Archive | November, 2010

i’ve got that funny feeling

30 Nov

I’m moving out of my office: today is my last official day as an advocate. I thought I would be feeling excited, relieved and maybe a little exhilarated. Those feelings are there… in theory.

In practice, I’m feeling slightly terrified. It’s the fear of change. In the midst of what may well be one of the most spectacular adventures of my life, I still have a small hankering for things to stay the same. A segment of my heart wants to carry on living my happy life in our gorgeous home (too late!) and taking our strange little pup for walks on our beautiful Table Mountain. I quite like sitting at my big lovely desk, bantering with colleagues and turning client’s complaints into legal writing. I’m sad for the wedding and baby parties we will miss and nostalgic for the dinners, braais and weekends away which we won’t share with our friends and family over the next few years.

It’s not so say that the trade-off doesn’t trump the unease hands-down every day. But I am a little surprised at the sadness too. When I think about its dispassionately, I am relieved to be a little melancholy: it must be a good thing to mourn a lifestyle that is blessed and blissful.

This will be my last post perched on my chair in chambers… farewell, this life. The Pacific passage draws a whole lot nearer.

[I will return with more Antarctica porn when things have settled. In addition to moving, I have some outstanding work to nail AND my skipper’s theory exam to pass this evening… tra-la-laaaa!]


some logistics

25 Nov

[So this post is about some of the practicalities, as opposed to the beauty. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how spectacular a place Antarctica is and how immeasurably lucky I am to have experienced part of it. All the while, labouring at my work work, which needs to be wrapped up by Tuesday when I move out of my office.]

Right until about 45 minutes before we departed, I wasn’t sure whether I would make the flight to Antarctica. One of the gentlemen who had earlier cancelled changed his mind (again!) and was trying to fly in from London in order to catch the plane south which was due to leave at 9am SA time. The timing was going to be a bit risky, but with a good tail wind, he could have made it. (Our pilots were reluctant to delay the flight south as the weather forecast indicated that the weather would turn bad that afternoon.) Only when we arrived at the airport did we find out that his flight had been delayed by one hour at Heathrow. Which meant I was on the plane! Yippee!

We flew into an area of Antarctica called Dronning Maud Land. It’s situated due south of Cape Town and it took the Gulf stream we flew in on about 5 1/2 hours to cover the distance.

The White Desert camp is located fairly close to two scientific bases: an Indian (!) and a Russian base. The Russians (because they’re good at that shit) also run an ice runway every summer to ferry in scientists and tourists and other stuff. The red dot on the map above indicates more or less where all the action is. As can be seen, we were on the edge of the continent and about a 7 hour flight  (including a stop to refuel) to the South Pole.

The photie above was taken with just under an hour to landing. You can see the ice bergs floating in the southern ocean and I’m not 100% sure whether that is ice shelf or cloud in the distance. The solid ice shelf is about 80km wide before the start of the continent.

Just after this photo was taken we were urged to start putting on our layers of “cold weather” gear and our sunnies. We’d left CT on a beautiful morning clad in T-shirts, but as soon as the plane door opened, we had to be prepared for The Cold and bright white ice and snow.

Here is our “team” of lucky last-minute Antarctica travellers on the Novo runway. You can tell how awesome we feel by the size of our grins. It consisted of father-in-law Rick, brother-in-law Ali and three of Rick’s colleagues, one of whom we referred to as Austin “Danger” Powers (guess which one).

I am dressed in my oilskins! I couldn’t find any suitable ski-gear to borrow on such short notice, and most of what I own is in storage. I just layered up a whole bunch of (mainly borrowed) warmer clothes and used my oillies to keep out the wind. It was perfect!

So those Ruskys run a tight, if not kinda cavalier, operation.

Every year they have to test the ice and then they clear a runway that will be able to support a summer season worth of flights in and out of Antarctica. To the left of this photo you will notice the Gulf stream 3 that flew us into Antarctica. To the right, there are some enormous Toyota Hiluxes which are responsible for transporting people around Antarctica. People like us.

[Here’s another picture of the car. In case any of my readers are boys or otherwise into that kind of thing.]

The drive took about 20 minutes across the ice until we arrived at Camp Whichaway, the White Desert camp.

When you consider that everything has to be entirely removable, and that all that is left standing at the end of a season are the bases of the main tents and the guest tents, it’s quite an impressive operation.

The red and grey tents are the staff tents, the yellow ones are guest tents which were only used by one person, the canvas smaller tents are guest tents and the big one consists of a kitchen, a dining room and a lounge/library. They are so fabulous. The wooden square structure is where the toilet is housed.

Because it is (ordinarily) so darn expensive to fly down to Antarctica, the standard of hospitality has to be pretty ridiculously high: people who have loads of cash to spend on a holiday at the bottom of the world are used to the finer things in life. For this reason, each tent is exquisitely equipped with proper camper beds, fluffy blankets (although we were also all given -30 sleeping bags to sleep in), rugs on the floor and heaters.

There is always at least one bottle of  bubbles chilling when the guests return from any daily activity. Not to fear: I took full advantage of the bubbles…

The food was subliminal. Jennamay is one of my finest friends so I knew that the fare would be phenomenal. It was nevertheless loads of fun watching the other guests being blown away meal after meal with the culinary delights before them. In ANTARCTICA!?

Cook sister, cook!. Legend.

I’ll be back with more Antarctic beauty and some snippets of activity and laughter soon. To the A-mericans who read this blog: may you have a superb thanks-giving. To everyone: only one month to christmas. Woop! Woop!


24 Nov

Our plane touched down from Antarctica at 5am south african time this morning.

It’s almost impossible to be remotely nonchalant about the couple of days that have just passed. Right now I’m still trying to process it all. And catch up with lost sleep. And scurry through the tons of work that have piled up while I was gallivanting on the southern ice with an enormous grin on my face.

going south

22 Nov

If you don’t hear from me for a couple of days it because I might be in Antarctica.

WWAAA – KAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!! [That’s my extremely excited noise. Normally accompanied by small jumps and huge eyeballs.]

A series of exceptionally fortunate events aligned so that certain of White Desert’s* clients had to cancel, which meant there were certain places available on the plane down south and somehow, miraculously,  I am actually going to visit the great white continent… I’ll be back on Wednesday.


* Which company belongs to my brother- and siter-in-law.

all about stof

18 Nov

This just in: the theme for the 2011 AfrikaBurn (the SA version of Burning Man)  is “STOF”.

I lifted the following off their website:


STOF Is the Afrikaans word for dust.
The Germanic word for matter.
matter and energy, is the building material of everything,
plofstof  are explosives, ignition
dust  – Tankwa is all about dust,
stuff – materials – the stuff we work with
stuff- materialism…we have too much stuff, too many belongings
kool stoff  is carbon, the base of all life
the stuff in my head…..what to do with it!   
Stof is fabric, the fiber of our being
Stof is felt, its drapery,
It is to mold…to shape our own reality
Stof is soil, clay, sand, the elemental silt
Stof-suier – domestic applications
Dust  to dust,
substance, energy , particles,
kick up dust.

[And now back to my work.]

PS. My “Stof” is short for his whole first name. But he’s a whole lot of the above description too…

futbol fever and my part in bringing bafana to cape town

17 Nov

Ayoba, folks!

Bafana* vs USA in our very own CT stadium this evening!!! Yay. Yay. Yay. Of course, we are going. There are two main reasons for this:

1. It’s all about re-living the World Cup

Without trying to sound schmaltzy, that World Cup was one of the best times of my life. The actual opening night, when Bafana drew with Mexico and then we** spilt into the streets and jived and wooped and tootled our vuvuzelas with enormous vigour was definitely the most goose-bump inducing day I have ever lived.

Stof and I have this theory: South Africa had been bubbling and boiling under the pressure of the challenges we face as a country (poverty, crime, lack of education, loud-mouthed politicians who seem less intent on solving problems than on making them). And then, like a giant Friday night after the worst work week EVER, we were all given permission to party. The entire country erupted! Ordinary people, not the criminals, not the extremists, not the burbling and bumbling politicians, owned the streets and stamped their place on society. WE stamped our sense of being South African on the world.

I think I grinned for a month.

(hoping to recreate this look tonight… I just have to figure out if the green wig went into storage.)

So tonight, I reckon the 51 000 people attending the bafana-usa match (and the inevitable hangers-on) are going to try to re-create that feeling.

2. I really shouldn’t miss it

Bafana-bafana have played in Cape Town precisely ONE time in the past five years. (Or it seems that way to my memory.) We were not scheduled any Bafana matches during the world cup and not one of the warm-up games took place on Cape Town soil.

In the run-up to the world cup, it didn’t always seem that way. There were a couple of occasions when the newspapers announced that Bafana would indeed play at our beautiful new stadium.

But then a couple of days later, the announcement would be retracted and the match rescheduled for Rustenberg (where? Exactly.) or Jhb (AGAIN)…

So I made a phone call to the customer relations officer of the South African Football Association in Pretoria. I must state up-front that I can be slightly melodramatic, but I do have a sense of my own irony. The following conversation ensued:

Saartjie: I just want to say, on behalf of the people of Cape Town, that we will be crying bitter tears of disappointment into our pillows this evening because we never get to see our own team in action.

Best Customer Relations Officer Ever: Madam, I feel your pain.

S: No, you do not feel my pain. This is because you are in Pretoria and work for SAFA and no doubt you have had at least one opportunity to watch Bafana-bafana. Us capetonians, we can only support the team from afar: never drawing near enough for Our Boys to hear the ring of our cheers and vuvuzelas in their ears.

BCROE: Cape Town has been wronged, there is no doubt! I assure you that we all feel and appreciate your support. You see, The Coach insists on them practising at altitude so they are ultra-fit for the tournament.

S: But does The Coach and the rest of SAFA think that Cape Town is not a part of South Africa? Just because we are in the south and have majestic mountains and beautiful beaches and delicious wines and… [focus saartjie!] anyway, that doesn’t mean we don’t love our team too!

BCROE: No! No! Even though you have different weather patterns to the rest of the country, we know you are still a part of South Africa. Even The Coach [who was not from South Africa] knows this.

And so it continued: me being melodramatic and the BCROE being melodramatically understanding in return. It ended with him asking for my telephone number so he could keep me abreast with events. I put down the phone impressed at how he played my game and expected to not hear anything more…

A couple of weeks ago, my phone rang! Guess what? It was the BCROE! With a special pre-press release just for me (he didn’t want such an outstanding representative of Cape Town to have to read about the good news in the ‘papers***): The Nelson Mandela Trophy was coming to Cape Town!

So at 9:30 (UTC+2), I’ll finally be cheering from the stands for my team.

*Bafana-bafana is the name we give to our SA national football side. It means: “The Boys”.

**And by “we”, I mean every.single.south.african (practically).

*** I kid you not. That guy cracked me up. He’s brilliant!

what are you afraid of?

16 Nov

I’m generally quite a scaredy-cat and I don’t like to dwell on the frightening, so let’s keep this short and to the point, ok?

  • Big crazy hurricane seas. Even though Stof tells me we don’t need to be afraid, that the boat has excellent “righting” tendencies and that if we keep calm we will be able to ride it out. I still get a really tight knot in my stomach when I think about being knocked down in a storm. Something to do with liking to be in control, I think…
  • Stof getting really badly injured and me having to be the “above deck” skipper and guide us to safety. I like to be in control, but not that much!
  • Getting chomped/stung/poked by some rare and deathly ocean creature and not being able to figure out how to handle it (this applies for anyone who visits us as well).
  • Not working as a team. This would be bad on a multitude of levels I can’t even begin to contemplate.
  • Missing weddings and births and other important things at home.


I am not afraid of getting sea-sick. Although, perhaps, I should put this down to ignorance. I have never become sea-sick before so I don’t know from first hand experience how ghastly it can be. I’ve been assured (ha!) by plenty of sailors more experienced than I that one (usually) cannot cross an ocean without having at least one period of sea-sickness. For the moment, though, that’s something that can stay off the list.