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Oh, the Places I’ll Go Now That my Feet are Back!

For the first time three months, I’m not sporting a bandage on my foot.

It began early last year when I bought what I considered to be the softest and most comfortable pair of shoes I could find (that happened to be the most expensive I’ve ever bought) just so my tootsies wouldn’t hurt. But it didn’t help. The shoes that felt like butter on my feet when I bought them, hurt so much the first time I wore them, I had to buy another pair as soon as I got to work.

You see, like almost half of the women in the U.S., I have a bunion, a deformity of the bone at the base of my big toe. Actually, I have one on each foot and they made it painful to wear regular shoes. Forget anything with heels higher than an inch or two. And pointed toes? Well, you get the idea.

I was relegated to wearing shoes not even my mother would wear and I was beginning to feel older than my years.

So when I told my friend, Connie, that I was going to give away my new soft, comfortable and expensive pair of shoes (and several others) because they were too painful to wear, she told me I should see her podiatrist, Dr. Bernard F. Martin, who had just performed her bunionectomy.

I had two questions for Dr. Martin: would it hurt and would I be able to wear my beautiful shoes after surgery. He reassured me it wouldn’t, as long as I followed his instructions and yes, I would be able to wear my fancy shoes.

Though minor, my bunions had begun to curve in and push my second toe out of alignment. Dr. Martin explained that he would shave the bone and put a pin in my toe to realign it. Dr. Martin spent about an hour describing my options and told me think about them. I didn’t have to think, I knew what I had to do.

My first surgery was at the end of October. The procedure itself was not painful – I was under local anesthesia. I was back home that night and and two days after, I was off all pain medication.

I hobbled around in this attractive looking number for the first three weeks after.


But I was feeling so good, I was up and down the apartment. As soon as Dr. Martin saw my foot at my next appointment, he knew and reminded me that continued swelling would slow down my recovery. So I kept my foot elevated and iced and when I did, the swelling.

I was thrilled when I graduated to the next show – a designer look that was the rage on all the runways in Paris last season.

My designer shoes

I was able to walk better and a little faster and after three more weeks, I moved into my own running shoes.

Most people wait a few months or more between surgeries – I didn’t. I had a personal deadline and needed to have both surgeries completed by December, 2010.

My Christmas tree bandage courtesy of Dr. Martin’s partner, Dr. Benetti

My recovery from the second surgery went even better than the first, I was in my running shoes a week early. So last Saturday, Dr. Martin removed my last bandage.

So what will I do now that I have my feet back?

Well, the first time I did was get a pedicure.

Next, I went shopping. For three months, I couldn’t go to the store or the supermarket. It was great to be able to walk around a store and look at clothes, even shoes.

I can take the subway without fear of someone stepping on my foot.

I’ve got my feet back, I can travel – woohoo! My first trip will be in a few weeks to Washington, DC . Hope to visit London in a couple of months.

We depend so much on our feet, we only recognize how much when, for whatever reason, they’re out of commission.

Take care of your feet.

Durban’s Polite Potholes

Driving around Johannesburg, Cape Town and then Durban, we realized very quickly how astoundingly beautiful South Africa is. Each city has its unique charm, its own unmistakable landscape.

Located on the eastern coast, Durban is the location of South Africa’s busiest port. It enjoys a balmy, subtropical climate.

These trees are just so majestic

As we drove higher up the Drakensberg Mountains, we were enveloped by clouds. If Don, our driver and guide, was nervous, he didn’t let on. I took this photo as soon as it cleared

Magnificent clouds

and revealed these spectacular views.

Mountain shadows
Shadows on the mountain
Another face of Durban
A river flows down there
Dwarfed by the mountain

And then we saw this sign. Don had to slow down so I could get a photo. I knew no one would believe me if I didn’t have proof.

How polite!

I wonder what we can infer about Durban from their pothole signs. Tell me what you think.

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Sani Pass: Would That be a 4-Wheel Drive or Donkey?

When I spoke with Kieron Audain, the student and author who contacted me from Durban, he asked if we’d be visiting the Drakensberg. I had no idea what he was talking about. All we had been thinking about for Durban was a visit to Shakaland, a tour of the city and Umhlanga Rocks, and finding some good Indian restaurants. It was going to be a leisurely two days.

But when I Googled it, I knew we’d have to go.

At more than 11,000 ft., the Drakensberg Mountains is the highest range in Southern Africa. It is also home to Tugela Falls, the second highest waterfall in the world and the location where several hundred rock paintings done by the Bushmen, the indigenous people of Southern Africa, can be seen.

I was even more excited when I saw the Sani Pass, the dirt road that zigzags 9,400 feet up the Drakensberg Mountain and connects the Kingdom of Lesotho to the province of KwaZulu Natal.

We wanted to do all three: visit Tugela Falls, see the Bushman’s paintings and venture up the Sani Pass but dropped Tugela Falls when we realized we’d have to climb a chain ladder to get to parts of it. In addition, there really wouldn’t be enough time.

So following our visit to Shakaland and our overnight stay in Ballito, we checked in to the Sani Pass Hotel located at the foot of the Drakensberg Mountains just before lunch to begin our drive up the Pass.

Sani Pass Hotel

I just love these thatched roofs.

After checking in, we began the climb up the rugged Sani Pass, a kind of no-man’s land between the South African and Lesotho border control posts.

Leaving South Africa

The nearly 14 mile road up the Sani Pass is so dangerous, only 4-wheel drive vehicles (or 4-legged animals) are allowed.

4-wheel drive vehicle needed

But the views are spectacular.

Sani Pass road

In the early 1800s, King Moshoeshoe and his followers settled in this remote area to form what is now the Kingdom of Lesotho rather than being co-opted by King Shaka Zulu.

View of the mountain
This is a remote area

There’s no way to drive straight up.

Zigzagging up the mountain

The best way to climb the mountain.

Sani Pass Switchback
Snow on the Mountain
Yes, that’s where we just came from

While we waited for lunch, we visited the Sani Top Chalet.

Sani Top Chalet
Sani Top Welcome

Yes, we actually travelled 9,400 feet up the Drakensberg Mountain to have lunch at the Highest Pub in Africa.

My lunch
This bread was delicious!

I had heard so much about gluhwein, the wine, rum and sugar mixture served warm at the pub, I had to try it. I guess it’s better on a really cold day.

Sani Pass Gluhwein
Flying with the birds

Since the Sani Pass route is so dangerous and is unlit, it is closed at 4:00 p.m. daily. Shortly after lunch, we began the drive back down.

Under the setting sun, the mountain is breathtakingly beautiful.

In the shadows
It would be suicidal to drive here at night
Drakensberg rocks
More stunning views
Fire on the mountain

During winter, the vegetation becomes brown and dry. Burning off the dry grass to promote new growth.

Smoke on the mountain

Before we arrived at the South African border control, we ran into a few people climbing the mountain on horses and donkeys.

4-wheel drive or donkey?

Before the road was cut, this was the only way up the Pass. Residents would travel down to Good Hope, a now defunct trading post at the foot of the mountain, to trade blankets for supplies.

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I am proof: Some Black people can’t dance! My attempt at Zulu dancing

I’m a free style dancer. I’ve been dancing all my life but no one’s ever taught me to dance. I dance by myself to the music I feel and abandon my body to the rhythm.

I’m not bragging. I know I can dance and I dance very well. When I go to parties or clubs, I hardly sit down – I’ve been known to dance all night!

The one thing I hate most is having someone teach me a dance move and then expect me to follow after one demonstration. It is then that my normally fluid body becomes heavy, my feet become uncoordinated. They never seem to connect to what I see. (Don’t even add a mirror to that equation – because it’s then that I am the most awkward.)

Zulu dance at Shakaland

So as I sat enjoying the Zulu (mostly) men doing their powerful stick dance, I was content and focused on watching and photographing their moves.

Inside the hut

That is until Smagna, our Zulu tour guide, called for a male and female volunteer to join the dance from the small group of visitors at the evening’s festivities.

After he picked the male from the ‘male’ side of the hut and looked in our direction, I knew. He walked right over, stood in front of me and stretched out his hand.

It wasn’t a very complicated dance routine. We did a few practice moves -step, step, step, STOMP! Step, STOMP! (I can do that!) – then the drummers began beating their drums furiously. Try as I might, I could not follow what the dancers were doing or remember what I had learnt.

I’ll try anything once

When it was over, I thought, thank God, my humiliation is complete. I’ll never see any of these people again, I said aloud as I consoled myself.

But as I write this, I know, somewhere in Germany or the UK or France or some other country, some individual is sharing their photos of their visit to Shakaland and saying, I have proof: some black people can’t dance!

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Shakaland, Home of the Zulus

I thought Shakaland would have been touristy and kitschy – it wasn’t.

Located in a beautiful and tranquil area of rolling hills overlooking the Phobane Lake, Shakaland is an authentic Zulu kraal with beehive thatched huts built on the set where the movie, Shaka Zulu was filmed, the same land on which the Zulus fought many battles.

That movie was, I believe, my first introduction to King Shaka, one of Africa’s famous warrior kings and the man credited with uniting the various Nguni people into one large, proud and powerful Zulu nation whose influence can be felt today.

I didn’t watch the movie but the name stuck in my memory.

King Shaka of the Zulus, was born in 1787 and ruled for 10 years. During that time, he established himself as a military genius and a statesman.

Shakaland Building
Overlooking the lake
One of the beehive thatched huts
Replica of a Zulu kraal

Smagna, our guide, explaining the workings of the kraal. The women’s huts were always on the left, the men on the right so that they could protect the women and children from intruders. For that same reason, men would always walk ahead of the women.

Single Zulu women

Single Zulu women wearing short beaded skirts. Older women wear clothes that cover their bodies.


Zulu woman


With the chief
Traditional dancing

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Durban Welcome

Almost everyone we spoke to before we left the U.S. said we’d love Durban, although they didn’t say why exactly. The largest city in KwaZulu Natal, Durban is also an important manufacturing hub and port. It boasts a sub-tropical climate and some of South Africa’s best beaches.

I didn’t know much about the city when I decided to plan that leg of our trip. And apart from a visit to Shakaland, a Zulu homestead near Durban, the only things we wanted to do was watch the whales, get some good Indian food and enjoy the city.

Durban Welcome
Alison, Marcia, Sandra, Tanya and Judith (stooping)

Then I received an email out of the blue from an author in Durban who suggested his book for my book club. When I told him of our plans to visit Durban, he suggested quite strongly that we had to visit ‘Drakensberg.’ When I asked what that was, he said he had no idea (he had just moved to Durban from the UK), that I should search online. Once I did, it added a whole new dimension to our trip.

Through a friend, we found a travel agency, Compassline Africa, that took care of the details and Tanya, Alison and Don from Compassline met us on arrival at Durban’s Shaka Zulu International Airport.

Don would be our driver for our three days in Durban and not too long after we arrived, we had loaded up the car and were on our way to our first stop, Shakaland.

Don Botterill was a combination tour guide, driver, loveable uncle and a proud South African who was enthusiastic about showing and sharing his beautiful country with us.

We were driving along to Shakaland when he received a phone call. Instead of saying, hello, he asked, How’s your granny? We looked at each other and burst into a fit of laughter.

Once we heard that, we knew we were in for a treat with Don. And boy, did he deliver! 

Cape Town Winelands: Everywhere a Vineyard

We saved our last full day in Cape Town for our trip to the winelands.

Our first stop was at KWV Wines, a 90 year old brandy and wine emporium located in Paarl, one of the three popular wine regions – Stellenbosch and Franschhoek being the other two. We did a tour of the cellars followed by a wine tasting, then a brandy and chocolate tasting. I don’t like chocolate so that pairing was lost on me but Sandra and Judith enjoyed it. Overall, we had a blast at KWV (I’m sure Manfred is still talking about us.) and came away with several bottles of wines and brandies.

Wine country

Lunch was a relaxing affair at the Seidelberg Wine Estate, a winery, restaurant, glass studio also in the Paarl region.

Seidelberg Wine Estate

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Pelican Bar: We’re going there?!

A Musing Elephant and I exchanged a few comments about a recent post on her blog. When she mentioned that one of favorite places in Jamaica is Pelican Bar, I felt I had “met” a kindred spirit. Pelican Bar is one of my favorite places as well.

Our exchanges took me back to my first trip to the bar and the memories I have which serve me now on this cold day in the north east.

Pelican Bar is located on a sand bank about a quarter of a mile off the south western coast of Jamaica between Black River and Treasure Beach.

As Floyd, the owner, tells it, the idea for the bar came to him in a dream. He built it, and they’ve been coming.

Pelican Bar has been named one of the sexiest swim-up bars and has a fan page on Facebook.

Yes, this is the only way to get there

The only way to get there is by boat so don’t think of going if you’re afraid of the water or if the sea is rough.

We’re going there?

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Statue of Liberty (via tonynewboult) and Coney Island

When I read my blogging buddy Tony’s post about his visit to New York, I asked if he’d been to Coney Island, one of coolest places around. Since he missed it, I thought I’d share some of my photos.

Coney Island Fireworks

I love going to Coney Island, especially in the summer when there are fireworks displays at 9:00 p.m. every Friday night. Once or twice a month, a few friends and I go out there for dinner, walk the boardwalk and wait for the show to begin. It never disappoints.

Shooting star

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Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope

What is it about seeing the ultimate – highest, longest, deepest, farthest, etc. – that makes some people giddy?

When we decided to add Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope to our list, I was excited. In fact, I was more excited about that than anything else. Well, almost. I was really, very excited about having a drink in the highest pub in Africa – but that’s for a later post.

So after lunch at Simon’s Town and penguin watching at Boulders Beach, we were on our way to the Cape of Good Hope, the most south western point of the continent. Why is it called Good Hope anyway? That’s not a very common expression. Hope equals good, right? There isn’t such a thing as bad hope.

Did a drunken sailor come up with that name? As it turns out, a king, John II of Portugal did when he changed the name from Cape of Storms.

And why was a Portuguese king naming territory in South Africa?  Well, it was simple really. The Portuguese were interested in establishing trade relations with countries in the Far East and the Cape offered an easier way for them to get there.

I’d been hearing about the Cape of Good Hope since high school and always wondered what it was like for sailors who had to sail around it (and Cape Horn – the southern tip of South America). How did they survive days at sea without hallucinating about land? Driving around Hwange National Park looking for game, there were many times when I was sure I saw buildings in the distance – but they were only in my mind.

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