Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Today is Halloween. Unfortunately Halloween isn't really celebrated here in South Africa which is a bit of a bummer because I think I would really enjoy Halloween celebrations. So here I am sitting in front of my computer screen with no trick or treatsters knocking on my front door, no pumpkin faces anywhere to be seen, no costumes and no sweets (ok, so the last one is because me and the Damselfly are both on diet and its going well) I had this very creative pic planned with my daughter and a plastic spider as my Halloween post and when we got home I could for the death of me not find the spider anywhere. Darn! That pic will have to wait till I find the little elusive eight legged critter. So what can I post that is Halloweeny? Well, seeing that my Halloween theme pics are a bit limited, here is a scene of the South End Cemetery, one of the older cemeteries around town. Happy Halloween everybody.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Oh the Horror!

In the spirit of tomorrow being Halloween, I decided to do a horror picture tonight. But not a conventional horror pic, something different. In the townships they sell most goods from the side of the road. In this case chickens are sold "life or plucked". I thought it to be an interesting photo to have the life chicken in the front with the plucked ones in the back. As I took the pic the chicken looked back at the plucked ones and made it even more interesting.

"Is that you Fred?"

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Elephants in Addo

Today I just wanted to post a couple of random elephant photos taken in the Addo Elephant National Park. Its been a while since I've been there and today I was kind of missing the park, so I decided to do a post on it. I have posted on the park before and you can read my first post explaining more about the park here.

A family of elephants drinking water at the Domkrag waterhole.

A mother elephant is leading her baby and two other youngsters to a waterhole. The one walking in the back is probably also hers while the little bull (you can see his little tusks already) could be her nephew.

One of Addo's big bulls taking a mud bath at the Hapoor waterhole. There are several reasons for throwing mud on their backs. Firstly elephants don't have sweat glands and throw mud and water onto their backs to cool down. Secondly because they have a lot of wrinkles in their skin, they have a lot of tics, lice and bacteria that live in those wrinkle. The mud hardens on top of the skin and it kills of all the unwanteds. Thirdly the mud also act as a protection against the sun. Now I understand why women like to have a mudpack on their face or go for a mud bath at a spa. Go figures.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Luxury Game Reserve Lodge

The area around Port Elizabeth is one of the prime game viewing areas in South Africa with a big amount of malaria free game reserves situated within one to one and a half hours away from the city. The biggest and best known one is the Addo Elephant National Park. As it is a National Park, it is affordable for South Africans to be able to visit it. The majority of the game reserves are private game reserves that offers visitors some or all of the Big 5 with 5 star lodges. These game reserves are fairly exclusive with top notch service and facilities and mostly only within reach of tourist's wallets. Along with the Chinese delegation I was accompanying last week, we did a site inspection at Pumba Private Game Reserve, one of the top reserves in the area. This is what the one lodge looks like.

The lounge, dining room, bar and other public areas are normally great areas to relax in after your game drive or meal or just to pass the time of day.

Each game reserve's bedrooms have a different quality to them. Although the windows give the rooms a very open airy feeling, they are totally private and the only peeping toms will be the wild animals.

A very popular design for bathrooms is openness. People seem to like to sit in their baths looking out the window to the bush beyond or up at the stars. A lot of the lodges also have outdoor showers for that real getting back to nature feeling.

Although this lodge is very smart, don't think they are the exception. The game reserves all have fantastic lodges, each with their own charm and feel and all offering something slightly different from the rest.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Red Location Museum and Cottages

Red Location is one of the oldest settled Black Townships of Port Elizabeth. It derives its name from a series of corrugated iron barrack buildings, which are rusted a deep red colour. Building materials for these sheds stem from the First South African War (1899-1902) structures - the Boer concentration camp at Uitenhage as well as the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital at De Aar.

Visitors to the Red Location Museum are not treated as consumers but active participants. The conventions of representing history as a single story are challenged through the design of the Museum spaces. The past is represented as a set of memories that are disconnected yet bound together by themes. The concept of the Memory Box is used to achieve these ends. The Museum comprises a series of 12 unmarked, rusted boxes offering a set of different memories of struggle in South Africa. The boxes are housed in the main exhibition space and each box is 6 meter by 6 meter and twelve meters tall. The contents of the boxes are revealed only on entry and while there is no sequence the experience in each box is a total one.
Unfortunately the historic cottages outside the museum are disappearing fast. This as they are vandalised and their building material stripped to sell to scrap yards.The well known old Red Location cottages are an important reminder of South Africa's past. They were originally built by the British Army from corrugated iron sheets dating back to South African War concentration camps in 1903. Later, the then South African government used them to house migrant workers.
Some of the most historically significant events took place in the Red Location in New Brighton. Liberation struggle activists such as Raymond Mhlaba used to hold secret meetings in the cellars of these cottages.The cottages are rare in that they are preserved in their original form. But if the vandalism continues on these priceless structures, the municipality says it will have no choice but to break down what remains of them and reconstruct them in a more secure area.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Port Elizabeth Airshow 2008

Today we had the annual Port Elizabeth Airshow. It is one of the big events on the events calender here in town and have participation from the South African Airforce, Acrobatic teams, Police and Rescue aircraft as well as private aircraft. All the funds raised through the event goes to the MTR Smit Children's Home. There were tons of people today and even though the winds blew a bit, the show went on and it was awesome. Now I'm not a aircraft fundi, so I won't go into what each plane is, just what we saw.

The smoke apparently is formed by having diesel go onto the exhaust of the plane and it burns off there to form the smoke. There is a third member to this team and at one stage two of the planes made a heart with the smoke and the third plane made the arrow through the heart. Super, even in the wind.
I think this was called a mirrored flyby. These guys were outstanding.

The South African Airforce had a couple of aircraft taking part. This big boy first did a display on how they use the bucket under the helicopter to drop water on a fire. It then dropped the bucket off and put the helicopter through its paces. Amazing what such a big helicopter can do with a skilled pilot behind the "wheel".

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Colchester Dunefields

The village of Colchester is nestled on the banks of the Sundays River, about 35km outside Port Elizabeth. Starting at Colchester (west of the Sundays River Mouth) heading east is the Alexandria Dunefields. These are reputed to be the largest coastal dune field in the Southern Hemisphere and the second largest in the world. The western part is locally known as the Colchester Dunefields and can only be reached with a boat by cruising down the river and landing on the banks close to the river mouth.

For the public the easiest way to get there is by taking a pleasure cruise on the Sundays River Ferry with my friends Les and Maggie. They will take visitors down the river telling them of the history of the area and pointing out interesting facts along the way. The river is also a very good bird watching area with a very wide variety of birds occurring along it's banks.

The land the ferry about a kilometer upstream from the river mouth from where passengers can disembark and start up the dunes. The first section is a very steep climb up the first dune.

From there it is a constant climb up and down the dunes to get to the top of the highest dune. From here there is a great view across this section of the dune fields, to the river mouth and across the bay to Port Elizabeth. The land across the river is part of the new section of the Addo Elephant National Park. The hope is that this section will be fenced and hopefully in a couple of years elephants will be roaming along that section of the dunes.

A good idea is take take a couple of boards along to slide down the dunes or if, like us, you don't just run down at full tap and hope you don't buy a piece of dune on the way down. This is an awesome experience and our Chinese delegation said that the visit to the ferry and sand dunes was one of the highlights of their visit to Port Elizabeth.

This was my second trip on the ferry. On my first visit to the dunes I took a picture of a "snail graveyard" between the dunes.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Two headed Zebra?

Tonight I'm just having some fun. On one of the game drives last week I took a pic of a two headed zebra. Well, not really. Duh... But the moment I took the photo I saw the potential on what some photo shop work can do to the pic. Alas, I don't have Photoshop. I really need to get it. So I used Coral Photo-Paint and this is the result. Its not something I've done much of before, but its not a bad job even if I have to say so myself.

Above is the phenomenon of the two headed zebra (no lion will ever sneak up on him) and below is the original picture.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Big Cats

On my trip last week I visited two different private game reserves. Between the two reserves I got to see and photograph three species of big cats.

Ok, so not indigenous to South Africa, but a very awesome cat. Kwantu Private Game Reserve has a predator centre where they breed with endangered animals. They have a pair of Bengal Tigers and the male was quite content with his picture being taken. He even posed and looked straight into the camera.

This lion is called Mufasa. He is one of a couple of "tame" lions being rehabilitated to be reintroduced into the wild of the reserve.

Our visit to Pumba Private Game Reserve was soured by the fact that it rained the whole time we were there. It was a pity because I was looking forward to see their wild white lions. Well it was not to be. What we did see quite unexpectedly find was a pair of Cheetahs. It was raining consistently and I was one the wrong side so the lens kept on getting wet. At least I got of one or two shots.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Traditional Dancers at Kwantu

On my recent trip accompanying the Chinese Travel Services delegation around Cape Town and more importantly the Port Elizabeth area, one of our overnight stops was Kwantu Private Game Reserve. Kwantu is one of the only game reserves in our area that offers visitors a traditional dance performance as part of the stay at the reserve. The dance group comes from a nearby town and it is great to see the reserve owners supporting such a group.

Here the group is performing a traditional dance of one of South Africa's indigenous tribes.

A shot taken from outside the boma across one of the camp fires

This young lady was enjoying herself so much and really threw everything into her performance (as does the whole groups). The white dots on her face is a traditional decoration for women.

This young guy's hands were moving so fast on the drum that it took me a while to actually get a shot where his hands are both on his drum. The rhythm these guys keep on these drums is unbelievable.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Boardwalk's Oriental Village at night

We went for dinner at the Chinese restaurant at the Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment Complex on the Port Elizabeth beachfront the other night. It was a gorgeous evening and the lights from the Oriental Village at the Boardwalk look specially appealing. I never go anywhere without my camera, so piep piep, click.

I've done a post about the Boardwalk before. It can be seen here:

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Township Smiley

What is a smiley? In this case its not the friendly little neighbour boy peeking over the wall or the little round smiley face you draw or comment with on some forums. It is a township delicacy. The head of a sheep provides for some sought after meat for tired and hungry workers going home after a long day's work. These images I got at Njoli Square in the heart of Port Elizabeth's townships. Here traders sell everything from traditional herbs to chickens (live or plucked), mattresses to amazi (sour milk). Commuters catches minibus taxis home from, ladies have their hair done in container hair salons and the hungry gets their smileys.

First the sheep's heads get thrown into the fire to burn off all the hear and loose skin. This is where the name smiley comes from. Because the lips have been burned off, the teeth are visible and it looks like the head is smiling.

Here the ladies in blue is using hot wrought iron to burn off the remaining air and skin from the ears and whatever else needs to be removed. As you can see its not just the heads, but also the feet. The lady in the back has a pot full of cooked chickens and just sold on to the lady with the pink cloth on her head. The whole chicken is put into a plastic bag for easy transport home.

This guy was sitting against the wall enjoying his half a sheep's head which is sold at R15 (just less than 1 Pound Sterling or 1.50 US Dollars). He was telling us that he worked an early shift and was heading home. He also said that it tasted great. I believed him as the food was clinging to his beard all the way to his ears, so he must have been enjoying himself. He offered me some but I declined gracefully. I did buy one, though it was for an elderly gentleman who was short of change.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cape Point Critters

Although the Table Mountain National Park is not a game reserve, it does have some game in the Cape of Good Hope section of the park. Land mammals include zebra, eland and baboon, while dolphins and whales are often spotted along the coastline. Many bird species can be found there as well, from the world's biggest bird, the ostrich, to sometimes antarctic birds making land here. But for all the scenery and everything else there is, its the little things that sometimes catches my attention more than anything else. In this case a very hairy caterpillar and a small lizard. Both of these I photographed on the walk down from the old lighthouse to the parking lot.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope

At the tip of the Cape Peninsula, about 50km from Cape Town, you will find two of South Africa's best known points or capes.

The first one is The Cape of Good Hope, the most South-Western point of the African continent. Just over 2km away is the second, and more spectacular point, Cape Point. Both the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point offer spectacular scenery. Indeed, the whole of the southernmost portion of the Cape Peninsula is a wild, rugged, scenic and generally unspoiled national park.

The area was called the Cape of Storms by the Portuguese and later renamed The Cape of Good Hope. The name also referred to the new beginning that many people from Europe came to make at the southern tip of Africa during the 1600 and 1700's.

The sign at the Cape of Good Hope is a very popular tourist attraction and people line up on both sides to dash in for that obligatory picture. So who am I to argue.

From the Cape Point car park a funicular railway takes visitors up (or you can walk up) to the old lighthouse on the highest point overlooking the sea. The old lighthouse was replaced by a new one because it was at a height where it was ofter shrouded in fog and clouds. Due to this problem many ships was wrecked along this point. The best known one was the Lusitania which ran aground on Bellows Rock in 1911. The view from the top is awesome with towering cliffs falling away more than a hundred meters.

The new lighthouse is at sea level and is the most powerful on the South African coast, with a range of 63 kilometres (39 mi) and an intensity of 10 mega candelas in each flash. It can be reached via a pathway that leads down to the point.

The Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point is also the location of the legend of the Flying Dutchman. The Flying Dutchman, according to folklore, is a ghost ship that can never go home, and is doomed to sail the oceans forever.
According to some versions, in 1641 a ship called the Flying Dutchman with Captain Van Der Decker tried to round the point on a dark and stormy night. He swore that he would not retreat in the face of the storm, but would continue his attempt to round the Cape of Good Hope even if it took until Judgment Day. Over the years the phantom ship has been spotted numerous times and there are many accounts from sailors on ships, former lighthouse keepers at the Cape Point lighthouse and even people on land that had seen the ship. The Flying Dutchman is usually spotted from afar, sometimes seen to be glowing with ghostly light. In ocean lore, the sight of this phantom ship is reckoned by seafarers to be a portent of doom.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Penguins at Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach is a sheltered beach made up of inlets between granite boulders, from which the name originated. It is a popular tourist stop because of a colony of African Penguins which settled there in 1982.

Boulders Beach forms part of the Table Mountain National Park.
Although set in the midst of a residential area, it is one of the few sites where this endangered bird can be observed at close range, wandering freely in a protected natural environment.
From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony has grown to about 3000 in recent years. This is partly due to the reduction in commercial pelagic trawling in False Bay, which has increased the supply of pilchards and anchovies, which form part of the penguins' diet.
Although the colony at boulders beach is the best known colony, its not the biggest. The biggest breeding colony of African Penguins (previously known as Jackass Penguins, although that name is now deemed "politically incorrect") is found on St Croix Island in Algoa Bay right here by Port Elizabeth.A boardwalk takes visitors to within a few meters of the birds. On the day we were there last week the wind was blowing and most of the penguins were hiding or taking shelter. A big number of them where sheltering right next to the walkway which made viewing them up close possible.
Here is an interesting story of an event that happened a couple of years ago involving African Penguins.
Disaster struck on June 23, 2000, when the iron ore tanker MV Treasure sank between Robben Island and Dassen Island (just north of Cape Town) oiling 19 000 adult penguins at the height of the best breeding season on record for this vulnerable species. The oiled birds were brought to an abandoned train repair warehouse in Cape Town to be cared for. An additional 19,500 un-oiled penguins were removed from Dassen Island and other areas before they became oiled, and were released about a thousand kilometres east of Cape Town, near Port Elizabeth. This gave workers enough time to clean up the oiled waters and shores before the birds could complete their long swim home (which took the penguins between 2 and 3 weeks). Some of the penguins were named and radio-tracked as they swam back to their breeding grounds. Tens of thousands of volunteers descended upon Cape Town to help with the rescue and rehabilitation process which took more than three months to complete. Although this was the largest animal rescue event in history, more than 91% of the penguins were successfully rehabilitated and released - an amazing feat that could not have been accomplished without such a tremendous international response - Wikipedia

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Nestled on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain in Cape Town is the best known of South Africa's eight National Botanical Gardens. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens cover five of South Africa's six different biomes. With minor exceptions, only indigenous plants are cultivated.

The outdoor focus of the gardens concentrates on plants native to the Cape region, highlighted by the spectacular collections of proteas.
Kirstenbosch is a very popular attraction with both locals as well as tourists. In summer there is usually outdoor concerts held in the gardens over weekend evenings.
The walkways through the park leads to many different areas within the garden. These range from huge flower beds and forest areas to aloe gardens, ponds and streams. From the gardens several trails lead off along and up the mountain slopes and these are much used by walkers and mountaineers. Above is the Otter Pond surrounded by tree ferns.

The garden includes a large, indoor conservatory exhibiting plants from a number of different regions, including savanna, fynbos, karoo and others. The centre piece of the conservatory is a baobab tree. My favourite part of the conservatory is the fact that there is a big amount of succulents on display from all over the country.

The Strelitzias are in full bloom and looked awesome. There were both orange and yellow varieties in flower and I had to get a closeup of one. The Strelitzia is a genus of five species of perennial plants native to South Africa. The common name of the genus is the bird of paradise flower and in South Africa it is commonly known as a crane flower.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Table Mountain Part 2

To wrap up yesterday's post on Table Mountain, I decided to show you the sights on and from Table Mountain, just to give you a better idea why people go up the mountain.

As posted yesterday, there is several trails that you can follow once you are on top of mountain. (In actual fact you don't only have to go up with the cable car, you can also hike up the mountain via one of many different trails). The trail on the mountain is a circular route with various lookout points along the way.

The lookout points give visitors several different vistas and views of the city below as well as the surrounding mountain range. The view is awesome from the top of the mountain and you can see Cape Point, Robben Island, the whole city as well as the Hottentots Holland Mountains in the distance. he view above overlooks the City Bowl with the city centre as part of it, the harbour, Blouberg Strand on the other side of Table Bay and the mountains in the distance.

And just in case anybody was wondering what it actually looks like on top of the mountain. Lots of rocks, fynbos (plants that form part of the Cape Floral Kingdom and translated as fine bush) and not much else. So what is the conclusion from this. People go up Table Mountain to look at the view.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Table Mountain

Who hasn't seen a picture of Table Mountain? The most popular view of this iconic mountain is from across the bay at Blouberg Stand or from the V&A Waterfront. But just for those who don't know much about it, here is some info. The main feature of Table Mountain is a level plateau surrounded by steep cliffs. The plateau, flanked by Devil's Peak to the east and by Lion's Head to the west, forms a dramatic backdrop to Cape Town and its Table Bay harbour, and together with Signal Hill form the natural amphitheatre of the City Bowl.
The highest point on Table Mountain is marked by Maclear's Beacon and is 1,086 metres (3,563 ft) above sea level.
The flat top of the mountain is often covered by clouds or fog spilling over the top to form the "table cloth".
Table Mountain is at the northern end of a sandstone mountain range that forms the spine of the Cape Peninsula which continues southwards to Cape Point.

Table Mountain as seen from the popular Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

The Table Mountain Cableway takes passengers from the lower cable station on Tafelberg Road, about 302 m above sea level, to the plateau at the top of the mountain. The upper cable station offers views overlooking Cape Town, Table Bay and Robben Island to the north, and the Atlantic seaboard to the west and south.

Construction of the cableway was first started in 1926, and the cableway was officially opened in 1929. At the top cable station visitors will find walking trails of various lengths, viewpoints, curio shops, a restaurant and a view you will never forget.

In 1997, the cableway was extensively upgraded, and new cars were introduced carrying 65 instead of 25 passengers. The new cars give a faster journey of only about 4 minutes to the summit, and rotate through 360 degrees during the ascent or descent, giving a panoramic view over the city.