AFRICA reprise – Natal – 20th Oct 2018 – Day 37

My last day in SA is unlike the last day in 1981. How can one feel sad for leaving a place that no longer exists? No, SA was certainly not perfect then, but its worse now in so many ways. Every town, city, beach, road, business, is deteriorating like rust on steel. I have been told this by so many, I have seen it, experienced it. Its largely due to corruption at middle to high levels as the average person is still pleasant and helpful, the guards, parks rangers, waiters. Poverty is rife for everyone. Black and white guys make a living of sorts as unofficial parking attendants, or toilet cleaners, at fuel stations, or ‘guides’ in the airport for tips. Sad to see it.
Brian, Yvonne, & I had a late breakfast on the patio, watching the many birds attracted by Brian’s feeders, before leaving for Durban King Shaka airport. The highway makes it a quick easy 2hr drive across the rolling green hills of cane, bananas, and grass with the blue ocean, and waves crashing on the fine white sand to the right. The Mango checkin woman was surprised to see two of me on the flight ( I had 2 seats owing to my concern about 1 bag only).
OR Tambo airport is a maze of floors, ramps and gates which I found unclear. As I was early, I also had to find a seat away from the boarding lounge where I write this. Should board in 1.5hrs to arrive in Perth 9 hrs later.

Brian & Yvonne.s home

 

AFRICA reprise – Natal – 19th Oct 2018 – Day 36

Brian took me on a walk around this place. It has accommodation for 443 couples/singles, probably covering 2 hectares or more. It is steep though! We had lunch at the café, I updated this on the free wifi, and we drove to Uvongo and Shelly beaches to the north. The wind had picked up so the waves were huge and surfers were out, and fishers. At St Michaels I chatted to a photographer for a while, also a learner though she has sold a few requested images. Waves were crashing on the rocks, especially at ‘orange rocks’. Most beaches are at river mouths where the high sandbanks separate the sea from fresh water. I find that wave power fascinating – pity they are not at Perth due to the reef. 

My last decent sleep tonight before the 25 hr drive/fly/wait/fly to Perth followed by another 9hrs afternoon and evening before sleep again. The joys of flights.

Library
Entrance to Café & Library

AFRICA reprise The Western Cape – Port Elizabeth – 14th Oct 2018 – Day 31

Lemon Tree is a very upmarket B&B, well appointed rooms, antique furnisher, a large dining room leading onto a veranda, pool and colourful garden on one side. The rooms are accessed by a similar but narrow path from the gate down the other side, leading into a small courtyard filled with pot plants, a central bushy vine and 4 rooms. Other rooms are in the house, and at the front are two one above the other. The top is accessed by an external stair. All very tastefully done, BUT every house in this upmarket area is security fenced. The owner is very concerned about the future as it is quite possible she could lose the house in a ‘take-over’, as happened to the yacht club having to move next door to become the fishermans club.

We had an excellent breakfast, left leisurely for the airport, queued, and then were informed the flight had been cancelled last May, before the booking was made. How is that possible? The flight appears sometimes on t he SAA web too!! We were given the option to fly to Joburg, wait, then to Durban, arriving 5.30pm, far too late to then drive to the Drakensberg. At that point the BA desk opened, so David bought tickets for that – fortunately seats were available. We arrived in Durban 1 hr later than planned, which made me nervous as the B&B I have booked is in a Black housing area (Bonjaneni) from what I see on Google, but it is the nearest place to Royal Natal National Park. The Park was already booked out when I tried.

No one seems to stick to the speed limits though David was booked last time. I had a 3.5hr drive, leaving at 3, so I didnt spare the little Hyundi. As dusk fell just short of Bergville, I had to stop for a shot. The Drakensberg were dark blue in silhouette against a blue to pink sky, with lower ranges in paler blue and a valley in front. I couldn’t stop at the best spot and I have yet to see the image on the pc.

I finally arrived here (Tugela Falls B&B) at 7, having lost time in Bergville to grab a Kentucky burger, and then find this place in the dark. I missed the sign in the dark concentrating on many people on the narrow road, and relying on the GPS, not entirely wise.

As expected, this is owned by locals – full marks for being first (?) to run a B&B. I will see how it goes, but at the price R350 ($35 per night) one can’t expect much. No internet. A row of good size rooms, a decent bed and linen, tea/coffee/fridge, ensuite. The building has been built by amateurs but is clean and serviceable. The dining area looked ok when I arrived. The young woman who met me was pleasant, and assured me with a smile that I will be safe – and anyway there is a guard next door!

Hope to survive the night…..

Note: photos added in 2020.

Africa Dreaming

AFRICA reprise – Victoria Falls to Cape Town 6th Oct 2018 – Day 23

I’m waiting for the Kenya air flight to Cape Town in a new spacious air-conditioned airport. On the ground floor so I will need to carry my 12kg bag up the stair.

As we drove the 22km to the airport, on a wide well maintained road, lined by the green thorn trees and blank stemmed brown leafed mopani, I debated whether I am more Rhodesian than South African. I think so but will wait till Im back in Perth. The taxi driver was Matabele. His heritage goes back to Lobengula then living in ‘The place of slaughter’, Bulawayo, some 400km south east. It was he who Rhodes and Jamison negotiated with for land and free passage. He later became concerned about the deal, so caused the death of many settlers, in particular, the decimation of the Jamison party who fought to the end.  The Matabele are an offshoot of the Natal Zulu. Now this history is dragged from school days so may not be absolutely correct!

Its a 3hr flight on Kenya air to Cape Town, the ‘Mother City’. Established as a victual stop for the Dutch East India Company ships in the 1800’s, it was later taken by the English. However, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama was here way before that, only erecting stone crosses where he harboured. And before him? The Hotentots a people now mixed with black and white, the ‘Coloureds’ as they were named in the apartheid era.

It is interesting to see how the ‘sins of the fathers are passed down to the 7th generation’. When the British took the Cape, the Dutch were well established, not that the British cared. The Dutch were treated as 2nd class people; their children forced to English schools, the developing Afrikaans language banned. And so the Great Trek started; wagons pulled by teams of oxen were loaded as families sought a place far from these laws. It is said they also chose to not have homes in sight of the smoke of neighbours, but could also be due to the need for larger land in the semi- desert Karoo. And so as they gradually migrated north they came in contact with the local Bantu peoples, requiring encircled laagers as protection. Meantime the British decided to send people to the south eastern area around Port Elizabeth, encouraging them with very upbeat information on the place of honey! Amongst these 1820  settlers are my Scottish ancestors. They faced hard times in the poor soils and fiery Xhosa cattle raids. My farther was born in King Williamstown not far inland; my first year university was at nearby Rhodes Uni in Grahamstown, and daughter Karen was born there too.

Gold and diamonds were discovered in Johannesburg and Kimberley, starting a rush by prospectors around the world; the Dutch, led by Paul Kruger, were overwhelmed by this hoard; the British once again took charge, ignoring treaties, precipitating the Boer Wars of the 1890’s and 1900’s. The Boers fought a cut and run war against the red troops until the British played dirty by emprisoning the Dutch families resulting in death and disease, and hate till now. Once again the Dutch were under the yoke of British rule. The two world wars did nothing to improve matter; many Boers supported Hitler with some exceptions like General Jan Smuts who later became Prime Minister.

1948 was a turning point. The English United Party lost power to the Afrkaans Nationalists which became more draconian over time, treating the Black people as they were in the past. The sins of the fathers. I should add that my mother was of French Huegenough stock, similar to the Dutch so I often felt ‘in between’.

Our flat in Cape Town is at the top of an iconic 9 story art deco building in the heart of the city. Love it. A lady met us and took us on a tour enthusiastically. Formally the Old Mutual, it was converted to flats in the ‘70’s. The exterior is decorated with friezes and figures; the heavy brass doors to the tiny lifts are engraved. The core is an empty space with all flats on the exterior. All are double height with interior stairs to a second balcony bed or dining space. Quirky and unconventional. 

We left soon for Lions Head. We have made the steep climb on the slope of Lions Head to where solid rock rises vertically to the top, for a sunset view of the west side of Table Mt and the 7 sisters. I’m here early to find a spot clear of proteas. Its hot with a cool breeze occasionaly bring the scent of proteas and other flowering shrubs. Far below the blue sea breaks on Clifton beach and rocks. Its peaceful; the soft, sea waves are a background to the occasional bird and more frequent hikers. So peaceful, but I know that those homes down there are locked down as night falls.

As the sun set, an eagle called high above along the cliff face. We walked and slid down in the dark,David well ahead as usual. They decided to go to the harbour for dinner.  It was after 8 before we ordered, nearly 10 when we left. The meal was too large; I should not have eaten it all. A 4 man band played loudly, fortuneately a Country &. Western style I like. Its now 11.30

AFRICA reprise – Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) – 3rd Oct 2018 – Day 20

The hotel breakfast didn’t look too flash so we opted for the Shearwater cafe 700m away – excellent well presented food. This is not the country I left in 1966. The waiters dress and behave like New York hipsters. The people here still have names like Blessing, and Definite Mlambo. Most are friendly even in passing its a ‘Hello’. The small town is full of tourists from around the world, of all ages. An adrenaline shot for the young, and for David who has booked swings over the gorge and a paddle on the fall rim to Livingstone Island. Curios of all sizes crowd the streets, some very good. Hawkers constantly harass us and one dare not show sympathy or you will have a 1m wood giraffe to take home.

David had booked a morning helicopter flight. I was hesitant as they will not fly doors-off and the windows are restrictive. However, we were in a 4 seater, I in the front. The curved glass did not seem to distort either. A 30min flight covered the upstream game park and wide area of islands, and the downstream gorges where people ride the rapids. I have yet to check how good the photos are. (Added since)

We spent the afternoon shooting the magnificent falls, 1km fro the hotel. Even though the Zambian side is dry, the Main fall is stunning.  I’m exhausted. I have photographed it end to end (1.4km, 16 view points, 4hrs) and assume I have some good shots. Not easy as the rock is black and the water bright, but with the tripod and filters I have the afternoon done. We will repeat some views in the morning light. Rainbows can be seen looking east from 2pm and rise quickly in the mist and rain as the sunsets. Some parts are very wet; one has to keep the lens dry with a cloth, wait for a break, whip it away, take the shot, and cover again. The Main Fall creates a breeze that carries the rain upward, into the forest for about 20m. Beyond that, thorn scrub prevails. I imagine these plants complaining that they can hear the thundering water, but don’t get a bit of it.

The Falls were ‘discovered’ by David Livingstone Nov 16 1855. The water is from Angola 1000km away, the same as the Okavango. Here it falls 100m over a 1708m brink. The 500million litres/min at peak flood creates a dense mist seen from afar, ‘the smoke that thunders’. At present it’s a thiner imitation, which is not bad as heavy mist obscures the fall.

We tried the micro-brewery across the road from the hotel for dinner – not as good as last night, but still ok and well presented. Their home brewed ginger beer is excellent.

AFRICA reprise- Botswana/Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) – 2nd Oct 2018 – Day 19

Its been a long day as it mostly is on ‘holiday’. Up at 6, breakfast at 6.30, then out on the terrible thick sand tracks through the low scrub and occasional stately tree copses on slightly higher ground. Savuti is mostly flat especially a large area named the Marshes, now bone dry grassland. Contrast is provided by a few isolated short 80m high hills and the Savuti Channel, an 8m deep 200m wide dry grassed channel which carries the occasional flood to the marshes. This area reminds me of a farm in the Rhodesian midlands Dad took me too a few times, owned by old Gilfillin, ex army friends I think. He had grandsons who would hunt through similar ground. I accompanied one when he shot an impala.

We had time today for a last search for the elusive leopard – but no luck. The elephant carcase has been abandoned by the lions as its very off. The dogs and vultures were feasting though. The hippo has moved from the muddy shallow pool to one that is filled by a pump. A flock of guinea fowl and a kori bustard were searching for seeds on the far side, watched by a lilac-breasted roller. We drove past leopard hill down to the swamp, but it was quiet compared to yesterday. The elephants at a waterhole topped up by a bore kept us entertained, especially the baby which was continually guided by the mother using her trunk. As they moved away, one made a brief threatening stand. We found two of the local lions sleeping (as usual) in the shade of a bush. We spied a large herd of sable antelope, not a common sight, walking in line steadily toward the waterhole we were at yesterday for tea break, led by a large bull. As they neared the lions, they sped up, leaping 200m past, not even stopping at the water. At this the lions heads poked from each side of the bush – but they went back to sleeping. A small herd of rare Roan antelope walked toward the waterhole, joining a few kudu. We left them there, driving past the large baobab at the foot of leopard rock, and then headed back for an early lunch before sadly leaving for our 40min flight to Kasane.

Hunting has not been possible in Botswana since about 2008, and it has paid off. Tourists flock for the amount of game despite the terrible roads and the cost of the camps. All food at the camp is transported 190km by road taking 8 hrs. The logistics are enormous. Jess our lovely Ba Tswana manager places the weekly order on Sunday for delivery Thursday. The cook (chef) has to plan that far ahead. The camp is extremely well run, the staff attentive, friendly – and mostly Christian. Jess is a 1 yr old 7th Day, and talked freely of her faith.

We flew from Savuti in a 14 seater to Kasane near the Botswana/Zambia/Zimbabwe border where a guy met us to drive through to Victoria Falls village.

The Mababe Depression landform was very clear from the plane; a straight north-south fault line separating the dry uplifted eastern area blocking the water from the north-west to create the delta and the Linyanti river. A small stream escapes in a low point flowing in the wet season into the Savuti Channel and marsh.

On arrival I searched  everywhere for my dark glasses on the plane, and later found them on my head under the hat! Customs was fairly easy for us but not the many trucks that may take three days to get through. It was well worth paying for the guide. The Botswana airport and customs are in good shape unlike the Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) side where one stands outside a small window. The Botswana building reminded me of Beit Bridge on the Limpopo Rhodesia/S. Africa border where one entered a passage along one side of several office windows on leaving, while the same occurred the other side for people entering. And that reminded me of that stifling hot night we spent in the hotel, attempting to sleep under damp towels, Karen in a carry cot in Jan 1966.

On leaving Rhodesia for a new job in S Africa, I sold my 1952 red MG for 85 pounds, and rode the 1954 Triumph 500cc motorcycle to the border under a very hot sun, while Hilary and Karen rode the railway bus. On arrival I was told it would take days to process the m/c to exit, time I didn’t have, so I sold it to the customs guy. I often wonder if that was a scam. We had to spend the night in the local hotel in the hot humid conditions – air conditioning was unknown. A most uncomfortable night under wet towels. Karen didn’t seem to find it a problem fortunately.

We arrived in Victoria Falls about 3pm, settled, and set off to see the falls, so David said, from the Viewpoint cafe. We didn’t manage it as a guard warned us that elephants were in the area, and a person was badly injured recently. The town is small but hilly, not too dirty, with many stalls and buildings in a haphazard way. So we returned to see the gorgeous stately Victoria Falls Hotel.

It was built by the British in 1904 as accommodation for workers on the Cape-to-Cairo railway but today it is a famous luxury brand . Serene lily ponds, arched loggias and broad verandas – offering magnificent vistas – are custom-built for a spot of high tea or a relaxed gin and tonic. Some rooms offer stunning views of the gorges and bridge below. It was built and operated by the railways administration, but in the early 1970s it was leased to the then Southern Sun hotel group, forerunner of today’s African Sun Limited. A significant development in the late 1990s was the involvement in the hotel of another leading Zimbabwean hospitality operation, Meikles Africa Hotels. Today the property itself still belongs to the National Railways of Zimbabwe and there is a shared 50/50 partnership operation between African Sun and Meikles Africa.

Cecil Rhodes had tasked his friend and colleague Sir Charles Metcalfe with overseeing the development of the railway system and Metcalfe took heed of Rhodes’ dreams of the railway line stretching “from Cape to Cairo,” hence he started plans for the first bridge across the mighty Zambezi. Rhodes was insistent that the bridge should be built in a place that the spray from the falls would fall on the passing trains, which is why the site was chosen just a little below the Boiling Pot, at almost right angles and in very close proximity to the falls.

Its a long two story building enclosing a formal courtyard; two wings reach out curving toward the Zambezi like arms reaching out at an angle to protect those on the lawn under two enormous trees looking at the bridge in the distance. I want to have dinner here one night. On the terrace, not in the two formal dining areas where the prices are high and the dress code beyond my gear. The place has many rooms and all are FULL! Walking around its clear who fits here. The view of the bridge and gorge from the broad terrace is excellent.  

Dinner was a very large hamburger at ‘The Three Monkeys’ cafe next to the railway where a very old steamer runs the track to the bridge and back for dinner; it has to take a breather several times from the bridge back to town, affording the opportunity to shoot in the dark!

The N1 hotel is basic; bare rooms over shops and a small reception. But it has a kettle and tea. We discovered we were only booked for 3 nights instead of 4 and cancellations are unlikely but they say a place will be found.

23.40 bed time.

AFRICA reprise- Botswana – 30th Sept 2018 – Day 17

I best start with the trip from Xobega to Camp Savuti. We had to leave by 6 to avoid the heat and also see animals on the way to the airstrip 30mins past 3rd Bridge, a total of 2hrs if we didnt delay. Our plane was at 10.45.

The boat trip with Sam was fast, though we did stop briefly for elephants. Then onto a jeep for the rough ‘Botswana massage’ on the sandy track, passing numerous herds of impala, elephant, zebra, wildebeest, the rare tssebe, giraffe, warthog (their knees are allow them to kneel as their necks are too large to bend), two very large hyena, hippo, and lechwe. Some silverback jackals were harassing the hyena, but we didnt see any kill to defend. Many birds including the ubiquitous yellow bill hornbill, and yellow-billed kite.

Who could not love Africa? Memories forgotten fill my mind and heart – times lost. The baking soil, bush, and animal scent, mixed with wood smoke.

We were fortunate to find a mother and young leopard in the shade of a big tree, next to a full size lechwe several metres up on a branch, an answer to prayer – just hope I did it justice as we had a plane to catch and still many km to go on the sand horrible road. I think leopards are much more photogenic than lion, though not as ‘regal’. Before leaving Perth, I had a list of animals to shoot – a leopard in a tree was one, so I was grateful to find these two. We had driven past some 100m away, 20mins before, and returned on being told by another driver. The images were taken at a distance of about 20m using a 100-400mm lens.

Dust blew on the airstrip on this cool windy day as we watched an elephant cross it. We were in a very small 7 seat Quest Kodiak plane, a tight fit for the 30min flight to Savuti. The bags were no problem though – glad I didnt buy new ones.

The drive to the Savuti camp is fairly long, once again on those corrugated roads, relieved a little by three lions next to their kill, a small elephant, watched by vultures and a kite. And we saw our first Blue wildebeest, a strange dark colour. A lonely hippo lay in a muddy pool surrounded by, at times, wild dogs and impala.

Savuti camp (near the gate) is shown near the top of the map image. Our drives will be to the south into the low elevation green area, the Savuti Marsh, which is fed in the wet months by water channelled from the north (the blue line). The surrounding yellow area is slightly higher, the Mababe Depression.

Savuti gate has an ‘armchair’ with horns attached. I sat on it and asked a ranger to take the image. The camp is luxury after the last two. A very large tent with an enormous high king bed, full power (solar), hot and cold in a separate section with a bath – but the shower is in the open again, shielded only by thin heavily varnished poles leaving small gaps! My tent is the furthest from the dining tent, hard walking in the deep soft sand ‘path’.

The first afternoon drive at Savuti was fairly tame. The lions were still being watched by the vultures. Across the road, a giraffe was looking for a meal of acacia, another with a pair of lechwe were drinking from the diminishing waterhole, in which the hippo still hoped for a water covering. The drive ended with a stop at the large baobab, and then we watched the sunset from the ridge on the west of the depression nearby. No sign of the promised leopard hiding in the rocky hill bush.

Ring-neck doves are common, reminding me of my life in Rhodesia. The acacia trees often produce convoluted branches, thickened in parts. The pretty lilac-breasted rollers are here too, as are the Kori bustard, the largest bird of flight. The Red crested korhaan was looking for its mate, and a Yellow-billed kite perched amongst the twisted branches hoping for a feed.

As dusk fell quickly, we were able to stop next to an unconcerned meerkat on the way back.

Tonight, we discovered, is Independence Day. Before dinner we were entertained by the entire camp team with several songs and dance to celebrate their Independence Day. They are very proud of their history of continued non-aggressive behaviour – the flag is white, black, and blue (white & black for people, blue for sky and water). I found the evening very touching, especially the short speech by the manageress, Jessica. The dinner was amazing – with just a touch of the local ie stiff maize meal (pap)! (The two images are from the iPhone, the ‘best’ available camera.) The Ba Tswana are growing on me; they really are as described in the book by Alexander McCall-Smith, The No 1 Detective Agency. Even better, so many, and I’m told 90%, are Christian, though some are probably a mix with their old beliefs, but tonight has touched my soul.

AFRICA reprise- South Africa/Botswana – 25th Sept 2018 – Day 12

A sad departure at 7am. We are unlikely to meet again till that great day – Pauline (always the one with an appropriate remark) said I should have the kettle on for tea if I’m ahead. I will too!

We had enough time to drive over the Hartbeestepoort dam wall with the last view of the bushveld to the north, and the homes clinging to the west end of the imposing Magaliesberg overlooking the dam. The airport check went without incident, and we arrived in Maun 90 minutes later, to queue in the heat (under shade) for 20 mins to get through their immigration. I hailed a small taxi on the road; David doubted we would get all the gear in but we did, and 20 mins later we were at Island Safari Lodge on the delta. Memories flooded back. The lovely thatched huts, open dining room all shaded by the huge yellow trunked fever trees. I hoped we were in the huts, but were placed in standard ‘heritage’ rooms which I don’t recall from our 1988 visit. They now only do one day mokoro trips and the motor boat still plies the Bora river, taking people up to the mokoro launch site. The owner was telling me that what I did then is still possible but the ‘polers’ don’t take one far from the base island, so cattle and other people are everywhere. When I went, I was taken by motorboat one hour up to an island base where I spent a night with just the polers. Next day James poled me most of the day to an isolated island where we camped for the night (I had a 2-man tent). The quiet and birds were so relaxing, but the night became exciting. James woke me at 1am as elephants were near over the stream, pulling down palms for the nuts. We moved the mokoro to the side of the clear launch site in the reeds in case they came over, and went to bed again. About 3 he woke me again – they were nearer. But I gave up and again went to bed. We watched the sun rise between the trees, had breakfast, and returned – an unforgettable experience. The owner also said they now drive guests to another site 45 mins away who can still provide this service in an uninvaded area – pity I wasn’t told.

We left the lodge again by taxi for a 1hr Robinson helicopter flight flown by a young Kiwi. The delta is an inland water world. Rivers flow from Angola in the northwest into the delta where it is dammed by a ‘wall’ created by the uplift of the area to the east, which is a semi-desert. I was in the front left, Ailine behind. He gave us a good flight to shoot the patterns made by the elephants along their ‘highway’ through the green on the water. Hippos clear the reeds and lilies completely making open channels. We saw large herds of both these, plus one croc, the indigenous lechwe, giraffe, warthogs, a motorboat pushing up-stream, a group walking back to camp, and the homes and enclosures of the locals.

We had a late dinner which took ages to bring as there were two large groups plus others. Wifi was very poor, almost useless, also due to heavy use.

There are many camps in the delta as well as to the north, ranging from expensive to ridiculous. And this is because of the service they supply – 1st class for even the lowest price, which are for the few outside the ‘usual’ areas eg my first camp, Tuskers, to the east of Moremi and the delta. My most expensive one is Savuti to the north.

We considered renting a 4X4, but permits are needed, and one still has to book the safari camps, or camp in the designated places which are not fenced so stepping out the tent at night can be an issue!

Logistics are big – much has to be flown in, including guests. It is possible to get to the drier places self-drive, but you need time and good road skills to negotiate the tracks. We flew over two camp sites, and a group walking back to camp.

Flying over the delta is a great experience, especially in a helicopter. I was here in 1988, and flew in a 4-seater fixed-wing; the view was not good due to the thick glass, but the woman Aussie pilot went lower and tilted the plane over the animals. We had extra time too as she felt ill soon after take-off, landed in a very upmarket lodge on Chiefs Island for 30mins to recover. The colours are striking, deep blue water, vivid green marsh, and dry brown islands with occasional white patches of salt.

The lechwe antelope are found in the wetlands of south central Africa. Their hind legs are somewhat longer in proportion than in other antelopes, to ease long-distance running in marshy soil.

We returned to the Lodge, passing the numerous stalls to a late dinner which took ages to bring as there were two large groups. Wifi was very poor, almost useless.
But the lovely thatched huts, and open dining room are all shaded by the huge yellow trunked fever trees. I hoped we were in the huts as in 1988, but were placed in standard ‘heritage’ rooms which I don’t recall from that visit.

AFRICA reprise- Kenya/South Africa – 23rd Sept 2018 – Day 10

I was up early and offered breakfast though we were promised packed last night. Pretty ordinary – fried egg, samosas, toast, tea. No butter. Hot water with milk.

We managed to squeeze into the small taxi, had to exit at the Nairobi International airport barrier to walk through security while the car and bags drove through. I don’t know how much good that does. More scans before check in; my carry bag could have been a problem at 12kg but was allowed on.. More scans and even shoes off. And then a long wait.

A 4 hr flight to Jo’burg (SAA food and service was appreciated) where we each bought a SIM card for the phones, found the rental car, and drove north to Pretoria.

We stopped on the road to shoot my old University of South Africa sitting on the edge of one of several ridges in Pretoria. We saw our first white beggar, a white woman, standing on the lane marker. Going further on the highway, we passed the ugly, black, reject chromite mine dumps, turning off to Mooi Nooi (pretty girl), where we last lived till emigrating in 1981. And what a mess; so sad to see it. First stop the post office, now a church, and the adjacent fenced-in school. Rubbish blowing around, the houses in poor condition, the shopping centre with high security fencing to protect a further mess. Across the main road from the original homes, is a new centre in better condition, where the orange grove and blue gums once were. Our house is now a 2nd hand ‘shop’; old fridges and bits lie in the garden. I went into the Wimpy bar (like a McDonalds), spoke briefly to the young black serving woman who replied she was not even born when we left! I could not live here.

We continued on the old road to Rustenburg, to pass the lovely Cape Dutch ‘Rondalia’, still a tourist resort, but now hidden behind trees and fences. I loved passing here at night on the Suzuki 425cc as the orange blossom filled the valley. Now ugly shops line the road.

I could not recognise the road as we approached Kroondal; a mish-mash of ugly buildings, rubbish lined fences instead of the neatly fenced wheat fields and trees. David and Pauline have a large thorn bush property south of Kroondal, on the rocky slopes of the Magaliesberg, a high quartzite ridge running east-west, the physical and climatic boundary between the northern and southern Transvaal (as I knew it). We arrived at about 7pm to an emotional meeting – we have become so old! I could hardly recognise David. Dinner was waiting in Pauline’s ‘Christmas’ room, a permanent fixture. There we met their daughter Natalie (again) with their children and talented husband. And a single lady who lives in a small house 200m away on the property. The large ensuite bedrooms are all upstairs, protected by a strong gate at the head. We watched the sinking bright moon from the veranda, reminiscing about the long distant past. The church, the people.

AFRICA- The Mara, Entim Camp, Kenya – 22nd Sept 2018 – Day 9

Last morning. I’m met as usual on my tent path by a warrior with a torch to light my way to the media tent, even though the path is lit dimly by the small converted paraffin lanterns. Its cooler than usual, birds are calling, doves cooing, francolin hooting, and the hippo bellowing and grunting.

“In Africa a thing is true at first light and a lie by noon and you have no more respect for it than for the lovely, perfect wood-fringed lake you see across the sun-baked salt plain. You have walked across that plain in the morning and you know that no such lake is there. But now it is there absolutely true, beautiful and believable.” – Hemingway

In the short time, we saw the lion Long Face and his lady. Spent a while at sunrise at the Hippo pool, passed herds of impala, kudu, and a bronze snake eagle in a tree top. It flew up and circled for a while; Ailine & I had the cameras on machine gun speed for a minute!  Passed a pair of jackals (they mate for life), some hyena, a dik-dik doe & kid, and two Ground Hornbills.

Back at camp by 9, final packing, a big breakfast, tips given, goodbye said, and off to the airfield. Several small planes were there, more came and left till our larger Dash arrived a little late. These domestic flights land at Wilson Airport near the city centre. Back to the Serena Hotel for yet another meal, a late lunch with the group. And then depart for Airport Landing Hotel near the International airport for our 9am flight tomorrow. The others remained at Serena. This hotel looked ok on Booking com, but…. its located on a very busy noisy road though the windows seem to block it well. We are surrounded by a shanty town, dusty,street markets, throngs of people – great photo-op, but unsafe. No aircon, coffee etc, just one bottle of water. Clean, though needing attention. WiFi is better than Entim but it failed on facetime..

Its been a great week and long enough to satisfy me, especially with another 4 weeks ahead. I’ve learned a lot about photography, become familiar with the cameras, but much has been due my effort with just a little from others. We went to the restaurant at 7.30 to find only a waitress, cook, and a big guy watching UK football. She brought us a beer and ciders from the bar of limited drinks, but no glasses, and gave us the limited menu. Hamburgers were out so we ordered stew. Ailine and I found the stay funny, so different to Entim and Serena. Room price A$125 and 11 for the stew. The decor of hidden lights, utility tables and cubicles is strangely austere. The stew was ok though the beef was tough.