Monday, February 25, 2013

Back home in South Africa

 Goliath Heron at Sunset in Lake Baringo, Kenya (Dec 2011)

We arrived home safe and sound, and very weary on Saturday afternoon. Thanks to everyone of my blogger followers for your kind comments and wishes for our safe travels. It sure worked!.

I am a little involved with organizing an event which I will post about on Wednesday. So I hope you'll all forgive me for the short post and also for not visiting your blogs. I will be back soon! 

BTW. I'm busy with my photo archives and just had to post the above photo on this post.

I hope you all have a wonderful week.

Friday, February 22, 2013

In Transit from East to South Africa

Our trusty driver, Mohamed met us at the airport and soon

we were on our way through the traffic
We're in Dar Es Salaam; we arrived on time after a pleasant flight from Mwanza. The traffic was bearable and we'd soon booked into our normal hotel, The Seacliff.

Always elegant, always welcoming: The Seacliff, Dar Es Salaam

The porter led us to our room on the second floor and as he opened the door, I was greeted by the largest bouquet of roses, chrysanthemums and fine greenery that I'd ever seen. Grant had organized for the hotel to have this ready for me to celebrate my 60th birthday and our upcoming 41st wedding anniversary!
 A gorgeous bouquet of roses, chrysanthemums and greenery
I felt thoroughly spoil

And as if that wasn't even, once again, we have a sea facing room as well. 

 Overlooking the hotel pool and the Indian Ocean beyond

 Isn't this just too glorious?

The next time I log on, we will be, God willing, safely back home in South Africa. I wish you all a wonderfully, warm and happy weekend. 

Blue Skies and Striking Birds

Do I hear groans of despair? A THIRD post about birds in Tanzania. Sorry folks, but this bird was so beautiful against the Tanzanian sky I need to post it on my Skywatch Friday meme.

The common, but strikingly beautiful Black-Shouldered Kite against a clear blue sky

Black-shouldered Kite as captured on the mine on Monday evening

As this post is aired, we'll be driving to Mwanza, on the first leg of our journey to South Africa. We board the 8.30 flight to Dar Es Salaam and should be settled into our hotel on the Indian Ocean before midday today. 

Thereafter I hope to find a pair of high-heeled sandals in the shopping complex near the hotel. (I haven't told Grant this yet, as in my experience, men tend to roll their eyes when you mention shopping for clothes or shoes!) Then we'll pop into the well-stocked supermarket, also near the hotel and buy a couple of dozen tins of cat food. The shop manager stores these for us; on our return from SA we'll collect the carton and bring it back to Mwadui for the three lads. 

At 6am Saturday, we board the South African flight to Johannesburg. We touch down in SA at 10.15 and if customs isn't too busy (it normally is over weekends), we should connect with and board our Bloemfontein flight by 11.35. We arrive in Bloem at 12.30 where we'll be met by Angus, Amanda and our two Marquard grandchildren, Joel and Abby. 

Then it's an hour-and-a-half road trip from the city to our town, Marquard. Finally after two days of traveling we'll be back home. 

I wish you all a wonderful weekend ahead. 

For more beautiful sky shots, please click here  

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Tanzanian Bird-fest continued....

On Sunday afternoon we arranged to fetch Andre and Amanda from their home and the four of us set off for a ride in the bush. And of course, for a spot of birding! As we drove through town,  Andre pointed to an office building where a Common Kestrel was sitting in an alcove in the wall.
Common Kestrel Male

Grant drove nearer to the building; his vehicle has only two passenger doors, and as Amanda and I were sitting on the back seat, I had to wriggle out of the sliding window, stretch up over the roof and point and shoot. (Phew! the lengths birding enthusiasts go to to get the perfect shot!) 
 The kestrel sat quietly ...
... while I snapped away 

We eventually drove off and out of the mine. At the first reservoir, I asked Grant to stopped as I'd seen a Hamerkop. Directly translated from Afrikaans to English, this bird would be called a Hammerhead due to the shape of its head. In the photo below, though, the bird was preening and never lifted its head to form the hammer. 
 A Hamerkop

Around the next corner, I called out for Grant to stop again! There was another Common Kestrel sitting on top of a stop sign! I thought it made a good subject.
 Common Kestrel, female
 A good subject

We drove out to the large dam beyond town where we met Wessel, Louise and son, Wessel. The wind was pumping so wildly that we didn't even get out of the vehicle. Grant turned the car and drove back through the bush towards the mine.  He wanted to show Andre and Amanda the Dabchick on its nest

As the dam came into view, Amanda pointed to a flurry of movement on the water.  A pair of White-faced Whistling ducks and nine ducklings. Of course, Grant stopped the vehicle and I got my fill of photographing this delightful little family! 
 A family of White-faced Whistling Duck on the dam
 The parents carefully herding their flock 

According to my Birds of East Africa book, this duck's bill is black with a blue bar at the tip. However, to the naked eye and in my photos, the adult's bills are almost completely blue while the ducklings' bills are all-blue. My Birds of Africa, South of the Sahara doesn't shed any light on the bills so I'm not sure what this feature means. However, technicalities aside, this was a lovely little family of ducks to watch. 

 A close-up of the ducklings

We drove slowly towards the end of the dam where the Dabchick, true to form was sitting on its nest. So Grant proudly showed Andre and Amanda "our" Dabchick!  

We finally moved on and back to town. As we approached the security gate, I asked Grant to stop and reverse a few meters. I'd seen a movement in some scrub. As we stopped, all four of us saw the birds hopping between branches
 White-browed Coucal

We left the mine and drove towards Andre and Amanda's camp. As we approached the gate, we spotted a small flock of hornbills. Grant stopped the car (what else?) and although it was late and the light was not at all favorable , I managed to get a few photos.   
 African Grey Hornbill
 Three of the four African Grey Hornbills in a tree along the road to the camp
A wonderful birding outing was had with our friends!  

And as if that wasn't enough Birdfest, last night Thys and Marnitz sat chatting with us before we go off on leave (tomorrow). I had already gone indoors (to blog, no less!) when Grant called to me that the owl had returned. I dashed outside again where Marnitz was training his torch/flashlight on the owl. It was sitting in the same place as last week.

This time I decided to use the "auto" feature on my camera. I hardly ever use this, especially not for bird photos, but thought it might be better to do so this time. As I focussed on the bird which was gazing down on us, my camera instructed me to raise the flash. Thank goodness I did, as all the photos taken previously were not at all clear. 
  The Barn owl, a regular visitor to our garden! 

The Barn owl gazing down on the humans looking up at it! 

I hope you're all having a wonderful week.


Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Tanzanian Bird-fest

Friday evening Rob and Grant wanted to discuss the arrangements for the pig-on-the-spit for Grant's birthday the next day.  Of course, any excuse to get together for a visit is good enough for expats so we asked Amanda, Andre, Thys and Marnitz to join us in our garden with Rob and Nsia.

It was already dark; the details for the birthday BBQ had been made; we'd all eaten our fill of the snacks I'd put out when Thys said he'd seen an owl flying into the tree above us. 

Now, I've been asked before what my favorite bird is; I have many; but my absolute special favorite is the owl.  And with all the birding photography I've done since arriving in East Africa two years ago, I have never managed to get an image of an owl. In Kenya, we regularly heard owls in our garden. One morning early Grant spotted one in baobab tree outside our bedroom window but try as I might, I couldn't get a photo.

This time however, Marnitz dashed into his cottage (which is in our back garden) and fetched his huge flashlight. He shone it upwards, picked up the owl, who looked down on all, and I managed to get several photos.  What is extra thrilling is that it was sitting in the tree overhanging our bedroom. So I have hopes of seeing it again some time! 
 A barn owl seen   in the tree above our garden on Friday evening

On Sunday morning Grant collected me from home and we did a turn through the mine. He thought he'd seen two eggs in the Dabchick's nest, the day before, and hoped I could help him confirm his findings! When we got there, though the Dabchick was sitting on the nest so of course we weren't able to see how many eggs it had.  
 Dabchick on its nest

While I photographed the Dabchick, a Malachite Kingfisher landed on a dry branch in my camera vision. This Kingfisher is always here but, as with the Dabchick, I never tire of photographing this brightly-colored bird. 
 A Malachite Kingfisher on a dried branch above the Dabchick in her nest

 Would you say the Malachite Kingfisher is worth photographing? 

I think eventually the Dabchick had had enough of us (or perhaps needed to stretch a leg?). It stood up in the nest, and with its back to us, pushed greenery and weeds over the egg/s. Then it hopped off into the water, turned once, and disappeared beneath the surface! It was time for us to leave...



For more bird posts, please visit Wild Bird Wednesday by clicking here
Please bear with me; I will continue with the Tanzanian Bird -fest in tomorrow's post.

Birds, what birds?

If I could get out there, I would watch birds like my yoomens do!

For more Wordless Wednesday, click here!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Our adopted hometown

Yesterday I walked across the town square just beyond our house, to the local carpentry shop. (I will post about my reason for visiting this workshop later on!) As always I had to pass the statue of founder of the Williamson Diamond Mines: Dr John Williamson.

The Williamson Diamond Mine (also known as the Mwadui mine) is a diamond mine south of Mwanza in Tanzania. This mine became well known as the first significant diamond mine outside of South Africa. The mine was established in 1940 by Dr John Williamson a Canadian geologist. It has been in continuous operation since then, making it one of the oldest uninterrupted operating diamond mines in the world. Over its lifetime it has produced over 19 million carats (3,800 kg) of diamonds. The Williamson mine, once owned by its namesake Dr. Williamson and later nationalized  by the Tanzanian government, is now majority owned by Petra Diamonds (75% ownership), with the government of Tanzania owning the remaining 25%.

Everytime I get to this statue, I stop and look up at this great man and marvel at visionary expression on his face. Now more than 70 years later, the mine he originally established, provides a livelihood for more than a thousand Tanzanians and two-score expats. The town which Dr Williamson named  Mwadui after a local chief at the time, has remained almost identical to when it was established.

 Dr John Williamson, founder of Williamson Diamond Mines, Mwadui in 1940

 Dr Williamson's statue in the town square just opposite our home

Note the baobab tree behind the statue. There are two legends attached to this tree: One is that in the early days, Dr Williamson pitched his tent under this tree and actually lived there for many years. The other is that he found the very first diamond under this tree. A friend now living in the UK, who was born in Mwadui, told me his parents and friends used to meet under the large baobab tree for sundowners!  
Our house is to the right of the house in the photo

 The statue was erected by Dr Williamson's brother, PB Williamson

I know that facts are important, and as a journalist I always ensure I have the correct facts about an article  anything a blog post, which I 'm writing. However, when I walk back home, I always turn around and look at Dr Willamson's statue with a romantic eye! The founder of Mwadui, presiding over the town,  is gazing out towards the mine with that visionary stare! 

 Dr Williamson presides over Mwadui town square, looking towards the mine which is just visible through the line of trees

For more posts on other people's worlds, click here


Monday, February 18, 2013

Birthday celebrations in Mwadui

The Hedges birthdays culminated in a get-together with a pig-on-the-spit at the client club on Saturday night. Good friend, Rob - and maestro cook and especially with this particular way of BBQ-ing meat - prepared and roasted a pig outdoors for the occasion.

As with all South Africans pursuits of this kind, this turned out to be a wonderful day of camaraderie and fun in the sun. At 10am Grant took our young chef, Armani up to the guest house grounds, complete with two huge bags of charcoal for the fire, olive oil and salt for the continuous basting throughout the cooking process. Rob met them there and within the hour,  the pig was trussed with wire, suspended over a drum and starting to roast slowly. Instead of having coals in the drum below, Rob has four upright cages filled with coals. These are moved closer or further from the meat while the carcass is turned by way of a pulley at intervals.

The photo above shows the ingenious method of roasting a pig or sheep in the outdoors

Grant and Rob chat under the reed hut. Armani is also visible in the background

Armani enjoys a soda in the shade

Very soon a couple of stray kitties followed the smell and sat around hoping for tidbits!
That night, after everyone had eaten, I found quite a few small bites of pork which I put out for them

I joined the men around midday when I took them their lunch. A while later, Andre and Amanda arrived and soon she and I were lazing in the shade and watching the proceedings. 

and the living is easy...

Amanda has downloaded an application on her Smartphone: Camera Lover Pack 5. She had great fun photographing various subjects; not least, yours truly! 
 Amanda took several photos, starting with my paraphanalia spread around me on the lounger. Note the unwrapped lollipop just behind my camera!

Here I am enjoying the lolly which you see in the photo above! 

By 5.30pm the guests began to arrive at the club. The pig on the spit was a great source of conversation, as you can imagine. 
 As the guests arrived they gathered around the fragrantly roasted pork

Just after 6pm, Grant and Rob removed the pig from the "spit" and proceeded to carve it up. As they filled up,  I carried the platters and dishes of succulent pork to the table. Soon we were ready to eat. Everyone moved around the table and helped themselves to meat, apple sauce, sweet mustard sauce, potato salad and a tossed green salad. I'd made focacia (flat Italian bread) which we broke off in chunks and ate with the mealLater I served a hot baked pudding and ice-cream.  

 *Sigh* another tough day in Africa! 
Here's wishing you all a wonderful week ahead.