Durban, Cape Town, milestones and coming full-circle

A quick interruption of my Stories & Resources series to fill you guys in on what’s happening…

Warning:  Long post.  Lots of photos (’cause there’s so much to catch up on!!)…

The past couple of weeks have been cray-ZEE!!

The crowdfunding campaign… and the fundraising efforts (for my book) devoured significant amounts of time and effort… (and was an especially emotionally draining experience for an introvert… who hates asking for things).

At the very last minute (in true Hat-style)… we decided to pull together a teeny little story-telling evening & show… as our last ditched attempt to raise the needed funds.  I LOVE doing this kind of thing… BUT… (note-to-self)… I get super-stressed if I try to pull everything together on tight-deadlines.  (Even with the help of super-woman-Tracy).  So… we did it… and it was fun… but I was kinda worn-out afterwards.  Here’s pics:

Rehearsing with my 3 fabulous vocalists:  Megan, Christie & Candace... lovely peeps!

Rehearsing with my 3 fabulous vocalists: Megan, Christie & Candace… lovely peeps!

The Storytelling Chair - all ready for the evening's happenings...

The Storytelling Chair – all ready for the evening’s happenings…

And... on the night....  (if I had been more PREPARED and given myself more TIME - we would have included more music!  3 songs weren't enough)...

And… on the night…. (if I had been more PREPARED and given myself more TIME – we would have included more music! 3 songs weren’t enough)…

After that… (and all kinds of other last-minute faffing)… we drove down to Durban for DIFF (Durban International Film Festival).  For those who are newish to this blog – my husband is a filmmaker (mostly editor these days – but he’s also a cinematographer)… and he had two films premiering at DIFF.

We decided to make a family road-trip out of the occasion and took a slow drive to Durbs via the Natal Midlands.  Here’s some pics:

Midlands was cold... and beautiful.  All farmlands, winding roads, farm stalls, lakes, streams... and mist.

Midlands was cold… and beautiful. All farmlands, winding roads, farm stalls, lakes, streams… and mist.

We stayed in this little cottage.

We stayed in this little cottage.

At night, we'd light a fire... drink hot chocolate... and play games or watch movies.

At night, we’d light a fire… drink hot chocolate… and play games or watch movies.

The kids exploring some of the misty forests...

The kids exploring some of the misty forests…

There's a lovely place called Piggly Wiggly... fantastic food by roaring fires... and all kinds of tasteful little craft shops and what-not...

There’s a lovely place called Piggly Wiggly… fantastic food by roaring fires… and all kinds of tasteful little craft shops and what-not… (and good cappuccino!)

We revisited the awe-inspiring sculpture at the Nelson Mandela capture site (always a great history-lesson opportunity)...

We revisited the awe-inspiring sculpture at the Nelson Mandela capture site (always a great history-lesson opportunity)…

Anyhoo…

So – we spent 4 days roaming the Midlands – and I had all these well-intentioned plans to find a quiet little spot and work on my book… (I had lugged ALL my art supplies with me, after all)… but it just never happened.

So I thought:  “Never mind, I’ll get some work done while we’re in Durban”.

But, of course, in Durban…. there were film-festival premieres… visits and dinners with Durban-based family… catch-up chats with film-industry friends… and, of course, giving the kids the whole Durban-Experience (beach, sea, uShaka water park, aquarium, Minitown, People’s Park Playground, etc…)

Happy kidlets on Durban beach...

Happy kidlets on Durban beach…

My kids and the big snake at uShaka Marine World...

My kids and the big snake at uShaka Marine World…

And… so…

Inevitably…

My productivity-levels (despite all my plans and intentions) were… well… embarrassingly low.

I managed one full morning of work (while Nick took the kids to the beach).  I set up all my art stuff in a lovely courtyard at our hotel… (surrounded by bonsai trees and birds with a little fountain trickling nearby… blisssss….) and I drew for a solid 4 hours.

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Later that afternoon, I managed to get in another 2 hours of poetry-writing in our hotel room while Morgan napped on the bed… (and Nick and Joah played games in the kids’ room).

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Back home in Jozi a week later… it was full-steam ahead to prepare for a big Mad Hatter’s Tea-Party charity event at a private school (where I had been invited as a guest speaker).  Again… in true last-minute-11th-hour-style… it dawned on me… just 2 days before the event that Tracy and I had nothing to *give* people.  No connection point… no information… no books to sell… no give-aways… no business cards… no flyers… nothing.

So I spent a full day… fiddling on an illustrated masterpiece fold-out thingy… all hand-drawn… with intricate, fiddly little drawings and poems…

… only to discover that it would have been hideously expensive to print (and we had no time to print it either)…

So – Tracy and I ended up printing 350 really boring flyers from our deskjets… folding them… and sticking heart stickers on them… (lame-o!).

The event itself was fun, though… 350 women-in-mad-hats… about 35 beautifully decorated Hat-themed tables… and lots of money raised for the school charity.  (I was soooo impressed by the effort these ladies went to!)  Here’s a pic:

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And after the Mad-Hat event… (no rest for the wicked, huh?)… we were packing up and preparing for 5 weeks in Cape Town… which is where we are, right now.

We made a road-trip out of this journey too… and travelled via the West Coast to see the Namaqualand Spring flowers.  The West Coast route is definitely the road-less-travelled when it comes to getting from Johannesburg to Cape Town.  And, I must say – we’ve all fallen in love with the route.

There are all kinds of really strange little small towns on the way.  With odd padstals (road-stores or, rather, farmstalls)… usually selling yummy things… and really random, rusty displays of odd’ness.  Here’s pics:

This farm-stall lives in a converted old church.  We drank moer koffie and quaffed nat biskuit... and VERY divine vetkoek (traditional Afrikaans food for the international readers of this blog).

This farm-stall lives in a converted old church. We drank moer koffie and quaffed nat biskuit… and VERY divine vetkoek (traditional Afrikaans food for the international readers of this blog).

The "display" in front of the padstal... I wonder - did that old car crash into the wall many years ago and was never removed?  Or was it placed there deliberately - to make a special art installation??

The “display” in front of the padstal… I wonder – did that old car crash into the wall many years ago and was never removed? Or was it placed there deliberately – to make a special art installation??

Moer koffie... (I am struggling to find an appropriate English word that directly translates the word "moer")... (koffie - is - of course - coffee)...  and nat biskuit (the direct translation would sorta be *wet biscuits*... but it's actually a freshly baked, unhardened traditional sweet rusk).  Very yum.

Moer koffie… (I am struggling to find an appropriate English word that directly translates the word “moer”)… (koffie – is – of course – coffee)… and nat biskuit (the direct translation would sorta be *wet biscuits*… but it’s actually a freshly baked, unhardened traditional sweet rusk). Very yum.

This is where we had breakfast on Day Two.  This place was a sight to behold.  They even had rusted old bedpans dangling from the ceiling.

This is where we had breakfast on Day Two. This place was a sight to behold. They even had rusted old bedpans dangling from the broekie-lace.

Lots and LOTS of rusted plates nailed to the wall of this farmstall....

Lots and LOTS of rusted plates nailed to the wall of this farmstall….

We stayed in two randomly-chosen BnB’s on the way.

The first was a place with a lovely view… BUT… (and we only found out later)… our allocated room was full of dead animals.  Clearly the owner is a hunting fanatic.  Various antelope skins draped all over the room (we counted 8 dead animals)… including skinned scatter cushions… and the piece-d-resistance… a stuffed Gemsbok head mounted on the wall.  We called him Horace-the-Head and his beady eyes seemed to ominously follow our movements around the room.  Morgan eventually shifted her sleeping position so she faced the opposite side of the room… so unnerved was she by Horace.

But… like I say… they did have a beautiful view (and one of those rim-pools… which was too cold to swim in):

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The following day – we drove through some of the most fascinating and diverse landscape that I’ve ever clapped eyes on.  Desert… fynbos… salt-pans… big, black boulders stacked in clumps (resembling the poo of a 4-storey sheep)…

Our good friend and road-trip-buddy, Brett (who is also the author of Rachel Weeping and the director of the film, Sink that Nick is currently working on) kept us all entertained with rude stories… and fattened-up with ginger biscuits from the tannie at one of the padstals.

We also occasionally stopped our cars to photograph Brett doing random things like roam the desert wearing his favourite Masai scarf.  Like this:

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Funs.

Anyhoo… so after all that dry, desert-ish landscape… we reached a mountain pass that zigzagged down into a beautiful valley….

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And from then on… it was just spring-flowers and all kinds of Namaqualand / West Coast awesomeness…

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By the time we reached the coastal towns – it was getting dark and we tried to find a place to stay.  Only to discover… *sigh*… we had made the mistake of road-tripping to Cape Town on a long-*@$!-weekend… which meant that ALL the accommodation at ALL the beautiful West-Coast towns were fully-booked with Cape Town families enjoying their mini-breaks!

Eventually… at around 9pm… we checked into the ONLY place we could find:  a tiny hotel in Velddrif… tucked between the butchery and the fish factory.  I can not begin to adequately describe the pungent fumes that assaulted my nostrils that evening.  I retched in the car while Nick checked us in.  I retched some more while unpacking… and finally – we were in the room… and we could close all the doors and windows and breathe in the air-conditioner instead.

At least the beds were comfy.

Although nobody could poo in private because the bathroom didn’t have a door.


But now, we’re in Cape Town.  Noordhoek, to be exact.  We’ll be here for a month.  Maybe a bit longer.

We’re in a lovely 2-bedroom apartment just a few steps from the beach.   Here’s our view:

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I’d like to carry on with this post and tell you more about Cape Town… why we’re here… WHY this is a huge milestone moment for me… WHY this is one of those full-circle life-experience thingies… exactly where I’m at with the book…

But – this super-long-winded blog post has gotten a bit out of hand….  (sorry!)…I’ll fill you in about all that in a separate post…  X


PS:  For anyone wanting newsletter updates (although I make a bit of mouth-vomit when I use the term “newsletter” because it sounds so dull and corporate-like) on Hat-Happenings… or the process of my illustrated-book and what-not… just click here!

Fun in the sea… and the snow!

In my last post, I wrote about our Family History Tour – and what I did for 10 days with my mom and my kids (whilst my husband was on a shoot in Europe).  This post is just a fun, photo-filled post to share a bit about the stuff I did with the kids while on our Family History Tour.  Sure, we did lots of driving around to churches, old homes, cemeteries and such… but I also made sure the kids had a load of fun too!

Here’s a few pics of what we were up to a week ago (and also why I was a bit silent on this blog for a while)…

Above:  We visited the beach.  Can’t go to Durban and not visit the beach!  My Aunt Meryl and her hubby, Les (on the right) live on the Bluff, 2 minutes away from the beach… so we took the kids for a swim…

Above:  It was a windy day, and slightly chilly – so the kids had these lovely big pools – all to themselves.

Above:  This tidal pool has been there for years.  My mom and her siblings used to swim in it when they were kids.

Above:  We took the kids to Wilsons Wharf at Durban Harbour, the old dockyard where my dad used to build boats many years ago – before he married my mother.  These days, the old boatyard has been converted into shops and restaurants – where we had dinner (overlooking the lights of the harbour).

Above:  We celebrated Mom’s birthday too!  Her birthday is on the 2nd August… her sister, Aunty Meryl, was born two years later on the 3rd August.  This year was the first time (in many, many years) since the two sisters have celebrated their birthdays together.  Nice!

Above:  We had cappuccino and fresh scones at a lovely park (think it’s called Mitchell Park?).  It’s been there for many years – it has gorgeous gardens, huge trees, a lovely tea garden and lots of fun stuff for the kids to do… here’s some more photos of the same spot…

Then we took them to uShaka Marine World to visit the Dangerous Creatures.  We all loved it!

… followed by a visit to uShaka Kids World…. which provided many hours of fun (and lots of photo opportunities)…

Above:  And, in the evening, they did this!  Aunty Meryl and her husband, Les, have a big jacuzzi.  They filled it with bubble bath – and let the kids go wild… (which they did).

Above:  Years ago… when I was about 7 or 8, my parents took us to Durban’s Minitown.  There are 3 things I remember about Minitown.  I remember what a hot day it was, and how my bare feet were burning on the tar walkways.  I remember that my cousin, Clare, was also there (and obviously, my sister Soo).  And I remember how I LOVED Minitown – and especially the moving trains, ships, bridges and planes.

So, given that we were on a Family History Tour, it was a really nostalgic moment for me to return to Minitown (after 30 years) and to share the experience with Morgan and Joah.

Here’s a few more pics…

Then it was time to go on a rickshaw.  I have visited Durban many, many times… but this was also a first for me!  The kids, of course, loved it!

…Followed by ice-cream and more beach time….

And… then to the Aquarium at uShaka!  We’ve been 3 times, and we’ve not been disappointed yet…

Above:  Mom getting friendly with an octopus.

Above:  Joah was enthralled.

AND FINALLY…. AN UNEXPECTED ADVENTURE!

Finally, it was time for us to leave Durban and head back to Johannesburg.  Our plan was to take a slow drive north, heading home to Joburg – but stopping off at Underberg, Ladysmith and Estcourt along the way.  All 3 places have very significant memories for Mom and she wanted to show us her old schools, homes and towns.

But a day before we were due to leave, the weather suddenly turned bad and the whole country experienced a very intense cold front that even brought snow to Johannesburg!  In Durban, where we were, it suddenly turned cold and very… very rainy.

On the day we were due to leave, it was raining heavily.  The weather channel cautioned people to stay inside and avoid the roads if possible.  The N3 highway (the main road from Johannesburg to Durban) had even been shut down due to extreme and dangerous weather conditions.

Mom suggested that we wait out the bad weather at Meryl’s house and maybe head back to Joburg when things had calmed down a bit.

I, however, was having none of it.

“I lived in Northern Ohio for a year – where they had very extreme weather and their winters consist entirely of snow – and life goes on!”, I said.  “South Africans get just a bit of snow… and they freak out to the degree that they don’t even leave their homes!  Let’s go on a road adventure – and hopefully we WILL get to see the snow… Morgan and Joah will love it!”.

Mom decided to go with my plans – so we loaded up the kids, said our good-bye’s to our family and hit the road.

Our first destination was Underberg – which lies in the Southern Drakensberg.  Mom wanted to show me her old boarding school where she spent many happy years.

I will let the photos tell the rest of the story….

Above:  It was interesting driving towards the Drakensberg Mountains from Durban.  First there was the rain…  then the rain slowed down and eventually stopped… and eventually, as we headed towards Underberg and into the mountains, we started seeing light snowfall on the ground… which grew thicker and thicker as we drove deeper and deeper into the mountains.  By this stage I was thinking:  “No worries – our car can handle this.  If the roads remain kinda slushy like this, we’ll be fine!”

Above:  Eventually, we reached this traffic jam.  We couldn’t see ahead – or tell what, or who, was holding everyone up.  We decided to wait our turn… and while we were waiting, we let two (very excited) kids out of the car to experience ‘real’ snow… for the very first time.

Above:  Morgan in the snow.  Yes – she’s wearing slippers!  We had packed for Durban… and the beach!  We weren’t expecting The Great Freeze… and certainly not snow!  I also had my slippers on (it was either that – or I’d be wearing my slip-slops).

Above:  Mom and the kids step out into the snow…

Above:  Then, the traffic started moving again – so I hustled Mom and the kids back into the car, and we started inching forward.  At this point, I need to point out that our car is a Renault Modus… it’s small, it’s low, it’s light on fuel.  It’s a city car – and certainly not built for any adventurous territory.  I wrote a bit more here about a previous failed attempt to get the Modus to go anywhere remotely exciting.

Needless to say…  the deeper the snow got, the more the Modus struggled.  The wheels started spinning… and then, shortly afterwards, we were completely stuck.  We weren’t going forward – or backwards.  Nothing.

I thought it was funny… I really did!  I mean – the whole scene was funny:  Eye-rolling Grandmother and gleeful grandkids in small city car… stuck in deep snow (in a country where it doesn’t typically snow)… whilst giggling mother (that’s me) – in SLIPPERS – gets out of car into calf-deep snow and attempts to push car out of icy rut.  I slipped… I fell… I slipped again… I laughed… my feet froze… it was FUNNY!

“Oh well!”, I said to Mom who was looking less happy and decidedly more flustered than I, “At least we’re getting a nice little adventure today!!!”

“Yes, aren’t you just”, said Mom… with a wee bit of bite in her voice.

Thankfully, there were some nice, kind strangers on hand who eventually… with the help of a big 4 X 4… and only after snapping one tow rope… eventually pulled us out.

Above:  Soon, we were on our way again…

Above:  And by the evening, we were defrosting by the fireside at Sani Pass Hotel.

Speaking of the Sani Pass Hotel, it was another nostalgic moment for me.  My parents took my sister and I to the same hotel when we were kids – and I have some really fond memories.  It was another nostalgic, and special experience, to return 30 years later with my own children, and to share the moment with them.

Above:  Nice… comfortable (and warm!) rooms at the Sani Pass Hotel.  We ordered room service and watched the Olympics (women’s 10m diving) on the TV.

The following morning, the kids explored the hotel grounds – and I went on a serious trip down memory lane.

Above:  I have an old photograph of my father standing on this bridge, with my sister and I…

Above:  There wasn’t much snow in the valley where Sani Pass Hotel is located (I think it was slightly sheltered)… but, we left in the morning – heading for Estcourt… and on the way, we stopped at a lovely snow-filled meadow.  By day two, the freezing wind was gone, the sun was out, and it was the perfect weather for the kids to just go wild and enjoy the snow… which they did!

And so did I!

I still think it’s funny that the kids were swimming in the sea and playing on the beach… and two days later, they were frolicking in the snow!  All in all – a lovely mini-trip… and more special memories and moments created.