Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Back ...

from outer space.

It's great to go away and see family, catch a few rays, spend money like water. But it's always better to get home and we have all realised, after this trip to SA, that home is Norfolk.   It was so cool to see Heathrow, drive up through the countryside and not see any wogs, rubbish, hawkers, vagrants hanging around at robots, security fencing, razor wire ...

Gauteng is a shit hole of note, definitely not worth going to on holiday.  It's one big concrete block, there are no recreational places, or areas where you can just go and walk around without getting harrassed, mugged or worse. Where we were living before (in Greenstone Hill, Edenvale), they've put up ANOTHER shopping mall;  more blocks of 'apartments' - a euphemism for slums of the future; two more office parks (because most businesses have to hide inside gated complexes from the criminals).   We were told by our Indian friend, Vinesh, when we went out to dinner at Spur (yum, we missed Spur, can you believe it) that in the next two years they are going to put up a casino complex at Modderfontein (opposite where we stayed in Greenstone Hill), as well as another 10 malls - these have all been put through planning and being developed by Chinese business people.   So we are doubly glad to be out of there and living in the Norfolk countryside.   Pollution in the Kempton Park area is quite bad, we all noticed it driving around.    

It's so expensive in SA - and now that the toll roads are 'working' (har har* see below), the costs are going to rocket even further.   Everywhere we went we were quite alarmed at how much things cost - and when you consider that the exchange rate was definitely in our favour (20 Rand almost to 1 pound), we shouldn't have noticed but we did.  We brought home local newpapers with the consumer retail pull outs that show the costs of groceries etc., so that our UK family (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) can have a read.  

South African retail service at most supermarkets is still non-existent.  I almost came to fisty cuffs a couple of times in Checkers and then again in Pick n Pay.  The only good things about SA, in my opinion, are family-styled restaurants where you get served by a waiter and don't have to carry tons of crap to your table by yourself; and maybe the sunshine (not the sun or the heat).   It was unbearably hot one day when we went through to Pretoria to see the old folks, so muggy-hot sitting in the lounge of their little retirement cottage, I felt as though I would faint or just fall asleep. I do not miss the heat at all.  It was nice to swim in a glittery, crystal blue pool and lounge about in my son's house but next time we go on holiday, we're looking at camping in the wilds of Scotland.  If we go back to SA for a holiday, it will be to the coast (where my son is going to be living), and as far away from shopping malls as we can get. 

* The first group of toll roads that we went through was +- R6 for a couple of hundred metres. The ones on the way to Pretoria, where some of our family live, are over R8 a pop and the gantries are spaced at regular intervals all along the highway, so you are constantly hearing the sensor beep (we were in a hired car with pre-fitted e-tag).  The system is forcing a lot of people to use the old roads, which are, of course, pot-holed and in really bad condition, plus they are dangerous to drive along at night or early morning. 

We understand that the toll fees going down to Durban are in the region of R250 one way. This is what my son said and he went down to Durban from Johannesburg last Sunday to start working at his new job.   That's very similar to what it was a year or so ago ... still ridiculous but bearable.  The expensive tolls are in Gauteng, catching all the commuters.  

The laugh is many people are just not paying e-tolls!  Most folks just have not registered and obtained e-tags for their cars for tolling and many of the private individuals that do have the e-tags in their cars are refusing to pay.  We know of four people in our immediate family circle who have been sent fone sms (texts) demands (illegal, people) for amounts in excess of R1,000 each.   You are given 7 DAYS to pay the amount of the toll from when you go through the gantry.  You don't receive an invoice.  You don't receive a statement. It's a complete scam, so of course nobody is paying.  We were told that Taxis don't pay but the woman who works for my son said that they do have to pay but they are also refusing to pay.  We believe that the only people who might be paying are trucking/hauliage/courier companies and car hire companies.

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