6 May 2019

A to Z 2019 reflections post.

Chickens drinking. Melkbosstrand South Africa.
To everyone who entered this challenge, well done for at least giving it  a try. For everyone who completed the challenge, well done to you, not everyone who signs up has the time or inclination to carry it through, sometimes it's out of our control and time just gets away from us. So well done.
This year I decided to write about the continent on which I have lived my whole life, Africa. There is so much to write about with regards to Africa that it can become a bit daunting so writing about a specific aspect of the whole plethora of subject matter makes sense. I. once again wrote about things not connected to politics, this is after all the twenty first century and we are now very interconnected socially and writing can be dangerous especially if what you are writing about can be taken as offensive or politically motivated.



Welcome to the farm little one.

Things I did to help me get through these 26 posts on time was to start writing in March and scheduling their publication for the relevant dates. This was something I learned many years ago, following advice of one of the challenge administrators, probably Lee from Tossing it out. This meant having enough time during the month of April to visit other participant's posts and replying to comments. It worked very well and by the beginning of April I had already written 75% of the required posts. The other 25% were written during April but by then the stress had abated.
I went with short readable posts but, having read so many other blog posts, I got the impression I should probably have written posts with a bit more detail. Anyway here we are on the final post for this challenge.
Life on my farm. Melkbosstrand South Africa.

Things I noticed was how this challenge seemed to turn into a travel blog, this was not intentional.
My main reason for joining the challenge was to get back into writing, it seems to have worked but the way I used to write still has to come back. In other words, writing about my life and my walk with Jesus and what has happened since I first started believing. So from Now on, this year, I'll go back to the way I used to write, much better.
The amount of research I had to do for this challenge was quite excessive, and from now on the research will come from my own stories with a lot less internet research.
My advice to writers, start writing blog posts as early as possible and schedule their publication. Add pictures to your story where relevant and try to keep the post relatively short, make it easy for your visitors. Don't be offensive and remember that your readers come from a completely different culture, so be sensitive.
Bed time for the roost. Melkbosstrand South Africa.

Anyway. I would like to thank the challenge administrators for their efforts and to also thank everyone who visited my blog, whether they left comments or not.
Blessings in the name of Jesus, from Geoff in Africa.

30 April 2019

Zambezi. Africa's fourth largest river.

Sunset on the Zambezi  and this challenge.

Hello everybody, welcome to my final blog post for this particular challenge. There is still a reflections post to come but for now, that's it.
"Z", What in Africa begins with the letter Z? Well there is the Zebra, there is also Zambia the country or Zimbabwe or the Zambezi river or maybe Zaire. Africa likes the letter "Z" for some strange reason, oh well.
I'm going to write about one of my favourite things in Africa, The Zambezi River which forms the boundary between Zambia and Zimbabwe. Wow, three "Z"s in one foul swoop, cool. It also forms the boundary between Botswana and Zambia, Namibia and Zambia and flows through Angola and Mozambique. The source of this very special river is in North Western Zambia.
Lake Kariba.

This African river is not the longest river in Africa but there are a few things that make it unique, it's actually the fourth longest river. It is the longest river that flows from west to east and has the greatest discharges into the Indian Ocean from Africa. It has two major dams along it's rout, the Kariba Dam and The Cahora Bassa Dam, both man built for the hydroelectric power provided to South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Zambia. Four countries from these two dams.
This river also passes through large national parks and game reserves and in so doing provides a safe haven for a vast array of different animal species. Elephants, Rhinos, Water buck,Hippos and Crocks, not to mention the Lions, Hyenas and Leopards.
Most of these animals can be seen from a river cruise keeping in mind of course that this river is very long, nearly 1690 miles, or 2700 kilometers in my language. Don't forget about the rapids along the way. Victoria falls is on this river with a flow rate of nearly 13 million liters flowing over this barrier per second, in April that is, but diminishing considerably by October when  you can see more of the actual rock face and gorge the water plummets into. The rainy period tends to shroud the whole area in mist simply because of the volume of water. This may only be Africa's fourth biggest river but, let me tell you, it is still a very big river. At places this river is more than forty kilometers wide.
Fishing? As in my earlier post Vundu abound on this river as do Tiger fish, a must for the sporting fisherman who is up for a serious challenge. There are hundreds of different species of fish that live in this river system so who knows what you could land up catching.
White water rafting here is a big Tourist attraction. They apparently are rated between 3 and 5, 5 being the most hectic worldwide. Since I've never been white water rafting, I have no idea what that means, but I can guess.
This is one river I've actually fished and visited twice in my life, once to Kariba dam and the other to Victoria falls, which my Dad and little sister almost fell over. My dad slipped while crossing the Knife Edge bridge on the Zambian side., gave the rest of us a huge "SKRIK" ,Afrikaans for fright.
If I were to go back there I would probably head for the Zambian side, it's the side I already know.
Well that's the end of this challenge for now. Thank you Lee and all those who have participated in this challenge, it's been informative and fun.
Blessings from Geoff in Johannesburg South Africa. 

29 April 2019

Yzerfontein.

Just a little town with only 1200 residents.
Yzerfontein is a small coastal town on the west coast of South Africa only 90 kilometers north of Cape Town. Winter here brings rain that comes in off the Atlantic ocean dumping huge amounts of fresh rain. There are times when that rain isn't really all that much but year by year the Western Cape receive their rain from this area of the continent. Yzerfontein would be right on the forefront of this winter rain. What this means is that salt carried by the wind is diluted with fresh water, i.e. not too bad as far as rust is concerned. On the east coast things are a little different. In summer the wind comes from the other direction and since the South Easterly doesn't bring rain you can just imagine how much salt there is in the air. Fortunately by the time the South Easterly reaches Yzerfontein, after having crossed the peninsular, all the salt has been dumped. Personally speaking this is the main reason I prefer the West coast where the rust isn't nearly as bad as on the East Coast.

Vegetation in this area is of the scrub, or feinbos, variety, lots of different hardy shrubs with grasses and other low vegetation in between. From my own experience, most of the animal life are birds and reptiles like tortoises but big game used to roam here. Today the West Coast National Park, which borders Yzerfontein, provides a safe habitat for some of the buck species as well as Zebras.
It's not a big town but would, I presume, be a nice neighborhood for people who work in Langebaan or Saldhana bay just a few kilometers away. This pretty little town would make a fantastic place to have a little beach getaway.
I didn't live here but I did live in the area for about 12 years or so in Melkbosstrand, another little town on the west coast about 30 odd kilometers closer to Cape Town. The people in these areas have been, in my experience, really nice people with the odd bad apple as can be expected but generally they are nice people.

27 April 2019

Xerus, otherwise known as Cape Ground Squirrel.

These strange little creatures, the Xerus or Cape Squirrel are only found in Africa. They belong to the family of squirrels known as Xerinae , there are four different subgenus', all only found in Africa. They are similar to the North American Prairie dog in looks and habits but they are not the same species as the Prairie dog  population of America. They are rodents and have two incisor teeth that grow all their lives allowing these funny little squirrels to gnaw on just about anything without wearing their teeth down. They also live in burrows and tunnels that they dig in dry ground, sometimes with more than 10 squirrels living in one group.
They mostly eat things like grass seeds and fruits but they are not picky eaters and their diet can include bird eggs, insects and small mammals, amongst other food types. They also tend to prefer open savannas and rocky ground but they can be found in all sorts of very diverse habitats.
On the farm where I was living just outside Cape Town there were a few groups that set up home but because I was not farming crops, which these little blighters can devastate, These squirrels weren't a problem. The farm is probably not going to be developed, well not for now that is, so they should be safe for a while. They are not on the endangered species list as they seem to have a stable population.
So there, now you know a little about Xerus, my offering for African posts starting with that crossed up letter "X".
Blessings to you from Geoff in Johannesburg South Africa, Geoff.
         

26 April 2019

Wild Ox, or in Afrikaans, Wildebeest.

One of the Wildebeest we saw while visiting Klaserie.
Wow this post has taken such a long time for me to get my head around. I got as far as "V" early in April but when I googled images of Vultures, which I was going to write about, the images that came up disgusted and revolted me to such an extent that it took me a few days to get over those images. Don't Google Vulture images, you will be traumatized.
On to the letter"W."
Wildebeest? What is a Wildebeest?
Well a wildebeest is a rather large buck, actually the English name is "Gnu. It's not as big as the African Buffalo, nor as aggressive. The wildebeest is gregarious and loves the company of other animals such as Zebras and Springboks. Generally these animals do keep away from Humans to the best of their ability. Those horns can gore you with the utmost of ease so don't take these creatures lightly, They may be less aggressive than the Buffalo but that doesn't make them tame or friendly, just take a look at those horns, which can take down a fully grown lion, before you goo too close.
During the great migration of these beasts more than one and a half million of these animals take part in a 800 kilometer round trip walk in the Tanzanian and Kenyan game reserve area, the oldest in the world, The great Serengeti nature reserve in Kenya and the Ngorongoro nature reserve in Tanzania.
During the summer migration up to 250 000 Wildebeest die as do about 30 000 zebra, mostly from predator attacks but also from exhaustion and dehydration, the cycle of life. This is also the calving period for these beasts and up to 8000 a day are born.
This image gives some idea of how spectacular the Wildebeest Migration really is.

Essentially, Wildebeest are "Ruminants" similar to cattle and sheep, but they are wild.
Here in South Africa we have what is known as the Kruger National Park and this is where the majority of "Black Wildebeest,"who don't migrate the same way "Blue Wildebeest" do. They used to inhabit the plains of South Africa in huge herds but have been wiped out by fences and farming practices. Very sad but they are not considered endangered and some of them have been trans-located to the Serengeti fairly recently.
Just to put things in perspective as to who is writing this post; I'm Geoff, not anyone of importance, who believes in God and his Messiah Jeshua, or as known in the west, Jesus. God made  these animals so perfectly, as He has done with everything else, that they have survived a flood of Biblical proportions, survived extreme depredation for eons and will probably still be around long after the demise of our species. As for the ability to write this, or any other, blog post, it all comes from God.
So there you have it, the letter "W" presented to you by Geoff Maritz in South Africa with blessings attached. Geoff.


25 April 2019

Vundu.

Vundu. Image Source.

The Vundu is the largest true freshwater fish in Southern Africa. They grow to about a meter and a half or so and attain a weight of about 100 to 120  pounds. They are nocturnal fish spending their nights searching for food like crustaceans and small things when still small but do eat bigger prey when they get bigger such as carcasses on the river banks and small buck.
Spots fishermen from all over the world come to Africa to catch and release this rather exciting Catfish. They aren't usually eaten as they taste rather muddy. I used to take the veins out from either side of the dorsal fin before cleaning and cooking. In 1975 there was a dam in Pietersburg in the northern part of South Africa where these fish live. The dam wall had been broken through but when the water drained there was a small little puddle left in the middle where these fish accumulated in incredible numbers. The wall had been broken years earlier but, like everything in Africa, that's as far as it got.
Happy fishermen. Image Source.

A friend of mine and I would go fishing in this dam in the evenings, it was fun. The numbers of these fish in this puddle was so great that, when casting a baited line into the water, it would yield a fish on the line within 2 minutes, no time to put the rod down. If you did put your rod down, for some reason or other, you were destined for a swim to retrieve it. We were two broke "Okies" working at their first job in a city way way to the north of where we grew up, so these fish became our source of dinner. I don't really feel guilty about catching these fish because I think we were doing them a favour by removing them from a very hungry place.
The best place to catch these fish would be lake Kariba on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe, I would go to the Zambian side, it's probably safer there and I've been there before.
Blessings from Geoff in South Africa.

24 April 2019

Underground in South Africa.

South African Rock Art. Image Source.

The Drakensberg mountains that run down the south eastern side of the African continent are home to some of the most spectacular caves in Africa. San cave paintings are found here in abundance.
Of course These cave paintings are generally found deep within caves where they have remained protected from the elements for who knows how long. Dating these paintings has proven to be difficult but they are estimated to have been produced a couple of thousand years ago, but that's not all that can be found underground here. There be gold and diamonds here. South Africa has been extensively mined for gold and uranium since before the first world war.
The Cango Caves near Oudshoorn in the Cape. Image Source.
We have caves here, lots of them. The most spectacular would be the Cango Caves and probably the best known as well. I've never been to the Cango caves but I have gone into the Sterkfontein caves and the Sudwala caves near Nelspruit in the eastern part of the country. These are where it was believed that President Paul Kruger hid his gold bullion know as the Kruger Millions, gold Bullion that disappeared during the Boer War in about 1900. No they haven't found it.
The passage that nearly undid my friend.

About 18 months ago or so, my friend Wynand and I visited the Sterkfontein caves on the doorstep of Johannesburg, also known as The Cradle of Mankind. Wynand is bigger than me, a lot bigger and some of the passages we had to crawl through gave him a bit of stress. But he got through it in the end. He also suffers from claustrophobia, something I can in no way relate to.
The Sterkfontein caves have quite a history where skeletons more than a couple of million years old were found, Mrs Ples and Little foot, estimated to be more than three million years old. Both of these skeletons were Australopithecus specimens. and in later years we have the story of the cave diver who got lost in the caves and died just hours before he was found some three weeks later.
I don't really know what sorts of life inhabit caves. I know bats do and certain microbes, also the caves were mined for bat guano which was used as fertilizer.
All in all, Wynand and I had a spiffing time even though we arrived just as the last tour was about to leave.
For all you Spelunkers out there, Africa has some wild adventures for you should you visit our continent.
Blessings in the name of Jesus to all of you. May He keep you safe on your adventures wherever they may be, Geoff.

23 April 2019

The Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town.

Exterior, Two Oceans Aquarium. My picture.
I'm not sure when the construction of this aquarium started but I do know that it was opened to the public for the first time on the 13th November 1995. I didn't attend the opening, in fact I wasn't interested in the place at all. I saw the aquarium as just another tourist attraction and, since I was a resident, didn't take much interest. I was living it.
However sometimes our own stupidity prevents us from experiencing some truly amazing outings.
Jellyfish. My picture.
A couple of years ago I spent a little time with my son in and about Cape Town, we went up Signal Hill and went to a second hand bookstore in Stellenbosch and eventually landed up at the Waterfront. This is where the Aquarium is.
My son is a member and I'm a pensioner we decided to take advantage of the discounts and went in.
I was totally amazed!
I enjoy taking photographs and when I went through those doors for the first time my only thoughts were, "Wow." I had a complete ball. There are huge tanks, and I mean HUGE tanks and amazing lighting to give the best experience possible. There were round column-like tanks in a completely dark room with blue lights above the tanks with Jellyfish in the tanks, again wow!
There was one display with Clown fish where one can put your head inside the tank, sort of, from underneath. A good place to get a proposal photo. Well my son put his head up and this is what I'm talking about.
Like an inverted submarine. My picture.




There were displays in abundance and photo opportunities everywhere and I was loving it. I have written about the Aquarium before but not part of any challenge and since I had such a good time visiting this Aquarium I thought I would like to include it in this African expose'.
How about that? My picture.

22 April 2019

Sea horses of Knysna. the chameleon of the Seas.

The Knysna Seahorse display at the Two Oceans Aquarium.
Image Source.
Hello little fellas. With the Seahorses in the world the females get a break and the males do all the pregnancy stuff. How about that ladies?
The males have pregnancy pouches on their bellies into which the females deposit their eggs, The eggs are then fertilized internally by the male and gestation begins. He will carry the embryos for anywhere between two and three weeks. Because of the capillary network within the males pouch, which nourishes the embryos and keeps them oxygenated, and the fact that fertilization occurs internally, the male pregnancy is considered a true pregnancy. The number of babies born depends on sea temperatures and the condition of the water amongst other factors, but up to 200 babies can come out at one time from only one pair. Seahorses are monogamous.
The Knysna estuary where the Seahorses are found.
Image Source.

There are only five species of Seahorses found along the whole African coast, there being more than 400 species worldwide. the Knysna seahorse is the rarest of all seahorses and the best known. They are only found along the Garden Rout on the eastern coast of South Africa in three river estuaries, The Knysna estuary, The Keurbooms estuary and the Swartvlei estuary and are considered endangered, the only seahorse to be declared thus.
The Knysna Seahorse isn't very big, only about 120 millimeters long when mature but beginning at about 0.8 millimeters. Their eyes swivel very much like a chameleon's and they can even change colour like their reptilian buddies. 
I've only seen these seahorses once at the Two Oceans Aquarium at the Cape Town Waterfront. They are fascinating to watch. They are a type of fish, they breathe through gills, they have fins and a swim bladder and come from eggs. The two Oceans Aquarium is one of my favourite visits of all time and is definitely worth a days outing. Absolutely loved it. The Two Oceans Aquarium is the topic for my next post, "T."
Have a fantastic day further and until our next meeting, blessings from Geoff.

20 April 2019

Richtersveld

This is apparently taken in Namibia but it's also
part of the Richtersveld biome.

I've been here, to the Richtersveld that is. When I visited a friend near Viol's drift on the Namibian border we went for a drive into the Richtersveld. The terrain We entered was rather rugged with large gorges alongside the road. Visitors had, in the past, piled stones one atop the other creating these little cairns, it was fascinating. This is a very dry place receiving only about 5 millimeters of rain annually in the east going up to about 200 millimeters in the west along the coastal area. Daytime temperatures can go as high as 53 degrees centigrade but at night things do cool down
Richtersveld stone cairns. Image Source.

quite a bit. Often this cooling results in a heavy dew that forms with a morning mist a bit later. 
As you can imagine this water source is what allows the rather large diversity of plant and wild life.
Animals like the Leopard, Baboons, Monkeys and a whole range of buck. Birds like Guinea fowl and Weavers frequent this area but becoming more numerous and diverse during the rainier season.
Plants are mostly succulents and aloes some of which are rather unusual. Take the
Halfmensboom. Image Source

Halfmensboom for example. These strange plants that grow quite high look like the silhouette of people on the horizon and are revered by the Nama people who believe they are their ancestors, half man and half plant. There is also the Quiver tree which I've written about before.
All these plants and animals depend on the dews that settle and the early morning mists to survive this very arid place.
Part of the Richtersveld is a UNESCO world heritage site. When the park was declared a UNESCO heritage site in 2007 they chose an area unexploited by diamond mining. The area they chose for the heritage site was almost pristine and is home to the Nama people.
This is a rather beautiful place to visit and is safe as well as a photographers paradise. There is plenty to see and photograph but there are some thing to keep in mind. Always have lots of water bottles in the car with you, have food available, there are no shops out here, and make sure your vehicles condition will be able to cope with this rugged area. A four by four vehicle is a must and as this is wilderness your cell phone coverage may not work at all. So, before you go wandering off into the mountains make sure you let people know where you are going, how long before you return and who to contact in an emergency. It's hot and dry,with many very rugged spots but it's not dangerous if you stay with your car. Don't break down.