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April 4, 2006 Oudtshoorn, South Africa -- rt. 62, desolate 5 hr. drive

Today is a travel day.

We drove five hours from Cape Town to Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world. Half the drive is following the beautiful Garden path, which follows the southern coast of Africa. The other half is a desolate, empty, dry drive through a very desolate, empty, dry place. Some of this drive is 40-50 km between towns, and an empty, desolate and dry drive. Itís devoid of anything except mountains and nothing. To call this drive a vacuum is to place too many things along the way. The best description I can give of this drive is to take a vacuum, and then suck out everything, then put it in a vacuum. Itís that empty.

Outside2 (53K)

We pulled up to the De Zeekoe Ostrich Farm & Bed and Breakfast around 2pm. When we were greeted by the staff, I asked how to pronounce the name of the farm. Hereís the conversation as best I remember:

Darren: How do you pronounce D-e-Z-e-e-k-o-e?

Answer: DeZweokeileiowxezi

Darren/Nicky: Pardon me?

Answer: DeZweokeileiowxezi

Darren: De Whositwhatsit?

Answer: De Ė Zeeeeeeaaekwaei

Darren: Iím sorry, so itís pronounced ď1957 DeSoto?Ē

Answer: No, De Zeeeeeaaaeeekkkwwwwwaaaaeeeeiiiii

Darren: Ghezuntite. Please say againÖ?

Answer: (laughing) No, itís De Zee aae eek wwa e-i-e-i-o

Darren: Ok, I got it. Itís Deoxyribonucleic acid, right?

Answer: Youíre a jerk.

So we pulled up to the gate and there were freaking ostriches hanging around. We were separated by a tiny wire fence, and I was standing about 4 feet away from a bunch of ostriches. Ostriches!

Nick_Ann_Ostrich (52K)

 

The most prehistoric animals on the planet. Weighing up to 300 lbs. and topping out at 6.5 feet tall, they are number one on the list of size-to-small-brain-size. Per body weight, they are the stupidest animals on the planet. So even though they donít bury their heads in the sand when they feel threatened, they very well could because they are stupid enough to do that.

Ostrich Ballet Video

Note: if you can not see the video, download QuickTime and view the movie with it.

quicktime logo (4K)

The place here is beautiful and the food is excellent. The water in the pool is a bit too cold for us adults, but the kids donít seem to mind.

April 5, 2006

Today we toured the Highgate Ostrich Farm.

Dom_Standing_Eggs (61K)

These dudes are famous in the ostrich farm world by being the first people to hold ostrich races.

Ostrich Racing

Itís a bit touristy, but it was also educational and great fun. Plus they let you ride the ostriches:

Dominique Riding an Ostrich Video

Nicky Riding an Ostrich Video

April 6, 2006

Oudtshoorn holds a festival this time every year thatís the largest in all of South Africa.

Dom_Festival (59K)

Itís an art festival and celebrates everything Afrikaans

Afrikaans is a West Germanic language mainly spoken in South Africa and Namibia. The name Afrikaans is the Dutch word for African. Afrikaans was considered a Dutch dialect until the late 19th century, when it began to be recognized as a distinct language, and it gained equal status with Dutch and English as an official language in South Africa in 1925. Dutch remained an official language until the new 1961 constitution finally stipulated the two official languages in South Africa to be Afrikaans and English.

There are many different theories about how Afrikaans came to be. The Afrikaans School has long seen Afrikaans as a natural development from the South-Hollandic Dutch dialect, but has also only considered the Afrikaans as spoken by the Whites.

Most linguistics scholars today are certain that Afrikaans has been influenced by Creole languages based on the South-Holland Dutch dialect. Many words in Afrikaans are very different from Dutch, as demonstrated by the names of different words:

AFRIKAANS DUTCH ENGLISH
piesang banaan banana
pynappel ananas pineapple
vshnidep vshnidep vshnidep
omywaiwap omyahmi Oh MyÖ
hey now hay nowa Yo Moma
iwnmtv iwanmtv I want my MTV

Dominique, Annette and I each ate enough mono-unsaturated fats today to last us for a couple years. We each had a cheese-filled sausage with spiral potato wrapped around it, all on a stick, deep fried. Can you say, ďFat, deep fried in fat?Ē Iíll have that with a stick of butter on the side, please. Yummy.

Festival_Lunch (37K)

April 7, 2006

Today we toured the De Zeekoe Ostrich Ranch, the place where we stayed. Yes it seems a bit strange to wait about 4 days to tour the place where we stay, but there were scheduling conflicts. Our tour guide was not an employee of the farm, but a professional ecologist that specializes in meerkats and their environments. Grant McIlrath led our tour and he was amazing. Not only did he give us a detailed history of the region, but he knew everything there was to know about ostriches.

Some fun ostrich facts:

  • They have great eyesight and often hang around zebras and antelope in the wild. Their good eyesight allows them to see predators before the other animals, and their great speed allows them to outrun these same predators. Itís like I always say, ďIf youíre being pursued by a bear, you donít need to outrun the bear; you just need to outrun the people next to you.Ē
  • Their brain is the size of a walnut. One of the least-intelligent animals on the planet in terms of brain-size-per-body weight.
  • They use their wings to cool themselves off and make themselves larger in order to intimidate, or to woo female ostriches.
  • Their eggs can hold up to 240 lbs, the upper weight of a male ostrich. The females and males each take turns sitting on the eggs. The female usually sits during the day, the male at night.
  • The male ostrich has beautiful black and white feathers and their feathers are highly valued; the femaleís feathers are a dingy grey and arenít very valuable.
  • Ostriches have four reasons for farming: value of their eggs for curious, value of their meat, feathers, and their skin as used for leather.

Grant McIlrath Intimidating an Ostrich Video

April 8, 2006

Kango Caves

Today we toured the Kango Caves. Itís named after the Kango region around Oudtshoorn, not named after the kangaroo. In fact, there are no kangaroos close to this area. The caves were pretty and extensive, but really there was nothing more interesting here than the name. And the hope of seeing kangaroos, of which there were none.

Items of note:

  • Consistently in South Africa, the light switches are on the outside of the room. So you need to turn on the light prior to entering the room. This seems like a good idea until youíre in the toilet and your 4 yr old girl starts playing with the light switch thatís outside of the bathroom. Not sure this is a great standard.
  • Again, in South Africa, all of the electrical outlets have on/off switches on them. So you can plug in an appliance and turn on/off the electricity to that appliance at the plug level. Iím really not sure why they do this, except to catch you on hidden camera trying to turn on an electric kettle which you donít know how the on/off switch works. So now you have the on/off switch on the outlet, as well as the on/off switch on the kettle, neither of which give you good feedback as to which was is on/off. Quite the numbers game we played with this.
  • Speaking about electricity, the electrical plugs in South Africa are huge. Everything here is grounded (ie. Has 3 plugs instead of 2), and the size of the plug is about 4 times as large as our plug. Yes, they serve up a whopping 240 volts vs. our 110, and they do it at 60 hz instead of our 50 hz, but still, thatís a freakiní big plug. Itís about the size of the 240 volt plug that you have for your clothes dryer. Itís huge.
  • The door locks in South Africa use the old-type of key, like the skeleton type key you see used in movies that feature haunted mansions. The kind of key hole that you can see through. The problem with this kind of system is that the keys are huge. So between the electrical plugs (see above) and their keys, you need to have huge pockets/suitcases to carry all your stuff.

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