Journey to South Africa – Day 7, November 19 – Plettenberg Bay

It’s our last full day at Fynbos and I wake up early. Somehow over the past few months I seem to have become a morning person.  Problem is, I’m also a night person, which doesn’t leave much time for sleep.   There’s something about the solitude of morning I’m learning to enjoy.   I decide to take a longer walk today.2015-11-19 08.11.11

I head up past the main house and out to the road and then back.  As I pass by the front gates, I can hear the occasional scream-like squawk from behind the treeline.  When we first arrived at Fynbos I assumed those screams were from monkeys but it turns out they’re peacocks that live on the property next door.  Normally, sounds like that would be unnerving, but in the past week I’ve gotten used to [and kinda like] all of these new sounds as well as the random unidentified rustling in the bushes.

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When I get back, we have breakfast at a nearby café called Heath.  Then we stop to pick up more groceries since tonight I’m making my homemade pasta sauce.

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While out and about this week, I took some photos in the grocery store to show you what food looks like and how much it costs in South Africa.  At the time of writing, the conversion rate of Rand to Dollar is 15.3.  To put it into simpler terms, each 1 Rand [ZAR] is the equivalent of .65 USD.  Needless to say, the dollar stretches a long way right now in these parts, especially when you take into consideration the lower cost of living.  Here are some popular grocery items and what they cost in Rand & USD:

Strawberries – 29.99 ZAR = $1.96

Basil – $7.99 ZAR = $0.52

Tomatoes – 12.99 ZAR = $0.84

Green onions – 8.99 ZAR = $0.58

Lettuce – 11.99 ZAR = $0.78

(Decent) wine – 55.99 ZAR = $3.66

(Decent) steak – 55.43 ZAR = $3.62

Loaf white bread – 12.99 ZAR = $0.84

1/2 dozen eggs – 14.99 ZAR = $0.98

1 liter milk – 12.99 ZAR = $0.84

Cheddar cheese block – 20.40 ZAR = $1.33

Can of soda – 7.50 ZAR = $0.49

Chocolate bar – 8.99 to 14.99 ZAR = $0.58 to $0.98

Cheeseburger – 50.00 ZAR = $3.27

Cup of coffee – 16.00 ZAR = $1.04

To give South Africans an idea of how cheap that is, on a recent shopping trip for similar items I spent $12.80 for a steak, $14.99 for a bottle of wine, $2.99 for a container of tomatoes, $4.99 for cheese and $3.99 for milk.

After shopping and a brief stop at the beach, we return to the cottage. I spend the rest of the afternoon editing K I I out on the main patio of the B&B.  As I try to concentrate, I’m distracted by Riley, the pig, who’s trampling loudly nearby in the bushes.

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Our evening ends with another fire and the beginning of the latest Bond film, Spectre.  I say beginning because we both fell asleep within the first 30 minutes.  It would take us 3 days of watching and falling asleep to finally get to the end.

Journey to South Africa – Day 6, November 18 – Plettenberg Bay

Today’s our third day at Fynbos and Nick spends most of the day wrapping up his solo, and second, book on mountaineering titled, K I I.

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It’s been a busy year.  In addition to writing books, Nick and I have also been making a series of videos for YouTube called Interrogating Oscar.  These videos are homemade, raw snapshots of our lives as we research and write about Oscar Pistorius.   Some episodes are strictly about the murder and the trial, while others are much more personal, providing insight into our own trials and tribulations as we grow both personally and professionally throughout this process.

One of our longer term goals is to make professionally produced documentaries to complement our books.  Why?  Well, it’s never been about getting rich.  Trust me, if it were, we’d be failing. Of course, we want to be successful and with that eventually comes money.  We’re no different than anybody else working hard at a career and wanting to reap the benefits.  One of the primary reasons for documentaries is we want a larger platform from which we can reach more people.  Also, as much as we love writing, we’re not limited to that as far as our interests are concerned.  We also love bringing stories to life in visuals.  Nick’s a photographer, I’m a blogger, and we’re both movie junkies.  I also enjoy narration and have become pretty decent at it over the last year.  Add all of that together, and our desire to have our stories on the bigger screen makes sense.

Because this work is so personal to us, Nick and I have an unofficial pact to honor what we’ve built by finding the right partners who understand us and our vision.  The ride to get there, let’s just say, has been… interesting.  We’ve definitely met some doozies.

One of my favorites [insert eyeroll] from early on was an executive from New York and I had the pleasure of being his primary contact. The first time I talked to him on the phone he confessed he was several sakes in and not exactly mentally clear.  He also told me, in glorious detail, about his last failed relationship and their sexual escapades.   This guy’s masterful use of the word fuck made me seem like a girl scout, which for those who know me, is a stretch.  I gotta admit, he was amusing for a bit.  But cooler heads prevailed and we soon parted ways with the Charlie Sheen wannabe.

I won’t tell you about all the others in between, but the latest potential executive is a guy from South Africa.  We’ve been communicating back and forth with him for the better part of two weeks.  Initially, the proposal seemed interesting but needed some negotiating.  After a few go arounds, we realized, he was trying to get us to agree to much more than we were comfortable with.  So, today we told him no thanks but neither one of us is particularly crushed.  Now that we’ve been around this block a few times, I think we understand how this process works and we’re prepared to keep at it for the long haul.

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Later in the day, as Nick’s napping, I treat myself to a bubble bath and some much needed pampering.

That pampering comes to an abrupt halt when I step into the bedroom, then stop dead in my tracks.  There’s a spider the size of my hand up near the ceiling.  I can’t believe my eyes; I’m literally frozen in horror.  I’ve never seen anything that freaking huge before.  I absolutely despise spiders and this is the King Kong of all spiders [at least until the others I saw later on the trip.]

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There’s no way in hell I can get this thing off the wall without having a heart attack.  There’s only one option – Nick has to get his ass up.  I go into the living room and make just enough noise to get him stirring.  As soon as he does, I tell him about the spider and beg him to kill it.  Kill it, kill it now, don’t let it get away!!!  In the typical annoyed male fashion, he gets up and grumbles while he looks for the broom.  Unlike me, Nick’s not a serial killer of spiders.  He pardons them and sets them free in the wild.  Unhappily accepting that the spider will live, I helpfully suggest that he fling it as far as he can over the other side of the mountain.

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Once the monster is out of the house, and I shake off the heebie jeebies, we light a fire and watch Dumb and Dumber on TV.  Yes, Pistorians, that’s right, Nick and I watched Dumb & Dumber.  I’ll patiently await your charming comments on this post.

Tomorrow I’ll edit Nick’s latest writing and get it uploaded to Amazon… and then the road trip continues…

Journey to South Africa – Day 5, November 17 – Plettenberg Bay

After a year of hard work and many late, sleep deprived nights, it’s nice to enjoy some peaceful [and coherent] morning time.  Right here, in this moment at Fynbos, I’m completely relaxed.  No phone, no TV, no outside world.  It’s 7am, the sun is peeking behind cotton ball clouds and the air is chilly, somewhere around 65F.  South Africans go by Celsius, so approximately 18C in their terms.   It’s just me, my coffee and the birds.  Fynbos has tons of different birds and listening with no distractions you can pick up on how they communicate with each other.

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Two hours later, the sun is full in the sky.  The temperature has easily risen 15 or so degrees.  The South African sun is strong, even more so than what I’m used to in California.  Already I can feel my arms starting to bake but that doesn’t scare me away from a swim.

A short walk through a wooded pathway leads you to the pool that overlooks a spectacular view of the mountains.  It’s 360 degrees of lush flora.  It’s totally secluded up here and sort of feels like a fairy tale.  Happy to have the place to myself, I spent the next two hours lounging and dipping in the turquoise water.

Nick and I have been craving some good seafood so in the afternoon we head over to Robberg Fine Foods.  We pick out 12 crayfish tails (South Africa’s version of lobster but smaller), Snook fish, shrimp, and all the necessary fixings from yummy local butter to a fresh garlic bulb.  And of course several more bottles of our new favorite Sauvignon Blanc.

Now to give you an idea of local currency and how much you can get for your American dollar right now – everything we bought cost approximately 900 rand.  Thats $65 dollars.  Pretty incredible, right?!  Needless to say, we’ve been eating and drinking like kings.





Journey to South Africa – Day 4, November 16 – Plettenberg Bay

After breakfast at Oakhurst, we drive on the N2 towards Plettenberg Bay.  As we get closer we can see views of the ocean off to our right.  Dozens of hang gliders jump off the cliff and float in the air.

We stop at the local Spar (grocery store) to stock up on some groceries for our cottage.

I’m pretty blown away by the amount of squatter camps in the area.  A sad reminder, despite the breathtaking scenery, that South Africa suffers from staggering poverty.  They have government housing, which is basically a house the size of a tool shed given to people who can’t afford a home, for free.  Then there are the camps where people make homes out of whatever they can patch together.  These “squatters” can be seen at all hours roaming around, often walking in the middle of the street.

But like many places, there’s always another side to the train tracks.  Just down the street are areas of extraordinary beauty.

One of my favorite spots so far has been Gericke Pointe in Sedgefield.   As soon as we parked, I literally jumped out of the car and hopped in the sand.  It’s that perfect white-beige color, powdery and warm.  The kind you can’t resist sticking your toes in or just laying on all day.

Both of us were so eager to check out the beach that we kinda forgot our belongings were in plain view in our car.  It didn’t dawn on us until much further down the beach.  At that point, we figured screw it, if they’re gonna take our stuff we mine as well enjoy the beach.

Nick ran ahead and took pics from the top of the rock at the point.  I splashed in the water and soaked up some rays.

Afterwards, we continued our drive and arrived at Fynbos Ridge around mid-day.  It’s truly a spectacular place where you feel completely at home.  Liz and Brian Phillips are the owners and they fawn over their guests.  Sparing no details, we arrive to fresh flowers, cookies and wine.  Our cottage has a patio and yard with views for miles.

We spend the first night braaing the meat we bought on the way.