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Saturday, 30 April 2011

Boomy dam

Decided this morning to take a trip to Boomy Dam in the Kamberg Valley. Boomy Dam is one of the Natal Fly Fishers Club waters, stocked with rainbow trout. The NFFC stocks the dams with very small trout, from 2 to 4 inches, up to 1500  at a time, the attrition rate is high, only the fittest survive. So though they are not wild bred, they soon become feral, definitely not stockies. These dams are extremely fertile and trout grow big.

From my cottage to the dam +- 62km, half of this on 4 lane highway. Packed lunch, some biltong (jerky), crisps, energy bars and juice.

The Kamberg valley has intensive farming, dairy, beef, maize and fodder crops for cattle. Over the years farmers have built thousands of dams, most of these dams are stocked with trout. The NFFC has access to about 30 of these dams plus rivers and streams in the valley. The most famous of these streams is the Mooi and the Little Mooi, home to brown trout. Mooi means pretty, and they are pretty.


Entrance to Boomy Dam, all NFFC waters are on private property so all gates must be closed. Farm gates have a mind of their own, a sadistic mind.

A grove of pin oaks on the edge of Boomy dam, the leaves are starting to get their autumn tint.

If you enlarge this photo you will see between the dead tree on the left and the pin oaks on the right the Kamberg, kam, Afrikaans for comb. The mountain is long, narrow and steep sided with a slightly serrated edge and side on it looks a bit like a comb, thus Kamberg, or comb mountain.

Opposite side of the road an avenue of pin oaks and behind them Goose dam, also NFFC waters, different land owner. In this area of about 4 square kilometres there are six NFFC dams.

Partial view of goose dam. There is a steep drop-off on the far side into deep water, caught some big rainbows there in the past. There were two fly-fishers on float tubes on this water hidden behind the branches on the left.

Glimpse of Boomy dam.

Rod set up, fly-vest hanging from the back door and breakfast on the roof.

Breakfast and fly box, rod on the right.

About 300 + metres to the other side. All this water to myself. The day was slightly overcast to start with.

View from the opposite bank. Car parked under those trees across the dam. In South Africa the term dam does not only apply to the wall off the dam but the water behind it. This dam/pond is several acres in size and has provided some trophy sized rainbows. I have never been very lucky here but I love fishing here because of it's beautiful setting. Next time I come I'll bring my float tube, love fishing from a float tube, like sitting in a armchair.

Today was no different and I caught nothing, even used a big olive and brown woolly bugger. The water was very murky and visibility was a few inches, but I enjoyed myself anyway. Today would have been a good day for a bunch of worms on a hook, but totally "verboten" on these waters. In South Africa you may not use bait to catch trout, only flies.

If you click on this photo to enlarge you might just see the Cape vultures circling over the trees trying to find a thermal. The young farmer on the farm behind the trees has a vulture restaurant, and farmers bring dead livestock and leave it on the hill. Without vulture restaurants vultures would starve, farmers don't like leaving dead animals lying round.

In spite of plastering myself with SPF 60 sun block the sun cooked me to a frazzle after fiver hours, so I went home, a day well spent.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Makaranga Garden Lodge 3

Here are some of the photos I took of the "wild" part of Makaranga Gardens.

First, where we had our coffee.

Scattered all over are rustic benches like this, hidden in the forest glades.

A forest pool.

An avenue of fever trees.

Lily pond.

Arum lilies. (I think)

Stepping stones, Japanese garden, Makaranga.

 Fairies apartment building.

 Jane admiring the Japanese Khoi.
Water lily. I have many more photos but I think too much of a good thing will be overdoing it.

Sunset

Autumn is here. There is a chill in the air that the sun just can't burn away, and a softness in the light. I took these photos this afternoon of the changing light at sunset.

Click on photos to enlarge.

First picture, about 4:30pm.

5pm.

5:30pm. Sunset over the African veld.

Last light.

All these photos were taken from the bottom of my garden.

Wish I were a poet, then I could describe it in words.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Makaranga Garden Lodge 2

I have been off-line for about 36 hours. I don't have a landline or ADSL internet connection, I use a 3 G card to connect to the internet, via the cell phone service. Day before yesterday I got a message on my BlackBerry every time I tried to go online that I was in an area with no data service, same with my computer. Yesterday it was still the same and I phoned the service provider to report the problem. I was helped by two very knowledgeable young ladies and this morning the service is working again.

Went to town this morning  to do a bit of shopping and other chores, on my way out I was stopped by a traffic officer, who asked to see my drivers licence and checked the licence disc on the car. He studied my licence for a long while before handing it back saying, "your licence has expired, you still have a week or two's grace, so renew it." I think I made his day when I said it was my lucky day that he stopped me, I never look at my licence (it has what looks like it  has SA's most wanted criminal photo on it), so tomorrow 1st thing I'll be at the traffic dept. to renew my licence. I don't think anyone has ever said to him it's their lucky day that he stopped them.

Now back to Makaranga. As I said in the previous blog there were Shona sculptures scattered every where throughout the grounds. (Shona or MaShona the largest Bantu tribe in Zimbabwe). Most so called ethnic art does not appeal to me. But some of these were very good.
Click on photos to enlarge.

 The group above called the choir.

Reubenesque beauty.

Leap frog.

Mother and child.

The Wizard.

There are dozens more scattered through the grounds, claims to be the largest collection of Shona sculpture in one place.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Epiphytes

On Sunday while I was in Durban my friend Jane and I went to a place called Makaranga Garden Lodge for morning tea, had coffee actually. This Lodge is situated in the upmarket suburb of Gillits, just outside Durban. Be prepared add a lot of noughts to your cheque if you wish to buy property here.

When you turn off the road into the grounds of the lodge property you are in another world. Suddenly the city is gone and you in place that might have existed before man got here. The lodge itself is a modern building discretely tucked away among the trees and vegetation. The immediate grounds around the lodge are neatly manicured, but the rest of this very large property looks like there might be dinosaurs lurking behind every tree.

Durban lies in the subtropics with high rain fall, high temperatures and humidity in summer, what passes for winter hardly counts, plants thrive here.

Click on photos to enlarge.

I took about 200 photos, but the thing that struck me most were the many epiphytes  growing all over, in the trees and on dead trees and branches. The orchid growing on this tree is a typical epiphyte, or air plant. Epiphytes are not parasitic but use other plants as support.

Epiphytes growing on a dead tree. Epiphytes get all their nutrients from the rain and air, the also trap plant particles such as dead leaves among their roots.

Another view of the same dead tree above.

A totally different type of epiphyte, thought I could find out more about this particular type on the internet but there are more 15,000 types of epiphytes in the tropics alone.

 I write this under correction but I think this epiphyte is one of the bromiliads, there is several different epiphytes on this tree. The benefit to epiphytes growing on other plants in a forest is, more sunlight, better pollination and seed distribution.

Different again from the previous.

Another example.

Stags horn epiphyte.


This beauty growing in a container in the Lodge's guest lounge.

This one on the reception desk.

View of the lodge as you arrive.

Rates, rooms start from R1400, about, US$200per night. When I enquired about rates for the executive suites, the young man at reception gave me look which said, "if you have to ask the price you can't afford it.". He never told me. The lodge is ideally situated with easy access to major highways leading into the city, and all points, north, south and west. You can't go much further east, you'll end up in the Indian Ocean.

The coffees we ordered, with a savoury muffin for me with feta cheese and bacon, with extra butter and cream cheese, 99.9% cholesterol, very dangerous to let your cholesterol levels to fall to low! Jane ordered savoury scone with smoke salmon, came R78, about US$10. and worth every cent.


We spent about 2 hours exploring the grounds but I don't think we saw half of it. Another interesting feature is the priceless Shona and other sculptures scattered around the grounds. More of that in the next blog.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Bass.

Walked down to the bigger of the two dams at about 11:30 this morning. Didn't think that I would have much luck due to the fact that a cold front had passed through during the night. But the dogs ands I needed the exercises. Started with a sinking line first, and tied a streamer on a short leader. Thought that with the bad weather the fish would be holding deep.

After about a half hour I noticed bass jumping in the shallows trying to catch dragonflies, changed to floating line and a foam beetle pattern  and fished the open patches of water among the reeds and water weeds, close to the bank, no luck. Put on a no 6 Mrs Simpson which I cast into deep water and let it sink well on the end of a long leader and used a slow retrieve with long pauses in between. Just when I was about to give up I had a heavy strike and a large bass was on, but it managed to shake the fly. Amazing how your enthusiasm returns after having a fish take your fly. My patience was rewarded and ten minutes later I had another strike, this time there was no mistake and I soon had a nice fish on the bank. After a couple of quick photos the fish was returned to the water.

Two photos of the bass I caught today. This fish was only about 14 inches long but it made my day.

Just after I caught this bass I disturbed a small mouse, which plunged in to the water and swam about 50 meters into the dam, made a u turn and swam straight back to arrive at the bank virtually at my feet. I was captivated watching this tiny mouse swim, while the theme music from Jaws played in my head, I forgot to take a photo of it swimming. I kept expecting it to become a meal for a bass.

While walking to the dam I saw this tiny flower growing in the grass, a delicate purple in the centre and no bigger than my thumb nail.

From tiny to big. A large thorn tree in the veld.

Dinner

About once a month the Italian Leprechaun and I get together at my cottage and have a BBQ. In South Africa we call it a "Braai", in iziZulu its called "shiza nyama", burn some meat. Must be the most favourite form of entertaining guests among all social and race groups. Last night was our monthly  "shiza nyama". We sit around the BBQ, drink a few beers and proceed to philosophise, discuss theology, and solve the worlds problems.


Due to the weather forecast of a cold front, I decided to make a change. Bought some oxtail at the supermarket and made a braised oxtail stew. Oxtail is tough so it has to cook for a long time. I started cooking it at 11:30 yesterday and we ate after 9pm. So it simmered on the stove for about nine and half hours. Recipe? Well I don't really have a recipe, two large onions, green peper, large, lots of garlic a variety of herbs, a pinch of this and a pinch of that. With it I added two cups of dried beans, and about an hour before we ate I added some small potatoes, and two medium sized sweet potatoes. Even if I must say so myself it came out delicious.


My dogs love the Italian Leprechaun and while his here I virtually get ignored by them. Below are some photos of him and two of my dogs, Thombi and Sissie.



The dark blob on the couch is Sissie, having her back scratched, and Thombi on his lap having her tummy ribbed. Pure bliss.




More of the same with places swapped.


When two bachelors dine there are no frills, it's all about the food. Illumination from the lamp on my fly-tying desk.


Lets eat! Served on brown rice, with wild rice and lentils.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Easter

Today is the start of a LOOOOOOOOng weekend. Tomorrow is Good Friday, a public holiday, Monday is a public holiday, Tuesday has been declared a school holiday because Wednesday is a public holiday. We were supposed to work Thursday and Friday but the education department has allowed schools to close as long as we work in the 14 hours of teaching lost. Sunday is 1st of May, workers day, but because it falls on Sunday, Monday is a public holiday. So  I'll only go back to work on the 3rd. of May.

The N3 highway will be humming with cars from about 5pm. Everyone living upcountry, Johannesburg, Pretoria and other towns inland will be heading for the coast. Everyone living on the coast will be heading to resorts inland to escape the holiday crush at the coastal resorts. Cars will be passing at a rate of thousands per hour until the early hours of Friday morning.

Traffic police and emergency services will be working overtime trying to cope with accidents on the countries roads. Our roads are straight and wide, the distances long, and people impatient to get to their destination. Result death and destruction. In spite of request to drive carefully by the authorities and not to exceed the speed limit, some drivers think they are taking part in Formula One race. Huge fines and the possible loss of your drivers licence still does not deter these drivers. Then there are those who think a couple of beers under the belt actually improves their driving, in spite of the fact that you go directly to jail if you are caught driving under the influence. In the end it's the innocent that suffer. What should have been a relaxing holiday turns into tragedy.

One wonders how many actually think about the real message of Good Friday and Easter as a whole. Easter has become ,just like Christmas, another commercial opportunity. Nothing to do with God's sacrifice to save the World. Fortunately South Africa is not totally Godless and many people will attend a Good Friday service. Among the African people Easter services often starts at sunrise on Friday morning and continue through until Sunday, sometimes non-stop.

One of these African churches is the Sioni's (Sionist Church) This is a syncretistic  church, blending African traditional beliefs with Christianity. They gather every Easter in their millions at Polokwane in the  Limpopo province. They might have lost the plot somewhat regarding Christ's message, but one can not but admire their zeal. They start arriving from the week before, from all over South Africa. The following Monday when they leave in convoys of buses, you have the mother of all traffic jams on roads leading in all directions.,

I don't like the word or name Easter, which is actually a pagan term, I prefer passover.

On Saturday, after the traffic madness, I'm taking a trip to Durban to visit an old friend, returning on Monday morning before every one gets on the road. Then I hope to do some trout fishing when I get home, just hope our weather improves.

N3 highway looking north. My cottage lies just to the right of the truck in the picture. About 50+ metres off the road.