Midlands Meander

The N3 freeway/toll road leaves Durban and climbs steadily into the mountains. We passed the provincial capital of Pietermaritzburg and entered a beautiful part of the country known as the Midlands. It’s rich, rolling farmland surrounded by mountains that (!) accumulate a little snow in the wintertime. The whole area is spectacularly beautiful, and the air pure and crisp in the May autumn air, and filled with interesting shops, art studios, bed and breakfasts, and restaurants. The area is marketed as the Midlands Meander. We visited the Mandela Capture Site museum, then stopped at a collection of shops, boutiques, food stalls and restaurants called Piggly Wiggly (!).  Then I was attracted by a sign “Culamoya Chimes.” Four km. later, over an increasingly bumpy road and up a single track road, we discovered a delightful shop run by a crusty 78 year old Afrikaaner named Frick who has created hundreds of windchimes, and knows what each one sounds like, while his wife was busy upstairs on the computer creating their Facebook page.  I picked out one for Georgia that sounds like a bubbling brook.


Midlands Meander, a set on Flickr.

We finished off in Nottingham Road, where we visited a toy shop. If only I could bring a SA “chariot of wire” home for Josh!


There have only been two pieces of public art that have literally taken my breath away; the first was the Vietnam veteran’s memorial in Washington, D.C., and this was the second. As a non-South African, I knew little of Nelson Mandela’s history beyond “Invictus,” and the brand new museum filled in the gaps in a clear and non-vindictive way. The sculpture marking the spot where the apartheid police arrested Mandela looks like a jumble of steel posts, but reveals itself after a rather long walk down a brick path to the spot where he was captured by the apartheid police in 1962 and subsequently imprisoned. Seeing his silhouette tower above the mountains is a fitting tribute.

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Mandela, a set on Flickr.

It is perhaps a testament to what this man has done for his country that we were surrounded by two busloads of boisterous middle school students who obviously had to answer test questions based on his history in the museum…and we felt not at all uncomfortable.

Felicity Goodrick

Felicity Daphney Goodrick, born May 7, 2013 in Westville, KwaZulu Natal, South Africa.


Felicity Goodrick, a set on Flickr.

Felicity is now the official mascot of the Pinetown Boys’ High School, where Becky teaches science classes and assists in coaching cross country and cricket.

What follows are specialized links to some of the more interesting photos I’ve taken and things we’ve done. For all of the pictures we’ve taken in chronological order, without commentary, click here.

Farmers’ Market

The Saturday farmers market in Assaguay, South Africa. The Saturday market is huge, with perhaps 75 crafts vendors and 25 food vendors. The food was extremely good – we had a poached egg on bacon on a thick potato pancake drizzled with Hollandaise sauce and garnished with tomatoes, arugula and greens. Add a cup of strong Rwandan coffee, and it’s a perfect breakfast. The crisp fall temperature couldn’t have been nicer.

Crafts vendors sold goods they’d made, and they ranged from handmade clothes and accessories to mysterious potions to a handmade beer barrel braai (barbecue grill) to jewelry to farm fresh, organic, free range eggs and fresh vegetables, to furniture, and some guy who was amazing kids with his R20 (US$2) magic trick collection. I was tempted to buy a flying saucer which seemed to float in the air, but by then my supply of Rands had dwindled alarmingly. Perhaps next weekend.

I always love street musicians, and was surprised to hear two teenage kids playing classical violin pieces in front of their fathers’ display of handmade wallets.

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ArtistMassage?DressesMonkey proofNot Made In ChinaDecorative plants

Farmers’ Market, a set on Flickr.

South Africa, Part I

Our newest granddaughter, and Katy, Emily and Josh’s first cousin, Felicity Daphney Goodrick, arrived on Tuesday, May 7, 2013,  a couple of days after we did. She’s a really cute baby (not that I’m prejudiced), but her parents don’t want her pictures posted everywhere; if you want to see them, email me for the link.  I’ll post some appropriate family pictures and information later.

The best I can do is this “before” picture:


and the front page of the newspaper from the school where Becky teaches, the Pinetown Boys’ High School:


We flew from Frankfurt to Johannesburg on a Lufthansa Airbus A380-800, a double-deck behemoth that’s the world’s largest commercial airliner – it even dwarfs the 747.

The Goodrick’s dogs, Duke and Doug, are part of an extensive security system to foil the burglars and robbers who frequently cause serious problems in this country.

The dogs are wearing matching Springboks sweaters (South Africa’s internationally famous rugby team whose most famous game is central to the plot of Invictus).

South Africa is hardly a third world country; in some ways, it’s more advanced than the US.  Greg and his brother have formed a business, LeaderOptec, to wholesale fibre optic cabling equipment.  There is feverish activity throughout the country and in neighboring Zimbabwe installing high speed internet; in the US, only Google is doing anything remotely similar, and Greg and Tim help supply the connectors and cables.

Verizon will, on request, unlock your cell phone and a trip to the nearby Vodacom store and a few minutes to install a new SIM card, means my phone looks different:


although it works as well as it did at home.  Oh, by the way, it’s also a lot cheaper than Verizon.  Perhaps the  major cell phone companies haven’t gotten together in some back room to fix prices.

The freeways and tollways are wide, fast and relatively pothole free. And yes, they drive on the left, which is something we’re gradually getting used to.

N2 Freeway, Durban, South Africa
Gas is relatively expensive, but there are no gas wars because the nationwide price is set for all stations everywhere each Tuesday.  Lately it’s been going down.
R12.10 per liter = US$4.99 per gallon

which is in Rands per LItre, which translates to US$4.99 per gallon.  Which they consider pretty cheap.

Seen along the highway – a familiar sign:
Lafarge is big down here, too.

and one just before a construction zone that’s direct and to the point:
"Give 'em a break" just isn't quite this graphic!

But it’s autumn here, and the leaves are beginning to turn.  This is the spectacular view taken from the living room window.  Golfers can be found playing as early 6:30 a.m. on the Camelot Estate Country Club course directly across Haylett Road.


But wait – we haven’t had summer!  Not fair!

More pictures soon.  If you’ve saved the link to the baby pictures, they’ll be posted there first.