Friday, 30 May 2008

South Africa 2008: Knynsa, Ostriches and Caves

It has been about 15 years since I last visited Knysna. It used to be a sleepy quaint fishing village with rustic bars and an emphasis on oysters. It’s now really commercialised and touristy. I didn’t particularly like the place any more, but Milord and the others had never been there before and so still found it charming. Anyway…

Knysna lagoon looking towards the heads:

On Monday 7th April Milord and I woke up slowly. It was the first day in perhaps weeks that we hadn’t had to be somewhere or do something. We were startled to discover that we’d slept to late morning and had to rush to meet the others for brunch! In fact from that moment on I slept like a log for the rest of our trip – I was exhausted I think. Even though the wedding had gone without a hitch it is still a lot to deal with.

The others had been out for a boat trip to the Knysna Heads, and they met us for lunch in the Waterfront. Our table was next to a sort of porthole window looking out onto the marina.

My plan for the day was to take the Knysna Tjoe-tjoe (pronounced choo-choo), an old fashioned steam train, to and from the town of George. The train tracks follow the coast and cliffs, practically in the water sometimes, and I had heard it was fun and beautiful and had always wanted to do it. Sadly, once we got to the train station I discovered that the Tjoe-tjoe hasn’t been running for some years since a flood washed the tracks away. Gee, now what? Luckily everyone was also feeling a bit jaded, so we picked up several dozen oysters, raided the deli for nibbles, and went back to our balcony for a decadent afternoon and evening of food, wine, laughter and leftover “wedding-cake” cheese. It was actually wonderful to just stop running around for a day! I have no idea what time I went to bed, but I think it was early.

This seagull made himself at home on our balcony railing for most of the afternoon. Cheeky bugger.

I woke up refreshed on Tuesday, and we all met for breakfast. I had decided to take the Aussies to a couple of the local attractions: the Cango Caves and an ostrich farm! “Caves?” said one doubtfully… “Ostriches?” said another. “Trust me!” I cried. We drove a couple of hours inland to Oudtshoorn over the mountains, and I am sure they were not really looking forward to my planned itinerary.

We got to the caves mid afternoon just as a tour was starting and ran to catch up with it (the tour takes about an hour). I’ve been to the Cango caves a number of times since I was very small, and I think they are absolutely spectacular. Tourists are only allowed in about 5% of the caverns, and these areas are huge and spacious with awe-inspiring rock formations growing all around and through them. My favourite bit is where you follow this torch beam through the inky tunnels, and once they have you shepherded into a certain spot they turn on the lights and you discover you are in a massive cathedral of stone columns. Really wow. Luckily my Aussies thought so too!

Then we went to the Cango Caves ostrich show farm. Ostriches are quite a big thing in South Africa, and Oudtshoorn is the centre of the ostrich farming district. In the past people became millionaires through selling the feathers, but now it is the lean red (yes, red) meat that they are farmed for. It’s really good meat, and makes superb biltong! At a show farm you get told a lot about ostriches, and you get up close to them, and you get to feed them, and to ride them. Yes, you can ride them! If you’re under 75kg anyway – which excluded all the men, but a woman and a couple of kids had a go (not me, it’s not really my thing). It was hilarious. Other folk fed them, and Milord stood on some eggs. It was enormous fun, and my Aussies raved about the experience! My caves and ostriches were a hit!

And then back to Knysna again for our last night in town and our last night with the others. We were flying up the coast the next day and they were going to the Addo National game park. During the drive back I wasn’t feeling too good… “Too much biltong, I’m dehydrated” I thought, and drank some water. “Gas, this seatbelt is constricting me” I thought, and shifted about uncomfortably. By the time we got back to town I was feeling rotten, and went for a lie down. Then a bathroom visit. Then a lie down. Then a bathroom visit… The others summoned us for dinner but I wasn’t going anywhere and Milord decided to stay in and look after me – isn’t he grand? The rest of the evening was awful, but I started feeling better at about midnight. It must have been a fast-acting virus.

Milord started feeling rotten at about 1am… I’d given it to him! The poor guy got it worse than me too, and by 7am when we needed to head to the airport he could barely drag himself to the car. Luckily I could drive by this time, and we headed off to Port Elizabeth airport. During the drive the sun rose and the mist lifted and we were crossing deep chasms through sub-tropical rainforest. It was beautiful. Milord didn’t see any of it, curled into the foetal position in the passenger seat!

Our flight to Durban was uneventful. At the other end we picked up another hire car and drove to Sodwana Bay, the diving mecca of South Africa just south of the border of Mozambique. I still wasn’t 100% and I’d had hardly any sleep the night before – after an hour or so I began getting tunnel vision and begged Milord to drive for a while. By this point he was feeling much better, and he drove us the rest of the way. I think it took us about 3 hours to get to Sodwana Bay, and we reached the resort at twilight. I’m glad we got there in the light, as it is incredibly remote and rural. Milord got really jumpy at one point when we went through the little shopping strip of Sodwana and he surrounded by black people. He actually freaked out a bit and did a u-turn back on to the main road and I had to do a lot of convincing before he would take the (only) road to the bay!

We finally got to the Sodwana Bay resort and checked into our cabin, which was a gorgeous free-standing bamboo hut with a big balcony overlooking the bush and an en-suite bathroom with a spa tub! We had a bath, a quick light meal in the resort restaurant (excellent), and were asleep by 9 I think!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

House Pics!

I’m going to let these speak for themselves… This is how we bought the house:


We found this old newspaper under the lino in the second bedroom: Nazis advance on Stalingrad!


Bed 1:

Bed 2:


Dining Room:



Sexy floor coverings:

And now... the house as it was yesterday:

That's what used to be the kitchen, dining room and lounge. Holy crap.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Morning Walk

As I've mentioned before, I walk to work most mornings lately if I can.

And boy do I need the exercise - I've been steadily gaining weight again and I have crept back up to where I was in February! I joined a new gym close to work yesterday so hopefully that will help me get things back under control.

This is my route. It is about 4.5km and takes me just under an hour at a gentle pace. I have been known to jog it in 30min. By the way, if you look at the bottom left of the map you will see a suburb called Marrickville - that's where our new house is. It's going to be too far to walk, so maybe I'll catch a bus halfway and walk the rest when the time comes...

After about 10 minutes of walking through narrow streets crammed with tiny houses I come to a big road crossed by a pedestrian bridge. This is my view on the pedestrian bridge. That's the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the distance to the left - the Opera House is out of sight around to the right. The gorgeous suspension bridge is the Anzac Bridge, and there is a walkway/cycle path on it that I use.

If you look carefully here you can see two sculptures of soldiers flanking this side of the Anzac Bridge. One represents an Australian soldier and the other a New Zealand soldier, and the whole thing is a memorial to the men who fell in Gallipoli in Turkey during a botched landing in WW1. Anzac Day is a big thing over here - much bigger than Rememberance Day. Look at that traffic - it was really bad this morning - it was good not to be in a bus today.

Loads of people use this path on the bridge to walk or cycle to work. I take it pretty easy in the mornings, so everyone passes me and I get to ogle lots of bums in cycling shorts.

The view from the middle of the bridge is rather good. Here is the Sydney Harbour bridge again with the sun rising behind it.

The Anzac Bridge even looks good underneath I think:

Then I make my way along through Pyrmont to Darling Harbour, where an old road bridge has been pedestrianised, and that takes me into the heart of the city. This is the Pyrmont pedestrian bridge... the structure above me carries the funny little monorail they built as a Millenium project in Sydney. Don't bother going on it, it doesn't go anywhere near the things you actually want to see as a tourist, and is a waste of money - apart from this stretch across the bridge it doesn't even have interesting views!

Once over that bridge it is a 5 minute walk through the city to my office block.

I listen to classical music on the way in in the morning - ABC radio has a lady DJ on in the morning with the most honeyed voice, and she plays some really interesting classics. What a chilled out way to start the day.

So what's your route to work like? If you post about it leave a comment here and I'll come over for a look.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Gotta get worse before it gets better

So yeah, we bought this house, right? It's vile, but it was the only way we could get on the property ladder in a nice area. It hasn't been touched since 1940-something (we've actually found newspapers under the lino reporting on the Nazi's advance on Stalingrad in WW2!), and it smells.

Work is beginning at last and the floors are up in a couple of rooms and they will begin bashing down walls next week. Milord and I popped in there today to speak to the builder... and Oh. My. God. what a mess! Our chap has pulled down a ceiling or two as well and the dust that came with it is coating everything like you would not believe - Milord actually said it looked like a volcano was erupting nearby!

We have great plans, but at the moment I am having trouble imagining the place as something nice! I always walk away with an uncontrollable urge to wash my hands... or shower... or scream.

Tell me it's normal to dislike your own property so much!

I keep meaning to post some pictures - I'll try to get them together on the weekend so you can see just how awful it is.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Just when I thought it was safe to go back... work.

I've been going on about how being back at work will be good for my weight control, right? Well, darn it, they supply unlimited free Milo! Seems it's an Aussie thing - I'd only ever seen it in South Africa before (it's a kind of malty hot chocolate powder). I lurve Milo, and so does everyone else who grew up on it I reckon.

The taste (yes, I've just succumbed and made myself a cup) takes me back to being 5 years old on a cold winter's day, snugged up indoors with the rain running down the windows, and Mom having just given me and Sis steaming cups of Milo.

Curse you evil Bank! Why do you have to spoil your employees with decent free beverages?!

The only up-side is that my favourite way of having Milo - munching it dry directly from the tin - is probably not going to happen at my desk! Unless I end up working late on my own... hmmm.

South Africa 2008: Cape Town to Knynsa

On the day after the wedding (Saturday 5th April) Milord and I had a light room service breakfast and champagne in bed, then joined all the wedding guests left in Camps Bay for a late brunch on the beachfront. Then after lots of goodbyes we hopped in the car and headed off on honeymoon… joined by 3 of our guests. Yes really. Three of the Aussies (Milord’s sister and another couple) didn’t fancy travelling on their own in big bad Africa, and opted to join us along the Garden Route for a few days. Personally I reckon they should have stayed on in Cape Town and done the tourist thing there as they hadn’t given themselves enough time to do so beforehand. But anyway…

We didn’t go far that day, as I’d expected us to be tired. We drove an hour or two to the Houw Hoek Inn (pronounced “ho-hook”) high in the mountains, which calls itself the oldest hotel in South Africa. We checked in and had drinks in the gardens looking out at the mountains, and then everyone went off for a siesta. It was surprisingly chilly up in the mountains – our room had an open fireplace, so we started a log fire and shared a hot bath with a bottle of wine before having a snooze. We woke up to rain drumming on the roof in the evening.

On Saturdays the Houw Hoek Inn has a dinner-dancing special, so we all glammed up and went over to the converted barn. The set menu was good, the company a lot of fun and the dancing a hoot. We ended up staying on the dance floor until after midnight before heading back to our room and stoking the log fire again. We fell asleep watching the flames and listening to the rain.

On Sunday we drove to Knysna (“nighs-na” with a silent “k”) via Cape Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. Folk tend to think Cape Point is as far south as the continent goes, but actually Cape Agulhas is a lot further south. The weather was wet and blustery, and as we hurtled along narrow roads deep into windswept scrub I began to wonder if I was doing the right thing. It was a lot further than I thought – more than an hour’s drive from the motorway. Luckily everyone was thrilled to be visiting the tip of Africa in spite of a freezing gale, and we had fun scrambling around on the rocks and climbing up to the top of the lighthouse. Then we found a pub for lunch, eventually heading off again at about 2pm.

At the tip of Africa:

Lighthouse pictures:

We were back on the motorway at 3pm, and I suddenly realised that we were still about 4 hours drive from our destination. This wouldn’t usually be a problem, but I needed to pick up the keys to our self-catering apartments before 6pm when the accommodation office closed. The timing wasn’t looking good! I rang ahead and was told that they could leave the keys next door, but that shop would also be closing at 7pm… which was cutting things a bit fine! I told Milord to step on it, and we floored the accelerator. Up to this point we’d been sticking to the speed limit as there was no rush and the police on the Garden Route love catching speeding tourists… I decided that as long as we slowed down through the towns we could fly on the motorway – like everyone else does. We zoomed along into the twilight, keeping an eye on the rear view mirror to that check our buddies were keeping up. Luckily we weren’t stopped for speeding!

We just made it before 7pm. By this stage everyone was exhausted and hungry, so we headed off to our various holiday apartments. I’d put our 3 friends into an apartment of their own so that Milord and I could have a little privacy, and they decided to give us a night to ourselves and we made plans to meet for lunch. Milord and I staggered into a very nice airy 1-bedroom self catering apartment in the Knysna Quays marina and dropped our bags before pouring a glass of wine and stepping out onto the balcony overlooking the water. After recharging a bit we went in search of dinner in the Kysna Waterfront complex, then had a much needed long sleep.

Weight Update

These are not good, but I suppose I have to blog the bad with the good...

Weight Graph April:

Weight Graph to Date:

Aargh. Up just over a kilo... and trending up. See what happens when I'm not working?!

That's just to the end of April too... today's reading is through the ceiling, but I'm hoping that's because it's my TOM. Surely I didn't gain 1.5kg since Friday! wah

Monday, 19 May 2008

Head Above Water

I've just finished the messiest chicken wrap ever at my desk. I ended up with a stack of tissues underneath it and still managed to spill some in my lap! I think next time I order one of those I will take it down to the harbour to eat instead, as it wasn't the most professional sight I'm sure! Yummy though. Now I'm too full...

The job is going well now - I finally overcame my learning curve. My manager reviewed my code today and was happy with it. It's not the easiest system to work with... and I've been thrown in the deep end and left to cope so it was a bit challenging. As I said to Milord over the weekend, if I wasn't pretty good at what I do, and if I didn't have as much experience as I do with all layers of programming, I'd have been stuffed. Yay me. I rock.

I think I am allergic to my wedding rings - how awful is that? Well, not the rings themselves as I don't think anyone is allergic to platinum and gold, but perhaps to the crud they collect and hold against my skin 24/7. To make the diamonds sparkle each one has a little hole behind it which picks up handcream and stuff, and every now and then I get a nasty rash which finally clears up and peels. Yick. I am trying to remember to soak them in antiseptic once a week, and that seems to be working.

This week we should begin the major work on our house. Our handyman lifted some of the flooring last week and we have a bit of a damp problem down there, so it's going to be a bigger job than expected as we have to replace joists and bearers and stuff. We are building a proper bathroom in the middle of the house next to the bedrooms to replace the icky toilet and shower out back. And we're knocking together the kitchen, dining room and lounge to create an airy living room. Then we will move in and try to scrape up enough money to install a kitchen and extend the back of the house by a couple of meters. We'll be sort of camping in there for a while I reckon! I don't mind provided the floor is down and the house is weatherproof... you can put up with a lot provided the bathroom and bedroom is ok, right? Right?

I hate to think what this is all going to cost! We're supposed to be starting a family, but the thought of being out of work with a baby when we are in a such a financial fix is proving a major turn-off!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Still Sinking

Gee, it's been a week since I started my new job. Time sure flies when you don't know what you are doing! I've been employed to make modifications to a couple of bits of a huge and complex system at the Bank. Today I finally managed to trace my way into a section of code that I'm pretty sure I need to alter... exactly what I need to alter I still have to figure out! Some very clever people developed this thing, and boy it's tricky.

The damn thing is literally giving me nightmares, but I'll get the hang of it soon. I have to! Apart from that the people seem nice and I'm loving working in the center of Sydney. I am half a block away from Milord's office, and we meet for lunch or coffee most days. On a sunny day last week we picked up chicken wraps and walked to the waterside for a picnic - most enjoyable!

I can walk to work at a gentle strolling pace (so that I don't have to shower, see) in under an hour, so I've been doing that to and from the office most days. My gym unfortunately does not have a nearby branch, but I will join another one soon as I desperately need to get back into shape. My weight has crept up even more as I haven't been watching my intake (mostly wine and junk food) at all... drat. Milord and I are having a bit of a detox over the next couple of days so that might help.

I've been mostly absent from blogland lately. I don't have a chance at work, and by the time I have walked home, cooked dinner and watched a bit of TV with Milord it is time to snuggle into bed for a chapter of my book. How do you other bloggers manage it? I am still trying to find time to finish sorting out my holiday photos and continue writing up our trip.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

Mother of the Bride

Back in January I rang Mom to tell her the glad news of our engagement. She was thrilled of course, but then I believe that she went into immediate panic...

...about what she should wear.

Mom, the same as me, has struggled with her weight for yonks. She's never been huge, but she's been... mmm... well covered... from time to time. And being half a head shorter than me she can't get away with quite as much... coverage... as I can! So, faced with prospect of of a dress-up occasion she went into serious trim-mode. She did fabulously!

Plus she found the most amazing dress! Phwoar.

Mom has superb boobies. They seem to have skipped a generation (which I don't really mind, as I hear living with big boobies is not easy, but anyway). She rang me in delight wen she found her "mother-of-the-bride" dress. "It's blue, and sequinned, with shoestring straps! I'm looking for silver sandals to go with it!" she cried.


But check this out:

Milord leant over to me during the evening and said "Where'd those come from?!". Mom doesn't often get her girlies out, she usually wears large shirts to disguise them, but I think they had a good outing that day. She was a show-stopper!

And Sis (in the sexy turquoise) looked fab too! Well done Saffa family! Of couse BestGirl always looks divine, and Kat totally works the lilac floral number.

You go girls!

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

New Job!

I start my new job today. I've landed a developer role at a big bank in the centre of Sydney. I'm very chuffed, especially as they're paying very good money! It will be quite a change from my last place I reckon, but I found them a bit too laid back and am looking forward to a bit of pressure... I work better with firm goals. It took me 2 weeks after getting back to find work - excellent, that's about right.

My interview last Wednesday was gruelling, and I was actually surprised to be shortlisted for the role. They let me know on Friday that I had it, and we spent the weekend celebrating!

Otherwise we are getting stuck in to the new house, as the purchase went through last week. With my new income we can afford to really make it nice before we move in. We're shifting the bathroom from an annexe at the back of house to next to the bedrooms, and knocking together 3 rooms to make a big living area with a kitchen island in the middle. Plus raising floors, replacing wiring and plumbing, and totally transforming the outside. Very exciting! We hope to move in in July.

I'll post some scarey before photos of the house soon *shudder*.

Being a big corporate bank, my new work will be restricting internet access, and I don't know if I'll have time to blog much, but I will try. I still have to tell you all about our honeymoon anyway!

PS. Weight. Um, not great, up a bit from last week. I am hoping the routine of being back at work sorts me out! I hope my gym has a branch nearby, I must investigate.

Edit: I can access blogger from work! *evil chuckle*