Category Archives: TRAVEL

COOKING  CURRY


The Virus/Lockdown Combo   induced a sort of writers’ lethargy in me, dropping a thick blanket of torpor upon me, smothering my energy. I never knew what day of the week it was, and found it hard to concentrate. I noticed other bloggers  complaining about  the same deadening effect. With the slow reduction of our lock-down, a beam of sanity is creeping in. I plan on re-cycling a few older posts. My readership has changed enormously over the years, so most of you will not have read  this food/TV  post, dating back to 2015. Enjoy!

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I watched a BBC cooking show, a series called Rick Stein’s India which gave us all the colour, dust, crowds, gaudy festivals, temples, gorgeous saris, elephants, and palaces you could ever wish for. An absolute feast for the eye. My favourite street scene shows an elephant slowly ambling along a road bordering a street market, and at each stall the vendor steps forward and offers one item – mostly fruits – from his stall, which the elephant gracefully scoops up with a curled trunk, while the vendor makes a Namaste and a slight head bow.

In amongst this, the pink and perspiring Mr Rick Stein, notebook in hand, camera-man at his shoulder, valiantly researched South Indian cuisine, Rajasthani delights, on and on he went, through humble home kitchens, hole-in-the-wall kitchens in cities,  no bigger than a broom cupboard, tucked down side-streets, manned by sweating cooks turning out their speciality – just the one dish, there literally being no room to produce more than one. He ate street food (and there were never any references to the dreaded Delhi Belly, he must have a very strong stomach!). He ate in a restaurant run by a Maharajah, who personally cooked ‘Jungly Mas’ for him – a simple dish consisting of goat, water, salty, ghee and chillies. He ate at the Indian school equivalent to Eton. He ate at the Golden Temple, in  Amritsar, where thousands are fed daily – food is cooked in vast vats over open wood fires, by bare-chested, lunghi-clad old men.

No matter where he ate, the theme seldom varied: curry. Sometimes it was vegetarian curry, sometimes fish, but often it was goat curry, masquerading as lamb, called lamb, and never referred to as goat. I gathered that sheep didn’t do well in India. Imagine those thick woolly fleeces in that terrific heat!

He conducted an earnest enquiry during his travels, as to whether Indians use the ubiquitous word ‘curry’ and if so, what they meant by the term?  Apparently in Britain, the word curry covers practically any hot and spicy main dish, produced by immigrant families in takeaways, in the local High Street; accompanied by naan bread  and lots of lager.

It transpired that most Indians were quite happy to use the word curry, although – strictly speaking – the work means ‘gravy’. But it seems that ‘curry’ has entered the many languages of India, and is widely use, to cover main dishes ranging from the most subtly fragrant to the most inflammatory chilli. One Indian gentleman, a famous cook in India, discoursed eloquently and scornfully on the horrors of “Indian Curry Powder”, the boxed variety brought home from colonial service, to dear old Blighty, by the British. His condemnation of commercial curry powder was a joy to listen to! Indian cooks, of course, buy and grind their spices daily, at home, depending on the dish they’re making. I have to agree, that boxed curry powder (Rajah Curry here in South Africa) while quick and easy is always too hot. I don’t like blow-your-sox off fiery curries, I prefer spicy, deep flavoured curries.

So: inspired by Mr Stein, I hauled out my cookery books and made a tasty cauliflower curry for lunch yesterday. It’s quite a fiddly process, what with the chopping up of the veg, the discovery that I do not have fenugreek, or ground clove in my spice drawer, the garlic is finished, and so on – back to the shops yet again. But the results were worth it, and I have a nice stash of curry dinners tucked away in my freezer.

I can’t resist a bargain, especially in the cash-strapped month of January, so I bought vast quantities of tomatoes which suddenly appeared at Food Lovers’ Market at literally give-away prices, and I’ve found a recipe for tomato and hardboiled egg curry.   Hardboiled eggs, oddly enough, go well in a curry sauce. Sounds good to me!

 

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Filed under FOOD, TRAVEL, TV SHOWS

HELDERBERG NATURE RESERVE


Early in the New Year, Nina & I drove to Somerset West and enjoyed a stroll and a picnic in the Helderberg Nature Reserve. What a lovely day we had ! Refreshing green lawns, plenty of benches under shady trees.

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A stroll through shady woodland, efficiently equipped with yet another green bench, where we sat enjoying the play of sunlight on the foliage, and listened to the birds calling. Very soothing indeed.IMG_4593P (003)

 

The reserve also offers a pretty lake, covered in blue and white water lilies. We admired the scene, walking a short distance along the circular boardwalk. By now it was a hot afternoon, not ideal for long walks.

 

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After our picnic lunch, we ambled around and discovered an enormous tortoise stomping across the lawn, systematically grazing on what was obviously its favourite, a low growing weed or herb.

 
Excited little kids spotted the animal, and rushed up to tentatively pat its shell, but the tortie didn’t bat an eyelid, didn’t shoot back into its shell, just kept on grazing in a determined fashion, stomping forward on a clearly pre-determined route. Ultimately it reached a bed of agapanthus, lumbered into the plants and disappeared. I reckon it’s a permanent resident, and the agapanthus bed was home base.

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That wasn’t the end of the wildlife. The next piece of excitement was the arrival of a red duiker that emerged from the long grass around the hiking trail, and streaked across the lawns at speed. I half expected to see a predator (there are leopards in the area) or at least a runaway dog in pursuit, but nothing else burst into view before our surprised eyes. Enough excitement for one afternoon.

 

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After a quick caffeine refuel stop in the reserve’s quaint little restaurant, we navigated cautiously through the maze of suburban streets until we stumbled upon the highway exit. One advantage of this slow exit was that I had plenty of time to admire the brilliant cerise bougainvillea tumbling over garden walls, in between  glimpses of deep blue plumbago bushes and luxuriant gardens. The soil in Somerset West must be excellent, because we passed magnificent gardens. The main road to the town is lined with white, pink and red oleander bushes, all blooming profusely, despite the hot, windy summer weather.
As we left the area, we were treated to the spectacle of waterfalls of white clouds cascading down the distant blue mountain ranges. Nina’s dramatic picture captures the unusual sight. Usually clouds fall over the top of Table Mountain in a solid white drape, hence their nickname “the tablecloth” so the waterfall effect was very different.IMG_4641s (002)

All in all: a wonderful outing!

NB: pics courtesy of Nina Ganci, except for bench pic.

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CHRISTMAS IN KWAZULU NATAL


When I leave King Shaka airport, there’s no question that I’ve arrived In Kwa-Zulu Natal. I’m still trying to get my head around the combo of Zulu dolls next to reindeer, but ’tis the Season of Goodwill, so this is no time to niggle.

 

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As is normal in December,  the Summerveld area is either shrouded in mist, chilly and drizzly or else blazingly, tropically hot. I can’t say I enjoy the Mist Belt climate. Sunny, windy Cape Town suits me better!

 

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The family wear silly Christmas hats, festive cheer abounds, and a good time is had by all.

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The cherry on top of my Christmas visit was having the resident cat cosily curled on my pillow. Such a  relaxing pic!

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I hope your Christmas was equally relaxing and /or wildly festive, whichever is your   preference.

And now its almost time to say: HAPPY NEW YEAR!  May 2020 be a peaceful and happy year.

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NOSTALGIA AT DUNN’S CASTLE


Another February travel piece belatedly staggers into print  …
If  live in the Western Cape and  have ever wondered where our bread comes from, wonder no more, because we drove through huge areas planted with wheat, rolling wheatfields as far as the eye could see, in the Swartland area.

Helen and I drove around this area in February, exploring small towns en route, notably Piketberg and Porterville. I think my favourite discovery in Piketberg was a small garage on the outskirts of the town, named Voortrekker Garage.

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The faded wall picture of a 1930s type car, said it all. There was no plate glass, no fancy cars parked outside, this was strictly about fixing broken down cars. I found the name amusing, because the doughty Voortrekkers owned no cars, their was an era of ox wagons, a pre-car agricultural age.

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The other Piketberg building that I loved, because of its colour, was the old Synagogue painted a pretty baby pink colour. I loved the pink colour contrasted with the bright blue sky above the hilltops. As my bad photo shows, synagogue on the left.  In actuality the pink colour is more pronounced than in  my photo, despite my efforts to tinker with it.  Now the building serves as a Museum, but in its heyday it served the immigrant European  Jewish farming population.

Our overnight stop was at Dunn’s Castle . If you follow the link you’ll find a splendid night-shot of the imposing frontage. https://www.kwathabeng.co.za/go/dunnscastle.html
What the website doesn’t show you is the narrow, torturous road that wound up a very sizeable hill to the castle.

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We opted to stay inside the castle itself, and not in the modern conference block. As my pics show, it was a nostalgia trip of note. Both of us kept saying: look at this! And pointing to an antique sewing machine, or a 1950s style radiogram – most Rhodesian homes had a radiogram, in the late ‘50s.

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My vast bedroom‘s bow-fronted window looked out onto the rolling hills and wheatfields.

 

IMG_20190214_073807.jpgThe wooden strip flooring creaked gently, and the prettily carved wooden wardrobe smelled deliciously of mothballs – of course it did.

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Best of all, hiding behind a wooden screen was a ball and claw enamel bathtub, and alongside was a lavatory with a de rigeur pull chain flush from the wall mounted cistern. What memories these evoked! Farm bathrooms and toilets, back in the early 1950/60s. All lavatories had wall mounted cisterns with a dangling chain, usually much too high for kids to reach, and in some cases, short adults, i.e. me.

We loved our trip back in time. The food and service at Dunns Castle : not so much. Lets leave it at that and focus on the nostalgia.

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POTTERING INTO PORTERVILLE


 

 

 

 

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As we enter into Porterville and slowly drive down the main road Helen asks me what day it is? Fair question. When you’re on holiday the days blur into each other. I tell her its Thursday. “Oh!” she says, “for a moment I thought it must be Sunday. Where is everybody?”
Another good question. Its mid-morning, on an oven-hot day, 40 degrees Centigrade, we later discover. Not a car in sight. Way down the street, one man leaning languidly against a wall, smoking.
We locate my artist friends’ home, and spend two hours outside, sitting under a shady pepper tree, feasting on tiny sticky figs, a selection of cheese and crackers, and absorbing gallons of tea. Our hosts are seemingly unfazed by the extreme heat and enthuse over the benefits of living in a tiny country town. Peace and quiet, minimal crime, spacious properties, lower cost of living, and still within a 90 minutes drive from urban fun in Cape Town. Plus a weekly farmers’ market, which truly is a local affair, and the source of today’s figgy treat.
They assure us that the extreme heat is only for 6 weeks or so, and the rest of the year is very livable. I’ll take their word for it.

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Driving away with the aircon going full blast, we paused briefly to take pics of an extraordinarily grand church, which reminded me of a wedding cake. My attention was caught by the pillars. But heat fatigue curbed our enthusiasm for more sightseeing and happy snaps.

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THE RED BOOK ENGINE


Midway through our Open Garden viewing in Elgin, we stopped at Peregrine Farmstall for lunch. Tramping around gardens left us with an urgent need for refuelling and Peregrine was the perfect place. The Farmstall is renowned for its pies and when I’d finished my big Springbok pie, I could quite see why . It was crammed full of spicy meat, the flaky pastry was light and golden , just like you hope it will be, and seldom is! In short: the perfect pie.
After lunch we wandered into the garden for a smoke break, and to my surprise, this is what I found.

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(Thanks to Nina Ganci for the photos)
Burning books? Oh, the horror! My mind immediately zoomed to Ray Bradbury’s classic SF novel Fahrenheit 451. The curious title refers to the temperature at which paper will burn, and the novel is a dystopian fantasy about a world where books are regarded as dangerous. There’s a special police unit which hunts them down and burns them. *

 

I strolled around the big vehicle , which has been retro fitted to serve as a Book Truck , a shop on wheels, stocked with current popular fiction, a large selection of kids’ books, and a small non-fiction section.

 

I looked around for the stallholder and found Christy . There we are in the header pic. We got chatting and I discovered she loves books, particularly literary fiction and historical fiction.
Christy told me that the mobile Burning Books project is an offshoot of her bookstore in Grabouw: Liberty Books.

 

Would you believe she saw an ad in Gumtree for a classic imported 1955 Green Goddess fire engine – which goes to prove you can buy and sell practically anything on Gumtree! Only snag was it was situated in Dannhauser, a former coal mining town in the Northwest of Kwa Zulu Province. A tad under 1500 kms away from Grabouw. But, where there’s a will etc … Luckily Christy’s husband is a classic car fundi/expert and engineer, who was able to do the conversion of the truck from fire engine to bookstore.  After the refit, at the end of June this year, they parked the truck in the Peregrine Farmstall garden. Due to its success, it hasn’t moved since!

 

I asked Christy about her choice of name for her project. Apart from the fact that she enjoys alliteration, hence the name, she said :
“Because a fire truck is a vehicle designed to rescue people and property from burning I thought it was fitting to name my bookstore, housed in a fire truck, “Burning Books”. Repressive regimes throughout history have been “Burning Books” and destroying them to attempt to contain the spread of dangerous ideas. Obviously, this is antithetical to what I’m doing: buying books from charity shops (thereby saving them from the destruction of pulping), in order to release second hand books back into the world, giving them another chance of life. “
A noble vision, from my book fanatic’s point of view, and a delicious irony in the name, don’t you think?

What booklover doesn’t fantasize about owning their own Bookstore? And then to own a happy red book truck – that’s gotta be the bright red cherry on top!

 

* Footnote: I hesitated before adding the following grim footnote to an upbeat post, but nevertheless, it’s important current issue in our country, regarding the freedom of the Press, and the need to prevent State censorship. Not to forget protecting our citizen’s Right to Freedom of Speech. I need to connect the dots between these ideas and the present uproar in South Africa about the publication of The President’s Keepers – Those Keeping Zuma In Power And Out Of Prison (Paperback) – Jacques Pauw. His expose has rattled the cages of the corrupt and powerful, and Pauw has been threatened by our State Security Agency . Naturally the enormous publicity has caused the book to sell out. More irony. Banning books is a relic of our bad old apartheid past, and must never be tolerated again.
https://www.timeslive.co.za/politics/2017-11-11-ive-got-more-dirt-on-ssa-
https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/nzimande-sacp-like-jacques-p

 

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HEAVENLY GARDENS


Occasionally a much anticipated outing exceeds expectation. For years I’ve wanted to see the annual Elgin Open Gardens event and this past weekend, Nina helped make my dream come true. On Sunday we drove out to Elgin to visit the gardens on show. The weather was perfect. Sunny and hot, with just enough breeze to offset the heat.
After reading the brochure giving a brief description of the 18 show gardens, we decided to limit ourselves to three gardens. As this was our first visit we weren’t sure of the distances involved, and this proved to be a wise move. Not that we traveled a huge distance overall, but driving on gravel farm roads when you don’t really know where you are going is time consuming. Plus half of Cape Town was also in Elgin to see the gardens, so traffic was often congested on the narrow gravel roads.
Elgin is famous for its apple orchards. Other deciduous fruits are grown in the area too, and the views of farms and estates were stunning. Here is a general view of the Elgin area, en route to Highlands Road.

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Another general view, this time from the hilltop area of the Auld Earn garden, with a protea bush (our national flower) in the foreground.

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And a close-up of the protea.

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Jenny Simpson’s plantswoman’s garden at Auld Earn was worth the slog up and down steep hills, along challenging narrow farm roads in our modest saloon car – how we wished for a rugged 4×4, but we got there in the end. And it was worth it for the views, and the riot of mixed plantings on the property.

 

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For me the highlight of our visit to Ridgelands, Elgin Vintners on Appletiser Road, was the charming and unusual Fairy Garden. It was set in a shady corner, planted with brilliant green ground cover and tiny delicate flowers, which formed the backdrop for the miniature figurines of fairies and woodland animals peeking out from the foliage.

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Nina had a ball photographing the many roses at Ridgelands, and to enjoy more of  her pics  see the link below. Here’s a sample

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I’ve left the best until last. Fresh Woods – owners Peter & Barbara Knox-Shaw . Walking through the garden I thought I’d died and gone to Heaven! Here’s the description from the brochure:

Rambling, romantic plantsman’s garden with major collection of heritage & species roses; many rare trees & shrubs, some wild-collected, incl. rhododendrons (esp. Maddenias), serrata & wild hydrangeas, deutzias & over 70 Japanese maples; also collections of cyclamen, epimediums & lilies; woodland garden under pine. Bamboo walk. WFRS Award of Garden Excellence 2003. Featured in Remarkable Gardens of SA (2012); Gardens to Inspire (2013), Veld, Vlei & Rose Gardens (2011) and Old Roses: Survival & Revival in SA (2015).

The woodland setting provides enchanting, dappled shade, with twisty little footpaths leading to yet another surprise or treasure. I love azaleas and there were plenty, ranging from the small to the giant:

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Next to the bamboo grove was a tiny pond, guarded by giant leaves – an accurate description, when you see me standing next to the plants, to illustrate the size of the plants. Perhaps one of my readers will know the name of the giant plants ? I’m baffled.

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Who hasn’t dreamed of a leafy fragrant pergola? This one has blue/purple Petrea at the base, another of my favourites, with pink roses higher up, and wisteria as a roof. Gorgeous!

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But my favourite was the Japanese maple tree area. I loved the delicate leaves, that etch themselves so clearly against the background , while the different coloured foliage ranging from vibrant red to pastel spring green is breathtaking.

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I could rave on for hours but will stop here. We’ve already diarised the date in our 2018 diaries and can’t wait to go back next year. If you live in Cape Town, the event will be open for one more weekend only, 4 and 5 November 2017. Do not miss the opportunity!
All photos in this post are by Nina Ganci, and you can see more of her wonderful pics on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/nina.ganci. Be sure to visit her page, as I’ve shown only a fraction of her pics .

 

 

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SHONGWENI FARMERS’ MARKET


 

Over the years on my visits to  my Durban Family (eldest daughter Helen & family) I’ve been taken to the nearby Shongweni Farmers’ Market. It was a scant 5 kms down the hill, sited on a rough, grassy hillside, inevitably wet and muddy, packed with people and their excited dogs. For some reason, Durbanites  saw the Market as a great Saturday morning venue to exercise their dogs, and the ensuing tangle of dog leads, frantic barking and  occasional dog fight were  part of the fun. All this amongst families, toddlers, pushchairs,  shopping baskets, vendors unloading their products, lost kids and runaway dogs. Happy family mayhem. I loved it.

Then – oh no! the market moved. The land lease expired, and another venue had to be found. Which it was, close to the nearby Shongweni Dam.  This, however, is 12 kms from Helen’s house, so I was heaved briskly out of  bed at 0530 on Saturday morning  and told departure was in 25 minutes. Apparently the parking situation, plus the  inevitable traffic tailback on a skinny country road, has to be avoided at all costs. Fair enough.

And so it was I stood at 0630 on a damp, drizzly hillside, peering at rows of  corrugated iron roofs, and neat  cement walkways. Clearly no more mud at the new, bigger, smarter market. To my relief, plenty of families, toddlers, and dogs in evidence :

I must admit the new market is orderly, clean, vast,  and offers a huge variety of merchandise. For example – huge mushrooms, being sold by an elegant vendor. Note the funky guineafowl table covering.

I do love the colourful Zulu beadwork, but it’s a hell of a price nowadays. I cherish my antique strings of beads bought for virtually nothing, twenty years ago. The baskets are not beaded, as you might suppose. They are made from thin wire. Originally weavers used to gather scraps of electric cable left behind by Telkom or Eskom. They would strip off the external plastic covering to get at the 4/5/6 strands of fine wire within, which would be colour coded. Whether the baskets are still made this way I don’t know, but it may partly account for the enormous amount of  of telephone cable  theft ….   Roll on the introduction of fibre optic cable!  The downside will be less – or no – beautiful woven baskets.

There’s food of course. What would a country market be without food?  Locally made cheeses; locally grown coffee; and the ethnic bakers – Greek, German and of course, Indian, this being Kwa-Zulu Natal  which has one of the biggest Indian populations outside of the Indian continent.  I had my heart set on samoosas and a few Pakora*but alas! the market was so big I never managed to find my way back to the Indian food stalls.

I couldn’t take pics of the foodstalls due to the crush around them. But  I’m including a bad pic of the man selling pesto. Unfortunately his colourful pots of pesto didn’t come out well in the pic, but you can clearly see the smart new roofing. Which was welcome on such a drizzly, misty morning.

Me & my cellphone  will never win any prizes for photography.  But I did catch one pic of these fun dog biscuits!

I enjoyed my visit, and would love to go back another time. But the old country atmosphere has gone. The new version may well be out in the country, but now its much more organised and businesslike.On the plus side,  the public loos are a great deal better.  Ah well. Things change. But luckily the  vendor’s smiles stay the same.   Howzit, Barry!

 

*deep fried potato cake – beyond delicious finger food and death by cholesterol, but when you eat one you really don’t care. Actually, stopping at one requires superhuman willpower.

 

 

 

 

 

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IT’S A WONDERFUL WORLD


FLOWERS

Sometimes everything works in your favour. Just for once!  Such was the case when Nina & I visited the Postberg Flower Reserve within the West Coast National Park  last  week. The Reserve is only open during Flower Season, in August and September, when our fabulous Spring wildflowers pop out. So I thought I’d share our lovely day with my readers. And also to show the more positive side of South Africa instead of the usual drama and disasters that blights our country.

Firstly here is a  pic of my faithful photographers standing in a field of flowers.  As I have said before  we’re the perfect combo – she likes to take pics and I  like to go on outings

.I couldn’t resist this pic – the carpet of purple flowers was gorgeous. Thanks to the strangers who provided perspective for Nina’s pic.

 

This was the one and only patch  of cerise flowers we saw – a genuine shocking pink!

Not so dramatic, but still beautiful.  If you look carefully at the two close-ups you will notice more tiny flowers in the pics. The white background is a mixture of sand and pulverised shells.

 

What a glorious day we had!

 

 

 

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SMALL TOWN’s HEART


 

 

imagesSouth Africa is not an easy country to live in.  The challenges are enormous,  ranging from the ever present threat of crime, to rising cost of living due to the drought, to our desperate water shortage here in the Western Cape.

So  I am delighted to share   a heart-warming story  from the  tiny town of  Phalaborwa, situated in Limpopo Province. Phalaborwa is small – population approx 13 500 ,  close to the famous Kruger National Park . It’s bushveld terrain. Hot, dry,  and thorny.

My sister and her husband recently drove up there  to attend her father-in-law’s funeral and help her mother-in-law sort out the paperwork and business affairs that are the inevitable result of a death. . Her in-laws   have lived in Phalaborwa for over 30 years. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phalaborwa

Oom* Koos was old, well into his eighties. I never met the man, but always relish  the story of how he opened up his garage early one morning, and was literally bowled over by a leopard charging out, desperate to get back to the bush! A true  Bushveld story. How or why the leopard spent the night in Oom Koos’ garage, I don’t know. But you get the picture.

My sister told me that the town was unbelievably  supportive of the newly widowed woman. Apparently her car needed fixing urgently, and the local garage repaired it, but refused to charge her, saying “repairs were on the house”.

Likewise, when my sister and Mrs Fourie went to the local SPAR to order plates of sandwiches and snacks for the after-funeral tea, there was the same generosity. “No charge”.  Let me be clear – the family did not in any ways ask for discount or assistance, this was the spontaneous response from the SPAR Manager. “No charge – it’s on the house”.

During the week that my sister was in Phalaborwa, she told me that neighbours arrived daily, with cooked meals, forfour people,  three times a day! Not just the next-door neighbour, but different women on a daily basis.

Now that’s true, old fashioned neighbourliness. Wonderful  to discover that generosity and kindness are alive and well in the far North of South Africa! Finally some good news. Let’s all celebrate the notion of neighbourliness, sharing and kindness.  Our country needs it.

 

*Oom – respectful title bestowed on older men . Afrikaans origin

 

 

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