acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Thursday, May 28, 2009

check list

The evening before leaving. A quiet day of tying up loose ends – or trying to. Shopping for last minute items. Packing safari kit. Piles of clothes set out on the bed neatly then crammed into bags.
The Trip Checklist is stuck on wall by the back door –its the last thing to look at before leaving:
Passports and visas
Tickets and travel docs, spare copies
Driving licence, vehicle registration papers
Triangles (reflective)
Fuel Cans
Puncture kit, tyre weld, airpump
First aid kit
Malaria pills, testing kit, insect repellent
Matches, braai grid kettle
Bed rolls, mossie nets or tent
Fishing gear
Torch and phone chargers
I love reading this list – even when I am not leaving on a trip. There are some more that should be added but this is the bare bones. Over time the last list disintegrated. We started forgetting things. Big things – like bed rolls. So a new list is in place.
Once we drove all the way to the mozambique border and then realised we had left the vehicle registration papers behind. We had to drive home again. It was quiet in the car.
I am home alone. Al Gore is on TV describing the state of the planets resources. If we were a farm we would know we were overstocked and this is unsustainable. Some people are trying so hard to repair damage done, and create more sustainable ways of living; the bulk of humankind is intent on destroying each other, and needing more more. James Blunt plays on the CD player.
An eagle took a guinea fowl chick – six left. I hope these are survivors. Chicken is in the oven – is that a paradox? Darkness falls swiftly softly. Monkeys are having that last race across the roof before they have to find a safe sleeping spot. Windows are turning black. I should be getting on with stuff. I love this time of year!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

spoilt brat

much to my frustration the only way i can post blogposts at the moment is by emailing them to myself but hopefully these pics will make it through the cyber curtain.
i had a birthday recently and this is where i spent it - next to this most amazing river and waterfall; the river is still swollen with floodwaters, so the falls are really full and the spray visible from far. The Mosi o Tunya or Smoke that Thunders. lucky lucky me

Monday, May 25, 2009

monday I think

monday afternoon - early winter days - grass is yellow and dry, papery leaves starting to fall from the trees,landing softly in a crunchy layer on the ground. There is a stillness, like the desert. The sun warms your skin but the shadows are cold like the fridge. Blue shadows, cold shadows. Jackals have been eating our guinea fowl chicks - we have seven left so a flock of nine altogether last count. The grass is still long making it easy for predators to hide. Guinea fowl chirp softly to each other as they move along so that although they are hard to see we always know where they are. So do the jackals.
Last night we had a porcupine visitor again. a smaller one this time. He sat by the back door patiently with his paws neatly together, snoozing, like a pet labrador waiting to be let it. Sometime later we left the door open and in he came. Did a complete check of the house - in and out of all the rooms - before leaving again. What is the attraction we keep wondering. There was no food to be found this time - just a routine check?
I have been involved in the business of living again so have fallen behind on blogs but I am checking in - rest assured! I love reading all the blogs and comments, and adding my pennyworth - and can feel a new blog post coming on once i get through it all. Just a quick hello for now then.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Kreativ Blogger

The lovely Nicky from Absolute Vanilla has given me this award and all
I have to do is think of seven things I love - and then pass it on to
you lot! so that should be easy right?
so here goes
- cool fresh mornings like today when the sun is sparkly and the air is clear
- the blogosphere - all my pals - reading your blogs and comments;
meeting you in real life;
- the power of positive thought and energy
- planet earth - especially the green and blue bits;
- my loved ones, family and friends, and friend family
- room to breathe
- vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and nuts and banana

I pass this on to all you illustrious ones on my blog roll! Yes you.

have a great weekend

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

through the blogosphere portal

In the top right hand corner of Botswana - if north is top - where
four countries meet three blogging pals finally met in real life.
Karen from Border Town Notes; Lori Ann from LoriTimesFive and me -
together with our respective and somewhat sceptical bemused spouses,
and Lori's sister Lindy.

Lori, Chuck and Lindy arrived in Chobe from California via South
Africa and Zimbabwe. Karen was freshly back from a UK trip, and I
stepped off the Zambezi Ferry in time for us all to connect - and
there we were. Face to face, greeting and hugging. It was as if the
mists had cleared allowing us all to step through our portals in
cyberspace and touch ground in the same place same time.

The mission was to visit the Kazungula Day Care center (more about
this on Karen's Border Town Notes) and deliver Lori's lovingly hand
crafted beanies to the children, together with a bag of donated goods
for the school brought as hand luggage half way around the world.

We were given a tour of the center including kitchens and menus,
bathroom with row of toothbrushes in plastic cups, and school books. A
small hand touched my arm as the kids ran by to take up their seats.
Here and there a hand to hold, tightly, a vigorous high five, smiles
and shy laughter - then the singing. Songs about numbers and colours
and days of the week - followed by 'this is my favourite day' and
'this little light of mine' led by the glorious Emeldah - head
teacher.Winter is setting in in this part of the world and the snug
woollen hats are arriving at the right time. A big thank you for
these Lori on behalf of the children!

and yes in case you are wondering as i did - Lori does seem to glow
with a golden light just as she appears in her blog! Karen of course
has angel DNA - Ive known about this for some time.

Later that evening, after dinner and starlight elephant viewing from
the fireside, we finally allowed our jetlagged cyber pals to call it a
day. Oh with one quick call to Angela from Letters from Usedom to
complete the circle. and yes Geli we are all VERY REAL!!

If my IT connection permits i shall upload some photos - but i loved
our connection on planet earth at Elephant Valley; and just hoping
this is the first of many meet ups as the blogosphere takes on a new
and more wonderful dimension. Blog on everyone xxx


Monday, May 11, 2009

Blase? no not yet

Are we ever blase about  these wildlife encounters ?   I have been thinking of this today and my immediate response is no, how could I - its always feels like such priveledge to be here and see these amazing dramas of the natural world unfold; to learn the rhythms and interplays of feline socialising; where the elephants are and when the buffalo will enter the scene.

Perhaps i have given the impression that this play is enacted around us all day every day. Which  it really isnt. We have been incredibly lucky recently to see some amazing things. That wild dog and lion interraction was all in the timing - we happened along at precisely the right moment - ten minutes either way and we would have missed everything.  Those leopard sightings....

For sure though there are many hours, and  days, when very little happens to pique our imagination; when we settle down and get on with work in the studio. Some nights are filled with predator calls - some are so quiet it feels like a vaccuum and the silence keeps us awake.

There is a rhythm to the animal movements but there is no routine as such. So much depends on the weather, hot, cold, windy, calm; so much depends on where the super predators are and whether the wild dogs have scattered the herds around; so much depends on availability of waterholes - as inland ones dry up, more come to the floodplains; there are so many variables - thats what keeps it interesting. And then the visuals - the quality of light - the seasonal changes - cloudscapes, colours, reflections - there is always something fabulous to catch your attention. The learning process is ongoing.

I suppose if the same giraffe were standing around every day in the same place - i could start to ignore them. Like driving through a field of cows every day. I am sure you stop looking at the cows in the same way. Last night the lions called all night long. this morning we were out before sunrise thinking it would be easy to find them. We drove and drove. They kept quiet and the only tracks we saw were always heading the wrong way. So no - its always a gift to see something amazing or unusual or powerful or threatening or passive or beautiful and fine.  Each encounter challenges a different aspect of our natures i guess?

This morning the clouds rolled in. It is overcast and cold. That still desert cold that takes you unawares and seeps into your bones. Tomorrow we head back to town to pick up a bank of telephone messages, and catch up on all the dramas we have happily been hiding from these past weeks. But hopefully we will return to Selinda soon.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

last nights moon

Evening found us at the pans behind camp. There are a series of pans
here, linked by wide elephant paths, and surrounded by trees that have
known seasons of heavy browsing. Some pans are covered with a fine
layer of bright green algea - these pans have duck families that
paddle around hoovering up the green - a job they can never hope to
complete. Some have chicks - slender tail mongooses lie in the shade
of surrounding bushes waiting to dart out and grab an unattended chick
or two. We watched this drama happen a few nights ago. Two Egyptian
Geese rushed in to save a chick from the jaws of the mongoose. The
chick was released but lay flopping helplessly on its back for about
half an hour. The parent tirelessly nudged and encouraged and stood
guard. The chick tried to stand but always toppled over onto its back.
Several times it looked like game over but steadily the struggles grew
stronger and we watched for long enough to see it rejoin the flock!
It was so engrossing I forgot to take any photos of the drama. Sorry
Mr Mongoose but we cheered when the chick survived.

So yesterday we drove slowly between the pans thinking we were alone,
save for an almost full moon that was rising fast in the evening sky.
Huge bulbous cumulus clouds turned rose pink in the evening light and
reflected sharply in the last pan, where a single blacksmith plover
stood watchfully. We turned for home.

Suddenly, as if everyone had decided to come out of hiding, we became
aware that we were surrounded by giraffe; beyond them was a vast herd
of elephants moving into the scene with some speed - swishing through
bushes and raising smells of pressed herbs from under their feet. The
giraffes made graceful arcs as the moon rose silver over their heads;
zebra trotted in; i could see impala looking bemused at the sudden
influx of visitors; a wildebeest or two kept their heads down; a bull
elephant shook an old acacia tree for seed pods. We were in the center
of a panoramic scene - the whole bathed in rich golden pink light. A
teenage elephant tests his power by charging a group of giraffe. They
take off in loping gate, startling the zebra who put in a sudden burst
of speed. The panic ripples through herds and finally settles.

The colour fades from the scene. The moon rises gaining silver
strength. The elephants move past all around us, munching steadily,
rumbling softely. Golden light leaves the grasses, climbs the trees
and releases itself into the evening air as the suns last rays dip
below the horizon. We head for home to watch the monochrome floodplain
and listen to lions calls reverberating through the night.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Dat Cat

just this one for now then.......

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Road to Selinda

That night in kasane it rained and rained - proper summer thunder,
lightening and steady thrumming of rain. From my cosy dry sleeping
place i listened to the summer sounds and smells in wonder. This is
summer rain in winter. Botswana has had just amazingly good rains
again this year - second year running. There is water everywhere -
pans in the back country; ancient river beds blossoming into green
ribbons; big rivers waking up and stretching out - making lakes in the
flat sand country. Water reaching into places it hasnt been in years;
Villages underwater, built long ago on historic floodplain areas -
now forced to move to higher ground - and apparently there is a second
flood on its way.

Driving out of town through the Chobe National Park - dark purple
curtains of rain drifted all around the landscape like elephants on a
moonlit plain. ooh err - were we going to get stuck in the mud again?

At Katchekow the road was washed away from the rain - just enough
space for one car to pass. Villages out at Satau are completely cut
off by floodwaters now - how will they be feeling about this winter

The clouds clear and we leave the rain belt - turning out onto the
park boundary - a wide cut line of sand tracks between the forest.
The sky is deep blue here, and everything washed clean by the rain -
leaves rejuvinated blaze a fresh green and rust orange bright against
the blue.

The sand is our friend - the rain has made a hard surface to drive on.
But all the pans are full of water again. We porpoise in and out of
mini lakes - sending bow waves of peaty water surging in the sparkly
light. Slewing on slippery tracks here and there but managing to keep

Half way down the cutline is a pan with an ancient dark ebony tree
growing by the side of a termite mound, making a rampart into the
pan. We often stop here for leg stretches. Today a pack of wild dogs
are here, on a kill. We must be minutes behind the action because they
are only just dividing the spoils. Marbled patterned dogs with big
mickey mouse ears, twitter and flit around claiming torn strips of red
sinew, meat and membrane. Its a grisly scene, but the dogs are
excited. They move without hardly seeming to touch the ground,
skittering around the pan, ears and eyes flitting all around.

Something catches their attention in the mopane scrub beyond the pan.
One jumps and barks a warning. Like children playing Grand Mothers
Footsteps, they each approach inquisitively, yet wired for flight at
the slightest sound. As we watch, a huge male lion charges out of the
bush chasing the dogs. His body is like a barrel, his massive head
framed in a ginger and black mane which reaches down his chest.

The dogs flee to a safe distance which happens to be behind our
vehicle. The lion looks directly at us, wondering if he should chase
us too? his nostrils are wide and his head raised to pick up the
slightest scent; his mouth a wide black square full of teeth. `Its
strange that when a super predator looks in your general direction -
there is no question in your mind when he is focussed on you, and when
he is focussed on someone next to you. You know when its you. Theres a
sort of squirming in the pit of your stomach that reaches back to the
depths of vestigial memory.

He marks some bushes and vanishes back behind the mopane curtain. Two
steps and he is invisible again. The dogs take off down the cutline
ahead of us ready for the next kill.