After we packed Nyathi into her container in New York for Malaysia, we flew to the UK, then South Africa and then onto Malaysia to meet the vehicle on 14th December. This part of our journey is somewhat of a holiday from our travels, but we have recorded it briefly for ourselves.
United Kingdom - It was wonderful to arrive in Oxford and we slept the afternoon away which was bliss. It was great to be with family and friends again. Andrew came down to collect us and took us back to Nottingham. We caught up on all the home news and how things are going with the wedding plans. It was great for me to spend so much time with Ange before the wedding in SA. I got be very involved and helped with all sorts of things including ribbon cutting, floor plans, and of course all the kitchen tea planning with Debbie in Cape Town.
We went back down to Oxford for Friday night and had a fun evening with everyone there. Ashley, Michael and I sat up until 02h00 fooling about and playing Cranium. Annoyingly after much to-ing and fro-ing and faxing of passports (and RAC kindly faxing old copies of our Carnet de Passages to RTW in New York), we discovered that our container would not be on the scheduled ship, but only departing a week later. I believe the only reason we made the next sailing was because I got the sales manager, Charles involved, who was actually very helpful, but it shouldn't have to come to that! On Saturday and Sunday we got to see Lex, Isabel and Melissa who came up and stayed with Ivor & Al. We had a braai in Sutton Bonnington and had pellet gun shooting competitions and played the CSI board game. Michael went back down with Lex to Chelmsford to get his new Irish passport issued in London and I stayed in Nottingham. I went to visit Tania, Darren and Enzo and went to Richard to have my dress taken in for the wedding. Another fantastic thing about being home is having unlimited access to hot showers and being able to run as often as I like! On Monday night I went down to Chelmsford and we spent two more nights there which were great! It was so nice to be with Isabel and catch up with what's been happening. On Wednesday night we all went down to Dartford to see the rest of Michael's family and to meet Hilary's fiance, Andy. We had a lovely Indian dinner and caught up with everybody. Mom had little gifts for us and one of them was a bug catcher! We got to see Kathy, Martin, Conor and Niamh at the weekend. It was, as usual a wonderfully relaxing evening (with a good measure of drinking and chocolate eating thrown in).
We got to see Richard and Jodie too and some of us played badminton too. We visited the squash club a couple of times and got to see some of the British Open. It was a real pleasure to see some of the pros play, and to have a few drinks with friends at the bar! Angela and I did some shopping during the week and bought some goodies for the wedding and we also did trial make up and dress runs - all very girlie! The last two nights we stayed at Ivor's to give Ange & Andrew some space to pack and get ready for the flight to SA. We went down to Oxford to have a last night with family and friends before we caught the bus to Heathrow.
The Cape, South Africa
Monday - Claudia came to fetch us from the Cape Town airport. We had a relaxing couple of nights at their house catching up over the dinner table. We sat out at the pool during the day and I went with Ange & Andrew to Kirstensbosch Gardens to finalise the last few things for the wedding reception.
Tuesday - We went with them to Boulders Beach to see the penguins and then on to Cape Point (where we had an alarming baboon hijacking incident).
We know exactly how vicious they can be but could not believe our eyes when we'd gone down to the beach for a picnic and as soon as we opened the Microbus' boot this massive male baboon came racing across the car park, ran straight past us and jumped into the back of the boo, grabbing two big bags of food. Michael shut the door for an instant to give it a sense of panic (which worked. He (the baboon) bared his enormous teeth, shrieked and jumped out the boot with almost all our food in tow! Michael kept his distance, but ran after him screaming and pretending to swing his camera at him. The baboon hesitated and made the mistake of stopping and tearing the packets open then Andrew and Michael ran toward him and he couldn't carry everything anymore. In the end he made off with a bunch of bananas and our sesame seed rolls. Our hearts racing, we swiftly made our way down to the beach, where we kept a weary eye on the car, where the bold baboons had came back to sit on the roof of a neighbouring car and leave its smelly calling card. After a lovely lunch, filled with the excited chatter of our experience, we walked back to the top armed with big rocks. The baboons kept their distance and we drove off safely!
Wednesday - A group of us went to Table Mountain today. Jackie and Les didn't climb up, but the rest of us did. It was incredibly hot for Cape Town and according to our GPS it took us three hours to get to the top. 1.5 hours walking and 1.5 hours stopping for rests.
At the end Greg raced on ahead and a while afterwards I also went slowly ahead because the slow walking was making me more tired than necessary, so I waited for the others at the the top. Poor Ange wasn't feeling too well this morning, so the climb was pretty tough for her, but everyone was delighted when they got to the top. The views were spectacular and walking up certainly makes you appreciate the surroundings and flora more.
On a calmer note, I had to go with Ange and Andrew to the church in the evening to a witness meeting, which was interesting. It clarified the role of a witness in a Christian Community marriage, comparing it to a godmother to a child. We went back to Monkey Valley in the evening and joined all the family for dinner at the resort restaurant. The food was quite good, but the service was pretty appalling. Nevertheless we had a great evening.
Thursday - Another full day. We started off by collecting Jodie, Richard, Ivor and Alison from the airport and then going for a day of wine farm touring. Needless to say a fantastic day was had by all and by the time the evening arrived we were a merry bunch. In the evening we had Angela's kitchen tea which was entertaining and she did a sterling job of guessing presents and the answers to her 80's pop quiz questions.
Friday - Ange and I went to drop off stuff at Kirstenbosch, collect my dress from the dry cleaners and take her for a manicure. That afternoon I made the enthusiastic mistake of going horse riding with Isabel, Jodie, Richard and Gillian on the beach. My stirrups were cutting into my legs and I just didn't feel in control of my horse, so after half an hour and fairly nasty bruises on my calf muscles, I decided to call it a day and took a slow trot back to the stables. We had a lovely braai in the evening at Claudia and Marek's place. Paula and Joy were there and Uli and Claudia joined us a bit later. I'd forgotten how much fun we had when we all get together.
Saturday - The big day has finally arrived. I can still remember the day I got the message from Angela when we were in Antiga, Peru asking me to be a witness. Angela went off to the hairdressers while I finalised taxis for people to get home and collected money from people. I started getting ready, but it was so hot, I wanted to leave my make up until as late as possible. Gillian and I sat out on the patio doing our nails and watching the sea crashing down on the beach and then we laid all Ange's things out for her in the honeymoon suite. Once Ange arrived back and we locked ourselves up in the suite to get ready we both calmed down significantly. Her make up looked lovely and her dress fitted her like a glove. We had a lovely drive in the bridal car to the church. Loads of cars were hooting as they drove past. As we got closer to the church we sang The Corrs songs to calms our nerves. Angela looked absolutely radiant, and Andrew so handsome.
A terrific day was had by everyone and it was super to have friends there from the UK too. The toasts were wonderful, the reception and venue spectacular, the band was excellent and kept everyone up on the floor all night. Angela and Andrew looked so in love. It was glorious.
Crane's Crest, Mossel Bay - Thankfully I had packed up all of Angela's stuff for her after the wedding as I felt absolutely knackered when I woke up at 07h30 on the Sunday morning and they were leaving at 08h00 for Vic Falls. We said our goodbyes and then we packed our tings and sat around the pool for a while before heading off with Jackie and Des for Mossel Bay. We arrived in the late afternoon and had a braai with Paul and Joy. We spent the next couple of days relaxing, taking the dogs for walks, reading books etc. Sadly Joy had to go away on a conference and we met each other briefly at the airport when we left for Jo'burg.
Johannesburg - It felt like coming home when we arrived in Johannesburg. Martina came to collect us and we spent the afternoon sitting on the patio enjoying the hot, dry weather and the spectacular sunset over the valley. We settled into our 'suite' upstairs and had a braai with Malcolm, Nick, Jeff and Amanda in the evening.
On the Saturday I went shopping with Mart and Ivor and Al arrived in the afternoon. We went out for dinner at Monte Casino, which was lovely. On the Sunday we had a braai and Bruce, Sara, Wayne, Lynne, Uli and Claudia and all the kids had a great time. We braaied marshmallows and chatted until late.
On the Monday we went with Ivor and Al to Sun City and had a fantastic day in the sun at the water park. We went on loads of rides and Al and I went for a little 'jungle walk'. On Tuesday, Ivor and Al left for the UK and we spent some time with them in Sandton and had a tasty lunch.
We also got to go to Annmarie and Roger's house in the Mabula Game Reserve for four nights. It was so, so relaxing. The house is set in the bush, away from any other accommodation and all the wildlife wanders around freely (except lions which are kept in a separate enclosure within the park). Visitors to our front patio included monkeys, a bush baby, a massive porcupine, lots of warthogs including a mother and the cutest little baby, INSIDE the house - a cheeky little squirrel, also, about 15 metres away, impala and nyala antelope.
We saw loads of animals when we went on game drives (elephant, rhino, buffalo, hippo, croc, waterbuck, impala, bushbabies, wildebeest, kudu, giraffe, zebra, baboons etc. etc.) and thoroughly enjoyed being out in the bush. Their syndicate owns a Mabula-authorised Land Rover game viewing vehicle and Michael had to don a khaki shirt and Mabula Reserve lapels and he 'chauffeured' us about.
People staying at the main lodge in the reserve are not allowed to drive their private vehicles on game drives, they have to go on authorised lodge drives at $30 each. It was great for us to be able to do our own thing. Sadly Annmarie had to go back to work on the Monday, but we still got to stay a while longer which was superb.
The rest of our time in Johannesburg was fabulous. We were completely relaxed and did lots of normal 'homey' things. Mart and I went to Rosebank and Bruma markets. I helped her with her toy boxes for the school teachers.
We had lots of delicious dinners together and probably drank too much. Michael and I each read at least four novels. I did some research on SE Asia and investigated hotels, transport and all sorts for Malaysia and especially Kuala Lumpur. I caught up on my emails too. Michael played an inordinate amount of Civilization on the computer. He also fixed Mal and Mart's DVD, loaded all our music on their computer and sorted out technical stuff for the kids too. I went to visit some of our family friends, the Groenewalds, in Pretoria. It was so wonderful to see them all again and catch up.
We got new cards printed, (though not without a few headaches) and some vinyl stickers of our website address for Nyathi. Plus we got to see so many beautiful sunrises from their patio across the valley. Even though we'd spent so much time with the Skeens, we didn't really want to say goodbye. It was fantastic to feel so at home and completely unwind. We were spoilt rotten and enjoyed every minute of it. Mart dropped us off at the airport to catch our flight to Kuala Lumpur and we started the next leg of our journey...