at this stage after only five days when we headed north for a quick visit to Swaziland. On the way we visited Hluhluwe and St. Lucia, in SA. These were recommended to us only days befor leaving by Genevieve, Unisys legal counsel, and Dee, Irish lass who requires no introduction. Thanks guys. Hluhluwe gave us our first opportunity to see all the African animals. You know what it's like when you experience your firsts. Seeing these creatures roaming around is really neat. We've even got to see stacks of stuff roadside when driving around in some areas. St. Lucia was also cool for all the Hippos we saw on/in the river. Re-entering SA, of the five immigration people working the counters on the Swazi side - three were playing Patience on their PCs, and of the five working the SA side - three were eating their lunch at the desk. It's Africa.

We have packed our tent primarily for Namibia and Botswana. Or so we thought. But as a result we have stayed in the tent in a game reserve, bushlands area, and a Xhosa village (Bulungula - find that on your Atlases: 100km and a 3hr 4wd trip back to the coast from a Shell garage we were dropped at by the bus on the highway). It's been great. We bought a beaut tent from Brent at Mainly Tramping a couple of years back, and it's a little ripper. Oh yeah, we also were able to stay right on the beach over looking the world famous surfing spot of J Bay.

When setting off, space only allowed for two books. The first I read was Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari. Not a travelogue, but a socio-political-economic view of Africa. Very interesting perspective. His actual journey, though in reverse direction, bears a big similarity to what we hope to get up to. Though he did do Sudan, which we will avoid. Recommended, a good read. Incongruously, while resting in a tent in the mentioned Xhosa village, I have been reading Affluenza by Oliver James. But a good time to take a look at my own life and even perhaps of those who have been around me. And, about the only thinking I'm doing at the moment.

And now it's Cape Town. All South Africans we have met so far have recommended it. We will spend eight nights, as there is a stack to do. Apparently you must: visit top of Table Mtn, Visit Cape of Good Hope, visit Rodden Island - the prison Nelson Mandela spent way too many years in, and visit the vineyards of the Stellenbosch and Paarl. So who are we to argue. And relax in just a much more low key environ. Some of the trips you can do to these places include some mountain biking. Sounds good.

I've also been able to keep up with the running. Started off with three days/ three runs. Wellington NZ, Sydney, Aust and Jo'burg, SA. But I've had some beauties. Durban, Bulungula, J Bay, a great cliff tops run in Mossel bay, and when on the reserve in Swaziland (which didn't have the Big Five) ran along dirt roads with giraffe, zebra, wildebeast and all forms of antelops darting around in front of you. And a big croc down by the lake side. Prob averaging 2 out of 3 days. Travel commitments get in the way some days.

One day I scraped my forearm. And can you believe it, I ended up with a blood blister that looked like a tattoo that was a near perfect map of Australia. Man, was I proud of that. Reminded me of Murray Bail's Holden's Performance and the vomit in the foyer of the picture theatre. Anyone read that one?

Enough. Next stop Namibia. Watch this space.

aka Mad