Monday, September 28, 2009

The Pilanesberg National Park,South Africa

Our next excursion???? A drive through the beautiful Pilanesberg National Park in the North West Province of South Africa.

Our proudly South African game ranger has loads of information to share with us......
He says that the Pilanesberg National Park, which covers some 55 000 hectare, is the fourth largest in southern Africa.

This malaria-free park is perched on the eroded vestiges of an alkaline volcanic crater - one of only three such craters in the world.

Its special features of rugged landscape, well-watered valleys and attractive dwelling sites have made it a preferred site for human settlement for thousands of years.

Prior to its proclamation as a reserve in 1979, the Pilanesberg National Park Complex was degraded and depleted of indigenous wildlife populations due to fairly intense settlement by commercial farmers.
At considerable expense, the land has been restocked with game, the scars of human settlement were removed and tourism infrastructure was developed during the first 15 years. This constituted the largest and most expensive game stocking and land rehabilitation project ever undertaken in any African game reserve at the time.

A 110 kilometre peripheral Big Game fence was erected over some very rugged terrain, 188 kilometre of visitor roads have been developed and more than 6 000
head of game were introduced during the Operation Genesis game translocation programme.
Thus, while wildlife resources are rapidly declining in most developing countries in Africa, Pilanesberg National Park is one of the few areas where this trend has been dramatically reversed. Yipppeeee!!
The park boasts healthy populations of Africa's "Big Five".....look there is the "Little Five"!

The ranger also told us that the challenge that lies ahead is to further develop and manage Pilanesberg National Park in such a way that the conservation, cultural, recreational and economic benefits of this far-sighted action can be optimally utilised to the benefit of current and future generations.

Pilanesberg exists within the transition zone between the dry Kalahari and wetter Lowveld vegetation, commonly referred to as "Bushveld".
Unlike any other large park, unique overlaps of mammals, birdlife and vegetation occur because of this transition zone.
Springbok, brown hyaena, the redeyed bulbul, and camel thorn trees usually found in arid areas are found co-habitating with moist-area-limited impala, blackeyed bulbul and Cape chestnut trees!!
He boasted that Nature's alphabet - from Aardvark to Zebra can be found here!
Marti is looking out for a Giraffe.......

We are at a watering hole....and Sita is too pleased because she has sighted a huge herd of Elephant amongst other animals..........

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Pilgrim's Rest, another South African UNESCO site??

Yesterday we went to a diamond we are off to a GOLD Pilgrims Rest, a "romantic" spot in world where a gold rush took place....

Pilgrim's Rest is a small town in the picturesque Mpumalanga Province of South Africa.
A living museum - the entire town has been declared a National Monument - we are going back in time to the days of old Transvaal Gold Rush.

We have obtained a map from the central information centre and we are going to take a walk through this town that looks exactly like it did in the 1870's...a time warp!!

Hey Sita, did you know that this site is also on UNESCO's tentative list of World Heritage sites?? Why??

Pilgrims Rest's history allegedly began in 1873 when 'Wheelbarrow' Alec Patterson, who pushed his belongings along in front of him, panned for gold in the stream running through the valley.
In 1873 rich gold deposits were discovered in the Pilgrirn's Creek, a tributary of the Blyde River, close to where the village of Pilgrim's Rest was established. The news of this rich strike triggered the first major gold rush in South Africa. Pilgrim's Rest was declared a gold field on 22 September 1873 and by the end of that year there were some 1500diggers working 4000 claims in and around Pilgrim's Rest.
As a result, Pilgrim's Rest became a social center of the diggings and within a year there were 21 stores, 18 canteens, 3 bakeries and all sorts of other establishments which are are currently seeing....
It is estimated that R2 million worth of gold was mined during the first seven years of alluvial mining in the Pilgrim's Rest valley.

By the 1880's alluvial gold deposits began to dwindle and diggers were steadily leaving to prospect elsewhere.
In 1881 the first gold rnining company amalgamated with several other smaller companies to form the Transvaal Gold Mining Estates (TGME) which became the sole owners of Pilgrim's Rest and the farrn Ponieskrantz on which it is situated until 1972.
The history of this company and Pilgrim's Rest were inseparably linked
as both shared the fluctuating fortunes of the mines.
Some extraordinary nuggets were found here in Pilg rims Rest including 'Breda' who weighed in at 214 oz and 'Lilley' at 119oz.
One reef, found after the main rush had died down, yielded over 5,000,000oz of gold in 50 years of continuous working.

Hey Nopi, did you know that Pilgrim's Rest was the location of an emergency mint during the Second Boer War?? This mint struck the famous and extremely rare Veld Pond.

Mining was active until 1971 when Beta Mine was closed down. Tranvaal Gold Mining E states opened again in 1999 and there is active gold mining in the hills around Pilgrim's Rest.

As we walk along we admire the graceful church architecture .....
The Anglican Church was built by diggers in 1884 and the original bell can still be seen.
In 1874, the year after the Pilgrim's Rest gold-rush began, the Methodist church established a ministry there to cater for the spiritual welfare of the diggers. The Rev. J .Good, who was appointed to serve the Pilgrim's Rest congregation in 1910, recorded that the first Methodist Church to be erected was 'sent out from England in sections in 1895 and used as a stable in the Anglo- Boer war'.
It also served as a school.
The original church, however, was demolished in 1911 after a suicide inside the building and a more substantial structure took its place.
The foundation stone was laid on the 14th of October 1911 and a new manse was also provided for the minister just behind the church.

Oh Marti, isn't the Dredzen Shop and House Museum just so quaint?
It is a living museum depicting the lifestyle of the town's original general dealers, including the family of the owner living in the back of the house, and original goods on display in the street side shop!! Wow, this is what it would have been like during the period 1930 to 1950.
The original Adcock's store is now restored as a Saloon Bar and Restaurant.
The old bank house originally housed 'De Nationale Bank der Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek' and later Barclays Bank. A part of the building was used by the bank man ager as a residence.
The House Museum, built in 1913, is an example of the wood and corrugated iron architecture which is typical of Pilgrim's Rest. In 1976 the building became a house museum and was furnished to epitomize a middle class home of the early 20th century in this area.

The Alanglade House Museum, once the mine manager's house, has a fine collection of Victorian, Edwardian and Art Deco styles of furniture, dating between 1915 and 1930.

We wanted to post some postrossing cards from the original post office...but it is now a museum.

The Printing Museum is a tribute to the printing industry, and includes historical front pages of local publications.
Did you know that the first locally printed newspaper to be circulated on the Pilgrim's Rest Goldfields was the 'Gold News' on 24 January 1 874? Shortly after it was first published, an Irishman, W.J. Phelan, became the new editor and he changed its name to 'Goldfields Mercury'. In 1910 the first 'Pilgrim's and Sabie News' was published with T.W.S. Craig as its editor. The original premises of the paper which was situated between the present building and the Pilgrim's Hotel was totally destroyed by fire some time between 1916 and 1919. Subsequently the printing works was moved to its present site. This building was originally a private residence constructed during the late 19th century.

There is Joubert Bridge , was built in 1896 and was named after the mining commissioner. It stone arches proudly span the Blyde river and the bridge offers the visitor a dramatic entrance into town.

We are at the graveyard and notice that every single grave was laid facing in the same direction, except for the famous Robber's Grave which is laid perpendicular to the rest, emblazoned simply with a cross and the large type words of Robbers Grave.
It is as the name suggests the grave of a robber who was shot steali
ng a tent from one of the miners!!
A tent represented a "home" so was the most valuable of any individuals belongings, stealing this tent was a most grievous crime and the punishment was meted out in the extreme.

The increasing production in ore after 1896 necessitated the establishment of a central reduction works at Pilgrim's Rest. By 1897 the first buildings were erected and consisted of a stamp mill, smelting house and a few offices.
There were several mines in the area and an electric tram was built to convey ore from the outer mines to the central reduction works.
The reduction works were closed in 1972 when the last mine at Pilgrim's Rest ceased production. The run down buildings have been restored and is now a museum.

We took the Digging Museum & Gold Panning tour and it detailed the lifestyle of original pioneer and the methods they used in panning alluvial deposits. This is so cool!

OMG, there is even a Golf Course!! It is a tricky 9-hole layout with shared greens. The clubhouse's walls were constructed with materials brought originally by ox-wagon from Groot Marico.
This has been such an awesome day......hey Princess, we will be spending the evening at the Royal Hotel.

The hotel was built in 1894 and one of the most interesting features is the bar which was once a chapel in Cape Town before being dismantled and shipped to Pilgrim's Rest via Delagoa Bay.
This hotel has been impeccably restored, to reflect true late Victorian style. Trapped in a time warp, the lounge reflects an epoch of time honoured hospitality and elegance so typical of the late Victorian era. Upon entering the Royal Hotel, we are immediately taken on a nostalgia filled trip into the past. The reception walls are lined with the most interesting photographs and artefacts providing vivid glimpses of Pilgrim's Rest's history. Furnished with genuine antique brass beds, wash stands, wardrobes and authentic Victorian baths how can we not be be transported back into history??

Tonight we are going to a street party ....perhaps there will be a Can-Can dancer or two??
Life in the 19th century certainly wasn't boring!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Big Hole, South Africa, possible UNESCO site??

Ok my friends its time to bid farewell to Cape Town.

Princess has the map of South Africa in her hand......and she wants to see the place with off we go to
The Big Hole, Open Mine or Kimberley Mine, an open-pit mine in Kimberley (,_Northern_Cape) in the Northern Cape Province.

The first diamonds here were found on Colesberg Kopje by members of the "Red Cap Party" from Colesberg on the farm Vooruitzigt belonging to the De Beers brothers; the ensuing scramble for claims led to the place being called New Rush, later renamed Kimberley.

From mid-July 1871 to 1914 up to 50,000 miners dug the hole with picks and shovels, yielding 2,720 kilograms (6,000 lb) of diamonds!!!

The Big Hole has a surface of 17 hectares (42 acres) and is 463 metres (1,520 ft) wide.

It was excavated to a depth of 240 metres (790 ft), but then partially infilled with debris reducing its depth to about 215 metres (710 ft) since then it has accumulated about 40 metres (130 ft) of water, leaving 175 metres (570 ft) of the hole visible.

Once above-ground operations became too dangerous and unproductive, the kimberlite pipe of the Kimberley Mine was also mined underground by Cecil Rhodes' De Beers company to a depth of 1,097 metres (3,600 ft).

Hey Marti, did you know that it is one of the largest holes excavated by hand??

Guess what Sita?? There is currently an effort in progress to register the Big Hole as a World Heritage Site.

Well, this is the site of the first great 19th Century African mineral find consisting primarily of a large, hand dug crater created by the removal of diamond bearing Kimberlite ore.

The mine, no longer operational, is where the industrial revolution came to Africa in the 1870s and is the spark that led to the so-called 'Scramble for Africa'.

Capital generated by the richest diamond deposit ever, was crucial to development of the Southern African industrial complex, notably gold mining and Johannesburg.

Kimberley capital also directly shaped Zambia and Zimbabwe and determined the political history of the sub-continent in many other ways.

The Kimberley Mine saw the establishment of the first large, industrial city in Southern Africa and its location determined communications routes on the sub-continent and led to the creation of several modern ports.

Its situation in an arid, sparsely populated region is at the origins of the migrant labor system that came to be used throughout Southern Africa and still influences patterns of economic development and movement of population.

The discovery of the Kimberley Mine moved the centre of the diamond industry from Brazil to Africa, where it remains, and led to the establishment of De Beers Consolidated Mines and with it the system according to which the modern diamond industry is managed and its viability protected.

Hey Nopi, did you hear of the famous diamond called The Kimberley??

It is a Flawless, 70-carat, step cut, champagne-colored diamond that was found in the Kimberley Mine, South Africa.

It was re cut into this modern shape in in 1921 from a large, flat stone that was once in the Russian Crown Jewels.

In 1958, the stone was again re cut by it's owners, Baumgold Bros., New York City, to improve the proportions and increase brilliancy.

It now weighs 55.09 carats and is valued by the firm at $500,000, but is probably worth considerably more.

Baumgold Bros. sold the stone in 1971 to an undisclosed collector.......

Aaaah, wouldn't all us girls like to have one of those??????

Friday, September 25, 2009

Robben Island, South African UNESCO site

Did you know that Robben Island and Table Mountain are the only World Heritage Sites visible from one another??

Proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, this bean-shaped island, the largest of South Africa, is situated in Table Bay with superb views of Cape Town 12 km away.

Used as a prison from the early days of the VOC right up until the first years of majority rule, Robben Island's most famous involuntary resident was Nelson Mandela.

Our tour leader is a former let's go to South Africa's own 'Statue of Liberty'

As our boat approaches the island....our tour guide tells us that the former prison at Robben Island represents a critical chapter in the country's path towards democracy.

Robben Island has always been a site of heartbreak.

At times a leper colony, mental hospital and defence training base, this World Heritage Site is more famed as the prison to which anti-apartheid activists were banished.

A 'university of the struggle', its graduates went on to lead South Africa into democracy.

Here the leaders of the struggle against racial oppression, imprisoned for many long years, developed their concepts for a post-apartheid South Africa.

Isolated from family and friends, the Mandelas, Sisulus, Mbekis, Kathradas and
Sobukwes of the time proved heroic men of steel, never wavering in their hope of a new day.

UNESCO's World Heritage Committee has chosen to mark this location for its "triumph of the human spirit'.

The sombre Robben Island prison buildings are now the home of the Robben Island museum.

As one of the world's great cultural world heritage destinations, Robben Island South Africa is memorable for both its tragedy and exultation, and its testimony to faith and spirit in the most humiliating of conditions.

The Robben Island Museum is centred round the notorious political prison where many of the leaders of the South African freedom struggle were imprisoned.

It is now a 'cultural and conservation showcase for the new South African democracy' - an international icon of the triumph of good over evil!!

At this museum on Robben Island, we learn that the first recorded landing on it was in 1498 when Vasco da Gama's support fleet took temporary refuge in its waters.

Its situation also made it ideal as a place of quarantine and during much of the later British occupation it was used as a leper colony.

But it is as a place of banishment and exile that it is notorious.

Miscreant sailors were offloaded here, as were Muslim activists fighting Dutch colonisation in the Far East.

The British, after taking permanent occupati
on at the beginning of the 19th century, continued this tradition by banishing troublesome traditional leaders opposing settler incursion into the interior.

And in 1960 the apartheid government used the newly constructed maximum security section as a political prison, which is now the museum.

Prisoners were subject to hard labour and brutality, ....(oh look there is the limestone quarry that
they worked in)....but few were broken and the tale of their experience is today symbolic of the triumph of ordinary people over an extraordinary crime against humanity.

Nothing has changed – physically.

Spiritually – voices once locked behind high walls speak their truth: 'we have overcome!'

Oh look Nopi, a lighthouse!

Jan van Riebeeck first set a navigation aid atop Fire Hill (now Minto Hill), the highest point on the island.

Huge bonfires were lit at night to warn VOC ships of the rocks which surround the island.

The current Robben Island lighthouse, built on Minto Hill in 1864, is 18 metres (59 ft) high and was converted to electricity in 1938.

It is the only South African lighthouse to utilise a flashing light instead of a revolving light.
Its light is visible for 24 nautical miles and is the oldest lighthpuse in the southern hemisphere.

When the Dutch arrived in the area in 1652, the only large animals on the island were seal
s and birds, principally penguins.

In 1654, the settlers released rabbits on the island in order to provide a ready source of meat for passing ships.

The original colony of African Penguins on the island was completely exterminated by 1800.

However the modern day island is once again an important breeding area for the species after a new colony established itself there in 1983.

The colony has grown to 13,000 and is now the third biggest for the species.

Our tour guide tells us a little about "Madiba"
Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918 at Mvezo in th
e Transkei, South Africa, to Nosekeni Fanny and Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa (Chief Counsellor to the Chief of the Thembu clan).
(The name Rolihlahla means "troublemaker".)
He was given the name 'Nelson' by his first school teacher Miss Mdingane and the name 'Dalibhunga' after his traditional initiation in 1934.
He was later often addressed as 'Madiba' (the name of his clan) out of respect and affection.

A founder and leader of the ANC's armed wing, Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation) which launched on 16 December 1961, Mandela was arrested on 5 August 1962.

He was charged for incitement and for leaving the country without a passport and sentenced to five years in jail.

He was sent to Robben Island but was taken to Pretoria to stand trial for sabotage in the Rivonia Trial.

On 11 June 1964 Mandela and seven of his comrades were convicted and the next day sentenced to life imprisonment.

Mandela was held on Robben Island for 18 years, at Pollsmoor Prison for six years and the final period of his imprisonment was at Victor Verster Prison in Paarl.

The highlight of our tour .....seeing "Prisoner 46664"'s prison the tour guide unlocks the cell door....we get goose bumps.....
Nelson Mandela said "
I was assigned a cell at the head of the corridor.
It overlooked the courtyard and had a small eye-level window.
I could walk the length of my cell in three paces.
When I lay down, I could feel the wall with my feet and my head grazed the concrete at the other side.
The width was about six feet, and the walls were at least two feet thick.

Each cell had a white card posted outside of it with our name and our prison service ]number. Mine read, "N Mandela 466/64," which meant I was the 466th prisoner admitted to the island in 1964.
I was forty-six years old, a political prisoner with a life sentence, and that small cramped space was to be my home for I knew not how long"
The number was imposed on him by the prison for over 25 years, until his release in 1990.

"Prisoner 46664" continues to be used, as a reverential title for him, and the Nelson Mandela Foundation uses as its website address.

Shortly before Joe Strummer's death, he and U2's B

ono co-wrote the song "46664" for Mandela as part of the campaign against AIDS in Africa.

"Today when I look at Robben Island, I see it as a celebration of the struggle and a symbol of the finest qualities of the human spirit, rather than as a monument to the brutal tyranny and oppression of apartheid. It is true that Robben Island was once a place of darkness, but out of that darkness has come a wonderful brightness, a light so powerful that it could not be hidden behind prison walls… '
Nelson Mandela

This is an excursion that stirs the soul and inspires

Robben Island and its prison buildings symbolize the triumph of the human spirit, of freedom, and of democracy over oppression!!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

South Africa, the Rainbow Nation

Guess what ? Its National Heritage Day in South Africa today!

In an
address marking Heritage Day in 1996, (former) President Mandela stated:

"When our first democratically-elected government decided to make Heritage Day one of our national days, we did so because we knew that our rich and varied cultural heritage has a profound power to help build our new nation.

We did so knowing that the struggles against the injustice and inequities of the past are part of our national identity; they are part of our culture. We knew that, if indeed our nation has to rise like the proverbial phoenix from the ashes of division and conflict, we had to acknowledge those whose selfless efforts and talents were dedicated to this goal of non-racial democracy."


You know , in a way, who we are and who we choose to be as a nation is very much a product of our collective heritage. Because of our history and the lessons drawn from it, we have chosen to gather strength in our diversity and not to regard or use it as a divisive tool. That choice makes it possible for us today to proudly speak of "unity in diversity".

South Africa 's successful transformation from a pariah state to a stable and prosperous democracy, has led to South Africa to being respected and revered internationally for its most progressive constitution

Our ability to turn a tragic situation into a lesson for the world - our transition to a democratic state was expected to be marred by violence and retribution, but instead it was an astounding lesson
in reconciliation

Our underlying wealth and natural assets and the talent of all South Africans - the world comes to South Africa to see its beautiful skies and beaches, Table Mountain and the game reserves, which always fulfil their expectations.

However, what amazes and surprises visitors is that they fall in love with the warmth and
friendliness of our people, which always entices them to come back for more South African smiles and caring attitudes.

South African heritage - definitely as diverse, inspirational and worthy of pride as South Africa herself.

It's also National Braai we are going to a "braaivleis" party......

Family and friends converge on a picnic spot or someone's home (normally the garden or verandah) with their own meat, salad, or side dish in hand.......very similar to an American barbeque:-)

Meats are the star of the South African braai. They typically include boerewors, sosaties, kebabs, marinated chicken, pork and lamb chops, steaks, sausages of different flavors and thickness, and possibly even a rack or two of spareribs. Fish and Rock Lobster commonly called "crayfish" or kreef in Afrikaans, are also popular in coastal areas.

The other main part of the meal is pap (meaning porridge), actually a thickened porridge, or the krummelpap ("crumb porridge"), traditionally eaten with the meat. Made from finely ground corn/maize (similar to polenta), it is a staple of local African communities and may be eaten with a tomato and onion sauce,monkeygland sauce or the more spicy chakalaka at a braai.

Congratulations to all postcrossers for reaching the 3 million mlestone (

We LOVE postcrossing....and South Africa of course!!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Johannesburg, South Africa

Firstly, I am issuing a kindness challenge to all of you from
And I don't mean doing one kind act and stopping there.
I mean dedicating the month to doing multiple kind acts every day!!

Secondly, my sincere apologies... there will be no "travelling" as such today....the cricket fanatics amongst us are flying to the Gauteng Province of South Africa.


Well,we are going to the opening match of the 2009 ICC Champions Trophy (

It is a One Day International cricket tournament being held in South Africa between 22 September and 5 October.

The matches will take place at both the Wanderers Stadium ( and Centurion Park (, both in the Johannesburg area.
Did you know that ICC Champions Trophy ( is second in importance only to the Cricket World Cup??

I know that cricket is not very popular in Europe, so girls, come will be a unique experience for you.......and who knows perhaps I can convince you to return for the Soccer World Cup in 2010??

Btw girls, did you know that currently there are postal strikes in

1.Paris, France

2.London, U.K.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cape Point Lighthouses; South Africa

Did I mention that Nopi is a very keen pharologist??
Our next destination is no surprise....we are going to Cape Point (, a promontory at the south-east corner of the Cape Peninsula,

( , a mountainous and very scenic landform that runs north-south for about thirty kilometres at the extreme southwestern tip of the African continent in the Republic of South Africa

This wind-battered, tip of land that ventures out into treacherous seas has some of the highest sea cliffs and freshest air in the world but it is not the southern most tip of Africa. This honour has been left to Cape Agulhas

Did you know that Cape Point is situated in the 22 100 hectare Table Mountain National Park, a natural World Heritage Site?

The circumnavigation of the Cape of Good Hope led to the establishment of a sea route to the East and subsequent trade.

Interestingly the South African Weather Bureau maintains a research laboratory here together with the Fraunhofer Institute of Garmisch, Germany. They monitor long-term changes in the earth's atmosphere which may impact upon climate.

Due to sandy soils, the area is unable to sustain a number of large animals and those that are present are not easily seen.

However, there is a wealth of insects, lizards, tortoises (including the Cape Angulate Tortoise), frogs and snakes such as the Puff Adder, Cape Cobra, Mole Snake and Boomslang.

Mammals include Cape Mountain Zebra, Chacma Baboon, Rock Hyrax ("dassie"), Genet, Lynx, Striped Field Mouse, Cape Grey and Water Mongoose, and Cape Clawless Otter.

Eight species of antelope are also found here: Bontebok, Eland, Cape Grysbok, Red Hartebeest, Grey Rhebok, Steenbok and Grey Duiker. Klipspringers have been re-established recently after an absence of almost 70 years. The Whales can be spotted from June to October.

With its diverse habitats, ranging from rocky mountain tops to beaches and open sea, the Cape of Good Hope is home to at least 250 species of birds.

On land, the most notable species are ostrich and raptors like the Rock K estrel, Black-Shouldered Kite, Fish Eagle, Black Eagle, Spotted Eagle Owl and Jackal Buzzard.

"Bush birds" tend to be rather scarce because of the coarse, scrubby nature of fynbos vegetation.

When flowering, however, proteas and ericas attract sunbirds, sugar-birds and other species in search of nectar.

The Cape of Good Hope is an integral part of the Cape Floristic Kingdom, the smallest, but richest of the world's six floral kingdoms.

This comprises a treasure trove of 1 100 species of indigenous plants, of which a number are endemic.

Two types of fynbos ("fine bush"), coastal fynbos on alkaline sands and inland fynbos on acid soils, are found. Characteristic fynbos plants include proteas, ericas (heath) and restios (reeds).

Some of the most striking and well-known members belong to the Proteacae family, of which up to 24 species occur. Many popular horticultural plants like pelargoniums, freesias, daisies, lilies and irises, also have their origins in fynbos.

One of the Cape's most famous legends involves a ship named the Flying Dutchman. In 1680, the vessel foundered whilst rounding the Cape in heavy weather.
The captain, Hendrik van der Decken, swore while his ship was sinking, that he would round the Cape if it took him until doomsday.
Some believe that he has kept his word, as over the years the Flying Dutchman is said to have been sighted on many occasions. Another well-known shipwreck is that of the Lusitania, which struck Bellows Rock in thick fog at midnight on 18 April 1911.

The remains of at least 23 shipwrecks lie along the coastline,
only five of which can still be seen - at Olifantsbos, Duikersklip, Hoek van Bobbejaan, Dias Beach and Buffels Bay. The remains of two wrecks near Olifantsbos can be reached from the beach. These are the Thomas T Tucker, which ran aground during World War II and the Nolleth, wrecked in 1965.

But we are here to visit the Lighthouses!

"The Point" has not been called the "Cape of Storms" for nothing and has therefore been treated with respect by sailors since it was first sighted by Dias in 1488.

By day, it was a landmark of great navigational value until the introduction of the radar. By night, and in fog, it was a menace. Ships had to approach closely to obtain bearings and thereby were exposed to the dangers of Bellow Rock and Albatross Rock.

In 1860 the first lighthouse was completed however, this light was often obscured by mist and fog.

Why walk when we can fly? We all hopped aboard the funicular ( and we were whisked away on a scenic trip to the view site near the old Cape Point lighthouse. The original lighthouse still stands on the highest section of the peak and is now used as the centralised monitoring point for all the lighthouses on the coast of South Africa.

Opened in December 1996, the funicular replaced the little bus named the Flying Dutchman operating the transfers from the lower station at 127mr (417ft) above sea level to the upper station at 214mr (702ft) above sea level.

In 1913 construction was started on the second lighthouse on Dias Point, some 87 meters above sea-level.

This second lighthouse was first lit at sunset on 11 March 1919, and remains the most powerful on the South African coast!!

The original lighthouse comprised of sixteen metallic reflectors which flashed a white light (2000 candle power) lasting twelve seconds every minute.

In contrast the new Cape Point Lighthouse is visible from a distance of thirty four nautical sea miles it emits a revolving light power of 10 000 000 Candelas.

WOW!! The views from here are absolutely spectacular !!!
Nopi, the pharologist is really ecstatic.........
Marti says " pharologist??"......hahaha, they are lighthouse nuts!!

btw, have you guys guessed where the 3 000 000th postcrossing card will travel to and from?

Hahaha, all of us think it will be between our home country and FI, DE or USA!!

Hmm, there are 200 countries...therefore several possible permutations .....I think the milestone will be reached on Thursday morning!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Holy festivals- 20 September 2009

We have just realised that there are many holy festivals going on at this time of year......

So here's wishing all our Hindu friends a happy Navratri.......

Eid Mubarak to all our Muslim friends

and a happy Rosh Hashanah to all our Jewish friends


A tentative UNESCO world heritage site in South Africa.

Everyone is really enjoying the Cape Winelands immensely......

Oops Sita, I forgot to mention that The Cape Winelands Cultural Landscape
is on UNESCO's tentative list of world heritage sites....

Our next stop is the picturesque town of Paarl, cradled between the Paarl Mountain with its magnificent 50 million year old granite boulders and the towering Du Toitskloof Mountain Range.

The huge granite rock is formed by three rounded outcrops that make up Paarl Mountain and is the second largest granite outcrop in the world!

The town takes its name from the granite domes of Paarl Mountain, which looms above the town – Paarl is dutch for Pearl.
No, we are not going to hike in the Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve to see more fynbos and have a picnic.

Nor are we going to the Le Bonheur Crocodile Farm that has over 1000 cr
ocodiles and sells crocodile leather and meat

No, guys we are not going to play golf nor are we going to a spa nor are we going to sample the wide range of cheeses, including cheddar, camembert, brie, blue- cheese, and goats milk cheese.

We are going to see the Afrikaans Language Monument which is the world's only monument dedicated to a language!!

The town of Paarl really has a unique character, not least because vineyards still grow in between residential neighbourhoods maintaining a country feel to a town virtually the size of a small city, but also because it is here that the struggle to gain recognition for Afrikaans as a written language was achieved.

Known simply as the Taal monument or Afrikaans l
anguage monument, the most famous Afrikaans icon, die Afrikaanse Taalmonument, sits on Paarl rock, erected in 1975 to commemorate the semi centenary of Afrikaans as an official language, separate from Dutch, overlooking the farmlands of Stellenbosch and Paarl.

Designed by architect Jan van Wijk, the monument, shaped in a number of tall obelisk style columns, takes its inspiration from the surrounding environment of granite rock and the words of NP van Wyk Louw, who wrote "Afrikaans stands with one leg in Africa and with the other in the west" and CJ Langenhoven who said "Afrikaans is a rapidly ascending curve".

The monument is not without some controversy.
The British magazine, Wallpaper, ran a story that described Afrikaans as the ugliest language in the world in September 2005!!

As a direct response, billionaire Johann Rupert withdrew advertising for brands such as Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, Montblanc and Alfred Dunhill.

Did you know that Afrikaans is one of the youngest languages in the world??

Its roots spread over three continents - Africa, Asia and Europe - and its mother tongue speakers range across different races, creeds and cultures - it is the first language of approximately 60% of South Africa's Whites and over 80% of the Coloured population.

It originated from the 17th century Dutch language, and became known as 'Cape Dutch', a pejorative term that was remedied when the language was recognised as a distinct language in 1925.

Main Street Paarl is a colourful collection of beautifully restored Cape Dutch, Georgian and Victorian buildings and includes the oldest Dutch Reform
ed Church in the country – the Strooidak Church - and the Paarl Museum, housed in a u-shaped Cape Dutch house and home to an in-depth look at the town's history, starting with early man and dealing with European colonisation and slavery.

Marti has just found an interesting bottle '100% Worcester' wine....yes , it is the world's first Braille wine bottle!

All '100% Worcester' wines carry a Braille message with a portion of sales being donated to hearing and sight impaired communities....pretty cool don't' you think??

Nopi wants to know how come she gets tipsy from just one glass of wine yet her male friends can drink a whole darn bottle without it affecting them??

Good question Nopi....

Well, the answer is really quite simple.

Some of the reasons are as follows:

First, women are smaller on average than men, so there's less of us all round to absorb the alcohol. A smaller liver will mean that it takes longer to metabolize or break down the alcohol consumed.

Second, women have on average 10% more fat than men (hence the feminine curves). This means there's less body fluid to dilute alcohol, so it travels around women's bodies in more concentrated form and causes more harm.

Thirdly, women's livers produce less of the substance the body uses to break alcohol down (an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase). This means women not only get drunk quicker but the effects last longer.

Lastly, premenstrual hormonal changes causes women to become drunk even quicker during the days before a female gets her period. Birth control pills and any medication with estrogen will increase alcohol levels.

So don't challenge a man of your size to a drinking are bound to lose :-(

A large variety of grapes are grown in Paarl, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Shiraz, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc and the Paarl Wine Route is also known as the 'Red Route' because of this.

Over 25 wine cellars include Backsberg Estate, KWV, Nederburg, Nelsons Creek, Simonsvlei and Avondale that make up the popular wine route.

So guess what we are going to do next........yippee...we are going let's roll up our jeans and give those legs a really good work out girls!!!! This is so much fun!!!

Nopi already has a glass of wine in her hand.......Opa!!!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Stellenbosch, South Africa

Franschoek was extremely enjoyable.......we are all yawning( we had a late night) ...... but we decided to make an early start this morning.......and continue with our winelands tour.........

We are going to Stellenbosch,( South Africa's second oldest town.

When Governor Simon van der Stel first visited the area in November 1679 he was much taken by its beauty.

The name Stellenbosch ('Van der Stel's bush') was given to t
he site of the governor's camp, and by the following year the first settlers had arrived from Cape Town.

It is situated 111 metres above sea level on the banks of the upper reaches of the Eerste River.

Here the river flows out of the mountains and into a shallow, alluvial and fertile valley.

Identified as a viable agricultural area because of the fertile soil and amenable climate, it was soon
the premier wine producing region in the country.

Stellenbosch has become known as 'the town of oaks' or "Eikestad" as these trees are
found everywhere.

Some of the oaks have been proclaimed national monuments.

Today Stellenbosch is the centre of South Africa's wine industry.

Did you know that the town has one of the most modern experimental wineries in the world, and the only viticultural and oenological department in the country at its university (

The Stellenbosch Wine Route is arguably the country's most famous and is home to 106 cellars, many of which are open to the Public

Stellenbosch's vineyards makes up over 18% of the total amount of land under vines in South Africa, approximately 100,200 hectares

The most planted variety in 2005 was Sauvignon Blanc (,
followed by Chardonnay (

The most uprooted variety in the same year was Cabernet Sauvignon (
/wiki/Cabernet_Sauvignon) and Pinotage (

Stellenbosch producers carry the honour of winning the most wine awards per capita / wine than any other region in the country!!

South Africa's oldest music school, the famous Stellenbosch Conservatoire, has its home in thi
s important cultural centre, and there is a collection of galleries and museums housing national and international art collections worth viewing.

Sita has gone to visit the VOC Kruithuis (Powder House) (1777) ( )

The V.O.C Kruithuis is unique in South Africa as it is the only remaining powder magazine in the country dating from the days of the Dutch East India Company (V.O.C) and it can almost be said to have become a symbol of this town's rich and varied architectural heritage.

Nopi has just visited The Burgerhuis (Burger house), one of a group of historical buildings that surround the village green, also know as the Braak.

Stellenbosch's village green was laid out as early as 1703 as a parade ground that today lies at the heart of the oak-lined streets, water canals and beautiful white-washed Cape Dutch style buildings that are the hallmark of this beautiful town.

The Burgerhuis is regarded as a typical dwelling of the more well-to-do citizen of the old Cape, and the museum captures the elegance of the 17th and 18th centuries most wonderfully.

The Burgerhuis is a fully restored 17th century home located in the heart of Stellenbosch.

building was designed with the characteristic Cape Dutch architecture found in many other historic buildings in the Western Cape.

The Burgerhuis was built in 1797 by a 3rd generation German immigrant named Antonie Fick.

The handsomely built yellowwood tables, chairs and cabinet work are fine examples of the type of furnishings found in the home of the wealthier citizens of the Cape.

The home is decorated with the finest Chinese porcelain dating from the Ch'ien Lung period.

Delft tobacco jars dating from the late 18th century hint of the elegant life-style enjoyed by the upper class.

The kitchen has also been fully restored with curious items and beautiful copper utensils, that would been used in the preparation of meals.

Stellenbosch is full of buildings of historical interest, particularly Dorp Street where one of the longest rows of old buildings survives, many of them run as little shops and restaurants.

Other places of interest are the Stellenryk Wijn Museum; the Oude Meester Brandy Museum in Old Strand Road, the Van Rhyn Brandy Cellar on the outskirts of town and even the University of Stellenbosch's campus, which has one of the most beautiful grounds that includes its Botanical

Wow, this is really a haven for those of us who have time to walk around and savour the atmosphere of this unique town with oak-lined streets and ater furrows.

Open-air restaurants and cosy coffee shops line the shady streets and secluded lanes, so we just sat there a while and observed the everyday activities of this bustling village.

Ok, enough history, art and culture for one day....I have a surprise in store for all of let's go....

Wow, just look at the ORIGINAL Cape Dutch Architecture (

Did you know that Stellenbosch is home to some of the finest examples in South Africa ( ??

Can anyone guess how we are going to end this tour??

Well, we are all going to soak like royalty in an outdoor Pinotage wine bath!!

Aaah, relaxing in this warm, anti-oxidant packed liquor, sipping estate wine and revelling in the beauty of's pure bliss , au naturel, of the highest order.

Baie dankie Stellenbosch!! Dit was baie lekker!