Friday, September 30, 2011

Biking to the Flowers of Namaqualand, South Africa Part IV

On Friday morning we woke to a clear day but as it wasn't very sunny enough for flowers (although we saw swathes of them in fields as we drove along) our hosts decided we should drive to Lamberts Bay for lunch. We were also meeting up with friends we'd known on the diamond mines and not seen since leaving there in the mid-nineties.

Fields of rooibos around the Clanwilliam area

Hands-up who's ever before drunk rooibos  (pronounced Roy-bos) tea? Clanwilliam lies in a valley surrounded by the Cedarberg mountains. This is just one of the areas in the Western Cape where rooibos is grown. You can read more about this uniquely South African beverage here  . I love it for its health properties: it's caffeine free, contains very little tannin and is rich in antioxidants. It also tastes delicious straight up!
Lambert's Bay harbour

Lamberts Bay is a quaint fishing village on the West Coast of South Africa. It's also the home to the Cape Gannets of Bird Island. While we didn't visit Bird Island on this occasion (Catherine and Hilton objected violently on account of "Yech, that place smells!"), Grant and I did the tour in September 2006. I have dozens of photos of the gannets and other birds but cannot for the life of me find them in my archives. I will unearth them sometime and do a post on that trip.

A sunken yacht. No-one has claimed ownership

Isabellas Restaurant is a typical seaside restaurant from my youth. We met with our old Namibian friends, Ben and Francis Havenga, and the six of us had a wonderful time reminiscing  the good times on the diamond mines.
Even at an eatery with an abundance of seafood on its doorstep, so to speak, there was an option for me
When we emerged from Isabellas about three hours later, the harbour was shrouded in mist. Ideas kept swirling through my head with storylines about smugglers and trysts. Can you imagine! (BTW that is the breakwall in the far distance with which you reach Bird Island and the gannets )

My next post is about The Flowers proper. Although visiting the flowers of Namaqualand was a priority on our agenda, the trip leading up to it, and meeting with friends, especially at Lamberts Bay, was as important. However, be prepared for a profusion of colour, texture and wonder! (I'm not kidding, wait and see)

Biking to the Flowers of Namaqualand, South Africa Part III

Continuing our trip to the Cape earlier this month, we descended from Van Ryn's pass (read about this here ) drove through picturesque Vanrynsdorp and onto the N7. The weather had turned from beautifully sunny earlier that day in the Karoo, to overcast and freezing cold by the time we arrived in the West. Grant stopped at an Engen One Stop and took my Drizabone out and helped me into it. He doesnt seem to feel  the cold like I do, but we both always pack these wonderful items of protective gear from Australia into the tank bag.  

Soon we were  riding through the West Coast Cape and into Clanwilliam.
Clanwilliam on a cold spring afternoon!

We stayed with friends, Catherine and Hilton and spent hours catching up on news. Mostly about grandchildren!  Catherine also had my new camera which she'd kindly bought at Makro in Cape Town.

Early on Friday morning we woke to a crisp, clear day. The vapour trail shows how cold the air was above Clanwilliam that morning

More about our trip later today.

For more skies around the world, click here

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Guarding my tongue

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable to You, o Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Knysna Turaco (Lourie)

While overnighting in Wilderness, Western Cape, on our recent holiday in South Africa, I managed to photograph a Knysna Turaco (formerly known as the Knysna Lourie). These birds are normally hopping around inside the bush or tree foliage and I was thrilled to see one sitting quietly, and for quite a long time, at the top of this bush.

The Knysna Turaco is endemic to Southern Africa, especially the Cape coast and many establishments along this shoreline still have names like Loerie's Nest, Loerie's Guest House and Loerie's Lodge. (Note: Loerie is the Afrikaans spelling of Lourie)  

Knysna Turaco

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Biking to the Flowers of Namaqualand, South Africa Part II

After our first overnight stay in Victoria West on Wednesday night which you can read about here if you wish, we embarked on the next leg of our bike trip to the Flowers of Namaqualand. We were on our way to stay with friends, Hilton and Catherine in Clanwilliam. We met them 21 years ago when Hilton supplied heavy equipment and machines, (Hilton runs his business from Cape Town) to Grant who managed a mine earthmoving site in Namibia in the nineties.

Along this leg of our trip lay one of our favourite mountain passes. Bikers love mountain passes and Vanryn's Pass offers magnificent riding along a sweeping road with the mountain cliffs on one side and the view of the flat countryside below.  

Vanryn's Pass

At the bottom of the pass, we rode through the picturesque town of Vanrynsdorp and took the N7. Freeways are not favourite roads for us, but we had no choice.  Catherine and Hilton met us in town (our GPS wouldn't pick up their address) and led us to their beautiful weekend home overlooking Clanwilliam.

To be continued.

For more posts about different worlds, click here

Monday, September 26, 2011

Weekend BBQ, world-class athletes and a mountain road

On our first weekend in Kenya, Sue and Nico had returned from their holiday, a Canadian lady connected to the mine's head-office visited the valley, so we had a BBQ at the guest house on Saturday night.

The next morning, Grant and I took the lady back to the airport in Eldoret. Along the mountain road, we passed many athletes doing their training. The runner below was pounding the road at such a pace, once Grant overtook him and I and the visitor got out of the vehicle to take photos, he was already overtaking us!  
Cross-country runners train by being taken down the mountain in a truck and dropped just before the boom gate at the mine entrance. They then run up the tortuous route - 24 kms of rutted gravel road - to the tarred road leading to Eldoret. Then they pound the tarred road (about 40kms) to Eldoret.
Watching the ease with which these runners lope along, it's no wonder they are top winners in the Olympics

After dropping the visitor at Eldoret International Airport, we drove back to the town to find a road race taking place in town. Like their counterparts running along the dirt roads of Kenya, these athletes are also pure running machines. Eldoret, which is 2700m above sea level has a number of athlete training academies.

Waiting at an intersection for the runners to pass, I managed to get a number of action photos.

Note how the runner is off the ground

Another runner I managed to capture in mid-air

While we were in town, we did our monthly shopping. And of course, afterwards, we had to do the trip down the mountain again. Not on foot, thank goodness, but in an air-conditioned 4x4 vehicle.

Although I've been up and down this road a number of times this year, I never noticed the funny notice at the top of the mountain until yesterday!

Meandering sloppy road!
This is a meme I post for called What did you do this weekend, hosted by Gattina of Writer Cramps. She has such an interesting blog, so do pop in there and visit her.

A wonderful week to you all!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Petey the Cat

A ginger cat called Petey at one of the establishments we overnighted on our way back home (more about this later) soon realised the Hedges were a soft touch

Petey the cat, and the resident dog favoured our table at dinner that night

Scenic mountain pass

Just one of the many beautiful scenes on our bike trip in South Africa this month. If the horizon looks skew to you, it is. I took the photo from the back of the motorbike while riding the magnificent Van Ryn's Pass

For more beautiful scenes around the world, click here

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Biking to the Flowers of Namaqualand, South Africa

On September 8, while on holiday in South Africa, we loaded our bike and headed down the road...

On the road again

The Free State countryside was still brown after a severe winter but beautiful all the same

Our first overnight stop was Victoria West, 626km from home.   Victoria West, a small town in the heart of the Karoo,  is known for being the birthplace and hometown of famous Springbok Rugby player Francois du Toit Roux.  He was nicknamed Mannetjies (which means small man in Afrikaans) by a domestic worker.  You can read more about our National South African hero here. After we'd unloaded the bike luggage into our comfortable accommodation for the night, Grant and I walked downtown to visit the Mannetjies Roux Museum. I convinced Grant to pose in the cut-out in the museum.

Here I am as Mannetjies (Roux), while Grant is Frik (du Preez) one of the other Springbok players of the same era 
The sleepy town of Victoria West

In Marquard earlier that week, I'd visited Sanet, my hairdresser and friend of two decades .  She cut the mop of hair that had grown over the past three months, coloured it and generally made me feel brandnew again! I was the only  appointment she had that day as she was on her way to visit her fiance, Chris who has a law practice in Victoria West. We told her that we would see them on our travels. Which is what we did...

Eating out at a true-blue Karoo restaurant which served lamb (roasted, grilled, fried and stewed),  venison carpaccio, curried tripe and more. From left Chris, Sanet, me and Grant

Loaded and ready to ride on the second day of our trip across the Cape

The next morning it was time to move on. We loaded the bike and headed for the next stop, Clanwilliam approximately 700kms away.  To be continued...

Friday, September 23, 2011

Sunset, moonrise over the Karoo

The sun setting

and a waning moon rising over the Karoo during our recent trip through South Africa

For more beautiful skies across the world, click here

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kenyan cats well and happy

To all who're confused as to my recent travels, we flew from Kenya to South Africa on leave at the beginning of September. We spent two days in our home in the Free State.

On Wednesday, 8 September we loaded our motorbike and rode down to the Cape to see the flowers and to meet up with friends along the way. After a round trip of more than 3200kms, we arrived back home in the Free State on Thursday 15th September.

The next day, Friday, 16 September, we drove to the city to do our last minute shopping. Saturday Grant and I popped around and visited/greeted friends in town. After this, we took our dogs for a run on the golf course. Back home, I bonded with my SA cats. Later that afternoon, I packed my suitcase (which, to my husband's horror, was slapped with a "heavy" sticker at the airport, LOL!)  

After church on Sunday, Angus and Amanda took us to Bloemfontein airport;  we flew to Johannesburg, overnighted there and the next morning boarded the South African Airways flight for Nairobi.

We landed in Kenya at 14h15 and after collecting our luggage, had a three hour wait in the domestic departure hall. After a 30 minute flight, we landed in Eldoret at about 19h15 where our driver met us and drove us down the mountain to our house in the valley.

And this is where I'll be for the next three months or more...

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Back in Kenya

We're back home in the valley, Kenya.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Back from biking trip

and preparing and packing to leave South Africa for Kenya this weekend!

We're back from an amazing bike trip to the Cape to see the flowers and visiting friends. With three cameras between us, Grant and I have 640 photos; these still need to be downloaded and sorted out.

We're preparing to fly back to Nairobi this weekend so it's all systems go at the moment. I hope to catch up with all my blogger friends in the next week.

PS Sorry about the comment problem. Once again I didn't enable "comments allowed" and many of you mailed or commented elsewhere to let me know. Thanks!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Home in SA Sept 2011

Marquard grandson, Joel, posing for Gran's photo

Are you sure you have me in focus, Gran?

Our four SA cats being spoilt with extra kibbles because "mum's" home. From left, 16 year-old Tigger, eight-year-old brothers, Puff and Felix and only remaining female, 12 year-old Chip

On Monday morning we took the dogs for a walk on the golf course near our home. They were beside themselves with excitement. They hadn't had this treat since May!

Entering the golf course - Eddy and Megan run free and were across the fairway by the time Grant opened the gate

Angie off leash and ready to take on the world!

A quick dip in the dam for all three

Thanks everyone for your kind comments and visits. By the time this post is aired, we'll be on our way to the Cape on our motorbike. Tonight we're staying in a B&B in Victoria West,  a mere 650kms down the road. The next day we're off to Clanwilliam and will stay with friends in their holiday home. Together we're going to tour the back roads of the Western Cape and see the flowers which are spectacular at this time of the year. You can read more about this here.

We'll be back home on Thursday 15 September.

Until then, bless you all!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Home in South Africa

This is a quick post to say we arrived home (in our house) at 3pm on Sunday 4 September. I'll be back later (probably tomorrow) with a longer post.

Thanks everyone for the comments and well-wishes. We had a wonderful trip. For those who wondered who's looking after the Kenya cats, Johan cares for them over the weekend, and during the week Naomi and Stanley will be there for them.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Beautiful Valley

A view of two waterfalls (only one is visible on the photo: mid-left) from the mountain road leading up to Eldoret

For more beautiful scenes around the world, click here

Goodbye Sweet Kitties

Ginger still denies any paternal ties with Ambrose, but I beg to differ. Take a look at the photo below:

As Ambrose (front) grows up, he looks more and more like Ginger (rear of photo)!

Shadow on Grant's chair at the dining table. This is his favourite spot

Ginger also loves sleeping on the dining chair "under" the table cloth, but alternates between the guest room bed, our double bed and the sofa in the lounge

Ambrose has also learnt to sleep on the dining chairs under the table cloth and in between he likes to lie behind me on my office chair!

While we're away, Johan will have the key to the house. He'll come in evenings and over the weekend to check on the cats and give them a tidbit. During the week Naomi and Stanley will be at work and take care of the three cats. Borries next door will also keep an eye on the house and animals.

Today we're in Johannesburg and waiting for our domestic flight to Bloemfontein. Then it's 160km by car to our home in Marquard.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Busy last week in Keirio Valley

Six weeks ago I noticed two well-fed dogs lying outside Chebutie Club. At the time, Stanley and I walked the few hundred meters to the club;  I wanted to find out from Maggie, the club manager if they were her dogs. When we drew nearer, we saw that although the dogs were certainly much fatter than other local dogs, (they had to be, as they were fed all the left-overs from employees meals served in the club) they were both riddled with ticks. In fact, the smaller of the two, a yellow cur had ticks literally dripping from his ears, body and tail. This dog slouched off into the bush when we approached. When I spoke to Maggie, she said yes, they were her dogs and she loved them. I then told her that I'd brought for her pour-on medication for the ticks . She was thrilled and once I explained how to apply it (break the top off the vial and apply the contents in between the dog's shoulderblades) she said she'd get the security guard to help her that evening.   When I asked her what their names were, she said they had no names. So I said well, why don't you call the larger dog Mbwa moja (dog number one) and the yellow dog could be Mbwa mbili (dog number two). She was thrilled and said from now on that would be their names!

Last week I visited my vet in Eldoret for deworming tablets for our cats as well as Frontline treatment for ticks and fleas. I also asked for the same for dogs.

On Monday I dewormed our three cats and applied Frontline. (I was off the cats' list of favourite people for a couple of day, LOL!)

On Tuesday I packed a tin of cat food, two dessert spoons, the canine worm tablets and Frontline into my basket and Stanley and I walked down to the club. While walking along, I said to Stanley that I thought the yellow dog may have died since we last saw him. He agreed and said he remembered that the dog was "vurry eel". Imagine our surprise and my delight when we walked into the club yard and the first dog we saw, was Mbwa Mbili. He had filled out since I last visited and his coat was thick, shiny and tick-free!

When Maggie emerged from the clubhouse, I congratulated her on the healthy state of her dogs. I then gave her two more vials of Frontline which I suggested she applied in a couple of weeks' time. I showed her how to crush the worm tablets between two dessert spoons, gave her the cat food with which to mix it, and said she could feed it to them immediately. I look forward to seeing these two dogs a few weeks after the deworming.

Mbwa mbili. Isnt' he a handsome lad?

Mbwa moja looking fat and healthy as well

It's been on my agenda to have a ladies' tea on camp. Sharda had just arrived back from her break in India and Sue was off on theirs in New Zealand (going to watch the World Cup Rugby live, lucky fish!), I decided to have it that afternoon.  After returning from the club, I invited Sue and Sharda - only other two ladies on camp - and Sharda's 12 year-old daughter to High Tea at my home. I quickly baked a corn bread, apple and carrot loaf and a batch of buttermilk scones. I also prepared small individual dishes of apricot jam, butter curls, whipped cream and whole figs in syrup to eat with the scones and corn bread.

After lunch I spread a new kikoi over the veranda table and placed a huge vase of freshly cut flowers in the centre. I set out four cups, sauces and side plates. (no mugs please!) as well as a teaspoon, knife and serviette at each place.

The table setting out on the veranda just lent itself to a lovely afternoon of ladies enjoying tea together!

Promptly at 3.30 I heard voices in the lane behind my house. Sharda and Sue - the latter sporting a beautiful hat decked with fresh flowers- arrived bearing gifts! Sue brought me a potted plant and Sharda gave me a bunch of fresh flowers as well as gifts she'd bought on her recent break in India. Monisha, who had been tested positive for malaria that morning, stayed home two doors down the lane.

A lush potted plant from Sue's garden (I don't have this fine-leafed specimen), and an evening bag, colourful beads and chocolates from India
Somehow my camera settings were not right but I think you get the general idea. We had a wonderful afternoon of tea, eats and non-stop chatting ! Sue insisted Sharda wears the hat for the photo. She's wearing the remainder of my straw hat which has been chewed by Ambrose

Sharda looking beautiful in, Sue's garden tea hat while I wear the "pillbox" remainder of mine

Wednesday, 31 August, being Eid al fitr (end of Ramadan) was declared a public holiday in Kentya. Grant worked until mid-afternoon and then came home to take me birding. We spent an age watching a Paradise-Flycatcher (white phase) trying to impress a female. Grant tried, without much success, to photograph the male who flitted about continuously in the thorn scrub. Along the road I spotted a Pale Flycatcher hawking for insects. I have many photos of this particular flycatcher and concentrated on photographing it in flight. I did! (I'm not gloating, promise!)
Pale Flycatcher hawking for its dinner

On Thursday we drove up the mountain to Eldoret. We were off to Immigrations to finalize our business armed with the correct documents this time.
Up the winding, rutted gravel road to the top of the mountain!

I'm pleased to announce that the Immigrations officer was very professional, taking our fingerprints and completing our forms within an hour.  It was a different official from the one we dealt with last week. This one didn't require, want ask for the documents we'd painstakingly acquired from the company HR!

By mid-morning we were trundling back down the mountain road to the mine in the valley far below.  We spotted Colobus Monkeys again and Borries managed to get some very good photos.
These children were standing on top of a bank below which their mother sat cutting stone chips. I didn't photograph her.  I don't think I'd like to be sitting there in the sand, hands bleeding  while a Mzungu (foreigner) focusses on my plight

A little further down the road we came across a very familiar sight: a truck engine being overhauled on the side of the road while the passengers wait patiently for their lift to be mobile again. These trucks are all contractors and transport Fluorspar from the mine to Mombassa. At the same time they take people (for a fee of course) from the valley up to the villages along the way or Eldoret on the main road  

I was busy studying my English - Swahili dictionary and would've missed the next sight if the men hadn't mentioned it:
A newborn lamb tucked away behind its mother!

As this post is aired today, Grant and I will be driving up the mountain (again!) to Eldoret. We catch the 9.20 Skylink flight to Nairobi. We 'll wait around on the airport (drink copious cups of coffee at Java Coffee House and "people watch"!) until 16h00 when our SAA flight leaves for Johannesburg. We stay over in Johannesburg and tomorrow (Sunday) we catch the domestic flight to Bloemfontein. We're being met by Amanda's sister and brother-in-law who'll have our Nissan ready for us to travel back to our home in Marquard 160kms to the East. Till I log on again on Monday, bless you all!