Friday, December 29, 2017

Motown Magic

Time is flying by ...... perhaps because its that time of year or perhaps I had forgotten how time consuming children are ..... or perhaps its just because I am enjoying myself immensely. It happens when you are on holiday - you want to put the brakes as the days just speed past.

Its cold here - really cold and hard not to succumb to the temptation of staying warm and cosy inside but we layer and boot up and put our frozen smiles on and head out. Yesterday we headed downtown again - it just happened to be the coldest day in Detroit in 92 years - there is a reason for this, the weathermen tell us that we have a push of  arctic air - in other words the North Pole has moved to Novi - Brrr! We are so comfortable in the car - everything is heated - my seat back, my headrest and there is hot coffee within arms reach - the roads are clear, the sky blue and we are wearing sunglasses - its deceiving. Our destination today is the Motown Museum.

Over fifty years ago as a teenager in the north of England, I bopped around to a 'new' sound sensation. The Four Tops, Martha and the Vandellas, Jackie Wilson, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, Stevie Wonder, The Supremes and my favourite Isley Brothers - I am talking about Tamla Motown. I would never have dreamed that I would have stood on the same ground as where that music was written and recorded.
 You can read about the Motown Museum here - I didn't realise the humble origins of the business brain and creative genius behind it all Berry Gordy. The studio in its heyday operated 22 hours a day churning out hit after hit - 180 number ones. - and putting African American youngsters on the path to stardom. The museum is the row of houses where all this happened and the tour is focused in one of the houses where the recording studios were - in the basement. Everything has been preserved as it was then - amazing!  I am so grateful that fate has brought me here to experience the origins of music that not only shaped the music scene in America and the UK - it shaped me too! Motown music broke down the barriers of racial prejudice and united people. When the person next to me at the video screening preceding the tour asked where I was from and I told him - he nearly fell off his chair! "to think we were dancing to the same music thousands of miles apart..."
There are plans to expand the museum - I am so glad I saw it as it is now - I reconnected with my soul music.

We headed for warmth in a tiny coffee shop -full of hipsters with interesting beards! Excellent coffee and business was brisk. Also on the 'things to do in Detroit' was to dine out on a 'Coney Dog'. There are two shops next door to one another and we wanted to do a comparison so we had one at each. A 'coney' dog is a local delicacy consisting of a hot dog sausage in a roll dripping with mince chilli sauce and topped with raw sweet onion. Delicious and I am sure Sean will be popping in for a 'Daawwg" regularly.

Then as we'd promised a certainly lady that there would be skating - we made our way to Campus Martinus park in the town centre expecting it to be closed because it was -20. It was buzzing with skaters - and spectators - gathered beneath a towering Christmas tree and some huddled around outdoor fires in between skating. Rosy cheeks and all very festive!

I headed to another coffee shop - this time the better known Starbucks and sat in the warm while Adam catnapped and Katherine enjoyed her first attempt at ice skating on the coldest day in Detroit in 92 years!  Gosh - we were glad to get back in the warm car and the journey home was very quiet with two sleepy children and me already replaying all those motown hits in my head. Magic.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Bigger and Better

I have been here for a week and it is wonderful - you know the saying 'bigger and better' well the US is exactly that. Things that I am loving the most:-

  • It goes without saying that family time is the best and just hanging out with Sean, Nadine and the grandchildren is fantastic.
  • People are proud of their flag and their country. 
  • The snow has made everything into a white winter wonderland and everything looks so pretty.
  • The homes are all decorated beautifully for the season.
  • I haven't seen any poverty - no one has asked me for money! I know that there is poverty here but its not where I am and its in the minority.
  • People are so polite and helpful - no grumpy faces or snootiness either.
  • There is a real family vibe.
  • The school bus passes the house at around 8.15am and brings the kids home after school too. On time daily - all weathers!
  • Katherine's school is a lovely warm place full of happy children enjoying learning and discovery.
  • I have yet to encounter a taxi driving recklessly.
  • There is respect for the law. I have felt safe and secure and not checking if my alarm is on or my car door locked.
  • The water that comes out of the tap is safe to drink and ice cold.
  • There is free wi-fi everywhere.
  • There are some real bargains to be had - In all my travels I compare the cost of food in SA and overseas - Food is really expensive in South Africa - We are being ripped off by the big four supermarkets. 
  • The postal service is brilliant and with one click you can have anything on your doorstep the next day.
  • They collect your mail too - if its stamped and in your mail box - there is an indication system to let the postman know that you have a letter to go.
  • Katherine can play out in the street with her friends and so will Adam be able to when he is old enough.
  •  WOW -There are baby changing facilities in the men's bathroom!

                                                         ...........I could go on and on! First World living is .......first class!

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Two sides of the coin.

I have been feeling a bit mean...Not easy to admit as I pride myself on being a generous and kind person but last week my empathy flew out of the window as at every turn there seemed to be a person with their hand out asking me for money. It started on a drive home from Summerstrand when at every traffic light - all six of them - a hand was put under my nose. The pleading look - that I am sure is practiced to perfection in the mirror - head slightly down and on one side, eyes raised accompanied my a tap on the belly - which doesn't look all that empty to me! Then there are those with dogs - just to appeal to my love of the furry kind,  and worst of all those who use children to dodge in and out of vehicles while I hold my breath!
All designed to make me feel guilty for having a car, a job, food and a home. All these things are perfectly normal for people to have in other countries but here they are a luxury and I must pay for having them!  I know that people are struggling - guess what most people I know are struggling! I have also had a week where some of my group of learners - who are all earning a salary and have the best of phones - have asked to lend money for lunch - bus fare - ect. They just about fainted with exasperation because I asked them to buy their own lined paper - for some reason they feel I must supply this and headache pills and pritt and pens, pencils and .....and!
And to top it all - SARS are now wanting more of my hard earned money so that they government can pay social grants to all the teenage mothers and people who they have failed to provide opportunities for work to.
YES... I think that I am over Africa....tired of those pleading eyes....and being harassed at traffic lights and in car parks - Lets be honest car guards are really just formalised beggars. I am perfectly capable of finding a space, parking my vehicle and un-parking it. I am just tired of people wanting me to give my hard earned money to them and making me feel bad for not wanting to.

On the other side of the coin - I volunteered to collect for Autism EC this Saturday. I asked Jessica if she wanted to help and the reply came back,"only if I can wear a tutu." When I went to fetch her there were two fairies in tutus waiting and all I had to do was supervise! This time I was surprised at those who gave. The most generous, I observed - the elderly and the infirm and also students and moms with  young children - those who perhaps with least money to spare. Jessica and her friend loved the interaction and listened  most politely while some of the older folk liked to chat. Their tin soon filled and they were amazed how it all added up. It was the longest that I have seen Jess without her phone in her hand for a long while too :-) Best of all they are keen to repeat the process soon.

I was raised to be kind - I was rewarded for being helpful - I know I am fortunate but its NOT normal when the needy outnumber the un-needy. When those who HAVE outnumber those who haven't and when the takers outnumber the givers. Lets get this in perspective!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Samara - A little piece of heaven on our doorstep!

My life has two modes at the moment – Work and Play. I came back from Namibia and worked like the clappers for three weeks so that I could take time out last week to connect with nature again. I just had to have my green fix!  I am a restless soul and right now I am treading water and being patient as another chapter of my life is unfolding - I am stuck between my circumstances and my future so I need to have milestones to peg my time on as I make progress and last week was one of them – a trip to a reserve not too far away that I have wanted to travel to for some time. My next milestone is my December trip and first time ever visit to the USA. I am literally counting the days and its 22 more sleeps. That’s another three weeks of working like the clappers! Don’t get me wrong I am so grateful for my work, it is a blessing, but it was great to get away last week.
Samara – I have been receiving a newsletter from them since I entered a competition  so had been following the development of this ten year old reserve for a while. It has been the dream of Sarah  and Mark Tomkins to return these plains of the Camdedoo  to their natural state, a time when animals roamed freely and were plentiful. They started to buy failed farms in the area and the property is now over 60,000 hectares. It is being stocked as funds and circumstances allow and is most famous for its cheetahs.  The owners live in the UK but visit often, and are passionate about the environment. It is beautiful – I felt at home from the moment I arrived and because it was mid-week I was the only guest on the first night so it was personalized service and my own private ranger!
Elephants are a new edition to the reserve – they have just adopted a small herd from Kwandiwe so there is a particular interest in tracking them and seeing how they are settling in ….and I can report very nicely thank you! 
We followed them for a while and then headed towards giraffe we had spotted in the distance. As we drew nearer, Thendui (my very own ranger) parked the vehicle and we approached them on foot. They were quite at ease with this but also curious to see who had come to visit! They are tall – we all know that – but when you are on the ground they are look really really tall. I spent almost an hour meandering with them – ensuring a reasonable space between us. It felt a little surreal. We stopped for snacks and sundowners and were joined by the elephants as they had their evening snack – again Thendui  anticipated where they would be emerging and we drove there and again on foot waited for them to emerge – we kept our distance but again to be on the ground as they came through the thicket was such a thrill. Back at the homestead a bowl of warm water and a fluffy towel was waiting as was a lovely warming and very welcome sherry!
Dinner for one that evening ….I got chatting to a chef who was using this quiet time to train staff on a new menu and yes – of course she identified me as the person who would eat anything and everything that they had prepared and I was a very willing guinea pig. Afterwards I rolled off to my room to find warm, fragrant bathwater waiting and chocolate truffles begging to be eaten! I was in heaven……..
Day 2 and up before the crack of dawn to catch the early morning game. Our first visit was to a mother and baby rhino and once again – we walked in perfect silence towards them from the vehicle. They grazed quite happily and allowed us to about 5 meters away. Unbelievable – I was taking a morning stroll with the rhino. Her little boy was most interested in us and mom had to keep nudging him to keep him from getting under our feet.
Then to top this we tracked the cheetahs to a rocky incline – hardly visible from the vehicle as we walked closer up popped mom cheetahs head and then her four cubs got interested and joined her for family photos!  Again we were very quiet and Thendui ensured that she was comfortable with us. He has been at the reserve for six years and has known the mother and cubs from birth so I felt quite safe. They are not tame by any means and had we tried to touch her or her cubs, we would have been their next meal. It was awesome standing there with them in that wild and beautiful place – no sound, no litter, wide skies and fresh clean air. I was in heaven…….
I was fed sweet potato pancakes with berry coulis on my return and just in case I was still hungry, a Karoo breakfast followed. It’s no wonder that I returned to my room and slept.
I awoke in time for afternoon tea and was joined by a Swiss couple – she a pharmacist and he in shipping – hmm Switzerland is land locked but it does not stop them having a fleet, I learned!
Our afternoon drive again consisted of close encounters with giraffe, although the cheetahs were elusive. We followed the elephant and while we were sat watching and discussing them in the vehicle, and the smallest one decided to chase us. Whether he was wanting to make friends or wanting us to leave him in peace – we will never know. As we pushed foot in the vehicle - I learned how fast elephants can run.
Another sumptuous meal awaited  but I ate quickly and left the young Swiss couple to a romantic tete-a-tete.  A warm bath awaited me and a night of sweet dreams.
I was sad to leave the following day – sad because I had such a great stay but also because I know that the next few weeks are going to be hard slog as 2017 careers to an end.  I want this year to be over as, despite my travels and envious proximity to nature, on a personal level it has been a challenging one for me. My life is going through a major overhaul – a very welcome one and I am excited for the changes to come.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Namibia 7 - The End of the Road

We are almost done! Hard to believe my action packed holiday is coming to an end but this evening I have a sunset game drive to look forward to and dinner under the stars again.
There are only four of us opting to go out with our guide who is called Festival - I feel a booze cruise coming on! There arent a lot of animals tough enough to survive in this harsh landscape but we see Giraffe, Ostrich and again our familiar Oryx (gemsbok). The views are breathtaking as we climb in the vehicle to the top of the dune and Festival couldn't be more accommodating. I am on the back row which always means a more bouncy ride but I like it because of the uninterrupted views for my camera. The higher we get the more oryx we see and lo and behold we start to see their young - whole families of them with lots of babies - we have stumbled across the oryx nursery!
At the top the drinks and snacks come out and we look down at our camp below - it looks like a lego village. I am enjoying the last golden rays of the sun lighting up the red earth and the long ochre grasses. I am making polite conversation and being on my best behaviour. Its hard because Joke and Dr Dous are here with me - the one never shuts up and knows everything about everything - even more than our very qualified guide, and the other wont converse in the language of the colonial oppressor! You know its time to go home when you  have to go behind a bush and mutter to yourself!
Another gin and tonic - a double - and I sit and watch the sun dip to the horizon and immediately it is cold. We really do bounce back to camp and there's just time for a quick change as I head for dinner.
Again an early start the next morning as we head back to Windhoek - any day wouldn't be complete without a flat tyre and we again hear the familiar noise and clamber out while the tyre is changed. What a bazaar run of flat tyres!  We really are in the middle of nowhere but there is always some litter and Celia goes off on her mission to rid the world of plastic and then starts planting broken pieces of cactus. There really is a fine line between saving the planet and mental health issues and I fear she has crossed it.  We arrive in Windhoek and find the trailer tyre is also flat so the tool box is out again - The Namibian roads are really unforgiving and in some ways its good that I have learned this as I had been thinking to do a self-drive trip on my next visit. Now I know not to!!
Half the group are leaving today - myself and the KZN five are staying an extra night as there were no connecting flights for us from Jo'burg so we check into our rooms and chill for the afternoon. As the group disband there is much swapping of email addresses even though we all know we will not be emailing each other. Its just Fred, Ted, Jean, Alison, Celia and I left and we are having our last supper tonight. It turns out to be a lovely last evening - a lovely restaurant and in the smaller group its easier to have one conversation. Topic of conversation is Ted's knees and hips the possibility of  replacements.What hasn't been  sliced, diced, pinned and reconnected, stapled and fixed at that table is frightening! A comforting soul remarks that the survival rate after hip and knee replacements isn't long....! "Cheers!"More wine anyone???

At breakfast Alison is by the toaster with a spoon dripping runny marmalade into a container wearing a look of disdain. I smile and pat her arm,"Just think tomorrow, you can have all of your favourites", I offer. She shakes her head and replies that she is going to miss all the delicious breakfast she has enjoyed! 
Back home and while writing this, I have smiled so much. Part of the journey for me is the meeting of these strangers and the memories we have made. I have no doubt if they were to tell this story that their version would have been different and they would have found me a little strange and found something to comment on about my idiosyncrasies. 
I loved my trip to Namibia and wouldn't have had it any other way!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Nambia 6 ........Red or Dead

WE are leaving Luderitz and its mostly a day of driving as we head to Sossusvlei. I clamber in to my vacant seat on time .....but there is some exaggerated checking watches - What is it about old people who think that being on time is being late ?  Eight means eight not seven thirty in my time zone!  Three grumpy faces are in the back row. "See no Evil, Hear no Evil, Speak no English!" Gosh did I really say that out loud - I've reached the point where my thoughts are coming unbidden from my mouth - I had better connect to my music and look ahead. Thankfully the road is pretty desolate and there is nothing for Jean to read although I am still sat in between her and Ted so the reminders for sunscreen, water and map reading are ongoing. The wind is still strong and shifting sands are interesting to watch. I get out my Kindle and read. My reading choice is not good, The Secret Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, is a story of Churchill's female spies during WW2. It's an excellent book but its not good to read about the cruelty of the Nazis when you are a pommie in a previous German colony with lots of German tourist and where German is still very much spoken. I know, I know it was a long time ago but my mood sinks as I read of the treatment of spies who were caught and the mistreatment of POWs.
We grind to a halt - a flat tyre. We all get out while the tyre is changed and set off again. We stop for lunch in ....... a one horse town. The menu is toasted sandwiches with chips or salad and they don't look pleased to see us as a large coach party have just left. We order drinks and our toasties. Our food arrives and guess whose food is wrong - Alison ordered chips not salad  with her choice of toastie and we try to remedy it - Chips and salad fly off peoples plates and peace returns. We hang around and I make conversation over a beer with a kudu head as we wait for Heidi to return with the spare tyre fixed. As we leave we can hear a loud droning approaching and a large group of bikers pull in - the staff will be pleased!
We arrive at our next stop over which is a lovely lodge situated under a petrified dune. Keys allocated we are at ease until dinner - we have to get on the road early tomorrow in order to capture the light on the dunes so its lights out - I cannot be late for our early start. Dinner is a buffet and I decline the kudu casserole!
SH** I over sleep, rush round in a panic skipping breakfast to meet the group in reception - I cannot bear to think of my fate if I am late but thankfully I just make it just in time - to more watch checking.
Situated in the largest conservation area in Africa (the Namib-Naukluft National Park), Sossusvlei is possibly Namibia’s most spectacular and best-known attraction. Sossusvlei is a large, white, salt and clay pan surrounded by spectacular red dunes. Thdunes are some of the highest in the world, reaching almost 400 meters, and my camera went into overdrive. Sossusvlei literally translates to “dead-end marsh”, as it is the place where the dunes come together preventing the Tsauchab River to flow any further, some 60km east of the Atlantic Ocean. 
Hooray - we have a packed breakfast from the hotel but mine can wait as I am off through the dessert to the clay pan - Celia is game too and I see Dr Dous heading in our direction, "Are you walking to the vlei too?", I ask. No response and she turns a sharp left and disappears into the dunes! Sigh!
Undeterred and with legs still straining from my sandy hike around Kolmanskop, I trudge off with Celia for the 4k hike to the white clay pan. It really is beautiful and again I am reminded of a moonscape - its like nothing I have seen before. Every now and then we come across a fellow desert trudger and lines of them scampering like ants up 'Bid Daddy'. My photos will have to speak for themselves as I don't have words.
Celia and I chat and walk and admire the view and an hour or so later we arrive back to the vehicle - the wind has surfaced again and everyone is inside looking a bit bored. I devoured my breakfast sat at the picnic table with my muffin/bacon buttie partner and we repack the breakfast things and head out. The scenery is wonderful en route as we make for Solitaire - an oasis with a very full car park and very welcome loos! I am immensely happy to find they have a shop here that stocks EVERYTHING from pans to cook drink to string! My particular emergency is face cleanser - mine is finished. They don't have Clinique or Clarins but I pounce on some Johnsons Baby Oil - my face is saved!  We head home wards and a few minutes later 'POP' - another flat tyre and the spare is also flat. Heidi flags down a vehicle and heads back to the oasis we have just left hoping they will have tyres. It is now seriously hot - I have water - I have baby oil and the remnants of breakfast. I will survive. Red and not quite dead!
Miraculously less than an hour later - Heidi is back with three new tyres and two strong men to assist and we make it back to our lodge. I have a little doze before the sunset drive I have booked. I dream of red dunes inhabited by talking antelope. Can't believe my trip is almost over. 

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Namibia Day 5 - Earth, Wind and Sand

Sand and Wind are never a good combination and sand dunes and a hurricane - even worse. Everything in Kolmanskop is sandblasted including me! We have arrived along with a couple of hundred others for the only tour of the day of Kolmanskop. I want photos of a ghost town - not of coaches of German tourists so I set off in the opposite direction to everyone else! I protect myself as much as I the risk of looking like a Jihad insurgent!
Kolmanskop grew out of the diamond boom. The region was administered by Germany at the beginning of the century and the town reflected this in its character. It was said of the Germans that only after they had finished building the pub and the skittle alley, their favorite form of relaxation, did they start looking for suitable plots to build their houses. In 1912, the area produced one million carats or 11.7 per cent of the world’s total diamond production.Such wealth meant that despite the harsh climate and isolation, the miners could afford every possible European luxury.
 The town had a local butcher, baker and post office. An ice plant was established to make blocks to use in food coolers as well as to manufacture the town’s own delicious lemonade. Elaborate houses were built to accommodate the town’s architect, teacher, doctors and mining managers. A large hospital employed two German doctors, one of whom was understandably popular for prescribing his patients an evening tonic of caviar sandwiches and champagne. The inhabitants did not lack for entertainment either. A German expert was brought in to design and supervise the building of a magnificent hall, with acoustics so fine that today visitors are still encouraged to put them to the test and burst into song.  In its heyday, the town looked very different. Fresh water was bought in by rail from 120km away and pumped into storage tanks. The water nurtured lush gardens with manicured lawns, rose beds and eucalyptus trees. Pets were difficult to keep in the conditions, but one family had a pet ostrich that terrorised the townspeople. It was only partly able to redeem itself at Christmas by pulling a sled containing Father Christmas over the sand.
World War I interrupted mining operations. The resumption of mining after the war led to the slow depletion of deposits. By the early-’30s, the area was in decline. Hastening the town’s demise was the discovery in 1928 of the richest diamond-bearing deposits ever known. These were on the beach terraces 270km south of Kolmanskop, near the Orange River. Many of the town’s inhabitants joined the rush to the south, leaving their homes and possessions behind. Kolmanskop retained some importance as a supply depot for other mining operations, including those on the Orange River. This role passed, too, as it became easier to bring supplies from South Africa. The last three families finally deserted the town in 1956. The sands that were once swept up every morning now gather unhindered. The desert encroaches into the buildings, gradually filling the empty rooms with smooth rolling drifts. The houses still stand but it is the elements that are in control. The roofs are gradually being laid bare and the glass worked from the ornate frames.
One can just imagine these proud German hausfraus' daily battle with sand - it's everywhere! The heat also must have been a huge challenge to them. I stagger around being blown, battered and baffled in equal proportions. In its day the hospital had all mod cons, including a state of the art Xray machine - the main purpose of which was to XRay suspected diamond thieves and the info centre has a wonderful display of the inventive ways in which the wannabe a millionaires tried to smuggle out diamonds! From diamond parcels being attached to pigeons to false toecaps in shoes to others foolish enough to swallow them!
Back at the Tourist Centre, Alison is sat eyes streaming as she got sand in her eyes on arrival - this was to be the highlight of her trip and its ruined! The new me administers eye drops and offer my spare sunglasses and she is grateful. I thought I had seen everything but was informed that I couldn't leave without seeing the manor house as this is the property that is in the best condition so I don my sand protection and head across the dunes. Again - I imagine the stories and secrets the house holds. The soirees held here - these walls have heard much skinnering as dainty Kaffeetassies of German coffee were drank and gossip was shared with the kuchen. The elegance of the place is apparent even now and it must have been a sight for sore eyes in its day. No expense has been spared.
I go upstairs and open a window to take a photo as its a good vantage point. I put my camera down to close it and see the sign 'DO NOT OPEN THIS WINDOW' I struggle and struggle - the window will not close and I am about to abandon my attempts and confess my crime to the Kolmanskop cops - when it slots into place - Phew! I thought I was doomed to live as a window catch in the desert!
After our visit we head back into Luderitz - looking for a place to have lunch.The town is deserted and we struggle to find a place open till we stumble across this tiny coffee shop that can just about seat 11 of us. I find my cake partner and a corner and we order. The food is delicious and its served bCharmaine. This is Charmaine..... What she lacks in efficiency she make up with her personality - she is delightful. A smile on legs - less than 5 foot tall and a grin as big and as wide as those nashers! I comment on her pint size and she tells me she was a prem baby! Her smile is captivating! I want to take her home.
Our lemon meringue is delicious - so delicious that I get carried away and eat my half and the top of my cake partners half. I have failed as a cake partner - I am in disgrace! I am forgiven at supper when I order her a dessert for her starter!

Tonight there will definitely be sand in the bath. Tomorrow another adventure waits along a sandy road - this time to the red dunes of Sossusvlei.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Nambia Four - A day of surprises!

We have an imposter amongst us - At breakfast one of the Jeans announce that her name isn't Jean! Its Joke - Our guide asks her if it a joke but she says no - her name is 'Joke'. We are all a little surprised that she hasn't said something before - I am a lot surprised that anyone would be preferred to be called Joke rather than Jean (apparently it's a Dutch name that is short for Johanna). She said she did introduce herself as Joke but we all called her Jean so she just pretended she was called Jean WTF! And so another lovely day in Namibia begins. We are on the road again today - this time we are heading for Luderitz.I am seated next to Yorkshire Jean - who seems to hop about this bus in search of the most comfy seat - I am in the worst seat again but thankfully my bum is numb as we rattle along for an hour before we hit tar! Topic of conversation this morning is a competition, 'Who lives in the best retirement complex.' I plug my earphones in and listen to Rhiana! Another day - another desert and we are in search of the Wild horses. An image of wild stallions galloping through the desert with their manes and tails streaming behind them, shiny rippling coats, thundering hooves creating a cloud of dust. I sit with my camera primed and on the right setting. There they are - four or five very sad, thin horses are standing lethargically in a field - I want to cry! The drought has reduced them to this and they are now being fed as there is no pasture for them. We watch for a little while and I do cry as we drive away and they are reduced to tiny dots in the vast landscape ....they disappear altogether and I fear that they will be doing that literally one day soon!
Onwards to Luderitz and the Atlantic seafront. It’s known for its German colonial buildings, including the art nouveau Goerke Haus, built into the rock face on Diamond Hill. Its dominated by a hilltop church - once a thriving port and part of the diamond rush it now has a population of a few thousand. Its Saturday afternoon and it is dead! The only active spot seems to be our hotel which is crawling with mini Miss Namibia's tottering around in mini heels wearing assorted princess dresses, bridal wear and tiaras. 
My room is gorgeous and has fabulous sea view - how I miss the sea when I am in the desert and I make for the small balcony - flinging open the patio door to be swept into a tangle of curtains - its a tad breezy. I look down onto the rocks and catch sight of Alison - she is on the balcony to the right of me - 'Gorgeous views," I enthuse. "There is no bath - we only have a shower! Do you have a bath?" she demands. I nod guiltily! Yorkshire Jean is on the left - I can hear her reading the hotel evacuation procedure aloud. I retreat to my room and try to bring order to my wardrobe - through some of my undies in the bath to soak and then make my way up the hill to explore that church....say a few prayers...ask for forgiveness for my mean thoughts about some of my group and pray for strength to keep my mouth shut! I am walking head down against the wind for a few minutes before I realise that I am treading the same ground - the wind is so strong that I am hardly moving. I push on and slowly begin to ascend the climb to the church.I turn around to walk backwards as the wind is so strong - I see Jean waving at me - she is trying to catch me up. I wait and we hang on to one another as we climb the hill. The church is locked but Jean reads a sign aloud saying it will be open in about 15 mins so we wait and get chatting. Her and Ted are neighbours of Fred and Alison - I ask what happened to their son (In conversation one evening when we were talking about one anther's family - we learned that Alison, like me had sadly lost a son) Jean tells me the story - which I wont relate here but he died in tragic circumstances - and I feel so so sad for her. I realise its not about the marmalade - its about her loss.

A couple of minutes later the church door is opened by the hunchback of Luderitz! Its a very pretty church - beautifully kept - immaculate and I sit and contemplate the stories it can tell. You can imagine it filled with German ladies and gentlemen in their finery - weddings, christenings, funerals. Hopeful diamond seekers ardently praying for that ONE stone which will seal their future and the wives of fishermen praying for safe passage for their men. These wooden pews have been well used.
We take a shortcut back down a steep slope of volcanic rock and with the wind behind us are back at base in no time.
I enjoy the luxury of a long soak and get ready for a night on the town - we are eating out tonight at the harbour. Our restaurant is full of Luderitz lookalikes - locals with large square heads, wide spaced eyes, short squat bodies - the town of Spongebob square pants! Our table is waiting - we order and I am enjoying a glass of wine with tonight's table friends - being particularly nice to Alison and trying to break into conversation with 'the one who wont speak English to me'. I explain I was raised in the UK - I try to find common ground - my ancestors were also Dutch - I complement her on her complexion. I am wasting my fucking time! I rename her Dr Dous and order more wine!
Its a long wait but the food is excellent and the wine even better. 
Tomorrow I know is going to be one of the highlights of my trip Kolmanskop  - the deserted diamond mining town. I cant wait!

Monday, October 30, 2017

Namibia Three

We are up early for our journey to the Fish River Canyon as it can get very hot there midday.The group seem to have formed three teams. Team1 is the married couples, who do actually know one another and live in the same retirement complex. Team2 are Peggy, Jean and Dr Du? - I am in Team 3 with my new BFFs Jean and Celia.I am very interested in group dynamics as its part of my work in training and we are going through all the stages of group development - we have formed - we are now norming and subgroups have formed - we are about to storm.........!
The Fish River Canyon is immense - Its the largest canyon in Africa and the second largest in the planet.   In places it is 27 kms wide and 550m deep and over 160 kms long.  It is layered in shades of ochre, gold and straw with the Fish River winding its way through it like a large green snake. It is breathtaking. We arrive and the teams head off in various directions after reading whats what at the info centre. Team two head off to the left, Team1 make camp at the info centre in a shady spot - they don't do walkabouts and my team wander off to the right. Team 1 caution us (well me really) not to go too close to the edge. Well we cha-cha off to the right really - two steps forward - two steps back get the camera out - take a selfie and repeat! We have a relaxed walk breathing in the essence of this ancient stone while admiring Team 1's energy - they are striding with gusto into the distance. We amble along - stopping to chat to other visitors from all over the world Germany, UK, USA, Oudtshoorn and up pops the lovely Dutch couple ready to assist in case we want to take the road less traveled. We dont, we want to enjoy the views and chat and take photos.

A couple of hours later and Heidi does a sweep with the combi to pick up those who have had enough walking - the rest of the group are already inside and catch me sat right on the edge while having my photo taken - there is some tutting and eye rolling as we climb in the vehicle. I must mention at this point that a member of Team 3 who addresses everyone else in English or Afrikaans as the case maybe - addresses me in Afrikaans.  I have been monitoring the situation and have even tried to have a conversation with her to state my case - Ek is a pommie and my Afrikaans is baai sleg - she wont speak English to me. That is pretty sad considering she is an intelligent person and should know the boer war was over long ago - klaar! A vision of Thelma and Louise pops into my head and I chase it away.  Anyway off we go and we bump along in the direction of our camp looking for a place to stop for our picnic lunch. We find a tree and the picnic teams form - you know the saying 'Too many cooks spoil the broth'?  - Well the same goes for salad rolls. A competition is silently launched - who can be the most helpful as people scramble to chop cucumber, spread table cloths, arrange chairs and rattle cutlery. I chase paper serviettes! Amazingly there was not a breath of wind until the serviettes were brought out. A very pleasant lunch enjoyed under a shady tree while various antelope - mostly those hardy gemsbok (notice the Afrikaans term) graze close by. Topic of conversation - knee transplants! The washing up team spring into action and everything is cleared and packed and we head to camp. Another cooling swim - shower, changed and an late afternoon stroll around the desert. Very dusty, Very hot - Nothing there - so I climb on a rock and try to look sexy!

We head back again and NEVER has a long cool drink been more welcome - My Savanah arrives just at the precise moment that I decide that everyone is getting on my nerves.....normally they take it  in turns but everyone starts speaking crap at the same time - I take my drink off into the lounge in search of more interesting company. I start chatting to a lovely lady who lives in Swakopmond - she is originally from 'Rhodesia' and we swap snippets of our lives and she tells me how pleasant she finds living in Namibia despite her initial reservations about settling here. Her and her husband are touring with a visiting relative from Australia and on cue they arrive and the dinner gong goes.
After dinner going back to my room the moon illuminates rabbits hopping about, dassies disappear into my roof as I approach my cottage and I wish we were staying another night in this magical place.
Tomorrow we head off to Luderitz to explore the ghost town of Kolmanskop, This will be my view along the way!

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Namibia Two

"There is no marmalade!" Good Morning Alison! The sun rose and I made my way to breakfast feeling a little green around the gills to be met at the buffet by Alison on the marmalade warpath!
 I was surprised how chilly it was - there had been a terrific storm in the night. I seriously was not feeling well but after breakfast (with no marmalade) we went walkabout - those able to walk went walkabout! There was nothing there - we were in the desert and I pretended to be interested in shrubs with thorns - I like trees but I don't necessarily need to know their Latin names and details of their root system, the group enthused over animal droppings I wandered off.....I was more interested in this weird structure - Was it a Termite mausoleum? Something left by aliens two thousand years ago or had I stumbled on the a Namibian labyrinth? I will never know as I had to return to base - feeling particularly dizzy and unwell. I crawled into bed and missed lunch and the game drive and appeared at dinner, managed a little soup and crept away again as the kitchen choir assembled for their evening concert. Poor Alison!
We had to be A for away at the crack of dawn and when I arrived at the vehicle the group were already assembled and seated - one seat was suspiciously empty - Freddy long legs was sat in in my yesterday seat - so I took my place behind Ted and in front of his wife Jean. No Aircon .......... off we rattle! Lots of concern and sympathy about my health and then Jean asks, "Has anyone ever died on a tour?" and the group discuss what one would do in that situation. I am feeling like the deceased already! Yorkshire Jean is an avid reader - she is sat behind me and reads every sign we pass out loud. Potholes Ahead; Please Close the Gate; St Paul's School; Arrive Alive....Sometimes Ted joins in and they read in unison - very cute for the first two minutes and then you just want to bang throttle them - I sit on my hands and pray that they will arrive alive. En route to the Fish River Canyon we stop at a roadhouse full of rusty old cars and settle down for lunch - there is a bit of a squabble over the seats in the shade - I head for the loo where I am invited to check the Songololo box attached to a poster on the wall of a rather large and well built local. The bell rings in the bar - I am busted!
In disgrace and in hysterics, I make my way to a rusty car where a gorgeous young German couple are taking selfies in one of the cars - I offer my services and see my cake and wine partner wandering towards me - "Get in - I will take your photo", I suggest. She thinks that this is such a hoot and we take turns posing in the rusty car. She hands me her phone - I cant see anything on the screen - she tells me just click there it will be OK - its been like this a while - she needs a new screen. Eureka!! I show here how to adjust the brightness on her screen (its been turned right down) The gift of light is such a wonderful thing when you have been squinting at a dark screen since whenever! Back on the road and part two of our reading lesson.
We arrive at our camp near the Fish River Canyon - Godwana Canyon Lodge - It is SO beautiful here. Huge rocks and total peace and silence - now Jean and Ted have stopped reading aloud - and dry still air. My cottage is beautiful - a little gingerbread house nestled between rocks with Gemsbok grazing outside and dassies living in the roof.... I grab my cozzie and a towel and head to the pool - a trek away - and take an icy dip while  looking at a view with no horizon - I can see for miles and miles and MILES.
Shower, change and assemble for our pre dinner walk.......A vertical walk up a mountain.
 Our guide carries our snacks in front of him in a ceremonial way and we follow. I am a rock spider - I am a goat - I scramble up that mountain with the help of a very lovely Dutch couple - his hand is waiting at every incline an his wife is behind me giving me a push when I need it - I love them! Sadly we had to leave one of the Jeans - her knees wont make it. My knees are inspired, a bar is waiting at the top and the sunset is spectacular ....but a moment later the moon rises on the other side of the mountain and it is AWESOME. The biggest, pinkest, fullest moon I have ever seen.

You can feel very small in Namibia - you can feel lost in that immense landscape - almost surreal - like you are on the moon. It has a quietness and a stillness that I haven't experienced anywhere else. You can sense the ancient ones watching over you - like you are alone but not on your own, I seemed to lift my chin and hold my head a little higher here.
That moon brings a message for me - I AM HERE - BE PATIENT - ALL WILL BE WELL.
In the circle of life - There is a time and a season for everything......My time is coming :-)