Crystal Caves - Grand Cayman
Crystal Caves - Grand Cayman
  • Durban Urban Turban.
    • 01/11/2017
Final days in Durban, which could easily be mistaken for a seaside resort with its miles of sandy beaches and promenade.
Europcar didn't look too impressed with how muddy the car was when I returned it!
Inland, a built up CBD with some grand historical buildings, and an international melting pot - Durban has the biggest Indian population outside if India, resulting in the local speciality snack, Bunny Chow, half a loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with curry. The owner of the restaurant I stopped in complained that the area was being spoiled by an influx of foreigners - referring to northern Africans and in particular Nigerians moving in. Wandered through various busy shopping streets and markets, including the Muti market which sells a wide range of witchdoctor supplies, with unidentifiable animal body parts hanging up above tubs of roots, spices, and miscellaneous crazy stuff.
Durban's museums all seem to be free which was a nice bonus. The Kwa Muhale museum is housed in the buildings originally used for issuing work permits and passes to natives under the "Durban System" where blacks were excluded from the city.
Adding insult to injury, the natives were further indentured by the banning of home brewing, forcing them to spend all their wages in expensive municipal beer halls.
Also a big and informative exhibit about HIV. The art gallery was small, but happened to be hosting the World Press Photography exhibit, something I've made an effort to visit in London in recent years, always a sobering and eye opening experience.
The troubles depicted worldwide made stepping out into the Durban sunshine seem like the calmest, safest place in the world - I had been warned that it was risky to walk around town but did not see any evidence of this during the daytime - nevertheless had left valuables at the hostel.
Just waiting for the airport shuttle bus now, 24 hours ish to blighty!
  • Wrecks n Whales
    • 01/11/2017
Said goodbye to the mountains and headed for the coast, passing through valleys of logging operations and sugar cane plantations, and stopping to visit one of the world's 47 Richmonds, named after the original by immigrants thereof.


The coast is a different world, built up and affluent looking. And sunny!
Staying at a very liberal and hippy bar/hostel where I met some interesting locals, one friendly dog, and two unfriendly dogs who wanted part of my leg for dinner.
Halloween night, a bbq and the big rugby match meant a party atmosphere, until the cape blue stripes came back to defeat the Sharks and drinking turned from celebratory to disconsolate.
This morning went scuba diving on a wreck named "Purpose", a 140 metre long cargo vessel lying in 30 metres of water off Aliwal Shoal. Visibility was excellent and loads of fish and nudibranch to look at, never mind trying to identify pieces of boat! Super bonus was hearing whale song, a first for me. The downside was that it was very windy, meaning serious rough swell on the surface and making the 15 minute boat ride back to shore a battle with seasickness!
I would love to have dived on the reef here also, but not in this weather! Another reason to come back.
  • Sani Insanity
    • 01/11/2017
So I climbed it, couldn't see anything though!
The 14km drive to the south african border post at the bottom of the pass was testing enough for my little hire car, and from there the road is 4x4 only (until it gets tarmaced!), so I had to walk. Easy enough, reached the top in under two hours and got stamped both in and out of Lesotho at the same time.
Visibility was about 50 metres at this point, so it was compass out to head across the trackless moorland plateau towards Hodgsons Peaks, which stand either side of a gently curved pass, known as the Giant's Cup.
Long story short, weather got worse, had to use the GPS on my phone to navigate, but reached both peaks (3250m) and got back to the border post by 2pm, (20km + 1600m ascent).
Coincidentally, at the top of the pass is a Lodge with a bar, the highest pub in Africa, currently busy with tourists on day trips where they essentially just get driven up the hill for lunch.
Still, a log fire, vin chaud and soup are always nice, fortifying me for the descent, during which the rain got worse, turned into snow, and I arrived back at the SA border somewhat damp.
The most interesting part was yet to come though, as the rain had turned the 14km dirt road into a slippery mud bath, which I slowly slid around on, praying I wouldn't fall off the sides of the road into a deep ditch or worse!
Needless to say I survived thanks to my amazing rally driving skills.
  • Mad about Mountains
    • 26/10/2017
Lazy morning, plenty of stretching before setting off towards Giants Castle. Quick stop at the Macedonia cheese shop for some fried halloumi and then on to visit the Main Cave, a 6000 year old bushman rock art attraction. Picturesque surroundings but crap paintings compared to what I've already seen in Zimbabwe Matapos.
Next overnight stop is Drakensberg International Backpackers, a grand title for a remote off the grid location run by a rag tag bunch of blokes who prefer to drop out of the rat race. Its a tranquil location, self sufficient for power and water, bordered by Kamberg game reserve and Highmoor national park. Hiking up the adjacent escarpment I encounter Bushbuck, a big deer thing, (but apparently not the elusive Elang) and, baboons, eagles and traces of porcupine as well as majestic views of rocky cliffs such as Cleopatra and the Sleeping Giant.
Standard south african BBQ dinner, and the downside, the night chorus of frogs!

Drive day today, but with some interest - after a lazy morning reading Bleak House j headed to Nottingham Road Brewery, and Nottingham Fort, a tiny barracks built in 1856 to protect settlers cattle from the bushmen, so named because it was originally staffed by an imported regiment of the 45th Nottingham Sherwood Foresters. The area subsequently contains many Midlands references, including a logging company called Tricky Trees.

After an exceptionally misty drive this afternoon, arrived at the Sani Lodge, near the bottom of the famous Sani Pass, a 4x4 only switchback track climbing 900m into Lesotho. The plan is to climb it tomorrow...
  • Mountain of the Dragons
    • 26/10/2017
Rented a car, (a Renault Sandero?) And bought the cheapest tent in the supermarket and headed for the mountains. I've been pining for some good hills and hiking for months, its been frustrating seeing hills in the distance from the truck and not being free to visit, or being restricted to gentle guided group walks.
So I am a little frustrated to find that the national parks here either forbid or heavily discourage solo overnight hiking, for reasons or safety both due to the usual twisted ankle scenario, less usual snake bites, or the chance of being mugged by Lesotho drug smuggling shepherds!
Fortunately there are enough taxing and spectacular day hikes to soften the the blow.
First stop Golden Gate park, named for its colourful sandstone buttresses and overhangs, which are especially lit up in the golden hour before sunset. The campsite here was completely full up due to an upcoming marathon. Only met one family up on the hill though.

Next stop Amphitheatre Backpackers - I arrived in the dark and the next morning was cloudy so couldn't see the distant magnificence of the escarpment, where the berg rises a mile above the velt in shear cliffs, embodying the border with Lesotho.
An interesting two hour drive which tested my hire car to the max brought me to base car park, the start of a brisk and steep walk to the top of Sentinel, via 30 metres of chain ladders up the rock face, which I did not enjoy.
I quickly compassed through the mist to reach the summit of Mont Aux Sources, possibly trespassing into Lesotho by a few metres, and enjoying lunch in solitude before descending to the brink of Tugela Falls, highest waterfall in Africa (800 metres) (if there was actually any water going over it!) on the edge of the Amphitheatre, a huge cliff face which seems to defy all efforts to capture its grandeur on camera.
Annnnd descend. Next day did the Tugela gorge walk to see the same thing from below. Also spectacular but not so death defying exhilarating as peering over the edge!

Drive day, getting petrol, supplies, stopping at one of the battle fields in the Boer War (Spier Kop), popping into Ladysmith (don't bother) and then arriving at my next base camp at the bottom of the next section of the Drakensberg range, Monks Cowl...

South Africa confuses me. Its developed, big cities, malls, motorways, drinkable water etc, but along side that loads of villages where people live in shacks and herd goats, seemingly as poor as anywhere else in Africa. Just drives home that the circumstances you are born into can be hard to escape. But also, people don't all have the greedy attitude of our developed consumerist countries, they just get up, live, go to bed. Maybe we should be jealous, because we are the ones born into wage slavery, in a race for jobs to pay for a roof and food and all the unnecessary luxuries rather than just being able to self sufficiently grow our own.

Today was a good day. Monks Cowl.
Climbed a mountain (stats: 25km hike, 1600m ascent), only saw 4 other people on the hills all day, saw a snake (berg adder, venomous but not deadly to humans), giant grasshopper, and oh yeah the views were a.m.a.z.i.n.g
Top of the peak involved scrambling up through almost a cave. Rewarded by 360 degree breathtaking, with eagles circling on thermals around the pinnacles....
Return route via a ridge walk, views all around, perfect temperature, epic.
Had to run the last 3km to get back before park gates locked.
Beer tasted sweet. Legs are done - that satisfied feeling of exertion.


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