Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200607 1 England South Africa

SATURDAY 1 JULY – Meet Claire down at the swimming baths and whilst she goes off to have her nails done we watch Daniel and Natasha having their lessons.  We have 1 hour to spare before their piano lessons.  It’s a very hot day so we just wander round town before the lessons at 12.00pm.  As soon as the lessons are over we drive up to Malsis Road and are just in time to catch the Keighley Gala procession going past.  There seem to be less floats than when we first saw it 20 years ago but lots more companies promoting their business and handing out flyers.  The kids get some sweets and seem very happy with it all.  Back at Claire’s we all go our different ways, Natasha plays out with her friend in the paddling pool, I go on the Internet and the others watch England.  I have spent a lot of time on the Internet recently but have arranged a Hospitality Club host in Johannesburg when we arrive, got details of the buses to Pietermaritzburg where we have put a deposit on a motorhome, booked into the back-packers there and arranged a host nearby for the following nights.  I get called down to watch as England loses to Portugal on penalties.  Back at Sandra’s we have a BBQ and are joined by her granddaughter Megan who is really good.  Another evening spent chatting until late.



SUNDAY 2 JULY – Call in to the Asda pharmacy in Halifax where I have found the cheapest malaria tablets, doxycycline 100mg x 360 for £85.  I had been quoted as high as £126 for exactly the same thing.  Arrive at David’s where most of the England flags have been removed.  Help them with some paperwork then enjoy a huge Sunday roast that Donna has cooked.  It’s another very hot day, records are being broken all over England, but it breaks as we are heading down the motorway and hit with torrential rain.  The traffic is almost at a standstill so we leave and head to Mum’s down country roads.  There has been no rain in Market Drayton and Mum says it has been very hot for the last 10 days to the extent that part of a road in town collapsed.



MONDAY 3 JULY – Following warnings on the TV Mum decides to catch the bus to town rather than walk.  It’s very hot and English houses are not designed for extreme heat so even with a fan it’s very hot inside.  Spend the day pottering round doing paperwork and jobs for Mum and us. 



TUESDAY 4 JULY – Manage a bit of a lie in as the day begins cloudy.  Late afternoon we visit Lauren and 5-½ week old baby Aidan Alan who is lovely.  Next stop is Kevin & Sandra’s for an hour before pressing on the Scott’s where we have a take away meal with Pete & Carol, Paul & Elaine to round off the evening.



WEDNESDAY 5 JULY – A last visit to the Internet and market in the morning.  In the afternoon we all walk around to The Grove School where they are having a Drayton Food Festival with exhibits from all the food producers in the area.  We sample local pies, Muller desserts and other things but unfortunately miss the “Ready Steady Cook” demo.  In the evening we are joined by Netty & Nick for a last supper at The Four Alls and enjoy being able to sit outside to eat.



THURSDAY 6 JULY – We get up at 6am, Mum also gets up early to cook us delicious bacon sandwiches as a send off.  She drives us up to town as unusually we are laden down with luggage having an extra big bag full of things for the motorhome.  We say a sad farewell before catching the 07.40 (Arriva 64) bus to Hanley (£2.50).  Arrive at 08.35 and connect with the National Express 09.10 to Manchester airport (£5).  It’s one of the best buses we have ever been on with comfortable leather seats.  At 10.10am we are at the airport and make our way to Terminal 2 to wait until 11.00 for the Emirates check in to open.  Our check in operator seems new and takes absolutely ages dealing with us.  Our 14.05 Emirates flight is to Johannesburg via Dubai and through Cheapest Flights we got the fare down to £470 each return.  Board on time but find we do not have the requested aisle seat.  The stewardess says the flight is not full and we can move to a centre row of 4 empty seats giving us room to stretch out and get a good sleep.  Take off on time and get a fantastic view from the nose cone and under body cameras.  Surprisingly for a Muslim airline we are offered alcoholic drinks.  There are literally dozens of movies to chose from and the seat back screens are the biggest we have seen.  When the first meal arrives I find that my vegetarian meal has not been ordered.  The other meals on offer are chicken (which I have been allergic to) and lamb but that’s all gone. They eventually locate a spare vegetarian meal for me and a left over lamb meal from business class for Steve.  The food is poor with the exception of a delicious chocolate-based dessert.  We are seated amongst 2 families each with 4 noisy unruly children.  Next to me are 3 lads going to Pakistan and determined to drink enough alcohol to make up for having to abstain for the next 3 weeks.  They begin interacting with the children and it soon becomes obvious that even 5 minutes sleep is out of the question. 



FRIDAY 7 JULY – After about 7 hours we land in DUBAI just after midnight local time (3 hours ahead of BST).  Getting in to the transfer lounge is a nightmare with seemingly strict and time consuming security but a system with obvious flaws.  We find an area with relaxer style chairs but the icy cold air conditioning makes sleep difficult.  There’s a large duty free shopping area but even browsing in all the shops only takes about ½ hour.  Our next flight is the 09.55 to Johannesburg and this one is full.  Neither of us gets much sleep so end up watching lots of movies.  After a 7-hour flight we land at Johannesburg International Airport SOUTH AFRICA around 4pm local time (1 hour ahead of BST).  The captain tells us they have been having unseasonably warm weather but we find 18C chilly having left a heat wave in England with temperatures in the 30’s.  Immigration is quick, as we have no forms to fill out and are immediately issued with a free renewable 90-day multi entry visa.  There are not enough baggage trolleys for everyone so we manhandle our bags out into the arrivals hall.  Quickly locate Maryn Prinsloo our 28-year-old Couch Surfing host.  She directs us to an ATM and a desk where I buy an MTN pay as you go phone SIM card for R39 (£3.20) with credit offered in multiples of R30 (£2.40).  The exchange rate is creeping up and when I last checked we were getting R12.50 = £1.  Maryn leads us to the car park and in no time we are riding out along the Johannesburg ring road.  The first things that strike us are the high barbed wire topped walls around the housing complexes and the fact that everyone walking is a black South African and almost all the cars are driven by whites.  Arrive in Bedfordview where Maryn (pronounced mar rain) lives next door to her boyfriend Sven who looks to be about our age.  We were to be her first guests but she had a late call from American Joe and is hosting him as well but he will be sleeping at Sven’s tonight whilst we have Maryn’s spare room with a double bed.  Her rented property is a converted stables with a huge orchard in the garden.  It’s very strange for us to see trees without leaves, as we have not experienced winter since 2000.   It’s dark quite early so we sit inside chatting whilst Sven cooks a meal on the BBQ.  Joe has already spent a lot of time in South Africa and convinces us we should find a way to travel further north than we had intended.  Even with an electric fire on we find it very cold and dive into our bags to put on everything remotely warm that we have – to hell with fashion sense. It’s almost 10pm when we eat so as soon as we are finished we excuse ourselves and hit the sack.



SATURDAY 8 JULY – After a good nights sleep we don’t mind getting up early to see Joe off, especially as Maryn has cooked us scrambled eggs for breakfast.  At 9am we have to be at the Hyatt Hotel for the Soweto tour that Maryn has booked for us all.  She has done a lot of research and taken the Imbizo Tour run by Mandy Mankazana as it is small and personal.  In fact there are just the four of us, driver Shorty and Mandy’s son.  For R300 (£24) pp we get a 4-hour visit to the township and begin by driving out to Soweto where 3 ½ million black people we relocated.  We drive through a very pleasant housing estate with large attractive individual properties and no security walls.  As we venture further in to Soweto the standard of housing drops rapidly in descending order of wealth.  Whilst the lucky people own a block of land may live in monotonous rows of government built housing with central standpipes, portaloo’s and an electric points tapped off lampposts.  We see people clustered in these areas. Women washing the clothes, kids raking through the rubbish, a butcher hacking away at a cows head and a resourceful man plugged in to the mains using electric clippers to do haircuts. Stop at a local street market where Mandy suggests we buy fruit and vegetables to take to the village.  Bags of oranges are R7.50 (60p) and she says 5 bags should be about right.  Live chickens are huddled together in cages and they peck at an egg as it is being laid by another one.  Our next stop is the very poor area of Kliptown where people live in corrugated iron make shift homes.  We pull up by the one and only water tap where people queue with containers.  There’s a shabby row or portaloo’s, open drainage and lots of rubbish.  Mandy knows the locals so Sven and Maryn are introduced to one and taken off and Steve & I to an elderly lady who takes us to her home.  She tells us about their lifestyle and shows how she has created 3 rooms in her house where 5 of them live in very cramped conditions.  The roof leaks in spite of the pieces of plastic she has patched over it.  It’s very cold in winter and the paraffin heaters make it difficult to breathe inside, it’s also dark without windows.  She is optimistic of being moved to new housing in about 1 year.  Back at the mini bus we get out the produce and Mandy organises the children in a line so we can give out the oranges.  Most of the kids are seem very happy and call out “thank you” before racing off.  We run out of oranges but Mandy says this is no problem as the others always share.  Many of the bigger tour buses just stop on the main road to photograph this area but I’m glad we have been able to get right into the village even though it is upsetting.  Drive around the housing estate past Winnie Mandela and Desmond Tutu’s houses and Nelson Mandela’s old house in Vilakazi Street.  Visit the Hector Pieterson memorial and the adjoining museum R15 (£1.20) where we learn about the students killed in their 1976 protest against the use of Afrikaans in black schools and also some of Nelson Mandela’s history.  Round off the tour with a drink at a shebeen (local bar).  After we have returned to the car Maryn drops us at a nearby shopping centre to meet Cherie and her son Etienne for lunch.  We met Cherie in Fuerteventura when we were selling our motorhome Charlie, got chatting and have kept E-mail contact ever since.  A South African she now lives in New Zealand with her husband Francois but is over on a holiday.   She buys us lunch and fills us in with lots of tips for our trip.  After eating they drive us to the larger Eastgate shopping mall so we can pick up a few things before they drop us back at Maryn’s.  We’ve time for a short nap before heading out to the Melville district for the evening.  Saunter up and down the busy street full of restaurants and bars and stop in a few for a drink.  There are a number of beggars and street sellers around but we feel very safe.  Visit Nuno Portuguese restaurant where we have a table in the non-smoking area and a good view of the big screen through a large window.  It just happens that the semi-finals of the world cup are being shown so Steve is very happy, especially when Germany beat Portugal.  Food and drinks seem to be about half to two thirds the price you would pay in England. 



SUNDAY 9 JULY – We all have a lie in and eventually leave the house at 11am.  We are dropped at the Eastgate shopping centre as the things we bought yesterday in haste are not quite right, for example the map book was dated 2000!  Decide to join the AA; R516 (£41) membership includes free up to date maps. However we have just about completed business when I spot the small print saying they can only cover cars (no motorhomes) and not vehicles over 1500kg.  Nobody pointed this out to us when we said we wanted to join the AA because we were buying a motorhome!  Getting a refund on the credit card proves impossible as the machine keeps printing “denied”.  End up with a written confirmation of refund due and assurance that they will do the transaction manually tomorrow when the visa centre is open.  It’s a huge shopping centre and very busy but we have no security concerns.  Maryn picks us up when we are finished and we spend the afternoon relaxing, route planning and doing the diary etc.  We have a snack type meal in the evening whilst watching Italy beat Portugal in the final, at least that it’s for football for a couple of weeks until they start qualifying for the Champions League!



MONDAY 10 JULY – By the time I get up at 8am both Maryn and Sven have left for work and the maid, Elizabeth, has started work.  We’ve been given keys and told to make ourselves at home and come and go as we please.  It’s another lovely day and pleasantly warm in the sun.  Once I have put the washing out we walk to the library about 1 ½ km away.  Gather some information from books and maps and use the Internet RM5 (40p) 15 minutes.  Nearby is Bedfordview shopping centre where we pick up some lunch.  Again we feel very safe walking around and no different to most other countries, although Maryn says it would not be safe at night other than the commercialised areas.  Pass a new housing development and think someone has named it tongue in cheek. It’s called Chagall at number 69!  Sit out in the hot sunshine making plans for our trip.  When Maryn returns from work she brings our bus tickets for tomorrow having had a nightmare getting them, due to fraud she had to collect the tickets from a shop even though they were booked on the Internet. She cooks us a lovely fish dinner and we round it off by driving out to the petrol station for ice creams.  Finish the evening by wallowing in a lovely hot bath.



TUESDAY 11 JULY – Sven and Maryn are up to see us off when the taxi arrives at 7.15am.  Once again we have had superb hospitality and learnt so much that we could not have done any other way.  Chat to the driver as he takes us into the centre of Johannesburg to Park Station, R80 fare (£6.40).  The main bus station is extremely well organised and we are quickly checked in to board the 8.30am Greyhound for Durban via Pietermaritzburg, RM220 (£17.60).  We manage to move seats from the downstairs confined area and end up at the front of the top deck with superb panoramic views.  A hostess brings around free tea, coffee and biscuits and DVD’s are played throughout the journey.  Leaving Johannesburg we are soon out of the province of Gautang and journey through Mpumalanga and Free State with ever changing scenery.  The flat barren wheat fields give way to sandstone hills and undulating terrain.  In Kwazulu Natal the scenery is stunning as we traverse the battlefields area.  It’s much hotter as we drop down towards the coast; Durban has 28C forecast for today.  There’s a lunch stop for 20 minutes before we press on past some large towns, all with squatter camps on the outskirts.  Arrive in Pietermaritzburg around 3pm to be met by Don Lund from Midland Caravans.  We have agreed to buy a motorhome from him and as soon as we reach the showroom we see our 1984 Jurgens Pioneer Autovilla parked up.  It’s old in style and furnishings but looks in good shape inside and out.  We complete as much paperwork as possible before our Hospitality Club host Harry arrives.  Don suggests we drive the van away and give it a good check over before returning tomorrow to pay for it and complete formalities.  It’s a real baptism by fire as we follow Harry into the rush hour traffic then out of the city and off on bumpy dirt roads to his farm.  The Bedford engine plods along and the long gear stick is challenging but Steve does a great job to get us there safely.  At the farm we are introduced to his wife Linda and a number of their dogs ranging in size from great danes down to Trixie the dachshund, luckily for me they are all very well behaved.  Once again we are made to feel incredibly welcome and given our own double room.  Harry is a bit of a mechanic and offers to look over the van for us in the morning.  For the evening meal their daughter Tracy, who is at home from college, and their married daughter Taryn, her husband Ross and their 6-week-old baby Sam joins us.  Ross & Taryn live on the farm and Ross runs a flower growing business exporting “birds of prey” blooms.  We enjoy a tasty meal, as good as any restaurant rounded off with scrumptious homemade ice cream.  Harry explains that he has lived all his life on the farm and his mother, Violet, still lives in the house in which he was born.  The farm grows sugar cane, citrus fruits and wood and he also runs a company called Gateway that bottle and can fruit juice.  He has Managers dealing with most of the operation so offers to spend time helping us with the van and showing us around the area.  Settle to bed after a leisurely bath.



WEDNESDAY 12 JULY – I wake to find Harry outside chatting to his pet parrot “Archie”.  The valley looks beautiful in the early morning sunshine and I explore their lovely garden with swimming pool – what a magical place to live.  We have a cooked breakfast together with the luxury of having maid “Elizabeth” there to clear up.  Steve and Harry have a good look over the van and find a few small faults but nothing major.  We join Harry and Linda in their car to go to the city (Pietermaritzburg commonly abbreviated to PMB).  Visit Midlands Caravans and pay the balance of the R60000 (£4800) due on the motorhome plus fees for registration transfer etc amounting to R1390 (£110).  By joining the South African Motorhome Club R280 (£22) we can get their club insurance for just R1090 (£85) year fully comprehensive.  We’ve still a few bits of paperwork to tie up so arrange to return to Don’s tomorrow and bring the van for the faults to be sorted.  Harry drives us into a real African suburb where there is a huge Indian warehouse called Moosa’s.  Linda reckons they are the cheapest place anywhere for household goods so we grab 2 trolleys and get stuck in.  Prices are incredibly low on most things and we get more than half of all the items we need.  Surprisingly the bill for the 2 laden trolleys is only R1375 (£109) and that includes bedding, non-stick pans and lots of normally expensive things. It’s early afternoon and we are all worn out from the mega shop so head to a Football Club where Harry is a member.  They do a superb prawn curry and most meals are between £2 and £3.  Call at a couple of other shops then return via Baynesfield Estate, the original manor house complete with an area of rondavaal houses for all the servants.  It’s about 4pm when we get back and there’s time for me to give the van a thorough clean out and to unpack all the shopping.  Instead of a full meal, Harry cooks a special African sausage on the open fire in the dining room and it’s really tasty. 



THURSDAY 13 JULY – I get up once I hear the rest of the household stir just before 7am.  The bell clangs to summon the workers and Harry begins his working day.  We drive “Millie” (well we’ve had Charlie and Billy so it’s been suggested we give this van a royal name and abbreviate Camilla) to PMB and leave it at Don’s so they can work through the snagging list.  Don kindly drops us at Moosa’s as I have decided I can’t resist putting new curtains and seat covers in the van with black out curtaining R30 (£2.40) and furnishing fabric R25 (£2) metre.  Needless to say we see a number of other things we missed yesterday and again end up with a full trolley.  Harry picks us up and once we get back I begin cutting out the curtain materiel.  By the time I go to bed at 10.00pm I have finished 10 curtains, only 6 to go!



FRIDAY 14 JULY – My plans to continue with the curtains are shelved when Harry offers us a chance to fly up over the Drakensberg ranges.  After morning coffee at his Mum Violets we head to the airfield.  Harry has a 2-seater Drummond plane and we look at that plus a few others.  Today he is using the club 4-seater Cessna 172 and we take off around 12.00.  We get a superb view over the city with clearly defined areas of squatter camps.  Harry hands over the controls to me and no sooner have I got the plane lined up in direction and height than I hit a thermal.  The plane bounces around and Steve turns a lighter shade of green prompting Harry to pass back a sick back.  I soon regain control as we fly up towards the mountains.  We could go right in to the Sani Pass but the thermals are bad there and Harry suggests we give it a miss to spare Steve.  I turn the plane and we head towards Baynesfield.  I find it hard reducing altitude so hand back to Harry who takes us over his farm on the way back to the airport.  A terrific experience and with flying lessons only £30 an hour I could get addicted.  Collect Millie and head to Trevor’s Tyres where we get two new front ones for R440 (£35) each.  Back at the farm Linda has arranged supper for all the family.  Afterwards we sit in the lounge eating homemade “biltong” a type of dried meat that you nibble in small pieces – very tasty.



SATURDAY 15 JULY – Harry is up early and tells me there should be a good sunrise and would I like to view it from a micro light – how cool is that?  I wake Steve and we are out of the house by 6am to drive up to his runway, jokingly known as Minde International Airport.  Harry retrieves the aircraft from the hanger whilst Steve stokes up the BBQ for a cooked breakfast.  Going up in the micro light is a completely different experience and you really feel at one with the elements.  The sunrise is not that great but the flight certainly is.  We fly much lower and slower than in the plane so get better views of the local farming area and houses.  Again we fly over the farm before landing.  We are just finishing delicious bacon, eggs, tomatoes and toast when Harry’s friends Rick & Stella drop in – quite literally as they land in their private plane for a coffee and chat!  Early afternoon the men watch Australia beat South Africa at rugby whilst I work on the curtains, only to find they are not blackout materiel but in fact let in all the light.  We have taken the blinds off in order to fit the curtain rails but must now figure out a way to put them back up in addition to the curtains.  Harry has suggested an evening meal in PMB at “The Butchery” and we have agreed on condition we can pay.  Tracy joins us and luckily we have a table booked as the restaurant is packed out.  Meat is on display in a fridge and you can select your own cut and size of portion if you want.  The walls are lined with wine bottles rather like a wine cellar, each one is priced individually for you to select.  The meal is very good and filling and we have a lovely time.  Main courses for 5 plus drinks and tip (10% the norm here), R500 (£40).



SUNDAY 16 JULY – It’s time for us to move out into the van to enable us to check things over more thoroughly.  Steve fills up the water tank whilst I make up the bed.  I’ve found out that Dad’s cousin Rob Bagnall lives near here and we have made contact and been invited for Sunday dinner.  Harry suggests we take one of his trucks rather than move Millie.  He can use one of the other cars to escort Tracey back to university in Johannesburg.  Rob & Pat live at Howick and after a couple of wrong turns we arrive around 10.30am.  They seem really friendly and we sit on the patio enjoying the warm sunshine whilst chatting about travel, South Africa and family.  We still need things for the van so we go out in their car and first call to view the famous Howick waterfalls.  It’s a deep rather than wide falls and very attractive except for all the carpets strewn out to dry at the top – local black people still observe the ancient tradition of washing in the waterfall.   With their help we visit a couple of stores and manage to cross a few more items off the list.  After a tasty lunch we sit out for an hour or so before heading back to PMB.  Without the van it’s easy to park at the Liberty Mall where I do a first grocery shop.   When we get back and begin loading the stuff into the van we find a problem.  The water tank must have a leak as the carpet is sodden and water is in the under seat lockers.  Once we have mopped up we realise we can still sleep in the van and in fact have a very comfortable night’s sleep.



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