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May 2nd 2006
Published: May 2nd 2006
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It has been a long break between blogs, whilst we spent the last month and a half in South Africa. For those of you who thought you had heard the last of us, we have now decided to extend our travels. Which means that we fly back to London tonight, spend five nights running around sorting out our lives so we can once again set off. This time we will be heading to Australia, where we will spend three months in Bundaberg (Queensland) picking fruit, and then see what happens after that. The three months harvesting work will allow us to extend our work permits for another year if needed. Below are some of the highlights of our South African leg.

Our arrival in Johannesburg was a rather dramatic one, as Keith fell ill on the plane overnight and had to be rushed off on a wheelchair to the emergency clinic. Our poor sisters had gathered at the airport for an exciting reunion but instead ended up keeping watch over Keith whilst he lay with a drip in his arm. The Afrikaans nurse was a real sweetie and gave him all sorts of injections and a concoction of fluids which she called super juice.

It took a few days for Keith to recover, but once he did we set about exploring Johannesburg with Tammy (Lisa’s sister) as our capable tour guide. Tammy took us to theatres and arts and crafts centres in Newtown, where a hive of activity showed just how alive arts and culture is in Joburg. It has been more than ten years since either of us visited Joburg, so it was really interesting to see what a busy, multicultural and vibrant city it has become. The driving is something else though, and you have to drive fast and furiously to escape the chaos of minibus taxis and Sandton city mamas in their mercs. The high walls, electric fencing and security guards round every corner are a stark reminder that crime is high. There is always the feeling that you need to be aware and alert, especially when driving in town. It becomes second nature to lock the doors when you get in the car and wind the windows up when you come to a stop street or red traffic light. This wasn’t just so in Joburg though, we felt it too in Durban…

Lyndsay (Keith’s sister) organised a Potjie Party one Saturday evening, which was a real South African experience. About 60 people turned up, despite the cold and rain, and the makeshift fires set up in the garage on beds of sand, seemed to work just fine for the iron potjie pots. Everyone had to join a team and then the competition began to see who could make the most tasty potjie kos. All sorts of secret ingredients seemed to appear from people’s bags and pockets, and the potjie stewed away for hours, whilst many drinks were consumed. The Guitar Man entertained us with great renditions of cover songs and was declared the official judge for the potjie competition. A great time was had by all.

We only had a couple if days in JHB, and the weather was pretty dull and chilly, so we visited the famous Sandton City Mall and had coffee at several of Tammy’s favourite cafes around the city.

Soon we were in Durbs and the sunny seaside city gave us a warm welcome home. Our first day in the Ballantyne house was spent catching up with old friends who popped by throughout the day for tea. Every
Potjie PartyPotjie PartyPotjie Party

Paul, Keith, Greg and Lyndsay
night after that we visited friends and went out for dinner at some great spots. It was wonderful to see familiar faces again and to spend time with family and friends. The April weather in Durban was beautiful and most mornings we hopped out of bed and set off for the beach where we went on long walks from Umhlanga towards Umdloti further up the coast. The sea was around 25 degrees and sparkling clean, so we made the most of it with lost of swims. Keith even managed to hire a surfboard one day to hone his surfing skills at one of the city beaches. Our weekends were spent apart as Keith ventured off on several boys only adventures and then Lisa was to Ruth’s hens party in the midlands.

Anita and Gerald joined us from France and we set off to the Indian Market in Durban City. What an experience that was. The “real Africa” can be seen in town where hundreds of traders gather along the sidewalks to sell their wares. We picked up some great spices from the Indian shops with some tips on how to make a good vegetarian curry. Lisa’s mom took us
Eyeing out the potsEyeing out the potsEyeing out the pots

Lisa, Hazel, Duncan and Mary
to Commercial Road in town where all the fabric shops are, and we bought metres of Shweshwe material (African prints) to make skirts. At R4 a metre it has to be the cheapest skirt Lisa has ever bought! Thanks goodness for a mom that sews though!
Mom and Dad Ballantyne celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary whilst we were all at home, so we took them out for a special dinner at Café Fish on the Harbour.

Every Wednesday we ventured off to the beach for a long walk and then off to the Organic Market in Umhlanga with Lisa’s folks. Here we bought lovely fresh fruit and veges, homemade goodies and goats milks cheese for a fraction of the price you pay in the shops. We indulged our cultural side by gong to two musicals, one which was the credence Clearwater Revival Show at Sibaya Casino. Sibaya is an awesome new entertainment complex built out near Umdloti on the North Coast. It is built to look like an African palace and houses a casino, cinemas, theatres, restaurants and a hotel. We also visited the Ushaka Aquarium and Marine World on the beach front. The dolphin show was excellent and
Spicing it upSpicing it upSpicing it up

Durban Indian Market
we marveled at how intelligent these amazing animals are.

The main reason for our visit to South Africa was to celebrate Craig (Keith’s brother) and Ruth’s wedding, which was held over a weekend at Cranford Country Lodge in the Natal Midlands. We drove up through the midlands on a balmy sunny morning and were met with the sight of beautiful green rolling hills and lakes, as only we have seen in the hills of Natal. Cranford Lodge was set on a lovely estate with dams for fishing and attractive thatch cottages. Friday and Saturday were spent preparing the venue for the wedding, but we did manage to fit in a visit to the local pancake house nearby, where we ate tasty fresh crepes with all sorts of fillings. The day of the wedding dawned misty and cool, but it gave it a magical feeling. The ceremony was out on a boma over the lake and setting was beautiful. The reception was inside a bug barn, converted in to a cozy reception area, with log fires burning to warm everyone up. A great party was had by all, which went on in to the early hours of Sunday.

Zulu hatsZulu hatsZulu hats

Durban Indian Market
time in Durban with the Ballantynes was over too soon and we bid sad farewells to Tom and Delia last week. We flew to Joburg to join the Marshalls for a few days at the Kruger Lodge. Our accommodation in big thatch cottages was really lovely, and with a swimming pool, mini golf, walking tracks and a hippo hide there was lots to keep us occupied. The highlight of our time there was the night drive in the Kruger National Park. Our very capable and very talkative guide Shadrick, took us on a three hour drive through the massive park. Within a few minutes of the drive, the red sun was setting behind the African bush and we came upon a family of elephants feeding on the green trees alongside the road. What a magnificent sight. The ride only got better as we then saw a pride of lions, complete with cubs, lazing on a rock just off the road. We stopped to watch them for a while and marveled at how close were to these amazing animals. Not to be disappointed, we then happened upon a group of hyenas. The bush seemed alive at night with impala, kudu, elephants, rhinos, owls and lots of insects. Earlier in the day we followed a pack of hungry looking wild dogs for several kilometres through the park. It was an experience we will never forget and it really felt like Africa.

From the Kruger we drove west and up towards the highveld, and arrived at the tiny village of Dullstroom which sits as over 2000 metres above sea level. The village is a quaint collection of stone and corrugated iron buildings housing restaurants, African art shops and home bake stores. Every café and pub sells pancakes, so we settled in for a lunch of freshly made pancakes stuffed with butternut and feta and all sorts of other tasty fillings. This is fly fishing country and so the boys ventured out each day with their fly rods trying to catch us some supper. On our second day there they were successful 6 trout were cooked for dinner that night on a Weber braai over looking the dam from whence they came! Lisa, Paul and Lyndsay went running through the farmlands, which is quite an experience when at such altitude. In between all the fishing and walking and coffee drinking, we made use
Keith catching up with varsity matesKeith catching up with varsity matesKeith catching up with varsity mates

Dressed in crazy golf gear ready to play at Champagne Sports Resort in the Drakensburg
of the squash courts and some of the family went horse riding. One way to get fit! It was really peaceful there and our stone cottage was set on the banks of the Millstream dam. Each night we built a log fire and huddled round it to play some seriously competitive games of 30 seconds.

Our South African journey came to an end with the last few days being spent in Joburg with Lisa’s sister Tammy.

The title of this blog is not so corny, when you realise that it is in fact a theory proposed by archeologists which (broadly) proposes that humans first existed in Africa and that we then migrated out of Africa to the rest of the World! In case you are wondering whether we have gone mad, we spent Sunday at Maropeng, north of Johannesburg, at the Cradle of Humankind. Forty percent of all human ancestor fossil finds have been made here, including several of the world's most famous and important fossils - among them Mrs Ples, dating back 2.5-million years, and Little Foot, an almost complete ape-man skeleton between 3 and 3.5-million years old (though a recent study puts it at just
Lisa with school friend LaurenLisa with school friend LaurenLisa with school friend Lauren

Enjoying a swim in Umhlanga north of Durban
over 4-million years old).

It was a really interesting visit to cap off a wonderful time spent in South Africa with our family and friends.

Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


Burning up the dance floorBurning up the dance floor
Burning up the dance floor

Craig and Ruth's wedding
Cranford Country LodgeCranford Country Lodge
Cranford Country Lodge

Venue for Craig and Ruth's wedding
uShaka AquariumuShaka Aquarium
uShaka Aquarium

Unfortunately we did not get to dive with these Ragged Tooth Sharks
Morning visitorsMorning visitors
Morning visitors

Impala grazing outside our bedroom window at Kruger Lodge
Kruger National ParkKruger National Park
Kruger National Park

With all the recent rain it was tough spotting game through the vegetation
Lioness seen on our night driveLioness seen on our night drive
Lioness seen on our night drive

Unfortunately taking pictures at night in the wild was not easy. We saw a lot of game on the night drive and highly recommend doing one.
Horses taking a strollHorses taking a stroll
Horses taking a stroll

Millstream Farm just outside of Dullstroom.

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