Saturday, November 17, 2018

South Africa Day 10

It was not a too early day, and the day mostly involved travel. Our coach took us to George Airport where we took a domestic flight to Johannesburg. The camera had a bit of a rest. Another coach collected us from the airport with a new driver and we set off for the destination for the night at Nelspruit, striking distance of Kruger Park. We stopped off for a break at Alzu Petroport, which was really good and had a bit of wildlife happening down below in the fenced land.

As there isn't much to see for today journey, let me tell you about tipping in South Africa. Yes, it is a tipping country, and Australians hate having to tip. At the top of our voices we want to yell, pay your workers proper wages and get rid of this tipping nonsense. At home, we do tip a little, but it is not expected. If your bill for a meal is $38, you will probably just leave the change from $40. Pizza delivery people don't get paid very well, just the bare minimum, so we usually tip a couple of dollars. We usually do round up taxi fares to the $5 or $10 mark. They are paid very badly as they are never employees but self employed. I have given a big tip at times in Australia when someone really did something special for me, or us.

R always wants to do the right thing about tipping when in a foreign country and was quite happy to press the 15% tip button on the credit card machine in Canada and the US. But we argue about tipping. I will tip when I have to but on my own terms. Ok, I am not doing in Rome what I should, but I don't care. So my tips are lower than R's. I thought I had shot this matter in the foot by doing separate tips for our two different coach drivers and our tour guide. The first coach driver was a bit friendly and a competent driver, although there were things about his driving that I did not like. I think I tipped him $20. The second driver, as I recall, was a first class driver, but not at all friendly. He was with us for half the time and so I tipped him $10. Our tour guide had indicated what level to tip the drivers, and with plenty of self interest, that was how people worked out the tip for him too. I can't remember the figure now, perhaps it was $40 a day. Maybe these figures are wrong as I can't remember now, but our tour guide certainly did not receive a $40 per day tip from me. Perhaps more like $10 per day. I know R would have tipped the full amount and I did not shoot tipping in the foot, as R kept asking me how much I had tipped.

I am afraid to service staff and local guides in South Africa, our tipping was very ad hoc.

Here are a few photos from day ten.

The hotel in George was pretty nice. It had a large fountain with koi.

Our plane from George to J'burg (I am sick of trying to spell that word) was a rather bilious colour, but certainly stood out among the crowd. My fears of it not being a proper plane were unfounded, although the seats were not at all comfortable. R's suitcase had baggage from other passengers as the luggage limit was only 20kg whereas all had arrived in Africa with a 30kg limit. One of the Irish lasses managed to turn herself out glamorously every day, including shoes. How she kept within the limit, I do not know. Perhaps her clothing was light weight. Actually, yes it was.

At our lunch break, buffalo did what they do in the middle of the day.

There were ostrich too but I spied this foreign critter. Why is an Australian emu in a South African animal park? I informed my fellow travellers about this foreign type in our midst and they too were surprised. Seems we export more than just gum trees to the world.

The hotel in Nelspruit was nice, in the public areas.

The grounds were nice too. I saw bunny rabbits and peacocks,  but it was a very steep hill walk down to our accommodation. Well the problem was more going up. For the second time we paid porters to carry our luggage.

Our room was rather ordinary, but there was worse to come the next night, where we stayed for three nights.

We must have arrived quite early at the hotel and we were feeling quite relaxed. We had a nice buffet dinner; we had many buffet dinners and breakfasts, and a few drinks while chatting to our travelling companions. I decided I should take out the SA SIM card from phone and put in my Australian SIM to check for messages or missed calls. I was terribly careful with the tiny cards. I will die without the internet and my phone. Job done. I had found a special place in my backpack to store my Aussie SIM with my SA SIM details. Next morning on the coach when I remembered about me checking local Aussie phone stuff, my Aussie SIM was not where it should be in my backpack. I entered a world of pain for the day. I had put on a clean shirt in the morning and R assured me it would be in old shirt pocket. I worked through things in my mind. Well, I still have phone numbers within my phone storage. I still have text messages. Google does some back up thing with my phone. It will be inconvenient once back home to get a new card, but not the end of the world. How could I have been so stupid to get carried away with the niceness of the evening and totally forget about what I had been doing with my SIM card.

When our luggage was available that night, of course the SIM was in my dirty shirt pocket in my case. But it should have been where it belonged in backpack. No one is more critical of me than I am and believe me, I gave myself a good and hard telling off. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Getting train nerdy in the Eastern Cape

Maybe of interest to some. I meant to have a look at the train line mentioned in yesterday's post and today I found some time and I did, and I found it quite interesting. This terrific map from Wikipedia shows the line, from Port Elizabeth in the east to the country terminus at Avontuur, or Avontour if you like.


The line seems to have primarily been built to get farm produce to the port, specifically fruit from orchards.

From my understanding it is a long time since trains have run on the brown bit of the line. Where we stopped for morning tea was at Louterwater and I think the line is still serviceable to that town. The line ran a tourist train called the Apple Express for some years. It seems a short tourist trip was run in January this year. It really would be good to take a slow trip for the full distance, lazily staring out at the passing African countryside. 

Here is a video, and if you are like me, you will have low boredom threshold for such videos, but do at least watch the bit of Van Staden's River Bridge and the gorge the train travels over on a very high bridge at about 5:20. I think I made have even made the video below start at that point. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

South Africa Day 9

We briefly visited Cape St Francis Lighthouse as we set off in the coach for the day.

This land nearby is set aside for a nuclear power plant, and South Africa already has two such plants, providing 5% of the country's power needs . It appears the construction of the Thyspunt reactor is on long term hold as many issues about the location are debated. As an aside, South Africans argue that power is being sold off more cheaply to Zimbabwe than to the people of South Africa. Sounds rather like our own Australian gas. 

We stopped for morning tea at the quaint little Kontrei Kombuis Country Store. One white woman who must have been over 70 took the orders and the money while the black staff did the food preparation and made the tea and coffee. Some of the bread I mentioned at the barbeque a few posts ago was being cooked outside on a hotplate. It was another case of a white woman seemingly surrounded by black people and quite comfortable with that. We didn't see any other white people there, but our guide told us there would be that evening in the adjoining bar where an important rugby match would be shown on a big screen. The men's toilet was as large as a bedroom with very little in it except the toilet itself and a washbasin. The toilet pan kind of looked like it was terrazzo. I've never seen one like it before.  

I had noticed from the coach a disused railway line often running parallel with the road. While it was overgrown, it appeared to be intact and could be used.

What is this thing for?

I have never seen such a thing. I am almost certain it is to pour water into steam train tanks as they pause underneath. I've seen them filled by trackside tanks, but this appears to be mains water supply.

Our next stop was an ostrich farm at the awful to pronounce Oudtshoorn. They are certainly larger than our emus. Various facts about ostrich farming were presented and like the the earlier Aloe, it seemed there wasn't much that eating or applying ostrich can't fix. Ostrich like to have their long and perpendicular neck stroked, and of course there is always one in the crowd that will take things too far, but it did get a laugh. Yes, think the worst.

What do we do now? We cover the birds eyes and jump on its back.

The eyes are uncovered and off we go for a ride. There was a 75 kilo weight limit, so that is my reason for not riding one, believe me or not.

Young ostrich are terribly cute.

Nevertheless, we had no compunction about eating ostrich steaks at the provided and very nice lunch. The steaks were ok but I won't go back for more. This is the youngest ostrich to hatch.

Our next stop was Kantor Caves.

There were some old photos made into murals. There is always one who stands out in a crowd. I've seen this in old photos before. Is he gay? Is he just pushy? Is he just a poser? I don't know.

You must admit, it is quite a pose.

A bit of a cave and cavern thing on the outside.

The interior of the caves were amazing. The best European painter could not have done better than what we saw. We took a one hour tour and the guide, as all had been, was terrific. He even sang for us and his voice was strong and and highlighted the acoustics. So good that before the South African World Cup that the floor of  large chamber cave was concreted over and made level, well maybe not. Seating was added and there were operatic and other performances, until it was realised that vandalism was happening, drunken shenanigans behind stalactites, and other cave destroying stuff.

Truly amazing that one wall of the cave used to played as a drum, until it broke. We were given a brief demonstration of the drum effect of the remaining part and it was incredible to hear. Just like a real skinned drum.

The shadows are long and it is time to leave. Something went terribly wrong at our hotel for the night, so instead of a 5.30 start the next day, we journeyed on to the town of George, a long drive, but the accommodation was good and we did not have to be on the coach until 8.30 to get to George Airport to fly to Johannesburg.

Later note: I took photos in the cave with my camera and my phone. The camera failed miserably and I think my phone did pretty damn well. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

South Africa Day 8

A light post for this day, which usually indicates lots of travelling in the coach.

We had choices, zip lining or bungee jumping. At a 260 metre drop, the bungee jump is the longest in the world and has been done by South African politicians and world celebrities.

This is where the bungee jump was to happen.

We did choose the slightly more sedate zip lining. We knew all about ziplining from Canada, although we did not do it there. Of course you go downhill when ziplining, though R amused us when he reached a zip line station safely and then came half way back to us. Ah, R has safely done this one. No, wait, he is coming back again. He missed his footing and had to hand over hand himself to the zip line station. We had two guides, the gorgeous Nigel, and some chick. She went ahead and Nigel followed. We being busy and active, so no photos. I expected there would be a vehicle at the bottom to take us back to our coach. But no, we had to walk 650 metres up a steep hill. Nigel and his companion were patient as we oldies kept stopping for a breather.

It rained while we ziplining. We were at quite a high elevation. Little Jo's words were ringing in my ear, there is no bad weather, just inappropriate clothing, and my short sleeved shirt was inappropriate. Of course I put on bravado. Not cold at all. I am fine. I was freezing cold and the fire, food and hot drinks were most welcome back at the base. For the first time the coach heating kicked in and it was welcomed by me as my shirt dried.

A nice enough place for lunch. We skipped the optional walk and boardwalk walk. I don't think we missed much.  Why aren't these dudes actually going anywhere?

We watched a kayaker come out and rescue this bloke who had fallen out of his kayak. No sooner was the rescuer back at shore, than the same tosser fell out of his kayak again. The rescuer had to come out again and put the bloke back in his kayak. Why does this stupid man keep falling out of his kayak? R informed, staff training to rescue kayakers.

This is a fast boat for tourists, that goes up and over waves, hopefully.

Tourists were loaded and off the boat went out into heavy seas.

Of course there were waves and rough seas, wherever we were.

That night we stayed at Cape St Francis. 

Monday, November 12, 2018

South Africa Day 7

I think you might get the best photos of African wild animals in a zoo. Second to that is perhaps in a private animal park. Apparently we visited one.

Zebra everywhere. So cool.

Nice knob.

Who can see more than enough zebra.


I don't know why but I thought a rhino was about the size of a small cow. No! They are huge.

They eat grass, not meat, but hate humans.

Impala in Kruger Park are about to be culled as there are so many of them. They are terribly cute.

Lazy lioness.

With children?

Daddy lion is here to look after you young cubs, if he does not kill the cubs.

What are these animals. I forget. Not kadu. I just can't remember and google is not being helpful.

This is an elephant, in case you did not know.

They'd be buffalo up the hill.

Don't mind us Mr Giraffe.

A really good place to see wild animals and the public facilities were really good too.

Did this all happen on the same day? I am not sure but I think so. We boarded this vessel for a lunch cruise. It was really nice.

Knysna Lagoon, I think.

The entrance to the open sea.

Housing on the way back. It was once an island owned by the same people for one hundred plus years. It was sold to a property developer, and you know what they do.

Then it was to Monkey Land. The lighting level in the jungle was low and very few of my photos turned out well. Here is the best of them.

Oh my mummy, what a large nipple you have.

Lemur, native to Madagascar.

Tortoise on its way to somewhere. It moved fast enough and I can see why it may have won the race against a hare.

This is a really small monkey, often napped as a pet, but they turn nasty on their owners.

I uploaded this photo, but I am not sure where it was taken. Maybe in our accommodation for the night. Oh yes, it was a four star high rise hotel. Very nice. More window views to come.