The Little Train that CAN: Our First Ride On The Gautrain

10 June

Much like it takes leaving the United States to remain appreciative of all that we as a nation possess, the same goes for South Africa. Even though it is very possible to live a comfortable first world lifestyle in ZA, there are always those differences stemming from our diverse cultures. Dealing with the target on your back in ZA as a white person, never mind a tourist or an American, is quite different from most other nations. The lack of Internet access, which my iPhone and job at Apple have made such a necessity, plus the craziness on the roads that seems to be ‘proudly South African’ can lead to a dissatisfaction upon arrival. The fact that my first few days in country were troubled with a lost airline bag, and food poisoning, my return to South Africa had been far from pleasant. However, two weeks in Mozambique with the beautiful chaos that is most of the continent brings my appreciation for ZA back to a all new high. 2 weeks of seafood had also been my limit and being able to grab a fast food burger at Steers (a local burger joint) was certainly needed to balance my diet.

Continue reading

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:

Continue reading