The new year is here, and for the second time, we watched it arrive under a South African sky. The very last day of 2010 we spent relaxing at a game reserve with friends, ringing in the new year from our camp chairs on the stoep. Midnight passed to the sounds of night birds and bull frogs in the bush—as well as the slapping wings of rhino bugs and giant cockroaches flying over our heads. Kale and I are looking forward to every adventure that awaits us in 2011, and looking back on 2010, it’s hard to believe how full this last year has been!
But what have we been up to for the last few months? Please don’t feel like you have to read this small book all in one siting…
Weekend in Eshowe:
The weekend after our adventure to Lesotho with Uncle Dan and Aunt Corie, Kale and I took a day trip to the town of Eshowe with our friends Kenny and Annita. We met them and their friends Annette and Anthony at the entrance to Eshowe’s main feature: a beautiful aerial walk through the Dlinza Forest. Together, the six of us walked high above the trees on a tiny path, and I must admit, I got a little skittish! We were so high, but it was beautiful, surrounded by tree tops as tall as sky scrapers. Afterwards, we took a walk at ground level, and stared in awe at ancient trees.
After a lovely picnic in the forest, we explored Eshowe’s castle and craft museum, and then drove back with Kenny and Annita to their home in Kwambonambi. It was a lovely evening, and during dinner we learned that Kenny and Annita keep a collection of expired bills from Zimbabwe on their fridge. Check out the size of these bills! Too bad money in Zimbabwe has a shelf life.
The next day, on our way home, we stopped for a Sunday brunch in Salt Rock at the most divine place: the Sage Cafe. When my latte arrived, it was like art, and so I had to take a picture.
For Halloween, we spent the weekend in Camperdown where our friends, Bryan and Brenda, own a beautiful lodge and aviation park called Emoyeni. To celebrate the holiday, they threw a Halloween party with live music and a very scary dinner which included bat wings, festering fingers, and dragon’s blood! Bryan is the banjo playing half of a bluegrass duo called The Bandits, and I have been lucky enough to join him and his guitar playing half, Craig, on occassion, and Bryan has been joining me quite regularly with his banjo at my own shows. So, it was a hoedown of a party, and the costumes were quite creative.
So you all know about Movember, right? The month where men grow mustaches to raise awareness and funds for men’s health? Well, Kale made a nice mustachean transition over November’s days…
He is finally looking like the before picture again. But I have to admit: that trucker was kind of sexy!
On Nov 11th, I had the opportunity to perform at the Phansi Museum. The Phansi is a Zulu art museam in Glenwood, a south suburb of Durban. The night was absolutely magical. So many people booked that we couldn’t fit indoors, and so our hosts moved the concert upstairs to the balcony. We played under a giant tree and a starlit sky, and people told me afterwards that bats were flying over our heads! Local Durban songwriter, Shannon Connolly, opened the night with a set of blues and folk inspired originals, and then I was joined by Bryan on banjo and Kale on accordion and back-up vocals. The night was Kale’s big accordion debut—he joined me on four songs, and an astounding number of coworkers came out to support him. The accordion was such a success that we are now working on putting a whole set together and making Kale an essential part of my act. Bryan’s banjo picking was lovely as always.
Our Car Gets Stolen:
On the morning of Nov 18th—the very day our dear friends Tamie and Tariq were arriving in Durban from Minneapolis—I went to have breakfast at a friend’s house on a very busy road in hip Morningside. It was a divine breakfast with fruit sald, quiche, coffee, and even chocolate cake! After I had said my goodbyes, I walked out onto the street to find an empty space where I had left our Toyota Tazz. I was so confused that a man nearby yelled across the street, asking me if I was lost. “No,” I said, “I think my car’s been stolen.” “Oh,” he replied, throwing his hands up in the air, “Well, that’s Durban for you. Can I help you call the police?” “No, let me, uh, I just need to walk down the street to make sure.” I felt a little dizzy. I walked very far down that road, and no, our car was not just a little ways up ahead.
It was incredible because, first of all, it was the middle of the morning and a beautiful sunny day, on a busy road—not some shady late night alley. Second, I parked directly across from a security shack that was part of Durban High School. The security guard saw nothing. Third, our car had two alarms which I had set! One of the ladies I breakfasted with drove me to the police station, and we filed a report. When I told the officer that the car was a toyota, he just shook his head like I should have been expecting this and told me I was lucky that I hadn’t been hijacked or shot dead like that new bride in Cape Town. Thanks, officer!
I was panicked because our friends were arriving that night, and we needed a car for all the travels we had planned. Luckily, after my car accident in June, we had added car rental to our insurance policy. We had a rental within two hours, and Kale and I were able to pick up Tamie and Tariq from the airport in shiny luminscent tiny green wheels.
Tamie and Tariq Visit SA:
Tamie and Tariq had booked their tickets for SA almost a year ago, and we were so happy when they finally arrived! Tamie and I went to college together and have been quite regular parts of each other’s lives ever since—weekly walks and runs around Minneapolis lakes, sushi and wine dates, road trips, etc. But Kale and I had only met her soon-to-be husband Tariq a few months before we moved to Durban. We were excited to get to know him better and to show both of them around South Africa. This trip was their delayed one year honeymoon, and we were feeling mighty special that they chose this part of the world to celebrate their marriage.
The trip was a whirlwind. The first day, we drove around Durban and then went in our swimming costumes (they call them costumes here, not suits) to Umhlanga Rocks Beach. We swam for a little bit until we noticed that blue bottle jellyfish were being washed onto the shore. Usually, Durban beach’s are very clean and safe, but every once in awhile when the wind changes direction in just the right way, swarms of blue bottles appear, and you don’t want to get stung: they are nasty little jellyfish. We abandoned the beach, picked up Kale from work and went to an all-you-can eat sushi buffet at which we stuffed ourselves silly.
That evening (after a post sushi nap), we took them to see a show. I was playing at a new place with a wonderful band called Thomas Krane who had asked Kale to join them on some of their tunes with accordion. The night, so promising, turned out to be the worst performance experience I have ever had. For some reason there was a ping pong table in this bar/gallery/venue, and two riotious young men decided to start up a sporting game right as I started my set. No one told the pingpongers to be quiet even after I made a gentle plea from the stage. They screamed, they roared, they grunted, and I sang. It was demoralizing. More so because I had been hoping to show Tamie and Tariq night life and the music scene at its best. Kale played a set with Thomas Krane afterwards, and the music was brilliant (luckily, the ping pong players had tired of their antics), but by the time we left, it was too late to grab a bite to eat nearby. Durban’s restaurant nightlight had closed, so we picked up food from the one 24 hour Indian fast food place in town and went back to our place to commiserate with tall glasses of wine.
The rest of the weekend, we sped around town like maniacs, trying to give Tamie and Tariq every must-have experience. On Saturday,we went to the Essenwood flea market, and T&T bought some African art. In the afternoon, we went to Durban’s main beach front, the Golden Mile, and found ourselves the only white people in a very crowded ocean. The beaches tend to be so segrated, but it was nice in a way: we could easily spot each other in the ocean.
After we dried off, we had sundowners at the famous pier restaurant Moyo and nearly froze to death from a sudden strong wind. Then we decided to go someplace warm for dinner: Yossi’s is one of the best restuarants we have found here, amazing Moroccan cuisine. We spent the night drinking, eating, laughing, and sharing stories.
Sunday was ‘visit all the local nature’ day. We started the morning by visiting the Mangrove tree reserve which is very close to where we live. It’s hidden, a locally kept secret, because conservationists want to protect the crab life from crab hungry fisherman—the mangrove colony is exploding with the an incredible variety of crab.
After the Mangroves, we stopped at our neighborhood bakery for some meat pies and then headed off to the Natal Sharks Board for their afternoon shark dissection. The sharks board does an incredible job protecting KwaZulu-Natal’s beaches and keeping the public educated about sharks. We watched a short, informative film about shark nets and drum lines and then headed outside for the main event: dissecting one of the sharks caught in the nets!
The shark was a great white, and the smell was powerful! The whole experience was one of the best things we have done in Durban. The woman lecturing was hilarious, and the dissector made very clean cuts, displaying the different organs like Vana White.
To end the day, we drove north to Mt. Mooreland and watched the evening descent of the barn swallows. They live in the grasslands just a twenty minute drive north of Durban, and at sunset they all fly home from the day’s travels. Literally, thousands of barn swallows fill the sky at sunset, and it is breathtaking. We brought wine and a bag of malt balls that Tamie and Tariq had smuggled in for me from the Wedge in Mpls. We were mesmerized by the swallows. I tried to capture them on camera but they just look like dots.
On Monday morning, I drove T&T to the bus station and they hopped on for Margate to spend a few romantic days on the beach. Unfortunately, it rained the whole time! But they still visited a crocodile park and enjoyed themselves. I picked them up on Thanksgiving, and together we made a fantastic Thanksgiving feast while Kale was at work. We didn’t make a turkey, just the sides, and I made four pies in our toaster oven! Two pumpkin and two apple. I think my pies are my biggest accomplishment of 2010. We invited our Durban friends over for dinner and for the meat we had a braai. It was a lovely way to introduce our MN friends to our SA friends and introduce our SA friends to pumpkin pie and green bean casserole.
The next day we left for our weekend safari in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. On our way to our lodge, we stopped for lunch at a Portuguese restaurant in St. Lucia before we went to see the hippos and the crocs that live there.
We arrived at the gate of the Rhino River Lodge near Hluhluwe just as the sun was setting, and the animals were on the move. We saw a whole herd of buffalo just off the driveway as soon as we entered the gate
The Rhino River Lodge was lovely, and we had the whole place to ourselves.
We planned to get up early the next morning for a game drive, but it turned out there were quite fantastic creatures living inside our chalet! We had a resident bat squeaking from the ceiling and giant flying cockroaches that scared us into screams and squeals. I got up from bed to turn off the light, and boom, one lighted right on my pillow! I grabbed Kale’s shoe and banged away, but it kept moving. I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a spoon and a cup and put the cockroach inside the cup, and then flattened its brains on the side of the cup with a spoon. I did this three times, with all my squeezing might. Still kicking. I threw it outside and the next morning when we got up early to take our game drive, it was by the door, wriggling. I learned recently that they can live for over a week without their heads!
On our drive through Hluhluwe, we saw some wonderful creatures.
We returned to Durban on Sunday, which was Tamie’s birthday. To celebrate we went to the Rainbow Restaurant for live African jazz music, Umhlanga Rocks beach for a goodbye swim in the ocean, dinner at the Indian Connection, and fancy drinks with sexually suggestive names at Cabana.
Oh, it was sad to say goodbye. We took them to the airport on Monday, Nov 29th. Thank you for coming, you crazy lovers!
Kale Turns 28 with a Transpose Your Age Costume Party Braai:
Kale turned 28 on the 30th of November, and we threw him a braai on Dec 5th with a twist. Everyone was asked to dress up at their current age transposed. This was to celebrate the fact that Kale had just turned the age of his birth year transposed: 28, born in ’82. Get it? So, I dressed up as a 3 yr old, Kale dressed up as an 82 yr old, etc. We had some great costumes.
We played age progessive games which started with a pinata, moved onto a pub quiz, and ended with a crossword puzzle!
Then we braai’d.
After the quiz, we had cake balls! Oh, they were gorgeous and delicious.
Back to Eshowe:
The second weekend in December, we headed back to Eshowe to play a concert and spend the weekend with our lovely new friends we had met at White Mountain music festival in September. Loreen and Kevin organized a house concert for us at their friends’ place who run a tea garden and craft market from their back yard and patio every Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous weekend! Loreen and Kevin took us around town with their daughters and then dropped us off at the hosting home to get ready. The day that started out with beautiful sunshine turned to pouring rain just an hour before concert time, but people still came. A tarp was set up for the music, and the audience sat under a large porch. The place was packed! It felt like the whole town came out, and the rain added a nice background sound to the music.
The following day, Kevin took us to Hluhluwe for a game drive. A deep lover of the bush, he was a wonderful tour guide. He knew the name of every bird, and his eyes were tuned to spotting animals between the trees.
Christmas and New Years
For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we were lucky to be included in two different family gatherings. After eating enough good food to make us burst, we got in our car and drove south to a B&B on the beach. We lounged like pros, read books, watched movies, swam in the ocean, and got nice tans. It was wonderful to stay in one place and not have a plan. After five glorious nights, we left and met up with our friend Toni to drive up to our mutual friend Ash’s family’s place near Hluhluwe. As we neared the gate to Zulu Nyala Lodge, Toni revealed to me that one of my favorite movies was filmed in the lodge’s reserve: I Dreamed of Africa. It starred Kim Basinger, and it was the true story of a brave woman named Kuki Gallmann. Anyhow, I had seen this movie in high school and became obsessed for a time with moving to Africa. The movie took place in Kenya, but yes, parts were filmed in SA. I couldn’t believe it! I felt like part of my destiny was being fulfilled!
During our two day stay, we went on a couple of game drives. The wonderful thing about game drives is that on every drive, we see something new.
And that brings us to home again with new days on the horizon. It is always exciting to begin a new year—and also quite gratifying to look back on the old one. Every year has such a unique identity. We are both excited to find what this one holds. We have a few weeks of getting back into our routine of work and music, and then Kale’s family is coming to visit, and we will be off again! We are excited to see them, and we’ll be sure to let you know about our advenutres. ~ Jaspar