Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Johannesburg - South Africa

The Place: Took a trip to Johannesburg to see my folks for Christmas and catch up with my buddies from school. Great to the see the few that I could. Unfortunately couldn't catch up with everyone in the fast-moving but fun five days.
Met most buddies at 'The Boomhuisie' which is a typically South African restaurant decorated in funky artwork, african design, and other novelties including a Volksy bus parked thru the wall with the front sticking into one dining room and the back into another. Also as the name says, a tree house stands proud and lit up outside the entrance.
Went to see my buddy Shaun and his fiance Leigh at a Christmas Charity lunch at Dorah's Arc in Roodepoort. Met their kid Nicholas. They played an active role in organising and preparing a cooked lunch for roughly 500 underprivileged people. The lunch was a huge success (after many unforeseen problems they had to overcome) and the kids and adults all ended the day with big smiles, hugs, handshakes and full stomachs. Particularly touching were the songs they sang including Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrica.
Had a delicious Christmas meal with my family on Christmas day after many gift exchanges, before heading back to London that evening.

Rust de Winter - South Africa

The Place: About three hours from Johannesburg, took a trip in a landie to spend a day of knee boarding with Ian, Robin, and Ian's father Steve and brother Michael on Rust de Winter dam, a really secluded dam. It's a great spot for fishing and the water is clean and inviting. Although you may find yourself wiping leaches off your feet after standing for too long in the shallow water.
Was a great day of braaing, waterskiing and swimming in the sunshine.
Stange observation: Spotted a waterbuck with only one horn on the banks of the river.

The Bush - South Africa

The Place: A trip on the wild side roughly an hour outside Johannesburg.
Took a drive thru a lion park with my sister Lauren and Mark. In one of four lion camps, all with about six lions, they keep white lions which are a magnificent sight (especially the massive blonde mane of the dominant male).
We saw one stupid tourist try to get better pics by driving closer to the lions (off the road). On entering the lion's resting ground he had 2 large females attack his bakkie. After getting bored of trying to jump on the bakkie, one lion lay down again but this time boxing in the overeager photographer by resting between his vehicle and the road. After about 5 minutes, the lion got up and walked out of his way, but as the guy drove off one of the lions actually jumped front paws onto the back of his bakkie, running after him with his back legs!
Outside of the lion camps, they keep a variety of game including zebra, giraffe, gemsbok, springbok, impala and ostriches. Part of the attraction of the park is a lion cub petting zoo where the public get to play with the cubs. It's legal 'till the cubs reach 8 months old, afterwhich the playful cubs become too strong for the safety of tourists.
Though the experience of the lion park is not as authentic and grand as a game drive in the Krugerpark, it's great to know that if you're pressed for time (like I was, having only 5 days in Joburg), there's a selection of wildlife parks within an hours drive from the city.
Strange observation: If you look at the line of trees closely, you'll notice that the leaves of the whole row of trees stop in a dead straight line. That line is the height of the giraffes, since they eat every leaf within their reach off the trees.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Cape Town - South Africa

The Place: Back home to the mother city, spent an awesome week in Cape Town, to meet old friends, great weather and good times.
Some Highlights: Entering as one of the crew (me being more of a spectator) in a sailing regatta at the Royal Cape Yacht Club with Rob and four others. We didn't do so well but being out on the water on the yacht was great, and offered an excellent view of table mountain and lions head.
Nick entered the downwind dash from Rivermouth to Doodles in Tableview. Anneli and I supported and followed the sky collage of kites and sails to the finish after which Nick and I went for a windsurf at sunset beach.
Party at Rob, Fro, and Rosie’s. They organised a pool party where they bought a portable pool for the back garden. Had sangria in the pool wearing wetsuits (cause of the windchill factor). Braaied up a storm (with Fro as braai master). Had an energetic ‘Fill Up 97’ reunion jam with Rob, Fro, and Melike, and then danced the night away. Great fun!
Went for a morning surf (7am) at Muizenberg with Rob, Fro, Anneli and Melike in the Revel adventures combi. A morning surf always has to end with breakfast at Empire Café, great crunchies, muffins and coffee!
After another surf the next day went on a wine route in Constantia to Steenberg and Klein Constantia wine farms. Free tastings, good wines, and great surroundings!
Good times.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Laax - Switzerland

The Place: The team being (in pic from left to right), Dimitri (aka Gunter but his friends call him Pehter), Mike (aka Gustav), Dean (aka Shhtephan), Sean (aka Hans) and me (aka Claus), set off for a legendary ski/snowboard weekend in Laax (about one and a half hours drive from Zurich airport).
Some highlights: Getting to the slopes to find that only one slope (the Plaun - red/black) is open for my first outdoor snowboard session. After many wipeouts, bruises, somersaults and ribcrunches I got the hang of it. The day was a steep learning curve but loads of fun.
Invaluable practice at carving on the second day when a second slope opened up (blue – easier) which meant that Gunter (but his friends call him Pehter) got his first skiing session and I got to practice my carving.
Pehter and Shhtephan wiping out on the button lift and having to hike up the slope thru knee deep snow (an exhausting and prize worthy challenge).
Hans wiping in front of Gustav, who had to superman dive over him to avoid collision, somehow managing to clear both himself and his skis over his fallen race companion.
Great nights out in Laax (although with limited energy and battered bodies).
‘The Glacier’ slope which was only open on our 3rd skiing day. This slope had an incredible view from the top. The air actually glittered with snow flakes and the slopes were soft, wide and seemingly never-ending (in the best possible sense). We all got to do some of our best work with Hans spraying up a snowboard wake and landing some great jumps, Gustav picking up pace on his skis and cam cording the others while still in motion, Shhtephan practicing his 360 turns and jumps, Pehter getting into his groove on his skis and me practicing carving and picking up the pace.
The climax: We decided not to take a lift from the glacier slope down to the first slope but rather to ski down the mountain on an 'blue' slope. We thought being blue it would be easy but it turned out that most of the slope was ungraded. We had to follow other peoples tracks. Failure to do so resulted in wiping out in the soft powder, which is near impossible to get out of since you just sink when trying to pick yourself up. This meant keeping a high speed to make the uphills and avoid stopping and getting stuck. We reached great speeds, flew over ramps, hopped off ledges and wiped out a few times in the soft waist deep powder. We eventually arrived at the bottom ski lift, thankful that we weren't stuck in the middle of the mountain, and psyched that it turned into such an adventure!