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Sunday, September 14, 2008

South Africa

John Savage

Just a short update on the last trip. Former footballers, Dave Jolly, Tim Pickup, Tim’s two daughters Carly and Loren and I flew to South Africa to watch some Rugby and take on the scenery, wines, food and people. It was an outstanding success arriving home last night after two nights in BKK.

Nelson Mandela, I am pleased to say is still the number one personality in South Africa among both black, white and coloured races and most structures in every airport, shopping centre and Park in the cities and regional areas are named after this magnificent man. (I spent 15 mins with him one on one when he came to Australia in 2000) With a shocking 42% unemployment and immeasurable other problems, on the surface the country is moving ahead and most people of all races are very friendly. Things will get worse before they get better and that is a sad fact of life.

Flew into Cape Town. Waterfront dining, Table Mountain, a trip to the Ghettos and Robben Island (where Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of the 24 years) plus high tea at the famous Mount Nelson Hotel were the highlights along with the socializing pre and apr├Ęs the Kiwi versus S A game.

We set off from Cape Town in a dodgy VW luxury Kombi heading the 1774 K’s to Durban on the Garden Route, enjoying some wine and getting close and cuddly with the Cheetahs at Stellenboch then on to Hermanus for the night where we had sensational accommodation and a view of the Whales as they choreographed a personal show for us in the harbour next morning. Next stop literally although it wasn’t planned was in the middle of the main street of Mossell Bay at the centre of roadworks when the clutch on the VW snapped. Three hours later a replacement VW from George and on our way to stay overnight in Knysna where the seafood restaurants are prolific and Ooh the Oysters and cheap!!! And the wines are a good quality and price. Port Albert, Port St John and Anazimtoti were our overnights prior to Durban. Half day tour gave a great insight into this great city. With the Indian influence in Durban it was appropriate to eat that fare after the Wallabies defeated SA.

The highlight of our flying trip to the Victoria Falls was the Chopper ride over the falls and the one night at the 1904 built Victoria Falls Hotel. The lowlight was the lack of aviation fuel in Zimbabwe which meant a 10 min flight from Vic Falls to Livingston for a re fuelling stop which meant we missed our connection in Joburg to Kruger National Park but South African Airways came to the rescue with complimentary accommodation and meals at the new Casino complex near the airport. That was good and bad for our crew as most of us donated to the Casino cause. (We should know not to take another card on 16!!!)

Luxury tent accommodation in Kruger after a communications mix up (there were a few of them) Those non luxury get close to nature tents would certainly have been a challenge for we older guys (the rats were a worry) In the massive park we saw four of the big five, no lions much to the girls disappointment. One of the guides did say it was unusual to come across the Lions. That made us feel a little better.

Back through Joburg airport again (six times in all) so we were on first name terms with security there. Stayed in Sandton the up market part of Joburg, did a Soweto and downtown tour with former political prisoner as a guide. Went to footy to witness the continuance of the Ellis Park hoodoo they have now not been beaten there by the Wallabies for 46 years.

Verdict on South Africa: I’ve kept some Rand for the next trip.

Jol and I stopped in Bangkok on our return and visited three of the cities tallest buildings. Vertigo Restaurant in the Banyan Tree hotel (to celebrate my birthday and you don’t want to see the photograph) the plus was the rib eye steak and oysters. The others were on the river, the Hilton Millennium and the State Tower, Sky Bar all with sensational views of the city and well worth an early evening viewing.

Home until 04 October and then driving one of the buses for the Interlude Europe spectacular for five weeks. Jeanette is getting sick of all this gallivanting around but we already have three trips booked and a couple on the drawing board for next year…oh well tone it down in 2010.
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