wekk 06
week 05
week 01
 
Week 06 : Johannesburg to Capetown

Aoife O’Connell chronicles the adventure in the diary below:

Day 036 > Monday 07 October > Knysna South Africa

Eighty Ways will soon be Eighty Stone if we keep eating all this rich food! South Africa has laid on all its delicacies for the team to feast on. Since the trip began, Miles has been obsessing about biltong, which is dried meat, a bit like American Jerky, with a difference, ostrich biltong! Also on the 'must do' list was Castle beer, our camera man, Mike, A.K.A Carbonara, promised Miles they would have a 'Castle' together when they reached South Africa, and so they did.

Big on the menu in South Africa, is a braai, which is a barbeque South African style. This consists of a massive grill with huge chunks of lamb mainly and boerwurst, which is a sausage made from pork and beef. The Eighty Ways team were also treated to fresh oysters caught that day. Ostrich steak has been another contender for the weird but wonderful list and 'lunch' bars are definitely top on Caroline's list. They are delicious, so why don't we have them at home?

Guava fruit has also gone down very well with the team, as has the fresh pea soup - obviously not at the same time though! Jon was very glad to see that South Africans have a penchant for marmite sandwiches and stuffed about ten into his gob. Miles squealed excitedly when he heard about fish paste sambos, which apparently you can't get in England, can't for the life of me think why! All of these tasty dishes have been washed down with Five Roses tea, which is a detox tea that the South Africans are quite partial to. If the team keep drinking the South African Cabernet Sauvignon they'll need quite a few boxes of detox tea to keep them going.

 

Day 037 > Tuesday 08 October > Oudtshoorn to Santos Beach
South Africa

Yesterday one of the Knysna Rotary Club members, Louise, told us a very 'rose mantic' story. We were travelling through a beautiful coastal area called Wilderness and Miles asked how the town acquired its unusual name.

Ages and ages ago, there lived a girl called Teresa. One night her entire family were murdered by a marauding gang of thieves. A young farmer came upon the grieving Teresa and asked her to come travelling with him. Teresa replied, she couldn't bear any more hardship in life and quoted Hayden's Ode on the Wings of a dove, "In the wilderness build me a nest and let me remain there forever at rest". Being a dutiful suitor, the farmer went off in search of a nest. In Cape Town he paid one hundred and twenty five pounds for a stretch of land for Teresa, built a little cottage and named it Wilderness.

The story made me think about the team and how much they must be missing their husbands, wives and partners. The first couple of days were filled with the excitement of the adventure launch; the newness of the experience didn't leave much thought for anything else. In the latter half of the second week, most of the team got to go home for a day or a few hours as we travelled through the various towns where the team members live. From the frying pan into the fire, Rome, the first of the adventure legs was so challenging, tiring and chocca-block with meetings and interviews that the team barely had time to talk let alone anything else. The Red Sea was the next challenge; everybody couldn't wait to get under that water. The team were concentrating on their diving, and the days began early and went on late into the night. It was challenging, fun and physically exhausting.

Finally in South Africa, there is time to think. Long distances by car and train, and being surrounded by the beauty and romantic landscape of the mountains and stunning coast lines, will inevitably make anyone reflect on relationships and love. South Africa is not a place to be seen alone, but an experience to be shared. I think the team are all feeling a little bit lonely for those left behind.

Today at the ostrich farm, Alex the owner informed us that ostriches pair off and mate for life. I think everyone on the team was thinking the same thoughts; how wonderful it would be to roam those beautiful mountains and disappear into the hills with a special somebody. From the moment the team wake up till they go to sleep at night, so many challenges cross their paths. Three months without the person you love, has got to be one of the big ones.

 

Day 038 > Wednesday 09 October > Somewhere on the road to Capetown > South Africa

The team have met some unusual characters along the way, the Pope being the most famous, and Yop the camel perhaps being the most unusual. Today, however Eighty Ways met a man with a truly amazing story.

Chris Taylor was there to meet the team when the arrived at the Swellendam Rotary Club, which incidentally is the third oldest town in South Africa. He began his speech with a quotation from Abraham Lincoln; "I may walk slowly but I never walk backwards". It was not until I spoke to Chris about his life, that I realised how true those words were.

On the 10th of August 1988, just ten days after being made partner in a law firm, attorney Chris Taylor was sorting through his morning post, when he came upon a package. The package contained two luxury chocolates, and a very nice letter from the company inviting Chris a member of the legal fraternity to sample their product. Chris swallowed the first chocolate and handed the second to his secretary Jeanette, who was seven months pregnant at the time. Immediately he knew something was wrong;

"I was busy filling in the questionnaire, when I became very ill and felt nauseous, I knew there was something terribly wrong I said to Jeanette spit it out, don't swallow it, but by then I had swallowed mine and she had eaten half of hers.. a few hours later we found ourselves on the way to the hospital in Cape Town"

Chris was in a coma for seven days. He had been poisoned by arsenic and had complete organ failure. His parents were told it was unlikely that their son would survive. Jeanette lost her baby, because her unborn child had absorbed most of the poison, she herself was paralysed but not as badly as Chris; "I was thirty years old and I woke up completely paralysed from my neck downwards, I couldn't speak, I had the most incredible pain you could ever think of because all the nerve ends had been severed as arsenic actually attacks the nerve fibres and nerve ends…the pain you feel is actually like severing a limb without any anaesthetic"

It took a little while to find out what had actually happened, and why the chocolates were doused in arsenic. It turned out that Chris was having a relationship with a girl that had a very jealous ex-boyfriend. The jealous dentist, from Oudtshoorn even sent arsenic laced chocolates to himself to try and fool the police. It was glaringly obvious that he had sent the chocolates to try and poison Chris, but when the case came to trial, he was acquitted of attempted murder on a technical hitch!

Chris was treated with passive physiotherapy for eight months and then one day he felt a twinge in his upper right arm. That was the sign Chris needed to convince him there was still hope. "I said to my parents if that can come back then anything can happen."

Doctors told Chris he would be a quadriplegic for the rest of his life. Whist in hospital he found out that the particular girl he had been having the relationship with had left him for another man. He spent 16 months in hospital and when he was released he was still in an electric wheelchair. His bodyweight had dropped to 43 kilograms but he still went to the gym eight hours a day for eight months. He had to be carried to each machine; "there were beautiful girls helping me and fussing over me so I didn't complain too much, slowly but surely I started to improve, the muscles started contracting and I could actually feel movement coming back!"

Chris spent another year and a half rehabilitating himself before he could walk. Two years after the accident he met and fell in love with Janine whilst he was still in a wheelchair: "I said to her I'll marry you if I can walk into church, with shoes on".

At that stage, Chris could not bear to wear shoes and the heat caused great pain. He became known as the 'barefoot lawyer' because he came to court in his bare feet. Chris now has two children, JP and Hanli. He is still in great pain today, he can only stand to shower in cold water, he feels intense discomfort especially whilst wearing shoes and has no feeling in his feet;

"My feet are dead, it's like walking on stilts, I actually learned how to walk again by eyesight not by balance…if you would put the light off for instance, I would fall because I don't know what top and bottom is, I have no feeling in my feet, I've learned to orientate myself with my eyesight not with feeling, the body orientates itself by feeling."

Currently Chris travels all over the world as a motivational speaker, at present he is also writing a book about his incredible experience. "Obviously having a disability of my own, I can identify with everything Eighty Ways are doing, I never fail to be continually humbled by meeting people with problems of their own, this is one of those cases, its amazing and wonderful that people are using their own time to devote to the cause of disabled people around the world…I can only say now after meeting them that from my own point of view I am not doing enough"

 

Day 039 > Thursday 10 October > Still heading towards Capetown > South Africa


A Rastafarian was the last person on earth I expected to meet in a South African leather workshop for the mentally and physically disabled. Saeron Fanderberg has been working with disabled people for three years, he has been volunteering one day a week at the Drakenstein centre for over a year now. Saeron trains residents at the centre to craft leather goods for commercial sale. Every Wednesday he volunteers at a local hospital, and spends the rest of his time trying to make a living and support his three children by selling handmade leather goods on the street. Typically the residents at the centre make leather belts, key-rings, purses and bags for sale at their on-site retail unit. I asked Saeron if he enjoyed his work at the centre and quite logically he answered; "Yes, you won't do something if you don't like it, everything you do, you must enjoy, I enjoy life and to love!"

A practising Rastafarian, Saeron lives firmly by his beliefs; "I believe I must obey the Ten Commandments, don't do the wrong thing, try to do things right, that's why I like helping these people." Saeron agrees with what Mike has to say about disability; "Like my brother said it's maybe only your legs that are gone, but you have your hands and your mind"

Saeron explained to me that his work at the workshop was central to his beliefs as a Rastafarian; "Rastafarian means a creator, Ras means head, and tafari means creator, so you must always be creative if you are a Rastafarian no matter what you do". When I asked Saeron what he thought of the Eighty Ways adventure he paused and said "Ah its great man, everybody got something to do in life"

I asked Saeron when he cut his hair last, and he replied; "I don't cut it for seventeen years", he whipped off his knitted hat and huge dreadlocks tumbled down past his waist. Immediately he asked me would I like to see pictures of his children. He showed me his youngest son, who at six years of age, is already working on a full head of dreadlocks to compete with Dad.

On route to our next destination, I chatted to our driver Aubrey, a Rotary Club member about my conversation with Saeron; "Initially none of the Rotary people thought it was a good idea for Saeron to work at the centre because he smokes eh you know… that's part of his beliefs as a Rastafarian, but then we saw how good his leather work was, they quality and the output has improved so much. He has a good heart…I suppose you can never judge a book by its cover"
Precisely.

'Tough times don't last, tough people do'

 

NB. Caroline has taken over writing the diary entries until Aoife recovers from her illness.

Day 040 > Friday 11th October > Cape Town, South Africa

Thought of the day
There is always a surprise around the corner. Though totally under the weather with a bloody cold that seems to be playing with my immune system and utterly exhausted, when Peter Balin arrived on our doorstep this morning to take me for a fly in his Sesna 172, I jumped awake like an ever energised Duracell bunny. Peter had heard me speak last night about the fact that I could not drive and had come over to me at the end of the night and offered me a chance to fly a Sesna 172 instead. Never a girl to turn down an exciting offer, I of course said I would love to! Hence at 7.30 this morning with only 3 hours sleep due to general team crisis I was waiting for Peter. The one element of this trip I love is the unpredictable. As we flew over the towns of Sommerset West, Gordon's cove and the Strand on the most exsquite morning I loved the wonderful spontaneous sense of the unpredictable that occurs when you travel. Being allowed fly the plane once we had taken off was even a further surprise and I was amazed how different it feels to fly the plane rather that to be just a passenger. I couldn't get over how sensitive she was. Even just lightly pressing on the controls seemed to make such a huge difference in the air. Peter, the owner and pilot of the plane was such a lovely guy - so incredibly calm and willing to take a risk on me. It really was the most perfect start to what turned out to be a marvellous day.

Magic moment of the day
Arriving into Cape Town on a Harley Davidson in perfect morning sunlight. For the lady who always wanted to be a biker chick, until my 17th birthday when I found out that the nearest I would get to a motorbike, due to my sight was to either drool as they whizzed by or smile sweetly at any random bike owner for a ride, this mode of transport was particularly sweet. We met our team of bikes just outside Cape Town airport and their biker riders decked out in gear straight from a biker road movie. With the stunning backdrop of Table Mountain in a glorious sunny day we mounted our bikes and lined up in formation. Mike, hanging on for dear life was the leader of the pack while myself, Robin and Miles brought up the rear in single line with the roar of 20 bikes booming in double file behind us. We had the honour of a police escort as we travelled the 20 minutes into Cape Town - for me 20 minutes too little. My fantasy of biker girl with the wind in my hair, cruising along the highway, surrounded by fantastic scenery, feeling on top of the world - all came true - except of course for the fact I was wearing my bloody 80 ways uniform of a polo t-shirt and trekking pants instead of black leather!!


Hiccup of the day
Credit card robbery - it can happen anywhere. While myself and Miles were visiting the Athlone School for the blind and listening to the exquisite harmonies of the junior choir whose voices left the hairs on the back of our necks standing - Aofie was meanwhile dealing with the dreaded credit card robbery. No matter what country in the world you are in, no matter how careful you think are there are always society's vultures there waiting to scavenge. As Aoife explains, it happened so quickly she hardly had time to react or think - that is just total practiced skill on their behalf. There is something just so rotten and invasive in having something stolen from you - especially from right under your nose - you feel that you were preyed upon, that you were vulnerable and weak and worst of all it puts a stop to the very urgently required day 42 knickers purchase.

 

Day 041 > Saturday 12th October > Cape Town

· Catamaran Passenger Ferry
· Helicopter
· Electric Buggy
· Police launch
· Cable Car
· Horse

Thought of the Day
I often think that the Irish travel well. In all the times that I have travelled I have found that my Irish passport has afforded me incredibly hospitality and kindness. It often seems that once the frequent assumptions as to my incorrect nationality have been put right that I have been treated with renewed interest and kindness. I never know is this because the Irish are part of so many countries histories due to the massive immigration, or is it that fact that like many countries we have had to fight for our freedom, or whether it is because of our character and life. I think maybe it is a bit of all three. When we met Eugene, an ex political inmate of Robben Island prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life, he was struck once he knew that Aoife and I were from Ireland. He wanted to discuss as much about Irish history and the North as we wanted to understand what he had gone through. It was fascinating to talk to him and as usual with this journey the visit was far too short and we had to be dragged away to meet our helicopter. On the way to the helipad, however we went through a village called Irishtown and were shown one of the graveyards where amongst the graves stood out a group of Irish Celtic crosses. Sometimes it seems that for such a small country we managed to impact so many places and so many cultures.

Magic moment of the day
Walking into the beautiful Kirsten Bosch Botanical gardens. Today was just one of those days when we just never seemed to stop and with my head cold dramatically developing into a very green chest infection which leaves my chest feeling like a vacuum packed chicken, there was something cathartic entering the beautiful gardens. Since our start at 6.00am we have vaulted from one mode of transport to the next and after having spoken three times a day to different groups over the last week, the enveloping calm of the gardens was like walking into a heavenly bubble. The green grass begged to be laid upon under the shadows of the back of Table Mountain covered in a blanket of thick pink heather. Beautiful art and sculptures were woven amongst the intense variety of plants trees and flowers. Whether or not you appreciate botany or gardens you would fall in love with this place. It exudes a rare sense of lazy tranquillity which I found myself totally hypnotised by and it took serious discipline to be pulled away into lunch for another speaking event. I felt a very rare sense of literally wanting to walk out, to be selfish and do what I wanted instead of what we were supposed to be doing. But I have to say a glass of sensational South African Sauvignon Blanc Neill Ellis helped me to behave.

Hiccup of the Day
Thick Fog on the top of Cable Mountain. So you travel 1065 metres by cable car to the top of the famous table mountain to get the unique view of the Cape, where two Oceans - the Indian and the Atlantic meet. Many things we can control, however weather is not one of them and as we climbed upwards in the cable car towards the summit we submerged further into fog until by the time we were at the top we could see no more that 2 foot in front of us. Our hosts were bitterly disappointed that we could not see the world famous view and the fact that we had to resort to descriptions while looking at postcards. To be honest, I hardly minded especially when the tiny Dosses - the nearest relative to the elephant were keeping me occupied. How on earth these tiny half rabbit half mouse-like creature that scavenge amongst the rocks, have any connection with the elephant is one somebody is going to really have to explain but they were incredibly cute. The fact that the view was no more than looking into a white sheet meant I can, along with many other reasons have ample justifications for returning to this amazing country.

 

Day 042 > Sunday 13th October

In the air
Unlike our previous flying nightmare this one has been relatively smooth. We are currently in the air somewhere over the Indian Ocean. We have been up since 5.00am and all of us are exhausted. I have no idea what model of planes we have travelled on - my sister is the expert here. All I know is that the long haul flight from Johannesburg to Mumbai was half empty and therefore everyone had room to stretch out and fall asleep. One thing however that disappointed me greatly was the attitude of South African Airlines. Of all the airlines that we have flown with they have proven to be the most ungiving. As Mike is still suffering from broken skin on his bum and after the horrors of the Dubai Johannesburg flight I asked, as I have done with all flights if it was at all possible that Mike be upgraded to Business class so that he could fully stretch out and take the weight off his bum. On all other occasions when possible if there is room he has been accommodated. In the case of South African Airlines, though business class was only 20% full, there was no way that they were going to upgrade him. Their policy states that upgrades are only given when there is due reason. When I tried to point out that I thought Mike had due reason, they dismissed it. What really disturbs me is that they were not willing to try and understand or listen. Their policy is that if Mike got upgraded from economy, then the business class ticket holders would be upset - but what I can not get my head around is - Mike was not asking to be automatically upgraded because he had a disability - we were asking because his broken skin is that vulnerable that if further damage is incurred, damage that so easily could be avoided by displacing his weight properly over a nine hour period, his ability to continue the trip is threatened. I really do not think that any business class ticket holder would begrudge someone like Mike being upgraded and if they did - well the have little else to worry about in their lives. What I could not get out of South African airlines however is what they consider "Due Reason". I have to say this trip has opened my eyes to see things I really don't want to see.




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