Monday, June 30, 2008

Braamfontein, Jozi

There's earnest work taking place on Johannesburg's streets.. they're also the cleanest and most interesting I've seen them in years. This is a bustling, going places city basking in the Highveld's winter sunshine this morning. I'm happy to be here.. .

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Coffee time... take-it-all-in time

Seattle coffee shop, Menlyn: I made the mistake of taking to the road today, which I presume was the tail-end of the Innibos arts festival in Nelspruit. It took me three and a half hours to get to Pretoria.

Along the way I stopped at Millys to put in fuel. There was an MP-registration vehicle at the pump in front of me. When the attendant took the pump spout out of his tank some petrol overflowed down the side of his car.

The driver erupted, started screaming at the attendant in the worst possible language & then got aggressive, pushing him around because the "f**king idiot spilt petrol on his car".

My mouth hung open at the raw agression, nay hatred (and consequent humility) directed at another human being who made a miniscule 'mistake' during the course of probably one of the busiest days in the year at Millys.

And this from someone most likely on his way back from the festival weekend (he then headed in the Witbank direction with his wife). I'd hate to see him in peak hour on a Friday afternoon ... other's lives would be at serious risk.

I had many hours - in sometimes bumper-to-bumper traffic - to let this gruesome scenario play itself over and over in my mind... ironically sowing poison and hatred in me.

Firstly I berated myself for having not done something, for having not said something while this played itself on a very busy, public stage. In all honesty I believe my instinct warned me that I was at phsical risk, that I could have sparked off a situation that would also have put the attendant at further serious risk (he also instintively backed down), never mind myself.

The attendant was working another pump when about 15 minutes later I left. I stopped next to him and all I managed was an "Are you okay?" and a clumsy "Never ever let someone like that get you down buddy," before driving off. At least I had the satisfaction of his beautiful, relieved smile.

On the road, refusing to drive faster than 100 (no more rushing, 'going nowhere fast' for me I promised myself once I ejected myself from the rat race - I choose to live in The Now, in This Moment, every second of every day, even when on the road. The destination is essentially irrelevant) while the road hogs roared past (despite the petrol price) I found that as part of my personal healing and choice to live fully as a free human being, I had to forgive myself.

To forgive for being hard on myself, also for the hatred I'd allowed to grow in me. Hatred breeds hatred ... but only if you allow it to. I had to also forgive the perpetrator... we can never ever allow ourselves to judge ANYONE no matter what they have done (certainly be angry!). Only God knows the hearts of men... and their reasons (mostly extremely deep-seated in hurt) for their actions.

In forgiving I was able to free and release myself, and to dissolve my hatred. Only then was I able to enjoy the magnificent winter sky above and the khaki veld on either side.

And I knew, more than ever before, that our lives on this planet are about love and NOTHING else. Consequently I resolve to be kinder, more generous and compassionate. I resolve to love much more. Especially strangers. By one step, one smile and one kind word at a time I intend to make my world a better place.

Just love... .

(Posted on my Nokia E90 Communicator from a Seattle coffee shop table, inspired by a rich, 'tall mocha'. Coffee has the power to change the world!)

Friday, June 27, 2008

For Highlands News: Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe

Last week this time I was sitting on the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe as it shunted out of the Dias Museum Complex in Mossel Bay in billows of steam. The train was pointed at Mossel Bay station, then 2-hrs later, George.

The carriage was creaking and shuddering, an old springbok head was sandblasted on the window and the wood paneling was shiny with varnish. This exhilarating experience – one of Africa's great ones - was from another time and another place, one much more innocent than now.

The shunting sound of the steam engine - her name is Rosie - and the billows of steam meant that this last scheduled-departure, short-haul steam train journey in Africa had begun.

Judging by the reaction, and many accents in the rest of the carriage, trains undoubtedly remain a passion for people all over the planet.

The nostalgic reek of the smoke from the burning coal took me back to a standard 4 camp in the then Transvaal's Magaliesburg area. Ever since then, no matter where I have been in the world, coal smoke has the ability to push my 'happy emotion' buttons. Even chestnuts roasting on braziers in Soho's streets of London can propel me straight home.

The train offers museum-to-museum tours on a scenic, 100-year old line from the Dias Museum in Mossel Bay to the Outeniqua Transport Museum in George. Its route is more or less along the very edge of the Indian Ocean. There are six tours a week in summer, three a week in winter.

What's the relevance of writing about the Outeniqua steam train in an Mpumalanga Highlands newspaper you may ask?

For one the Outeniqua Transport Museum incredibly houses the train in which President Paul Kruger conducted the affairs of the Transvaal Republic in Machadodorp and Waterval Onder at the end of the South African War.  (Allow yourself to imagine what could be achieved if it was back here where it belongs.)

Secondly, someone needs to be taking Spoornet to task about our own, but unused, steam train (it's a treasure!) rusting on its tracks in Waterval-Boven. (Why is it not shunting up and down the historical and immensely popular track between Machadodorp and say Numbi Gate of Kruger, attracting visitors to our world, creating jobs and generating prosperity?) 

Thirdly, Mossel Bay Tourism ( is a world-class example of what can be done to promote and uplift an area. (Believe me, the Mpumalanga Highlands has all the ingredients to be exactly that... a world-class destination.)

Nevertheless, it was time to sit back and be lulled by the storm-lashed ocean and the rolling carriage while praying that someone would serve some decent railway coffee. Life is bliss... especially as there appeared to be no hurry and no worries in Mossel Bay.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


I'm back at home after over two and a half intense weeks of travelling, of learning, and of observing along some of our country's finest coastlines... most of the time I've been in awe. In awe of the beauty, of the fragility, of its uniquenes. But that awe was tinged with a sense of devastation.. I'm devasttaed at much of our coastline is taken for granted.

But tonight I'm overjoyed to be sitting eating pizza in front of the roaring fire at Salvador's in the hamlet of Kaapsehoop. It's just short of 50 km from Waterval-Boven, in the mountains just before Nelspruit.

I'm here with my mother (who's visiting from the UK) and her best friend Carol. Before getting to Kaapsehoop we drove into the Berlin forest to stare over the edge of the escarpment, to breathe in the chilly winter air as the sun set into the western mountains.

Friday, June 20, 2008

My sister's wedding...

I'm in Jozi for my lovely and very special sister's Friday morning wedding. It's wonderful to be sitting in the winter sun surrounded by family and friends... it's wonderful to be enveloped in love and memories.

Life is beautiful. And very short... .

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Boarding my flight at George airport and on my way to Johannesburg after an amazing two weeks. Sad to go..

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Klein Brak..

Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe...

Just back from the Pinnacle Point caves... keep your eyes on them, they're about to become an international focus of attention (while most likely being taken for granted and completely unappreciated here. Why's that okay for the average South African?).

Right now the Outeniqua Choo-Tjoe steam train is pulling out of the Dias Museum Complex in Mossel Bay. We're heading for Mossel Bay station, then 2-hrs later, George.

The carriage is creeking and shuddering, there's a springbok head sandblasted on the window and the wood panelling is shiney with varnish. This is from another time and another place... a time and place more innocent than right now.

The nostalgic reek of the smoke from burning coal takes me back to my standard 4 camp at Happy Acres in the old Transvaal's Magaliesburg area (most probably the winter of 1978). Ever since then, no matter where I am in the world, coal smoke has the ability to push my 'happy emotion' buttons. Even roasting chestnuts on braziers in Soho streets, London have the ability to take me straight home.

The shunting sound of the steam engine - her name is Rosie - and the billows of steam means that the last scheduled-departure, short-haul steam train journey in Africa has begun. Trains remain a passion for me; anyone who still reads will understand.

The train offers museum-to-museum tours on a scennic, 100-year old line from the Dias Museum in Mossel Bay to the Outeniqua Transport Museum in George. It's route is more or less along the very edge of the Indian Ocean. Six tours a week in summer, three a week in Winter.

Time now to sit back and be lulled by the storm-lashed ocean and the rolling carriage while praying that someone will serve me some decent railway coffee. Life is bliss... especially as there's no hurry, no worries here in Mossel Bay. Right now I wouldn't want to be anywhere else... .

Cape dawn...

We left Cape Town early this morning for Mossel Bay, where I'll be taking the Outeniqua Choo Tjoe steam train to George at 14h00.

But before that we're stopping again at the controversial Pinnacle Point caves just outside Mossel Bay. I want to talk to archaeologist Kyle Brown about this most important site of its kind in the world.

They're excavating a midden and finding evidence of the earliest modern human behaviour in the form of bladelet technology (e.g. a stone blade embedded in wood or bone), dating as far back as 165 000 years.

It's also evidence of the earliest inclusion of seafood into the human diet and of man's use of ochres and dyes, possibly for decoration. This is exciting stuff.

These pics I've just taken when stopping on the side of the N2. We're about 90km from Swellendam and it's freezing cold and windy outside, which is some of my favourite weather.

Tonight I'm sleeping in Knysna... can't wait!

(Pics taken with, and blog posted on my Nokia E90 Communicator.)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Winter dusk of passion in Hout Bay...

Tonight I wouldn't want to be anywhere but on the southern tip of Africa... our continent is experiencing a creative, cultural and spiritual awakening.

Other than the graphic images of violence, poverty, malnutrition and sickness of Africa that's mostly portrayed in the media, there are countless stories of love, passion, integrity and compassion. I know this because I saw some of these this afternoon.

More than ever before I am proud to be an African. I commit myself to changing the world immediately around me step-by-step (in the smallest of ways if need be) through my words and pictures and a positive attitude.

And with love, compassion and tolerance for the human beings - whoever they may be - that cross my path every day. Just one day at a time... .

Uthando South Africa

"Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings." - Nelson Mandela

Uthando South Africa ( Love ) South Africa is a non-profit organisation while also being a truly unique Responsible Tourism Initiative based in Cape Town, South Africa.

The mission of Uthando South Africa is to provide a platform and infrastructure to raise funds from individuals, groups and organisations who have an interest in the region. The money generated supports a broad range of grass roots, community based, sustainable, innovative and empowerment projects with substantial and enduring value to the most destitute and marginalized communities in South Africa.

In addition Uthando aims to provide tourists with an authentic introduction to the social problems confronting so many South Africans, and the innovative and truly inspirational ways in which these problems are being handled.

Jikeleza Dance Project, Hout Bay (Cape Town)

"A chance to dance..."

The Jikeleza Project, established in 2002, currently teaches dance (African, contemporary, Spanish and classical ballet) to children and young people from the informal settlement of Imizamo Yethu and the Hangberg Harbour community in Hout Bay, in Nyanga Township and the Learn-To-Live Programme for street children in Greenpoint.

The energy, passion and commitment bowled me over... there's so much happening out there beyond our high walls, razor wire and, essentially, our comfort zones. /

The group is directed by Edmund Thwaites and Atholl Hay.

Ingqayi Educational Theatre project...

"Uthando SA is about giving with love, creating hope and faith. Hope for a better future, faith in humanity," says James Fernie.

We've just driven from Beauty for Ashes in Observatory, Cape Town to the Ingqayi Educational Theatre project (contact Thembile Nazo: +27 83 534 3485) in Nyanga township where we're watching a rehearsal, which is also a Uthando SA project.

Uthando SA is Section 21 company that James registered in October last year, after "getting the ball rolling last August". While he's had to spend a lot of time visiting projects and is now signing up operators internationally, he believes he'll be "ready to go by July".

"Funding is already coming in from overseas, which I find very encouraging," he says.

"The more time that I'm spending in townships, the more fanatical I'm becoming... especially as I'm more and more aware of the resources available in this country: there are so many visitors here who want to make a difference, especially via their tour operators," says James.
+27 82 496 4889

Beauty for Ashes...

This is six year old Marshall Khatlane.. he has been living at Beauty for Ashes with his mother since April. This is a halfway house to rehabilitate women who have recently left prison. In the case of Marshall and his mom, it's the first time they've taken in a woman with her child.

There is a 88% residivism rate in the Western Cape. In other words, 88% of prisoners in this province are back behind bars within 18 months to 3-years. The average residivism rate for the rest of the country is 80%.

Our prisons are extremely overcrowded and there's not enough rehabilitation, says Stephanie van Wyk. The home, which is an NGO, has been going since 2001. They want to buy a house... this one they're renting.

We're visiting here with James Fernie of Uthando (Love) Tours:

Cinnamon sticks..

Olympia Cafe, Kalk Bay...

Unpretentious coffee society at it's best...! Passionate, choppy sea today crashing over the Kalk Bay harbour, which I'm watching, on the other side of the road, but from my small and cozy table.

Martin's relishing a ratatouille, mozzarella and basil omelette (R44) for breakfast; I'm devouring a 'chippos, scrambled egg, tomato & mushroom on toast' (R41) brekkie.

Before that I had the finest cappucino I've had in Cape Town... that, of course, is besides the excellent range of coffees on offer (by the barristas with the most attitude) at Giovanni's in Somerset Road, Green Point. Highly recommended.

It's a happy, happy Tuesday....

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Oystercatcher Trail...

The unexpected gems of any hike, road trip or travel excursion are the people you meet along the way, the unexpected fauna and flora you stumble past. Even crossing rivers you didn't know existed. But it's always the smiles of strangers that opens doors to other worlds... their world. 
Pic 1: Daan van Rensburg, from the hamlet of Kanon and of the nearby Cape Vacca Guest House is passionate about his unique part of the world. I would've loved to linger...
Pics 2 & 3: The hike ends outside the coastal village of Gouritsmond. This four- (or two-day) coastal trail starts in a Khoi San cave at the old fishing village of Mossel Bay and ends with a small boat trip across the Gouritz River. All-in-all it's a distance of approximately 48km. (You might be wondering about the spelling of Gouritz/s... I'm finding both options in the literature and maps on the region.)
Pic 3: This is Frank Myburgh. He is in charge of this part of the Gouritz River, and has been for the last two years. I regret that I didn't have time to spend with him ... to walk with him along his river, to visit with him in his home... he was friendly and welcoming in the five or so minutes that our paths crossed. First impressions do count.
Pic 4: You may never know it -which is a sure sign of professionalism, slick management and co-ordination - but an entire team works tirelessly, and often for long hours, behind-the-scenes to make things happen. This is the team behind Fred Orban's Garden Route Oystercatcher walking trail ... yes, I was pleasantly surprised (and the word 'seamless' springs to mind).
Pics 5 & 6: Fred's wife Hanlie ensured magnificent (no exaggeration!) catering from the start of the hike to its very end. She remained wonderfully consistent in her ability to surprise us. Master Jack, with his attitude and poise, also played an integral role too (in melting hearts). Master Jack is a much loved dog. To think that uncaring owners ditched him in Bokkoms Bay when they moved on. He was left to wander the streets for at least a month... but I'm sure he's never looked back (and good riddance to his previous 'custodians').
Pic 7: This 'red ear' succulent on the bank of the Gourits river was a pleasant, passionate surprise.
+27 44 699 1204
"This is not just a walk, it is a love affair with nature!"
More about the reason why the trail's named after the Oystercatcher (and the importance of the endangered Black Oystercatcher) later....

Cabinet approves South Africa's nuclear policy

The South African Cabinet has approved the country's controversial nuclear energy policy. The Department of Minerals and Energy is currently finalising an implementation plan in consultation with key stakeholders. Government spokesman Themba Maseko said the nuclear policy would reduce South Africa's over-reliance on coal, which resulted in the country being a major emitter of greenhouse gases. A recent study published in the International Journal of Nuclear Governance, Economy and Ecology suggests however that significant problems that cannot be overcome prevent nuclear power from being used to reduce climate change emissions.
Read the report in Engineering News? Click here>>
From: African Energy News Review (Issue 11-13 June 08)
About African Energy News Review
This electronic service covers energy news that is relevant to the African continent, and is aimed at business, government, NGOs, academics and the general public. In order to cover the costs of research, writing and publication, a subscription fee to access the email edition and website is payable. Please feel free to subscribe with no obligation and we will contact you regarding the subscription fee. /

Will oil reach $200 a barrel and petrol R16 per litre?

Economists and analysts are predicting anything from a $200 a barrel 'super spike' in oil prices to a settling down of oil prices to $60 a barrel due to a global economic slowdown. If oil reaches $200 a barrel, South African motorists can expect to pay as much as R16 per litre of petrol and R17.50 for diesel. Senior economist at Econometrix, Tony Twine, said that while the oil price could reach $200, it could also settle to around $60 a barrel, which would result in petrol dropping to around R6 per litre. Gary Ronald of the Automobile Association said $200 for a barrel of oil was "too dreadful to even contemplate". The ministers of the Organisation of Petroleum Export Countries (Opec), the cartel of oil-producing countries, have predicted that the oil price could reach $200 a barrel within two years, but a United Nations report last month suggested that that the global economic slowdown could cause oil prices to fall to $95 a barrel this year and $90 next year. Last week the price of oil hit a record high of $139 a barrel, amid reports it could reach $150 by July because of rising demand and political tension in the Middle East.
From: African Energy News Review (Issue 11-13 June 08)
About African Energy News Review
This electronic service covers energy news that is relevant to the African continent, and is aimed at business, government, NGOs, academics and the general public. In order to cover the costs of research, writing and publication, a subscription fee to access the email edition and website is payable. Please feel free to subscribe with no obligation and we will contact you regarding the subscription fee. /

Friday, June 13, 2008


"Journalism can never be silent: that is its greatest virtue and its greatest fault. It must speak, and speak immediately, while the echoes of wonder, the claims of triumph and the signs of horror are still in the air." - Henry Anatole Grunwald

Half empty or half full?

Today a new 'local' newspaper - The Highlands News/Nuus - focusing specifically on the Highlands region of Mpumalanga (Belfast, Dullstroom, Leydenburg, Machadodorp, Waterval-Boven, Waterval-Onder and the Elands Valley Conservancy) is distributing their first edition. Among other things, they'll have a strong tourism section with a focus on positive and uplifting messages. This, below, is my contribution to their first edition. We intend collaborating - for the good of the region - going forward. I wish Jacques Loots and Abdullah Vaid every success with their venture!


Half empty or half full?


The SA tourism industry is booming. Statistics reveal we have more visitors to our country than ever before.


Last month, and shattering records, over 13 200 people walked through the doors of Durban's 3-day travel and tourism Indaba.


This world-class event is one of the largest tourism marketing events on the African calendar and one of the top three 'must visit' events of its kind on the global calendar.

2010 is an enormous opportunity with countless benefits. Vast amounts of capital are being injected into infrastructure and it provides a national and international focal point to work towards.


There's been some vague, negative mutterings about a bleak post-2010 scenario. Hogwash. 2010 is a mere (but crucial) blip in much larger 10-, 15- and even 20-year tourism development plans.

What about the recent wave of shameful, despicable xenophobia? Let's use this brief 5 minutes in the world spotlight to tell new rainbow nation stories. But more realistic ones - that despite our challenges, we're more committed than ever to succeed as a nation.

Let's make crime a national focus to work towards, and solve. We are a resourceful and creative nation of survivors, thinkers, entrepreneurs.


While mining, forestry and agriculture have traditionally driven our economy, they've stripped our resources, ruined the environment and are unsustainable. Tourism is sustainable and has the potential to usurp them all.

Let's zoom into our own backyard – our valley, the Mpumalanga highlands. What are the pros?

For one, we live in paradise.


Secondly the Maputo corridor runs right through it. It's one of SA's main arterials, packed with life-giving national and international tourists.


We're slap bang in the middle of two international airports. And we're between the economic powerhouses of Gauteng and Nelspruit, Maputo.

We breathe in fresh air every day. We sleep in peace and quite every night, and can marvel at the milky way. Never forget these are special and out-of-the-ordinary experiences for the majority of our planet's inhabitants.

When last have you stopped at any of the national monuments, memorials and battles sites that line many of our roads?


Berg-en-Dal, for one, it gobsmackingly impressive, despite the neglect. Sadly it's cracking up and is riddled with weeds. No matter your roots, its a heritage that belongs to all of us. These fascinating stories - our history - are decaying on the sides of our national roads. But they have the potential to create tourism-related jobs in fascinating information centres that tell our stories.


Waterval-Boven, my home town and merely one example, has an unused steam train rusting on its tracks and is rattling with ghost stories, among many other opportunities. Both have incredible potential - to attract visitors, create jobs and generate wealth. 


Personally, I'm honoured, humbled and grateful to live in this tourism treasure trove. My cup is much more than half full, it's running over.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


After a great night's sleep at the ocean's edge at Cape Vacca guest house last night, then breakfast this morning, we retraced our steps about a kilometre to the hamlet of Kanon. We'd hurriedly walked past it the day before 'cos we were exhausted, and a storm was threatening.

Daan van Rensburg, originally from Nelspruit (he recalls often playing rugby against the Waterval-Boven's then high school!), has lived in Kanon for over 20 years.

I was dead keen to see the three canons his uncle Louis van Rensburg and friends had transported for about 14 days via mule wagon (in 1912) after salvaging them from the wreck of the 'le Fortune'.

'le Fortune' was the French Man-O-War which was wrecked between Fransmanshoek and Forteintjies in September 1763 with no casualties.

Daan has made a great memorial of the three preserved canons (it's even possible to see where the gunpowder was inserted on one of them), with the following plaque (in Afrikaans) which explains the founding of the hamlet of Kanon:

"Die drie kanonne is deur uiters haglike onstandighede hierheen gesleep en die gebeurtenis gee die oorsprong aan die Kanon."

Daan, brimming over with passion, showed me some magnificent khoi fish (one of them was the biggest I've ever seen), some zebra, and his other guesthouse, a magnificently renovated cottage (with many beds) that was built in 1912 and has been in his family ever since.

Call Daan on 083 647 5279 or 044 699 1327 to find out more about both guest houses.

From personal experience I'd highly reccomend the Cape Vacca one because of its remoteness, the history of the location and the exceptional views. Not to mention the proximity of the ocean. This coastline is spectacular. And the people are down to earth and friendly....

Morning person...

The dawn this morning at Cape Vacca was phenomenal. Despite the chill I was so glad I got myself outside just after 06h30, despite great resistance. I was lavishly rewarded an exclusive audience with the Creator.

As I've explained to a few people today, blogging this hike has mostly been an experiment, with me learning much. I regret not doing so consistently, however the hike was demanding, so were my various work commitments that I had to squeeze inbetween. (Oh yeah, I'm also a commited 8hrs-a-night person, which I've been seriously short on the last week or so.) I've also learnt where and when I can rely on technology or not; at the same time I've been pleasantly suprised by technology... that even in the most places there can be 3G or even 3.5G coverage.

Tonight I'm sitting next to a massive log fire at Botlierskop private game reserve waiting to have dinner. I'm just out of a steaming hot bath (foamy with natural aromatherapy bath salts) in my luxury tent, which looks over the Little Brak river.

This magnificent camp is about 20km from Mossel Bay on the Little Brak turn off from the N2n to George. Heaven can wait... well, just a tad longer.

Cape Vacca dawn

This lonely, beautiful place is where Batholomew Dias stopped in November 1488 on his way up the east coast of Africa.

He was the first northern hemisphere explorer to sail around the most southern tip of Africa.

We slept here last night warm in front of a roaring hearth, while the howling, blustering winter winds from Antarctica buffeted this remote, inspired home on the very edge of the ocean.

Leaving now for the Gouritz river where Dias spotted Khoi San and cows ('vacca' in Portuguese)... it's the last 5km of the hike, before we head back to Mossel Bay.

Tonight I sleep at the luxury tented Botlierskop private nature reserve. Looking so forward as more layers of this unique region of this country are revealed to me. I count myself blessed....

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


The first drops falling; they make the rocks look like speckled eggs. This, Willie the guide, tells us is where the 420 survivors washed ashore, regrouped and found fresh water. They lived at Fransmanhoek for a few years before making their way on to Swellendam, then Cape Town and, eventually, France.


Stopped on this point for lunch. A bacon pasta, fresh green salad and coffeeIn the distance I can see the Outeniqua mountains and, barely, where George should be. A French ship foundered here in 1793 and all 400 on board survived. It was a man-of-war on its way from Mauritius to France. Now walking to Cape Vaccas, about 6 km away.. in the direction of an approaching, purple-gray storm. The guide is urging up on into the icy, choppy wind.



Cold winter's day ideal to hike along the coast, and a stark contrast to yesterday's hot, sunshiney day. Walked yesterday's 12km barefoot. We're walking to Cape Vacca where we'll spend the night. (Thanks to technology I'm typing this posting while I walk. On my Nokia E90 Communicator.)

Tannie Anka..

Third day of the magnificent Oystercatcher trail... left Boggomsbaai just after nine am. We've walked to Vleesbaai and have stopped at Tannie Anka Muller's cottage right on the sea.

She's 89 and says - with a beautiful smile lightening up a brown, wizened face - that she's stayed young because she doesn't hang around with old people.

"I never get lonely and spend a lot of time reading, mostly the lighter stuff.. what they call 'lekker leestof' in Afrikaans,'" she says.

She was born in the George district and was a nursing sister (verpleegster) when she was younger. "We didn't even have penicillin and had to make a plan." She's been a widow for 20 years. She's also lived in this cottage for almost 20 years... it was built in the late 1940s!

We're sitting on the stoep (veranda) in the winter sun. There's a red flowering geranium on her table and lots of sea shells. The tide is coming in and the sea, right now, is at the most 20m away. I could live here...and happily spend time getting to know Tannie Anka

I've had lame excuses for not posting to the blog, what with deadline pressures and walking 15km on the first day, 12 yesterday and 16km ahead of us today. But I'm now adamant to post from my mobile.......

Monday, June 09, 2008

Sunrise in Mossel Bay

Mossel Bay's four star The Point Hotel is on the very edge of the Indian ocean, is just below the magnificent St. Blaize lighthouse, and serves the meanest seafood curry I've ever tasted.
At 09h00 I'm launching on to the 3-day long Oystercatcher Trail along the coast, in the direction of Cape Town. I'm walking it with BarefootWriter Martin Hatchuel Today's stretch is a 15km one. More about it later... much later.
For now it's breakfast time while watching the sun rise over the ocean.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Open road and waxing moon

Left Waterval-Boven on Friday, just as the late afternoon chill was setting in. This two-and-a-bit week trip will take me into and through many travel and tourism stories, into the lives of many. It'll start in Volksrust, weave back to Gauteng, then down to George, Knysna, Mossel Bay and then on to the Cape Town Book Fair via Hermanus' whales. The journey back to the south eastern Cape will probably be through my beloved Klein Karoo. During this time I'll observe the moon as it waxes and then wanes... like my life tide.

Petroline contd. ...

Roelie Pretorius of the Blaauwbosch Trout Inn just outside Waterval-Boven informs me that the intended fuel line will run from Matola (Maputo) to Kendal in Mpumalanga.
She says that apparently the Mozambique section has been approved by their government and that they've already started with the digging there.
In South Africa the final yes has still to be given, but the landowners who are affected have already been contacted.
They were contacted by PSCG Servitudes Consult Group cc to give the rights to put the pipeline down. "In principle we don't have a problem with the pipeline. The only problem is that some of the stone ruins are on these properties and might get destroyed or damaged during this process," she said.
"We have now received a form to complete re the Environmental Impact which we have to return by the 15th June to Matrix PR."

Friday, June 06, 2008

Petroline through Elands Valley?

Elands Valley Conservancy chairperson Sheena Cooper (pic above) is adamant that "the very last thing the Eland's Valley (pic above) needs is a petroline running through it because of the potential hazard for spillage into the river". She also believes it will "bring crime and poaching to the valley during construction, and after". (She did however say, with her typical and wonderfully dry humour, that she might of course feel less strongly if there were taps on it!)

Dr Hugo van Zyl of Independent Economic Researchers in Cape Town has been asked to undertake a study as part of the environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the proposed Petroline underground fuel pipeline that might run through the Elands Valley Conservancy. If I have understood it correctly, this pipeline will run between Mozambique and Gauteng.

As part of the EIA, Van Zyl is focusing on making an independent comparison between routing the pipeline through the Elands River Valley versus the Schoemanskloof, and he asked Sheena for her views on issues relating to the Elands River Valley.

Can anyone else fill me in on what they feel about this? For one, are there any advantages whatsoever (financial or otherwise) to it running through the conservancy? Secondly, how much say or clout do conservancy members in fact have if they resisted; i.e. is it going to happen one way or another? Thirdly, how do the residents of Schoemanskloof feel about it running through their valley?

Dr Hugo Van Zyl: 082 578 4148 / / fax: 021 7973475

Sheena Cooper: 083 455 7289 /

Oh yes... happy Friday!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Happy World Environment Day!

Er… but is it? I'd say, for the tourism industry at least, the world's environment is not presently a happy place at all - wouldn't you agree?
And if any industry stood to gain from a cleaner environment, surely it'd be tourism. The world's getting faster and smaller every day and most people who become tourists live in the cities - which means that if there's one thing that almost every holiday maker wants at one time or another, it's to get away into the peace and quiet of nature.
So forget about beds or seats - nature is much of the tourism industry's real inventory.
[Read more... then click the title of this posting or to read Knysna-based Martin Hatchuel's weekly ThisTourismWeek ( column]
About Martin Hatchuel's ThisTourismWeek:
"This Tourism Week is my on-line commentary and discussion about tourism in South Africa. And "I" am Martin Hatchuel, a BarefootWriter ( living in Knysna on the Garden Route Coast - one of South Africa's Tourism Hotspots - and, with 15 years experience in the tourism industry followed by 8 years as a tourism writer, I'm more than qualified to say my say."
I love your photo Martin!

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

South Africa's changing climate

Dramatic, unseasonal rainstorms this afternoon (these pics were taken between Waterval-Onder and Nelspruit) ushered in an icy cold front tonight.
"Another world exists somewhere beyond the global politicking of super-powers and petrostates. This is the place where a solitary bee continues to pollinate the pale, demure flower of an orchid near Darling, or where the limey coral skeleton hosts its colourful algae on a Sodwana reef. These plants and animals - many of them unique to the [southern African] region - continue to do what their ancestors have done for millions of years. Yet the world is shifting its shape around them."
- Leonie S Joubert in 'Scorched: South Africa's changing climate' (Wits University Press: 2006)

Highlands News...

Abdullah Vaid and Jacques Loots, both from Dullstroom, are fired up about the newspaper they're starting for the Emakhazeni region. It'll have a major focus on tourism in this area.
While they'll cover Dullstroom, Belfast, Machadodorp, Waterval-Boven and the Elands Valley Conservancy, they're particularly interested in the Maputo corridor, or N4. This is the highway between Gauteng and Nelspruit, Kruger Park and Maputo.
Jacques says the paper's going to come out every two weeks, on a Friday. "We're working hard on getting the first edition out by next Friday, 13 June," he said.
The Emakhazeni region lacks a quality publication that comprehensively covers the entire region and has a strong focus on tourism.  
If you have story ideas or want to advertise, here's their contact details:
Abdullah: 074 101 5283
Jacques: 073 681 6553
These are exciting times....