Monday, October 17, 2016

Sterkfontein Caves, a world heritage site.

A bronze sculpture at the exit to the Sterkfontein caves.
My picture.
Last week my friend Wynand came to stay with me while he was attending lectures at the university of Pretoria. He's an ear nose and throat surgeon and of course all doctors in this country have to undergo yearly medical upgrades. This, in my opinion, is not a bad thing at all. Anyway he was here from Monday night until Thursday night and it was fantastic having him here.
On Thursday he finished his lectures early and wanted to do something other than just sitting around talking. When he got here he asked how far the Sterkfontein caves were from here and how long it would take us to get there. Well it's about fifty kilometers or so but how long it'll take depends on traffic and how fast you drive. We decided to take a chance and go for it, the last tour group leaves at four pm so we had to rush.
Heading down into the Sterkfontein caves.
My picture.
We only arrived at two minutes after four after having gotten lost by following the sat-nav's directions but with a bit of running and haste we caught up to the tour group just as they were locking the gate. Phew.
Wynand is a big man and in his own words, "Unfit and fat too." I didn't think so but hey, I'm just me a skinny little man. This was going to be an interesting experience for him as in some places you have to crawl through very small tunnels and he suffers from claustrophobia. I had my camera with me and do not suffer from any form of small place stress, my focus was more on trying to get decent pictures in very low light. I had to set the ISO at maximum but that didn't really make much difference so I landed doing something I very rarely do, I switched the flash on. So, if my pictures seem to be a bit weird please forgive me, it was very dark down there.
A long way down in very dark conditions.
My picture.

Our guide was a young man who was, in my opinion, a bit arrogant. At one point on the tour he started bad mouthing Christians who do not accept the scientific insistence on the validity of evolution. While we were at the underground lake that is there he pointed out some mold growing on the rocks and started telling everyone that that was our ancestral beginning. He said something like those who don't believe in evolution have to be kept out of the caves because they will destroy the evolutionary evidence that is there because they think it was put there by the devil. There is a big gate wired up to shock anyone who touches it. I think the area behind the gate was where there are fossil remains.
The electric gate, bad picture sorry.
my picture.
Wynand chirped, "I don't believe in evolution," which brought a rather sharp reaction from the guide. I turned to Wynand and said, "Ask him if he believes in the "Tokoloshe." You need to understand that (almost) all black people in South Africa believe in a malevolent small creature that causes chaos in their lives. Our guide was no different and so if you believe that everything came from that slime on the rock walls then you come from the same place as the tokoloshe, Right? Ha, ha, ha. That's how you put someone in their place. I think it was a bit of a paradigm shift for him and he didn't chirp very much after that.
The rock formation with the green slime
 from which  we all descended.
My picture.
Well we went on with the tour through various tunnels and along long pathways but, since we were the last tour group for the day, I think the guide just wanted to get it over with and go home. He pointed out a few stalactites and other interesting features like the Calcium carbonate but in general it wasn't a very interesting discussion. Most of the other people there were of oriental origin, there was one American chap, a colored lady from Port Elizabeth, Wynand and I.
This is a very big cave system.
My picture.
 I think there is a whole lot more to these caves that we didn't get to see but I also think these other areas can be accessed by booking a special tour. I do know that there are excavations still going on there and some interesting fossils have been unearthed like Mrs Ples, little foot, and I believe there have been remains of saber toothed tigers found too. Nearby is the Museum known as the cradle of humankind Maropeng, which we didn't get to visit, maybe next time.
In general I would go so far as to say this was a very interesting and enjoyable trip and well worth all the rush and effort. On the way out of the cave system our guide was sitting on the wall and as we walked past I just had to chirp him, "You are in the home of  the tokoloshe, be careful." It was said with a smile and a laugh, not to offend him but to remind him he must think very carefully before judging other peoples beliefs.
We left and Wynand turned to me on the way home and said "I'm feeling in a much better mood now, that was great."
He left that evening to go back to Cape Town.
God bless Wynand, his visit was really enjoyed by both of us.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Cape Town, going home, part 2

Day 2 on Signal hill with James. My picture.
Having rushed off to James' home in the suburb of Bothasig, a bit inland, after the scary phone call he received that I mentioned in my last blog post, we found that his house mate had switched the water off and things weren't as bad as expected. The geyser had in fact not burst but the inlet pipe had come adrift. Lots of cleaning up, about an hour or so of mopping, and things were almost back to normal. Plumbers were called and two hours later it was all sorted out. That evening we spent in the suburb of Sunningdale near Melkbos where I used to stay. We Made dinner, which I cannot for the life of me remember what it was, and settled in to watch a movie. I didn't get through the whole movie and skootched off to bed early. The next morning we were off to Signal hill for photo opportunities. James is of course a much better photographer than I am and has all the bits and bobs needed for the type of photography he does. Me, well my camera was James' previously but I shoot on manual while he prefers shooting on auto. I like to control everything such as ISO and shutter speed. Anyway I think my pictures are not too bad.
Suburbs on the slopes of Table Mountain. My picture.
We spent a few hours aiming out cameras in different directions and snapped away. It's been a long time since I went up Signal Hill which is sort of on the seaward side of Table Mountain closest to Greenpoint. There were a few Para-gliders launching from the top of the hill which also offered a few laughs.
We left and headed down to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. This is a must visit spot for international tourists and for South Africans too. A bit on the expensive side for me but hey, we were going to have lunch at Key Four, probably one of the best known restaurants in the country. Right on the harbor waterfront amidst boats and tugs. A truly fantastic location. This is probably one of my favorite restaurants of all time.
People enjoying lunch on the Key Four deck in the harbor.
My picture.

We had burgers with chips (french fries) all the while taking pictures and enjoying all the activity on the water. Of course being a restaurant on the harbor front will attract Seagulls in abundance and sure enough there were stacks of them there taking any opportunity to get a beak full that presented itself. Very hard to get a decent shot of these flying aerial acrobats, but what beautiful creatures to have all around you.
Hmm! Forester's Draught with burgers, yum, yum.
My picture.

Well lunch dragged on in a very pleasant manner with all sorts of  boats and people moving around on the water and off. Perfect for taking photographs, no wonder so many people from all over the world rate the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront as their favorite waterfront.
High speed aerial acrobat in action.
My picture.

After a couple of hours relaxation and munching we wandered off around the other parts of the waterfront having a laugh or two along the way. At one point we were walking past a big frame type thing where people stand within the frame and take a photo with Table Mountain in the background. There was a German couple trying to get a picture. The woman was in the frame with the guy taking the picture, they were probably in their sixties, with a tiny little point and shoot camera. Both James and I had our cameras slung around our necks, Canon with large lenses. James walked up to the chap and offered to use their camera to take a shop of both of them together which would make for much better memories. Well this German chap looked at James and myself, hesitated for a moment or two and then replied, "Looking at what cameras you have I suppose it would be safe." This to us was hilarious but in retrospect maybe not so funny. I wonder what kind of reputation South Africa has overseas with regards to theft and muggings.
It's not easy to get lost with signs like this to show you the way
 home. Long way though and you may have to swim. My picture.
That evening James was due to take part in a rehearsal for the Gilbert and Sullivan production of My Fair Lady so I was to spend the evening and next day with Wynand my friend in Melkbos. After wandering around the waterfront for a while James took me off to Wynand's house. That Photograph at the beginning of my previous blog post of Table Mountain was shot on the way to Melkbos. Yes I know it's kind of a dodgy picture but it hasn't been touched up at all and when an opportunity to take a picture like that presents itself, well, what can one do.
We had a rather pleasant day but the time had come for us to part ways, for now. By the time we got to Melkbosstrand the weather was closing in and rain was in the sky waiting for me to get indoors before blessing the earth. 
Ferris wheel at the waterfront. Not quite
as impressive as the London Eye but
still great to photograph. My picture.
Although the weather was fantastic for the time I had spent with James, the time I spent with Wynand was to be a little wetter. I was looking forward to spending time with my friend but not having any form of transport while I was there did prove to be limiting. For the first two days I had to depend on James who also had things he wanted to do so, not wanting to inconvenience him any further I just went along. The next two days I was depending on Wynand and did whatever he had planned, which was also cool. We went to a Post Net outlet where they have a board game gathering and played a few games, played more games with his kids in the evening and then early on Sunday morning Wynand took me back to the airport for my homeward flight.
All in all I had a wonderful time and took way too many pictures (I had to buy an extra memory card to cope with the overload) but it was great to be home again for a short while.
May my Father in Heaven bless Cape Town and all who visit there forever. 
Thank you Lord for blessing me so abundantly, Geoff.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Cape Town, going home, part 1.

Table Mountain, my picture.

The 16th of June is a public holiday in South Africa which fell on a Thursday this year so, being on top of things in the workshop, I took Friday off and went home to Cape Town. It's been about three years since I was last there and it was so good to be home again. Leaving on Wednesday evening wasn't an option because of the cost of flights but by leaving early on Thursday morning I managed to save R1600.00 which made a whole lot more sense to this old man. James picked me up from the airport complaining about having to get up so early. You've got to be kidding me, it's 8.30 in the morning. I must admit it was quite amusing to see how late Capetonians get up on the weekends, somewhere around 9. I'm up at about 5, it must be a Joburg thing. Anyway, we went to the Food Lover's market and bought eggs and other breakfast goodies and then went to James' house to make breakfast, Very nice. When one goes to visit other people in another city it tends to cost them quite a bit to have you as a guest which is something I hadn't even thought about. After breakfast off we went to the Two Oceans Aquarium in the Cape Town Waterfront.
The entrance to the aquarium, my picture.
Here James payed the entry fee and because I'm over 60 years old I went in for half price, cool. That was when I began thinking about how much this was costing him and decided he wasn't to pay for anything else, I would pay for whatever we needed or wanted. I don't want to cost my son extra just so I can come and visit him, makes sense to me.
The Aquarium was fantastic. As we walked in, right in front of us, was a tank filled with clown anemone fish, you know, Finding Nemo. But when I say filled I really mean filled, there were hundreds of them in there. I of course turned into this delighted little child and out came my camera.
I found Nemo, my picture.
The pictures were unfortunately not very good. Low lighting and fish that would just not stop moving around like mad. Oh well, that's the thing about marine fish, very active but really beautiful to watch. It was a public holiday so all the schools were closed. What do you imagine parents of small children do on a day when the children and parents are at home? They take them out and the Two Oceans Aquarium is the perfect place to take them. The place was packed, with shows going on and conservation people doing demonstrations, there was no time for children to get bored and as I said earlier, Geoff was like a child too. I must tell you that I used to keep tropical marine fish myself. I had acquired some ten millimeter glass from a company that made acrylic sheeting which was made on 10 mm glass. This glass would eventually get tiny scratches on the surfaces and would have to be replaced. They would sell off the glass to anyone who wanted it at a very reduced price. I cut my sheet up and made a huge fish tank which I then populated with marine tropicals that I caught myself.
Divers feeding the fish. My picture.
 I was living in East London on the east coast at the time and would go diving with a special net I made. There are of course thousands of different types of fish in the oceans but my objective was to catch the non-predatory little ones. I would collect my sea water in 25 liter containers, take it home and fill the tank. It did take more than one trip to collect enough. I'd fill the tank with fish I'd caught and then started the task of feeding them. This I did by making my own fish food. Various shell fish, bits of kelp and other bits all put through a blender type machine that I still have. I'd freeze this mixture in ice trays and dump one cube into the tank in the morning and again when I got home after work. It was extremely rewarding and therapeutic. That was about thirty years ago so visiting the aquarium was like being back in East London, the only difference was the size of the tanks and the
One of the huge tanks, my picture.
huge fish in them. I had a whale of a time.
I must recommend this experience to those visiting Cape Town, the Two Oceans Aquarium display is magnificent. There are all sorts of marine creatures on display, some of which I've never seen in my life. Sharks of course I've seen, even caught on a line (released after catching by mistake while deep sea fishing). But there are some creatures that come from very deep, places where the sunlight doesn't penetrate. The ocean along the African coast is very deep in places, sometimes up to four thousand fathoms (1 fathom is 6 feet).
I have no idea what these things are named,
I'd call them jelly fish. My picture.
Moray eels, turtles, penguins and some of the most interesting sea creatures from shallower areas are also kept here. There were even frogs and otters ( we didn't see the otters but there was a display area for them.)
The conservationist ladies were telling everyone about the life you can find in the rock pools. Having lived in Cape Town and on the coast for most of my life I knew all about these little creatures. Here's an interesting factoid that you may not know about; if you throw a copper coin into a rock pool, within a matter of days everything living in that pool will be dead. Sad. Here are some of my pictures for you to marvel at, the creatures in the images not the pictures themselves. Ha, ha, ha. Enjoy.
Quite difficult to get a decent picture of
this Portuguese Man Of War. My picture.

The proceeds from this aquarium are used for conservation purposes around the South African coast. Sharks and other creatures that have to be taken out of the tanks, for whatever reason, are released back into the ocean. Sharks are a very necessary part of the ocean ecosystem so don't be upset by their release, it's very necessary and the most environmentally sensible thing to do with the. There are also penguins that have been rescued from various places along the coast and they too will be released back into their colonies after they have been restored to health. They do good work and deserve our financial help if nothing else.

A Box Fish, one of the little creatures I used to keep in my tank.
My picture.
A lion fish, not one of the predators I would keep. My picture. 
While we were still at the aquarium James got a phone call. He became very engrossed in the call while I was snapping away like a crazy thing. He came up to me and said "We have to go. The geyser at home has burst and the house is flooded, sorry. So we had to cut our tour short, which was a pity, and off we rushed.
Since I'm currently not employed and have more time to do the things I want to do, like writing blog posts, I will be spending more time telling about all the amazing things I've been up to since I moved to Johannesburg. In essence that means writing on a daily basis. So the rest of my trip home will be written tomorrow in part two. For now it's time for me to go and visit Toni my sister. She is starting her own business printing "T" shirts and things like Mouse Pads, Mugs and other things and I'm helping her set it up. I wish for her only blessings. She too was in the media industry and she too got sick of it and decided to branch out on her own. As for me, I now work from home doing things like making Toy Chests and so on and so forth. I'll post pictures of whatever I land up making so you can be inspired.
As for those who read this blog and all my followers, I wish you a wonderful life with very little stress and many many blessings from God.
Jesus tells us "Whatever you ask for in my name I will do it." Ask!
Very interesting deep sea anemone. My picture.

You probably recognize this little sole, yep, that's what they
look like in the ocean. My picture.

Monday, May 09, 2016

Animal anti-cruelty league

Joanna, my Boss.
On Friday a group of the ladies in the sales and design department upstairs and I went to volunteer at the Animal anti-cruelty league premises. When I say we went to volunteer that's not entirely correct, more like we went to play with the kittens and puppies. Me? Well as usual I took my camera with and spent most of my time behind the camera taking shots of the ladies with the various animals. They are of course all candid shots, well most of them anyway.
The Animal anti-cruelty league does good work when it comes to taking care of the animals that get neglected here in South Africa where there seems to be a growing problem in this area. The animal anti-cruelty league however assists with education at schools, mobile clinics in the less affluent areas and with prosecution in cases of cruelty. They also run an adoption program, two puppies were adopted while we were there on Friday which is very heartening. There are also the facilities to house animals while they are waiting for adoption.I must tell you that for me this was a very traumatic visit. Seeing animals who have been abandoned and now spend their days in a cage just breaks my heart.
Pooja, one of the designers
We must have spent about two hours looking at kittens, some time in the senior's enclosure which was interesting. There was a white old lady there who didn't seem very interested in anyone for the first few minutes. But when I went into the enclosure she suddenly perked up and visited everyone. Cats are very weird creatures, very independent, I love it. After that, puppy time in the "Freedom Village. Here we sat with a bunch of Labrador puppies with the group slowly getting smaller and smaller as they were adopted. This is where I got most of my pictures because the girls were kind of in one place without moving around like excited children, which they really are.
My better pictures, in my opinion, were the close up images, I have this thing about filling the frame and composing my pictures with less wasted space. When the subject is moving round like a crazy thing it does get tough to get nice pictures, it all has to do with shutter speed. People, it seems, move around a lot so a shutter speed of no slower than one fiftieth of a second works much better. This means a lot of fiddling with ISO and aperture to get the right exposure.
Lauren, one of the sales ladies.
 This was a Friday afternoon and if you are anything like me you tend to look forward to the weekend and Friday is the start  so visitors were scarce, maybe two or three couples, but out of those few people at least two puppies were adopted.
One of the interesting aspects of visiting the kittens was having to wash your hands between handling different kittens. There is a disease going round in Johannesburg called F.I.D.S., Feline immune deficiency syndrome, AIDS for cats, which is very contagious so in order to protect the kittens there is no touching one kitten then another,wash your hands first. The "Cages" the kittens are in have a glass window on one side, maybe I should clarify that, more like a glass wall so visitors can view them, with a passage between. What was nice about this arrangement was that no one can touch the kittens without supervision, you can imagine a whole bunch of school kids trooping through this facility, what a nightmare to keep control of.
Dog cages on the right with the senior centre on the left
 Another thing that really impressed me was the cleanliness of the whole place, it was spotless. They really do provide a loving and caring service to those little ones who have had such a hard time previously, very admirable. Progroup, the company I work for, will be donating an exhibition stand to Animal Anti-cruelty League for the upcoming W.O.D.A.C exhibition. I haven't seen any pictures of the stand yet but I'm sure it will be superb. In certain countries they call them Booths but here we refer to them as show stands. W.O.D.A.C. refers to the World Of Dogs and Cats.
Lelo having a blast
When Lelo joined Progroup a couple of months ago we had two kittens in the offices upstairs and she wanted nothing to do with them. For some reason she had never interacted with cats before and was terrified of them, that was about to change. Over the next couple of weeks, when the kittens came to sit on her lap, she got used to them and fell in love, as happens with kittens. On this particular day she learned that puppies really like her too. They would follow her all over the place and she landed up falling in love all over again. Crimelda on the other hand was already in love with dogs and she immediately made plans to come back in the week to adopt a puppy.
Crimelda listening very intently

Unfortunately Crimelda didn't want her photograph taken and so I only have two pictures of her while listening to the facility manageress discussing the problem they were having to deal with with regards to one little puppy. She's a very bubbly and alive person.
Sam was there too and she was so happy to be playing with the animals it was quite touching, all she wanted me to do was take pictures of the puppy she was holding. A sweet girl with a very sweet little puppy to cuddle with.
Sam the designer in a happy place.

The other lady in the group is Ciara, also a designer. With her things went a bit differently. Ciara is new to the company and is the person who is doing the design for the Animal Anti-cruelty League show stand. She studied design at some university or other but was lacking, according to her, in one specific area, photography. She was chatting to me about not having a camera and even if she did have one she wouldn't be able to use it, no idea how. Well, you can imagine, this was just up my alley, I love photography, as you already know, and I know how to use a camera. It wasn't long before she was doing all the right things and clicking away, after a very few instructions that is. Her pictures were not the best to start with but it didn't take long before they were nearly spot on. Well done Ciara.
Ciara, another designer and budding cameraman
The people who run this facility were very friendly and obviously care a huge amount about the animals in their custody, which is something so many people neglect to do in their homes. I'm going to post a whole lot of pictures from that day so you can take a look at the place and be heartened to know that there are real people out there that really do care. For now, blessings and love from Geoff in Johannesburg in South Africa.