Tag Archive | travels

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, no! 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.

A cutting fight in Capetown

6 December 2012 (South Africa)

After Namibia we were in Capetown for a couple of days. The kind of souvenirs I’m always after, are fabrics. I love making clothes and I already do have a huge pile of fabrics in stock, but I can’t pass a fabric store without taking a quick look.

In a fabric store in Capetown I fought a psychological battle with an unsympathetic woman. Let’s call her Unsy.
a cutting fight in Capetown
I found 3 rolls of perfectly matching fabrics and laid them side by side in the rack to have a proper and thorough deliberation with me and myself.
Next to me Unsy had her eye on the same kind of fabric, but in different colours than my rolls. But suddenly … she grabbed one of ‘my’ rolls and walked to the counter, where the cutting tables were located. Of course it was not mine yet. I had not put my hand on it, so … yeah … how do you deal in such a case?

I grabbed my 2 other rolls and followed her to the cutting table. She put her rolls down at the cutting lady. She ordered the measurements and while she turned around I just heard her saying she quickly had to grab some haberdashery at the bridal department.
The cutting lady started to measure one of the rolls of Unsy in its total! Was she planning to buy the complete rolls? Also my pink one? What? The full 30 meters? Without leaving to 2 meters for me?
Well Damn! One single minute earlier she clearly had seen that I was considering to buy it too!
In high dudgeon I felt my ears pulling backwards and my whiskers pulling forwards.
Unsy’s cutting lady called to another cutting lady to help me in between, because she herself would be busy for a while.

So, when she looked the other way, in a split second I pulled the pink roll out of her pile and held it vertically beside my body to hide it on my walk to the next cutting lady. I made myself as broad as possible and intensively watched the bridal department.
When my whiskers are pulled forward I’m hardly able to talk normally anymore. Other, more extrovert people probably firmly would say: “Hey lady, I was interested in that roll too, you know!” But even then … there is always a risk that I would lose. Irrespectively how dishonest that would be, but I was not a local. Who know all those women are knowing each other. Maybe Unsy was a ‘high roller’.
So to prevent I would lose, I felt forced to be Sneaky & Sly. But hey; after all Unsy had begun the fight! She started to play Blunt & Rude! Isn’t it?

I slide the pink roll forward a bit and at the same moment my cutting lady did the first cut, the cutting lady of Unsy suddenly stood in front of me and asks rather sternly: “Where did you get this roll?”
As far as my evil whiskers allowed me, I put my dumbest smile and pointed to my 2 other rolls. “Aren’t they adorable all together? I want 2 meters of every roll.”
“Yes! But! Where! Did! You! Got! It?! “she asks now with large spaces between every word. “From here,” I gestured to the rest of the store.
Did you take that roll from my table ?! she asks sharply. “Yeah,” I said in a tone as if it was a completely logical act. She looks past me and asked me: “And what now?”
In the mean time in the corner of my eye I saw my 2 meters were neatly folded on my stack, so I said: “I don’t know … now the roll is yours … I think?”
She madly frowned and took the roll in silence

Pfffff … I felt my whiskers relaxing.

Kolmanskop the ghost town

5 December 2012 (Namibia)

Besides the Kalahari desert, another impressive spot in the former German colony Namibia was ‘das Sperrgebiet’. That means ‘forbidden area’ and it is a mining area for diamonds.
I was not especially interested in the diamonds (although for the first time in my life I got fascinated by the beauty of all kinds of minerals), but I was charmed by the desolated atmosphere of the abandoned settlements of the miners.
One of the villages is open for tourists and is named Kolmanskop. These days it is called ‘ghost town’. In the silent, hot weather with a gusty wind what caused a kind of yellow/grey hazy view that was a perfect characterization. All the buildings were deteriorated, but accessible for visitors. A true paradise for photographers and location scouts.

Looking at these images it’s not hard to find out where my inspiration for my painting The same one came from. At least the source of the house is quite clear and maybe the silence of the desert has crept in the painting too.

More Namibia

The silence was loud

Beyond the job of vacuum cleaning

A ‘naturally sandblasted’ window

Kolmanskop the ghost town

15 minutes from the ghost town, the colour is back!

A few days later in the Sossusvlei

Quivers and titties

2 December 2012 (Namibia)

In some areas of Namibia are growing many quivers. As we drive into the field of these special trees, I understand why I had to come here … they are true real-live ‘Lubeck Trees’!

It’s a hidden piece of land with a strange kind of ‘furniture’ of piled stones. Done by nature itself.
The quivers are awesome. Especially in such a matching strange landscape. I instantly became friends with them. And they with me. And we hugged.
I found out that the trunks looks a bit like my painting called Agaricia Bullio! So, another case of retroactive inspiration.

The trunk of a Quiver …
… and her beautiful crown
I admit … I’m a tree hugger
quivers and titties
Artistically painted pumpkin parts in the quiver park

More Namibia

Populus Flucta in real

1 December 2012 (Namibia)

In October/November Frank and I travelled to South-Africa to visit my Dad and to make a camper trip through Namibia.
One of the things I really have to mention in this art blog, is that the story of one of my paintings, now has become to life …

Populus Flucta in realWhen I painted Populus Flucta in 2006, the base of this idea (beside the landscaping) were the unique nests build by birds that live in the Kalahari desert. The nests are actually enormous hollow rooms and can contain sometimes more than 100 pairs of birds and the nests can be used by several generations of birds. I had never seen this nests in real. I only had read about it.

Now, 6 years later, we camped at the edge of the Kalahari desert! There was no fence or a border around the camp site and everything was ‘out there’. It wasn’t a difficult decision to set the alarm clock just before sun rise (otherwise it was too hot for a long walk) and sneak into the wide and silent desert. The sky was beautifully lilac and the animals were not to sleep yet.
After an hour I saw a HUGE one.

Camp site

Camp site

populus flucta in real

Here is the first large nest of the birds called ‘social weavers’

They also nesting in living trees

Here you see all the ‘doors’ to the separate rooms

Sometimes the birds choose a pole

More Namibia

The face of Taipei city

2 April 2012 (Taiwan)

Although in the end my visit to Taiwan, was absolutely one of the milestones in my life, the architecture of Taipei was not attractive to me straight away. It took me a couple of days to force my way into the somewhat impervious face of the city. The buildings are a bit gloomy and dark, without much windows. The most used form of decoration is covering a building from top to bottom under a pancake of small tiles. And the cloudy weather didn’t help either.
I have been in Singapore and Hong Kong, but I can’t remember I got the same feeling of oddness as in Taipei. For me it was a atmosphere of a futuristic scene build in the fifties. It was not a turn off, but more a kind of intriguing. A mix of spooky and fairy. Certainly in the more silent neighbourhoods.


And then sometimes, in the middle of a spooky alley with never a ray of sunlight, right beside the assembly point of trash bins, I saw an extremely colourful, glittery and warm shelter with a mini-temple. Or a tiny, but loudly sparkling little candy shop hidden in an almost black dirty street full of the exhausts of the airco’s.


Of course there also were the new modern blocks and a shiny business centre, that certainly had a more lighter and opener atmosphere. There you find the outdoor cafés, the chain shops and the markets, but a lot of the authentic life of the Taiwanese people occurs a bit more ‘behind the scene’ as we European people are used to. But at the other hand; I am sure that is only on the first sight. The sight of the ignorant foreigner who don’t know his way. The Taiwanese people themselves are adorable!
Taiwan is certainly a land I want to know better. This time I’ve only seen Taipei city, but there is so much more I want to experience. And I will.

Here is a kind of a ‘sound greeting card’. Maybe you can imagine the view was an inspiration for my painting called ‘The persistent one’.

Art Revolution Taipei

1 April 2012 (Taiwan)

Joining the A.R.T. (Art Revolution Taipei) was a real milestone in my career! The decision to be at the fair in real person was even better. It was all one great learning course!

Before I received an invitation of ‘gallery X-power’ in Taipei to participate this adventure, I never have had much thoughts about Taiwan. Some people I told about my plans even confused Taiwan with Thailand 😉 And to be honest; I had to do some investigation on the internet too, about what kind of country this was.
When the date came closer I got more and more excited about what was going to happen. The organisation sounded so solid and professional. I had shipped my paintings in advance and booked 10 days Taiwan for two. Everything was taken care for.

It was a fantastic experience. The A.R.T. fair as well as Taipei itself. I’m definitely in love and one day I’ll be back!


Remember the sculpture in the back?


Fun to see my own work back in a catalogue.

Wow, they made a banner of my painting! Isn't that cool?!

Wow, they made a banner of my painting! Isn’t that cool?!

Improvising with a microphone under my nose is not my strongest point :-/

Improvising with a microphone under my nose is not my strongest point :-/

These lanterns in a string of 3 kilometre led us from the station to the temple.

These lanterns in a string of 3 kilometre led us from the station to the temple.

A spectacular view from the garden of one of the beautifully decorated temples

A spectacular view from the garden of one of the beautifully decorated temples

One of the rooms in the temple

One of the rooms in the temple

We rent a bike and had an absolutely wonderful day along the river in Taipei

We rent a bike and had an absolutely wonderful day along the river in Taipei

The famous 101 building. For a short while it was the highest in the world.

The famous 101 building. For a short while it was the highest in the world.

For a vegetarian Taiwan is a candy shop!

For a vegetarian Taiwan is a candy shop!

More Tapei

From Brisbane to Sydney

28 Februari 2012 (Australia)

Together with my parents in law Frank and I have been in Australia for 2 weeks. After staying for a couple of days in Brisbane we very slowly travelled down to Sydney. Frank and I slept in the campervan and the parents slept in one of those cute cabins or little bungalows on the camping-sites along the way. I’m feeling so happy in this country.
Every time I visit a big city (especially in Australia) it seems I’m allowed to take a deep breath after swimming underwater for too long.

I wondered what kind of good deeds the citizens have done in their previous lives in order to be born in Australia. Then I wondered what bad I have done in my previous life that I am NOT born here*. But suddenly I understood! Of course I have done so much good in my present life, I do not have to wait until a next life. I’m allowed to jump the queue! In this life yet.
New Zealand won’t be our final resting place.

The strong feeling what came to me exactly when this photo was taken in Newcastle, will become clear within 5 years …

Brisbane Sydney

* But know I know … I certainly realize that being born in the Netherlands, is unbeatable privileged too.
I was just acting (acting is my comfort zone).
And you knew that.

A foot massage in Singapore

5 August 2011 (Singapore)

On our way back from the Netherlands we booked a stop-over in Singapore for 1 day. We counted on beating the jet lag easily, but we were more tired than we had expected. Uninspiredly we dragged ourselves through the city. We were so longing to a quick nap, but we even couldn’t find the tiniest piece of public lawn to lay on. And please no, not another drink or not again a lunch on a bar stool. Better keep on moving. Swim to avoid drowning.
“Shall we go to Chinatown? To that crazy mall? Four weeks ago I saw a booth with beautiful beads. Maybe we can find it again”.
Walking the same route as we did earlier we didn’t find the beads, but we came along many stalls with Chinese foot masseurs.
“Shall we? Do you want to go in this time?”
We were somewhat hesitate, but the simple fact that we saw 8 very comfortable reclining chairs … $ 15 for a 30-minute foot reflexology made us stop. I didn’t care what they plan to do with my feet, I just wanted to lie down there. I was exhausted and I would fall asleep anyway.

Frank was the first to fill in a kind of medical check list. In the meantime, the boss started phoning like crazy. It looked like he was calling his complete family to come along and laugh at those foreigners.
Five seats away an Australian girl was terrible moaning and shocking with her body. She saw me watching her in horror. “If he squeezes there, I feel it here,” she said. “AAAUUUWWW !!!” she screamed again. “But it’s a good hurt, you know!” She said quickly, as she saw my frozen eyes.
Yes, my fat ass, I thought. Good pain … ha! That’s probably the same as black money. Spending black money works exactly the same as spending white money.
She again concentrated and her face contorted beyond.

Suddenly I didn’t want the massage.
But Frank was too late for a change of mind. His checklist was filled in already.

From the moment they had put us in the 2 chairs close to the window, more and more people came in. See! That must be the boss’ family and friends. Curious to see those giant white feet up close! Even a blind man entered the room!
This man puts his stick at the door and the boss quickly led him to Frank’s seat. He got a jar of cream pressed into his hands and without any introduction he began to feel Frank’s feet.

When he was doing his job he pulls all strange faces and moves his mouth in silence … like he was in an inner dialogue with the assigned feet.
On a poster on the wall I could descry where the internal body parts are connected in the feet. I saw an icon of the brains and the heart, all indicated by colours. Now I finally know where men’s willies are located!

Because I had forgotten to turn off the beep that is heard when I turn on my camera, I didn’t dare to take pictures. The blind man looks a bit … how shall I say it … angrily. Or severe. He scared me. Maybe because I continually whispered to Frank whether it hurts. Frank shook his head, but I know -because I didn’t join in to be screwed- he now never will answer me honestly anymore about this subject. He probably prefers to bite off his own foot, instead of showing me any emotion.
I am also afraid that -when the blind man would hear the beep- he viciously would pinch Frank. Or that he would shift his internal parts and would cause something bad.
At that moment I’m even more determined I really don’t want this. Don’t touch my internal body parts.
The boss gestures ‘to do me for free’.

Singapore, foot massage

We even thought to do a sneaky nap hidden under the elephant, but the parking and especially the elephant was guarded.

A visit to the Netherlands

4 August 2011 (the Netherlands)

We were in the Netherlands for a month to visit our family. I was asked if I have seen changes compared with 6 years ago.
Most of all there were some differences that we had forgotten. For example, as soon as we left the airport, I immediately saw the Dutch are much slimmer. And the children on their little supersonic bicycles were all fully decorated with the latest gadgets and they were fashionably dressed like miniature-adults (and matching attitude 😉 )

Recently I read in one of the Dutch magazines (I still read them) that in the Netherlands ‘the prosperity is gushing out of the dormer windows’. In real … that is true. And it’s notable. I saw an interview on tv about Dutch families who supposedly are in financial trouble. In the background I saw beautiful living rooms, top class furniture, wooden floors, modern decorations. Everything of good quality and looking in mint condition. I can’t take that serious. That is really a difference with here.
Yes, for a few days I was jealous of all that wealth and the unlimited choice. Not to say New Zealand is a poor country. I know it’s not Ethiopia. And we ourselves aren’t poor too. But the image around us though, is certainly looking a bit … eh … well … let’s not equivocate; a bit shabby.
However, after a few days I knew it again. Because don’t forget … if you always have to live in such a nasty climate, locked inside your house, probably you desperately need some extra fun/luxury in return.
I prefered the good weather.

Another thing I liked of being back was; Dutchies hardly do courtesy talks. In daily life and in business they can be bluntly honest to each other without affecting their relationship. They are going right to the point. For foreigners they may sound rude, but Dutchies skipping the courtesy talks feels like saving time for both.

A sound that struck me was the cooing of doves. Awww, I missed that. And the far sounds of church bells a couple of times a day. I totally had tuned that out when I lived in the Netherlands, but now I realised I hadn’t heard them for years!
But the finest sound actually, was a certain lack of sound … that eternal voice in the shops, “Can I help you?”
For me it was so liberating that in every Dutch shop (no matter how posh) you can walk in without the shop assistants jump right on your neck.
Beside in the Netherlands there is so much beauty for sale, the disinterest of the staff (or so you want; the skipping of the courtesy) made shopping a great pleasure. When I’m thinking about entering a shop in New Zealand, quite often the saleswoman already greedy tries to make eye-contact, while I am still outside! I can’t handle that and won’t come in then. I hate it and I feel forced. If I need help I know where she is. Everybody knows.
Although I like that New Zealanders always greeting each other on the street (Dutchies ignore strangers), that shop-thing must ne a Dutch habit I can’t get rid of. For Dutch people maybe shops are more a kind of ‘public area’. And for New Zealand people a shop is owned by someone who takes care for the visitors. Does that make sense?

The owner in the background is completely ignoring me and is reading his paper. Thumbs up.


City trip to Melbourne

4 February 2011 (Australia)



After 3,5 years of financial drought and lack of time (because of the renovation of our house) we finally could treat ourselves to a city trip to Melbourne. I want to tell you why I so enormously enjoyed it!

For me personally it felt like a kind of landslide to understand the Australian accent 100 times easier than the New Zealand accent. I know; probably my language struggle begins to be a pretty boring topic for you, and for me it’s quite annoying that I hardly can explain why I find language & personality are so tightly connected to each other.

But … apart from the certainty that there are way more serious problems in the world (really, I know, haha) the fact is that I have to cope this struggle and in Australia I experienced an almost physical relief because the bustle around me was no dense cloud of abstract sounds anymore. Without significant concentration I could pick up complete sentences! For example; listening to the people gossiping about their aunty on the seats behind me in the lunchroom … oh, the joy! Or the teenage girls in the tram discussing how they would approach their prey that night. It made me serenely smiling. It were fragments of lives that had nothing to do with my life, but suddenly now I was part of the same space, instead of being an almost deaf and dumb person in a separate bubble.

What also made me so happy was that people understood ME TOO!!! Usually without I needed to repeat my words 3 times! Of pure happiness I asked things on my own initiative! Just for fun! Without those questions were urgently needed! No deep conversations though, but you have to start in baby steps, isn’t it?
In New Zealand, when I asked for an extra sugar packet … without exception they looked at me like I’m hysterically yelling at them. Even if I pointed to the empty pot of sugar packets at the same time. Sometimes I almost choked of frustration!
Then what a relief to simply ask in the fitting room: “Can you bring me a larger size?” and the shop assistant kindly nodded and DOING it right away!!! Oh … those little things made me so happy last week.

I always have felt if I was the first person in the world by asking such an idiotic thing like a larger size, or a sugar packet, while requesting these questions in a completely logical situation. After all, I didn’t ask for a sugar packet just after a fire has broken out. And I didn’t ask for a larger size, just when I was lying down to undergo a gynecological examination.
Anyhoo … if you often experience that feeling of despair, then after a while it will affect your behavior. And if your behaviour is changing, it slowly infects your personality.

If I concentrate I can follow the news on tv in New Zealand. But a constant high focus is too much. I only can muster for things that interest me in a certain level.
I don’t know why other people pick it up so much faster. Probably I need more practice. To practice you need to talk to strangers. Ha … and THAT is quite unthinkable for an introvert!
But it remains a curious fact that I have much less trouble with the Australian dialect. Four years ago, I already had noticed this during our visit to Brisbane.

The above story is not the reason for our desire to move to Australia in the future. We miss the Big City. That doesn’t mean we made the wrong choice 5 years ago. At that time, New Zealand was the right choice. We wanted to leave the Netherlands, away from the crowds and live in a quiet area. Well … we did. Now we are five years further in life and have learned a few things. Perhaps we have changed too. We broadly moved to the right direction. Now we just need to do some fine tuning. Geographically-wise.


Somewhere in Melbourne

Bird flu

19 October 2007 (Hong Kong)

hongkongbuddhaYesterday we went to Hong Kong’s “Giant Buddha”. I could not take pictures because I still haven’t chosen a new camera. But THIS gives an idea of the size of the brazen thing.

Gina asked us if we could bring some red feathers from South Africa. If she graduates her Maori culture course, she wants to wear a Maori cloak which she is creating during her studies and she wanted to add red feathers. In South Africa we haven’t seen any red bird, let alone a loose feather.

bird flu

Feathers in our crampy hotel room

Yesterday in Hong Kong we walked into a ‘botanical garden’ which turned out to be a disguised zoo in reality. It was quite a bizarre location, deep down between the skyscrapers of 100 meters high.
There was a cage with flamingos. These guys were not red, but orange is almost red, isn’t it? For 30 minutes with a stick we tried to pick out the loose feathers from the mesh. After a while, Frank put on his sweetest face (you don’t know what you see!) and seduced a staff member of the garden to give us some larger and nicer feathers from deeper inside the cage. He was more than willing to help us. This year the ‘bird flu’ is often in the news, so probably the customs go crazy and we will be hang on the gallows if they find out we sent feathers from China to New Zealand …

A nest with an egg!

After returning at the airport in New Zealand, we saw our car was still waiting for us. Before we drove home, Frank needed to reconnect the wires of the battery (a cunning anti-theft device in kiwi-style, if you park for a longer time). When he opened the bonnet, he saw something very wonderful …

Spoken about cars and animals; By the time we would return from South-Africa we would have received the cheque of $ 2200 of that sheep guy. But … of course it wasn’t.
Frank was so patient to call the guy to remind him that the money should have been on our account a week ago. Then again the guy started a whole monologue that by he closer inspection he decided it was our own fault. And that the judge had not listened to him, and that $ 2200 was way too much for such a small scratch and that the damage was about more than the value of our whole car! Frank remained admirably calm and unmoved, while I probably had exploded in my anger.
Although we did not expect anything else than being a pain, unfortunately now we need to initiate a new process. A bailiff.

Elephotos and leaving SA

13 October 2007 (South Africa)

ElephotosThere was still 1 must-do on the South-Africa list; Hugging Elephants.
It is a strange perception to see such enormous animals obediently squatting beside the portable stairs and patiently get these little people loaded on their back. Their trunks are as thick as my waist and yet the elephants didn’t knocks anyone off his socks with it.
Just like me, lately. I meant with my waist. No one. Knocking someone off his socks …
Okay, forget what I said.
At night the animals are inside a large hall sleeping on elephants beds. The staff lives there too in a large room in the rafters of the hall, overlooking the nightlife of the elephants. Like a kind of skybox.

elephotosOn the last day we rent canoes and rowed the same route as we hiked with the German backpacker. Not quite up to the bare-ass-swimming-hole, but far enough got fairly tired.

elephantsOn Friday morning we left South Africa and Saturday morning we arrived in Hong Kong.
We had to hang around with our suitcases outside the building until afternoon, before our room was ready. There was no lounge. It is the smallest hotel room we’ve ever had, but we knew that beforehand. In Hong Kong square meters are priceless (hence all those skyscrapers), so for a hotel room in the center you have to pay money or you have to give up comfort.
Besides the suspiciously short bed, which is clamped on three sides between the walls, there is about 2 square meters left. One meter is for the suitcases (closed) and the other meter needs to stay clear to be able to open the door.
Behind an accordion-door is a miniature bathroom. If you like you can take a shower while sitting on the toilet on the same time. Pretty handy! The walls are interestingly decorated with lime green fake leather.
Once we touched the pillows we fell asleep. It was in the middle of the day.
When I wake up hours later, I realize that my camera was still in the plane …

Montagu and Oudtshoorn

7 October 2007 (South Africa)

MontaguThe next morning we woke up in an art deco hotel with many original art deco furniture. It’s located in Montagu, a small pastel coloured art deco town with beautiful houses. Very photogenic … if it is not raining. I tried to shoot some photos, but through the wet car windows the result is looking pathetic.

Because the rain has become worse, there is little else to do than visiting the Hot Springs. It is a ‘day spa’ in a luxury hotel and it was excessively advertised all over Montagu, so we got high expectations!
It took quite some effort to rent a towel, but then we went to the changing rooms. These were tiny particles about 1 square meter with a curtain. The entire surface of the particle is filled with a big chair. Was it the intention to stand on it?
The changing rooms for men actually were the men’s bathrooms, but to create some space for changing clothes they had replaced 2 of the 4 urinals with … yeah … also those big chairs. Even no curtains here. Frank was afraid that a guy came in to do his business. Or worse; that he would drop something on the floor.
Unfortunately, there was no locker for your stuff. So our clothes had to be placed at the edge of the pool. Not convenient in the pouring rain, so we open up one of the sun umbrellas to create a kind of a ‘dry spot’.

Under normal circumstances, located between the mountains and the lovely trees this complex must be quite nice, but because of the strong wind all the white plastic chairs were piled up in a corner and the open bar was now protected with white plastic.
The pool was not as warm as we had hoped for, but the most confusing thing was the fence in the middle of the pool: One half was for the hotel guests and the other half for the … plebs. I would think; we are paying visitors, so what’s the difference?
Against 2 other visiting couples we did a mean eye-fight (intensely stare to someone to get him move) with varying results. The goal was a spot under a hot water jet, which was spewed out of a stone vulture, to gain a bit warmth.
After half an hour our willingness to stay positive started to stagnate.

Montagu and OudshoornWe drive a few hours in eastern direction through the Klein Karoo. The weather remains gray, cold and wet. It is a popular wine region, but apparently religion refrain them to do wine tastings on Sunday. It was Sunday …
Btw; In the supermarkets the aile with alcohol is also literally red taped on Sunday.
At the end of the afternoon we found a B&B in a beautifully furnished Victorian house in Oudtshoorn. The first thing we did was curling up in bed with the electric blanket to warm up. And then via internet tried to found out what’s on in the local cinema.
No cinema.

The next morning … yeah … finally it is sunny. And the mountains … are white. That night it has snowed.
Now the mountain pass is closed, but to us (Northern Europeans used to snow) that seems overly exaggerated. What’s dangerous of a bit of snow? We’re going anyway.
A closely test on top of the mountain confirms that it was real snow. Yep. Wild snow. And it’s 2 degrees Celsius. Yes … I’m still reporting from South-Africa.
The gorge is quite magical. In the valley, where it is a bit warmer, we do a mini-hike along a very adventurous path. We passed large stones in the river, climbed over fallen logs along steep cliffs and dense vegetation.

Mossel Bay

6 October 2007 (South Africa)

mossel bayLast week we planned to make a little road trip and started driving from Wilderness to the west side. Our first stop is Mossel Bay. Many smaller shops in South-Africa have open doors, but you have to ring the doorbell before the owner unlocks the metal see-through fences. This is a very common habit. The whites are scared for raids of the blacks.

In front of our hotel room in Mossel Bay we found a very skinny nearly-dead cat, covered with fleas. The poor thing spent way too much precious energy by jumping up twice a minute because of unrelenting itching. Just before closing time of the supermarket we could buy a can of tuna. And before closing time of the evening store we could buy a few pouches of Kittekat too.
The next day we also found a veterinary to buy flea drops. The advantage of a country with extreme poverty is that you can buy more things per piece. Like 1 cigaret, 1 banana … or 1 pipette of flea killer what usually is sold in a box of 6 pipettes.
After 2 days of force feeding we couldn’t stuff the cat any further and we had to leave him. Hoping he was a bit stronger now, to live the next part of his scruffy life.

We drove northwards and saw many farms (vine growers) with a kind of miniature newbuilt neighbourhoods on the farthest edge of their estate. These were 4 or 5 very small concrete 1 room houses where their black workers reside. Some farmers had put some extra nice houses on an extra visible spot along the road, with a large sign ‘staff village’, so that passenger clearly could see that he is GOOD to his workers.
Officially the Apartheid is over, but the awareness of both colours is still so tangible. Even cemeteries have certain separate parts, unmistakably meant as the ‘slum area’.


guardianship4 October 2007 (South Africa)

Yesterday we did a hike (between Hoekwil and Wilderness, South-Africa) and right at the beginning of the track, we were approached by an older couple and ‘a boy’. They asked us if we could be willing to take care of the boy. They had ‘found’ him in front of a warning sign that says: ‘the walkway was impassable because paths were washed away by heavy rain’. The boy wanted to follow the route nevertheless, but they had persuaded him not to do. They found it too dangerous. “You have to oblige such a sign!” the couple emphasized.

guardianshipApparently the instant adoptive parents thought the boy would not obey them as soon as they were gone, so on the spot they came to a compromise; They had seen that we too were planning to ignore the warning sign, but … that we are also are looking very wise and sensible. Oh yeah, if the light is in our favour, we can radiate an enormous reliability, haha. A bright white aura!
So suddenly, we got the supervision on … a 20-year-old German backpacker, who patiently and friendly smiling was waiting, without any interfere about this oddly transfer.


Umbrella and drizzle

Actually, we planned to do only half the hike. It was drizzling and we both wore the wrong shoes. But of course now we couldn’t lose our face and walked the total track of 5.5 hours. With half way a dip in an icy cold lake under the waterfall.
No, not me. I was charged to guard the cameras and clothes from the drizzle, while the guys went for a swim. Though I did not dare to take a picture when I saw the backpacker’s bare ass in my peripheral vision.

Eaten by the lions

2 October 2007 (South Africa)

lionsNo Africa without wildlife. Or better said; quasi-wildlife, because in this part of the continent most of the wildlife lives in parks. Large parks, okay. But still parks. Gated communities for animals.
There are many parks with escorted wildlife trips, called game drives. Sometimes you can have bad luck and see no animal at all and another day you can see them waiting for you in ques.
The park we visited is burned every few years (by natures law) and so there is not much bush. That means that the animals are always easy to find, but also the whole area isn’t very photogenic. It would be nice if the tourist had the assumption the chauffeur was driving this route for the first time in his life, and occasionally jumped out of the car to clear out a free path with a machete.
But in real … you can see the long and winding road in front of you, draped over the empty hills.

lionsThe area with the lions was extra fenced (a fenced ring inside the fenced park), because otherwise they’ll hunt and eat all the other animals in the park. The very open truck entered the electric fenced area and of course the tourists obediently have to sit on their seats, not allowed to make strange movements. The chauffeur parked the front of the truck against the inner fence.
On the left and the right side lions were lying around the truck, approximately at 4 meters distance.
If they are willing to kill us, they could do it now.

Once the driver has done his talk and we were allowed to click our cameras, the animals moved a little towards the truck. They are spoiled because once a week they get served a delicious sheep, so we didn’t need to be afraid that they were hungry. To encourage the lions to do some work-out, the sheep meat is not offered in ready-to-eat pieces, but tied behind a car and dragged around, so the lions needs to come off their asses to rip a piece.
Still -probably out of a kind of deep instinct- I didn’t look into their eyes when they look at me. It could touch an aggressive nerve.


Licking his lips he’s crawling onto the giant tin with human flesh

If the chauffeur turns on the engine again, he isn’t able to get the gear lever in reverse. That’s tricky, because that is the only way back when parked the nose against the fence …
He is trying a couple of minutes and I noticed his face is turning red. By the time the chauffeur triumphed, one of the lions curled up right behind the truck, not planning to move an inch.
At most the chauffeur can drive in reverse for 1 metre and then needs to stop to prevent the lion getting nasty thoughts.
There is a small piece of space to manoeuvre between the (electric!) fence, the rear-lion, the right-lion and a slippery trench. Very slowly the truck got turned, until the co-driver said: “Oh ………. we have a flat tire.

Obviously, this would be a good time to stop this blog … but of course you realize (after a day or so) that I have written the above text being alive.
So okay, with the flat tire we drove back in slow motion on a road full of potholes and bumps. In the meanwhile, the truck started to hang dangerously lopsided and the co-driver called for help. The lions felt that something unusual was going on and followed the vehicle on a ‘very inappropriately distance’. By keep driving the flat tire could get of the rim and the loose rubber could block the wheels.


The flat tire

But, another truck came to save us.
He parked tightly along our truck so we safely could step over into the other one.

And so … we were not eaten!

Arrived in South-Africa

27 September 2007 (South Africa)

At 3 AM I finished the painting and was done with cleaning the house. All for keeping up our good reputation! The alarm clock was ringing at 6 AM. Just before leaving, in the first daylight I could make a picture of the painting for the Australian gallery.
I wanted to shorten the pants in the plane while I was wearing it, as long as I could smuggle a needle and a seam ripper. And what was the reason again, to iron the finished laundry if everything got stuffed in a suitcase??? So that was skipped.
Oh and yeah … the agreement for buying the house was signed.

Auckland is the 1-hour flight.
Then wait for 3 hours …
… for a 12 hour flight to Hong Kong.
Arrived in South-AfricaThan wait another 3 hours …
… for a 12-hour flight to Johannesburg.
And wait 5 hours …
… for a 2 hours flight to George (that’s the name of a city).

When we arrive it’s Wednesday and 41 hours ago since we awoke.