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).


From Graaff Reinet to the Mountain Zebra National Park.

What an amazing view!

After a really uncomfortable night either clinging to the sides of the hammock-like bed or rolled together in a heap in the middle, we left Urquart’s Camping site and visited the Valley of Desolation in the Camdeboo National Park. As our vehicle neared the summit of the mountain overlooking the Valley of Desolation, the mists swirled around us and we could see nothing of the view. We nevertheless carried on to the top and walked to the very edge of a precipice to see if we could make out any of the features. We were rewarded for our perseverance as the mist gradually began to clear and we gazed down on the spectacular dolomite rocks, weathered into precariously balanced blocks that, over time, eventually overbalance and fall into the valley below.

Having now become experienced mountaineers, we followed the Lizzard Trail around the top, stopping to marvel at the spectacular views, while Dave and Barbara stopped to photograph various indigenous plants (a particular hobby of theirs). David spotted a Black Eagle perched on a rock which flew off the minute Dave tried to photograph it, but he persevered and manage to catch it in flight. (See photo of Dave, lying down behind Barbara and David, trying to get his shot).
We didn’t stay too long in the park as we had to make our next camp before night fall. We did, however, stop and have brunch at the Coldstream Restaurant, next to the Graaff Reinet Club. This club was originally the home of the Coldstream Guards during the Anglo-Boer War. This stop improved our image of Graaf Reinet and we put the horrors of the Municipal Chalets behind us and proceeded onwards through Hofmeyer to the Mountain Zebra National Park near Craddock. We all stayed in a well-appointed four-bed chalet and, after a great dinner in the restaurant, slept soundly.


Montagu to Graaf Reinet, South Africa

The vineyards in Barden
Montagu to Ladismith

Just in case you were wondering, we haven’t disappeared into darkest Africa; we just haven’t had Internet connection! Anyway… to resume. (Photo on left is Louise, Eric, Kathy and baby Richard)
David, Dave and Barbara returned from their hike in the Cedarberg Mountains and joined us for a sumptuous lunch, prepared for us by Alta, Louise’s mother-in-law, before setting off for Natal. Reluctantly, we said goodbye to all those living at the Knipe’s idyll and left down the dirt road to Montagu before heading for the R 62 towards Ladismith (not to be confused with Ladysmith) where we found Le Roux B&B where there was both camping and self catering chalets. Needless to say, David and I stayed in the chalet while Dave and Barbara camped. The chalet was very comfortable and well equipped and the proprietress quite delightful – website http://www.lerouxbnb.co.za/.

Ladismith to Graaf Reinet

Still on the R 62, we drove through some stunning countryside to Calitzdorp, where we stopped off for scones and cream and a visit to the local winery. Then we took a dirt road to Groenfontain and over the Swartberg pass to the tiny town of Prince Albert. While David and Barbara went to the information office to find suitable accommodation, Dave and I waited in the car. Just across the road from where we sat I spotted a rock, hanging on a triangular frame, (see photo) with a sign in Afrikaans that reads:
Bodo and Gudrun’s weather forecasting apparatus
If the rock is….
Wet, it is raining
Dry, it is not raining
Warm, the sun is shining
Cold, it is cloudy
Moving, it is windy
White, it is snowing
Invisible, it is misty
- and if you are now laughing, may you have a prosperous day.
David and Barbara came up with wonderful accommodation; we stayed in the Swartberg Private Nature Reserve, David and I in a beautiful chalet and Dave and Barbara camping. For anyone travelling to this region, I heartily recommend this camp (there was even an electric blanket!). Look at www.uys.com/bushmanvalley.

After a wonderful night’s sleep. (us – not Dave and Barbara as they had to battle with a wind howling around their tent for most of the night) we breakfasted and then chose to go on a half-hour guided walk with our guide, Joseph. Unfortunately, Joseph had little notion of what constituted either ‘half-an-hour’ or a ‘walk’, as it turned out to be a two-hour hike up the mountain! Dave took great delight in telling me that this ‘walk’ was far more demanding than any they had undertaken in the Cedarbergs! Joseph turned out to have an in-depth knowledge of the bushman tribes who lived in the area many years before; and we were very pleased that we had made the effort to engage him.
Once on the road again, we passed through the amazing Meringspoort with its high canyon walls and then drove for 360 km through the Karoo, mostly in torrential rain – very boring! That night we stayed in the municipal chalets at the Urquart Camping Site just outside Graaf Reinet. Definitely NOT recommended. Ughhh!

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I couldn't resist this one!