acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

post christmas post

I am sweeping up the tinsel, and washing all the pots and pans; putting christmas back in the cupboard for another year. Although with the race of time passing maybe I should just leave it all on the table?

Christmas day was cool and blustery with the occasional micro dot of a rain drop. K, myself, lovely niece and two chilled out pals had an enormously feasty day on turkey with all the trimmings, followed much later by mince pies and brandy butter (oh yes). Feeling very fortunate and blessed to be groaning from over-eating, and safely housed from the elements, in a wonderful spot with such special people.

The night after Christmas we had our first proper rainstorm of the season. Clouds moved in throughout the day. Some spat at us rudely, others just hung around in gangs. Heat and humidity built up all day, and finally heavy drops fell like pebbles on the roof, gathering strength until the thrumming din drowned out all other sound. Waterfalls cascaded off the wriggly tin, and foamy rivulets raced towards the dams.

Today the fish eagles have been feasting on bull frogs. A pair of eagles, fat as ticks, are perching sleepily by the dam nearest the gate having spent the day swooping down on the huge bullfrogs that emerged after the rain. I am hoping there are still enough there for the raucous frog party that usually follows a good rain. Then, the calls of bull frogs, rain frogs, foam nest frogs, and all the bubbling croaking cacophony reach such a crescendo that the sound fills your whole head. It is the best new years party on earth i am sure.

Looking ahead and wishing all the blogger fraternity an excellent and dream filled 2009. I have really enjoyed blogging with you these past months and thank you again for all your kind comments on mine – love them! Blog On!!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Miranda has tagged me in this record size meme – bumper issue for christmas I suppose! If you havent yet visited her blog - you must - its so fresh and funny and wise and original.

Since this meme has presented itself as a good distraction from what I should really be doing, I will give it a go.

Seven things to do before parents arrive:Well I don’t have parents anymore, and nor does K but my niece and boyfriend arrive next week so I’ll count her in:

Umm - was I supposed to do something?

Well firstly clean the cottage where they will stay – that’s important
Stock up on booze and food
I've already painted everything that doesn’t move – I may be hooked on fumes at this stage..
Tidy up house generally (should be done regularly anyway)
Finish this meme
Put lots of sleep in the bank
Check airport arrival times

Seven things I’ve been doing instead of preparing for christmas
Painting everything in sight that doesn’t move
Playing Scrabs on facebook
Doing bumper memes
Checking on facebook
Checking on google for mails from pals
Pretending Christmas is just a turkey lunch

Seven things I cant do this ChristmasFly to the moon to get cheese
Fly anywhere exotic or otherwise away
Make everyone have fun and be happy
Bake a cake (although that’s normal)
Play the piano (ditto)
Do the splits (ditto)
Wear a winter coat (too hot..aaagh)

Seven Christmas wishes
That everyone everywhere (including us) has a peaceful happy healthy one
That no-one feels lonely and left out
That everyone has enough to eat and drink
That that ‘secret issue’ goes well
That the Zimbabweans get their country back
That everyone is happy and has fun
That the power stays on – in every sense

Seven Things I say as Christmas approachesIs there enough wine?
Can anyone cook?
Theres a monkey in the kitchen
This is going to be fun
Oh my word
What day is it?
Is there enough wine? (did I say that?)

Seven Celebrities to invite for Christmas Dinner
Father Christmas – since he will be passing anyway
Jamie Oliver – to help with the cooking (did I say ‘help’?)
Why is this one so hard…….umm celebrities…let me think
Actually I’d rather invite you lot with all your special talents
Now that could be fun……….we will keep Jamie though

Seven Favourite Festive FoodsBrandy butter – have to agree
Gammon ham
Mango sorbet

Seven Bloggers to tag
you know who you are! c'mon then

Friday, December 12, 2008

mopane worms

The mopane worms have started. First the leaves turned green after the rain, and the heat cranked up a notch again adding humidity to the mix. Then somebody laid little tiny white eggs on the undersides of the leaves. Stacked together in rows they are apparently very sugary, and baboons and monkeys snack on them as sweet treats.
Obviously not enough though because suddenly the trees are dripping with mopane worms as all the little eggs are hatching.

I don’t know why they call them worms because they are more like big fat colourful caterpillars, but they emerge from these tiny eggs and start eating leaves straight away. Climbing on top of each other to reach the ends of the branches. They eat so much and so fast that you can almost see them growing before your eyes – if you stood there for a while. When they reach the end of the branch they drop to the ground and start marching caterpillar style to the next tree. Within days the largest is the size of my index finger. And the trees are stripped of leaves again – naked as they were at the height of the drought. Their first attempt at summer foliage is sacrificed to the needs of this hungry horde.

Mopane worms are the larvae of the Emperor Moth – a giant velvety moth that bats against the windows in the evenings of early summer. It comes in shades of pinks and browns – old rose colours – and has two enormous false eyes on its wings. The moths live for four or five days – long enough to produce a batch of eggs. The eggs become mopane worms who feed voraciously and then burrow underground to pupate through winter.

All along the road side bakkies are now parked in the shade of the trees, and locals – mostly women – head off into the mopane forest with huge buckets to collect mopane worms. Carrying the buckets on their heads, they are draped in colourful cloth skirts and often wear rubber gloves. These worms are not easy to pick up – their holding devices would put a hyena’s jaws in the shade. Well that may be a slight exaggeration but they have little black legs and feet, and if you need to pick them off your shirt you have to really pull – and you cant squeeze at the same time because in the middle they are incredibly soft and squishy.

They are colourful characters, these worms. Aside from the black feet and legs, their bodies are patterned with dayglo reds, greens and blues – in varying amounts, so that each is quite individual. They are also somewhat spikey. You will find some that are predominantly red, others softly blues and greens – but all are entirely focussed on their job which is to eat every green leaf in the mopane forest.

Once a bucket full is picked, the women will gather under a shade tree, and squeeze each worm like a tube of toothpaste to remove the stomach and innards. It’s a messy business. When the bucket is full, the women return to the road and their harvest is collected and taken away to be dried or smoked. Dried mopane worms can be eaten as a snack, or later soaked and fried or put into a stew. I tried a dried one once – just a little bit – and it tasted like leaves to me, but some say they taste like honey roast chicken…… You try and let me know what you think.

Although entirely seasonal they are an important source of food, and income for many who live in the mopane belt – across southern Africa. They are low cost, and low maintenance – yet high protein. But as with so many other species in the food chain they are vulnerable to over-harvesting.

Mopane worms are fair game for the human population – they don’t belong to anyone, so collection times become more manic than christmas shoppers in the Mall. They can be seen inching their wormy way across the sizzling tar road, and where the crossing places are busiest – this is where the trucks and bakkies stop to start their day.

I googled the worms for your sake and was impressed to find they have their own website which has a lot of info on the local trade – and there are even some recipes around…..

Thursday, December 11, 2008

cattle rustlers

It was a sunny day in the lowveld. After lunch I was catching up on mails, when K announced he was going to Hoedspruit to buy molasses for the wildlife. He planned to put two feeding spots near the house so we could see the kudu, and eland etc coming to slurp the syrupy substance – sweet relief from the parched veldt.

On the way to Hoedspruit, his friend H phoned, or his son actually. They had some cattle stolen off their farm near Gravelotte. Another farmer had tracked them through the cut fences and found the cattle, but he wanted us to go and see if any were his, and if so how many. H had left his farm at Gravelotte only the day before, because there were reports of poaching on his game farm near Witbank – four hours drive away.

So we quickly finished our shopping and raced over the Gravelotte. There followed several hours driving around the area, visiting farms, and trying to track down the missing cattle. Stories varied – it was hard to know how many exactly, and even harder to find out at which farm they were now being held.

We bumped into a farm manager, J, who was on the same mission having lost 36 cattle already this month to cattle rustlers. We swapped cell phone numbers with J, only to find our cell phone was running out of power and we had no charger with us. We made a vow to always carry torches, phone chargers, first aid kits and tools, for such emergencies but it didn’t help us then as we had none of the above with us.

We went to visit the farmer who had alerted H to the problem initially. Driving into his farm we passed sleepy cattle, their soft looking hides falling in folds around their necks. Then we crossed a cattle grid that separated the game section. Young giraffe blocked the road, and had to be encouraged to move. Further on huge herds of dainty impala trekked to feeding spots across dusty ground. At the house a massive flock of wild guinea fowl competed with free range chickens for grain. Two brown dogs came bounding out of the garden, tongues flapping in the wind, to throw themselves enthusiastically at the visitors. One received a hearty slap for his troubles, and then was much more manageable. The farmer was out, but his maid came to the gate and the tri-lingual discussion began to try and establish some basis to the missing cattle story.

Collecting H’s cattleman, Wellington, an old fellow in ragged red overalls, we followed vague leads over to the Makutsi region. The sun set, darkness settled faster. We feared the worst, as the rustlers were bound to return to collect ‘their’ cattle that same night. We searched the sand road for signs, until we reached the main tar road to Tzaneen. Returning empty handed and dispirited, we bumped into J, who had spoken to the Police and had confirmation of the whereabouts of the herd. Bakkies raced back and forth in the inky darkness raising clouds of red dust. Another farm manager, name of C, led us to the kraal where the cattle were, but it appeared they had been released again and taken to a far corner of the farm – allegedly by the rustlers who had probably slept the day in the bush nearby.

We sat by a waterhole while C and J searched the farm, spotlight beams slicing the night. A clear Milky Way stretched unhindered over our heads. Fireflies winked over the water, mimicking the stars, and frogs croaked the onset of summer.

Leaving Wellington to herd the cattle to the gate again, having borrowed a torch from C, we drove to Lourene lodge to use their phone to call H and give him an update. There the owners were happy to tell us that they could have stopped the whole thing if their staff had told them sooner. They expanded on the problems of stock theft, and fears that a syndicate is controlling it. Over 400 head of cattle have been stolen in the area recently. That is big business for someone. Many of the farms have absentee owners, or are so large that it is easy to work one section without being seen.

H arrived, having driven from Witbank. We returned to find Wellington already on the road with nine cows slowly walking along. We followed at a snails pace. K and I in two vehicles were using our lights to show them the way. H and Wellington were walking with the cattle. H’s long spare form slipped easily into a pace of walking that told of a lifetime of walking with cattle. The long horns of the two Afrikaner cows illuminated in the headlights, with the younger calves trotting alongside.

It was slow traveling. The cattle already tired from the last 24 hours antics, having walked some 100kms from their home farm to the place where they were held. Eventually we reached Lourene’s horse camp, and ushered them in there for the night, thankfully driving on home. Drove into our gates at 1am. After a cup of tea, I went to bed and left the men to see in the dawn over a few bottles of wine.
This morning they have gone to finish the great cattle trek and bring the poor creatures’ home to Gravelotte.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Christmas Angst

Christmas is coming and it should be fun right? One thing I am looking forward to is the visit from my lovely niece who is coming out for two whole weeks. We always have so much fun.

Otherwise, Christmas fills me with a kind of angst. Its all the expectations I think. Cards to write. Shopping for gifts when the shops are full of manic shoppers on buying sprees. Getting everything posted in time. The food, the drinks, events to organise to make sure everyone has fun. – and knowing its impossible to make everyone have fun.

Childhood Christmas’s are now viewed through a rosy lens, soft focus. The excitement; the countdown, carols by candlelight, long winter evenings with log fires; walks on frozen mud lanes beneath stark winter trees. Glowing noses and cheeks.
My father’s birthday was christmas eve and was always a separate celebration – birthday cake, separate presents ; Family dinner at a nice restaurant, then the Watch Night service at the local church. Trying to sleep but waking up oh so early. Never early enough to beat my sister downstairs though. Stockings at the end of the bed packed with goodies, and always a Satsuma (naartjie) at the toe.

Fast forward through the years and many bright and sparkling African Christmases with friends and families. Sunlight bouncing in shards off tinsel and shiny decorations; plenty of booze and feasty food; swimming pools and gigantic tropical downpours. So it should be something to look forward to right? So why this nameless dread?

The last christmas I shared with my father was his 80th birthday in Wales. We stayed in some farm cottages. The owners warned us that the man in the next cottage was hiding from Christmas so we must not greet him, or invite him round. He just wanted to be alone with his books until it was over. How many people feel like this? Is Thanksgiving the same?

Really it is one day, but for some it is the loneliest time of the year. The longest 24 hours in the calendar. So I shall spare a thought for those who have no-one to spend the time with. For whom another Christmas brings back painful memories and get on with writing some cards. Oh yes! Theres always the e-card….hehe

Friday, November 28, 2008

more mundane

I am feeling that Billys Story is a tough one to follow. So in the eternal balance of things I am going to write about mundane, day to day stuff.

Yesterday I painted the office. What a relief. I didn’t really mean to get into an epic, but had the paint in waiting, and started to dab at the worst bits, thinking I could progress slowly moving around the room – shifting mountains of paper and computer parts as I went.

However Rayson appeared at the door, caught me red handed and the whole thing turned professional from then on. Good thing really. Rayson is our life support system. He runs this place. He knows how everything works and if we want to make structural changes, at this stage we ask him first. He is a Shangaan from this area, and a man of few words – except when he is on his own…. He talks to himself. I have heard him many times, and assumed he had visitors – but not so. He is one of those rare people that seems content with his own company. When he gets tired of that, which is not too often, he goes visiting next door, or home to Guyani.

He stepped into the room and rolled his eyes. I blustered about saying ‘no its ok, if we start here we can move this stuff over there and then back again as we go around’. As usual he ignored me and decided it was better to move EVERYTHING. Its not a big room – about five meters square? But there is a LOT of stuff in there… paper, files, books, gadgets, CDs, cameras blah blah more and more stuff. I started bagging everything and soon the rest of the house was full and the office was empty -
except for the big table and a mountain in the middle.

There was the familiar crash on the roof and thundering footsteps as the monkeys paid us a visit. Most of the troop are off feeding in the new summer green, but there is one male who thinks we should still be on the circuit. Now and again I hear K shouting as the monkey had found his way into the house. Then a female with a new baby came with a troop of youngsters. She sat outside patiently feeding her baby – its little grey face peeping out of her fur, watching the older ones play grandmothers footsteps with me at the door. No guys – this is not a game – don’t come in here ok.

It was a hot hot day and the monkeys made themselves comfortable on the cushions on the stoep. Some underneath on the cool cement, some languishing in comfort on pillows. Whilst Rayson and I sweated away in the tiny office slapping paint on tired walls.

The warthogs have completely dispersed too. There is one very pregnant female who now looks more like a pot bellied pig than a warthog. Her babies must be due soon then she will have a train of little chipolatas following her around. Leopard bait – so she will have to be uber-vigilant.

Our lawn is trying to recover. Bright needles of green are springing up, though it is taking longer than the surrounding veld. In the evening there is a herd of impala that sleep near the house. We see their white tails fluttering like bunting in the grey light. The males have started rutting already and race around chasing each other making that weird noise like tearing cardboard.

The office is now finished. The colour came out much whiter than intended – more a soft ivory than a stone/suede colour but its fine and fresh and light. The big old table is painted blue and several crate loads of rubbish have been carted out. It’s a great feeling.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Africa book list

Reya has been asking about books to read that give you a feel for living in Africa. So here is a quick list of recent reads that I enjoyed. I have skipped all the classics, and I am sure many newer ones that I have forgotten, and have also omitted any that I havent personally read yet. If anyone has any more suggestions please feel free to add.

Don’t Lets Go To The Dogs Tonight by Alexander Fuller (loved it; Zimbabwe times)

Scribbling the Cat by Alexander Fuller (fascinating)

Rules of the Wild by Francesca Marciano (modern life Nairobi - great read)

When a Crocodile Eats the Sun by Peter Godwin (tragic tale of Zimbabwe today)

Dark Star Safari by Paul Theraux (great travel writing)

Africa House by Christina Lamb (fascinating history of unique place in Zambia)

The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden (Uganda - Amin regime - did you see the movie?)

Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver (missionary family in Congo - wonderful)

Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott (childhood in Botswana - great read)

The No1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith (lovely gentle tales)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Billys story

I wrote this at the height of the drought a month or so ago. Am not sure if its appropriate but it is an African story so here goes...

It’s a hot afternoon. The warthogs fix me with a beady stare trying to induce me to feed them early and more often. Monkeys pound the tin roof hoping for a share of anything that’s going, or can be opportunistically snatched.

Billy drives in on his way home from the bush. I offer him a cold beer and we sit on the stoep catching up on news. As we talk he tells a story that has recently happened in his area and is a symptom of the changing times, the drought and what happens when humans and animals compete in the same areas for the same resources. It is an African story – where humans meet wild animals at ground level. It is a story that has its roots in the history of life on earth and echoes way down through the eons of time..

It was October in Mozambique – suicide month. The ground baked and shimmered like last nights coals. The young women of the village had to walk far to collect water, and firewood. In the breathless heat, they walked slowly, chatting and laughing together as they spoke of the web of lives that held the village together. Boyfriends, husbands, children , old folk – friends and enemies. It was all there in a rich pageant. Their bare feet, hardened by years of earth walking, sink gently into the quartzy sand with each step where city feet would recoil from heat. Their mahogany skin shining as heat drew moisture from their personal reserves.

In the forest up ahead a breeding herd of elephants moved restlessly in search of water to drink and bathe; leaves and bark to browse. The green grasses of summer a distant memory – food is scarce – water is scarce – the way to each is fraught with danger. Youngsters hurried next to the giant stride of their mothers – their footsteps marking out a regular rhythm. Despite the quiet urgency of their passage a pack of scrawny village dogs races out to bark and chase them. Villagers, alerted, start banging pots to chase the herd away. The headman reached for his rifle. In the drowsy heat he does not want the elephants in his village, raiding his crops; terrorising his family.

The matriarch streams moisture from her temporal gland. Already under stress, she starts to panic. If she doesn’t lead the herd to water or food, the calves will start to drop.

The women are coming over the rise. They are in sight of the village but they are watching the road; carrying heavy loads of firewood or drums of water balanced on their heads – bringing it home to their families. They do not see the elephants.

The matriarch hears their lively chatter. She feels trapped, under pressure. She mock charges – kicking sand in the air. Hoping to stop the approach of the women until her herd has crossed the road safely away from the village. The women do not see her.
She mock charges again – kicking a spray of sand into the torpid air. Still the women do not see her. She has to charge. Anger rises with fear and she can no longer stop herself. She puts her head down and starts to run – covering the ground with a speed that belies her size.

Too late the women look up. They scatter, dropping wood and water – running running. The matriarch has them in her sights – she closes on them quickly and all her panic fear and anger is raged upon one unlucky girl – like a floodgate opened.

Billy is called to the village. The girl has been trampled to death.. but more than that… her body parts are scattered far and wide. Her head is off; her legs are thrown carelessly 50m from her torso. Arms also severed. A killing spree. The village is outraged – anger and fear peaking in their clamour for revenge. Billy must track the elephant – shoot it.

The police arrive. Billy must first find the body parts. No, his job is to find the elephant – the police must look to the victim. No-one wants that job. The police gather what they can and leave. Billy goes with a tracker from the village. Its more than 40C and they follow the track for hours until finally they lose sight of it amongst the rocks.

Returning to the village the funeral is already in process. They must bury the girl quickly in this heat. The mother is keening her grief; on seeing Billy she wails louder moving close to his vehicle – her cries an outpouring of grief that must run its course. Billy and the tracker are exhausted – the heat and dehydration taking their toll. They have walked far into the bush, following tracks at a fast pace - only realising how far they had gone when they turned to walk back.

Before he can leave, he must go to meetings to discuss the death by elephant, and the conflict between people and the animals of the national park. It is a conflict as old as Africa itself and still no-one has come up with an effective solution. As human populations increase, encroaching more and more into wildlife areas, so the conflicts intensify.

A week later, an elephant is crop raiding at the village. Billy has to shoot it. The elephant falls 40m from the grave of the young girl. Its not the same elephant but honour is somehow satisfied for now.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lori's thanksgiving meme

Lovely Lori has suggested a new meme version of the wierd and random one -
"Since Thanksgiving is right around the corner and it is one of my favorite times of the year, can we start a Meme that lists the 7 things we are Thankful for?"

OK the main ones are always my fantastic family of friends – I am SO lucky that they hang in with me, and keep me sane when I think I’m not, laugh at my jokes, share their troubles and joys and families. That’s a big thank you for that.

I am thankful for my health, despite some of the abuse I have laid on my body – I m still here and I am thankful for that; that I can see, and hear, and smell and taste and walk about, read, write, speak, - ok I’ll leave out singing and dancing!

When I went caving recently – not properly, just wandering about underground following a piece of string – I was REALLY thankful to get back into the fresh air and sunlight! I am thankful to be alive on this beautiful planet, with the opportunities to explore remote and beautiful places of Africa.

I am thankful that I have enough to eat and drink, and a roof over my head ;

I am thankful I had such wonderful parents

I am thankful for my very interesting life which is sometimes challenging but never dull;

I am thankful for the opportunity to get to know all of you in the blogging fraternity and share windows on your lives in so many different places in the world! you uplift and inspire me in so many ways;

Oh is that 7 already? Guess I have so much more to be thankful for that the list could go on and on.
Anyhow I tag anyone who wants to do this meme -but I name these three - Karen at Border Town Notes;
Chesapeake Bay Woman
; and Katherine from the Last Visible Dog


Friday, November 21, 2008

bookshelf meme

Bookshelf meme

Rob of Inukshuck Adventures over in Canada has tagged me on this here goes... Do visit his site - its a fabulous window on life in Toronto.

The rules:
(a) Fiction book(b) Autobiography(c) Non-fiction book(d) A fourth book of your choice from any genre.Explain why the books are essential reads in no more than 30 words per book.

1 Firstly, The Secret Life Of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd has to be one of my all time favourites. I have bought several copies and passed them on. Not only does it appeal to my long term fascination with bee-keeping and farming; but it also embraces those who feel marginalised and celebrates the healing power of love across the social barriers. I also love the symbolism, and setting, the characters; and of course the bees.

2 Then there is Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts……… Although billed as fiction it is, I believe, also the story of his life so I hope it qualifies. Rivetting descriptions of the chaotic warmth of Mumbai slum lands, and an epic tale of survival overcoming so many mountainous odds.

3 Anatomy of the Spirit by Carolyn Myss – because I am fascinated with energy healing and this deals with the interconnectedness of mind, body and spirit – how spiritual and emotional stresses can manifest in the physical body. It’s a great reference book to go back to again and again.

4 Twenty Chickens for a Saddle by Robyn Scott – I read this recently. It’s a story about an unusual African childhood in Botswana. Various issues of African life seen through the eyes of a young girl whose father is a doctor, and whose mother is a committed homeopath – and all the many characters they encounter inside the family and out. Wonderful reading!

Lastly I ‘d love to tag everyone because I always love to hear of new reads. But as I'm supposed to tag 4 I choose Angela, Adrianne, Katherine and reluctant memsahib

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Summer Cold

I have been battling with a summer cold since we arrived in Selinda. Can you believe it! I haven’t had a cold in years and now in celebration of the start of true summer I am walking around sneezing and croaking, and taking med lemon at night. Hah.
At first I thought it might be an allergy or hay fever, but it just carries on – not getting worse nor better. ho hum.

Yesterday was a day of storms. Great atmospheric benefactors cruised all around us distributing their heavy loads of purple rain to thirsty grasslands and animals. Pans are replenished, and fresh green leaves sprouting forth like a miasma of neon gasses softening the landscape.

Impala nurture their increasing nursery of young; tsessebe too have softly pliant youngsters in tow. Tsessebe are the fastest antelope of all despite their almost ungainly appearance and extraordinary colouring of burgundy red, with tawny flanks and purple overlays. Their youngsters are the colour of yellow grass – a perfect camouflage like lions – in the half light they are invisible. I wonder why the adults bothered to change colour at all except maybe to find each other after a long run.

This morning three wildebeest galloped past the house like forwardly mobile rocking horses. The first wildebeest had a tiny newborn calf running at its flank like a miniature shadow in brown.

The elephants are still looking a little on the thin side. Pelvic bones protruding and in some cases rib cages visible through toughened hides. With green grass starting to appear they are feasting again and soon will not have to travel so far between feeding grounds and water. Although eating tiny grass shoots is like feeding a hungry giant with a teaspoon.

Today started fresh and cool, but as the sun rose half way up the sky, humidity began a sudden climb. We are surrounded by purple storm clouds again behind the bright sunlight. Thunder grumbles and groans as if the clouds are complaining about the weight they have to carry now. Grey veils of falling rain trail behind them leaning left or right with the prevailing wind.

We have planted many of the new baby trees around the house. Most of them are baobabs and so will probably outlast both us and the house before they reach maturity. However, our plan to rehabituate the forest island, which has been depleted by hungry elephants, is at last in progress.

Planting new trees is a very satisfactory pastime. Especially when in semi urban areas such as Kasane, and the rural villages around it, there seems to be a campaign to bring down as many of the giant hardwoods and riverine forest as possible. A big shade tree acts as an environmental coolant equal to up to twenty air conditioning units at a time.

One would think in a continent of extreme heat and desertification, shade trees would be valued as much as rivers and waterways. However, on our way out of town this week we passed a place near Kavimba where a whole stand of massive umbrella thorn trees (acacia tortillas) have been ring barked presumably to make way for a small field.

While I am at it, I have another sad tale to share – blame it on the summer cold! The kasane rubbish dump has been an eyesore for years, with unmanaged dumping of waste plastics, tins bottles and all manner of soft and hard ware. It is now under extensive remodelling but the problems persist.

Situated on the main road leading to the entrance of Chobe National park it has become a source of attraction for wildlife species that live on the edge of the town. Marabou Storks, baboons, hyenas, honey badgers, vultures and even elephants can be seen there rooting amongst the plastic bags that drift around the periphery.
Recently elephant droppings have been found containing plastic bags, and last week three elephants died of gastro intestinal blockages due to plastic waste. Shame on us all!

Plastic bags are such useful items but they must be disposed of properly. I hate that dolphins and turtles mistake them for jelly fish in the sea and also die as a result of ingesting the indigestible material. Now we can add our magnificent elephant friends to the toll of human toxic waste. When will we ever learn that we cannot exist alone in a desert on this wonderful planet?

Friday, November 14, 2008


Whichever way you looked at it we were stuck. We were coming back from a trip to the nearest town, Kasane. And eight hour trip each way. We had stayed an extra day in kasane due to rain there – we felt we might be pushing our luck to set off in rain even if the chances of encountering some on the way were high.

We made it through the villages and down the park boundary without getting stuck either in sand or mud; the rain was kind to us and although we saw some fabulous storms all around, it held off and we were making reasonable time. After rain the thick sand ridges are easier to drive on, as they become harder. The mud however makes up for this by becoming a glutinous slimey mass of squidged up tracks and old elephant holes covered by water. These are known as ‘pans’ and we call the black sticky mud ‘cotton soil’ – I’m not sure why? – but it is rock hard in the dry season and lumpy to travel over; turning to buttery glue-clay during the rains.

We passed the half way mark, turning onto the transit road through the private concessions. 4km later and we stopped at a particularly tricky crossing, trying to find a bit of firm ground to drive across the pan. We were so nearly there, and then the car just slid sideways disappearing into the biggest hole – so deep the exhaust was under water.

We knew straight away that anything we tried would make it worse, but action is always better than nothing so we got busy. We jacked and dug, and put wood and grass under the wheels – using every technique we could think of, but we just slid further and further in. I took my shoes off to wade into the mud and started to dig out the back wheel.. It was encased in sludgy clay. The stuff was so incredibly sticky that I battled to get each load off the spade. I had visions of us being a fossil find of the future. If this clay dried out we would be a permanent fixture.

Lucky us though! Three hours later and one of the big supply trucks that brings stuff out to the safari lodges came around the corner. How lucky was that? It could have been days!

Anyhow with more digging, pushing, and tying a few ropey lengths together (in the absence of a proper tow rope); attaching the pulling power of a massive truck… and we were rewarded with the wonderful sight of the vehicle popping out of its hole – hurrah!

In the two days we had been away, the new mopane leaves were out. The afternoon sun backlit bright dayglo colours of greens, peachy oranges and pinks on every gnarled mopane scrub, stump or branch. Like fluttery flags celebrating rebirth and renewal after the baptism of first rain.

Into this colour fest, the impala have dropped their young. All legs, ears and inquisitive eyes, they skitter and prance through a world ablaze with luminous greens, and air screaming with the sounds of cicada beetles. Surely they think this is how it always is?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

random wierd meme

A hot still day. Cotton wool balls of clouds ranged around the horizon under an upturned blue glass bowl of a sky. On the footpath tiny red fluffy beetles have appeared after the rain – velvet dust mites. They look so cute and festive as they go about their dust mite business.

Katherine and Angela have both tagged me to reveal seven random and or weird things about myself. Well I am glad we are not talking anatomical features here!

And here are the rules:
1. Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 facts about yourself - some random, some weird.
3. Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blogs.
4. Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blogs.

1. When there is thunder in the air I get incredibly sleepy ; sometimes I can hardly keep my head up.
2. I am a bookaholic – and have to have a reading book with me at all times. I have just finished The Five People you Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom; and am now reading Three Cups of Tea by Greg Morgensen; I like books so much I give all the best ones away immediately. Then sometimes I wish I could read them again.
3. I had a pet suricat called Mafuta – he came to us as a problem child from his previous owners. He was lots of fun but soon he started biting everyone except me. He liked to sleep in my bed holding onto my ankle really tight – I guess they do that in suricat families – sleep holding each other tight.
4. I own an inch of a totem pole somewhere in British Columbia, Canada. It was a present from an Aunt and Uncle and there is a certificate to prove it. I think I must go and check on my property one day.
5. I nearly ended up in a crocodiles tummy one really hot day in Zimbabwe on top of chizarira escarpment. The whole landscape was burned and we came across a fresh water spring. ‘surely there cant be any crocodiles in here!’ famous last words – as I bent down to splash myself with cold water there was a noise behind me; I saw the look on k’s face – he says he shouted – I turned to see the underbelly of the croc as it decided I was too big a mouthful after all and had risen out of the water and turned back in midair. That’s when I learned to walk on water too but it was only for then;.
6. I don’t like throwing jam jars or containers away because they might be useful for something – and they usually are – but sometimes there is a pile up.
7. When I was in mozambique last time, a fish jumped out of the water and hit me on the head, knocking my sunglasses clean off and into the water. I didn’t notice at first because I was too busy rubbing the place where it had hit me. I tried to find them but the current had taken them away.

Enough she cried – now your turn.

I tag Rob inukshuk adventures
Adrianne bodhi tree
Reya the gold puppy
Fire byrd
Crystal jigsaw

Absolute vanilla
Karen border town notes

Saturday, November 8, 2008

first rain

Midday heat lies like a thick wool blanket over every living thing; flattening energy, making it difficult to move or think. Animals move slowly deliberately across the scene heading for water because they have to. A kori bustard – shelters under a small candle pod acacia bush in stark silhouette. We snooze at midday and wake soaked in sweat.

We are in the Selinda Reserve, northern Botswana. Yellow grasslands scented with wild sage surround islands of tall trees, and bright blue waterways weave their way along ancient channel beds. Big game country – land of elephants, buffalos, lions, and all the migrant antelope and grazers – safari land.

In the office, staff are betting on when the first rains will fall. On the notice board amongst the orders and rotas, a list of dates – some well past already separating the optimists from the pessimists. An electric fan stirs the turgid air but doesn’t cool. Perspiration runs down every face but the buzz of the safari industry does not allow the pace to stop.

We arrived in camp the evening before after a long drive through thick hot sand from Shakawe. If ever I complain about heat again I shall think of the man that works at the Veterinary Gate – guarding against foot and mouth outbreaks – living in a dome tent miles from anywhere in a sea of baking hot sand and burnt sticks of trees. Two hours after we left Saronga on the Okavango River, we had been heading roughly northeast on an ever diminishing track. The last village a few grass huts, and a bushman family with more small children than visible adults. An old grandmother attempted discipline on two young girls; while her son – wearing a woollen balaclava despite the heat – put us back on the right track.

At the Veterinary Gate the officer in charge climbs out of his dome tent into the midday blast of heat. He brings us an A4 exercise book divided into columns. In this we must write drivers name, date, vehicle registration number, where we are coming from, where we are going to, then a signature which he must endorse with is own signature. Beaded sweat droplets are pouring down his face but he has his uniform overalls on and is there to check if we are carrying any meat or livestock over the fence.

The issue of rain is on everyone’s minds and lips. We tell him that we heard there was rain in Shakawe the night before so perhaps it will arrive here soon. We all look at the wide blue sky and pure white heat of the horizon before shielding our eyes again.

On and on for hours and hours through windy sand tracks – rocking and rolling, lashed by bare branches and sticks. We stop to help a broken down truck. “Can you help – our battery is f.cked” They have been stuck in the sticks for five hours. We dole out cups of water to thirsty people and join in the jubilation when the truck is jump started from our battery.

The heat builds and builds through the night and the next day. By mid afternoon a gentle breeze becomes a wind, gaining strength and whipping up leaves. The white horizon begins to take the form of clouds building. We scarcely dare hope and superstition abounds – if we close the car windows we might chase the rain away.
By evening the scent of rain is on the air, distant thunder rolls as the celestial furniture moving company drops a piano down the stairs. Lightening skitters and dances but we are cautious – this rain storm is not yet ours. By nightfall, the curtains are horizontal – drops hit the roof, increasing to a watery thrumming; waterfalls cascade off the tin roof and make myriad tiny water features on the wooden deck. IT’S RAINING.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Barbel Run

Barbel Run and other matters…

Wow – well I have just been able to connect to the internet and blogland for the first time in nearly two weeks and have feasted on all the wonderful blogs I have missed. Well not all as I am on borrowed internet time here so feel I have to be hasty. So I copied some to a file to read later.

After all the months of campaign rhetoric and politicking, the American elections kind of caught us by surprise. We had just arrived in camp that evening. We were listening to the news on the satellite radio as voting started and then the power went down as the generator was turned off for the night. For the first time ever I missed having a TV here. By morning it was all over. How quick was that?? Snippets on the radio, and shared info tell of a world in celebration. Its an exciting time – and our thoughts are raising a toast to our friends across the sea.

While world events twist and turn, smaller dramas occur along the dark waterways of one of Africa’s great river systems.

Barbel are huge whiskered catfish – dwellers in the murkey depths; like big smooth skinned eels with wide flat heads they have the ability to ‘walk’ on land to fresh water should their existing pools dry up.

We are in the Okavango Delta in Botswana working on the houseboat - the river sliding by, sparkling bright between tall reeds and acres of lush green papyrus. Water lily leaves form a mosaic around the boat between which occasionally small fish flash through sunlit patches. The sun bakes everything it can touch turning the wooden deck to a griddle pan.

Down river a flock of white birds fly up, circling, landing, flying up again. Steadily they draw closer and soon they are accompanied by a sound like water running over rapids. A fish eagle cries from the riverine forest and the watery gurgling sounds become a cacophony of smacking splashing noises. Barbel shapes break the surface all along the edge of the reeds, tails and heads – mouths agape. The barbel run is on.

This seasonal event draws fishermen from around the world, and fires the imagination of anyone interested in natural events. The Okavango delta is the worlds only inland delta as the river waters fan out into the Kalahari basin creating a jewel like maze of palm tree islands, floodplains and meandering waterways.

Once a year, as flood waters start to drop, the fish that have been breeding in the sanctuary of the dense papyrus and reed beds are forced back into the mainstream. This stimulates a feeding frenzy amongst the barbel who gather to feast on this new influx. In turn the birds feast on the periphery of the boiling pot – great white egrets, squacco herons, green backed herons, slaty egrets, purple herons, white herons, whiskered terns, pied kingfishers, cormorants, yellow billed kites - and crocodiles feast on the barbel. On the tailing edge of all this commotion are the tiger fish – our ultimate predator fish.

The bright white egrets move all along the activity zone competing for optimum positions; resting on huge green pompoms of papyrus – their white plumage dazzling against the green; suddenly all take off at once and we are surrounded by a flurry of white like giant snowflakes whirling around us – reflecting white shapes on the disturbed water.

For twenty four hours the air around us is filled with the sounds of smacking gurgling splashing water, the raucous cries of the flocks of herons and egrets, and the whisper of wind through the reeds. But the procession is ever moving, and finally the gurgling slows to an occasional splash, the frantic flocks wheel on further upstream, and the river resumes its steady dark progress.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

where am i?

We are in northern Botswana -our feet in Kalahari sand under a wide arcing sky. Rain is all around us. This morning the crump of thunder reverberates and the bull frogs are going crazy in the channel with their rhythmic calls.

We are staying in a wooden house perched on an anthill overlooking a grassy floodplain. Elephants buffalo giraffe and others walk past here on their way to drink at Lake Zibidianja at the head of the Savuti channel. This area is known as Selinda and we are in the Selinda Reserve. On Google earth we are just off the southern most point of Caprivi Strip on the Botswana side.

As Botswana is primarily a desert country, these northern waterways are critical to the survival of many wildlife species that migrate here as inland waterholes dry up during the winter. An ancient channel bed known as the Spillway links the Selinda area with the Okavango Delta. In years of good flood waters an arm of water reaches out from either side, and locals speculate on whether the Spillway will ‘flow’ again should the two arms connect.

Lake Zibidianja is fed by the Kwando River which flows in from Angola – as the waters leave the lake the river becomes known as the Linyanti. This river with two names forms part of the border between Botswana and Namibia. At the southern point of the Lake is the Savuti Channel – another ancient river bed that has a history of drying up for fifty years, then flowing again, then drying up. Apparently this is due to the slightest shift in the tectonic plates that underpin this country. Recently water has been pushing into the channel again bringing the kiss of life to forgotten hippo pools and water bird habitats.

We left the drought stricken lowveld ten days ago and drove up to Maun, the safari capital of Botswana. Here we spent a few days reconnecting with old pals and catching up on news and safari anecdotes before driving up the west side of the Delta to an island near Ikoga where we keep our houseboat, the Catfish Running. With daytime temperatures in the middle 40’s being on the river was probably the best place to be! We had arranged to meet with Dan there who was coming to fit the steering and hydraulics; and later with Denis who was to help us fix wonky planks on the decks, and install decking to the front and rear (fore and aft?); Before they arrived however we had the river to ourselves and found, as luck would have it, that we were in the epicentre of a barbel run. But that’s another story for the next posting …

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Botswana bound

We are off to Botswana tomorrow. Today has been spent catching up, closing off, sorting and packing – watched by the manic monkeys at every turn. This morning I was awake early – not because I had finished sleeping, but because I thought I heard RAIN. I did. A gentle sprinkle but at least something. A start to the rainy season perhaps?

With the ground so hard and dry, a gentle start would be better – or so they say. But I had in mind something more dramatic – a tropical downpour that would fill the dams and flood down the roads; that frogs would party in and grass would start to grow again covering the bald barren earth. With luck it will happen soon and we will return to a lush jungle…sigh.

The packing list includes bedrolls, tent, road food, books, papers, cameras, laptop, fishing gear, medical box, puncture repair kits and assorted tools, and –oh yes, clothes. It’s hard to pack with days ricocheting between blasting heat and winter winds.

I am looking forward to sparkling rivers, elephants in the road, smell of wild sage in the open plains, forest alive with glossy starlings, and nights that belong to owls and cats. So dear friends, my next post will be from there!

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'd like to thank...

Well blow me down.. the very kind and lovely Katherine from NZ - sorry i still dont know how to do links... has generously awarded me the above!!! whoa - THANKS KATHERINE. Funny how awards do mean something after all.
I remember being impressed with Helen Mirren when she took the stage at a glittering event to receive a big award. Instead of the usual train of platitudes and gratitudes she said something like 'my greatest achievement so far has been to make it up the steps in these heels without falling over!' ha funny and i can really relate to that feeling if not to the actual glamour of the event.
anyhow its now my turn to pass it on to seven more blogs that I love, enjoy and enrich my mind, heart and soul.... so here goes in no particular order - on my. do i HAVE to choose!
The Times of Miranda - (wish i could do links!) for being the person who introduced me to the blogosphere and inspires me with her fresh funny enthusiastic and original outlooks on life
Fleeing Muses - - Tam, for her deeply soul searching, thought provoking and consumate word skill postings
Letters from Usedom - - for Angela's sage words, and upbeat take on life that is the cream on the barrel of worldly wisdom and understanding - and for her great friendship
Ngorobob Hill House - - a Janelle's lyrical and joyous descriptions of life on the hill that always lift my spirits;
The Gold Puppy - - Reya for her lovely spiritual posts and amazing photos
Absolute Vanilla (and Atyllah) - - for her fabulous photos
The Bodhi Tree - wise words and soul searching empathy
Lori Times Five - - another soul connection accross the atlantic
Holey Vision - - for her spunky brave and funny commentaries
oops i think thats more than seven..oh well; actually i could go on - you all inspire, enlighten and uplift my day - thanks for all the fun and friendship xx
(got myself in a complete muddle re text colours - all because i dont know how to do

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Weather Report

After the breathless oven door heat of yesterday we were treated to a light show last night. A fierce wind blew in at sunset driven by convection as hot air changed places with cold. Distant lightening flashes drew closer, moved to the east and conversed with more in the west. Wind blew the chairs off the stoep and forced us to extinguish what was left of the fire as burning embers fled the scene in a westerly direction heading for the tinder grasses.
I went to sleep while wind played with the sheets of wriggly tin on our roof, and lightening danced around. But it was not our turn for rain yet - perhaps we are last on the list. Today the wind has been casting around, clearing up the dust and smoke haze. The mountains reappeared in full glory at sunrise - the view washed clean to illuminate fissured canyons and glowing granite faces.

One day I will think of something else to write about other than waiting for rain........

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

mozambique dreams

We arrive at night under a star spangled sky – too tired to think of anything but sleep after eighteen hours on the road. Morning arrives early with the soft watery sound of tidal floods trickling into the mangroves. The sea is flat as glass and the sun, just up, promises a languid day.

Despite the fog of too little sleep I have to leap out of bed and into the day. Trotting eagerly down the sand steps and along the board walk – sun bleached wood hard under my feet. Bright water coasts in covering fiddler crab holes and swirling between mangrove stems clothed in barnacles and whelks. I step onto the soft white sand already dazzling in the morning sun, to greet the ocean with sleepy feet. Silky warm water washes over my toes and ankles and I drink in the scene.

Distant sailing dhows coast silently past to fishing grounds. Sunlight bounces off the ripples left by fish activity just below the surface. Hermit crabs beetle past on a meandering path to somewhere. Their tracks intertwine and converge along the shallows and I have sand in my toes again.

The Bazaruto archipelago is a jewel in the crown of Mozambique’s 3000km tropical coastline. Seen from Google earth it is a swirl of indigo and turquoise seas hemmed in by a chain of islands and an outer reef that keeps the big seas and giant sea creatures at bay.

Here poverty and wealth are rubbing shoulders like so many places in Africa. After fifteen years of war in this country the islands have become a world famous tourist destination. Ski boats race past traditional dhows on their way to trawl the fishing grounds of the reef; conservationists fight to preserve marine life, while dhow crews net the shallows endlessly day and night. Tourism has created on ongoing market for seafood – and growing families need to be fed.

Perhaps it is the contrasts in Africa that draw our attention so insistently. So many opportunities to make a real difference – so much huge potential lying in wait. Held back, in the main, by bureaucracy, human greed, and corruption – global influences that escape the common man.

We spend Sunday finding our feet, unpacking our toys – fishing gear is set out and tackled up; brightly coloured fins and goggles appear; pale bodies seek the sun; camp supplies sorted and fridges stocked.

Monday I go with Lucas, the camp manager, to Morape School. Morape is the nearest village and the one the camp staff hail from. For several years now, we have been dropping boxes of school stationary and educational material at this school – all collected by my amazing friend Angela ( in Germany – paid for with monies earned from teaching English to neighbours children. The boxes are packed with exercise books, pencils, paints, toys, footballs, Portuguese text books, second hand reading glasses, first aid kits, chalk, and small bonus personal items. Into each box I add a photograph of Angela so that the teachers know who the gifts are coming from. Lucas translates for me and we ask the teacher for indicators of anything special they need for next time.

The original school house – a large thatched roof building – was blown down in the cyclone of 2007 – although the concrete base is intact and the flag pole has been re-erected at one end. It needs to be rebuilt. The school yard is an acre of sand fenced in with hand hewn poles. Within this yard are several loosely constructed shade dwellings with rows of bench seats made of poles. There are no desks as such and I wonder what the pupils lean on when doing their work. At the end of each room is a modern looking blackboard; in one room there is an impressive teacher’s desk.

Children gather round in open curiosity as the boxes are unpacked onto the concrete foundation of the old school. The teachers struggle to maintain discipline and keep children in line while books and pencils are handed out. There is much excitement – some children enjoy the camera, others look perplexed and wary; all are entirely engaging in their own way with guileless and spontaneous smiles.

Finally waving goodbye we leave the teachers to get on with their classes and wend our way on sand tracks to the beach to buy seafood from the dhows. A sleepy scene greets us. Fishing nets strung on a pole next to a monkey, tied by the waist to a tree stump in the shade of coconut palms. On seeing our interest in the monkey, a child taunts it gently to provoke interaction. The monkey bounces on his chain but never stretches the limit of its range.

Here the tidal reach is shallow. A dhow is on its way in so we walk down to meet it. Further along three figures are pulling in a net, but the catch is small and hardly replaces the energy expended on heaving in the net. We buy some calamari – strange sea creatures out of their element; fleshy soft beings with enormous blue eyes.

Perfect coastal days flee by – exploring mangroves on fishing canoes – those lovely broad ones that are so stable. With clear calm waters fish explode out of the water around us like silver bullets chased by our shadows. Snorkelling on reefs and sea grass beds where the many coloured starfish lie like cartoons dropped from above; bizarre and beguiling creatures amaze and intrigue. I have to pop my head up from time to time to be sure I am still on the same planet. Fabulous crabs that look like mobile pebbles graced with soft pink seaweed; urchins and slugs, clown fish, anenomes, and a carpet of bling from broken sand oyster shells.

In the reserve the first game introductions have started. Three zebra were released a month ago, and at the bomas, nyalla and wildebeest acclimatise to their new surroundings. Next week, more nyalla, wildebeest, waterbuck, eland and giraffe will arrive. They have been a long time coming as the Sanctuary (Vilanculos Coastal Wildlife Sanctuary – have prioritised community upliftment projects.

The moon waxes and wanes, the rhythm of the tides controls our days, and all too soon a week rushes by with the last outgoing tide. We drive through the night, taking turns at the wheel. There are people walking along the road all through the night – drunkards and partygoers make way for early risers and the workforce with never a break in-between. It is a constant stream. By morning we are back in the drought stricken interior. Hopes of rainfall in our absence are dashed. The skinny warthogs come trotting in when they hear our vehicles approach – and the monkeys return around sunset to watch for gaps in doors and windows. The coastal dream becomes a memory package to be stored and revisited at whim.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

mini skirt trouble

Today is 42C – the only breath of wind feels like someone opened an oven door. 33C inside the house. Monkeys are sleeping on the stoep, trying to cool down on the concrete floor (while waiting for the door to be left open); warthogs are stony sculptures sleeping in the dust. Bright blue glossy starlings inspect them for ticks. Anorexic looking kudus stalk past to the waterhole. Thin animals everywhere; skin hanging in folds. The thin ones don’t get to eat with the rest at feeding time as they are not strong enough to fight their way in. Their clocks are ticking. Its depressing to watch them lose condition so quickly and still no sign of life giving rain.

This year is extreme. It is something to experience, but you must guard against depression. Locals call this suicide month. Crops wither, cattle are thin and dying, boreholes drying up – and you cant make water when it is gone. It seems like it will never rain again – ever. With mortality staring us in the face all day, we start to think of our own – worry about our own health. Its inevitable I suppose. And I am not even going into whats happening to the global economy!

With the drought comes veld fires. All over the southern continent tinder dry grasses are swallowed up by racing fires – leaving a desolate landscape in their wake. We have heard of three safari camps burnt to the ground in the past month. What of the rural villages – people and animals caught in the cross fire?

Animals too feel the tension. Across the border in mozambique, there is a new national park. Elephants come into conflict with people here. People plant crops everywhere, even under shade trees. Elephants need to get to water, find shade; they eat crops and trees when there is no grass. Matriarchs particularly are stressed moving their herds of sisters and young – trying to stay alive. Everywhere they go they are chased by people banging pots, or shooting at them. Finally they turn on the first person they see – trampling them to death.

Tension mounts with the mercury rising; with luck storm clouds will build out of the remaining moisture sucked from the earth and every living thing. With the first rain, bright shimmering green bursts on the scene. I am picturing the green inside the dessicated trees, just waiting for its curtain call. The ground shimmers and bakes like an earthen pot in a giant kiln. Walk barefoot at your peril – soon you will be dancing like a cat on a hot tin roof – the ultimate rain dance!

In the old days in South Africa, the Church would blame drought on girls who wore mini skirts. This is retribution…. Fire and brimstone. Maybe they had a point. OK I’ll be good, and wear a long skirt if that’s what it takes.

For now though we watch and wait, and watch and wait- holding our breath as the dramatic tension increases testing the mettle of everyone and everything. This has to break soon and when it does…..there will be a festival of green.

living in a hide

Ok I wont make a habit of this but yesterday the game viewing from the house was truly amazing. Its all about the drought and the few waterholes we pump to nearby. Some of the other boreholes in the reserve are dry so we are bound to be popular, and it’s a sad thing really. We had an informal business meeting all morning and the pageant walking past was very distracting!

So I’ll begin with our normal friends..

1. Warthogs – about 30
2. Monkeys – whole troop – not sure how many – maybe 50?
3. Dassies – rock hyrax, live in the koppies at the back
4. Duiker – small grey antelope - one
5. Steenbok – small golden brown antelope - one
6. Bushbuck – normally shy and tucked away in thickets – one young male
7. Nyalla – the most decorative of antelopes in my opinion, mixed herd of ten?
8. Giraffe – a whole Journey of them with one youngster
9. Eland – massive Taurean antelope – I saw two
10. Kudu – so elegant – four
11. White rhino – two
12. Scrub hare
13. Impala – a big herd – 60+
14. Waterbuck – one male

I think that’s all……. Just had to share with you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

massage moments

I am so very tired now. My whole body wants to lie down and sleep. Even speaking is an effort. And its only 4pm.

Today I decided to treat myself to a back massage. I had been feeling as though I needed one for some time, and then yesterday I had lower back pain, so I got pro-active and off I went at the appointed time thinking it would be a treat. I was imagining lovely essential oils smells, soft reiki music tinkling away like a running stream; and having all my stresses, new and old, eased out of those big muscles by expert hands.


Well the music and smells were on cue, but the therapist was big and strong, with very strong fingers that poked right into my knotty bits, through my whole body and out the other side. It was sore! I began to imagine she was remembering ancestral scenes from the anglo-boer war and was now exacting revenge. Even the music began to sound like little drummer boys marching before the troops. I wimpered, and gasped. No – this isn’t like the picture!!!

I could see her toes. See the weight come off one foot as she really leaned into the job. I can do this, I promised myself – I wont cry, or whimper too much. But ‘aish’ that hurts! “shame’ said the therapist not meaning it.
All too soon (not) it was over. Phewee. She met me at the door. “You must come back. I can’t fix it all in one session”. “oh OK’ (WHAT?), I mumbled, finding it difficult to speak. ”probably not this week though..”

“Remember to drink lots of water so you don’t start to detox (what?) or get headaches (!) … nausea..(!) “ none of this was in my plan. I imagined floating home, the picture of serenity and calm - not this spaced out wounded stumbling.

I drove home. Everyone overtaking me on the road. Perhaps there is something wrong with the speedo – I cant be driving THAT slow.

… but I do think my back feels better, or will when the bruising subsides.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

rabbits and spiders

This morning I woke up just after 4am to hear the lions calling. It was still dark and it was a treat to hear them as they haven’t been around for a while. Apparently one of the females has cubs in another part of the reserve. Possibly this was the males doing a territorial patrol.

The second time I heard them, I decided to get up and make coffee. K was already up watching TV so we went out onto the stoep to listen again. A slight tinge of dawn light nudged at the eastern horizon.

Clutching our coffee cups we jumped in the vehicle to see if we could find our feline friends. We drove slowly, shining a spotlight into the bush on either side of the road.
We saw three rabbits – not together but in all. Wide eyed and fully awake, they hopped speedily into the underbrush.

On an open piece of ground, millions of tiny stars reflected back at me as if the earth had been scattered with diamonds. Spiders’ eyes showed a dazzling light that decried their body size. There is a smell of moisture in the air although it hasn’t rained. Cold moist air must have flooded down from the mountains in the night. Something brought the spiders out en masse for this lovely display.

Dawn light crept slowly into the scene but all we found of lions so far were some fresh tracks. Apparently elephants came by last night too. They have feasted on the bull rushes at the waterhole and it now looks as though it has been chopped with machetes. It is always astounding how quiet a herd of elephants can be!

So although the superstars of our animal pageant were off stage, it allowed the rabbits and spiders to captivate and beguile on centre stage as the curtains opened on the new day.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

feeding time

Rogue baboon tries to compete with resident warthog population at feeding time...

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Dry Season Rolls On... and on..

The dry season rolls on. Cloudless blue skies look down on a haze of dust that has completely obscured the Drakensburg Mountains from our view. Warthogs and monkeys continue to follow us beadily through the windows.

Last night I forgot to latch the front door before going to bed. It was closed but not latched. The front door is two enormous railway sleeper pages, held together with a kind of welded giant u-bolt that slips over the handles.

So this morning I met a monkey in the passage, who fled through the small gap in the front door. In the kitchen and dining room the tables and floor were covered in broken corn chips, like an orange snow storm had blown through. A packet of cookies left by last weeks visitors had been discovered; a half eaten cookie lay abandoned in the haste of retreat, between the kitchen and the front door, in a nest of crumbs;

The pile of washing up from last nights (late) dinner had supported a precariously balanced dish of strawberries and meringues; somehow every strawberry had been picked off this dish without upsetting the balance – impressive! This raid had been in whisper mode! And thank you monkeys for not leaving a fresh poo for me to step in – obviously they had had a relaxed time prior to discovery.

The less adventurous monkeys who had stayed outside, were looking extremely agitated and seemed to beg recognition for good behaviour.

A knock on effect from all the hungry and desparate animals; is the damage to the trees. Elephants eat trees. Its one of the things they do. Why are people always surprised, shocked , outraged when they see a tree that has been eaten by elephants? If there was plenty of lush green grass they would of course prefer this, but there isn’t and they need to eat. Meanwhile humans can scrape roads, move trees that are in their path, or block sun from the pool, or whatever, at whim. But when an elephant eats a tree there is a lot of tut tutting, and mutters about ‘too many elephants’ – I am on the ele’s side, in this, by the way .

However, I must say that when you see a tree that has been tusked, and the bark peeled off in great strips, it looks sore – like an open wound. And when the feeding process has totally ring barked a tree so that it is doomed to die – that is sad.

The predominant tree here is mopane – which has a leaf shaped like a butterfly. It gives us wonderful golden fall colours at the start of winter. It is hard wood, but not the most favourite, so tends to be left till last. Favourites are the lovely knob thorn acacias which have prominent knobs all the way up the trunk; and give off the most beautiful scent when in flower; marulas, which are soft wood but yield copious sweet fruits which the elephants love; comipheras (sp?)– which are spikey, unfriendly looking but extraordinary and beautiful too; Dalbergia or zebra wood which has HUGE SPIKES so must be awful to eat. In fact just about everything apart from mopane. All these sustain the browser species like giraffe and kudu, year round. Elephants can switch when the grass comes up.

Another culprit is the porcupine. He has been eating bark but from a lower level. He has munched into the bases of many trees, leaving raw open orange wounds. This year he seems to favour the Tamboti tree – which I always thought was semi poisonous? At least we cannot cook on it in the fire because even the smoke on our food will make us very sick. When carved though it is aromatic – a bit like sandalwood.

And of course we cannot end this blog post without mentioning our friends the monkeys. We had two guava bushes growing outside the kitchen door. The monkeys use these to perch on while watching us move food around the kitchen. Guava trees are a ‘problem’ tree in this country and it is forbidden to plant them. They grow easily from seed – as these two did. The monkeys have now bitten the bark off these trees all the way from ground up. So that’s the end of that.

So sorry trees – we know you are having a hard time too, but summer IS coming…..

Miranda's Memes

Meme from The Times of Miranda blogspot

I am not sure what a meme is exactly, and it doesn’t appear in my dictionary – which is ancient and tattered anyway and probably needs updating as language is a living thing isn’t it? But hey I did the phone book thing. First go to the address book, hit any key three times (without looking I suppose); then scroll down three times and tell the world about the person whose name appears.

Well I tried all the keys finally out of curiosity, but the first name that REALLY came up was the name of the lady that bought my gallery in Chobe. She is a lovely elegant Irish born lady who was previously attached to the University of Botswana in Gabarone. Approaching retirement she was casting around for a new path. Heard about our little art gallery for sale and knew this was the right thing. She has close ties with the Art Department at the University and these are now partners with her in the gallery (I still have a small interest too – share wise but a big interest generally).

Whilst we all had lots of fun building the business over ten years; my travelling lifestyle meant that I had very little time actually on site and this was not working for me or the gallery. It needed to be owner run and now it is.

One of the first new artists we introduced to C when she took over was a Zimbabwean called Collins. K met him in a pub in Kasane, and brought him round to the house with his portfolio of pictures. Whilst he was showing us these lovely pastels he let them fall on the floor; the dogs walk on them. No Collins – you must take care of your work! Now he has a gallery to exhibit in and has been selling really well.

So more about C. She plays tennis regularly and so is really fit. She has that English thing of looking serious, then laughing a lot, then looking serious again. Funny dry humour just below the surface. Her brother is a big important cellist in one of the best European orchestras. Also funny and nice.

Ooh now I feel I should tell you about all the people in my phone book!

The second meme is a series of questions that must be answered in eight words;

WHERE WERE YOU TEN YEARS AGO? We bought our place in the lowveld then;
WHATS ON YOUR TO DO LIST TODAY? Make list of paintings that have just gone to gallery for exhibition; update stock lists etc; do emails; try to make sense of emails from Nairobi partner…. Do a run to town; sort photographs and files; write blog posts and maybe a little sleep as last night was LATE;
WHAT IF YOU WERE A BILLIONAIRE? Um I’d probably be stressing about banks crashing…. Too much to stuff in the mattress? Save pockets of environment; back alternative energy research and sciences; initiate more bee projects in rural areas; promote arts as educational tool; save the world generally I suppose…..

FIVE PLACES YOU HAVE LIVED: Canada, England, Zambia, South Africa, Botswana
Smoking; binge tidying up instead of doing it every day; not always following my intuition
Smoked salmon on rye with horseradish; (is that a snack? Depends on the size I suppose) raw veg/fruit; wasabi rice crackers
Well Miranda already tagged Tam Janelle and Geli soooooooo
I am going to Tag Reya, Absolute Vanilla, Holey Vision, and Lori Ann – OK that’s four but M did 4 ….. he he

guess i forgot about the eight words mandate then!

There ya go!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

dry season

the house in the dust bowl.... green season pic to follow when it happens!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Paint Storm

Painting the house – which is always better than burning it down like the song.

It started with a serious well overdue need to repaint the kitchen white. Hide the bits where bat droppings have leaked down the walls, ancient cobwebs have fossilised onto plaster and just generally too much dust in the rough surface. It’s been too long – how did that happen. Ok off to town to invest in some lovely white velveglo. Start the process. And while you are at it, let’s paint out that ancient corkboard we inherited when we moved in. Great idea... lick, slap, splodge.

Have you noticed that if you repaint one room, all the others start to look shockingly shabby too?

The windows on the stoep (veranda) for instance. Putty had been replaced in places, left to harden, and then just left to crack. Buy some nice fresh summer green paint. Tape up the edges – do it properly. And off we go.

I am a very messy painter. I’d forgotten just how bad. Soon, skin, clothes, hair, floor and windows need constant attention. Tarrah. Whisk off the masking tape and … oh dear… quite a lot of paint found its way underneath so windows now have frilly painted edges like an elaborate doily. Hmm, disappointed but if I leave my glasses off it doesn’t look too bad and hey! It matches the cushions. And look how it brings out the other colours.

Right - now the main bedroom. The once white walls are now faded to a slightly yellowed white. Lashings of velveglo and Turrah! again… now the box-wood-packing-crate ceiling must go….No more that strange distorted face in the wood grain to look up at! Body is aching now. But it all looks good and so LIGHT – a person could get snow blindness on a sunny day!

Turn around and – oh yes the bathrooms. Too much green paint now everywhere. Blue is the answer. Buy blue paint inspired by colours seen on a trip to India a few years ago. I remember a bathroom that was swamped in blue – walls, floor, and ceiling. Going to the loo there was like a meditation session or being submerged in a dolphinarium – without the dolphins.

Ok I won’t go that far, but the cupboards door windows – yes! Wow this blue is much brighter than I planned. Quite a few times I think I have finished, mop up all the splotches, put brushes in water, pack away. Look again and …uhoh missed a bit.
Bring paint back, fix. Put away. Another missed bit. Did that quite a few times. Now the blue is shimmering and blasting its presence into the smallest rooms.
I am trying not to look at the white bits of walls……….. Or the office…….or anything that looks like it might be improved by paint. I have quite a bit left over so this is not a safe house to stand still in at the moment.

Oh yes and the monkeys have fled the overwhelming miasma of paint fumes … he he

Friday, September 19, 2008

first bit of friday

I am waking up so early at the moment – even before the first monkeys land on the roof. Before the first sparrows fart. Before the sun has his hat on. I think it’s a combination of early nights and clean lifestyle – for a week or so anyway. So this morning I was up at 4am… it’s a bit like jet lag I suppose. May as well get up and on with things… but bound to be a bit cranky or dopey later in the day.

So get up, make tea/coffee, load dishwasher, watch snippet of Nat,Geo about the mountain gorilla massacre. Gorilla family slaughtered to make way for forestry, and then small farmers. Hill sides denuded, ready for soil erosion when big rains arrive – which they will. No winners there – except the timber dealers maybe for a short while. Those Park Rangers are impressive in their dedication – but still the killings continue. Human greed.

Strange sound bites about a world in crisis as I sip tea and think about my plan for the day. Everything seems so far away from our four walls, in an island of dust and warthog poo within a sea of leafless mopane trees.

Shower, try to wash paint off from yesterday but no-go. Must remember to buy thinners. Still haunted by gorillas. Check emails and BLOGS ( Iam totally addicted at this stage) first any comments on my postings – yes hurrah – then check on all my favourites. This takes a bit of time because my connection is so slow.

Start packing up main bedroom ready for coat of paint today. Pictures off walls – shake off build up of dust and moths wings; pile shoes etc onto chair; cover important bits with plastic;. The curtains – ten years later – need a wash. Ahem. Ok fire up the washing machine. Its just starting to get light outside. The monkeys are arriving ready for the days entertainment – looking all bouncy and fresh; and the warthogs – ever present at the moment. Yesterday there was such a thin one walking around. This time of year is so tough for them. Some trees are coming into leaf now – not a blade of green grass in sight though. A Lion passed the house last night. Hmm lions haven’t been around in a while. This time of year is predator heaven – so many weak and lost prey items wandering around – easy pickings.

Start making list for town trip. Resupply for weekend; buy more paint, and thinners. Do the rounds. Its 8am already!!! Where did those dark hours go? Time moves much too fast for my liking.

Yesterday I had fun painting while listening to the very cool sounds of Janelle’s CD – Serendipity - Dust Angels;( Janelle is a friend and fellow blogger at CD is gentle on the soul, upbeat tempo – hints of Dylan, Waterboys, Rickie Lee Jones – words and music by Janelle on most tracks but plainly her band are all capable muso’s. Lyrics are pure poetry – found myself repeating strains in my head long after the CD had stopped. “Lights are out and so are owls..” I am sure there are proper music crit words to use but hey – I LOVE IT - well done Janelle! So much talent and good energy. So will be listening to that again today.

Ok must get on…
RIP Gorilla family...

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Nyalla and the Full Moon

Tonight we have the most beautiful golden full moon rising steadily through the leafless trees; a male nyalla antelope is breathing his last breath. With leaves so sparse on the trees he has eaten of a poisonous vine – the last green leaf he could reach. His body, already thin, is barely visible above the ground; his massive horns appear unwieldy and only a hindrance now. Last week he was in love with a beautiful female. While the others were feasting on the Lucerne (alfalfa) bales, he only had eyes for her. His tracks from this morning are by our step.

The moon climbs higher preaching continuity – life goes on; wars happen, banks close, recession, succession, ; the baboons watch well into darkness. Moving like shadows away from our view but staying in range of the nyalla. They shy away from eye contact with us, even though we are watching from behind the glass window. They too are hungry, desperate.

Two giraffe stroll in to the waterhole, stretching to reach new leaves on the taller trees. They look like giants, white and shapely in the low light. All the animals seem restless, for ever walking back and forth – waiting for that first green flush of summer.

Do animals have souls? Is his emerging from his exhausted body like a magnificent butterfly from a chrysalis – soaring away from the pain of transition? or not...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Teas Made

My mother had a teasmaid – am I showing my age here? And no its not something that will be banned by the censor board!!! It was an amazing heath robinson type of contraption that pushed the limits of what can be combined with an alarm clock. We have radio alarms; mobile phone alarms; mickey mouse alarms….. what else? alarm clocks that is. Of course the security business here is BIG but that’s another story.

Anyhow, I remember dark winter mornings with school days on the horizon and unfinished homework to explain; mornings when staying in bed was a better option. Long before the last-minute-jump-out-of-bed-and-into-clothes moment had arrived it would start. The first blup… then another. Breaking the cosy caccoon of the night – no going back now. Blip blip…..increasing in volume and frequency with an awful sense of inevitability that only my mother could enjoy because for her it heralded a steaming cup of tea. The blips would become a torrent and then a fog horn would reverberate around the house with a big light that shone even under the closed door flooding into the landing. It shook and belched steam…. It was a veritable time machine!!! What happened to them?

Now I have monkeys….

Friday, September 12, 2008

helter skelter

After all the heat and summer swelter, yesterday a night wind blew in cloud cover and the temperature has dropped more than ten degrees – it is now 21C in the kitchen. Strangely all the monkeys have gone. No more little faces at every window hungrily watching every move and waiting for a door or window to be left off the latch.

Well there was one that slipped in this morning. He left a turd artfully poised on the corner of the dining room table like a small brown place setting . Once spotted he started to panic and couldn’t find the tiny gap in the door by which he had come in. I stepped back as, once before, a monkey had panicked and jumped straight through one of the big panes of glass. He was fine – not a drop of spilled blood – but may have had a small headache for a while – we will never know about that. So we waited for this one to find the gap of his own accord – which thank goodness did not take too long once there was no pressure.

Had to clear the decks a bit this morning. Felt I was drowning in piles of papers. Maybe the ghosts of all those trees wagging their phantom twig fingers at me in disapproval.

So September 11 again hey. Where were you when the twin towers went down? Certainly something no-one can ever forget. Thanks to live broadcasting anxious faces all over the world looked on in total horror.

I remember the day here. Something wonderous was happening in our back yard. Six bull elephants had wandered in from the bush and were browsing the trees up against the house. We were watching in wondrous amazement. Seen against the familiar constructs of our simple dwelling, the elephants suddenly looked really huge – or the house looked small. Then the phone rang…….. turn on CNN right now – a familiar voice instructed in a tone that left no room for discussions. We did so, and while the elephants moved slowley past the window we gaped in stunned silence at the awful spectacle of New York on fire.

Then the second plane came in. It felt like the end of the world, and it was in a way, certainly as we all knew it. And who in the world has not been affected in some way to greater or lesser extent? The madness of human beings at play in the game of life.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

missing moon

hi there if you were expecting to see a new marvellous posting of the moon phases - umm well i had to take it off because it made everything else disappear - which is not necessarily a bad thing but i had to see if it was reversible...... big learning curve going on here!!

still... havent.... got the photo up load thing sorted. i just dont seem to have the same tab options on the edit page as i should. maybe its destiny...

anyway that moon thing was really cool - its a widget thingy... i may try to get it back again... sigh

oh well