The biggest party in Africa… and a tribute to a legendary party-maker

Have Cape Town’s First Thursdays become the biggest monthly party on the African continent?  On the First Thursday of every month, shops in Cape Town’s CBD stay open till 9pm and the city is taken over by partygoers.  Peak-hour traffic starts at 5pm into the city; pavements are jam-packed, traffic regulations are bent and there is a festive spirit second to none.

Cape Town First Thursdays

Sidewalks are thronged with people enjoying Cape Town’s CBD

It’s all about people taking ownership of the city and just enjoying it… and the hospitality industry, shops, the weird and the whacko just make the most of it.

Cape Town First Thursdays

It’s non-stop entertainment along the sidewalks.

Cape Town First Thursdays

A boat parked… or is that moored… on the central median for an impromptu party provides a viewing point and a place to be viewed.

Cape Town First Thursdays

Or above the crowd in a room with a view…

In 1990 — the year the ANC and others were unbanned and the road to freedom  seemed to be opening up — I read a story describing Spain’s changes when dictatorship ended and wondered if Cape Town would follow a similar route.

Locals then were still scoffing that the Waterfront would be a six-month wonder and that the big dreams would come to nothing.

Freedom, and the end of conservatism and authoritarian rule, does change people.

Cities are for people!

One unusual — for government — office to stay open on First Thursdays is Alan Winde’s Ministry for Economic Opportunities.  It’s not in an ivory tower but rather behind a shopfront on Long Street.

And it was here, appropriately on a First Thursday, that Alan recognised two stalwarts of South African tourism — Hylton & Janis Ross.  There can’t be anyone who isn’t aware of the Hylton Ross tour buses — the company they started in 1980 — when few people took tourism seriously.  For many people though, they were the faces behind the Overseas Visitors Club which they also ran.

Alan Winde, Claus Tworeck, Hylton and Janis Ross

From right: Alan Winde, Claus Tworeck, Hylton and Janis Ross

Hylton Ross

Hylton Ross and his award

It was a joyous occasion! Hylton’s infectious passion is still there.  There were jokes about how Hylton was responsible for the spirit (= parties) of the companies while Janis did all the hard work.

Together they represent what is best in the tourism industry – the fun, the professionalism and the passion for people.

So a special thank you to Claus Tworeck (who bought Hylton Ross Tours and subsequently sold it to Cullinan Holdings when he focused on City Sightseeing) and Mandi Jarman for organising this.

The snacks were far better than Alan usually provides!  Beezus concurs.

The best gift for your laptop… and yourself!

It’s the best spend I’ve ever made!  For just on R2,000, my 4½ year old laptop is far, far faster than it’s ever been.  Replacing your old hard drive with a Solid State Disk (SSD) is the best thing you can do for any computer.  And you won’t have to hold your breath waiting for things to open.

When I say fast, it becomes unbelievably fast.  Whereas I was used to waiting for programmes to open — whether Outlook, Word, Excel — as well as megabyte-heavy web pages, they now open before I’ve had a chance to blink.

Turning the computer on and off is a dream.  It probably takes between two and four seconds from pushing the “on” button and it’s completely ready.

What makes a SSD special?  It’s more robust than the old hard drives with their moving parts so it should last much longer.  It uses 90% less power than a hard drive.  It also runs cooler which means the laptop’s fan runs far less.  So your battery will last longer between recharges. (For me, that’s proven to be over 30% longer.)

But it’s the blazing speed that keeps delighting me.  It’s like having 525 gigabytes of RAM.

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Battery life

Graphics: http://www.laptopmag.com/articles/ssds-are-worth-it

How did the changeover go?

You can find the right SSD for your computer by going to the Crucial website.  Download the Crucial System Scanner — it places a file on your computer and discovers what your options are.

I chose the 525 Gigabyte SSD, which is slightly larger than my old hard drive.  You can buy it on the Crucial website — either USA or UK — but I looked for a local supplier.  Initially I only found one in Gauteng, and their delivery cost to Cape Town was more than double Crucial’s cost of UK to Cape Town!

Then I discovered takealot.com also sells it and at R2000 vs R2500, they were the obvious choice.  I hadn’t used them before and it certainly won’t be the last time.  They exceeded expectations and over-delivered on their promises.

And then we came to replacing the hard drive and transferring the content to the new SSD.  I called an IT guy to find out what to do… and I went weak at the knees.  So I turned to Google which made it sound a lot simpler than the IT guy had said.

My Crucial SSD comes with a software key for a cloning application.  It means you need a cable so that your SSD can plug into a USB port, and the old hard drive is cloned onto your new SSD.

So I called Incredible Disconnection to find out if they had the cable.  They did, so off I went to buy it.  It turns out that they didn’t and they sold me something instead.  And that didn’t work… and… and.. and.  (This wasn’t the first time.)  Do yourself a favour.  Avoid Incredible Connection!

After thinking of installing a backup onto the SSD, I decided to do a clean install — no 4½ years of upgrades, etc.  So I made sure I had all my content safely on the backup disk and then set about making a list of all the applications and programs I would need to install, and coming up with a plan for lost software keys.

And this is where Microsoft came out tops!  They really do have incredible customer support.  I have only used them a few times over the years, and every time I walk away totally in awe.

Not only did they help with MS Office keys, but also Windows 10, Photoshop and everything else I had on the old hard drive.  All you need to do to get detailed info (software keys, etc) of all your applications is to go to http://www.belarc.com/free_download.html and download their Belarc Advisor.  You get a detailed PDF with all the info.

The decision to do a clean install was the correct one.  Yes it took time and lots of bandwidth, but my new Windows 10 is far better than my Windows-10-upgraded-from-Windows-7.

The System Update for Lenovo Thinkpads is excellent and after I had downloaded that, my old, familiar laptop was back… on steroids.  I read somewhere that T-series Thinkpads are the only computers certified by the US military as “battle-ready.”  (They use them to fight their wars.)  Mine still looks and feels as good as new, and is now faster than I’d ever hoped for.  It will probably have a useful life of 10 years.

Changing to a SSD is a no-brainer.  What are you waiting for?

Queen Mary 2 and Cape Town’s cruise liner season

Queen Mary 2 arrived in Cape Town today and departs tomorrow for a one-day stop in Port Elizabeth, before continuing to Mauritius.

Queen Mary 2

She is the only major ocean liner built for Cunard Line since Queen Elizabeth 2 in 1969, the vessel she succeeded as flagship of the Cunard Line.  Queen Mary 2 was launched in 2003.

Queen Mary 2 has a maximum capacity of 3 090 passengers and 1 238 crew, and is running at about 90% occupancy.

Queen Mary 2’s facilities include fifteen restaurants and bars, five swimming pools, a casino, a ballroom, a theatre, and the first planetarium at sea. There are also kennels and a nursery on board.

Queen Mary 2 was intended for routine crossings of the Atlantic Ocean, and was therefore designed differently from many other passenger ships. The ship’s final cost was approximately $300,000 US per berth. Expenses were increased by the high quality of materials, and having been designed as an ocean liner, she required 40% more steel than a standard cruise ship.

Queen Mary 2 has a maximum speed of just over 30 knots (56 km/h; 35 mph) and a cruising speed of 26 knots (48 km/h; 30 mph), much faster than a contemporary cruise ship. Instead of the diesel-electric configuration found on many ships, Queen Mary 2 uses integrated electric propulsion to achieve her top speed. This uses gas turbines to augment the power generated from the ship’s diesels.

This season’s cruise liner schedule for Cape Town:

Vessel

Date

Queen Mary 2

26 – 27 Jan

Silver Cloud

28 Jan

Amadea

29 Jan – 1 Feb

Sun Princess

2 – 4 Feb

Silver Cloud

7 Feb

Silver Cloud

17 Feb

Silver Cloud

27 Feb

World Odyssey

19 – 24 Mar

Le Lyrial

24 – 26 Mar

Silver Explorer

29 – 30 Mar

Astor

1 Apr

Queen Elizabeth

19 – 20 Apr

MSC Sinfonia

20 Apr

MSC Sinfonia

24 Apr

MSC Sinfonia

28 Apr

MSC Sinfonia

30 Apr

MSC Sinfonia

5 May

What is your favourite Drive in SA?

Deciding on the Most Beautiful Drive in South Africa is no easy task!  Clarence Drive – between Gordons Bay and Rooi Els, alongside mountains and ocean – should be on any shortlist. And so could the Long Tom Pass and Blyde River Canyon in Mpumalanga, Magoesbaskloof in Limpopo, and… well, why don’t you let us have your suggestions?
Bartinney

View of Simonsberg mountain from Bartinney Private Cellar on the slopes of Botmanskop

We’ve decided the Very Best Drive in South Africa is Helshoogte Pass between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.  You can’t beat the drama of those iconic mountains and row upon row of vineyards and fruit trees – which change from season to season, day to day, and hour by hour.

There are incredible places to eat and stay, wines to taste and mountain bike routes to delight.  It is a gastronomic and visual feast.  Click here to read more

And what is yours?

A breakfast ride on Boschendal Estate

When most people are stuck in their car in the traffic, I went for a breakfast ride up the slopes of Drakenstein mountain on Boschendal Farm.

When most people are stuck in their car in the traffic, or staring at their laptop screen, I went for a breakfast ride up the slopes of Drakenstein mountain on Boschendal Farm.  Is there a better way to start the day?

Boschendal has offered horse riding (and coach rides) for some time, but the breakfast ride is new and on-demand.  Just give them a call if you’re interested — 021 870 4211 or email [email protected]

It starts off at the stables just before you get to Rhone Manor House — taking the right turn as soon as you enter Boschendal’s main gate.

Rhone Manor House

Rhone Manor House is the second, often-overlooked, manor house on Boschendal Estate.

I was joining this intrepid group of riders, all novices except for Danny (at the top) who saddled up the horses and proved to be an exceptional guide, riding instructor.

I was joining this intrepid group of riders, all novices except for Danny (at the top) who saddled up the horses and proved to be an exceptional guide and riding instructor for the novices.  This was a trial run for the Breakfast Ride so Marshall (left) who works in the Deli & Farm Shop and Ricardo, the barrista at the Werf Restaurant, came along.  Getting to know them made me realise what a fine team Boschendal is starting to evolve into.

Barrista

Up!  And Ricardo is ready to go!

Through orchards and across the Dwars River to the slopes of Drakenstein mountain.

Through fruit orchards and across the Dwars River to the slopes of Drakenstein Mountain.

Drakenstein Mountain

Into the foothills of the Drakenstein Mountain and through the game fence where you’ll find eland, waterbuck, springbok, grysbok, a herd of wild horses and… if you’re really lucky, leopard!

Looking across a dam in an old quarry towards Simonsberg Mountains.  If you look at the very old drawings of the Cape, how many of them seem to depict mountains like this one.  Could an early drawing of Simonsberg from the east been used as the "standard" for mountains in the region?

Looking across a dam in an old quarry towards Simonsberg Mountains. If you look at the very old drawings of the Cape, many of them seem to depict mountains like this one. Could an early drawing of Simonsberg from the east been used as the “standard” for mountains in the region?

Boschendal breakfast ride

And breakfast awaits before setting off back down again.

What’s in a name? Everything!

Only politicians, bureaucrats and the foolish think that when they choose a name to brand a destination, they have the makings of a successful brand. They usually choose what they regard as a “safe” name, catering for all interests, ignoring everything that is already well-established.

And without the budgets of Unilever or SA Breweries, or  a carefully created brand strategy, they believe their new brand will take root just on their say-so.

For some time now, I’ve driven Helshoogte Road (R312) between Boschendal and Stellenbosch almost daily, and I’m convinced that this is one of the most stunning drives in South Africa. It passes the villages of Pniel, Jacobsdal and Kylemore through the Banhoek Valley.  With the anchors of Delaire Graff and Tokara at the top of Helshoogte Pass and Boschendal at the Franschhoek side of the road, and much in between, it is a destination in its own right.

Banhoek Valley from the top of Helshoogte Pass 5km outside Stellenbosch.

Banhoek Valley from the top of Helshoogte Pass 5km outside Stellenbosch.

This area has been named Dwarsrivier Tourism from the name of the river that runs through the valley.  It’s yet another case where tourism is not aligned to the destination.

Dwarsrivier is hardly unique in South Africa and is definitely not the area’s best known feature.  The old Bangehoek (anglicised to Banhoek) and Helshoogte are what most people still refer to when talking about the area.

Helshoogte Pass

Stellenbosch's outgoing mayor, Conrad Sidego, gave me this book yesterday as a thank you gift.  It is a stunning book, and just reinforces our thinking about this area.

Stellenbosch’s outgoing mayor, Conrad Sidego, gave me this book yesterday as a thank you gift. It is a stunning book, and just reinforces our thinking about this area.

CapeInfo has added Banhoek Valley over Helshoogte Pass as a new destination, ignoring Dwarsrivier Tourism as the area’s name.  We have written to the manager of the tourism organisation explaining what we’re doing but haven’t received any response or acknowledgement.

We decided to use Banhoek instead of the old Banghoek or Bangehoek since the conservancy covering the area has been named Banhoek.  And we’ve included the use of Helshoogte for it’s uniqueness and the memory of the old winding pass planted with bluegum trees to stop cars driving over the edge.  (Does anybody have the story of how those trees came to be planted?)

Some people have suggested we should be using the original Bangehoek as the name.  What do you think?