Destination: Mikey’s Fontane

I’ve never had a formal Afrikaans lesson, but I’ve lived here long enough to (as with my German and French) learn just about enough to not quite get by.

We’re heading into Mikey’s Fontane today. That’s what the locals call Matjiesfontein, when they’re not calling it home.

With a name like that, you wouldn’t expect that the town was founded by a Scotsman, but it was. He wasn’t even called Mikey – he was James Douglas Logan. In fact, Matjiesfontein means the fountain (or spring) of the little reeds: the sedges used by the original inhabitants to make mat flooring for their huts.

Steeped in colonial history, it’s allegedly like stepping back in time, back to the days when it was a popular Victorian spa town, and sprang up mainly as a stop off on the main railway line across the Cape.

The town also has connections to the Jameson Raid and the Anglo-Boer War.
Plenty to fill our eager minds, then.

Not much has changed

The boy will be learning about South African history in his… er… History lessons for the rest of the year. Which means that I will also be learning about South African history, not just so I can help him out, but also using it as an opportunity to fill in some gaps in my knowledge.

I didn’t learn about SA history at school (mainly because a lot of it was still happening, I suppose). I have been to Port Elizabeth though…

This is from a book on the 1820 Settlers’ stories. And this is the first reaction of the English families upon seeing their new home in PE:

Widespread gloom was reflected in every face, while some shed silent tears of disappointment at what they saw.

199 years on, this exactly matches my experience on the descent into PE.

Not much has changed.

Don’t joke

Don’t joke about crazy journeys.

I once did that once (it was yesterday) and it almost backfired.

But I don’t have editing time right now: I’ll get to that should I survive my flight back into severely stormy Cape Town this evening.
It could be a crazy journey.
But it would take a bit to beat this one…

Now I don’t believe in tempting fate and all that nonsense, but if I were to believe in it, I’d consider that those lines above would be a really good way of doing it.

The descent into Cape Town last night was distinctly unpretty. In fact, it was a horror show. Bumpy, shaky, loud: wholly unpleasant. There were regular gasps and screams from the length of the cabin as we were chucked around over the Winelands. A member of the cabin crew was knocked clean off her feet. Another was throwing up near the back of the plane. The elderly Muslim gentleman sitting next to me grabbed my arm out of sheer terror. Twice.

Now, I have complete faith in the tolerances and the engineering that go into building passenger aircraft, and also in the tensile strength of the materials involved, but even I had to continually remind myself of these things as we bounced our way down into the Mother City.

When we did make it down onto the runway, it was with a big bang. And when we finally made it to a full stop, my neighbour gently whispered “Thank Allah” under his breath, which I thought was a little unkind given the best efforts of the well-trained pilots. But then I vaguely recalled that the First Officer had introduced himself as Allah van Zyl prior to departure, so I guess that’s maybe what he was thinking.

Even when we were sitting safely on the tarmac awaiting the stairs to take us out into the cold evening, the plane was still bumping around, being buffeted by the wind which was gusting to 100kph.

The dash to the terminal was fun, with horizontal rain, lost hats, mild swearing and relieved laughter filling the air.

Nastiest 15 minutes of my flying life? Probably. I really didn’t enjoy it.

Props (no pun intended) then to Captain Jesus Schoeman* and Big A the First Officer for getting us down safely.

I have no air travel planned for the foreseeable future.


* possibly a made-up name.


Once you’ve got over the size of the world’s largest meatball (and actually, that’s a thing, with its own website), there’s still a surprising amount to think about here.

Arrogance, simplicity, self doubt and the forethought of the exact needs of the task in hand, rather than the sheer scale of the endeavour.

I’d have messed this up too, but fortunately I’m not a big fan of meatballs anyway.

Agulhas walk

More from the weekend: we had a lovely family walk along the Agulhas escarpment, overlooking the shipwreck and the Khoi fish traps, before heading into town to enjoy a really good milkshake.

Because of the gentle pace, there was plenty of time to stop and take in the views and get a few shots as well. I could have stayed all day, but I limited myself to one or two or more efforts as I continue to learn the nuances of my new camera.

This (I think) is a Spiky Purplegorse (Muraltia heisteria). At least, that’s the delicate lilac flower in the foreground. Winding its way around the stems is Common Dodder (Cuscuta campestris): a Category 1 NEMBA parasitic invasive from North America, which is strangling the fynbos (literally) all over the Agulhas National Park.

I mean, I wouldn’t mind if it were in any way photogenic, but it’s even ugly to look at.

I did the decent thing and save this little local from certain death, but it’s only a matter of time till those twining stems make their way back over the limestone, and to be honest, this time, I probably won’t be there to help out.