Monday, January 31, 2011

What did I do this weekend? Mmmm.

My weekend starts last Thursday when we left Nairobi for the final leg of our journey. We drove for five hours on tarred roads filled with traffic: much of it tour busses and vehicles transporting tourists around this beautiful East African country.

A stop that Stephanie, our driver had to make for the mine, was at a butchery/grocery store in Nakuru, quite a large town en route to our mine site. There we stocked up on meat for Grant and lovely fresh vegetables, yoghurt and cheese for me.

Shortly after leaving Nakuru,  we turned off onto a dirt road. Phew. And bounced and rattled across bone-jarring gravel surfaces up mountains and down into valleys for the next hour.

 Tourist trap? Err, yes I was caught just outside the butchery. This man was persistent that I buy paintings that HE'd done. After I'd bought four diminutive cards, Grant hissed in my ear that I'd just been ripped off. Later alone in the backseat of the car, I snuck a peek at the cards and yes, the "paintings" were badly cut pictures haphazardly stuck onto cheap white paper and sealed in a plastic envelope. Even I don't know what use I can put them too, LOL!

I was surprised and delighted when Sephanie pointed out that we were on the middle of the earth (his expression!) I have often flown across the Equator and even been aware of it because of onboard television displays. But Grant and I have never crossed the Equator "on foot" as it were. I managed to get a photo as we passed (a click on the image will enlarge and enable you to read the boards more clearly)

A few minutes to one, we finally arrived at the mining residential site. Above is my first glimpse of the guest house (and comfort!). The MD's wife, Sue met us and had our luggage taken to our room. We stayed in the Guest House for the first few days as our house had just been repainted and Nico, the MD felt we should wait for the paint smell to disappear. A good expat company (such as this one) also "eases" it's employers and families into life in Africa by having someone cook their meals and see to the basic needs. We were thoroughly spoilt by the Guest House Chef, Wheatcliffe,  and his assistant, Caro the Houselady, whom I'll ask for a photo at a later stage. Today after our last lunch cooked by Wheatcliffe and served by Caro, we'll move our luggage and other personal effects down to our house in the corner of the site. The setting is BEAUTIFUL and I'll post all about my NOO HOOS tomorrow.

 One of the bends I managed to photograph, although this wasn't the sharpest. Most of the corners made the road look like a paper clip at that point!

On Sunday Sephanie collected for a shopping trip to the nearest town, El Doret. I was trying to think of all sorts of excuses why we actually don't need groceries and cleaning materials for our house. My [late] fifty-somehing body just rebelled at the thought of another long trip on dirt roads. However, my no-nonsense hubby cajoled me into the car and off we went! Travelling to El Doret, 74 kms away,  meant we had to climb the mountain surrounding the valley on 24kms of dirt road (not just ordinary dirt road, but rattling, teeth-loosening gravel) with [apparently] 24 hairpin bends. I lost count after the third one as I was TRYING to take photos and trying to stay in my seat at the same time! The view in Africa always makes up for any discomfort! (See below)

On the homebound trip [back down the mountain], Sephanie stopped at a viewpoint for me to photograph the valley W - A - Y down below. We still had more than 50kms/32miles of bone-jarring dirt road to go.  Ewgh!

One small fly in the ointment here in Paradise: the Internet connection at the camp is almost non-existent. No sooner do I upload a photo, when the prompt below my post says "An error occured while saving" When I check the Safricom broadband connection, sure enough it's down. *Sigh*. I've had to practice more patience these past few days than ever before in my life!  I will be spending some mornings at the mine offices where the Satelite connection is excellent. So for now I'm not able to link to memes and hope to be able to comment and post in the future.

PS As we have no television in South Africa (never have had) we are now connected to DSTV here in our house. Someone (one of the other guests) has left the telly on CNN, I muted the sound but have been horrified to see the chaos in Egypt. I have blogger friends in Cairo and sincerely hope they're OK. Also seen riots in Canada? Kay, is this near you? I hope you're all safe and well.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Great Rift Valley, Kenya

After leaving Nairobi, we climbed out of the city to the top of a mountain where the driver stopped for me to photograph the Great Rift Valley. If you enlarge the photos, you can see the highway running north (about centre of the photo) We descended into the valley and drove all along it, up mountains and down into valleys for six hours towards our destination in the far northern and very remote Kenyan mine

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Shhh, don't tell Shadow...

Ginger, the resident camp cat

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Happy Birthday Joel

Happy birthday dearest Joel, our Marquard grandson who's ONE today. Celebrating his very first birthday on holiday with his mom and dad. Have a great day, little one. We love you dearly.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Stopover in Nairobi

Thanks all for your kind comments, thoughts and prayers while we travelled across Africa to our new challenge. After two successful SA Airways flights, no delays and excellent service (we've not flown SAA for about five years and were very impressed with them this week) we arrived - on time - in Nairobi 19h05 East Africa time. A quick clearance through customs (the efficiency on the Kenyan side was impressive too) we collected our luggage and trolleyed it to the throng of people waiting to  meet passengers. Grant and I scanned the huge cardboard notices being held aloft by most of the people standing behind the rope: XXX Safaris for Mr and Mrs De Haardt;  XXX Tours for Ms De Maurier, Smith, Van Halen, XXX Outdoor Adventures for the Le Grange party  and so on. I realised that we'd arrived in a tourist-driven Africa. Then I spotted a tall man displaying a board announcing:  "Mr Grant and Miss Johanna Hedges" Ha! I liked the "Miss" part. Felt good after more than ten days of late nights, arrangements with household staff,  vets , kennels, quick packing and flights across the continent! 
We introduced ourselves to the man who said his name was Sephani, the company driver and he would transport us to our hotel. We drove across a still-bustling city, in gridlocked traffic, a strong reminder of Conakry in Guinea;  Bamako, Mali, West Africa; Addis Ababa, East Africa and Khartoum, North Africa. But that's where the similarity ended. In those countries we drove on the right side of the road, donkey drawn carts and little motorcycles jamming the already jammed traffic and every sign and billboard was in anything but English:  French, Dutch, Malinki, Arabic, Amharic. Here it was all was SO familiar. We even spotted clothing chain stores and petrol stations which we'd seen earlier that day in South Africa.

We arrived at our hotel (which is part of a huge safari lodge/hotel group in Kenya) and after we'd checked in, Grant arranged with Sephani to collect us at 7am the next morning for the final leg of our destination. Once we'd showered and freshened up, we went back downstairs for a delicious dinner in the a la carte restaurant.

Once again, I realised that this was no third-world country as some we've worked in before. The place was full of tourists from all over the world. One group of five German-speaking ladies obviously travelling together, were seated at a table near us. They interrupted their meal with plenty of toasts and cheers. Later one lady requested an African song from the band and soon all the ladies were boogying in the designated dance area in the restaurant. I was dying to go and chat to them but thought better of it. (I don't think they would have been embarrassed but I'm not so sure about my own darling husband's reaction!)

Mmm, are the engineering cogs turning while  he contemplates the two months' consulting appoimtment ahead?

After a delicious dinner in the hotel's a la carte restaurant, complete with a live band and excellent service, we ordered one portion of dessert to share. Grant didn't want more than a spoonful which suited me fine ...

While waiting for our driver to collect us on Thursday morning, Grant photographed me in our  hotel room. I never like photos of myself (I've deleted more photos of "me" than any other!) and this one was no exception so I decided to "play" with the image!

Nairobi, a bustling metropolis from early morning till late at night

After a good night's rest, our driver collected us on Thursday morning and we embarked on a six-hour journey through the Great Rift Valley to the mine site. More about our arrival and subsequent settling-in procedure later on...

Friday, January 28, 2011

Great African Skies

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kenya, here we come!

Bloemfontein, the city nearest our home town

Today as this post is aired, Grant and I will be on board the SA Express domestic flight from Bloemfontein to Johannesburg. From there we board a larger plane and all things being equal, we'll take off by 14h15. We should arrive in Nairobi at 17h05. We'll be collected from the airport by the company driver and taken to overnight in a hotel in the city. On Thursday morning the driver will collect us from the hotel and drive us out to the mine site which is a four-and-a-half hour drive from Nairobi. As you can imagine, I cannot wait to see East African countryside and take lots of photos.

Tuesday was quite a challenging day: we took Shadow into the city. He yodelled and yowled so loudly in the cage at my feet, that I eventually took him out and held him on my lap. He fiddled and tried to climb under the seats and across Grant, but after a while he lay down on my lap and "sort-of" relaxed. After having blood drawn at the vet for his future travels into Africa, we drove across town to Albie's kennels. I carried Shadow into his cage/run and he immediately jumped up onto the wooden shelf on which I placed his igloo filled with toys. Albie's assistant, Leomi says this is the first time she's booked a cat in and written the instruction: "to be walked regularly" on his visitor's card! She said she'd go in and stroke him and chat to him as often as she has the chance to do it. It was sad to leave our little lad but I know he's in good hands.

We phoned when we got home and of course, Shadow is fine. Just checkin', LOL!
Just when we thought we had all the arrangements in the bag, the person who promised to take us to the airport tomorrow, phoned to say he couldn't make it anymore! After phoning around town to see if we could catch a lift with someone going to the city, Angus (who is on leave down in the Cape, else he'd have taken us) phoned with a wonderful suggestion. He said we should ask Albie if we could meet her at her house and she take us to the airport. She lives about three kilometers from the Bloemfontein airport. I phoned her and she kindly agreed to help us out. We've left our vehicle in one of her garages and Angus will collect it from her over the weekend. It's so "cool" when you have friends in high places, lol. Oh and of course, I got to see little Shadow again when we stopped at Albie's !

As Bloemfontein airport is now an International airport, we will bubble wrap our luggage here (the theft and tampering of luggage on our airways is horrific and this is one way of making it a lot more difficult for would-be thieves to fiddle in our cases) and we will buy our US dollars at the Bureau d'Change. Note: we never travel without US dollars although we don't always use them.

The plane which flies us from Johannesburg to Nairobi is much larger than the one we took from Bloemfontein. Grant normally knows whether they're jets or whatever. I don't! Also, he's a very nervous flyer (I'm not)  so he "checks up" on the craft, AND the crew, I might add!

So for now, it's cheerio until I land on East African soil and am reconnected to the Internet.

Bless you all!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Shadow's travel plans

The day has arrived,  the time has come!

We're off to the city vet today to have blood tests done for Shadow. These will be sent off to a laboratory at a large vetinerary research centre. When he is certified clear of rabies and other diseases, we'll be able to set the wheels in motion to take him to Kenya the next time we come home. These arrangements and test results take about 90 days.

So what is going to happen to darling little Shadow when we go off to East Africa on Wednesday? Well, Grant and I decided to kennel (or do you say cattery, LOL) him for the two months that we'll be away. For the past seventeen years, since coming to Marquard, I've taken my dogs and cats to a lady who owns a huge kennel/cattery on the outskirts of Bloemfontein. She has clipped, dipped and housed my pets on various occasions since 1994. Even a pet chicken called Nando - who lived in my house in the late nineties - went to Albie's animal hotel, as her establishment is called.  Albie has promised to take special care of  Shadow, walk him daily on his leash and to get her assistants to spend [quality] time with him as often as possible. Grant says Albie will probably take Shadow to stay in the house with her. Well, I'll be pleased if she does.

So that is what is happening to Shadow for the next sixty days. I, for one, am going to miss this little guy terribly. But there is no other option but to leave him in South Africa until we return at the end of March when we come out on holiday.

Maybe if I get ultra - friendly with my yoomen here at her desk, she'll take me with her ...

Last night I sprinkled catnip on a towel and placed it in the cat's travel cage. Shadow jumped into the cage and almost turned inside out trying to rub his face and body all over the herb; he even licked the towel.

I Googled "catnip" and this is what I found:  "Although no one knows exactly what happens in the cat's brain when the cat smells catnip, it is known that the chemical nepetalactone in catnip is what triggers the response. Apparently, it activates a stereotypical pattern in cats that are sensitive to the chemical. The catnip reaction is inherited, and some cats are totally unaffected by it. Large cats like tigers can be sensitive to it as well."  (I can testify to the inherited part: some of my older cats are affected by catnip, others don't even react when they smell it!)
Mmm, my yoomen sprinkled something yummy on the towel - I can't get enough of it!


For those of you who commented and asked how my arrangements were going, everything is under control. Grant always packs his own clothes (corporate and leisure) and I pack mine. I, of course, have things like hairdryers, cosmetics, my herbal tea (a South African tea called Rooibos - Red Bush) to pack.  AND I have a stack of magazines and soft-covered books which I'd like to enjoy at my leisure while in Kenya. So I will probably utilize my entire 20kg luggage allowance and about 60% of Grant's allowance! I mean, fair's fair, hey?

I've also been asked if I don't find it stressful to pack up and leave my home, family, pets etc in such a hurry. Well yes, I do find it slightly uncomfortable; it's not easy leaving grandchildren, the house and animals and going to another country for a long time. But instead of stressing, I 've handed all my cares over to my Father in heaven. He has promised not to ever let me fall. In Psalm 55:22 the Bible says: "Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall." Amen!

Another thing, I'm used to travelling to African countries; (after eleven years I should be!) and the more I do it, the more I'm able to do it! I don't think I'd be such a good traveller across Europe, the US and the far East as many of you are. This is also the very first time that I'm going to a new country accompanying my dh. Normally he goes ahead and three months later the company flies me up to join him. (this is standard company practice, they need to see whether the employee adapts to the situation before spending more money on flying his family up) So every time I've gone to live in Mali, Guinea (West Africa) and Khartoum (North Africa) for the first time, it was on my own. It is a little daunting, but again, not impossible and MOST interesting. This time however, I will arrive on site with Grant and from the outset,  be as au fait with the conditions and situation as he is!
It has rained for three days solid here in the Free State and once again, our river running next to the town, is swollen and overflowing onto certain farm roads
The ground, rivers, dams and vleis (swamps) are all saturated and the rainwater has nowhere to go anymore!

My friend Carina lives on a farm at the foothills of the flat mountain in the background. This morning she had to be escorted to town as the drift across their farm road was awash
Our gentle almost non-existent brook running just outside the town of Marquard, is suddenly a raging torrent!

A barn swallow takes a break on an old fence post in the river

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Our last weekend in South Africa

For now, that is!

Do you remember what you did on the weekend of 22-23 January? Gattina of Writer Cramps hosts this delightful meme called What did you do the weekend? Do join us in telling what you did with your weekend.

A week ago we would never have guessed this would be our last weekend in South Africa for at least the next ten weeks. As I said in Saturday's post, we're off to work in Kenya and we leave on Wednesday. Much arranging, last minute hair cut and colour (for me) and a bit of packing. (I've learnt over the years of expat life, how to travel light, much to my husband's obvious relief!)

Meanwhile, we popped down to the Drakensberg to visit John, Debbie and family. Angus and Amanda and little Joel are on holiday in the Cape, so we have to do our farewells on the telephone.

We arrived at the young Hedges' abode at about 1pm on Saturday. We had a pleasant overnight stay and returned home on Sunday afternoon.

If you have a bit of time on your hands and would like to browse through a brilliantly - written blog, please click here. Why not add yourself to this blog and follow the life and times of this brave young family. If you have a word of encouragement, affirmation or any other gift you'd like to impart, leave a comment. I know that Debbie loves all comments to her blog and replies to them with enthusiasm.

John getting a haircut from Debbie in the school room (which you can read about here)
 John arranged a tractor and mowed the huge tract of land. Here he and Grant discuss the next step of clearing some more land and planting trees
Early on Sunday morning, Bethany (standing in red cot) and Elijah were awake. Yet not a peep was heard (except gurgles and singing ) until their parents awoke and attended to them

Coming upstairs to greet Granddad - aren't our two granddaughters TOO beautiful?

Joshua, Bethany and Eryn greet the new day

The littlest Hedges girl doesn't know whether she's coming or going! We were all laughing so much at Bethany wearing the gumboots back to front, that I got camera shake!

Just a snap to show who's alway behind the camera! It started raining again when we left the Berg and rained all the way home

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

I smell a rat...

Mmm, I smell a rat here... My yoomens have been away from me a lot lately. At  home they talk about vaccinations, passports and tickets. Now they've bought me this strange new thing filled with toys.  This means they're up to no good
Whoo-hoo! let me dive over this it!
Ooh, but this is so soft and satiny,  I just can't resist snuggling up in it!

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Newborn Neddy

Returning from a shopping trip to a nearby town last Monday, Grant and I both spotted this mama donkey and her very new baby in a paddock near the road. He stopped for me to take photos. Unfortunately I didn't have my Canon camera with me and took the photos below with my little Sony Cybershop P&S which turned out rather well, I think.

I was pleased that mother and baby didn't dash off like the deer which are the white specks in the far distant background. (Buncha Sissies!) The other slightly larger speck to the left of the photo in the middle distance, looked like the male donkey. He merely lay down in the grass and watched this crazy lady who ooh-ed and ah-ed over at his progeny!

The baby donkey woke up, looked over its shoulder and decided it was better to be closer to mama

Help, mammy. Save me from that funny creature with a silver face who smells different to you

I think a nuzzle at the milk bar will make me feel better...
There now, laddie, I'm here to keep you from harm
Back off Lady. This is my baby!
Mmm, there you are. She's packing up and leaving

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

We're off !

The Great Rift Valley
Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa

As my regular readers know, Grant and I returned from Khartoum, the Sudan, North Africa in October last year. We've been back home and enjoying our family, friends, garden,  pets and a glorious South African summer ever since.

However,  out of the blue last Tuesday evening Grant received a call [literally] from the past! A young man who'd been the Financial Manager on the Gold mine in Guinea, when Grant and I worked there, is now the General Manager of a mine in Kenya. He'd been in contact with their old company in Johannesburg who suggested he contacted Grant. So here he was offering Grant a post as AGM on this Kenyan mine. Of course, my husband, who's been champing at the bit to get back to work, jumped at the offer and immediately e-mailed this guy with his requirements.

We sat back, thinking it would be a few weeks before we'd have a reply; ages before the corporate wheels were set in motion. Not so.  By mid-morning on Wednesday Grant had a signed contract and return fligths for both of us. Yes, we fly out to Nairobi, where we'll be collected by the company driver and taken to the mine site. All in the middle of next week.  Grant will go to out to work while I  stay in a company house. I'll be online and intend to write, blog and visit other blogs to my heart's content. And take millions of photos.  We're very excited as we've never been in East Africa - apart from flying in and out of Ethiopia en route to the Sudan - and look forward to seeing the birds, wildlife and flora of this beautiful African country.


Kenya is a country in East Africa, lying along the Indian Ocean. To the southeast, Kenya is bordered by Somalia;  to the northeast, Ethiopia;  to the north, Sudan;  Uganda to the west and Tanzania to the south.

I don't know exactly where the mine is situated, but it is situated in the Great Rift Valley and apparently Eldoret is the nearest large town/city. If you look on the above map under the letter "K" in Kenya, you will see Eldoret;  I'll be blogging close to this!

In the meantime we've had our vaccinations and shots updated and have many tasks to accomplish before flying out next week. Oh, this move, of course affects Shadow's whereabouts. More about this next week!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Skyline starlings

"Just sit tight, Laddie. Dad will be here soon with the next  snack." The female Red-winged starling, to tht left had just fed the young bird here and flew off  to fetch more food

"There now, Laddie. Dad brought you a tidbit" (Male Red-winged starling arrived to feed the hungry youngster)
"Mother, where are you? Are you bringing more food?"
Cluck cluck, patience dear. Here I am,  slaving over a hot stove with your dinner!

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Try it...

Early morning rays of sunshine play over my collection of ornamental grasses and succulents

It is good to give thanks to the Lord
To sing praises to the most high
It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning
Your faithfulness in the evening
Accompanied by the harp and the lute
And the harmony of the lyre
You thrill me with all You've done for me!
I sing for joy because of what You have done
Oh Lord, what great miracles You do!
Psalm 92:1-5a

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I started my blog on 1 October 2008 (you can see this here  and here )  so this is not my blogaversary. This is a post about blogging, my regular readers and what they mean to me.

In short, I love blogging. Firstly it's a journal of my day-to-day life with nostalgic posts when the occasion calls for it (like yesterday's post). It's also a platform for me to profess my love for the Lord Jesus who by Grace saved me and guides me constantly in my daily walk.

Secondly, by posting about what I do (mostly gardening) or the adventures - and sometime sad events - I experience, I'm honing my writing skills. Recently I read a statement in a writers' magazine: "Every word you write on your blog, is one word less for your great novel." Well, I beg to differ. On the contrary: if I scroll down through the archives I see that I 've posted (written) about things I would have forgotten had I not blogged about them. So no not one word I use on my blog is wasted. The majority of what I write here will be used in the many articles, books, short stories, how-to and travel features and non-fiction pieces which are bubbling inside my head!

The aspect I love most about blogging, is the friends I've made across the world. Some I may meet up with some in real life; others I will embrace when they arrive at heaven's gates. I love that I have personal contact with fellow bloggers via e-mail. I love that many have spoilt me and my grandchildren with gifts all the way from around the world.

In the beginning my posts were a little stilted. I was always concerned that readers wouldn't understand what I want to say. As the years pass and I learn to improve my writing style (through blogging and other media, like the afore-mentioned writers' magazine) I've relaxed a lot in my posts. I think we also get to know our regular readers, are grateful for the feedback via comments so it gets easier to blog.

 I love having visitors to my blog and reading the comments. I used to reply to each comment on my post but due to time constraints, I don't anymore. I'd rather visit that person's blog (I love it when I click on a new name) and answer any questions there or e-mail them direct.

What I also love about blogging (there's nothing I don't like about blogging -  I'm a positive rather than a negative, nagging lady, ha!-  is that  I can post my photos (literally thousands!) and write the story behind them. This helps me to remember the event.

I'm not all that confident using the gadgets and other technical aspects of blogger but I've added a fair amount. Recently I uploaded a mini-globe (the world) and am delighted to see visits (dots on various continents) and then flags from New York, (hi Lori!) Niamey (West Africa) - Esther,  Manchester, Nottingham, (John Gray?) Cape Town, (dear Caroline and Desiree respectively) the Middle East (Missalyn) and more. Yesterday  for the first time I saw the flag: Brussels (hoofstedelijk Gewest). Is that you, Gattina? Must be!  The one flag I see most when I click on my own blog, is Bloemfontein, Free State, so I know I'm visiting me! BTW there are many more blogger friends than I've linked here, I just don't know what states would show if you visited me. So to Gaelyn, Pat, Sylvia, Diane, Betsy, EG WOW and more, thanks for visiting.

I only have 132 followers in comparison to people with the same blogging style as mine who have several hundreds. This doesn't worry me because I still love to blog, visit other blogs and connect with my fellow bloggers. Yet I trust that this year more people will add their profiles to my blog.

According to my stats, the most pageviews my blog receives, is from North America. Next is South Africa, United Kingdom, Sudan (huh? I never met or heard from a blogger in the Sudan!) Australia, Canada, Sweden, Germany, Netherlands, Russia and Brazil. Thanks everyone!

To date, the post with the most reads/pageviews was Stopover in Addis Ababa and the second most-read post was A Sudanese Wedding .  Our last weekend in Khartoum and  The Nubian Desert Treasures came in third and fourth. It sure looks like my readers enjoyed North Africa as much as I did!

So this post is dedicated to my regular readers and those who comment: thank you for your continued support. For those who read my posts only, why not take the plunge and add your name to the followers' box in the sidebar? I'd love to have you around.

Above all to everyone out there, never stop blogging.