An Open Apology

I meant to write a post four days ago (December 20, 2013). I really did. I wanted to point out that we’ve been home a whopping six months. I wanted to remember how a year ago we thought we were tough because we’d passed the halfway mark. I wanted to say how good it is to have a real, 12-foot Noble fir Christmas tree instead of a plastic tree my height.

But I didn’t. And I’m sorry. So I’ll do one now.

We’re at home, not in Cape Town. The view out our dining room window is of our dying grass instead of the promenade and the Atlantic Ocean. We have large presents under (beside, rather) our tree in place of the very small ones last Christmas. The best difference of all, though, is that my grandparents are going to spend Christmas with us.

In the last year, we touched thirteen countries on four continents. In the last six months, we’ve adjusted to “normal” life and lost our tans (that was a big tragedy). We didn’t go camping in the summer (silent rejoicing) but Ethan and I did go to camp. We may not have used our canoe at all but we hiked to multiple lakes.

Cupcakes and gelato have become dietary staples, and pizza drowned in vinegar has become the norm (at least for me).


The second half of the trip was probably more stressful for us, between worrying about jobs and cars and school when we returned, to the Amazon trip, Morocco, and our house in Semur-en-Auxois being flooded.

But who’s to say it wasn’t the better half?


Triple Threat

We only have three days left on our trip—one in Crete, one in Athens, and one in an airplane and Washington. In honor of this, here are my three favorite places on this trip:

1: Crete has been good to us. So good, in fact, that I am rather reluctant to leave—this seems odd since home is at the other end of this 12-hour journey. No matter; I’ll just stay on Crete and enjoy the summer warmth and the pool that comes with it. Not. I would enjoy staying just for the food, though. Especially the tzatziki, chocolate-coated baklava, grape leaf rolls, lemon chicken with chips and zucchini at Taverna Fantastico, and the chocolate cakes.


1: Yes, this is a second number 1. I would count Crete and South Africa as a tie. While similar in some ways (warm, with nice people and good food), there are so many differences. For example, we knew South Africans, such as Oom Dennis and Tannie Marietjie (and their dogs Dinky and Griet). Dad, Mom, and Ethan had already been to the country before and thus knew what it was like. Also, we got extremely lucky, seeing seven cheetahs, three leopards, ten African wild dogs, an African wild cat, two honey badgers, a handful of rhinos, a Cape cobra, both black and white, plenty of lions, ostriches, and spotted hyenas, and more than enough black-faced impala, springbok, gemsbok, elephant, kudu, and giraffe to go around. And everyone knows that Cape Town is the best city in the world.


3: Thailand gets the bronze medal in this competition. Like South Africa and Crete, Thailand was certainly memorable for its warmth. It also had Buotong Waterfall, Thai food (green curry and sweet-and-sour curry and banana pancakes, oh my!), six amazing pools, MBK Mall, Jatujak Market (can’t forget my cheap sandals, which have somehow lasted until now), tiger-petting, and elephant riding. Yes, Thailand is certainly a very good (and inexpensive) country. Plus, Thai Airlines is part of the Star Alliance and has really good food and magazines in their airport lounges.


Skiing, Skidding, and (Not Enough) Sleeping

Yesterday we started off our day hoping to go up Table Mountain after two days of it being closed. Lots of other people had the same idea, apparently, as by the time we got there at 9 a.m. (one hour or so after opening time) police were directing traffic and the line of cars stretched from the lower station to Kloof Nek Road. We gave up and drove up towards Lion’s Head to the Visitors’ Centre, where we turned around and headed back down to Kloof Nek. We waited for the traffic officer, Munde, to give us a sign to go forward, which he eventually did. We went and were going to do a sort-of-U-turn when BANG!!!

Out of nowhere comes a man named John and his little blue car. One of his tires burst in the collision. Our bumper was damaged, making our scratch from a shopping cart disappear. We were so close to not having to pay any extra on the Hertz car (we didn’t get insurance). Five hours.

Later at the airport, Dad took care of the Hertz business while Mom, Ethan, and I lounged inside the terminal. Eventually we checked in (no visa problems here!), went through security, ate salads at Mugg & Bean, browsed the books at Exclusive Books, and finally boarded our flight to Johannesburg. It was relatively uneventful. We landed on the Oliver R. Tambo International Airport tarmac at approximately 8:30 p.m. In the line for Immigration we eavesdropped on the British and Australian people’s conversation before officially leaving South Africa for the second time this trip.

Our flight to Dubai was about eight hours long. I watched four episodes of Modern Family and part of Brave. Sleep, staring out the window at the sand, lights, and sunrise, and eating are included in those eight hours as well. Oh, and I also watched a 45-minute One Direction video!

We got through the Dubai airport with now real issues except lack of sleep. All of us piled in a taxi and we rode for about twenty minutes before arriving at our Hilton. There we waited for two hours before both of our rooms were ready. After showers we met in the lobby and caught a bus to the Mall of the Emirates. We had a quick supper of sandwich-like things at a restaurant before Ethan and I hit the slopes at Ski Dubai. My only complaint is that I didn’t get gloves and my fingers are still swollen. I think it’s silly that they called any of the runs a black, claiming that they have the only indoor black run in the world. There’s a sign saying “Experts Only.”

Well, then.

I guess that proves it.

I’m an expert.


Cape Chaos

Today was our last full day in Cape Town. Tomorrow we fly to Johannesburg at five o’clock, continuing on to Dubai. We spent it lounging around, enjoying our warm showers, this morning and then revisiting the Company’s Garden, Signal Hill, and Gelato Mania, which was closed. The line up to Signal Hill was long and painful.

“Why are we doing this?” I griped. “For one last look,” Dad replied. “You’ll never forget this,” Mom added.

We walked around the top of the hill one last time and then drove down. This was after our visit to the Company’s Garden, where Ethan fed lots of pigeons. We then tried Gelato Mania before heading home for supper, where Mom fed us sweet-and-sour rice and vegetables with oranges. We then stood out on the Promenade and watched our last Cape Town sunset.

Now we have to fully pack.



Two Thousand and Twelve Terrors

How was our day?

Table Mountain disappointed us once again this morning. We read the national park’s website and it was cold, the winds were gale force, and there was zero visibility. So we did schoolwork and read things like Last of the Mohicans until the maid came to clean the house (she always does on Monday). So we went mini-golfing. The orange course, the one we most wanted to go on, was closed, so we went on the blue for the third time. I lost, of course, but Mom, Ethan, and I each got a hole-in-one.

After that we tried going to Charly’s Bakery and Queen of Tarts for some sweet treats, but we finally settled with Gelato Mania. It was good, of course. Dad dropped us off at the library on the way home. First we had to look in Clicks. There was a birds’ nest with two fuzzy chicks on top of the Clicks sign.

The library had, unbeknownst to us, closed an hour earlier and we were stuck walking home. We stopped by the exercise station and ignored the rules (“No children under 15 years may use this equipment”) before walking the rest of the way home. There we found our water heater finally being replaced (today was our second day without showers). Later two men came and replaced the laundry machines. After that we drove to Yindee’s for another good supper.

And how was our year?

Most of us Earthians will live to see 2013. The world didn’t end on December 21, where the Mayan calendar ended.


Table Mountain Trauma

Table Mountain’s website is very disappointing: at 6 o’clock, we looked online. The conditions at the top? Mild temperature, good visibility, medium wind. By the time we got there, it was cold temperature, zero visibility, and high winds.

How disappointing.


When we woke up this morning, we had to do without showers because none of us were big fans of cold showers. We had a typical breakfast (cereal, eggs, cheese, fruit, and toast) and then hung around the house until about nine. Then we went on a drive near Hout Bay on the Chapman’s Peak Drive.

We stopped at a mall at the end, where Mom, Ethan, and I got ice cream at Fruit & Veg City after Ethan bought a notebook at Pick North Pay. We then drove home around Table Mountain. After supper, we tried to go up to Table Mountain, but you already read how that turned out.


Why Yes, We Do Like Chocolate

The service at the Plumstead church was better than last time, and when we left we had several people ask us from whence we came (as usual). We said that we were from the United States since most non-Americans don’t know where Oregon is. One man, however, remembered us from last time and he talked about Oregon and Uganda and missionary work with Dad and Ethan while Mom talked about our trip with another man.

We returned home and I worked on Power Point while Ethan and Mom read and Dad napped. Around four we decided to walk to Gelato Mania. We walked through Green Point Park, which is having the Chariot Festival tonight, and across the eight-lane street before arriving. I ordered a scoop of Choccomania, Dad got a scoop each of Choccomania and Chocolate Brownie, Mom got a scoop of Chocolate Brownie in a cone, and Ethan got a scoop of Chocolate Hazelnut. It was so good.

We walked back through the park and, once home, Mom started making supper. Then she noticed the water on the bathroom floor. Turns out that the water heater has a leak (or something like that) and we won’t be having warm showers tomorrow. A plumber and a man who works at the agency who manages the flat, Jason, came and they got the water cleaned up while Ethan and I ate our supper of green beans, potato soup, and patties.


Coffee, Cuts, and Cinnamon

Today was filled with haircuts (my hair looks straight now!!!) and sending souvenirs home. We’re just hoping that all three boxes make it to Oregon as there are three undeclared items that are also probably not allowed: two porcupine quills and one warthog tusks.

Both were taken from around Koster: Oom Dennis gave Ethan the tusk and we found the quills while on a walk around Oom Dennis’s old property. Some of the other things in the boxes include books that have been read by Mom, Ethan, and me, clothes from our camel trek in India, a shirt that I brought, the tie Dad got for Christmas, the bowl Ethan gave Mom for Christmas, and the guineafowl dessert bowls that Mom bought at the V&A. Most of it is fragile.

Between our haircuts and home, we met the male half of our troop at Mugg & Bean where I ordered a Mexicocoa and Mom got a Café Mocha. Dad had ordered the Mexicocoa earlier, as Ethan had the mocha. They were also sharing a banana chocolate waffle. My Mexicocoa came with whipped cream, chocolate chips, a cinnamon stick, and whole lot of nasty texture. (I didn’t really care for it.) Ethan wanted to try my cinnamon stick, so I gave it to him. “Ethan, I don’t really think you should—” Mom started. I motioned her to stop. Ethan bit it and, with extreme self-control, asked Mom for a sip of her mocha. I asked what he thought; he said it was disgusting.

We already knew that.


A Change of Genes

We went to the mall today to get haircuts and new jeans. Obviously the hair salon was fully booked til 3:50 pm, and we weren’t going to be hanging out in the mall until then just for a haircut. So Mom and I went hunting for a new pair of jeans for me, but Edgars and Woolworths—the only stores that have jeans for girls my age—don’t seem to have any brains when designing jeans. At all.

So we found Dad and Ethan. Mom bought some jeans for Ethan and then made an appointment for our haircuts tomorrow. She also bought food at Pick n Pay. We returned home, and Mom took a walk to find a box for shipping things home. She visited CNA, where employees gave her a reference to a little shop up the street. She went there and found birthday candles, pink serviettes, and a box.

She dragged Ethan, Dad, and I up there and Dad paid for the box. We then had ice cream at the Venezia Ice Cream Parlour. I had Pineapple. It wasn’t very good.

For supper we had leftover chicken from Christmas, vegetables, salad, and some of my golden syrup cake which isn’t half bad drowned in a chocolate sauce.



We watched Ethan paraglide down from Lion’s Head today after we watched and waited. Ethan and I got to sleep in til nine am. By then the police had found the little drowned girl’s body.

After Ethan landed, we had ice cream at Gelato Mania. I had a scoop of Chocolate Brownies and a scoop of Pino Penguino, which was hazelnut with a layer of Nutella on top. For supper we ate at a Cape Malay restaurant in a part of town with purple, pink, green, orange, and blue houses. We all had tasty chicken dishes of some sort.


Happy Holiday

Today was, as I’m sure you well know, Christmas. Ethan and I opened our stockings before breakfast. We each got candy, a pair of socks, and a puzzle book. I also got pink nail polish. After a breakfast of peach scones, eggs, cereal, and pineapple, we opened the twenty-two presents under the tree. Since we decided not to buy name tags, Ethan and I selected each selected two random presents under the tree. If there were no objections, Ethan gave one to Mom and one to me while I gave one to him and Dad.

My favorite present was first (and the world’s smallest present): a picture of me with Dad’s attempt at drawing the cover of Take Me Home on the back. One Direction’s second album’s music was on the computer. YAY!!!! Anyway, besides that I got a necklace, headbands, a Modern Family book, and a crossword puzzle book. I gave Ethan a chocolate bar, 32 rand so he could take someone mini-golfing, and F in Exams, a hilarious book with real test questions and real stupid answers. For Mom I got a dark chocolate bar, a little gold bar of chocolate, and a blue necklace. Dad received candy canes, an orange chocolate bar, and Don’t Look Behind You from me.

We tried to have a “traditional” Christmas dinner. Instead of turkey we had chicken, along with green beans, cranberry salad, and sweet potatoes with pecans and raisins. Later we had pumpkin pie with Grapetizer.

The whirring of helicopter blades reached us as we ate our pie. As we took our walk along the Promenade, we found that an eight-year-old girl had drowned and now they were looking for her body.

At 9 pm we Skyped my mother’s side of the family in California. When asked what we had for lunch, I replied, “We had sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry salad, and chicken instead of turkey.”

“They’re not vegetarian?!” my cousin asked off-screen.



Merry Christmas Eve!

We’re cooking food and producing presents by the second. I made a cake today. It was supposed to be chocolate but ended up tasting more like golden syrup (total sugar) of which we used 250ml. The Afrikaans recipe called for 250ml strooisuiker, which was interpreted as sugar syrup, which is really stroopsuiker (suiker means sugar). So we put a bunch of the golden syrup in and only realized our mistake when the cake and cupcakes were in the oven and I looked up the translation of strooisuiker on Mom’s phone: castor sugar, which is superfine sugar.

Once everything was out of the oven, we sprinkled on cinnamon and soaked it in a sauce made from sugar, butter, cocoa, cream, and cinnamon. The golden syrup made the cakes very absorbent and, in an hour, the sauce was absorbed. We added more to serve. I think we all enjoyed my cinnamon cakes, but I liked the ones Hannetjie (from Barchan Dunes) made much more.

We went on a walk on the Promenade after supper and saw the pretty rainbow, sunset, and pink clouds.

The present count is 21.


Time on the Table Top

Today we returned to Table Mountain. There was no tablecloth while we were up there, which was a relief. (It made it uncomfortably warm, though.) We saw no wildlife except for birds, butterflies, and painted yellow klipspringers to mark the trail. Oh, and people.

We also saw a fire on another hill, which Mom reported to the manager. Within minutes helicopters were out pouring water on the fire while we licked at our soft-serve chocolate ice cream. It turns out that she wasn’t the hero and that the rangers had already sent out helicopters and fire trucks and that there was another fire, too.

The fog on Cape Town finally cleared. It had come sometime during the night and the foghorn in the Green Point Lighthouse had started. A man asked us if an island he saw in the bay was Robben Island. He lived in Joburg but had lived in Port Elizabeth—a few hours’ drive from here—for a while. He had never been to Cape Town before. That’s like you and I not going to the one of the biggest, prettiest city in our state. For you Oregonians, that would probably be Salem or Eugene.

We came back to our flat, ate mini chocolate cakes, and Mom and Dad went to Pick n Pay to buy food for Christmas while Ethan and I did schoolwork at home. Once they returned, Ethan made a reservation at Posticino, one of the best pizza places in Cape Town (we agree!), for 6 pm. Well, would you look at the time! 5:36!

Before I go, though, Ethan’s getting veeeeery excited about the amount of presents under our tree (sixteen) and the fact that “tomorrow we can say that tomorrow is Christmas!”


Yum @ Yindoo’s

After church at Mowbray, which was almost exclusively black except for the organist and her husband (and us and some visiting women) and where the sermon was about the end of the world, we returned to our flat in Mouille Point and “putsed” for a while—reading, playing Solitaire, napping.

Mom and Ethan thought we were going to go up Table Mountain even though Dad had told me minutes before that we were going to get ice cream—which we did, of course. We went to the Venezia Ice Cream Parlour, which is said to be one of the best ice cream places in Cape Town. We’d already been there, so we knew that we preferred Gelato Mania (one of the other Top 10).

Mom got a sugar cone with Oreo, Dad got a cup with Tiramisu and Chocolate, Ethan got a sugar cone with After Eight and Chocolate, and I got a sugar cone with Cookies & Cream. Ethan’s After Eight was surprisingly good.

We walked back home along the promenade. At home I made dinner reservations at Yindoo’s Authentic Thai Cuisine Restaurant. At Yindoo’s, we had a bunch of starters plus green curry and sweet-and-sour vegetables. It was probably the best sweet-and-sour I’ve had outside Thailand.


Cupcake Craze

We got cupcakes today!!! We got eight, actually: four at Hmmmm and four at Charly’s Bakery. My favorite looking ones were from Charly’s: a pink monster with eyes on a vanilla cake, a red velvet cupcake with a rose petal, a chocolate cake with a Blizzard-like white hat and eyes, and a plain-schmain chocolate cupcake. From Hmmmm we got to carrot cake mini-cakes and two chocolate mini-cakes. We ate the Charly’s cupcakes today: Ethan had half of each of the chocolate ones, Mom had half of the white frosted chocolate and half of the red velvet, Dad had half the monster and half the other eyeballed cupcake, and I had half the monster and half the red velvet.

For supper we were going to go to the top of Table Mountain and watch the sunset but the lines were too long so we went to Signal Hill instead. There was a rug over the harbor but no tablecloth over Table Mountain. It was cool since you could see the city’s lights through the clouds. Now, because the lighthouse’s light may not be visible to ships at sea, the foghorn blows every thirty seconds.

That can be our lullaby tonight.


Half-Way Day!!! :D

Today, in honor of the half-way mark, we climbed Lion’s Head. Well, that wasn’t really in honor of, but we did it anyway.

So far we’ve visited seven countries in six months. My favorite place so far has been Thailand, but Upington—with its croc-free Orange River and good food—is a close second. Early next year we’ll head north to Dubai for a week then cross the Atlantic to spend three months in Argentina, Chile, and Peru. We’ll then fly back across the ocean to Morocco, where we’ll spend a month, followed by France, Switzerland, and Greece.

In Thailand, we got up close and personal with tigers and elephants. We enjoyed mochas in Bangkok and fried bananas at Doi Suthep, with green and sweet-and-sour curries in between. Then we experienced the Drama of the Indian Visas, which saw us fleeing Thailand as our visas there were about to expire. We chose Laos, just across the Mekong from rural eastern Thailand, and rode in the jumbos, ate ice cream at Swensen’s, and took a hike to a waterfall in the jungle.

We returned to Bangkok to pick up our visas really quickly before hopping on a plane to India. Because we were a week late, we didn’t spend much time in New Delhi—it was only a few hours before we rode a train to Agra, where we saw the Taj Mahal. Soon after we visited Jaipur, where we watched the Olympics, Jodhpur, where we visited a village and schools, and Jaisalmer, the fortress city and our starting point for a camel trek.

We returned to New Delhi and flew to Sydney two days later, where we spent a week freezing. We warmed up in Darwin before heading south to Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, and eventually Ayers Rock. From the rock we flew to Perth, drove up to Gnaraloo, then drove back down to Perth before jetting off to Johannesburg.

We drove up to Gaborone and eventually ended up in Namibia. In Etosha we saw a leopard and many, many elephants. We were in Swakopmund for my birthday, after which we made our way to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park where we saw our first cheetah and yet another leopard. We then visited Upington, where Ethan learned to waterski. After a night at Witsand, we visited Oom Dennis, Tannie Marietjie, Griet, and Dinky.

We finally made it to Kruger where we saw two leopards, six cheetahs, a bunch of lions, and many more elephants. Working our way down the coast, we jumped on the trampoline at The Haven, saw penguins at Boulders, and visited the southernmost point in Africa.

We’re now in Cape Town where we’ll be celebrating Christmas in five days. We’re also imagining our snowy home…


Riding in Ratanga

“Turn your wheels! Turn your wheels! Turn! Other way! Other way! More! More! More! Use both hands! Other way!”

That’s what Dad and I are listening to as Mom and Ethan bump each other with sparking cars. That’s also what the woman who runs the bumper cars for little kids is saying. We’re at Ratanga Junction near the Canal Walk mall. So far I’ve been on four rides (five times total) plus the bumper cars. The first ride was the Bushwacker, which all of us but Dad rode.

Next we walked to Monkey Falls, but I didn’t want to get wet and Dad’s not a fan of roller coasters. So Mom and Ethan went. Later I went with both of them and screamed for the first time in years. I dragged Ethan into a log again.

After Mom and Ethan got wet, we strolled over to the Cobra where Ethan got in line and we sat in the shade. We waited for half an hour listening to Adele, Katy Perry, Beyonce, and, yes!!!, One Direction.

He finally got his turn and we headed toward the Diamond Devil, which Ethan and I rode. We decided to get soaked in Crocodile Gorge. There are real crocs in a pond, with a sign:

Danger! Crocodiles

6     7 people eaten

Afterwards, we had ice cream. That was when we decided to return to Monkey Falls. One Direction played “Live While We’re Young” while we stood in line.

Oh, here come Mom and Ethan now.




“For a dying man it is not a difficult decision because he knows he is at the end. If a lion chases you to the bank of a river filled with crocodiles, you will leap into the water, convinced you have a chance to swim to the other side.”
                          -Doctor Christiaan Barnard, the first surgeon to perform a human-to-human heart transplant


A Heart-to-Heart Talk

Groote Schuur is not pronounced “grote shur.” It is pronounced gru-uteh sku-ur. It means “big barn” in Afrikaans. (The g is pronounced like in gemsbok.) We visited the hospital today for a heart transplant… museum tour. As you should know, Dr. Christiaan Barnard was the first person ever to perform a successful human-to-human heart transplant. The patient had diabetes and was terminally ill—they were also white and it was apartheid, so they fit the bill in that respect.

Mrs. Washkansky drove home from the hospital on December 2, 1967, tired. She had just visited her husband, Louis, and she knew he was in safe hands. The wailing of sirens alerted her to a crash on the side of the road, and she, being a sensitive woman, averted her eyes. It was just too late, though—she saw the bodies of two women lying in the road near the bakery. A caramel cake was scattered across the pavement.

The women were Denise and Myrtle Darvall. They had been visiting some friends for tea and had decided that a cake would make a lovely addition. Denise and Myrtle crossed the street from their car and emerged from the bakery minutes later, caramel cake in hand. They looked both ways before gingerly stepping onto the road. Then Denise was flying across the street. Her mother fell to the ground, killed instantly by the drunk driver, who didn’t see them. Denise hit the wheel cap of a car across the street—the car that she had just been riding in.

She was just twenty-four and her life looked just about done. Her brain was severely injured and her skull damaged. An ambulance rushed her to the Groote Schuur Hospital, where she was received in the resuscitation room. She breathed sporadically and her pupils were dilated. Doctors pronounced her brain dead. But her heart was beating soundly. Dr. Barnard knew it was his chance, and he took it, asking her father, Mr. Edward Darvall, if he could use the girl’s heart for a human-to-human heart transplant—an experiment.

Mr. Darvall could have said no. He could have refused—but he didn’t. He let his only daughter’s still-beating heart be put in the chest of an old man who would die anyway.

And it worked.

For eighteen days.

Louis Washkansky eventually died from pneumonia because his body was weakened from the Immunosuppressant drugs he was on. It was a life well lived, though. The next patient lived eighteen months, and the longest surviving heart transplant patient was South African who, more than thirty years later, is still alive and well.


Massive Mesa

We finally went to the top of Table Mountain, one of the new seven wonders of the natural world, today. Some of the other seven include the Amazon, a waterfall in South America, Komodo Island, a bay in Vietnam, and an island in South Korea.

We got in the queue at 7:15 this morning. Ethan and I hunkered down and read our books—he read Under the Blood-Red Sun while I finished Lost in the Barrens. When we had each turned the last page, we switched. We were on the first cable car up at 8:05. The whole ride is only supposed to take four minutes, and everyone who’s near a window gets a 360-degree view as the car spins throughout the ride.

Once at the top we looked down at Cape Town and then walked for about an hour to the tallest point on Table Mountain, Maclear’s Beacon. Ethan and I added a stone to the top of the post on top of the cairn, making the mountain an inch taller than it used to be. We hung out there for a while before the tablecloth started coming in. It came on fast: as soon as Devil’s Peak was covered, we started seeing clouds and feeling a chill. Ethan found a klipspringer, the first for all of us, but we could only really see its silhouette because of the clouds.

We eventually returned to the station. Ethan and I searched for good Magnums in the café, but they only had Almond, Classic, and Biscotti. I like Biscotti, but Dad doesn’t really. So instead we ate the mint Tim-Tams in the backpack Ethan carried. We decided to leave the mountain at about one because it was really cold with the wind and clouds and you could only occasionally see Cape Town through the clouds.

The ride down on the Visa-branded, protea-spotted cable car was uneventful. We saw several people abseiling down the cliffs. At the bottom we stopped a minute to thaw, and soon we were sweating and sunburnt (technically we were sunburnt before the tablecloth came in, but whatever). No more people could go up to the top except the staff.

Dad didn’t really want to leave so soon.


A Caroling Concert

The Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr is in need of a new roof, so volunteers and the children’s choir put together a series of programs called Raise the Roof. It was directed by Mr. Richard Cock, and the audience joined in singing eight of the seventeen songs.

Our director introduced the organist, who played three solos, saying, “You haven’t seen him yet but you will soon—that sounds like a spiritual verse, doesn’t it?” The organist played two songs that were in my parents’ wedding. The last song the choir sang was “Jingle Bells,” with the audience yelling “hi!” and ringing their keys along with the song. The dean thanked everyone necessary to thank, including the St. George’s ambulance for the lady who fainted in the choir.

We walked back to our car in the evening warmth and drove to the V&A Waterfront for supper. We went to the Waterfront earlier to leave for Robben Island where we took a bus tour of the whole island and a walking tour with Sparks, an ex-political prisoner from the island, of the maximum security prison which held political prisoners only. The security dogs had bigger lodgings than the prisoners.


I Had a Great Idea For a Title, But I Forgot What It Was

Today we went to church in a little town called Plumstead. It really is tiny—because we didn’t want to go through an intersection on Main Road, we turned right ahead of time. We drove down the street 500 meters and passed through Plumstead, which we had only just entered on the highway.

After church, we went home where we read and sorted pictures. Two hours later, we walked down the street to Gelato’s at Newport, where Ethan got chocolate fudge and Oreo ice cream, Mom got chocolate fudge in a cone, and Dad and I both got Bar One and chocolate fudge. The ice cream wasn’t so eager to melt this time as it was last time, so we walked a ways down the Promenade before coming to rest on a bench. Ethan tried to get wet from the waves.

“Why do you have water dripping out of the front of your pants?” Dad asked. Ethan blushed: “It’s not on the front of my pants!” (it was).

We returned home and I looked online for supper. We ended up going to Jewel of India, nicknamed Cruel to India by reviewers and Drool of India by Dad. We ordered three mains, plain rice, a platter with some samosas and things like that, and garlic naan, just like we did in India. The naan, samosas &co., and sauces were good, and so were the paneer (dish with cheese) and chicken curry. The aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) had some weird spice in it, making it rather unenjoyable.

We drove home from the V&A after Ethan had checked the hours of Mugg & Bean, home to the Mexicocoa and Caribbean mocha (it has coconut). We went for a walk on the Promenade, called Dad’s dad, and returned to our warm apartment.


I Hope We’ll Have Good Weather

Our original destination for today was Robben Island, but that didn’t work out well so we headed to the Castle of Good Hope instead. It took thirteen years (from 1666 to 1679) for the Dutch East India Company to build the five-pointed fortress. The original fortress was made of mud and timber, but this building, restored in the 1980s, is made of stone and will last a good while.

During the Second Boer War, part of the area was used as a prison, complete with a torture chamber. There were three options of torture (usually consecutively): whipping you with a cat o’ nine tails from forty to 120 times, hanging you upside down with a hook for an hour and then dropping you on your head (a little girl finally understood: “So this is where bungee jumping was invented!”), and confinement in a small room with nineteen of your closest friends and no food, water, medical treatment, or light for twenty-four hours before being hanged or sent to Robben Island for hard labor. There was no chance to defend yourself, so if you were accused you were doomed.

Thunderstorms were predicted for today. We saw not a drop of precipitation. The sunset was beautiful as we saw it from the V&A because there were lots of clouds. We went to a Christmas concert where we held candles after 8 pm and heard an apparently popular South African singer named Jimmy Nevis, whose most popular song is “Elephant Shoes”. He chose the name because when apparently when you mouth ‘elephant shoes’ it looks like ‘I love you.’


A Box and Blue Stingrays

We spent another day at the V&A Waterfront, but this time it was in the Two Oceans Aquarium. We walked through the Atlantic and Indian Ocean displays and the tank with the sign “Nemos”. There were huge eels and little octopi, white jellyfish and pink seahorses, rockhopper penguins and tree frogs. Quite a mix, I suppose. We saw the feeding of the African penguins at 2:30. They were fed dead fish from a bucket. The oystercatcher hanging around found a fish on the ground and poked the eyes out. Once the fish could no longer see, the bird ate parts of the fish after rinsing them in seawater.

By three, we were sitting on the steps in front of the I&J Predator Display. Our presenter, Yvonne, talked about preserving fish, etc. (She really did say “etc.” a lot.) She also introduced the little five-year-old green turtle Cannelloni, who had gotten on the wrong side of a shark’s teeth before during feeding time. So she was put in a cage with blacked out walls. The ragged tooth sharks circled the yellowtail tuna and blue stingrays, never eating. Yvonne said, “These sharks are too small to eat you whole or take chunks out of you.” “Aw,” murmured the disappointed little girl in front of me.

Once we got home, we opened our box from home-home. There were books for school, notebooks, presents from relatives, a Lego magazine for Ethan, three magazines for me, and candy canes from our renters. Thank you to everyone who donated stuff to make the box overflow!


Movie Madness

When Ethan gets back home, he wants to read Lord of the Rings. He was inspired while watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure this afternoon. It started out with an old Bilbo Baggins writing to Frodo, his nephew, and ended with the same Bilbo, but younger, saying, “I do believe the worst is behind us.” It’s the first part of Bilbo’s three-part story based on The Hobbit. It was good, even though the whole time after the goblins, I was thinking, Put on your ring! Put on your ring!
We spent the whole day in the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. First we walked around looking for a place to drink mochas with wi-fi. Try as we did, we never found that place. So, after leaving Spur, Dad returned to the car, Ethan wandered off by himself, and Mom and I looked at the various stores on the first floor. Eventually, we came out of Edgars, where we found Ethan waiting for us. He and I bid adieu to Mom and went down to the ground floor, where I discovered a Clicks. Inside, I found my Twisted Pink nail polish, but it cost a whopping fifty rand (about US$5.50). I saved my money for later.
Ethan and I split up, and I headed to Exclusive Books, where I browsed the bookshelves, looking for, and finally finding, a certain book. I also learned that the bookstore has The Far Side books. It also had 50 People Who Stuffed Up South Africa, which is the partner of 50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans, part of our homework curriculum (courtesy of Dad).
By 12:55, I was at the Nu-Movie cinemas where we watched the movie. Afterwards, Mom went shopping at Pick n Pay and Dad, Ethan, and I had ice cream at Love Revenge Cappuccino. Each had two of tiramisu, crème brulee, and Nutella.

Gorgeous Gardens

Today we went to the Rhodes Memorial and the Kirstenbosch Gardens. At the memorial, we found a four-fingered handprint, which Ethan and I tried to figure out.

At the gardens, we walked around smelling, touching, and looking at the plants. Dad pointed out the Skeleton Gorge. At one point, Dad and Ethan saw a black mamba or a mole snake—they’re not sure which. After walking around for a while, we rested under a tree. Ethan played with a bug, Dad napped, and Mom did Sudoku on her phone. We eventually moved on, and the two people who had been watching us immediately moved in.

We walked down a path for a little bit and stopped by a bench. “I’m tired already,” Dad said. He and Ethan finally got up though, and Dad randomly hugged me. “Cool!” Ethan exclaimed. “Can I hug Eryn too?” I gave him a death glare, and Mom burst out laughing.

We would’ve had ice cream at the tea room, but Dad has personal issues with places that don’t let you bring computers in. So we drove back home and walked down the street to Gelato’s at Newport. Then we returned to clean off the fast-melting chocolate ice cream. Ethan and I did schoolwork before we headed out to dinner at Newport, the restaurant right next to Gelato’s. Dad had pasta, Mom and Ethan had salads, and I had the sweet and sour chicken with rice. The stuff in Thailand was better.

Now Dad’s eating the Turkish Delight Tim-Tams (Mom and I hate Turkish Delight), Mom’s once again doing Sudoku, Ethan’s reading Artemis Fowl: Lost Colony, and I’m writing and anxiously waiting for our renters to Skype us.


Many Mini Marvels (Isn’t it Marvelous??)

I won at mini-golf again!

Of course, you know what that means. The winner averaged 3 points per hole, with 54 total. In second place, we had 69 points, followed by a close third with seventy. I got seventy-four. In the first half, I actually beat the 3rd placer. But obviously that was not a permanent thing.

We played after spending late morning and early afternoon in the center of town, looking at the Country’s Gardens, the castle, the cathedral, and the Green Market Square, where we looked at the necklaces, paintings, and shark skulls. We decided not to tour the castle today and opted instead to get ice cream: chocolate chip for Dad, mango-strawberry and chocolate chip for Mom, walnut coffee and chocolate chip for Ethan, and mango-strawberry and chocolate almond for me. We also got flowers—a king protea, ten pink roses, and some other flowers—for our flat.


Deaf at Dinner

After doing nothing for half the day except baking (and eating) muffins, walking down to Clicks, forgetting the credit card, freaking out, and poring over 2011 editions of Reader’s Digest, we drove down to the very full V&A Waterfront. Instead of heading over to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Center, we stepped in to the craft market. We got ice cream (chocolate and peanut butter) next door at the food warehouse, all the while having our ears blasted out by the annual Red Bull Flugtag, which is, according to the website, “where self-taught pilots meet homemade aircrafts.” I don’t really know what happened, but the Angry Birds placed second and Bull’s Eye placed first.

And the music was really really loud—I mean eardrum-busting. We got to listen to it some more during supper, which was pizza, caprese, and chicken salad. Mom and Ethan went to Pick n Pay while Dad paid the bill. Then we went to the Reader’s Warehouse (or something like that), where we looked at the unorganized uninteresting books, including Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries. We bought nothing.


Got Blue?

We went to the Helderberg church today and saw several people that Dad knew back when he worked there. Since tomorrow is graduation (it’s usually towards the end of October when the high schoolers can help out, but the new head changed everything), the church was packed. First four rows were for the graduands. Or, as the sign said, First four rows is reserved for graduands. Dad said that the service was a nice mix—familiar order but definitely African.

After church and meeting Dad’s old (literally) acquaintances, we took doxy (our malaria medicine) and headed to a Thai restaurant for lunch. Alas, Thai food in South Africa is not the same as Thai food in Thailand. The green curry didn’t have the little (or medium, either) eggplants in it that we’d grown accustomed to in Thailand, and the restaurant boasted a “masala curry.” In case you didn’t know, masala is a type of delicious desert tea in India. (It may also be a Thai curry, but it’s curiously named.)

We drove back to Cape Town from Somerset West and, after Dad had taken a nap, we went for a walk. I was wearing my blue shorts, blue button-up shirt, blue flip-flops, and I still have blue nail polish. And my eyes are blue.


Putt-Putt Police

Mom, Ethan, and I went on the “more easy” mini golf course (the other option was plain old “easy”) today. None of us beat the Junior’s or Men’s record of the day—41—and none of us beat the Women’s—48—either. Mom earned 57 points, Ethan was second with 66, and I won (by getting the most points, of course) with 83. My worst two holes—numbers 14 and 3—were cut short by our 10-hit limit (thank goodness).

Ethan was the only one to hit a hole-in-one—coincidentally on #14, which, as you should recall, I bombed. Mom got 5, making our average for that hole 5.33. My best holes were 12, 13, and 17. I scored 2 on each of those. On 12, each earned a 2. For 13, I actually received the fewest points while Ethan got 3 and Mom got 4. On 17, Mom and I got 2 while Ethan got 3. Mom’s best holes were 1, 8, 12, and 17. Her average for the first nine was three.

Her worst holes were 3, 14, and 16—she got 5 on each. Ethan’s best hole was 14 (getting the only hole-in-one) while his worst was 3, where he got 8. (Yeah, 3 was not our best hole…)

Ethan was sometimes a little too flexible about how far away his black golf ball was from the edge of the course, so I—the honorary Putt-Putt Police—“helped” him place it in the correct position.


Fotographic Fun

We didn’t really do anything spectacularly interesting today, but we did extend our stay in South Africa to January 2 after learning that our visas would expire December 20th. So we applied for extensions and finished paying after three hours in and two visits to the Home Office. In between those two visits, I made brownies. When they were cut, there were twelve.

Now there’s none. (They were very good, if I may say so myself, even if they were from a Pillsbury mix.)

We stopped at Signal Hill on the way home, where we finished off the brownies, read more (in my case, 50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans, including the likes of Chad le Clos, Nelson Mandela, and Winston Churchill, an honorary addition), and finally left to stroll on the Promenade. Ethan and I played Escape on the playground, but he accused me of cheating (liar!) because he couldn’t cross the monkey bars.

He went to check the times and prices for the putt-putt place down the street. Meanwhile, I was photographed by the guy wearing a blue shirt. He was part of a photo shoot but apparently had gotten bored and was taking a picture of anything and everything—including me standing dead still at the edge of the Promenade, staring at the water, and once in a while looking back for Ethan.

The brother in question finally returned, told us all we needed to know, and we returned to our flat.


Come to Cape Town!

We finally arrived in Cape Town, tourist (and legislative) capital of South Africa. We also visited the most-visited attraction in all of Africa… and you thought it was the pyramids! It’s the V & A Waterfront. All my friends know about the Egyptian pyramids; none, until now, know about the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. The area has hundreds of shops and restaurants, the Two Oceans Aquarium, and, yes, a harbor.

After checking out that, we finally went to our oceanfront flat, on Mouille Point. It’s near a pool, playground, picnic area, and putt-putt course. We’re near the Green Point lighthouse, which didn’t prevent a shipwreck on July 1, 1966, during a winter storm. Speaking of winter, there are snowflakes on the light poles. And I’m sure that Santa still comes from the North Pole, not the South, even though it’s much, much closer.

After nesting and my heart being broken because there’s no wi-fi (a.k.a. no Skype with home), we returned to the mall where we first had supper at San Marco and then went grocery shopping at “Pick North Pay” as Karen (our GPS) likes to call Pick n Pay. By nine, we were finally out of there. (What a relief.)


Pretty Little Penguins

I think Bella, my stuffed penguin from home, is much cuter than the African penguins we saw on the beach at Simonstown today. We drove from our B&B in Somerset West to our original accommodations, where we had a breakfast of toast, fruit, cheese, chocolate muffins, and orange juice. We said good-bye and, after I downloaded Grace, Gold, and Glory on my Kindle, were on our way.

After several traffic delays, we arrived at Boulders Beach in Simonstown, where we saw lots of the African penguins. From there we entered Table Mountain National Park. We drove to the Buffelsfontein Visitors’ Centre, where we got our keys and a map. We then drove to the death march start near the original Cape Point lighthouse. It was too high, making it hard to see with fog and mist, so the new lighthouse is down about 150 meters or so.

We walked up the hill, envying the people riding on the Flying Dutchman tram, all the way to the lighthouse. We then went a little farther out on the point, as far as us mere mortals are allowed to go. (We also saw three tourists illegally pass that point.) We climbed back up to the lighthouse and went to the gift shop, where Ethan bought a bottle of seawater. We slowly slowly returned to our car, stopping at almost every viewpoint along the way.

We then went to the southwesternmost point of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope. We took a picture, examined a dead bird, and then went on to Olifantsbos Cottage, where we’re staying the night. Ethan and I constructed a fort against the side of a boulder on the beach made of rocks, sticks, and boards washed up on the beach. Ethan’s worried the tide, which comes right up to the bushes, will wash it away.

We had pasta and zucchini for supper, after which we went out to the beach for a sunset walk. We heard the baboons on the hill calling to each other as Ethan and I showed the parental units the fort. Ethan wanted to race to Dad, but I didn’t want to. “Why don’t you race?” he demanded. “Because this is a non-racist country,” I replied sarcastically. In the end, I did race… and won, of course!

The little bugs on the sand drove us insane… and away from the beach, so we retreated to the cottage where we enjoyed a Cadbury bar.


In the Land of Lady Gaga

We’re now in the same country as Lady Gaga after five-and-a-half months of (totally distant, as opposed to just distant) separation.

We’re also in the same town as Andre Joubert and his wife, Rebecca. Mr. Joubert taught with stuffed animals (like snakes and road kill) at Helderberg College when Dad did, back in 1980. (See? My dad is still alive after Noah’s flood!) After chatting to Mrs. Joubert- the president’s secretary- we walked over to their house, where we found Mr. Joubert. We exchanged snake stories, including my dead puff adder from yesterday, and then he pulled out a large plastic container, undid the hole, and invited me over to see. “Cool,” I said. In the background, Mom said, “Was that a good cool or a bad cool?”

He showed them the item, too, and Mom just said “Oh.” She was probably relieved that the big fat puff adder wasn’t rearing up to bite us. Instead it just flicked its tongue and gave us the evil eye. After talking about puff adders some more, we left to our accommodations here in Somerset West. For supper, we ate at Spur, whose subtitle is “Steak Ranch.” We didn’t have steak, though. Ethan had a chicken burger with Appletizer, Dad had a Greek salad with a thick chocolate malt, Mom had a chicken wrap with a chocolate shake, and I had the same wrap with a mango shake. For starters, we had “Mexican nachos.” Dad said that Spur (which is Indian themed, each restaurant having a different name—we ate at Sunset Bay) is the South African version of what they think is an American restaurant, like Red Robin. They were pretty close, actually, right down to the Oreo shakes and falling-apart-too-easily wraps.

Dad let me have his “cherry on top” [of his malt], saying, “It’s an albino.” It was a marshmallow.


Bitey Fishes and Rusty Mushrooms

We slept in til eight today, so we had a late breakfast and, by default, a late start. We decided to visit the lighthouse first and then do the death march in the afternoon. Before climbing to the top of the lighthouse, though, we stopped by the Meisho Maru (sure sounds like mushroom!) wreck where Ethan climbed and I petted fishes (although they tried to bite me in return).

At the red-and-white striped lighthouse, we climbed as high as we could go. The museum was closed, but Ethan and I entertained ourselves with 20 Questions until Dad—who dislikes 20 Questions—told us to stop. I got black rhino correctly, but Ethan couldn’t get tsessebe, oribi, or Cape turtle dove. (The tsessebe and oribi are both types of antelope that live in South Africa.)

We returned to our chalet and then headed out on our “blue” death march—our other options were the 10.2-kilometer yellow death march or the 4.2-kilometer red death march. Thankfully, we chose the blue, which is only three kilometers. After crossing the road, we saw a sign that read

Archaeological and Historical Site

Strictly No Entry

Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted

Ethan freaked out and refused to move and “break the law.” We finally made him go, and when we went down a fynbos-covered dune, I found a dead puff adder. It was squished for some reason, but I picked it up and it is sitting ten feet away from me right now in our chalet. Ethan refused to touch it.

We went to the blowholes, which don’t really blow, and finally passed the lagoon and reception before returning to Chalet 2. After much searching, I decided that we would just have to wing it for supper. We enjoyed pasta and fish at SeaGulls’, where I called a friend from home.


No More “Nice Knysna”

We finally left “nice Knysna” today after saying good-bye to our landlord, Silvia, and packing all our stuff. It was a relatively short drive (five hours) to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa. (Not, however, the southernmost point on our trip. We’ll be experiencing that in South America.)

After a quick stop at Fruit & Veg City for fresh veggies, milk, and koeksisters, a South African sort of sugary greasy donut, we passed only two car accidents while the GPS directed us to the national park. Once there, we got photographed next to the plaque where the southernmost point of Africa is. Then we got back in our car and drove to Cottage 2, where we’ll be staying for two nights.

We took a walk down to the beach, where we found small fish, starfish, and sea anemone skeletons. We also saw lots of dead bluebottle jellyfish. For supper, Mom served green beans and a vegetable stew on rice, finished with a (delicious) coconut-cashew Cadbury bar.


Going in One Direction >>>

Bunny bunny!! (That’s what I say as opposed to Rabbit rabbit [on the first day of the month]) We’re all being directional over here in RSA, ever since Mom said that Harry was “not very cute.” (And I was referring to Niall!) I have made it a goal to listen to One Direction in every country we visit, and, so far, I have! We heard “What Makes You Beautiful” at the Terminal 21 mall in Bangkok and walking down the street to dinner in Vientiane, Laos.

Right before takeoff, I listened to WMYB on the tarmac in New Delhi. In Australia, I heard WMYB (seem familiar?) while waiting to exit the aircraft in Darwin. In Botswana, I watched “Live While We’re Young” in Gaborone at the suggestion of a friend. In Namibia, we heard them singing WMYB (again!) at a mall in Windhoek, and I watched them perform WMYB on the Ellen Show and their official “Little Things” video at the Haven.

Today Dad was checking to see if our wi-fi worked, so he entered a word in Bing. Up popped an article where David Beckham insulted One Direction. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that that was a tabloid lie. (Whew. I was starting to hate him) Furthermore, One Direction defended Beckham on a Twitter fight with Piers Morgan.

Just in case you didn’t know.

Also, just in case you didn’t know, One Direction is a English-Irish boy band made up of Harry Edward Styles, Zayn Jawaad Malik, Niall James Horan (the lone Irishman), Liam James Payne, and Louis William Tomlinson.


…Where Thousands of Butts Have Gone Before

We first went to Oudtshoorn to check out the Highgate Ostrich Farm, but it was inexplicably closed. So we went to the Safari ostrich farm, where Mom, Ethan, and I rode ostriches while Dad took pictures (he’s already ridden twice before). Then we went back through Oudtshoorn to the Cango Caves, one of the Seven Wonders of Southern Africa.

We decided to do the 90-minute Adventure Tour verses the hour-long Standard Tour. That was probably our best choice because the path was very boring (except for the Bushman setting with a leopard in the background) up until the Standard Tour entered and the Adventure Tour began. “Watch out for the animals in here. We have crocodiles, snakes, and bats, so be careful,” our guide, Christopher, warned. Mom started freaking out when he laughed. “Okay, there are no crocodiles or snakes, but there are bats.”

First up is Jacob’s Alley- 172 steps- followed by King Solomon’s Mines. From there, we went up a steep metal ladder to the Lumbago Walk. Ethan and I were glad to be right behind Christopher. If we had been behind all the slow adults, we would not have enjoyed ourselves as much. The Lumbago Walk is basically a low area that ends up in the Crystal Palace and up to the Tunnel of Love. The Tunnel of Love is named because it “gives you a loving squeeze.” Ethan and I were fine, but some of the other members (possibly including our parents) were squished. Following being squished, we passed through the Banqueting Hall and the Devil’s Workshop before hitting the Devil’s Chimney. Ethan went first, followed by me, Mom, Dad, and the rest of our group.

The Devil’s Chimney is a ten-foot-long, two-feet-wide upward crawl. Mom had a hard time, but the rest of us came out fine. Then we slid on our hands and knees through the Postbox, meeting up with Christopher, who had taken the easy way round. We then walked to the Coffin, went in this time, and followed the cave (including the Tunnel of Love) back out.

My title today comes from when we were sliding down into the Ice Chamber, leading up to the Coffin. The rock was worn smooth because so many people had stood/sat/slid in the exact same places over the years, thus causing my quote that became my title.


Raining Cats & Birds

The Tenikwa Center turned out to be a flop. Even though the pictures used for advertisement purposes showed people getting up close and personal with the cats, we were never allowed to touch them. Our guide was asked the question “Where are cheetahs found in South Africa?” and couldn’t answer. They didn’t even have any black-footed cats, which are so cute! They did have marabou storks, meerkats, blue cranes, ducks, cheetahs, a leopard, caracals, African wild cats, and servals.

At Birds of Eden, we saw not only of the many types of birds but also the golden-handed tamarins, a primate species native to South and Central America, and a blue duiker, a tiny antelope that has been known to eat rodents. My favorite bird was probably the Galah cockatoo, which was our first and last bird sighting. It was the same one and hung out around the door area.

We then went on a hike to see another groot boom (big tree)in the forest. After that we returned to Knysna exhausted, esurient, and dying for a Cadbury bar.


We’ve Been Decapitated!


That’s a lie. If anything, we have been re-headed today after we went to the Knysna Heads for the view. After walking around on the East Head, we had our first real mochas since Chiang Mai, Thailand. They were delicious and came with (delicious) biscotti. We drove around a little bit more than headed over to Thesen Island to look at the Sirocco’s and Tapas restaurants. We decided that Tapas looked better, so we’ll (hopefully) be returning tomorrow night.
Ethan and I flipped, swung, and rode giraffes,  zebras, and lions with braided manes at the nearby playground. We checked out the multimillion-rand real estate and then hopped over to Clicks, where I agonized over which color of nail polish I should get once mine runs out (I narrowed it down to Violet Voltage and Twisted Pink). We returned to Haus Knysna after going the length of Rio Street. Mom made a supper of stir-fry for us after Silvia- our current landlord- stopped by to see how we were faring.
We’re doing well.

Bouncy Bridges

We’re going on forced death marches each day we spend in Knysna. Today our appointed death march was very short, though: 959 meters. That was at the Garden of Eden. We didn’t see any mammals (other than people) there. We did see mammals (rock dassies) at the mouth of the Storms River. We walked a kilometer each way to a suspension bridge that crossed the river. There were even baby dassies, but I didn’t see those. I was too intent on getting back to the car.
Ethan and I stayed on the bridges a total of five minutes waiting for the people to leave the pictures that Dad was trying to take. We held on to the cables, and I ended up with lots of dry salt on my hands—not a very nice feeling.
The suspension bridge was the second today. The other was over the Storms River too, but it was an arch, and cars could go on it. Legend has it that the man who oversaw all the construction (the engineer only came down from Italy for the laying of the arch) said that he would commit suicide if the arches didn’t come together perfectly. When they were lowered together, there was a half-meter gap. He dramatically jumped off the bridge, but a “private investigator” discovered that he lived and directed the repair.
Engineers also discovered that the center of gravity on the arch was a half-meter off center. Oops.

Unhappy at The Haven

Ethan was very sad to have to say good-bye to Sophia and Josi this morning… not. Josi didn’t even show up, and we only saw Sophia after breakfast when she showed off her aerials on the trampoline. Ethan probably was sad to say good-bye to Rocky, Socks, Teddy, Strider, Alto, the horses’ handler, Dayne, and the dog, Rambo.

We weren’t sad to leave the hubbub of the Christmas-party-holding company of forty who ate a lot of meat, bread, and croissants at breakfast. Our favorite village health researcher, Steena, had breakfast after we left. Last night she ate with Dayne. Matthew, the cook, walked by after taking our drinks orders (two still waters, one Appletizer, and one Red Grapetizer) and said, “Aren’t you part of the staff?” Dayne nodded and said, “Yeah, you can arrest me later.”

The staff table was mainly empty last night. Only Sharmane, the girls’ teacher, and Brandon ate while we were there. Sophia and Josi must have been kicked out because of the party.

We also said good-bye to Ashley, the other cook who made the lettuce-and-apple soup, at breakfast. He seemed surprised that we were already leaving for Knysna. We’re not already in Knysna, though. It’s six o’clock and we’ve been on the road since nine. Our GPS (aka the voice of the Australian Karen) predicts our arrival to be in three hours. That’s twelve hours of driving for only 470 miles (750 kilometers). That’s because we spent two hours (only forty kilometers, or twenty-five miles) on bad Transkei roads this morning.


All Fun & Games

Today after a total freak-out as we crossed the supposedly shark-infested Mbashe River, Josi and Sophia roped Ethan and me into playing Dot Dot, Statues, and Wolfie, Wolfie.

Dot Dot was the last game we played. It is the hardest to explain: one person was the ‘caller,’ and they chose what the subject was. It could be anything from types of fishes to colors. The people on the other end (usually Josi, Ethan, and me) would form a huddle and choose, say, their colors. In that case, Josi chose pink, Ethan chose black, and I chose orange. Then one person would tell Sophia all three, and she would choose one and call it out. She and that person would run to where the other stood, yell “Dot dot!”, and try to be the first to return to their place, once again yelling “Dot dot!” The winner was the next caller.

Statues is much simpler. One person is it. The others are at some point behind It. They try to be the first to touch it and say “Question mark!” But there’s a catch. (There always is.) When It hears anyone, they turn around. The runners have to become like statues. If It sees anyone move, that person has to return to the starting point.

Wolfie, Wolfie involves the three people who aren’t the wolf saying “Wolfie, Wolfie, what time is it?” The wolf can say anything from one o’clock to twelve o’clock. The others have to go as many steps as hours. The goal is to reach the wolf first and become the next wolf. However, the wolf could also say that it’s dinnertime, in which case the wolf tries to tag one of the runners before they make it back to their spot.

This sounds like it was all fun, but after a while two screaming hyper little girls can get on your nerves. Thankfully, Mom showed up and rescued us.


A Poem for Your Pupils

Two little girls screaming and playing

Horses trotting, galloping, and neighing

Ethan’s so excited to be here

He was thrilled with some horses to steer

Ashley makes us really good food

Visitors don’t want meals to conclude

Everyone says it’s always alright

Now they say it’s time for ‘good-night’


Thankful that the Day is Finally Over

After a long, grueling death march to the waterfall, Ethan and I played Monopoly (it’s the South African version, so instead of railroads it has international airports in Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, and Johannesburg, instead of waterworks it has ‘water board,’ instead of just English it has both English and Afrikaans, and instead of dollars it uses rand in denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, and 50000).

Earlier on the trampoline, I had watched Ethan jump while Josi, the five-year-old girl who lives here, talked to me. She informed me that Sophia is seven, when their birthdays were, and that she’s homeschooled. She also told me a joke:

There was a family on a plane that was going to crash. The parents and pilot were worried they were going to die, so they talked about what they wanted to do most. “I wish I could have my baby,” the pregnant mother said. “I wish I could be a dad again,” said the dad. “I wish I could fly more planes,” said the pilot. Then the mom, dad, and pilot got in the parachutes (there were only three) and jumped out of the plane, leaving the four-year-old son up in the air. When the mom and dad got home, they found the boy in his room, watching TV. They asked him how he got there, and he said, “Me no stupid, me no dumb, me hang onto Daddy’s bum. When he go toot, I go zoom! And that’s how I get home so soon.”

Now Ethan and I returned to the trampoline, soon to be joined by Sophia. She told us the horses’ names (Socks, Elter, Teddy, Rocky, and Strider) and that Socks was sore and couldn’t be ridden because he had an operation a few days ago. She asked, “Are our horses boys or girls?” I asked if they were both. “Just guess!” she said. Ethan answered, “They’re all boys.”

“How’d you know?” Sophia asked. Ethan smiled. “I read it on the website.” Sophia groaned. “Why’d my mom have to put it there? It’s broken! Are you mad?” This last part was to Ethan, because he was starting to go down the slide on the play structure. (Sophia had told him before that it was broken.) After some more Monopoly, we went back out, this time with the intent to play table tennis. The table wasn’t down there, so we told Sylvia at the front desk. She said she would have Dayne and Brandon take it in.

So Sophia, Ethan, and I played Clue and Scrabble. No one won Clue because, well, we all accused incorrectly. I was winning Scrabble when we stopped with 121 points. Sophia had 78 and Ethan had 77 (although Sophia only got that many because I helped her). Then we went back out to the trampoline and jumped some more. Josi came and joined us. We stayed like that until it started getting dark.


A Safe Haven

Ethan is SO excited: we’re finally at the famed Haven. Apparently it was his favorite place when he was in South Africa back in 2009 with Dad. There is a pool, golf course, trampoline, table tennis set, and beach here, along with many types of animals including white rhinos (which are still hunted in this national park) and zebra. The male zebra, Zebbie, who was hanging out with the horses three-and-a-half years ago,was shot on account of his “amorous escapades” with the horses and donkeys here. So Ethan was a little disappointed that they hadn’t trained Zebbie to be ridden.  We had a supper of lettuce and apple soup, bread, pumpkin, potato, spinach, rice, and a bread-and-butter bread pudding with custard. Yes, I did say “lettuce and apple soup.” To be totally honest with you, I would not advise it to you unless you  love creamed spinach from Safeway. But the dessert was delicious, and we left totally stuffed.


Some R&R

After our long and grueling hike yesterday, we need some rest and relaxation. We got to sleep in and have a late (9 a.m.) breakfast. We left to give the laundry to the laundry company.

Then we went to Falcon Ridge, home to raptors of the world. We saw a peregrine falcon (Squawk), a spotted eagle owl (Hooter), an African fish eagle, two kites, two Harris hawks, and a Wahlberg’s eagle named Hugo. Ethan held Squawk and Hooter. During the sister Harris hawks’ demonstration, all four dogs stayed well away. Allison, one of the bird handlers, said that even the youngest dog, Kaecee, had learned to stay away from these raptors because they had both ridden on his back at one point.

At the next place, we got to touch and hold a tailless whip scorpion, an alligator, a leopard gecko, an African pygmy hedgehog, several types of snakes, and a tarantula. The owner (we’ll call him Rick) had a black mamba, but obviously we didn’t get to cuddle with her. He also had puff adders, and he decided that Dad hadn’t seen a puff adder yesterday; he’d seen a berg adder.

Rick even had a diamond-back rattlesnake and a California king snake! He said that rattlesnakes and puff adders are popular pets in South Africa. He also said that there are some snakes who give live birth. This includes the puff adder.

So today we got to see some Raptors & Reptiles.


In Egypt…

The Sphinx, our first and original destination, was all but ignored when we were in front of it. Once above, though, we sat on the Sphinx’s head and ate snacks. Ethan and I played 20 Questions, and it was a baboon. We saw two later on the hike after passing Breakfast Stream and a kilometer or so of trail. We went down a steep hill for about two hours. Mom’s knees couldn’t take it, so she had to use a stick.

Dad was lucky enough to see a puff adder. He told Mom about it, and she freaked out.


Drakensberg Down Day

Today was a ‘Down Day,’ which means we did schoolwork, sorted pictures, and surfed the web until 13:00.We left for the Spar (a grocery store) in Winterton and to look at Cathedral Peak. We didn’t enter the Drakensberg UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of seven in the world to be chosen as a World Heritage Site for three reasons (in this case, geology, vegetation, and archaeology), because we weren’t wearing hiking shoes and it was four o’clock.

So we drove back to our house, stopping occasionally to look at birds, and working on a newspaper crossword brought from home.


Dinner & Dialogue

“Ah, he’s your tour guide,” Lee said. Ethan was explaining where we were going on our trip to the German couple at the table next to us. We were dining on pasta, chicken, and fish (not each for everyone!) at Mistyque restaurant. The German couple—I’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. Smith—went on holiday for six weeks every year. Their favorite places in South Africa are Kruger and the area around it.

As Mr. Smith and Dad were talking, Ethan and I were predicting that our “life story” (going around the world for a year) would come out. We didn’t know that it would, in fact, be Ethan who would reveal this deep, dark secret of ours. Actually, Mrs. Smith asked, “So, are you on a world tour?” To which Ethan enthusiastically replied, “Yes!” He listed off all the countries, much to my chagrin (I love to be the one to list the fourteen countries), ending in, “So maybe we’ll get to Greece, but with all the unrest right now, it’s hard to tell.”

The Smiths have traveled extensively, visiting places including Cuba, South Africa (of course), Turkey, Chile, and Spain. We swapped travel stories throughout dinner, but finally had to leave, using the excuse of “getting the kiddies to bed.”

When we were checking out, Lee talked to us more about what we were doing, why, etc. He said that Ethan was big for eleven (ha) and that, if we had had any Steelers gear, he would have given us dinner just for that. Turns out he’s a big Penn State and Florida fan after working in Pennsylvania. He told us that Oregon was playing Stanford tonight. If it’s the Ducks, I’m cheering for Oregon. If it’s the Beavers… maybe not.


Sorry at Sunset

Tonight we saw a caracal! And a leopard! And a serval! And a civet!

Not. We did see a sunset (good, since it was a sunset drive), impala, zebra, blue wildbeeste, waterbuck, hippos, the dead hippo with the dozens of Nile crocodiles, scrub hares, and birds, but we didn’t see any carnivores. We saw a leopard tortoise, which Cecilia, our driver, told us was one of the Little Five, whose names mimic those of the Big Five: leopard tortoise, ant lion, rhino’s horn beetle, buffalo weaver, and elephant shrew.

Cecilia seemed genuinely sorry that we didn’t see anything interesting after waiting an extra fifteen minutes for the last two people to arrive. We were heading out the gate when someone pointed them out.

Before the drive, Ethan and I had swam in the pool, seen many of the bushbucks who live in Letaba Camp, and watched a crested barbet gobble up a mopane worm.


Animated Animal Sightings

“Ooh, look, some of those impala are preggie,” Mom said.

Preggie?” I asked.



Ethan laughed. We were driving from Letaba rest camp after resting (it is a rest camp, after all!) up after our tiresome drives this morning. We got up at 3:30 to go on a morning drive, and we saw eight lions, thirteen elephants, twenty-three giraffes, a small-spotted genet, and a Sharpe’s grysbok. We returned to bungalow 117 and had breakfast before finally leaving Olifants.

The drive was about forty kilometers, and we saw Cape buffalo, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, elephants, wildebeeste, zebra, impala, giraffes, waterbuck, a male bushbuck, and lots of different types of birds. The next drive was when we saw the pregnant impala. We also saw a new animal for Kruger: banded mongoose.

When we drove up after I shouted “Stop!”, they ran up to the car, mouths wide open. These squeazels (as we’ve dubbed them- a cross between squirrels and weasels) were bigger than any we’d ever seen before. Just as I rolled down my window to take a picture, they retreated into the shade. After many repeats of this, we discovered that it was a raptor of some sort that was scaring the mongoose back and forth. We left after having taken lots of pictures.

On the bridge over the Letaba River where you could get out, we saw baboons, waterbuck, birds (of course!), and a couple who told us about crocodiles trying to get at a dead, bloated hippo. So after we were done on the bridge, we followed them and saw the hippo. There was another live hippo next to it, and we were told that sometimes the crocs tried to eat it, too.


Lots & Lots of Olifants

Today we saw over one hundred elephants in all different places. The first sighting was on the tarred road at a dam. One herd of elephants had just finished playing in the water, and we stayed and watched the next herd move in. The hippos in the dam had moved off to one side, as if they were afraid of the elephants (a sensible move, since a full-grown bull elephant could easily squash a hippo). We also saw a marabou stork there. On our morning drive at Lower Sabie, we learned that marabou storks pee on their legs to keep cool.

We continued on to a gravel road, where we came across three separate elephants, plus impala, two steenbok, waterbuck, giraffes, vervet monkeys, and a giant eagle-owl. We drove to part of a river where there was water (!!!) and stopped there, watching a herd of 33+ elephants drink. Mom was worried the whole time that an elephant would take it into its head to knock our car over. (None did.)

We saw some more elephants as we continued on, stopping at a bridge over a river to get out and look at birds. We continued on and arrived at camp around 1 o’clock, where I got to put up three dots on the sighting board: one for Cape buffalo today, one for elephants today, and one for a leopard on our night drive yesterday. We got Magnums (biscotti for Ethan, Mom, and me, and Death by Chocolate for Dad) and sat at the view point.

From there, we could see for miles—excuse me, kilometers. We saw giraffes, impala, hippo heads, waterbuck, zebra, and nineteen elephants. Eighteen of those crossed the river in two separate herds, and one was a lone bull wandering on the far side.

Oh, did I forget to mention what the name of the river was? And our camp?

Olifants, meaning elephants in Afrikaans.


Today We Saw a Leopard…


… tortoise. It was actually moving pretty quickly at the Elephants waterhole, where we did see elephants.
After going back onto the tar road (H2-1), we drove for five minutes before coming to five stopped cars.
“Leopard on the right!” Dad exclaimed.
“Yeah, right,” was the general reaction.
“What are you looking at?” Mom asked. “Uhm, there’s a leopard on each side. One just killed a warthog, I think…” was the helpful answer from a nearby car.
The leopard then crossed the road from left to right, causing some squealing. We backed up to look for the other leopard, but we couldn’t see it. The people in the car overlooking the leopard waved us up and pointed out the leopard to us. It was laying against a rock, with its spots providing good camouflage. We dubbed him Kinky, after his tail.
Suddenly we heard some squealing and turned to see a large, bleeding warthog run away, leaving us wondering why the leopard didn’t just kill it outright.
Kinky didn’t even blink.
Eventually he got up and walked down the road a kilometer before disappearing into the veld.
We continued on to Satara, where Mom, Ethan, and I had supper before all of us went on a night drive with twenty of our new closest friends.
My wish list for the night drive included  caracal, serval, rhino, and lion, because, if we saw the last two, we would have seen all Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo) in one day.
So we started out by seeing… IMPALA!!! (Gasp.) Then we saw a steenbok, some wildebeeste, a giant eagle-owl, and some more impala before coming across our first carnivorous mammal: a small-spotted genet. It was small and in a tree, but we saw it. Our next big animal was a male lion and another lion (but we only saw its eye-shine).
We saw hippos, a bushbuck and her baby, wildebeeste, and impala before I saw a large-spotted genet. (No one else did because I forgot to tell City, our driver, to stop.)
Even with all the racket we were making, we still saw a cat-like figure crossing the road: a leopard.
So I didn’t get to see all Big Five in one day, but seeing two totally unrelated leopards was awesome. We’ve gone to three game parks (Etosha, Kgalagadi, and Kruger) and we’ve seen at least one leopard in every one.


My alarm clock when off at 3:25 this morning. This was, sadly, no accident. We had a morning game drive to catch at four a.m. It would last three hours and we were supposed to see rare animals like leopards, genets, servals, and caracals.

We didn’t see any of those cat-like animals, but we saw three others: lions, hyenas, and cheetahs. The first we saw of these was a spotted hyena, which we saw after a marabou stork, steenbok, and some impala. It was walking towards a family of six cheetahs (a mom and her five cubs). The cubs were a few months old. Martie, our guide, said that the group she took on the morning drive the day before hadn’t seen the cheetahs, so she didn’t mention it to them when she stopped by their car after we saw the two female lions dozing on the road.

They moved off, but it wasn’t because they were intimidated by the two barking African wild dogs. “I don’t know what to say because I’ve never seen anything like this,” Martie said. “Usually wild dogs just move away from lions.”

Later on the tarred H4-2, Martie pointed out a bird and said, “We rangers have funny little things for birds to help us remember their names, like this one. We say it goes, ‘My mother is dead. My father is dead. Everyone is dead dead dead dead.” (“Dead dead dead dead” is the sound the bird makes.)

So our total before 7 o’clock this morning was…

1,000 impala
15 baboons
13 African elephants
08 nyala (“They aren’t usually seen this far south,” Martie said)
06 cheetahs
02 spotted hyenas
02 African wild dogs
02 lionesses
02 African fish eagles
01 bushbuck
01 common duiker
01 brown snake eagle
01 magpie shrike


Lots of Baby Hippos

“Look at it! It’s a baby hippo,” Ethan cried. “Sssh,” Dad hissed. “And what are you talking about? That’s no ‘baby hippo.’”

It wasn’t. It was a warthog, our third one today (and our third in Kruger, too). We saw more when we stopped to look at some vervet monkeys.

Warthogs weren’t our only W-animal today. Guess what it was, please. Walrus? Whale? Warbler?

Think again: wild dog. Officially known as the African wild dog, it was a first for all of us. It was called the ‘wild African dog’ on Fox News when the station reported on a group of the mauling a little boy to death on the USA’s east coast. These six were more docile. There was even a puppy!

Later on we visited the Hippo Pools, where we saw some hippos and a snake coiling around its food. We’re not sure what type of snake it was, though. On the way back up to the Crocodile River Road, we saw a car pulled over and stopped to see what the fuss was about. Turns out there was a smallish pride of lions near the road.

After Hippo Pools we visited the Crocodile Gate camp where used the ablution blocks and bought drinks (yellow fruit juice for Mother, 330 milliliters of Lime & Soda for Ethan, a can of Rock Shandy for Dad, and an ‘Orange Flavoured Drink’ by Fanta for me) and chocolate chip cookies. It was on the road up to Lower Sabie camp that we saw the first baby hippos.

We saw more at the Sunset Dam, where they were all silhouetted. Our plans for watching the movie after supper were dashed because no movie was showing. So now I’m writing instead.


Darth Vader

Since we went to three waterfalls yesterday (Mac Mac, Lisbon, and Berlin), I will mention that we visited those and Bridal Veil Falls this morning before driving to Kruger National Park.

After going through Numbi Gate and Reception, we drove several kilometers to Pretoriouskop, seeing [my first] four waterbuck along the way, plus an impala and several Cape glossy starlings.

After getting another Kruger guide book (the GPS [whose current voice is the Australian Karen] pronounced it “KROO-jer.” It’s pronounced “KROO-ger”), we got back on the road, not knowing that, before arriving at the Berg-en-Dal camp, we would see seven rhinos, eight African elephants (including two little ones who were play-fighting), two honey badgers (which are usually nocturnal), a pride of ten lions made up of three lionesses and their seven cubs, six of which were jumping around (Mom, shockingly, called them “feisty”) playing with someone’s tennis shoe, a mother and her four spotted hyena cubs, and innumerable kudu and springbok.

We arrived at Berg-en-Dal seven minutes before the gate closed. We put our stuff in our chalet and then had supper at the restaurant. For dessert we had chocolate cupcakes after Dad opened his presents (a movie, a pair of rhino, elephant, and lion socks, a South Africa polo shirt, comics from home, and a Cadbury bar). So he is now 52 and a very ou vader. Not Darth Vader, mind you, but ou vader, which means ‘old father’ in Afrikaans.


Diesel’s Dialogue

The people the people the people, people I’ve never seen before! They’re at the door!!! They’re small, which means I can jump up and lick their face. They taste like rain. What? Where are they going??? Back out???

Oh, here they come! (Whew.) I was worried I would never see them again. Oh, no! Where’s my stick?! Who took it?! What? Is it these two new people and the two who came in later? They’re all sitting at a table and—

Oh, look, it’s Alicia Keys on the TV. What? Where’d the TV go? Why is it all dark? Oh, mistress is lighting a candle. The food smells good, but my stick is better. Where is it? I swear I just put it here—

Oh it’s right here on this chair. C’mon. Hey, play with me, Small Non-Person! Please! Oh, please please please play with me. I’m so lonely. Even the men cussing at the bar don’t look at me. Please play with me! I’m so lonely and bor—

The TV is back on! But where is my stick? I put it on the floor! Where is it? Oh, it’s under that other table. Well, big person, don’t think you’ve fooled me! There. Ha! You see, I am smarter than—

Don’t you dare blow on my face Big Person!!!!!!! Here, I’ll blow in yours! How does that feel? Okay, I’m tired now. I’ll just lay right down and take a nap with my stick next to m—

Mmmf yffl… hmm? What’s that? My stick! My precious stick! Where did it go???!!!! Help me, please! I’m looking all around the table but I see no stick, and—

What? You’re leaving? Mistress called me over and I didn’t even get to say good-bye. Well, I’ll say it now:


Out from Oom Dennis’s (and Tannie Mariejtie’s)

Canimambo is a Portuguese-Mozambican restaurant. The three of us had chicken, while Dad ordered a Greek salad.

This came after hours of driving from Oom Dennis’s house to the Wild Forest Inn here near Graskop. We finally left Koster after getting the tire changed, saying good-bye to Tannie Marietjie’s parents, Tannie Marietjie herself, Griet, Dinky, Bessie, and the other dogs, and Oom Dennis, and buying groceries at Choppies. We drove through Pretoria to see the jacaranda trees, which had just passed their prime but were still pretty, and the Union Buildings (government offices).

The weather- thunderstorms and in the 60s- came as a bit of a shock after warm Upington and Koster. It seems like Oregon…


Dog Day

There were seven dogs: Tikki, Bloemie (meaning ‘flower’ in Afrikaans), Bokiche, one Ethan nicknamed “Biggie,” and the other three: a little old dog a year or two younger than the blind and deaf Bokiche, a spotted mutt in the back (I’ll call him Captain), and Biggie’s sister. Biggie and his sister (I’ll call her Rooijana) are the puppies of Mr. and Mrs. Koster’s Bessie and Tannie Marietjie’s brother’s dog (I’ll call him Dennye), making them the siblings of one of Mr. and Mrs. Koster’s other dogs (I’ll call him Max).

Biggie looks almost exactly like Dennye, except Biggie is slightly smaller and is more yellow than gold. Rooijana looks like Bessie and Max; all three are black. Bloemie was the cute Jack Russell terrier. She joined Rooijana and Biggie in licking Ethan’s face dirty. He had, after all, tried to drown himself by attempting to swim across the dam, so it had been clean.

When Oom Dennis and Dad had discovered the front right tire to be a bit flat, we decided to pay Tannie Marietjie’s friends a visit. Who knew that they would have seven dogs?

Tikki and Bloemie fought the most. Well, Bloemie fought Tikki the most. She would grab one of Tikki’s ears and hang on, swinging to and fro. When we arrived, Bokiche’s look-alike disappeared into the house after barking at us. It took us a while to realize Captain’s presence. He never came out to play. Bokiche never really interacted with us, only smelling my hand.

Now Ethan and I want dogs even more…


Dinky’s Daring Day

“Look at that one! It’s getting closer,” Ethan said. He was, of course, referring to a lion at one of Oom Dennis’s friend’s house. The friend just moved in to the house with his wife on Friday. Their granddaughter, Karina, was staying with them for the time. She showed me the mouse and her room.

The main lions we looked at were in a cage with ten, but we only really saw eight. Dinky was with us, and somehow she got out of the truck and ran. The lions instantly perked up and started walking the fence line. Poor Dinky freaked out and cowered under the truck. Oom Dennis picked her up and put her in the back. She is seventeen years old (119 dog years).

What experiences she must have had!


Stuck With Stables

“Do you get stuck often?” Mom asked.

“Yes,” admitted the 8-year-old girl. Her dad had gone to get a tractor and some help, so she, her younger sister, and the four of us were waiting for his return. It had started when we had spotted some zebra and driven forward. Dad had asked, “Is that a warthog hole?” Francois nodded, and we drove around the back to get a better look at the entrance.

And we did, in fact, get closer- much closer- than we had intended. With a ker-chunk and a clunk, we had caved in the warthogs’ lounge. Francois thought that by gunning the engine he could get us out, but the bakkie’s back left tire was firmly stuck, and the front right tire was six inches off the ground.

That was when he left to get help.

We captured the whole affair on camera. By the time we got back in the bakkie, Mom in the front because she can’t handle standing in the bed, we had captured about five minutes’ video and lots of pictures. We also took pictures of the sable, since Francois’ property is, after all, named Sable Hill. I saw my first (and second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth…) sables there. There were also nyala, kudu, red hartebeest, wildebeeste, cows, and, as pets, an ostrich, three meerkats (two adult females and one baby boy that they had just bought today), numerous chickens, a squawking bird, and four dogs.


The Koster Episode

“You must be the family’s clown,” Tannie Marietjie’s mother said. I rolled my eyes.

Him?” (Personally, I think that Dad and I are funnier than him.)

She ignored my comment and kept on talking, telling us about the Koster family—and, yes, we’re staying near Koster. Tannie Marietjie was a Koster, and the town was established by her great-grandfather. On the wall, there were pictures of just about everyone in the Koster family, including a wedding picture of Oom Dennis and Tannie Marietjie.

“It was pure agony,” she was saying. Mrs. Koster was referring to her husband taking her on a drive in his bakkie on a new road on their property. The agony-causer pointed out this road from the top of a hill after he had driven Tannie Marietjie, Ethan, Mom, Dad, and myself up it, followed by Tannie Marietjie’s brother’s dog, two of Mr. and Mrs. Koster’s three dogs (one was named Bessie), and Griet, Tannie Marietjie’s four-year-old Saint Bernard-great Dane.

On our way down, we saw some unnamed antelope bounding away, and Bessie and Griet pursued them. Bessie eventually joined the other two dogs in following the bakkie, but Griet was a long time in coming.

And then we saw her, bounding down the hill, tongue out, feet pounding the dirt, panting. She jumped into the cows’ water trough but didn’t jump into the concrete dam because it was too high.

When we returned to Mr. and Mrs. Koster’s house, she showed us a bird book and fed us ice cream.


Ethan Probably Had a More Interesting Day Than Me, But Here’s What I Did

After having breakfast with Oom Dennis (Tannie Marietjie was gone) and Bucky, the bird, Mom surfed the web and Dad worked with money while I read a book for school. Oom Dennis took Ethan to look at cattle.

Dad searched for better cell reception, but instead he found a grasshopper with bright green and pink wings. It was so pretty!!!

Once Oom Dennis, Ethan, and Dinky (the dog) returned, we had sandwiches and then watched an episode of Poirot. We had watched one episode last night, but Mom had missed it. She saw this one, though.

Five people died.


With the de Klerks

KOSTER, South Africa- “We have arrived!” Ethan told Oom (‘uncle’ in Afrikaans) Dennis. We were told to wait in the Wimpy parking lot. And wait we did… eventually Oom Dennis came and, with Ethan in his bakkie, he showed us the way to his house, which is on his wife’s parents’ property. She came to the house after dark, accompanied by Griet (which means ‘Margaret’ in Afrikaans), who was the big dog that had shied away from me earlier. The little dog, Dinky, was very friendly and very pettable.

Ethan tried to pet Griet, but she was very skittish and seemed uncomfortable around Oom Dennis (indeed, Tannie [‘aunt’ in Afrikaans] Marietjie, Oom Dennis’s wife, said that it had taken Griet a while to get used to her husband). The chill was beginning to get to us, and we moved inside. After showing the pictures of the Cape cobra and its annoying bird friend and the white snake, Oom Dennis deduced that we had seen an adolescent albino python. “I’ll need to think about the bird,” he said.

I set in on my Time magazines while Tannie Marietjie and Mom started supper, which was a squash soup and bread. We talked and talked and talked and talked and talked… and talked. Tannie Marietjie said, “I wish I had asked you earlier to bring me a Hershey’s bar from America, but I wasn’t sure if you’d have room. We’ll have to make another trip to the U.S. so I can taste a Hershey’s bar again. I wonder what they have in those that they don’t have here…?”

I said chocolate, thinking of the ‘chocolate-flavoured sauce’ of last night. Dad pointed out that they most certainly used chocolate in Cadbury bars. (I’m still not done with my Cadbury Bubble bar from my birthday; I’m savoring it.)


Glenda, Grass, and Thick Lattes

Of course, that is the opposite order in which those three things happened. The thick lattes- more like chocolate pudding than the mochas we were expecting- were relished at Choc-O-Latte in Upington before we went to Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay. Then we drove for 220 kilometers to Witsand (literally, white sand). After stopping at our first set of dunes, we went up a little rocky trail to Uiskykpoint.

On the way, I tripped and tried to grab a rock for balance. Instead, I hit a thorny plant and scraped my wrist on the red rocks. I spent the rest of the hike pulling out stickers. At the top, we looked at the view and took a picture next to one of thirty cloth flowers put up around South Africa. An interesting story…

After dipping in the dirty pool (it was too cool for our tastes) and grabbing a sandboard, we went to the actual witsands. All of us but Mom took off our shoes- an important detail that you’ll need to remember for later.

I was the official photographer of Ethan as he tried to sandboard. He tried three hills before finally finding a good one. He went down this one three times and I went down once. After the last run, he walked through the grass, and I followed.

“Ow!” I cried. A tip of grass had broken off and was embedded in the arch of my foot. After much muttering, I pulled it out and continued on. Little did I know that, at just about the same time, Dad had stepped on a stick and it had gone in deep. It was on his heel, causing pain with every step. In fact, it still does cause him pain.

However, he got some relief when he sat down at the computer on the picnic bench outside. Slowly, steadily, a little steenbok crept up to the little pond and drank. I called her Glenda, and she stayed for about five minutes before returning to the bush. We might have seen her this evening as we drove to the restaurant (where Big Bang Theory and That ’70s Show were playing, making us embarrassed) for ice cream, because we passed springbok, steenbok, and a rabbit on our way there and back.


My Brother, the Toilet

AUGRABIE FALLS, South Africa- A bird pooped on Ethan today.

He was alerted as to the presence of the poo by his mother. “Stupid bird,” he muttered. The rest of us were trying not to laugh too hard. His father smiled and said, “Eryn, now you have a post title: My Brother, the Toilet.” I smiled appreciatively, trying to step on Ethan’s shadow. The day was warm- a pleasant 31 Celsius according to the car- and we had driven 120 kilometers from Upington to the town of Augrabies, then on to the falls (which is a national park).

Augrabies is on the Oranjerivier (Orange River in the vernacular), several kilometers before the river becomes the border between South Africa and Namibia, and finally hitting the Atlantic Ocean. The Orange River starts in Lesotho and passes through Upington. From above, the river is located by following the green trail of vineyards.

My father, remembering the falls from a previous trip, had raved about the orange, yellow, blue, and green lizards doing push-ups. This was not to be seen; they were too busy mating with the brown females of their kind. Of other animals, we saw too many bugs, my father saw a fish, and he and I saw Bart Simpson’s face on the rocks across the river.

After having Heaven ice cream bars, we get back in the car and drive through moving water to get to Oranjekom, Ararat, and Moon Rock. Oranjekom and Ararat are both look-out points, but Moon Rock is a gray, round, smooth rock. The Klipspringer Trail follows the crest of this outcrop, but we didn’t hike all 39.5 kilometers for several reasons, including that parts of the trail were closed because the three-day hike is only open from April to October 15. (Ethan and I were not too disappointed.)

After an hour and a half (or thereabouts), we returned to the guest house and Ethan prepared to waterski. After a supper at Bi-Lo and seeing One Direction on the cover of Seventeen, we returned home to find Bishop, the huge dog, roaming free. Mother was petrified.


The Quest for the Café with Mochas and Free Wi-Fi and for Chocolate Ice Cream

We spent this morning searching for a café that had café mochas and free wi-fi. We didn’t find it. The closest was ChocoLatte, which had mochas (hence the name) but no free Internet. At Coffee 4 U, they didn’t have wi-fi. I asked if they had mochas, and my reply was, “What are those?” I paused and then said, “Kind of like chocolate lattes.” Another pause, this time on her end, and then a nod.

“We have those.”

Well, you can’t really go with that. Another coffee shop, Arabesque (which is the same as one of my piano pieces back home), was closed while the Dried Fruit & Coffee Shop made Mom say, “Calling it a ‘coffee shop’ is a stretch.” This was all after Mom had given our laundry to the service at only 15 (about US$2.00) a kilo.

After returning home for a short while, we went back out and checked Gotti Ice Cream for chocolate ice cream. Everything there is bought in bulk. There were HUGE bags of red, brown, and orange Cheetos-style chips. We walked out, dismayed, and looked at Checkers. It was kind of daunting with all the Christmas banners with gingerbread men, dinosaurs, sock bunnies, and dolls hanging in your face. But we managed to find Kit-Kat King Cones.

Oh, well.

At least I know where, if I had a party for 100 people, to get enough Cheetos.


Swimming (on) Sunday

After shopping at Clicks- the chemist’s- and Game- the Target- and checking out The Pizza Place, we drove home to the guesthouse to wait.

And wait.

And wait…

Some more…

“They’re here! They’re here!” Ethan screeched. It was 4:30, and one man had arrived with the inner tube. An hour and a half later, Ethan and I had been jet-skied (without a life jacket. Gasp!) over to the sand, courtesy of Jay Jay. Besides Peter, Franco, and Carly, there were Carly’s friend (Nicki), Girl Cousin, Guy Cousin, and Girl Cousin’s Boyfriend (a.k.a. Muscle-Boy #2. The daughter of the guesthouse’s owner [her name is Lynda] also has a boyfriend, who we nicknamed Muscle Boy). I was the first one I saw fall off the tube.

Darn. When Girl Cousin, Guy Cousin, Girl Cousin’s Boyfriend, and the driver of the boat came over to “rescue” me, Ethan just randomly fell off the tube. Girl Cousin’s Boyfriend took my place on the tube and rode with Ethan. The boyfriend stayed on the tube. Ethan fell off. That was the one time I got to wave the red flag, which was put in my care once I got on the boat.

When Carly and Nicki went, I was sure one was going to fall off. No such luck. What about Girl Cousin, Girl Cousin’s Boyfriend, and Franco? Nope. What about Girl Cousin’s Boyfriend, Ethan, and Franco? No, once again, even though once they were really really close. Carly tried to waterski, but I wasn’t watching so I don’t know how she did.

For supper, Jasper cooked up some chicken and we had a braai (a.k.a. BBQ). I think I ate too much.


Soaked Saturday

We started out the day by being soaked- in sweat. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Upington has a fan, but it was not being used. Ethan was the only boy there, and there were also four or five girls. It was a very small church, with only about a dozen members. The sermon was, thankfully, in English, but just about everything else was in Afrikaans (but they kindly translated it to English for us).

When we arrived back at the Riverfront Guesthouse, there were five kids and their dad and his friend, plus the owner of the guesthouse’s son (Jay Jay), in the water on innertubes, and Jay Jay was on his jet ski. Ethan joined the excitedly, although his original intent was just to ride the jet ski. But then he wanted to waterski, and then he wanted to tube. Well, at least he got to tube with the four boys (including Peter and Franco) and the 12-year-old girl, Carly.

The group then invited me to ride in the boat, but that was too boring for me so I rode on the tube with Ethan. Of course he put me on the more precarious side, so I fell off.  The whole time I was worried about the nonexistent crocodiles thinking my toes were French fries. Then Carly and I went for a ride with Jay Jay on the jet ski. All this was done on the Orange River just outside the guesthouse.

And guess what?? Carly, Peter, Franco, and the rest are coming back tomorrow! Yay!


Foxy Friday

J. was wrong on this day, October 26, Anno Domino 2012. It happened that he and his wife, son, and daughter were taking a morning drive in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on the South African side when they came across a dog-like creature walking, laying down, and then watching while her three pups played around he
J. claimed it was a black-backed jackal, and his family originally agreed. After looking through the binoculars and checking the guide books, it was established that the dog was, in fact, not a black-backed jackal but a Cape fox. This idea was firmly dismissed by J., and his wife accepted this.
Until she didn’t. His wife, S., looked through the binoculars and checked and double-checked the guide books. J.’s children, E. and G., knew that it was a Cape fox. S. knew it was a Cape fox. J. didn’t believe for a long while after S. had finished exclaiming, “[The pups] are
so cute!!”

When we arrived at Waterfront Guest Farm here in Upington, South Africa, we found the once-annual “market” going on. There was food, things to buy, and ice cream. We had chicken and salad, and Ethan and Dad had ice cream. We can still hear the tittering of the girls my age as they talk outside. They were sort of wrestling on the grass, and one ran into the back of my chair. Dad said, “Ethan, they’re flinging themselves at you. Not that they have very good aim, but, still.”

Ethan was blushing.


Here We Come…

We finally officially immigrated into the Republic of South Africa today, although we kept switching back and forth between South Africa and Botswana on the road today. We have a few more visa troubles, but these are relatively minor compared to the India troubles. (Thank goodness.)

Thundering Thursday

KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER NATL. PARK, South Africa—After the thunder and rain had passed and Mom had crept over to my bed in the middle of the night to look at the waterhole, Dad’s phone alarm went off at 5 am.

We were on the road with all our stuff by 6:37 am after having had breakfast, showers, and packed luggage. We saw the female lion walking up over a hill, but the male lion (this was the mating pair) was nowhere to be seen.

After passing familiar landmarks such as the giraffe carcass, dead eland, and steep turnoff up to a lookout, we finally arrived on new territory. Three kilometers later, we turned onto the Dune Road (South) and drove between the Auob and Nossob Rivers. We saw many secretarybirds and rocks that looked like animals, plus ostriches and a gemsbok, but not much else until we hit the Nossob River valley.

We turned north, away from Twee Rivieren, and drove for 12K before U-turning south. We passed a snake eagle drinking from a natural puddle (!!!) and our first interesting animal of the day: (well, animals) a small pride of lions sitting in the shade. We kept going and found another cat 20 kilometers down the road: a leopard.

It was lying in the fork of a tree. Dad thought it had a kill nearby (he still thinks that, in fact), but we looked and looked and couldn’t find one. We also saw a pretty red slender mongoose there and at a tree later, where a man pointed out the lions sitting in a bush.

We didn’t see these mysterious lions until our evening drive, when we once again saw the leopard. We also saw an eagle trying to catch a Cape cobra for dinner. However, it took too long and the gate was going to close soon. So the other three satisfied themselves by looking at the leopard again, which had changed trees and gave a nice silhouette.


Wet ‘n’ Wild Wednesday

It actually rained today! Real, live  rain fell from the sky in the Kalahari! Maybe this will be the once-in-a-century when the Nossob River floods. It last flooded in 1963, so there’s a chance.

This morning we left the Kalahari Tent Camp at 6 am. By the time we returned for a late breakfast, we had seen an African wild cat, the same two lions mating, a troop of five spotted hyenas, giraffes, and a Cape cobra. That wasn’t the only snake, though! On our evening drive, we saw a white snake. Of course, we don’t know what it is, but, still.

Mom was totally freaking out, but that is to be expected. On that drive we once again saw the two lions, plus some kudu, which are very rare in the park, and lots of black-backed jackals plus a steppe buzzard. We also saw lots of vultures, but couldn’t find the kill that they had found. That was disappointing.

At the waterhole down in the river valley, we thought we saw lions tonight. Sadly, they were just eland, which would have been great in daylight because we’ve only seen about seven or so eland here. But oh, well. There’s always tomorrow.


Triple Tuesday

We have now seen the three big cats of Africa: lion, leopard, and cheetah. We saw two of these (lion and cheetah) today. We saw the cheetah just as we set out this morning from Mata Mata Camp at 7:34 am. It crossed the road and went over the rise to our left. By 7:39 am, when the car behind us pulled up, the cat was gone.

Ethan got to put the black dot up on the magnetic map. I put up two brown dots for the giraffe sightings. So far, we have seen 25% of the giraffes in this park. Eight giraffes (three male and five female) were brought in from Etosha a while back. After being kept in Mata Mata to adapt, they were eventually released into the wild. They now number around forty. We saw ten, including two babies (plus the carcass, but I don’t count that).

Neither of us put up the red dot for the mating lions because it was 6:49 pm and we had to be back in the Kalahari Tent Camp. So today we saw three of the ten animals on the board (the ten are: lions, cheetahs, giraffes, leopards, honey badgers, caracals, African wild cats, spotted hyenas, brown hyenas, and meerkats. I really want to see a caracal because the dot is pink). We also saw a red hartebeest, blue wildebeeste, a herd of springboks with a whole bunch of adorable skinny baby, ostriches plus some ostrich chicks and their parents, black-backed jackals, white-backed vultures, tawny eagles, fork-tailed drongos, gemsbok, and a stick Dad thought was a chameleon.


Mammal Monday

My day started off with being awaken by the alarm flies, which sound like mosquitoes, causing me to hide under my sheet in mortal fear and lose valuable sleep.

When I officially woke up, someone was using the sink incorrectly, causing the water to thunder onto the metal sink. After breakfast, Mom discovered that our lizard friend had died: his head had been squished in the bathroom door, leaving blood all down the edge of the door. It was awful.

Before we entered the park, we had two more reptilian encounters: a Kalahari tent tortoise  was crossing the road, and so was a large snake. The tortoise was small and we had to keep moving it back so we could take pictures. Ethan was holding it in his hand when, all of a sudden, it pooped on him! I was more amused than he was.

The snake reared up next to the car, causing Mom to scream. I think it’s too bad that it didn’t stop so we could take pictures. Dad and Ethan think it was a kind of cobra.

We left Namibia and entered Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. We’re still not officially in South Africa yet, but in several days we’ll leave the Twee Rivieren camp and be in the RSA.  Today we saw springbok, gemsbok (after all, this park used to be the Kalahari Gemsbok Park), ostriches, white-backed vultures, swallow-tailed bee-eaters, sociable and non-sociable weaver birds, blue wildebeeste, meerkat (I didn’t see these, but everyone else did)’ ground squirrels, eland, black-backed jackals, and a giraffe carcass.

At reception at Mata Mata, there is a metal map of the park with different colored magnets where people have seen meerkats, lions, cheetahs, leopards, brown hyenas, spotted hyenas, African wild cats, giraffes, honey badgers, and caracals. Ethan was thrilled to put up a purple circle in honor of his sighting. There was also a brown circle for the dead giraffe. I wouldn’t have thought at counted as a sighting.


An African Adventure- 1

Within the last 36 hours, we have traveled through many towns, six time zones, three countries, two continents, and one land border crossing.

Where are we now? Peermont Mondior, Gaborone, Botswana, Africa.

We had supper in Perth, filled the rental car with fuel, and left it with Avis at the Perth International Airport. At the airport, we checked in, lounged in the Qantas Departures Lounge drinking lemonade and eating olives, and finally got on our flight behind all the tired little kiddies and their parents.

We took off after midnight and landed twelve hours later. Along the way, the girl across the aisle from Dad and I got motion sick, I watched Glee and Modern Family, and all of us tried to sleep.

After going through customs, immigrations, and the motions of getting a rental car, I got in the front seat, Dad got in on the right, and Mom and Ethan chilled in the back. We eventually left Johannesburg proper about a half hour (or so) later. We stopped to buy snacks at a grocery store along the way. Tom Bodett entertained us up until the Botswana-South Africa border.

We  parked. Got out. Took out the passports. Entered the building. Entered our vehicle’s registration number so that Botswana could be sure that we weren’t stealing it. Walked down the hall. Left the building. Got in the car. Drove in to No-Man’s-Land, between the border stations.

The stress level got higher as we couldn’t find all that we needed to declare to enter Botswana. Finally Ethan and Dad went back, and when they returned, all was well. We got to our hotel, got a SIM for Dad’s phone at the mall, bought take-out pizza and milk shakes, and ate supper here. Yum!