Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Even this will pass

For the past 20 Christmas holidays I have been going to Mossel Bay with its sunny weather and warm water. This year for various reasons which I'm not going to go into much detail now, I decided to stay in Cape Town for a change. For one I was hoping of eating less and being more active. Despite a couple of good things that have convinced myself that staying at home was a good choice, too many disappointments made me realize that I might've been better off in Mossel Bay. Although most tourists and holiday makers might say that the weather has been gorgeous over the last couple of weeks, I don't think that they really do much kitesurfing or other nature involved sports. Except for sun tanning maybe if that could be called a sport.

So this morning  I got up very early ready to make today the best day of my holiday so far. Had I only known what was waiting I would rather have stayed in bed. After deciding to go for a surf to clear my head and to see if I can lift my spirit I headed for Big Bay to enjoy the reasonable sized waves it had to offer. Clearly in need of some sort of comfort that only surfing can provide I jumped into my wetsuit and headed straight for the waves. When I reached the water I could only utter one word...:"F**k!". No, it was actually two words..."Holy f**k!!" All of a sudden the absensce of surfers in the water and the couple of guys sitting on the beach covered from head to toe with booties, hoodies and 7 mil wetsuits started to make sense. Although the surf livesaving information board indicated the water temperature the day before to be 14 degrees C, I am pretty sure that overnight it dropped with another 3 or 4 degrees. It was freezing cold. And this was it...I just couldn't take it anymore....

I know a quick surf sessions ALWAYS makes me feel better no matter what dilemma I am going through in my life, but this morning I don't think my current state of mind could handle the cold water that well. It's like crawling through a desert and coming into reach of a bottle of Perrier mineral water that was dropped by some passing Arabs on their way to Timbuktu. The only problem is that there is absolute no more energy left to move 5 inches forward to reach a bottle of water that might save your life. You just cannot do it. So there I was, I also just couldn't do it. For the first time in my life I turned around and walked away from what could've saved me this morning. I feel like I have failed miserably. I made a mistake and it feels as if a love affair has been ended..... What I was hoping to be the best day of my vacation turned into probably the worst one ever.

But like my wife always says..."Even this will pass". I am pretty sure that the water will warm up again. I am also sure that my life will go on and that I will do many exciting things again, meeting many intersting people and looking back at this day as a lesson learned. It might be good to try new things, make changes, but when things are working, stick to them. Maybe in a year's time I will be soaring with my paraglider above the dunes near Mossel Bay or will be swimming with the dophins again. Maybe even doing my first trip on my bike into Africa and thinking back at today, the 30th of December 2009, when I realized that there must be more out there than disappointments caused by stupid decisions.

I hope you all have a good 2010, better than what my day was today. I am planning on making 2010 the best year of my life. I'm sticking with the friends, people and things I know that  makes me happy, and will stay clear from those who don't.....

May 2010 be the year to remember!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Weather watching

A friend of mine always said that it is dangerous to view the world from behind a desk. I had a similar experience today, but I was just viewing the weather instead. I get very annoyed when friends tell me about the predicted weather for the day or for the next week. Being an outdoor enthusiast doing things that are 100% weather dependant I am constantly aware of the weather, checking it on TV weather forecasts, on iWeather, on Windguru, Windfinder, SA name it and I have been there already. So telling me about the weather is like telling a skydiver that there is something called gravity. I am so good at the weather that I can sit in the comfort of my house and from the sound of the wind coming through my chimney I can tell whether the wind outside is strong enough to go kitesurfing or not. Looking at the trees outside I can even tell the wind direction. Well, so I always thought....

Today I was sitting listening to the wind and was sure that kitesurfing was not an option. Being on vacation and being very bored, I decided to take my car and go down to the beach despite my inhouse weather prediction. I wasn't expecting much so I headed for different spot this time. To my surprise I saw about 50 kites in the air. What a pleasant surprise. I realized yet again that when you want to know what the weather is doing, then you have to go and see for yourself. If you want to know what the surf is doing, go and see for yourself. If you ever miss out because you were too lazy to get up and thought that relying on your lifelong weather predicting expertise will safe you a trip, then know that it might just cost you a fantastic opportunity instead. Viewing the world from behind a desk might be dangerous, but viewing the weather from a distance might even be worse.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Good Vibrations

There are always something mysterious about a bunch of bikers together, even intimidating at times. No matter if your group is called the Hell's Angels or Heaven's Angels, men with leather jackets hiding behind full face helmits do look like they have some sort of mystical power over normal citizens and motorist. When you ride in a group you see motorists making way for you without hesitation and when entering small sleepy towns you might even find mothers hiding their daughters away. You yourself get goosebumps when all bikes start up at once and riding in a group does have good vibrations accompanied with some good adrenaline.

This morning I went for a 200km round trip to Franschoek with a couple of friends. We left Melkbosstrand at around 7am in awesome weather. Although there were not many bikes (only a total of 12) riding in a group does present the feeling of having "the right of way". Remove the helmits and leather jackets and all that remains is a bunch of nice law abiding guys who would not even look twice at your daughter. But motorists, whether they were scared or just very polite, did make way as far as we went and riding into Franschoek did turn a few heads. Fortunately the real Hell's Angels weren't planning a breakfast in Franschoek this morning and the "Wild Hogs" could enjoy their 4-egg omelettes without any intimidation from other more serious bikers. A few other "good guy bikers" had the same idea and it is interesting how quickly conversations are started and new friends are made when you have something in common.

On our way back we decided to split up so that everyone could ride at the speed of their choice. Unfortunately the guys on cruisers are always holding back the guys on the speed bikes, and the guys on the speed bikes struggle to show respect for the "laid back lifestyle" bikers. Riding alone does have its benefits as well. Apart from not having to be constantly aware of the bike in front of you, you get to do it at your own pace. You have time to enjoy the view, pull over at any time when you need to take a pee and when you want to open up in the twisties you don't have to worry about leaving the other guys behind. Although you don't have the back-up to enter any town with much bravado, you'll find that some people still show interest when you drive in all by your lonesome self. There is a different kind of mystery to a lonesome biker, the kind of mystery that propels mothers to send their daughters out to investigate rather than to lock them up. I guess your choice of riding in a group or alone is similar to your choice of sports. Some like team sports like football while others prefer doing it by themselves like surfing or rock climbing.

My choice? I like the exitement of riding in a group but personally I think I am the lone rider type...

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Don't get shafted again...

So you see this African mask that you think will go really well with the painting of Madiba that you bought in Johannesburg yesterday. You are still a bit pissed off, because you thought the painting was quite unique. Since you left Johannesburg you have seen about 20 of them already...all of them for less than what you have paid for it. Anyway, to make you feel better you decide to write it off as good experience and to get something else (more unique and at a better price this time) to display next to it on your wall back home....

So if you ever get the opportunity to visit any of the African markets in South Africa, here are some guidelines that might prevent you from getting shafted again. Please note, most of these friendly guys from Africa make an "honest" buck, so I don't want you to go and take the last piece of bread from their mouths. But if you are a tourist you are going to get shafted in some way or the other so you better go prepared. Here are some guidelines....

1) Nothing that is sold on an African market is unique. The stall next door will have exactly the same trinket. Use that in your favour when you start bargaining.

2) Nothing that is sold on an African market is at a good price. ALWAYS bargain. Start of with 50% less than the asking price. If you buy it at the asking price then you have been shafted again.

3) There are different prices. The highests is the "tourist" price. Then comes the "South African" price and then the "local" price. At the bottom is the price that the item is actually worth...the real price. If you don't negotiate down to the real price then you got shafted. So, take a local with you and let him negotiate for you down to at least the "South African" or "local" price. This way you pay less and you keep some "bread in their mouths".

4) Many of the vendors are not locals and have entered the country illegally. If you got that information by acting interested in where they're from, then use it to make them feel bad for selling goods in a country that is not theirs and then trying to shaft you in the process.

5) Look at many different items and lay it out on the side. The more items on the list, the lower the price goes. When you are happy with the agreed price then only take the item you really want, you don't have to take everything. The price cannot go up again.

6) Once you get the lowest price for a specific article, then buy ten for your friends at the same price. It will spare them the negotiating. They can negotiate at another stall for a different item for you.

7) If you cannot get a lower price, then open your wallet and make your cash visible. Knowing that you actually are prepared to open your wallet will bring the price down even further. Don't flash 100 and 200 Rand notes, that would be a foolish thing to do in any country.

8) Wear something that the vendor can associate with and can open him up. A T-shirt with a Bob Marley design usually works wonders. Or something with an African theme. Tourist can be seen from miles away and this makes them easy targets. Showing that you are from the same planet helps.

9) Once you have accepted the price and the item is yours NEVER compare prices at the next stall, you might feel the same way you felt about your painting of Madiba.....