Set The Freeway Free

Wednesday, May 30, 2012
I spoke about being tolled about a year ago when the project started steamrolling into my life and the life of most Gauteng road users. It's safe to say that the issue has since taken a life of its own with government on one side, adamant that it's the only way to go, and opposition on the other side, insisting that alternatives must be found.

Being an average road user, I actually did not mind paying a fee to use a cleaner, safer, well-maintained highway. However, the fees originally introduced were slightly expensive and met with a lot of resistance. The project did not start as planned last year. A few months later, the public was encouraged to get e-tags so as to avail themselves to discounted toll rates. Admittedly, the fees came down a lot. However, the high-hand way that road users were demanded into getting e-tags drew more resentment rather than inspiration. Most road users felt contempt and left getting e-tags to the last minute. Some not even interested in getting one at all.

The opposition side to the tolling saga, named Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA), united and applied for the High Court to stop the tolling from going ahead, reasoning that the public would suffer financially. It was a tense few days and the High Court ended up putting the tolling on temporary hold.

However, the government has now gone ahead and appealed the High Court decision. So it will be another tense few months with all road users eagerly waiting for the outcome and ultimately, the effect on our pockets.

I have jumped on the bandwagon and gotten a free “NO TOLL GP” label via the local newspaper, courtesy of OUTA and the Automobile Association (AA). GP stands for Gauteng Province where Johannesburg is located. It might not mean much in the greater scheme of things, but the label makes me feel like I've got some small say about the whole issue.

To support the alliance against the Gauteng e-tolling, check the OUTA website. To find out the effects of the e-tolling and how it affects you as a road user, check the AA's FAQ on it.

Watch this space for more gripes and moans. This is as political as I'm probably gonna get.

VTT Postcard - Bela Bela Accommodation - Villa Palmeira

Monday, May 28, 2012
Our trip to Bela-Bela was another product of Groupon discounts.

A few months back a deal offering 65% off accommodations at Villa Palmeira, situated in Bela-Bela, came up on Groupon. The deal was a 2 nights weekend stay in their honeymoon suite plus breakfast for four people at the price of R1050 (US$130 estimate). It was perfectly reasonable for us.

Bela-Bela is a town in the Limpopo province in South Africa. The name means "the pot that boils" in Tswana, which pertains to the hot springs that the town is famous for. It is widely known as Warmbaths before until the name change in 2002 to Bela-Bela.

Villa Palmeira honeymoon suite

It is around 2 hours away from Johannesburg so it is a quick hotspot destination if you are wanting to go out of town but do not really want to travel very far.

We left Johannesburg around 10am and arrived at Bela-Bela around lunch. We did a quick tour of the town, which was not really very big and around 2pm checked in at our accommodations.

To say that the honeymoon suite at Villa Palmeira was huge is an understatement. It was massive! The suite had a very African theme, with its thatched ceiling and darkwood interiors. It even had a balcony although the view was not very enticing.

The balcony
My only criticisms to point out were that:

1. The suite appeared dark at times. I suppose the lighting was not enough to light up the whole room.
2. The television set was small for the room size, I reckon it was slightly smaller than a 51cm.
3. Wifi connection was not available at the place which was a bummer since I had my laptop with.

Villa Palmeira honeymoon suite bathroom

On the plus side, Villa Palmeira offered a full breakfast, which was excellent. It was cooked as and when you ordered, so you know that you are eating fresh. It offered a cable TV channel for added entertainment. And they also offer to arrange sightseeing trips for you.

All in all, it was a nice enough family getaway spot.

Come Skydine With Me

Wednesday, May 23, 2012
It's nothing unusual to have appointment...and with your daughter. What really made this ordinary lunch into a spectacular one was that everything happened 42 metres off the ground.

I saw the ad a few months ago for skydining at Cedar Square and thought what a cool thought. The whole dining table plus 22 chairs surrounding it are hoisted on a crane and lifted off the ground. The dining table looks like a bar counter and within the counters, the chef and the waiters are strapped on the table, taking orders, pouring drinks, serving meals, ready at your service.

The "sky events" (as they were called) were scheduled over several weekends and there were a couple of events per day. Quick to sold out were the dinner slots. Personally, I did not like the idea of going up at night much as I thought seeing everything was one of the requisites on an experience like this. So I signed up for lunch.

My eldest daughter expressed an interest to come with and so I thought it would be a good mother-daughter bonding moment.

Picture taking on the ground while we were being strapped to our seats

The whole experience was not scary and quite safe although I did feel a bit out of it at times. I think it was just reflex reaction that you wanted to hold onto something when the wind blew and you think you're gonna get carried away. We were literally strapped onto our seats and are not able to release the seatbelts.

There were a couple of daredevil guests on our ride and they were really adventurous, even pushing their seats back to take photos of themselves and the sights below. The weather was sunny but there was a bit of wind that day. The table rotated so you got to see the sights from all angles. The lunch lasted an hour.

Our main meal was stuffed chicken. I am not sure what was stuffed inside, but it tasted much like ham inside. The chicken was served with roasted potatoes and some sort of tomato garnish. Dessert was tiramisu.

It was an experience extraordinaire. I could have done with more food, drink and time on top than just the one hour. It went so quick.

For more information, check out Sky Events.

VTT Postcard - Bloemfontein Accommodation - Formula 1 Bloem

Monday, May 21, 2012
It's a pity that I do not have any pictures for this accommodation. I would have loved to have shown the rooms we got. Don't worry, it's nothing bad. I was actually very surprised at how modern Formula 1 Bloemfontein was.

The rooms were tiny and just enough for 3 people. There was a double bed and a single bed located on top of the double bed (for the third person/child). The shower was near the double bed but looked classy with its smoked glass effect on the wall. The dresser (if you can call it that, since it was just a stand with a mirror and small table) was right in the middle of the room. There was an aircon and a flat screen TV in the room. Although not much of channels to choose from.

We stayed at Bloemfontein as a stopover on our way back to Johannesburg from Cape Town.

All in all, it was a nice enough stay at a very convenient price. It works as just somewhere to spend the night. It would not have been ideal for a very long stint. We would go bored if we just stayed in the room.

For more information, visit their global website and see if they have hotels near you.

The Initial Stages Of Emigration Application

Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Borrowed photo
Please note: Although the requirements and procedures are already dated, this post is just to share the heartaches and frustration of what an expectant applicant goes through during the emigration process.

The application process is a bit daunting at first. Er, the application process is a LOT daunting actually.

When you first make the decision, you just want to get it all done. But boy, once you start looking through the requirements, you actually realise what a massive step and challenge the road ahead is. It is more the collection of the documents that scares you, if any.

I was in a similar place. I re-read the application forms a hundred times and filled it out at least half a dozen times until I eventually sent it off. Even then, you have that feeling of making mistakes and getting a rejection before your journey has ever begun.

Despite all the precautions and practice I took, I still made a slight mistake which made us lose 3 months in our application. We applied early December 2009 and waited and waited and waited for the initial approval letter from Canada.

The application forms came back in late February 2010. I had forgotten to fill out how much monies they could deduct from my credit card (which was the application fee). I felt lucky though that they did not outrightly reject the whole application and just highlighted the area that needed to be completed.

I duly completed the form where marked and re-sent our application in March 2010.

 It was a great feeling to finally receive the SMS that tells you that Canada has deducted your application fee from your credit card. It was a sign of great things to come. Or at least a chance at those great things.

We eventually got our initial approval letter in April 2010 via email.

VTT Postcard - Cape Town Accommodation - 3 Portswood Mews

Monday, May 14, 2012
It was not easy looking for accommodation in Cape Town especially at that time of the year. December was peak season. But then, I'd always thought any time was peak season as long as the weather was on your side.

Price was also not on our side. Most of the accommodation in Cape Town are not on the cheap end.

The accommodation we found was a holiday apartment right in the middle of the city. It was a one-bedroomed flat situated near the V& A Waterfront, which was a real plus. The living room sofa could be converted to another set of bed. The flat had a mini-kitchen and a shower and a bath. It was adequate for a family of 4, just looking for a place to crash.

It was a comfortable stay at the flat. Pity that we did not have DSTV and only had access to the normal TV channels. But then, we were not at the flat most of the time so it did not really matter that much.

The place is conveniently situated and really not far from most amenities.

For more information on this accommodation and others, check out the managing agent's site.

Missy's Take On The Reproductive System

Wednesday, May 9, 2012
One day at the gym, while looking through an advertisement for bad and good posture, Missy decided to give me her take on the reproductive system.

Missy: "Ma, now I know what happens when a mommy is expecting a baby. The baby grows inside the mother's tummy and it starts affecting her back. And her back starts curling. And when she can't take it anymore, the mommy will let the baby out. When the baby is ready to pop out, the baby will just give the mother big kick, then the baby will come out of the mother's tummy."

Okay, so it's not really the greatest of explanations. But it's just really such a cute phase when children try to discover things and how they put it together.

I had Caesarians for both my daughters so it was really easy to tell them where babies come from. Mommy's tummy was cut open to let the baby out. And I have the scar to show for it.

VTT Postcard - Colesberg Accommodation - La Provence

Monday, May 7, 2012
The stop-over at Colesberg was not in the original plan of things.

At first, hubby and I wanted to drive all the way to Cape Town in a day. But hubby's old age was acting up weeks before our intended departure and so I thought it best to book a one-night stop-over accommodation in Colesberg, which was literally halfway between Johannesburg and Cape Town.

The town was tiny and quaint to say the least. It felt very much like a one-main-street type of town. Found our accommodation quite easy. The bed and breakfast was located on one side of the street, and our place for the night was across the street. It was cozy and just enough for our family of 4.

There was really not much to say about the place. It wasn't exactly the greatest but it served its purpose.

The funny part was that we had some people who were staying next door to us, also renting accommodations. We actually found out that they were Filipinos. They've been working on the telecommunication lines along Colesberg. Fancy that. Filipinos in the middle of nowhere.

The next day we left before breakfast, onto our next stop - Cape Town.

Where The Heck Did My Posts Go?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012
I am so disappointed. It is the first time Blogger has really failed me.

On the off chance, I decided to check my Blogger account after a week of posts. Imagine my surprise to find 2 of my scheduled posts still marked as "Scheduled". I am livid. They were supposed to have gone off the past week, Monday and Wednesday specifically. But they were still lying there, bursting to be brought to life.

I tried to rack my brains. For a second there, I thought I had forgotten to post them. But later, I actually determined that the posts just did on the blog. Bummer!

So, I moved the 2 posts to next week. I've made a rule never to post on weekends and I'm not about to break that rule yet. Even though Blogger did break my heart a little with whatever it was that happened with my posts. I dubbed thee a Blogger Blooper.

Well, to those who were waiting for the posts, I'm so sorry to have missed that. Hopefully, it does not happen again. Blogger, are you listening?