Happy Birthday!

In my haste to get this blog up-to-date, I quite forgot to mention my birthday celebrations! On 28 December I was sixty-five! I can’t imagine how I can possibly be sixty-five as I am still the same person I ever was and feel an indeterminate age – as long as I don’t look at the exterior me I could still be twenty-five!! Anyway, we had a celebratory lunch and then went to see the French film Priceless. The movie theatre is unique in that one takes one's wine and cheese platter into the theatre to watch the film. This probably enhanced the humour of the film and we came away feeling that we had had a very good evening! Unfortunately, Brian couldn’t be with us as he had to do his ‘postie’ round in Invercargill. (Brian has retired from being a headmaster and is currently cycling around Invercargill delivering the post – and enjoying his change of career!)

When Brian finally joined us again we decided that we just had to have another birthday dinner to include him, so we dined in style at the Postmaster Restaurant in Arrowtown. This is the same restaurant that Bill Gates’ family were seen in the following evening – they had obviously heard that it was the place to be once word got around that we had been there! I had a very happy birthday!

Invercargill, Wanaka and Queenstown, NZ

I had bronchitis all over the Christmas period so everything wasn’t as enjoyable as it might have been. I am on the mend now, thanks to some antibiotics, and intend to enjoy the New Year celebrations! We spent Christmas Day at Avis’ sister Lexie’s house, she, and her husband Dave, cooked us a splendid Christmas lunch (see the photo) and the company was excellent, consisting of Dot (Avis' amazing mother who is still line-dancing in her eighties - seen on the right front of the photo), Lexie (front left), Dave, Oliver, Bron, Liam, Raewyn, David, Bernie (Brian's Dad), Brian, Daniel, Avis and me. Later that evening we visited Wayne and Raewyn who were entertaining their own family for Christmas. The next day we returned to Wanaka where I spent time recovering while David and Avis ran up and down the mountains and spent time in the sauna and spa.

We are now staying at the home of Avis’ daughter, Joelle, and her partner Matt, in Kelvin Heights, Queenstown, overlooking Lake Wakatipu. We have the most stunning view from our bedroom window and tend to sit gazing out over the lake, rather longer than we should, as we drink our early morning cup of tea. (See photo)

Now I am finally on the mend, I fully intend to walk along the lake-side to lose some of the weight that has surreptitiously insinuated itself about my person since I left England last September.

Yesterday, we visited Gary and Bernie on their farm in Dry Bread near Omakau.

We met Garyand Bernie when they visited Avis and Brian in Turkey, three years ago, so it was good to catch up with them again. We had lunch and then Gary took us on a tour of his 570 hectare farm. Gary has 2 600 breeding Ewes which usually give him 3 500 lambs each year to sell for meat; added to this are the 600 replacement Ewes kept to replenish his stock.

Gary also raises deer for market and he has 90 hinds and 3 breeding stags.
I tried to take a photo of the deer, but they are very shy creatures and kept running away. We spent a hilarious few minutes chasing after them around the field in the car, but the lead hind wasn’t having any of it and she led them off at a gallop every time we approached. This photo was the best I could do!

The farm is called Rankeillour, after one of the places in Scotland where Gary’s forebears came from near St Andrews. The landscape is beautiful and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

We especially liked the duck ponds with their Mai Mais (the hides for the hunters during the duck-hunting season). Unfortunately, this was only a brief visit, so we must definitely return to visit Gary and Bernie in order to experience more of their idyllic life!


Invercargill and Wanaka, New Zealand

We flew from Sydney to Christchurch and then on to Invercargill, where we were met by the friends we made in Turkey, Avis, Brian, Raewyn and Wayne. The next day we drove to Kelvin Heights in Queenstown to visit Brian and Avis’ daughter, Joelle, in her home overlooking Lake Wakatipu, before motoring on over the Crown Range to stay in their time-share by Lake Wanaka. The views over the mountains are stunning and although I expected to see lots of sheep, I was amazed to see just how many there are – they are everywhere! The photo shows the view from our patio - of Mount Alta, part of the Southern Alps range.

Unfortunately I have been laid low by some bug I picked up in Australia, but David has thoroughly enjoyed himself – beginning every day with a run along the side of the lake and relaxing in the sauna and spa afterwards, while I cough and splutter and generally feel sorry for myself!

On Christmas Eve, we returned to Invercargill to join in the celebrations with Avis’ family. We attended a beautifully traditional midnight church service and today, Christmas Day, we will all have a Christmas lunch at Avis’ sister Lexi’s house. So, to you all – as the day progresses and you all get to celebrate Christmas after us – Merry Christmas and may all your dreams come true!


Sydney, Australia

Sydney from the water

In Sydney we didn’t notice anyone waving and there were no flies (is this a co-incidence?) Darling Harbour is full of restaurants and has the Sydney Aquarium, the Sydney Wildlife World, the Maritime Museum and various exhibitions. If one wanted to do just the touristy things then this place has everything! On this our first evening, we contented ourselves with walking around the harbour and seeing all the things that were on offer.

The next day we took a bus to Circular Quay and from there took a ferry to Manly Beach where we had breakfast. David was able to enjoy a full Aussie breakfast, while I, virtuously, had the fresh fruit platter with yoghurt. The fruit was delicious and really fresh, so I didn’t feel in the least deprived! The weather was glorious and we walked along the promenade before catching the return ferry and then a train to Queen Victoria Building – a rather quaint shopping mall – from where we walked back to our hotel.

That evening, we caught the monorail from Paddy’s Market to Pyrman and browsed the restaurant menus on display around Darling Harbour before finally choosing, and dining royally at, the ‘Ice-Cube’.

On our last day in Sydney we walked all the way from our hotel to ‘The Rocks’. This was the
original settlement where 750 convicts and 400 settlers were first landed on Australia’s shores on January 26 1788; the old houses look strange nestled among the very modern buildings of Sydney today. It gave us a fascinating insight into how Australia came into being, and made us wish that our forebears had been rather more adventurous ,or rather less law-abiding!!! It is interesting to note that for some years the convicts outnumbered the settlers!

Next stop New Zealand.

Katoomba and the Blue Mountains, Australia

We stayed in ‘La Maison’ Guest House in Katoomba; which meant a 20 minute walk into the town centre, but the walk was a necessary addition to my new fitness campaign (I have put on rather too much weight recently!!!) We had 2 full days in Katoomba which gave us time to experience most of the activities on offer. We found all the people here so friendly. They were all waving to us all the time – although they looked a little puzzled when we waved back. David – the cynic – thought the waving might have something to do with the flies, but I am convinced that they were friendly gestures!

On the first day we bought tickets for the Blue Mountain Trolley Tours (a hop-on hop-off all day ticket.) This trolley bus continuously loops around 20 of the best tourist spots in Katoomba. Our first stop was the Scenic World Skyway. This is a cable car that crosses the edge of the Jamison Valley with the most spectacular views. Once on the other side, we descended into the valley by way of the Scenic Railway, This is the world’s steepest incline railway and was originally built to haul coal and shale out of the valley from the mines at the base of the escarpment. When the mine closed, the facility became a tourist attraction.

Once down in the valley, we walked along 2.5 km of elevated boardwalk in the temperate rain forest. As we strolled along, we could hear birds calling and sometimes the rustling of leaves on the forest floor, made by some animal or other (although we never actually saw anything, it was quite eerie!) The forest itself was very beautiful with massive gum trees soaring above us and strange Jurassic ferns sticking up between them. We eventually climbed up out of the valley in the cable car and caught the bus back to Katoomba and a very satisfying evening meal in the one of the town’s restaurants.

Echo Point was within walking distance of our hotel. This has spectacular views over the Jamison valley to the Blue Mountains beyond. We ventured down one of the walks that hug the steep sides of the valley until we reached the so-called giant steps. These steps (more than 800 of them descending approximately 300 metres) enable passage to the valley floor. I declined, fearing I would have to climb back up them again! David walked down more than 150 of them – he is the blue spot in the middle of the photo I took!

On Monday 17 December, we caught the train to Sydney, where we stayed at the City Gates Central Hotel near Darling Harbour and China Town.

Angullong, NSW, Australia

Thursday 13 December

Sue took us to meet Heidi and Ben whose family runs the Angullong vineyard, situated in the foothills of Mount Canobolas in the high altitude, cool climate of Orange. Heidi prepared a wonderful lunch accompanied by one of their own wines – a Verdelho.

This was our first introduction to this particular wine and one we will definitely look out for in the future. To quote from the notes on the bottle, “A delicious, aromatic Verdelho with wonderful aromas of honeydew and melon followed by an abundant fruit salad of pineapple and stone fruit flavours on the palate.” I couldn't have described it better myself!!

After lunch, Heidi took us on a tour of the vineyards. They have 560 acres of vines that provide a wide diversity of grape, including Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet. (The latter we had already drunk copious amounts of at Sue’s Ladies’ Luncheon!) Heidi also drove us down to their river, where the cattle were grazing and flocks of Cockatoos wheeled overhead; altogether an enchanting spot. Thank you Heidi, Ben, Angus, Sally and Camilla!

Friday 14 December
The indefatigable Sue drove us to Katoomba where we were to stay for the next 3 days. We had lunch together and then said our goodbyes. We will be forever grateful to Sue for her kindness and generous hospitality, which we hope to repay in the not-too-distant future.


Wellington and Scone

Saturday 8 December
Today we travelled to Wellington to stay with Jaimee’s parents, Mark and Liz. (Jaimee, their daughter, is currently in South Africa with Suzi and Laura.) They were tremendously kind and took us on tours of the surrounding area. Apparently, we are very lucky to see the Australian countryside so green and lush looking as they have had a seven-year drought, which has only been relieved by the recent rains. We spent a very happy two days and nights there, experiencing the life of a typical Australian farming family. Mark grows lucerne for fodder and Liz works with troubled teens in Wellington. We were also delighted to meet their other two children, Nick and Courtney. Nick has just left school and is going to work on a shrimp boat during his gap year before going to university; while Courtney is planning to become a world famous author.
Monday 10 December
Sue came to collect us and drive us to Ellerston in the Hunter valley near Scone. On the way we stopped at Merriwa and bought freshly-baked pies for lunch, which we ate in the local rest stop. The pies were delicious and we managed to avoid adding extra protein by practicing our ‘Aussie wave’ to keep the flies at bay. We have been amused by some of the names of places we have seen on our travels – such as Broken Axle Creek – and have wondered about their provenance, so you can imagine our thoughts when we passed through Murdering Hut Gulley on our way to Scone! Before reaching Ellerston, we stopped off at Sue’s sister’s house for a coffee. Sue’s sister, Jill and her family, live on a 10 000 acre property called Tinagroo. They rear horses, cattle and sheep in an idyllic spot, surrounded by mountains.
From Scone we followed the Hunter River, up the Hunter Valley, to Ellerston – the Mecca of the polo-playing elite! Ellerston’s 2 500 acres comprises the best polo fields in the world, two golf courses, a fully-equipped state-of-the art veterinary centre, a workers’ village, a club house and restaurant, a fully-equipped gymnasium, a swimming pool, a cinema, the most amazing barns for the horses and all the facilities for breeding and rearing the Ellerston polo pony; plus, of course, the Packers’ homestead. But even they are no match for the force of nature. On the previous Friday, Ellerston had been hit by a gale-force storm that had ripped up some of the trees by their roots and sent them crashing to the ground, creating devastation everywhere. However, gangs of workers were already at work clearing up the mess.
At Ellerston, we stayed with Mandy and Jeff, their children, Cassie and Joe, and Mandy’s amazing mother, Lee – who at 83 worked tirelessly in the kitchen while we were there. Australia certainly breeds some extraordinary women! We were welcomed with a splendid dinner that evening and the next day, Mandy took us on a tour of the property; the facilities at Ellerston really are amazing.


Orange, NSW, Australia

The wonderful lunch at Sue's

We arrived in Sydney on Tuesday 4th December then flew, immediately, in a small plane to Orange (population 53 000), arriving at nine o’clock at night. Where we were to stay with Laura’s lovely mum, Sue.

The next day was pretty hectic as Sue was hosting a lunch for 30+ friends and their daughters; both as an end-of-term celebration (Sue is a school teacher) and to say goodbye to Laura who was leaving for South Africa to join Suzi and Jaimee. This was to be an all female event – except for David – but he coped magnificently. Sue had planned an al fresco lunch, but the rain came down just as the first course was to be served. Nonetheless, the lunch was a great success and stretched far into the evening! You can see Sue on the left of the photo, while the ladies begin to tuck in!

On Thursday, Sue drove us to Mount Canobolas, an extinct volcano, covered in an indigenous gum tree forest. As we walked through the forest, it was strange for us to see gum trees in their natural state as we had only seen them as tall straight branch-less trunks grown for gum poles in Southern Africa. Our next stop was Cook Park, inaugurated in 1882 and named after Captain James Cook. The park is in the centre of Orange and planted with European trees, many of which are huge after more than a century of growth. We were amused to see that some of the trees had plastic sleeves on their trunks – to discourage the possums from eating the new buds and leaves!

We had another wonderful day on Friday when we visited Wansey, Sue’s family farm. The farm is set in rolling hills with lush pasture, ripe golden wheat and yellow canola (often called rape). They also have 1400 head of cattle, 1400 sheep, 20 horses and countless kangaroos, walleroos and wallabies. The farm is run jointly by Sue’s brother, Bruce and their mother, Jean – still farming at 75 years of age! Jean qualified as a vet in 1954 and is still actively engaged attending to all the livestock on the farm – an amazing woman!
This is Jean on the left, after she had given us lunch and before she went off to see to a bull that needed her attention. I have discovered that one way to ensure a fit and healthy long life is to continue working!


Farewell South Africa

Sean, Jane and Shannon 

 We have spent the last two weeks relaxing with Jane, Sean and Shannon while we make ready for the next leg of our trip. Jane really does live in a lovely spot, right next to a nature reserve. The only problem is the pesky monkeys that continue to plague her. Two cheeky monkeys even came into her kitchen and ripped open a new packet of apples and made off with two of them. Our final engagement here is to go Shannon’s Nursery School’s end-of-year concert before saying our farewells to Jane and family and flying to Jo’burg for David’s reunion lunch with some of his school friends from Chaplin (also Ian Smith’s alma mater). Then on Monday we say our final farewell to all our family in Jo’burg before leaving for Australia. Before we fly we hope to see Suzi in passing as she is flying in from Buenos Aires just before we fly out. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in South Africa and would like to say an enormous thank you to all our friends and family, both here and in Zimbabwe, for giving us such a wonderful welcome and for looking after us so well. We’ll be back!!!!


Hello and Goodbye to Family and friends

What has Shannon seen?

It was this monitor lizzard!

Jane, Sean and Shannon joined us on the farm in Boston for the weekend. Unfortunately all our plans of walking in the Berg were dashed with the dismal weather. Nonetheless, we had a relaxed and happy time together. The day we left the farm was warm and sunny as we said our goodbyes to Dave and Barbara. We so enjoyed our visit with them that we were sorry to leave.

On the way back to Jane and Sean’s house, we stopped off in Hilton to have lunch with some very old friends (in years not age) from Peterhouse in Zimbabwe. We last saw Penny and George and their sons, Will and Jo, in 1989 – the year we left Zimbabwe. We were also pleased to meet Georgie, their lovely daughter, for the first time, together with, Bernadette, one of Will’s friends. The lunch was perfect, beginning with a smoked oyster paté, for which I had once given Penny the recipe, followed by perfectly cooked fillet of beef accompanied by dauphinoise potatoes and an exquisite salad; with a raspberry bomb (another Peterhouse recipe) to finish – perfect! Penny always had an eye for detail and yet again it was flawless! The wine flowed freely and the conversation was non-stop as we alternated between reminiscing and catching up with current news. Truly a precious moment to be savoured! Thank you all so much! I am so sorry that we never got around to taking that photo!

The following day, David and I accompanied Jane and her niece Amy to Shannon’s school to watch the Catrobatkidz End of Year Awards Ceremony. We were treated to a delightful display of the work they had done during the year. Catrobatkidz is a preschool children's physical development programme that is designed to equip them with the skills they will need for future physical activities. It was obvious that the children were enjoying every minute of their display!

We were so proud to see Shannon receive her medal and her Certificate of Achievement Award. Now both our granddaughters have medals! Jessica also has one, for gymnastics.


Highmoor in the Drakensberg, South Africa

Highmoor in the Drakensberg

I actually completed a four-hour hike! Fortunately, the car did the climbing as it carried us up the foothills of the Berg to Highmoor below Giant’s Castle. Highmoor (as its name suggests) is a vast moor on a plateau in the mountains. The weather was glorious and everywhere we went there were masses of wild flowers of every hue – Dave and Barbara were in their element photographing and classifying the plants! Although we didn’t see much variety of game, there were plenty of buck about and also a troop of Baboon – who were, luckily, moving away from us and into the valley. Having once had a terrifyingly close encounter with a Baboon, I try to stay clear of them!

This is me on Highmoor (Avis, do you recognise your hat?)

I even managed to climb up here for lunch!

I made David test this bridge before I crossed!

On Sunday we all went to lunch with Jane, Sean and Shannon. She served a magnificent lunch and we went down to her dam afterwards to watch the Weaver birds trying to build their nests while the females tore apart those that didn’t meet their exacting standards. Barbara spotted a Monitor Lizard and Shannon claimed to have seen a dolphin – although the rest of us were a little sceptical!!


Two very different forests in South Africa

Hiking at Bushman's Nek, uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park

Dave and David wanted to do a 12 kilometer hike from Bushman’s Nek to Garden Castle in the uKhahlamba National Park (needless to say I passed!!) Barbara and I did, however, join them for the first 2 Km or so, the first part of which was up hill. (I found that quite hard going) Then the ground was fairly flat for a while (which I must confess was rather more fun) but suddenly I saw the ground descending steeply in front of me. I reasoned that what goes down must come up again when one is retracing one's steps, so I sat on a rock and watched the hikers disappearing into the distance (see photo) while I enjoyed the stunning view and waited until Barbara decided to return. There really is something spiritual about sitting alone on a rock on the top of a mountain in Africa! We eventually made our way back to the car and drove out to visit with Meri and Neville, some friends of Barbara’s who farm in the area. We had a merry lunch while they caught up with news of Boston and then drove to Garden Castle to pick up two rather tired, but happy hikers.

 Dave admiring a particularly interesting tree

Lunch again, this time at the Pickle Pot, just outside Boston; (You will gather from all these lunches that the diet has been completely abandoned!) after which Dave guided us through an indigenous forest and identified the trees for us. Inside the forest was very quiet, apart from the bird song; and one was aware of rustling in the bushes, although we never actually saw any game. After lunch we went to visit Al, Susie and baby Noah at their home in Pietermaritzburg for Susie’s birthday tea, in honour of which Barbara had made the most decadent Bar-One muffins and a delicious fruit cake.

The following day we went to see how the MOTH’s two-day Bass Fishing Competition was going. (For the uninitiated, MOTH’s means the Memorable Order of the Tin Hats.) The competition takes part in various dams in the area and in one of the dams is a tagged fish worth 10 000 Rand to the person who catches it. Of course, no one knows which dam it is in and this year no one found it (much to the relief of the local farmer who sponsored it!) We visited the dams in the Mount Shannon Plantation. This is an enormous area planted with pine trees and, after watching the fishermen for a while, we decided to walk down the fire breaks between the trees – much easier than trying to walk amongst the pine needles on the forest floor! We even saw a buck break cover and dash across in front of us - the magic of Africa!


The Midlands Meander, KZN, South Africa

Goats at the Swissland Cheese Factory on the Midlands Meander

We are back on the farm in Boston with our friends Barbara and Dave and we have hardly stopped to draw breath since we arrived. The day after our arrival, Dave, David and I drove along the Midlands Meander. We bought goats cheese from the Swissland Cheese Factory (probably made from milk from the same goats you can see in the photo) and then visited the Ardmore Ceramic Art Centre.

 This centre was established to encourage African artists to express themselves through ceramic art. As you can see, some of the works are extraordinary and – although not to everyone’s taste – are very striking!

Our next stop was to buy chocolate from the Belgian Chocolate Shop. After this indulgence we had lunch in the Caversham Mill Restaurant. The mill dates back to the early 1850s and was the first water-driven mill to be erected in Natal.

Unfortunately, the original mill was destroyed when the Lions River flooded in 1987, although some of the machinery (together with the original millstones) can still be seen. Our lunch was first class and we sat out on the deck of the restaurant watching the waterfall and the antics of the weaverbirds – that is until it started pouring with rain. We then repaired to the inner rooms to finish our meal as we watched flying ants pouring out of their nests. How on earth do flying ants fly through the pouring rain?

On Friday, Dave and Barbara had arranged to meet up with some of Barbara’s German relatives who are vacationing in SA, so David and I went back to the Midlands Meander to try to buy some hand-made leather shoes to replace the ones he was wearing. We visited the Groundcover Leather Company, where we had bought his shoes four years previously, but unfortunately they had stopped making that particular design and David didn’t like the others. We tried all the other shoemakers, but nothing suited! Now he has decided to wait until we get to New Zealand to buy shoes. (Please note all our friends in NZ!!) However, all was not lost as we had a delightful lunch at Old Halliwell Country Inn, which dates back to the early 1830s. We were the only diners that day and were treated royally.



Here is a photo of our Jo’burg family (Ian is missing); from the left Irene, Liam, Paddy, Karen and Kian.

After the quiet of Baden, there is the bustle of Jo’burg! Here life runs at a faster pace!

…and these are the Bedfords – from the left: Kian, Ian (known as Bedi), Karen and Liam.

On Tuesday, I was fortunate to accompany Irene on a trip to visit Danny and Rina’s (Irene’s cousin and his wife) luxurious weekend pad out at Bronkhorstspruit Dam. The weather was glorious and I couldn't believe that we were only a forty minute drive from Jo’burg! We returned home in time to go to the Christian Brothers’ College to see Liam play cricket and to be declared ‘Man of the Match’. Well done, Liam!
Since then I have been mainly shopping …and also… shopping – not for myself, I hasten to add, as the space in my suitcase is finite. I have, though, thoroughly enjoyed shopping with Karen, both for business and pleasure.

Tomorrow, David arrives back from Zimbabwe and I, for one cannot wait to hear his impressions of that once great country. One extraordinary fact is that when he arrived there were 500,000 Zim dollars to the American dollar and three weeks later there are 1,000,000 Zim dollars to the American dollar! Unbelievable!!


Baden Revisited.

A view of Baden from the monument

Suzi wanted to visit her cousin, Louise, on the farm; so I decided to go with her... and here we are in Baden. We flew to Cape Town last Saturday and were picked up by Martin and Carine for the journey back to Montagu and then Baden. I have been staying with Kathy and Eric, and Suzi has been staying with Louise and John - although we see each other frequently.

Tomorrow (Thursday) I return to Jo'burg and on Sunday Suzi will fly to Buenos Aires for the Argentine Open. She is very excited as this is her first visit to BA since she was nine years old. She does, however, have a network of friends who are already there (including Alex Vidal, Clare's first real boy friend).

We have had a great week here in Baden and I, for one, am looking forward to returning here again one day in the not-too-distant future. The weather has been glorious and that, together with the stunning scenery, has meant a very relaxed and restful week. That is not to say we haven't done our fair share of walking!

On Sunday, Eric took us into the ravine where we followed the dry river bed to a small waterfall and some enchanting pools among the rocks, fed by fresh mountain springs: then today, Wednesday, we walked with Louise to the next valley where there are more lands belonging to the farm. We also climbed the hill to the monument. The monument was built because, in 1981, there was a huge flood that swept away all the graves from the farm graveyard.

They managed to find some of the stones, so they built them into a concrete spire, high on a hill, so that they couldn't be washed away again.

The photos above show a view of Baden from the monument; Suzi by a small waterfall in the ravine and lastly, the stunning view from Louise's stoep - lucky Louise!!!


Tiger Fishing on the Zambezi, Zimbabwe

These are the intrepid fishermen! From the left: Brian, Martin, 
David, Tim, Paddy and Terry in the front.

David is still in Zimbabwe visiting family, but Paddy has returned with some great photos of the fishing trip. Typically, David, the novice fisherman, turned out to have the most success and caught the most fish!!

This is the plane in which they flew from Harare up to the Zambezi. 
From the left: Terry, Paddy, David, Martin and Brian.

David was thrilled to catch this Tiger Fish...

...but he was even more delighted to catch this one!!!

They were all thrilled when they spotted the lion on the opposite bank to their camp...

...and ellies too!!!

Here are the Coughlan brothers all together at last! 
From the left: Terry, Martin, Tim, Paddy and David.


From Mountain Zebra National Park to Jo'burg, SA

Gemsbok in the park

I awoke looking out over Africa as everyone imagines it should be. Our bedroom overlooked the Mountain Zebra National Park through huge glass sliding doors. We drank tea, sitting up in bed, watching a monkey family right there on our stoep and the curious sight of Tree Hyraxes (like Rock Dassies but they live in trees rather than among rocks) sitting in the uppermost branches of a tree just 2 metres away.

We eventually dragged ourselves away and made ready for the day ahead. Today was Dave’s 70th birthday and the day was perfect. Our first task was to drive around the park to see what animals we could tick off our list (thoughtfully provided by the park). We drove up the mountain to a high plateau and spotted Eland, Kudi, Red Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest, Blesbuck, Springbuck, Gemsbuck, Steenbok, Southern Boubou, Blue Crane and, of course, the Cape Mountain Zebra. This latter is very distinctive with its closer stripes and the rump markings that distinguish it from the Zebra we are all familiar with. (See photo)

We left the park to travel to Rhodes by way of Craddock and Dordrecht and then on a dirt road to Barkly East, the Moshoeshoe falls and finally onto Rhodes. We passed through some magnificent countryside and stunning mountain scenery, made especially beautiful as we neared Rhodes when everything was bathed in the glow of the setting sun – a magical sight (see photo).

Rhodes is a tiny hamlet deep in the Southern Drakensberg, at the foot of the highest mountain pass in South Africa, Naudesnek. We all stayed in the 100 year-old Rhodes Hotel where we
celebrated Dave’s birthday with champagne.

The next day we had intended to tackle the Naudesnek mountain pass, but were advised by the locals that the road was very bad due to recent heavy rains, so sadly we had to make a detour to Eliot, Maclear and Mount Fletcher in order to reach Boston via Underberg. Boston is where Dave and Barbara have their farm and where we stayed for one night before flying off to Jo’burg to stay in Karen and Ian’s home. We were very excited when Suzi joined us there and we could catch up with her news.

On Friday morning, Paddy and David flew off to Zimbabwe to join their brothers Tim, Terry and Martin and brother-in-law Brian for their fishing trip to Tafika Camp on the Zambezi River beyond Mana Pools. I have decided not to go to Zimbabwe as – apart from the fact that food is short and the lack of fuel makes it impossible to get around - they only have electricity between midnight and 4 am and that’s the only time I would have to plug in my hairdryer or recharge my phone, camera and iPod!

Now I am up-to-date with my travels. Suzi and I are having a great time here in Jo’burg. There is so much to do and see and never a dull moment. Irene and Karen are so talented with all their craft projects, Liam and Kian are always busy and, of course, Ian is working day and night with his expanding businesses (or cooking delicious meals – his way of relaxing).

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