Sisal wheelAlready another week has flown by – I’m making plans to leave Simonskloof early next week (or I’ll end up being here for months and then I’ll never see the rest of Africa). Apologies for the late post, but the phone lines have been down, ostensibly due to a bird (must have been pretty fat), leaving us completely isolated as there’s no mobile reception here and the rains have made the roads impassable. The caravan roof hasn’t budged an inch since I fixed it, although I have reinforced my handiwork with some bricks.

One thing I forgot to mention in my previous update – there is a huge cat (aptly called Guzzle) here. And when I say huge, I mean even bigger than the one that used to jump in the ground floor window at Cadleigh Gardens. He even has tufts on his ears, leading me to suspect that he has some lynx (or more likely caracal) blood.

Work the past week has been more general maintenance – we went down into the kloof (a two-hour hike over quite a large hill) to clear the trails and may have to go again to finish beating back some particularly hardy weeds. As it is, the whole valley floor is a dense wattle forest which can’t be cleared as it’d take a chainsaw team months to even make a dent (and then the wood can’t be moved out as the only way in is on foot).

Behind the farmhouse were a few small areas of grass – or at least that’s what I thought they were until I was asked to weed them. Turned out they were rather nice vegetable plots until a year of not weeding took its toll (knee-high grass and weeds at 100 % density). Several days of digging up grass and stinging nettles later, we have some new beds (plus three potato plants, one olive tree, one curry bush, one basil plant and one Cape gooseberry bush I spotted and rescued) – but we can’t plant new vegetables until we’ve built a fence to keep out all the local sheep and antelope that will come and eat all the seedlings. The main components of this fence will most likely be the branches of the wattle trees I chopped down last week!

We have a wind-up / solar radio, but as Simonskloof is in a remote valley can only get Cape Talk, a medium-wave talk station. Ever alert for the chance to bring music to people, I spent part of yesterday afternoon constructing a FM radio antenna. This being Africa, I used the materials available to me (old fence posts and wire) and quickly knocked together a huge T-shaped aerial. It felt a bit like making a crucifix like in The Life of Brian. It works perfectly, and we now have a choice of four FM stations – sadly though, three seem to be mostly talk and the other is KFM, a music station where blandness rules the airwaves (apartheid censorship dying hard) and Will Young is A-listed. Curses!

Two more WWOOFers have arrived, a couple from Austria (fun fact: in the German-speaking world, it’s only in Germany that us Brits are known as inselaffen). As Jurgen (the Simonskloof boss) is Swiss, this may mean that German will become the common language – but the common food will still be vegetarian. Bohnen, jemanden? Interestingly, both these WWOOFers and another one Jurgen is still in contact with did placements at Tzaneen. From the sounds of it I’m most definitely not going to go there (which gives me a week or two more in Africa) – as it turns out, it’s a born-again Christian cult community and WWOOFers are expected both to take part in frequent prayers and to undergo hourly conversion attempts. Maybe I should just show them my radio aerial.