Monthly Archives: February 2010

Sunday afternoon cricket

A baby statue

A while back we spent the afternoon with friends playing a Sunday afternoon round of cricket. Since that sounds ambiguous, let me clarify that Kerry-Anne and I certainly weren't playing. Andre and I spent the afternoon shooting photos, while Kerry-Anne became the eyes to those not able to attend by live-tweeting the game.

While taking a break from photographing ball after ball, I took this picture. I have to admit that I've always found statues of babies just a smidgen weird. Am I the only one who thinks this or do you feel the same?

(Oh please say I'm not the only one. ;) )

Treat-a-friend-to-coffee day

Drinking water at Truth Coffeecult

Truth Coffee opened its doors just off Buitengracht Street a few months back, and eventually, after wanting to visit for so long, and hearing reports of how awesome the coffee was, I decided to inaugurate the first "Treat-a-friend-to-coffee day", and experience the legendary heavenly drink.

And heavenly it was. Few people know how to make good coffee, but somehow David seems to get it right every time. (Perhaps you remember the article that Kerry-Anne wrote about Origin Roasting, David's previous venue?)

Now, you may notice something strange about the photo. Yes! No coffee! The truth is (if you'll excuse the pun :D ) that the coffee was so good that we finished it only moments after it landed on our table, leaving us with the freshly filtered bottle of water you see on our table (that I'm fairly sure cost only R15 - a bargain, even though I didn't get to keep the pretty bottle!). :)

The South African automotive industry

An old car

While driving on the N1 national highway, I passed this Mercedes Benz whizzing along at a comfortable 120km/h. Taking a photo while driving would have been tricky, so I handed my camera to Kerry-Anne who opened her window for this shot, almost losing my camera while doing so!

It may be of interest to you that the first Mercedes-Benz, the Benz Velo, arrived in South Africa in 1896, and in 1958 Car Distributors Assembly had the first Mercedes-Benz rolling off their production line.

In recent years our automotive industry has accounted for about 10% of South African exports and about 7.5% of our GDP. That makes the industry a huge contributor, providing stable income to thousands of people. The past two years have however been as difficult for the local industry as they've been for the global one. Fortunately however, the economy is turning and folk seem to be buying cars again... unfortunately I'm not one of those folk. :(

An easy hike in Cape Town

Hiking the Pipe Track

The Pipe Track is one of Cape Town's easiest hikes along the side of Table Mountain. It starts at a convenient spot with plenty of parking, just above the city centre, and follows a leisurely path along the back of the mountain, showing off the splendour of Camps Bay, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Twelve Apostles mountain range.

The path is well-frequented, especially on warm and windless Saturday mornings. I think the best time to walk the route is in the early morning, just as the sun rises over the Boland mountains. Around this time of the year in particular you'll find that the air is crisp and clear, and that the wind hasn't yet had time to awaken.

There are generally many people walking the route in the morning if the weather's good. However, if you decide to take the walk when there aren't so many folk about, then perhaps you should consider walking in a group of at least four people. It's a very isolated part of the mountainside and although unlikely, it's possible that muggers could wait there to help you carry your cameras, wallets and phones. ;-)

Take a look at this map of the Pipe Track. This route is about 3.5 kilometres long (one way) and should take you about an hour to complete. So, to be safe, set aside about three hours for this trip. The extra hour will come in handy for taking in the sublime views!

A different perspective

An old man

For some time I've been wondering what it's like to get old and how much you, your personality and your outlook on life, actually change over the years. I know many people over the age of 60 (which I believe is the new 50 ;) ) and while it's evident that years of life have taken their toll on their perspective on life, there are a few that I know who are somehow different, and have somehow retained a youthful outlook on life.

People say that "getting old" is simply a state of mind, and I find myself wondering how much control one has over the change in this state of mind. I wonder whether or not in 30 years' time I'll have a similar and (mostly) unjaded approach to day-to-day living.

I took this photo at Hussar Grill in Camps Bay a little while ago.

Pine cones and holidays

Pine Cones

Strangely, pine cones like these remind me of school days and holidays. The school that I attended for grade 1 through 7 had several pine trees on the property, and I remember playing marbles amongst the trees during break (which you might know as "recess" if you're not a local), as well as picking out and eating the pine cone seeds. Not because I was hungry, but because they were so yummy! :)

The cones remind me of holidays because of the times that we spent at caravan parks during school holidays. Often parks would have plenty of pine trees to cast shade over campers' tents. The downside of this was that they were notorious for dropping sticky gooey pine gum onto tents, caravans and cars. :(

Stop bush fires in Cape Town

It's not a real fire extinguisher, silly

Don't you just love this idea? I wish I knew who decided that logs painted like fire extinguishers would get the message across. It's far more interesting and eye-catching than a sign that few would bother to read anyway.

Recently the weather's been super-hot in Cape Town, and with the lovely warm winds that we're having I guess it's the perfect weather for bush fires to blaze across the mountains. So folks, be careful not to drop bottles (they can act as magnifying glasses and start fires), and be sure not to drop your cigarette butts on the ground - some may argue that they can't start fires, but why risk it? Right? :)

One last thing: take a moment to save the Volunteer Wildfire Services hotline number to your phone - 086 110 6417. Give them a call if you spot a fire starting anywhere on or near the mountain.

Concert season at Kirstenbosch

Just Jinjer at Kirstenbosch

On 22 November last year Johnny Clegg opened this season's Summer Sunset Concerts at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Since then the Gardens have hosted the likes of the Johnny Cooper Orchestra, Zebra and Giraffe, aKING, and many others.

After a day out in the sun watching cricket, we met up with two friends at the packed concert venue in the middle of the botanical gardens. The vibe was happy and relaxed, and even though it was windy elsewhere, the gardens had comparatively little wind. And, as always, Just Jinjer were phenomenal.

A few more concerts remain this season, but the upcoming highlight for us would have to be The Dirty Skirts. They have a super-energetic stage presence (which makes for awesome photos), and it seems that they have an interestingly euphoric effect on the ladies. We have our tickets already; I suggest that if you want to go, you should make sure that you book your tickets fast. :)

University of Cape Town – the Groote Schuur Campus

UCT Groote Schuur Campus

On 7 October 1983, the University of Cape Town's Groote Schuur (translated as "big barn") Campus was declared a national monument.

Originally, in 1829, South African College (later renamed to University of Cape Town) trained students in a building in Long Street. In 1841 they moved to Government Avenue, before finally taking occupation of the Groote Schuur campus in 1928.

Today, the buildings remind me of those old English school buildings that you'd expect to find Harry Potter frequenting. The campus is definitely worth a visit, so if you have some time on your hands to walk around and observe students in their natural habitat, make a turn past the Groote Schuur Campus - here's a map to this exact spot. :)

Lock up your valuables

Yale lock

I always find it amusing when we have consultants over from the USA or Europe (at my day-job, that is), and they don't bother to lock up their laptops when leaving their desks. I'm always having to warn them to lock up, and, without fail, I get a quizzical look in return and the question, "Why, do you think someone would take it?". While the folk working in our offices are perfectly trustworthy, we have many random people in and out, and laptops and cell phones have been known to go missing. They're so easy to steal and sell!

I'm interested to know if you experience the same kind of trouble wherever it is that you work.

Books are verbatim

Verbatim Books

Verbatim Books is a quaint old-style second-hand bookshop in a quiet and shady part of Stellenbosch (here's a map to their location).

If Kerry-Anne were made of iron, books would be like magnets. The moment she saw Verbatim Books, and the old bicycle parked outside, with flowers, my fate was sealed, we just *had* to stop in to explore. And explore we did. The bookshop isn't very big, but is filled mostly with second-hand books that are in pristine condition. They have everything from traditional old story books that you'd read to your kids at bed-time, to old classics like Kerry-Anne's favourite book ever, Jane Eyre (2006 movie), which I ended up buying because she hadn't ever seen the French edition and just *had* to have it. ;)

If you're a book person, you definitely should make a visit to Verbatim Books an item on your long to-do list. Kerry-Anne says it's the best bookshop she's ever been to. And she should know, I guess. :)

Hire a bike and cycle around Table Mountain


Now before you get any ideas about cycling around Table Mountain, or even around and about the city, I'd have to warn you that you'd be insane. Cape Town city and the surrounding areas are extremely hilly, and while cycling about in the very early morning really is the best thing since sliced bread, I'd suggest that you hire a proper bike (with plenty of gears) from guys like Cape Town Cycle Hire or Rent a Bicycle.

Now that it's Argus Cycle Tour time again, you'll see dozens of cyclists practising and getting fit in the morning, generally before work. If you're a cyclist here on holiday, then you may even be able to hook up with a few riders taking a morning trip out past Camps Bay, and through to Llandudno - one of the most beautiful rides along the coast.

Disclaimer: I've never hired anything from either company, so while I suggest that you check them out, I can't vouch for them. :)

Art on 5

Art on 5

I found Art on 5 while with Kerry-Anne on an impromptu photo walk in Stellenbosch. My previous photo was taken though the hole in the blurry artist's palette at the back of this photo.

Stellenbosch is filled with creative people that love painting, photography, pottery, and many other forms of art. Shops like Art on 5 certainly aren't scarce, but if you'd like to browse an art shop, and would like to do so in a nice part of town, this would be the spot. Besides for the many little shops, there are also several small restaurants that, perhaps in typical French style, spill out onto the pavement creating a vibe that makes Stellenbosch just perfect for a Saturday or Sunday morning brunch.

I tried finding more information about this art shop on the web, but sadly it seems as though they're not keen on being e-found. :(

Stellenbosch through a hole

Peering through a hole

Stellenbosch is a student town filled with many retired folk and plenty of really beautiful students. Okay, okay, before Kerry-Anne leaves a comment to this effect - it's not only girls, I have it on good authority that there are plenty of beautiful guys also. :D

Established in 1679, Stellenbosch was the second town in South Africa, the first being Cape Town. According to the town's website, Stellenbosch is situated 111 metres above sea level, is 30km from the closest beaches, and is only 50km from Cape Town. Well-known for its abundant oak trees, Stellenbosch is extremely leafy; so if you're looking for a place to have a quiet picnic, you could pick up a few things from Woolworths or one of the other shops in the area, and then find a spot under a tree on one of the Stellenbosch University lawns. Even if you have grey hair or a slightly wrinkled skin, think young thoughts and you'll fit right in. ;)

Charter a boat in beautiful luxury

A beautiful boat

Of all the things that you could do in Cape Town, chartering a yacht must be one of the most luxurious experiences. I guess something even more luxurious would be to charter a yacht overnight and invite a few friends for a party while moored off Clifton 4th beach.

I'm not sure of the name of the vessel in this photo, but while trying to find out, I discovered that the large boat in the photo in this previous post appears to be the Princess Emma, one of the most luxurious charters available at the Cape Town Waterfront.

Given the overnight rate of approximately R40 000, I assume that it would most often be companies that would charter the vessel to either treat their employees (most likely the directors ;) ), or to impress prospective clients. Nevertheless, if you have a mere R40 000 to spend on a night's entertainment, and if you'd like to be super-popular with your friends, this sure is the way to go. :D

Drinking and driving may change your life

Drinking and Driving

A couple of weekends ago during a routine roadblock, traffic officers tested the alcohol levels of 85 drivers, and arrested 39 of these for being over the legal limit - see the article here.

While I realise that the legal alcohol limit is very low, and perhaps many of these 39 unfortunate folk could have been just slightly over, I also know from experience that many of the people I know regularly exceed the legal limit by a fair to good amount. Often these people seem able to drive perfectly well, but the reality is that their reaction speed is significantly decreased.

In the past few years I've seen and heard of far too many motor vehicle accidents in which people have been hurt or even killed. At these times I guess the reality of it all hits home and it's easy for me to imagine the impact that an event like this has on someone's life. Not just personal injury and loss, and the injury and loss to other people - there's also the law to contend with, trials in court, possible imprisonment, job loss, and so on. I guess the list of things that could happen spirals into an entirely different life to the one I lead today.

Guys, make sure that if you drink too much you have a designated driver. And, if you don't have one, keep the number of a taxi service on your cell phone (under a name that you'll remember at the time, like "Beer" for instance ;) ).

If you're in Cape Town, you can keep the Rikkis Cabs number on your phone - 0861 745 547. They have cheaper inner city share-ride options, and more expensive options that'll take you anywhere in the Cape Peninsula. Check out their website before the time and familiarise yourself with their prices. If you're a habitual party-person then consider signing up with a company like Good Fellas that will drive you home in your own car.

Dinner in Camps Bay – Pepper Club on the Beach

Pepper Club On the Beach restaurant

We hadn't been for dinner in Camps Bay for ages, so, after a long, long week at work, Friday night was our night to relax with an ocean view and good food.

The Pepper Club restaurant, Pepper Club On The Beach (map), is situated at the spot formerly occupied by Summerville, and is the official beach-side restaurant of the soon-to-be-opened Pepper Club hotel in Cape Town city centre. Apparently hotel guests will have the option of being driven from the city to Pepper Club On The Beach (in a Rolls Royce), where they'll be able to change into their swimming gear in the restaurant's super-modern bathrooms. :)

The restaurant's setting is spectacular of course, but the thing that impressed us most was the service - it was absolutely impeccable, the kind of service you'd expect at a top 5-star hotel. The shellfish platter we shared was *wow*, but the two highlights of the evening were the Sapphire Silk cocktail and the Avocado Ritz starter. Both were absolutely delicious, and at the risk of being boring, I'm pretty sure that our next visit will once again include both of these items. :) The cost of a main course averages between R140 and R240 per person; there is a lunch menu as well, which features quite a few cheaper options. You can download the menu from the restaurant's website.

Click here to see a few of the other photos that I took at the restaurant.

MXit, taking instant messaging into deepest Africa

MXit Evolution

MXit ("mix-it"), a mobile-phone-based instant-messaging company born in Stellenbosch, could be one of the most successful South African technology startups in our history. Over 18 million registered users around the world, and over 20 million log-ons per day, make them a significant player in the instant-messaging world.

I mentioned in my previous post that we had the opportunity to visit two technology startup companies in Stellenbosch - the first being FireID, and the second being the larger MXit. I'm not sure if you can see it clearly from this photo, but the view from their offices is spectacular, seemingly the perfect view to stimulate creativity.

The exciting thing about MXit is their vision of expanding their operations in Africa. South Africa and Africa in general have a huge number of mobile phone users. It's perfectly normal for people in even the poorest townships to have mobile phones, as they are generally the only way for folk in these communities to keep in touch. MXit offers a *very* cheap alternative to SMS text messaging, as well as a host of other features and services.

Across the world, the internet has become a tool of learning, a way to make money, and a means of cheap communication. While many initiatives exist to use computers to expand internet access into deepest Africa, the reality is that due to infrastructure costs it's going to be many years before computers (and stable internet connections) become as ubiquitous as mobile phones. The introduction of MXit into countries such as Zambia, Rwanda and Ghana creates a dirt-cheap means of communication and access to education and information.

Find out how to get MXit on your phone or computer here, and if you'd like to learn a little more about it, click here to read the Wikipedia page about their history and services.

FireID, the first of two successful Internet startups


Thanks to Dave Duarte from Huddlemind we had the opportunity to visit the Stellenbosch offices of two Cape Town-based technology startup companies, FireID and MXit. In this post I'll tell you just a little about FireID; if you find tech stuff kinda interesting, then check out their website for more detailed information.

In short, if you've used internet banking before you may be familiar with the little security token that some banks give you. When a button on the token is pressed, it generates a brand new password that you can use to sign on to your internet banking site. The idea is that the password is a random set of letters and numbers that nobody (human or computer) can predict; and once you've used the password it becomes obsolete and useless to anyone who might have seen you type it in (or who may have gained access to it in some other way - through key-logging, for instance).

These devices are expensive and are yet another thing that you have to carry with you. FireID have written a clever application that works in a similar way, but on your mobile phone. The cool thing is that the FireID application can be used to generate one-time passwords on your phone for many different websites, reducing the need for you to remember a long list of passwords or carry a dozen security tokens.

FireID have the most awesome offices and working atmosphere. The offices are modern and bright, and the vibe is relaxed. Their core working hours are from 10h00 to 15h00, but apart from that their employees are encouraged to work whenever and wherever they feel they'd be the most productive. Isn't that awesome?

I've uploaded a few more photos to an album - click here to check them out.

Wines of the Cape

Tierhoek's Chenin Blanc

I mentioned previously that friends of ours own Wineweb, an online company through which you can order South African wines.

Jon and Leslie from Wineweb brought a few bottles of Hazendal (map) and Tierhoek wine along to our last Sushiclub meetup. This Tierhoek Chenin Blanc happened to be the closest so I helped myself to a glass or two. I'm by no means a wine connoisseur and really have little clue as to what makes a good wine, but I have to admit that I really enjoyed this one. It's one of those easy-drinking wines that after a glass or two doesn't leave your mouth feeling like the inside of a lemon. :D

The Tierhoek farm lies about two hundred kilometres up our west coast (map), close to the well-known town of Citrusdal. This area is famous for its citrus fruit, presumably because of its good soil, plentiful water, and cool Atlantic sea breeze. The same factors that make the citrus fruit from this area so yummy must be what lays the foundation for the brilliant wine produced at Tierhoek.

The farm does offer tastings, so I'm busy trying to find their GPS coordinates and will post a link to a Google Map below as soon as I have them. If you decide to take a trip up the coast, consider staying in Citrusdal - there are plenty of guest houses in the area, as well as the popular The Baths resort with hot water springs!

Sushi at Sevruga

Sushi at Sevruga

Sevruga (map) is one of the pristine restaurants of the V&A Waterfront. Their steak is good, their fish is great, and the sushi, well, darn near perfect. Visiting isn't exactly a cheap outing, so when our impromptu sushi club caught wind of the half-price sushi afternoons (14h00 to 17h00), it was a no-brainer - Sevruga would be the venue to host our next meet-up.

The restaurant certainly didn't disappoint... as I'm guessing you can see from the photo above. :) And, just before you think I made an absolute pig of myself - this was the plate that Kerry-Anne and I shared. I doubt many would actually fit this entire plate of sushi in for dinner!

Autopilot performing at Mercury Lounge

Kevin Sykes, guitarist for Autopilot

As I mentioned in my previous post, we were invited to go along to Mercury Lounge in Cape Town to take photos at Autopilot's new video launch gig. This particular show must have been one of the most challenging that I've shot - the stage was very small, and although the lighting was great for the performance, it was terrible for photos.

Nevertheless, I felt challenged and had plenty of fun trying to come up with angles that would work. I've uploaded an album of photos here.

Autopilot was born in 2005 as a 4-man band. While Kevin Sykes (the guitarist in this photo) and Shane Coomber (the other guitarist) seem to be the only original remaining members, the band has seen a shift with the introduction of a female vocalist, currently 22-year-old Brigette Greybe (who according to the drummer, Nicholas, has a great butt ;) ).

At the time of writing this article, the new video hadn't yet been uploaded to their website, but if you'd like to hear their sound take a look here for one or two other music videos.

Thanks for a great show, Autopilot!

Mercury Lounge – a club in Cape Town

Mercury Lounge

This emblem is positioned above the upper bar at Mercury Lounge in Cape Town. We've often driven past Mercury late at night, on our way home, and there have always been people going in and out. I've always wondered what it looked like inside, and what the vibe was like - and at last we got to find out when we were invited to go along and see local band Autopilot performing. More about that in my next post, but for now, let me give you a rundown of Mercury Lounge:

There are two sections, one above the other. The lower section has a bar, some seating, and a tiny dance floor. I didn't spent much time there, but I imagined that they would play beat-driven music - the kind you'd expect to hear at clubs. The upstairs section is way larger. There's a small stage where the live acts perform, two pool tables, a bar, plenty of standing room, and a very limited number of tables and chairs. The drinks are fairly cheap, especially Miller (I think they have some kind of promotional deal with SAB Miller), but on the negative side, their facilities were terrible. Dirty, falling apart, and generally very unpleasant.

Anyway, it's an interesting place to check out, so if you're visiting Cape Town and you plan on hopping from club to club, you may as well make Mercury Lounge (map) one of the places that you stop in at.

Bumper boats!

Tug boats in the Table Bay harbour
I've always been the biggest fan of bumper cars - it's such a pity that most funfairs don't allow people over the age of 10 or so to play on them, though. Maybe they'll let me have a go on these cool bumper boats instead?

The Enseleni (at the back) was built in Durban in 2001 and has a bollard pull of 50 tons, while the Pinotage (just in front of the Enseleni) was built way back in 1980 and has a bollard pull of 43 tons. Bollard pull is basically an indication of how strong a tug is and how much force it can exert on another vessel (although my research tells me that it is a little more complicated than that).

So just remember, if you ever get invited to play bumper boats, make sure you get the boat with the greatest bollard pull.

A flag of convenience

Marshall Islands flag
Although this vessel is flying the flag of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, the chance that it actually originates from there is pretty slim indeed. According to the CIA Factbook, 990 of the 1049 merchant ships registered in the Marshall Islands are foreign-owned, and therefore flying what is termed a flag of convenience. There could be a number of reasons for this - tax avoidance, circumvention of tricky local regulations, or even the avoidance of political boycotts. I was a bit young to notice, but apparently many South African vessels were registered elsewhere during the apartheid years,  in order to avoid the unpleasant consequences of international sanctions and boycotts.

Of course, being a girl, I'd probably just pick the flag that best matched my pretty ship's colour scheme, and get the vessel registered in that country. Which is probably why Paul won't let me have a sailing ship.

Silversea’s Silver Wind

Silversea's Silver Wind
The closest I've come to going aboard a cruise ship was watching Titanic in 1997. It's definitely on my long-term to-do list, but I'm generally of the opinion that if I'm going to go on a cruise, I might as well make it worthwhile - these little 3-day "cruises to nowhere" don't really get me excited. A three-week cruise to Italy, on the other hand... ah, now that seems like a good way to pass the time.

The ship pictured here is the Silver Wind, the second-oldest of the fleet belonging to Silversea Cruises. If you feel like escaping reality for a few minutes, you can create your own virtual voyage aboard the Silver Wind.

The Argo Sea|mester training vessel

Argo, a training yacht belonging to Seamester Global
This is Argo, a yacht belonging to Seamester Global. Seamester, based in the USA, offers experiential nautical training - students spend a semester at sea, learning a wide range of skills and visiting places that they would otherwise probably only read about. Can you imagine what an amazing experience this must be? What a way to discover the world! If I had a child leaving school and considering taking a gap year, I think this would be high on my list of suggestions to them.

You can follow the activities of the students on board the Argo, by reading their regular blog posts and listening to their audio updates here.

Inkunzi floating crane

Inkunzi floating crane

According to the translation for the Zulu word "inkunzi" is "bull" or "male animal". In this case I suspect that because of its size and its ability to carry heavy loads, the Inkunzi floating crane was named with the word "bull" in mind.

I first became aware of the Inkunzi when my dad made mention of it about, I guess, 20 or 25 years ago. A that time he was working at the Cape Town harbour, inspecting cranes for mechanical problems. The Inkunzi was (and perhaps is) Cape Town harbour's largest floating crane, with its heaviest load capacity set at around 200 metric tons. (I took this close-up photo of a sign posted on the front of the Inkunzi, indicating the maximum weight that the crane is able to lift to a given height.)

We'll still post a couple more photos taken on my trip to the harbour, but if you're curious to see what I shot, I've already uploaded the photos to an album over here.