Archive | December, 2010


26 Dec

I hope you had a beautiful Christmas. Ours was pretty flippin’ marvellous!

Stoffel and I are now on our way to Bulungula for our traditional new years of beach party and mates. It will take a small road trip to get there and back and we’re looking forward to the time together to run over what still needs to be done. There is barely cellphone reception in the T-kei, let alone loads of internet access… so I’m logging off until the new year.

Happy 2011.


people of the south

21 Dec

I’ve been wanting to write one last post about Antarctica. Because (for me) it wasn’t all about the open spaces and beauty and delicious food and luxury. I am fascinated by people, so I was so interested to see how the bases work. The White Desert camp is not far from a Russian Antarctic station and the (a?) Indian base.

On our second afternoon, we saw an approaching ski-doo that looked like it had waaaayyy too many people hanging on to it. Sure enough, it was the Indians! They’d souped up their ski-doo such that it took an extra 5 people (or so) than the normal 3 (maximum) seater. Gotta love the Indians.*

They’d come to have their picture taken with Jenna. She’s quite famous cos there aren’t too many women stationed in ‘Tartica. Having Your Picture Taken With Jenna is (apparently) an important annual fixture in the Indian Antarctic Base calendar.

After Jenna was all snapped out, Ali and I insisted on having our pic taken with some of the team too. At first they were somewhat disappointed to have Ali in the picture, but then after we gave them beers and told them that Ali’s best mate is Gary Kirsten who coaches the Indian cricket side, then we were all the very best of friends!

The next day, instead of making a small journey to visit a penguin colony, a bunch of us elected to do the 12km trek from our camp, through the Indian camp to the Russians.

The Indian base wasn’t very beautiful. Nobody came rushing out to feed us rogan josh (or some other delicacy). The wind was icy-icy. So we moved on.

On our way the Ilyusion flew over us on its way back to Cape Town from the Novo runway. That second pic is my desktop setting at the moment. I just can’t get enough of it.

Trusty guide Stef quickly figured out that in South Africa we have a lot of rock and hills and stones. but we do NOT have a lot of ice and snow. With this in mind, he carefully selected our route to the Russians.

Arriving at the Russian base is fairly surreal. It’s perched on a hillock on the rock oasis and it looks a little like one might imagine an outpost on the moon to look.

One can take an informal ‘tour’ around an exceptionally chilly museum of Russian tanks from the Cold War.

The tanks are taken to the ice shelf by boat and then they drive them across the +/- 80km of shelf ice. Or so I’m told. It was pretty cool.

Then we came across a pole that looked like it could have been the South Pole! (It wasn’t, of course. The real south pole is a darn side more southerly and looks like a candy pole with a big round mirror globe on top with an enormous concrete American base next door where (I’m told) they don’t invite you in for tea or coffee if you have spent months crossing the Antarctic on foot (or otherwise).)

We didn’t recognise too many places. All of them seemed to be a jolly far way away and in the same kind of direction. Except, of course, for the arrow at the top of the pole and our Russian was far from sufficient to decide whether it pointed to the south pole or the other Russian base!

We hung around for a while, drank some tea (thank you, Russians, for giving us tea) and ate some chocolate (thank you, Stef, for carrying the chocolate for us).

Then we were driven back across the ice to our camp by the guy still wearing all his cold-weather gear in a heated car.

At first we laughed at him (“those Russians!”). Then we slowly and sheepishly put all our stuff back on because this guy might have know something about the risk of the car falling into a crevasse and having to lie in the ice that we didn’t know…

*Of course, if the South Africa base had been closer, it could have been either a South African or an Indian ski-doo… We also quite fancy transport that carries more people than it was originally intended to carry.

family holiday

17 Dec

Yesterday was the Day of Reconciliation. It’s one of those amazing South African stories where we have tried to turn some really horrendous incident-event in history into a holiday for all! Mostly, it marks the start of the Christmas (and summer) holidays! Hurrah! In keeping with the tradition, we travelled to Knysna yesterday for a short snatch of holiday with the family.

Knysna (pronounced Nise-na… or as I repeatedly quip (jeepers I can be annoying) “nice, na?”) is a gorgeous marvellous town on the famous garden route. My in-laws have a second home here and Stof and I have escaped for a few days to hang with Stof’s ‘rents, his sis and her three fabulousa daughters. We’re still ploughing through the Things That Must Be Achieved, but in an altogether more relaxed environment. We’ll be back in the routine on Monday…

Family holidays are both hilarious and awesome. Especially when they’re not actually your own family.*

AND: For those of you involved in the Running Challenge, I have been So Good! [The Running Challenge is a challenge to people who like to think about themselves running. The point is to encourage each other do actually do some running over December and January (more specifically: the 14th to the 14th). The person who works in the most runs will be sent Awesome Stuff from the other participants!] I didn’t run yesterday in the midst of my travels, BUT, I’ve run three days out of four since the 14th. Brilliant!

* When they’re your own family, family holidays are a mixture of infuriating and hilarious and awesome.

never say no to water… and bubbles

14 Dec

[Before writing this it seemed like there would be a point, but it’s turned out to be a bit of a rambling collection of thoughts about nothing very substantial. Sorry.]

A little while ago Stoffel decided that it would be an excellent life-rule to set oneself the mantra: “Never say no to water.”

What a good rule it is!* Now, whenever either of us is offered a sip/glass/bottle of water we are ethically bound** to accept. We like to catch each other out:

Stoffel: Would you like a glass of water, my love?

Saartjie: [favourite glass water bottle in hand] Um, No I’m ok with my 750ml of H2O right here…

St: Did you just say NO to water?

Sa: Errrrrrmmmmmmmmm. No… I’d love a glass of water.

We’re very mature like that. And (clearly) well hydrated.

While we’re on the topic of refusing to refuse liquids, another beverage I am yet to turn down is a sip/glass/bottle of champagne.***As long as it’s not sweet and has bubbles, I love it the most!

Which reminds me of the most marvellous evening we enjoyed two nights before I went to Antarctica (i.e. when I still had absolutely no idea that I might actually be going to Antarctica). The Hillratts were invited to a Champagne Tasting! The tasting was held in a breath-taking manor along the Bishopscourt ridge overlooking Constantia and all of False Bay. For those not acquainted with the Fairest Cape (we’re quite modest about our city) this vista includes scenes of great beauty. After the “tasting” part of the Champagne Tasting there were bottles and bottles of Bolly to be drunk freely while we snacked on oysters! sushi! salmon! french cheeses! home-made vanilla pod ice cream! multiple other delicacies! Delicious. It was certainly a lifestyle I could become well acquainted with. Although I would most certainly morph into an enormous piece of solid lard.

Oh! On the subject of Sara’s lardiness: I have resumed some manner of exercise regime and self-discipline in the eating department due to the scary rate of increase of lard-to-muscle ratio in my body. I have even run**** three kilometres for two days in a row. And counting. Nice one, Saartjie!***** Just thinking about it makes me feel thirsty. I think I’ll have some more water, please.

Would you like some too?

* Have I mentioned that I love a good rule? Something to do with being a Type-A bossy-britches, perhaps… Or too many years working with rules.

** I am an ABSOLUTE rule-nerd…

*** Or cap classique. Which is what they call a bottle of bubbles made in SA because those frenchies insisted we call it something else and they are fussy like that.

**** I use the word “run” very loosely: sometimes I just walk along puffing heavily in between actual spurts of jogging.

***** I even felt inspired to add a category entitled “fitness” whch might just be wishful thinking…

scenes from the [first aid] front

10 Dec

In preparation for this little adventure of ours, I have done a whole bunch of interesting courses to prepare myself for the passage beyond. I am now a qualified:

The course took three days and was run by St Johns Ambulance. I’ve got the feeling* that St Johns exists in many countries across the world. [I’m too lazy to google this right now.] I completed level one, Stoffel will do level one next week (he was writing his yachtmaster’s exam this week so couldn’t join me. Are we getting savvy or WHAT?), and we will both do our “first aid at sea” modules in January sometime.**

My class had 12 people in it. Luckily, we ploughed through the various modules (emergency scene management! CPR! choking! bleeding and amputation! bone injuries! etcetera etcetera) at a fairly moderate speed, so I didn’t feel the need to separate the class into different categories according to ability.

It was a class of superheros! One man was Buzz Lightyear made flesh and blood. I couldn’t look at him without willing him to boldly shout: “To infinity and beyond!” We also had Elasto-Boy in our class: a seemingly inconspicuous gentleman who shocked and amazed us all when he yawned and stretched one morning after tea and his joints turned in just about every direction possible! The man isn’t just double-jointed: he’s more or less triple (or more!) jointed. Awesome.

There were the Three Witnesses: one actually named Witness, and another two whose names meant “witness” in Xhosa or Arabic respectively.

Add to the mix the Secretary who didn’t like me after, on the first day, we had to present on “medical shock” and I started sketching a spider-diagram (mind map?) to summarise the information we had to present. Secretary didn’t like that at all. I don’t know why… arachnophobe?

What WAS interesting, was that the class had a very pleasing racial and gender profile. (For the non-South Africans, yes, I do think it is dreadfully depressing that we still care about these things, but it will take a whole load of time in addition to our 2-3 Nobel Peace laureates to make us not notice.) 12 persons made up of: 6 black, 3 white and 3 mixed race. 6 men and 6 women. Now, I did say that the breakdown was interesting, and not just numerically pleasing***. The culturally interesting part came when traditional remedies for various ‘ailments’**** were discussed. “Old wives” tales are a treat!

The most distressing story was a remedy for burns. Old (township) wives solution: pour condensed milk on someone who has just been burnt. On the face of it, this might make sense: the condensed milk should cool the wounds. BUT (as our trusty trainer advised from personal experience) this is a BAD idea because the sugar crystallises and then the skin has to be rubbed with steel wool… without painkillers!!! Too ghastly.

The remedy that attracted the most disbelieving guffaws (especially from Buzz Lightyear who joked about it NON STOP for the rest of the course) was Elasto-Boy’s (first hand!!!) account of what to do with someone who has sustained an abdominal injury such that his or her intestines are spilling out (!!!! Please let me never have to deal with this…). Elasto-Boy said that when HIS neighbour had had his abdomen slashed open (as happens when you’re Elasto-Boy), the women had lit a match waved it around the intestines and scared the innards back in! Now I would be the first to admit that this is pretty gnarly in the coolest way possible way, but apparently it ‘works’ only because the heat from the match dries out the intestines and they shrivel up. Dry intestines = bad.

In the end we all learnt the error of our traditional ways (and will now be draping cool wet cloths over both burns and cascading intestines), passed the test and got our complimentary gloves, CPR mask and certificate.

* This feeling was compounded by the Canadian movie demonstrations we were shown in class. 

** It is December and even instructors of first aid at sea go on holiday.

*** I love the numbers 12 and 24. Even a numerically challenged person like me can divide them by SO many other numbers. So satisfying!

**** I use this term very loosely. A third degree burn, say, is not normally classified as an ailment.

i’m a skip!

9 Dec

I pause the craziness to report the following:

I passed my day skipper’s exam. Hurrah! Hooray!

Even better: I beat The Brain (my matey Dr Andersod)… ok, I only pipped him by 1 percent, but what a sweet, sweet percent that is.

[My movements and that of headless chickens have a lot in common at the moment. Off to run around wildly again.]

here i am!

8 Dec

[Sailing out to welcome our circumnavigating friends. Dorky grin, bottle o’ bubbles and “HELLO SAILOR” t-shirt included…]

I haven’t disappeared entirely: I’ve just been doing a First Aid course every day which has been most informative and has GOBBLED up my time… Last day today! I’ll be back…