Summer Train

Sweden is not well known for its sandy beaches or amazing waves. Probably because there aren’t any. However, these Scandinavians have more lakes than they know what to do with.

Being out on the water with no one else in sight is a great feeling
Being out on the water with no one else in sight is a great feeling
Maja chilling on the jetty
Maja chilling on the jetty
Sit down paddling
Sit down paddling

During the summer months they pull out this antique steam engine and run it between the lakes and Uppsala. The whole operation is run by volunteers. Mainly pensioners, kids and train enthusiasts. The tickets are also dirt cheap. The locomotive is named Lennakatten, apparently after a cat called Lenna that used to ride the train every day. Very cute.

Maja's favourite spot on Lennakatten
Maja’s favourite spot on Lennakatten
The cabins are all teak
The cabins are all teak

The forest is definitely worth a few hours walking. It’s beautiful in there, especially near the end of summer when all the berries start ripening. Free fruit!

Getting lost in the forest
Getting lost in the forest

Camping is laughably cheap. We pay 30 Crowns ($4) per night and have access to all the necessary facilities. We are always the only people camping in the forest. Having the woods to ourselves is great! Well, we’re not completely alone. We share it with about seven hundred million mosquitoes.

Spending a weekend by the lake in our teepee tent
Spending a weekend by the lake in our teepee tent
Meeting the locals and making friends. They can't resist a scratch between the horns.
Meeting the locals and making friends. They can’t resist a scratch between the horns.

Neo Viking

So we don’t look like vikings. Not the ones that Hollywood portrays anyway. Vikings probably didn’t wear life jackets. Maybe they would still be around if they did!

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We have traded in our larger, more luxurious ways of sailing for a 606. The little Nordic water-rocket has a much lower profile than what we’re accustomed to. Similar to drinking Budweiser; it’s very close to water.

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Signing up to the Uppsala Sailing Club gave us access to use the dinghies whenever we desire. Except during winter when the lake is solid ice. Why sail when we can walk to the next village for a quick conquer and pillage session.

When we were Sailors

Not all adventures play out the way that one would hope. That’s when we pretend to be mature adults and tell ourselves things like “Expectations are the root of all heartache” and “We can look back and learn from the experience.” What I learned is that I want my own yacht and I want it yesterday!

Engineer's tan
Engineer’s tan
At anchor for the night
At anchor for the night
It's definitely this way.
It’s definitely this way.
Or that way.....
Or that way…..
View from the yacht
View from the yacht
When in Rome
When in Rome
Deck hand
Deck hand
Relief from the heat
Relief from the heat
Old School
Old School
Such is life
Such is life

Green Mamba

The Green Mamba (Passportias worthlessias), also known as the Common South African Passport or Boerewors Book, is an A5-sized and highly venomous passport species of the African genus Eishidontknow.

I applied for my Swedish residence permit over a year ago. The paperwork and questioning was supposed to end after attending a second interview in Pretoria. The Swedish authorities have now turned their attention onto my Swedish partner. Although she is a citizen returning to her home country, she is being interrogated regarding her intentions in Sweden. The reason for this is because she will be accompanied by a most hideous creature holding a South African passport. Every precaution must be taken before allowing one of these sub-human specimens into the proximity of normal, decent people. A European citizen importing such an animal can only be doing something illegal.

Imagine being questioned by the department of home affairs about your intentions of returning home. The correct and only answer to that question should be, “None of your fucking business, arsehole!”

The poison contained within the South African passport does not only affect the bearer, but also those associated with that person. As all African passport holders are immediately assumed to be either criminals, terrorists or diseased, anyone accompanying the savage will be guilty by association.

It’s as though the authorities have added an extra item to the “dangerous cargo” list. “Good morning ma’am, are you carrying anything sharp, flammable, toxic or African with you today?”

If I were to regain my Dutch citizenship there is a chance that I will have to renounce my South African passport. They need not ask me twice. I would quickly become a smoker in order to roll up each page of the tokoloshe diary into a neat spliff and flick the ashes into the Rhine, with clogs on my feet, a bite of gouda in my mouth and a smile on my face.

Suid Afrikak

I thought moving to Pretoria would be boring, but this is great! Uncle Bob Mugabe is staying at the Sheraton Hotel, just over the road from us, spending his stolen hard-earned wealth, while expat Zimbabweans protest around the Union Buildings against his every breath. At the same time South Africans attempt to tear down a statue of Paul Kruger. And somewhere in the background, not receiving much attention, are the new, private jets that our selfless leader has purchased, for the good of South Africa. Who needs schools and clinics when you have a private jet?

We don’t need people to be educated and healthy. We just need them to be alive and gullible enough to place a “X” next to the face that blurts out the most appealing promises, no matter how ridiculous or impossible they really are.

South Africans are proud of the democracy that has been built over the past twenty years. However, those people do not understand the term “democracy”. South Africa was not a democracy pre-1994 and it is not a true democracy now. Argue all you want and you will still be wrong. Google it. For those without access to a computer; don’t worry, Jacob promised to fix that.

The removal of statues has become a circus. It has also become a racial issue instead of a moral one. White people protect the statues because they feel it is a part of their heritage. Black people want to remove the statues because of the oppression that those people caused or were a part of.

Fair enough. Cecil was an arsehole on a good day. Historically, he is unpopular with the Afrikaners and the Blacks. People have now invested time, effort and faeces into removing an inanimate object that resembles the man. The students at UCT disgraced themselves by throwing human excrement on a statue. Well done! They have just made him more famous than ever before! His memory will live on, thanks to the students from the “Rhodes Must Fall” campaign. Now Google “irony”.

His statue is gone, but his estate includes part of UCT and Kirstenbosch Gardens. We’re going to need an entire sewerage plant and more than one crane to remove that. There is also the Rhodes Scholarship Fund. Should we keep receiving his funding? Is it morally correct to accept money from such an evil man? What about Rhodes University in Grahamstown? Another product of Cecil’s estate. We can rename it, like all the roads in Pretoria, but he will always be a part of our history.

Three, educationally challenged men became a little too excited and jumped on the band wagon by vandalising the horse memorial in Port Elizabeth. The suspected EFF members have reinforced the ignorance of their party by breaking a statue dedicated to horses. Either they had no idea what the statue symbolised or the horse was a counter-revolutionary and did not deserve that bucket of water from the soldier. There is also the possibility that Julius just wanted some attention. There is even an inscription for Julius and his comrades to read.

THE GREATNESS OF A NATION
CONSISTS NOT SO MUCH IN THE NUMBER OF ITS PEOPLE
OR THE EXTENT OF ITS TERRITORY
AS IN THE EXTENT AND JUSTICE OF ITS COMPASSION

ERECTED BY PUBLIC SUBSCRIPTION
IN RECOGNITION OF THE SERVICES OF THE GALLANT ANIMALS
WHICH PERISHED IN THE ANGLO BOER WAR 1899-1902

Steve Hofmeyr poked the bear by writing a letter that highlighted his views of “us and them”. Although many of his points were valid, the last thing we need is for an influential person to provoke both sides of the conflict.

Some PEOPLE have certain opinions while other PEOPLE have opposing opinions. Not all blacks want statues of white men to burn. Not all whites care what happens to random pieces of sculpted metal standing in parks.

Throwing faeces at things we don’t appreciate will not solve problems caused in the past. Vandalising statues of dead men will only make South Africans angry. Whether you’re a boer or a black, you are South African. You’re either a part of the problem or you’re working towards a solution. If you expend energy fighting statues, I have bad news for you.

Hin Wong Bay

Sat 20 Sept 2014

Maja's nemesis. The "yellyfish!"
Maja’s nemesis. The “yellyfish!”

The best thing to do here is snorkel. Actually, it’s the only thing to do, besides relaxing and admiring the view.

Fishies
Fishies
Feeding the fish chips. Baked, not fried.
Feeding the fish chips. Baked, not fried.

We shared the area with Vince and Alice, a French couple. Vince has the most irritating ability, whereby he speaks both, English and French, like a native. We prefer him under water.

After hours
After hours
Hin Wong Bay
Hin Wong Bay
Sunset
Sunset

Occasionally, a coconut will attempt murder by unplugging itself from the palm tree and falling, from bloody high, towards it’s victim. Failed attempts are signalled by a dull thud, as the tropical assassin hits the ground. We then rip his skin off and turn him into a snack.

Breaking open a fallen coconut. Getting the husk off is a mission!
Breaking open a fallen coconut. Getting the husk off is a mission!

Slaghuis Express

Thurs 18 Sept 2014

A sleeper train took us to Champhon. For anyone over 5’5” it’s more of a foetal-position-train, as the beds are not built for westerners. The only people to disembark the train, at Champhon, were tourists. Lots of them! This is the first sign to watch out for when being ripped off. At 06:00am we were herded onto the back of various trucks. Each tourist was branded with a sticker, to indicate their destination. We were just cattle, on our way to the money-making factory. Products of the tourist industry.

Night train. Curl up and hope for the best.
Night train. Curl up and hope for the best.

The ferry ride was another meat truck, crammed with various species of tourist. The American variety seem to be louder, more obnoxious and irritating than the rest. Maybe it’s something in their feed.

Stepping off the ferry, onto Koh Tao, reminded me of chasing sheep through a run, for the farmer to count. The narrow walkway was flanked by employees of hotels, taxis, dive centres, night clubs and tour operators holding advertisement boards and shouting at the tourists to catch their attention.

The entrepreneurial taxi drivers had cottoned onto the concept of supply and demand. Our taxi, actually a bakkie, cost just as much as our over-night train. The island is a very steep mountain, jutting out of the ocean. Just the thought of walking those hills, with my backpack, makes me cry like a fat kid on a hiking trip.

Not much to complain about
Not much to complain about

Our accommodation, which we randomly picked out, happened to be on the quieter side of the island, away from the cool kids and the bars. Being a morsel in the meat processor was disappointing. I was disappointed in myself for being naive enough to fall into the trap. But that’s how we learn. However, this little bungalow, hiding in a quiet bay, is well worth a quick lesson.

View from the bungalow
View from the bungalow

DANGER! Beware the Tourist!

Sun 1 March 2015

Finally found a quieter part of Bangkok, behind a Buddhist temple. There are no womanly-looking men or manly-looking women coaxing us into dark night clubs. No pushy taxi drivers, dragging us towards their cab by our baggage-handles, before asking where we’re going. Not a single, well dressed, Indian gentleman offering to tailor me a suite for “good price”. I haven’t even seen a fire-eating midget. I’m beginning to wonder if we’re still in Bangkok.

Nocturnal activities of tourists
Nocturnal activities of tourists

These are just the local people of Bangkok, trying to make a living out of the tourism industry. Large budgets, dedicated to marketing campaigns, do not feature in their business plans. Approaching their target market, in the street, is how they advertise. They may be persistent at times, but remain respectful and are generally harmless. It’s the tourists that are a hazard!

I'll admit, I miss the midgets.
I’ll admit, I miss the midgets.

Drunken Australians dancing on a table, balancing on top of another table, in a restaurant. A British couple jumping the boundary wall, of a fancier hotel, to sneak into the swimming pool and be escorted out by security guards that have to treat them respectfully. That creepy American man, drinking beer by himself at 09:00am, on the street, while telling passing girls how beautiful they are and that he would pray to have a girlfriend like them. More Americans, talking as loud as humanly possible about how corrupt Russian politics is (not hazardous, but god, the ignorance is infuriating). The extraordinarily aggressive, Swedish woman clutching her butter knife, while staring at the throat of a western man groping a waitress. Fear the tourist!

DANGER: Farang.
DANGER: Farang.

In Europe, one will often hear people complaining about the damn foreigners coming to their country and destroying things for the locals. Pot, kettle, black…something like that?

Charlotte’s Ethical Web

Sat 28 Feb 2015

Killing F***ing Chickens
Killing F***ing Chickens

While walking through the Kanchanaburi night market, we spotted fried cockroaches, crickets, beetles, frogs and silk worms. The adventurous side of me thought that I should definitely have a taste. I quickly squashed that ridiculous, adventure nonsense and moved on.

A healthy snack
A healthy snack

Dozens of people were walking around with small cages, filled with finches for sale. The hippy in me (a very small organism somewhere under my foot) thought about buying them in order to set them free. But the entrepreneurial Thais had beaten me to the thought. The finches’ purpose was to be bought and set free. I realised this as I watched a young girl opening her cage to release the tiny, feathered commodities into the Asian wilderness of Kanchanaburi.

I suddenly swung my opinion 180 degrees and refused to buy them, as that would be supporting something quite cruel. The cute little birds were crammed into tiny, metal cages, awaiting a sympathetic sucker to purchase their freedom.

Free the Finches
Free the Finches

Immediately after my ethically correct decision, I walked over to the food court and had no problems ordering stir-fried chicken noodles. The poor, delicious chicken probably spent most of its life in a tiny cage, awaiting the wok. The only form of sympathy it could have experienced was a quick and painless beheading, with a sharp knife and heavy hand.

Baby Terrapins
Baby Terrapins

While digesting my dinner, the thought of turning vegan fluttered through my mind, but quickly disappeared along with the finches. Seeing my food pre-packaged or pre-cooked, instead of as a living, breathing, suffering animal is extremely convenient and sets a decent mental barrier between me and the butcher. This has, in no way, stopped me from ordering bacon and eggs for breakfast. Maybe things would be different if I had to slaughter Wilbur myself.

Stupid Tourist

Fri 27 Feb 2015

Lazy Swede
Lazy Swede

As much as I love the Thai people and their friendly, relaxed nature; I absolutely despise asking them for directions. I suppose I am also at fault, as I still have not learnt my lesson after more than five months of travelling in South East Asia. After every failed attempt, at acquiring directions from a local, I tell myself, “That’s the last time! Never again! Get a map or ask a tourist.” But the next day, while wandering around looking for the market/temple/bus station, I’ll see another Thai face with such a welcoming smile and eagerness to help that I convince myself, “This time will be different. Of course this person knows where to go. They live here!” Wrong again. Upon arriving at the supermarket, instead of the train station, I will increase my problems, exponentially, by asking another local person for more directions. Panic sets in, due to fear of missing my train, and still I have learnt nothing.

The shape of our key ring was mildly conspicuous
The shape of our key ring was mildly conspicuous

Not finding my way is obviously my own fault. However, as a proudly South African male, I find it much easier to blame someone else. Other tourists have laughed in my face when I told them that I ask local people for directions. Apparently ‘losing face’ in the Thai culture is a large source of shame. One cannot be asked a question and not have an answer. The words, “I don’t know” will never be uttered. An incorrect answer is better than no answer at all, even if it means sending the silly white boy, without a map, in the wrong direction.

Fill your water bottle for 1 Baht (0.031 USD for 1.5 litres) Great idea!
Fill your water bottle for 1 Baht (0.031 USD for 1.5 litres) Great idea!