Hopping up Africa

This post I wrote yesterday, but am rather behind with the posting. The photo was mine, not John’s, in case you are in any doubt…

We are hopping up Africa gradually: first the Cape’s Mediterranean climate, now the temperate grassland of where we are when now,1640metres above sea level, about 11/2 hours’ drive west of Johimageannesberg.

The Cape was wonderfully green and beautiful, quite lovely, Africa but not Africa. Since yesterday we have been staying with our friends, Peter and Etain Hewitt and are enjoying what seems much more African, and already more familiar, but it’s not the tropics yet.

Incidentally, it is winter here. Although the days are pleasantly hot the nights are perishing. (I’ll tell you some time about how cold we were at night in the cold season at school in Bulawayo). Last night there was a frost, and believe me, houses here are built for the much longer very hot summers, so the emphasis is on airy rather than cosy.

Tomorrow we cross the Tropic of Capricorn and enter the tropical Africa of my childhood!

Today we have had two trips through the bush around Etain and Pater’s house. They own a game park, and Peter took us on an extremely rough and stony Landrover drive to show us the sites and what animals we could spot Wildebeest, Zebra and a with two very young babies. They were all quite unbothered by the vehicle.

We heard much talk about snakes and only afterwards was it explained that one is most unlikely to spot any during the cold season.

Cape Town Catch Up

We have been beset by wifi and technical hitches, not all of our own making! For some reason I have failed to upload more than one photo at a time, and John has already taken 246. Hopefully we will meet some WordPress expert on our travels, although I suspect we may also need an Apple expert as it may also be an iPad issue.

I’ve written several posts which have simply evaporated into thin air, which is disappointing but probably inevitable on a trip like this. Cape Town and Joburg airports promise free wifi but this lasts for about ten minutes and anything not saved is lost… Let’s hope tonight we’ll have better luck.

So I have to resort to a boring summary. We have just had four memorably happy days in Cape Town, followed by two nights with some very good friends who live quite near Johannesburg.

Tonight we will be staying at the Lilayi Lodge just outside Lusaka, having decided that an elephant orphanage in the bush was infinitely preferable to the Ridgeway Hotel, my original instinctive choice because it used to be the hotel in the Lusaka in my youth but apparently now is very ‘international’ and anonymous, and could be anywhere in the world.

Meanwhile, to look back briefly as we soar through the air from Joburg to Lusaka, Our South African time will be very different from our Zambia and finally Malawi stints. The whole South African emphasis was on seeing family and friends, the main person being my younger sister, Ruth, who as many of you know has been more or less paralysed since a severe stroke almost exactly three years ago.

Ruth and her husband, Tony, now live in a retirement village just outside Noordhoek. Tony had devoted himself totally to her care, helped by five carers, and it was absolutely wonderful to be able to spend some unhurried time with them every morning.

The rest of each day we spent having lunch and dinner and doing fun things with family and close friends, our friendship with them all stretches a long way back. The icing on the cake was staying in a truly lovely ‘beyond boutique’ (their words, not mine) B &B in Constantia, The Last Word, where we had been upgraded to a luxury suite, beautifully spacious, with its own swimming pool – which unfortunately was too cold to enjoy.

To top it all, the hotel laid on avvery splendid and helpful driver. We cannot recommend Fiona Huber enough and will happily pass on her contact details to anyone who might need a totally reliable and accommodating taxi driver – chauffeur might be a more appropriate .

A Ride Through the Bowels of Heathrow

imageWe are having such a busy time there isn’t much space in the day for blog writing but I’ll make a start, probably photoless until tonight.

Our adventures began early with our Journey through Terminal Five.

By far the most impressive part of the flight to Africa was the buggy ride through Heathrow.

We’ll gloss quickly over the almost inhumane conditions of flying to Cape Town by British Airways Chicken Coop Class. The seats were unbelievably cramped – even my rather short legs were pressed right up against the seat in front.

The spacious buggy ride was something else! We and a fellow Cape Town bound traveller were escorted through the depths of Terminal 5, up and down in lifts, beep beep beeping as we went. Apart from the beeps we agreed it was like something out of a James Bond underground chase.

We had applied when we booked for ‘special assistance’, having bad memories of interminably long walks through Heathrow, struggling under increasingly heavy hand luggage. John’s creaking joints cope at the time but he pays for it later.

When we arrived at Heathrow, accompanied by son Nick, it wasn’t completely clear how to claim this assistance. Sensing it would be tactless for John to appear too vigorous I left him and Nick behind, chatting, while I eventually found a special assistance representative. Apparently we had to claim it ‘over there’ she said, waving vaguely into the distance. As John and Nick approached she said, to me, loudly, ‘Is he going to be able to walk there?’

Interrupting my query as to where ‘there’ was, she scrutinised John who was by then at her elbow, turned to me and said in an even louder voice as if to someone decidedly both deaf and witless. ‘Oh no! He is going to stagger a bit, isn’t he?’

Fortunately, her attitude was so awful that it was funny, but it didn’t say much for BA’s personal assistance protocols although perhaps in their defence, the non English buggy driver was charm and courtesy itself, and the childish pleasure we derived from the buggy trip (11/2 to 2 miles the driver reckoned) more than made up for it.

On the Starting Blocks…and finally, they’re off!

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After all the pre-holiday tensions and ‘What we must do and what have we forgotten to do?’ ‘Will we get ourselves and all this to Heathrow in one piece?’we are sitting in Terminal 5 at Heathrow, in one slightly shaken piece, waiting for our plane to Cape Town!

What a triumph! It’s ridiculous, as we have flown before, lots of times. I think it’s probably because this time it is just a bit special, and we have planned and looked forward to it for so long.

Also, there are several elements to it. As well as lots of pure touristy pleasure we’ll be visiting close family and friends and above all for me, I am going back to the land where I was born and brought up, returning for the first time since leaving at 18 ½.

 24hours later

Panics over, luxury is taking over once we prised ourselves out of the smaller-than-ever British Airways  Economy Class seats and emerged into the South African winter sunshine. We are now ensconced  in the correspondingly spacious and delightful suite in our B and B upgrade (what did we do to deserve that?) complete with its own swimming pool. it’s too cold to swim but even just to look at it is well worth one night of total cramp and discomfort.

We are here!

 

Last Minute Panic

Excuse the current silence. Last minute panic has quietly crept in and our taxi arrives in an hour to take us to the station. 

‘Have you got the passports?’

‘I thought you did?’

‘My bag weighs more than 15Kg already…’

‘Oh dear, I hope we’re going to manage.’

Let’s hope so! We’ll keep you posted, anyway.

themarionfsblog is almost respectable

IMG_8679Well, WordPress’s 20 minutes needed to set up a blog extended to several months, on and off, and eventually we had to call in the professionals.

Our friend Jeremy Brough has given us such a lot of helpful advice and practical help and now, taking a deep breath, we are ready to tell you it is as good as we can make it for the time being.

Continue reading themarionfsblog is almost respectable

20/20 Vision

20/20 vision: would you believe it?

What a miracle! Having struggled with short sight most my life, I was mortified by having to wear specs as a child – long before glasses became a fashion item even for children and when glasses were a source of shame and even ridicule. Soft lenses were a great relief and corrected the sight although it always seemed cruel that after the age of 40 or so I when wearing lenses I was becoming longsighted! Continue reading 20/20 Vision