Botswana Flood

Back in the winter of 2020 we tracked the approaching Okavango flood. Now here’s news of the summer rains. Up in the North East of Botswana, Pandamatenga had over 200mm of rain in about one day! As with the flood footage, this comes from Janet in Maun, via her network up there. This time her friend who farms outside Panda.

– the road between Pandamatenga and Kasane –

This water has fallen in the Zambesi catchment, so it will run off to the NE, cross the Zimbabwe border north of Hwange game reserve, flow into the Matetsi river and then into the Zambezi below Vic Falls. The flood will benefit nature, but we will complain it has ruined our ventures. But floods like this are a normal occurrence, though possibly higher than usual as we are changing our climate faster than we can cope with.

Fascinating stuff! That area can be dry as anything, but periodically it can get inundated showing us what it is: A floodplain, a drainage course. This is clearer when looking at it from high above. See the google earth view. It looks like a lake now because of changes we have wrought, such as building up the road, effectively damming the drainage course.

– see the cultivated fields in the drainage course –


Here’s a pic taken by Janet’s Dad Neil out of a plane window of the kind of rain dump / cloudburst that can dump so much rain all at once:

Rains but Pours

A light shower started which soon increased to a heavy downpour, then back to a light shower followed by sunshine. Another lovely day. The end.


People say they can make it rain by having a braai. My rain seems to come after I have eventually and reluctantly had to top up my pool to just above the weir after enduring the kreepy krauly pool cleaner’s death rattle for too long.


A Muddy Slog

– all clean beforehand –

Dad, says seven-yr-old Tom, I’m tired of the 5km and 10km races with Mom. I wanna go on a longer race with you, please.

So we enter the 18km race starting at the Eston country club and meandering thru Tala game reserve. Days before, it starts raining; and it rains; and there’s mud – A LOT of mud. And mud puddles and pools of water and muddy lakes to cross at every dip in the road.

I pushed, I shoved, I carried, I dragged. I went ahead, dropped my bike, went back and scraped mud off their bikes, then pushed them; When I couldn’t free the brakes from the balls of sticky mud, I carried them.

We watched people bail left and right. Tractors and trailers were available en-route to offer rescue, and the trailers got piled high with bikes abandoning the slog. But we pushed on, stopping every few metres to scrape sticky mud out of the brake calipers.

And they made it! Not many did. On the way home they recuperated like this:

– komfy kombi kipping –

Not one pic of the mudslog! Aitch had the camera; Anyway, my hands would have been way too muddy!


Looking at the pictures I thought, ‘Am I imagining how tough that day was?’ So I went looking and found an actual report on the race – still no pics! It was too wet and muddy to carry cameras, I guess.

August 2009 – Eston Illovo mud bath

Rode the Eston Illovo MTB Challenge last Sunday. A race from hell. 30mm of rain the night before and wet, misty conditions on the day. Temp about 12degC. The mud was so thick it took us 45minutes to ride / push / scrape the first 3 kms. So you imagine.

Seemed to improve a bit after that, but that was just a wish. Slippery and muddy all the way. I fell going into a drop down to some single track. Bit dazed, but OK. Actually, I seemed to have put my bad shoulder back into place. Made our way to the first water table. Many people opting to get a lift home from there. I decided to push on and it took 2 hrs to complete the last 15 kms. I must have pushed about 15 kms overall in the race.

Bikes breaking all around. derailleurs, chains most common. Guys where pushing home with 20 kms to go with no chain. Took me 2 days to clean my bike. Had to renew my disc pads @ R400. Like servicing a car.

Completed in 5hr40 minutes. Only 1000 completed of the 3000 starters. – The Dodge

The same guy did a 20km ride at nearby Hammarsdale, and finished in 1hr 31mins!

So no, I wasn’t imagining it was a tough day out there!


Floods in KwaZulu Natal 1987

September 1987 floods

Between 28 and 30 September 1987, the central and southern part of Natal were ravaged by floods that were amongst the most devastating to have occurred in South Africa. The main cause was an intense “cut-off” low pressure system off-shore which co-incided with a Spring high tide. Destruction of property was catastrophic, nearly 400 people died and about 50 000 were left homeless. Damage to agriculture, communications, infrastructure and property amounted to R400 million (report: De Villiers et al, 1994).

The Mgeni and Mvoti rivers had flood duration periods of up to 24 hours and this caused dramatic erosion. In the Mgeni the island near the mouth was totally removed and scour of generally about 2m took place. In the Mvoti the river channel, normally 35m, widened to about 900m. Large quantities of sediment were deposited over the flood plain. Many bridges were washed away. The greatest disruption to humans was caused by the destruction of the Mdloti and Tugela river bridges on the N2 highway (report: Badenhorst et al. 1989).

1987 flood_Mdloti
1987 flood_Tugela
Continue reading “Floods in KwaZulu Natal 1987”


It bucketed down Sunday from about 5am to 9. Then it carried on raining. The gutters overflowed in a curtain of waterfalls all around the house; The pool overflowed and the lawn turned into a lake. The sound on the patio roof and the scullery roof reminded me of rain on the tin roofs of my childhood. Lovely sound. We bunkered down and sat inside cosy and dry.



Less Abundant Herds

My man Tobias Gumede has lost seven of his herd, once twenty five-strong, in the drought. He lives downstream of the Jozini dam on the Makathini floodplain on the right bank of the Pongola river. Not on the riverbank, but some kms away.

His son Mpilo is his herdsman and the poor fella is certainly putting on mileage as the cattle venture ever-further in search of grazing. Lately where they have found grazing there’s no surface water, so every few days they turn round and head off near home to drink. He gets home on average every third night for a meal and a bed, leaving early the next day to get back to the cattle wherever they are.

That’s when you really have to know your cattle as there are no fences and they can mingle with anyone else’s herd. Good thing Marguerite Poland recorded all the names of the coat patterns and horn shapes, and good thing her cousin Leigh Voigt painted them!


Winter – Now his son is home without the cattle. They have not been seen for weeks. They have headed off on their own.

October – The rains have arrived at last. The cattle are home again. Tobias estimates (he’s not good with exactness) they’re down to just eleven in number.


Rain and Meals on Wings

At last some good rain. And the flying ants are out in force! Wings and scurrying bodies everywhere, clustered around our lights.

“We’ll have fat geckos and I hope the owls and nightjars have a feast, Tom! Even the monkeys will love it if they’re still around tomorrow”

Grumble grumble I don’t like them he mutters. Then Why don’t the monkeys come out at night? Are they too scared of leopards? he asks.

“I think so”, I say. “I think its bred into them that night-time is dangerous and it’s not their time to eat.”

20151114_072256 10 Elston hornbill (2)

wings and bougainvilla ‘petals’ – this guy is lovin’ it

Hwow! Hwange is Hwonderful!

One of Aitch’s list of ‘things to do’ once we knew she had cancer, was to visit her twin sis in Botswana. Janet quickly mustered her network and arranged a trip to Hwange, Zimababwe’s world-class national park. We’d been once before. Her friends Beks and Sarah Ndlovu of African Bush Camps own a concession and run a very special camp at Somalisa in the eastern area,  Linkwasha I think they call it.

Beks calls it his Hemingway-style camp. We called it bliss. Unpretentious tents from the outside, luxury inside.

Hwange, Somalisa Camp

The weather was amazing! Bright sunshine, then huge gathering clouds, then pouring rain and back to sunshine in a few hours. Repeated daily. Enough rain to bring out the bullfrogs – the first time I have seen them, not for lack of looking. They were out for their annual month of ribaldry: Bawdy songs, lewd & lascivious pixicephallic behaviour. Also gluttony. Then back underground for 11 months of regrets.

HwangeSomalisa2010 (70) Hwange Cloudburst &  Nightdrive (20) Hwange Cloudburst &  Nightdrive (36)

The rain was spectacular!

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We were dry under the Landrover canopy and enjoyed every minute of the downpour. Unbeknown to us, Janet at the back had water pouring down her neck and was getting freezing wet! She didn’t want to spoil the beauty and awesomeness so suffered in silence. But it was all OK in the end: When she told us we roared with laughter as she turned the air blue with choice expletives!

After the rain there’s sunshine, and the bush telegraph page is wiped clean: New spoor becomes clearly evident. Aha! The lions have cubs!

There are cubs about . . HwangeSomalisa2010 (40)


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After a good soaking the animals would have to drip-dry. We could get under cover and have hot showers, hot drinks and warm dry clothing.

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Hwange, Somalisa Camp

Hwange has become my favourite of all Africa’s big parks. It is simply fantastic.

Hwange Somalisa Camp

Those sand roads are very special, as were the breakfasts out on the pan.



I had dashed off an email to Aitch in February 2009:

Hi Aitch – As ‘they’ so crudely put it, we need to ‘sh*t or get off the pot’ as far as a decision to get to Okavango (and to Beks Ndlovu’s camps) this year. Either soonish (March), or September / October (very hot). We must decide yes or no, and if yes, who could we leave the kids with? Dilemma – K

So glad we stayed on the pot! The kids were fine; We got to Botswana eleven months after that email, in January 2010, then trekked on to Zimbabwe for Aitch’s last – great, unforgettable – Hwange trip.

We’d been before in 1997.


Angel Fevvers From Above

Went to watch a troupe of French “Angels” flying high above the city hall last night. Me and the kids with Cecelia Shozi and her two girls.
We met Bruce & Heather and Vicky there, sitting on the base of a statue.

Cables had been strung from the top of the city hall spire over to other buildings and between various other buildings, criss-crossing the square in front of city hall, where Jannie Smuts and Queen Vic and other umlungus stoically endure the pigeon shit. Some cables went from the top of buildings such as 320 West Street down at about a 70º angle to Aliwal Street.

Angel fevvers
Pity few of the cables are visible in my pic – I should draw them in!

I was looking forward to the madness!

After a while an old sapurity (Tom’s word) guard came up to me where I was peering up at the cables with Tom on my shoulders and told me there’s gonna be an hour’s delay. We joked about the angels having to preen their wings and I said I was worried one of these angels might come and take me away.

“Oh, no, sir” he says to me “Yours will be black  and carry a scythe, and he’ll come from up there” pointing at the blackened top floor of 320 West Street which had recently burnt out. Then it started raining and the wind came up, so I decided there’s no way the angels will fly and off we went home.

Then Sheila wrote:

Oh no – what a pity you left.


I was there and it was utterly enchanting. We came out of the concert (in the city hall) at about 8.30pm and it was drizzling ever so slightly, but even that stopped before the angels started flying. It was pure magic.

The fevvers (as Deon Joubert would have called them, back in Harrismith in the 60s) floating down made it look as though it was snowing, ‘specially in the spotlights.

I couldn’t help thinking that there must be a hellavu lot of kaalgat chickens skoffeling around today – I have never seen so many fevvers – and they were real!

The atmosphere was fantastic – with great shouts going up everything the angels released huge bags of fevvers all over us. I had my binocs and you could see the angels were having huge fun.



FROM A REPORT: Angels paid Durban a visit this week, bringing magical moments of “light, sound and heavenly activity and a sense of cohesion, unity and humanity shared” to quote Bongani Tembe, South Africa’s commissioner general for the French Season in South Africa that opening in June and ended with the angels.

Strange feathered creatures edging along zipwires strung from high above street level outside the city hall. Glittering winged figures. Flying. Gliding playfully above crowds of spectators invited to the free sky spectacle by the heavenly Place des Anges.

At first the feathers fell like thick flakes of snow; then the flurries became almost a blizzard as the area became a mysterious new place.

Magical Moment of Light put Durban on the map alongside Piccadilly Circus and the 2012 Olympics in London, Moscow, Tokyo and Perth to name a few places where Les Studios de Cirque have taken their angels and feathers.

For thirty minutes, the twisting and twirling trapeze artists careened across the sky in graceful flight, slowly performing tricks and turns, before releasing a cascade of feathers from suitcases and umbrellas on the crowds below.

“Taking place in the creative heart of Durban, the show also serves to remind all of the city’s magnificent architectural beauty and artistic value, and to revive a sense of pride during these moments of playfulness.”

While the crowds gathered in the plaza in front of Durban’s city hall waiting for the aerial show, guests and dignitaries inside the city hall — first bored by some overlong speeches (the speakers were apparently given two minutes each — but some took up to twenty!) — were enchanted by the KZN Philharmonic Orchestra and three extraordinary KwaZulu-Natal choirs.