Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Karoo railway signals

This railway signal at Cockscomb Station on the R75 to Graaff-Reinet really tickled my fancy for some reason.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Cockscomb Station on the R74

Railway Stations used to be quite significant with station masters stationed there who was very proud of their workplace and kept it spick and span.  These days most of these small stations are abandoned with very little other than a sign, some signals and an abandoned, often ruined, building.  Driving up to Graaff-Reinet on the R74 from Port Elizabeth I made a quick stop at Cockscomb Station to find a Geocache and just had to snap a couple of pictures.  If it wasn't for Geocaching I would probably never have stopped here and I was better for it.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Local is lekker....

The last few weeks have been a challenge.  It wasn't just my car being stolen with my backpack and everything in it which was locked in the boot.  It was also the fact that my backpack contained my camera which meant that I haven't been able to take photos lately except for a few pics with my phone.  It also means that my blogging hasn't been as frequent as it should be as I have been without any pictures to blog.  

Last Sunday I had to drive up to the Karoo town of Graaff-Reinet for a Monday meeting and to avoid coming back empty handed I snapped a bunch of pics with my trusty Samsung.  I love Graaff-Reinet.  It's one of my favorite towns and I never mind spending a bit of time there.  One of the other people who were there for the meeting saw this sticker on the back of a bakkie in town and snapped a pic which they sent to me.  I think it says it all. 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

My Kuzuko cheetah experience

Kuzuko Lodge in the Greater Addo Elephant National Park is one of my favorite lodges to visit.  Because its on the Karoo side of the Zuurberg mountains the animal sightings may be slightly less than on the coastal side, but I have had some magnificent encounters and combined with their lodge and service it has been a recommendable experience every time.  A Karoo Heartland Marketing Association meeting brought me back to Kuzuku and during my stay I got to do one of their activities I haven't been able to do before, their cheetah experience.

As our luck would have it we found the two cheetahs right next to the fence on a kill so we quickly hopped off the vehicle and approached on foot to a safe distance.  Well, safe is perhaps not the right word.  Let's rather say a comfortable distance for the cheetah.  Kuzuko's cheetah aren't tame but they have learnt to tolerate the presence of humans and allow visitors to get fairly close to them without entering their space.  Our ranger kept us behind him at all times and you could see he had an eye on them constantly just in case.

Seeing them this close while on foot is so much better than sitting on a game drive vehicle or looking at them through a fence.  The lifted their heads for a look at us once or twice but otherwise didn't even bother about us.

Kuzuko may charge an additional fee for this activity which goes towards the Kuzuko Foundation to assist funding their Wildlife Rehabilitation efforts, assisting them in their endeavours to preserve Africa’s wildlife legacy.
Disclosure: I stayed at the reserve as guest of Karoo Heartland and Kuzuko Lodge.  I received no further remuneration and keep full editorial control over the post.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Discovering Lauries Bay in Port Elizabeth

The South African coastline stretches over 2500 km (give or take a couple of km) from the desert border with Namibia to the subtropical border with Mozambique.  I say give or take a couple of km as I have seen exact distances given of between 2798 km and 3751 km.  Whichever it is, its a heck of a piece of coastline varying between long sandy stretches, rugged inaccessible areas, rural and uninhabited beaches and developed pieces in populated areas.  This all means that there are big parts of our coastline that most of us will probably never get to see.  Closer to home, Port Elizabeth has over 40 kilometers of beaches.  Beaches, not coastline.  This means that I haven't even seen the whole of my home town's coastline.  I recently got to tick off another piece of that from my list when I visited Lauries Bay on the Wildside near Kini Bay and Seaview.  Lauries Bay is a group of "shacks" (as their owners call them) located on private land.  The only way to get there is if you know somebody who has a "shack" there and they open the gate for you - which was how we got to go in - or to walk along the beach from Kini Bay. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Daggaboer Farmstall in the Karoo Heartland

About 50 km south of Cradock on the way to Port Elizabeth and the cool breeze of the coast, is one of the Karoo Heartland's most popular farmstalls.  Daggaboer Farmstall is one of those "you just have to stop and try their goodies" spots and was voted the WEG & GO! travel magazines' best farm stall in South Africa in 2011.

According to their website they are best known for their
• Cheesecake, lemon meringue & milk tart
• Crunchy koeksisters, millionaire’s shortbread, fudge & Turkish Delight
• Homemade Ginger Beer & Lemonade
• Best quality handmade sheepskin slippers
• Mohair knee blankets, scarves & socks
• Lavender linen sprays & aromatherapy gels
• Famous Kokskraal jewelry & other quality gifts.
• Roasted Olives, Dutch Cheeses, pure honey & pecan nuts grown in our valleys
• and many other pleasant surprises, spices, sjoe-sjoe sauces, curried beans & chutneys
I know all of that is a mouth full (literally and figuratively) and I can't vouch for all their products, but I have to say that the last time I passed there the temperature was flirting with the early 40's C and their chilled home made gingerbeer and lemonade both went down very very well.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Exploring the Apartheid Museum in photos

The Apartheid era is a part of the South African history that will never go away.  It shaped South Africa's past and future to what it is today and the results of it will be seen for generations to come.  Even though it isn't something that should be celebrated it is something that must be remembered to make sure such things will never happen again.  Ja, ja, I can already hear comments about some of the situations we find ourselves in today, but that isn't what this post is about.  This post is about the Apartheid Museum next to Gold Reef City in Johannesburg.  I have always wanted visit the museum  and that opportunity presented itself to me late last year while I was in Jozi for the Lilizela Awards.  I have to be honest when I say it probably isn't everybody's cup of tea, but it does tell the story of Apartheid in detail and is of particular interest to anybody who would like to learn more about the country's history.  This is probably also where the biggest problem in the museum lies.  They are trying to convey too much information which means you could be in there for literally hours trying to read all the info throughout the exhibits.  I would have liked to see more interactive and visual representation and less writing, but what is there and gets conveyed has a very powerful and moving message.  My intention isn't for this post to contain anywhere close to the same amount of writing but to rather be more of a photographic tour.  

When visitors arrive at the museum your entry ticket randomly classify you as White or Non-White which then dictates to you which entrance to use.... unless you want to be defiant...

I was hugely impressed with the exhibition celebrating the life of Nelson Mandela.  I realize that the Apartheid struggle was so much more and bigger than Madiba himself, but he is the one who shaped the transition into a new democratic South Africa peacefully and deserves all the credit he is given as such.  Plus even though us South Africans may sometimes feel a bit of a Mandela overload, that is what international visitors want to see.

The Mandela exhibit contains not just a lot of information on Madiba's life but also photos and artifacts like his boxing gloves in the above picture.  The Mandela Museum in Mthatha contains a lot of artifacts pertaining to his life and I would really have liked to see this exhibition having more of that as well, but what they had did had visitors glued to the exhibition.

Photographs are not ordinarily allowed in the museum but I was very fortunate that my visit was organized by Gauteng Tourism and I received media accreditation on my arrival allowing me to take photos.  The guy in the photograph is an security guard who saw my camera and very politely reminded me that photographs weren't allowed.  I showed him the accreditation card I was given and immediately told him that I wanted to take a picture and needed a human subject in it.  As there was nobody else around at that stage I roped him in and after some directing I got the pic I wanted.

One of my favorite parts of the museum was as you exited the Mandela exhibition.  There was a number of Madiba quotes divided into categories.  Visitors are then encouraged to select their preferred quote and take a stick of that colour to place in bins in the garden just outside.  I selected the following one:
"I detest racialism
because I regard it as a
barbaric thing, whether
it comes from a black
man or a white man." 

I made sure I got to the museum just after opening time so that I could make my way through before the crowds arrived.  As a South African I know most of the history of the Apartheid era so I didn't spend that much time reading through the info.  I rather made sure that I got to see all the other exhibits and try to get photos of it before to many people arrived. 

One of the most striking visual parts of the exhibition for me was a Police Casspir which formed part of an exhibit on the 1976 student uprising.  Imagine one of these coming at you. 

I don't want to end off the post with the usual "I really would like to encourage everybody to try and visit the museum at least once" because it gets a little cliché but, you know what, I would really like to encourage everybody to visit the museum at least once.  It contains a wealth of information and history, which could be a slight information overload if you overdo it, but I promise you that even if you think you knew it all you will still learn something or at least be moved in some way.   

Disclosure: I was in Johannesburg as a guest of the Tourism Grading Council of South Africa as one of the judges of the Lilizela Tourism Awards.  My visit to the Apartheid Museum was organized by Gauteng Tourism.  I received no further remuneration and keep full editorial control over the post.