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Just one thoughtless person

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You may be aware that we’ve been besieged in the Kogelberg region, by huge veldt fires since New Years Eve. The area is a United Nations Biosphere – the biodiversity is believed to be greater than anywhere else on the planet; more than 1500 distinctly different forms of flora can be found in this narrow coastal strip, which stretches from Cape Town up South Africa’s south eastern coast towards Mossel Bay and Knysna.

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New Year’s Eve saw one reveller* light a marine distress flare, which almost spent, fell into the tinder dry fynbos nearby.

The prevailing south easterly wind at this time of year quickly turned a few flames into a conflagration, which then raced towards neighbouring Pringle Bay and across the Kogelberg, from where on day ten, it was in sight of Gordon’s Bay, having burned its way many kilometres across the mountains.

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On Friday morning, the wind swept around to a gale force north westerly, which blew the whole fire front back to where it had started, creating even more destruction. Almost 20,000ha of pristine fynbos has been lost.

The supreme efforts of the fire fighting teams and helicopter water bombers managed to control the situation with the help of some blessed rain and by Saturday morning, the worst was over. At least for the fire fighters. For the many that had lost their homes, the heartache has just started.

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I went out yesterday (Saturday) to try and capture the essence of the devastation. These photographs show just a tiny glimpse of the fire damage. More than 30 homes have been lost and at least one death is attributed to smoke inhalation. I see no reason to venture into people’s sorrow and difficulties, so my focus here has been purely on the flora.

All of these photographs have been shot with the Fuji X-H1 and either the 90mm f2, or SBH (16-55 f2.8 zoom).

On a final note, fynbos requires fire in order for its seeds to germinate and much effort is expended year-round to keep invasive species to a minimum. In addition to their ability to overrun the fynbos while using precious water, these plants, bushes and trees also burn at considerably higher temperatures than our native fynbos and in so doing, destroy the seeds which would ensure survivability of this extraordinary gift from Mother Nature.

So, will the fynbos survive? Some rain in the next couple of weeks ought to start the seed germination cycle and hopefully, soon we’ll then see some hopeful green shoots pushing their way out of the sand and ash.

  • Our reveller is currently languishing in jail and unlikely to see his home and family for some considerable time.
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Road Trip

“Where are you buggers now? You’re never at home.”

 

Morning light, Mabalingwe

Morning light, Mabalingwe

 

Kruger Park sunset

Kruger Park sunset

 

We’re at home. Have been pretty much since late October, save for a weekend trip to Jozi for a 70th celebration and long overdue (and in retrospect, much too short) return to the bush.

 

And what’s more, we won’t be far from Rooi Els for quite a while.

 

So, back from October’s short(ish) trip to London to see Laura and Julian and two weeks in Scandinavia, we’ve only been in South Africa and enjoying it thoroughly.

 

Karoo National Park

Karoo National Park

 

Sunset, Kruger Park

Sunset, Kruger Park

 

The trip to the bush was a bit of a journey of (re-)discovery. We loaded the still almost brand new AndyLandy and drove what felt like north, but was actually almost due east to Tsitsikamma and the Storms River Mouth.

 

We spent most of the six-plus hour drive with our eyeballs bugged-out, almost touching the windscreen, as one after another, South Africa’s drivers in both directions displayed a bewildering array of bad driving habits. Blind bends, double barrier lines and driving in the emergency lane (to enable overtaking where road conditions/markings forbid) were the less frightening things on show. Many cars and buses being piloted in such kamikaze fashion were carrying passengers, the taxis often fully laden with 15+ souls all seemingly on their way to the scene of the accident.

 

Sigh.

 

The Tsitsikamma National Park is possibly one of the most spectacular in SANParks pantheon of resorts and something of a second home for us,  as we spent to many holidays here when Laura and Julian were growing-up.

 

Not much has changed since our last visit. The Park’s reception office is now at the main gate and the restaurant currently being re-built. Our two bed Oceannette was well appointed and offered full 180 degree views of the spectacular rocks, shore and ocean. Very nice.

 

I had forgotten the near precipitous stairs down to the Oceannettes however and carrying food, luggage and cameras has forever etched in my mind the need to book a cabin with no steps next time.

 

Two days, one spent with visiting friends now living in Plettenberg Bay and we were on our way again. This time to Queenstown.

 

Leopard tortoises drinking from puddles of freshly fallen rain

Leopard tortoises drinking from puddles of freshly fallen rain

 

Karoo National Park

Karoo National Park

 

500+km from Tsitsikamma, over some badly potholed roads, especially  after passing Grahamstown, the drive was made worse by a clutter of roadwork-driven stop and go delays. Each one required a 10/15 minute wait, making a long day even longer.

 

It’s also not really the best place to discover that your B&B belongs to a trucking company and hidden amongst the heavy vehicles parked on the site is what looks suspiciously like a stolen BMW 3 series, it’s door and ignition locks drilled out, its cream coloured interior in a pretty bad state of repair.

 

The welcome-lady who was due to let us in and show us around had gone off to have her hair done. Fortunately, the owner gave us instructions as to how to get in via the back door without a key and we were well settled in by the time said lady returned, with head intricately braided and apology noticeably absent.

 

Despite being called a B&B, breakfast was not only absent the following morning, but we were chided for not telling our hostess that we wanted breakfast and were willing to pay a healthy add-on to the (we were fast discovering) ridiculously high room rate, for our repast.

 

We weren’t, left earlier than we had planned and dined at the local Mickey-Dees, amongst the last of the homeward bound party-stragglers from the night before.

 

Kruger Park sunrise

Kruger Park sunrise

 

Bourke's Luck Potholes

Bourke’s Luck Potholes

 

Neither of us had been to Bethlehem before and our first visit bought yet more accommodation hassles. This time, we arrived to find that we aren’t even expected, despite my holding a printed booking sheet confirming our overnight as well as proof of payment for what was now clear – a ridiculously high room rate.

 

Our dozy host blames the booking agency (but later in the day, ‘fesses-up that the mistake was his – he’d forgotten). We are shuffled into the only room clean enough for visitors. It is small and while quite comfortable, but discover that once again, breakfast is an add-on.

 

Fortunately, there’s a shopping mall across the road and our first Spur steak dinner of the trip follows.

 

Kruger Park sunrise

Kruger Park sunrise

 

Tsitsikamma sunset

Tsitsikamma sunset

 

On to Hazyview.

 

We’re making these 500-odd km days to ease the stress and strain of long distance travel – so we can better deal with and take appropriate action to avoid the appalling driving we’re encountering as much as ensuring we’re not permanently crippled when we unfold ourselves from the car. And, don’t be fooled, while 500km suggests a five hour(ish) drive, in reality, it turns out to be between six to seven hours whether you want it to or not.

 

Hazyview – at last! A B&B that is expecting us. Our room is ready and pleasant, as is the welcome. Breakfast is extra, however.

 

That wasn’t so much a surprise by now. We once again elected to buy something good en route and stopped at Bourkes Luck Potholes to see nature’s strange rock sculptures and en route back to the car, discovered an excellent toasted (egg and bacon) sarnie at the café, to top off our brief visit.

 

Morning at Tsitsikamma

Morning at Tsitsikamma

 

Giraffe, Kruger Park

Giraffe, Kruger Park

 

We think that it’s about twenty years since we’ve been to the Kruger Park and booked at the Bateleur Bush Camp, which has been opened since our last visit. It’s midway between Phalaborwa and Punda Maria, deep in the bush, at the end of an untarred, private road.

 

In short, spectacular. The game was lined up at the roadside to welcome us back with a cheery wave, the weather cooled after our 35C arrival and all-in the Park was as brilliant as it always was. We’ll be back.

 

As in arriving, leaving the Park is slow – 40km/h on the sand roads and 50km/h on tar meant nearly three hours to the gate and then an eyeballl to eyeball argument with the satnav which wanted to take us to our friends bush house near Bela Bela (formerly Warmbaths) via Giyani. South African readers will understand…

 

In a sublime blend of insistence and disregard, we ignored the bleating guidance system and headed for Louis Trichard (now Makhado) and the N1. Another journey of Oscar-ready driving performances, although in reality, most were only suitable for a Darwin Award. Even the national road made no difference to the performance. Many drivers added to their display of driving skills by tossing bags of litter along the way. Is this a modern day trail of rubbish, clearly replacing Hansel and Gretel’s breadcrumbs, to assist them in finding their way home again? Sadly, that won’t work; there’s so much crap strewn along our roads that it would be impossible to find one’s way anywhere by that method.

 

Eventually, Bela Bela hove into sight and with it, two blissful days of no-driving sanity at Mabalingwe, amongst old friends.

 

Home calls and all too soon, we were back on the road to Kimberley.

 

Getting smarter about our forgetful B&B breakfast bandits and before leaving Magalingwe, I check with our hosts regarding arrival times in the city and breakfast. The timeframe is OK – we have a 700km drive today – but once again, breakfast is extra. So much extra that we could go to the local Wimpy and choke down their biggest Mega Breakfast and still save 50% over the usurious rate these thieves want to charge us.

 

It needs to be said that our accommodations are elegant and comfortable, but our third steakhouse (a Spur again) dinner in less than a week is enough. If I see red meat once more…

 

We spurned breakfast and decided to rather pay off the balance on our bond, instead opting for a toasted sarmie in a wayside petrol station/café. Not usually my breakfast of choice, but our stop at Leeu Gamka forced me to re-think that stricture. Fresh bread, well toasted, a good filling of cheese and tomato and accompanied with hot from oil, salted chips. Nothing wrong with that.

 

Juvenile elephants, Shingwedzi

Juvenile elephants, Shingwedzi

 

Kruger Park sunrise

Kruger Park sunrise

 

We’re headed for the highly recommended Karoo National Park at Beaufort West. We’ve never stayed here before, but the welcome is warm, our chalet comfortable and the helpful young man at reception even stapled a breakfast voucher to our paperwork.

 

“Breakfast?”

 

“Yes, it’s included. We’re open from seven until ten.”

 

National park. Free breakfast. Huh?

 

It was our last evening and we’d planned an evening braai, as much to finish up our provisions as pleasure. However, the wind is howling and it’s chilly outside – hardly weather to be standing around watching your embers being blown into the tinder-dry veldt.

 

Still, it’s a great spot – we’ll definitely be back. The breakfast was pretty good too.

 

God's Window

God’s Window

 

Moody morning - Tsitsikamma

Moody morning – Tsitsikamma

 

Well, you’ve got this far, so some reward if you’re planning to travel in South Africa.

 

First, wi-fi. Most places promise wi-fi, but it’s suitability for the task is dubious and an enquiry as to why it is as useful as wet string, brings little more than a cow eyed apology, or a shrug that would do the average Frenchman credit.

 

Don’t trust the hype. We both have data-able phones and also carry a Huawei mi-fi – a tiny hub that employs a SIM card to provide Internet access (providing there’s a signal) for 4-5 devices.

 

Tsitsikamma sunset

Tsitsikamma sunset

 

Sunset, Kruger Park

Sunset, Kruger Park

 

Driving home, we discussed how much we’d enjoyed the Kruger Park and how much we’d like to make this trip again next year. Driving is a given – it is possible to fly and rent a car, but the chances of spotting game seems to be reduced by an order of magnitude for every centimetre your eye level is reduced, so we really do need to travel in AndyLandy.

 

So, the plan is to investigate putting the car on the train from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then driving up to the Park. It’s expensive, but once fuel and two/three nights lodging is factored in, it suddenly becomes much more do-able. Then there’s the wear and tear on the vehicle and the almost inevitable speeding fine(s). Seems like a plan. More on that one, soon.

 

Finally, this trip saw us spend six nights in SANParks resorts. I’d never given the idea much thought before, but before leaving, bought a Wild Card, the cost of which (R850/year for South Africans) is offset by not being charged park access and daily driving rates. On this trip, we saved the initial R850 cost plus couple of hundred Rand extra – a great deal in anyone’s language.

 

Back home, the south easter (wind) that makes Rooi Els so (in)famous is hammering away at around 80km/h. We’re not expecting much respite until after Xmas.

 

Kruger Park sunrise

Kruger Park sunrise

 

Uneasy pool sharers, Kruger Park

Uneasy pool sharers, Kruger Park

Sudden lunch – prepping for India (a bit)

Course six, or was it seven?

Course six, or was it seven?

 

Less than week before we climb on the iron chicken and head for India. Time then for some quiet thinking and ideas on how and what I might want to photograph.

 

So, I’m busy, busy, busy looking and reading on the Interwebs and I find myself becoming increasingly interested in the way other Fuji photogs post-process their images and on top of a bout of RTFM, discover how to make the X100 capture black and white JPGs and at the same time, save a full colour RAW file. That’s a no-brainer – the only cost is storage space. On a 64Gb SD card, who cares?

 

Fellow diner, resting between courses

Fellow diner, resting between courses

 

Waney edge table, benches

Waney edge table, benches

 

Decanters

Decanters

 

Then, out-of-the-blue a friend who lives most of the time in Zambia arrives in town and invites us to lunch. The venue? A favourite restaurant, on a vineyard nestled in the mountains high above Stellenbosch – surely, time for the Fuji to strut its stuff – something that’s not happened much of late.

 

The lunch turned out to be our friend’s birthday celebration, a 10 course, 12 wine monster – the latter all from his own extensive cellar of local and French imports. Some post processing experiments the next morning and I’ve got a hat full if ideas to pack in my case next week.

 

Sunbeam, marble work top

Sunbeam, marble work top

 

Glass wall, reflections

Glass wall, reflections

 

You’ll excuse the quality of the images slowly falling away as the dining finished and six o’clock lurched into view…

 

Talking about cricket will do this to you

Talking about cricket will do this to you

The thousand yard stare

Cape Town quickie

I’ve made a couple of quick trips into Cape Town recently. Yesterday, I had an hour to kill, so wandered the streets with my now much loved Fuji X100T and added a few images to a small, but growing collection.

 

Plein Street

Plein Street

 

EFF spoor

EFF spoor

 

Truth Coffee - steampunk comes to Cape Town

Truth Coffee – steampunk comes to Cape Town

 

Buitengracht St

Buitengracht St

 

Building supply by IKEA

Building supply by IKEA

 

The thousand yard stare

The thousand yard stare

Welcome back

Rooi Els lagoon

Rooi Els lagoon

 

Slider; a small hamburger, about a third the size of a normal burger. Often sold in twos, threes and more – depending on your appetite. Sliders allow the eater to taste several different types (one of each; cheese, blue cheese, egg, bacon, etc.) at one sitting. Great idea. Massively satisfying. The best of all worlds really.

 

Slider; functionality in a Web site template that literally slides one item of content over another – photographs for example. It’s an excellent way of displaying several images in a space where only a single image might otherwise be shown. Great idea.

 

Great idea? Not.

 

Best of all worlds? Not.

 

Ulcer inducing? Yup.

 

Overberg sunrise

Overberg sunrise

 

The shiny new Web template had arrived almost as quickly as my US$50-odd tinkled into the developer’s pocket. Unpacked, it looked pretty straightforward, but from the get-go, I was aware that the things I wanted to achieve weren’t just a matter of selecting an option, clicking the check box to confirm my choice and leaning back to marvel at my astonishing technological prowess.

 

Nope.

 

I started this project late last year, intending to move my two sites; psukhe (the blog) and paulperton.com (my photography galleries) into a single environment.

 

Thinking that up was the easy bit. Making it work has taken almost a year. A year of frustration, irritation and such resulting apathy that it became necessary to give myself a stern talking-to in order to get anywhere near finished.

 

Looking towards Glenelg

Looking towards Glenelg

 

So, a couple of weeks ago, I called in the specialists. It’s shite to discover that you’ve run out of ability in this or that and have to call in extra hands. Still, if I wanted a Web site…

 

Long story short, I bought a different template – hopefully one that is significantly less arcane – and have had it’s initial pages populated for me. Now, I have a model to follow and should be able to cope.

 

This post is accompanied by some images I hope you haven’t seen before and will be followed by a couple of recent items that I originally posted on DearSusan and you may have missed. Having been off-air for a while, I find myself with a great deal of other topics I want to explore; those will have to wait a few days.

 

Anyway, I’ve finally got this far and I hope not to have lost many of the regular visitors to either site. Take a look around, try the links and load the pages. They should all work. While you do that, I’ll carry on wrangling with the technology.

 

Do let me know if you like it. Or don’t as the case may be.

 

And, while all that has been going on, I have to ‘fess up that I also took a bit of a sabbatical. Late in 2013, I wrote to Pascal Jappy, the main blogger/owner at DearSusan* to ponder whether he might be interested in me writing for the site – new face, new ideas etc.

 

I’d attached an article about my passion for steam trains and a few accompanying photographs and was delighted to be welcomed on board. Since then, I’ve been posting on DS, intending to re-start my own blog just as soon as I’d managed to wrangle the damned thing into submission.

 

Rooisand sunrise

Rooisand sunrise

 

That day has arrived. Please explore and if you’ve some time, have a wander around the DearSusan site too (link above).

 

There’s always a bit more here – I’m finishing this post listening to Pink Floyd’s two decade awaited final recording(s), called The Endless River. Essentially a collection of outtakes from the Division Bell sessions, it’s vintage Floyd and definitely pinned in that late ‘90s period. I’m not certain they shouldn’t have left it there and our memories intact. Maybe it’ll grow on me.

 

* Named as a response to Susan Sontag and her remarks about the proliferation of sub-optimal photography.

 

Looking south east

Looking south east