Monday, May 31, 2010

The Biscuit Mill and Macaroons

On Saturday my wife took me to The Biscuit Mill. I have mentioned before that I am not really a big fan of flea markets and that the only flea market where I actually find something interesting to look at was the Milnerton Flea Market. Well, seeing that she always talk about this place, I decided to tag along to see what the hype was all about. Apart from the fact that is it situated inside an old mill with a very cosy atmosphere all around the market area, I didn't really get any excitement from going there. The stalls are similar to what you find in many other markets, but I have to admit that the "Neighbours Goods Market" somehow impressed me, if I have to mention something other than the beautiful Cape Town girls that were hanging out there. I am not into baking and cooking, but my wife is and she finds it very stimulating to stop at each table and taste or have a look at what they have to present to the inquisitive buyer. She even knows some of the bakers and cooks by name, like she is one of the members of the Cape Town Cuisine Scene. OK, she did do a cooking course a few years ago and she does know one or two of the who's-who in the cooking industry, but I didn't know she would recognise people standing behind a table selling stuff that I didn't even know how to pronounce.

Anyway, the food really looked good, and although I don't really know what all the dishes and stuff are called, one thing did interest me, a gentleman that was selling a funny looking biscuit in varius colours. Just a day before a French colleague of mine brought some very tasting round biscuits to work which I really liked. I didn't know what they were called, so I couldn't even describe them to my wife. When I saw these biscuits at that table inside the goods markets, I immediately knew it was something similar and bought some just to confirm that this was in fact what I had the day before. My wife, the cook slash baker, immediately told me what they were when I showed it to her. They are called macaroons. Yeah right, I knew that! I have no idea why she knew the name of these little biscuits that I have never seen before, but she told me that apparently it is quite difficult to get them into that perfect round shapes. I knew my wife is always up for a cooking challenge so I asked her if she would have a try and make me some when we get home. I wasn't really worried about the shape, but as long as they were going to taste like the ones I had previously, and have the same texture, I think I would've been satisfied.

At home she took out one of her favourite cooking magazines and on the front cover were nothing other than macaroons. OK, that explained her knowledge about the biscuits, but could she make them? On the Internet she looked for more recipes and found a web site of a women who tried 8 batches of cake mixture before she even started getting the shapes right. She was just about to quit when her last batch looked edible.But this was not going to kill my wife's enthusiasm so she started her macaroon project. Please do not ask me the ingredients, but she managed to whip up a concoction that looked very similar to meringues. Then it was pressing the biscuits with a pastry bag, more or less the same size. Leaving them standing for a while so that they can flow down into a round shape and in the oven. Voila!

A couple of minutes later she took out the biscuits and I was impressed to say the least. Perfect! She then added the center filling and when the two sides were glued together I had my own batch of macaroons, just as perfect and delicious as the ones I had at the market and the day before at work. I ate so many macaroons that at a point I knew that if I don't stop now, I will never eat macaroons again. Let me know if you want the recipe, I can always ask the best macaroon baker for hers. I know her by name.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Penalty shot

Last night I watched my second soccer game in my quest to understand the game and to find some sort of appreciation for it. After two games I still don't have any favourite or less-favourite players in the Bafana Bafana side. Besides, at this stage I cannot even pronounce half of the team's names yet. One dude that stood out like a sore thumb though, and emphasis on "sore", was Bafana Bafana's goalkeeper, Ithumuleng Khune. Now I have one suggestion to the coach, Mr Carlos Alberto Parreira . If one of our compatriates brings our country's name into such disrespute again, please take the guy off the field immediately or just shoot him right there and then. You see, in Africa we have a saying, "Africa has no place for sissies", and if this gentlemen is going to perform like a baby every time his wind gets knocked out by an opponent, then he does not have a place on this continent. And to the commentators that remarked after this incident that the Colombians have "bravery and courage written all over them", please guys, take some time and watch this video below, THESE guys have bravery and courage written all over them, not a bunch of soccer players that did just as much crying as the South Africans did. Take that guy Giovanni Morena for instance...OK, let's not go there.

Another thing that I learned from watching my second soccer game is that this acting works much better when you do it right in front of your opponents goals. Khune's Oscar-winning performance was a waste of valuable time. You see, if you can do the fly-through-the-air manoeuvre like that dude from Colombia did in front of Bafana Bafana's goals then you are in for business. The penalty shot seems to be a much easier way to get a score on the board, much easier than the corner, the free kick or the normal skilled dribbling through your opponents line of defense. But still, even here you have a 50/50 chance of getting the ball into the net or not. All you have to do is to mislead the goalkeeper by means of obscure body language on which direction you are going to kick the ball. If the goalie jumps to the right you surprise him by kicking  to the left. An easy goal. Should he be a master at reading body language and jump to the left as well, well then you have just wasted your only opportunity for an easy point. Oh no, I remember now, you might get another opportunity, depending on the referee....

To all the other teams out there, remember the following. If you ever play against an African team, make sure that the referee is not from Africa too. You see we are all brothers in Africa and we stick together when it comes to soccer as well. The referee from Kenya, Mr Samwel Kipngetich  handed out yellow cards to the Colombians like it was sweets at a Kiddies Christmas Party. How many cards can one keep in a shirt pocket anyway? And how many opportunities can a team get when they miss the first penalty? I might not be an expert regarding soccer, but I can see when a ref is either biased or just incompetent..and this referee was both, despite the fact that I also believe that Africans should unite. (Read this, FIFA is going to drop another Kenyan referee if you ask me). But like another commentator commented after the game when he was asked to give his opinion on a game that was a bit "controversial" and was "decided only by penalty kicks", I alos believe a "A win is a win".

So after two games I still think it is a game of luck, only this time South Africa's luck was not in their kicking but more in the guy that was asked to ref the game. I also think that Mr Parreira  might have read my previous post, because there was much less senseless passing of the ball and much more kicking towards the net. However, for guys who kick balls for a living, their direction and aimless attempts were disastrous to say the least. And that goes for both teams. Lastly. What also put a smile on my face and convinced me of my "luck"-theory was the comment that Colombia's coach Eduardo Lara ended his interview with when he was asked on his opinion on Bafana Bafana and their chances in the World Cup. Lara ended his sentence with "...and giving you [Bafana Bafana] a lot of LUCK for the World Cup". I rest my case.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Copyright Infringement

I was having a look at the FIFA rankings site after I've heard on the News that South Africa has moved up the ladder from 90th to 83rd position after their tie with Bulgaria. Not much of an effort required to move up 7 spots, considering that the match was a 50/50 game of luck. Strangely enough Bulgaria is still on 39, shouldn't they move a couple of spots down then?  I never knew how these rankings were working in any case, but I have something else that caught my eye while I was browsing around on FIFA's web site. I came across a picture that was taken from Bloubergstrand with a soccer ball and a South African flag. Knowing how full of shit FIFA is when it comes to using their logo's and all the warnings lately to many businesses on infringements of their copyrights I couldn't help but notice that this picture looks very similar to one that I took many years ago on that same beach. Could it be that they saw my picture and used my idea to create the one that is currently on their site? It makes me wonder, what changes do I have to take them on and blaming them of stealing an idea from me? Will I have a good case against them, or can I at least get two tickets out of them for the World Cup Final? If not, maybe I will just get my name mentioned somewhere in a very small article in a newspaper somewhere saying "The guy who took on FIFA and ended up paying them because he posted a picture from their web site on his blog".

Anyway, tonight Bafana Bafana is playing Colombia. They are currently ranked at 35. I am really looking forward to see what the rankings are going to be is Bafana Bafana beats them, or even if we do the tie thing again. Knowing now that soccer is basically a game of luck, all I can do then is to wish them GOOD LUCK.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Banana Banana

Last week a local clothing chain was ordered to remove soccer T-shirts from their shelves which shows the South African colours but with the words Banana Banana instead of Bafana Bafana. I agree, maybe it is a bit anti-patriotic, so last night I actually also watched my first full soccer match ever in my effort not to be too obvioulsy "un-patriotic" when it comes to soccer. This was between Bafana Bafana and Bulgaria. Now I know my soccer loving friends (or ex-friends after this) will probably want to crucify me, but here is my opinion on last night's match and on soccer as a sport in general.

I know all the stuff about soccer being the most loved and played sports of all, and the huge amounts of money involved and warra-warra, but this is how I experienced it as a rugby loving spectator. The idea to watch the full game came after I switched on the television and saw that South Africa was leading 1-0. Although I have never supported the Bafana Bafana, or any other soccer team for that matter, I was actually hoping that South Africa would beat these Bulgarians. Just to shut up the critics for a while. South Africa I think is lying around 90th on FIFA's rankings and Bulgaria 39th. Beating them would've really looked good on Bafana Bafana's CV's and would do a lot for their moral. After all, they are just in the World Cup because South Africa is hosting this and we need more good results for nation building, like the Super 14 semi-final and final that is being played in Soweto currently.

Anyway, being a total novice when it comes to soccer, apart from the beach soccer we played as kids, I was surprized to see how many times they kick the ball around to each other without actually moving an inch forward. In the beginning of the second half, Bafana Bafana wasted nearly 10 minutes of playing time by kicking the ball to and thro. And the fact is, the spectators paid for that time too. I was wondering why the Bulgarians were just standing around and watching this happen while they could've made at least an effort to get the ball themselves and see if they could be more productive with it. Afterall, you can only score when you kick the ball in the direction of the net. To get back to the first half. It was not long after I started watching when the Bulgarians actually did exactly that. They kicked the ball towards the net, and by the grace of God, it went in. Score, one all. At this point I could've switched the TV off, because after that, NOTHING happened. As my comment on Facebook this morning regarding my opinion on soccer, it looks to me to be nothing more than a game of luck. Like two blindfolded men trying to hit the bull on a dart board. The one with the most luck wins. Time after time each side had a "corner" kick-in. The players team up in front of the posts, the guy kicks from the corner, and the ball either hits their heads, or they try and kick it in some direction. The direction that the ball heads in has a 50/50 chance of going left or right. If they are lucky, which none of them were for the remainder of the game, the ball might go into the direction of the net. And then there is a dude with gloves making the odds against luck even more ridiculously small.

Take rugby on the other hand. They have different ways of scoring points, even from different positions and directions on the field. The score changes every 5-10 minutes or so. The excitement levels go up and down as they are fighting their way across the field to get to the score line. The adrenaline and excitement never stops. But the soccer players waste time by kicking the ball around while the other teams stands and watches. During the second half I was hoping someone would at least score, ANYone for that matter, just as long as there was something happening. What a disappointment. Their luck was evenly matched, 50% for the Bafana Bafana, and 50% for the Bulgarians and this was concluded in the middle of the first half.

The other thing I noticed was how soft the players were. I guess the hardest knock you will ever get is a kick against the foot or shin. This happened quite a lot, and it reminded me of the days when we used to trip our fellow pupils at school just to piss them off. But you have no idea how much pain such a move inflicts on these guys...or so they make it look like. Grown men rolling around on the grass after he (or "she") was kicked on the boot, not even on the shin. The facial expressions worse than a man that was stabbed for a packet of cigarretes in the streets of Mitchell's Plain. Can you imagine what would happen if they ever land up in a rugby match? It seems the more painful you make it look, the better your chance of getting the ball again through a "professional foul". In the picture above someone illustrating how to fake the excrutiating pain these men have to endure for the love of the game...

I don't think after this I will be converted. I was really hoping last night that by watching a full game, that I would be more interested in the World Cup games. I really hope Bafana Bafana will have better luck in their games to come, but unfortunately I will not be there to see it happen. Pity "banana banana" sounds so similar to Bafana Bafana, because that would not have been so inappropriate to describe this game called soccer in general. Maybe when I get older and my heart cannot take it anymore when the Springboks are trailing behind 21-19 to the Aussies, with 2 minutes left on the clock and doing their last scrum right in front of the Aussies posts with the possibility of scoring that much needed 3 or 5 points still there, then I will start watching soccer and be sure of not too much excitement that could lead to possible fatal heart failure.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ride to Nowhere

The invite said something about "a nice leisurely ride" and "a great outing for those of you with partners who are scared of you riding fast". The whole idea behind the trip was to give Noelene some experience for her trip to the Transkei later this year and the planned distance was estimated at 350km. The route, well, to "nowhere", "as we are not sure which way the wind and sun will carry us".

I was looking for something to do on Sunday seeing that my family was in Johannesburg and what better way to kill a Sunday than a bike ride? I was up early, too early in fact, but decided to have a coffee at Carlucci's before I would meet up with the rest of the gang in Plattekloof. The thought of going to Carlucci's came a bit late, otherwise I would've thrown in a breakfast as well. Besides, the plan was to eat somewhere along the way, so the empty stomach would only be empty for a short while I hoped. After finishing my coffee while reading about Julius Malema who is now singing "kiss the boer, kiss the farmer" (oh please save us from that), I met up with the guys at the Engen garage as planned. Geoff, who organized the trip was amazed to see so many bikes, 15 in total. He was expecting 4 or 5. But the more the merrier and off we went to a place called "nowhere".

Fortunately the road wasn't really that unplanned, we were informed where we were going to ride and have lunch. I was rather pleased that I came along because two of the roads Geoff mentioned I had never been on before. Always fun to explore new roads. We got onto the N1 in the direction of Worcester. Crossing the Du Toits Mountains via the Hugeunot Tunnel or the Du Toitskloof Pass was not debatable. Bikers take the pass. At this point the ride was still going rather slow, afterall, it was  ride for the "easily scared partners". At this point I knew that I made the right decision to do the ride, the pleasure of riding in a group and the thought of seeing new places is exciting enough. After the pass Geoff stopped for a while just to make sure that all the ducklings made the first obstacle. Before we started we realized that we had 3 paramedics in the group, so at least we were covered should somebody overshoot a bend or two.  Before Worcester we turned off onto the Rawsonville road (R101) to get to the Slanghoekpad (Slanghoek road). This road I've never been on before and I was amazed at the beauty of the surrounding area. On this road is where Goudini Spa is. This was when I realized that riding in a big group like this does NOT allow for sightseeing and taking pictures. I was a bit disappointed, because the road was really beautiful. So were the Slanghoek Mountains as well as the farmlands. Sigh.

The Slanghoekpad ended where we met up with the road that comes from Wellington going to Ceres (R303). I have done this road before when I crossed the Bain's Kloof Pass (one of my first posts). We stopped at Ceres again to take a break and a leak and to make sure everyone was happy with the pace. From Ceres it was a long and straight road (R46) to Touws River. It was here where I used my iPod the last time, but this time there was no time for iPods and riding in a group makes it much less boring than doing it on your own. We met up again with the N1 and headed south for a few kilometres before we turned off onto the Koo road (R318). Here one of the riders developed problems with his sprocket and decided to head home rather than do the rest of the trip towards Montagu and Robertson. Yet again I was totally disappointed that we never stopped to take pictures, because this road was also new to me. (If I can steal some of these guys pictures just to show you). Another fantastic route in between the mountains, right in the Karoo. On this road we went down the Rooihoogte pass as well as the Burger's Pass, with the Koo Valley in between. Here the temperature climbed to 30 degrees Celcius. A few kilometres before Montagu my fuel light came on. I would learn later that at this stage most bikers had their fuel lights flashing. With more than 80 kilometers left on the reserve, we easily managed to get to Robbertson to sit down for lunch at The Dros.

We just finished our drinks when one of the guys mentioned that he had to be back in Cape Town before 5pm. It was already close to two and with no orders yet taken, three of us decided to skip lunch and head back home. OK, this meant that I have had nothing to eat the whole day, but I also wanted to get home early because I wanted to write my post before I go fetch my family at the airport. We filled up and left for Worcester. This road (N15 or R60) I've done many times before, so it was just riding to get back. The wind at places was throwing my head around but the weather was perfect and I was not complaining. When we reached the Du Toits Mountains again, we knew there was only one way to get to the other side, so we took it. At the top we stopped to have a last look at the view over the Paarl Valley. I am sure at this point the rest of the gang was still waiting for their order in Robertson. Closer to Cape Town we split up into our own directions and I stopped at my house at 4pm. Distance on the clock: 500.1km! Strangely enough I wasn't really tired, but my neck was a bit sore because the wind slapping.

My final thoughts on this trip. I definitely will do this road again, much slower and stopping for more  pictures. Although the trip was supposed to be "leisurely", we sometimes did speeds of up to 140 km/h. Still slow maybe for many, but when I ride at that speed, I tend to miss the beauty around me. I still prefer my 200km trips where I see everything around me and get time to explore and take pictures in stead of hanging on to my handle bars for dear life (OK, it wasn't really that bad). The ride was still good and I know the idea was to give Noelene her mileage, so I cannot complain about the reason behind the huge distance with limited stops. Besides, I met some great people and this was my first introduction to the Cape Town BMW club. I will definitely be riding with them again soon. I also swopped contact details with some new biking buddies and we are planning on doing some trips ourselves soon.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

How to kill a beautiful sunset

There are some things in life that I really suck at, like singing. Having three guitars and the ability to press a few chords does not make you a good singer. When you complain about your own voice and your wife suggests singing lessons in stead of saying no "man, it's not that bad", then you know for sure. Although I've been playing for 15 years or more and have used my 30-minute morning sessions as some sort of meditation to destress and relax, I cannot say the people around me reaped the same benefits from that. So I will not refer you to my home made unplugged and unphased videos on Youtube either. Another thing I suck at, is photography. My pictures never justified a decent camera before, so I have been taking pictures with the simplests and cheapest cameras on the market. But somebody ones told me that taking good pictures with a simple camera is possible and some good photographers only uses them. Besides, the ability to see a good picture before you have actually taken the picture is already an art that some have and I don't.

A friend recently send me this picture of her son (I am sure she won't mind me posting it) and I realized that I really like the picture. Don't ask me why, some critics might not even think it is good, but to me it is like my opinion on "good" wine...the best wine to me is the wine that tastes the best at that moment. This picture brought something out about the little boy, the surroundings, and had me looking at it for a while trying to find out why I liked it so much.
Anyway, to get to the point. I would love to take good pictures of places in South Africa to post on my blog, but when I look at my own pictures I always think...boring! Last night I went to the beach to take pictures of the sunset. I deleted all of them, did not even thought it necessary to keep them. Maybe this was just a case of the camera that couldn't do it rather than the operator, because it looked like my lens was fogged up all the time and the sun was smudged. Definitely not the way I saw it through my own eyes. The other people with their telescopic lenses and tripods seemed like they were snapping happily along and were very pleased with their shots, while I had one boobee after the other. I guess next time I will just go watch the sun set without struggling with settings on my camera while the sun is disappearing and maybe just experience the whole essence of what sunset watching is all about..not to get a good picture, but to appreciate the beauty of our planet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Show some respect man!

I know that football fever is running high in the country at the moment. I also know that South Africans don't even blink an eye anymore when we hear about tragic events and people dying. But when you are the MEC for Health in Gauteng and you visit the hospital where six premature babies died in one day due to what is at the moment looking like total negligence, then PLEASE leave your pink ridiculous looking soccer attire at home and show some respect to the parents that have just lost their children. 


If you are a football fan and you don't know what a vuvuzela is, then you will definitely know after the FIFA World Cup. If you are coming to watch any games, make sure you come prepared. Not only with your vuvuzela, but with earplugs as well. Recent research has shown that the little "trumpet" South Africans love to blow during soccer matches, makes more noise than is legally permitted in South African industries. According to safety regulations, workers are not allowed to work in environments with noise levels above 85 decibels, unless they wear hearing protection of course. Apart from sitting for more than 80 minutes in the most irritable noise imaginable, the fact of hearing damage because of decibels that can go up to 144 might make you reconsider watching the match on television. But hey, that is what makes South Africa different from other football loving countries, and that is why people come here for that experience.

Vuvuzelas are not only bad I guess. I walked into a shop that is selling vuvuzelas. At first I didn't pay much attention to the music that was playing in the store, although the quality sounded a but below standard, but when I got to the till, my eye caught the source of the music (which btw was loud enough to hear from outside the shop). A mobile phone with a vuvuzela nicely placed on top of the speaker. Well done to the lady that created this "invention". South Africans are not only unique in many ways, we have lots of ingenuity as well.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

No Two Hundred Rand Notes, thank you!

You know you are in South Africa when businesses don't want to take the local currency anymore because there are too many counterfeit notes doing the rounds. When I stopped just outside Melkbos to fill up, I saw this sign posted at the filling station. When I asked what the problem was, I was told that there are too many fake R200 notes in South Africa and that the Reserve Bank announced that R200 bills should not be accepted anymore. This only two weeks after I was issued with 15 x R200 notes from the bank when I drew R3000 to pay my UK visa. After being forced to pay by credit card I had 3000 Rand's worth of R200 notes to spend. Fortunately I got rid of all of them, never even thought of checking their authenticity and never questioned by anyone either. A couple of weeks back a whole counterfeiting syndicate was exposed in Parklands. I will not mention the nationality of the counterfeiters, but they were not from South Africa. Just abusing the slack immigration laws and the good business opportunities in South Africa to make their their own money (no pun intended).

Paternoster ("Our Father")

I am not a big fan of the West Coast. If I have a choice I will always hit the road to the opposite side of the West Coast. The West Coast of South Africa is much less developed than the East Coast, and the towns are very small. A few nights ago on Pasella they had an insert on St Helena Bay. Having never been to St Helena bay before I decided to do a short road trip and investigate.

I left Cape Town at around 9 a.m. The weather prediction was very good and I decided to head to Paternoster first. From there my plan was to ride with the gravel road to Stompneusbaai and from there to St Helena Bay. I have been to Paternoster before. When you approach Paternoster you get the same scenery you find when approaching Yzerfontein. A straight road heading down to the coast with basically nothing on the left and the right, and only a few white painted houses far in the distance. Paternoster is about 130 kilometres from where I live and I have only been there once before when a friend of mine was looking for a plot for a friend of his from further up north. The furtherest I'v been on the West Coast Road is Saldanha, but just a few kilometres further you find a turn-off to Vredenburg and then it is another 15 kilometres to Paternoster.

Paternoster is a beautiful little fishing town. The town which originally only served a small fishing community has also fallen victim of rich capitalists who wants to own a "little" seaside home. And when you come from a place like Gauteng, what better place to build your little getaway home far from the hustle and bustle and far from the crime. Unfortunately this little town "belonged" to a poor fishing community who had to sit and watch how the rich minority of South Africa were building huge houses right in front of their little white washed beach cottages. In an effort to preserve the traditional look, houses are all built in the same West Coast style, but when you build a 3-storey house in front a little cottage which were there long before you arrived with your checquebook and 4x4, you cannot help to come over as a bit extravagant and selfish.

From Paternoster I took the first turn-off towards Stompneusbaai. I was a bit worried that the road might be very muddy and slippery after two weeks of rain, but apart from one or two mudpools and some slippery areas, the road was not too bad at all. It is about 20 kilometers to Stompneusbaai. Even there the huge developments left a bad taste in my mouth. Just outside Stompneusbaai I stopped at a little monument that was erected for Vasco Da Gama who arrived in 1497 while he was looking for a sea route to India. I wonder what he would say if he saw St Helena Bay today. I actually wonder more what it looked like when he first set foot on these shores?

From Stompneusbaai I rode to St Helena Bay. The plan was to meet my family there for a picnic. This is how you protect that fine line between having your own fun and neglecting your family on a beautiful Sunday. When I approached St Helena Bay I decided that I would rather go back to Paternoster and have the picnic there. St Helena Bay did not impress me much. I phoned and redirected them to Paternoster where we spend some time on the beach having roasted chicken, coffee and chocolate cup cakes for desert. Just outside Paternoster is a nature reserve where the famous Tietiesbaai is situated. This will definitely be our next camping site, but today we didn't stay long and took the road home. Because the road from Vredenburg to Melkbos is rather straight and very boring, we decided to turn off to Darling and go via Mamre and Atlantis back to Cape Town. We arrived home at around four-thirty, after doing 366km.

It is always great to ride in good weather, but today I have to admit that the destination was not what I expected it to be and put a bit of a damper on my ride. The West Coast still does not impress me much and the road from Cape Town to Vredenburg is just too straight an boring. There are many people who actually love the West Coast, but I still prefer to head east from Cape Town if I get the chance. I love the tranquility of the West Coast towns, but when I see how that is being killed by people with too much money, then I cannot help but feel sorry for the local inhabitants of those little towns. I will definitely come back to do my weekend at Tietiesbaai, but this will be with the whole family and the kombi. My next bike trip will be towards the east again....

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Just because I can

Today is yet another miserable day in Cape Town. For the past couple of days Cape Town has been hit by one cold front after the other. I shouldn't really complain about the rain, we always need rain, but unfortunately I am not a winter person and my mood changes with the weather. Secondly, when it is cold and raining like this, I prefer not to ride with the bike, meaning I get stuck in traffic. Capetonian motorists take a while to adapt to driving in the rain, so they tend to make the traffic experience worse than what it normally is.

Well, yesterday it was different. In between the cold fronts we were blessed with a "no-rain day". I cannot say sunny, because I don't think the sun was actually shining until later the afternoon, but I know for sure that it was not raining. So yesterday I obviously took the bike to work. After work I decided to go for a ride instead of heading straight back home. For no reason, but just because I could. While I was riding towards Melkbostrand I was thinking about appreciation. How much we should appreciate things we have and how little we actually do. We had the nicest longests summer, and after 10 days of rain I start complaining because of the weather. I have a bike that I use most of the times but after taking my car and getting stuck in traffic I start complaining. So my ride yesterday was a just-because-I-can ride, a ride out of appreciation.

On my way towards Melkbos I drove past a couple of guys taking off with their powered paragliders from Dolphin Beach. Maybe I should've stopped to take pictures, but I see them so often, actually know some of the guys, that I just drove by. Further along the beach were all the joggers, even people on rollerblades. This is one thing about South Africans, they cannot get enough of good weather. One gap in a cloudy sky and they are all out there. There were guys surfing next to the Sely 1which is sinking deeper and deeper into the sand. The plan is to refloat her and to sink her somewhere else. I think she should stay, it improves the waves. Further along the coast people were fishing, some just walking on the beach. I was just cruising along enjoying the view and the fact that I could do it. At Melkbos I stopped for a while next to the beach. What a beautiful place. The sun was already low and I knew that taking a picture of the sunset with my mobile phone camera was not going to do it justice. So I just took one in the opposite direction. What a privilege to live here. What a privilege to know that this cold spell is just temporarily. What a privilege to be able to get on your bike and go for a ride just because you can. Maybe we should do more things just-because-we-can and stop complaining about the nitty-gritty stuff....

Friday, May 7, 2010

Such is life I guess

This morning after I answered the door I couldn't keep my excitement to myself. I even send my wife a message on Yahoo to tell her. "My hand guards have arrived". Yes, yesterday I ordered Barkbuster hand guards for my bike from Port Elizabeth. The guy told me two to three working days for delivery. But at nine this morning the door bell rang and I was more than surprised to see the courier services. Man, what a guy needs for a perfect weekend is something good in the post...

So, despite the fact that I had to work, I thought that I would skip my coffee breaks and bit by bit assemble each part. I had everything laid out on the table, got the right tools and started disassembling my current handle bar ends. Because the manual only showed the installation of the left hand side (yes, sometimes men follow the manual), I obvioulsy started on the left hand side guard. It didn't take me long before I had the first hand guard on...and I have to admit, I did a good job. Didn't really need the manual, but nevertheless....

So, during my second coffee break I tackled the right hand side. Obvioulsy by now I couldn't understand why they even write manuals. Men can always figure things out by themselves. We don't read manuals and we don't ask for directions. I started the same way as the previous one and when the last bracket had to be attached, with or without a manual I could see that something was wrong. The bracket didn't fit. No mattter which way I turned it, it was NOT going to work. I then compared it with the other side and realized that the box came with two of the same left side brackets. 

Now, if you could've seen my excitement this morning, you could just image my disappointment this afternoon. I ordered this from PE, I could not get on the bike, go to the shop and tell them to swop it. This meant that I will have to wait at least another day, and it being Friday, probably till Monday. So I called the guys on the other side and explained my problem. They asked for a photo and which side it was that needed to be replaced. So this meant I had to take the first one apart to get the picture, send the email and wait. I waited until 4pm and then decided to phone, the silence from the other side was killing me. And then my nightmare came true. The salesman told me that it was the last stock, that the bracket has to be ordered from Australia and that I will have to wait AT LEAST another month!!!!  C'mon, can this be for real? I was shattered to say the least. Can you give a child a Christmas present and then the next day tell him to put it away until he is a bit older?? You just don't do that!

Anyway, so we discussed other possible solutions, but none of them were going to work. Hitting it with a hammer was NOT an option for me. Especially not if it is hardened aluminium. Heating it up and bending it, neither. So what the salesman suggested was to try the bracket from the KTM. I don't particularly like to put "KTM stuff" on my bike, but hey, this was an emergency. In the meantime I decided to put both on in any case, one with the bracket and the other without the bracket. I just have to make sure that if I fall that it is not on the right hand side. The hand guard will just break off. But apart from the missing bracket it looks good and is tight enough not to fall off. While I was writing this post, I received the following message....

Hi M***

M*** has rushed off to the Post Office and posting your missing items.

So, hopefully I will have the KTM substitutes soon. Hopefully they will fit and hopefully I will soon be ready to fall on the right hand side. SO WATCH THIS SPACE...!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Friend makes me see the light

It is good to have friends. I've been wanting to put this orange light on my GS to make myself more visible in traffic, like many other bikers do nowadays. I went to shop this morning to look for these light covers. I will not mention the name of this shop, but they wanted to charge me R380 for a set. One for the small light and one for the big light. I only wanted the small one, but you obvioulsy have to take both. Now this is where the "good to have friends" come in. A friend of mine suggested that I go and buy a piece of amber perspex, cut it out and somehow connect it to the light cover. He even told me the temperature at which to bend it if I had to make it fit. To make a long story short, for R28 I bought a piece of perspex enough to make two sets, and with some clever thinking and finding spare screws I managed to make a amber light cover that looks like it was bought from the shelve. To my friend who knows who he is, thanks mate, you not only saved me R352 today, but you gave me an opportunity to be creative and hopefully saved my life in the process as well... I am sure I will be much more visible to other motorists.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Yzerfontein Massacre

My watch said it was five to four, about 30 minutes before my wife usually arrives from work. I was quite pleased to see my wife arriving earlier than usual, we were on our way to Yzerfontein to test my new camping checklist and the sooner we could leave the better. I was rather disappointed when she pointed out that it was indeed half past four already. My watched stopped about thirty minutes ago. We were a bit pushed for time, seeing that the sun goes down much earlier now and pitching a tent in the dark is nothing to look forward to, especially if you have done it only once before in the middle of your living room.

We chose Yzerfontein for various reasons. It is not too far away from where we live and usually not too crowded on out-of-season weekends. The wind was quite strong when we left Cape Town, but as we were getting closer to Yzerfontein we could see that it had died down. At the entrance gate I was told by the caretaker of the Yzerfontein Caravan Park that sleeping in vehicles is not allowed. It was actually just a misunderstanding between me and the nice lady and a "kombi that was kitted out with a bed" is considered a camper, so we were good. We chose our little hideout carefully taking into consideration the current wind direction, the closest neighbours and the distance to the beach. The only thing I don't like about this camping site is that it does not have any grass, so my tent was going to stand naked on the open sand. Not that it really mattered, I was sleeping on a blow-up mattress and my wife and son was taking the kombi. There weren't many people in the camp, so finding the best spot was not difficult. I immediately started with the tent. I was impressed with myself. After 15 minutes the tent was standing. The sun was already going down so we unpacked the car, pumped up the mattress and started the fire. The whole idea was to see if my camping checklist had everything that was needed for camping, so we weren't going to do the walk on the beach first, etc, etc.

On the menu for the evening were lamb chops, pork rib, mushrooms and "braaibroodjies" (sandwiches toasted over the fire). My first correction on the checklist was changing "beers" to "plenty of beers". My son kept asking me why we are camping and I was hoping that after this camp he would've dicovered the answer for himself. After finishing a real good meal with nothing missing my wife put my son to sleep and then joined me by the fire until we watched the last log turned into ash. It was two days after full moon and the moon still had enough shine to create a very relaxing and romantic atmosphere. Far in the distance we heard people cheering and we assumed that the Stormers were giving the Crusaders a hard time. Apart from that it was very quite and the only other sound we could hear was the waves breaking on the beach not far from where we were. A perfect evening and at this stage a perfect checklist....

We sadly parted ways at around ten o' clock, my wife to the kombi and myself to the tent. We were thinking of leaving our son in the kombi and then both go for the tent but knowing that he might wake up at any moment and find himself in an unfamiliar setting could maybe ruin the sleep of the other few happy campers. So we decided to do what's best for him and stuck to our initial plan. I love sleeping in a tent, especially if there is a soft wind blowing. The movement of the tent, sometimes against your body really gives you that feeling of being outdoors. I've slept on a few occasions under the stars, but that can only be done in places where it is really hot and where you will not be covered in dew the next morning.  This was not one of those places, so I was glad that I had something to cover me. By this time all the cheering died down and all I could hear was the breaking waves and the leaves in the trees.

The mattress was quite comfortable. Actually better than the the one in the kombi and even better than the king size I bought for our bedroom a few months ago. I fell asleep very quickly and the first time I opened my eyes were around 3.30 am. I realized at that point that I was awake and that continuing my sleep was not going to happen without effort. I lied still and listened to the sounds outside. I could still hear the waves and the leaves...and then I heard footsteps. Ok, I am still not sure if it was really footsteps, but being a horror movie freak it didn't take me long to go back to all the gruesome scenes from movies were stupid teenagers go camping somewhere in the woods where there are already rumours about a crazy madman roaming the woods slaughtering people one by one. The thought of lying in a tent that does not give much protection from whetever may be lurking outside, was not very reassuring either. I remembered that I left the axe outside against a tree and thought to myself that stupid moves like that apparently does not only happen in movies only. There I was, a grown-up man who has to protect his wife and child, shivering while I was writing the script for "The Yzerfontein Massacre".

I was shivering all right, but that was really not because I was scared. It seemed like the air in my mattress cools down at the same rate than the earth's surface. Besides, that was exactly where I was lying, a couple of centimeters above the earth's surface, at 4 in the morning and only covered in a single bed duvet. I was wondering what else I could put on my camping checklist to prevent this from happening again. I still couldn't sleep so I decided to get up and answer nature's call which would've kept me awake in any case if I didn't go. I zipped open the tent and climbed out like a real McGyver. The moon was right above me and there was enough light for me to see that there was no madman walking around with an axe. The axe was where I left it. I peeped through the kombi's window and saw my wife and son all snuggled up, unaware of the massacre going on outside. I did my thing and climbed back. Funny enough it felt a little bit warmer when I got in, probably because it was much colder outside the tent than inside. The only way for me to fall asleep again was to grab my Nokia 500 ExpressMusic and to listen to some songs. I think I listened to about four songs before I dozed off again.

When we woke up the next morning the sun was yet to come up. My son prefers to wake up really early in the morning, especially on weekends. We still cannot figure out how he knows that it is a weekend, but somehow he manages to pull us out of bed on the only two days when we can afford to sleep late. We took a stroll down to the beach and after a while returned to the camp site do start our breakfast. This included bacon and eggs, toast, yoghurt and muesli, just like the camping checklist predicted. Of course there was coffee as well. What is camping without that first cup of coffee in the morning? I decided not to tell my wife about the footsteps, did't want to scare her away from any future camps. My son was still asking why we camp and I realized that we will have to do a few more before he might realize why. If it wasn't that my wife had to go work on this lovely Saturday, we would've probably spend more time on the beach, but we had to pack up and just tossed everything into the kombi. At nine we handed in the gate and ablution keys and were on our way home. On our way back I tried one last time and asked my son if he liked the camping. "No", he said, "I couldn't play with my toys in the sand". Well, next time we will make sure that we spend more time on the beach and then I will ask him again. For my checklist test...passed with destinction!