Tuesday, March 31, 2009

It's Rasta-oyster time!

Yesterday, I visited one of Knysna's townships in a quest to find a local Rastafari settlement that was supposedly hiding amongst all of those tin roofs and worn paths. Accompanying me were a couple of foreigners I'd met earlier that day, and we were all armed with an enthusiasm for tourism that would make even the most camera-keen, flower-clothed, barefoot island traveller cringe with embarrassment.

Townships and people from outside South Africa are like oppositely-charged poles in a gigantic supermagnet array. They possess a certain attraction to several colloquial delights that I, as a local, simply cannot understand. I was keen for the Rasta vibe, to be certain, but the sight of a township itself is not something that I find terribly exotic.


Mind you, not enough people – both locally and abroad – really know what a township is actually like. Visiting a location like this is very different to watching a documentary or news report. Highlights and once-off photographs do well to emphasis particular emotions and deliver an audience something that they expect or even want, but most reports rarely give the full picture unless it's full of drama and stereotypical imagery.

Deciding against the R300 tourism levy for a guide around the township, we grabbed a taxi ride from the Knysna taxi ranks for about eight bucks and a few minutes later found ourselves in the middle of Judah Square, the Rastafari neighbourhood within the Knysna township.

The community in the township is full of exceptionally friendly people, and we were invited to sit down with a few gentlemen outside their house, share some tea and chat for a while. Contrary to popular opinion, Rastafari isn't all about weed and Bob Marley music, and I was exposed to a fascinating belief system and way of thinking through my conversations with these folks. I was escorted to their worship site, where I was able to snap a few pics and pose with the man who'd volunteered as our guide.

My “tourist mode” is spine-shatteringly cringeworthy.

Also, they all have really cool hair.

Awwww yeah.

After visiting the township, I decided to break my noodles-'n'-peanuts regime for a night and joined some friends at a local oyster bar to try some of Knysna's famous oysters. This was a rather bold venture for me: not only have I never eaten an oyster before, but I also happen to have a deep and sincere hatred of almost all seafood.

Om nom ... nom?

Because it was ceremony (and because everybody else was being fancy) I also decided to accompany my oyster consumption with a glass of semi-sweet white wine. Never again. Not only do I find most – if not all – forms of alcohol absolutely and unforgivably vile, but my body also has the chemical tolerance of a particularly poorly fieldmouse.

The combination of oysters and wine left me feeling a bit less than perfect, but I treated myself to a hearty Spur dinner afterwards to get the taste of sea and fancy booze out of my mouth. A pretty good day overall.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Across the lagoon: some Knysna pics

Yesterday afternoon, I went on an expedition around Knysna's famous lagoon-lake thing. It primarily involved going to places where I technically wasn't allowed to travel, but it gave me a bunch of pretty pictures which I have an urge to share. So today's storytime is going to revolve around some pretty illustrations. Gather around, kids!

So yeah, Knysna is around a lagoon. Which means that it has a nice little Waterfront set up for the tourists. It's reasonably busy here, but the town itself is eerily quiet on a Sunday afternoon. Like, Silent Hill quiet.

For some reason, the locals have this thing about a bulldog named Bondi. He served with some ship or another for a few years, and died on a really hot day. Not the most heroic of historical figures, but they made a statue out of him anyway. I was always more of a cat person anyway.

As mentioned already, Knysna surrounds a lagoon that's hidden amongst some mountains near the ocean. Ferries and yacht tours are the main attraction for visitors here, but my aversion to guided tours and “standard” sightseeing (and the lightness of my wallet) urged me to investigate what appeared to be a very long bridge stretching right across the lake.

After walking around the lake a bit, I discovered that the “bridge” was a railroad that hopped over several islands in the middle of the water. The sign clearly indicated that I wasn't allowed to cross ...

... so I did anyway.

It turns out that my actions were vindicated by a multitude of local fishermen scattered across the lake's islands. The old railroad seems to be a popular gathering spot for these aquatic hunters – the presence of these individuals combined with the fact that I saw several cars parked across the railway lines near the waterfront urges me to believe that Knysna's railroad is now defunct.

The wind picked up rather fiercely as soon as I left the shore. Cro-magnon Nandrew wasn't very happy.

I only realised just how big Knysna's lagoon actually was when I tried traversing it. The lake crossing took me a full half hour, but I got some distance shots of the settlement in the process.

Approaching the other end of the lake, I was confronted with something akin to a shoreside desert: an oddly barren area of the bay occupied by sand and clusters of moss-like plant matter. It seemed that the lake had, at its apex, covered this whole area.

Further evidence of the water's rise and fall. A lonely puddle sat in the middle of this barren wasteland, and plays home to a whole menagerie of aquatic bugs. They all scuttled away and hid in the nearby sand when I tried getting closer, but it was pretty impressive to see this nucleus of activity for just a few moments.

Toto, I don't think we're in Knysna anymore. I was sure that I'd seen some sporadic housing from the other side of the bridge, but when I followed a path off the railway I was only confronted with wilderness. I started feeling truly adventurous, and sallied forth.

Oh, wait. Picture taken two minutes later. After discovering this strange land of “Brenton”, however, I realised that it was getting rather late and started backtracking to the railroad.

When I emerged by the lakeside again, I was astounded to see tidal flow in action: fed by the sea, the lake was slowly reclaiming the marsy desert near its shore. I was actually able to observe the water crawling steadily over the wasteland.

The above was just sand and moss a few minutes ago.

Considering my trip a great success, I took this final sunset picture just before my camera finally hacked, wheezed and breathed its last. With a pair of flat batteries and a full memory card, I put it away and headed back to my lodge.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Backpacking in Knysna. Also: food

Ah, Knysna! That peaceful, lagoon-side gem of the South African Garden Route! A place where even a walk through the dirtiest, most tin-roof-laden township can be slapped with a price tag and become a tourist attraction. This place is the very reason why I decided to go for a backpacking trip between PE and Cape Town, and while it may not be everybody's cup of tea, I'm quite intent on soaking up the shoreline ambience for a few days.

I'm currently staying at Knysna Backpackers, a converted Victorian household which is somewhat small and creaky, but nevertheless a good place to stay at if you're reasonably price-conscious like myself. The only buggery bit comes in when you realise that the dozen nubile young women that arrived with you in the bus are actually heading for the ever-so-trendy Island Vibe backpackers instead, making you wish that you'd forked out ten or twenty extra bucks instead of being condemned to hang out with old people for three days.

A charming Victorian house on the lakeside. I could pretty much sense the old people from here.

Not to say that it's entirely bad hanging out with a more mature and relaxed crowd: it's just that I set out on this trip mentally prepared for interaction with people closer to my age and ready for the wild parties that would inevitably result. Not so. Since my sojourn at Storms River, I've been pretty laid back: just been wandering solo and tapping away on my laptop for a few hours each day. I'll see about hitting the more popular youth hostels on my next few stops, but prediction is rather difficult and ultimately my wallet is going to be the boss.

My portable bank account is rather peeved already, and with good reason.

Anyway, on to the lodge itself. The facilities here are reasonable, though use of water is restricted because there's apparently a dangerous shortage of it around Knysna. I tried in vain to point out the gigantic body of water that the settlement had sprung up right next to, but nobody really paid any attention to me, so I've satisfied myself with going the enviro-friendly route anyway.

I've also – for the very first time ever ever EVER – learned how to use a gas cooker. Although the technology is inferior to that used in a modern stove, I'm nevertheless far more fascinated with how the contraption works, and was delighted to see how I could adjust the release of gas to create fire that seemed to be suspended in the middle of thin air.

Oogah! Magical flame machine!

The beds are also pretty reasonable, though I'm not looking forward to the prospect of spending a night under an occupied top bunk: the beds are horrendously creaky, and I'm not even sure how anybody would climb to the upper mattress without an incredible amount of juddering and step-on-another-person's-facery. So yeah, they're pretty bare bones, but they do the job. 7 out of 10. That'll be minus 4 points if I end up getting my face stepped on before leaving Knysna.

Victorian cottage on the outside, army barracks on the inside.

So yeah, my final note on this post is that I'm getting hungry. I don't mean in the normal “oooh i could hav a spot of dinner rite now hahaha” kind of way, either. I mean that my angry wallet is forbidding me from living on a cent more than R15 a day, and my diet of instant noodles, canned beans and peanuts really isn't working out for my system.

Is that a loaf of bread I see in the background? Sheer bloody luxury!

I don't really eat that much to start with, but this journey has proven to be the first time that my body has stood up, slapped me in the face (let's just forget for a moment that my face is, indeed, just another part of my body) and told me that I need more nutrition. I've been going for about a week on a less than sterling diet, and it's getting to the point where I occasionally think about food more than I think about women. Something has obviously gone horribly wrong here.

Although I've never strictly overeaten before, I've rarely been in a spot where money for meals has been a problem. Even as a student, I've always earned my own money and been able to pick and choose hunger-busters at my leisure. I now look back at all those times when I would willfully spend in excess of R40 for takeaway meals. My tummy laments, but the amount that I've spent on this trip forbids me from indulging that much. A great exercise in being more frugal for a change, but two cups of noodles and the occasional handful of peanuts is not a good daily plan in the long term. I'm trying to diversify a little to see what cheap options I come up with.

When I get to Cape Town, I'm definitely going to be hitting another Panarotti's all-you-can-eat night to console my poor system for the punishment it has recently been going through. And I'll drag my friends kicking and screaming with me, even if I have to pay for half of their food.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Pretty Plettie – on the Bay

Ah, Plettenberg Bay. I've heard a fair amount about this small town, and it's truly an oceanside wonder of the Garden Route. The town has the most charming layout: the entire place (or at least the bit that I've seen) looks like a beachside holiday resort. The shops, restaurants and malls are huddled together in open-air complexes alongside a cobbled main road and a set of winding paths that take you right down to the shoreline.

Plettenberg bay is famous for its experiments with frozen carbonite and dolphins.

The bay itself is almost eye-bleedingly pretty, especially if you have a gander at it from Plet's lookout point. I really wish that my entry-level camera (combined with my entry-level photography) could truly express the prettiness of the place.

There's, like, a hotel in the ocean. +5 points.

I was told that I could walk about safely at night, so I did. Of course, I stripped myself of anything remotely valuable first (haha, I'm not THAT gullible, fiendish crime syndicates!), but it was really nice to freely hit the streets and check out the night-time shoreline. The building in the picture above looks absolutely amazing when lit up at dusk: an eerie night beacon standing out against an endless expanse of black ocean. I'd strongly recommend seeing this for yourself if you ever happen to be in the bay area.

My accomodation while in Plet was the Nothando Backpackers. It's R120 a night: unfortunately, none of the other Baz-endorsed hostels in Plet were any cheaper.

The terms “Five Star” and “backpacking” just don't seem to go together in my head.

Something that backpacking lodges need to realise: I. Do. Not. Want. Luxury. Accomodation. Please give me something cheap and crappy. I've been eating noodles and baked beans for the past week because of the nightly levies and it's not about to get any better.

I'm strongly considering investing in a tent at the first possible opportunity. A tent and a sleeping bag. And probably some anti-mozzie stuff, too. They'll all pay for themselves within a week or two, I reckon. Having your own tent is the difference between paying something awful like R120 a night for “luxury dorms” (slightly nicer beds, I guess?) and fifty bucks to camp on the lawn just outside while still getting access to all of the lodge's facilities.

Beds. Who needs 'em?

The above is what I spent my night on. Yeah, it's reasonably comfy and management gives you your own towel to wash up with (it's oh-so-white and puffy!), so it gets an 8 out of ten. Minus ratings for the price I had to pay (probably for all the extras that I never ended up using anyway) and the fact that the wall socket for my laptop was just a tiny bit too far from the bed to be realistically convenient.

In other news, I came across this really creepy dog while wandering about Plet's malls, and it just wouldn't stop staring at me, even amidst a crowd of passers-by.

Yeah, the eyes really are like that.

It must be an omen of some kind. Probably to the effect that I should start avoiding creepy dogs.

Hopping off to Knysna for a few days now. Really looking forward to it.

Friday, March 27, 2009

The Didge and the Village

I've spent the last two nights in Storms River, staying at a backpacker's lodge known as Dijembe or, in more colloquial terms, “The Didge”. Of the few backpackers I've been to so far, this has to be the best. Not only does it provide good service, but the staff are the sort of down-to-earth people that you can actually hang out with. And the lodge itself has a certain personality about it.

Yes, there's hammocks in the foreground. Yes, I've slept in them. And yes, they're totally awesome.

Dijembe offers shuttle services to various daytime activities, has all the standard backpacking perks and even prepares breakfast and dinner (though at R60 a pop for the dinners, I'd seriously not recommend it unless you have the cash). In the evenings, they set up a roaring fire in the games room, an even bigger bonfire outside and open up the bar area and jacuzzi so that people may eat, drink and make merry for a while. And while I'm really, really not into gimmicky African rubbish all that much (I call it my domestic bias), I must admit that I was damn impressed at the vibe that this place managed to offer. The Didge comes highly recommended on my “places to stay” list.

Oh, and bedding at the Didge is superb. Why? Well, this:


This was not photoshopped. There really are three beds on that vertical plane. And for some inexplicable reason, nobody wanted the top one. So I instantly called dibs on it. Plus five points for decent bedding and blanketry. Plus another two points for a soft mattress. PLUS ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY BILLION FOR TRIPLE STOREY AWESOMENESS. 9/10 in all.

Now, on to the village of Storms River itself, which has thus far gone under my blog's radar. To be honest, that's probably for a good reason.

Heed the sign's warning. You're heading for the middle of nowhere.

Storms River is rather small. In fact, you can basically stand on the road at one end and look over to the other side pretty easily. Not to say that it's an awful place: it actually has a certain touristic charm about it, and it was interesting to finally wander about a settlement like this: my journey has thus far been pretty firmly rooted in civilisation.

That's not to say that I wouldn't eventually go insane if I had to live here on a permanent basis. Half of the buildings here seem geared directly towards tourism, and frequent trips to PE are made by locals to secure anything that doesn't fit under the category of “bare bones basics”. Of course, I could easily be exaggerating about all this, so I'll let you judge for yourselves here:

Quite possibly the biggest retailer in the area.

This is Storms River's supermarket. Literally, “supermarket”. This is what it calls itself. The picture pretty much encompasses the whole store aside from the tills and tobacco kiosk. Oh, and the village's only ATM is hidden somewhere in the corner. With a draw limit of R500 per person. Reasonable, I thought. Cute, even. That's until I tried to get some money out of it and realised that it had run out of cash. Completely. I kinda just sat there for a few minutes, staring at the machine. A core paradigm shift occurred that day, and I'll never look at ATMs in the same light again. I feel a little dirty.

I returned this morning and thankfully managed to withdraw enough cash to pay for my two nights at Dijembe. After that, I said my tearful goodbyes (well, not actually tearful. That's not terribly manly) and hopped on the Baz Bus for my next leg of the trip.

I'm currently chilling out in Plettenberg Bay. I'll write about that tomorrow.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Baz Bus and Bungyyyyyy!

So, I'm officially on the backpacking trail. My primary means of getting around is a neat little system known as the Baz Bus. It's a hop-on hop-off shuttle service (I'm not aware of anything similar that operates on a national level in South Africa) and it basically allows you to buy a single ticket and ride in one direction for as long as you want, getting on and off whenever you want, over however much time you need. I got myself a “PE to Cape Town” ticket and have been doing door-to-door backpacking ever since.

A stunning picture of me. The Baz Bus is in the background.

Right now, I've been spending some time in Storms River near the official, Guinness-approved, Tallest Bungy Jump In The Whole World™. In fact, I was only in the neighbourhood for about twenty minutes before I was whisked off to the Bloukrans Bridge for this life-changing adrenaline experience.

Of course, I didn't ... um ... actually do the bungy.


In my defense, I was sincerely prepared to take the plunge (hurhur, pun there) and go for it, but I only carried R200 in cold hard cash and the adventure centre's card machine wasn't working. A single jump costs about R640. A “flying fox” zipline costs about R150. I sure as hell wasn't going to leave without doing at least something, so I paid for the zipline and got to hang about on the bridge for a bit to watch some bungy first-hand. I wasn't allowed to take a camera onto the bridge (in fact, it was kinda impossible: I was terrified that it would fall out of my rather shallow pockets during the zipline) but I can testify that the view was amazing. Almost as amazing as the underwear-clad, co-ed dorming German women that I've just spent the night with.

This view is worth at least five hot women. Or maybe just two.

I'm a little bit disappointed that I didn't get to do the jump: I hear that it's a life-changing experience. But at least my wallet, which was thoroughly prepared to wuss out on my behalf, is feeling a little relieved. Backpacking's expensive, you know.

And yeah, I mentioned cute German backpackers. But I'm not showing the pics because this is a PG-friendly blog. Now go away.*

* Hi mom. If you're reading this, don't get a heart attack. I don't actually have any naughty pictures of these ladies and I've had a lot of good, clean fun with them.**

** Hi everyone else. The only reason why I don't have naughty pictures is because they probably wouldn't let me take them anyway. Also, the next time you're confronted with a bunch of hotties, I want YOU to make the choice between sticking around and running off to fetch your camera. Yeah, that's what I thought.***

*** Ignore that, mom.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Meandering around PE

I initially booked myself in at the King's Beach lodge for two nights so that I could spend a day in PE before hopping down the Garden Route. Although people generally say that it's an inferior tourist trap to the likes of Knysna and Storms River, I decided that it was worth a look anyway. Besides, I was only about 100 metres away from the beach: it would have been a wasted opportunity otherwise.

Port Elizabeth has some nice things, I'll grant you. I didn't get much of an opportunity to check out the night life, but during the day there are a few interesting tourism spots to head off to. The beaches are fairly standard – the water isn't as frigid as, say, the bloody freezing depths of Camp's Bay, but I'm disappointed by how small and rocky the shoreline is. What came to me as a pleasant surprise was a park that opens up on the beach – it's called “Happy Valley”, and possibly the most notable thing about this place is the inexplicable presence of a whole lot of cartoon character sculptures at various intervals along the path.

Holy crap, it's Asterix!

I had a nice long walk along some of the trails and inexplicably emerged near the Boardwalk Casino. I don't know why, but it was there. So I walked around a little bit. The casino's complex plays host to a whole lot of neat little shops and cafes surrounding a great big body of water. It had all kinds of stuff: a craft market, a nice and classy News Cafe (which for some annoying reason has a minimum age requirement of 23. 22-year-olds everywhere must feel pretty bleak about it) and even a miniature Oriental World (which is really just two restaurants and a Koi pond). It's also apparently the home of Algoa FM. Neato.

Oh dear. Somebody left the bath running again.

On my way back, I ran into a Sprite Zero pool party at the McArthur Pools. Hadn't heard about it – I was pretty much just in the right place at the right time. They had some music, some fancy commentators and a whole bunch of free Sprite, so I ultimately scored.

The spoils of war. Also, juggling sticks.

As a final note, the King's Beach lodge has a kitty. He is made of 90% fluff and cute. I'm gonna call him Mr. Snuffles. He practically launches himself at you for cuddling.

I dispatched the beast with a right hook to the jaw.

Anyway, that's all for PE. I'm currently sitting at Storms River (which is a tourism paradise situated in pretty much the middle of nowhere). More about this place in my next blog post.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Backpacking in Port Elizabeth

Okay, so now I'm on the road and pretty much backpacking for the first time (okay, not strictly the first time, but this is the first time that it'll actually count). Right now, I'm staying at a place known as the King's Beach backpacker's lodge, situated in Port Elizabeth. Amidst the towering hotels and fancy-schmancy complex buildings it seems not only homely, but remarkably out of place too.

A place to sleep that looks like a house instead of a business. Oh, the novelty!

The King's Beach lodge is a former family home which has now been converted to run as a full-time backpacker's establishment. Staying here is probably best described as pretty much like living in your very own house, except that it's ninety bucks a night and hogging the toast means that somebody will probably end up swearing at you in Spanish. Or French. Or Esperanto.

Beware! There's foreigners hiding behind the couch.

Heck, hearing a plain old South African English accent (or even a hearty dose of Afrikaans) addressing you here is something of a rarity. To my knowledge, I'm the only local aside from the owner who has set foot in this place for a while – the rest of my companions mostly hail from Europe and other far-flung environs. I suppose it's only foreigners who really have the money to maintain a lifestyle like this, but I still find it quite strange how I'm often considered the “odd one out” for engaging in a bit of domestic tourism.

The map is full of pins. Amazingly enough, they remembered to put one of them on South Africa.

Mind you, it's not as if I dislike the foreigners at all. In fact, it's damn interesting staying in this little slice of global heaven. I spent yesterday evening sitting in the living room and chatting with a couple of Swedish exchange students (who gave me some mad liquorice stuff to try), a cricket player from Holland and an eccentric old gent with a powerful Welsh accent who wears a nice hat and goes by the name of Robert.

Robert, like me, appreciates good headwear: this automatically makes him cool. I share a dorm with him and one other fellow who arrived on the same night as I did.

I don't have a fancy national flag by my bed. Everyone else does. I feel a bit naked.

The beds are pretty humble, but they make a refreshing change from couches. For a start, they're bunk beds, which is automatically cool. The furnishings one gets, however, are fairly Spartan: there's a single fluffy blanket to keep you warm and one fairly flat pillow to rest your head on. I didn't mind this all terribly much, but I hope that they provide extras during winter: it looks like it could get a bit cold otherwise.

I give it a 6.5 out of ten. Preferable to many couches, definitely, but I always have to be stricter when I'm scoring beds. And if you stay at a backpacker's, you can't expect royalty unless you're looking to pay for a private room.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Grahamstown wrap-up

In the dying hours of my sojourn in the little town of G, I paused for a moment to reflect on my time spent there. Unfortunately, I couldn't really think of much because I've just whiled away the past weekend by working – and playing – pretty damn hard. So I'm just going to mention how that all went instead.

First of all – and I cannot do enough to stress the importance of this knowledge – but anybody who visits Grahamstown absolutely has to try out a Ginos pizza. Not only do they put on enough cheese to fuel the plotlines of a dozen Mills and Boon romance novels, but they have something every Sunday known as the family-sized pizza special:

Many brave souls have perished trying to eat a whole one.

For about R100, you can get one of these monsters and a 2 litre drink of your choice. It may sound steep just like that, but a pizza of this size could feasibly – nay, easily – feed a party of four, and the generosity of the establishment becomes evident in the amount of topping material that you get. Ordering a chicken and feta pizza, for example, will cause the pizza box itself to groan under the weight of meat and cheese inflicted upon it. To this day, it still stands as the most glorious pizza I have ever eaten.

The weekend has also been full of a reasonable amount of hanging out at random places and staying up until all hours just to mess around and screw about with our internal clocks. One particular night had me passing out on this delicious little couch:

It's hidden somewhere under all these blankets and pillows.

I had a really, really glorious night on this thing – to be honest, though, that's not very difficult once you've stayed awake long enough. The couch itself is rather spartan and may be less than comfortable in vanilla form, but the amount of cushiony goodness that they managed to cram into my temporary bed more than made up for it.

Ever jumped into one of those awesome little ball pits as a kid? You know, the kind where you swim in a sea of colourful spheres and hide from your parents when it's time to leave?

Neither have I, but I bet I know what it feels like now. 8.5/10.

So anyway, I've finally hauled my butt out of Gtown and am now sitting at the King's Beach backpacker lodge in Port Elizabeth. I'm going to spend a day or two here and see what this Eastern Cape coastal town is really like, then it's on to Storms River. More info with my next blog post.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Admin note thing: Blog subscription

Hey there, faithful readers.

I initially tacked on Blogger's "follower" app in the hopes that people could receive updates from my blog as they happened. Turns out that it doesn't strictly work like that, so I've added a subscription widget on the right.

Subscribing should allow you to receive updates directly. I think. You know, as they happen. Without you having to check the Website to see if anything has changed.

Umm, let me know how that works out.

A stroll through Gtown

To prove to people that Grahamstown really does exist (and because I needed to go do some chores for my very own graduation ceremony in April), I had a stroll about town yesterday and took some pictures during the process. The good old town of G is a pretty historic place, and it brings out what's possibly becoming my borderline fetish for fancy architecture (I have a tendency to talk about buildings quite a bit).

Grahamstown's main zone is High Street, a road which leads out of the University and through the centre of town. Halfway down this street is Grahamstown's impressive cathedral (which apparently makes this place an official city) and a bunch of really old buildings from a time before man even had the Internet. Truly the dark ages.

These pictures weren't actually taken in black and white. I changed them to make them look fancy.

One of these ancient buildings happens to be a local outfitter and clothing supplier known as Birch's. Not only is it the primary supplier of academic gowns to in the country, but it also holds a special place in my heart for its selection of really nice hats, which includes my very own beloved fedora. My appreciation of quality headwear is pretty much another borderline fetish.

They're locked in cabinets for a reason. That reason is me.

Birch's has a rather novel pulley system that it uses to get notes and stuff across the store quickly and easily. It's quite odd to see this system of ropes and wires hanging from the ceiling in this day and age, but the system really works. I've personally witnessed a few airborn post-its whizzing about, and I almost wish I worked at Birch's just to be able to mess about with this sweet little system a little.

Zip-lining, anyone?

A little bit along the main street is Grahamstown's primary bus stop and the Frontier Hotel and an interesting statue that I've never actually looked at before (I've only ever walked past it in my quest for KFC, anyway).

Dude. Dude, wake up. That angel behind you has your wallet.

The statue is a war memorial concerning the deaths of soldiers who fought here at Albany. I suppose these sort of sculptures have always been a bit of a delicate matter, since they generally herald war heroes from an age of colonialism and oppression, but I always find historical monuments to be charming interesting. And in case you can't see clearly in my piccie, there's a gentleman in the front of the angel who appears to be asleep.

If any readers know the significance of sleeping figures in war memorials, I'd genuinely be interested in hearing what it is. I'm quite sure that it holds a specific meaning, but I can't call it to mind.

... or maybe he's dead. Gee, I only thought of that right now.