Sunday, April 26, 2009

Havana Nights in Grahamstown

Right, so: it would appear to the layman that I've once again become too well-settled in Grahamstown. This is not true. I have stayed here for two reasons: one, I wanted to sort out my passport and stuff because I've been considering doing some out-of-country travel (nothing too exotic or expensive: I'd basically be going through Africa, if anything). Of course, this particular job was never actually carried out due to a mixture of election hype and my own gross tendency to procrastinate. Go me.

The other reason was that at some point in the past, I promised a friend that I would attend her 21st birthday party. I can't remember when. I may have been raucously drunk after downing half a beer or something (DISCLAIMER: no, not really). It was some time after designing the party invite.

Damn, I'm good.

While my design skills are rather paltry (read: crap) compared to my godlike writing abilities (DISCLAIMER 2: I really am that good) I still like to keep in practice doing odd jobs for people. I received a year of super-duper official training, after all, so I may as well put it to some good use. Here's a higher-res version because I like to show off.

Anyway, enough self-indulgence. I went to this gathering yesterday evening. It was themed “Havana Nights”. Which was really cool. I mean, I had no idea how to really dress, but I decided to use it as a grand opportunity to dress up in my “you look like you came out of a Quentin Tarantino film” outfit, complete with my beloved fedora hat (which, by the way, I'd accidentally left in Grahamstown before backpacking along the Garden Route. I missed it oh so very much).

Actually, this pic was taken the day after. In the same clothes. And very unwashed. Don't ask.

The 21st was very nice, actually. It wasn't one of those typical parties where the aim is to get drunk and dance (those do not gel with me AT ALL) – it was one of those “sophisticated” gatherings with slides, cocktails and speeches. And stuff. I had a great time and all the stops were pulled out to make everybody feel fancy and cool for an evening.

Also: food. And yes, that's a guy in a dress.

I excused myself at about 11pm, shortly after all the main stuff happened. As I said, I don't mix well with all-out partying and even though the main evening was all fancy and stuff, people inevitably got their jollies on afterwards. I decided to have a more laid-back session afterwards and crashed somewhere else for the night. Which, by the way, urges me to post a bed that I have yet to mention:

An actual bed. In Grahamstown. The novelty!

This comes from a spare room in one of my friend's flats. I negotiated it after buying him dinner (his daily withdrawal limit had been exceeded, the silly bugger) and I can fully testify that it was absolutely glorious. I mean, yes, it's a bed, so it's automatically a notch up from couches. But there was such a lovely plethora of blanketry and pillowness that pretty much guaranteed that I could tailor my sleeping experience to just the way I wanted it. Or, very nearly. There was a certain something missing, but I can't exactly figure out what. Oh well. 9/10.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Election day

Wooo! April 22nd! It's our glorious nation's time to exercise its constitutional right and decide who gets to play with our lives for another five years. That's right, ladies and gentlemen: it's the 2009 South African national elections.

... and I failed to take part.

Now look. Don't get me wrong. I wanted to vote today. I really, really did. But unfortunately, I have this weird neutrality streak and by the time I decided to catch a political wake-up call and register as a voter, it was a case of too-little-too-late-you-silly-little-bugger.

And yes, I know the spiel. I officially have to keep my yap shut about the state of the country for the next five years, will be solely responsible for the downfall of said country should it ever come to pass and have signed an abstract contract that will allow baboons to come and eat my children (though I have the last laugh on that particular point. Poor starving baboons).

I am, for all intents and purposes, a noob. I sincerely confess this.

Most tragically, I have now missed out on free coffee from Wimpy – an offer that was extended to everybody who actually had the initiative and political foresight to cast their vote.


All that aside, it was really inspiring to see people turning out in their droves to make their voices heard. There's apparently 161 voting stations in Grahamstown alone – not bad for a town that my cruel, cruel friends from Gauteng declare as being an imaginary place that exists only in my head.

Of course, while people turning out in their droves is good and all, it makes for a helluva long wait when you're in the queue. The booth on the Rhodes University campus was particularly bad.

“...wait, you mean this isn't the queue for free coffee?”

People kept their spirits up, though. There was a lot of lively chatter in the queues (which could easily incarcerate voters for a good few hours) and some of the students even brought along their instruments to play a few songs. Journalists were also swarming the place like politically-motivated flies to election-poop (in other news, my ability to construct similes has gone down the drain like something that goes down a drain really, really fast).

Of course, I don't want this blog to become politically aligned or anything, so I'm going to withhold commenting on the situation much further. If you want to know about South African politics, read up elsewhere – and I wholeheartedly recommend that you do.

Remember, people, there's only one way for democracy to work properly and that's to be informed about your vote. Six billion ballots mean absolutely nothing if you're casting them like a doofus, so don't piss away your vote unless you know what you're putting your weight behind. I honestly don't care what party you voted for today, as long as your voice was based on an educated opinion that will, you know, benefit humanity and stuff rather than going with your gut because some jackal-faced MP came over to your house yesterday and promised you free icecream.

If you were a twit and gave a positive vote to people who could screw you over because you didn't bother to check up on them objectively, then you're no better than the idiots like me who failed to vote at all. If anything, it'll just cause more harm.

And there ends (hopefully) the only post on this blog that will ever touch on the subject of politics. Here, wash the bad taste out of your mouth with some kitties:


This blog post is dedicated to one J. Cook, who 80% of you have probably never heard of.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


And so, the dust has finally settled from all the madness of robing, capping, scrolling and whatever other random nouns are associated with the act of graduation.

Yes, dear reader, I've finally graduated. Despite the fact that I've been messing around for a good few months already with work, travel, writing and pretty much all of the real-world stuff that I was going to do anyway, it is only now that Rhodes University has decided to stand up and say, “Right, we're letting you go now ... you mischievous little bugger.”

I do like Rhodes, and I do respect the education that it has given me, but I have little to no tolerance for tradition and ceremony. The justifications are usually weak, and these sort of things always find some way of inconveniencing and/or irritating the heck out of me. In this case, I really didn't want to jump through all sorts of fancily-decorated hoops to get a silly piece of parchment.

Heck, the last 48 hours have been absolutely saturated with unnecessary picture-taking. Yes, it's cool to pose in the graduation gown for the first five or so times. After that, it begins to feel like I've walked right into a certain South Park episode involving cameras, hype and really beleaguered celebrities.

I take a picture of people taking pictures of me. The world implodes.

Of course, I went along with the whole show because loads of people were being all super-proud of me and stuff, so I kinda owed it to them to get my head patted by a bunch of academic geriatrics (in related news, I've discovered for the first time ever that Rhodes University actually has a chancellor. Waitwhat?). That, and there were some pretty damn awesome tea parties to go to – I can happily report that these were very well-stocked. I only ate twice during my graduation weekend, and both occasions were munchie-calls at nearby garden buffets.

Pic related.

The graduation ceremony itself was horribly long – about two and a half hours of talking and name-calling ensued after everyone was seated, and this was just for BA graduates. I actually feel sorry for the VC, Registrar and all the other figureheads who need to be in attendance for every single one of these ceremonies.

No, seriously. I proudly maintain that I've not known the sensation of boredom for a good few years already. I always find some way to entertain or busy myself, even if it's just wandering off into daydream-land when I'm stuck on a long bus trip. But the grad ceremony somehow broke through that barrier. A combination of bright lights, ungainly ceremonial garb and a crowd of my peers successfully worked its dark magic on me. And although I would certainly testify that honorary doctorate recipient Dennis Brutus has led a very interesting life – and has possibly the most badass surname in existence – I still think that his speech would have been far more welcome at a time when I wasn't trapped inside an auditorium for several hours surrounded by a gajillion people wearing bat-suits.


Did I feel a certain sense of reverence for this occasion? Regrettably, no. And I say 'regrettably' with sincerity because I'm sure that this graduation really was important to a lot of people. It's just that I can't bring myself to regard a piece of paper or a funny hat as a vindicator of my work and my achievements. In my head, the important stuff happened a long time ago and I've already moved on to do great things. You know, like writing this blog. And bungy jumping.

At least one thing is certain: deep in my heart, I know that the selection of food at the garden party was – and shall forever remain – absolutely awesome.

Friday, April 17, 2009

BUNGY! (For really reals)

I finally did it. For those of you who have been keeping careful track of my adventures, you may remember my trip to Storms River and the Bloukrans Bridge for a shot at the world's highest bungy jump.

You may also remember me weakly excusing myself from doing the actual jump due to certain financial technicalities. I left Bloukrans with the paltry achievement of a quick zipline, and vowed to return one day to complete the job. My promise to myself was fulfilled rather unexpectedly yesterday.

For the past two days, I've been on the road between Cape Town (where I attended the totally rad Coke Zero Fest) and Grahamstown (where I'll be attending my totally boring graduation ceremony). I've been travelling via minibus with my brother and a couple of friends, and I was quite pleasantly surprised yesterday morning when I heard that we'd be making a quick stop at Bloukrans to throw ourselves off a bridge.

Ahhh, my old nemesis.

People say that your second bungy jump is always the most scary, because you know what to expect. After doing my first one and having the opportunity to reflect on all the indescribable sensations I felt in just a few short seconds, I can see why that would be the case. If you haven't done a bungy jump before, there's almost no way to truly explain how it feels.

Yeah, it's scary. You can try psych yourself up for it and do your best to clear your head beforehand. But in that moment when you first look over the edge (the bungy cord holding your legs in place like a python with a foot fetish), all courage inevitably melts away, and for a few precious seconds the only words going through your head are “holy crap”.

Good so far ...

... OH ****.

Fortunately, the gentlemen at Face Adrenaline are rather experienced when it comes to last-minute-willies syndrome, and they only give you about five seconds to ponder your potential demise through fally-squishy. No, really. They start the countdown as soon as you get to the edge, interfering your “holy crap” train of thought with a brief “waitwat” before you get 'helped' over the side.

Thank goodness I remembered to give the horns. They makes me look just a tiny bit badass instead of plain terrified.

Something that I have discovered from doing stuff like this: everybody has a unique “OH CRAP I'M GOING TO DIIIIIEEE!” noise. For some, it may be a high-pitched squeal. For others (like totally badass action heroes and stuff) it's a deep, throaty “AAAAAAAAAAAH!”

For me, it's invariably a rather intriguing “YAAAAAAAA!” sound which tends to mix the two extremes. I've screamed in the same way while cruising on rollercoasters and riding on giant chickens.

“YAAAAAAAA!” Seriously, though: note how I've retained the badass horns.

Here's the funny thing, though. After about the first two seconds of freefall, my screams cut out and gave way to a sort of quiet shock. Other jumpers that day reported the same thing: the breathtaking beauty of freefall mingled with the threat of an imminent demise pretty much just took away one's voice. Sound gives way to sensation: in a few short seconds, enough adrenaline to intoxicate a baby elephant gets pumped into your system. It electrifies your body, speeds up your heart rate and boils your blood in a way that cannot otherwise be experienced. That, combined with the invariable sensation of organ displacement when accelerating downward, brings a unique physical and mental state which causes you for the briefest moment to feel pretty damn alive. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the “thrill” behind death-defying joyrides such as this.

Once your freefall is over (and you've rebound, fallen again and then bounced about a little bit), you're left hanging upside down in the gorge for about half a minute while somebody is lowered with a harness and complicated hook things used to hoist you up again. Aside from the understandable rush of blood to the head and the unfortunate risk of dizziness if your bungy cord happens to be spinning around too fast, I think that the strongest impact on me during that upside-down hiatus was the complete and utter feeling of isolation.

The gorge was completely silent. We're talking about a silence that you don't encounter when you're in civilisation. Heck, it's the sort of silence that you often can't even find in nature (damn noisy animals and all). Literally the only noise to be heard was the occasional creak of the cord, and eventually the sound of blood pumping into my head. Even my breathing seemed muted.

I was stuck in the middle of nowhere, with no way up or down, removed not only from society but from the very earth itself. It was amongst the most amazing thirty seconds of my life.

Durr hurr.

I was eventually brought back up. In the picture above, my left hand is actually clutching a ceramic necklace-ornament-thing that I'd procured in Oudtshoorn. I'd forgotten to take it off before the jump, and about halfway down my second bounce I realised that it was hanging down in front of me and grabbed on to it (my dear little brother, watching my jump via CCTV, thought that I was trying to suppress a hurl).

It was a cast of the African symbol for “nyame”, or “immortality”. I decided that it was worthwhile holding onto it as a life insurance policy.

... of course, in looking for a suitable link for this symbol on the Web, I've just learned that the actual meaning of the symbol is “sack of cola nuts”. Go figure.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Azi owes me fifteen bucks. Also: Coke Zero Fest.

So. Today, I finally had a chance to pick up my digital pen and scribble up a fresh new report of my adventures. And boy, do I have stuff to write about! I've been hyping up Coke Zero Fest on this blog for more than a month (and planning my attendance since the beginning of this year), and on Monday, 13 April I finally had the chance to attend it.

I'll start off by saying this: no matter what else I blabber on about, it's of utmost importance for everybody to remember that a certain friend of mine owes me R15. I bought her a beer at Coke Zero Fest and she never paid me back for it.

13/04/2009. Never forget.

Now, on to the rest of the stuff. Overall, Coke Zero Fest was absolutely freakin' awesome. I enjoyed the bands, I got to hang out with a nice range of friends and I walked away from the experience with about a gajillion free T-shirts earned from playing in a Guitar Hero competition.

Snow Patrol got a bigger crowd, but I bet they can't 5-star Sweet Home Alabama on Expert.

The bands were awesome. Zebra and Giraffe were the highlight of the locals with an absolutely stunning performance, and the other South African acts weren't far behind. Panic! at the Disco was fun, and Snow Patrol really gave it their all. Even Oasis managed to give an acceptable performance, suggesting that they probably took a hint from their Joburg reception.

There were also attractive women in Coke outfits handing out free drinks, pins, bangles and other assorted paraphernalia. This was a big plus.

Unfortunately, I felt that the organisation was a teensy bit on the “Extremely Crap” side of the crappiness scale:

(1) Two international bands pulled out. Probably nothing that the festival organisers could have done, and I wasn't actually interested in them anyway (who the hell is Red Jumpsuit Apparatus?), but it's the principle of the matter.

(2) No passouts were allowed. At first I thought this was just a warning to not drink too much alcohol. Oh-ho no! As soon as I entered the festival grounds, security tore up my ticket and ushered me further in, with no hint of giving me something as simple as a wristband to keep track of my entry. This meant that I had to stay inside the festival grounds or lose my place in the concert of a lifetime. And I NEEDED to go out. I ended up having to call a connection on the inside to get this crap sorted out. Thank goodness for networking.

(3) They have something against cameras. Recorders I can understand. Videocams I can totally see as not being cool. But picture snappers? The last time I checked, most musicians didn't have to worry about the rampant piracy of photographs Unless I'm totally missing out on something.

(4) They have something against devil sticks. Apparently, they're potentially as dangerous as most firearms. I tried to explain to security that I'm not a complete moron, but it didn't seem to work. Eventually sorted this out with a little help from an insider again.

Despite these setbacks, the venue was definitely prime rib:

(Insert cheesy nature comment here)

I spent time in a glorious place, got to hang out with my dear brother at a rock concert (Hi wittle brudda!) and sang along to “Champagne Supernova” within a crowd of drunk people. It doesn't get much better than this.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

A hike up freaking Table Mountain!

Yesterday, I took a hike up freaking Table Mountain! For a geek of my calibre, this is no mean feat. Before now, the only sort of intense vertical walkabout that I've ever been engaged in has been a vigorous ascent of Devil's Peak to reach its old military block house. And said peak is quite thoroughly and quite mercilessly put to shame by Table Mountain with regards to both pain and gain.

“Skeleton Gorge”? Who in their right mind wants to walk up a trail with a name like that?

I shouldered this monumental task with two of my friends – brave and noble men who were willing to face rocky perils and unspeakable horrors in a quest for Bragging Rights and Really Good Views. Our expedition started in the Kirstenbosch Gardens, situated at the base of the mountain.

Our nemesis looms in the distance. Also, two noble friends.

The climb quickly became steeper. We were soon in a rather thick forest, hopping up stairways and the occasional inconvenient boulder. Good enough so far: no direct sunlight and a well-worn path to keep us on the straight and narrow.

“We're going on an adventure, Charlie!”

Then, all of a sudden:

“You're screwed now.”

After a few hours of hiking, we actually wound up getting lost on Table Mountain. It's hard to believe, I know. It looks so endearingly flat when viewed from the bottom, after all. But, dear reader, this is merely a trap set up by the spirits of the mountain to lure helpless tourists and hiking noobs to their doom. That, and I totally suspect that it was a bad idea for the tour guides to scrawl direction arrows on rocks that any mischievous little urchin could easily pick up and move.

We eventually got back to the beaten path, though. And our detour was admittedly kinda adventurous.

This is my wallpaper now. I just look so badass.

Of course, no matter how worth it the climb may have been we were pretty much dead by the time we finally hit the summit. We came grossly underprepared, and were extremely dehydrated and possibly suffering from a little too much sun exposure after four hours of supercharged stairstepping. We technically satisfied the safety requirements for a hike between the three of us, but Table Mountain doesn't seem to accept group deals. A protip, kids: when they say “bring two litres of water”, they mean PER PERSON.

We ended up taking the cable ride back down. It was amusing enough, but we weren't really paying for a ride or a view at that point. We just wanted to spare our bodies from further pain and humiliation.

A good day in all. Now I can veg out with a clear conscience for at least the next three weeks.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wrapping up Oudtshoorn (Read: long overdue blog post)

So, after getting around and doing a whole bunch of stuff at the arts festival in Oudtshoorn, I've finally caught up to my own shenanigans and can take a bit of a blogging breather. My lack of a suitable Internet signal in Oudtshoorn was rather aggravating and caused me and my laptop to have a bit of a row, but things are all good now and I'm happily blogging away from my fortress in Cape Town.

By spending a whopping four nights in town, Oudsthoorn has officially been my longest stop in the Garden Route backpacking trip, even topping my three-night stay in Knysna.

And for two out of four, I snuggled up inside this tent:

The one at the back. I call it “the blue dwarf”.

Note to self: tents suck. At least I invested in a jolly nice sleeping bag, but it's still not all that preferable to, say, a jolly nice couch. You're basically sleeping on the ground. Sure, there's a few layers of plastic and warm microfiber fancymabobs that allow you to pretend that you're not sleeping on the ground. But no, really: you just are.

My fortress of solitude. And discomfort.

I don't mind the size of the tent (I don't really intend to share it with anyone in the near future), but I really do wish that there was an affordable way to guarantee comfort that's a few levels above “horrifically abrasive rock”. For now, I'm improvising with stuffing dirty clothes under the mattress. But this does, of course, mean that I end up sleeping on dirty clothes. Hmm.

Camping gets a firm 4/10 for me. It admittedly affords me far more privacy than I've actually had in the last three months. It's also cheaper than most other solutions: I got the tent and bag for just over R350, so a week of camping instead of dorm beds means that it actually ends up paying for itself. And it's an absolute lifesaver when there's nowhere else to sleep anyway.

But for the love of giant chickens, I do not want to sleep like this if there's any other realistic options at hand. Ever. That is my final word on the matter.

And so, to wrap up my blatherings about Oudtshoorn, I'd like to show you one of the prettiest sights in the area: the Outeniqua Pass between Oudtshoorn and George.

Now imagine seeing this with your eyes instead of through a crappy camera lens.

It's a fantastic view that's offered to anybody travelling between the two locations – there's even a few lookout locations along the pass where people can pull up their vehicles and admire the view a little.

And with that, I say bye-bye to Oudtshoorn. I'm glad that I had the opportunity to visit.

Kunstefees highlights

Writing this blog post is almost embarrassing. One: I only spent about one and a half days at the KKNK in Oudtshoorn. I probably have one of the least thorough assessments of this event in the history of ever ever. Two: there is way too much stuff going on. It's impossible to dictate all the cool things I did and saw in a mere 36 hours. So I offer you a few humble highlights so that I can at least rest easy in the knowledge that I made some sort of half-arsed effort at documenting my experiences.

First on my List of Cool Things™ is the music group Zamar, who deliver a sound which I shall simply describe as “gypsy music stuff”. I'm a bit of a musical heathen, so don't ask me for any proper definitions.

Tell me that this doesn't look gypsy. I dare you.

I first heard these guys while I was sitting in an Oudtshoorn cafe (sipping mineral water and pretending to be posh, of course). Their sound immediately grabbed me and I was moved to sit down and chat with them after their performance.

Zamar consists of a bunch of Stellenbosch students who decided to get together and make something a little different from the run-of-the-mill Afrikaans pop music and doof-doof-doof club sounds that have pretty much saturated the local market. They've been touring the country for some time now, building up a fan base and even winning awards for their performances at events like the KKNK. Not only are they different, but their lack of emphasis means that they're effectively language-neutral, so pretty much everybody can enjoy the music.

Also, they have a rad Website. Much respect to a group who knows the IT haxx.

Now, music aside: one of the main drawcards for the arts festival (in my opinion) was the open market filled with some of the most absolutely cool stuff in existence. And by that, I mean loads of awesome food. And super-cooled relaxation tents with built-in water sprays.

It was pretty funny when they switched the valves to the “knockout gas” setting.

But seriously, you find some recipes in all this madness which are probably unique to the festival: stuff like mint-flavoured nougat, mint-flavoured pizza cones and mint-flavoured baby elephants. You know, the good stuff. I broke my noodle diet once again to sample some of these wares. It was glorious. Budget-killing, but glorious.

As it so happened, I was carrying my devil sticks around with me at the time (let's all say it together now: not a tool of Satan) and a little birdie told me that there was actually a stick juggler wandering around the KKNK market. I enthusiastically hunted said juggler down in the hopes that I could bump into El Rondo again.

I ended up running into another juggler instead. His name was Nico, he had a shop in Knysna and he recognised my sticks as El Rondo's work, so we sat down to chat for a little while. Our conversation brought to my attention the harsh reality of festival markets everywhere: if you're even a paltry two stalls down from the high-traffic paths, you're going to get screwed over for customers. A pity: I tried out some of the sticks myself, and they were pretty well-made.

Enough sticks to choke a giraffe. The moral: buy sticks, save giraffes.

In closing: I totally got to ride in a Toyota along an off-road hazard course.


Enough said. Post over.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

My gunsteling Kunste ... er ... ding

Ons kan nou 'n lekker ... aw, heck, my Afrikaans is waaaay too crummy for all of this.

So I've just touched down in Cape Town after visiting Oudtshoorn for a few days. My expedition has been filled with art, giant chickens and Afrikaans. Loads of it.

Pic related. Sorta.

Oudtshoorn plays host to an annual arts festival known as the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees. As you may have guessed, it's very, very Afrikaans. And I'm very, very English. In fact, I'm the sort of guy who could walk the streets of London and get accosted by random locals who only want to tell me just how damn English I am. Yeah, it's that bad.

Some may be tempted to suggest that I'm exaggerating. Verily, I deny this with damning evidence: my interaction with just about every local in Oudtshoorn since I got there last Thursday is testament to the fact that I cannot utter a word to – nay, cannot even stand within six feet of – an Afrikaans-speaking individual without them immediately switching to English on my behalf.

Even Egg Hat Guy was on to me.

I tested this over and over while wandering around the festival's main market. Shopkeepers, stall owners and passers by all chatted in a flurry of Afrikaans until approximately 0.034 seconds after I'd entered the immediate vicinity, at which point a little switch would flip in their head and instruct them to address me in English. It didn't matter whether or not I even said anything. They just started talking in English. Was a gigantic “I'm useless with the Afrikaans language” sign taped to my back the whole day? I dunno. I was hanging about with actual British people most of the time (comes with the backpacking territory), and even THEY got greeted in Afrikaans. There is no justice.

Another inappropriate picture placement. Enjoy.

Language barriers aside: the KKNK is absolutely bloody terrific. Oudtshoorn is like the Afrikaans mirror city of Grahamstown: it's small and pretty much situated in the middle of nowhere, but it can throw a damn epic festival. On every street corner you'll find stuff for sale, music halls, art exhibitions and strange people wearing gigantic egg hats (see above). The festival organisers even set up a freaking funfair complete with rides and candyfloss. All of this combines to make Oudtshoorn seemingly spring to life overnight.

Before and after. Those rent-a-crowd guys are pretty damn efficient.

I'll scribble out another post soon to point out just a few personal highlights from the day or so I've been at this fest – to incorporate all of my experiences in this humble blog would be a bit of a mission, I'm afraid.

Giant chickens and giant holes in the ground

Oudtshoorn is famous for its giant chickens. Heck, the settlement's treatment of these birds borders on worship. Their names, images and products are featured on signposts, inside cornershops and are scattered around an endless number of tourist traps within the area


These large and gracious birds are a major source of meat in the area. Biltong, sausages and even steaks are sold in the giant chicken variety. I actually gave in one evening and indulged in a nice ostrich steak supper – my second departure from instant noodles in these past two weeks.

Shortly after I took this picture, my wallet leaped up and stabbed me in the neck.

I also went to a local giant chicken farm where I went on a guided tour to explore the world of giant chickens. It was great: not only did I learn much about these massive birds, but I even got to ride one of them. Of course, I couldn't quite manage a piccie from the beast's back because I was a little too busy holding on for dear life at the time. So here's a picture of giant chicken eggs instead:

Easily the biggest chicken eggs I've ever seen.

Aside from giant chickens, Oudtshoorn is also quite well known for the Cango Caves. Ever since playing Spelunky a week or so back, I've been rather geekily inspired to do some cave exploration and had a pretty cool hour and a half on the Cango “Adventure Tour”.

There's some rather tight places. Great for posing, though.

These caves were formed about sixty billion million quadzillion years ago, and a bunch of chemical reactions mixed up with water droplets and a whole bunch of science stuff that I don't understand leads to some amazing sights and very pretty rock formations. Here's my favourite piccie from the experience (and possibly the only one which any reasonable human being could make out):

Bonus points for not being covered in graffiti.

So yeah, cool stuff. I'll be blogging a little about Oudtshoorn's arts festival after this, then I'll hop on a bus to Cape Town to meet up with some friends. Coke Zero Fest awaits.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Curse you, vile Internet

If 3G exists around here, it's sure as hell doing a good job of avoiding my phone at the moment.

Blogging has become rather heinously difficult at the moment. Timeouts, disconnections and killer crocodiles are making my online life a bit of an IT purgatory.

So I'm just going to write up some stuff in the background and post it all up when I hit Cape Town. You can relax for now ... though if I don't put something up by Monday, it probably means that I've been eaten by an ostrich or something. Nice knowing you.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Oudtshoorn (Part one of eleventy-six)

So, a day or so back I hopped onto the Baz Bus, radically changed my plans and took a shuttle to Oudtshoorn for a few days instead of going with my original George – Mossel Bay – Swellendam idea. Then I arrived in Oudtshoorn, realised that I'd stumbled in just before the annual Kunstefees (good luck, international readers) and decided to stay for a few days longer.

I'm currently residing at Backpacker's Paradise. It is damn awesome. Before now, my favourite residence was pretty much the Dijembe lodge in Storms River, but this place blows it right out of the water. With dynamite.

Well, dynamite and African charm.

Backpacker's Paradise really lives up to its namesake. This place is apparently ranked as one of the top ten in the country, but it's still a respectable R90 a night and offers pretty much everything you'd expect for twice the price. It has the typical game room, bar and lounge area, but also sports an itty-bitty swimming pool (though it may just be a really large jacuzzi), a nice garden and even its very own curio shop (I absolutely despise African curio shops, but it's a nice touch anyway).

Backpackers get discounts on just about every tourist attraction in Oudtshoorn. Doubly awesome because this Klein Karoo settlement has been by far the cheapest way for me to see sights and go on adventures. Instead of paying hundreds for a single shoddy expedition, I'm able to do a lot of genuinely interesting stuff for around R50 a pop. And if you successfully prove that a crocodile at the Wildlife park has chewed off one of your limbs, you could probably negotiate a complete refund too.

So, with all this awesomeness there absolutely must be a steep downturn when it comes to facilities, right? Wrong. Even the dorms have en-suite bathrooms and quite possibly the largest beds out of any backpacker establishment that I've stumbled upon so far.

No commentary here: just soak in the magnificent view.

These beds are pretty damn fantastic. They get 9.5 out of ten. Minus half a point because one of the blankets isn't quite to my liking – screw you, blanket.

Unfortunately, the massive popularity of this place combined with the looming Kunstefees spells doom for my hopes of staying in the dorm beyond a few precious hours this morning. I was only able to book a two-night stay (they're otherwise fully booked until April 11th) but using my resourcefulness, roguish charms and map-reading ability, I was able to secure myself a tent and sleeping bag from a nearby shop for a grand total of only R350. Now I'll be camping at the lodge for a few extra days at a considerably reduced rate – go me!

I sure hope that the tent gets a bit bigger once I've pitched it.

I'm looking towards my camping plan tonight with a mixture of excitement and apprehension. Mostly apprehension. In fact, I don't know how excitement even crawled in there. I seem to vaguely recall a total and all-consuming hatred for camping. But at least it'll be cheaper.