South Africa - 30 November to 15 December 2013


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Africa
December 13th 2013
Published: December 21st 2013
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Once again this is a very long blog so if you want to read it all please do so in small tranches with maybe a glass of wine or beer to keep you focused...... - it is our 100th blog since we started in September 2010 and will be the last one for a while though...............





We left Lesotho and returned to South Africa travelling through the Great Karoo, a vast semi desert which covers most of central South Africa. The area is famous for sheep and ostrich farming industries and we passed many farms as we continued our journey. The Karoo's name is derived from the Khoisan word meaning ‘land of thirst’ and the original owners were the Khoisan as well as the San peoples. The Khoisan relied on sheep and cattle for their livelihood whereas the San were traditional hunters. These two distinct tribes were indeed the last Stone Age people in South Africa, but their way of life was all but ended due to settlers who set up farms in the Karoo in the 19th century. Despite the fact that large areas of the landscape are barren, it is still home to some 9,000 species of succulents and we passed many huge cactus plants in full bloom with such vivid colours on the sides of the road.









Wildlife is also abundant in the Karoo and a wide variety of mammal, bird and reptile species have their home here. Albert stopped his ‘old merc’ several times having seen Meerkats but they disappeared as soon as we stopped which was a shame - how he spotted them was astonishing as they blend so well with the countryside and are not that big. The borders of the Great Karoo touch four provinces within South Africa and form the second largest plateau region outside of Asia. Less than two hundred years ago the Karoo was for the most part void of the fences that are used to separate farms and game parks today. This allowed for huge roaming herds of game that traversed the Karoo in search of the best grazing and water. The Springbok migration that last occurred in the 19th century was said to have been one of nature's most awesome spectacles. Sadly this is now a thing of the past and you are more likely to see flocks of sheep or ostrich, which now form the economic backbone of the Karoo. However, more and more farmers are turning their lands into game farms so maybe once again the land will see huge herd of wild animals once more but some of the fences will have to be removed first as has happened in Kruger National Park allowing the animals to roam freely.







We stopped overnight in Cradock, once a frontier town but now a quiet centre of the wool industry in the middle of the Eastern Cape Province. We were staying at Tuishuise Guesthouse, not your usual ‘run of the mill’ guesthouse as it comprised a collection of restored Victorian era craftsmen’s houses. In fact there were more than 30 individual houses that lined Market Street around a Victorian Manor built in 1840 and was one of the oldest hotels in SA. The hotel was once graced by many of South Africa's legends such as Olive Schreiner and Cecil John Rhodes and if they were to visit now it would look exactly the same, being very tastefully restored - it was like stepping back in time.





We were allocated one of the ‘restored houses’ all to ourselves complete with living room, kitchen, hallway, bathroom and a small garden. The main hotel was just a short walk from our new home and where all the meals were served in Victorian style of course. After tented accommodation it was strange to have just one room let alone so many - all that space!!! All the ‘houses’ had names and ours was called Harry Potter not sure why but Maisie our granddaughter would have liked it! Although we could not get internet in our ‘house’ we were able to sit in comfort in the main hotel where we were able to catch up with the outside world - it has been really difficult keeping in touch with people during this journey around Southern Africa and indeed trying to upload our blog has not been easy. Whilst sitting in the main hotel we met a couple from Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire who loved this area and had been here many times. I can remember travelling to Bradford on Avon when I was a child to have swimming lessons from my home town of Corsham as this was the nearest swimming pool at that time. We returned there recently and it is a lovely town to visit if you are ever that way - not far from Bath, Avon.











Cradock itself was founded in 1812 by Sir John Cradock after the Frontier War. Olive Schreiner was an author who lived there and she together with Karl Marx’s daughter, started the feminist movement. She is also South Africa’s first recognised female writer. She was the ninth child of a marriage between a German missionary and a cultured Londoner. Her formal education was minimal but from a small child she was passionately fond of writing and lived in a world of her own imaginings. We visited a small museum in the town where she had lived and it had been restored to what it was like when she lived there. The kitchen floor was made of a mixture of ox blood and cow dung. The walls were painted turquoise which was produced by a mix of paint and arsenic - apparently it was used to repel the flies - I always thought that flies liked the colour turquoise! That evening we enjoyed a traditional Karro meal in the Manor House with Albert which was delicious and after dinner local singers entertained us with some beautiful haunting African songs.









The next day we headed off to Addo Elephant National Park, one of 19 national parks in SA and third in size after Kruger NP and Kglagadi Transfrontier Park. Addo is a conservation success story famous for its elephant population. The original section of the park was founded in 1931 in order to provide a sanctuary for the 11 remaining elephants in the area. By 1954 there were 17 and in 1985 they had increased to 100 and today there are hundreds roaming wild in the park. The tusks on these elephants are smaller than those in other areas and the females do not grow any at all as they do in other parks. It is believed this is probably due to their isolation and inter-breeding and there is talk of bringing in some ‘new’ blood to try and improve the gene pool.





In the early years at Addo, during times of drought and before the waterholes were artificially kept full, the park keepers fed the elephants on oranges from the local groves. Gradually the elephants became addicted to the taste of the fruit! This practice stopped along time ago, but the older elephants still remembered the smell and had been known to reach into vehicles and get their favourite fruit so we were advised not to take any citrus fruits into the park, although the ban on this has now been lifted but you cannot be too careful with such huge animals!







Addo has proved to be very successful and is currently home to a large number of other mammals as well as the elephants. It is also home to a much smaller critter, the rare flightless Dung Beetle. We had seen many of these in other parks as they particularly liked to bombard ones car. This was not a problem here though but you did have to watch that you didn’t run them over! Albert was always swerving to avoid them as he did anything he saw on the roads which proved quite funny after heavy rains when the roads were covered with many insects. Animals would also walk along the roads after rains and so this was a good time to get up close to them, like when we followed the large male lion in Kruger. Albert said that the animals like to warm up their feet on the tarmac.........particularly the baboons.





We had a bit of a problem with our booking at Addo and in the end spent three days there instead of two but this worked to our advantage. Our first night we spent just outside the park in a bed and breakfast, owned by a British couple called Rudy and Denise who had arrived in SA about 40 years ago and we were the only ones staying in their accommodation which was surprisingly good. They also owned hectares of farmland close to Addo as well as an ‘off license’ which was a bit daunting at first when we arrived as we expected to see lots of locals drinking around in the bar - in fact I think Paul was the only one in there..........and they even brought me a glass to drink my wine out off instead of my ‘usual campsite mug’. I had in fact purchased a silver goblet which became my dear friend.........





The next two nights we camped in the National Park and from our campsite we could view elephants coming down to a nearby waterhole as well as many other animals and birds - a really ideal location. We always enjoyed camping in the National Parks as at night you got to hear all the noises of the jungle but also you were close by to start early morning game drives when the wildlife prowled in the parks. We did a couple of game drives in the old merc, which got us around without any problems and we were rewarded with seeing huge herds of elephants who were obviously still thriving as there were many young ones amongst them. It was lovely to sit at a waterhole and watch these youngsters running down the hills to get to the waterhole first, with their anguished parents trying to keep them in check. Watching these gentle giants interact with each other was very special and you could spend all day long doing just that.





We were also lucky to get up really close to a number of Meerkats, much to Paul’s delight. Albert spotted a large group far away in the bush but we could hardly see them. The next day however we had a very close encounter right next to the car and watched as they played and fed along the track. That was until a Giant Eagle appeared in the sky and the one on lookout gave the alarm to the other 22 who were foraging nearby. It was so comical watching them all stop and stare up into the sky, the eagle swooped but missed and they all lived to tell the tale thank goodness. We later saw one meerkat balanced right at the top of a huge bush on lookout duty, Albert said he had never seen one climb before they usually just stood on the ground or on a handy termite mound - obviously this one was still very wary of that eagle and wanted the best view.





Lions had recently been introduced in the park to keep the number of antelope in check. As there were only a couple of prides we were not expecting to see any but one day we saw two large males with a lioness sitting beside a small bush without a care in the world - obviously very well fed. We also saw herds of cape buffalo, eland, kudu, red hartebeest, warthogs and zebra. One night Paul wandered off to the loo and was followed by a porcupine and we often heard them around our tent at night as well as a number of hyenas with their distinct cry.







Opposite the waterhole in the main rest camp there was a bird hide which has been sponsored by Sasol, dedicated to the preservation of the Southern Red Bishops. Sasol’s Birds of Southern Africa remains the region's most comprehensively illustrated and trusted field guide and our copy had been well ‘thumbed’ during our visit. The Red Bishop is a stunning small bird - breeding males are brightly coloured with red (occasionally orange) and black plumage. The forehead, face and throat are black and the rest of the head is red. The upper breast and under tail-coverts are red, while the lower breast and belly are black and the wings and tail are brown. The non-breeding males and females have streaky brown plumage and the females are smaller than the males and quite dull in comparison. We watched these as well as the several species of Weaver birds building their nests - all day there was a hive of activity. With the brilliant red of the bishops and the bright yellow of the weavers it was a wonderful sight to see.







We enjoyed some really good weather whilst we were at Addo but on our last morning we awoke to heavy rain and had to take down our tents in a downpour. We were all very wet and had to pack the car with soaking wet tents and equipment once again. We headed off towards Port Elizabeth known as the windy and friendly city slowly getting dry in the car. The town was founded in 1820 when 4000 settlers landed and is now a major ore, wool and mohair port as well as the major establishment for the motor industry. Passing through the town we continued along the coastal road which is the start of the Garden Route an area which stretches along the southern Cape coast from Heidelberg in the west to the Tsitsikamma Forest and Storms River in the east.







We stopped at the Paul Sauer Bridge known locally as Storms River Bridge to view the deep gorge - it is 138m long and 129m deep. Jagged rocks form this stunning gorge and you can walk over the road bridge to view and cross underneath the road to the other side - at your own risk of course. The narrow footpath followed the side of the road and with heavy vehicles passing close by and the huge drop on the other side it was a tight squeeze so we only went a little of the way across to see the view. As we returned to our car we saw a young lady running down the road in the blistering heat. Her coach had taken off without her and she was running to try and catch it up - luckily for her a car had spotted her plight and chased the coach, beeping its horn loudly until it stopped. Albert said if you ever travelled on these long distance coaches you should always chat to the people around you so that they could inform the driver that you were not in your seat when the coach continued its journey. If you just sat on a bus and did not chat to the people around you then who would care or know that you were missing - the drivers do not check their passengers.







We stopped a little further on to see the world’s highest bungy jump on the Bloukrans River Bridge - only stopped to watch that is....... Bloukrans is the highest and largest bridge in Africa, the third highest in the world and the largest single span concrete arch bridge in the world. Constructed between 1980 and 1983, the bridge stands at a height of 216m above the river and its primary use is that of a road bridge, carrying the national route, N2 road. Before it was built it would have taken a long time to get over the pass. ‘With a 100%!s(MISSING)afety record and comprehensive public liability insurance, you are in safe hands’, is the message that greets you when you enter this complex but you have to be a very brave/foolish person to take this into account if you want to jump. I am probably not the right person to report on this though having had such a fear of heights for so long and those that were jumping (well most) seemed to really enjoy it but why risk your very short life to have the thrill of a jump?





We arrived at the entrance to Tsitsikamma National Park and proceeded down a winding road to the coast below, Albert said they had just renewed the surface and it was now much easier and quicker to get to the sea way below. Tsitsikamma forest meaning is ‘clear water’ and it stretches for 80 km along the Cape’s coastline. Indigenous forest comprising of yellow wood, stink wood, candle wood and the seven week fern used extensively for the floral market abound in the area as well numerous plants and flowers, when we were there the verges were covered in pink heather.







As Albert stopped the car right by the ocean we could see what a peaceful place this was a truly stunning vista. We set up camp pitching our tent a few feet from the rocky coastline on some soft green grass for a change - we have slept on concrete, gravel, stones, sand, mud and so much more but green grass was pure luxury! Within minutes we had spotted Whales as well as Dolphins just off shore - that day we spotted about nine whales and well as a group of dolphins without moving from our campsite. One of the whales had a young calf, we think it was a Humpback but the area is renowned more for the Southern Right Whale as well as Brydes Whales and we were not sure.





There are numerous forest and coastal trails at Tsitsikamma as well as waterfalls to view and we undertook a couple of ‘shortish’ hikes whilst we were there. One day we set off for a walk which ended at three linked suspension bridges, one of which crossed the ocean between the two headlands to get you to the coastline on the other side. From here you could proceed up a massive cliff and we watched one chap actually climb up with his bicycle ‘in tow’ - we gave it a miss and admired the view instead....... On another walk we followed the rugged coastline to a waterfall, all around us were the most gorgeous views - it was like walking along an idillic cornish coastline in perfect temperatures!!! The sounds and views of the sea and the flowers and birds were a delight. Back at our tent we were lulled to sleep each evening by the sounds of the surf and in the mornings we awoke to beautiful sunlight and again the crashing of the surf.







On unzipping our tent door one morning we sat in bed peering out watching the waves roll in looking for whales or dolphins and were greeted with the large grin of a Rock Hyrax (dassie) staring right back at us. These little critters were often seen scurrying across the cliff tops or munching on a bit of ‘our’ green grass. Although it resembles a small rabbit, the dassie is actually a hoofed mammal related to the elephant. It has a short, furry body with short hoofed legs and a small tail much like a large guinea pig. Thanks to special pads on the soles of its damp feet, which act as suction cups on rocky surfaces, the dassie is an agile climber and inhabits rock crevices in order to escape from any predators. They have been seen to use sentries, a bit like a Meerkat, to take up position on a vantage point and issue alarm calls on the approach of danger.





We left the lush forest and beautiful coastline of Tsitsikamma NP and headed to Knsyna, a town nestled in a large lagoon and one of the Southern Cape coast's best known holiday destinations. We took ‘time out’ to visit the famous heads which had the most striking geological features. Two huge sandstone cliffs guarding the mouth of the lagoon which connects the estuary with the sea. As we viewed the heads from a couple of viewing platforms you could see the strong currents bubbling below as the sea poured in to fill the lagoons once again.







Knysna's history began in the year 1804, the year that saw the arrival of George Rex, rumored to be the illegitimate son of King George lll. He was banished into exile when his father suddenly became heir to the throne and he purchased the estate known as Melkhoutkraal on the shores of the lagoon and moved his entire family and considerable entourage down to Knysna to settle. The Knsyna oyster is world famous for its unique woody flavour and as well as this small tasty shellfish the area used to have an abundant population of elephants but they were hunted out and to date it is reported that only three remain - we did not see them but did encounter the shellfish.





We were staying in a guesthouse again which Albert had booked but on arrival none of us were impressed. It was supposed to have a kitchen but this consisted of just a microwave, a couple of cups and a couple of glasses, no cooker or running water so guess what we searched the area for another. Luckily a few yards up the road we found this amasing place, complete with two bedrooms, lounge, kitchen, back garden with BBQ and front garden with swimming pool all for the same cost! Yes, we stayed there and having a full kitchen with a whole cooker was great - have not seen a full cooker for a long time........how we take for granted such luxuries.................we even had a toaster, although toast cooked on a Braai is good. We also had a fridge and this above all was a real luxury. One of the problems travelling in the old merc was that we only had a cool box to keep our food fresh and cold - this was fine when we could fill water bottles with water and freeze them but throughout our travels this was difficult to do so you had to rely on bags of ice from garages. However once this melted the food in the icebox became sodden and I think above all else this was our biggest headache.







If you have read our blogs then you will know that we did not get to see a Cheetah during our travels around Southern Africa so Albert arranged for us to have a private tour to see them at Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre at Plettenberg Bay. What a wonderful time we had such a surreal unique experience as a guide led us into the semi-natural enclosure of two beautiful Cheetahs. So close, you could hear them purring - they were quite sleepy though and once they had a good look at us they went off to sleep. A guard accompanied us as well as the guide just in case but they were very calm Cheetahs that could not be returned to the wild for various reasons.







We were also able to get walk in with several Servals and African Wildcats but had to look at the Caracals and Leopards from outside their enclosures. Albert said that he had known one of the Leopards since it was young and used to hold him but no-one now enters his enclosure since he has grown and is extremely powerful. He did come right up to the cage wire though and knew the guide as he let him stroke him through the bars - again sadly he is unable to be returned to the wild but he seemed very happy in his own large enclosure. The centre does return many animals back to the wild but they keep these away from any human contact until their release so you only get to see the animals that have Tenikwa as their permanent home. We felt very lucky that we were able to view these amasing animals so close an experience we will always remember - walking in with the Cheetahs and other wildcats at Tenikwa.







We continued along the Garden Route and as we travelled along Albert told us a poignant story of when he was in this same area in 2010. He had a small tour group with him and was staying at one of the Boer farmsteads with his group. He was the only Blackman watching a world cup semi final match on the TV in the bar. when this man appeared and put out his cigarette on Albert’s forehead saying he did so because there was no ashtray available. Albert challenged the man and insisted on sending for the owner who he knew quite well. He said to the owner ‘I want to fight this man for what he has done and to learn him a lesson, are you happy with this or do you want me to leave’. The owner said this man was actually his cousin and he was appalled by what he had done and happy for Albert to fight him hoping that it would teach his cousin a lesson also. Albert said to the man, I am a skilled fighter so are you happy to fight me and the man said yes he was - two punches later the man was on the floor - on awaking he and Albert shook hands and went for a drink in the bar together ------------------------------this is Africa at its best but also at it worst.....................they are now good friends.







We awoke the next morning to learn of the death of Nelson Mandela and although this had been expected, as he had been ill for so long, it was still a great a shock to us and to be in his home country of South Africa at this dreadful time was even more poignant, particularly after listening to Albert’s story above.







Our journey took us inland through the beautiful Overberg Region. The area has always been considered as the breadbasket of the Cape and is largely given to grain farming mainly wheat. The massive wheat fields are a major breeding ground for the South African national bird, the Blue Crane and we saw a number of these in the fields. It was harvest time and huge tracks of land were being cleared of their crops, a hive of activity. We passed through the large town of Swellendam where in 1797 the Boer settlers were trading with the Khoikhoi nomadic pastoralists an activity that ultimately obliterated the Khoikhoi lifestyle. Trade propelled the establishment of the town and in 1745 the Dutch East Indian Company started controlling the new ranks of independent frontiersmen.





We headed back towards the coast arriving in the town of Hermanus, considered to be the world’s premier site for watching whales. The Whale Season is from June to December when the females come to Walker Bay to give birth so we were at the end of the season but were hopeful. We had imagined that the town was small and situated on a cliff overlooking the sea. It was however a large sprawled out town and relatively flat with a few small rocky cliffs. However you could still easily spot the whales from the shoreline where a path followed the coast. Yet again we were lucky spotting several just off the bay in front of our guesthouse. Some were tail flapping and some jumping clean out of the water (called breaching), to crash back down into the sea with an almighty splash - we watched one group for about an hour playing in the waves. We wish we had longer in Hermanus and hopefully will return one day to view these delightful whales who came so close to the shoreline that you did not even have to go out on a boat to see them.





Following an extremely scenic coastal road the next morning the weather quickly changed. Although still sunny the winds were gale force and the sea was alive as it blew into the rocky coastline leaving several rainbows fluttered long the breaking waves. We stopped at a Shark Spotting lookout and spoke to a young man on duty, he said there had been no sharks that day but several the day before. He worked for five hours looking out to sea to spot these dangerous creatures and if spotted sounded an alarm and cleared the sea. There were different flags put up according to sightings and the visibility for the spotter to see them and today was not a good day. Despite this risk several young people were in the sea, the beach here is excellent for those who love to surf and nothing stops them from doing so.





We now headed into an area known as the Cape Winelands, passing along some scenic mountains and travelling through little villages with prominent Cape Dutch architecture - very quaint and of course with lots of wineries. These were all very close together not like in the wine regions of Australia where most of the wineries are very far apart. We stopped in Stellenbosch to visit the Bergkelder Wine Centre home of Fleur Du Cap wines. We walked with a guide through the gardens to reach the wineries ‘Cellar in the Mountain’, a unique underground bottle-maturation cellar in an ideal location kept cool by the surrounding mountain. Thousands of bottles of wine are laid down in this tranquil setting. We had a short video presentation followed by sampling various wines together with foods that complemented them. We are not lovers of desert wines but sampling their special desert wine, together with some salted fudge changed our minds. As we toured the cellar we passed several old French oak maturation casks, the fronts of which had fine carvings of various famous Cape wine landmarks and events. We though we knew a bit about wine from our tours in New Zealand and Australia but we still learnt a few new things here.





From Stellenbosch it was only a ‘short hop’ on the main road and we arrived back in Cape Town so we had now come full circle, travelling through 9 countries in 79 days and goodness knows how many miles or kilometers - we lost count ages ago to get to the end of this long wonderful journey through Southern Africa.







We were joined in Cape Town by Ruth, Albert’s wife who had been unable to join us on our trip and spent two days with them both in the city. We at last managed to get up to see Table Mountain National Park as the skies were clear - so different to when we were here in September. The highest point of Table Mountain is 3559 feet and you can walk up but we gave that a miss as it takes a number of hours all up hill. So we boarded the cable car but as it started to descend we had not realised that the standing platform rotated as it moved slowly up the mountain - wow. This enable all those ‘on board’ (it carried up to up to 65 people) to get 360 degree views over Cape Town and the Robben Island just off shore. At the top we had expected the usual mountain top peak but it was quite different to what we had imagined with a 3k plateau on top of the mountain. There were numerous walks and one to the east took about 45 minutes to get to the peak. We walked around the edge and into the rocky terrain and saw some lovely birds included an Orange-breasted Sunbird as well as an astonishing array of African wild flowers, one in particular, which we did not know the name of but was a beautiful yellow/orange/red in colour - see photo.







The next day we visited Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden with Ruth and Albert, there was a special fuchsia exhibition taking place which I found interesting as my father had been a keen fuchsia grower and we chatter to a couple of ladies who were part of the WCFS Western Cape Fuchsia Society. My father had been a member of the BFS British Fuchsia Society back in the 60/70s. There were many displays including individual blooms, sprays of blooms, hanging baskets or pots, standards, miniatures, doubles or singles as well as a beginners section for those who have never exhibited plants before. Kirstenbosch is one of the great botanic gardens of the world it certainly had the grandest setting, backing against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain We enjoyed spending a few hours wandering around the gardens and spotting many flowers and plants that we had seen throughout our journey in Africa.





It was finally time to say our goodbyes to Ruth and Albert as they dropped us off at our hotel on the Waterfront where we were going to spend our last few days. They were travelling back to Johannesburg in the ‘old merc’ which was going to take them 18 hours of driving in total - we will really miss the lovely old car that got us around like no other transport could Albert had been such a superb guide on our final journey around South Africa. He was always happy and smiling, remained calm at all times, was a brilliant animal spotter and knew the names of so many birds, but most of all he had become a good friend and we hope that one day we may undertake another journey around Africa with him. He has a keen interest in Primates and I would love to travel one day to Rwanda with him to see the Gorillas - Paul has said he may come to..........







A well deserved ‘plug’ for them......... but if anyone wants to know more about Southern Africa and indeed arrange a private or small group tour then their website is http://www.arksafaris.co.za or email them at arksafarisbts@gmail.com. I am sure Ruth or Albert will be more than willing to help you with any of your questions - just mention our name (Paul and Sheila) and you will be sure of some excellent service. During our journey, Albert’s most memorable greeting with a big smile was, hello my brother, or hello my sister to anyone he ever met - although it did not go down well with the grumpy lady on the customs desk in Lesotho!! Another phase we will always remember him repeating was when you thanked him for something he would always reply; ‘the pleasure is all ours’. Well Albert and Ruth, if you read this blog ‘the pleasure was not yours but ALL ours’.







Cape Town was a really vibrant place again, notwithstanding the fact that the country and indeed the world had just lost their beloved Tata Madiba, Nelson Mandela. As we walked around this city we will always remember hearing his ‘various names’ vibrating everywhere, we recalled Ruth telling us that Nelson was a name given to him by his teacher on his first day at school - giving African children English names was common in those old colonial days. Tata means ‘father’ in isiXhosa and Madiba was his clan name which is more important than a surname as it refers to the ancestors to which a person is descended from. Our guide, Albert often talked to his ancestors, particularly when sleeping and he said they were very wise and ‘steered’ his life.







Across the city there were so many memorials to Madiba with flowers and moving messages left everywhere and we were able to write our own tribute at one of these special places set up throughout the city in his honour. Cape Town had many areas associated with him including, the City Hall, Noble Square, the Robbin Island Museum and embarkation point to his Island Prison, of course the Parliament buildings as well as the V&A Waterfront. Every time you turned on the TV or passed a newspaper his face shone brightly out and local people related their thoughts and feeling as well as their memories of this the greatest of men who will go down in history as one of the best.................. One of the messages left outside the City Hall by two boys read; ‘Because of you Mr Mandela we could be friends, be in the same class at the same school. We do not have to live the way our parents did. We will never forget you. Another read; ‘Humba Kahle, my dear Tata, thank you for your support on earth, rest in peace - enjoy dancing with the angels. Another said, Thank you Madiba!!! Father of the Nation. Our Hero!! and now...Our Star in heaven. So many different poignant words and emotive writings it took ones breath away......







We walked as many others did to the City Hall and joined the crowds to watch his Memorial Service - it was from the small balcony here that Mandela gave his first speech after his release from prison in Cape Town in 1990 - now that same place was dedicated to honoring him. Watching this ‘one off’ occasion take place before our eyes was indeed a very moving experience, particularly when the crowd cheered when ANC leader, Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the crowd from Johannesburg saying In our tradition, when it rains when you are buried, your gods are welcoming you to heaven’, of course it was pouring in that city but here in Cape Town it was really hot, yet people were still queuing to pay their respects and listen for hours to the moving service. When the South Africa National Anthem was played people all around us joined in, I watched as two strangers, one black and one white took off their hats and sang together, so many different clans of people from so many diverse lands but all joined on this momentous day - this is what Madiba would have wished for at his memorial service.









It has been just incredible to be part of the mourning for and of course the celebration of the legendary, Tata Madiba and we have been so lucky to have been in this beautiful country at such a memorable time in history...... Our last view days in Cape Town passed with deep emotion for the loss of such an icon - this was done though in a happy vibrant way rather than a sad mournful one - so much singing, laughter and happiness, so diverse but so charismatic of this delightful county.







One day we visited an Art Exhibition at the V&A Waterfront which had recently opened after successful showings in both Johannesburg and London. The exhibition was opened before Mandela’s death and featured art inspired by him with a significant collection of paintings, sculptures, photography, cartoons, beadwork and prints from a variety of artists. Some of the this featured quite diverse imagery with cartoons as well as serious explorations, with one artist using the scene of the ‘last supper’ as a theme. One cartoon featured Mandela sat in a car with the Queen of England, with a policeman saying, ‘if anyone asks me who the little old lady sat with Mandela is again.....‘ Also on display was a print of the famous portrait of Mandela by Richard Stone, a UK artist, who had also painted the Queen - a truly stunning print. My favourite though was one which featured four pictures all linked into one of Mandela at various stages in his life - this was really unique and special. Some of the other artwork on show including unique beading which was really good, most featured Madiba’s famous colourful shirts - quite inspirational, particularly one which was made entirely of tiny gold safety pins. The city was home to many talented artists and we saw some great works of art, not just in art galleries but also in the various craft markets dotted around this vibrant city. One young girl made some really creative goods from used tea-bags - we watched her make little angles to hang on the christmas tree.











On our very last day in South Africa we watched Tata Madiba’s funeral service and his burial on a hillside in his childhood village of Qunu on a screen at the V&A Waterfront together with people from all around the world. Such a moving experience as we joined in with the departure of this greatest of men the world has recently known. The most moving part of the service was said by a tearful Ahmed Kathrada, a close friend who served time in prison with Mandela for defying the apartheid government. He said, ‘....you symbolize today and always will ... qualities of forgiveness and reconciliation.’ ‘I've lost a brother - my life is in a void, and I don't know who to turn to.’ - such a sad tribute it turned many of the audience to tears.









We had so many wonderful experiences during our 3 month journey around Southern Africa as well as and some hair raising, annoying and scary ones as well, which you will be aware of from our blogs - but hey ‘this is Africa’! That being said we have met some lovely people and made many good friends from all walks of life. We have seen so much flora and fauna and were lucky to see the Big 5 - up really close to them but Elaine we did not see a snake - so its quite safe for you to visit and I am sure you will love it here. It has been really sad and thought provoking to be here at the death of Nelson Mandlea but hopefully the very people that he rallied for will indeed live up to his legacy and move the country on to even greater things, I am sure we will return here one day.







What next for us you might say - well we are currently sat in a 'luxury' hotel on the Waterfront called the Victoria and Alfred listening to some wonderful African Music being played by a band just outside our hotel window - lovely now but hopefully they will stop before we head off to bed!!!! They were singing Adele’s song ‘Set Fire to the Rain’ to their own arrangement and it was really good. It is so nice to have a little bit of luxury after so many long nights in a tent on some very hard ground.............must be getting old........We are now going to chill and do some christmas shopping (well I am) Paul will probably enjoy some large screen TV and local beer until we fly to Dubai to spend Christmas with Geoff, Sharon and Maisie and hopefully catch up with some of you on Skype or the old fashioned telephone. With a little bit of luck we may be able to catch up with our beloved daughter, Kerry who has still not managed to set herself up on Skype - but who knows...........







As mentioned above this is our 100th blog and it has been ‘a great way of storing our memories in an out of body hard drive’. John a lovely chap we met from the USA in Botswana used these very words and we thought they were indeed apt - as that was the real reason we started these blogs back in September 2010. I hope that one day we will be able to put some of the words and pictures into a book that we can read and remember well into our old age..............





So this will be the last Blog for a while but we have just heard from our tenants in the UK that they want to renew the lease on our house in Winchester for another year so guess what - we are homeless again until January 2015, any offers of house sitting will be carefully considered!!! We do have a few plans up our sleeves though and hope to visit the USA, Canada and Alaska - so may see you there..............or maybe somewhere else..................





With very best wishes to all our family, friends and blog followers.........

Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year



Paul and Sheila

Silvernomads


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21st December 2013

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year....
and if you pass through Colorado on your way around the U.S. drop by!
27th December 2013

Colorado
Hi Bob and Linda - thank you for your comments and yes we will definitely look you up if we get close to Colorado on our trip. Will also read your blogs to get any tips that we can as we are still in the planning stage at the moment. Best wishes and a Happy New Year from Paul and Sheila, Silvernomads
21st December 2013

Nomads until 2015
We hope to meet you when you come to the United States. It is morning here so I have coffee in hand and ready to read. Love the Merrkat photos. I agree, no reason to jump off a perfectly good bridge. You've seen some amazing things and have taken wonderful photos. We never tire of seeing whales or any animal life. What a wonderful experience to be there during the Mandela remembrances. We love your style of writing and you make us want to be on the road again. It is a good thing we are about to have a couple of weeks off or else we'd have trouble finishing your blog. We will spend Christmas with family in Ohio and then head to Vienna Austria for the New Year. With the house rented hopefully your travels will continue and another blog is just around the corner. We don't like to hear the prediction that you won't be blogging for a while.
27th December 2013

Happy New Year
Hi Dave and Merry Jo Thanks for your comments and so glad that you have enjoyed our blogs. Hope that you had a lovely christmas with your family in Ohio and I am sure you will enjoy Austria in the New Year. We visited the country a few times when we lived in Berlin in the late 80s and always enjoyed our time there. We are currently planning our trips for 2014 and if you are anywhere near us when we get to the USA it would be great to meet up. Happy New Year to you both from Paul and Sheila, Silvernomads
27th December 2013

Wow! it has all been quite breath-taking stuff,hasn\'t it? A great delight for us readers and an even greater one for you actually experiencing it... My travels have been far less extensive..more domestic really...MMM..Suffolk or South Africa and Dubai,subtle difference..nevertheless,equally beautiful for me,being with the kids in a superb log cabin and log fires...bliss. Sending you all good wishes for your health and happiness throughout 2014,love and brightest blessings from Lynxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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