Travel : The Small Things

When my daughter said that it’s the small things that make a trip memorable, I realised she was right. We had a wonderful time on our recent visit to Ireland, wandering around Trinity College, touring a whisky distillery, visiting castles, cathedrals and so on but the real memories were made up of the small things. These are the travel stories you tell your friends and family over a couple of glasses of wine.

My stories of this trip will include include my granddaughter’s request that we have something sweet to “give closure to the meal” – from then on we made sure our holiday dinners had proper closure at the expense of our waistlines. Another fun story will be our encounter with an Irishman who warned us of the dangers of wondering around Dublin, “especially at night”. He obviously didn’t realize that South Africans are masters of self preservation.

… and then there was the one about our visit to the hotel leisure centre to have a swim in the heated pool. I dressed into my bathing suit and put my things away in the locker and locked it, using a euro coin. But I’d forgotten to take off my glasses. So I had to reopen the locker. I took another euro out of my bag and locked the locker, again forgetting to take off my glasses! I reopened the locker, took off my glasses, put them in the locker and relocked it with another euro. I then realized I’d locked my towel in the locker and had to reopen it for the third time! My husband was well into his swim by the time I joined him. I didn’t tell him the whole story, just the part where I forgot to put my glasses in the locker.

We came across enormous turnips, so remarkable in fact that they deserved a photograph – my son-in-law used his watch to give perspective to the photo. And the daisies! Huge and lovely. The watch was hauled out again for a photo shoot. Finally we came across a gigantic box of washing power in a corner cafe. Surprising stock for a local grocer in a small village to keep on his shelves, especially as the boxes took up a good portion of his limited space. Boxes of this size would be far more at home in a wholesaler’s warehouse. Thank goodness for the watch which was used for a third time!

One of our stops was for lunch at a beautiful hotel nestled in the Irish countryside. The story here is not the hotel or the lunch but it’s about Bruce, the resident Staffordshire Bullterrier, who ambled over to us wearing a tag on his collar which said ‘Bitch Magnet’.

As much as we loved the touristy things we saw and did, the stories of the small things are what we’ll treasure whenever we reminisce about our wonderful trip to the Emerald Isle.

 

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Port Edward Lighthouse

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Port Edward Lighthouse situated at 130 Milford Road, Port Edward on the Lower South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal

We visited the Port Edward Lighthouse on a beautiful summer’s day. It’s not on the beach, as I had imagined, but is built amongst the houses in a residential area.  It is fully operational so my first thought was for the neighbours. I wondered how they slept at night as the lighthouse has two beams, is powered by half a million candlewatts and is visible for 40 kms!

It’s official name is “North Sand Bluff Lighthouse”.  Here are some interesting facts:

  • It is 24 metres tall;
  • Was originally built in 1968;
  • And rebuilt in 1999;
  • It is about 5 storeys high;
  • And has a spiral staircase;
  • The lighthouse is owned and operated by the Transnet National Port Authority.

 

“Sometimes amidst all of the wars,

all you need is to become the lighthouse,

not the sword”

Akshay Vasu

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Port Shepstone Lighthouse

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Although I lived in Port Shepstone for a long time, I never took much notice of the lighthouse. I rectified this on a recent trip down to the South Coast when we stopped off to take some photographs of this attractive building.

The lighthouse is situated near the mouth of the Umzimkulu River and is about 8 metres high. It is made of cast iron and was shipped from the UK to South Africa in the 1890’s.  On its arrival on South African shores, it was erected at Scottburgh where it was used to indicate part of the reef of the Aliwal Shoal.  It was moved from Scottburgh to Port Shepstone in about 1906 where it has stood for over a century.

The lighthouse is a National Monument and is well maintained. It is painted in black and white checkerboard style which looks beautiful and distinctive. The lighthouse’s revolving electrical light flashes once in every 6 seconds and it has a light range of 26 sea miles.

Apart from it being essential to the safety of seagoing vessels, it is also a perfect landmark which says “Welcome to Port Shepstone”.

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The Last Vote

With all the hype around the American elections and Brexit, I’m reminded of a vote which took place in our neighbourhood in the early 1960’s.

My parents used to help out at the polling station at the Scout Hall in Wychwood, Germiston, together with their friends and neighbours, Arthur and Megan Otty, who, like my parents, were supporters of the United Party.

At this particular local election, it fell to Arthur to fetch voters who did not have their own transport. Arthur drove up and down all day ferrying voters to and from the polling station. By just after 4.30 p.m. he thought he was done for the day when he realised he had forgotten to fetch Mrs Beech. But, as it was less than half an hour before the polls were due to close, he also realised that it was not likely that he would be able to get her there in time to vote. Arthur was tempted not to make the effort but, after a bit of coaxing, he decided that he would give it a try, so off he went.

He did his best and in this case, it was good enough! Arthur arrived back a couple of minutes before the polls closed with Mrs Beech in tow, who was a bit grumpy at having been forgotten. She told anyone who would listen that she had waited the whole day to be fetched. Fortunately, she managed to cast her vote just before cut off time. Arthur took her home again wondering if he should have bothered after getting an earful from her.

Then the counting began.

The two parties were neck and neck and this went on until all the votes were counted. It was cheers all round when the United Party beat the Nationalist Party by just one vote!

From then on, Arthur frequently told the story of how he single-handedly won the local election for the United Party.

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2014 voter’s stamp

Red Desert

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We visit the KZN South Coast each year and this year I decided to browse the internet in the hopes of finding something different to do or see.

Well, I got more than I bargained for when I discovered from my research that there is a desert in Port Edward which is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the smallest desert in the world.

it didn’t take much for my husband to agree to visit the desert and so we set off from Margate to Port Edward in search of the Red Desert.

We turned off onto the Old Pont Road at Port Edward and then onto Maurice Road where we arrived at the Red Desert Nature Reserve sign. A short walk through the veld led us to the Red Desert which is only 200 metres wide and about 11 hectares.

The bright red of the desert sand is quite startling against the surrounding lush vegetation.  I have read that the desert’s layout is similar to that of the Arizona Desert, in miniature, of course.

The reasons for the Red Desert’s existence vary from being caused by overgrazing of cattle by the Zulus to being an alien landing site. Apparently archaeological artifacts have also been discovered there.

Finding the Red Desert has reminded me not to take any place for granted –  I lived on the South Coast for many years and had never heard about this little gem.  I’m sure that the people of Port Edward are very proud of their desert which is a National Heritage Site.

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Henry the Crocodile

 

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Photo taken in December 2013

Henry lives at Crocworld near Scottburgh on the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal and, at the grand old age of 116, is believed to be the oldest Nile crocodile in captivity.

Fun Facts about Henry:

  • He was born around 1900;
  • Henry weighs about 500 kg;
  • He has 6 wives;
  • Henry has fathered about 10 000 children.

Henry is a man-eater. When he was in the wild, a Botswanan tribe asked Sir Henry, an elephant hunter, to kill Henry. But, when Sir Henry captured him, the tribe reduced his death sentence to a lifetime in captivity believing that would be harder on Henry than a quick death. So, as penance for his crimes, Henry has had to endure captivity.

When my granddaughter visited Henry and was told that prior to his capture, he had eaten several children, she said, “Wow, he’s pretty cool – but those poor children!”

Those poor children indeed!!

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Extract from my Anthology

When I was at school we kept anthologies in which we wrote and appropriately illustrated the poems we had to learn by heart. As an adult I still keep an anthology but now it contains only poems and quotations which mean something to me. I discovered the words below in the early 1980’s but, unfortunately, do not know the name of the the writer. They are perfect to remember when life gets tough and problems seem insurmountable.

“When you think how you’ve been guided,

and helped upon the way,

How fears that really terrified,

died out and passed away;

How, when you felt all hope had gone,

there came a ray of light –

And through the darkening shadow,

You could find your way alright;

When you recall that all through life,

You have been safely led –

It’s treason and weak cowardice,

to fear what lies ahead.”

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Sunrise : RL Pieterse