The route was planned and we would be leaving on 5th May with a gig at Cafe Roux in the afternoon and then straight from there onto Plankies in Pringle Bay for an evening session.
Parked up in Pringle Bay
From Pringle Bay the world was our oyster. We ended up spending most of May in the Wilderness which we reached via Napier where we stayed with a friend for a couple of nights. The Wilderness is like a home to us as we have been going there for 20 odd years and have some very good friends out in those climes as well as it being breathtakingly beautiful. We stayed in a wonderful log cabin that belongs to some other very good friends and fell off the earth only to emerge to fill the town with music. Good times. Neo and I also went fishing quite a lot and learned how to fish. Not saying we are great but you have to start somewhere. In fact Neo caught 5 Cape stumpnose on his 1st trip and has been pretty hooked ( ‘scuse the pun) ever since.
So the car issue 1st reared it’s head while we were driving to Knysna for something or another and the car decided to make a ‘kakakakaka’ kind of sound. It was more than alarming and turned out to be the engine mountings. Into the mechanics and sorted.
Our initial plan when we first started, was to travel up country through The Eastern Cape and up into Kwa-Zulu Natal but those plans,as the best plans tend to be, were laid to waste when we found out that my dad was extremely unwell and there was no way on knowing how serious his condition was. So we had to change plans and make our way up to Zimbabwe via Bloemfontein. From Wilderness we traveled through Nieu Bethesda, which is a very unusually attractive little town,where we did a house gig. Well no-one warned us about the extremes of temperature when you get out into the semi-desert and we found out the hard way. It was absolutely, positively and in every ways freezing. Morning temperatures were -5c which was completely unexpected and a stern test for the nipple. The drive between the luscious Western Cape and the more arid climate of the Freestate, really highlights the difference in geology through South Africa with each place having its own unique beauty. This is punctuated by the various sightings of wild animals depending on where you are. Neo even spotted a giraffe on the way into Bleom. Our stay in Bloemfontein was highlighted by the exceptionally wonderful human beings who we encountered there who have now become lifelong friends.
From Bloem we made our way to Johannesburg where we would get the bus for the long journey through to Zim. We parked our oil dripping vehicle at my cousins’ place, as she and her husband graciously allowed us to store it in their garage for the 3 or so weeks that we would be gone. From there it was on the bus on the way to the border and all the trauma that can come from over zealous and possibly bribe seeking officials. There exists in South Africa a law, which is claimed to be there to limit child trafficking, how that is meant to work is unclear, anyway this law states that parents traveling with their children, are obliged to carry their child’s original birth certificate and citizenship documents. Also in our case we had to provide the original copies of our permanent residence certificates. So you are carrying every original ID document that you have. Nobody can explain what river of shit you would be swimming in were you to lose or have those documents stolen. Anyway, I digress. So we get to the border and we do not have all the documents they want and they will not except certified copies. We were ushered to the side and told we could not travel, sorry for you kind of thing. After much pleading of “my father is very sick “ case and A mini meltdown later, the drivers of our bus managed to find an official who would give us the necessary stamps as long as we provided the relevant docs on our return to the country. Now I have been called a conspiracy theorist for various things but I am convinced that the officials were wanting a bribe and since they could not really keep us at the border had to let us go but who knows for sure? Anyway we finally crossed over into Zim and were on our way to Bulawayo.
We arrived in Bulawayo excited but pretty worn out after our excursion at the border. Now I don’t want to dwell on this issue but it is part of story so I will just say a few things. The initial reason that we went to Zimbabwe was to care for my apparently frail father so we went to his house to stay and be close to him in order to be effective in our care. Now some parents can be difficult and trying at the best of times and the onus is placed on the children to mitigate their irrationality against the fact that they produced you. I must admit that I disagree with this particular point of view because as far as I am concerned respect needs to work both ways in order to affect any real respect. That being said all I can say is that I tried to be a higher man and that did not really work out so we bailed.
Luckily enough my mum is also in Zim so that’s where we went. We had a pretty good time in between the usual family tensions that can arise. We did a bit of sightseeing as we took my mum to a few places.
Bulawayo is such a pretty city but unfortunately after years of neglect much of the city is not functioning so well but Zimbabweans are very resourceful to say the least so hopefully one day…
The Matopos hills are stunning!The cool thing was that we had no pre-booked gigs at all in Zim but thanks to some awesome people, Kimber who was the owner of 2 fabulous spots in Bulawayo, The indaba cafe in the city centre and The Kraal in Hillside booked us to play The Kraal a few times as well as hooking us up with 3 monkeys in Vic Falls, it’s people like kimber that make being a travelling musician a pleasure. We played at The Banff Lodge also in hillside. After a few days we were on our way again up to Victoria falls.
The weekend that we traveled up to The Falls was the weekend of the biggest marathon in Zim and as a result accommodation was at a premium. After hours of trying various options we were advised by a friend of my cousin (the one in Johannesburg) to go to Shoestring backpackers and see what they had available. Now we were on a pretty tight budget so we asked them if it was possible for us to stay to play. Very graciously they said yes and we ended up spending 12 days there in various locations either camping or in one of the rooms. It was fantastic. Again we did not really have a plan gig-wise apart from the contact that Kimber had given us but we ended up playing 5 gigs in 4 days!
If you have ever thought of going to Vic Falls my advice would be go! It is such a great place (apart from the constant drone of helicopters taking tourists over the Falls). The Falls themselves are spectacular and you really get wet when making the trip across the bridge. There is a permanent rainbow which adds to the whole vibe. Another big highlight is the wildlife. There is a particular Road called Zambezi drive where we were told you are almost guaranteed to spot some form of wildlife, even on the road. So off we went on a little hike. We had not even got 50 metres down the road when we came across an rusty and fading sign which said something about staying in vehicles and dangerous animals and the rest of it, when Zoe said “there’s an elephant just over there. And low and behold, just over there, was an elephant and not any old run of the mill, what are you doing over there kind of elephant. This thing was mahussive and it must have been all of 30ft away from us if that. Zoe and I turned to take in the wow factor with Neo but the young chap had moon-walked halfway back up the way we had come with eyes like saucers on sticks. Funny what fear can do. It was both electrifying and moderately terrifying at the same time. We resolved to come back the next day with someone who knew a bit more about the local wildlife than us and that is exactly what we did!
Random warthogs in the park.Outside
A new found and lifelong friend that we had met named Tony, offered to come with us on a mini adventure through the semi-wilds of Africa. So we filled our water bottles, bought Neo a thwacking stick and off we set into the unknown hopefully to be seen again. This time we made it about 1km before we encountered the elephants and this time there were more than one. We were walking down the middle of the road and on either side of us there were elephants. We probably sounded like mini bombs but to us we crept past them with awe and beating pulses. It is an experience that will be forever etched in my mind and this time Neo avoided moon-walking.
On another note, there is a croc cage diving facility in Vic Falls much the same as shark cage diving, whether you agree or not is a different topic. Anyhoo on one particular occasion, some drunk dude decided to climb into the cage. As he climbed in, the albino croc grabbed him by the arm and threw him across the cage, and area spanning some 15m. his arm stayed with the croc. Now some people wanted the crocs killed because of this incident. Personally I think the man was an idiot but there you go..
The Falls themselves are amazing and we took full advantage of the walk across the bridge to talk about how we wouldn’t be leaping off it tied to a thin line. The 1 thing that did not sit well, was that the last time we were in Vic Falls many years ago, Zoe and I had ventured over to the Zambian side of the falls and after chatting with some local lads we were taken to a place called either the Devil’s or Angel’s armchair. Anyway this place was amazing as it is a very deep pool located right at the edge of the falls. There are massive boulders that stop you from being sucked over the edge and from the Zimbabwean side, it looks to anybody like you are floating in the falls. It was insane! Now, however, the site is ‘owned’ by some American firm who charge you $silly to go to a place that should be free to all. Even the locals are forbidden to go to a place that they have been visiting for years. Progress!!
Between playing music, being tourists and generally having the best time, our Victoria Falls adventure was over way too soon but we will definitely return.
We made our way back to Bulawayo for a few days before we had to head back to south Africa for some gigs.
So we have decided to continue the blog mainly with pictures, keeping the conflab to a minimum and hopefully the pics tell a full story. In the meantime however let me update from Bulawayo.
After another torrid border crossing, this time due to the fact that Neo had just recovered for tonsillitis and Zoe was extremely sick with flu (and I mean proper flu), we reached Johannesburg to pick up our car. We played a lovely gig for a friend at an art exhibition for Keith Zenda (check him out) and headed from there to Bronkhorstspruit. In Bronkhorstsruit we played at the sinkshack, which is owned by the fantastic and very hospitable Deon Volschenk.
As well as Bronkhorstspruit, we also played in Pretoria/Centurion at The Railways cafe and met a friend from England in the most random episode ever. After that we headed back towards Cape town via Bloemfontein and whole new world that we were not expecting.
Life has a funny way of throwing some serious curve balls at you sometimes but I can honestly say I am blessed with the family I have because we end up laughing and having a great time in some dire circumstances. So we passed through Bloemfontein and stayed with some friends for what was meant to be a day or 2. Anyway our friend Kat, said in passing that her place had a strange way of holding onto guests. Anyway we left Bloem and got as far as a place called Colesberg which I had never heard of and wish it had remained the case. As Zoe is driving along all happy go lucky like, the car starts to make a kerklang,krack,klang kind of sound. Long story short we ended up on the back of an AA recovery vehicle. Oh how we laughed. Actually we did. After spending an age at a local petrol station, we got a bus back to Cape Town where we had some gigs and left out car at the mercy of some dude in a knackers yard. Oh how we laughed.