Monthly Archives: December 2017

The Lord Of Afrikaan Things

Cape Town has many stunning suburban beaches. One that I wanted to visit was the obscure Macassar beach which was home to a holiday resort and water park. The resort was closed and abandoned after financial problems, now the moving sand dunes have engulfed the pavilion, changing rooms and water slides leaving it a weird and eerie place. We’d just got out of the car when a local fisherman pulled over to warn us not to walk around as it ‘wasn’t safe at all’. Now the deserted pavilion is a haunt for druggies who would happily mug you for a few rand. After googling ‘Macasser Beach Crime’ I read that only last year an angler was murdered for his car battery. I guess there’s a reason this place isn’t listed in the guidebooks, time to move on.

Great White Sharks are an apex predator of a marine ecosystem. It’s scientifically proven that if the Great White was removed from the ocean it would lead to an imbalanced food chain, which in turn would result in excess growth of algae, effectively suffocating the ocean. Shark cage diving, isn’t actually diving, it’s just floating on the surface then holding your breath and ducking under when a shark comes near. Even then the shark had to practically touch the cage to be able to see it through the freezing cold murky water, I actually got more exited by the floating tuna head they used as bait. Paying just shy of £100 each for this wasn’t exactly good value. They did throw in some cold calamari rings though to enhance the severe seasickness.

Oudtshoorn is undoubtedly the ostrich capital of the world. The Highgate Ostrich Show Farm is the best place to go on a tour for all things ostrich. Here you can see the local ladies making ostrich feather boas, feed the forever hungry birds and learn all about their breeding habits.


Ostrich chicks

Four ostrich facts:-

1 – An ostrich’s eye is bigger than its brain.

2 – One ostrich egg is the size of 24 chicken eggs.

3 – A male ostrich’s tail feathers look like Donald Trump’s hair.

4 – Holding on to a running ostrich is absolutely solid.


“They’re all just losers”

In Tsitsikamma National Park you can do the world’s highest commercial bungee jump, or you can save the money and just watch someone do it, which was enough for me to say “I’d rather bathe in ostrich shit”. I opted to do the easy and tame walk to Storm’s River Mouth over the 77 metre suspension bridge. ‘Tsitsikamma’ is a Khoe-San word meaning ‘many water’. That might explain why it hardly stopped raining while we were there.

In Addo Elephant Park there is almost 600 elephants, so seeing a big hoard of them is almost guaranteed. You can self drive most national parks in South Africa, meaning you can have some really nice animal encounters. It’s ironic that in South Africa elephants won’t damage the vehicle or interfere with human things, but if you left your car unattended in a supermarket car park, there’s a good change you’d return to a smashed window and a missing radio.

It’s funny how sometimes a place seems to find a connection with something famous, and then jumps on the bandwagon. That’s exactly what happened with the mountain village of Hogsback. JRR Tolkien was born in Bloemfontein but moved to England when he was three. Some claim that after visiting the town as an infant, the area inspired him to write his 1200 page epic novel. Although the beautiful scenery does look like middle-earth, I think this is extremely unlikely. That didn’t stop the town playing on the ‘fairy dreamworld’ theme making artists, crystal healers and many more pretentious hippies flocking here. I guess if Kate from Berkshire gets sucked in by the magical vibe and wants to walk around with no shoes on before she returns to her day job as the plaster technician, each to their own.


Hogsback is magical. And magic mushrooms are widely available.

Named after the three ‘hogsback’ bristly looking hills that overlook the town, it is certainly an amazing area, great for walks around the indigenous forest where I spotted the localised Knysna Turaco and the resident Cape Parrots. You can hear them before you see them at around dawn when they return home to roost.


The indigenous forest


Madonna and Child Falls


38 steps falls


The Three Hog Mountains

There’s speculation that Tolkien’s nanny was from Hogsback and told him mysterious Xhosa tales of her home at the foot of the hogs mountain, where the hobbits and fairies reside. Believe it or not, the most magical thing for me in Hogsback was being able to take a bath for the first time in three months, and what a way to do it!

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Cape Crusader

Cape Town, the Mother city of South Africa. The Dutch East India Company set up a base here in the mid nineteen hundreds. The locals didn’t like it and shunned them. The Dutch imported slaves from elsewhere in Africa, India, Malaysia and Indonesia to help with their labour shortage and also for the colonists to have sex with, creating a whole new race of people who are nowadays referred to as ‘coloured’. Hence, Cape Town has a rich multicultural history. They don’t call South Africa the rainbow nation for nothing.

District six was a thriving area of Cape Town which housed mainly coloured Muslims but also Xhosa speaking blacks and white Afrikaans. The apartheid regime ripped district six down as their philosophy stated that interracial interaction bred conflict. The district six museum gives moving insight into life during the apartheid.

The colourful neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap is the Malay quarter of Cape Town. This former township was originally used to house freed slaves. Now the streets resemble last season’s Ikea showroom.

The Company’s Garden originally started out as a vegetable patch for the Dutch East India Company. Now it’s a beautiful city garden with many trees, small animals and birds. It is also a place where hoards of Cape Town’s homeless and drug addicts come to try and make money with one scam or another. Ranging from selling stodgy muffins to pay for a child’s education or collecting donations for a make believe syringe clean up program, I heard it all. The best one had to be if I’d like to invest into a man’s ingenious idea ‘the homeless suitcase’. Acting as a suitcase through the day his blueprint explained how it converts into a bed at night – I’m in!

Robben island means ‘seal island’ in Dutch and it’s where Nelson Mandela spent the majority of his incarceration. After a 45 minute boat ride which smelt like pickled onion space raiders, you’re ushered into a coach and driven around the island to look at some rather dull sights, but can’t leave the bus. You’re then shown around the prison block by a former inmate. He doesn’t tell you much interesting information, just bangs on about freedom and how great Nelson Mandela is. It’s a very a touristic experience, but almost essential for any visit to Cape Town. The highlight was looking into Mandela’s cell, which is identical the all the others. I really hope his feet weren’t too bad when he was locked in there with no access to his chiropodist.

Boulders beach Penguin colony is the permanent home to thousands of cute African penguins. It started when a breeding pair rocked up here in the 80’s, the perfect bay sheltered them from the wind and the surrounding seas offering the perfect penguin diet, so they had no reason to leave.

Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark in Cape Town and can be seen from almost everywhere in the city. Unfortunately going to the peak was the one thing I didn’t do. It looked far too cloudy at the top, it will be a cold day in hell you’ll catch me paying £20 to go up a cable car to look at the clouds. Instead I got a decent view of the city from the slopes of signal hill next the noon canon which is fired everyday at 12 noon, great view and the best thing about it? It was free.

Duiker island is the real Seal island of Cape Town, set on the opposite side of the cape to False Bay. After spending half an hour on a yacht with dozens of seasick Chinese tourists I was expecting too see the man himself performing such hits as ‘crazy’ and ‘kiss from a rose’. Instead all I got was a giant rock covered in some big barking water dogs. False Bay? False advertising more like.

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Next Stop Soweto

In 1904 an outbreak of the bubonic plague was used as an excuse by the Johannesburg city council to ship over 2000 blacks and Indians to a settlement 18km from the city centre. By the 1930’s Orlando was built and as Jobergs population continued to grow, by the 1950’s 20 other suburbs had been built around Orlando. The area was officially named South Western Townships, abbreviated to Soweto in 1963. Today Soweto plays an important part in the history of South Africa.

A basic house in Vilakazi street, almost identical to 1000’s of other single floor dwellings in Soweto, is where Nelson Mandela lived with his wife Winnie and their children. Winnie stayed with Nelson for the whole 27 years he was behind bars, but when he was released in 1991 she bin bagged him within a year.

We know Nelson Mandela was a freedom fighter, but he was also a boxer during his younger years. The WBC World Heavyweight Championship belt, which was held by Sugar Ray Leonard at the time, was gifted to him by the man himself shortly after his realise from prison.

Only a few doors down on the same street is the house of South Africa Anglican cleric Desmond Tutu, thus making Vilakazi street the only street in the world where two Nobel laureates have lived. Just over the road the chiropodist of both men lives, defeet is not so….

Hector Pietersen was a 13 year old black boy who was killed when the police opened fire on protesting students during the Soweto uprising of 1976. The peaceful protest was against the introduction of Afrikaans as means of instruction in all secondary schools, regardless of the locally-spoken language, some exams were also written in Afrikaans. That’s like telling a load of year 8 comprehensive kids they have to sit their SATS in Mandarin. The Hector Pietersen memorial stands near the place where he was shot in Orlando.

The Orlando Stadium is home to the Orlando Pirates, the third biggest club in South Africa, after Manchester United and Arsenal.

The Orlando Towers used to act as the cooling towers for the power station which fuelled Johannesburg for over 50 years. Now they contain the largest mural paintings and advertisements in South Africa and are used as a bungee jumping centre which included a rowdy bar to build up that Afrikaan courage.

Most visitors who come to Soweto take a tour around the townships on a bus or a bicycle. I much preferred walking around on my own and felt rather safe as I don’t like the idea of people watching in a human zoo. Instead I opted to go on a bird tour with Raymond Rampolongkeng aka ‘The Birdman of Soweto’.

The tour started out around the dirty marshland around the Orlando Towers, where an extremely knowledgable Raymond told me about his life in Soweto and how he became a bird guide. It wasn’t the most picturesque spot, but I could see past the plastic bags and shopping trollies to spot some Cape Longclaws and Red Bishops.

We moved up to the Enoch Sontonga hills, named after the composer who wrote the South African national anthem up here under the Sowetan Skies. Here some of the locals still practice traditional African beliefs and use the hills as a place of worship to be closer to the gods. Here is a good place to spot numerous mousebirds, a species which gets their name from their similar appearance and movement to mice.

Coming to Soweto was a good idea as I feel like I’ve got to experience the real side of Joberg, away from the crime and heavy security of the centre. One things for sure, wind, rain or African hailstone, you can always get a decent grilled chicken in Soweto!

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Swazi Times

Swaziland is one of the smallest countries in Africa and one of only half a dozen countries in the world which is still an absolute monarchy. An absolute monarchy, is a monarchy where the king or queen has supreme power, not recognised by any laws. Swaziland has some interesting laws and deeply cultural traditions. The current ruler, King Mswati III is said to have at least 13 wives.


King Mswati III is pictured on the Swazi Lilangeni banknotes

Hlane Royal National Park is Swaziland’s largest protected area, so protected that rangers are permitted to shoot and kill anyone suspected of poaching. Hlane, meaning ‘wilderness’ is a great place to see some big game and four of the ‘big five’ can be seen here. I was able to see three of them as the weather was bad and a large group of German tourists had taken all the spaces on the game drives, just like they take all the sun beds at popular holiday resorts.

The Transvaal Lions are easily seen here. These ones seemed quite domesticated, but after half an hour of relentless camera clicking one of them got sick and chased the safari truck. Seriously, how many pictures of a lion can one person take? You’re on safari, enjoy the moment with your own eyes not through the lens. I did get sone awesome shots though.


White Rhinos are in abundance at Hlane and can even be seen taking an afternoon nap just around the safari camp. These beasts were originally intended to be called ‘wide’ rhinos referring to the width of their mouths. The early English speaking settlers in Africa misinterpreted the word ‘wide’ for ‘white’. This led to it being named the white rhino and the other species with a smaller mouth, the black rhino. I can understand how this happened as a lot of African people can’t get their tongues around certain English words, my name being one of them – Jarry, Glary, Caarie, Jeery?


Red-Billed Ox Packers feed off the ticks that live in the rhinos skin

On an evening the staff at the campsite got changed into their traditional clothes to perform a dance for the white people. I personally hate stuff like this, especially when it involves audience participation. Some of the German tourists were so enthusiastic about it they got up and joined in, totally embarrassing themselves in the process. It was cringe worthy, but I was happy to sit and laugh rather than take part in the Swazi conga.


Apparently a pair of Benfica football shorts is now part of the traditional Swazi dress code

Swaziland has the highest density of people who have been struck by lightening in the world, even one of those early monarchs King Ndvungunye was killed by a lightening bolt. But what are the chances of lightening striking twice? If someone said that I’d see the world’s tallest terrestrial animal while on a training run, then again while trying to hitch a ride away from Hlane. I’d say ‘you’re having a giraffe!’

Just a twenty minute drive away from Swaziland’s capital Mbabane is the Ezulwini Valley. Known as the ‘Valley of Heaven’, it’s not hard to understand why. A lovely hike up to Sheba’s Breast from the valley takes a mere hour and a half. The trail passes through forest and grasslands where I spotted numerous whydahs and widow birds. Once on the nipple of the breast, you’re rewarded with amazing views of the valley.

The Cuddle Puddle is a hot mineral spring where many locals like to come for a day out. It’s quite a rowdy atmosphere, as there’s school parties and groups of drunk young men having diving competitions. When the white man turns up with his big camera, everyone seems to get super exited.


Pulled a few stunners

After a heavy night’s rain I still managed to drag myself to Mbabane for the weekly parkrun. At the end of the race I was asked to do an interview with a local sports journalist. The next day I only went and ended up in Times of Swaziland national news paper. With a population of only 1.2 million people, it really isn’t that hard to end up in the news. My feature was just underneath an article about a child’s judo competition and on this day the front page headline read ’12-year-old boy sent to juvenile correction facility after insulting grandmother’, told you Swaziland had some interesting laws.

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Spending Time In Mozambique 

Vilankulo is a town in Southern Mozambique which is named after the late chief Gamala Vilankulo Mukpke and many people in the town still borne Vilankulo as their surname. It’s known for its stunning white beach and surrounding islands. I didn’t bother going to Bazarutto island as I really wasn’t that interested in a mediocre snorkelling trip and gawping at some villagers for a steep price of £50. After all the travelling recently it was nice to do nothing around my camp site, and just spend time in Mozambique, not money. I calculated that I’ve slept in a tent for around 40 days of this trip so far and still no symptoms of dole back. 

Tent life

Vilankulo beach

It’s known that many people in Africa don’t like being photographed unless they’re getting paid. I’ve realised that with a wide angle lens you can rip off the subject by directly pointing the camera somewhere else and capture them on the side, genius. To get to Tofo you need to catch a ferry to Inhambane from a town called Maxixe. It was at the port where I saw KFC and couldn’t help myself, this ultimately resulted in missing the last public boat of the day. This led to the farce of using another boat where the price was ‘pay what you want providing it’s more than anyone else’. 

Praia do Tofo is another beach further South. Here you can eat nice food and do expensive activities such as snorkelling, diving and ocean safaris. All I done was practice a little bit of yoga and tried to avoid fist pumping the many beach boys. A beach boy, is a young man who performs a pointless job such as selling shit souvenirs and braiding hair. They’ll pretend they want to be your friend but somewhere down the line all they want is your money. A lot of them have gullible foreign girlfriends that might be in Tofu for a season doing a work placement who will quite happily pay for their lazy lifestyle, effectively making them gigaolos. The best way to deal with them is to be short with them as whatever they say ‘they’re not your brother from another mother’. 

Beach boy in the making sporting a pair of Toon shorts

Token jumping photo

A bee-eater is a species of bird mostly found in Africa and Asia. As the name suggests, they mainly eat flying insects such as bees and wasps. The stinger of the insect is removed by repeatedly hitting it on a hard surface. Around the garden of the lodge there were a few swallow-tailed bee-eaters. It’s a shame they don’t eat mosquitos, still waiting for that day when I wake up with Malaria. 

Swallow-tailed Bee Eater

The nearby town of Inhambane has a slightly Mediterranean feel. The Church of Our Lady of Conception is the oldest building in town constructed in 1854 by the Portuguese. It was on the way here that Mozambique’s chapas never fail to amaze me, how come there’s always room for one more? 

My final 3am start and long distance bus in Mozambique took me from Tofu to Maputo and took 10 hours, and certainly offered one of most spectacular views from any public transport vehicle I’ve ever had. 

I only spent 24 hours in Maputo as my visa was about to expire and I’d heard rumours of dodgy police trying to bribe tourists for not carrying their passports or walking on the wrong side of the road. This is a problem throughout Mozambique and a few bribery attempts had actually happened to me. The best thing to do is hand over a photo copy of your passport, if you give them the original they metaphorically have you by the balls. If they say a photocopy isn’t good enough just simply plead ignorant and talk at them in English, more often than not they’ll give up when they realise you won’t pay up. It’s pretty pathetic really how the entire police force does nothing but exploit and bribe people and does nothing to prevent real crime. 

Maputo Skyline

Mozambique has been one of the most challenging countries I’ve ever been to with regards to language, getting around, corruption and bureaucracy. I think that sometimes you need to really challenge yourself the see what you’re actually made of, and Mozambique has certainly done that. On the way to the Swazi border while leaving Mozambique it seemed almost fitting that in a private vehicle, there was time for one last flat tyre, almost summing up my month here. Oh yes,  it’s been good to spend some time in Mozambique. 

The Final Breakdown

The shirt of Mozambique’s Football ‘Os Mamba’s’.

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