In Indian society, every older unrelated male is an uncle and older unrelated female an aunty (not aunt, aunty). Your real uncle and aunts are given their designations by the relationship they come to be your real aunts and uncles by. Your mother’s brothers are your Mamas and your father’s sisters your Poowas. Or Foi or Aatha depending on the dialect you speak. And you then also have big dads and big moms for the eldest uncles and aunts. Everyone else who is older is designated uncle or aunt and then their name. The neighbour, Aunty Saras (not to be confused with the neighbour-aunty, Saras) or Uncle Sagren who lives down the road. When, as an Indian kid, you don’t know someone by their name you default to some attribute of how they look or what they do with and added uncle or aunty at the front. So the Fowl Aunty was the lady who provided fresh chickens on a Saturday morning, Fisher Uncle or Uncle Fishy was a good fisherman and the Milk Uncle drove the van that sold bread and milk and sweets that came around at 3 o’ clock every afternoon. That’s probably how my mother ended up being the Basket Aunty and then the Sweet Aunty. Continue reading “My mom, the Basket Aunty…”
So full 2 weeks of the New Year have come and gone. If you are still holding on to your resolutions good on you! If have already you broke them for whatever reason, well you only 2 weeks in so you can always wake up, shout “Mulligan!” and start over. If you didn’t make any, you do you as best as you can, because you never know who’s watching and looking up to you! My resolution for 2018 is actually something along those lines, but before we get there some background.
Sweating through Soweto
Every year, early in November, thousands of people gather to run through the streets of Soweto. Some run farther than others, some faster and some, like me, much slower. The strange thing, I am told, is that they are not running from anything. No dogs or policeman. The absolute definition of insanity apparently. I must say though that by the end of this year’s race I really was questioning my state of mind, like many of the spectators who lined the streets were as well!
Winter came early in South Africa this year. Or maybe the warmer winter last time around made us forget that it does actually get cold here in the southern tip of the continent. For 9 months of the year perhaps, we are a very out door oriented nation. Actually no its 12 months of the year. But for 9 months of the year the weather allows it and for 3 months of the year its questionable to say the least. So when we decided to go camping in Clarens, in the foot hills of the Maloti mountains at the end of May we didn’t actually give a second thought to the weather and what being outside exposed to the elements would actually entail. A boys weekend camping in the Golden Gate National Park and rafting down the Ash River sounded boss when we thought of it in January. In the middle of summer. When it was still warm and we could feel our fingers.
For me the decision was doubly easy. The Golden Gate National Park is on the list of Sanparks operated national parks that I am busy ticking off in my 3 year challenge to visit all of them. So it would be park number 10 of 21 and I would be half way through the challenge, half way through the time I have allowed myself. A no brainer really. I had been to the park previously so knew that more than anything it was about the landscapes that I would see as the animals are pretty scarce. And not doing it alone would be a bonus for a change. And the landscapes didn’t disappoint!
The foothills of the northern Maloti mountains, the same mountain range that extends into Lesotho, are quite stunning, with different shades of yellow and red and pink standing out. The BrandWag (I think this translates to fireman) Buttress is probably the most striking and stands as a sentinel at the entrance to the Glen Reenen Rest Camp that we camped at. The clear winter air gave my photos a beautiful crisp look in the late afternoon sun. But it also meant the temperature remained crisp most of the day as well and once the sun set that crispness turned into coldness very quickly.
Ok maybe I exaggerate a little bit. It was cold in the last week of May when we visited the national park. But two weeks earlier the first major cold front of winter swept through the interior of South Africa and actually dropped snow in the mountains of the park. Snow in the first week in May was probably early but luckily when we got there it was dry. So it was cold yes, but it could have been much worse I think. The first night (Friday night) was a bit of a shock to the system though. We got there after dark and the weather seemed pleasant enough as we pitched the tent and set about making camp. However as the night went on it became increasingly colder and colder. The time passed though with great conversation around the campfire until it was time to tuck into the sleeping bag with an extra blanket.
The second night was better though, even though the temperature got low enough for frost to settle on the outside of the tent. A large part of it was because the day was filled with adrenaline, white water rafting on the Ash River. It is ironic that sometimes questioning your own mortality makes you feel the most alive. This is most probably the reason so many people jump off bridges and out of planes. Only jumping off bridges and out of planes is drier and probably warmer. The rafting started off dry enough, with a paddle on the out on the still water of the dam at the outlet of the Ash River. But once we were over the dam wall it began to get interesting. We were soaked by the first rapid. Then we had a little time to dry off just enough to feel warm again before being soaked by the next set of rapids. By the time we got to half way we had all questioned our mortality as well as our sanity a few times I’m sure.
But eventually we got to a section of calmer river where the guide said people would normally swim in the summer. When the water was warmer. And it wasn’t two days before the winter closed season began. We were soaked already though. So how much colder could it be right? I found out that it could have been near death colder. I back flipped (or flopped actually) into the dark water of the Ash River and almost immediately regretted it. My body almost immediately tensed up and I sank below the water in slow motion. Like in the movies when anyone falls into the water, the world went semi-mute and the dappled light filtered through. I felt I should not have been sinking so much, especially with a life jacket on. I should have been floating. But I kept falling backwards, shouting inside my own head. Then suddenly I was up at the surface again, half shocked at what I had done and more than half frozen. But fully alive and kicking! Like I said, somehow questioning your mortality makes you feel more alive sometimes!
Overall a great adventure, camping in freezing cold, rafting down through 7 rapids with a great bunch of guys, braaing, campfires and great conversation. And a few terrific shots to boot! Number 10 of my Sanparks Challenge done, 11 more to go!
Our guide stopped to allow me to take a picture of the Waterberg Mountains. While I got my camera settings correct in the dim light of the cloudy morning he explained to the other two guests on the drive that the mountains that surround the Marakele National Park were very rich in iron ore. The name of the closest town, Thabazimbi, even translates directly to mountains of iron. And it was because of the high iron ore content in the mountains that the area was know to experience some of the most dramatic electric storms in the country. Which explained a whole lot because, the evening before, driving through to the town of Thabazimbi I got to experience one of those legendary storms first hand. Continue reading “Journey to the iron mountains…”
I woke up apprehensive on Monday morning. We were moving to a new office which meant additional traffic and therefore waking up earlier to learn the routes needed to get in to work. But, like most Monday’s I also woke up with a yearning to escape the routine of going to work and then coming back home, even though it would be a little different. It is Steve Jobs who said something to the effect that if your answer to “Is this something I want to be doing if this were my last day?” becomes “No” for too many days in a row then something’s got to change. And so I decided that perhaps I needed a little escape and with that made up my mind to make a mid-week dash to the Kruger National Park. Continue reading “Gentleman of the road”
The second part of my post on my home town was going to be on the things one should do when visiting Durban. After all, while I may still call Durban home, very soon its not going to be my home town anymore. I’m going to be one of the Vaalies (if indeed I haven’t already become one) who only visits during school holidays to make the roads busier, fill up the malls and make visiting the beach impossible. As soon as I was done writing part 1 of 2, I edited the feature image and wanted to dive right in and have this post done immediately. Then I got to planning and thinking about it and I came to a rather disheartening conclusion. Continue reading “I’m coming home…part 2 of 2”
My favourite things to do in Cape Town
Do you remember when you were still in school, one of the first things you’d have to do upon your return after either the summer or winter breaks was to write a composition on “My vacation”. Mine were pretty much standard for most of my primary schooling, mostly because summer and winter holidays were almost always spent at my grandfather’s house. Or as we liked to call it, the farm. And we mostly did the same things, no single activity stands out now but collectively the best years of my childhood. So I wrote the same thing with increasing complexity for pretty much all of my primary schooling career.