acacia blossoms

acacia blossoms

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Rain Check

adventure map full of potential

A week later and our world is drying up fast. The waterfalls around the house finally ceased to flow yesterday. The mud is still saturated and slippery, but the plant life is flourishing and the early sunlight glows through a festival of green.

flooded road to Machampane

Sadly we had to call a rain check on our planned adventure to a remote bush camp in mozambique but in the Kruger Park, repairs are in progress at camps, and roads.  Rivers and streams are babbling brooks innocently sparkling in the sunlight as if they would never ever dream of that outrageous behaviour they showed us all last week. The only telling signs are the vegetation detritis hanging high in the branches of bushes on either bank.

bushbuck in Letaba camp

At Letaba camp it is business as usual and the border post to Mozambique is open again.  We drove through to Massingir with our friends from NYC - as a compromise and to make up for our mudshyness. Looking at the pools and wetlands on either side of the road confirmed our decision.

women with fish on their heads walking the Massingir Dam wall

The Massingir Dam was full of the brown water that flowed through SA in the past week.  As we arrived all the sluice gates were open. We drove around the small township and finally came to rest at a hotel type place with a view of the Dam. The warm aroma of bat guano seems to emanate from every place with a ceiling here but the ambiance was friendly and there were some ice cold beers.  

Massingir Dam swollen with floodwaters
tiny fishing rowboat center right, between island and shore

We had booked into some self contained chalets at the Park Entry gates - charming log cabins with thatch roofs and gauze windows.  The midday was sweltering hot . We decided to investigate the back roads a bit, and visit the other camp site and lodge.  The back road had been little used by anything other than cattle and firewood sleighs since the rains. Some villages had ploughed their new lands over the tracks, and another had sited their football pitch right across what was once the road. So its not suprising really that we missed the turn to the camp site.

the notch on the tusk suggests this elephant uses his right hand tusk for most of the work

Our evening drive  became rather longer than planned but we did see one bull elephant and some lovely woodland scenery. The sun was setting and we had forgotten to pack the cool box, so all aboard became a little quiet and focussed until we found the main road back to camp. There was a moment of tension when I thought I had lost the keys, but soon all were smiling again and the night sky was clear and spangled with those glorious stars.

beauty in the eye of the beholder

Rumour has it there is another tropical storm or cyclone off the east coast but so far we are looking at clear blue skies.

Letaba Camp view

Thursday, January 19, 2012

flood water fun

A tropical storm blew in two days ago from mozambique. It rained so much that our world became a moat around the house. The rain guage overflowed so we don't have accurate figures, but we have had more than 200mls rain in 24 hours.  At first it was calming, cozy to watch the rain from a dry house - and above all else it was cool after the melting heat. 

 We slept to rain hammering on our tin roof. In the morning we were surrounded with babbling brooks, waterfalls, and torrents of clear water gushing out of the koppies behind the house. When you live in a seasonal rainfall area, you can never be sure when or if it will rain. Even if you are not a farmer, you keep a wary eye on the landscape and see when it is suffering, parched and dry. There is always rejoicing when rain falls. And when it is heavy enough to make dry rivers fill with flash floods it is exciting to go and see what is happening.

So there we were, driving into Kruger Park with the rain slashing down - into the eye of the storm.  Every tiny creek and crease in the landscape was pumping milky brown water under and over the road;  sheets of water lay on open plains forming a miniscus at the roadside waiting to tip. In places it had tipped but  was shallow enough to drive through.  In other places the water had lifted platlets of tar off the road surface as if they were scales. They lay in tumbled jigsaw pieces on the verge.

Waterholes we know that are traditionally serene pools of reflections and hippo heads, were transformed into swollen angry forces, storming over their dam walls, and racing in furious frothy torrents over rocks and between the dark wood trees.

We made it through to Letaba camp. In the restaurant, groups of sodden looking tourists gazed glumly at the torrential scene. We snapped pics and revelled in the excitement of watching the river rise. In 2000, the river flooded right into the restaurant area - for now it was still well under control.

We decided to head home. In that short time, the river had crossed the small bridge on our exit road and was rolling and tumbling through the gorge with great gusto.  A tortoise washed up on the edge of the fray. It was being caught by the waves that swirled in from the rocks.  I broke the rules and lifted him to higher ground. It was the cleanest tortoise i have ever seen.But we could no longer cross the bridge so we turned back to Letaba camp to wait for the water levels to subside. Sometimes Africa just makes you wait, and it always reminds you who is in ultimate control of the situation. These days its not just Africa that does this.

Back in Letaba the water had flooded into the parking area to the extent that normal sedan cars could not drive through certain areas.  Things were changing fast, and still the rain came slashing down.  The best thing to do is stop and wait so we did. Strangers started chatting, sharing road reports. We heard that the road south was closed, and the road north was blocked by floodwaters. 

After lunch we tried again. Luckily for us the floodwaters had dropped below the bridge and, although the crash barriers were torn and twisted over the road, we were able to drive through. 

We made it home through the rain slashed park.  But this wasnt enough. We decided to drive to the Olifants River to see the floods there. Rayson came with us this time.  I love how, in this area, all the locals turn out to look at a flooded river. Even the police were there taking pictures with their cell phones.  The brown swirling waters raced under the road bridge carrying huge tree trunks and debris that now and again thunked into the bridge supports.  Rayson is our man about the place.  He  thought we were mad to stop on the bridge and headed straight for the other side to watch from there. He had a point.   Watching the racing flood waters certainly made you feel dizzy and sick.  We saw a hippo out of the water on the other side and wondered if the marooned trees were full of snakes.

Back home we decided to quickly check if the lions were still on the open lands.  We drove along the fence line and slipped into a mushy hole of mud.  We were instantly stuck!   Having assessed the situation we decided not to dig due to the waterlogged soil, but rather to walk home and fetch the other vehicle and pull this one out.  It was about a two kilometer walk and I tried hard not to think about the two rangy male lions we had seen just that morning.   Rayson found a terapin turtle on the road, and there was a giant African land snail moving slowly along.   The road was a delta of  flowing streams and pools.  

We picked up the other vehicle and returned to the fence line.  A tow rope was hooked up but the road was way too slippery and the other vehicle was just too stuck .  Traction was not happenning.

We reversed to try and approach from the other side and lo, this vehicle also sank into the mud.  After numerous attempts to dig and push, and put logs under tyres we decided to walk home again before it got too dark to leave.  Now we must wait for the road to dry out even a little, and try again. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Rhinos - in praise of

I can't tell you where or when these pictures were taken because rhinos as a species have never been more at risk of extinction. We have lost two subspecies already in the past year.

For these gentle jurassic giants, it seems the clock is ticking. When we are lucky enough to see rhino in their natural habitat it is almost with a sense of anticipated loss. How much time will they have? will their bouncy inquisitive young even have a life in our lifetime?

So here are just a few pictures showing rhino doing what they do best - which is eating lots of grass or leaves, and rubbing shoulders with each other. They also love to lie around in sticky mud and leave calling cards at steaming middens.

They are frighteningly easy to kill.  They are creatures of habit and territory.
They stand still, like well behaved targets for poachers or hunters bullets, while they try to work out if you are a threat or not.  

We all know where the markets are for rhino horn and ivory. 

 So why can the carnage not be controlled?

Rhino horn is made from the same stuff as human hair and toenails.

 The needy could use their own.

They can move suprisingly fast when they get going.

white rhino grazing in golden fields

a young black rhino visiting the pool for a drink

The remains of a young white rhino who died with his back foot caught in a poachers cable snare.  It must have taken a few days before he fell headfirst into a donga (ditch) and probably died of stress and thirst.    This is the skull and jawbones - all thats left to be seen, after human and wildlife scavengers have taken what they want.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Roof chat

Having just re read my last post I found a glaring typo. How come this was not visible before?  ...all taught muscle... should read 'all taut muscles'  hehe sorry! i am the queen of typos.  once upon a time long long ago, i did a very amateurish job of a brochure for a certain safari lodge far far away. Somewhere in the text i wrote about the Plaintiff cry of the Jackal. ugh - apart from being overwhelmingly corny it is just a joke. Well i hope it made someone smile, or laugh. And to be fair, Jackals do always look a little bit guilty.

Obviously 2012 looks determined to outpace its predecessor. We are nearly half way through January already.  Around here everyone is busy raising young. The impala lambs are big enough to stray from their mothers now. When the herd passes, all we hear are mothers calling their lambs, and lambs bleating looking for mothers. How can something as dainty and graceful as an impala ewe make such unappealing grunts and groans?

Warthogs are busy with piglets, or wartlets, and the cuckoos are busy laying eggs in other peoples nests.  The dabchicks at the waterhole, made a perfect nest out of floating vegetation, with one egg sitting in state on the top. It did look vulnerable, and while we were watching a tarapin turtle was showing undue interest. Next time we looked that egg had gone.  Then another appeared, and with unfortunate timing the breeding herd of elephants arrived to swim and play and generally lower the waterlevels.  This time even the nest disappeared. Obviously the dabchicks must rethink their building plans.

The weather has been relentlessly hot. The air heavy with the promise of storms that never come. The white sun sucks moisture out of every living thing, including us, to replenish its army of clouds. Last night there was a big amber moon in the east, and there are some interesting planets around promising interesting times in this era of change.   I hope 2012 is generous, kind and loving to you all.