Wild horses couldn’t drag me away

On Saturday we attended the Wild Horse Festival in the small arty town of Kaapsehoop which is about 15 minutes outside of Mbombela, perched on top of a mountain.

 This sleepy village boasts amazing views over the Lowveld as well as some beautiful wild horses that freely roam around town, over the hillsides and in the nearby forests of pine trees.

Gold was discovered here in 1882 but the deposit was poor and most miners moved off towards the richer areas of Pilgrims Rest and Barberton. This led to the decline of the small town until it was repopulated by artists and folk looking for a peaceful weekend retreat.

This weekend’s festival was held to raise money to take care of the horses as well as a road fund to repair their roads. It was very well attended and we had a wonderful day browsing the market stalls, watched horses getting shod by blacksmiths, eating a most delicious mutton curry and watching rugby before heading home.

There is a good choice of accommodation in Kaapsehoop as well as many things to do in the surrounding area including horse trails, hiking, a visit to the nearby Kruger National Park, or a trip along the Panorama Route to name a few.

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

 

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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!

 

 

 

Roots of Rhythm

Yesterday we were invited to attend a new show in our area. It has been set up to complement the lodge and safari industry in our area.  Tourists can now visit a beautiful cultural village, get a guided tour of the village and ask lots of questions about local culture and then watch a stunning show by the Roots of Rhythm Tribal Dancers depicting the history of our local indigenous people.

Nyani village promises to be a prime tourist attraction.

After the tour of the village one gets a chance to practice stick fighting or to consult the Sangoma (witch-doctor)

The Sangoma

Then the drums begin to roll and everyone moves towards the show area where we are dazzled by the dances, songs, humour and pure showmanship of the Roots of Rhythm artists.

And then everyone gets to dance

A wonderful morning out and well worth a visit.  Our tour started at 11am and the show at 12.45 although there are many different time options available to tour groups. There is also a restaurant and bar on the premises.

Please visit their Facebook page for more information.

For bookings please see the contact details below.

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…………