Lone Ranger in Intensive Care

We packed breakfast and lunch and snacks and left for Mfolosi Game Reserve at 6am this morning; Jess, Azo and me. ETA around 8.30. Tom elected to chill at home.

Instead, by 8am we were back home, with the sad and sick Ford Ranger on the back of Ritesh’s yellow low-bed AA tow truck. Dammit. The gears gave a death rattle and the engine died. May be terminal.

ignominy

Tom was still sleeping. We ate some snacks, I took butterfly pics in the garden and now its bucketing down with rain. The End.

Kaput Ranger in the rain
Butterfly garden

Breakfast on the Deck

Egg, bacon, tomato, black coffee and binoculars. Thanks, Cecelia!

The flying ants were trying to pair up and scurry off and mate after shrugging off their wings, but the ants were nabbing them. The ants, in turn were being robbed by the birds and a skink. They’d grab the juicy termite, flick hard, separating the ant, then peck up and gobble down the termite. Termites taste like butter, ants taste like acid.

westville wildlife

Indoors there was also some wildlife to be seen:

westville wildlife indoors

Made me late for work!

More this week:

The raucous Westville Kookaburra
Dragonfly with a point-n-shoot camera
The dreaded Westville Pteradactyl

Westville Kookaburra – Brown-hooded Kingfisher

Westville Pteradactyl – Hadeda Ibis

A Splendid Wedding

Raksha Singh had a magnificent full Hindu wedding, and me and Jess were invited! I did a bit of homework as the only other one I’d attended was probably fifteen years ago:

Marriages are made in heaven. Once you are married, the bond is to last for seven lifetimes. Hindu weddings can be long, and various rituals may be held on different days. Every custom and practice in a wedding ceremony has deep philosophical and spiritual significance.  Hindu traditions of marriage vary, but some form of them take place throughout the world.

Raksha and Pratish looked magnificent sitting on stage in the center of the mandap, or wedding altar. A fire burnt brightly in an altar in front of them. The bride’s brother gave her popcorn as a wish for his sister’s happy marriage. Each time, she offered the popcorn to the fire, an offering known as a homam. I kept thinking Don’t let her clothes catch fire! especially when they did The Seven Steps, getting nearer to the fire with each step!

The traditional white horse the groom would arrive on is more often a motorcar these days, and Pratish arrived in a very noble steed: A white Merc 6.3 AMG!

But Raksha trumped him! She arrived in a McLaren 650s – much to Tommy’s awe when I sent him this picture:

The food was delicious and plentiful and everyone was so welcoming and friendly. I had the lucky job of keeping five ladies company: Jess, Prenisha and Yandisa from work, Raksha’s colleagues; Prenisha in a Hindi outfit, Yandisa in a Xhosa outfit and Jess in a Dress! plus Seema and her daughter were also at our table. It really was an awesome day.

Prenisha, Jessica & Yandisa


It’s Just Cos You’re Old

My ole man complains his doc doesn’t even try to help him. He always just says “It’s cos you’re old.” Any problem, there’s no attempt at fixing or understanding – just “Hey, you’re old.” Now I really empathise with people wanting to be heard; I think every effort should be made to hear out 95yr-olds and understand their problems; But I did also suspect that some things – human and mechanical – are simply “because they’re old” – reinforced by Tom’s refrain from The Boondocks: “You’re just mad cos your ass is old.”      SO – although I told the ole man he really should get a second opinion (to which he replied, “I’m going to make one last appointment with him and I’m going to tell him I’m leaving him!” Why? I asked, Just leave. “No, what about his other patients!?  He needs to be told!”), I did also secretly think, Hey, some things can’t be fixed.

So my Ford Ranger – that’s my white 3litre diesel 4X2 hi-rider double cab Ford Ranger – has been a bit noisy, but I was not admitting to it. What? What noise? I can’t hear anything. I once heard a noise and it cost me money.
Then three things happened and forced my hand: One, a very young lady, teenager really, reversed into my left front wheel, BANG. I got out and she burst into tears Waah! I’m sorry! Waah! I’ve had such a terrible day! Waah! I’m going to be in such trouble! I looked at my car: not a scratch. I looked at hers: a dented soft bumper. I said Off You Go. Just Go. As I drove off Tom said Dad! You’re such a sucker! You should have sued her ass! Nah, I said, nothing happened. Then the car starts to shake like its got Parkinson’s. See!? says Tom, I told you. She just suckered you, you should have sued her. We’d gone ten metres and a glance at the young lady, teenager really,’s car showed she’d already gone seventy metres in the shade. She was outta there!  What to do? I pretended not to feel the shake. What shake? I don’t feel a shake; I once felt a shake and it cost me money. Tom just gave an exasperated eye roll and shook his head.

Two, driving up our road with Jess, a cacophony of sound like forty seven tin cans had been thrown under the car made it hard for even me to ignore it. What was that Dad!? says Jess, who usually doesn’t notice anything automotive. Did you throw all your tin cans under the car, Jess? I deflect. No! She says firmly, That noise is from your car, Dad! Jess, I once heard a noise . . oh, hell, I just kept quiet.

The clincher was I had volunteered my vehicle as able to take the nine lady walkers and me to the Zululand walk and I now found out they expected it to drive to the actual beach, then on to fetch us at the next stop and I suddenly thought, “What if it lets me down in front of these grown, not teenage, ladies? That could prove embarrassing.” A 4X4 it ain’t. So I leapt into action: I fixed the left rear door, which hasn’t opened for a year; And I decided I’d give it new tyres. That always makes it look better. The front ones were worn quite sadly. New tyres, I thought, and then the alignment will probably fix all the other problems which are simply a matter of being out of whack after being whacked by a young lady – teenager really.

And you won’t believe what the tyre man told me as he was doing the alignment! Your Shocks Are Fucked, he tells me. Bluntly; Just like that. How dare he? I was still puffing when he scribbled on my tyre invoice “Four shocks” and said “Go get a quote.” Well, I’m a diplomat and they say the meek will inherit the earth without any land claims, so I absorbed the shock and next thing I’m driving away with two new Dunlop with superblue tyres, balanced and aligned and four new yellow Monroe shock absorbers.

And would you believe it!? Silence! Smoothness! Amazing. Maybe things CAN be fixed. I may have to re-evaluate.

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While these shocks were being applied, this party bus was having its wheels aligned nearby:

So I dial the number and a voice behind me says “Are you calling me?” It’s Ndumiso and he’s the owner-dude. Sure, he can do Jessie’s bar for her 21st party, he says. No prah-blim. Ha! Two birds with one stone.

You can see from their bumper they’re probably steady, reliable ous.

Update: NOT. He hasn’t phoned, hasn’t returned messages. He’s like King Kong with Faye Wray. I’ll have to play barman.

Honeysucker to the Rescue

* updated *

Dad! Who farted!? exclaims Jess this morning, wrinkling up her nose.

Not me! Not me! Not me! say all three of us, each suspecting that someone is holding back. Or not holding back?

Soon the mystery is solved as we hear a rumbling in the road at the bottom of our garden. Someone must have been full of shit and the honeysucker has come to the rescue. It’s slurping up the neighbours’ overflow, as it were. Just as well. We don’t want to become known as an effluent suburb!

Sewer Honeysucker Truck

Ours was a boring municipal truck, white and blue, this one from Hillcrest looks better: A pink honeysucker, YAY!!

Tsavo in Kenya

After a slow drive from Mombasa we spent a night at a plush hotel in the metropolis of Voi. There it is in the left background. Don’t let Aitch tell you we didn’t spoil ourselves at times. The dining room had a linoleum floor, plastic chairs and metal tables, no table cloth. It was clean and the chicken and rice was delicious. I had a Tusker beer and that too, was delicious.

Voi, Kenya
Voi in October 1998

Then on to a destination I had looked forward to all my life: Tsavo National Park!

All my life? Just about. We got the quarterly African Wildlife magazines and I eagerly read about Africa’s great parks. I also knew of Bernhard Grzimek’s work in the Serengeti and his book Serengeti Shall Not Die. The great parks I knew and fantasised about included Kruger, Etosha, Luangwa, Masai Mara, Amboseli, Wankie, Ngorongoro, Gorongosa – and Tsavo. I remember seeing an aerial picture of the drought in Kenya and how the vegetation IN Tsavo was worse than that outside the park. The story was it was due to Kenya (Leakey?) refusing to cull elephants and other game. Of course it may have been a story by the pro-culling people in SA’s parks. Who knows? Lots of jealousy and rivalry among the ‘good people in conservation’!

. * Tsavo East * .

Tsavo East gate

Chris and Tilde Stuart, great Africa-philes, chose Tsavo as one of ‘Africa’s Great Wild Places’ in their book of that name, mainly for the huge wild expanse of Tsavo East where you can drive for hours without seeing another vehicle.

Elephant Hills Lodge in Tsavo
Arrival at Elephant Hills Lodge

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Here’s where the underground hide leads down to the waterhole

Driving around Tsavo East was amazing. We hardly saw any other vehicles.

The Galana River in East Tsavo
The Galana River in Tsavo East

Firsts for us were Vulturine Guineafowl, Gerenuks and Lesser Kudus:

 

Lesser kudus & gerenuk - both firsts!

Golden-breasted Starling, Red & Yellow Barbet, Superb Starling & White-headed Buffalo Weaver:

 

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. * Tsavo West * .

 

We saw Kilimanjaro! We weren’t expecting to, but as we drove around we suddenly saw a snow-topped mountain top WAY higher than one would expect through the low clouds; way higher than the hills around us. We realised that it  must be Kili, the world’s highest free-standing mountain!

 

Of course we should have realised we’d be close to Kili, but we didn’t give it a thought. We were in Kenya, Kilimanjaro is in Tanzania, and it just didn’t occur to us! That’s our pic of the low clouds on the left and an internet pic of Kili from Tsavo West. Our view was a glimpse through a break in thick clouds, though.

 

 

Here we also saw the magic clearwater Mzima Springs.

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Tsavo National Park was created in 1948. At approximately 21,000km², it is the largest protected area in Kenya. In the late 1960s, there were approximately 35,000 elephants in the Tsavo region. This population has suffered two population crashes, firstly there was the drought in the early 1970s when many died, especially pregnant females, females nursing a calf or young calves. Independent bulls mortality was lower as they were able to travel greater distances in search of vegetation and water.

The second crash was due to the illegal killing of elephants for their tusks. The bulls who survived the drought were now the victims. Kenya had banned legal trophy hunting in 1977. By the late 1980s, at the height of the ivory poaching era, about 6,200 elephants remained in the entire Tsavo region.

KenyaTsavo national park map

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Makgadikgadi Pans, Khumaga Gate

The Tamalakhane River runs south-west out of Maun and when it turns east it’s called the Boteti. After a while it runs southward forming the western boundary of the huge Makgadikgadi-Nxai Pans National Park.

At Kumagha village there’s a gate into the park. When the river has water in it a ferryman carries you across, one vehicle at a time.

20180321_Khumaga Gate Tiaan's Camp (23)

We were guests at Tiaan’s Camp as Tiaan is looking for someone to help him start a new admin system and Janet’s just the person to do that. I got lucky as they decided she needed to visit him to check out the camp and discuss how Janet’s consultancy could run the project for him. Tiaan is a character. He was once a diplomat although you would never guess that in a game of Twenty Questions. Nor in game of One Hundred and Twenty Questions.

Map Makgadigadi Park.JPG

Tiaan has run mobile safaris in Zambia, Botswana and Zululand among many other places. He has been involved in lodges on the Delta panhandle and has now settled in Khumaga in a camp he built himself with comfy chalets, lovely campsites, a crystal-clear swimming pool and a huge central building housing an open dining area, an open raised deck overlooking the Boteti where 22 elephants came to bathe the afternoon we arrived. And a cool bar run on the honour system. You know, gooi and skryf.

Makgadigadi Pans view from Tiaans.jpg

He has a delightful accent, a mischievous laugh, speaks three languages fluently and has an amazing store of tales from brain surgery to government service to building in Botswana and Jakobsbaai on the Cape West Coast, to safaris, interesting guests, religion, Land Rovers (he’s afflicted with six of them), philosophy and fascinating animal stories. Maybe he does have a diplomatic side, but he keeps it well-camouflaged.

He took us on a game drive in one of his Land Rovers and we didn’t even break down, so he could show us his knowledge of and love for his patch, the very southern end of the great Okavango Delta, just before the waters from Angola sink into the Kalahari sand for the very last time at Lake Xau.

Makgadigadi Pans Kumagha Gate

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The next day Janet and I took the old Toyota into the park along the green Boteti river valley. We found plenty of interesting little things to photograph.

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In between all this there were the gin n tonics, whiskies and Tiaan’s home-made absinthe, generously dispensed.

Interesting birds included Double-banded Sandgrouse, Acacia Pied Barbet, Hoopoe, Crimson-breasted Boubou, a young Verreaux’s Eagle-Owl, Pin-tailed and Shaft-tailed Whydahs, Red-faced Mousebird, Bateleur, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Blue-cheeked, European and Little Bee-eaters, Meyers Parrot, Goliath Heron and a Grey-backed Camerotera who clacked at me fourteen times. Here are some Lee pics from his website:

Makgadigadi Pans Kumagha Gate-001 (2)

Before this leg of the trip we had been to Mogotlhong.