John C. Barry

My reminiscences, thoughts, and travel experiences

Author: John Barry

Western Cape, South Africa. Impressions from my 75-day visit during Q1 2019.

The scenery in South Africa is magnificently dramatic. The beauty of the countryside with its vast, majestic mountains, great oceans, gorgeous weather, and a large variety of fauna and flora, is breathtaking.

Map of South Africa highlighting Cape Town in the southwest and Pietersburg/Polokwane in the north. The area we drove with Paternoster in the west, Knysna in the east, and Montagu in the north. New Berlin, Wisconsin, USA alongside Lake Michigan. The Great Lakes in the US and Canada.

Click on the first image to see in full, then click center right to advance to the next image, finally clicking “X” top right at final image to exit.

I was born in Cape Town, South Africa, and Linda, my wife, in Pietersburg/Polokwane, 1,200 miles (2,000 kilometers) north of the Mother City.  We left South Africa for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States with our daughter and son, departing from our residence in Johannesburg in January 1987.  In the 32 years, we have been away from South Africa, we have visited family and friends nearly every year for two to three weeks at a time.  2019 was a different year.  Linda retired in May 2018.  I shut my business in 2018, so we planned our 75-day trip.  I was debating calling this a vacation.  It was not an event where we suntanned ourselves on the beach most days.  The trip was more of an obligation to visit nonagenarian mothers, and visiting friends and family.  We had disappointments.  There were friends we did not have time to visit and places we did not see.  We restricted the trip to a portion of the Western Cape, the area around Cape Town, and journeyed briefly between Paternoster on the west coast to Knysna on the east coast, to Montagu, Bonnievale, and Barrydale, in the northeast, driving about 6,000 kilometers (3,800 miles) during that time.  Herewith some of my impressions.

When I write about South Africa, the country of my birth, it is not a myopic view of the country where we lived in Cape Town, Pietersburg/Polokwane, and Edenglen, Edenvale near Johannesburg where we had our home built.  We have been fortunate to travel.  We have crisscrossed the United States, our adopted country and new residence.  I have visited Canada on numerous occasions, Mexico, the Caribbean, England, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, India, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Namibia.


The scenery in South Africa is magnificently dramatic.  The beauty of the countryside with its vast, majestic mountains, great oceans, gorgeous weather, and a large variety of fauna and flora, is breathtaking.  We experienced pleasant and friendly service in retail stores and restaurants, some unbelievably compassionate people in nursing home care facilities especially the home where my mother is taken care of at one extreme, and the third world reality of total government incompetence, corruption, ineffectiveness, and lawlessness at the other.

Our two and a half month visit cost R61,000 (Rand) (US$4,362), excluding airfare and four nights in hotels that we prepaid from home.  We stayed with friends and family without charge and had the use of a motorcar costing nothing, except petrol/gas.

Naturally, I will not repeat detail here shared in recent blogs previously written to highlight the beauty of South Africa within the province of the Western Cape. (Click each heading below to load on a separate page).

We were in for several pleasant surprises during our visit.  The use of paper straws was evident in all the restaurants we frequented.  Being so environmentally conscious was an enjoyable experience.  More so than Wisconsin, the State where we live.  Other parts of the US, especially Hawaii and California are environmentally progressive.  In South African grocery stores, customers pay for plastic bags.  Consumers are encouraged to invest in reusable cloth bags, available for purchase at the checkout for a nominal fee.  At the store near our home in the US, we get a 5-cent refund for each recyclable bag used to pack our groceries.

One of my favorite restaurants, Rambling Rose in Montagu, run by Sergio and Cay Fernandes with our special server Elton who did a great job of taking care of our every need.

The facility where my mother is cared for in Bonnievale by a compassionate team of caregivers under the owner and leadership of Nurse Jane Phillips.

Restaurant meals, haircuts, manicures and pedicures, massages are unbelievably cheap in South Africa, usually about 10% to 15% of US charges.  Tipping is only 10%.  I recommend the husband and wife team of Michael and Carla of Carma Hair and Wellness Centre in Montagu. Servers in restaurants are abnormally pleasant and friendly, especially if they are Zimbabwean nationals who are well spoken and articulate, which seemed to be the rule and not the exception.  The quality of restaurant food is unparalleled.

When you drive from Cape Town’s airport into the city of Cape Town along the N2 (national road/interstate), you will see Khayelitsha spread out on the left-hand side of the road. Khayelitsha is the Xhosa word meaning “our new home”. The unofficial count is it houses one million people. Notice the satellite dishes, and how the electrical power is linked to the homes, sometimes illegally.

Almost every public parking area in South Africa operates with official or unofficial car guards.  In some situations, they work within above or below ground parking garages where you pay for parking such as at a shopping mall.  They serve to protect your vehicle from break-ins and other vandalism.  The parking attendant earns their money from motorists who would generally tip them R5 (US$ 0.35).  I elected to park in the street level parking at the Blue Route Shopping Center in Tokai, for a quick visit to the bank.  That visit took an hour.  On exiting the mall, I now had the challenge of finding where I parked.  Searching diligently, I was delighted to have a car park attendant show me to my car.  I am amazed that he could recall and connect both my car and me.  I rewarded him with significantly more than R5.  What service.  With the high unemployment rate in South Africa, this is one way to earn money, especially for foreign nationals.  A Google search reveals many car park attendant stories and videos.  Parking attendants typically gross R36,000 (US$ 2,500) per year, tax-free.

We were in South Africa for one public holiday, Human Rights Day, on March 21.  We did not miss any in the US during our time away from home.  South Africa has 14 public holidays, including an extra day in 2019 for voting on May 8.  The US has 8 Holidays.  The government workers and banks celebrate two additional days, Martin Luther King Day, and George Washington’s birthday, while the rest of us working stiffs toil away.

One highlight was attending David Kramer’s “Langarm” (long arm) production at the Fugard Theater in Cape Town on February 24, 2019.  Growing up in Cape Town during the 1960s apartheid era, this musical appealed to my senses.  I loved the bilingual nature of the presentation that made me feel at home.  The storyline with twists and turns matching Chapman’s Peak drive, the talented band, the professional actors and singers and dancers, the humor, the theater in a former church, everything was beyond first class entertainment.  I was sitting next to an Afrikaner and his wife.  She loved it; he hated it and sat frozen throughout the entire performance.  Many of the lines in the show were not “politically correct” in today’s world, but that, frankly, added to reliving the tragedy of our past.  I believe it was nervous or embarrassed laughter shared by most.

South African’s know how to laugh at themselves.  The government tests to determine if you are white.  Slide a pencil in your hair. If it falls out you are white.  The concept of “try for white” because you would live a more privileged existence.  I wrote about my experiences in my 50-year career blog where I attended a party in a Colored area dancing with fellow workers. Totally against the apartheid laws.  I guess it is wretched to look back and see what we lived through, accepted, and experienced.  That is the joy of theater, and a reminder of what most of us have learned, matured with understanding over time, in attempting to be more accepting society, less racist, more tolerant, and living without prejudices.

We spent a night staying in a cottage high up the mountainside in Hout Bay (wood bay) with friends to watch the sunset.  It was another opportunity to have a break in our routine and again admire the beauty of this “fairest Cape in all the world.”

Our visit to Cape Point was a highlight.  It is located at the southern tip of the Cape Peninsula between the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, sheltering False Bay. It is located 60 kilometers (40 miles) from Cape Town’s city center.  Kelly Izzard invited us on a morning hike.  She is a member of a club enjoying this activity frequently.  Rugged rocks and sheer cliffs towering more than 200 meters (650 feet) above the sea and cutting deep into the ocean provide a spectacular background for the park’s rich bio-diversity.  Cape Point falls within the southern section of Table Mountain National park.  The natural vegetation of the areas – fynbos (fine bush/shrub) – comprises the smallest but most abundant of the world’s six floral kingdoms.  We drove into the Cape Point Nature Reserve heading for Buffels (buffalo) Bay, one of the more beautiful and desolate beaches of Cape Town.  Here we hiked and saw Antoniesgat (Anton’s hole) one of several caves on the Cape peninsula formed by the consistent pounding of waves against the headland.  It is particularly beautiful and ridden with rather mysterious tunnels.  Hiking is somewhat tricky in places where if you are not careful it is possible to sprain an ankle.  We were following an unbelievably wretched smell that turned out to be a giant whale that beached, died, and was slowly decomposing.

Kelly provided us with this exciting legend of Antoniesgat.  When the Dutch East India Company took over islands of Indonesia in 1752, on the island of Sumbawa some of the islanders resisted.  The leaders of the rebellion Lalu Abdul Koasa and his son Lalu Ismail were captured, banished for life as political exiles, and taken to South Africa, incarcerated in the slave dungeons in Simon’s Bay (Simon’s Town today).  After three years, Lalu Abdul managed to escape by digging a hole in the wall and taking a boat tied alongside the prison.  He headed out to sea, eventually landing along the shore at Cape Point, near Buffelsbaai (buffalo bay).  Lalu Abdul laid low for several years spending time in the partly submerged cave, known as Antoniesgat, below the steep rocky cliffs of Rooikrans (red crown).  He befriended local sheepherders.  He became quite a spiritual and political inspiration to the slave community of Cape Town’s “Deep South” and wrote books.  Here is a beautiful passage from one.  “When I stood on Cape Point Mountain and watched the mesmerizing views of the Atlantic Ocean on the left, and the Indian Ocean on the right, I would think that this was a perfect place for my safety.  Isolated and far away in the distance and in time from the memory and the danger of imprisonment in the dreaded underground prison room for slaves in Simon’s Bay.  At Cape Point I could feel peace through walking every day through the environment, studying mountains, flora, fauna, wildlife and capturing my observations with notes and drawings in my diary.”

We saw this Southern Elephant Seal on the coast at Fish Hoek.  This seal is about 12 feet (3.5 meters) long, is on shore to shed its fur and skin, or molting. It stays on the beach for 3 to 4 weeks and during this time does not eat.  These seals have no fear of humans or dogs.  They can dive to 2,000 meters (6,600 feet), and stay underwater for 2 hours.  Part of our afternoon entertainment on a windy day, and walk on the beach.

We drove six hours to Knysna, part of the Garden Route stretching 300 kilometers (170 miles) from Mossel Bay to the Storms River.  We stayed in a delightful cottage with a nearby walk to a restaurant, and a pleasant drive to the East Café Head restaurant with a view through the Knysna Heads.  We enjoyed it so much that we returned the following day for a second meal.  It offered a fantastic view of the bay.  Here we saw the minimal remains of the wreck of the 460-ton sailing boat Paquita.  Built-in 1862 in Newcastle, England, it ran aground on Beacon Rocks at Fountain Point on October 18, 1903.

We visited Groot (large) Constantia (“consistency” from Latin) twice, each time taking different friends to restaurants there.  In 1685, during an annual visit to the Cape, Hendrik Adriaan van Rheede tot Drakenstein granted the grounds of Groot Constantia to Simon van der Stel the VOC (Dutch East India Company) Governor of the Cape of Good Hope.  Van der Stel built the house and used the land to produce wine as well as other fruit and vegetables, and for cattle farming.  Groot Constantia Wine Estate produces award-winning wines to please every palate.  Jonkershuis (Jonker’s home) Constantia restaurant is nestled in the traditional heart of the Groot Constantia Wine Estate next to the historic homestead and surrounded by ancient oak trees.  Simons Restaurant setting is relaxed with an open kitchen atmosphere to keep you entertained.

I had been in South Africa for a week and not having had any exercise, decided to go for a 75-minute, 4.3 miles (7 kilometers) walk along Route 62 near Montagu, in the Western Cape.  R62 takes you to Barrydale from Montagu, a dual lane, one in each direction, carrying a 120 kilometer per hour (75 mph) speed limit.  Most motorists consider this to be the minimum speed and a few are content traveling at 160 Km/h (100 mph).  I saw one driver hardly able to maintain half the posted speed limit.  The question is why his car is even road worthy enough to be on the freeway.  I always walk facing on-coming traffic.  One motorist was kind to honk his horn or toot his hooter as he barreled past three cars from behind me on my side of the road, and just in time for me to jump off the road’s narrow sidetrack onto the grass verge.  I did not appreciate on the outbound journey that I had the wind at my back.  That realization became apparent when I turned around.  The road runs along the base of a valley, so the Langeberg (long mountain) mountainous scenery, landscape, and plants are a joy to behold.  To spoil the view, lining the roadside, I saw:

  • aluminum/aluminium soda/cool drink cans,
  • beer bottles both intact and smashed,
  • plastic bottles,
  • tin cans,
  • cigarette packets,
  • Styrofoam boxes discarded from fast food restaurants,
  • plastic bags large and small,
  • corrugated boxes,
  • Six car tires/tyres,
  • a front end bumper from a car,
  • wooden planks,
  • several dead rodents,
  • and the list goes on. 

We are not a civil society, are we?  The fallout I had from family and friends was fascinating.  They all questioned my sanity to venture onto a road like this with little regard for my safety.

I found speed bumps/humps within the suburbs to be intrusive and dangerous.  I understand the purpose is to slow down motorists.  I was driving a white 2002 VW Golf with under 80,000 kilometers (50,000 miles).  Roadside markers identified some bumps, others appeared out of nowhere, especially while driving in the shadows along tree-lined streets.  If not taken slowly, it felt as if your suspension was going to be ripped off your car, or maybe suffer a cracked or broken sump.  Many times, I found these humps to be a solution in search of a problem.  Troubling too was the number of bumps in relatively short distances.  Many parking areas, primarily shopping centers, business parks, elite residential areas, or medical facilities seem to favor this type of obstruction.

In the United States, the Uniform Plumbing Code specifies that faucets “shall be connected to the water distribution system so that hot water corresponds to the left side of the fittings.”  In our household kitchen, we have a single-handle hot and cold mixer water dispenser.  It is located on the far side of the sink and operates horizontally along the countertop.  To dispense hot water, you open the tap away from you, for the safety of young children.  We, therefore, have a standard that applies countrywide.  In South Africa, a country with a severe problem of water shortage, more often than not, you have a hot water faucet and separately a cold-water tap.  Frequently these taps do not have an indicator as to whether it will dispense hot or cold water.  Running water to test for temperature seems like excessive waste.  In one situation, I used a shower at a holiday cottage and determined that the hot water came from the right-hand tap.  The hand basin placed immediately outside the shower had the hot water on the left.  I could see the logic in that it made life easier for the plumber who routed the hot water closest to the respective taps.

We observed a troubling medical procedure.  It was evident that hygiene was not on the top of a nurses concern.  If you administer a drip into a patient at a hospital, why sterilize your hands before inserting the syringe, and why wear gloves?  My sister, who is a registered nurse, assured me that the gloves protect the nurse as much as it does the patient.  This cavalier attitude at a private hospital in affluent Constantia in South Africa was difficult to comprehend.

I found the absence of street names while driving a challenge.  Many roads exist without reflecting their names.  You get to an intersection and have no idea if this is where you should turn due to the street not being named.  I have often thought it must be a challenge for visitors knowing they need to turn left at Church Street, only to find Kerk Straat, the Afrikaans for Church Street.  South Africa has eleven official languages, the street naming possibilities are endless. I did see some street names placed between tree branches making them impossible to read unless you exited your car to take a closer look.  Even Google Maps is a challenge.  We were trying to find a specific retail store while driving in Worcester.  Being smart, we searched using Google.  Following directions, we ended up in a residential area far from the business district.

There are challenges to driving in South Africa.  I am behind a large truck/lorry that needed to make a tight left hand turn onto a narrow farm road.  All is well.  However, an impatient motorist behind me decides that high speed overtaking across double white lines is in order because he is in a hurry, and his time is critically important. I did take note of his license plate.

I was disappointed to find that some large corporations are nowhere near as efficient as I would have expected.  I started work in January 1968 for Mobil Oil in Rondebosch, a suburb of Cape Town.  To open the Standard Bank checking the account for a direct deposit, I needed to provide an address and telephone number.  I was living at home, so I used my parent’s residential address in nearby Claremont, as well as providing the bank with my parent’s telephone number.  Each time we travel to South Africa we need to apply for a new debit (ATM) card to withdraw cash from our savings account.  For security reasons, the bank invalidates the ATM card if not used for six months.  The bank requires a local telephone number where they can send security code for verification, to obtain the new card.  Before approaching the bank, I bring with me from the US an old iPhone and get a South Africa sim card with a local telephone number.  I can now comply by supplying a local cell phone number for the bank to use to send a code to verify that the account belongs to me.  Soon after arriving in Cape Town, we applied for new cards in January 2019.  Bank fraud in South Africa is a severe problem, especially with so much theft occurring.  I was pick-pocked in March 2013 losing my US driver’s license, Standard Bank ATM card, US credit cards and a small amount of South African cash.  The day before our departure in late March 2019, I went to the bank to request they delete the temporary South African cell phone number from my account, and change it to my US cell phone number.  After standing in line for 40 minutes, not a record as I waited an hour on a previous visit, I handed the bank clerk a sheet of paper with my South African and US cell phone numbers requesting that she replace the South African number with the US number.  In looking at my account, she asked about other information such as email addresses.  I had her remove all the old emails and only kept my current email address.  Then she blew my mind by asking about telephone numbers.  She questioned the one that was my parent’s old number that had been in their system for 51 years.  I agreed it would be wise to eliminate that one.  On returning to the US and waiting a few days to get over jet lag, I tried to log in to the Standard Bank website to verify that there were no fraudulent transactions on my account since my departure.  To complete the login I had to enter a code sent to my now disused South African cell phone.  It took a few days and a few telephone calls to Standard Bank’s support center from the US to get everything changed to using my email address rather than a cell phone number.  I saw in the South African press that at Standard Bank Boksburg (near Johannesburg) branch; a woman was so frustrated by the lack of attention to her issue, she went outside and drove her car into the bank building.

May 2, 2019 update.  When we moved to the USA 32 years ago, we could not get life insurance from US insurers, (but could from Canadian companies).  We elected to keep paying for our insurance with Old Mutual in South Africa.  When we became US citizens 20 years ago, we bought life insurance in the US and had the Old Mutual policies “paid up.”  Since that time Old Mutual pay us monthly from investments, directly into our Standard Bank non-residential account.  This morning I get an email from Sipho Maci, a “Learner” in the Non Resident Support division of Standard Bank questioning these Old Mutual deposits with the threat that without documentation “will result in funds being transferred to a non-interest bearing suspense account held in our books.”  I decided to telephone to discuss but 20 minutes after listening to stupid music elected to hang up.  Answering an international call after pressing the compulsory 1, 2, 3, 4 is not part of customer service when calling the Standard Bank nonresident division.
May 3, 2019 update. Sipho emailed “Apologies for the message, it was sent in error.” Translation–I screwed up.

If this is appropriate, I want to put in a positive word for T-Mobile.  For decades, we were AT&T customers.  Each time we had to make a special arrangement to use our cell phones in South Africa and naturally pay a fee, and pay each time we used their service.  About a year ago, we changed carriers to T-Mobile.  We spend a flat monthly fee that includes unlimited data usage.  On our 16-day drive to Canada during September 2018, we asked T-Mobile what the conditions were to use the phone in Canada.  None.  Just use it as if you were still in the States.  For the trip to South Africa, they told us the same thing, except the calls would cost US$ 0.25 cents a minute.  Use it as if you were in the US.  It was a blessing for the many times we used Google Maps to find out of the way places—and not have any additional data charges.  None.

South African Post Office (SAPO) is the national postal service of South Africa and is a state-run enterprise.  The only shareholder is the South African government.  In terms of South African law, the Post Office is the single entity legally allowed to accept registered mail and as such operates a monopoly.  In 2018, they employed 18,119 people.  A good friend of mine required documents mailed from his bank a mile away, it took 12 days to arrive at his home.  If I need to send business documentation to my family in South Africa from the US, we only use FedEx, UPS, or DHL because that is the only way I have a guarantee it will arrive at its destination.  Many international family and friends have learned the hard way that if you mail packages to South Africa using SAPO, the likelihood of it arriving at its destination is slim to none.  The contents will be probably be stolen somewhere along the delivery route.  I was reading Facebook comments made by South African’s in the US, that chocolates and candy/sweets mailed from South Africa to the US never arrive, as these gifts are eaten somewhere in transit in South Africa.

What do South African’s do within the country?  Use private enterprise.  PostNet was founded in 1994 when there was an urgent need in South Africa for an operation that could deliver a range of efficient business solutions.  Today, PostNet is South Africa’s largest privately owned counter network in the document and parcel industry, trading across over 370 owner-managed retail stores.  PostNet serves more than 70,000 “walk-in” customers per day, countrywide.  There are five product types within PostNet: Courier, Copy & Print, Digital, Stationery, and Mailboxes.  The incompetence of the ANC government to operate anything professionally opens avenues for entrepreneurs to step in and provide effective solutions.

Driving is another challenge in South Africa, more especially when you are familiar with the United States driving on divided highways with multiple lanes in each direction.  Even in residential areas, we have broader roads, often divided with a median in the center.  The multi-billion Rand minibus taxi industry carries over 60% of South Africa’s commuters.  These passengers are from the lower economic class.  Wealthy residents drive their cars for safety and convenience.  The taxi industry is almost entirely made up of 16-seater minibusses, which are sometimes unsafe or not roadworthy.  Minibus taxi drivers are well known for their disregard for the road rules and their proclivity for dangerously overloading their vehicles with passengers.  Due to an effectively unregulated market and the fierceness of competition for passengers and lucrative routes, taxi operators’ band together to form local and national associations.  These associations soon exhibited mafia-like tactics, including the hiring of hit men and all-out gang warfare.  These associations also engaged in anti-competitive price fixing.

  • Traffic police appear to be afraid to issue citations to taxi drivers as many operate like criminal syndication.  Turf war killings of rival gangs are not uncommon 
  • Taxis use minivans that typically hold 12 to 16 passengers.  But they have been stopped with as many as 42 children in their vehicle
  • It is not unusual to read that 30 people are killed due to high-speed driving when two taxis collide head-on due to overloading and being un-roadworthy
  • I exited an interstate (national road) with two lanes feeding a T-junction and traffic light (robot in South Africa) at the bottom of the off-ramp.  The left lane had only one vehicle waiting for the light to turn green, and the right lane had traffic backed up to the exit ramp.  A taxi screams down the left lane and turns right forcing a motorist to stop suddenly to avoid an accident
  • The Thruway is backed up due to a severe accident a mile (kilometer) or two ahead.  The shoulder becomes the ideal race track for the taxis to get their fares to the destination quickly, while motorists are dumfounded
  • There is a turn lane for drivers and a flashing arrow to permit cars to clear the intersection.  A taxi blocks the drivers from proceeding, and a string of fellow taxis follow, all using the turn signal from the wrong lane to clear the intersection while the legitimate traffic is held up
  • A friend has a business operating out of a suburban home.  They have a dozen employees.  Each evening the employees are driven to the local taxi rank for their onward journey home.  A taxi operator stops the employee’s driver and threatens his life.  Offering a convenient transport service to the employees takes money out of the hands of the taxis according to the operator.  The employee is told to arrange for the taxi to come to the suburban home to collect the workers.   Due to the risk of having taxis in residential areas, posing the potential for additional crimes, the community will not tolerate this situation.  The police offered to intervene if this threat happened again
  • Picture a situation where I am driving in the affluent area of Constantia (a suburb of Cape Town) with narrow, winding, tree-lined, and hilly roads.  I get to a stop street and have difficulty seeing cross traffic due to the fences blocking my view.  Cross traffic is not required to stop.  High walls protecting the mansions reduce my visibility.  A taxi comes barreling over the hill from the left traveling at twice the posted speed limit.  Linda could have died with our vehicle getting t-boned.  I was able to stop in time
  • Taxis sometimes organize protests by blocking all traffic lanes or driving very slowly across all lanes on the main arterial roads, or interstates/national roads
  • The City of Cape Town’s mayoral committee member for safety and security JP Smith has recognized the recent taxi violence as the conflict between two taxi associations, saying the taxi industry has come to “heavily rely” on assassinations.  “There is almost no conviction rate for this, so people kill with impunity in the taxi industry.  Killing is a viable business practice sadly, and there’s never any consequences for it,” he said
  • Anything that I could wish?  In the US, we drive on the right, and we have a right turn on a red traffic light if there is no oncoming traffic.  It would be great to have a left turn on red in South Africa.  Then again, you have taxis that never wait for any color traffic light, or stop sign
  • Over the past decade, the price of fuel in South Africa has increased by a staggering 118%.  In the US the countrywide average fuel price during the same period: USA 2008 $3.61, 2018 $2.657, a 26% reduction
  • Cape Town was rated the most congested traffic city in South Africa for 2018.  It required motorists to sit in traffic for 170 hours that year.  That is the equivalent of almost 20 eight-hour days
  • I had to drive from Tokai, a suburb of Cape Town to the airport along the Simon van der Stel freeway, the M3 merging onto the N2.  It was 9:00 am and initially headed in the direction of the city of Cape Town together with office workers driving to work.  This 30-kilometer (19 miles) trip should not take more than 30 minutes according to Google maps in “normal driving conditions.”  (That averages 60 kilometers per hour, or 40 miles an hour for freeway driving).  Most of the M3 and some of the N2 carries a 100 Kph (60 mph) speed limit.  It took me an hour (30 kph, 19 mph average).  I drove most of the M3 in first gear in the VW Golf.  I noticed that several motorists were so frustrated that they crossed the center median to U-turn, attempting to avoid high-speed oncoming traffic, to find another way to their ultimate destination.

Motorcycles make up another class of traffic that are a law unto themselves.  It makes sense that bikes are a popular method of transport on these congested roads.  On any of the main arterial roads, when clogged, or slow-moving, you find motorcycles weaving between the two rows of vehicles at high speed.  If as a motorist, you wish to change lanes, checking your rear view, driver-side, or passenger-side mirror is essential, as is indicating your plan to change.  I find it amazing that many motorcyclists wear shorts, or t-shirts while riding.  Many do not wear helmets.  They have no protection should they come off their bikes.  On the interstates or national roads, it is common to see motorcycles traveling at speeds significantly above the maximum-posted speed limits.  I even saw a motorbike pop a wheelie!  A friend in Cape Town told me this week that he was driving in heavy traffic when he saw an obstruction ahead.  It was a young kid lying in the road next to his red motorcycle.  He read the following day that it was a 19-year old who was killed by a hit-and-run taxi driver.

Many motorists seem to have a death wish.  A solid no-overtaking line, or worse yet a double no overtaking line, represents a challenge to see how many vehicles you can overtake before the blind rise or bend disappearing to the left or right from the motorist’s view.  These maneuvers often executed at 160 km/h (100 mph).  I find this degree of lawlessness or recklessness in South Africa quite troubling.  Many country roads are a single lane in each direction with a “yellow path” on the side.  Legally this is not to be used for driving, but most motorists will pull over into the yellow lane to let a speeding motorist pass.  Trucks do this frequently especially if they are navigating an incline.  Then too if you have an oncoming motorist barreling towards you because they are busy overtaking across solid white lines, the yellow lane becomes a welcome safety lane.  Talk about Kamikaze drivers.  Some trucks have stickers at the rear stating, “Yellow lane driving is not permitted.”  The yellow lane has a practical purpose for emergency vehicles, especially when traffic backs up.

Seen on Facebook: RULES FOR DRIVING IN SOUTH AFRICA

  1. Never indicate – it gives away your next move. A real South African driver never uses indicators
  2. Under no circumstance should you leave a safe distance between you and the car in front of you, this space will be filled by at least two taxis and a BMW, putting you in an even more dangerous situation
  3. The faster you drive through a red light, the less chance you have of getting hit
  4. Never, ever come to a complete stop at a stop sign.  No one expects it, and it will only result in you being rear-ended
  5. Braking should be as hard and late as possible to ensure your ABS kicks in, giving you a gentle, relaxing foot massage as the brake pedal pulsates.  For those of you without ABS, it is a chance to stretch your legs.
  6. Never pass on the right (the fast lane) when you can overtake on the left (the slow lane).  It is an excellent way to check if the people entering the highway (from the left) are awake.
  7. Speed limits are arbitrary, given only as a guideline.  They are especially NOT applicable in South Africa during rush hour.  That is why it is called “rush hour.”
  8. Just because you are in the right (fast) lane and have no room to speed up or move over does not mean that the South African driver flashing his high beams behind you does not think he can go faster in your spot
  9. Always slow down and rubberneck when you see an accident or even someone changing a tire.  Never stop to help – you will be mugged
  10. Learn to swerve abruptly.  South Africa is the home of the high-speed slalom driver thanks to the government, placing holes in key locations to test drivers’ reflexes and keep them on their toes
  11. It is traditional to honk your horn at cars that do not move the instant the light turns green.  It prevents storks from building nests on top of the traffic light and birds from making deposits on your car
  12. Remember that the goal of every South African driver is to get there first, by whatever means necessary

If Henry Ford looks down on South Africa, he must be turning in his grave.  By my unscientific estimates, more than 90% of vehicles on South African roads are white, and smaller sized vehicles than we drive in the US.  In the US white is most popular (23%), followed by black (19%), gray (17%), and silver (15%).  The 18-wheelers, many towing a trailer, are no smaller than their matching brands in the US.

 

We drove from Montagu to Barrydale, a 60 kilometer (40 miles) drive for lunch.  The busiest restaurant, by far, was Diesel Creme.  They have a selection of memorabilia that was more than entertaining.  It certainly takes one back in time.  Barrydale is named after Joseph Barry, a well-known merchant of the 19th century.  In fact, every town and village in the southwest Western Cape has a Barry street.  A few years ago I obsessively took my son-in-law to see Barry Streets in numerous places.

South Africa’s Minister of Transport, Blade Nzimande says his department’s production team was “working overtime” to clear a backlog of close to 200,000 driver’s license cards.  It occurred after a 5-month long strike due to a labor dispute, and an upgrade to a new system in 2018.  My cousin explained that when you apply for a driver’s permit if they could not issue the license immediately, you get a card confirming your application stating that you will receive it in due course.  When traveling on the road and many miles from home, you may be stopped by the police to check for valid driver’s licenses.  You show the police the card, but the officer issues you a citation to appear before the magistrate several weeks from that day.  It necessitates another long-distant trip to this town.  The magistrate will throw the case out of court, but you have the inconvenience of taking time off work, traveling some distance to this town again, for what?  Only because the police will not accept as legitimate a card issued by another South Africa administrative department.  I was stopped four times in South Africa to have my driver’s license checked.  On three occasions, they waved me on after a cursory look.  The fourth time the police officer diligently entered all the details into a handheld device.  I use an international driver’s license, but none of the police was knowledgeable enough to know that it had no validity without simultaneously examining my US driver’s license.  I had no plans of handing that one over.  It is far too valuable as an identity document, and should they choose to confiscate it; I would have to go to extraordinary lengths to have a replacement driver’s license issued.

When roads are under repair, to facilitate workers, a single lane is blocked off with cones and barrels while being worked on, and traffic restricted to travel in one direction on the remaining path.  Control takes place at “stop and go” points.  Typically, motorists can expect a 10 to 20-minute delay for maintenance depending on the length of road repair.  I encountered road works on the drive from Robertson to Ashton and Montagu.  Between twenty to one hundred cars and trucks wait during this hold-up.  When released you have vehicles bunched like sausage links, as they proceed to their destination.  It must be a traffic engineer’s worst nightmare as the natural flow of traffic is disrupted.  You see this caravan of vehicles upsetting the normal flow of traffic as it moves through towns blocking intersections.

I was driving from Montagu to Cape Town.  With road works along the way, my sister recommended that I avoid the “stop and go” into Robertson with a 20-minute wait and a 50/50 chance that I may be held up.  There are five of these obstructions on the drive.  Some have a hold up that is generally under 10 minutes, with no detours available.  To avoid the Robertson stop, I needed to detour towards Bonnievale.  On the Bonnievale road turn back toward Robertson.  It might add 5 minutes of driving time but may save 20 minutes.  I thought the turnoff was near the Arabella Wine Farm.  Arabella had a sign in their vineyard not far from the road to turn to the left to get to their farm.  It was at that turn off that I saw this massive 18-wheeler blocking the sign to Bonnievale, and I saw the sign after I had already gone too far.  Who places a turnoff sign after the intersection?  Only in South Africa.

One way local unemployed people earn an income is to beg at the traffic lights (in South Africa, robots), or the “stop and go” roadblocks.  They use this restriction of traffic to sell their wares or plead for charity.  Traffic lights in town provide an additional opportunity.  Hawkers or beggars in the city take their lives in their own hands as the lights turn green and the vehicles reach maximum speed with these poor souls often caught in the middle of traffic. 

I stopped in a pharmacy/chemist in South Africa and was fascinated to see brand name products that sold in the US but in smaller pack sizes.  In the US, I might buy an over-the-counter multivitamin in a pack size of 250, but it is only available in 25s in South Africa.  I found this situation across the board including toothpaste, cosmetics, over-the-counter medication, toiletries, skin care, etc.  My breakfast cereal is sold in smaller portion sizes than I get in the US.  In discussing this with friends and family, many would not agree that with a high cost of living, and high inflation, smaller quantities at lower prices created a more affordable choice—especially among the poorer classes.  Besides, we know that packaging makes up a high percentage of a product cost and may not be that beneficial in the end.  According to Business Insider, gasoline/petrol prices in South Africa increased 200% over the past ten years, including a tax increase over that period of 165%.  Business Day reports that Eskom, South Africa’s electric utility company, increased rates 350% over the past ten years, with additional increases planned over the next quarter.  According to the OECD, South African’s average household net-adjusted disposable income per capita is US$ 10,872 a year, compared to the United States’ US$44,049, and a global average of $30,563.

Constantia Uitsig (view) is a wine farm boasting a heritage dating from 1685.  They opened Heritage Market in December 2017 with five quaint cottages including Nest Deli where we dined twice.  In fairness, we spent money at neighbors Alexander Fine Chocolates and Kristen’s Ice Crème. 

Jakes in the Village, located in Tokai, features a local cuisine with vegan options.  It earned a 4 out of 5-star rating on TripAdvisor and provided us with great food and service.

On driving back to Montagu from Knysna, we stopped over in Riversdale to eat at the Paddavlei (frog lake) Kunsgoete (art stuff).  An avant-garde establishment if ever there was one.  The woman who served us had spent a number of years in the US prior to moving to this tiny town from San Diego, California.  The food and service were great.

We had a family celebration at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa located above the Atlantic Ocean, flanked by the majestic Twelve Apostles and Table Mountain in Camps Bay, Cape Town.  You can eat from the buffet, or ala carte menu, all for one price in the Azure Restaurant.

We had a birthday celebration at the very highly rated The Table, De Meye Estate in Stellenbosch.  The bad news is that the chef couple Jessica Shepard and husband Luke Grant planned to make a change in their careers and seek another interest.  I am unsure of the status.

We all have our tastes; many developed over the years.  While in South Africa, we had our daily fill of Americano or Cappuccino coffee.  I had no plans to order a double-expresso.  Back home we are blessed with a full-bodied aroma coffee.  Hello Starbucks.  We use a coffee maker using pods that brews a stronger, tastier cup than I could get in South Africa.

Security in South Africa is like Chinese water torture, a process in which water slowly drips onto one’s scalp, allegedly making the restrained victim insane.  In the South African context, this process evolved over the decades.  Being controlled is the operative word, as in jailed within your own house.  In the 32 years since we left the country, homeowners and businesses to an alarming degree, have needed to tightened security on an ongoing basis further improving their safety annually.  I clearly understand that in a lawless society with minimal police presence, this is a necessity.  With a residence, the first requirement is to ensure every window and external door has burglar proofing to ensure no one can force entry.  Reinforced glass is helpful.  Divide the home into zones, separately protecting each area.  Say the living area versus the sleeping quarters, or garage.  Before setting the alarm, all windows and doors must be closed and locked.  If not securely closed, the homeowner will trigger the alarm.  The idea is that should there be a break in; the alarm system will identify which zone is compromised.  Naturally, the signal is linked to the security company by telephone who will send security personnel to provide help and assistance as soon as the alarm is triggered, when applicable apprehend the villains, generally with police help.

All entry doors must have a steel security entry operated with a key or remote lock to unlock from within the home.  Generally, the bedroom area will have another security gate in the passage to stop any potential intruders.  Next, secure the outer perimeter.  High precast or brick walls are a prerequisite.  Often residents add palisades, a steel stake with razor sharp points that might impale a burglar trying to gain entry to a property.  In turn, protect with razor-sharp coils of steel, and that topped with electric fencing.  Do not forget to add a closed circuit camera recording device to use as evidence in a court case, or to view what is taking place outside should you hear something.  If you have a driveway to your garage from the surrounding property fence, ensure that you have a retractable gate, remotely controlled.  Finally, add a few dogs.  It is imperative to have a small dog that is alert and sensitive to noises, and the dog’s bark will alert the big dogs who scare the daylights out of any potential burglar.  The dogs must be trained not to take food from a stranger.  Burglars might feed dogs poison to kill them.  As we walked in the suburbs to get exercise, we could have performed an audit to see which homes had the most alert and vicious animals.  The barking was often incessant as one set of dogs from one home would alert the neighbor’s dogs, and the cacophony continued down the street. 

What has led to a security industry in South Africa?

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is the national police force of the Republic of South Africa.  The provincial borders share 1,138 police stations in South Africa, with a Provincial Commissioner appointed in each of the nine provinces.  SAPS employs 193,692 people.  I attempted to use their services when I was pick pocked in March 2013.  The security offices in the shopping center had video footage of the theft and naturally the criminals.  Reporting the incident to the nearby police station was a waste of time.  For them to follow up would have entailed work.

Close and very long time friends of ours suffered deep emotional stress after their son’s demise.  The stolen cell phone was in use for several months after the incident.  The detective requested they continue paying the bill allowing for the interrogation of the current user.  That never happened.  The police chief got promoted to a new location.  The inspector in charge of the case reassigned.  The three witnesses identified had never been interrogated, and the case file is missing.  A year later, there is still no resolution to this tragedy.

Protests are a daily occurrence in South Africa.  “Service delivery” is an excuse.  If the locals don’t want to pay for schooling, then burn buildings within the schools or universities.  If the trains do not run on time, set the coaches alight, or steal the copper wiring.  South African’s observe the role of the police to protect the protesters—certainly not to stop the vandalism.

As I write, here is another incident I saw in the South African press.  “The latest burning of another eight train carriages in the Cape Town central train station is an indictment on those responsible for the management of our rail network, and they must account to the city’s public for the ongoing inaction to protect this essential public transport infrastructure,” Plato said in a statement.  He added that while the cause of the fire in the latest incident has not been determined, the reality is that more than 40 carriages have been burnt in arson attacks since 2017.  Plato said not a single person has been charged as being responsible for any of the more than ten incidents over the past two years.”

In the United States, there are over 18,000 Federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies around the country, and estimated between 750,000 and 850,000 sworn officers.  With a population of 327.2 million, this equates to 245 police officers per 100,000 people.  According to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics’ 2008 Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies, the Wisconsin state had 529 law enforcement agencies employing 13,730 sworn police officers, with a population of 5.4 million, about 254 for every 100,000 residents.  South Africa’s total population in 2017 was 56.72 million.  With 193,692 police officers, that equates to 341 police for every 100,000 residents.  South Africa has an adequate police force, but not an effective one.

There are numerous studies in South Africa relating to the corruption within the South African Police Services (SAPS).  Here is an extract from one study.  “In recent years approaches to examining the subject of police corruption have shifted from asking whether or not corruption exists in any given police agency, to ask questions about the size, nature, and impact of the problem.  Decades of experience suggest that if you look for corruption in any police agency, you will find it.  Often likened to a disease, corruption can only be effectively addressed once its existence is recognized.  However, just as some diseases are considered taboo, so to is the topic of corruption in many police agencies.  Talk of it can make police officials, particularly at senior levels, visibly uncomfortable.  It is because it draws attention to the murkier areas of policing which are often out of the sight of the public.  It brings to the fore a critical tension between the functional requirements of police members to combat criminals and the organizational needs of the police agency to be accepted in the eyes of the public.  Police corruption lurks in the arena where a police member’s discretion starts and organizational control ends.”

With the SAPS being so inept, what are South African’s to do?  They have supported a booming security industry.

The Security Association of South Africa is a body representing private security companies.  There are, at present over 9,000 security companies rendering residential, commercial and industrial security services, which comprises of guarding, electronic monitoring, armed response, and asset in transit services.  There are currently more than 500,000 security officers in the employ of these companies.  Security companies exist because of the high level of crime and South Africa and the total ineptitude of SAPS.  The reality is that we saw more security vehicles parked alongside the roads, than police vehicles on the streets.  Therefore, we have 193,692 police that is mostly idle, some corrupt, and 500,000 security offices that are active.  A friend told me jokingly that when a police station is attacked, they call the services of Armed Response.  Besides, with all the looting that takes place in South Africa, the consensus is the police are called to protect the looters, and nothing is done to stop the crime.

Where does this leave South Africa today?  State-run enterprises include:

  • Transnet (freight logistics)
  • SAA (the South Africa Airways)
  • South African Express (airline)
  • Eskom (world’s eleventh-largest power utility in terms of generating capacity, ranks ninth in terms of sales, and boasts the world’s largest dry-cooling power station)
  • Denel (armaments and military equipment manufacturer)
  • SAFCOL (forestry)
  • Alexcor (diamond mining)

To illustrate one major South African government state-run enterprise Eskom.  Eskom operates in dire financial straits through a carefully orchestrated plundering of finances, mismanagement, and lack of maintenance, establishing fraudulent supplier contracts, and widespread corruption.  Eskom’s current debt is R600 billion (US$43 billion).  Eskom’s debt burden is much more significant than South Africa’s entire income from personal income tax (R556 billion).  Although Eskom incurred massive losses in its last financial year, it still managed to pay each employee an average bonus of R88 000 (US$6,000).  The total bonus paid of R4.2bn (US$ 300 million), (2016: R2.1bn), even though Eskom made a loss.  Eskom’s external auditors, SizweNtsalubaGobodo, found that Eskom had incurred R3bn (US$200 million) worth of irregular expenditure.

During our visit to South Africa, we had to adjust to a life with periods of no electricity, a concept that the electrical utility, Eskom, called “load shedding.”  Eskom chairperson Jabu Mabuza said the operational side of Eskom required “crisis reaction” as well as time and speed to fix the current load-shedding situation.  Mabuza said seven generating units were currently out of the system due to boiler tube leaks.  The number of power outage hours at thousands of locations across the country showed an increase of over 100% in power failures in 2018.  Eskom highlighted that power outage is mainly caused by the overloading of transformers – especially during cold spells – and this is often because of theft, vandalism, and illegal connections.  Electricity expert Chris Yelland, however, said the causes include planned load shedding, cable theft and vandalism, aging infrastructure, a lack of maintenance, and system overloading.  Networks are the responsibility of municipalities to which Eskom provides electricity, and aging infrastructure are behind many power outages.  Eskom’s Chief Operating Officer Jan Oberholzer said the contract for early detection of faults in the extensive network of tubing inside boilers lapsed 18 months ago and had not yet been renewed.  There are currently seven generating units, which have broken down due to boiler tube leaks as Eskom struggles to maintain its aging power fleet.

Eskom CEO Phakamani Hadebe said the power utility had burned between 20- 25 million liters of diesel by running the open cycle gas turbines as a last resort and there are no diesel stocks available in South Africa, except for cars and small utilities.  Adding to Eskom’s woes is the loss of 1,150 megawatts of power from the Cahora Bassa hydroelectric generation station, amid the devastation caused by Tropical Cyclone Idai.  (In fairness, this only accounts for less than 1% of South Africa’s electrical power needs).  Yelland said cable theft is an additional problem for both municipal networks and Eskom’s grid and causes a high percentage of outages.  In brief, South Africa’s power stations are capable of generating approximately 50,000 megawatts of electricity that feeds into the electrical grid.  Realistically with many of the maintenance issues, there is 40,000 MW available regularly.  The government introduced a process of “load shedding” to reduce the amount of power available due to supply or maintenance issues.  One to eight stages of load shedding is applied, with each representing 1,000 MW of unavailable electrical energy.  It is a complicated process as it varies by region and time.  Generally, consumers lose power for two and a half hours at a time from one to three times in a 24-hour a day.

Energy expert, Ted Bloem, explains the reason behind load shedding is that we don’t have proper coal, and we haven’t invested in coal mines, it will take at least five years to sort the coal mess out.  “We’re going to have load shedding of this level or worse for the next five years.  Rocks in the coal cause the current load shedding.  The corruption at Eskom continues.  A year later after the new board has come in, I have warned them for ten years that they were going to run out of coal,” says Bloem.

What is the impact of load shedding?  I was fortunate to have invested in an Apple Watch.  At night, I could use its flashlight to perambulate the dark bedrooms and hallways to find the bathroom.

  • Imagine sleeping in bed with your alarm clock next to you.  As the power trips, it starts flashing noon.  When you wake, you see 1:27.  What does that tell you?
  • Imagine being in a grocery store.  You get to the checkout with your trolley or hand basket, and the power goes out.  It did with us while in a national chain store.  Fortunately, they owned the liquor store next door, and those cash registers were still operational on batteries.  We were carefully chaperoned from one store to the other, verifying that we would not take a short cut to our vehicle with unpaid groceries.
  • You wake before 6:00 am to prepare for the next round of load shedding, but then you are unsure if we are at stage 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6?  Is the current stage scheduled to start at 6:00 am or 10:00 am, or 2:00 pm, or 6:00 pm? 
  • Stages are changed at short notice to accommodate the lack of available generating capacity or increased with new capability that has come on stream.
  • The government is considering adding stage 7 and 8 to its options to further cut the electricity supply.  South Africa has a theoretical capacity of 51,309 MW total power from all sources.
  • Fortunately, there are busy and confusing single page tables available where you can try to figure out the date, your electric grid area, the selection of stages—not knowing what is scheduled for disruption today, and then you recall that the internet is down.
  • Have you been to a restaurant where the servers give you a list of menu items not available because they do not have working ovens?  They have a few meals prepared before load shedding.  
  • You want to use your iPhone, but your Wi-Fi is not available.  You try to use data from your carrier, but that too is not available.  Their system is overloaded, and their battery backup has failed.
  • I went to bed at 8:00 pm because the load shedding had kicked in.  I knew at bedtime that the next round of load shedding was to take place at 4:00 am.  I woke just before that time, only to only find the schedule had changed.  Stage 2 replaced Stage 4.  The next load-shed now planned for 2:00 pm.
  • Picture trying to run your business, or organize your day with these erratic and somewhat schizophrenic changes.  The cost to the country’s economy is uncalculatable.
  • I have a family member with his own business.  Labor shows up at 7:00 am for the start of a shift, power goes down at 10:30 for two and a half hours and workers are standing around on the payroll, waiting for the next load shed at 4:00 pm.
  • Thanks to Eskom and load shedding, when power is restored, it triggers the residential security alarms.  The security company calls to verify if there was an incident.  Sadly, the call only came after 20 minutes or longer.  When chastising the security company representative for taking so long to call, the response was that they had so many customers to call.  Realize that power might have been restored at 2:00 am so the phone call would wake one in the early mornings.
  • The surge that comes on once power has been restored does significant damage to electronic appliances by frying printed circuit boards.  It has led to a boom in UPS (uninterruptable power supply), and surge protector sales.

The only thing worse than load shedding is being surprised by load shedding.  Herman Maritz and Dan Wells developed EskomSePush; a free web application that allows users to view what regions will be affected by power outages on any particular day.  During load shedding, or when there has been a change to the load-shedding schedule, the app will send users push notifications.  The app features timers are counting down the amount of time until load shedding starts.  It provides detailed information on over 50,000 locations in South Africa.  Sometimes the app does not respond because the hits to their servers with inquiries from all over South Africa crash their servers.  Sigh.

  • You drive along the main road, and the traffic lights are dead.  It is now the survival of the fittest.  Who can get through the congested intersection as quickly as possible, only to be stopped by the next traffic intersection without functioning traffic lights
  • Imagine driving on a local suburban road with several other cars during load shedding at night.  The collection of vehicles provides lighting the way.  You turn off onto a side street in the suburb, and all you find is pitch black darkness.  There are no streetlights, the houses are in darkness, and there is no full moon to light the way.  Visibility is negligible.  You know you need to turn into a street with an island at the intersection.  You are not driving a Subaru that casts a beam when you turn the steering wheel.  Will you make your turn safely, or hit the island?  No fun at all.
  • I spoke to a woman who was in an elevator/lift when the power went out.  Otis reported that they would get there as soon as possible, but they had many call-outs.  2-hours later, with limited fresh oxygen she was rescued. 

If you arrive in South Africa by plane, and you expect professional service from custom and immigration agents.  You discover that they resent the fact that you are intruding on their conversations that they are holding very loudly with comrades on the far side of the building.  Eye contact?  What is that?  Do not expect to be welcomed into the country.  Your passport is rubber stamped mechanically without so much interest as learning how long you plan to stay.  We previously entered South Africa in November 2017 through Johannesburg and received the same shoddy treatment as we did in Cape Town on this recent trip.  Nothing changed.  No improvement.

Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape on April 6, 1652, to establish a halfway station for ships traveling between the Netherlands and East Indies.  The goal was to provide fresh water, vegetables, and meat for passing ships on the month’s long voyage.  He was responsible for his employer’s directives, the Dutch East India Company.  Van Riebeeck found a phenomenal infrastructure of roads, rail, cities, power grids, farms, and a booming industry.  It is this message promoted by the ruling African National Congress (ANC) government.  Van Riebeeck then stole this infrastructure from the local blacks.  It is this rationale that the ANC uses for their policy of expropriating land without compensation.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  The Kohisan are the traditional nomad non-Bantu indigenous population of southwestern Africa.  They were the inhabitants that van Riebeeck bartered with for animals; many years before the Bantu migrated south into what is today South Africa.  The “occupiers” built the infrastructure over four centuries, providing jobs and income for the locals.

“Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.” Willian Shakespeare in Julius Caesar.  I have an undying love for the country of my birth.  I am completely mortified by what the ruling African National Congress (ANC) is doing to destroy the country through corruption and lawlessness to turn the country into another Venezuela.

One can argue that the ANC is not blameless, but looking for retribution after the way that white Nationalist Party government treated blacks under the apartheid regime.  South Africa legislated onerous and racist apartheid (separation) laws in 1950.  Marriages and sexual relations between Whites and other races were banned.  The Population Registration Act of 1950 introduced the government’s classifications of race: Bantu (Black Africans), Colored (mixed race), White, and Asian (Indian and Pakistani).  It is complicated.  At some period, the Chinese were treated as “honorary whites.”  This legislation could split families, as parents and children could potentially be registered as different races.  A series of Land Acts set aside over 80 percent of the country’s land to its White citizens.  The government required non-White citizens to carry passes (known as dompas—stupid passes) authorizing their presence in restricted areas; created separated facilities for Whites and non-Whites to limit their communication; limited the action of non-White labor unions and refused non-White participation in the national government.  Due to these apartheid laws, “over 17,745,000 Africans have been arrested or prosecuted” between 1916 and 1984.

Let us step back in time to understand how we got to this point.  The original inhabitants of South Africa were the nomad non-Bantu Khoi and San, or Kohisan people.  Bartolomeu Dais, a Portuguese mariner, was the first to explore the coastline in 1488.  Vasco da Gama with a fleet of Portuguese ships rounded the Cape in 1497.  The Dutch East India Company under Jan van Riebeeck established a settlement in 1652.  British sovereignty was established in 1815, paying the Dutch 6 million pounds for the colony, outlawing the Dutch language, and instilling English language and British culture.  In 1820 five thousand settlers migrated to the country.  1830 was the beginning of the Great Trek, as Dutch-speaking inhabitants moved north.  From 1852 to 1902 sometimes called the Republic of the Transvaal operated as a nation state.  In 1866 alluvial diamonds were discovered.  Between 1870 and 1880, mines at Kimberley produced 95% of the world’s diamonds.  The first Anglo-Boer (Afrikaans farmer) war broke out in 1880.  In 1886 gold was discovered — the Second Boer War 1899 to 1902 resulting in upwards of 30,000 lives lost.  In 1910 the Union of South Africa formed under the leadership of General Louis Botha, and Jan Smuts his deputy with the South African Party (SAP) following a pro-British white-unity line.  In 1922 the South African National Congress—the forerunner of the African National Congress (ANC) was formed to fight for voting rights for black and mix-raced people.  In 1914 General Barry Hertzog formed the National Party (NP) championing Afrikaner interests advocating separate development for the two white groups (English and Afrikaans).

In 1948 the National Party formalized and extended the existing system of racial discrimination and denial of human rights into the legal system of apartheid (separate development).  1960 heralded the establishment of the Republic of South Africa, withdrawing from the British Commonwealth.  Homeland Citizens Act of 1970 authorized the forced evictions of thousands of black people from urban centers into “homelands” or “Bantustans.”  In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly identified Apartheid as a “crime against humanity” resulting in 91 member states voting for, 26 abstentions, with Portugal, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States, voting against the measure.  The Africa National Congress (ANC) took control of the country in 1994 with a one-person, one-vote mandate and after national elections voted out the apartheid Nationalist Party white government.  Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, with a law degree and who had spent 27 years in prison, was elected the first president and served for a single 5-year term.  Thabo Mbeki, a British educated economist, followed next as president and was ousted by Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma with a grade two education.  Zuma perfected how to siphon funds from government-run enterprises to share with selected family members and comrades.  Zuma was ousted in 2018 after several terms to be followed by Cyril Ramaphosa, a lawyer by profession, reputed to be one of the wealthiest people in South Africa.

More than anyone, Jacob Zuma proved to be a highly corrupt politician.  Zuma initially indicted in 2007 on 18 charges of corruption, fraud, and racketeering, including accepting bribes from a military contractor.  The arms deal, made by the government of Nelson Mandela in the mid to late 1990s, involved the purchase of naval vessels, submarines, fighter jets and other equipment from European nations including Germany, Italy, Sweden, the UK, France, and South Africa. The deal totaled 30 billion rand, or between US$3 billion to US$5 billion at the time.  Zuma alleged to have sought bribes from Thales to support his extravagant lifestyle.  French arms supplier Thales may still face charges.  South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog alleged that the billionaire Gupta family had exploited their ties with Zuma to win state contracts.  Schabir Shaik was found guilty in 2005 of trying to solicit a bribe from Thint, the local subsidiary of French arms firm Thales, on behalf of Zuma.  Zuma had extensive state-funded upgrades to his rural homestead at Nkandla.  Zuma’s rule is estimated to have cost the South African economy R1 trillion (approximately US$83 Billion).  Zuma is married to six wives with an estimated 20 children.

What is the responsibility of a government?

  • a government to provide the safety of law and order, protecting citizens from each other and foreign foes
  • The government as protector requires taxes to fund, train and equip an army and a police force; to build courts and jails, and to elect or appoint the officials to pass and implement the laws citizens must not break
  • Using the United States as an example, a political structure comprising the President, Congress, Supreme Court and departments of Treasury, War, State, and Justice.  Critically the three branches of government; the Senate, The House of Representatives, and the Office of the President are co-partners where one does not have jurisdiction over the other.  A system that calls for compromise to meet the will of the people
  • The government as the provider of goods and services that individuals cannot provide individually for themselves, including the means of physical travel, such as roads, bridges, and ports of all kinds, and increasingly the means of virtual travel, such as broadband. This infrastructure can be, and typically initially is, provided by private entrepreneurs who see an opportunity to build a road, say, and charge users a toll, but the capital necessary is so significant and the public benefit so apparent that ultimately the government takes over
  • The government can cushion the inability of citizens to provide for themselves, particularly in the vulnerable conditions of youth, old age, sickness, disability and unemployment due to economic forces beyond their control.  Providing social security that enables citizens to create their financial security
  • The government to heavily fund education, encourage more active citizenship, pursue binding international trade alliances and open borders to all immigrants
  • The most important priority of the government as investor is to provide education from cradle-to-grave, and schools, roads, medical care, firefighters, etc.
  • Governments need to be concerned about monopoly enterprises that block innovative entrepreneurs from getting a foothold in the market and moving technology forward
  • To establish a “social contract” with the people who trade some independence for protections and other services, and usually granted through a constitution
  • The most basic duty of a government is to protect its people from violence.  It may include the military, police who enforce laws, and organizations to ensure the health and safety of the environment and food chain
  • A capitalist market economy controlled by buyers and sellers where the government verifies the fairness
  • Citizens on their own without orders will create problems.  Businesses without controls may harm the population

It is worth reflecting where South Africa succeeds or has failed.  South Africa is the only country in the world where they have enacted laws to protect the majority from the minority.  One such act that has backfired is Black Economic Empowerment (BEE), and its derivatives such as Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE).  BEE is a racially inclusive program launched by the South African government to redress the inequalities of Apartheid by giving black people (African, Coloreds, and Indians) South African citizen’s economic privileges that are already available to Whites.  It is a form of Affirmative action.  Let me illustrate where this does not work.  A government entity will release a tender offer for software development.  A BEE registered company will win the tender with an inflated bid to grease the palms of its management cohorts.  After a couple of years, the BEE appointed company cannot deliver the solution, and a tender is awarded again without the stipulation of BEE qualifications.  A white-owned and white run company with highly qualified technical people is now assigned the project and completed in a few months.  It turns out to be their most profitable assignment because they priced it higher than the previous BEE contact.  The BEE or BBBEE stipulation is responsible for more whites parting for countries outside of South Africa, than any other.  BEE does not create a level playing field.

What I find troubling is that when the ANC took control of the country, many of my family and friends were terminated from their jobs. Positions that had to be filled by blacks. In some situations, whites were forced to train their replacements, taking as long as a year to attempt to get the new hires up to speed. Many remain in South Africa today, and several of those struggling to make ends meet without government financial support.

An attitude exists in South Africa among the majority population group.  If you are unhappy with your circumstances, take action to destroy things.  School and university fees are not free, so burn down the schools and universities.  That solves the problem, does it not?  Trains do not run on time.  Set the coaches alight, and steel the copper wire driving the trains—again proving what?  I will not get into the fact that petty crime is a way of life.  Then again when you have a government that is corrupt and siphons off as much as it can for their own pockets from the State Run Enterprises, it becomes a free for all in a lawless society.

We brought back souvenirs, including these placemats. I am very partial to all things protea (the national flower of South Africa).

On returning home and reflecting on our time in South Africa, it is a joy to live in open spaces.  As we drive in our suburbs, we notice the absence of high walls, with barb wired tops and electrical fences crowning that.  Security gates that do not block access to driveways.  We live in freedom with our broader roads and the absence of drivers maniacally driving at any speed to get nowhere in a hurry.  We live in a sane society.

We arrived home near midnight to find a strange electrical fault.  The power in our bedroom and bathroom was out, while the rest of the condominium was working correctly.  In checking our condominium passages I found the same anomaly, most lights were working, but some sections were without power.  When we woke up, everything was working correctly.  Later in the morning, we received a phone call from Wisconsin Electric to apologize for the outage that affected 1,000 homes in our area.  I do not recall Eskom called their customers apologizing for ongoing and repetitive load shedding.  But then again their customers are a general nuisance and inconveniencing them is inconsequential.

In my opinion, much of South Africa’s mess traces to the Nationalist government’s apartheid policy.  They did not see the need for effective black education because they were the laborers who did not need knowledge.  The ANC came to power a generation ago, and did not provide an adequate education for their people because their only purpose was to vote ANC!  Now the country sits with generations of uneducated people, uneducable, unemployable, with a government not competent enough to create permanent jobs, with financial shortages due to corruption.  The pass rate for final-year students at state schools in South Africa rose to the highest level since 2013, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga said.  Of the approximately 800,800 students sitting for the exams late last year, 78.2 percent passed, Motshekga said.  About 312,700 people (39%) are eligible to study at higher-education facilities such as universities, she said.  Almost half of the children who enrolled in the first year of schooling in 2007 did not write the full-time tests.  South Africa’s Department of Basic Education lowered the pass rate for mathematics to just 20% to keep children moving through the country’s struggling school system.  The World Economic Forum ranked South Africa’s quality of the education system 138 out of 140 countries.  Of the 12,372 students at 249 private schools and testing centers who wrote papers set by the Independent Examination Board, 98.9 percent passed.  About 90.7 percent achieved a mark high enough to enter university.

Cyril Ramaphosa has appealed to the million whites to return to South Africa.  Why?  South Africa ranked the unhealthiest country on earth.  The ten measures were healthy life expectancy, blood pressure, blood glucose (diabetes risk), obesity, depression, happiness, alcohol use, tobacco use, inactivity (too little exercise), and government spending on healthcare.

On May 8, 2019, South Africa will hold elections.  I will stick my neck out and bet that the ANC will win the polls again, albeit with a reduced majority.  The status quo will remain.  Corruption and lawlessness will be intact.  The white flight will continue, the currency will weaken, and inflation will continue its upward trend.  I am not confident about the countries future having read two books by investigative journalists:

  • Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s Gangster State: Unraveling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture
  • Jacques Pauw’s The President’s Keepers: Those keeping Zuma in power and out of prison

I follow South African news sites daily.

As I ponder a quarter century of ANC rule, I question what exactly have they contributed to South African society? I think in terms of any field of endeavor: medicine, science, engineering, literature, music, military, political, sport, education–or any other that you can offer. I would love to stand corrected.

As you read blogs on this website that I established in September 2016, it has cost me under US$1,000 for hosting costs, bearing in mind that I did not add in my time for writing blogs.  In Myburgh’s book, he references a similar technical website  (WordPress) developed for the province of Free State under Magashule’s control that cost R95 million (US$ 7 million) but not sure how many websites this entailed, or was it just one.  More corruption anyone?  The potential in South Africa is unlimited, but it will require robust, honest and ethical political leadership, without all the racism calling for the killing of whites. I appreciate Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane’s rhetoric, but sadly a message that will not be heard by all South Africans.

If you know what an idyllic location to live might be, nothing beats the Cape Town and its environs, or many spots in the Western Cape. The scenery, the weather, the people. It competes with the Carribean and other scenic spots in the world. If only the politicians did not set out to destroy the country.

Naturally, many local friends ask us if they recommend visiting South Africa.  I always respond with a resounding yes, with one stipulation.  Only travel with a reputable tour company who provides a fully guided, well chaperoned, and safe, escorted service.  With a high unemployment rate of 27.5% or 6.2 million people without jobs, this has resulted in high crime rates and affected by a general lawless society due to government corruption.

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Franschhoek, Western Cape, South Africa

Franschhoek has blossomed as a tourist destination, especially with the wine farm tours and tastings.


Linda and I married in February 1971.  For our honeymoon, we elected to stay in Franschhoek.  Linda and I recall the honeymoon suite at our hotel differently.  I remember that they only provided a single bed; Linda says there were two single beds.  No matter, a honeymoon suite with only single beds is a travesty.  We have no idea where we stayed, so 48 years later we were unable to re-visit the old haunt.  Franschhoek has blossomed as a tourist destination, especially with the wine farm tours and tastings.  Art, crafts, and bead shops are very popular.  I have another family tie to Franschhoek.  My mother’s maiden name is Maris and traces her arrival in South Africa to the French Huguenots.

The first Huguenots arrived as early as 1671, when the first Huguenot refugee, Francois Villion (later Viljoen), arrived at the Cape.  By 1692, a total of 201 French Huguenots had settled at the Cape of Good Hope.

The Huguenots were French Protestants who were members of the Calvinist Reformed Church established in 1550.  From the mid-1500s through mid-1600s, Huguenots were persecuted in France for their religious beliefs.  Therefore, thousands of Huguenots fled to other countries where they could enjoy religious freedom, including South Africa.  Simon van der Stel (Governor of the Cape) set aside land for Huguenot settlement in Franschhoek (‘French corner’) and Drakenstein (present-day Paarl) and gave orders for the French to be interspersed with the other burghers (Afrikaans citizens).  His reasoning for this integration was “that they could learn our language and morals, and be integrated with the Dutch nation”.  Today, many farms in these areas retain their French names.

In 1688 French Huguenot refugees began populating the valley establishing farms and businesses bringing with them their experience in agriculture. The name of the area soon changed to le Coin Français (“the French Corner”), and later to Franschhoek (Dutch for “French Corner”), with many of the settlers naming their new farms after the areas in France from which they came.  La Motte, Champagne, La Cotte, Cabrière, La Provence, Bourgogne, La Terra de Luc, and La Dauphine were among some of the first established farms — most of which still retain their original Cape Dutch farmhouses today. These farms have grown into renowned wineries. Many of the surnames in the area are of French origin, e.g. Du Toit, Marais, Du Plessis, Malan, Malherbe, and Joubert.

Not your grandfathers tractor ride. This, fortunately was only a short transfer ride. Enjoy the noise and shakes.

Our specific wine tour featured five vineyards, transported by bus and tram, depending on the wine farm’s location.  We used the Franschhoek Wine Tram, a hop-on-hop-off tour. It is one of the best ways to discover the true essence of the Franschhoek Valley – picturesque vineyards, breath-taking scenery, warm hospitality, world-class cuisine, fine wines, and a 300-year history.  Passengers experience a unique and leisurely way to see the Franschhoek Valley as they journey through rolling vineyards in a vintage style railway tram and open-air tram-bus stopping in at some of South Africa’s oldest and most distinguished wine estates.  A combination of tram and tram-bus transports passengers around a loop of stops allowing them to hop-off at each stop and experience the activities on offer, be it wine tasting, a cellar tour, lunch or simply a stroll through the vineyards and when they are ready, hop-on to continue the tour.

Linda and I decided prior to visiting the first wine farm that we would not feel good at the end of the day tasting four wines from each of five farms for twenty samplings.  We agreed that we would buy a single tasting to be shared at each farm.  When there was coupling with biltong (jerky), a cheese board, chocolate, or any other treat, that too would be shared.  The alternative was that we would gorge ourselves.  As it was, we were meeting my cousin for dinner at the Tuk Tuk Microbrewery. Tuk Tuk, a craft beer microbrewery serving bespoke brews and Mexican-inspired food.

La Bourgogne

We visited Franschhoek for two nights in early March 2019 staying at the Riverside Cottages on the Le Bourgogne Farm in the loft, a very spacious accommodation.  La Bourgogne is a subdivision of the farm Bourgogne that was among the first Huguenot farms proclaimed in 1694.  Simon van der Stel granted the farm to Pierre de Villiers.  However, 1800 saw the first involvement of the Le Roux family, a relationship that endures to this day, with neighbor Gappie Le Roux managing the farming operations.

On our wine farm tour, we elected to taste wines from La Bourgogne to learn more about their products.  That morning we enjoyed breakfast in their restaurant.

When the late George Mayer bought the farm, it was his aim to make olive oil, notwithstanding the lack of olive trees on the farm. Today the farm has approximately 2500 olive trees, which were planted in May 2008, bar about 220 which went in May 2005. The majority of the trees planted are Frantoio, with liberal sprinklings of Corantino, Lecchino, and Mission. The oil produced to date has been of excellent quality. La Bourgogne started with their own olive pressing on the farm. The 2011 harvest won a Silver award with the South African Olive association.

La Bri

The original grant of La Bri is one of the oldest Huguenot-allocated farms in the Franschhoek Valley.  The farm is situated in the valley previously known as Olifantshoek (Elephants Corner).  The name La Bri is probably derived from the outlying town of Brie, which was the stomping grounds of the de Villiers family in the early 13th century.  L’ Abri is also French for “the refuge or Haven”, a perfect name for this property, as it is safely nestled in the imposing amphitheaters of the Franschhoek valley.  La Bri featured Chardonnay, Syrah, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Holden Manz

Located in the top, southern-most corner of the Franschhoek Valley, in the embrace of its spectacular mountains, the 22 hectares Holden Manz Wine Estate is situated between the Franschhoek River and Stony Brook at 300 meters above sea level.  An exclusive grower of red grapes, the Estate only cultivates its top 16 hectares under vineyards, notably Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, and Merlot.  Long, cold and wet winters allow the vines to rest well, while hot dry summers and gentle autumn allows for slow ripening.  Featuring a rich and diverse terroir influenced by its unique natural surroundings, with three different soil types and a marked seasonal climate, the estate’s vineyards are perfectly suited to its intention – the production of ultra-premium wines made for the discerning wine connoisseur.

GlenWood

GlenWood is a family owned boutique winery located in an area of outstanding natural beauty very close to Franschhoek.  GlenWood has been developed from scratch over the last thirty-three years to become a leading South African wine producer and wine exporter to 12 countries.  With only one exception, all wines are made from grapes produced on the farm, thereby reflecting the unique terroir of our small valley.  The wines are uniformly and consistently highly rated by wine judges and have received numerous awards and prestigious listings.  GlenWood features Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Noblesse.

Grande Provence

Grande Provence Estate wears her 300-year history with dignity.  Her lush vines spread across 47-acres with gentle vistas over the valley floor, with the rugged mountains beyond. This is heartland South African wine country at its very finest.  Grande Provence features Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Shiraz.

As part of their social responsibility programs, Grande Provence supports a number of causes. We were impressed with the cheetah program. Cheetah Outreach has two facilities in the Western Cape, Somerset West, and Franschhoek. Here they offer cheetah encounters. The primary goal is to promote the survival of the free-ranging, South African, cheetah. From an estimated 100,000 cheetahs at the turn of the 20th century, the population is currently estimated to be 7,100. Shrinking habitat, dwindling of natural prey, and conflict with human activities are the primary causes of this critical situation. There are about 1,326 cheetahs in South Africa of which approximately 500 free-ranging cheetahs live on unprotected farmlands in the northern part of the country.  This population is the focus of the work


The Gallery at Grande Provence is considered to be one of the most highly regarded galleries in the Cape, with a reputation for showcasing some of South Africa’s finest established and emerging artists. Regular exhibitions are held with the major disciplines being shown throughout the year. The Gallery exhibits a carefully selected group of artists from South Africa, Europe and America. The Sculpture Garden has a continually evolving collection of monumental works in a variety of media.

Driving to Franschhoek from Montagu was a treat.  It is evident with my blogs and videos showing mountain passes, that I am enamored with the scenery as we crest the hills, and descend the dales.  In Wisconsin, from where we live, we need to travel long distances to see similar beauty along the Mississippi River. 

Franschhoek Pass is located in the Western Cape, Province of South Africa on the Regional road R45 between Franschhoek and Villiersdorp.  The pass was formally constructed in 1822, by a group of soldiers under command of Major Holloway, under orders from Lord Charles Somerset.  Jan Joubertsgat bridge was part of the construction.  It is still in evidence today, as one of South Africa’s oldest bridges.

Franschhoek Pass (R45) is also called Lambrechts Road, though – more poetically – a hundred and fifty years ago it was known as Olifantshoek (Elephants Corner) after the now mythical herds of elephant, which once roamed these valleys and mountains. This long, steep and dramatic pass with its variety of scenery was South Africa’s first properly engineered road. During weekends, city folk stream to the pass on bicycles, motorcycles, skateboards, and vehicles to enjoy its sheer magnificence.  Sadly, fire devastated the pass two weeks prior to our visit—and this is evident along our journey.  Where we stopped, we looked down on the town from on high.  The town becomes visible as we descend on the winding road complete with hairpin bends.  Our good fortune is that we did not have vehicles in front of us to impede the view. 

We highly recommend Franschhoek as a great place to visit.  We had dinner with a family who moved to Franschhoek two decades ago as their ideal retirement community.

PS. This was a cold day and a few days later I had a cold. My fault for not bringing anything warm on this trip.

On June 21, 2019, the Western Cape was hit with very strong storms. After rock falls, the Franschhoek Pass was closed. My sister sent me these photographs published in the media.

A motorist escaped serious injury on Saturday morning after a rockslide at Franschhoek Pass during rainy weather. Marc Thackwray, 28, suffered a few bumps and scratches but was otherwise uninjured after massive boulders rained down on his car.  Western Cape traffic chief Kenny Africa said the pass was closed because rocks had fallen on to the road. Authorities had to turn motorists away from both sides of the pass.

An additional rockfall took place on July 3, 2019.

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Paternoster, West Coast, Western Province, South Africa

Paternoster is a fishing village set on the Atlantic seashore


Paternoster is a fishing village set on the Atlantic seashore, with whitewashed homes in the mold of southern Spain, but without the mountainous backdrop.  With a population of under 2,000 featuring a foodies delight at a variety of restaurants, art studios for aficionados, bed and breakfast accommodation, self-catering apartments, guest houses, and several hotels.  This seaside resort count swells with numerous tourists to this quaint region year round.  Sadly, on the drive from Cape Town along the coast, we saw that recent droughts had ravaged this region.  The environment provides magnificent walks along the beach and shopping experiences through the town.

Three hundred years ago, Paternoster was known as St Martin’s Bay.  The area was rich in wildlife including hippo and leopard on the land, and the marshes to the east that stretched for miles.  The rocks and offshore islands were rich in guano.  Penguin colonies thrived.

The ancestors of the coastline were the Strandlopers (beach walkers) who roamed the shores and gathered food from the sea to sustain themselves.  The Strandlopers are a Khoikhoi-derived people who lived by hunting and gathering food along the beaches of southwestern Africa, originally from the Cape Colony to the Skeleton Coast.  When the Dutch settled the Cape in 1652, they met these nomads.

Many people believe Paternoster means “Our Father” in Latin.  It refers to prayers by Catholic Portuguese seamen when they were shipwrecked.  Others believe it refers to the beads that the Khoi tribe wore that were called Paternosters.

Paternoster is a sought after tourist destination and is known for lobster and the whitewashed anglers’ cottages. The remarkable coastline of jagged cliffs and white boulders makes this one of the most beautiful beaches on the West Coast of South Africa.

The area is a pillar in the South African commercial fishing industry. The town itself has a lobster factory and a newly erected Kabeljou (one of the most targeted edible saltwater fish off South Africa’s coastline) farm, whilst the local people catch and sell herring, or draw mussels from the rocks. In the greater area are several more commercial activities, including deep sea fishing, snoek catching, abalone farming, oyster farming, canning of pilchards and mussel farming. The oyster farm in the lagoon of the neighboring town of Langebaan is currently the largest in South Africa. The first Portuguese navigators (1497-1502) enjoyed the West Coast rock lobster (Jasus lalandii).  By 1902 a full-blown lobster industry was in operation, canning and exporting lobster to France in particular. The West Coast lobster industry generates millions each year and employs large numbers of the local people.

In the 1930s the first Redro factory was erected in Paternoster.  Redro fish paste was developed by the Stephan family in an effort to compete with the already popular Peck’s Anchovette of Britain.  It flew off the shelves when first released and enjoyed nearly three decades of uncompromising sole monopoly in the savory spread market and is now owned by Pioneer Food Group.

The Cape Bokkoms (dried, salted and small whole fish) has been well known in this region and has been a cheap and practical source of protein for centuries. The unique method of preparing and drying fish has grown with leaps and bounds, often for export, in response to the growing demand for the product from South Africa.

When you travel in South Africa, everyone seems to be imprisoned by living in homes with high walls, topped with razor wire, electric fences with an armed response on call.  Paternoster is the exception to this rule.  Not a burglar bar in sight, and total absence of security without the obsession to keep everything locked.  Even the retail stores and restaurants did not have security gates.  We were assured that this is a crime free community.

We were fortunate to get accommodation at Gaby Carstens Dunn’s self-catering “Karibu in Paternoster“, located on Mosselbank Street.  Her Facebook page is here.  We had our own room with bathroom, and a shared lounge with utensils to prepare and enjoy meals.  In fairness, we did not cook but enjoyed the many available restaurants.

Our first-night outing was to Leeto Restaurant by Chef Proprietor Garth Almazan.  Authenticity and local specialties merge with sophistication in both the menu and restaurant design.  Leeto (Khoi language: ‘journey’) stays true to its unique beach location, capturing local flavors whilst at the same time boasting spectacular views.  I ordered a steak and was horrified that I was not offered a steak knife.  When the meal arrived, I was amazed to discover that a regular knife managed to cut the tender and delicious meat with ease.  If I had any complaint, it was that the restaurant was so noisy with the multiple diners participating in animated discussions that I could hear the magnificent classical music playing in the background.

The restaurant at Paternoster Lodge presents a magnificent view of the ocean.  Dealing in crayfish is illegal in Paternoster, especially if you purchase the fish from independent tradesmen who roam the streets.  We witnessed a police raid from our lofty view of the ocean and seeing the illegal traders scattering at the site of police vehicles.  The food was a treat.  Our server mentioned that she was born in the town of Worcester, a 2-hour drive from this village.  Unable to find suitable employment, she enjoys her job and the quieter community of Paternoster.

The Voorstrandt (beachfront) Restaurant is located in a 114-year-old quaint red and green tin house, right on the white sandy beach with panoramic views of the sand, sea, and sky, overlooking the bay.  Seafood was a natural selection for our dinner.  We had the opportunity of taking photographs of the beautiful seashore and sunset from our table.

We used our visit to drive to the lighthouse at nearby Cape Columbine Nature Reserve, in Tietiesbaai (breasts bay).  Tietiesbaai got its name from two large rocks that indeed look somewhat like a pair of boobs.  Those familiar with the Pennsylvania Amish would know they have a town named Intercourse, the junction of two roads.  What is in a name?  Cape Columbine originates from the name of the last manually controlled lighthouse built in South Africa.  This lighthouse, in turn, got its name from the British wooden ship ‘Columbine’, which was wrecked 1,5km (1 mile) north of the lighthouse in 1829.  Built-in 1936 on Castle Rock, it is usually the first South African lighthouse seen by ships sailing from Europe. Its light stands 80m (260 feet) above sea level and casts a beam visible for about 50km (30 miles).  We had two surprises.  Getting into the reserve required an entrance fee.  Getting into the lighthouse to climb the four flights, 98 steps required an additional fee.  The way down requires that you slowly reverse on the narrow staircase.  The view from the top makes the venture worthwhile.

This area is windswept and we were delighted to see a local wind farm.

In a small fishing village, Paternoster on South Africa’s rugged west coast, restaurateur Kobus van der Merwe is struggling to process his meteoric rise to gastronomic stardom.  He recently got back from Paris, where his 20-cover Wolfgat was named Restaurant of the Year at the inaugural World Restaurant Awards, also winning the remote location prize.  The restaurant is named after the nearby Wolfgat cave – an archaeological wonder containing remnants of an ancient culture, and rumored gateway to underground passages.  Says Kobus: “There is a rich history of early civilization on this coastline, which we find very inspiring.


One disappointment.  On Wednesday, February 20, 2019, I sent an email to Kobus requesting a reservation for lunch on Thursday, February 21st at 12:30 pm.  I instantly received an automated response that read in part “All reservations for Wolfgat are taken online, please visit our website to view available dates and to reserve your table.  Lunch is served Wednesday to Sunday, and dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings, by appointment only.”  The restaurant was fully booked through the end of April 2019.  Subsequently, I learned it was fully booked through June 2019.  The 7-course meal costs R850 (US$60) per head and R1,400 ($100) including drinks, with payment at time of reservation.  So yes, I was disappointed I could not experience this wonderful restaurant and chef who operates with a team of eight helpers.

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Norval Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa

The Norval Foundation is home to one of the largest privately owned collections of South African modern art in the world.


The Norval Foundation opened to the public on Saturday, April 28 2018.  It is located at 4 Steenberg Road, Steenberg Estate, Cape Town.  Property mogul Louis Norval funded the foundation.  The Foundation’s architecture is as beautiful as the artwork inside.  It is home to one of the largest privately owned collections of South African modern art in the world.  The Norval Foundation houses the Norval family collection, which counts among its archive the works of the Gerard Sekoto Foundation, Edoardo Villa Estate Collection and the Alexis Preller Archive, all to be found between the sprawling sculpture garden, outdoor amphitheater, multiple exhibition spaces, research library, restaurant, bar, shop and children’s playground.

We ate at the restaurant twice .  And recommend it highly.  The Skotnes Restaurant is the culinary arm of the Norval Foundation.  Named after legendary South African artist and teacher Cecil Skotnes, the restaurant is naturally at home in the world of art.

To fully appreciate the Norval Foundation, we need to understand the driving force and motivation of Louis Norval, his successes and achievements leading to this welcome addition to Cape Town’s culture.

Louis Norval accomplishments include:

  • educated at Lyttelton Hoerskool (high school), Centurion (near Pretoria, in Gauteng, South Africa)
  • graduated with a BSc (QS) (with distinction) from the University of Pretoria in 1979
  • co-founder, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive of Attfund Limited (one of the largest private property investment companies in South Africa) until the company sold to Hyprop Investments Limited (a REIT listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange) in 2011
  • Managing Director of the Parkdev Asset Managers/Parkdev Group of Companies
  • Executive Chairman of Homestead Group Holdings Limited
  • serves on the board of a number of other companies including:
    • Hyprop Investments Limited
    • a founding member and Senior Partner of Noval Wentzel Steinberg Quantity Surveyors
    • serves as a Director of Stenham European Shopping Centre Fund
    • a Non-Executive Director at Capital & Regional plc since September 15, 2009
    • a Non-Executive Director of Hyprop Investments Limited since September 1, 2011
    • served as an Executive Director of Sycom Property Fund Managers Limited from June 30, 2006 to August 2010
    • served as an Executive Director of Baker Street Associates Holdings (Pty) Ltd
    • served as a Director of Stenham European Shopping Centre Fund from July 3, 2007 to August 16, 2010
    • served as a Director of Baker Street Association Holdings (Pty) Ltd
  • Chairman of Pretoria Country Club
  • represented South Africa in golf in 1979

On a personal note, one of the exhibitions was from David Goldblatt.  David was born 29 November 1930, in Randfontein, and died 25 June 2018, in Johannesburg.  The Norval Foundation featured an hour plus movie of David’s life, his disagreement with the apartheid policies of the white Nationalist government, and his complete disappointment with the corruption that has wracked the African National Congress (ANC), the current black ruling party in South Africa.  Growing up in South Africa, David was a celebrity that we admired.

Click here for more information on the Norval Foundation

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Boyes Drive, Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is not short of scenic drives as you might have seen from the Chapman’s Peak Drive post.  This YouTube video starts on the main or beach road and…

Cape Town is not short of scenic drives as you might have seen from the Chapman’s Peak Drive post.  This YouTube video starts on the main or beach road and exists onto Boyes Drive for a beautiful view as we crest the mountain and descend the other side to provide views that are even more breathtaking.  This 7 km (4 miles) fabulously scenic drive along the mountainside above Muizenberg and Kalk Bay completed in 1920.  (If you watched the Chapman’s Peak video, you will hear the same music.  I did not wish to keep spending money on fresh renditions to support my videos).  Enjoy.

Boyes Drive, Cape Town, South Africa
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Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape Town, South Africa

The magnificent Chapman’s Peak Drive

I was born in Cape Town.  There are many sights that are the pride and joy of the Mother City, and its environs.  Linda and I drove the scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive today.  I planned to do research but found this perfect website below.  I copied and pasted its content below.  The editing was to Americanize the spelling and insert comments to clarify terms from Afrikaans and to update currency to today’s figures.  The video is 15 minutes in length.  Near the halfway mark, you will see the major engineering work that added safety to the road.  Along the drive observe the fencing used to catch rocks that may fall from above.  Linda and I have driven portions of the scenic Pacific Coast Highway in California, yet the much shorter Chapman’s Peak Drive has a beauty of its own.  As you read the detail below, it is fascinating to understand the number of challenges that needed addressing over the years prior to taking this leisurely drive..

htmlhttps://www.chapmanspeakdrive.co.za/the-drive/history.html

The website linked above provides traveler information such as current weather and road conditions, toll rates, and status if the drive is open, etc. Its historical content is published below with minor editing.

!5 minutes of scenic beauty and an engineering marvel.
As you watch, imagine the feat of creating a road out of the side of a mountain.

Chapman’s Peak is named after John Chapman, the Captain’s mate of an English ship, the Consent. The peak, which looms overhead, was not named after a governor or brave mountaineer, but a lowly ship’s pilot. In 1607 the skipper of the British ship Contest found his vessel becalmed in what is now Hout Bay (wood bay) and sent his pilot, John Chapman, to row ashore in the hope of finding provisions. The pilot later recorded the bay as Chapman’s Chaunce (chance) and the name stuck, becoming official on all East India charts.

In the early 1920’s Sir Nicolas Fredrick de Waal, first administrator of the Cape Province, ordered the construction of a high-level road linking Cape Town with the Southern Suburbs. The roadway (De Waal Drive) was extremely well received. Enthused with the success he called for another road linking Hout Bay to Noordhoek (north corner). Two possible routes were under consideration in 1910. The route over the low neck between the Chapman’s and Noordhoek Peaks was second to the more spectacular route along the vertical sea cliffs.

In 1914 preliminary surveys on the road got underway. Surveying the route was a scary business. The cliffs and ravines were steep, rotten and unstable, and at times the surveying party was on all fours as they investigated the perpendicular terrain. The route over the neck appeared to be no better, and the project appeared to be expensive and a ‘mission impossible’. De Waal however, would not take no for an answer and eventually he ordered the ‘go ahead’ for along the cliffs which appeared, at the time to be the better option.

The road was cleverly planned with the road surface based on the solid and conveniently located 630 million-year-old Cape Granite contour, while the many roadside cuttings would be carved out of the more workable Malmesbury series sediments.

In 1915, with the use of convict labor supplied by the newly formed Union Government, construction began from the Hout Bay end, and in the following year, work began from Noordhoek. The first portion of the road to the Lookout was opened in 1919.

This spectacular roadway took seven years to complete, at a cost of ₤20 000. (₤100 million in today’s currency, or US$130 million).  The Hout Bay – Noordhoek Road ‘hewn out of the stone face of Sheer Mountain’ was opened to traffic on Saturday 6 May 1922 by the Governor of the Union of South Africa, His Royal Highness Prince Arthur of Connaught.

In 1962 a section of the road was widened, and in 1977 a portion of road was washed away, and subsequently the road was closed on 14 May, after a large section was washed away and the damaged section was replaced by a bridge at a cost of R150 000 (R5.5 million in today’s money or US$ 400,000).

Road Closure in 2000

In 1994, Noel Graham was injured and partially paralyzed in a landslide incident on Chapman’s Peak Drive, which resulted in a court case against the Cape Metropolitan Council who was the road management agent at the time of the incident. In February 1999, a High Court judgment was given against CMC for negligence in the management of the road. The matter was appealed by the CMC but the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal in November 2000, thus reaffirming the Cape High Court’s decision, and CMC was ordered to pay all claims and costs.

Amidst increasing concern for public safety and legal liability, the South Peninsula Municipality (SPM) – the new road management agent appointed in 1997, established a sub-committee of officials from the local, metropolitan and provincial authorities to guide the management of Chapman’s Peak Drive, who instigated high visibility rock fall warning signs to be erected on Chapman’s Peak Drive during 1999. The sub-committee also adopted a specific Chapman’s Peak Drive closure policy which inter alia stipulated that the road had to be closed to traffic in rainy weather (very light drizzle excluded) and remain closed for a number of hours after cessation of any rainfall and until deemed safe by SPM’s road management staff. This closure policy/procedure was implemented by SPM’s road management staff with lockable booms put in place to prevent unauthorized entry.

On 29 December 1999 however, a falling rock caused the unfortunate death of a Noordhoek resident. In early January 2000, Ms. Lara Callige was killed, and a passenger in the same car seriously injured in a rock fall incident on Chapman’s Peak Drive in good weather conditions when the rock fall risk on the road was not considered to be high. This was of serious concern to the local and provincial authorities alike and emergency meetings to discuss the closure of Chapman’s Peak Drive were held between the relevant political bodies. Before a decision could be taken on the matter, and still in January 2000, the worst mountain fires in many decades raged in the Cape Peninsula, including in the mountains above Chapman’s Peak Drive, causing numerous rock falls onto the road and effectively rendering the road impassable.

Because of these incidents, Chapman’s Peak Drive was officially closed to traffic indefinitely by the Provincial Minister of Transport in January 2000.

Development 2000 – 2003

Based on the recommendations of geotechnical specialists, the Provincial Administration’s Transport Branch made available funding for “rock barring” (a term used for removing loose or dangerous rocks) of the mountain slopes above the road to make them safer. Contracts for this work were awarded in March 2000 by the SPM.

It soon became apparent that the rock barring process deemed would take substantially longer than originally anticipated and cost commensurately more. The work was thus stopped in May 2000 and an integrated environmental management process (IEM) was put in place with the goal of producing an agreed management plan for Chapman’s Peak Drive by mid-2001. The IEM process brief required management to include:

  1. the improvements deemed necessary to make the road safe for users,
  2. a strategy for managing/operating the road,
  3. recommendations on funding sources for capital improvements as well as the continuing operational needs.

At the end of April 2001 the IEM process had included:

  1. A review of the initial “rock barring” work which concluded that some rock barring may be necessary for the final upgrading process, but the “clean sweep” approach could not be condoned and the selective rock barring also would have to be accompanied by various engineered rock fall protective measures in order to make the road safe for users.
  2. A comprehensive stakeholder workshop in September 2000, which identified and agreed to various improvements and protective measures, which needed to be implemented on Chapman’s Peak Drive with the overriding and urgent requirement to re-open the road to traffic as soon as possible being supported by all participants.
  3. A detailed site survey of the road itself and mountainside above and below the road to facilitate a concept design proposal (areas covered by rock and the time had to be omitted).
  4. Completion of various concept design proposals incorporating some or all of the following elements: rock barring, catch fences, rock gallery protection, concrete roof protection, existing structure repair, road surface, and layer work repair, slope stabilization work above and below the road, etc.
  5. Public meetings were held in late November 2000 to present the status of the project to the general public in the Hout Bay and Noordhoek Valley areas and obtain relevant feedback from interested and affected parties, and further meetings in March 2001 presented the progress on the project.

The IEM process was guided by a project management team consisting of officials from the Provincial Administration, Western Cape, and officials from the City of Cape Town’s South Peninsula and CMC administrations.

Public-Private Partnership (PPP)

The legal road authority for Chapman’s Peak Drive is the Provincial Administration Western Cape (PAWC) realized early on in 2000 that financial limitations would be the single biggest stumbling block to the safe re-opening of Chapman’s Peak Drive to traffic. To solve these financial problems the plan was to implement a public-private partnership and proclaim the route a Toll Road under the Western Cape Provincial Toll Road Act. The feasibility study concluded that the majority of the costs attached to the Chapman’s Peak Drive reopening and operation could be obtained through tolling the road and that a public-private partnership with a concessionaire demonstrated value for money in terms of the risks transferred to the private sector.

The Chapman’s Peak Engineering Group Joint Venture was awarded the tender after being shortlisted and the project was overseen by Entilini concessions – the special-purpose company established by the consortium of Concor Holdings, Haw & Inglis and Marib Holdings.

The Joint Venture included Vela VKE Consulting Engineers, Meli & Du Plessis Geotechnical Engineers, Stewart Scott International, Zietsman Lloyd Hemsted and assisted by Megan Anderson Landscape Architect (environmentalist); OvP& Associates (landscape architect); Dr. Ross Party-Davies (geotechnical specialist) and Prof Rolf Kratz (structural design specialist).

Due to its sensitive location within the Table Mountain National Park, an integrated environmental approach to the rehabilitation and upgrading of Chapman’s Peak Drive was required. See details on the engineering page of work that was undertaken to ensure that rock fall protection measures were put in place along with an advanced traffic management system.

2003 – Present

After intensive design and reconstruction, Chapman’s Peak Drive was re-opened to traffic as a toll road on 20 December 2003. The opening was a welcome return for the drive as an “international tourist destination” complementing other tourist destinations in the Western Cape. Local businesses also welcomed the re-opening.

The new rock fall measures were however put to the test, and during July and August of 2004, three rainfall incidents occurred of extremely high intensity. A total of 396mm was recorded in the 2 months, compared to the mean annual precipitation for the area of 740mm! Shortly thereafter several debris slides and rock fall incidents occurred, resulting in damage to the catch fences and Chapman’s Peak Drive was closed for 55 days to clear the debris and replace the 4 catch fences.

The much-loved road was back in the news when Chapman’s Peak Drive was once again declared unsafe for road users in June 2008 and the drive was closed for major upgrades and repairs. The construction work took over a year and was eventually re-opened on the 9th of October 2009. Chapman’s Peak Drive has remained open since then, albeit with temporary closures for routine maintenance and during dangerous weather conditions.

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A week on O‘ahu in Hawai‘i

With each thumbnail image or images, click to get a larger image.  With multiple photographs, right click to advance or left click to go backward. In presenting photographs, I take…

With each thumbnail image or images, click to get a larger image.  With multiple photographs, right click to advance or left click to go backward.

In presenting photographs, I take them using a high-resolution camera, mostly with my Nikon, and a few with my iPhone.  As a result, these are large and graphically clear photographs.  Consequently, they may take a moment to load, depending on your internet speed.  Be patient, wait, and enjoy the beauty in each picture.

  • John and Linda;
  • Olivia, Darin, Robyn, Isabel;
  • views from Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, Kapolei – Oahu, Hawaii 

Before getting into detail, allow me to state unequivocally that Hawaii is a magical place.  A veritable paradise.  We vacationed on one of the eight Hawaiian islands; Oahu, meaning “The Gathering Place”.  From the scenery to the weather, to the people, absolutely everything makes this a wonderful place to visit—and likely, a great place to live.  The Islanders are incredibly friendly.  We benefitted by touring out of peak season.  It certainly helped that Marriott has a magnificent resort, with unparalleled service, and high-quality amenities to satisfy the most discerning guest.

Hawaii probably has a higher cost of living than mainland US.  There are no venomous snakes on the islands.  A few bugs like mosquitos that bite and sting are present.  There are 19 different species of cockroaches.  We did not encounter any insects.  When visiting Hawaii, Customs and Immigration are concerned about what you are bringing onto the islands.  Food is confiscated.  Animals are not permitted unless first quarantined.

When we left home, Southeastern Wisconsin had its 11th coldest November tied with 1871.  The month’s average temperature came in at 32.4 Fahrenheit (0.2 Celsius) or 6.6 F (3.7C) below normal.  We had grey skies, and the trees had lost their leaves.

Arriving in Hawaii, also in the Northern Hemisphere, just a few degrees south of the Tropic of Cancer, was lush with green foliage.  November is the start of the wet season, and end of the hurricane season.  The average temperature is 77F (25C).

Allow me to describe one example of Hawaiian friendliness.  Much as we found when visiting Quebec City in Canada during September this year, if we want to cross the road, cars would stop for us and let us have the right of way.  This attitude is prevalent in Hawaii, part of the graciousness of the people.  In our community at home, if we wish to cross a dual 2-lane road near our condominium to shop at our local grocery store, we take our lives into our hands attempting that feat.  Motorists will not slow for us.  We can walk several hundred yards to the nearest traffic controlled intersection to cross safely, but it defeats the purpose of convenient access to our shops.

On November 6, 2018, midterm elections were held in the United States.  Donald Trump stated that a vote for any Republicans was a vote for Trump.  43 House Republicans retired, versus 20 Democrats.  The retiring Republicans did not appreciate Trump’s brand of politics.  Of the 435 seats in the house, the Democrats won 235, flipping 41 seats, and the Republicans held 200 seats.  In the Senate, 33 of the 100 seats were contested; Democrats had 26 seats up for election versus 9 for Republicans.  Republicans flipped 2 seats to hold 53 versus the Democrats 45, however, the Democrats garnered 58% of the popular vote.  Independents won the other 2 senate seats.

In Wisconsin, three-term (technically two plus a recall that he won) Republican Governor Scott Walker attempted to get elected for a fourth term but was unseated by Democrat Tony Evers.  Under Walker, Wisconsin lost 150 manufacturing plants—the 12th worst in the nation, with Minnesota to our west adding 394 manufacturing establishments, and Michigan to our east adding 2,290.  A Washington, D.C.-based research group found that about half of our state’s major roads and highways are in poor or mediocre condition due to a lack of state and local funding.  The Transport Development Association ranked Wisconsin roads 49th (out of 50) in the nation for quality of roads, and 41st for transportation.  Under Walker during his tenure, funding decreased across every major road program.  In comparing Democratic run Minnesota (neighboring state) against Republican-run Wisconsin we find: Minnesota has pursued liberal policies, spending more on health care and infrastructure and education, raising taxes on the wealthy, raising the minimum wage, increasing the number of public employees.  Wisconsin has pursued conservative policies: cutting taxes, weakening labor unions, deregulating, rejecting federal funding for infrastructure, reducing the number of public employees.  Minnesota’s policies produced better economic outcomes.

So what does this political commentary have to do with Hawaii? 

It is a comment about Republican policies of enriching the wealthy at the expense of the working majority, versus the Democratic mantra of supporting social programs and benefitting the population as a whole.  In visiting the Hawaiian island of Oahu, I was impressed by the attitude of the people and the soundness of their infrastructure plus their embrace of environmentally clean energy.  Hawaii is often derogatorily called a one-party state.  Of the state’s representatives, 45 of the 51 are Democrats, and the governor is a Democrat, too.  Tourism is Hawaii’s economic pillar, generating most jobs in the islands.  With a population of 1.4 million, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the total daily expenditures for Hawaii’s tourism reached more than $43 million in 2016, supporting 192,000 jobs.  The tourism industry contributed $1.8 billion in tax revenues to the state in 2016.  Its diverse scenery and mild temperatures explain why it is a paradise for tourists.  Among the eight islands, including the biggest, Hawai’i, for which the state is named, the state boasts of an array of scenery – ocean, beaches, volcanoes and other mountains.  Without distinct seasons, the islands’ daytime temperatures average 85 degrees Fahrenheit (29 C) in the summer and 78 F (26 C) in the winter, though the lows register at about 65 F (18 C) in the high altitudes of its three tallest mountains – Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and Haleakalā – where snow falls in winter.  Hawaiians’ friendliness and hospitality is another draw.  The state government adopted the nickname “The Aloha State” in 1959.  Aloha means “hello” and “goodbye” as well as “welcome,” “love” and “best wishes.”  Some people also call it the Islands of Aloha.  Hawaii’s healthcare is rated number 1 in the nation.

Hawaiian history. The islands’ history is rich and colorful.  Many theorists believe that wind, currents, and birds brought life to the islands because they are far from the continents.  Whether true or not, the earliest history of Hawaii dates back to around 1,500 years ago when Polynesians sailed from the Marquesas Islands in double-hulled canoes only with the guidance of the stars.

In around 1000 A.D., Tahitians arrived, along with their belief in God and the practice of the kapu system (a hierarchal social order similar to caste in Hindu culture).  Hawaii entered into the age of chiefdoms.  While conflicts for the expansion of territories and power were frequent, this period also witnessed the birth of hula (dancing) and surfing.

In 1778, British Capt. James Cook became the first documented Westerner to land on Hawaii. Cook named the chain the “Sandwich Islands” in honor of John Montagu, Fourth Earl of Sandwich, one of his voyage’s patrons.  Sailors, merchants, traders, and whalers flocked to Hawaii, bringing new culture but also carrying diseases such as smallpox, measles, and influenza, to which the isolated islanders were not immune.  To trade more with Westerners in exchange for western goods and weapons, chieftains imposed harsh taxes and forced the people to work “nearly to death.”

Queen Kapi’olani of Hawaii 1874-1891.

In 1791, a royal dynasty was established under King Kamehameha the Great.  Between Cook’s arrival and 1820, wars, disease, and famine killed more than half of the Hawaiian population, and the years from 1778 to 1866 witnessed a loss of about 243,000 Hawaiians, according to a report to Congress by the Committee on Indian Affairs.

American colonists controlling much of its commerce and plantation were eager to expand their markets, and win protection from the Hawaiian government.  They forced the government to enact a new constitution and overthrow the king, who became a figurehead.  In 1898, Hawaii became a U.S. territory after the Americans staged a coup and replaced Queen Liliuokalani with a committee representing a new regime – the Republic of Hawaii.

Hawaiian culture is highly influenced by immigrants from various cultures, including their food, languages, music, dance, and religion.

More diverse than most, Hawaii is the only U.S. state where Asians and Asian descendants are a plurality.  U.S. Census data show that 38.6 percent of the population is Asian or of Asian descent, 24.7 percent white, 23.6 percent of more than one race, 10 percent Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, 1.6 percent African-Americans, 0.3 percent Native Americans.  With a population of 1.43 million, given its size, it is one of the most densely populated of the 50 states.

The median household income in Hawaii, $74,511 in 2016, stood well above the national average of $57,617.

Hawaii became the 50th US state on August 21, 1959.  It is the most northern archipelago island group in Polynesia in the central Pacific Ocean. 

Polynesia (from Greek polys “many” and nēsos “island”); is a subregion of Oceania, made up of more than 1,000 islands scattered over the central and southern Pacific Ocean.  New Zealand is the largest country in Polynesia with a population of 4.8 million people.  Hawaii is located just south of the Tropic of Cancer.  The Hawaiian Islands receive most of their precipitation during the winter months (October to April).  Notice the jagged International Dateline drawn from the North Pole to the South Pole.  In this view, New Zealand might be on a Friday (say 12 Noon), while the Hawaiian Islands are on a Thursday (with a corresponding time of 11:00 am).

Hawaii is the most isolated population center on the face of the earth.  Hawaii is 2,390 miles (3,846 kilometers) from California.  Hawaii is the only state that grows coffee.  Hawaii has a population of 1.4 million people.

The eight main Hawaiian Islands are—in order from northwest to southeast: Niihau, Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai, Kahoolawe, Maui, and the Island of Hawaii.  Kilauea volcano eruption is one of the biggest in recent Hawaii history.  Since the eruption of the Kilauea volcano May 3, 2018, on the Big Island, it belched out about 250 million cubic meters of lava, making it one of the largest eruptions in decades in Hawaii.  The eruption was preceded by hundreds of earthquakes.

Oahu is known as “The Gathering Place”, the third largest of the Hawaiian Islands.  It is home to roughly one million people — about two-thirds of the population of the US State of Hawaii.  The state capital, Honolulu, is on Oahu’s southeast coast.  We vacationed from Saturday, November 24 through November 30, 2018.  We stayed at the Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club, in Kapolei, Oahu, on the southwestern side.  Getting to and from Hawaii is a story in itself.  We drove 2 hours to Chicago, Illinois on Friday afternoon, staying at the Marriott’s Residence Inn Chicago O’Hare.  The flight out of Chicago’s O’Hare International is at 7:00 am on Saturday, but we have to check in by 5:30 am, and had no plans to leave home at 3:00 am to drive to the airport and find parking.  The hotel provided Linda, Robyn, Darin, Olivia, Isabel, and me a shuttle to the airport.  We arranged to leave our cars at the hotel, a cheaper option than parking at the airport.

From Chicago’s O’Hare we flew to Seattle, Washington, taking 4 hours 43 minutes, followed by a layover of 2 hours 32 minutes.  We flew to Honolulu, Hawaii a duration of 6 hours 26 minutes.  We collect a rental car and drive 30 minutes to the Marriott resort.  On the homebound journey, 30 minutes back to the airport in Honolulu, 6-hour 16-minute flight to Salt Lake City, Utah, 2-hour 34-minute layover, 3 hours 12-minute flight to O’Hare, and 2-hour drive home.  That totals 16 hours 11 minutes on the outbound journey and 14 hours 32 minutes on the return trip.  One reason for the time difference is that flying west airplanes have a headwind, and obviously, the return journey has a tailwind.  More than that, we have an interesting time zone change.  When we leave Chicago at 7:00 am, it is 3:00 am on the same day in Hawaii.  Flying east, we gain 4 hours.  On the return trip, we leave Honolulu at 10:00 pm Friday, arriving in Chicago at 2:00 pm on Saturday.  This flight is known as a “red eye” because sleep on the flight is not guaranteed.

Friday, November 23, 2018.  After laundry and last minute packing, we journey to Chicago setting the cars GPS and heading south.  I have lost count of the number of times I have driven to Chicago over 32 years for business purposes, and a few pleasure trips.  But the lady on the GPS gave me what I thought was a stupid instruction, and continued on the road I was on without taking the turn I knew I should have taken.  However, there might have been a reason for the GPS confusion.  Since we were formally on vacation, it did not matter, as it was a fun detour.  When we originally left the condominium, we drove to the wholesale club to fill the car with gas/petrol.  This required that we drove beyond our regular turn off to Chicago, with this poor GPS woman getting quite exasperated telling us that she was “recalculating” and pleading with us to “do a legal U-turn”.  While pumping gas I remembered that I forgot to draw cash from our bank located near our condominium, so we headed back home.  This may have confused this poor GPS woman because I did not reset the GPS—I just left it to do its guiding task.  As we restarted our journey from the bank, heading south, we got to the on-ramp for the interstate that would take us to Chicago.  The GPS woman gave me different instructions, so I decided that we had lots of time and carried on driving south on a country road that we had never used during the time we lived in Wisconsin.

We traveled through farmland and small villages.  We enjoyed the scenery, and after about 20 minutes, the GPS woman eventually requested us to join the interstate while still within Wisconsin.  Now on familiar roads, we got to the Marriott Residence Inn located in close proximity to Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in Illinois.  We selected this hotel because they allowed us to park our vehicle for a week and provided a shuttle to and from the airport.  I earn points at Marriott that contributes to future free stays.  There is a cluster of hotels and restaurants in the area.  We crossed the parking lot to a nearby fast food restaurant for dinner.  Robyn, Darin, and twins Olivia and Isabel traveled with us to Hawaii.  Robyn had to work a half day Friday, the day after Thanksgiving a public holiday in the US.  We communicated back and forth via text messages.  Robyn and family drove the same interstate.  It was shut down in both directions due to a diesel spill from a road tanker.  Their 2-hour trip turned into a 3-hour trip.  They made it safely to the Marriott.  Another reason for us not to plan to leave home early on Saturday morning and run into a traffic situation.  

Saturday, November 24, 2018.  We had a very early start to the day by waking at 4:00 am to shower and present ourselves at the front desk of the hotel by 5:00 am to catch the shuttle to O’Hare.  We checked two bags, and I carried a backpack with my trusty computer and a carryall with my camera.  Going through security, I was stopped for a thorough inspection by TSA (Transport Security Administration).  For those in the know, Linda and I are both TSA Pre-Checked, and normally do not get harassed.  TSA was puzzled by the “beanbag” in my camera case because “it looked like a blob” on their monitors.  The beanbag steadies the camera if you are in the car wanting to rest the camera on the window to take a long distance photograph using a telephoto lens.  Once TSA understood—and tested it for evidence of explosives, I was on my way.

Our flight to Seattle, Washington was completely full.  This is a very busy travel weekend with family and friends getting together for the Thanksgiving holiday, and many now making their way back home.  We had lunch in Seattle’s airport.  With many restaurants to choose from, and since I did not have breakfast, desired to feast on bacon and eggs.  Regrettably, the restaurant we selected was a vegan only restaurant, so I ended up with a yogurt, granola, and fruit platter.  The fruit was not exactly ripe to eat, and the meal was very expensive.  How do they remain in business?

Next was the long flight from Seattle to Honolulu in the Pacific.  Not much to report except the captain apologized for the turbulence.  That was unnecessary as far as I was concerned as it was hardly noticeable.  I have experienced considerably worse turbulence crossing the Atlantic.  We arrived at the airport 20 minutes early and sat on the runway waiting for an arrival gate to open.  Nothing gained from this potential benefit.  One achievement on the trip was my opportunity to read a book.  Neil De Grasse Tyson is a humorous writer, who frequently appears on TV.  His “Astrophysics for People in a Hurry” is a great read.  However, I plan to re-read this book at home where I can make notes and Google some of his facts for greater understanding.  In addition, I watched the movie “The Greatest Showman”, the story of PT Barnum.  A pleasant couple of flights in all.

We collected a rental car, a minivan that could hold the 6 of us, and made our way to the Marriott timeshare.  We arrived at around 6:00 pm.  After checking in and admiring the view from our 10th-floor suite, it was time for dinner.  We ate at a restaurant located on the hotel property, one not owned by the Marriott.  My selection was the rack of lamb.  There was nothing to complain about regarding the food, the taste, the presentation, the service, and the local Hawaiian beer on tap, but the bill was a shocker.  Very expensive.  That was the only time we dined there.  As we learned from our trip to St. Thomas in the Caribbean, when everything is sourced from the US mainland, prices are steep.  We retired to bed by 8:00 pm or midnight back home.  On our first day, our internal body clocks had not yet adjusted.

Sunday, November 25, 2018.  The first time I woke, was 3:00 am, or 7:00 am back home.  I did manage to get back to sleep, finally waking at 6:30 am.  After a shower, we had breakfast at another restaurant on the Marriot property, but this time company owned.  Here we took benefit of the buffet.  I ate bacon and eggs, but the best treat of all was the pineapple juice.  This is a pineapple country and the start of a love affair with this fruit during our time in Hawaii. 

For our first adventure of the day, we drove to Diamond Head Crater, Oahu’s premier natural landmark.  In the late 1700s, western explorers mistook the calcite crystals in the crater for diamonds, thus the name Diamond Head.  The U.S. Army Corps of engineers built a walking path in 1908.  Access is via tunnels, 310 steps and hiking on the rock bed takes you to the 791-feet (241 meters) summit.  My Apple Watch told me that I had walked a mile to get to the top, climbed the equivalent of 20 flights of stairs, and even managed to get my heart rate to spike at 155 beats per minute!  The 11-year old twins had just trained for and competed in a 5K run the prior week, so they took this hike in their stride.  The walk or hike is on narrow uneven rock paths with visitors struggling to ascend while keeping their balance, whereas others are descending and jostling for the narrow available space.  Nevertheless, everyone is courteous and accommodating.  It was interesting to see how many nationalities were represented during the time we were on the mountain. 

As a treat, we enjoyed a pineapple smoothie when we finished our journey.  Pineapples are grown in Hawaii and are in plentiful supply.  The pineapple is hollowed out, the ingredients placed in a blender with ice, ground up, and the smoothie poured back into the pineapple shell.  Delicious.

The afternoon was spent on Waikiki’s famous beach.  Waikiki means “spouting water” because it was a vast marshland fed by many streams. Waikiki has some of the best summer waves in the world.  Swells vary in height from 2 to 8 feet, and on rare occasions as high as 35 feet.  In 1917 Duke Kahanamoku caught a 35-foot wave and rode it a distance of a mile and a quarter to shore.  We were entertained by a nearby concert in the park with a 60-piece orchestra and soloists performing a variety of musical scores.

Driving around Honolulu I enjoyed the cultural differences of the city.  I was fascinated by street names, many that I would have difficulty pronouncing.  I researched street names in the city and discovered 2,671 different names.  Looking at the first letter of those names, including the numeric names such as 1st Street, I found 34 different first letters.  Ten of those first letters made up 81% of street names.  I spoke to a local about my findings and learned that in Hawaiian there are 12 letters; 5 vowels (a, e, i, o, u) and 7 consonants (h, k, l, m, n, p, w).  In reviewing my table, the letter “C” was the only letter that was not part of this Hawaiian grouping.  Examining my original street name list, I saw the anglicized influence.  Street names beginning with Camp, Captain, Carter, Casey, Catherine, etc.  I was impressed to see a street name with all vowels—Aiea!  I have never done that sort of research in my community, but I am possibly more familiar with our “conventional” pronounceable names.

I pondered vehicle license plates.  Most plates have 3 alphabetic characters followed by 3 numeric.  I did see police vehicles with 3 plus 4 numeric digits.  Vanity (personalized) plates seem to be limited to six characters.  If you drive an electric vehicle (EV) like the Tesla, there are many benefits as Hawaii strives to be environmentally friendly.  EVs have different license plates consisting of three numeric and one alpha.  EVs can use the HOV (high occupant vehicles) lanes with a solo driver.  HOV normally implying more than a single person in the vehicle.  EVs do not pay parking fees at parking meters.  Electricity supply companies offer EV owners special off-peak charging rates.  In the US, it is common to see plates from different states in your neighborhood.  I did not expect to see any out of state plates on the island.  I saw one from Texas, and one from Washington State.

The evening meal was prepared by Darin with chicken legs and steak barbequed on a grill supplied by Marriott for guest use.  Robyn grocery shopped for salads.  Due to all the perspiration with the morning climb, we had to do laundry.  A washer and dryer is part of the facilities supplied in the suite.  That night the Marriott guests were entertained with an outdoor movie—The Greatest Showman, the same movie that I had seen a day before.  This gave me an opportunity to speak to a local resident learning more about Oahu specifically, and Hawaii in general.

This island gives the impression of being well managed and prosperous.  The homes are magnificent, the 20 story high-rise apartment and condominium accommodation imposing, the cars are mostly late model, with a wide variety of brands owned, including Tesla and Porches.  Naturally, there are less wealthy people in the world and their accommodation is less grand.  That too is the situation in Oahu.  In addition, I saw several homeless people on the streets.

One source of income for the population in Oahu is the military.  Hawaii is the headquarters of the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM).  USPACOM comprises Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force service components, all headquartered in Hawaii.  The Coast Guard, providing unique services to the islands, also has a large presence.  Retail is impressive with high-end brands including Chanel, Dolce & Gabbana, Louis Vuitton, Jimmy Choo, Swarovski, and Saint Laurent, etc.  In sequence, the biggest source of revenue for Oahu is tourism, defense, agricultural products, manufacturing of apparel, refined sugar, pineapple, juices, jams, and candy (sweets), most of which is exported, and the services industry with hotels, healthcare, finance, and real estate.

I would be remiss if I did not mention again that everyone you meet on the island is extremely pleasant and respectful.

Monday, November 26, 2018.  This day did not work out as envisaged.  Darin, Robyn, and the twins had planned a snorkeling adventure that would leave Linda and me to do our own thing.  Due to 30 to 40 foot (9 to 12 meter) high ocean waves, the outing was postponed until less challenging seas presented itself—expected within a day or two.  The local TV station, KHON2, reported as follows “According to the city Division of Ocean Safety and Lifeguard Services, lifeguards performed 34 rescues and 1,745 preventative actions on Oahu’s North Shore, and 68 rescues and 865 preventative actions on the west shore.” 

Notice the small cross on the bottom left of photograph 2 and 3.  Not sure if that signifies a drowning.  See the South African flag in the last photograph.

We headed out to the North Shore area and specifically stopped at Sunset Beach where a surfing completion was to be held but postponed due to the extremely high surf.  Of the 64 entrants in Heat 1, 4 were from South Africa.  We stopped in several places along the shore to admire, photograph, and video the high waves. 

This 8 minute YouTube video is only a portion of the narrated ride on the Pineapple Express, filled with fascinating information.  The sound from overhead speakers is intermingled with chatter from the visitors on the train.  And yes, I had a few focus issues with my camera that should not spoil your enjoyment of this video experience.

 

 

We visited the Dole Plantation and spent 20 minutes on the Pineapple Express Train Tour.  This is an informational ride through the plantations explaining the history and working of the Dole Food company.  One highlight was the enjoyment of a pineapple ice crème.  I purchased myself a Hawaiian shirt. 

Next stop was to a number of Food Trucks gathered in a park alongside the road.  The main attraction was Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, while we supported Delice Crepes, prepared by a Frenchman using his grandmother’s recipe, and prepared in an identical style to the crepes we had in Quebec City.  We purchased three bags of Macadamia nuts offered in different varieties from another food truck vendor.

When on the road, you sometimes need a bathroom break.  The parking attendant supporting the food truck vendors in this small parking lot had to ensure that nobody parked to have fun at the shops across the street.  He questioned anyone leaving on foot if they had arrived by car, and if yes, to please remove their vehicle.  Parking was very limited.  He was helpful in apologizing for not having a bathroom but recommended McDonald’s across the street that had such a facility.  McDonald’s kept the bathroom locked, and would only allow access after you had purchased a food item.  Now what?

Driving conditions are varied.  You can rapidly commute across 5-lane interstates, and on the side roads with two-way lanes that curve left and right to correspond with the local landscape.  We were advised that traffic conditions can be hectic with the morning or evening work rush, comparable to Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, or Cape Town.  And yes, we got caught up in this mess later in the week.

In driving around the island, I noticed that the fire trucks and fire hydrants are yellow.  Apparently, instituted about 12 years ago.  This site provided additional interesting information including how the four counties are organized and the shifts worked by the fire department.  While eating at the food truck stop, I was interested to see and hear a fire apparatus rushing by with sirens blaring, while towing a boat.  A sea rescue perhaps with the rough wave conditions?

In touring this island, I am more than impressed to see the number of wind farms, solar farms, and a large number of residential houses sporting solar panels.  This community seems to be striving to be environmentally friendly.  “The energy sector in Hawaii has rapidly adopted solar power due to the high costs of electricity, and good solar resources, and has one of the highest per capita rates of solar power in the United States.  Hawaii’s imported energy costs, mostly for imported petroleum and coal, are three times higher, and will soon be close to four times higher than the mainland, so Hawaii has the motivation to become one of the highest users of solar energy.  Hawaii was the first state in the United States to reach grid parity for photovoltaics.  Its tropical location provides abundant solar energy.”  Wind power in Hawaii has the potential to provide all of the electricity used in the U.S. state of Hawaii.  The 114 commercial wind turbines in the state have a total capacity of 206 MW.  In 2013, they produced 5.1% of Hawaii’s electricity”.

After enjoying a spectacular sunset, and taking photographs, we walked a mile to a shopping center.  The walk itself was interesting.  It was a pitch-black evening.  The path alongside the road meandered around trees and rock formations.  Browsing a general store, I was fascinated to see that bananas sold for $1.49 per pound.  Back home the Kwik Trip gas station sells them for $0.24/pound and the two grocery stores in our area range $0.49 to $0.59/pound.  We had a family sized pizza at Pizza Corner Kapolei.  We ordered half-Hawaiian and half vegetable.  I can say without contradiction that this was the hottest (heat hot) and tastiest pizza ever.  The pineapple and ham were the delicious, and vegetables the freshest available.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018.  The day got off to a slow start with breakfast in our suite.  On the way to the pool, we stopped to visit artists presenting and selling their wares in the hotel lobby.  Apparently, this is a daily feature.  We experienced it for the first time today.  We saw artifacts made of bone, beads made from coral, photographic displays set on metal, framed, or prints to take home to frame.  Decorative clothing was a popular attraction.  Jewelry was the most common artwork offered by these artists. 

The pool, one of two on the property, was a relaxation spot.  One featured a fitness instructor encouraging mostly senior citizens to exercise in the pool to pop music for an hour each morning. 

Visitor access to the USS Arizona Memorial (4th photograph) has been suspended for several months due to movement of the loading dock and corresponding movement of the loading ramp to the memorial, which poses a safety concern for visitors. While repairs are made, the USS Arizona Memorial will remain closed. Repairs are expected to be completed by March 2019. 

After lunch in the suite again, we set off to experience the sights at Pearl Harbor.  Security is strict.  Going on the tour forbids bags or belongings except for cameras and cell phones.  They provide lockers if required.

We started our learning experience by visiting a museum displaying many photographs and exhibits laying out the history of the Pearl Harbor attack in chronological sequence.  Next, we watched a movie featuring original black and white film, explaining the circumstances that led up to the Japanese bombing the US fleet at Pearl Harbor.  Then onto a boat to get a close up of the sites where the devastation took place.  To me, the saddest comment is that the USS Arizona currently leaks a gallon of fuel from its sunken hull every day, 77 years later.  I felt somewhat uncomfortable to see all the Japanese tourists present at this monument.  The commemoration is not exactly friendly toward the Japanese.

Pearl Harbor is a U.S. naval base near Honolulu, Hawaii, that was the scene of a devastating surprise attack by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941.  Just before 8 a.m. on that Sunday morning, hundreds of Japanese fighter planes descended on the base, where they managed to destroy or damage nearly 20 American naval vessels, including 8 battleships, and over 300 airplanes.  More than 2,400 Americans died in the attack, including civilians, and another 1,000 people were wounded.  At 8:10, a 1,800-pound bomb smashed through the deck of the battleship USS Arizona and landed in her forward ammunition magazine.  The ship exploded and sank with more than 1,000 men trapped inside.  Next, torpedoes pierced the shell of the battleship USS Oklahoma.  With 400 sailors aboard, Oklahoma lost her balance, rolled onto her side and slipped underwater.  Less than two hours later, the surprise attack was over, and every battleship in Pearl Harbor—USS Arizona, USS Oklahoma, USS California, USS West Virginia, USS Utah, USS Maryland, USS Pennsylvania, USS Tennessee, and USS Nevada—had sustained significant damage.  (All but USS Arizona and USS Utah were eventually salvaged and repaired.)  Drydocks and airfields were likewise destroyed.  After the Pearl Harbor attack, and for the first time during years of discussion and debate, the American people were united in their determination to go to war.  The Japanese had wanted to goad the United States into an agreement to lift the economic sanctions against them; instead, they had pushed their adversary into a global conflict that ultimately resulted in Japan’s first occupation by a foreign power.  The day after the assault, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on Japan”. 

“The Lone Sailor® represents men and woman who have served, are serving, or will serve in the Navy.  He’s called the Lone Sailor yet he is hardly ever alone.  He is about 25 years old, a senior second class petty officer who is fast becoming a seagoing veteran.  He has done it all–fired weapons in war, provided humanitarian assistance in far-away lands, been attacked by the enemy and defended our freedom.  He has made liberty calls in great cities and tiny villages where he was a courier, ambassador, adventurer, friend, missionary to those less fortunate and representative of our way of life.  His shipmates remember him with pride and look up to him with respect.”  Reprinted from a plaque alongside the statue.

During the final stage of World War II, the United States detonated two nuclear weapons over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively.  The United States dropped the bombs after obtaining the consent of the United Kingdom, as required by the Quebec Agreement.  The two bombings killed 129,000–226,000 people, most of whom were civilians.  They remain the only use of nuclear weapons in the history of warfare.  Japan announced its surrender to the Allies on August 15, six days after the bombing of Nagasaki and the Soviet Union’s declaration of war.  On September 2, the Japanese government signed the instrument of surrender, effectively ending World War II.  The ethical and legal justification for the bombings is still debated to this day”.

Prior to our trip to Hawaii, Robyn did extensive research into “must dos”.  One item on the bucket list was Malasada Portuguese doughnuts and specifically from Leonard’s Bakery.  We drove miles in very heavy traffic to find the food truck that sold this specialty.  Linda says it is reminiscent of vetkoek (a South African specialty of deep-fried dough), but without the syrup.  Malasada is a very tasty treat—a doughnut without a hole.  We purchased a dozen, 6 with a custard filling, and 6 plain. 

Darin was called on to grill pork chops so that we could eat in our room for dinner.  We purchased food at Target in the late afternoon.  Target does not supply paper bags, and we were obliged to purchase a reusable cloth bag.  Another winning strategy for Hawaiians.  When will the US mainline fall in line with a more responsible environmental attitude?  I am aware that California banned the supply of single-use retail plastic shopping bags in 2016, but this is not a countrywide mandate yet.

Toa Laua is run by a Samoan family and they are able to show a more encompassing view of Samoan culture. They also have dancers from all over Polynesia who perform traditional dances from their home islands.

Hula in the Hawaiian Islands.  In ancient Hawaii, a time when a written language did not exist, hula and its chants played an important role in keeping history, genealogy, mythology, and culture alive. With each movement – a hand gesture, a step of a foot, swaying of hips – a story would unfold. Through the hula, the Native Hawaiians were connected with their land and their gods.  

This 9-minute YouTube video shows the stations we attended prior to the main stage event.  Here showing how food is prepared, and amusement to be had.

This humorous 18-minute informative, fascinating, and detailed presentation describes the preparation to cook food.

This 33-minute YouTube video covers some of the main stage events.  I apologize that several sections are out of focus–mea culpa.  (I promise that most of the video is worth watching and is in focus). I am sharing this to induce you to visit Hawaii and enjoy the available entertainment.  Some luaus have audiences of over 3,000.  Toa Luau keeps attendance to under 300 to make it intimate, interactive, and enjoyable.  I highly recommend this organization.  Please understand that a video can never convey the atmosphere and excitement of attending in person.

If you wish to make reservations to attend a Toa Luau event, click here

 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018.  Darin, Robyn, Olivia, and Isabel set off on their snorkeling cruise while Linda and I spent quiet time at the timeshare.  The twins reported that they saw dolphins.  After Robyn and family returned we set out to the north of the island. 

First stop was Matsumoto’s Shave Ice.  When Robyn did her research, she looked for the best places to visit on the island, and often the first to start a trend.  Matsumoto’s began business on the island in 1951, offers shaved ice in 39 different flavors, plain or on top of ice crème.  With the shaved ice, you add up to 3 flavors or select from popular options.  Naturally, I selected Hawaiian flavor on top of ice crème. 

The twins use their swimming skills to get close to the impressive Waimea Valley Waterfall.

 

 

During our recent tour of Quebec City, I raved about the botanical gardens.  We had the pleasure of visiting the Waimea Valley Botanical Gardens in Hawaii.  Waimea means “reddish freshwater” and represents the power that the water holds.  This coloring comes from the iron oxide present in the island’s volcanic soils.  All streams and waterfalls are naturally fed by rainwaters.  The waters provided healing powers to the inhabitants, as well as a cure for injuries.  Being in a tropical setting, the variety of trees were more than magnificent. 

One motivation for the visit was to hike to the waterfall and provide the twins with an opportunity to swim in the pool at the bottom of the falls.  We saw the world’s largest water lily with circular leaves that reach over 8 feet in diameter.  The river’s small rapids enhanced the beauty of the gardens.  ‘Awa or Kava is the name of both the plant and drink made by brewing its roots.  This root has been used by Hawaiian and other Polynesian culture for over 3,000 years. 

Orchids growing on trees are evident in the gardens.  Acanthaceae family of herbs, shrubs, and vines represents one of Waimea Valley’s most colorful gardens.  The gardens feature Halau Wa’a canoe and open houses to understand how Hawaiians built structures using available trees and plants, and where locals could congregate to confer on matters of community.  The gardens are set in a valley with impressive mountains lining the sides.  In some places, the neighboring wind turbines can be observed rotating in its pleasant rhythm.

The evening entertainment was a Toa Luau at Waimea Valley.  A luau is a traditional Hawaiian party or feast that is usually accompanied by entertainment.  It may feature food such as poi, Kalua pig, poke, Lomi salmon, opihi, haupia and beer, and entertainment such as traditional Hawaiian music and hula. 

The evening began by going to various stations to learn how to make the food, Hawaiian style.  Green bananas are used.  We were shown how to prepare taro, but with us doing the work to learn from the experience.  Taro is a starchy root crop with edible leaves.  It has provided good nutrition to Pacific Islanders for hundreds of years.  Coconuts were split, the juices saved, and the coconut itself cut into small pieces.  Ultimately, after the food preparation, they prepared a fire, Hawaiian style, to cook the food for an hour using hot rocks covered with leaves. 

Frankly, I am unable to do justice to this experience in words.  After the food preparation, we were entertained by the group on stage, followed by a conventional meal—served buffet style.  Late in the evening, we sampled the food prepared from earlier in the afternoon on the fire.  A delightful event all around.  I should add that there are a number of Luaus on the island.  Robyn chose this one because attendees are limited to 240 people.  Some of the luaus have as many as 3,000 people attending.  Our event was personal and interactive.

Thursday, November 29, 2018.  Today started off as a lazy day.  We left the suite after 10:00 am and drove to a nearby shopping center to eat at one of Robyn’s research favorites—My Café.  I was able again to get my desired bacon, egg, wheat toast, preserves, pineapple juice, with each of the others selecting their desired breakfast.  As popular as this restaurant is, we only had to wait 30 minutes for a table. 

We stopped in at Safeway for a small grocery shop.  With our departure tomorrow, we only needed a few items.  Next to nearby Island Markets to purchase a t-shirt for Linda, and one for me.  Naturally both with a Hawaiian theme.  The reusable grocery bag cost us 15 cents, and again a pleasure to spend so little to help save the planet.  Dark chocolate snacks are hard to come by on the island, but we found a box of dark chocolate covered macadamia nuts.  Wonderful.  The afternoon was spent in the sun at the pool.  Relaxing. 

Friday, November 30, 2018.  We were required to vacate the Marriott timeshare by 10:00 am but only fly home at 10:00 pm.  What to do for the next 12 hours?  The weather forecast was rain.  As it turned out, there were a few drops in the late afternoon, but nothing that could spoil our last day on the island.  We had the rental car and decided to tour parts of the island we had not seen. 

First stop was Kaupō Beach where we could view uninhabited Rabbit Island, also known as Mānana Island.  Mānana in Hawaiian means buoyant.  A volcanic tuff cone island last erupted 200,000 years ago.  It encompasses 63 acres (0.25 sq. km) and rising to about 360 feet (110 m) at its highest point.  It was not named for its shape, although many regards the island to be formed in the likeness of a rabbit, but because originally it was the location of a rabbit-raising farm.  John Adams Cummins established the rabbit colony in the 1880s when he ran the nearby Waimānalo plantation.  In 1994, the rabbits were removed because they started destroying the native ecosystem of the island, which is an important seabird breeding area.  Mānana is a State Seabird Sanctuary—home to over 10,000 wedge-tailed shearwaters, 80,000 sooty terns, 20,000 brown noddys, 5–10 Bulwer’s petrels, and 10–15 red-tailed tropicbirds, and numerous Hawaiian monk seals. The neighboring small island has no significant importance but features in most photographs.  We drove on to Waimanalo Beach where we were able to take additional pictures of Mānana Island.

The vegetation is fascinating.  I did not get an opportunity to photograph the tree canopies that appear to form a barrier covering and hiding the ground in places.  I am not sure if this is an effective description, but the mountains appear to have a ground covering presenting a beautiful green coloring.

Our lunch meal on this final day of our trip was at Ono Steak and Shrimp in Kapolei, Oahu.  Another on Robyn’s bucket list.  A restaurant that looks more like an enlarged food truck.  The food was great.  The prices highly competitive.  Read cheap.  I enjoyed their Korean style steak.  The fish was particularly popular with our group.  The food was served in styrofoam boxes with plastic utensils.  No wasting on expensive crockery and cutlery here.

We made our way back to Honolulu to visit some of the city center stores. 

We had an afternoon snack and drinks at Duke’s.  And really enjoyed their ice creme special.  This establishment named for the legend Duke Kahanamoku who grew up swimming, surfing, canoeing, and body surfing here.  (See prior photograph and story).

We parked near the International Market Place home to over 80 stores, although they advertise 100 shops and restaurants.  They offered music in the central court, but we did not have time to sit and enjoy.  Aside from admiring the many stores, we elected to have a final small dinner at Il Lupino, a posh Italian restaurant where we had cocktails and a single pizza to share with the family.

The homeward journey was uneventful.  We arrived at the airport in Hawaii with two hours to spare.  Guess what?  The TSA is consistent.  I got stopped again with the beanbag in my camera case!  One the flight to Salt Lake City I started to read James Michener’s book Hawaii.  I read more on the onward flight to Chicago.  Having now been to the island, I better understood where Michener was coming from with his very long excruciating details.  We were met with heavy rains in Chicago, and that stayed with us all the way home.  Fortunately, the temperatures were well above freezing or we would have been driving in feet’s of snow.

Would I like to return to Hawaii and visited one of the other islands?  In a heartbeat, yes.  I would have no problem returning to Oahu.  What a great place with very fine people.

Hawaii was once an independent kingdom. (1810 – 1893) The Hawaiian flag was designed at the request of King Kamehameha I. It has eight stripes of white, red and blue that represent the eight main islands. The flag of Great Britain is emblazoned in the upper left corner to honor Hawaii’s friendship with the British.

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US Canadian Trip September/October 2018

Please click on the image(s) to see a larger display.  This is the route we followed. Outbound on the northern route, homebound on the southern route. The Chocolate Garden and University…

Please click on the image(s) to see a larger display.  This is the route we followed. Outbound on the northern route, homebound on the southern route.

The Chocolate Garden and University of Michigan Logo

Navigation:  When viewing larger photograph image, click on photograph pointer at far left or right in the middle to advance, or return.  The final photograph has no additional advancing icon.

Of 684 photographs and videos we took on this journey, we are sharing 213 with you.

Day 1: Monday, September 17, 2018. New Berlin, Wisconsin to Ann Arbor, Michigan

We planned on the 345 miles portion taking 5 hours 15 minutes without stopping, which of course we need a rest, even for a bathroom break.  We left at 8:15 am and arrived at 3:30 pm after passing through Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan.  We began in the central time zone and ended in the eastern time zone, gaining one hour.

Near lunchtime, several large billboards advertising The Chocolate Garden in Coloma, Michigan attracted us.  Being on vacation, we took a mile detour off the interstate to what looked like a large home in the middle of a peach tree orchid.  The “home” turned out to be a retail store with the production of small chocolates treats manufactured upstairs, and sales on the ground floor.  The owner had been in business for 20 years and was closing down at the end of the month to rest, relax, and decide on next steps.  Aside from a pair of chocolate truffles, Linda has a cup of chocolate mocha, and I had a cup of pure chocolate.  To say they were both rich and tasty is an understatement.  The detour to break up the journey was worthwhile.

The Marriott Hotel group consists of 30 different brands to satisfy all budgets from the ultra-wealthy executive to ordinary people, retirees like us.  Our hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan was at the affordable Fairfield Inn.  This located next to the Courtyard, a bit more upscale for Marriott.  Our hotel location consisted of a dozen competing hotels in close walking proximity.  We dined at a nearby upscale Sheraton, another member of the Marriott group.  We asked at our front desk for restaurant recommendations and provided us a map listing about 50 restaurants known as the “Main Road” area.  So why so many hotels and restaurants?  Ann Arbor is home to the University of Michigan, the Wolverines, with 46,000 students.  There is a business need to house families during the many college activities.

Breakfast is included in the package, and for me was a unique experience.  For decades that I traveled on business, checked into a hotel, arrived early for breakfast, ate rapidly, and set out quickly to a client.  This was a standard operating procedure.  Now being with Linda and unrushed, felt so different.  My prior trip to Ann Arbor in October 2016 was not a pleasant experience.  The co-owner of Stellium had asked me to meet, stay in a top of the line Marriott, and attend a strategy session.  Business was not booming at the time, so rather than conveniently fly, to save money, I drove.  My belief was to be at least a half-day meeting.  It turned out to be a 45-minute session over breakfast.  To say the gall of expecting to drive for 12 hours, pay to stay in a luxury hotel enraged me, all for 45 minutes that we could have managed through a conference call.  It was more than I could comprehend.

The journey from home to Ann Arbor was quite hair raising.  As is typical in the summer months, we face long stretches of road construction and reduced lanes.  In 70 mile an hour speed zones you can expect to be motoring at 15 mph, or 80 mph as the road opens up and the stream of motorists drive like crazy making up for lost time.  At spells, it felt like we were driving across numerous railway lines as the car’s suspension was pounded due to uneven road surfaces, while we dodged potholes.  At other times, the road surface emitted loud noises from the corrugations, so much so, that Linda played her podcasts at maximum volume so that we could hear above the din of the road.

During my early business days when I worked with The Oliver Wight Companies, the late Ollie Wight had a saying, “Show me a man with a watch, and I’ll show you a man who can tell the time.  Show me a man with two watches, and he will not be so sure.”  Prior to leaving home, I set the GPS in the car and printed maps using Google maps.  Linda and I visited the AAA (American Automobile Association) for regional maps.  In addition, while on the journey Linda used her iPhone maps to supply directions.  The resources were not consistent.  In fact, while driving on the ring road around Chicago, my car’s GPS wanted me to exit at one point.  I had driven this road frequently, knew the GPS was wrong and waited for the “recalculating” message as we stayed our course.  In fairness with all the road construction and traffic congestion, the GPS recommends an alternate route to speed up the time to the ultimate destination.

Our membership to the Costco wholesale club entitles us to fill up with discounted gasoline prices, and a 4% cash back at year-end.  There was a Costco within a mile of our hotel.

Left to right, top to bottom: rainbow over the Niagara Falls; Spectators getting wet in the spray close to the falls; 3 photographs of Queen Victoria Place;  local bird enjoying the spectators; White Water Walk tunnel access; White Water Walk boardwalk alongside the rapids; Lake Sturgeon Fish.

View of the Horseshoe Fall from the Canadian side with a rainbow.

Horseshoe Falls, a boatload of spectators getting soaked, with Bridal Veil alongside the US falls.

Horseshoe Falls reflecting 60 tons of dissolved minerals over the falls every minute.

The might of the rapids.

Linda along the White Water Walk viewing the rapids.

Day 2: Tuesday, September 18, 2018. Ann Arbor, Michigan to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada.

The hour-long drive from Ann Arbor to Detroit, Michigan to cross the border to Windsor, Ontario in Canada was more of the same.  Road construction with speeds ranging from a near standstill to 80 MPH.  On the US side, we paid a $5 toll to use the bridge crossing into Canada.  Canadian customs were more than pleasant, but concerned that being Americans we were loaded with guns, ammunition, and mace!  We were not.  Windsor looked no different from any US city with all the familiar fast food restaurants, and retail stores.  Driving was another story.  The interstates were three-lane wide with sections being upgraded or maintained.  One big difference was converting from the archaic imperial system of miles used in the US to the modern metric system of Canada’s in kilometers.  The speed limits were lower at 100 kilometers per hour equivalent to 62 MPH, versus the US 70.  The car’s GPS did an admirable job of showing speed limits in MPH so no conversions needed or trying to read the tiny km/h writing on the car’s speedometer.  The Canadians take speed limits seriously.  They post warnings of fines that will be if imposed if you drive over the speed limit, and the number of demerit points you will incur.  At 50% over the speed limit, or 150 km/h, your car is impounded and driving privileges revoked.  However, we did see a few motorists testing the limits.  Not us though.

Driving toward Niagara, taking another 4 hours, was much like driving in Nebraska in the US.  Farmland for miles on end.  Canadian roads were in better condition, smoother, quieter, and great driving experience, with the regulation to drive slower.  On the 3-lane highways, we did encounter numerous trucks occupying both the slow and center lanes.  This is Canadian law.  We made a stop around lunchtime.  Linda used her trusty iPhone to find a Starbucks.  It was located in a large shopping mall that provided an opportunity to stroll and stretch our legs after a long drive.  The Starbucks was located in the food court along with a wide variety of available cuisine.

This was not the first time we have been to Niagara.  When we arrived in the US, 31 years earlier, we decided to visit Fourie’s in Toronto.  In December 1987, we drove and visited the falls.  We were too ignorant to know that the middle of winter is not the time to drive in North America.  We only saw the US side of the falls.  We recall paths and guardrails iced up, and naturally freezing cold.  This time our experience was very different.  We checked into La Papillion bed-and-breakfast in Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario and headed off to see the sights at the falls.  Now in Canada, we saw the falls from the other side of the river.  There are three falls: the US Falls, the small Bridal Veil alongside this fall, and the main Horseshoe Fall.  Aside from viewing the majesty of the falls, there is much to see. 

We visited the White Water Walk requiring an elevator ride, down 38 meters/125 feet, to walk along the rapids.  This boardwalk allows spectators to get up close and personal with the raging waters.

The videos and photographs beg many questions.

Why is the water green?

This is due to the river’s erosive power.  An estimated 60 tons of dissolved minerals are swept over the Niagara Falls every minute.  The color comes from the dissolved salts and “rock flour” (very finely ground rock) picked up primarily from the limestone bed but also from the shale and sandstone under the cap at the falls.

Why is the water so foamy?

The brown foam below Niagara Falls and along the rapids is a natural result of tons of water plummeting into the depths below.  It is not dangerous.  The brown color is clay, which contains suspended particles of decayed vegetative matter.  It is mostly from the shallow eastern basin of Lake Erie to the south.

How does the Niagara River support birding?

The Niagara River is a critical winter-feeding area for birds.  The river’s swift current keeps it ice-free assuring birds have access to water when many other waterways are frozen over.  The fast-moving waters carry a steady supply of small fish, such as alewives and shiners that make up an important part of bird diets.

Lake Sturgeon Fish.

Lake Sturgeon is a prehistoric fish, dating back 135 million years.  Canada’s largest freshwater fish is over 6½ feet (2 meters) and weighs up to 300 pounds (136 kilograms).  A cold-water species that lives 55 to 80 years.  Until the mid-1800s, Lake Sturgeon was considered a nuisance species to be discarded, dried, and burned as firewood, or used as fertilizer.  This resulted in over-fishing, which combined with pollution and destruction of spawning habitat caused the population to crash.  In later years, the value of their flesh and caviar, and skin for leather was recognized.  Today, Lake Sturgeon is protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

We enjoyed a delightful dinner at a quintessentially British style restaurant, Queen Victoria Place, where the birds enjoyed the ambiance as they walk the floor of the restaurant, and fly between patrons.

The bed and breakfast in the quaint town of Niagara-on-the-Lake is a private home owned by an elderly couple who converted each of the three bedrooms into a self-contained bed with bathroom.  We stayed in The Admiral room.  Ours consisted of a large comfortable double bed, and a tiny bathroom with a shower just big enough to turn around in and toilet sandwiched between the shower tub and wall.

L to R: Trius Winery and Restaurant; vineyards; rows of wines; Sparkling Wine sword; Wayne Gretzky sign; Wine in temperature and humidity controlled storage; Icewine.

Uncorking Sparkling Wine.

Day 3: Wednesday, September 19, 2018. Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario to Mississauga, Ontario

The husband and wife team of our bed and breakfast, Le Papillon, are Patrice and Louis.  Louis is retired but works as a guide at the nearby Trius Winery and Restaurant.  The breakfast prepared by the couple was the treat of the stay.  Here we met the two other couples.  A couple from central Canada, the other from Switzerland.  The conversation was lively with us all exchanging our backgrounds and travel experiences.

Sightseeing in this community was breathtakingly beautiful.  We were not aware that Canada is famous for its wines grown in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region.  Sadly, due to USA restrictions, exporting wines to the US is near impossible, so their wines are not well known, or sort after in America.  Niagara-on-the-Lake was settled in the 1700s; with several homes, reflecting dates built in the 1800s.  We did some wine, fruit, and chocolate shopping at the Trius Winery and Restaurant to take as gifts to Marilyn and Philip Fourie in Toronto later in the day.  This would turn out to be a 90-minute drive.  I was not necessary too enthusiastic about attending the hour-long wine tour, and sampling four wines before 11:00 am.  Dan, a retired schoolteacher, did an outstanding job of explaining the history of winemaking, where the Canadians sourced their vines and walked and talked us through the total winemaking process.  Seeing the wine storage area that is temperature and humidity controlled was interesting.  Dan’s presentation was such an admirable performance that I added a very positive review to TripAdvisor.  Dan’s demonstration of how to uncork a bottle of sparkling wine was classical showmanship.  Usage of the term “Champagne” is forbidden as it is legally restricted to wines from the Champagne region of France.  Dan’s explanation of Icewine was fascinating, and the tasting even better.  Icewine is a dessert wine produced from frozen grapes while still on the vine.  The sugars do not freeze, but the water content does, allowing a more concentrated grape juice to develop.  It is sold in tall and narrow 375 ml bottles, costing between $60 and $100 per bottle.  I can attest to the fact that it is a unique drinking experience.  We were treated to Icewine again while visiting Tony and Fiona Goddard in Rochester, NY a few days later.

Wayne Douglas Gretzky was a Canadian professional ice hockey player from 1979 to 1999 and later head coach.  Aside from being Canada’s greatest ice hockey player, he is also a successful businessperson.  Among other ventures, he is the owner of Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto, and has a stake in the vineyards that we toured—but I do not know the finer details.  Wayne Gretzky Estates is Niagara’s only winery and distillery.  Wayne’s estate (at #1219) and Trius (#1249) are both located on Niagara Stone Road.

That afternoon we headed to Phillip and Marilyn Fourie, family members who we had not seen in many years since they visited us for Robyn and Darin’s wedding in 2001.  Phillip is more than a gourmet cook, and accomplish artist, so we were entertained with many great meals.

To clarify a point.  Phillip and Marilyn live in Mississauga, just outside Toronto.  I frequently write about them living in the better-known city of Toronto.  It is much the same as me telling people that we live in Milwaukee when in reality we live in New Berlin.  Depending on whom I am speaking with, I may even say that we live north of Chicago.  After all, who outside our geographical area has heard of New Berlin, Wisconsin, a city of only 40,000 inhabitants?

L to R: Phillip, Linda, and Marilyn at the entrance to Riverwood, City of Mississauga Credit Valley Conservation; Artwork at entrance; walking the forested area; fisherman with his trout caught in the stream in the conservatory; entrance to the National Ballet School of Canada (try to see the glass covering on the building); closeup view of glass panels with musical notes etched into the glass; 4 examples of artwork in the gardens nearby the school; a large mural; hands statue.

While visiting Phillip and Marilyn Fourie, I saw this painting hanging on his wall.  This just one of many that adorn his abode.  Phillip then showed this on Facebook so I stole this copy.  ‘Bo Kaap’ ~ 4 ft X 5 ft ~ Oil and Mixed Media on Canvas.  Bo Kaap is the distinct and colorful Malay District in Cape Town, South Africa. I for one would love to see this unique neighborhood to be kept in the hands that created it. 

For those of us without a creative streak, I added 3 photographs taken in Bo-Kaap, a community Linda and I toured in November 2017.

Day 4: Thursday, September 20, 2018. Mississauga and Toronto.

Marilyn works for the National Ballet School of Canada as an Executive Assistant to the Board of Directors.  Marilyn and Phillip guided us for several hours around this world-class facility.  “Established in 1959 by Betty Oliphant and Celia Franca, Canada’s National Ballet School (NBS) is one of the world’s foremost training institutions for aspiring young dancers and teachers.  Attracting students from across the country and around the world, NBS is the only ballet academy in North America to provide elite dance training, academic instruction and residential care on the same campus.  The School’s progressive curriculum, with its emphasis on the physical and emotional well-being of the student, has put NBS at the forefront of dance training internationally.  Talent is the sole criterion for acceptance into the NBS’ Professional Ballet Program.

“NBS also offers a professional Teacher Training Program, a Musician Mentorship Program and Community Classes for both children and adults.  The Associates Program offers classes after school and on weekends for students between the ages of 6 and 17, while the School’s popular Adult Ballet Program offers classes in the evenings and on weekends to adults of all fitness levels and dance experience.”

Sepe was one of South Africa’s star pupils trained by the ballet school.  He originally trained in Montagu, Western Cape.  “Siphesihle November was born in Worcester South Africa and trained at Canada’s National Ballet School. Mr. November joined the National Ballet of Canada as a member of the Corps de Ballet in 2017.

“Mr. November recently made his debut as Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty and has danced in such ballet as The NutcrackerNijinskyThe Winter’s TaleThe Four SeasonsEmergencePaz de la Jolla and The Dreamers Ever Leave You.”

I was highly impressed with the property development taking place in the Toronto region.  Here too I have visited Toronto on several occasions for business, and to see the significant number of 20 and higher story high-rise apartments and condominiums signifies a flourishing economy.  The building boom in the area is remarkable.  The arterial roads are somewhat congested, and generally in better condition than those I have experienced in the Milwaukee and Chicago areas.  Having Phillip available to guide us made our stay all the more enjoyable.  After a long day, we came home to another of his fantastic meals.  Philip is an artist and getting an opportunity to enjoy his art was an additional treat.

One additional observation in Canada is that the country displays a booming economy.  Most of the vehicles are late models, including Tesla’s and Porches that are plentiful.  It has an absence of large SUVs that dominates US roads.  As mentioned earlier, there is a building boom.  Provinces are willing to invest in new or expanding existing roads and maintenance.

The city of Toronto encourages property developers to allocate a minimum of 1 percent of every project’s construction costs on public art.  Many of the new condominiums and commercial buildings have large sculptures, murals, quilts, and custom photographs in their lobbies, hallways, and outdoor areas.  This helps bring a community feel to shared spaces.  This has helped artists to prosper.

Zero MPH into Montreal; Hotel de Paris main building, our annex on the diagonally opposite (kitty-corner) side of the road.

Day 5: Friday, September 21, 2018. Mississauga, Ontario to Montreal, Quebec.

After yet again a special breakfast prepared by Phillip, we set off on the 350 miles, 6 hour journey to Montreal.  The road was not as busy volume wise with trucks and motor cars as we experienced driving into Toronto.  With these long stretches, I found that most motorists were not afraid to drive beyond the posted 100 km/h (62 MPH) speed limit.  As we neared Montreal we encountered slow traffic, and at one stage, we were standing still on the motorway.  We arrived at our Hotel de Paris, in the heart of Montreal located on the main thoroughfare, Sherbrooke Street East.  We did not stay in the small main hotel building, but across the road in another small building owned by this private hotel.  We paid for parking for 3 days as we did not want to keep our vehicle on the street, and the hotel provided us parking in another nearby building.  Situated in the old city, the hotel was correspondingly old.  Our room was small with a bathroom featuring a round shower, 90-degree walls on two sides, and just big enough to fit your body.  The bathroom contained a small hand basin and toilet.  Our double bed had one terrible feature.  The mattress squeaked each time one of us turned and worse yet if you had to get out of bed in the night for a bathroom break, you did wake your spouse.  The hotel served our purpose, and conveniently located to tour the old city.

Montreal is one of the few major North American cities to have preserved its historical center.  Here you find the remains of the old walled city, and narrow winding streets dating back to the French colony.  There are majestic Victorian buildings from the 18th and 19th century.  Montreal was founded on May 17, 1642 (376 years ago).  

We arrived late in the afternoon, took a walk around the local area, and decided to have dinner at the Taiwanese restaurant in the hotel.  This day we elected to have an early night.

Tourist Map of Montreal Old City; The citizens of Montreal erected a statue to the first co-founder and governor of Montreal in 1895; Paul de Chomedey, (1612 – 1675); Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal–Gothic Revival church inaugurated in 1829; 4 photographs showing a portion of the inside of the Basilica; City Hall (built between 1872 and 1878, completely destroyed by fire in 1922, and rebuilt; City Hall facade up close; a photograph showing the gardens outside the Chateau Ramezay–historic site .

 

3 photographs showing the gardens outside the Chateau Ramezay–historic site and Museum of Montreal; Marche Bonsecours (Bonsecours Market, the place for all things made in Québec );  2 photographs of the outside of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel/Marguerite-Bourgeoys Museum (known as the “sailors’ church”); 5 photographs inside the Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel; Jacques-Cartier Basin.

Montreal Science Center; 3 photographs showing the “underground city” including Terra Verde, the restaurant where we ate.

10K Marathon in Montreal.  Note the South African flag.

End of the race.  Not necessarily the youngest or seemingly fittest participants.  A fun experience for runners and spectators.

Day 6: Saturday, September 22, 2018. Montreal’s old city.

The hotel provided a continental breakfast after which we started a tour of the old city.  Our grand plan of walking to see the sights was interrupted by a 10K marathon being run in the city resulting in some intersections to be blocked as they were barricaded to give runners clear access.  At this juncture, we were not smart enough or experienced to find our way across or under the barriers, a method we later learned.  As you will see in the video, there were plenty of seniors taking place in this race.  Our first stop was Notre-Dame Basilica of Montreal.  Inaugurated in 1829, the church features magnificent artwork, stain glass windows, and attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.  Our sightseeing took us to another church—Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel.  This was founded in 1655, and is known as the “sailor’s church”.  We visited many attractions including the port area, market places such as Place Jacques-Cartier, and Place d’Armes.  Later we strolled through China Town.

Chateau Ramezay built in 1705 by Pierre Couturier as a residence for Claude de Ramezay, Governor of Montreal.  It transformed into a museum in 1895, presenting its magnificent collection and gardens.

Montreal has 32 kilometers (20 miles) of interlinked “underground city”.  A series of interconnected office towers, hotels, shopping centers, residential and commercial complexes, convention halls, universities and performing arts venues that form the heart of Montreal’s central business district, colloquially referred to as Downtown Montreal.  The name refers to the underground connections between the buildings that compose the network, in addition to the network’s complete integration with the city’s underground rapid transit system, the Montreal Metro.  Weather conditions in winter drive the population underground so that they can dine, shop, and reach businesses in warm comfort.

We walked portions of the underground city and found a restaurant Terra Verde, owned by a father and son team.  The father was born in Lebanon and moved to Montreal 40 years ago.  He spoke English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Arabic.  The quality of the food was great, the cost very reasonable, and the conversation priceless.  Montreal is home to people speaking 80 different languages.  Walking around you get to see how delightfully cosmopolitan the city is.

To be accurate, we found most of these underground walkways deserted.  Why use them when the weather outside is so gorgeous.  We did venture into and through portions of them to learn how this convenient facility functioned.  If I am allowed a criticism, the absence of signposting made navigation very difficult.

This day we walked 10.5 miles.

As we learned in both Montreal and later Québec City, this is French territory.  Linda’s French through high school did little to support us.  With a single exception of a house cleaner at our hotel, everyone we dealt with was fluent in English and French.