Saturday, 18 January 2014

One countryside to another!

       It has been discovered that Great Britain, the island, is one and a half times further away from the equator than Cape Town in South Africa! That might explain the difference in average temperatures! But nevertheless, Great Britain is in the northern hemisphere and Cape Town in the southern hemisphere and Christmas in Britain is cold, but in South Africa it’s summer!

     It was a privilege and an absolute delight and joy to be able to join our own little family in the KwaZulu Natal Midlands of South Africa over Christmas 2013. Our son and his wife drove the 1500km (940miles) from Somerset West in the Western Cape, to KwaZulu Natal on the east coast. That’s about 70 miles further than the length of Britain - Lands End to John ‘O Groats!! It’s a trip that can be done in one go taking about 13-18 hours, but they did it in a few days, enjoying a couple of wayside stops on the road.

     They arrived at our daughter’s home a few hours before we did. But we had travelled 12 100 km (7510 miles) and it had taken us 15 hours of flying time, plus the waiting to board, the stop-over in Dubai and the queues going through customs, and the 90 minute drive from King Shaka airport to the Midlands!

     We’d left home on the east coast of England at 3pm on Monday 16th and were hugging our children at 7.30pm on Tuesday 17th! But we were happy to be all together and enjoyed a wonderful, sunny, Christmas period eating, talking and generally rocking an eight-week old grandson to sleep!

     Having spent over 10 years in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands we’d seen the sights so sight-seeing came way down the list after family time. But it was really encouraging to see small businesses that we’d seen start, still going and growing.  Piggly Wiggly was a simple farm stall way back then, to which was added a small cafĂ© which is now a restaurant where you have to wait for a table at peak times! Around the simple thatch building surrounded by farming fields, grazing sheep and cattle, is a village of craft shops in a kraal-like formation with children’s play structures and tables and chairs in the central grassed area.  

     Some places never change, like my favourite Culamoya Chimes with the giant chimes in the garden, standing like gallows on the edge of the garden; the famous Howick Falls and its tourist African market couldn’t be missed so another Howick Falls photo with another year’s date!

     We were house-sitting in Pietermaritzburg, about 15 minutes drive from our daughter’s home, and each trip back ‘down the hill’ took us through a local African community. After a few passes, we noticed that in the gardens of each of the brick / breeze block built homes, was a traditional ‘rondavel’ – a round house traditionally made with local materials such as sand, stone, soil and cow dung! There’s always plenty of that around! Motorists instinctively know to drive slowly as the cows grazing along the roadside could decide to cross the road to sweeter grass at any time, and knowing they are bigger and stronger than most average size vehicles, they don’t look before they cross! The residents walk around the cows and just have to be aware how close the cow’s horns are as they share the grassy verge!
(Shutterstock pic) 

     Our home for the two weeks had a river at the bottom of the garden, a wooden children’s adventure structure, lots of garden, a pool (outside, cold water, of course!), a ‘Secret Garden’, and a thatch roofed ‘lodge’ so close to the running river that waking up in the morning, we weren’t sure if it was the river or if it was pouring with rain!

(View from The Lodge's balcony)

     Our visit was essentially for family, but some visits to special friends had to be made; it was a pity we couldn’t see more of them, but two weeks is just so short.

     *  At ‘auntie’ Gwen and ‘uncle’ Nigel’s garden cottage on a hilltop overlooking Pietermaritzburg, Meg got to photograph the Vervet Monkeys playing in the trees and figuring out how to get the banana out of the bird’s nut feeder!

     *  At Alida & Mike’s we sat outside on their beautiful verandah with a large hippopotamus lurking in the corner – OK so it was made of wood, but it was gorgeous!  And we got to be adored by their lovely dog Maggie!

     *  At Penny & John’s we sat on their verandah high above the Amber Valley and watched the red bishops swoop and feed. (See this link for more photos by Meg)
     *  At Kim & Steve’s we relaxed and chatted again on their verandah high over the green valley below, until time for the family photo-shoot!  

     *  It was super to sit with ‘old’ friends – both ‘old’ as in from school days (Sandi) and ‘old’ as in years (‘Auntie’ Dulcie)!

     The charity shop around the corner from our temporary home, opened after Christmas break, just before we left, and what a well-stocked Hospice shop it was! Books and books and rows and rows of books! Having distributed a few Christmas gifts, I felt quite able to add a few books to my luggage, plus a lovely nursery rhyme book for little Michael!  And a last trip to a real second-hand, dusty, jumble warehouse of junk, to bring home a little jar for R5 (50p)!  

     After two weeks of sunshine it was back to a rainy Heathrow airport, with a scary landing where the big 777 plane struggled to stay in the middle of the runway and desperately tried to avoid side-sweeping onto the grass on either side! 

Daily Mail

Precious memories!

And I didn't mention Midmar Dam or the Mandela Monument ......! !