Derailment Slows Shosholoza, But Not Our Enjoyment

26 July

We woke to the sound of someone yelling “TEA, COFFEE” early this morning on the Shosholoza Train. I thought it was insanely early for tea or coffee, and when we had a knock on our compartment’s door I pulled myself out of the cocoon of my sleeping bag which I had slept in on the bench with my backpack as my pillow. This would have been a fine set up, except that I had tried to sleep on my side and destroyed both of my shoulders. I find this out as I rise and move to unlatch the door. I find the Train’s conductor standing there, the same stout woman who was kind enough to upgrade us to the 4 person compartment yesterday. She calmly tells me that we are on the Orange River and that there has been a derailment ahead of us Continue reading


Pretoria in A Day: Voortrekker Monument and Union Buildings

June 30

We endeavored to get an early start today, but sadly our journey back from Graskop and Mpumalanga in the evening had been quite strenuous (for me at least) and our late arrival meant that starting early the next day was always going to be hard. Driving in South Africa is generally a breeze, and quite fun outside the major cities with a proper car. This is not so much at night, where a small percentage of the motorway is lit, and even though the roads are in proper condition, driving at the speeds on the motorway with the blinding light of the cars on the other side of the road as the main illumination means that your concentration is needed the entire time. Additionally, there is a general disregard for traffic signs and postings, more so than I noticed when we drove in 2007. This is our first significant experience in the Gauteng area, and I now understand the impatience that the rest of South Africa associates with the area. The general feel the Pretoria-Johannesburg Metro area is not as fast paced as Washington DC, but on the roads they drive with an irrational need to move along faster. Going 10 km over the speed limit on residential thoroughfares is not fast enough, and you will often be overtaken by the BMWs, Mercedes, Jaguars, etc. On the motorways if drifting along at 40 kms because of congestion on a two lane motorway and a space of more than two car lengths opens between you and the vehicle in front of you,
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Following the Invasion of Boks into Witbank

On May 7th, I happened to be checking out SuperSport’s new iPhone app (which is surprisingly robust and filled with information) and I saw that SA Rugby just recently announced a test match would be taking place in Witbank, a two hour drive from Joburg, between the Springboks and Italy in June. I was excited to learn that we would be in Johannesburg on the 19th(the day of the match), as the Slovenia – US match was being played just the day before at Ellis Park. A chance to see World Cup matches AND catch a Springbok game is a great score as it fulfills one of the things that I truly missed out on in my time in South Africa.

The first Springboks game I watched was one of their World Cup warm-up games against Namibia, held in Cape Town in August. I had no real sense of desire to watch them play, but after their subsequent run to hoisting the World Cup in Paris that November, the desire to watch a Springboks game had taken hold.

I booked on my calender the day test tickets were available, as I the article made it seem they would go quick. Tickets in the end were easy to get, we just bought ours through Computicket tonight, and it’s only $70 for the both of us. It’s only a 20k seater stadium, and out in the rural areas, so not in the pantheon of Afrikanerdom that say Newlands or Ellis Park offer, but it should be a great experience regardless. They were predicting a quick sell out as this is the first Springbok game to come to the local rugby union of the province, though I’m sure there will be lots of people from Gauteng making the trek out east to catch a glimpse of the Springboks while the country is in the throes and drama of the World Cup.

Making the trek to Witbank is very doable as we’ll be in our three week period of hiring a car. A much longer trek is heading out to Bylde River Canyon which is close to Mozambique border. As it’s nearly a six hour journey by car, I’ve had a hard time convincing Alisa to wake up early enough to get out there and get back. I had originally hoped that we could get out there for a morning stroll and hike, and then head back to Joburg and stop in Witbank (which is on the way) for the Boks match. While a typical South African could make up that distance in the speed that they drive at, I’m not sure we want to rush throughout that day as it will diminish the enjoyable of two spectacular events. I think we’ll put off the canyon till the end of the trip, and hire a car for 2-3 days to make the journey out there and take in all the park has on offer.

South Africa Navigation App Quest

Since the announcement of Apple’s iPad, I knew it would provide the perfect solution to not owning an unlocked iPhone for use in South Africa. My original plan had been to route my trip through one of the few countries that sell unlocked iPhones, and then sell the phone before my departure from Southern Africa. However, with the iPad 3G being sold as an unlocked device and a full GPS, this offered a better alternative than having to go the first route.

Having a device that could use Vodacom’s telecom network and also function as a GPS device led to research into which iPhone/iPad apps were available to use as a GPS in South Africa. A quick look through iTunes brought up the following apps: NDrive South Africa, Navigon Southern Africa, TomTom Southern Africa, CoPilot Live South Africa, and Nav4D South Africa. I immediately dismissed Nav4D simply by the screen shots and in their description of the app, it was simply the generic wording, no dedication by the developers to even type up a custom description. Then there were four, let’s compare the challengers below:

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