A B&B Review

I’m not in the habit of reviewing the places where I stay for work because firstly – this is not really a travel blog and secondly, I stay in so many places that I’ve become a bit blunted to the finery and treat of staying in a Bed and Breakfast. For me, mostly, it’s a place away from home, where I’m forced to stay a night because of work.
I’m tired, generally starving and not in the mood to sleep in someone else’s bed.
Sleeping out is an ordeal that I try to get over as soon as possible.
Big was my surprise then – when I stayed at a really nice place.
The lodge’s name was Maruntwane and it’s situated between Groot Marico and Zeerust in our country’s lovely North West Province. It’s a hunting farm during the winter and as far as I can gather, quite a popular vacation retreat. I’ve driven past it a couple of times on my Zeerust trips, but I’ve never had the pleasure of staying there till this week.
The first thing that I liked about the lodge was that they helped me in a pinch. I had not known about my trip till the day before I actually had to leave. Frantically, I had called up my usual Zeerust haunts, only to find out that they were all booked full for some kind of military function. (Booked full in Zeerust doesn’t happen often…). They couldn’t help me, so I phoned up the information centre in Groot Marico. After I explained my predicament, the woman immediately referred me to Maruntwane. I didn’t waste any time to book my night, told the people that I’ll be there after four and went about my day with the usual touch of anticipation that always accompanied staying in a new place (you never know what you’re going to get).
On Wednesday I sailed into their farm well past five with the sun just setting around the Zeerust hills. I was in a good mood I have to admit, because my trip had been successful and the day had been beautiful. For once, I was in a bit of a holiday mood – (despite the fact that I had gotten up at 4am).
The owners greeted me kindly and warmly and, before I knew what was truly happening, they had me sit down for a meal with them and gave me a room in the family house so that I didn’t have to stay in the chalets on my own.
They showed understanding for my demanding job, showed genuine concern whenever I coughed and allowed me to watch the news with them. This sounds silly but it made me feel at home and it made me relax. I have learned in my years of traveling, that there is nothing better than human concern and interest at the end of a difficult day. The simple pleasure of sitting down for a meal with someone is luxury you only learn to appreciate when you’ve spend countless meals eating on your own.
The room that I was given was clean, the bedding warm and fresh – the mattress firm. I had a massive bathroom all for myself and despite the fact that the owners had a pack of Jack Russels, they never barked once (nor did they act in any way that dogs normally do that’s inappropriate).
I slept better there than I had in any Bed and Breakfast before. The farm was quiet, the area beautiful and I’d imagine that if I had kids, they’d have been more than satisfied with the space available to them.
If you’re in Zeerust, and you want a place to stay for the night – go to Marunthwane. It was worth it.

Cricket. Not for South Africa apparently.

I love cricket.

I’m not a sports fan in general but I have to admit, that cricket is among my favorite things to watch. I like one day matches, 5 day matches, 20.20 matches. I like provincial cricket, international cricket and even school cricket if it’s shown on television. But, lately – I’m starting to dislike South African cricket.
On Friday, our boys lost again in a match that they should (in my honest opinion) have won. If this happened occasionally, that would be fine but lately – it’s been happening quite a lot.
I don’t know what’s wrong with our boys. Is it politics? Their too high salary? Their age? Experience? Egos? Non existing egos? What?!
How is it that they can’t handle the pressure? They are professional sportsmen! They are supposed to be able to handle the pressure. They are certainly paid enough to handle the pressure. Yet, they make silly and stupid mistakes. I don’t even know why we have first batsman in the game that can actually bat because they almost always get struck out for under 10 balls, leaving it up to the end bowlers to chase the high totals. Hello. They are bowlers. They can’t do centuries. They can’t even reach 50 more often than not and they are not supposed to.
Because they are bowlers.
Breathe boys, breathe. Don’t try to hit a 6 on the first ball. Get your eye in. Don’t take chances. Pace yourself! Yes, it might be ‘one day matches’ but there won’t be any more if you blow it. Especially not if you blow it in the quarter final of the World Cup.
The worst thing is – the world is starting to notice. I found this on a website called http://www.sify.com. It’s an american run website and they are actually talking about a sport that isn’t american.
That is something to comment on…
Here is a perfectly good list of all the times our boys have not made it. Bizarely. Stupidly. Accidentally. But, still – they haven’t made it.

I ask you – will we ever have a world cup trophy in my favorite sport?

From http://www.sify.com:

Dhaka, March 26 (IANS) South Africa’s worst fears came true Friday as they once again failed to win a World Cup knock-out match since making their debut in the mega event in 1992.

It was rain in 1992, the brilliance of Brian Lara in 1996, a moment of madness in 1999, rain and madness in 2003 and Thursday at the Sher-e-Bangla they again succumbed to pressure. They were the losing semi-finalists in 1992, 1999 and 2007, and got eliminated in the quarter-finals in 1996.

The following is the list of South Africa’s bizarre losses in the World Cup knock out stage:

1992 World Cup (semi-final): Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, March 22

England 252/6 (45 overs) vs. South Africa 232/6 (43 overs). Result: England won by 19 runs (rain rule).

The match ended in a controversial fashion as rain interruption in the last ball of the 43rd over left South Africa with an impossible target of 21 runs from one ball. The scoreboard and the TV coverage incorrectly displayed South Africa needing 22 off 7 balls, then the actual requirement of 21 off one ball. Chris Lewis bowled the last ball with slow medium pace and Brian McMillan took a single with a push to midwicket.

1996 World Cup (quarterfinal): National Stadium, Karachi, March 11

West Indies 264/8 in 50 overs. South Africa 245 all out in 49.3 overs. Result: West Indies won

Brian Lara stirred a controversy after their shocking loss to debutant Kenya saying he was happier to have lost to a team of blacks than a team of whites. The remarks were directed at the South Africans and in the match he talked to the Proteas in the language he knows best, an innings of 111 off 94 balls that dashed the South African hopes again.

1999 World Cup (semi-final): Edgbaston, Brimingham, June 17

Australia 213 in 49.2 overs. South Africa 213 in 49.4 overs. Match tied but eventual champions Australia progressed to the final because they finished higher in the super six table than South Africa.

South Africa needed nine off the final over and Lance Klusener belted the first two deliveries for four. South Africa now needed one to win. The third ball went straight to a fielder, Allan Donald was already half way down and would have been run out if Darren Lehmann had hit the stumps. The fourth wasn’t much of a shot either, but Klusener said ‘yes’. Donald disagreed and didn’t move, but as Klusener passed him, Donald realised he had to go, but it was too late.

2003 World Cup: Playing hosts, South Africa failed to get past the group stage.

2007 World Cup (semi-final): Beausejour Stadium, Gros Islet, St.Lucia, March 25

South Africa 149 all out in 43.5 overs. Australia 153/3 in 31.3 overs. Result: Australia won by seven wickets.

South Africa collapsed to 27/5 inside 10 overs and never recovered from that. They failed to cope with the pace of Glenn McGrath (3/18) and Shaun Tait (4/39). It turned out to be an easy win for the Australians.

Autumn in the South

I’ve been noticing for the past week that the weather has been slowly but surely changing. Our days are still hot, but there’s a chill in the night and mornings which wasn’t there before. With it being the 1st of March, we’re officially entering my second most favourite season.
I am a winter baby. I was born in the winter and I believe that that fundamentally altered my DNA, imprinting me with a comfort zone of below 21C. That’s about 70F for all you Americans here. I believe that it’s one of the reasons I was so happy in the UK, because I was very rarely really hot. The summers were mild and the evenings always cool (bare in mind, I lived in Wales and Scotland. London’s a different kettle of fish).
I am at my happiest if I can walk around with long sleeved shirts and jeans – the perfect attire for autumn.
Autumn is always a time that signals change. Abroad, leaves start turning the colour of gold and different reds, trees start shedding their leaves and some of the bird species start gathering so that they can start on their long trek to hotter climates. I will never be one of them and heaven forbid that reincarnation ever pulls that joke on me.
This season gives me hope, hope that things will change for the better. That there is always another place to go to if you are uncomfortable. You have to put in extra effort to get there naturally, (the birds don’t take an airplane to Europe) but it will work out for the better. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve found myself holding onto that and feel that things will move towards a goal and equilibrium.
They have to, because it’s Autumn.

There’s Rain in Africa

I felt a little bit exposed to the elements this week.
I live in a summer rainfall area of South Africa and normally, we don’t really have rain until the 10th of October. But, this year – we didn’t really have rain at all until the 16th of December. And since then, it’s been coming down in buckets.
I’m not complaining about the rain, naturally. If I complain about that, then I am never allowed to complain about the fact that it doesn’t rain ever again. I love rain and on the odd occasion, I even like getting caught in the rain. There’s something invigorating about standing in the pouring sheets of water. The rain drops are cool and sweet, much better than any normal shower.
Of course, I do not appreciate having rain in my car…

I’m taking a few steps back.

I started work again on Tuesday after having the week off between Christmas and New Years. My first day was spent in the office, catching up with beginning of the year paperwork and assignments that I neglected to do before I took my leave. Wednesday I decided to start my traveling again to the chicken farms where I do my business. I drove to an area relatively close to us (about two hours drive) and I could tell right off that it was going to be a very wet day as the thick white clouds followed me wherever I went.

The roads were also in a terrible condition (though I should add that they were bad to begin with). As things are in my country, the tax payer’s money rarely reaches its designation and our municipalities do not see the value of fixing roads. (They’d much rather all drive shiny cars). I took these pictures coming back from my appointments to show to my work as proof why I had been late for more than half of my appointments. My traveling time was almost doubled because I had to constantly stop, dodge pot holes, get off the side of the road, crawl through some poor farmer’s maize field and then finally get onto the road again only to be held up by some poor soul who needed to change a tire… It was harrowing to say the least and not for the first time, I found myself wishing that I had a 4×4, not a small little hatchback Opel Corsa Lite.

But, I came past all the literal pit falls in my road safely, without even loosing one of my tires, a feet very few people accomplished that day. If you look at the photos, I would like to point out that most of the road looked like this

I was pretty fed up with driving by the time I turned home, but Mother Nature was not done with me yet. The clouds, which had disappeared over lunch time, came back with a vengeance and pretty soon, dark clouds stole my sunshine and anointed me with more rain. This would’ve been fine if I had that 4×4 but sadly, my tiny little Corsa isn’t very rainproof. Or rain friendly. In order to keep my windows from fogging up, I have to keep one window open. I don’t mind getting wet all that much, but this was no ordinary storm. Before long, I was driving (slowly) through knee deep water, keeping my eyes fixed on the car in front of me, trying to take comfort in the fact that the car behind me was a jeep and could pull me out of the mud if I sailed into any trouble. To add to my discomfort, a truck stormed by me, sending a wave of muddy brown water into my lap because I had to keep my window open…

Again, I’m not complaining about the rain. For all the flooding that’s been happening (which wouldn’t have happened if people build things correctly and kept nature’s water ways in mind when they put up settlements…) it’s been a blessing. On the farm where I keep my horse we’ve really had a grazing problem because there was just no grass for the animals to eat. The wonder is how quickly everything just suddenly started growing! Grass which looked barely alive a couple of weeks ago now stood almost ankle high, lush and green, the bare ground almost completely covered. I am thankful for it every day and there’s no such thing as too much rain. There is, however, something like an inefficient car…

Certain lack of motivation

I would’ve posted about my day today, showing you the pictures that I took on my way around South Africa’s countryside in pouring rain. But, my finger’s sore (I have an irritating ‘infection’ on the side of my nail and that makes it painful to type) and I’m actually emotionally drained from today. So, I shall rather just leave you with a song from my favourite band, Blackmore’s Night. This is their opening single for their very first album and the very first song that I heard from them. Ever since I’ve heard this song, this band has captured my loyalty and my imagination. I love them and can’t wait for their new album, Autumn Sky to be released in South Africa. Or, America so that I can import it (they don’t actually release it here come to think of it, I’ve had to import the past three CDs…).

The song’s name is Shadow of the Moon.