….Oh wait, a half-marathon was never ON the bucket list. Somehow Bionic Bjørn talked/challenged me into this running madness.
We have added a new photo section on our website showing some highlights from South Africa, to be found here. We travelled to the southern tip of the continent in December 2006, and would like to share some impressions of one of the most beautiful and diverse countries on the planet.
South Africa is hands down the dominant economy in Southern Africa (in fact, it’s the 20th biggest economy in the world), and it also boasts the biggest population of 43 million – although as much as a third of the population is thought to be illegal immigrants from other African countries. There are eleven (!) official languages. Literacy rates are very good at almost 90% and it has 60% of Africa’s phones. However, life expectancy is only 42 years, amongst other things due to high infant mortality rates and HIV/AIDS, and it is stipulated that the country will have 10 million fewer people in 2050 than it does today! GDP per capita is roughly on par with Russia and Croatia, however its income equality is amongst the worst in the world (the richest 10% of the population are 33 times richer than the poorest tenth).
As we arrived in the African city of Cape Town things felt rather surreal as the city does not look or feel anything like the Africa we know… The city is simply very modern and very Westerns in almost every conceivable way. Coming from many consecutive months spent in Malawi, we didn’t even know where to start. Suffice it to say South African cuisine is amazing. Probably more than any other national cuisine it is fusion. All South African dishes are a mix of African, Asian and European flavours!
Walking amongst African penguins on Boulders Beach was a definite highlight. The penguins were cool as cucumbers and couldn’t care less about all the tourists and camera lenses scattered all over the place. They are not the most gracious of animals on the beach, but apparently they can reach speeeds of 40 km/h in the water! Note the picture of the hyrax – a small herbivorous mammal that only lives in Africa and the Middle East. Bjørn saw and photographed his first hyrax here! Funnily enough, the only mammal it is relatively closely related to is the elephant! They may share an ancestor in the distant past and they do share characteristics such as toenails, excellent hearing, good memory and high brain functions.
We also visited the vineyards in the affluent and beautiful wine districts of the Cape Area. We stayed in the mountainous Franschhoek and had good wine and fantastic food for very reasonable money! Shame about that very special bottle of wine Bjørn bought for his mum and managed to take back to Europe only for it to be confiscated by customs officials in Amsterdam…
Amazingly, Cape Town has a more than 1,000 meter tall mountain within its city borders. We left that hard hike up Table Mountain to our very last day. Nice to walk off some of that lekker South African cuisine!
For Bjørn, the minivan journey from Johannesburg to Maseru, Lesotho, to visit Jesper was a definite highlight too (this happened before Kim arrived). Squeezed in between to African mamas for six hours he was not necessarily very comfortable but he felt a lot safer than one usually does in a pimped 1985 Toyota Hiace with 15 passengers and suitcases stacked up to eye level travelling African roads at 120 km/h.
The world’s eyes will be on South Africa in two years’ time when they host the 2010 World Cup!
Etter å ha laget en meget improvisert gløgg i San Francisco forrige helg med kun fire ingredienser (appelsin, kanel, vin og sprit), som var overraskende drikkelig, må det nok bedre saker til for å imponere kona og svigersene. Så nå har en lake med 10-15 ingredienser (inkludert nellik, muskat og blåbær) stått og godgjort seg i to døgn!
Enda norskere blir jula med norskbygd pepperkakehus. Byggematerialene er riktignok ikke norske, men oppskrifta er. Og det ble gjort for en pris. Det øker ikke akkurat byggetempoet når malene må konverteres fra centimeter til tommer, melet fra gram til kopper, fløten fra dl til ounces og temperaturen fra Celsius til Fahrenheit…
Kim og Bjørn Magne laget deigen sammen, Kim hjorde det meste av kjevlinga og BM konstruerte et improvisert vedskjul. Byggematerialene ble for øvrig meget mørke, da amerikansk sirup er langt mørkere enn den norske!
Dag to fikk vi hjelp av Kims søsken, Jon og Mandy. Jon lagde mannen som står i døra og drakk gløgg – en gløgg som ikke smakte så himmelsk som den burde med tanke på alt arbeidet. Mandy hadde med seg proft glasurutstyr og da var det bare å bygge hus!
Legg merke til mannen som står i stigen. Han holder på å feste lysene på taket. Det er også fugler på taket og en hund ved vedskjulet. En ekte norsk skigard måtte også til. Så nå er alt klart og julenissen kan bare komme på kjerringa!
Last weekend Bjørn headed off to San Francisco to visit Doctor Nick. Nick and I were best mates when living in Bruxelles 2003-5, and considering the number of dubbels, trappists and other exquisite Belgian beers and frites we have consumed together it is remarkable that we still look as young and handsome as we do… 😉
So it was only appropriate that already the first night Nick took me to a Belgian place to have some – guess what – beer and fries. On Saturday Nick I went for a long walk along Ocean Beach, where we watched some surfers and admired the vistas. That night we prepared Nick farewell-party (he’s leaving the US just before xmas) including making a deadly gløgg of only four ingredients (oranges, ginger, red wine and vodka!).
On Sunday Nick and I and Sarah rented a car and went down to Año Nuevo which is the home of the biggest elephant seal breeding colony in the world. December is the fighting season (obviously they fight over ladies), and we were hoping to see some blood, but that was limited to some sparring amongst the younger males (the older ones can reach 2,500 kilos!).
They are very lazy, yet impressive animals that have made a comeback after finding themselves on the brink of extinction. Today, there are more than 160,000 elephant seals while some 100 years ago they were down to 10- 100 individuals.
Thanks for a great stay, Nick and good luck fighting the tobacco lobby cretins in your new job in Heidelberg, Germany!