Archive for the ‘African Adventure’ Category


Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

Top deck BA0056 A380, 59A and K are the seats of choice. The loos of choice are at the front of the cabin and are the biggest I’ve seen in any aircraft. Could have taken a copy of the Daily Mirror in for a comfortable read 🙂

Eleven hour fifteen minute flight and I’ve woken up with an hour and a half or so to go. This is perfect timing as I have had a wash and freshen up in the aforementioned loo and am now sipping a cup of tea. Breakfast is a sugary strawberry yo gurt.

All in all I feel reasonably refreshed even though it is only half past three in the morning GMT. Around me a chorus of snorers ‘entertains’. I fell asleep before the cheese course. There is rarely anything I want to watch in the inflight entertainment anyway.

Waking up at the end of a long haul flight is all about timing. Getting to the loos before everyone realises that breakfast is about to be served or the cabin crew is preparing for landing and big queues form.

Hannah and I are using the T5 arrivals lounge to shower and have breakfast before she gets the train to work. I have a car picking me up at seven thirty. Our John is meeting us at T5 because he wants to ‘borrow’ the posh camera again. Sfine. 

Will be good to see THG again.

Driver Paul picked me up exactly on time fair play. The journey home was 3 hours and was far more comfortable than trekking across London on public transport. I nodded off at one stage apaz but nothing to be ashamed of.

Plans for dinner have moved from beans on toast to a curry so I popped to Waitrose to buy a Charlie Bigham’s CTM. There was a £2 off voucher for it in “my waitrose” so what’s not to like. 

There was a mildly embarrassing moment at the self checkout when the system rejected the money off coupon. Turns out I hadn’t scanned the actual curry. Oops. Slap the cuffs on! I did own up. Had to get the assistant over to sort it out. Now chillin out with THG in the snug. It’s good to be home.

last day in SA

Tuesday, February 13th, 2024

Last day in SA. Fly home tonight yay. It’s been great but there is a time for everything and tonight is the time to go home. Beans on toast here we come 🙂

Just been catching up on some emails and I found one from French motorway toll company Ulys. I had sent them a request to terminate my account at the start of January. They just replied, in French, telling me that for data protection/account security reasons they needed me to upload a copy of my passport. If I don’t do this within ten days my account will be terminated! Simple eh? Their system is crap. Use Bip&Go instead.

Not much else to say right now. Meeting some friends today @mich and @bradley and then off to the airport.

There will be plenty of time to reflect later on what has been a phenomenal trip. I’m sure I will return to South Africa.

The flight from the reserve to Joburg was a little on the cramped side. Eight passengers in a twelve seater suggests that had it been full it would have resulted in extreme discomfort. 

Monday, February 12th, 2024

Our afternoon drive was cut very short yesterday due to torrential rain. The upshot of this was that I was in the bar by five thirty as opposed to the usual eight pm. A very good night was had but of course the Damaclean sword of the four thirty alarm call very much hung over us.

It therefore took a while for body and brain to engage this morning and for the first time I was glad to have brought a safari jacket on tour. The height of summer in the low veldt and a fleece was required!  It did take a while for the excitement to kick in this morning but boy did it kick in in spades.

Our first sighting was hippo. These aren’t much to look at really as they mostly stay under water with just the nostrils and eyes sticking out. Then we came across a mother and calf rhino, an elephant for which we didn’t bother stoping and then the jackpot. The river pride. Two lionesses, a lion and three cubs. The cubs were eating the carcass of a waterbuck hidden inside a bush.

After a while two of them wandered around to one of the lionesses who did a bit of grooming. The second lioness pricked up her ears and set off. She had smelled or heard more waterbuck. We drove on a hundred metres or so and spotted her hiding in the long grass downwind of several waterbuck. They sensed something was wrong and eventually trotted off elsewhere. It was very exciting for a while thinking that we might see a kill.

We had to stop on several occasions to let columns of huge army ants cross the track. They had raided a termites nest and were carrying off young termites. Another stop was to look at a giant snail – it was the size of a first.

The bush kept on giving as shortly after breakfast a herd of elephants walked into sight in single file. Must have been at least fifteen of them. It made me think of Colonel Hathi in the Jungle Book.

I had a couple of hours kip after brekkie although it doesn’t particularly feel like it. Now I am sat around the pool watching a nyala and four waterbuck who don’t appear to have moved since breakfast. Worralife. Just two more game drives to go.

Elephant watching from the pool…

The highlight of the evening drive was watching the Motswari Zebras play football against a side made up of visiting construction workers. ‘Our”team had proper kit and the visitors wore yellow bibs. Not all had football boots. Some were barefoot and two players shared a pair of trainers wearing one each. What a spectacle. It was a dirt pitch with no markings but a goal at either end. We think the score was two all when we left, before the end of the game.

Prior to that at lunch a family of warthogs paraded in front of the lodge verandah and on the drive itself we saw a family of hyena cubs lazing in front of their termite mound den. No sign of the mother.

We finished off by seeing a hippo. Another great day in the bush.

The highlight of yesterday’s evening drive was watching the Motswari Zebras play football against a side made up of visiting construction workers. “Our” team had proper kit and the visitors wore yellow bibs. Not all had football boots. Some were barefoot and two players shared a pair of trainers wearing one each. What a spectacle. It was a dirt pitch with no markings but a goal at either end. We think the score was two all when we left, before the end of the game.

We also saw a litter of hyena cubs lazing outside their den in a termite mound. No sign of mum. We drove home in the dark along the track that divides the Motswari/Timbavati reserve and the Kruger. There a true wilderness extended for twenty three kilometres before the first sign of human beings. Darkness reigned.

The Timbavati is a fusion of twenty six or seven independent game reserves that have removed their dividing fences and that between them and the Kruger proper. The upshot is that animals are free to roam between them all providing an enormous genetic diversity.

This morning we went in search of two leopards that had been sighted nearby but were not successful. We saw plenty of other game and that bit of the trip is now over.

During our four intensive days on the reserve we have been lucky enough to see a wide variety of wildlife at very close quarters. This is not something you get in the main Kruger park as vehicles are not allowed to go off road. This has allowed us to get up close to lions, leopard, elephant, rhino, buffalo, giraffes, zebra, the whole lot really. 

We saw two separate pairs of white rhinos, mother and child, and three different packs or part packs of lions. We even got to see a hippo walking along into the water. The pack of African wild dogs was a very rare sighting.

I leave Motswari somewhat lost for words (I know, I know). It is hard to see any other holiday beating this for the major life experience it has been. It isn’t that the Motswari Lodge itself was particularly posh or luxurious. It was just what it needed to be and the staff have been brilliant.

It is billed as an all inclusive gaff but tbh you didn’t get much time to take advantage of this. We were early to bed every night as the alarm had to be set for a ridiculous four thirty am every day. 

I am now sat on the verandah, binoculars on the table in front of me, prepared to watch the wildlife tableaux as it parades by. I have read approximately a third of my book and written several thousand words in my online diary that this effectively is.

We are being picked up at one pm and taken to a private strip to catch a Fed Air flight to Joburg. Cue exciting jungle music…

in which we light a fire in summer

Saturday, February 10th, 2024

Up at four thirty. Hmm. stood on the mosquito netting and broke the bit of bamboo holding it up on my side of the bed, der. It’s only a bit of bamboo. Should be easily replaceable!

It’s an early start but you don’t sleep much in the bush. It’s a survival thing. You sleep you die. Horribly. Bush dwellers are constantly on the alert, except for elephants who are the real kings of the jungle and fear nothing. Elephants might chase off lions if they think they are being a pest to other animals.

Back sat on the verandah with binoculars, laptop and book. I’m reading Masters of the Air upon which the new TV series is based but which I won’t be watching as the reviews are not brilliant. The book is not particularly an easy read but I’m ploughing through it. 

The game drive this morning was again successful with a large herd of elephants, zebras and giraffes being the main attractions. We also stopped at a termite mound with an open top. This is known as a chimney and when you hold your hand above the opening you can feel the heat rising. Millions of termites produce a lot of body heat. We also saw dwarf mongeese and the usual loads of impala. No shortage of wildlife here.

At the end of the drive instead of returning to the lodge for food we rocked up at a spot in the bush for an outdoor breakfast. Great. Hannah is now having her usual kip and I’m ritin, following a dip in the infiniti pool.

I am the only hotel guest in sight plus one or two members of staff quietly going about their business.

The silk shirts I had made in Chiang Mai have come into their own here in the bush. Today the temperatures are again on the rise. The silk is lightweight and very suited to the heat. At noon the temperature is thirty four/feels like thirty eight. The hottest part of the day is nearer four pm.

We are half way through the safari and have three nights left in South Africa. Didn’t feel like yesterday when we are exclaiming that we still had twelve days to go. 

Dozed a little and went to the Gallery to chat with Joe and THG. The Gallery is one of the few places with wifi connectivity and is where I go to backup my pics. This morning I overdosed on videos and they took ages to back up. My phone says only 152GB storage used out of a TB. If I filled the phone with photos I’d need th by more Google storage.

It is heating up. Difficult to believe that explorers of yore would carry on in this weather. Keep going Caruthers. We stop to make camp in four hours. Roger that Blenkinsop. By God it’s hot sir.

Before we came I invested in a proper safari outfit. I must say it has proved its worth. I was a bit usure of this as all the promotional videos showed punters in shorts and tshirts but in my book covering up is the name of the game. I look the part.

One of the nice bits about the evening drive is the stop for sundowners around an hour out of the lodge. Last night it was at a lake where we were fortunate to see hippos in action plus crocs and baboons. Our guide jeremy showed a video taken that moring of an impala being chased into the lake by wild dogs. The impala was eaten by a croc. That’s life Jim. Eat or die.

The safari life is so far removed from reality back home it is really difficult to get your brain around. Cape Town, Franschhoek, Hermanus, ok were westernised places a long way from home. The experience had an element of the exotic but it wasn’t a million miles away from what we are used to. 

The bush is a different ballgame. Just watching an eagle or simlar circling effortlessly around 150m in front of the verandah. A beautiful creature looked at through my binoculars. Small birds have scattered in panic. The noise of fans sounds like helicopters hovvering above our heads.

True luxury this without being over the top.

We were treated to a thunderstorm shortly after lunch. Strangely, no rain just thunder. The upshot is that it has cooled nicely. This is shortly after the decision had been made to delay our next game drive by thirty minutes to give the animals a chance to wake up and get moving again.

This adventure is getting real. It started to spit as we left the camp but within ten minutes we were driving through a tropical thunderstorm. I started to count the seconds between lightning and thunder and it got to less than one. Ie less than a mile away from the lightning. 

That is the point at which we turned back for out own safety and because we couldn’t see anything anyway. We just bent our heads and tried vainly to stop water getting under our ponchos. Everything was soaked except, funnily enough, my phone. Even the inside of my boots were soaked.

I am now showered and sitting drinking beer in the gallery. In front of the fire that Hannah and I had earlier speculated they must light in the winter months. Here we are in high season, in the Kruger, sat in front of a log fire 🙂 

In Cape Town I messaged@Mark Fordyce whilst drinking Pina Coladas, his only very occasional tipple. Now we’ve been caught in the rain and very exciting it has been too. Our African adventure continues…

You sleep you die.

Friday, February 9th, 2024

Life continues to dish out doses of surrealism. We landed at Hoedspruit to find our driver Sidney waiting for us with my name on an ipad. The luggage “carousel” was a u shaped bench that the staff moved your luggage onto from the buggy/cart/bag shifter thingy. 

I had to point out they left mine on the floor – it was one of the few without wheels so they just left it there for someone else to shift.

The reserve was around an hour and a half’s drive from the airport with high security at the entrance as part of the effort to deter poachers. We also passed an anti-poaching unit en route. They have a shoot to kill policy. A rhino horn can fetch eighty thousand dollars per kilo and with each horn weighing anything up to twenty kg you can see the attraction for poachers.

En route we saw monkeys, gibbons, zebra, kudu and miscellaneous deer types.

Five minutes after arriving we went straight to lunch on the veranda – three pm. You can easily understand why so late. The wake up call is for fourth thirty am with the first drive starting at five thirty. Breakfast is at nine thirty. Second drive starts at four and then dinner at eight. A somewhat lopsided day but when in the bush you have to adapt to the ways of the bush 🙂

Within ten minutes of starting our first drive we found a leopard up a tree with its kill. We also saw a white rhino with female calf and towards dusk a male lion. A great start to the safari. An early night followed dinner.

This morning it had rained overnight and was pretty drizzly for the first part of the drive. They gave us all ponchos which did the job although my specs kept steaming up and were constantly covered in raindrops.

Very quickly we came across a pack of wild hunting dogs. These are very rare – only 450 in the entire Kruger national park. Jeremy our guide was thrilled with the find.

These were closely followed by an elephant, a herd of water buffalo and subsequently a pack of lions eating a freshly killed water buffalo. 

All in all an amazing start to our safari. Most unusual is the feedback from Jeremy the guide.

Now we are back at the lodge and,  having breakfasted Hannah is catching up on some zeds whilst I write my diary.

There is a lovely view from the verandah, which is the place we eat lunch. A dried up river bed in front of us has a gently sloping hillside beyond it covered in deep grass peppered with trees and bushes. Whilst we were out this morning an elephant was to be seen. It’s a great viewing point. The view comes with a soundtrack of birds and insects unseen. An animal could wander into view at any time. The place is teeming with wildlife.

People meander by the verandah. It is downtime. At some point I’m going to have to get my book. Four Japanese tourists stroll slowly by, wondering what to do with their time. Lunch is not for four hours.

Internet connectivity is very sparse and only available in one or two public areas. Nowt here on the verandah. At least nowt I can access. Honestly who cares.

Although the colours around are mostly greens there is a tree in front of me with dark pink flowers. The tree next to it has fern-like leaves and small red flowers.

Someone has taken the plunge and is in the pool. I am suddenly alone apart from a woman quietly reading and hidden from sight. I know she is there. I also hear the murmur of quiet staff conversations.

In bygone times I would have used this downtime to write letters home. 

“My dearest thing, 

We are a mere five months into our adventure into the African jungle and I am already missing you but bearing up old gal. Our days are spent tracking big game and the native bearers set up camp for us each night at around four o’clock. We sometimes dress for dinner. Standards do have to be maintained. 

Give the children a kiss for me. Young Percy must be getting rather big and almost grown up by now. 

Your ever loving husband.

Sweetiepie, ”

A small herd of kudu wander by in the distance, perhaps two hundred metres away. The are spaced out and stop every now and again to listen. A laggard bounds into action to catch up with the others, now out of sight stage left.

The fans on the verandah create a pleasant breeze but out in the bush it is very still. We have been lucky to have arrived at a relatively cool part of the summer. The day before we got here it was forty degrees and in that heat the animals tend to stay put in the shade. No different to us humans really.

I have my posh camera with me but think I will abandon using it as my phone seems to bring better pictures. It is a much newer technology.

All is quiet in the Motswari Lodge.

Lots of termite mounds, large colourful butterflies and spiders webs with huge female spiders at their centre. We saw one chasing a male. They eat their males. This guy got away for now. Apaz they hang around repairing the web and hoping for the opportunity to impregnate the female. How ungrateful can she be?!

This wilderness is vast. It would at one time have covered most of Africa. We should be happy there is still a big chunk of it left. Animals only occasionally wander by. I guess if you stay still long enough you will see a lot of different species. Apparently there was a lion kill just in front of the lodge the other night as people were having drinks after their evening game drive.

A woman now dozes on a sofa to my right. An unusual period of enforced relaxation. There is free booze but you’d be daft to start drinking at midday in this weather, in any weather really if your day ahead includes a three and a half hour game drive.

Sat here on the verandah feels a bit like sitting in a hide waiting for some wildlife action to happen in front of you. You have to play the long game. I wonder what would happen if a lion appeared and took interest in the inhabitants of the verandah, ie me.

An antelope of some sort with a white band around its rear has just wandered into sight.  A waterbuck, apaz. It moves on unobtrusively.

The lodge currently has twenty two guests. I guess that equates to four landrovers worth. There are seven guests in our machine plus the guide, Jeremy and the tracker Hendry. One or two vehicles have had maybe only three or four guests in them.

Our neighbour Susan just came by looking for towels. We have an infinity pool looking out over the wilderness. She remarked that a female waterbuck with calf had just wandered by their lodge. It really is amazing how much animal life there is in this place. At the same time the whole bush is a dangerous environment. Some carnivore will be out to catch and eat that calf.

A newbie couple has arrived. You can tell. They are walking around in a curious daze and eventually found their way back to the verandah presumably having found out there is very little else to see. Except for the bush. I feel like a veteran with two game drives under my belt.

Well, our second game drive of the day started slowly but came up trumps again big time. 2 giraffes, 3 baby warthogs, zebras, baboons, hyenas, wild dogs, hippos, crocs and a herd of 5 elephants at dusk including two calves. Howsabout that?

Difficult to know how to top all this and we still have five game drives left! I’m not complaining, just wondrin.

Tomorrow is another 4.30 am start. Dinner is at eight thirty. They don’t sleep much in the bush. It’s a survival thing. You sleep you die. Horribly.

Safari time

Thursday, February 8th, 2024

Le grand jour est arrivé as they say in some parts of the world. Not South Africa particularly although I did overhear some French tourists the other night in Hermanus. Arrivé however it has. 

Meeting Hannah for breakfast at seven thirty but I was up before six and getting sorted. Now just pottering, scribbling. I see through my bedroom window that someone is sat outside their room, taking in the early morning I guess. I hear no sounds, no monkey screeches or exotic avian vocals.  Just the loud fan in the bathroom.

The monkeys will come tonight, swinging from branch to branch as they eye up yet another lot of wildlife tourists. Trespassers in their domain. They should know that I know all the words to the King of the Swingers song from the Jungle Book movie 🙂

We have a two and a half hor flight from CPT to HDS and are being met by a driver from the Motswari Lodge. I’m expecting the hour’s drive to the lodge to be quite an experience in itself. It isn’t often I get excited about travel. I’ve been to lots of places and seen lots of interesting things. Drank in cool bars and eaten in some great restaurants. Never been on safari.

Last night’s restaurant, the Codfather in Camps Bay is a case in point. Recommended by @Andy it really came up with the goods. Great sashimi, although I’ve probably already had better wasabi on this trip and the langoustines were probably the best I’ve had.

As an aside the internet access is almost non-existent in this hotel. 100Kbps down and 1.95Megs up. No idea what we will have in the bush so it may be a while before I post again.

Ciao amigos.

Hannah and I are sat in an emergency exit row. The extra legroom works. We have the binocs out of my carryon but at thirty eight thousand feet ain’t going to see much. I figured we might catch the occasional giraffe galloping across the plains but even giraffes are not that tall.

This flight takes across most off the length of South Africa and far to the north. The temperature inland is significantly higher than that in Cape Town. Our taxi driver was wearing a padded coat which was an amusing contrast with out own shorts and tshirts.

There is booze on offer on this flight. You have to be a bit hard core to go for any of it. We have a wilderness to explore when we arrive at the Timbavati reserve. Most of the passengers on this flight are at least as old as I am and they don’t appear to be holding back on the plonk.

Below us the expanse of the African interior looks empty. This is probably deceptive. No signs of human habitation though. Just evidence of watercourses meandering, presumably, through valleys that would be otherwise invisible from the two dimensional perspective of thirty eight thousand feet.

Our flight is full of European looking people. Four Chinese. Pretty much everyone on their way to a game reserve I imagine. After my sparking water and beef pastrami sandwich I took the opportunity to use the forward lavatory. Smallest one you could ever be in. I discovered that I was still a contortionist at heart. I never knew.

Now the queuing has started. Those who live by the wine… It always gives me great pleasure to get the timing right on a visit to the loo on a plane, especially on a long haul overnighter. Get that timing wrong and you will be waiting ages. Get it right and you can smugly watch from your seat whilst consuming the barely edible airline breakfast.

Quite a few blokes wearing their safari kecks with removable trouser leg bottoms. I have a pair like that but will put them on before heading bushwards.

We are so far removed from the early European settlers in this place.


Wednesday, February 7th, 2024

Effin loud insect noises squeaking all night. Then I tried switching off the bathroom light, left on for easier navigation for any overnight visits, and suddenly the noise stopped. So unsure whether the noise was an insect or a fan but I can’t see a fan in there. There is a similar noise coming from the front of the guest house – my room opens to a small terrace on the ground floor. I have my own fountain!

Hermanus is a lovely little seaside resort but lacks whales at this time of year because they have moved on. Interesting that such large mammals use the whole expanse of the oceans for their living space.

Today we head back to CPT to drop off the car having deposited our luggage at the guest house in Camps Bay en route. Between now and then lies a pleasant coastal drive with the occasional stop to see the sights and gaze at the wonder of nature. Tis another beautiful sunny day.

Took my first anti malaria pill last night before heading out.

First Malaria Pill

Tuesday, February 6th, 2024

Up early and crept out onto the balcony so as not to wake Hannah. It’s going to be a shock to the system when we get home, having to revert to a normal daily routine. Someone is setting up the loungers around our pool. Probs should get a dip in before we go. Moving on today. Franschhoek has been lovely. 

I recall on my first visit to San Jose in CA I was sitting around the pool chatting to the pool attendant who asked me where I was from. “UK” I say. “Is that near London?” Was his response. I won’t insult the guy setting up below my balcony by asking him  if he knows where the UK is 🙂

The pool guy here has a tried and tested system for setting up. First he puts on the padded lounger covers. Then each lounger gets a towel which he systematically lays out, folds and rolls up neatly to be positioned tidily in place.

His final act has been to switch on the water jets that create nice ripples on the surface of the water, picking up the odd stray leaf on the way and disposing it tidily behind a bush.

Hermanus will bring sea air but no whales as it is not the right time of year. I daresay if we went out on a boat they could find some interesting marine life to look at but suspect we won’t have enough time for that.

Our journey to Hermanus is going to take longer than it should as the Franschhoek pass that climbs high above the hotel is closed for repair work during the working day. Not only will our route be less scenic but it will add anything between thirty and sixty minutes to the journey time. Problems problems.

Hermanus is the one place, apart from last night in Franschhoek, where we have no specific dinner plans. I’m at the point where a doner kebab will do. The local Greek restaurant in the village was closed last night. At least the kitchen was. The place had a nice enough bar but there were people smoking ciggies in the room which didn’t really make for a pleasant environment.

We are officially into our second week in Africa. Fly home a week today. The main event, the herds of rampaging wildebeest etc has yet to happen and to some extent our one night in Hermanus and then Camps Bay are just fillers, albe they very nice and part of a must see itinerary around the Cape of Good Hope.

It’s a great name, Cape of Good Hope. Presumably describes how seafarers felt when rounding the land mass hundreds of years ago. I almost feel like bursting spontaneously into joyous sea shanties when I think of it.

Gotta go – showertime.

Saw a huge baboon crossing the lawn in front of where we were sat for breakfast. Hannah had leaked along right next to it totally oblivious to its presence. Didn’t get the camera out quickly enough to catch a pic.

So we have moved on from the wine country and are now ensconced in Hermanus. The Hermanus Boutique Guest House is around fifteen minutes walk from the main drag but there seems to be a v cool bar called Ficks on the beach opposite innit. I think we can start there and may not even get any further. 

Checked in with  THG who has just got home from visiting family. The weather has been terrible apaz. It has been universally lovely here.

I’m gonna dig out my binocs to take to the bar. Not much hope of seeing a whale but ya never know.

We are two days away from heading to the bush and today we will be taking out first malaria pill.

wine country

Monday, February 5th, 2024

As dawn came this morning I lay in bed listening to a choir of birds. The birdsong here is very different to home. Very exotic. In some respects I am finding it hard to get my brain around the fact that we are here, at the southern tip of the enormous landmass that is Africa.

The other difficult bit is reconciling the fact that our luxurious accommodation contrasts markedly with the wilderness out there. Ok ok we are actually in the wine country not the bush but my imagination runs wild. 

The luxury bit is relatively new. My cousin William would not have seen anything like it when he landed in Cape Town in 1832. His final destination, Grahams Town, or Makhanda as it is known these days, was a long nine hundred kilometres further to the east. What a journey that would have been in 1832. Would they have had horses? I supposed there must have been a Graham.

Sat now on our balcony I can hear someone sweeping a path. He is somewhere behind the hedge that surrounds and brings privacy to the pool. The pool has four jets of water that cause ripples on the surface providing a very relaxing background noise. Elsewhere I can hear what must be a tractor busy doing tractory things somewhere on the vineyard.

Here we have views right across the valley. Franschhoek was originally founded by Hugenots fleeing religious persecution in France. Hence the name. I imagine there would have been local Africans already living here but in those days little regard was given to such facts. 

During William’s time in Grahams Town there were “native” uprisings of twenty thousand men against a hundred European soldiers.

There is a Hugenot museum in the village which we might visit this morning. It’s one of those dilemmas. We’ve come all this way so we should see as much of the place as makes sense but on the other hand the surroundings of our hotel are so pleasant it is difficult to not want to spend all out time here.

The village itself is very pretty. En route to the hotel we stopped at the weekly market yesterday and I bought my first tshirt of the trip. Hannah also picked up a few bits and bobs. We will also likely eat there this evening, after an afternoon of wine tasting. When in Rome…

Order of play based on discussions:

La Petite Ferme

Rickety Bridge

La Motte

Haute Cabriere

Africa, a continent where only the coast is mapped. At least that was the case in the nineteenth century which doesn’t seem so long ago in the great scheme of things. Dr Livingstone died on 1 May, 1873 at Chief Chitambo’s Village near Lake Bangweulu, Zimbabwe today. Malaria and dysentery did for him. He must have forgotten to pick up some anti malaria pills before setting off. I bought a pack of thirty six for seventy odd quid. Expensivo but enough to keep the lurgi at bay for both me and Hannah whilst we are deep in the bush. Quite literally the cost of living.

I expect to avoid dysentery by drinking bottled water with an occasional sundowner to ward off anything else that might come our way.

We won’t be going anywhere near Lake Bangweulu although it would have been nice to see the place. There is a river that flows near our game lodge so I expect we will pop down there to look at the crocs and hippos that must surely abound. From a safe distance obvs. The camera zoom lens will serve us well.

I’m in two minds about the crocs. Do I really want to see one leaping out of the water and grabbing a gazelle, dragging it under and finishing it off with a death roll. It is the reality of life in the bush. Crocs have to survive as do gazelles. We have to desensitise ourselves to reality in the wilderness. 

If we catch a lion bringing down a zebra then we should consider ourselves lucky. A herd of elephants will undoubtedly be walking on by watched by a leopard from his branch on a nearby tree. The water buffalo will be restless and should be avoided. Rhino and giraffe will continue with their business.

In the evenings we will gather around the fire listening to stories of the wild. Tales of yesteryear. Exploration and high adventure, sweat pouring down the back of our necks and  through our clothing like rivers turned on by the intense heat of the African summer. The lethal, killer heat of relentless sun.

We are fortunate to have the airstrip next to the lodge that can fly us in and then return us to what is often referred to as civilisation although I’m not so sure that is a correct application of the term nowadays. As we land at that remote airstrip I expect the theme tune to Daktari will be playing and the roar of the jungle will grow increasingly loud.

The landrover that is waiting will drive the short distance to the lodge where we can freshen up and prepare for our first game drive. Our first sortie into the jungle where darkness will soon fall and we will become totally dependent on the knowledge of our local guides for survival.

The long haul jetliner that brought us here and will eventually take us home seems like a time lock, a capsule that is entered and removes you to a bygone age. If you let it, and why not. Yanow life would be dull if we can’t dream. The other night I dreamt I’d bought a double decker bus and was having problems with the handbrake but that is in a different story.

We are not yet at that stage of our adventure. For the moment we remain in the wine country preparing ourselves mentally for the tasting afternoon ahead.

Interesting. As I finished writing this bit and was trying to post this we had a power outage. It’s back on but the router is taking time to reset 🙂

Darkness is slowly descending on Franschhoek. Hannah and I are picnicing on our balcony, exterior light on. We have had a good day of wine tasting. Three wineries, one of which, Boschendal, stood out from the others. We went for the premium selection, something not on offer at the others.

It has cooled a little on our balcony so I have donned my safari jacket. It looks the part, in my mind although it may only be in my mind. We shall have an early night.

time to move on

Sunday, February 4th, 2024

I am given to understand that today is Sunday. The Queen Vic Hotel has served us well but it is time to move on. On this day we relocate our centre of operations to Franschhoek and the wine country. 

Met a refugee called Jean Terry from the DRC last night. He has been here twenty years and works as a barman in a Waterfront restaurant. Had a nice chat with him.  While we were chatting his seventy two year old mum called him on WhatsApp to tell him his auntie living in Joburg had just died. V sad. It visibly affected him and he understandably cut his evening short.  He Ubered it home.

The Scottish Bar ended up not being a particular rugby venue although the game  was on all the screens and a few rugby watchers did turn up. They were mostly normal tourist punters though and the rugby commentary was replaced by a DJ thumping out his playlist. 

After the game, which we lost in the end by one point despite having scored more tries, Hannah and I strolled to the harbour’s edge and then turned for home. Another long day in the bag.

Today we have to pop in to the DHL office to send a bag on to our Joburg hotel before we set off for La Petite Ferme where we will be staying two nights. More in due course, I daresay.

Lunch with Andrew Owens

Saturday, February 3rd, 2024

A good final day in Cape Town. Retail in the morning in which advantage was taken of the lower prices here in the Cape compared with home. Don’t particularly do retail.

It must be Chinese new year as the Waterfront was being themed appropriately. We should be in the heart of the action tonight having booked a table in Mitchell’s Scottish Bar for the rugby. The enemy camp 🙂It’s a good job we booked as the Waterfront is rammed.

Chilled by the pool for a bit after an extremely long lunch with Andrew Owens and his daughter Sadie. Another hot day so no rush. I had ribs. There were two size choices so I asked our waiter Prince what the difference was. He said the small one was only small so I went for the big one, natch. Never seen so many ribs and they were huge. Couldn’t finish them all which was a bit embarrassing considering the poverty in these parts. We took a doggy bag which Andrew was going to donate to a suitable candidate.

All ye who enter the Cape of Good Hope abandon all hope

Friday, February 2nd, 2024

All ye who enter the Cape of Good Hope abandon all hope of a mobile data connection. The Cape is a wild and desolate place with a tollbooth at its entrance and a good tarmac road all the way to the Point. Looking down on the wild Atlantic you could imagine early explorers making their way around to the East and the riches of the distant and exotic Orient.

We snacked and rehydrated at the cafe and bought some souvenirs, the first of the trip as we were unsure as to luggage weight on next week’s flight back from the game reserve. Our concierge Llewellyn Lewis (yes) had earlier ascertained that we could use the DHL office nearby to post a bag to our Joburg Hotel for collection after the trip into the bush. We have no weight issues on the long haul flight home.

The day has been full of thrills. We picked up our hire car at ten ish, bypassing the long queue due to our Avis Preferred membership, and were also upgraded to an SUV. Superdooper. Some sort of Hyundai, fwiw. Hyundai Venue I’m told. Took me most of the day to get used to the indicator being on the right. People must have thought it odd that my windscreen wipers came on every time we hit a junction.

First stop was Boulders Beach and the penguins. They were great. V cute. We sat in the caff looking out of the big open picture window and took in the scene. Then down to the beach for a dip. I just paddled but Han took full advantage of the lovely little bay and swam around for a bit. I’m not v good in the sun really and certainly wouldn’t have been particularly comfortable after a salt water bath.

We continued to Cape Point and passed many reminders that baboons were wild animals and should not be fed. We looked hard for them and had given up when, on our way home the traffic was stopped by two lots of mothers and babies, one in the middle of the road and one sat on a fence post, or stone or summat. Result.

Then back in Cape Town I have to say I was quite impressive negotiating the traffic. Just as we were turning right into the hotel complex a convoy of black security cars turned in just before us. I said “I bet they are going to our hotel – must be something kicking off”. It was Dricus du Plessis who you will know as the world middleweight UFC (kick boxing) champion. You couldn’t make it up.

Sat now in the bar near him and his entourage. The funny thing is how much security he has brought with him. You’d a thought he could take care of himself 🙂

All in all a highly successful day in Africa. Next up, dinner at Gold, a must do disher out of local nosh.

PS I find my life to continue to be surreal

Table Mountain & Robben Island

Thursday, February 1st, 2024

Sat in bed tapping away. Could sit outside on the balcony but it’s cosy enough here. Had a good nights kip after our first day in Africa. We were tired from the journey and hit the hay at a sensible time. Not jet lag.

The only downside to the two hour time difference between here and home is that the Liverpool Chelski game didn’t kick off until ten fifteen pee em local time so I missed it. Sounds like it was a good game. Certainly a great result for the reds, again.

We have an action packed day ahead of us with a ride up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain this morning and a trip to Robben Island this afternoon. Robben Island is a four hour excursion so quite a longun. It’s a must do visit though.

Yesterday we spent the afternoon at the Waterfront which is where the hotel is. It’s a v convenient spot located in a collection of buildings that include the old Harbourmaster’s House. They still have the ball signal on the roof that told ships whether the tide was in or out. Doubt the tide makes any difference these days.

I’ve looked for a map that depicts Cape Town in 1832 to see where my cousin William Davies would have landed but no immediate luck online. There is a museum somewhere and will see if they have anything. It would have certainly been a lot smaller in those days. Tiny.

Took in a visit to the diamond museum which was fascinating. The whole tour was a build up to try and sell you diamonds but we were ok with that as it was v informative. You got to hold rings worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Our guide Nadia  told us that roughly thirty percent of punters taking the tour ended up buying a diamond. I didn’t buy one 🙂

Table Mountain was special. Stunning actually. The views were such that you could just sit up there all day looking. The city of Cape Town was 3,500 feet below us. Same height as Y Wyddfa in Eryri.

The slightly disturbing news is that they reckon Table Mountain will have eroded away, in ten million years time. Maybe someone got their sums wrong 🙂

Looking down on Cape Town it was easy to picture William Davies’ boat arriving in 1932. The city was a lot smaller then, obvs and the shore much nearer the mountain. Much land reclamation has been undertaken since, apaz. You can imagine their excitement after taking a whole year to get there. The other amazing thing to consider is that the Davies had a long journey to Grahamstown to make after arriving. It’s maybe five or six hours by car on modern roads. Weeks worth of walking for them in 1832. Maybe they had horses. Cape Town really was a gateway to Africa in those days. A daunting prospect with the unknown vastness of the interior before them.

The other thing to consider is the vast cultural difference the Davieses had to overcome.

The Queen Mary 2 is still in town. End point of a Southampton to Cape Town cruise. Fifteen out of twenty one days at sea wtf?!

The excursion to Robben Island was very thought provoking.

T0 and no longer counting down

Tuesday, January 30th, 2024

African Adventure

In January 1832 the Reverend William Davies with his wife Sarah and young two year old son set off from Deptford on the Barque Eclipse, destination Cape Town. William was a self funded Baptist missionary, responding to a plea from the first wave of settlers for ministers of religion.

The Eclipse foundered in a storm in the Cap Verde Islands.  The child drowned and Sarah gave birth to twins on the beach, one of which died. I have an eyewitness account of the shipwreck!!  It took two months for the Davieses to be rescued and they returned to London whereupon they set out again reaching Cape Town in December that year.

William was my cousin, nephew of my 4G grandfather Daniel Davies and was one of the first Baptist missionaries to venture forth in Africa. Lurgi abounded and he only lived a few years after he got there but I have extracts of his letters home to the Baptist Magazine describing their lot. His wife predeceased him but they had a number of children who survived, one of whom married a famous South African pioneer whose name escapes me but who became the subject of a play in the modern era.

Things are very different in 2024. Hannah and I have a very comfortable overnight flight from London landing in Cape Town just under twelve hours later. There is only a two hour time zone difference so we anticipate being able to hit the ground running. A driver is meeting us off the plane and we plan to spend our first day exploring the Waterfront around the hotel.

What a difference. Twelve hours drinking champagne and sleeping in a comfortable ish bed (well at least it will be horizontal) versus twelve months of seasickness, shipwreck, peril and poor food. At least with a journey time of twelve months they would definitely not have noticed the time zone change 🙂

This is the last in the cycle of dad and lad trips in which I take one offspring on a journey of exploration and discovery. Just me and them. On this occasion it isn’t a dad and lad trip but dad and daughter. 

William Davies settled in Grahamstown but unfortunately we won’t have time to visit there as it is too far to the east. We plan to spend most of our time in Cape Town, the wineries and part of the Garden Route before heading north to the bush and adventure. I bring with me anti-malaria tablets and three different kinds of insect repellent including the trusty Avon Skin So Soft.

I expect to bring home lots of photos and videos. I have approx 160GB of SD card capacity for the camera and a long zoom lens. Also binocs.

A car is picking us up from the Park Lane Hilton at 3pm to take us to the airport. In the meantime I am sat in my suite on the 24th floor looking out over Hyde Park. Joggers and cyclists abound as do the long queues of traffic on Park Lane. Who’d want to be a commuter driving into London?! Our Tom is meeting me for brekkie at oh eight thirty.

My plan at some point today was to spend some time in the Tate Modern but I may well just chill in the hotel. The suite is great as is the exec lounge.

Spent some time sat in reception after arranging a 3pm checkout. It’s quite nice watching the world go by. Lots of accents to be heard around me. Many Americuns as you might imagine. 

Then on my way down to the lounge from my room there was an old couple in the lift. He had thinning hair and reached into his back pocket for a comb to tidy up the front a bit. I didn’t notice any difference 🙂

Another, younger guy was smartly suited and smelled of aftershave. I am wearing my safari jacket which I noted was clocked by the besuited younger guy. Unlikely he thought I looked particularly cool. That will lose me sleep!  Mind you the jacket is not something I normally wear other than when on safari. In fact I’ve only just bought it. It is fleece lined and is serving as a jumper when in the UK. Versatility is its middle name. Safari Versatility Jacket.

My lift companions were all resident on the 24th floor – expensivo . Now I’m sat in the window of the lounge looking out at Park Lane. There is coffee, there are croissants and the world continues to go by. I note that there is a huge pile of rubbish bags in the central reservation of Park Lane. V unsightly. It is a v dull day in London Town.

A member of staff is making her way around the lounge with a cordless vacuum cleaner strapped to her back. Very compact and tidy. The lounge has gradually emptied.

Behind me there is a meeting going on with someone from Hilton and a marketing agency. The Hilton guy has chosen them to do some work and is talking non stop. On the other side of the lounge a woman has been sat quietly on her own. She has a book on the table in front of her and is doing something with her phone. She has been smiling.

All the things you see when you have time on your hands. Can’t be bothered to do any work. The Hilton marketing guy is getting a bit boring. It’s been quite a one way conversation. Lots of corporate speak. I’m sorry I’ve sat where I’m sat but it does give me a good perspective on Park Lane.

Just realised the pile of rubbish is actually a bunch of tents crowded together. No sign of any movement. Life is not very equal is it? The most expensive property on the Monopoly board occupied by the poorest people. Makes you pause to think.

A few years ago THG and I were en route to the Intercontinental on Hyde Park for a weekend jaunt. Our journey down coincided with the migration of one million members of various unions to a rally in Hyde Park to protest about some government policy or other. Pay freezes I suspect.

A couple of observations sprang to mind. Firstly quite a few of the protesters against pay freezes had first class tickets. Don’t blame em. Secondly we thought it was v surreal that the room in our five star luxury hotel looked out over the park where the protesters were congregating. Let them eat cake.

It was quite similar when we went down for the protest against Brexshit. We were staying in the Trafalgar Hotel. It took us hours to walk the mile or two from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square at which point we decided it made more sense to retreat to the hotel’s rooftop bar and drink cold beer and cocktails. There was no way we could get anywhere near where the speeches were in Westminster anyway.

This trip has been a year in the planning. Somewhat surreal (I find myself using this word more and more) that the day of departure is finally here. T0 and no longer counting. Just waiting. Two and a half hours until Han arrives and we head to LGW. 

Trying to imagine what William and Sarah Davies went through in their planning and preparations for their trip. A massive upheaval for them but supported by a high degree of religious commitment. A knowledge that they were doing the right thing.

I have the Last Will and Testament of William’s dad David Davies. He was the Rector (or curate – this is not clear as yet) of the established Church in Llandysul. His eldest son, John Phillip had effectively been written out of the will and most of the dosh left to William. At the time of the writing of the will JP had become a Baptist and established himself as a renowned speaker on the circuit in Wales. The father was not to know that William would follow in JP’s dissenting footsteps. David’s two brothers would also leave the church, one (my 4G Grandfather Daniel) as a Baptist and the other a Unitarian.

I haven’t got any further back in my family tree research than Daniel but I sense that the fact that David was an Anglican minister must mean there is more info in an archive somewhere. All three brothers must have had some sort of education. Their area in West Wales was the centre of the religious revival of the time. Carmarthenshire, Cardiganshire and Pembrokeshire.

There were lots of variations on Christianity, or at least the interpretation of the whole subject. Did Jesus die just to save those who believed in him or the whole of mankind. As a non believer I’d go for the latter but my vote probs doesn’t count. It seems daft that these differences were enough to divide people. Suspect they didn’t go as far as a punchup 🙂

The marketing meeting has broken up. They all have calls to make 🙂Unfortunately the Hilton guy looks as if he is going to make the call from where he is sat in the lounge. Another one way conversation. At least his voice is not too loud or irritating. Talking about the Conrad in Cairo and then the one in Istanbul, as you do.

I’ve moved back to my room which is a calm haven looking out onto the park. Banging out a bit of ABBA. Reasonably good speakers on the macbook pro fair play. Han is about to arrive, an hour earlier than plan. I think this’ll do for the day. I’m now moving into adventure mode.

Ngibambe kamuva.