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coming in to land

10 Feb

Our camera was running low on battery, so I took these shots without the viewfinder out the window on the way to La Paz.

I knew I had a cushy bottom for something…

Approaching La Paz.

The marina to the far right of the bay is where the Laura Takalani has been stored on the hard. Hopefully by the end of the week she’ll be in the water at the marina on the far left of this picture.

The wheels come out.

Since we landed we’ve been going through every nook and cranny of the Laura Takalani: re-organising and figuring which of the things that were generously left behind by Laura’s previous owners will earn their place on an ocean crossing.

The lugging of heavy objects has sent my back into spasm, so I’m having a “rest” day while Stof oversees the initial sanding of the hull before she gets painted with anti-foul.

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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!

ex cape town

2 Feb

If this week has been a whirlwind of packing and organising and frenzy and partying and dining and last-minute admin like never seen before, then yesterday was a veritable tornado.

In retrospect it is clear that leaving ourselves a day to not only pack our own bags, but also pack up the office and cottage we’ve been using thanks to the world’s most magnanimous in-laws, was ridiculously ambitious. Stof and I have promised ourselves that we “won’t do that again”… the great thing about this being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity is that the odds are fairly high that we WILL NOT do that again…

The craziness climaxed just as my parents arrived to fetch us for the airport, Stof’s dad and Sis-Curly came home from work for farewells and my mum-in-law shuffled over the garden from the main house to see if all was in order. The big bags were (over-)packed – more on that later – my “keep” clothes had been jammed into boxes, I’d crammed most of Stof’s remaining (but who knows whether they are keepers because he has refused to sort them since we moved out of our house in JULY. Breathe, Saartjie…) and all that remained was to pack my hand luggage, shower and re-attire in comfy but not too scruffy airplane clothes.* Then we could leave for the airport leaving only a minor wake of shambles behind us (sorry Nova for putting  you through that).

Enter: The Great Hand Luggage Crisis of (1 February) 2011. Set aside for my carrying were:

  1. My laptop;
  2. The B-GAN (satellite internet connection: not that much bigger than  a netbook, just bulkier and heavier);
  3. The folder with all our important documents;
  4. Small bag with important** jewelry, i-pods etc;
  5. Cruisers manual to commence the provisioning;
  6. Leggings and cardigan in case it was chilly in the plane (or LA);
  7. another Object which shall be revealed forthwith; and
  8. bitsnpieces…

I had Stof’s old backpack set aside to accommodate all of the above.  I own a rather larger, more accommodating backpack, but Stof had insisted that the green*** backpack be put  in storage so we had no alternative but to insert all of 1 – 8 above into the old (Stof’s) backpack.

It did not fit.

I issued forth a blood-curdling yelp. And a few more. There were probably some choice swear words mixed up in the yelping. All the stress and balance of the past few days, weeks and months were working towards this moment of getting to the airport with all in tact. The possibility that it might not happen smoothly (and the realisation that it was happening, period!) culminated in some pretty gnarly noises. Sorry mum and mum-in-law and dad and dad-in-law and Sis-Curly and (mostly) Stof-my-love for the horror of my outburst.

And then the problem was solved (temporarily, I am presently typing as quickly as I can so we can go out and buy a more suitable replacement hand luggage bag), goodbyes were hugged, and we were already at the airport with about 130kg of luggage.

130kg of luggage made up of three suitcases, a sail bag and a set of spear guns (for fishing) is not a small amount. Especially when your limit as a couple is four bags not weighing more than 23kg each. (Which would be about 92kg in total – for the numerically challenged.)

Somehow, miraculously, we had an angel (called Lynn) working the desk. With some imaginative solutions, strategic removal of various heavy objects, the insertion of the spear guns into the sailbag (ok, they do stick out a bit), biting-the-bullet to pay for some (not too ghastly) excess, and the genius intervention of Lynn: we were checked in! And it only took us and hour and a half… Moral? We are so arriving for our other flights at least three hours early. Probably more.

So now we are in Dubai. Whew. And Wow. Although I’m not really “wow-ing” Dubai as a city as we are yet to venture out of our hotel wich is RIGHT across the road from the airport. But this hotel has a bed and hot showers and place to walk around in and stretch out and with a 16-and-a-half hour flight to Los Angeles ahead of us, that is sounding pretty marvellous! There was a panic on the plane when I thought that I hadn’t actually paid the deposit for the hotel and then we would have to try to find somewhere to stay at 6am when we finally cleared customs, but standing at the bottom of the (long) escalator leading to passport control was a beautiful woman with a placard with our names on it! She showed us the way and assured us our hotel transfer would be on the other side. I nearly kissed her I was so delighted.

Now we are well and truly on our way.

*Speaking of airplane clothes: South Africans! What is it with that scruffy travel look??? I can spot you in almost any airport around the world. It’s like someone told us we didn’t have to travel in our Sunday best so we took the dress code of the sky to be “hanging out at the plaas (farm)”.

** Not important enough to leave behind, though.

***My one, of course it’s green.

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.

took my breath away…

2 Dec

At last! Some more ‘Tartica “porn”…

Our most magical day was the day we walked over the “rock oasis” to the edge of the continent and back along the edge of the antarctic glacier.

We strode past the lake…

over the rock oasis…

to the ice waves at the edge of Antarctica. For miles and miles ahead of us it looked like the ocean had been frozen mid-storm. It was, as even my atheist father-in-law remarked, quite biblical.

( I was overwhelmed. And chillers.)

We soaked in the grandeur for as long as the icy wind would permit our nearly-summer acclimatised bodies.

Before trundling back to the glacier, passing a lonesome Adelie penguin along the way… 

Scenes from the glacier front. Just looking at the photos again quickens my heartbeat and prickles my skin.

We crossed an ice lake by walking in the snow that had collected in the cracks (feeling rather audacious).

Paused for a “team photie”.

And then we marched up

over the mountain…

back to the camp below.

Antarctica is, like so many deserts, absolutely humbling. Where ever one is surrounded by sparse life, I think we feel even more alive. No place on earth has less life than Antarctica. No place is drier or windier or colder: it should be a miserable place from that perspective. However, it is a place that has a harsh and stark beauty that is arresting in its majesty. I felt small and exhilarated. And, mostly, privileged: to have visited and to live on such a magnificent earth.