For interesting information on flowers, trees and plants please click on this link:

For the identification of insects and other fauna and flora of South Africa: please click on the following links:
Insects and related species: Antlions - Ants - Bees - Beetles - Bugs - Butterflies, Moths and Caterpillars - Centipedes and Millipedes - Cockroaches - Crickets - Dragonflies and Damselflies - Grasshoppers and Katydids - Mantis - Stick Insects - Ticks and Mites - Wasps - Woodlice
Plants, Trees, Flowers: (Note: Unless plants fall into a specific species such as Cacti, they have been classified by their flower colour to make them easier to find) Bonsai - Cacti, Succulents, Aloes, Euplorbia - Ferns and Cycads - Flowers - Fungi, Lichen and Moss - Grass - Trees
Animals, Birds, Reptiles etc.: Animals, Birds, Fish and Crabs - Frogs - Lizards - Scorpions - Snails and Slugs - Snakes - Spiders - Tortoise, Turtles and Terrapins - Whipscorpions
Other photography: Aeroplanes - Cars and Bikes - Travel - Sunrise - Water drops/falls - Sudwala and Sterkfontein Caves etc.
Videos: YouTube

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Oh gnats to you too!!

21St November 2012

LOL!! Or should that be “nuts”?

Late yesterday afternoon the storm clouds started gathering and a strong wind came up. I was thankful that it seemed as if we were going to get some rain at last and cool things down a bit but after a lot of thunder and lightning, it blew over and someone else got the benefit of it. It did however cool down so I went for a long walk along the river bank. When I arrived back at the car, the side opposite to the direction of the wind was black and on closer inspection found it was covered with literally thousands of gnats!! I have never seen so many together before. Clever fellows to get out of the wind but did they have to use my car?? LOL!!

22nd November, 2012

I have to decide where to go from here and it is a difficult one......

23rd November 2012

Woke up and decided to head for my “home from home”..... yes, you guessed it ..... Kruger National Park. What a wonderful feeling it always is to drive in the gates. I am not sure how long I am going to be here as I am hoping to go to all the camps.

If you want to know what a trip here will be like, please follow my link to the first chapter on the series I did called Home away from Home and then on the right hand side of my blog, you will see the other links to the other chapters. This is an amazing place and always worth visiting.  

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Sudwala Caves

Looming above the beautifully wooded valley of the bustling mountain torrent known as the "Houtbosloop", there is a majestic massif known as Mankelexele (Crag on crag / Rock upon rock) In the great massif dolomite rock there is one of the most astonishing caves in Southern Africa, an as yet unplumbed complex of passages and giant chambers extending into the mysterious heart of the mountain.
The Sudwala Caves are the oldest known caves in the world, and as such, are a `must-see' on the itinerary of any visitor to Mpumalanga. These incredible caverns lie in the Drakensberg escarpment which separates the Highveld from the lowlands of Mpumalanga.
The caves are situated in Pre-cumbrian dolomite rocks of the Malmani Group, formed over a period of some 3000 million years, capturing in stone a time when the area was covered by warm shallow in-land seas. These are amongst the second oldest known sedimentary rocks on the earth, and represented in the cave are fossils of the first oxygen producing plants on the earth, Collenia.
One can clearly see in the different layers and textures in the rock a reflection of the result of the different weather patterns taking place in the building of an ancient seabed. Besides the awesome rock displays the caverns also boast an array of calcium formations, aged but active, anciently and patiently still growing.
In past ages these caves were formed when gigantic stresses cracked the dolomite. Rainwater percolated into the cracks, carrying carbon-dioxide and dissolving away the limestone in the rock, forming in the process a subterranean dreamland of vast caverns and passageways decorated with stalactites and stalagmites in all manner of weird fanciful shapes.
It is as though nature, in the privacy of these dark vaults has directed some leisure moments in eternity and created a gallery of fantastic shapes and forms, and exhibits them to mankind with a sly smile. The dolomite is a carbonate sedimentary rock consisting mainly of the mineral dolomite CCa Mg(CO3)2.
The caves were used as shelter by Pre-historic man in the form of "Homo-Habilis" / "Handyman." approximately 1.8 million years ago. Habilis has smaller cheek teeth, larger front teeth, a relatively large brain and skeleton more like that of modern humans.
They mainly used the cave entrance as shelter during bad weather. Excavations are still in progress and have thus far yielded a fine collection of stone-age tools which are on display at the cave entrance.
Early in the development of the Sudwala Caves as a South African tourist attraction, it was discovered that the "P.R.Owen hall" had natural air-conditioning and it was also suggested that this, plus its other attributes, would make it splendidly suitable for opera and other drama.
In July 1970 the famous Russian singer, Ivan Rebroff, tested the suitability of the big hall for concert purposes. His remarkable voice, with a range of four octaves, resounded gloriously through the caverns in a series of songs. Afterwards he gave his considered opinion that the acoustics were at least equal, if not positively superior to those of any concert hall or opera house in Europe.
In the Pre-cambrian, all the early animals were soft bodied and thus did not fossilize well at all. However there are primitive plant fossils called "collenia" to be viewed in the Sudwala caves. They were a type of blue-green algae that used to float on the ocean.
They were tubular shaped and approximately 2 m in length. It was one of the first oxygen producing plants that produced oxygen safe enough for us to breath.

It dates back 2000 million years when these plants were formed.
It got compacted in the rock, because at high tide sand and silt would get washed over it and get caught up in it, another layer would grow and the same process would occur.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oh my!

19th November 2012

There are so many incidents which I come across that I have to smile at:

1. At Nylsvley, I had gone into their small shop to get a sandwich for lunchtime. Coming out, a car stopped in front of me and a man and woman, probably in their late 70’s got out. Without any kind of a greeting the lady said to me “Who are you? What are you doing here? Where do you come from?” LOL!! I was quite disconcerted at the approach or should I say attack? She continued: “Come and have coffee, I want to know all about you.” I turned down the invitation but started chatting to here. What a lovely couple they are and invited me to visit them in Pretoria when I am there again. I did have to wonder about their holiday though ...... they had left a place where they just sat around all day, hired a chalet in Nylsvley and were doing the same thing besides maybe once a day riding down to the birdhide which had no birds as there has not been enough rain to fill the pan. Is it worth going somewhere on “vacation” when you sit and do the same things as at home????

2. I met a young man you was doing a three year course in Lodge Management. These courses are very basic. He told me that when he finishes next year he wants to go and work at the Ritz in London. I wonder if he knows that you need YEARS or experience and be among the top ranking people in the world to get into a place like that. I admire his far reaching dreams though but think he needs to come back down to reality. The irony of it all is that he does not speak a word of English!! 

3. While sitting in my car waiting for something, I was approached by a very old black man. He asked me if I had something to light his cigarette and told me he could not ask any of the black people around there as “Black people are full of sh*t!” I had to smile at that one.LOL!!

I was very lucky to be invited to stay at a place on a river bank not too far out of Pretoria. This lady and her husband run two places and said there is no one at the second during the week so could go out there. It has water and bathrooms but no electricity and I can tell you, in this extreme heat, a cold shower is just the thing so I have at least two per day!!

20th November 2012

I have found some lovely and interesting bugs again but I decided I wanted to put my light out at night to see what came to it. There was not much of interest except a small spider but while sitting there, a snake crawled out of the bush about 5 yards/meters away and came to lay on the road. Oh boy!! Nice kind of surprise hey? I am surprised that he did not move off as I was walking around my light but he seemed quite willing to share the space with me. It was too dark to see what kind it was and did not want to move closer so I took a shot with my flash but it did not come out clearly so I still do not know what it was.

This was last nights sunset. What a pleasure to sit on the banks, listen to the birds and watch the sun go down.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


16Th November 2012

It has been a very busy few days and I have not had time to post or write anything.

The 11 days at Dinonyane were very productive with me recording over 200 species I could name and about 70 I cannot identify yet. A pretty good record as far as I am concerned. I processed and ended up with about 450 pictures out of that lot which I will be posting.

Last night I had something on in Johannesburg which turned out to be not as helpful as I had hoped. It is amazing how places profess to be involved in conservation and which end up being just as far as it suites their own pockets!! Anyway, I am in Pretoria today looking for a place to store my things for a while as my car is really struggling with the weight of everything. I am hoping to find something which will not cost a fortune as my pension does not stretch very far and as it is now already a bread and coffee diet for me, I don’t know what I will live on now but the sacrifice is worth not having my car damaged by the strain because without it, I am totally buggered!!!

Later .......

Oh WOW!! How wonderful friends can be!! When I least expected it, a very special person went to a lot of trouble to make space in his garage for me to store my things in!! I wonder if he realizes how much this has meant to me?? THANK YOU LEON!! I am blessed to have you in my life as my friend!!

17th November 2012

What a wasted day!! I decided to head in a south westerly direction, spent 6 hours driving around and ended back where I started!! SH*T!!!!!!!! Most of the area I looked at has been cleared of bush for farming of one kind or another. Yes, I realize we need farms too but do they have to cut down the trees?? Most animals eat the leaves and seedpods from them but I guess the taste of it might go into the milk and not make it useable for consumption. A wasted day can be very frustrating as it is hot riding around in the car like that. Last night we had a huge storm so it is quite muggy today too.

One of the places I passed and stopped at is where they grow and process mushrooms. I thought it might make an interesting post for my travel series but unfortunately they said I could only go through the place on a weekday and I think it is Saturday??

So, where am I going to head now??? I am not sure but think it might be north east of here. I would love to start my trek down south but I am waiting to hear about something which might require me to be back in Pretoria so I don’t want to go more than about 2 hours drive away.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Dinonyane Lodge

Many thanks to Retha, Jan, Frik and Chantelle, the owners and manager of this lovely lodge for allowing me to spend eleven wonderful days here doing a survey of the plants and insects. It is greatly appreciated!!
 The lodge is situated about 2km from Nylsvley, about 20km from Naboomspruit and is a birding paradise with not only the bushveld species but the ones which breed in the nearby marsh too. The tranquil setting is a true place to unwind and get rid of the stress of living in the city. It is about 2 hours drive from Pretoria and Johannesburg so is easily reached for a weekend break. For someone like myself, I would suggest at least a week in order to absorb the beauty of the nature surrounding it.
 Besides the abundance of birds, there are so many interesting flowers, plants and insects to see. Yeah okay, I know most of you can do without the insects but they are not the “buzzing around your head” type which will annoy you but rather they are found on the lush vegetation of the gardens and veld.
 There are conference facilities for those who want to combine the relaxation of a bush environment with the mundane tasks of the workplace and a small gym for the energetic few plus of course, the swimming pool in which to cool down during the hot summer days.
 Accommodation ranges to suit the needs and size of all groups and families with a dormitory which can take 24 people for larger groups such as bird clubs. In total, about 80 people can be accommodated here.

There are 19 en suite comfortable and cosy rooms to choose from ranging from standard, family and luxury.
 All rooms are equipped with tea and coffee making facilities. A heater, fan or air-conditioning and television are standard.

Bathrooms have a bath and/or shower with towels supplied as well as a variety of other bathroom amenities.
 For camping enthusiasts, there are facilities available where food can also be made in the lapa, equipped with a fridge and microwave.

There is a lovely bar and restaurant available where meals are catered for on request. Three of the chalets are self-catering but once again, meals can be arranged if required.
 An outdoor lapa is a great place to spend time chatting, having meals or just hanging around with your friends. It has a top floor which is ideal for a get-together such as a braai. Next to it is the swimming pool and tennis court all with their own ablution block.
Game drives to Nylsvley are done on request and special team-building activities can be arranged to suit your company needs.

All in all, it is the ideal place for family celebrations, weekend getaways, special occasions, conferences and weddings.

The lodge is listed with Birdlife South Africa and was featured in Country Life (February 2012 issue).

Please consider this lovely place for your next weekend away. For reservations and more information you can contact Dinonyane Lodge on telephone: 014 743-6969 Fax: 086 574-5302 E-mail:  or visit their website at:

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Life and people can be strange and amazing!!

5Th November 2012

Life and people can be strange and amazing!!

I remember when we got TV back in the 80’s – everyone’s social skills seem to fly out of the window. People were SO enthralled at this new medium that they did not have the decency to switch it off when you came to visit. Instead, their eyes were glued to the box and they did not hear a word which was being said by anyone else. Now it has got even worse ...... they ask you to come and visit, then spend all the time chatting to people on FB, Twitter or whatever else they are on, as well as sending text messages on the phone. How very rude and inconsiderate!! I only need to get that once from a person and I never go there again. I am so pleased that I was taught manners and decency by my parents.

Some people also seem to think that I am having great fun and adventure when this is very far from the truth. If this was, many, many people would be doing it and I cannot find any other person living like this. I have lived a tough life but this is by far the toughest thing I have ever done. I am open to the elements, experiencing extremely hot and cold weather, when it rains everything is wet, I am far away from shops and cannot buy anything fresh. There is not a soul I know who would be able to live like this for more than a couple of weeks, so don’t envy me please.

7Th November 2012

This was really a great day for me as far as finding interesting subjects. Someone at the lodge brought me a scorpion with a damaged tail and as it was a species I have not been able to find and photograph before, I was pleased to get this one. I also found an Acacia Katydid which I have long been after and a Roman Spider!! (These are not true spiders but belong to the Order Solifugae) Since a child of about 7-8 years old, I have been terrified of only one thing and that is these spiders!! They run at you to get into your shadow and are large and hairy!! One time, as I was about to get into my bed, one came crawling out from between my sheets and there was absolutely NO WAY I would sleep in there!! My mother had to change the sheets and then I was still leery to climb into bed. Another time when one came dashing towards me and I jumped about three feet onto a chair which toppled over!! It is the once time in my life I remember ever screaming in fright. These spiders were as big as my hand and I was only 7-8 remember!! Needless to say, now that I body and hands have grown, they are not as big as I remember but still a good 4-5cm in body length and FAST ...... you will not believe what it took to catch this one!! Anyway, I will put it on my blog soon.

The whole day has been very windy and slightly cooler that it has been. Last night huge storm clouds came up and I thought we were in for a good one but nothing materialized. Maybe this wind will blow one up??

8th November 2012

My goodness!! What a storm that was!! We sure did need the rain though so I am not complaining but at one stage I thought the lightening was going to strike the tent it was so close. This morning is still slightly overcast and I have an idea that more rain is on the way.

9th November 2012

As they say, be careful what you wish for as it might come true!! It is now very early morning 04:35am and it has rained for 36 hours. The rain is lovely and I do not mind it at all but it has been freezing cold as well and you all know how much I hate getting cold!! I have woken up with the sniffles .... can you imagine ....... catching a cold in November?? I was so cold that I had a blanket, duvet and another blanket folded double over me and eventually got up to put some socks on!! What happened to that wonderful summer which started near the end of August when I was a child and the beautiful warm summer rain?? This planet is really messed up weather wise isn’t it?? Someone who arrived here said that a bit south of here they had a very bad hail storm with stones as large as tennis balls and it has caused a lot of damage to houses and crops. There goes our summer fruit off the trees!!

I spent yesterday indoor the whole day processing photos I have taken to date and there are some really lovely specimens. I need to get them done so I can get on with the next patch I am hunting in but it is definitely too wet out there. It is too early to see what the day is going to be like but hopefully it will warm up some.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

A bit of an accident - 1st November 2012

A bit of an accident - 1st November 2012

Yesterday was not a good day for me. While packing, I was leaning over the trailer and the 100kg lid fell on me and hurt my back and chest. Later on, I opened the back of the cab and as the space between the car and trailer is not enough, I smacked the corner of the window into my cheekbone and eye. Today I am finding it hard to breath and it is difficult to do anything because my back hurts.

I left the house so late yesterday that I did not manage to get very far and slept in the back of the car at a garage along the way. I am very, very tired and arrived at Nylsvley, booked in and spent most of the day sleeping. It is one of the coldest nights and days I have experienced in a long time and cannot believe it is the beginning of November. This reminds me of a time way back in the beginning of the 1980’s when I even had a duvet on my bed over Christmas!! Needless to say, I did not manage to take any pictures but with the cold, there was nothing around anyway.

“Nylsvley Nature Reserve (from their pamphlet)

The Nyl River Floodpalin is one of South Africa’s largest and least impacted floodplain systems. It is located in the upper-reaches of the Mogkalakwena River, a tributary of the great Limpopo and stretches over a distance of about 70km, water may extend up to 16,000 ha. The three primary sources of water are small seasonal rivers that drain from the eastern slopes of the Waterberg range: the Olifantsspruit, Groot and Klein Nyl rivers.

The floodplain is not permanently under water; indeed it is dry almost as often as it is wet. The timing and extent of inundation is rainfall-dependent and years of below average rain often result in no floodwater reaching the plain. On average, this is the case one year in three, while flooding occurs to a greater or lesser extent in two year in three. Only once in about ten years is there a bumper flood that results in the entire floodplain being under water. Inundation typically occurs in late January and February; the water then gradually recedes, sometimes drying up completely before the next summer.

Nylsvley was purchased in 1974 by the Provincial Government with the primary purpose of conserving a section of the floodplain; it was proclaimed a nature reserve in the same year. The reserve, lies between 2436S/2840E and 2442S/2844E and straddles the floodplain near the towns Modimolle (Nylstroom) and Mookgophong (Naboomspruit). The reserve is 3975 ha in extent, lies at an altitude of 1080-1155m above sea-level; on average, 620mm of rain per annum. Summers are warm to hot (max temp 38-39°C), winters are mild to warm with temperatures rarely dropping below zero.

Nylsvley Nature Reserve was designated a Ramsar site in July 1998. Ramsar is an international convention that seeks to recognise and urge protection for globally important wetlands. The reserve is one of about 20 sites currently registered in South Africa and one of 1600+ in the world. Nylsvley is also listed by BirdLife International and an “Important Bird Area”. Much of this recognition stems from the variety and abundance of waterbirds that are attracted to the floodplain during times of flooding. More than 100 waterbird species have been recorder – more than that recorded in any other South African wetland. Many of these species are rare or highly localised elsewhere in the country – for example, the Great Bittern, Rufous-bellied Heron, Dwarf Bittern, Allen’s Gallinule and Streaky-breasted Flufftail – and Nylsvley is an important breeding ground for them in wet years. Nylsvley is not just about waterbirds; about 380 species recorder makes it one of the most bird-rich reserves for its size in South Africa.

Plant communities on Nylsvley are also diverse and interesting; the plant checklist currently stands at about 600 species. Among them is Rice Grass Oryza longistaminata, the dominant grass on the floodplain, a species that is virtually absent elsewhere in the country.

Acacias are the dominant tree species in the alluvial soils fringing the floodplain, with Acacia tortilis, A. robusta and A. karoo being the main species, along with lovely old examples of the shepherd’s tree Boscia albitrunca, dense thickets of the numnum Carissa bispinosa and fine examples of the jacket plum Pappea capensis and bushveld saffron Eleaodendron transvaalense. The southern part of the reserve is underlain by sandstone and resulting sandy soild support broad-leafed woodland dominated by red syringe Burkea Africana, silver clusterleaf Terminalia sericea, the lekkerbreek Ochna pulchra and others. The northern side of the floodplain is underlain by erosion-resistant felsities resulting in rocky shallow soils, with Combretum species dominating the tree community – C.apiculatum, G. erthropyhllum, C. molle and C. zeyheri. Also occurring are mature specimens of beechwood Faurea saligna and the giant naboom Euphorbia ingens.

The reserve’s mammal list currently 77 species of which the most commonly seen are giraffe, blue wildebeest, zebra, roan antelope, kudu, waterbuck, reedbuck, bushbuck, tsessebe, impala, warthog, black-backed jackal, vervet monkey and tree squirrel. The nocturnal species include bushpig, brown hyaena, leopard, porcupine, lesser galago (or bushbaby), aardwolf, aardvark, scrub and Cape hares and Jameson’s red rock rabbit, springhare, serval and caracal, African molerat and striped polecat. You could also encounter hedgehog, clawless otter, slender, banded, yellow, white-tailed and marsh mongoose, Juliana’s golden mole and large spotted genet. Less commonly seen; wildcat, plus 9 species of bats, 9 of mice, 5 rat species, 5 shrew species plus a dormouse and a gerbil.

Amphibians are well represented with 19 frog species of which the largest is the Giant Bullfrog Pyxicephalus adspersus. They come out of hibernation as soon as the wetland is inundated to breed in the ephemeral puddles along the floodplain margins where there is less likelihood of fish eating their tadpoles. Another noisy frog is the raucous toad and the most colourful is certainly the banded rubber frog. Apart from a crocodile that resided at Vogelfontein for a while a few years ago, the largest reptile present is the water monitor; it contributes to an impressive 58 species of reptiles and amphibians present in Nylsvley. The list includes a diverse complement of snakes including python, black mamba, snouted (or Egyptian) cobra, puff adder, boomslang and vine snake; their presence dictates that sensible shoes be worn when walking in the reserve.

Given the ephemeral nature of the floodplain, Nylsvley’s fish fauna is restricted to a dozen or so species, but what it lacks in variety, it makes up for, when flooded, in quantity. The first floodwater brings with it thousands, if not millions, of barbell and minnows riding the water coming down from the catchment, heading for the floodplain to breed. When it floods, their numbers and the numbers of waterbirds eating them, are one of Nylsvley’s memorable sights. Finally, Nylsvley is home, when wet, to at least 55 species of dragoinflies. Apart from these beautiful wetland ambassadors, 194 butterfly species have been chalked up. Other insect groups have been less well catalogued but they could number up to 10,000 species.

Nylsvley is proud of its biodiversity and Friends are working hard to maintain it against the threats of unrestricted development in the catchment.”

2nd November 2012
To make up for my laziness yesterday, I was up before the sun this morning and headed down the road to their famous bird hide. There has not been much rain up here and what there was, has soaked into the ground so there is very little water in the marsh. By the time I reached there, it was getting light and I had been hoping to get some pictures of the wonderful dragonflies I have heard they had. Probably due to the lack of water, there was not one in sight and I was very disappointed after the long hike to get there.

It is fairly green though and lots of trees and flowers are in bloom so I started taking pictures of those. There is an abundance of species not found in the areas I have been before and someone has gone to a lot of trouble to put name boards up by each tree species which is wonderful for people wondering what they are.

Then I found something really interesting ..... I have always wondered how dung beetles start that round ball they are always rolling around and now I know how they did it .... I will post the footage as soon as I have been able to edit it but I must first download the program and once again, no internet!!

The day was not much warmer than yesterday but later in the afternoon, I went for another long walk and found lots on interesting beetles on the flowers. As it was my last night here, I decided to put out a light to see what would come to it and was please to get two of the nocturnal dung beetles flying in.

The camp had filled up for the weekend but like all people who love the outdoors, most had an early night. The long walk had not helped my sore back and so I spent another uncomfortable night. I do hope it gets better soon.....

3rd November 2012
Arrived at a wonderful lodge and will do a post on it on Tuesday when I have finished processing the pictures. The manager, a lovely young lady, has allowed me to camp here for a couple of weeks.

Setting up the tent did not help my back but it is definitely on the mend and should be okay in a few days time. It is quite a job for one person to do. Unhitching the trailer was something else!! It is too heavy for me and luckily there was someone here to help me. I have to soon find a place where I can store most of the things I am carting around with me and get it down to manageable proportions. This hard work is not fun and I am having very serious doubts if buying the trailer and tent was the right thing to do. I was going to just buy a trailer and I should have stuck to that thought. I should know by now never to change my mind from what I first decide. Found a Brown Button Spider when I unpacked ...... wonder if it came with me from Pretoria??

If anyone out there has a storage place for me .... an old room outside or anything ..... please let me know.

The weather has turned extremely hot during the day and so it is nice to be able to dip into the pool now and then. At last I can take a hot shower too!!

There is no internet signal anywhere so will have to rely on posting when I get to an area where there is. I have to go into town on Monday and will post this then while treating myself to coffee at the Wimpy. My bread is starting to turn green in this heat so I guess I had better get some more. J Also, I could not get bananas when I was there last time and just an apple for lunch is getting a bit boring.

4th November 2012
I have found a lot of interest to photograph today including a spittle bug which I have long been after. They are found on the Rain Trees and as they digest the leaves, they exude the water in it so if you stand underneath, it feels like it is raining. Got some nice butterflies and at last saw some dragonflies. There has been a woodpecker making a hole in a dead tree. All day he has been at it hollowing it out and now two sparrows are trying to take it over!! LOL!! Poor woodpecker!!

Another disaster ........ Somewhere along the road my trailer licence disc and holder have fallen off and I cannot find it although I went back along the road to search. With the system they have right now, I cannot get a duplicate in the nearest town as it is another province and so have to go back to Gauteng to get it!! What a damn nuisance!! Seems like I was never meant to do this kind of life was I?? Something is always happening!!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The best thing of all.....

20th October 2012

With all this packing and sorting, I discovered the best thing of all .... NO MORE IRONING CLOTHES!!!!!!! Now I can just wash them and were them creased as there is no one to see. Who discovered ironing anyway? They should be shot!!! LOL!! LOL!! How society decrees what we should and shouldn’t do with our lives!! Now, all their laws and rules do not apply to me anymore, I can do exactly as I want to!! WOW!! What an awesome thought!! I can even walk around naked and not wear clothes at all!! Now THAT is a magnificent idea!! That way I won’t have any washing either!! LOL!!

30th October, 2012

Well tomorrow is D-Day for me and I am off into the wild blue yonder – well actually right now it is the dark blue yonder. We are having very heavy storms with a lot of hail and I wonder how it will affect me?

Tomorrow I have my last use of a bathroom. Can you imagine not having a bath or toilet ever again?? I am sure that I will get by though so it is not a big worry to me. No fridge to keep things cold either. I balance doing without these things against all the pleasures I will have and they by far outweigh the loss of those few things.

I will be waking up in time to make my coffee and watch the sky get lighter and the sun come up. I will see a million stars at night. Be able to listen to the cricket and the frogs at night with no sound of motorbikes, cars or people to intrude on my peace and quiet. How damn WONDERFUL!! Love the thought of being able to hear the owls again and watch the moon dance across the sky. What absolute luxury!!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Only two things I'll miss

This place is a mess!! There are boxes, suitcases and piles of things everywhere. This pile has to be given away, that pile must be kept, this one is to be sold. There are boxes half packed then there are things I put in one box and change to another. This has to be done so carefully. Some things I will use on a daily bases and need to be easy to get to, others are replacements for things which I will never be able to buy again if I get rid of them now, but I know I will need them sometime. Some things have to go in the car and some in the trailer ........ on and on .......

I guess that once I am on the road things will sort themselves out eventually but I would hate to on the road be having to scratch to find something I need but thought I didn’t. I am trying to anticipate my requirements but who knows what I will be needing a few weeks or months down the line? Shall I keep this, will I need that? How would I know as I have never done this before!! JI have probably packed a whole lot more than I will need anyway and will either get rid of it when I try to get it all into my car or 6 months down the line if I have not used it by then.
 There are only two things I am really, really going to miss and the first on that list is my bath!! This is something I use in the Japanese way: extremely hot both winter and summer and then I sit and relax in it until it cools down, wash and get out. It is my time to get rid of stress and strain. Now I have a rubber bag which I will fill with water, put it somewhere in the sun to heat the contents, hang it up in a tree, put a basin under it to stand in and have a shower. Sounds awful doesn’t it?? Well beggars can’t be choosers and it is either that or bathe with the crocodiles. LOL!!

The second thing is pizza!! Oh my!! It has been my staple diet for about 5 years now and living in the bush with no shops nearby, it is going to be hard tack or army rations for me from now on. About the only time I will get something fresh is maybe once a month when I go through a town.
Slowly but surely things are coming together and with only 10 days to go before I leave, there is not much time left. I am still working three days a week so have to fit everything in on the few days off. With all of this going on, I have not had much time for going out to find new things to post so have to make do with what I have.

Today we have had a lot of short hail storms and the weather has not been good this past week. I wonder about setting off on my trip: Will it still be raining or will it improve? Will I be able to set up my tent or will the winds blow it away? Can I keep things dry and out of the rain or will it leak in somewhere and damage something? So many questions and for now, I don’t have any answers ...... and you were thinking I am going be having fun????? LOL!!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dreams can become reality

 15th October, 2012
By this time, not only entomologists but herpetologists, zoologists etc. were all encouraging me to start a comprehensive website for the identification of all our fauna and flora. A massive undertaking to be sure but one sorely need here. I was not in any kind of position financially to make this dream of mine come true but I guess if one wants something badly enough, all it takes is that first small step to reality.

Firstly I needed some kind of car as mine was over 15 years old and would not last me much longer so I purchased a small truck knowing that even though it would take me four or five years to pay off, in the end I would have something reliable and by having a canopy put on the back, could even sleep in if necessary. The day came when I made the final payment and now the doubts crept in. I would only have my small pension to live on with which I would have to use for fuel and food. Could I live off it? It would mean I would have no home anymore, I would have to get rid of all I owned which did not constitute much but was at least a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in. Yes, I could continue to work for the next ten years but that was NOT where I wanted to be!! I wanted to be free again. To feel the warmth of the sun on my face. To be able to sleep under the stars and watch the sun rise and set with no walls, no phones, no noise. Just me surrounded by nature. So I resigned........

I had a hard time breaking away from my boss as by now I had been working for him for over 6 years and he did not want me to leave. We came to a compromise, I would work for him three days a week. This would give me the freedom to ride around taking photographs, allow him to still have me doing his work and I could afford to keep a roof over my head.

Although this arrangement was not what I really wanted, it had advantages and I decided to try it for a few months to see how it would work. The end result was that it did not. I was still restricted to how far I could travel in the four days and I wanted to go further to different biospheres and regions such as the semi-desert of the Karoo in the south-west so I resigned again, this time for good. Who knows at this stage how wise my choice is but I do know that I need total freedom no matter that I would basically have to be living off bread and water in order to fulfil my dream. Who cares anyway? As long as I can be out there living the life I want to, I will manage somehow.

My final pay check I wanted to put aside as a small nest egg and for use in case of emergencies but after careful consideration decided to blow it all on something better to live in than my car and this is it, my new home.
 It is a tent on top of a trailer which is pulled by the car. This is how it looks when the tent is erected. The window you see in this picture is by the double bed.
 As you come into it, there is a small room where I can put in a chair and table. All the sides of the lower part have windows with mosquito netting on them which allows a breeze through. It also has a flap which lifts up to give shade and I can either sit under it or park the car there.
I can fully open both sides if I want to and if I wanted, can buy another room which zips onto this. All of this folds down flat on top of the trailer for easy transportation.

Make no mistake, the way I am going to be spending the rest of my life may sound grand and glamorous but that is very far from the truth. I will have no bathroom facilities or running water and no where to keep food fresh. Africa is a harsh continent with extreme weather of hot, cold, windy and dry and if that doesn’t get me, the ants and mosquito’s will. Notice I do not mention crime, bad roads and freaks of nature I will have to contend with.......

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Getting rid of memories

12th October, 2012.

It is with some trepidation and anxiety plus a whole lot of excitement that I make my plans to head into the unknown. Where will I end up? What will I do? What will become of me? What does life have in store for me? All these questions and more go through my mind as I pack and I wonder if Burton and Livingston felt the same when they set off to explore?

The hardest things for me is getting rid of over 50 years of memories....... The one thing I am pleased about is that I have managed to capture most of my records on the computer. No matter what has happened in my life, I have always dragged my boxes of vinyl’s with me and having them stored for over 25 years, hearing them after so long brought back many things to my mind. If there is one thing I am sorry I have to let go of, it is this collection. They have been with me through all the ups and downs in my life and each song has a powerful memory of its own.

But I get ahead of myself, let me go back to the beginning.....

I spend over 23 years living and working in the African bush as a tour guide and loved every single minute. Contrary to belief, it is not the glamorous job everyone thinks it is. I worked an average of 12 to 18 hours every day, 365 days a year and there are tremendous pressures on you to see that each client has a wonderful trip, that they are taken care of and time limits are adhered to etc. Along the way, I met some of the most fascinating and wonderful people from all walks of life and from almost every country and culture in the world.

When the powers that be decided that my old face was not the image of a tour guide anymore, I came back to the city which I hate and started work in an office which I hated even more. You can imagine that this was like a cultural shock after so many years of open air, animals and freedom and I found it extremely difficult to settle down. Because of my lifestyle, all the friends I knew were gone, all my family passed away and I was completely alone for the first time in 55 years.

I had been doing slide photography of animals for years and joined a photographic forum to share my pictures, stories and experiences with the people on it. One man there started posting pictures of insects and I became hooked on macro photography but I was still back in the stoneage with my 35mm camera. It took me a year to save up for a digital camera and to start taking pictures of my own and I fell hook, line and sinker in love with this new and totally fascinating world I found myself in. Before, insects were a buzzing and annoying bane, something to be shoo’d away and ignored, now the colours, differences and variety became a source of wonder and excitement.

So began my journey. The more I saw the more I wanted to know and learn. I bought all the books I could find and started studying. I started pestering expert entomologists to tell me what I had found when I could not find them in my books and slowly but surely built up my knowledge. I met many interesting people in my quest for more knowledge, people willing to share their knowledge and expertise with me.

My dream began then..... the one which would enable me to go back to the bush I loved, the only place I belonged and called home.....

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dinosaur Park

Dinosaurs dominated life on earth for 150 million years. All dinosaurs lived on land, and had well developed hind legs.More than 350 different types of dinosaurs have already been identified, and many more will still be found. The biggest dinosaur is called Ultrasaurus, and was discovered in Mexico. It weighed in excess of 90 tones.
Although dinosaurs are classified as reptiles, many scientists believe that they were warm – blooded. If so, they would have been active, sociable and reasonably intelligent. Dinosaurs could move much faster than modern day reptiles. Some dinosaurs were always on the move, and must have had a fast metabolism.
The closest living animals to dinosaurs are birds. Small warm blooded dinosaurs 200 million years ago developed feathers to keep warm, and these creatures were the ancestors of birds. Like birds, dinosaurs laid eggs and had nests. Some even had communal nesting sites, and practiced parental care. Some dinosaurs had gizzard systems, like birds. Dinosaurs and birds have similar hollow bones and ankle joints
It is difficult to prove that dinosaurs had feathers, as feathers rearly fossilize, being soft tissue. Fortunately there is always a couple of exceptions to the rule, and distinctly feathered dinosaurs fossils have been found in Germany and more recently China.
Dinosaurs and crocodiles share common ancestors, and are thus related. BUT dinosaurs developed dramatically over time, crocodiles did not change much. They are perfectly adapted to survive, and can go for up to two years without having to eat at all.
They have a normal pulse rate of 23 to 24 beats a minute, And when it becomes very cold, the pulse can drop to between 2 and 3 beats a minute. Crocodiles did not become extinct when the dinosaurs died out. Dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago.

A huge meteorite smashed into the earth , resulting in a massive explosion, hurtling clouds of dust, smoke and watervapour into the atmosphere. These clouds obscured the sun, and the earth cooled rapidly. Plants died. Leading to the death of first plant eating and then meat eating dinosaurs. A huge crater has been found just off the coast of Mexico, positive proof of a major impact. Some smaller animals survived this ordeal, and as the sun set on the dinosaurs, it dawned on the age of mammals.
There were mammals during the time of dinosaurs, but they were small, inconspicuous, hiding from dinosaurs at all times. When dinosaurs became extinct, the mammals managed to survive. They can keep warm, as they have fur on their bodies. They are small, and don’t need much food.
Smaller mammals tend to store up food for hard times, and they have warm burrows in which to ward off the intense cold that killed the dinosaurs. The mammals went on to become the dominant animals on land. During the millions of years that have passed since the death of dinosaurs and before man, many different mammal species have come and gone.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

A few days at the sea - St Lucia, South Africa

It is a seven hour drive to St Lucia, but it started off great with this wonderful sunrise. It is not yet very hot here, so some places are still a bit misty.
St Lucia is a VERY small town (if you can call it that). It has a couple of shops and a few places to overnight. It is situated on an estuary and is mostly visited for fishing.
There are a lot of crocodiles and hippo around as it is the heart of a game area. St Lucia was proclaimed a world heritage site in 1999. Cyclone Demoina closed the estuary mouth in 1982, and although they have tried to dredge the sand for years, cannot get it open again.
Street vendors sell these beautful hand carved side tables.
Looking South.......
Looking North.......The weather was very overcast and cloudy so the seas were a bit rough, but I managed to get onto the beach to pick up a few seashells:

Friday, September 7, 2012

Retirement / hailstorm

Good grief!! Do All people have so many problems when they want to retire??

Officially I retired at the end of February but for one reason or another, my boss has been very reluctant to let me go and in the end, I stayed on a bit to help him out. At the beginning of August, I went to him again and said that I definitely wanted to finish up at the end of the month and that he should get someone else. Another round of discussions and instead of stopping work completely, I am still helping out three days a week. Okay, that is better than five days a week but still, there is a lot I want to be doing and this restricts my areas of travels.

I have decided to continue like this for a month or two as it gives me the chance to go up to the area where I want to work from and look for a place to set up a base camp. There is not much in the line of insects for these next few weeks anyway so maybe the situation is for the best. But by December, I need to stop ALL work!! Maybe I am just too much of a softy and when someone like my boss asks for help, I cave in and give it. Dumb!! Really dumb of me!! But that is who I am and I guess it is hard to change ones personality.

This past winter has been very normal and I looked forward to our spring rain when it came. Little did I know that it would start off last Thursday with one of the worst hail storms I have ever seen in my life!! Within the space of a few minutes, the ground was covered with a two inch layer of hail and it looked as if we had a snow storm instead. My driveway id covered with thorns and branches which were knocked off and as it continued raining the whole of Friday, I am hoping that it will dry out today as they predict sunshine so I can sweep it all up.
 I had spent the morning going through the beetle collection at ARC trying to put names to some of the photographs I have and about lunch time, had finished. They also have a huge bug and grasshopper collection which I need to go through but decided I would take it easy for the rest of the day and go back next week. Just as well!! If my car had still been parked there instead of the shelter at home, it would have been badly damaged. I have also been invited to spend some time with another collection which includes a lot of moths and butterflies where I am hoping to be able to identify some of the caterpillars. This will be an enormous help.
One piece of good news is that I bought a video camera and hope to be able to put it to good use capturing some of the action I see. I am looking forward to trying it out.

 All in all, maybe things are not so bad with working a few days a week for the next few months.........