(not my picture - a South African guy's.  I found this on Huffington Post)

My city, my Johannesburg

I just discovered this blogger today: Bing

Her article on Jozi filled me with nostalgia, having travelled with my mom to work when I was a kid.  I loved Joburg then and still sometimes manage to get lost in it, on the way back from the airport.  I really don’t mind, it’s filled with energy and art and gorgeous buildings!

http://www.storyofbing.com/2012/04/my-favourite-part-of-johannesburg-newtown/#comment-23085

Windmill centre

Paradise in the mountains

Have you ever been to Clarens? I hadn’t. I wasn’t even sure where it was, other than it was out of Johannesburg, and apparently quite beautiful.

I did mention in a previous blog that I was off to Durban for my birthday weekend, but as usual, the most fun things happen because of a change of plans. Lance and Dane, a delightful – albeit sometimes very annoying – couple had invited me to Durban. Unfortunately Lance had some Important Work to do and we would have arrived in Durban at around 8pm tired, cranky and thirsty. Depending on how one drives, Durban is around 6 hours away from Johannesburg. Since I’ve been to Durban a hundred times, and Dane doesn’t like Durban, we decided to go to Clarens which is less than 4 hours away (factoring a quick pit stop at the last town with an actual supermarket which took us 20 minutes).

We got to Clarens as the sun was setting. It’s a quaint little town, nestled in the mountains in the Free State. The pretty little town is surrounded by some beautiful mountains, parts of them soft and rolling green but suddenly interrupted by an outcrop or a sudden drop of stark, harsh rock, breaking the peaceful scenery. They’re even more spectacular when it’s drizzly and the tops are covered in the soft mist that seems low enough to touch. Don’t even get me started on the sunsets.

Sunset

There are a million B&Bs which I can only imagine are comfy and beautiful, but Lance’s mom has a little house there, which she rents out (except to us of course) so we dumped our luggage there and went out to have a drink and some dinner.

It was starting to drizzle and although Lance and Dane were complaining, I found it very beautiful, it just added to the mysterious and misty scenery. It was like a small little English village in the books I read when I was younger, how I imagine a tiny town somewhere in Europe would be.

The Artichoke

Just off the tar road and a little way onto a gravel road is The Artichoke Restaurant. We stopped off for a quick drink and a bite to eat. It worked out so well that we proceeded to stop, eat and drink at every place we could. The most memorable meal for me that weekend was the oxtail I had at Vito’s. I’d go back to Clarens just for that!  Apparently the pizza is also really good.  Lance and Dane shared the “Campo Pizza” which I thought was really funny.

Oxtail

Lance and Dane shared a pizza

Lance and Dane shared a pizza

We finally ended up at the Grouse and Claret and made friends with locals and visitors alike. We were a hit! We got booted out at 2am and I felt slightly worse for wear on Saturday. After breakfast and a 2 hour long snooze, we hit the town again.

The ‘town’ is tiny. My favourite place is a little stone centre called the Windmill Centre, with some rusty metal signs announcing about 6 arty farty and clothing shops. I felt like I’d stepped back in time.  There was also this really cool portal to nowhere, which kept Dane busy for a bit  LOL

Portal to Nowhere

They have a liquor store which is in an old stone building, a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker (no jokes), a pharmacy and a supermarket which doesn’t sell anything fresh, hence the stop at the Pick n Pay in Bethlehem. Good thinking! If you forget to stop off, never fear: there are a couple of pubs, and many restaurants with reasonable pricing. A beer on tap is between R25 – R30. My oxtail was R115, which is about R50 more expensive than something half as good in Sandton. One thing that stood out was that there were no take aways, no KFC or Nandos or any such place. Only whole fresh home grown food. If I wasn’t so lazy it would have inspired me to have a garden. With … plants. I might write about my failed attempt at hay bale gardening one day.

The town also has its own brewery which is ALWAYS busy. It is definitely the most popular establishment in the square. They brought us a taster tray, which featured 5 of their own beers, and 2 of their own ciders. You can choose your poison from that selection, or order wine, which D did. I had cherry cider. It was amazingly refreshing. I also tasted cherry beer – which is SO good – at the German restaurant later that night. I told you, we ate a lot!

Tasters

My favourite stores were the knick-knack stores. I’m a sucker for shiny things and trinkets. I thought I loved the Cheesy Mouse until I got to the Ugly Duckling! These shops aren’t full of your usual flea market junk – there were unusual and beautifully made pieces which are so much more than just souvenirs; there are some really stylish and expensive looking items that would look at home in anybody’s house. There’s a great shop which sells old antiques, including great big front doors with stained glass, and those lovely old cupboards and chests of drawers that creak when you open them. And that beautiful smell of old books. Oh my gosh, I could have stayed in that shop for ever, but we had to go and collect Dane who’d elected to stay in bed that morning instead of exploring with Lance and me. We were going on a picnic.

Squeaky door

Delightfully tacky looking

Delightfully tacky looking

Seeing as though Friday and Saturday were such well fed and watered days, we decided to go for a drive away from the town on Sunday.

Turns out there’s a lot to do in the surrounding area. You could easily stay there for a week. We went to the Golden Gate National Park which is about 20 kms away and one can easily stop off for horse riding, fishing (trout I’m assuming), quad bike riding and even zip lining on the way. You could stop off at the day spa or go to the shooting range, cherry picking and white water rafting. We didn’t have time to do all that, but never mind!  I’m going back soon.  I’ll be checking these guys out: http://www.clarensxtreme.co.za/

Lance the braai masterCocktails

The National Park is lovely, we didn’t see too many animals, but we did see zebra and some or other buck type things. They really are all the same to me, sadly. If you’re more casual you can stay at the camping and caravan park, just beyond the beautiful hotel and chalets which are run, funnily enough, by my boss’s wife’s cousin and his husband, who is the executive chef! Who knew! The hotel looks like something you’d find in the Alps. I didn’t take a picture because we were driving and … you know how it is.

Clarens is definitely a place I’d go to again, even on my own, although it’s always more fun with your mates.

This coming Saturday I’m going to China Town, in the South of Johannesburg. I’m pretty excited about that: the last time I went to China Town, it was in the old downtown Johannesburg about 20 odd years ago!

I can’t wait to take some pics .  I’ll also figure out how to upload them without you having to do neck stretches to see them.

Have a great week peeplies!

Travelling for the Oldies

When I started this blog, I wasn’t sure if it was going to be positive or negative. It started off being laden with complaints and whining, but I’ve managed to talk myself out of my deep, dark despondent hole, through the few edits I’ve done. Let’s see how this ends.

The question of travelling when you’re beyond employment age has been on my mind a lot lately, most likely because I’m not in my thirties anymore. I don’t mean going on a holiday once a year. I mean travelling, experiencing, living, being at one with the place you’re in. Being there for as long as you want to be, before you move on to be a part of another place.

I have been reading a lot of travel blogs and have been so inspired by them as well as travellers I’ve met in the past. They’re mostly young couples and young singles or groups who have thrown caution to the wind and now live the life I dream of. Some of them are trust fund kids or gap year kids who, after 12 months of drunkenly handing out flyers outside bars in return for a meal or living on their allowance, go back home to mom and dad and have hardly a care in the world. Some other travellers are backpackers and some of them are great at budget travel, volunteering or finding casual work to fund their travels. That’s the life!

Yeah sure, I could do this. I could cash in my retirement fund, pay off my debts, invest the rest and travel around for a while. I could keep my car here at home in South Africa instead of selling it immediately, in case I need emergency cash. I could rent out my house to make sure I have a place to return to if I come back. I must say, I like this idea a lot.

I’m not married and I don’t have children. I’m not a professional who would give up A Very Good Career if I ran off. I have a great job. It pays the bills.
I won’t lie: it’s not very inspiring, nor is there any room to progress. If I stay, I will be a legal secretary very possibly for the rest of my life.
Other than my friends and family (and my animals, but that is another story), I have nothing to stay here for.

So why not?

Well, because I’ve been very responsible and bought a house, paid off my car and have a retirement fund, the way all good responsible adults should live. Unfortunately I’ve also been living in the moment and spending credit on things I don’t need to fill up the part of me that was meant to be Gaelavanting, and that is the biggest obstacle, I have to admit.

My question is: what really happens to a traveller when they get older? Can they still go backpacking? I guess so, if there’s spare energy and cash. What if there isn’t any cash? How easy is it to find casual or any kind of employment, once you’re old and there are so many young, beautiful and enthusiastic humans flooding the casual job market in paradise? I shudder at the thought of a 60 year old woman handing out flyers at a trendy nightspot on Phi Phi Island! Eww. Maybe I could study yoga or massage with a guru in India and do that. Wait, there is light at the end of this tunnel!

You don’t hear about old aged travellers in blogs. Why is that? You hear how you should be following your heart and chasing your dreams. “If you only had a year to live, what would you do?” Travel the world, no question! “Ok then go do that.” I’ve heard this very appealing reasoning from many people, one of whom has actually done that! My free spirit loves this kind of advice.

The problem is that I don’t have just a year to live. With my luck I’ll live to 100! That would be around 30 to 40 years of potentially not being able to put gas in my car or pay for utilities in my house, or have to sponge off other old people who may not have enough themselves. Sounds very uncomfortable. Yes I know, I sound very pessimistic, probably from growing up without enough, but I believe these are lessons that came to me for a reason.

All is not lost however. This is so deep in my soul, and it’s going to happen one way or another. Even if I take a 6 month gap and do what I can, it’s going to happen. Even if I go back to my beloved Thailand for a mere month, it’s going to happen. If I end up having a great retirement pay out, I could do the Grand Marigold Hotel thing and wonder why I never did it before. I think all I really want is to know that I’m going to be ok.

So at the end of this thought process, I’m still unsure, but perhaps a little less unsure? No. Excited again, but still unsure.

If any readers out there know of anyone who has been through this dilemma, please put me in touch with them? I’d love to find out how they dealt with their dual nature of being a responsible free spirit. It isn’t easy being me……

Till next time
Happy dreams!

Gaelevanting around the globe

Hi

Thanks for coming over. For those who don’t know me, my name is Gaelen. It’s either Irish or Scottish Gaelic and I like to joke that my parents were inebriated when they named me. However, that would just bring me right back to being Scottish or Irish, right?

I have an incurable case of wanderlust.

It started a long time ago. Actually, I think I get my wanderlust from my dad. He often used to disappear without telling anyone where he was going, only to return two weeks later laden with gifts for us from Swaziland or some far off African land.
I remember the two of us pouring over maps, atlases, globes and even encyclopedias, imagining the smells and sounds of all these exotic places and making up stories about these strange looking and beautifully different people. I can still remember the smell of all his old books and Old Spice. Those smells make me happy.

To this day I can’t just leave a map alone, I follow routes with my fingers and imagine what I would find if I stopped there. Or there. Where would that road take me? I still have the craving for sounds, smells and tastes of far off places. I want to know who they pray to, and why? And how they make their food. And how they prepare for bed at night, and what they do first thing in the morning in preparation for their day ahead. I need to know!

I admit that I haven’t travelled nearly as much as I would have liked to by the age I am now. I’ve been to London, Auckland, Phuket, Phi Phi and a couple of places in Mozambique. I’m especially not proud to admit that I have only been to a small amount of places in South Africa, my home land. I need to remedy that immediately- starting this weekend in fact, when I go to Durban, KZN (fondly known as Durbs by the sea by South Africans) on my birthday weekend.

Other than that I will be writing about my memories of Phuket and Phi Phi in Thailand and Ponta d’Ouro and Inhaca Island in Mozambique. I hope you find my stories interesting, and share them with your friends (and well-heeled acquaintances in appropriately high places at travel magazines, hotels, B&Bs. lodges and well visited travel blogs).

All I ask in return is honest, constructive criticism and helpful advice. I want to turn this into a living albeit probably not a well-paid one. As long as I can sustain my journeys and fill my soul with the world, I am sure I’ll be more than happy!

Anyway, I plan to start my travel blog with stories about Koh Phi Phi Don (from what I can remember….) and I should have that done in a week.

I will probably also post bits and bobs about other things that tickle my fancy🙂
See you then!

Happy dreams

G