Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Bushmans River reflection

I little while ago I joined a couple of tourist guides from Port Elizabeth on a visit to Amakhala Game Reserve about 75 km east of the city.  Although we got to do a game drive we were actually there to see their new boat and to go for a short cruise on the Bushmans River which flows through the reserve.  As we were cruising upstream this reflection presented itself for a photograph and I just couldn't say no.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Township lunch - Beef stew and liver

"Are you joining us for lunch of liver and stew in the township ?"  That was the question one of my colleagues asked me the other day.  Now I can be a bit of a picky eater and there are a couple of things I won't touch.  So I thought about it... for about two seconds... and agreed.  And to be very honest, I haven't been sorry I did.  There we were, a Xhosa, two Afrikaners and a Coloured, four South Africans from vastly different backgrounds, heading into the heart of Zwide.  As we walked in one of the locals said, "Just what I like to see.  The rainbow nation getting together to eat in the township."

Before we left the office we phoned ahead to check if they had everything and heard that they were sold out of roosterkoek already.  Good thing we phoned.  A quick stop in New Brighton meant that we came prepared with our own (with prior permission of cause).  The eatery, and I call it that because its nothing like a restaurant as you would know it, doesn't even have a sign outside and I would have passed right by if I was looking for it on my own.  We made ourselves comfortable and Mr X, being the township expert in the group having grown up there, suggested that we start out with beef stew.

I hate to sound like Oom Oubaas, one of South Africa's most beloved television soapy characters, but I can't help it cause its true.  "We chewed our lips off."  The roosterkoek was used to wipe our plates clean after we had eaten every little morsel.  My mouth's watering again.  That was our starter done and time to order our main meal.
Lamb liver and fried onions - two plates between the four of us - washed down with Coca-Cola.  Yummy, yum yum.  The Damselfly doesn't eat liver, so I very rarely get to eat it at home.  This means I really tucked in and by the end of it I was so stuffed I couldn't look at another piece of food.  Most whites would probably never have the opportunity to try a township meal like this but I would really recommend that they get a black friend to take them for the experience.  Since this I've also had the chance to go for a traditional Shisa nyama (township braai or barbeque), but more about that in another post. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Avalon Springs

When we went to Montagu at the end of last year the first thing people asked was if we were going to go to the hot water springs.  The hot water springs at Avalon Springs is probably the best known attraction in Montagu and it gets thousands of visitors every year.  We weren't particularly planning to but decided to check it out.  The pools at complex are fed by a 43ÂșC thermal spring originating roughly 2km's under ground and pumped to the various pools in such a way that they all differ in temperature, thus catering for everyone's needs.

There are various Khoi (Bushman) drawings on rocks and in caves around Montagu so its probably safe to say that the springs were known to the early inhabitants of the area for a long time.  The springs were "discovered" by white farmers in the late 1700's and after a farmer's injured hand was healed after repeatedly bathing in the water the word started to spread.  People started coming from all over the country (and world) to experience this natural wonder for themselves.

Since 1982, the springs have been part of the Avalon Springs Spa Resort Hotel and whilst the process of getting here, as well as the levels of luxury enjoyed by visitors from far and wide, are much improved since 200 years ago, the springs are as natural and perfect as they have always been.

The Kidz really enjoyed the pools and especially Drama Princess had a ball on the slides and super tube.  We are going back to Montagu at the end of the year for another 10 day holiday and the kids are already asking if we will be visiting the hot springs again.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Giraffe pattern

The patterns on a giraffe must be amongst the most interesting in the animal kingdom.  They're not just spots, they're more like carefully laid slate stones.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A shell along the shore

Seven of us from work went for a walk along the Sacramento Trail just outside Port Elizabeth the other day.  We were lucky to choose the perfect day with the warm winter sun shining down on us.  I had two cameras hanging around my neck so I was clicking away all the way for both work and pleasure.  As usual my eyes were all over the show looking for stuff to photograph and I spotted the big orange and black shell from miles (ok, not miles but at least 50 meters or so) away.  I don't think my colleagues even saw it but as soon as I got there I was down on my tummy trying to get the best shot.  By the time I was done the rest of the group was just about out of sight, but that is what getting THE photo about.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Our first snow experience

Internationally people don't really associate South Africa with snow and is often surprised when they hear that some areas do get snow in winter.  Large sections of the Drakensberg as well as parts of the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and eastern Free State often get snow with the bigger cold fronts that hit the country during winter.  When a particular severe one hits most of the southern mountains in the country are covered in snow as was the case on the weekend of 16 July.  My family has never seen snow and we just haven't had the opportunity to do the three hour drive that would be needed to get to it either because it always happens during the working week or we have something else on.  On that particular weekend the Damselfly and I was in Knysna for the (cancelled) Knysna Half Marathon and couldn't get the family to the Graaff-Reinet area to see snow. 

A lot of people from Port Elizabeth made the drive up that weekend and all we heard was how good the snow was.  Obviously the Kidz were very disappointed that we weren't able to do it.  This week snow fell early in the week and on Wednesday night we were told that there were still snow about just north of Graaff-Reinet.  Thursday was Women's Day and thus a public holiday so I bundled the family into the car and hit the road at 5am with the hope to find some snow.  After breakfast in Graaff-Reinet we headed for the mountains and up the Lootsberg Pass which is the highest in the area... and only found a little bit of snow next to the road.  We then turned for the Wapadberg Pass and struck it a but luckier, although it was crystal clear that our informant was wrong and most of the snow seemed to have melted long before we got here.

The important part though was that we got to see snow for the first time, even if it was only a patch next to the road, and wasn't going to let the opportunity to experience it go to waste.  After doing the obligatory snowball fight the Kidz got right into building their first snowman, adding the scarf and beanie that came along for this purpose and not forgetting the carrot I had to stop and buy in town after breakie.

The Kidz just couldn't get enough with Drama Princess making snow angels and Chaos Boy building a second snowman just for good measure.  This all inbetween sporadic snow battles that just didn't want to get old.

Ah yes, and even though yours truly prefer to stay behind the camera I just had to get a picture myself.  We had a marvelous time experiencing the little of snow we found but it was a bit disappointing.  I'm not sure if there will be another opportunity to see snow again this winter, but knowing what we know now we will definitively attempt a proper snow experience again next winter.

White (wijdmond) Rhino

Popular theory is that the White Rhino got its name from the fact that the English misunderstood what the Dutch meant when they referred to it as the Wijdmond Renoster.  Wijd is Dutch for wide which referred to the rhino's wide mouth.  The white rhino or square-lipped rhinoceros is a grazer and eats grass, preferring the shortest grains, hence the wide mouth comes in very handy.  Kinda like a living lawnmower.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

White lion

Don't you want to just cuddle up to this big furry mane and fall asleep with him?  White Lions is quite a rare sight and the only Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape where you can see them in the wild is Pumba Game Reserve (which I hope I'll have the opportunity to visit some time soon).  The second option to see them is the Seaview Game and Lion Park just outside Port Elizabeth where the park has a breeding program for white lions.  This bug guy's name is Thor and on my visit he wasn't really in the mood to get up out of his sunny sleeping spot.  Not that I think he would have been too impressed if I slid in next to him for a snooze. 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sour fig flower with insect

The sour fig grows quite easy and being a succulent they can survive well even in dry conditions.  This one I found on the coast on the Sacramento Trail outside Port Elizabeth.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Kidz Adventures - Exploring PE's history

During the school holidays its always a bit of a challenge to keep bored children busy.  Most parents end up taking them to the movies, for ice cream at Micky D's, playing putt putt and games or one of the party places with jungle gyms and trampolines.  Me? Well, I try to spend at least a day with the Kidz exploring Port Elizabeth or surrounding area for them to get to know the city better.  During the past holiday we headed out to discover some of the city's historic sights along with their friends AB and JB. 

The first stop of the day was the oldest building in Port Elizabeth.  Fort Frederick was built by the British in 1799 to protect Algoa Bay from French invasion but never fired a shot in anger.  In actual fact the fort was the first permanent stone structure built by the British in Africa south of the equator.  The fort is perched on top of the cliffs above the Baakens Valley has a magnificent view of the lower valley and Port Elizabeth Harbour.  The guns on the fort are ship cannons which were placed there symbolically since the original guns were removed.  JB wanted very badly to direct a salvo out to sea but there were no enemy ships in sight.

The next stop on our tour was just a couple of hundred meters down Belmont Terrace.  The Donkin Reserve with its historic lighthouse and pyramid is my favorite historic site in Port Elizabeth.  The Donkin is surrounded by a number of other historic sites and the new Route 67 development has blown new life into the area as an attraction.  The pyramid (Donkin Memorial) was built in 1820 by Sir Rufane Donkin as a monument to his late wife Lady Elizabeth Donkin after whom he also named the town.  The lighthouse was originally built in 1861 and the old lighthouse keeper's cottage is now a Visitor Information Centre run by Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism.  Some of the Route 67 art pieces like the untitled Anton Momberg conversation piece and the Voting line make for great pictures, with or without human subjects.

While walking around the Donkin with the Kidz I noticed their eyes kept going to the lighthouse so I decided it was time to climb.  Entrance to the lighthouse is only R5 per person payable at the NMBT office.  The climb up the lighthouse is done by a few sets of steps and ladders and even though Drama Princess was a bit hesitant at the start they all flew up there like a bunch of monkeys.  The view from the top of the lighthouse is breathtaking all around with the beachfront, harbour, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium as well as the surrounding area visible.  The Donkin Lighthouse is well worth the climb.
From the Donkin we followed the winding Route 67 path down towards the city centre for a visit to the city's historic Public Library.  Stopping briefly for a quick pic with Queen Vic (made of Sicilian marble and erected in 1903 to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee) we headed inside with the Kidz under strict instructions to keep it quiet.  The Kidz were amazed with the library's interior with its balconies and stained glass windows.  They immediately went exploring and found their way up onto the balcony walkway where, not before long, they stood admiring the beautiful windows.  The Public Library was opened in 1902 with the front stone facade built in England before being shipped to Port Elizabeth in numbered block.  I remember how we roamed the library as kids and it was awesome to introduce the Kidz to a place from my childhood memories. 
The last stop of our outing was at St Georges Park to visit the newly restored Pearson Conservatory.  The conservatory is another of the places we roamed around in as kids on Art in the Park Sundays while my mom had her stall there.  Although the inside of the conservatory has changed a bit from how I remember it, its still well worth a visit.  By now I had used up my quota of good behaviour made available to me for the day and the four of them started to get a bit too active for my liking.  With St Georges' play area close by the four set off to play in the park and expend some built up energy before coming back complaining that they were getting hungry.  It just never stops, does it?