acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Saturday, December 31, 2011

telling tails

There is a new monkey on the roof.  He came in through the front door. He picked up the last remaining apple on the sideboard and moved into the lounge.  I heard a noise. I was home alone. It was a tiny noise, like a button falling. Monkeys can be quiet like this. I went to investigate and there he was perched on the sofa eating an apple.  All the doors and windows were closed. I was afraid he would panic and try to jump through a window or something equally dramatic. When this has happened before the culprit often bounces of walls and bookshelves before diving for the closed window.  But this is a new guy. He has house cred. He looked at me and continued with the apple.

I opened the door to the stoep and got serious about asking him to leave.  He moved under the table and slowed down a bit, waiting to see if that was far enough. It wasnt.  Then he was out. Maybe he spent Christmas at a nearby lodge.

Christmas ah, how was yours?

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Mozambicans on the Move : Christmas 2011

We are back from the sparkling seas of Mozambique.  Border hassles and potholes notwithstanding, the magic of coastal mozambique soon soothed the senses.  The vibrancy of sunlight and colour bounced around us to delight the senses even when the summer heat was beating down.

You just have to love it there.  There are state of the art vessels and vehicles on land and sea, but here are some more interesting modes of transport that capture the imagination.

Dhow fisherman on Bengui island pulling in the catch of the day.

sail power beats steam anyday on the coral seas

walking home with a couple of beers under the arm

wedding procession in Maxixe

hang on - nearly there

chinese umbrella

three up in sunday best

standing room only

going visiting

barrow man Chokwe market

Thursday, December 8, 2011

running on empty

I am sure you all thought that Monkeys have been sleeping On the Roof all this time?  Well let me assure you it has been a busy few weeks. What with summer arriving with all its promised abundance, and the festive season fast approaching.
The business of life has had to be really demanding to make sure it gets more than its fair share of attention.

But the list is slowly being ticked. Some spaces are incredibly stubborn and just refuse to be ticked, and others require lots of effort, but slowly slowly catch-a-monkey as they say in these parts. A most unfortunate turn of phrase for us on the Roof!

Right now, the winds are in from the Indian Ocean and tomorrow we will hoist our spotted hankerchiefs on their sticks, and start the trek coastward.  Logistics have been demanding this time, but it will all be worth it when that silken sea wraps itself around our ankles and the coral sand squeaks underfoot.

Here the impala have all dropped their young. The lambs are so light on their feet its like they hardly touch the ground. The herd moves protectively with them like a troop of ballet dancers - all taught muscle and energy.  The mopane trees have made the transition to summer green, and happily provide a dense curtain for vulnerable youngsters to retreat into.

The air is full of bird song - kingfishers, cuckoos, black headed orioles - sounds of summer. At night there are bugs around the light - preying mantis hang ready to pounce praying for a meal; clumsy dung beetles mistake the light for the moon and come droning in, crashing into walls and ceilings. Moths grace the scene with their spectacular presence.  And speaking of presents - I am just not ready for christmas yet. Slow down year!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

night and day

Yesterday evening, the guests had left. We picked up a couple of movies from the store in town. We drove to the river bed to collect the camera trap which we had set up by a small waterhole.  There were lots of tracks around including leopard and a big male waterbuck moved in the long green grass to watch us from further away.  Its always exciting collecting the camera trap and wondering if we have caught any pictures of night creatures.

On the way back we had to brake several times for tortoises and turtles walking in the track.  Local lore has it that tortoises start walking when there is rain coming. We have learned to listen to this prediction and always pay attention - also when snakes start moving.  Generally, we only see tortoises during the summer months when it rains.

The new mopane leaves are like festive bunting filling the forest. Flags of orange and green shine and glow all around us proclaiming Summer Is Here.  At the dam the other night there was a massive frog party.  When you pull in to listen the frogs go quiet for a while. Then the songs begin again, and the noise levels reach a crecendo that fills your whole head. If you listen you can pick out the different songs, but the bull frogs havent even started yet so the deep base notes are missing.

There are lion tracks on the road, and lots of elephant tracks, all heading towards our part of the reserve.  We drove slowly home, watching the late afternoon sun turn the world gold.

At home we were settling down to movies when we heard the first sound - a low level soft grunting sound. Lions!  We turn the sound off and listen again. Yup they are here. Jumping into the vehicle we drive towards the sound. We dont have to go far. There are two big male lions lying next to the road softly lit by the moon.  Without headlights they make two large shadow shapes that an unsuspecting creature could easily walk right into.

They watch us idly, but show much more interest in the herd of impala which has formed a large group in the mopanes fifty meters away. Now and again they give an alarm call.  The lions rest their weary heads - they have plenty of time.

Friday, November 4, 2011

start of summer

A month ago i thought winter here was my favourite time of year.  With cool dark nights and bright sun filled days under an impossibly blue dome of sky.  Since then the rains have started and immediately the ground lillies immerged from the softened earth.

Now the trees are all coming into leaf - putting on their fresh green dresses of spring.  The mopane trees are the most common here. Their new leaves emerge shiny and soft like drops of water. Now they are opening out and the bright sun pics out the colours like slices of amber and jade filling the view.

The other day we found a python. It was about 2m long and was hunting in the rocks.  the birds gave him away. A fork tailed drongo was performing avidly in the bushes marking his path. They are such brave birds.  Pythons are an unusual sight so we were thrilled to see this one. We watched him watching us for a while before he started moving off.  They are fascinating to watch as they move - it looks like there are a million little feet inside a huge sock.

The monkeys left us for a while.  We thought they were sulking because we bought a big wooden snake and put it on the stoep - close by the door they usually use for raiding parties into the kitchen.  But now they are back and some of the females have given birth - now carrying tiny pink and black newborns clasped to their tummies.

With all the green growth and wild flowers around everyone should thrive.  We are waiting now for the impala to drop their young. 

I am loving this start of summer.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

cool quotes

sausage tree flowers

In the absence of a new blog post here are some lovely quotes that i have stumbled over during the past week. I hope you enjoy them.

It is time to develop a big ‘US’, rather than the old ‘us and them’ that lets us to exploit and bully others on a personal level, and on an international level to wage war. The East must see the West as part of ‘US’ and the North must come to feel that the South is part of ‘US’. We should include the entire world in our concern, wishing all humanity well. If we can do that there will be no room for hatred, thinking of others as enemies. And we will achieve this through education, not through prayer.
Dalai Lama (fb)

Love is the ultimate healer, a force that is stronger than an individual. All the loves in the world are like different rivers flowing into the same lake, where they meet and are transformed into a single love that becomes rain and blesses the earth.
Paolo Coelho (fb)

"That we close down is not a problem. In fact, to become aware of when we do so is an important part of the training. The first step in cultivating loving-kindness is to see when we are erecting barriers between ourselves and others. Unless we understand-in a non-judgmental way-that we are hardening our hearts, there is no possibility of dissolving that armour. Without dissolving the armour, the loving-kindness of bodhicitta is always held back. We are always obstructing our innate capacity to love without an agenda." ~Pema Chodron

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.  John Muir

Monday, October 3, 2011



It came out of nowhere. Today started hot and dry like yesterday and the day before. The air was sultry and hot. We had to wade through air just to move.
Around midday we noticed the sky darkening in the south. There was thunder and some lightening, but our rain normally comes from the north so we expected to miss out.

We wondered whether to close the windows on the vehicle. We were still superstitious about chasing the first rain away.

hailstones on the stoep

The dark sky drew ever closer., and soon it started to rain. Hurrah! first rain!!
we thought. Then "oh a hailstone" ; then more hailstones and soon a total whiteout as hailstones, some as big as baby golf balls, splattered down all around; crashing on the tin roof so we could not even shout above the din.

torrents of topsoil

The ground was baked hard by winter sun, so the rainwater ran off the top forming raging foaming torrents that raced past our windows carting icebergs of hailstones. 

after the storm

Then it began to slow down. The ground was white with hailstones interlaced with rivers of brown soil. The sun came out. The granite boulders steamed and diamante droplets hung on the bare trees. The air was cold and icy, and a double rainbow was emblazoned across the sky.

Sunday Lunch

It is a hot sultry sunday.  Low clouds have moved in and the heat is building for some promised rain. I am outside pottering around my new planting projects and staring at the bottle mountain for the umpteenth time to see if i can come up with a creative recycling creation before Google Earth calls to investigate.  I am not moving fast. Nothing is.  Perhaps I will take my book to the pool for an hour.

Next thing, K is calling me from the doorway. It looks urgent. I drop what I am doing and hasten indoors. "There is a lion here!"  They were hunting the warthogs that were near the house.

 Another lion arrives. They greet and both stare fixedly at us from the edge of the treeline.  They settle down and a third lion arrives. This is the dominant male, some people call him Shaka.  He eases in to the shade and lets the other two be more watchful.

We stare at each other through glass and  across a space of some ten meters - maybe a bit more. One by one they move off, alongside the boardwalk, past the pool and the guest cottage, and on to the waterhole between the koppies.

Sunday quietens down again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Swazi Reed Dance

Swazi princesses lead the parade

The Umhlanga (or Reed Dance) takes place in  late August or early September each year. It is a dance which attracts young maidens from every area of the Kingdom and provides the occasion for them to honour and pay homage to the Queen Mother (iNdlovukazi). Most of the participants are teenagers, although some of the girls are younger. Over 20 000 maidens gather reeds from selected areas which they present to the King and the Queen Mother.

The girls wear short beaded skirts with anklets, braclets and jewellery and colourful sashes. The royal princesses wear red feathers in their hair and lead the maidens to perform before Their Majesties. This ceremony can be photographed, provided you have a permit.

Venue: Embangweni Royal Residence (Shiselweni Region)
Date: 17th/18th September 2011
Dress code; NO HATS FOR MAN         
                      LADIES WEAR DRESS / SKIRT AND NO PANTS
(I think they mean trousers)

quoted from

This year we finally made it to the Reed Dance in the heart of Swaziland's mountain kingdom.  Inspired and motivated by our friends from there, we duly donned the respectful gear mentioned above and joined the river of people flowing up towards the Royal Residence and Arena.  It was a beautiful crisp sunny early summer day.  
Sunlight bounced in shards on the people and cars around us. Regiments of swazi maidens waited in groups on the grass, guarded by their indunas. Beyond them, the rugged hills of this mountain kingdom.

regiment of maidens waiting their turn

The Reed Dance is a traditional  ceremony performed annually by the young maidens of Swaziland for their King and the Queen Mother.  It goes on for eight days during which the girls collect reeds to present to the Queen mother.  This was the seventh day, when the girls dress in traditional costume, according to their regiment or the area they hail from, and dance infront of the King. Only unmarried and/or childless girls can perform in this event and there is a strong anti HIV slant that encourages young women to respect themselves.  Traditionally a Swazi festival, this year there were regiments of girls from other SADAC countries. Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe were also represented and  apparently  a record total of 80,000 girls registered this year.

the parade heading to the arena

In the tide of visitors with us, many wore traditional dress. This is a big day for showing national pride and allegiance to the monarch.  Security is tight, and the kings Royal Guard, in their robes and skins, were threaded amongst the crowds clutching their cell phones and radios.  We found a place under a shade tree to watch the procession.  The girls formed a river of sound, colour and light pulsing past in a seemingly never ending flow. Visitors and Royal Guards stood on the roadside watching, admiring and enjoying the youthful energy. There was discipline to the flow and progress was monitored to allow each group enough time to file past.

The mood was respectful and friendly .  We were approached with offers to help us find the best place in the stands .Two young men in traditional gear  introduced themselves. They were members of the Royal Guard and had been tasked to make visitors feel welcome. We chatted for a while, and swapped email addresses. They insisted we each have our photos taken with them.

The arena filled up steadily with swathes of colour and song. The atmosphere continued to build in a vivid festival of young female energy.  Then the Royal Guard formed up and proceeded into the arena singing a different song and bringing a different energy to the event.

Royal Guard enter the arena

The young men were proud and warlike but not menacing.  The regiments of girls made way for them to pass through.  Then there were speeches. A red carpet  rolled out, but there was speculation whether or not the King would choose a new bride this year. He already has fourteen wives.

future dancer

Finally, with our heads full of bright images and songs, we retreated while the river of people continued to arrive. We had expected tradition, but here we found cultural history celebrated in a modern context. The people we met were dignified and hospitable. As we left the country, the border officials thanked us for attending their Umhlanga.