Archive | September, 2010


30 Sep

It’s a bit of a thrill to tell people about our trip.  Most of the time, we just blurt it out and watch the reaction settle in: “We’re going to sail across the Pacific next year. No, really. We sold our house and bought a boat in Mexico.” And then we generally just grin cheekily, because even we still haven’t got used to the overall audacity of the plan. Usually we’re then showered with questions relating to the type of boat or the passage plan or how we plan to survive at sea for so long without driving each other nuts. And we also attract a fair share of envy, which is completely understandable.

But the other day I had one of the most sublime reactions. Ever.

I was in a little shop in the Midlands with a generally horrendous selection of bric-a-brac. Jenna May and I were teasing each other about the merchandise. I avoided her suggestion that I purchase a plastic silver giraffe print handbag* by pleading the importance of saving for the cruise fund. To which the Woman In Behind The Counter enquired” “The what?”

Saartjie: We’re going to sail across the Pacific next year. No, really. We sold our house and bought a boat in Mexico.

Woman Behind The Counter: Canada has just introduced a new tax. 15% across the board. Their citizens are most upset about it.

S: … ?

WBTC: And Canada is always the first country to help out if there’s an international environmental crisis. It just isn’t fair that they should have to pay such a tax. It’s one of the highest taxed countries in the world, you know?

We fled that shop as fast as we could!

*Even if that sounds cool, it was not. ok?


and just like that: a new tradition!

29 Sep

Every now and again us Hillratts come up with an idea which we reckon is pretty frikkin brilliant.* This time we came up with a superb anniversary tradition.

Henceforth, instead of giving each other anniversary gifts (especially instead of giving each other year-specific gifts: it takes 50 years to get something golden???) we have decided to purchase a piece of art together each year in order to commemorate our marriage and partnership. Yay!


  • beauty and
  • (maybe) investment and
  • a kindof “map” of our taste and aesthetic.

I’d post a shot of our first painting, but I now have to wait to purchase a new camera (sigh).

*Like selling our house, buying a boat in Mexico and travelling around the Pacific. 

the near-disastrous anniversary

29 Sep

Before I give any description of the start or end of our anniversary, I must explain that my car keys are not the only Important Things that were lost last week. Last Sunday we returned from an immeasurably wonderful weekend with the fabulous jennamay in the Natal Midlands.* On the plane, I removed my WEDDING EARRINGS** and put them on my lap. Of course, as the flight landed, I stood up and went home only to realise the next day my splendid wedding earrings were missing . Sob! THEN, on Friday (i.e. Heritage Day) Stoffel insisted on taking the camera (our ONLY digital camera) on a hike across Table Mountain from the City Bowl to his parent’s possie in Constantia.*** He took a new, really tricky route up the mountain which required much clambering and hoisting of Cowboy. Near the top, he took a picture of Cow wedged in a particularly impressive crack with Cape Town stretching out beyond him. AND, that was the last any of the Hillratts (or their immediate associates) saw of the camera!

So, our first ever anniversary morning contained a series of not very enjoyable moments:

  • my husband-of-one-year awoke wincing from a sore back (perhaps something to do with the clambering and hoisting of Cowboy?).
  • Then I discovered the missing camera. Wraaahhh! Fury! Misery!
  • We scuttled all our belongings into the car and shot down to the Constantia Woolies in case Stof had removed it there when he’d stopped in to purchase braai goodies after his walk. No luck.
  • Still no breakfast by this time and my blood sugars were waning (and my lip was dragging along the floor as a result of the husband-losing-camera incident). Because we were all the way down the southern part of the peninsula, we popped in at Muizenberg for coffee and croissant on the beach: lovely? No: it was an absolute nightmare with (seemingly) thousands of surfers milling around trying set a Guinness record.
  • We decided to tootle along the beach to the N2 and find food later (probably somewhere delicious, pretty and romantic). Unfortunately, about a quarter of the way along Strandfontein road we were turned around at a road block : a whale had beached itself and the extraordinary number of spectators had forced authorities to close the road.
  • So we spent an hour driving around back to where we would have been in 20 minutes.
  • A lot of this time I am being rather miserable/sulky/generally unpleasant.
  • We pulled into the Engen 1 Stop roadside petrol station at lightening speed to fill up the car, with the idea that we would then hit the road to find something to eat (somewhere delicious, pretty and romantic).
  • EXCEPT, then the car did not restart. At all.
  • Helpful petrol attendants helped us push Suzi (an Isuzu bakkie) to the side and we called for the Automobile Association.
  • We *enjoyed* an oily anniversary lunch of Wimpy burgers at the 1-stop as we waited for the AA to arrive…

I admit that, at this point, I suggested that the whole idea of going away to celebrate our baby marriage might just go to h-ll and that we should return to the Matchbox and sulk. (I may or may not have been close to tears.****)  To which Stof pointed out that we couldn’t even do that because were STUCK on the side of the highway eating Wimpy burgers with our fingers.

Which is when we started to snigger uncontrollably and things got better:

  • AA arrived and (of course) Suzi started first time. Without coercion or assistance!
  • We hit the road with blood sugar levels restored (generally much happier).
  • We arrived at the Breede River in time to unpack the car, feed the dogs, light a fire and open a bottle of wine while the sun set.
  • WE DIDN’T EVEN HAVE TO MAKE THE BED (Yay! We were lazy last time we visited and left the linen on…)
  • We made a bloody delicious dinner of mushroom, asparagus and chorizo risotto which we ate in front of the fire while it rained outside.
  • For the rest of our visit the weather was exquisite!
  • All of our wedding trees (we planted 14 trees the day after our wedding) are still alive! Good omen (if nothing else).

Here are some pictures of our little piece of paradise on the Breede. Obviously they aren’t from this weekend, but I’m desperate to have a photograph or two in this blog.

Sunset at the Breede with Saartjie and a dog (I think that’s Maggie, Cowboy’s sister) in silhouette…

Oh it’s lovely during daylight too! This from when our matey Larry flew up and “buzzed” us… hmm.

The veld really is this breath-taking.

Happy-tired dogs falling asleep in front of the fire while spooning. Like we did.

*I even took millions of fantastic photies for showntell. These are forever lost to the mountain. We think…

** Which I love(d).

*** I was not traipsing across the mountain alongside him because I had to work. On a public holiday. Ghastly.

**** Pathetic. I know. 

a year ago

27 Sep

je parle francais

21 Sep


We decided it was somewhat important for someone on the Laura Takalani to be able to communicate with the locals in French Polynesia. (We must have baguette!) That someone is not going to be Stoffel.

I’ve enrolled in a 10 week beginners intensive french course at the Alliance Francais in CT. I now have two three-hour classes a week until November (Tuesday and Thursday evenings  are a write-off). This is awesome because it gives me something productive to do that is not lawyering.**AND becuase it is fun to learn another language.

Mostly it is fun because we have some pretty hilarious people in our class. Some of my favourites are:

  1. Nigerian in-house lawyer for large multi-national. He never does his homework and sits next to me and we crack jokes the whole time. AND he’s bringing me a CD of his favourite french band. O-la-la!
  2. [Somewhat overwhelmed at times] mother and son team. I like them so because the mother’s name is Bronwyn. For some reason this name confuses the shit out of our teacher (the ever-patient Congolese Ken) who calls her “Browwwnnne”. I have a rush of pleasure every time he says it: “Browwwnnne”!
  3. Chinese woman who barely speaks English. She has never come across French before. She is learning french becuase her and her family might want to move to Canada in 7 years time (forward planners, all of them!). They don’t think they want to move to Montreal, but it’s useful to have a headstart anyway.
  4. Spoilt-rich-pretty-pouty girl. I too am surprised that I like this chicken, but And ridiculously clever. And she has a fabulous french accent. She wasn’t at last Thursday’s class and I’m a bit worried she has commitment issues and may have dropped out. PANIC! Come back girl I thought I wouldn’t like!

I have started plotting about splitting the class so that we can learn faster. I’m a bit competitive like that. After every class Stof wants to know who’s still in my “A” class and who is in the “B” class. So you know: Nigerian and Pouty Girl are solid A’s. Browwwnnn and Chinese are permanent members of the “B”.


** I am feeling a bit like that time when I was writing matric exams at the end of high school. My last subject to write was Science and I had just written Physics (which I liked) and had Chemistry to go (which I did not like). AND then I got a letter from my first host family in Brazil!!! And it was all over: I ended up making up chemical equations in the exam just to fill the pages. Needless to say, Science was not my best mark.

lost. ergh.

21 Sep

I just wanted to say that, sometime between yesterday evening (when I returned to the Matchbox from grocery shopping) and this morning (when I attempted to rush out of the house to pilates) I lost my car key.


The Matchbox is not called a matchbox for nothing. Therefore there are not too many places that key could have disappeared to. Sadly, the place it HAS gotten to has not been found and we are now a 1 car family.* The irritation factor of having to fetchncarry his wife has not yet struck Stof, who is merely delighted that someone other than him has engaged in losing important stuff.


* Of course, we still have another car. But we can just look at it. Which is a relief because it means that the key has not been found by some lucky passing skollie.


20 Sep

For a variety of reasons, we have registered our boat on the British small ships registry. We will therefore have to sail under a british flag. The realisation made me feel sad and unpatriotic and a bit of a longing to somehow identify ourselves as South African.

Now, we like the name “Laura”. We REALLY like the person after whom the boat was named. We loved that MikenLaurie had held a beautiful naming ceremony for the boat and we felt sure that our journeys on her would also be blessed.

But on that registration day (ok. also the days preceding it) I just felt like “Laura” wouldn’t say enough about us: where we come from, who we are. I have a strong impression that within the cruising community, the crew is referred to by the name of their boat. And “Laura” just wasn’t “mh!”* enough for the Hillratts.

So as we registered our boat, we made the onthespot decision to call our boat “Takalani”. Takalani means “be happy” (to more than one person) in Venda. Takalani Sesame is the South African version of Sesame Street. The name conjures awesome memories for both of us. When I lived in the Transkei (rural eastern cape), my friend Backpacker David had an old painted kombi that would excite the children to run out to the road and scream and laugh “TAKALANIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii” as we drove past. That kind of youthful exhilaration is exactly how we feel about our journey.

BUT! Since then, we’ve had naming remorse: we just don’t know if we can say goodbye to “Laura”. The solution? Right now we’re referring to her as the Laura Takalani until we can figure out which fits better. Honestly, how many boats have a first name AND a surname?

*No  qoqo-bility. No chakalaka.