A little bling

This past weekend B and I travelled to Johannesburg. We were there for two reasons. Firstly we wanted to introduce our parents and families to each other, which we did at a lovely dinner at Carvers, and secondly we had to pick up our engagement ring which B had made at a jeweler that his family have used for many years.

So I finally got my ring. Isn’t it pretty?

I have taken a ton of photos of the ring using both of my cameras and am yet to find the right setting/lens to do it justice.  More and more often now I am getting into photographic situations where I learn that I have to read up or attend a course on basic photography. That needs to go onto my “to do” list under “urgent”.  

I would like to share the words B used when we got engaged

A ring, in my opinion, is a symbol not of love or togetherness, but of what gets carried in the heart. This symbol may get scratched, lost or tarnished, but the feeling of commitment, the honesty, the respect that come from the soul and who we are as people needs to shine through more than any glistening diamond.

Thank you my love. (But I also hope that it never gets lost or tarnished  🙂 )

Lowveld Botanical Gardens

One of the places I have been very keen to visit here in Mbombela is the Lowveld Botanical Garden.  I had heard that it was really worth going to see.  This last weekend B and I popped in to take a look.

There are two separate entrances and one can be a little confused as to which one to go to when you arrive.

Entrance 1 gives you quick access to the Nelspruit waterfall and cascades

and a really nice looking eatery called Kuzuri Restaurant. We popped in to take a look and the food smelled heavenly.  We plan to try it out soon.

One then walks over an amazing swing bridge and through the rain forest to get to the area serviced by entrance 2

Entrance 2 is closer to the formal gardens and the different types of walks as well as  the Red Leaf Fig Tea Garden where we stopped for scones and strawberry jam.  The food and service was very good.  This venue is often used for tea parties, birthdays and weddings.

Unfortunately when we arrived they were preparing for a party and the radio was loud with cars parked around the venue blocking out the stunning view and the beautiful bird sounds. I hope this was a once off. I will definitely be going back to see because other than that it was an enjoyable experience.

From this point there are various walks in different directions that one can choose from, all seem lovely from the few we did. The walks down to the river involve quite a few stairs but there are also walks throughout the garden that are wheelchair friendly.

We were lucky enough to catch the last of the clivias blooming

The huge variety of plants and flowers allow for all year round pleasure so we will be back many times I am sure.

On foot in the Kruger National Park

One of our friends is a safari guide and his company, Dry Seasons Safari’s, among other trips, does guided walks in the Kruger National Park.  In order to lead a guided walk in the Kruger Park one has to be highly qualified. This last week our friend Ian had to undergo an assessment in order to be able to be “lead gun” on walking safari’s within the park.  He invited us along.

A question that is frequently asked is: “What do we do if we encounter one of the Big 5 while on foot?” It is a reasonable question and likely to come up on any bush walk.

The term “Big Five” was originally coined by hunters to refer to the five African game species which were quite likely to kill you if you made a mistake. They are the lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. But the Big 5 aren’t the only dangerous animals you can encounter. Hippos are reputedly the most dangerous in  Africa killing more people than any other animal – well, besides mosquitoes! Crocodiles are also notorious and swimming in any pool or river in the bush is strongly not advised. Ostriches can deliver a nasty sweeping kick and during the breeding season the males are particularly aggressive to perceived threats.

Of course there is no definitive answer to “what to do” if you encounter a dangerous animal as every situation is different. However, there are a few basic rules to follow.

Unlike hunters, where the end result is the shooting of the animal (or the attack on the hunter!), tourists want the encounter to be non-confrontational. A sighting where the animal doesn’t even realise you are there is paramount.

It is not the best idea to sneak up too close to dangerous game. If they spot you from a distance they will merely keep an eye on you and may even continue with whatever they were doing. If, however, they only become aware of you when you are within their “flight or fight” zone you can rest assured that there will be a sticky situation. Each animal has its own flight radius and it also depends on the circumstances. If you do get too close and the animal is left with no option of flight, it may attack. It is therefore very important that your guide knows how to approach dangerous animals.

It was our aim on this day in the bush to approach as many dangerous animals as possible on foot.

Here Ian is giving us strict instructions on how to behave and respond to his hand signals.  It was a stinking hot day so this added to the ambiance 🙂

Serious discussion and concentration

A elephant, some zebras and impala getting some water under the unrelenting sun.  It must have reached 36 degrees Celsius in the shade by this stage.

Ellies

Kori Bustard – the heaviest living animal capable of flight.

African Wild Dogs – quite a rare sight.

Needless to say, Ian passed with flying colours.  His assessor was Sean Pattrick. He is the author of “Game Ranger in your Back Pack” and also a great wildlife photographer. It was super to meet him.

Speaking of great photographers, Ian himself is a brilliant photographer. You can see (and buy) some of his work here.

If you are interested in going on a walking tour in the Kruger National Park it is worth contacting Dry Season Safari’s to find out more. You won’t regret it!

Thanks Ian for a super day!

 

 

 

Pretty in pink

This beautiful lily pops up just next to one of my cottages every year in Nov or December.  For the rest of the year it looks like two or three shriveled leaves.  It’s commonly known as a veld lily or river lily and is one of the Crinum lilies.  I am still arguing with all my sources as to which one it is.  Depending on the book or source, my crinum changes names.

I think it may be a crinum stuhlmannii but one of my books disagrees.

Anyone have an opinion?

Veld flowers

So far this summer we have had quite a few cloudy days and lots of lovely rain.  Not our normal blistering heat – but warm balmy humid days.  The result is really thick green lush bush.

When you look at the picture above you really don’t see many colours, so it is quite surprising when you walk around and look closely at how many stunning spring flowers are blooming.  I snapped a few on my daily walk.

 

 

 

Quite spectacular really.

Katse Dam – Lesotho

One would think that this small,dry, brown, mountainous country would not have much to offer in the way of export so it comes as quite a surprise to many that one of Lesotho’s biggest exports is water. Alongside electricity and diamonds, water makes up a large portion of the export income for Lesotho.  South Africa pays R37 million per year for water derived from the Lesotho Highlands water project.  Katse Dam was built as the first phase of this project. (pronounced cut-sea)

 

Katse dam is 50 kilometers long and holds a volume of 1 950 million m³ of water.  It is the highest dam in Africa and also the second largest in Africa.

 

Dam features

  • Height – 185 m
  • Crest length – 710 m
  • Design – double arch, concrete
  • Concrete – 2,320,000 cubic meters
  • 1993 meters above sea level

We took a tour into the dam wall but I was not allowed to take any photographs inside unfortunately.  It was very interesting and is quite an engineering feat.

Water is taken in at this tower and is transferred via a 45 km, 4 m diameter underground tunnel to a hydroelectric station near Muela after which it is piped a further 35km to just outside the town of Clarens in South Africa.  The pipeline itself is tunneled through the mountains and water travels downhill all the way making use of gravity for flow.

Here you can see the water exiting the pipeline and being fed into the ash river.

If you are ever in the area it really is well worth a visit to the dam.

This is the last of a series of three posts about Lesotho. You can read the first two posts but clicking on the links below.

On top of the world – Lesotho continued

 

 

This is a second post in a three-part series on Lesotho.  Read post one here.

Lesotho is the only independent state in the world that lies entirely above 1,000 metres in elevation. Its lowest point of 1,400 metres  is thus the highest in the world. Over 80% of the country lies above 1,800 metres. Lesotho is also the southernmost landlocked country in the world. Because of its altitude, Lesotho remains cooler throughout the year than other regions at the same latitude. Winters can be cold with the lowlands getting down to −7 °C (19 °F) and the highlands to −18 °C (−0 °F) at times. Snow is common in the highlands between May and September; the higher peaks can experience snowfalls year-round.

As we wove through the mountains, climbing up towards Katse dam we started to see the temperatures plummet. Below you can see how the road cuts through the mountains.

Africa is most often depicted as a hot arid continent.  And it is mostly, so when we South Africans get to see a little snow, it is rather a treat.  Here in this region of Lesotho they have snow through most of winter and sometimes even in summer.  How strange for Africa!

As we reached the top, the most beautiful snowscape scenes surrounded us.

 

 

We stopped the car and had to clamber about in it for a bit like children of course 🙂

 

I felt like I was on top of the world.

The mountain kingdom.

 

 

 

 

Lesotho – the mountain kingdom.

 

Recently I was lucky enough to spend a week away on holiday in the eastern part of the Free State province of South Africa in a town called Clarens. This has been my first proper holiday since I arrived back in South Africa from Belgium, so was special indeed.

While there, we took a day trip into Lesotho to visit the Katse dam.  I took so many photos of this trip that it has taken me weeks to sort through them and decide which to share with you.  I will be publishing a series of posts from my trip so as not to bore you with reams of information at once.

I am going to start with some that embrace my love of this small mountain kingdom of Lesotho.

Lesotho , officially the Kingdom of Lesotho, is a landlocked country and enclave, completely surrounded by its only neighboring country, the Republic of South Africa. It is just over 30,000 km2 in size with a population of approximately 2,067,000. Its capital and largest city is Maseru. Lesotho is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. The name Lesotho translates roughly into the land of the people who speak Sesotho. About 40% of the population live below the international poverty line.

Living such a poor life I am sure is extremely hard, however there are aspects here of the simple life that really attract me.  Lesotho in winter is almost mono-toned in colour yet there is still a vibrancy and happiness that I love.

I hope you enjoy the following pictures that show what I see in this beautiful country.

Most people dress in blankets and gum boots and the major form of transport in the rural areas are donkeys.

You may not see much at first glance at the above picture, but it is all about rural life here. The ladies doing the washing in the stream, the icy snow in the shade, the horse on the hillside, growing crops on the slopes and the homestead up above. Life in Lesotho.

Happy children and not a PlayStation or iPad in sight 🙂

Fields on the hillside

Doing chores

A driving school. The little shack is covered in road signs on all sides – probably for teaching purposes.

A plough-boy ran up to us to get some sweets

Just beautiful…………