Thursday, 25 February 2010

More from Bristol

When in Bristol it's imperative to pay homage to Isambard Kingdom Brunel's amazing construction, the Clifton Suspension Bridge.  It was a gloriously sunny Saturday afternoon, and strolling across the brdge seemed to be a popular local pastime.

The second shot is taken from the western end of the bridge, looking back at a rather beautiful row of houses on Sion Hill.  They struck me as an ideal candidate for a bit of digital jiggery-pokery.  One of these days (when I have a working printer again) I'll try a large print of this image!

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Visit to Bristol

September 2009

I visited Bristol in order to collect my daughter, who had been working there for Rolls Royce during her summer vacation.  This was the time of the Banksy exhibition, and there were plenty of people prepared to queue all day for the privilege of seeing it (I wasn't one of them).

Not being one for crowds I soon gravitated to the quiet area by the docks, close to the "At Bristol" science museum.  There are lots of good things to keep a photographer amused outside the museum, in addition to the excellent (but rather expensive) lunch I bought from its cafe.  One is a huge sphere, covered in mirrors, which reflects the goings-on in the square below.

The best features are a set of fountains, made from various reflective materials such as stainless steel and granite.  I spent well over an hour taking assorted pictures of these fountains, including a less-than-recognisable self portrait...

At this point a hazy sun started to emerge from the clouds, which added another dimension to the fountains.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Day 13: Nelspruit and Home

Saturday 8th August 2009

In the time-honoured tradition of those returning home, the hearty travellers ate a condemned breakfast.  Our last "full monty" of the trip was provided by the owner of the Hawkshead Holiday Camp, who happened to be English.  Breakfast was eaten surrounded by her menagerie of dogs who looked longingly at our bacon and toast.  We had plenty of time to kill, so I wandered around the gardens in warm winter sunshine taking pictures.  Nespruit is in the Low Veld, so the vegetation was rather different to that around Sabie.  There were bananas growing in the garden, and vast amounts of mother-in-law's tongue.

Having observed the finer points of Nelspruit the previous evening (it didn't take long) we looked for somewhere quiet to go while waiting for our flight.  The Botanic Gardens had just been revamped, so we decided to visit them to kill a couple of hours.

The waterfall was an impressive feature, and the photographs were taken from a bridge which went over it.  According to a notice, the bridge was placed there - and at a specific height - so as to avoid blocking the route of hippos which frequent the river.

Being the middle of winter there weren't many flowers in bloom.  Some were, though, and being too hot, I sat on a bench in the shade for half an hour looking at them.  I really must be getting old if I can sit somewhere and enjoy looking at flowers...

As always when killing time, it has a habit of appearing to stand still.  Around mid-day we decided to leave the Botanic Gardens and head towards Kruger Mpumalanga airport.  Before we left the gardens, though, I couldn't resist photographing a couple of the signs there.  I particularly liked the idea of visitors going into a "steep decline", and feel a great deal of sympathy for those who can only last for 230 metres before needing to relieve themselves!

We arrived at the airport in plenty of time, returned the hire car and then went to have our luggage shrink-wrapped.  The latter is essential when travelling through Johannesburg as it's the pilfering capital of the known universe.  Important items (camera, laptop etc.) were carried as hand-luggage, although with only a 6kg per person allowance this can prove reasonably challenging.  It was a short flight to Jo'burg, which thankfully was on time for this leg of the journey.  Our final hours in South Africa were spent having something to eat and spending any spare Rands we could find in our pockets.

The journey home was pretty uneventful, and we duly met up at Heathrow with my sister-in-law and neice who had also been travelling from Jo'burg on a parallel flight.  There was a final sting in the tail, however: when we got back to the car it's battery was flat.  So, after a journey of almost 24 hours we had to sit in the car park waiting for the AA man to turn up!

Day 12: Fishing on the Sabie River

Friday 7th August 2009

This was our last full day in South Africa, and I was allowed to spend it fishing while Harriet and Izzi pottered around the town. Fly fishing is very popular in that part of the world, and there was an excellent shop in the town where I spent a long time (and many Rands) finding out about it. There was no problem in hiring the necessary tackle, as I hadn't brought anything with me.

I became a temporary member of the Sabie Fly Fishing Club, which owned the rights to a 5km stretch of the Sabie "River". Not much of a river - more of a small stream - mostly overgrown, and overlooked by a huge plantation and saw mill.

Not the most attractive of locations, but it was fun to relax a bit and have a day on my own. The fishing was slow - I managed a couple of small rainbows - but that didn't matter. What was more of a problem was the mud, which had to be traversed in less than ideal footwear.

Given that we had a longish drive to Nelspruit ahead of us, Harriet phoned me about 2:45 to say that my time was up. Reluctantly I headed back to the tackle shop to drop off the items I'd borrowed, and then we drove south towards our final destination for the holiday: the Hawkshead Holiday Camp, about 15km out of Nelspruit. The cottage there was fine, except the whole area was incredibly noisy due to its proximity to a motorway, the N14.

We attempted to get some food at the local shops, but gave up very quickly since they turned out to be a petrol station and a rather seedy looking liquor store. We then did what seemed a good idea at the time: namely to drive into Nelspruit to find a Nandos, or equivalent. Big mistake! The driving was incredibly hairy as there is no central reservation on South African motorways and the local inhabitants seemed ambivalent as to which side of the road they should drive on. In the end we gave up looking for a restaurant, opting instead for a Super-Spar where we bought food to cook back at the cottage. The last braai of the holiday was a bit hit and miss, owing to the fact that the outside light was broken. Come to think of it, the bedroom light was broken too, along with several other things in the cottage. All in all, fairly typical of South African accommodation!

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Day 11: Sabie, Blyde River Canyon and Pilgrim's Rest

Thursday 6th August 2009

After driving the whole of the previous day, we decided to take things relatively easy and just potter around the local tourist attractions. As always I was up early, so I wandered around the Jock Sabie Lodge grounds until the others woke up. Like many residential areas in South Africa, the Lodge was pretty well fortified, being surrounded by tall railings and an electrified fence. There was also a single entrance with a motorised gate which was guarded 24 hours a day.

First stop on our sightseeing tour was God's Window (the South Africans are not known for their modesty when it comes to naming interesting locations). The "Window" was actually a lookout at the top of a hill which had spectacular views into the Blyde River Canyon below. Given the altitude and topology, the top of the hill is shrouded in cloud for some of each day, so supports what amounts to a tropical rainforest vegetation. On the day we visited the view was rather hazy, but it was impressive nevertheless. It's difficult to get a sense of scale, even with Harriet in the picture.

Once we'd finished looking through God's Windows, we moved on to another place with an understated name: Wonder View. Again it was very hazy, but the rolling hills receding into the distance were very impressive. It's lucky we were there in the middle of the day, as apparently the view disappears at 17:00...

Our third and final natural wonder of the day was the rather more subtly named Berlin Falls, which were less impressive than they could have been owing to the lack of water (it was the middle of the dry season, after all). Much more interesting was the market which was set up in the car park.

There's only so many natural wonders it's possible to take in, and by this point we were all getting tired and hungry. We decided to go to a place not far away called Pilgrim's Rest, which was an old mining town. It's been restored as a tourist attraction, and unsuprisingly had lots of items available for sale. One of the most interesting was a chap making life-sized sheep out of wire and beads. On closer inspection it was clear he was in a world of his own, listening to whatever was playing on his iPod.

Hopefully nobody will want to use the Post Office in Pilgrim's Rest, however, as it didn't seem to be terribly up-to-date...

Other highlights were a dancing boiler suit (which turned out to contain a boy aged about 10) and a couple of Zulu women who were sitting under an awning making bead work. The invited Harriet to have her picture taken with them, and then charged 5 Rand for the privilege.

By this time we were touristed out, and decided to go back to Sabie. Unfortunately we had to pay a "ransom" to get our car back, as apparently we'd parked in an area which guaranteed it would get washed. We had to do some surreptitious research to find out what the going rate for a car wash...

Back at Jock Sabie Lodge, Izzi went in search of an internet cafe while Harriet and I did some shopping. Back at the Lodge, Harriet read a book, Izzi plonked herself in front of the television and I wander around taking photographs as the sun set. Then it was another braai (fillet steak and Boerwors) followed by an early night.