Sign Language: Back Home


I’ve chosen to do my last post on South Africa under the”Sign Language” banner because money exchange and wiring signs were everywhere in Cape Town, yet often they were the only real reminder that we had that we were truly in Africa. Cheap calling rates to Angola, bargains in West African francs and cheap tickets to Nouakchott. I barely knew half of the places and names advertised. I was warned by many before we visited that Cape Town wasn’t really “Africa” and–although I didn’t get the opportunity to see the contrast–what I saw was enough to still understand why.

Our time there was such a mixture of different emotions. You’d have to make the journey from one of the world’s poorest countries, to one of the world’s richer cities to understand the culture shock we found ourselves in. It took 24 hours just to feel normal again around traffic lights and sidewalks. I spent the next few days figuring out where I thought I was on the scale of all thing previously experienced: a little bit of England, a little bit of Australia, and a little bit of something else entirely. And, yes, judging by the staff who served me in the restaurants – a little bit of Africa. That was the oddest part. The separation of black and white is still very much in existence, but from the little slice of middle-class black South Africans that I saw, perhaps this is slowly changing.

Two weeks is not enough to see the country. I wish we had two months so see and explore the country more….and maybe we will some day.  But, as it stood, it was the perfect break from the chaos of Kathmandu.  ‘Til next time…

South Africa: Hout Bay

Relatively speaking, Cape Town was pretty busy over the Christmas/New Year period. It never felt congested like it does in Kathmandu so much of the time, but getting a dinner table at a nice waterside restaurant got very competitive, very quickly. Cammps Bay is a popular destination for dinner and you need to score a seat early for an evening “sundowner” but, on the evening of our wedding anniversary, the weather turned stormy and the restaurant seats filled even earlier. There was nowhere left to sit, so we decided to skip the pre-dinner drink and drive further down around the coast to Hout Bay and have dinner at a large old-fashioned seafood restaurant we’d discovered earlier in the week.

Once they learnt it was our wedding anniversary we got a great seat next to the window overlooking the beach and bay. The wind whipped, the small window panes rattled and the sky threatened rain. I felt like we were back in Devon or Cornwall in the winter watching the weather come in. We saw dog walkers on the beach and watched kids playing in the freezing cold ocean, tossing huge clumps of seaweed at one another, and it slowly grew dark. I ate so much fabulous lobster I could barely move.

Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

The stormy sky is the only clue to the bad weather. The wind blew hard, rattling the glass in the restaurant window. I felt like I was on the coast in England.


Kung foo kicks and seaweed throwing in the freezing water!


Full of wine and lobster!

Lastly, a few photos of Hout Bay in the day time:

Hout Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

It was an unassuming kind of place with warehouses to store freshly caught fish and kiosks selling fish and chips at local prices.


seals, hout bay, cape town, south africa

Hout Bay seals!…who swam over from seal island for a photo and a snack from the handful of tourists

Hout Bay, Feeding a seagull, cape town, south africa

I liked watching people interact with the seals and seagulls. This guy was clearly a regular.

South Africa: Penguins!

I don’t know why I’ve struggled to get the South African stories down from our trip at Christmas. Lots of competition, I guess…. But here’s a little photo tale of our visit to the penguin colony near Simon’s Town, about an hour or so south of Cape Town. Its become a significant tourist attraction about half way down the drive to Cape Point, but its very well done with the penguins’ well-being in mind, and its doing its part to monitor the African Penguin population.

African Penguins have recently been reclassified from “vulnerable” to “endangered” and the numbers have continued to steadily decrease despite the establishment of the Boulders Penguin Colony in 1983. This is due in part to the usual depressing list of environmental challenges that all marine life faces today, but at least the colony is providing an income towards their conservation, as well as an opportunity for environmentalists to monitor their progress.  It was my first time seeing penguins in the wild:


That’s not snow or ice. I’m pretty sure its penguin poop!

Beach walkway at Boulders Penguin Colony

The walkway allows visitors to get up close and personal with the penguins without any physical contact. They seemed pretty used to humans and just ignored us!

Penguins, Cape Town, South Africa

Yes…I still felt like I was watching a cocktail party…

Moulting penguins, Boulders penguin colony

…a cocktail party where some guests were much better dressed than others!

Moulting penguin

I think this poor little guy was about to be shown the door.

nesting penguins

They are noisy critters too. Someone should explain to me why they do that while they’re nesting

African penguin

There were little fibre glass shelters dotted around on the scrub land near the beach. This guy looks like he doesn’t want visitors!


Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh

For me “fresh” doesn’t really mean signs of Spring like melting snow or fresh flowers.  In pollution-choked Kathmandu, fresh is the quality of the air, and visiting a place where the plants are green and not coated in dust.  The good news is that an hour drive out of the city takes you out of the valley’s smoggy haze and into a cleaner, fresher environment.  And although I was tempted to do a Nepali interpretation of “fresh” with wonderful mountain views, my mind kept going to South Africa where we visited this Christmas.  Oh, the fresh air, bracing winds, sparkling, sunny, blue skies, and freezing cold waters that clear out your lungs and take your breath away!  Now that’s fresh!… Here’s a late afternoon walk we took along Cape Town’s, Cammp’s Bay in December:

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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.


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…