27 April 2009

Lesotho at Easter

Here is Stuart's takeon our first visit to another African country since arriving in South Africa:


Plus some great photos.

International camping

The only camping we have done so far has been in Kruger Park in South Africa these last few days, but local similarities to the camping professionals that are the Kiwis are becoming obvious already. Camp sites are quiet and people obviously stay for a long time. As in NZ they seem to treat the camp as their holiday home where they return every year with their families. We saw this at Abel Tasman with families visiting regularly for 30 years without fail. This also means that groups arrive with incredible amounts of equipment, from fridges to double beds, bicycles and surf boards, wind screens and tents the size of houses. Here, though, we see a lot of very well equipped off- road vehicles with high lift jacks, roof tents and spare jerry cans, probably because it is so easy to drive into the bush to Botswana or Namibia, whereas in NZ most camping is fenced.

A glaring difference is the fact that camping here seems to be an exclusively White affair. I a week in Kruger I have not noticed one Black camper. Kiwi sites, specially up in Northland, were much more mixed.

I guess camping is a tempting holiday option in countries where it is expensive to fly somewhere else, and South Africans may feel similarly restricted in destinations as New Zealanders.

And by the way, this is our semi-pimped Defender. It now has a built in kitchen with a table, water tank and extra fuel tanks.

10 April 2009

Shape of the day

Lesotho day 1 and the shape today is a cone. The mountains are strangely symetrical, shepherds are wearing conical hats, straw is ties in the fields in a cone shape and the rondavels dot the villages with their straw roofs.

I was expecting this country to be emptier, but there are many people walking: from church and to girl guide practice, riding their donkeys and ponies and waiting for one of the ubiquitous minitaxis.

07 April 2009

What happened to my mother tongue?

Stuart is trying to learn German in preparation for our move to Germany, but the more I walk around this country and read its magazines and newspapers, the more I despair of still having a language in the long term. English slogans and terminology has become de rigeur for adverts and journalism. I read about "wirelessen" and "cloud computing" and every town needs an English slogan. The magazine above actually has content written entirely in German, not that you would be able to tell from the cover. 

This use of another language doesn't always end well, of course, and apostrophe crime is rife, as is the use of words strung together with little concern for content or indeed meaning:

I really have no idea what this means and how it relates to fashion. Can you take a guess?

What I love about Germany part 4

So I am returning from a weekend in England on a flight that is arriving late into Düsseldorf at 10.30pm. It's a good hour on the train till I get to my bed at the best of times and now it's late at night. I am prepared to spend 80€ on a taxi. As it turns out there is a regional train with one change to Recklinghausen AND a bus that will get me to within 5 minutes walk from home. All for 10€! Pretty cool. And that's not even to talk about the fact that you can buy an all areas ticket for the month for about 80€ - which even let's you take friends along for free on the weekends. Or the cool Fahrplan (Link opens iTunes) iPhone app that can tell you where the nearest bus stop is and what time the next bus is due. I have always been convinced of the value of public transport. It is an efficient way to move people, it keeps down pollution and gives me time to read and think.

06 April 2009

What I love about Germany part 3

Fairs are great. They happen at every -generally catholic - holiday, Easter, carnival, All Saints, specially around spring and autumn times, as if to bracket the outdoor and indoor parts of the year. There are rides, of course, big swirly scary gravity-defying ones that make me green round the edges just looking at them, neon lit with speeds too fast for the human organism; old-fashioned slower ones that are more my thing: the big wheel, bumper cars, Kettenkarussell (the one that looks like a spinning top with seats on chains hanging from the sides).

And candy floss, candy apples (I prefer their German name Paradiesapfel: apple of paradise), chocolate waffles, ice cream, licorice and if I'm really lucky, Turkish Honey.

As a bonus this time we had a firework display. Brill!

05 April 2009

Going back in time and place

To Nottingham for a weekend and nothing much has changed in the last 5 years... Or so it seems. On closer inspection it turns out that some friends have a new puppy, some are pregnant, some are engaged or even married, some have acquired a new kitchen or published a book. My old home and friends are not so unchanged, after all.

01 April 2009

What I love about Germany. Part 1

Mineral water in crates. You return them to a machine that counts how many bottles you have and gives you your deposit back. All sorts of recycling including batteries. There are collection boxes in the shops next to the rack of new batteries. Brilliant. Train stations and airports have bins where you can separate paper, plastic and cans.