Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Chrissie with Rels in Durbs



23 to 27 December, 2015 - Pietermaritzburg, Durban - (South Africa)


Gallery Interior
Gallery Interior
The main hall of the Tatham Gallery, Pietermaritzburg. Formerly a Supreme Court.


I haven't seen my cousin Sharon for 37 years. And I have not met my aunt Norma or cousin Robert! So, we did feel that asking to crash with them for Christmas might be a little presumptuous. Emails were definitely encouraging, but you still don't really know if you are over stepping a mark.

We felt instantly welcome and knew that this was going to be a Christmas to remember. We ended up being 15 for dinner, with some neighbours and their family joining us. The cheer was spread thick and wide. As expected, there was way too much food. Beautiful meats and veggies, gravies and sauces, pudding and trifle.

I was 9 years old the one and only time I met Sharon. And it was wonderful to pick up so easily again. That's family!

Springbok Shooters
Springbok Shooters
Creme de Menthe and Amarula.


Christmas Day with the Family
Christmas Day with the Family
Back: My cousin Robert, Myself, and Tony. Front: Aunt Norma, Jo, and cousin Sharon. Hilarity supplied by Tammy.


Boxing Day Races, Durban
Boxing Day Races, Durban
I didn't back a winner all day, but Sharon had mixed fortunes. A lot of fun for boxing day, with afternoon very pleasant.


Saturday, December 26, 2015

Through Three Countries - Swaziland, South Africa, Lesotho



19 to 24 December, 2015 - Mhlambanyatsi, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Hlotse, Pietermaritzburg - (South Africa, Swaziland, Lesotho)

We had planned stopping in Swaziland before we knew exactly where we would head after Kruger. So, we had found this magnificent place in the forest south-west of Mbabane. Treated like royalty, it was a little splurge that will be remembered.

Breakfast in Swaziland
Breakfast in Swaziland
We really like saying Swaziland. It has a nice ring to it. This is our breakfast buffet, at the Forester Arms Hotel, South West of Mbane, the capital. An amazing place to stay, and an amazing breakfast, despite the dozens of bees that also thought the breakfast was delightful.


On our way south, on a massive day of driving, we observed a distant storm brewing. We convinced ourselves we would be skirting the worst of it. We watched lightning forking almost continually in the black clouds, and were thankful that we weren't in it. We were wrong. Soon after driving through Harrismith, visibility dropped to 3 or 4 metres. Fearful of having a vehicle rear-end us in the poor conditions, I actually felt safer driving than stopping. The driving rain became sleet, the sleet became hail. The lightning lit up flooded fields and pastures with cows standing in 50 centimetres of water. And just as suddenly, we were driving with clear skies. Slushed ice kept the going slow for a while, but fifteen minutes later, we were on dry roads, the blue was above, and the black storm was a distant blob on the horizon.

Back to nature. Many South Africans have commented that Golden Gate Higlands is their favourite national park. Without any dangerous animals, it is a wonderful park for hiking. We had a cabin with a balcony with a braai. It overlooked a wide plain, with a small waterhole, and we sat in the evenings with a glass of wine or a plate of barbecued ribs, watching the various antelopes and zebras.

Butterfly or Moth?
Butterfly or Moth?
The temptation is to say butterfly, because of the colours, but I wonder if this is not a type of moth, given the way the wings sit when it is at rest?


Golden Gate
Golden Gate
Walking in the Golden Gate Highlands National Park.


We Were On Top of That!
We Were On Top of That!
We walk and clambered and climbed, from the car park, and eventually found ourselves inching to the edge of a marvellous outlook that dropped away suddenly on three sides! Only when we eventually camed down, the other side, did we work out that we had been standing on top of buttress of rock. We were very proud. Golden Gate Highlands National Park.


A short drive from the park had us over another border in mountainous Lesotho. Unfortunately, with time running out, our stay was way too brief.

Over 3000 Metres
Over 3000 Metres
Deep in the mountainous heart of Lesotho, taken from the Mafika-Lisiu Pass, 3000 metres.


Rural Dwellings in Lesotho
Rural Dwellings in Lesotho
On the way down from Mafika-Lisiu Pass.


Animals, Food, and Scenic Outlooks - A Fantastic Introduction to South Africa



12 to 19 December, 2015 - Dullstroom, Graskop, Letaba (Kruger), Orpen (Kruger), Skukuza (Kruger) - (South Africa)

We arrived at Johannesburg early morning, picked up our hire car, pushed aside any thoughts of jetlag, and headed straight out east. Our first destination was Graskop, in the alpine like region of Mpumalanga state. Chosen mainly because it was about the right amount we wanted to drive the first day en-route to Kruger, and because it was near something called the Panorama Route that some random had mentioned on an internet forum I had been scanning.

First Meal in South Africa
First Meal in South Africa
We have been expecting great things from the food in South Africa. And it all got off to a great start. Trout, garlic snails, crumbed fried fetta. This was in Dullstroom, in the heart trout country. A yummy start to our holiday.


The Panorama Route turned out to be wonderful, and being in the area anyway, I would have been upset if we had missed it and saw photos later.

Bourke's Luck Potholes
Bourke's Luck Potholes
This is one of the sights along the Blyde River Canyon. These holes have been worn out by the whirlpools in the water. Both bizarre and beautiful, and magnificent to view from the footbridges over the canyon.


A View Along the Panorama Route
A View Along the Panorama Route
One of the spectacular outlooks along the Panorama Route. This was at a spot near the Three Rondavels, overlooking Blydepoort Dam near the end of the Blyde River Canyon.


So, our time in Kruger begain in the central area of the park, with a couple of nights at the Letaba Rest Camp. Even on our day of arrival, driving in, we saw a lot of wildlife. Within that first two hours, we had seen lions, elephants, giraffe, and numerous antelopes. From our cabin, we could watch the hippos going to the river in the evening. A great start. Although, around Letaba, we were only to see three of the famous big five - lions, elephants, and buffalo.

A Hard-working Dung Beetle
A Hard-working Dung Beetle
We watched this beetle do her thing for quite a while. She wanted the ball of dung up the top of the slope, and everytime she got it near the top, the weight would overcome her and it would roll back down, collecting her on the way, like a cartoon character caught in a giant snowball. Then she would start again. Back legs against the ball, front legs on the ground, and then walking backwards, pushing it all up the slope again. Incredible example of the persistance that stems from innate behaviour.


Cooking a Braai
Cooking a Braai
The braai. The South African barbecue. Every cabin; every campsite; every picnic spot; each has a braai. This was our cabin in the Letaba Rest Camp in Kruger. Just beyond that fence we could watch the animals coming to the river to drink. Mainly hippos and antelopes. What a perfect place for a braai!


Baby Giraffe - Photo 1
Baby Giraffe - Photo 1
A baby giraffe nervously looks over at us. I love how the light has caught its face.


Baby Giraffe - Photo 2
Baby Giraffe - Photo 2
Baby giraffe, staying close to mum.


Midway in the southern part of Kruger is the Orpen Rest Camp. Two nights here gave us another perspective on the park, and we added rhinoceros and leopard to our sightings, rounding off the big five.


A "Little" Baby Elephant Suckling
Compared to the elephants around, of course it is little. You really lose track of how big they are. And when you start using words like "suckling", you can't help but imagine something cute and cuddly.


Impala for Dinner
Impala for Dinner
Jo spotted the leopard while it was sitting on the ground, near the base of the tree. We stopped and watched, and after a few minutes, it stood, stretched, and leapt in to the tree. There, in one of the lower forks, was an impala carcass. Something caught earlier, and dragged off the ground for safe keeping. It seems we had arrived at dinner time.


The Tiniest Rhinoceros in Kruger
The Tiniest Rhinoceros in Kruger
This morning, we found the tiniest Rhinoceros in Kruger National Park. A Rhinoceros Beetle was trapped in our sink when we woke. And a little plug for Alisha's Jamberry Nails, too.


Along the Road...
Along the Road...
Driving through Kruger, it is amazing who you meet just by the roadside.


Our final two nights in the park were in the far south, in Skukuza Rest Camp.

Looking Pleased with Himself
Looking Pleased with Himself
Minutes before taking this photo, we witnessed this leopard having an intimate moment with his lovely lady friend! Some modesty was shown, and they went into some tall grass, making the photography a bit difficult, however, we respect the fact that some animals might be shy about some things. Afterwards, he relaxed in the shade, looking very proud of his conquest.


Early Morning Lions
Early Morning Lions
Probably brothers, these two lions lounged so close for such a long time. They rolled in the sun, they moved a metre or two, they seemed to doze for a bit. Just before we left, they rubbed faces, and then both "plonked" on to their backs, eyes closed, contented, proud, and comfortable in their authority.


A Portrait
A Portrait
Lions are often described as majestic. This face says it all, really.


Getting a Ride
Getting a Ride
Baby gives up trying to keep up on foot, clambering aboard mum for a ride.


Symbiosis
Symbiosis
A bird cleans fleas, ticks, mites from an antelope, just about climbing into its ears to get the juiciest ones.


Steenbok
Steenbok
A female Steenbok. Steenboks are amongst the smallest species of antelopes. They are quite timid, and always look so gentle.


Full Size Rhino
Full Size Rhino
A White Rhinoceros, grazing.



Another "Mother and Baby"
And yet another baby that doesn't stray far from mum. Adorable.


Loving or Fighting?
Loving or Fighting?
These two elephants were head to head, trunks entwined, pushing and shoving. Were they courting? Was it all part of a long, drawn-out fore-play? Or was it a stand-off? Agression or passion? Our knowledge of elephant behaviour is not sufficient to know. Maybe, some day, somebody will enlighten us.