Archive | November 2013

Real life beats fantasy

27 November 2013 (South Africa)

Again I saw an appearance in nature that I painted years before I had seen it in real. Or even ever thought it would exists in real.
Our last stop back to the south of South Africa, was in the little town Graaff Reinet. A few miles out of town there was a large National Park called Camdeboo. On one of the viewpoints there was a beautiful view on the mountain ‘Spandau Kop’. Look how it has -in a certain way- similarities with a painting I created in 2003, when I never have had one single thought about visiting South-Africa in the future.
It’s a kind of inspiration the other way around.

Spandau Kop, Valley of desolation, Graaff Reinet, South Africa, Patricia Van Lubeck Patricia Van Lubeck, Real life beats fantasy 1

The locked up guys, viewing us from their safe cabin, are making the ‘backwards inspiration’ even crazier, viewed in the light of my recent thoughts about the gap between black and white people in South-Africa.




The dogs of Bloemfontein

25 November 2013 (South Africa)
eastern-cape, the dogs of bloemfontein
The next morning sun, sun and sun all over! Yes, of course; a clear blue sky on the day we had planned to be locked up in the car again, driving back to the south.
It would be nice to find an ATM for some fresh cash and a good cup of coffee. Therefore we headed to the fairly large town called Rustenburg. But once arrived, it’s such a confusing mess again. Guddamn, why so much garbage on the streets?

Never mind; we still had some cookies in our food box. And a bottle of water.
The rest of the day we are driving through a boring, dry, but sunny landscape. And we got seriously cursed by a local guy, because we braked for a crossing cow … Huh? Isn’t that right to do? I’m afraid if we had hit the cow, we were killed by the family, because not seldom some head of cattle are their only possession.

If we stepped out of the car after arriving in Bloemfontein (at first glance, a breath of fresh air in terms of civilization) I felt the first raindrops on my head. At the horizon huge black cauliflowers with lightning, were quickly rolling in … We even didn’t roll our eyes anymore.
By phone we ordered a room in a luxurious neighborhood, hoping the accommodation was a bit luxurious too. We asked in advance if it was possible to cook in the room. Yes, it was.
The room appeared to be 3 x 4 meters, stuffed with 2 single beds, a wardrobe and a ‘kitchen unit’. There was no room left for a suitcase. Cooking facilities meant a mini microwave and a kettle. That’s it. When we asked if that was all there was … somebody was sent out to grab a dusty hot plate and 2 pans from the attic of the main house …
Cooking is very challenging without cutlery and no hot water, but we didn’t dare continuing to whine.

Before cooking we wanted to stretch our legs and went for a walk in these luxury streets. The upscale neighborhoods are not built for pedestrians. It is intended that the citizens in this part of town are driving from their garage behind the electric gates right to another high guarded area. Probably their feet hardly touch public grounds. So, there are no sidewalks. Our walk resulted in passing 70 barbed wired electric fences and at least we turned on 35 watchdogs who started furiously barking to us. Nobody here is walking just for fun. Walking means poverty and walking through rich neighbourhoods is considered as ‘bad intentions’. That’s of course not exactly the conclusion of the barking dogs, but they are conditioned to their bosses ideas, isn’t it?
As a foreigner I don’t want to have an opinion about this, but  in a strange way these neighbourhoods gave me the feeling of an upside down open air jail. But it’s inspiring anyway …




Escaping to Sun City

24 November 2013 (South-Africa)

We went to Sun City!
Do you remember this record?
From 1985. Five years before the apartheid was abolished. I hardly can believe it’s all so recent. Although … the country’s wound is still far from healed.
Sun city originated in the time of apartheid as a kind of refuge for whites. A cross between Disney and Las Vegas (a bit smaller though), located in a national park. It is 2.5 hours drive up north of Johannesburg.

Escaping to Sun CityThe route was varied, the weather was beautiful and our food box was full.
When we passed a nice lake, it seemed a good idea to do our banana-stop on the shore. After a long search for an acces to the lake (everything was fenced and private property), we found a spot. Well … we found a spot to park the car. Behind a thick barbed wire we had view on the lake.

At 1:00 PM we arrived at Sun City. And the sun was happily burning the whole day. It was our 10th day traveling through South-Africa and 9 of them has been grey and rainy. Our ‘reservoir of goodwill’ was limited, but this bright day helped a lot.
We parked under a tree, hoping that would keep the car a little cool. We took our bathing suits. Every 15 minutes, visitors were transported by train to the entertainment park. Looks like a smooth business.
The visitors got released in a fake cave and first we had to work ourselves through a tunnel filled with loud music, disco lights, amusement arcades and souvenir shops. Yes, ‘work through’ because there were so many people in bathing suits coming from the opposite direction.
When we saw daylight at the other end of the tunnel … I suddenly understood the reason of all the bustle. The sky was almost black as ink. A huge thunderstorm was appeared in just minutes! It started to rain like hell.

At 3:30 PM we were back at the car. The only thing we had done, was waiting for the visitors-train to the parking area, together with hundreds of other wet people.
Plan B for this day was to visit the national park … Watching animals at least was an ‘activity’ to do IN the car.
Well, we’ve seen a couple of wet animals. I didn’t record them, because as soon as I opened my window the pouring rain hit right on my camera. And through the closed window I only could record a haze of water.

At 5 AM we had ‘spilled’ enough time to check in for a place to sleep. The only available accommodation was a luxury safari tent or an expensive 8-person chalet. Uhhhh … the safari tent had no cooking facilities, no wi-fi and no water. There was electricity, but under these current weather conditions the power failed every 5 minutes.
We didn’t want to spent too much time in the almost dark tent, so we decided to have a long, slow and extensive dinner in the restaurant. But of course the restaurant had no electricity too … but it has to be said; they made the best out of it. The tables were lit with candles and not all the dishes on the menu were available, but it was still quite tasty.

On the video you’ll see sunny weather. But this was filmed the next morning.

The easy part of Johannesburg

23 November 2013 (South-Africa)

New day, new chances.
Initially I wanted to leave Johannesburg immediately, but Frank did some research on the Internet for things that could bring some salvation.

We started with an organic market 18 kilometers to the north. We set our expectations at zero. We expected some bed sheets on a garbage yard where a few half cabbages are offered. But, oooh it was totally different. An exciting eco-hippie market. And yes indeed, it was a ‘white people happening’ in a white people neighborhood.
I want to emphasize I’m not looking down on the opposite side of South-Africa, but the last couple of days we had seen so much of it … that I couldn’t deny I was longing for some easy entertainment.

There were 60 or 70 stalls loaded with fashionable fun stuff and fine clean foods without the sellers are breathing down in your purse. Even the stalls themselves were nice. Covered with cane for shade and built in cute winding alleys as if you were walking through a small village. And everywhere seats, tables and plants.
I saw so many delicious things that we had a lunch at 12 AM and again at 1 PM. I truly realised I’m very fortunated traveling in this country, where it is not unusual for a black woman to walk 90 minutes to her job (and 90 minutes back) as domestic worker for 3 hours a day (without her white mistress is even aware of it).

In the late afternoon again there was a botanical garden on our to-do list. I still wasn’t fully recovered from the previous botanical-no-garden, but today it was Frank’s turn to be the boss, so I had to go.
It was a kind of very large, hilly picnic-park where all the whites walking their fluffy perfumed dogs.
So, at the end of the day I was charged enough for the rest of our trip.

Arrived in Johannesburg

22 November 2013 (South-Africa)

Ermmm …
Yeah …
Well …
Johannesburg …
I even don’t know where to start …
What a terrible city.
I don’t want to go too much into details, because if I’m extensively going to describe this city, I ruin the possibility to smoothly forget. It’s like when you make a cheat sheet for school; at the time you are done to scribble the answers in tiny characters, everything is already hammered in your memory.
But okay, a few keywords about Jo’burg; nasty, ugly, unfriendly dumpy, tatty.

But the weather was beautiful 🙂

I knew Cape Town and Johannesburg would be different. But Amsterdam and Rotterdam are different too. Melbourne and Sydney as well. Here and there we had read that Johannesburg had risen from his bad nineties. I had expected Johannesburg was now perhaps 80% of what Cape Town was …
But I did not expect what we got to see. As soon as I’m home again, I will cut Johannesburg out of my map. I’m really sorry Jo’guys, it is even less than 5% of Cape Town!

We left at 10 AM and walked downtown. The locals advised us to take a cab, but we already have been sat in the car for so many days. And the experience is more intense by walking.
On the Internet we read that a specific neighbourhood was transformed into an emerging “creative incubator”. With all kind of new and out-of-the-box stuff. Ooow that would be nice. Just something for us! Let’s go and show us!

Arrived in JohannesburgThe route we had to walk to this neighbourhood, exactly would cross the possible nice points in the city. Well, the best nice points were an endless road with run-down buildings where five million citizens tried to sell hair extentions, second-hand bananas and scourer per meter. Or a complete neighborhood with scrap yards on the pavement (yes, in the center) where you had to wade through a wide variety of suspicious fluids. There was really nowhere a park, a square or even a bench to sit down for a couple of minutes without feeling like a sitting duck. And you already could guess … for that so-called creative hub we arrived about 40 years too early. There was a juice bar, a print store and some uninviting workshops.

Of course it is possible we just crossed the wrong areas, but if you do a kind of continuously march at a brisk pace for 4.5 hours, you have seen quite a large area.
Somewhat dismayed and quite exhausted we returned by taxi to our B&B, curling up in bed, together with the B&B cat, waiting until it was time to cook our dinner … regretting the fact we had booked for 3 days.

Searching for the botanical gardens

21 November 2013 (South-Africa)

Around lunchtime Google told us we were nearby public botanical gardens. A new chance to eat our banana outside the car???
We followed the signs. We followed the signs … and followed the signs. After a good 20 minutes we began to worry, because it was a long and very muddy path apparently going to nowhere. But … “Oh look; there is appearing a giant fence and port. With a cashier again. Well, that must be quite a garden, with so many trumpet blare. We instantly got high expectations. Although there were no other visitors.

A 10 minutes drive after passing the entrance, we began to worry again. The road remains exactly the same as before that impressive gate and the scenery around us was really nothing special. An occasionally dried bush or a heap of scrap metal. Just like we already have seen so much in recent days.
After another 10 minutes drive, in a state of resignation, we stopped right on the muddy path to eat our banana. Inside the car. I think that the gate itself was the main attraction. I made a short and messy video, but you get the idea.
A little later the lonely cashier happily waved us a good day.

The Eastern Cape of South-Africa

eastern-cape19 November 2013 (South-Africa)

We were in South Africa again. My father lives on the lower edge of the country called ‘the Garden route’. Halfway our stay Frank and I decided to make a trip via the East Cape to Johannesburg.
We tried to stay off the highway, to see more of the country. For example a nice viewpoint on the Bloukrans river mouth …
10 Minutes after we had taken the road that recommended viewpoint, we suddenly found ourselves in a line for a gate with a counter.
What? A ticket for just a river mouth?
Hmmm, we only wanted to eat our banana on a simple bench, or so. Not a tourist attraction.
Well, these local people need to make some money too, so … okay. What should it be? Maybe a few dollars for parking?
Ah wait, there is a list of prices … 3 dollars for South Africans and … huh? … 15 dollars for foreigners?
Yeah, fat dick! Just to just to eat our banana off the road, and stretching our legs for a moment?!

We drove about 6 hours a day. Without stopping. No, that’s not really what we wanted, but there are simply no resting areas. Cafes, or just a scruffy coffee shop along the road don’t exist here. At least not in the south-east.
Back in the days the roads were built by the white South-African farmers, but they probably have forgotten to lay along footpaths. Most black South-Africans don’t have a car, but like everyone else, sometimes they need to go to another township or neighbourhood. So they use the motorway as footpath. And there are Very Many pedestrians! Sometimes they also have some cattle, but no land. Therefore they take their cattle to graze on the shoulders of the road. These animals can easily wander on the roads. And they continually do.

Massively hanging out and broadly sitting along the motorway apparently seems to be a regional daily activity of the locals. It is not really appealing to stop your car between them and peacefully eat your lunch.
The amount of waste along the roads is really baffling. In some parts it seems like every 10 meters a complete garbage bag is emptied on the side of the road. The pieces of waste are flapping between the laundry that is also hanging on the same fences.

To supply our mobile food box we bought a bunch of bananas from a poor old lady. She was sitting on the pavement in front of a hardware store. Where -by the way- everyone who entered the door first is extensively searched for guns and knifes by the owner. The old lady placed an upside down plastic crate serving as a counter. Besides a few bunches of bananas there are also set out 2 packs of cigarettes. You can buy them per cigarette. The price of 10 bananas is 1 Rand (that is 0.20 US dollar). We almost felt ashamed to even walk around here. We paid 5 Rand for the bananas and became blessed from head to toe. Oh boy …

The still enormous gap between black and white is immense and nonstop felt. Later on, this experience and the pictures below will be translated in a painting and story called ‘the Free One’.

The East Cape of South-Africa The Eastern Cape of South-Africa

Here is another moment the seeds of that painting were sprouting.