Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Nothing to see here..

..Move along now.

I'm in Font, doing more climbing than anything else, by quite a long way. If you're interested in that kind of thing (god knows why), I've been updating the other channel.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

23000kms Down

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Nearly two months in, and I've covered over 23000kms already (as per the map above, which doesn't include Cape Town to Jo'Burg to Paris). Not bad work, really. So I thought that I'd try to work out how much I've covered this year in terms of flights etc, because I've been travelling pretty full on.

Warning: it's scary.

So here's the SCIENCE:
(1) I've estimated that I made 38 flights between Cape Town and Johannesburg (19 return flights at 2800km each) for work travel, totalling roughy 53200km.
(2) I flew to Dubai, and then to New Delhi, and then back. Add on another 2000km for the trains and motorbikes. Total: 21650km.
(3) Add on 23115km thus far for my sabbatical.

The total is roughly 98000km. And that doesn't include any driving that I've done in South Africa.

By the time I get back, it'll be 113000km. Or nearly 3 times the circumference of the earth. And that's just 2011. Maybe it's time to slow down a little.


It's likely that all posts about this stop of the journey will be on the other channel. This is because (a) we're staying in a town called Tousson, which is so small that it doesn't even have a local shop; and (b) because this is climbing heaven and that is all I'm doing, bar drinking obscene amounts of espresso and eating baked goods so phenomenal they would make you cry.

The downside is that the other channel is probably ridiculously boring for people who don't climb.

Not my problem.

Saturday, August 27, 2011


In a moment of pique with France, we decided to spend a week in Lisbon, land of salt cod and pasteis de nata, with one of my oldest friends in the world, el Stone (Mike to his folks). Stone and I have known one another since Sub A (grade one to you Gen Y'ers) at Grey PE, which equates to something like 26 years. That makes me feel old. Of course, recently making 32 also makes me (feel) old. And being creaky as anything. And grumpy. But I digress (it's the alzheimers).

Where were we again?

Lisbon is not a tourist city like Paris or Barcelona. It doesn't have many explicit tourist attractions, or tourons. Yes, there were tourons, but they were wandering around with a look of confusion on their mostly vacant faces, as if to say "We had the pasteis de nata and we saw Placa Commercio and the bridge - is that it?". If you're a tourist, chances are you *will* be bored after Pasteis de Belem and Placa Commercio. If you're lucky enough to have a guide as au fait with the city as el Stone, on the other hand, Lisbon will reveal all the fun stuff.

What made Lisbon great to me was a combination of a few pretty important things - food, beer, people and surf. I'll start with surf. Stone and I started surfing together, back in the dark ages of something like 1992. We've since surfed together in PE, St Francis, J-Bay and Cape Town (and very possibly other places along the way). Stone 'moved' to Lisbon a while ago because he couldn't surf in London. So, of course, we went surfing. The surf wasn't great. Hey, it's Portugal in August, not J-Bay. But there's something awesome about paddling out, getting wet and hooking up a few waves with an old friend. It made me realise that I don't surf nearly enough.

The food, and food culture, in Lisbon is awesome. It's all about three things - salt cod, steak and pasteis de nata. None of these are bad things. In combination, i.e. functioning as starter, main and dessert, they're pretty damn awesome. Hence the reason I left Lisbon as, basically, a fat bloke. I went to three restaurants in Lisbon that I'll never forget - Petiscaria Ideal, home of the best prego roll and blood sausage ever; Pasteis de Belem, the king of pasteis de nata; and Cafe Buenos Aires, which makes a damn fine Argentinian steak. And none of them more expensive than a very average meal in Paris.

Added to all of this are the people - they're chilled, friendly and nowhere near as tourist-wary and -weary as Barcelonans or Parisiens. Stone took us along to a guerilla inner city birthday dinner where a horde descended on a small square in the middle of LIsbon one evening, set up tables, and proceeded to have dinner. And then show a stop-motion animation on of them had made, projected on a building across the square. Rad. And no-one batted an eye when Stone brought along a wandering horde (and Tanja) of hungry, loud and hard-drinking Africans - we'd met up with another old friend from back in the day that evening and had started in on the beer. The beer is pretty good too, except that it comes in 200ml bottles, or 200ml draughts, called Imperials. It took a while to realise that you could order a normal 500ml draught, called a Caneca, because they're not on the menu. Apparently the Portuguese don't like them because they get warm and flat too quickly. There's a solution to that, of course - just drink them quicker. I call that South African ingenuity.

And now we're staying just outside Fontainebleau - from the city to the forest, from chaos to calm.

But more on that later.

Boa viagem.

Saturday, August 20, 2011


Palma, Mallorca, waiting for a flight to Lisbon. Lisbon, the home of my old friend Stone, salt cod and pasteis de nata. We're travel fucked and weary. An hour on the metro, half an hour on the bus, two hours in an airport, 40 minutes on a plane, four more hours in an airport and another 45 minutes on a plane. And I feel OLD. I am OLD. A year older, at least. Two big evenings of celebration more tired. If you're going to be in Barcelona, you may as well throw down on the partying.

Partying is the modus operandi of the locals. Wake up late and stay out late. 10am on a friday morning in central Barcelona is dead zone time. It may as well be 5am in JHB. 11pm, on the other hand, is when everyone sits down for dinner. You learn, you adapt, you arrogate the Barcelona lifestyle. You sleep in. You start late. Lunchtime becomes breakfast. Bedtime becomes dinnertime. You learn. You adapt.

See the locals - tanned, tattooed, gooood-looking, endlessly-chilled. See the tourists - burned, flabby, bloodshot eyes, waiting in queues and biiiitching.

You arrogate to the point that you look past the tourists and the pandora's box of shit they've opened in Barcelona. The litter, the crowds, the unruly drunks, the early morning beachfront shitzone, the souvenir hellholes and crappy t-shirts appropriating Barcelonas history and the nest of thieves that moronic tourists flashing money and drinking too much in a sun too hot brings. Don't make the mistake of going to La Rambla. it the Gothic Quarter instead. Hit Park Guell. Hit the Picasso museum. Hit the small restaurants far away from the attractions. Go late or go early.

Or, don't go to Barcelona, not in July or August. Go late or go early. And don't be a tourist.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Wien-er Town, or You Really Don't Have to Wait for the Green Man

We've spent the last two weeks in Vienna (Wien to the locals, and a source of endless amusement to my puerile sub-intellect), where Tanja's aunt has very kindly put us up in some luxury. I realised that this is the longest consecutive amount of time I've spent in the same city for at least a year. It's lucky then that Vienna is awesome, even if the people do have some little.. let's call them quirks, shall we?

But before I get to that - Vienna? Before I arrived here, I'd had "Vienna is the best city in the world and everything is better in Vienna" drilled into me by Tanja (a.k.a. Captain Map, a.k.a. Oatface Killer) for a month and I wanted to hate it on principle. It's unfortunate then that it's a really chilled, beautiful city. And the people that I've spent time with, mainly Tanja's family, are fantastic - they're welcoming, open, informed and love to have good debates. There's a cafe culture like Milan, an art culture like Paris* and a drinking culture like England. There are beautiful parks like Schonbrun and great bars and restaurants. Beer is good and cheap(-er than anywhere else we've been), bars stay open late and the coffee is good. There is an inherent love of pastries and sachertorte. English is the defacto second language and they're actually willing to speak it. I forgot how much easier it is when you can understand the language. Not that I can, but my translator / German teacher / intercessor has assisted me in negotiations and, in addition, I can now navigate the minefield of the purchase of essentials, i.e. coffee, weissbier and wifi, like a true Wien-er (hur hur). (Oh, and I found a pretty decent climbing gym close to the centre of town, which doesn't exactly hurt)

So, if it's so cool, why aren't I dropping everything to move here? Because, sweet baby jesus, there are so many rules and most of the population follow them to the letter, which bugs the hell out of me. For example, at crosswalks everyone waits for the little green man. Everyone. Out of some sort of demented principle. Even if there are no cars in sight and the the only coming in their direction is a guy on a bicycle pedalling, slowly, up a hill 400 metres away. They'll still wait. And give me the shifty eye when I walk across, all "Why the hell aren't you people walking?". I can only think that all of Vienna must shut down when there are power cuts and the traffic lights don't work. And then there was the first climbing gym I went to, where you weren't allowed to use chalk, or brush holds. I did both, of course, but the minute I brushed a hold, an employee walked downstairs from the front desk to tell me off. Apparently he'd seen me on their CCTV and decided to rush down to put me to rights. And of course you need CCTV in a climbing gym to stop people from brushing holds because the alternative, the collapse of civilisation, is unthinkable.

I don't get it - despite all the rules, there's lots of graffiti which means that either there are no rules against it (not very likely) or there are fellow nihilists like me who habitually disregard the rules and are contributing to the breakdown of society. It's still a cool town.

Oh, and we saw Bad Religion, Suicidal Tendencies and Strung Out last night. It was Bad Religion's 30 anniversary. They're almost as old as I am. Jesus. The show was incredible. I've written more about it here, but perhaps one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time was, after the gig when everyone was walking to the u-bahn station, a crowd of people who, 15 minutes previously had been shouting their allegiance to anarchy, were now waiting for the little green man before they crossed the road. And there wasn't a car in sight.

Punk rock, huh?

*Italy's art culture seems to be rooted in and often focused on the classics, while Paris and Vienna embrace all manner of art, from a largely horrific space-inspired exhibit (the only highlight being Kentridge's Journey to the Moon), to a Dali exhibit to Kunsthaus Wien and it's permanent Hundertwasser exhibit - the whole building is actually a Hundertwasser exhibit - to the Klimt, Schiele, Durer and Holbein exhibits currently running.