I’m Canadian not Coloured

It was interesting being in South Africa 16 year post apartheid and to see what the changes had been.  In the southern part of the country, you could still see the segregation with respect to jobs.  At the hostels, I noticed that the front desk was usually manned by white people, sometimes coloured people, but it was the blacks who cleaned the hostels.  There were areas called townships which were created during the apartheid for the black people to live (sometimes coloured and asians as well) and they are shanty towns of corrugated metal homes.  In contrast, there is a lot of money in the south and there were mega big homes all over the place.  In the north of the country, more economic progress is being seen within the African community.  It was eye opening to visit places like Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela and other political detainees were kept); the apartheid, district 6 and Hector Pieterson museum;  and doing a township tour in Soweto.  It was disturbing to realize what was going on in the world during the time of apartheid.  It started after world war 2 and it got worse in the 60s when the civil rights movement was happening in the US.  Being Canadian of Caribbean parents, it was hard to see the segregation between the coloureds and the blacks especially when in north america, they would all be grouped together.  There is so much I could say about it, but thankfully it ended and the healing process will be a journey.
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Ostriches and Caves

Highlight of the South African trip was visiting an ostrich farm. 
Ostriches are farmed and I tried some meat and ate some eggs.  Ostriches are
quite stupid animals.  Normally they lay 15 eggs per year, but if their eggs are
removed after they lay them, they forget that they laid them and they lay more. 
If you cover their head up, they are quite calm because they think that if they can’t see you,
you can’t see them.  Even the busmen used their stupidity against them.   It was
hard to kill an ostrich from a distance because of their narrow neck and they
have good eye sight.  But the bushmen could using a stick for a neck pretend to
be an ostrich walk up right beside one and then kill it with their spear.  I
rode an ostrich. If you can call it that.  It was more like hang on for dare
life and see how many seconds you can last.  I didn’t do so hot. 
 
I also visited these caves and there we had an option of doing an adventure
tour where you could crawl and slither through the caves.  It was so much fun. 
There was one passage called the chimney and you had to climb up this tiny space
in order to get to the other side.  Another one called the post box, you had
commando crawl on your belly and then turn over onto your back and slide down
this narrow space.  After swimming thru caves holding a candle in Guatemala, and
doing this adventure tour, I will never be able to simply walk as a tourist
through caves again. 

Can I Wear Flip Flops?

I headed
over to spend sometime in South Africa.  My trip there was very rushed,
but I did have a good time.  In Cape Town, there is the famous Table
Mountain.  There are two rules to climbing Table Mountain.  Don’t go
alone  and wear proper shoes.  So as I was on my own, I wore my flip
flops since I was going to take the cable car up.  Since I wasn’t going
to walk up the mountain, I was going to walk to the mountain- a good
2.5 hour walk (with stops along the way).  As I was nearing where the
cable car was, I passed this lady who asked "You going to climb up?"
"No, I’m taking the cable car." "LAZY!" She was an experienced hiker
and convinced me that being Sunday there would be enough people walking
up and down that I would be fine and that the most popular path I would
be able to do in flip flops.  So there I went.  I headed off to climb
mountain in flip flops.  The first bit was steep then I came to a level
path that took me to the pathway on the mountain that I would weave
back and forth climbing and climbing and climbing.  As I climbed, the
mist rolled in, so I couldn’t see the top.  There were these Asian guys
that I met who were climbing down and I asked them how long they had
been climbing down for.  They said oh 20 min. I was very close to the
top.  So I walked about 10 min and met up with 3 people on their way
down.  I asked them the same question.  They told me 25 min.  Okay?  I
continued for maybe another 15min and met up with a mother and
daughter.  They told me 30-40min to the top!  Was this mountain
growing?  I continued for another 15min.  Then took my backpack off,
ate a roll that was in there, put on my sweater, refilled my water
bottle, and recharged myself for the rest of this climb up this growing
mountain.  Literally 2 min later, I reached the top.  The sad thing
about it was that with the 2.5 hours it took me to climb up, the clouds
rolled in and the view was blocked.  Had I just taken the cable car up
earlier I would have a had a clear view.  No view or not, the climb was
worth it. 

It’s an Expedition, Not a Holiday

We were constantly reminded this from Brian, our tour leader.  The saying to
excuse anything and everything that could possibly go wrong.  But hey, I’m
seasoned, I’ve experienced flat tires with no spare, jack or radio available,
worn out fan belts etc.  We ran out of gas in the middle of the desert.  There
was absolutely an expanse of nothingness in every direction.  There wasn’t an
emergency of can of gas in the truck.  So very fortunately, there was a car that
passed by and Brian flagged them down and went with them to the next gas
station.  Right after he left, another overland truck came by and they had a
hose and syphoned out some of their gas and gave it to us.  So we drove on
slowing down to see if passing vehicles had Brian in them.  (The driver and
other guide didn’t have Brian’s mobile number, of course because this is an
expedition.) We came to the next gas station…which was closed and so we drove
on again until we ran out of gas again.  So what can you do but laugh and pray
that Brian is going to return.  He did.  With gas and apple pie.

Feeling Nutty?

We learned about the Bushmen, the indigenous people to the area made
famous by the movie the Gods Must Be Crazy and how they survived in the
desert.  We learned how to catch lizards passively and to eat them as
close to raw as possible inorder to get the moisture out of them.  I
also got to try some bushmen delicacies.  There is an animal that eats
certain seeds which they cannot digest but the acids from their
stomachs sterilize the seed.  So when their droppings dry up, you can
find the seed, crack it open and eat it.  Hmmm, taste like pumpkin
seeds.  We learned how these nomadic people had to sometimes for the
betterment of the tribe, leave the weak members behind to die.  As we
walked around Sossusvlei, we too like the bushman, had to leave one of
our weaker members behind who could not manage to walk up the slopes of
the dunes.  We thought that she had returned to the parking lot with
another group, but later when we arrived back to our truck, we were
surprised to find out that she wasn’t there.  So a search team had to
go back to find her in the desert because unlike the bushmen, the tour
company can be sued for leaving someone behind in the desert.

Namibia-dunes and deserts

I loved Namibia.  I could actually see myself living there except for one thing…everything shuts down at 5. 
 
I was back on a truck for Namibia but this time round I was not
slumming it by camping, I had taken a step up and done an accomodated
tour.  What brought me to Namibia?  The deserts and the sand dunes. 
Best part of the trip was visiting Sossusvlei in the middle of the
desert with 310m high sand dunes.  We had the opportunity to climb the
dunes and to see Dead Vlei, an area that used to have life but the
water source was cut off by a dune and the trees died and the area has
an eerie feel to it.  Other than the immense heat… you could just
hang out in this area and be totally alone in your thoughts in the
immense serenity of it all.  (J. Lo had a filmed a scene here in her
movie The Cell). 
 
I had been waiting the whole trip to go sandboarding because I
heard that it was amazing.  So i combined it with the quad biking the
dunes and sandboarding (well more like sandsledding).  This was my
first time on a quad bike and at first I was so tentative, going so
slowy down the slopes, but by the end I was flying over the tops of
dunes and speeding down the slopes.  Oh exhiliaration!  The
sandboarding was fun too, but for every 10 seconds of whohoo, there was
15 minutes of work as you climbed up the dunes.  There was one dune
that we climbed up and it was so steep that with every step my foot
sunk down and it felt like I was going nowhere.  I don’t remember it
being this much work when I used to go sledding when i was kid.

10 Things I Conveniently Forgot About London

With a quick visit to London, I wasn’t disappointed with my return, in fact it seemed like I just jumped right back into my former life as though I had never left.  Came in, topped up my oyster card, jumped on the tube, settled at my friend’s place, topped up my mobile and then left the house to roam the city and see what adventures that I could find.  But as much as I love being back here, there are things that our memories conveniently forget and here they are:
 
1.  You have to watch where you walk because there is vomit everywhere.
 
2.  Public displays of affection…EVERYWHERE!
 
3.  The tube shuts down at 1230am on a friday and saturday night leaving you with night buses if you want to go out.
 
4.  Planned engineering works on the tubes on the weekend.  Because you don’t have to go anywhere on the weekend, and therefore you can be inconvenienced.
 
5.  Rail replacement services for the planned engineering works.
 
6.  The drunks on the tube…that want to talk to you.
 
7.  When you blow your nose after riding the tube, it’s so dirty.
 
8.  The cold water tap and the hot water tap being separate in the sink.  I’ve never figured out how to wash my face with warm water.
 
9.  You have to use some force when you are flushing the toilet if you want it to work.
 
10.  It takes forever to get the perfect temperature in the shower, and when you finally get it and step in, the water goes scorching, then cold, then scroching, then cold and you never get that perfect temperature.