Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snakes at Reptile World

We decided to take the Rugrats to Reptile World at The Boma today to experience some slithering serpents. Well, guess who had a legen... wait for it... dary time and who was hiding at the door.
The visit starts with a guided tour showing you all the different snakes. This guy is the most common snake we find in this area. Its called a Puffadder and is a distant cousin of the Rattlesnake. It is responsible for a lot of snake bites as it tends to lie in footpaths sunning itself and people would stumble over them there.


This green snake is a Green Mamba. It is very poisonous and is found more to the north east of here. It doesn't grow as big as its cousin the Black Mamba, but is still one to avoid in the bush.

The best part of the visit starts when the guide takes out the non-venomous snakes. Then the fun starts. Here he is holding a baby boa constrictor.

I did find time to give up my camera in exchange for a snake... actually a couple of times... whenever they offered. I was in my element. I loved it. What an experience. I've never held a snake and here I am standing with the biggest snake in Africa. An African Rock Python.
For more picture of the family interacting with the snakes, pop into Firefly's Personal (B)log, Supplemental.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Shongololo millipede

There are various types of millipedes, but one I always like to find somewhere is the Shongololo millipede.
These guys aren't little worms and can grow up to 20cm long. Around here they are a glossy black, but I see in my nature book that you also find some with alternating yellow and black bands. I also have not found that one so they probably occur somewhere else in the country. I've always wondered how many legs a millipede actually have, so I looked it up as well. Up to 120 pairs of legs. So shouldn't they be called a twohundredandfourtypede? The babies hatch with only three pairs of legs and acquire more at each moult.
This millipede I found somewhere on a walkway had became a meal to these red bugs. I can't find what they are, but they look like some kind of stinkbug (ja ok, so I just made that up).
Edited: Thanks to Jeanne. She has informed me that these bugs are Millipede Assassin Bug Nymphs.
Just some random interestingness connected to this topic. In South Africa there is a tourist train called the Shongololo Express named after these little animals.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Opening game skies

Last week Wednesday night I went to the opening game of the South Africa 2009 Pro20 cricket series with Hoender (Hoender is my brother and is Afrikaans for chicken. Since primary school his nickname was Hoender because he ran slightly funny. Didn't stop him from playing first team rugby and cricket as well as being a provincial athlete).

As the sun went down the sky over the historic St Georges Park looked beautiful and I decided to get a couple of pics for Skywatch.
On Monday we had the ultimate Skywatch event which I posted about on Monday evening. We had a partial Solar Eclipse which can be seen here.

For more awesome Skywatch photos from bloggers all over the world, why not make your way over here and have a peek.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Elephant skin

Elephants are amazing animals and as a tourist guide I used to have so many facts to give the tourists that I could not always get to all of them. For today I will stick to a couple of skin facts.

The thing I find most interesting about elephants' skin is that they don't have sweat glands to keep them cool. That is why they like to swim and throw (not blow, I'll explain at the end of the post) water and mud onto themselves. The other way they keep themselves cool is by flapping their ears. Because the ears are so thin, the arteries are very shallow below the skin and by flapping their ears they cool down the blood which then gets circulated though the body cooling it down by a degree or two.
Although they have tough skins, they are bothered by insects and lice. Ticks and lice live in the wrinkles of their skin and by throwing mud on their backs, it hardens in the sun and kills of the lice. It also protects the elephant from insect bites as well as the harsh sun. And just for interest sake, check out those eye lashes.

PS - Why did I say throw and not blow. Elephants suck water into their trunks to put in their mouths to drink. It then gets thrown and not blown into their mouths as it is impossible for someone or something to blow and swallow at the same time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Funny signs

Today I want to feature two signs that I photographed in Cape St Francis to the west of Port Elizabeth.
This one was put up on the little dirt road leading to the Seal Point Lighthouse. It was put up by the Ajubatus Marine Rescue group who has their centre next to the lighthouse. Just for those who don't know Afrikaans, "gat" means hole. Kimberley se gat refers to the Big Hole diamond mine in the town of Kimberley in the Northern Cape which is the world's biggest man made hole.
To this one I can only say:"DUH!"

Monday, January 26, 2009

Solar Eclipse

This morning we had the rare skyward event of a solar eclipse. It was something I've been looking forward to for a while, but when I got up this morning I was very disappointed to see that it was very misty. But I was hopeful. At its furthest we would have seen about a 64% eclipse and that was going to be at about 08:15. Just after eight I headed outside and the sun was starting to break through. Now how do I photograph it? Big question. Without anything it was just too bright. Even with lots of mist around. I tried taking it through my sunglasses but still too bright. Then I grabbed borrowed one of my colleague's (thanks Sadie) sunglasses as well and wola! Here is my effort.
This pic was taken through one pair of sun glasses...


...and this one through two pairs on full 18x optical zoom and a bit of a crop.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

The Boardwalk day and night

The Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment complex on the Port Elizabeth beachfront is a very popular spot for both locals as well as visitors to the city. The nice part about it is that you don't have to visit the casino to visit the Boardwalk. In actual fact the complex is a very family friendly environment. Most of the shops are open in the evenings until 20:00 while the restaurants are open till late.

Boardwalk by day

Boardwalk by night

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Potjiekos

When you think of traditional South African foods, a couple seems to put up their hands. But the two that must be right up there in the top three or four must be braaivleis (barbecued meat) and potjiekos (stew made in a cast iron pot on the coals as well). Now I'm not the world's best cook, not by a long shot. My ranking would probably be somewhere in the top 500 million, but I would be able to help myself if my life depended on it. While on our holiday camping trip, I decided to make potjie for Christmas lunch.

This is how I did it. There are hundreds of different recipes and ways of doing it. This is mine.
  • The fire gets lit and when there are sufficient coals, the black three leg cast iron pot gets put on it.
  • Put in some olive oil. Just a bit. Not too much. Just enough. (Get the idea?)
  • We decided on a chicken potjie and had about 4 drumsticks, 4 wings and 4 pieces of white meat. Put in the pieces and just do a quick fry on both sides of each so that it gets a bit of colour, then take out.
  • Put in one onion (sliced into rings) and fry till light brown
  • Put chicken on top of onions
  • Add baby potatoes, slices carrots, pieces of butternut, mushrooms and peas (or any other vegetables your heart desires)
  • Then I add my concoction, I mean sauce (can somebody explain to me how to do that typing thing with the line through?) It consist of a packet of spare rib marinade, some chutney, tomato sauce, tin of tomato puree, salt, pepper and water - can't remember what else we had, but at home I'll also add worcester sauce, sweet chili or whatever else you have in stock.
  • Don't add more water. It makes it's own water. In this case the Damselfly added more water and the sauce didn't get thick enough.
  • Now leave it to do its thing for two hours or so. Important: DON'T BOTHER THE POT SO DON'T STIR IT! UNDERSTAND? Trust me (and thousands before me) it won't burn and it will all be cooked.
  • Towards the end you may want to take out some of the sauce to add corn flour to it to get the sauce thick. Don't forget to pour it back in after mixing the flour in.
Here is the end product. Don't criticise the presentation. It wasn't a food fancy dress party. It was just supposed to get our tummies full. The bread is beer bread. One 500mg self raising flour and a tin of beer. Mix well and stuff in three standard tins. Cover with foil and bake on the coals. The tins can be see in the first picture on the right hand side.

The Damselfly couldn't resist (ok, so I had to ask her) taking a picture of me with my new springbok horn pot opener in hand. I'm not really a hat guy, but the temperature came close to 40C (104F) that whole week and my receding hair is leaving my forehead a little exposed.
So that is the end of today's cooking lesson. LOL. Next time I'll do one on a braai (barbecue).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Full Moon rising

This was taken from Humewood Beach here in Port Elizabeth about two weeks ago as the full moon was rising over Algoa Bay.

For more amazing Skywatch pictures from all over the world, why not go and check it out here.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

First day in big school

Today was Chaos Boy's first day in big school. Just for the foreign readers of the blog, in South Africa kids go to Grade 1 in the year they turn seven.

He was up early and, as with any child going to school for the first time, very keen to get ready.

Here he is in his school uniform at school.


The other big news of the day is that I got my first picture published. Ok, so I didn't get paid for it. It was something we did as friends and my wife called up the daily newspaper, The Herald, to see if they would publish the pic and the little piece I wrote along with it. So you are wondering what it is all about. When we went for ante-natal classes, the lady presenting it encouraged the moms to form a Baby Club for everybody to get together every now and then for tea (and many birthday parties very close to each other) to share experiences, seek each other's advice and just to make new friends. The Baby Club started out with 14 moms (and some dads) and kids. Over the years some have moved away while others have faded. Now we have 7 families left and we decided to get them together for a photo shoot in their school clothes. The seven are going to six different schools, so it was quite cute to see them in their uniforms.

This is the original photo.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Shark Rock Pier at night

One of the main beaches in Port Elizabeth is called Hobie Beach. It is a Blue Flag beach just across the road from The Boardwalk entertainment complex and a very popular beach. Until the late 1980's Hobie Beach was nothing more than a rocky stretch of coastline. It was then decided to have a pier built to block the sand moving along the coastline and form a beach. Today the value of the beach and surrounding area to the city far exceeds the cost of building it.

The pier is a very popular landmark for photos and television footage of the beachfront. The other night we organised for the in-laws to watch the Rugrats for a while and went out for dinner. After dinner we headed down to the beachfront for a stroll through the Boardwalk and down to the beach. I had my camera on hand for a couple of night shots of the pier. Unfortunately the Damselfly didn't want me to carry a tripod along on a romantic (anything without the Rugrats we see as romantic) stroll so I had to sit on my behind and shoot off my knees.On this picture the waves were crashing against the rocks in front of me and made a blurry curtain between me and the pier. I thought it was more interesting than just another straight forward pic like the top one.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Happy Valley

Situated on Port Elizabeth's main beachfront just across (or under, depending which way you choose to take) the road from Humewood Beach is a wonderland of kiddies characters and lights.
Happy Valley is situated in a natural valley through which the Shark River flows. Nothing more than just a little artificial stream these days, it used to be the main water supply for early Port Elizabeth. During the summer months Happy Valley is lit up with coloured lights and children's characters and has been for years. It is a very popular attraction for both young and old, locals and visitors, and doesn't cost anything to visit.
The walkway up the valley is so enclosed with vegetation that it is hard to imagine that you are anywhere other than a fairytale land, not to mention a city. We try to go every year and this year both Chaos Boy and Drama Princess had a ball naming all the characters on show.
The characters range from Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan to Shrek and Harry Potter. In between you'll find leprechauns, three blind mice and Superman and many others.

There are also lights in the shape of animals and coloured lights back lighting the vegetation. All and all it is a spot well worth visiting during the summer season when there are lots of other families strolling through. Some people have safety concerns about the valley, but we found that there were lots of people strolling through on the Saturday night we went and adequate security personnel patrolling. Next December I'm sure we will be making our yearly journey to Happy Valley again and the kids will get all excited all over again. I can't wait... and that's not a sarcastic statement.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Drama Princess a hopping

As most of my regular visitors may know, I'm not a big "people" photographer and prefer travel and nature photos. I am always in awe at Jeanette and Karin when their post their people pics, most of which feature their kids. They are always so creative and imaginative compared to my straight forward pics I take of my kids. Some of which I occasionally post on the Firefly Personal (B)log, Supplemental. I have decided to make a concertive effort to try and be more creative when I take pics of my kids.

I took this pic of Drama Princess on the trampoline. I was lying flat on my back and asked her to jump next to me. Obviously she though I was a bit mad, but played along quite nicely. It was hard to get the focus right and to also get her to look at me. But to me all the effort was worth it when I saw how this one came out. I am quite proud of myself. I may just catch up to Jeanette and Karin some time in the future as far as people pics go.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Little flying critters

At both the places we camped at over Christmas and New Year we got to see bats. Not tons of bats, but a few flying up and down around about dawn. Whenever they banked low over our heads the Damselfly would give a shriek. Its so girly of her. LOL.

On our last night a baby bat flew past us and landed on the side of the tent two spots down from us. We watched him (or her) back its way halfway under the flap and made itself comfortable. It wasn't bothered at all when the curious dude with the camera came to poke his lens right up to it AND used the flash. So here he is. Batman's little cousin.


A couple of days after we got home we found that a swarm of bees were moving into our front wall. The bee guy said that a swarm like this can have about 60 000 bees in it, so I didn't venture too close. Just close enough to get this pic. They have now been removed (I won't go into the whole complicated method they used) and is happily plying their trade on a farm outside the city.

Friday, January 16, 2009

St Johns Anglican Church

In the little village of Bathurst is the St John's Anglican Church. It is the oldest unaltered Anglican church in South Africa and was built in 1834 during the frontier wars.

It is surrounded by the most interesting grave stones, some of them dating back and belonging to original British Settlers and their decedents. Because of it's country setting it is also surrounded by a lot of vegetation amongst others some beautiful Bougainvilleas.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Canon Rocks sunset

On Monday I did a post with a photograph of the wreck at Cannon Rocks at sunset. Today I am posting another two sunset pictures taken while camping at Cannon Rocks. Not much to say about it other than "enjoy".

There are a lot of awesome Skywatch pictures from all over the world that you can enjoy by clicking here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Windy beach

There was a lot of windy weather along our coast between Christmas and New Year. Luckily the holiday resort where we were camping was very sheltered and we weren't effected that much. But when we headed down to the beach we knew that mother nature was blowing off some steam.

The one day the wind was extremely bad. It was blowing so much sea air onto the land in the distance that it actually looked like there was fog coming in. We wanted to go for a walk, but we got so sandblasted that we had to turn around.
There was a brave fisherman on the rocks trying his luck in the wind. I don't think he had much luck cause we saw him walk by later emptyhanded.

There was some joy in the wind though. A couple of kite surfers were getting ready to hit the water and you could see that the conditions were ideal for them.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Washed up

In Saturday's post I featured what I called beach treasures. These are things that you find on the beach that were either lost there, washed up by the ocean or got there in some natural or unnatural way. Today's post kinda flows out of that idea. The only thing is that today it features a mammal, a sea creature and a bird. And no, there is no punchline to it. Far from it.
On our first visit to the shipwreck at Cannon Rocks I was so under the spell of the wreck that I nearly did not even see the baby seal swimming out of the sea a couple of metres away. There is a small flat island (more like a big flat rock) just outside Algoa Bay that is home to the biggest breeding population of Cape Gannets in the world. It is also a "breeding" area for the Cape Fur Seal who's pups are born between October and January. On Christmas Day the sea was VERY rough and high. The waves broke over most of the island and washed most of the baby seals off and away. Live seals that ended up on the beaches around the bay were captured and taken to the rehabilitation facilities before just less than 200 of them were returned to the island by boat (within 3 days of the storm) to be reunited with their moms. This little guy was one of the lucky ones.
On our second last day there was a strong easterly wind. This is normally when you find blue bottles (also called Portuguese Man-of-War) on our beaches. This one became a tasty meal for for a couple of beach snails (sorry, I still don't know what they are called) on which I have done a post previously.
On the evening I went down to the beach to get some sunset shots I found this dead Cape Gannet that was washed up along with a lot of different sea weeds. I was touched by the scene, but at the same time I found is very interesting with the variety of colours around it, so I could not resist taking a photo before moving on.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Wreck at sunset

Today's post continues on yesterday's post on the shipwreck at Cannon Rocks on the Sunshine Coast. It rained three out of the seven days we were at Cannon Rocks and I was a bit worried that I may not get a sunset to photograph. Seeing that the evening had good prospects, I headed down the beach to the shipwreck to wait for sunset.


When I got there I thought this scene with the kelp gulls in the foreground and the fisherman in the background made for a nice picture. The gulls stayed just long enough for me to line it up and get the shot.
I tried to get a sunset photo with the shipwreck in the foreground and some reflexion on the wet sand. Most of the pics I took had sunspots on it, but this one came out fairly close to what I wanted. What do you think?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cannon Rocks shipwreck

Cannon Rocks is a little holiday resort town on the Sunshine Coast about 120 km east of Port Elizabeth. The town (if you can call it a town) consists mostly of holiday homes and retired people and reminded me of Paradise Beach. This was were my grandparents retired and we spent every school holiday there, playing amongst the dunes, building forts in the bush, exploring between the rocks and off cause swimming. But I digress. Cannon Rocks, and neighboring Boknes, have miles of sandy beaches ideal for swimming, kite surfing, fishing or just walking hand in hand... or running after the Rugrats, whichever you prefer.
The landmark that stands out for me at Cannon Rocks is the wreck, or what's left of it, of the Hallelujah-20. The Hallelujay-20 was a fishing boat that ran aground on the beach in the mid 1990's for whatever reason. I didn't ask around why.

I was immediately drawn to the wreck. Infinite interesting angles to photograph, holes to frame with, colours to play with and not to mention the promise of a sunset photo with the wreck in the foreground. That post will follow tomorrow. Watch this space.

My favorite pic of my time spent at the wreck was this one.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Beach treasures

When you take a walk on the beach you always scan the sand to see it you can't find something interesting. Most of the time kids will pick up shells, sticks, stones (not to break bones), mermaid's purses, feathers or whatever else they find.
This seagull's feather lying next to this stone caught my attention and I just got one picture of it before Chaos Boy leaped into frame to pick it up.

The same happened with this tennis ball. I was still crawling around on all fours and swoozh, it was gone. The tennis ball had me wondering though. Where did it come from. Was it some dog's toy that got thrown too far into the waves for him to fetch and got washed up later? Was it one of the balls that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadel hit off the building in Dubai in that TV ad? Or did it belong to a couple of bored fishermen on a fishing boat that where playing catch? Who knows? But its lying in my garage now. LOL.

Both these photos were taken during our week spent in Cannon Rocks.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Glossy Starling

Today's post is for the birds. Literally for the birds. And knowing his interest in birds (and specially baby birds), I'm sure Max will enjoy the post.
The Glossy Starling (Lamprotornis nitens) is a fairly common bird in our part of the world. When we pulled into our camp spot at Cannon Rocks between Christmas and New Year one of the first things I noticed was that there were four glossy starlings that were very active around the area and specially making a huge racket in the tree next to our braai (barbecue) area.

On closer inspection I saw that there was a hole in the tree with two starling babies in it and the adults were feeding them. Why there were at least three of the big ones feeding I don't know, but I realised that it was a birding photo opportunity like I haven't had in a while. I barely set up my tripod and I was rewarded with this pic of mama (or papa, who knows) feeding the one baby with what looked like an insect of some sort.


The babies were very shy and only peeked out every now and then, make a huge noise which I took as something like: "Where's our food!" By now the adults had noticed me and was a bit wary to just fly up to the nest, selecting to rather first hop around the tree for a while before approaching the nest. At one stage one of the babies peeked out and give me a scolding look. Check out the inside of his mouth. Its like something from an alien movie.

Shortly after alien boy was rewarded for his bravery with a big piece of something. Don't ask me what it was cause they came with everything from insects to pieces of cream crackers they obviously raided from a tent. I was really chuffed with the picks and it will probably be a while before I get such an opportunity again.