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SOUTH AFRICA
DIARY 2              2015-16   

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Diary
1, 2, 3, 4   

2/12 (From Diary 1) Up way too early, and east-on towards East London. It is a greyish day, and we get a few drizzles. The car stinks of petrol, and despite we drive with the windows open, the scent is real unpleasant. The gravel road is real crowded: We meet a huge herd of meat-cattle. The shepherds walk with the animals, while the owner follow up in his new 4X4. He stop for a chat, and I can feel how eager he is to figure who I am - guess he still is.
Half way to East London, we turn inland towards Peddie. It is a slightly smaller road, winding its way through the enormous hills. The further inland we go, the dryer the fields seems. The almost cleared, huge grass fields starts to be covered with Acacia bushes. A typical bush-savannah, mainly with cows and goats, a few sheep but also some indigenous animals. More and more large Aloes and some new Euphorbia trees.
In Peddie, we turn south again, and passes through the rather big King William's Town, and then Mount Coke. I drop Bulelani off, in east East London, and try to find the Tilty Hill Trail. It is in the inland area of town, up in the hills. I find the right road and a farm with that name, but no signs for a trail. I do a few stops along the long gravelroad. It is mainly bush-area, and I don't find many interesting plants. I cross a river, where a big heron fishes. Then I'm back at the sealed road, and try Amalinda Nature Reserve, once again.
It still look like a dumpsite at the edge of a township, and I hope I'm in the wrong place. In general, it is an unchanged landscape, and I don't bother finding the reserve. Next up is down at the beach; The Dassie Trail. I find it in first go, and start walking the trail. It leads through a low forest, and I see a couple of guinea fowls. Then I reach the plastic board-walk, leading out through the marshes. Here are several salt-tolerant succulents among the grass. Small lizards flee in front of me, and numerous birds tweaks in the bushes. At the sea, some mangrove is found along with the sea-view.
I returns through the forest, which have some huge trees and a few bulbs. Large groups of ticks are gathered in exposed places, but disrepairs fast, when I get close. Only a few plants are flowering, among them an invasive Opuntia cactus, with yellow flowers and lovely purple Ipomoeas.
The weather have not improved, and I head homewards. I've planned to go to The Kap River Nature Reserve on the way, but like some other reserves I passes, it seems to be closed.
I turn of at a Fish River Light Tower sign. It is a narrow gravelroad, leading six kilometres out to the sea. Surprisingly little to see, except for the tower, the huge dunes and a few flowers. On the way back, I catch up with a huge tortoise. As I get out to take a few pictures, I scare off the large herd of gazelles on the field.
I don't get to see that much of the surroundings, while I drive on the rough road: The car have a ground clearing as an average garden snail, and the brick-sized rocks and deep wheel-track could kill it instantly - I know; I've done it before. On the sealed road, I have to watch-out for potholes.
I continues pass the road to the farm; somehow, I already misses breakfast and water. The first mall is out of muesli, but I get water and a huge bag of potatoes. The next have muesli, and I hit home.
The dog (an old and calm Bordercollie bitch) have missed me, and Xolea is out of internet time. I find a plastic bag, and try to contain the smell of petrol. Apparently, some have leaked out, and melted some noise-limiting material. Leave the car open, and hope the smell will vanish. The wind have picked up, and I figure my planned tasks outside can wait. Instead, I write and work with the few photos of the day.

I figured it is my time to cook, and I find some huge pork-chops to be fried and make a bunch of homemade, spiced, jacked fries, which get an hour in the oven. They turn out perfect; mossy inside, crunchy outside. A bit optimistic, I try out with a sauce, despite I have a hard time finding what I would like to put in. It end up a rather spicy gravy. Judged by how little the dog get, from the rather big meal I have cooked, I guess it was good.

4/12 Another greyish morning, but the forecast predict some sun later. While Xolea still sleeps, I try to invent an alarm-clock. Eventually, I have to get up at half pass three, to catch my flight to Johannesburg, and that causes for a efficient alarm. I can barley hear my phone while awake. With a TV program on my computer, starting a recording,  the music program will also start. A timer turns on the engine from a fan, rigged to make notice, and the phone amplified by the house-PC's speakers should do it! It in not natural to get up that early!
Spend most of the morning giving the kitchen a needed overhaul. While am at it, I re-arrange most of the things to a more efficient and logic placement - for me at least. Xolea turns up, and give a hand on the floors. Then we head for the big city - or at least Port Alfred - to get some "air-time". The car is not oozing that bad anymore, but enough for us to drive with the windows open. The sun break trough from time to time, but I'll save the sights in the area, for a sunny day. To prove me right, it starts to drizzle later on.
While we are at town, we do a walk around. Xolea find a branch of his bank, and get a replacement credit card - then he only need money on it. I find some light travelling shoos, a chain for the gate and a glass cutter. We see the river, the shops, the bowling lawns and a few malls. The car claims it is half full, but I fill it anyway. This time, it have actually done 22 kilometres a litter. Guess the first 200 kilometres use it doesn't show, were used when I picked it up.

Back home, it turns out we have the wrong set of keys: We can't get into the house - the normal way. I push away the box inside the broken terrace door window, and I can reach the key. Second time today, Xolea find him self outside a locked door, but now he know the password: "I'll cook supper". We talk about internet sites and business, and when Xolea leaves on a date, I start working on the terrace door window. As always, it is a bit tricky doing house construction with only kitchen tool, but I manages. Cannibalise some window glass from another house, and get it in. While am at it, I add the missing doorhandle on the outside and fix the door, so it don't need a kick to open. The "craftsman" have used the wrong hinges, and without the right, it is sure challenging. Next job is to fit power to the washingmachine, and fix the broken tile into my room. It have broken due to lack of concrete underneath it. The tape someone have put on it, was not sufficient. Then I gather the bits of the glass from the lamp cover, scattered all over the huge terrace. Xolea returns with his date, and start cooking. He manages to make a real tasty lasagne from noodles and a huge sausage.
A real light drizzle during the evening, but the weather should improve the next days, and I hope to be able to find and explore some of the neighbouring sites.

5/12 As expected, it is a partly sunny day, and I head out for adventures. First, I try to find Moya Park Bird Reserve. I follow a gravel backroad for 35 kilometres, and enjoy it way more than the Spark! Here are cattle farms and even a country club with a tennis course. I see some ripen fruits of Coccinia sessilifolia, some artificial water ponds, which still looks nice, flowering African Lilies and a few pineapple fields. Here are plenty of birds, from small flycatchers to large buzzards. I fail to find the reserve, but the long road offers some great sites anyway.
Next site should be The Big Pineapple, quite close. Unfortunately, the GPS leads me into a maze of a township outside Bathurst. Not exactly what I was looking for, but interesting too. When I finally find my way out, I spot the sign for the next sight; Waters Meeting Nature Reserve, by accidence. Yet another gravelroad which seems endless. I ask for directions once, and I am on the right trail.
I get to the staffed entrance, and pay my 20 ZAR fee (as an South African). It is NOT a "Five Big" reserve, and I can get out of the car. Just thought of a good prank: On the backside of the sign telling "it is not a Five Big reserve", it could say "Thanks for the visit to a Four Big Reserve. Hope you enjoyed the walks".
The first sight is the famous Horseshoe-view of the river. Then the trail narrows, and then decent quite a lot! I see a lot of interesting plants like huge Pelargoniums, Cycas, Portulaca afra, Euphorbia trees, many different flowering succulents and some other beautiful plants I can't recall the names of. I even find some Oxygonum delagoense!
Here are several hiking trails, and I do a part of each. The area it a bit to lush for the plants I favour, but here are some great views over the hills and river. I remove numerous crab-spider's webs with my face, but fails to capture a single good photo of the fantastic spider its self. Besides from the insects, here are not that many visible animals. I more than hear than see some lizards, but two different tortoises don't make it, before they are portraited. One look like a swimming one, but it is fare up in the hills. And it won't come out an play. The park is smaller than I thought - or I'm too impatience to walk it all?

I head back to Bathurst, to find the Pineapple. Tacky, I know, but now I'm stubborn. As I drive through the village, I pass an inn. Port Elizabeth Harley Club are parked outside, and I fancy a cup of tea. The interior - with the bikers - look like something form a movie, but that won't stop me from mingling my way to the bar, and ask for a cup of tea! Seems like these guys are not used to be pushed aside - now they are.
After tea, it is defiantly time to find that pineapple. I try the roads leading out of town one by one, and that works. The Big Pineapple is actually big, and made out of glassfibre around a metal construction. Within, there is a gift shop, two stories of museum and on top - around the leaves, a viewing platform. Been there, paid the fifteen ZARs and took the picture.
It is getting close to three, and too late to head on for Grahamstown and its botanical garden. Figures I go home a do some work - after a cup of tea.

The "craftsman" have installed the air-condition unit in the wall of the office, but not attached it to the electricity. That wasn't that hard. Then I remove the holders from the old curtains, and fill the holes in the wall. A quick look at the pools pump reveals; it take spare parts to get that running.
A walk with the dog bring me a bit around the premises, and I find the water tower, a giant spider and some huge Aloes. Back at the house, the porch-gate annoys me. We can't close it due to the dog, and the wind keep banging it op and down. Could give it a hook, but removing it seems right. All the windows need a good cleaning, but after 36, I figure I better start cooking.
The plan is Hasselbach Potatoes and something with the "Chicken Polony". I fry it in small bits until the outer is crispy, using braai-spice, paprika and herbs. Then a creamy sauce with butter, full-fat milk, cheese and herbs. None for the dog this evening either. It might eventually end up eating some of the huge amount of dog food, stored in the kitchen.

The wind have picked up, and my office is a bit cold, due to the draft - it is out on the porch, to improve the internet reception. I doubt it is more than 20C. I try to verify the GPS points I have for the rest of the sights, but it is real difficult. It is like they don't want visitors!
Despite my phone sits in a stationary position, the signal changes from none to full every half hour or so. And even full signal does not ensure any data transfer at all. I misses my 100GB connection at home! Despite I can't up-load, I make the first slideshow from The Sunshine Coast - in the rainy season.

6/12 The day starts with sunshine, but also some strong winds and dark clouds in the horizon. It ought to be better inland and up, and that is exactly what Grahamstown is. Here is a little botanical garden, which should be worth a visit. The GPS states it is 78 kilometres, but when I turn the other way, it drop to 58. Guess it is on the car's side: The first 38 is rough gravel road.
The road winds its way through huge hills with scattered farms. They grow pineapples, some in what seems like endless fields. Others have cattle and a few indigenous animals - way out to the back of the fields. The farm housed are hidden behind the first hill, but the workers cottages are right along the road.
The area between the fences and the road are packed with interesting plants. I have to stop many times to get a closer look - and a picture. The weather really improve: Now, it is almost all clear skies and nearly no wind. The hills turn larger and less scattered with bushes.
I reach Grahamstown , and the botanical garden is easily found, and almost empty. It is more like a park with some exotic plants in one area. In this area, some enormous Dracaena draco are found along with large Yuccas and some Cycas. Part of the garden is bedrock, made from sandstone. The lower parts houses some other plants, but higher up, it is wild nature with many interesting plants. One being a
Encephalartos, others some cacti-like Euphorbias.
After a hour, I feel I have seen it all, and figure the city centre might have some sights - and a cup of tea.
The centre of Grahamstown is build around the sandstone municipal house and two churches. The streets are broad - and almost empty. Despite I do the entire centre, I fail to find a cup of tea. Few shops are open, even fewer people can be seen on the streets. But at least, here are two donkeys.

The day is still young, and The Great Fish River Reserve is only 35 kilometres away. Thought I could do that sealed road fast, but it is cutting through some amassing landscape with some interesting plants. Huge Aloes, some flowering, different Euphorbias and many smaller succulents. Here are even flowering Portulaca afra - a first for me. Some baboons crosses the road, but they are too fast for me - without a warning. 
I reach the gravelroad to The Great Fish River Reserve, and despite a sigh claim 100 km/h, I find it more a 60 road - the car probably a 20. As I photo the sign, a warthog grosses the road with a line of piglets - and I'm not even in the park yet. It is one o'clock, and real hot - defiantly not the right time to a gamedrive. But the plants are there at least.
The girl in the entrance ask, if I'm really are going for a gamedrive in this car - not if I'm South African. She don't say I can't leave the car, and it appears to be another small-game resort. Here are some huge piles of dung, just like rhinos, but I guess zebras might do like horses. Besides from those piles, it zoological vacant.
I spot a few interesting plants, and do some walks. A birdwatch tower houses a small water monitor and some starlings. The lake have a few ducks and a group of baboons on the shore. Far away, a family of warthogs drinks at the shore.
I take a sideroad, and it turns worse and worse while it descents a steep stone covered hill. It crosses a river and climb another steep hill. From the top of the hill, there are a strange sight: Huge crop-circles, bright green in contrast to the dry park.
The road turns back, and I stop at a small pond to have a walk. I notes a rhino sculpture in the deep shadows, and think that is a great prank. Until it moves! It is a black rhino, which run into the bushes, but turn around, when it find out I follow it. Then I do the same. Guess they after all had at least one of the Big Five!. I start taking significantly more photos from the car - but not all. Later, I learn, they actually have, Black Rhino, Black-backed Jackal, Burchell's Zebra, Cape Buffalo, Chacma Baboon, Elephant, Duiker, Dassie and Springboks. Guess I'm lucky not to have encountered some of them while botanizing outside the car?
Passing the entrance, I find the other road. I doubt I can make it all the way around in the Spark before four, and I only do some. Here are no animals at all, and no new plants.
As I exit, the girl ask where I have been all that time. I show her on the map, and it turns out the dotted road I started with, is a maintenance road, which have been closed since it rained away. They ought to buy Sparks for the crew, I guess.

As I hit homewards, I see some baboons in the roadside, and get some great and clear photos - of the bushes in front of them. The highest pass are more or less a pineforest, but it is possible to get some great view over a huge area of valleys. As with all the other photos of these enormous landscapes - they just don't work.
I reach home at five, and start working on the photos. Suggest Xolea we eat the rest of his lasagne before we have to feed it to the dog. I heat it in the microwave while Xolea is caught up at the TV.

7/12 While I eat my breakfast at the porch, a tiny antelope appears breathily from the bushes. A large group of monkeys eat berries ten meters away, at least until a huge  African Crested Eagle lands on a pole, fifteen meters from me. My camera is not made for bird-photographing, and unfortunately, I only manages to make a documentary photo. Way out in the clearing, a single warthog move slowly around. A couple of kudus drinks from the bathtub, way out in the grass area.
Not much is happening here, and besides from the birds and crickets song along with the humming of insects, there is no sounds at all. It is a nice, calm day, and I plan to do some surveying at the premises. A camera and a machete is the tools for the day, and I bring the dog for company, safety and its exercise.
I start with a narrow stretch along the road. It is mainly dense bushes, and the machete comes in handy. I find the perfect location for the workers village; hidden from the road and with an awesome view. I find some flowering Boophane disticha, but only a few other interesting plants.
A bit further down, an old gravel-dig offers the perfect location for the storytellers cave. Around the dig are several ponds and a small lake, which have reach a rather natural appearance. A great location for a healers hut.
On its shore, I find a tiny tortoise. It can't be more than a year or two old, and I consider it a great discovery: The population at the farm thrives!
An animal trail lours me into the bushes, and here are a few other interesting plants. Here are also some huge Opuntias; invasive plants, which have be removed. Problem is; if you just chop them down, they start growing from each piece.
The animals are not human tall, and I have to work my way through tunnels in the bushes, with the machete. The trail leads to a little creek, then up the first hill. The backside, seen from the house, is covered in forest, and I am working my way through thick bushes. As it finally opens up, I find my self at the green road, leading down to the river. The dog is eager to return home, and why not? We been on the move for three hours. Some wide trails have been completely flatten in the grass of the clearing. I guess on a tortoise, and start tracking it. Suddenly, a loud hissing occurs, but it is only a huge female tortoise. I get some photos, as it relaxes again. The track leads passed the house, and I tag along, just to find out where it starts.

 Back at the house, I get a cup of tea. While I sit at the porch, the kudos return to drink, and at least fifteen species of birds passes bye. Xolea is out of airtime once again, and that does make him restless. We head for Bathurst village, which have something in-between a tiny General Store and a large Convenient Store. The few white people attending it, look so much like Aussies from way out-back.
On the way back, I show Xolea the road leading to the river. On the bridge, a small Water Monitor sits - breathily. While Xolea open the gate, a tiny, striped snake flies, almost as frighten as Xolea. I chase it into the bushes, but can't catch up.
I watch the wildlife from the porch, while I sip yet another cup of tea. My plan is to gather litter from the roadsides, but it does not have to be in the midday sun and heat, reaching 30C. Way better to write, sort photos and start on a layout plan for the project -  in the shadow.

At three, I get restless, and drag the dog out for another walk. I bring three trash-bags, but have to get back for additional two. In the breath moment I'm in the inner enclosure, a large tortoise reveals itself at the gate, and I let it in.
Collecting and sorting the trash along the public road lasted the rest of the afternoon, and I start cooking right away, when I get home. Supper is the easy way: Roasted pork-chops in a pan, covered with sliced potatoes and tomatoes and drowned in an Italian tomato-soup, added a bit of herbs. After an hour in the oven, it is fare from ready. The oven is not as warm as the dial tells, but after some additional time, the potatoes are eatable. It taste just like I wanted it to, but Xolea is not that impressed. Never the less, the dog have to do with its dry pills.
I try to upload, but despite my phone claims I have only used one tenth of what I bought, it seems like I'm out. Unfortunately, it is Cell C's measurement that counts, and I'm off the grit. Those 200 ZAR didn't last long, despite I got a 300% bonus! At home, I have a 100GB/s unlimited connection for little less than 200 ZAR - a month!
It is the night of flying termites, and the poor dog have a lot of company at the porch. Not that we are alone in the house; some mice find the dog's food delicate, but they are shown the door, and the food removed.
I spend the evening deleting numerous photos, realising I have saved way too many - which I still have, I guess.

8/12 Just as I'm about to have breakfast, Cingiswa calls. She will be at the Bathurst intersection in ten minutes, and I rush of. It is a slightly greyish day, and besides from buying some internet time, I have no plans. A tour to Bathurst give me internet time for Cingiswa; Vodacom, but Cell C is off-line. Might explain why they are cheaper...
Of cause, I end up working: Plan for the project, laundry, rubbish disposal, mouse entrance closing, sorting out the food-storage and compile a list of garden birds. Only the latter fails, due to a significantly lack of bird-fieldguides at the house. Here are martins, yellow finches (or weavers), black and whit fly-catchers, Green Wood-Hoopoe, a greenish-yellow weaver? with black hood and red beak, drogos?, red-cheated sunbird, blue starlings, buzzards in the valley, black sparrows, Bl-bls, doves, gray ibises, red capped woodpecker, and that is at the midday heat; 30C. Other birds passes bye, but I fail to get even a rough identification. Some are sparrows, and other starlings. Could be fun to feed them, and get a closer look, but I guess the monkeys will raid the place.

I try the general store in Bathurst once more, and now they can sell internet time. I want worth 200 ZAR, but they can only offer 10, 19 and 399. I go for 4*19, considering I don't get a 300% bonus here. The plan to cook some Spaghetti Carbonera was stranded a bit on only having the pasta. Here, I find some bacon and powder cheese sauce. Back at the farm, everyone is still sleeping.
I need Xolea to show me how to get the printed bungles transferred into internet time on my phone. It say "call *147*PI" That does sound easy, but what you have to do is call: "*147*the 13 digit code#" and accept roaming. Do it again for each bungle. Then call "*147#" and choose code 4 for Bundles (change to numbers from letters to reach the 4). Now, you can't see the "send"-button. Choose the microphone symbol, then the text symbol, and within 1/10 of a second, the "send" button is visible. Then menu 1 for data (and find the "send"), then 2 for 30 days (and find the "send"). Then menu 1 for "on-off purchase"  (and find the "send"). Then menu 3 for 19 ZAR bundles, and the first of four bundles are active: Do it for each one! I really appreciate my Danish internet - cheap too, on top of it. Balance is a bit easier: *147#, menu 4, menu 2.

I inspect the brand new and expensive terrace with Cingiswa. The wall made to raise it, is just brigs on top of each other, and they are fallen apart from the pressure of the dirt behind. The wall should have been three times broader or in an angle. The deck is made of "concrete" but real tender. Instead of 1:3 or 1:4, the "craftsman" used 1:25. The good part is; It will be so easy to remove, and recycle the metal grit. Even the "concrete" can be used to fill the proper terrace as gravel - or sand. You can literally drill a hole in it, with a wooden stick!
At four, I take the dog for a walk. We stay within the fence, and find our way to the river. Part of the tour is through dense, spiny bushes, and a machete would have been handy.
At the river, some sort of den is made under some dense bushes. It occurs to me, it might as well be the huge bushpigs' home, and I realises the dog have gone. I turn around, and several hundred meters from the river, a huge crab walks around. It behave real intermediating, but one must be that around here. A bit further up the road, I find what might be Haemanthus and a new Euphorbia along with other unfamiliar plants. A hare flies rapidly, but the dog don't notes it at all.
As Xolea locked him self out yesterday, it is his time to cook. Oven-roasted potatoes boats, chicken steaks and minced meat with gravy. And it is great - but we do the gravy one more time together.
It should be great weather tomorrow, and I have planned to go west and see The Shamwari Game Reserve. Unfortunately, I misunderstood Cingiswa: She did not want internet, but telephone bungles, and I have to drive her to town tomorrow. If I should have any chance seeing any of the reserve's big five, I have to be there real early, and that is not going to happen then. I might settle for The Sibuya Private Reserve - if it is open. Not that I'm going to be there early, but they have the big animals, and the plants don't hide during the warm part of the day anyway. Further more, we run out of water, and we have to figure how we get more in the morning.
I sit on the porch after supper and pad the dog. Tonight, it is not termites, but small green moths that are the most numerous. But I think I can count at least 50 different species of moths, beetles, flies and other winged insects. And not a single one of them go for my blood!

See the next part of the diary on Diary 3

                    

  

    
  
Diary 1 + 2 + 3 + 4   Map + Plan  Photos