acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Saturday, January 24, 2009

that inner child

I am sitting looking at these two ancient photos of myself my sister and friends when we were very young. It is a strange thing. The photos have yellowed slightly giving them a golden tinge. The sea and beach and rocks and ourselves all caught in a moment of history. A blip in the planetary twirl of life.

My sister and I are standing together on a rock in the shallows. She has a plaster on her knee. She was always running running running – like a mobile windmill. She is holding a packet. I am guessing from the grins its probably sweets. I am holding my hair back with one hand – having hair problems even then. The sea is glassy and clear. I can smell the briny seaweed and barnacles of the rocky coastline. It is west wales and the sun is shining – like it always did when we were very young.

In the next picture we are sitting on a boat trailer with two little friends. Daughters of my parents friends. We all used to holiday together and go to each others birthday parties. Wrapped in the secure warmth of loving families how could we know what to expect when the weather of life became changeable, breaking sunshine with stormy, epic, drizzly, or drought filled days.

Was that really me? I look like someone I would like to hug. Looking at this photo and recalling memories buried deep in the undergrowth and detritus of life events I am reminded that we are supposed to nurture our inner child. And that doesn’t just mean buying sweets and ice-creams and playing childish pranks. It also means protecting from harm. Keeping the inner one safe even if the outer one thinks she can cope with any and all of the tough stuff that comes her way. In this photo I am face to face with her – my inner child and how can I explain everything that has happened?

My father had a super 8 home movie camera. Many of these holidays and family events were recorded on reels and reels of shiny footage. We used to beg him to play them backwards - Laughing hysterically as someone exited the water backwards at speed, or ran backwards across the lawn, followed by backward racing dogs.
We lost all those films when dampness crept into the storage space, but snippets remain in my brain. Flashbacks of sunshine, smiles and face pulling sessions. I suppose that is how it should be.

Good memories, happy times, great friends and an incredible African life – I have so much to be thankful for too. I think I deserve chocolate.

(with apologies to those who have already seen these pics on my fb page….ok I’m over it now...I think... )

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rain rain rain

Rain rain rain. Soft rain that plumps up my skin and frizzes up my hair. Gentle misty rain that makes the grass blades reach up and shimmer in dayglo green bedecked with diamante rain drops. The sky is like a flat sea with rolling waves of grey. The breeze is a drink of cold fresh water. The earth softens like a giant sponge. Dassies shelter under rocky shelves, their woolly faces poking out – watching me.

Big rain comes with drama. Crushing heat that sucks the moisture from our bodies, squeezing our brains, flattening us out with a gravitational pull. Giant boiling thunderheads that loom menacingly playing with the light – shining white and growling purple at the same time. Electricity crackles in the air, flashing against our retinas – we silently beg the rain to come, but so often the thunderheads cruise by. We wait our turn.

When it comes, big fat raindrops pelt the roof like a hail of stones. The release of tension is palpable. The smell of wet earth strong and heady. Water collects, runs off the roof, runs along the ground turning roads into rivers, filling the dams. A long awaited rainstorm is a wonderous thing.

When you are waiting for rain its hard to believe there are parts of the world where people sigh and say “oh no its raining again”. Too much rain here brings floods which are cleansing and destructive. When the rains are late though and we watch the land laid bare; leaves and grasses wither and die; livestock shrink to skin and bones; boreholes dry up – we are reminded that water is life. That you cannot make it when it isn’t there.

So today I am paying homage to the rain gods for today is soft and cool with gentle rains that soak the ground to the roots of all growing things. And I am thinking of those elsewhere in Africa who watch the skies anxiously for their turn – hoping it gets there soon.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Strange Things

I think I must start a file called Strange Things You See. I have some good candidates for this already. But to start off here are the baby warthog pics as promised. They are very very cute and active, but a bit flighty – which is a good thing for their survival – but difficult to get good pics of. However, I shall persevere. The middle sized warthog is last years student. She is a true survivor having been the sole youngster of the lawn mob to make it through the drought. We will always recognise her by the notch in her ear.

The dove riding a bronze eland. This dove flew into the window. Knocked a clump of feathers off its neck and sat on my hand blinking with concussion for about ten minutes before taking off in a raggedy manner and landing on the first available perch which was the bronze eland sculpture.

The odd looking birds are blue crane chicks being hand reared by a friend of ours. Their parents are third or fourth generation family pets. We arrived at the house for dinner – and therefore in the dark. The birds came stalking (storking?) out of the darkness, standing about a meter and a half high. They are most elegant creatures but they were a little agitated and kept making a noise like a football rattle and standing in our way. That was all about the chicks though.

After a day of unbelievable heat and headachey thunder pressure when the only solution was to hang in the pool like a frog – it rained properly last night!
We had some friends visiting so everyone had to go outside and do a rain appreciation dance on the lawn. We were drenched and the ground was soft, and it felt so absolutely good.

Oh and I have absolutely no idea how a comment I wrote on An Aerial Armadillo appeared as my blog header. It’s a complete mystery to me.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

monkey business

Yesterday we watched two baby warthogs playing on the ‘lawn’. Well it used to be a lawn until their parents, aunties, uncles and cousins got busy last year in the drought. Now parts of it have grass, some are threadbare and some just have a smattering of weeds exposing the bare earthen pot of the ground.

The monkeys were here too and there is one small one that is just at that stage where he ventures away from the mother. Mother was sitting feeding on the pellets we put out, not batting an eyelid whilst her youngest flew about the place, suprising his bigger siblings, leaping into the low branches of the tree, and flying out again. Dive bombing into the long lush grass in the shady bits – still has to learn about monsters that can lurk in the long grass.

The piglets were also trying to find their place in the pecking order, and were running up to monkeys of various size to see if they could chase them away.

We have a whole new brat pack of young monkeys who have grown up around the house. Their early days, clutching onto mothers tummy, peeping in through our windows – watching the bigger ones venture in. So now this is their territory. The bounce all over the cane chairs on the stoep – snuggling into the cushions for a nap – jumping up to terrorise each other.

We bought a toy plastic snake – for some reason we believed it when we were told this would discourage them from coming in the house. Maybe it did for a nano second but that was it. K surprised the brat pack having a party in the kitchen. Luckily there was no food about, but the event was exciting enough for them all to poo liberally about before they scarpered. Nice cleaning up job entailed. Some were artfully hidden and had to be sought out. I keep thinking it would be ok if they didn’t do that, but it wouldn’t really. But when we watch them playing and tumbling about we kind of forget about the bad bits. Isnt that typical?

The porcupine came in the house again the other night. The back door was open and he pottered in. I was busy blogging in here and heard some noises. Popping my head around the corner and there he was coming out of the guest bathroom. All the bedroom doors were open and I didn’t want him to disappear into those and then surprise us in the night, so I scraped my foot lightly. He stopped and listened, and then pottered back out the door the way he had come. No calling cards or nasty mess to clear up. Good boy!

Friday, January 2, 2009

a lowveld day out

Yesterday was a fabulous fresh sunny day after rain. We took a drive to the mountains. The Drakensberg Mountains that loom in the blue distance from our stoep. It’s about an hours drive – craggy red cliffs painted with Day-Glo green lichen loom ever clearer and brighter with each kilometre. Soon we are swinging into the canyon of the Blyde River gorge.

Named from the old trekking days – a family were camped by the Treur River and the menfolk went ahead to scout out the country and plan the next stage of the journey. They never returned, and finally the camp was packed up and the river named the Treur River – or river of Sadness. To cut a long story short, by the time they reached the Blyde River, they had found each other again and the river was named Blyde – or river of Happiness.

This was the Louis Trichardt trek – families on their way to Maputo – then called Lorenzo Marques. Legend has it that they camped at the head of the Drakensberg Mountains for sometime trying to find a route down to the lowveld below. Finally, they dismantled the ox carts and lowered them in pieces to be reassembled at the foot of the mountains. People and livestock were able to follow a narrow path. Astonishingly, they succeeded in this miraculous feat – and if you saw the mountain faces of sheer craggy grandeur, you would also be amazed! Sadly when they did reach Maputo, they all died of malaria. There is a monument to this trek in Maputo city which survived all the years of civil war there. Their route became a trade route between the coast and the interior – made famous in the book Jock of the Bushveld.

There is now a dam wall that has created a man made lake in the natural amphitheatre of the gorge. It is incredibly peaceful there and natural indigenous forest runs down to the lake shore all around. People who come to take in the view are awestruck and talk in lowered voices. Some sit in silent contemplation. It’s a little like going to church.

Having soaked in the stillness, we decide to go in search of lunch. Taking the back roads we meander past several Lodges whose gates look unenticing; scratch our memory books, but find those small eateries closed for New Year’s Day. We end up following long red farm roads – noting along the way that their rainfall is better than ours and their grasses long and green – to find ourselves at Leydsdorp.

Leydsdorp is a small remnant of a gold mining settlement – dating back to the gold rush days of Klondike, and Australia, and pre-dating the successful finds of the Witwatersrand where Johannesburg is situated. It followed a similar pattern to gold mining settlements everywhere at this time. Men who dug and panned for gold in them thar hills, drank copiously at the local watering hole – and thereby hangs many a tale!

However, fresh water has always been a problem and the miners moved on to richer finds, leaving a selection of small whitewashed buildings – one of which is the Leydsdorp hotel. Many of these buildings have since been refurbished and Leydsdorp seems to have been on the brink of rediscovery for sometime. It is an intriguing little place steeped in history and well worth the visit. Without the glitz of well trampled tourist attractions, it still has the air of history – a place in waiting, surrounded by scrubby bushveld and granite hills – off the beaten track.

We stopped at the hotel. Small dogs lay around the entrance watchfully and alerted the owners to the arrival of new customers. Inside the wooden doors, the original bar counter and mirrored bottle display keep mute testament to more than a hundred years of barroom talk. There are a couple of bullet holes in the ceiling and the remnants of a trophy head of a bushpig – shot to ribbons by over zealous drinkers, perpetuating the spirit of the wild wild west.

A small gaily coloured Brazilian Red rump parakeet struts up and down the bar counter chirping away. The management couple are friendly and welcoming and we settle in to chat, trying not to rubberneck the history and writings on the walls around us. It’s not a big room, but beyond is a bigger room with a red pool table, and some regulars are engrossed in a game.

This tiny ghost town settlement now boasts a restaurant, self catering accommodation in the old Kruger house, hotel rooms, swimming pool, and a location in the heart of lowveld game country. Our hosts are animal lovers and beyond the parakeet, is a squirrel in a sleeping box (it bites sometimes); numerous diminutive hounds, and somewhere a young bush pig. “All our animals live in harmony here” informs our genial host.

We order lunch. Some more people arrive and settle in to chat. I notice that as soon as our place mats are laid down, the parakeet starts to become more friendly – pottering about – always out of arms reach, but chirping away. Food arrives. The squirrel wakes up and through the door the puppies silently gather, and along comes The Pig.
A young bush pig ambles in – light glancing a golden sheen off his reddish coat. He snuffles about and then heads out the door again. Oh – we realise – he probably followed the waiter! Food successfully swallowed and the menagerie normalises again. Do I make it sound bad? It wasn’t at all – just extra-ordinary and entertaining.

Sadly I didn’t have a camera with me but I hope you get the picture from my words.
There is also a website for and several for the Blyde River Canyon.
It was a great day out and so often we forget that people travel from all over the world to visit these weird and wonderful sights that are all within our reach. It was a good reminder.