Tom with Reggie and Robert – boys who used to cycle to school together
“So have you got your land legs or are you still swaying?” “What’s been your favourite country?” “Do you ever get scared out there?” These are a small sample of the questions we faced after arriving in South Africa and becoming landlubbers for five glorious weeks.
On arrival in Durban Adina’s two sea-dwellers dropped everything and made an immediate dash for the Royal Natal Yacht Club where they ate the most enormous breakfast and then took a walkabout in a happy state of delirium. “Immigration have been to your boat twice, can you please call them?” Whoops, must check-in. But no hassle – welcome to warm and friendly South Africa.
Catching up with Airi and little Ichika
And so we set to spending some time ashore and getting social. In Durban we met up with Linzi and her husband Mark with whom Tom went to university and who hosted us for our first superb ‘braai’. Note one, South Africans don’t do small portions, they just don’t; everything comes large, real large. Next up, the lovely Airi with whom Susie went to school – we spent an afternoon catching up and playing on board Adina with Airi’s daughter. Then a reunion with twins Reggie and Robert Makepeace who Tom spent time with not only at primary school but high school and university too. Note two, South Africans are incredibly hospitable and will go out of their way for you. Reggie and Robert – perfect gentleman and good fun as ever.
Game viewing with Tom’s father at Ingwelala
We’re just warming up. Next it was off to Johannesburg where Tom’s father has retired. We’re struck by all the development. Note three, South Africans love shopping malls; they are everywhere, literally everywhere.
Back to the landlubbers edition, we’ve signed up for dental checks, opticians and full medicals kindly organised by Tom’s sister and Tom’s father runs us here, there and everywhere to make the appointments. First the dentist – Tom needs to return for root canal surgery, Susie’s teeth are all pretty, Susie 1 – 0 Tom. Off to the optician and Tom has a tear on his cornea, oh dear, Susie needs a new prescription, it’s a draw Susie 2 – 1 Tom. Finally a long-winded full medical – Susie has more lung capacity than the normal human but she’s off for x-rays which reveal a pinched nerve which requires a neck brace. Final health score Susie 2 – 2 Tom. It has been nearly four years so we’re not doing too badly. Cough, splutter.
Elephants – Ingwelala
Playtime comes and we head off to Ingwelala, a private game reserve where Tom’s father has a holiday home or rondavel as they call them here. Susie states she wants to see a giraffe first. She gets her wish a few minutes after entering the park but nearly causes Tom’s father to crash the car as she shouts out “Giraffe!!!!” and then squeals out with delight and laughter. A blissful few days followed in which we relaxed and enjoyed spotting African animals on our morning and evening drives. We seemed to have done ok as Tom’s father says we are good spotters. Can we come back another time please?
The family dinner – Richard hits the big 70 and still going strong
An international airport and we find ourselves on an aeroplane to London. It’s rather exciting. At Susie’s parents’ house we have our timetable on the kitchen wall – morning, afternoon, evening and where we are sleeping each night. On your marks, get set – Go! It was all good fun, it was ever so good to see some of the friends and family we were able to. Everyone was overly kind and welcoming and generous; we loved it and we ended up regretting that it was such a dash and that the time was just too short.
We were plain curious to see how London would have changed. Technology has moved on, there are new cars, but bar that it’s still the same good old London we love so much. True that after years at sea it seems ever so crowded, people do live on top of each other. It is cold.
Susie’s father enjoyed his 70th and we enjoyed doing a few things with Susie’s brother and the Senior Plumes who spoil us and it all just feels natural and like home.
Susie and Shelley sipping Sipsmith – a very fine gin.
Back to South Africa, a brief stop in Johannesburg to see where Tom spent his childhood and to meet some more friends. Susie is loving it as it gives her a real insight to the country, she’s even trying things like vetkoek.
Back to Natal, we’re still sprinting and we stop in at St.Lucia and Hluhluwe to do some more wildlife spotting. Finally back to Adina, she’s been given a good spring clean while we were away and we immediately set to getting her ready as a weather window has appeared and we need to get to Cape Town.
Back to reality. The chasing of weather windows which has been the story of our entire Indian Ocean crossing this year. And if there is one spot you need to get it right it’s South Africa. The wind and seas here are notorious and, as all sailors say, positively wild. It’s the third and final episode in our “Trilogy of Tough Passages”. Seven yachts dash out of Durban, five of us pull into East London nervous of weather forecasts that keep changing and showing potential trouble. Two take the gamble and keep moving on and end up doing well. It’s just the way it goes, sometimes you get lucky, sometimes you don’t, you can’t beat yourself up, you be happy for them and you wait your turn. Another gamble comes up and two of us take it making one hop to Port Elizabeth. It works – like we say…
Mental note not to take Adina anywhere near hippos
So here we are now in Port Elizabeth. We’re tied up on a fishing boat jetty. People are curious and friendly and want to chat. In fact that’s been the highlight of our South African trip so far. Everyone has been so welcoming and friendly. People you’ve never met before ask what you are doing then offer to give you lifts, help you in any way they can. A policeman even gave us a lift to get fuel. These South Africans are seriously lining themselves up for the friendliest country award.
That’s us up-to-date. We enjoyed being landlubbers for five weeks. Special thanks to both of our families for all they did for us, for helping us, treating us and putting up with our rushing around. To our dear friends, it was ever so wonderful to see you, thank you for all you did for us – it was a breath of fresh air, you make life ever so much more fun and positive.
Susie’s favourite African animal – a giraffe
We are left with 425 nautical miles to Cape Town – three days of exhilarating sailing moving from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Please, those who control the weather, let us get there. We’re ever so fed-up of weather windows, we’d like to play ‘It’s Christmas Time’ and sing ‘Jingle Bells’ with everyone else.