Notes from underground

يارب يسوع المسيح ابن اللّه الحيّ إرحمني أنا الخاطئ

Archive for the tag “holidays”

In and around Cape Town

Continued from Vause family in Robertson

We travelled from Robertson to Cape Town and stayed in the Sun 1 Hotel on the Foreshore. We had stayed there before, when it was known as the Formula 1 Hotel. We like it because it is cheap, clean, and within easy reach of the Cape Archives. The main disadvantage is that it is in an area surrounded by office blocks and industrial buildings, so there is nowhere to eat nearby, though it is close to the Artscape Treatre.

Sun 1 Hotel, Cape Town Foreshore

Sun 1 Hotel, Cape Town Foreshore

During our stay in Cape Town last week we spent each moring doing research in the archives in Roeland Street, which is only a short drive from the hotel. The building used to be a jail, so it has a very high wall around it. We were mostly doing research into our family history. When the archives closed at 4:00 pm, we went to visit family and friends who had said they would like to see us.

The Cape Archives Depot, formerly the Roeland Street Jail.

The Cape Archives Depot, formerly the Roeland Street Jail.

Most places in Cape Town have good views, and the archive depot is no exception. On Tuesday when we came out we found the car battery was dead, and had time to take a couple of pictures while waiting for the AA to bring a new battery. We were glad that it decided to die in the middle of Cape Town and not on the road from Hondeklip Bay to Soebatfonteirn or somewhere equally inaccessible. It died with no warning. When we set off for the archives in the morning the car started fine, but it died as 1:08 pm, at least according to the dashboard clcok.

Devil's Peak, from outside the Cape Archives depot.

Devil’s Peak, from outside the Cape Archives depot.

One of the old friends I visitewd was Mike Preston, now living in a nursing home at Tokai. I had met him when I did a three months’ vac job as a student, with the audit firm of E.R. Syfret & Co, where Mike was an articled clerk. Mike was a car enthusiast, and one day after work we went for a test drive in an Austin Mini, then new of the market, and the salesman drove it on and off the kerb to show us the superiority of its rubber suspension. Mike remarked that it made every other small car look obsolete. Now we ourselves are obsolete superannuated has-beens.

Steve Hayes and Mike Preston

Steve Hayes and Mike Preston, Tokai, Western Cape

Namaqualand spring: 20 Aug 2015

Continued from Going west through Bushmanland

Thursday 20 August 2015

We set out to explore some of the countryside around Kamieskroon and to look at the spring flowers. We drive about 20 km down the N7 towards Garies, and then turned off to the west towards Spoegrivier, one of the places C.J Andersson had mentioned stopping at on his cattle drive to the Cape in 1862, and as Frank Stewardson (Val\s great great great grandfather) was just ahead of him, he too must have passed through there. Actually Andersson referred to it as Spookrivier, which may have been a mishearing of the name, or perhaps the name has changed. The first part of the road was over amazingly green rounded hills, all over bushes. I could not imagine driving several thousand head of cattle over them, and so assumed that the Spoegrivier valley must have provided a more passable route.

The road to Spoegrivier, Namaqualand. 20 Aug 2015

The road to Spoegrivier, Namaqualand. 20 Aug 2015

At 9:30, after driving about 20 km from the main road, we came to the valley with a little town in it.

The village of Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

The village of Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

The river was dry, like Namibian ones, though perhaps there was water underground for the cattle. There was a crude handpainted sign at the entrance to the dorp, saying “Welkom in Spoegrivier”, and an Aids ribbon underneath, so we wondered if Aids was a problem there.

Welcome to Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

Welcome to Spoegrivier (Spit River), Namaqualand

It seemed to be quite an isolated community and we wondered what people did there, and whether there was a settlement there when Stewardson & Co passed through. Perhaps in their day it was all Nama huts covered with skins, but there didn’t seem to be any trees to make the huts, just bushes.

Namaqualand daisies on the hills near Spoegrivier, 20 August 2015

Namaqualand daisies on the hills near Spoegrivier, 20 August 2015

We passed through and then followed a farm track, which the bloke at Kamieskroon had told us would eventually lead to Walleskraal. It was much roughter and narrower, and so we drove slowly up, and on the other side of the hill where we arrived about 10:05 were spectacular scenes of spring flowers such as one sees in pictures, stretching across to the horizon, mainly orange Namaqualand daisies, looking almost fluorescent, interspersed with tiny yellow ones that looked little more than small pollen balls.

More daisies near Spoegrivier

More daisies near Spoegrivier

There were also rounded bushes, covered with yellow flowers, and several other varieties.

More flowers near Spoegrivier

More flowers near Spoegrivier

We passed through several farm gates, and farms as well. and one there were several people in a farmyard, and we asked if we were on the right road to Hondeklip Bay, and they said we must go straight, and that if we had GPS, which we didn’t, we should ignore it, because it lied. There were tracks leading off in various directions, presumably to the farms, so it was quite confusing, We joined the road between Walleskraal and Soebatfontein, where a grader was going down a hill, and the road had recently been graded for most of the way to Walleskraal, which we reached at 11:15. It hardly seemed to be a settlement at all, just a couple of buildings, and no shops that we could see.

Walleskraal, Namaqualand, 20 August 2015

Walleskraal, Namaqualand, 20 August 2015 – not snowdrifts, but flowers

There were also plenty of flowers there, lots of white ones interspersed with orange ones, and the white ones looked like snowdrifts, and in a river bed they looked like rivers of blood through the snow. Some of the white ones were vygies, but I think most were daisies. There seemed to be relatively few of the magenta vygies.

Orange and white flowers near Walleskraal, Namaqualand

Orange and white flowers near Walleskraal, Namaqualand

From there we went over more gently undulating country, with fewer flowers, for about half an hour, until we saw hills that looked like mine dumps, and it seemed that that is what they were, and there were signs saying that there was a rehabilitation project to try to regrow vegetation on them. It seemed that they were diamond mines, and I was rather surprised, as I thought that most of the diamond mines were further north, between Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay. We reached Hondeklip Bay at 11:47, and it was as unprepossessing as I had expected it would be, a kind of Henties Bay south of the border. a resort for weekend fishermen, with the coastal fog visible from some way inland.

The west coast town of Hondeklip Bay

The west coast town of Hondeklip Bay

We looked for a shop where we could buy biscuits and cold drinks, but there was only a drankwinkel, and Sam’s Restaurant. Val got a couple of Coke light, the only diet drinks they sold. The harbour was grey and looked dirty, with a dredger and a small boat, perhaps a fishing boat, bobbing in the swell. A little further out was what looked like a wreck.

Hondeklip Bay -- the port

Hondeklip Bay — the port

We left and drove north along the road to Koiingnaas, but before we reached it turned off to the north-east along a road that led to Springbok, which had boneshaking corrugations like those on the road to Odibo. Along the way there were several more strips of white flowers that looked like snowdrifts, but most of them were on the other side of the valley of the Swartlintjies river we were travelling up, and quite far away. The coastal plain was about 20-30 km wide, and then it became apparent why the cattle drivers from Damaraland must have followed the route along the coastal plain, perhaps quite close to the mountains. There was more vegetation, and probably water, there, and more grazing.

Fields of flowers along the Swartlintjies River, on the road between Hondekip Bay and Springbok

Fields of flowers along the Swartlintjies River, on the road between Hondekip Bay and Springbok, again, not snowdrifts, but daisies

At 1:15 pm we reached a crossroads, with the road from Koiingnaas to Springbok crossing one from Komaggas to Soebatsfontein. We had travelled 147.7 km from Kamieskroon. Andersson had been camped at Kommagas when he rode to Hondeklip Bay to fetch his letters, and it had taken him two days. It must have been heavy going riding a horse through the bushes. We turned south towards Soebatsfontein, and about 10 km down the road stopped for lunch, amid fields of white flowers, near Wildeperdehoek.

Daisies on the road from Wildperdehoek (Wild Horse Corner) to Soebatsfontein

Daisies on the road from Wildperdehoek (Wild Horse Corner) to Soebatsfontein, where we stopped for lunch

Val had made us egg rolls for lunch, and we drank the Cokes we had bought in Hondeklip Bay. We drove on from there, towards Soebatsfontein, and we stopped to take photos of gazanias growing at the side of the road, with dark orange-brown flowers, like the ones we had had in our garden a few years ago.

Picnic among the flowers

Picnic among the flowers

We didn’t see any shops in Soebatsfontein, apart from the inevitable drankwinkel, so just stopped to take a couple of photos and drove on.

Gazanias

Gazanias

We took photos of what we thought may have been the Grootberg, also mentioned in Andersson’s diary, and turned back along the road to Kamieskroon.

Possibly the Grootberg mentioned in Andersson's diary

Possibly the Grootberg mentioned in Andersson’s diary

which crossed a couple of steep passes, and more fields of orange daisies on a farm, and got back to Kamieskroon at 4:00 pm, having covered 215 km on our round trip.

Kamieskroon, Namaqualand

Kamieskroon, Namaqualand

We bought a newspaper at the shop on our return to Kamieskroon, mainly to use as kindling for the fire, as the previous night had been quite cold. It was the previous day’s Die Burger, and had an article on the spring flowers of Namaqualand, and mentioned many of the places we had visited — Walleskraal, Soebatsfontein and Wildeperdehoek, and the author said the flowers were the best he had ever seen them.

Continued at Namaqualand Spring: Lily Fountain and more flowers

Ironveld and Aughrabies

Continued from Cape Holiday 2015: a lonely Falkenberg grave.

Tuesday 18 August 2015

After breakfast at the Azalea Guest House in Kuruman, we drove up to the historic Moffat Mission, which was the main object of our stay in Kuruman, as a kind of missiological pilgrimage — it marked the start of Christianity in the region, and northwards into Botswana and Zambia, but we found found that it was closed, with a threatening notice saying that treaspassers would be prosecuted.

ZA missiological pilgrimage to the historic Moffat Mission in Kuruman

A missiological pilgrimage to the historic Moffat Mission in Kuruman

We left Kuruman reached Kathu, about 60 km from Kuruman. It was not a place I had been aware of from previous journeys along this road, in 1969 and 1991, but it seemed to be quite big, with lots of new houses, many apparently unoccupied, visible from the road as we passed through, and signs of further expansion. The houses seemed to follow uniform designs, so it looked like a company town, probably something to do with iron mining.

At Sishen, 80 km from Kuruman, where the actual mines were, the vegetation around seemed to be red, as if it was rusting. We stopped for petrol at Olifantshoek, 198 km from Kuruman. It was a much more pleasant town than Kuruman, and we recalled staying here 24 years ago, because we were driving without lights, and so had to stop at sunset. But the most memorable thing from that trip was opening a bottle of 5th Avenue Cold Duck (sparkling wine)and the cork squashing a mosquito on the ceiling.

Even the grass and bushes look rusty round the iron mines at Sishen

Even the grass and bushes look rusty round the iron mines at Sishen

Compare this with the normal veld, once you get away from Sishen with its iron mines

Non-red veld, away from the iron mines of Sishen

Non-red veld, away from the iron mines of Sishen

From there it was a long monotonous haul to Upington, 230 km from Kuruman. We stopped at a sitplekkie along the way and took photos of shaggy birds’ nests in a syringa tree, with last season’s berries, and no leaves. Though there were two rubbish bins, there was rubbish all around them and very little in them, a sharp contrast from our visit to Botswana and Namibia two years ago, where they were all scrupulously clean, except for the ones close to the South African border.

A scruffy birds' nest among the syringa trees

A scruffy birds’ nest among the syringa trees

We reached the Augrabies Falls National Park about 2:30 pm and after paying the entrance fee, R38.00 each, walked down to look at the falls, passing a lot of very tame dassies in the gardens.

A dassie, said to be the closest relative to the elephant

A dassie, said to be the closest relative to the elephant

The place was much changed from our previous visit in 1991, with new viewing platforms built of wooden poles and concrete slabs, which were less of a blot on the landscape than the previous metal ones. The new ones took one much closer to the main fall, and we took lots of photos.

Augrabies Falls -- the whole flow of the Orange River sdqueezed into one narrow channel

Augrabies Falls — the whole flow of the Orange River sdqueezed into one narrow channel

There was less water in the river than on our previous visit, and one could hardly hear the water from the office — perhaps that was because of the three dry years that had immediately preceded this, so more water was being taken from the river for irrigation.

In the old days this was the closest visitors could get to the Augrabies Falls.

In the old days this was the closest visitors could get to the Augrabies Falls.

There were more dassies on the rocks by the falls, and lots of lizards, ordinary ones and multi-coloured ones with blue heads.

Another dassie -- the Augrabis Falls National Park abounds with them, and they are as tame as pet rabbits

Another dassie — the Augrabis Falls National Park abounds with them, and they are as tame as pet rabbits

I thought of Lawrence G. Green, whose description of the Augrabies Falls in “To the river’s end” made me want to visit the place when I first read it in high school. There it sounded remote, a place hardly anyone had ever heard of, but now the road to it is full of farms and very well travelled, and only the park itself looks as it did when Green visitred it. And we probably had a much better view of the falls than he did, with the viewing platforms and paths leading to them, which make it possible even for old crocks like us to have a good view of the falls.

We went to the shop on the way out, and I got an Eskimo Pie, but it was nothing like the Eskimo Pies of my childhood , which were vanilla ice cream covered with a layer of chocolate. This was just some sort of frozen chocolate-flavoured confection on a stick. We went back to the town of Augrabies, to the Quiver Tree guest house, where we spent the night.

Quiver Tree Guest House, Aughrabies

Quiver Tree Guest House, Aughrabies

Continued at Going west through Bushmanland

UK trip 19 May 2015: London

Continued from UK trip 18 May 2005: a day in Oxford | Notes from underground

We took the R73 bus to Richmond Station, and got the District Line train to Monument station, and then changed to the Docklands Light Railway, and rode to Lewisham. It seemed to be the best way to see some of the parts of London that had changed most since I had last been there in the 1960s.

Some of the changes in London -- the docklands had become a business distict

Some of the changes in London — the docklands had become a business distict

The railway had not been here for one thing, and as parts of it were on elevated track there were good views over the rebuilt docks area, with tall office blocks, which looked a bit like the financial district of Johannesburg or central Sandton. It was a lot cleaner and smarter, but also was a reminder that Britain was no longer a country whose products were exported all over the world. Manufacturing industry in Britain seemed to be dead. The streets were full of French, Italian and German cars, and even the Vauxhalls were simply rebadged Opels.

Lewisham was much changed from when I had last seen it too. Buildings seemed to have been demolished to make way for a bus station, and just about every route seemed to be run be a different bus company.

Leisham bus station.

Leisham bus station.

We went to have breakfast in a place called Maggie’s, which had an all-in breakfast of as much as one could eat for £4-50, which Val had, and I had a Spanish omelet and chips, which was a bit cheaper, though they refilled my tea cup three times, speedily and efficiently. At one point a bloke nicked my rucksack, then gave it back, saying I should be more careful.

Maggies Cafe in Lewisham, where we had breakfast.

Maggies Cafe in Lewisham, where we had breakfast.

Afterwards we wandered about a bit, and saw the church having a market. It seemed to be a fairly high church, advertising Mass.

Church in Lewisham

Church in Lewisham

We rode back to Bank on the Docklands Light Railway. The trains were driverless, and seemed to sway and shake a lot.

 

Docklands light railway, but no docks in sight.

Docklands light railway, but no docks in sight. Driver’s-eye view, but no driver in sight either.

We walked down to London Bridge past the monument to the great fire of London, and there was not a bowler hat in sight. In 1966 London Bridge had been a sea of bowler hats and umbrellas, crossing to the north bank at 9:00 am and back again at 6:00 pm, when I was driving the 133 bus. Back then they had seemed horribly old fashioned, like something out of the 1920s, and I thought that if such a tradition had persisted so long, it might have persisted longer, but it has not.

The Bank of England, the famed old lady of Threadneedle Street. n 1966 the streets in the vicinity used to be a sea of bowler hats, but in 2005 there wasn't one to be seen.

The Bank of England, the famed Old Lady of Threadneedle Street. In 1966 the streets in the vicinity used to be a sea of bowler hats, but 40 years later there wasn’t one to be seen.

We looked for a loo, but there hardly seemed to be any on London Bridge station at all, and those that there were were small prefab plastic structures sitting on the platforms and required 20p coins, and some of them needed pound coins. Another change, and a major one this time, as it seems to involve a genetic mutation. Brits no longer need to piss, or at least they must have evolved larger bladders so they only need to do it before they leave home in the morning and after they get home at night. When I was here in the 1960s you could buy a review of public loos called The Good Loo Guide, but it would be of purely historic interest now, as the loos are no longer there.

GillyHopWhile we were crossing London Bridge it began to rain, though not very hard, so we cut our sightseeing, and made our way to Foyles Bookshop on the Underground. We had at first decideed not to buy any books, lest we get overweight on the plane going home, but decided to chance it anyway, and stow them in pockets. Val got a book for our son Simon on his computer program XSI, and one for Jethro on Formula I racing. I found Katherine Paterson’s The Great Gilly Hopkins, which I had never seen in South Africa, either in bookshops or libraries. I’d read another book by Katherine Paterson, called A bridge to Terabithia, and had quite liked it, except for the fact that it had a boy with a girl’s name and a girl with a boy’s name, so I kept confusing the characters when they were referenced by pronouns. Perhaps it was trying to make some weird feminist point. I looked for Charles Williams books, of which Frank Cranmer had a complete set, but did not see any.

We walked down to Leicester Square Underground station, and then to Waterloo to get the 15:57 train to Strawberry Hill via Teddington, and walked back to Frank Cranmer’s cottage through the drizzle.

The walk from Strawberry Hill station to Twickenham

The walk from Strawberry Hill station to Twickenham

Frank and Helen came about 7:30 pm, and we took them to supper at Arthur’s restaurant, across the green. The restaurant was a converted public loo, which Frank said had been closed because it was too expensive to run. Perhaps that explained what had happened to the other’s too. There was a noisy party next to us, and so after our meal we returned to Frank’s cottage for coffee.

Concluded at UK trip 20 May 2005: London, and going home | Notes from underground.

Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005

UK trip 18 May 2005: a day in Oxford

Continued from UK trip 17 May 2005 London: Newspapers and Books | Notes from underground

We took the train from Strawberry Hill to Waterloo again, and this time it took a more northerly route, which was a bit shorter. We took the Bakerloo line on the underground to Paddington station, and then a train to Oxford, which we had to pay for, as it was not on the visitors travel passes we had. The “cheap” day return was a little over £17 each, which was pretty expensive, I thought. The journey lasted a little over an hour, and the train stopped at Slough and Reading, and was going on to Great Malvern.

By train to Oxford 18 May 2005

By train to Oxford 18 May 2005

We got a bus into the centre of Oxford, and took a walk round the town, up Cornmarket, where we looked at record shops as Val was trying to find a Mother Earth record that our son Simon had wanted for Christmas, but we weren’t successful in that.

Cornmarket, Oxford

Cornmarket, Oxford

We passed Balliol College, where Jan Hofmeyr had been, and Trinity, where Stephen Gawe had been, and looked in at the Bodleian Library.

Balliol College, Oxford

Balliol College, Oxford

We took some photos of the Radcliffe Camera, something that I associated with the essence of Oxford. There is a small round building behind the old Reserve Bank building in Church Square, Pretoria, that always reminded me of Oxford, because it looked like a miniature of the Radcliffe Camera.

Radcliffe Camera, Oxford.

Radcliffe Camera, Oxford.

We walked down the High to Magdalen Bridge, where there were punts and rowing boats, and took photos of Magdalen College where C.S. Lewis had taught, and where I had once been with Stephen Gawe to visit another South African student back in 1967, Harold Mogona.

Magdalen College, Oxford

Magdalen College, Oxford. C.S. Lewis's College.

Magdalen College, Oxford. C.S. Lewis’s College.

We walked round Merton around the edge of Christ Church meadow, and up past Christ Church, and then had lunch at a pub in the High, and wrote postcards to the children, and went to the post
office to post them. I had thought of visiting John Fenton, the former principal of St Chad’s College, and retired as a Canon of Christ Church, but he seemed to live further out of town, and we did not know how to get there.

Christ Church Meadow, Oxford

Christ Church Meadow, Oxford

We took a bus up to Banbury Road, where we had a look at the House of St Gregory and Macrina, at the corner of Canterbury Road, but though we rang the bell, no one answered. It was a kind of Orthodox Centre in Oxford, which I had visited in 1967, during a patristics conference, and met Dr Nicolas Zernov, who had written several books about the Orthodox Church, which I had read before becoming Orthodox.

Oxford, 18 May 2005

Oxford, 18 May 2005

We went back into town on the bus, and looked at a few more record shops, and then walked back to the station, and got the 4:33 pm train back to Paddington, and retraced our journey this morning,
down the Bakerloo line to Waterloo, and the South West Trains to Strawberry Hill, arriving back at Frank Cranmer’s Cottage at 7:00 pm.

Bakerloo line train in the London rush hour.

Bakerloo line train in the London rush hour.

There was a cricket match in progress on the green over the road, as there had been the previous day, though this time there were younger children playing. We went out looking for supper, and tried some of
the other pubs in the neighbourhood. The Sussex Arms did not do evening meals, and the other one around the corner only had a Thai Restaurant, so we went back to The Prince Blucher, and had pie with
mash and vegetables, and were served by a South African girl from the Free State.

To be continued.

Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005

UK trip 16 May 2005: Brightlingsea to Twickenham

Continued from UK trip 15 May 2005: Monastery and Essex Girls | Khanya

We had breakfast at at Ye Olde Swan hotel at 7:30, and left Brightlingsea at about 8:30, driving to London.

Dining room at Ye Olde Swan, Brightlingsea, Essex

Dining room at Ye Olde Swan, Brightlingsea, Essex

We stopped for petrol on the way and took a photo of the Fiat Punto that had taken us round Britain for the last two weeks, as we would be handing it back today.

The Fiat Punto that took use round Britian, somewhere in Essex.  16 May 2005

The Fiat Punto that took use round Britian, somewhere in Essex. 16 May 2005

We headed for the Thames crossing at Dartford, where I expected to go through the Dartford Tunnel, but there was another change — southbound traffic went over a bridge instead of through the tunnel.

Crossing the Thames at Dartfod, no longer a tunnel, but a bridge.

Crossing the Thames at Dartford, no longer a tunnel, but a bridge. There’s a white van on the right, the kind of vehicle that usually appears in detecive stories as the preferred vehicle for abduction. Could there be an abductee inside?

We went to see Laureen Morrow, whom we had known from Namibia. and found the place she was staying, Ralph Perring Court in Beckenham, with some difficulty, as it was not well marked on the street.

It turned out to be a home for clergy widows, and Bromley College, the place where her husband Ed had been chaplain, was likewise a home for clergy widows. We talked about some of the people we had known in Namibia, and Laureen said that she was the only one who was still active in the church, which I found rather sad. Her husband Ed had died a couple of years earlier.

Val Hayes and Lauremn Morrow in Beckenham, Kent. 16 May 2005

Val Hayes and Lauremn Morrow in Beckenham, Kent. 16 May 2005

We drove around south London, and up through Streatham, where I showed Val the house where I had lived when I worked for London Transport at Brixton Garage nearly 40 years ago. The house had now been painted yellow. All the trees looked bigger than they had 40 years ago, which is probably only to be expected, but I thought that the London trees were so well established that they would have reached their full height long before. Streatham High Street seemed a lot narrower than I remembered it.

Then we drove over to Twickenham, where we found Frank Cranmer’s cottage in First Cross Road, down a narrow passage between two other houses. Frank had been another fellow student at St Chad’s College, Durham, and had said we could use their cottage while we were staying in London. We took our things inside, and then drove to central London to return our car at Bryanston Street in Marble Arch. That incurred a “congestion charge”, and we thought that the car hire company could have been more considerate and sited their garage outside the congestion charge area.We no longer needed the car, as it is a useless encumbrance in London. It had taken almost the whole day to drive across London from north-east to south-west, and London has a good public transport system, though it is very expensive. I was rather sorry to see that London Transport seemed to have been privatised into a number of different firms, though they still had vacancies for bus drivers.

We went to Westminster on the tube and met Frank Cranmer at the central lobby of the House of Commons, where I had met my mother’s cousin Willie Hannan several times before in the 1960s, when he was MP for Maryhill in Glasgoe. But there were now elaborate security precautions to screen people going in, with all bags being X-rayed in a tent on the lawn outside, instead of a single friendly policeman standing at the door. We went for a drink at the strangers bar, again, little changed from before, and then went across to Church House, where Frank’s partner of 21 years, Helen, worked as a kind of parliamentary lobbyist.

Helen & Frank Cranmer. Twickenham, 16 May 2005

Helen & Frank Cranmer. Twickenham, 16 May 2005

We drove with them back to Twickenham, and Frank made supper, for which we were joined by Alex Griffiths, also a former St Chad’s student, who had, however, left before I arrived there. Helen wanted to know my history, which I told over supper, with many digressions and diversions. Frank looked little changed from St Chad’s days, greyer and sporting a beard, but, unlike Chris Gwilliam, he was quite recognisable. He said he had become a Quaker as a result of visiting Chris and Nina Gwilliam and attending a Quaker meeting with them, in some trepidation, not knowing if he could take an hour of total silence.

Alec Griffiths, Twickenham. 16 May 2005

Alec Griffiths, Twickenham. 16 May 2005

Alec Griffiths was an Anglican priest and magistrate, but was retiring because of ill health.

Continued at UK trip 17 May 2005 London: Newspapers and Books | Notes from underground.

Index to all posts on our UK trip here UK Holiday May 2005

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays

to all my American and Jewish friendsturkey

Hanukkah

Homeward bound

When we arrived at Lentswe Lodge in Serowe, Botswana, the previous night, it was dark. From the balcony we could see street lights in the distance, but had little sense how close or far away they were. When dawn came, we looked from the balcony at a spectacular view over a plain.

View from our cottage at Lentswe Lodge, Serowe, Botswana

View from our cottage at Lentswe Lodge, Serowe, Botswana

When we arrived at dusk it felt as though we were in the middle of an urban area, so we weren’t prepared for the magnificent view we saw when the sun came up.

Balcony of our cottage at Lentswe Lodge

Balcony of our cottage at Lentswe Lodge

We packed up and left at about 8:00, and stopped on the road below the Lentswe Lodge to take a photo of our cottage perched on the hillside up above before driving into Serowe and filling up with petrol. One of the garage attendants brought us a form for a competition to win a tractor, and I filled it it. It was just the kind of thing we would win, so I thought I’d better Google for a suitable agricultural project to donate it to, just in case we did.

The road down from Lentswe Lodge

The road down from Lentswe Lodge

We set off again and as we approached Palapye saw a rather large industrial conplex, and as we passed it saw that it was the Marupule Colliery, next to a power station, which we passed at 8:50, 38.4 km  from the Lentswe Lodge.

Our cottage at Lentswe Lodge, seen from the road below

Our cottage at Lentswe Lodge, seen from the road below

We drove through Palapye, and turned off to Martin’s Drift, and at 9:45, 75.6 km from Serowe, stopped at a sitplekkie to eat the packed breakfast they had given us at Lentswe Lodge – a sausage, a small carton of yogurt, two boiled eggs, a mince jaffle and an apple. I ate most of mine, and threw the carton in the bin, though there was rubbish strewn all over the ground, more outside the bin than in it. It was certainly not clean like the Namibian sitplekkies, but as it was on the right-hand side of the road, we wondered if it were not South African travellers coming through the borders who were making all the mess.

Crossing the Limpopo from Botswana (on the left) to South Africa (on the right)

Crossing the Limpopo from Botswana (on the left) to South Africa (on the right)

We reached to border at Martin’s Drift at 11:15, 158 km from Serowe, and crossed the Limpopo River back into South Africa. The Limpopo didn’t look nearly as impressive as the Okavango, or even the Boteti!

Once again, the immigration officials on the South African side were more surly and less professional than those on the Botswana side. We were also amused by signs in the toilets, welcoming people to South Africa, to give first-time visitors their first taste of South African culture and customs.

Welcome to South Africa!

Welcome to South Africa!

That sort of thing seems to be common to welcome people to a country. In 1966 I left South Africa in a hurry, to escape the clutches of the Security Police, driving through the night to cross the border with Rhodesia (as it then was) at Beit Bridge, a bit downstream from Martin’s Drift. It was just after UDI, and tension was high, but relieved when we saw the desks where one had to fill in  immigration forms, each with a neatly-printed notice with the exhortation, “Please do not allow your children to scribble on the blotting pads.”

Why is it that one’s first introduction to a country is so often a notice prohibiting something or other?

There were about 50 cars parked on the grass next to the parking area, covered in dust, and we wondered if they had beren confiscated as vehicles whose papers were not in order, possibly stolen, but if they were, it seemed that the real owners had made no attempt to claim them. There were also some police vans parked there, and I got the old feeling that one used to get, returning to apartheid South Africa after a visit to a neighbouring country, that one was returning from freedom to a police state. Why is that? It was much more pronounced in the 1960s or the 1980s, but why now. I know in my head that it isn’t so, but emotionally it still feels a little like it. Is it perhaps a result of the Marikana massacre?

Apparently ownerless cars at the border - stolen? Or illegal imports? Could one of them be yours?

Apparently ownerless cars at the border – stolen? Or illegal imports? Could one of them be yours?

Beyond the border post, the countryside feels different too. There are cultivated fields with irrigation sprinklers instead of natural bush. The verges are narrower, there are more wires by the side of the road. Botswana felt wild, this now feels tame and civilised. We turned off for Lepalale, formerly known as Ellis Ras, and drove through it looking for somewhere to eat, as it was 12:30 and getting on for lunch time, but saw nothing, so headed out for Vaalwater, and passed through some bush-covered hills, as wild as anything we had seen on Botswana.

Hills near Vaalwater

Hills near Vaalwater

At Vaalwater there was a restaurant that looked closed, and a Hotel-Bar, which looked more like a local watering hole than a place geared to providing meals.

Beyond Vaalwater the Waterberg mountains were beautiful, as I remembered them from passing this way with Stan Nussbaum 13 years ago. We went on into Modimolle, formerly known as Nylstroom, and had lunch at the Wimpy. They did a reasonable steak egg and chips, small enough to eat, and I knew to avoid their hamburgers at all costs.

Waterberg, between Vaalwater and Modimolle

Waterberg, between Vaalwater and Modimolle

We left at 2:56 pm, having covered 408 km from Serowe, and drove along the old road to Bela Bela, formerly Warmbaths. The road was quite narrow and winding, and there were obviously many, like us, driving here mainly to avoid the toll road. But this road is also far more interesting, and I always love seeing the sign to “De Nyl, s’n oog” (The Nile, its source). From Bela Bela we drove along the R101 where the speed limit was 120 km/h, so it was no slower than the freeway, though we went at about 110 most of the way to Pienaar’s River.

After that it started to get more built up, and at Temba, north of Hammanskraal, the speed limit was 60 in many places, and when we started to encounter pedestrian crossings with humps, we went on to the toll road. It cost just over R18.00, and a bit further on there was another toll gate, where we had to pay another R8.00. We had no more South African cash money, so Val used her credit card, and  so it cost about R26.00 from Hammanskraal — I wonder what we would have had to pay if we had gone on the toll road at Modimolle? But Hammanskraal is within Tshwane, and so people from there, coming to work in Pretoria, would have to pay over R50.00 every day, and they are the poorer people. There are protests against e-tolls that are about to be introduced on most of the Gauteng freeways, but these older toll roads are just as iniquitous, when a 20c per litre increase in the fuel levy would pay for the lot.

We got home at 4:30, having covered 538,7 km from Serowe, 1140.5 from Maun, 1545 from Shakawe, 1836.4 from Rundu, and  2338,4 from Odibo, which was about the furthest point we had reached from home. Over the whole trip we used 5,6 litres of fuel per 100 km.

You can see an index to all these posts of our travelogue of Namibia and Botswana here.

A day in Maun and another boat ride

Continued from From Shakawe to Maun via Lake Ngami | Hayes & Greene family history.

After breakfast at the Island Safari Lodge at Maun, Botswana, where we were staying, we hung around for a while reading and relaxing, then later we went into town to try to get some cash money and some lunch. It seemed that none of the credit card machines at garages or other places were working. Nor was the facility to buy air time for cell phones (any offers for two P10.00 air time vouchers for Mascom in Botswana, which we are no longer able to use?). Fortunately we found a couple of working ATMs.

Maun, Botswana

Maun, Botswana

We saw a Bimbos restaurant, which we had not seen for ages, and had a look at it. It was in one of them that I had first had a shwarma, with Tony Irish, in Hillbrow, 30 years ago. But though the name remained, the franchise had gone,and there were no shwarmas, only local food like goat stew, though they did have chicken breyani on the menu as well. If they had had goat breyani I might have been tempted, but chicken breyani tends to have too many bones for the unwary.

Maun, Botswana

Maun, Botswana

We drove around the town, in a kind of figure 8, going west along the road we had come in, turning south, then north, following well-made tarred roads with streetlights, , though the roads between the houses were sandy tracks, and some houses were traditional mud and thatch, some were plastered brick, but often rondavels rather than square houses, and many, both square and rondavel, had traditional lapas outside. It seemed a quite a bit bigger than Rundu, but a much more pleasant place.

The main streets of Maun are fairly busy ...

The main streets of Maun are fairly busy …

Eventually we had lunch at Wimpys, and I had one of their standard hamburgers, which was as tough an leathery and tasteless as they had been for 50 years. “Flanagan’s Ears” as Val used to call them. Flanagan was a dog they used to have in Escombe, a sort of mongrel spaniel. We went to a Shoprite supermarket, and bought some bottled water and biscuits for our journey to Serowe tomorrow, as we don’t know what we will find along the way.

... but in between the busy streets are quiet lanes leading to houses like these

… but in between the busy streets are quiet lanes leading to houses like these

I don’t normally buy bottled water, as I regard it as a bit of a scam, and ridiculously overpriced. Well, I do buy bottled water, actually, because drinks like CocaCola and Sprite are basically bottled water with a bit of flavouring and sweetening added. I justify buying those to myself because the flavouring and sweetening does add some “value” to the product. But a litre of Coke costs about the same as a litre of petrol. The petrol had to pumped out of the ground, brought halfway round the world in a tanker, and refined in a fairly complicated process, which might justify the price. But adding flavouring and sweetening, and even a bit of fizz to water is relatively simple, and does nothing to justify the price.

tap2Some bottled water is advertised as “spring water”, and so is supposed to be more “pure” and “natural” than tap water, though I suspect that it absorbs quite a lot of impurities from the plastic bottles that it is stored and transported in. But really, how would you know? Most of it just tastes like water. And some of the bigger food firms, like Nestlé, have jumped on the bottled water bandwagon advertising a lot of bogus benefits, most of which are also available from tap water. They claim that “is filtered through the earth and stored in deep Dolomite lakes” (read “boreholes”), but Bonaqua, the CocaCola brand, is basically bottled tap water.

But when travelling in strange places, tap water is not always potable. I remember that in Moscow it wasn’t, and that’s a big city. At the Island Safari Lodge they put out a carafe of drinking water in the rooms, perhaps for such a reason, so we bought bottled water rather than taking their tap water, which could, for all we knew, have been pumped straight from the river outside. So we bought bottled water.

In the Okavango Delta a boat  is a good way to move your stuff

In the Okavango Delta a boat is a good way to move your stuff

Back at the Island Safari Lodge they advertised a sunset boat trip, and since we enjoyed the one at Shakawe so much, we booked for it. At Shakawe our main interest was that Val’s great-great-grandfather had gone up the river there in his boat, and as far as we knew he had not done such a thing at Maun, but picturing oneself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies seemed quite attractive. So we went at about 5 pm.

Washing clothes at the riverside

Washing clothes at the riverside

The boatman, whose name was Cobra, was not expecting us, and thought that no one had booked for the sunset ride, but soon sorted that out, and we went up the river, much narrower and shallower here than 300 km upstream at Shakawe. We looked at jacana birds, Cobra called them “Jesus birds” because they walk across the lily pads, and look as though they are walking on water. We also saw some bee eaters perched on a tree, but not at their nests.

African Jacana -- sometimes called "Jesus birds" because they appear to be walking on water

African Jacana — sometimes called “Jesus birds” because they appear to be walking on water

Cobra said that the flat island on our right, with its grazing cows, was covered with water when the rain in Angola brought the river down in June or July. On the left bank were a lot of dead thorn trees, some with grass in upper branches, showing where the floodwaters reached, up to ten feet from the ground. There was a shed there, and I asked if that too was covered with water, and he said it housed a borehole which people had put down in a dry period, and the trees had also grown here in a dry period, and when the water covered the banks they had died, because Kalahari thorn trees can’t survive in an environment that is too wet, which would also explain the dead trees that we had seen at Lake Ngami — the water level must be rising again, and must be a lot higher than it was 10-20 years ago, though still nothing like as high as it must have been in Fred Green’s time, for him to be able to sail a boat up the Taokhe River.

Dead trees along the river banks; they grew when the water level was lower

Dead trees along the river banks; they grew when the water level was lower

We turned up the left branch of the river, which was flowing more visibly, but at less than half the apparent speed at Rundu or Shakawe. Occasionally we slowed down when passing canoes with local people, to avoid upsetting them with the wash, and went quite a long way up the river.  There were several fish eagles along the banks, and pied kingfishers.

Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies: sunset over the Okavango Delta

Picture yourself in a boat on a river with tangerine trees and marmalade skies: sunset over the Okavango Delta

The sunset was beautiful, and we took several photos, but even better was the rising moon on the way back. We passed some schoolkids playing around in an old boat, though not controlling it very well, but it struck me as a nice after-school pastime.

Moonrise over the Okavango Delta

Moonrise over the Okavango Delta

How can there be so much beauty in the world?

Moonrise in the Okavango Delta

Moonrise in the Okavango Delta

And so to supper, and bed.

The next day we followed the course of the Boteti or Botletle River, where Fred and Charles Green often hunted in the 1850s, to see what its attraction was.

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You can see an index to all these posts of our travelogue of Namibia and Botswana here.

In the Etosha National Park 15-17 May 2013

We spent a couple of days at the Etosha National Park on the way north to Ovamboland. We drove north from the Sasa Safari Lodge through Outjo, with many of the tall north-leaning anthills found in this part of Namibia, with lots of mopane trees. In one place the trees had been cleared, and it looked as though someone was farming anthills, as they seemed to be planted in neat rows. There was also a sign of the changing landscape and a changing world – telephone poles stretching into the distance with not a wire left on them, as cell phones take over the world.

The changing landscape -- a disgth that will soon disappear -- landline telephone poles

Documenting the changing landscape — a sight that will soon disappear — landline telephone poles in northern Namibia

On the way our little Toyota Yaris reached the 200000 km mark, and we stopped to take photos of it on the endless flat road.

Our little Toyota Yaris passed the 200000 km mark between Outjo and the Etosha National Park

Our little Toyota Yaris passed the 200000 km mark between Outjo and the Etosha National Park

We entered the Etosha National Park at the Anderson or Andersson Gate (the spelling varies on maps), and I wondered if it had been named after C.J. Anderson, the Swedish naturalist and trader in these parts, who was a friend and partner of Fred Green, Val’s Great great grandfather, the elephant hunter. Most of what we know of Fred Green’s life comes from Andersson’s letters and diaries.

We stayed at the Halali resort, the middle of three on the southern “shore” of the pan, with Okaukuejo about 75 km to the west, and Namutoni about 75 km to the east. One has to book well in advance, and when we booked the only accommodation available was a “family chalet”, at the highest point in the camp, so we had a good view and a choice of two bedrooms.

Our "family chalet" at Halali camp in the Etosha National Park, Namibia

Our “family chalet” at Halali camp in the Etosha National Park, Namibia

It had been a dry year, and so the animals tended to congregate in great numbers at waterholes that were fed by boreholes, and the one that seemed to have most of the animals most of the time was Nebrownii, about 10 km east of Okaukuejo. There were always large herds of zebras, springbok, and gemsbok drinking there. drink. It was interesting to see how they all walked sedately and orderly in single file. The first time we went there a young zebra foal was amusing itself by running around and chasing the springbok, looking like a sheepdog herding sheep, though less purposefully.

Springbok, gemsbok and zebra at Nebrownii waterhold near Okaukuejo, Etosha National Park

Springbok, gemsbok and zebra at Nebrownii waterhole near Okaukuejo, Etosha National Park

At the Rietfontien waterhole near Halali we saw a rhino, the only one we saw in our time at Etosha, It was a white rhino. When I lived in Namibia 40 years ago there were no white rhino in the country. They were then an endangered species, with a couple of small hers in Natal. Brack rhino, on the other hand, were plentiful in northern Namibia. A huge effort by the Natal Parks Board saved the white rhinos, and exported them all over the continent, and then black rhino became an endangerted species. Now both are endangered species, as poachers kill them indiscrtiminately because some people in Asia believe (falsely) that rhino horn is an aphrodisac, and are prepared to pay huge prices for powdered rhino horn when they could achieve exactly the same result by chewing their own fingernails. As Val said,m it is sad that the white rhinos have had toi be saved from extinction twice in one’s lifetime.

White rhino at Rietfontein waterhole near Halali in the Etosha National Park

White rhino at Rietfontein waterhole near Halali in the Etosha National Park

On Wednesday morning (16 May), we spent the whole day driving around the south-western end of the Etosha Pan, which is about 50 km from north to south, and 100 km from east to west.

Etosha Pan looking north-west from Salvadora

Etosha Pan looking north-west from Salvadora

As we approached Nebrownii from Halali, there were some vehicles stopped on a culvert on the main road a little way from the waterhole, where there were also several elephants. Some were white from having sprayed sand over themselves. Someone said that there were lions at the culvert, and indeed at one point they ran out, and then went back under the culvert. We went on to the waterhole, and the elephants moved away, some black and some white, from the dust they had sprayed over themselves. The springbok at the waterhole were obviously aware of the lions, and kept glancing nervously in the direction of the culvert, and we wondered if the lions would rush out and try to grab one of them, but they did not.

Black and white elephants

Black and white elephants

When the elephants had gone we went back to the culvert where we had seen the lions, but they were well-hidden under the road. Then a bus came, stopped over the culvert and revved its engine, and the lions came bounding out to see what was going on. The bus moved on, and the lions went back under the culvert, but we got a couple of photos of them. It made the advice to stay in one’s car all the more impressive — it would be quite easy to stop and get out there, thinking that there were no animals around, while in fact there could be a whole pride of lions under one’s feet, and they could come bounding out with amazing speed.

Lions emerging from a culvert near Nebrownii waterhole in the Etosha National Park

Lions emerging from a culvert near Nebrownii waterhole in the Etosha National Park

We went on to Okondeka, on the western side of the pan north of Oklaukuejo, and there was a pied crow perched on the stone marking the spot, and a couple of giraffes drinking, rather far off, with the pan shimmering in the background. The Namibian giraffes seem to be darker in colour than the South African ones.

Pied crow

Pied crow

At the restaurant at Halali mosr of the tables were on a covered veranda, and a couple of glossy starlings would perch in the rafters watching to see when people left a table. Then they would call, and flocks of starlings would appear from nowhere, steaching for leftover crumbs before the waitress cleared the table. On one occasion a couple of people left half-eaten muffins on the table, and went inside to get coffee, and the starlings came to grab the muffins, but a waitress appeared and shooed them away.

Starlings grab food from unwary diners at Halali camp

Starlings grab food from unwary diners at Halali camp

We passed a herd of red hartebeest on the way back to Halali.

Red hartebeest (tsessebe). When your face is butt-ugly, you turn your best side to the camera

Red hartebeest (tsessebe). When your face is butt-ugly, you turn your best side to the camera

On our last day in the Etosha National Park we had breakfast and left Halali at 6:34 am, and went to a viewpoint out on the pan, which was reminiscent of crossing the causeway to Holy Island, at Lindisfarne on the Northumbrian coast. Once out on the pan, however, one became completely disoriented, and the horizion, which must have been 30-40 kilometres away seemed no more than a couple of hundred metres away, up a steep hill, and it looked as if one was at the bottom of a conical depression, because there was nothing to establish perspective or distance, so the horizon looked quite close.

This picture can give a small idea of the illusion of the pan -- if you scan the hotizon from lkeft to right, the horizon appears to come closer, and the flat surface looks like a sloping dune. The effect is much more pronounced when you are out on the pan

This picture can give a small idea of the illusion of the pan — if you scan the horizon from left to right, the horizon appears to come closer, and the flat surface looks like a sloping dune. The effect is much more pronounced when you are out on the pan

In some of the photos we had taken with the pan as a background it looked like a wall. Looking back to the shore there would be a line of green vegetation, but looking north, towards the opposite shore, was completely disorienting. We drove on towards Namutoni, and as we approached it began to see anthills again. We had not seen any since entering the park at the Anderson Gate, and there were none around Halali or Okaukueyo.

Gemsbok in the Etosha National Park

Gemsbok in the Etosha National Park

This is part of a series of posts on our journey through Namibia and Botswana in May 2013. You can read the previous post in the series here.

From Etosha we went on to Ovamboland, Namibia 17-20 May 2013, with flashbacks to the 1970s | Khanya

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