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Drakensburgs, Natal



Folks,

I headed east from Ladysmith to Winterton, in the Drakensburgs, a Mountain
range that runs along the eastern border of Lesotho up into Orange Free
State.

Pretty much all of South Africas water comes from this range. On the
Western
side, it flows into Lesotho and then into rivers like the Orange in Western
SA.
On the Eastern side, it comes into Natal as the source of the eastern
rivers.

It is a very beautiful range - I stayed in a Backpackers lodge and then got
up
at 4:30 AM to ride to the Cathedral Peak hotel 50Km away, seeing sunrise on
the way. I spent the day with a guide climbing Cathedral Peak, at over
3000m
(~ 10,000ft) with spectacular views along the way. I disappointed my guide
with
my $10 throwaway camera - I am sure he was used to flashier models from
the beautiful resort hotel. On the way back we were treated to the view of
an
electric storm moving north along the mountain range, not 5Km from us,
while
we stayed (relatively) dry. Huge, open, green valleys and a myriad of
waterfalls.
The peak (predictably) was in cloud, but they cleared at times on the way
up
and I think I have some good pictures.

That night the owners of my lodge invited me to a going-away party for a
friend
of theirs, at a local hotel. It consisted of the (usual) scene of the men
getting
incoherently drunk and the ladies staying in the ladies bar .. One of the
women
worked at the Drakensburg Boys Choir School - a world-famous music school.
I dropped by there on my way south, and they are geared up with computers
and Internet in a way that would make any western school proud. One of the
music teachers went to "Varsity" (University) at Rhodes college,
Grahamstown,
the start of Internet in South Africa, and developed the schools network.
Now
much of their equipment is donated, as they are "on the map". They are
setting
up a 30 computer system, Pentium multimedia machines, with a router and
a dedicated 64K line (gratis from Telkom - R2000 ($500) per month value),
they have scanners, will be buying a CDROM writer soon. Yesssss..

I made my way down to Pietmaritzberg (shortened by everyone to 'Maritzberg)
and am writing this from an Internet Cafe here in town. Maritzberg is very
historic, and has the "Church of the Vow", a major piece of Voortrekker
history, now a very nice museum.

I talked with a guy last night who was refreshingly upbeat about RSAs
prospects,
he being a very successful installer of three systems :-

1) The electric metering system from Escom, the utility company, of which
   I have written before,

2) telephone systems for Telkom, using shorthaul microwave from residences
   to a central microwave tower. Not the cheapest way to go, but the
quickest
  and most secure in the townships. Hitech for the townships ..

3) the excellent parking meter system, which I think I wrote about, that I
saw
   in Cape town. This uses a single meter for up to 8 bays. You park your
car,
  walk to the indicated meter (which knows you have arrived), insert your
money.
  If you overstay, a radio link calls the meter man ..... If you leave
early, the
  meter resets, so there is no borrowed time. You will see this RSA export
in
  a town near you next year.

He organised the (all-black) installation team. He arranged accommodation,
arranged food for them, closed roads, etc. In our discussion of employment
we agreed that unskilled white folks in RSA have little prospects.

He also maintained, as have others I have talked to, that the black people
here are unable to plan for more than a day ahead. I can also see that.

Gotta run - my hour is up ..

Cheers,     Andy!

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