Sunday, April 18, 2010

Postings from Pretoria #32

18 April 2010

Hello there... Rodger French here.

Photo Update Alert:


It is with mixed feelings that I report a general settling down around our house. The good news is, I’ve started to work again at the Embassy (in my sixth position there) and am enjoying having virtual money regularly appearing in my actual checking account. The sort-of-sad news is, our excellent excursions in Southern Africa are unavoidably winding down.

Not that we’re finished entirely, of course; but between preparing for (a) the World Cup coming to ZA in June and (b) our imminent departure to Washington, DC in September, serious touristic expeditions are inevitably going to be harder to arrange.

Our most recent trip, which took place over Easter weekend, was to the Mbotyi River Lodge in the Eastern Cape; which is, incidentally, the province where Nelson Mandela was born. We started out from Durban, where we rented a car, and proceeded on an epic drive through some of the most beautiful countryside we’ve yet seen: Rolling hills covered in sugar cane giving way to fields of maize, forests of eucalyptus, and tea plantations. Stunning. And epic, because of (a) less than ideal directions and (b) the fact that Easter weekend is when the roads in ZA are most crowded.

Indeed, we were stuck in traffic in the small towns of Flagstaff (really) and Lusikisiki, surrounded my throngs of people trying to board minibus taxis to take them to wherever. But apart from the strain of avoiding running down Kamikaze pedestrians, it was a pretty nice scene. Everyone was in fine holiday spirit, even at the petrol stop, where we were treated to the sound of a taxi full of ladies dressed in white spontaneously breaking into song.

The final part of the drive, scenery aside, was quite stressful: 20 km of VERY bad road, much of it in the dark. Our rental, a mid-size saloon car, performed admirably, albeit at an average speed of roughly 12 km (7.5 mi) per hour. But make it, we did; and in time for dinner.

[Sidebar: I sincerely regret that we were unable to take more photoz of the countryside, but photography was relegated to a distant 3rd place behind my relentless scanning for potholes and A.J.’s probability-based navigating.]

The next morning, we were able to check out just where in the world we ended up. The Lodge overlooks 1km of beautiful Indian Ocean beach at the Mbotyi River tidal estuary in an area known as the Pondoland Wild Coast. It’s a beautiful place and a regular destination for families looking for sun, surf, and fishing. It being Easter, the joint was packed, making for a colourful cultural experience. The beach was ideal for strolling and the ocean perfect for splashing about. We even saw dolphins frolicking just beyond the breakers.

All in all, a very nice weekend, although we still had to drive back out the bad road on Easter Sunday and then make haste to Durban in order to avoid an extra day’s charge on the car. But make it, we did; and with (I kid you not) exactly one minute to spare.

[Special Sidebar - Durban Sports Notes: We got a good look at the new Green Point Stadium, built expressly for the FIFA 2010 World Cup. As stadia go, it is magnificent and will look terrific on the TV.

Also, you may not know that baseball is very popular in Durban, particularly within the Indian community. In fact, we drove by the McCarthy Toyota Baseball Park, which sports several diamonds and was packed with kids. Not playing cricket.]