Monday, November 30, 2009

A fresh pair of eyes, please

I have friend over from the UK visiting us on his first trip to South Africa. He has heard so many stories about South Africa, how beautiful it is, how friendly the people are and what a wonderful place it is to live in. He obviously also heard the negative things. So when the opportunity presented itself I guess he couldn't let it go by. I have been living in South Africa for most of my live and been in Cape Town for over 10 years now. I really appreciate the beauty and I always try never to forget it. In a way it is easy for me, I travel al lot in Africa. Some of the places there really helps me appreciate what I have here even more. Even traveling to places like Europe made me realize how fortunate we are in many ways to be living in such a beautiful country.

Even though I get reminded a lot, I still tend to stop seeing the things that really makes this place exceptional. I've been on Table Mountain a couple of times, but usually only when we have friends visiting. This week was the same. With the most pleasant weather in weeks we decided to take my friend up Table Mountain. He was totally in awe with what he saw. He can't stop talking about the beauty of this magnificent flat mountain in the middle of nowhere. And the fantastic views from there that is just amazing. So I don't want to try now and describe the magnificence of Table Mountain. I don't know enough English words to describe it. But what I did notice was that we sometimes need a pair of fresh eyes to see the beauty of where we live. His eyes were "my pair of fresh eyes". Something I see everyday turned into an experience I never thought I would ever experience again. It was like seeing the mountain for the first time... I hope that you can all find a fresh pair of eyes every now and then and appreciate the beautiful things around you like it is for the first time.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Business class

I’ve never underestimated the advantages of flying business class on an 11-hour international flight. Avoiding the 3 visits to a physiotherapist afterwards does have it benefits. Unfortunately this is a luxury the company I work for doesn’t think I deserve…and neither does my bank balance. They do however pay for my medical expenses which I cannot complain about. However, I could never understand why anyone would fly business class on a 2-hour domestic flight. Today I was bumped up to business class on my way from Johannesburg to Cape Town. This was something I didn’t deserve considering my opinion about anyone using this service for a flight that is shorter than a charismatic church service. When I sat down the first thing I noticed was that I wasn’t dressed for the occasion. My flip flops and stainless steel wedding band didn’t compare well with the genuine leather shoes and diamond rings some of my fellow passengers were wearing. But I have never judged anyone by the clothes they were wearing and didn’t want to do so today either. So I decided rather to make a note of the differences between business class and “cattle class” as economy class is sometimes referred to.

For a start the friendliness of the cabin crew seemed to be the same, but the newspaper was free. Yet there was not enough space for two people to read comfortably, but they all did look quite important while analyzing the financial section. I would prefer reading matter of a smaller size like the Reader's Digest. The difference in seat width and leg room is nothing to elaborate on. I still had to hold my fork and knife like a metro sexual male who is very much in touch with his feminine side. I did feel a bit more important sitting two seats behind Ms Edna Molewa, the Minister of Social Development and her entourage, but I had to look down feeling rather ashamed when the cattle class passengers passed me on their way to the back. I felt more like a traitor than a VIP.

The only thing in the food department that I can say was better was the way the food was served. The eating utensils moved up one spot on the evolution ladder…paper became plastic and glass, plastic became glass and metal. The salt and pepper pot was rather cute, but that was not making the experience more attractive. The scrambled eggs tasted the same than what I was used to back there and the coffee came from the same pot. However, they did come and take my empty tray much earlier than what they do in economy class and that was really a bonus. Even in business class I felt a bit claustrophobic.

I had to sacrifice my window seat at the back for an aisle seat, and this meant that I couldn’t get my much needed nap while resting my head against the window. A seat that could tilt back to 19 degrees compared to 13 degrees didn’t help much either. While standing in queue to get to the toilet, which by the way was the same size as in economy class, I noticed that around 30% of the passengers in economy class were smiling while 0% in business class showed any signs of enjoyment. Let’s assume it is because they are probably on business while many people in economy class might be on holiday.

I guess all I can say after flying business class is that I still have the same opinion I had before. The only good thing was the rather attractive girl that was sitting next to me. Unfortunately it turned out that she was the girlfriend of a famous TV personality and I turned out to be married. But I noticed that there were just as many of them sitting at the back. So to my friends back there just this…you didn’t miss out on much and we all arrived in Cape Town at the same time. So see you on the next flight and enjoy your stay in Cape Town.

Hurry up and wait

In Africa for things to happen it takes time, like checking in at Luanda’s Quatro de Fevereiro International Airport. Check-in opens at 9 am, but the flight only leaves at 3 pm. If you are a frequent traveler through this airport, you try to be there as early as possible, because getting there at around 12 means standing on your feet for at least 4 hours. If you are an early bird like me then things tend to go smoothly…except for the following…

No matter what your Voyager status might be, getting your preferred seat is not guaranteed. Secondly only one person can check in at a time, meaning that a request to sit close to your traveling companion is not an option either. Once you have your luggage checked in it is off to Immigration for that important stamp in your passport. With the new technology like computers this could take some time, especially if the customs official is a lady in her early 60’s typing with one finger and struggling to see through her bifocals.

Then it is the strip search from the fiscal police. When you get taken into their little cubicle one keeps watch at the door, while the second one intimidates you in his self created ATM in an effort to rid you of any local currency and whatever other cash you might have on you. The best way to get through is to know your rights. Don’t get aggressive, but stick to “No, I don’t have any Kwanzas and no, you cannot take my dollars”. They will get the message eventually and move on to their next victim.

Once in the departure hall the waiting begins. You can cough anything up to 7 USD for a dry cheese and ham bread roll with no butter. The seats are made out of the hardest steel available on the planet and designed in such a way to keep you from getting comfortable or taking a nap. Sitting around from 9.30 to 4 (the plane usually departs an hour or two late) can be quite an ordeal, but this time could be used for meditation instead.. There is nothing else to do, nowhere to go and it takes you approximately 3 minutes to go through the only duty free shop they have available. But there is one good thing though…you know that the torture will come to an end and that you are on your way home….

Monday, November 23, 2009

Airport (in)efficiency

I am in Luanda at the moment for what would hopefully be my last business trip for 2009. As I went through the airport I was thinking again about the poor service your receive from the moment you land until you leave this country again. I have written so many stories particularly about this airport but doubt whether I will ever post it. I am scared I might get a knock on my door one evening. Voted as one of the most inefficient airports in Africa by an African traveller magazine, you can imagine for yourself what it must be like. If I tell you that I managed to get through Immigration, Customs and baggage collection in one hour today, then you might not think it is bad. What if I tell you the average time to do that is around 2 hours and that my record so far has been 4 hours? That is getting of the plane, getting a stamp at Immigration and picking up your luggage. BTW, a colleague of mine found the locks on his bags broken open today....

But I didn't want to go on about the inefficiency at Luanda Airport. I believe that if you've travelled through an airport a couple of times you learn the ropes and eventually you don't see the problems anymore. I think the best way to get an impression of an airport's efficiency is when you do it for the first time. Today I travelled through Cape Town's new terminals for the first time since it has been opened a few weeks ago. All I can say is "what a pleasure". Not only is everything clearly marked, but everywhere you find people dressed in bright neon green shirts assisting passengers wherever they can. You cannot beat a friendly smile when you are looking for directions. I think Cape Town International Airport is ready for the thousands of tourist coming to see the Soccer World Cup in 2010. Keep it up!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cape Town Beauty

Today is one of those days. Cape Town at is most beautiful. I don't think the owner of the webcam where I got this picture from would complain about me using it. I use it a lot to see what the waves are doing for surfing, but most importantly for kite surfing. Cape Town is familiar for its windy conditions during summer, and when we get a day like this you have to appreciate it. Predicted temperature for today is 29 deg C. Very light westerly winds. This usually results in fog patches along the coast, but if you can hit the beach before the fog comes in you will have a superb day at the beach.

If you are keen to watch the weather for the day via a nicely positioned web cam that faces Table Mountain, then follow this link. I am still trying to figure out how I could get this web cam update permanently on my desktop. I have managed to get the web site there, but I only want the picture that updates every 120 seconds. I wonder if I would be concentrating on my work or justy hoping to spot the first kite in the water...a good sign that I should pack up and go to explore the possibilities.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Squash balls and other tips

A friend recently requested that I do a post on squash..and particulary on tips. He hopes that I might reveal a secret or two in order for him to beat me once in a while. So just to keep my fan(s) happy I have decided to do a short post on one particular squash tip that might mean more to him than meets the eye.

One thing I really regret very much is that I never did National Service like most of my buddy's did many years ago. This is not because of my patriotism or my hidden desire to blow up people from the back of a ZT-3, but I really think it would've given me much more courage to shower more comfortably between my fellow country men. You see in the army you don't only eat together and fight together, sometimes you also have to shower together. Fortunately there wasn't much time to discuss the size of your rifle on such occations. So what does this have to do with squash?

If there is one topic that gets raised in squash quite frequently then it is your equipment. Squash players always talk about the best racquet, the latest squash shoes...even the balls. When balls become the topic of conversation it was usually started like this:

Player 1: "Do you want a game?"
Player 2: "Yes, do you have a ball"?
Player 1: " Yeah, I have TWO in fact" (followed by a smile)

You will never hear a conversation like that in the ladies league. Thanks heaven squash wasn't played with two or more balls like snooker or pool, the connection would've been just so much easier to make. But for some reason men have the ability to steer any conversation in that direction. And never expose yourself further by extending the question with... "a ball to PLAY with". This could turn even uglier.

So getting back to the shower scene. It is very difficult for men to feel unintimidated in communial showers, never mind the size of your racquet. You can never face a another guy directly, that is just too personal. But you never dare turn your back on him either. So you shower sideways slightly facing away from each other...but always watching your back. It is very common for opponents to have a shower after the game, having conversations about the game and paricularly analyzing your recent performance on the court. In a shower you can blame your performance on everything like your dwindling fitness level, the sweat in your eyes, even the stress at work. But you NEVER blame it on the ball. Because you see, when talking about balls in a shower your are skating on thin ice. There is always the possibility that your or your opponent's thoughts and eyes might follow the direction of the conversation. Even the size of your grip is a taboo. So here's the tip my friend. When showering after a squash game, always watch your opponent straight in the eyes and never talk about balls...ANY balls.

Check out the chicken

My plan is not to change my blog into a cooking blog. But, I am still a semi-batchelor and my stomach still needs feeding. And just to show you that I am not biased in any way in my opinion on who makes the best outdoor cooking apparatus I have decided to give you one of my other famous recipes done on a grill designed by the Yanks themselves...the Weber grill. Give them some credit, they did make it to the moon first (or so they claim). When I received the Weber grill for my birthday a couple of years ago it was like a slap in the face, but I have given it a try (like I do with most things before I just bluntly shoot it down) and it turned me into the best chicken griller of the Western Cape. Like with my braai I like to keep the recipes simple. After all, you want to taste the meat, not just herbs and spices.

It's obvious enought that in this case you need a Weber grill and like it or not, but charcoal is the best heat source for this. I prefer free range chickens. Note, the chicken you ran over on your way from work (common in South Africa) was not free range, it was free roaming. But even this chicken will do. In this case I usually prefer to make what I call a "flattie". Will show you later how that one is done...

So to keep it basic all you do is to make a simple oil based basting sauce which contains olive oil, salt and pepper, a few drops of lazenby's Worcestershire sauce and then the main ingredient...peri-peri. Mix it and body paint the chicken from head(less) to toe(less). Make sure to paint under the wings and between the legs as well. If there is still some sauce left, I do the inside of the chicken wall-to-wall as well. When the coals are ready I place the chicken on the grill, put the lid on and Bob's your uncle. Leave it there for about 60 -90 minutes depending on the size of the chicken. Don't be too curious as to what's going on inside the Weber. Every time you open the lid you loose a lot of heat.

While waiting for this I also did a simple and basic roasted veggies. Last night I had potatoes, baby marrows, sweet patatoes, carrots, onions, mushrooms and some cocktail tomatoes just for colour. (The rosemary leaves were just for decorating purposes like on real cooking blogs). My selection of veggies depends on what's available in the refrigerator and not on how the combination might compliment each other. You can add anything you like. This I cover with NoMu's Spanish and Italian rub. Use any herbs and spices that you have in your kitchen. Pop it in the oven under the grill and wait until everything is soft...especially the potatoes.

And as they say "The proof of the pudding is in the eating".  A delicious meal very basic and simple. Oh, and just to prove that I do try everything I enjoyed my meal with another American brand, a Miller Genuine Draft. Bon Apetite.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Braai

My wife is away for the weekend leaving me to be a semi-batchelor again. Ok, I know it can be fun, but what does a man do when he gets hungry and "the chef" is not around? First of all he appreciates her again, but that does not feed the stomach. If he is not a fan of greasy take-aways then there is only one thing left...the BRAAI. So this is exactly what I did after realizing that the noises in my stomach were actually a distress call for food. Doing a braai can be very easy if kept simple. Not the way most women want to do it with salads and other unecessary side dishes. If eaten directly from the fire like it is supposed to be done, you also cut out the washing up of dirty dishes afterwards. Exactly what any semi-batchelor wants to avoid. So here is what you need:

1) A fire. It can be any fire, preferably made with wood, but when in a hurry or your wood is wet like mine was today then charcoal will do. NO gas please, real men don't braai on gas!

2) Meat. Anything from rumb steak to T-bone steak to lamb chops. It has to be meat that came directly from a real animal, NOT something that has been processed like beef patties and other shit. Wors (lamb or beef sausage) will do. Salt according to taste.

3) Beer. Preferably a South African brand.

4) Friends...if you are not making most of your "me-time" like I am doing this weekend.

Once you have the fire going the the good part starts. Putting the meat on and making sure it doesn't burn. Especially if there is some fat around. Pouring beer on the fire if it flares up not only stops it from doing so, but also add some taste to the meat. Just don't waste all your beer on extinguishing flames. Use water instead. The best way to eat is directly from the fire. Again, some women like doing the thing around the table with fancy knifes and works.  NEVER keep meat warmed up in the oven until all your guests have taken their seats. The meat does not taste the same once it has passed through an oven. From the grill, to a plate, to your mouth. You are allowed to skip the plate, and you are allowed to eat with your hands. You can even turn the meat with your hands if you want to, but then you should not complain about blisters the next day.

The whole exercise above took me about 30 minutes to complete...and I promise you I had the beast meal a man could ask for.Despite the fact that many have different preferences when it comes to braaiing, all South Africans will tell you that there is absolutely NOTHING smelling as nice as your neigbours braai. And this is a smell very difficult to avoid over weekends. The only way you can solve the addictive affect of your neighbour's braai is if you light your own fire and get your own meat on the grid.

(Ok, for the uninformed that still might wonder what the word "braai" means, you can actually find the meaning of the word in Wikipedia. In is what people in South Africa do best when it comes to socializing, feeding their stomachs and celebrating any occasion, even when there favourire rugby team has lost the game. In other countries it is called the barbeque. But the braai is different, you NEVER call it a barbeque here, you' might get stoned. )

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Outside World from a Minibus Taxi - Part 1

Ask any motorist in South Africa what freaks him (or her) out the most and the chances are good that they will have minibus taxi's on top of their list. You see, at least 80% of the population in South Africa rely on these taxi's for transport as they cannot afford vehicles of their own. Sit in the morning traffic and you will see thousands of cars with only one driver and no passengers, and inbetween you will see overloaded minibus taxi's swerving from one lane to the other, stopping whenever and wherever they please and pissing off motorists one after the other.

I was on my way home in the rain when I took this picture of a minibus taxi overtaking a long line of vehicles on the left hand side. First of all, we drive on the left, so overtaking should normally happen on the right. Secondly he was doing it in a yellow lane wich is reserved for bicycles, broken down vehicles and the occasional stopping of busses and cars should it be required. This lane is also used by pedestrians, as many people walk home to save on taxi fare.  So to cut a long explanation is illegal to pass vehicles using that lane.

My immediate reaction in the past would've been to get furious, perhaps curse and in the process probably shorten my lifespan by a couple of days in the effort of getting over my anger. If rules apply to one road user, then it should apply to other road users as well. That's my belief. So why didn't it bother me much that he was illegally pushing in in front of me?

1) I am sitting all alone in my kombi microbus that can carry 10 people. I am using the same amount of fuel and polluting the earth at the same rate than what 17 other people are doing in that one taxi.
2) I am on my way home. That taxi driver has spent the WHOLE day on the road along with other irate  drivers and he is probably going to spend another few hours on the road before he gets home to his family.
3) It takes me at the most 20 minutes to get home in peak traffic. Some of his passengers take 2 hours hopping from one taxi to the other before they actually reach their destination.  He is shortening their travel time and brightening their day at the same time.
4) He is providing a service and making money. Unfortunately for him his best time to make money is during peak hours when the rest of Cape Town's selfish motorists are on their way home. And besides, I am just sitting there wasting time and fuel and in no rush to get anywhere.
5) His illegal passing does not influence me at all. After a few meters down the road he will stop to drop passengers and I will pass him again. And if I do not pass him, so what? I am just one more car further back in the line and eventually we all reach our destination .
6) Despite how worked up I get, he just carries on with his job. So why would I put my health under such stress when the taxi driver and all his passengers are quite relaxed and going about their day as if nothing bad is happening?

A friend of mine told me a while ago that he also used to get very upset about the taxi drivers and their driving behaviour. He was just like me, sitting alone in his own car and shouting insults while waving his fists every now and then to show his disaproval to a clearly nonchalant taxi driver . Then one day he decided to take a taxi himself...just for the experience. While sittting in the taxi looking at the "outside world" all he saw were selfish angry drivers with frowns creasing their faces working themselves up into a frenzy. Sitting back, relaxed with no driving related stress while getting from point A to point B in a much shorter time than he was used to...and with much less money spent made him think. Since that day his outlook changed and his opinion convinced me to change my outlook as well. So my next "adventure" is going to be my FIRST taxi ride, to see what it feels like...and to get a glimpse of the "outside world" from a minibus taxi...just like he did.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Shit happens...

Many years ago I was doing an early morning jump at the Mossel Bay Skydiving Club. We usually did a jump before the first students arrived, giving them something to look forward to on their first lesson and first jump. I was on the ground already when the jumpmaster came down and did an extra one or two hook turns very close to the ground. He was very experienced but after six months in traction he still wouldn't admit that he was bit careless that day...blamed it on the wind. Anyway, after the rush to get him in an ambulance and off to the hospital the crowd had grown a bit with new students that had arrived and who unfortunately, had also just witnessed his fall. Obviously thinking that they would be scared off, another instructor, or rather a fellow jumper acting as a instructor, asked them if they are ready for their class. Obviously they weren't very keen to continue after what they had just witnessed before their very eyes. As it was quite clear that they were leaving, the fellow jumper acting as an instructor said "Hey, shit happens!" to which one of the would-be students, a girl in her early 20's replied with "Well, this shit is not going to happen to me today". She got into her car with her 5 friends and drove off.

Anyway, the point I’d like to make is that you don't always have a choice as to whether or not this shit is going to happen to you, for example, take a look at this poor truck driver who had just lost his load in the middle of the only access road to the offices where I work. Fortunately for me I was on the home side of the truck and not like my colleagues who were on the other side. Hadn't they removed the truck at least I would've been able to go home and they would've been stuck for some time.

This whole episode made me think of how easy things can go wrong. What if you had to be at the airport and you couldn't get past? Or if someone was expecting you and got upset because you had not arrived? Fortunately most of us have mobile phones, but would the pilot delay a flight because a truck driver had a shitty day? I doubt it. Sometimes things are not in our hands and we always need to have the facts before we make assumptions...or get upset. But like my friend the fellow jumper acting as an instructor, I want to hang on to his words because somethimes shit happens and there is nothing you can do about it. So if you make it home safely tonight, think of all the shit that possibly could've happened today and never did and be thankful. And if you miss your plane or anyone is pissed off because you didn't make it in time....merely shrug your shoulders and say "Hey, shit happens!"

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Butterflies save the day...

For an outdoor enthusiast whose moods are determinded by the weather a weekend with classical winter weather in the middle of summer is enough to drive any man insane. Yesterday I planned to do some gardening but due to the strong winds and rain I ended up walking up and down the house like a caged tiger ready to devour someone. I knew that if I didn't want Sunday to end up like a scene from the movie The Shining I had to do something away from what I call Home Sweet Home. So I planned a family day.....

My morning started with a breakfast for my wife and my son. My first option would've been to go to my favourite restaurant were we usually go do our breakfasts, but I thought it better if I do the cooking and the cleaning up myself. After all, it will not only kill time if I do it this way, but instead of killing my family with an axe I could rather impress them and maybe score a few brownie points in the process. The real plan was to take the family to the aquarium, so I started the breakfast early before they even got out of bed.

The breakfast went well, except that the egg spatula caught fire in my attempt to have all the food ready at the same one can expect in most reputable restaurants. But I wasn't going to let that spoil my day and served the most wonderful English breakfast complete with orange juice and french fries. It was time to go to the aquarium.

Well, that was my plan until my son insisted that he wanted to go to Butterfly World instead. OK, Butterfly World would not have been my first choice, but I wanted to be a good daddy today and I have been to the aquarium a couple of times already. It was still raining and rather cool for November, but that was the reason we were trying to get out in the first beat the "winter" blues. At Butterfly World I was quite amazed when I saw what they had to offer. I was thinking that most butterflies would probably be hiding somewhere from the cold and that all we would see is other disappointed tourists. Much to my surprize the place had much more to offer than a few water drenched insects with hanging wings. A variety of animals which provided enough entertainment for myself and my family kept us entertained for quite some time. They even have snakes, spiders, parrots, iguanas and a few other unknown creatures that I have never seen before. I even got some ideas for my garden...maybe I can also attract a few extra species.

From the amount of photographers that were trying out their fancy cameras it seems that cooler days are better for capturing your prized picture because the butterflies are less active and more willing to pose for pictures. My final verdict on Butterfly World? A must see if you have small children and a very good alternative for wiping out your family on a wet winters weekend. Check out my short video on YouTube.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The dark side of Paradise

Ok, I know I am always raving about South Africa and what a beautiful place it is. It is in fact true and I am doing it for a reason, but it has a dark side too. Crime. If I take into account how many times I have directly been a victim of crime, then I can count it on my one hand. Indirectly I think all South Africans have been victims and suffer. We pay taxes to be protected by the Police but at the same time have to fork out money for security companies and putting up burglar bars and devices to make some of our houses look like Fort Knox. All in an effort to feel safer and feel protected. The reputation of the country as one with the highest murder rate doesn't benefit the population either and tends to steer international travellers to other destinations. Not to think about all the good and skilled people we have lost who all went looking for safer conditions somewhere else in the world.

Well, yesterday I was a victim of crime. When I arrived home I could hear from the sound that the alarm made while deactivating it that it had been triggered earlier in the day. Usually the security company will phone first and then go to the house to see if anything looks suspicious. This call usually goes to my wife, so I wasn't surprized that I did not receive any calls from anyone. When I walked into the main bedroom the evidence was was a break-in. The blinds were moved away and some stuff including an empty jewelery box was lying on the floor.

Mr Burglar was very kind to remove the glass from the window pane without breaking it. That saved me a couple of bucks, because all I had to do was to put it back in. He also saved me a lot of money by not taking much. He (I assume it was a "he") got inside without activating the window alarm. By removing the glass he didn't have to open the window which would've automatically activated the alarm. What he didn't know was that there was also a motion detector in the room. This probably gave him a shit fright because it was clear that he grabbed the first thing he could lay his eyes on and then got out. A jewelery box with not much in it. It could have been worse, he could've emptied my house if he had the time. But being the optimist I always try to be, I see the positive side...he didn't. At least this time I got my money's worth for the alarm that I had installed.

This whole episode made me think. Do I take my bags and move to Australia, or do I stay put and still enjoy what this beautiful country has to offer? Do I take out more insurance or do I let go of earthly possessions that does not really make me a happier person? Do I become suspicious minded about every person that passes my house or do I still believe that there are more good people around than what we are made to believe? It is not a nice feeling when someone entered your house without your permission, you feel violated. But there is only two things on this earth that really means anything to me and that is my friends and my family. The rest they can take. So I will protect my friends and family with what I have and pray that I never become one of those statistics...and in the meantime I will be more vigilant and do as much as I can to make South Africa a safer place. But I will carry on with life as normal and enjoy my life as I used to. And my bags to Australia? Well they can just stay where they are a little bit longer because I am not planning on going anywhere just yet.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

A sharking experience

I have always wondered what the real differences were between adrenaline, adventure and extreme sports. I guess many people will have many views, but I am sure a particular sport can change from the one to the other depending the variation in danger elements or risks involved. Let's take a simple sport like swimming. When you do it in a shallow pool, I guess the words adrenaline and adventure never comes to mind. Do it in the open ocean and adventure sounds appropriate. Do it in shark infested water and extreme all of a sudden seems like the best word to describe it.

Last week on the Internet and e-mails a picture of a shark caught off the South African Coast was doing the rounds. An enormous monster weighing in at 700kg with a lenght of 4,3 meters. Because the pictures were taken in Mossel Bay, most people believe that the shark comes from there. The fact is that sharks have been followed swimming from South Africa to Australia and back. I believe most sharks come back after they have tasted one or two Aussies. Nevertheless, these creature are everywhere in our oceans, and they make the crime risks in South Africa look like a Sunday school picnic.  Btw, this one was caught off the Kwa-Zulu coastline.

I have been surfing for many years and I never viewed surfing as a adrenaline or extreme sport. Maybe just because I never had the opportunity to surf the massive waves in Hawaii, or risking my life above corals in Teahupoo. What I do know now is that I have been surfing in waters where these guys are lurking. Not knowing that fact drops the extremity a little, but show anyone the shark before he enters the water and I am pretty sure not many people will take the risk...making even swimming an extreme sports by my definition.

Shark sightings are common in South African waters, with some of the best pictures of breaching sharks taken in False Bay. I have surfed in areas where sharks are quite common, Durban, Wild Coast, Mossel Bay, Nahoon Reef...but I have only witness a fin about once or twice in my life. And I am not even sure if it was a shark or a maybe a dolphin. Maybe I was just lucky, or maybe I believe the riskier the activity the more enjoyable it becomes...and the luckier you get when you live to tell the story. There is a joke going around about the dude sitting in the a bar claiming that he made a good agreement with the sharks. The sharks will never go into the bar if he will never go into the water. I don't think I am prepared to make that sacrifice just yet. Hope to see you (and not the sharks) in the water soon...

Tea-bagging and other water sports

Ok, now if you have no idea what tea-bagging is, then don't Google it either. You might just get the surprize of your life. Actually, do look it up, but make sure you have your search engine's "safe search" on the strictest filtering possible. If you are lucky then you might get the kitesurfer's definition of tea-bagging...and not the one you and your college mates used to "get back" at friends and girlfriends alike. I actually want to tell you more about kitesurfing..and particular kitesurfing in Cape Town. Which is by the way considered one of the best kitesurfing spots in the world. And it's no wonder, the Southeastern blows the largest part of summer and the conditions are more or less perfect, from novices to the best out there.

My kitesurfing history started not long ago...January 2009 to be exact. After many years of finding excuses for never trying it, I eventually faced my "fear" and forked out the money. You see, the scariest part of kitesurfing like many other adrenaline sports is the cash flow needed to get started. Once you get over that hurdle the fun can start. Being an experienced surfer I thought is was going to be quite easy. I even have paragliding experience, and with that combined with the board skills what more could one want? Wrong!

Kite handling was topic 1 in the first lesson. Once you get the kite in the air all you have to do is keep it there. Or so I thought. Make sure you know the difference between 1 o' clock and 2 o'clock on an analogue watch. When the intructor says move the kite to "1 o' clock" you might be very surprized to see what happens when you add an hour or so. This could mean the difference between getting a slight tug to getting air lifted like a Russian Korlev space rocket. Once your kite handling skills are OK, it is on to the next step...the body drag.

The idea behind the body drag is to have yourself pulled by the kite in the water, without the board. This is to teach yourself more kite handling skills while in the water. This will also give you a good indication whether you will be able to drag yourself back to the beach should you lose your board. Some people unexpectedly do the body drag on the beach when they mistake their "hours". It is however much more pleasant to be dragged along in the surf than on the sand. Trust me on this one.

Getting on the board and staying on is probably the best part of the first couple of lessons. Once mastered your kitesurfing experience has begun. Like surfing you are not really doing it if you have not mastered the "standing-up" skill. Kiting upwind is another skill that comes with time, because walking back 2 miles on the beach is a little embarrasing...and hard work. No wonder it is called the "walk of shame". Once on the board you dig your heel in and focus on a marker to give you a sense of direction. This could either be a stationary ship lying in the bay or a block of flats onshore. Keep your eyes focused and hope you are heading that way, because before you know you might be 200 meters downwind and then it is back to that horrible walk again.

So, where am I after about 17 sessions in the water? Well, my walk of shame is considerably shorter. I have narrowed it down to about 50 meters. I promised myself a new wetsuit when I can get that figure into the negatives, meaning I am actually going upwind. I am busy practicing the "jibe". This is turning around without sinking back and starting off from sctratch. I have succesfully completed a few. Sailing across the water and going the direction I intended to go is good and provides for sure a lot of fun. I do the occational jump, but this is very much UNintentional. For the spectators on the beach this might look impressive, but they will never hear from me that the jumps weren't really planned. Landing on your feet after an UNintentional jump is a bonus and does give you a feeling of "getting there". Landing on your face and getting body dragged a couple of extra meters downwind does exactly the opposite. Imagine 4 or 5 of these unintentional jumps in a single go and you know exactly what tea-bagging is in kitesurfing terms.

One thing is for sure...kitesurfing is fun. It might have dangers associated with it, but like many adrenaline sports it's all worth it. I hope to see you in the water soon. Keep on Kiting.