Category Archives: South Africa

Q Is For Quaint Stanford

Just 16kms from Hermanus is the small village of Stanford in the Western Cape. We stopped by to get some braai supplies one evening in December. You can drive past in the blink of an eye but I do know that next time I’m in the area, I want to explore a bit more.

Library at Stanford
©2018 Regina Martins

It has quaint little shops, galleries, restaurants and coffee shops. Along with historical building which reveals its English heritage, the village surrounds a small square where events are often held on weekends.

Things to do include brewery tours and tastings, gin tours and tastings, cheese shops and walking trails. There are a bunch of emerging vineyards, and is a birdwatchers paradise – this is where you can glimpse the endangered Blue Crane, South Africa’s national bird.

 

P Is For Parys

There’s a small town about 120kms south of Joburg that has a name uncannily similar to a more famous European spot which has a famous steel structure as its centrepiece.

Well, let me tell you that Parys has better than just a famous steel structure as a centrepiece. It is…a centrepiece! This small town is located IN the Vredefort structure…aka an upside dome, more popularly known as a crater.

2023 million years ago a meteor with a diameter of 10kms came hurtling through the cosmos and collided with earth at 30 000kms per hour creating an indentation 300kms wide. It’s the largest meteor impact site scientists have found on our beautiful planet and 2x larger than the one that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

This makes it the older crater yet found on earth. And because of all that, it’s been named a World Heritage Site, South Africa’s 7th.

The Vredefort Dome is only the central part of the impact crater. It is called a dome because the rock layers were bent into the shape of an upside-down bowl 90km across by the impact. (Source)

The red star on the map shows where it is in South Africa.

It stretches all the way to Joburg. As you can see, Parys is in the core of the structure.

The Vaal River, one of South Africa’s strongest flowing rivers, flows across the dome with Parys situated on its banks. Along its banks are also many picturesque resorts – some years ago Che and I stayed at one of them – the Carrieblaire River Retreat.

Look at how peaceful it looks, and it was…

 

D Is For Durban

When we were kids every holiday was spent in Durban. As landlocked Joburgers the annual beach holiday was something I looked forward to all the time. Once a year we packed our family of 5’s belongings into a VW Bettle and headed down to the coast. As we neared Durban, we played the game of ‘who can see the sea first’, which was accompanied by the briny smells of the ocean.

One of my favourite things to do was walk along the Marine Parade from the South to the North Beach, browsing all the vendor’s stalls. I was a child with no cash and convincing my folks to buy this and that was never successful 🙂

Durban South Beach
©2017 Regina Martins

These days I seldom go into the city, preferring instead the quietude and serenity of the small village of Umdloti Beach.

The smooth sand, ebb and flow of the waves, the winged clouds and the fire of life of the plants holding on to the slippery sands of the dunes
©2017 Regina Martins

The village has changed little over the years but the beach has changed significantly. The beautiful tidal pool most parents felt safe allowing their kids to frolick in is not so safe after all. The promenade has subsided in places because of soil erosion caused by severe storms over the years. When Che and I were last there, in August last year, the tidal beach was closed off for rehabilitation, with a huge bulldozer in the middle of the sand.

Storms have slowly eroded the dune, collapsing the pavement
©2017 Regina Martins

Away from the tidal pool, avid residents walk the beaches at sunset, wielding metal detectors – I wonder what they find…?

Metal detector on a beach
©2017 Regina Martins

Things to remember when holidaying in Durban:

  • It’s on the Indian Ocean coast so the waters are warm.
  • There are amazing dive sites further north, close to Sodwana Bay.
  • There are game reserves with the Big 5 just 2 hours to the north.
  • uShaka Marine World is a haven for kids – the waterpark is a lot of fun.
  • It has, in my humble opinion, the most beautiful aquarium in South Africa.
  • The Durban Botanical Gardens is one of the city’s best-kept secrets.
  • It boasts a large international airport, the King Shaka International Airport with daily domestic flights, and international flights from Istanbul, Doha, Dubai, Mauritius and other African destinations.

It’s a different experience to Cape Town. I don’t venture into Cape Town’s frigid waters but Durban is my happy beach swimming place. And it has great surfing too.

 

C Is For Cape Town (Water Crisis)

The most beautiful city in the world. Home of Table Mountain, one of the 7 wonders of the natural world. In the midst of the worst drought ever recorded in the region, it is at risk of running out of water. Rainfall hasn’t been bountiful in the last few years and dams have fallen to alarming levels. Water restrictions are in place, and people have a daily limit of 50 litres of water. With greater awareness and people getting serious about saving water, the so-called ‘day zero’ has been pushed back – the day when the taps will run dry and water trucks will be sent.

View of the Table Mountain upper cable station
©2018 Regina Martins

I travel a lot to Cape Town and in previous years it has been an absolutely beautiful experience flying over the Winelands and fertile valleys. Flying over the area, it now looks like the Karoo has moved all the way to the sea. People talk about desertification, and I can see that happening in that region.

Both degradation and desertification are among South Africa’s most critical environmental issues, intricately linked to food security, poverty, urbanization, climate change, and biodiversity.  Globally, desertification affects 70% of all drylands, and 73% of Africa’s agricultural drylands are degraded.  As much as 91% of South Africa comprises drylands, making it susceptible to desertification. 

Source: Department of Environmental Affairs, State of the Environment report.

I live in Johannesburg, and in the last week, we’ve had enough rainfall to fill the Cape dams 2 times over. Cape Town is a winter rainfall area and I can only hope that this winter will be a wet one for them.

My Cape Town uber driver of a couple trips back said to me as he drove me to the airport:

“Regina, I just want to fill a bath with water and just lie in it.!

People are stockpiling bottled water and there have been reports of fights breaking out in supermarkets to get the last bottles on the shelves.

People have come up with inventive and creative solutions – like a colleague who’s got a hand washing system in the bathroom and kitchen made with just a coke bottle and a thin rubber pipe. I’ve used it and can report that it works very well, uses a negligible amount of water, and is most satisfactory to clean hands:

A handwashing solution…
©2018 Regina Martins

 

Of course, it’s not just climate change that causes desertification. A lot of it has been driven by human activity. Degradation of previously fertile land, depletion of groundwater supplies, overgrazing and deforestation, to mention just a few.

Integrated land and water management are one of the ways to control the progression of the sands time, protecting soils from erosion and other degradation. Prevention is better than cure because such cures are expensive and yield limited results. 

In seemingly intractable issues, there is no one solution, only a series of next wise moves to shift the system, to make it better than it was, each and every day.