South Africa: Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens



We were lucky to visit Kirstenbosch when we did. Over the Christmas season the gardens were relatively quiet before Christmas Day and we spent several hours wandering around the gardens. It is one of the most acclaimed Botanical Gardens in the world, set at the foot of table mountain. It was an unusual mixture of groomed and landscaped, mixed in with mountain trails that lead up on to Table Mountain itself. We hardly saw a quarter of it, but loved what we saw and really wanted to return for a picnic later in our stay.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t to be as the holiday crowds descended, making parking impossible by 9.30am.   But fantastic place to visit.  I don’t have much to say.  The pictures speak for themselves.

Kirstenbosch botanical gardens

Groomed meets wild. Table mountain makes a dramatic background to the beautifully groomed gardens.



Tree canopy walk, kirstenbosch botanical gardens

From the tree canopy walk. You can just stand there and take in the view. Beautiful



The Protea is the national flower of South Africa and looks like a colourful artichoke. The Protea gardens were only in partial bloom and although this doesn’t look like a typical Protea, I believe its from the Protea family.


Kirstenbosch botanical gardens

There were so many plants I didn’t recognise. I thought this one was striking.


Kirstenbosch National Park

Coming from the chaos of Kathmandu, the calmness of the park was overwhelming.


30 Seconds: Bead Market

The Bead Market is in the central area of Kathmandu and kind of tough to visit as the traffic can be really bad in that area of town. But its worth seeing the riot of colour and to watch the necklaces be made or altered right there in front of you. Lots and lots of choices, especially if you like green, red and gold! Looks Christmas-y to me, but the colours are a symbol of martial status here in Nepal. Enjoy!

Christmas in South Africa: Blue Seas and Blue Skies


I can’t believe its almost March. Firstly because time has flown by so quickly, but also that I haven’t yet time to think about blogging on the subject of two wonderful weeks in South Africa over the Christmas period.  A further six months had passed since we were in Greece and out of the Kathmandu smog, and we were very ready for another fresh air break.  Cape Town had an abundance of fresh air, blue skies and blue seas and we loved it.

Friends kindly lent us their apartment with fantastic views out to the city and the sea.  Nepal has amazing vistas but views of the mountains from Kathmandu are rare and most mornings we are greeted with haze, smog or fog…sometimes, I think, all three.  Here the sea met the sky, the wind blew blustery fresh air and rang in our ears, but there was no cacophony of horns ruining the peace of the balcony….just lots of fresh air and that incredible view.  I so hope that once we get to Jamaica this summer that we will finally be able to live in a home where you can open the windows and enjoy sitting outside again.  Manila and Kathmandu have been impossible like that.  I am really ready for a change.

Here a few wonderful impressions of Cape Town’s outside living that I took away with me:


Ships that pass in the night, we didn’t see…but we did see plenty during the day.  It was intriguing to imagine them scooting around the base of the African continent traveling from one side of the world to the other.  And straight out in front of us….next stop Antarctica.


The beaches were beautiful and the seas choppy and freezing.  Even in the summer, it was far too cold to just paddle, at least for me…


…although there were souls much braver around.  You can’t tell from the photo but the water practically has ice cubes floating in it!!


The famous Table Mountain displaying why it got its name.  And also showing us the “table cloth” a rare patch of cloudy sky that likes to hang out on the mountain top and descend quickly and unexpectedly on the unprepared.  We never made it up there because of the weather.  Too bad.


Seas like this reminded me for notoriaty of the Cape of Good Hope…these are crashing waves at Hermanus Beach, an area famous for whale sightings.



Finally, beautiful Cammps Bay in Cape Town.  Teeming with restaurants, beach bars, beach activities and crowds.  What it lacked in water sports, it made up for with everything else!

More South Africa to follow…

Integrity Idol

integrity idol nepal (2) (1)

Things are pretty different here in Nepal, as anyone regularly reading this blog or living here will know already. So many concepts are new, and so many things we take for granted in the West don’t exist, or exist in a new or developing form: TV, Nepali cinema, even the internet is only available to about 17% of the country. So, unless Nepalis have seen reality TV on Indian television, many may not be aware of the “Idol” phenomenon or even the reality show genre that has taken over television in many other places worldwide.

There’s no glitzy “next big star” contest here, but a new type of  idol show has taken off in Nepal, which has caught the attention of the international press…in a good way.  (This is welcome news, especially lately, when the only international coverage for Nepal has been deadly avalanches, festivals with barbaric animal sacrifices, and embarrassing chair-throwing tantrums in the Nepali Constitutional Assembly.)  This is a simple, reality TV-style competition where viewers vote for a winner that demonstrates outstanding integrity in his/her civic job.  Its been enormously successful with Nepali audiences, who are clearly eager to see positive examples of how local government can be done right in a country that’s crippled by corruption.  Integrity Idol does sound a little absurd–like something from a Monty Python skit, perhaps–but if you’ve seen the effects of corruption or misgovernment first-hand in a place that has little in the way of positive civic role models, its easy to see why its had such an impact. No-one explained to me what the winner received.  I trust it wasn’t a cash prize.

30 Seconds: Boudha Stupa

I’m breaking over a month’s blogging silence with a new feature that I hope will help me share some of the sights and impression of Nepal so much better and improve my video skills as well: a short 30-second film on a topic. I’m hoping to do this regularly, at least twice a month. Here we go…starting with the fascinating Boudhnath Stupa in Kathmandu. Enjoy! (and feedback welcome!)