Friday, 30 March 2012

happy travels

Three days after my last blog post we did leave for our cross country road trip to Mozambique. And contrary to lurking fears that I may have been coercing my husband into doing something that had the potential to be a disastrous waste of time, we had an amazing time and the girls blew me away with their cool adaptation to African travel!
I was determined not to overdo the packing, so we left the farm with the bare essentials: a few surf boards, a tent, sleeping bags, a braai grid and a cooler box. For the girls entertainment I took some books, crayons and a small box of farm animals. And not once did they want for anything else.
They took to the road like seasoned travelers, never whining about the time, ever enthusiastic about the passing scenery and perfectly happy to skip regular meals. One day we pushed it for 11 hours without one disgruntled squeak – they were champs.
It took us a total of 24 hours to reach Ponta de Ouro on the Kosi Bay border of SA and Mozambique. We crossed the border after three days and thank goodness for the 4x4 option on our car as the roads are nothing but pure, thick sand.  
The road from the border 
Finally at our destination and my heart sank when I saw the exposed, unkempt campsite we had planned to stay in. Most African countries, and Mozambique is no exception, lack in the public service department. Of course I should have known better than to expect more. The campsite was not a little piece of paradise overlooking the point break. Instead it was an overgrown, littered piece of ground with moderately usable ablutions. Charles wanted to be close to the waves and I wanted my paradise expectations met. So I turned on the taps - a little emotional manipulation can get you quite far in a foreign country. He agreed to take a look at Ponta Malangane a little further down the coast which a friend had told us about. Here we found the “paradise” campsite under trees, with monkeys, butterflies, squirrels, and mosquitoes ofcourse. We were all relieved.
Holidays can be hard work and I definitely had a few monents of pulling out the emotional reserves to keep it going on the right track. You have to work hard at enjoying yourself and squashing disappointments when the going gets tough and you haven’t eaten a decent meal or showered in days. Remarkably I found my attitude improved vastly once we had lit the braai and were having our first cold Mozambican beer
The compromise to not being surrounded by litter was the non-stop flow of fishing boats and trailers. But in all fairness the fishermen were very friendly and I think our simple campsite with two small children was quite an enigma to them, who camp with every available apparatus to ease the hardship of outdoor living. One guy even had a machine to electrocute mosquitoes and anything else that came its way!
In a very short time we were fully into the slow mode of Mozambican life. My hair was constantly salty and my feet never clean – it was perfect and I felt almost like I was in my pre-motherhood days of freedom again. The girls were happy, wild and free. They ran around almost bare, swam for hours on end in the warm, warm water and to our delight, learnt to surf. And Charles got to see his girls all day everyday and it was invaluable. 

Anna: up and riding

 Charlotte: up and riding. Dad: proud.

The waves were a little scarce for us. Although we did have one day of really good swell with beautiful, blue, warm perfect, nice sized waves, but it was fleeting. I didn’t mind much as it gave me more reading time while the girls swam. Charles got slightly restless.
The good looking Mozambicans are friendly but wary - which is no wonder after enduring nearly 20 years of war which only came to an official end in 1994. Their lives are hard and it is, like in all of Africa, a daily battle to make money and survive. The cost of living is high in Ponta, probably due to a combination of capitalising on the tourists and the difficulty to get supplies to the area. I was slightly disappointed by the lack of local eateries – homemade African food is my absolute favorite – and the exorbitant amount of bars and alcohol that is available. You could go hungry in Ponta but if it’s a shooter you’re after, never fear as there is a bar in every second shack!
One day Charlotte asked me what the word “bar” and “ice” said, because she kept seeing these words everywhere. I told her and after thinking about this for awhile she said to me: “So Mom, you get a lot of sheep and ice here, hey?” 

 Our first ever fizzy drink - with ice!

The week flew by and soon we were on the road again. We decided to head for the Transkei on the way home. This time we really did find PARADISE - vast, green plains and multiple waterfalls that tumble into the ocean. It is so beautiful and untouched that I won’t mention it by name on the World Wide Web. Sadly we could only spend one night there as the few bungaloes available were booked up. So we headed for The Kraal near Port St John’s, a simple backpackers built in African style with cow dung floors, set atop the green Transkei hills. As soon as we arrived Charles dropped his last remaining work stresses and I saw the relaxed man I had once known emerge.   

We surfed, snorkeled and ate seafood until we were tired of it.

 Then a storm hit and at two ‘o clock one morning we had to evacuate our flooded tent by bundling the girls up and running through torrents of rain to shelter. The next morning it was still pouring with rain and everything was soaked. It was my 35th birthday. We took this as our cue to leave and finally get home.
Returning home was refreshing. Everything was green, the animals are fat and happy and we have a new addition, to the girl’s delight, of eight baby chicks.
Now that we are back into our busy, scheduled lives, I can still feel the strengths of the bonds that the four of us made while we were away. It was a learning and growing curve for all of us. But most importantly, I’ve realised that the twins are really “cool chicks” and the best travel buddies I’ve had.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

holiday hopes

Before I had children I did a lot of travelling. Working in the film business was great in that way because we would often do "away" shoots, sometimes to really cool places like Moremi in Botswana or the Seychelles. And inbetween filming seasons I would head off to whichever destination tickled my fancy. I had cash and no responsibilities.
But since the girls were born I've had to satiate my wanderlust with the Travel Channel - which actually just depresses me to no end. I console myself with the fact that this is a temporary state of affairs and before we know it the girls will have upped and left for the world, leaving us with no choice but to don our backpacks and head off into the foreign yonder. Or more accurately I will don my backpack, alone, and head off, leaving Charles to his utopia of perfect waves. "We don't need to go anywhere," he says regularly, "We live in paradise. There is no other place in the world with waves like Look Out point." And this from a man who has searched the globe for the perfect wave - perhaps he knows what he is talking about. He can have Look Out point until he is old and completely bald, but I'm not done - there is way too much for me still to see, and it doesn't have to be on the coast!
Last winter I got a serious bout of ants in my pants and decided that the time had come for us to hand over the children to the grannies and take ourselves off for a "well deserved, big trip." Madagascar was our port of call. I spent hours planning and pricing. I even had two travel agents working around the clock to work out the best deal for us. This was it, we were going! Afterall we had barely had any time for fun and travel between reviving our relationship and producing our offspring and hadn't even had a proper honeymoon. The time was perfect, I believed.
But alas, after all my dreaming, planning and organising, boring old Mr Reality stepped in and pointed out that we simply could not afford to blow our entire savings on a two week surf trip to the jungle. Even if we do "deserve" it. Instead, as a consolation prize, we could go for three nights up the freezing cold West Coast, and sleep in the back of our van - no such luxury as a proper bed. After day one we were hit by the biggest storm on the Cape coast in ten years. We returned home early - me, pitifully hungover after drowning my disapointment with a bottle of red wine the night before and Charles, elated at having surfed an epic 20ft swell with his best friend. I guess I was happy for him.
But I've bounced back and am in the middle of holiday planning yet again. This time I won't lead on any unsuspecting travel agents, but will do it myself. And this time, we take the girls. To Mozambique. Which, one should note, has just been hit by a cyclone. But I'm sure all will be over by the time we get there with sunny, happy, perfect peeling waves .
I've just about got this one in the can. I have a housesitter, accommodation lined up for the three day drive, a list of must-haves to keep the girls occupied on the road, our tent packed and my husband's full consent and enthusiasm albeit a slight battle in the date commitment area.
We plan to leave in three days.
I'm playing my cards very carefully.Watch this space.

and the winner is...

The winner for the M.O.M Diary giveaway is Bronwen Troskie from Johannesburg!
Well done Bronwen!