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Saturday, 12 April 2014

Froggy Farm Autumn

Its the best weather we have ever experienced here and long may it last!

Since we got back here six days ago the weather has been getting progressively nicer.

I have spent a lot of time in the pool, and also decided to go swimming with the penguins at Boulders Beach in the evenings after the official closing time.   The gate is left open, but I have a Wild Card so can go in before closing if I like.


I find swimming at Boulders is so refreshing and of course quite as calm as a Lily Pond!

Here is a panorama photo I took from our deck this morning - the sun being low in the horizon, perhaps I should try again later.....

Panorama shot from our deck.

February, March and Tankwa 2014

In February we endured the southeaster, had a little rain, and focussed on walking dogs, entertaining and being entertained by our neighbours, and generally sorting out some gardening and other chores around the house.  We did repairs to terracing, removal or regrowth of alien species, and such other orderly things.

This continued right up till we flew on S A Airlink direct to White River on March 13th, leaving our furry family in Maria's care.  Tiffany was due to arrive on April 21st, and we were to go into Kruger to the guesthouse at Letaba the following week...but all went west!

The north of the country had experienced the most severe rains for the season in living memory and all was wet, lush and green.   However, somehow I managed to contract severe bronchitis and a bit of pneumonia, plus laryngitis, pharyngitis and sinusitis (I may have omitted an "it is" or two!) and was rather sick, with no voice (forbidden to speak by my doctor).  So Tiff settled for nursing me, seeing her friend Annie as much as she could, and just chilling until she left for the Natal Midlands a week later - to attend Scott and Wendy's wedding.

So we returned to Froggy Farm on March 30th, and my voice was still pretty dodgy by the time we drove off on April 3rd into the Cederberg to stay a night at Kagga Kamma.

Kagga Kamma photos

We enjoyed a drive on 4x4 routes in the afternoon, which gave Russ a chance to put the new Prado Landcruiser through some of its paces.  A sighting of bontebok and elephant shrews at a waterhole was delightful.

Next morning we did the San Rock Art tour, and while I thoroughly enjoyed it, I think a lot of what our guide told us can be taken with a pinch or two of salt.

More Kagga Kamma and San rock art - photos

Tankwa Karoo National Park

Tankwa Karoo photos

There are not many photos - we were too busy birding.  We were participating in the Birding Bonanza run by the Boland branch of the Honorary Rangers.  Of course Russ and I are totally ignorant when it comes to the LBJs of the Karoo, but we learned fast.  In fact, my iPad and its Roberts was invaluable.  I used bird songs to some extent and the location bird list.

It was a great experience, shared with our friends Keith and Liz Hall (who went on from there to Kglagadi for about 8 days - lucky dogs!).  And we came second!!  I also managed to score high in the quiz at the dinner, so won a small prize for that - tweaked a muscle patting myself vigorously on the back............

Where Did 2014 Go!

The Events of January 2014

Here it is, April 12th, and I have so much catching up to do!

With our dearest children and Lauren's parents (Roy and Carol) having jetted off to the UK (Tiffany) and USA (everyone else), we packed our gear and headed up into Kglagadi, where we had the most exciting and beautiful sightings.
One of the lovely cheetah we saw.  Isn't he magnificent!
I posted a bunch of photos to Flickr My Kglagadi photos

From here we headed to Sossusvlei throughout the border post at Mata Mata, and found that the roads, even the dirt ones, are still wide and well cared for as they were 40 years ago when I lived in Namibia.

Sossusvlei was great, and we stayed inside the Park at Dune Lodge.
Sossusvlei area - typical dunes, which change colour as the sun rises and sets
We then traveled along a more desolate and 4x4 road between the dunes and the mountains to meet up with the main road to Luderitz.  Lots of gemsbok along the way, and wild horses too.

In Luderitz we enjoyed great seafood, boat trip to seal and penguin colonies, trip to the dunes to see the ghost town of Kolmanskop.

A view of some of the abandoned houses at Kolmanskop

There are more photos at Namib and Fish River photos

We could not get a trip into the Sperregebiet, so we carried on to the Fish River Canyon, but not before seeing both greater and lesser flamingoes at various places on vleis and beaches.
Quick sketch done in watercolour - took photo badly, though!

Fish River Lodge

I think I'll ask more piercing questions next time I get two sets of ear plugs with the room key.  Wow did that wind pick up and howl during the night - the ear plugs were essential for sleep.

We reversed the 95km road leading to the Lodge going out once again (took us nearly two hours due to its condition), and headed back up north to the main road, where we turned east till we reached the southerly road that leads to Ai-Ais.

We'd been told that this would be a disappointment but it was not.  First there was the road - very nice dirt road and scenery we liked.  Then there was a stop at the Canyon Roadhouse, which was a treat.  We had lunch, filled the car and went on our way.  Ai-Ais itself was almost empty of people so we enjoyed the hot springs and kept a wary eye not he clever and opportunistic baboons that were everywhere.

We headed south over the border and home, but stopped off at a charming B&B where we had their Dune B&B to ourselves, right on the beach.  We had to do the Muisbosskerm dinner which was OK but frankly we won't be repeating it.  Next day we took the railway toll road that runs between he railway line and the coast as far south as it goes before linking to the highway and heading home.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Hello 2014....

It is a lovely day here in Simon's Town and Russ is planning to do as little as possible today!  Alastair is taking his US family off on a wine cellar tour and as Tiffany arrived back from her party at 7 am she will probably spend a lot of the day fast asleep!

So let me say it here and now, loud and clear....

The Toilet Project....

Yes I know!  A strange title but that is what it is.  I am creating a sketchbook for Alastair and Lauren's new house, to be displayed in their guest loo, which is to be Sanqua-inspired.   San rock art, etc.

So I have chosen a 21cm x 13 cm Moleskine watercolour sketchbook and will be filling this with sketches from old experiences and new ones too.  Russell and I will be going away for about two weeks, to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and thence into Namibia to the Namib and Sperrgebiet, Sossusvlei and on to the Fish River Canyon and Richtersveld.

I shall use the sketchbook to document the lives of the vanishing cultures in these areas, as well as the wildlife, flora and so on...I've made a start with a two page spread.

The welwitschia mirabilis lives up to 1500 years...a relic from the Jurassic period.
This amazing plant has two main leaves that are about 2m wide and up to 9m long - they split and it seems as though there are many leaves.

The San Hunter...a fantasy man based on an old photo, and transformed into a hunter by the removal of clothes and addition of the bow and so on.
The Sanqua speak a click language, Khoisan.  They are hunter-gatherers and own no land or animals.

There it is...a rough introduction to what I anticipate with be an absorbing sketchbook project.

Watch this space in 2014!

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Wrapping up 2013

In early December we loaded up Cleo the airedale terrier, Vixie the wired haired fox terrier, and Tosca the Burmese cat and started the trek from White River to Johannesburg, where we stayed a few days, and then onwards to Cape Town and Simon's Town.
We overnighted at Trymore cottage on Wellwood farm near Nieu Bethesda.  
Once in Simon's Town we engaged with the local service deliverers and once again hit the wall of sheer stupidity and laziness, built on a strong foundation of lies, that forms the main barrier between needing a service and actually getting anything done in this neck of the woods.


But we did get things more or less ready for Tiffany who arrived from London on the 14th, and for Alastair and Lauren and Lauren's parents Roy and Carol, who all arrived on the 20th.

The US party headed off up the west coast, and we joined them at Mount Ceder in the Cederberg on the 24th.
We had a lovely chalet fairly high up and overlooking the river.  It is lovely up there.
After celebrating Christmas, we drove down to Ceres and then on to Aquila Game Lodge.

Aquila is not going to get my custom ever again...this is a really canned game experience, and the accommodation is pretty below par.   The food is boring and repetitive and they pack tour after tour for "game drives".  The game comprises of eland, springbok, zebra, wildebeest, four white rhino, two elephant and one giraffe.  In a separate but reasonably large pen are two lion and four lionesses.   Eisch!
Food on tap
However, I got some nice photos.
The two ellies on about stealing the food off another's plate - here's a quick way to grab a drink!
The lion were in extremely good nick, but, I thought, rather bored...

Nevertheless, at least we were able to show Roy and Carol African animals that were not in a zoo - barely!
Roy, Carol, Alastair, Lauren (behind Al), Tiffany and Russ, as seen through the windscreen of the game drive vehicle.

Greg & Carly's wedding

On the 29th we all went to see Greg Wiles wed Carly Fabian.  This was a really enjoyable wedding and we particularly enjoyed seeing so many of the old gang, St John's and UCT, who travelled, some from the US and the UK, and even further afield.
Tom, James Ballieu, Lauren & Alastair 
The groom and bride

Perhaps I'll have time to do a sketch or two soon....I'm committed to the January 2014 Monthly 50 Sketch challenge with Sketching Workshop so I'd better get into the right mode really soon!

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Hamba Kahle Tata Madiba

In the first day or so following the death of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela we, who all expected it and so should have been prepared, were taken aback at the strength of our feeling of loss, and at the resurgence of the love and gratitude and respect every South African has every right to feel for the great man.

When, upon waking, I heard the news, I did this sketch, while contemplating who he was, and his immeasurable gift to us.

He was granted his freedom after 27 long years of humiliation and incarceration, and spent the next four years negotiating a constitution and future for South Africa that is incomparable, granting freedom to each and every citizen.

It stopped us going down the economic tubes, and its generosity towards the oppressors was breathtakingly unexpected.

Over these years he gave us ALL freedom.   People of colour had the freedom of equality and all that that encompasses, and white people had the freedom to embrace change, as well as freedom from ignorance, prejudice and bias.   He gifted us with transparency, freedom of the press, and above all, demonstrated to us that man should love one another.

How precious are these gifts?    Their value is beyond our ken.

If there is a better place, then he is there, being celebrated and honoured.  

Enkosi kakhulu, Madiba 

Uyindoda emadodeni

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Of Sketches & Sunbirds

It is Sunday November 24th 2013, and on Wednesday we drive, with our furry family of one Airedale terrier, one Wire haired fox terror and one Burmese cat, to Johannesburg for a few days before proceeding to Simon's Town by car.

It is sunny today but not too hot, and the birds are visiting our restaurant in their numbers....all the usual, plus I've seen both a scarlet chested and a Black sunbird flitting into my favourite paperbark tree.

I've also seen the aggressive pin tailed whydah that tries to monopolise the food and bully the little bronze mannikins, with what I think is an immature female.
Here they are, and in the next photo I have a better shot of her.


The mottled bird is a dusky indigo bird - or black widow finch.

The Fifty Sketches Challenge

I did it... and in just three weeks.

I decided to do my sketches in small personal challenges.  First, I tried African market and local scenes.
A shelf at the African Market in Johannesburg.

Man taking buckets to a stall at Hoedspruit informal vendors stalls

Lades texting, with baby at their fruit stall on the road in the Bushbuckridge area.

Such a typical sight - ladies walking along the road, keeping the sun off with an umbrella.

Then I moved on to wildlife, which I love doing.

Starting with this humorous one of guineafowl

And then I moved on to baboons, and searched my Kruger photos for subjects.
This was from a beautiful photo by Sheila, who gave me permission to sketch from it.
Using my Tombow pen and an aqua brush, did a couple of studies.
How could you NOT love those faces!

And then I got very serious and het up about canned hunting and poaching and did these:

I hope that the bars say it all.


And at this point I must say that I accept hunting.  I don't LIKE it but I accept it when properly regulated and run by professional hunters.

Canned hunting is definitely NOT traditional hunting. Its not hunting at all.

The animal is lined up, sometimes still in a cage.  Many animals have been trapped after the game reserve fence was cut and bait placed in a trap.  The "hunter" is actually a trophy collector who does not mind driving in in comfort, shooting and killing the lion or leopard or whatever, and then driving out to play at the casino or indulge in a hearty meal....after posing for a photo with the trophy carcass strategically placed in the open, with bush veld background.

Often the "hunters" are Vietnamese or Chinese, and the bones are used for "medicine".

So I have to say that I despise people who indulge in such shooting, and I absolutely hate and am sickened by canned killing.   It really is NOT hunting.

Those who say it is excusable because it helps the local population and conserves the species should wake up and do a little more research.  Don't believe everything you read - check the facts.

After Hannes du Plessis: white rhino and black the mercy of the most ruthless poachers who will not hesitate to shoot the rangers guarding the rhino.   It's all-out war.  Terrifying.  Those brave rangers deserve our fateful thanks.

Back to the Domestic Front

Blood pressure having reasserted its normal lows, I realised that I had not sketched Tosca yet.  Sketching Tosca, Tiffany's honey-coloured lilac-toortoiseshell Burmese cat, must involve her love of her fox terrier (Vixie), so here she is, complete with dog.  Not the best likeness...will have to try harder.

And my sketching friend Di Metcalf, of Cape Town, mentioned her ducks as being something I might like to sketch.  There are ducks at the petting place down at Casterbridge so I got busy before leaving for Cape Town....
Duck Tales...!

And In Conclusion, re Sketches & Sunbirds

The fifty sketches challenge was great because it got me thinking about my subjects for sketches and got me pursuing the ideas that I had had for sketches, but had not got around to trying out.   For instance, the baboon series and the African life sketches.   It also made me try the Moleskine watercolour sketchbook in the 14cm x 20cm landscape size, and this was a new door opening for me.

I found that because of the smaller size I really thought about format and did a good job of excluding unnecessary detail.  I focussed on more white space.  And I found the result was good.  The Moleskine watercolour pages had tremendous wet strength, which I need as I use a lot of water and ink.

And as for the sunbirds...they are so beautiful and have been busy around some of our flowering bushes and flowers.  The agapanthus are all coming into flower now, and after a light pruning a few weeks ago, the honeysuckles are blooming too.  My dwarf coral tree, which blooms over Christmas, has reddening buds and various small flowers bloom in patches about the garden.

I shall miss all of this but am looking forward to seeing how our new terraced fynbos garden in Simon's Town is progressing, especially after all the heavy rain.