Skull Island

One of the perks in my line of work is that I occasionally get to visit some pretty interesting places where an airport needs constructing, expanding or fixing. I’ve now been to more countries on the African continent than many other South Africans, including my wife – although she’ll probably agree that this doesn’t speak volumes.

One of my favourite locations to date is Skull Island – a fictional name for the actual island which I concocted in order to protect its location and our client’s identity (it would be a sin if it mutated into another Lanzarote or Zakynthos because of my post :)). The island could quite feasibly have been a filming location in Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong movie, but alas I see from IMDB that Jackson used some poxy excuse of an island off the coast of Wellington, New Zealand. I suppose I can’t blame him for missed opportunities; he makes some good films and very few people have heard of, let alone visited the Skull Island to which this post refers.

The journey to the island was a perilous one, with the exception of the initial SAA flight leg from Johannesburg. We landed at a transit destination where our party had a 2 day layover before catching a connecting flight to Skull Island. Due to the innate nature of many African countries, where fortune favours the dirty rotten scoundrel, an escort was organised to assist us getting out of the airport with passports, personal effects and limbs intact and to arrange transportation to and from the airport and our hotel without being hustled. Our troop transport had seen better days – I felt like dialling up duct-tape headquarters to let them know that I had found their perfect marketing tool. The shocks were AWOL, one of the balding wheels on the car I was riding in had three nuts securing it to the hub and judging by driving styles, I’m almost certain that our chauffeurs were part-time African stock car racers. Tear-arsing down the wrong side of a street in order that they could offer a ‘tout suite’ service was second nature to these boys. Seat belts (when working) were a must.

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Une Petite Vacances – Part 3

Bookseller along the Seine © Engelsman in Afrika

Day 4 – Leaving on a Jet Plane

Today was sadly our last day in Paris, but with a flight that only departed at 11:30pm, we effectively had the entire day to mill around and visit anything which we’d missed and/or felt like revisiting. We prepped for the day and then arranged to leave our luggage in the hotel’s bag store until our return. Rue Cler was on the menu for breakfast, where we sat and ate and watched the Parisian world go by one last time. We also visited L’hôtel des Invalides and lounged on the Esplande des Invalides (aka the big grass patch out the front of des Invalides).

Strolling across the Esplande, we turned and walked along the south bank of the Seine towards Pont de la Concorde, where we crossed the river into the square – Place de la Concorde. We’d visited here on our Day 2 Segway tour, where our guide informed us that the square had been where guillotine executions were hosted during the French revolution, with two of the most famous beheadings being those of King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette.

Last day in paris (top Left clockwise) L’Hotel des Invalides; Luxor Obelisk; Fountains in Place de la Concorde; Grande Arche; Vélib (free) bikes scheme; Arc de Triomphe down the Champs-Elysées; Lounging on the Esplande des Invalides © Engelsman in Afrika

Guillotines long since removed and a gifted Egyptian (Luxor) Obelisk erected in the centre of the square where one particular ‘Louisette’ once stood, Place de la Concorde is a now a tourist hotspot and the finishing point of the Tour de France. It has unrestricted views up the Champs Elysée to the Arc de Triomphe and marks one of the entrances into the Jardin des Tuilleries. It also has two matching maritime themed fountains.

Mega bubbles; Place de la Concorde © Engelsman in Afrika

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Une Petite Vacances – Part 1

Metro Line C train © Engelsman in Afrika

I’m currently penning a series of posts on a recent week-long break in London and Paris with my wife; part of our belated 1st year anniversary present from us, to us. Subconsciously I opted to write and publish a post about our evening out at the Moulin Rouge first – this was effectively our last night in Paris before returning home to South Africa (think George Lucas’ Star Wars films if artistic licence is required).

This post is split into 3 parts and commences when the wheels of our small and half empty Fokker 50 turboprop, left the tarmac at London City Airport on a chilly English morning headed for Orly International, just south of Paris. Our pilots, quite possibly retired Air Force struggling to relive their youth, banked heavily during our steep climb-out through thick clouds and high crosswinds. This upped the severity of turbulence on board and introduced the unnerving sensation of side ‘slip’, whilst the negative G-force kneeling on my shoulders momentarily transformed me into a mini-me. On the plus side, their antics afforded me unobstructed views of London and Canary Wharf through my cabin window…which was pointed near-vertically downwards. A full-restraint harness definitely wouldn’t have gone amiss, in the event that our captain decided to throw in a barrel roll for good measure. This was to be an interesting hour and a half’s flight! Continue reading

The Art of African Driving

Navara

Having grown up in the Middle East, spent time in the UK and otherwise travelled quite extensively, one can appreciate and be in a position to justifiably comment on the fact that there is a definite ‘art’ to South African (and African) driving.

My skills were honed early on in life after firstly passing my test in the UK and then taking to the roads of the Qatar (Death Race, eat your heart out!). Unless you have eyes in the back of your head, decent horn control and tempo and a firm grip on your road rage demon (not to mention advanced dodgem driving skills), foreign drivers in the middle east will more likely than not end up in some sort of accident; inevitably it will be your fault (unless of course you have taken to wearing Arab-like attire and can convincingly pass yourself off as a local). Fortunately, I had a chance to master most of these prerequisites (except the fancy dress part) and thankfully escaped any fender benders.

When I moved to South Africa, I decided the my first vehicle was to be a Navara. This was partly because I was used to driving 4×4 vehicles from my time spent in the Middle East, partly due to my better half requiring a car capable of towing a horsebox, and partly due to the fact that the majority of people in the UK drive around in small cars to save on petrol and emissions tax, i.e it is more affordable to own a bigger car in South Africa. This is definitely a decision I haven’t regretted as you are inevitably treated differently on the road when your are behind the wheel of a truck. Continue reading