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enter: wanda* the travelling dinosaur

6 Feb

We have a stow-away. Her name is Wanda.*

Here is Wanda getting all cushioned into the comfy Emirates seat (next to Stof’s man-bag):

Lucky for Wanda (and for us) we had an empty middle seat on BOTH flights from CT-Dubai and Dubai-LAX. We also had very comfortable seats and generous (for economy) leg room and beautiful hostesses and tasty food and a really really impressive movie selection. We liked Emirates.

Wanda quite likes the travelling life. She especially appreciates a good view. Like this one from the roof of our hotel in Dubai:

(She would have appreciated it more if we had taken a less blurry photo of her, but it was starting to rain giant raindrops and we needed to go shopping (when in Dubai…) so it was a one-shot Wanda.)

Wanda does not like to wait. We had to wait for about an hour before we took off in Dubai for LA after passing through the boarding pass section. Aaargh.

She got a little tetchy and tried to make a phonecall. It was about 3am in South Africa, so she reckoned our niece Electra would be awake.

Lucky for Rob’nPat she didn’t have a phone card.

After 16 1/2 hours in the air on our way to LAX** we were all a little nervous about our 5 hour lay-over in the US. These were some of the things we were worried about:

  1. We would get stopped at customs with our 5kg of chocolate and most amazing first aid kit which included, inter alia, two vials of morphine and adrenaline each.
  2. Not all of our 4 enormous bags weighing 32kg each (we got to weigh and re-pack them in Dubai where the lady at the check-in desk was friendly, but not as prepared to bend the rules as Lynn) would arrive.
  3. We would not have enough time to go to the UPS Store to collect the various items we had sent there from Amazon and other suppliers.
  4. We would not be allowed to check the new bag of freshly collected stuff in due to our copious other luggage.
  5. Stof might have to spend the night in LA due to anything going wrong.

But it was all fine! Really? We could not have wished for the LA bit of our crazy journey to have gone smoother. Stof and I kept looking at each other in disbelief and laughing and smooching (once we had finally brushed our teeth) and high-fiving and generally feeling better than lottery winners!

We all climbed on to the prop plane to La Paz feeling triumphant. If you look carefully, you will see Wanda grinning out of the top of Stof’s bag.***

The flight to La Paz was gorgeous. A little bumpy, but we don’t mind bumpy too much in our family. It was marvellous to fly over the coast of Baja California and to see from the air some of the islands we hope to explore in the Laura Takalani.

This one reminded Wanda of herself for some reason:

So now we have all arrived. Exhausted. Cold (we forgot about winter).**** Pleased that we do not have to step on to another plane for at least a year.

* Um… Dear Nieces and Nephew. “Wanda’s” name may not be Wanda. If it is not Wanda and you had already named her/him something else, please let us know forthwith and we will rename her/him immediately. Weloveyouthemost, Sara and Stof.

** We flew over the North pole! How awesome?

*** Erm. No, you will not see Wanda grinning out of the side of Stof’s bag, I’m afraid. But I wanted to work that information into the post now and I couldn’t figure out how else to do it because we forgot to take a photo of Wanda at that time. Mea culpa.

**** To be fair: all the locals reckon that today is the coldest it ever gets in La Paz and it was about a max of 20C. But when you have only come prepared for balmy island paradise, that is CHILLERS!

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i got cash…

25 Jan

After some long hard months of saving, we’ve finally had to start spending on stuff for the boat. And I, Sara Lynn Hillratt, have been BLEEDING cash all over Cape Town.

Perhaps some perspective (and a small story)? I’ve got a bit of a frock-weakness. Some women love shoes, handbags or underwear. I love a dress. LOVE. I can walk into almost any store anywhere and I will become infatuated with at least one frock (probably more) on the rails.

Two seasons ago, I had a particularly “liberal” approach to purchasing those frocks. Until I found a particularly spectacular floor-length, flowing silk, halter neck (great cleavage), dress which I knew I had to have. Except, it cost about six (ok, maybe eight) times more than the amount that I normally consider to be reasonable for frock spending. Of course I bought it. But I did promise myself that I would exercise self-discipline for the rest of the season and not buy another dress. And if I can’t spend my money on dresses, then I somehow find it rather easy to avoid spending money at all…

Next thing, Stof and I came up with this rather romantic notion of travelling around the Pacific. So operation Save-As-Much-As-We-Can was launched, thereby cauterising the flow of unnecessary money from our household.

We’ve done a fair bit of saving from a solid year-and-a-bit of being on low cash spend.

Suddenly, I have had to buy a whole bunch of the things we have been saving for! It’s as if some long-forgotten spending beast has awoken in me. Besides buying the necessary (ropes, radios, cameras, memory cards, underwear, dry bags, bags, nifty gadgets, LED lights, books, bikinis etc etc), I have been treating myself to the odd luxury with the self-explanation that “they won’t have this in the Pacific”!

There is a considerable reserve. We’ve been saving for some time because we hope to travel for some time. It is rather easy to feel like you’re rich when the bank account is looking, ahem, healthy.

But the realisation that I had been spurting cash unnecessarily hit me Saturday night when out on the town for a Hen’s Party. At the bar with my friend Jen who has recently returned from their circumnavigation, I was enticing her to share a bottle of bubbles, because:

SAARTJIE: …it’s the only drink I felt like drinking.*

JEN: Hmm. The bubbles here are a bit ridiculously expensive.**

S: But I think I might need to drink the bubble…

J (funny look): Gosh. You are going to have such a different experience to us crossing the Pacific drinking champagne!

S: Oh, but I’m only drinking it now because we probably won’t have champagne at sea.

I didn’t order the bubbles. Thanks Jen. I think I needed to articulate it to realise that “about to leave” should not equate to spendspendspend!

* Hmm. The power of self-deception.

** Yes they were: triple the retail cost.

just checking in

20 Jan

Today is clearly NOT my birthday any more. In fact, I cannot believe it’s been a whole jolly week since I last wrote on this here blog. Even more unbelievable is that we have just under two more jolly weeks until we leave… which should account for my writing absence.

Days have been filled with errands and tasks and ticking things off the list. Nights have been chockers with getting in kwality time with our loved ones. We also hosted a superb party* which ranks as one of my favourite times ever. If that is how our adventure begins, I can’t wait for more. (Not to fear, Sara dear, there will be plenty more. And soon!) 

* Stof keeps telling people it was a real “party, party”. This makes me smile every time. I think he means that it rocked the socks off all who attended and he was right.

today is my birthday

12 Jan

I just wanted to let you know…

I walked (and breakfasted) on the mountain with my husband and dog; lunched with my girlfriends; and picnicked and watched Shakespeare in the park* with my family. A tremendous day!

31. Such a quirky number. I’m no mathematician, but I do appreciate a prime number (especially when they’re few and far between these days). 30 was tough and gritty, but full of planning and waiting and anticipation. 31 must be full of living.

* Taming of the Shrew. Frothy and light.

Happy happy happy

6 Jan

Back in CT! Less than a month to go until we step onto the plane and join our Laura Takalani… We have one million-trillion things to Get Done before we depart, but: Hooray!

New Years was spectacular. It looked for a very long time like it might not be spectacular as it was raining in paradise and I was ill and feeling sorry for myself. I did all the things one SHOULD do to ensure a recovery (rest, vitamins, abstaining from bad-stuff) in time for our new years celebration and I continued to feel lousy, which was… lousy. Finally, at about 4pm on the 31st of December I decided to just drink through it. What a rousing success! What followed was one of the most marvellous new years celebrations. Ever. It involved masks and champagne* and dancing and laughter.

I continued a few fundamental New Years traditions that I have been following since I was a wee lass in Brazil for Rotary exchange. I wore a new white** frock, but I had run out of time to buy a new pair of panties prior to entering the Transkei, so one of my staples fell by the wayside this year. However, I did INSIST on traipsing down to the sea shortly after midnight and numerous “HhhhaaaAAPPY new years!” so that Stoffel and I could jump over seven waves and make seven wishes. I have done this every year since I was 17, and I figured it wasn’t a good idea to miss out on any rituals that might amuse the sea gods in the year in which we will be living on the sea.

As usual, I have no idea what wishes we made as the party was a goodie and there is no point in having a party for new years that actually enables remembering the wishes. Nevertheless, the wave-jumping-wishing box was ticked and I only wished for good things (of course). After making our seven jumps and seven wishes, Stof and I removed our masks (which we had crafted rather brilliantly earlier) and tossed them into the sea! It felt like a fitting offering and we were very pleased with ourselves:

…as you can see.

I wish you all a beautiful start to 2011. May this year be a year of passion and vision and (importantly) achieving that vision.

* Of course.

** Not quite white, actually… more of a greyish off-white. White will not be good to wear on a boat.

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.