Thursday, October 30, 2014

30 October 2014

White Rhinos

One of the things we wanted to be sure and do before we left Africa was to go on a Safari and so, the only way to go on a safari is to go, and that we did. Located not far from Port Elizabeth is Schotia Safaris, a privately owned and managed game reserve which has been owned by the family since 1833. It is also the oldest private game viewing reserve in the Cape Province of South Africa, and also the first reserve to have lions that hunt for themselves. It advertises that it has over 2000 animals and over 40 species on the reserve among which are various types of antelope, hippos, giraffes, ostrich, monkeys, aardwolf, aardvark, elephant, buffalo and lions.
And so with those credentials, we embarked upon our safari adventure. The weather was cool and cloudy with an occasional shower. There are pros and cons to what weather you want. If the weather is wet and cold, the animals hold up in the thick brush and you don’t see much except those that don’t care about such things, like the hippos. If the weather is hot, then the observers are uncomfortable because you are crammed into the safari vehicles with as many others as it will hold – which is not so bad unless you are in the middle. So I would say that we had the best of both ends of the spectrum.
The safari was broke up into 3 sections: 1. About 2 ½ hours of driving and viewing in an open jeep with Dale, our ranger, 2. Supper which included impala goulash , and 3. A nocturnal viewing tour.
 The first part was by far the best; our guide was very knowledgeable about the animals but was not a jabber box. He filled in on how long the animals gestation period was, how big babies were, etc. For instance, a hippo’s gestation period is 18 months and she will not breed again for another 2 years – the calf will weigh about 200—250 lbs. An elephant’s gestation period is 22 months and she will lay low for about 2 ½ years – the calf will weigh about 300 lbs. For a farm boy those details were interesting.
Below we will caption the pictures with some detail that applies to each of them.

On the way to the safari, we stopped at a Fish & Chips dive in Motherwell Township. It is not all that fancy but the food is good.

Inside the Fish and Chips parlor

Outside artistry

The menu

We didn't know for sure if we were eating this critter or not.
With Richard & KayDawn Silcock.
At one time this was a pretty tree but the elephants thought it was better to eat than to look at. The large herd bull is able to reach the upper branches and rip it down.

In order to prevent the elephants from tearing the trees down, the managers learned that if they place a beehive under the tree, the elephants will leave it alone. (The guide didn't say so but the bees probably fly up their truck and sting them. Angie thinks of the children's book about the elephant and the bee.
A five year old bull.
This is the herd bull. One can understand how he is able to tear down a tree. He soon became tired of us watching him and became irritated. The ranger took him serious as he handed the front passenger the pepper spray and informed him how to use it if the elephant decided to attack.The ranger had great respect for him.
The brush this cow is eating has thorns about 2 to 3 inches long but she seemed to enjoy them. Although elephants have large teeth, the guide said they don't chew their food but rather just stuff it into their gut.

As you can see the rhino is not "white" but brown. There are two types of rhinos, the wide mouth ones (as this one is) and those that have a mouth shaped in more of a beak fashion. Because of language barriers, people always thought the natives were saying "white" when they were instead "wide", hence they are actually called white rhinos. Notice his horns are flat. These rhinos were actually tranquilized by poachers who then cut their horns off. Fortunately, they do grow back. The ranger pointed out the signs of a rhino becoming irritated was when his ears laid back and his tail curled up tightly. He said this big guy had attacked the jeeps a few times.

This is the home of an aardvark. When they vacate, the wart hog takes it over, . Other critters also like to use it  while the hog is away.

This is our sole sighting of the Hippos. The are sharing their bath tub with two crocodiles that we could barely distinguish because they just looked like logs floating in the water.
This is the lion herd ruler. In this game reserve the lions are able to hunt for their meals and he was chewing on the remains of a Springbuck. The girls were all gone; don't know if they had gotten their fill or the big guy told them to take a hike until he was done eating.

This was as excited as he got as we watched him have his lunch. Perhaps if we would have gotten closer, he would have gotten a little more possessive.

We found the girls about a kilometer away sunning themselves. Probably resting up before they had to go out and get the master his supper.
Lioness and her cub (about 1 year old).

While we we watching the girls, mister handsome wandered over to see them. It was interesting to watch them greet him. Each one of the females staged themselves to go up and touch his face with theirs and then rub their body against him. When each of the lionesses had preformed their ritual, he laid down and was content.

They provided a camp fire for us prior to supper which consisted of Impala goulash, BBQ chicken, rice, green beans, mushroom sauce, homemade bread and malva pudding for desert.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

12 October 2014


Have you ever awaken one morning, walked outside and after being greeted by a bright sunny day, decided that what you had planned for the day could wait for another day? Well recently I did. It was just too nice a day to sit around doing paper work and odds and ends so I decided to take about a 2 hour trip to a business I have wanting to visit. In addition, it was near the place Angie has been wanting to go to investigate riding an elephant.
With that idea formulated, I went into my bride who was still snoozing and told her what I had in mind. In order to visualize her reaction, you need to imagine a child who has asked repeatedly if you would take him for an ice cream cone and suddenly, for no apparent reason you say to him, “How would you like it if just you and I went and got us a nice big ice cream cone?” Can you see them suddenly becoming alert with eyes popping out in disbelief, throwing their covers off and jumping up and down saying hysterically, “Really mommy, really do you really mean it?” Well now you have a pretty good visualization of Angie’s reaction.
On this day the normal 1hour getting ready to leave the house time, was reduced to 10 minutes. There was no last minute preparing a drink to take, putting on nail hardener, putting away the dishes, spraying the ants or doing the mascara touch-up. Today it was her telling me, “Come on, you can do that later.” Even when we got on the road the normal back-seat driving from the passenger seat was absent. There was no, “Lee, are you driving over the speed limit?” No, today I could see her glancing down to see if there was any space between the gas pedal and the floor that could possibly be reduced.
I knew the answer before I asked it but I thought perhaps she would agree, so I asked it anyway. “Would it be alright if we stopped at the business I want to visit before we go to the elephants?” “Noooooooooo,” she said as if I had asked if she wanted to go sky diving.
When we walked up to the ticket counter at the elephant park, we were greeted by a male receptionist. I informed him that we were interested in getting some information about the activities they offered with the elephants. He regurgitated his well-rehearsed dialogue indicating that we could walk with the elephants through their native forest habitat while holding onto his trunk . In addition, after the walk we could pet them. All this could be gotten for the price of R475 ($47.50). I said, not sure I heard correctly, “R475 to walk with the elephant and pet them?”
“Yes,” was his monotone response.
“What if you want to ride the elephant, how much does that cost?” I asked.
“R475” he said.
“How long does the ride take?” I asked.
“10 minutes” was the reply.
Incredulously I said, “R475 for a 10 minute ride on one of your pachyderms?”  My mind was running its calculator and shortly came up with an hourly rate of R2850 or, another quick conversion calculation yielded $285/hr. And so I said, “Do you realize that is almost R3000 per hour to ride that critter?” “We are not interested in buying him, just having a ride; you understand, don’t you?”
This inquiry brought only a blank stare so I thought I would try another tactic.
“Ok, if she wanted to “touch” the elephant and ride him, how much does that cost?” I asked trying for a package deal.
“The same price, R475 to walk and hold his trunk and R475 to ride him” he again matter-of-factly responded.
Seeing that any negotiation of the fare was out of the question, I asked, “How do you get on the elephant, do you make him lie down?”
“No, we have a ladder” he replied. The ladder actually turned out to be a loading ramp affair like you would use to load equipment onto a truck.
A question to Angie as to what she wanted to do brought the response that she was not interested in taking a stroll through the park holding onto the trunk, she wanted the ride. So we became R475 poorer and she inherited her ticket to ride Dumbo.
As we were being escorted to the loading dock, the elephants were lined up with the elephants grabbing the tail of the next in line with his trunk. Angie was told that that caused the elephant to feel safe; if they tried to take a lone elephant on a ride, the elephant would panic thinking they were going to take him out and shoot him. Trying to rationalize that one out, the only thing I could come up with was that the elephants must tell war stories of yester years as they stand around the camp fire at night spinning yarn that grandpa told.
So the magical moment arrived when Angie finally was able to mount her stead and off they went. I turned after that monumental event to visit with some of the other staff that was present for the send-off. I did not get much visiting done however as it seemed that even before I was completely turned the parade was back. The fastest ten minutes the inhabitants of the earth has ever experienced. I looked to see if the elephants were lathered up, for surely they must have sprinted around their sightseeing tour but, no, there was not even a fleck of sweat to be seen. So my conclusion was that either the tour was very short or these pachyderms were in excellent shape.
The elephants all expressed their appreciation for our donation by doing their trick of the day of lying down for us. I have to admit, it was an impressive show of appreciation.
The entire event is documented to the best of my photographic ability by the accompanying pictures.



Thursday, October 2, 2014

2 Oct. 2014


Geologists are always interested in studying artifacts found in road cuts and look what they found this time.

Transportation - have you ever pondered what life would be like without the various modes of transportation? While in South Africa we have observed various modes of transportation and, at times, reflected on how fortunate we are compared to others we have seen and the transportation, or lack of it as we generally think of it, used by them. As we witness these various forms of transportation here we are humored and at the same time, some of them allow us to seemingly step back in time by American standards to pioneerish times.

No, these are not Missouri mules.

Transport or transportation by definition is the movement of people, animals and/or goods from one location to another. Generally, whatever mode of transportation we are considering, it follows some sort of trail/path. The first earth tracks were created by humans carrying goods and often followed game trails. Tracks would be naturally created at points of high traffic density. As animals were domesticated, horse, oxen and donkeys became an element in track-creation. With the growth of trade, tracks were often flattened or widened to accommodate animal traffic. Later, the travois, a frame used to drag loads, was developed. And then some ingenious fellow developed the wheel. Can you imagine the reaction of some individuals when this old gray-haired man told his neighbors that he had invented this object that rolls on the ground. “What does that mean Henry, it rolls?” “It’s round like a tree trunk so that it is easier to move,” he explains. “Well, good for you Henry, now what are you going to do with it, push it around?” they joked
South Africa taxi - you even have to do your own driving
Of course, Henry already had in mind that he was going to run a stick through two of the objects that would eventually become known as a wheel, build a box to put on the stick and hook his oxen to it. Thus came into being the animal-drawn vehicles. As a side note, do you happen to know that the width of a train track is the distance across the rear end of a team of horses, which is also the width of the first horse drawn wagons?
 As individuals such as Henry continued to ponder how to improve the mobility of man and objects, wagons, automobiles, trains etc. came into being to facilitate the movement of both man and commodities. The methodology of transportation has dramatically advanced from the time of the invention of the wheel and the present time in most parts of the world. However, for some, they still walk paths as in ancient times carrying their burdens. Others, although living amongst modern transportation technology, still have to resort to more antiquated forms of transportation due to financial constraints and availability of more modern forms. While here in South Africa, we have made an effort to photograph a spectrum of transportation styles as shown in the accompanying pictures, some of which we find quite ingenious and humorous.

Convict taxi ?

It is all in the mind

Guess why he is smiling.
I don't know how far they have come or how far they are going but they are only half way up the hill.

Suppose he needs to reevaluate his axle rating?

Stay home! We will bring the sale to you.
Jeeps?? What are those?  Probably why our mail sometimes doesn't arrive,

His mother never taught him how to carry it on his head.

Yes, I always go with Grandma.

I don't know what it says, but this guy hails customers.

Lone Ranger and Tonto African style.

Texas has nothing on us, we have some pretty big things too.

Not very fast but it's gas efficient.

                                                             Goodbye for now!