Farewell Hoedspruit

LeavingThe 29th of August was exactly five years to the day that I arrived in Hoedspruit.  By pure co-incidence, it is also the day that I packed good old Cleo into the car and we left again.  It was bittersweet.  This town has been amazing and the people have become such close friends.  When I was a city dweller I never knew as many folk as I got to know in this wonderful little town.

These five years have been life changing in many ways. I learned to live a simple life. I learned how to live all on my very own, and I learned a huge amount about myself and how I function. I also learned about what i value and what I want from life.

Yet I still leave with a smile on my face and a spring in my step. You see, I am off on a new adventure.

It’s been a while since I last posted and many things have happened. Most importantly I met the man who asked me to marry him last weekend. I said yes.

The result of this is that I move 3 hours away from Hoedspruit to another province called Mpumalanga to the capital city of Nelspruit (Mbombela).  Luckily I am marrying a farmer so we get to live on a farm a short way from the small city and we are also going to be looking to buy our own farm in the area.

I am hoping to blog again on a regular basis about our new adventure and about discovering Mbombela.  Wish me luck!



When we started talking about our idea of setting up our art challenge, I had about thirty people say to me that they would be so keen to join in and paint with us.  Once the challenge was launched, due to timing and various real world pressures many came back to me with apologies about not being able to join us this time.  Although I understand these pressures and time restraints only too well, I have been a little disappointed that we only have about 8 people participating so far.  So today I though I would post a picture of our latest participant, Heather.  Heather has been an active participant on our Facebook page so far – egging (pun intended) us on and encouraging all the participants. She only started her picture yesterday. Like me she likes to leave things till the pressure is on.

Here she is about 1 and a half hours into her sketch

Heather you inspire me – and I hope that those reading this post will also be inspired to pick up their pencils and brushes, appreciate what they have and get cracking on their pictures!

Heather you are a star!  Thank you for all your support and encouragement on our Facebook page. It would not be the same without you.

Modelling clay

Art group on Thursday night was all about clay modelling.  I was caught up in my jackal painting so did not work with the clay which I regret a bit. Everyone was so absorbed with what they were doing and the results were very interesting.  Anne asked the group to use the human form but to distort it.  Here are some of the results.

that’s a bottom….

Nicola’s skinny man

Mark’s second piece

and his first one – lots of laughs with this one – I love the left mans hat

Dianne’s man with kissable lips

Johan’s foot and shoes

and Millie’s dainty lady.

I’m sure you also noticed all the glasses of wine.  We have quite a festive time at these classes.

And finally, here is Alf (who arranged my roofs and my shade cloth house) – working on his zebra.  This man is totally colour blind and paints beautifully.  We just have to tell him which tube of paint to use 🙂

A day I’ll never forget – January 18th, 2012.

Hoedspruit, South Africa.

I awoke to the sound of torrential rain. Another wet day. We had already had rain continuously for a day and a half and everything was getting muddy and damp.  I had recently started a small mornings-only job to assist a friends business so I had to get up and cracking and into town by 7am.

I am not a great morning person so when I had to get to my car I only half noticed that I was up to my ankles in water.  Hurry hurry – let’s go.

As I got to the main road, I realised that there was quite a bit of water laying everywhere and it was still coming down hard.  I was following another driver who kept on putting their hazard lights on when they rode through water puddles – I looked around again and could not believe how wet my world looked. I took a few photos.

On my way to town I cross about 5 rivers/ dry river beds – by the time I was 4 km’s outside of Hoedspruit the smaller rivers were starting to flow across the road. I reached the Zandspruit (Sand River) and many cars were backed up and people were getting out of their vehicles.  I stopped and asked if there was an accident and a man told me that the river was flowing across the road and it was too deep and strong to cross.

I then realised that if I did not hot-tail it back home – I would be caught on the road between two rivers , unable to go anywhere, so I turned my car around and headed home as fast as I could.  By the time I crossed the Blyde river near my turn-off it was about 1 meter below the bridge (normally about 5-6 meters below).

At this stage I should have given up and not tried to go any further because our 10km sand road runs alongside this river for about 4 km’s before it veers off towards the small farming area where I live, however, I carried on – I try to reason with myself and ask myself why I did not stop then and I can’t answer.

My trip from hell began.  Water was rushing from the bush and farmlands across the road and into the river alongside the sand road, digging great big gashes in the road.  I wanted to stop but I could not because I would never have got back to safety, so I clenched my teeth, loosened my safety belt and opened my window in case I needed to escape from my car in a hurry and just had to keep going.  Those 4 km’s felt like 10 km’s. My car kept getting washed and pushed sideways by the strong currents crossing the road, and just when I thought I would wash off the road my wheels gripped again and I got out of the stream, only to have to cross another and slide again.  How I got through I will never know but I believe I was the last vehicle on that road before the entire road washed away as the river rose to meet the water pouring from the farms.

Our small community at the end of the sand road was isolated from the main road and town for 4 days.  Our electricity failed by 8 am and was only restored 4 days later and then only intermittently.  Our tap water turned orange/red and became unpalatable and remains that way.  Tonight (23 Jan) I got my internet connectivity back.

My only source of information came via my mobile phone where I could access Facebook and hear how everyone else was doing. Luckily one of the empty homes on our reserve had solar power and a gas freezer so I made use of their facilities to charge my phone and keep my food frozen as best I could. Many folk had no communication once their phone batteries emptied.

My friends and their families in town were also isolated from the surrounding areas because almost every bridge over a river or dry stream was washed away. Homes situated near rivers and dry river beds were washed away. A lady on the farm next door whose house was near the river had to be airlifted to safety as were 150 other people from the areas surrounding Hoedspruit.  Her car was washed onto our farm. Many, many people have lost everything they own.

Here are a few pictures

Photo by Annelise Smit – This is the river that was 1 meter below the bridge when I crossed it.

Photo by Andre Weideman – Paddle-skiing down the R40 (normally a road)

This is the river that runs along the border of my farm (Blyde river) – crossing the road instead of going under the bridge.

Photo taken and the closest store to my home. That’s the end of that wall….

Roads have been devoured….

many homes damaged…..

Photo by Freek Stoop. My local petrol (gas) station

The community here has stood together amazingly.  Instead of waiting for aide – our farmers and a few local companies got together and repaired roads and bridges.  Farmers from Tzaneen have sent us truck loads of drinking water.  Everyone has tried to do their bit to help those in need. Our local newspaper, Kruger2Canyon kept us all up to date via Facebook so we could follow what was happening although almost everyone in our entire area was stranded. They squashed rumours of the dam wall cracking and kept us all sane. I am so thankful to them.

While we were all isolated from town, one of my colleagues, Kleintjie Viljoen, took this video of what was happening in Hoedspruit itself.  He apologises for the running commentary.

I have tried to credit people for their photographs but some were passed around Facebook so many times that I was unsure of who took them. My apologies if I have made any errors.

Our beautiful small town is now in an awful state of disrepair and many people have lost all they owned.  Poorer communities were struck really badly and many of these people have no homes, food, drinking water, or clothes.

Here are details for those of you who wish to make a contribution to assist those who have nothing left.

Ref : Flood Disaster Relief
Acc No: 4055 05 1951
Branch: 632005

My brilliant photography?

I recently got an email from a publication based in The Netherlands, asking me for permission to use one of my photos that I had used on my blog. They are a nature based youth magazine with connections to the World Wildlife Fund.

This did much for my ego and I was really preening and was about to scream from the rooftops about my brilliant photography when I read the last line describing which photo it was…….

” Would it be possible for us to use your photo of gnu poo in the magazine?”

I guess I am probably one of very few who have published that kind of picture……..

🙂  oh well…..



National Braai Day

As tomorrow is national braai day, I thought I would repost this post from last year. Hope you enjoy it.


Yes, that’s correct, South Africa has a public holiday tomorrow – and its National Braai Day. Tomorrow we celebrate one of South Africa’s proudest traditions – the braai.

A braai is a South African barbecue – unique in its preparation and celebration – obviously, as I think we may be the only country in the world that has a public holiday in honour of a barbecue.  Many in this country see the braai as a sacred ritual, performed only by those to ‘whom the tongs have been passed’.  Dare anyone without the gifted touch even go near the burning shrine.

Traditionally it is the male of the species who wield the tongs, although, as with many other processes in our world today, this is changing somewhat, much to the disgust of older professional braaiers.  It is very important for any visitor to get acquainted with the Rules Of The Braai in order not to upset the delicate balance of order that prevails.


The Braai Rules

Braaing, traditionally, has very specific rules of etiquette, firmly based on gender.

When a man volunteers to do the BRAAI the following chain of events are put into motion:


  • The woman buys the food.
  • The woman makes the salad, prepares the vegetables, and makes dessert.
  • The woman prepares the meat for cooking, places it on a tray along with the necessary cooking utensils and sauces, and takes it to the man who is lounging beside the grill – beer in hand.
  • The woman remains outside the compulsory three meter exclusion zone where the exuberance of testosterone and other manly bonding activities can take place without the interference of the woman.

Here comes the important part:

  • The man places the meat on the grill.

More routine….

  • The woman goes inside to organize the plates and cutlery.
  • The woman comes out to tell the man that the meat is looking great. He thanks her and asks if she will bring another beer while he flips the meat

Important again:

  • The man takes the meat off the grill and hands it to the woman

More routine…

  • The woman prepares the plates, salad, bread, utensils, napkins, sauces, and brings them to the table.
  • After eating, the woman clears the table and does the dishes.

And most important of all:

  • Everyone praises the man and thanks him for his cooking efforts.
  • The man asks the woman how she enjoyed ‘her night off ‘.

When men stand around the braai – there is also a set of rules that are followed for those within the 3m testosterone zone.  Watch this.

Now that there are so many South Africans living all over the planet and intermarrying with other nationalities it has become important to add to the rules – incorporating our expat brethren to maintain the purity of the tradition.  These (slightly rude) rules follow:

Universal braai rules

  1. Men do the braaiing. But around the fire everyone’s equal, so women are more than welcome.
  2. If  you don’t know how to braai, then you’re an Aussie, Kiwi or a Pommie. Don’t braai. It’s best to leave it to the experts.
  3. You can only braai with wood. So cut down a tree, raid a skip or import a container of the real stuff. If desperate, a builder’s palette will do the trick with the aid of some briquettes added later to the burning wood.
  4. Please note that the donkey droppings you get from British supermarkets are not briquettes or charcoal. It needs to say “charka” on the outside of the bag to constitute anything remotely acceptable.
  5. Anything that claims it can be lit “instantly” without proper firelighters, petrol, paper or fine firewood should be placed under the Houses of Parliament.
  6. A fire can never be too big and coals can never be too hot. If you are someone who thinks that it can be, you are most probably an Aussie, Kiwi or a Pommie. Refer back to rule number 2.
  7. If you’re not the braaier, never comment on what the braaier is doing. It’s his braai. You are allowed to talk about the weather, the Springboks, why Kevin Pietersen should not play for the Proteas and fetch cold beer.  Leave religion, politics and your best friend’s mother out of it.
  8. A braai with more than one salad is not a braai. If you want to go for a picnic, pack a blanket and bugger off.
  9. Turn the meat regularly and spice it properly. If you want to leave it on the one side until it’s charcoal and then do the other side until it’s charcoal without spicing it, you’re an Aussie, Kiwi or Pommie. See rule number 2.
  10. If you want to have pap with your braai, prepare boerewors and make onion and tomato smoor to go with it. If you want to eat it with milk and sugar, book into the Holiday Inn in Uzbekistan and stay there.

Pap & Sous (Tamato & onion sauce/smoor) as mentioned above

UK braai rules

  1. Find proper meat. The thinly sliced bacon strips that look like Prince Charles’ ears available in UK supermarkets are just not braai meat. Go to a market or find a butcher. If your butcher doesn’t know how to cut meat properly, buy in bulk and cut it yourself. Anything thinner than the Oxford dictionary is not acceptable on the coals. If you are desperate and have to buy from a supermarket, find something with an expiry date long gone. The meat in this country is generally a month too fresh for a proper braai. Green is gold on the international braaiing stakes – just make sure you cook it properly.
  2. You can braai in summer and in winter. The fact that supermarkets stack away braai gear from October to May is ludicrous. Have they never heard of umbrellas and gazebos in this place?
  3. Create a bit of smoke at the beginning and make lots of flames to piss off the neighbours. Have some wet wood, newspaper or an old Christmas tree available just for that. If you don’t get a knock on your door from the local council within three weeks from moving in, you’re most probably an Aussie, Kiwi or Pommie. Revert back to rule number 2, as listed under the Universal Braai Rules.
  4. If you want to braai wors, braai boerewors. It’s dark red and made of real meat. If there is more than 10 per cent pig in it, it’s not wors: it’s a banger, and should be had with a hangover the next morning done in a pan with eggs.


You know the rules, now get out there and do it properly.

This second set of rules is courtesy of http://southafricantimes.co.uk/the-expats/community/archive/2009/08/24/how-to-braai-properly-get-the-braai-rules.aspx

I guess you can now understand why we need a national holiday to do this?

Tomorrow (24 Sept)  is in fact National Heritage Day in South Africa, (well that’s what the calendar says) although there are millions out there who would disagree if they were reading this and not out there cooking meat over hot coals.