Hay Fever runs in my family. The Cosgrove genes are known for many good things – thick hair, broad shoulders, general good looks – to name but 3. The susceptibility to sneezing, however, coupled with an ageing cat who sheds fur more efficiently than our shed sheds gardening utensils (it’s a spacious shed), makes for a sneeze filled household. I consider myself lucky to have avoided suffering from Hay Fever – although recently I have had a taste of what it is like. I have decided to count the number of times I sneeze while I write this post.
As the rain from the Tuesday before last slowly began to drain away, the sun came back out and reminded us who’s boss. As the week reached it’s end, we were ready to embrace the 3rd and most important trip to South Africa yet, considering it was said to be cooler over the border. What made this trip important was the fact that our visas were due to expire at the end of the month. Staying in a country without a visa is frowned upon. Mother. Renewing visas is typically a dull and stressful process, so we were glad to again be joined by Jimmy and Linda on our visit. Without them, perhaps we would be back on the Queens shores already.
After slight complication concerning when we would be leaving, we found ourselves in the back of Jimmy and Linda’s car in the late morning of the Monday of this week. Got that? We caught up a bit with what they were doing and learnt that they too had been suffering health wise recently. Ben had been developing a lovely cough the days prior to this, and I had inherited it not long after. Perhaps it had something to do with our standing in the torrential rain he wrote about yesterday…perhaps. So, aside from the playlist that Ben and I had produced for the journey, the car was filled with a chorus of coughing and sniffing. We made it to the border in good time, and got across it in little more than 10 minutes – a record. The river that flows not to far from the border was dangerously high and fast, again reinforcing how much rain had fallen the week before.
Once we had crossed the border, we stopped off for some lunch at a petrol station. Ben and I chose a sandwich each, and added some Doritos and a kit-kat to the meal. As we approached Nelspruit I got my phone out and started taking pictures of the endearing scenery. I think you’ll agree that I have made Jonny look like a complete amateur with THIS snap.
Before we reached our accommodation it was recommended to us by Jimmy that we take some money out, as applying for a new visa is expensive. In his experience R800 was the amount they asked for – around £60. We stopped off at the shopping square known locally as “Crossings” and headed for the ATMs. We withdrew a hefty amount of Rand each. Ben then took the opportunity to top up on his Malorone supply – an expensive, yet important, drug. This left him short of R800, so we headed back to the ATMs again.
The wonderful thing about the ATMs at Crossings is that they have their own little booths. The machine is surrounded by 3 large tinted plastic windows and a door. One could even lock this door if they were obsessively concerned that their transactions remain secret. Tom, why are you telling us this? Well…
We huddled into a booth and Ben inserted his card. We soon realised this particular machine wasn’t working – and our suspicious were confirmed when a nice friendly man pushed his way in to inform us that. Not to worry! Ben withdrew his card and we made for the booth we had used previously. Ben inserted his card as usual, and we waited for the machine to register it. The helpful man pushed his way in again, and asked Ben what kind of card he had. Ben assured him it was one that worked with this bank, and made to put his pin number in. The now slightly less helpful man bent forward and put the code “0800″ into the machine. Confused eye contact was exchanged at this point. The machine accepted the code and asked what amount of money Ben wanted to withdraw. The man told Ben to put his pin number in at this point. Clearly, that would have displayed the pin on the screen for all to see. We made this point but the man ensured us, despite lacking a uniform and patience, that he worked for the bank.
What happened above repeated 2 or 3 more times, until Ben told him to go away in a more direct fashion. This he did, with speed. I reckon he saw my fist clench and my jaw tighten – warning signs that others haven’t had the fortune of detecting. Had Ben not put his foot down, I’m not sure what would have happened. The man was trying to scam us.
Half an hour or so later we arrived at Mercy Air – the retreat we stayed at back in August with my family. Fortunately, we had the same accommodation as last time, which meant it was MY turn to enjoy the luxury of a double bed. I slept well, despite the mouse that was running around our room, stealing the Doritos Ben had left unattended. Ben and I also enjoyed a cider, given to us by Rachel and Fiona who also happened to be staying in the same house as us at the time. Cheers.
I’m not much of an alcohol drinker, but I do enjoy a glass of cider here and there. When we last visited Mercy Air I didn’t really share any pictures of the area, so this time round me and Ben made sure to take a few pictures.
Yes, I am licking the pool cue. We played 3 games. The first ended prematurely as Ben potted the black ball. The second was a long game, mainly because we both went through a bad patch – the white ball spent a lot of time bouncing away on the concrete floor. Eventually, Ben was the victor. We went into the third game with one win under each of our belts. The final game was another long one, but to cut a long story short, I won by the skin of my milk – past it’s sell by date by a few weeks.
The reason for the writing of this post was the renewing of our visas, so lets get to that shall we? After the good nights sleep I have already mentioned, we woke early on the Tuesday to get to the Mozambican Embassy for 9:00. Shortly after finding a relatively shady parking space for Linda to sit in (in the car), Jimmy, Ben and I walked up to The Embassy. We smiled at the receptionist, possibly a bit too enthusiastically, and she gave us some forms to fill out.
Five minutes later, we handed the completed forms back to the receptionist, alongside our letters of recommendation and passports. The lady took them in and looked up slowly with an evil smile. After asking how much we needed to pay, she answered “R1900″. Each. EACH. That’s around £160! Double the amount we were expecting! Three times more expensive than in London! Still smiling enthusiastically, but dying inside, we left the embassy and headed for the nearest ATM. We took out another large sum of money and headed back to the embassy. We reluctantly parted with the large sum of money and left the building feeling robbed.
We had been told to return to the embassy at 2pm. This left us with enough time to do some shopping. Jimmy and Linda checked many post boxes and posted much mail (when people hear you’re going to South Africa they tend to give you a parcel or two). Ben needed to get a new guitar. For those who don’t know, an unfortunate incident in mid December involving the guitar, lemons, and several boys from my dorm, resulted in the neck of the guitar snapping. The shop we bought his last guitar at was again surprisingly kind as they gave him a discount of over £30 for no apparent reason. Small blessings.
We then went for a late breakfast. I was keen to go to Juicy Lucy, as it is the only place in the world that seems to serve cranberry juice without shoving some apple or orange in. I had a total of 4 toasted sandwiches containing bacon and melted cheese. Ben had a large meaty breakfast. My cranberry juice is displayed below.
After this brunch, Ben and I went clothes shopping like real friends should. We both found jumpers that tickled our fancy in Mr Price. Ben spent about £2 on his because it didn’t have a price tag on it. Small blessings.
The time came for us to return back to the embassy. After waiting for the best part of an hour, we finally got our passports back with the 6 month visas we needed. This time we have to leave the country every 30 days. While that will be another expense, it might make for some more blog posts. I was also handed the folder that I had left there by accident, which held my international drivers license, insurance information, and many other important things. Small Blessings. I tend to forget things like this. When I was younger I’d always be leaving my jumpers at football practice. As I’ve got older the things I leave behind have been getting slowly more and more important. It doesn’t bode well. I’ll be that parent who forgets to pick their kids up from school.
We had finally got our visas, so we all returned to Riverside Mall for a few more hours. Jimmy and Linda went to watch a film, while me and Ben did a bit more shopping and had some food. While we were sitting at Juicy Lucy again, we started people watching. An underrated form of entertainment. Our favourite spots are as follows:
- Two shop keepers flirting intensely at a Biltong shop.
We had been hearing shreaking and giggling for some time, and eventually located the source. As a woman was packing away her stall, a guard was poking her with a stick, taking things that she would then wrestle from him, laughing all the while. It was very cringey, and we were pleased when other guards arrived and difused the situation.
- A man wearing a beaverskin toga.
There’s not much more to say about that. The toga was a tight fit around his slightly large belly, but he sure had style.
- A man with a sailor hat.
He strolled into the mall with some seriously unjustified self importance. He was wearing what looked like a combination between a police hat and a sailor hat, sucking a lollipop.
- A very bored man.
Ben noticed a man standing beside his partner and her friend. They were engaged in conversation. He was staring blankly into space. I think I saw a tear run down his cheek at one point. We decided he had agreed to come shopping with his partner so long as they were back in time for the football. We assume he missed the game AND the post match analysis.
- Man with an eyepatch.
Again, a brave look for such a public area, but he pulled it off well. It looked more like an injury than a fashion statement to be fair.
LEGS. Everywhere you look. It seems that middle aged men wear shorter shorts here than English teenage girls back home.
- Safari twins.
A couple of teenage boys were both wearing an identical outfit, complete with a Steve Irwin hat and binoculars.
It sounds like a Where’s Wally scene, doesn’t it? After Jimmy and Linda’s film had finished, we got back into the car and headed back to Matola. We stopped the car a short distance away from the mall and took some pictures of the sunset, for it was, as with most African sunsets, magnificent. Phone camera’s don’t do these sorts of things justice though – where’s Jonny when we need him? So concludes our 3rd trip to South Africa. I hope you enjoyed my recollection of it.
Sneeze count – 9