Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Eight legged critters

Seeing that two of my "blog friends" have posted spider pics over the last day or so, I decided to do the same. I went digging for some spider pics and found two I took a little while ago.

This one I caught kind off unexpectantly. I was trying to get some nice pics of the water drops on the web when the little guy made his appearence.

Good ol' Daddy Longlegs sitting in a corner that we have neglected to dust for a little while.

I am on my way to Johannesburg for the annual Getaway Show. It is the premier domestic travel and outdoors show in South Africa and is on from Friday to Sunday. I am flying up tomorrow (Thursday) already to go and set up and will be back on Monday, so my next post will be then. So stick around. Just don't get eaten by the spiders.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

British Settlers - The early years of Grahamstown

Grahamstown is situated about 130km east of Port Elizabeth. It is the biggest town in frontier country and the place where most settlers moved to once they were allowed to leave their farms. It started out as a garrison town named after Col John Graham. It was they sight of the Battle of Grahamstown in 1819. 5000 Xhosa warriors under the command of Makana gathered on the hill overlooking the valley in which the settlement were. The fort was manned by 350 British soldiers. Makana told his warriors that the bullets of the white man will flow over them like water. They broke their throwing spears and charged down the hill. The first volley of shots rang out when they were about 40meters away. Bullets did not flow over the warriors like water and the water of the Kowie River ran red with blood. During the battle the British were starting to run out of gunpowder. A woman named Elizabeth Salt walked from another fortified building through the Xhosa ranks with a keg of gunpowder hidden under her dress. The Xhosa thought she was pregnant and they would not harm a pregnant woman in battle. She helped the British to win a very important battle in the pre-Settler days.

When the settlers started moving into the towns, they went back to doing what they did back in England before they came to the Cape Colony. I Grahamstown a lot of the settlers built their house in an area known as Artisan Square. Their houses were typical Settler houses with two front windows, a door and a chimney. They look like the kind of house a child will draw.

In the old part of Grahamstown you will find white stones on a lot of the street corners. You will also find that the corners were designed at angles and not right angles. The reason behind it was ox wagons. When you have a wagon pulled by between 8 and 16 oxen, it was easy to miss judge a corner and slam into a house with the wagon. For this reason big "wagon stones" were put on the street corners to stop the wagons from damaging the houses.

In the centre of Grahamstown around Church Square there are a lot of the old shops of Grahamstown that still sport the facades of old. In recent years there has been one or two fires that have destroyed some of these buildings, but each time they were restored to their former glory. These buildings are still occupied by shops and businesses. In the one case of Burch's Outfitters, the shop still has one of the old money chute and cable system whereby money was sent to a central cashier for payments. Although they use modern tills today, it is still in working condition.

Monday, August 25, 2008


Today I decided to post a couple of giraffe pics. Both were taken at different game reserves and are different types of photos. Giraffes are facinating animals. The tallest mammal in the world with the longest neck, yet they only have 7 vertebra (the same as a human). To get blood up that neck and to the brain, they have a heart as big as a soccer ball. This poses a problem when they drink water, because dropping the head down could cause a sudden rush of blood to the brain. To avoid that they have a valve system that controls the bloodflow. Giraffes are also the youngest bungi jumpers in the world. The mothers stand up while giving birth and the babies fall the 2 meters or so to the ground which also snaps the ambilical cord. Lastly. What do you call a group of giraffes? The answer is at the bottom of the post.

A young giraffe eating in the Kragga Kamma Game Park just outside Port Elizabeth while his older brother is keeping an eye on the tourists.A couple of giraffes in the Schotia Private Game Reserve, about 50km outside Port Elizabeth, walking off just before sunset. The plant in the foreground is an Aloe Ferox.

A group of Giraffes are called... A Journey of Giraffes.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Flowering Kapok Tree

Although not taken recently, I want to show this tree. It is called a Kapok Tree and has a very spikey trunk. It looses it leaves when winter comes and then blooms before getting its leaves back. It has pink flowers and covers the whole tree, so whether you have one or many together, its a wonderful sight.

The tree before loosing its leaves

The tree in full bloom

Seen from a distance

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Karoo Cactus

On our recent visit to Cradock we walked up Oukop, the hill outside the town. From the top there is a lovely view over the town. There is a wide variety of succulents and cactuses that grow in the area and this one I found very interesting.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Tractor's Twilight Years

In my series on the British Settlers I have posted about the village of Bathurst. In the village is the Bathurst Protea Hotel, a real country hotel. In front of the hotel in the long grass I found this old vintage tractor just as the sun was starting to set. It felt appropriate to photograph him in the sunset.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Hot Air Ballooning

A little while ago the Damselfly and me got to go away for a weekend without the Rugrats. Last year I won a weekend trip up to the Gauteng province, all expenses paid, and this was the first opportunity we had to use the prize. One of the activities we got to do was hot air ballooning at Magaliesberg with Bill Harrop's Original Hot Air Ballooning safaris. This man is a legend and we were lucky enough to actually be on the balloon that he was piloting that day. That morning they had 4 of their balloons up which gave me a great opportunity to get balloon pics.

Hot air ballooning at sunrise

Balloon reflextion in the river

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Coral Aloe on Oukop

Coral Aloe is one of the many aloe species found in South Africa. Unlike most other aloe species, the coral aloe does not have thorny or spiky leaves. These aloes are in full bloom at the moment and in some areas in the Karoo the fields of aloe looks awesome at the moment. This coral aloe is growing on Oukop in Cradock.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

British Settlers - Settling down

After my first British Settlers post Ann had a couple of questions which I will hopefully answer today. The British public was invited to apply to come down to the Cape Colony. Because of the hard times back in England, nearly 100 000 people showed interest out of which 4 500 were selected. The Settlers came in parties and each party was allocated a farm. For this and the seed and implements they had to pay a deposit.

Most of the Settlers came from towns and cities and had very little knowledge of farming. This coupled with bad soil, harsh weather, thick bush, wild animals and the indigenous black people (the Xhosa) meant that the cards were stacked against the Settlers. To make matters worse, part of their contract stated that they had to stay on the farms for two years before they were allowed to leave the farms and move into towns. The Xhosa saw the fact that a big number of white people were moving onto their land as a hostile sign and kept on raiding farms and attacking settlements. The area saw 9 major frontier wars over a period of about 100 odd years. After two years a lot of the Settlers started moving into towns like Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown and Bathurst. Here they went back to doing the work they did back in England and became a lot more successful. The farmers left behind now also had more land for farming and thus also started to make more of a success of the farming practises.

In the village of Bathurst you will find the oldest unaltered Anglican church in South Africa. Built in 1834, St Johns were built not just as a church, but also a a fortification. The walls were built very thick and the windows werer nothing more than narrow slits that could be used to shoot out of. The Anglican church was linked to the Methodist church via a trench to make movement between the churches possible during attacks.

One of the other significant buildings in Bathurst is the Pig and Whistle, the oldest licenced pub in South Africa. Also dating back to the 1830's, it was known as Widow Hartley's untill the Second World War. In nearby Port Alfred the Royal Airforce was based at 43 Air School and the pilots used the pub as their local hangout. They called the pub the Pig and Whistle, a name that stuck. The pub is still a very traditional pub while the inn is still open to passersby wanting to overnight.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Karoo cottages at moonlight

Ok, so its not the second installment of the Settler story yet, but that will still come. Last Thursday I took the step up from my compact digital camera and bought myself a new camera. Ok, so the budget does not allow for a professional camera with different lenses, but it did allow a Fujifilm Finepix S8000 with 8 megapixels and 18x optical zoom. I took it along to Cradock for our weekend away and here follows the first post of a pic taken with it. Why this one? Cause I would not be able to take it with my old camera.

We stayed at Die Tuishuise, a street of historic cottages which have been restored and furnished with antique furniture. It was the night before full moon and I had to try this. Could have let in a bit more light, but I'm still learning the camera.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Kelp Gull

Today has been one hectic day. I am actually on leave for two days, but has four people from the office contact me during the morning regarding work stuff. Aaarrgggg!!! Anyway, we are also going away for the weekend to go and explore the little Karoo town of Cradock as well as the Mountain Zebra National Park. As it is it is after midnight already and we want to leave at 07:00 in the morning, I have run out of time to post, so the next installment of the British Settlers story and photos will have to wait till Sunday evening.

So just to not leave you with nothing, here is a kelp gull to hover over the blog untill we get back Sunday evening. See you later folks. Enjoy the weekend.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

British Settlers - The journey

Yesterday I said that I will do a couple of posts about the 1820 British Settlers, so here is part 1. I will keep the info short, because if I have to get my teeth into it, I will go on and on.

Before 1820, Port Elizabeth was the eastern end of the Cape Colony. To the east lived the indigenous black people of the area, namely the Xhosa. The colonial government got worried that they may attack the colony and decided to colonize the area and push the Xhosa back. About 6000 British Settlers arrived on our shores in April 1820. They were first housed in tents on the beach before being loaded, with all their possessions, onto ox wagons for the long journey to the farms allocated to them. Today the 120km journey from PE to Grahamstown and area takes about 80 minutes. In those days with only a track to follow through the bush, it took 6 - 10 days of hard slog.

The old ox wagon trail can still be seen in some area. There are also still evidence of some of the old inns and buildings that were built along the route. This was one of the inns along the way and is situated on the Kwantu Private Game Reserve. The inns did not exist in the very early day, but was developed in the years that followed as traffic along the route increased.

The village of Bathurst is situated about 70 south east of Grahamstown. The photo above is the Toposcope. From this spot the settling of the Settlers were overseen. Bathurst was supposed to become the main town of the area, but Grahamstown was selected. This meant that Bathurst never developed much and is still a very small country village. The Toposcope is a monument that points out a big number of the original Settler farms.

Along the circular wall of the Toposcope is a number of plaques pointing out the original farms. Each plaque has the following information (from the top):
An arrow pointing out the direction, the distance from this point to the farm in miles, the name of the farm, the surname of the leader of the specific group, the county where they came from in Britain and the name of the boat they came on.
More on Bathurst tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Prince Alfred's Guard Memorial

In yesterday's post I mentioned the Prince Alfred's Guard Mermorial. Prince Alfred was the second son of Queen Victoria. He visited the Cape Colony on two occations. He visited Port Elizabeth in 1860 and St Georges Park was inaugerated on the first anniversary of his visit. For his visit a military guard was formed to accompany him on his visit. The guard was not disbanded afterwards and continued to exist. This Memorial was erected in 1907 in memory of men from the guard that died in 4 different wars, one of the the Anglo Boer War (or South African War) fought between 1899 and 1902.

The whole Memorial is actually a large ornament on top of a water reservoir

The figure on the top represents a member of the Guard, while the four lions hold shields with the names of the wars as well as the Guard's coat of arms.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Pearson Conservatory

St Georges Park is situated in the heart of Port Elizabeth and is the oldest park in South Africa. The park covers 73 hectares and contains an open air theatre, South Africa's oldest Test Cricket venue and lawn bowling club, a swimming pool, the splendid Prince Alfred's Guard Memorial and botanical gardens popular with wedding couples. The Pearson Conservatory in the park was established in 1882 for the cultivation of exotic plants and makes for some nice photos on a calm blue sky day.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The mermaids purse on Cape St Francis beach

In yesterday's post I showed the Seal Point lighthouse in Cape St Francis. I decided to stick to the little village for today's post, and sommer post two totally different pic for the measure. Cape St Francis started out as a little fishing village in the 1950's. Today its still small and charming and a very popular holiday and surfing spot. A couple of months ago we went to camp in Cape St Francis for the weekend and it was a great opportunity to take photo's. Actually, any day is a great opportunity for pics. On one of the days we took a nice long walk down the beach and back.
Looking back down the beach with the village of Cape St Francis and the Seal Point lighthouse in the background.

On the walk we found this little shark egg. Lots of people also call them mermaids purses. The second one is more appealing to kids, so that is what we told the kids. It was tough to keep them away from it long enough for me to get onto all fours and get a nice pic without any shadows falling on it.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Storm front moving in

The area about 65 - 120km west of Port Elizabeth is known as the Kouga (Place of many fat animals). The coastal towns of the Kouga is situated around the Bay of St Francis. Included in the area is the surfing and shell town of Jeffreys Bay, the very upmarket marina canal village of St Francis Bay and then the western point of the Cape St Francis. At the point is the Seal Point Lighthouse built in 1878. It used to be one of the stops on one of my tours. On this day there was a cold front approaching and the dark clouds were moving in fast.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Pink table cloth

One of the most famous landmarks in South Africa is Table Mountain overlooking the city of Cape Town. Cape Town is situated on the south western end of the continent and South Africa's most saught after destination. Cape Town is situated about 750km from Port Elizabeth and the area in between is known as the Garden Route. I don't get to Cape Town nearly enough, but when I was there three weeks ago I got to do some sightseeing with my camera. This pic was taken just before sunset as the clouds started coming over the mountain. The glow of the sun coloured the clouds pink and gave the ideal opportunity for a pic.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Giraffe Silhouettes

Kwantu Private Game Reserve is an unique reserve in that it is owned by a Muslim family and they are sticking strictly to their Islamic traditions by not allowing alcohol on the reserve. Their food is also very Eastern in flavour. I've had the opportunity to visit the reserve a couple of times while I was a tour guide and this giraffe pic was taken one late afternoon at about sunset.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Lion in the late afternoon

An adult male and two juveniles lying in the late afternoon sun in the Schotia Private Game Reserve. This is the same game reserve where I took the sunset photo of a couple of days ago.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Family gathering

Port Elizabeth is situated in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The area to the north and the east of Port Elizabeth is prime big game country with numerous private game reserves on offer in a malaria free environment. Most of the game reserves have some or all of the Big 5 and offer accommodation ranging from rustic to luxury 5 star. The biggest attraction in the area is the Addo Elephant National Park, less than an hour outside Port Elizabeth. Tagged as the first Big 7 game reserve in the world, it can boast the Big 5 (elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard) as well as Southern Right Whales and Great White Sharks within its concervation area. It has a population of over 450 elephants and is probably the best place in the world to see wild African elephants up close and in big herds. When I used to be a tourist guide I went to Addo so many times,that I can't count it, but I never got tired of it. This is one of my favourite pics that I have taken in Addo. More Addo pics as well as pics from the game reserves will follow in the furure.

Monday, August 4, 2008

African Sunset

Schotia Private Game Reserve is situated about 55km north-east of Port Elizabeth. It may not be the most luxurious of the game reserves around, but it is my favourite day visit game reserve. The game viewing is fantastic, the rangers knowledgable and the food super. They have a great variety of game ranging from lion and rhino to a great number of antelope species. All the food is made on the coals in their open air boma. Their day program starts in the afternoon and ends at about 20:30 in the evening. One of the highlights of the game drive to me is seeing the sunset. I love photographing sunsets, so more will follow in future.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

At a snail's pace

I climbed into the garden for a change and cleaned out the weeds in my rock garden. This little snail was quite willing for me to get all close and personal and click away for some photos. Just having a little compact Kodak EasyShare meant that I had to take these pics from about 20cm away. Good thing for me they don't spit, sting or bite.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

King Protea

Sticking to the Protea theme of yesterday, I decided post a pic of South Africa's national flower. This the the King Protea and is one of the most awesome flowers you'll ever see. This one I also photographed in the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve west of Port Elizabeth

Friday, August 1, 2008

Pin Cushion Proteas

The pin cushion protea is on of the 8500 species of plants that you find in the Fynbos biome. This plant kingdom is also called the Cape Floral Kingdom and was proclaimed an UNESCO natural World Heritage Site a couple of years ago. Six nature reserves were selected to represent the status. Five of those are in the Western Cape and one in the Eastern Cape. The Eastern Cape one is the Baviaanskloof Wilderness Area about 100 odd km west of Port Elizabeth. This photo was taken in the Van Stadens Wildflower Reserve, also just west of the city.