Day 1: After almost 24 hours of travel I finally arrived in Port Elizabeth having already made friends on board my flight from Jo'burg to PE. Dallas and John, a rather wonderful couple in their 70's, who I sat next to, invited me for tea and I got chatted up by a rather 'interesting' guy with a pony tail who's chat up line was, 'love your hair'... mmm... well it didn't do much for me either!
Tracy met me at the airport and whisked me off to look at the ocean and take in the sights. People surfing, sea the colour of greeny blue glass and palm trees. Then back to Tracy's place. She lives in a lovely little granny 'flat' in the garden of one of South Africa's rather famous ceramicists, Lynnley Watson, who was an absolute delight. A garden with jacaranda tree, pool and frogs and lizards to make it feel like I had arrived.
|The back garden at Tracy's house|
Day 2: On my journey over I had started reading Damon Galgut's A Strange Room, and I was rather taken with the following quote: 'There is a moment when any real journey begins. Sometimes it happens as you leave your house, sometimes it's a long way from home.' I felt my journey began on Day 2. Port Elizabeth was fascinating for me. Tracy took me out to The Red Location Museum, which was housed in an award winning building placed right in the middle of a township. It tells the story of the struggle with apartheid by the use of memory rooms amongst others things.
|Red Location Museum entrance statement|
The rest of the day was taken up with a bit of shopping, as I realised I'd left my swimsuit at home, and then the theatre in the evening. We went to a fab musical production of 'Fiela's Child', which justified the great write-ups it had.
|Tracy and me getting ready for zip wiring|
|Me zip wiring across the valley|
A quick stop off at Big Tree in Tsitsikamma National Park.
|Tracy at the base of Big Tree|
Then off to Storms River Mouth where we saw baboons and rock dassies, with a lovely walk to get to the suspension bridge that crosses at the mouth separating the river from the Indian Ocean.
|To the left of the bridge is Storms River and to the right is the Indian Ocean|
We ended up at Wild Spirit Backpackers, a highly recommended place to stay, up in Nature's Valley. Tracy had an 'amusing' conversation with a young Dutch guy all about psychology... I think she put him off for life!
Day 4: To the lagoon in Nature's Valley where I managed to burn my back sitting on the beach in the wind, sand and sun (in that order). We decided not to swim in the Ocean as there were loads of jelly fish. Tracy swam in the lagoon, but I wasn't warm enough so chickened out, and from there to a luxury hotel in Knysna, which Tracy's friend had set up for us. Sunny and warm, eating out on the sea front... oh yes!
|Night sky in Knysna Bay|
Day 5: Walking with Thandi the elephant at the Elephant Sanctuary, the tip of her warm trunk gently curled around my fingers. Gorgeous.
|Me and Thandi at the Elephant Sanctuary near Knysna|
and then to Tenikwa to be with leopard, cheetah, caracal and cervil.
|Me with young cheetah|
|The resident leopard at Tenikwa|
Day 6: Drive to Oudtshoorn, ostrich capital of South Africa. We didn't get to the Backpackers until after 4, by which time all the local attractions were closed, so we went out for something to eat and spent the night chatting about our childhoods.
Day 7: Another day in Oudtshoorn. Cango Caves. An unbelievable morning spent underground, followed by a trip to Karusa Vineyard for lunch.
|Me in Cango Caves|
|Tracy riding an ostrich|
|Me having a 'neck massage' from a group of ostriches|
|Cage diving with crocodile - Cango Wildlife Park|
|Main street Nieu Bethesda|
|A cold night in Nieu Bethesda|
Day 10: From the cold, damp, cloud of Day 9 we awoke to the brightest, sunniest, bluest skies. We went fossil hunting in the river bed
|Me fossil hunting|
and then took a wander around the Owl House Museum, the home of Helen Martins, one of SA's more eccentric artists. Walking around the garden with the almost life-sized concrete and glass sculptures that take up almost every available space
|Garden at Owl House Museum|
and the house with it's garish coloured glass windows that stream light in to make each room stand out on it's own was fascinating.
|The 'red' room in Helen Martins' house|
|The 'green' room in Helen Martins' house|
From Nieu Bethesda we headed to Camdeboo National Park where we took in the delights of fab scenery, especially The Valley of Desolation.
|The Valley of Desolation|
|Tortoise wandering up the road in Camdeboo National Park|
Day 11: After Tracy had done her bit for Isithatha we headed off to Addo Elephant National Park, which is about an hour from Port Elizabeth. Once we'd organised our accommodation we arrived at Addo to be greeted by the sight of a couple of herds of elephants down at the waterhole.
|Elephants at waterhole in Addo|
The park itself is huge. We drove around for 5 hours spotting all sorts. Kudu, gemsbok, warthog, dung beetles, birds of varying sorts, and elephants by what seemed the hundred, but no lions sadly.
We decided on doing a night game drive and at 7p.m. we found ourselves in an overland vehicle along with a load of other tourists and a very knowledgeable guide.
|Getting ready for the night game drive|
|Showing just how close up we got and how big the elephants were at Addo|
Day 13: To Kragga Kamma Wildlife Park. Rhino, springbok, waterbuck, nyala, bontebok, warthog, ostrich, cheetah and a special treat of being up close to a family of giraffe.
|Giraffe and zebra at Kragga Kamma Wildlife Park|
|Me and Nelson Mandela at the PE lighthouse|
Day 14: The last full day, and 'full' it certainly was. A two hour horseback ride with the highlight of a canter along Sardinia Bay in glorious sunshine took up our morning.
|Riding along Sardinia Bay (me in turquoise top)|
Day 15: Tracy took me to the Association of Creative Thought Centre to meet her lovely friend Helen, and then back to Tracy's for a private view of Lynnley Watson's work which was brilliant, followed by an hour's sit in the sun in the back garden before finally packing my shorts in my suitcase and heading off to the airport for the 24 hour journey home.
|Lynnley Watson, Honey and Tracy outside Tracy's home|
Suitcase saga: My suitcase decided to have an extra holiday and stayed in Charles De Gaulle airport, along with the other passengers cases that were on the Jo'burg to Paris to Edinburgh flight. It finally arrived at home 32 hours later with the number lock on the handle changed.... mmmm something was amiss that's for sure, but I was thankful for a case with double locks. However, trying to get into it without breaking the lock took a while. Thank goodness for the internet, where it described how to find numbers on a combination lock on a suitcase. Mountain Man managed to get it open unscathed and therefore he got his present from SA, which was buried among what seemed like a mountain of clothes, none of which had been worn. Yes... I took far too many clothes, which is unusual for me as I'm a light packer. I ended up wearing shorts, jeans, slightly smarter trousers, 3 tops, swimsuit, crocs, walking boots and my Converse boots and that was pretty much it. I had taken enough to change my T-shirt at least once a day, a couple of extra tops, another pair of trousers and some sandals but they were all absolutely unnecessary. Lesson learned if I am ever lucky enough to get back to South Africa.
Final thoughts: What a wonderful holiday! I had already made a decision before I left that I wasn't going to get caught up with anything that remotely smacked of work. I only emailed and Skyped MM and apart from that didn't bother with internet. No TV, no radio, no distractions from relaxation and great company. It made me rethink what I'm doing, and all I can say is that I want more holidays! And so folks I've decided that 2012 is going to be time to change. With a month to go until the turn of the year I've already set things in motion. My first was to cancel my membership of the British Psychological Society and Division of Clinical Psychology. We'll have to see what's next, but the first step sure felt good.
Oh yes... and going horse riding on the last day of a holiday if you haven't ridden for a while is not a great idea, unless you want to walk through the airport like John Wayne!
And that, as they say, is that.
p.s. The photos are some of mine and some of Tracy's. I hope they've given a flavour of what the holiday was like, but if anyone is brave enough and wants to see I can forward the rest of the 424 pics I took and the 2153 of Tracy's. Yes that's right, I said 2153!