Sunday, September 30, 2012

Highway Surfer

Although I roll by the alias of "Justasurferdude", I have to admit that I haven't been in the water for a while and can hardly call myself a hard-core surfer anymore. When I was a kid we always used to joke about guys riding with surfboards on their roof racks that never see the water. "Highway surfers" we called them. My surfboard is not on my car, mine is hanging on the wall in my garage most of the time, but then again if I allocate equal amount of time to all the other toys against my wall then I can hardly blame the surfboard for having collected some dust over the last couple of months. When I heard about the record attempt this weekend at Muizenburg to have the most surfers standing on one wave I thought this might be a good time to get the surfboard wet again. After all, I have a new GoPro camera and it was a good opportunity to try it out.

When I arrived at Muizenburg this morning I was excited like a kid in a toy shop about getting into the water again. At least the water on this side of the Peninsula is warmer than on the other side. This is probably one of the main reason my frequency of hitting the water has dwindled over the last few years. Two days ago when I attached the bracket of the GoPro camera to my board, getting the dust of was harder than getting the sand, salt and surf wax off. Today I was not only going to break a Guinness world record, but I was also testing out my new GoPro Camera and I was hoping for some good shots.

At 10 o'clock the registration started and I was about 7th in line. I was a bit worried that they were going to ask questions like "when last did you surf?" or "how fit are you?", but I guess fifty bucks is all they were after and anyone could enter. My biggest concern however was not my fitness but rather whether my GoPro was going to stay stuck to my board. I saw a couple of other guys with GoPros and asked them whether they had close calls before. I got some advice on how to tighten the small chord so that it does not come off, but I was still worried even though no-one has lost their cameras before. At 12:30 when we all lined up I was still trying to figure out how to set the camera to take intermittent pictures of 10 second intervals. In the rush to not to get left behind on the beach I set it on 20 seconds and would only later realize the consequences of my mistake. 

There were around 400 surfers ready to take on the challenge and even though the conditions looked good, it will never be possible for all 400 to take the same wave. With a combination of longs boards, shortboards and a few SUPs (stand-up paddle boards) the different positions to take off on a wave for these three types of boards meant that lying in a straight line would not work. Longboarders and SUP's have the ability to catch a wave much earlier than shortboards, and this left the line-up a bit messy. The last record was 110 surfers, but with 400 in the water just over 25% had to catch the wave to break the old record. Although instructions on which wave to catch were announced from the beach, some younger surfer with less patience didn't wait for the call and took whatever wave they thought was good enough to take. I have to admit that sitting in the water watching the prefect wave goes past is kind of hard to resist. When the actual wave came, the surfers who took the first wave was either missing in action or floating around in front of the line-up, leaving a difficult take-off for the others. The waves were good, but the sets also did not play along as well as the weather did. The rules state that 8 waves could be ridden in one hour, but the sets were so far apart from each other that their were only about 3 proper attempts made and each time on the third wave of the set. For some reason today the 3rd wave of the set was not the best one and after watching two perfect waves go past, it was a bit harder to catch a weaker third wave.

My eyes were on my camera most of the time, not to see myself in pictures afterwards, but to make sure that it was still attached to my board. I realised afterwards that because of the slow setting of 20 seconds, as well as the fact that not many waves were ridden, I could not get a nice picture were I was actually surfing. Just a bunch of paddling shots with lots of water in my face. I will definitely have to do a re-shoot on my surfboard in the near future, but all I know from today is that the angle of my camera needs to change and I have to find a way to prevent the condensation on my lens. The camera stayed put and the clarity of some of the shots were quite good. The setting unfortunately were too slow and 5 or 10 seconds should be better to get more action pics

The record was not broken today, the most surfers on one wave was 85. I doesn't really bother me because the day turned out to be very enjoyable. My camera works, I discovered a new beach break (although located 40 km form where I live), and the surfing vibe was absolutely great. Seeing 400 surfers in the water was spectacular and being able to take part was a real privilege. My board is clean today and summer is here. You will definitely see me more often on Muizenburg beach from now on and maybe I can keep the dust of my board this time. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Curiosity on Mars

I think this is what they hope to find on Mars.....

I found it on my local beach in Cape Town.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Don't get bugged in Kenya to be diagnosed in South Africa

I haven't had much health issues while travelling in Africa over the last ten years and I think that I can count the serious cases on my hand one. But trust me, they were SERIOUS. In Cameroon I ended up in hospital and that was probably the worst experience I've had. Not because of the service I got from a very basic hospital, but because I felt as if I was dying a certain death. The doctors were fantastic and the I managed (against the doctor's instructions) to send one nurse across the street to buy me a Coca-Cola...which I believe was the last "medication" I needed to deal that virus a final blow. So, I guess I have been lucky because I am not very cautious about what I eat and I never say "NO ice" like many visitors do because they don't trust the source of drinking water that might have been  used to make the ice.

Last week in Kenya I felt a strange feeling in my muscles, you now that feeling when you know that flu is on its way. Funny enough my throat was not sore and I was hoping it would go away.  I arrived in Cape Town on the Thursday night and went to the office the next morning. At the office I could feel that something was not right, my head started to ache and my whole body was getting jittery. I went home and by 7 pm I was sick as a dog. I eventually believed I had malaria and tested myself with a malaria kit, but the results were negative. That night I couldn't sleep, the pain was unbearable, I was sweating like a horse but was as cold as an Eskimo skin diver. I still couldn't believe it was flu because the symptoms were more in the line of tick fever, malaria or bird flu.

The next morning I went to the doctor and asked for more blood test because I thought I was going to die. At least this time I was in South Africa and not in Cameroon, so I  was more relaxed about where I would end up, even though mortuary also felt like a good option at that stage. The results came back and the doctor told me it was a bacterial infection and not malaria or flu. At least if  I die they could say what it was NOT, but still could not say because of what. The doctor prescribed antibiotics and send me home to sleep it off.

On Monday morning the antibiotics has not shown any positive results, and the pain pills I was taking every three hours made me wonder if they had any "active ingredients" in them. I went back to the doctor to ask for a medical certificate for work as it was obvious that I would not be going to work for the next few days. The doctor was quite surprised that I was still not well, but what surprised ME more was that she put "Respiratory tract infection" on my Medical Certificate. She obviously had NO idea what pain I've been going through over the past couple of days. My head feels like it could explode at any time, and she believes I have a sore throat? She did however say that I should come back the next day if I was still not well so that we can do further blood tests.

Two nights ago my wife jumped in to see if she could quicken the recovery process and did her own diagnosis and prescription. I went to bed that night with more chemicals in my body than what you would find in a US Superfund site. It was still not a sedated night, but I had the headache under control. At around 12:30 I could feel the effect of the painkillers working out and topped up with some more. This morning I feel better, but the headache is lurking in the background and when I type it feels as if I am falling over onto the keyboard. I picked up a cough and I am pretty sure that my bug did eventually turn into flu due to the strain my immune system was taking in fighting this unwanted guess. It allowed a loophole for the flu virus to enter and today I am definitely sitting with an additional "respiratory tract infection" on top of what I had two days ago. If this is the pain and discomfort one has to go through to get common flu, then I would rather catch malaria and get the recognition I deserve, but "respiratory tract infection" is NOT going to cut it.

When I look back at Cameroon I am glad I was forced by the doctor to stay in the hospital that day. They saved my life. Had I come back to South Africa to be told I had "respiratory tract infection" I might not have made it. I am still not sure what I had in Cameroon, or Kenya for that matter, but I know the difference between "flu" and "you are about to die". Maybe in Kenya I would've been treated differently. We all believe South African doctors are very good, and yes, they are, but do they really know the difference between "I am not feeling well" and "I think I am going to die"? Probably not.

It is Wednesday morning now, a week after I first had a funny feeling in my arms and muscles. I have just made another appointment with another doctor. I still feel miserable with a headache that feels like a knock on the head with a 10 pound hammer each time I cough. Maybe they will identify this bacteria at last so that we can target the enemy by name......

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Breakfast Review - Zandbar Restaurant-Lounge

There is a new restaurant in town situated on the second floor right above News Cafe at Marine Circle in Blouberg. Even though my wife received an sms about the breakfast special, it was not the reason why we ended up there this morning. While on our way to have breakfast at Eden on the Bay, we remembered that at 8 in the morning all restaurants at Eden on the Bay would still be closed, so we stopped at the first place where we saw people sitting. It was on our way to News Cafe that we saw the Zandbar Restaurant-Lounge with a breakfast special of only R19.95, so we opted for that.
 It was clear that the place was just opening, it was probably a minute before 8 when we walked in. The waiters were still arranging the furniture and we were probably the second or so customers hoping to order a nice breakfast for a cheap price. I immediately made my way to the balcony, because from there it has a spectacular view of Table Mountain. It is just a pity that there are 7 or so lamp post standing right in the way. I suggested to the waiter that they have them removed. I doubt whether that would happen. Looking down was right on top of News Cafe's customers, and I have to admit their breakfasts from were I was sitting didn't look bad either.

We initially had our doubts about Zanbar when we ordered our breakfast and the waiter ran away before we could tell him how we would like to have our eggs done and which bread we wanted. My wife, as usual, went through the menu first and decided that she is not as stingy as I am and went for the Classic French Toast for R33, complete with deep fried banana and blueberries. My son's "fresh" apple juice was fizzing like Appletizer and when she told the waiter that the juice is fermenting, he looked at her as if she was from a different planet. He did eventually give a new glass and it did taste better than the first. This was more or less where the "bad" experience ended, from there on everything went quit fine.

Both breakfasts look really good and well presented. I noticed that the breakfast which was on a special wasn't listed on the menu, so I couldn't see what it would normally cost. For nineteen bucks I think it was a bargain, seeing that the coffee was bottomless too. When the special ends I don't know, so better go now before the special is over and you missed out.

It seems like the restaurant is more set up for cocktails and afternoon summer parties, with a white coloured cocktail bar that speaks for itself. The view is excellent and the food wasn't bad at all. So, while the special is still on, do yourself as favour and go check out the place, it was really worth the visit. When we drove past it this aternoon the place was packed.

Update Review - 11/9/2012

I decided this morning to pop in again at the Zandbar restaurant for a quick breakfast. The interior looks the same as well as the view, but there was definitely a warmer atmosphere than the first time. One could see that after a few months the staff for one was already more experienced and that there are more regulars than the first time.  That I guess should be obvious, but I was really impressed with their "cheapie" breakfast at R24.95. I did not take pictures this time as I wasn't there to "review" them, but the presentation of the food was quite remarkable and I honestly believe that I got value for my money. I am pretty sure that this will be my Summer '12/'13 spot for a quick breakfast in the morning before work or after that early morning surf session.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Do you walk like an European?

Mombasa Beach. Yep, the sand is really that white
I'm in Mombasa at the moment staying in a not-so-bad hotel at Nyali Beach. I checked the local outdoor entertainment (like I always do when I arrive at a new destination) hoping to find something interesting to do. I discovered a kite surfing school at Mombasa Beach and decided to go check it out as I really wanted to kite surf here. I did not bring any equipment along and was hoping that I could hire some.

After quite a long walk with Lorcan, a colleague of mine from Irish descent, we found the kite surfing school three hotels further from where we were expecting to find it. I struggled to keep up with my Irish friend who obviously was more determined to find the kite surfing school than to appreciate the white beach which he has seen many times before. While we were negotiating prices and sharing kite surfing stories, the tide steadily moved in preventing us access to the other side of a rocky outcrop which we passed on our way to Mombasa Beach. As we couldn't walk back along the beach, we asked if there was an alternative route to get back to where our driver had dropped us a few minutes ago. Kepher (I told him that word is close to a swear word in South Africa), one of the kite surfing instructors volunteered to walk us back. It was quite obvious from the start that Kepher could not keep up with the pace set by Lorcan, we were walking way too fast for him. Kepher who was supposed to be "showing us the way" was behind us most of the time. At a point Kepher ran to the front and said:" You guys walk just like Europeans". I couldn't help but burst out laughing. If I had to comment on Kepher's slow pace, I probably would have blamed him for walking on "African time"

Kepher's comment again made me realize why Africa is so relaxed and why the rest of the world suffers from heart burn and stress. We were racing like we were running out of precious time, but there was absolutely no reason for us to be in any hurry. What made it even more interesting was the fact that Africans and Europeans are so different in many ways, and even though they sometimes find it hard to get along we can all learn from each other. They say in Rome you do like the Romans, shouldn't that count for Africa as well? Even if you don't want to walk slow in Africa, isn't it time we learn from Africans and stop walking like Europeans? Maybe we can do it for our own sake, to slow down our heart rates and to enjoy what we have around us. Thanks to Kepher for teaching us our "lesson of the day".....  

Mombasa Beach

Seli (G)one soon?

Although the Seli One is breaking up into small pieces and probably would soon be called Seli Gone rather than Seli One, it is very unfortunate that she is not going to go silently without a fight. After the recent storms in Cape Town the Seli was broken up even further, but was bleeding more oil into our beautiful ocean and onto the beach. This tragedy happened because our government cannot take decisions. Everything seems to be a"challenge" in South Africa, even moving a frikken ship cannot be done without pointing fingers and blame.

This is what you get if you don't get your act together and react fast. I have no problem with the Seli slowly disappearing, but I have a huge problem with the damage it is leaving behind. I shouldn;t even put a frame around this picture....