Friday, July 30, 2010

Graaff Reinet Museums

The beautiful Karoo town of Graaff Reinet is South Africa's fourth oldest town. It has 220 heritage site (national monuments), more than any other town in South Africa and a number of these are magnificent examples of Cape Dutch architecture. The Graaff Reinet Museums take up some of these old Cape Dutch buildings and includes a fossil and rock art collection, period furniture and contemporary history exhibitions.

The main gem in the museum crown must be Reinet House containing the Graaff Reinet Museum. It was formerly a Dutch Reformed Church parsonage and was built in 1812. The museum contain mostly period furniture with two other prominent features being a mill house with a working water wheel and a grape vine planted in 1870.

The Old Residency is situated across the road from Reinet House and was built around 1819. Its a well-preserved example of the early 19th Century Cape Dutch H-shaped house and in addition to period furniture it contains the Jan Felix Lategan Collection of Historical Firearms and the William Roe Photographic Exhibition.

Urquhart House, just behind Reinet House, was built somewhere between 1806 and 1821 and stands on one of the earliest plots transferred into private ownership in Graaff-Reinet. This museums has an extensive collection of Victorian furniture, historic farm implements and a typical peach – pip floor which was popular in the time. The Military History Museum is on the same grounds and contain exhibits of all the wars this area was involved in.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reflection in a fishpond

Reflection in a fishpond
Visit Skywatch for more looking up (or down in my case) photos featuring the sky

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Dolphins at uShaka

I write this post with apologies to Naialani the Island Girl who likes to swim with her wild dolphins in Hawaii. Since the dolphins here in Bayworld in Port Elizabeth moved to Hong Kong a year ago, the only place in South Africa where you can view a dolphin presentation in captivity is at uShaka Marine World in Durban. As much as dolphins should be free out in the big blue sea, dolphins in captivity does play a big role in educating and informing people, and in particular kids, about these wonderful mammals. Please, before anybody has a go at me for advocating keeping dolphins in captivity, I'm not. I would much rather be swimming with them in the wild like Naialani does.

One of the main features at uShaka Marine World is the Phantom Ship which includes the main aquarium viewing areas as well as a couple of restaurants.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Windpomp and church tower

Two of the most typical things that you would associate small towns in the platteland (countryside) with are churches and windpompe (windpumps). They are to small towns as Aston Martins and girls are to James Bond. In this scene in Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo I got them both in one shot. James Bond driving with the top down and a beautiful girl next to him.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Aloe silhouette

I took this pic on my whistle stop visit to the Gamtoos Valley recently. I couldn't resist sticking the sun behind the aloe and when I downloaded the pics I decided that I wanted to see it in sepia as well. I am quite impressed, even if I have to say so myself.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tuishuise and Victoria Hotel

We spend a weekend at the very interesting Tuishuise in Cradock recently. The Tuishuise is an elegant collection of beautifully restored Victorian era craftsmen’s houses in this Karoo town about 3 hours north of Port Elizabeth. The more than two dozen Tuishuise line Market Street and are furnished with mostly antique furniture. Each house constitudes unit so you won't be sharing your house with anybody else. We were there in winter so the fireplace in our unit came in very handy on those cold evenings.

At the top of Market Street stands the The Victoria Hotel. Built in 1840, the hotel was graced by many of South Africa's legends such as Olive Schreiner and Cecil John Rhodes along with adventurers who passed here en route to the hinterland. The hotel serves as receiption area for the Tuishuise and serves typical Karoo dinners in the Albert dining room.

Friday, July 23, 2010

1800's graveyard in Prince Albert

I was walking exploring around the back streets of the Karoo town of Prince Albert and to my delight stumbled on discovered this old cemetery. It belongs to the NG Kerk (Dutch Reformed Church) and the graves date between 1844 and 1884.

Non of the graves really had grave stones, but they were all covered in stone mounds. It was interesting though that there was a couple of graves with small structures built over them towards the back of the grave yard. Those probably belonged to well off people who could afford such a monument back in those days.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Crescent moon

The other evening Chaos Boy asked me why the moon has a second moon on top of it. I couldn't figure out what he meant and went to check. It was a crescent moon, but the part of the moon in shadow was clearly visible.

For more pictures featuring the sky, visit Skywatch

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sarah Bartmann's grave

Situated on top of a hill overlooking the Gamtoos Valley just outside Hankey is the grave of Sarah Bartmann (Saartjie Baartman). She was born somewhere in the Gamtoos Valley in 1789 and moved to the Cape as a teenager to find work. From here she was lured to London under false in 1810 and was exhibited around England as the "Hottentot Venus". She was sold to a Frenchman who also exhibited her around France before here death. Sarah died in 1815 at the age of 26 of possibly pneumonia. A mould was made of her body and her skeleton, brain and external private parts were placed on display in Paris until 1974.

In 1995 efforts started to bring her remains back to South Africa, but it wasn't before 2002 that the French government agreed to repatriated her remains to her homeland. She was finally laid to rest on top of Vergaderingskop overlooking a beautiful section the fertile Gamtoos Valley on Women's Day (9 August 2002). There are still plans to erect a proper monument on the sight as well as a museum in the town.
If you want to read Sarah Baartman's whole story, visit Wikipedia or Kouga Tourism.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Decaying branch

I am always amazed at the wonders of nature, specially when finding bracket fungus somewhere in a forested area. Bracket fungus plays such an important roll in the forest's circle of life. It helps to decompose wood which get fed back into the soil to add nutrients to it. And of cause it makes for very interesting photographs, specially when its brightly coloured like the ones in the picture.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Queen Elizabeth Profile

Driving east through the Gamtoos River Valley from the Baviaanskloof side towards the town of Patensie, the road wounds along a section between the river and Enon conglomerate cliffs. If you keep one eye on the cliffs above while watching the road with the other, you may just spot one of the valley's landmarks. The profile of Queen Victoria.

I'm not sure who would have been the first person to recognise her, but with a bit of imagination you can see here staring out over the valley with her headpiece and heavy dress as she looked towards the end of her reign.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bladder grasshopper

Bladder grasshoppers are mainly restricted to forested areas, so you don't get to see them much around the city. They are unusual compared to regular grasshoppers in that their hind legs are about the same size as the rest of their legs. The make a very loud and long resonant croaking sound similar to a large frog and can be heard at night when the males call to attract the females.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Female Njala

Njala (Tragelaphus angasii) are very shy antelope and normally hide in the bush. On my last visit to Seaview Game and Lion Park this female Njala was standing next to the road on the way out and allowed me to stop to take a couple of pics before she quietly disappeared into the bush again.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Elephant Skull

Elephants are amazing animals and its not often one gets to see an elephant's skull. The other day I had the pleasure to see one up close at an exhibit. An elephant can weigh up to 5 or 6 tons which means that it's skull is of considerable size. The interesting thing about the skull is that its not solid bone, but consist of tubes like the inside of a plane's wing.

The skull didn't have it's tusks in, but the holes in which they go was clearly visible. An Elephant's tusks grow continuously at up to 18 cm (7 in) a year. Tusks are mainly used to dig for food and water, to debark trees and to move trees and branches when clearing a path. Interestingly elephants are typically right or left tusked just like people are right or left handed. You will normally find that the preferred tusk will be slightly shorter and less more rounded from the wear and tear. Tusks can be up to 3 meters in length and can weigh nearly 100 kilograms each.

Elephants have six sets of molars during their lifetime. As a set gets worn away it's pushed out by a new set of teeth that has been growing in the back of its mouth. The first set falls out at about two years, the second set at six years, the third between 13 and 15 years and the fourth set at about 28 years of age. The sixth set replaces the fifth at about 43 years old with it having to last the elephant for the rest of its life. Elephants normally get about 60 years old and the main reasons they die is that their teeth are now worn away and, unable to feed properly, they start loosing conditioning and die. Who knows, perhaps if we could supply elephants with dentures they may grow much older than they do.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Durban skyline

The skyline of the coastal city of Durban in KwaZulu Natal. Most of the skyline is dominated by hotels as the city is a popular coastal playground in summer. After South Africa's successful hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the word on the street is that Durban is going to bid to host the Olympic Games either in 2020 and 2024.
Tongue in cheek footnote: I still personally much rather prefer my home town of Port Elizabeth as a beautiful, scenic, clean and safe coastal destination *smiley face*

Monday, July 12, 2010

Ox wagons

I decided to start the week off with a nice varied Random ... theme post. The chosen Random ... theme is Ox Wagons. Ox wagons played an important roll in the early history of South Africa, in particular the Great Trek, and forms part of just about every museum exhibit throughout the country. They are specially evident around small towns and farms with ox wagon wheels often found at farm entrances.

This ox wagon is on display outside the museum in the Karoo town of Prince Albert.

Some of the decorative granite wagons surrounding the Voortrekker Monument outside Pretoria. The wall consist of 64 ox-wagons which is the number of wagons used to form the laager at the Battle of Blood River.

Another historic ox wagon on display at the Cuyler Manor Museum outside Uitenhage

Lastly, the ox wagon jungle gym at St Georges Park in Port Elizabeth. This pic wasn't initially part of this post and supposed to go onto Port Elizabeth Daily Photo, but fitted in so nicely that I couldn't resist adding it here.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

1820 Settlers Monuments

The town of Grahamstown (well, its actually a city as it has a cathedral) in the Eastern Cape is situated right in the middle of Settlers country. It is in this area that the 1820 British Settlers (see here, here and here for the Settler story) settled down and it was inevetable that the town would put a monuments to them. On the hill overlooking the town the Settlers Monument was built as a living monument. Opened in 1974, the monument includes a theatre and conference centre and is used by well over 200 000 visitors a year.

At the entrance to the Monument grounds stands another monument to the settlers. This one is a statue depicting an 1820 Settlers family. The man is wearing a top hat and jacket while the woman is dressed in a long dress, as they would have arrived in those days. You can kinda hear the little girl ask, "When are we going home mommy?"

Friday, July 9, 2010

Kouga Dam

Big parts of the Eastern Cape is currently in the grips of a terrible drought. Even though we have had a good amount of rain on the coast, we are still in what is now called a green drought. It means that on the coast its green, but our supply dams and their catchment areas still hasn't had nearly enough rain to relieve the drought.

The Kouga Dam in the Gamtoos River Valley is one of Port Elizabeth's main supply dams. It was the first double-arched dam engineered in South Africa and supplies water to both the Nelson Mandela Bay metropolitan area as well as to the agricultural area in the Gamtoos Valley. This means that when there are water restriction in the city, the farmers in the valley also has to cut back on irrigation.

The Kouga Dam is currently only 36% full and we are really praying for rain to fall in that area to relieve the drought. Click on the following link to see the Kouga Dam overflowing.
Footnote: The Kouga Dam was previously named the Paul Sauer Dam.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nieu Bethesda Fossil Centre

I love Indiana Jones and when I was younger I wanted to be an archaeologist discovering lost civilisations and crawling through jungles looking for artifacts. I still have an great interest in archaeology and have a small collection of fossils and other interesting bits which I hope to still add to in future. So on a visit to Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo I reveled in the knowledge that I would be able to visit the Kitching Fossil Exploration Centre next to the world famous Owl House.

The Karoo is one of the richest fossil treasure chests in the world. Going through the centre visitors can see some of these fossils as well as models of what some of the prehistoric animals from the area would have looked at.

A guide then takes you to a nearby river bed and point out some of the fossils visible and embedded in the rock. How I wish I could get my hands on one or two of the specimens from that area. They would truly be great additions to my collection.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Love dance

Ostriches pair up for life and during the mating season a male ostrich would do a love dance for his female. He would go down on his haunches, open his wings and sway from side to side to get her attention. Its always funny when you visit one of the ostrich show farms at Oudtshoorn and you get an ostrich approaching a group with their wings open and head down like this. Its probably similar to a love dance and shows that he likes (somebody in) the group and is looking for some attention.

This pic was taken just outside Oudtshoorn and shows a male doing his love dance on the right to a female sitting on her nest to the left.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Walmer Cenotaph

Most Port Elizabethans know of the Cenotaph in front of the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Gallery at St Georges Park, but very few know that the monument in front of the Walmer Town Hall is a Cenotaph as well.

On the front and the back of the monument are plaques with the names of men who died during the two World Wars.

Every year on Remembrance Day there is a parade and service at the monument that are organised by the Memorable Order of Tin Hats (Moth) Organisation.