Eastern Cape Province, South Africa (Weeks 4 - 5) PART 2
Ah, the Eastern Cape! John became a pro beekeeper… or at least he was a good lackey. John’s uncle keeps bees as a hobby and it was harvesting time while we were there, so we got a little taste of what it is like to be a beekeeper. Debra (and the media) calls them “killer bees” because they are not nice and polite like Canadian bees (though some would disagree with using the terms “nice” and “polite” for any type of stinging creature). The African bees were actually dive bombing John and his uncle when they were collecting the honey, and they fought bravely for home and honey. Unfortunately, they lost, and we gained some 10 kilograms of golden deliciousness out of the six productive hives. Conveniently, there were only two beekeeping suits, so Debra did not get close, but she did take some great pics with her zoom lens. We also spent a lot of time visiting, and just driving around the area on the 4x4, enjoying the beautiful scenic routes of South Africa.
After a few days’ visit we went to see John’s cousins near East London. Here we went on a few hikes and took in the scenes of untamed greenery. It is so beautiful to be far in the woods where all you can hear is birds, rustling leaves, and various small critters scurrying around. Many ticks hitchhiked on our clothes, but luckily none found nice warm skin to burrow in.
Our last stop in the Eastern Cape was in Jeffreys Bay to visit John’s other grandma, Ouma Betsy. What a wonderful lady. She is blessed to live right along the coast in one of the best surfing spots in the world. Not only that, J-Bay’s beaches are big and beautiful, and if you are into scouring for seashells, then this is the place for you. We loved taking Ouma to the beach to go get some sun and really enjoyed the relaxed vibe of this small town. Also, the shopping is quite good; in fact, J-Bay has a Billabong factory outlet, so we got some great deals on otherwise pricey swag). We got a few traditional recipes from Ouma, and you should have heard the debate over what a proper tablespoon is (apparently, the correct term is “dessert spoon” in SA; the so-called table spoon is what Canadians/Americans would call a serving spoon). Needless to say, translating the recipes was a comedy of errors, and we hope that the finished products will taste like they are supposed to. Even if one doesn’t have family in this cozy coast town it is definitely a must-do for any trip to SA.
We decided to leave the heat of Elisras for cooler temperatures, so we headed inland to the metropolis of Newcastle. Similar to its UK counterpart, South Africa’s Newcastle is also a hub of steel manufacturing. More importantly, though, it is also the home of John’s great-grandmother, Ouma Marie. What an amazing woman! Currently 95, Ouma Marie is 100% blind, and has been so for almost 40 years. However, we are convinced that her mind is sharper than ours (she still remembers what she was doing in 1943). Her favourite hobby is crocheting, having completed 11 full-size tablecloths for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. This was the hardest good-bye, as one knows that at that age, and being so far away, each visit is a blessing! We spent each day laughing and telling stories. Our favorite was trying to explain to her how Skype works – Ouma was scandalized by the sophistication of technology, especially that we could see our family through the computer even though they were thousands of miles away.
Leaving Newcastle, we travelled down to Pietermaritzburg to visit John’s great-uncle and great-aunt. They are such an amazing and incredibly talented couple! We were able to check out his hatchery, where twice every week thousands of chicks hatch all at the same time, and they are sorted and sent to a chicken farm. Such cute little things… too bad we like chicken so much =)
In one of the photos, you will notice that we are in the kitchen, doing some cooking. What we are making is a South African delicacy known as koeksisters. It is a delicious, twisted piece of baking, saturated in syrup that tastes like heaven in your mouth. What a treat to make and eat!
DESTINATION #9: South Africa (Limpopo Province)
To our loyal followers: we apologize for the long gaps in between postings—the internet in this beautiful country does leave something to be desired. We will be doing a mass uploading in the next couple of days. Thanks, and enjoy!
Welcome to the final destination of our hundred-day journey: the wild land of South Africa. Not necessarily known for its political stability, yet also revered for its ability to adapt and change, the Rainbow Nation was on our must-do list of travel spots.
Because John’s family has lived in South Africa since 1665, this portion of our journey was about rekindling familial bonds and exploring the land of his birth. Because of this, some of the stories shared may not make for excellent commentary on travelling through SA, but will help to give you a glimpse of the diversity of this land.
We spent our first two weeks in the Limpopo Province, known for its heat and road construction. The first week we spent at a retirement village with Ouma & Oupa Myburgh, and we had such a good time. The wonderful thing about being in a retirement village is that nap time is almost mandatory – or at least noise is forbidden during that time – a unwritten law, but clearly understood, and boy did we love it! John also spent his 27th birthday here: significant because it has been at least 19 years since he had spent his birthday with his grandparents, and 19 years since he has had a braai (barbeque) on it, making it extra special. Oupa and Ouma took us for a wonderful visit to Klein Kariba, a wonderful resort with 3 heated pools and lots of beauty. Although we must say that a heated pool in Africa seems like a bit of overkill, one gets used to it. We hope that heated pools will maybe cross the Atlantic to Canada sometime soon…
After our restful introduction to Limpopo, we spent our second week in Elisras (recently renamed Lephalale) (close to the Botswana border) and although we did not get a picture of it, the temperature fluctuated from 40 to 50 ˚C—pretty freakin’ hot! When we were able to catch a bit of a breeze it felt like someone was holding a hair dryer to your face. At least it did cool down at night time… to about 30˚. Other than the heat, we had so much fun here. We were visiting John’s auntie and her family here. Each morning we slept in, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening visiting and laughing. A definite highlight: Aunt W’s automated espresso machine. Just one more thing to buy when we have real jobs again…
Barcelona was the unexpected gem along our travels. Initially we were only planning on passing through, but at the recommendation of our travel agent, we switched our plans to stay for a few days, and were we ever glad! Other than the fact that our brains were incredibly confused by having a different language and culture every 4 days, we had a blast! The great thing about Barcelona is that it is very laid back, and has an incredible efficient public transportation system which takes a lot of frustration out of travelling.
If you ever go to Barcelona you will quickly realize the influence that Antoni Gaudi had on this city. His practice of modernista art revolutionized the architecture of Barcelona. An engineer and designer, Gaudi was truly a man before his time. Sagrada Familia, a cathedral that he designed in 1883, is by far Gaudi’s most magnificent achievement. After travelling all over the world we think we could say this is the most beautiful church we have ever seen. They are still constructing it according to his plans from 1883, and it is not scheduled to be completed until 2030, due to the complexity and intricacy of his designs for it. Gaudi planned each aspect of the building—from the colors, to where the light shines in, to its location in the city—all with a symbolic purpose. Large donations have been made to continue this project, but after seeing many churches full of gold and expensive artifacts, it would seem that the money spent on Sagrada Familia has not been merely for extravagance, but rather for the glory of God. Whether you consider yourself a believer or not, at the very least this building will awe you\
The beaches beautiful aspect of Barcelona; however, we have very few pictures due to the fact that women go topless here. We will give you an important hint though – it is often not the young and pretty who show their wares, so don’t get too excited!
Barcelona is also great for shopping and night life. It is such a vibrant university city with friendly people and many excellent attractions, making it a great tourist destination and an excellent place to unwind and experience Catalonian culture. Another important hint: Barcelona is in a region called Catalonia, which considers itself to be an independent state from Spain. Spanish is second to Catalan there, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that Spanish will get you in the locals’ good books. Many Catalonian are very passionate about their independence from the so-called “Spanish invaders.” That being said, Barcelona should be a must-do on your list of places to visit.