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 Eastern Cape – 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 fenced etc….

e 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 the 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 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. Despite that, I finally arrived here at 7, having lost time in Bergville to grab a Kentucky burger L, 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 is not to a good standard, but 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!

As dusk fell just short of Bergville, I just had to stop for a shot. The amphitheatre was a 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 but I have yet to see the image on the pc.

Hope to survive the night…..

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- 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 again. 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, all ages. An adrenaline shot for the young, and for David who has booked swings over the gorge and a paddle on the rim on 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.
We spent the afternoon shooting the magnificent falls, 1km away. Even though the east 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 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 through 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 imaging these plants complaining that they can hear the thundering water, but don’t get a bit of it.
The Falls was ‘discovered’ by David Livingstone Nov 16 1855. The water is from Angola 1000km away. Here it falls 100m over a 1708m brink. The 500million litres/min at peak flood creates a dense mist seen from afar. At present its a thin imitation.
We tried the micro-brewery across the road for dinner – not as good as last night, but still good and well presented. Their home brewed ginger beer is excellent.

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

11pm as i write. Its been a long day as it mostly is on ‘holiday’. Up at 6, breakfast at 6.30, 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 a few times, owned by old Gilfillin, ex army I think. He had grandsons who would hunt through similar ground. I accompanied one when he shot a small antelope (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. We drove down to the swamp, but it was quiet compared to yesterday. The elephants were moving away from the waterhole (also topped up by a bore). But we found two of the local lions sleeping (as usual) in the shade of a bush. We spied a large herd of roan 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 stoping at the water. At this the lions heads poked from each side of the bush – but they went back to sleeping. We drove 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.
No hunting in Botswana since about 2008 has paid off. Tourists flock for the amount of game despite the terrible roads. 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. Ailine, a USA lady and I shared 30mins together yesterday. So unexpected. More on the blog sometime….
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 VF. I searched 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 3 days to get through. It was well worth paying for the guide. The Botswana airport and customs are in good shape unlike the Zim side where one stands outside a small window. The Botswana building reminded me of Beit Bridge where one entered a passage along one side of several officer windows, while the same occurred the other side for people entering. And that reminded me of that stifling hot night we spent in the hotel, Karen in a carry cot. Jan 1966. We arrived in Vic Falls about 3, settled, and set off to see the falls, so David said, from the Viewpoint cafe. We didn’t manage it as 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. We didnt get far as we were warned elephants were around. So we returned to see the gorgeous stately Victoria Hotel. I think even Rhodes was involved but needs checking. . 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 apparel rich – which I don’t have. The place has many rooms and all are FULL! Walking around its clear who belongs here. The hotel was opened in 1904. The view of the bridge and gorge from the broad terrace is excellent. Despite the bed price it appears to be full. Dinner was a very large hamburger at ‘The Three Monkeys’ cafe next to the railway. An 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!
This 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 would find a place.
So thats a blog for today
23.40 bed time

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

Independence Day. The Ba Tswana are growing on me. So many, and I’m told 90%, are Christian. Some is probably a mix with their old beliefs, but tonight has touched my soul.
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, 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 beak hornbill.
Notes: Lechwe front legs are long for leaping the swamp.
Hogs knees are adapted to kneel as their necks are too large to bend.
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 impala hanging from a branch. I could not wish for better – just hope I did it justice as we had a plane to catch and still many km to go on the sand horrible road.
Dust blew on the airstrip this cooler windy day. 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 – glad I didnt buy new ones.
Three lions were seen on the way to the new camp, next to their kill, a small elephant, watched by vultures and a kite. And we saw our first Blue wildebeest, a strange dark colour on an animal.
A lonely hippo lay in a muddy pool surrounded by, at times, wild dogs and impala.
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 by thin heavily varnished pole leaving small gaps!
Afternoon notes:
Kori bustard (largest bird of flight – quite something to see.
Ring-neck doves – so familiar in Rhodesia.
Lila breasted roller
Red crested korhan
But no sign of the leopard.
Before dinner we were entertained by the entire cast with several songs and dance t celebrate the Day. They are very proud of their history of continued non-aggressive behaviour – the flag is white, black, and blue (white & black people, blue sky and water). I found it very touching. The dinner was amazing – with a touch of local ie pap!

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

A sad departure at 7am. 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. 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 1989 visit. They now only do day mokoro trips and the motor boat still plies the Bora river, taking people up to the mokoro launch site, for short trips. The owner was telling me that what I did then is still possible but the ‘polars’ don’t take one far from the base island, so cattle and other people are everywhere. When I went, I was taken by motor 1 hour up to an island base where I spent a night with just the polars. 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 on 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 returned the following day after breakfast, watching the sun rise between the trees, 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. 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 also channels which keeps them open. 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.

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

I was up early and was 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 is 12kg but was allowed on. Could have been a problem. More scans 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 to Pretoria. Cousin Arthur is in Hospital there, and not recovering well from pneumonia. The hospital is not impressive, and Arthur is in a bad way.

We stopped on the road to shoot my old University of South Africa, sitting on the edge of one of several ridges in Pretoria, where 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, where we last lived till emigrating in 1981. And what a mess; so sad to see it. Rubbish blowing around, the houses in poor condition, the shopping centre with high security fencing to protect a further mess. Across the main road is a new centre, in better condition, where the orange grove and blue gums were once. 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 took 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 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 buildings, fences, rubbish lined it instead of the neatly fenced wheat fields and trees. David and Pauline have a large 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 7 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. More tomorrow.

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 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, dik-dik doe & kid, and two Ground Hornbills.

Back at camp by 9, finish the 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. We are now at 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 again.

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 125Au 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.