A Desert

The oldest desert in the world, so the scientists say, more than 500 million years old in fact.   The Namib (open space) is just that – so open it forces your heart to expand and your soul to lift and time to stand still.     So at times as we sat and absorbed the expanse, the silence, the colour, the feel, the vastness it felt as though time too, had stopped.

Was this where time began?

Or is these where time has ended?

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Sandwich Harbour
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This was once, a home
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Just because…..
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We were not alone – Springbok looking at us looking at him

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Space
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wherever we looked
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time to recapture
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or capture
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ever changing and always staying the same
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a moment in time
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so fortunate to see
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and he showed off happily
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There was huge
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effort involved
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in climbing
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the dunes
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whether old
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or young

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but the views rewarded us
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and of course we had to go down too….
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but who is complaining

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The never ending beauty of the dunes
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Difficult to assess the steepness of the dune as we drop down – with the engine switched off you hear the roar of the sand – as if from the bowels of the earth – AMAZING

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These rather ordinary videos will give you an idea of the scale of the place

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some welcome sustenance after the walks

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and this is what happens when you don’t time the tide correctly !!!!!

photos courtesy of the Powrie girls and Erika de Jäger

A Country…..

…in the south west corner of Africa.     Namibia gained independence only in 1990 South Africans have always felt a close affinity to what was previously called South West Africa with many of our young men spending time in the military in this part of the world.

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For much of my youth large parts of the country were ‘out of bounds’ because of the fighting ‘up north’ as we used to say.

Happily now, we are free to explore – and that is precisely what we did recently.

Well actually we only explored a little of the country – 10 days is not enough to do it justice.   Almost the size of South Africa, with a population of 2.5mill (S African has approx 60mill) it is a deliciously sparsely populated so that it is possible to ‘escape the madding crowd’ and absorb the light and air unhindered.

We began in Walvis Bay, with time spent on the water sharing our boat with friends

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The light and mood in the bay is extraordinary – enjoy20170807 - ET2_24

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The Salt Pans are also amazing – this salt pan currently supplies South Africa with 90% of it’s salt; concentrated salt from seawater with the aid of evaporation.    This salt pan also forms part of Southern Africa’s single most important coastal wetland for migratory birds.

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and when we thought we had seen such beauty nothing could compare, we visited Sandwich Harbour…… which deserves it’s own page.

(photos courtesy of the ‘Powrie girls’ and Erika De Jager)

Day 2

If anyone snored, no one heard – we all slept warmly and long.

And our second day dawned bright and sunny.   Full of optimism about the weather I forgot for just a while that we live in Victoria where the weather changes every 20 minutes.

We wandered down to the horses, wandering how our bodies would feel as we climbed ‘aboard’ after such a long day yesterday in the saddles which were definitely ‘not custom made’ as the others usually use.

But we were fine, and up and riding in quick smart time.

Which was just as well as Rhumba was ready to rhumba, forward, sideways, anyway but quickly and for the first 1o minutes I had my hands full.

Today we were riding up and up and up past farmlands, a fabulous school camp with kids having so much fun I was tempted to stop and join them on their flying fox.  Past cattle, with heads down against the wind, almost level with a Wedge Tailed Eagle which seemed suspended in the sky as it flew into the very strong wind.   And still up and up.

To the place where that famous shot was taken,

“where even Clancy took a pull,

It well might make the boldest hold their breath,……

But the man from Snowy River let the pony have his head,

And he swing his stockwhip round and gave a cheer,

And he raced him down the mountain like a torrent down its bed,

While the others stood and watched in very fear”  (banjo patterson)

And I must say, it was a fearful place.   None of us were game to ride to the edge, but rather relied on Michael leading our horses to ‘the spot’.   I could not look down, in fact I could not breathe in case Rhumba should think I wanted her to move.   I held her head up, just in case and thankfully swung round after ‘the photoshoot’ to safer ground!!!!

 

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And still these photos cannot describe the drop – go see the movie 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

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The weather did not invite lingering and we hurried down with a steady drizzle and wind reminding us why these hills are known as ‘the Alps’.    I had a very large oilskin which made me wonder if I would ‘take off’ when cantering as it turned me into, according to the others, a phantom rider, but kept me warm and dry in this winter weather.

And so we rode home, as we had all the way in single file, Wendy and Michael at the back talking, we couldn’t hear what they were saying, but there was a companionable constant hum of their voices reaching us when the wind was still.   And the three of us absorbed in our own worlds. The kookaburras called along the way, bellbirds sang, a wedge tail eagle alongside the road ate from a carcass, kangaroos loping across the fields every which way; standing up in the strange posture to watch us and then bouncing off.  Sheep littered the lower hills looking for all the world as though hundreds of white tissues had escaped from a tissue box and landed haphazardly round the field.   The eucalyptus forests with trees reminding me for some reason of cathedrals – Huge, imposing, reaching for the sky.  The barren hills which were pine forests, now looking forlorn and empty of any life.   And the green green hills so full of energy and promise of new life.   Wattle in flower was everywhere, a bright yellow which when the sun caught it seemed to shimmer with a promise of abundance not yet here.

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And so to a lovely lunch to farewell new friends, and another adventure.

And not a moment too soon.

The drive home alone was in pouring rain, so heavy that reaching the speed limit was not possible, never mind exceeding it!!!!

My musings over the two days included gratitude that I was now in my little old car; it’s 4 wheels, a steering wheel and heater rather than my new friend, Rhumba, her 4 legs, reins and an oil skin.

Oh and did I tell you?

The Howqua River was one of just thirteen locations worldwide featured on the fly fishing documentary television series A River Somewhere.[8] 

That bit of trivia for my fishing friends – best come visit!

Day 4: An easy walk 😜??

Today we went for a ride of a different sort.


A white contraption; I would like to say it was a car, except that it lacked most of what we today consider normal in a car, namely windows that open and close when we chose; similarly with the four doors, a boot that has a handle to open it with and side mirrors that one can see in.

But I complain not : it had four wheels instead of legs, a steering wheel instead of a bridle and an engine that was filled by a kindly petrol attendant and not by us carrying bales of hay!!!!

(And I later learned 400 000 km on the clock – hey who’s complaining 😂🚑🚗)
Oh did I mention that unlike Luke who could be persuaded to reverse (admittedly it took some real persuasion) on the odd occasion, our white contraption could under no circumstances be persuaded to reverse😳
Leaving Luke, Patches and Sparky in the care of others we, or at least I dragged my weary body into that contraption 😂


We drove to Danger Point just in time to see the fog rolling in. We chatted to the lighthouse manager, and read the story again of the Birkenhead which I vaguely remembered from schøol.

A British military ship, one of first iron hulled ships, arriving in eastern cape for 1852 Xhosa wars ran aground here. It was a perfectly calm night when it struck an uncharted rock miles off shore.   In 20 minutes the ship sank. All women and children were saved, all soldiers and sailors were lost.  It is unknown how many horses died, 5 made it to shore.

193 survivors, 432 soldiers and sailors drowned.

There are 46 lighthouses round the South African coast, every one with a different signal. Danger Point’s signal is three flashes, 40 second pauses, three flashes. This continues from sunset to sundown every day. Still today in the age of technology !

Our lighthouse man also told us that last year they saw 60 pairs of whales compared to the year before when they saw 200. “Ek weet nie, dis hierie (sic) climate storie”

(I don’t know it’s this climate story)

Our contraption then took us to Gansbaai where we parked at the beginning of what was listed as an easy beach walk to De Kelder.

Parked is perhaps an over optimistic description of what we did, keeping in mind we had to be able to drive off again without using reverse.

We left her boldly pointing forwards, windows open, all our riding gear and ‘stuff’ inside challenging the world to come to her and help themselves 😂😂😂

What to do- we could not put our lives on hold because our car was unlockable. So we left, trusting that our riding gear which now almost had a life of its own, so full of sweat, salt and dirt as it was would lose appeal to any passer by and they would miss the rest of the luggage hidden under a blanket😊

Or better still not even give her a second glance as she looked as though nothing of value to anyone could exist in such a rusted contraption!!!
Benchmarks, life is all about knowing the benchmarks (see my blog – the Ik 😂) so when we read

I quote :

Start: Gansbaai harbour

Finish: Klipgat caves, De Kelders

Duration: 7 km, around 4 hours

Fitness: easy, children can do this trail

Unquote

I was confident.   In my head an easy seven km beach walk suits a plump person in sandals. Well I am old and perhaps not slim but not as plump as I was thinking of when I mentioned a plump person and I certainly was not wearing sandals.

Rather I was wearing very sensible walking shoes.


We did not find this an easy walk 😳. It was a walk, following green painted signs, rocks, bricks, up and down a narrow path until we finally arrived at our target destination, de Kelders.

We sat on the deck watching the fog come in and blanket the coastline.


Wisdom prevailed and we walked back to Gansbaai along the main road.

I know, I know, not very romantic. But I have had enough adventures for one week and as good a story (perhaps even a romantic one) disappearing into the sea cause we missed the green markers in the fog, may have been, we decided to disappoint 😜


A very late lunch in Gansbaai made up for the trudge back.


And of course our white steed was still waiting, as intact as she had been when we left her. Ready to take us back to our Klein Paradijs (little paradise) for the night

A drive past Pearly Beach in the cloudy evening was rewarded by watching a family fishing together – a past time as old as time itself


And a visit to the shop local shop where I could have bought anything my heart desired, from food, clothes, furniture, books, and if I had wondered into the back rooms, perhaps even a husband 😂😂😂

I settled for an Easter egg for Julia


Ps trivia question :

1. Why Gansbaai ( as opposed to some other baai)?

2. Why is baleen whale called southern right whale?
PPS trivia answer;

1. Resident Egyptian geese found there when settlers first arrived – cannot find out what happened to them 😢

2. Was called the right whale by early whalers because it was slow enough for them to catch with their boats: couldn’t dive deeply: light enough to float once killed and had high yields of oil and baleen.

The Sport of Kings 

So in a country where kings have their way,  falconry ( like horse breeding) can be indulged whatever the cost.

Did I mention that camel racing is making a come back with 4 wheel drive vehicles easily accessible as a winning prize in local races.

Did I mention that Annie teaching English to young policemen one day enquires why one young man was late for class. His response was the waving of car keys at her – he had been racing falcons at dawn and won a car.

This became the topic then for the English lesson and phones came out showing her various falcons and camels when she suddenly did a double take – is that a lion? Sure enough, that photo wasn’t a bird or camel but lion cub!!! A pet. Next a cheetah and I forget the third animal (bear?)

But the falcons, I hear you cry.

Yes there was one, one bird and four people standing around it asking questions of the handler. I could not believe my ears, the handler was South African as were the three strangers collected around her!!!!! Strange world.

There is a Huge falcon research centre on Al Ain and this young lady had always had a passion for birds. She studied animal husbandry at Potch University and finally found herself working here – a dream job – a dream come true 😃. She’s off shortly to Scotland to look for breeding birds.

This bird was a female, a little stressed at times as she overheated and was sprayed with water, bigger than the male as she needs to incubate eggs and he needs agility to hunt for two.

She has an enormous crop and I was invited to ‘poke my finger in her chest and feel’

Goodness me, I thought my finger would come out her back!!!! The strangest sensation but of course makes perfect sense for storage of you think about the size of the prey relative to her size.

I was proudly advised that a ladies only falconry club was starting. A two week course in November – Free and falcons provided. I can see another adventure looming

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So alert
So proud
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Matching gazes
Each time they seem to move in harmony
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Quite relaxed
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And comfortable with my handler
Although if I get hot ….
I get agitated
And settle when cooled off with water
The male ( and Annie 😜)

Quite heavy after a while
Special

The Bush..

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The vista
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Relaxed
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but oh, so alert

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grazing so contentedly

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It is a Brave soul that attempts to capture ‘The Bush’.   For those of my friends who know the Bush, words are not necessary and can never do it justice and for those readers who have never known the Bush, words are all I can offer knowing full well, before I even begin, that they can never do it justice.   So to you all, for different reasons, forgive in advance my paltry attempt at sharing the ‘Bush’

 Welgevonden (place well found) sees us rise at 5am although the waking of the birds with morning song begins even earlier.

A quick strong coffee and we are on our vehicle; bundled up against the early morning cold.   Very little is said as the smell of the overnight light rain fills our bodies with joy – it is dry and the drought here is crippling and the smell of rain is exhilarating.   We have our binoculars and the sense of anticipation that only a game drive can bring.   

It doesn’t matter how many times one walks or drives in the Bush, the unpredictability of what nature will reveal makes every trip have the same sense of anticipation.

In this case the terrain is new to us- mountainous, red boulders everywhere as we drop into open plains and climb out 0f them to reveal breathtaking vistas of the next rolling plains.

We stop every so often to gaze at zebra, buffalo, impala, waterbuck, giraffe, warthog, wildebeest.   We sit and savour the silence that epitomises the ‘Bush’.   Precisely because it is Not silent; only we are, as senses respond to the call of the ‘Piet my vrou’ – a bird call that Is the Bush;  the brown hooded kingfisher, so small so exquisite with such a large call you know he is there long before you can find him, the wild cry of a fish eagle.   There is the sound of the grass in the breeze, again a sound uniquely Bush.   The cicada, frogs, all contributing so that we are silent.

Suddenly energy changes and bodies tense, voices are raised in whispers, adrenalin begins to pump as right alongside us are cheetahs.   A sight so unexpected that no matter how often one has seen them, this sighting is like the first.   

And there is mother and three cubs, with bellies so full you feel they could be pregnant (except of course they cannot be) and we stare in wonder, torn between watching and experiencing or recording to experience again and again via our cameras .    And then a male appears and the most extraordinary fight right before our eyes ensues and continues for about twenty minutes;

The male harassing the mother ; the cubs running around squealing; the mother backing off ; the male coming back; the cycle repeated over and over again as we watched enthralled, horrified and bemused.   Nature revealing a pattern of behaviour no one was familiar with.

A young elephant entertains with a show of bravado that involves mock attacks at us and at an imaginary foe as he raised his ears, and little trunk and ran forward bellowing as loudly as he could.   Practicing for his future role as protector of his herd.  

The beautiful precious rhino, horns intact grazing so close to our vehicle I could have leant out and touched him.

And in this particular day it stays cloudy and cool so when we stop for a cup of tea and a rusk, we huddle together hands curved round our mugs breathing in the warmth, savouring every moment of a unique time in the Bush.   

Because every visit and every drive through our Bush is by its very nature unique.  

And so still no words describe it, which is why we say, “it’s in our blood”

8/11/2016

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all photographs belong to Jessica 🙂15027953_10207978902570098_1626473969246999285_n Another thing about the Bush – one usually makes good friends, often from countries far flung, as in our case.   Friends who kindly shared their photographs with us.

Thank you Pim Van Dam for this photograph                                         _MG_9720t.jpg

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Friends in the Bush
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Enjoying themselves outdoors
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and in…..
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Celebrating life
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and the privilege of what Ekutuleni had to offer