Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Sharpening the blade

Hi All
I am lying snugly tucked up in bed.  It is the middle of the night and I cannot sleep, an old affliction.  It is bitterly cold and I trying to type with as little of me sticking out from underneath the two duvets and the blanket.

I am at my parent's place.  I had to come to Pretoria and came up one night earlier to spend some time with my parents.  Otherwise my dad and I would have crossed paths in the air - him going down to Cape Town tomorrow and back on Friday, and me doing the inverse.

We had a nice home cooked meal of oxtail - just the right thing in this weather.  After dinner my mom wanted to show me a funny e-mail she received.  She could not remember from whom she received it, so we were browsing through a few of her old mails.  Then she came to one of those power point presentations.  You know the ones.  Beautiful pictures, soppy message and a threat at the end that if you do not forward it to 10 people you are not a Christian.  I tend to skip over those.
However, the pictures seemed really stunning, and I decided to read the message.  I would like to share the message.  I cannot give credit to the real author, as I do not know who it was, but is sure he/she will not mind me sharing.

The story is about 2 woodcutters.   And old man and a young man.  One day they decided to have a competition to see who could chop down the most trees in a day.  The young man started fast and furious at a frenetic pace.  The old man started at a steady pace and took a 15 minute break every hour.  At the end of the day they tallied their trees and the old man has won by a mile.  The young man could not understand how that was possible, and approached the old man for an explanation.  The old man told him: "Son, when I took a break every hour for 15 minutes, I used the time to sharpen the blade of my axe".
The story goes on to remind us of the importance to take time to spend with God in our hectic lifestyles - to "sharpen our blades", and I found the message very relevant.

It also reminded me of my old job.  I absolutely loved my work.  At the end the pace was so hectic, and I started working harder and harder, for longer and longer hours.  But I am not sure if I achieved that much.  I became less and less efficient. 
This is a very valuable lesson to everyone that can relate to my work experience and serves as a reminder that we should always take time out to "sharpen our blades".


I am surrounded by white fog when I leave the house in the early morning.  It is so thick you cannot see your hands an arm’s length away.  It is 07h20 in the morning.  At exactly 07h30 I catch sunrise.  Not that anything changes in what I see, it is the same white colour all around, but the GPS changes its background from black to white, so I know the sun has crested the horizon.

I am on my way to Paternoster to meet with my first “official” visitor to the West Coast.  Maritha, a friend from varsity days, is visiting Club Mykonos with her mother.  This part of the West Coast was a favourite visiting place for her parents and it was her parent’s wish to come to Mykonos. Sadly her father passed away a month before the planned holiday.
I stay in the thick mist through Doornbaai, Lambertsbaai, Elandsbaai, Dwarskersbos and just before I reach Velddrif the sky finally opens.  In the car with me I have a shopping list (essential when travelling anywhere close to the civilisation), my computer, my camera and a small overnight bag – just in case.  (The just in case means just in case the sun actually comes out and burn the fog away and you may actually see something to make it worthwhile to stay).  By the time I drive into Paternoster the sun finally reveals itself and I can enjoy the view in all its glory.  I drive to the visitor centre immediately and secure accommodation.  Then I phone Hennie to make sure he can get a lift down with a colleague that works and live up north during the week, but spend weekends (and voting day!) at home with his family in Langebaan.

In true West Coast hospitality style (which I was not sure would apply to a commercial place like Paternoster), we are offered a two bed-room sea front villa for the same price as the more back-ward located one-bedroom: just because they like me! Ha-ha.  Because business is quite slow and no-one is in any event occupying the nicer unit, and as the guy is very clever, he has bought some loyalty from me for a future stay.
I am like a child in a toy shop and practically stop my car every 30m to get out and take a new picture.  The beach looks spectacular, and I can’t wait to take more pictures.  But first I meet up with Maritha and we decided to go to the Voorstrand restaurant for lunch.  As is required all three of us ordered “fish & chips” and we had a long leisurely lunch.  Maritha also manages to track down and speak to a few of our ex-Iscor Head Office colleagues that have moved to Saldanha Steel.  After about 2 hours in the restaurant the mist rolls in secretly like a thief in the night, and when we step out of the place you might as well be anywhere in the country as you cannot see the sea.  All our photo opportunities are gone…

Early evening I fetch Hennie from Velddrif and I can see he is impressed with our accommodation when we reach Paternoster.  We went to Paternoster Lodge for dinner, as the other recommendations such as Noisy Oyster was closed, and I have already done Voorstrand for the day.

Moon rise over Paternoster, our cottage to the right in the picture
We had yellowtail (a bit on the dry side), and calamari which was nice, though a bit cold even upon arrival.  We also stuck to our new local favourite white wine; Fryer’s Cove (forged by the earth- tempered by the sea).  The wine is made from vineyards right next to Strandfontein, a mere 30m from the sea.   (Remember Mr Fryer?  He of building the first brick house in Strandfontein?) Compared to the other local plonk, this is streets ahead. 

Sun rise, same spot
The next day we slept late, watched the sunrise (the only benefit of the very late sunrise is that you can sleep extremely late and still watch the sun come up).  Had breakfast at Oep ve Koep and listened how all the political parties still tried to sway the votes.  Each and every party had their own tent and music systems blaring.  The ANC had a double army tent with numerous flags.  One of the other parties had a gazebo and no flags or music, seems he did not manage to collect enough money for his election campaign. 
Voorstrand Restaurant
"Oep ve Koep"

Before turning homewards we satisfied our craving for civilisation and did some shopping at Woolies Food in Weskus Mall.  Bought lots of unnecessary stuff, but boy did we feel good when we walked out of there.

We bought a massive piece of yellowtail fish fillet at Doornbaai, with neither of us having any idea how to cook it and knowing that it is a dry fish so we have a very good chance of stuffing it up.  In the end we split the fish in two.  Hennie braaied an excellent portion on the fire, with lots of butter and other juices.  I steamed mine in the oven with tomato and onion.  The only voting we did for the day was which fish was best and mine came a very distant second in the competition, but must admit mine would have been the much healthier option if you could force yourself to eat it. 


 I am probably living in the most peaceful town in the most peaceful area, but I have however not yet stopped stressing, and feel my life is extremely hectic.  In the past I worried about multi-million dollar transactions going wrong, about bogus BEE transactions, and political interference in my job.  Now I worry about whether the washing will dry as I do not know what the weather will make, and have not seen sunshine in about a week.  I worry about where I will store the month worth’s of groceries that I have to buy but only have one small rack available in the kitchen.  Worry about how to iron the clothes when I have about 3 different leads just to get power to the iron.  I worry what I am going to put in Hennie’s lunch box in the morning.  Please don’t laugh.  This is what my life has boiled down to currently, and I promise you it feels just as stressful!!!

Kogmanskloof, just outside of Montagu
We came down in my car, packed to the roof.  We first travelled to Hennie’s parents for a brief holiday, before taking the R62 (scenic route), to Strandfontein.  It was a beautiful drive.  I wished we had time to stop and enjoy, but it took us about 8 hours of driving just to get here.  We also explored a new route, which panned out to be about 150km dirt road, that was not always in such a good condition.  Once again just an indication not to believe everything that is printed in a road map!

After three days being stuck at the house, Hennie was gracious enough to leave the car that I can drive the 50 km to Vredendal, to the SPAR for shopping!  I had to take a salad to someone’s house that invited us for dinner.  My biggest shock was when the SPAR had no cherry tomatoes, spring onions, celery etc.  It was a very sad salad that I presented at dinner.  I just could not believe things can be so bad in this very fertile Olifantsrivier valei.

The weekend we drove back to Cape Town, and flew back to Pretoria Friday afternoon.  We arrived at 15h00 and did some “speed packing” before going for a lovely dinner at Adri & Anita.  Saturday morning saw us in the shops for last minute shopping, such as chains and locks for the trailer, a spare number plate and a few more camping stuff.  Hennie left around noon, and my parents showed up at our place to spend the afternoon, night and Sunday morning with me.  I felt terrible when Hennie left to drive almost 140km on his own.  And then my dad and I gave him a few last minute road changes which resulted in Hennie almost getting lost before he even left Gauteng!

I was fortunate with my planning as Michelle had time to come and say hello on Saturday afternoon.  She is back in SA to pack up their belongings.  It was GREAT chatting with her, and I think they have a very interesting and fun time ahead.  We just cannot compete!  Also managed to get an additional 25 litre water can from her as I am not sure they will need it for camping in Spain.

We had a teary mothers day breakfast,  before I flew down to Cape Town the afternoon – with the said water can as hand luggage.  I attended a wind conference in Cape Town on Monday and Tuesday, and was then going to drive my car that we left at the airport the previous week, back home.  Tuesday night on of my beloved ex-colleagues managed to get me invited to a “kuier” with mainly Nedbank staff.  We went to Brass Bell in Kalk Bay.  Lize, you will remember this place.  We went there about 15 years, ago, when the interior looked about 30 years old.  Have to admit that the interior has been redone since, but that we sat at the exact same table as 15 years ago.  I had the most fantastic abalone linguine, and best of all, the bank paid.  Arrived back at the hotel just after 12, and when they found out it was by then  officially my birthday, we had to go for another round of drinks!  It was the latest I got in bed in a long time, but it was so much fun!!!!

Saterday morning started with a bit of a mishap.  I received my racing colours- orange.  Trust me to side-swipe the MOST orange car in South Africa.  Manage to do some serious damage to my car,  but the other car was 30 years old and made of solid steel, thus I merely removed his indicator and the top 3 layers of about 50 layers of orange paint on his car.  You cannot even see any silver on his car!

Having thus got most of the bad news behind me I no longer had the luxury to travel up the coast to each and every town from Cape Town to Strandfontein, but had to take the main routes.  Did some speed shopping at the Vredenburg Mall (my closest Woollies).  (Had to stock up on cherry tomatoes!) Another birthday present was that when I came to the dirt section of the road, the grader just finished grading the route.  I have to travel ca 65km dirt road (the short-cut home).  There are two toll roads on the dirt road, the ONLY official dirt toll roads in the country.  It is expensive but worth your while.

I got home quite late in the afternoon, but was so happy to be home and back with hubby.  Then he told me he has managed to invite 3 other people to our house for dinner on Thursday. Two of the three people he does not even know.   Well, Nerina’s always up to a challenge, and since I have not yet had time to learn to cook, I decided why not start that day.  I made lamb shanks – the first time in my life.  Must admit it was not that good, but it was definitely also not bad.

This morning I tried to clean the house after last night, and also do some laundry.  No-one told me it is Friday the 13th, because then i would have just stayed in bed.  The washing machine outlet pipe pulled out of the basin and ALL the water (yes, ALL the water) run out on the floor.  So by the time I wanted to go fetch the laundry I walked about knee deep into the water in the kitchen (ok, slight exaggeration, but almost as bad).  And since this is not my house, where I have spare old towels etc to dry off the water, I had to use a mop.  Took about 3,5 hours.  Can barely stand up straight tonight.

Sorry for my complaining, I KNOW i have absolutely nothing to complain about, just difficult to break the habit.

 Keep well and miss you all!!!


End of February I was notified of the big  expatriation.  We are going to the West Coast.  Not to tranquil Jacobsbaai, quaint Paternoster, beautiful Langebaan or any other place within 15 minutes of Woollies Foods.  We are going to Strandfontein.  So you do not know where it is?  Don’t feel alone, you fall within the 99th percentile of all our friends (and myself).  Had to dig out the map book to find out where we are going.
Strandfontein was apparently named after a spring on the beach, but I have not yet found it and it is not marked at all.  Or I might have seen it and just do not know!  I will tell you a bit later about the first oke to build a brick house in Town.  A Mr Fryer, remember the name.  I also have some 7th degree of separation connection to this place via my in laws.  Some family on that side owned the only hotel before it disappeared (would like to tell the story about the hotel disappearance, but has not been able to verify the story and do not want to be sued for libel).  Maybe later.  One of the three caravan sites are also still named after the family.

In the context of my work history, Strandfontein is exactly where the Sishen-Saldanha railway line sweeps in a wide arch away from its inland track to hug the coast for the rest of the journey to Saldanha Bay.  If that does not help, we are about 7km below the Olifantsriver mouth at Papendorp, and about 7km north of Doornbaai.  Or better yet, about 50km north of Lambertsbaai, the home of the Muisbosskerm.

The regime here was DA or a DA coalition government, and I am not sure if they deserve the credit but seems like everything is in order.  Road shoulders clean of rubbish.  Secondary and even tertiary roads are well maintained, and just before the elections they did some patching of the road surface in our little neighbourhood.  Might have been an election ploy and not sure if it worked.  We somehow missed out on the elections with us being here and our ward up in Johannesburg.  Still have not figured out who won the local election here this time round.

The new house will take some adjustment, but you cannot beat the view from our veranda.  We can see all the way up the coast almost to Papendorp, unbroken white beaches, and just behind us the cliffs start that runs alongside the coast all the way to Doornbaai.  On the day I arrived the dolphins put up a show in the bay, and I knew I would survive here…

So when do you become a true blood “weskusser”?  I always thought it is when you eat your first crayfish, but know I found out the area is actually famous for another delicacy: sheep’s heads!!!  The have sheep’s head eating competitions here!  Oops.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Nieuwoudtville, Loeriesfontein & Clanwilliam

Early on the morning of Saturday 15 May we departed on our first weekend away.  We had no firm plans, apart from vaguely thinking about Nieuwoudtville as one of the pit-stops of the day.  Hennie travelled passed Nieuwoudtville and over the VanRhyns pass on the way down and thought it was a beautiful area.

Nieuwoudtville lies on the Bokkeveld plateau.  As their website describes it: “where Cape Fynbos meets the Hantam Karoo, Bushmenland and Knersvlakte.  The view from the pass was indeed spectacular, and I think would become even more so as the landscape turns greener during winter (if it happens like that here?).

There is the most beautiful sandstone church, apparently finished circa 1907.  Unfortunately we did not feel comfortable to try and enter the church, as there was evidently something happening inside with music being played, but I heard the inside is spectacular. 
The town is pretty much “closed” outside of the flower season as not a single cafĂ© or coffee shop was open.  Outside town we stopped at the signs for the waterfall, but unfortunately the dry summer has dried up all the water.  I can imagine it would be a beautiful waterfall when there is water.

So where does a windpomp goes when it dies?  To South-Africa’s windpomp capital – Loeriesfontein.  We trekked the 60km north to town and back, just to visit this spectacular place.  It was so much fun.  Not sure how many different windmills they had but each have an unique character. 
Flowers outside Nieuwoudtville
Black and "white" springbuck living in harmony
Driving back to Nieuwoudtville we drove past a few black springbuck and a host of quiver trees.

We took the dirt road out of Nieuwoudtville with the hope to get to Clanwilliam before we get to Calvinia, because then we were on the wrong route.  We even encountered a few veldt flowers next to the route, way too early to be to be the real mccoy.

The Botterkloof pass is a scary pass with no rails and with the fear of the road service slipping down the side of the mountain.  Also bliss as we did not encounter any other vehicles on the road.  Shortly after passing the turn-off to Wuppertal, we stopped at the Englishmen’s grave.  There we met a husband-and-wife team mountainbikers enjoying a glorious day on the road (and I am sure secretly wishing it was them getting back into the car and not us!). 
Botterkloof pass - quite scary
In the Pakhuis pass we saw the turn-off to Louis Leipoldt’s grave.  Even though being a bit of a Junior and Senior Groot Verseboek fan, I did not know that he was buried here (strictly speaking it is only his ashes interned here).  The area is fenced off, with a rusted garden gate hanging on its hinges.  The grave itself is serenely situated in a natural cave, with some very vague Bushmen paintings.  On the grave itself were gravel, and a dried bouquet of indigenous scrubs.  Reminded me of the words of his poem about the Cederberg:
'n Handvol gruis uit die Hantam -
My liewe lekker Hantam-wyk!
'n Handvol gruis en gedroogde blare,
Waboom-blare, ghnarrabos-blare!
Arm was ek gister, en nou is ek ryk.

That evening we slept in a refurbished "bywoners" cottage outside of Clanwilliam.  The sky was open and the moon was nearly full.  Utter bliss.