Jul
25
2010
1

I got into a fight with a donkey…

Or at least, that’s what I told the Lesotho border control guy when he looked at my face and asked what happened. He responded, “my friend, it looks like the donkey won…” I can’t say I disagree!

Now, I don’t just drive into neighbouring Lesotho to get into fracases with asses. I can do that quite fine here in South Africa thank you very much. Nay, this time I was off for the annual snowboarding pilgrimage so that I could remind myself what snowboarding was like. This time however, I also managed to remind myself why hitting ramps on the first run down without checking it out first is a bad idea. Long story short, I hit it badly, I landed badly (ie with my face) and thus my face turned into hamburger.

But aside from this vital life lesson which I gained, last week turned out just great. Heading into Lesotho with Juliet (of Tokyo Rage against the Machine awesomeness) and 3 of her friends, I was reminded of why these small catches of time in which time seems to be irrelevant are so important. Once entering bokpoort and our austere accommodation very little about the giant stress cloud that is Johannesburg seems to matter. Good company, good wine/beer/hard liquor and the ability to see the milky way in a night sky so clear it’s painful, these are the things I like. Yessir!

There was ironically very little snow during the snowboarding part of it all. But Afriski know this, and make snow by the bucketload, so we were able to hurtle down the slope surrounded by brown mountainsides. The newbies learning to board for the first time all picked up in a matter of hours which was not only impressive, but enabled everyone to actually enjoy themselves rather than worry if everyone’s having fun. Everyone had fun. Even myself after I grated my face on the slope. Fun was indeed had.

Written by admin in: Africa,Things Japanese |
Jul
22
2009
4

A Small Taste of Another Time

Crash.

Crash.

The idea to go snowboarding in Lesotho sprang from a couple of drinks with a friend in a Melville bar. We’d both been to Japan in the same JET intake (2007/2008) and were reminiscing and talking about things which only those in the same context could understand. It was the first time since we got back from Japan that we’d been able to do so, and the experience itself was completely cathartic. Amongst the many things nostalgia resurrected, our mutual love for the Japanese snow was a prominent topic. I loved the Hokkaido powder and she loved the mainland boarding, even though it broke her wrist! It sometimes seems like drinking rum can only bring good things…

…We thusly concluded that we need a taste of snowboarding, even if only for a day. From there came the decision to head to Lesotho and one of Southern Africa’s only two ski resorts, Afriski. At one point it seemed like it’d just be the two of us, given how few people seemed willing to embrace the awesome nature of snowboarding, but in the end, a couple of Joy’s colleagues trundled along and we went a-boarding.

Long story short, the trip was most excellent. Lesotho is like another world, with it’s rolling hills resembling a desolate kind of landscape which could be Laos after some coats of Agent Orange. The roads were atrocious, but we had a nice fat diesel bakkie to drive and made most of the journey a pleasure. Afriski itself it comparatively tiny when put next to anything in the USA, Europe or Japan, but a 500m slope is better than nothing! Aside from queuing for fucking everything, we were able to hit the slopes before 10am.

Afriski at peak season has wonderful infrastructure and the potential to really make for a great holiday experience. But ultimately crappy management means you queue 45 minutes for equipment, wait an hour for your lunch, queue 15-20 minutes to ride the lift, and you have to relace your bloody boots when you hand them back to the equipment shop. It’s not enough to ruin a good weekend, but I expect that this kind of delay in everything could start to grate. Especially if you fork out the hundreds or thousands of Rands for their accommodation. But for us, it didn’t impact the experience much.

Board.

Board.

Perfect! Joy went off to teach the new guys how to prevent falling down and breaking their ass-bones and I went up the slope. The snow wasn’t powder and the slope was full of the kind of South Africans one normally sees in Margate; dressed in the technicolour shirts, blue mirror glasses and so on one saw in the 90’s. Kat likened them to a Peter Stuyvesant ad, which is about as damn near to the fact as to make it uncanny. But the boarding was a glimpse of why I loved it so much in Hokkaido. A small taste and reminder I suppose. Hairing down the slope and simply enjoying the feel of the board gripping the snow was exactly what I was hoping for. It would look quite lame to the boarder who is used to huge ass Swiss mountains, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t fun! Grinning like fools at the end of that run is the normal reaction, and it’s something I hope to repeat sometime soon!

With luck, if the Japanese government see fit to process my JET pension, I should be able to go on a boarding trip to see Heather and Chris in the USA, or a very good friend in Europe, or somewhere. I’m not too fussed, but Lesotho has cemented in my mind the need to ensure that wherever I go, if I go, it must be near snowy mountains. Screw the beach, give me a runny nose and numb fingers and toes any day!

Drive.

Drive.

And that was that. In unrelated news I’m almost done with Hemingway’s Moveable Feast (The man makes me ashamed to even try write), I aced the first semester and might just graduate cum laude. I have a fat list of Navy folks to interview for my research paper. My Shoulder has repaired and is no longer so bothersome. I have recovered from Nationals and am starting to shake off the Post-Nationals Syndrome (PNS) of debating-addiction, but I suspect that’s simply because I substituted intellectual fencing for snowy awesomeness, and I replaced the sunglasses I lost in Mozambique. They were totally 100% legit Ray Bans bought in Cambodia for $2, but like a damned fool I left them at Fatima’s in Maputo, which means either the staff stole them or some greasy backpacker is using them. I can hope for the latter, but I suspect the former. Enough about the fucking glasses John!

Today’s Song: Fleet Foxes – Tiger Mountain Peasant Song

Written by admin in: Africa,Books | Tags: , ,

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