Saturday, April 30, 2011

Wonderful Watamu

The worst part of a holiday is that it ends.  I think I could easily live the rest of my life on holiday.  Unfortunately, commitments like children mean I have to keep working.  But I can dream.  How wonderful it would be to have enough money to be permanently on holiday.
Watamu was wonderful!  Kenya is a great destination.  It's about an hour and a half north of Mombasa depending on how fast you drive, and about half an hour south of Malindi, along the fabulous Kenyan coast.
We stayed at Turtle Bay Beach Club, all inclusive - all meals, drinks, snacks, etc, etc for approx $150 a night for the two of us.  It was a bit less, but it's too early in the morning for my head to attempt conversion sums.  That includes the use of their hobie catamarans, kit surfers etc.  Siobhan even went scuba diving in the open sea and is now hooked.  She swam with two stingrays.  Seeing that she now wants to get a diving certificate, I guess that being permanently on holiday is not an option and I'll just have to keep working so I can keep paying.
Being addicted to history (I wonder if there's a 12-step program for it) I was keen to explore the Gede ruins about ten minutes drive from Turtle Bay.  Interesting, seriously.  The city state was abandoned when a drought caused wells to dry up, and people to die of disease in the 17th Century.  It must have been magnificent in its day.  Apparently, the people of Gede were peace-loving and refused to take sides when the Sultan of Mombasa was having a go at the Sultan of Malindi and they got caught in the middle.  Another reason why the city was abandoned.
After that little taste of history, I was determined to continue following the Portuguese around the world, having already been to Angola, Mossel Bay, Mozambique, Goa, China and Malaysia.  While Siobhan was diving on the coral reef, I headed north to Malindi which was where Vasca da Gama had stopped just before he visited Goa in India for the first time.  I checked out the cross he put up in 1498 and the chapel he built the same year.  A tiny limestone and thatch building, but the first church in East and Central Africa.  Very cool.
Much to Siobhan's (and probably mine) chagrin we had to leave Watamu, vowing to return whenever we could. 
We stopped off at Saltlick again on our way back after taking a shortcut through the back of beyond on some hair-raising dirt roads.  This time we saw the most amazing sight, a herd of over 40 elephants, many tiny calves that were still small enough to walk underneath their mother's bellies, descend on the watering hole.  Siobhan took the most stunning photographs, and I told her she might need ton re-think studying drama and rather focus on photography.  I made the silly mistake after being so caught up viewing her great shots, that I stupidly promised her a fantastic camera for her sixteenth birthday in September.  I guess that means I have to add a few more years onto my working life before I can retire to a cottage next to the sea. 
You can see the rest of the Watamu photos here
Back at school now and this hectic term has started off to be just that.  I'm not sure how I'm going to manage to fit in some writing time, but will just have to give it a go.  I have two book projects on the go at the moment - How to say no to sex for the suddenly single, and Redesigning yourself for the multi-tasking generation.  And then of course Kerri and I stumbled upon this great idea for a novel when I wanted to advertise her skills on Facebook so that she can get a good and decent man. 
I wish I had more time for my writing.  I need that cottage by the sea so I can watch the waves from my window while I write up a storm.  Sigh.  My book sales for March and April have been sensational, hope it keeps up.  Okay, enough about wonderful Watamu.  I might just jump in my car and head back out there when I should be WRITING!
Have a great week!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Exploring Kenya

Just when it seemed we’d never be able to get away to start our holiday in Kenya, the fundi called to say our car was ready! We were already a day late and when he called me to collect the car it was already afternoon and I still had to get a new tyre put on as driving to Kenya on a tyre with a big bump sticking out of it would just have been asking for trouble. Decisions, decision, decisions. Should we leave straight away in the afternoon or leave bright and early the next morning?

Being the person I am, I thought why wait? Let’s go as soon as the new tyre is on. It was when the tyre fundi was showing me a nail sticking out of the left front tyre that I happened to glance up and notice that the new car licence I’d paid for in December while I was away had never been put up. I’d been driving around for close on 4 months with a car licence that had expired the beginning of December! Not good, I’d been lucky to get away with it! Now I had a new decision, should I chance driving in a foreign country with an expired licence, or should I wait a day to sort it out? Being somewhat of a risk-taker or just plain stupid (I confuse the two) I decided to chance it. I wasn’t even sure we’d get through the border with an expired licence, but it was worth a shot!
Luckily, we managed to get through both border posts incident-free. Then the next snag hit. Because of my aging and failing eyesight, I hadn’t read through the Kenya Lonely Planet as the print is way too small for me, so I actually had no idea where to go. We were in Kenya but I had did not know which direction to head in. Siobhan grunted and groaned and opened up the Kenya guide and tried to scrutinise the maps. “Just head straight, I think, but you know I’m no good at maps.” I’d thought her map-reading skills had improved considerably on the 11800km road trip we’d undertaken last year, but obviously she still lacked confidence in her map-reading abilities. The road, dry red dusty and bumpy stretched before us. For some strange reason, I’d assumed the highway to Mombasa would be tarred. A narrow pot-holed dirt road was not what I’d imagined a highway to be. We stuck to the road as the hours ticked past, not sure that we were on the right road or even heading in the right direction. The thought did briefly enter my brain that I always seemed to get into these kinds of adventures, but thank goodness it soon passed before I could dwell on it. We passed a herd of elephants on the left hand side of the road and I wondered where the hell we were. At that point I did berate myself for leaving Moshi at 4pm to drive blindly into the unknown. Darkness was quickly setting in and I had to swerve to avoid a mother elephant and her calf walking across the road. It was with almost tears of relief that we spotted a large sign up ahead saying that Sarova Saltlick was 15km further on. Only then did we breathe properly, we were on the right road after all! We had to stop at the Taita Hills Hotel to check in and pay and they told us that Saltlick was a further 7km through the game sanctuary, but we mustn’t worry, the guard at the gate would give us a map. Driving in the pitch dark, surrounded by wild animals, we drove from post to post as indicated on the map, stopping to read the post numbers to see if we were driving on the right track. At exactly 7.30pm we parked the car at Saltlick. Relief, just in time for a buffet dinner.
Saltlick is fantastic and worth every penny. It is built on huge stilts around a waterhole. In the dark we could make out the big bulky shapes of elephant and a large herd of gazelle lying down while a lone male stood watch. The room was luxurious and I felt like some sort of a celebrity staying in such a flash place! Dinner was superb, the staff professional, efficient and friendly. A fantastic night’s sleep had us ready to head to Mombasa. But first, an amazing buffet breakfast! You get full board at Saltlick. We saw some cool birds, and then some gazelle came to the waterhole for a drink. So peaceful and serene, we might stop off there on the way back.
In daylight it was easier to find our way out of the sanctuary, and it wasn’t long before we were back on the main dirt road. After about 30km of bumping, jarring and shuddering, we were wishing for a tar road. Someone up there heard our prayers because all of a sudden the road was tarred, but after driving 100m we were wishing it was a dirt road again. The tar was so pot-holed and broken up, that I elected to rather drive in the dirt off the road. Finally at Voi, the tar improved and from there to Mombasa it was quite good and we could pick up speed.
Mombasa was hectic with long queues of trucks everywhere and I did the whole illegal thing, and overtook a whole lot of them by driving on the dirt sidewalk. I’m sure we should have by-passed Mombasa, but somehow we drove through all the parts of it with heavy traffic, getting completely lost and having no idea where we were, I just kept heading in what I thought was north, and by some miracle we accidentally made it onto the right road to Watamu.
Now at Watamu, with its beautiful beaches, let the holiday begin!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Hiccuping into the Holidays

Have you ever wonder why nothing in life is simple, not even a holiday?  There always has to be some kind of little hiccup to raise your blood pressure.  School finished early on Wednesday morning and I should have been bouncing up and down, ready to bound off for the holidays like everybody else.  No.  I had to wake up Wednesday early morning, with chronic stomach gramps, terrible runs and nausea that made me gag when I tried to brush my teeth.  It did bring back memories of early pregnancies, that gagging while brushing the teeth bit, but alas or luckily, it would have to be divine intervention for that to be the case, and it wasn't.  I tried to attend school for the last day, but every time I opened my mouth to speak to someone, I had to quickly place my hand in front of my mouth to stop what felt like projectile vomiting.  I was in a bad way, not a good start to the holiday.
I went home and collapsed on the bed, in too much pain and feeling too weak to do anything else.  Thursday passed in a blur of toilet visits and sleep, Friday my stomach still cramped, the runs still ran frequently, but the nausea had disappeared.  A miraculous improvement!  The day improved further when I found my car's missing papers which I needed if we were going to cross the border to Kenya the next week.  That had given me some serious sleepless nights.  I took my overheating car to the fundi and he found out that all it was was a holey hose, so that was another relief.  Things were looking up, then the cramps started working overtime and I had to head once more to the safety of my bed.
Saturday was still a little queasy and the fact my rugby team the Stormers lost the first time this season, brought on more cramps.  Sunday I managed to do quite a bit of work on How to say no to sex and other survival tips for the suddenly single.  I felt good, better than I had for a while.
Monday morning 2am the power went out.  The light from across the road gives a soft light in my room as I sleep with the curtains open so that a cool breeze can enter through my slat windows.  Close the curtains and you suffocate from the heat.  I woke up with a shock in deadly darkness.  The nights are very dark here without power.  That's how I knew it was 2am.
This is the second time now in the last couple of months that bastards stole some of the power cable, resulting in no power.  The new generator I bought in November has never worked and twice been in to the fundi.  Got it back yesterday, but it still doesn't work, so not only did I pay for a new generator, but I have to keep paying for the fundi to fix it and replace parts on a brand new generator.  Sucks, doesn't it?  The power came on again at 10pm after Siobhan and I played several scrabble games by candlelight.
But, what sucks the most, is we are supposed to be leaving tomorrow (Wednesday 13 April) for Kenya.  Yesterday my car started overheating again, so in the afternoon I dropped it off with the fundi yet again.  Whatever is causing the overheating must have made that hose burst.  I just wish people here can do things right the first time, work quickly and efficiently.  It's like my kitchen that's being renovated.  They had five weeks to do it while I was away having surgery, but the started on the Friday before I returned on the Sunday.  The result, three weeks later, is that I have a half-installed kitchen, no surface or bench-top to work on, all my pots, plates, groceries stacked on the floor and on the dining room table.  Today, nobody came to do any work.  Like I said, frustrating.  If I ever get my car back in timeto go on this Kenyan holiday, I doubt I'll return to a completely renovated kitchen.  My gut feelings is that this is going to drag on even longer.
Defective is out on Kindle, Sony and at Barnes and Noble and the Apple Store.  You can see an exerpt here.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Hectic, hectic, hectic!

Where has the time gone?  It's hard to believe that I've been back at work for nearly three weeks already.  I arrived back longing for Cape Town, but had to jump straight into the hectic end-of-term madness that occurs in every school.  Tempers are short, everybody is stressed and the Easter holiday is all that keeps one going. 
Somehow or other, my editor and I managed the final edits and Defective is now available on Amazon Kindle.  The print copy is still a way away.  This frees me up to work on How to Say NO to Sex and other Survival Tips for the Suddenly Single.  I've decided to take a short break from novels and compile some of the articles I wrote for Hubpages into a fun, easy-to-read self-help book which will be a combination of practical advice and general whackiness.  I'll be expanding on many of the articles and adding more material.  At the same time I'm working on a more serious self-help book called Redesigning Yourself for the Multi-tasking Generation, which I am co-writing with Jeremy Sherr, a world-renowned and highly-regarded homeopath who's dabbled into all kinds of alternative disciplines.
School for this quarter ends on Wednesday 6th April, and I'm already counting sleeps.  Besides a quick safari and a few nights at Turtle Bay at Waitamu in Kenya, I just want to chill at home and do some serious writing.  Well, that's my aim anyhow!  It all depends on if the power holds out.
Since I've been back the power has been worse than terrible going out either during the day, at night, or both.  And to make matters worse, my house seems to have an added problem which causes my power to go out every time the wind blows or it rains, while everybody else still has power.  Apparently, as the school electrician told me before he repaired my power problem by hitting the sparking box at the top of the pole with a long stick, the aluminium has a problem when it meets the copper and it causes a carbon build-up which he has to shake off either by wobbling the wires or hitting the box with a long stick.  Now as I said, I'm not an electrician, but this does not sound like a permanent solution to the problem, especially as its the rainy season.  Also, sparks, flames and smoke periodically coming from the box on the 4 metre pole outside my kitchen door is surely not normal and probably a danger.  But, the elctrician didn't seemed too fussed so maybe I shouldn't be as well.  Unfortunately, it does worry me, but luckily his stick waving got the power going so that I could watch my Stormers Rugby team chalk up another win!
Have a great week as we count down to the holidays!