acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

butterflies and lions

I didnt sleep much last night. Sometime after midnight hyenas were
calling all around. Their calls turning to mad cackling - maniacal
laughter with another purpose ; they homed in on a kill and suddenly
all was quiet, but I was now wide awake. A low moaning groaning sound
came from somewhere outside - something dying? or living? I got out
of bed to make some tea. The power was off so i lit a couple of
candles and stared out into the black night. Stars bright as
torchlight shone back at me - the big dipper just visible above the
northern tree line.Somewhere out there elephants were browsing - their
primeaval screams rending the still air. Night passed slowly - tick
tock. Imagine how slow it would go if i was out there sitting under a
bush..with nothing but my wits to protect me. I could be in a lot of
trouble.

Sometime before dawn i fell asleep , waking groggily after sunrise.
Lions are calling in the east. Grabbing cameras, binoculars, coffee
we head out to try and find them. We did not have to go far, two
females and a young male are arranged around a termite mound near the
track. Looking quite sleepy, but not completely - a condition i
empathised with - they blinked golden blinks as the morning sun found
their liquid eyes. Giant soft looking paws, folded neatly below the
chin; a splash of dried mud/blood makes a saddle on a tawny back
telling of the nights efforts to hunt. Heads nod, but are instantly
alert to any sound or movement in the periphery. Purple blue shadows
move around the termitaria as the sun rises. Butterflies flit busily
in a foreground of wild dagga plants.
Behind us water reflects ice blue and still as a mirror. Waterbirds
stalk the receding shores. A fish eagle breaks cover from a tall rain
tree and swoops accross to an island of trees on the far shore.

But these cats are still hungry. A group of giraffe appear from
behind the rise. Necks rising like a bunch of sticks - staring rudely.
The lions stare back, moving into a low ready-to-move position. The
giraffe stare interminably. Never get into a staring contest with a
giraffe! Finally they start to move off and become more interested in
each other again. The lions however are reminded of the need to feed,
and start to move steadily along the tree line until they reach a
vantage point over a small waterhole. The two females take up
strategic positions. A chubby looking warthog is heading this way -
head down, grazing, distracted. Tension mounts. Suddenly something
alerts him. His body changes shape with the tension of awareness. head
up, tail up, ears eyes nose - all the senses primed to receive
information no matter how subtle. He takes off towards the water -
the two lionesses follow at a steady lope.

An impala accross the water spots them and runs, raising the alarm for
another group of warthogs. Their cover is blown. They head back to
the shade of the croton bushes on the treeline - casting around for
other possible prey items on the way.
The suns warmth is intensifying though, and soon they join the young
male lion in the dappled shade. A francolin flies in to his usual
roosting spot - sees the lions and does a last minute swerve. Sleep
overcomes, heads droop and keel over, paws rise and fall, tails flick.
Time to sleep off the days heat - unless something tasty walks by.


(photos coming soon!)

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

MEME AGAIN and NOBLESSE OBLIGE

MEME TIME

I have been tagged by the lovely MIRANDA and LIZZY FRIZZFROCK to do this meme. So, thanks for that and here we go..

what is your current obsession? right now today, here, i am a bit obsessed with trying to find lions and leopards and photograph them. does that count as an obsession?

what item of clothing do you wear most often? day to day, a bunch of ragtag miscellaneous khaki coloured cotton stuff. wish i could think of something more stylish......infact now i recognise this gap i shall endeavour to fill it with something exotic...... any recommendations?

what are you listening to? a yellow billed hornbill that just arrived on the tree infront of me carrying a big fat juicy worm, so is now feeling quite chuffed with itself i imagine

whats for dinner? the rest of the pasta from lunchtime - tomorrow should be bream fillets 

say something to the one who tagged you; hi Miranda! and greetings to Lizzy F - look I am doing the meme you tagged me for :-)

favourite vacation spot, San sabastiao Mozambique - canoeing in mangroves, and strolling coral beaches; dhow sailing to sand islands, snorkelling in sea grass, and coral reefs...........

what are you reading right now? Paulo Cohelo 'The Zahir" - second time round

four words to describe myself   friendly, loyal, childish, dreamer  (there are some bad ones too but you only said four.....hehe)

guilty pleasure? 
snoozing at midday while pretending to read;

How did you spend your last birthday? suprise lunch with dear friends in the English countryside

what do you look forward to? more and more time doing what i love and less time doing what i have to..

Tag eight people - okedokey - 


T.H.E.N...........



TRUE BLUE TEXAN has given me this amazing award of Noblesse Oblige

This award is one of the more thoughtful ones that I've seen or been given.  It's got a purpose behind it that really makes you think about why you're blogging and who has influenced you. And of course it comes from a blogger whose insights and work are creative and humbling.
The recipient of this award is recognized for the following: 1) The Blogger manifests exemplary attitude, respecting the nuances that pervades amongst different cultures and beliefs. 2) The Blog contents inspire; strives to encourage, and offers solutions. 3) There is a clear purpose at the Blog; one that fosters a better understanding on Social, Political, Economic, the Arts, Culture, Sciences, and Beliefs. 4) The Blog is refreshing and creative. 5) The Blogger promotes friendship and positive thinking. The Blogger who receives this award will need to perform the following steps: 1) Create a Post with a mention and link to the person who presented the Noblesse Oblige Award. 2) The Award Conditions must be displayed at the Post. 3) Write a short article about what the Blog has thus far achieved – preferably citing one or more older posts to support. 4) The Blogger must present the Noblesse Oblige Award in concurrence with the Award conditions. 5) Blogger must display the Award at any location at the Blog.
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Whoa - Thanks so much TBT - I will do my best to live up to it. By the way, True Blue Texan has the most amazing blog site that could keep me busy for days, reading all the links and postings. The more I look at it the more amazed i am to receive this award. TBT writes so eloquently on political and current issues. There is something of the Texas rebel between the lines too which is intruiging.  If you havent been there please go over and take a peek.

Well i am not sure what my blog has actually achieved. I suppose I started as a writing exercise, and for this it has been great.  The freedom of blog writing has really helped me to loosen up  although   there is still far to go; and of course i have learned so much from all the myriad and wonderful blogs i follow, and connect with along the way. Over and above this I seem to have become part of a blogosphere community of friends from diverse parts of the world united by a common gossamer thread. This has really been the first prize of all.

I am really enjoying writing descriptive word pictures of the world around me and the fact that anyone finds them remotely readable is just amazing.  Sometimes I think I am inspired to write more purely by the lovely kind comments that appear on my site. Thanks so much guys xx Who would have thought there were so many ultra cool people out there?

The natural world around me is a constant source of fascination and there is so much to learn; so much beauty in Africa's wild places that sometimes its almost overwhelming; but there is tragedy too, and times when endurance is tested to the limits - drought, flood, feast, famine - its all there and we are just a tiny inconsequential part of the giant drama. A previous post The Nyalla and the Full Moon, was written as the drought took hold last year and we watched a beautiful male nyalla antelope breath his last as evening fell and a big beautiful full amber moon rose between the trees telling of life and death and continuity. Our own mortality is as fragile as this. Despite these reminders we still allow ourselves to think this wonderful thing called life will carry on forever. Live life, love life and each other - is really all we have to do.

Rabbits and Spiders was a post i wrote after we had been out for an evening drive looking for big animals - the superstars - elephants, rhino, lions - but instead all we found were sprightly scrub hares and the glittering eyes of spiders scattered accross the open ground like sparkly gemstones shining in the spotlight.  If the big animals had been around we would never have noticed the beauty of these smaller but exquisite creatures.  Everyone and everything gets their chance to shine and be noticed.  Even tiny spiders add beauty to our world if we take the time to look beyond the obvious. 

Now to pass this award on - and this is always such a tricky part as so many on my blog roll fit the profile.

but here goes : 

Absolute Vanilla gives excellent and eloquent insights into some of the major issues facing South Africa today - most recently surrounding the recent general election; she is a prolific and talented writer and painter, and regarding rescuing ailing guinea fowl chicks is not easily defeated by the limits of the possible!

Letters from Usedom Angelas chatty and confiding style belies her depths of innate wisdom, sense of justice and clarity of vision.  She has the ability to see clearly through tangled issues, take the troubled by the hand and lead them to an open path. Sometimes her advice feels to me like coming home to a home cooked dinner in a cosy kitchen - it just feels good and wholesome and makes perfect sense. You go there - you have to love her!

Fire Byrd deals with psychotherapy on a daily basis. her Blog is warm, frank and funny, and strong enough to be wide open on her own human frailty. She is an inspiration. Her posts on learning to know ourselves better are supported by her own learning curves - this is a journey we take together.  

Ngorobob House; Life on the Hill a romping rollicking rollercoaster of magical heart opening joy and wonder. Janelle and her three beautiful children, living on the side of a hill in Africa, with a cast of animals and spotty horses. This blog never fails to lift my spirits.

The Gold Puppy  Reya's daily postings from Capitol Hill;  subtle abstract imagery and sensitive thought provoking posts - always inspire and feed the soul;

Lori Times five beautiful posts from California's lovely coastal area - travelogues, journeys, walks, views, all bathed in golden light that shines from the lovely Lori;

Holey Vision  this blog always kicks my butt. The writers vision is disappearing in chunks yet she writes and observes and photographs and communicates the world around her with such upbeat humour and bravery, she makes it often  easy to forget just how difficult it is for her to achieve some of the things we take for granted.

Thanks again True Blue Texan for giving me the chance to highlight these special blogs.

PS. incase i havent got all the links quite right - please follow the links on my blogroll

oh and i cant seem to get the award pic to upload....please find it on True Blue Texans blog




Friday, April 24, 2009

last night and this morning


Last night was so quiet. The darkness speckled by millions of stars, yet so quiet I could hear the blood run in my own veins. No sounds of elephants browsing, ears flapping, rumbling as they move past the house; no predators calling in the distance or even close up. No mice in the kitchen or in the roof; no owls hooting to punctuate the dark. Where is everyone?


Sometimes its noise that keeps you awake. The persistent ticking of a clock, or a loved ones snoring.  But when its so quiet that all your ears can hear is the inner workings of your own system - it can also keep you awake.


The mind is full of mischief then. It gives you things to worry about. What if........? and what if..? toss and turn. Try and trick the self into thinking its asleep by adopting the pose and breathing deeply. As if someone had walked in the room and you wanted them to think the same. Can you fool yourself?


Apparently yes - because next I caught dawn stealing in wearing soft grey slippers. Ha - I was waiting for you! Beat off the mossie net and light the gas for coffee.

Get dressed hurridly - could only find one sock so that will have to do. Wash face and teeth; find shoes; pour coffee into go cups and out into the brand new day.


Light comes swiftly, tinting the world with pink and gold. Its good to be awake to catch this gift that comes free with a new day. Mist hovers in flat lines over the yellow grasses, moving all around us, fleeing the rising sun. Gold tipped clouds lead the way as fire and brimstone lifts its head between the distant palm trees.


Soft feathery pink grasses and silver grey sage bushes complement the rosy sky. We drive and drive into the back country looking for leopards and signs of lions.  Gnarled leadwood trees provide abstract shapes like a vast sculpture garden. Giraffe peer from behind bushes, termitaria, and distant trees; They are everywhere posing like super models, aloof and disdainful. Whoever heard of a giraffe migration? yet this is how it seems.



Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mad Cow Cutline

We are driving to Selinda. We have just passed through the lovely
linyanti riverine forest and are driving up the cutline that defines
the border of Chobe National Park and the private concession areas.
The sand track rolls out ahead of us like a bent and buckled gun-
barrel highway. Hemmed in on either side by dense green bush and
occasional tall mopane trees.

We pass a bright pool of water - remnant of the summer rains. A sky
blue pan with a small group of impala who raise their heads to watch
us pass. Ahead of us occasional herds of elephants cross from green
curtain to green curtain. The sky is a dome of deep blue, the horizon
is flat. The smell of sand and wild sage fills the air.

We are moving along at a steady pace, rhythmically rocking and rolling
with the dense sand of the track. Far in the distance we see an
elephant next to the road. She picks up her head and watches our
approach. As we draw near she raises her head and sways from side to
side focusing her attention alternatly on us, and a bull elephant who
slowly emerges from the bushes and strolls across the open cut line.

Once the bull has crossed, the cow elephant turns her full attention
on us. She puts her head down and starts running towards us
soundlessly. We start to back up as the gap closes suprisingly
quickly. She doesnt falter. Her ears are back but still flapping
slightly as she runs. Her eyes are focussed on us. There are no
trumpets of warning or mock charges - just a silent full speed run.

She looks remotely comical and undignified at this pace, but my
imagination does a forward leap and starts to picture how it will be
when she connects with our vehicle. We get the message. Reversing is
difficult because we are fully loaded with goods for the safari camps
and cannot see out the back windows.

At last she slows and so do we. We reverse onto the side in
preparation for a turn if necessary. There is a waiting period while
she decides whether to chase again. We watch and wait, willing her to
move off so we can continue with our journey. We still have a long way
to go.

Holding her head high, she draws herself up to her full height and
still watching us, starts to move off into the trees. We wait to see
her grey head emerge from between bushes. She hovers on the periphery.
Eventually we take the leap and decide to carry on. She sees us
passing and races out of the bushes again - erupting through the
trees, head down, running at us. But we are past this time and can
soon widen the gap between us. I watch her recede. She stops and
stands guard over that particular stretch of road. Waiting, I think,
for the next unsuspecting traveller.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Life by Numbers

END:VCARD

Waking up – running a full system check to see if I have finished sleeping – still undecided I become aware of the loud thunking of small feet on the tin roof. The monkeys are back! Up and down the roof they race – turning at the ends like Olympic swimmers. No no stop. I try unsuccessfuly to ignore them then realise with a start that I have an early appointment in town anyhow. Reluctantly, but speedily, I throw myself out of bed, beating off the mosquito net, and into the day.

Bath, dress, clock watch, make coffee in a go cup, load the car with all I need to take then pause….there is a group of ten giraffe at the end of the driveway. My leaving will disturb them and its just so so nice when the giraffe are hanging about the place.

Not to worry though as Rayson – our trusty man about the place – strode confidently into their midst to turn on the borehole pump.

Set off for town. Notice that the dam near the gate is shrinking fast – only a cluster of small pools remain. At the gate check for tracks, wrestle with the lock – these days we have to be more vigilant about locking gates – and head out into the morning traffic.

It's a clear bright day and the road is clear. Sweeping over rolling hills that present views of granite boulders and green tree canopies stretching to the blue Drakensberg Mountains, I arrive in town ahead of the crowd.

I head straight to the licencing department. They open at 730 and its best to get there as early as possible to avoid interminable queues. So far so good. I run a mental checklist – ID docs..yup; vehicle registration papaers..yup…cheque..yup….total file of every bit of relevant paper ever collected on the subject…yup; surely this cant go wrong. And look ma, no queue!! If I was a labrador my tail would be wagging.

But not so fast ….. are all the vehicles in my name? no. Well the owner has to sign the form here – marks a big cross with her pen on an open spot on the form. Nowhere does it say 'sign here' how was I to know?. Rats. Plead and beg and grovel to no avail. I have to go home again to collect the missing signatures. No worries – its only half an hour each way and increases my daily footprint on the planet by a lot.

How much of life is spent pursuing an endless papertrail that allows us to define ourselves by numbers? So far it has been a recurring theme for 2009. hurrmph.

Second time around and a small waiting period in the queue, and at last I was back in the sunshine. Vehicles licenced for another whole year. Perhaps next year I will get it right. Must remember the form signing bit!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

typically untypical



well blow me down! after my brave wintery words of yesterdays post it rained in the night - in what is becoming typical untypical behaviour from the rain gods. Today is a day of soft mists and gentle rain. The sound of droplets falling on the roof. Trees are dripping and grasses shimmering with diamante droplets again. Its a good thing. We need it. Winter rain.

The guinea fowl chicks had their first taste of freedom yesterday. We let them out in the morning and they were so excited. They immediately started chasing butterflies and grasshoppers. In a noisy cacophony of cheeps and peeps, the whole group were led by their vigilant parent birds into the koppies behind the house, where they could be heard noisily enjoying a natural foraging diet.

Sadly we lost one over easter weekend in a very unEaster like event.  We tried nursing and feeding and tending, but he was so weak he never really rallied.  RIP little chap. Now we have fifteen hale and hearty ones, but the urge to count heads never leaves. Yesterday there was a band of dwarf mongooses in the garden too.

Just before sunset the chicks emerged from the long yellow grasses, chirping all the way, and dutifully went back into the hock for the night. What a relief.

Monday, April 13, 2009

officially winter



So its official then. March 21st officially marks the start of Winter. A man in a suit announced on the news and right on cue, there is a cool nip in the air. The baobab trees around the house are starting to lose their leaves; grasses are dropping their seeds and turning yellow; dams and waterholes are drying up.  Wide blue skies are swept clean of clouds and defy rationale with their depth of colour. Picture postcard blue.

It seems strange to me that in these days of climate change, drought and flood, and weather behaving as it wants - not as history dictates - that winter should know to start on March 21st. Perhaps Winter is still of the old school and knows when to come and go - not like these young wipper-snapper rainy seasons that stay out all night and sleep all day - missing their appointments and thumbing their noses at calendar schedules.

Lions have moved closer to the house. They seem to be following the wildebeest. There is a pride of fifteen, including three small cubs, one older cub, all the way through to a magnificent dark maned male lion. Their ability to disappear in the tawny grasses never ceases to amaze. Black tips of tails, black ears, eyes, mouths - the only clues to the presence of someone you do not want to step on while walking.
Scorpio is rising in the night sky too. It is such a fabulous constellation and dominates the night skies of winter. It makes me think of wonderful places where I have looked at Scorpio emblazoned in the night sky.

Yesterday there was a spitting cobra in the laundry store room. The room is a chaos of boxes bags stretched canvases - it needs a spring clean. I was working in the office next door and heard munching sounds like a big rat chewing on something. I tiptoed in to try and trace the noise just in time to see the tip of a brown tail disappearing from view. We left him there to do his job hunting rats, making sure to close off his access to the house.

I love the change of seasons, its like the change from day to night - a changing of the guard as different species come to the fore. Time to move, travel and explore. Winter - when the sun is golden warm and the shadows are cold and blue. A time to cluster around the open fire and share tall tales with pals of old. A time when the thick blanket of torpid heat is lifted, and the air blows fresh and clean. Safari season.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

elephant dreams

Driving into the setting sun - molten gold spilling onto the warm tarmac. Elephant shapes moving steadily, rhythmically through the liquid light make shimmering silhouettes. The giant dome of the evening sky blooms with cumulus clouds tinted rose and silver. The last rays of sunlight slant through trees bent by aeons of elephants on their way to the Chobe River.

We arrive at Ngoma - the border between Botswana and Caprivi Strip. Floodwaters from Angola have filled the floodplains, catching the evening light and reflecting bright silver behind dark tree shapes.

The sun is gone. In the blink of an eye it is dark. Deep velvet darkness lit only by starlight. A scops owl chirps his rhythmic call and crickets fill in the background sound. The stage is set - let the night begin. Enter left a thirsty buffalo bull heading down the well worn path to water. In the distance an elephant screams and growls - unearthly sounds that leave a vaccuum when they stop. The ensuing silence brings its own tension and we listen for lion, or leopard - the super predators that own the night.

We hunker down in the comfort of our canvas walled hut, pulling up the blankets against the early winter chill. Night air moves freely over our faces through the large gauze windows that keep the insect mayhem at bay. We drift gently away to sleep.

Hours later - I am awake. The moon is up. Though sliced in half it is already as bright as day without the colour. Branches snap and break all around us. Elephants are feeding here. The sound of soft footfalls, and thorn brush scaping leathery hide tell me they are very close, but among the broken shadows of the monochrome landscape and behind the bushes, they are almost invisible. I can hear the wetness of their mouths chewing, but I cannot see them.

The munching and crunching sounds intensify and soon we are surrounded by a breeding herd of elephants. Trunks curl into the moonlight stripping the branches of leaves. Droppings fall softly, wetly, steaming in giant piles that look like fresh bran muffins. 

Elephant flatulence fills the air. The sound of it - the miasma that follows the sound. Elephant smells replace the soft fragrant night air that washes over us. So this is how it feels to be in the middle of the herd.

There is a throaty rumble from the matriarch that calls the herd, and one by one they drift off down the ravine, and we drift off to sleep again.

Dawn light steals in quietly layering colours on the landscape again. A francolin calls loudly near my ear and the distant sound of ground hornbills heralds the new day.