It went Swimmingly, thanks…

The Weesgerus (Be Relaxed in Afrikaans) Resort is just outside our town on the way to Vaalwater.

It is still winter here for another month. But I really, really needed some exercise after nearly 3 weeks of resting following my operation. Following 8 months of inactivity following the first gall stone attack…

I also have heard that swimming will improve the stomach muscles a lot after the gallbladder removal and the break around my belly button.

So- as I still can’t drive, and not wanting to walk the 4 km uphill to the resort, my wife took me over there. In my Camino days in 2011, it was such a breeze hiking up the hill, buying a bottled water at the shop, and returning downhill to my home.  Today, I bought my monthly ticket for the sum of ZAR 100 (abour US$ 9, I think…)

And then it was me and the swimming pool. The last time I really swam for a sport was at high school over 3 decades ago. I could then do a mean breast stroke…

But today, 30 years later? I usually just swim to get away from the Great White Sharks around our coast line. And maybe when a bottle of beer drifts away when I try my hand at fishing…

Fortunately, being winter, the swimming pools were nearly empty. No beautiful girls in bikini’s to ogle me.  There is a heated swimming pool on the left, and a cold one on the right. Being winter, I opted for the heated pool. I am just no Ice Bear…

I felt like a hippo leaving the dressing room. But I don’t do Speedo- they should be banned from the face of the earth. No, baggy surfing shorts is still my style, being a Natal boytjie when I grew up.  The home of the Sharks rugby team in Super 15, dear Aussies and Kiwis…

But now, in the heart of Blue Bull Country, I, with my blue baggy shorts, entered the water. Not as slick as our hero Chad le Clos, (our other national Olympic sports hero and gold medal winner,  who does not shoot girls in the bathroom…) No, it looked more like that unfortunate day underneath the Enola Gay, with first a boom and then a mushroom cloud spreading around the earth…  The people in town thought it was another earthquake- we had a huge one last week just 5 km from my mother in law’s house in Orkney, btw…) But it was just me, trying to get back to my old former self- that would be the one 30 years ago…

I popped up from underneath the water like a cork from a champagne bottle. And then- far, far away, over on the other side, I saw the opposite wall. A whole 25 meters away. Do you know how far 25 meters can be? Really, really, really far away! It takes much less than that to drown in. But I started bravely to paddle my arms, and weakly kick my feet. Some form of propulsion did finally kick in, because I moved slowly, oh so slowly forward.

It took place in this swimming pool. But at the moment, the beautiful grass banks is covered with guano. That is penguin doodoo… it stinks. When the first rains of summer comes, this will be a delight to see. But every breath tasted like sh… some kind of stinky stink thing…

After I saw my whole life since birth flash before my eyes, I finally reached the other side. And then I did an Olympic style turn, and went back. No not really… I first hanged onto the wall of the pool for a few minutes, while my lungs found their way back inside my chest, burning like a streak of napalm. When finally the darkness and the red stars subsided in front of my eyes, I tried returning to where I started.

I did 10 laps of this pool- 250 meters in total. One small step for man… one giant leap for me…

It does not sound like much. But I really, really tried hard to start my comeback in the fitness department. I really have this dream to be fit again, and to ride next year’s Argus Cycle race in Cape Town under 4 hours. That will really take a lot of training for me!

I will try and do this till spring is well underway, and then also start cycling again. That I may only start doing 6 weeks post operation.

I am really thankful that our part of the world has such short winters, the leaves of the mulberry trees in my back yard are already starting to bloom again. And our days are getting longer- more time for training, and living each day to the max…

I now have a new found respect for people who can swim a mile!

 

Community Festival to kick of the year

Years ago our region was known for it’s grape farming. We were the first to have fresh table grapes on the market in the new growing season. And then other regions started doing the same, and some of them gets grapes much earlier to the markets, so the prices fell a lot when our farmers finally pitched with their produce. So nearly nobody produces grapes around here anymore.

But that does not distract our community from having an annual Grape Festival. It is still the first remarkable community festival on the yearly calender, and a nice way to end off the Christmas holidays, before the kids have to go to a new academic year next week…

It is the Annual Grape Festival this weekend.  It is extremely hot at the moment- the last thermometer I saw indicated another 37 degrees day.

In this heat, my eldest son and I took part in the festival procession, on my BMW motorbike, so that we can go for free  into the festival terrain.

I was just there for 2 hours, then it became too hot for me. But this is some of the sigbts so far:

We have a Classic Tractor Society in our district, here are some of their tractors:

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I have never heard of these before…

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What would the world be without John Deere?

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Was the Farmall engineers drunk when they designed this?

But there are not just tractors at the Grape Festival- we also have… Bengal Tigers! Small ones… my one friend is helping with the marketing of Mystic Monkeys, a very nice tourist destination just north of Pretoria. And there you can have your picture taken with these guys, while they are small…

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Adorable as kittens, i would not like to play with their momma!

And while it is 37 degrees, I ended my quick trip at the beer garden. I bought a fantastic kebab roll (beef kebabs, with mushroom sauce and onion relish on a freshly baked bun… delicious!) A nice cold Draught in the Festival Mug… I had a lot of those over the years, but my kids…

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After this I came home to have a nap. I have to rest- tomorrow morning I am going to try the 50 km cycle race with a few friends. The furthest I have trained since last year’s Argus Cycle race is 35 km… It is a flat, fast route tomorrow. I am going to struggle, but I will compete…

I won’t be returning to the Festival terrain tonight, but over today and tomorrow some of South Africa’s best artists are performing live in the Main Tent.   But I have another barbeque evening with friends lined up- the 3rd night in a row… life is really hard in the Bushveld…

Enjoy your weekend!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Horizon

Horizon. The space or line where the sky meets the earth. So many places where the sky meets the earth around the world, and millions of interactions between two elements. It can be water, a city skyline, a forest, a wasteland, a desert, a sunset outside your bedroom window. Is there a particular horizon which speaks to you?

In a new post specifically for this challenge, share a photo which means HORIZON to you!

I can’t wait to see what you come up with!

– Sara Rosso

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2013/10/25/weekly-photo-challenge-horizon/

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This is the horizon of my town where I live- taken from a hill about 4 km out of town…  (cell phone unfortunately…)

2013-10-16 14.49.52Nearly all my time is spent on the piece of earth on this photo. Even my favorite cycling route is visible here- going to that hill on the horizon left. From my house to there is 16 km. During the Great Trek the Voortrekkers thought they have reached Egypt when they saw that hill, Kranskop. They were trying to get away from the British Empire…  The town on this photo, in the distance around the grain silos- Nylstroom.  “The stream of the Nile”… This is my horizon where I live.

The other horizon that I love:

IMG_0304The Amphitheatre in the Natal Drakensbergs- I grew up about 150 km from here and love the Mountains of Natal…

I also love the horizons of the Western Cape Province of South Africa

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Grapes and Sandstone mountains…

But the best loved one of them all:

IMG_0814Table Mountain, Cape Town, South Africa! Going with my bicycle around it once a year in the Cape Argus Pick ‘n Pay Cycletour…

The Other Side of the Bushveld…

We do live in one of our country’s most beautiful parts, here in the South African Bushveld, Waterberg region. We do have the most amazing variety of wildlife, plants and trees, and birds around us. But it is this time of year- we do not really have a Spring season. The day temperatures soared to 37 degrees Celsius. It is dry- we last had a decent rain in March. And the winds are blowing with all this heat. So-  what do you get with drought, heat and wind? Runaway veld fires…

At the moment, in less than 10 km from my home, they are fighting the fires since yesterday. This morning my wife and I went and go take a look. And a lot of photos. One part of our community is struggling without drinking water, another part is fighting the fires that consumes their animals’ grazing…

I think nature does need a good burn every now and then. It clears the underbrush from a lot of small trees, and gives the bigger trees more room to grow. Fire might be nature’s pruning shears. But it remains terrifying to see. Last night we drove through  this fire to get home. And now- this is how it looks on the way to Warmbaths

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There is a terrifying beauty in fire… but not everybody will survive this one…

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Thank God no people have been hurt so far in this fire!

We seriously are in need of a good old fashioned heavy thunder shower, as the coals are still burning, and the wind is picking up… Rain will help a lot…

Fly Inn Modimolle (Nylstroom)

As if last week’s Game Auction was not enough fun for the whole little community of Nylstroom, we are having another huge event this weekend. On the hill overlooking our town is our little landing strip- to call in an airport would be much to big. There is a tarmac landing strip, without any tower. There are a few hangers containing a very few private aircraft,and a microlight or two. But today is the yearly Fly Inn, and the Airstrip is bussling with a lot of aircraft.

One of the star attractions today is the old Harvard. It was used as a training aircraft since World War 2, and for many years the South African Air Force would still be training their cadet pilots in these things, they were eventually replaced by Pilatus aircraftImage

These Harvards are still lovingly maintained by dedicated enthusiasts. They fly on days like these, and for R1800 (US $ 180) you could go for about 15 minutes of historical flight.

Next to the Airstrip there is a huge informal settlement, as in squatter camp.  Someone paid the price for three boys of the informal settlement to have a flight in the Harvard. If this photo doesn’t win me a Pulitzer…  Look on the joy on this child’s face- priceless! Image

And then it was up, up and away…

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It was a huge day for my eldest son, it was also his first flight ever! He and a friend from nursery school flew together in a Beechcraft.

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I now have a few more days of beautiful photos to share, just a last one for today… Image

Did I ever tell you I would  LOVE to be a pilot, and that Aircraft and Flight  has fascinated me since my small boy years?

War and Forgiveness

This morning I saw a blog entry commemorating the 111th anniversary of the Anglo Boer War.   This coming Sunday the brave soldiers that came to fight in South Africa for the British Empire will be remembered.  It is the first time in over a century that this will be celebrated in that particular town.

Yes, I know, history belong to the victors of a war.  Ordinary men become heroes in the forge of battle.  Their legend lives on. Statues are built for them.  Like this one I saw in Edenburgh, of the Black Watch Regiment.  ImageOh boy- do we remember the Black Watch fondly!  These Scots were brave soldiers. They marched against the entrenched Boer forces with great discipline at Magersfontein. A lot of them also died bravely there- this was the one battle the Boer forces won decisively.

Brave soldiers are remembered.  Remembrance Days are held for them…

But what is often overlooked, is the damage the war caused…  I took this photo on Saturday, 200 meters from my home… Image

What is this?  Only the Dutch and Flemish people will be able to read the Afrikaans words on this memorial:

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Here rest, except for a few other people, 544 women and children, who died as victims in the Concentration Camp during the War of 1899-1902 and for whom a memorial was erected on the Market Square on 15 December 1942…”

The Anglo Boer War was not always the Last Gentlemen’s War, as it is so proudly remembered in some circles.  It also marked the invention of the Concentration Camp- not by Hitler, but by the British.  In our town, which had about 1000 inhabitants, and from the surrounding district, 544 women and children has perished in the concentration camp. Some people says it did not happen. Like some would deny the Holocaust of WW II.  But here are the graves… the names of all 544 persons are on a granite  wall at the entry to the  cemetery. And this is in just one small South African town, Nylstroom.  There were many, many such concentration camps,  some a lot worse than this!

How many men died in combat from the Waterberg Commando? (That is the other word we gave the world- Commando- usually damn good soldiers…)  Fifteen…  IMG_0930

Can you think how a society can be normal after the War, when just 15 of it’s men died in combat, but 544 women and children have died?

War creates brave heroes. It also destroy innocent lives.  THe two Boer Republics became a part of the British EMpire- why? We have the world’s gold and diamonds under our feet.

The scars of this war remained a long, long time in South Africa.

BUT: we fought in World Wars I and II alongside the British. We were part of the Allied Forces. That created even more tension in our country- between Pro and Anti War sentiments.

Do I hate the British, Aussies, Kiwi’s and Canadians who fought here? No! What would the point of hate be?  My own sister is now a British citizen. The Empire strikes back- a LOT of my tribe now live in these countries.

And I have been a soldier too.  South African white boys did not have a choice in the matter. We had compulsory military service. You had these choices: two years in the army, or four years in the police or prison system. Or you had to go to jail, have a criminal record, no passport, and a hell of a life trying to get work with THAT on your criminal record. We grew up with the propaganda of “The Communist threat”…  Terrorist attacks like the Church street bomb on 20 May 1983 left a huge impression on my schoolboy mind- THAT is what THEY do- we have to fight to survive in darkest Africa.  They want to kill me…

Young men just don’t have choices in old men’s wars…

So- remember the brave soldiers. But remember the victims too.

It was time in SOuth Africa to forgive the British, and move on. I hope in my lifetime there will also be true reconciliation between the old enemies who grew up together in this beautiful divided land…

Listen, this is why I became a pastor- I believe that love is the greatest gift of all. Broken relationships must be healed.  Even between people and nations.  Love conquers all.  May there be an end to war!