Sunday, 30 July 2017

South Africa

In June, Alistair and I went on a long-awaited trip to Rocklands in the Cederburg mountains in South Africa. Of course, the climbing was incredible, a totally different rock type to one I'd experienced before and with enough climbing to romp around at that satisfying "hard but only takes a session or two" grade.

But amazing as the climbing was, it was the whole experience that made it. I'd never been there, or anywhere similar before, and the moment we arrived at Cape Town International Airport Alistair and I were just excited about everything.

We went through customs, where a police man dressed in jeans and a t-shirt chatted to us about climbing for a few minutes and then we took our hire car out of CT. As we drove out of the busy, overpopulated, airport side of the city, we watched the buildings fade away into a very different picture. The compounds, electric fences and signs promoting armed response were replaced with farmland, cottages and village schools.

It is amazing to me that there can be such contrast between the type of farmland we were staying on and a big city, although from school geography lessons it shouldn't, I'm sure.

The utterly serene view from where we were staying and our ever loyal Etios
I took with me a small compact camera, and I barely stopped using it. I thought I'd like to blog about some of the beautiful things I saw because the internet always has space for more beautiful things.

One of the things that South Africans experience in winter are absolutely striking sunsets (and sunrises, I'm sure, although I only saw a few). They ranged from calm to sinister, and each one was unique but incredible:

One night climbing session, a hare came very close to where I was sitting. I routed around trying to find my phone, worried that it would scare him off. Instead he hopped ever-closer until I could photograph him right in front of me. Another night, we came inside the house from a braai to find a lizard on our wall, looking like it was mortified to have been caught out. It was much shyer, choosing to hide behind the mug cupboard until we looked away long enough for it to sneak out.

You can just about see the lizard, if you look very closely in the shadows.
In the middle of our trip, we took a journey to a big game reserve to see the big 5. Once gain, this was like nothing I'd ever experienced before. We sat in our safari bus a couple of metres from lions (who couldn't really be bothered with us, boring as we are), and delighted in every cat-like behavior they displayed (since our own domestic cat, Poppy, fits cat stereotypes nicely).

We also got the chance to taste some very nice South African food there - stews, boerewors sausage, billtong and malva pudding. From there, we visited Cape Town to meet some relatives I'd not met before - as cousin of my grandfather and his daughters, about my age.

My family story always fascinates me. A Jewish name, it began in Spain and then moved Rhodes, where it stayed for some time. After this, my branch of the family moved to Rhodesia which later became Zimbabwe My great Granddad Benjamin and his brother Solomon grew up there before the family moved to South Africa. He met an English girl and married, severing family ties other than occasional contact.. He remained in the UK and then when he died some reconnecting took place. We met Solomon's son.

It was amazing to see some family characteristics in people I'd never met - both physical and also mannerisms (although, of course, it is hard to separate nature and nurture because if you go back a few generations you end up with two brothers, who grew up together). They looked after us so well, and showed us Cape Town, and it was a brilliant experience.

Giraffe, being interested or concerned? I'm not sure. 
Seems like it doesn't matter what size the cat is, paws always need washing!

'New' family, against a backdroip

Of course, it goes without saying that the climbing was amazing, so I'll finish this blog post with a couple of photos and videos 😊

Minky, a 7B compression-style roof. Found it hard, as it didn't suit me at all.

Last Day in Paradise - 7C. A steep boulder in a stunning setting.

A romp through the jugs on "Un Petit Hueco dans Rocklands", 7B+