Day 41 & 42 on the estate, Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th April

Camping weekend
On the Friday of this weekend, I knew there was a very large chance that I would be camping with Jacques on the Saturday and Sunday but I didn’t have time to go and ask him about it because Martin invited me to dinner at a restaurant close to Cape Town. We went to a seafood restaurant and it was really, really good with a huge selection of fish on offer. So after a good filling up, we went back to the estate and I found a note stuck to my door with very brief instructions from Jacques, meet at 8, bring sleeping bag, cutlery and torch. So I packed up, and before I knew it, my 7.40 alarm was going off and I grabbed some food before going off to Jacques’s house to meet his friends Marius and Susan. They came to pick us up and off we went. The drive to the site took about an hour if you don’t include the brief stop off at Spar to collect some Braai food for the weekend.
The site was really really nice and was more like ‘glamping’ if anything with an electricity point to use as well as a toilet and shower block. Still, it was a lovely place with running streams by the tent sites. We erected the tent before going for a walk and finding the first waterfall pool and going for a swim. The pool was like something from a film, we went through the trees, following the sound of the water and it opened up right In front of us, crashing, crystal water into a pool of blue. We could hear the barking of baboons in the mountains which was pretty cool but didn’t really pay it too much attention and just went back to start with the evening food plans. We got the fire going and started preparing the meat but it wasn’t long before we could hear the barking again, this time louder and closer. Then suddenly we saw a huge colony of baboons running through the trees, only years from where we were sitting. We watched them run by in their huge numbers before we decided that food was more important and started to cook the huge selection of steaks, ribs, kebabs, chops, loins and thighs we had. It’s was a feast and after some campfire talking, we prepared to sleep but we had one more wildlife encounter before bedtime. I noticed some movement in the darkness of the trees and on closer inspection, it was a cat. A wild cat, slightly bigger than a domestic one and it had a spotty body in the same way as a cheetah but a striped bushy tail in the same way as a tiger. It stayed around for quite a while before it disappeared again into the woods.
Because I assumed Jacques was bringing me a roll mat and he assumed I was bringing my own, I ended up sleeping on the floor which wasn’t the most comfortable of experiences but I managed to fight through and sleep.

The next morning came and after another Braai for breakfast: Jacques, Susan and Marius decided we should go on the hike. I was quite concerned at this point because the weather was on its way to 38 degrees and I am very white. But I went a long and it all turned out fine. Most of the hike was in the shade but it was also more of a climb than a hike. There are 13 waterfalls until you get to the very top. So up we went some times wondering where the path disappeared to but quickly finding our way again. Jacques and I were happy and comfortable with heights so went right to the top with brief spots at each pool whereas Marius and Susan weren’t quite as comfortable and turned around half way up. I say it was a climb, and it really was, often we would have to be on all 4s to make our way up and trust our balance to not fail us. After an hour or so, Jacques and I reached the top, and the final waterfall pool. We went for a swim to cool off and re hydrated with the fresh water falling from the top of the mountain.
On the way down; Jacques went on ahead as I took it a bit slower which turned out to be a bad idea. I got to what I thought was a two way path and it wasn’t. I went the completely wrong way and where I should have turned right to cut out the cliff face, I turned left which led me to the cliff face. By the time I realised, it was too late and I had to scale my way around the top of the cliff, facing a 200 foot drop onto trees, rocks or water below. I thought it was a good place to make a memory and took photos of the view, my feet balancing on the rock and of course; a selfie. I managed to get my way around and found the right path where Jacques called me an idiot for going the wrong way, fair enough comment really.
We arrived back at the site and after a brief rest, went for another swim in the dam before beginning the pack up. We set off back to the estate where the car officially told us that it was 38 degrees. On our return, I decided I wanted a cool off swim in the pool whereas Jacques plan was to sleep.
So I went for a dip before unpacking my stuff, checked emails etc and then decided I wanted a braai for myself to cook my evening meal. A very South African weekend.


Social Media

So, social media is ‘taking over our world’ and ‘ruining face to face contact’. These are common thoughts in the modern day and it’s really not a rare opinion.
To be dragged into that frame of mind is so easy, the media is one of the worse for criticising as many people as it can and even uses the likes of Facebook and Twitter to speak lowly of modern day interaction. I’m not ignorant, I also think that it’s crazy how quickly phones and tablets are taking over a lot of means of communication but I experienced something recently that made me realise that the art of face to face conversation is going to have to be lessened a whole lot more before we should start worrying about it. I was sat in a bar in Cape Town with two of my bosses, both great guys, both with smartphones, laptops, iPads etc. we stood at that bar for three hours and it felt like not even one. It wasn’t because of alcohol consumption either because we all had to drive that evening. It was when we had to speak really quite loudly I realised how buzzing it was in the room. I looked around and there was barely any floor space. Men and men, men and women, women and women. All combinations were in that relatively small room and all were transfixed in their own conversations with no chance of being interfered with from the outside of that hub of chat.
Yes I’m sure 99% of the guys and girls in their had at least a phone, and most likely a smart phone, in their pocket but that’s where the phone stayed without fail. The ease and enjoyment these people were having in their own little atmospheres was rather striking to me. With the amount of people in society constantly criticising everything the market for technology produces, it is easy to be carried a long and concern yourself with your live social life being replaced by a keyboard.
I’ve recently seen several comparative photos in a tube station, London, for example. There’s a huge group of men stood on the platform of the train, heads buried in the news paper. Beside it, a similar photo with a large volume of people waiting for a train but this time, they all stand staring at their mobile phones. The caption read something along the lines of: people don’t change, society does. True. There’s nothing wrong with moments of insular and independent attitudes, humans need it.
We should value the way we work, we’re stupidly unique. Look at it this way, wild animals and even pets have a style of living whether it be in a pack or independently. Killer whales stay with their mother for the majority of their life and rely on them for comfort, education, protection and companionship: beautiful story. Wolves live in packs to which they’re loyal and loving. There’s an alpha who lease the animals and makes the choices (as much as a dog can) and the others follow. Then there’s the likes of leopards, solitary animals who live, eat and fight for themselves. Us humans aren’t in any of these groups exclusively, we kind of dabble amongst those that suit us. We are often raised by both or one parent(s) and rely on them until we’ve learnt enough to life for ourselves but we often keep hold of our family, return home for a Sunday dinner give mum a call at the end of the week or even live with them beyond our adolescence. Some people live with a partner, children and a pet, some live with 2/3 of that combination and some just one. Some people are like the leopard, wanting to be alone and do everything for themselves as they want it to happen. Non of the combinations are wrong.
What I’m getting at is we people are a special of breed of animal, we build for each other, trade, cooperate, expose facilities and most of the things we do is just to make life that little bit easier, and why not? I can type a message to my mum and send it half way around the world for completely free if I felt
Ike I wanted to, now that’s cool.
This age of technology is part of us now and you have to be pretty dramatic if you think we’ll end up losing face to face contact. It won’t happen, it just wouldn’t work.
The next time you hear somebody complain about how ‘kids these days are hooked on their gadgets’ or ‘they’re just not experiencing life’ remember this, they didn’t design, build and supply their tablet to them. The adults of yesterday and today did. The adults compete to create the best of the best and then the young guys take them on board because their brains are more capable of learning new things. So in the grand scheme of things, the human adults are making something they then criticise and shift blame. For what? Money. But the greed of humans is a different story all together

Day 34 & 35 on the estate, Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th April

After going out on the Friday night to Darling with Ida, her boyfriend and her brother, I was invited to go out to the family farm. So during the day on Saturday, I decided to drive to Malmsbury with the intention of buying myself a Springbok jersey and it took looking around the whole town before I could find a shirt which was my size, and real! So as well as some other bits, I got what I wanted and headed back to the farm. I proudly wondered around the estate in my new shirt before calling into Darling to drop of some rented DVDs and getting a new one. I then set off towards where I thought the farm was.
The only instructions I had were to get onto a gravel road and carry on for 17 kilometres until reaching a portable toilet and it’s the farm on the left. So off I went, radio on, window down and the sun starting it’s descent. A good distance later, I found the blue cabin and turned in, hoping that it was the right farm and I wasn’t trespassing! That’s when I saw Ida’s other brother: Frikkie, in the garden of the house. We introduced ourselves and from there for a good 3 or 4 hours, Andre, AndrĂ©’s girlfriend (Marnell) and Frikkie sat by the fire with our beers and spoke about a huge range of things, from South African politics to German stereotypes before Andre said he assumed I was staying the night. With that sorted, we headed inside to eat. Crayfish. Something I’ve always wanted to try and it was amazing, it tasted great and Ida’s mother helped me with learning some Afrikaans. After feasting on crayfish and mussels, we sat by the fire again until we all headed to bed.
Sunday morning was a lay in opportunity and I took it. Getting up at 10 felt so relaxing and after a good breakfast, Frikkie took me to see the different areas of the farm. We started at the mushroom growing buildings which was one of many old military buildings. The army were based out there and used the large space to build a base. Having seem quite a lot of military like structures in my life, the style of the buildings were instantly recognisable with numbers above doors and history embedded into the atmosphere. The mushrooms which were grown were all in one, centralised building which appears to be an old office building. The history if the place fascinated me and I could imagine exactly what the old rooms were used for- one a comfortable sized office with a door leading to a secretary type office, most likely for a senior officer. There was also an old serving hatch which turned out to be for a bar area which was used by the soldiers. The amount of drinking and drinking games played in that room by bored troops is probably huge. The final building, after recognising a hall and ablutions, was the most incredible. There was a small room, once used as some kind of fossil burning area, which struck me the most. From the old fumes; the walls are coated in a thick layer of black soot and all over the walls and ceiling were names, dates, advice, jokes, messages and, most strikingly, day countdowns to when then illustrators were leaving the camp, scratched in. After reading as many as I could and taking a few photos, we left and headed back towards the house.
During our absence, a pair of family friends were at the house, Norman and Christine. The first words Norman said to me were, ‘why have you got shoes on your feet man? You’re in South Africa! Your feet need to meet the earth.’ But after the short outburst, pleasantries were exchanged and we discussed different opinions on various topics, the need for education, the need for spelling, the ethics of business are amongst some of the conversation exchanged. All of the debating developed our appetites and we ate very well once again. After the meal and a couple of drinks, I thought it fit to bid my fair wells to the family for now and head back to the estate.
I jumped in my vehicle and set off, fortunately, into the sunset. It was an amazing drive and I loved every minute as the truck fought its way across the gravel road. The heat, the views, the wind, the music and the freedom are all stuck firmly in my memory. On my return, I thought it time for a swim. So into Rodger’s pool I went for a while befor per settling down to watch the Hangover Part III. It was a great weekend and I am very, very grateful to Ida’s family for making it happen.

Day 31 on the estate, Wednesday 2nd April

Today was the day which was planned to be spent with the sales manager, Anthony, visiting all the restaurants, shops and other sellers of Cloof’s wines. With a delayed start due to unexpected phone calls, emails and having to do some laminating which is of course, the slowest process in the modern world. But eventually we got off at about 11.
We headed, first, to the closest town to Cloof which is Darling and into Darling Wine Shop. Handing over a sample of our new Chardonnay, Pinot Noir blend called ‘Duckitt’ to match the Duckitt Cabernet Sauvignon, franc and Merlot blend that goes by the same name. Because the new wine has such a unique blend which is made only by Cloof. After Darling, we headed off to several other places, including a restaurant/hotel which seemed to be even more interested in the wine as well as using our wine for weddings held at the resort which would mean bulk buying, very good!! After one or two more stops, we went to a client’s beachside seafood restaurant for lunch which was great. I had a proper surf and turf with 4 huge prawns, a massive steak and fried mackerel. It was strange to think that it was a work lunch but it was reminded when Anthony heard the owner complaining that one of his other suppliers had run out of Chenin Blanc stock and he jumped in to sell him ours in replacement. Another good sale.
After a few more stops along the coast, we landed back in Darling to visit a liquor store. The store was run by a very scary, short haired skinny woman who instantly frightened me. She has the feeling of a ‘dragon lady’ about her but after quite a while, she warmed slightly and turned out to be okay and Anthony’s description of ‘her bark is worse than her bite’ turned out to be accurate. So, 6 hours after starting the tour, we arrived back to the estate and closed offices. I really couldn’t be arsed to cook so made do with a fish finger sandwich and watched the end of Band of Brothers before heading to bed.

Day 27 on the estate, Saturday 29th March 2014

The last week has been a combination of sales promotion, wine tasting, conservation and most importantly; getting my own vehicle which I now have!
Rodger and Catherine left the estate on Thursday and were incredibly kind and left me their key to their house in order to watch tv in the evenings which has meant i can relax a bit more with Max and Paddy and Band of Brothers box set. Perfect.
Yesterday, I drove into Darling, the closest town. Shopped for food, which mainly consisted of meat, and spent some time appreciating the buzzing African culture which engrossed me with its busyness and friendliness.

Now it’s Saturday which was a busy day in the tasting room with a large group of birthday celebrators and many random customers wanting to taste and eat. It was Ida’s day off so it was up to me and eureka to run the place which went well and as well as selling quite a lot of wine, I ended up giving British tourism advice. A couple are heading to Scotland for the Ryder cup and wanted to know where to stay I’m order to visit different places. I spent a good hour talking with them, giving my opinion on where to go in Scotland. With them intending to visit Edinburgh and now the highlands, they left a large tip which was very rewarding. After a long day, I was looking forward to what I had planned for the evening.
I opened a beer and cooked up two huge sirloin steaks to my idea of perfection; red in the middle with plenty of flavoured spices rubbed in. So I made my tea and took it to Rodger’s patio, overlooking the pool, rolling hills and vineyards of the Western Cape. It was my idea of heaven. A couple of huge, juicy steaks, a breast of chicken and a beer. Wow.
Now, as the sun is starting to sink, I have some chocolate I fetched from Darling yesterday and some red wine from the estate’s selection. South Africa has bitten me and I have no intention of fighting it. I love the place.

A very bizarre moment of my short life

My averagely sized and capable mind is incredibly rarely inspired to write this kind of piece but when It is, I often feel incapable of not sharing it, whether it be with a friend, family member, or anyone that will read it.
Life is incredibly hard to look upon and this blog came very spontaneously to me whilst laying in bed reflecting upon what I had done to end up in this beautiful country of South Africa.
It was when I was trying to comprehend everything I have done during my life when this urge to type came upon me and I had no alternative but to write it down. I won’t lie, and those who know me well will not be surprised at this, that many of these thoughts came through memories of my time at Gordonstoun. I applied to this place about 3 years ago now and I have moments during that time that should be huge milestones in a life but seem to have passed me by upsettingly quickly. My first sailing experience for example; on the west coast of Scotland, I barely remember those who were on board of ocean spirit with me and I only vaguely recall our time on board. A week of sailing, at the age of 16, just brushed aside in my memory seems incredibly cruel. But it is this and my first expedition that seem to have unjustly been made to become vague past experiences. Why is this I wonder? Is it that later experiences have overtaken their position in my memory or that I simply did not appreciate them enough at the time to register them as incredible life experiences? Either way, I’m disappointed with myself that I can’t reflect upon them with easily come by thought and fondness. I spent a week on board a training vessel with a group of 15 other students I barely knew and now I only remember few names and even fewer moments. Similarly, my first expedition in the Scottish mountains was an incredible experience but I cannot even remember the name of the guy I shared a tent with. I hope this was my immaturity that allowed me to pass these moments by with a lack of significant fondness on what should be, at the forefront of my youth, past memories. My first unaccompanied expedition is in an even worst state as I only remember 3 names of fellow travellers and even less about our experiences. How ungrateful I feel is inexplicable.
It is not just these once in a life time moments that seemed to have passed me by though, my time on the tall ships race seems a blur and I can often only remember my time on board through photos and discussions with peers who shared these times with me. I sailed an incredible distance at the age of 17 without any real appreciation that seems to have lasted me, whether it is my personality’s fault or just my brain’s lack of storage power, I do not know. Ridiculous!
My most solid memories of my incredible last few years seem to be those I deliberately and consciously stored like those on the roof of a hotel in Cape Town looking at Table Mountain at a crazy hour in the morning with a best friend or those other moments, more sensual and personal to me with other, once incredibly close, people. I have no way of fixing this now of course but I wish I did.
I lived in a house of 30+ mates for 2 years and have incredibly vivid memories that i store very securely but not 6 terms worth… What have I forgotten, I sometimes wonder to myself.
The fact that, in this short, selfish passage, I would have missed out some things that people will ridicule me for is the very proof that I often feel I have done no justice to my incredible luck and fortune throughout my lifetime.
It would be unfair, however, to limit these thoughts to my time purely as a sixth former, as a secondary school student I travelled to Austria, Holland, Germany and France but though I remember the experiences, do I remember the exact things that I enjoyed so thoroughly at the time? I cannot be sure. I wish I could but I imagine any human that can is one of a kind.
I would consider myself to be somebody that is easily overwhelmed but then why do I feel such amazement, only at the time, without being able to sustain the incredible moment permanently?
This very strange entry to my writing came when I lay in bed, trying to sleep and memories of previous voyages, treks, games, laughs, experiences and a whole lot more came flooding to my mind and they are not the kind I can simply cast away.
If I could re live my years, I think i would. I wouldn’t relive them once though, I would relive them many a time over just until I could really say I’m ready to leave my teenage years behind. I’m almost 20 now. I’m almost a quarter of the way through my life but am I done with my first fourth? Am I fuck! I would happily start all over again, sit through SATs and GCSEs again. I would endure 6 lessons a day of subjects, a lot of us would deem to be pointless but why would I do it? It’s because I enjoyed being there and why did I enjoy being there? It’s because of the people that did it with me.
I don’t know how many people will read this silly little outburst of a spoilt teenager but I hope those few that do, can see that whatever happens, it’s an experience that one can learn from and pass on.
I’m not an educator or philosopher and would claim to be neither of those but I like to think i know my own feelings and others can appreciate or learn from them.
When thinking this whole section of my mind through, it seemed to make a lot more sense and seemed to be a whole lot bigger but my imagination is impossible to portray into words, as is anyone’s. I think the best way of looking at it is to see a video of myself doing perfectly rationally and sensible things but not remembering myself physically doing them! How absurd.
We humans work in bizarre ways. All of which can most likely be explained by scientists and physiological experts but I don’t want to know that stuff. I just want to remember my time and those moments shared with other, incredible people. I imagine if my mind was detailed in every experience I had every shared, there would be no storage space for the other 3/4 of a life left ahead of me so I don’t have much of a choice. And by thinking that way, it seems to make this whole piece of text totally hypercritical and pointless but it was something I needed to type and I will hope to share.
I don’t know whether it’ll remain my mind’s ramblings or if it’ll make others think the same way but I guess it’s helped me slightly in trying to negotiate my thoughts. I am not an ordinary person but who is?
I don’t know whether this piece is a genuine mind blower for many as it is for me or whether it’s just my ‘Shiraz’ enthused thoughts running away with me but I guess, if I can type it now, it must be buried in my mind somewhere, perhaps in a very, and not often enough accessed, closed place deep within my mind palace.
I guess my mind is running out of stamina as I bash in this sequence of shapes onto a page which means a significant amount to me. But my mind will never run out of stamina in the real world until the day I die and all of the memories I have, though they be but not enough, will die with me as if they never even happened. Isn’t that just some ‘food for thought?’

Day 19 on the estate. Friday 21st March 2014

Today is a national holiday but, the tourist industry doesn’t let that hold them back and I was ready for a day of work in the tasting room with Ida. It was just the two of us and the kitchen staff around so it seemed very quiet. We had 4 groups of people booked in with a special deal voucher which includes a platter for 2, wine tasting and a bottle of the top wine. So with guaranteed numbers ahead, the extra bookings on top, it was going to be a busy day ahead and the 30 degree heat didn’t help staying cool!
The diners came in at all the same time which was very typical! So Ida and I were flying between the fridges, kitchen and tables to serve food, wine and everything in between. My wine knowledge was tested by several South Africans but I received compliments from an English couple in particular who now live in South Africa which is very rewarding to know my advice and guidance is appreciated, even by those who know their stuff and had done their research too! The wine flowed very well and so did the profits of selling cases upon cases of wine! A good amount of profits were made and the day went well considering its pace and intensity. With a couple of tips, the day went by rather quickly and Ida and I ended up having quite a long conversation about musicals and plays. It turns out, amazingly, the version of Midsummer Night’s Dream that I saw on our visit to Cape Town with school just last year; she had also seen and had very similar views on! So after talking of that, blood brothers, shrek and a few more. The day wrapped up and it’s time for a cold beer and pizza in the sun for me!