Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Budget Breakfast Review - Chaplans

I am starting to think that my review scores should've been based on more specified criteria, with a better scoring system. It was like Carlucci's was setting the standard and now everything is either better or worse than Carlucci's. I discovered a new place which I guess depending on your preferences could be better than Carlucci's. This made me wonder about food critics in general. Even movie critics. Whatever they think is good or bad is in any case just their opinions, so I guess what  I say about the places I visit is also just an opinion. My opinion based on what I want from a breakfast and the location. Anyway, I discovered another restaurant which I suppose is more focused on lunch and dinner, but yet I was quite impressed with their breakfast. Even the setting, depsite the fact that it is situated smack bang in the middle of a shopping center, is not too bad compared to other shopping mall restaurants. At least this restaurant is in a cosy sheltered square inside a relatively small shopping complex called West Coast Village. With a play area inside with no roof cover you won't get that claustrophobic feeling of shopping malls at all, and with a jungle gym where the kids can entertain themselves it makes quite a pleasant area for parents with small kids to have breakfast. If you prefer a Mugg & Bean breakfast you can just move over to the restaurant next door which happens to be a Mugg & Bean.

However, should I have a choice between Mugg & Bean and Chaplans, I would definitely go for Chaplans. The "Kick Start" breakfast at R25 gives you basically the same as most other places in the same price range, but this breakfast is served with chips. Is there anything better than dunking a chip in egg yellow? If chips and egg is not your thing, then I guess you might do better at Carlucci's still, but this breakfast was also very nicely presented, with preserves on the side and the bread in a nice basket. My son kept himself busy on the jungle gym, and even though the view was not that pleasant, at least the food was. The only problem I had with the restaurant was the unfriendly waitress. She was very helpfull but it took me a while to get a smile out of her. The breakfast is R4 more than at Carlucci's, but with the chips I would give it the same score. Unfortunately the view and atmosphere that Carlucci's has is not there, so I will have to give it one point less.

Chaplans: 8
Mugg & Bean: 7
Wimpy: 7
Carlucci's: 9

Monday, November 29, 2010


If you are into french cuisine and you would like to impress your friends, snails is a must. If you don't have any in stock and you are looking for very fresh snails, you can contact me. I feed them on my plants in the garden and I am willing to give them away for free. I caught these in a 2 meter radius. Just take them before I take out the salt....

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Santa needs new transport

After giving my opinion on Santa in South Africa delivering toys on a reindeer powered sleigh that won't get further than the Kalahari desert, I was wondering what the other option was for him to get his presents delivered. Today, I think I got the answer. I remember as a kid watching this spectacle on television news thinking that bikers cannot really be that bad if they do this for the kids. Just like I thought many years ago that Meatloaf was from hell and today actually think that he is a decent guy with some real talent, so my opinion has changed about leather clad bikers in general. Ok, I am pretty sure that are some hard core bikers out there that I would steer clear from, but I think many of them do have good hearts as well. Let me get to the point. Today was the annual Toy Run. It is basically a charity event where toys are bought for underprivileged children, and then bikers take these toys to a collection point. It is claimed to be the largest motorcycle charity event in South Africa happening simultaneously in 19 cities across South Africa. So I was fortunate to attend this year's Toy Run in Cape Town.

A bike?
Just the start...
The starting point was at the Ratanga Junction parking area in Century City. I made sure that I was early this year so that I could walk around and take some pictures. It is amazing to see so many bikes together...and so many different ones as well. Some I am not even sure if they could be called motorcycles in the true sense of the word, but still allowing more wind in your face than the average motor car I guess makes them qualify as "bikes". Like most events where you have a few bikers together, you will find the stuff that keeps them happy, like noise, burning tyres, showing off, that kind of stuff. Fortunately there was not too much of that going on around at 10 am in the morning, but a few guys did try to finish off their tyres before the event even started, and some showed that they basically only need the back wheel to ride on in the unlikely event of losing the front. Something that I thought was a bit strange was the fact that the  only tent on the premises was a beer tent. "What is any event in South Africa without a Castle Beer tent?" I thought to myself. Not worth attending. I did however stay away from alcohol, because a fall with 22 000 bikes behind you could be disastrous.

Look what I can do
At 25 past 10 everyone started their engines, ready to hit the road to Maynardville where the other beer tents were waiting. Oh, and the truck that collects the toys of course. I was quite close to the front, hoping to get there early for parking close to the gate. We were not even gone when the first woman an a big Harley lost her balance and dropped her bike right in front of me. Fortunately we were still going very slow and I managed to avoid her. Two weekends ago I picked up my bike a couple of times from sand and decided it was someone else's turn, hoping that some gentleman will help her if she cannot manage. I was on my way to Maynardville to deliver my toys.

On the N1 south bound
I think that anyone who has experienced the roar of literally thousands of bikes together has thought of buying a bigger bike for next year's event. I have to say that the Harleys definitely draw all the attention. It might not be a bad choice for a second bike. Mmmm, wonder what the missus will say? If I only had space in my garage. On the road everything went smoothly, with enough traffic cops to keep the other traffic at bay, allowing us to go our way. I haven't heard of any incidents or accidents, but then again I was in front, so I had no idea what was going on behind me. The people next to the road was waving and cheering us on as if we were doing the Argus Cycle Race, but what they obviously did not know was that we didn't need any encouragement, we were enjoying what we were doing. And to think that it was for charity made it even more enjoyable.

When we reached Maynardville we parked and everyone dropped their toys (refering to the real toys, not the bikes) before they started exploring the stalls and tents. There we quite a few stalls selling motorbike stuff and of course beer. When we left I saw this gentleman sitting at the entrance, fast asleep. I am pretty sure he was one of the early customers at the beer tent at the starting point. I wonder what happened to his toys, or if he even had thoughts of bringing toys. At least he was still alive, well.....sort of.

From Maynardville we (my pillion and I) took the scenic route back to Cape Town via Hout Bay and Camp's Bay. I think Santa could come and take note on how we deliver toys in South Africa...and enjoy the scenery as well. I didn't see any sleighs around today and I am pretty sure that these toys will bring smiles to more faces than any toy coming from Lapland could. Anyway, it was a great event, and seeing so many bikes together just added to the excitement. I will be there again next year and I hope to see the guy in the red suit there as well, obvioulsy with his sleeves torn off, a chain around his neck and on a blood red Harley Davidson if nothing else.

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's Friday, let's go BRAAI...!

You will know if the braai is real...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Twitchers and Lifers

I am in Kampala, and even though this is in the middle of the city, I am amazed by the bird life that I have seen since my arrival. I am NOT a bird watcher ("twitcher") by any stretch of the imagination and don't know the difference between a hawk and a kestrel (if there is a difference), but I actually regret not having my better camera here to take some pictures. This morning when I left the hotel I saw this huge shadow above me and when I finally gathered that it was not some phoenix or flying ostrich, I was too late to take a picture. It was in fact a Marabou Stork, actually three of them sitting at a tree top and flying around from one side of the road to the other side of the hotel, each time looking very impressive with their huge wingspans. Further above them were some kestrels (or were they hawks?) circling around looking for a morning snack.

Marabou Storks
When I returned to my room this afternoon I heard a loud crawing noise like crows make, but a bit different. At least I could figure that one out. I was however still wondering if it might not be the storks sitting closer for a better picture. When I opened my window I saw something more beautiful than what I saw the morning. And this time I didn't know what these bird were called. (My first "lifer" I guess). I might be completely wrong but from what I could find on the Internet it has to be Black Casqued Hornbills. A pair sitting and watching me like I was a tourist. Damn, I guess I am a tourist. I might not know much about birds, but I can read. So of course after reading a bit about these birds I was starting to understand why some people can get totally carried away with this bird-watching thing. Anyway, these two lovely birds are still sitting outside my window and the best picture I could get with this little useless camera was what you see below.... 


Monday, November 22, 2010

Budget Breakfast Review - M&B

Ok, I was not going to do this review, but seeing that it is not much different from Wimpy's breakfast, let me add it. So, like most Wimpy breakfasts, this one is also one of those where you know exactly what you are going to get. M&B (actually called Mugg & Bean) has an "OTG breakfast" for R24.90. The "OTG" stands for "On The Go" and was previously called "Breakfast On The Go". I guess "OTG" is more trendier, and I guess if you have not been a M&B regular earlier in your life then you would not have known what it stands for. Well, I have just told you. What I like about this breakfast at M&B is that the bread usually tastes better than at other places, and the coffee is bottomless. But for the rest it is just the same as Wimpy. The location usually always sucks because you usually find M&B restaurants in shopping malls. And I think by now most people know what I think about shopping malls. Although I had this breakfast at the airport, there is a nice M&B at Paddocks overlooking Sunset Beach area. All you see is the road and some traffic, but at least you can sit outside. I cannot give this breakfast more than what I have given The Wimpy breakfast as they both have a 50/50 change should I have to choose. And don't worry about the black cutlery, it is only at the airport where you get blunt plastic knives and forks to eat with. Oh, and unlike the Wimpy, here you can actually ask for a large wooden pepper grinder if you want to act like a yuppie.

Mugg & Bean: 7

A precious day from my life wasted

I've just arrived in Kampala, Uganda. I left my house at 8am this morning, flew to Johannesburg and then to Entebbe. Entebbe sits next to Lake Victoria (the largest lake in Africa), and from there is it about a 40 km drive to Kampala. When I left this morning I decided to travel without opening my laptop, or reading anything like a book or newspaper. I did bring my iPod along, but for the rest of the time I just wanted to think. I just wanted to take in what was happening next to me, not worry about work or other issues. When I arrived at the airport in Cape Town I was thinking of doing another Budget Breakfast Review, but with only the Wimpy and Mugg & Bean in the departure area, I wasn't really keen on doing that either. I did however take a picture of my breakfast, but I still haven't decided if I want to write about it or not. The flight to Johannesburg was rather uneventful. I took some pictures of a Kulula plane that was standing next to our plane, hoping to write about the "flying 101" lesson that was nicely painted on the side of the plane. But even now I don't really feel like writing anything about that either. I will post the pictures so the you can have a look at it yourself. I just found it very interesting to see to which lenghts Kulula would go to promote their "casual" image. I think it is good, life is so serious, we need to make more fun about life, even if it's just painting something less serious than the airline logo on a million dollar aeroplane.

The gentleman that was sitting next to me was reading a newspaper. You know, why people who sits in the middle seat wants to read a newspaper is beyond me. What I usually do when my neighbour opens his newspaper is to start reading along. This usually makes the guy uncomfortable to a point that he starts folding it into something smaller than a Reader's Digest. Anyway, reading all the news about the Indian bride that was murdered in Cape Town, the Springsboks' poor performance, the outrageous spending sprees of some of our minsisters, etc., gave me enough to think about. Unfortunately I wasn't in the mood to think about all the negativity around me and decided to try and take a nap instead.

In Johannesburg, it was the same routine as usual. Walking to International Departures and waiting for the first boarding call. I packed only hand luggage for my trip, so I spared myself the luggage check-in and all the schlep that goes along with that. I was given a window seat which I had to accept because the lady at check-in at Cape Town told me she could not change it from there. In Johannesburg it would've been too late to still beg for an aisle seat, so I left it like that. At least it is better than a middle seat. And besides, I didn't have a newspaper to annoy the passengers next to me. I was the third person to board the plane, and I was rather surprized to find out that the first two were actually the people that was going to sit next to me. It was a husband and wife in their late fifties. The husband was rather pissed off when I placed my bags in the overhead lockers while he was still fiddling around with his luggage on his seat. When he looked up and saw that I have taken the space, I could see on is face he was not very happy. I'm sorry, if you snooze you lose. It seems like the older you get the longer it takes to settle down and store your luggage, so I guess I had a couple of years on my side.

The plane was delayed by 45 minutes due to thunderstorm activities around Johannesburg. Sitting in a stationary aircraft for 45 minutes feels much longer than in a moving one. The eldery couple next to me did not talk much. Neither did I. When we took of I could understand why we were grounded for 45 minutes, the clouds really looked scary. Captain De Beer was flying this way and that way dodging thunderstorm cells, and eventually apologized for the seatbelt signs that was still on 40 minutes after take-off. I was wondering how much more time we were losing with this zig-zag flying, but at least appreciate the fact that he was trying to miss these thunderstorm clouds...or Cumulonimbus clouds as the are called. I was getting bored with nothing to do. My thoughts went back to the interesting gentleman that was sitting next to me on my previous flight to Uganda. He taught me a couple of valuable life lessons, all resulting from his own life experiences. The woman next to me today was still trying to learn a few life lessons herself. She was reading a book called "Understanding the pupose and power of a woman". Judging by the amount of notes she scribbled down in the book, I could see that her husband was in for a big surprise later on. I was wondering if there might be a book available with a shortened title like "Understanding woman". I think this would've been a better seller than the one she was reading. I didn't want to get into a conversation with this woman, especially not on that topic, so I just kept to my side of the cramped up seat and later decided to watch the main movie. It was one of those typical American movies where everyone lives happily ever after. This was about a 10-year old girl facing the challenges of life after her dad lost his job, as well as her older sister that was giving her a bit of a hard time. The problem with these "feel-good" movies is that you actually feel even more miserable after the end. As soon as the credits start rolling across the screen along with the tears across your cheeks, you realize that in reality things don't really work out like they do in these shallow unreal depictures of real life. Then you are back to your own life which isn't always as rosy as the ones in movies. Anyway, I wasn't expecting life to be like in the movies so I am kind of prepared for "real life" and don't get pulled into these "Pleasantville" plots easily. This one couldn't pull me in either....

Howard Stafford's article
Sawubona Cover

I  didn't finish watching the movie, and to help me against more boredom I decided to page through the Sawubona, SAA's inflight magazine. Here I read a letter about a gentleman who was complaining about the "oversize and overweight crew members" that kept on bumping against him. He was threatening to stop using SAA's services. I was just wondering which airline he was considering after SAA, seeing that most of them are like that nowadays. Gone are the days when air hostesses were recruited for their looks and not for their ability to pick up a fire extinguisher or push top-heavy food trolleys. Personally I don't have a problem when they rub their "bee-hinds" against me, but I guess if they continuously bump my coffee from the cup in my hand then it might be another story. I just don't think I would change airlines because of the size of the crew. I have seen air hostesses from some other European countries that could've been my granny, so I would not complain too much about SAA's crew. I also read the "Light Relief" section by Howard Stafford. He was telling about his recent trip to West Africa and how his tolerance levels were tested by the poor service he received from the hotels he was staying in. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt my friend.

So, what a boring and uneventful day it was for me. I reached my hotel at around 8pm and deciced to read my mails quickly and then to post this uninteresting story of my day. To me this was nothing but wasted time. I wonder what I can do to prevent this from happening again. Maybe read a good book, or travel with a companion instead of doing it alone. Even traveling with someone you don't like is better than traveling alone. Llet's see what Kapala can offer me over the next couple of days. maybe in my next post I will have something more interesting to write about.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

When everything goes wrong....

I was watching how the Springboks got a beating by the Scots yesterday and decided to go take a walk in the garden to see if could find something to distract my mind from what I would think is nothing but a humiliation. I am a Bok supporter, but when they play like they did yesterday then I don't want them to lose by 3 or 5 points, I want them to be thrashed completely. Maybe then they will wake up. But then again, so what if they lose, life is not about winning and losing for me. Besides, in a week's time yesterday's beating would've been forgotten in any case. And at the rate they are playing one game after the other, I can image that at some point they will have to lose as well. But well done to Scotland's team, they showed character yesterday after their previous game against New Zealand. I can image how they must've felt after the game. very pleased with themselves. And they obviously deserved it. Let's see if the Boks can feel the same next weekend.

Anyway, to make matters worse, when I walked in the garden I saw the bright orange sky and decided that I would feel much better if I could drive down to the beach quickly and maybe get a good picture of the sunset. At least this would give me something to feel good about about, seeing that the Boks didn't allow me that pleasure. By the time I got my camera and got to the beach, needless to say the bright orange had also disappeared, leaving me with a bleak orange that was comparable to the Boks' bleak performance. I took some pictures nevertheless, but when I looked at them on my laptop I decided that a black and white version would do it more justice. So let's just keep it gloomy, seeing that nothing else was going my way yesterday...

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Friday, let's go BRAAI...!

South Africans love to "kuier" (socialize) and one should never underestimate the significance of a "Bring-&-Braai" to accomplish that. Having friends over for a braai is probably one of the nicest ways of spending your weekend. The problem is that the price of meat is so high that it costs a small fortune to invite them all over for a braai. Organizing a bring-&-braai solves not only that problem, but it gives the opportunity to at least lay eyes on your friends who have been hiding away behind closed office doors and fancy laptops for a whole week. So, it's Friday, why not do the right thing and invite someone over for a bring-&-braai this weekend...??

No White Christmas in Africa

There is no doubt that it is summer in South Africa. The days are longer and in Cape Town the sun sets way after 8pm. And to remove any further doubt, had this been Europe the temperatures we are experiencing at the moment would probably have made headline news as "the next heat wave to hit the continent". So I was walking into a local shopping mall, 30 degrees outside, and what do I see? A f**in huge snowman! So I ask myself, "What is a freakin snowman doing in South Africa when it is 30 degrees outside where most South Africans have never ever seen any snow in their lives before?" "Oh,", you might say, "but it is one month away from Christmas". So what? This is South Africa, we have created many mythical creatures ourselves, just think about the Tokoloshe and Antjie Somers. We don't have to rely on overseas' fairy tales of a fat man in a red suit who brings presents to good children on sleigh that will get stuck in the Kalahari sand in no time. The poor dude will lose 40 kg's of sweat just south of the Equator already. We also don't build snowmen over Christmas time. We swim in the sea and lie in the sun. Yes, we also celebrate Christmas, some of us still for the reason it was started 2000 years ago. But why do we have to try and do it like the Europeans and other countries do that actually have the right to call it a "white" Christmas? By the way, speaking about a "white" Chrismas in South Africa is so politically incorrect, it would be better to call it a "Coloured Christmas" instead. But even that could offend some people. Let's stick with a "Summer Christmas" rather. Come on South Africa, be original for a change. Santa Clause with all his deers, dwarfs and giant snowmen does not belong here. Rather celebrate Christmas for what it was intended to be, and if your religion doesn't cater for that then think of something more original than a fat dude in a red suit. And this is Cape Town, we DON'T build snowmen in December, we're on the beach building sand castles.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Budget Breakfast Review - Wimpy and Carlucci's

I love having breakfast. And despite my effort to stay healthy, when I talk about breakfast then I usualy have a full English breakfast in mind, with at least bacon and egss to make it "complete". If someone wants to treat me, don't invite me to a fancy dinner at a posh restaurant, invite me for a breakfast. It does not even have to be an expensive breakfast, it only has to have bacon, egg and toats. And to end it off, at least some good tasting coffee.

So, seeing that I am always in search of cheap quick breakfasts where I can pop in quickly before work and treat myself, I have decided to review a few places that I usually go to. I am also hoping of dicovering a few new places as well. The only criteria that I have for this "quick and cheap breakfast" is that it has bacon and egg, and that is has to cost less than R25. So this week I will look at The Wimpy and Carluccis, my two most frequented places for breakfast.


Wimpy Menu

This is such a traditional South African restaurant that I don't think there are many south Africans that as never been in one. More famous for their burgers, they have really caught up on the breakfasts as well, with some reasonably priced breakfasts. Another good thing about The Wimpy is that there are so many branches around, you don't have to go far to find one. The problem is that these branches are usually inside shopping malls with limited view. I hate shopping malls.

The presentation is very plain, and you know exactly what you are going to get, no matter to which branch you go. Their cheapest breakfast at R19.95 is the Sunrise Breakfast, but with only one egg it's too little for me. So, I opted for the cheapest one with two eggs which was the Early Bird Breakfast. Two slices of bacon and one slice of toast. This sound very skimpy, but for the amount of oil it was baked in, it is probably better not to have more on your plate. At R23.95 the price is at least within my criteria.
One good thing about the The Wimpy, for me at least, is their coffee. Coffee connoisseurs might not agree, but I will drive to the Wimpy just for their coffee. And you can get a Mega Coffee if you want a larger mug. So, taking everything into consideration, I would give The Wimpy 7/10 for their breakfast. If you ever think of taking me there I would definitely accept the invitation, but I would go for the more expensive Farmhouse Freakfast with more toast and chips.

Early Bird Breakfast

Carlucci's Menu
I think everyone that reads my blog would by now know that I love to go to Carluccis. It's a bit more "upmarket" and is situated at Kite Beach, with a stunning view over Table Mountain and Robben Island. In summer months the place is crowded with kite surfers from all over the world, and in winter it is very cosy place to hang out. For location and atmosphere it gets a very good score. When you go to Carlucci's it is good to arrive early, the place is very popular among the locals, and some people seems to go there every day for a quick breakfast. And talk about quick, their cheapest breakfast is also called the "Quickie". With two eggs, bacon and toast the R22 is a bargain. What is also nice is that you can swop the toast for ciabatta or panini at no extra costs. The size of the panini alone is enough to fill you. Also, what I have noticed is that when you ask for scrambled eggs, you definelity get more than two eggs worth of scrambled eggs, making it even a better choice than fried eggs. The good quality bacon is not deep fried and the scrambled egg really tastes better than most other places that I have tried. In general the food is quite good here, even their other breakfasts, but it exceeds my price limit a bit and I usually just take a Quickie with a latte. The latte's are a bit expensive in relation to the breakfast, but I guess for that quality of breakfast they have to make up at somewhere else. I give Carlucci 9/10 and could definely recommend it.

Quickie Breakfast

The Wimpy: 7
Carlucci's: 9

Monday, November 15, 2010

Waking up the Sand Monster

There comes a time in any man's life where he needs to face his fears. Mine was this morning. I was on my way to a place called Bontebok Ridge for my long awaited sand riding course. Sand had become the obstacle in my quest to explore gravel roads across South Africa and beyond, and it was time to lower that obstacle by a few inches. When I drove into Wellington the Parlotones' song "A Giant Mistake" was playing on my iPod and I was wondering if it was a sign of things to come. But, I was ready to face my fear. The only problem now was to find the place called Bontebok Ridge. If the course was anything as difficult as it was to read the map that Rony had sent us, then I was really in for a challenge. After unintentionally exploring most of the gravel roads in the vicinity of Bontebok Ridge, I finally found the place where the more direction orientated guys were waiting for the more directionally challenged ones to arrive. My GPS gave up on me about 3 kilometres past Schalk Burger's farm where I ran into a couple of BMW and KTM riders fixing a flat tyre. I was really worried that I too might become “deflated” today, but these guys had other plans for the day and it was clear that they had done a couple of "sand riding” courses before, both officially and unofficially.

Rony, our trainer for the day, was very eager to hand out the indemnity forms before starting the introductions. It was clear that I was the rookie for the day, not even my accumulative bmx, mountain bike and Virgin Active gym bike time could match the time that most of these guys have spent on motorbikes before. Most of them obviously not that much on dual purpose bikes, otherwise they would not have been at this "Introductory to Sand Riding Course" in the first place, but more nevertheless. When guys start discussing which tyres have the best traction and how much air to let in or out, then I already know I am lagging behind in experience. So, after we all let out the air from our tyres, signed our death certificates and read our CV's, Rony officially started his course by giving us some background information on sand riding in general….and falling in sand…and getting up from sand. When he casually laid his motorbike on its side to demonstrate the best way of picking up a 260 kg bike, I could feel the uneasiness in my stomach. Seeing a bike on its side like that is like seeing your wife hugging her best male friend. There is nothing wrong with it but the picture just makes one feel uncomfortable. I didn't want to feel that way today, so my objective for the day was not to fall at all. Clearly very optimistic still at that point. Believing that I was not going to fall my mind was drifting off to whatever was still waiting out there. If there was going to be an exam at the end of the course, then I guess I would've struggled answering any questions on "Chapter 1 - The Bike Pick-up Technique". Falling was not an option for me. Rony also covered the stand-up riding technique in detail, confirming how the point of gravity actually moves down when one stands up, changing the weight from your seat to your foot pegs. It also allows your bike to move freely under you. Contrary to what most believe when they hit the sand for the first time, your bike actually wants to get to the other side. It just wants to do it in its own way. Refraining from clamping the bike in between your legs gives it that freedom it needs to do it. You NEVER sit down when riding in sand, unless you ride one of the "plastic bikes" where you can actually walk and ride at the same time. They weigh around 100 kg, so who really cares if you lose your balance and eat sand with a "plastic bike"? You just pick it up and carry on.

Rony showing us how it's done
By the time we got to start our bikes for the first skill test and warm-up round, I could feel the adrenaline pumping. I remember that I was much more relaxed with my first parachute lesson. I guess there you had one chance of getting it right, and if you were unsuccessful then there was no opportunity to kick yourself afterwards for doing something foolish. But today was going to be one opportunity after the other to make a fool of myself, and I knew it. And besides, damaging your ego is one thing, but damaging your bike is another. And what I was scared of most was destroying my motorbike while trying to save my ego. Rony said we should rather "walk away like a man" when we get to that point where we knew we were going to injure ourselves. But none of us were "men", we were grownup boys with adventure toys...and no-one was going to walk away when you are in for an adventure. The idea with the first skill session was to shift your weight from one side of to the other while negotiating your way through a couple of cones. I knew I was going to take out a couple of cones in the process, but after getting the feel of the bike it turned out to be reasonably easy to do. That is negotiating the cones of course, not taking them out. The little circle route we did to get back to the starting point was already challenging enough for some of us, but we all managed to finish this with not too much disappointment in ourselves.

Geoff facing the first snot pot
 After the cones we went for a little "tweespoor" track (two wheel track) ride inside the Bontebok Ridge Reserve. Rony suggested that if the guy in front of you ride likes a "doos" (an ugly Afrikaans word for someone who rides like an arsehole), then you overtake him. Eventually all the "dose" will be at the back of the line. Geoff jokingly indicated that he would take up the last spot and be the "doos" from the start. In the reserve we saw quite a few animals roaming the foothills of the Limietberg Mountains; Blue Wildebeest, Springbok, Bontebok and lots more. I was thinking that stopping to take pictures would've been a bonus for the day, but that was not going to happen and my little point-and-shoot was not going to bring justice to the tranquility of the reserve in any case. And besides, the animals were running in all directions when we got closer and weren't going to pose for picture hunters on roaring mechanical beasts. What an awesome country, with so much stunning scenery, all waiting to be discovered. And here you have game running around you while you are enjoying this on a motorbike. During this awesome ride, we encountered a little ditch with water, and even though the more experienced riders at the end of the day might've forgotten that it was there, for me it was my first big challenge of the day. I always have this feeling that the rocks beneath the surface are as slippery as snot, and that one HAS to fall when you go through. With a bit more revs on the other side than what was really required, I managed to keep my ego still intact. Further along the way some guys missed a turn-off and lost the front guys in a reserve where you can actually see for miles ahead. I was one of the lost tribe. The other guys just disappeared into thin air, so the lost souls rode back to the base camp to wait there. There we were joined by the others not long after we pulled out the ice cold Powerades from Rony's cooler box. A well needed refreshment and rest. By now the temperature was touching the thirties and we were not even close the hottest time of the day.

Brent cruising through the "Baby"
 After the break it was time for the "Baby Sand Monster". Getting to this piece of sandy single track again presented a couple of challenges, but yet again we all made it there in one piece. When we stopped at the start of this 20 meter section of single track sand pit I knew this was show time. The most sand I have ever taken on with my F800GS. Geoff at this point admitted that he was a bit worried, and I couldn't do anything else but agree with him. I felt exactly the same. But it was "Stand Up, Look Up and Open Up". Some guys made it look like the easiest thing to do, but one by one the sand monster was taking its prisoners. It was already clear at this stage who were the most experienced riders. Anton and Tim who had already done a five week drive from Dar Es Salaam to South Africa were clearly used to riding in sand and was getting quite "aggressive". But aggression was what Rony wanted in order to take on the "Mommy Sand Monster" later that afternoon. After we did the circle in both directions to make sure that we do it on your "chocolate side" (quoting Rony) and our "non-chocolate side", we were ready to go back to base camp again. Unfortunately Rony's bike was pointing in the wrong direction and we all had to do another round through the sand following him back to base camp. I was really pleased with myself at this point, because I had not fallen off once yet. But then disaster struck. Getting to the last section of the sandy patch I managed to do some sort of "sideways lift-off" to the right hand side. For some reason, everything I had just learnt failed me and I went flying into the side bushes nearly spinning my bike 180 degrees. Geoff who was behind me heard the revs and thought I made it to the other side, but was rather surprized when he rode passed and saw me taking pictures of my bike lying on its side next to the road. You know that uncomfortable feeling I was talking about earlier? I was experiencing it at that moment. Apart from the few extra character scratches both rider and machine was unharmed. With Geoff's and Andrew’s help we managed to get it back on its feet again and I knew that the "Baby Sand Monster" just wanted to remind me before I leave that he is still the boss out there.
"Wife hugging another man"

Geoff driving passed accident scene

When we arrived at the base camp we were quite delighted to see that Rony's wife had already started the fire and that the "wors" was nearly ready for consumption. What could be better than sitting around a fire, out there somewhere where my GPS refuses to function, close to nature, with a lot of guys talking about bikes and the smell of a braai hanging in the air? And what a better place to catch up on the morning's riding and learn more about sand riding and motorbike stuff than here in the open veld? At this point a lot of us were thinking that a siesta would not be a bad idea, and knowing that "Mommy Sand Monster" was still waiting for us made the idea even more appealing. However, we were there to face the monsters and with a full stomach and much more confidence we were ready to take on “Mommy”.

"Holy Shit!" Yes, that was my first reaction and exact words when Rony took us around the corner and showed us our next challenge. I immediately went on to my knees to take a picture, but if anyone else were thinking that I bowed out of respect for this monster, it would not have been far from the truth either. There was no way that I was going to get over that sand hill, and some of the other riders were thinking exactly the same thing. Only Anton and Tim looked confident, but when Rony took us a bit further and unveiled the "Daddy Sand Monster" I could see they had their doubts as well. But none of us was ready to sit out already and Nicky suggested that Rony first do an "exhibition run" and showed us how it was done. It was actually a very good suggestion, because after Rony got stuck more than once, we all knew that even the best and brave can sometimes fall prey to the nasty sand monster. Rony, with experience on his side, knew that the monster was not that impossible to tame and went around for a second run, this time doing much better than the first. But, for us it was first the "Mommy Sand Monster" to conquer before we could even think of taking on the daddy. At some point we all got stuck, and even though the sand was much deeper and situated on a corner, eventually we all managed to cross it at least once without being thrown off. Some of us took out a lot of trees on the side, widening the track with each round. Eventually one by one people were sitting out. This was hard work to say the least, and picking up a bike is a bit harder than picking up your grocery bags at Pick & Pay. Put the bike in sand and you are picking up something equivalent to your bike and five Pick & Pay bags. By now it was already 33 degrees in the shade.

Ronnie getting 'side-tracked'


Tim taming the "Daddy Sand Monster"
Sometimes a push helps
When it was time for the "Daddy Sand Monster", only Anton and Tim took on the challenge. I guess in the end the only difference was that it was just a longer ride, but this time with thicker sand and a corner added for more excitement. I wasn't scared of falling anymore. After picking up my bike a couple of times and not getting hurt, I just didn't have the energy to do it anymore. And getting stuck now just for the fun of it wasn't considered "fun" anymore. It was fun however to see how Tim and Anton were strutting their stuff, kicking up sand and getting better with each round. But even they were getting tired and eventually realized that falling and getting stuck in sand is a given. At some point you are going to get stuck, but the importance is knowing that you can get out of the situation eventually. No need to get all nervous when you hit sand and your bike starts floating around. I already passed the the point where watching "my wife hugging her best male friend" didn't feel that awkward anymore, and I knew that next time when I do fall (and I was lucky to survive), that I will just hit the kill switch, take a deep breath and start all over again. I might not have turned into the most competent sand rider just yet, but I have taken my bike to a sand level where it has never gone before and the same goes for my confidence level. Most of all, I spent an awesome day in an awesome setting with some awesome guys. And we did some awesome riding to top it all. I was much more comfortable on my GS and when I sat down on the seat again after the day's riding the bike actually felt much smaller than what it did when I arrived.

After Rony, Tim and Anton did a last “victory lap” around a short "adventure track" we went back to the base camp, topped up our tyres with more fresh air and received our certificates from Rony. Needless to say, we all passed. I stopped at Wellington to drink another Coke and double-check my tyres before I took a nice and relaxing ride back home. When I drove into my driveway the Parlotones' “A Giant Mistake” was playing again on my iPod, but this time I just smiled knowing that I am one step closer to conquering that monster for good.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Duck Dive

If you want to learn how to surf, then there is one very important tecqnique you have to master long before you even get to the point of catching a wave and standing up. This is called the duck dive. If you cannot do the a proper duck dive, then you will never be able to reach the line-up to catch your first wave. The sea will spit you out with each and every wave that hits you, and the duck dive is your only ticket to get pass the waves. But have you ever wondered what it looks like underneath the water when you actually do a duck-dive?  I was actually looking for wetsuits on the Internet when I saw some of these pictures* that I would like to share with you. They are sometimes more stunning than pictures of surfers catching tubes....

And of course, when well executed, the duck dive can even look good from the surface...

* Unfortunately I cannot take credit for any of these pictures

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's Friday, let's go BRAAI...!

I cannot believe it is weekend again. Well, what are we waiting for, let's go light a fire....

Zuma for Zest

He might be unable to keep Julius Malema's mouth shut, but with more than 20 children behind his name and the way he moves on stage he is an inspiration to many 68-year olds in South Africa. Show me another president with so much zest for life...  ;-)