Star Date: February 2011
Hello Dear Family & Friends!
"Jikeleza: to go around, wander freely."
"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."
While traveling the fascinating coast of South Africa some people follow the Wine Route, others the Great Ocean, Garden or Cape Whale Route. We followed the 'Mechanics Route'. 'Maari Safari' insisted that we work out her idiosyncrasies one by one. Our moods ranged from ecstasy as we watched a golden sunset along an endless, private beach to desperation - wanting to buy extra insurance and roll her over a cliff. We just couldn't do that to our new friend and besides we have literally fixed everything (knock on wood). 'Maari Safari' for all her quirks and problems was finding a place in our hearts. Takin' a lickin' it keeps on tickin' - our new/old 1983 converted van has a newly replaced engine after a former journey to Zambia, a new high air intake after a sandy trip through Namibia, and countless great little touches from the previous owners, Audrey and husband, to make traveling the open road an unforgettable experience. Every time a radiator hose blew, or the clutch gave way, or the tire blew in a pothole from hell we were led, word of mouth to some of the most honest, 'salt of the earth' mechanics on this planet. We even spent several nights camping out in their less than park like surroundings, getting invited into their homes for a 'brie', or cup of tea. Thanks guys. Doubt is an element of exploration but you helped patch us up and send us on our way; knowing for sure that we had chosen the best way to explore the southern African countries.
That being said, our trip up the coast from Cape Town to Mozambique was nothing short of astonishing. Mechanical misgivings melted away as we discovered endless back roads ending up at spectacular vistas or a remote stretch of beach just begging to be explored. Our travel mugs were definitely half full, not half empty. Appreciation and simplicity are by products of life on the road.
Our cozy, comfy traveling van was transformed from a touring vehicle, to a seaside sunset bar, to a restaurant serving fine vegan cuisine by candlelight, to a bedroom with a million dollar 270 degree view. 'Maari' has a queen size bed in the back, a 2 burner stove, a small sink, fridge and porta potti. The only thing missing is the Jacuzzi! No reservations were necessary, no time schedule to stress us out. Enjoying the moment, who knew what treasures the day would reveal? Who knew what animals would cross our path, what flowers were blooming at the roads edge, what new culture or fact we would learn or what eclectic array of people would add variety to our day? Observe and allow.
Complete strangers we bumped into became new friends, often directing us on our way or inviting us home for a cup of tea or even offering their homes for the night. Barely out of Cape Town we were offered a lovely apartment on Bikini Beach while learning about the Afrikaans culture and sharing a 'Holy Basil' Thai dinner in their home. Further down the way in Pearly Beach we shared laughs and travel tales over wine into the wee hours with Denise & Robert. They insisted that we move into their family flat for a good wash and rest. Born in Rhodesia and having driven to Mozambique, Namibia, Angola and Botswana they were full of many welcome hands-on travel tips and hilarious stories. Main advice: if you can't keep smiling you may as well throw in the towel. We left the day before their 50th wedding anniversary. Robert had fled Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, with the clothes on his back and a small stash of emeralds and rubies in his mouth. Building their new home on the beach he hid the gems in the wall, eventually forgetting where they were. Two weeks before their anniversary, (twenty plus years after hiding them) he was doing a small repair and 'Voila!' they were discovered. He rushed to the neighborhood jeweler in the next town and had beautiful earrings made to surprise Denise. Robert made up for any mistakes in their relationship over the last 50 years!
Hermanus is in the heart of the Cape Whale Route, the scenery was stunning - just the whales had yet to return. Here during the winter you can see whales frolicking in the waters below the cliffs. Taking gravel roads down towards the L'Agulhas Lighthouse we spent a couple of nights at the extreme southern tip of Africa's continent (nicknamed the Shipwreck Coast for good reason) and watched as the warm Indian Ocean collided with the cold Atlantic Ocean. The currents that flow up the eastern side of Africa create rich seasonal migrations of sea life such as enormous balls, kilometers in size, of small sardines. Attracting migrating whales, dolphins, sharks, sea birds this feeding frenzy is Nature's ultimate buffet! Sitting along the beach one morning in our chairs, sipping a cup of tea, we watched as an endless black swath of sea birds migrated from horizon to horizon for over two hours. They knew the table was being set up north.
In Bredasdorp we stopped by the library to check emails. Next to us was Joseph, a very friendly, intelligent young man. Sincerely interested in learning and self taught we gave him a ride to their simple concrete home in the colored township and gave him some e-text for his computer. He shared how his colored community had been taken over by thugs a decade ago. Violence and fear became a way of life in their formerly quiet township until one "Black Sunday" they confronted the organized criminals and in a battle for survival they drove them out, killing 5 of the outsiders. The young men responsible went to jail but that ended the violence once and for all. We felt welcome and safe in their once again quiet little township.
Swellendam, founded by the Dutch East India Company in 1745 is referred to as the historical heart of the Overberg. Many old buildings and museums relive these early days. We saw a different side of the area thanks to our radiator hose exploding while Joseph took a picture of the most photographed church in South Africa. Of course it was Saturday afternoon, all garages closed until Monday. Our knight on a shining motorcycle, Clinton and father Lauren, invited us into their home while they sorted out the problem and got rid of old 'spooks' in the motor. In the hot late afternoons we went up to the dam in the mountain forest to enjoy a swim or just chillin' with our new friends. How honest, how helpful! Another up close look at life in South Africa. Stunning scenery, friendly genuine people. What a place!
We spent a lot of time walking the beaches and exploring the intriguing creatures that hang out in the tidal pools. It's a tough life in the intertidal zone, half the day in the pounding surf and the other half hoping your rocky pool keeps enough water while holding your breath until high tide. We discovered fish of all varieties, jellyfish, mussels, periwinkles, octopus, starfish, urchins, sea anemones and shellfish all hiding in bright colored seaweed and corals. On one full moon night near Kynsna we joined the adventures of a fun group of new friends spying on tidal pools by moonlight and torchlight; uncovering baby cuttlefish shooting backwards, starfish in a rainbow of colors and 2 octopus patrolling their 'private' pool. Crashing surf, twinkling stars, a lunar corona, great company. Does it get any better?
We were in for yet another treat in Knysna, (which we had been pronouncing Krishna, like in India) as we met Candy, friend of a friend of a friend, and were warmly welcomed into her home and family. With her active group of friends and teenagers we had a brie, hiked, beach combed and explored tidal pools by daylight and moonlight.
Slowly we worked our way along the coast, from one beautiful bay or
beach to the next. Plettenberg Bay is one such place to
mention. We parked near the Beacon Island Hotel for 3 nights, enjoying the
beach and had a wonderful, romantic vegan Valentines Day dinner
overlooking the ocean, thanks to the flexibility of the dynamic
couple managing Indigos. The lounge at the front of the hotel
has absolutely the best view in the area with waves crashing in on
three sides. In fact one such wave crashed right through the
windows a few years back. The mighty power of the sea.
We had an absolutely lovely lunch and talk with 3 insightful ladies
from J'Berg at Global Village. This unique place highlights
crafts from around the globe, all items we had seen as local
artisans created them back in their country of origin.
Memories flooded back over our past 8 years of travels. While
in the area don't forget to jump off the world's highest bridge
bungy jump at Bloukrans, guaranteed
to wet your pants!! We almost did just watching. A sign
posted said, "Fear is temporary, regret is forever." This is
definitely facing fear. Free
jumps after age 60. One guy jumped last year at 84 - crazy or
It all started as we were sitting along Makleavena Beach with friends Bob & Kije on our beloved Big Island of Hawaii. "You must look up our friends in South Africa!" Modern technology allows for such communication and through emails we finally drove up to the quaint community of Kidds Beach. What a wonderful pocket size place and what a great 4 days we spent in our own home along the river watching Sam the 6 ft heron stalk his next fish. We cooked Thai food together with Guy, Susan, girls and neighbors, walked the beach daily and visited the Kidds Beach School where Joseph spoke to the enthusiastic staff about the importance of e-text in our modern world. It was heart warming to see such a well run school, with black and white students learning side by side. The future of South Africa is in the hands of this younger generations. A flat tire while there allowed us to meet Paul, an ex-army survival trainer who has hiked for months at a stretch up the western coast with only the clothes on his back, surviving on what Nature provides. He has driven his camper extensively around southern Africa and had some welcome advice for back road travel.
After a look around East London we headed north, passing vast townships huddled on the hills. We noticed several funerals in our travels, faces painted white, crowds gathered to bury their dead under the enormous high intensity wires, the only place available to those with no money. Even when passing on, these poor souls must squat. Joseph spotted a small group of meerkats gazing out over the rural farming area with golden fields, scattered cattle, small lakes or dams and wide open blue skies, yet another face of South Africa. Rural South Africa is reminiscent of East Africa with small towns, such as Jamestown, of mainly blacks with a few Afrikaans farmers and white or Chinese shop owners thrown in.
As the potholes got bigger the mountains of Lesotho loomed on the horizon, beckoning us on. We stopped at a farm in the middle of nowhere, asking if we could park for the night. As is the case most farms are enormous tracts of land homesteaded by Great Grandfather and now owned by one of the grandsons. This splendid place with its original old stone farmhouse, windmills and outbuildings resonated with good times and hard times. Joseph met a young local man and his family, a hired hand and his house maid wife (everyone has them) and was invited into their little sod/rock house. The place was spic and span, with one son, two dogs, a cat and plenty chickens. They were proud of the life they had in their little house on the prairie.
When traveling we are intrigued by the new and different things we see. As we slowly made our way up the coast we had been told to drive down to attractive Vlesssbaai. Arriving at dusk we were surprised to find not just a subdivision gated but the whole blooming town was gated, with high electric wire fences like a prison. Stunned, we continued down to the next community and camped for the night. Totally self sufficient we are able to pull in along a beach or under a tree and spend the night. The following morning we either stealth away or relax with our fruit salad before taking a long walk along the shore. Feeling welcome at many spots we will often spend a second night. Another option is to stop by a farm house and ask if we can park along their long driveway before leaving in the morning. Even secluded, in the middle of thousands of acres of farmland, the owners tell us it is dangerous and at our own risk, "This is South Africa".
Face Your Fears. In theory this is easy, wrapped up in neat, tidy words rationalized by our minds. Life is where we can see our true selves played out for all to see. It is said that in every situation there are only two choices: to live in fear or in love. After talking with countless South Africans we went through waves of fear about the trip we were taking. "Only stay in caravan parks. Don't camp there - it's dangerous, you will be robbed, raped, murdered. Total fear. When parked by the side of the road, even in broad daylight in the middle of a beautiful remote farmland area, there was a knock at the door. A well intentioned older man told us we shouldn't park in that spot for lunch or we will be robbed by the taxi people. He then hurried off to double lock his little farm house door; shutting out the beautiful sunny world around him, hiding in the shadows of fear. We felt sorry for him. We were more afraid that we would catch his 'fear fever' than the potential taxi robbers who smiled and waved as they sped by, radio booming.
For sure, criminals are active here, as in many places, part of the 5% not so good crowd on earth. Feeding, like a monster on this fear of violence is a trillion dollar security business. Everyone is wired in. What if tomorrow all people decided to live peacefully together? There is no way this immense business would be allowed to stop. Many South Africans agree that these acts of violence, instilling fear in residents, is organized by criminals with a bigger agenda. Several have even suggested that in some cases whites are behind the black groups terrorizing city residential and farm areas country wide.
Every town has on the outskirts it's black township. People live in squalor in small cement houses (coloreds) or tin shanties (blacks) while in glaring contrast the white town folk live in tree lined boulevards, many with a second luxurious beach home on the sea shores. Short distance public transport is only provided so the black workers can get to and from work for the white folk in their homes or businesses. How could there not be resentment? In the Drakensburg Mountains the rolling hillsides were dotted with small Zulu farms and family compounds with several huts or houses, a garden, a few animals and bouncing kids jumping around. People were relaxed, smiling and friendly. It seems a more natural way to live than being jammed into a man made maze of a township. Better services, less anger. Once again, education is the key to change, however long it takes. "People are human beings produced by the society in which they live. You encourage people by seeing good in them." (Mandela)
The white folk live in constant fear, fuelled by the shock/horror newspaper or television headlines of hideous crimes committed. Making up for years of Apartaid, a terror campaign is in full swing. White South Africans live behind tall razor wire topped walls, with security alarms and armed guards on call. They are trapped inside electrified, barred windowed cages, the weight of fear heavy on their shoulders.
The average white/Asian person in South Africa has a level of stress higher than normal. This constant pressure is not healthy. How do I know? Because for the first time in our trip I slay paper tigers at times. Just when I am starting to relax some well intentioned person does their level best to instill more fear in me. Does this mean we are Mr. & Mrs. Magoo going along blindly? No. We have a car alarm and security cables. We are realistic, street wise, and careful but would we be able to continue traveling the world if we shrouded ourselves in fear? We have spent the last 8 years in every conceivable situation, including war zones, without incident. In each scenario it is necessary to return to the only constant we have in our ever changing life - the peace and love we each can connect to inside ourselves, safe in the love. It is here where we can stop worrying over what may happen to us in the future. It is here, in the present moment, where clarity resides. It is here where we can calm the negative chatter of our minds and put fear back into its dark cave. If we indeed create our realities or attract what we fear, then this exercise is crucial. Fear plagues us all. We each need to honestly and quietly acknowledge our fears and face them, making changes as necessary. These positive actions help raise the global consciousness. The future of our world is in our hands. We must each decide where we want to live - in fear or in love. Slay our paper tigers once and for all. Die but one death. Take back the night!
South Africa is full of extraordinary people of all races who want things to work out. They are sick of all the nonsense and turmoil. The spirit of 'ubuntu' is alive. We camped the full length of the coast (and inland) from Cape Town to Durban (Mozambique) without a single problem. We only met people, of all colors, more than willing to help in any way possible. What a great place!
And so it goes.........................................Next month a look at the superb South African National Parks from mountains to seashore and the unique, intriguing African animals that call this home. Until then may we each face our fears, calming the negative, worrisome chatter of our minds. Awareness is the first step. Put fear back into its dark cave. Thanks for joining us on our travels through Africa and through life. Hope you are learning as much as we are. Thanks for sharing our webpage around. Keep in Touch and drop us a line when you get time.
Love, Light & Laughter,
Wild flowers blooming everywhere in South Africa:
$1.00US = about
A few of the
many places we parked along the coast:
Vlesssbaai: not possible in the gated town - next bay over Boggomsbaai has parking next to the beach.
Suidekres?: right turn
road to the beach right after Grootbrak River
stayed on several farms. One near Wepener and a couple in
Mechanics to Recommend:
Swellendam phone: 028 479 1233
Sinksabrug Garage: Great guy, François is honest and very reliable. Call him for repairs at 082 550 6943
A White Auto Shop in the industrial area of Hermanus (Mimosa)
Repairs: High Flats up from Scottsburg, before Durban.