Tag Archives: food

Cape Vidal, Isimangaliso Wetland Park

For our last couple of days and nights, we’re at a wildlife park on the north coast. Its one of the oldest and largest conservation areas in South Africa and goes as far north as the Mozambique border. The reserve is very long and narrow and includes several large freshwater lakes, plus Lake St Lucia which is actually a vast estuary for several rivers. It includes a marine sanctuary, a wide range of game animals, has breeding grounds for 2 marine turtle species, is one of South Africa’s top dive locations, and it seems that everyone apart from us is keen on fishing. As we drove to the campground we saw a zebra, a few antelopey thingys (couldn’t tell what type as they were too far away), and then there were a couple of new little antelopey thingys grazing near our tent site when we got here. Not sure what they were – some kind of grysbok or duiker, perhaps.

We’re staying at Cape Vidal campground, which is about 35kms north of the park entrance near St Lucia. This reserve isn’t part of the SA National Parks group, so our Wild Card doesn’t cover it and we paid an entrance fee in addition to the exhorbitant campground site fees. The entrance fee was okay, but at $55 per night for a powered site, this is the most we have ever paid to pitch a tent. It makes what we paid in Norway in 2013, and at Cradle Mountain, Tassie at Easter last year look reasonable!

The campground is fine, but nothing special – we paid less than 1/3 the night we pitched the tent on the deck in the forest and THAT was special. This one has sandy sites, unimaginative allocation system where we just got the next empty site in the row, when there are other more secluded sites that we’d prefer. Then the next people to come along got the site next to us, and so on.

The monkeys are here in abundance, but none have really bothered us yet. We sat and cooked in the tent last night, which was a good thing in more ways than one as we realised this morning that we’re back in a malarial zone. But just now I got up and walked 5 paces to put something in the car, and in that time a monkey came and sat on the laptop to check out if we had any food on the table worth stealing. They are swarming all over our next door neighbour’s tent and stuff, but he hasn’t left anything interesting out either.

So now we’re at the ‘what was I thinking’ stage of the trip. Happens every time – we end up with a strange collection of food that don’t go well together, and I don’t remember why I bought them in the first place. It’s not too bad though, we don’t have a lot left, apart from most of a kilo of ‘cake flour’. Every supermarket here sells 2 kinds of plain flour – cake flour and bread flour. Each has different protein levels, depending on what you want to use it for. I guess cake flour is the same as our plain flour.

Tomorrow is our last day, we fly out around midday on Saturday. We’ll pack up what we’re taking home, throw out and give away what we’re not, and drive the 600kms to Joburg. This afternoon we’ll drive around part of the reserve and hopefully see some wildlife

It is fine to swim just watch out for the Hippos,sharks,crocs and rips...
It is fine to swim just watch out for the Hippos, sharks, crocs and rips…
Camped at Cape Vidal the most expensive campsite we have stayed at in Africa
Camped at Cape Vidal the most expensive campsite we have stayed at in Africa
Cape Vidal beach looking towards Mozambique
Cape Vidal beach looking north towards Mozambique about 200km away


A simple act of kindness

Bit of a strange day yesterday. Nothing really amazing happened …. or maybe something did.

We drove 500kms through Eastern Cape, mostly inland, from just north of East London to Port Edward, which is about 150kms south of Durban. We have a beach cottage booked in Durban for the next 2 days.
The whole day’s driving was along the winding, hilly N2 ‘Freeway’, but it was mostly just a 2-lane road with occasional passing lanes. I’ve decided that South African drivers are all like teenagers who have just got their licences – impulsive, unsafe and have absolutely no idea about anticipating anything untoward. They tailgate, speed, overtake on blind corners and on crests of hills and are generally just terrible drivers. Add in a steady stream of people walking on the side of the road, minibuses stopping to pick up and let off passengers, goats & cows on the road, potholes and thick fog in one part and that was pretty much our day. Except for when we stopped at Butterworth at lunchtime to get some groceries, ice and beer.
A white guy, possibly the only other white person in town apart from us, came up to the car and started talking to Greg. I thought he was asking for a lift somewhere, but he just wanted a chat, and something to eat. He was probably homeless and as we were making those ‘right, we’d better go and do our stuff’ kind of comments, he asked us if we could give him a piece of bread. I offered to buy him a loaf and asked if he preferred brown or white. White. Then I asked if he’d like something to put on it. Some gravy? I wasn’t sure how to get gravy, but offered to get some cheese. Okay. So he sat near the car and we went to the supermarket and got our stuff, plus a loaf of bread, some sliced cheese, a carton of orange juice and a small pack of chocolate biscuits. I’d been putting all my small change in a plastic bag so I wouldn’t have to keep sifting through it in my purse, so I added it as well. All up it cost less than a loaf of bread would cost us at home.
We planned to spend the night at one of several campgrounds in Port Edward. At the first one, we couldn’t find anyone to check us in, so we kept going for a few more kms to another one which turned out to be closed, but the woman who runs it invited us into her home and offered to find something for us. She told us that most campgrounds in the area are closed now until Easter. Seems a bit strange when the ones closer to Port Elizabeth are all full, but anyway … It took 3 phone calls to fellow-campground owners, but she found one for us at Trafalgar. It was incredibly kind of her to do that for us on a Sunday evening. I’ll regard it as karma paying us back for giving food to a homeless man.


The short version: went to Soweto, got lost few times, lived to tell the tale.

The longer version:
Yesterday morning (Sunday) we went to a market near where we’re staying in Maboneng – lots of great food including stalls set up by the cafes and restaurants around here, probably a good way for them to showcase what they sell and attract customers to their real places of business. Design and fashion stalls on the first floor, but we didn’t get up there, we were so busy looking at all the food. We had morning tea – Persian minted lemonade and 2 flavours of homemade marshmallow between chocolate biscuits for me, a jam & cheese roosterkoek (bread roll) for Greg.
And then we had other things to do while we still had the car, which we returned to the airport this morning. The hardest things to get to without a car are Soweto and the Apartheid Museum. Although after it has just taken us 2 hours to travel the 17kms from the airport back to the apartment by train, I think everything in Johannesburg is hard to get to without a car.

We tried to visit the Apartheid Museum. Twice.
This country suffers from insufficient power, and a lot of Jozi was affected by ‘load-shedding’ yesterday for 5 or 6 hours. The lifts in the building we’re staying in weren’t working, neither was a lot of the emergency lighting in the stair wells and the emergency exit signs just stopped at the ground floor without pointing us to an exit. I’m glad we weren’t trying to find our way out in a real emergency. We have learnt to take torches when we go out anywhere now, and we’ve checked out fire exits, just in case.
Throughout Jo’burg there were no traffic lights, some places had their own generators, the rest were in darkness. I’ve gotta say though, motorists here are much better at coping without working traffic lights than Australian drivers. They treat each intersection with blacked-out lights as a 4-way stop sign, and everyone takes their turn. Very sensible.
The Apartheid Museum is next door to a casino and they share an entrance, but the boom gate wasn’t working and the security guy warned us that the museum was closed.

So we went to have a look around Soweto instead. People and minibuses everywhere, we got lost a few times and ended up in suburban back streets, but it didn’t feel unsafe – people were just getting on with their Sundays, mowing the lawn, kids playing, the usual stuff. We drove past the Regina Mundi church, the largest Roman Catholic Church in South Africa, where Archbishop Desmond Tutu presided over several meetings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission after the end of Apartheid in the second half of the 1990sMore recently Michelle Obama visited the church on the South Africa leg of her tour of the continent and she addressed the Young African Women Leaders Forum there.

We drove through several of the townships that make up Soweto (South Western Townships) and tried to find Vilakazi street, where both Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu lived – probably one of the very few streets in the world where 2 Nobel Prize winners have lived. We didn’t find it, possibly because we were distracted by the tour bus full of white people who were standing on the corner and we didn’t see the street’s name. We drove around a bit more, passing a large group of people dressed in white and singing something religious. Beautiful harmonies. Then past 2 beautifully painted cooling towers from a decommissioned power station, a large new shopping centre, the Chris Hani-Baragwanath Hospital (reputedly the 3rd largest hospital in the world) with Africa’s largest taxi rank opposite. Approximately one third of Joburg’s population of nearly 4 million people live in Soweto, and over 98.5% are black.
On our way back to Maboneng, we tried the Apartheid Museum again, but the power was still out. So we took the car to a ‘secure parking lot’ near the apartment and went back to the Arts Market for lunch. Greg went back to the roosterkoek lady for a pork rib one, the only kind left by 2.30pm. I had an Ethiopian platter that cost all of about $9 and would have fed 2 people easily. The platter was lined with injera (Ethiopian flat bread), then had spoonfuls of different curries and sides on top of it, including a chicken drumstick, lamb, beef, pumpkin, spinach, potatos, lentils, cabbage, beetroot and probably a couple more that I’ve forgotten. To eat, you break off pieces of the injera and use it to scoop up small portions of the food. I’m sure the Ethiopians are much better at it than me, but it was all delicious and fun to eat. We were interested to note that the first time we visited the market, most of the patrons were whities, and then when we went back later in the day, it was mostly blacks.
The Johannesburg Culinary and Pastry School were selling a range of delicious pastries and cakes, and I bought a lime cheesecake and a chocolate-drizzled churro which ended up being dinner for me and himself respectively.

I’ll write about today’s experience travelling by train later. That’s a whole post by itself!

The view outside the building where our AirBnB apartment is located
The view outside the building where our AirBnB apartment is located
Sharp Braai where we ate dinner the first night
Sharp Braai where we ate dinner the first night
The food market where we ate morning tea and lunch
The food market where we ate morning tea and lunch
Judys Ethiopian meal
Judys Ethiopian meal
Fox Street Johannesburg CBD
Fox Street Johannesburg CBD
Street food in a shipping container - Lunch at Soul Soulaki
Street food in a shipping container – Lunch at Soul Souvlaki
The Twin Towers. The old power station cooling towers in Soweto
The Twin Towers. The old power station cooling towers in Soweto

Driving through Soweto. Sellers at every intersection selling ice blocks, papers, beads, sunglasses and more: