Katsjourney Around the World: 3 January, 2003, Cape Town, South Africa

Fri, 03 Jan 2003 10:39:20 -0600
Hello and Happy New Year 2003.  I have expressed to some of you individually that I have great concerns for the state of our country and the world with the great possibility of war brewing on a couple of different fronts.  I pray for peace in my naïve way here in Cape Town.  I hope my concerns are unfounded.  And I hope the start to your new year is fantastic.

I am still enjoying my time in South Africa as my senses and knowledge continue to have massive amounts of new stimuli daily.

I stopped in my grocery store today…Spar.  It is nice and new and clean. Although it is about one tenth of the size of the grocery stores in the States, it covers all (well most) my needs.  Not today.  I wanted to pick up some salad fixings (lettuce, tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, feta cheese).  I also needed something to throw on the grill for a braii I am attending on Saturday.  The shelves were practically empty.  A few rotten tomatos and some feta.  No veggies, no meats.  Funny we always take it for granted that there will be TONS of anything we want…choices after choices after choices.  It is just not that way in emerging countries.  As cosmopolitan as Cape Town is, these goods are coming from the third world part of the country.  When is the next shipment?  They hope later today or tomorrow. Sure-maybe.  Why am I telling you this?  Appreciate what you have.  It is a gift.

I live Queen Victoria Street.  This is a pretty prestigious address in the City Center/Gardens area of Cape Town.  The German consulate is in my building.  The French and Italian Embassies are just around the corner and next door.  The South African Museum and Planetarium is 30 meters from my doorstep.  The Company Gardens built by the Dutch in the 1600’s are across the street.  The scents of amazing trees and flowers burst towards me every morning.  And yet, there are dozens of homeless people all around my neighborhood.  As I walk one direction out my front door, the scent of last nights stale human urine combines with the scent of grease from the nasty Indian take-away around the corner.  Why am I telling you this?  Don’t take for granted the glorious lives that you have.  The safety you feel walking out your front door is a gift, not a right.

St. Martini Gardens

St. Martini Gardens

Have you heard of Tanzanite?  It is a purplish-bluish stone.  It can only be found at the foot of Mount Kilimanjaro.  It was formed in the earth over two million years ago and only discovered in 1967.  The life span of a tanzinite mine is only 15 years old.  The Africans say that the stone is 1000 times more rare than diamonds.  Doesn’t sound like a bad investment.  Why am I telling you this?  Because I like jewelry and I bought a Tanzanite ring!

But I wear very little jewelry here. I do not want to be a target in any way.  I have done my best to look local (flowing skirts, peasant tops, hippy look) and to go out with groups of people.  I did a walking tour of the town yesterday with my friend Julie and another couple.  Her ATM card was lifted right under her nose in a busy market at the machine in mid afternoon.  We phoned her bank in London and within half an hour the robbers has already maxed out her card. We went to the police station to file a report.  It was a complete mess there.  A woman came in screaming that her husband had just been stabbed. That’s when we got the hell out of dodge. New Years lunch

You see, yesterday was the 2nd of January.  A public holiday unique to Cape Town.  The Cape Malays (mostly Muslim descents from Indian slaves) celebrate with a wild parade that winds through the city and lasts easily 6 or 7 hours!  They call it the “Coon Parade”.   They wear bright costumes and get pretty drunk.  It is madness in the streets as major arteries are cut off for hours.  There are people everywhere…and lots of petty crime, unfortunately.

New years costume

Since my last correspondence I have been busy.  Went to a tiny dinner play at a bakery in Kalk Bay (a tiny town south on the Cape Peninsula on the Indian Ocean side).  It was quite unique.  It holds about 40 people.  You have a nice dinner in the bakery and then you see the play in the theatre attached to it.  It was musical about Morroco during the war with a local acting troupe of 7 people.  At intermission we had dessert and then went back in the theatre to hear tunes from their other plays….very diverse. Play

When we left the dinner tables were all gone and the bakery was in full swing baking bread and pastries for the region.  I like the concept.  The whole thing was about 150 Rand (15 bucks) and it was a delicious meal…and we brought our own wine.

I had a quiet New Years Eve.  I had several invitations, but ended up going to the Cape Grace hotel at the V&A Waterfront for a couple of drinks.  Very quiet, home early.  Can you believe it?  And my friend, Bonni, said you could take the girl out of the party, but not the party out of the girl.

Anyway, the Cape Grace was voted by Conde Naste readers as the number one hotel in the world.  Can you believe it?  It was quite reasonable.  25 Rand for a giant Mojito (like under three bucks!)

The Rand continues to strengthen.  It is in the best shape in at least 10 years.  A couple of years ago it was 12 Rand to the dollar.  Now it is about 8.4.  Yikes, I am losing money daily.  For all the third world problems here, there economy is soaring.  Tourism is up 30%.  It is the new emerging jewel in Africa.  Millions of Euros, Pounds and dollars are pouring into the country with great investments in real estate. And a million Rand will buy you a whole lot here!  Why am I telling you this?  I think it is a great place to invest in.  My neighbor is trying to talk me into buying a guesthouse.  Run it here and live a relaxed life with 8 weeks off a year.

Hmmmm. Tempting.  😉

I am waiting to hear back from my disorganized director at the Red Cross to do some work for the next couple of weeks.  Then I am going with my gay friends to do the Garden Route.  This is the route that runs along the southern part of the coastline along the Indian Ocean.  I hear it is stunning!  Then I will be packing up and leaving for Mauritius.  I can’t believe it.  I made a list of all the things I still want to do before I leave this country.  The list is too long for the calendar.

I have an continuously fascinating love-hate relationship with South Africa. It is an amazing place.  And the journey continues….

I love you all and miss you.  Have a brilliant 2003.





Katsjourney Around the World: 27 December, 2002 Cape Flats, South Africa

: Fri, 27 Dec 2002 06:36:27 -0600
New Years Greetings to my dear family and friends!

Can you believe it is almost 2003?  I’ll probably writing ‘02 for the next three months!  I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas.  Mine was the sad and enriching.

On Monday I did a Township Tour in the Cape Flats.  You may recall this is the not so attractive area far from Cape Town central to where the South African government forcibly moved the blacks and “coloured” people starting as early as the 1950’s.  Interestingly, one of the tests they used was with a pencil stuck in the hair. If the pencil stuck in the hair you were classified as “black”.  If it ran through the hair and fell out, you were “coloured”.  Coloured people have any shade of brown skin (Indians, Malays..the Muslim population, or any mixed breed)…basically non-Europeans.

If you shaved your head, you had to prove you could speak Afrikaans.  If you could get away with it, typically they classified you as coloured, rather than black.

We started at the District Six Museum.  This was once the thriving interracial new friend flats tourneighborhood near central Cape Town with a beautiful view of the ocean.  It has become a symbol  of the horrible results of apartheid. 60,000 people forcibly removed from their homes and jobs.  All homes were bulldozed.  Nobody wants anything to do with it now, so it lies barren.  A rich piece of real estate.

Township homes

Typical housing in the Cape Flats.

There are photos of what happened before during and after the removals.  Complete families were separated because there could be no interracial marriages. From there we went into the Township of Langa.  It is the oldest formal black township.  There we were able to witness first hand the living conditions from the height of apartheid.  Many of the homes were in good condition with little gardens.  However the deeper you got into the neighborhoods and into the informal settlements the more the living conditions seemed unimaginable.

We visited a “herbalist”.  It was like a mad witch doctor out of a movie. The clinic was in a large shack with a dirt floor.  It was so dark and smoky (from incense)  it took several seconds to get my eyes adjusted.  There were clothes lines twisted above our heads in a spider web.  Hanging everywhere were such things I have never seen….roots, dried skins of animal parts, bones, twigs, you name it.  People waited in line to have the herbalist cure them in very unsanitary conditions. It was like another world just 10 kilometers from the cosmopolitan center of Cape Town.

Seriously, this is a witch doctor!

Seriously, this is a witch doctor!

There were several old men sitting on chairs.  I asked if they were in queue to see the herbalist, but the guide told me the were just there visiting to get drunk. You see, the unemployment is incredibly high in the townships…close to 80%. They are so poor and cannot afford public transportation into town to hold down a job.

Some of the women have empowered themselves to make beaded crafts and pottery to sell to tourist on the tours.  We visited a school where they teach some of these skills.  I bought a beautiful plate and some place mats.  Very African! Pottery ladies

We also went by some areas where boys become “men” in certain tribal beliefs.  They are usually around the age of 18 and here they are circumcised without the aid of any sort of medicine.  Can you say ouch? They stay in these small huts made of tarp for about 6-8 months.  Now women are allowed.  Just the boys form the village that nurse their family members and treat them like kings as they heal.  Yes, these things still go on in this world.

Speaking of things that go on…There is a belief among many tribes that if you have HIV or AIDS you can be cured by raping a young white virgin.  I believe it is that sort of lack of education that will be the downfall of this country and many others on the African continent.

Drinking beer on tourLastly we visited a “shebeen”, a local tavern.  It was in a shanty with a family of 12 people living in 2 rooms.  The fathers are all gone and the enterprising mother has starting brewing beer.  Now it is a popular tour stop as well as with the locals.  She has saved enough money with tips to buy a small refrigerator and has perfected a bottling system.  The beer is horrible according to my “white” American palate.  But the locals seem to enjoy it, as there were many drunks in there that afternoon.

It was amazing to see the results of prejudice and ignorance of a Nazi type governmental regime.  Yet, all the people were very friendly and waved hello as we passed them.

On Tuesday I spent Christmas in the Cape Flats with my taxi driver’s family. He is the first person I met in South Africa, giving me a ride from the airport.  I have used his service several times and asked in my forward American way if I could meet his family.  He and his wife invited me over for Christmas Eve.  By township standards, they had a beautiful house.  It had a front yard and several rooms.  Even 2 bathrooms!  They had a little Christmas tree that their daughter had decorated.  They even had a gift under the tree for me.  I was so touched!

Arnold and his wife, Chenza, live in a coloured township.  These are nicer than the black ones.  They are both a mix of Indian (from India), European and native African.  They have a daughter and a son that live with them.Christmas Arnold family

The son just had a daughter with his girlfriend.  They named her Sky’e.  It was fun to have a baby around for the holidays.  I bought her a little teddy bear and a bib with dolphins on it.  Justin, their son, really doesn’t care much for his girlfriend and does not want to marry her.  The baby lives with the mom’s family.  This behavoiur is very typical in the townships.  Thus, you see large families of both moms and daughters having lots of babies with different partners and all living in the same home.  Another cycle that will continue to put a serous strain on the country.

Anyway, we had a nice meal around 3PM.  It was a large cold plate of fruits, drumsticks and little meat pies.  We also had a nice sponge cake dessert with Neapolitan  ice cream.  Their Neapolitan is vanilla, strawberry and mint (green), rather than chocolate.  Then the son took a nap because he partied too much the night before and had another one Christmas Eve.

Arnold is a Baptist minister as well as a taxi driver.  You could see his disdain at his son’s behaviour.  Anyway, the daughter went to get her haircut and Arnold and his wife and I retired to the parlor to drink not-so-tasty wine (I was polite and drank it) and talked about all sorts of things.  All the stuff they say not to talk about.  Politics, religion, social problems, Nelson Mandela, apartheid and Oprah.

Oprah has been visiting South Africa for several weeks.  She is donating millions of $$$ for many causes here, as well as to build a school for girls to better themselves.  Chenza worksoprah mandela school in the social arena as a marriage counselor.  She had horrific stories of physical and mental abuse to women. It was enough to bring tears to my eyes.  Unfortunately, these woman 99% of the time go back into the abusive relationship because it is their only means of support.  Chenza loves Oprah’s message of empowering woman.  Arnold had a much more conservative approach.

It was a fascinating and wonderful afternoon.  We left for home right around dusk.  I was relieved to get out before dark.  A white woman in the townships after dark can be very dangerous.  Just a kilometer away they often hear gunfire from gangs.

On Christmas Day I worked with the Red Cross.  It was not what I was expecting.  Let’s just say the Red Cross here is organized disorganization. Nothing is on time and rarely do you know exactly what is going on.  I was picked up in a van full of volunteers 45 minutes late.  We drove out to the Cape Flats to a boys juvenile home.  These kids are often forgotten by their families, so a visit from other people is so welcomed.

The facility was built in 2000 and was nice.  The kids are there in sort of a holding tank to wait until their cases have made it through the judicial system.  They sleep in cells like a real jail.  There are about 150 of them ranging from 6 years old to 17.

When we arrived it was overwhelming.  They completely surrounded us.  At first I thought it was a hostile attack , but then I realized they were just excited to see us, yelling out, “Merry Christmas”.

We set up a speaker system in the cafeteria and sang songs.  Some of the kids got up and talked or danced.  We also had several of them involved in a little play about Joseph and Mary the night that Jesus was born.  They had so much fun with that.  Another girl (a foreign exchange student from Switzerland) and I were encouraged to make our way around the tables and talk to everyone, since we were special foreign guests. Boys home with boy

Most of the little kids were in there for burglary.  You see, the gangs get them to squeeze in between the burglar bars.  The older kids were in for car hijacking and murder.  Yes, I spent Christmas day with South African murderers too young to even get a driver’s license.  Wow!

I talked on the mike and told them a bit about America and how we celebrate Christmas.  I told them about my journey and asked if anyone spoke Spanish. They don’t, but they all knew “Feliz Navidad” from the song.  So I lead them in a very rousing version of  the song.  Several wanted their photos taken with me so they could hang them in their cells.

Boys home on mike

The main contact with the Red Cross reminded me of Reverend Desmond Tutu.  He gave some very powerful messages in prayer to the boys that it was not too late to change their lives around.  I hope the message sinks in to some of them. What an amazing day.  I will do more work with the Red Cross in January!

Well, that has been the excitement in South Africa.  I hope everyone has an amazing and PEACEFUL new year.




Katsjourney Around the World, 19 December, 2002 Cape Town, South Africa

Thu, 19 Dec 2002 03:20:53 -0600
I just spent an hour on this newsletter and lost it.  Agggh, the internet in a foreign land!!!  I will try to reconstruct…

Greetings All,

I hope everyone is having a brilliant holiday season.  It has been interesting here in South Africa.  Christmas is not nearly as commercialized as in the States.  You are hard pressed to find Christmas lights on houses or Father Christmas (Santa) ringing a bell on the streets.  In the northern hemisphere it is winter and there seems to be much more focus on the spirit of Christmas and what it means.

Santas on bldg

Santas climbing a building near my flat.

Here it is summer.  The kids are out of school for summer holidays.  It is about beach parties and bikinis. I don’t feel the tone of the religious meaning here at all.  Everyone has 3-8 weeks off here, just for the holidays.  And they have a job to return to. Imagine that! I wish the States would adopt this policy.  Such a shame one has to quit their job to see the world or spend a long beach holiday with their family.

Post Net is typically a pretty big business during the “festive season” (as they call it here). You know, shipping gifts, etc. Well, I stopped there a couple of days ago.  Closed from 16 December to 7 January.  Closed?!

I went to a lovely Christmas concert last night at the City Hall.  They had a full choir and the South African orchestra.  Some of the songs were similar to ours, but different melodies.  It helped me get into the Christmas spirit a bit.

Christmas by Candelight

Carols by Candelight event in Stellenbosh Winery

I am amazed at the recent history of the New South Africa. I am going to tour District Six.  That was once a thriving part of Cape Town.  A real rainbow of people.   Then the government started forcibly removing blacks and coloureds from their homes and moved them to the Cape Flats (or the townships).  This was happening in the 1960’s and ‘70’s.  60,000 people were displaced and  their homes were bulldozed.  Can you imagine?

I am in touch with a gentleman who does township tours.  These are many of the displaced black’s homes.  They live in shacks made of cardboard or metal.  As many as a dozen people may live in one room. They have no running water, dirt floors and trash everywhere. This breeds disease and crime. So sad.

In contrast there are mansions dotting the beautiful Cape Town coastline. The wealthy (many are Germans and Brits…real estate is easy for foreigners to buy) and the middle class live behind huge walls and gates topped off with barbed wire and electrical fencing.  They have hidden lives behind the burglar bars, almost oblivious to the underprivileged a few kilometers away.

I have three circles of friends here.  My social calendar the last two weeks was looking frighteningly like life Austin.  I am learning that if you are a social person, you have that type of life anywhere in the world.  Besides the fact that Capetonians love visitors and their city.  They love to show it off.  For everything they have been though, they have such a happy attitude.  There is very little depression and stress.  I think that is due to all the time off!

I have been invited to a few friends houses for Christmas. I have chosen to work for the Red Cross.  I have finally found someone who will take volunteers for less than 6 months.  I will be helping deliver gifts to various children’s homes.  I am really looking forward to it.  We will also be discussing other work opportunities for January!

Anyway, this is a shortened version of the original letter, but I have been on the internet a long time and need to run. If I don’t get and update out before Christmas, I hope that everyone has a very blessed holiday.  I miss you all.



Katsjourney Around the World, 7 December, 2002, Kruger National Park, South Africa

Date: 07 Dec 2002 06:57:58 -0600
Editors note: I had some frustrating formatting issues with this one.

But the entire email is there….

I am back from an amazing safari and solar eclipse trip to Kruger National

Park.  Let me start by saying that I was quite surprised at the lack

of security at the here.  I flew British Airways to Johannesburg

(about a 2 hour flight) and then flew South African Airlink to a

tiny town in Mpumalanga (about 1 hour) near the Skukuza gate of

Kruger.  Not once was I asked to produce a single piece of identification.

A paper ticket was all that was needed.  Even in Johannesburg,

the major metropolitan hub of South Africa.


The conveyor belt for the x-ray machine was a joke.  In fact, I am not

sure it even worked.  Several people at one time could walk through

the metal detector.  I never heard a single person beep while waiting

in line for 10 minutes.  On the way back there was not even an x-ray

machine at the tiny airport in Phalaborwa.  Just get on the plane and go.


I was able to join a tour in progress for the solar eclipse portion.

We spent one night in Kruger National Park.  It is in the far northeast

part of the country boarding Zimbabwe to the north and Mozambique

to the east. Kruger was the man who designated the park as a national

game reserve, I believe back in the 1930’s.  This was to help cut down on

big game hunting and the possible extinction of certain animals.

The minute we drove into the gate there were three giraffes strolling by

the van.  I was scrambling for my camera saying “oh my God” while my

new travel mates were laughing at me (they had already been on a few

game drives previously).  I stayed in a hut at the Skukuza rest camp.

You have to be back in the camp by 6:30 (sunset).  It has a large fence

around it so the animals can’t get in.  Evidently the hyenas are quite fond

of human food….or humans as food!


We did a game drive that evening, one in the morning (5 AM…ouch!) and

another the next afternoon on the way out of the park.  On the morning

one we saw lots of lions just laying in the road keeping cool before the sun

gets really hot.  The highlight was seeing several lionesses and two cubs

right after a kill.  They were taking turns feasting.  the little cubs were

just covered in blood looking quite satisfied.

Safari lions

Happy Lions. check out the cub.

We saw elephants and hippos playing in watering holes shooting water at each other and keeping cool.  At another watering hole we saw a giraffe drinking.  Their knees bend down in a weird disjointed way.  Their necks temporarily cuts off the blood to the head so they don’t pass outgoing so far down.

safari giraffe

The terrain was a bit greener than I expected.  We often saw trees

overturned (evidence of elephants in the neighborhood).  There are a

lot of acacia trees and little scrub kind of bushes.  As we traveled north

through the park, the brush thinned out a bit.  That is when we saw

more zebras and wildebeests.  It is amazing when you see such

magnificent animals in their natural habitat, you will never look at an

animal in the zoo the same way.

Oh, and the termite mounds were as big as houses.  I swear, had to get a

picture because no one would believe me!

safari termite mound

A termite mound as big as a house!

We stayed at a beautiful guest house the next couple of nights in

Tzaneen in the Northern Province.  This area is like Fresno to the US.

Endless citrus farms.  Lush greenery.  Mango trees, avocados, palm

trees and lots of humid heat….and mosquitoes.


I am taking malaria medication.  The kind I have must be taken daily

there and then 7 days after leaving the malaria zone.  We slept in

mosquito netting, as many places don’t have screens.  I talked to

a gentleman on the tour that had malaria.  It is pretty bad news and sure

death if not recognised and treated right away.  Aches, fever, sweats

mixed with chills, dehydration, etc.

safari bed

Mosquito netting is on all the beds here because there are no screens.

We had a 3:30 wake up call to leave by 4 AM for the Total Solar Eclipse on

4 December.  The way it works is that the moon is 400 times smaller than

the sun, but 400 times closer.  So when they cross each other’s path

perfectly, the entire moon completely covers the sun.  The area of this

total eclipse started in Africa on the Atlantic side and crossed through

tiny pieces of Zambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, a piece of the Northern

Province and Kruger(where we were) then on to Mozambique and into the

Indian Ocean.

safari eclipse

Australia was able to see part of it also.  Over the course of only 3 hours

and 21 minutes the moon’s shadow traveled 12,000 kilometers across

land and sea.

The path of totality is very small.  We drove three and one half hours

north to get there.  Our fabulous tour guides reserved a plot on a farm

for us way back in February.  It also included a champagne breakfast after

the eclipse.

It hit us at 8:20 AM and totality only lasted about 30 seconds.  This was in

such a remote part of Africa, that the natives had never seen tourists.

There were easily 100,000 people in there area to see the eclipse.  It was a

complete cluster with 6 hour traffic jams on tiny red dirt roads.  Everyone

had the day off and kids were lining the streets waving and yelling for

everyone to beep their horns.  It was REALLY remote.

Now for the bad news.  I did not get to see the actual eclipse.  There was a heavy cloud cover that everyone was hoping would break.  It did…at about 4 in the afternoon.  So in a misty, rainy remote African farm I was able to experience night time for 30 seconds in the middle of the morning (the sun rises at 4 AM).  That in itself was an amazing experience.  The clouds were low and clinging to the surrounding hills.  The animals and critters were confused as “nightfall” started.  The dusk noises were all around us.  You could see the total darkness roll through the clouds.  It was very eerie. almost like a horrible storm on the horizon, and yet everything was peaceful.  30 seconds later the light happened and the birds started singing as if it were sunrise.  It was very cool.  Unfortunately I never needed my groovy protective eyewear.  Next eclipse, I am there!

safari non eclipse

Confusion. Where exactly is this eclipse??

Next week I am working at a conference with my friend, Ilse, at the university here.  It is called “Peace on the Sea” and is all about preserving the aquatic environment.  I will make lots of great contacts there.  I also hooked up with a cool girl on my tour.  She lives in London, but is originally from Cape Town.  She is here though the holidays.  We are going to check out the Nazareth House together.  This is one of those safe houses for street kids and those abandoned.  I am going to check out volunteer opportunities there.

Record heat in Cape Town this week….38 Celsius….Isn’t that pretty close to 100 farenheit?  I am longing for air conditioning!

Well, enough rambling for one day.  More news from the road soon.



Katsjourney Around the World, 30 November, 2002, Cape Peninsula, South Africa

November 30, 2002

Subject:  Cape Peninsula

Date:  Sat, 30 Nov 2002 03:35:34 -0600

Greetings everyone!

I hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday.  They, of course, don’t celebrate it in South Africa, so it was a regular work day here.  No turkey for me.  But I have seen some of the most beautiful coast line in the world.

You see, I was always confused on my geography.  I though that Cape Town was on the Cape.  The small piece of land that juts out in the far southwest corner of the continent.  Cape Town is actually north of there.  The waterfront of the city (the main tourist area and working harbor) faces north, not south.top of table mt

Anyway, I did a tour around the Cape Peninsula this last week.  If you look on a map, you will see that little piece of land that ends into the oceans. They call it the end of the earth.  It is approximately the point where the wild, frigid waters of the Atlantic meet the calm warm waters of the Indian Ocean.  The weather and the tides in the Atlantic side come from the south (Antarctica) and the Indian Ocean weather and currents come from the warm, northern tropical waters and wrap around the whole south coast of Africa.

What that creates, are some wild, windy weather patterns at the cape. The Atlantic side is somewhat like the northern coast of California. Rugged, mountainous, lots of rocks along the beach.  However, there are also little hidden coves with pristine beaches that look like something in St. Lucia or perhaps Hawaii.  The water is almost Caribbean-like there. Aqua blue and inviting.  The Indian Ocean side is similar, although not quite so rugged.  And the water is very calm in that area called “False Bay”.  They also have lots of sand dunes, like you might find along the coast of Lake Michigan.

All along the way en route are small fishing villages.  Some with harbors, stunning little lighthouses.  One town on the False Bay side has a beautiful, long, white sandy beach with brightly coloured little changing houses.  Opposite the beach is the town of Fish Hoek and then beyond that are the mountains.  Just picture perfect!

Breathtaking rugged coast.

Breathtaking rugged coast.

Dinner there had some of the best seafood I have EVER tasted.  The cream of the crop from both oceans, at their disposal!

The Cape Point itself is a bit of a hike.  There is a car park and then a 25 minute walk uphill to a lighthouse and lookout point.  It was a soft, emotional feeling to stand at the end of the continent and feel the warm embraces of the two oceans on either side and the cool wind on your face. It had a certain peaceful magic about it.  I didn’t want to leave.

The Cape is a national park and everything there is protected.  There was a GIANT sea turtle in the road and baboons everywhere.  At first I didn’t see any baboons and thought I was getting gypped.  Then suddenly down the road to the Cape of Good Hope (just to the west of Cape Point), there were dozens of baboons everywhere.  They are mean and move quickly.

Trust me, they are MEAN.

Trust me, they are MEAN.

They will steal food, your purse, even your camera!  Had to keep the windows up, but got a few good pix.

There is also a breeding ground on the peninsula for South African penguins. You wouldn’t expect them to be there, where the the weather is so warm (it never snows), but there they are.  They are a smaller variety than the ones from Antarctica.  They call them the “jackass” penguins for the donkey-like calls they make.  However, when I saw them they were pretty quiet.  You kind of walk through this little town to get to them on the beach.  Hundreds and hundreds of them were just hanging out on the beach and around the boulders by the water.

The sweet jackass penguins.

The sweet jackass penguins.

The landscape is amazing.  So is the flora.  There is a contrast of palm trees and pine trees.  Tall pines with only bunches of needles on top in clusters.  Cacti, eucalyptus like plants, and oh, did I mention the palm trees?  They also have these massive trees that flower lavender and vibrant magenta in the spring.  So I am here at a perfect time to see all this beauty.

But the beauty of the land and the warmth of the people is often overshadowed by the social issues of crime and AIDS.  They are real problems here and most unfortunate.  However, please don’t worry about me.  I am using safe judgment and am being careful.

Stellenbosh. Wine capitol of South Africa.

Stellenbosh. Wine capitol of South Africa.

I also did a tour of the wine route.  For those of you that don’t know, the wines here are fantastic.  Just not very many imported to the States.  I will save that for another newsletter. Monday I leave for a safari in Kruger National Park (about 3 hours flight northeast of here) and there I will see the TOTAL solar eclipse on 4 December.  The first (and possibly) only time in my life to see it!  Another newsletter…

I also wanted to send out a special thanks to several of my friends that have helped connect me with people here.  The natives are so warm and welcoming.  I am going to a braai (traditional S. African BBQ)tonight at my new friend Ilse’s house (thanks Chris & Caroline).  I can’t wait to see what it is all about.  Then I am going to another one next week at Verwey and Estee’s house (thanks Jim!).

Lots of love to all of you.


Follow up photo:

The brai at Isle's with her neighbors.

The brai at Isle’s with her neighbors.  Unbelievable view from her home in Llandudno looking at sunsets over the Atlantic Ocean.

Katsjourney Around the World: 19 November, 2002 Cape Town, South Africa

November 19.2002

Greetings everyone,

I am back on the road again.  I had a great visit to the States.  I was able to clear up the legal matters, refinance a rental property, get my downtown condo leased, saw the Texas Longhorns win in Nebraska, and best of all, see my wonderful niece, Rebecca, and her husband, Andrew, tie the knot in Las Vegas.  He is a Marine, so please say a prayer for him as he is shipped out to eminent danger during this political unrest in the Middle East.

I recently arrived in Cape Town, South Africa. My route was through Atlanta, down to Johannesburg and then to Cape Town.  A total of well over 24 hours travel time.  The Atlanta to Jo-burg leg is over 15 hours air time.  One of the longest flights in the world.

I loved my bed!

I loved my bed!

I have a groovy little flat on Queen Victoria Street in a great part of town.  It is an efficiency on the 9th floor with a balcony overlooking part of the city and Table Mountain.  The floors are parquet with ceramic tile floors in the bath and kitchen.  In some ways it is very modern and cool (the furnishings are retro and the big white bed is wonderful), and in some ways it is not so cool.  The plumbing is ancient (but I am lucky to have hot water 24 hours a day), it is rather loud, there is no heat or air con, and there is a bit of roach problem.  But I love it!

My kitchen (and bar)!

My kitchen (and bar)!

The view of the city bowl and Table Mountain from my balcony.

The view of the city bowl and Table Mountain from my balcony.

I am getting to know the neighborhood a bit.

Long Street Neighborhood around the corner.

Long Street Neighborhood around the corner.

The streets are narrow and European with a mix of African everywhere.  There are some lovely gardens right across the street from my building and the German Consulate is in my building.  I am not sure if that is a good thing or rather dangerous.  Oh, I also have a swimming pool!  Although the high this time of year is about 20 Celsius, low 70’s.  But inland is much warmer.  After all, it is summer here!

I am going to meet a friend at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront tomorrow. It is supposed to be a really beautiful area with lots of shops and restaurants for the tourists.  Perhaps I can find a few Christmas presents there!  I am also planning on taking a couple of day tours to feel comfortable with the terrain.

I mentioned to my cab driver from the airport that I was interested in doing some volunteer work with AIDS education.  It just so happens that his wife works in social services.  She is doing some research for  me to see what I can do for them.  I also stopped at St. George’s Cathedral at the end of my street.   The have a soup kitchen that always need help.  I think I may check that out soon.  Although one of the ladies mentioned I might want to wear an armor suit there.

Yes, the crime is bad here.  (crime stats). It is such a shame.  I have a TV in my flat with 5 channels!  4 in English!  I caught the news last night and there was a story about a priest who was murdered in his house 2 days ago all for the church collections that equaled perhaps about 2000 Rand (US$200).  He was a priest that works in an orphanage working with kids to help literacy.  They showed all the kids who loved him crying.  Broke my heart.

That is it for now.  The internet cafes here are about 10 times as much as they were in South America, so my updates may be a bit shorter.  Just wanted to let everyone know I am doing great!

My address until 31 January 2003:

St. Martini Gardens

My building on Queen Victoria Street: Saint Martini Gardens

Kathleen Evans

Flat 909 St. Martini Gardens

Queen Victoria Street

Cape Town   8001

South Africa

I do have a pre-paid phone in my flat.  I am not sure if I have downloaded the pre-paid vouchers correctly, but it is supposed to accept incoming calls.  VERY expensive.  Anyway, if you are calling from the States, here is the number:


Outside US code + South Africa code + Cape Town city code + local #

Keep me updated in your part of the world.



Katsjourney Around the World: 27 October, 2002 Puno, Peru


Peruvian blankets for sale with the Andes Mountains in the background.

Peruvian blankets for sale with the snow capped Andes Mountains in the background.

Greetings everyone!

Okay, let me start by saying, you really have to want to see Lake Titicaca to get to Lake Titicaca (sound familiar?)!  The options from Cusco include a 12 hour train ride or an eight hour bus ride.  Flights?  There are none. Unless you want to fly back to Lima and then to Arequipa and then take the flight to Juliaca (45 minutes from Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca)…and they fly there only twice a week.

Yes, I know Titicaca sounds like a bad word.  Or two bad words!  Titi actually means “Puma” and caca means “strong”.  Strong Puma in Inca.  The puma and the condor played an important part of history in Inca civilization.  Carvings of the puma were found in all of the ancient Inca temples and in their pottery.

lake titicaca wowLake Titicaca is on the border of south eastern Peru and western Bolivia. It is the largest lake in South America.  Even more interesting is that it is the highest navigable lake in THE WORLD.  It is nestled in the mountains around 13,000 feet.  There are a couple of higher lakes, but those have no fish in them (because they cannot get oxygen that high) and there is no boat traffic on those lakes.

ruins to punoLucy and I opted for the Inca Express bus to the town of Puno.  It actually turned out to be quite pleasant.  We had several stops along the route: one to an old cathedral, one at Inca ruins in a small village  (pilgrims from all over the Inca region used to go to the temple there with offerings) and lastly we stopped at a museum with well preserved Inca carvings and pottery.

We even had lunch along the way at a neat little restaurant.  The bus driver pulled into this one-horse town with dirt roads and and the now common sights of poverty…barefoot kids, packs of dogs, shanties.  I thought to myself, “There is really a restaurant in THIS town suitable for eating?”.

Well the next thing you know, the bus driver is backing the bus through a skinny gate into a lovely, walled courtyard. It was like the whole little town was in black and white and then suddenly there was this beautiful little courtyard in vibrant colors.  Inside there was a restaurant with a traditional Peruvian buffet…chicken, beef, rice, lentil beans, green pasta…colorful tablecloths, music, a little souvenir shop and

Feeding an alpaca at the restaurant.

Feeding an alpaca at the restaurant.

alpacas and llamas roaming in the grassy area inside the courtyard.  They are friendly animals with very sweet little faces.  I fed a couple of them there. It seems like Peru (and much of South America) is notorious for beautiful little surprises behind the walls and gates. 

park to puno

The bus rolled into Puno, the little town on Lake Titicaca on the Peruvian side.  We were dropped off at the two star Sillustani Hotel.  Kind of a scary place and true to the hotel inconsistencies we were experiencing on this tour.  The hotel was located downtown on a dirt road with beggars and harassing shoe shine kids right outside the door.  The streets were loud. The hotel smelled, the carpet was raggedy, there was a constant banging noise and there was a fine pack of snarling dogs in the barrio outside our room window.  If the solo bare light bulb in the room and the dirty towels was not bad enough…the toilet overflowed and we could not be sure to have hot water 24 hours a day.

Well, Lucy said this kind of room was fine for my backpacking days in college, but this was not going to be one of her last memories of Peru, where she was afraid to walk out the front door!  Adios Hotel Sillustani.

She had the front desk call the agency in Lima and find a better room in Puno. I was secretly thrilled as I was suffering from a bout of altitude sickness, having climbed another several thousand feet.  I was thinking that the banging in the barrio and the pack of dogs was not going to do much for my splitting head.  Not enough coca tea to help this one!

The swanky Hotel!

The swanky Hotel!

From two star to five star we went.  Across town to the Hotel Libertador right on the shores of the lake perched on a mountain with a security gate. We walked into the the immense, brightly gleaming marble lobby and the gentleman behind the counter said with a smile, “We have been expecting you”.  Word travels fast from Lima!  What a pleasure at that very moment to be traveling with mom and her “fat wallet”! 🙂

A very happy mom with her high thread count sheets and a chocolate on her pillow1

A very happy mom with her high thread count sheets and a chocolate on her pillow!

The next morning we took a boat ride to the Uros Islands on Lake Titicaca. The Uros people are said to be one of the oldest races still in existence on earth.  What is really fascinating is that these islands are made of reeds and they FLOAT!  No kidding.  They are made with layers and layers of native reeds that grow in the lake.  The islands are probably 4 feet thick.  As the bottom layers start rotting, they just put down new layers on top…about every three weeks to once a month.

Some of the islands are small and only have 5-6 houses on them, also made of reeds.  These “houses” consist of one room.

A peek inside one of the homes.

A peek inside one of the homes.

Basically for sleeping.  They have solar panels, so there is a light bulb…and some even have a TV!  No running water, to toilets.  However, they are just steps away from the lake with fresh water.

Homes on one of the islands.

Homes on one of the islands.

To cook, they use a large flat stone over the reeds and they burn reeds on top of the stone for the pot to cook.   You can peel back the reeds and eat them.  They really taste like eating a damp sponge but we were told they are a good source of fluoride and iodine.  The Uros survive on that, birds, and fish from the lake.  It is really a hard life.  The weather is often chilly, but it rarely snows there because the lake keeps the air warm in the winter, despite the high altitude.

Fish drying for later consumption.

Fish drying for later consumption.

There are about 45 Uros islands.  The larger ones have schools.  The kids actually take reed boats over to the school.  The schools on the islands only go to eighth grade.  After that, they go to high school in Puno. We rode a reed boat from one island to the next for about 10 Nuevo Soles (US$3.50).  Probably a rip-off, but definitely a once in a lifetime boat ride!

On a reed boat with our captain and her son.

On a reed boat with our captain and her son.

It has been an amazing journey!

Other notes:

In my entire time in Peru, I only saw about 10 women with short hair.  The traditional way to wear the hair is in two long braids.  But even the modern younger girls had very long hair.  I asked one of our guides and he said the tradition is to never cut their hair except once in a lifetime.  That is when the girl gets married.  She braids that cut hair and gives it to her husband who wears it as a belt for protection.  I didn’t see any men wearing “hair belts”, so I suppose it is just on the wedding day…or honeymoon.

There is an election coming up in November in Peru.  Every town and district had “mayoral” races.  What is really annoying is that they have 12 and 13 candidates.  How can anyone even get a majority vote?  There are billboards everywhere.  In the small towns (and the cities)they paint walls and houses!

One of the political parties spreading their propaganda.

One of the political parties spreading their propaganda.

Can you imagine a picture of Governor Rick Perry painted across the entirety of your house?!  They also have those giant loudspeakers on their campaign cars spouting off all kinds of political propaganda as they drive slowly down the streets.  It reminds me of the big loudspeaker that the Blues Brothers strapped to the roof of their police car when they were trying to get everyone to go to their concert.

I have to go back to the USA for some legal issues, so I will (sadly) miss out on my Chile leg of the Journey. However I will back on the road in a couple of weeks.  More later from South Africa.

Lots of love,