Friday, November 30, 2007

Jetlag

Perhaps it is the realization that I have returned to my home in Lakewood for good and my body is rebelling against it, perhaps it is that I spent that three weeks in the GMT +2 time zone with my friends in South Africa… What ever the reason I am jetlagged.

No, I mean I am really JETLAGGED! It usually is the case that when I get home I want to fall asleep at my desk around two in the afternoon and want to be awake at three every morning. This time, I actually dozed off at my desk yesterday just after lunch. I think I may have come-up with the correct solution, though.

When I returned home last night, I took a nap for an hour. I the forced myself to stay awake until my normal bedtime and took a sleeping pill to keep me asleep until my normal wake-up time. It seems to have worked. When my wake-up track started on my CD alarm clock (Piano Concerto in a-minor by Edvard Grieg) at 04:30, I was lightly dozing, but still asleep.

It is now just before six; I've done my 1/2 hour on the treadmill, completed my morning ablutions, dressed, eaten breakfast and taken Saga for a nice long walk in her park. I guess I should wrap-this-up and get to the office. Hopefully, I will have an internet connection this weekend and I can catch-up on my blog posting.

Wherever you are today, I hope your day is starting-out nicely!

Don Bergquist – November 30, 2007 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What A Difference

…and this morning it is lovely!

I love it here in Denver! The weather one day can be completely crappy and then the next day it is lovely. Of course, there is still a bit of snow on the grass in the park. Saga hates the cold and snow.

My friend, who watched Saga whilst I was in South Africa, noted her odd habit of sometimes wanting a long walk and others that she barely wanted to go out. This is magnified by the presence of the snow. This morning, she ran back to the house as soon as she had done her morning thing.

But the drive into the office was nice enough and it was warm enough that I really didn't even need the light jacket I had brought with me when I went out for lunch. What a difference a day makes!

Wherever you are today, I hope that your day is pleasant!

Don Bergquist – November 29, 2007 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

Surprise!

Well, there goes that plan!

I had hoped to get in early this morning and get some paperwork done. But the snowstorm that was supposed to pass north of the state hit us straight on. When Saga and I went out this morning the skies were clear. She barked at the coyotes in the park and re-established her ownership of the greenbelt. Half-an hour later as I was finishing my preparation for getting into the office, the news said that the snow was falling in earnest.

Looking outside in the yard, there were two inches of snow. The roads were a mess! Knowing that my car gets horrid traction in the snow, I opted for the bus. Good thing too! The back-ups on Wadsworth and US-6 were impressive. There were a couple times that we passed a car in the ditch.

In the office, I caught-up on my paperwork and tried to get through the backlog of email and headed out. This evening I am doing laundry and continuing to get on with my unpacking. Coming home is so much work!

Wherever you are today, I hope all your surprises were pleasant ones!

Don Bergquist – November 28, 2007 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Of Course!

I do not know why I expected that I would have telephone and internet and wireless reconnected just because I called ahead and ordered it. My phone and internet connection were as dead as my car was. Good thing that I really didn't think that it would be that easy!

My errands took longer than they should have today because I had no car or mobile phone. But I eventually got through the list. Tomorrow I am headed back to the office. This evening I am going to try to get through a couple loads of laundry before I topple over. I am so knackered because of my jetlag!

Wherever you are today, I hope you've had a great day!

Don Bergquist – November 27, 2007 – Lakewood, Colorado, USA

Monday, November 26, 2007

Travel Day

That wasn't so bad!

On the way to the airport, I asked the driver of the car service that we use if he would mind assisting me with my bags. It was the one real worry that I had. I knew that I had to get them in and that if they were too heavy, I'd pay the overage and expense it. (I was still stressed, but dealing with it!) Kevin (the driver) went above and beyond the call of duty on that one!

By dint of following the directions given to me by the airline, I got almost everything wrong. On the preparation of Saga to fly, I was told to: pack the kennel with a blanked that had her and/or my smell on it so that she would feel comfortable, fill the kennel cups with water and freeze them, and attach food to the top of the kennel so that she could be fed in Detroit. The problem is that they will not allow the kennel to have a blanket in it because they are afraid that she could be tangled-up in it and strangle herself. She cannot have food during the flight because they are afraid that she will choke on it. And the water thing? Not allowed to carry liquids on. Hmmm… but I can check them and she will be in the cargo hold as checked baggage. I (wisely) didn't press the issue. I packed the blanket, tossed the food and dumped the ice out of the bowls.

I was also mislead by the BBC (and by Northwest) when I believed what I had been told. No! As of this morning you can still only carry ONE carry on. Not "one plus a briefcase" as I was told by Northwest and by the reports on BBC. Luckily, the check-in agent was kind enough to take my camera bag, and put a do-not-load tag and fragile stickers on it. I was handed it back as I boarded the plane.

The flight is now about half over. I've watched a couple movies, and am listening to podcasts as I write this. I've decided that I will find a porter to assist me in Detroit with getting Saga and my luggage through to the re-check desk and there will definitely be a porter in Denver. I've got my bottle of wine, my entertainment and am not even going to give what I have got still coming up ahead of me another thought.

Wherever you are today, I hope you've got time to relax!

Don Bergquist – 26 November 2007 – Northwest Airlines Flight 31, Somewhere Over The North Atlantic

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Relax!

I cannot believe how stressed I am getting over this! Yesterday, after returning from the bank, I unpacked and repacked all my cases, trying to get them even, if not under the legal limit for carrying. I know that tomorrow is going to be a bear! I've got four cases and Saga in her kennel with my carryon and my briefcase to get to Denver.

There is no reason to stress about it! I've had training on reducing stress! I'm going to "live in a day-tight compartment" as Dale Carnegie puts it. I'll worry about tomorrow tomorrow. I think I will catch the train and head into town this afternoon and do one last day of bumming around London.

Wherever you are today, I hope that you're having a relaxing weekend.

Don Bergquist – 25 November 2007 – Hampton Court, Surrey, UK

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Late Night/Early Morning

It's about noon and I am sitting at a table in the King's Arms with my PC waiting for the time to come for me to check-into my flight. Last night was a blast! I had a chance to spend one last night in the pub with friends and had a few rounds with the great people that I will miss when I head home on Monday.

One, a little girl that I have known over here since my early visits to the pub, gave me a stuffed leopard since it was the only one of the big five that I hadn't seen in South Africa. That was so sweet of her! I was really touched.

I closed the pub down with my friends it was nearly two before I got back upstairs this morning. At nine, I was at the bank to close my account and get that finished. This afternoon, a friend is coming by to take Saga and me to the vet. I've got to get a health certificate for Saga so she can fly on Monday. That done tomorrow will be a day of rest.

Wherever you are today, I hope that you're having a great day and getting lots done!

Don Bergquist – 24 November 2007 – Hampton Court, Surrey, UK

Friday, November 23, 2007

Going Away

This afternoon I bought a round of drinks for my friends at the office. About twenty of my colleagues showed-up to toast with me on my departure. This afternoon, I'm back at the hotel getting my re-packing started and resting-up for the party tonight.

I've invited a bunch of my friends from the UK to join me for drinks tonight. Being this is my last bash with friends and I know that it is going to be emotional. I am so going to miss my friends. I guess I'll have to enjoy it while I can.

Wherever you are, I hope that you'll enjoy the company of the people who are important to you!

Don Bergquist – 23 November 2007 – Hampton Court, Surrey, UK

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving In The United Kingdom

Back home it is the holiday and I guess my family will be gathering at various places for their turkey dinner. My turkey and stuffing came in the form of a Christmas Wrap from Sainsbury's. Turkey with sausage, savory stuffing and cranberry sauce wrapped in a flour tortilla. (It was every bit as unappetizing as it sounds.

I long for a turkey stuffed with Mom's sausage stuffing, real cranberry sauce (the kind the still has the ridges from the camera still imprinted on it as it sits in the serving plate), and pumpkin pie. The closest that I can come up with today is that I am going to have a bowl of pumpkin soup.

I've got a couple more errands to run today and then all I will have left to do before getting on my way back to the states is to close my bank account and get Saga to the vet. Both are scheduled activities for Saturday.

Wherever you are today, I hope you're with your family and friends for Thanksgiving.

Don Bergquist – 22 November 2007 – Hampton Court, Surrey, UK

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Anniversary

Three years ago today, I published my first blog entry. I'd never had a blog, never knew anyone that blogged, it was all a new thing to me. As I wrote in that first entry, it was a way for me to keep in touch with my family whilst I was traveling.

At the time, I'd been traveling for my company about fifteen years and had never had a need to communicate that wasn't more practicable via post cards, letters, email or phone, but this was different. Today is also the anniversary of my first trip to the United Kingdom. It was the first time that I had traveled to a country that was not on my own continent.

This broadening of my horizons meant that I would be taking more pictures than usual and that the cost of phoning home would be prohibitively expensive. That is why the blog started. I was trying to find a fast, easy, inexpensive way to write home. That is far from where it has ended. I have lots of people out there reading my blog and writing to me to tell me that they are enjoying it. I am thankful for each and every one of them and appreciate all the email I get. Thank you and keep it coming, guys!

That first trip, three years ago, was meant to be a six-week design trip that was meant to be one of three that I would take before my project assignment finished. Those of you reading my blog regularly know that it is far from where it ended. That assignment generated another and then another and as such, I have now been (for all intents and purposes) living in Thames Ditton for the past two years.

It has been a great time! I've met a lot of really cool people and have made a lot of really great friends. My recent holiday to South Africa is one of the side benefits of this whole chain of events that started three years ago.

To everybody who has become (or continued to be) a part of my life over the past three years, I cannot tell you how much you mean to me! When I return home to Denver, early next week, the blog will continue as a way to communicate to those of you I leave behind in what I think of as a second home, the United Kingdom.

Wherever you are today, I hope you take time to appreciate the wonderful people in your life.

Don Bergquist – 21 November 2007 – Hampton Court, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my cousin, Grainne

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Back In The United Kingdom

We arrived to rain and cold in London. The temperatures were cold enough to make me glad that I had my jacket and long sleeves on when we got off the plane. Brrr!

Once we had all been dropped off and I had checked into the hotel for my last few days in the UK, I headed into the office to catch-up on my emails and see what had happened in my absence.

Back at the hotel this evening, I started uploading my pictures to Shutterfly. Hopefully, I'll have them all uploaded by the end of the week so I can start uploading my blog entries. Until that time, I'll keep my blog on this document and update the blog as soon as I have pictures and links to go with my stories.

I'm so thoroughly knackered… once I have finished the set that is uploading; I'm headed upstairs to bed. It was a great trip and I cannot wait until the next time I visit South Africa! I am sure that I will some day head back. If only because there are so many game parks that I have yet to visit.

Wherever you are today, I hope you have something that you're looking forward to!

Don Bergquist – 20 November 2007 – Hampton Court, Surrey, UK

Monday, November 19, 2007

Departure

Travel is an interesting animal. I look forward to it, but hate it when it arrives. I love the idea of going places, seeing things, doing things, it is just the actual travel to the places where I am going and seeing and doing that I dislike.

As I have written before in the blog, travel is largely a process of waiting for things. You wait for the taxi, and then wait in queue to check-in. You slouch about in the departure area to have your flight called, wait for the luggage at the carousel and then wait some more for rental cars, taxis, hotels, etc.

Travel is also odd because it does not seem to matter how much stuff I leave with, even if I do no shopping, use up consumables, discard any damaged items, lose an item or two and give-away the items that I brought with me to give as gifts, there always seems to be more in my bags when I pack to return than there was when I left. My bags when I came down here weighed about 25 kilograms. Having given away a few things, drank the five bottles of wine that I had in my checked bags, discarded a cheap pair of sandals I had acquired specifically for this trip, given away some of the clothing that I can no longer wear and delivered a gift I carried down here, my bags now weigh about 28 kilograms.

I have bought a couple souvenirs (small carved animals for my curio cabinet back home) but those are all in my camera bag and so add no weight to my checked bag. It's odd…

Oh well. It is a mystery for another time. Right now, I am sitting on the patio of my friends' flat in Ballito enjoying one final quiet morning, staring out to sea. I can see the breakers just above the screen of my laptop. Now, this is an office with a view! This morning we've got to return the keys to the flat we let for the past few weeks and we're going to try checking-in for our flight to get good seats. That done, we just have to find a way to entertain ourselves until about one when we leave for the airport. (Preferably, this will be one that does not involve shopping; I have too much stuff already!)

Wherever you are today, I hope that your morning is passing in a pleasant way!

Don Bergquist – 19 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Penultimate Morning

On a beautiful Sunday morning, I went down to Chaka's Rock and put my feet into the India Ocean for what may be the last time of this trip. The morning is just as bright and beautiful as yesterday was bleak and oppressive.

Your humble reporter had walked down to the beach to swim in the surf for one last time. Unfortunately, the surf was far too powerful for that. I could feel the undertow undermining the sand from my feet as I stood there. What is the old saying? "Discretion is the better part of valor."

I wet my feet and shins, then walked back to the flat, and showered. We have been invited to a traditional South African braai this afternoon. A couple that Lucy and Phil have known or a while have invited us over. It should be a good afternoon.

Lucy and Phil head back to London this evening. The rest of us are headed back in the afternoon tomorrow. I had best get ready for the afternoon's festivities. So for now, have a good day!

Wherever you find yourself today, I hope you're having a great day!

Don Bergquist – 18 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Morning Solitude

What a brilliant start to the day! Even though I was up 'til about one, I found it impossible to sleep past six this morning. I lay in bed listening to the rainstorm for an hour or so and then decided that it was time to do something. Anything!

Not counting the travel day, Monday, we have only two days left. This vacation is rapidly coming to a close. I know hat we have been invited to a barbecue (or to be more exact: a braai) tomorrow. I have no idea what is planned for today.

At a break in the rain, about eight, I headed down to the rocky point near the bottom of the complex and sat watching the tide change. I stared-off into space occasionally registering the fact that there was a world behind me. This morning, the universe was just the waves and me. An occasional bird would enter my universe, spend a few minutes and then fly off to the real world.

Around half-ten my universe got positively crowded! A school of dolphin swam into my field of vision. They could not have been fifty-yards off the coast, headed south, romping and playing in the wake. At a guess I'd say that there were about fifteen or twenty of them. They were half-way to Chaka's Rock before I remembered that I had a camera with me.

When the rain returned with a vengeance about fifteen minutes later, I picked myself up and headed back to the flat. All-in-all, it was a very peaceful and serene way to spend a morning.

Wherever you are today, I hope that your day has time in it for peace and quiet!

Don Bergquist – 17 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Friday, November 16, 2007

Friday In The Rain

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, it was another lovely day with friends. The skies were a bit overcast so when I went for my morning swim, it was realty nothing more than a quick dip. It was too cold in the pool to spend much more time than that in it.

This afternoon, we hired a cab and went to a lovely Italian restaurant down the coast from here. We where there to meet-up with some of my friends from London's friends from around here. It was really good meal and good to meet new people.

A "Small World" moment happened, while chatting with one of the South Africans at the table. We were talking about Florida, where I grew-up, and it turned-out that he was familiar with it. He had spent some time in Clewiston near Lake Okeechobee.

The rain started to fall while we were making our way down to the restaurant. It fell on-and-off all afternoon and into the evening. This evening, after lunch, we went to the pub. What a way to spend a day!

Wherever you are today, I hope that you're having an excellent day!

Don Bergquist – 16 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Rorkes Drift

The second (and better known) of the two battles associated with this place is the battle of Rorkes Drift. Fresh from the victory at Isandlwana, a contingent of 3,000-4,000 of the Zulu warriors who had not tasted battle moved to the south to attack the British camp at Rorkes Drift.

The camp consisted mostly of a group of engineers, left in charge of the bridge, and a field hospital. All in all fewer than 100 British soldiers successfully defended the encampment from the onslaught.

Our guide, Dalton, told us of the time between the two battles, the origin of the buildings at Rorkes Drift and finally of the battle itself. How could one help but have been moved?









Once again, Kevin had brought poppies to decorate the memorials of both sides.

Our drive back was slowed considerably by the occurrence of a huge thunder storm accompanied by hail ranging up to marble-size. It was an adventure, but Kevin got us home safely with the aid of Angie's navigation.

Wherever you are today, I hope you've been moved by something!

Don Bergquist – 15 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

My god! It's Full Of Stars!

It is about three thirty and I am wide-awake. For some reason I cannot exactly put my finger on, I came awake about thirty minutes ago. Not being able to go to sleep again, I grabbed a glass of water and headed out to the verandah of my room to look out at the sky.

Immediately, the line from 2010 by Arthur C. Clark sprang to mind. David Bowman's last words broadcast to the Earth as he fell into the monolith were "My God! It's full of stars!"

Even with the layer of smoke clinging to the valley, the skies are clearer than I have seen since I was in Arizona for the first time years ago. The Milky Way is clearly visible running through the sky. The sounds of the night animals are the only company my thoughts and I have as we sit here, staring over the dark landscape. The world is at peace.

Wherever you are this morning, I hope you’re enjoying a quiet moment alone with your thoughts

Don Bergquist – 15 November 2007 – Isandlwana Lodge, Zululand, South Africa

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Isandlwana

Today's adventure was to visit the battlefield at Isandlwana. The less famous of two related battles I the Anglo-Zulu war, The Battle of Isandlwana took place 22 January 1879. Other than the occasional reference by my friends to the battle (for which I had no context), I had never heard of Isandlwana before the planning for this trip began.

In short, a massively outnumbered British force had crossed the Buffalo River into Zulu territory and was destroyed by the Zulu army. In a single day, 1,200 British forces fell to an army armed only with spears. Granted, the size of the opposing armies was greatly disparate; the Zulus numbered 25,000. Even at the three-to-one ratio that the Zulus fell that day, sheer number made it inevitable that the battle was lost before it began.

We had a local man whose great-grandfather had been on the battlefield that day. It was fascinating to hear the stories of what led to the war, what happened that day, and the aftermath. It was moving to be in a place where such a horrific battle took place.

Before leaving, we climbed Isandlwana Mountain to the place where the last of the British troops fell. Kevin had brought some poppies and, it being the week of Remembrance Sunday, he placed a wreath on both the British and Zulu Memorials. It was a very moving day.

Returning to the Isandlwana Lodge, a lovely little hotel overlooking the battlefield, we had a dip in the pool and then dinner and drinks. After a while looking at the stars on the veranda, I turned in with the sounds of the night filling my room.

Wherever you are tonight, I hope you've had a moving experience today.

Don Bergquist – 14 November 2007 – Isandlwana Lodge, Zululand, South Africa

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Chilling

Today we've done nothing of note. How wonderful just to hang-out with friends, splash around in the pool, have a bite of lunch, do whatever comes into our heads. This afternoon, we had lunch at a fish and chips shop in Ballito. It was excellent.

Tonight we have a trip to the pub planned and then it's back here for a braai dinner. Other than that, we're just chillin'.

Wherever you are today, I hope your day is as pleasant.

Don Bergquist – 13 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Monday, November 12, 2007

Shopping

Apparently, it's the biggest mall in the southern hemisphere. A whole bunch of shopping! Oh Boy! To quote an old line from a comedian (which one, I cannot remember) "there is a reason the menswear is located right inside the door to the mall…"

It was interesting at least to see the differences between what you'd see in a mall here and a mall back home. The building is more-or-less the same. This one was a bit more opulent than some, and more diverse. There was a three-storey rock climbing structure at one end where the atmosphere of the air-conditioned park-like setting changed to more cave-like, but al-in-all, it was still a mall.

We were there to get stuff that everyone needed to buy while here. A few things to bring back to London, or to the flat in Ballito, a lot of shopping to take advantage of the exchange rate between the pound sterling and the rand. At the best of time I do not really enjoy shopping… I run in, get what I need, run out. It is almost as if I am afraid that I will spontaneously combust if I spend too much time in a mall.

Besides that, I already have too much stuff to bring back to the states with me in two weeks. It is as if need to get more stuff. So I walked down the mall, looking at the people and the way they interact with each other. People Watching: the one really good reason to go to a mall; in my humble opinion.

There are subtle differences. There were more bare feet than I would expect to see. Perhaps it was an anomaly, but shortly after one guy walked in with three sons in tow (all bare below the ankles), I spotted a woman walking around barefoot. Ironically, she had two shoeboxes in her arms.

The real difference was the behavior of the staff. They were helpful. Too helpful. On the off chance that there would be a store that I actually wanted to see, I stopped to peruse the directory. There were a number of stores whose names were familiar, even more that weren't.

After a few minutes of reading through the list, a uniformed person came over and stood at my right, just in my field of vision. "May I help you find something?" he asked. I assured him that I was just looking and had no specific destination in mind. Okay. That was strange.

The fact that it happened two more times with more-or-less the same exchange in the space of the time it took me to read through the list is what makes this interesting. It wasn't 'til I had re-grouped with my friends that it was brought to my attention that I had missed something. Something that was pretty obvious now that I think about it. There seemed to be more staff than shoppers in the mall.

We had adventures trying to get out of the parking lot due to a malfunctioning exit gate that would not open, then when it chose to open, it slammed shut before we could reach it to exit. Drinks and dinner later, we finished another wonderful chill-out day of holiday

Wherever you are today, I hope that you're having a lovely day!

Don Bergquist – 12 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Happy Birthday to my cousin, Michael

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Prawn Shack

What a blast! In a trip that has been rife with good times and adventures, today has been another highlight. My friends who have been here before have been trying to tell me about this place but nothing that they said fully captured the spirit of The Prawn Shack fully.

Let's start with our preparations: we hired a local that the owner of the pub recommended as a driver to take us up there and back. This proved to be an excellent preparation as the food and wine flowed the entire time we were there. Around noon, we headed north on the motorway for a leisurely afternoon lunch/diner.

At the risk of sounding like a commercial for the place, you've got to go there! The views of the beach are spectacular, the food is exquisite, and the atmosphere is totally relaxed. We arrived at the beach about an hour north of Ballito and were greeted with a round of Camparinhos.

The bar is literally a shack! It has a sand floor and swings instead of bar stools. After drinks you head up to the deck above the bar to enjoy a leisurely seven courses of the local delicacies. As you can tell from the name, feature heavily. They appeared in four of the seven courses. Heck! There is even a live prawn/tequila shooter.

There is no worry about accidentally breaking dishes either, the bowls are all hewn out of logs, the plates and the glasses are enameled tin. The shot glasses and the fish tank was the only glass I saw there.

The dessert was one that was unusual as well: caramelized camembert! Wheels of cheese covered in sugar, caramelized to a crunchy finish and served with crackers and fruit to top.

What a great afternoon! The staff were friendly and we all had a great time. I so enjoyed myself that I want to share the experience. If you find yourself in the area of Durban and want a thoroughly enjoyable experience, look them up! Their website is the place to get more information: www.prawnshack.co.za

Wherever you are today, I hope you've had a relaxing, enjoyable day surrounded by friends.

Don Bergquist – 11 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Veterans Day

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Sleeping In

I didn't get up 'til almost 07:30 this morning. The first thing I did was to unpack the computer, offload my pictures and start looking at them. I think I go some really nice pictures!

I then spent most of the morning while the rest of the group slept in drinking coffee, working on my pictures, and catching-up, transferring the notes I had kept of the safari into the document I am writing for updating my blog when I return to London.

The maid showed-up just before ten. I asked her if she could have waited as my friends were still asleep but she didn't seem to understand the question. She wiped few surfaces, made the bed, and pushed a dust mop over part of the floor and left.

Remaining notes from the Safari: Drivers here are crazy! The things they do on the roads disturb and amaze me! There were a number of times the drivers ahead of us came perilously close to disaster yesterday on our ride back. People here seem to take a very caviler view of when they need to clear the road. A couple times, we saw people just sauntering across the motorway!

Phil and Lucy are returning this afternoon from their trip to Kruger and we'll compare notes, swap stories, and go to the pub. (Though, not necessarily in that order...) We've ordered a curry for tonight. I am sure this will be one hell of a day. It is getting on in the morning, I am off for a swim.

Wherever you are today, I hope you'll have an excellent day!

Don Bergquist – 10 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Downer Moment

With the great time I've been having, what a strange notion that I would be down. This evening as we were sitting after dinner, having a drink and chatting of the things we had done and the things we were going to do, I had a really down moment.

It happened as my friends were making plans for the holidays. Who was hosting which dinners, where they were going on Boxing Day, etc. It suddenly occurred to me that the plans that were being made didn't include me. I'm going home. This is my last blast as a part of the group.

The dinners they are planning will be for them; the parties will not include invites for me. It made me sad to think that the next time I see these friends of mine will be months (or years) away after this month ends. Unless they come to the states on holiday or I return to the UK on business or on holiday, we will not be sharing a beer at the pub.

I guess that I am looking at this from the wrong angle, though. I had these same feelings when I left Tampa for Memphis, then again when I left Memphis for Denver. Heck, I had the same fears that my friends in Colorado would not remember me if I had the opportunity to move to London.

I guess that the thing to do is to remember the good times, hope that the pleasant memories are mutual and hope to see my friends again as soon as possible.

Wherever you are tonight, I hope you'll take a moment to think of the special friends you have in your life.

Don Bergquist – 10 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Friday, November 09, 2007

Safari And Stupidity

It was another great day at the park! I've been getting-up naturally early with just the alarm on my watch as a back up, but I have been awake before it each morning. My first task on this trip each morning is to make hot water for the flask so we can have coffee and tea before we pack the bus to go and then again in a couple hours at our breakfast stop.

This morning, we packed the bus for going home, headed out and had another wonderful day of spotting animals. We saw hyeanas and crocodiles for the first time. We also saw lots of reptiles: geckos, monitors, snakes, etc.

The encounter of note today was not between the wildlife and us this time. At a stop at the Hilltop Camp, we saw a couple of local guys who decided (in spite of the signs) to try and approach a cape buffalo to get a better picture. They soon found-out that there was a reason for the warnings. The buffalo charged them. One of them lost their shoes trying to run away. Luckily, (for them) the buffalo was more interested in asserting his territory than in getting them. He stopped after a few steps. They kept running.

There was some idiot driving along with one of his passengers hanging out the open window of the car sitting on the door, hanging onto the roof. Besides being dangerous, it spooks the animals. However, the idiot of the day award goes to the couple who actually parked their car, got out and tried to get their own picture standing in front of a herd of zebra that were totally freaked by their presence.

Mid-afternoon we drove back to Ballito for a stop at the pub for some drinks and a dinner at a local restaurant. Then, totally knackered from all the activity, we turned in. We're all planning on sleeping-in tomorrow.

Wherever you are today, I hope you've had an excellent day!

Don Bergquist – 09 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Roughing It And Other Adventures

Camp just doesn't seem the right word for it. The tents are not so much tents as canvas hotel rooms. If scout camp had been anything like this, I would have loved it! I liked scout camp, but this place is great!

The tents are huge and on raised wooden platforms about three feet off the ground. Each is comprised of two rooms: a sleeping area big enough for two single beds, a cabinet and the other accoutrements you'd be likely to find in any hotel room; and the bathroom with a huge shower, lavatory and basin. Each tent also has a large covered entry area with outside seating. A thirty-foot raised deck that has a large kitchen tent with sink, cooker, and refrigerator joins the two tents. Of the kitchen is a deck with a picnic table. Just down the steps from this is a braai (barbecue grill).

Last night we returned later than we had planned and had to eat in the dark. There are lights in all three tents of the suite, but they do not shed much light on the dining deck. Oh, they also turn off all the power at 22:00.

Today we had another great day of spotting game. Angie and Terry really are good at this! They took us to some great places to spot game, birds, reptiles, everything. The weather continued to behave itself and we had a good day for spotting.

It has worked-out great too! Kevin has done most of the driving in the park with Angie navigating from the front seat. I've been allowed to sit in the middle with Terry in the back. I know that the back of the van is the least comfortable seat, but Terry keeps saying that the middle is better for shooting pictures. I have easy access to open windows on both sides of the van.

Speaking of photography, I think I am getting some good pictures. I hope so at least! I have filed three cards on my camera… I cannot wait to get back to civilization to see the shots on something larger than the 1.5" preview on the back of the camera!

An interesting shot that I got was of a baby rhinoceros nursing. I guess I knew that they suckled their young, but I have never seen it! The calf just lay down in the middle of the road and started feeding off its mother. What a cool sight!

The big adventures for today include seeing my first lion in the wild. We saw a female, a juvenile, and a cub cross the road in front of us. Unfortunately, I was not in a position to shoot because they were right in front of us. Kevin was looking off to the left trying to spot where they had gone in the underbrush when he happened to catch movement out of the corner of his eye. This big female had hung back to watch that the family was safe before joining them.

A little ways on, we saw a family of rhinoceros ahead of us. They were crossing the road when we came upon them as they were crossing the road. They were already agitated because the stupid family ahead of us (family of humans) was hanging out the top of their vehicle to take pictures. Guys, here is a word of advice: Fight the urge! Don't leave your vehicle or break the line by standing up out of the sunroof, or hanging out the windows. It spooks the game and you will lose the chance to see whatever it is that you are trying to get a better view of.

So, spooked already, the group was watching us very closely as we inched past them on the road. The bull was off the road by about ten feet… really too close to get to a rhino! To our left was the thicket they were in, to the right a pretty sheer decline into the valley.

According to the reconstructions we all shared later here is what happened:

Kevin decided that it was safe to go because they were paying no attention to us. I was trying to move my camera from the right side to the left to get shots of the beast as we passed. We got just a little too close for the bull's comfort and he charged.

Kevin did lots of mental calculation. "We're going over the cliff unless I can keep it on the road. I turn the wheel to the left and gun it to keep it on the road… that kind of thing."

Angie was looking out the window and saw the beast come to within a foot of the side and so she rolled up the window and braced for impact.

Terry was trying to decide how to explain this to the rental car company: "you see, there was this rhino…" would start the explanation. Our tale would be met by eye rolling of the "Oh! Not that old story again" variety and we would lose the deposit on the van.

I pictured the side of the van collapsing as the main horn was headed straight for me. It came within inches of hitting the side of the van. I dropped the camera on the seat next to me, grabbed to the handholds and yelled "Oh, god! Oh, God! OH GOD!"

At the last second and with distance estimates varying from a couple to a few inches, the beast feinted and moved off… we were heading out of his personal space by that point had he was convinced he had scared us off. He had!

In the aftermath, we all laughed, caught or breaths and exchanged our views of what we had just been through.

Wherever you are today, I hope you've had an exciting day!

Don Bergquist – 08 November 2007 – Mpila Camp, Imfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tales From The Pub


"So Seriously, I mean it!" Jones, the big bull, was saying to his companions. They all stood around the floor of The Watering Hole pub reliving the day at the office for the delight and amusement of their friends.

"I had just said to Johnson: 'Johnson,' I said, 'all it is going to take is one more thing to set me off!' it had been a bad day. First, I showed-up and discovered that the grass I had chomped just a week ago had been replaced and I had to chomp it down again! I mean who does this!?

"Have you noticed it? You get rid of a particularly bothersome clump only to have some asshole replace it so that the next time you come by, there it is!"

His companions are all muttering and nodding their assent.

"And then to make it worse, you have the boss riding your back! Mr. Redbill, the little twerp! I mean sure, he gets rid of the bugs in the system, but what kind of qualifications does he have? And, am I wrong, he seems a bit flighty to me."

This elicits a laugh as he takes another slug off his grass juice highball.

"So anyway, with the boss riding me, and the problem trying to decide which project to tackle next, what should happen but this big-ass white box comes up behind me. It was making this strange sound… kind of a rumbling sound so I turned to watch. It quit making that noise and then I could hear a clicking sound.

"Well, this I didn't like at al so I told the big white box-beast to just fuck off and get on with whatever he was supposed to be doing. But is the box-beast smart enough to comply? No! He isn't! He just stands there!"

At this point, Smith tries to add to the story that he had seen a big blue box-beast a few days ago, but Jones didn't stop talking long enough to allow him an entry.

"I took my best 'Bugger Off' stance. Finally, the idiot white box-beast got the idea and started to retreat, I gave him what-for! Advancing to make sure that he didn't come back, I made sure he got the point. I had a lot to do!

"After that, I got back to a bit of clump chopping I had on my agenda before the evening meeting. What a day!" and then to the bar maid he added, "Flossy, another one over here please!"

Charlie Jones, Cape Buffalo First Class – 07 November 2007 – The Watering Hole pub, Imfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa

Imfolozi Game Reserve

Regular readers of my blog may remember that I was in South Africa on business back at the end of the summer. (Their Summer – not ours; I was here in February/March.) At that time, my colleague from the Denver Office who was out in Randberg with me and I went to Pilanesberg Game Reserve (near Sun City Center) on a weekend and I christened it a "Dearth of Game Park". It never prepared me for the Imfolozi Game Reserve.

The weather was foreboding as we got up this morning. It was coming down in buckets and the forecast was for it to continue raining all day. The entire drive up here was misty, drizzly or rainy. We stopped at the last town of any size (about an hour's drive from Ballito and halfway to the park) to eat breakfast: pickle sandwiches, a boiled egg, cold sausages, and coffee. I took over driving at that point and carried on to the park.

About twenty kilometers from the park entrance, the weather relented. Full of hope, I turned off the wipers. A few minutes later, I pointed out to the wiper status to my friends. It would be overly generous to say that the weather was good today, but it seemed, grudgingly to cooperate with us. The skies remained overcast and the air damp. At least it was not hot and it was not raining.

This place is huge! The game here is much more ever-present than at Pilanesberg. Almost immediately, we saw giraffe! It was our first sighting and was within minutes of entering the reserve. It was far from the last. I can't remember all the things we saw, but the number was impressive.

There is something called "The Big Five" here in South Africa. It is a list of the five most dangerous animals to hunt. (The Big Five are: Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhinoceros.) Of the five, we saw three on the first day.

Other than having a great day with good friends, being in an awe-inspiring place, and seeing loads of game in the wild, there are two things about today that stand out in my memory. The first is seeing a grouping of Rhinoceros. They were back off the road only a few feet. The size of them was impressive! Even more impressive is that I am told that this group is a bachelor herd… they are not fully-grown!

Seeing elephants feeding as a family was another cool sight! There was a big male (we took to be the father), a few medium sized males, a large female and a small female. They grazed on the grasses and trees just off the road and sauntered back-and-forth across the road slowly feeding as they pleased. We tried inching past the group after watching them feed for a while. It was obvious from the way one of the bulls flapped his ears at us that we were no longer welcome… he was getting annoyed. So we drove on.

One of the last things we saw was a heard of Cape Buffalo standing around in the middle of the road doing nothing much. We stopped and watched them. Some were grazing; some were just standing there as the oxpeckers combed their coats for mites, bugs and other tasty morsels. One, a large bull, stood in the center of the road defiantly as we approached. He stood us off. We stopped a good distance back and watched a while and then he took a more aggressive stance. It was clear we should leave. We did. Backing off slowly as he advanced to match our retreat. He followed us just far enough to assert his superiority over us. We were the vanquished and he wanted us to know it. It was a Mexican Standoff South African style.


Wherever you are today, I hope you've done something new and exciting.

Don Bergquist – 07 November 2007 – Mpila Camp, Imfolozi Game Reserve, South Africa

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Duck and Dive

It's a little dive of a place back off the main road. The building with its many additions sits surrounded by sugar cane fields. You turn onto a road named after one of my friends from the UK (really!) and come to the Duck and Dive at the end.

This place is great! The d├ęcor is a mish-mash of odd bits of nautical and technological gear. There are shrimp floats, boat flags, diving respirator pumps and hurricane lanterns hanging from the ceiling. A portable carrier wave generator from a radio transmitter sits on a counter by the main bar; next to this is an old 16mm movie projector. (That takes me back to my days in the A/V club in High School!)

We've rented a huge van with ten seats and it looks a lot like the busses that you see crammed with up to 20 black people. I continue to be amazed at the difference between the way white people and black people live here. There is nothing like a mass-transit system here; I've seen no streetcar, light rail or bus system to speak of. Even in Johannesburg, (a much larger city) there was no obvious mass transit. Instead, they have these little white vans that they cram with as many people as possible. I've never seen a white face on any of these vans. But, I digress…

After meeting and chatting with some of the locals (nice people), we all piled into the bus and headed to a restaurant for dinner. We went to a neat little place where we all had more wine, beer and conversation. Well, except for me, I was the designated driver for the evening. I volunteered. After dinner, we returned to the flats and continued drinking and chatting well into the night. Tomorrow we leave for the game park.

Wherever you are today, I hope you're enjoying the company of friends!

Don Bergquist – 06 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Editor's Note:

The name, as your humble reporter discovered, has a more literal meaning. Beware: Some of the archways in this place are low enough to hit your head on!

Election Day

(Remember to get out there and vote!)

Monday, November 05, 2007

Arrival

The flight was good. We arrived before schedule. The bags came up without too much of a wait. Terry drove, Angie navigated and the drive to the flat was over soon. Upon our arrival, Phil and Lucy had a dinner all laid-out for us. It was wonderful.

We shared wine and conversation and turned-in late. I slept well. This morning, I tried to sleep in. I was awake at five thirty. After tossing and turning a bit I got a drink of water and tried to sleep again. Then I got my iPod, listened to some music, and read until about seven.

With the first stirrings of my friends at about 07:30, I was able to locate the keys and let myself out of the locked gate and head out to explore the complex of flats we have let for the next two weeks. It is a lovely area. We're on a bay just east of Chaka's Rock between Ballito and Salt Rock.

The beach here is a rocky, boulder beach overlooking the Indian Ocean. After finding my way to a nice perch on a boulder, I watched the tide come in. After a dip in the pool, I walked down to Chaka's Rock to step my feet in the water of the Indian Ocean. What a pleasant way to spend a morning!

This afternoon, we have a couple shopping excursions in the works and then off to the pub in one of the local towns. More on that tomorrow...

Wherever you are today, I hope you’re doing something new and interesting.

Don Bergquist – 05 November 2007 – Ballito, South Africa

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Travel Day

It's about eight and I have just returned from the dining room. I've had breakfast and need to finish packing so that I can check out. Today is our final day in Cape Town and then we are off to Durban.

After we check-out (checkout time is at ten) we'll spend the morning having a last look around the waterfront, have a bit of lunch, and then return to the hotel to collect our bags and head to the airport. Tonight we will be in Durban.

I guess I had best get the computer shutdown and packed so that I can go and checkout.

Wherever you are today, I hope your day is a good one!

Don Bergquist – 04 November 2007 – Cape Town, South Africa

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Cape of Good Hope

Today we made the circuit of the peninsula that Cape Town sits on. We rented a car and headed out just after breakfast. Our first stop on the tour was Boulders Beach to see the penguin colony there.

It was amazing how close the penguins would come to the visitors. Even the dassies came up to you to explore what these bizarre creatures were that were invading their space. The dassies seemed especially interested in Angie's shoes. (She was wearing neon pink crocks with big rhinestone trim.) The beach was lovely! Of course, being that I was in the area of the Atlantic, I had to wet my feet in the water.

Moving on toward the south, our next stop was at Cape Point. From here, with one hand keeping on my hat and glasses, I looked south to see the warm Agulhas currents from the Indian Ocean meeting-up with the colder currents from the Atlantic. Granted, the actual join between the two oceans is some 150 miles to the east at Cape Agulhas, but this is more accessible and, so I am informed, more spectacular.

After a late, light lunch at the seafront on the Cape of Good Hope, we started back for Cape Town. Terry had been driving all day. I took my turn at the wheel somewhere south of town about 1/2 an hour from the hotel.

Overall, it was another wonderful day! I am really digging this vacation!

Wherever you are today, I hope that you're having a great day!

Don Bergquist – 03 November 2007 – Cape Town, South Africa

Friday, November 02, 2007

Robben Island

You would have to have a heart of stone not to be moved by a trip out to Robben Island. Sitting about seventeen miles off the coast from Cape Town, the island is the home of the prison that the South African government used to house political prisoners during the days of Apartheid.

I knew that when I came here, there is so much more to the history of this place, though! It was used as a leper colony, and a hospital for the insane. Basically, if you wanted to rid yourself of someone, you sent them to Robben Island. If the rough sees and the strong currents in the open water didn't get them, then the sharks would if they tried to escape.

Despite the history, I cannot help but be struck by the beauty of the place. With a colony of penguins and warrens of feral rabbits, this place is just lovely. The tour of the actual prison is conducted by former prisoners and the feeling of claustrophobia is strong even though I knew I would be leaving in a couple hours.

Wherever you are today, I hope that you are free and happy in your surroundings!

Don Bergquist – 02 November 2007 – Cape Town, South Africa.

Panama Jack's

Last night was a blast! The restaurant is what my family refers to as "a Dad place." There is no way you can find this unless you're in the wrong part of town or are specifically looking for it. After a somewhat shaky start, the meal was excellent.

Okay, it was an assumption that I shouldn't have made, but I made it anyway. The menu clearly said that there was squid in the salad that I ordered; but of the four ingredients listed, it was the last. I was expecting (as it would have been in the states) a small amount of the squid, probably thrown in as a garnish. The truth of the matter was that the salad was a huge lump of squid with a few lettuce leaves, a tomato or two, a couple shrimp and a lump of the tuna and a handful of mussels.

I sent it back. I was apologetic and explained that it was entirely my fault. They were great, though. They made it again without the squid and it was excellent. Much more what I had expected. Everyone's main courses looked excellent. I had a lovely swordfish kebob and chips. There was beer, wine, conversation and a good time all-around.

After dinner, we went to the pub on the waterfront for a pint and then returned to the hotel for a nightcap. This morning, everyone is (I assume) sleeping in. I was up around seven for a walk around the wharfs. We're meeting this afternoon for lunch and then we're going to Robben Island for a tour this afternoon.

So far, our choice of itinerary seems to have been exceedingly well timed. We were out of Cape Town while it was hot and smoggy yesterday. Today, you cannot even see the top of Table Mountain as it is shrouded in cloud. I have no idea how I am going to spend the rest of the morning. Perhaps I'll go get a massage.

Wherever you are today, I hope nothing rubs you the wrong way!

Don Bergquist – 02 November 2007 – Cape Town, South Africa

Happy Birthday to my cousin, Michael

Happy Birthday to my uncle, Dick

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cheetahs and Chablis

This morning's adventure was to hire one of the hotel's vans and drivers to take us up to the wine country. Our first stop was the Spier estate. An interesting winery unlike any I have been to before, Spier has a Cheetah Sanctuary and a bird rescue on the grounds. Upon our arrival, our driver offered to go and make a booking for us for lunch and we headed for the Cheetah Sanctuary.

What a cool place! For the price of a few dollars, you can learn about the animals and discover why they are dying off. You can also talk to the people at the center who are trying an innovative approach to saving the cheetahs.

We even paid a few extra dollars to go into the enclosures with some of the cheetahs. While petting them and interacting with them, the staff at the reserve talked about their program to provide farmers with dogs to scare off the cheetahs rather than have the farmers shoot the cheetahs for taking their livestock. The program has really cut-down on the livestock that cheetahs take and as a result, help preserve the wild cheetah population.

Next to the cheetahs is a bird rescue where they rehabilitate wild birds that have been injured and found. I've been to bird rescue programs before; there are a couple of them in Florida, but there is nothing the likes of this one that I have ever seen.

First off, the place is huge! There are enclosures by the dozens the birds are all kept comfortable and provided with a cooling mist in the heat of the day. We missed the flight show – they bring out some of their birds that have been with them a while and talk about how they hunt, how they live in the wild, etc. still, we did get to talk to the guy who worked there and watched as he fed the fledgling owls.

We took turns holding and stroking the plumage of one of the eagles. It was all too cool!

Then, the birds fed, it was time for us to head into lunch. The place was a collection of outdoor pavilions, tents, tree houses, and shady nooks where you can have lunch. We were offered a table along one of the walkways and had a lunch from the buffet of game meats and African foods. It was lovely. There were wandering entertainers wending their way around the place.

After Spier, we'd asked the driver to take us to another winery of his choosing. While understated by the sheer expanse of Spier, the Warwick estate was a lovely location. We sat out on the deck by the shop as the staff brought a selection of six of their wines out for us to try. The scenery of the vine-covered hills rolling off toward the distant mountains, the cool breezes, the wine and the friends; it was a lovely way to spend an afternoon.

Back at the hotel, we have a couple hours before dinner… we're headed into town to go to a restaurant that is by the docks that Terry and Angie know of. I suppose I should wrap this up for now.

Wherever you are today, I hope you're having a lovely day!

Don Bergquist – 01 November 2007 – Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain

We hired the hotel shuttle to take us to the cableway station yesterdat after breakfast. It was a chance to load my good camera with fresh batteries and to get some shots. I loved it! The road climbs to the plateau about a third the way up the mountain and queued for the car to the top.

The cars are interesting. You enter the circular car from one side and gather around by the window of your choice. Then the ascent begins. A few seconds in, the operator informs you that you should step back from the window, not hold onto the bars, and prepare for the floor to spin. The floor then begins, slowly, to revolve. It is an interesting sensation. The views are spectacular! The day was a bit murky, but the views on the ascent and at the top were still great. We soared over the climbers and hikers below and reach the summit in a few minutes.

At the summit Angie, our eagle-eyed guide, spotted whales cavorting in the Atlantic north of the mountain. My god! Those things must be huge! We're miles away and still you can see then as they break the surface and sink again.

We walked the path around the top of the mountain for a while; there were birds and plants to take pictures of. The smog (? – fog?) that was covering the city was preventing seeing the distant ranges clearly, but the views were still spectacular. On a clearer day, you could see the distant False Bay from here you'd be able to see the southern-most point of Africa and the Indian Ocean beyond. Today, we could just barely make out the Cape of Good Hope pointing away to the south, diminishing in the smog.

I had hoped to see some more wildlife. I had read about the dassies that make Table Mountain their home, but they were a no-show. All in all, the count was four lizards, a snake, and lots of birds. Oh! And the distant whales! It was a good day!

Well, my friends should be down at breakfast by now, planning the day's activities. I guess I should wrap this up and head down to see what's next! This vacation rocks!

Wherever you are today, I hope you're having a great day!

Don Bergquist – 01 November 2007 – Cape Town, South Africa

Happy Birthday to my friend, Terry

All Saints Day