Two Bits: A sea view and inflation in the digital age

The digital age has made life a great deal easier in many respects. Sitting at my desk Monday morning I wondered how things were going with the surfing contest down at Willard Beach.

I Googled “Ballito webcams” and a few seconds later was looking at a live feed of the action, courtesy of Cyber View Letting.

There are three cameras – one of Willard, another of the view north from around Boulder Bay and the third looking south over Salmon Bay.

So, wherever you are, feeling homesick in London, New York or even from your own home up the hill, you can catch a refreshing view of the Ballito seashore anytime you like.

Cyber View Letting owner Inus van Schalkwyk tells me he made the investment of buying Italian-made cameras a few years ago, after a bit of hit-andmiss with a second-rate job from Russia. While initial investment was high, monthly costs are relatively low.

He tells me they have helped market his business upcountry and hopefully have a good spinoff for Ballito as a whole.

Well done, Inus! When we make our annual pilgrimage to the Sabi Sands, on our game drives we often come across a short wheelbase Landie from Wild Earth TV.

A game guide and cameraman drive around looking for interesting game viewings and transmitting the footage directly to their base in New York.

Their website has become so popular there are now two crews ensuring that there is footage for every hour of daylight, seven days a week.

I’m told that there are people throughout the world who follow the viewing avidly, to the point that some of the fans are so expert that they can identify individual animals – such as leopards – just as well as the game guides on the ground.

Our guide told us that there was a woman in Canada who had never been to Africa, let alone the Sabie, who constantly helped them keep track of the various leopard family groups through email.

Our guide said all that was known of her was that she was bedridden and she watched their videos around the clock. Wow, it’s an absolute boon for someone who has nothing but time on their hands.

Talking of game drives, next week we’re off to Chobe in Botswana and Wangie in Zimbabwe for a couple of weeks of catching up with former Ballito-ites Duncan and Lois McLagan.

The McLagans emigrated 20 years ago and made a new life for themselves, so this will be a trip down memory lane. Speaking of two decades ago, I recently came across an old menu from the Chaka’s Rock Hotel.

There were plenty of things about that place that were a bit dodgy, but the restaurant was pretty good in its day.

For starters, how about ‘Amakhowe amakhulu ansundu’ – Large brown mushrooms poached in red wine and covered in a thick, garlic, cheese and herb butter – for the princely sum of R4.50?

Or if you really wanted to splash out, a half crayfish in the shell for R12.95? For mains, grilled crayfish weighed in at R26 and prawns at R17.50.

Or a T-bone or rump for R12.75. According to an inflation calculator based on figures from Stats SA, a burger, coke and chips bought in 1991 for R6.60 should cost you R37.13 today – an increase of 430 percent.

But in reality, the same meal today would cost you closer to R90, or 1400 percent up!

Taking the Chaka’s Hotel menu, the R17.50 prawns in 1996 should cost R60.13 today at the official rate of inflation. In reality you’ll battle to find prawns or a steak for less than R120, so how come the actual increase is more in the region of 700 percent?

I don’t think margins in the restaurant business have improved in that time – the opposite, more like. Either the official inflation figures are way optimistic or there are other factors at play here.

Probably the value of the Rand. One day I’ll understand it.

* * * A woman caught her husband on the weight scale, sucking in his stomach. “That won’t help you, Joe, you know?” “Oh it helps a lot,” says the man, “it’s the only way I can see the numbers!”

Bruce Stephenson

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