Tag Archives: Swaziland

Running around the world

Well let’s be realistic – I am not a runner – more like a jogger.  But I have run two marathons (that’s the long 42 km run – and I felt every kilometer).  And I have done a few half marathons.  As you can tell I am quite proud of that but I must admit those were quite a while ago and I don’t think I could even do a half marathon now.  But I enjoy my jogs around the neighbourhood and Fish Creek Park.  I also love to jog when I go on holiday.  It is a great way to explore a city and in this instance jet lag is your friend.

You wake up at 4.30 am and what can you do?  Lace up your shoes and go for a run.  You see the city in its waking up stage.  The dustbin men are out ….. sorry – for my Canadian readers that means the garbage trucks.  (What an odd name calling it a dustbin???  That’s a topic for another day).  You get to see people on their way to work and the coffee bars just opening up.  On a jog through Hyde Park in London we got to see the Household Cavalry doing their morning exercises.  They do something called “The Gallop” and seeing them come through the mist was extraordinary. This little video will give you a feel for one of their practices although sadly no galloping – but just listen to the sergeant major at the end – talk about throwing your voice!

Something exhilarating seeing those incredible horses in the early morning and you could actually see their breath in the cooler temperature.

One of my favourite cities for an early morning run is Venice.  Having no traffic is a huge bonus and you will probably end up doing a longer run than you had planned because Venice is notorious for its twisty alleys and surprise piazzas.  It is so easy to get lost but there’s always a café handy where you can have an espresso standing up at the bar with the gondoliers.  There are usually not many tourists out and about at that time of day so you really get to feel like a tourist – until somebody talks to you in Italian of course!

Another great running city is Rome and you get a really good workout with all the steps.  Rome is fascinating because round just about every corner you come upon some archeological dig  in progress and if you are early enough in the morning you won’t have to contend with Rome’s infamous traffic.  The morning rush hour is between 8 am and 10 am.  Isn’t that civilized?  A bit different when you compare Deerfoot.  Still Rome during the rush hour has earned a reputation for sure.  In fact driving in Italy as a whole – maybe something to do with that Latin temperament?  In fact Italy is known as “God’s racetrack”.  So if you decide to go for a jog in Rome go early – very early! And for goodness sake – stay out of the way of taxis. Time is money people – “sbrigati!!”

I have fond memories of running in Swaziland (now called Eswatini) as a member of our running club Swazi Slojos.  During the week we would run in town (a village really compared with Calgary) but at the weekends we would head out of town and run in the countryside.  That was always fun because as we ran through the small tribal villages the local kids would come running out to join us – shouting and hollering!  They would yell at us in SiSwati and take great delight in overtaking us at breakneck speed.  There we were with our high tech running shoes, water bottles, sun hats and smart watches which took our heart beat and pulse and alongside us ran this rag tag bunch of skinny barefoot kids!  They were thrashing us and all you could do was laugh along with them.  Good memories of a happy time!

Maybe you should pack your trainers for your next vacation.

Do you remember….?

I wonder if you remember your first vacation? Or perhaps you were one of those poor kids dragged around Disney in a stroller not really understanding what the heck was going on. It always makes me chuckle how Disney is supposed to be the happiest place on earth – so why are all the kids crying?

I’m kidding. I have had some fun times at Disney and I do feel for little ones who have been out all day and desperately need a nap – but the rest of the family has to get the most value out of their day pass. They are not cheap!

So when you think back about your vacations (the good, the bad and the ugly) what memories stand out for you?

In Swaziland our vacations would often be a sailing vacation at a local lake. We would take the trailer and our sailing boat and go and have a weekend there – sometimes more. It seemed like no big deal to us then that we were sailing on a lake filled with crocodiles. It did help a lot when we capsized – we got that boat up damn quickly I can tell you!

So vacations can be good and they can be bad …. and then they can be just downright horrible. Like that little girl in the poem ….

There was a little girl
And she had a little curl
Right on the top of her head
And when she was good, she was very very good
and when she was bad, she was horrid

Now I have to really think – what was my worst vacation …. ever? Hmmm. Let’s just say I have had bad moments on vacation. On one of our trailer trips in South Africa we camped out at Cape Vidal.

Cape Vidal lies within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park World Heritage Site about 30 km north of the town of St Lucia. It is a three-hour drive from Durban. It is a real nature paradise with rich marine life and populations of elephant, rhino, buffalo, cocodile and hippo. The beach there is incredible. We used to take the 4 wheel drive and load up the picnic basket and drive along the beach to a remote spot where our small group would have lunch and swim. Completely deserted – absolute paradise.

So where’s the bad moment? Well the guys in our group decided that they were going to go crayfishing at night. Now the waves in this area wash up onto the rocks with tremendous force and these three guys, including my husband, headed out in the pitch black with baskets and long sticks. I could hear the waves crashing from our small caravan and I worried for hours before he returned home triumphant with tales of nearly being washed off the rocks – what the heck? There I was 6 months pregnant with two kids. Mind you – the crayfish were AMAZING. We had them cooked the next day over the fire. Yep…. I guess that holiday was pretty good.

I am lucky – I have visited so many amazing places around the world – each one becomes my favourite – Argentina, Japan, India, Egypt, Ireland, Morocco….

I can’t really find a holiday that I have hated. I just love to travel which is why at the moment I feel bad that I have had to cancel my travel arrangements along with everyone else. So my travel dreams are keeping me going. I can’t wait to get out there again and see new places and revisit some old favourites.

I have lots of memories to share and I am sure you do too. Take a look at my recent segment on Global TV with Jordan Witzel – we are sharing travel memories.

https://www.facebook.com/GlobalCalgary/videos/590179921706877/

If you have a travel memory you would like to share on Global News send it to me at info@southtravel.ca. I would love to hear your best (or funniest) travel memories and see your photos.

In the meantime – stay safe!

Smuggling lettuce and apples

If you wanted a fresh lettuce in Swaziland in 1981 you had to either grow it in your own garden or smuggle it in. The Kingdom of Swaziland, a small landlocked country sandwiched between Mozambique and South Africa was alarmed by the outbreak of cholera in neighbouring South Africa. So steps were taken. Vaccinations were obligatory (and they hurt) and the import of fresh fruit and vegetables from neighbouring South Africa was banned.

All good steps I guess – that is if everyone follows the rules. But they don’t and so the frequent shopping trips to Johannesburg, South Africa turned into smuggling trips with people coming back with lettuces under the seats and apples hidden in handbags.

It makes me laugh now when I watch Border Patrol and I see those confiscated foods taken out of suitcases while the “smuggler” stands by managing to look amazed and puzzled at the same time. Why? I can’t bring in bags of dried fish? It’s just like fish jerky – try some. It’s good.

One trip back from Johannesburg I had fallen by the wayside and let temptation rule as I bought a big bag of Granny Smiths apples. Oh they were so green and crisp looking and I knew I could make them last a while in a cool dark cupboard spread out on newspaper – not touching each other. This was a trick I had learnt as a child in Somerset, England, when Mom and Dad would take us out to pick apples to supplement their income. Part of the deal was that we could take as many apples back to our house as we could carry and so we cleared out the linen cupboard and carefully lined up all the apples – not touching. We had apples for months – albeit a little wrinkled.

But wait – what happened about the apples I bought in Johannesburg? As we drew close to the border I got a little worried. This was a big bag of apples and I didn’t want them to be “confiscated” – we all know what that means. I got my husband to pull over to the side of the road and tucked the bag under the inside lid of the bonnet (OK you guys call it hood – we are all on the same page here). Then we drove for 2-3 minutes till we got to the border at Oshoek – this is the main border post between Johannesburg and Mbabane, the town in Swaziland where we lived. Just another 30 minutes from the border and we would be home.

Cleared customs and immigration fine – the plan was to go a little bit down the road and then whip out the apples from the hood and homeward bound.

Not so fast!

Ya Wena ” (hey you in Siswati!) – running up to the car comes one of the border officers and my heart stopped beating.

Yes – we said (smiling) rolling down the window.

“Please baas – give me a lift to town”.

What could we say. He climbed in the back gratefully and we drove for 30 minutes into the middle of Mbabane town where we dropped him off as he waved and shouted “Siyabonga” (thank you in Siswati) and “Hamba kahle” (goodbye).

That night we had stewed apples for dinner – it was heavenly!

Dirty little secrets

borderI love watching Border Security – the documentary series that follows the events at the border both at airports and on the road.  Having spent so much time in airports myself it is just fascinating to watch what people will try to take into another country.  It’s not just the drugs but the other stuff – like weird food or tens of thousands of dollars in cash packed in your checked luggage ????

But come on!  Have you ever brought anything into Canada when returning from a trip that you didn’t declare?  What about that fancy purse you bought in Vegas?  The one where you cut off all the tabs and filled it with your personal stuff and then ditched the old one at the hotel?  C’mon – you know you did it!

Just filling in the declaration form on the flight is bound to bring tears to your eyes when you jot down a list of what you spent.  This can’t be right, you think to yourself.

Just say you do get stopped at a “random” check.  OK so you’re clean.  But what the heck were you thinking about when you bought that apron in Florence for your best friend?  You know which apron I mean – the one with the close up and very very personal picture of David?
embarrassed-chimpanzee

 

 

Or why would you have 10 individually wrapped bars of soap in your suitcase as well as eight shower caps, six bottles of shower gel and two coathangers?  Really?  Not to mention the three cans of olive oil and two tins of truffles.  These are not generally a problem (except maybe to the hotel from whence you filched said coathangers) but you really run into problems with some food items.

Talking of smuggling food reminds me of a time back in Swaziland where we had a Cholera epidemic.  The Swazi authorities decided to ban all fruit and veg from coming across the border in South Africa.  Well the fact of the matter was that most of our fruit and veg came from South Africa and nothing was coming into the Swazi shops.  I’m talking lettuce, cucumbers, apples.  Those who had green thumbs were to be envied and if you went to a dinner party and there was a lettuce salad you were the bee’s knees!

???????????????????????? So…. we went shopping in Johannesburg and I confess I could not resist the package of Granny Smiths green apples.  I just had to have them.  Now the border guards were pretty thorough and would search the cars for evidence of edible contraband.  Clever me though had an idea.  Let’s put the apples in the engine under the hood just before we get to the border and then we can stop around the corner and take them out again.  Easy peasey!  Until the very friendly Swazi policeman asked for a ride into town.  Oops!  We drove and drove and I could just picture in my mind my lovely packet of apples bumping along next to the battery under the hood.

FINALLY – we dropped him off with much thank you’s and clapping of hands as the Swazis do….. whipped around the corner and stopped to open up the hood to find…… yes – a very large soft package of stewed apples.

That will teach me!