Unexpected Joy!

First the confession- I am guilty… Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa… I have lost my muse for blog writing. It has been months and even years since I wrote regularly. Now I am down to one follower, thank YOU, oh patient one!  But I really want to share this…

Yesterday we drove around in our district. We live in a beautiful part of South Africa. Outside our town there is an antique store on a farm- Oude Werf, It is about 2.4 km from the main road on a spectacular gravel road.

And then we saw them for the first time. I have heard about them from the owners, but they are quite good at hiding. I only had my phone with me, it is not nearly photography  club beginner standard photos. But good enough to share the feel of the moment…

The two baby giraffes…

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Yes I know, it was nearly noon, the light is harsh. I had to zoom with my Sony Xperia, pixelating is a problem… but just say Aaaawwwe… .

And nearby- their parents and a friend was visiting around a clump of grass…

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It was such joy finding these moments on our way to a coffee and antique shop outside our town. Winter is beautiful around our part of the world as well.

When you are down and out, fly a kite…

I have seen something that I really wish I could take a photo of. One of the highlights of my year is when I go on our yearly Word Rider tour.  This is a project of the South African Bible Society, when about 60 of us, from all over the country, gather around to go to one region, and visit the outbacks, the schools in the rural areas of South Africa where no tourist ever goes. We visit, and give every grade 7 learner in the school a brand new bible in the language of their choice. We get to have a good conversation with these kids, and to pray for them.

This year’s tour started in the world famous surfing town of Jeffereys Bay. And if you have ever been there, you probably would not have noticed- just behind the surf shops is a township, where very poor people live. This whole province of the Eastern Cape is one of the most poverty stricken parts of our country.

It is a beautiful part of the country. One of the famous landmarks between Port Elizabeth (the southern most city in Africa- look it up…) and Jeffereys Bay is the Van Staden River Bridge. Amazing place. Unfortunately many people who have lost hope, has used this bridge to jump off and end their lives…

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We visited a lot of schools, meeting the learners, and learning about their lives…

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It is heartbreaking to see towns where unemployment is as high as 97%. The people have lost hope of ever finding a job again. The kids are living in these circumstances. They have big hopes and dreams. But many towns only have a primary school, and the nearest secondary school might be 100 km away, the hostels too expensive and bus transport unavailable or unaffordable. So many of these kids just get to leave school after grade 7, and go home sitting around, waiting for better days to come.

But now- the photo I wish I could have taken, but we were riding in formation…

There was this one kid in a squatter camp (shanty town). It was incredibly messy around, with lots of plastic and paper discarded around the tin houses. A bad place to grow up. But this one kid took a yellow plastic shopping bag, and some twigs. He found a piece of fishing line. He built himself a beautiful kite. And in the midst of all this squalor he was flying his kite in the breeze. He looked so happy…

 

Post post Camino blues

If I publish this, don’t read, just move on…

It is 03h33 on a Friday morning. I see it has been 2 months since my last entry into my blog.  Maybe I owe my 3 trusted readers an explanation.

The Camino de Santiago is one of life’s peak events. It takes you out of your normal world, and brings your whole existence back to basics. Eat, walk, pray and sleep.While eating wonderful local cuisine and meeting amazing people from around the world. the Camino is a training ground for the real walk of life.

In a sense the Camino prepares one for the difficult times that may follow.

And since my last blog post life was one hell of a bumpy ride.

I am a white South African. Afrikaans speaking. Born that way, nothing I can do about it. I live in South Africa with all it’s history. Good and bad. In a beautiful country with some of the most violent people imaginable. we have one of the highest murder rates in the world. Some people try to soften it with statistics. But in our country 57 people are murdered every day. It is just a number. Until it becomes one of your own included in that daily tally.

My brother in law was a peaceful man, who believed in the reconciliation between races with all his heart. He was a church leader teaching forgiveness and peace (as, I hope, am I…). He was a Professor in our language, and a very good poet. He played a huge role in many people’s lives, including mine.

One evening he and his wife came home after having a meal at my mother in law’s house. they live in a gated community that was supposed to be secure. They walked into a burglary in their home, by 7 armed men. They shot and killed him, and fled with a laptop computer and two cell phones.  Nothing has been heard since about any arrests. This is the daily experience of life in South Africa. Your life is not worth much more than a cell phone or a computer around here.  And through all the tears we have to keep on trying to build a broken country with hate filled people, forgiving and moving forward. Politicians argue about the crime statistics. You don’t give a damn if the murder rate is down 90% , if your family is included in the 10 %. But the murder rate does not come down, it is going up, and up, and up. I have a hard time dealing with this.

Two days later my daughter flew to China, to go and help teach English. I will see her again in a year’s time. She wrote a heart breaking post on facebook yesterday about not feeling safe in South Africa, and  being safe in a foreign land but missing home. And I miss her a lot. My eldest son is finishing his B.Comm degree, and then he wants to go back to the USA to drive combine harvesters. A farm laborer in America has a better income than a young graduate in South Africa. My second son is on a combine harvester in Canada at the moment. I will see him next (2019) December again. And the youngest is finishing high school next year.

So, dear reader- the Camino tried to prepare me for this. I just have to keep on walking through every day, just keep on step by step, till we reach a better place. But the black monster is back.  And- for the politically correct in South Africa and the USA- this is not a person with a certain skin color.

The Camino is such a lovely experience- nobody is shooting at you.

Now I must decide- delete or publish. I will probably push the wrong button…

 

 

Where did April go?

I had a very fast April. Before it really kicked off, the end whistle have blown.

But it was a good month. I have walked 105 km in preparation for our upcoming Camino, which now I can start describing as “next month…” Just a short while ago  it was still 100 days away, and now… 46 I think.

A lot of time of April went into a wonderful project.  We went to the West Coast of South Africa on our motorbikes as part of the Word Riders of South Africa, a yearly project of the Bible Society of South Africa. Each year we visit another part of South Africa, going to the rural schools, meeting with people off the beaten tracks. For the official blog of what we do- vist wordriders.wordpress.com

The West Coast of South Africa is a wildly beautiful, haunted, very dry place, with some of the most colorful people in our country.

I had an amazing time with my fellow Word Riders again this year.

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We have seen the sun setting over the Atlantic…
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We have drunk gallons of coffee…
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We rode some interesting roads…
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I had some amazing quiet times…
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and we discovered amazing places to eat… and have some more coffee.,..

April was wonderful, going so fast that I have never blogged at all. But I enjoyed it a lot, it was a good month in my journey of life…

And so the journey continues, onwards to Santiago…

Ultreia

 

 

 

Anniversary Breakfast Run

Today is my 28th Wedding Anniversary. So no walking today…

Today I took my bride on one of my favorite breakfast runs. It is a 300 km circle route in the Waterberg region, Limpopo province of South Africa. In this 300 km we only pass through 3 towns, 2 of them very small. The rest is scenic nature at it’s best…

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Like this… the beautiful entrance to the pass on the Mokopane (Potgietersrust) to Marken road… Biker’s heaven!

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When we rode this breakfast run, we stopped for coffee at the beautiful Vintage Lady Tea Garden on the curvy road from Naboomspruit (Mookgopong). You reach this Tea Garden  when turning onto the Sterkstroom road.

From there onwards, turn right at the Tinmyne (tin mines…) road, and left at the T junction between Mokopane and Marken.

We continued onwards, turning left on the Vaalwater road, and right at Melkrivier. We had a wonderful Mutton Curry at Eventieria. This place, a big cat sanctuary, is simply a must-see in South Africa. Lions, leopards, cheetahs and yes, tigers in Africa… click on the link to read that story… “One day when I am big, I want a TIGER!” Erich Venter…

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The famous South African author Deon Meyer said of our region there was only two good things: the hamburger at the Big 5 Restaurant in Vaalwater, and the way out of here. I beg to differ, although that hamburger is very good indeed. Big 5 is now Hunter’s Hide in Vaalwater.  Worth a visit, but not today. We rode on to Modimolle (Nylstroom)…

It was a 300 km breakfast run with my wife, on our trusty BMW R1150 GS (2000 model, still going strong!) .  When we have grandkids one day, this trip will still be worth boring them with….

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Fortunately my wife has not fed me to the crocodiles… yet…

PS:

The Breakfast Run: starting in Nylstroom (Modimolle) on to Naboomspruit (Mookgopong) onwards to Potgietersrust (Mokopane). About 15 km before Mokopane turn left on the Sterkrivier road, a beautiful road with nice sweeping curves. At 100 km from Nylstroom you get the Vintage Lady Tea Garden, and they do have excellent coffees and breakfasts. On to where the Tinmines road turn right, very good sweeping curves. But be careful, the T Junction is not very clearly marked, you will have trouble when approaching at 300 km/h! Turn left towards Marken. Enjoy the pass underneath Hanglip, not too far past the summit turn Left on the Vaalwater road, and later on right just pass Melkrivier, before the tar becomes gravel onwards to Modimolle. On the Vaalwater road Eventieria will be at about 203 km from Nylstroom. 30 km before Vaalwater. Spend some time here. Then in Vaalwater, turn left towards Nylstroom, another 60 km to go. This circle is about 298 km from Nylstroom around and back. You are welcome! Enjoy.

Where the H is Nylstroom? 130 km north of South Africa’s capital Pretoria. About 170 km north from O. R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg…

 

Misty Mountains rocks!

Our youngest had to play rugby for his school in Louis Trichardt today, a town 260 km away from  us. He wanted to travel with his team, staying with friends last night and leaving at 03h00 am with the school bus.

So my wife and I decided to make it a nice breakaway. We booked at Misty Mountains for Friday night.  The place is aptly named, as we drove through the thickest cloud of mist I have ever seen, with visibility cut short to only single meters ahead. It was really scary driving there, as South African rural drivers with unroadworthy vehicles abound. Vehicles suddenly looming out of the dark without any lights on, sometimes travelling at ridiculous speeds considering the low visibility,  that really scares me in our country.

But the B&B really proved to be great!  When we arrived, we found out that they did not have dinner options, and we really did not want to drive back through the dense fog to town. The owner  of Misty Mountains came to our rescue, telling us about the restaurant at the Mountain Inn Country Hotel not too far away.  We went there for dinner, and that was a real joy! It has an old English charm, with the table properly laid for a seven course meal. The prices were surprisingly affordable. I had a grilled pork neck dish, and my wife the Thai curry chicken. The food was excellent. We ended our meal with a cheese platter and some Dom Pedros.

We enjoyed the stay at Misty Mountains a lot.

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The owner also farms with proteas we discovered this morning when the fog lifted. Proteas are South Africa’s national flower.

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We also enjoyed visiting the town of Louis Trichardt.

As a huge supporter of non- franchised coffee shops we discovered and enjoyed Hennetjiesnes Coffee Shop (The Hen’s Nest), serving Lavazza coffee. The ambiance and service in this coffee shop is a delight! Remember to visit them whenever your road trip in South Africa reach Louis Trichardt on your way to Messina and onward to Zimbabwe…

The rugby match did not go our way…

Pack up your trouble… or not?

In the first World War a marching song from George Henry Powell became famous. “Pack up your trouble in your old kitbag, and smile, smile, smile…”

Well, maybe you needed a good rousing song to march of to the trenches at Ypres, and you definitely needed all the ammo and gear you could carry. Usually it was just a one way trip anyway for most…

These were some darker thoughts as I had a full kit hiking session in training for our upcoming Camino. There is a long uphill road out of our town, and I slogged it up with everything I plan to carry on the Camino. At the turning point at 5.5 km I stopped at the Wildevy Farmstall. They have a butchery there, and I asked them to weigh my backpack on their hanging scale. Including 1.5 l water in the hydration bag it came to 8.4 kg. Not bad! In 2011 I tried it with 14 kg, and that really got heavy after 25 km every day.

I remembered the one piece of wisdom of the Camino that I usually forget in real life. If you want to travel happy, travel light. I have the bad habit of overthinking everything, and buying extra stuff to cope with all possible eventualities.

But you can’t plan everything in life. And you don’t have to take every possible piece of equipment with on your journey.  And this is much more wisdom to live by than just planning to walk the Camino. It applies to everyday life.

Which brings me to my point: I tend to gather too much stuff along the journey of life. Not just things. Emotional baggage. Useless social media relationships.  One of the joys of walking is the time to reflect on my life.  Yesterday I decided my life needs some serious decluttering. It is time to get rid of things, and bad memories, and people wearing me down on my journey of life.

One of my first steps will be to use the unfriend and unfollow button on facebook mercilessly. I do not need all the drama of 1100 people every single day in my life.

I am also going to seriously unfollow some people on Twitter. I am sick and tired of South African racial politics and the endless blamegame.

Then I seriously need to start throwing old magazines away, and selling or donating some books.

So, troops of World War 1, I do not wish to pack my troubles in my old kit bag. I wish to unpack them, and throw them away, so that I am travelling light, with people adding joy and meaning to my life. Then I will smile, smile, smile some more…

 

Finding rest in Nature…

Our region is going through one of the toughest droughts in memory. Our town’s dam, the one we rely on for our drinking water, is at a level of 14%, with water already unreachable for use, and mostly unusable due to silt levels.

So when we heard that a little bit of rain was predicted for Friday night, we decided to go camping in the rain.

Sunset over the water of Donkerpoort Dam was spectacular through the clouds…

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As the weaterman predicted, the rain started at exactly 20h00, with a majestic show of lightning and thunder included in the deal. The tents kept us dry, and I had a good sleep with the sound of raindrops hitting the canvas.

On Saturday morning it was time for a hike even though it was drizzling softly.  We saw some hikers was on the road before us…

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I love the South African Bushveld, even in times of drought there are still beautiful scenery.

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One of the joys of walking is the unexpected beauty you tend to find when you just open your eyes to it…

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And so the journey continues… onwards to Santiago,

Ultreia!

The Pain and the Glory of Hiking

The Camino is now big news in South Africa with Erns Grundling’s television series. It sounds like a huge adventure to a lot of folks around here.  In our circles people are also getting excited that my wife and I are going.

Yes, the Camino is one of life’s peak experiences, no doubt about it.

It is always a metaphor for the journey of life for me. My own experience tells me that nothing that is really worth doing well is ever easy.

At the moment the preparation for our Camino is in the stage of providing a lot of pain.

I took a day of leave from my work to test my walking abilities, 3 months prior to the Camino, to see where I am at the moment fitness wise.  I set a new record today- the furthest I have walked since my Camino in 2011. It might not sound that far to more experienced hikers. But I am in my 50’s, and carry quite a few pounds too many body weight around.

This morning:

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There is quite an uphill out of our town in my chosen direction.  According to endomondo I have climbed more than 120 meters in 7.34 km. And then it was downhill back home. My old problem with blisters is appearing again, even while wearing comfortable boots and reasonable socks. I am trying the advice of rubbing my feet in methylated spirits after walking, I hope it will toughen my feet’s skin soon. I am good for 12 km at the moment, after that my legs and feet start hurting.

That is the painful part. But every hiker knows there is a reason why we keep on walking.  I live in a beautiful part of South Africa, surrounded by game farms filled with wildlife.

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6 km from my home there is this wonderful shop alongside the road- we South Africans love our “Padstal” or Farmstall.  This one is the “Wildevy” or Wild Fig Deli, named for the huge type of tree next to it. They sell meat products, as well as baked goods, and cold drinks. The specialty of this store is biltong (much better than jerky…) and ‘droëwors”- a dried sausage, much better than it sounds, try it if you ever visit South Africa.

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On my way back, at 9 km, it was so good to turn in to this store, and buy some Droëwors and an ice cold coke!

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This is why hiking is so rewarding- these moments of rest and reflecting while sitting on a tree stump. After this- the downhill back home did not hurt my feet that much…

The battle to get fit…

At the moment my wife and I are spending as much time as possible training for our Camino. I did reach a total of 106 km for February. I just don’t have time at the moment to do any more walking than that.

But we are experiencing some excellent times as a couple together, walking. This weekend we had a camp with our church in a beautiful South African bushveld setting.  On Saturday morning we did a 10.3 km hike on the very sandy road crossing the reserve. It was wonderful to see a lot of wildlife, and we specially enjoyed seeing the tracks of the dung beetles and huge shongololo’s (millipedes) as well as the tracks of some giraffes.

In this particular venue there are no Big 5 animals (lions, hippo, elephant, buffalo and rhino’s) so we were quite safe, but enjoyed nature at its best. I must confess that sandy paths really tires me a lot, I am not that hiking fit yet…

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