Saturday, December 30, 2006


that new mega post on the Zambezi took 2 days to upload, with blogger up to its usual tricks, so by the time I posted I didn't add anything current... so here is just a brief update, we are in Philippolis at the moment, leaving today to take a slow drive back to PE. Will share the trip with you once we are back.

On Janet's blog, she suggests an idea of 365 photos. Here is what I commented "I like the idea of 365, we bloggers all seem so trigger happy with our cameras that it shouldn't be too much of a hardship! But the discipline of daily posting might be, I'm thinking of daily photos, collected into a weekly post to show aspects of the last week. Max and I have been thinking for a while of a daily or weekly photo of the same scene, put together at the end of the year to chronicle the seasonal changes, maybe somehow both projects could be combined? ".

So I think in the absence of any more relevant life changing New Years resolutions, which I never remember to stick to anyway, I might think of this as a new years project.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

African Images #4 Pack your mosquito repellant and anti-malaria tablets, we're going on safari!

Tribute to a relic of the past......a canoe safari on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe

Sadly, I heard the news last week that Ian Nysschens died recently. He was in his late seventies, and the author of two books about his life as an elephant poacher. (Yes I know, totally not PC and all that, but he was a fascinating character, larger than life, and his stories kept us rivetted with fascination as he described an Africa that no longer exists.) We got to know him through Jane and Dave (my sister and brother-in-law) who helped him to get his first book published. (In fact some of the photos you will see here found their way into the book too!) It was a great privilege to be given a chance to read his original proofs of the autobiography before it was published.
He lived the sort of solitary life in the bush that one would associate with the pioneers of the wild west, they were independant, with strong codes of honour, which were very different to the codes we hold dear today.
In his later years, when the game department realised they were never going to catch him as a poacher, they offered him a job in conservation, and he used all his skills and insider knowledge to protect animals. He moved to Harare and bred horses, but never really settled down to city life. Every year he spent time in the Zambezi Valley, which was the only place he ever really felt at home.
He would take small groups of people on canoe safaris on the Zambezi, and about 10 years ago, we were privileged to go on one of them, at Mana Pools Game Reserve.
Mana pools, which is downstream from the Kariba dam, is a unique game reserve. It is in the Zambezi valley, on the Zimbabwean side, and has several types of vegetation, which make it a suitable home for many types of animals. The pools are formed in flood planes of the lower Zambezi, and because of difficult accessibility during the rains the Reserve is closed from November through April. (The baking summer months, even in winter, when it is open, the days are warm.)
In this part of Africa, there are very pronounced dry seasons and rainy seasons. In winter, there is no rain for several months, and the bush is incredibly dry. This is a view looking across the river to the Zambian side, which is in a perpetual haze of smoke at this time of the year, due to all the bushfires.
Only the major rivers, such as the Zambezi, continue to flow, most of the smaller rivers dry up, and the elephants are forced to dig for water. As we entered the park, we came across these two youngsters,
....and this is me photographing them from the bridge above the dry river bed.
A fascinating feature of the lowveld areas of central Africa is the Baobab tree, Which can grow to enormous sizes and can grow despite severe damage. In the dry season, elephants searching for moisture eat through their trunks. Here is an example, and Max photographing it while Ian explains it to us.
The variety of game and vegetation is wonderful.....
There are the pools, with hippos,
the famous acacia woodlands, much loved by buck, such as these magnificent kudu,
the areas close to the river, which remain moist, which are home to wetland animals such as the waterbuck (how do you like the target on her behind?)
the lowveld areas with baobab trees, and mopani woodlands
and the jesse bush which Ian Nysschens described in detail in his book "Months of the Sun" as the most dangerous place to come across a herd of elephant, because they will sense you long before you see them, and the Zambezi Elephants are famous for being particularly bad tempered around humans.
The camp sites are not fenced off at all so you wake up to elephants browsing in the trees above your tent, hippos strolling through the campsite at sunrise, on their way back to the river, after a night of browsing on land.
And you run the gauntlet of the hyenas, which have learned that campsites are a great source of food, and have become quite aggressive in their pursuit of it.On the Zambezi river, the most dangerous animal to come across are the hippos, which are responsible for more deaths in Africa than any other wild animal. We had a few hairy moments on our trip down the river, but were too busy rowing for our lives to take photos!

It is a wonderful experience, gliding along the river, in completely wild and unspoilt surroundings, and coming across these magnificent creatures. There are also some enormous crocodiles, so leaving the canoes at the end of the day is an interesting experience, where we landed there was a 3 metre long beauty on the bank, hoping we hadn't noticed him!
One of the other unique things about Mana is that you are allowed to walk around in the reserve, most African reserves do not allow you to leave your vehicle, because the animals are very dangerous.
We went for a stroll one afternoon, and came across these guys, which was a tad nerve-wracking! (OK, more than a tad!). Bear in mind that when we went on this trip, we did not have a camera with a large zoom lens! The African Buffalo has a well deserved reputation as one of the meanest animals around, he is not very bright, and has a very short fuse, he will charge and trample an intruder at the drop of a hat! Luckily his eyesight is poor, and Ian made sure that we were downwind of them!
As I was at the edge of the main pool.....

photographing this guy.... we picked up the unmistakable smell of cat urine, Ian confirmed that a lion was very close by and that it would be a good idea to walk back to the camp pronto!

I don't have the slightest understanding of what prompts guys to go and kill beautiful animals for the thrill of the hunt, but Ian was not one of those trophy hunter types. He did his hunting at a time when the species he hunted were plentiful, and he was just another predator living in the bush, not an ego driven tourist wanting to impress his buddies with a stuffed animal head on his wall. I don't condone what he did, but he was a fascinating individual. It was a real privilege to have known him, and to have been given a glimpse into his world.

Monday, December 25, 2006


Hi all, hope you are having a wonderful Christmas. This is a quick post to get our family up to date.

Dinner on Christmas eve, fun, food, family, friends
K pretends to be surprised about the pressie she bought for her own stocking!
K adores her blender....
I am delighted with my wacky handbag..
and Max laughs at his miniature garden gnome.
Ethan entertains us all on his keyboard .
TONS OF LOVE to all of you!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The port

A last post before Christmas…oooh that sounds morbid, like someone died and the bugle is going… Nahh, it’s happy and cheerful and VERRRRRY beautiful here… we are at Port St Francis(I waxed lyrical about it here)
We invested in a suite at the Port Hotel here recently, and since the transfer came through the other day, we decided to pop down for a day or two, bring a few bits of furniture to make it more homey, and NEST. I love nesting. Wherever I go, Max teases me because I don’t feel I am THERE till I have unpacked, moved things around, and then I feel I have settled in and can go with the flow.... chill.....enjoy the scenery...

This is a view from the walkway, back across the harbour to the hotel, our suite is the one on the bottom level, right hand side. (By the way, I blush at being so DOF (pronounced dorf), which is Afrikaans for just plain STUPID!!, but I envied everyone who had Clickable photos, and was even going to ask Deb how to do it, when I accidentally clicked on one of mine and found they are already clickable, so if you too are doff, and didn't know it before, you can now click merrily away when you want to see a larger detail of any of the photos!)

Because I will be connecting on the cellphone again, I’ll keep the pix to a minimum this time, but I’ll do a fuller story on this place soon, because we have photos going back to when it was first being built, and it is cool to track its progress.

So, to whet your appetite, (ALL TOGETHER NOW 1…2…3…)
And that goofy seal I mentioned in THIS post was back, wallowing around between the boats holding onto its tail with 1 fin, and presumably using the other to avoid colliding with anything.

This is a view looking out through the harbour entrance, to St Francis Bay village, dozing peacefully across the bay.

Look at this wonderful planting of alliums and agapanthus (agapanthi??) at the entrance to the new golfing estate down the road.

The egrets and herons were settling into the trees to roost for the night, with much jostling for position and raucous bantering.

Yesterday’s sunset was also pretty,

but not as spectacular as this morning’s sunrise….

We will be packing soon, to return to Port Elizabeth for a GARGANTUAN Christmas Eve dinner tonight, which Karen and Danni (her friend visiting from Zim) have already been slaving over for days, while Jason patiently took care of the lively Ethan.
Taking a break from renovating, so, PO, no updates till middle of next week, but it will be worth the wait.

I wish all family, friends and blog friends a WONDERFUL JOYOUS PEACEFUL HAPPY Christmas, and A DELIGHTFUL New Year!

The live

Thursday, December 21, 2006


This is a combination of memory lane and African Images. It appears that memory lane is a quirky place to wander, it has many twists and side lanes, and some strange detours.

Amongst my old photos, I found 2 which came close to costing me my liberty. It was 1975, and I was living in Johannesburg. Some friends and I decided on the spur of the moment to drive up to Malawi for the weekend! (Did you get the impression I was young and irresponsible? Read on, you will!)
Thursday was a public holiday so we took Friday off and packed a couple of crates of beer in the back of my car, (an ancient little Mitsubishi colt 1100, definitely not the ideal car to go halfway across Africa in!!) and off we went.

We got to the Zimbabwe border by about 5am, waited for it to open at 6, and went through, stopping along the way to take photos. We finally reached the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique at Nyamapanda. After paying the obligatory bribes, we entered the country, as the sun was beginning to set.
As it turns out, I was not the only young and irresponsible one, none of is had kept up with news or current affairs because it would interfere with our partying! So we were all blissfully unaware that Frelimo, the organization that had been fighting a guerrilla war to liberate Mozambique from the Portuguese, had recently taken over as a transitional government. All the former freedom fighters, still armed to the teeth with AK47s, were being kept busy running road blocks, amongst other things.

We set off from the border post, cheerfully oblivious to what awaited us. In that strange light when it is too dark to see well, but too light for the headlights to be effective, we crested a blind rise in the road, to see a small man with a very large machine gun pointing at us. I stood on the brakes and swerved to avoid him. The next thing there he was, a 13 year old, pushing the barrel of his AK47 through the car window, against my face, and shouting that he is going to shoot us because we had tried to kill him.

The more we tried to explain that his roadblock was in a very dangerous place and we did not see him until we were almost on top of him, the more agitated he became. Luckily, an older man came out from behind a bush, and told him it would be a bad idea to shoot us because they didn’t want any bad publicity about killing tourists at that stage of taking over the country, and, after demanding cigarettes and beer from us, sent us on our way.

OK!!!!! So, if you are planning a cross border holiday, it may be a good plan to find out what is happening in the country first! That night, in the relatively short stretch between Mocambique and Malawi, we went through 17 roadblocks, and only arrived at the border at 3am.

By this time we were exhausted and, finding a flattish piece of ground close to the darkened Customs Building, we climbed into our sleeping bags to sleep until the border opened. It turned out we had made ourselves at home on the front lawn of the chief Customs Officer’s house!

As we were having our baggage searched the next morning, I was happily doing my “tourist” thing and snapping away with my camera. Suddenly one of the soldiers swung round, levelled his AK47 at me and said I was under arrest and he was going to confiscate my camera, because it was illegal to photograph soldiers! After some very quick thinking, I realised that I had just finished my film and rewound it, so I said I was TERRIBLY sorry, had no idea (which was true!) and that if I took the film out the sun would ruin it and then there would be no more pictures (which wasn’t true), but luckily he fell for it and relented. We jumped hastily into the car and sped thankfully across the border into blissfully peaceful and stable Malawi. Here are the offending photos!

Malawi was so beautiful, I'll share some of those pictures in a later post. We returned to South Africa without incident, except for finding out that one of the guys had a lovely soprano voice! We were just too tired to carry on driving, on our way back through Mozambique, and pulled over to sleep. (Being the only girl, and the car owner, I was in the privileged position of sleeping in the car, the 2 guys were in sleeping bags on the side of the road. Suddenly this shrill falsetto had us all wide awake, Barry had just seen an ENORMOUS cobra slithering past his face! We were suddenly no longer sleepy, and drove on through the rest of the night.

Due to all the delays, roadblocks etc, we were a day late. In the meantime, my parents had arrived from Zimbabwe to visit me, and were frantically phoning hospitals and police stations to try and find me. We take modern communications so much for granted now, but in those days it was impossible for me to contact them and let them know I was safe. By the time we arrived back in Johannesburg at 2am on Tuesday morning, I was as popular as a pork chop in a synagogue, as you can imagine! But I only really got the full impact of how they must have felt many years later when my son pulled a similar stunt on me! What goes around comes around!!

After that unexpectedly longwinded story, I will keep the renovations update brief….
We are still battling to finish the kitchen floor, 4 days of sanding and still not where it needs to be, but we are getting there.
And we had an OOPS, the cistern for the bottom loo dropped off the wall when the tiles around it were being removed, so the floor got an impromptu clean! Just as well though, it was hanging by a thread and Andrew has now fixed it firmly, so all's well....
Up in the en-suite bathroom there is serious demolition going on....
Look at the main bedroom, the back wall has gone
from this... to this! Cute lightfittings hey?
And finally, remember I told you about the wacky dog next door who runs on the garage roof? Here she is, checking out the neighbourhood!